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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Junie B. Jones and the Defenders of Hope?

I have a new favorite character~ Junie B. Jones, the world's funniest first grader. My girls love these books. But I have to confess, I'm the first one asking "who's ready to read?" ;-)

Last summer we did a Magic School Bus book and video-a-thon. This year, we've read The Chronicles of Narnia and now we're laughing our heads off with Junie B. I tell you! ;-) The author, Barbara Park is an exceptional writer who certainly knows her stuff.

Not only do I love these books as a mom, but I've also enjoyed them as a writer. So much so that I featured Junie B. in the upcoming Insider Info section of my Defenders of Hope newsletter about creating great characters. I'll be highlighting the use of dialogue in character creation and Junie B's dialogue is top rate.

If you're not a member of the Defenders of Hope community, I hope you'll follow the link and sign up! The newsletter will be delivered to inboxes this Friday night/ Saturday morning with a cool frapp recipe, a devotion on the theme verse of Healing Promises, a tip about keeping kids safe, and a fun look into Junie B. Jones.

Come join the fun, make a frapp and let me introduce you to Junie B. Jones!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Blessed Be Your Name

God keeps bringing me back to Job 1:21 "The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

My first time crashing against this verse came when I was newly pregnant with my first daughter. I excitedly shared our joy in Sunday school class. People congratulated and I beamed.

Then, after the celebrating settled down, a friend next to us shared about how they'd just lost their baby. No one knew what to say or how to respond.

The dad turned to me and said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be His name."

I will never forget that tear-filled, bittersweet moment when Job 21:1 became life before my eyes.

Then I stood in the place where other's celebrated babies and I grieved losing my third child. It took a long time to lift my face to heaven and remember God's goodness.

And now, God has me crashing against this verse again. Only this time it's a theme verse for Healing Promises. Because the book was nothing like my life story, I was slow to grasp why God kept putting this verse from Job in front of my face.

Then I got it.

The essence of Sara and Clint's story is mine. In a time of suffering, can I echo Job's words and bless the name of the Lord?

For a long time the answer has been, "No."

At the end of my emotional resources and feeling very broken by life circumstances, God asked me the question again this morning. I answered with a question of my own~ Do You really love me?

Because one touch from God and my body would be healed.

One word from God and painful relationships would be restored.

One whisper from God and everyone would know about my writing.

But after I got done with my little speech about all the things above and more that I don't understand what God is doing, He simply answered my questions with all I needed to know.

Over and over I heard the words from Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love."

Over and over His answer came until all I could do is cry and everything else disappeared.

Because everything else wasn't the point.

When you get down to the messy realities of life, God's love is all that matters.

My circumstances may never change, and this morning I had to lay some heart-wrenching things down before the Lord and leave them there. I can't control them. I can't change them. I can't fix them. I can't make them work.

God whispered a final word to my heart this morning. One that offered the strength I desperately needed...

Believe.

But God's question still hung in the air unanswered. He'd answered mine. And now I could answer His.

Yes, Lord. Though the road is marked with suffering, blessed be Your Name.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Growing a garden~ a happy birthday tribute to my oldest

Today is my oldest daughter's tenth birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY SWEET SONG!

She's been keeping us all in tune for ten years and is super excited about finally being in double digits. We're celebrating with a special grown up tea party at this neat little tea room where all the girls can dress up in beautiful gowns and eat on fine china.

But her birthday has me a little nostalgic realizing this is the kiddo who first made me a mommy. It can't possibly have been a decade ago.

In this picture she's showing off her very first sunflower. She and her daddy share an enjoyment of working in the garden. Me? Not so much. The garden I'm most interested with investing my time in is my children. Watching them grow is one of life's simplest pleasures.

I remember listening to my oldest first prayers, videotaping her first song, listening to her read her first book. I remember vividly the day she became a Christian.

After one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, my little girl looked at me and said, "Mommy, I think I really need Jesus."

My not so loving response was an exasperated, "Yes. You do!"

She proceeded to explain that she realized through all the correcting she'd received that day that she couldn't be good without Jesus.

And as soon as Daddy came home that day, she prayed this prayer as we listened: "Jesus, please take away my black heart and put your heart in me."

Since then, I've had the privilege of watching this little girl grow up to become an amazing young lady. She's a wonderful teacher, pray-er, encourager, artist, inventor, and all around neat person.

She lives life with everything she has, she loves without embarrassment, she sings with joy and gusto, and she forgives readily.

I want to be more like her when I grow up.

Happy birthday, honey! I love you so much~ to infinity and beyond!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WHO 3~ a game featuring Ransomed Dreams

A crime has been committed—and it’s up to you to figure out WHOdunit! Play the game for a chance to win an autographed copy of Amy Wallace’s romantic suspense, RANSOMED DREAMS.

(If you already have a copy~ THANK YOU!~ you can still play and mabye win a copy for a friend. Books are great gifts. ;-) )

Here’s what you do:

Read the scenes below and collect the KEYWORDS from each scene (note: keywords are not pointers toward the culprit, but rather toward the novel from which we got our setting).

Once you have the keys and have figured out WHOdunit, send an email to review@christianreviewofbooks.com with the subject line WHO? Send us the name of the culprit and the six keywords. Don’t forget to come back next week for the WHO? Confession by the culprit!

Entries will be received between 12 noon EST, Thursday August 23 through 3 p.m. EST, Monday 27 August.

*******
Louisa
By Roseanna M. White

(There is no keyword in this first scene)

Louisa still wasn’t sure how she had ended up in a stranger’s house, at an impromptu party with a bunch of people she’d never met before that day. Sure, she had been enjoying her conversation with Dr. Cramer when they met at the National Institutes of Health earlier that day, and the thought of tagging along with him to meet a friend had, at the time, seemed perfectly logical.

Now she surveyed this group with mixed thoughts. She was one of only three females; one of the other two, LaTisha, was a brightly plumed older woman decked out in a bright purple dress and red scarf. The other, Sierra was nearer Louisa in age and had on a t-shirt with the slogan “Save the animals. Endanger Idiots Instead.” A little off-putting, though the petite Asian girl was smiling and chatting amicably with one of the men.

“Hello, love.”

Louisa looked over with a start at the handsome young man who had materialized at her side, a glass of soda in each hand. He reminded her vaguely of some actor. Sandy brown hair. Nice face. Even the English accent fit. Jude Law, wasn’t it? She took the drink he offered with a small smile. “Thanks. I’m Louisa.” She held out a hand.

He raised it to his lips, which nearly made her roll her eyes. “Jeremy Beckett. I was chatting with our lovely exotic bird there,” he said with a nod toward LaTisha, “about volunteering at my school when Agent Kessler invited us home for a few snacks. Interesting group, isn’t it?”

“Mm.” She took a sip of her soda and looked absently at the massive man still talking to Sierra. He was huge, complete with heavy middle, moon cheeks and a ruddy complexion, but that wasn’t what grabbed her attention. He kept talking about his church and saying things like “the Lamb” and mentioning the power of the blood without ever making it sound—well—right.

Maybe in a minute she’d go over and see if she could wrangle that poor Sierra girl free.

Or maybe she wouldn’t have to. Sierra backed away from him with wide eyes, looking like she was about to haul back and slap him. “You people sacrifice animals? You. . . you barbarians!” She spun away with a disgusted huff.

Their host, FBI Agent Steven Kessler, immediately offered the big man—ironically named Ham—an hors d’oeuvre to diffuse the situation.

“Good man,” Jeremy said beside her, nodding to Steven. “I had his son in class.”

“I didn’t realize he had a son.”

“An angel, more like. He’s six.”

Louisa felt her lips tug up into a smile. “Mine are eight. Twins.”

Jeremy nearly choked on his soda. “You have eight-year-olds? You don’t look a day over twenty-one.”

His judgment probably wouldn’t be much better had he known how old she really was, so Louisa just gave that vague smile she had perfected over the years and said, “Thanks. Hopefully people will still be saying that in another decade.”

Dr. Cramer slid up to her other side. He was tall, and his features said he had ancestors from India. He was still wearing his scrubs from the lab, too, and managed to look as comfortable in them as Louisa was in her cut-offs. He held out a hand to Jeremy. “Hello. Jeremy Cramer.”

The Brit titled his head. “Jeremy Beckett.”

The doctor laughed. “I’ll just go by Dr. Cramer, then. You’re the younger Kessler’s teacher, right? I consulted with Agent Kessler on a case a while back.”

“His specialty is infectious diseases,” Louisa informed the teacher. “You should just hear about the strides his team’s making in studying the—”

“Goodness!” LaTisha huffed over to them with a dramatic hand to her chest. “These little bitty cracker things are barely enough to fill a woman.”

Louisa grinned. The woman was a character, that’s for sure, and she couldn’t seem to keep her hose from sagging down.

“I went into the kitchen and poked around. I could whip up a proper Southern meal in no time. You just ask my Hardy, I can cook to beat the band. Raised seven kids in my kitchen, after all.”
Dr. Cramer smiled and opened his mouth to reply.

He didn’t get the chance. The world seemed to explode into chaos around them, the sound of shattering glass followed directly by the distant boom of a gun, nearly covered by the half-dozen screams of the people in the room. Louisa was pushed none too gently to the ground. She didn’t need any convincing to stay there.

“Everybody stay down!” It was Steven’s voice that barked out the command. She looked up enough to see him belly-crawling over to the window, even as he fished a cell phone out of his pocket. Seconds later, he was speaking into it. “Clint, get an Evidence Response Team to my house pronto. The ‘impromptu party’ proved more than our suspect could resist. Lost a window though, and the wood splitter buzzed my head before lodging in my bookcase somewhere. We should have all the info needed before the night’s over.”

“What in the world?” LaTisha’s voice quavered.

The FBI agent scanned the room. “Everybody okay?”

A chorus of weak assurances sounded.

“No one’s hurt,” he said into the phone again. “See you in a few.” He flipped shut his phone and stood up against the wall beside the shattered window. “Let’s move into the kitchen, low and slow. The shooter’s most likely long gone, but we need to get out of this room so the ERT can do its job.”

Louisa pushed herself onto her knees and crawled along with the others through the door to the kitchen. She would have felt ridiculous had that gunshot not still been echoing through her mind. She stood up once she was in the safe, soft glow of the kitchen light. The exterior door was shrouded by heavy blinds, as was the window.

Steven was the last one in, and the group’s low murmuring came to an abrupt halt at the glare he leveled on each of them in turn. “All right. Which one of you tipped the shooter?”

A cold knot formed in Louisa’s belly. “One of us?”

The agent’s jaw ticked. “As far as everyone knew, I was heading to Georgia for a weekend away. I arrived via taxi. My car is still at Headquarters. A current suspect’s threats have ratcheted up and this party was a way to smoke him out. But one of you had to tip him off to the time and my whereabouts. I want to know who.”

Sierra folded her arms over her chest. “Ask Jabba the Hut, here. He has no problem killing innocent animals, he probably doesn’t much care about FBI agents, either.”

Ham’s countenance reflected injury. He raised a meaty hand to his chest. “Me? I strive for the redemption of humankind. What about you, young lady? You’re the one who prefers beasts to her own species. Maybe you called one of your activist friends while you were in the bathroom. I was standing beside Kessler—you could have been gunning for me, since I offend you so much.”

“Now y’all stop squabbling. You sound like a bunch of kids.” LaTisha tugged on her pantyhose and scowled. “Let’s get to the bottom of this. Who among us actually knew where we were going? I personally just came along with Jeremy, and I think young Louisa here rode with Dr. Cramer. Sierra, you came on your own, and so did Ham. Jeremy and the doctor knew their way. So a few of us, at least, couldn’t have tipped anyone off, since frankly I couldn’t tell you even now where we are.”

Louisa nodded. “Besides, I haven’t been alone since we were invited to come.” She tried a small smile. “For that matter, I don’t even have a cell phone.”

The others blinked at her, shook their collective heads, and then turned back to one another. Steven narrowed his eyes at Jeremy. “You’re arm’s bleeding.”

The teacher looked down at his own forearm in surprise. “Must have been a piece of glass.”

Dr. Cramer let out a gusty sigh and pulled a pair of rubber gloves from the pocket of his scrubs. “Agent Kessler, get me a first aid kit. Everyone else stay back. The last thing we need is disease spreading.”

He started mumbling something about AIDS and a few other scary-sounding terms Louisa had never heard before as he reached with protected fingers for Jeremy’s arm.

The teacher frowned at him. “I don’t have any terrible diseases, doc. I may date a lot, but—”

“Many people have no idea when they’re infected. Better safe than sorry. Agent? A kit?”

Steven handed over a white box with a large red cross on it. His expression didn’t soften.

“While Mr. Beckett here gets cleaned up, the rest of you better be prepared to come clean, too. Someone tipped off that gunman. And no one’s leaving until I know who it was.”

***********

LaTisha from MURDER ON THE OL’ BUNIONS
By S. Dionne Moore

The kitchen felt powerful hot all the sudden. Large room though it was, all of us, I dare say, felt the bite of Mr. Muscleman’s command. It didn’t take me long to warm to the occasion. We’re not talking hot flashes, either. I’m long past that.

Well, if he wanted to play detective, then we’d do it my way. And I decided then and there to begin my inquisition with Mr. Muscleman Bossy Guy himself. Afterall, no one liked a bossy person. And no one likes being bossed less than a boss. Takes one to know one, right?

I lasered in on Mr. Muscular. “You’re powerful quick to eyeball us as suspects in this CRIME. Maybe you have something against someone here.”

He crossed his arms, and I thought he’d go toe to toe with me, but his slow smile oozed charm. Too cute for his own good. But I’m immune. Hardy’s my little rooster. Sick though he might be. Right now his cocka-doodle-do is more like the croak of a toad, but I love him.

Mr. Muscles’s smile slid away. He opened the double doors a bit and peeked through. I tapped my toe, letting him know I wouldn’t be put off forever. He eased the door closed again and pursed his lips. “I assure you, Mrs. Barnhart, that is not the case.”

Come to think of it, he was one of the only people I remembered seeing the entire time. Still . . . why did he invite us all over? Complete strangers? It didn’t make a bit of sense.

I eyeballed the rest of the motley crowd, my mind replaying the movements of those present since I’d arrived at this party. Jeremy Beckett seemed unlikely to flick a flea, and the doctor, well, I didn’t know his name, but he hadn’t been out of my sight at all, save for the time I went to the kitchen. The Asian girl kept eyeballing a large man in a bright orange shirt . . .

Orange shirt? Something snagged in my mind, and I looked closer at the fellow. Large. Blond hair. Eyes the color of seaweed.

Hm.

In the middle of my poking around the kitchen earlier, when I’d harbored hope of finding more than a cracker, I clearly remembered a flash of orange as someone exited from the kitchen and into the dining room. I hadn’t given it much thought then, but now that I think on it, it was funny that I had seen someone exiting the kitchen but not in the kitchen.

I waved a hand at the double doors I thought I’d seen him pass through. “Didn’t I see you slipping through those doors into the dining room earlier?”

He smoothed his shirt. “I, too, was looking for a bit more substantial snack.” He stabbed a look at the little Asian girl and pointed to the rack of very sharp, gleaming utensils. “I must say our host has quite an impressive collection of knives, wouldn’t you agree, Sierra?”

“You’re sick,” she muttered and turned her back.

But I wasn’t to be sidetracked. He must have known I wasn’t done with him because he raised an eyebrow at me. Kind of a silent challenge. Well, honey, after raising seven kids, I was more than up to anything he dished. “I believe you had your back to me, Mrs. Barnhart. I’m sure you will agree, this is a very large kitchen.”

“And you’re a very big man. I would have at least seen you, if not heard you.”

There, let him soak that in brine for a while.

I turned to Sierra. “Where’d you get off to before the blast?”

She shrugged. “I have nothing to hide. I left to find the bathroom, but ended up in the library.” Her eyes shifted to the doctor. “You remember, Doctor, you helped me find it.”

Doc patted Mr. Beckett’s arm and straightened. “Indeed I did, young lady. What of it?”

“Weren’t you fumbling with something?” her eyes narrowed. “Like maybe your cell phone?”

The doctor busied himself with pulling at the fingers of his gloves. “I received a page.”

I filed away that tidbit. Something else drifted on the fringes of my brain. It came to me as my eyes scanned along the hall off the kitchen.

The door to the bedroom. It had been closed earlier, and now it stood open, though Muscles hadn’t left the party.

I locked onto Mr. Orange again. His lips drew down into a frown as he returned my stare. That’s when it clicked. “You had come from the bedroom, hadn’t you? And you didn’t want me seeing you. Now I wonder, why would that be?”

************

Steven from RANSOMED DREAMS
By Amy Wallace

Rather than glaring himself into having six more enemies, Steven slipped into the living room and surveyed the scene. Good thing James and Gracie were safely tucked away at his parent’s home for the weekend. After the ERT did their work, the first order of business would be finding a crime scene cleaner and getting a new window installed.

Then he’d call Gracie so she wouldn’t stay up all night wondering. Maybe they could salvage a few hours of his “vacation” weekend, even if they did have to stay in VIRGINIA to do it.

After checking his watch, he slipped on a latex glove and ran a hand over his splintered bookshelf. It’d take him and Clint a good weekend of work making another section for the piece of furniture that would hopefully house all of Gracie’s books in the near future.

Not wanting to disturb any clue the ERT would need to sink a conviction, he moved to the phone. Surely no one was stupid enough to use his phone to make the call. But then again, if criminals were playing with a full stack they’d have cold case files enough to make a twenty-year veteran cry.

He hit redial and listened to the number a computer voice rattled back to him. Not a call he’d placed. Punching it into his cell, he waited for six long and boring rings.

“We’re sorry, but the cellular customer you’re trying to reach is unavailable. If you’d like to leave a message—”

He didn’t, so he slapped the phone shut and took to pacing.

It was a local cell number and not one they had on file for their kidnapping suspect. Once the ERT Agent in Charge cleared him, Steven would run the number by Michael and let the computer genus do his stuff to track it down.

But that wasn’t a solid enough lead for cuffing one of his “guests” and giving them a short trip to a long night in jail.

One more glance at his watch. The ERT should arrive shortly. Until then, he had an interrogation times six to keep him busy.

************

Dr. Cramer from INFORMED CONSENT
By Sandra Glahn

Dr. Cramer wanted to avoid alarming Jeremy, but the red circle of blood on the teacher’s white shirt continued to expand. The doctor pulled up Jeremy’s sleeve for a look.

“Are you on any medications?” he asked.

Jeremy shook his head. “Just an occasional aspirin and some over-the-counter allergy stuff.”

“When’s the last time you had aspirin?” Dr. Cramer asked.

“Yesterday, actually.”

The doctor breathed easier. Perhaps some of the blood-thinning properties were still in effect, which would account for the heavy bleeding, even though the injury appeared to be only on the skin's surface. He pressed against the wound to slow the flow. “Take off your belt," he said.
Jeremy’s eyebrows shot up. “Why?” His look was defiant, but he didn’t wait for an answer to reach for the buckle.

“I need a tourniquet.”

“Surely it’s not all that bad, doc,” Jeremy insisted.

“Maybe not. But just in case.”

Jeremy dutifully undid his belt and handed it to the physician. Dr. Cramer wrapped it around the injured arm above the wound and gave it a yank. Then he looked over at Stephen. “Got any alcohol?”

Stephen nodded and trotted off toward the bathroom.

“Am I gonna live, doc?” Jeremy asked, seeming to laugh it off, though the quiver in his voice betrayed him.

“We’re all terminal cases,” Dr. Cramer said. “But I don’t think your time’s up yet. Does it hurt?”

“Not much, but it’s starting to throb now that you’re pressing on it.” Jeremy’s tone was accusatory.

Dr. Cramer shrugged it off. He looked around at the guests, and his eyes landed on Louisa. “Get me some gauze and tape out of there, will you?” He pointed to the first-aid kit and Louisa jumped into action. Stephen returned with the alcohol about the time Louisa handed Dr. Cramer what he’d asked for. Less than minute later, the wound was dressed.

Dr. Cramer handed back the supplies to their deliverers and felt around in the pockets of his scrubs.

“What do you need?” Stephen asked.

“My phone. Must’ve left it in the car.”

Stephen pointed toward the hall. “Use the one in the bedroom.”

“Thanks.” Dr. Cramer looked over at Jeremy. “I’ll drive you to the ER or we can call an ambulance, if you prefer. It would be better if you didn’t drive yourself. Let me just tell the hospital we’re on our way.”

“ER? It’s not that bad, is it?”

“Your CASE involves a gunshot wound. Trust me—for both our sakes we need to take you in.”

“Okay. Whatever.” Jeremy shrugged.

Dr. Cramer proceeded down the hall and found Stephen’s immaculately clean bedroom. The d├ęcor was art deco in primary colors and symmetrical lines that brought Mondrian to mind. Next to the bed on a black lacquer table sat a red telephone.

As he made his way across the room, Dr. Cramer noticed a slip of paper on the hardwood floor. It was lying in a pool of water about the size an ice cube might leave. He stooped to pick up the paper and recognized it as a business card for Rev. Archer Romlin. It was just like the one each guest had received earlier in the evening except that this one was torn in half, and on the back someone had scribbled what was now the residue of a phone number with the word "cell."

Dr. Cramer picked up the phone and scrolled back through “calls made.” The area code and prefix on the card matched the most recent one, but the last four letters on the card were smeared beyond recognition so there was not way of knowing for sure if the numbers matched.

************

Sierra from HAZARDOUS DUTY
By Christy Barritt

“Rev. Romlin? The cult leader?” Sierra’s fiery gaze turned to Ham, who’d just grabbed a bacon-wrapped scallop from the kitchen counter. “This pig was just talking about the Reverend. It looks like we have our killer.”

Ham glowered down at her and, with a mouthful of food, exclaimed, “Listen here, girlie, you’re a suspect too. Don’t try to put the attention on me just to take it off yourself.”

“I don’t believe in murder, unlike the rest of you people who kill innocent animals simply to indulge your own desires. I’ve got a heart!” She jabbed her finger into her chest to emphasize her words. Her gaze swung around the room, looking at each of the meat eaters with obvious contempt. Everyone stopped eating their meaty treats and wiped their mouths.

Sierra’s scowl landed on Ham again. She stepped closer and jabbed his chest this time. She was a small thing, but she had spirit. “I’ve heard all about your Reverend Romlin. He always talks about RANSOMING people from their sins in that television show of his. And how do you get delivered from your sins? By sending him money. He’s a brainwasher. Did he brainwash you into killing someone, Pig Boy?”

Ham stepped forward, towering over petite Sierra. “I will not tolerate your accusations. For all we know, that bullet could have been aimed at me.”

**********

Hamilton Gordon from RELUNCTANT RUNAWAY
By Jill Elizabeth Nelson

“I don’t like being shot at.” Ham crossed his arms, and sweat trickled into the folds of flesh down his side. “But God hates false accusers.”

That FBI agent, Kessler, poked a finger at him. “No one’s accusing you, Mr. Gordon, but if you’d been the target, it would have been hard to miss.”

Ham’s cheeks flamed. “You’re no pipsqueak yourself. How do you know the shot wasn’t intended as a warning? A scare tactic. I have enemies—”

“Scare tactic!” The mature woman in bright purple hitched up her hose. “Pretty effective then, I’d say. But who’d want to shoot a meat-packing tycoon?”

A soft shriek came from Sierra. “You not only sacrifice animals for sick religious rituals, but you slaughter them for a living? That’s it. This guy’s guilty. He has no respect for life.”

“Young lady,” Ham lifted himself to his full height, “I never said we of The Inner Witness sacrifice lambs. I said we partake of lamb and wine in our sacrament of FORGIVENESS and healing. Maybe you’re a confirmed vegetarian, but I’ll wager everyone else in this room enjoys a good steak, including our host who seems to think someone’s out to kill him.”

Kessler smiled grimly. “With the help of an accomplice in this room.”

“Which brings us back to you, Ham.” LaTisha piped up. “You were alone for part of the evening. Long enough to place that mystery call from Steven’s home phone. Next to the phone, Dr. Cramer found a business card for Reverend Archer Romlin with a smudged phone number written on the back.” She ticked the points off on her fingers. “And you are one of Romlin’s followers. Pretty interesting two plus two here.”

Cramer and Jeremy muttered agreement. Louisa stared, wide-eyed. Sierra shuddered and pressed her lips together.

Ham lifted his chin. “Circumstantial evidence. I have been accused of worse by professionals, not amateur sleuths, and acquitted.” The FBI agent snorted, but didn’t say anything as Ham went on. “What about the good doctor? He wandered off by himself for a while, and there’s no reason he couldn’t have written that number on the back of Rev. Romlin’s business card. I handed one out to everyone when we arrived. And Ms. Humane Society?” He jerked a nod at Sierra. “She left the room, too, also in possession of one of my dear pastor’s business cards. What do any of you have to say about that?”

“Motive.” Kessler’s voice sliced the air. “I’m still trying to figure out your motive, Gordon. But don’t worry, I will, and then we’ll have an arrest, a trial, and a conviction.”

Ham locked glares with the FBI agent. Would law enforcement ever tire of persecuting him? Probably not as long as he placed loyalty to his faith above every other consideration.

***********

Jeremy from TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
By Trish Perry

Right. Here I’ve landed in the soup again, haven’t I? My friends are constantly encouraging me to involve myself in events outside my typical social scenes. “Stay away from the nightclubs and bars, Jeremy!” they say. “There are so many other ways to meet interesting people.” They mean women, of course. They know my romantic circumstances haven’t panned out quite as favorably as I would have liked.

So I take up this bloke Kessler on his invitation to a small do at his home, complete with doctors, animal-rights activists, tycoons, and that utterly striking young mum. I had hoped to chat her up, but that doesn’t look likely now. This could be a blasted long night, and not for pleasant reasons.

They turned out to be an interesting lot, I’ll give them that! I was quite chuffed about getting to know Kessler a bit more. I’ve never met an FBI agent before. What cracking good stories he must have, eh? From the looks of it, though, this shooting was no ACCIDENT. Kessler appears suspicious of all of us. Might one of these guests have sinister reasons for attending?

Kessler thinks someone made a phone call to touch off the shooting. I can’t say I saw anyone on the phone; not even a cell phone. I did see that paranoid doctor chap in the kitchen, checking his pager. But as far as I could see, he stayed clear of the phone. And I must admit I noticed that little animal-rights bird leave the room—she’s rather smashing with that nose ring, isn’t she? She seems sharp, as well. I think she just left to use the facilities, though.

Overall, I’d say LaTisha’s husband, Hardy, had the right idea tonight. He stayed home!

**********

Have you figured out WHOdunit? Then send the name and the culprit and the six KEYWORDS to review@christianreviewofbooks.com with the subject line WHO?

Entries will be received until 3 p.m. EST on Friday 17 August.

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm a failure

Edits on Healing Promises have been pure torture in the midst of needing shoulder surgery, a very defiant three year old, and not balancing life well.

But everything is multiplied in pain when the response to circumstances is to believe a lie. That's what I realized I was doing today, thanks to the proverbial straw that broke everything apart.

After a mammoth temper tantrum, God got my attention. I started looking at this book I'm struggling with and suddenly realized Sara story had become mine and I was missing the point.

So I put aside the work, got quiet before God and listened to what was really going on behind the scenes. Once again, He showed me that I'd bought into a lie from the enemy about being a failure as a parent, a writer, and in just about every other area imaginable.

In so doing I helped the enemy destroy.

God and I spent some amazing time talking about my fears of failure and what I'd done in response. Deep sadness, confession, and forgiveness, broke through the barrier I'd built with God. Then I heard what He had to say about me.

That made all the difference.

The Holy Spirit whispered a verse to my heart that spoke right to what I'd been missing and crushed the lies I'd lived by with clear truth.

God said, "I know the plans I have for you, to give you hope and a future."

Exactly what I needed. God's gift of hope and His promise that He does indeed have a future for me. I have no idea what form that will take. But God knows.

And now He and I have some real writing to do.

Please keep praying! What a gift it is to know none of us is alone in this battle and that in the end God is good and He truly does have a good plan for each and every one of us.

The Void





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

During Mark Mynheir's career as a police officer, he has worked as a narcotics agent, a S.W.A.T. team member, and a homicide detective. Mark and his wife, Lori, live with their three children in central Florida. Mark is also the author of Rolling Thunder (The Truth Chasers Book One) and From the Belly of the Dragon (The Truth Chasers Book Two).


ABOUT THE BOOK:


The Truth Chasers Book Three


Someone’s trying to play God…and he’s turning Palm Bay into hell.


Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Robbie Sanchez devotes her life to crime prevention, and it shows: She has no personal life and doesn’t know the meaning of a day off. After all, someone has to be around to clean up the mess crime leaves behind.

So when Officer Brad Worthington is brutally murdered, Agent Sanchez is called to the scene along with Brad’s best friend, Detective Eric Casey. The two turn to Lifetex, the genetics lab near the scene, hoping their elaborate security system might have captured the crime outside.

But what’s going on inside the lab is far worse: a renegade scientist is cloning humans! As Robbie and Eric pursue clues–and a growing attraction–they are caught in a deadly battle as the clones begin to act on their own volition…but this battle threatens to claim more than human life; the clones are vying for human souls.


The Void is nothing short of a page-turner. Mynheir is truly hitting his stride as one of our industry's most notable Christian novelists. This latest book has it all: suspense, humor, intrigue, realistic police action, and one thought-provoking story line.

Creston Mapes
Author of Nobody


Amy here: Mark is one of my top ten favorite authors and his newest book, The Void
, solidifies his position there. This book delivers a fast-paced story full of tension and class, but also challenges believers to go deeper into the ramifications of the story Mark presents.

Don't miss this amazing read and the deep things God has to say through Mark's incredible book! Pick up a copy of The Void today!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

OFF THE RECORD


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

OFF THE RECORD

(Zondervan August 15, 2007)

by Elizabeth White


Beth is one of my favorite folks in the writing world. She was the first author I worked up the nerve to email and tell her I loved her novella in Sweet Delights. When she found out I was an aspiring author, she took the time to encourage me. Over the years she's become a beloved friend and continues to spur me on in my writing.

Besides being a dear friend, Beth is also an incredible author. Her characters feel like friends and her stories provide an enjoyable escape from life pressures while drawing you deeper into Christ.


Now for a little more about Beth and her newest book...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Beth White is the author of Fireworks and Fair Game, as well as the critically acclaimed Texas Gatekeepers series from Love Inspired Suspense.

In her own words, she appreciates her most valued roles as wife and mom. Beth is also a second-grade Sunday school teacher, church orchestra member (She plays flute), and artist. She loves to read, crochet, sew, go on mission trips and avoid housework.

Beth lives in Mobile with her minister husband, and is currently on staff at First Baptist Church of North Mobile (fondly known as NoMo), in Saraland, Alabama.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Ambition is on a collision course with a secret from the past.

Judge Laurel Kincade, a rising political star, is announcing her candidacy for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Her aristocratic Old South family, led by her judge grandfather, beams as she takes the podium. Then her eyes light on a reporter in the crowd…and suddenly her past becomes a threat to her future.

Journalist Cole McGaughan, religion reporter for the New York Daily Journal, has received an intriguing call from an old friend. Private investigator Matt Hogan has come across a tip…that Laurel's impeccable reputation might be a facade. Matt suggests that Cole dig up the dirt on the lovely judge in order to snag his dream job as one of the Journal's elite political reporters.

There's just one problem: Cole's history is entangled with Laurel's and he must decide if the story that could make his career is worth the price he'd have to pay.

A sensational scoop becomes a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Can Laurel and Cole find forgiveness and turn their hidden past into a hopeful future...while keeping their feelings off the record?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wanna play?

A Shoutlife friend sent this game and I had a ball trying to find the answers. Great fun for my day off from editing. ;-)

It totally wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. If you play, let me know in the comments!


SCATTERGORIES...it's harder than it looks!

Rules:

Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following questions...

They MUST be real places, names, things...NOTHING made up!

You CAN'T use your name for the boy/girl name question.

Have FUN!

Your Name: Amy

1. Famous singer/band: Amy Grant
2. 4-letter word: Army
3. Street name: Anacostia Freeway
4. Color: Aquamarine
5. Song Title: Always Something There to Remind Me
6. Vehicle: Avalanche
7. Items on a menu: Apple pie
8. Girl Name: Amanda
9. Boy Name: Andrew
10. Movie Title: Armageddon
11. Drink: Alabama Slammer or Apple cider
12. Occupation: Artist
13. Flower: Azalea
14. Celebrity: Alex Trebek
15. Magazine: American Baby
16. US City: Atlanta
17. Pro Sports Teams: Angels
18. Reason for Being Late for Work: Alarm malfunction
19. Something You Throw Away: Avocado peels
20. Things You Shout: Atta Boy!
21. Cartoon Character: Archie Arch

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A picture is worth a thousand sermons

Here's an invitation for you all to take a look at this GodTube video that had me in tears. Please watch all the way till the end.



If for some reason the player doesn't work, please try this link to view the Lifehouse 'Everything' - Skit

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=ee73e63418003b47d7d5

Friday, August 10, 2007

One Little Secret

I'd like to introduce you all to the incredible Allison Bottke and her latest book, One Little Secret.

I credit Allison with providing my first big break into the publishing world. She was my first editor, offering a contract for the story "For This Child" in God Answers Mom's Prayers.

She's also a phenomenal author, speaker and all around awesome lady.

Before I share a blurb about One Little Secret and an interview with Allison, I have to say this book was a joy to read! I'm a big fan of encouraging folks to dream big. Allison's book does just that with a lot of funny twists, wonderful characters and a totally engaging story.

About the book:

For Ursula Rhoades, her ONE LITTLE SECRET becomes her one big problem!

ONE LITTLE SECRET fits seamlessly into a culture obsessed with reality TV and celebrity lives (think American Idol and E! channel). Delving into the life of a fictional rock star, ONE LITTLE SECRET takes readers on a fun-loving ride through Hollywood and the famous GRAMMY awards.

In a land of glitz and glamour, Ursula Rhoades isn’t fazed in the least by the constant parade of Prada. She has a beautiful home, a loving family, and fulfilling volunteer opportunities that leave this fashionable and loving Bel-Air housewife completely content, even if she did have to give up her dreams when she married Don so many years ago.

Enter Nikolai Prevelakis, or Nik Prevel to his fans, the hottest young music star in the country. But it isn’t enough. Handsome, famous, and living the life of a rock star, Nik isn’t content. When his path crosses Ursula’s, he sees the opportunity he’s been waiting for. But what seems like a harmless little secret changes their lives forever-and becomes one big secret everyone’s trying to figure out!

ONE LITTLE SECRET is a Hollywood fairy tale with all the pleasures of escapist literature mixed with gentle lessons on using the talents God has given you, the power of sacrifice, self-esteem, and the value of being “just a housewife.”

Interview with Allison:

Tell us a little about yourself and some of your life experiences that have found their way into your novels. Do we "see" some of you in your characters?

There was a whole lot of me in “Stitch,” (A Stitch in Time) from the weight loss surgery aspect to the career as a professional fundraiser, to living in southern California. It’s been said that debut novels are often the most autobiographical in a novelist’s career. It’s also said that the second novel—the follow-up—is infinitely harder to write because you’ve used up pretty much everything you know in novel number one, and now the rubber meets the road for real creativity. (insert a big smile here.) That said, ONE LITTLE SECRET has far less of my real-life experience, which was a true joy to write! I had so much fun with this book!

What compelled you to make the jump from your hugely successful God Allows U-Turns books to writing fiction?

I’ve always wanted to write fiction. In fact, when I grow up I’d like to work in the world of film—writing screenplays. I have a deep love for creating those sappy, romantic comedy fairy-tale love stories that women can escape into. However, I had a major life-changing epiphany at the age of 35 that brought me closer to God in a very profound way. As a result of that, I founded an organization called: GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS. A vital aspect of that organization is a compilation book series of true short stories written by people from all around the world. The GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS anthology collection took off with its first volume published in 2001 and today, there are 23 plus books under the recognized GOD ALLOWS U-TURNS “brand.” That said, I was blessed to enter the world of publishing and get my feet wet—also important—I was able to make connections with editors and publishers who were able to see how I conducted my business.

I also began attending writer’s conferences as an instructor, and while there I was able to take classes as a student with some amazing novelists who generously shared their craft in workshop sessions. I soaked up everything I could about how to write fiction—taking notes—buying tapes—listening over and over again to teachers like Angela Hunt, Gayle Roper, Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, Jack Cavanaugh, Lauraine Snelling, and Tracie Peterson. It was after taking a 3-day long intensive workshop with Tracie Peterson that I was able to fine-tune my work-in-progress and submit it with a proposal to Bethany House. The rest, as they say, is history. Bethany House signed me to write two novels and the whirlwind began.


What is something you’ve learned about yourself and God through writing that you might not have learned any other way?

Wow, that’s a really good question! A few months ago, I wouldn’t have had a good answer, or I’d have needed to really search my brain for the answer. But it just so happens that I’ve been going through one of those God growth spurts, you know? I’ve had a series of personal epiphanies the past few weeks that are helping me grow as a child of God. The main lesson I’ve learned at this stage of my boomer babe life is that if I don’t slow down I’m going to miss the joy of life. I’ve been so caught up in writing deadlines and constantly working, doing and achieving that one day I realized I had lost the joy of life. Not a good thing. I had to stop and look seriously at my priorities and weigh the tasks of my life against the rewards and more important, against what I know in my heart that God wants from me. His ways are the best, and he is in control, not me. But every once and awhile (okay, more than once and awhile) I get to thinking that I can do it all and then I hit a wall and realize I can’t do it all. Not only that I can’t—but that I shouldn’t even try.

What is your favorite way to connect with God?

Sitting outside in the quiet and listening. Listening to the sounds of nature—and to the sounds of God as he impresses on my heart the things I’m often too busy to listen to. I need quiet time, we all do, but for some of us this is as vital as water. If I don’t stop long enough to thank God for all the blessings he bestows on me each and every day, I end up being a person I don’t very much like.

Thanks, Amy, for allowing me to stop by. I sure hope your readers will pick up a copy of ONE LITTLE SECRET and let me know what they think. Reader feedback is vital!

Have a blessed day!

Hope you all have enjoyed meeting Allison! I'll echo her words about picking up a copy of One Little Secret (it's awesome!) and sending her a feedback email. Authors love those kind words from folks who've enjoyed their books. ;-)

Also, be sure to check out the One Little Secret Hollywood Casting Call Contest Great prizes for a very fun contest!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Suffering

Suffering isn't a topic we talk about too much. Not in church. Not at home. Not even with God.

Most people, me included, if we talk about suffering at all it sounds far more like complaint. Even in prayer. I'm guilty of those "please take this away" prayers and seldom think of thanking God for my circumstances.

Two things shot this issue to the forefront today.

One is my current set of circumstances where it'd be easier and quicker to list the good stuff.

The second is a combination of a Bible verse God wouldn't let me get away from and a story I remembered from years ago.

The Bible verse is 1 Peter 4:19: "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

Honestly, I'd rather give up most day than continue to do good when life is a series of tear-stained pillows. But God brought to mind other verses I struggle to understand that run along this same theme.

Philippians 1:29: "For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him."

Romans 5:3-5: "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

I don't like to hear that suffering is according to God's will. But it's all throughout the Scriptures. 2 Peter clearly talks about Christians being called to suffer and follow in Christ's footsteps.

But even when I bow my knee and accept the reality that suffering is part of God’s plan for my life, seldom do I consider it a privilege. Even less do I rejoice over suffering and thank God for it.

As I've mulled all this over today and look back over painful months that stretch years into the past, I had to stop looking back when I considered a story I read long ago.

It was an interview with a Chinese Christian talking about the issue of suffering. She said, "You American Christians pray for God to take away the pain. We pray for God to strengthen our backs."

I'm ashamed and humbled by this woman's simple statement. Way too often I choose complaint over praise. Demanding God to remove my physical and emotional pain over seeking to glorify Him in the midst of the circumstances He's ordained.

I don't understand. I wish God's path didn't include times of hurt and heartache. But He didn't call us to understand.

He called me, and you, to follow.

To trust Him.

To praise Him anyway. Even when it hurts.

I haven't "arrived" to the place where this is natural. But after today, I'm beginning to see my circumstances a little differently. Not rose-colored denial. But looking beyond the reality of pain to an even greater reality.

If we suffer according to God's will and continue to do good, to praise Him in it, He will strengthen our backs, place His footprints right next to ours, and make us more like Him. He even promises this building of character will produce hope.

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

The choice is simple, not easy:

Focus on pain or praise

Complaint or hope

I pray we'll join together and remind one another to choose praise. To choose hope. And along the way to help carry the ones struggling in their pain, just like Jesus is carrying us.
 
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