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,
Shine~Ley

Read More...

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)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jeffrey Overstreet lives in two worlds. By day, he writes about movies at LookingCloser.org 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

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


1

THE HEIRESS AND THE OCEANDRAGON

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.

Read More...

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)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jeffrey Overstreet lives in two worlds. By day, he writes about movies at LookingCloser.org 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

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


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?”

“Nope.”

“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.

Read More...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ripple Effect by Paul McCusker

[I just finished and must say its amazing. And now I'm going to bed. More in the morning!]

(10-22-08) Okay, I'm a little bit more alert than last night, so let's try this. Ripple Effect was definitely my kind of book. Sci-fi, suspenseful, a bit of mystery, and just a drop of romance to liven things up. The book turned me completely anti-social for a couple hours while I devoured it. And trust me, anti-social isn't easy when Crystal's here, but I managed. I couldn't stop reading! I even missed portions of NCIS to finish it. A one-sitting kind of book, if you will.

And the ending... well, the last chapter was intriguing. Makes me look forward to the next book in the series. Impatiently. Yes, that last chapter was very intriguing...



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:





Zondervan (October 1, 2008)







ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Paul McCusker is the author of The Mill House, Epiphany, The Faded Flower and several Adventures in Odyssey programs. Winner of the Peabody Award for his radio drama on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Focus on the Family, he lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children.

Product Details

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714362
ISBN-13: 978-0310714361


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“I’m running away,” Elizabeth announced defiantly. She chomped a french fry in half.

Jeff looked up at her. He’d been absentmindedly swirling his straw in his malted milkshake while she complained about her parents, which she had been doing for the past half hour. “You’re what?”


“You weren’t listening, were you?”

“I was too.”

“Then what did I say?” Elizabeth tucked a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear so it wouldn’t fall into the puddle of ketchup next to her fries.

“You were complaining about how your mom and dad drive you crazy because your dad embarrassed you last night while you and Melissa Morgan were doing your history homework. And your dad lectured you for twenty minutes about . . . about . . .” He was stumped.

“Christian symbolism in the King Arthur legends,” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah, except that you and Melissa were supposed to be studying the . . . um — ”

“French Revolution.”

“Right, and Melissa finally made up an excuse to go home, and you were embarrassed and mad at your dad — ”

“As usual,” she said and savaged another french fry.

Jeff gave a sigh of relief. Elizabeth’s pop quizzes were a lot tougher than anything they gave him at school. But it was hard for him to listen when she griped about her parents. Not having any parents of his own, Jeff didn’t connect when Elizabeth went on and on about hers.

“Then what did I say?” she asked.

He was mid-suck on his straw and nearly blew the contents back into the glass. “Huh?”

“What did I say after that?”

“You said . . . uh . . .” He coughed, then glanced around the Fawlt Line Diner, hoping for inspiration or a way to change the subject. His eye was dazzled by the endless chrome, beveled mirrors, worn red upholstery, and checkered floor tiles. And it boasted Alice Dempsey, the world’s oldest living waitress, dressed in her paper cap and red-striped uniform with white apron.

She had seen Jeff look up and now hustled over to their booth. She arrived smelling like burnt hamburgers and chewed her gum loudly. “You kids want anything else?”

Rescued, Jeff thought. “No, thank you,” he said.

She cracked an internal bubble on her gum and dropped the check on the edge of the table. “See you tomorrow,” Alice said.

“No, you won’t,” Elizabeth said under her breath. “I won’t be here.”

As she walked off, Alice shot a curious look back at Elizabeth. She was old, but she wasn’t deaf.

“Take it easy,” Jeff said to Elizabeth.

“I’m going to run away,” she said, heavy rebuke in her tone. “If you’d been listening — ”

“Aw, c’mon, Bits — ” Jeff began. He’d called her “Bits” for as long as either of them could remember, all the way back to first grade. “It’s not that bad.”

“You try living with my mom and dad, and tell me it’s not that bad.”

“I know your folks,” Jeff said. “They’re a little quirky, that’s all.”

“Quirky! They’re just plain weird. They’re clueless about life in the real world. Did you know that my dad went to church last Sunday with his shirt on inside out?”

“It happens.”

“And wearing his bedroom slippers?”

Jeff smiled. Yeah, that’s Alan Forde, all right, he thought.

“Don’t you dare smile,” Elizabeth threatened, pointing a french fry at him. “It’s not funny. His slippers are grass stained. Do you know why?”

“Because he does his gardening in his bedroom slippers.”

Elizabeth threw up her hands. “That’s right! He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care how he looks, what -people think of him, or anything! And my mom doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed for him. She thinks he’s adorable! They’re weird.”

“They’re just . . . themselves. They’re — ”

Elizabeth threw herself against the back of the red vinyl bench and groaned. “You don’t understand.”

“Sure I do!” Jeff said. “Your parents are no worse than Malcolm.” Malcolm Dubbs was Jeff’s father’s cousin, on the English side of the family, and had been Jeff’s guardian since his parents had died five years ago in a plane crash. As the last adult of the Dubbs family line, he came from England to take over the family fortune and estate. “He’s quirky.”

“But that’s different. Malcolm is nice and sensitive and has that wonderful English accent,” Elizabeth said, nearly swooning. Jeff’s cousin was a heartthrob among some of the girls.

“Don’t get yourself all worked up,” Jeff said.

“My parents just go on and on about things I don’t care about,” she continued. “And if I hear the life-can’t-be-taken-too-seriously-because-it’s-just-a-small-part-of-a-bigger-picture lecture one more time, I’ll go out of my mind.”

Again Jeff restrained his smile. He knew that lecture well. Except his cousin Malcolm summarized the same idea in the phrase “the eternal perspective.” All it meant was that there was a lot more to life than what we can see or experience with our senses. This world is a temporary stop on a journey to a truer, more real reality, he’d say — an eternal reality. “Look, your parents see things differently from most -people. That’s all,” Jeff said, determined not to turn this gripe session into an Olympic event.

“They’re from another planet,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes I think this whole town is. Haven’t you figured it out yet?”

“I like Fawlt Line,” Jeff said softly, afraid Elizabeth’s complaints might offend some of the other regulars at the diner.

“Everybody’s so . . . so oblivious! Nobody even seems to notice how strange this place is.”

Jeff shrugged. “It’s just a town, Bits. Every town has its quirks.”

“Is that your word of the day?” Elizabeth snapped. “These aren’t just quirks, Jeffrey.”

Jeff rolled his eyes. When she resorted to calling him Jeffrey, there was no reasoning with her. He rubbed the side of his face and absentmindedly pushed his fingers through his wavy black hair.

“What about Helen?” Elizabeth challenged him.

“Which Helen? You mean the volunteer at the information booth in the mall? That Helen?”

“I mean Helen the volunteer at the information booth in the mall who thinks she’s psychic. That’s who I mean.” Elizabeth leaned over the Formica tabletop. Jeff moved her plate of fries and ketchup to one side. “She won’t let you speak until she guesses what you’re going to ask. And she’s never right!”

Jeff shrugged.

“Our only life insurance agent has been dead for six years.”

“Yeah, but — ”

“And there’s Walter Keenan. He’s a professional proofreader for park bench ads! He wanders around, making -people move out of the way so he can do his job.” Her voice was a shrill whisper.

“Ben Hearn only pays him to do that because he feels sorry for him. You know old Walter hasn’t been the same since that shaving accident.”

“But I heard he just got a job doing the same thing at a tattoo parlor!”

“I’m sure tattooists want to make sure their spelling is correct.”

Elizabeth groaned and shook her head. “It’s like Mayberry trapped in the Twilight Zone. I thought you’d understand. I thought you knew how nuts this town is.” Elizabeth locked her gaze onto Jeff’s.

He gazed back at her and, suddenly, the image of her large brown eyes, the faint freckles on her upturned nose, her full lips, made him want to kiss her. He wasn’t sure why — they’d been friends for so long that she’d probably laugh at him if he ever actually did it — but the urge was still there.

“It’s not such a bad place,” he managed to say.

“I’ve had enough of this town,” she said. “Of my parents. Of all the weirdness. I’m fifteen years old and I wanna be a normal kid with normal problems. Are you coming with me or not?”

Jeff cocked an eyebrow. “To where?”

“To wherever I run away to,” she replied. “I’m serious about this, Jeff. I’m getting all my money together and going somewhere normal. We can take your Volkswagen and — ”

“Listen, Bits,” Jeff interrupted, “I know how you feel. But we can’t just run away. Where would we go? What would we do?”

“And who are you all of a sudden: Mr. Responsibility? You never know where you’re going or what you’re doing. You’re our very own Huck Finn.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Not according to Mr. Vidler.”

“Mr. Vidler said that?” Jeff asked defensively, wondering why their English teacher would be talking about him to Elizabeth.

“He says it’s because you don’t have parents, and Malcolm doesn’t care what you do.”

Jeff grunted. He didn’t like the idea of Mr. Vidler discussing him like that. And Malcolm certainly cared a great deal about what he did.

Elizabeth continued. “So why should you care where we go or what we do? Let’s just get out of here.”

“But, Bits, it’s stupid and — ”

“No! I’m not listening to you,” Elizabeth shouted and hit the tabletop with the palms of her hands. Silence washed over the diner like a wave as everyone turned to look.

“Keep it down, will you?” Jeff whispered fiercely.

“Either you go with me, or stay here and rot in this town. It’s up to you.”

Jeff looked away. It was unusual for them to argue. And when they did, it was usually Jeff who gave in. Like now. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

Elizabeth also softened her tone. “If you’re going, then meet me at the Old Saw Mill by the edge of the river tonight at ten.” She paused, then added, “I’m going whether you come with me or not.”

Read More...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Renovation

You probably don't know, but a few years ago for my and Tasha's birthday's we were told we could paint our rooms however we wanted. Sweet huh? We debated and decided and bought paint and Tasha's room got done that summer.

Mine... Not so much.

Let's see, last summer while I was on my trip the floor got painted. By that point I'd had my room up in boxes for what, three years? After I got home the wall where my bookshelves are and the shelves were painted. I could unpack my books! Victory is in sight!

One year later... The ceiling, the walls, finally! But... they're the wrong color.

Okay, back up. There is a reason they're the wrong color. Dad didn't think he'd gotten enough paint. (I know, I know, four years later and now you realize this? But, hey, better late than... later.) So he painted with different shades of my original colors, green and brown, left-overs that we had lying around. Whatever, I was just happy the half-primer/drywall and half-pink look was gone.

But it wasn't right, mm? Not my colors. So I made a deal. Just, please, pretty please, finish the main painting, and I'll sponge my colors on top. Perfect, right? In hindsight I gotta say, even if the idea wasn't perfect, it was brilliant. *coughs* If I do say so myself.

I was going to do it say, September, after I got settled into school and while it was still warm enough to have the windows open. But then not only did school hit, so did a brand new job! *gasp, cough, choke*

So it got put off.

Then I came up with another brilliant idea. At least I thought so at the time. And it's a really good thing Mom held me to it, else it would never have gotten done. I'd take a week off school it October and finish it all. Wonderful, perfect! Or close to it anyway.

So I did. I vacuumed and sponged and looked all punk and cute in my paint clothes and just enjoyed myself to the fullest. Let me tell ya, sponging is the way to go. Oh my gosh it's so easy! Until you get sick as a dog, that is.

Yup, sick. Remember in the Goodbye Hollywood Nobody post when I mentioned that? It wasn't the flu. It was paint fumes. My luck, huh? Thursday I started coming down with it (fortunately that was my last day painting), and by Friday, I was miserable. Ick. Who knew I was so sensitive?

But it was so worth it. My room is amazing now! And if I was into that I would post pictures for you, but well, you'll just have to imagine. I'm so happy!

Of course, since I got sick, I never really finished putting my room back together. Some of my furniture is still pulled away from the walls, and I have half-packed boxes lying around, but I'll get my act together... soon. *grins*

And this spring I'm thinking the floors (the only thing that originally was going to be sponged)... and some touchwork. Yeah... even if I get sick.

Read More...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goodbye Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson

(If this post sounds a little odd, blame on fever brain [Ich bin krank!]. I'm fried.)

I'm so sad that this series is ended! But I must say that the ending... was perfect. I even teared up a few times. Though that might have been partially caused by the fact that I'm miserably sick. Remind me to tell you about that later. But confused sinuses aside, I can't think of a single way Lisa Samson could have made Goodbye Hollywood Nobody better.

I don't think I mentioned this on the last tour, but I love the voice of these books. Scotty is an amazing narrator (read the excerpt!) and I like the lack of chapters. Not the norm for me, but with Scotty... It just works perfectly

All of us are going to miss Scotty and her crazy world, but I'm glad that she got a happy ending. And I'm not saying anything more than that! It didn't all work out perfect, but when does life do that?

*smiles* I'm just sayin'.



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





Today's feature author is:






and her book:




Goodbye Hollywood Nobody




NavPress Publishing Group (September 15, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

Other Novels by Lisa:

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

Visit her at her website.

Product Details

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

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


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

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

“’Morning, dear!”

Grammie.

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

“Did you sleep well?”

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

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

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

“I need a shower.”

“Hop to it then.”

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

It’s complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right.

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

He laughs.

Yep. I still don’t have my license.

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

I’ll take it.

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

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

He looks into my eyes. “Are you?”

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

“I can go alone.”

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

“Deal.”

Read More...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Single Sashimi by Camy Tang

[Don't shoot me! Totally my fault, blame me, but I wanted to read Only Uni (book 2) before Single Sashimi, and I only got it yesterday evening. Sooo.... tomorrow, maybe Friday? Promise. *apoligizes profusely and smiles sweetly*]

(10-4-08) I finished yesterday. Does that count? Okay, okay, anyway.... (I apoligize ahead of time if this sounds utterly inane. I really did love the book. I'm just completely brain-dead right now. Long day at work.)

This wasn't really my normal type of book. Business-y heroines just aren't something I read. But I loved this. Venus was an amazing character. The whole series, in fact, just had amazingingly real characters. Nothing about them or the way they grew in the story, at least in my opinion, seemed "pushing it", say.

Also, one thing that really gets me about Camy Tang's books is how different the cousins are. They're each unique and you can tell that when you're in their POV. She gets so in depth with the details.

Okay, now one question before I leave, someone please tell me, Is there going to be a book for Jenn? Oh I hope so.



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:



Single Sashimi
Zondervan (September 1, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Camy Tang is a FIRST Family Member! She also is a moderator for FIRST Wild Card Tours. She is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.


Sushi for One? (Sushi Series, Book One) was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni (Sushi Series, Book Two) was published in March of this year. The next book in the series, Single Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three) came out in September 2008!

Visit her at her website.

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310274001
ISBN-13: 978-0310274001

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Single Sashimi
By
Camy Tang

Chapter one

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

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

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

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

"My mother, who else?"

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

"What is she cooking? Beef intestines?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Okay."

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

Venus sank to the floor next to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Late. Where else?" Jenn snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

Jenn pouted and scrunched further down in the chair.

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

"For work?"

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

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

"Pffaugh! What is she cooking?"

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

"Just say you still have morning sickness."

"In my ninth month?"

Venus shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Pig's brain soup."

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

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

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

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

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

"Papa?" Matthew's voice sounded faint.

Venus turned.

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

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

Then the world exploded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He gestured to the brand new hallway carpet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trish peered up at her.

"Um . . . stop having contractions."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aunty Yuki moaned from her crumpled position on the floor.

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

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

"Extra towels."

"Guest bedroom closet, top shelf."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It happened a couple days ago too."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Huh?"

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

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

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

It was going to be a long night.

***

Venus needed a Reese's peanut butter cup.

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

Oooh, but it would taste so good . . .

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

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

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

Her front door was ajar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door swung open.

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

One of her junior programmers stood in her open doorway.

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

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Marcher Lord Press -- It's Alive!

It's finally here! I don't know 'bout you guys, but I'm excited. So's Jeff Gerke if there's any telling from the October newsletter he sent out this morning. If you weren't already signed up, you missed more than just some entertainment. Anyone already signed up had their name entered into the seriously big drawing being hosted today. The winners are starting to be announced over at the Marcher Lord site. Don't forget to check to see if you won! I know I'm keeping one eye on it.

Now, since I have a job and everything (got paid yesterday! EEEeee!), I have spare cash to spend on books. Which I am perfectly willing to do. I know I'll be getting Hero: Second Class, but do I get another one? If so, which? Both? Ah, agonizing decisions. *squinchy*

Shine~Ley

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