Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Red Mom, Blue Mom

For those of us who are more than a tad tired of the Mommy Wars...here's a clever story and reading by my online friend Dena Dyer. Enjoy. And remember that though we may disagree on politics, what really matters at the end of the day is what we believe about God, Jesus and our faith.

Hope you can laugh with me!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Book of the Year Award



Even those of us who like to think on our feet lose our words at times :-) Thanks, Janna, for capturing this. The only thing that would have made the moment more special would have been sharing it with Eric. Next time!

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Promise Kept

That's the working title of my next book, which is due October 7th. In part because of the ACFW conference, I've got a LOT of words to write and very few days. So if you don't see much of me here in the next week and a half, it's because I have to make every word count. Please pray that time stands still, and that the words flow. I have the story in my head. And I really like my characters -- through that awful first several chapter angst of thinking the only thing I write is drivel. Thank you, Lord! But I covet your prayers as I write like crazy to get this tale on paper...er computer screen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Financial Bailout thought

Here's a link to Dave Ramsey's thoughts on the government bail out and an alternative. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of hearing Senator Shelby and others say, "it's not my fault." That may very well be true, but let's look for a solution rather than talk in front of the cameras. This plan may be one step in the right direction. Makes sense to me.

More Pictures

a Here it is...the photo of me with the Book of the Year award. Can you see the shell-shocked look in my eye? I really didn't expect to win. Hoped to -- yes. Expected to -- not in this lifetime!

And here are Rebecca and Quinn at the Mall of America during the booksigning. They are five weeks apart, and absolutely adorable at this stage. Very fun!

Here is a photo of Mary Connealy and me. Now if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love her books Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon. They are a hoot! Such fun and unexpected romances. That's why it was such an honor to tie with her for first place in the short historical category. I would love to write like her when I grow up!

One of the things I love about the ACFW conference is getting to meet the writers that I email back and forth during the year. This year Janna and I had such fun meeting Julie Lessman. Again, you know I've really enjoyed her books A Passion Most Pure and A Passion Redeemed. Julie is such a dynamo in person. I swear she's never met a stranger. And she lights up a room. She is delightful. It was so fun hanging out a bit with her.

This last photo is Rebecca at the airport on Sunday. She's getting a head start on reading great fiction. The gals we were waiting with: Sharon Lavy and Roseanna ( just spaced on her last name) both convinced me that this book by James Scott Bell has got to jump to the top of my to be read pile! You can never start them too young on reading!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh

Saturday night Tamara Leigh won the Book of the Year award for Splitting Harriet, one of my favorite books from last year. This week I've been reading her latest release, Faking Grace. Faking Grace is a delightful read, that is more than chick lit. As with Perfecting Kate and Splitting Harriett, Leigh dives below the surface to point out flaws and challenges in faith -- this time tackling cultural Christianity. But unlike some who too easily slide into a preachy mode, Leigh writes with a style that leaves me wincing as I laugh because Grace's thoughts and actions can mirror mine too closely.

This book is filled with real-life characters facing real-live challenges. Embrace faith or compromise? Act like a Christian or actually live it? Pick up this book the next time you are looking for a novel that entertains while making you think. I have a feeling I'll return to this one over and over and think about it long after I close the cover.

Synopsis:
All she wants is a job. All she needs is religion. How hard can it be?

Maizy Grace Stewart dreams of a career as an investigative journalist, but her last job ended in disaster when her compassion cost her employer a juicy headline. A part-time gig at a Nashville newspaper might be her big break.

A second job at Steeple Side Christian Resources could help pay the bills, but Steeple Side only hires committed Christians. Maizy is sure she can fake it with her Five-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith–a plan of action that includes changing her first name to Grace, buying Jesus-themed accessories, and learning “Christian Speak.” If only Jack Prentiss, Steeple Side’s managing editor and two-day-stubbled, blue-jean-wearing British hottie wasn’t determined to prove her a fraud.

When Maizy’s boss at the newspaper decides that she should investigate–and expose–any skeletons in Steeple Side’s closet, she must decide whether to deliver the dirt and secure her career or lean on her newfound faith, change the direction of her life, and pray that her Steeple Side colleagues–and Jack–will show her grace.

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

“Tamara Leigh takes her experienced romance hand and delights readers with Chick-Lit that sparkles and characters who come alive.” - Kristin Billerbeck, author of The Trophy Wives Club


“A delightful, charming book! Faking Grace has romance, truth, and a dollop of insanity, making Tamara Leigh a permanent addition to my list of favorite authors. Enjoy!”
- Ginger Garrett, author of In the Shadow of Lions and Beauty Secrets of the Bible


“Tamara Leigh does a fabulous job looking at the faults, the love, the hypocrisy, and the grace of Christians in a way that’s entertaining and fun. Maizy Grace is a crazy character I couldn’t help but like. I loved this book and highly recommend it!”
- Camy Tang, author of Sushi for One? and Only Uni

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ACFW Mall of America Booksigning

Here are some photos from the booksigning! First up is Missy Tippens. I love what she did with her table. Missy Tippens at her lovely table.Here are Karen Ball and Angie Hunt after their panel. We ran panels in both the Best Buy Rotunda and the Bloomingdale's Court. Thanks to the authors who willingly spoke and drew people to our signing!



Here we've got Susan May Warren and Jill Elizabeth Nelson talking to folks and signing. And then there's John Olson handing out Dinosaur poop -- perfect for Fossil Hunter.

And this last photo is one of me with Pam Williams. Pam and her daughter flew into Minneapolis and hung around the conference bookstore for a day meeting authors. I didn't put it together at the time, but I know we've corresponded. They weren't able to stay for the booksigning -- what dedicated readers to come all that way just to meet authors! Thanks, Pam, for sending me the photo!

I hope some one took a photo of me at the booksigning!
I may post more later, but the event was wonderful! Now back to writing :-) I've got 40,000 words to write and edit before October 7! Please pray for me.

For more photos be sure to stop by Karen Ball's blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Canteen Dreams Wins Book of the Year Category!!!!


I was going to add a lovely picture of my award, but that will have to wait. I thought I successfully downloaded Janna's pictures onto my computer, but can't find them anywhere so must have done something wrong.

Anyway, last night was the Awards banquet at the ACFW conference. It was so much fun to watch my friends win awards. In the first category, debut author, Robin Carrol placed second and Camy Tang won. Sushi for One is a wonderful book, so I am so pleased for Camy! Sharon Hinck won the sci-fi, allegory category with Restorer's Son which was a thrill to see. She is such a dear friend and fabulous writer!

We finally got to short historical -- I think it was the last category called! I was beginning to be afraid I would have to leave the banquet to take care of Rebecca before they'd reach my category. I didn't want to miss my category, or in the alternative, have someone think I was leaving because I was a poor sport!

There were six finalists in short historical, and they are all great writers, so I was incredibly honored simply to place. There was a corner of my heart that hoped I placed, but I knew that was a long shot. Ronie Kendig read off the third place winner Kelly Eileen Hake and then the second place winner Vickie McDonough. By then I was convinced I hadn't placed, and was ready to celebrate with whoever did. Then Ronie said, "The first line of the first - first place winner is "She hated attending dances alone. ..." I didn't hear another thing she said!!!!

My editor, JoAnne Simmons, met me on stage. I wish Eric could have been there to celebrate with me since I wouldn't be writing books now without his prodding and support. But my mom and sister were there. It was so fun to honor Mom for all the years of homeschooling in that way.

My friend Mary Connealy placed first as well. It is such an honor to share the award with her. She received the contract for that book in front of everyone at the 2005 conference. I remember thinking someday that could be me, and it was in 2006. How fun that we shared the award for best short historical!

Look for more about the conference this week. For now, I'm going to bed :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fireproof the Movie and the Love Dare


Interviews at the Fireproof Screening from Gina Conroy on Vimeo.

My friend Gina Conroy had the opportunity to attend the screening for Fireproof this summer, and the above is her interview with the lead actress and movie producer. It was fun to get this email from her, because on Sunday our small group decided that we are going to work through Love Dare as a group this fall. We also talked about going to the movie opening weekend, which is September 26.

The Love Dare is a book that walks couples through specific projects they can do for 40 days to turn love into action. A challenge that every marriage can use no matter how new or experienced, how troubled or blissful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sweet September Blog Tour

I hate that the tour is here and I haven't had time to read this book yet. It's next on my list and actually traveled to ACFW with me. But, I did want to let you know about a contest Tricia is running and about the book. I'll post a review when I've read the book. For now, let me say the series is set in Nebraska -- the location for all great books LOL -- and she's interviewed my mom for the latest book she just turned in - -all about growing up in Nebraska in the 60s. It was a fascinating interview to read!

Blog Tour Contest: Since Sweet September is all about family, Tricia wants to meet yours. Leave a comment on the Tricia’s blog tour post sharing who your favorite family member is and why and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win William-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Harvest Loaf Pan & Quick Bread Set. (I’ve attached a photo. It’s super cute…and would be great for fall treats!)



About the book: Harvest time at Heather Creek Farm is an exciting time, but the kids don't seem to be getting into the spirit. One day while he's wandering through the fields, Christopher stumbles across an old piece of metal buried in the ground. He doesn't know what it is, but he hides it in the shed.

That night, the garden by the house is uprooted. Who could have done such a thing? Charlotte is determined to find out, but is distracted when she gets news that Sam is failing school. The sullen teen is indifferent and won't study. He starts spending a lot of time with Pete. Though she loves her son dearly, Pete never finished high school, and Charlotte is afraid he'll encourage Sam to do the same. How can she help him get back on track?

A gripping story that examines the Stevenson family's history as well as its shaky future, Sweet September will bring you deeper into the loving community of Bedford and the deep ties of love that bind this broken family together. As they forge new connections, you'll be entertained, inspired, and reminded that God's grace can make all things new.

About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twelve books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana.

The joys *and challenges* of writing

I learned wonderful news for a friend earlier this week. She's made it through pub board at a publishing house -- that means she's one half step away from a contract. This is HUGE news. FANTASTIC news.

And my humaness is showing.

I'm a wee bit green.

Make that Jolly Green Giant green.

I am so happy for her. But I would love to write for the same house. This is a great opportunity for her and I know she'll make the most of it and be a success for that house.

This is the part of writing I don't like as much. It shows me all over again how much of me there is still left to kill. Ugh. So until my day comes, I'm going to focus on how excited I am for her. And count down the days until her title is available :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greetings from Minneapolis


Rebecca and I arrived about an hour ago. She's happy to be off the plane. :-) though she did sleep through both flights. Am I a lucky mom or what!

It'll be a busy week, but I'm thrilled to be here. Meeting at the MOA in half an hour, then dinner and a booksigning. Tomorrow is the operating and advisory board meetings. Stay tuned for more details. Thursday the fun officially begins. Stay tuned for more details.

Minneapolis bound

Rebecca and I are boarding our plane today for our flight to Minneapolis. I land around 2:30, and head straight to the Mall of America for a site meeting. Then to the hotel so I can be ready to leave for dinner and a booksigning at the Maple Grove Northwestern Bookstore. Oh, yeah, we're leaving at 6. 

Thank goodness the board meeting tomorrow doesn't start till 10 a.m. I can sleep in -- if Rebecca lets me :-) Then in operating and advisory board meetings all day. And then the race really begins with the conference and Mall of America booksigning. 

If you think of it, pray for me. I've got a lot on my plate, but I love serving in this way. Please pray that travel goes smoothly for everyone and that the conference is a blessing to those who come. Also pray that the right people would be at the booksigning. Thousands would be great -- LOL -- but if I have one divine appointment I know the time and the hours and hours of effort will be worth it. 

And Saturday night at the awards banquet, Canteen Dreams is up as a finalist in the Book of the Year -- short historical category. :-)
If I don't post much the balance of the week, you know why! 

Monday, September 15, 2008

Things that make you go UGHHHH!

Our cat has become quite adept at what cats do. As I write this he is munching on something or other that he caught. Don't ask what, because I am SOOO not going to check. Eric cleaned up parts a couple days ago. Jonathan got a biology lesson. UGH! His first statement, "It was gross! But let me tell you all about it!"

I'm laughing as I gross out right now, because Midnight has strategically placed whatever it is he has nose length outside Jessie's range. Jessie, our happy-go-lucky dog, is watching with rapt attention. Here's the dialogue I imagine taking place right now.

J: whatcha got?
M: wouldn't you like to know. (Smugly satisfied at earning his keep for another day.)
J: Come on! whatcha got?
M: if you don't know, there's nothing I can do to help you, moron. (Insert proper feline superiority)
J: tongue wagging, head cocked. Why you eating it?
M: It's what cat's do. catch kill eat. 
J: Hmm. I eat what my masters provide. No running, catching, or killing involved.
    (Cocks head again.) "Who's the moron now?" (happy-go-lucky grin firmly in place)

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Reader is Born!



Here are a couple fun photos of Eric and the kids from this week. Eric is such a phenomenal dad. The kids are blessed to have him. Rebecca turned four months old this week. She's sitting very well with minimal support. I can't believe how big she's getting already. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Minneapolis Booksignings

In addition to the HUGE booksigning at the Mall of America on Saturday, September 20, there will be multiple signings at the Northwestern Bookstores in that area next week. Here are the details:

  • Judy Baer and Jill Elizabeth Nelson will sign books on Saturday, September 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Riverdale Crossing, 13040 Riverdale Dr., Coon Rapids, MN, and from 2:30-4 p.m. at Ridge Square North, 13029 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka
  • Cathy Marie Hake and Julie Klassen will sign on Monday, Sept. 15, from 3-5 p.m. at Valley Creek Mall, 1750 Weir Drive, Woodbury, MN; Tuesday Sept. 16 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at Arbor Lakes Mall, 12985 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, MN; and from 6-8 p.m. at Cobblestone Court, 14150 Nicollet Ave., S., Burnsville, MN 55337
  • Robin Caroll, Rachel Hauck, Susan May Warren, and I will sign books Tuesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. at Arbor Lakes Mall, 12985 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, MN
  • Patti Hill and Sharon Hinck will sign books Tuesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. at Yorkdale Shoppes, 6819 York Ave., South, Edina
  • Colleen Coble, Gail Gaymer Martin, and Deborah Raney, will sign books Wednesday, September 17 from 11 to noon at the Arbor Lakes Mall, 12985 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, MN and from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at Yorkdale Shoppes, 6819 York Ave., South, Edina
  • Elizabeth Musser will sign books and participate in a bookclub meeting Wednesday, September 17 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Arbor Lakes Mall, 12985 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, MN
  • Brandilyn Collins will sign books on Sunday, September 21, from 2-4 at Arbor Lakes Mall, 12985 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, MN
If you love Christian fiction, this is the week to be in Minneapolis for booksignings!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: In the Shadow of Lions

In the Shadow of the Lions is a book that will sweep you back in time to the days of Henry the VIII. I'm a huge history buff, and remember reading so many biographies as a teen on the wives of Henry and then on his daughters. There's something captivating about royalty!

As I read this book I could smell the odors of London - Ugh, and see the setting. It was richly drawn in all its glory and brutality. This book reveals a portion of the history of getting the Bible into the hands of plow boys and fulfilling the vision of a man named William Tyndale, but who was known as William Hutchins at that time.

There is a fine line in this book between fiction, fictionalized biography and history. What I love about it, is the thirst to know which parts were true and which weren't will drive me back to the biographies. The what if that starts it all is intriguing: What if Anne Boleyn was a martyr?

Finally, there is a over-arching story that ties the chapters together. It was strong enough on its own to keep me flipping pages to see what the Scribe would reveal next. And the end to that story was quite satisfying!

Here's more:



"I am the first writer, The Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne, and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world."

So begins the narration of one such angel in this sweeping historical tale set during the reign of England's Henry VIII. It is the story of two women, their guardian angels, and a mysterious, subversive book ... a book that outrages some, inspires others, and launches the Protestant Reformation.

The devout Anne Boleyn catches the eye of a powerful king and uses her influence to champion an English translation of the Bible. Meanwhile, Rose, a broken, suicidal woman of the streets, is moved to seek God when she witnesses Thomas More's public displays of Christian charity, ignorant of his secret life spent eradicating the Bible, persecuting anyone who dares read it.

Historic figures come alive in this thrilling story of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, angels and mortals ... and the sacred book that will inspire you anew. Fans of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury will love Ginger's intriguing combination of rich character development, artful settings, and inspiring historical insights.

If you would like to read an excerpt from In The Shadow Of Lions, go HERE


Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.

Her releases include Beauty Secrets of the Bible, (September 11, Thomas Nelson) based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets.

A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living.

In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

Palin as Rosie

Arlette Figdore of York, Pa., right, holds a campaign sign with an image of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as "Rosie the Riveter" at a campaign rally in Lancaster, Pa.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
September 9, 2008

Isn't this photo awesome?!? Love the adaptation to the classic World War Two poster. I saw this in the LA Times online.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sing with Me... God is in Control...

The last two weeks God has been hammering me with the reminder that He is in control.

You see I'm in charge of a 125 author booksigning at the Mall of America on September 20. As ACFW's publicity officer, I was in charge of publicity for the event. And as a volunteer at the conference the last three years, I helped with the booksigning. It's always been a big event, but it feels like this year is bigger.

First, we've moved the event outside the conference hotel. But not only did we move it out, we moved it to the largest mall in America.

Second, authors' expectations seemed to sky rocket the moment I announced the venue last year at the conference banquet.

Third, we're partnering with Barnes & Noble to run the conference bookstore...and we've never done that before.

So this year, I'm responsible for all these firsts for the ACFW conference. It's been a daunting task, but one I've been happy to do, because it will help the visibility of Christian fiction in so many ways.

But let's say working with others when there are so many outcomes that I can't control is ... stressful. The last two weeks were terrible as the conference bears down on us, but many loose threads still needed to be addressed. But those threads were so far outside of my control I almost couldn't breath.

In the last two days I've spent hours on the phone, and I can now say they've all come together. I kept saying I knew God was in control, but I had a hard time relaxing and truly trusting Him. I kept asking people to pray, because it had reached a point there was nothing else we could do. I have a feeling God kept pushing the answers out, so that I would have to trust. To realize there was nothing I could control, but He had it all in the palm of His hand.

Will there be other emergencies? Undoubtedly. I'm working with 120+ other people plus several companies. Something will come up. But will it all work out. Absolutely. Not because I'm wonderful, but because God is. And this is a chance to introduce people to him through stories.

It's going to be a great event. And I really hope you can join us if you're in the Minneapolis area. It's from 1-3 p.m. in the Best Buy Rotunda, a hallway, and the Bloomingdale's Court. Panels with authors will run throughout the event. If you love Christian fiction, this is the place to be.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Political Side Note

Couple thoughts as the presidential election picks up speed.

According to this article, Gallup polls indicate that Obama's post convention bounce in the numbers has been erased. Don't worry - -whichever side you're on -- it's historical that both candidates get 1 5-6 point bounce. But this race is heating up.

Also, Obama admitted this week he may have been too flip when saying determining when life begins is above his pay-grade. You can read the article here. I know that answer had a direct impact on my vote. Many issues are important. But life will always be the critical one to me. If we can't protect human life, much else doesn't matter.

And I found this article on Sarah Palin in the NY Times interesting.

It's going to be a fun two months! Have I mentioned I'm getting excited?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Penny's Project

My friend Sharon Hinck's latest book Stepping Into Sunlight releases this month. You can learn more about the book and read the first chapter here, but I'll tell you what you think after I finish it. I started it this weekend when I had a few minutes to myself on the treadmill. It was delightful -- both the time jogging and the book.

But what I wanted to highlight today was a project Sharon has started that is challenging me. She's calling it Penny's Project. I'm calling it challenging. Penny, the main character in the book, makes a commitment to take small steps of kindness each day. And Sharon's blogging this month with ideas each day. I've pasted her first post below (with permission), but for more small steps of kindness, check out Penny’s Project blog, where people are sharing ideas and experiences.

September 1 - Kindness in An Email
I'll try to post an idea each day in September - our Penny's Project month.

If I don't keep up with a new one each day, I hope these will be supplemented by great ideas by all of you!!!

Please comment about small acts of kindness that you have done, or plan to do, or that have been gifted to you.

Day one, we're starting with something VERY easy. Not costly, not scary or difficult, no sacrifice required.

Send an email to someone whom God brings to mind.

Sounds like a tiny, not-highly-meaningful act. BUT there have been days that a loving, genuine, personal, encouraging note from a friend in my email box TOTALLY helped me through a dark day.

I'm NOT referring to jokes and cartoons and group emails that are forwarded around and clutter our boxes. I'm also not counting a friendly affirmation included along with a request. I mean a pure, personal, encouraging and kind note for no other purpose than to let someone know you care about them.

Lord,
guide us to a name...then guide our words.
Help us pour out our love, support, and tender regard,
and hit "send" with a prayer on our lips for you to bless the friend who will receive our message. Amen.

Let me know how it goes!
And continue to invite your friends to visit this site and join us in Penny's Project - sharing a small step of kindness with a new person each day!

His,
Sharon

Don't you love Sharon's heart! I've sent several notes in the last 24 hours. What will you do to spread the light of Christ through kindness? Let's love on others just because God created them in His image.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Great cozy mysteries

Do you love cozy mysteries? Then I have to tell you about this contest some friends are running for 24 cozies from Heartsong Presents Mysteries. Click over here. Mainly Mysteries runs lots of great interviews with authors, but this contest alone is worth popping over for. And they're selecting the winner on October 1st, so be sure to head over. And if you win, you'll share right :-) I mean, 24 is a lot of books for one person to read. Sort of :-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Review: Bon Appetit


I loved this book! In fact, I'm going back to buy book one... this book stands completely on its own, though it's the second in the series.

Bon Appetit is a delightful story about a young woman chasing her dreams -- all the way across the ocean. Lexi Stuart lands in France to attend chef school so that she can become a pastry chef. While she attends school, she also works at a family-owned set of bakeries.

The book is filled with challenges for Lexi, and she's not your perfect heroine. She has flaws, but a wonderful perspective and sense of humor. This is the best of chick lit.

As she works her way through school in a strange culture, she is lonely. The differences between French and American culture comes through. I felt like I was back in France wandering the streets of charming towns. And feeling the exact same aloneness that Lexi did as she wandered through a museum on her own.

Lexi is resilient, and fights her way through the hard decisions. She milks the experience for what it's worth, even as she wonders what God has for her when school closes. Romance seems possible, but she makes the difficult choices. And the book doesn't conclude the series -- at all -- but the ending was so satisfying.

I can't wait to read more of this author's books -- she's become a new favorite -- and I have high hopes I'll enjoy future books as much as I did this one.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Battery and New Life

Last week I bit the bullet.

Eric can tell you how incredibly conservative I am when it comes to spending money. I hate to spend money over a certain threshold. But last week I had to.

My laptop battery has consistently tanked over the last six months. When I got the computer a couple years ago, it had this awesome 4 hour battery life. Last week, I literally had less than 13 minutes from taking the plug out to the computer shutting down.

You should have seen me shuffling chairs to get access to a socket at gymnastics. I felt tethered -- and not to a lifeline.

But I HATED the thought of spending the money Dell wanted for a replacement battery -- especially when all the reviews stunk. If I'm shelling out that kind of moolah, I want to know it's going to work.

Last week I was desperate, so Eric found a local place, where I got a battery for half the price Dell wanted -- still more than I wanted to pay but much better. Now I have a new lease on life. Up to 5 -- read em -- 5 glorious hours cord free. YEAH!

Made me think about other areas of my life. Sometimes I have to be willing to make painful investments of time and money to get a charge. God has been dealing with me, convicting me that the relationship I have with Him isn't as deep and personal as He'd like. Frankly, I'd like more, too. But it will require an investment of more time. And time where I'm not checking off the box.

I want more. But I have to be willing to put more in. As I do, He is so faithful to draw near. To meet with me. To make the Bible come to life with fresh manna that I need today.

Praying God will help you plug into Him today!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Review: Back to Life


Lindsey realized when she married Ron, a man 17 years her senior, that the odds were he’d see heaven before her, but she never expected to be a widow at 35. There’s too much of life left for her to just sit around in mourning. But she can’t seem to kick start the rest of her life.

That is until she gets some help from Ron’s first wife, Jane, who shows up unexpectedly at her door one day as the executor of her husband’s estate. Jane is everything Lindsey’s not… independent, stubborn… and a lot older. Plus she has one surprise after another… including a son named Ron Jr. (she insists he’s not “really” Ron’s son). But an unlikely friendship develops as each woman begins to reevaluate what is really important, and owns up to the mistakes they’ve made in the past.

Told in the alternating voices of Jane and Lindsey, and with the return of many of the witty characters of The Trophy Wives Club, this book is a lighthearted, relatable read for when life goes in a direction you never planned. With faith and friends, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

I was so excited to get Back to Life in the mail. Kristin simply doesn't write fast enough for me :-) Lindsey was one of the strong characters in the Trophy Wives Club. Here her life has fallen apart and she's unable to put the pieces back together. Then her husband's first wife lands on her doorstep. This book flows seamlessly back and forth between Lindsey's and Jane's perspectives. It's so easy to tell who's telling the story because they are so different. Yet at foundational levels they each are unwilling to face the past and move forward.

Lindsey needs to move beyond her husband's death. She needs a purpose. Often I want to slap people like this upside the head and point them in a direction. Um, I don't think I've had many aimless moments in my life. But because I could see what was going on in Lindsey's mind, I cared about her struggles to find herself.

Jane has run from her past for more than thirty years. Now her ex has sent her to confront her issues. Even in death he controls her actions. In Lindsey she sees everything she isn't. Their interactions are filled with humor and misunderstanding that leads to more. In reality, they are very much alike and need each other.

Haley is back -- and brings a flash of sparkle and fun to it. And Bette brings her wisdom to the pages. Then there's Ronnie's son who isn't -- Lindsey isn't sure what to do about anything in her life. But with the help of her friends, she's pulled back to life.

If you would like to read an excerpt of chapter 1 of Back To Life, go HERE. I can't wait for the next installment.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm Done! and First Chapter

Late last night or early this morning depending on your perspective, I typed the last word in the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law. Yahoo!!!!! This morning I'm reading the last five and editign before emailing them to my editors -- 15 days before deadline! YAHOOOOOOOO! Nothing like two more deadlines staring me in the face to keep me moving :-)

Now here's this month's first chapter. I haven't had a chance to read this book, though it's sitting on my shelf waiting its turn. It looks like a good book. But I'm wrapping up a couple others that I REALLY enjoyed. I'll post on them later this week :-)


It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his latest book's FIRST chapter!

and his book:

NavPress Publishing Group (August 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Don Locke is an illustrator and graphic artist for NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has worked as a freelance writer and illustrator for more than thirty years. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Susan. The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name, prequel to The Reluctant Journey of David Connors, is Don's second novel.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Preface

Until recently my early childhood memories weren’t readily available for recollection. Call it a defective hard drive. They remained a mystery and a void—a midwestern landscape of never-ending pitch-blackness where I brushed up against people and objects but could never assign them faces or names, much less attach feelings to our brief encounters.

But through a miraculous act of divine grace, I found my way back home to discover the child I’d forgotten, the boy I’d abandoned supposedly for the good of us both. There he sat beneath an oak tree patiently awaiting my return, as if I’d simply taken a day-long fishing trip. This reunion of spirits has transformed me into someone both wiser and more innocent, leaving me to feel both old and young.

And with this new gift of recollection, my memories turn to that boy and to the summer of 1960, when the winds of change blew across our rooftops and through the screen doors, turning the simple, manageable world of my suburban neighborhood into something unfamiliar, something uncomfortable. Those same winds blew my father and me apart.


One

Route 666

With a gentle shake of my shoulders, a kiss on my cheek, and the words It’s time whispered by my mom, I woke at five thirty in the morning to prepare for my newspaper route. Careful not to wake my older brother, Bobby, snoozing across the room, I slipped out of bed and stumbled my way into the hallway and toward the bathroom, led only by the dim glow of the nightlight and a familiarity with the route.

There on the bathroom floor, as usual, my mother had laid my clothes out in the shape of my body, my underwear layered on top. You’re probably wondering why she did this. It could have been that she severely underestimated my intelligence and displayed my clothes in this fashion in case there was any doubt on my part as to which articles of clothing went where on my body. She didn’t want to face the public humiliation brought on by her son walking out of the house wearing his Fruit of the Loom undies over his head. Or maybe her work was simply the result of a sense of humor that I missed completely. Either way, I never asked.

Mine was a full-service mom whose selfless measures of accommodation put the men of Texaco to shame. The fact that she would inconvenience herself by waking me when an alarm clock would suffice, or lay out my clothes when I was capable of doing so myself, might sound a bit odd to you, but believe me, it was only the tip of the indulgent iceberg. This was a woman who would cut the crust off my PB&J sandwich at my request, set my toothbrush out every night with a wad of Colgate laying atop the bristles, and who would often put me to sleep at night with a song, a prayer, and a back scratch. In the wintertime, when the wind chill off Lake Erie made the hundred-yard trek down to the corner to catch the school bus feel like Admiral Perry’s excursion, Mom would actually lay my clothes out on top of the floor heater before I woke up so that my body would be adequately preheated before stepping outside to face the Ohio cold. From my perspective my room was self-cleaning; toys, sports equipment, and clothes discarded onto the floor all found their way back to the toy box, closet, or dresser. I never encountered a dish that I had to clean or trash I had to empty or a piece of clothing I had to wash or iron or fold or put away.

I finished dressing, entered the kitchen, and there on the maroon Formica table, in predictable fashion, sat my glass of milk and chocolate long john patiently waiting for me to consume them. My mother, a chocoholic long before the word was coined, had a sweet tooth that she’d handed down to her children. She believed that a heavy dusting of white processed sugar on oatmeal, cream of wheat, or grapefruit was crucial energy fuel for starting one’s day. Only earlier that year I’d been shocked to learn from my third grade teacher, Mrs. Mercer, that chocolate was not, in fact, a member of any of the four major food groups.

Wearing a milk mustache and buzzing from my sugar rush, I walked outside to where the stack of Tribunes—dropped off in my driveway earlier by the news truck—were waiting for me to fold them.

More often than I ever cared to hear it, my dad would point out, “It’s the early bird that catches the worm.” But for me it was really those early morning summer hours themselves that provided the reward. Sitting there on our cement front step beneath a forty-watt porch light, rolling a stack of Tribunes, I was keenly aware that bodies were still strewn out across beds in every house in the neighborhood, lying lost in their dreamland slumber while I was already experiencing the day. There would be time enough for the sounds of wooden screen doors slamming shut, the hissing of sprinklers on Bermuda lawns, and the songs of robins competing with those of Elvis emanating from transistor radios everywhere. But for now there was a stillness about my neighborhood that seemed to actually slow time down, where even the old willow in our front yard stood like one more giant dozing on his feet, his long arms hanging lifeless at his sides, and where the occasional shooting star streaking across the black sky was a confiding moment belonging only to the morning and me.

From the porch step I could detect the subtle, pale peach glow rise behind the Finnegan’s house across the street. I stretched a rubber band open across the top of my knuckles, spread my fingers apart, and slid it down over the length of the rolled paper to hold it in place. Seventy-six times I’d repeat this act almost unconsciously. There was something about the crisp, cool morning air that seemed to contain a magical element that when breathed in set me to daydreaming. So that’s just what I did . . . I sent my homemade bottle rocket blasting above the trees and watched as the red and white bobber at the end of my fishing pole suddenly got sucked down below the surface of the water at Crystal Lake, and with my Little League team’s game on the line, I could hear the crack of my bat as I smacked a liner over the third baseman’s head to drive in the go-ahead run. Granted, most kids would daydream bigger—their rockets sailed to the moon or Mars, and their fish, blue marlins at least, were hooked off Bermuda in their yachts, and their hits were certainly grand slams in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series for the Reds—but my dad always suggested that a dream should have its feet planted firmly enough in reality to actually have a chance to come true one day, or there wasn’t much point in conjuring up the dream in the first place. Dreaming too big would only lead to a lifetime scattered with the remnants of disappointments and heartbreak.

And I believed him. Why not? I was young and his shadow fell across me with weight and substance and truth. He was my hero. But in some ways, I suppose, he was too much like my other heroes: Frank Robinson, Ricky Nelson, Maverick. I looked up to them because of their accomplishments or their image, not because of who they really were. I didn’t really know who they were outside of that. Such was the case with my dad. He was a great athlete in his younger years, had a drawer full of medals for track and field, swimming, baseball, basketball, and a bunch from the army to prove it.

It was my dad who had managed to pull the strings that allowed me to have a paper route in the first place. I remember reading the pride in his eyes earlier in the spring when he first told me I got the job. His voice rose and fell within a wider range than usual as he explained how I would now be serving a valuable purpose in society by being directly responsible for informing people of local, national, and even international events. My dad made it sound important—an act of responsibility, being this cog in the wheel of life, the great mandala. And it made me feel important, better defining my place in the universe. In a firm handshake with my dad, I promised I wouldn’t let him down.

Finishing up folding and banding the last paper, I knew I was running a little late because Spencer, the bullmastiff next door, had already begun to bark in anticipation of my arrival. Checking the Bulova wristwatch that my dad had given me as a gift the morning of my first route confirmed it. I proceeded to cram forty newspapers into my greasy white canvas pouch and loop the straps over my bike handles. Riding my self-painted, fluorescent green Country Road–brand bike handed down from my brother, I would deliver these papers mostly to my immediate neighborhood and swing back around to pick up the final thirty-six.

I picked the olive green army hat up off the step. Though most boys my age wore baseball caps, I was seldom seen without the hat my dad wore in World War II. Slapping it down onto my head, I hopped onto my bike, turned on the headlight, and was off down my driveway, turning left on the sidewalk that ran along the front of our corner property on Willowcreek Road.

I rode around to where our street dead-ended, curving into Briarbrook. Our eccentric young neighbors, the Springfields, lived next door in a house they’d painted black. Mr. and Mrs. Springfield chose to raise a devil dog named Spencer rather than experiencing the joy of parenthood. Approaching the corner of their white picket fence on my bike, I could see the strong, determined, shadowy figure of that demon dashing back and forth along the picket fence, snarling and barking at me loudly enough to wake the whole neighborhood. As was my custom, I didn’t dare slow down while I heaved the rolled-up newspaper over his enormous head into their yard. Spencer sprinted over to the paper and pounced on it, immediately tearing it to shreds—a daily reenactment. The couple insisted that I do this every day, as they were attempting to teach Spencer to fetch the morning paper, bring it around to the back of the house where he was supposed to enter by way of the doggy door, and gently place the newspaper in one piece on the kitchen table so it would be there to peruse when they woke for breakfast.

Theirs was one of only two houses in the neighborhood that were fenced in, a practice uncommon in the suburbs because it implied a lack of hospitality. Even a small hedge along a property line could be interpreted as stand-offish. The Springfields’ choice of house color wasn’t helpful in dispelling this notion. And yet it was a good thing that they chose to enclose their property because we were all quite certain that if Spencer ever escaped his yard, he would systematically devour every neighborhood kid, one by one. The strange thing was that the picket fence couldn’t have been more than three feet high, low enough for even a miniature poodle to clear—so why hadn’t Spencer taken the leap? Could it be that he was just biding his time, waiting for the right moment to jump that hurdle? So I was thankful for the Springfields’ ineptitude when it came to dog training because it allowed me to buffer Spencer’s appetite, knowing that whenever he did decide to make his move, I would most likely be the first course on the menu.

The neighborhood houses on my route were primarily ranch style, third-little-pig variety, and always on my left. On my left so that I could grab a paper out of my bag and heave it across my body, allowing for more mustard on my throw and more accuracy than if I had to sling it backhand off to my right side. This technique also helped build up strength in my pitching arm. I always aimed directly toward the middle of the driveway instead of anywhere near the porch, which could, as I’d learned, be treacherous territory. An irate Mrs. Messerschmitt from Sleepy Hollow Road once dropped by my house, screaming, “You’ve murdered my children! You’ve murdered my children!” Apparently I’d made an errant toss that tore the blooming heads right off her precious pansies and injured a few hapless marigolds. From that day on I shot for the middle of the driveway, making sure no neighbors’ flowers ever suffered a similar fate at my hands.

I passed my friend Mouse Miller’s house, crossed the street, and headed down the other side of Briarbrook, past Allison Hoffman’s house—our resident divorcĂ©e. All my friends still had their two original parents and family intact, which made Mrs. Hoffman’s status a bit of an oddity. Maybe it was the polio scare that people my parents’ age had had to live through that appeared to make them wary of any abnormality in another human being. It wasn’t just being exposed to the drug addicts or the murderers that concerned them, but contact with any fringe members of society: the divorcĂ©es and the widowers, the fifty-year-old bachelors, people with weird hairdos or who wore clothing not found in the Sears catalogue. People with facial hair were especially to be avoided.

You didn’t want to be a nonconformist in 1960. Though nearly a decade had passed, effects of the McCarthy hearings had left some Americans with lingering suspicions that their neighbor might be a Red or something worse. So everyone did their best to just fit in. There was an unspoken fear that whatever social dysfunction people possessed was contagious by mere association with them. I had a feeling my mom believed this to be the case with Allison Hoffman—that all my mother had to do was engage in a five-minute conversation with any divorced woman, and a week or so later, my dad would come home from work and out of the blue announce, “Honey, I want a divorce.”

Likely in her late twenties, Mrs. Hoffman was attractive enough to be a movie star or at least a fashion model—she was that pretty. She taught at a junior high school across town, but for extra cash would tutor kids in her spare time. Despite her discriminating attitude toward Mrs. Hoffman, my mother was forced to hire her as a tutor for my sixteen-year-old brother for two sessions a week, seeing as Bobby could never quite grasp the concept of dangling participles and such. Still, whenever she mentioned Mrs. Hoffman’s name, my mom always found a way to justify setting her Christian beliefs aside, calling her that woman, as in, “just stay away from that woman.” Mom must have skipped over the part in the Bible where Jesus healed the lepers. Anyway, Mrs. Hoffman seemed nice enough to me when I’d see her gardening in her yard or when I’d have to collect newspaper money from her; a wave and smile were guaranteed.

I delivered papers down Briarbrook, passed my friend Sheena’s house on the cul-de-sac, and went back down to Willowcreek, where I rolled past the Jensens’ vacant house. The For Sale sign had been stuck in the lawn out front since the beginning of spring. I’d seen few people even stop by to look at the charming, white frame house I remember as having great curb appeal. Every kid on the block was rooting for a family with at least a dozen kids to move in to provide some fresh blood.

A half a block later, I turned the corner and was about to toss the paper down Mr. Melzer’s drive when I spotted the old man lying under his porch light, sprawled out on the veranda, his blue overall-covered legs awkwardly dangling down the front steps of his farm house. I immediately stood up on my bike, slammed on the brakes, fish-tailed a streak of rubber on the sidewalk, dumped the bike, and rushed up to his motionless body. “Mr. Melzer! Mr. Melzer!” Certain he was dead, I kept shouting at him like he was only asleep or deaf. “Mr. Melzer!” I was afraid to touch him to see if he was alive.

The only dead body I had touched up till then was my great-uncle Frank’s at his wake, and it was not a particularly pleasant experience. I was five years old when my mom led me up to the big shiny casket where I peered over the top to see the man lying inside. Standing on my tiptoes, I stared at Frank’s clay-colored face, which I believed looked too grumpy, too dull. While alive and kicking, my uncle was an animated man with ruddy cheeks who spoke and reacted with passion and humor, but the expression he wore while lying in that box was one that I’d never seen on his face before. I was quite sure that if he’d been able to gaze in the mirror at his dead self with that stupid, frozen pouting mouth looking back at him, he would have been humiliated and embarrassed as all get out. And so, while no one watched, I started poking and prodding at his surprisingly pliable mouth, trying to reshape his smile into something more natural, more familiar, like the expression he’d worn recalling the time he drove up to frigid Green Bay in a blizzard to watch his beloved Browns topple Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers. Or the one he’d displayed while telling us what a thrill it was to meet Betty Grable at a USO function during the war, or the grin that always appeared on his face right after he’d take a swig of a cold beer on a hot summer day. It was a look of satisfaction that I was after, and was pretty sure I could pull it off. Those hours of turning shapeless Play-Doh into little doggies and snowmen had prepared me for this moment.

After a mere twenty seconds of my molding handiwork, I had successfully managed to remove my uncle’s grim, lifeless expression. Unfortunately I had replaced it with a hideous-looking full-on smile, his teeth beaming like the Joker from the Batman comics. Before I could step back for a more objective look, my Aunt Doris let out a little shriek behind me; an older gentleman gasped, which brought my brother over, and he let out a howl of laughter, all followed by a flurry of activity that included some heated discussion among relatives, the casket’s being closed, and my mother’s hauling me out of the room by my earlobe.

But you probably don’t really care much about my Uncle Frank. You’re wondering about Mr. Melzer and if he’s a character who has kicked the bucket before you even got to know him or know if you like him. You will like him. I did. “Mr. Melzer!” I gave him a good poke in the arm. Nothing . . . then another one.

The fact is I was surprised when Mr. Melzer began to move. First his head turned . . . then his arm wiggled . . . then he rose, propping himself up onto an elbow, attempting to regain his bearings.

“Mr. Melzer?”

“What?” He looked around, glassy-eyed, still groggy. “Davy?”

I suddenly felt dizzy and nearly fell down beside him on the porch. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“I must have dozed off. Guess the farmer in me still wants to wake with the dawn, but the old man, well, he knows better.” He looked my way. “You’re white as a sheet—you okay, boy?”

Actually I was feeling pretty nauseated. “Yeah, I’m okay. I just thought . . .”

“What? You thought what?”

“Well, when I saw you lying there . . . I just thought . . .”

“That I was dead?” I nodded. “Well, no, no, I can see where that might be upsetting for you. Come to think of it, it’s a little upsetting to me. Not that I’m not prepared to meet my maker, mind you. Or to see Margaret again.” He leaned heavily on his right arm, got himself upright, and adjusted his suspenders. “The fact is . . . I do miss the old gal. The way she’d know to take my hand when it needed holdin’. Or how she could make a room feel comfortable just by her sitting in it, breathing the same air. Heck, I even miss her lousy coffee. And I hope, after these two years apart, she might have forgotten what a pain in the rear I could be, and she might have the occasion to miss me a bit, too.”

Until that moment, I hadn’t considered the possibility of the dead missing the living. Sometimes when he wasn’t even trying to, Mr. Melzer made me think. And it always surprised me how often he would just say anything that came into his head. He never edited himself like most adults. He was like a kid in that respect, but more interesting.

“You believe in heaven?” I asked Mr. Melzer.

“Rather counting on it. How ’bout you?”

“My mom says that when we go to heaven we’ll be greeted by angels with golden wings.”

“Really? Angels, huh?”

“And she says that they’ll sing a beautiful song written especially for us.”

“Really? Your mother’s an interesting woman, Davy. But I could go for that—I could. Long as they’re not sitting around on clouds playing harps. Don’t care for harp music one bit. Pretty sure it was the Marx Brothers that soured me on that instrument.”

“How so?”

“Well, those Marx Brothers, in every movie they made they’d be running around, being zany as the dickens, and then Harpo—the one who never spoke a lick, the one with the fuzzy blond hair—always honking his horn and chasing some skinny, pretty gal around. Anyway, in the middle of all their high jinks, Harpo would come across some giant harp just conveniently lying around somewhere, and he’d feel obliged to stop all the antics to play some sappy tune that just about put you to sleep. I could never recover. Turned me sour on the harp, he did. I’m more of a horn man, myself. Give me a saxophone or trumpet and I’m happy. And I’m not particularly opposed to a fiddle either. But harps—I say round ’em up and burn ’em all. Melt ’em down and turn them into something practical . . . something that can’t make a sound . . . that’s what I say.”

See, I told you he’d pretty much say anything. I don’t think that Mr. Melzer had many people to listen to him. And just having a bunch of thoughts roaming around in his head wasn’t enough. I think Mr. Melzer chattered a lot so that he wouldn’t lose himself, so he could remember who he was.

“Yeah, well, anyway, I figure I’ll go home when it’s my time,” he continued. “Just hope it can wait for the harvest, seeing as there’s no one else to bring in the corn when it’s time.”

As far back as I could remember, Mr. Melzer used to drag this little red wagon around the neighborhood on August evenings, stacked to the limit with ears of corn. And he’d go door to door and hand out corn to everybody like he was some kind of an agricultural Santa.

“Do you know I used to have fields of corn as far as the eye can see . . . way beyond the rooftops over there?”

I did know this, but I never tired of the enthusiasm with which he told it, so I didn’t stop him. About ten years before, Mr. Melzer had sold off all but a few acres of his farmland to a contractor, resulting in what became my neighborhood.

“I still get a thrill when I shuck that first ear of corn of the harvest, and see that ripe golden row of kernels smiling back at me. Hot, sweet corn, lightly salted with butter dripping down all over it . . . mmm. Nothing better. Don’t nearly have the teeth for it anymore. You eat yours across or up and down?”

“Across.”

“Me too. Only way to eat corn. Tastes better across. When I see somebody munching on an ear like this”—the old man rolled the imaginary ear of corn in front of his imaginary teeth chomping down—“I just want to slap him upside the head.”

I was starting to run very late, and he noticed me fidgeting.

“Oh, yeah, here I am blabbering away, and you got a job to do.”

“I’ll get your paper.” I ran back to my bike lying on the sidewalk.

“So I see nobody’s bought the Jensen place yet,” he yelled out to me.

I grabbed a newspaper that had spilled out of my bag onto the sidewalk, and rushed back to Mr. Melzer. “Not yet. Whoever does, hope they have kids.” I handed the old man the newspaper.

“Listen, I’m sorry I scared you,” he said.

“It’s okay.” I looked over at a pile of unopened newspapers on the porch by the door. “Mind if I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“How come you never read the paper?”

“Oh, don’t know. At some point I guess you grow tired of bad news. Besides, these days all the news I need is right here in the neighborhood.”

“So why do you still order the paper?”

The old man smiled. “Well, the way I see it, if I didn’t order the paper, I’d miss out on these splendid little chats with you, now wouldn’t I?”

I told you you’d like him. I grinned. “I’m glad you’re not dead, Mr. Melzer.”

“Likewise,” he said, shooting a wink my way. When I turned around to walk back to my bike, I heard the rolled up newspaper hit the top of the pile.

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