Thursday, March 27, 2008

Only Uni and another chance for a Free Book!

Only Uni
Camy Tang

Camy Tang has done it again! Only Uni is her second book in her Sushi Series, and I have to say that these are some of the most down to earth, touching, and hysterical books I've read in a long time. Camy's characters have realistic hopes and dreams and more than their share of problems -- many brought on by an overpowering grandmother figure (to learn more about Grandma Sakai, check out Cheryl Wyatt's blog -- Camy "interviews" Grandma and gives you a quick taste of her sassy writing style (Camy's, not Grandma's).

This book will have you laughing at mishaps, shaking your head in horror at room mate habits, and will make you thankful for your family (I hope no one has a grandma quite like Grandma Sakai). I can't wait for the next book in this series (too bad they can't be written as quickly as they can be read!). You can buy a copy of this great book on Amazon.

Leave a comment with contact information for a chance to win a copy of this book! And check out Camy's last comment for another great contest.

Read on for an interview with Camy:

1. What was your favorite book as a child?
My first favorite was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I
loved how Sara kept her dignity and kindness in the face of adversity,
and how she was so fantastically rewarded! I'm such a sucker for happy

2. Often our favorite childhood books mirror the values and traits we have inside. What values in A Little Princess influence your life today?
While the book wasn't a Christian novel per se, I try to follow Sara's
example and keep my heart in Christ's peace and love in the midst of
whatever trouble life hands me. I don't always succeed, but it's a
goal I strive for.

3. How did you get the idea for this book and series?
I love the heroine, Trish, because she has such a sunny personality
and such an easy-going outlook on life. I based her off of a
combination of some friends who have that same positive attitude.

Then, of course, I gave her lots of problems.

The series grew out of my own and my friends' experiences with our
large extended Asian American families. Most families aren't as
dysfunctional as Lex, Trish, Venus, and Jenn's family, but in any
family, there are always relatives who think a single woman's sole
goal in life should be to get married as soon as possible!

4. What is the key message you would like your readers to find in this

That God is always with us, even when it doesn't feel like it. And
that no matter what mistakes we make, God will be with us through the
pain, sorrow, and consequences, and help all things come together for
our good.

5. What question would you like to answer that no one ever asks (and what is
the answer)?

"Is the Sakai family based off of your own?"
NO! NO NO NO NO! When my family was gathered for dinner, I
specifically told them all that my characters were NOT based off of
any of them, most especially Grandma. The truth is, the Sakai family
is based off of stories from my friends about their own families--both
Asian American and other ethnicities--but with the characters
exaggerated to be more dysfunctional than real life.

Thanks for having me here, Susan! I also want to mention that I've got
a website contest going on right now. It's only for my newsletter
YahooGroup subscribers, so join today:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

Tyndale House Publishers (February 6, 2008)
Jeanette Windle

I've only read about half of this book so far and I am really enjoying the way Jeanette weaves her words into a glorious tapestry portraying the beauty of Guatemala. Or at least parts of Guatemala. As she clearly shows us, Guatemala has some very ugly parts, too -- huge garbage dumps, stripped rainforests and mudslides, and military control

I'll update later when I'm done with the book. The title alone creates a lot of mystery and intrigue -- I'm sure one of the people trusted by the protaganist, Vicki, will turn out to be evil, but I can't figure out who (and don't worry, I won't tell even when I'll have to read it on your own!).


As the child of missionary parents, award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Her detailed research and writing is so realistic that it has prompted government agencies to question her to determine if she has received classified information. Currently based in Lancaster, PA, Jeanette has lived in six countries and traveled in more than twenty. She has more than a dozen books in print, including political/suspense best-seller CrossFire and the Parker Twins series.


Fires smolder endlessly below the dangerous surface of Guatemala City’s municipal dump.

Deadlier fires seethe beneath the tenuous calm of a nation recovering from brutal civil war. Anthropologist Vicki Andrews is researching Guatemala’s “garbage people” when she stumbles across a human body. Curiosity turns to horror as she uncovers no stranger, but an American environmentalist—Vicki’s only sister, Holly.

With authorities dismissing the death as another street crime, Vicki begins tracing Holly’s last steps, a pilgrimage leading from slum squalor to the breathtaking and endangered cloud forests of the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere. But every unraveled thread raises more questions. What betrayal connects Holly’s murder, the recent massacre of a Mayan village, and the long-ago deaths of Vicki’s own parents?

Nor is Vicki the only one demanding answers. Before her search reaches its startling end, the conflagration has spilled across international borders to threaten an American administration and the current war on terror. With no one turning out to be who they’d seemed, who can Vicki trust and who should she fear?

A politically relevant tale of international intrigue and God’s redemptive beauty and hope.

You can buy this book on Amazon. Check it out!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Family Squeeze -- Win A Book!

Book: Family Squeeze

Author: Phil Callaway

My Review:
Studies conducted in North America show that almost 30% of women between 45 and 64 are supporting unmarried children and elderly parents at the same time. Phil shares his journey as a parent in the middle -- happily married with teenagers and senior-aged parents who needed his help. His humorous style and honest portrayal of life as a parent and child brings us right into his home and his life -- which isn't really very far from our own lives.

This book should come with a not read in public places! I know the man who sat across the aisle from me thought I was crazy. I started reading this book as I sat in the terminal waiting for a flight, and the people around me would secretly stare when I burst out laughing several different times. I think they were glad they didn't have to sit by me. Then, as I finished the book during the flight, there were several times where I started crying so hard I thought I'd never stop.

One sentence that seems to summarize Phil's advice closes out chapter 10:
"When it comes right down to it, the only way to face a crisis thatmakes any sense at all -- is together. And the only direction to face -- is up."

Leave a comment for an opportunity to win a free copy of Family Squeeze. Please remember to leave information so I can contact you!

Book Summary:

You’re in the “Middle Ages”–sandwiched between the “greatest generation” and the “gimme” generations, busily juggling both with no relief in sight. Children are driving, and parents are not. Money is tight and so are your favorite jeans. And things that never ached before are beginning to give you trouble! For every baby boomer who wonders if it’s possible to navigate the Middle Ages with grace and style, Phil Callaway offers plenty of hope and a little hilarity, too. Because there’s nothing like a smile to make wrinkles less noticeable.

About the Author

Described as “Dave Barry with a message,” author, speaker, and television host Phil Callaway has written twenty books, many of them bestsellers and is a popular speaker at conferences, camps and marriage retreats, coaxing laughter and tears from audiences worldwide. Of his personal accomplishments he rates the following highest: shutting off the TV to listen to his children’s questions (twice), taking out the garbage without being told (once), and convincing his high school sweetheart Ramona to marry him (once).

You can purchase this book on Amazon

Friday, March 21, 2008

Between Two Worlds -- Chapter 1

Introducing the new blog alliance devoted to Non~Fiction books, Non~FIRST, a component of Fiction in Rather Short Takes (FIRST). (Join our alliance! Click the button!) This is our very first blog tour. Normally, we will post every 15th day of every month, featuring an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The special feature author is:

and his book:

NavPress (February 2008)


Mike Timmis had it all.

How does a kid from working-class Detroit become an international ambassador for Christ? And what motivated an evangelical-based ministry to choose this Catholic as its chairman? Mike Timmis’s inspiring life as a Catholic and evangelical leader reveals how our unity in Christ transcends the two worlds’ differences. From him, we learn how Catholics and evangelicals can go into an alienated world together as ministers of reconciliation and witnesses to God’s salvation and love.

Mike Timmis is a chairman of both Prison Fellowship in America and Prison Fellowship International. He was also a practicing lawyer and businessman. A Roman Catholic, Mike is deeply involved in ministry in his hometown of Detroit as well as projects in Africa and Central and South America. He and his wife, Nancey, are parents of two and grandparents of four.


Chapter One

Taking Life into My Own Hands

On January 18, 1991, I was flying in a small two-engine plane in east-central Africa from Burundi to Kenya. Our party had just come from a wonderful meeting with Burundi’s President Pierre Buyoya where we’d shared the gospel with him and a number of cabinet ministers. Still, we were somewhat anxious because the Persian Gulf War had started the previous day. Right then, American fighters were in the air against Iraqi positions.

My wife, Nancy, and my son, Michael Jr., were with me, as well as Gene Dewey, the former second-in-command at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Sam Owen, a fellow believer then living in Nairobi. This trip was part of the quiet diplomacy I had undertaken as a member of a group called The Fellowship. We worked on behalf of the poor by raising up Jesus with world leaders, one means of pursuing the ministry of reconciliation that Christ entrusted to His followers.

As we flew over northern Tanzania, the pilot was suddenly issued an order that we were to land immediately. I was sitting close enough to the cockpit to hear the squawking instructions coming over the radio. I quickly assured the pilot that we had the requisite permission to fly over Tanzanian air space. The State Department had issued an order to American citizens to stay clear of Tanzania, an Iraq ally, so I made sure—or thought I had—that we had permission to fly over Tanzania en route to Kenya. The pilot relayed my protest to the Tanzanians.

“No, you do not have permission!” came the reply. “You must land immediately, or we will force you down.”

We landed at the small city airport of Mwanza. As we stepped down onto the tarmac, a military jeep pulled up. A cadre of officials and police officers met us and immediately arrested the pilot and impounded the plane.

Their leader also demanded our passports. I was reluctant to give these up, because no matter what alternative flight arrangements we might be able to make, we would be stranded without passports. Because I had requested—and been granted—permission to fly over Tanzania, our detention was making me angry. (Later I found out that the flight service we were using had previously flouted Tanzanian regulations and had again on this occasion.) Because my family was with me, I restrained my temper. My jaw clenched, I reluctantly handed over my passport.

We were allowed to find our own accommodations in Mwanza, and we found a car that took us to the New Hotel Mwanza. I would hate to have seen the old Hotel Mwanza. We were the hotel’s only guests, and for good reason. The first thing I did was check under the bed for bugs and rats.

As we caught our breath in our hotel room, I asked Nancy if she was afraid. “No, I’m not afraid,” she said. “You are with me, our son is with us, and God is with us.”

Even though we were stranded in an African backwater, I felt the same. I knew I was where God wanted us to be and felt—as I always have in my travels to what are now 114 nations—that God was going before me. In my many years of traveling on various missions, I’ve always felt protected by the special anointing that comes with God’s commission. Lost geographically, I was still at home spiritually, and for that reason at peace.

Our party of five met for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. My family is Catholic, and Gene Dewey and Sam Owen were evangelicals, but the unity we knew in the Lord sustained us, even when the dinner turned out to be rancid.

After a little while, the hotel manager, having no other guests, joined us at our table. This made way for the night’s entertainment. Four strapping young men in red overalls—the kind gas station attendants used to wear—came out, and with lamplight smiles launched into song:

My baaaaah-dy lies over the ocean,

My baaaaah-dy lies over the sea. . . .

Yes, they said “body” not “bonnie,” and since we all felt an ocean away from home, the song struck us as hilarious. Then the quartet followed with “Home on the Range,” and we nearly wept from laughing. We clapped and cheered, showing our appreciation to the young men. They had done us more good than they could possibly have known.

I spent the next day searching for transportation out of Mwanza. The others paid special attention to BBC radio reports on the progress of the war.

Within thirty-six hours, a plane flew in for us from Nairobi. We went out to the airport to meet it, eager to hightail it out of there. But when we arrived at the airport, no one seemed inclined to return our passports. Thankfully, Gene Dewey was already anticipating this. Because of his time with the United Nations, Gene had the most experience in dealing with government officials. He had also been a colonel in Vietnam and had a knack for being cool and fiercely determined at the same time. I kept asking him when he thought we’d get our passports back—and how. “Mike, don’t worry about it,” he’d say.

As we were walking out to the plane, bags in hand, with a couple of Tanzanian officials to the rear in escort, I looked over at Gene and said as forcefully as I could under my breath, “Gene, our passports!”

“Not now, Mike,” he replied quietly but just as forcefully. “Just don’t worry about it. Keep walking.”

It wasn’t until we were in the air that Gene unbuttoned his shirt and fished out all our passports.

“How did you get those?” I asked.

“I came out to the airport last night,” he said. “I broke into the office and took them. If you had kept talking, they might have found out!”

Gene’s street smarts reminded me of how I’d grown up and made my way. I asked myself, “How did I get here? How did a kid from the rough and gritty streets of Detroit end up on a trip to see international dignitaries? How could a guy born and raised Catholic go on a mission representing a largely evangelical organization?”

I’ve had many amazing, frightening, and heart-rending experiences as I’ve traveled the world in service to the King of kings. And one thing I can say for certain: when you entrust yourself completely to God and make yourself available to Him, you’re in for an adventure.


“Mike, the only way you can be ensured of success,” my father once told me, “is if you take it into your own hands and go into the professions.” I was an Irish Catholic kid from the battling West Side of Detroit, the youngest of five children, keen on finding my own place in the world.

My father remains the strongest man I think I’ve ever known, with enormous hands, a powerful physique, and an energy that stayed with him into his nineties. I saw him lift a car out of a ditch when he was in his sixties, although he did injure his back. As young men, he and his brother Brian went out to western Canada, where they took jobs as real-live cowboys, breaking horses. Brian stayed, became a Mounty in Regina, Saskatchewan, and played professional football there. My dad returned to Ottawa and played wingback for the Ottawa Roughriders.1 There he met an Irish girl who was both passionate and practical, and he had the good sense to ask for her hand.

My parents emigrated from Canada to Detroit in 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression. My mother’s uncle had moved there earlier from Ottawa and convinced my parents that the Motor City was one of the last places in North America where a man could find regular employment. Our relatives soon moved back to Ottawa, but my father and mother stayed, and Dad hired on with the city as a bus driver. He eventually worked his way up through the civil service system and retired as a bus station manager.

Most of his working life turned out to be far different from the spirited and reckless days as a cowboy and pro football player. I was the last of five children, separated in age by twelve years from my eldest sibling, Margaret Claire. My parents were well into their forties when I was born in 1939, and so I never knew my father as a young man. Or a particularly happy man—not at least until much later in his life when, in retirement, he was able to live on a farm and keep horses.

While I was growing up, I remember my dad collapsing into his chair at the end of his long days. He’d take up one of Luke Short’s westerns—he probably read ten times every novel the man had ever written. I can’t say for certain whether he ever graduated from high school. I know he served in the Canadian forces in World War I, beginning in 1914 at seventeen. And since he was born in 1897, so he might have left for the war before graduating.

We were a serious family, always working or studying or going to St. Brigid’s, our local Catholic parish. Our faith was a great comfort to both my father and mother, but it was also a cause of concern as to the children’s futures. My father felt that Irish Catholics were discriminated against, so he insisted that my brothers and I become doctors.

At the time, all of Detroit was divided into ethnic neighborhoods of Poles, Eastern European Jews, Irish, Germans, Italians, and so on. We lived in an Irish Catholic enclave. The houses stood one against the other on forty-foot lots, with bay windows to one side of half porches. The weave of that community was very close-knit. As a ten year-old, I once cursed on a playground a block from home and received a slap for it when I came in ten minutes later for supper. A neighbor had heard what I said and promptly telephoned my mother.

But such strictures helped keep the city a safe and open place where I was free to roam. Not only did we not lock our front door, but I don’t remember there being a key. From the age of eight or nine, I could walk down to the local candy store and then hop busses down to Woodward Avenue, where Hudson’s, the giant department store, mounted huge Christmas window displays.

At the same time, the neighborhood had its own pugnacious code: You stood up to a fight or you simply couldn’t live there. Taking a beating was far better than being constantly harassed, so I did a lot of fighting as a kid. I can remember coming home from school one winter day. My sister had taken the bus home from college, and one of the neighborhood bullies, whom I’ll call Larry, had thrown an “ice ball” that hit her in the face.

My dad said to me, “Take care of him.”

Larry’s reputation as a bully was well earned, and I said, “Dad, this guy is going to kill me!”

“I don’t care,” Dad replied sternly. “You go out and you take care of him—now!”

Anger with my father for ordering this confrontation drove me out into the streets. When I caught sight of Larry, I ran after him, yelling at him vehemently. He hardly knew what hit him! I was so angry with Dad that I beat the living daylights out of the kid. I had him down on his back by the curb, where water was running from the snowmelt, and I whaled on him.

My father may have been so concerned about prejudice against Catholics because he’d had to overcome that obstacle when he started courting my mother. My dad’s family was high-church Anglican. He converted when he married my mother, which wasn’t much of a stretch, since high-church Anglicans worship in a liturgical style as close to Catholicism as Protestantism gets. Still, crossing to Rome was always an issue, especially at a time when Help Wanted signs included the postscript “No Irish Need Apply.”

My mother’s family, the O’Reillys, originally from County Clare, were Irish Catholics to the core. My mother was a petite woman, not more than five feet tall. In appearance, she was what they call dark Irish, with mahogany and cherry wood strands in her hair and a flame in her light-blue eyes. The O’Reillys, who owned brickyards, were far more well-to-do than my dad’s family.

The pictures of my mother that I keep close by are candid shots; they show her as a young woman with the new bob of short hair that came in with the 1920s, striking a jaunty attitude. I can imagine this young Irish lass losing her head over my powerful, handsome father.

She was told never to have children because of a weak heart, and then she went and had five. Better educated than my dad, she had been to what was called a “normal school,” or teacher’s college. I would guess that many of our family’s intellectual and creative gifts came through my mother. My brother Gerry, who the family called Sonny, would go on to be a famous cardiologist; Hilary, an outstanding surgeon; and both my sisters, Margaret Claire and Agnes Cecile, went to college and had marriages and careers that took them well up the economic ladder.

Once married, my mother never worked outside the home but gave herself completely and utterly to her husband and children. That didn’t keep her from having a sharp tongue, or so my sisters claim; I never was cut deeply enough to remember her that way. It was not so much that I was the “baby” of the family, but that my mother’s health was in serious decline by the time I reached early adolescence. She was too exhausted to protest against much of anything by then.

Both my father and my mother led our family in practicing our Catholic faith. In fact, when I think of my religious formation, I remember the faith as a distinctly family affair. Our devotions as a family made a great impression on me. We devoted the month of May to praying with Mary—not to Mary—to her son, Jesus.

Every Sunday night, my whole family knelt down at seven o’clock and prayed for the conversion of Russia. My brothers Sonny and Hilary began to protest against the practice when they became busy medical students, but even then my parents insisted that the time be set aside.

On Tuesday evenings, we went to St. Brigid’s for devotions, praying the rosary, making novenas, or listening as a “mission” was preached—what evangelical Protestants know as a revival service. These devotions largely disappeared from the Catholic Church after Vatican II in the early sixties and only now are being reinstated. The piety they encouraged came to be regarded as old-fashioned. Through these devotions, the Catholics of my parents’ generation—and generations before them—experienced the Catholic faith as intensely personal. The devotions also encouraged them to recognize their faith as God’s work in their lives. I experienced enough of this to clearly understand that my salvation was dependent on the completed work of Christ—not on my own righteousness. There was never a time when I was under the misimpression that my “works” would get me into heaven.

I attended the local parish school, St. Brigid’s, where I was prepared for First Communion and Confirmation by the sisters who taught us. My first confession at the age of six saw me truly penitent, if confused. There were no secrets in our Irish Catholic family, and everyone wanted to know to what I had confessed. I told my brothers and sisters that I had admitted to adultery about a hundred times.

“You did?” they asked. “What did you mean?”

“That I picked my nose!”

I’m sure the priest about fell off the chair as he smothered his laughter.

Still, my First Communion was a memorable experience at which I received a child’s prayer book—one that I only recently parted with when I gave it to my granddaughter on the occasion of her First Communion. It meant that much to me. Even as a young child, I took the privilege of being invited into communion with God very seriously. I think most children do, because they understand intuitively what it means to be God’s child.

At St. Brigid’s, we were schooled in the Baltimore Catechism, so when I was confirmed in the Catholic faith in fifth grade, I knew all the right answers to the classic questions. Who made us? Who is God? Why did God make us? In retrospect, I wish I had understood and experienced these rites of passage more in terms of an evolving relationship with Christ rather than as childhood milestones. Confirmation comes later now, when a child is about twelve or thirteen, which I think is good; older children are better equipped to understand Confirmation as a personal commitment. At the same time, I’ve always been glad that the rudiments of the faith were drilled into me. This provided me with certainty and hope at many difficult times in my life, especially in the crises that crouched around the next corner.


My peaceful, happy childhood was disturbed by illness when I was about twelve years old. I returned home from a Boy Scout retreat with pneumonia and what the doctors suspected was rheumatic fever. I was sicker than I probably knew for a number of months and missed virtually all of eighth grade. After I regained my strength the first time, I had a relapse, and our doctor became worried about the condition of my heart. He ordered that I not participate in any sports. When I entered U of D High (University of Detroit High School, now called University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy), I was allowed to climb the stairs to the freshman and sophomore classrooms only once a day.

This was especially frustrating because I’d always had amazing stamina; I really didn’t pay much attention to the doctors’ orders except when under the direct supervision of my parents or the school. Still, the inactivity led to weight gain, and I became a pudgy kid, which I hated. What’s more, the physical isolation my illness brought with it became an emotional isolation. Like my father, I took refuge in books, becoming a voracious reader. I liked history and novels especially, and, as I often had trouble sleeping, I would grab a book and read long into the night.

My mother worried over me because of my health, of course, and that added to my brothers’ and sisters’ complaints that I was being spoiled. One time, Hilary was especially upset with me. We were arguing, and my mother admonished him to lay off me.

“He’s turning into a spoiled jerk,” Hilary insisted.

“Look at me,” she replied. “You’ve had a mother. He’s not going to have a mother. Leave him alone.”

Anyone could see by her pallor that her health was in decline. Indeed, her heart condition was growing rapidly worse. I vividly remember the night she died, April 11, 1955. It was Easter night. Sonny, a senior, and Hilary, a junior in medical school, were attending to her. They were talking on the phone to her doctor, their voices rising and becoming more strained as they followed his instructions with little effect. I came into her room while this was going on and heard Sonny yell into the phone, “I’ve already given her a shot of adrenaline and it’s not working!”

I looked at her, propped up on two pillows. I asked her, “Mama, what’s wrong?”

She was always a very prayerful woman, and she chose to answer in the only way she could. She took out her rosary from between the pillows and with her thumb held up the crucifix to me. That was the last thing she did. I was fifteen years old.

My father had always revered and worshiped my mother. He mourned her loss terribly. It so happened, as well, that her death came as the nest was about to empty. Long before my mother’s final illness, Margaret Claire and Sonny each had been planning their weddings. Both were married and gone within two months of my mother’s death. Hilary left for the University of Pennsylvania to begin his residency in surgery. The following year, Agnes Cecile, married as well.

My father never had many friends. He didn’t go out with the boys, and he drank hardly at all. For many years, he had lived a life of heroic, if quiet, sacrifice as he devoted himself to his wife and children. Our at-home family of seven had quickly dwindled to two.

Within a year after my mother’s death, my father and I fell into a grim Sunday regimen. We would go to Mass at ten o’clock, then drive to the cemetery, where my father would weep so uncontrollably that I would have to drive us home.

I was very lonely, but also very religious. We had Mass every day at U of D High, and that was important to me. I thought long and hard about becoming a priest.

Every day, when school let out at 2:35, I would stop by the chapel once more. I’d sit there and talk to my mother and pray, then hitchhike or take the bus home to an empty house, which was difficult.

I was fortunate to have my sisters and brothers and good friends to lean on. They made up much of what was lacking at home. Margaret Claire became like a second mom; as the eldest she had always nurtured me. When she married two months after my mother died, she and her husband, Russ Hastings, rented a small apartment only two or three miles from where we lived. She was extremely good to me, providing a desperately needed last dose of mothering.

I would often ride over to their apartment on my bike. Margaret Claire taught me manners, particularly how to behave around young women—a subject of increasing interest. She also taught me how to dance. She would put “Peg of My Heart” and the other romantic ballads of the mid-fifties on her old phonograph and show me how to glide with my partner around the dance floor. She’d let me cadge a cigarette from her pack now and again, but “only one,” she’d say, keeping to a motherly moderation.

Margaret Claire had worked as an executive secretary before marriage and would later raise seven children of her own. Russ was a CPA and became comptroller of Dodge Truck. They were the first among my family members to enter a whole new socioeconomic class.

Within eighteen months of my mother’s death, I underwent a transformation that was partly physical, certainly emotional, and had unexpected spiritual extensions. I began to realize that my brothers and sisters were off making their own lives. I felt that I was completely on my own and that I would rise or fall on my own strength. My father’s admonition that I take my success into my own hands became an implacable necessity. At the deepest level, I decided that I was going to live my life and not be a victim. I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself. I was going to carve out my own life, whatever it took. I began hardening myself and maturing swiftly.

Between my junior and senior years of high school, I determined not to be fat anymore. I fasted, eating sparingly, all summer while working as a house painter in the sticky Detroit heat. My last growth spurt hit at the same time, taking me over the six-foot mark. I lost thirty pounds and grew about four inches. When I came back to school for my senior year, people hardly recognized me. The following summer, when I was working as a scaffold painter with a crew of older men, they took to calling me “Six O’clock,” because I was as thin and straight as clock hands at six o’clock.

Losing so much weight renewed my confidence and helped me reconnect with the tremendous stamina and energy I’d known as a child. I felt powerful and ready to meet life’s demands—on my own terms.

Want to read more? Click HERE to buy the book on Amazon!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Win A Copy of Experiencing The Resurrection!

Book: Experiencing the Resurrection

Author: Henry and Melvin Blackaby

Book Summary:

What does the resurrection of Christ really mean for us? What does it reveal about the heart and mind of God? And what real differences can the miracle of the resurrection make in your life today?

Discover answers to those and other questions as you examine God’s Word with this companion study guide to the book Experiencing the Resurrection by Henry Blackaby and Melvin Blackaby.

Packed with practical notes, advice, and questions for reflection, this highly interactive guide—ideal for small group or individual use—shows you how to witness Christ’s resurrection in and through your life. Each chapter of the book is explored in a flexible one-week format with “life change objectives” that arise from applying the truth for each day to your life.

About the Authors:
Henry Blackaby, PhD, president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries, is the author of moret han a dozen books, including the best-selling classic Experiencing God. He has spent his life in ministry, serving as a music director and as a senior pastor for churches in California and Canada. Today he provides consultative leadership on prayer for revival and spritual awakening on a global level. He and his wife make their home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Melvin Blackaby, PhD., with his father, coauthored the Gold Medallion winner Experiencing God Together. He travels extensively as a conference speaker. He and his wife and their three children live in Chochrane, Alberta, Canada, where he serves as senior pastor of Bow Valley Baptist Church.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, leave a comment and information on how I can contact you! I will draw a name on Friday, March 21.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sweet Caroline

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

Sweet Caroline
(Thomas Nelson February 12, 2008

Rachel Hauck

Today's book came at an interesting time in my life. I've been evaluating some of the choices I've had in my life and wondering what would have happened if I'd chosen differently. In Sweet Caroline, the main character, Caroline, had very difficult choices to make...some were expected of her and others were dreams fulfilled. I honestly didn't know exactly what would happen in this story until the last chapter! Looking back at my life, I'm very happy with how things have turned out.

This story may cause you to evaluate your choices, too. I hope you are pleased!


When a Southern waitress inherits the Lowcountry cafe where she works, she suddenly has to balance more than just her next food order.

Caroline Sweeney has always done the right thing--the responsible, dependable thing--unlike her mother who abandoned her family. But when her best friend challenges her to accept an exciting job adventure in Barcelona, Spain, Caroline says "yes" to destiny.

Then, without warning, ownership of the run-down cafe where she's been waitressing falls right into Caroline's lap. While she's trying to determine the cafe's future, handsome Deputy Sherriff J.D. Rand captures Caroline's heart.

But when her first love, Mitch O'Neal, comes back to town, fresh from the heat of his newly-found fame as a country music singer in Nashville, Caroline must make some hard choices about love and the pursuit of the sweet life.


I graduated from Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!) with a degree in Journalism. As a member of Phi Mu sorority, I partied my way though the last few years of college.

But, the truth is, and always will be, I belong to Jesus. At the age of six, I knelt at the altar of a Tulsa Methodist church and gave my life to the One who loves me.

After graduation, hired on at Harris Publishing as a software trainer, determined to see the world. And I did it without a laptop, a cell phone, an IPod or portable DVD player. Those were hard times.

But, I traveled to Ireland, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Australia, Canada and the U.S. from California to Maine. But, life on the road is difficult. Working twelve to fourteen hour days, one doesn't get to see many of the sites. In Ireland, our company's distributor drove me around at night so I could see something of Dublin.

I met Tony, my husband, in '87, at church, of all places. We got married in '92. Tony has been a pastor for twenty years. I've worked with him in eighteen of those twenty. Our heart is to see teens and adults passionate, radical and whole hearted for Jesus.

Tony and I don't have any children of our own, lots of kids-in-the-Lord and we love them all. However, we do have a very spoiled dog, and an even more spoiled cat.

I've always wanted to be a writer. My dad used to tell me, "You're a writer." I have letters he wrote me post college, exhorting me to write. In this, I believe he had the heart of God.

In '93, I started an epic WW2 novel with two plots. It was well rejected. After that ordeal, I took a break and put efforts into my job as a software project manager. But, I missed writing and in late ' 99, I took up the craft again.

With a little help from my friends, my first book was published in ' 04, Lambert's Pride, a romance novel. I love writing chick lit and romance. I love writing. What an honor.

Rachel has several other books that have been received with great praise, including Diva Nash Vegas and Lost In Nash Vegas

You can purchase copies of Rachel's books, signed personally for you,
at this site: Signed by the

And The Winner Is...

Sorry I didn't post this earlier --

Stamped With Grace is the winner of a copy of Hope for the Journey through Cancer.


Stick around -- I have a couple more give aways in the next two weeks:

Experiencing the Resurrection -- Mar 20
Family Squeeze -- Mar 24

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Perfect Life

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

The Perfect Life

Thomas Nelson (February 5, 2008)


Robin Lee Hatcher

Do you ever worry that your life seems almost too perfect? It's amazing how quickly one event: an accusation, the threat of illness, and injury, or public airing of private activities can turn your world upside down. Yesterday's headlines about the governor of New York prove that.

When you hear shocking allegations about a person, how do you get past your own suspicions and fears to find the truth? Especially when the accusations are targeted at your spouse? This book takes you on a journey through tough times to examine how even a marriage that seems deeply rooted in God can falter when questioned. It will leave you wondering about the assumptions you hold regarding your own life and will hopefully cause you to strengthen your relationships based on God's design.


Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Married to Brad, a loving and handsome husband, respected in their church and the community. Two grown daughters on the verge of starting families of their own. A thriving ministry. Good friends. A comfortable life.

She has it all--until the day a reporter appears with shocking allegations. Splashed across the local news are accusations of Brad's financial impropriety at his foundation and worse, an affair with a former employee. Without warning, Katherine's marriage is shattered and her family torn apart. The reassuring words she's spoken to many brokenhearted women over the years offer little comfort now.

Her world spinning, Katherine wonders if she can find the truth in the chaos that consumes her. How can she survive the loss of what she thought was the perfect life?

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

She also likes to blog. Go leave her a comment at Write Thinking!

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Soldier's Family

Today's review is
A Soldier's Family
Cheryl Wyatt

This is the second book in the Wings of Refuge series (see the post on January 2 about A Soldier's Promise). This book features Amber's best friend, Celia Munoz and one of the pararescue jumpers in Joel Montgomery's unit, Manny Pena. This book has one of the best first lines I've ever seen:

"This was not the smartest way to die."

It is a wonderful romance, but the heart of the book is really the development of deeper relationships with God -- for Manny as a new Christian and for Celia who has been hurt and has fallen away from the church. There is also an amazing story line dealing with Celia's son, Javier -- I can't explain it without giving away a major part of the story.

Bottom line -- READ THIS BOOK! Even if you haven't had a chance to read A Soldier's Promise, you will love this book.


Cheryl Wyatt's closest friends would never dream the mayhem she plots during announcements at church. An RN-turned-SAHM, joyful chaos rules her home, and she delights in the stealth moments God gives her to write. She's convinced that having been born on a Naval base on Valentine's Day destined her to write military romance. She stays active in her church and in her laundry room. Both of her debut novels (Books 1 and 2 in her Wings of Refuge Series from Steeple Hill) have received Romantic Times Top Picks.
Visit Cheryl Wyatt on the Web
Or her blog

Here's the back cover blurb and an amazon link to purchase the book:


On A Crash Course With Love

She was the woman of pararescue jumper Manny Péna's dreams. But he'd stuck his foot in his mouth the last time he met Celia Munez. Now, grounded after a parachuting accident, he was desperate to make amends with the beautiful widow. But Celia wasn't having it. The last thing she needed was another man with a dangerous job—even if he had given his life to God. Yet Manny's growing commitment to her and her troubled son began to convince her that perhaps she should take her own leap of faith.

ISBN: 037387474X
Publisher: Steeple Hill
Ordering Link: Order now!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Taming Rafe

Taming Rafe
Noble Legacy series
By Susan May Warren
ISBN 1-41431-018-8
Romantic Suspense

Today we get to look at another one of Susan May Warren's books, Taming Rafe. This is the second in the Noble Legacy Series. I had not read the first book, Reclaiming Nick, before I read Taming Rafe. I can guess what it was about, but reading Rafe first didn't seem to be confusing.

In this book, Susan has pulled together several complex story lines into an exciting tale that had me on the edge of my seat. This book is hard to put down. This one is full of mystery and intrigue, romance, human failure, and divine forgiveness. I would definitely recommend it. Check out this cool trailer about the book (and you can see the rest of the books in the series, too.)

You can read the first chapter at the bottom of this post. If you would like a copy of the book, go to Amazon

Susan May Warren is hosting a really fun drawing to celebrate this book. If you go to her blog, you can sign up to win a steak dinner with Rafe (ok, well it's a steak dinner and a copy of the book...Rafe's already taken!).

About the Book:
In less than eight seconds, two-time world champion bull rider Rafe Noble lost his title, his career, his best friend—all on the dirt floor of a noisy rodeo arena.

Katherine Breckenridge just wants to make a difference by running her mother’s charity foundation. But the mysterious disappearance of half a million dollars has forced it to the brink of bankruptcy, and when an out-of-control Rafe Noble destroys her last-chance charity event, Katherine heads to the Noble family ranch to enlist Rafe’s help in raising the money he cost her.

But Rafe is broke—in cash and in spirit—and helping her is the last thing he wants to do… especially when it could cost him – and Katherine – their lives.

About the Author:
I can't help be amazed at the gifts God has delighted me with - a wonderful husband, four amazing children, and the opportunity to write for Him.
I've been writing as long as I can remember - I won my first book writing contest in first grade! Over the years, writing has become, for me, a way to praise God and see Him at work in my life.
Although I have a degree in Mass Communications from the University of MN , my real writing experience started when I penned the The Warren Report - a bi-monthly newsletter that detailed our ministry highlights.
Living in Russia meant I never lacked for great material - and those experiences naturally spilled out first into devotionals and magazine articles and finally into my first published story, "Measure of a Man," in the Tyndale/HeartQuest, Chance Encounters of the Heart anthology.
I grew up in Wayzata, a suburb of Minneapolis , and became an avid camper from an early age. My favorite fir-lined spot is the north shore of Minnesota - it's where I met my husband, honeymooned and dreamed of living. The north woods easily became the foundation for my first series, The Deep Haven series. Based on a little tourist town along the shores of Lake Superior . I have to admit - I'm terribly jealous of Mona, the heroine of my first full-length book, Happily Ever After, a Christy Award Finalist published in 2004 with Tyndale/Heartquest.
Our family moved home from the mission field in June 2004 -- and now we live in the beautiful town I'd always dreamed of! God has amazed me anew with His provision, and blessings -- and allowed me a season when I can write full time for Him.

Rafe Noble, two-time world champion bull rider and current king of the gold buckle, had never met a bull that he feared. Oh, sure, he knew well the tension before a ride that buzzed his nerves and slicked his hand inside his taped-tight leather glove. But normally he shook it off the second he wound the bull rope, sticky with rosin, around the animal’s chest and wedged it into his grip. Then the adrenaline, the heat, took over.

And for eight long, harrowing seconds, it was just man against beast.

In Rafe’s world, man usually won.

However, as Rafe straddled the champion bull known as PeeWee, which had to be some sort of joke because the bull was the biggest, orneriest creature Rafe had ever ridden, coldness rushed through him. Something foreign and overwhelming ignited a tremble from deep within his bones.
For the first time since he was thirteen he felt . . . terror.

Maybe it was just the residual agony of watching one of his fellow bull riders being carried out on a stretcher only minutes earlier. Maybe it was the roar of the crowd hammering at the raging headache he’d nursed most of the day. It could be the fact he rode in pain, that he’d had to tape his hand, wear his knee brace, and the sports medicine doctor had reminded him that one more fracture to his neck would land him in a wheelchair permanently.

Or perhaps it was just the eerie feeling that hung in the air, along with the smells of animal sweat and popcorn and leather and dirt, a surreal sense that tragedy lurked right outside the arena of spectators.

Whatever the reason, as Rafe worked his rope around his hand, through his pinkie, then pounded his fist with his other hand to lock it in place, he couldn’t shake the bone-deep feeling that tonight someone would die.

First scene excerpt for Rafe
Rafe Noble, two-time world champion bull rider and current king of the gold buckle, had never met a bull that he feared. Oh, sure, he knew well the tension before a ride that buzzed his nerves and slicked his hand inside his taped-tight leather glove. But normally he shook it off the second he wound the bull rope, sticky with rosin, around the animal’s chest and wedged it into his grip. Then the adrenaline, the heat, took over.

And for eight long, harrowing seconds, it was just man against beast.

In Rafe’s world, man usually won.

However, as Rafe straddled the champion bull known as PeeWee, which had to be some sort of joke because the bull was the biggest, orneriest creature Rafe had ever ridden, coldness rushed through him. Something foreign and overwhelming ignited a tremble from deep within his bones.
For the first time since he was thirteen he felt . . . terror.

Maybe it was just the residual agony of watching one of his fellow bull riders being carried out on a stretcher only minutes earlier. Maybe it was the roar of the crowd hammering at the raging headache he’d nursed most of the day. It could be the fact he rode in pain, that he’d had to tape his hand, wear his knee brace, and the sports medicine doctor had reminded him that one more fracture to his neck would land him in a wheelchair permanently.

Or perhaps it was just the eerie feeling that hung in the air, along with the smells of animal sweat and popcorn and leather and dirt, a surreal sense that tragedy lurked right outside the arena of spectators.

Whatever the reason, as Rafe worked his rope around his hand, through his pinkie, then pounded his fist with his other hand to lock it in place, he couldn’t shake the bone-deep feeling that tonight someone would die.

First scene excerpt for Rafe
Rafe Noble, two-time world champion bull rider and current king of the gold buckle, had never met a bull that he feared. Oh, sure, he knew well the tension before a ride that buzzed his nerves and slicked his hand inside his taped-tight leather glove. But normally he shook it off the second he wound the bull rope, sticky with rosin, around the animal’s chest and wedged it into his grip. Then the adrenaline, the heat, took over.

And for eight long, harrowing seconds, it was just man against beast.

In Rafe’s world, man usually won.

However, as Rafe straddled the champion bull known as PeeWee, which had to be some sort of joke because the bull was the biggest, orneriest creature Rafe had ever ridden, coldness rushed through him. Something foreign and overwhelming ignited a tremble from deep within his bones.
For the first time since he was thirteen he felt . . . terror.

Maybe it was just the residual agony of watching one of his fellow bull riders being carried out on a stretcher only minutes earlier. Maybe it was the roar of the crowd hammering at the raging headache he’d nursed most of the day. It could be the fact he rode in pain, that he’d had to tape his hand, wear his knee brace, and the sports medicine doctor had reminded him that one more fracture to his neck would land him in a wheelchair permanently.

Or perhaps it was just the eerie feeling that hung in the air, along with the smells of animal sweat and popcorn and leather and dirt, a surreal sense that tragedy lurked right outside the arena of spectators.

Whatever the reason, as Rafe worked his rope around his hand, through his pinkie, then pounded his fist with his other hand to lock it in place, he couldn’t shake the bone-deep feeling that tonight someone would die.

Even the bullfighters, the men who distracted the bull as the riders scrambled to safety, seemed jumpy. Manuel Rodriguez caught Rafe’s gaze. Dressed in a blue and red vest, black cowboy hat, long shorts, and cleats, Manuel had agility that kept him ahead of horns and made the crowd gasp. He’d saved Rafe’s hide on more than a few occasions.

Manuel nodded, and despite the distance between them, the roar of the crowd, the announcer, and the advice from fellow riders as Rafe settled into his riding position, he could hear Manuel’s mouthed words—“Get ’er done.”

Rafe returned the slightest nod and refrained from searching for Manuel’s eight-year-old son, Manny, and pretty wife, Lucia, in the audience. Rafe had arranged their tickets and trip up from Mexico to see Manuel perform under the big lights of the GetRowdy Bull Riding World Championship in Las Vegas.

“You’re my favorite bull rider,” little Manny had said as he handed Rafe his hat to sign at the pre-event celebrity showcase.

Behind Manny, a leggy blonde with a black T-shirt emblazoned with the GetRowdy Bull Riding logo gave Rafe a loaded smile.

Rafe winked at her and turned his attention back to Manny. “Are you going to be a bullfighter like your daddy when you get big?” he asked, signing the brim.

“Oh no. I wanna be just like you,” Manny had said, his hero-worshipping gaze fixed on him.
Rafe chuckled and plopped the hat back on Manny’s head.

“Our next bull rider, two-time world champion and overall leader going into the short round . . .”
The announcer brought Rafe’s attention back to the snorting animal he straddled. Clearly, his mind wasn’t in the game tonight. Which probably gave credence to the voice inside. He scooted up tight against his bull rope, blew out several short breaths, and banged his protective vest with his free hand. His biceps tightened against the sleeve of his rolled-up shirt, and he pulled up his fringed black and red chaps at the knees before he set his legs straddle of the bull, ready to dig in with his spurs.
And right then, the fear rushed him, poured through every cell. Right behind it, words or perhaps an impression.

Don’t ride.

What was wrong with him? Nerves, maybe. After all, his title hung on this ride.
“All the way from eastern Montana, riding the champion bull PeeWee . . . ,” the announcer droned on.
Some men prayed before they got on a bull. Rafe had known plenty of cowboys to shoot up prayers afterward, while stretched out on the ground as a furious animal tried to trample their brains. But not Rafe. He hadn’t prayed since . . . well, God had stopped listening to him years ago. Rafe wouldn’t waste his breath.

Instead, Rafe reached deep, past the fear to the grit he’d been born with, and wrapped his free hand around the smooth top rail of the metal chute.
His sister, Stefanie, never understood why he rode. Couldn’t grasp the fact that sometimes it just needed to be him against animal. That when he rode the bull for those full eight seconds, he felt, just for a fraction of time, the king of the world. Invincible.
He’d never even tried to explain it to Nick. His big brother wouldn’t have a clue what it might feel like to always feel . . . less.

Don’t ride.

The voice crept up his spine as the bull shifted beneath him. He took a deep breath, focused on the ride.

This is for you, Mom.

“Go.” Rafe nodded.

The chute opened, and the bull lunged into the arena. Everything inside Rafe went silent. Heat seared his wrist, his arms, his legs. PeeWee writhed in fury as he landed on his forelegs.
Rafe fought for balance while the bull rocked him forward. He barely missed cracking his nose on bone, being speared. The animal bucked again, and Rafe stiffened his arm, realigned his spur position, hooking with his left spur, trying to pull himself back into position and dig himself out of a fall.

PeeWee snorted, throwing back his head.

Rafe’s grip jarred, but he kept his seat. C’mon, bull, fight me.

He not only needed an eight-second ride, but PeeWee needed to fight him hard to up his points and keep Rafe ahead of a feisty rider from Brazil on the leader board. The bull stretched out into the air, landing with a jerk that rattled Rafe’s teeth.

The roar of the crowd filled his ears.

PeeWee’s hindquarters changed direction. Rafe knew the bull had won.

Rafe grabbed with his spurs, fought to make the eight-second whistle. His bicep spasmed.

The bull bucked again. And then Rafe was off. Only not quite. Hung up by the bull rope, the cow bell thrashing on the opposite side, Rafe flopped like a rag doll as he fought to free his hand.

The bull flipped him.

The crowd went eerily silent.

Manuel blurred past Rafe as the bull took him round and round. His shoulder burned, the muscle ripping deep inside, maybe his rotator cuff or his shoulder dislocating. Hopefully he wouldn’t hit his head or snap a c-bone in his neck. He lunged again at his rope. Please.

Manuel snared it. Rafe fell free. He landed in the dirt, dazed, and threw his arms over his head. The bull’s hooves exploded the dirt beside him.

Get up! But his wind had snuffed out. Darkness edged his sight.

“Rafe!” He heard Manuel’s voice, felt hands grabbing his vest.

Rafe looked up, past Manuel’s dark expression. Everything turned black and white.

Don’t ride.

Rafe saw the bull’s hooves crashing down over him and knew fear had spoken the truth.

Tonight someone would die.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another Give Away! Hope for the Journey through Cancer, by Yvonne Ortega

Cancer Isn’t The Last Word—Hope Is!
Survivor Offers Hope to Cancer Patients & Their Families

Hope for the Journey through Cancer
Author: Yvonne Ortega
Revell Books, A Division of Baker
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3186-1
Retail: $12.99

Would you go to work wearing a surgical mask and surgical gloves? Yvonne Ortega did during aggressive chemotherapy. It’s important to realize that cancer is a difficult illness to face. Ortega gives a message of hope and encouragement for those who are struggling with the devastating effects of cancer in her book Hope for the Journey through Cancer. The book offers 60 short inspirational readings, each containing a part of Ortega’s own story from diagnosis to recovery. She shares her personal triumphs and setbacks with humor and refreshing candor, with hope builders to remind us that even when it looks like we are alone, God is with us each step of the way. Hope for the Journey through Cancer is written in a caring and compassionate voice from one who has been there.

Ortega says, “Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a devastating experience. Our lives are never the same. We are not losing our minds. We are frightened, and this is natural. It’s okay to cry. If we look around, we will see we are not alone. God would never think of abandoning us.” In sharing this experience, Ortega helps readers see that, though cancer is a difficult illness to face, they do not have to face it alone.

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed substance
abuse treatment practitioner, a clinically certified domestic violence
counselor, and a member of the Virginia Board of Counseling. She celebrates
her sixth year as a breast cancer survivor. Ortega is an inspirational speaker
to groups of all sizes and makes her residence in Yorktown, Virginia.

Blog Interview with Yvonne Ortega

1. With all the books on cancer survivors already out there, why did you chose to write this book on cancer?

Cancer shattered my world. I wanted a book full of Scripture, prayer, and hope that would assure patients and their families that God would never leave them or forsake them. I also wanted a book that, with honesty and boldness, would address the emotional roller coaster ride that cancer patients, even Christian ones, endure.

2. Was there anything good that came about through your illness?

Oh, yes. I am a stronger Christian today. I know God loves me and that he is faithful. I no longer doubt his call on my life as a counselor as well as an author and speaker. After going through the trauma of cancer, I counsel with more effectiveness. When clients tell me they are scared, depressed, or angry, I understand because I’ve experienced those same emotions.

3. During your illness and now in recovery, have you ever asked God, “Why” or “Why me?”

I didn’t ask, but I lashed out in anger at God. I knew he called me to be a counselor. So I spent hundreds of hours studying, writing papers, and completing projects and paid thousands of dollars for my master’s degree in counseling. Half-way through my residency, I received my diagnosis of cancer. I thought the timing was outrageous and let God know it.

4. Is there ever a time when you can laugh about cancer?

I asked God to help me keep my sense of humor. The day my hair started to fall out, I went to work with wet hair. My colleagues thought I had a power outage. I told them I was afraid to blow dry my hair because I might blow it all off and arrive looking like a Buddhist monk. I laugh now about how angry I was with God. I thought he had made a mistake. Now I understand he used the cancer for good in my life and the lives of others. I laugh every time I reminisce about George, my radiation therapist. He entertained me with stories about his childhood adventures.

5. What is the most important lesson you learned from your experience in having cancer?

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted, not even cancer. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I prayed that God would use cancer for good in my life and the lives of others, that it would be to his honor and glory, and for furthering his kingdom here on earth. I never dreamed he would do that through the publication of my book, much less through TV and radio interviews and speaking engagements.

6. Was the Bible real to you during treatment?

The Bible filled me with hope and peace. I clung to God’s precious promises during treatment and wrote verses with special meaning in my 3x5 notebook. Within days, I memorized those passages and repeated them daily. Terrified after my diagnosis, I slept with the Bible literally over my heart. I took my 3x5 notebook with me daily to radiation and reviewed my Bible memory verses on the way to treatment.

7. Why do some cancer survivors say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them?

We say this because God has used cancer as a refining fire for us. He has used it to make us better people, stronger Christians, and more powerful in our careers and outreach.

8. How do you live differently today as a result of having had cancer?

I’ve learned to listen to my body. When I get tired, I take a nap. When I’m thirsty, I stop and drink water. Short breaks from my work help me relax. A weekend at the beach revives me. I don’t put off my plans and dreams because “next year” may never come. I signed up for a phone package with unlimited long-distance calls. Now I can call my family and friends any time. I appreciate the little things in life—thirty-minute walks to enjoy God’s beautiful world, a ride in my friend’s convertible, and sunrise and sunset at the beach. I also left teaching to become a full-time counselor because I felt God leading me to do so. I’ve never looked back.

9. How did you keep your spirits up while going through the cancer treatments?

I played praise and worship music every day and watched videos and DVDs by Christian comedians. During treatment, I planned the party I would have after completing my residency and obtaining my state license. I selected the music for the dance my friend would choreograph for us to perform. I dreamed about the sheet cake with white icing and hot pink roses with “Yvonne Ortega, LPC” and “To God be the glory” on the cake. I chose the Bible verses for my party invitations. After my diagnosis, I accepted an invitation to present a workshop on writing devotionals at the Maine Christian Writers Fellowship state conference the following August. I listened to tapes and researched the topic to prepare for my workshop and looked forward to the reunion with fellow writers in Maine and snacks of delicious Maine blueberries.

10. Did you ever think about giving up—that the treatments were too hard?

After my second treatment, my blood counts dropped to 500. Normal is between 4,000 and 11,000. My doctor hospitalized me. She said she would release me when my counts rose to 1,000. My counts dropped two days in a row. I called my parents to come see me, but Dad’s heart condition prevented them from doing so. I feared I would die alone in a military hospital more than an hour from my home.

After my final chemotherapy treatment, I thought I would never stop vomiting. I experienced a weariness that made my bones ache. I had to keep reminding myself that it would soon pass and in a few months I would travel to Maine for the writers’ conference.

11. What kinds of emotions did you experience during this time?

I experienced denial. If I didn’t talk about the cancer, maybe it would go away.

I experienced anger at God, the government, the Food & Drug Administration, televangelists who preached health and wealth, and anyone who told me Christians couldn’t be angry with God.

Fear overwhelmed me after my diagnosis and at times during treatment.

Depression forced me to my knees in prayer. When I found out the cancer had traveled to one lymph node and adjacent to another, I became depressed.

12. Are these emotions typical for every cancer patient?

Not every cancer patient will experience all of them. However, these emotions are typical. Also cancer patients don’t experience one feeling, get over it, and then go on to another one. They can go back and forth.

13. What can people do to help friends who are going through cancer treatments?

Listen without judging them. Expect cancer patients to ride an emotional roller coaster. Send cards, post cards, or e-mail greeting cards, especially humorous ones. Phone and visit them. Prepare a meal for them and take it in a disposable container or help with yard work and house work. Buy groceries and run errands for them. Take cancer patients to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and pray with them and for them.

Would you like a copy of this book? I will hold a drawing at the end of the week for one copy of Hope for the Journey Through Cancer. Everyone who leaves a comment and a way for me to reach you will have a chance to win!

And The Winners Are....

Congratulations to Alyice and Kris for winning copies of Closer Than Your Skin! I'll contact you via e-mail to get mailing instructions.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Restorer's Journey - First Chapter!

It is March FIRST, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature is:

Sharon Hinck

and her book:

The Restorer's Journey

Navpress Publishing Group (February 7, 2008)


Sharon Hinck holds a BA in education, and she earned an MA in communication from Regent University in 1986. She spent ten years as the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group, CrossCurrent. That ministry included three short-term mission trips to Hong Kong. She has been a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet teacher, a homeschool mom, a church organist, and a bookstore clerk. One day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but in the meantime, she’s pouring her imagination into writing. Her stories focus on characters who confront the challenges of a life of faith. She’s published dozens of articles in magazines and book compilations, and released her first novel, The Secret Life of Becky Miller (Bethany House), in 2006. In April 2007, she was named “Writer of the Year” at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking at conferences and retreats. She and her family make their home in Minnesota. She loves to hear from readers, so send a message through the portal into her writing attic on the “Contact Sharon” page of her website, She is also an avid blogger...visit Stories for the Hero in All of Us.

The first and second books in The Sword of Lyric series are The Restorer and The Restorer’s Son. The FIRST chapter shown here is from the third book, The Restorer's Journey. Enjoy!


Chapter One - JAKE

My mom was freaking out.

She stared out the dining room window as if major-league monsters were hiding in the darkness beyond the glass. Give me a break. Our neighborhood was as boring as they came. Ridgeview Drive’s square lawns and generic houses held nothing more menacing than basketball hoops and tire swings. Still, Mom’s back was tight, and in the shadowed reflection on the pane, I could see her biting her lip. I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.

I ducked back into the kitchen and used a wet rag to wipe off the counters. Clumps of flour turned to paste and smeared in gunky white arcs across the surface. I shook the rag over the garbage can, the mess raining down on the other debris we’d swept up. Broken jars of pasta and rice filled the bag. I stomped it down, twist-tied the bag and jogged it out to the trashcan by the garage. Usually, I hated the chore of taking out the trash. Not tonight. Maybe if I erased the signs of our intruders, Mom would relax a little.

So Cameron and Medea dropped a few things when they were looking for supplies. No biggie. Why did my folks have such a problem with those two anyway? They’d been great to me. I trudged back into the house, rubbing my forehead. Wait. That wasn’t right. A shiver snaked through my spine. Never mind. They were probably long gone by now.

“Kitchen’s done.” I carried the broom into the dining room, hoping Mom had finished in there. But she was still hugging her arms and staring out the window.

She turned and looked at the china cabinet, then squeezed her eyes shut as if they were hurting. “Why?” she whispered.

Glass shards jutted from one cabinet door, and the other hung crooked with wood splinters poking out. Broken china covered the floor. Mom and Dad had been collecting those goofy teacups ever since they got married.

I pushed the broom against the edge of the fragments, but the chinking sound made her wince, so I stopped.

Dad strode past with an empty garbage bag from the hall closet and stopped to give my mom a squeeze. He nodded toward me. “Honey, Jake’s alive. Nothing else matters. We all got back safe.” He leaned his head against hers, and I edged toward the kitchen in case they started kissing. For an old married couple, they were a little too free with their public displays of affection. No guy wants to watch his parents act mushy.

But my mom didn’t look like she was in a kissing mood. She pressed her lips together. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was more freaked out about what had happened to my hand than our house. Like when I had cancer as a kid. She’d gotten really stressed about the details of a church fundraiser and cranky about everything that went wrong—stuff that wasn’t even important. It gave her a place to be angry when she was trying to be brave about a bigger problem.

“It’s only a piece of furniture.” Dad was doing his soothing voice. When would he catch on that only made things worse?

“Only a piece of furniture we bought as a wedding gift to each other.” She swiped at some wet spots on her face. “Only twenty years’ worth of poking around garage sales and thrift stores together. Don’t tell me what it’s only! Okay?”

“Okay.” Dad backed away from her prickles.

I made another ineffectual push with the broom. My folks didn’t argue much, but when they did, it grated like a clutch struggling to find third gear. Typical over-responsible firstborn, I wanted to fix it but didn’t know how.

Mom picked up a Delft saucer, smashed beyond repair, and laid the pieces gently into the garbage bag. Dad folded his arms and leaned against the high back of one of the chairs. “I can fix the cabinet. That splintered door will need to be replaced, but the other one just needs new hinges. I can put in new glass.” His eyes always lit up when he talked about a woodworking project. The man loved his tools.

Mom smiled at him. Her tension faded, and she got all moony-eyed, so I ducked into the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. Thank heaven. “Pizza’s here!” I yelled.

Dad paid the delivery guy, and I carried the cartons into the living room. Flopping onto one end of the couch, I pried open the lid. “Hey, who ordered green peppers? Mom, you’ve gotta quit ruining good pizza with veggies.”

That made her laugh. “We’d better save a few pieces for the other kids.” She cleared the Legos off the coffee table and handed me a napkin.

I gladly surrendered the top pizza box, along with its green pepper, and dove into the pepperoni below. “Where is everyone?”

“Karen’s spending the night at Amanda’s—trying out her new driver’s license. Jon and Anne are at Grandma’s. But if they see the pizza boxes when they get home tomorrow . . . ”

I nodded. “Yep. Pure outrage. I can hear it now. ‘It’s not fair. Jake always gets to have extra fun.’” I did a pretty good impression of the rug rats. What would the kids think if they found out what else they had missed? This had been the strangest Saturday the Mitchell family had ever seen.

I popped open a can of Dr. Pepper. My third. Hey, I’d earned some extra caffeine. “So, what do we tell the kids?”

Mom smiled and looked me up and down, probably thinking I was one of the kids. When would it sink in that I was an adult now? I guzzled a third of my pop and set it down with a thump. “We could tell them there was a burglar, but then they’d want to help the police solve the case, and they’d never stop asking questions.”

“Good point.” Mom licked sauce from her finger. “Jon and Anne would break out the detective kit you gave them for Christmas.”

Dad tore a piece of crust from his slice of pepperoni. “If we finish cleaning everything, I don’t think they’ll pay much attention. The cabinet is the only obvious damage. If they ask, we’ll just say it got bumped and fell.”

Dad wanted us to lie? So not like him. Then again, when Kieran told me Dad wasn’t originally from our world, I realized there were a lot of things he’d never been honest about. Now I was part of the family secret, too.

He rested his piece of pizza on the cardboard box and looked at Mom. “Do we need to warn them?”

“Warn them?” She mumbled around a mouth full of melted cheese.

“In case Cameron and Medea come back.” His voice was calm, but I suddenly had a hard time swallowing. Something cold twisted in me when he said their names. The same cold that had numbed my bones when I’d woken up in the attic. Why? They’d taken care of me. No, they’d threatened me. Confusing images warred inside my brain.

“You think they’ll come back?” My baritone went up in pitch, and I quickly took another sip of pop.

Dad didn’t answer for a moment. “It depends on why they came. If they plan to stay in our world, we need to find them—stop them. But my guess is that Cameron wants to return to Lyric with something from our world that he can use there. That means they’ll be back to go through the portal.”

Mom sank deeper into the couch and looked out the living room windows. At the curb, our family van shimmered beneath a streetlight.

They might be out there, too. They could be watching us right this second.

“Maybe we should call the police.” Mom’s voice sounded thin. I’d suggested that earlier. After all, someone had broken in—well, broken out.

Dad snorted. “And tell them what?”

He had a point, but it’s not like there was a rulebook for dealing with visitors from other universes. Unless you attended Star Trek conventions. “So what’s your plan?” I asked.

“I’ll get extra locks tomorrow. Maybe look into an alarm system.” Dad believed every problem could be solved with his Home Depot credit card. He turned to me. “Can you remember more about your conversations with Cameron? What did he ask you about? What did he seem interested in?”

A shudder moved through me, and pain began pulsing behind my eyes.

Mom gave Dad a worried glance, then rested a hand on my arm. “It’s okay, honey. We don’t have to talk about it right now.” She smoothed my hair back from my face.

“No problem.” I brushed her hand away, sprawled back on the couch, and studied the ceiling. “It just seems like it was all a dream.”

“What’s the last thing you remember clearly?” Dad pulled his chair closer and watched me.

“Braide Wood.” I closed my eyes and smiled. “It reminded me of summer camp. And I was so tired of running and hiding in caves. I finally felt safe. Tara fussed over me, and I taught Dustin and Aubrey how to play soccer. It felt like home.”

I struggled to remember the rest. For some reason my memories were tangled up, like the time I had a major fever and took too much Nyquil. Mom and Dad waited.

“I went to see Morsal Plains with Tara. Brutal. The grain was all black and it smelled weird. Tara told me about the attack. How Hazor poisoned it on purpose and how Susan the Restorer led the army to protect Braide Wood.” I squinted my eyes open and looked sideways at my mom. They’d told me she had ridden into battle with a sword. “Unbelievable.”

Even though she was watching me with a worried pinch to her eyes, she smiled. “I know. I lived it, and it’s hard for me to believe.”

“Anyway, I hiked back to Tara’s house, and some guys came to take me to Cameron. He made a big fuss over me. Said it was his job to welcome guests to the clans. Said I’d run into bad company but he’d make it up to me. He gave me something to drink, and there was this lady. She was amazing.” No matter how fuzzy my memories were, Medea was easy to remember. The long curly hair, the sparkling eyes, the dress that clung to all the right places. My cheeks heated. “I can’t remember everything we talked about. She made me feel important, like I wasn’t just some teenage kid. It was . . . ” I sat taller and angled away from my parents, my jaw tightening. “She helped me realize that no one else had ever really understood me. I wanted to become a guardian. I had an important job to do.”

“Jake.” Dad’s voice was sharp, and I flinched. “The woman you met was a Rhusican. They poison minds. Don’t trust everything you’re feeling right now.”

A pulsing ache grabbed the base of my neck. I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. Mom’s hand settled on my shoulder, and I stiffened. Weird static was messing with my head.

“Jake, they used you to find the portal. She doesn’t really understand you.” Mom’s voice was quiet and sounded far away. I felt like I was falling away inside myself. She squeezed my shoulder. “Remember my favorite psalm?”

I managed a tight smile. “How could I forget? You made us learn the whole thing one summer. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…’ blah, blah, blah.”

Despite my smart aleck tone, the words took hold and some of the static in my brain quieted.

“What’s the rest?” Dad pressed me.

What was he trying to prove? That I couldn’t think straight? I could have told him that. I struggled to form the words.

“‘You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.’” Once I got started, I rattled off the verses by rote. In some strange way, the words actually stopped the sensation of falling away inside myself.

“Sounds like there’s someone who understands you a lot better than Cameron and Medea. Remember that.” Dad stood up and tousled my hair. Then he yawned. “Let’s get some sleep.”

Mom didn’t move. She was still watching me. “How’s the hand?”

I rubbed my palm. “Still fine. Weird, huh?” I held it out.

A scar, faint as a white thread, marked the skin where broken glass had cut a deep gash an hour earlier. My lungs tightened. What did it mean?

Dad shook his head. “Come on. Bedtime.”

Mom hesitated, but then stood and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead. “Good night, Jake. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Oh, great. She sure loved talking. I looked at Dad. His mouth twitched. “I’ll get us signed up for some practice space at the fencing club.”

Good. He hadn’t forgotten his promise. I couldn’t make sense of my trip through the portal, or the sudden-healing thing, but I knew I wanted to learn to use a sword.

My parents gathered up the pizza stuff and carried it to the kitchen, out of sight, but not out of earshot.

“If we hide the portal stones Cameron and Medea won’t be able to go back,” Dad said over the crinkling of a sheet of aluminum foil.

Someone slammed the fridge door shut hard enough to make the salad dressing bottles rattle. “We don’t want them running around our world. They don’t belong here.” Mom sounded tense.

“I know. We have to send them back. But on our terms. Without anything that would hurt the People of the Verses. And what about Jake?”

Silence crackled, and I leaned forward from my spot on the couch.

When Mom refused to answer, Dad spoke again, so quiet I almost couldn’t hear. “We need to keep the portal available in case he’s needed there. But how will we know?”

Needed there? Did he really think . . .?

I waited for them to head back to their bedroom, then slipped down the steps from the kitchen to the basement. Most of the basement was still unfinished – except for my corner bedroom and Dad’s workbench.

I hurried into my room and shut out the world behind me. Tonight everything looked different. The movie posters, the bookshelves, the soccer team trophy. Smaller, foreign, unfamiliar.

I pulled a thumbtack from my bulletin board and scratched it across my thumb. A line of blood appeared, but in a microsecond the tiny scrape healed completely. I had assumed the healing power was some heebie-jeebie thing that Medea had given me, or that had transferred over from my interactions with Kieran.

But now that my head had stopped throbbing, I could put the pieces together. Excitement stronger than caffeine zipped around my nerve endings. My folks thought this was more than a weird effect left over from my travels through the portal. They thought I might be the next Restorer.