Friday, October 30, 2009

Always Watching (Rayne Tour #1) by Brandilyn & Amberly Collins

Always Watching

by Brandilyn & Amberly Collins
ISBN-13: 9780310715399
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Zondervan


First I'd like to thank Lindsey from Zondervan for sending this copy to me per my request. I was NOT asked to review this book.

SYNOPSIS

This daughter of a rock star has it all—until murder crashes her world. During a concert, sixteen-year-old Shaley O’Connor stumbles upon the body of a friend backstage. Where is God at a time like this? Can she find out who the killer is before he strikes again?

MY REVIEW

Do you ever read a young adult novel these days and wish it would've been around when you were a teen? This book, along with book 2, Last Breath, made me wish I'd had these types of books available to me!

Now, I better warn you, I'm pretty darn good at these suspense novels! I always think I know who "did it" pretty early on. I'll have you know, I knew 3 different times throughout this book who was the bad guy. Of course, each time it was a different person! In the end, I was totally wrong! hahahaha

Shaley O'Connor is on tour with her now famous mom, Rayne O'Connor and band. They're just finishing a concert and heading to pick up Brittany, Shayne's bff. As she and the body guards are getting ready to head to the airport, Shayne finds the body of make-up artist, Tom. He's been murdered.

From there it seems Shaley's life spins out of control. Thank goodness Brittany has arrived, but will her mom let her stay? They head to the hotel where the craziness doesn't seem to stop. One major thorn in their side is the paparazzi. They're always lurking around trying to get the next story. Rayne & Shaley even have nicknames for some of them like Frodo, Cat, Frog and Vulture.

In the midst of trying to find Tom's murderer, Shaley still tries talking to her mom about the dad she's never known. However, Rayne has no desire to talk about her past, regardless of what Shaley wants. Thoughts of her dad are sparked when a gift arrives at the hotel for her. She also finds a photo in one of her shopping bags from the mall. Is it possible Tom's murder has something to do with her?

As all of the insanity seems to speed up, Shaley has to put her lives in the hands of people she's not sure she knows as well as she thought and try to keep herself from becoming a victim, too.

This is the first novel I've read from prolific writer Brandilyn Collins. I love that she teamed up with her college-age daughter Amberly. I think they did a fantastic job with the mom/daughter dynamic. I think Amberly brought in her young life way of living through Shaley. This story is fast paced and keeps your mind guessing the whole way through on who could've been the murderer!

AUTHORS

Brandilyn Collins: Brandilyn Collins, known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™, is the bestselling author of Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, Crimson Eve, Eyes of Elisha, and other novels. She and her family divide their time between the California Bay Area and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Visit her website at www.brandilyncollins.com and her blog at www.forensicsandfaith.blogspot.com

Amberly Collins: Amberly is the daughter of Brandilyn Collins a best-selling novelist, known for her trademarked "Seatbelt Suspense". Amberly is a college student in southern California with loads of friends. She and her mom love attending concerts together.

If you are interested in learning more about Always Watching please click Zondervan to be redirected to the information page. Do you have a teenager in your home who loves suspense novels? This would make a fantastic gift! You can type the name in the Christian Book Online box on the left side bar to purchase this novel!

Last Breath (Rayne Series #2) by Brandilyn & Amberly Collins

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



Last Breath (Rayne Series #2)

Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Lindsey Rodarmer of ZONDERKIDZ for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Brandilyn and Amberly Collins are a mother/daughter team from northern California. Brandilyn is a bestselling novelist, known for her trademarked "Seatbelt Suspense". Amberly is a college student in southern California. She and her mom love attending concerts together.

Visit the author's website.


Here's a video about the first book in the Rayne Series:



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310715407
ISBN-13: 978-0310715405

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Your father sent me.

The last words of a dying man, whispered in my ear.

Were they true? What did they mean?

Your father sent me. The stunning claim drilled through my head, louder than the crowd’s screams.

Guitars blasted the last chord of Rayne’s hit song, Ever Alone, as Mom’s voice echoed through the Pepsi Center in Denver. The heavy drum beat thumped in my chest. With a final smash of cymbals the rock song ended. Multicolored laser lights swept the stadium, signaling the thirty-minute intermission.

Wild shrieks from thousands of fans rang in my ears.

I rose from my chair backstage. Tiredly, I smiled at the famous Rayne O’Connor as she strode toward me on high red heels. In the lights her sequined top shimmered and her blonde hair shone. She walked with confidence and grace, the picture of a rock star—until she stepped from her fans’ sight. Then her posture slumped, weariness creasing her beautiful face. Mom’s intense blue eyes usually glimmered with the excitement of performing, but now I saw only the wash of grief and exhaustion. How she’d managed to perform tonight, I’d never know. Except that she’s strong. A real fighter.

Me? I had to keep fighting too, even if my legs still trembled and I’d probably have nightmares for weeks.

Your father sent me.

I had to find out what those words meant.

“You’re a very brave young lady,” a Denver detective had told me just a few hours ago. I didn’t feel brave then or now.

“You okay, Shaley?” Mom had to shout over the screams as she hugged me.

I nodded against her shoulder, hanging on tightly until she pulled back.

The crowd’s applause died down. A heavy hum of voices and footsteps filtered from the stadium as thousands of people headed for concessions and bathrooms during the break.

Kim, the band’s keyboard player and alto to my mom’s lead vocals, stopped to lay a darkly tanned hand on my head. A strand of her bleached white-blonde hair was stuck to the gloss on her pink lips. She brushed it away. “You’re an amazing sixteen-year-old.”

I shrugged, embarrassed. “Thanks.”

Mick and Wendell, Mom’s two remaining bodyguards, approached without a word. I gave a self-conscious smile to Wendell, and he nodded back, sadness flicking across his face. His deep-set eyes were clouded, and the long scar across his chin seemed harder, more shiny. At five-eleven, Wendell is short for a bodyguard but every bit as muscled. Tonight his two-inch black hair, usually gelled straight up, stuck out in various directions. He hadn’t bothered to fix it since the life and death chase he was involved in just a few hours ago. Seeing that messed-up hair sent a stab through me. Wendell was usually so finicky about it.

Mick, Mom’s main personal bodyguard, folded his huge arms and stood back, waiting. Mick is in his forties, ex-military and tall, with a thick neck and block-shaped head. I’ve rarely seen emotion on his face, but I saw glimpses of it now. He and Wendell had been good friends with Bruce, Mom’s third bodyguard.

Bruce had been killed hours ago. Shot.

And he’d been trying to guard me.

My vision blurred. I blinked hard and looked at the floor.

“Come on.” Mom nudged my arm. “We’re all meeting in my dressing room.”

Mick and Bruce flanked her as she walked away.

Usually we don’t have to be so careful backstage. It’s a heavily guarded area anyway. But tonight nothing was the same.

Kim and I followed Mom down a long hall to her dressing room. Morrey, Kim’s boyfriend and Rayne’s drummer, caught up with us. He put a tattoo-covered arm around Kim, her head only reaching his shoulders. Morrey looked at me and winked, but I saw no happiness in it.

Ross Blanke, the band’s tour production manager, hustled up alongside us, trailed by Stan, lead guitarist, and Rich, Rayne’s bass player. “Hey.” Ross put a pudgy hand on Mom’s shoulder. “You’re doing great.” He waved an arm, indicating everyone. “All of you, you’re just doing great.”

“You do what you have to,” Stan said grimly. His black face shone with sweat.

Narrowing single file, we trudged into the dressing room. Mick and Wendell took up places on each side of the door.

Marshall, the makeup and hair stylist, started handing out water bottles. In his thirties, Marshall has buggy eyes and curly dark hair. His fingers are long and narrow, deft with his makeup tools. But until two days ago, he’d been second to Mom’s main stylist, Tom.

“Thanks.” I took a bottle from Marshall and tried to smile. Didn’t work. Just looking at him sent pangs of grief through me, because his presence reminded me of Tom’s absence.

Tom, my closest friend on tour, had been murdered two days ago.

Mom, Ross, Rich and I sank down on the blue couch—one of the furniture pieces Mom requested in every dressing room. Denver’s version was extra large, with a high back and overstuffed arms. To our left stood a table with plenty of catered food, but no one was hungry. I’d hardly eaten in the last day and a half and knew I should have something. But no way, not now.

Maybe after the concert.

Stan, Morrey and Kim drew up chairs to form a haphazard circle.

“All right.” Ross sat with his short, fat legs apart, hands on his jeaned thighs. The huge diamond ring on his right hand was skewed to one side. He straightened it with his pinky finger. “I’ve checked outside past the guarded area. The zoo’s double what it usually is. The news has already hit and every reporter and his brother are waiting for us. Some paparazzi are already there, and others have probably hopped planes and will show up by the time we leave.”

Is Cat here? I shuddered at the thought of the slinky, effeminate photographer who’d bothered us so much in the last two days. He’d even pulled a fire alarm in our San Jose hotel the night before just to force us out of our rooms. Now by police order he wasn’t supposed to get within five hundred feet of us. I doubted he’d care.

My eyes burned, and my muscles felt like water. Little food, no sleep, and plenty of shock. Bad combination. I slumped down in the couch and laid my head back.

Ross ran a hand through his scraggly brown hair. “Now at intermission folks out there”—he jabbed a thumb toward the arena—“are gonna start hearing things. Rayne, you might want to say a little something when you get back on stage.”

Mom sighed, as if wondering where she’d find the energy to do the second half of the concert. “Yeah.”

I squeezed her knee. If only the two of us could hide from the world for a week or two.

Make that a whole year.

Rich frowned as he moved his shaved head from one side to the other, stretching his neck muscles. His piercing gray eyes landed on me, and his face softened. I looked away.

Everyone was so caring and concerned about me. I was grateful for that. Really, I was. But it’s a little hard to know you’ve been the cause of three deaths. Under all their smiles, did the band members blame me?

Ross scratched his hanging jowl. “We got extra coverage from Denver police at the hotel tonight. Tomorrow we’re supposed to head out for Albuquerque. It’s close enough for Vance to drive the main bus without a switch-off driver, and the next two venues are close enough as well. But that’s just logistics. We’ve all been through a lot. Question is—can you all keep performing?” He looked around, eyebrows raised.

“Man.” Morrey shook back his shoulder-length black hair. “If three deaths in two days isn’t enough to make us quit …” His full lips pressed.

I glanced hopefully at Mom. Yeah, let’s go home! I could sleep in my own bed, hide from the paparazzi and reporters, hang out with Brittany, my best friend—who was supposed to be here with me right now.

But canceling concerts would mean losing a lot of money. The Rayne tour was supposed to continue another four weeks.

Mom hunched forward, elbows on her knees and one hand to her cheek. Her long red fingernails matched the color of her lips. “I almost lost my daughter tonight.” Her voice was tight. “I don’t care if I never tour again—Shaley’s got to be protected, that’s the number one thing.”

I want you protected too, Mom.

“I agree with that a hundred percent,” Morrey said, “but at least the threat to Shaley is gone now that Jerry’s dead.

Jerry, one of our bus drivers—and a man I’d thought was my friend—killed Tom and Bruce, and then came after me earlier that night. A cop ended up shooting him.

Kim spread her hands. “I don’t know what to say. I’m still reeling. We’ve barely had time to talk about any of this tonight before getting on stage. I feel like my mind’s gonna explode. And Tom …”

She teared up, and that made me cry. Kim had been like a mother to Tom. Crazy, funny Tom. It was just so hard to believe he was gone.

I wiped my eyes and looked at my lap.

“Anyway.” Kim steadied her voice. “It’s so much to deal with. I don’t know how we’re going to keep up this pace for another month.”

Mom looked at Ross. “We can’t keep going very long with only Vance to drive the main bus.”

Ross nodded. “Until Thursday. I’d have to replace him by then.”

“With who?” Mom’s voice edged.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to jump on it.”

“You can’t just ‘jump on it.’ We need time to thoroughly check the new driver out.”

“Rayne.” Ross threw her a look. “I did check Jerry out. Completely. He had a false ID, remember? That’s what the police said. I couldn’t have known that.”

“You might have known if you’d checked harder.”

Ross’s face flushed. “I did—”

“No you didn’t! Or if you did it wasn’t good enough!” Mom pushed to her feet and paced a few steps. “Something’s mighty wrong if we can’t even find out a guy’s a convicted felon!”

What? I stiffened. “How do you know that?”

Mom waved a hand in the air. “The police told me just before we left the hotel.”

We’d huddled in the manager’s office after the policeman killed Jerry.

I stared at Mom. “When was he in jail?”

Mom threw a hard look at Ross. “He’d barely gotten out when we hired him.”

Heat flushed through my veins. I snapped my gaze toward the floor, Jerry’s last words ringing in my head.

Your father sent me.

How could my father have sent Jerry if he was in jail?

“Rayne,” Ross snapped, “I’ve told you I’m sorry a dozen times—”

“Sorry isn’t enough!” Mom whirled on him. “My daughter was taken hostage. She could have been killed!”

Rich jumped up and put his arms around her. “Come on, Rayne, it’s okay now.”

She leaned against him, eyes closed. The anger on her face melted into exhaustion. “It’s not okay.” Mom shook her head. “Tom’s dead, Bruce is dead. And Shaley—”

Her words broke off. Mom pulled away from Rich and hurried back to the couch. She sank down next to me, a hand on my knee. “Shaley, you’re the one who’s been through the most. What do you want to do?”

My throat nearly swelled shut. Go home! I wanted to yell. But I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair. This wasn’t my tour. I didn’t have to pay the bills.

I glanced around at all the band members. Morrey was holding Kim’s hand. Stan and Rich watched me, waiting. A canceled tour wouldn’t just affect them. Rayne had three back-up singers, one of them Carly, who’d been such a help to me. Plus all the techs and roadies. They’d all lose money.

Wait—maybe Mom would let me go home and stay with Brittany. Now that Tom’s and Bruce’s killer was dead …

“Shaley?” Mom tapped my leg.

“I don’t … I can’t stop the tour.”

Ross exhaled. “Rayne?”

Mom looked at the wall clock and pushed to her feet. “We can’t decide this now. It’s only fifteen minutes before we have to be back on stage. I still need to change.”

Stan stood. “I say we figure on doing Albuquerque, and then we can decide about the rest.”

“Yeah, me too.” Rich got up, along with everyone else. I could see the business-like attitude settle on all their faces, including Mom’s. Soon they had to perform again. Every other concern must be pushed aside. In the entertainment world the saying was true: the show must go on.

Within a minute everyone had left except Mom, Marshall and me. Mom threw herself into a chair by the bright mirrors so Marshall could adjust her makeup. When he left she changed into a steel blue top and skinny-legged black pants.

I sat numbly on the couch, four words running through my mind. Words, I sensed, that would change my life.

Your father sent me.

Mom didn’t know what Jerry had whispered to me as he died. I needed to tell her.

But how? Like me, she was running on empty. It would be one more shock, another scare. I wasn’t sure she could take anymore and still perform.

Had Jerry told me the truth? Had the father I’d never known—the man my mother refused to talk about—purposely sent a killer to join our tour?

I needed to know. I needed to find out. Because if it was true—the danger was far from over.






Book 2 in the Rayne Tour series. I read book 1 and book 2 in one night. I couldn't let it go! I will be posting my review for Book 1 Always Watching after I do this one.

Last Breath picks up immediately where Always Watching leaves off. This is an amazingly fast paces set of books. Everything pretty much happens over 3 days. And it works!

Shaley, Rayne's daughter, is just finishing the worst couple of days of her life. The band is headed to Phoenix to continue the concert tour. Unfortunately, the paparazzi is never far behind and one guy in particular, Cat, wreaks havoc wherever he goes.

Shaley, on a quest for information about her father whom her mom never speaks about, gets the opportunity to learn about the past that's been hidden all her life. From there we go back and forth between 2009 and 1991, when Rayne met Shaley's dad.

Learning about her mom and dad's past is also converging with what she's learning about him in the present. Circumstances lead to Shaley learning more about him in a couple days than she could've ever dreamed. But could this dream turn into a nightmare?

This is my first Brandilyn Collins novel. I wonder what it was like working with her daughter Amberly in creating this series. If I find out, I'll let you know! If you have a teenage daughter, I know for certain she will love these 2 books. Shaley goes shopping and uses her phone as a lifeline. Does that sound like anyone you know? This is great YA fiction!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jesus...No Greater Love Movie for the Next Generation

The Jesus Movie for
the Next Generation

www.NewJesusMovie.com

Guest post by Bruce Marchiano, producer of Jesus...No Greater Love

The truth of the gospel never changes. But Christianity has many faces. They reflect the customs and cultures and the beautiful diversity of the global church. They are lined with the wisdom of age and vibrant with the passion of youth. One gospel for all the world…but how will we deliver it in a way that reaches the whole world? How will we reach the next generation?

Young Christians today are more like St. Francis of Assisi than a circuit riding preacher. “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” This is a generation focused on being the hands and feet of Christ and meeting the physical needs of those in both the local and global community. They are building houses, planting gardens, taking food and clothes to the poor and helping the widows and orphans… and then they are sharing the gospel. And they are using technology like never before. They communicate the message through audio, film, video and the internet, and they strive for excellence within those mediums. They must. This is how they will reach their generation for Christ.

I share their passion. In the film, The Gospel According to Matthew, we were able to capture the heart of Christ that is so often missing in Christian films, but the quality of the film making was constrained by an $800,000 budget. Now we are inspiring a movement that will bring Jesus to film in a version that literally leaps off the screen and into the hearts of viewers.

Jesus…No Greater Love, the new Jesus movie, (http://www.newjesusmovie.com/) will be a word for word, verse by verse film adaption of the Gospel according to John. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. That’s really our concept, that the gospel would go out in the power of the film medium, unaltered by any human script writer.

The budget for a typical Hollywood production is $100-110 million. Actors’ salaries account for much of that cost. Because the new Jesus movie will be not be paying big name actors, our team believes we can produce a world class, state-of-the-art film incorporating the latest cutting-edge technology for just $45 million. The production will be shot on location in Jerusalem and shot digitally using CGI backgrounds and a green screen stage, providing unlimited potential for sharing the gospel for generations to come.

We are inviting people from all nations and all generations to join this movement to bring the gospel to all people. A movement made of 4.5 million people contributing a tax deductible donation of $10 each would fund the cost of the film. The Gospel belongs to everyone, and the new Jesus movie will be produced expressly so it can be accessed by everyone, no matter their financial situation. Our team's vision is to see the film translated into as many languages as possible and supplied to mission organizations and churches all over the world.

You can become a part of the movement to reach the next generation. Please help us spread the word to your friends and family. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so at http://www.newjesusmovie.com./

Also, you can keep up with our progress by visiting any of these links:






~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bruce Marchiano is an actor, author, international speaker, and the founder of Marchiano Ministries, a non-profit organization reaching out to people both spiritually and practically in the USA and across the world. He is best known for his joyful, passionate portrayal of Jesus in the film, The Gospel According to Matthew.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Emmy's Equal update with Review

Don't you love it when old friends come to visit? Personally, I really enjoy it. That's how I felt about the last installment of the Texas Fortunes series Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver.

This time we get to learn Emmy's future. It's certainly not one she expects! We've come away from book 2 Chasing Charity with Charity having married Buddy. So, when Emmy's parents decide to head to Southern Texas with Charity's mom Bertha, Emmy hopes to be sent to visit Charity and her new baby.

Her parents have something else in mind, to take her to Texas with her. Emmy's antics, even at 21, get her into trouble and solidify her fate with her parents. They make it to the Triple R Ranch where the rancher's son, Cuddy, has been anticipating meeting this young woman. What he didn't plan on was the ranch hand Diego not being able to take his eyes off of Emmy either.

There are a lot of people involved in this story, and they each play a pivotal role. Diego's mom tries to instill in him the way of his heritage. Bertha hunts down heads of cattle to take back to Humble, TX. Cuddy's parents welcome Emmy's family warmly and the escapades begin.

In the press release author Marcia Gruver shares about the parts of the book that she wanted to make sure her readers received. The one that especially touched me was the roles the fathers played. It's the part of the broken father/daughter relationship. We girls are so profoundly affected by our relationships with our dad whether whole or lacking; full or empty; close or distant.

Marcia encourages her readers to refocus because we can't "force a neglectful father to become the parent we need." We need to turn our attentions toward our heavenly Father. Marcia also speaks to our ability to show mercy.

One topic she covers is the comparison of our earthly father to our heavenly Father. I agree with her when she responds by saying, "I'm convinced this is the reason Satan attacks our fathers so fiercely." Satan would like nothing better than for dads to be crappy dads and for us to view God as a crappy Father also.

I'm also thankful that she shares about the single parent life. Melatha, Diego's mom, loves her son very much and it's hard for her to step away from the plans she believes God has and let it happen as God wants it to. It's not easy doing this parenting alone, and I know from experience.

If you are looking for a wonderful series to read, I would highly suggest Texas Fortunes. I love it when a series is available in full instead of having to wait for each book to come out separately.

I wanted to repost the FIRST Wild Card Tour information for those who didn't read it a couple days ago...

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



Emmy’s Equal

Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marcia Gruver lives with her husband in Huffman, Texas, and has published various articles, poems, and devotionals. Her novel, Love Never Fails (renamed Chasing Charity), won third place in the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest. Marcia is a member of ACFW, Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW), and The Writers View.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602077
ISBN-13: 978-1602602076

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Humble, Texas, August, 1906


The stagnant well appeared bottomless, as dank and murky as a grave. Emmy rested her arms on the cold, jagged stones and leaned to peer into the abyss. Mama’s embroidered lace hankie, shimmering in the meager light, hung from an outcropping of rock about four feet down. Narrowing her eyes, she peered at the spot of white that stood out from the surrounding darkness and heaved a sigh, stirring the fetid air below and raising a noxious odor that took her breath.

She pushed up her sleeves and blasted a droopy blonde ringlet from her eyes with a frustrated puff of air. There was no help for it—at the risk of certain death, she had to retrieve that handkerchief.

A figure loomed, drawing alongside her with a grunt.

She jumped, and her heart shot past her throat. Chest pounding, she wasted a glare on the dark profile, noticing for the first time a scatter of lines around his eyes and tiny gray curlicues in his sideburns.

“Nash! I nearly leapt over the side.” She swatted his arm. “I’ve asked you to stop sneaking up on me. I’ve a good mind to fit you with a cowbell.”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest, as deep as the chasm. “I didn’t go to scare you, Miss Emmy.” He bent his lanky body so far she feared he’d tumble headfirst into the never-ending shaft. “Say, what we looking for inside this hole?”

“We’re not looking for anything. I’ve already found it.” Emmy clutched his shirtsleeve and pulled him away. “Go fetch me a lantern, and be quick about it.” She tucked her chin in the direction of the palomino pony languishing under a nearby oak, nibbling at the circle of high grass around the trunk. “Take Trouble. He’ll be quicker than walking.”

Nash frowned and rubbed the knuckles of one hand along his temple, as if an ache had sprung up there. “What you need a lantern for, with the sun up and shining the past five hours? There’s plenty of light to see.”

She braced herself and pointed. “Not down there.”

Nash’s sleepy eyes flew open. His startled gaze bounced along her finger to the circular wall of weathered stones. “Down there?” He took a cautious step back. “What’s in this sour old pit that might concern you?”

Emmy swallowed hard. She could trust Nash with anything but dreaded his reaction all the same. “It’s. . .one of mama’s hankies.” She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head.

His shoulders eased, and he ambled over to gaze inside. “Is that all?”

If only it were. Emmy risked a peek at him. “You don’t understand.”

He winced as if she’d spoken a bad omen. “Uh, uh. Not from her good batch? Them she’s always cackling about?”

Emmy cringed and nodded.

The delicate, lacy linens held an uncommon depth of meaning for Emmy’s mama. Hand embroidered in Germany by her grandmother then brought to the Americas and placed in Mama’s hope chest, they represented heart, hearth, and homeland to Magdalena Dane. In equal measure, they represented distress, discontent, and discord to her only daughter, because the bothersome bits of cloth seemed determined to cause Emmy grief.

Nash’s stunned expression hardened into an accusing glare. “Why, Miss Emmy? Why you done brought about such misery? You ain’t s’posed to touch ’em, and you know it.” His graying brows fluttered up and down, like two moths bent on escape. “There’s scarce few left, and your mama blames you for them what’s missing.”

She moaned and flapped her hands. “I didn’t mean to take the silly thing. It was warm when I rode out this morning. I knew I’d likely sweat, so I snagged a hankie from the clothesline. I never looked at it until a few minutes ago. That’s how this terrible mishap came about. I held it up as I rode, staring in disbelief. Trouble was galloping across the yard when the wind caught it and. . .” She motioned behind her. “The willful rag drifted down the well before I could stop the horse and chase after it.”

Emmy lowered her eyes then peered up at him through her lashes. “None of this is my fault, Nash. Papa should’ve covered this smelly cistern months ago, and those wretched handkerchiefs have a mind of their own.”

The hint of a smile played around Nash’s lips. “If so, they harbor a mighty poor opinion of you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him.

Wagging his head, he rested the back of his hand on his side. “In all my years of working for your family, of all the fits I’ve seen your mama pitch, the worst have been over the loss of them fancy scraps of cloth.” He shuddered. “Miss Emmy, I’d be mighty grateful if you’d wait and break the news to her after I leave for the day. She gon’ be powerful upset.”

Emmy held up and wiggled a finger. “On the contrary. I won’t be upsetting Mama.”

“How you figure that?”

“Because there’s no need to tell her.”

Nash propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other. “Missy, I thought you was done telling lies and scheming. Don’t forget you’re a saint of God now.”

A saint of God. Yes, she was, through no fault of her own. Like Elijah’s fiery chariot, God had swirled into Emmy’s life in a weak moment and delivered her from herself. Not that she minded His day-to-day presence. In fact, she rather enjoyed the peace He brought. It was during times of temptation when she found the constant stirring in her heart to do the right thing a bit of a bother. Yet no wonder, really. In the past, she’d had precious little practice in doing the right thing.

She blinked up at Nash. “I have no plans to lie, and I won’t need to scheme. We’re simply going to return great-grandmother’s hankie to Mama’s clothesline, washed, rinsed, and fresh as a newborn calf.”

Nash stared then shook his head. “No ma’am. You jus’ forget about what we gon’ do. Question is how are you gon’ pull it off?”

“I’ll show you.” She shooed him with her hands. “Run fetch that lantern like I asked and leave the rest to me.”

Still shaking his head, Nash mounted Trouble and laid in his heels. The horse bolted the short distance across the yard to the well-kept shed tucked behind Emmy’s two-story house. With a furtive glance toward the porch, Nash eased the door open and slipped inside.

While she waited, Emmy watched a rowdy band of crows swarm Nash’s cornfield. The black bandits bickered and pecked for position before settling in for a meal, oblivious to the mop-headed stick Nash had dressed in a ragged shirt and floppy hat and then shoved in the ground. She dared not call his attention to the culprits or he’d bluster after them, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill, leaving her to cope alone with her pressing dilemma.

She jerked her gaze from the birds when Nash rode up and slid off Trouble to the ground, a lighted lantern in his hand.

Handing over the light with a flourish, he lowered one brow and pinned her with a squinty look. “Here’s what you asked for. Jus’ be sure to leave me plumb out of the story when you go explaining yourself to your mama.”

He turned to go, but Emmy caught hold of his shirttail. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

Nash covered his ears and reeled away. “Don’t tell me no mo’. I ain’t seen nothing, and I ain’t heard nothing. If anybody needs me, I’ll be feeding the chickens.”

Emmy aimed a haughty laugh at his back. “It’s too late for that. You’re in up to your hat, and it’s no less punishment than you deserve for sneaking about all the time.”

Nash dug in his heels and stood facing the grove of loblolly pine at the edge of the yard, his body stiff as a post.

Repentant, she softened her voice to a plea. “I’m sorry, Nash. I had no call to utter such a thing. It’s just. . .I can’t do this without you.”

Arms dangling at his sides, he tipped his head toward the sky and whispered something, a prayer no doubt, before turning to face her. “What you want me to do?”

She peppered him with grateful kisses then grabbed his hand. “Come over here.” Hauling him to the gaping cavity, she lowered the lamp. “See? There it is.”

They gazed at the only bright spot in the oppressive gloom, their ability to see inside the shaft made no better by the frail circle of yellow light.

Nash shrugged and drew back from the side. “Too far down. May as well wave it goodbye then go fess up to what you done.”

Emmy gripped his arm. “Nonsense. We can get it out of there.”

“How, short of fishing it out with a cane pole? And I got no hooks.” He scratched his head. “I reckon I could take my hammer and pound a bend in a nail.”

She shook her head. “Too risky. If the hankie slips off it’ll settle to the bottom, and that’ll be the end of it.” She drew a determined breath. “I have a better idea.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose on his forehead, reaching new heights, even for him. “What sort of idea? Harebrained or foolhardy? Them’s the only two kinds you have.”

She swallowed hard and fingered the wooden bucket sitting on the wall. “I’m going to straddle this, and you’ll lower me down to fetch it.”

The shaggy brows bested their last mark. “You cain’t mean it, Miss Emmy.”

“I do so.”

“Then your idea is both harebrained and foolhardy. You must be plain tetched up under them pretty white locks. S’pose that rope snaps in two?”

“Oh, pooh.” She patted the heavy hemp coiled around the crank. “This rope is thick and sound.” She pointed over her shoulder at the horse. “You could lower Trouble down that well.”

He nodded. “Yes’m. That’s exactly what I’d be doing.” He jerked off his weathered hat and dashed it against his leg. “Don’t ask me to put you in that kind of danger. No, missy. I won’t do it. Not for nothing in this wide world.”

Touched, Emmy smiled at the man who’d been like a father to her over the years, far more of a parent than her own papa, who didn’t stay home often enough to have much practice at the role. She took Nash’s hand and squeezed it. “I won’t be in any danger. As long as you’re holding the handle, I know I’ll be safe.” She peered up into his sulky brown eyes. “You know if you don’t help me I’ll just find a way to do it myself. I have to get that hankie.”

He gaped at her. “The silly thing ain’t worth dying for, is it? Your mama has fussed at you before, and you lived to tell the tale. Why is this time so all-fired special?”

She squared around to face him. “I can’t have her angry about anything just now. I’m planning to ask permission to go to St. Louis when Mama travels with Aunt Bertha to South Texas. It’ll be hard enough to convince her as it is. If she gets in a snit, my plan is doomed.”

“Why they going off so far?”

“It’s Aunt Bertha’s idea. Now that she has money, she’s determined to go into the cattle business. She’s bent on learning all she can. Papa knows a very successful rancher down south who’s willing to teach her everything he knows.”

“Cain’t you jus’ stay home?”

“They’ll be gone for a month or better. Mama refuses to leave me here alone for that long, and I’d much prefer going to see Charity.”

Nash smiled and nodded. “ ’Specially with her jus’ done birthing the little one.”

Emmy beamed. “Exactly. I can help Charity bring him home.”

A thrill coursed through her at the thought of seeing Charity and Buddy’s new baby boy. Emmy and Charity were as close as twin sisters, best friends like their mamas had always been. Emmy’s mama and Aunt Bertha had grown up together in Jefferson before moving to Humble.

Last year, a handsome young oilman came to town and found oil on Aunt Bertha’s land. Charity wound up married to him and soon left for St. Louis to meet his parents. When Buddy found out she was expecting, he kept her in the city so she’d be close to good medical care.

Not a day had passed that Emmy didn’t think of Charity and long to see her. She was coming home next month, bringing little Thad to meet the family.

Nash narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t jus’ trying to sneak off to St. Louis to see that oilman friend of Mistah Buddy’s, are you? Don’t think I didn’t see you making eyes at him the whole time that preacher was trying to marry off Miss Charity.”

Emmy whirled. “Who? Mr. Ritter?” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Jerry Ritter was just a passing fancy.”

Nash raised a cynical brow.

“Oh, pooh, Nash! You stop that!” She fiddled the row of tiny buttons on her sleeve. “Besides. . .Aunt Bertha claims Mr. Ritter was recently betrothed to a childhood sweetheart.” She flicked off an insect from the cuff of her blouse and dashed away her humiliation with the same resolve. “Therefore, my desire to be in St. Louis has nothing to do with him. I just need to see Charity. If I get into any more trouble, Mama’s bound to haul me with them to that dreadful desert town instead. If she does, I’ll just dry up along with it and perish. I mean it!”

Grinding the toe of his oversized boot in the dirt, Nash sighed and shifted his weight. “I don’t know, Miss Emmy. . .”

Emmy stifled a grin. She had him. “I’ll be just fine. I promise. Now help me climb up.”

Still mumbling his objections, he offered an elbow to Emmy so she could pull up and sit on the uneven stones. Unfastening the buttoned flap on her split skirt, she swung her legs over and settled on the side, trying hard not to look past her boots. “Turn your head while I sit astride the pail. It won’t look so dainty in this outfit.”

Nash gazed toward the field, obviously too distracted to notice the raiding crows.

Still clinging to his arm, Emmy held her breath and pulled the dangling rope closer, guiding it between her legs. “All right, I’m ready. Lean your weight into the handle. I’m about to push off.”

Nash shifted his gaze to the sky. “Oh, sweet Jesus. Please protect this chil’.”

Holding her breath, she scooted from the edge, squealing when her body spun and dipped about a foot. “Nash! Have you got it?”

“I’ve got it. Stop squirming now. You heavier than you look.”

Emmy forced herself to still, more afraid than she’d expected to be. She felt more than saw the yawning gulf, a great gaping mouth poised to swallow her whole. “Hand me the lantern and then you can lower me. But go slowly, for heaven’s sake.”

She breathed a prayer as she spiraled past the opening and descended. Glancing up, she bit her lip and watched the rope unwind from the wobbly reel, outlined by a circle of light. Misguided but determined white roots that had pushed through cracks in the mortar groped at her, snagging her hem and sleeves. Crisscrossed nets of taught, silky threads offered whispers of resistance before giving way and sticking to the exposed parts of her legs. Emmy held the soft glow of the lamp closer to the side, shuddering when eight-legged bodies skittered in every direction. She gritted her teeth, suppressing a shriek and the urge to order Nash to haul her out of the wide-awake nightmare.

You can do this. Just a little more and you’ll be there. Three more turns and you’ll have Mama’s hankie in your hands. This will all be worth it then.

Exhaling her relief, she drew even with the jutting rock that had caught the precious heirloom. Holding the lantern out of the way, she swayed her body until the motion brought her closer to the wall.

She snatched at the white spot. Instead of soft linen, she felt thick, sticky padding. In place of the crush of a napkin gathered in her palm, there was the unmistakable writhing of something alive.



Monday, October 26, 2009

The Call of Zulina by Kay Marshall Strom & GIVEAWAY

The Call of Zulina
by Kay Marshall Strom
ISBN: 1426700695
ISBN-13: 9781426700699
Format: Paperback
Abingdon Press
Pub. Date: August 2009
Retail: $13.99


About the Book:

(Eugene, Oregon) – An arranged marriage, a runaway bride, and an ugly family heritage of brutal and inhumane slavery operations leave no room for a fairytale story. Grace Winslow, daughter of an English sea captain and African princess, finds herself in a horrific position of betrothal. Doomed to marry an obnoxious white man, whom she does not love, Grace runs away to escape the slavery she’s been surrounded by all her life. Instead, her journey from home brings her face-to-face with issues of extreme slavery, abuse and human trafficking. In the end she discovers slavery is more than just chains and finds grace that exceeds a name given to her by her parents.

Written by Kay Marshall Strom, The Call of Zulina links historical slavery issues with the modern-day crisis tainting many countries. On the heels of important legislature regarding human trafficking, Strom tackles the subject boldly as she sheds light on the practices and techniques used by angry slave traders. Seen as an advocate for those who have no voice, Strom finds words to communicate the message of history to today’s readers. While this book shines the light on an uncomfortable subject, the message of hope, freedom, and justice prevail and eternal truths discovered.

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.


Blog Tour Interview:

1. How did you come up with the storyline of The Call of Zulina?

While in West Africa working on another project, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby manacles bolted to the wall. The characters of Lingongo and Joseph Winslow, Grace's parents, are modeled after real people who ran a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I "met" them when I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton, a biography of the slaver turned preacher and abolitionists, author of Amazing Grace. The more I thought about them, the more I wondered, "If they'd had a daughter, who would she be? Where would her loyalties lie?"

2. What inspired you to write a book so entrenched with uncomfortable issues?

I used to think that non-fiction was the meat and potatoes of writing and fiction was the chocolate mousse dessert... fun, but not of much value. But I've come to understand that truths can be revealed through fiction just as powerfully as through non-fiction. Sometimes, more so! The fact is, for so long we have tried to look away and pretend that this horrible chapter in history never happened. But it did, and we still feel the effects today. Moreover, the roots of slavery--hunger for power and money, fear and diminishment of people unlike ourselves, and humanity's endless ability to rationalize evil actions--abound today. The time seemed right.

3. How have your travels around the world equipped you for writing such a historical novel?

People ask me where my passion for issues such as modern day slavery come from. To a large degree it is from the things I have seen and heard on my numerous trips to India, African countries, Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, and other places around the world.

4. Tell us a personal story regarding modern day slavery.

A most pervasive type of slavery is what is known as bonded servitude, where entire poor families are bound into virtual slavery--sometimes for generations--because of a small debt. This is especially common in India. I visited a village in central India where the women had been freed from bondage and set up with a micro loan that allowed them to raise a small herd of dairy cows. They worked so hard and saved every rupee. When they had enough saved, they persuaded a young teacher to come and start a school for their children. Then they used further profits to make low interest loans to others in the area so they could start their own businesses, too--a little bank. I sat in a circle with the five women who made up the "board of directors." Only one could read and write. I asked, "How will the next generation be different because of what you have done?" They said, "No more will be like us. When people look us, they see nothing. But when they look at our children, they see real human beings with value."

From invisible slaves to human beings... all in one generation!

5. Grace, the lead character in The Call of Zulina, forsakes all to escape the slavery of her parents and an arranged marriage. How common is this scenerio today in other countries?

Horrifyingly common. Slavery today takes many forms. According to UNICEF's more conservative count, there are about 12 million people living as slaves today--three times as many as in the days of the African slave trade. As for child arranged marriages, I have talked to girls "enslaved" to husbands in many countries. Examples include a girl in Nepal married at 9 to a middle-aged man, one in India married at 11, a 13-year-old in Egypt married to a man older than her father. I've seen it in Africa, Eastern Europe... so many places!

6. What about in America, are there slavery and trafficking issues here?

Unfortunately, there are. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, although it concedes that the real number is actually far higher. And it's not just states like New York and California that are affected, either. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

7. You've had 36 books published, and more written and contracted for future release. How has this one impacted your own life?

Some books report, some tell stories. This book has torn my heart.

8. Briefly tell us about the next two books in this Grace in Africa trilogy.

In Book 2, Grace watches her reconstructed life smashed by slavers and revenge, and she is forcibly taken to London. There she faces a new kind of tyranny and another fight for freedom... and for her husband, who is enslaved in America.

Book 3 is set in the new United States of America, in the heart of the slavery. It is a story of slavery at it's worst and redemption at its best.


What Can Concerned Citizens Do to Raise Awareness?

Find out all you can about Modern Day Slavery: then watch for chances to pass on what you have learned.

  • Write to your elected officials: Petition them to place a high priority on enforcing anti-slavery laws and to put pressure on countries that tolerate forced labor or human trafficking.

  • Buy Fair Trade products: Fair trade provides a sustainable model of international trade based on economic justice. To find out more, see http://www.fairtrade.net/.

  • Support organizations that are in a position to make a difference. When you find an one that is doing a good job on the front lines, contribute to their cause so they can continue on.

  • Be willing to step into the gap. If you suspect someone is being held against his or her will, call the Department of Justice hotline: 1-888-428-7581. Or you can call 911.

Grand Prize Giveaway!!!

Kay Marshall Strom is giving the following books to one fortunate commenter from The Call of Zulina blog tour. The prize package includes several of Kay's books:

  • Seeking Christ: A Christian Woman's Guide to Personal Wholeness & Spiritual Maturity

  • John Newton: The Angry Sailor


  • Making Friends with Your Mother


  • Making Friends with Your Father

Contest ends November 1st, midnight. Leave your email address so Kathy Carlton Willis Communications can contact you after I send them the name of one of my commenters. They will be drawing a name November 14th. Contest open to US residents 18 and older. I'd like to thank KCWC for my copy of The Call of Zulina to review. Void where prohibited.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hanging With the Ladies

I was so excited to go to church last Wednesday to help teach AWANA. There was a little postcard sitting in my mail box. It was an invitation to a game & party night. YES!! Girls night out. I NEVER get that as a single mom!!! I can't afford the babysitter.

I decided I didn't care about getting a babysitter this time, I just needed to hang with the ladies. I had no idea what to expect because I didn't know what games they were going to play, and lets be honest here...I'm kind of a freak about winning when it comes to games. Being a God-fearing Christian woman flies out the window when I'm playin' games! God luv ya.


So I show up and the first thing they ask me as I walk through the door is, "Where's your sling?" Oops, I hadn't worn it all day and forgot it at home. Don't tell my surgeon, ok? Oh, and did I mention there were appetizers we were all to bring? I brought pineapple & apples with fruit dip. Getting together wherever there's food is always a big draw for me.

We finally get settled in to watch a movie and it turns out we're watching a woman called Anita Renfroe. Our church had just had a women's night out and they watched one of her videos. Lucky me, I got to work. NOT! I was in tears this woman was so stinkin' funny. She speaks to what women deal with on a daily basis: how we think; what we feel about ourselves, husbands, friends, kids, etc; how we look and so much more.





After we've laughed for about 45+ min she shares something about the Lord. She reminds us of how precious we are. Then she jumps back into her wackiness. The part of her show that brings out her creative side are her reworded songs. She changes the words to songs such as Ricky Martin's "La vida Loca", Josh Grobin's "You Raise Me Up", and the "William Tell Overture". Those are just a few examples.

We watched the DVD "Purse-onality". There were guys in the audience where it was filmed laughing as hard as the women! I think my favorite song was the "Venti Mocha Song" or the "Coffee" one. She is hysterical. If you can get to a Women of Faith conference, she might be there!

You can find her on Facebook where she has a video of her Mammogram skit, which is truly hysterical, because it's sooo true. She also has her Mom video there as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver ~ FIRST

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Emmy’s Equal

Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marcia Gruver lives with her husband in Huffman, Texas, and has published various articles, poems, and devotionals. Her novel, Love Never Fails (renamed Chasing Charity), won third place in the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest. Marcia is a member of ACFW, Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW), and The Writers View.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602077
ISBN-13: 978-1602602076

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Humble, Texas, August, 1906


The stagnant well appeared bottomless, as dank and murky as a grave. Emmy rested her arms on the cold, jagged stones and leaned to peer into the abyss. Mama’s embroidered lace hankie, shimmering in the meager light, hung from an outcropping of rock about four feet down. Narrowing her eyes, she peered at the spot of white that stood out from the surrounding darkness and heaved a sigh, stirring the fetid air below and raising a noxious odor that took her breath.

She pushed up her sleeves and blasted a droopy blonde ringlet from her eyes with a frustrated puff of air. There was no help for it—at the risk of certain death, she had to retrieve that handkerchief.

A figure loomed, drawing alongside her with a grunt.

She jumped, and her heart shot past her throat. Chest pounding, she wasted a glare on the dark profile, noticing for the first time a scatter of lines around his eyes and tiny gray curlicues in his sideburns.

“Nash! I nearly leapt over the side.” She swatted his arm. “I’ve asked you to stop sneaking up on me. I’ve a good mind to fit you with a cowbell.”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest, as deep as the chasm. “I didn’t go to scare you, Miss Emmy.” He bent his lanky body so far she feared he’d tumble headfirst into the never-ending shaft. “Say, what we looking for inside this hole?”

“We’re not looking for anything. I’ve already found it.” Emmy clutched his shirtsleeve and pulled him away. “Go fetch me a lantern, and be quick about it.” She tucked her chin in the direction of the palomino pony languishing under a nearby oak, nibbling at the circle of high grass around the trunk. “Take Trouble. He’ll be quicker than walking.”

Nash frowned and rubbed the knuckles of one hand along his temple, as if an ache had sprung up there. “What you need a lantern for, with the sun up and shining the past five hours? There’s plenty of light to see.”

She braced herself and pointed. “Not down there.”

Nash’s sleepy eyes flew open. His startled gaze bounced along her finger to the circular wall of weathered stones. “Down there?” He took a cautious step back. “What’s in this sour old pit that might concern you?”

Emmy swallowed hard. She could trust Nash with anything but dreaded his reaction all the same. “It’s. . .one of mama’s hankies.” She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head.

His shoulders eased, and he ambled over to gaze inside. “Is that all?”

If only it were. Emmy risked a peek at him. “You don’t understand.”

He winced as if she’d spoken a bad omen. “Uh, uh. Not from her good batch? Them she’s always cackling about?”

Emmy cringed and nodded.

The delicate, lacy linens held an uncommon depth of meaning for Emmy’s mama. Hand embroidered in Germany by her grandmother then brought to the Americas and placed in Mama’s hope chest, they represented heart, hearth, and homeland to Magdalena Dane. In equal measure, they represented distress, discontent, and discord to her only daughter, because the bothersome bits of cloth seemed determined to cause Emmy grief.

Nash’s stunned expression hardened into an accusing glare. “Why, Miss Emmy? Why you done brought about such misery? You ain’t s’posed to touch ’em, and you know it.” His graying brows fluttered up and down, like two moths bent on escape. “There’s scarce few left, and your mama blames you for them what’s missing.”

She moaned and flapped her hands. “I didn’t mean to take the silly thing. It was warm when I rode out this morning. I knew I’d likely sweat, so I snagged a hankie from the clothesline. I never looked at it until a few minutes ago. That’s how this terrible mishap came about. I held it up as I rode, staring in disbelief. Trouble was galloping across the yard when the wind caught it and. . .” She motioned behind her. “The willful rag drifted down the well before I could stop the horse and chase after it.”

Emmy lowered her eyes then peered up at him through her lashes. “None of this is my fault, Nash. Papa should’ve covered this smelly cistern months ago, and those wretched handkerchiefs have a mind of their own.”

The hint of a smile played around Nash’s lips. “If so, they harbor a mighty poor opinion of you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him.

Wagging his head, he rested the back of his hand on his side. “In all my years of working for your family, of all the fits I’ve seen your mama pitch, the worst have been over the loss of them fancy scraps of cloth.” He shuddered. “Miss Emmy, I’d be mighty grateful if you’d wait and break the news to her after I leave for the day. She gon’ be powerful upset.”

Emmy held up and wiggled a finger. “On the contrary. I won’t be upsetting Mama.”

“How you figure that?”

“Because there’s no need to tell her.”

Nash propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other. “Missy, I thought you was done telling lies and scheming. Don’t forget you’re a saint of God now.”

A saint of God. Yes, she was, through no fault of her own. Like Elijah’s fiery chariot, God had swirled into Emmy’s life in a weak moment and delivered her from herself. Not that she minded His day-to-day presence. In fact, she rather enjoyed the peace He brought. It was during times of temptation when she found the constant stirring in her heart to do the right thing a bit of a bother. Yet no wonder, really. In the past, she’d had precious little practice in doing the right thing.

She blinked up at Nash. “I have no plans to lie, and I won’t need to scheme. We’re simply going to return great-grandmother’s hankie to Mama’s clothesline, washed, rinsed, and fresh as a newborn calf.”

Nash stared then shook his head. “No ma’am. You jus’ forget about what we gon’ do. Question is how are you gon’ pull it off?”

“I’ll show you.” She shooed him with her hands. “Run fetch that lantern like I asked and leave the rest to me.”

Still shaking his head, Nash mounted Trouble and laid in his heels. The horse bolted the short distance across the yard to the well-kept shed tucked behind Emmy’s two-story house. With a furtive glance toward the porch, Nash eased the door open and slipped inside.

While she waited, Emmy watched a rowdy band of crows swarm Nash’s cornfield. The black bandits bickered and pecked for position before settling in for a meal, oblivious to the mop-headed stick Nash had dressed in a ragged shirt and floppy hat and then shoved in the ground. She dared not call his attention to the culprits or he’d bluster after them, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill, leaving her to cope alone with her pressing dilemma.

She jerked her gaze from the birds when Nash rode up and slid off Trouble to the ground, a lighted lantern in his hand.

Handing over the light with a flourish, he lowered one brow and pinned her with a squinty look. “Here’s what you asked for. Jus’ be sure to leave me plumb out of the story when you go explaining yourself to your mama.”

He turned to go, but Emmy caught hold of his shirttail. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

Nash covered his ears and reeled away. “Don’t tell me no mo’. I ain’t seen nothing, and I ain’t heard nothing. If anybody needs me, I’ll be feeding the chickens.”

Emmy aimed a haughty laugh at his back. “It’s too late for that. You’re in up to your hat, and it’s no less punishment than you deserve for sneaking about all the time.”

Nash dug in his heels and stood facing the grove of loblolly pine at the edge of the yard, his body stiff as a post.

Repentant, she softened her voice to a plea. “I’m sorry, Nash. I had no call to utter such a thing. It’s just. . .I can’t do this without you.”

Arms dangling at his sides, he tipped his head toward the sky and whispered something, a prayer no doubt, before turning to face her. “What you want me to do?”

She peppered him with grateful kisses then grabbed his hand. “Come over here.” Hauling him to the gaping cavity, she lowered the lamp. “See? There it is.”

They gazed at the only bright spot in the oppressive gloom, their ability to see inside the shaft made no better by the frail circle of yellow light.

Nash shrugged and drew back from the side. “Too far down. May as well wave it goodbye then go fess up to what you done.”

Emmy gripped his arm. “Nonsense. We can get it out of there.”

“How, short of fishing it out with a cane pole? And I got no hooks.” He scratched his head. “I reckon I could take my hammer and pound a bend in a nail.”

She shook her head. “Too risky. If the hankie slips off it’ll settle to the bottom, and that’ll be the end of it.” She drew a determined breath. “I have a better idea.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose on his forehead, reaching new heights, even for him. “What sort of idea? Harebrained or foolhardy? Them’s the only two kinds you have.”

She swallowed hard and fingered the wooden bucket sitting on the wall. “I’m going to straddle this, and you’ll lower me down to fetch it.”

The shaggy brows bested their last mark. “You cain’t mean it, Miss Emmy.”

“I do so.”

“Then your idea is both harebrained and foolhardy. You must be plain tetched up under them pretty white locks. S’pose that rope snaps in two?”

“Oh, pooh.” She patted the heavy hemp coiled around the crank. “This rope is thick and sound.” She pointed over her shoulder at the horse. “You could lower Trouble down that well.”

He nodded. “Yes’m. That’s exactly what I’d be doing.” He jerked off his weathered hat and dashed it against his leg. “Don’t ask me to put you in that kind of danger. No, missy. I won’t do it. Not for nothing in this wide world.”

Touched, Emmy smiled at the man who’d been like a father to her over the years, far more of a parent than her own papa, who didn’t stay home often enough to have much practice at the role. She took Nash’s hand and squeezed it. “I won’t be in any danger. As long as you’re holding the handle, I know I’ll be safe.” She peered up into his sulky brown eyes. “You know if you don’t help me I’ll just find a way to do it myself. I have to get that hankie.”

He gaped at her. “The silly thing ain’t worth dying for, is it? Your mama has fussed at you before, and you lived to tell the tale. Why is this time so all-fired special?”

She squared around to face him. “I can’t have her angry about anything just now. I’m planning to ask permission to go to St. Louis when Mama travels with Aunt Bertha to South Texas. It’ll be hard enough to convince her as it is. If she gets in a snit, my plan is doomed.”

“Why they going off so far?”

“It’s Aunt Bertha’s idea. Now that she has money, she’s determined to go into the cattle business. She’s bent on learning all she can. Papa knows a very successful rancher down south who’s willing to teach her everything he knows.”

“Cain’t you jus’ stay home?”

“They’ll be gone for a month or better. Mama refuses to leave me here alone for that long, and I’d much prefer going to see Charity.”

Nash smiled and nodded. “ ’Specially with her jus’ done birthing the little one.”

Emmy beamed. “Exactly. I can help Charity bring him home.”

A thrill coursed through her at the thought of seeing Charity and Buddy’s new baby boy. Emmy and Charity were as close as twin sisters, best friends like their mamas had always been. Emmy’s mama and Aunt Bertha had grown up together in Jefferson before moving to Humble.

Last year, a handsome young oilman came to town and found oil on Aunt Bertha’s land. Charity wound up married to him and soon left for St. Louis to meet his parents. When Buddy found out she was expecting, he kept her in the city so she’d be close to good medical care.

Not a day had passed that Emmy didn’t think of Charity and long to see her. She was coming home next month, bringing little Thad to meet the family.

Nash narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t jus’ trying to sneak off to St. Louis to see that oilman friend of Mistah Buddy’s, are you? Don’t think I didn’t see you making eyes at him the whole time that preacher was trying to marry off Miss Charity.”

Emmy whirled. “Who? Mr. Ritter?” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Jerry Ritter was just a passing fancy.”

Nash raised a cynical brow.

“Oh, pooh, Nash! You stop that!” She fiddled the row of tiny buttons on her sleeve. “Besides. . .Aunt Bertha claims Mr. Ritter was recently betrothed to a childhood sweetheart.” She flicked off an insect from the cuff of her blouse and dashed away her humiliation with the same resolve. “Therefore, my desire to be in St. Louis has nothing to do with him. I just need to see Charity. If I get into any more trouble, Mama’s bound to haul me with them to that dreadful desert town instead. If she does, I’ll just dry up along with it and perish. I mean it!”

Grinding the toe of his oversized boot in the dirt, Nash sighed and shifted his weight. “I don’t know, Miss Emmy. . .”

Emmy stifled a grin. She had him. “I’ll be just fine. I promise. Now help me climb up.”

Still mumbling his objections, he offered an elbow to Emmy so she could pull up and sit on the uneven stones. Unfastening the buttoned flap on her split skirt, she swung her legs over and settled on the side, trying hard not to look past her boots. “Turn your head while I sit astride the pail. It won’t look so dainty in this outfit.”

Nash gazed toward the field, obviously too distracted to notice the raiding crows.

Still clinging to his arm, Emmy held her breath and pulled the dangling rope closer, guiding it between her legs. “All right, I’m ready. Lean your weight into the handle. I’m about to push off.”

Nash shifted his gaze to the sky. “Oh, sweet Jesus. Please protect this chil’.”

Holding her breath, she scooted from the edge, squealing when her body spun and dipped about a foot. “Nash! Have you got it?”

“I’ve got it. Stop squirming now. You heavier than you look.”

Emmy forced herself to still, more afraid than she’d expected to be. She felt more than saw the yawning gulf, a great gaping mouth poised to swallow her whole. “Hand me the lantern and then you can lower me. But go slowly, for heaven’s sake.”

She breathed a prayer as she spiraled past the opening and descended. Glancing up, she bit her lip and watched the rope unwind from the wobbly reel, outlined by a circle of light. Misguided but determined white roots that had pushed through cracks in the mortar groped at her, snagging her hem and sleeves. Crisscrossed nets of taught, silky threads offered whispers of resistance before giving way and sticking to the exposed parts of her legs. Emmy held the soft glow of the lamp closer to the side, shuddering when eight-legged bodies skittered in every direction. She gritted her teeth, suppressing a shriek and the urge to order Nash to haul her out of the wide-awake nightmare.

You can do this. Just a little more and you’ll be there. Three more turns and you’ll have Mama’s hankie in your hands. This will all be worth it then.

Exhaling her relief, she drew even with the jutting rock that had caught the precious heirloom. Holding the lantern out of the way, she swayed her body until the motion brought her closer to the wall.

She snatched at the white spot. Instead of soft linen, she felt thick, sticky padding. In place of the crush of a napkin gathered in her palm, there was the unmistakable writhing of something alive.

My surgery knocked me out of reading for over a week! I am just starting this book and will have the review shortly!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Shoulder Surgery

For over a year and a half I've had some issues with my left shoulder. Everyday activities were just fine, but sleeping was painful if I woke up with my arm over my head. There were times if I turned wrong pain would go zinging through my shoulder! I had 3 cortizone shots and they only helped for a short while. Last January I had an MRI done that didn't show much of anything.

I started physical therapy with a new gal and she was AWESOME!! She worked around my ADD and helped me to get my work done. Then I slipped at work and we had to change my focus to my back instead of my arm. When we finished with my back and started looking at my shoulder again, it was worse than before. She decided to send me to an orthopedic surgeon.

I went to this dr, after 3 tries of missed appts (he was gone for 2 and I had to take Brie to college). Finally saw him and after 5 min he determined I needed S.L.A.P. surgery. heh heh heh a lot of people have thought I've needed some slap therapy for a while now. :) It stands for Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior. Looking it up on WebMd it sounded like EXACTLY what I had!! I actually had no problem with my labrum, but the dr took care of my bone spur and some arthritis.

The day of the surgery, my friend L. K. took me. She was so awesome and wouldn't leave until they wheeled me back. If someone needed a patient advocate, she's IT!!! Unfortunately, she didn't help me much when we both ended up with the giggles when the anesthesiologist came in. She actually had to leave the room. I think it was jitter giggles. I stopped laughing when he told me what he was going to do to give me a nerve block!!!

Surgery was delightful, don't remember a stitch of it except right when they gave me the happy juice and I gave them a thumbs up to let 'em know it was working. I was in outpatient care and they're serious about it being "short" term!! They wheeled me out of there barely conscious! Thank goodness L. K. was back when they were waking me up because I can't remember a thing they said post-op!

From there things went a bit downhill. I ended up cutting off the numbing meds that were going into me that were supposed to last 48 hours. I enjoyed it for only 10! :o{ Found myself in the ER at 4am because I was in so much pain. That experience was a new post all in itself. Let's just say I'd rather have a street urchin work on me than head back into that ER. :) Praising the Lord my friend L. P. went with me. God surrounded me with blessings!!
The following pics are after I went to the ER and they took off the bandages that made me look like a line backer. I have no clue what the writing is, but the surgeon does and that's all that mattered. The bandaids cover the incisions. The dried blood on the side of my shoulder is where the On-Q pump was attached to deliver the numbing medication. Hmmm it looks worse than where the actualy arthroscopic surgeries took place! After I washed it off, all that was left was a tiny hole where the line was inserted. I have to continue to keep the entire are covered while I take a shower so after my post-op appt tomorrow I'll find out when I can clean all of it! No, the coloring isn't my skin, it must've been from the iodine or something.

The one positive thing I can say about my trip to the ER is they took the pump out of me, gave me a muscle relaxer and I've felt "better" since then!! I'll be missing work tomorrow because I'm still not ready to be walking around for 6 hours. After I take my pain meds, I'm out of it for a couple of hours. Have I mentioned I'm not fond of medications?

I praise God that the pain has been cut to more than half of what it was when the numbing meds wore off. Tomorrow I go to my first post op physical therapy and I know I won't be a happy camper. Please pray for complete healing!


Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Publishers & Branding


Today's Topic

This week Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher announced a new division for self publishing. They named this new endeavor, Westbow Press. This was a bit of a shock for those of us who remember books on the shelves by some of Christian fiction's most accomplished writers published under the Westbow imprint of the past.

When asked about this, Michael Hyatt responded that readers don't pay attention to imprints and publishers. To be honest, I found this rather insulting and it also made me question why publishers would try to brand themselves if readers don't really care anyway. Even before book blogging and reading book news every day, I paid attention to publishers. I figured if a publisher published enough different sorts of books that I liked, than I would like a lot of their stuff.

This really holds true today. I have favorite publishers in Christian fiction and in the general market. There are publishers I know I will read new authors from and other I'm less likely to pick up.

How about you? Do you know who the Christian publishers are? Who are your favorite publishers or imprints? Do you have certain perceptions of the kinds of books each publishing house brings out? Tell it like it is...even if you have no idea what I'm talking about!

My Answer

Sorry this posted before I got my answer here. I took my meds from my shoulder surgery and ended up falling asleep before I could stop it from posting! So the following is my response...

I absolutely know who the Christian publishers are! If I'm at a used bookstore or at the library, all I have to do is look at the spine and will know by the logo which one is Christian and which one isn't. On top of that, there are so many new Christian authors out there, if I didn't know which publishing house they were with, I'd probably pass right by them.
I have a level of trust with Christian publishers and know the type of material they are publishing. The following are the publishers I'm totally familiar with and would recognize them just from their imprints, which I'm calling "logo":
NavPress: sail of a boat
Bethany House: what looks like leaves next to each other
B&H: exactly as that looks with the '&' squished between the letters
Tyndale: feather writing an oval
Multnomah (part of Random): mountain
Zondervan: funky cut up 'Z'
New Leaf: bird w/ a leaf
Heartsong: fancy heart
Faith Words (part of Zondervan): an open book
Thomas Nelson: a building
Tommy Nelson for kids: colorful kids font
Harvest House: 'H' with a wheat stalk
Barbour: side view of a book flipping open
Revel (part of Baker): wide front part of the 'R'
Summerside: lighthouse
Whitaker House: a medieval type 'W'
W Pub. Group (part of Thomas Nelson): fancy 'W' in a circle
David C Cook: 'C' in a yellow circle
Abingdon Press: fancy 'A' & 'P' blended together
Living Ink: name w/ a calligraphy pen
Steeple Hill: an old style church
Westbow: a man stretched out on a hill holding a bow in the air
Kregel: 'K' in a box
WaterBrook (part of Random): a deer
Howard: star
Now, I have a hard time putting authors with their publishing house most of the time. I just don't correlate the two. I know Zondervan has a great Youth and Young Adult Division (along with their adult fiction). Bethany House is consistently putting out a wide array of books. NavPress does a lot of studies and non-fiction type books. David C. Cook has some edgier stuff. Abingdon is a newer publisher and are publishing new authors.
So, the bottom line is, I know the imprints for Christian publishers and it's a type of branding. Just like BMW, McDonalds, Nike, and Gatorade, they each have an imprint that makes us think of them immediately.
I'm glad that Thomas Nelson is opening up a division for self publishing, and I don't know that using the WestBow name or imprint is going to make a huge deal to the readers. Those of us who pay attention to such details will begin to associate the WestBow logo with self published authors and may be more inclined to purchase those books.
We shall see in the long run how it all works itself out.

 
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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.