Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't forget to vote!

In just a few days we'll all get the opportunity to go vote.

The political mail has streamed into our house. To the extent that Jonathan sees a piece and tells me McCain wants me to vote for him - even when it's from Barack Obama.

In 2000 Eric went to Florida twice after the election to participate in the vote recount monitoring. In 2004 I spent the election in South Dakota monitoring the election for the Senate race. This year, we're both home, but we'll be voting.

I could tell you who I think you should vote for. But I won't. Dad's keeling over in shock LOL. But I think it's clearcut on the abortion-life issue.

Please vote. Or don't tell me that you don't like where America is headed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Irishwoman's Tale Review & Giveaway

An Irishwomans' Tale
by
Patti Lacy


I had the pleasure of reading this book earlier this year before it's release. Patti is a talented writer who has taken on a gritty book. The story is about one woman's search for who she is. She has kept people at arm's length her entire life, until Sally, a plucky Southern transplant, invades her life. Mary tries to resist, but finds herself sharing her story with Sally.

Mary grew up in Ireland in the 1950s before being sent to the United States against her will. Her story is pulled out of her piece by piece by Sally. And it's a story that twists and turns through the grit of life. A past that isn't perfect. A past filled with pain. A past Mary can't escape.

While classified as general fiction on the cover, I think it falls firmly in women's fiction. While that's not a genre I naturally gravitate towards Patti's characters and writings kept me reading. In the depths of the story I wondered how healing and forgiveness could come. And when it looked like it had arrived, the book took another turn. It was a page-turner in a women's fiction kind of way.

Most of all, it's a story of redeeming love -- and that's a feature that's often missing in books.

Leave a comment and I'll select a winner for a copy of this book. If we have more than 15 comments, I'll pick two winners.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Patti Lacy graduated from Baylor University in 1977 with a B.S. in education. She taught at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois, until she retired in 2006 to pursue writing full time. She has two grown children with her husband, Alan, and lives in Illinois.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Far away from her Irish home, Mary Freeman begins to adapt to life in Midwest America, but family turmoil and her own haunting memories threaten to ruin her future.

A shattered cup. Cheap tea. Bitter voices asking what's to be done with the "little eejit." Mary, an impetuous Irishwoman, won't face the haunting memories--until her daughter's crisis propels her back to County Clare. There, in a rocky cliffside home, Mary learns from former neighbors why God tore her from Ireland forty-five years earlier. As she begins to glimpse His sovereign plan, Mary is finally able to bury a dysfunctional past and begin to heal. Irish folk songs and sayings add color to the narrative.

Watch the Book Trailer:


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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last Chance on Contests for Gift Certificates

Fall is the perfect time to curl up with a new book. And I just got my copies of my latest book, Captive Dreams. In honor of that and because I love comments and subscribers, in October I am running a contest. On November 1 I will pull one lucky name from the subscribers to the Law Books & Life. That person will win a $30 gift card to B&N, CBD or other online bookstore of their choice. I will also pull a winner for another gift card from those who leave a comment on my blog. So sign up and comment away.

Don't forget this contest ends October 31 -- so leave your comments and sign up on Feedblitz today! What's your favorite fall activity?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sweet Tea -- Nectar of the gods

I have decided that Sweet Tea has overtaken Dr Pepper as the nectar of the gods. It is the fuel that keeps me writing long into the nights. And probably is why I need to get back on the treadmill LOL.

Call it my Georgia and Virginia roots coming out, but I was very happy when McDonald's started carrying sweet tea -- and it was good! Chick-Fil-A is another great source. As is Cracker Barrel. We literally plot our road trips around Cracker Barrel, so I can get my fix. LOL

Last Christmas my friend Rachel got me an iced tea maker. It was the perfect gift -- even if it plugs in. I use it all the time and love that I can control how sweet the tea is.

The key to good iced tea. You have to use Luzianne tea bags -- I like the family sized ones. And you have to put the sugar in first, so that it mixes in with the boiling water. Then it's not grainy.

Forget chocolate, give me sweet tea! So what's your special treat?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Books I read last week and LOVED

Last week I read two wonderful Bethany House releases by debut authors. Both books are written in a lovely lyrical style, and wouldn't necessarily be books I normally gravitate towards. Nobody is killed, and they aren't romances - though there are romantic elements in each. Instead, each is the tale of a young woman finding healing from past scars.

Home Another Way is the debut release of talented new writer Christa Parrish. The tale of a troubled young woman, Sarah Graham, who seems bent on destroying herself. Then she learns her father, who spent much of her lifetime in prison for killing her mother, died and left her an estate. She goes to Jonah for the sole purpose of collecting her inheritance and living. To receive the money she has to stay through the long winter. As she does, she is slowly changed by the love of those around her and the slow unveiling of the truth. This book rolled through the story with a pull that kept me reading. And I was so satisfied with the ending because it wasn't the expected wrap up. If you're hungry for something different, grab this book!


Rain Song is the debut release from Alice J. Wisler. I read this book second and wondered if it would read differently from Home Another Way, since both are general fiction. Oh my, did it. This book is sweetly lyrical, and definitely southern. The characters form a beautiful cast around our heroine, Nicole Michelin. Another young woman who essentially lost both parents at a young age through a tragedy, it could have seemed identical, but each book carried its author's unique stamp. Nicole must face so many of her fears in her quest for truth she is hungry to learn. Romance plays a slightly greater role in this book (maybe 20%), but this book's focus is on the question of what we are willing to sacrifice to learn the truth. Beautiful story!

Friday, October 24, 2008

CIG to Business Law

Just in case you've been waiting with bated breath, LOL, I am pleased to announce that you can preorder the Complete Idiots Guide to Business Law on Amazon. By checking randomly last week, I learned that it releases on May 9, 2009. Crazy!

I saw that the same day I got the Author Revision chapters -- I wasn't supposed to see those until December 1, when I have to turn in Deadly Judgment. ACK! My acquisitions editor went to bat for me. ...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Less Than Dead Review

I am a huge fan of Tim Downs. Eric and I were first introduced to him when he and his lovely bride joy emceed the Family Life Today Weekend to Remembers that we attended. Loved his slightly sarcastic midwestern style.
And that's why we picked up his first novel. From page one, we've been hooked. I have honestly loved each book that I've read -- though I haven't read Headgame yet. The rest I can vouch for.

Nick Polchak is back as the main character in Less Than Dead. I love Nick because he is such an over-the-top character with his incredibly thick glasses and bug-like tendencies. He also examines teh humans around him as if they are part of an alien species. It makes for some unusual interpretations of how we act.

The Less than Dead, Nick has to convince a woman who's called the Witch of Endor by local residents, to help him identify unmarked graves. This woman wants nothing to do with him or anyone else. Instead, she exists to find her father who disappeared one night when she was about 12.

The graves are found on land owned by a US Senator who seems positioned to be the next president of the United States. The plot twists through the investigation conducted in Nick's inimitable way. There are hints of suspense throughout the book that speed up toward the end, but this is not a classic suspense. Don't get me wrong -- I read it in less than a day. Stayed up really late to read it. But if you're looking for a book that races from page one, this isn't it. But if you love a book filled with quirky characters, twists and turns, and a plot that shines a lot on aspects of the human character that we don't necessarily want to see in ourselves, then this is a GREAT book that you will enjoy.

Besides if you haven't met Nick yet, then it is high time that you did! And sorry, not giving this book away. I know I'll read it again and again. Here's more on the book:

Some secrets just won't stay buried.
When strange bones surface on a U.S. senator's property, the FBI enlists forensic entomologist Nick Polchak to investigate the forgotten graveyard. Polchak's orders are simple: figure out the mess.

But Polchak, known as the "Bug Man" because of his knowledge of insects and their interaction with the dead, senses darker secrets buried beneath the soil.

Secrets that could derail the senator's presidential bid.

Secrets buried in the history of a quaint Virginia town.

Secrets someone is willing to kill to protect.

With the help of a mysterious local woman named Alena and her uncanny cadaver dogs, Polchak sets out to dig up the truth.

But with a desperate killer hot on his trail, he'll be lucky to wind up anything less than dead.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Less Than Dead, go HERE

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Defining True Love

I wish I knew where these originated, but I don't. But here are some delightful definitions of love taken from the mouth of babes. Thanks to Tricia for forwarding these!


'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.'

Rebecca- age 8


'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth'

Billy - age 4


'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.'

Terri - age 4


'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.'

Danny - age 7


'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.'

Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)


'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.'

Tommy - age 6


'Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.'

Mary Ann - age 4


'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.'

Lauren - age 4


A four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,

'Nothing, I just helped him cry'


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Google Maps -- An Amazing Tool

I've heard many writers rave about Google Maps, but until A Promise Kept, the book I just finished, I didn't really need it. I knew my settings well from site visits or having lived in the communities.

Cincinnati -- yeah, don't know it well at all.

So I turned to Google maps. I LOVE the satellite feature. It allowed me to explore neighborhoods and figure out exactly where my characters lived. It also allowed me to see the library branch. I strolled through Eden Park. It was amazing! I still would have preferred to actually visit the site, but this provided a second best approach.

So here's your challenge for the day -- go to google maps and see if you're house shows up. Ours doesn't (yet!), and I'm okay with that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stepping Into Sunlight Review, Challenge & Giveaway

I told y'all as I started reading this book, how much I enjoyed it. Sharon Hinck is one of my favorite authors. Her style is lyrical and she gets me effortlessly embedded in her character's world. I rarely find myself struggling to get back into the flow of the story and often fight to pull away from it.

Stepping into Sunlight was no different. In fact, this is my favorite contemporary of Sharon's.

Penny Sullivan is ready to face the challenge of a cross-country move and caring for her energetic seven-year-old son while her husband leaves on his first deployment as a Navy chaplain. But after she witnesses a shocking crime, her world tips sideways. Hiding in her closet isn't an option when her husband and son depend on her, so she fights to recover. But even simple tasks such as filling her car with gas, buying groceries, and returning phone calls are suddenly more than she can handle....A story for every woman who has wondered where God is when life hurts.

This book is the poignant tale of Penny's journey back to wholeness. It will be much harder for me to tell people to just move on after getting inside Penny's head and experiencing the pain of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and simple joys of life. Penny's climb out of the pit was so realistic I felt trapped with her. I cheered for each step forward she took and moaned when she couldn't move past her protective zone.

I was also challenged by Penny's project: do one kind deed to a stranger each day. It's one I'd like to make my own! This book is wonderful and has joined my keeper pile. So in honor of Penny's project, here's my challenge to you. Take sometime this week. Help someone (outside your immediate family and circle of friends). Then share what you did here. I'll select one person to win a copy of this book.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Apple Picking

I forgot to take my camera, but earlier this week the kids and I went apple picking. We drove almost an hour for twenty minutes of picking. We managed to fill two laundry baskets with apples while Rebecca slept. My hope is that we'll actually turn them into applesauce.

This is the third type of fruit we've picked this year. We start with strawberries in June and turn them into strawberry jam. Then we pick blueberries at least once -- usually twice -- in July. This from the kid who HATED blueberries, but now eats them like candy when they're fresh. And I love them in my oatmeal all year round. And then this year we picked the apples.

I think it's important for the kids to realize food doesn't magically appear in the grocery store. Instead, there's a lot of work that goes into it. I also think it helps in a teeny tiny way keep them connected to our farming roots.

Besides nothing is ever as good as when it's fresh or made at home. So what ways do you help your kids connect the dots?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Confused by our tax system?

Then check this out: http://nextstoplauderdale.com/2007/04/16/the-dinner-lesson/

It's a great easy to understand analogy. With all the presidential election hooplah, this is a perfect reminder of how the system really works.

Interview with Susan Meissner


I am delighted to have my friend Susan Meissner join us today. Her latest book is The Shape of Mercy. I gave away two copies last week. But if you'd still like a copy, leave a comment today and I'll give away my Advanced Reader Copy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Susan graciously agreed to participate in an interview. Without further ado, here we go!

The Shape of Mercy tells the story of three women from different times. What concept ties their stories together?

All three women are the only daughters of influential fathers. They also faced life choices that were rather defining moments for them. Mercy Hayworth writes a diary in 1692, during the height of the Salem Witch Trials. College student Lauren, the daughter of affluent parents transcribes it in contemporary time at the request of 83-year-old Abigail Boyles, who carries a boatload of regret. As Lauren transcribes the diary within the pages of the book, she discovers the degree to which people so easily make snap judgments and get swept away by the crowd mentality.

I hadn't thought about the fact they were all daughters of influential men. It was painful to read Lauren's struggles, in part because I think it is so easy to judge even subconsciously. At least it is for me. What did you learn while writing her story?

I learned that I am guilty of the same weakness, We have to train ourselves to see people like God sees people. Having that kind of vision takes incredible discipline because our nature is not to see things like He does. I saw myself often in Lauren as the story revealed how she truly didn’t want to judge people but she did. She just did. We all do. We see a homeless man begging on the streets and we make all kinds of assumptions about how he got there and what he would do if we reached out to help him. We see a pregnant teenager or an obese child or a woman wearing diamonds and Jimmy Choos and we assume the teenager has no morals, the child has no restraint and the woman is wealthy and therefore has no worries. We believe these things because the crowd tells us it’s so. Jumping to conclusions seems to permeate culture, regardless of the generation. Whatever the crowd says, we too easily believe. We need to fix our eyes on God, not the crowd.

Ouch! Great points, Susan. I think that's why the book pricked my heart. I often find that the books I write grow out of something I've experienced or that God is teaching me at that moment. Is either true for you with this book?

I’ve always been awed by people who would choose death over turning their backs on God. People who know about the Salem Witch Trials probably know that innocent people were executed but what they may not know is that every one of the accused could’ve saved themselves if they’d just confessed. They would have been driven from the village and lived the rest of their lives as outcasts, but they would’ve lived. The magistrates only executed the convicted ones who refused to confess. These men and women were incredibly brave.

What attracted you to the Salem Witch Trials, such a little known time period?

When I was in junior high, I was in play called To Burn a Witch. I played the role of an innocent woman accused of witchcraft who sits in a cell with other innocent young women from her village. When my character realizes she can save herself by pretending to be bewitched, she begins to scream that one of the other girls in her cell – a friend, actually – is tormenting her. My character is led away to freedom and the woman she accused falsely is led away to her execution. I had forgotten being in that play until I read a newspaper article a couple years ago about a woman who was petitioning a Massachusetts court to exonerate her great-times-eight grandmother. This ancestor of hers was accused and convicted of witchcraft during the Salem trials, was released when the hysteria ended, but whose name was never cleared. I was reminded of how it felt, even just as an actress, to be accused of being something I was not - and the far worse feeling of accusing someone I knew was innocent. These people who died in 1692 Salem were all innocent. They all died refusing to confess they were in league with Satan. They held onto truth to the point of death. That, to me, is incredibly inspiring

Wow! Sounds very impactful, and the pain that must have reminaed in that family to seek clearing a distant relative after all that time! What are you working on next?

I just finished a manuscript for WaterBrook called “White Picket Fences,” which is a story about a family that seems to have the perfect life. Perfect house, perfect jobs, perfect neighborhood, perfect everything. But the reality is, they live on the same fallen planet as the rest of us and suffer the same flaws. To pretend all is well when all is not is to doom yourself to a life of pretense and disappointment and maybe even despair. We all have our flaws but we also have our strengths – and these shine brightest when we are honest about who we are and Who we must run to for help, healing and hope. I take this family on a little 375-page journey to face their struggles!

If you could take your family anywhere where would you go?

We’ve all been struck with eyes for New Zealand, ever since Peter Jackson brought J R R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings to life. It would be a great trip!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

For Young Men Only

For Young Men Only : A Guide to the Alien Gender

Authors: Jeff Feldhahn & Eric Rice with Shaunti Feldhahn

The best-selling ONLY series returns with a one-of-a-kind guide for teen guys on how to figure out girls

Drawing on a fresh national survey of 600 teen girls, as well as hundreds of personal interviews, For Young Men Only reveals the real truth about what teenage girls think, what they want, and how average teen guys can build healthy friendships with high quality girls. Full of surprising revelations and practical advice, For Young Men Only delivers help straight from the girls themselves in a fun, easy-to-read, easy-to-talk about format.

Warm, witty, and honest, authors Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice tell plenty of personal stories and draw on solid biblical principles to guide young guys through the often daunting world of the opposite sex. Their goal is to help teen guys build self-confidence and understanding, and show them how to pursue a relationship with a girl while giving her the respect and protection she deserves.

I have loved the For Women Only and For Men Only editions in this series. For Young Men Only: a Guide to the Alien Gender is a great addition to a teenage or college-aged man's library. Let's face it: women are confusing. But this book can help give a young man insight into a young woman's mind. Based on survey research as are the other books, it provides insights that penetrate to the heart of how young women think differently than young men. And I love the way it addresses the need to respect and protect the young women in their lives.
You can learn more about the book at its website:
www.foryoungmenonly.com.

A Beautiful Fall Blog Tour


High-powered Boston attorney Emma Madison is celebrating her latest courtroom victory when she gets a call from a number she doesn't recognize. Area code 803 home. Juneberry, South Carolina eight hundred miles, twelve years, and a lifetime away from Boston. Emma's father has had a serious heart attack. Emma rushes to his bedside, and a weekend trip threatens to become an extended stay. She has to work fast to arrange the affairs of his small-town law practice so she can return to her life and career in Boston.

And then Michael Evans shows up. They'd shared hopes, dreams, and a passionate love as young college students during a long-ago summer. But Emma walked away from Michael and from Juneberry to finish college and start a new life. Michael has never forgotten her.

Enveloped in the warmth of family and small-town life and discovering that she still cares for Michael Emma knows she'll have to make a choice between the career she's worked so hard to build and the love she left behind.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Beautiful Fall, go HERE



Chris Coppernoll is the founder of Soul2Soul Ministries, with his interviews with Christian artists airing weekly on 650 radio outlets in thirty countries. He has conducted hundreds of interviews on faith issues with personalities such as Amy Grant, Max Lucado, Michael W. Smith, and Kathie Lee Gifford. He also serves as a Deacon at The People’s Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and is currently working toward a Masters in Ministry Leadership degree through Rockbridge Seminary.

His "Inspirations" column is published monthly in the mid Michigan newspaper, The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Chris Coppernoll is the author of four other books including Soul2Soul, Secrets of a Faith Well Lived, and God's Calling. Providence, his first novel, is his fourth book.


I struggled to get into this book, but I think it's because of my background. I'd read a book with a similar plot last year, and I'm ready for a young woman attorney to actually enjoy what she does and not have to return home to find herself again. But that's my bias LOL. This is a sweet coming home story, and one you will likely enjoy if that's what you're looking for.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Struggle -- need input

I know some of you who stop by this blog do so because you like to read reviews and enter the book giveaways I host. Usually, I can rave about the books because I love them or at a minimum point out elements I liked about the books.

This week I've read two books for tours that frankly, I didn't care for. They simply weren't books for me.

Here's the dilemma: what do I write in the review? As readers, what do you want to see? My gut instinct is to write what I thought of the book and why. If I don't like something, explain why but couch it in a nice tone. I do believe that some people will like these books. I just don't. One I forced myself to finish. The other, I'm not even sure I will.

So please, leave a comment and let me know what's helpful for you. The reviews are intended as a service for readers. So I value your opinions and thoughts.

Congratulations to our winners!

Congratulations to Lisa who won a copy of It's Not About Me.

And to Carly and Jolene who won copies of the Shape of Mercy.

Books I'm getting ready to giveaway:

Stepping into Sunlight by Sharon Hinck

Courting Miss Adelaide by Janet Dean

Diamond Duo by Marcia Gruver (2 copies)

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell

So keep coming back for more opportunities to receive great books! And don't forget to leave comments and join my feedblitz feed to have the opportunity to be selected for the giftcards at the end of October.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Review: The Bone Box


The Bone Box is the latest release from author Bob Hostetler, an award-winning author and pastor in Ohio. I think this is the first book of his that I've read, and it reminded me of John Olson's Fossil Hunter. It follows in the niche genre (that I may be coining) of archaeological suspense. Usually these books focus on a what if that surrounds the Bible. What if a fossil was discovered that supported intelligent design. Or in the Bone Box: what if a scroll is found which supports the resurrection?

Randall Bullock is an archaeologist in need of redemption both in his career and with his daughter. He's ready to pack up and head home to the States when his mentor sends him to a burial chamber uncovered by excavation. He's under an extremely tight deadline to complete the excavation. Then his 19 year old daughter arrives.

Joseph ben Caiaphas has been made the high priest. He's caught in a whirlwind of intrigue as he tries to bring righteousness back to Israel and protect his people from the Romans.

This book was a slow start for me -- not sure why. I think initially it may have been the back and forth between Rand's story and stepping back 2000 years to Caiaphas' story. Early on that slowed the story down for me, but about a third of the way through, that element is what kept me turning the pages.

This book is like many of the archeology suspense stories I've read. Misunderstood archaeologist trying to redeem a career that's on the skids and finds something they weren't looking for. In this case it's the bone box for the high priest at the time Jesus was killed. For the first third at least, I wondered why that would be important until Rand finds the scroll.

What set this book apart -- at least for me -- was the way that the author brought Caiaphas to life. Caveat -- remember this is a work of fiction. But sometimes fiction helps me try to imagine what was going on in the background that the Bible doesn't supply. I actually turned to the end notes about the midway part because what the author hypothesized fit and I wanted to see if he'd done his homework. He has, but it is fiction.

That said, this book's strength is in transporting you to Israel -- both today and 2000 years ago. The intrigue that may have surrounded the Sanhedrin comes to life and I found myself wondering about the tightrope Caiaphas may have walked. Now, what really happened could be far from the scenario the author paints, but I found his portrayal believable and challenging.

The suspense element didn't really build for me -- I think the action and adventure tag is a better fit. There isn't a real sense of a ticking bomb, though the setting is definitely exotic. I enjoyed this book, and kept returning to it. If you enjoy questions about what happened in Jesus' times with the flavor of Indiana Jones, then you will enjoy this book.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Abigail's Competition: Beam

videoThis is the last one -- we were too far away to capture vault. Have I mentioned I'm so excited for her? All that hard work saw fruit. She's definitely got areas to keep working on, but she had a great first competition. Did you notice all the pointed toes LOL She was the model of consistency -- averaging 8.0 on each event.

Abigail's Bar Routine

videoShe placed third among the eight year olds competing at level three. :-) I'm so proud of her because she got her windmill and her dismount! Still some refining -- but YEAH!!!!

Abigail's First Gymnastics Competition:floor

videoThis is a test. Can I upload a video to the blog? This is short -- 37 seconds to the song that every level three in the country uses. It kind of get stucks in your head and won't go away! We are so proud of the job Abigail did. She's worked very hard since getting selected for the team in May.

Goodbye Hollywood Nobody First Chapter



It is October 11th, and FIRST is doing a special tour to 'Say Goodbye to Hollywood Nobody'.




Today's feature author is:




and her book:



Goodbye Hollywood Nobody



NavPress Publishing Group (September 15, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

Other Novels by Lisa:

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

Visit her at her website.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (September 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600062229
ISBN-13: 978-1600062223

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Monday, July 11, 6:30 a.m.

I awaken to a tap on my shoulder and open my eye. My right eye. See, these days it could be one of four people: Charley, Dad, Grampie, or Grammie.

“’Morning, dear!”

Grammie.

Oh well, might as well go for broke. I open the other eye.

“Did you sleep well?”

I shake my head and reach for my cat glasses. “Nope. I kept dreaming about Charley in Scotland.” We sent her off with her new beau, the amazing Anthony Harris, two days ago. “I imagined a road full of sheep chasing her down.”

“That would be silly. They would have to know she hates lamb chops.” Grammie sits on my bed. Yes, my bed. In their fabulous house. In my own wonderful room, complete with reproductions of the Barcelona chair and a platform bed of gleaming sanded mahogany. I burrow further into my white down comforter. I sweat like a pig at night, but I don’t care. A real bed, a bona fide comforter, and four pillows. Feather pillows deep enough to sink the Titanic in.

She pats my shoulder, her bangled wrists emitting the music of wooden jewelry. “Up and at ’em, Scotty. Your dad wants to be on the road by seven thirty.”

“I need a shower.”

“Hop to it then.”

Several minutes later, I revel in the glories of a real shower. Not the crazy little stall we have in the TrailMama, which Dad gassed up last night for our trip to Maine. Our trip to find Babette, my mother. Is she dead or alive? That’s what we’re going to find out.

It’s complicated.

The warm water slides over me from the top of my head on down, and I’ve found the coolest shampoo. It smells like limeade. I kid you not. It’s the greatest stuff ever.

Over breakfast, Grampie sits down with us and goes over the map to make certain Dad knows the best route. My father sits patiently, nodding as words like turnpike, bypass, and scenic route roll like a convoy out of Grampie’s mouth.

Poor Grampie. Dad is just the best at navigation and knows everything about getting from point A to point B, but I think Grampie wants to be a part of it. He hinted at us all going in the Beaver Marquis, their Luxury-with-a-capital-L RV, but Dad pretended not to get it.

Later, Dad said to me, “It’s got to be just us, Scotty. I love my mother and father, but some things just aren’t complete-family affairs.”

“I know. I think you’re right. And if it’s bad . . .”

He nods. “I’d just as soon they not be there while we fall apart.”

Right.

So then, I hop up into our RV, affectionately known as the TrailMama, Dad’s black pickup already hitched behind. (Charley’s kitchen trailer is sitting on a lot in storage at a nearby RV dealership, and good riddance. I’m hoping Charley never needs to use that thing again.) “Want me to drive?”

He laughs.

Yep. I still don’t have my license.

Man. But it’s been such a great month or so at the beach. So, okay, I don’t tan much really, but I do have a nice peachy glow.

I’ll take it.

And Grampie grilled a lot, and Grammie helped me sew a couple of vintage-looking skirts, and I’ve learned the basics of my harp.

I jump into the passenger’s seat, buckle in, and look over at my dad. “You really ready for this?” My heart speeds up. This is the final leg of a very long journey, and what’s at the end of the path will determine the rest of our lives.

He looks into my eyes. “Are you?”

“I don’t know,” I whisper. “But we don’t really have a choice, do we?”

“I can go alone.”

I shake my head. “No, Dad. Whatever we do, whatever happens from here on out, we do it together.”

“Deal.”

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Single Sashimi: Interview with Camy Tang

I am delighted to have my friend Camy Tang back here for a quick interview as her third book releases. One of the things that I love about Camy's writing is the great sense of humor that borders on slapstick. This book definitely opens that way and it doesn't stop.

I loved exploring Venus and her struggles with control issues. I couldn't relate at all LOL. And her struggle to move beyond rote obedience to relationship. All told with Camy's vivid writing.

But one of my favorite things about Camy is her smile. She is a truly delightful woman, and I count it a privilege to know her.

Single Sashimi is the third book in the Sushi Series. How did Venus surprise you as you wrote it?

Will you hate me if I tell you Venus didn’t surprise me as I wrote this one? :) The character who did surprise me was Drake. He ended up being much sexier than I had originally planned!

I don't hate you at all. In fact I can relate to the characters that take us by surprise. From the first two books, she seems to be the cousin who has her life together. Now that it's time for her story, what does she have to learn?

Venus, like moi, has some serious control issues. And so Venus, like moi, had to learn to “let go and let God.” So all the pain Venus feels? That’s from personal experience.

It's technically the third book in the series. Do readers have to read the first two books first to understand what's happening?

I tried to write the books as stand alone books. However, the twist at the end of Only Uni book 2) kind of took me by surprise, too. So I would suggest people read Only Uni before Single Sashimi (book 3), if only to get the full impact of the twist.

That twist is a killer -- very good -- but wow! Go with Camy's advice here if you know you want to read the other books in the series.

Reading Sushi for One (book 1) before Only Uni (book 2) or before Single Sashimi (book 3) isn’t really necessary. However, reading book 1 before book 2 shows the changing relationship between Lex and Trish.

You recently won ACFW's Book of the Year in the debut author category and placed for chick lit with Sushi for One. How cool is that!?!? Seriously major congratulations! How will this award change your life :-) (tongue firmly in cheek)

Probably as much as it will change YOURS! Serious congrats on your own win in the short historical category! You already know how much I loved Canteen Dreams.

To be honest, this win has meant a TON to Zondervan, and I’m just so proud to do them proud, as it were. My editor, Sue Brower, was SO excited and this win is extra special for her because I was her first acquisition as Senior Editor.

It was a blast to watch Sue at the awards banquet. Her buttons were POPPING!!! and rightfully so. I think everyone who knows you and has read the book was so happy for you!

You're writing romantic suspense next, right? When will those release?
And will they have your trademark humor in them, too?

My next novel is Deadly Intent, to be released (tentatively) in August 2009 from Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Suspense line. (How cool is it that you and I are now writing for the same publisher???)

Very cool, especially since you're title is so much like mine: Deadly Exposure, Deadly Judgment, Deadly Intent.

It won’t have the same humor, but I think it still showcases my writing style and that “romance with a kick of wasabi.” I don’t think readers will be disappointed.

Here’s a back cover blurb I just wrote for the Art Fact Sheet that I turned in to my editor. It might not be what’s on the actual book, though:

THERE WAS A DEAD BODY IN HER MASSAGE ROOM

And massage therapist Naomi Grant is suspected of murder. She’s frustrated and helpless as a web of lies closes in around her, framing her. She doesn’t have time to worry about her shaky faith or think about her growing attraction to the victim’s ex-husband, Dr. Devon Knightley.

Orthopedic surgeon Devon had only needed to claim his mother’s necklace back from his ex-wife, but suddenly he’s embroiled in a murder investigation and someone is trying to kill him. He wants to somehow protect Naomi from the trap being set around her, but can he keep them both safe against a villain with deadly intent?

Oh, that sounds so good! Can't wait to read it!!! Final question...what's your favorite type of sushi? And is there sushi that someone like me who doesn't like fish should try?

My absolute favorite type of sushi is soft shell crab, which is deep fried soft shell crab chopped up and mixed with a bit of mayo, some radish shoots, and these tiny fish eggs.

It is absolutely delish, and it’s great for people who don’t like raw fish because it’s all cooked. Well, except for the fish eggs, but people are used to caviar.

So if you don’t like fish but like crab, this would be a good one. There’s also cooked shrimp sushi, which I loved when I was a kid.

There are other types of non-fish sushi that I like but they’re raw. I like scallop sushi, which is a handroll sushi and not the typical two small pieces you see. The chef at my favorite sushi restaurant in Hawaii (Kabuki in Pearl City) makes it with a bit of mayo and something else that makes it melt in your mouth.

Most sushi is seafood, so if you don’t like seafood, there isn’t much you can eat. When I was a kid, we loved the tamago sushi, which is egg mixed with a bit of sugar and fried like a thick omelet, then put on sushi rice. I also still like the cucumber sushi—I could eat that stuff all day.

Hey, if you ever come out to California, let’s go eat sushi together! Thanks for having me here, Cara!

Now that's an offer I know my sister would take you up on. I'd come along to eat the cucumber ones LOL. And shrimp. I do love shrimp. Come to Indiana and I'm make cajun shrimp for you.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away ten boxes of books and 30 copies of her latest release, SINGLE SASHIMI.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fun Story about Canteen Dreams!

There are plenty of days I wonder if I'm doing enough marketing, and usually decide I'm not. I know many of you feel the same way, so I just had to share this.

My mom asked me if she could put an article in the North Platte Telegraph about Canteen Dreams finaling in the ACFW Book of the Year. Ummm, sure! Especially since she wrote the press release :-) The paper ran it without a change-- even the part about the book being available at the local small Christian bookstore. Ran my webpage header as the photo. Cool!

But that's not the awesome part. The NP librarian saw the article and decided to go into Bible Supplies to get two copies of my book. Six dollars. Cool that she wanted to have the local (hey- my family still lives there)author's novel about a local historical piece in the library. She and the bookstore owner started talking about other books. She walked out with two copies of at least Canteen Dreams. But she also walked out with $1500 dollars in other Christian books!!!!!!! A mix of fiction and parenting books and the like. But how amazingly cool is that!!!!! She doesn't shop there as a general rule, but what a huge sale for them. What great exposure for the books.

And she likes it because Christian books get returned unlike others -- :-)

And this store is thrilled because my local story is drawing in lots of people who don't normally shop there. They're on the third box of a hundred. And this is a TINY store.

Now I've told Mom to go check out those books so that the library will get more :-)

Isn't God fun!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Constant Heart

This book is a fascinating look at the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. I found myself swept into the book, with the author's attention to speech, customs, and dress making it easy to find myself in the throes of the dream. I enjoyed this book even as it twisted and turned through hard places like the stillbirths and miscarriages of the heroine. Here's more about A Constant Heart.


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Constant Heart

(Bethany House October 1, 2008)

by

Siri Mitchell



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.

A Constant Heart is her sixth novel. Two of her novels, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door were Christy Award finalists. She has been called one of the clearest, most original voices in the CBA.



ABOUT THE BOOK

In a world of wealth, power, and privilege...love is the only forbidden luxury.

“Trust was a valuable commodity at court. Traded by everyone, but possessed by no one. Its rarity was surpassed only by love. Love implied commitment and how could any of us commit ourselves to any but the Queen? Love implied singularity and how could any of us benefit another if our affections were bound to one in exclusivity? Love was never looked for and rarely found. When it was, it always ended badly.”

In Queen Elizabeth’s court where men and women willingly trade virtue for power, is it possible for Marget to obtain her heart’s desire or is the promise of love only an illusion?

A riveting glimpse into Queen Elizabeth's Court...

Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed ... at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Constant Heart, go HERE

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fun Photos from the Booksigning


Saturday's booksigning at Carpenter's Son was such fun. Here are a few of the pictures from the event. This first photo is me with my friend Ann. She's my scrapbooking buddy. Often when Eric is traveling we'll get together to watch chick flicks and scrap. And amazingly, she never laughed when I told her I was considering writing. I've been so blessed to have people support this crazy dream :-)





This is the amazing group of authors who participated. Rebecca and I are on the left. Continuing from left to right: Rick Barry (he also writes World War Two novels, my dear friend Colleen Coble, Robin Jones Gunn who traveled from Oregon!, Jamie Carie, and Neta and Dave Jackson who came from Chicago-land. We had a great time -- It's always fun to hang out with other writers.

After everyone else had to leave Colleen, her husband Dave, and another IN ACFW chapter member Tonya went to Starbucks for coffee and conversation. It was wonderful!
And here's a picture of Robin, Colleen, and me. I met Robin at the ACFW conference last year, but got to know her a bit more in Orlando this summer at the Chi Libris retreat. She's one of those women who shines with Jesus.

And y'all know how very special Colleen is to me. We were talking about the fact that it was at a booksigning in April 2005 that we met. At that moment God told me to take this dream and run. Well, I have and I'm still trying to keep up with Him. And Colleen continues to be a huge part of that. And even if I stopped writing tomorrow (don't worry, I have no plans to), having her as a friend will be something I treasure from this journey.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Here are some photos from the Mall of America ACFW booksigning held on September 20. It was an amazing event. And these photos taken by Kenny Noble do a great job capturing the energy and flows of people. Thanks so much for taking them, Kenny!

I'll start with a photo of the lovely Margaret Daley standing next to Donita Paul. Both of these gracious ladies served on author panels for us. So not only did they have to sign, they had to hold microphones, too!

Angela Hunt signingAngela Hunt signing a book.
Listening to PanelsSome of the crowd listening to the panels.

Lena Nelson Dooley and Celia Dowdy interacting with readers.
More photos of the crowd.
The signers interacting with people. It was a great vehicle to hand out information about our books and introduce people to Christian fiction.
Andy McGuire tells about his delightful children's book.
Kathleen Kovach and Harry Kraus talk to readers.

Don't you love these overhead shots? What a cool perspective! Love the birds eye view.



Another birds eye view. You can see the stage in the Best Buy rotunda as well as the two rows of tables with authors.

Angela Hunt, Karen Ball, and Brandilyn Collins forming the back up group to James Scott Bell. I do believe they are singing Hairy Man!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Shape of Mercy and Giveaway


Susan Meissner's newest book, The Shape of Mercy, is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, mystery and romance. Set in present day Santa Barbara and also in colonial America during the Salem Witch Trials, the book follows a young college student as she transcribes the diary of a young woman falsely accused of witchcraft in 1692.

I am currently reading this book and love it. I've often heard people talk about Susan's skill with words, and this book emphasizes that. It's the third book of hers that I've read. Each has been unique, but I love the way this story is woven together. And the mix of current day and old journal is beautifully told -- it works without jarring.

"The story in a nutshell is this," Susan says. "Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her growing up years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge other people by what they want to believe about them, and particularly for her, how the poor view the wealthy. When she opts out of her family's financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an 83-year-old reclusive East Coast transplant. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of her ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, hanged for witchcraft in 17th-century Massachusetts. The lives of these two very different women converge as they jointly piece together the life - and death - of a third woman, Mercy Hayworth, who lived three hundred years earlier, and who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost."

Susan says the title has dual meaning. "Those who testified against the accused in Salem in 1692 often claimed their tormentors "took shape" in their bedrooms and tortured them as they slept. My fictional character Mercy was also accused of taking shape and torturing another young girl of the Village. She was innocent of course, as all those accused were, but in her last act before death, she shows that love has a shape. And its shape is mercy."

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and offered these insights. "Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth-a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials-whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers-Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren "Lars" Durough, wealthy, earnest and
young-become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller."

Susan says the concept behind The Shape of Mercy stayed with her long after she finished it. "I know I am often guilty of the same weakness my protagonist had to discover - and admit - about herself. She, like me, like so many, judge better than we love. And we let fear dictate how much love we will extend and to whom we will extend it. Not always, not in every circumstance. But it happens often enough to know I might have easily kept my quivering mouth shut had I lived in Salem in 1692. I might've said nothing when the Village marched to Gallows Hill to watch the accused hang.

We tend to fear what we can't comprehend. And we tend to understand only what we want to. There is a shimmering ray of hope, however. And it actually permeated all of 1692 Salem, though it hasn't garnered the same spotlight as the delusions of frightened and empowered people. The innocents who were hanged as witches refused to confess an allegiance to the Devil. Refused to the point of death. I find that remarkable and magnificent. It fills me with hope to consider that while we have the capacity to judge when we should show mercy, we also have the capacity to embrace Truth for all we're worth - even if it means we give up everything for it. It wasn't all darkness and deception in 1692 Salem. There was light there, too. It flickered every time the noose was pulled tight on the throat of one who would not give up on God and everything holy and good."

You can learn more about Susan and her books at www.susanmeissner.com. The book is available at bookstores everywhere and online.

If you would like to be entered in a drawing for this book, leave a comment. I have two copies to give away, so be sure to leave a comment. If there are more than 15 comments, I'll pull two winners.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Booksigning on Saturday!

My newest book just arrived at Carpenter's Son -- Yeah! They have it before I do LOL.
Captive Dreams is the last book in the Nebraska World War Two series. I'd be sad, except I'm racing to finish the first book in the Ohio World War Two series before next Tuesday. :-)

On Saturday from 1-3 p.m. there will be a booksigning at Carpenter's Son. I'll be there, but I'm letting you know because a couple of really special authors will be there. Robin Jones Gunn, author extraordinaire and amazing follower of Jesus, is flying in from Idaho -- yep, Idaho! She writes the Sister Chick and dozens of other books. Dave and Neta Jackson are coming in from Chicago -- I met them in July, and they are wonderful folks with amazing hearts for God. Neta writes the Yada-Yada Prayer Group books, and I just got their latest Heroes of the Faith book yesterday. Can't wait to see them and get it signed.

Colleen Coble, my mentor, coach, friend extraordinaire, will make the drive -- she just became a grandma for the first time so be sure to tell her congrats! Jamie Carie is coming from Indy -- her books continue to win awards and are wonderful historical fiction. And Rick Barry, another
Indiana writer will be joining us. I'm planning to buy his World War Two novel.

The great thing is that these folks will be there. Better yet, Carpenter's Son has arranged to have several of their books for $5 and $9. I'm thinking Christmas shopping! I know that a title of Robins and Neta's are $5 and Colleen's latest hard cover Anathema -- amazing suspense set here in Indiana -- is $8.97.

So if you have time, come join us between 1-3 p.m. We'd love to see you. And if you've thought about writing, we'll talk a bit about getting started at 1.

Hope to see you!

FireProof: the moive

Eric and I went to this movie Sunday night. It is really quite good and well done. It focuses on a marriage that is headed toward divorce and the love dare that challenges one of the spouses to fight a bit longer for the marriage.

Our small group is going to work through the Love Dare book this fall. I can't wait for our discussion on Sunday since most of us have seen the movie. Now to apply the principles to our marriages

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Single Sashimi

I cannot wait to read this book -- after I finish my manuscript. Camy has a wonderful way of writing. Funny is the key :-) Here you can read the first chapter before I do!

And here's a link to a podcast with Camy. Check it out!
It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The featured author is:

and her book:

THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Single Sashimi
By
Camy Tang

Chapter one

Venus Chau opened the door to her aunt's house and almost fainted.

"What died?" She exhaled sharply, trying to get the foul air out of her body before it caused cancer or something.

Her cousin Jennifer Lim entered the foyer with the look of an oni goblin about to eat someone. "She's stinking up my kitchen."

"Who?" Venus hesitated on the threshold, breathing clean night air before she had to close the door.

"My mother, who else?"

The ire in Jenn's voice made Venus busy herself with kicking off her heels amongst the other shoes in the tile foyer. Hoo-boy, she'd never seen quiet Jenn this irate before. Then again, since Aunty Yuki had given her daughter the rule of the kitchen when she'd started cooking in high school, Jenn rarely had to make way for another cook.

"What is she cooking? Beef intestines?"

Jenn flung her arms out. "Who knows? Something Trish is supposed to eat."

"But we don't have to eat it, right? Right?"

"I'll never become pregnant if I have to eat stuff like that." Jenn whirled and stomped toward the kitchen.

Venus turned right into the living room where her very pregnant cousin Trish lounged on the sofa next to her boyfriend, Spenser. "Hey, guys." Her gaze paused on their twined hands. It continued to amaze her that Spenser would date a woman pregnant with another man's child. Maybe Venus shouldn't be so cynical about the men she met. Here was at least one good guy.

Trish's arms shot into the air like a Raiders' cheerleader, nearly clocking Spenser in the eye. "I'm officially on maternity leave!"

Venus paused to clap. "So how did you celebrate?"

"I babysat Matthew all day today." She smiled dreamily at Spenser at the mention of his son.

Venus frowned and landed her hands on her hips. "In your condition?"

Trish waved a hand. "He's not that bad. He stopped swallowing things weeks ago."

"I'm finally not wasting money on all those emergency room visits," Spenser said.

"Besides, I got a book about how to help toddlers expect a new baby." Trish bounced lightly on the sofa cushion in her excitement.

"And?" It seemed kind of weird to Venus, since Trish and Spenser weren't engaged or anything. Yet.

Trish chewed her lip. "I don't know if he totally understands, but at least it's a start."

A sense of strangeness washed over Venus as she watched the two of them, the looks they exchanged that weren't mushy or intimate, just . . . knowing. Like mind reading. It made her feel alienated from her cousin for the first time in her life, and she didn't really like it.

She immediately damped down the feeling. How could she begrudge Trish such a wonderful relationship? Venus was so selfish. She disgusted herself.

She looked around the living room. "Where is -- "

"Venus!" The childish voice rang down the short hallway. She stepped back into the foyer to see Spenser's son, Matthew, trotting down the carpet with hands reached out to her. He grabbed her at the knees, wrinkling her silk pants, but she didn't mind. His shining face looking up at her -- way up, since she was the tallest of the cousins -- made her feel like she was the only reason he lived and breathed. "Psycho Bunny?" he pleaded.

She pretended to think about it. His hands shook her pants legs to make her decide faster.

"Okay."

He darted into the living room and plopped in front of the television, grabbing at the game controllers. The kid had it down pat -- in less than a minute, the music for the Psycho Bunny video game rolled into the room.

Venus sank to the floor next to him.

"Jenn is totally freaking out." Trish's eyes had popped to the size of siu mai dumplings.

"What brought all this on?" Venus picked up the other controller.

"Well, Aunty Yuki had a doctor's appointment today -- "

"Is she doing okay?" She chose the Bunny Foo-Foo character for the game just starting.

"Clean bill of health. Cancer's gone, as far as they can tell."

"So that's why she's taken over Jenn's domain?"

Trish rubbed her back and winced. "She took one look at me and decided I needed something to help the baby along."

Jenn huffed into the living room. "She's going to make me ruin the roast chicken!"

Venus ignored her screeching tone. "Sit down. You're not going to make her hurry by hovering." She and Matthew both jumped over the snake pit and landed in the hollow tree.

Jenn flung herself into an overstuffed chair and dumped her feet on the battered oak coffee table.

Venus turned to glance at the foyer. No Nikes. "Where's Lex?"

"Late. Where else?" Jenn snapped.

"I thought Aiden was helping her be better about that."

"He's not a miracle worker." Spenser massaged Trish's back.

"I have to leave early." Venus stretched her silk-clad feet out, wriggling her toes. Her new stilettos looked great but man, they hurt her arches.

"Then you might not eat at all." Jenn crossed her arms over her chest.

Venus speared her with a glance like a stainless steel skewer. "Chill, okay Cujo?"

Jenn pouted and scrunched further down in the chair.

Venus ignored her and turned back to the game. Her inattention had let Matthew pick up the treasure chest. "I have to work on a project."

"For work?"

"No, for me." Only the Spiderweb, the achievement of her lifetime, a new tool that would propel her to the heights of video game development stardom. Which was why she'd kept it separate from her job-related things -- she didn't even use her company computer when she worked on it, only her personal laptop.

A new smell wafted into the room, this one rivaling the other in its stomach-roiling ability. Venus waved her hand in front of her face.

"Pffaugh! What is she cooking?"

Trish's face had turned the color of green tea. "You're lucky you don't have to eat it. Whatever it is, it ain't gonna stay down for long."

"Just say you still have morning sickness."

"In my ninth month?"

Venus shrugged.

The door slammed open. "Hey, guys -- blech."

Venus twisted around to see her cousin Lex doubled over, clenching her washboard stomach (Venus wished she could have one of those) and looking like she'd hurled up all the shoes littering the foyer floor.

Lex's boyfriend Aiden grabbed her waist to prevent her from nosediving into the tile. "Lex, it's not that bad."

"The gym locker room smells better." Lex used her toes to pull off her cross-trainers without bothering to untie them. "The men's locker room."

"It's not me," Jenn declared. "It's Mom, ruining all my best pots."

"What is she doing? Killing small animals on the stovetop?"

"Something for the baby." Trish tried to smile, but it looked more like a wince.

"As long as we don't have to eat it." Lex dropped her slouchy purse on the floor and walked into the living room.

Aunty Yuki appeared behind her in the doorway, bearing a steaming bowl. "Here, Trish. Drink this." The brilliant smile on her wide face eclipsed her tiny stature.

Venus smelled something pungent, like when she walked into a Chinese medicine shop with her dad. A bolus of air erupted from her mouth, and she coughed. "What is that?" She dropped the game controller.

"Pig's brain soup."

Trish's smile hardened to plastic. Lex grabbed her mouth. Spenser -- who was Chinese and therefore had been raised with the weird concoctions -- sighed. Aiden looked at them all like they were funny-farm rejects.

Venus closed her eyes, tightened her mouth, and concentrated on not gagging. Good thing her stomach was empty.

Aunty Yuki's mouth pursed. "What's wrong? My mother-in-law made me eat pig's brain soup when I was a couple weeks from delivering Jennifer."

"That's what you ruined my pots with?" Jennifer steamed hotter than the bowl of soup.

Her mom caught the yakuza-about-to-hack-your-finger-off expression on Jenn's face. Aunty Yuki paused, then backtracked to the kitchen. With the soup bowl, thankfully.

"Papa?" Matthew's voice sounded faint.

Venus turned.

"Don't feel good." He clutched his poochy tummy.

"Oh, no." Spenser grabbed his son and headed out of the living room.

Then the world exploded.

Just as they passed into the foyer, Matthew threw up onto the tiles.

Lex, with her weak stomach when it came to bodily fluids, took one look and turned pasty.

A burning smell and a few cries sounded from the kitchen.

Trish sat up straighter than a Buddha and clenched her rounded abdomen. "Oh!"

Spenser held his crying son as he urped up the rest of his afternoon snack. Lex clapped a hand to her mouth to prevent herself from following Matthew's example. Jenn started for the kitchen, but then Matthew's mess blocking the foyer stopped her. Trish groaned and curled in on herself, clutching her tummy.

Venus shot to her feet. She wasn't acting Game Lead at her company for nothing.

"You." She pointed to Jenn. "Get to the kitchen and send your mom in here for Trish." Jenn leaped over Matthew's puddle and darted away. "And bring paper towels for the mess!"

"You," she flung at Spenser. "Take Matthew to the bathroom."

He gestured to the brand new hallway carpet.

Oh no, Aunty Yuki would have a fit. But it couldn't be helped. "If he makes a mess on the carpet, we'll just clean it up later."

He didn't hesitate. He hustled down the hallway with Matthew in his arms.

Venus kicked the miniscule living room garbage basket closer to Lex. "Hang your head over that." Not that it would hold more than spittle, but it was better than letting Lex upchuck all over the plush cream carpet. Why did Lex, tomboy and jock, have to go weak every time something gross happened?

"You." Venus stabbed a manicured finger at Aiden. "Get your car, we're taking Trish to the hospital."

He didn't jump at her command. "After one contraction?"

Trish moaned, and Venus had a vision of the baby flying out of her in the next minute. She pointed to the door again. "Just go!"

Aiden shrugged and slipped out the front door, muttering to himself.

"You." She stood in front of Trish, who'd started Lamaze breathing through her pursed lips. "Uh . . ."

Trish peered up at her.

"Um . . . stop having contractions."

Trish rolled her eyes, but didn't speak through her pursed lips.

Venus ignored her and went to kneel over Matthew's rather watery puddle, which had spread with amoeba fingers reaching down the lines of grout. Lex's purse lay nearby, so she rooted in it for a tissue or something to start blotting up the mess.

Footsteps approaching. Before she could raise her head or shout a warning, Aunty Yuki hurried into the foyer. "What's wron -- !"

It was like a Three Stooges episode. Aunty Yuki barreled into Venus's bent figure. She had leaned over Matthew's mess to protect anyone from stepping in it, but it also made her an obstacle in the middle of the foyer.

"Ooomph!" The older woman's feet -- shod in cotton house slippers, luckily, and not shoes -- jammed into Venus's ribs. She couldn't see much except a pair of slippers leaving the floor at the same time, and then a body landing on the living room carpet on the other side of her. Ouch.

"Are you okay?" Venus twisted to kneel in front of her, but she seemed slow to rise.

"Venus, here're the paper towels -- "

Jenn's voice in the foyer made Venus whirl on the balls of her feet and fling her hands up. "Watch out!"

Jenn stopped just in time. Her toes were only inches away from Matthew's mess, her body leaning forward. Her arms whirled, still clutching the towels, like a cheerleader and her pom-poms.

"Jenn." Spenser's voice coming down the hallway toward the foyer. "Where are the -- "

"Stop!" Venus and Jenn shouted at the same time.

Spenser froze, his foot hovering above a finger of the puddle that had stretched toward the hallway. "Ah. Okay. Thanks." He lowered his foot on the clean tile to the side.

Aiden opened the front door. "The car's out front -- " The sight of them all left him speechless.

Trish had started to hyperventilate, her breath seething through her teeth. "Will somebody do something?!"

Aunty Yuki moaned from her crumpled position on the floor.

Smoke started pouring from the kitchen, along with the awful smell of burned . . . something that wasn't normal food.

Venus snatched the paper towels from Jenn. "Kitchen!" Jenn fled before she'd finished speaking. "What do you need?" Venus barked at Spenser.

"Extra towels."

"Guest bedroom closet, top shelf."

He headed back down the hall. Venus turned to Aiden and swept a hand toward Aunty Yuki on the living room floor. "Take care of her, will you?"

"What about me?" Trish moaned through a clenched jaw.

"Stop having contractions!" Venus swiped up the mess on the tile before something worse happened, like someone stepped in it and slid. That would just be the crowning cherry to her evening. Even when she wasn't at work, she was still working.

"Are you okay, Aunty?" She stood with the sodden paper towels.

Aiden had helped her to a seat next to Lex, who was ashen-faced and still leaning over the tiny trash can. Aside from a reddish spot on Aunty Yuki's elbow, she seemed fine.

Jenn entered the living room, her hair wild and a distinctive burned smell sizzling from her clothes. "My imported French saucepan is completely blackened!" But she had enough sense not to glare at her parent as she probably wanted to. Aunty Yuki suddenly found
the wall hangings fascinating.

Venus started to turn toward the kitchen to throw away the paper towels she still held. "Well, we have to take Trish to the hospital -- "

"Actually . . ." Trish's breathing had slowed. "I think it's just a false alarm."

Venus turned to look at her. "False alarm? Pregnant women have those?"

"It happened a couple days ago too."

"What?" Venus almost slammed her fist into her hip, but remembered the dirty paper towels just in time. Good thing too, because she had on a Chanel suit.

Trish gave a long, slow sigh. "Yup, they're gone. That was fast." She smiled cheerfully.

Venus wanted to scream. This was out of her realm. At work, she was used to grabbing a crisis at the throat and wrestling it to submission. This was somewhere Trish was heading without her, and the thought both frightened and unnerved her. She shrugged it off. "Well . . . Aunty -- "

"I'm fine, Venus." Aunty Yuki inspected her elbow. "Jennifer, get those Japanese Salonpas patches -- "

"Mom, they stink." Jenn's stress over her beautiful kitchen made her more belligerent than Venus had ever seen her before. Not that the camphor patches could smell any worse than the burned Chinese-old-wives'-pregnancy-food permeating the house.

At the sound of the word Salonpas, Lex pinched her lips together but didn't say anything.

Aunty Yuki gave Jenn a limpid look. "The Salonpas gets rid of the pain."

"I'll get it." Aiden headed down the hallway to get the adhesive patches.

"In the hall closet." Jenn's words slurred a bit through her tight jaw.

Distraction time. Venus tried to smile. "Aunty, if you're okay, then let's eat."

Jenn's eyes flared neon red. "Can't."

"Huh?"

"Somebody turned off the oven." Jenn frowned at her mother, who tactfully looked away. "Dinner won't be for another hour." She stalked back to the kitchen.

Even with the nasty smell, Venus's stomach protested its empty state. "It's already eight o'clock."

"Suck it up!" Jenn yelled from the kitchen.

It was going to be a long night.

***

Venus needed a Reese's peanut butter cup.

No, a Reese's was bad. Sugar, fat, preservatives, all kinds of chemicals she couldn't even pronounce.

Oooh, but it would taste so good . . .

No, she equated Reese's cups with her fat days. She was no longer fat. She didn't need a Reese's.

But she sure wanted one after such a hectic evening with her cousins.

She trudged up the steps to her condo. Home. Too small to invite people over, and that was the way she liked it. Her haven, where she could relax and let go, no one to see her when she was vulnerable --

Her front door was ajar.

Her limbs froze mid-step, but her heart rat-tat-tatted in her chest like a machine gun. Someone. Had. Broken. Into. Her. Home.

Her hand started to shake. She clenched it to her hip, crushing the silk of her pants. What to do? He might still be there. Pepper spray. In her purse. She searched in her bag and finally found the tiny bottle. Her hand trembled so much, she'd be more likely to spritz herself than the intruder.

Were those sounds coming from inside? She reached out a hand, but couldn't quite bring herself to push the door open further.

Stupid, call the police! She fumbled with the pepper spray so she could extract her cell phone. Dummy, don't pop yourself in the eye with that stuff! She switched the spray to her other hand while her thumb dialed 9 - 1 - 1. Her handbag's leather straps dug into her elbow.

Thump! That came from her living room! Footsteps. Get away from the door! She stumbled backwards, but remembering the stairs right behind her, she tried to stop herself from tumbling down. Her ankle tilted on her stilettos, and she fell sideways to lean against the wall. The footsteps approached her open door.

"9 - 1 - 1, what's your emergency?"

She raised her hand with the bottle of pepper spray. "Someone's -- "

The door swung open.

"Edgar!" The cell phone dropped with a clatter, but she kept a firm grip on the pepper spray, suddenly tempted to use it.

One of her junior programmers stood in her open doorway.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Camy Tang
Requests for information should be addressed to:
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

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