Saturday, August 23, 2008

Happy Birthday...

to ME!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Teen FIRST: Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

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

and his/her book:

NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)


Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160006227X
ISBN-13: 978-1600062278

Watch the Trailer:

Enter the Contest:


In final days / Come final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Forgotten curse / Blight the land

Four names, one blood / Fall or stand

If lost the great one / Fallen low

Rises new / Ancient foe

Darkest path / River black

Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack

If once and future / Lord of war,

Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,

Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,

Prepare / For day of reckoning

If Aion’s breath / For music cursed

Sings making things / Made perverse,

Fate shall split / Road in twain

One shall lose / One shall gain

If secret lore / Then be found

Eight plus one / All unbound

Beast shall come / Six must go

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

If buried deep / Hidden seen

Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green

Nine shall bow / Nine more rise

Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine

If falling flame / Burning pure

Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard

Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread

End of days / Land be red

When final days / Bring final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Fate for one / For all unleashed

Come the Prince / Slay the beast

Cross the water / Isgurd’s way

White horse / Top the waves

Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!

Aion rides / To save the day

— The Ravna’s Last Riddle

Chapter 1


The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.

Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.

All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.

But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.

He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.


Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.

Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.

Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.

Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.

He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.

“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”

But not any warmer.

“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.

Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.

“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.

Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing

Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.

He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.

The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.

New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.

He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.

How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—


It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.

His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?

For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.

Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...

He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.

Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.

“Hey, Hadyn.”

Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”

Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.

“Wondered how things were going.”

“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”

Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”


“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”

Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.

“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.

“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.

Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.

“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.

Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”

“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”

“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”

“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”

“I don’t know, but they’re still—”

“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”

All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.

“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.

The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.

Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.

Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.

Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.

“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”

“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”

“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”

Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, carrier pigeons even fly anymore?

“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”

“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.

Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.

“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”

“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”

Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”

While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?

Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.

“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”

Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”

“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”

The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”

Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”

Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”

This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”

He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”

Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.

“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”

He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.

“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”

Dynamic Uno here: This book sounds fabulous! I never received it in the mail, so I'm basing my opinion on the same things you are--the first chapter and the videos (see yesterday's posting for the bloopers reel). I'm really kind of bummed because it looks like a fabulous book and I'm really intrigued by the Riddle Quest thing going on too. Needless to say, when I get more money in my book fund, this is one that I'll purchase to share with my 3,000 "children." If you've read it, let me know what you think. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fay Update/Book of Names Trailer

I promise, I really didn't pray to have the day off yesterday, but our School District officials decided that in the event Fay decided to really come in our direction, that it would be best for everyone not to be at school. YIPPEE!!!

While the air was a bit muggy yesterday, the skies were pretty much clear and it was a beautiful day! (Thank you Lord for changing Fay's path!) Since my Mom and I were both off on the same day (how often does that happen? if ever?) we decided to go shopping...for Crafts! (Now we know why I have to work--it's to pay for my hobbies.)

In any case, after shopping, I did get some work done--I created our Library Orientation since I have to start orienting the freshmen to our library tomorrow. Did I mention that we have no air conditioning? It's actually cooler outside in the muggy weather than it is inside. (Grrrr.... why yes, I've been in a lovely mood today.) I bet if the main office was without air they'd get it fixed... Meanwhile, I need to go take another shower--I stink!

Here's a preview of tomorrow's Teen FIRST book--Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

If you enjoyed that brief clip, here's the Blooper Reel starring his kids!

And finally--you can win prizes in the Riddle Quest! Watch this video for more information! Good Luck!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The time has come....

I can't put it off any longer. I have my clothes laid out, my totes full, and my lunch packed. Yes, my dear readers, school starts with the kiddos tomorrow. (Cue terror music.)

Do you remember this Staples commercial? I feel like the parent when school ends and the kids when school begins.

Is it bad for me to pray that Fay comes close to us so they cancel school on Tuesday? I personally think it would be wonderful to have a day off--however, the downside would be--endless rain (good book weather), no power (which means no air--Yikes!), and GASP! a possible evacuation (everyone usually comes to our house).

Ok--so I don't really want to have a hurricane hit us--too messy and very annoying to clean up. Besides traffic is horrible without there being hurricane debris everywhere.

For those of you going back to school/teaching tomorrow--I hope you have a wonderful, stress-free day! For those of you who do not teach-- I hope you have a great Monday too!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Olympics

Did you all see that? Phelps just won his 8th GOLD medal!!! I had to leave the room halfway through the race because I was so excited, but fearful that the Aussies would catch them. WOW!!

I also watched Torres get SILVER twice! I think it's kind of rough having to swim back-to-back like that, but she actually swam her best time in the relay. (It's the second girl of the relay that slowed them down. Grrrr....)

I also watched the women's marathon this afternoon in awe as the winner picked up her pace and kept her speed throughout to win the GOLD! Only as she was getting closer to the stadium did she start looking back to see how far the chase pack was...much to her surprise--over a minute behind! I tearfully watched as one of the women continued to run the marathon, despite her hurting leg--mainly because she didn't want to be labeled a quitter again by the media. (Quite frankly--anyone getting to the Olympics and even attempting to run 26 miles gets my standing ovation--whether they finish or not!)

All of these events reminds me of the Bible verse of... keeping your eye on the prize and not giving up. All of these athletes are doing a fabulous job of living out this part of the verse. Congratulations Olympians!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Non-FIRST: I'm Not Crazy, But I Might Be a Carrier by Charles Marshall

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)


Charles Marshall began his career onstage as a singer/songwriter. When his singing voice gave out, he turned to stand-up comedy and was much more successful. He is now a nationally syndicated Christian humor columnist and has contributed to Focus on the Family magazine. He is the author of Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy Tale Thinking Before It Destroys You and has filmed two stand-up comedy videos, I'm Just Sayin' and Fully Animated.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543419X
ISBN-13: 978-0825434198


Chapter 1 Going to the Dogs

My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog, lately, and discussing what type we might get. For me, there is really only one possibility—and that, of course, is a real dog.

For the uninitiated, there are three basic types of dogs:

1] Real dogs. These are dogs as God originally made them—monstrous, made-for-the-outdoors hunting machines that are perfect for intimidating neighbors and attracting lawsuits.

The ownership rule for guys and dogs is simple: the bigger the dog, the cooler you look. Walk down the street with a Pekingese and you might as well be wearing a tutu.

When you observe a man walking down the street with a massive real-dog, his message to you is clear. “Yes, I’m overcompensating for my insecurities and lack of masculinity but I’ve got a really big dog.”

Now that’s the kind of attitude I can get behind.

2] Mutant rat-dogs, otherwise known as Chihuahuas. These poor creatures are the unintentional result of secret experiments conducted by the Mexican army in a failed attempt to create the ultimate weapon by cross-breeding bats and Great Danes. The only surviving result of these experiments is a group of nervous, angry little rat-dogs that decided to take their revenge on humanity by being annoying on just about every level known to mankind.

If you are approached by one of these aberrations of nature, know that it despises you with a hatred rarely seen outside the Middle East, and that it won’t hesitate to tear your ankles to shreds. These dogs are the piranhas of the canine world and would nuke

mankind tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. Under no circumstance should one of these animals be allowed to run for public office.

3] Kitty-dogs, which is every kind of dog that does not fall into one of the first two categories. I’m all in favor of this type of dog because, hey, girls have to have dogs, too.

The curse of the kitty-dog is that there are those who take a warped delight in dressing them up like people. Most dogs would rather be subjected to Mexican weapons experiments than go through this type of torture.

I cannot say this in strong enough terms: You should never, ever dress up your dog for any reason whatsoever. Take it from me—even if it were thirty below outside, your dog would rather die with dignity in his own fur coat than live while being seen in a little poochie parka.

If you dress your dog, you need to know two things:

1] The rest of us are making fun of you behind your back.

2] Every day your dog prays for a heaven where he gets to dress you up in humiliating costumes while he and his doggie friends point at you and laugh for all eternity.

If you feel you absolutely must dress an animal, go dress one that at least has a chance of defending itself like a cougar or a wolverine or a Chihuahua.

One of the most amazing things about the three dog types is that for every one of them, there is someone that likes that kind of dog. At this very moment, there are people risking the loss of fingers and eyes while they stroke their vicious little rat-dogs, all for the sake of love.

That’s a mysterious kind of love, isn’t it—the kind that embraces the unlovely, that sees through the imperfect and loves without regard?

Let’s face it, the human heart isn’t very attractive either. Every thought we have is consumed with self. If you peel away the layers of even our most noble deeds and acts of kindness, you will find thoughts that circle back to ourselves like homing pigeons. In our hearts, we are all mutant rat-dogs.

And yet God loves us.

In the Bible, you find that same theme of an indefatigable, undefeatable love reaching out to a vicious, ungrateful humanity over and over again. I’ve found it’s a love well worth pursuing.

And so the great dog debate rages in my household, and I think my wife is coming around to my point of view. But, if by chance, you happen to see me in the neighborhood walking a Pekingese that is wearing a teeny hat and sundress, you may safely assume things did not go my way.

Dynamic Uno here: I wasn't sure what to expect at first because the author, Charles Marshall, was a little all over the place and the chapters didn't follow a "logical sequence," but once I figured out that the humor was funny regardless of how the chapters were laid out, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard. The wonderful thing is that no matter the subject--(I'm not kidding here, there's a chapter an being abducted by aliens)--he was able to bring it back to how God loves us. For those of you who are not non-fiction fans--don't worry. The book is short, and the chapters are short enough that you can read them like short stories. It's funny--Charles Marshall is funny--and I think you'll really enjoy it. After all, everyone needs a laugh now and then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


You're probably wondering why your "in-box" is suddenly full of my postings--it's because I forgot to hit the "publish" button. Instead, I clicked on "Save" and logged out. OOPS!! Sorry about that. I'll try to be more careful next time!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Happy Weekend!

Auditions were not too bad last night. Most people were relatively calm--with the exception of the guy with the knife--but that's a REALLY long story--maybe another time.

The funny part of last night was when I heard from one of the hopefuls--"Do you remember me?" At which time I happened to look up from the paper-work and saw one of my former eighth-grade students standing there! (Of course I remember him! He sat in the second row from the door--the third seat back--AND his mother used to do his projects for him!) Yep--I remembered TC--although I didn't go through all the things I remembered about him. He did say that he is now studying to be an EMT at one of the local community colleges and is also waiting tables on the side. (I'm really happy to hear this because that's what he wanted to be when he did his career research paper for my class. Yes, he had to do this in front of me, so I know his mom didn't write this one for him.)

In any case, I was dead-tired (no pun intended) when the evening came to an end and I couldn't wait to come home and take a shower before dropping into bed.

Today, I plan on watching Scrapbook Memories on TV and then reading the rest of the day. Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cool Date!

Did anyone else notice that the date today is 8-8-08? Yes, I am that big of a dork! Happy day of 8!

Congratulations (again) to Rebekah and Jessie!
May you have a wonderful life together!

Also, Happy Birthday Kathy!
(You're catching up girl!)

Today is our first "official" day back at work. Yippee. I feel like I haven't had a break, so I'm not exactly excited--yet. I will be--especially since I plan on doing nothing this weekend but read--my TBR pile is WAY too high! (That, and I'm afraid I'll find out what happens in Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer before I have a chance to read it!) :)

Today is also my first "official" day working auditions for HOS. (The people last night at Orientation were FREAKS! And I do not use that term loosely.) Some people were really nice and just needed a job--they were dressed relatively normal. The rest, well, let's just say I REALLY hope I will not be in the dark with them--I will take them out by their knee-caps if they try anything though. (Fair-warning!)

Well, I actually have to get to work now. No more coming in when I feel like it. :(

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Happy Anniversary Judy and Harold!

(I don't have a picture of the two of you, so I can't post it.)

In other news, my cousin Rebekah, is getting married tomorrow in Kentucky. So, if you happen to be near the Train Depot in Bowling Green (?) around 8 pm, stop by and cheer her on!
Congratulations you two!

I have to admit, I'm going to be working the Howl-o-Scream event at BG during the months of August through November 1. I'm not quite sure what to make of how I feel about working an event that is quite blatantly dealing with the horrors of Halloween and the evils that lurk during that time period. Yes, I know that it's all fake, but the rumors I've heard is that there are some people (who actually work in the houses) that actually feel like it's Halloween year-round. We're talking surgically attached FANGS here people!

Needless to say, while I used to enjoy reaping the benefits of a pillowcase full of candy on Halloween when I was younger, working around these "characters" while trying to maintain my "cool" is going to be very challenging.

I love to read about vampires, etc. as characters in books, but with reading, I am able to censor the images my brain receives so things do not appear to be as bad as the author probably intended. However, I am a very visual person. Seeing these people in full make-up every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings during the actual HOS event is going to "get" to me. I've already had nightmares, and that's with the dinky signs they've put up around BG as advertisements.

I know--someone is probably going to ask--why am I working it then? I started out working in the finance offices this summer part-time with the expectation that I would work HOS, and then return to the offices at the end of the run. I already told them that I would work the event, and I can no longer back-out gracefully without endangering my ability to go back to the offices and work. So you see--I'm going to need your prayers during the months of September and October--that I am able to sleep through the night and can continue to maintain my work ethics during this time. THANK YOU!!!!

Well, I have a meeting this evening--kind of like an Orientation--so I'll actually get to see some of the people working this event. Yippee.

Monday, August 4, 2008

WILD Card: Coming Unglued by Rebeca Seitz

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 author is:

and his/her book:

Coming Unglued

B&H Fiction (July 1, 2008)


Rebeca Seitz is Founder and President of Glass Road Public Relations. An author for several years, Prints Charming being her first novel. Sister’s Ink was the first book in the SISTERS, INK series of novels. (At the center of the creativity and humor are four unlikely young adult sisters, each separately adopted during early childhood into the loving home of Marilyn and Jack Sinclair.)

Rebeca cut her publicity teeth as the first dedicated publicist for the fiction division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In 2005, Rebeca resigned from WestBow and opened the doors of GRPR, the only publicity firm of its kind in the country dedicated solely to representing novelists writing from a Christian worldview.

Rebeca makes her home in Kentucky with her husband, Charles, and their son, Anderson.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Fiction (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805446915
ISBN-13: 978-0805446913


Chapter One

“I mean it, Harry,” Kendra Sinclair let a bit of her fright and frustration leak into her tone.

Harry’s chuckle mocked. “You know you don’t. Come on, everybody has to eat.”

“Like I said, I’ve already eaten.” And I don’t need this kind of complication right now, even if I want it.

“Dessert, then, Kendra. You don’t want to end the day without dessert, do you?”

Yes, she did. No, she didn’t. Well, yeah, she did. She should. The sigh was out before she could stop it.

“I heard that. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”


“See you soon.”

Kendra slammed the phone down and stared at it, waiting for it to jump up and bite her. It might as well have, for all the craziness it had brought her life in the past two months.

Okay, six months.

But there was that two month lull, so really, four months altogether.

“Imparticular man,” she muttered, pacing away from the phone and back. Her purple toenails gave a nice contrast as her feet sank into plush carpet the color of a pure snow drift. “Kendra Sinclair, you are not a conniving woman. What has gotten into you?”

She plopped down into the overstuffed couch the saleslady had called “polar bear” and pulled Miss Kitty onto her lap. Stroking the cat’s fur, she stared across the room. Tufts of fur fell onto the sofa, blending into the fabric there.

“Where’s Oprah when you need her?”

The cat purred its approval of Kendra’s long fingernails and sank down further into its mistress’s lap.

“Probably on some beach with Stedman, laughing at the rest of us who haven’t gotten it all figured out just yet. Right, Miss Kitty?”

The motoring purr increased in volume and Kendra smiled.

The phone rang and she jerked so hard, Miss Kitty toppled to the floor.

“Oh, sorry!” Kendra tossed the apology to Miss Kitty and jerked up the handset. “Hello?”

“Hey, how’s Stars Hill’s finest lady tonight?” Darin’s smooth voice hummed over the line and Kendra’s heart did a double take, frantically downshifting from the previous call. She straightened on the couch, then felt stupid when she realized he couldn’t possibly see how out of sorts she was through the phone line.

“Oh, I’m good. Good. Yeah, really good. How are you?”

“Wow, that’s three goods in the first five seconds. Something wrong?”

She propped her elbow on the arm of the couch and rested her jaw in her palm. Other women lowered their gazes and offered demure smiles when they were out of control. But Kendra? She stammered and fell all over herself with streams of words. “No, no, nothing’s wrong. Just sitting here talking to Miss Kitty.”

“Lucky cat.”

Kendra chuckled, feeling her heart rate settle back into the normal range even while her skin heated at the sound. “Tell her that. I knocked her off my lap when the phone rang.

“And she hasn’t clawed your eyes out yet?””

“Declawed, remember?.”

“Oh, right. Anyway, I know it’s last minute but I was wondering if you’d had dinner yet.”

“Oh, um, no. Well, yes, but that was a couple of hours ago. I mean, not that I need to eat anymore today. Gotta watch my waistline and all–”

His chuckle stopped her mid-sentence. “I’ll be over there in about fifteen minutes. See you soon.”

She heard the click of the phone and stared at it. Not five minutes ago a different man had said the same words. Her silk caftan swirled as she jumped up and fled to the bedroom, praying the first caller hadn’t been serious and was just leading her on.

Which her heart of hearts knew wouldn’t be out of character for him at all.

Dynamic Uno here: Kendra is the main subject in the second book of the Sisters, Ink series. She surprises us with her relationship choices and has me wanting to smack her a couple of times during the book. After all, Darin seems like the best guy in the world and she's messing things up with him. (Isn't that typical behavior for us single girls? Or am I the only one?) You'll have to read the book to find out what she's doing to make even-keeled Darin upset, but let's just say it ties into her past. I enjoyed this book and can't wait to find out about the rest of the sisters and their lives. Rebeca Seitz is a wonderful author and if you enjoy all things scrapbooking--or even if you just enjoy a good story, you'll like this book! Let me know what you think!

Friday, August 1, 2008

August FIRST-Romancing Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson

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

Today's feature author is:

and her book:

Romancing Hollywood Nobody

NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)


Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens

These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.

Other Novels by Lisa:

Hollywood Nobody, Finding Hollywood Nobody, Straight Up, Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End

Visit her at her website.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 195 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600062210
ISBN-13: 978-1600062216


Monday, April 30, 6:00 a.m.

My eyes open. Yes, yes, yes. The greatest man in the entire world

is brewing coffee right here in the TrailMama.


“Morning, Scotty. The big day.”


“And this time, you won't have to drive.”

I throw back the covers on my loft bed and slip down to the dinette of our RV. My dad sleeps on the dinette bed. He's usually got it turned back into our kitchen table by 5:00 a.m. What can I say? The guy may be just as much in love with cheese as I am, but honestly? Our body clocks are about as different as Liam Neeson and Seth Green.

You know what I mean?

And we have lots of differences.

For one, he's totally a nonfiction person and I'm fiction all the way. For two, he has no fashion sense whatsoever. And for three, he has way more hope for people at the outset than I do. Man, do I have a lot to learn on that front.

He hands me a mug and I sip the dark liquid. I was roasting coffee beans for a while there, but Dad took the mantle upon himself and he does a better job.

Starbucks Schmarbucks.

He hands me another mug and I head to the back of the TrailMama to wake up Charley. My grandmother looks so sweet in the morning, her frosted, silver-blonde hair fanned out on the pillow. You know, she could pass for an aging mermaid. A really short one, true.

I wave the mug as close as I can to her nose without fear of her rearing up, knocking the mug and burning her face. “Charley . . .” I singsong. “Time to get a move on. Time to get back on the road.”

And boy is this a switch!

All I can say is, your life can be going one way for years and years and then, snap-snap-snap-in-a-Z, it looks like it had major plastic surgery.

Only in reverse. Imagine life just getting more and more real. I like it.

Charley opens her eyes. “Hey, baby. You brought me coffee. You get groovier every day.”

She's a hippie. What can I say?

And she started drinking coffee again when I ran away last fall in Texas. I mean, I didn't really run away. I went somewhere with a perfectly good reason for not telling anyone, and I was planning to return as soon as my mission was done.

She scootches up to a sitting position, hair still in a cloud, takes the mug and, with that dazzling smile still on her face (think Kate Hudson) sips the coffee. She sighs.

“I know,” I say. “How did we make it so long without him?”

“Now that he's with us, I don't know. But somehow we did, didn't we, baby? It may not have always been graceful and smooth, but we made it together.”

I rub her shoulder. “Yeah. I guess you could say we pretty much did.”

The engine hums its movin'-on song. “Dad's ready to pull out. Let's hit it.”

“Scotland, here we come.”

Scotland? Well, sort of.

An hour later

This has been a great school year. In addition to the online courses I'm taking through Indiana University High School, Dad's been teaching me and man, is he smart. I'm sure most sixteen-(almost seventeen)-year-olds think their fathers are the smartest guys in the world, but in my case it happens to be true.

Okay, even I have to admit he probably won't win the Nobel Prize for physics or anything, but he's street smart and there's no replacing that sort of thing. Big plus: he knows high school math. We're both living under the radar. And he's taken our faux last name. Dawn. He's now Ezra Fitzgerald Dawn. After Ezra Pound, one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Lost Generation friends.

I'm just lovin' that.

“Your mom would have loved the name change, Scotty.”

He told me about his life as an FBI agent, some of the cases he worked on, and well, I'd like to tell you he had a life like Sydney Bristow's in Alias, but he probably spent most of his time on com-puter work and sitting around on his butt waiting for someone to make a move. The FBI, apparently, prefers to trick people more than corner them in showdowns and shootouts. The Robertsman case was his first time undercover in the field and we know how terribly that worked out for him. And me. And Charley. And Babette, my mother.

I pull out my math book and sit in the passenger seat of the TrailMama. “Ready for some 'rithmetic, Dad?”

“You bet.” He turns to me and smiles. His smile still makes my heart warm up like a griddle ready to make smiley-face pan-cakes. I flip on my book light.

It's still dark and we're headed to Asheville, North Carolina for Charley's latest shoot. A film about Bonnie Prince Charlie called Charlie's Lament. How ironic is that? The director, Bartholomew (don't dare call him Bart) Evans, is a real jerk. I'm not going to be hanging around the set much even though Liam Neeson is Lord George Murray, the voice of reason Prince Charlie refused to listen to. But hey, that's my history lesson. We're still on math.

I finish up the last lesson in geometry . . . finally! Honestly, I still don't understand it without a mammoth amount of help, but the workbook's filled and that's a good thing.


I set down my pen. “Finished!”

Dad gives a nod as he continues to look out the windshield. You might guess, despite the tattoos, piercings, and his gleaming bald head, he's a very careful driver. And he won't let me drive like Charley did.

“So . . . driver's license then, right?”

He's been holding that over my head so I'd finish the math course.

“You know it. After the film, we'll request your new birth certificate and go from there.”

“What state are we supposedly from?” The FBI has given us a new identity, official papers and all that.


“Are you kidding me? Wyoming? Why?”

“Think about it, honey. Who's from Wyoming?”

“Lots of people?”

“Know any of them?”

“Uh. No.”


“Okay, Wyoming it is, then.”

“You realize you'll only have my beat-up old black truck to drive around.” The same truck we're towing behind the TrailMama.

“I'll take it.”

So here's the thing. The rest of the entire world thinks my father was shot in the chest and killed when he was outed by a branch of the mob he was after. This mob was financing James Robertsman's campaign for governor of Maryland.

The guy's running for president of the United States now.

I kid you not.

Wish I was kidding.

We thought he was after us for several years because Charley knew too much. But then last fall, we found out the guy chasing me was my father, and Robertsman is most likely cocky enough to think he took care of everything he needed. I say that's quite all right. Although, I have to admit, the fact that a dirtbag like that guy may end up in the Oval Office sickens me to no end.

Thanks to that guy, we had been running in fear from my own father.

The thing is, I could be really mad about all those wasted years, and a portion of me feels that way. But we've been given another chance, and I'll be darned if I throw away these days being angry. There's too much to be thankful for.

Don't get me wrong. I still have my surly days. I don't want Dad and Charley to think they have it as easy as all that!

Okay, time to blog.

Hollywood Nobody: April 30

Let's cut to the chase, Nobodies!

Today's Seth News: It's official. Seth Haas and Karissa Bonano are officially each other's exclusive main squeeze. The two were seen coming out of a popular LA tattoo parlor with each other's names on the inside of their forearms. How cliché. And pass the barf bag.

Today's Violette Dillinger Report: Violette has broken up with Joe Mason of Sweet Margaret. She wanted you all to know that long-distance romances are hard for any couple, but espe-cially for people as young as she is. “Joe needed to live his life. I'm on the road a lot. It wasn't fair to either of us.” Sounds like she's definitely not on the road to Britney. I'm just sayin'.

Today's Rave: Mandy Moore. The girl can really sing! And her latest album is filled with good songs. The bubble gum days of insipid teen heartbreak are over. She's finally come into her own. (Wish some others would follow her example, but I won't hold my breath. And man, are we on the theme of bratty stars today or what? Well, there are just so many of them from which to choose!)

Today's Rant: Crazy expensive celebrity weddings. What? If they spend more, will they be more likely to stay together? I have no idea. Mariah Carey's $25,000 dress pales in comparison to Catherine Zeta-Jones's $100,000 gown. What are those things made of?

Today's Quote: “Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.” James Dean

Dynamic Uno--I LOVE the Hollywood Nobody series! Scotty is a down-to-earth girl with realistic expectations and a good head on her shoulders. She has had enough drama to last a lifetime, so I was really glad to see a touch of romance in the third book in the series. (No, I'm not gonna give it away--let's just say it's been a few books in coming! Ha!) This is truly a delightful series. The books will definitely be of interest to young/teenage females. There's the hint of suspense and romance all the while containing a refreshing innocence in the characters. Finally, books without all of the sex and garbage in them that teenagers will still enjoy! (I'm just sayin') Read the series from the beginning--otherwise you will not be as investing in the characters or understand the whole plot line. (It'll only take a few hours to devour the three-book series (so far)--which is another selling-point for teens.) Let me know what you think!