Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Hunted Tour

A town’s deadly secret will drive one man to the edge of his faith…
Debut novelist Mike Dellosso delivers a spine-tingling drama in the style of Frank Peretti and Stephen King.

Joe Saunders is determined to unravel the mystery surrounding the brutal mauling of his nephew.

Police Chief Maggie Gill is determined to protect the mystery surrounding her family’s deadly secret.

But neither is prepared for the truth when the mystery revealed uncovers the horror that is lurking in the shadows of Dark Hills.

After learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found, badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in a deadly code of silence. As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life into God’s hands.

So, Mike, this sounds like an interesting premise? Where did you get your idea for The Hunted?

The idea for The Hunted came from the internet. I was surfing one day just looking for ideas or something to spark my imagination and get the wheel churning when I came across this story of a small town in Indiana that reported lion sightings back in the 1920’s. Several of the townsfolk said they saw an African lion in the fields surrounding the town. A couple cows were mauled and eaten. Then the sightings just stopped. No one knows where the lion came from or where it went. I thought it was a pretty neat idea and ran with it. Story born. Happy birthday!

Hmm, I live in Indiana. Wonder if that lion left any off-spring running around? Yikes! What are some of the underlying themes in The Hunted?
Themes are something else, aren’t they? An author can write a story expecting to convey one message and then, when the book’s done, look back and find he’s actually conveyed several messages and none are the one he intended. And then someone can read the book and get something out of it totally different from what the author thought he conveyed.

Here's one of my favorite questions when I'm answering interview what themes were you thinking about when you wrote the book?

Here’s what I think the themes are, what I wanted the themes to be when I wrote the book (whether anyone actually finds these themes is another story entirely, and I’m okay with that, really I am, as long as they get something meaningful out of it). One theme is the idea of not putting God in a box, of letting Him be God, letting Him work in your life and do some miraculous things. I think too often we put a leash on God and tell Him what He’s allowed and not allowed to do. That’s not our place. God can do anything He wants to do. He’s the one in charge, remember?

Okay, enough of that. The second theme is the danger of a vengeful heart. Vengeance is a powerful thing; I think that’s why God said He’d take care of it. In the hands of mere mortals, it’s a deadly poison, able to consume a man and turn him into a monster. Revenge is not something we should try to harness. We have no business playing with that fire. In The Hunted we see the end result of a vengeful heart unbound.

Lastly, there’s the theme of forgiveness and acceptance and redemption. Beautiful things we experience from the heart our Heavenly Father and pass on to others.

Praise for The Hunted:
A great first book from an exciting new author! A vicious enemy, a family secret, a thirst for revenge, and a need for reconciliation all drive The Hunted from intriguing beginning to thrilling conclusion. Skillful prose and great storytelling make Mike Dellosso a writer to watch. I can’t wait for his next book!
—Kathryn Mackel, author of Vanished

Mike Dellosso delivers a spine-tingling tale of hidden secrets, buried hopes and second chances. Interwoven through page-turning drama is the truth about vengeance and the triumph of God’s mysterious ways. The Hunted is a story best read with all the lights on and an extra flashlight handy–just in case!
—Amy Wallace, author of Ransomed Dreams

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ruby Among Us Review & Giveaway

Tina Forkner’s debut novel Ruby Among Us is contemporary fiction that explores how the secrets fo the past impact the course of the present. It was interesting to read this book immediately after finishing Skizzer. Both have the same general theme – uncovering the secrets of the past – yet are told in very different styles.

Tina has a lyrical writing style, one that pulled me into the story and characters in a genre I usually don’t read.

Lucy has been raised by her grandmother Kitty after the early death of her mother Ruby. As a college senior, Lucy is on a journey to recover her memories of Ruby, but Kitty tries to avoid all of her questions. Finally, Kitty reaches a point where she begins to uncover the painful secrets of her past that have led to the life she and Lucy currently live. In the process, Lucy discovers a rich heritage and family she didn’t remember.

This book emphasized the way our perspectives and reactions to the past can hurt us deeply. My heart grieved for Kitty and the way she denied herself happiness for so many years because of the way she judged herself. I also cheered for Lucy as she tried to honor her grandma while seeking the truth. Life is not all nicely wrapped packages and we do live with the consequences of our actions and reactions. But the story also shows how true love can last and endure in what seem like impossible circumstances.

This book was a wonderful read, and I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a fresh voice in Christian fiction.

Tina has graciously agreed to giveaway a copy of her book. To be entered leave a comment with a way to contact you. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Great Giveaway at CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense!

Head over to CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense.

Leave a comment today through May 31st, and you can be entered to win all four May LI Suspense books. That includes your's truly's first suspense. And since I'm mailing them, I can autograph Deadly Exposure for you. But don't leave the comment here. Go to CRAFTIE Ladies. Before May 31st!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Booksigning on May 31st!

This morning after teaching, I'm headed to the offices of the Journal & Courier, our local newspaper for an interview. On Saturday, May 31st, Carpenter's Son is holding one of their huge booksignings, and the interview will hopefully help spread the word!

Colleen Coble, Jamie Carie, Brandt Dodson, Denise Hunter, Diann Hunt and I will all be signing books. I'll be signing all three of mine, so if you're in the Lafayette area and want to buy copies of my books, be sure to come to Carpenter's Son. The booksigning will be from 1-3 with Question & Answer session at 2. We will also have an Indiana ACFW chapter meeting after the booksigning...feel free to come join us in the back of Carpenter's Son if you'd like to learn more about writing.

If you can't come to the booksigning, but would love to order a copy of any of my books, either contact Carpenter's Son or email me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This is why I write...

Friday morning I got an email from a friend. She had picked up a copy of Sandhill Dreams. I'll let her tell the rest...

Hey Cara,

I had to write quickly this morning and share with you what a blessing Sandhill Dreams has been to me! I started reading it this week, and have just been ministered to. Last night, I read the chapter where Lainie gets the letter from her roommate Roxie with the words of Isaiah 43 in it...and it sooo just set my heart and mind straight on getting through this proposal meeting today! He has summoned me by NAME – and is with me! I so needed to hear those words – and it’s just perfect of God to use your book to bring them to me!

My heart sang with joy after receiving this email. Really, if she's the only one who is blessed by the spiritual thread in the book, then it was worth the hours of writing. And how like God to prompt someone to share the impact of the book. And how like God to have her reading the book right when she needed it. And I wrote it months ago having no idea who it was for...just knowing I had to write that thread and theme.

That's why I write. Obedience to the stories God has placed on my heart. It's a trust from Him. Each book and contract is a privilege, and my prayer is to be faithful with each opportunity He entrusts to me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Review of Deadly Exposure

Deadly Exposure
By Cara Putman
Review by Roseanna White

Dani Richards thinks she was getting a night off from journalism when she takes her aunt to the theater—but that’s before she discovers a dead body in the next box. And before her old flame Caleb arrives, now an investigator for the local police. She gets to cover the case by default—but the deeper she digs, the clearer it becomes that the killer won’t rest until she backs off. And that’s something she just can’t do.

Caleb Jamison is determined to catch the man responsible for the death of the grad student in the theater—and even more determined to protect Dani, who doesn’t have the good sense to leave the investigating to him. He lost her once because of his own youthful selfishness. He isn’t going to lose her again now. But can he convince her that he’s changed, that she can depend on him, before the killer catches up with her?

Deadly Exposure is an action packed read that will keep you flipping the pages as fast as you can. Though a quick read, the story is well developed and the characters full and lively. I enjoyed getting to know both Dani and Caleb and was never disappointed by how Putman delivered.

Love Inspired Suspense readers will love the addition of Cara Putman to the team, and any fans of romantic suspense should run out and pick up this engrossing little book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review and Giveaway: My Heart Remembers

In My Heart Remembers, Kim Sawyer returns with a book that starts with a punch of emotion that doesn’t stop until the last page. I have really enjoyed each of her books so far, and this one lived up to what I've come to expect from her:

-- a historical setting that I am transported to,
-- characters who are far from cookie-cutters, and
-- a historical hook that captures my attention.

Kim is a skilled author, and this book is a great addition to her body of work.

Orphaned in a tenement fire, three Irish-immigrant children are sent to Missouri to be adopted. Despite eight-year-old Maelle’s desperate attempts to keep her siblings together, each child is taken by a different family. Yet Maelle vows that she will never stop searching for her brother and sister – and that they will be together one day in the future.

The years pass, and Maelle continues to look for her siblings even as her hope of truly finding them is waning.

This story bounces between the perspectives of the three siblings. Each of them have had very different experiences with their new families, and their backgrounds are now so different I wondered if they’d ever recognize each other. The book also focuses on the plights of the abandoned children who were forced to work as some sought to institute child labor laws.

As a reader, it occasionally got frustrating to see the siblings so close, yet know they had no idea. Yet the barriers that kept them apart weren’t artificial. Each rang true. And the characters developed on many levels through the book.

The message of hope rings loud and clear in this book. Even when all seems lost, we can find hope when we place our lives in God’s hand.

This book will be a wonderful addition to your reading if you love historicals rich with characters you can root for.

To be entered for a chance to win this book, leave a comment with a way to reach you if you win.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Embrace Me

Embrace Me is the latest offering from Lisa Samson. I had hoped to read this book before the blog tour, but the arrival of Rebecca threw off my reading schedule just a bit. The book looks intriguing and has the mix of characters and edginess I've come to expect from a Lisa Samson book.

Biting and gentle, hard-edged and hopeful...a beautiful fable of love and power, hiding and seeking, woundedness and redemption.

When a "lizard woman," a self-mutilating preacher, a tattooed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster...and improbably close to grace.

Valentine, due to her own drastic self-disfigurement, has very few friends in this world and, it appears as if she may be destined to spend the rest of her life practically alone. But life gives her one good friend, Lella, whose own handicap puts her in the same freakish category as Valentine. As part of Roland's Wayfaring Marvel and Oddities Show, a traveling band of misfits, they seem to have found their niches in an often curiously cruel world.

Residing in a world where masks are mandatory, Valentine has a hard time removing hers, because of her disfigured face but more so because of her damaged soul. It is much easier for her to listen endlessly to different versions of a favorite song, Embraceable You, and escape reality. Yet, life has more in store for her when she meets Augustine, replete with the tattoos, dreadlocks, and his own secrets. With his arrival, Valentine's soul takes a turn.

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

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thoughts on Our New Arrival

Thanks to everyone who has left comments on Rebecca's arrival. She has been an absolute delight. The only thing that will make her better is when she starts sleeping a little more consistently at night, but hey, she's only one week old :-)

Here are a few thoughts and cute stories.

Jonathan was a bit upset to learn we'd had a girl. Tears and everything I'm told. But Abigail quickly helped him get redirected by pulling out his baby album and talking to him about how cute he was.

Last Sunday morning, I'm told our camera circulated through the church as people noticed I wasn't there and Eric had a hospital band on. Abigail told one of our friends that her mommy had her stomach back LOL. That's the beautiful part of having the weight gain be pretty much exclusively baby.

And I had been really concerned about how I would feel having Rebecca. I knew I'd be thrilled to hold our baby after so many months and years of waiting, grieving, and longing for this addition to our family. But I wasn't sure at all how it would make me feel about our angel baby. Would I miss that child even more? I didn't want the emotions associated with that loss to overshadow the beautiful gift we've been given.

I have to admit there have been moments of tears, but they've been moments. I am even more eager in some ways to get to heaven and learn more about that baby. But I also have been able to fully enjoy Rebecca and the miracle and blessing that she is. God is so good. And Rebecca was worth the wait.

I love the baby scent, the baby sounds. The hiccups that erupt for no reason at all and shake her little body like she used to shake inside me. The baby smiles. The baby faces. I'm delighting in it all. Her times of growing awake time. The bright blue eyes that take everything in.

All I can say is God is so good. And Rebecca is one more of reflection of that added to Jonathan and Abigail, the two best big sister and brother on the planet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Whisper of Freedom MEME

Tricia Goyer's latest book A Whisper of Freedom has just released. This book is a wonderful conclusion to her Spanish Civil War series. And to celebrate the launch, she's having a fun MEME contest. Here are the questions and my responses, but be sure to read to the end to see how you can participate and win some great prizes.

1. List three things you would do with a chest full of gold (assuming you got to keep it!)

1) Keep half of it and invest it for college funds.

2) Take a portion for a round the world adventure.

3) Use the other half to start a foundation to support Christian organizations.

2. List three charities/missions/organizations you support (and why).
1) Campus Crusade: we have a couple friends who are missionaries through that organization.

2) Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship: we have friends working on college campuses through this ministry that we both participated in during college.

3) Organizations like Family Life Today and Focus on the Family that work to support families and provide wonderful tools.

3. List three ways you have volunteered your time/services.
1) I served on the board of our local Big Brothers Big Sisters for several years.

2) I lead Bible studies and Sunday School classes at our church.

3) We host a small group at our home a couple times a month.

4. List three things you keep "hidden" when company comes over.
Hmm, there really isn't anything that I can think of. I've worked hard to reach a point where I hold the things we have loosely. They are tools to minister to others through hospitality. :-)

5. List the last three things you've lost.
Gosh, I can't think of any right now. I'm always misplacing things -- but to truly lose them and not find them again -- can't think of anything.

6. List the last three things you've found.

1) My cell phone. It didn't get put back in my pocket after the last call, but it's there now.

2) My sanity LOL. It comes and goes.

3) My love of just holding a baby. That fresh newborn smell is so sweet!

During the tour, you can enter to win one of FIVE signed copies of A Whisper of Freedom by signing up for Tricia's newsletter here!

Three brave "players" will be selected at random to win their own lost gold (Gourmet chocolate coins and all three books in the Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series). To enter all you have to do is answer the MEME on your blog and then leave a comment on Tricia’s blog tour post here that you’ve posted your MEME. Easy.

About the Book:

Battles heat up…not only those being waged by the soldiers on both sides fighting for Spain, but in the hearts and minds of the men and women who must sacrifice more than their dreams to save the lives of their loved ones.

In this meticulously researched novel, brave and idealistic Sophie, Philip, Jose, and Deion realize their only hope for freedom is escaping Spain's borders.

By continuing the story of this band of volunteers during the Spanish Civil War, A Whisper of Freedom proves that there are whispers of hope and liberty that resonate through even the darkest night.

To read an excerpt from the book, click here. And to watch the series trailer, click here.

Now it's your turn to answer these questions. Then leave a comment and let me know that you're playing and I'll enter you in a drawing for a book.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mother's Day Special Delivery

I'm not sure we could have scripted a better Mother's Day blessing for our family.

While our daughter arrived on Saturday night, it has been a delight to celebrate with family and friends today on Mother's Day.

The kids and I visited Cara and baby Rebecca at the hospital before heading over to our church this morning. We might be excused for our late arrival but I ought to seek forgiveness for creating the distraction that followed. As we joined the service already in progress, sharp-eyed friends noted the hospital tag strapped around my wrist and discreetly asked,"did Cara have the baby?" Wouldn't you know it but this proud papa had a digital camera full of photos and slipped it to the family right behind us. In a moment the camera was circulating 15 rows behind us and worship took a bit of a detour for the families in our immediate location!

Suffice it to say, we're blessed, blessed, blessed to welcome Rebecca to the family. Enjoy the photos and I'm sure Cara will have much to share when we let her get back to her laptop again.

Healing Promises: Review and Giveaway

This week's CFBA Tour focuses on Amy Wallace's latest book Healing Promises. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, but I have to tell you Healing Promises hit a whole new level of depth and intensity.

Clint Rollins is a FBI agent who is used to having his life firmly under control. His wife Sarah is the same way. As an oncologist, she is used to doing everything she can to help patients and then focus on her family. But their worlds are as tightly controlled as possible for a FBI agent and oncologist. Then Clint is shot. And in a day their lives are turned upside down.

This book is a study of how we respond when life treats us in ways that we can't control or anticipate.

The full range of characters is back from the first book. And Amy does a masterful part of weaving the characters together in a strong web. The book is fully fleshed out, and the suspense element is very well constructed. This book has depth on soooo many levels.

I highly recommend it -- and am delighted to be able to give a copy away. Leave a comment to be entered in the contest. And I'll pull a winner next week.


Facing a new threat.

When FBI Agent Clint Rollins takes a bullet during a standoff, it might just save his life. But not even the ugly things he’s seen during his years working in the Crimes Against Children Unit could prepare him for the overwhelming powerlessness of hospital tests revealing an unexpected diagnosis. If only Sara weren’t retreating into doctor mode…he needs his wife now more than ever.

Frozen in fear.

Sara Rollins is an oncologist with a mission–beating cancer when she can, easing her patients’ suffering at the very least. Now the life of her tall Texan husband is at stake. She never let the odds steal her hope before, but in this case, the question of God’s healing promises is personal. Can she hold on to the truth she claimed to believe?

Faith under fire.

As Clint continues to track down a serial kidnapper despite his illness, former investigations haunt his nightmares, pushing him beyond solving the case into risking his life and career. Clint struggles to believe God is still the God of miracles. Especially when he needs not one, but two. Everything in his life is reduced to one all-important question: Can God be trusted?

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sincerely, Mayla

"Lord," I said, swallowing past the tightness in my throat, "I know the Bible says You'll take care of me. I guess now's Your chance to prove it. And I sure would appreciate it if You don't wait too long, okay?"

Will Mayla Strong's life ever resemble normal? Just as she settles into a great place with God, everything else falls apart. In the course of a single week she loses her job, wrecks any chance at a relationship with Pastor Paul, gets the cold shoulder from her friend Stuart, and learns that Lindsey-the teenage sister of her late friend Alex-needs a place to stay. What good is being a control freak if nobody will do what you tell them?

Taking advantage of her newfound "vacation time," Mayla flees to her grandmother's house in Florida. But one by one, her problems follow . . . literally. In this touching sequel to Just As I Am, quirky Mayla Strong comes face-to-face with the responsibilities and joys of friends and family. As she tries to help her loved ones, Mayla begins to realize that God has all the answers-the trick is letting go long enough for Him to prove it.

Sincerely, Mayla is the latest release from one of my favorite authors Virginia Smith. This book tugs at your heartstrings from the first page and doesn't need to be read after the first book. I still haven't read Just As I Am, though I've heard great things about it, and was sucked into Mayla's life from the first chapter in Sincerely, Mayla.

Read the first chapter here.

Sincerely, Mayla is an honest book touching many issues young adults face today. Smith writes vibrant characters and tackles taboo subjects with grace and intelligence. She helps readers understand the beauty and complexity of every human being, pierced or not.

—Mary E. DeMuth

Christy Nominee, Watching the Tree Limbs

“If Mayla stole your heart in Just As I Am, she’ll own it in Sincerely, Mayla. Juggling unemployment, unrequited love, and shepherding a runaway teen takes hilarious and poignant turns in Mayla’s quirky hands. Throw in a visit to the grandmother she hasn’t seen in thirteen years, and readers will savor a rich dish of laughter, tears, and life-lessons sure to leave a permanent mark.

—Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Author of the To Catch a Thief series

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Writing Inspirational Romantic Suspense

For years I’ve wanted to write books. It was one of those dreams that refused to die, even when I would take it out periodically and ask God if I should let it die.

Yet even as the dream stuck with me, I’d look at the marketplace and wonder if I’d ever be able to write the kind of books I wanted.

You see, I love suspense. I guess there’s something in the combination of the ticking time bomb and solving the mystery before it’s revealed that I really enjoy. And ten to fifteen years ago, about the only writers I’d read were Mary Higgins Clark, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham. I knew for the most part that I could trust their books to be clean, yet have that race against time feel. I scoured bookshelves in Christian bookstores, but never found anyone writing like that. And I didn’t trust non-Christian authors enough to pick up their books without a recommendation from someone I trusted.

Why write something that didn’t have any place in the marketplace? Maybe that’s why God kept telling me to wait.

Fast-forward ten years to 2005.

The dream still hadn’t died, but now there were some fantastic authors available in the Christian market. Colleen Coble. Brandilyn Collins. Brandt Dodson. Tim Downs. I discovered their books and felt a surge of hope. Then Steeple Hill started its Love Inspired Suspense line. Now a group of wonderful suspense writers is very active in the CBA market, and my first, Deadly Exposure releases this month from Love Inspired Suspense.

So why do I write Inspirational Romantic Suspense?

First, because in inspirational suspense, I can show how God is active in our lives. Even when we aren’t looking or can’t see Him, He is our rock and shelter when our worlds fall apart. While most of us will never run from stalkers or try to solve crimes, we all have times our lives seem out of control, and any reminder God is still on His throne and in control is encouraging and needed.

Second, I love the twists and turns. I have never been told I couldn’t put something in a plot. I’m able to handle real world issues, without inserting elements that I don’t believe in. To be blunt: sex and language. Rarely do either of those propel a story forward and add to them. Instead, I can write the kind of book I want to read. And that I won’t blush if my grandmother picks up.

Third, they are fun to write. I can research. I can plot. I can develop characters. But at a certain point, the plot and/or characters are going to take over. Then I don’t even know exactly what is going to happen. And that’s fun.

I love reading inspirational romantic suspense, and am thrilled to write it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Review: Bayou Judgment

Bayou Judgment is the third book in Robin Caroll's Love Inspired Suspense series. If you haven't read the first two, go pick this one are in for a treat!

Here's the blurb:

Phone counselor Felicia Trahan desperately needed to dial in to the Christian Crisis Hotline. She'd come home to her apartment to find Jolie, her roommate and coworker, dead. And few clues to the killer's identity: There was a shady boyfriend. A rival at the crisis center. And disturbing phone calls from a distraught young woman who was becoming increasingly unhinged. So much so that the center's tough-guy pastor feared for Felicia's safety. Spencer Bertrand promised to protect her, even if he lost his heart in the process. Yet drawing out a killer hiding in the Louisiana bayou could be the only way to save them all.

This book was one that I couldn't put down from the first page to the end. Felicia is desperate to show everyone that she can stand on her own after a lifetime of being sheltered. Yet, when her roommate is found murdered, her family and friends want to shelter her. Spencer wants to be honest with her about his past, but is afraid of what her reaction and the rest of the town's will be if it comes to light.

Felicia wants to help others, but finds that this one caller becomes more irrational with each call. And she seems to know things that strangers shouldn't. When the police's investigation dead ends, Felicia is determined to jump in and do her part to make sure her roommate's murderer is brought to justice. Despite the cost there to her.

The character's are real with flaws and strengths. They interplay between Felicia and Spencer is filled with potential potholes without any promise that all can be worked out. And the suspense is intense. Strange things keep happening. Yet the more they do, the more stubborn Felicia becomes. And there is no question that this book could happen anywhere else. The bayou is an integral character, and Caroll does a masterful job weaving in details without overwhelming the readers.

If you're looking for a great suspense filled with romance and twists, then I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jennifer Rothschild & Life

Eric tracked down the footage from Good Morning America for me. If you've never been exposed to Jennifer Rothschild and her ministry, this is a great way to catch a glimpse of her heart and style. It's a great package!

Our family has rediscovered the game CLUE. Did any of y'all play it growing up? We did in my family. Lots. Then this Christmas while we were home in Nebraska, my sister's family brought it over. Their oldest were 11 and 9 at the time, so old enough to join in. Eric had a copy tucked away in a closet here, so we dug it out a couple weeks ago.

It is now my kids favorite game. Now remember Abigail is 7 and Jonathan is 4.

Jonathan blew us out of the water the other day with a ...I guess I'd call it... a lucky guess. The very first time he rolls, he guesses something like Professor Plum in the Billiard Room with the Revolver. And he's right!!!! We all sat in stunned amazement then started a new game. Last night Eric won on the second or third round. Sometimes you're just lucky with those first few guesses.

Abigail enjoys the challenge of the game. And I've decided I'm going to turn to it the next time I'm stuck on a plot for a suspense. So if you see a character in one of my future books called Colonel Mustard or Miss Scarlet, you'll know where I got my inspiration!

Friday, May 09, 2008

CFBA Tour: Warriors

I haven't received my copy of The Warriors by Mark Andrew Olsen yet, but hope to receive it soon. I LOVED the first book in the series, The Watchers. This is a tour that as soon as I saw the book would participate, I wanted to join. The Watchers was a supernatural suspense on the level of Frank Peretti's early books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. It made me think about spiritual issues in a fresh way. It's a rare novel that can do that. And it was a book that Eric and I both enjoyed. You can read my review of it here.

A failed recon mission deep in the tunnels of Afghanistan has provoked a demonic onslaught that had been brewing for centuries. The mission's sole survivor is reformed black ops assassin Dylan Hatfield, and he once again teams up with Abby Sherman, now at the helm of the Watchers, an ancient spiritual force. Uncovering and preventing a secret wave of death whispered across cyberspace and threatening to be unleash against civilization will require another level of spiritual power and expertise--the Warriors.

Journeying across the Alps of Europe through the multilayered history of warfare in the unseen world, Dylan and Abby uncover an age-old stone engraving that rouses the church's Warriors to action, placing them dead center in one of the fiercest spiritual battles of their time!

And once again they are reminded: This is all part of a vast and perpetual war, a war beyond all human conflicts, one that has engulfed heaven and earth since before the dawn of history....

Abby Sherman is headed back to Israel, where a Watcher, the Sentinel of Jerusalem, lies dying. In her last breaths the old woman tells Abby of an ancient document prophesying humanity's full-scale entry into the ongoing conflict between armies of heaven and fallen angels.

Dylan Hatfield has decided to answer a summons from his old boss and join a secret operation, its mission to reconnoiter the Afghani tunnel complex from which Osama bin Laden escaped in 2001. What he discovers sears his very soul and likely will end his life.

Abby learns of the peril facing Dylan, and she sends out a call for intercession on his behalf. Her frantic email message sets in motion a series of harrowing events, propelling the two on a new mission and quest--one where the stakes are the lives of millions!

The Warriors is packed with high-octane action, featuring exotic international locales, with characters in a clash against spiritual "principalities and powers" with eternal consequences, The Warriors is a story that will enthrall, enlighten, and engage its readers.

If that piques your interest, you can read the first chapter HERE

"Olsen, one of the better writers in this subgenre, delivers powerful, action-packed plots that delve into mystical paranormal worlds."
~Library Journal, Feb. 2008

"Olsen delivers an entertaining thriller likely to be enjoyed especially by fans of the spiritual warfare genre."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Deadly Exposure Reviews

No, I did not review my own book. That just felt way too weird. So I asked ACFW President Robin Miller if she'd review Deadly Exposure. If you haven't read any of her books yet, she writes great suspense for Love Inspired Suspense under her pen name Robin Caroll. She graciously agreed to review my book, so here it is...

What's a girl to do when she finds a dead body in the theater box next to her own? Especially when she's a reporter and she owns the story? Follow through and investigate, of course. But it comes at a cost to Dani Richards, and that fee just might be her own life.

Enter Caleb Jamison, the cop assigned to the case. He's determined to protect Dani, but they have a history. A past littered with pain, betrayal, and broken trust. Can he keep Dani safe while protecting his heart?

Dani is a woman torn--the sense of responsibility and loyalty to her aunt, the pain she's endured from the past with Caleb, doing her job, and following up on the story. I felt her inner turmoil as she turned so many corners, only to be faced with more conflict.

Caleb is a changed man from the boy Dani had known years ago, and is determined to prove that. I related to his struggles--work, love, and facing the mistakes of the past.

In Cara Putman's first suspense novel, she proves herself as a writer who can spin twists and turns to keep the reader flipping the pages. I was intrigued by the hero and heroine's past, as well as the suspenseful plot that kept throwing the two flawed but learning characters together. With a strong supporting cast (who I hope to see in future installments), this book is a great read for romantic suspense lovers. Looking for a great vacation read? This is a book I'd recommend you slip into your carry on-but be warned, you'll not want to put it down until you've read the last page, landing or not!

And here's Debra Ullrick's review:

I know this sounds cliché but I couldn’t put, DEADLY EXPOSURE, down. Cara Putman did a great job of transporting me into Dani and Caleb’s world. When certain spine-tingling events happen to Dani, it was if they were happening to me. Many times I held my breath and squirmed in my chair. Plus, my popcorn disappeared at an alarming rate of speed. And I will NEVER look at theatre box seats, theatre ushers, or pizza delivery boys the same way again. In fact, what was in that pizza anyway? Did it have anything to do with Job's disappearance? Or the red puddle on the floor?

Why is Aunt Jayne sprawled all over Dani’s bed when she’s supposed to be in a nursing home? Is she dead or alive? And who put her there? And why?

Poor Renee. Someone wanted her dead. But why? Was she just a good girl gone bad? Or was someone trying to stop her research? Or what?

Something devastating happened to Dani when she was sixteen. Will she ever recover from it?

What about Caleb? Is Caleb really a changed man? Does Dani dare trust him with her life? She couldn't before, so why trust him now?

And last but definitely not least…

Is there a price to pay for love? If so, just how costly is it? More than one person finds out. But who are they?

The answer to all these questions can be found in, DEADLY EXPOSURE by Cara Putman.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Exciting News! I have my copies of Sandhill Dreams!

Good morning, y'all. Yesterday I received my box of author copies of Sandhill Dreams. I am so excited to see this book and hold it. My daughter actually opened the box before I could get to it -- it's so fun to have the kids as excited or more so than I am. I walked around with a goofy grin for the rest of the night. The cover is beautiful and there is just something special about seeing the words I wrote in book form. I just hope people enjoy this book as much as they did Canteen Dreams and as they are responding to Deadly Exposure.

Also, Dani Richards, the heroine of Deadly Exposure, has an interview up at CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense. Dani told me she had a lot of fun being interviewed for once rather than being the one conducting the interview. As a tv reporter she rarely gets to be on the other side of the questions.

And I just had to share this email I received this week from a dear family friend. Sarah has known me since I was 1. It was so fun to get her take on Deadly Exposure.

I loved Deadly Exposure! It was so fun to see your "story baby" and imagine
your writing it with so much of yourself in it:
  • Dani.... Cara Danelle
  • cats for comfort
  • Dani's emotions
  • Lincoln locale and the Cornhuskers and all
  • Runzas
  • TV reporter (I remember when all Cara wanted to be was Connie Chung!)
  • the accuracy of the legal details (as if I could tell!... they sounded right!)

You wove an amazing story... lots of twists and turns, and not anything extraneous!
I read it on the heels of Restorer's Journey, and I read it with a critical eye (after all, I'm a home school mom). and it was a wonderful read! The mystery kept pace,
the climax was expertly crafted.... the characters satisfying... the spiritual element totally believable. I'm so glad for you to see this birthed!

If you're going to be in Lafayette area on May 31st, be sure to join me and my writing friends Colleen Coble, Brandt Dodson, Jamie Carie, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter for a booksigning and Q&A at Carpenter's Son from 1-3. Both Sandhill Dreams and Deadly Exposure should be available for purchase!

May Fiction Releases

We've got 20 new Christian novels this month - the perfect accompaniment to backyard lawn chairs and glasses of iced tea. I hope you'll find one or more (more is better) from this list to suit your reading fancy. So many of these titles are excellent -- and I'm not talking about just mine LOL

1. Anathema by Colleen Coble from Thomas Nelson. An Amish woman who fled after a murder is drawn back to her peaceful community--and a spiraling danger.

2. Bayou Judgment, Bayou Series book 3 by Robin Caroll from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Crisis hot line counselor finds herself in the midst of murder and mayhem, and tough-guy preacher must fight to keep her safe.

3. Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky from Multnomah Books. A woman going blind, a man who loves her but can’t tell her so, a crash, a hospital room, and an ending that must be experienced to be believed.

4. Blood Brothers by Rick Acker from Kregel Publications. Sibling rivalry, black market deals, and a dangerous new wonder drug interrupt Ben Corbin's plans for early retirement in this riveting sequel to Dead Man's Rule.

5. Controlling Interest by Elizabeth White from Zondervan. Matt Hogan and Natalie Tubberville compete to find a missing mail-order bride, with Matt's detective agency in the balance--or is love the ultimate prize?

6. Deadly Exposure by Cara Putman from Love Inspired Suspense. With a stalker closing in, will television journalist Dani Richards trust her former love and police investigator Caleb Jamison to help her and God to rescue her?

7. Divorcing the Devil by Dwan Abrams from Urban Christian. Drama, heartbreak, violence, and redemption. Will anyone be spared when trying to divorce the devil?

8. Flame From Within by Shirley Kiger Connolly from Vintage Romance Publishing. Amethyst Rose, inflamed by the devastating war flees her beloved Vicksburg and becomes entangled with two passionate and enamored Yankee warriors and a deceitful Frenchman determined to steal her heart...perhaps her soul.

9. Fossil Hunter by John B. Olson from Tyndale House. A Christian paleontologist makes a dangerous discovery -- a fossil that doesn't seem to fit current evolutionary theory.

10. It's All About Us All About Us book one by Shelley Adina from FaithWords. Can a Christian teenager stay true to her faith and still get the most popular guy in school?

11. Journey to Judah "Born for India" series Book One by Eileen Rife from Capstone Fiction. In an exotic culture of 7.5 million people and over 3 million gods, one woman resolves to follow her heart.

12. Leave it to Chance by Sherri Sand from David C. Cook. After three long years of single motherhood, Sierra Montgomery can finally stand on her own two feet—until a gift horse threatens her finances, her family, and her budding relationship with a handsome landscaper.

13. Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann Forkner from Waterbrook Press. Sometimes the key to your future lies in someone else's past. Ruby Among Us is a stirring story about faith and mother-daughter love.

14. Sandhill Dreams, Book 2 Nebraska Brides by Cara C. Putman from Heartsong Presents. With her dreams shattered, will Lainie Gardner allow God and a soldier at Fort Robinson to breathe life into new dreams that will bring her more joy than she imagined?

15. The Black Cloister by Melanie Dobson from Kregel Publications. When Elise Friedman travels to Germany to research her family's mysterious past, she uncovers a chilling secret and a man who threatens to destroy her.

16. The Duchess and the Dragon by Jamie Carie from B&H Publishing. A passionate duke meets a lovely Quaker girl and finds it was worth losing everything to have her.

17. The Taste of Good Fruit by MaRita Teague from Walk Worthy Press and Harrison House Publishing House. A tragic loss, a devastating secret, and a seductive mistake are insurmountable challenges that take close friends, Sydney, Chanel, and Sherese, on a journey towards self-discovery, strengthened friendship, and renewed faith.

18. Trion Rising, Book one in the Shadowside trilogy by Robert Elmer from Zondervan. What would it be like if Jesus had come to another planet?

19. Wagered Heart by Robin Lee Hatcher from Zondervan. Bethany Silverton can’t resist the challenge of charming a rough cowboy, but when she makes an innocent wager, unexpected results could turn a little flirtation into a lifetime of love.

20. With Endless Sight, Crossroads of Grace #3 by Allison Pittman from Multnomah Waterbrook. When disaster strikes her family, fourteen-year-old Belinda finds herself alone until God delivers her to the unlikely sanctuary of a brothel in the Wyoming mountains.

Happy reading ~

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Giveaway: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

This week I am giving away two copies of Trish Ryan's book He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. This book just released and is the story of one woman's search for love. I've included a review, endorsement, and teaser about the book. To enter to win one of the two Advanced Reader Copies, leave a comment here. Good luck!

“Ryan’s winsome memoir and writing debut traces her desperate search for a man — specifically a husband — and for a spirituality that works for her… Ryan is eminently likeable and vulnerable, and her sharp writing will appeal to faithful and irreverent readers alike.”

-- Publishers Weekly

"This is one riveting story. Like many people, I can identify with what it feels like to look in all the wrong places—and then realize down the road that God has been writing a story that is so much bigger and better that I could have ever imagined. It’s not often that someone can make me read into the wee hours—and then laugh so hard that I wake my poor husband up from a sound sleep.”
–- Shaunti Feldhahn, bestselling author of For Women Only:
What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men

Trish Ryan was the quintessential successful thirtysomething woman -- she had a career as an attorney, a nice car, and a succession of men clamoring for her affection. But despite all her accomplishments, the things by which she defined her life continually left her disappointed, especially when it came to dating. Like the heroines of chick-lit novels and Sex and the City, she couldn't escape her bad luck with men: men who cheated, who left her, who made her a lesser version of herself. After years of trying everything out there to make love work -- new age philosophy, feminist empowerment, myriad self-help programs -- she finally, hesitantly, decided to give God a try. This is Ryan's story of how her search for the right guy turned into the search for the right God, and (spoiler alert!) how she ended up with the happily-ever-after ending.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Interviews and More

This week I'm the featured author over at CRAFTIE Ladies of Suspense. Check the blog frequently for an interview with heroine Dani Richards, review of Deadly Exposure, and more.

And Gina Conroy has hosted me today with a great interview -- she asks tough questions, folks -- at Portrait of a Writer Interrupted. Gina led my crit group when I was writing Deadly Exposure, so saw those first chapters more than she ever wanted to and still likes the final version. Gotta love that!

Also last week, I read three fantastic books. I'll write full reviews later, but wanted you to know if you're looking for some fresh fiction to try here are three I highly recommend:

The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen: set during the early 1800s in London, this books tells the compelling story of a young lady who finds herself pregnant, disowned, and alone in the world. I wasn't sure I'd get into this one -- hence it sat on my TBR pile for months. But once I picked it up, I could not put it down. The story and writing were compelling. And the author kept me guessing until the very end on how it would turn out.

The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter: This book follows Surrender Bay but stands totally on its own. I'm not even sure characters carry-over. But this book was amazing. A sweet romance that had me rooting so hard for the hero, and grieving with the heroine. Denise pulled on all of my heart strings and brought this book in for a very compelling ending.

And For Better or For Worse by Diann Hunt. This book is a gem. Take a divorce attorney and the owner of a wedding chapel, add in their children who want to get married, and you have a recipe for fun. The sense of humor in this book is great. The romance real. And the characters aren't your normal 20-somethings. This is the first of Diann's books that I've read, and now I understand why everyone raves about her style. This is a great read and fresh addition to romance.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Just in Time to Order Deadly Exposure

Just in time to order Deadly Exposure, use this link and enter coupon code” ”EHQNMOM””to get 10% off your order until May 11, 2008. Now, they're tying it to some holiday called Mother's Day, but I like to think it's a way for you to get my first suspense at a nice discount :-) Speaking of which, here are some reviews I received this week:

No, I did not review my own book. That just felt way too weird. So I asked ACFW President Robin Miller if she'd review Deadly Exposure. If you haven't read any of her books yet, she writes great suspense for Love Inspired Suspense under her pen name Robin Caroll. She graciously agreed to review my book, so here it is...

What's a girl to do when she finds a dead body in the theater box next to her own? Especially when she's a reporter and she owns the story? Follow through and investigate, of course. But it comes at a cost to Dani Richards, and that fee just might be her own life.

Enter Caleb Jamison, the cop assigned to the case. He's determined to protect Dani, but they have a history. A past littered with pain, betrayal, and broken trust. Can he keep Dani safe while protecting his heart?

Dani is a woman torn--the sense of responsibility and loyalty to her aunt, the pain she's endured from the past with Caleb, doing her job, and following up on the story. I felt her inner turmoil as she turned so many corners, only to be faced with more conflict.

Caleb is a changed man from the boy Dani had known years ago, and is determined to prove that. I related to his struggles--work, love, and facing the mistakes of the past.

In Cara Putman's first suspense novel, she proves herself as a writer who can spin twists and turns to keep the reader flipping the pages. I was intrigued by the hero and heroine's past, as well as the suspenseful plot that kept throwing the two flawed but learning characters together. With a strong supporting cast (who I hope to see in future installments), this book is a great read for romantic suspense lovers. Looking for a great vacation read? This is a book I'd recommend you slip into your carry on-but be warned, you'll not want to put it down until you've read the last page, landing or not!

And here's Debra Ullrick's review:

I know this sounds cliché but I couldn’t put, DEADLY EXPOSURE, down. Cara Putman did a great job of transporting me into Dani and Caleb’s world. When certain spine-tingling events happen to Dani, it was if they were happening to me. Many times I held my breath and squirmed in my chair. Plus, my popcorn disappeared at an alarming rate of speed. And I will NEVER look at theatre box seats, theatre ushers, or pizza delivery boys the same way again. In fact, what was in that pizza anyway? Did it have anything to do with Job's disappearance? Or the red puddle on the floor?

Why is Aunt Jayne sprawled all over Dani’s bed when she’s supposed to be in a nursing home?Is she dead or alive? And who put her there? And why?

Poor Renee. Someone wanted her dead. But why? Was she just a good girl gone bad? Or was someone trying to stop her research? Or what?<

Something devastating happened to Dani when she was sixteen. Will she ever recover from it? What about Caleb? Is Caleb really a changed man? Does Dani dare trust him with her life? She couldn't before, so why trust him now?

And last but definitely not least… Is there a price to pay for love? If so, just how costly is it? More than one person finds out.

The answer to all these questions can be found in, DEADLY EXPOSURE by Cara Putman.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Big Picture

(NavPress Publishing Group April 15, 2008)


Jenny B. Jones

Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. The other books in the series are In Between and On The Loose. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.)

Jenny resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis.

Sometimes there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy—and Katie Parker is walking it.

School is winding down for the summer but Katie Parker is having a bad day. After leaving the drive-in, where her imploding love life was the main attraction, Katie arrives home to a big surprise on the Scott's front porch.

Her mother, Bobbie Ann Parker, a former convict and recovering addict, wants to take Katie away from her family, friends, and church. Now Katie's life will be changed by a series of dramatic choices as she struggles to understand what family and home really means.

Katie is forced to walk away from In Between, leaving behind a family who loves her, a town drive-in to save, and a boyfriend who suddenly can’t take his eyes off his ex. When the life her mother promised begins to sink faster than one of Maxine’s stuffed bras, Katie knows she needs to rely on God to keep it together.

But where is he in all this? Can Katie survive a chaotic life with her mother—and one without the Scotts? And if God is there, will he come through before it’s too late?

A Katie Parker Production series offers teen girls real-world fiction balanced by hope and humor. The The Big Picture helps us realize that the difficult chapters in our journey are only part of God's big story for our lives.

You can read the first chapter HERE

I started this book this week and was immediately swept into the story and the conflict. I can't say I read a lot of YA fiction, but if this is what it has become, then I can't wait to read more. I'd heard that Jenny B. Jones was a talented writer, and this book proves it. So if you have a YA girl you'd like to give something relevant to read, here's a great book.

May First Blog Tour

It is May 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:
Finding Hollywood Nobody

Navpress Publishing Group (February 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, Straight Up, Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End

Visit her at her website.


Chapter One

Hollywood Nobody: Sunday, June 4

Well, Nobodies, it's a wrap! Jeremy's latest film, yet another remake of The Great Gatsby, now titled Green Light, has shipped out from location and will be going into postproduction. Look for it next spring in theaters. It may just be his most widely distributed film yet with Annette Bening on board. Toledo Island will never be the same after that wacky bunch filled in their shores.

Today's Hottie Watch: Seth Haas has moved to Hollywood. An obscure film he did in college, Catching Regina's Heels (a five-star film in my opinion), was mentioned on the Today show last week. He was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Hmm. Could it be he'll receive the widespread acclaim he deserves before the release of Green Light? For his sake and the film's, I hope so.

Rehab Alert: I've never hidden the fact that I don't care for bratty actress Karissa Bonano, but she just checked into rehab for a cocaine addiction. Her maternal grandfather, Doug Fairmore, famous in the forties for swashbuckling and digging up clues, made a public statement declaring the Royal Family of Hollywood was "indeed throwing all of our love, support, and prayers behind Karissa." The man must be a thousand years old by now. This isn't Ms. Bonano's first stint in rehab, but let's hope it's her last. Even I'm not too catty to wish her well in this battle. But I'm as skeptical as the next person. In Hollywood, rehab is mostly just a fad.

Today's Quote: "It's a scientific fact. For every year a person lives in Hollywood, they lose two points of their IQ." Truman Capote

Today's Rant: SWAG, or Party Favors. Folks, do you ever wonder what's inside those SWAG bags the stars get? Items which, if sold, could feed a third-world country for a week! And have you noticed how the people who can afford to buy this stuff seem to get it for free? I'm just sayin'. So here's my idea, stars: Refuse to take these high-priced bags o' stuff and gently suggest the advertisers give to a charitable organization on behalf of the movie, the stars, the whoever. Like you need another cell phone.

Today's Kudo: Violette Dillinger will be appearing on the MTV Video Music Awards in August. She told Hollywood Nobody she's going to prove to this crowd you can be young, elegant, decent, and still rock out. Go Violette!

Summer calls. Later!

Monday, September 15, 4:00 a.m.

Maybe I'm looking for the wrong thing in a parent.

I turn over in bed at the insistence of Charley's forefinger poking me in the shoulder. "Please tell me you've MapQuested this jaunt, Charley."

She shakes her tousled head, silhouetted by the yellow light emanating from the RV's bathroom. "You're kidding me right?" She slides off the dinette seat. Charley's been overflowing with relief since she told me the truth about our life: that she's not really my mother, but my grandmother, that somebody's chasing us for way too good of a reason, that my life isn't as boring as I thought. We're still being chased, but Charley can at least breathe more freely in her home on the road now that I know the truth.

Home in this case happens to be a brand-spanking-new Trailmaster RV, a huge step forward from the ancient Travco we used to have, the ancient Travco with a rainbow Charley spread in bright colors over its nose.

"Where to?" Having set my vintage cat glasses, love 'em, on my nose, I scramble my hair into its signature ponytail: messy, curly, and frightening. I can so picture myself in the Thriller video.

"Marshall, Texas."

"East Texas?"

"I guess."

"It is." I shake my head. Charley. I love her, I really do, but when it comes to geography, despite the fact that we've traveled all over the country going to her gigs ever since I can remember, she's about as intelligent as a bottle of mustard. And boy do I know a lot about bottles of mustard. But that was my last adventure.

"If you knew, then why did you ask?" She flips the left side of her long, blonde hair, straighter than Russell Crowe, over her shoulder. Charley's beautiful. Silvery blonde (she uses a cheap rinse to cover up the gray), thin (she's vegan), and a little airy (she's frightened of a lot and tries not to think about anything else that may scare her), she wears all sorts of embroidered vests and large skirts and painted blue jeans. And they're all the real deal, because Charley's an environmentalist and wouldn't dream of buying something she didn't need when what she's got is wearing perfectly well. She calls my penchant for vintage clothing "recycling," and I don't disagree.

"Is this really a gig, Charley, or are we escaping again?"

She shakes her head. "No phone call. I really do have a job."

I feel the thrill of fear inside me, though there's no need right now. Biker Guy almost got me back on Toledo Island. (Yeah, he looks like a grizzled old biker.) To call the guy rough around the edges would be like saying Pam Anderson has had "a little work done."

I've been looking over my shoulder ever since.

But more on that later. We need to get on the road. And I need to get on with my life. I'm so sick of thinking about how things aren't nearly what I'd like them to be.

I mean, do you ever get tired of hearing yourself complain?

I flip up my laptop, log on to the satellite Internet I installed (yes, I am that geeky) and Google directions to Marshall, Texas, from where we are in Theta, Tennessee—actually, on the farm of one of Charley's old art-school friends who gave her some work in advertising for the summer. Charley's a food stylist, which means she makes food look good for the camera. Still cameras, motion picture cameras, video, it doesn't matter. Charley can do it all.

"Oh, we've got plenty of time, Charley. Five hundred and fifty miles and . . . we have to go through Memphis . . ."

My verbal drop-off is a dead giveaway.

"Oh, no, Scotty, we're not going to Graceland again."

The kitsch that is Graceland speaks to me. What can I say?

And you've got to admit, it's starting to look vintage. Now ten years ago . . .

I cross my arms. "Do you have cooking to do on the way?"

Yes, highly illegal to cook in a rolling camper.

"Yeah, I do."

"And do you expect me, an unlicensed sixteen-year-old, to drive?" Again, highly illegal, but Charley's a free spirit. However, she refuses to copy CDs and DVDs, so in that regard, she's more moral than most people. I guess it evens up in the end.


"Then I think I deserve a trip through the Jungle Room."

She rolls her eyes, reaches down to the floor, and throws me my robe. "Oh, all right. Just don't take too long."

"I'll try. So." I look at the screen. "65 to route 40 west. Let's hit it. And we'll have time to stop for breakfast."

Charley shakes her head and plops down on the tan dinette bench. The interior of this whole RV is a nice sandy tan with botanical accents. Tasteful and so much better than the old Travco that looked like a cross between a genie's bottle and the Unabomber cabin. "You're going to eat cheese. Aren't you?"

"I sure am."

And Charley can't say anything, because months ago she told me this was a decision I could make on my own.


"I've rethought the cheese moratorium, baby. I know you're not going to like this, but three months of cheese is enough. I can't imagine what your arteries look like. I think it's time to stop."

"What?" Cheese is my life. "Charley! You can't do this to me."

"It's for your own good."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I am."


"Because summer's over, baby, and we've got to get back to a better way of life."

I could continue to argue, but it won't do any good. Charley acts all hippie and egalitarian, but when push comes to shove, she's the boss. However, I'm great at hiding my cheese . . . and . . . I'm going to convince her eventually.

But still.

"This isn't right, Charley, and you know it. But it's too early to argue. And might I add, you have no idea what it's like to have a teen with real teen issues. You ought to be on your knees thanking God I'm not drinking, smoking, pregnant, or"—I was going to say sneaking out at night, but I've done that, just to get some space—"or writing suicidal poetry on the Internet!"

We stare at each other, then burst into laughter.

"Just humor me this time, baby," she says. "We'll come back to it soon, I promise."

I don't believe her, but I hop into the driver's seat, pull up the brake, throw the TrailMama into drive, and we are off.

Six hours later

I pull through Graceland's gatehouse at ten a.m., park near the back of the compound's cracked, tired parking lot, and change into some crazy seventies striped bell-bottoms, a poet shirt, and Charley's old crocheted, granny-square vest. Normally I go further back in my vintage-wear, but I'm trying to go with the groove that is Graceland.

I kiss Charley's cheek. "I'll be back by noon."

"When will that put us in Marshall?"

"By six thirty."

"Because I'm not sure where the shoot is."

"Please. Marshall's small. Jeremy and company will make a big splash no matter where they set up. Besides, growing up around this, I have a nose for it."

She awards me one of her big smiles. "You're somethin', baby. I forget that sometimes." She puts her arms around me, squeezes, pulls back, then smacks me lightly on my behind. "Tell Elvis I said hello."

"Oh, I will. He's one of the groundskeepers now, you know."

I've seen computer-generated pictures of what he would look like now, in his seventies. Scary.

I jump down from the RV, head across the parking lot, over the small bridge leading into the ticketing complex and walk by Elvis's jets, including the Lisa Marie. Gotta love anything with that name. Don't know why. Just has a nice ring to it.

Banners proclaim, "Elvis Is."

Is what? Dead? A legend? What? Because he isn't "izzing" as far as I'm concerned. Present tense, people! If the person's not alive, "is" can only be followed by a few options: Buried up in the memorial garden. Rotting in his casket. Missed by his family and friends. Not exactly banner copy, mind you.

Still, you've got to admit the name Elvis wreaks of cool. Perhaps the sign should read, "Elvis Is . . . A Really Cool Name."

But it's not nearly as cool as my name. You see, my real mother loved the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. And that's my name: Francis Scott Fitzgerald Dawn. Only Dawn's not my actual last name. I don't know what my real last name is. My real first name is Ariana. Being on the run, Charley renamed us to protect our identity. So she honored my mother by naming me after Mom's favorite novelist. More on that later too.

It sounds fun, traveling on the road from film shoot to film shoot, never settling down in one place for too long, but honestly, it's very sad.

I always knew Charley lived with a sadness down deep, and when I found out why this spring, her sadness became mine. See, my dad is dead and my mother, Charley's daughter Babette, is too. Or we think she must be, because she disappeared under questionable circumstances and never came back. Learn that when you're fifteen and see where you land.

When I thought Charley was my mother, I had such high hopes for who my father might be. Al Pacino was number one in the ranking. Don't ask.

Okay, Elvis, here we go. Let's you and me be "taking care of business."

I hand over my money to the lady behind the reservations counter. I called thirty minutes ago on my cell phone, compliments of my mother's friend Jeremy, and reserved a spot.

"You'll be on the first tour."

Yes! More time amid the shag carpeting and the gold records. And the jumpsuits. Can't forget the jumpsuits. I want a cape too.

The gift shop calls to me. Confession: I love gift shops. They even smell sparkly. Key chains dangling, saying, "You can take me with you wherever you go!" Mugs with the Saint Louis Gateway Arch or the Grand Ole Opry promising an even better cup of coffee. Earrings that advertise you've been somewhere. That's exactly what I choose while I wait for the tour, a little pair of dangly red guitars with the words Elvis Presley in gold script on the bodies, and how in the world they put that on so small is beyond me. See, gift shops can even be miraculous if you take your time and look.

A voice over the loudspeaker announces my tour number, so I stand in line. By myself. Just me in a group of twenty or so.

Okay, here is where it gets hard to be me. I know I should be thankful for my free-spirited life. But especially now that I know my parents are dead, it feels empty all of a sudden. I shouldn't be standing in line at Graceland alone. My mother and I should be giggling behind our hands at the man nearby who's actually grown a glorious pair o' mutton-chop sideburns, slicked back his salt-and-pepper curls, and shrugged his broad shoulders into a leather jacket. Really, right? My father, who was an FBI agent the mob shot right in a warehouse in Baltimore, would shake his head like a dad in a sixties TV show and laugh at his girls.

We'd get on the bus like I'm doing now, each of us putting on our tour headphones and hanging the little blue recorders around our necks in anticipation of the glory that is Elvis.

The driver welcomes us as he shuts the hydraulic doors of the little tour bus with its clean blue upholstery, a bus in which an assisted-living home might haul its residents to the mall.

It smells new in here, and my gross-out antennae aren't vibrating in the least like they do when I go into an old burger joint and the orange melamine booth hasn't been scrubbed since the place opened in 1987.

In my fantasy, my dad would sit beside me. And Mom, just across the aisle, holding onto the seatback in front of her, would look at me as we pass through those famed musical gates, because she would have introduced me to Elvis music. According to Charley, my vintage sentimentalism comes from my mom. I've learned a little about her this summer.

Charley said, "She'd wear my cousin's old poodle skirt and listen to Love Me Tender over and over again while writing in her diary." She became a respected journalist, loved books as much as I do. I pat my book in my backpack, looking forward to tonight when I can cuddle into my loft and get into one of Fitzgerald's glittering worlds. "She was different from me, Scotty. I tried to change the world through protest. Your mother wanted to build something completely different and much better." She sighed. "All my generation could do, I guess, was tear apart. It's going to take our children to put the pieces back together. Babette was a very careful person. Very purposeful."

If it drove my freewheeling grandmother crazy, she doesn't let on.

"I could try to describe how much she loved you, baby. But I don't think I could begin to do her devotion to you justice. I was so proud of her, for how much she loved and gave away. She was amazing."

So in May I found out she existed, the same day I found out she is dead, or most likely dead. And now I'm going into Graceland alone, truly an orphan. Who wants to be an orphan?

We disembark from the bus—me, Elvis Lite, some folks from a Spanish-speaking country, and a lot of older people. I miss Grammie and Grampie right now. More later on them, too. And you'll get to meet them. Like the waters of the Gulf Stream, we seem to travel in the same general direction. I spent a week with them this summer in Tennessee. Yeah, we did Nashville right. They're loaded.

Standing beneath the front porch, my gaze skates up and down the soaring white pillars and comes to rest on the stone lions that guard the steps. My father was a lion. That's why he ended up with a bullet in his chest. Speaking in very broad terms, the story goes as follows:

Dad, undercover, worked his way into a portion of the mob, or mafia if you prefer, that was heavily financing the campaign of a Maryland gubernatorial candidate. When they discovered him, they shot him on site, in a warehouse in the Canton neighborhood of downtown Baltimore. My mother watched, gasped, and a chase ensued. She hid in a friend's gallery, called Charley and told her to keep watching me. (Charley had kept me the night before because my mom and dad had some glamorous function to attend.) And then she disappeared.

The Graceland tour recorder tells me to look to my right into the beautiful white living room with peacock stained-glass windows leading into the music room. This room really isn't so bad, I've got to admit. A picture of Elvis's dad hangs on the wall. He really loved his parents.

I've toured this house at least seven times before, and I'll tell you this, Elvis's love for his family soaked into the walls. A girl that lives in a camper, has dead parents, and is being chased by someone from the mob who knows my grandmother knows what went down, well, she can feel these things.

Charley thinks someone's trying to kill us. This guy is always trying to find us, but Charley's really great at evasion. She said the politician who won the governor's seat all those years ago just announced his candidacy for president and—oh, GREAT!—he's probably trying to make sure nothing comes back to haunt him and sent Biker Guy to finish off the entire matter.

The thing is, he seems to be after me too. And what in the world would I have to do with all of that?

I'll bet Charley's back in that camper shaking in her shoes because I'm over here by myself; I'll bet she's figuring out more ways to be utterly and overly protective of me. I wouldn't be surprised if she's wondering whether locking a kid in an RV is child abuse.

But I love Charley. I really do. I know she's scared back there, and despite the fact that I would be no real help if Biker Guy caught us, I can't leave her there so frightened and alone for long.

Elvis dear, I can only stay a little while. So love me tender, love me sweet, and for the sake of all that's decent, don't step on my blue suede shoes.

I hurry past the bedroom of Elvis's parents, decorated in shades of ivory and purple, very nice, and through the dining room—a little seventies tackiness I'll admit—into the kitchen with dark brown cabinetry and the ghosts of a million grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, then on down into the basement. Okay, I admit, I've got to just stand for a second in the TV room and admire the man's ability to watch three TVs at once on that huge yellow couch with the sparkly pillows.

I shoot through the billiard room, which is, honestly, truly beautiful with its fabric-lined walls and ceiling, up the back steps and into the Jungle Room, probably Graceland's most famous room. Green shag carpet overlays the floor and the ceiling, and heavily carved, Polynesian-style furniture is arranged around a rock-wall waterfall at the end of the room. It really defies the imagination, folks. Google Jungle Room Graceland and see what I mean.

The second floor of Graceland is closed off to the public because Elvis died up there. On the toilet. Wise decision on the part of Priscilla I'd say.

Out the door, into the office building, down to the trophy hall, I whiz through all the gold and platinum records, the costumes, the awards, and even a wall full of checks he'd written for charity. According to my recorder, Elvis was an active community member in Memphis. And he obviously didn't care what race or religion people were. He supported Jewish organizations, Catholic, Baptist. Pretty cool.

Of course, this recorder isn't going to tell of the dark side of the man. But Elvis Isn't, despite what the banners say. So why drag a dead man through the mud?

I hurry through the racquetball court, more gold records, the infamous jumpsuits, back outside to the pool and memorial garden where Elvis has been laid to rest.

An older lady cries into a handkerchief. I don't ask why.

Good-bye Elvis. Thanks for the tour. Maybe one day I'll do something great too.

A few minutes later . . .


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