Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Big Picture

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

The Big Picture

(NavPress Publishing Group April 15, 2008)

Jenny B. Jones

Sometimes there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy—and Katie Parker is walking it.

School is winding down for the summer but Katie Parker is having a bad day. After leaving the drive-in, where her imploding love life was the main attraction, Katie arrives home to a big surprise on the Scott's front porch.

Her mother, Bobbie Ann Parker, a former convict and recovering addict, wants to take Katie away from her family, friends, and church. Now Katie's life will be changed by a series of dramatic choices as she struggles to understand what family and home really means.

Katie is forced to walk away from In Between, leaving behind a family who loves her, a town drive-in to save, and a boyfriend who suddenly can’t take his eyes off his ex. When the life her mother promised begins to sink faster than one of Maxine’s stuffed bras, Katie knows she needs to rely on God to keep it together.

But where is he in all this? Can Katie survive a chaotic life with her mother—and one without the Scotts? And if God is there, will he come through before it’s too late?

A Katie Parker Production series offers teen girls real-world fiction balanced by hope and humor. The The Big Picture helps us realize that the difficult chapters in our journey are only part of God's big story for our lives.

You can read the first chapter HERE

Jenny B. Jones is the author of A Katie Parker Production series. The other books in the series are In Between and On The Loose. Though now an adult, she still relates to the trauma and drama of teen life. She is thrilled to see her writing dreams come true, as her previous claim to fame was singing the Star Spangled Banner at a mule-jumping championship. (The mules were greatly inspired.)

Jenny resides in Arkansas, where, as a teacher, she hangs out with teens on a regular basis.

"A heroine to love. Jones just gets better with every book, and The Big Picture is her best one yet."
~BARBARA WARREN, author of The Gathering Storm

"Such inspiration in a package of fun and faith!"
~EVA MARIE EVERSON, author of the Potluck Club series

You can buy this book here on Amazon!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Mother's Heart Knows -- Contest!

Today's book is a lovely gift book called A Mother's Heart Knows, written by Margaret McSweeney. It is a small book, about 4"x4". Margaret reminds us of the things a Mother's heart knows almost instinctively, such as when to guide and when to step to the side. The book has beautiful black and white photos of moms and children. This is a perfect book to give a new mother, or maybe a mother who is doubting her abilities.

About the Book:
What better way to tell Mom how much you appreciate her on Mother's Day than with this lovely reminder of thoughts about the loving, selfless attitudes that fill a mother's heart?

The text and original four-color illustrations will be a beautiful and touching reminder to Mom that her love is never forgotten. The text is a reminder of those things that only a mother's heart knows, with some special emphasis on a Christian mother. Appropriate Scripture verses will be incorporated into the design element.

All royalty proceeds from this book go to WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) and a student missionary scholarship fund. WINGS is a non-profit organization that provides a domestic violence shelter for women and their children in addition to transitional housing and programs.

About the Author:
Margaret lives with her husband and two daughters in a Chicago suburb. Her book, A Mother’s Heart Knows was published by Thomas Nelson in 2005. Go Back and Be Happy, a co-authored book will be published by Lion Hudson in July 2008. Margaret has been featured on Greg Wheatly’s “Prime Time America,” TLN’s “Aspiring Women,” and LeSea’s “The Harvest Show.” Margaret writes freelance articles for The Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. Notable interviews include Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Kinkade, Susan Branch and Dr. John Gottman. Margaret also wrote a feature article for With a master’s degree in international business, Margaret became a vice president in the corporate finance division of a New York City bank and worked there from 1986-1993. Supporting charitable causes is important to Margaret. For the past five years, she has served on the board of directors for WINGS, an organization that helps abused women and their children get a new start in life.

About Margaret's websites:

Link to buy the book:

About the contest: The "My Favorite Mom" spa basket contest. In honor of Mother's Day, Margaret would love to hear and share your favorite story about your mother (or someone who is like a mother to you). To enter the contest go here and share your story to win one of TWO fabulously scrumptious spa baskets! She will be posting the stories (with your permission of course) on her blog.

Oh, if you leave a comment on this post ( and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of A Mother's Heart Knows for your very own!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Winter Haven

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Winter Haven
(Bethany House April 1, 2008)
Athol Dickson

I am not quite finished with this book, so I'll add my thoughts a little later. At this point I'm fascinated by the descriptive language and the mystery that surrounds the tiny island, Winter Haven. I have no idea what will happen!

Boys who never age, giants lost in time, mist that never rises, questions never asked...on the most remote of islands off the coast of Maine, history haunts the present and Vera Gamble wrestles with a past that will not yield. Will she find refuge there, or will her ghosts prevail on...Winter Haven

Eleven years ago, Vera Gamble's brother left their house never to be seen again. Until the day Vera gets a phone call that his body has been found...washed ashore in the tiny island town of Winter Haven, Maine. His only surviving kin, Vera travels north to claim the body...and finds herself tumbling into a tangled mystery. Her brother hasn't aged a day since last she saw him.

Determined to uncover what happened in those lost years, Vera soon discovers there are other secrets lurking in this isolated town. But Winter Haven's murky past now seems bound to come to light as one woman seeks the undeniable and flooding light of truth.

Athol Dickson's university-level training in painting, sculpture, and architecture was followed by a long career as an architect then his decision several years ago to devote full time to writing.

Athol Dickson’s writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler
(Publisher’s Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (Cindy Crosby, and FlanneryO’Connor (The New York Times).

His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist and his River Rising was a Christy Award winner, selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and a finalist for Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006.

He and his wife, Sue, live in Southern California. Visit for more information.

You can purchase this book on Amazon

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Courting Emma

My Thoughts:
I really enjoy historical fiction, and this particular book does an excellent job of putting the reader right in the midst of another time. Her characters are created as real people with hopes, dreams, flaws, and deep hurts that impact their lives in a realistic manner. Sharlene MacLaren adds depth and interest to the story with interesting twists and turns. I especially liked the main character, Emma, and how she defies the expectations of single women in her day by running a rough and tumble boarding house. She reminds us that God's love is bigger than any hurts we have here on earth. A great story!

Book Description:

Twenty-eight-year old Emma Browning has experienced a good deal of life in her young age. Sole owner and operator of Emma’s Boardinghouse, she is “mother” to an array of beefy, unkempt, often rowdy characters. Though many men would like to get to know the steely, hard-edged, yet surprisingly lovely, proprietress, none has ever succeeded. That is, not until the town’s new pastor, Jonathan Atkins, takes up residence in the boardinghouse, affecting not only her with his devout faith and strong convictions, but her clientele as well. Emma clings desperately to her stubborn ways, refusing to acknowledge God’s love—until all of Little Hickman witnesses a miracle—the conversion of her abusive and alcoholic father, Ezra Browning! Only then will Emma begin to experience God’s transforming power at work.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

About the Author:

Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. Upon graduating with an education degree way back in 1971, she traveled internationally for a year with a small singing ensemble, then came home and married one of her childhood friends. Together they raised two lovely daughters, both of which are happily married. Recently retired after teaching elementary school for 31 years, ‘Shar’ enjoys reading, writing, singing in the church choir and worship teams, traveling, and spending time with her family, which now includes her very wonderful, adorable, precious grandson, and in 2008 -- two additional grandchildren.

A Christian for over forty years, and a lover of the English language, Shar has always enjoyed dabbling in writing—poetry, fiction, various essays, and freelancing for periodicals and newspapers. Her favored genre, however, has always been romance. She remembers well the short stories she wrote in high school and watching them circulate from girl to girl during government and civics classes. “Psst,” someone would whisper from two rows over, and always with the teacher’s back to the class, “Pass me the next page.”

Shar is a an occasional speaker for her local MOPS organization, is involved in KIDS’ HOPE USA, a mentoring program for at-risk children, counsels young women in the Apples of Gold program, and is active in two weekly Bible studies. She and her husband, Cecil, live in Spring Lake, Michigan with their lovable collie, Dakota, and Mocha, their lazy, fat cat.

Check out her website for more information about her books!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chosen by Ted Dekker

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

and his book:

Thomas Nelson (January 1, 2008)


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

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

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

Here are some of his latest titles:


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




Our story begins in a world totally like our own, yet completely different. What once happened here in our own history seems to be repeating itself thousands of years from now,
some time beyond the year 4000 AD.

But this time the future belongs to those who see opportunity before it becomes obvious. To the young, to the warriors, to the lovers. To those who can follow hidden clues and find a great
treasure that will unlock the mysteries of life and wealth.

Thirteen years have passed since the lush, colored forests were turned to desert by Teeleh, the enemy of Elyon and the vilest of all creatures. Evil now rules the land and shows itself as a painful, scaly disease that covers the flesh of the Horde, a people who live in the desert.

The powerful green waters, once precious to Elyon, have vanished from the earth except in seven small forests surrounding seven small lakes. Those few who have chosen to follow the ways of Elyon now live in these forests, bathing once daily in the powerful waters to cleanse their skin of the disease.

The number of their sworn enemy, the Horde, has grown in thirteen years and, fearing the green waters above all else, these desert dwellers have sworn to wipe all traces of the forests from
the earth.

Only the Forest Guard stands in their way. Ten thousand elite fighters against an army of nearly four hundred thousand Horde. But the Forest Guard is starting to crumble.


Day One

Qurong, general of the Horde, stood on the tall dune five miles west of the green forest, ignoring the fly that buzzed around his left eye.

His flesh was nearly white, covered with a paste that kept his skin from itching too badly. His long hair was pulled back and woven into dreadlocks, then tucked beneath the leather body armor
cinched tightly around his massive chest.

“Do you think they know?” the young major beside him asked.

Qurong’s milky white horse, chosen for its ability to blend with the desert, stamped and snorted.

The general spit to one side. “They know what we want them to know,” he said. “That we are gathering for war. And that we will march from the east in four days.”

“It seems risky,” the major said. His right cheek twitched, sending three flies to flight.
“Their forces are half what they once were. As long as they think we are coming from the east, we will smother them from the west.”

“The traitor insists that they are building their forces,” the major said.

“With young pups!” Qurong scoffed.

“The young can be crafty.”

“And I’m not? They know nothing about the traitor. This time we will kill them all.”

Qurong turned back to the valley behind him. The tents of his third division, the largest of all Horde armies, which numbered well over three hundred thousand of the most experienced warriors, stretched out nearly as far as he could see.

“We march in four days,” Qurong said. “We will slaughter them from the west.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Soul To Keep

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

My Soul To Keep

(Multnomah Books - February 5, 2008)


Melanie Wells


A native of the Texas panhandle and the child of musicians, Melanie Wells attended Southern Methodist University on a music scholarship (she's a fiddle player), and later completed graduate degrees in counseling psychology and Biblical studies at Our Lady of the Lake University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

She has taught at the graduate level at both OLLU and DTS, and has been in private practice as a counselor since 1992. She is the founder and director of LifeWorks counseling associates in Dallas, Texas, a collaborative community of creative therapists.

When the Day of Evil Comes is her first published work of fiction, and the first of a three-book series. The second work, The Soul Hunter was released in May, 2006. Melanie lives and writes in Dallas.


As nasty as I knew Peter Terry to be, I never expected him to start kidnapping kids. Much less a sweet, funny little boy with nothing to protect him but a few knock-kneed women, two rabbits and a staple gun…

It’s psychology professor Dylan Foster’s favorite day of the academic year…graduation day. And her little friend Christine Zocci’s sixth birthday. But the joyful summer afternoon goes south when a little boy is snatched from a neighborhood park, setting off a chain of events that seen to lead nowhere.

The police are baffled, but Christine’s eerie connection with the kidnapped child sends Dylan on a chilling investigation of her own. Is the pasty, elusive stranger Peter Terry to blame? Exploding light bulbs, the deadly buzz of a Texas rattlesnake, and the vivid, disturbing dreams of a little girl are just pieces of a long trail of tantalizing clues leading Dylan in her dogged search for the truth.

“Like water rising to a boil, My soul To Keep’s suspense sneaks up on you…before you know it, you’re in the thick if a frightening drama…Superbly crafted.”
---ROBERT LIPARULO, author of Deadfall, Germ, and Comes A Horseman

“Written with passion, a good dose of humor and, dare I say it, soul, this novel reminds us that we all, with grace and good fortune, bumble our way toward salvation.”
---K. L. COOK, author of Late Call and The Girl From Charmelle
You can buy this book at Amazon.

Melanie can be reached through the "Listen to Me" link on her Website

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Handbook for Discovering God's Will

It'a April 15th, but this has nothing to do with taxes! It is time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

NavPress Publishing Group (March 26, 2008)


GORDON JACKSON is a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He has worked at Whitworth as a journalism professor and college administrator since 1983. Originally from South Africa, where he worked as a journalist, he is a frequent speaker for churches and other groups. Dr. Jackson has spoken to scores of church, Sunday school, educational, and civic groups on a wide range of topics. In the past few years, he has also served as a consultant for church groups and Christian educational institutions in Uganda, Lebanon and Egypt.

He is also the author of:

Destination Unknown
Never Scratch a Tiger with a Short Stick and Other Quotes for Leaders



Choosing Well: Living Out God’s Will

Most of the time in our attempt to follow Christ, we already know perfectly well what God’s will is and what He expects of us. It is to continue the work He’s already given us, precisely where we are, according to the guidelines for godly living we know from Scripture.

But there come moments when we face major decisions, crossroads in our journey where the signposts aren’t as legible or well-lit as we would like. We face hard choices. Should I attend this college or that one? Should I switch jobs? Am I truly being called to full-time ministry, or am I just bored with my current vocation? Is this the person God would have me marry? Should I move to a new city or stay put?

Some decisions we’ve anticipated for a long while, for example what to do upon graduating from college. Others are thrust upon us suddenly, perhaps an opportunity that comes out of the blue. Yet others can brew or stew slowly over time, such as a growing sense of disillusionment and frustration with our current job.

Situations like these ultimately demand some kind of decision. Assuming we seek to honor God in all areas of our lives—education, family life, career, ministry—we want to make a godly choice. But how? Clearly, guidance is a difficult area for Christians.

Scores of books on the topic have appeared over the past several decades demonstrating the ongoing quest for counsel on this issue. This book is intended to assist you in thinking through questions about guidance more incisively and, if you heed the shared wisdom handed down from two thousand years of our faith, to help you make wiser, more thoughtful, and more godly choices. The generalizations presented here are distilled from the wisdom of numerous thoughtful writers on this topic. In essence, the thoughts in this book are not new. The hope, however, is that their presentation and format will make these ideas more accessible and easier to understand and apply in your life. (A note on citations: For the most part, I’ve tried to avoid cluttering your reading by limiting the endnotes to some lesser-known authors for whom you may want to know the source.)

It’s plain that those who follow Christ could use ongoing help in this area. “In our quest for God’s guidance,” said J. I. Packer, British theologian and scholar, “we become our own worst enemies, and our mistakes attest to our nuttiness in this area.” This book is an attempt to head off some of those self-defeating tendencies and minimize the nuttiness. In doing so, this book differs from other writings on guidance in two ways. The first is its emphasis. This volume assumes what other authors carefully and painstakingly identify: the ample scriptural evidence that God guides those who genuinely seek His will and that He desires only the best for His children. So the assumption here is that you don’t need to be persuaded that God is both able and eager to guide us.

The second difference lies in this book’s approach. Most other books on this subject offer systematic, chapter-length expositions on the nature of guidance and its relationship to vital living as a Christian. By contrast, the approach here is far more hands-on, identifying practical problem areas, possible stumbling blocks, areas of confusion, and any other aspects of guidance that can lead to confusion and mistakes. What follows is a series of thoughts on topics about guidance. Each topic, summarized as a principle or key concept, serves as a stepping-stone through what often can be a mental and spiritual swamp for Christians seeking God’s will and direction.

All the topics are built around a foundational section called The Big Five—and Beyond. This is the assumption repeated by many writers that guidance is normally the product of five elements:

1. Scriptural guidelines
2. Prayer
3. The advice of other Christians
4. The circumstances we face
5. A sense of inner peace about our decision

It is typically the combination of these five ingredients that helps lead us toward sound, godly decisions.

Something else that holds together the sixty-two principles in this book is the understanding that guidance is a process that involves carefully thinking through and incorporating The Big Five, as well as other issues pertinent to your situation. Following this introduction is A Guidance Road Map—a set of common questions about guidance, along with the topics that are likely to help you most with each question. Please read The Big Five—and Beyond before dipping into other topics. Without the context it provides, the other sections will be less helpful.

The sixty-two topics, and the principles on which they are based, are presented as generalizations. As such, they need to be seen as part of the broader whole. What’s more, these principles don’t have to be read in order. After reading The Big Five, feel free to browse through the book and pick and choose among the issues that most interest you. Or you can scan the alphabetical list of topics at the back of the book and find subjects of particular concern to you.

As you read the pages ahead, please be aware of the following assumptions that are woven through the array of principles:

 You take seriously your commitment to follow Christ and seek to live a God-pleasing life. In other words, you earnestly seek God’s will for your life, not His seal of approval for what you plan to do anyway.

 You take seriously the authority of Scripture and are willing to apply its guidelines to all areas of your life.

 You already are convinced that God is able and willing to guide you in all aspects of your walk with Him, and you accept that He will do so on His terms and with His timing.

 You take seriously your God-given ability to think through whatever guidance issues you face.

It’s important to note a truly astonishing fact: We claim as part of our faith not only that the Lord of the universe sent His Son to die for us and redeem us from our sins but also that His interest and love for us continue day by day. Like the most loving of parents, God Himself seeks to guide and direct every facet of our lives.

Two reality checks also need mentioning. The first is that living our lives in a God-directed manner is never easy. Living as we do with a sinful nature, it is extremely difficult to do what we know we should and to avoid what we know we shouldn’t do. Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). If living the day-by-day dimension of following Christ is difficult, it’s no easier when we face those extraordinary moments when tough choices must be made. Søren Kierkegaard, nineteenth-century Danish philosopher and theologian, said, “It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But . . . it must be lived forwards.”

As we grapple with trying to understand God’s guidance in our lives, we often recognize His leading only as we look back. But we must make difficult choices while living life in forward mode. No book on guidance can completely answer anyone’s questions; we each need to answer those ourselves. The ideas outlined in this book are only tools, and they are worthless apart from your commitment to seeking God’s will and your willingness to struggle through issues.

The second reality worth noting concerns our limitations in understanding how God moves in our lives. It is the height of presumption to think that any book can prescribe how God may choose to reveal Himself to us. The only absolute we can be sure of in this regard is that God will not guide us in a way that is contrary to His nature.

A final thought on how God directs our lives: While those who follow Christ agree that God is keenly interested in our lives, they differ on the degree to which He has a “perfect plan” mapped out for each of us. Some contend that God has a carefully worked-out blueprint for our lives: His guidance helps us discover that perfect will, and His Holy Spirit helps us live it out. Other Christians see this approach as artificially narrow. God, they believe, is not boxed into some lockstep, foreordained approach to how our lives unfold. God’s grace, power, and imagination surely transcend whatever mistakes we make or sins we commit, which would presumably otherwise relegate us to a “second best” plan. Rather, God is always able to offer constant, uninhibited love and direction, regardless of how far we might have fallen from His standards in the past.

If the issue of a “perfect plan” is important to you, understand that the bias of this book is clearly toward the latter position. God’s boundless grace in dealing with us makes Him love us no less when we choose something other than His best at any given moment. Yes, God’s discipline may follow our poor choices. But for the Christian who is wholeheartedly seeking God’s will, He presents us with far more of a buffet table of legitimate options than some stiflingly healthy yet tasteless diet. A. W. Tozer, a well-known teacher and writer, said, “The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice—any choice will be the right one.”

That remark captures the spirit with which this book is written: that ours is a God of freedom whose guidance we can seek with confidence and enthusiasm. He’s a God of infinite love who enthusiastically champions our case and seeks our best. He is the architect wanting to help us build holy lives, lived to the full (see John 10:10). Yet we sometimes regard Him as the county planning officer who’s looking for every weakness in our plans, smugly catching yet another way we’ve fallen short of the building code. God is not a stickler; rather, He’s the architect who brings our possibilities to reality for our benefit and for His pleasure.

This book is an attempt to assist you as you invite God, the ultimate architect, to help you build your life in keeping with His overall design to make us holy persons. From the foundations to the finishing touches, He is eager to help at each step. The pages that follow are intended to help you build your own house of faith that shall last through eternity.


The Big Five—and Beyond

Every quest for guidance should be shaped by scriptural guidelines, prayer, the advice of other Christians, the circumstances we face, and an overall sense that this course is what God wants.

It’s the big picture that counts. A recurring theme found in books on guidance is that you need to look at the big picture as a whole when making major decisions concerning God’s will. Far from basing our decision entirely on a chance remark made in last Sunday’s sermon or on an obscure verse in 2 Kings, God expects us to use all the vehicles He’s made available for our decision making. That’s why it’s important to consider each of The Big Five factors and see how they mesh together as we consider our decision. Again, these five factors are:

1. Scriptural guidelines
2. Prayer
3. The advice of other Christians
4. The circumstances we face
5. A sense of inner peace about our decision

Until you’ve got a thumbs-up on each of the five, you’re probably not ready to make a decision. If, for example, you’re seriously considering a career change, but your spouse or closest friends are advising you against it, you need to check your thinking. Or if you’ve been invited to go on a short-term mission trip and the first four points check out just fine, yet you’ve still got a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, once again it may be best to hold off on your decision and give it further thought.

If you were leaving later today for a trip abroad, you’d make sure you’d taken care of your passport, airline ticket, health insurance, luggage, and spending money. If you were heading for the airport and realized you’d left your passport at home, it’s unlikely you would keep going and say, “Well, four out of five isn’t bad.”

Similarly, you’re probably asking for trouble by heading into a decision without a check mark against each of The Big Five. Is it possible that the advice from your spouse or friends is wrong, or that you’re confusing a lack of inner peace about a decision with plain old nervousness? Of course. The point here isn’t that missing one of these five checkpoints means you shouldn’t go ahead; it simply means there’s a warning light on the dashboard and you’re well advised to take a second look at what’s happening. Or, to switch metaphors, if these five principles don’t line up neatly like lights on a runway, you need to question seriously whether you’re ready to come in for a landing.

Sometimes those landing lights don’t line up neatly, or one warning light keeps flickering on the dash—and yet a major decision still looms. Remember, guidance is seldom a simple, clear-cut process. The words of C. S. Lewis provide a helpful reminder of the many ways God can speak to us: “I don’t doubt that the Holy Spirit guides your decisions from within when you make them with the intention of pleasing God. The error would be to think that he speaks only within, whereas in reality he speaks also through Scripture, the church, Christian friends, books, etc.”

Because working toward the decisions God would have us make can be complex and can lead to ambiguous answers, it’s necessary to dig deeper into our understanding of The Big Five. The separate entries of The Big Five are not of equal importance. The simple flowchart that follows shows that scriptural principles are the starting point. But they’re only the starting point. Each of these five principles merits careful attention. The next step is to examine any of the five elements that merits special attention in your situation. (These topics are addressed in the pages that follow.) Alternatively, you may want to turn directly to other individual topics that speak to your needs. The Guidance Road Map on page 17 will help you do that.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Do Hard Things -- Win a Book

The next generation stands on the brink of a

Do Hard Things
A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
by Alex and Brett Harris

This book is a must read for teens, parents, and anyone who works with teens (teachers, youth leaders, etc.). The authors make a great point -- our teens are accomplishing exactly what we as a society expect them to accomplish. We look at kids who don't do the 'bad' things (drink, smoke, have sex) as role models and leaders, but in actuality they, too, are hurting themselves and their futures by not pushing themselves to become the men and women God made them to be.

We've decided to use this book as a teaching tool for a group of our teens at church. I can't wait to see what they accomplish when they are challenged to push themselves to the limits!

About the Book:
The next generation stands on the brink of a "rebelution."

With over 16 million hits to their website, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to "do hard things" for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins' revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.

Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

About the Authors:

Alex and Brett Harris founded in August 2005 and today at age 19 are the most popular Christian teen writers on the Web. The twins are frequent contributors to Focus on the Family’s Boundless webzine, serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution Tour conferences, and have been featured in WORLD magazine, Breakaway, The Old Schoolhouse, and the New York Daily News. Sons of homeschool pioneer Gregg Harris and younger brothers of best-selling author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), Alex and Brett live near Portland , Oregon .

Buy this book on Amazon here, and check out the blogsite.

Leave a comment and contact information and I'll enter you in a drawing for this book!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Trouble The Water

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Trouble the Water
Thomas Nelson (March 11, 2008)
Nicole Seitz
In the South Carolina Sea Islands lush setting, Nicole Seitz's second novel Trouble the Water is a poignant novel about two middle-aged sisters' journey to self-discovery.

One is seeking to recreate her life yet again and learns to truly live from a group of Gullah nannies she meets on the island. The other thinks she's got it all together until her sister's imminent death from cancer causes her to re-examine her own life and seek the healing and rebirth her troubled sister managed to find on St. Anne's Island.

Strong female protagonists are forced to deal with suicide, wife abuse, cancer, and grief in a realistic way that will ring true for anyone who has ever suffered great loss.

"This is another thing I know for a fact: a woman can't be an island, not really. No, it's the touching we do in other people's lives that matters when all is said and done. The silly things we do for ourselves--shiny new cars and jobs and money--they don't mean a hill of beans. Honor taught me that. My soul sisters on this island taught me that. And this is the story of true sisterhood. It's the story of Honor, come and gone, and how one flawed woman worked miracles in this mixed-up world."

"...a special sisterhood of island women whose wisdom and courage linger in the mind long after the book is closed."
-NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author SUSAN WIGGS

Nicole Seitz is a South Carolina Lowcountry native and the author of The Spirit of Sweetgrass as well as a freelance writer/illustrator who has published in numerous low country magazines. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism, she also has a bachelor's degree in illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design. Nicole shows her paintings in the Charleston, South Carolina area, where she owns a web design firm and lives with her husband and two small children. Nicole is also an avid blogger, you can leave her a comment on her blog.

Seitz's writing style recalls that of Southern authors like Kaye Gibbons, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Sue Monk Kidd, and this new novel, which the publisher compares to Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, surely joins the ranks of strong fiction that highlights the complicated relationships between women. Highly recommended, especially for Southern libraries.

Buy this book at Amazon!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Amber Morn

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

Amber Morn
(Zondervan Publishing Company - April 2008)


Brandilyn Collins

I've seen Brandilyn Collins books several times before, but for some reason I had yet to read one. I have really been missing out! Amber Moon is actually the fourth book in a series, but that didn't matter at all. I was able to understand all of the story -- and I couldn't put it down! I think I have set a new record for me -- completing a book in under four hours. I have no idea what my family fixed for themselves for supper that night!

Brandilyn is masterful as she builds the suspense at the end of each chapter. The characters were so realistic that I actually yelled at one of them for something she said! Do not start this book while you are sitting in a doctors' office, or you might not be able to put it down when they call you in.

I've set a new goal for myself. I want to read all the rest of Brandilyn's books by the end of the year. They have popped right to the top of my To Read list.

If you like suspense that pulls you in from the first sentence, check out her books. Her tagline is 'don't forget to breathe'. It's a warning well worth listening to!

The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than sixty seconds.

Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of the gunman would pull the trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.

Dear God, help us! Tell me this is a dream . . .

The shooter’s teeth clenched. “ Anybody who moves is dead.”

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside.

Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die...

Amber Morn is the climactic finale to Collins’ widely read Kanner Lake series. All first three titles in the series, Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, and Crimson Eve, were bestsellers. Library Journal placed Crimson Eve on its Best Books of 2007 list, and hailed it the “Best Christian suspense of 2007.”

A few early reviews of Amber Morn:

“… essential reading … a harrowing hostage drama.” – Library Journal

“… heart-pounding … breakneck pace … satisfying and meaningful ending.” – RT Bookreviews

“This cataclysmic ending left me breathless … Kanner Lake is the Best Suspense Series of 2007/2008.” –

“Collins has saved the best for a last .. a powerful ensemble performance.” --

“… a staccato tempo … Sometimes you just have to close the book in order to come up for air.” – Dale Lewis

“…a masterpiece of page-turning suspense with a cast of dozens.” – Peg Phifer

>Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline

“Don’t forget to b r e a t h e …®”

Brandilyn writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 19th book. Her first, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows.

She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences.

Brandilyn blogs at Forensics and Faith. Visit her Website
to read the first chapters of all her books.

You can purchase Amber Morn on Amazon.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Generation NeXt Marriage

Generation NeXt Marriage: The Couple's Guide to Keeping It Together
By Tricia Goyer

First, a note to you from Tricia:

Hi Friend!

In 1983, I was in sixth grade when Billy Idol’s song, White Wedding hit the charts. I remember doodling designs for my wedding dress on the brown-paper cover of my English book. Funny thing, though, somehow (I realize now) I forgot to daydream about what happened after I married my Prince Charming. I forgot a marriage followed.

Maybe you have challenges in your marriage. Or you know someone who does. If so, I hope this book would encourage you. Remember, God placed us (and our spouses) in this time in history for a purpose!

As you will be able to tell, this is a book close to my heart. As a Gen Xer myself, I know how challenging marriage can be. Yet, I also know from experience that God has chosen us for this calling, and He’s also available to help us every step of the way. That’s a message worth sharing, don’t you think?!

I've written about some of Tricia's fiction books on this blog in the past. She also has several non-fiction books that are wonderfully refreshing, honest looks at the difficulties we run into in this life. Generation NeXt Marriage looks at the perspectives of those born in the 1960's - 1980's (yes, I fit into that category but barely -- I always considered myself a BoomerX!). She surveyed hundreds of other Gen Xers for their inputs on topics such as commitment, marriage role models, intimacy, conflict resolution, money matters, and sex.

Our generation grew up amidst record numbers of divorce, free sex, and conflicting ideas of 'appropriate' roles for husbands and wives. We've found ourselves following the crowd as teenagers only to realize the past does matter and it impacts our relationships even now. Using snippets of music from the 70's and 80's that bring back many memories, Tricia shows us how to go beyond a good marriage and find the wonderful relationship God intended for you.

One of the chapters that really resonated with me was 'romancing your spouse'. When the busyness of life invades on all sides, it's easy to put your spouse low on the totem pole because you know he's always there for you. However, that's not the way I want to live. I want to be sure Doug knows that I really love him and that I know he really loves me too. And I want to add the fun touches that romance adds -- doing the little things that I know will make him smile throughout his day. Tricia reminded me that:
True romance is lived out, not simply dreamed about,
True romance takes work,
True romance takes creativity, and
True romance menas considering the other person.

You can't do this if your schedules take you to opposite ends of town (which is actually covered in the following chapter). So I've decided to make sure I do something special at least once each week just because I love him (I want to do something every day, but I also have to start somewhere! Once a week is an easy goal to exceed).

Here's some more info about Tricia and her new book.


Do you still find yourself humming the love songs of the 80s and 90s?

Do you still believe that every marriage should be between soul mates?

But -- do you wonder how you can succeed at love and marriage when the generation you grew up in didn't?

Marriage isn't what it used to be-it can be better than ever.

If you are a Gen Xer, your marriage has challenges and potentials that no other generation has known. A Gen Xer herself, Tricia Goyer offers realistic help to achieve the God-honoring marriage you long for. She includes:

·Ways to protect your marriage despite the broken relationships modeled in your youth

·Stories, suggestions, and confessions from fellow Gen Xers facing the "What now?" question of real-life marriage

·Advice from the ultimate marriage survival guide: the Bible

·Stats, quizzes, sidebars, and study questions related to this "relationally challenged" time in history

·Practical helps for negotiating kids, work, sex, money, and dirty laundry-sometimes all in the same evening

If you are part of a generation of adults who don't want to bow to their culture or live and love like their parents did -- this book is for you.

Tricia Goyer is the author of twelve books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Check out her website and blog.

If you would like to read more information about Generation NeXt Marriage and read the first chapter, go to Tricia's blog

Or, you can just buy it here!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

When Zeffie Got A Clue

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

When Zeffie Got a Clue
WaterBrook Press (March 18, 2008)

Peggy Darty

This book introduced a new term to me, 'cozy mystery'. While I've read a lot of them, I'd never heard the term. It refers to a mystery that takes place in a relatively contained area (e.g., a small town)with very little, if any, violence portrayed in the text. It involves an amateur sleuth who investigates among suspects who probably know each other. In the end the puzzle is resolved.

This book adds a lot of suspense as the perpetrator follows the main character, Christy (an author of mystery books), through her investigation. It takes place in a small coastal town on Florida's Emerald Coast near Destin and Panama City. Zeffie is an adorable young girl who unwittingly finds a clue that reopens a case that has long been put on the shelf.

This is a great beach book. It is the third in a series and it would probably be best to read the other two books, When the Sandpiper Calls and When Bobbie Sang the Blues, first. There were a few points that I presume would have been much easier to understand.


It’s an ordinary afternoon in Summer Breeze, Florida, when a young, wide-eyed girl steps into I Saw It First, the trash-to-treasure shop Christy Castleman and her Aunt Bobbie have opened. Clutching a jewelry box, Zeffie Adams tells Christy she needs money to pay her grandmother’s medical bills, prompting Christy to offer this curious visitor more than the jewelry box is worth–or so she thinks.

But complicated questions form when Christy rips out the box’s lining and uncovers a clue to a cold case murder mystery from eight years ago. Despite warnings from her family and handsome boyfriend Dan Brockman, Christy decides to do a little detective work of her own. After all, the infamous murder happened close to her grandmother’s farm. How risky could it be to take the jewelry box back to the Strickland plantation and ask around about it?

Soon Christy finds there is more to the small box than someone wants her to know. A jewelry theft. A mansion murder. Dangerous family secrets buried in history. Can Christy convince others to let go of the past before it’s too late?


Peggy Darty is the award-winning author of twenty-seven books, including two other cozy mysteries set in Summer Breeze, Florida: When the Sandpiper Calls and When Bobbie Sang the Blues. She has worked in film, researched for CBS, and led writing workshops around the country. Darty and her husband call Alabama home but spend a great deal of time in Colorado, Montana, and on Florida’s Emerald Coast.

You can purchase this book at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

FIRST - Ryann Watters and the King's Sword

It is April FIRST--no foolin'--, 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!

The special feature author is:

and his book:

Ryann Watters and the King's Sword
Creation House (May 2008)

Illustrated by: Corey Wolfe


Eric J. Reinhold is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. The former Naval officer writes extensively for a variety of national financial publications in his position as a Certified Financial Planner® and President of Academy Wealth Management. His passion for writing a youth fantasy novel was fueled by nightly impromptu storytelling to his children and actively serving in the middle and high school programs at First Baptist Sweetwater Church in Longwood, Florida.

Visit him at his website.


Angel’s Visitation

It first appeared as a gentle glow, almost like a child’s night-light. Heavy shadows filled the room as the boy lay face up, covers tucked neatly under his arms. A slight smile on his face hinted that he was in the midst of a pleasant dream.

Ryann Watters, who had just celebrated his twelfth birthday, rolled lazily onto his side, his blond hair matted into the pillow, unaware of the glow as it began to intensify. Shadows searched for hiding places throughout the room as the glow transformed from a pale yellow hue to brilliant white.

Ryann’s eyelids fluttered briefly and then flickered at the glare reflecting off his pale blue bedroom walls. Drowsily, he turned toward the light expecting to see one of his parents coming in to check on him. “What’s going on?” his voice cracked as he reached up to rub the crusty sleep from his eyes.


Under a pale half-moon, Drake Dunfellow’s house looked just like any other. A closer inspection, however, would reveal its failing condition. Water oaks lining the side of the curved driveway hunched over haggardly, like old men struggling on canes. The lawn, which should have been a lively green for early spring, was withered and sandy. A few patches of grass were sprinkled here and there. Rust lines streaked down the one jagged peak atop the tin-roof house. The flimsy clapboard sides were outlined by fading white trim speckled with dried paint curls. Hanging baskets containing a variety of plants and weeds all struggling to stay alive shared the crowded front porch with two mildew-covered rocking chairs. Inside, magazines and newspaper clippings both old and new were carelessly strewn about. Encrusted dishes from the previous day’s meals battled each other for space in the bulging kitchen sink. In the garage, away from the usual living areas, was a boy’s room. Dull paneling outlined the bedroom, while equally dreary brown linoleum covered the floor. The bedroom must have been an afterthought because not much consideration had been given to the details. A bookcase cut from rough planks sat atop an old garage sale dresser.

Moonlight pressing through the dust-covered metal blinds tried to provide a sense of peacefulness. Instead it revealed bristly red hair atop a young boy’s head poking out from beneath a mushy feather pillow. His heavy breathing provided the only movement in the quiet room. Tiny droplets of perspiration lined his brow as he began jerking about under the thin cotton sheets.

Starting at the edge of the window, the blackness spread downward, transforming all traces of light to an oily dinginess. Drake was slowly surrounded and remained the only thing not saturated in the darkness. Bolting upright to a stiff-seated attention, Drake’s bloodshot eyes darted back and forth. He stared into the black nothingness shuddering and aware that the only thing visible in the room was his bed.

“Who . . . who’s there?” Drake cried out, puzzled by the hollow sound that didn’t seem to travel beyond the edge of his mattress. Beads of sweat trickled down his neck, connecting his numerous freckled dots. He strained, slightly tilting his head, ears perked. There was no reply.


Neatly manicured streets wandered through the Watters’s sleepy, rolling neighborhood. If someone had been walking along in the wee morning hours of March 15, they would have noticed the brilliant white light peeking out from around Ryann’s shade. Below his second-story window the normally darkened bed of pink, red, and white impatiens was lit up as in the noonday sun.

Ryann was fully awake now and quite positive that the dazzling aura facing him from in front of his window was not the hall light from his parents entering the bedroom. Golden hues flowed out of the whiteness, showering itself on everything in the room. It reminded Ryann of sprinkles of pixie dust in some of his favorite childhood books. His blue eyes grew wide trying to capture the unbelievable event unfolding before him.

“Fear not, Ryann,” a confident, yet kind, voice began. “I have come to do the bidding of one much greater than I and who you have found favor with.”

Rapid pulses in his chest gripped Ryann as he struggled to understand what was happening. Instinctively he grasped his navy blue bed sheets and pulled them up so that only his eyes and the top of his head peeked out from his self-made cocoon. Squinting to reduce the brilliance before him, Ryann stared into the light, trying to detect a form while questions scrambled around his mind. What had the voice meant by “finding favor,” and who had sent him? As Ryann struggled to work this out, the center of the whiteness began to take the shape of a man. Human in appearance, he looked powerful, but there was a calmness about his face, like that of an experienced commander before going into battle. Ryann recalled hearing about angels in his Sunday school class at church. He wondered if this could be one.

“Ryann, thou have found favor with the One who sent me. You will be given much and much will be required of you.”

Still shaking, Ryann was fairly certain he was safe. “S-s-s . . . sir, are you an angel?”

“You have perceived correctly.” “And . . . I’ve been chosen by someone . . . for something?” Ryann asked.

“The One who knows you better than you know yourself,” the angel answered.

Ryann knew he must be talking about God, but what could God possibly want with him?

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Thou must search out and put on the full armor of God so that you can take a stand against the devil’s schemes. For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“The devil? Forces of evil? I’m just a kid,” Ryann said. “What could I possibly have to do with all of this? You’ve got to be making a mistake.”

“There are no mistakes with God. Thou have heard of David?”

“You mean the David from David and Goliath?” Ryann asked.

The angel nodded. “He was also a boy chosen by God to accomplish great things. God chooses to show His power by using the powerless.”

Ryann tried to comprehend the magnitude of what this mighty being was saying to him. Realizing he was still sitting in his bed, covers bunched around him, he pulled them aside and swung his feet out, never taking his eyes off the angel. Landing firmly on the carpet, Ryann’s wobbly knees barely supported him, the bed acting as a wall between him and the angel.

“Who are you?”

“I am Gabriel and have come to give you insight and understanding.”

“Wow!” Ryann couldn’t believe this was the same angel who had appeared to Joseph and Mary in the Christmas story he heard every December. The lines of excitement on his face drooped as he fidgeted, thinking about the angel’s words. “I don’t want to . . . seem . . . ungrateful,” Ryann hesitated, “but . . . is there any way you can . . . ask someone else?”

“Only you have been given this trial, Ryann, yet you shall not be alone.”

“Who will help me?”

“As the young shepherd boy David spoke, ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. For He commands His angels to guard you in all your ways.’” Gabriel’s twinkling gaze rose as he stretched his arms heavenward, “And these will assist you along the way.”

Beckoning Ryann from behind the bed, the angel glided effortlessly forward to greet him. Walking to within a foot of Gabriel, Ryann bowed humbly, basking in the radiant glow that emanated all around him. Reaching out, the angel grasped Ryann’s left hand firmly and slipped a gold ring, topped by a clear bubble-like stone, onto his finger. Before he could inspect it, the angel took his other hand and placed a long metal pole in it. Ryann’s hand slid easily up and down the smooth metal finish. Its shape and size were similar to a pool cue. Bone-white buttons protruded from just below where he gripped the staff. They were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Mesmerized by the gifts that begged for more attention and questions, Ryann hardly noticed Gabriel loop a long leather cord through his arm and around his neck. From it a curved ivory horn hung loosely below his waist, resting on his hip.

As Gabriel finished and backed away, Ryann continued marveling at each of the gifts. Reaching down to inspect the horn, he ran his hands along its smooth, yet pitted surface, until he reached the small gold-tipped opening. He wondered how old the horn was and if it had been used before.

“What do I do with these? How do I use them?”

“It is not for me to reveal,” answered the angel calmly. “You shall find out in due time.”

“But what do I do now?”

“Thou must seek the King’s sword.”

“How? What King? Where do I look?” Ryann blurted out, panicking as questions continued to pop into his head.

“The Spirit will lead you, and the ring will open the way,” the angel replied as he began floating backwards, the light peeling away with him.

“Wait, wait! Don’t leave—I don’t know enough—where do I go now?”

“Remember,” Gabriel’s clear voice began to fade, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that you may be thoroughly equipped for all good works.”

Clutching the mysterious heavenly gifts he had been given, Ryann collapsed in a heap on his bed, body and mind drained from his supernatural encounter. He drifted into a welcomed sleep.


It seemed Drake’s bedroom no longer existed. Only his bed remained, an island floating in a sea of darkness that completely surrounded him. His eyes bulged, darting about for anything that would give him a hint of what was going on. A cool draft drifted down his neck, chilling him despite the safety of his covers. Caught between reality and a nightmare, he let loose a scream that normally would have been heard throughout the house and beyond, but now was absorbed into the heavy darkness enveloping him.

“Who’s there?” he said again. He pinched himself to see if he was dreaming.

With a loud swoooooooosh, huge wings shot out of the darkness surrounding his bed. Drake dove for the safety of his covers.

A thunderous, commanding voice ordered, “Come out from hiding and stand up!”

Drake hesitated, knuckles tense and white as they curled tightly around the edges of his blanket.

“Now!” the voice thundered.

Jerking his covers off, Drake scurried to the edge of the bed, lost his balance, and awkwardly fell face-first onto the cool floor. Petrified at what he might see, yet too scared to disobey, he raised his head slightly. Half expecting some hideous beast, Drake was surprised at what he was facing. The black-winged warrior towering over him was imposing enough to paralyze anyone with fear, but his face was what captivated Drake. Instead of a hideous three-eyed ghoul with fangs, like Drake imagined, he stared into one of the most ruggedly handsome faces he had ever seen. Drake froze, mesmerized.

“Sit up and listen closely, human,” the dark angel began, closing his wings in an effortless swish. Lowering his voice, he spoke in a precise, but less threatening tone. “I have chosen you to carry out my wishes.”

Drake raised himself to a clumsy crouch. The face he looked intently into was perfect in almost every way, except for a long thin scar that traveled from his left ear to his jaw. He was convinced now that this wasn’t a monster trying to devour him.

“Why me?”

The angel’s scar became more noticeable when he smiled at Drake. “I have been here before with great success and have reason to believe you will serve me well.”

“What do you want me to do?” Drake blurted.

“The one who seeks to bind me must be stopped!”

Drake stumbled backwards, putting a hand on the floor to keep from falling. Swallowing hard, he could feel the black, penetrating eyes staring deep into his.

“You are the one,” the creature said confidently.

No one had ever chosen Drake for anything, yet this powerful being wanted him. He didn’t know if he could trust the dark angel or not, but the chance for power excited Drake. “How do I do it?”

The dark angel continued to smile, sensing the blackness in Drake’s heart spreading murkily throughout his body.

“I will be your eyes and ears, a guide to lead you in the right direction, and,” he hesitated, “I will give you these.”

The dark-winged angel stretched out his hand, his index finger pointing toward the empty floor in front of him. Immediately three items appeared before Drake’s eyes. He blinked again. They were still there. Drake’s hand shot out in a blur to grab the closest item.


Drake froze, and then cowered, his eyes shifting back to the booming voice as he slowly retracted his hand. His eyes darted back and forth between the three items and the dark angel in the awkward silence.

“You move when I tell you to move. Now . . . kneel before me, child of the earth, while I make you ready for your task.”

Still hunched-over, Drake pitched forward onto his knees with his head bowed, eyes glancing upward in anticipation.

“My first gift to you is a cloak of darkness. It will provide you with cover at night. You and the night shall become one.”

Drake reached out his hands to receive the cloak. It felt smooth and slippery. Looking intently at it, the cloak seemed several feet thick, as if it was projecting darkness.

“My second gift to you is a ring of suggestion. With it you will have the ability to project persuasive thoughts to those who are weak-willed or in the midst of indecision.” Powerful hands with long curled fingers took hold of Drake’s hand, spreading an icy chill from the tip of his fingers to his wrist. As the creature slipped the black band onto his finger, Drake briefly noticed a red blotch on the top. His hand felt stiff, then the numbness traveled up his arm and throughout his body. Chattering clicks from his own teeth broke the silence as he awaited the angel’s next words. “Lastly, I provide you with a bow and arrows of fire. These arrows were formed in the lake of fire and will deliver physical and mental anguish to those they touch.”

“Thank you . . . uhh . . . what should I call you?” Drake asked.

“I am one of the stars that fell from heaven. My master is Shandago and I am his chief messenger. You may call me Lord Ekron.”

“Thank you, Lord Ekron, for these gifts. I may be young, but I’ll do as you ask to the best of my ability.”

“It is expected. Also, these items I have given to you are not for use in this world. When the time is right, you will find a passage into another land. There you will put these gifts to work.”

The darkness in the room began to rush toward Lord Ekron, as if he were absorbing it, except he wasn’t getting bigger—only darker. Drake kept staring at him, trying not to blink, so he wouldn’t miss anything. Despite his efforts, the dark angel began to fade, and Drake found himself peering into the darkness at the blank wall. When he was sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him and enough time passed so that he felt safe to move, he stood up.

Drake would have thought this was all a bad dream, but the items he held in his hand were proof that it was real. He ran his hands through the dense blackness of the slick cloak, wondering how he might use it. Drake was anxious to try the bow and arrows as well. He didn’t dare pull the arrows out of their quiver right now, but decided that he would have to buy a regular bow and quiver of arrows as soon as possible so that he could begin practicing. Looking down at his hand, he examined the unusual ring he now wore. The entire band was a glossy black, except for the unusual red marking on the top, which resembled a flying dragon.

Not much had gone right for Drake during the first thirteen years of his life. “Now things are going to be different,” he thought. The smile inching across his face looked evil. He knew with Lord Ekron at his side no one would be able to tell him what to do.