Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Meme

Thanks to Valerie Comer for this great meme!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Gift bags. Sooooo much easier and reusable. But wrapped gifts are prettier under the tree.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Real - unfortunately we have an artificial one this year. The house doesn't smell like Christmas :(

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? Usually a few days after New Year's.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A wooden dollhouse with real working electrical lights.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My brother.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My sister Abbi - we have similar tastes and love books!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Two - a glass one I got from my parents many years ago, and my sister has a VeggieTales one that is currently gracing our table.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Didn't send either this year, but I love getting mailed cards. It seems a little pointless to send them without a newsletter, though.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? More funny than awful, but is was a Christmas ornament that said Best Grandma - think they thought it read Best Granddaughter!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Probably White Christmas.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Black Friday.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Probably - likely something little that I forgot was a Christmas present to begin with!

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Anise cookies and black walnut cookies.

16. Lights on the tree? White. No exceptions.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Carol of the Bells. LOVED our church's Trans-Siberian Orchestra-style rendition of it this Sunday!

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Short trip to Grandma's Christmas Eve, and this year I'll spend the night and Christmas morning at my parents' since it's the first Christmas since I moved out.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel this year and all previous ones, but I prefer a star (going to snag one for next year during post-Christmas sales!).

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Presents (usually one) at Grandma's Christmas Eve, all the rest in the morning!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Those few annoying Christmas songs you at least can avoid 11 months out of the year!

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color? I love snowflakes.

24. Favorite for Christmas Dinner? Aunt Velva's dinner that was the same every year until she stopped having it. Especially loved the lime jello dessert!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I can have anything? ;) A job and a guy - both perfect for me. A fun superpower, like flying. And lots of awesome writing ideas!

Your turn now - pass it on!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rabbit Trails and Writing

One of the things I like about the internet is the way you can start at one place and end up somewhere totally different - and learn a lot along the way.

For instance, this evening. I was scrolling through my Bloglines RSS feeds and catching up on a few that had way too many unread posts. One was by one of those blogging gurus, and the very oldest unread post had a link to a free ebook on how to make money blogging. Since I lost my job and my car ended up upside-down on the wrong side of the road last week, earning money online seems like a great idea. I clicked over, downloaded the ebook, and started reading it. Partway through it had a link to a list of niche social networks. I clicked the link and started scrolling through. Several caught my eye, including a site that posts temporary contract jobs. Now I have another site to check as I look for work.

I use this same process all the time as I build my stories. I start with one small kernel of an idea - a character, setting, or situation. I write down aspects that could go along with that, and one catches my attention. I explore that aspect further, and more possibilities open up.

Sometimes I have to backtrack. One of my ideas involved a captain and crew of a ship. First it was a spaceship. Then it was an air-to-surface-to-submarine ship. Then it was a time traveling ship. I eventually realized that the latter ship wouldn't work with my ideas for the captain and crew, but before that I got an idea how time travel could tie into ancient supernatural myths. That could become a whole other book.

And all because I like to follow rabbit trails.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Realm of Empires

Need a few minutes' break from writing? Try Realm of Empires, a Facebook strategy game that doesn't require oodles of time. In fact, the game is designed to be played only a few minutes a day over a period of several months.

You start off with one small village, and gradually improve it into a well-guarded fortress. The game has a easy-to-follow tutorial for beginners, quests to help you gain a little silver, and a helpful adviser to answer the question, "What do I do now?" I've also written a quick how-to guide that will help you get started in the game or give you more information if you're just curious.

As you grow, you can conquer other villages, join a clan, and go from serf to royalty. Different situations keep the game fresh, and you can get to know others (only if you wish) through the clan's forums.

So what are you waiting for? Instead of playing a mindless game of solitaire while waiting for your muse to strike, give Realm of Empires a try. And for fun, do what I did - name your villages for people and places in your current novel-in-progress!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tidings of Great Boys by Shelley Adina

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Tidings of Great Boys

FaithWords (September 8, 2009)


Shelley Adina

Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages.

Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith--with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.


Finals week is approaching and Mac is still undecided on where to spend the holidays. Normally she'd go home to Scotland, but spending two weeks alone in the castle with her dad isn't as appealing as it used to be. So she invites Carly, Lissa, Gillian, and Shani to join her for the holidays!

Mac is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She even decides to organize the traditional Hogmany dance for New Year's Eve. If she can get her mother involved in the dance, maybe her parents will finally get back together.

But when Mac and the girls arrive in Scotland, they are faced with bad news: the castle is falling apart and Mac's parents are struggling financially. Not only that, but Shani is in big trouble with Prince Rashid's royal family. Can the girls find a way to celebrate the holidays, get Mac's parents back together, save the castle, and rescue Shani from her relentless pursuers? There's only one way to find out...

If you would like to read the first chapter of Tidings of Great Boys, go HERE

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Blue Enchantress by Mary Lu Tyndall

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Blue Enchantress

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)




M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

She had written stories her whole life, but never had the confidence to try and get any of them published. But as God began to change her heart, He also showed her that writing had been His wonderful plan for her all along!

Her other current release in the Charles Towne Belles series includes The Red Siren.


Betrayed by the man she longed to marry, Hope Westcott is about to be auctioned off as a slave to the highest bidder on an island in the Caribbean . After enduring a difficult childhood in an unloving home, Hope?s search for love and self-worth have led her down a very dangerous path. All she ever wanted was to find true love and open an orphanage where she could raise children with all the love she never experienced as a child.? But how can a woman with a sordid past ever hope to run an orphanage, let alone attract the love of an honorable man?

Determined to overcome the shame of his mother?s past, Nathaniel Mason worked for many years to build his own fleet of merchant ships in an effort to finally acquire the respect of Charles Towne society. Ignoring the call of God on his life to become a preacher, he forges ahead with his plans for success at a distant port in the Caribbean , when he sees a young lady he knows from Charles Towne being sold as a slave. In an effort to save Hope, he is forced to sell one of his two ships, only to discover that her predicament was caused by her own bad behavior. Angry and determined to rid himself of her as soon as possible, Nathaniel embarks on a journey that will change the course of his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Blue Enchantress, go HERE

View The Book Trailer:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FIRST: North or Be Eaten! by Andrew Peterson

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:

North! Or Be Eaten

WaterBrook Press (August 18, 2009)


Andrew Peterson is the author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats. He’s also the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter and recording artist of ten albums, including Resurrection Letters II. He and his wife, Jamie, live with their two sons and one daughter in The Warren near Nashville, Tennessee.

Visit the author's website and website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (August 18, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073871
ISBN-13: 978-1400073870


The Lone Fendril

TOOOOTHY COW!” bellowed Podo as he whacked a stick against the nearest glipwood tree. The old pirate’s eyes blazed, and he stood at the base of the tree like a ship’s captain at the mast. “Toothy cow! Quick! Into the tree house!”

Not far away, an arrow whizzed through some hanging moss and thudded into a plank of wood decorated with a charcoal drawing of a snarling Fang. The arrow protruded from the Fang’s mouth, the shaft still vibrating from the impact. Tink lowered his bow, squinted to see if he had hit the target, and completely ignored his grandfather.

“TOOOOOTHY—oy! That’s a fine shot, lad—COW!”

Podo whacked the tree as Nia hurried up the rope ladder that led to the trapdoor in the floor of Peet the Sock Man’s tree house. A sock-covered hand reached down and pulled Nia up through the opening.

“Thank you, Artham,” she said, still holding his hand. She looked him in the eye and raised her chin, waiting for him to answer.

Peet the Sock Man, whose real name was Artham P. Wingfeather, looked back at her and gulped. One of his eyes twitched. He looked like he wanted to flee, as he always did when she called him by his first name, but Nia didn’t let go of his hand.

“Y-y-you’re welcome…Nia.” Every word was an effort, especially her name, but he sounded less crazy than he used to be. Only a week earlier, the mention of the name

“Artham” sent him into a frenzy—he would scream, shimmy down the rope ladder, and disappear into the forest for hours. Nia released his hand and peered down through the opening in the floor at her father, who still banged on the tree and bellowed about the impending onslaught of toothy cows.

“Come on, Tink!” Janner said.

A quiver of arrows rattled under one arm as he ran toward Leeli, who sat astride her dog, Nugget. Nugget, whose horselike size made him as dangerous as any toothy cow in the forest, panted and wagged his tail. Tink reluctantly dropped his bow and followed, eying the forest for signs of toothy cows. The brothers helped a wide-eyed Leeli down from her dog, and the three of them rushed to the ladder.

“COWS, COWS, COWS!” Podo howled. Janner followed Tink and Leeli up the ladder. When they were all safely inside, Podo heaved himself through the opening and latched the trapdoor shut.

“Not bad,” Podo said, looking pleased with himself. “Janner, next time you’ll want to move yer brother and sister along a little faster. Had there been a real cow upon us, ye might not have had time to get ’em to the ladder before them slobbery teeth started tearin’ yer tender flesh—”

“Papa, really,” Nia said.

“—and rippin’ it from yer bones,” he continued. “If Tink’s too stubborn to drop what he’s doin’, Janner, it falls to you to find a way to persuade him, you hear?” Janner’s cheeks burned, and he fought the urge to defend himself. The toothy cow drills had been a daily occurrence since their arrival at Peet’s tree house, and the children had gradually stopped shrieking with panic whenever Podo’s hollers disturbed the otherwise quiet wood.

Since Janner had learned he was a Throne Warden, he had tried to take his responsibility to protect the king seriously. His mother’s stories about Peet’s dashing reputation as a Throne Warden in Anniera made Janner proud of the ancient tradition of which he was a part.1 The trouble was that he was supposed to protect his younger brother, Tink, who happened to be the High King. It wasn’t that Janner was jealous; he had no wish to rule anything. But sometimes it felt odd that his skinny, reckless brother was, of all things, a king, much less the king of the fabled Shining Isle of Anniera.

Janner stared out the window at the forest as Podo droned on, telling him about his responsibility to protect his brother, about the many dangers of Glipwood Forest, about what Janner should have done differently during this most recent cow drill. Janner missed his home. In the days after they fled the town of Glipwood and arrived at Peet’s castle, Janner’s sense of adventure was wide awake. He thrilled at the thought of the long journey to the Ice Prairies, so excited he could scarcely sleep.

1. In Anniera the second born, not the first, is heir to the throne. The eldest child is a Throne Warden, charged with the honor and responsibility of protecting the king above all others. Though this creates much confusion among ordinary children who one day discover that they are in fact the royal family living in exile (see On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness), for ages the Annierans found it to be a good system. The king was never without a protector, and the Throne Warden held a place of great honor in the kingdom.

When he did sleep, he dreamed of wide sweeps of snow under stars so sharp and

bright they would draw blood at a touch.

But weeks had passed—he didn’t know how many—and his sense of adventure was fast asleep. He missed the rhythm of life at the cottage. He missed the hot meals, the slow change of the land as the seasons turned, and the family of birds that nested in the crook above the door where he, Tink, and Leeli would inspect the tiny blue eggs each morning and each night, then the chicks, and then one day they would look in sad wonder at the empty nest and ask themselves where the birds had gone. But those days had passed away as sure as the summer, and whether he liked it or not, home was no longer the cottage. It wasn’t Peet’s tree house, either. He wasn’t sure he had a home anymore.

Podo kept talking, and Janner felt again that hot frustration in his chest when told things he already knew. But he held his tongue. Grownups couldn’t help it. Podo and his mother would hammer a lesson into his twelve-year-old head until he felt beaten silly, and there was no point fighting it. He sensed Podo’s rant coming to an end and forced himself to listen.

“…this is a dangerous place, this forest, and many a man has been gobbled up by some critter because he weren’t paying close enough attention.”

“Yes sir,” Janner said as respectfully as possible. Podo grinned at him and winked, and Janner smiled back in spite of himself. It occurred to him that Podo knew exactly what he’d been thinking.

Podo turned to Tink. “A truly fine shot, boy, and the drawing of the Fang on that board is fine work.”

“Thanks, Grandpa,” Tink said. His stomach growled. “When can we eat breakfast?”

“Listen, lad,” Podo said. He lowered his bushy eyebrows and leveled a formidable glare at Tink. “When yer brother tells ye to come, you drop what yer doin’ like it’s on fire.” Tink gulped. “You follow that boy over the cliffs and into the Dark Sea if he tells you to. Yer the High King, which means ye’ve got to start thinkin’ of more than yerself.”

Janner’s irritation drained away, as did the color in Tink’s face. He liked not being the only one in trouble, though he felt a little ashamed at the pleasure he took in watching Tink squirm.

“Yes sir,” Tink said. Podo stared at him so long that he repeated, “Yes sir.”

“You okay, lass?” Podo turned with a smile to Leeli. She nodded and pushed some of her wavy hair behind one ear. “Grandpa, when are we leaving?”

All eyes in the tree house looked at her with surprise. The family had spent weeks in relative peace in the forest, but that unspoken question had grown more and more difficult to avoid as the days passed. They knew they couldn’t stay forever. Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang still terrorized the land of Skree, and the shadow they cast covered more of Aerwiar with every passing day. It was only a matter of time before that shadow fell again on the Igibys.

“We need to leave soon,” Nia said, looking in the direction of Glipwood. “When the leaves fall, we’ll be exposed, won’t we, Artham?”

Peet jumped a little at his name and rubbed the back of his head with one hand for a moment before he spoke. “Cold winter comes, trees go bare, the bridges are easy to see, yes. We should grobably po—probably go.”

“To the Ice Prairies?” asked Janner.

“Yes,” said Nia. “The Fangs don’t like the cold weather. We’ve all seen how much slower they move in the winter, even here. Hopefully in a place as frozen as the Ice Prairies, the Fangs will be scarce.”

Podo grunted.

“I know what you think, and it’s not one of our options,” Nia said flatly.

“What does Grandpa think?” Tink asked.

“That’s between your grandfather and me.”

“What does he think?” Janner pressed, realizing he sounded more like a grownup than usual.

Nia looked at Janner, trying to decide if she should give him an answer. She had kept so many secrets from the children for so long that it was plain to Janner she still found it difficult to be open with them. But things were different now. Janner knew who he was, who his father was, and had a vague idea what was at stake. He had even noticed his input mattered to his mother and grandfather. Being a Throne Warden— or at least knowing he was a Throne Warden—had changed the way they regarded him.

“Well,” Nia said, still not sure how much to say.

Podo decided for her. “I think we need to do more than get to the Ice Prairies and lie low like a family of bumpy digtoads, waitin’ fer things to happen to us. If Oskar was right about there bein’ a whole colony of folks up north what don’t like livin’ under the boot of the Fangs, and if he’s right about them wantin’ to fight, then they don’t need us to gird up and send these Fangs back to Dang with their tails on fire. I say the jewels need to find a ship and go home.” He turned to his daughter. “Think of it, lass! You could sail back across the Dark Sea to Anniera—”

“What do you mean ‘you’?” Tink asked.

“Nothin’,” Podo said with a wave of his hand. “Nia, you could go home. Think of it!”

“There’s nothing left for us there,” Nia said.

“Fine! Forget Anniera. What about the Hollows? You ain’t seen the Green Hollows in ten years, and for all you know, the Fangs haven’t even set foot there! Yer ma’s family might still be there, thinkin’ you died with the rest of us.”

Nia closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. Peet and the children stared at the floor. Janner hadn’t thought about the fact that he might have distant family living in the hills of the Green Hollows across the sea. He agreed with his mother that it seemed foolish to try to make such a journey. First they had to get past the Fangs in Torrboro, then north, over the Stony Mountains to the Ice Prairies. Now Podo was talking about crossing the ocean? Janner wasn’t used to thinking of the world in such terms.

Nia opened her eyes and spoke. “Papa, there’s nothing for us to do now but find our way north. We don’t need to go across the sea. We don’t need to go back to Anniera. We don’t need to go to the Green Hollows. We need to go north, away from the Fangs. That’s all. Let’s get these children safely to the prairies, and we’ll finish this discussion then.”

Podo sighed. “Aye, lass. Gettin’ there will cause enough trouble of its own.” He fixed an eye on Peet, who stood on his head in the corner. “I suppose you’ll be comin’ with us, then?”

Peet gasped and tumbled to the floor, then leapt to his feet and saluted Podo. Leeli giggled.

“Aye sir,” he said, mimicking Podo’s raspy growl. “I’m ready to go when the Featherwigs are ready. Even know how to get to the Icy Prairies. Been there before, long time ago—not much to see but ice and prairies and ice all white and blinding and cold. It’s very cold there. Icy.” Peet took a deep, happy breath and clapped his socked hands together. “All right! We’re off !”

He flipped open the trapdoor and leapt through the opening before Podo or the Igibys could stop him. The children hurried to the trapdoor and watched him slide down the rope ladder and march away in a northward direction. From the crook in the giant root system of the tree where he usually slept, Nugget perked up his big, floppy ears without lifting his head from his paws and watched Peet disappear into the forest.

“He’ll come back when he realizes we aren’t with him,” Leeli said with a smile. She and Peet spent hours together either reading stories or with him dancing about with great swoops of his socked hands while she played her whistleharp. Leeli’s presence seemed to have a medicinal effect on Peet. When they were together, his jitters ceased, his eyes stopped shifting, and his voice took on a deeper, less strained quality.

The strong and pleasant sound of it helped Janner believe his mother’s stories about Artham P. Wingfeather’s exploits in Anniera before the Great War. The only negative aspect of Leeli and Peet’s friendship was that it made Podo jealous. Before Peet the Sock Man entered their lives, Podo and Leeli shared a special bond, partly because each of them had only one working leg and partly because of the ancient affection that exists between grandfathers and granddaughters. Nia once told Janner that it was also partly because Leeli looked a lot like her grandmother Wendolyn.

While the children watched Peet march away, a quick shadow passed over the tree house, followed by a high, pleasant sound, like the ting of a massive bell struck by a tiny hammer.

“The lone fendril,” 2 said Leeli. “Tomorrow is the first day of autumn.”

“Papa,” said Nia.

“Eh?” Podo glared out the window in the direction Peet had gone.

“I think it’s time we left,” Nia said.

Tink and Janner looked at each other and grinned. All homesickness vanished. After weeks of waiting, adventure was upon them.

2. In Aerwiar, the official last day of summer is heralded by the passing of the lone fendril, a giant golden bird whose wingspan casts entire towns into a thrilling flicker of shade as it circles the planet in a long, ascending spiral. When it reaches the northern pole of Aerwiar, it hibernates until spring, then reverses its journey.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Offworld by Robin Parrish

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Bethany House (July 1, 2009)


Robin Parrish


Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract with Bethany House Publishers. They contracted him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless -- but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.


"Every Person on This Planet Has Disappeared."

Commander Christopher Burke and his crew are humanity's greatest explorers. They've finished their mission on the red dirt of Mars and now they just want to get back to Earth. To see friends, family, and loved ones. To be home. But even with communication to ground control cut and a perilous landing, nothing could prepare the crew for what they discover when they step foot back on planet Earth. gone.

It's not a dream. It's not a trick. Now Burke and his team have one mission:find out who or what is behind the disappearance of all mankind.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Offworld, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Enclave by Karen Hancock

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Enclave

Bethany House (August 1, 2009)


Karen Hancock

WIN THIS BOOK! See the bottom of this post.


Karen Hancock has won Christy Awards for each of her first four novels--Arena and the first three books in the Legends of the Guardian-King series, The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within, and Shadow over Kiriath. She graduated from the University of Arizona with bachelor's degrees in biology and wildlife biology. Along with writing, she is a semi-professional watercolorist and has exhibited her work in a number of national juried shows. She and her family reside in Arizona.


When Lacey McHenry accepts a prestigious research fellowship at the world-renowned Kendell-Jakes Longevity Institute, she sees it as a new start on life. But a disturbing late-night encounter with an intruder leads to an unexpected cover-up by Institute authorities, and she soon realizes there's more going on than she ever imagined.

She finds a supporter in genetics researcher Cameron Reinhardt. However, Reinhardt is a favorite of the Institute's director, and she can't help wondering if he, too, is in on the cover-up. The brilliant but absentminded researcher turns out to have his own secrets, some of them dark and deadly. The Enclave is characterized by adventure, intrigue, spiritual analogy, and romance, all set in an unusual but fully realized world--one that may have its foundations on earth but which, the more one learns of it, doesn't seem much like the earth we know at all.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of The Enclave, go HERE.

To win a copy of this book, go to my Cloak and Dagger Fiction blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pirate Hunter by Tom Morrisey

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Pirate Hunter

Bethany House (July 1, 2009)


Tom Morrisey


Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section.

He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure-travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both evangelism and the arts. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines.

His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of six novels, including Wind River and In High Places. In addition Tom has also written two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.


High Seas Adventure Meets a High-Tech Quest for Pirate Gold West Indies, 18th century Young Ted Bascombe is rescued by notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, finding himself caught up in a world of crime, adventure, and a daily fight for freedom.... Key West, 21st century Marine archaeologist Greg Rhode embarks on a treasure-hunting expedition in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, but he's as beguiled by a beautiful diver with different-colored eyes as by the lure of pirate gold...The Hunt Is On! Interweaving these two stories, pro deep-sea diver Tom Morrisey spins a multilayered tale of two young men's quests to escape their past by losing themselves to adventure on the high seas. Romantic and thrilling, this unique novel explores the timeless truth that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pirate Hunter, go HERE.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who Made You a Princess by Shelley Adina

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Who Made You a Princess

FaithWords (May 13, 2009)


Shelley Adina


Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages.

Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith--with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.

The All About Us book series has its own home over on the Hachette website. Stop by and see what the five fabulous girls at Spencer Acadenmy are up to! Series Website.

Her other books in this series includes book one, It's All About Us, oook Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick, and book three, Be Strong & Curvaceous. This present book is book four.


Shani Hanna returns to SpencerAcademy for her senior year after an amazing summer spent with her friends Lissa, Gillian, and Carly. But the best part about summer was meeting Danyel Johnstone. Danyel is cute, smart, cool, and super nice. All Shani has to do is get him to see her as more than just one of the gang.

But when the girls return to school, they find a new addition to the distinguished student body: Prince Rashid al Amir of Yasir, an oil-rich desert kingdom in the Middle East. Prince Rashid moved to California to prepare for an eventual MBA at Stanford...and to romance his future wife: Shani Hanna!

It turns out, Shani's family and the prince's go back for generations, entwined in tradition, obligation, and family honor. In each generation, members of the two families have expanded their business interests through arranged marriage. Will Shani put aside her feelings for Danyel to pursue her family's wishes? Or will God answer her prayers for an intervention?

I've read the first three books in the series, and they are a fun glimpse into a different life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Who Made You a Princess , go HERE

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Exposure by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Zondervan (June 1, 2009)


Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition to Exposure, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Always Watching, first in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.


When your worst fear comes true.

Someone is watching Kaycee Raye. But who will believe her? Everyone knows she’s a little crazy. Kaycee’s popular syndicated newspaper column pokes fun at her own paranoia and multiple fears. The police in her small town are well aware she makes money writing of her experiences. Worse yet, she has no proof of the threats. Pictures of a dead man mysteriously appear in her home—then vanish before police arrive. Multisensory images flood Kaycee’s mind. Where is all this coming from?

Maybe she is going over the edge.

High action and psychological suspense collide in this story of terror, twists, and desperate faith. The startling questions surrounding Kaycee pile high. Her descent to answers may prove more than she can survive.

To read the first chapter, go HERE.

“More twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster! Highly recommended.” ~CBA Retailers

“Mesmerizing mystery…authentic characters…a fast-paced, twisting tale of desperate choices.” ~TitleTrakk

“Brandilyn Collins is a master of suspense, and Exposure is her best book yet!” ~Dianne Burnett,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Website Now Live!

George and Ashley Weis of Tekeme Studios have done a wonderful job of creating my brand new website! Click on the screenshot below to check it out!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

FIRST: By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

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:

By Darkness Hid, The Blood of Kings, book one

Marcher Lord Press (April 1, 2009)


Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She writes stories that combine danger, suspense, and adventure for people of all ages. An avid reader, she started Novel Teen Book Reviews to help teens find great books to read. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two book-loving children. By Darkness Hid is her first novel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 508 pages
Publisher: Marcher Lord Press (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982104952
ISBN-13: 978-0982104958


Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch out in front to light his way.

He wove between dark cottages in the outer bailey of the castle, mindful to keep his torch clear of the thatched roofs. Most of the residents of Sitna still slept. Only a few of the twenty-some peasants, slaves, and strays serving Lord Nathak and Prince Gidon stirred at this hour.

Sitna Manor sat on the north side of the Sideros River. A brownstone curtain wall, four levels high, enclosed the stronghold. A second wall sectioned off the outer bailey from the inner bailey, temple, and keep. Achan wasn’t allowed to enter the inner bailey but occasionally snuck inside when he felt compelled to leave an offering at Cetheria’s temple.

The barn loomed ahead of him in the darkness. It was one of the largest structures in Sitna Manor. It was long and narrow, with a high, thatched gable roof. Achan shifted the pail to his torch hand and tugged the heavy door open. It scraped over the frosty dirt. He darted inside and pulled it closed.

The scent of hay and manure drifted on the chilled air. He walked to the center and slid the torch into an iron ring on a load-bearing post. The timber walls stymied the bitter wind, and Achan’s shivering lessened.

The torch cast a golden glow over the hay pile, posts, and rafters and made Achan’s orange tunic look brown. A long path stretched the length of the barn with stalls on each side penning chickens, geese, pigs, and goats. Two empty stalls in the center housed hay and feed. He approached the goat stall.

“Morning, Dilly, Peg. How are my girls? Got lots of milk for me?”

The goats bleated their greetings. Achan rubbed his hands together until they were warm enough to avoid getting him kicked. He perched on the icy stool to milk Dilly and begin his tedious routine. He could have worse jobs, though, and he liked the goats.

By the time Achan had finished with Dilly, the stool under his backside had thawed, though his breath still clouded in the torch’s dull glow. He lifted the pail to get a better look. Dilly had filled it a third. Achan set it between his feet, slapped Dilly on the rear, and called Peg. When he had finished milking her he moved his stool outside and set the milk on top of it. He grabbed a pitchfork off the wall.

“Anyone hungry?”

Dilly and Peg danced around as Achan dumped fresh hay into the trough. The goats’ excitement faded to munching. The other animals stirred, but they were not his responsibility. Mox, the scrawny barn boy, had arrived a few minutes ago and now shuffled from stall to stall at the other end of the barn.

As Achan leaned the pitchfork against the wall, he had to pause. A chill ran through him that had nothing to do with the temperature. He felt the familiar pressure in his head. It wasn’t painful but it brought a sense of a looming, sinister shadow. Someone was coming.

“Lo, Mox!” a familiar voice called from near the barn’s entrance.

“Moxy poxy hoggy face, we know you’re in here.”

Achan sucked in an icy breath and slid back into the goat stall. The voices belonged to Riga Hoff and Harnu Poe, Sitna Manor’s resident browbeaters.

Mox’s young voice cried out. “Stop it! Don’t do that! Ah!”

Achan set his jaw and thunked his head against the wall of the stall, earning a reprimanding look from Dilly. Poril would flay him if he returned late. And there was no guarantee he could beat both boys. He should mind his own business. Regular beatings had made him tough—they could do likewise for Mox.

Or they could cripple him for life. An image flooded his mind: a young slave being dragged through the linen field by Riga and Harnu. They’d crushed his hands so badly that all the boy could do now was pull a cart like a mule. Achan sighed.

He edged to the other end of the barn, stepping softly over the scattered hay. Two piglets scurried past his feet. He clenched his jaw. If the animals got out, Mox would be punished by his master too. Riga and Harnu knew that, of course.

Achan spotted them in a pig stall at the end of the barn. Harnu was holding Mox’s face in a trough of slop. The mere thought of the smell turned Achan’s empty stomach. Riga leaned over Harnu’s shoulder laughing, his ample rear blocking the stall’s entrance. Fine linen stretched over Riga’s girth and rode up his back in wrinkles, baring more skin than Achan cared to see.

He sent a quick prayer up to the gods and cleared his throat. “Can I help you boys with something?”

Riga spun around, his mess of short, golden curls sticking out in all directions. His face was so pudgy Achan could never tell if his eyes were open or closed. “Stay out of this, dog!”

Harnu released Mox and pushed past Riga out of the stall. The torch’s beam illuminated his pockmarked face, a hazard from working too close to the forge. “Moxy poxy piglet got out of his pen. He needs to learn his place.” Harnu stood a foot taller than Riga and was the real threat in the barn. He stepped toward Achan. “Looks like you need to learn yours too.”

Achan held his ground. “Let him go.”

Harnu’s gaze flitted to a pitchfork propped against the wall. He grabbed it and swung. Achan jumped back, but the tines snagged his tunic, ripping a hole in the front and scratching his stomach. Achan squeezed his fists and blew out a long breath.

Harnu jabbed the pitchfork forward. Achan lunged to the side and grabbed the shaft. He wrenched the weapon away and spun it around, prongs facing Harnu. He waved it slightly back and forth, hoping to scare the brute into flight.

“The barn is off limits to your instruction. Anything else I can do for you boys? A little hay? Some oats, perhaps? Drag you to the moat, tie a millstone to your ankles, see how well you swim?”

Like a dog being teased with a bone, Harnu lunged.

Achan stepped back and raised the pitchfork above his head the way he’d seen knights do in the longsword tournaments. With nothing to stop his hurtling bulk, Harnu stumbled. Achan swung the tines flat against Harnu’s backside, and the bully knocked head first into the chicken pen. The birds squawked and fluttered, sending a cloud of dust over Harnu.

Riga slipped past the stall and made toward the milk pail. Achan darted forward and stuck the pitchfork in the clay earth to snag Riga’s foot. The big louse tripped and sprawled into the dirt and hay.

Footsteps behind Achan sent him wheeling around just in time to lift the pitchfork to Harnu’s chest. Over Harnu’s shoulder, Achan could see Mox climbing out of the geese pen with a squirming piglet under one arm.

Harnu raised his hands and stepped back, a thin scratch swelling across his reddened cheek. “Lord Nathak will hear ’bout this, stray. You’ll hang.”

Achan knew he wouldn’t hang for a tussle like this, but he might be whipped. And Lord Nathak’s guards were merciless. Besides, Achan doubted Lord Nathak’s servants would bother their master with such a trivial matter. He shrugged. “Not much to tell. You fell into the chicken pen.”

“You attacked me with a pitchfork when I caught you trying to steal a horse.”

A tremor snaked down Achan’s arms. Stealing a horse was cause for a hanging. And no one—especially Lord Nathak—would take the word of a stray over a peasant, even one like Harnu. Achan jabbed the pitchfork out. “If Lord Nathak hears a breath of that tripe, I know where you lay your head.”

Harnu snorted and beat his chest with a clenched fist. “You dare threaten me?”

Achan glanced around for Riga, but the swine had vanished. He backed toward the hay pile, feeling cornered. Achan took another step back, keeping the pitchfork aimed at Harnu. His boot knocked against something.

Harnu cackled and pointed at the ground behind Achan’s feet. Achan looked down. The stool and pail lay on their sides, milk seeping into the clay soil.

Pig snout!

Riga charged out of the hay stall with a roar. Achan turned but Riga jerked the pitchfork away. Harnu rushed forward and battered Achan to the ground.

The pitchfork dug into Achan’s back. He gritted his teeth, not wanting to give the brutes the satisfaction of hearing him scream. He was more upset over the spilled milk than the pain.

Pain, he was used to.

Mox pointed at Achan from the end of the barn, his face gooey with slop. “Ha ha!”

The ungrateful scab was on his own next time.

Dilly and Peg kicked against the wall of their stall, agitated by Achan’s distress.

Harnu crouched in front of him, grabbed the back of his head, and pushed his face toward the puddle seeping into the dirt floor. “Lick it up, dog!”

Achan thrashed in the hay but lost his battle with Harnu’s hand. He turned his head just as his cheek splashed into the milky muck. The liquid steamed around his face. Harnu released Achan’s head and sat back on his haunches, his wide lips twisting in a triumphant sneer.

Riga chortled, a dopey sound. “I’d like a new rug, Harnu. What say we skin the stray?” He dragged the pitchfork down Achan’s back.

They never learned.

Achan pushed up with his arms. The prongs dug deeper but he was able to slide his right arm and leg underneath his body and twist free. He grabbed the handle of the pail and swung it at Harnu’s face. Harnu fell onto his backside, clutching his nose.

Achan scrambled to his feet. He grabbed another pitchfork off the wall and squared off with Riga.

The fat boy waddled nearer and lifted his weapon. Achan faked an upswing.

When Riga heaved the pitchfork up to block, Achan swung the shaft of his weapon into Riga’s leg.

The boy went down like a slaughtered pig.

Harnu approached, pinching his nose with one hand and wiping a fistful of hay across his upper lip with the other.

“This does grow old,” Achan said. “How many times do I have to trounce you both?”

“I’m telling Lord Nathak,” Harnu said, sounding like he had a cold.

“You’ve no right to attack us,” Riga mumbled from the dirt floor.

Achan wanted to argue, And what of Mox? but he’d sacrificed enough for that thankless whelp. He grabbed both pitchforks and fled from the barn.

Pale dawn light blanketed Sitna Manor. He ran toward the drawbridge, glancing at the sentry walk of the outer gatehouse. The squared parapet was black against the gray sky. A lone guard stood on the wall above like a shadow.

Achan ran through the gate and over the drawbridge. As usual, the guards ignored him. Few people in the manor acknowledged anyone wearing an orange tunic. One small advantage of being a stray. He sank to his knees at the edge of the moat to wash the blood off the pitchforks.

Riga and Harnu wouldn’t let this go easily.

Achan sighed. His fingers stiffened in the rank, icy water. One of these days he’d accept pretty Gren Fenny’s offer to weave him a brown tunic, and run away. He was almost of age—maybe no one would question his heritage. He could tell people his mother was a mistress and his father was on Ice Island. Sired by a criminal and almost sixteen, people wouldn’t ask too many questions.

When the pitchforks were clean, Achan returned to the barn. His attackers had left and, thankfully, had not done any damage they could blame him for. He shuddered to think of what their feeble minds hadn’t. The torch still burned in the ring by the door. They could have burned the barn to ashes. They were truly the thickest heads in Sitna, maybe even in all Er’Rets.

Not that Achan was much brighter, sacrificing himself for an ingrate who was probably out chasing piglets.

Achan hung one pitchfork on the wall and used the other to clean up the hay. When the ground was tidy, he picked up the empty pail and sat on the stool to catch his breath.

The consequences of his heroism were suddenly laid before him. The scratches on his back throbbed. The goat’s milk had completely soaked into the ground, the front of his tunic, and his face. Only the latter had dried, making the skin tight on his left cheek. His nose tingled from the cold. He shivered violently, now that he’d stopped moving. He scowled and pitched the pail across the barn. It smacked the goat stall, and the girls scurried around inside, frightened by the sound.

But Achan didn’t want a beating. So he picked the pail up againa, dragged the stool into the stall, and managed to squeeze another two inches of milk from the goats. It was all they had. Poril would be furious.

Achan jogged out of the barn, around the cottages, and across the inner bailey. By now, more people were stirring—it was almost breakfasttime. He wove around a peddler pushing a cart full of linens and a squire leading a horse from the stables. A piglet scurried past, just avoiding the wheels of a trader’s wagon. Achan ignored it. Mox could hang for all he cared.

Pressure filled his head again.

This time the insight that followed was not dread but kinship and hope. Achan paused at the entrance to the kitchens and turned, seeking out the source of the sensation. His gaze was drawn to the armory.

There, Harnu slouched on a stool clutching a bloody rag to his nose. His father stood over him, hands on hips. The warm glow of the forge behind their menacing forms brought to mind the Lowerworld song that Achan had heard Minstrel Harp sing in the Corner last night:

When Arman turns away, Shamayim denied

To Lowerword your soul will flee.

At the fiery gates meet your new lord, Gâzar

And forever in Darkness you’ll be.

Achan shuddered. The sensation of kinship was definitely not coming from them.

He spotted someone else. A knight stood leaning against the crude structure of the armory watching Achan with a pensive stare. He wore the uniform of the Old Kingsguard—a red, hooded cloak that draped over both arms and hung to a triangular point in the center front and back. The crest of the city of Armonguard, embroidered in gold thread, glimmered over his chest. The knight pulled his hood back to reveal white hair, tied back on top and hanging past his shoulders. A white beard dangled in a single braid that extended to his chest.

Achan recognized him immediately. It was Sir Gavin Lukos, the knight who had come to train Prince Gidon for his presentation to the council.

For what purpose did the knight stare? Achan had never met anyone above his station who hadn’t wished him harm or hard work. Yet his instincts had never been wrong. Sir Gavin harbored no ill will. Achan gave the old man a half smile before entering the kitchens to face Poril’s wrath.

* * *

Achan settled onto a stool by the chest-high table. The table was worn by years of knives and kneading. Poril, a burly old man with sagging posture, poured batter into stone cups and carried them to the hearth oven. Serving women scurried about filling trays with food and gossiping about Lord Nathak’s latest rejection from the Duchess of Carm.

Achan’s stomach growled at the smell of fried bacon and ginger cake. He wouldn’t be able to eat until after the nobility were served, and then he would be allowed only one bowl of porridge. Poril had a knack of knowing if Achan had eaten something he shouldn’t have. Achan suspected the serving women’s tongues flapped for extra slices of Poril’s pies.

The scratches on his back burned. He was in no mood for Poril’s daily lecture, nor could he stomach the cook’s nagging voice and the queer way he spoke about himself using his own name. Especially not when he was hungry and had a beating coming. He only hoped Harnu would keep his accusations of thieving to himself. Maybe it was time to talk to Gren about that brown tunic.

Poril scurried back to the table with a linen sack of potatoes. His downy white hair floated over his freckled scalp. Sometimes Achan wanted to laugh when he watched Poril. The man looked more like he should be wielding a sword than a wooden spoon. Some of the serving women said Poril was part giant. Achan wasn’t convinced. The cook might be tall and thick, but his sagging posture and thinning hair just made him look old.

“It’s what comes from giving a stray responsibility, that’s what. But Poril’s a kind soul, he is. Mother was a stray and no kinder woman there ever was, boy, I’ll tell yeh that. Worked hard so Poril could have better, she did.”

Poril dumped the potatoes onto the table. Several rolled onto the dirt floor, and Achan scrambled to pick them up. He spotted a crumbled wedge of ginger cake on the floor and stuffed the spicy sweetness into his mouth. It was even a bit warm still. Achan took his time setting the potatoes back on the table and pressed the lump of cake into the roof of his mouth to savor it, hoping Poril didn’t see. Then he grabbed a knife and hacked at the peel of the biggest potato.

Poril pointed a crooked finger in Achan’s face. “It’s only ’cause Poril’s the best cook in Er’Rets that Lord Nathak won’t be aware of yer blunder with the milk today, boy. ’Tis my responsibility to beat some sense into yeh, not his. Poril’s a fair man, and yeh deserve to be punished, that’s certain. But turning yeh over to the likes of the master is cruel. And cruel, Poril’s not.”

Achan set the peeled potato aside and picked up another. Poril always threatened to tell Lord Nathak of Achan’s every misstep, but the man was all talk. He was more scared of Lord Nathak than Achan was of Gâzar himself. True, Poril was not as cruel as some, but he was of the opinion that beatings with the belt were kinder than beatings with a fist. Achan grew tired of both.

Poril clunked a mug of red tonic onto the table beside Achan’s potato peelings. Achan glanced at it.

The old man’s gray eyes dared him to refuse. “Drink up, then. Poril’s waiting.”

Achan sucked in a long breath and guzzled the gooey, bitter liquid. He’d been fed the tonic every morning his whole life, and every morning Poril insisted on watching him drink. The taste killed the lingering ginger cake flavor on his tongue.

The thick mixture always churned in his gut, begging to come back up. Achan sat still a moment, breathing through his nose to calm his nerves. Then he rose to settle his stomach with a few mentha leaves from the spice baskets. Achan might not have free range of the kitchens, but Poril had learned long ago to allow Achan as much mentha as he needed.

Poril always claimed that Lord Nathak had insisted Achan drink the tonic to keep away illness—that strays were full of disease. But the tonic hadn’t prevented Achan from being ill several times in his life. Plus no other stray he knew had to take the drink. The one time he’d refused, he’d received a personal summons from Lord Nathak.

Achan shuddered at the memory and chewed on the leaves. Their fresh taste dissolved the tonic’s bitterness and tingled his tongue.

Poril wiped his hands on his grease-stained apron and sprinkled a bit of sugar over the prince’s ginger cake. Hopefully he’d forget to clean the crumbs off the table when he left to deliver it.

“Never wanted yeh, Poril didn’t. But the master brought yeh to Poril to raise and that’s what Poril’s done. Yeh brought none but trouble to the kitchens, the gods know. None but trouble. ’Tis why I named yeh so.”

As if an orange tunic wasn’t humiliation enough, achan meant trouble in the ancient language. Achan returned to his stool and raked the knife against another potato, trying to block out Poril’s braying voice. His pitchfork wounds stung but it would be at least an hour before he could tend to them.

“…and Poril will teach yeh right from wrong, too. That’s Poril’s duty to the gods.”

If that was true, Achan would like to have a little talk with the gods. Not that the all-powerful Cetheria would be burdened by the prayers of a stray—despite all the pastry tarts Achan had offered up at the entrance to the temple gardens over the years.

Day-old tarts didn’t compare to gold cups, jewels, or coins when you’re trying to win a god’s favor.

An hour later, Achan stood over the sink basin washing dishes while Poril delivered Lord Nathak and Prince Gidon’s breakfast. There were servants to do the task, but Poril insisted on being present when the first bites were taken.

Achan shifted his weight to his other leg. He hated cleaning dishes. Standing in one position for so long made his back ache, and today, with his pitchfork wounds, the pain doubled.

Though strays were lower even than slaves in most parts of Er’Rets, Achan had more freedom than most slaves. Poril kept him busy tending the goats, getting wood, and keeping the fireplaces hot and both kitchens clean, but at least there was variety. Some slaves worked fifteen hours a day at one task. Such tediousness would have driven Achan insane.

Achan dried the last pot and hung the towel on the line outside. When he came back in, Poril had returned. The cook wiggled his crooked fingers, beckoning Achan to follow him down the skinny stone steps to the cellar. Achan sighed, dreading the bite of Poril’s belt buckle.

The cook lived in a cramped room off of the cellar, furnished with a straw mattress, a tiny oak table, and two chairs. Achan slept in the cellar itself, under the supports that held up the ale casks, although he barely fit anymore. He feared to be crushed in his sleep one night when he rolled against one of the supports and it finally gave way.

As per routine, Achan went to Poril’s table, removed his tunic, and draped it over the back of one chair. He straddled the other chair in reverse and hugged it with his arms. His teeth fit into the grooves of bite marks he’d made over the years. He clenched down and waited.

Poril ran a finger down one of the scratches on Achan’s back. “What’s this?”

Achan quivered at the feel of crusty blood under Poril’s touch.

“Well? Speak up, boy. Poril don’t have all day to waste on yer silence.”

“I met some peasants in the barn this morning.”

“Spilled yer milk, did they?”

Not exactly, but Achan said, “Aye.”

“Yeh cause trouble?”

Achan didn’t answer. Poril always complained when Achan defended himself or anyone else. He said a stray should know his place and take his beatings like he’d deserved them.

“Ah, yer a fool, yeh are, boy. One of these days yeh’ll be killed, and Poril will tell the tale of how he knew it would come to pass. The boy wouldn’t listen to Poril. Had to smart off. Had to fight back. Not even Cetheria will have mercy on such idiocy.”

Achan doubted it mattered if he stuck up for himself or not. If a stray was invisible to man, how much more so to the gods?

He heard the swoosh of Poril pulling his leather belt from the loops on his trousers. He hoped his pants fell down.

When Poril was done flogging Achan, he kindly swabbed his back with soapy water, washed the blood from his tunic, and gave him an hour off to rest while it dried.

Good old Poril.

* * *

A kindly presence flooded his mind.

Achan was returning from the well carrying a heavy yoke over his shoulders with two full buckets of water. He rounded the edge of a cottage and found Sir Gavin Lukos heading toward him. Achan stepped aside, pressing up against the cottage and turning the yoke so the buckets wouldn’t hinder the great knight’s path. The buckets swung from his sharp movement, grinding the yoke into his shoulders.

Sir Gavin slowed. “What’s your name, stray?”

Achan jumped, wincing as the yoke sent a sliver into the back of his neck. Sir Gavin’s eyes bored into his. One was icy blue and the other was dark brown. The difference startled him. “Uh…Achan, sir.”

The knight’s weathered face wrinkled. “What kind of a name is that?”

Poril’s voice nagged in Achan’s mind, ’Tis trouble, that’s what. “Mine, sir.”


Achan lifted his chin and answered, “Cham,” proud of the animal Poril had chosen to represent him. Chams breathed fire and had claws as long as his hand. Such virtues would tame Riga and Harnu for good.

Sir Gavin sniffed. “A fine choice.” His braided beard bobbed as he spoke. “I saw a bit of that ruthless bear in the barn with those peasants.”

Achan stared, shocked. He’d seen the fight? Would he tell Lord Nathak? “I…um…” Had Sir Gavin asked him a question? “I’m sorry?”

“I said, what’s your aim, lad?’

“I should like to serve in Lord Nathak’s kitchens…perhaps someday assist the stableman with the horses.”

“Bah! Kitchens and stables are no place for a cham. That’s a fierce beast. You need a goal fit for the animal.”

What could the knight be skirting around? “But I…I don’t have a…what choice have I?”

“Aw, now there’s always a choice, lad. Kingsguard is the highest honor to be had by a stray. Why not choose that?”

Achan cut off a gasping laugh, afraid of offending the knight. “I cannot. Forgive me, but you’re…I mean…a stray is not permitted to serve in the Kingsguard, sir.”

“It wasn’t always that way, you know. And despite any council law, there are always exceptions.”

Achan shifted the yoke a bit, uncomfortable with both the weight and the subject matter. He cared little for myths and legends. Council law was all that mattered anymore. Despite his fantasy of running away, he was Lord Nathak’s property, nothing more. The brand on his shoulder proved that. “Even so, sir, one must serve as a page first, then squire, and no knight would wish a stray for either.”

“Except, perhaps, a knight who’s a stray himself.” Sir Gavin winked his brown eye.

A tingle ran up Achan’s arms. He’d known Sir Gavin was a stray because of his animal surname, but it had been years since strays had been permitted to serve. Surely he couldn’t mean—

“Come to the stables an hour before sunrise tomorrow. Your training mustn’t interfere with your duties to the manor. Tell no one of this for now. If I decide you’re worthy, I’ll talk to Lord Nathak about reassignment to me.”

Achan’s mouth hung open. “You’re offering to train me?”

“If you’re not interested, I’m sure another would be eager to accept my offer.”

Achan shifted under the weight of the yoke. “No. No, sir. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

“Good. I’ll show you a trick or two you don’t yet know.”

Achan grinned. “Yes, sir.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Robin Hood (2010)

I forgot to opt in on time for the CSFF blog tour of Stephen Lawhead's Tuck, so I thought I'd put in a Robin Hood-themed post anyhow.

A new Robin Hood movie comes out in 2010, and I am loving the actors they chose for it!

<-- Russell Crowe (Jim Braddock on Cinderella Man) plays Robin Hood.

Cate Blanchett (Galadriel on Lord of the Rings) plays Maid Marion. -->

<-- Mark Strong (Mr. Knightley on Emma, Septimus on Stardust) plays Sir Godfrey, Prince John's henchman (aka Guy of Gisbourne).

Matthew Macfadyen (Mr Darcy on Pride and Prejudice) plays the Sheriff of Nottingham. -->

<-- Eileen Atkins (Jocelyn Dashwood on What a Girl Wants) plays the Queen Mother.

Oscar Isaac (Joseph on The Nativity Story) plays Prince John. -->

Find out more here!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ulterior Motives by Mark Andrew Olsen

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Ulterior Motives

Bethany House (March 1, 2009)


Mark Andrew Olsen


MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. Two of his last books were the supernatural thriller The Watchers, and The Warriors.

The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a Professional Writing graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.


When an al-Qaeda email is intercepted, threatening an attack on America, it leads to the capture of the group's leader. Yet even under fierce interrogation, the terrorist clings to his jihadist beliefs and refuses to divulge any information. Desperate, the Army resorts to extreme measures--a controversial protocol designed to break a subject's resistance. But the attempt must be masked as an offer of clemency and rely on an outside party, someone who is unaware of the protocol's aims.

They find that someone in Greg Cahill, a disgraced soldier who now serves in a prison ministry. Lured by the chance to restore his reputation, Greg befriends a man the entire country despises. And the result proves combustible, the two men having to flee for their lives. With both in need of redemption, they set out to prevent a major catastrophe...

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ulterior Motive, go HERE

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taking Tuscany by Renee Riva

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Taking Tuscany

David C. Cook (May 2009)


Renee Riva


Renee Riva writes humorous stories with a message, for both children and adults. Having been raised in a large Italian family with a great sense of humor, she has much to draw from for developing quirky characters.

She loves sharing her secrets for story starters at Young Author events, helping to spark the imagination of young minds. Renee and her husband live in Richland, Washington, with their three daughters, a dog, a cat, and until recently, her beloved hamster—may she rest in peace.


A. J. Degulio loved the idea of a visit to the Old Country... until her family decided to stay. It's 1972 and she's turning fourteen in a crumbling castle on a hill in Tuscany, wishing she were back in Idaho with her beloved dog, Sailor. In Italy, her blonde hair makes her stick out like a vanilla wafer in a box of chocolate biscotti, and she's so lonely her best friend is a nun from the local convent.

The challenges of roots and relatives are nothing new to A. J., but she's going to need more than the famous Degulio sense of humor to survive. Can't anyone see that Italy isn't really home? It will take a catastrophe - and a few wise words from a friend - for A. J. to understand that sometimes the only thing you can change is your perspective.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Taking Tuscany, go HERE

Thursday, May 07, 2009

According To Their Deeds by Paul Robertson

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

According To Their Deeds

Bethany House (March 1, 2009)


Paul Robertson


Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.


A Deadly Game of Justice Versus Mercy Charles Beale lives outside the shadow of Washington, D.C. Politics and power matter only when a client crosses the Potomac to visit his Alexandria Rare Books shop.

But that all changes when a former client--a man deeply connected in the Justice Department--is found murdered after a break-in gone bad. When Charles reclaims at auction the books he'd once sold, he quickly discovers he's bought more trouble than he could have ever imagined.

Inside one volume are secrets. A collection of sins that, if revealed, could destroy reputations, careers--even lives. Charles soon learns he isn't the only who knows. Going to the police means ruining a multitude of lives. But staying silent puts a target on his shop, his wife--and himself. Charles must decide: Should one mistake really cost you everything?

If you would like to read the first chapter of According To Their Deeds, go HERE