Friday, February 27, 2009
Dean Man's Rule, Rick Acker's debut novel, is a fast-paced, page-turning tale filled with legal twists and international intrigue. I enjoyed the authentic legal angles, but loved that the book went beyond the courtroom. There was so much going on in the book it was hard to put it down. And the characters moved beyond the expected. One character in particular kept me guessing, and I loved the twist with him. So if you're looking for a legal suspense that has thriller overtones, this book is perfect!Dean Man's Rule
I'm not a vampire book reader -- and kept hearing Shade described as the vampire book without the vampire. I'd heard people couldn't sleep with the lights off after reading it...I didn't find it that scary...instead I found this book slowly pulled me in and left me flipping pages because I couldn't get ahead of the author and anticipate where he planned to take the plot. Instead, down to the last page I was surprised by how John wrapped up the story.
The book has strong supernatural threads with glimpses of the goth underworld and a fleeting flash of a Narnia-type setting. The writing is strong with characters that left me wondering who I could root for. I think the name comes from the swirls of gray that fill the pages.
If you're looking for a book that is unique in Christian fiction with strong suspense and supernatural notes, then this book is for you.
And John has assured me there's more to come in this series. I can't wait to read the next one!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tonight I'm not so sure.
You see, on my desk next to my laptop sits the revision letter for my next Love Inspired Suspense, Trial By Fire. I am so excited about my editor's thoughts on this book. Once again, they only make the plot stronger. Always a good thing! And the revision is due back to NYC by March 2.
On the floor next to the desk sits a red magazine holder thingy (very technical term!). It's filled with research on the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, the historical backdrop for A Promise Forged, the book due July 1. Why is the research next to the desk? Because I just finished the synopsis and submitted it to that wonderful editor a couple nights ago.
Sitting on top of the revision letter for Trial By Fire, is the 1943 calendar scrawled with notes for the baseball team and the plot pivot points for the book I turn in April, A Promise Born. This book has spies, WAVES, Bombes, and all kinds of fun 1943 World War Two elements.
Then there's the textbook for the class I'm teaching at Purdue right now. I should be preparing for that class instead of writing this post. And don't forget being a wife and mom, homeschooling my kids, being involved in my church and community, and all the other roles I fill. Times like this I feel like a juggler. Trying to keep everything going and doing it all well.
The only problem is I've narrowed down my life to the things I love. Why do I love doing so many things!?!?!?! :-)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Daniel's Den is told in third person, rather than the close first person of the Colton Parker series. Maybe that's one reason I struggled a bit to get into Daniel and Laura's heads. There also was a sense of two separate plot lines running until they intersect about halfway through the book. As a reader, you know they'll intersect...the backcover copy assures you of that. But it's hard to see how. Once they do, the action speeds up. The romance also feels a bit rushed -- As a writer I know that's the point I always struggle with in romantic suspense -- how do you make it work when they've only known each other a few days. Now, don't worry! Brandt's books are not suddenly romantic suspense -- there's just a dollop of romance. The suspense still dominates the pages.
And you'll enjoy the techno-gadgetry...gives a fun feel to the story as you watch the bad guys use technology to the max.
So if you love suspense, give this one a try. You'll enjoy it. But be forewarned -- it has a different feel from the Colton Parker series. That's not a bad thing. Just different. And here's your chance to read the first chapter for free!
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, where he graduated from Ben Davis High School and, later, Indiana Central University (now known as The University of Indianapolis). It was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said, "You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer." That comment, and the support offered by a good teacher, set Brandt on a course that would eventually lead to the Colton Parker Mystery Series.
A committed Christian, Brandt combined his love for the work of Writers like Chandler and Hammet, with his love for God's word. The result was Colton Parker.
"I wanted Colton to be an 'every man'. A decent guy who tries his best. He is flawed, and makes mistakes. But he learns from them and moves on. And, of course, he gets away with saying and doing things that the rest of us never could."
Brandt comes from a long line of police officers, spanning several generations, and was employed by the FBI before leaving to pursue his education. A former United States Naval Reserve officer, Brandt is a board Certified Podiatrist and past President of the Indiana Podiatric Medical Association. He is a recipient of the association's highest honor, "The Theodore H. Clark Award".
He currently resides in southwestern Indiana with his wife and two sons and is at work on his next novel.
Visit the author's website.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Daniel Borden was a happy man. He was in control of his life and he had all that he needed. He was secure.
That was about to change.
On Tuesday, April 5, Daniel rose an hour before sunup and drank a chocolate-flavored protein drink before dressing in red running shorts, light gray T-shirt, and New Balance running shoes. The shoes were less than a month old, but had already carried him more than a hundred miles. They were comfortable.
After dressing, he stretched by putting one foot against the stairway banister and bending at the waist, bouncing slightly, until the tightness in his leg receded. He then alternated legs and performed the maneuver again.
When his stretching was done, he did a hundred sit-ups followed by a hundred push-ups. Although the intensity of the calisthenics was unusual compared to the number for an average man, Daniel was not particularly muscled. Instead, he had the lean sinewy build of an Olympic gymnast. At thirty-five, he looked ten years younger. And in fact, he felt ten years younger too. He attributed his good health to a disciplined lifestyle.
When his warm up was complete he called for Elvis, the two year old black Lab he had adopted from a local animal shelter. The dog had been lying patiently on the comfortable over-stuffed sofa watching with detached interest as Daniel worked through his morning routine. But now it was time to run and Elvis liked to run.
On hearing his name, the dog leaped off the sofa and trod to his master, waiting patiently as his collar and leash were snapped into place. The leash was a requirement of Bayou Bay's restrictive covenants, one of the many features that attracted Daniel to the highly regulated New Orleans subdivision.
He opened the door. “Let's go, boy.”
They left the house and crossed the short expanse of lawn, beginning their run by heading north, a route they often took and that would return them to the house three miles later. They ran at nearly the same time everyday and were familiar with the predawn rhythms of the neighborhood.
Newspapers were delivered between four and five each morning, the garbage collection occurred on Monday, and the Brightmans, who lived several doors down from Daniel and who tended to rise nearly as early, were usually drinking coffee in front of their open dinning room window by the time Borden and the Lab passed their house. The neighborhood ran with the precision and dependability of a Swiss time piece.
Except this morning.
As they began their run, Daniel noticed a black panel van setting curbside less than two doors away. There was nothing particularly suspicious about the van, but it hadn't been there yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. In fact, in all the months that Daniel had been running through the neighborhood he had never seen the van.
It didn't belong.
He paused to take a second look, when Elvis distracted him by pulling on the leash.
“Okay, okay. Sorry. Geeshsh.”
The morning air was still cool and dew had settled over the lawns giving them an almost aluminum sheen in the waning moonlight.
To the east, over the crest beyond which the city lay, a warm hue was beginning to illuminate the horizon as the sun woke for its ascent. It wouldn't be long before it would break the horizon, painting the sky over The Big Easy in a dazzling array of colors that would impress even the most skilled artist. Then the city would come alive as school children boarded buses, DJs took to the air waves, and rush hour traffic began to form.
But the neighborhood was quiet at this hour, which made for a quiet, peaceful run. Only the pounding of Daniel's feet, his own breathing, and the jingle of Elvis' tags broke the silence. It was a tune with which they had become familiar since Daniel acquired the lab, and it provided him a sense of stability that only the familiar can provide. And Daniel reveled in stability.
His need for the familiar, for the stable, as well as a passion to escape the near poverty conditions he had known as a child, had driven his career choice. As an investment analyst with one of the largest investment houses in the country, he learned that despite the ups and downs of an often volatile market, Wall Street could be relied on to do the one thing it does best--make money. Even in the most difficult of times the market could be depended on to correct itself. And it was the market's natural return to stability that convinced him most investors can control their financial futures if they were willing to make the hard decisions. The market may be unstable at any given moment, but the share holders needn't be. If they were willing to ride out the current travails, history showed they would have an excellent chance of recovery. If they had neither the stomach nor the time to wait for the inevitable market correction, they could sell and reinvest in another, more stable vehicle. True, they may suffer a loss, may even absorb a significant loss, but such were the realities of investing. But the truth underlying the matter is that the investor has the upper hand, even if exercising that option cost them in the short run. Far different than most, who viewed the market as a speculative ride, driven by greed and underwritten by risk, Daniel saw the market as the one place where savvy investors could control their destiny.
And Daniel needed to have control.
The runners approached the first turn in the road. This one would take then to the west, along Worth Street.
Daniel breathed deeply. The air was cool, invigorating, and renewed him in ways that made him feel lighter, as unbound by earthly constraints as the freedom that comes with unchecked flight. It was as though he could leave the earth and return at will.
As dog and master rounded the corner, Elvis began to tug at the leash, a clear sign that it was time to separate the men from the dogs.
“Want to run, huh?” Daniel said.
The dog woofed and pulled harder.
Daniel stepped up the pace, slow at first, but then faster as Elvis maintained his cadence effortlessly.
Daniel had adopted the dog shortly after moving to New Orleans. Growing up as an only child whose parents moved frequently, more often than not to stay a step ahead of the bill collector, Daniel had often been lonely. Over time, his loneliness led to isolation. He had few friends (none who were particularly close) and was always the last one selected when choosing up sides.
And the abyss of loneliness was further deepened when, more often than not, his father was passed out on the sofa when Daniel came home from school and his mother was at work trying to earn enough money to keep the family in the same house for a single school year.
On those days, Daniel would go to his room and imagine himself a successful man who others admired and respected. He imagined himself traveling to places he'd never been, and would likely never see.
But on other days, when his father was not unconscious and his mother was home, he would try to earn their attention by initiating conversation or taking the lead in washing the after-dinner dishes. And when their favor didn't come Daniel would go outside to mope, or back to his room, feeling as discarded as the beer cans his father carelessly tossed about.
Daniel wanted a dog. Someone who would be glad to see him when he came home from school and who would lay on his bed at night, eager to hear about the day's events. But the realities of his parents' financial straits denied their son this one extravagance. “Dogs cost money,” his father said. “And if you take a look around you'll see that money ain't something that we have just laying about.”
So Daniel spent most of his time alone, dreaming of the day when he could make enough money to have a dog of his own--and take control of his life. And maybe, even make his parents proud.
Growing up alone, gave Daniel ample time for study.
After high school, he attended Ole' Miss on an academic scholarship and excelled in academic achievement. But his father often chided the boy for not wanting to work with his hands and his mother told him he might be reaching for heights that were beyond his ability. The desire to gain their approval began to wane, though, as he grew into manhood and became increasingly independent. But when his mother suddenly died, all desire to gain his parents approval died with her.
He left for Chicago shortly afterward, leaving his father to bury his grief-- real or genuine--in the same way he had buried everything else.
Later, when Daniel earned his MBA, his father did not attend the graduation ceremony, did not call, did not even send a card. The father son relationship officially ended, long before his father died in an alcoholic stupor three years later.
After graduation, it wasn't long before Daniel secured a position with the Chicago office of Capshaw-Crane and began to focus his efforts on climbing the ladder of success. At times it seemed inevitable that he would miss a step, slip up, and fall back to the disaster of his childhood, landing solidly on a pile of empty beer cans in a house of despair. But like the market, he would make the corrections necessary to maintain balance--even if not perspective.
“Not fast enough, huh?” Daniel ran faster; the Lab kept pace.
Borden's concentration on the things in life that were important, on his career, his health, and his financial stability had clearly paid off.
Growing up, he had been lonely. Now he had Elvis. Growing up, he had been hungry. Now, although he chose not to indulge, he could dine in the finest restaurants in a city known for its unique culinary style. Growing up, he had lived in squalid surroundings, awakened as often by the sound of mice playing in his room as he was by his parents' seemingly never-ending arguments. Now he lived in Bayou Bay one of city's premiere residential areas.
Daniel had taken control. He was secure.
Until he noticed the van, again, parked alongside the street with its engine idling and exhaust spewing from the tail pipe. There was no doubt that this was the same van that had been parked on his street, just a few doors down from his house.
“We've seen that before, haven't we boy?”
Elvis continued to pull on the leash. The van was parked along the same side of the street as which they ran, with its nose pointed westward. It was a black panel van with a single red pinstripe encircling it.
It didn't fit. Didn't belong. And yet, here it was, a mile from where it had been parked just a few minutes before.
“This way, boy,” Daniel said, heading for the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street and away from the idling vehicle.
Elvis followed his master's lead, giving him a confused look, but maintaining the pace that would soon bring them parallel with the van. From his vantage point, Daniel could see that the side windows were covered in an opaque film that eliminated any chance of observing who was inside. But as they came alongside the van, Daniel began to slow, finally coming to a complete stop. Elvis gave his master another confused look.
“What have we got here, boy?” Daniel said, leaning forward, straining to get a better view of the van.
A low growl began to form in the dog's throat. As though he had just discovered the out of place vehicle and the possible threat it posed.
“You too?” Daniel said. “I don't like the-“
“Black Lab,” a voice said.
Daniel spun around to find that Elvis was facing to the right, opposite of where the van was parked.
“They're nice dogs,” the voice said. “I used to have one myself.”
Daniel focused on the shadows to his right. Barely visible, but silhouetted against the yard light behind him, a tall man emerged, dressed in pajamas and a bathrobe. He was carrying a garbage can.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn't mean to startle you.”
Daniel exhaled. “That's okay. It's just that my dog and I never see anyone out at this hour.”
The man set the garbage can down at the curb. “And you wouldn't have this time either, if I could've remembered to do this the night before.” He reached to pat Elvis on the head. “The wife and I are leaving for vacation today and I needed to get this stuff out so it wouldn't pile up. We're going to be gone for a couple of weeks.”
The van pulled away from the curb with only its parking lights on. Daniel made a note of the license plate.
“Do you know them?” Daniel asked.
The man turned to watch as the van disappeared around the corner.
“No, can't say I do. But I wouldn't worry.”
He stooped to pat Elvis' head again, before extending a hand. “Hubert Johns.”
“Daniel Borden. And this is Elvis.”
“Elvis, huh? Well, he's sure a beauty. Aren't you boy?” He scratched behind Elvis' ear.
“Why shouldn't I worry?” Daniel asked.
“I'm head of the neighborhood crime watch. If there's anything going on around here, I'm usually the first to know.”
“Are there things going on around here?”
“You mean like burglaries and that sort of thing? No, pretty quiet. And we try to keep it that way.” He nodded to the house across the street. “There are some kids that live there. Teenagers. But they're good kids. A little loud sometimes with their music and all, and their mother lets them keep some pretty late hours, but they've always been polite.” He patted Elvis again. “Most likely the van was some of their friends.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, feeling a little foolish. “Probably some friends of theirs.”
The man put both hands in the pocket of his robe. “You okay? You sound kind of rattled.”
Daniel laughed. “I'm fine. The van was just sitting there with its engine running. It unnerved me a bit, that's all.”
“I don't remember seeing you at the meetings. Are you a member of the watch?”
Daniel shook his head. “No, I'm afraid not. I tend to keep pretty busy and I don't have-“
“Don't have what? Time?” Hubert chuckled. “I was a cop for thirty years. If they were up to something, I would've noticed it. After thirty years of dealing with every piece of garbage there is, you get to a point where you can smell trouble,” he tapped his nose. “Know what I mean?”
“I guess so.”
“You ought to consider joining the neighborhood crime watch. You never know when you might be a victim.”
“I'll sure think about it.”
“You do that.”
Elvis began to tug at the leash. There wasn't a lot of time left to run and Daniel was wasting it.
“Well, it was nice to meet you,” Daniel said. “Sorry that we haven't met before.”
Johns nodded as he looked about the neighborhood. “Too many people keep to themselves. That's never a good thing. Two people working together are always better than one working alone.”
“Right.” Elvis began to pull hard on the leash.
“But I wouldn't worry about that van. Probably just some kids smoking dope or something.” He nodded toward the eastern horizon. “Besides, the sun is coming up now. If it was somebody that was going to do something, they waited too late.”
Daniel watched as the glow that had just started when he left the house, began blossoming into a new day. “Yeah. Probably nothing to worry about.”
Monday, February 23, 2009
I have enjoyed each of Ginny's books that I've read. While I haven't had time to get deeply into this one, I can tell you that the book is laced with her trademark humor and will go straight to the heart of every woman who's ever tried to decide what to do after the birth of a baby or who hasn't felt particularly beautiful. I can't wait to finish this book. Just as soon as I turn in my rewrite next week.
Virginia Smith is the author of eight novels, including Age before Beauty, Stuck in the Middle, and A Taste of Murder. In 2008 she was named Writer of the Year at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A popular retreat speaker, Ginny keeps audiences enthralled with her high-energy presentations. She and her husband, Ted, divide their time between Kentucky and Utah, and escape as often as they can for diving trips to the Caribbean.
Visit the author's website.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
But the warping seemed only to be in the middle, like one of those fun-house mirrors. She squinted down at her pink toenails. Her feet looked normal. Her face looked okay. Pretty good, even. This was the first time she’d put on makeup in weeks, and a little color worked wonders. She could use a haircut, though the dark blonde layers falling in waves to rest on her shoulders managed to hold the extra length well.
She blew her bangs out of her eyes. Actually, the long hair made her face look fuller, and that offset some of the width of her hips. Which needed the help, especially now that she got a good look at them wearing only a nursing bra and panties. If she cut some of the volume out of her hair, she’d look like one of those toys she and Joan and Tori played with as kids. What were they called? Weebles. She’d look like Mother Weeble.
She swayed from side to side, eyeing her oversized bottom half as she sang the toy’s jingle. “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”
“Did you say something?”
Allie whirled to find Eric standing in the bedroom doorway, a grin twitching at his mouth. She felt a blush creep up her neck. Though he was the world’s most awesome husband and devoted new daddy, she still felt awkward parading her postmaternity body around in front of him. A flabby belly covered in stretch marks was soooo sexy.
“How long have you been standing there?”
His voice dropped an octave as his smile deepened. “Long enough to admire my beautiful wife.”
No mistaking that husky tone. She snatched her jeans off the bed. “Don’t get frisky, lover boy. My sister will be here any minute.”
Eric’s lips twisted. “Story of my life lately.”
Allie crossed the room and placed a tender kiss on his cheek. “I’m sorry my family is here so often. They just don’t want to miss a day with the baby. She’s growing so fast.”
“I know, I know.” He grinned. “But tonight I get Joanie all to myself. Our first father-daughter date.”
Allie sat on the edge of the bed and slipped her feet into the jeans, avoiding Eric’s eyes. He had been looking forward to this evening for a full week, ever since Joan invited her to go to a stupid party where some fanatical woman would try to force her to buy something she didn’t want and for which she had no use. If only Joan hadn’t asked in front of Eric, she would have turned the invitation down without a second thought. But he had insisted it was time she took her first outing without the baby.
Pulling the waistband up around her knees, she gave Eric a worried look. “Are you sure you’ll be okay? She’s only taken a bottle a few times, you know. She might cry.”
“I’ll deal with it.”
He held up a finger. “No buts. She’s five weeks old. In three weeks she’ll be taking a bottle at the daycare center when you go back to work. She needs to get used to it.”
Tears stung Allie’s eyes, and she looked away so Eric wouldn’t see. “I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I am. Now finish getting dressed while I go wind the baby swing again.”
He left, and Allie sat staring at the handwoven rug in front of their bed. Three weeks. Then she’d have to leave her precious little Joanie in the hands of a total stranger.
If only . . .
She jerked the shirt over her head. No. One of the things she and Eric had talked about before they got married was how they’d handle life after they started having children. She’d insisted on laying it all out, because Eric’s mother had been a stay-at-home mom, and Allie wanted to make absolutely sure he didn’t have the same expectations. Her toenail caught the edge of her sock as she tugged it up, and she hissed with pain. No way would she become one of those women relegated to a dull life of child rearing. She was a career woman—the second sock followed the first—with a college degree and plans for her professional future. She liked her job, liked the independence it gave her. Besides, they agreed on having two incomes so they could afford things like nice clothes and good cars and vacations at the beach.
But that was before she’d had a baby.
If only there was some way she could pursue her career and keep her daughter at home. She had quietly investigated every work-from-home scheme she could find lately, but all of them sounded more like scams than jobs.
Banishing the tears, she stood. No sense crying about it. She had no option. In three weeks she’d return to her job as a team leader at the social services office. She might even be able to recapture some of the excitement and ambition she’d felt before she got pregnant. At the moment, though, it sounded like a life sentence with no chance of parole.
She pulled her jeans up over her knees. This was the first pair of zippered pants she’d tried to wear since Joanie’s birth, having lived in sweats and oversized T-shirts once she put away the maternity clothes. Wiggling her hips back and forth, she inched them upward. Come on, come on, they had to fit. They were her biggest jeans, stretchy and so loose that she’d worn them all the way up to her fifth month of pregnancy. Just a little farther . . .
Ugh. She panted from the effort. But at least she’d managed to get them pulled all the way up.
Now the zipper. Suck that gut in. Pull hard. Harder. She hopped up and down, tugging at the waistband. Okay, if the zipper wouldn’t go all the way to the top, it didn’t matter. She’d just wear her shirttail out. Everybody did these days. As long as she could get the button fastened.
There! They fit! She was wearing pre-baby Levis! Well, sort of.
She stepped up to the mirror and bit back a gasp.
The stupid thing had to be warped.
“Hey, look at you all dressed up.” Joan stood on the doorstep, car keys clutched in one hand. “You look great.”
Allie scowled and tried not to think of the jeans she could almost wear shoved in the back of her bottom drawer. “These are maternity pants. Nothing else fits.”
“Oh.” Joan’s smile drooped a fraction, then brightened again. “But that’s not a maternity shirt. And turquoise is totally your color.”
Her eyes shifted to a point inside the room, then she practically bowled Allie over as she rushed toward the swing to snatch up the baby. Sighing, Allie closed the door. So much for Joanie’s nap.
Allie tried to ignore a wave of insecurity as she admired her sister’s slim frame, the way her jeans fit without a single bulge. Straight dark hair fell forward to tickle the baby’s face as Joan cooed at her slumbering namesake while she unfastened the safety strap. Soft baby noises answered as little Joanie’s eyelids fluttered open. Allie clasped her hands together to keep from taking the infant from her middle sister’s arms. She was so sweet when she first woke. Tiny fists rose above her head and she kicked her legs out to their full length and arched her back to stretch.
“Look at her! I swear she’s grown an inch since the last time I saw her.”
Allie answered dryly. “I doubt that, since you came over yesterday.” She held her hands out. “Here, let me change her.”
Joan clutched the baby closer. “I’ll do it.”
With a sigh, Allie followed her sister into the nursery. Bright pink daisies on fields of green bordered the white walls and also decorated lacy curtains and crib bedding. Joan laid Joanie on a daisy-covered pad atop the changing table. While she unsnapped the pink onesie, Allie took a diaper from the stacker and popped open the plastic cap on the wipes. The sweet smell of baby powder was quickly replaced with a less pleasant odor when Joan peeled the tape off the dirty diaper.
Eric stuck his head through the doorway as Allie pulled out a wipe and handed it to Joan. “Whew, I’m glad you girls got that out of the way before you left. Of course, the way this little piggie eats, I probably have at least one unpleasant surprise in store tonight.”
“Don’t worry.” Allie dropped the soiled bundle into the Diaper Genie and twisted the knob. “We won’t be gone very long. I’m sure we’ll be back for the next dirty diaper.”
“I’m kidding, Allie. You know I don’t mind taking care of my girl.” He leaned over and buried a kiss in Joanie’s chubby neck, eliciting a gurgle and an excited waving of arms and legs.
Joan snapped the onesie back in place over the fresh diaper and picked up the squirming infant. Allie stepped forward to take her, but instead Joan thrust her into Eric’s arms.
“It’s time to go. I don’t want to be late.” With a meaningful glance in Allie’s direction, she marched out of the room, Eric right behind her with Joanie hugged tightly to his chest.
Left alone in the nursery, Allie fought a wave of panic that caused her throat to tighten with unshed tears. Cheerful daisies mocked her. She knew this feeling, had sensed the edges of it creeping toward her all day. The moment had come. After five weeks of constantly being in Joanie’s presence, she was about to leave her in someone else’s care.
Don’t be ridiculous. She scrubbed at her eyes with the back of her hand. Joanie wasn’t staying with a stranger. She was staying with her daddy! He’d watched her many times while Allie enjoyed a long bath or a nap.
But what if she cries? What if she misses me?
She started toward the living room, and then stopped short as an even more distressing thought struck her. What if she doesn’t even notice I’m gone?
“Allie, are you coming?”
Joan’s voice propelled her feet into motion. She would not think about that.
One step took her from the hallway into their tiny living room, where Eric had deposited Joanie on the mat beneath her baby gym. Allie fought to suppress a wave of regret when chubby infant hands waved with erratic enthusiasm at the dangling toys, and happy coos filled the room. It had only been in the past few days that she’d started noticing the toys. She was growing so fast, changing every day. What if she did something really cool for the first time tonight, while Allie wasn’t here to see it? She dropped to her knees and showered Joanie’s face with goodbye kisses.
“There are a couple of bottles all ready to go in the fridge,” she told Eric. “Run hot water over them to warm them. Don’t use the microwave.”
Eric stood and pulled her up with him. “I won’t.” He planted a kiss on her cheek.
“She ate two hours ago, so she’ll probably be hungry around eight. If she gets fussy before—”
Joan grabbed her arm and steered her forcefully toward the front door. “Come along, Mother. It’s time to go.”
Thoughts of all the terrible things that could happen pummeled her mind like giant hailstones. She pulled away and whirled toward Eric. “Don’t give her a bath until I get home. You know how slippery she is when she’s soapy.”
He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face the door. “Stop worrying. We’ll be fine. Now go have a good time.” A gentle shove pushed her forward.
From the porch, Joan seized her and jerked her through the doorway. Allie shook her off and spun around to remind Eric to put the baby’s sweater on because the house would cool when the sun went down, but the front door slammed shut in her face. Tears welled in her eyes.
“You’re pathetic.” Joan folded her arms across her chest and leveled an unsympathetic look on her.
Allie sniffled. “It’s the first time we’ve been apart in five weeks.”
“Then it’s about time you gave the poor kid some breathing room.” She shook her head. “You’re becoming one of those hovering mothers. I can totally see you stalking her on the kindergarten playground during recess.”
Actually, Allie didn’t see a problem with dropping by to check on your kids during the day, but in the face of Joan’s sardonic expression, she didn’t dare mention it. Instead she lifted a chin. “I will not be a hovering mother.”
A snort blasted from her sister’s nose. “I know my big sister. You’ll hover like a helicopter.”
Her head held high, Allie marched past Joan toward the driveway. “I thought you didn’t want to be late.”
She rubbed her hands on her arms. It was a chilly fifty degrees, and the orange October sun was rapidly dropping toward the horizon. They’d shoved her out the door without a jacket, but she didn’t dare go back inside now or she’d never hear the end of it. Serve them both right if she caught pneumonia and died.
For more information about Age before Beauty, visit www.VirginiaSmith.org
Used by permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright ©2009. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. www.BakerPublishingGroup.com
Friday, February 20, 2009
George Laurence has signed a contract that prohibits him from telling Anne who the real groom is, so he has to play along. Even when it goes against his faith.
This book is a delight to read. From the first pages you are plucked down in Louisiana. I pulled for Anne and George from their first encounter, and wondered how they would end up together. Even though I anticipated one of the twists, it didn't cause me to put the book down. Instead, the pages turned faster as I couldn't wait to see how the author would resolve the dilemma.
Each of the main characters have a real faith and are confronted by needs to change as the story evolves. Yet the faith element flows naturally through the story.
This book is a delightful romance. It has just the right notes to keep a romance reader happy, and to pull in someone like me who usually avoids the romance only books.
Now for the interview with debut author Kaye Dacus. This is your first book. Tell us about your journey to publication.
I’ve been writing since I was thirteen or fourteen years old. I did not seriously begin to pursue writing for publication, however, until 2001, when I attended my first writers’ conference and joined ACRW. But I’ve always known that writing stories was my future, especially after taking my first Creative Writing class as a senior in high school. Though my first time in college, when I majored in Creative Writing, didn’t go well, I eventually finished my undergraduate degree and went on to earn a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction in 2006.
I started writing Stand-In Groom in 2003. After several restarts (rewriting the first ten chapters three times!), I finally finished the manuscript in May 2005. Because it was my master’s thesis for graduate school, over the next year, it went through four revisions before it was complete in June 2006. In September 2006, it placed 2nd in the contemporary romance category of the Genesis contest. I submitted it to a couple of agents, and signed with Chip MacGregor a few months later. Then, at the 2007 ACFW conference, my only appointment was with Rebecca Germany. Chip and I couldn’t remember if Barbour had gotten back to us on the proposal we’d submitted earlier in the year, so I talked to her about it in that appointment. A few weeks later, she asked for the full manuscript; so after one more revision, we submitted it in mid-October. After that, it wasn’t very long before we had the contract!
How did you come up with the concept of a wedding planner and stand-in groom?
The inspiration for Stand-In Groom came to me after watching the movie The Wedding Planner. I wasn’t happy with the way that the romance in that story revolved around the breakup of an engagement. As a writer, most of my ideas come from asking “what if” questions. What if a wedding planner thought she was falling in love with the groom of the biggest wedding she’s ever planned . . . but then he turned out not to be the groom? And the story grew from there.
What did you learn as you wrote this book?
Not being married myself, I was amazed to find out just exactly how many little tiny details there are that go into planning a wedding. When I get married, I’m definitely hiring a wedding planner—or eloping! But it also made me seriously look at my own life, to see if I was holding on to any bitterness or pain from the past that I needed to deal with, and it made me look at my own sense of ethics and values and make sure that I am the best worker, the best representative of God, that I can be in all my business dealings.
There are strong spiritual threads in this book. Why did you pick the ones you did for Anne and George?
I can't really say that I "chose" the spiritual threads for them. When I write, the spiritual threads usually develop as the characters develop throughout the course of the story. As I grew to know the characters, their spiritual issues became quite clear to me: a Christian who's chosen to lie about who he is would naturally struggle with his sense of ethics and morals. Anne's conflict arose out of her past. What happened to her parents and then later with her previous relationship had to have not just an emotional but also a spiritual impact on who she is as a person and how she relates to the world. I think we've all been angry with God over bad things that have happened in our lives, so I drew on my own experiences with that for Anne's spiritual conflict.
Okay, final question. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and who would you take with you?
Right now, I'm really itching to go to Britain, and I'd love to take my fellow lover of all things British, Ruth, with me. Because Jane Austen is my favorite author, I'd love to visit all the Jane Austen-ite haunts. I'd also love to spend some quality time conducting research on the early-nineteenth-century Royal Navy for my historical series, the Ransome Trilogy. But I'm also from Scottish heritage, so I'd love to explore that part of the country as well.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
A young woman's need to protect
A cowboy's need to provide
A galloping ride headed for a love-hate relationship.
Hannah Cartwright lands in a small Texas town desperate to save orphans from the dastardly Grant. Grant has dedicated his adult life to adopting the orphans nobody wants off the orphan train. When two are left in the opening chapter, he naturally accepts them into his family. Hannah has fears that the children will only be used and abused by him. And thus begins this wonderful romp.
Mary is back with her delightful humor, but also with a wonderful dose of warmth and emotion. She doesn't swing to the extreme of humor or romance, but instead blends the two in a delightful concoction that keeps the pages turning. There's also the dash of suspense that builds at the end of the book. And I love the surprise for readers who adored Calico Canyon.
What gripped me about this book is the incredible heart for the abandoned children that is demonstrated by the characters. Frankly, as we wrestle with abortion/adoption/caring for the orphans, this book challenged me even as I laughed and loved right along with the characters. Not only did it challenge my attitudes on a personal level, it also revealed God's heart for us. While we were yet sinners, He gave His all -- Grant shows those characteristics in how he acts for his kids. Yet he also has to learn to let go and trust God, because the problem is daunting.
You can read the first chapter here.
Mary has graciously stopped by today to answer some questions. If we have at least 20 commentors I will go buy a copy of this book to give away. It's that good! So leave a comment letting me know why this is a book you need to read.
Mary, you're back with your delightful series of westerns. But they're so much more than mere westerns. What sparked the idea for the series?
I started with only Petticoat Ranch, really no notion of making it a series. I wanted to write a ‘battle of the sexes’ book with the hero and heroine behaving in complete discord, not because they don’t like each other, but because they don’t understand each other, a situation made worse by their gender and upbringing.
Out of Petticoat Ranch with it’s one man surrounded by women, came an idea to write the flip side, one woman surrounded by men. Then I decided I’d mix it up with a family of boys and girls together. One of the things I tried to do with Grant in Gingham Mountain, was make him understanding of women, at least girls. He’d taken in a lot of children and had a lot of practice. He’s very comfortable around his daughter’s tears and need to talk, but that’s daughters, he’d never had much practice with thinking of a woman romantically, so of course he messes that up badly.
Petticoat Ranch... Calico Canyon...Gingham Mountain...the titles for these books rock. Who came up with them: you or your editor?
I came up with Petticoat Ranch, brainstorming with my agent. Then Becky Germany and I talked about new titles that would hook the series together. A very collaborative effort. I’ve learned to not get attached to titles. In fact, although it’s not a rule, I usually just title my books by the heroine’s name these days. For a long time these three books were titled, Sophie, Grace, Hannah. Then, as I write, sometimes I get an idea and insert a title, but that can happen several times as the book progresses.
Gingham Mountain is hilarious -- an fun romp through heavy issues. I love that you start in Grant's perspective, and he leads the way throughout the book. What helped you determine it was his story to tell?
Well, of course it’s Hannah’s story, too, but Grant is a hero that honestly, makes me tingle. He just has such a heart for children in need. It’s a driving passion with him. But we also find out that he is a profoundly lonely man. Taking in those children, while it makes him seem heroic, inside he sees it as selfishness because he wants a family so badly. And that self-doubt and the belief that he doesn’t ever feel safe from loneliness, no matter how many children he adopts, makes him so sweet and vulnerable, that I just ended up adoring him.
Grant and Hannah have similar pasts, but those pasts actually blind them to each other. Why are they right for each other?
Hannah is right for Grant because he is the first man ever that she’s not afraid of. Hannah is a meek soul and she was so terrified of her adoptive father that she’s permanently distrustful of men. The fact that she’s feisty with Grant is miraculous to her. And she marvels at her courage, without giving Grant any credit, at least not for a long time, for being absolutely NOT scary.
What spiritual lessons did God teach you as you wrote this book? What did your characters teach you?
This book has it’s roots in my own family, mostly because I come from a large family and we lived in a small house with almost no money. There were ten of us in what eventually, slowly, grew to a four bedroom house. When my FIFTH sibling was born we had a house with one attic bedroom and a fold out couch in the dining room downstairs (I use the word ‘dining’ loosely since no ‘dining’ went on in that room)
The thing is, although I knew we didn’t have any money, I never felt poor, or at least not so poor it was scary. We lived on a farm. We ate meat and vegetables we grew and milk from our own cows, so I suppose hunger wasn’t a problem. We always wore used clothes either given to us by neighbors or from the Goodwill Store. It was just a very modest home, but it was a rich home in the things that mattered. My mom always acted like she adored us and couldn’t possibly have too many kids. My dad played with us and read to us. We could always afford a library card so the books were endless. I remember our first television set. I was about four. I tried to capture that idea that money isn’t the root of happiness, we are so materialistic today, including me…I like nice stuff.
But money isn’t what makes the world go ’round. It’s not what makes you a good Christian, a good parent, a good citizen.
I always knew that, but I explored it more and learned that lesson more deeply.
Since everyone's going to run out and scarf up Gingham Mountain, tell us what's next for Mary Connealy!
Gingham Mountain is the last book in this series, although I’m talking with Barbour about a series based on Sophie’s girls, from Petticoat Ranch, all grown up. That’s possibly in the future. But next is the Montana Marriages series, beginning with Montana Rose in July. I love these books. They’re the same suspenseful, historical western, romantic comedy, as the Lassoed in Texas series. I’ve heard people say they want more of the Mosqueros, Texas brood, but trust me, we are gonna have FUN in Montana. Montana Rose and book #2 The Husband Tree are, I think, some of the funniest things I’ve ever written.I’ve also got Nosy in Nebraska coming in June, a collection of the three books I wrote for Heartsong Presents Mysteries. These are contemporary cozy mysteries. I had so much fun writing these. I know readers who love historicals really LOVE historicals, but I hope they check this book out. I just had a grand time writing them. Murder mysteries set in Nebraska in a small town who has for it’s only claim to fame, Maxie—The World’s Largest Field Mouse.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I think it's a great topic. For me passion killing can come in many forms. Fatigue, definitely. But that also is more a symptom I think. Sometimes my fatigue is just doing what God calls me to. But I think often it's because I take on additional things that may not actually be His best for me. the crazy thing is the more I try to pare down to what I know He's speaking to me, the more tired I seem to get. Weird, huh.
Another is staying too long in one area. If the anointing has moved on, then I need to, as well.
And don't get me started on knowing I could do it well, so that means I should. Right? LOL.
But in my life, there's a large reality that to write and do other things I'm passionate about, it has to be at night after the wee ones are in bed. That can kill the passion because I'm just plain tired. And getting the brain cells and passion revved up can be hard.
But I have to do it. Because God has placed that passion in me. :-) So what about you. How do your dreams and passion intersect. Let's get a dialogue going. I'll pull winners for copies of one of my Dreams books.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I really enjoy these books. They contain great insight on the way men and women think. Let's face it, we're a mystery to each other. As I skimmed For Men Only, I found myself nodding. The insights really do apply to women.
Not only do I read them to better understand my husband and myself. They're great resources for writers. Writers need to be students of people, and talk about ammunition to get those romantic conflicts nailed. These books highlight the key areas for misunderstanding between men and women. Here's more on them...
Since their debut, these revolutionary guides have sold well over a million copies, been translated into fifteen languages, and sparked much fascinating water-cooler conversation around the country. Now together in the For Couples Only boxed set, these books provide the perfect resource to help you understand what you never knew about the woman or man in your life.
Each volume is based on input from more than a thousand members of the opposite sex—including an unprecedented nationwide survey and hundreds of personal interviews. This innovative approach yields candid and surprising answers about everything you don’t “get” about your significant other—even what that person deeply wishes you knew. It also produces simple but groundbreaking awareness of how you can best love and support the one who is most important to you.
So whether you are newly dating or have been married fifty years, get ready to know each other in a whole new way. The adventure is just beginning!
Leave a comment letting me know the most surprising thing you've learned about men and women -- clean of course -- and I'll enter you to win either a copy of For Men Only or For Women Only.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Bluegrass Courtship is the second in my Kentucky Corners series for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. It’s the story of a practical small town hardware store owner, Janet Bishop, who finds herself at odds with high-voltage Drew Downing, host of a church renovation reality show called Missionnovation. As you can imagine, I had lots of fun with the clash of cultures and the absurdities of having a television show invade a small town.
What did you learn from your characters while writing this book?
That’s a great question, because characters are always teaching us things. I have a friend who says “you write the book you need to read,” and I believe that to be true. Drew and Janet taught me to look twice at issues and actions, to think about the motivations as much as the results of any project, and to seek the joy that always comes with doing exactly what God wants you to be doing. We make ourselves miserable when we seek our own—God always has the better plan, even if it’s hard for us to see at the time.
How did you come up for the idea of Missionvation?
People ask me how I come up with my concepts all the time, because they are so unusual. I wish I knew the answer. Mostly, they dump themselves into my head without much warning. I’ve cried my way through my share of Extreme Makeover Home Edition episodes, however, and I was always intrigued by the human drama of demolition and reconstruction. And I have a soft spot for larger-than-life characters. So I decided, why not makeover churches? Missionnovation’s big green bus rolled into my head one day and took over, and the rest is… fiction.
You've set your current series in bluegrass country. What drew you to Kentucky as a setting?
I was in the region for the Kentucky Bookfair because of the Cincinnati setting of Bad Heiress Day (Cincinnati is just across the river from Kentucky), and fell in love with the area. I began combing the countryside for the perfect small town on which to base a series, and found Midway Kentucky. As I say in my books, Middleburg gets all of its charm—and none of its faults—from Midway. I’ve been back every year since, and there will be four Middleburg books by the time I say goodbye to that charming cast of characters.
You live in a suburb of the windy city -- particularly brisk right now. What's your favorite season in Chicago?
Well, it’s NOT winter. We’ve had far too many sub-zero days this season. I like seasons, and wouldn’t want to live in a 70-degree-every-day climate, but we’ve had extremes this winter. I’m a big fan of early fall—all the color, brisk but pleasant weather, pumpkin pies, kids back to school…all that good stuff.
You're an avid knitter, in fact, at booksigning you'll often knit a baby hat while talking to readers. Where did your love of knitting begin? What's your favorite pattern?
I discovered knitting again when I started writing full-time. It is the perfect counterpoint to crafting words—I read for pleasure, of course, but my brain always seems to “go to work” when I read. Plus, as a mom, I like things that stay the way I put them. Knitting stays knitted. Kitchen counters, closets, bathrooms--and most of life--does not. I love that I take a straight piece of fiber and turn it into just about anything. It’s tactile and creative and very soothing. I don’t have a favorite pattern, although the baby hats are a bit of a specialty because I can usually finish one in a single afternoon such as a bookfair. I’m also really bad at just sitting. I can’t just sit and watch TV or just sit behind a book table, so it’s really in everyone’s best interest if I have my knitting. You wouldn’t want to spend lots of time with me in a meeting or an airport if they’ve taken away my knitting. If I every break an arm, they’ll just have to sedate me for the duration!
I also lead my church’s Prayer Shawl ministry, where we knit shawls and pray over them before giving them to people in need of healing or comfort—that’s been a tremendous experience for me where I’ve really felt God at work in my community.
Your blog has a four day knitter’s itinerary for Charleston, SC. Why Charleston? Are you getting ready to set some books there?
Ha…you’re on to me! Well, that and the fact that I’d never been to the city and my daughter was looking at colleges in the area. Location research is one of my favorite aspects of my work, so the DestiKNITions blog was a way to combine the passions. I was always hunting out the local yarn shops anyway, now I’m just a bit more deliberate (my husband might say obsessive) about it. It’s flexing a whole new set of writing (and, I hope, speaking) muscles, and I always find it’s fun to stretch in new directions. Plus, who could feel bad about an excuse to get new yarn or eat cupcakes?? When I go to ACFW in Denver this summer, you can be sure DestiKNITions will come along for the ride.
Look for Bluegrass Blessings, the third book in the series this summer, with Bluegrass Christmas to wrap up the series for the holidays.
The celebrity host of TV’s Missionnovation, Drew Downing is comfortable with his fame. He’s become accustomed to the cheering, star-struck townfolk that usually welcome him as he renovates churches countrywide. Usually. Then he and his crew set up in tiny Middleburg, Kentucky, to rebuild the church’s storm-damaged preschool. The very lovely, very no-nonsense hardware store owner Janet Bishop is suspicious of Drew’s true motives. It looks like Janet Bishop’s faith—in God, in herself, and in love—needs some serious rebuilding. And Drew Downing is just the man for the job.
From RTBookreviews Magazine:
“Four Stars--With some delightfully humorous moments, Pleiter delivers an appealing romance as well as a story filled with interesting characters”
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
In Cry in the Night, Bree is confronted with her worst nightmare. She's found an abandoned infant in the frozen wilderness and has welcomed the baby girl into her home -- and heart -- even as Kade cautions her to be careful. Then as she hunts for the baby's mother, the clues keep pointing to her first husband's mysterious plane crash. The more she picks away at the puzzle, the more she wonders if the very fibers of her life -- and love -- will be swept away.
I knew where this book was heading, because of some brainstorming in the early days of this book, and I honestly didn't know if Colleen could pull all the twists off. Especially in a way that would satisfy me as a reader. I kept waiting for a thread to unravel taking a large part of the story with it, but instead, the fibers of the story pulled tighter and tighter until they seemed to pull a taunt noose around Bree. And even though Bree is happily married, the romance will satisfy those of you who refuse to read a story that does have a strong romantic thread.
This is another great offering from Colleen Coble. If you like suspense with a strong romantic thread, you will enjoy this book!
Colleen agreed to stop by for an interview. Thanks for joining us, Colleen. Bree Nichols Matthew is back! What did you enjoy most about returning to Rock Harbor and the wonderful folks who live there?
Oh, it was so wonderful to catch up with Bree and Kade! And of course Samson. My daughter's dog, Harley, was the inspiration for Samson, and we lost him to bone cancer. When I was writing the book, I called Kara and said, "Harley lives on in Samson!" A piece of him will never die for that reason. Those characters are so real to me.
Do readers need to read the other books in the series first to understand what's going on?
Not at all. The story stands alone. If you read the other books in the series, you'll know more about Bree and Kade's relationship and how they came to be together, but Cry in the Night could have been written without those books.
You have made poor Bree's life very difficult in this book. How did you come up with the twist?
I was actually about 1/3 of the way into the book when the idea for that twist happened. It grew out of some of Bree's son's emotional issues. As soon as the idea came, I knew I had to write it. I'd been to see our son and daughter-in-law and was half asleep in the car. I bolted upright and said to my husband, "What if Rob comes back?" It was exciting to write about it.
You put your poor characters through all kinds of chaos. Why do that?
So readers will keep turning the pages, of course! :) My mother-in-law was reading the book and said, "It's an exciting book, but I don't know how you're going to resolve everything." That's the kind of book I like to read AND write!
Do you have plans to return to Rock Harbor for future books? I know I would love to read more about the characters in that town.
I just might. . . I'm getting multiple and daily requests for more Rock Harbor!
You became a grandma in October...what's the best part of having a little angel of your own?
Oh you picked up on that? Could it have anything to do with the way I talk about it nonstop? LOL Our little Alexa is a dream come true. The best part of our little angel is getting to pray for her, that God would hold her close and she would serve HIm all her days. That and seeing her smile at her Grammy and Poppy of course! I had the world's best grandma, and I'd always hoped to be that kind of grandma. Now I get the chance!
What's next for you?
ABOUT THE BOOK
The highly anticipated novel that delivers what romantic suspense fans have long awaited-the return to Rock Harbor.
Bree Nichols gets the shock of her life when her husband-presumed dead-reappears.
Bree Nichols and her search and rescue dog Samson discover a crying infant in the densely forested woods outside of Rock Harbor, Michigan. Against objections from her husband, Kade, who knows she'll become attached, Bree takes the baby in. Quickly she begins a search for the mother-presumably the woman reported missing just days earlier.
While teams scour the forests, Bree ferrets out clues about the missing woman. But she soon discovers something more shocking: Bree's former husband-long presumed dead in a plane crash-resurfaces. Is he really who he says he is? And should she trust him again after all these years?
An engaging, romantic suspense novel from critically-acclaimed author Colleen Coble.
If you would like to read the first chapter of , go HERE
Monday, February 09, 2009
We kick the week off with Against All Odds. Irene Hannon's latest book has a stellar endorsement on the front cover. "I've finally found someone who writes romantic suspense better than I do." Dee Henderson.
I love Dee Henderson's O'Malley series - it's some of the best romantic suspense out there, so I honestly didn't know if Against All Odds could live up to that amazing billing. Instead of being disappointed, as I read I remembered all the things I love about romantic suspense. The tension of two characters who are caught in a ticking time bomb situation. The pull of attraction coupled with the reality that emotions are crazy because of the stress. The idea that there are heroes out there ready to do anything to save the girl. And that there are women strong enough to do what they can to protect themselves. Mix in a strong spiritual thread and strong writing, and you have a delightful read. I CAN'T wait to read the next book in this series!
ABOUT THE BOOK
For FBI Hostage Rescue Team member Evan Cooper and his partner, dignitary protection duty should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, Monica Callahan isn’t making it easy. Estranged from her diplomat father, who is involved in a sensitive hostage situation in the Middle East, she refuses to be intimidated by a related terrorist threat back in the States…until a chilling warning convinces her that the danger is very real—and escalating. As Coop and his partner do their best to keep her safe, David Callahan continues his work—triggering an abduction that puts his daughter’s life at risk. And with every second that ticks by, Coop knows that the odds of saving the only woman who has ever managed to breach the walls around his heart are dropping. Because terrorists aren’t known for their patience—or their mercy.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Against All Odds, go HERE
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
4 ½-star, “Top Pick” rating from Romantic Times BOOKreviews!
"Brava! Award winner Hannon debuts the heroes of Quantico series with a wonderful
array of believable characters, action and suspense that will keep readers glued to each page. Hannon’s extraordinary writing, vivid scenes and surprise ending come together for a not-to-be-missed reading experience.”
~Romantic Times BOOKreviews~
“I found someone who writes romantic suspense better than I do. I highly recommend Against All Odds as one of the best books I've had the privilege of reading this year. This is a captivating, fast-paced, well written romantic suspense destined for my keeper shelf. I loved this book, and highly recommend this author."
~Dee Henderson~ Author of the O’Malley Family Series
Friday, February 06, 2009
Why, Why, Why!
Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are almost dead?
Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they already know there is not enough money?
Why does someone believe you when you say there are 4 billion stars, but have to check when you say the paint is still wet?
Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver?
Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?
If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?
Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?
Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?
Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?
Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?
How do those dead bugs get into those enclosed light fixtures?
When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, 'It's all right?' Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, 'That really hurt, why don't you watch where you're going?'
Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?
In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
The Rose Conspiracy is the first of Craig Parshall's legal suspense that I've read. I have two of his earlier books sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read, when I finally found the time. The Rose Conspiracy is an example of a great high concept - that all elusive concept taught to writers around the world. Kind of a "you'll know it when you see it" kind of thing.
This book has a DaVinci Code kind of flair as the main character, JD Blackstone searches for a way to defend a young woman who is accused of conspiring to murder the Secretary of the Smithsonian. Lost pages of the John Wilkes Booth diary are stolen from his desk after the murder. In an effort to figure out who really murdered the Secretary, JD finds himself flying across the Pond, down in Savannah, and being shot. There are a few didactic passages like those that pepper the DaVinci Code as JD and his team evaluate a cryptic message. And the end has a twist that is well-laid out, but one I hadn't fully anticipated. I knew it was coming, but it was still shadowy.
This may be a book that has some aspiring published authors shaking their heads, but the concept is a great example of what we should each strive for as we write.
Craig Parshall is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, and the author of six legal–suspense novels: the five books in the Chambers of Justice series, and the stand–alone Trial by Ordeal. He speaks nationally on legal and Christian worldview issues and is a magazine columnist. He has coauthored five books with his wife, Janet, including the historical novels Crown of Fire and Captives and Kings.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
But this was a very different kind of jungle.
It was five minutes before midnight, and the car was cruising along the marble-and-monument-studded streets of the Capitol Hill district of Washington DC. The driver was tugging at a collar edge. Drops of perspiration trickled down back and torso, even with the air conditioning on. Maybe it was the freakish heat wave that had hit the city, causing brownouts and power failures across the city. Maybe it was something else…the nasty assignment that had to be taken care of. When the trigger was pulled, and it was all over, the long-missing pages of John Wilkes Booth’s personal diary would then be in the grip of someone else’s hand.
Yet the driver knew what was actually at stake that night. And it really wasn’t about the Booth diary. Or even the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at the hand of a Confederate radical. The note that was about to be seized contained a message with ramifications far beyond any of that.
Sweltering temperatures had suffocated Washington with a relentless haze of humidity that week. Even though it was only June, temperatures were in the low hundreds during the day and in the nineties at night.
The only thing cool to the touch was the white marble of the statues and monuments. The driver steered past the Lincoln Monument and then slowed the car slightly. As usual, interior lights illuminated the massive likeness of Abraham Lincoln in his great marble chair. Once past the monument, the car picked up speed, entered Constitution Avenue, and started heading toward the National Mall. The destination was the Castle, the nineteenth-century red-brick building full of turrets and spires where the administrative headquarters of the Smithsonian Institution were housed.
The driver parked the car a block away and walked quickly to the side entrance of the Castle—then, reaching the door, quickly tapped a code into the security panel. The lock clicked open.
Upstairs, the lights were still on in the office of Horace Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was working late.
But the object of his work that night was not business as usual.
Only moments before, Langley had opened his safe and pulled out a metal case containing a folder enclosed within a plastic zip bag. Now he was studying the contents—eighteen pages from the diary of John Wilkes Booth. They had been missing for nearly one hundred and fifty years. Their disappearance had occurred suspiciously, about the same time as the federal investigation into the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was taking place. Booth’s diary had been taken when the assassin was captured and killed. But at the time at least one witness swore that eighteen pages had been removed from it.
That was the point at which those pages seemed to have vanished forever.
Then, a century and a half later, the granddaughter and sole heir of a farmer in central Virginia went rummaging through her grandfather’s attic after his death and happened upon some boxes of old letters and papers. But one sheaf of papers looked different. While much of the writing on them was faded and undecipherable to the layman’s eye, a reference to Abraham Lincoln was visible. In his will, the farmer had given everything to his granddaughter—except the papers. Those, he said, must go to the Smithsonian Institution.
After some wrangling with lawyers, the eighteen pages were transferred to the Smithsonian. Horace Langley had succeeded in keeping the discovery from being leaked to the press, even though he was thoroughly convinced that the pages belonged to the Booth diary.
That June evening, as Langley studied the pages in his office, he knew that some eight hours hence, a council of epigraphers and historians were scheduled to convene and, for the first time, to study the Booth diary entries in that same office.
But he had to get the first look.
He had a pair of white gloves on as he studied the brittle pages, yellowed from age. A pad of paper lay on the desk in front of him, next to his pen. There was a glass of water off to the side.
Langley then began to slowly, painstakingly, write down something on the notepad.
Just a few lines of writing.
He paused to study carefully what he had written.
Then he heard something. He looked up, half-expecting a late-night visitor. “I wasn’t sure I would see you,” was all Horace Langley had a chance to say.
The individual who had entered through the side door below was now standing in front of Langley holding a handgun with a silencer—and proceeded to fire two clean shots directly into the left upper quadrant of Langley’s chest.
The Secretary started to grope upward with his arm, trying to touch the injured area of his chest, but failing. He fell backward into his chair, slumped, and then fell to the floor, where he collapsed on his back, surrounded by an expanding pool of blood.
The shooter stepped over to the desk, picked up the Booth diary pages, placed them back in the plastic zip bag, and put that into a larger bag. The killer snatched the pad of paper, ripped off the top page that had Langley’s writing on it and then another page for good measure, and put them also into the bag. Then the killer placed the pad of paper back on the desk with a clean page exposed as Langley lay dying on the floor, making a final gurgling, gasping sound. Before leaving the room, the shooter paused only for a moment at Langley’s desk, gazing down at the empty drinking glass that was resting there.
Then, exiting quickly through the same side door below where entrance had been made a few minutes before, Langley’s killer made a perfect getaway.
The security guards didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until twenty-five minutes later, when one of them was making the rounds and stopped to check in on the Secretary. He caught sight of Horace Langley’s feet protruding past the edge of the desk. And the feet in Langley’s dress shoes were absolutely still.
As still as the marble and bronze statues of the famous men that were frozen in time, scattered as monuments across Washington, and that were illuminated by the halogen street lights that buzzed overhead in the suffocating heat of the night.
Monday, February 02, 2009
It was great!
I love helping other people brainstorm ways to create twists and turns for their characters and the plots. Why would someone do this? What's the backstory? If we think this is going to happen how we can twist it and make it unexpected?
Gina has an agent. Sabrina has a manuscript request from a publisher after a few more revisions. And Crystal is ready to tackle her writing. I wanted to make sure my next two romances felt fresh as well as work out a plot angle on my next romantic suspense proposal. Alone, I would have hashed around in my mind flailing ineffectively. Together we had fun, ate lots of great food, and wrecked all kind of havoc for our characters.
And in the process, the stories became much richer. I can't wait to read them!
Sidenote: today I'm supposed to get my revision letter for Trial by Fire. I'm working with a new editor, so there's a mixture of fear and anticipation. So this week I'll work on that and plotting the third Ohio WWII novel. A Promise Forged and A Promise Born have overlapping timelines, so I want to make sure they match up properly. I can't wait to write Kat's story -- she's a spitfire!