Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sword and the Flute by Mike Hamel

Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a hold of this book yet. But reading the first chapter, you gotta admit it sounds real interesting. *grins* Maybe I'll ILL it....

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.

and his book:

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Leave It to Chance by Sherri Sand

eep... *runs* back tomorrow...

[12-2-08] Okay, sorry that was a little odd. It was just very... loud in the house just then. Anywho...

It was really nice to read a good, normal contemporary novel. I didn't realize how much I missed them until I got a hold of one again! And this sure was a good one to get back into. Great storyline, with the adorable kids and old grouch. And as oxymoronic as this sounds... You gotta love a good, flawed hero. The heroine too was so real. She had issues, and a mother that scared the heck out of me (*grins*), but she was so lovable, and relatable.

This book just flew by me. It wrenched an emotional response from me, willing or not. And, shh, don't tell, but I totally read when I shoulda been doing schoolwork. And that's not normal for me! Read the chapter below!

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 feature author is:

and her book:

Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”


The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.

After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.


“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”


“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”


“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?


Friday, November 21, 2008

Infidel: The Graphic Novel by Ted Dekker

I haven't read this quite yet because... I'm sick. Dog sick. Again. This time I can't blame it on paint. Just feel blessed that you can't spread germs through the internet. Anyway, the idea of reading a graphic novel just now is dizzying. Regular words are bad enough. Words with pictures?.... Whoa.

So... the weekend?

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and his book:

Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of

Here are some of his latest titles:

Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)


Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)


Product Details

List Price:$15.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546049
ISBN-13: 978-1595546043


(Click Pictures to Zoom!)


Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Update You've All Been Waiting For...

... Wordcount.

Yes, I hit 10,000 words yesterday. Which is grand, because 10,000 is today's goal according to the Great NaNoWriMo Calender. I'm totally ahead by more than a day's count!

Now, I just have to keep it that way. Which means that, really, I probably shouldn't be writing this. I should be writing my butt off getting Seth and Bayle off their butts, which are currently planted on Seth's couch, unmoving. In a room full of blood. After dumping a body. Not to mention committing the murder. You'd think this wouldn't be such a hard scene to keep going with, right?

That's what they all say. And then their MC gets stuck on the couch talking about, of all things, oatmeal. *starts wondering if Frosty the Snowman is in their line-up of Christmas movies this year*

Yeah, I'm thinking I need to work on that...

10,278 and counting,

Edit: 11,000 and counting, and I am so glad that this time of year next year, I will have a laptop. I am going to have so many kinks from this stupid chair by the end of the month....


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Forsaken by James David Jordan

I almost forgot about this! I've been writing all day. (Well, not really, but, you know.) But I remembered, so we're good. *grins* I'm also kinda hyped from all the writing and NaNo-ing and such. Mmhmm.

This book flew by for me. It's a shame I had to split it up over so many days, but I guess that's what I get for getting a job. And it sure didn't lessen the enjoyment any. Just made me antsy waiting to get back to reading it!

While there were a couple chapters in the... middle-ish (heh) where I was wondering where it was going, but it quickly picked back up and the ending was magnificent. Not what I expected, but then again, it fit much better than what I expected.

So me, I hoping for a sequel. I wanna find out more about... well, what's at the end. *smiles* No spoilers for this girl.

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 feature author is:

and his book:

B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)


James David Jordan is a business litigation attorney with the prominent Texas law firm of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. From 1998 through 2005, he served as the firm's Chairman and CEO. The Dallas Business Journal has named him one of the most influential leaders in the Dallas/Fort Worth legal community and one of the top fifteen business defense attorneys in Dallas/Fort Worth. His peers have voted him one of the Best Lawyers in America in commercial litigation.

A minister's son who grew up in the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois, Jim has a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois, and a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. He lives with his wife and two teenage children in the Dallas suburbs.

Jim grew up playing sports and loves athletics of all kinds. But he especially loves baseball, the sport that is a little bit closer to God than all the others.

His first novel was Something that Lasts . Forsaken is his second novel.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Fiction (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447490
ISBN-13: 978-0805447491


Even in high school I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground. When your father is a retired Special Forces officer, you pick up things that most girls don’t learn. As the years passed I slept in lots of places a good girl shouldn’t sleep. It’s a part of my past I don’t brag about, like ugly wallpaper that won’t come unstuck. No matter how hard I scrape, it just hangs on in big, obscene blotches. I’m twenty-nine years old now, and I’ve done my best to paint over it. But it’s still there under the surface, making everything rougher, less presentable than it should be. Though I want more than anything to be smooth and fresh and clean.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen if the paint begins to fade. Will the wallpaper show? I thought so for a long time. But I have hope now that it won’t. Simon Mason helped me find that hope. That’s why it’s important for me to tell our story. There must be others who need hope, too. There must be others who are afraid that their ugly wallpaper might bleed through.

What does sleeping on the ground have to do with a world-famous preacher like Simon Mason? The story begins twelve years ago—eleven years before I met Simon. My dad and I packed our camping gear and went fishing. It was mid-May, and the trip was a present for my seventeenth birthday. Not exactly every high school girl’s dream, but my dad wasn’t like most dads. He taught me to camp and fish and, particularly, to shoot. He had trained me in self-defense since I was nine, the year Mom fell apart and left for good. With my long legs, long arms, and Dad’s athletic genes, I could handle myself even back then. I suppose I wasn’t like most other girls.

After what happened on that fishing trip, I know I wasn’t.

Fishing with my dad didn’t mean renting a cane pole and buying bait pellets out of a dispenser at some catfish tank near an RV park. It generally meant tramping miles across a field to a glassy pond on some war buddy’s ranch, or winding through dense woods, pitching a tent, and fly fishing an icy stream far from the nearest telephone. The trips were rough, but they were the bright times of my life—and his, too. They let him forget the things that haunted him and remember how to be happy.

This particular outing was to a ranch in the Texas Panhandle, owned by a former Defense Department bigwig. The ranch bordered one of the few sizeable lakes in a corner of Texas that is brown and rocky and dry. We loaded Dad’s new Chevy pickup with cheese puffs and soft drinks—healthy eat­ing wouldn’t begin until the first fish hit the skillet—and left Dallas just before noon with the bass boat in tow. The drive was long, but we had leather interior, plenty of tunes, and time to talk. Dad and I could always talk.

The heat rose early that year, and the temperature hung in the nineties. Two hours after we left Dallas, the brand-new air conditioner in the brand-new truck rattled and clicked and dropped dead. We drove the rest of the way with the windows down while the high Texas sun tried to burn a hole through the roof.

Around five-thirty we stopped to use the bathroom at a rundown gas station somewhere southeast of Amarillo. The station was nothing but a twisted gray shack dropped in the middle of a hundred square miles of blistering hard pan. It hadn’t rained for a month in that part of Texas, and the place was so baked that even the brittle weeds rolled over on their bellies, as if preparing a last-ditch effort to drag themselves to shade.

The restroom door was on the outside of the station, iso­lated from the rest of the building. There was no hope of cool­ing off until I finished my business and got around to the little store in the front, where a rusty air conditioner chugged in the window. When I walked into the bathroom, I had to cover my nose and mouth with my hand. A mound of rotting trash leaned like a grimy snow drift against a metal garbage can in the corner. Thick, black flies zipped and bounced from floor to wall and ceiling to floor, occasionally smacking my arms and legs as if I were a bumper in a buzzing pinball machine. It was the filthiest place I’d ever been.

Looking back, it was an apt spot to begin the filthiest night of my life.

I had just leaned over the rust-ringed sink to inspect my teeth in the sole remaining corner of a shattered mirror when someone pounded on the door.

“Just a minute!” I turned on the faucet. A soupy liquid dribbled out, followed by the steamy smell of rotten eggs. I turned off the faucet, pulled my sport bottle from the holster on my hip, and squirted water on my face and in my mouth. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my T-shirt.

My blue-jean cutoffs were short and tight, and I pried free a tube of lotion that was wedged into my front pocket. I raised one foot at a time to the edge of the toilet seat and did my best to brush the dust from my legs. Then I spread the lotion over them. The ride may have turned me into a dust ball, but I was determined at least to be a soft dust ball with a coconut scent. Before leaving I took one last look in my little corner of mir­ror. The hair was auburn, the dust was beige. I gave the hair a shake, sending tiny flecks floating through a slash of light that cut the room diagonally from a hole in the roof. Someone pounded on the door again. I turned away from the mirror.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”

When I pulled open the door and stepped into the light, I shaded my eyes and blinked to clear away the spots. All that I could think about was the little air conditioner in the front window and how great it would feel when I got inside. That’s probably why I was completely unprepared when a man’s hand reached from beside the door and clamped hard onto my wrist.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Desolate: NaNoWriMo 2008

Hundreds of years in the future, the culture has split. The Outsiders on the surface remain blissfully unaware, but deep below ground under the Australian Waste, a schism of another kind has occured. The People who dug themselves into the Levels have segregated themselves. The men hold themselves aloof in the upper levels, while the women are held in the outer tunnels, the Crypts, trapped between the men and the Beasts.

When one man unexpectedly helps a young woman up from the Tunnels, he must make a decision that will effect the People and the Outsiders. But first he must find the truth that will set them free.

What do you think? I'm not good at writing... call it a back cover copy. It's not technically a synopsis. I don' know.

Anyways, I'm very excited about tomorrow. Yesterday at the library, I think I talked someone into joining! That's quite an impressive feat for me.

Finally, Seth and Bayle.... I'm looking forward to this story. Oh, and tomorrow look for a FIRST post about Forsaken. Great book!

Happy Hallowe'en,


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet

I have never read a series quite like this one. And let me tell you, I have read a lot of books. Thousands. But these Strands in Auralia's Thread are just different. There's something... that I can't quite name. Gah, that's frustrating.

New, astonishing characters are introduced. More threads in a complex tapestry. Auralia still has secrets. I don't think we'll ever fully know her secrets. She's not like the rest of us... them. *smiles* And House Abascar is growing again, discovering things about itself that it never knew possible.

The Keeper still leaves tracks for those who are willing to follow.

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his book:

Cyndere's Midnight(The Auralia Thread Series #2)

WaterBrook Press (September 16, 2008)


Jeffrey Overstreet lives in two worlds. By day, he writes about movies at and in notable publications like Christianity Today, Paste, and Image. His adventures in cinema are chronicled in his book Through a Screen Darkly. By night, he composes new stories found in fictional worlds of his own. Living in Shoreline, Washington, with his wife, Anne, a poet, he is a senior staff writer for Response Magazine at Seattle Pacific University. Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread Series #1)was his first novel. His second, Cyndere's Midnight continues The Auralia Thread Series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400072530
ISBN-13: 978-1400072538




Cyndere walked down to the water to make her daily decision—turn and go back into House Bel Amica, or climb Stairway Rock and throw herself into the sea.

It had become a habit. Leaving her chamber early, while the mirrorlined corridors were empty of all but servants, she would traverse manybridges, stairs, and passages and emerge on the shores of the Rushtide Inlet, escaping the gravity of distraction. Today in the autumn bluster, she wore her husband’s woolen stormcloak at the water’s edge. She brought her anger. She brought her dead.

While the fog erased the wild seascape, waves exploded against the ocean’s scattered stone teeth, washed wide swaths of pebbles, and sighed into the sand. They carried her father’s whispers from many years past, mornings when he had walked with her along the tide’s edge and dreamt aloud. His bristling grey beard smelled of salt, prickling when he rested his chin on her head. He would place one hand on her shoulder and with the other hold a seashell to her ear. “Hear that?” he’d say. “That’s your very own far-off country. You will walk on ground no one has ever seen. And I’m going to find it for you when I venture out to map the Mystery Sea.”

He had done just that. While Cyndere’s mother, Queen Thesera, stayed home to govern her people within House Bel Amica’s massive swell of stone, King Helpryn discovered islands, sites for future Bel Amican settlements.

A shipwreck took the king when he tried to cross a stormy span between those islands. Within hours of the report, Bel Amica’s cloud-bound cityturned volcanic with theories and superstitions. From one sphere of their society to another, all the way down to the shipyards of the inlet, the people competed to interpret their ambitious king’s demise, their rumors full of words like iceberg, pirates, and oceandragon. The Seers, quarrelsome as gulls, debated whether this might be a portent of judgment by the moon-spirits or whether Helpryn’s celestial guardian had reached down from the sky and carried him away to live in his own peaceful paradise.

Meanwhile, Cyndere mourned the loss of her father’s smiling eyes, his confidence in her, his vision for her future. “You will walk on ground no one has ever seen.” From the day he vanished, the young heiress never grew taller, and the sun was burnt out of her sky.

She did not weep. Given no chance to mourn in private, she concerned herself with the comfort of her mother and her older brother, Partayn.

Partayn slept with his head on the windowsill as though he listened for the king’s counsel in the ocean’s roar. Did those crashing lullabies awaken his father’s wanderlust within him? She wondered. King Helpryn had answered the call of the horizon, but the boy would set sail on a different sea, striving to master all manner of music.

Partayn’s quest was tragically brief. When an armored escort carried him southward to study the music of House Jenta, an ambush of Cent Regus beastmen silenced his songs.

The people, having only just regained their footing, were cast into despair. Even Queen Thesera believed someone had cursed House Bel Amica.

The pressure of an impending inheritance fell hard on Cyndere. She was expected now to stand beside her mother and prepare to take her place someday. More urgently, she should find a husband, bring a new generation of royalty to Bel Amica, and ensure that the line of Tammos Raak, father of the four houses, would continue.

But Cyndere had already determined that she would not become her mother. She still dreamt of breaking ground all her own. She was capable. She had the respect of her people, and in Bel Amica’s courtrooms she was famous for her temper and tenacity. Her helplessness to save her father and her brother only stoked her passions to help others and prevent further calamity.

Such ambitions made her lonely. As her people groped for distractions to numb their fears, the Seers provided potions for reckless indulgences. Those meddling conjurers caught even her mother with their hooks. The thought of inheriting such counselors made Cyndere want to sail for that faroff country of her own, wherever it might be. The sea’s call was more seductive every morning. Her days became rituals of counting the few, feeble cords that bound her to Bel Amica. Hope to become what her father had envisioned quickly dimmed.

If it were not for Deuneroi, a young man who often fought with Cyndere in the court, she might have let the ocean carry her to her father. Even in the midst of their famous courtroom collisions, Deuneroi discerned Cyndere’s sadness. He saw her right through and wove subtle threads of sympathy into his eloquence. Sensing this, she conspired that their feud should spread into private debate, and soon their minds and hearts were inseparably entangled, furious in love.

Before long, Cyndere realized that while two cords had broken, a new cord had been strung. Deuneroi became her consort, her refuge, strong enough to keep her from the sea.

Today she missed hearing the footfalls of Deuneroi’s casual stride. He was off, led by courage she both admired and resented, to search for survivors buried in the rubble of the fallen House Abascar. She had tried to stop him. Tempers flared in their hottest debate. But in the end, she had surrendered, moved by his compassion and by his promise.


“Deuneroi, look what you’ve done. This cat was wild once. Now he’s a lazypile of fur.”

On their last evening before her husband’s departure, Cyndere sulked through their argument’s aftermath. Gazing into their bedchamber fireplace, she stroked a black viscorcat whose head filled her lap while his furry, muscled body sprawled limp across the braided rug. The viscorcat hummed, kneading the air with his claws.

“I don’t think he was ever very wild at all,” said Deuneroi, rolling a woolen tunic and pressing it into his pack. “Once I lured him into my campwith some fish, he warmed up quickly, as if he had known someone who treated him kindly before.”

When fireglow lulled the cat into sleep, Cyndere bit her lip and gingerly untangled the snare around the animal’s tail. A prankster had tied a ring of keys there with a thread, then set him loose to run, terrified, with the keysclanging along the corridor behind him.

As the knot slipped free, the cat raised his head and growled. “It’s all right now,” Cyndere whispered. “You’re free.” His purr slowly returned, resonating. She pondered the keys, wondered what they fit, and set them on the floor next to her.

She touched the scar on the cat’s hind leg where Deuneroi had drawn out an arrow’s poisoned head. “I’m glad you found him. That wound might have killed him.”

“I’m surprised he trusted me.”

“I’m not. You’re a born healer, Deun.”

“And so are you.” Deuneroi sat on the edge of the bed, smiling at her. “Then I should be going with you. If there are survivors in Abascar’sruins, they’ll need special care.”

“Your mother will never let you venture into such danger.”

“What good is royalty if we just sit in our palace when people are in trouble?”

“Your mother’s lost too much already. She won’t risk losing you.”

“She’s not the only one who’s grieving, Deun. I’m grieving too. And I can’t bear the risk of this. Don’t go. Don’t put so much distance between us.”

“You urged your mother to send rescuers. Remember?”

“Months ago…and she refused to send help while it mattered. Now she’s just doing this to separate us, to interrupt our work. You won’t find anything in the ruins of Abascar except scavenging beastmen.”
“Then I’ll bring back some beastmen. We’ll have real subjects for our study.” He was trying to make her laugh, but she would have none of it. He shifted to a softer approach. “Won’t you sleep better knowing that there’s nobody clinging to hope in Abascar’s ruins? We’ve both had nightmares, imagining someone trapped there, praying to the moon-spirits for a rescuer.”

“The people of Abascar don’t pray to moon-spirits. Didn’t.”

“This isn’t the daughter of brave King Helpryn talking. Where is the bold heiress who dares to dream even of curing the beastmen of their curse?”

Cyndere pressed her lips together. She was angry with her mother, the Seers, and the court. She needed to strike at something, and Deuneroi was the easiest target. But she knew that he was right. She reached for a poker and began to jab recklessly at the smoldering firewood. “Life was so much easier before Mother got word of our plans for the beastmen.”

“It was in the glen near Tilianpurth, wasn’t it? That’s where we first dreamt of taming them.”

“No more talk about the Cent Regus, Deun. Not if you insist on running off into their territory. You’re not ready for this road. You’re a court scholar.Will you stab at the beastmen with a scroll?”

He sat down beside her. “I’m afraid too. But I lost faith in my fears a long time ago, Cyn. People used to tell me, ‘Deuneroi, you’re a weakling. When the soldiers eat what they catch on a hunt, you’re stuck with broth. While others run along the wall, you can’t climb a flight of stairs without losing your breath. You’re not fit for an heiress.’ But then an heiress proved them wrong.”

“This is different, Deun. You’re not a soldier. You’re not a ranger or even a merchant.”

“And I have no skill with horses or vawns. I couldn’t hunt a stag if you turned one loose in this very chamber.” He turned and looked her in the eye. “But I must do this. If we run into the Cent Regus, so be it. What good is this dream of helping beastmen if we’re too afraid to face them?”

Cyndere picked up a scrap of burnt firewood and began to sketch the outline of the viscorcat on one of the stone tiles. “You know what they did to my brother.”

“Your brother headed south with inexperienced guards. Your mother’s sending Ryllion with us. He can shoot the eye out of a rabbit running. He can chase down a fox in his bare feet. He can hear a flea on a fangbear. He’ll protect me. And don’t forget.” Deuneroi’s warm palm slid across Cyndere’s belly. “Your mother has a compelling reason to keep me safe.”

“She only wants a grandchild to extend the line of Tammos Raak.”

“But I want a child, Cyn, because you and I perform wonders whenever we work together.” He took the brittle charcoal from her hand and entangled his fingers in hers. “Don’t despair.”

She pulled her hands away, reached to massage the nape of the viscorcat’sneck. A ripple of white moved under her fingers as she stroked the black-tipped fur. The cat stiffened at her touch, murmured in delight, and then eased back into sleep.

Deuneroi stood. “Remember the tigerfly?”

She laughed, although she tried to avoid it. Deuneroi had rescued the bright orange insect during a walk in the woods around the faraway bastion of Tilianpurth. It had been trapped inside a curled leaf floating in the bucket beside the old well. “It sat in your hand for an hour.”

“And then it flew.When I go to Abascar, I’ll bring something out of those ruins. Something worth saving. I promise.”

“Right.” She dabbed at her eyes. “You promise.”

“I promise. And then we’ll go to the well at Tilianpurth. And celebrate.”

“Will we?”

He knelt behind her, ran his fingers through her strawgold hair, andtipped her head back so he could look into her eyes. “Yes. Or you could just close your eyes and dream a little, and we could be there right now.”

When she reached up to pull his dark hair down around her face, the cat grumbled, unhappy to have been forgotten.

“Be brave, little bird,” Deuneroi whispered between their kisses. “Be brave.”


Without her husband beside her, Cyndere felt exposed.

The only remaining child of Queen Thesera, she lived with constant surveillance. Cyndere was the last link in the chain—and it felt so much like a chain—leading back to Tammos Raak. She would never be allowed to walk unguarded. She would never walk on ground that had not been secured.

The fog unveiled the long, winding stair down the rugged cliffs to the sandy strand. The chorus of waves grew louder. The cold grew mean.

Cyndere would have her meditation, nevertheless. She would wear out those forerunners who scanned the path ahead and tax the strength of those who crept behind. The cold did not dissuade her. She was always cold.

Buffeted by wind, she clasped Deuneroi’s black stormcloak at her throat. When she reached the beach at last, she left her silver slippers on the final stair. Her feet were numb with cold by the time she reached the line where the surf slid frothy beneath the fog.

A tree trunk nudged the shore, rolling and waving its sprawl of roots. Above her, two great lights gleamed like eyes—the rising sun, a coin of gold, and the setting moon, a pool of shifting shapes believed by the Seers to be powerful spirits. Every so often the fog strained at its seams and tore, and Cyndere peered through to the ocean. Once she saw a dark, departing ship, sails pregnant with wind, carrying dreamers her father had inspired.

She scooped up wet sand and cast it into the rippling shallows, tempted again. Come out into the water, the waves seemed to say. Come out to me, my daughter. You have suffered so much loss. You can escape here in the deep, where I am waiting for you. You’ll never again have to worry about losing what you love.

As the rippling tide washed over her feet, a commotion ahead of her broke the silence. Screams. And curses too dark for the morning.

She stepped into the water and hid behind the tree stump as it rocked in the surf.

Her forerunners ran, wailing, back toward Bel Amica. “Wyrm! Oceandragon!”

She braced herself as the freezing currents swirled about her anklesand her feet turned to ice. Water tugged at Deuneroi’s cloak. She felt a faint spark, the flare of her father’s courage. “Row,” he would have said. “Row against the current.”

“Cyndere!” they were calling into the mist. “Heiress! Where is she?”

The sound of their panic blew past.

Cyndere splashed out of the tide.

There it was. A jagged line of darkness ahead, like a mountain range. As it took on detail, she heard its hollow groaning.

The oceandragon’s gargantuan form loomed, its snout resting on the sand, head large enough to swallow a herd of wild tidehorses. The fog withdrew, and she could see the spiked tip of its tail curling about and resting on the sand beside her, ten times the size of the harpoons her father had hurled at seawraiths and horned whales.

She stood still, waited for the dragon to writhe and twist and thrash down upon her. “Is this what took you down into the sea?” she whispered to her father. “Is this what you saw as the ship came apart?”

The fog thinned.

The oceandragon’s eyes were hollow, the head but a skull. Its sides did not heave; they were no more than rows of towering ribs. Its tail, a chain with links of bone. Perhaps it had been dead an age. The sea had carried it into the inlet by night and cast it onto the shore, having taken every scrap of its flesh, offering up its unbreakable skeleton.

That reverberating moan—it was only the wind moving through the skull’s cavities.

“Beautiful,” she said.

She stepped through the gap of a missing tooth. The lower jaw was gone, probably resting at the bottom of the sea. Within the hollow thrumming of its head, she stood tall enough to see out through the gaping windows of its eyes. She reached out, touched the edge of a socket.

What was it like to be an oceandragon? What was its purpose? Had it enjoyed the open sea, redirecting currents with the twitch of a tail or the fling of a fin? Did oceandragons sing, as some drunken sailors insisted? Or did the creatures think only of eating?

She found a small, exquisitely detailed stone on the edge of the opposite eye. She set it on her palm, amazed, for it was an exact replica of the oceandragon’swhite skull, sculpted as only a stonemaster could shape it. She held it up to the light and looked through its vacant eyes. And then she laughed. “Scharr ben Fray.”

She put it to her lips and blew softly. The whistle’s tone struck a haunting counterpoint to the low hum of the dragon’s skull. He had been here. That eccentric old mage, so famously exiled from House Abascar when Cyndere was a child, had walked among these bones. Scharr ben Fray was known across the Expanse as a man obsessed with mysteries. And he had studied these bones already. His sculptures were his signatures, and this whistle in Cyndere’s hand was unmistakable.

She would have given the whistle to Partayn for his collection, were he still alive. Scharr ben Fray had shown both her and her brother a grandfatherly affection during his occasional visits to House Bel Amica. King Helpryn had coveted the old man’s advice and respected his knowledge of the Expanse. Partayn had pestered him for verses from songs he heard in his travels. The queen had only tolerated him, jealous of hisstonemastery and his gift of speaking with animals. But Scharr ben Fraywas a solitary wanderer, appearing when least expected, slipping awaywhenever they tried to hold him.

Cyndere stepped through the skull’s oceanward ear. The tide’s tentative shallows moved around her feet again, alive with wavering seaweed and scuttling crabs.

She traced her fingers along the edge of the ribs, then stepped into their vast cage. These bones were gashed as if by claws or teeth. Either the dragon had died violently, or vigorous scavengers had carved up the carcass.

When she pulled her hand away, her skin was smudged with black fromthe decomposing dragon bone. Not stopping to wonder why, she followed an impulse and traced the ashes around her eyes and across her forehead, thinking of her father.

Another rush of water. The tide was turning in earnest now. Cyndere tucked the whistle into her pocket. “You’ll regret missing this, Deun.” She felt a strong tug of the tether, longing to share all wonders with Deuneroi. That desire would bring her home again.

Something moved. She turned, half expecting the mage. But this figure was taller and robed in something colorless. Light passed through it, and it cast no shadow.

Her father’s courage flickered again. She stepped from between the oceandragon’s ribs to get a better look. But swift currents of fog moved in, erasing the phantom. She thought to call out, but distant voices approaching from Bel Amica distracted her.

Walking back, clutching the whistle in her pocketed fist, Cyndere guessed that her guardians meant to rescue her. She hastened toward them, smug with her discovery. How Deuneroi would laugh.

But then she slowed. Figures emerged from the mist. Their silhouettes became robes, wringing hands, fretful faces. Some were Seers, stalking forward like white mantises. Some, her attendants—sisterlies—in their heavy brown stormcloaks, with her lifelong friend Emeriene limping along ahead of them, one leg bound in a cast.

“Cyndere.” Emeriene opened her arms and stumbled forward in her haste as a mother lunges to save her child from a fall.

“Em.” Cyndere’s voice seized in her throat. Her body knew, somehow, before any tidings reached her ears. “No. Not Deuneroi…”

Cyndere’s tether broke. Like a kite cut loose in a storm, she surrendered, turning and splashing out into the tide. Half in ocean, half in fog, she felt wet sand give way beneath her feet. Water closed over her head.

When Emeriene’s hands seized Cyndere’s robes, the heiress of House Bel Amica fought to break free and dive into her father’s embrace.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

I actually got this book as a Christmas present, wow, almost a year ago? It can't be that close to Christmas again! Anyway, and I read it January, I guess this year. When I saw this tour, I knew I had to do it, because I love this book. And gave me a really good excuse to read it again in the midst of a hectic life. *grins*

The story is so unique. It's what makes it stand out in my mind. The characters are as bright in my mind as Auralia's cloak. And even though the ending is bittersweet, it has just the right taste of hope to make you crave the next book. I've been waiting months for this. ;-)

See you again tomorrow with Cyndere's Midnight.

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his book:

Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread Series #1)

WaterBrook Press (September 4, 2007)


Jeffrey Overstreet lives in two worlds. By day, he writes about movies at and in notable publications like Christianity Today, Paste, and Image. His adventures in cinema are chronicled in his book Through a Screen Darkly. By night, he composes new stories found in fictional worlds of his own. Living in Shoreline, Washington, with his wife, Anne, a poet, he is a senior staff writer for Response Magazine at Seattle Pacific University. Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread Series #1)is his first novel. His second, Cyndere's Midnight continues The Auralia Thread Series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 4, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400072522
ISBN-13: 978-1400072521


Old Thieves Make a Discovery

Auralia lay still as death, like a discarded doll, in a burgundy tangle of rushes and spineweed on the bank of a bend in the River Throanscall, when she was discovered by an old man who did not know her name.

She bore no scars, no broken bones, just the stain of inkblack soil. Contentedly, she cooed, whispered, and babbled, learning the river’s language, and focused her gaze on the stormy dance of evening sky—roiling purple clouds edged with blood red. The old man surmised she was waiting and listening for whoever, or whatever, had forsaken her there.

Those fevered moments of his discovery burnt into the old man’s memory. In the years that followed, he would hold and turn them in his mind the way an explorer ponders relics he has found in the midst of ruin. But the mysteryremained stubbornly opaque. No matter how often he exaggerated the story to impress his fireside listeners—“I dove into that ragin’ river and caught her by the toe!” “I fought off that hungry river wyrm with my picker-staff just in time!”—he found no clue to her origins, no answers to questions of why or how.

The Gatherers, House Abascar, the Expanse—the whole world might have been different had he left her there with riverwater running from her hair. “The River Girl”—that was what the Gatherers came to call her until she grew old enough to set them straight. Without the River Girl, the four houses of the Expanse might have perished in their troubles. But then again, some say that without the River Girl those troubles might never have come at all.


This is how the spark was struck.

A ruckus of crows caught Krawg’s attention as he groped for berries deep in a bramble. He and Warney, the conspirator with whom he had been caught thieving so many years ago, were laboring to pay their societal debts to House Abascar. The day had been long, but Krawg’s spirits were high. No officers had come to reckon their work and berate them. Not yet. Tired of straining for latesummer apples high in the boughs of ancient trees, they had put down their picker-staffs and turned to plucking sourjuice and jewelweed bushes an applecore’s throw from the Throanscall.

Warney was preoccupied, trying to free his thorn-snagged sleeves and leggings. So Krawg smiled, dropped his harvesting sack, and crept away to investigate the cause of the birds’ cacophony. He hoped to find them eying an injured animal, maybe a broad-antlered buck he could finish off and present to the duty officers. That would be a prize grand enough to deserve preparation in King Cal-marcus’s kitchens. Such a discovery might bring Krawg closer to the king’s grace and a pardon.

“Aw, will you look at that?” Krawg flexed his bony fingers. The feathered curmudgeons flapped at the air over the riverbank, their gaze fixed on a disturbance in the grass.

“Now, hold on!” called his even bonier friend. “Whatcha got there? Wait for me!” Twigs snapped and fabric ripped, but Warney made no progress. “Speak up now, what’re them flappers squawkin’ over? Are beastmen coming to kill us?”

“Stop spookin’, fraidy-brain,” Krawg growled, and then he gusted air throughhis nostrils. “There won’t be no beastman savages out here in the afternoon.”

“What is it then? Merchants?”

“No merchants.”

“Is it a swarm of stingers?”


“A fangbear? River wyrms? Bramblepigs?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Some young buster sneakin’ up behind us? Come on now. What’s got them birds so bothered?”

According to his nature, Krawg tossed back a lie. “They’re just fightin’ over a mess of reekin’ twister fish they snatched out of the shallows.” Groundwater closed over his feet as he made his way through the reeds on the riverbank. Increasingly perturbed by the way Krawg was stalking their target, the crows descended to the branch of a stooping cottonbeard tree and pelted him with insults.

As Krawg combed the grasses for an answer, Warney at last emerged fromthe trees with worry in his one good eye, gripping as if it were a hunting spear the long, clawed picker-staff he had used all day to drag down the higher appleboughs. Warney seemed barely more than a skeleton wrapped in loose flesh and a rough burlap cloak. “What are they fussin’ about now if they’ve gone and eaten their fill?”

Krawg’s vulturebeak nose twitched in the middle of the few undisciplined whiskers that grew where a mustache did not. He leaned forward, apprehensive, and saw not a pile of fish bones but two tiny pink hands reaching into the air.

“One of the fish has got hands!” gasped Warney.

“Shush now! It isn’t a pile of fish.” Krawg took hold of the appleknife in his pocket. “Whatever it is, it’s harmless, I’m sure.”

Warney glanced back at the woods. “Don’t forget to watch for you-know-who. Duty officers’ll haul us in, bottom ’n’ blockhead, if they catch us messin’with anything other than them berries. They’ll ride their stinkin’ lizards right through here soon. Come on now…there’s a nice bramble just back here. Youdon’t want the duty to string us up in the hangers, do ya?”

“Good creepin’ Cragavar forest, of all the bloody wonders I ever seen… Looky!” The braver Gatherer flipped his black hood back from his hairless head and bent to examine the child.

Warney remained where he was. “Krawg, you’re givin’ me the shut-mouth again. What is it, old boy?”

“Just a creepin’, crawlin’ baby, it is.” Krawg massaged the flab beneath his chin. “Mercy, Warney, look at her.”

“It’s a her? How do you know?”

“Well, howdaya think I know?” Krawg reached for the child, then thought better of it. “Warney, this must mean somethin’. You and me…findin’ this.”He scanned the spaces between trees on both sides of the mist-shrouded river and confirmed that the only witnesses were crows and a tailtwitcher that clung upside down to the trunk of a birch.

Warney splashed into the river shallows and prodded the submerged ground with his picker-staff before each step. The weeds around his ankles whispered hushhh…hushhh…hushhh.

The child convulsed twice. She coughed up droplets of water. And then she made a sound that might have been a laugh.

“Now that’s odd.” Krawg gestured to the child’s tiny head. “She got brown and silver hairs. She’s seen at least two seasons, I’d say. Probably born before that hard freeze we had awhile back.”

“Yeah, gotta ’gree with ya there.” Warney’s eye was white as a sparrow’s egg in the shadows of his hood.

“And she’s not the spawn of those beastmen. Everything about her seems like a good baby girl, not some accursed cross between person and critter. Looks like she’s been fed and looked after too…well, until she got tossed intothe river, I suppose.”

“Gotta ’gree with ya there.”Warney now leaned over the child, swaying like a scarecrow in the wind. “She’s better fed than any of us Gatherers…or crows, for that matter.”

The crows were quiet, watching, picking at their sharp toes.

Krawg knelt and took to picking at his toes as well, poking at yellow places, which meant he was thinking hard. “We’re too far east of House Bel Amica for her to belong to them proud and greedy folk. But how could she be from our good House Abascar? Folk from Abascar only step out of the house walls if King Cal-marcus tells ’em to. Too scared of beastmen, they are…these days.”

“Gotta ’gree with ya there.”

“Do you always gotta ’gree with me there?!” Krawg snatched the pickerstaff from Warney’s hands and clubbed his hooded head. Warney jumped away, growled, and bared his teeth. Krawg tossed the staff aside and rose up like a bear answering the challenge of a rat. Warney, like a rat realizing he has awakened a bear, fled back toward the quiet woods.

“Now don’t you get it in your head to leave me here with this orphan,” Krawg called, “or I’ll rip that patch off your dead eye!”

“Have ya thought…”Warney paused, turned, and clasped his head with both hands, as if trying to stretch his mind to accommodate a significant thought. “Has it occurred to ya that… Do ya think…”

“Speak, you rangy crook!”

“Oh ballyworms, Krawg! What if she’s a Northchild?”

Krawg stumbled back a step and narrowed his eyes at the infant.

The tailtwitcher, the crows, and even the river seemed to quiet at Warney’s question.

But Krawg at last shook off worry. “Don’t shovel that vawn pile my way, Warney.You been eatin’ too much of Yawny’s stew, and your dreams are gettin’to you. Only crazies think Northchildren are actual. There’s no such thing.”

They watched the baby’s hands sculpt shapes in the air.

“And anyway,” Krawg continued, glancing northward at the sky purpling over the jagged mountains of the Forbidding Wall, “everybody knows Northchildren are taller, and they drape blankets over themselves.”

Nearby, branches broke with sharp echoes as something moved in the woods.“Grab for a weapon,” hissed Warney, “because I smell prowling beastmen!”

“Doubtful,” said Krawg, but he bent his knees and sank into the grass.

“Duty officers then!”

In case their overseers were, in fact, looking for them, Krawg shouted, “We better get back to the patches, Warney! I sure don’t see any berries out here.” He lifted Warney’s picker-staff and marched to join his friend in the trees.

But Warney seemed stuck, as though the girl had tossed a rope and snared his ankle. “You know what they say. If a man leaves a good deed undone, Northchildren will come creepin’ at night and drag him off into the curse of the—”

“I’m not scared of you, butt-guster,” Krawg whispered. “Now hush before anybody hears you!”

The girl, aware that she was alone again, began to murmur as if talking with someone they could not see. The Gatherers watched her clap her tiny hands.

A crow took wing from the cottonbeard tree and made a wide circle over the child’s bed.

“They want that fresh meat,” Krawg observed.

Warney nodded. “Gotta ’gree with ya…” His mouth snapped shut, and he winced.

Krawg loosed a weary sigh, waved a scornful gesture at the birds, and returned to kneel beside the baby.

Warney hopped back to peer over Krawg’s shoulder. “What’s that she’s lyin’ in? That isn’t a sinkhole.”

“No, somebody carved out this hole with their hands.”

“Not with their hands, no. Look, Krawg…toes. This Northchild’s lyin’ in a footprint!” Warney’s grin signified a victory. “Gotta disagree with ya there!”

The child had gone quiet and still. And that was what Krawg would remember for the rest of his troubled life—the moment when her eyes gatheredsunset’s burning hues and flickered with some element he had never seen; the way she rested, as though commanded to surrender by some voice only she could hear; the way he clenched his jaw, made his decision.

A wave of wind carried a few slow leaves, a shower of twirling seedpods from the violet trees, spiders on newly flung strands, and a hint of distant music—the Early Evening Verse sung by the watchman of House Abascar to mark the dusk of the day.

“Oh, our backs are strapped now. They’ll string us upside down for certain. It’s late, and we’re bound to be found missin’.”Warney’s eye rolled to fix on the sun’s fading beacons. “Let’s turn the baby over to the first officer we see, and maybe—”

“What do you think a duty officer sees when he looks at us, Warney? I’mthe Midnight Swindler, and you’re the One-Eyed Bandit! They’ll say we swiped this baby from somewhere. We already been punished for our thievin’. They made us live outside the walls as Gatherers, and there’s only one shelf in the pantry lower than that: the dungeons.” Krawg threw the picker-staff down— splack!—against the wet ground. “I can’t hand her over, but I can’t leave her either. If I do, some officer’ll ride through here and stomp her into the ground. We’ve got to take her. And hide her.”

“Ballyworms!”Warney shuddered. “You ’n’ me ’n a Northchild ’n’ all!”

A commotion erupted just south of the marsh. First came a three-toned bellow, which the Gatherers recognized as the complaint of a vawn, one ofthe duty officers’ reptilian steeds. Then came the din of crushed bracken and shaken trees. It was certainly an officer come to measure their progress.

Krawg bent low and lifted the naked child by the arms. “She’s harmless. Didn’t cast no spell on me. Didn’t drag me off into darkness. She isn’t a Northchild! There’s no such thing.”

“Well, let’s hurry it up then,” said Warney, grinning in spite of his fear.

A few minutes later Krawg and Warney reached the shelter of thatched grass roofs and crooked mud walls in the woods just outside House Abascar’s boundary.There, the kinder sort among the Gatherers would tend to the River Girl’s needs and protect her from the dangerous sort.

Warney clapped a hand over his mouth, muffling a laugh. “Don’t it bring back memories, Krawg? Sneakin’ off with treasure like this?”

“Warney,” Krawg replied, “we’ve never, never lifted treasure like this.”


Krawg and Warney weren’t punished for carrying back the child. But they were “strung up in the hangers” and dangled from their ankles there a full day, scraping the filthy gutters of their vocabulary, when it was discovered they had returned without their designated picker-staffs.

Meanwhile, at the river’s edge, water seeped from the soil into the footprint, turned to mud, and solidified. A mist rose, hovered over the place, then wisped away without wind to carry it. It would remain a mystery and a memoryto the three men who had found it there—the two troubled Gatherers and one other.

Just after Krawg and Warney had absconded with the child, a solitary rider emerged from the trees and sighted that damp impression in the grass.

The young rider, small and eager, dismounted and studied the outline even as it began to fade. He pulled from the earth a riverstone and touched the face of it with his fingertips, where a dull magic blurred. The stone’s color warmed, and it softened to clay under his touch.

Sensing the magic, the crows on the cottonbeard branch shrieked and scattered. The boy etched a mark in the stone as similar to the contours of the footprint as he could—a sculpture, an equivalent.

Then he walked up and down the banks awhile, surveying the soil. When the vawn snorted impatiently, he returned and climbed back into his ornate saddle. The two-legged steed stomped off, happy to head away from the water and into the trees.

No one knew of the rider’s visit to the river. No one saw the record of his discovery, which he kept like a clue to a riddle. And he locked his questions up tight for fear of troubling the volatile storms within the heart of his father, the king.