Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Other Daughter by Miralee Ferrell and Giveaway

I wanted to introduce everyone to a new author, Miralee Ferrell. She's made a triumphant entrance into the fiction world. I really enjoyed this book. It covers a hard topic; a husband's infidelity before the marriage, but during the engagement. The following is an interview and then my review of the book and details for the giveaway.



Do you have a summary of your book you can share with the readers?

My premiere novel is The Other Daughter—the story of David and Susanne Carson, a couple with an already fragile marriage that’s rocked to its foundation when a young teenaged girl appears at the door….here’s a brief summary:

The girl standing at the door took a deep breath, pulling her suitcase a little closer to her trembling legs. "My mama's dead. He's my daddy."


Susanne Carson knew that she could trust the love of her life—her husband, David—until she discovered a strange, unkempt young girl on their doorstep, claiming to be David's daughter.


Not that their marriage had ever been perfect—David's decision to embrace the Christian faith had strained their relationship. Susanne may not have agreed with his beliefs, but at least she trusted him. Had David been hiding this not-so-little secret from his past? He wanted Susanne to believe in his God, but believing hadn't done much to keep David out of another woman's arms.


As David confronts the truth of his past, Susanne must face her own moment of truth as her marriage is taken to the breaking point and the life of one young girl is left in her hands. It’s women’s contemporary fiction that’s set in the North West, and is being published by Kregel Publications, a well known Christian publishing house.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

An editor friend and I were brainstorming about what I could do for my first book, and she suggested using something I knew, possibly from my own life. That triggered the idea of using an episode from me and my hubby’s personal life—we received a letter from an 18 yr old girl a number of years ago, claiming to be my husband’s daughter. After investigating and meeting Trisha, we accepted her into our lives and hearts, and have continued a relationship with her. The basis for the book came from that episode, but the balance of the book is fiction, other than the setting—I live in the Pacific N.W., in the area where the book takes place.


Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?

Yes, in the final ¼ of my second book, Past Shadows, as well as very occasionally on Love Finds You in Last Chance, Ca., I stared at a blank screen when I sat down to write with no ideas rattling around. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I skip ahead and start writing what I DO know, then I’ll come back and link the old and new together. I’ve found that if I can just get writing again, even if it’s several chapters ahead, the rest will come in time. Sometimes I simply need to step away for awhile and not push too hard. Prayer is also a key…ask the Lord to unlock the block and stir up a new creativity in your heart and mind.

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?



I’m very blessed that I have two areas to write, depending on the noise and traffic level. I have my lap top in the kitchen area on a desk for easy access when I want to jot a few notes, do some marketing, check email, etc. When I want to do serious writing and close a door, I can retreat to my office/library to work. It has a wonderful view of the woods out any of the four windows, and a spacious work area, so is very conducive to writing.



What does a typical day look like for you?



There really is no typical with my hubby and myself. He’s semi-retired, but still involved in a large project/invention that’s going to market soon, so he’s in and out a lot. I’m involved at our church, but much less than I used to be, and also involved with family. This past couple of months we put a new lawn in, planted flower and a vegetable garden, and working on my Love Finds You romance novel. Of course marketing is an ongoing process that doesn’t seem to have an ending point.



Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.



I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants writer…I get an idea, decide who the main characters are and start writing. I don’t follow a lot of rules, and tend to get better acquainted with my characters as I go. I have a basic overview of the story line in very simple outline form…A few sentences that might fill one page, at most, with details only about the main plot points….all of which are subject to change as I go along.



It makes it a bit more time intensive in that I probably have more revisions than an organized writer, but I’ve found I can be more creative if everything isn’t mapped out along the way. My characters have more room to grow, change, and make some of their own decisions…I’ve had things happen in my story line that weren’t planned that fit beautifully and strengthened the plot. After writing the rough draft, I’ll submit it to my crit group a few chapters at a time, as well as having an editor I trust review the first third to half of the book for plot holes and inconsistencies, then start revising and editing.



Do you have anything else in the works besides the book we’re discussing today?



Besides Past Shadows, the sequel to The Other Daughter, I’m working on a historical romance set in 1877 on a horse ranch. The title is Love Finds You in Last Chance, California and it’s due to release in early February, 2009 with Summerside Press. I’ve started another historical romance as well that’s under review and should know something about it in the next few weeks. Readers can always check my website for updates on future books. http://www.miraleeferrell.com/



What can you tell us about Past Shadows, the sequel to The Other Daughter?



It’s a spin off on Jeena, a secondary character from The Other Daughter. Jeena is a well meaning friend of Susanne’s who meddles in the couple’s marriage with almost disastrous results. In book 2, Jeena, (pronounced Gina) is a bit of a pill---not a Christian, worldly and very career minded, but had some hard knocks growing up and a couple of devastating ones we’ll see as an adult. So far my advance readers have wanted to spank her, hug her, cry with her and shake her....but the few that I've allowed to see it so far have been rooting for her to make it through the dark shadows that are rolling in around her.



Your characters are very well drawn, exhibiting realistic emotions, reactions, etc. What kind of research did you have to do in order to “get into their heads”?



None. The emotions were drawn from personal experience, as well as putting myself in the character’s place. While we didn’t have a 13 yr. old girl appear on our doorstep, we did have an 18 yr. old young lady write a letter to my husband, claiming to be his daughter. I went through some of the same feelings of shock and disbelief Susanne experienced. I didn’t fight against it, however, as I was a committed Christian who cared about the welfare of the girl and the rejection she’d grown up with, being told her dad didn’t want her. Susanne’s actions in the scene where she struggles with alcohol, and with her feelings of revolt against being under someone else’s authority (even God’s) were based on feelings and struggles my husband experienced. The two younger children in the Carson family were drawn from our two children at that age. I think that’s one of the reasons why the book was initially written in only 5 wks. The story was very real to me, and the characters were easy to bring to life.



Anything else you’d like to add?



Keep your priorities in order…God first, family next, ministry and others (including your writing) third. Write for the Lord, and yourself, rather than to be published. It will cut way down on the disappointment and frustration level, and bring a deep sense of joy and accomplishment.

Be sure to visit Miralee's blog and website:

Web Site http://www.miraleeferrell.com/

Blog: http://www.miraleesdesk.blogspot.com/


My review:
Susanne is married to David. Together they have 2 children. David has been a Christian since they were married, but Susanne was brought up to think for herself and not to give control over to anyone, let alone God. For the most part they'd had a decent marriage and had opened their home to foster children.

One day Susanne opens her door to find a young girl standing before her and a truck leaving dust as a calling card. Susanne inquires as to who she is and if the person in the truck is coming back for her and that's when the introductions happen. Brianna claims that David is her father. Of course this is shocking to Susanne and she can't quite believe it's true because they were both virgins when they got married, right? If that's the case, then why does this girl bare a striking resemblence to her husband?

This is a complicated topic that is well covered by Miralee. I have to admit I would've reacted much harsher than Susanne did, but I believe that her experience with hurt foster kids helped her accept Brianna to a degree. I also think that David and Susanne's marriage was pretty solid even though like every marriage it had it's ups and downs.

If you'd like to win a copy of this book, give me an idea of how you would react to a kid showing up on your doorstep, suitcase in hand claiming to be either your child or your spouses? I'll hold the drawing on July 7th.

Blessings on your summer reading! US residents only please. Can't afford to send out of the country.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson - Teen FIRST



It's June 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!




and her book:





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.

Visit the Melody's website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.

Don't miss the second book in this series: Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2)

And one of her latest, A Mile in My Flip-Flops will be featured on FIRST Blog Alliance on July 1st!

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714885
ISBN-13: 978-0310714880



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Desiree,” called Inez as she knocked on the other side of the closed bedroom door. “Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs.”

“The name is DJ.”

“I’m sorry, but your grandmother has instructed me to call you Desiree.”

DJ opened the door and looked down on the short and slightly overweight middle-aged housekeeper. “And I have instructed you to call me DJ.”

Inez’s dark eyes twinkled as she gave her a sly grin. “Yes, but it’s your grandmother who pays my salary, Desiree. I take orders from Mrs. Carter. And she wants to see you downstairs in her office, pronto.”

DJ grabbed her favorite Yankees ball cap and shoved it onto her head, pulling her scraggly looking blonde ponytail through the hole in the back of it.

“You’re wearing that?” asked Inez with a frown. “You know what your grandmother says about — -”

“Look,” said DJ. “My grandmother might pay you to take orders from her, but I’m a free agent. Got that?”

Inez chuckled. “I got that. But you’re the one who’ll be getting it before too long, Desiree.”

“DJ,” she growled as she tromped loudly down the curving staircase. Why had she let Dad talk her into living with her grandmother for her last two years of high school? She’d only been here since last spring, late into the school year, but long enough to know that it was nearly unbearable. Boarding school would be better than this. At least she’d have a little privacy there and no one constantly riding her — -telling her how to act, walk, look, and think. She wished there were some way, short of running away (which would be totally stupid), out of this uncomfortable arrangement.

“There you are,” said Grandmother when DJ walked into the office. Her grandmother frowned at her ball cap and then pasted what appeared to be a very forced smile onto her collagen-injected lips. “I want you to meet a new resident.” She made a graceful hand movement, motioning to where an attractive and somewhat familiar-looking Latina woman was sitting next to a fashionably dressed girl who seemed to be about DJ’s age, but could probably pass for older. The girl was beautiful. Even with the scowl creasing her forehead, it was obvious that this girl was stunning. Her skin was darker than her mother’s, latte-colored and creamy. Her long black hair curled softly around her face. She had high cheekbones and dramatic eyes.

DJ noticed her grandmother smiling her approval on this unhappy-looking girl. But the girl looked oblivious as she fiddled with the gold chain of what looked like an expensive designer bag. Not that DJ was an expert when it came to fashion. The woman stood politely, extending her hand to DJ.

“I’d like to present my granddaughter, Desiree Lane.” Grandmother turned back to DJ now, the approval evaporating from her expression. “Desiree, this is Ms. Perez and her daughter Taylor.”

DJ shook the woman’s hand and mumbled, “Nice to meet you.” But the unfriendly daughter just sat in the leather chair, one long leg elegantly crossed over the other, as she totally ignored everyone in the room.

Grandmother continued speaking to DJ, although DJ suspected this little speech was for Taylor’s mother. “Ms. Perez and I first met when my magazine featured her for her illustrious music career. Her face graced our cover numerous times over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard of Eva Perez.”

The woman smiled. “Or perhaps not,” she said in a voice that was as smooth as honey. “According to my daughter, kids in your age group don’t comprise even a minuscule part of my fan base.”

DJ smiled at the woman now. “Actually, I have heard of you, Ms. Perez. My mom used to play your CDs. She was a serious Latin jazz fan.”

“Was?” She frowned. “I hope her taste in music hasn’t changed. I need all the fans I can get these days.”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree’s mother — -my daughter — -was killed in a car accident about a year ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

DJ sort of nodded. She never knew how to react when -people said they were sorry about the loss of her mother. It wasn’t as if it were their fault.

“Desiree,” said Grandmother, “Would you mind giving Taylor a tour of the house while I go over some business details with her mother?”

“No problem.”

Grandmother’s recently Botoxed forehead creased ever so slightly, and DJ knew that, once again, she had either said the wrong thing, used bad grammar, or was slumping like a “bag of potatoes.” Nothing she did ever seemed right when it came to her grandmother. “And after the tour, perhaps you could show Taylor to her room.”

“Which room?” asked DJ, feeling concerned. Sure, Taylor might be a perfectly nice person, even if a little snobbish, but DJ was not ready for a roommate just yet.

“The blue room, please. Inez has already taken some of Taylor’s bags up for her. Thank you, Desiree.”

Feeling dismissed as well as disapproved of, DJ led their reluctant new resident out to the foyer. “Well, you’ve probably already seen this.” DJ waved her arm toward the elegant front entrance with its carved double doors and shining marble floor and Persian rug. She motioned toward the ornate oak staircase. “And that’s where the bedrooms are, but we can see that later.” She walked through to the dining room. “This is where we chow down.” She pointed to the swinging doors. “The kitchen’s back there, but the cook, Clara, can be a little witchy about trespassers.” DJ snickered. “Besides, my grandmother does not want her girls to spend much time in the kitchen anyway.”

“Like that’s going to be a problem,” said Taylor, the first words she’d spoken since meeting DJ.

“Huh?” said DJ.

“I don’t imagine anyone is going to be exactly pigging out around here. I mean aren’t we all supposed to become famous models or something?” asked Taylor as she examined a perfectly manicured thumbnail.

DJ frowned. “Well, my grandmother did edit one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world, but I don’t think that means we’re all going to become famous models. I know I’m not.”

Taylor peered curiously at her. “Why not? You’ve got the height, the build, and you’re not half bad looking . . . well, other than the fact that you obviously have absolutely no style.” She sort of laughed, but not with genuine humor. “But then you’ve got your grandmother to straighten that out for you.”

DJ just shook her head. “I think my grandmother will give up on me pretty soon. Especially when the others get here. She’ll have girls with more promise to set her sights on.” At least that was what DJ was hoping.

“Has anyone else arrived?”

“Not yet.” DJ continued the tour. “This is the library.” She paused to allow Taylor to look inside the room and then moved on. “And that’s the sunroom, or observatory, as Grandmother calls it.” She laughed. “Hearing her talk about this house sometimes reminds me of playing Clue.”

“What?”

“You know, the murder game, like where Colonel Mustard kills Mrs. Peacock with a wrench in the observatory.”

“Oh, I never played that.”

“Right . . .” Then DJ showed Taylor the large living room, the most modern space in the house. Grandmother had put this room together shortly after deciding to take on her crazy venture. Above the fireplace hung a large flat-screen TV, which was connected to a state-of-the-art DVD and sound system. This was encircled by some comfortable pieces of leather furniture, pillows, and throws.

“Not bad,” admitted Taylor.

“Welcome back to the twenty-first century.”

“Do you have wireless here?”

“Yeah. I told Grandmother it was a necessity for school.”

“Good.”

“This house has been in our family for a long time,” said DJ as she led Taylor up the stairs. “But no one has lived here for the past twenty years. My grandmother had it restored after she retired a -couple of years ago.” DJ didn’t add that her grandmother had been forced to retire due to her age (a carefully guarded and mysterious number) or that this new business venture, boarding teen “debutantes,” was to help supplement her retirement income. Those were strict family secrets and, despite DJ’s angst in living here, she did have a sense of family loyalty — -at least for the time being. She wasn’t sure if she could control herself indefinitely.

DJ stopped at the second-floor landing. “The bedrooms are on this floor, and the third floor has a ballroom that would be perfect for volleyball, although Grandmother has made it clear that it’s not that kind of ballroom.” She led Taylor down the hall. “My bedroom is here,” she pointed to the closed door. “And yours is right next door.” She opened the door. “The blue room.”

Taylor looked into the pale blue room and shook her head in a dismal way. “And is it true that I have to share this room with a perfect stranger?”

“Well, I don’t know how perfect she’ll be.”

“Funny.” Taylor rolled her eyes as she opened a door to one of the walk-in closets opposite the beds.

“I try.”

“It’s not as big as I expected.”

“It’s bigger than it looks,” said DJ as she walked into the room and then pointed to a small alcove that led to the bathroom.

“Do I get any say in who becomes my roommate?”

“I guess you can take that up with my grandmother.”

Taylor tossed her purse onto the bed closest to the bathroom and then kicked off her metallic-toned sandals. “These shoes might be Marc Jacobs, but they’re killing me.”

“So, you’re really into this?” asked DJ. “The whole fashion thing?”

Taylor sat down on the bed, rubbing a foot. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.”

DJ felt the need to bite her tongue. Taylor was her grandmother’s first official paying customer to arrive and participate in this crazy scheme. Far be it from DJ to rock Grandmother’s boat. At least not just yet.

“Well, thanks for the tour,” said Taylor in a bored voice. Then she went over to where a set of expensive-looking luggage was stacked in a corner. “Don’t the servants around here know how to put things away properly?”

“Properly?” DJ shrugged.

Taylor picked up the top bag and laid it down on the bench at the foot of one of the beds and opened it.

“Don’t you want to go down and tell your mom good-bye?” asked DJ as she moved toward the door.

Taylor laughed in a mean way. “And make her think she’s doing me a favor by dumping me here? Not on your life.”

“Here are some more bags for Miss Mitchell,” said Inez as she lugged two large suitcases into the room, setting them by the door.

“Put them over there,” commanded Taylor, pointing to the bench at the foot of the other bed. “And don’t pile them on top of each other. This happens to be Louis Vuitton, you know.”

DJ saw Inez make a face behind Taylor’s back. But the truth was DJ didn’t blame her. Inez might be a housekeeper, but she didn’t deserve to be treated like a slave. Suddenly, DJ felt guilty for snapping at Inez earlier today. She smiled now, and Inez looked surprised and a little suspicious. Then DJ grabbed the largest bag, hoisted it onto the bench with a loud grunt, and Taylor turned around and gave her a dark scowl.

“Thank you,” she snapped.

“Later,” said DJ as she exited the room with Inez on her heels.

“Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs, Desiree,” announced Inez when they were out on the landing.

“Again?” complained DJ. “What for?”

“Another girl just arrived. Your grandmother wants you to give her a tour too.”

“What am I now?” asked DJ. “The official tour guide?”

“That sounds about right.” Inez gave her a smirk.

DJ wasn’t sure if she could stomach another fashion diva with an attitude problem, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to risk another etiquette lecture from her grandmother either. Once again, she clomped down the stairs and made her appearance in the office, suppressing the urge to bow and say, “At your ser-vice, Madam.”

“Eliza,” gushed Grandmother, “This is my granddaughter, Desiree Lane. And Desiree, I’d like you to meet Eliza Wilton.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Desiree.”

DJ nodded. She could tell by how formal her grandmother was acting that Eliza Wilton must be someone really important — -meaning extraordinarily wealthy — -even more so than the Mitchells. And that’s when she remembered her grandmother going on about “the Wilton fortune” this morning at breakfast. Of course, that must be Eliza’s family.

“Nice to meet ya, Eliza,” DJ said in a purposely casual tone. This girl was pretty too, but not like Taylor’s dark and dramatic beauty. Eliza was a tall, slender, impeccably dressed, blue-eyed blonde. She wasn’t exactly a Paris Hilton clone — -and she didn’t have a little dog as far as DJ could see — -but there was a similarity, except that Eliza’s face was a little softer looking, a little sweeter, but then looks could be deceiving.

DJ wondered if the Botox was starting to wear off, as her grandmother studied her with a furrowed brow, probably comparing her to Miss Perfect Eliza. Naturally, DJ would not measure up.

“Eliza is from Louisville,” said Grandmother. “Her parents are presently residing in France, where her father just purchased a vineyard. But Eliza’s grandmother and I are old friends. We went to college together. When she heard about what I was doing up here in Connecticut, she encouraged her daughter to send dear Eliza our way.”

“Lucky Eliza,” said DJ in a droll tone.

Eliza actually giggled. Then Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree will give you a tour of the house,” she said. “And she’ll show you to your room.”

“Which is . . . ?” asked DJ.

“The rose room.”

Of course, thought DJ as she led Eliza from the office. Next to her grandmother’s suite, the rose room was probably the best room in the house. Naturally, someone as important as Eliza would be entitled to that. Not that DJ had wanted it. And perhaps her grandmother had actually offered it to her last month. DJ couldn’t remember. But she had never been a flowery sort of girl, and she knew the rose wallpaper in there would’ve been giving her a serious migraine by now. Besides she liked her sunny yellow bedroom and, in her opinion, it had the best view in the house. On a clear day, you could actually glimpse a sliver of the Atlantic Ocean from her small bathroom window.

DJ started to do a repeat of her earlier tour, even using the same lines, until she realized that Eliza was actually interested.

“How old is this house?”

“Just over a hundred years,” DJ told her. “It was built in 1891.”

“It has a nice feel to it.”

DJ considered this. “Yeah, I kinda thought that too, after I got used to it. To be honest, it seemed pretty big to me at first. But then you’re probably used to big houses.”

“I suppose. Not that I’m particularly fond of mansions.”

“Why aren’t you with your parents?” asked DJ. “In France?”

“They’re concerned about things like politics and security,” said Eliza as they exited the library. “In fact, they almost refused to let me come here.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I think they felt I was safer in boarding school. If our grandmothers hadn’t been such good friends, I’m sure they never would’ve agreed.”

“So, you’re happy to be here?” DJ studied Eliza’s expression.

“Sure, aren’t you?”

DJ frowned. “I don’t know . . . I guess.”

“I think it’ll be fun to go to a real high school, to just live like a normal girl, with other normal girls.”

DJ tried not to look too shocked. “You think this is normal?”

Eliza laughed. “I guess I don’t really know what normal is, but it’s more normal that what I’m used to.”

“But what about the whole fashion thing?” asked DJ. “I mean you must know about my grandmother’s plans to turn us all into little debutantes. Are you into all that?”

“That’s nothing new. Remember, I’m from the south. My family is obsessed with turning me into a lady. That was one of the other reasons my parents agreed to this. I think they see the Carter House as some sort of finishing school.”

Or some sort of reformatory school, thought DJ. Although she didn’t say it out loud. Not yet, anyway.




I haven't read any of Melody's books before because I have a hard enough time reading adult books fast enough to feel like I'm keeping up. A couple years ago I introduced my teen girls to her TrueColors series. I didn't okay all of them because my girls weren't into dating and I felt they weren't ready to read a few of the books. I feel that way about Mixed Bags as well. Melody is a great writer and she understands teen girls and how they operate.
In Mixed Bags, DJ is the main character and she's not a Christian, along with the rest of the girls except for the last one we meet, Rhiannon. Rhiannon doesn't get a lot of book time so it's hard to find the Christian element for 3/4 of the book. I know this is a series, so I have a feeling that Book 1 is at the bottom of the arc and it's going to go straight up from here.

Personally, I have to say that Melody's books, including this one, aren't for every Christian teen girl. *SPOILER ALERT* DJ and Conner end up making out and DJ lets the reader know his hands were all over her! I mean, this is real life for teens. It was for me...back then. As I stated earlier, DJ isn't a Christian, so we can't expect her to act like one. Heck, even Christians don't always act like they should.
Each of the girls at Carter House have their own issues and I'm guessing we'll get to know them better as we delve more into the series. Taylor is the worst of the bunch. She treats everyone like crap and does everything she shouldn't. Eliza seems like she could easily be 2 faced. Casey is very goth and I'm guessing something pretty bad happened to her. DJ doesn't want to be like these high and mighty fashionistas, but after only a couple days, her hair is highlighted and she has a new wardrobe. Kriti is about the only one of the "rich" girls who seems decent and makes good choices. Rhiannon is the Christian of the bunch and I hope she makes the biggest impact, which by the end of the book, she starts to.

I think there are a lot of girls that would love this book. If you really monitor what your daughter reads, I would suggest reading it before she does to see if she's ready for the content. I consider this book for older teens, for sure and maybe teens who've had dating experience. Remember, this is all just one parent's opinion.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Along Came a Cowboy - Christine Lynxwiler




Along Came a Cowboy


Barbour Publishing
ISBN 13: 978-1-59789-896-6
Paperback; $9.97; 288 pages


From the outside looking in, local Chiropractor Dr. Rachel Donovan seems to have it together. She’s returned to her hometown of Shady Grove and runs a thriving Chiropractic practice. She’s be nominated as Shady Grove’s Citizen Of The Year, and appointed to the committee planning the town’s major centennial celebration and rodeo. Unfortunately, on the inside everything is not as it appears.

The committee duties come with baggage—cute, cowboy baggage to be precise. Jack Westwood is the epitome of the stereotypical cowboy; rugged, handsome and bull-headed. While he makes everyone else swoon, Rachel is determined to not get involved any more than necessary. She knows his type—T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Unfortunately, the fallout from a mistake that Rachel made fifteen years ago still echoes today threatening to ruin her sterling reputation and bring the whole fa├žade tumbling around her . She thought she had buried it deep in her past, but while she’d moved on she never really moved past that summer. Even though she knows that God has forgiven her, she’s having a harder time forgiving herself.

Can the woman who has devoted her life to healing others allow God to mend her own hurt? Will she seize the opportunity to reconcile with her past and open her heart to love again? Will she come to terms with her mistake and forgive herself before her opportunity at love fades into the sunset?


~~~Christine Lynxwiler Is Available For Interview~~~



About Christine Lynxwiler



Award-winning author and past president of American Christian Romance Writers, CHRISTINE LYNXWILER has numerous novels and novellas published with Barbour, including Arkansas, Promise Me Always, and Forever Christmas.

She and her husband, Kevin, along with their two daughters, four horses, and two dogs live in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in their home state of Arkansas.

Q&A with Christine Lynxwiler, author of Along Came A Cowboy



Q. In Along Came A Cowboy, the lead character struggles with forgiving herself for a past sin that has had a major impact on her life. Why do you think it is easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves or even to accept forgiveness.

A. I don’t know the answer to that, but I have a few ideas. First, I think we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others. Or we might feel, like Rachel did, that if we beat ourselves up enough about the past, then we’ll feel worthy of forgiveness. Also, it’s much easier to give than it is to receive. Same goes with forgiveness. Maybe because our pride isn’t battered by forgiving someone, but being forgiven implies owning up to sin and recognizing that we can’t fix our mistake on our own.

Q. What would your advice be to someone who is struggling to come to terms with a past indiscretion?

A. Obviously, if you’re a Christian, I’d advise giving the past to God and once you’ve repented and asked His forgiveness, forgive yourself, forget it and move on. But that’s a little simplistic for most of us. I think many of us tend to do what Rachel does in Along Came a Cowboy and magnify our own sins. What seems like an unfortunate little stumble on someone else’s path can appear to be a plunge to certain death on our own life’s road. So consider how you’d feel about a friend or loved one if they’d done exactly what you did. If the answer is, “I’d forgive them” then forgive yourself. You deserve no less kindness and mercy from yourself than anyone else does. If that doesn’t work for you and you have children, ask yourself how you would feel if your child did this thing. Would you still love them? If they turned from this sin, would you forgive them? If the answer is yes, then your Heavenly Father still loves you and forgives you too, so it’s time to let it go and forgive yourself. If the answer is no, then maybe your current sin is an inability to forgive others and that’s a whole ‘nother problem.

Q. When you’re writing, what do you use as your inspiration?

A. Inspiration and ideas come from everywhere. But as I said in an interview recently, I’m an Arkansas country girl, born and raised on a farm, and currently living in the most beautiful small town (in my opinion anyway) in the Ozarks. So these are the places and people that inspire me to write. My books are almost all set in small town Arkansas. My characters are rarely ever patterned after one specific person. Instead each one is a conglomeration of people I meet and interact with every day. I get inspired when I ask “What if?” That’s the neverending question and asking it usually will bring more stories than one person can write in a lifetime.

Q. What do you enjoy most about writing Christian fiction?

A. One thing that I used to complain about that I’ve now come to enjoy is the fact that all my books have a common theme—God is in control. Sometimes it’s the main theme, sometimes it’s just an underlying thread. Each story line is very different from the last one, but the theme is always there. As this theme emerges in a new story, it brings me joy and sometimes even laughter because I know that this is a lesson God is patiently teaching me. I told someone recently that around book seven I began to look for a new theme. “I’m going to get boring,” I wailed. But apparently, even now on book fourteen, I haven’t quite mastered this “God is in control” concept, because inevitably by the end of the book, my character is struggling to come to terms with the fact that she is not in the driver’s seat of her own life. Now when I start a story, I look forward to seeing how this particular theme is going to show up.

On a more serious note, I enjoy knowing that the stories God allows me to write not only entertain, (which is why I wanted to be a writer) but that they also touch readers’ lives in a deeper way than I could ever imagine or take credit for. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

Q. As an award-winning Christian romance writer, do you have any advice for novice or aspiring writers?

A. Never give up. And once you’ve decided that you’re not quitting, join American Christian Fiction Writers. The annual fee of $50 will be the best money you ever spend on your writing career. And don’t just pay the dues and not get your money’s worth. Join a critique group. Get to know other writers. Dedicate yourself to learning the craft. And never quit learning. Being published isn’t the end of the journey. It’s only one step along the way to being the best writer you can possibly be. Settle in for a long, bumpy, exhilarating ride!



My daughter and I really enjoyed this book. We didn't realize it was part of a series, but it looks like it could be read as a stand alone novel. There are some great comical moments. Rachel, from the beginning doesn't stand a chance at being single with the town bringing her together with the local ex-rodeo star, Jack. They grew up as neighbors and Rachel never seemed to notice Jack had a thing for her.

The way Rachel's parents seem to give her the cold shoulder really pulls at your heart strings. You feel bad for her when they barely acknowledge her, but gush over the granddaughter. Rachel was easy to relate to as she flashed back to her teen years, getting pregnant with Jenn, and giving her to her sister to raise.

I liked watching Jack try to show Rachel that he was going to be sticking around. Rachel, throughout the story, slowly came around to the fact that she just might marry some day. I enjoyed Lark's story that interlaced with Rachel. I'm guessing the next book will be about Victoria, one of the other Pinky Promise Sisterhood ladies. I wonder if Adam will be the one who causes her to think more about marriage.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

DragonLight by Donita K. Paul & First Chapter



It is June FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!





The feature author is:



and her book:


DragonLight
WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Donita K. Paul is a retired teacher and award-winning author of seven novels, including DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, and DragonFire. When not writing, she is often engaged in mentoring writers of all ages. Donita lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she is learning to paint–walls and furniture! Visit her website at www.dragonkeeper.us.

The Books of the DragonKeeper Series:

DragonSpell
DragonQuest
DragonKnight
DragonFire
DragonLight

Visit her website.
I haven't had the opportunity to read her book yet, because it is the last book in the series. I have the first book on order and hope that this series will cover my June reading. If I have the chance, I will post my reviews on the books after I've finished them! This is definitely a journey I'm anxious to get started!

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Castle Passages

Kale wrinkled her nose at the dank air drifting up from the stone staircase. Below, utter darkness created a formidable barrier.

Toopka stood close to her knee. Sparks skittered across the doneel child’s furry hand where she clasped the flowing, soft material of Kale’s wizard robe. Kale frowned down at her ward. The little doneel spent too much time attached to her skirts to be captivated by the light show. Instead, Toopka glowered into the forbidding corridor. “What’s down
there?”

Kale sighed. “I’m not sure.”

“Is it the dungeon?”

“I don’t think we have a dungeon.”

Toopka furrowed her brow in confusion. “Don’t you know? It’s your castle.”

“A castle built by committee.” Kale’s face grimaced at the memory of weeks of creative chaos. She put her hand on Toopka’s soft head.

The doneel dragged her gaze away from the stairway, tilted her head back, and frowned at her guardian. “What’s ‘by committee’?”

“You remember, don’t you? It was just five years ago.”

“I remember the wizards coming and the pretty tents in the meadow.” Toopka pursed her lips. “And shouting. I remember shouting.” “They were shouting because no one was listening. Twenty-one wizards came for the castle raising. Each had their own idea about what we needed. So they each constructed their fragment of the castle structure according to their whims.”

Toopka giggled.

“I don’t think it’s funny. The chunks of castle were erected, juxtaposed with the others, but not as a whole unit. I thank Wulder that at least my parents had some sense. My mother and father connected the tads, bits, and smidgens together with steps and short halls. When nothing else would work, they formed gateways from one portion to another.”

The little doneel laughed out loud and hid her face in Kale’s silky wizard’s robe. Miniature lightning flashes enveloped Toopka’s head and cascaded down her neck, over her back, and onto the floor like a waterfall of sparks.

Kale cut off the flow of energy and placed a hand on the doneel’s shoulder. “Surely you remember this, Toopka.”

She looked up, her face growing serious. “I was very young then.”

Kale narrowed her eyes and examined the child’s innocent face. “As long as I have known you, you’ve appeared to be the same age. Are you ever going to grow up?”

Toopka shrugged, then the typical smile of a doneel spread across her face. Her thin black lips stretched, almost reaching from ear to ear. “I’m growing up as fast as I can, but I don’t think I’m the one in charge. If I were in charge, I would be big enough to have my own dragon, instead of searching for yours.”

The statement pulled Kale back to her original purpose. No doubt she had been manipulated yet again by the tiny doneel, but dropping the subject of Toopka’s age for the time being seemed prudent.

Kale rubbed the top of Toopka’s head. The shorter fur between her ears felt softer than the hair on the child’s arms. Kale always found it soothing to stroke Toopka’s head, and the doneel liked it as well.

Kale let her hand fall to her side and pursued their mission. “Gally and Mince have been missing for a day and a half. We must find them. Taylaminkadot said she heard an odd noise when she came down to the storeroom.” Kale squared her shoulders and took a step down into the dark, dank stairwell. “Gally and Mince may be down here, and they may be in trouble.”

“How can you know who’s missing?” Toopka tugged on Kale’s robe, letting loose a spray of sparkles. “You have hundreds of minor dragons in the castle and more big dragons in the fields.”

“I know.” Kale put her hand in front of her, and a globe of light appeared, resting on her palm. “I’m a Dragon Keeper. I know when any of my dragons have missed a meal or two.” She stepped through the doorway.

Toopka tugged on Kale’s gown. “May I have a light too?”

“Of course.” She handed the globe to the doneel. The light flickered. Kale tapped it, and the glow steadied. She produced another light to sit in her own hand and proceeded down the steps.

Toopka followed, clutching the sparkling cloth of Kale’s robe in one hand and the light in the other. “I think we should take a dozen guards with us.”

“I don’t think there’s anything scary down here, Toopka. After all, as you reminded me, this is our castle, and we certainly haven’t invited anything nasty to live with us.”

“It’s the things that come uninvited that worry me.”

“All right. Just a moment.” Kale turned to face the archway at the top of the stairs, a few steps up from where they stood.

She reached with her mind to the nearest band of minor dragons. Soon chittering dragon voices, a rainbow vision of soft, flapping, leathery wings, and a ripple of excitement swept through her senses. She heard Artross, the leader of this watch, call for his band to mind their manners, listen to orders, and calm themselves.

Kale smiled her greeting as they entered the stairway and circled above her. She turned to Toopka, pleased with her solution, but Toopka scowled. Obviously, the doneel was not impressed with the arrival of a courageous escort.

Kale opened her mouth to inform Toopka that a watch of dragons provides sentries, scouts, and fighters. And Bardon had seen to their training. But the doneel child knew this.

Each watch formed without a Dragon Keeper’s instigation. Usually eleven to fifteen minor dragons developed camaraderie, and a leader emerged. A social structure developed within each watch. Kale marveled at the process. Even though she didn’t always understand the choices, she did nothing to alter the natural way of establishing the hierarchy and respectfully worked with what was in place.

Artross, a milky white dragon who glowed in the dark, had caught Kale’s affections. She sent a warm greeting to the serious-minded leader and received a curt acknowledgment. The straight-laced young dragon with his tiny, mottled white body tickled her. Although they didn’t look alike in the least, Artross’s behavior reminded Kale of her husband’s personality.

Kale nodded at Toopka and winked. “Now we have defenders.”

“I think,” said the doneel, letting go of Kale’s robe and stepping down a stair, “it would be better if they were bigger and carried swords.”

Kale smiled as one of the younger dragons landed on her shoulder. He pushed his violet head against her chin, rubbing with soft scales circling between small bumps that looked like stunted horns. Toopka skipped ahead with the other minor dragons flying just above her head.

“Hello, Crain,” said Kale, using a fingertip to stroke his pink belly. She’d been at his hatching a week before. The little dragon chirred his contentment. “With your love of learning, I’m surprised you’re not in the library with Librettowit.”

A scene emerged in Kale’s mind from the small dragon’s thoughts. She hid a smile. “I’m sorry you got thrown out, but you must not bring your snacks into Librettowit’s reading rooms. A tumanhofer usually likes a morsel of food to tide him over, but not when the treat threatens to smudge the pages of his precious books.” She felt the small beast shudder at the memory of the librarian’s angry voice. “It’s all right, Crain. He’ll forgive you and let you come back into his bookish sanctum. And he’ll delight in helping you find all sorts of wonderful facts.”

Toopka came scurrying back. She’d deserted her lead position in the company of intrepid dragons. The tiny doneel dodged behind Kale and once more clutched the sparkling robe. Kale shifted her attention to a commotion ahead and sought out the thoughts of the leader Artross. “What’s wrong?” asked Kale, but her answer came as she tuned in to the leader of the dragon watch.

Artross trilled orders to his subordinates. Kale saw the enemy through the eyes of this friend.

An anvilhead snake slid over the stone floor of a room stacked high with large kegs. His long black body stretched out from a nook between two barrels. With the tail of the serpent hidden, she had no way of knowing its size. These reptiles’ heads outweighed their bodies. The muscled section behind the base of the jaws could be as much as six inches wide. But the length of the snake could be from three feet to thirty.

Kale shuddered but took another step down the passage.

Artross looked around the room and spotted another section of ropelike body against the opposite wall. Kegs hid most of the snake.

Kale grimaced. Another snake? Or the end of the one threatening my dragons?

The viper’s heavy head advanced, and the distant portion moved with the same speed.

One snake.

“Toopka, stay here,” she ordered and ran down the remaining steps. She tossed the globe from her right hand to her left and pulled her sword from its hiding place beneath her robe. Nothing appeared to be in her hand, but Kale felt the leather-bound hilt secure in her grip. The old sword had been given to her by her mother, and Kale knew
how to use the invisible blade with deadly precision.

“Don’t let him get away,” she called as she increased her speed through the narrow corridor.

The wizard robe dissolved as she rushed to join her guard. Her long dress of azure and plum reformed itself into leggings and a tunic. The color drained away and returned as a pink that would rival a stunning sunset. When she reached the cold, dark room, she cast her globe into the air. Floating in the middle of the room, it tripled in size and gave off a brighter light.

The dragons circled above the snake, spitting their caustic saliva with great accuracy. Kale’s skin crawled at the sight of the coiling reptile. More and more of the serpentine body emerged from the shadowy protection of the stacked kegs. Obviously, the snake did not fear these intruders.

Even covered with splotches of brightly colored spit, the creature looked like the loathsome killer it was. Kale’s two missing dragons could have been dinner for the serpent. She searched the room with the talent Wulder had bestowed upon her and concluded the little ones still lived.

The reptile hissed at her, raised its massive head, and swayed in a threatening posture. The creature slithered toward her, propelled by the elongated body still on the floor. Just out of reach of Kale’s sword, the beast stopped, pulled its head back for the strike, and let out a slow, menacing hiss. The snake lunged, and Kale swung her invisible weapon. The severed head sailed across the room and slammed against the stone wall.

Kale eyed the writhing body for a moment. “You won’t be eating any more small animals.” She turned her attention to the missing dragons and pointed her sword hand at a barrel at the top of one stack. “There. Gally and Mince are in that keg.”

Several dragons landed on the wooden staves, and a brown dragon examined the cask to determine how best to open it. Toopka ran into the room and over to the barrel. “I’ll help.”

Kale tilted her head. “There is also a nest of snake eggs.” She consulted the dragon most likely to know facts about anvilhead vipers. Crain landed on her shoulder and poured out all he knew in a combination of chittering and thoughts.

The odd reptiles preferred eating young farm animals, grain, and feed. They did nothing to combat the population of rats, insects, and vermin. No farmer allowed the snakes on his property if he could help it. “Find the nest,” Kale ordered. “Destroy them all.”

The watch of dragons took flight again, zooming into lightrockilluminated passages leading off from this central room. Kale waited until a small group raised an alarm. Four minor dragons had found the nest.

She plunged down a dim passage, sending a plume of light ahead and calling for the dispersed dragons to join her. Eleven came from the other corridors, and nine flew in a V formation in front of her. Gally and Mince landed on her shoulders.

“You’re all right. I’m so glad.”

They scooted next to her neck, shivering. From their minds she deciphered the details of their ordeal. A game of hide-and-seek had led them into the depths of the castle. When the snake surprised them, they’d flown under the off-center lid of the barrel. As Mince dove into the narrow opening, he knocked the top just enough for it to rattle down into place. This successfully kept the serpent out, but also trapped them within.

Kale offered sympathy, and they cuddled against her, rubbing their heads on her chin as she whisked through the underground tunnel in pursuit of the other dragons.

Numerous rooms jutted off the main hallway, each stacked with boxes, crates, barrels, and huge burlap bags. Kale had no idea this vast amount of storage lay beneath the castle. Taylaminkadot, their efficient housekeeper and wife to Librettowit, probably had a tally sheet listing each item. Kale and the dragons passed rooms that contained fewer and fewer supplies until the stores dwindled to nothing.

How long does this hallway continue on? She slowed to creep along and tiptoed over the stone floor, noticing the rougher texture under her feet. Approaching a corner, she detected the four minor dragons destroying the snake’s nest in the next room. Her escort of flying dragons veered off into the room, and she followed. The small dragons swooped over the nest, grabbed an egg, then flew to the beamed roof of the storage room. They hurled the eggs to the floor, and most broke open on contact. Some had more rubbery shells, a sign that they would soon hatch. The minor dragons attacked these eggs with tooth and claw. Once each shell gave way, the content was pulled out and examined. No
hatchling snake survived.

The smell alone halted Kale in her tracks and sent her back a pace. She screwed up her face, but no amount of pinching her nose muscles cut off the odor of raw eggs and the bodies of unborn snakes. She produced a square of moonbeam material from her pocket and covered the lower half of her face. The properties of the handkerchief filtered the unpleasant aroma.

Her gaze fell on the scene of annihilation. Usually, Kale found infant animals to be endearing, attractive in a gangly way. But the small snake bodies looked more like huge blackened worms than babies.

Toopka raced up behind her and came to a skidding stop when she reached the doorway. “Ew!” She buried her face in the hem of Kale’s tunic, then peeked out with her nose still covered.

The minor dragons continued to destroy the huge nest. Kale estimated over a hundred snake eggs must have been deposited in the old shallow basket. The woven edges sagged where the weight of the female snake had broken the reeds. Kale shuddered at the thought of all those snakes hatching and occupying the lowest level of the castle, her home. The urge to be above ground, in the light, and with her loved ones compelled her out of the room.

Good work, she commended the dragons as she backed into the passage. Artross, be sure that no egg is left unshattered.

She received his assurance, thanked him, then turned about and ran. She must find Bardon.

“Wait for me!” Toopka called. Her tiny, booted feet pounded the stone floor in a frantic effort to catch up.

 
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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.