Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Anxiety over letting go and moving on...



Melancholy. A little strange yes, but that is exactly how I'm feeling at this moment.


I feel anxious too. After all, I still have things on my "To Do" list for 2009 that have NOT been crossed off yet. How on earth am I supposed to get it all accomplished in a measly 24 hours? Even if I didn't sleep, I still don't think I would be able to accomplish all I had hoped to do by the end of the year.


Even my "cleaning" chores are adding to my anxiety. It's not like I had planned to scrub the place from top to bottom, but I would like to ring in the new year feeling less cramped in my place.


Part of my problem is that I don't like to leave things undone. A strange comment for a procrastinator such as myself, and yet, when it comes down to the wire, I can usually pull things through and complete them on time. Even if it's a self-imposed deadline. I really hope I don't bring this "stress" into the new year, but I'm afraid that's what is going to happen.


Are there any goals/projects/deadlines that you still need to accomplish this year?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2009 Wrap-Up

It's hard to believe that Fall has flown by and Winter is now here. It's times like these that I'm very grateful to live in Florida, especially when I see the snow storms hitting up north. (Thank you Lord for the sunshine and humidity.)

In any case, when the Fall Into Reading Challenge began this year, I made a short list of books I wanted to read, which you can find at this posting. Needless to say, I was able to read all three of the books, as well as several others during the reading challenge. Now I know you're thinking, three books, really? But truly, with all of the craziness in my life lately, three books is a BIG deal.

In any case, I'm glad I didn't over plan my list because I always feel terrible when I'm not able to read all of the books on my list. Call me an overachiever, but when I set out to do something, I always want to go above and beyond what is expected--even if it is a challenge I issue to myself.

I hope everyone else had the same feeling of success that I did after this challenge was over. Thank you to Katrina at Callapidder Days for hosting this event each year. (If you've never participated in one of her reading challenges, they're great fun and she usually holds giveaways each week from various publishing houses.)

Until the next challenge--Happy Reading!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pink Glove Dance

I know it's a few months late, but I just received this link in an email and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Letter to Obama

I received the following email from a dear friend of mine. I've actually researched the information and found that this letter to our "President" is indeed sent by Harold Estes. I have to say, I whole-heartily agree. Thank you Mr. Estes for your willingness to tell Obama exactly what you think. Please know that you are not the only one out there that feels our "President" is a schmuck. Here is the letter:

This venerable and much honored WW II vet is well known in Hawaii for his seventy-plus years of service to patriotic organizations and causes all over the country. A humble man without a political bone in his body, he has never spoken out before about a government official, until now. He dictated this letter to a friend, signed it and mailed it to the president.

Dear President Obama,

My name is Harold Estes, approaching 95 on December 13 of this year. People meeting me for the first time don't believe my age because I remain wrinkle free and pretty much mentally alert. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1934 and served proudly before, during and after WW II retiring as a Master Chief Bos'n Mate. Now I live in a "rest home" located on the western end of Pearl Harbor, allowing me to keep alive the memories of 23 years of service to my country. One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct even to the head man. So here goes.

I am amazed, angry and determined not to see my country die before I do, but you seem hell bent not to grant me that wish. I can't figure out what country you are the president of. You fly around the world telling our friends and enemies despicable lies like:

" We're no longer a Christian nation"

" America is arrogant" - (Your wife even announced to the world,"America is mean spirited. " Please tell her to try preaching that nonsense to 23 generations of our war dead buried all over the globe who died for no other reason than to free a whole lot of strangers from tyranny and hopelessness.)

I'd say shame on the both of you, but I don't think you like America, nor do I see an ounce of gratefulness in anything you do, for the obvious gifts this country has given you. To be without shame or gratefulness is a dangerous thing for a man sitting in the White House.

After 9/11 you said," America hasn't lived up to her ideals."

Which ones did you mean? Was it the notion of personal liberty that 11,000 farmers and shopkeepers died for to win independence from the British? Or maybe the ideal that no man should be a slave to another man, that 500,000 men died for in the Civil War? I hope you didn't mean the ideal 470,000 fathers, brothers, husbands, and a lot of fellas I knew personally died for in WWII, because we felt real strongly about not letting any nation push us around, because we stand for freedom.

I don't think you mean the ideal that says equality is better than discrimination. You know the one that a whole lot of white people understood when they helped to get you elected.

Take a little advice from a very old geezer, young man. Shape up and start acting like an American. If you don't, I'll do what I can to see you get shipped out of that fancy rental on Pennsylvania Avenue. You were elected to lead, not to bow, apologize, and kiss the hands of murderers and corrupt leaders who still treat their people like slaves.

And just who do you think you are telling the American people not to jump to conclusions and condemn that Muslim major who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded dozens more. You mean you don't want us to do what you did when that white cop used force to subdue that black college professor in Massachusetts, who was putting up a fight? You don't mind offending the police calling them stupid, but you don't want us to offend Muslim fanatics by calling them what they are, terrorists.

One more thing. I realize you never served in the military and never had to defend your country with your life, but you're the Commander-in-Chief now, son. Do your job. When your battle-hardened field General asks you for 40,000 more troops to complete the mission, give them to him. But if you're not in this fight to win, then get out. The life of one American soldier is not worth the best political strategy you're thinking of.

You could be our greatest president because you face the greatest challenge ever presented to any president.

You're not going to restore American greatness by bringing back our bloated economy. That's not our greatest threat. Losing the heart and soul of who we are as Americans is our big fight now.

And I sure as hell don't want to think my president is the enemy in this final battle.

Sincerely,
Harold B. Estes

When a 95 year old hero of the "the Greatest Generation" stands up and speaks out like this, I think we owe it to him to send his words to as many Americans as we can. Please pass it on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Novel Idea by Various Best-Selling Authors

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 authors are:

Various Best-Selling Authors
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)

and the book:


A Novel Idea

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE BOOK:




Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414329946
ISBN-13: 978-1414329949

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1: Plot

The Plot Skeleton

Angela Hunt

Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.

In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.

Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.

After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.

When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.

To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.

The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.

This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.

Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.

Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.

Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”

“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.

Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.

Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.

In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.

Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.

The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.

The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.

Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.

So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.

For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.

In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.

The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.

You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.

James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.

When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.

The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.

The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.

Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”

Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.

What Next?
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.


Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.



Dynamic Uno here: While it's no secret that I LOVE to read, I have always harbored a secret yearning to be able to write novels too. When I first heard of this book coming out from Angela Hunt's blog, I decided to go ahead and order a copy from Amazon for my "writer's" book collection.

I did not sign up for this blog tour because I knew my plate would be overflowing this fall, but I do want to let you know that the few chapters I've skimmed through have been fabulous in offering writing advice to novelists--even if they're just wanna-be novelists like myself. If you're interested in writing and you cannot afford to attend a writer's conference at this point in time, look no further because A Novel Idea is like a miniature writer's conference that you don't have to leave your favorite comfy chair to attend.

Go out and get this book today and let me know what you think. Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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





Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Same Kind of Different as Me

Thomas Nelson (March 11, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ron Hall is an international art dealer whose long list of regular clients includes many celebrity personalities. An MBA graduate of Texas Christian University, he divides his time between Dallas, New York, and his Brazos River ranch near Fort Worth.

Denver Moore currently serves as a volunteer at the Fort Worth Union Gospel Mission. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Today, he is an artist, public speaker, and volunteer for homeless causes. In 2006, as evidence of the complete turn around of his life, the citizens of Fort Worth honored him as "Philanthropist of the Year" for his work with homeless people at the Union Gospel Mission.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 084991910X
ISBN-13: 978-0849919107

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Well—a poor Lazarus poor as I

When he died he had a home on high . . .

The rich man died and lived so well

When he died he had a home in hell . . .

You better get a home in that Rock, don’t you see?

—NEGRO SPIRITUAL


Denver


Until Miss Debbie, I’d never spoke to no white woman before. Just answered a few questions, maybe—it wadn’t really speakin. And to me, even that was mighty risky since the last time I was fool enough to open my mouth to a white woman, I wound up half-dead and nearly blind.


I was maybe fifteen, sixteen years old, walkin down the red dirt road that passed by the front of the cotton plantation where I lived in Red River Parish, Louisiana. The plantation was big and flat, like a whole lotta farms put together with a bayou snakin all through it. Cypress trees squatted like spiders in the water, which was the color of pale green apples. There was a lotta different fields on that spread, maybe a hundred, two hundred acres each, lined off with hardwood trees, mostly pecans.


Wadn’t too many trees right by the road, though, so when I was walkin that day on my way back from my auntie’s house—she was my grandma’s sister on my daddy’s side—I was right out in the open. Purty soon, I seen this white lady standin by her car, a blue Ford, ’bout a 1950, ’51 model, somethin like that. She was standin there in her hat and her skirt, like maybe she’d been to town. Looked to me like she was tryin to figure out how to fix a flat tire. So I stopped.


“You need some help, ma’am?”


“Yes, thank you,” she said, lookin purty grateful to tell you the truth. “I really do.”


I asked her did she have a jack, she said she did, and that was all we said.


Well, ’bout the time I got the tire fixed, here come three white boys ridin outta the woods on bay horses. They’d been huntin, I think, and they come trottin up and didn’t see me ’cause they was in the road and I was ducked down fixin the tire on the other side of the car. Red dust from the horses’ tracks floated up over me. First, I got still, thinkin I’d wait for em to go on by. Then I decided I didn’t want em to think I was hidin, so I started to stand up. Right then, one of em asked the white lady did she need any help.


“I reckon not!” a redheaded fella with big teeth said when he spotted me. “She’s got a nigger helpin her!”


Another one, dark-haired and kinda weasel-lookin, put one hand on his saddle horn and pushed back his hat with the other. “Boy, what you doin’ botherin this nice lady?”


He wadn’t nothin but a boy hisself, maybe eighteen, nineteen years old. I didn’t say nothin, just looked at him.


“What you lookin’ at, boy?” he said and spat in the dirt.


The other two just laughed. The white lady didn’t say nothin, just looked down at her shoes. ’Cept for the horses chufflin, things got quiet. Like the yella spell before a cyclone. Then the boy closest to me slung a grass rope around my neck, like he was ropin a calf. He jerked it tight, cutting my breath. The noose poked into my neck like burrs, and fear crawled up through my legs into my belly.


I caught a look at all three of them boys, and I remember thinkin none of em was much older’n me. But their eyes was flat and mean.


“We gon’ teach you a lesson about botherin white ladies,” said the one holdin the rope. That was the last thing them boys said to me.


I don’t like to talk much ’bout what happened next, ‘cause I ain’t lookin for no pity party. That’s just how things was in Louisiana in those days. Mississippi, too, I reckon, since a coupla years later, folks started tellin the story about a young colored fella named Emmett Till who got beat till you couldn’t tell who he was no more. He’d whistled at a white woman, and some other good ole boys—seemed like them woods was full of em—didn’t like that one iota. They beat that boy till one a’ his eyeballs fell out, then tied a cotton-gin fan around his neck and throwed him off a bridge into the Tallahatchie River. Folks says if you was to walk across that bridge today, you could still hear that drowned young man cryin out from the water.


There was lots of Emmett Tills, only most of em didn’t make the news. Folks says the bayou in Red River Parish is full to its pea-green brim with the splintery bones of colored folks that white men done fed to the gators for covetin their women, or maybe just lookin cross-eyed. Wadn’t like it happened ever day. But the chance of it, the threat of it, hung over the cotton fields like a ghost.


I worked them fields for nearly thirty years, like a slave, even though slavery had supposably ended when my grandma was just a girl. I had a shack I didn’t own, two pairs a’ overalls I got on credit, a hog, and a outhouse. I worked them fields, plantin and plowin and pickin and givin all the cotton to the Man that owned the land, all without no paycheck. I didn’t even know what a paycheck was.


It might be hard for you to imagine, but I worked like that while the seasons rolled by from the time I was a little bitty boy, all the way past the time that president named Kennedy got shot dead in Dallas.


All them years, there was a freight train that used to roll through Red River Parish on some tracks right out there by Highway 1. Ever day, I’d hear it whistle and moan, and I used to imagine it callin out about the places it could take me . . . like New York City or Detroit, where I heard a colored man could get paid, or California, where I heard nearly everbody that breathed was stackin up paper money like flapjacks. One day, I just got tired a’ bein poor. So I walked out to Highway 1, waited for that train to slow down some, and jumped on it. I didn’t get off till the doors opened up again, which happened to be in Fort Worth, Texas. Now when a black man who can’t read, can’t write, can’t figger, and don’t know how to work nothin but cotton comes to the big city, he don’t have too many of what white folks call “career opportunities.” That’s how come I wound up sleepin on the streets.


I ain’t gon’ sugarcoat it: The streets’ll turn a man nasty. And I had been nasty, homeless, in scrapes with the law, in Angola prison, and homeless again for a lotta years by the time I met Miss Debbie. I want to tell you this about her: She was the skinniest, nosiest, pushiest woman I had ever met, black or white.


She was so pushy, I couldn’t keep her from finding out my name was Denver. She investigated till she found it out on her own. For a long time, I tried to stay completely outta her way. But after a while, Miss Debbie got me to talkin ’bout things I don’t like to talk about and tellin things I ain’t never told nobody—even about them three boys with the rope. Some of them’s the things I’m fixin to tell you.


Dynamic Uno here: I didn't sign up for this tour when it first was posted because of my crazy schedule this fall, even though I had heard from dozens of people that it was a "must-read.". As it turned out, our teacher book club at school chose this book for our November title and I am so glad that we did!

I had heard from many people that Denver's story of growing up in slavery was unbelievable, but my logical mind was trying to grasp the reality of slavery. After all, wasn't that why we had that huge war between the North and the South? Isn't he a bit young to have lived during that time period? Shouldn't he be dead? As I started to read Denver's story and realized that he was a victim of modern-day slavery, I moved from being extremely irritated to extremely mad. How dare someone treat others like property and cattle! Denver literally slaved hard every day from the time he was a young child until he decided to just drop everything and ride away in a train car. His experience as a homeless person on the streets mirrors many of the homeless people today. No hope and fighting for survival.

Reading Ron's side of the story made me a bit envious. He went from nothing to art dealer somewhat overnight. (Why can't I do something like that?) I was a bit peeved because of his arrogant attitude at the beginning when he started working at the food pantry, but soon realized that I have that same attitude towards the homeless on occasion (much to my chagrin) and that I should be angry at myself for having the same thoughts Ron had when he first started there.

Reading the transformation that took place in both Ron and Denver can only be attributed to God (and Ron's wife). I enjoyed seeing the progression of the relationship between the two men as they both decided to "catch and not release" their friendship.

If you want to read a book that will meld with your soul and keep you thinking after you read--Same Kind of Different As Me is the book for you. You'll laugh, you'll cry, but you will also be left wondering about what you can do to help others in this situation. If you haven't read this book--go get it now. It is fabulous and you don't want to miss it. Let me know what you think. Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy November!

If it's midnight, then it means the clock is furiously counting down on my deadline to write a novel in a month. What am I talking about?

Why NaNoWriMo of course!

Wish me luck as I attempt to pound my computer keys into creating a 50,000 word story over the next 30 days. Will I post it here--probably not, but then anything written in a month is probably garbage to begin with, so it actually might show up here--if only to make other wanna-be novelists feel better. Good luck to other newbies out there and happy novelizing! (Just think--a whole extra hour to write! Remember to turn your clocks back an hour.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's November Already?!?!

Okay, so November technically doesn't start for a few more hours, but I can hardly believe that October has come and (almost) gone. "Where have I been"? you ask. Well, I've been working that crazy second job at that local theme park and tonight is the last night of its season. (Yay!) I've also been working at my regular job, participating in the Homecoming Activities, spending time with family, hanging out with the LOST girls and trying desperately to get some sleep. I'll share pictures with you at a later date. Really--this time I will. (They've been screaming to get off my camera for weeks now.) In the meantime, I'll leave you with our teacher escapades at our Homecoming Pep Rally:



HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
(Be safe out there!)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Double Cross by James David Jordan

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:


Double Cross

B&H Books (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



James David Jordan is a business attorney in Texas and was named by the Dallas Business Journal as one of the most influential leaders in that legal community. He holds a journalism degree from the University
of Missouri as well as a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois and lives with his wife and two children in the Dallas suburbs.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447547
ISBN-13: 978-0805447545

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The day my mother came back into my life began with a low December fog and a suicide. Mom was not responsible for the fog.


I hadn’t seen her for twenty years, and the idea that she might show up at my door was the farthest thing from my mind on a Thursday morning, a few weeks before Christmas, when the music alarm practically blasted me off my bed. With the Foo Fighters wailing in my ear, I burrowed into my pillow and tried to wrap it around my head. I rolled onto my side and slapped the snooze bar, but smacked the plastic so hard that it snapped in two, locking in another minute and a half of throbbing base before I could yank the cord from the wall socket. It wasn’t until my toes touched the hardwood floor and curled up against the cold that I remembered why I was waking up at five-forty-five in the first place. Kacey Mason and I were meeting Elise Hovden at eight o’clock in a suburb northwest of Dallas. We would give her one chance to explain why

nearly half a million dollars was missing from Simon Mason World Ministries. If she couldn’t, our next stop would be the Dallas police.


Since Simon Mason’s murder earlier that year, I’d been living in his house with Kacey, his twenty-year-old daughter. I had promised to watch out for her if anything happened to him. It wasn’t a sacrifice. By that time Kacey and I were already so close that we finished each other’s sentences. I needed her as much as she needed me.


I slid my feet into my slippers and padded down the hall toward Kacey’s door. Chill bumps spread down my thighs in a wave, and I wished I’d worn my flannel pajama bottoms to bed under my Texas Rangers baseball jersey. Rather than turning back to my room to grab my robe, I decided to gut it out. I bent over and gave my legs a rub, but I knew they wouldn’t be warm again until I was standing next to the space heater in the bathroom.


I pressed my ear to Kacey’s door. The shower was humming. Of course she was awake. Had there ever been a more responsible college kid? Sometimes I wished she would let things go,

do something wild. For her, that would probably mean not flossing before going to bed. If hyper-responsibility got her through the day, I supposed it was fine with me. After all, she was a markedly better person than I had been at her age.


By the time I met her father I was twenty-nine, and thanks to a decade of too much alcohol and too many useless men, I was dropping like a rock. But Simon Mason caught me and held me

in place for a while, just long enough to give me hope. Then he did what he had to do, and he died for it. Some things are more important than living. He and Dad both taught me that. So now I was changing. To be accurate, I would say I was a work in progress. I hadn’t had a drink since before Simon died, and I’d sworn off men completely, albeit temporarily. Frankly, the latter was not much of a sacrifice. It wasn’t as if a crowd of guys had been beating a path to my door. I simply figured there was no use getting back into men until I was confident the drinking was under control. One thing I had demonstrated repeatedly in my life was that drinking and men just didn’t go together—at least not for me.


As for Kacey, after everything she’d been through, it was amazing she hadn’t folded herself into a fetal ball and quit the world for a while. Instead, she just kept plugging along, putting one foot in front of the other. I was content to step gingerly behind her, my toes sinking into her footprints. She was a good person to follow. She had something I’d never been known for: Kacey had character.


I shook my head. I was not going to start the day by kicking myself. I’d done enough of that. Besides, I no longer thought I had to be perfect. If a good man like Simon Mason could mess

things up and find a way to go on, then so could I. Even in his world—a much more spiritual one than mine—perfection was not required. He made a point of teaching me that.


I closed my eyes and pictured Simon: his shiny bald head, his leanly muscled chest, his brilliant, warming smile. As I thought of that smile, I smiled, too, but it didn’t last long. Within seconds the muscles tightened in my neck. I massaged my temples and tried to clear my thoughts. Soon, though, I was pressing my fingers so hard into my scalp that pain radiated from behind my eyes.


If only he had listened. But he couldn’t. He wanted to die. No matter how much he denied it, we both knew it was true. After what he had done, he couldn’t live with himself. So he found the only available escape hatch. He went to preach in a place where his death was nearly certain.


I lowered my hands and clenched them, then caught myself and relaxed. This was no good. It was too late. Not this morning, Taylor. You’re not going to think about Simon today. I took a deep breath and ran my fingers back through my hair, straightening the auburn waves for an instant before they sprang stubbornly back into place. Today’s worries are enough for today. That was the mantra of the alcohol recovery program at Simon’s church. It was from the Bible, but I couldn’t say where. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention as closely as I should. Regardless of origin, it was a philosophy that had worked for my drinking—at least so far. Maybe it had broader application: Focus on the task at hand and let yesterday and tomorrow take care of themselves.


At the moment, the first priority was to get the coffee going. I started down the hall.


When I turned the corner into the kitchen, I could see that Kacey had already been there. The coffee maker light was on, illuminating a wedge of countertop next to the refrigerator. In the red glow of the tiny bulb, the machine chugged and puffed like a miniature locomotive. Two stainless steel decanters with screw-on plastic lids waited next to the ceramic coffee jar, and

the smell of strong, black coffee drifted across the room. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and pictured the cheese Danish we would pick up at the corner bakery on our way out of our neighborhood. That was plenty of incentive to get moving. I headed back down the hall.


When I reached the bathroom I flipped on the light, closed the door, and hit the switch on the floor heater. I positioned it so it blew directly on my legs. Within a minute the chill bumps were retreating. I braced my hands on the edge of the sink, leaned forward, and squinted into the mirror. Glaring back at me was a message I had written in red lipstick the night before: Start the coffee!


I wiped the words off with a hand towel and peered into the mirror again. A tangled strand of hair dangled in front of one eye. I pushed it away, blinked hard, and studied my face. No lines, no bags, no creases—no runs, no hits, no errors, as Dad used to say. I was beginning to believe the whole clean living thing. Zero liquor and a good night’s sleep worked like a tonic for the skin.


It was tough to stay on the wagon after Simon’s death. I had never been an every-day drinker. My problem was binge drinking. With all that had happened during the past six months, the temptations had been frequent and strong, but I was gradually getting used to life on the dry side of a bourbon bottle. There was much to be said for routine. Maybe that’s why dogs are so happy when they’re on a schedule. When everything happens the same way and at the same time each day, there’s not much room for angst.


On second thought, the dog analogy didn’t thrill me. I pulled the Rangers jersey over my head, tossed it on the floor, and turned to look in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Standing in nothing but my bikini panties, I rocked onto the toes of one foot, then the other. My long legs were still lean and athletic. Fitness was something Dad had always emphasized—fitness and self-defense. There were times when I had hated him for it, but now I was glad for the benefits. It would be years before I had to worry about really showing age. I might have lived harder than most twenty-nine year olds, but I could still turn heads in a crowded room. No, the dog analogy was not appropriate. I had plenty of issues, but I was no dog. At least not yet.


I turned on the water and cupped my hands beneath the faucet. It was time to wake up and plan what we would say to Elise. After splashing my face and patting it with a towel, I turned around, leaned back against the countertop, and crossed my arms. I caught a whiff of the lavender cologne I’d taken to spraying on my wrists before bed. The Internet said it would soothe me into peaceful slumber. For fifty dollars an ounce, it should have brought me warm milk and rocked me to sleep. I tried to recall how I’d slept the past few nights, then caught myself. I was just looking for ways to waste time. I needed to focus. The issue at hand was Elise.


Simon informed me about the missing money just before he left for Beirut. His former accountant, Brandon, had confronted him about it, thinking that Simon had been skimming. Simon wanted someone to know that he hadn’t done it, someone who could tell Kacey that her dad was not a thief. That’s why he told me. In case he didn’t come back. And as the whole world knew, he didn’t come back.


Elise was the obvious person for the board of directors to choose to wind up the business of Simon’s ministry. She had been his top assistant for years. When I told Kacey about the missing money, though, she bypassed Elise and went directly to the board to demand an audit—impressive gumption for a twenty year old. It didn’t take the auditors long to confirm that Simon had nothing to do with the missing money.


The accountants concluded that the board had assigned the cat to clean the birdcage. Elise had set up dummy vendor accounts at banks around the country in a classic embezzlement scam. Simon’s ministries had major construction projects going, and Elise issued bogus contractor invoices to Simon

Mason World Ministries from fake businesses with P.O. box addresses that she controlled. When the ministry mailed the payments, she picked up the checks from the post office boxes and deposited them in the bank accounts. Who knows where the money went from there?


The ministry had grown so quickly during the years before Simon’s death—and Simon was so trusting—that controls were lax. When the invoices came in, the payables department

paid them without question. By now the money was probably stuffed under a mattress in some tropical paradise. That was another thing I intended to pursue with Elise. She had developed a great tan.


Before I stepped into the shower, I wrapped myself in a towel and went back into the bedroom. I pulled my Sig Sauer .357 out of my purse and checked the magazine. It was full. I slipped the pistol into the inside pocket of my purse. Elise didn’t strike me as the type to get violent, but people did weird things when backed into a corner. If I’d learned anything during my time in the Secret Service, it was to hope for the best—and prepare for the worst.



Dynamic Uno here: Boy was this an action packed sequel! I thought book one (Forsaken) was good, but Double Cross is packed with more thrills and jaw dropping moments than the first book.

Taylor and Kacey become like sisters through all of the drama that has shattered their lives over the past few months. With the chaos seemingly behind them, the two girls try to pick up the pieces as they begin to regain control over their lives. Taylor ends up with an unexpected visitor from her past, which sends her on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Meanwhile, Kacey learns that someone was embezzling money from her father's ministry and asks Taylor to help her investigate the possible suspects. When one of the lead suspects ends up dead, Taylor and Kacey begin to wonder if they'll be the next victims.

I truly could not put this book down. I read at stoplights, in parking lots, and even snuck a few minutes during my lunch breaks at work so that I could enjoy Double Cross. The action keeps you jumping and the investigation keeps you (as the reader) guessing as to what will happen next.

Pick up Forsaken and Double Cross today and let me know what you think! You will not be disappointed. Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize to Obama?!

Seriously? What a joke. As if other countries didn't have reason to laugh at us before when Obama was elected president, now he's being given the Nobel Peace Prize for " his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Really?

The reason why he spends so much time abroad is because half of America cannot stand him. If they're going to give a prize to someone who has not done a thing to deserve it, then I know anything is possible because hell has frozen over and pigs have grown wings. It's pretty sad when even Saturday Night Live is actually in on the action. Apparently, even they have had enough.



I guess this is all to be expected. After all, with Obama's conceit he's surely going to bring this country to her knees. You'd think that with the debate over his birth certificate he'd just pull out the long form to stop people like me from scoffing at him. However, Obama must think he's above the law because he still has yet to show proof that he's really an American.

If the committee is going to give out a prize, why not give it to the actual people who are doing something to help promote the peace, like the military? They're the ones dying each day because they're trying to eradicate the evil in the world. Not some guy who purports to be our country's president , dresses in nice suits and ties, and beds with other countries rather than worrying about the state of his own. No wonder the other countries "love" him. Yep. He's a real winner alright.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2009



Can you believe that it's already Fall? I know that's what it says on the calendar, but aside from the much-needed rain, the temperatures have been relentless in Florida. It makes me pine for the cooler weather of when I lived in the northern states. But it lasts a short while when I start to remember my runny nose and the never-ending days of not being able to stay warm. Yuck!

The first day of Fall also means that it's the first day of the Fall Reading Challenge that's sponsored by Katrina at Callapidder Days. I must admit, I "failed miserably" in the Spring Challenge because I ended up missing the ending of the challenge and then not even posting a wrap-up of the books I did manage to finish reading. I had planned on posting a wrap-up over Summer, but time flew by and here we are already at the Fall Challenge--good grief! (Is anyone else experiencing this time warp too?)

While Fall is going to be especially busy with having to work Howl-O-Scream (HOS) again at Busch Gardens, participating in NanoWriMo for the first time, visiting New Orleans for the first time, and planning our school's Poetry Jam amidst all of the "other" school functions, I do plan on taking some time for myself to read a few books between today and December 22, when the Reading Challenge ends.

My list will probably change a bit--depending upon the books I choose to review and the books our teacher book club chooses, but here is my starter list:

Double Cross by James David Jordan--I read Forsaken last year and this is the sequel. I can't wait to find out what happens to Taylor next.

Perfect Piece by Rebeca Seitz--Book 4 in the Sister's Ink series. If you like scrapbooking or know someone who does--this is the series for them. I have my suspicions about what is going to happen in this book based on "incidents" in the other books, so this will be a fun read to find out if I'm right.

No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty--He's the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I figure he's got to know what he's talking about, right? I was also hoping for some writing inspiration since the creativity fairy has moved on with her knapsack of playful ideas and 50,000 words is colossal! (I haven't written anything even remotely resembling a story since my creative writing class my first semester of college. Even then, the teacher "assigned" us topics, so it wasn't like I came up with the idea from scratch.) In any case, I'm hoping that this book will at least make me feel better about attempting to write something--even if Madison is the only one who ever reads it.


This is my list so far. If you're participating in the Reading Challenge, or even in NaNoWriMo, let me know! I always love to read book lists because there are always wonderful new books to discover and enjoy AND I could always use a writing buddy! Happy Reading!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

FINAL UPDATE ON DAVID

Thank you all for keeping David in your prayers. Our prayers were not answered in the way I had hoped, as David passed away tonight. Please continue to pray for his wife Melissa. I know she's heart-broken. Thank you again for your prayers!

Monday, September 14, 2009

UPDATE ON DAVID

A few days ago I posted about my friend David that was in a coma and the doctors said that he may never come out of it, or he will remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. David is only 39 years old and is now being moved to an Assisted Living Facility in the Town-n-Country area of Tampa because he is still unresponsive and can no longer stay in the ICU. (It's about an hour and a half commute in traffic for his wife each day from Brandon.)

My friend Mary, the one who gave up her job so that I could keep mine, is the one who has been in contact with David's wife and keeping me updated. His wife is not doing well at all--now being the person who must be the bread-winner and care-giver in the family, plus visit him when he's so far away. (Mary is also at a loss because David was her go-to person for the tech help she needed since this is her first year as a tech person.)

Please continue to keep them both in your prayers. I know she's completely at wit's end just trying to come to terms with this change in her life--not knowing when/if David will ever "wake up." Please keep David in your prayers as well. I know our God is a big and mighty God who is able to create miracles in our lives and heal the sick. Pray for David and his family to receive an abundance of miracles. Thank you!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Forever Richard by Sue Dent

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:


Forever Richard

The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sue Dent hails from Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi College in 1983. Since graduating she’s sold computers, taught computer classes and has worked as a Technical Specialist IV for the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources.

Forever Richard is the second book in the Thirsting for Blood series. The prequel, Never Ceese was short-listed for a Bram Stoker Award and also voted the ACFW’s book club choice for April 2007. Ms Dent is currently working on the third book in the series.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934284033
ISBN-13: 978-1934284032

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The blazing mid-morning sun laid a haze over the southwestern landscape. José squinted at the distant horizon. “Mirada que está viniendo,” he said. “It’s him.”

The day laborers loitered on corners hoping for work in the fields—backbreaking work that paid little. Not the type of work they wanted but because most of them lived in the country illegally, they hadn’t a lot of choice. The laborers worked long hours for little pay, which was attractive to employers—so attractive they’d risk breaking the law to hire them.

The men had to watch for Border Patrol agents, so they scrutinized every gringo with a careful eye.

José’s buddies squinted in the direction he’d indicated. Raul pushed himself off the wall where they sat. “I thought you saw him leave town—for good.”

“Yeah,” Antonio seconded. “Qué tal? You can’t see good or something? Maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

For several weeks they’d watched this stranger. No one knew when he’d arrived or how long he planned on staying. They did know they wanted him gone. Both a gringo and an outsider—the combination usually meant trouble.

José watched the giant of a man approach. His long black duster billowed; his boots stirred up a dust storm around him. José boldly took a step forward. Raul watched and his lips curled into a smirk. Who did José think he was kidding anyway?

“What you gonna do, hombrecito? The little man gonna take the big man on? He’ll squash you like that little bug.”

José, desperate to earn respect among his peers, ignored the comment and squared his shoulders.

* * *


The small immigrant town of Rio Lobos could have easily been a mirage. Surrounded by dry, flat desert, like the desert he’d spent the past two days walking through, he considered this possibility. Not until he stepped onto solid pavement did he believe otherwise.

Heavy boots marked each step as he moved along. His long duster no longer billowed but flapped freely. He’d tucked his left sleeve into a front coat pocket to prevent it from blowing about but with no left arm inside, the sleeve hung slack.

In town, he stepped onto a sidewalk. Worn and beaten by the elements, sections of it were in dire need of repair—the curbs, crumbling chunks of concrete. The entire town needed a facelift. Colorful pennants, strung about and flapping in the hot, arid breeze did little to disguise this.

The most modern building was the bank. It sat on the adjacent corner and boasted a display below the bank name that alternated time and temperature: 9:47 AM and a scorching 97 degrees. Sweat beaded and rolled down into his thick beard. He scratched at it but stopped short of complaining. After all, the beard had offered his face some protection against the stark rays of the blazing desert sun. Yet, a curse for the one responsible for his present condition was never far from his lips.

Blasted werewolf! If it hadn’t been for the creature, he wouldn’t have to worry about hair that grew twice as fast as normal. The bite wasn’t the only thing to worry about when battling a werewolf.

His stomach growled. Two days had passed since he’d eaten anything. The five young migrant workers on the corner watched him arrive and stared belligerently as he drew near. One of the five took an aggressive step forward. The stranger slowed when he saw the young worker but walked on by. No one followed.

La Tienda sat next to the laundromat. The tantalizing aroma of authentic Mexican cuisine lured him across the street.

Those standing around the entrance scattered. Startled patrons inside moved as far away as possible as he stood between them and the door. Mothers gathered their small children. The young lady who worked the counter wore a nametag, Maria. She stifled a scream and backed up against the wall. Someone hissed the word gringo and he understood.

“Aye, gringo,” he said, his Scottish accent strong. “I get that. I’m different. But I don’t want any trouble.”

Trapped in bodies that wanted to run, a dozen pairs of eyes watched him go about his business. Careful not to make any sudden moves and frighten the patrons further, he walked slowly to the counter and gathered up foil-wrapped burritos from beneath a heat lamp. One by one, he placed them in a deep pocket of his coat.

“See,” he told them. “I just want to eat . . . and now I’m going to pay.” He reached into his pocket for cash but had to guess at what he owed. Maria wasn’t talking. He laid down a ten, grabbed a styrofoam cup and filled it with coffee, then headed to a group of tables and chairs near the back of the store and sat. A mass exodus followed as anxious patrons darted out. Maria disappeared into the back.

A ceiling fan warbled overhead and kept the hot air circulating. He set his coffee down and took the burritos from his pocket. He devoured the first one in no time. After a few more bites of another, he could finally think about more than his next meal—like the events of the previous evening.



Tobias had eluded him for years, but he hadn’t given up looking. The werewolf had information and he was desperate to hear it. After nearly a century of traipsing across continents—Europe, Asia and now North America—he’d finally found him.

Tobias knelt and drank from a stream, his shirt beside him. The moon’s glow heightened the appearance of well-defined muscle. Tobias could easily overtake him. He had to move with care.

He took a cautious step closer, pushed the fabric of his duster back giving him easy access to the pistol-grip sawed-off shotgun holstered on his thigh.

Tobias tensed; he sniffed the air—his cupped hands froze in mid-drink. His head turned a sliver to stare at the abstract reflection in the stream. The stranger drew his weapon and in one fluid motion Tobias stood and turned. Eyes black and narrowed, his nose wrinkled at the odor of silver.

“Aye, did ye think I’d come unprepared?” When Tobias didn’t answer he asked, “Do ye speak English, lad?”

Tobias tilted his head, his thick brows furrowed in confusion. Maybe his accent confused, so he worked to tame it before speaking again. This time Tobias nodded.

“Then tell me why ye have run from me all these years.” He kept the shotgun level. “All I ever wanted was to ask some questions.” Why had Tobias let me sneak up on him tonight? Maybe it’s a trap? He pressed the gun barrel against the chest of the werewolf. “Ye don’t have friends around waiting to pick me off, do ye? If so, then ye should know—I’ll kill ye first.”

The breath of the werewolf turned to vapor in the cooler night air. “Tobias alone.” Stilted werewolf English, but still English. “Tobias wait for you. Tobias need—help. Help Tobias.”

Stunned eyes stared back. “Help Tobias? Away with ye! Why should I help when ye have been running from me for so long?”

Tobias glanced over his shoulder and found the moon where it hung, crescent in shape. “Tobias forget.”

“Tobias forget?” He followed Tobias’s gaze then nodded. “Ahh, Tobias forget—forgotten how to become the wolf. Ye have gone too long without transforming.” They never saw the danger until it was too late. “Yet ye remember ye need the moon, don’t ye . . . to draw the blood up, to get things going.”

Tobias turned back to face him. “You help Tobias remember more.”

As a subtle reminder, he shoved the gun barrel against Tobias’ chest. “Tell me what I want to know. Besides, what makes ye think I can help?” He could help, of course. But he didn’t give this information away freely. He didn’t need every werewolf who’d forgotten tracking him down.

“You help Gideon.”

His expression fell. “Great. Gideon shared.” Even after he promised that he wouldn’t.

“Help Tobias like you help Gideon.”

His eyes narrowed. “Aye, but first, ye pay my price. Tell me. You know the werewolf Joachim. Ye ran with his pack. What became of him? Where is he now?”

“Joachim? Joachim is no more.”

The words hit him hard. All these years of waiting, hoping—it couldn’t be true. “Ye lie!” he growled. He had to be. He moved in closer to Tobias and forced the end of the gun under his chin. “Ye’ll tell me the truth or I’ll blow your head clean off!”

“Tobias show you.”

“All right.” He brought the gun back down to chest level and allowed Tobias to put an open palm to his forehead.

The first image: two wolves thrashing it out, teeth bared and bloodied, eyes blazing with intent. It ended when one of the wolves went down and she rushed forward. He gasped and Tobias removed his hand.

“She killed Joachim,” Tobias spat out. “She the reason he is no more.”

“Ye will not speak of her like that. Ye won’t!”

“Joachim is no more because of her! He fight Zade for her.”

“Where is she now? Ye have to know.”

Tobias reached into a pocket, took out a trinket on a thin chain and held it up.

A lump formed in his throat; moisture played in the corner of each eye. “Where’d ye get that, lad? Where in the world did ye get that?”

“Tobias take it from Joachim.”

He batted back the moisture to regain some composure. “Doesn’t prove anything. Ye still haven’t told me where she is or if she is.”

“Hold tight. If she is, you know. If she isn’t, you know too.”

He considered this. “Aye, but I’ll need my hand for that and I canna say I trust ye enough to holster my weapon. But—” he said, “if ye hold the locket—maybe that will work.”

Tobias placed his left palm back to the stranger’s forehead and held the trinket tight in his other hand.

Images flashed. A castle, a feeling. “Aye, I see her. She’s alive.” He furrowed his brow. “. . . sort of.” Tobias took his hand away. “Now put that necklace in my breast pocket.”

“You help Tobias?” the werewolf replied.

“Aye, of course.” After all, that was the deal. He couldn’t use the information himself. He wasn’t cursed. But, having the information and the ability to share it—on occasion there had been a definite advantage to that.

He’d have to holster the shotgun to free up his hand to initiate the action. “This is going to be bit tricky,” he admitted, not certain he wanted to risk putting his weapon away and give up the advantage. But Tobias seemed ready to cooperate. He put his apprehension aside and slid the gun back into its holster.

With his hand on Tobias’ forehead, the flow of information could begin. Several attempts to get things going ended in failure. What was wrong?

“Ye block me. I canna help if ye block me.”

With no more coercion than that, Tobias let his mental guard down.

“Aye, that’s better.” He’d helped several other werewolves remember the way. Some took the information quickly. Some didn’t. Often he could help speed things up by focusing. He closed his eyes but they shot back open when he felt sharp claws dig into his wrist. Tobias had already begun the transformation.

“Aahh!” He fought the instinct to pull away. Tobias could take his only arm if he wasn’t careful. The pressure increased. “For the love of God,” he exclaimed.

Tobias stiffened and his hand jerked before he fell backwards onto the ground. The stranger ratcheted his shotgun from his holster. “Aye. That’d be a word ye canna tolerate.”

On the ground, Tobias continued the rapid transformation—the human form faded further until the new looked at home on all fours. Soon, it sprinted off into the woods.

“Good riddance,” he yelled out after him, “you ungrateful beast.”

* * *


The migrant workers still loitered. The same young man who’d shown aggression the first time moved directly in his path.

When he angled to go around, the guy matched him step for step. Dark intimidating eyes met his. “I don’t want any trouble,” he said. “I just want to get by.” He searched the young man’s face for any sign of compromise.

“You gotta pay to get by, gringo.”

That word again. “I can’t give ye what I don’t have.”

A quick look over his shoulder to the others and the young man tensed his forearms. “Well, you better come up with something or you’ll have to deal with us, right, muchachos?”

Arms crossed, they nodded.

“All right,” he said. “I do have one thing.” He reached into a pocket and drew out his hand, closed. Slowly, he opened it to reveal—nothing. In another instant, his palm covered the young man’s forehead and the ringleader sank to the ground, unconscious.

The others backed away. “¡Él lo mató!” he heard one say before they all broke and ran.

“Nay,” he yelled after them. “He’s not hurt. It’s not what ye think.”

It was pointless to explain further. They’d disappeared around the corner. He sighed deep and pulled the young man along by an arm. He left him to rest under the shade of an awning.

* * *


On the outskirts of town sat the Alamo Plaza Apartments, remnants of a not-so-successful motel chain that dared defy the odds. No traveler would stop here now, only locals. You could pay by the week or ten dollars an hour, maximum two. His third prepaid week at the motel. He headed straight back to his unit.

When the stranger saw another tenant leafing through mail, he quickened his pace. He was expecting something. Perhaps it had arrived. The mail had come, but no package waited. A notice stuck to his door, the “Attempted Delivery” box marked. Tomorrow the post office would try again. He pushed past disappointment and went inside. Calling the post office did little good. The mail truck with his package was still out making deliveries and wouldn’t return until after the post office closed.

He removed his duster and let it fall across a chair near the door. He placed his shotgun on a table next to the unmade bed and lay down. Two days of walking through the desert had taken its toll. He needed to rest.

Sleep came easily enough. He recalled waking up once to find the room dark. The sun had set. The next time he awoke, it was morning, 9:45 according to the digital clock on the small bedside table. He sat up and rubbed the back of his neck. He felt rested but antsy. How would he kill time until his package came? A long shower helped, as did shaving his thick beard. But he still had at least an hour.

He settled onto the end of his bed, television remote in hand, and began channel surfing. Jeopardy. He stopped to watch. The category: Famous Wars.

The unyielding presence of this single Highland regiment caused the Russians to abandon their intention of taking Balaclava.

The contestants jumped all around the correct response. “What is the Charge of the Light Brigade?” one said. “Who fought the Crimean War?” another chimed in. The third contestant merely shrugged.

His deep-set eyes misted over in remembrance. “Aye, the thin red line—what was the thin red line.”

The thunder of hooves, the smell of death, he remembered it all. To die like they did. That would be an honor. Yet dying wasn’t an option for him. Neither was aging in a timely manner. It had something to do with the battle he had with that werewolf. He did age, though much more slowly—about a year for every fifty he’d lived, but death never came. He’d been run clean through during the battle at Balaclava, an injury that left more than a few men dead where they fell. Not something he understood—in fact, quite frustrating. He switched the television off to avoid further memories.

A solid thump against his door and then a knock. “Aye. I’m here,” he said jumping to his feet. A short sprint to the door and—no one there. He looked down to see a package at his feet.

He checked the box and brought it inside. The postage showed it had come all the way from New Delhi, India. He carefully opened it. The seller had done such a fine job of packing that it took him more than a minute to reveal the knife inside.

Its pitted blade and wooden handle reinforced with bone plates attested its authenticity. He ran his fingers over the traces of Aramaic and Hebrew inscription. “Aye,” came his breathless whisper. This had to be it, the knife of the Aqedah, the very one used by Abraham on Mount Moriah. The one he’d been searching for. He’d combed sacred parchments for any mention of the knife past Abraham, looked around at Djebel Thebeyr, where a granite block, purportedly split in two by the touch of this knife, drew tourists. Still the knife had eluded him . . . until now.

“Finally.” He stared at what he held in reverent awe.

“Finally I can end this madness.”



Dynamic Uno here: Forever Richard is the sequel to Never Ceese by Sue Dent. Given my fascination with vampires, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book in my mailbox a few weeks ago. Let me tell you--the action begins on page one!

Richard and Ceese decided to return to their home in England to help a now cursed Josh. Rodney and Cassie join the group as they get ready to hop across the pond. However, what the group doesn't know is that a huge surprise awaits their arrival in the form of two old "friends." After reeling from the "surprise," the group must also deal with hungry new vampires, Zade's attempts at kidnapping Ceese and re-cursing her, as well as thwart the person who is helping Zade appear "normal." Can they help Josh or will he remain cursed forever? Who is helping Zade and why won't Zade just go away? Who are the surprise visitors and why are they in England? You'll have to read Forever Richard to find out! (Although you'll most definitely want to read Never Ceese first or you will not have a clue about what's happening and why.)

It's really hard to let you know about all of the events that take place without giving away the storyline, but let's just say that the ending leaves you wondering (yet again) what's going to happen next? I've enjoyed reading this series because the characters have grown along with the storyline. They almost feel like neighbors. (Although I'm very glad they're not. Madison might end up missing one day.) If you're interested in how Christianity ties in with vampires and werewolves--look no further. I think you'll really enjoy this series by Sue Dent.

Let me know what you think! Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

URGENT--PRAYER NEEDED!

David Corey, one of the Technology Specialists at a local high school here in Tampa, contracted Swine Flu a few weeks ago and ended up in ICU at Brandon Hospital. Due to his large size, he was unable to breathe on his own, so the doctors induced a coma to help him rest while he battled the flu. Unfortunately, we didn’t have all of the information and things were much worse than what we were told. Apparently, David started coming out of the coma and ripped the IVs and tubes out before slipping back into a coma. The doctors have told his wife that he will probably never recover and come out of the coma—that he would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life and require permanent care.

Please pray for David and his wife. David is one of the most generous and helpful men that you will ever meet. He is always willing to help out our school when we had technical questions, and in turn we were able to help him at his school when he needed input. Please pray that David comes out of the coma and gains full recovery.

Pray for his wife. I can only imagine the anguish and pain she must be suffering at hearing that her husband is “gone.” Pray that she has a loving support system and is able to make the decisions that are needed for their situation.

I’m sure there are other prayers that are needed right now for both of them, but if you could pray for them and pass this information along to others in your prayer chains, I would really appreciate it.

Thank you!!!