Wednesday, April 30, 2008

BLAM! (Brilliant Little Adventure-Making) Blog Tour

I'm pleased to introduce you to a new set of books geared toward younger elementary children. Today as we drove around town on errands, Abigail read to me from one of the Meghan Rose books. Then we cuddled together on the couch to read more. What fun books!

This new series from Standard Publishing introduces Meghan Rose, the bounciest first-grader in the world! Young readers will share Meghan’s adventures, laugh, and learn important life lessons. Each title also includes a bonus section with discussion starters and fun activity ideas.

I am excited to welcome author Lori Z. Scott, joining us today to talk about the newest releases in her Meghan Rose series—Meghan Rose All Dressed Up and Meghan Rose Has a Secret.

Since 2000, Lori has published over fifty short stories, devotions, puzzles, poems, and articles for children, teens, and adults in publications such as Focus on Your Child, MOMSense Magazine, Spirit Led Writer, Pockets, and Devozine. She is the author of Busy Moms’ Devotions to Go and four Meghan Rose titles. In addition, Lori has contributed to over a dozen books including Real Moms, Cup of Comfort Book of Prayers, and 2007 Eppie Award winner InfiniteSpace, Infinite God.

A graduate of Wheaton College, Lori has worked with children for over twenty years, both as a teacher in the classroom and as a volunteer for local churches, museums, and schools. When she’s not busy driving her two children to various church, sporting, and artistic activities, she moonlights as a speaker for women’s groups and schools.

Lori, welcome. Thanks for taking time to be with us today.

My pleasure.

You often introduce yourself as first a mother, then a teacher, and finally a writer. Why is that?

I feel like being a mother is my highest calling in life. And that means I’m a caregiver, nurse, tutor, cheerleader, counselor, transportation expert, and nutritionist. Doing all those mommy things is a bit like filling a jar jam-packed with marbles. I pursue my own interests in the empty spaces around those marbles because being a mommy trumps all.

I call myself a teacher second because working with kids has been such a huge part of my life. Just as God gifts different people for different tasks, I feel like God has given me a special ability to understand and work with children. Or maybe I’m just not ready to give up playing and comics yet.

I call myself a writer last because I often feel like writing too much fun—and pays too little—to be a real job. But then again, writing is another interest in my life I have felt called to pursue. God blessed me there too. When I decided to start writing, my first submission won second place in a science fiction writing contest. My second submission won MOPS International story writing contest.

I guess what I want moms to realize is, it’s okay to put the mommy part of our lives first and to trust that God will still bless, fulfill, and lead us in other areas as well.

Why would parents like your series?

A good question—one that I have to answer from my own experience. When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher started reading the Junie B. Jones books in class. Since Meghan liked them, I picked up a few copies.

Well, I enjoyed the humor in those books, but had to edit out some of the grammar slips, name calling and attitudes. I thought there had to be an alternative choice—a book that was just as funny, but also had a good take-away value. I scoured the Christian bookstores. I couldn’t find any fiction for that age group, only devotional books and Bible stories.

When I asked about it, bookstore owners often commented that they wished they could offer such a book. In fact, they’d had numerous parents come to the store, all asking the same thing: Do you have a fiction book my young child will enjoy reading? And, like them, I walked away empty handed.

So I wrote the book I couldn’t find—a book for my daughter AND for all those other mothers just like me. I put in everything she wanted—an interesting story filled with giggles and characters worth rooting for—and everything I wanted—good moral values (but with nothing preachy about the story at all). And because I don’t believe I’m alone in those desires, I’m convinced other parents (AND THEIR KIDS!!!) will like the series too.

I love the material you include at the end of each book. Why was it important ot you to include discussion questions and activities at the end of each book?

That’s the teacher part of me flaring up big time! LOL. But seriously, how many times have you as a mother read a book and thought, “There’s a good lesson in here” but didn’t know how to draw your child into a discussion about it? I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows with my daughter and wanting to talk about the tender topic of death that book touches on. Since I didn’t know where to start, I couldn’t fully take advantage of that teachable moment. (Instead we both just cried all the way through the last few chapters.)

That’s why I included questions for parents or teachers to use after they read the story, so they can capitalize on the book’s underlying message. (Although I hope people laugh through the last few chapters of Meghan Rose instead of cry!)

And the activities are all for the kids. They love extending the story experience by creating their own volcanoes or whatever. I also put a ton of other ideas for parents and kids on my website under the BLAM (Brilliant Little Activities to Make) link.

So each book has an underlying message? Tell us about that.

As I mentioned, I wanted the stories to do more than entertain. I wanted them to have takeaway value. Each book’s message is very subtle but still evident throughout the book. While Meghan Rose on Stage! talks about discovering your talents, it’s ultimately about friendship. Meghan Rose Has Ants in Her Pants explores the idea of patience—a difficult area for most kids to deal with. The newest two books—Meghan Rose All Dressed Up and Meghan Rose Has a Secret—address inner beauty and kind words. But again, none of it is preachy. It’s heavy on the humor and very, VERY light on the lesson…yet neither quality is lost on the child.

Are the books just for girls?

Not at all! One mother of two boys emailed me about how much her sons enjoyed reading them with her. She said they could hardly read for laughing so hard—they were all HOWLING!! The youngest one loved it so much he started sleeping with the first book under his pillow at night.
In fact, the comment I hear most from people who read the books is, “I laughed out loud.” The second comment I hear most often is about how much kids (and parents) like the discussion questions and activities. How can all that just be for girls?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Leaving November Review & Free Book

I don’t often read straight romance, especially when it’s laced with women’s fiction. However, Deb Raney’s Remember to Forget was a book I couldn’t put down. It was rich in every way: characters, plot, heart. So when I heard Leaving November was finally releasing, I had to read it.

After years away, Vienne (pronounced like Vienna without the A) Kenney finds herself back in Clayburn, Kansas, all of her dreams of escape in ashes at her feet. Jack Linder is returning to town after nine-months in rehab. Both wonder if the townspeople will embrace them as they try to leave the past behind and move into the future.

Vienne’s dream of being a lawyer and making her mark on the world absent the shadow of her alcoholic father are dashed at the same time it becomes clear that she can’t leave Clayburn after her mother has a stroke. She turns her turmoil into a remodel of the café her mother has run for years. Ready or not, Clayburn is getting a coffee bar. In the process of remodeling, she runs into her high school crush Jack Linder. Sparks begin to fly, until she’s faced with his recovering alcoholism.

This book is a gritty portrayal of recovery. Both for the alcoholic and those impacted by the alcoholism. Deb writes the story with a heart that kept me firmly on both sides of the fence. It was so easy to get in the shoes of each character and understand why they made the choices they did.

At the same time, the book was about so much more. Small town America life. The prejudices we apply to certain segments in our communities. How the past can haunt us decades later. All these themes and more are woven together seamlessly in a way that made me think as I read.

Nothing is easy for Vienne and Jack. But then things rarely are in real life. And I wanted to argue with some of the decisions they made – especially Vienne. But each of those decisions I wanted to argue I could see myself making if in the same position.

This book was a satisfying book that made me think as I read. I can’t wait for the next installment from Clayburn. Please tell me there is another one!

If you'd like to be entered to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment here. I'll draw the winner next week.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review: Courting Emma

Courting Emma is the first book of Sharlene MacLaren's that I've read despite multiple recommendations from people. I've now added her other books to my list of must reads.

Courting Emma tells the story of Emma Browning, who runs a boarding house for the misfits of Little Hickman Creek. She's finally free of her abusive father -- or thinks she is -- until the preacher, Jonathan Atkins, moves into her empty room.

Jonathan has a clear impression that he's supposed to help her father. Though he doesn't know why, he knows he's supposed to extend the grace of God to Emma and Ezra. Only trouble is the more he's around her the more he realizes he's in love with Emma and can't do anything about it.

This story is a historical, and for that reason I applied a higher standard to it. For some reason, I have a high threshold because of a been there, done that mentality. Yet the author managed to take this plot and make it fresh. The writing is vibrant and full of descriptions. With the time near the turn of the 20th century in Kentucky, the characters clearly fit that time and place.

Sharlene had me carrying deeply about her characters from the first couple chapters, and I couldn't wait to see how all the twists, turns, and conflict would turn out and be resolved. The book didn't disappoint.

If you enjoy historicals, this one is worth adding to your pile. And even though it's the third in a series, it can be read independently.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fossil Hunter & Save John's Career

I've read this book and really enjoyed it. Eric did, too. So when my friend Ronie Kendig asked me to help with this campaign, I was more than happy to. If you like intelligent suspense, this is a great one! Here's the link to my review.





It is with a joyful, yet heavy heart that I begin this campaign. You see, a beloved brother of mine is also an author-an author whose awesome book is priming for launch-and in order to save his career, John Olson could really use stellar sales numbers and fans/friends to help him out.

First, let me tell you a tad about him-because unless I can appeal to your hearts, hardened by years of people begging money and favors, this campaign will flop like Shamu! JOHN OLSON is an amazing man, who has written an incredible book called FOSSIL HUNTER. A few years ago John quit his mega-bucks job to become a full-time writer. No, not because he got a million-dollar contract, but because John believes in writers, he has a heart filled with godly compassion for writers, to see them excel. I've honestly never met a man quite like him. His dedication not only to writers, but to his family and friends is absolutely humbling.

Okay. Ahem. Enough mushy stuff. Here's the goods. J



The core issue of FOSSIL HUNTER is intelligent design, and made in cooperation with the Ben Stein movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, is awesome! If you haven't seen the movie, you really need to spoil your significant other and head to the theater (


Anyway, back to Fossil Hunter-I had the great pleasure of reading it and brainstorming a tad with John-and I have to say, I am SO glad to see someone (no, not just someone, but a SCIENTIST!!) tackling this sensitive, but CRUCIAL topic of intelligent design. When I read a book, I want to come away satisfied, but it's major kudos to the author who can intellectually challenge me while doing that! The characters are wonderful, complex, and intelligent. Through her adventure in the Iraqi desert, paleontologist Katie James and her archrival Nick Murad rock the evolution world. "Their initial results fly in the face of current scientific theory, and it seems the whole world turns against them, including those they thought they could trust most." (quoted from )

That sentence alone makes me yearn for my own copy!! What's that?? You too? Well-WAIT!! Don't rush off to Amazon yet. The official release date is May 1, and John would be VERY appreciative if you'd wait until MAY 1st to buy it from the website (this is another way to save John and make his wife and kids very happy-they'll actually get to eat next week because of the commissions earned from you wonderful fans purchasing through his site!).


through TELL A FRIEND!

As if that's not enough, get this. After I, consoled a sobbing John and promised to do my absolute best to save his career and help with the launch of his wonderful book, FOSSIL HUNTER, look what the brilliant biochemist promised: Tell your friends that if they read Fossil Hunter and love it and want to tell their friends about it (and CC me on the emails they send out), I'll write them back personally and send every one of them a random, quirky and sometimes bizarre token of my appreciation. The best, most creative, widely broadcast and all around most effective recommendations I get (as judged by my wife Amy), will be awarded brand spankin' new iPod Touches.

Y'ALL!! Do you see that? You have a chance to SAVE JOHN'S CAREER (having a brilliant biochemist eternally indebted to you isn't a bad thing), and WIN AN iPOD Touch!!!!! Have you seen those things?? (I drooled over one so much the man at the store threatened to make me pay for it with years of indentured service).

So, who's game? Who's willing to step out and help a fellow author/brilliant biochemist/father/brother/husband? Who will help SAVE JOHN'S CAREER? If you're interested in competing for an iPod Touch, make sure to send out a campaign newsletter, maybe post this to a blog, but be sure that whatever you do, you send a copy to John (

I wish you all the best! THANK YOU for helping to SAVE JOHN'S CAREER!


1.) SEE THE MOVIE: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

2.) PURCHASE Fossil Hunter from on MAY 1, 2008

3.) TELL YOUR FRIENDS (and cc:

4.) possibly WIN an iPod Touch

Deadly Exposure Vulnerability

It is so exciting to hold Deadly Exposure and see the fruit of all the writing, learning, rewriting, and editing. But now -- gulp -- it's on its way out there. People can read it and love it or hate it.

I've got one friend who won't read what she calls hystericals -- known to the rest of us as historicals. So Deadly Exposure is the first book of mine she'll read. I'm glad. But I'm also a wee bit paranoid. See, she'll tell me exactly what she thinks. And that's a good thing. I need honest feedback on what works and doesn't work.

But as each book releases, I get this jolt of nerves. I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars..."They like me, they really like me." Or -- gulp -- they hate me, they really hate me.

Writing a book is very vulnerable. I know that with each book I pour a piece of me, my experience, my life, into its pages. No, none of my books are autobiographical. Thank goodness, my life is way too boring for that. But there are still bits of me there.

What God is teaching me.

How I see the world.

How my mind works.

So as you read a book, be gentle. You can hate it -- be my guest. I know that my books will not appeal to every reader. That's why it's great to have such variety available. But my hope is you'll love my baby!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A chance to win Deadly Exposure

On Thursdays I blog over at the CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense. We're a group of 7 Love Inspired Suspense authors, and it's a great group of writers. Today I'm posting, and I'd like you to pop over and answer the questions I ask. If you do, I'll enter you to win a copy of Deadly Exposure.. I'd love to give a copy to one of y'all. But you have to go here and leave a comment :-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Restorer's Journey Review

The Restorer’s Journey is the third – and as of right now – final installment in the Sword of Lyric series authored by Sharon Hinck. This series has taken a fantasy hater and turned me into someone who couldn’t wait for the next book to release.

In this book Cameron and Medea, the bad guys in books one and two, have slipped into our world. Susan and Mark wonder what to do, and Jake tries to reconcile what happened to him while he was in Lyric. Now he’s the Restorer but doesn’t understand what that means or how he’ll be used.

This book pulled me through from page one. I told myself I’d save the book for a trip I had coming up. Didn’t happen. It teased me for about 12 hours before I dove into it. A day later I’d inhaled the book.

The Restorer’s Journey is a fantasy book, that manages to address deep spiritual issues without slowing down the plot. Susan’s struggle is so real…I could feel every twist and turn of her emotions and the challenge of accepting what God wanted her to do. I think we’ve all had times where we are convinced God has forgotten about us. That somehow we’ve become overlooked or unimportant. Yet He’s still there and cares deeply. There is a purpose to the season if we’ll slow down and listen.

And Jake’s journey was filled with valleys and peaks. Again, I think many of us have experienced similar periods of vacillating between pride and fear only to be trapped by our emotions.

This book is packed with a cast of supporting characters that add richness to the plot. The setting is as vibrant as in the prior books. And the twists kept the book from feeling like an after thought.

My only hope after ending the book is that there will be more!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jennifer Rothschild on Good Morning America Tuesday

Jennifer Rothschild segment to air on
ABC's Good Morning America
Tuesday, April 22, between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m

The segment will feature Jennifer, her sons Clayton and Connor, and her own Dr. Phil. Co-anchor Robin Roberts will interview Jennifer about how gadgets for the blind have openned Jennifer's world -- enabling her to thrive as a writer, speaker, mom and wife. The segment will feature several cool gadgets (like a color detector and talking computer) and comments from her boys about living life with a mom who is blind. We hope the show will give hope and inspiration to many.

Cara here: I have enjoyed several of Jennifer's books. In fact her newest, Self Talk Soul Talk is next on my to be read pile. She's also the sister of one of our best friends from DC. We feel like we know Jennifer and her family through David and Carrie. She's an amazing woman, so if you have the time, watch the segment tomorrow.

If you can't watch the show in the morning, just set your TiVo or VCR to record between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. (your local time) or watch it online.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our friends are the best!

So yesterday the small group from church that we host in our home came over at 2:30, the typical time. I'm thinking, yeah, another chance to fellowship and learn with these awesome folks.

Um, no.

They surprised me. With a baby shower!

You see, even though this is my third baby, I subscribe to my Mom's theory. Every baby deserves a shower and at least a few things that are new just for them. Plus with 4.5 years between Jonathan's arrival and this one, we're short on a couple things. I guess the purging/sharing bug got the best of me a few times.

But I really didn't think we'd get any kind of shower. LOL. Abigail looked at me and said, "I told you there might be a surprise one." In all her seven-year-old maturity and wisdom :-)

I wish the picture showed it better, but the cellophane wrapped tower is an incredibly clever diaper cake that my friends Barb and Stephanie made. That's Barb behind me in the first picture. These are the same friends who last weekend helped us with yard work. Have I mentioned how blessed I am with great friends!?!?!?

There are diapers on the bottom two layers, then onesies bundled for the top layer. Pacifiers and spoons were stuck in as decorations with a rattle on top like a cake topper. It was very clever, and I think these ladies should start a business. I know I'll never look at wrapping baby gifts the same way.

We're hitting the point where this baby could come anytime. It's hard to know since I usually go early. But we're under a month to the official due date. So if you suddenly notice a lull on this blog, you know why.

I'm probably at the hospital without those critical items: a laptop and internet connection. Horrors!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fossil Hunter Review

In the desolate Iraqi desert, a lone shepherd stumbles across a whale fossil. Initial analysis indicates that it could be a new species—a discovery that could shed new light on the evolution debate.

Paleontologist Dr. Katie James is asked to lead an expedition to recover the rest of the fossil before her archrival, Nick Murad, can find it first.

The Fossil Hunter by John Olson is a really fun read filled with forays into science, international intrigue and hints of romance. If you're looking for romance, that is not the primary purpose of this book. But if you enjoy a suspense/thriller with international overtones, then get this book.

Katie is in danger of losing her job at the university where she is a post-doc student. As a way to save her job, she is given the opportunity to go to Iraq and hunt for a pre-historic whale. Her crime? She's a Christian who's also a paleontologist. Now that she's been shipped to Iraq, she's racing against the man who took her job at another university. Nick doesn't want to compete, but Katie is left with no choice.

I could taste the grit in my teeth as they dug for the fossils and hid from various factions who didn't want them to unearth the fossil. There were so many factions in this book, it was hard to know who Katie could trust and who she couldn't. While I liked Nick, a lot, I also felt very connected to Katie from the first couple pages and pulled for her as I flipped pages. The pacing was intense and for as little as I know about paleontology, the science seemed accurate.

The plot twists into the final pages, making it a very enjoyable read. Especially for those who like a flash of international flair with their thrillers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Few Thoughts from Patriarchs

The Bible study I'm involved in at church is halfway through Beth Moore's Patriarchs. If you've never done one of her studies, they are rich with meat and diving into the fullness of what God wants to reveal to us though His Word.

We watched the session five video last night. WOW! God continues to reveal so much and challenge me through this study. So today, I'm going to leave you with a couple random thoughts prompted by the video:

  • Do I make other people hungry for my God? I can point to times in my life where people could look at me and just tell. There was a difference. Am I there right now? If not, what am I willing to do to get back to that place? I really want that intimate relationship with Christ, but am I willing to pay the price?
  • Nothing in my life is random as a believer. I know this in my head, but will I walk in faith accepting that in all the hard times? I think this could be the lesson/journey of the last year. I can see so many ways -- especially through writing -- that His hand has guided and directed. I would not be where I am right now without His intentional direction. But do I look for that same sense of intention in the other areas of my life? Do I truly believe that everything is preordained? I say I do. And I think I believe it. But what peace and assurance can come from the realization, that what Jacob saw as a random place to stop was what God considered a divine meeting place. Wow!
  • Jacob set out to find a wife and found God. How often do we set out to do one thing, and God shows up? Am I looking for those times? Do I live with a sense of expectation that God will show up? I want to find God. I want to be aware of His movement in my life. Live life with eyes that see Him in every way that He moves.
  • God intentionally sought Jacob so He could become Jacob's God and not just the God of Abraham and Isaac. Just like God intentionally seeks each of us. That is what makes God -- Yahweh -- different from all other religions. He is the God who chooses to have relationship with us -- long before we are even aware of Him. WOW!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Deadly Exposure can be ordered

I am thrilled to announce that Deadly Exposure is available for order. Several people have read it and are saying very nice things about it including Romantic Times. You can read that review here.

Deadly Exposure was the very first book I started when I got the go ahead to chase this writing dream. It's been through many iterations as I learned and honed my writing skills. I'm so pleased with the final product thanks to many people who pushed me to go ever deeper.

I've wanted to write Mary Higgins Clark like suspense for years, so that was part of the feel I went for with Deadly Exposure. I also love journalism, so made the heroine a television reporter. It was fun to put myself back in the world of journalism after years away from KNOP-TV. I guess in that sense, the book may even have a Mary Jane Clark feel to it.

There's romance, there's suspense, there's a woman in jeopardy. The difference -- there's also a spiritual thread. You can order Deadly Exposure here. Please do! You can get a nice discount, and you'll get the book a couple weeks before it shows up in stores.

And now, back to finishing the proposal for Deadly Judgment, the hopeful sequel to Deadly Exposure. My editor and I talked about it before I headed to Arizona, and I'm jazzed to get it back to her. Please pray that I'd find God's heart for this story. I know it's one I want to write, but I want to get it right at the same time.

I also just noticed that CBD has Canteen Dreams in stock, so you can order it from that site.

Is it nesting? You decide...

So I'm nearing the end of this pregnancy. Yeah!

Nesting is that interesting phenomenon when women go crazy making their houses ready for the arrival of the baby. I'm convinced Eric thinks I'm in full nesting mode or slightly insane. I'm not so sure. I just see us getting things done that need to happen. But you can decide.

For example, after getting back from a relaxing vacation in Arizona, what do I do over the next seven days? Here's the list:

  1. Waded through 1500 emails that were waiting for me.
  2. Sign a contract to write the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. Deadline September 15th. Conversation with editor to make sure we're on the same page.
  3. Sign contract with non-fiction agent...don't necessarily see myself writing a ton of non-fiction, but she will work with me on any CIG books. Others would go through my fiction agent who I adore.
  4. Get back in the swing of homeschooling.
  5. Take both kids to gymnastics (Abigail twice a week), and Abigail to ballet, piano, and speech. Continue to lead Bible study.
  6. Attend Dierks Bentley concert.
  7. ACFW board work
  8. Seek influencers for Deadly Exposure and Sandhill Dreams.
  9. Follow up with other editor on Ohio World War Two novel that is due October 1.
  10. Work on ACFW conference details
  11. Spend hours this weekend cleaning Abigail's room. It needed a desperate organizing and I needed to reclaim the changing table that we'd been "organizing" her clothes on.
  12. Spend hours Sunday afternoon with Eric and three great friends from church who showed up with all the tools to help us clean out our treeline and do some yard work. The treeline looks amazing! And something got removed from my long list of I-wish-I-had-the-time-and-energy-to-do list. Wouldn't have been possible without our friends.
  13. Worked on the corners of our room to try to declutter before we move the baby stuff in.
  14. Made a list of appointments and events to happen before the baby arrives including Stanley Steamer to clean carpets and painter from church to bid on some projects we've talked about for awhile.
  15. Went to the firm today and got an assignment for a great tax research project.
And this probably barely scratches the surface. So am I crazy? Nesting? Working against a deadline? You decide. :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fantastic New Book and Giveaway -- and no, it's not mine!

I have been reading the most fascinating book this week. In about 40 minutes on Saturday I blew through the first 60 pages. This book is targeted at teenagers, but will resonate with many, many more. In my opinion, this book should be a graduation gift for all junior high and high school students. It phenomenal.

If you've been around the homeschool movement for any length of time, then you're probably familiar with Gregg Harris. If you've been in a bookstore since 1997, then you're familiar with I Kissed Dating Good-bye and Josh Harris.

Now it's time to meet sons and younger brothers Alex & Brett Harris. I first ran into them with their modesty survey and posted about it at Generation NeXt Parenting on February 20, 2007. Then I was given the twins' book Do Hard Things. Here's the official blurb...but keep reading for my take and the giveaway details:

With over 10 million hits to their website, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential. Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

This book is incredible. Many of us have seen teens, young adults, even thirty-somethings who are floundering through life. They can't seem to get any traction. Frankly, this approach to life drives my crazy, because I live on the other extreme. The Harris twins pinpoint the problem as a plague of low expectations when we're teenagers. As a result, we aren't trained to push ourselves and ask how God can use us -- especially during our teen years.

The verse that motivates their ministry is I Timothy 4:12. I smiled when I saw that as it was my life verse until I was 30 and decided I might need a different verse since I wasn't exactly a youth anymore. I've often wondered what my parents did or didn't do that made me believe anything I wanted to do/be was possible if it lined up with God's Word and will. Telling them at 12 or 13 that I wanted to start college at 16 -- no problem. When I turned 16 and still wanted to do it, they marched me down to the community college and figured it out.

There was an expectation that everything was training. The teen years weren't a time to goof off. Instead, they were a time to prove myself and gain increasing independence as I proved myself faithful. Everything I've done, accomplished, am doing is a direct result of that philosophy.

So I find myself in a church that doesn't offer a Bible study I'm interested in. No problem. I'll offer to lead one. So I want to teach at a major Big Ten University. No problem, I'll fill-in until I earn a contract spot. So I want to write books. No problem. I'll read books and wait until God says go. Then I'll invest the time and energy to write the books and take the steps necessary to prepare myself as God opens doors.

In a sense this is exactly what Do Hard Things is about. It challenges teens to do intentionally do 5 kinds of hard things:
  1. Things that are outside your comfort zone.
  2. Things that go beyond what is expected or required.
  3. Things that are too big to accomplish alone.
  4. Things that don't earn an immediate payoff.
  5. Things that challenge the cultural norm.
We'd all benefit from applying those principles to our lives. But how much better if we taught them to young people. I've talked about this book since starting it. Eric is lined up to read it. I'll be giving it as graduation gifts. And it will land in my children's hands by the time they are twelve, so we can fully discuss and apply these principles in their lives.

I have a copy of this book to give away to a luck reader. Leave a comment here to be entered.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Eviction Notice

A friend sent this to me, and it so fit my mood I had to share. I think any of you who have been pregnant can relate. And my friends know I'm always joking about giving the baby an eviction notice LOL

Friday, April 11, 2008

So where do I fit????

Last night Eric and I went to a country concert at Purdue. Dierks Bentley headed up the tour with Luke Bryan and Bucky Covington. It was liking coming home for this Nebraska girl. Even if I only knew a few of the songs.

You could also say Eric and I are cramming everything in we can before this baby comes in a matter of 2-3 weeks! And this was my kind of date night :-)

The crazy thing was the more I listened to the songs, the more I realized what an oddity I am. Yes, I am a Gen Xer through and through....But...

I could sing along to Bucky's rendition of Elvis' Suspicious Minds. Give me music from the 50s and I am so there.

But when Bucky sang a Pink Floyd song...I knew a couple words, but had no idea Pink Floyd originally sang the song. Can you imagine singing we don't need no education at a place like Purdue!?!?! Since I'll start teaching again in the middle of May, I just laughed. As a teenager all I focused on was getting to college as quickly as possible. Sixteen worked for me. But the Pink Floyd song...not so relevant.

And I'm not sure I fit in this decade since ... dare I admit it ... I've never watched an episode of American Idol. Had no idea that Bucky was on it. Really had never heard of Bucky. Still not interested in watching the show.

Bottom line -- I guess I don't fit in a box.

Good thing since I've never liked boxes. Tend to fight them to be honest. But isn't it interesting how something like a country concert can make that crystal clear :-)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Amber Morn Review

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside. Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio…What they demand, he can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen Kanner Lake citizens will die.

Brandilyn Collins has done it again. Amber Morn rocks from the first page to the end. The pacing is tight with short chapters that pull you through – it’s so easy to think “I’ll read just one more.” And the chapters alternate between the bad guys and Scenes and Beans crew at the beginning, adding to that sense of momentum.

This book, while the fourth in the series, stands on its own. If you’ve read the other books, you’ll enjoy seeing all the characters back in action. If it’s your first foray to Kanner Lake, you haven’t missed anything that would make this book a challenge to read. And the book flows between the perspectives of all of the characters in a way that isn’t jarring.

Vince Edwards, the police chief, is placed in a horrible position throughout the book because of the notoriety he and the town have gained through the first three books. I agonized through every decision he had to make, every sentence he had to speak as if I were the one talking to the gunmen. The writing is vivid, pulling you into the emotions and thoughts of the characters to the point you can smell the stale air in the café and feel the sweat trickle down your face.

In classic Collins’ style there is a twist at the end which turns the book on its head, yet works.

This book is a keeper. And one I’ll read again. And again. And again. If you love suspense, too, go buy this book!

>Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline

“Don’t forget to b r e a t h e …®”

Brandilyn writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 19th book. Her first, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows.

She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences.

Brandilyn blogs at Forensics and Faith. Visit her Website to read the first chapters of all her books.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Generation NeXt Marriage Review & Giveaway

I had the privilege of reading Generation NeXt Marriage as Tricia wrote it. You might even see a comment or two from me in the book. But I think this is a fantastic book for more reasons than my name appears in it :-)

The publisher has done a fantastic job laying the book out in a fun to read layout, and Tricia has loaded it with popular facts from the time as well as incredibly practical tips on how to make the most of our marriages. Let's face it...I'm unique in this generation because my parents are still together and happy after 40 years. Many kids from my generation did not have that example.

The chapters deal with the issues all married couples face, like finding a balance. Does anyone else struggle with that? Between careers, kids, ministry, kids' activities, writing, service, pets, friends, family, etc., life gets harried.

Can anyone relate?1?!?

Tricia's chapter is filled with real life suggestions. Don't take anything new on until you and your spouse are in agreement. Just because it's good doesn't mean it's right for your family at this time. Realize the impact of fast-paced lives. For me, that means the stress of trying to juggle four calendars with my deadlines. Ugh.

There's more...but I think the most helpful part for me was the reminder that I'm not alone, and that I can do this.

If you're married or looking for a wedding gift, I highly recommend this book. You can even read the first chapter here. I'm going to list some Gen X Challenges next, but first, don't forget to leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Generation NeXt Marriage or Generation NeXt Parenting. That's right, I'm giving away a copy of each. All you have to do is leave a comment with a marriage or parenting tip. Let's help each other out as we seek to build marriages that glorify God!

Five unique marriage challenges faced by Gen Xers and how to tackle them!

1. Gen Xers saw more divorces than successful marriages. The divorce rate doubled between 1965-1977 and Gen Xers were the victims. 40% of us spent time in a single-family home before age 16. We grew up in families with step-moms and half-siblings and living every other weekend with a different parent and faced the loneliness and alienation of our splintered families. As married adults, Gen Xers can meet their spouse's need by speaking encouraging words, which are like gold stars to a Gen Xer's heart -- and by never using the D-word. As author Madeleine L'Engle once said, "There are a lot of marriages today that break up just at the point where they could mature and deepen."

2. Without role models, many GenXers turned to music, movies and television for examples of healthy relationships. Now, we often model our relationships after television sitcoms. We are good at quick comebacks and sassy remarks, without taking time to consider the other person's heart. We also want our problems wrapped up in thirty minutes or less! Instead, Gen Xers need to understand that unrealistic expectations can hurt our relationships. We also need to treat out spouses with honor and respect, even when we don't feel like they deserve it.

3. Our teen relationships were intense and often included sexuality, leading to intense breakups and the resulting baggage. By the time many GenXers walked down the aisle, they'd experienced several "pretend-marriages." Spouses can break free from these bonds when we realize the truth about love, the truth about emotions, and the truth about intimacy. It's knowing that what we had in the past wasn't love -- and emotions don't rule. True intimacy is choosing to share our hearts and our struggles with the one we're committed to for life.

4. Gen Xers were starved for quality time, so they appreciate balance. Doing too much stresses us out. The first thing Gen Xers need to do is realize the impact of our faced-pace lives, and then make plans for peace. It's cutting out things that won't matter ten years from now and focusing on the things that will.

5. Gen Xers were labeled the "slackers" and the "grunge" generation. The generations before didn't think we'd amount to much. Because of this, Gen Xers strive hard to prove themselves. We aren't content just "living life," we want to reach our full potential. Spouses can encourage each other to follow their heart dreams. This starts with asking your spouse out his/her dreams, then offering encouragement and support!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Every Good & Perfect Gift Review, Interview & Giveaway!

I just read Sharon's wonderful debut novel, Every Good & Perfect Gift over vacation. My sister had told me I would love it, and she was right. Sometimes a book can linger on my TBR pile, even though I know it would be wonderful. The book more than lived up to everything I heard.

This book weaves the story of friendship between two women: DeeDee and Gabby. DeeDee is headstrong and pulls Gabby through life with her. They go to the same college, date best friends, marry those friends, and everything is going wonderfully. Then DeeDee decides she wants to have a baby after all. At almost 40.

The story is a gripping tale of the love between these friends. The changes that occur when a lifelong decision is suddenly reversed. The pain of infertility. The joy of pregnancy. And the pain when a life changes forever.

This book captures the reality of infertility without wallowing in it. It also provides a perspective for people who haven't experienced that challenge and gut-wrenching sorrow. Every time I thought the book couldn't take me deeper into these people's lives, I was wrong.

The characters were richly drawn and real. None of the four key characters is perfect -- though the men come close :-). Instead, the reader gets pulled into the reality of their emotions and experiences. While I usually avoid women's fiction like the plague, this book deserves to be read carefully and savored...even as the tears flow down your face.

Now here's an interview with the author. And be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of this book.

1 . Your debut novel Every Good & Perfect Gift is releasing this month from Nav Press. Can you tell us a little about the book?

DeeDee and Gabby have been friends since the sixth grade, when headstrong and courageous DeeDee began mapping out their lives. But after twenty years with her husband DeeDee changes her plan. Nearing forty years old, she wants a baby - now! Two years of infertility, prayers, and outrageous behavior finally results in the birth of DeeDee's demand.
Gabby is present for all of it, noting the increasingly strange behavior of her lifelong friend after the baby's birth. Then comes a diagnosis that threatens to shatter their world. Gabby must find the strength and faith to carry DeeDee and herself through the dark unknown, but is she up for it?

2. What inspired you to write Every Good & Perfect Gift?

I wanted to write a book about a "Jonathan and David" type friendship between two women, knowing that I was ultimately going to tell the story of a young woman who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. I have a close friend who, at the age of 42, began to exhibit many of the symptoms portrayed in the book. Since completing the book I've learned that another close friend has been diagnosed with EOA. What are the odds? In determining what course the friendship between Gabby and DeeDee would take, I asked myself: What is the greatest way one woman can express friendship to another? The answer: By helping her have a child if she's unable to, which one character is willing to do if it comes to that.

3. You've incorporated two major issues in Every Good & Perfect Gift: infertility and Early Onset Alzheimer's. Why not focus on one or the other? Why both?

The theme of Gift is extraordinary friendship. The foundation for the friendship is established between the characters in their childhood, tested through the issue of infertility, and exemplified through catastrophic illness. Infertility was the catalyst to get to that level of friendship expressed because of the illness. One character's growth was accomplished because of infertility, while the other character's growth came as a result of the Alzheimer's.

4. Why did you use humor to tell a story with such serious issues?

It's exactly because the issues are so serious that I chose humor to tell the story. Our life experiences are heavy enough without adding to them as we read for pleasure. That's not to say there aren't serious moments in the book, but hopefully the reader is buoyed by the lighter sections, rather than overloaded with the weightier ones.

5. What are your feelings about egg donation and other modern solutions that help women overcome infertility?

There are some things I might not personally opt for, but infertility was never an issue with me. If it had been I might have been willing to try anything. As it stands, I'm not opposed to in vitro fertilization or sperm donation, things of that nature. I don't find anything in Scripture that would cause me to be against it.

6. What are your feelings about a couple's decision to intentionally not have children?

Again, that wasn't my experience. I had three babies in quick succession and would not have done anything differently. But not every adult is cut out to be a parent. If an individual or couple realizes that they aren't equipped for parenthood, or if they feel their lives are full as they are, I don't' believe it's a sin not to have children. In fact, I think it's wise. That's not to say a person's feelings may not change in time, like it did for DeeDee. Then it's up to the couple to make the choice that's right for them.

7. What do you want your readers to take away from this book?

I spent several years in my early adulthood without a close friend. When the first one came into my life, I realized what I had missed and truly saw her as a gift from the Lord. But beyond that, I've experienced the truth of Proverbs 18:24: ". . . there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." In her darkest moments, Gabby learned that the Lord reaches out to us in compassion, spanning the gap between our need and His provision. That's been the case in my life over and over.

8. Do you base any of your characters on real people?

The concept of the story was based on a real situation in regards to the Early Onset Alzheimer's. But the characters are not based on real people. I do typically use people I know/have known and then take their personality traits/quirks to extremes--almost like a caricature--in order to make the character as interesting as possible. Almost always my daughters will recognize something of themselves in my make-believe world. It makes for fun conversation.

9. If the characters are primarily fictional, what about the setting? Is that someplace known to you?

I actually wrote the entire story in a fictional setting, without ever naming it. I just placed the town in the San Joaquin valley. My editor suggested I nail down the location, even a fictitious one. As we talked back and forth, I decided to use my real "home town" of Lodi. I grew up in the Sacramento area, but have lived in or around Lodi since my husband and I got married. There's some debate about whether or not "our" Lodi is the subject of the 1969 Credence Clearwater Revival song, "Stuck in Lodi." Right or wrong, I choose to think it is. But not for a minute do I feel stuck. I love Lodi.

10. What is your purpose in writing inspirational fiction?

I've had well-meaning friends ask why I write fiction at all. If I want to share the Gospel, why not write "the truth." Two answers come to mind. First, that "burning fire shut up in my bones" (Jer. 20:9) finds its release in fiction. Second, when Jesus wanted to get a heavenly truth across, He didn't deliver a three-point sermon. He told stories. My desire in writing inspirational fiction is that women who read my books will find them easy to share with other women who haven't yet come into relationship with Jesus, and that those women will be directed to the One who loves them with an everlasting love.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Congrats to the latest winners!

Mary Ellen C. won a copy of Only Uni.
Ruth won a copy of The Next Level.

Congrats, Ladies!


Here are a few photos to show y'all where we've been the last 9 days. :-)

We escaped to Arizona to help celebrate my parents' 40th Anniversary. It was a great trip!

This photo is the clan at the misnamed Montezuma's Castle. The weather was delightful that day and everyone had a great time learning how to be an archaeologist. I'd tell you who's who, but I think it would only confuse you! Let me just say, Mom, Dad and each of my siblings and their families made the trip. It's the first time we've done a big trip like this since I was 16. I certainly hope it's not the last time!

Later that same day we traveled to Tuzigoot at the recommendation of the Ranger who gave the archaeologist talk. Tuzigoot was fun because the ruins were reconstructed so we could climb around inside them, unlike Montezuma's Castle. Here's a photo of the family at the top of Tuzigoot. What a fun word!

I enjoyed not only seeing the ruins, but learning some of the history behind the ruins. For example, they were a WPA project during the 1930s.

And can you have a trip to Arizona without going to the Grand Canyon? Methinks not! We skipped the Canyon on the day that would have blown us across...more to come on that day's adventures!

It was still chilly in the morning at the Canyon, but spectacular! I got in a couple of hikes along the rim. The last was at the tail end of the red shuttle bus area -- 1.1 miles of hiking with my brother Josh, Dad and Abigail. It rocked! The trail was a thin line that we followed. I was kind of relieved when we ran into a couple who was equally relieved to find us. They wondered if they were ever going to reach the other end of the trail; we wondered if we were on the right path.

Stay tuned for more. And I received several books to give away while I was gone, so be sure to check back for more on those as well.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

FIRST: Ryann Waters

It is April FIRST--no foolin'--, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The special feature author is:

and his book:

Ryan Watters and the King's Sword
Creation House (May 2008)

Illustrated by: Corey Wolfe


Eric J. Reinhold is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. The former Naval officer writes extensively for a variety of national financial publications in his position as a Certified Financial Planner® and President of Academy Wealth Management. His passion for writing a youth fantasy novel was fueled by nightly impromptu storytelling to his children and actively serving in the middle and high school programs at First Baptist Sweetwater Church in Longwood, Florida.

Visit him at his website.


Angel’s Visitation

It first appeared as a gentle glow, almost like a child’s night-light. Heavy shadows filled the room as the boy lay face up, covers tucked neatly under his arms. A slight smile on his face hinted that he was in the midst of a pleasant dream.

Ryann Watters, who had just celebrated his twelfth birthday, rolled lazily onto his side, his blond hair matted into the pillow, unaware of the glow as it began to intensify. Shadows searched for hiding places throughout the room as the glow transformed from a pale yellow hue to brilliant white.

Ryann’s eyelids fluttered briefly and then flickered at the glare reflecting off his pale blue bedroom walls. Drowsily, he turned toward the light expecting to see one of his parents coming in to check on him. “What’s going on?” his voice cracked as he reached up to rub the crusty sleep from his eyes.


Under a pale half-moon, Drake Dunfellow’s house looked just like any other. A closer inspection, however, would reveal its failing condition. Water oaks lining the side of the curved driveway hunched over haggardly, like old men struggling on canes. The lawn, which should have been a lively green for early spring, was withered and sandy. A few patches of grass were sprinkled here and there. Rust lines streaked down the one jagged peak atop the tin-roof house. The flimsy clapboard sides were outlined by fading white trim speckled with dried paint curls. Hanging baskets containing a variety of plants and weeds all struggling to stay alive shared the crowded front porch with two mildew-covered rocking chairs. Inside, magazines and newspaper clippings both old and new were carelessly strewn about. Encrusted dishes from the previous day’s meals battled each other for space in the bulging kitchen sink. In the garage, away from the usual living areas, was a boy’s room. Dull paneling outlined the bedroom, while equally dreary brown linoleum covered the floor. The bedroom must have been an afterthought because not much consideration had been given to the details. A bookcase cut from rough planks sat atop an old garage sale dresser.

Moonlight pressing through the dust-covered metal blinds tried to provide a sense of peacefulness. Instead it revealed bristly red hair atop a young boy’s head poking out from beneath a mushy feather pillow. His heavy breathing provided the only movement in the quiet room. Tiny droplets of perspiration lined his brow as he began jerking about under the thin cotton sheets.

Starting at the edge of the window, the blackness spread downward, transforming all traces of light to an oily dinginess. Drake was slowly surrounded and remained the only thing not saturated in the darkness. Bolting upright to a stiff-seated attention, Drake’s bloodshot eyes darted back and forth. He stared into the black nothingness shuddering and aware that the only thing visible in the room was his bed.

“Who . . . who’s there?” Drake cried out, puzzled by the hollow sound that didn’t seem to travel beyond the edge of his mattress. Beads of sweat trickled down his neck, connecting his numerous freckled dots. He strained, slightly tilting his head, ears perked. There was no reply.


Neatly manicured streets wandered through the Watters’s sleepy, rolling neighborhood. If someone had been walking along in the wee morning hours of March 15, they would have noticed the brilliant white light peeking out from around Ryann’s shade. Below his second-story window the normally darkened bed of pink, red, and white impatiens was lit up as in the noonday sun.

Ryann was fully awake now and quite positive that the dazzling aura facing him from in front of his window was not the hall light from his parents entering the bedroom. Golden hues flowed out of the whiteness, showering itself on everything in the room. It reminded Ryann of sprinkles of pixie dust in some of his favorite childhood books. His blue eyes grew wide trying to capture the unbelievable event unfolding before him.

“Fear not, Ryann,” a confident, yet kind, voice began. “I have come to do the bidding of one much greater than I and who you have found favor with.”

Rapid pulses in his chest gripped Ryann as he struggled to understand what was happening. Instinctively he grasped his navy blue bed sheets and pulled them up so that only his eyes and the top of his head peeked out from his self-made cocoon. Squinting to reduce the brilliance before him, Ryann stared into the light, trying to detect a form while questions scrambled around his mind. What had the voice meant by “finding favor,” and who had sent him? As Ryann struggled to work this out, the center of the whiteness began to take the shape of a man. Human in appearance, he looked powerful, but there was a calmness about his face, like that of an experienced commander before going into battle. Ryann recalled hearing about angels in his Sunday school class at church. He wondered if this could be one.

“Ryann, thou have found favor with the One who sent me. You will be given much and much will be required of you.”

Still shaking, Ryann was fairly certain he was safe. “S-s-s . . . sir, are you an angel?”

“You have perceived correctly.” “And . . . I’ve been chosen by someone . . . for something?” Ryann asked.

“The One who knows you better than you know yourself,” the angel answered.

Ryann knew he must be talking about God, but what could God possibly want with him?

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Thou must search out and put on the full armor of God so that you can take a stand against the devil’s schemes. For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“The devil? Forces of evil? I’m just a kid,” Ryann said. “What could I possibly have to do with all of this? You’ve got to be making a mistake.”

“There are no mistakes with God. Thou have heard of David?”

“You mean the David from David and Goliath?” Ryann asked.

The angel nodded. “He was also a boy chosen by God to accomplish great things. God chooses to show His power by using the powerless.”

Ryann tried to comprehend the magnitude of what this mighty being was saying to him. Realizing he was still sitting in his bed, covers bunched around him, he pulled them aside and swung his feet out, never taking his eyes off the angel. Landing firmly on the carpet, Ryann’s wobbly knees barely supported him, the bed acting as a wall between him and the angel.

“Who are you?”

“I am Gabriel and have come to give you insight and understanding.”

“Wow!” Ryann couldn’t believe this was the same angel who had appeared to Joseph and Mary in the Christmas story he heard every December. The lines of excitement on his face drooped as he fidgeted, thinking about the angel’s words. “I don’t want to . . . seem . . . ungrateful,” Ryann hesitated, “but . . . is there any way you can . . . ask someone else?”

“Only you have been given this trial, Ryann, yet you shall not be alone.”

“Who will help me?”

“As the young shepherd boy David spoke, ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. For He commands His angels to guard you in all your ways.’” Gabriel’s twinkling gaze rose as he stretched his arms heavenward, “And these will assist you along the way.”

Beckoning Ryann from behind the bed, the angel glided effortlessly forward to greet him. Walking to within a foot of Gabriel, Ryann bowed humbly, basking in the radiant glow that emanated all around him. Reaching out, the angel grasped Ryann’s left hand firmly and slipped a gold ring, topped by a clear bubble-like stone, onto his finger. Before he could inspect it, the angel took his other hand and placed a long metal pole in it. Ryann’s hand slid easily up and down the smooth metal finish. Its shape and size were similar to a pool cue. Bone-white buttons protruded from just below where he gripped the staff. They were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Mesmerized by the gifts that begged for more attention and questions, Ryann hardly noticed Gabriel loop a long leather cord through his arm and around his neck. From it a curved ivory horn hung loosely below his waist, resting on his hip.

As Gabriel finished and backed away, Ryann continued marveling at each of the gifts. Reaching down to inspect the horn, he ran his hands along its smooth, yet pitted surface, until he reached the small gold-tipped opening. He wondered how old the horn was and if it had been used before.

“What do I do with these? How do I use them?”

“It is not for me to reveal,” answered the angel calmly. “You shall find out in due time.”

“But what do I do now?”

“Thou must seek the King’s sword.”

“How? What King? Where do I look?” Ryann blurted out, panicking as questions continued to pop into his head.

“The Spirit will lead you, and the ring will open the way,” the angel replied as he began floating backwards, the light peeling away with him.

“Wait, wait! Don’t leave—I don’t know enough—where do I go now?”

“Remember,” Gabriel’s clear voice began to fade, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that you may be thoroughly equipped for all good works.”

Clutching the mysterious heavenly gifts he had been given, Ryann collapsed in a heap on his bed, body and mind drained from his supernatural encounter. He drifted into a welcomed sleep.


It seemed Drake’s bedroom no longer existed. Only his bed remained, an island floating in a sea of darkness that completely surrounded him. His eyes bulged, darting about for anything that would give him a hint of what was going on. A cool draft drifted down his neck, chilling him despite the safety of his covers. Caught between reality and a nightmare, he let loose a scream that normally would have been heard throughout the house and beyond, but now was absorbed into the heavy darkness enveloping him.

“Who’s there?” he said again. He pinched himself to see if he was dreaming.

With a loud swoooooooosh, huge wings shot out of the darkness surrounding his bed. Drake dove for the safety of his covers.

A thunderous, commanding voice ordered, “Come out from hiding and stand up!”

Drake hesitated, knuckles tense and white as they curled tightly around the edges of his blanket.

“Now!” the voice thundered.

Jerking his covers off, Drake scurried to the edge of the bed, lost his balance, and awkwardly fell face-first onto the cool floor. Petrified at what he might see, yet too scared to disobey, he raised his head slightly. Half expecting some hideous beast, Drake was surprised at what he was facing. The black-winged warrior towering over him was imposing enough to paralyze anyone with fear, but his face was what captivated Drake. Instead of a hideous three-eyed ghoul with fangs, like Drake imagined, he stared into one of the most ruggedly handsome faces he had ever seen. Drake froze, mesmerized.

“Sit up and listen closely, human,” the dark angel began, closing his wings in an effortless swish. Lowering his voice, he spoke in a precise, but less threatening tone. “I have chosen you to carry out my wishes.”

Drake raised himself to a clumsy crouch. The face he looked intently into was perfect in almost every way, except for a long thin scar that traveled from his left ear to his jaw. He was convinced now that this wasn’t a monster trying to devour him.

“Why me?”

The angel’s scar became more noticeable when he smiled at Drake. “I have been here before with great success and have reason to believe you will serve me well.”

“What do you want me to do?” Drake blurted.

“The one who seeks to bind me must be stopped!”

Drake stumbled backwards, putting a hand on the floor to keep from falling. Swallowing hard, he could feel the black, penetrating eyes staring deep into his.

“You are the one,” the creature said confidently.

No one had ever chosen Drake for anything, yet this powerful being wanted him. He didn’t know if he could trust the dark angel or not, but the chance for power excited Drake. “How do I do it?”

The dark angel continued to smile, sensing the blackness in Drake’s heart spreading murkily throughout his body.

“I will be your eyes and ears, a guide to lead you in the right direction, and,” he hesitated, “I will give you these.”

The dark-winged angel stretched out his hand, his index finger pointing toward the empty floor in front of him. Immediately three items appeared before Drake’s eyes. He blinked again. They were still there. Drake’s hand shot out in a blur to grab the closest item.


Drake froze, and then cowered, his eyes shifting back to the booming voice as he slowly retracted his hand. His eyes darted back and forth between the three items and the dark angel in the awkward silence.

“You move when I tell you to move. Now . . . kneel before me, child of the earth, while I make you ready for your task.”

Still hunched-over, Drake pitched forward onto his knees with his head bowed, eyes glancing upward in anticipation.

“My first gift to you is a cloak of darkness. It will provide you with cover at night. You and the night shall become one.”

Drake reached out his hands to receive the cloak. It felt smooth and slippery. Looking intently at it, the cloak seemed several feet thick, as if it was projecting darkness.

“My second gift to you is a ring of suggestion. With it you will have the ability to project persuasive thoughts to those who are weak-willed or in the midst of indecision.” Powerful hands with long curled fingers took hold of Drake’s hand, spreading an icy chill from the tip of his fingers to his wrist. As the creature slipped the black band onto his finger, Drake briefly noticed a red blotch on the top. His hand felt stiff, then the numbness traveled up his arm and throughout his body. Chattering clicks from his own teeth broke the silence as he awaited the angel’s next words. “Lastly, I provide you with a bow and arrows of fire. These arrows were formed in the lake of fire and will deliver physical and mental anguish to those they touch.”

“Thank you . . . uhh . . . what should I call you?” Drake asked.

“I am one of the stars that fell from heaven. My master is Shandago and I am his chief messenger. You may call me Lord Ekron.”

“Thank you, Lord Ekron, for these gifts. I may be young, but I’ll do as you ask to the best of my ability.”

“It is expected. Also, these items I have given to you are not for use in this world. When the time is right, you will find a passage into another land. There you will put these gifts to work.”

The darkness in the room began to rush toward Lord Ekron, as if he were absorbing it, except he wasn’t getting bigger—only darker. Drake kept staring at him, trying not to blink, so he wouldn’t miss anything. Despite his efforts, the dark angel began to fade, and Drake found himself peering into the darkness at the blank wall. When he was sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him and enough time passed so that he felt safe to move, he stood up.

Drake would have thought this was all a bad dream, but the items he held in his hand were proof that it was real. He ran his hands through the dense blackness of the slick cloak, wondering how he might use it. Drake was anxious to try the bow and arrows as well. He didn’t dare pull the arrows out of their quiver right now, but decided that he would have to buy a regular bow and quiver of arrows as soon as possible so that he could begin practicing. Looking down at his hand, he examined the unusual ring he now wore. The entire band was a glossy black, except for the unusual red marking on the top, which resembled a flying dragon.

Not much had gone right for Drake during the first thirteen years of his life. “Now things are going to be different,” he thought. The smile inching across his face looked evil. He knew with Lord Ekron at his side no one would be able to tell him what to do.



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