Monday, June 30, 2008

When Did My Life Become A Game of Twister by Mary Pierce





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



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













Today's Wild Card author is:











and her book:





When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister

Zondervan (November 1, 2007)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


INSPIRATIONAL HUMOR





Looking for fun and inspiration? Mary Pierce tickles the funny bone as she touches hearts, offering wit and wisdom to corporate and community audiences at women’s health and wellness events, caregiver and senior gatherings, and church retreats since 1996.



She offers an entertaining and positive motivational message, inviting audiences to laugh along and learn with multi-media presentations filled with comic relief, practical teaching, and a powerful message of hope and encouragement.



Mary Pierce is the author of three books of inspirational humor for women, published by Zondervan/HarperCollins:



When Did I Stop Being Barbie and Become Mrs. Potato Head? (2003)

Confessions of a Prayer Wimp (2005)

When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister (2007)



With degrees in education and business (University of Minnesota and University of Redlands), she’s worked as a stockbroker, teacher and corporate trainer, and has co-hosted a radio interview program. She’s met life’s changes and challenges with unfailing optimism, deep faith, and a lively sense of humor. She and her husband Terry share six children and seven grandchildren, and a fox terrorist named Izzy, and they are full-time caregivers for Mary’s 94-year-old mother.



They live in Wisconsin where Mary dreams of getting her act together…someday.



CONTACT MARY to find out how she can help make your upcoming event MOTIVATING, ENCOURAGING AND FUN for all who attend!



Visit her at her website.



Product Details:



List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Zondervan (November 1, 2007)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310272378

ISBN-13: 978-0310272373



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Chapter One



PART ONE



THE GAME BEGINS



“Right Foot Red!” Bossy calls.

We laugh and step onto a red circle.

“This is nothing,” we say, “Bring it on!”





Chapter One



Twisted Sister



Whoever said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff,” never got a good look at my thighs.



I did the other day. It was not a pretty sight. I was in the sporting goods store at the mall. I didn’t intend to go in there, but I forgot where I parked my car. (I hate when that happens. It happens a lot. Especially lately.)



There I was, wandering through the sporting goods store, trying to get to an exit. That’s not easy. Have you noticed how stores are laid out these days? I’ve been shopping long enough to remember when you could make a beeline from the front door to the department you wanted and back out again. Now walking through a store is like navigating an obstacle course and requires a degree of agility I don’t possess.



Straight aisles are a thing of the past. The art of merchandising is a diabolical plot to trap consumers in the store, expose them to as many displays of goods as possible, and get them so confused and frustrated that they will hand over their wallets gladly, just to be able to escape.



So, trapped as I was, I had little choice but to wander through the displays of camping, skiing, boating, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, treading, kayaking, swimming, lifting, running, scuba diving, fishing, tennis, baseball, racquetball, basketball, football, soccer, lumberjacking, and whaling equipment. Somewhere between the fishing tackle section and the football tackle department, I found myself trapped behind a rack of tiny—TINY—swimsuits. There wasn’t enough fabric there to cover my left elbow, much less the dimpled tundra of my backside.



Even worse, I was sandwiched between the rack of tiny suits and a huge mirror. These stores have mirrors everywhere. I guess the jock-types who hang out at sporting goods stores don’t mind looking at themselves. I try to avoid my reflection but, like those people who slow way down to gawk at a freeway accident, I can’t resist sneaking a peak anytime I pass a shiny surface. (Oh admit it! You do it too.)



This wasn’t just one full-length mirror, but a three-sider. I gaped. I stared. I gawked. The shorts I’d tossed on for this “quick” run to the mall were rumpled and riding up embarrassingly. And there, hanging out like two giant stuffed sausages, were my thighs, glowing under the fluorescents like two gargantuan, pasty-white slugs under a black light. It was obvious why I no longer buy corduroy pants (Aye, there’s the rub!) or anything made of Spandex.



The tiny swimsuits mocked me from behind while the triple mirror tripled my lumps. Tripled my lard. Tripled my dimples. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.



Triple mirrors do nothing for a sister’s self esteem.



“Who ARE you?” I whined at the three women in the mirrors. “How did this HAPPEN? You used to be in great shape. You were fit and flexible, tight and toned in high school!”



We used to DANCE in high school, they reminded me.





GLORY DAYS



Standing there before the jiggling blobs of my current reality, I drifted back to those glory days of youth, when the lower half of my body actually had muscle.



It was true. I used to dance. Modern dance was one of the physical education electives in our high school. I elected it. We modern dancers worshipped at the bare feet of our teacher, Miss Jeanne, who had worshipped and studied at the bare feet of modern dance maven Miss Martha Graham, HERSELF! Under Miss Jeanne’s skilled tutelage we learned how to dance like the wind, soar like the eagle, wave like a field of wheat, and rise like the sun. All within the confines of the gym at North High.



Modern dancers, Miss Jeanne showed us, could isolate their rib cages from the rest of their torso, elevate any given body part, and stretch in ways that seemed humanly impossible (to say nothing of painful). Modern dancers had steely thighs and elastic hamstrings that allowed them to float across the floor with power and grace.



And six of the modern dancers in our class were chosen to be the horses in the merry-go-round when the senior class put on a production of the musical, Carousel. Each of us was assigned a position and a color. I was the pink pony.



Upright in pastel leotards and matching tights, we six pranced proudly, each holding in her pony forefeet a length of wide pastel ribbon. The opposite ends of the ribbons were attached to a tall center pole.



The tall pole was a girl named Jane. The least graceful horse in the class, Jane held the ends of the ribbons high as we swifter ponies trotted around her. She raised and lowered the ribbons as we raised and lowered our steely thighs in a graceful canter, moving around and around with us, faster and slower, higher and lower. At times we even reversed direction, in a dazzling feat of merry-go-round marvel.



Opening night came. Around and around we pranced. No one noticed that Jane, who’d performed her part flawlessly during rehearsals, had decided not to wear her glasses in front of the live audience. (Vanity of vanities!)



Jane, blinded and dizzier by the minute, evidently lost track of whether the pastel blur surrounding her was moving clockwise or counter-clockwise. Unable to judge the speed or direction of the herd, Jane did the only thing a pole could do. She stood still.



We ponies cantered on, not noticing until it was too late that the pole was frozen. Soon poor Jane was mummified in pastel ribbons and we horses were falling over each other as we wound ourselves closer and closer to the center. The carousel ground to a halt. So did the play. So did my dancing career.





REALITY



Snapping back to the reality of the sports store’s three-way mirror, I shuddered to realize how far my body had deteriorated—from the glorious days of fresh, lean youthfulness to the flabby nag, sagging like a feed sack of cellulite, staring back at me. The old gray mare just wasn’t what she used to be; she looked ready to be put out to pasture. Neigh.



I slunk away from the mirror, hoping no other shoppers had seen me there, in triplicate. One of me was bad enough.



Depressed, I wove my way through the rest of the store, avoiding the mirrors and focusing on the merchandise instead. I wondered why they call the stuff “sporting goods.” Most of it seemed neither “sporting” nor “good.”



Think about it. Who in her right mind binds her stiff-booted feet onto flat fiberglass slats and hurls herself down a frozen mountain, protected only by her fluffy pink jacket and matching fluffy pink headband? Wouldn’t a fluffy pink crash helmet be a good idea?



Who in her right mind wedges her oversized bottom into an undersized kayak and paddles alone out into the middle of a lake? Doesn’t she know that when the thing capsizes—and it will. It will!—her smaller top half will never be able to counterbalance the centrifugal force created by the larger ballast of her bottom in motion? She’ll be trapped there under the water, waiting to drown. Upside down!



Sporting? Good? I think not.



“What’s a girl to do?” I asked the handsome mannequin modeling the latest in Spandex exercise wear. He had no answer. He may have been a dummy, but he looked good. Everyone, it seemed, was in better shape, thinner, more fit, doing more, going faster, and running farther than I was. I wanted to scream, “Where is the stuff for girls like me?” Girls who are a little long in the tooth. A little short of breath. A little wide in the angle. A little narrow in motivation.



Just then, as if to answer my question, a peppy girl in a store uniform, bounced up to me. She was young enough to make me wonder if the child labor laws were still in effect.



“Can I, like, help you?” I could tell from her tone she thought I was beyond help. I wanted to ask her to escort me to the nearest exit and maybe help me find my car, but I suddenly felt the need to make her think I had something on the ball.



“I need to start working out. What do you suggest?” She gave me an appraising once-over and led me down a nearby aisle. She plucked a book called Walk Yourself Fit from a rack and handed it to me.



How had she guessed walking was my sport? I had decades—over 20,000 days so far—of walking practice. I was good at walking. A quick glance at the book’s back cover assured me that I could quite literally walk my way to fitness and good health. I didn’t need to do anything but walk. No need to change my diet. Walking would automatically, over the course of time, cause my thighs, indeed all of me, to shrink miraculously and painlessly.



Walking I could handle. The price of the book—$9.95—I could also handle. I was ready to head to the huge sign that said CASHIER—they make sure you can find those—when the nice young lady said, “You’ll need some walking shoes. They’re right over here...”



A hundred-and-eighty-seven dollars later, I left the store with the book and its accompanying CD of walking music. I had new shoes—a dynamically-engineered, air-cushioned, shock-absorbing pair that specialized in walking. (Did they even need me?) I had air-cushioned socks that were guaranteed to absorb the shocks the shoes missed, even if I had trouble absorbing the shock of forking over twelve bucks for a pair of socks.



I had new shorts and a matching shirt that were guaranteed never to shrink, fade or wrinkle, no matter how much abuse I subjected them to. (Oh, for a body with that kind of guarantee!) And the shorts were friendly; they promised not to pinch me, squish me, or ride up and wedge themselves into uncomfortable places. My new sports bra was positively aerodynamic and designed to hold me firmly with no sagging for five years or fifty thousand miles of bounce, whichever came first.



And with it all, le pièce de résistance: new undies that breathed. How could I resist? They BREATHED, for goodness sake! (How had I made it all these years wearing suffocating undies?)



I was set. The cashier pointed me to the exit, I eventually found my car and drove home with the sort of radiance that only a good day’s shopping can bring. I glowed all night. I was still glowing the next morning, when, headphones pumping CD motivation into my brain and clad in my new shorts, shirt, bra, shoes, and socks, and with my undies breathing the fresh morning air, I set out to walk myself fit.



Five minutes out, halfway up the first hill, my formerly-elastic hamstring twisted itself into a knot the size of my fist. I hobbled back down the hill before the first song ended on the CD, limped into the kitchen, where I sat and sipped a double café mocha with extra whipped cream for consolation.



Life is full of twists, isn’t it? It’s hard sometimes to navigate from one spot to another without getting trapped or hurt or lost. Life doesn’t seem to have clear wide aisles that allow us to flow easily from one place to the next. Lots of the things that happen to us are not what we’d call “good” or “sporting.”



And sometimes we just plain forget where we left the car, or our minds, or our hearts.



We can get ourselves all twisted up trying to keep it all together physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Sometimes we’re like the merry-go-round horses; around and around we go, faster and faster, high-stepping and showing off for all we’re worth. Sometimes we don’t notice what’s happening until we’re all twisted up in the ribbons of living and come to a crashing halt. Sometimes we don’t notice the pole standing there nearby, paralyzed and blinded by the chaos we’ve created with all our whirling around.



When we compare our lives and ourselves to what we see around us—and we so often do that—we end up feeling we’re not good enough, fit enough, young enough, smart enough, old enough, thin enough, pretty enough, spiritual enough—whatever enough—to be worth loving. Worth anything.



I’ve struggled with my physical image much of my life. I’ve often felt awkward, clumsy, or just plain ugly. Sitting there in my kitchen I could hear, in my mind, all the names I’d called myself, and all the names I’d imagined or heard others calling me, over the years.



Thunder Thighs. Whale Woman. Blubber Butt. Flat Chested. Slope Shouldered. Squinty Eyed. Flat Nosed.



What have you heard? How have you felt?



God has another perspective.



As I sat there, with my leg propped on the chair next to me to stretch my twisted muscle, I remembered something from the Bible about me being “fearfully and wonderfully made.”



Are you serious, Lord? I asked, gazing down at my cheesy thighs. This is fearfully and wonderfully made? This body?



Yes, I heard him whisper to my heart. This.



Is it possible? Can it be? “I created your inmost being…I knit you together in your mother’s womb…You are fearfully and wonderfully made…” he says. Can it be true?



Can God really mean that about me? About you?



Yes. This timeless truth is the beginning of our healing, our deliverance from the worry and doubt that plagues us. This is the beginning of new life, of a powerful sense of self—realizing that it is God—Almighty Creator of the Universe God—who created us—you and me—and God who loves us. That this physical body, whatever its size or shape, whatever “flaws” we think we have, is a work of genius.



If God thinks you’re a work of art, who are you to argue?



Fearfully and wonderfully made, dimply thighs and all—I am a masterpiece of his design, beautiful in the eyes of my Creator. He’s called me by new names. To him, I am Beloved. To him, I am Delightful. To him, I am Wonderful.



And so, dear reader, are you.





For everything God created is good…



1 Timothy 4:4





POINTS TO PONDER



Powerhouse or Powder Puff? Describe your experience as a “student athlete.” What do you remember about gym or physical education classes?



Have you ever been called a name? What did the experience teach you? Have you forgiven the name caller? If not, when will you let it go?



God loves you and he delights in you, according to Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Which truth from this verse is most meaningful to you today?



Here's my review of this incredible book:





"When Did My Life Become A Game of Twister?" by Mary Pierce found me at the perfect time. The author seemed to know exactly what my life has been like - perhaps because our journeys have been similar. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read, acknowledging the fact that everyone is either approaching, in the midst of, or coming out of a crisis. I was able to see, in my mind's eye, how the game of Twister made a pretzel out of my body as a child - and how that can sometimes be the same for my mind and how I handle stress today.



The colorful cover grabbed me right away. The memories of my playing Twister as a child drew me to read as I wondered how the author would apply Biblical principles to this game of flexibility and endurance - and there was the key! This delightful book is easy to read and difficult to put down. Filled with truth, insight, humor and practical, Biblical advice, "When Did My Life Become A Game of Twister" belongs in every Christian library.

This Week On WORD up! June 30, 2008

We've got something for everyone on my blog this week.

Stop by today to read my review and an excerpt from a non-fiction work titled "When Did My Life Become A Game Of Twister?" by Mary Pierce. In a humorous way, the author confronts how we are inclined to let "life" get us twisted in knots.

Tuesday's feature is "A Mile In My Flip Flops" by Melody Carlson. She is an incredible author.

Wednesday features a wonderful non-fiction book for married couples. "The Five Senses Of Romantic Love" is a frank book on physical intimacy in marriage based upon the Song of Solomon.

Thursday's offering, "Beyond the Night", is an amazing work of dramatic fiction.

Friday showcases a devotional title: "Faith In The Fog Of War".

As always, please stop by, check out the reviews and leave comments about what you think. Peruse the blog archive for previously reviewed books, Bible studies and devotionals. Sign up for my weekly newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted automatically.

And COMING SOON...

...a book contest! WIN A COPY of "A Passion Most Pure" by Julie Lessman. This is an amazing historical romance novel! Beginning Tuesday, July 1st, leave a comment (including your email address) on ANY post AND sign up for my newsletter, and I will enter you to win a copy of the book directly from the publisher! The drawing will be held on Wednesday, July 16th.

...online Bible study! I'll be posting notes and thoughts, and you can participate in discussion by leaving comments. So, even though we may not be able to meet in the same room, we can still share our thoughts on scripture. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Molech Prophecy by Thomas Phillips





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



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









Today's Wild Card author is:





and his book:

The Molech Prophecy

Whitaker House (July 1, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability. He did everything possible not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book from cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, Phillips uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies.



Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Phillips has worked as a freelance journalist and currently works full time as an employment law paralegal. When he isn't writing, Phillips plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children's Little League team, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his first published Christian novel.



Visit him at his MySpace, ShoutLife, and blog.



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Chapter One



The first things I noticed when I pulled into the church parking lot were the two police cars. Instinct wanted to kick in, but I stopped myself from turning my car around. The police weren’t there for me—couldn’t be there for me. I’d done nothing wrong. I wasn’t the same man. My days of running from the police had ended when I became a Christian. I reminded myself of this simple fact and felt a grin play across my lips. Thankfully, my days of running from the police ended four years ago.



On any given Sunday, I have come to expect many things from Faith Community Church. And why not? I have been attending weekly services for years. I expect smiles from Faith’s Greet Team—from those helping direct cars in the parking lot to those handing out programs and pencils at the sanctuary doors. I expect powerful worship music, a variety of jokes from Pastor Ross—some funny, some not so funny—and I expect, each week, a message that will impact the way I live the rest of my life.



But what I did not expect this morning was what I saw next: the complete defacing of the church building. Black spray paint covered the pecan-colored bricks in horrific graffiti.



After parking, I sat silently in the car, taking it all in. A large pentagram—an encircled, upside-down, five-pointed star—was displayed at the center of it all. Painted on every other available surface were words like “Death,” “Die,” “Faggots,” “Hypocrites,” and “God Is Dead.”



Seeing all of the graffiti felt like a punch to the gut. Faith Community was like my second home; the people who attended were like my second family. It was impossible not to take this attack personally.



Slowly, I climbed out of the car, ignoring the early November morning chill. The wind blew relentlessly all around me, howling and moaning as if it too was furious and saddened and confused by the desecration.



Other cars pulled into the lot. The people get-ting out of them emerged as slowly as I must have. I could see the stunned expressions on their faces—dropped jaws and wide eyes that surely matched my own.



Who would vandalize a church like this? I wondered as I walked toward the entrance. As I stopped in front of the pentagram and took in the mess that attempted to dirty my church, I realized that who-ever did this was hurting—hurting badly. That thought did not stifle the anger—the righteous anger—I felt boiling deep inside.



I nodded a grim good morning to the greeter who held the front door open as I walked into the church. The atrium is usually packed with people mingling before the start of the service. Free coffee, hot cocoa, and doughnuts set out on a table each and every week encourage people to arrive early for fellowship.



This morning, however, only a few people lin-gered in the atrium. Whispers were all I heard. As I entered the sanctuary I saw that this was where everyone had gathered. I usually sit toward the back, far right, as if there were assigned seating. The things I’d seen outside left me feeling hollow and alone. Today, I sat closer to the front, middle row.



I nodded hello to people here and there. Many sat with heads bowed, deep in prayer. I decided praying would be a good use of the extra time before the service.

I tried to cope with a flood of mixed emo-tions, such as anger, sadness, confusion, disbelief, and then, once again, anger. Instead of praying, questions ended up filling my mind: Who could do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing? How are we going to get that filth off the bricks? If I ever get my…. I broke off the last thought before it got out of hand. I’m in a church, I reminded myself. There is no place for thoughts like that, but especially not in a church.



The service did not start the way services nor-mally did. The church band usually opened wor-ship with a fast-tempo song, one that got those present up on their feet, clapping and singing along, and one that brought those lingering in the atrium into the sanctuary.



Today, in dead silence, Senior Pastor Ross Lobene walked out and stood center stage, grip-ping the podium. He seemed at a loss for words. I think he knew what he wanted to say but was afraid that if he tried speaking too soon, he might lose his composure. I wouldn’t blame him.



As usual, roughly two thousand people filled most of the available seats. Two large projection screens hung on the wall at either side of the stage. Both showed a close-up of the pastor’s face. He could not hide his red eyes—or stop his quivering lips.



Pastor Ross opened a Bible, and when he finally started to speak, his voice was weak and shaky, as if he were on the verge of crying. “I want to read Matthew, chapter five, verses ten through twelve: ‘God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.’”



He bowed his head.



I felt sorrowful pain in my chest.



“Shock. Pure shock,” Pastor Ross said. “You don’t think stuff like this will happen here. It will happen elsewhere, like in run-down, gang-ridden areas, so we think. But from what I know of human nature, it happens everywhere, because people can be dark-hearted everywhere. God is always in con-trol, and He wants us to learn to deal with prob-lems in God-honoring ways. I have come to realize through this incident, and through other incidents that have occurred in our church family, that our enemy, Satan, attacks those churches that are a threat to him and his evil ways.”



I nodded in agreement, listening intently and watching as Pastor Ross released his white-knuck-led grip on the podium and began to come into his own. He paced back and forth on the stage, addressing the congregation, righteous fire heating this impromptu sermon.



“Jesus tells us in Revelation three, verses four-teen through seventeen, that He will spit out of His mouth the church whose people are lukewarm in their faith, because they are neither hot nor cold. It is my desire for Faith Community Church to be a church that is hot, making a difference for Christ and His kingdom in Rochester and the surround-ing area.”



As Pastor Ross paused, he stroked the sandy-colored goatee that covered his chin and used a handkerchief to wipe away the beads of sweat that formed on his bald head. “This, friends, this is a great opportunity for us to love our enemies as ourselves.” He pointed out at us and then pointed back at himself. “It is my desire to see everyone at Faith truly model this command from Christ and not become bitter by this incident. I pray that we have an opportunity to minister to the needs of the person or people responsible, so we can share the life-changing message of the gospel with them.



“I have known many people who have been enslaved in the bondage of satanism and witch-craft, and although the hold these things have on them is strong, it is no match for our all-powerful, all-loving God. It will take time, but if we can be models of Christ’s love to this person, I have full confidence that he will become a child of the light instead of a slave to the darkness.” A second, brief pause followed. Then Pastor Ross added, “Don’t get me wrong. I also hope that the person who did this crime is caught and processed fairly through our justice system.”



I tried to let my own anger subside. If Pastor Ross could move on, so could I. All I needed now was help unclenching my hands, which had been rolled into solid fists since the beginning of service.



Used by permission of the publisher, Whitaker House (www.whitakerhouse.com/ ). All rights reserved.



Here is my review of this brilliant freshman novel!


The Molech Prophecy” by Thomas Phillips grabs the reader’s attention immediately. The mystery is in effect at the onset of the story. Tommy Cucinelle is a committed Christian who wants to live a righteous life. When the church he attends is vandalized, Tommy is approached by his Pastor. He believes that Pastor Ross is going to accuse him of the damage since the Pastor knows Tommy’s past. Well, the meeting is definitely about Tommy’s past, but Pastor Ross wants Tommy to use his former skills to investigate the disappearance of the church secretary.

Thomas Phillips takes his time to build a meticulously laid plot. His characters breathe and feel and think. The reader can taste what they taste and see what they see. Phillips masterfully entwines the present with flashbacks from the past and handles both poignant and controversial situations with frankness, truth and grit. I felt the tension building in the story, yet the escalation was so subtle that the story’s finale took my breath away.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Along Came a Cowboy by Christine Lynxwiler



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

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





Today's Wild Card author is:


and his/her book:


Along Came a Cowboy

Barbour Publishing, Inc. (May 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author and past president of American Christian Romance Writers, CHRISTINE LYNXWILER has numerous novels and novellas published with Barbour, including Arkansas, Promise Me Always, and Forever Christmas. She and her husband, Kevin, along with their two daughters, four horses, and two dogs live in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in their home state of Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1597898961
ISBN-13: 978-1597898966

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Babies complicate life, but the human race can't survive without them. Maybe I should write that on the dry erase board out in the waiting room—Dr. Rachel Donovan's Profound Thought for the Day.

Ever notice how some months are all about weddings? When you turn on the TV or pick up a magazine, everything is white tulle and old lace. Then there are what I think of as baby months. Unlike June and December for weddings, baby months can pop up anytime.

And here in Shady Grove, Arkansas—just in time for summer, when the irises are pushing up from the ground, the new leaves are green on the trees, and the crepe myrtles are starting to bloom—we're smack dab in the middle of a baby month.

I finger the latest birth announcement on my desk. One of my patients just had her fifth child. You'd think, at this point, she'd be sending out SOS messages instead of announcements, but the pink card proudly proclaims the arrival of her newest bundle of joy.

The front door chime signals the arrival of our first patient, so I send up a silent prayer for the baby. Then my eyes fall on the family picture on my desk.

Lord, please be with Tammy, too, in her pregnancy.

My thirty-eight-year-old sister was so thrilled when she called a couple of months ago to tell me she was pregnant and so scared yesterday when the doctor put her on temporary bed rest.

While I'm on the baby thread, I mention my friend Lark who is desperate to adopt. I say amen, steadfastly ignoring my own out-of-whack biological clock.

My receptionist, Norma, sidles into my office like a spy in an old movie, softly shuts the door and turns to face me, her brown eyes wide. "Whoever warned mamas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys," she whispers, "never saw the man in our waiting room."

"What?" I absently flip through the small pile of files on my desk. Not long ago I remodeled my entire clinic—repainted the walls with calming blues and browns, added new chiropractic tables and new waiting room chairs, and even got solid oak office furniture with nifty little cubbies. For about a week I could find things.

And did she just say the word babies? What did I tell you? It's one of those months. "Do you know where Mrs. Faulkner's file is? I thought it was here, but I can't find it."

Norma raises her eyebrows. "You saw her after hours Tuesday night, didn't you? I think it's on my desk waiting for charges."

Now I remember. "No charge," I say automatically.

She puts her hands on her hips. "C'mon, Doc, you can't fall for every sob story you hear."

I grin. "We make it, don't we? If I can't help out a sixty-two-year-old woman who lifts and bathes and cares for her grown son around the clock, then I'd just as soon not be in practice."

She shrugs. "You're the one who has to worry about paying your bills. I get my paycheck regardless." Her round face lights up and she motions to me. "Now come look."

Norma's always slightly out of sync with reality, but today is shaping up to be odd even for her.

"At the man in the waiting room," she clarifies, as if I'm a little slow. "You have to see him."

"I usually do see everyone who's in the waiting room, don't I? Eventually?"

She blows out her breath and folds her arms. "It'll only take a second."

"Who is it?"

She shakes her head, her short brunette curls springing with the movement. "I'm not telling. You'll have to see for yourself."

I sigh. I know I'm the boss, but once Norma has something in her head, it's easier just to go along with her. She turns to lead the way out to her desk where a large window overlooks the main waiting room. I promise she's tiptoeing.

"Hey, Nancy Drew," I say quietly.

She jumps and spins around. "What?" she hisses.

I grin. "Let's try not to be so obvious."

She presses her back against the wall and motions for me to go ahead of her. I saunter to her desk. Right on top is the file I was looking for. At least this wasn't a wasted trip. I retrieve it while I give the waiting room a cursory glance. The cowboy chooses that moment to look up, of course. A slow grin spreads across his face.

I fumble with the file and almost drop it.

Jack Westwood.

I don't believe it. Alma Westwood could give the-little-engine-that-could lessons in persistence. I return his grin with a quick professional smile and—holding the file high enough that he can see I had a valid reason for being there—walk back to my office.

Norma is right on my heels. She closes the door. "So? What did I tell you? That's Alma Westwood's son. The rodeo star."

"I know who he is." I toss the file on my desk and plop down in my chair to look at it.

"You know him?"

I shake my head. "We were friends when we were kids, but I don't know him really. I've just seen his picture in the paper like everyone else." And since he moved back a few months ago, I've seen him around town enough to know that women fall all over themselves when he walks by. Definitely not my type. Which is one reason I've avoided him.

"Oh yeah. His hat was shading his face in that picture." Her brows draw together. "Which is a cryin' shame."

I look up at her cherub face. "Hey, remember old What's His Name? The handsome guy you're happily married to?" I grin.

She shrugs. "Doesn't mean I'm blind. Besides, you aren't married."

Thanks for the reminder.

"So when Alma signed in, she said she brought her son to see her new X-rays."

"How nice." Not that I'm falling for her flimsy excuse. Alma is just one in a long line of Mama Matchmakers. My patients with unmarried sons seem to take my singlehood as a personal affront. Ever since Rodeo Jack moved back to run his family ranch next door to my parents, Alma has upped her efforts
to make me her daughter-in-law, or at least reintroduce me
to him.

Don't ask me why Jack needs his mama to fix him up with someone in the first place. Norma is not exaggerating. He was passably cute back when we were kids, and he's one of those men who gets better-looking with age. If he's lost any teeth or broken his nose riding in the rodeo, he's covered it well. Not only is he a real cowboy, but he could play one on TV. Last week at the diner, I was two tables away from him when he smiled at the waitress. For a moment I was jealous that the smile wasn't for me. But only for a moment.

Then common sense kicked in. Me and Jack Westwood? Not likely. Which is just as well, because on a less personal note. . .a chiropractor and a rodeo star? What a combination. I'd spend the rest of my life trying to fix the mess he makes of his body. Besides, I can't imagine myself with someone whose belt buckle is bigger than his IQ. And even though he seemed smart when we were in school, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who'll willingly climb on a bucking bull over and over is a few calves short of a herd.

Still, it's my job to educate patients and their families about their health. I turn back to Norma. "After you put them in a room, pull Alma's X-rays for me, okay?"

Norma starts to leave then smacks her forehead with the palm of her hand. "Oh, I almost forgot. Lark Murray is on line one."

I glance at the phone. Sure enough, line one is blinking. "Thanks."

Never mind that we let Lark sit and wait while we sneaked a peek at Alma's cowboy son. Norma marches to her own drummer, and I run along behind her trying to stay in step.

I reach toward the phone, and for a split second, I consider having Norma take a message. Lark is one of my three closest friends. I'm a few years younger than the rest and came late to the Pinky Promise Sisterhood group they formed in childhood. But ever since the night they found me crying in the bowling alley bathroom, the Pinkies have been family to me. We share our deepest secrets and craziest dreams and—now that we all live in Shady Grove, Arkansas, again—regular face-to-face gabfests.

And any other day of the year, I'm happy to hear from any of them. But this particular anniversary day is always filled with awkward conversations. They never know what to say, and neither do I.

I snatch the handset up before I give in to my cowardice. I'll just make it short and sweet. "Hey, girl."

"Rach, I'm so glad I caught you. I was afraid you'd already started with patients."

"No. Sorry you had to wait." Here it comes. The gentle "You okay today?" Or the "Just called to say hi and wish you a good day for no particular reason."

"I can't take this anymore." Her voice is trembling.

Okay, I wasn't expecting that. "What?"

"The waiting. Why do they make us go through an in-spection worthy of a Spanish Inquisition if they're not going to give us a baby?"

I release a breath I didn't know I was holding and sink back onto my chair. Lark is focused on one thing and one thing only these days, so thankfully this call isn't about me. "They're go-ing to give you a baby. They'd be crazy not to. These things just take time."

"You sound like the caseworker." She sighs. "I called her last night even though Craig didn't think I should."

"Lark, honey, I know it's hard to wait now that you've finally decided to adopt. But you're going to have to. God has—" My throat constricts, but I push the words out. "God has the perfect baby for you."

"It doesn't feel like it." She must be upset, because that's definitely a bit of a whine, something she never does.

"Has He ever let you down?"

"No. But maybe I was right before. Maybe it's just not His will for me to be a mom."

I thought we'd settled all that a few months ago when she showed up on my doorstep late one night with a suitcase because her husband wanted to adopt. Still, I can totally relate to old insecurities sneaking back in when you least expect them. "You're going to have to think about something else for a while, Lark. Are you helping Allie today?"

"I'm supposed to. I was thinking about seeing if she can make it without me though."

"How are y'all coming along?" Our Pinky friend Allie Richards recently won the Shady Grove Pre-Centennial Beautiful Town Landscaping Contest and consequently landed the town landscaping maintenance contract for the year. She has some real employees now, but during the contest her crew consisted of Allie's brother, Adam, Lark, me, and our other Pinky, Victoria Worthington. So we all have a vested emotional interest in TLC Landscaping.

Lark sighs. "We're swamped trying to get everything in perfect shape before the centennial celebration really gets going. I guess I really should work today. I know Allie needs me."

Good girl. "You know what your granny always said—a busy mind doesn't have time to worry."

"You're right. I'm going to have to trust God to handle this and go get ready for work. Thanks for talking me down off the ledge."

"Anytime."

"See you tonight, Rach."

"I'll be there." When the connection is broken, I close my eyes.

Lord, please give me strength to face today.

I open my eyes and push to my feet. Time to cowgirl up.

v


As soon as I walk into the adjusting room, Alma stands. "Dr. Donovan, I'm sure you remember my son, Jack."

Jack holds his cowboy hat in his left hand and offers me the right. I promise I expect him to say, "Ma'am," and duck his head. "Dr. Donovan," he drawls, and from the boy who used to pull my braids, the title sounds a little mocking. "Nice to see you again." As we shake hands, he flashes that heartbeat-accelerating smile again.

"You, too." His hands are nice. Slightly calloused. Working hands, but not so tough that they're like leather.

I look up into his puzzled brown eyes and then back down at his hand, which I'm still holding. Behind him, his mother beams as if she has personally discovered the cure for every terminal illness known to humankind. I jerk my hand away. Should I tell him that I always notice hands, since my own hands are what I use most in my profession? Or would he think that was a pickup line? I'm sure he's heard some doozies.

Better to ignore it. I slap the X-rays up on the view box then focus my attention on Alma as I point out the key spots we're working on.

When I finish, Jack crosses the room in two steps and points to the X-ray. "This increased whiteness is arthritis, right?"

My eyebrows draw together. "You've had experience with X-rays?"

He shrugs and gives me a rueful grin. "Occupational hazard."

Of course. "In any case, you're right. It is arthritis, but no more than normal for someone your mother's age."

"Thankfully, Dr. Donovan keeps me going. Otherwise I'd be like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz," Alma pipes up from her chair in the corner.

"To hear Mom tell it, you're the Wizard of Oz," Jack mutters, still standing beside me. He turns to Alma. "Your X-rays are normal?"

Her eyes open wide. "Yes."

"Totally normal?"

She blinks at him. "Isn't that wonderful?"

"Yes, but—"

"I thought you'd be pleased to know your old mom was going to be getting around without a walker for a few more years." Alma's voice is soft and sweet.

He frowns. "You know I am. But since Dr. Donovan has apparently already explained these X-rays to you, you could have told me that on the ph—" He stops, apparently realizing that I'm like a reluctant spectator at a tennis game, watching their verbal volleying.

"But this way you can see for yourself," Alma says with a satisfied smile.

He opens his mouth then closes it and nods.

Game, set, match to Alma.

I turn back to her. "Any questions?"

She smiles. "Not a one. Thank you so much for taking the time to go over this with us."

"I'm always glad to help you understand your health better."

"I'm going to go freshen up before we head home," Alma says. And just like that, she's gone, leaving me with her son. No doubt the whole point.

"Jack," I say in what I hope is a coolly professional voice, "thank you for coming by."

He nods. "I'm sorry we wasted your time. I don't know why I'm surprised this was a setup. Our mothers have been singing your praises ever since I got back in town."

"Our mothers?" My mother and I barely speak, and I'm certain she's never sung my praises a day in my life. At least not since I was a teenager.

"They make you sound like Mother Teresa and the Alberts all rolled into one."

I raise a brow. "The Alberts?"

"Einstein and Schweitzer."

I can't keep from laughing. "Now that's an appealing combination. And don't forget the Wizard of Oz."

"They're probably not far off, actually. It's just that—" He runs his hands around the brim of the hat he's still holding. "Thanks for being a good sport." He grins. "And at least now when we see each other at the diner, we can say hello."

A hot blush spreads across my face. The curse of being a redhead. I blush easily and at the oddest times. It's not like he knows I was admiring him the other day while I was waiting for my food. At least, I sure hope not. "True." I open the door and step back for him to go through.

"I guess I'd better go. I'll just wait for Mom out here," he says dryly and saunters down the hall.

"Not a moment too soon," I mutter under my breath and retreat to my office for a few minutes. The last thing I need is a blast from the past. Especially in the form of a rugged, sweet-smiling cowboy.





Here is my review of this heartwarming novel:



As a teenager, Rachel’s infatuation with a cowboy changed her life – and not for the better. Now that she’s an adult, and a successful doctor living in her childhood hometown, will she heal the wounded relationships in her family? And can she see past the cowboy exterior of the man who wants to love her in time to let their relationship grow?

Along Came A Cowboy” is a sweet love story by Christine Lynxwiler. Filled with a handsome cowboy hero and a strong, successful heroine, this novel speaks directly to the heart. An encouragement to forgive the past and look to the future, mend broken relationships, and embrace the truth are at the heart of this beautifully written Christian romantic adventure.

This is an amazing novel of Christian love and values. Christine Lynxwiler does a beautiful job of building the romance between Rachel and Jack, and the conflict between Rachel and herself (and other characters). She keeps the reader engaged with the characters, wondering what choices they will make. I will be looking for more books from this talented lady.

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Week On WORD up! June 23, 2008

There are a couple of wonderful books on my blog this week.

Stop by today to read my personal journey to immortality and how I am scheduled to be immortalized in my lifetime... It is sooooo exciting!

Wednesday features a wonderful novel by Christine Lynxwiler. "Along Came a Cowboy" is a down-home romantic story of a couple separated by time and circumstances who are reunited by maturity and forgiveness. It is beautifully written, with strong male and female lead characters that you cheer for from page one!

Friday showcases a mystery/suspense title called "The Molech Prophecy". I just started this book, but it has really grabbed my attention.

As always, please stop by, check out the reviews and leave comments about what you think. Peruse the blog archive for previously reviewed books, Bible studies and devotionals. Sign up for my weekly newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted automatically.

And COMING SOON...

...a book contest! WIN A COPY of "A Passion Most Pure" by Julie Lessman. This is an amazing novel! Beginning July 14th, leave a comment on the post featuring "A Passion Most Pure" and sign up for my newsletter, and I will enter you to win a copy of the book directly from the publisher!

...online Bible study! I'll be posting notes and thoughts, and you can participate in discussion by leaving comments. So, even though we may not be able to meet in the same room, we can still share our thoughts on scripture. I'll keep you posted.

This Week On WORD up! June 23, 2008

There are a couple of wonderful books on my blog this week.

Stop by today to read my personal journey to immortality and how I am scheduled to be immortalized in my lifetime... It is sooooo exciting!

Wednesday features a wonderful novel by Christine Lynxwiler. "Along Came a Cowboy" is a down-home romantic story of a couple separated by time and circumstances who are reunited by maturity and forgiveness. It is beautifully written, with strong male and female lead characters that you cheer for from page one!

Friday showcases a mystery/suspense title called "The Molech Prophecy". I just started this book, but it has really grabbed my attention.

As always, please stop by, check out the reviews and leave comments about what you think. Peruse the blog archive for previously reviewed books, Bible studies and devotionals. Sign up for my weekly newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted automatically.

And COMING SOON...

...a book contest! WIN A COPY of "A Passion Most Pure" by Julie Lessman. This is an amazing novel! Beginning July 14th, leave a comment on the post featuring "A Passion Most Pure" and sign up for my newsletter, and I will enter you to win a copy of the book directly from the publisher!

...online Bible study! I'll be posting notes and thoughts, and you can participate in discussion by leaving comments. So, even though we may not be able to meet in the same room, we can still share our thoughts on scripture. I'll keep you posted.

This Week On WORD up! June 23, 2008

There are a couple of wonderful books on my blog this week.

Stop by today to read my personal journey to immortality and how I am scheduled to be immortalized in my lifetime... It is sooooo exciting!

Wednesday features a wonderful novel by Christine Lynxwiler. "Along Came a Cowboy" is a down-home romantic story of a couple separated by time and circumstances who are reunited by maturity and forgiveness. It is beautifully written, with strong male and female lead characters that you cheer for from page one!

Friday showcases a mystery/suspense title called "The Molech Prophecy". I just started this book, but it has really grabbed my attention.

As always, please stop by, check out the reviews and leave comments about what you think. Peruse the blog archive for previously reviewed books, Bible studies and devotionals. Sign up for my weekly newsletter to be notified when new articles are posted automatically.

And COMING SOON...

...a book contest! WIN A COPY of "A Passion Most Pure" by Julie Lessman. This is an amazing novel! Beginning July 14th, leave a comment on the post featuring "A Passion Most Pure" and sign up for my newsletter, and I will enter you to win a copy of the book directly from the publisher!

...online Bible study! I'll be posting notes and thoughts, and you can participate in discussion by leaving comments. So, even though we may not be able to meet in the same room, we can still share our thoughts on scripture. I'll keep you posted.

Immortality

I have been fascinated with the idea of immortality for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was haunted by stories of vampires – existing forever, but without joy or love or real life to speak of. Eternal life bestowed for a price. Monsters - hiding in the darkness, feared by man, afraid of the light.

Then I met the Light. I knew that the darkness was not the immortality that I really craved. Jesus chased me until I caught Him, and gave me eternal life bestowed for a price. But not a price I had to pay. He has already paid – for me, for you, for the whole world. WOW!!!!!!!! Because of His sacrifice on the cross, I will live forever. So can you. And the eternal life that Jesus promises is full of joy and love and peace and real life! Praise Him! Hallelujah!

Relationship with Jesus is the most wonderful gift. But we shouldn’t wait for the moment we meet Him face-to-face to cash in on it. There are so many blessings to be experienced here on earth for those who are willing to seek Him. He will give us gifts of friendship, sunsets, experiences and new appreciation for things. When we seek Him, we will find Him in the oddest places.

One of those odd places I found Jesus was a contest I won recently. It was held by one of my favorite Christian fiction authors, Susan May Warren. She is graciously immortalizing me – well, my name at least – in one of her new novels. Here is a description of the book from her website:

Nothin' But Trouble

Smart, intrepid PJ Sugar, wannabe PI, and all-around troublemaker has returned home to set right the rumors that drove her out of her hometown of Kellogg, MN, ten years ago. But not much has changed -- well, except for her old beau/bad boy has turned into the local law. But PJ isn't in town for longer than a day when her old history teacher is murdered and her best friend's hubby is branded the killer. PJ can't leave well enough alone, and pretty soon, she's up to her ears in Nothin' but Trouble! The first in the PJ Sugar novels -- come and join me on the fun, suspense and romance of lovable PJ Sugar!

Look for PJ March 2009!


I still have a fascination with immortality. I own the entire “Highlander” series on DVD. I also own “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and I’m an “Angel” and “Moonlight” fan. But I know the Truth. He has set me free, and given me the hope for a truly immortal future.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy



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

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







Today's Wild Card author is:




and her book:



Calico Canyon


Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


MARY CONNEALY is married to Ivan a farmer, and she is the mother of four beautiful daughters, Joslyn, Wendy, Shelly and Katy. Mary is a GED Instructor by day and an author by night. And there is always a cape involved in her transformation.

Visit her at her website and her blog.

Product Details

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1597899380
ISBN-13: 978-1597899383

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Mosqueros, Texas, 1867


T he Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode in.

Late as usual.

Grace Calhoun was annoyed with their tardiness at the same time she wished they’d never come back from the noon recess.

They shoved their way into their desks, yelling and wrestling as if they were in a hurry. No doubt they were. They couldn’t begin tormenting her until they sat down, now, could they?

Grace Calhoun clenched her jaw to stop herself from nagging. Early in the school year, she’d realized that her scolding amused them and, worse yet, inspired them. To think she’d begged their father to send his boys to school.

Her gaze locked on Mark Reeves. She knew that look. The glint in his eyes told her he was planning. . .something. . .awful.

Grace shuddered. Seven girls and fifteen boys in her school. Most were already working like industrious little angels.

Most.

The noise died down. Grace stood in front of the room and cleared her throat to buy time until her voice wouldn’t shake. Normally she could handle them—or at least survive their antics. But she hadn’t eaten today and it didn’t look as though she’d eat soon.

“Sally, will you please open your book to page ten and read aloud for the class?”

“Yes, Miss Calhoun.” With a sweet smile, six-year-old Sally McClellen, her Texas accent so strong Grace smiled, stood beside her desk and lifted the first grade reader.

Grace’s heart swelled as the little girl read without hesitation, her blue eyes focused on the pages, her white-blond hair pulled back in a tidy braid. Most of her students were coming along well.

Most.

Grace folded her skeletal hands together with a prayer of thank-fulness for the good and a prayer for courage for the bad. She added prayers for her little sisters, left behind in Chicago, supported with her meager teacher’s salary.

A high-pitched squeak disrupted her prayerful search for peace. A quick glance caught only a too-innocent expression on Ike Reeves’s face.

Mark’s older brother Ike stared at the slate in front of him. Ike studying was as likely as Grace roping a longhorn bull, dragging him in here, and expecting the creature to start parsing sentences. There was no doubt about it. The Reeves boys were up to something.

She noticed a set of narrow shoulders quivering beside Mark. Luke Reeves, the youngest of the triplets—Mark, Luke, and John. All three crammed in one front-row desk built to hold two children. The number of students was growing faster than the number of desks.

She’d separated them, scolded, added extra pages to their assign-ments. She’d kept them in from recess and she’d kept them after school.

And, of course, she’d turned tattletale and complained to their father, repeatedly, to absolutely no avail. She’d survived the spring term with the Reeves twins, barely. The triplets weren’t school age yet then. After the fall work was done, they came. All five of them. Like a plague of locusts, only with less charm.

The triplets were miniature versions of their older twin brothers, Abraham and Isaac. Their white-blond hair was as unruly as their behavior. They dressed in the next thing to rags. They were none too clean, and Grace had seen them gather for lunch around what seemed to be a bucket full of meat.

They had one tin bucket, and Abe, the oldest, would hand out what looked like cold beefsteak as the others sat beside him, apparently starved half to death, and eat with their bare hands until the bucket was empty.

Why didn’t their father just strap a feed bag on their heads? What was that man thinking to feed his sons like this?

Easy question. Their father wasn’t thinking at all.

He was as out of control as his sons. How many times had Grace talked to Daniel Reeves? The man had the intelligence of the average fence post, the personality of a wounded warthog, and the stubbornness of a flea-bitten mule. Grace silently apologized to all the animals she’d just insulted.

Grace noticed Sally standing awkwardly beside her desk, obviously finished.

“Well done, Sally.” Grace could only hope she told the truth. The youngest of the three McClellen girls could have been waltzing for all Grace knew.

“Thank you, Miss Calhoun.” Sally handed the book across the aisle to John Reeves.

The five-year-old stood and began reading, but every few words he had to stop. John was a good reader, so it wasn’t the words tripping him up. Grace suspected he couldn’t control his breathing for wanting to laugh.

The rowdy Reeves boys were showing her up as a failure. She needed this job, and to keep it she had to find a way to manage these little monsters.

She’d never spanked a student in her life. Can I do it? God, should
I do it?

Agitated nearly to tears, Grace went to her chair and sat down.

“Aahhh!” She jumped to her feet.

All five Reeves boys erupted in laughter.

Grace turned around and saw the tack they’d put on her chair. Resisting the urge to rub her backside, she whirled to face the room.

Most of the boys were howling with laughter. Most of the girls looked annoyed on her behalf. Sally had a stubborn expression of loyalty on her face that would have warmed Grace’s heart if she hadn’t been pushed most of the way to madness.

Grace had been handling little girls all her life, but she knew noth-ing about boys.

Well, she was going to find out if a spanking would work. Slamming her fist onto her desk, she shouted, “I warned you boys, no more pranks. Abraham, Isaac, Mark, Luke, John, you get up here. You’re going to be punished for this.”

“We didn’t do it!” The boys chorused their denials at the top of their lungs. She’d expected as much, but this time she wasn’t going to let a lack of solid evidence sway her. She knew good and well who’d done this.

Driven by rage, Grace turned to get her ruler. Sick with the feeling of failure but not knowing what else to do, she jerked open the drawer in her teacher’s desk.

A snake struck out at her. Screaming, Grace jumped back, tripped over her chair, and fell head over heels.

With a startled cry, Grace landed hard on her backside. She barely registered an alarming ripping sound as she bumped her head against the wall hard enough to see stars. Her skirt fell over her head, and her feet—held up by her chair—waved in the air. She shoved desperately at the flying gingham to cover herself decently. When her vision cleared, she looked up to see the snake, dangling down out of the drawer, drop onto her foot.

It disappeared under her skirt, and she felt it slither up her leg. Her scream could have peeled the whitewash off the wall.

Grace leapt to her feet. The chair got knocked aside, smashing into the wall. She stomped her leg, shrieking, the snake twisting and climbing past her knee. She felt it wriggling around her leg, climbing higher. She whacked at her skirt and danced around trying to shake the reptile loose.

The laughter grew louder. A glance told her all the children were out of the desks and running up and down the aisle.

One of the McClellen girls raced straight for her. Beth McClellen dashed to her side and dropped to her knees in front of Grace. The nine-year-old pushed Grace’s skirt up and grabbed the snake.

Backing away before Grace accidentally kicked her, Beth said, “It’s just a garter snake, ma’am. It won’t hurt you none.”

Heaving whimpers escaped with every panting breath. Grace’s heart pounded until it seemed likely to escape her chest and run off on its own. Fighting for control of herself, she got the horrible noises she was making under control then smoothed her hair with unsteady hands. She stared at the little snake, twined around Beth’s arm.

Beth’s worried eyes were locked on Grace. The child wasn’t sparing the snake a single glance. Because, of course, Beth and every other child in this room knew it was harmless. Grace knew it, too. But that didn’t mean she wanted the slithery thing crawling up her leg!

“Th—ank—” Grace couldn’t speak. She breathed like a winded horse, sides heaving, hands sunk in her hair. The laughing boys drowned out her words anyway.

Beth turned to the window, eased the wooden shutters open, and lowered the snake gently to the ground. The action gave Grace another few seconds to gather her scattered wits.

Trying again, she said, “Thank you, B-Beth. I’m not—not a-afraid of snakes.”

The laughter grew louder. Mark Reeves fell out of his desk holding his stomach as his body shook with hilarity. The rest of the boys laughed harder.

Swallowing hard, Grace tried again to compose herself. “I was just startled. Thank you for helping me.” Taking a step toward Beth, Grace rested one trembling hand on the young girl’s arm. “Thank you very much, Beth.”

Beth gave a tiny nod of her blond head, as if to encourage her and extend her deepest sympathy.

Grace turned to the rioting classroom—and her skirt fell off.

With a cry of alarm, Grace grabbed at her skirt.

The boys in the class started to whoop with laughter. Mark kicked his older brother Ike. Ike dived out of his chair onto Mark. They knocked the heavy two-seater student desk out of line. Every time they bumped into some other boy, their victim would jump into the fray.

Pulling her skirt back into place, she turned a blind eye to the chaos to deal with her clothes. Only now did she see that the tissue-thin fabric was shredded. A huge hole gaped halfway down the front. It was the only skirt she owned.

Beth, a natural caretaker, noticed and grabbed Grace’s apron off a hook near the back wall.

Mandy McClellen rushed up along with Sally and all the other girls. Mandy spoke low so the rioting boys couldn’t overhear. “This is your only dress, isn’t it, Miss Calhoun?”

Grace nodded, fighting not to cry as the girls adjusted the apron strings around her waist to hold up her skirt. She’d patch it back to-gether somehow, although she had no needle and thread, no money to buy them, and no idea how to use them.

Grace looked up to see the older Reeves boys making for the back of the schoolroom.

“Hold it right there.” Mandy used a voice Grace envied.

The boys froze. They pivoted and looked at Mandy, as blond as her sisters and a close match in coloring to the Reeves, but obviously blessed with extraordinary power she could draw on when necessary. After the boys’ initial surprise—and possibly fear—Grace saw the calculating expression come back over their faces.

“Every one of you,” Mandy growled to frighten a hungry panther, “get back in your seats right now.” She planted her hands on her hips and stared.

The whole classroom full of boys stared back. They hesitated, then at last, with sullen anger, caved before a will stronger than their own. Under Mandy’s burning gaze, they returned to their seats. Grace’s heart wilted as she tried to figure out how Mandy did it.

When the boys were finally settled, the eleven-year-old turned to Grace, her brow furrowed with worry. “I’m right sorry, Miss Calhoun,” she whispered, “but you have to figure out how to manage ’em yourself. I can’t do it for you.”

Grace nodded. The child spoke the complete and utter truth.

The girls fussed over Grace, setting her chair upright and returning to her desk a book that had been knocked to the floor.

“Miss Calhoun?” Beth patted Grace’s arm.

“Yes?”

“Can I give you some advice?”

The little girl had pulled a snake out from under Grace’s skirt. Grace would deny her nothing. “Of course.”

“I think it’s close enough to day’s end that you ought to let everyone go home. You’re too upset to handle this now. Come Monday morning you’ll be calmer and not do something you’ll regret.”

“Or start something you can’t finish,” Sally added.

Grace knew the girls were right. Her temper boiled too near the surface. She was on the verge of a screaming fit and a bout of tears.

My dress! God, what am I going to do about it?

These boys! Dear, dear Lord God, what am I going to do about them?

She tried to listen for the still, small voice of God that had taken her through the darkest days of her life during her childhood in Chicago. He seemed to abandon her today. The good Lord had to know one of His children had never needed an answer more. But if God sent an answer, her fury drowned it out. She’d been putting off a showdown with these boys all term. It was time to deal with the problem once and for all.

Sally slipped her little hand into Grace’s. “Boys are naughty.”

Grace shared a look with Sally and had to force herself not to nod. Seven sweet little girls stood in a circle around her. Grace wanted to hug them all and then go after the boys with a broom, at least five of them. The other ten weren’t so badly behaved. Except when inspired by the Reeves.

God had made boys and girls. He’d planned it. They were supposed to be this way. But how could a teacher stuff book learning in their heads when they wouldn’t sit still or stop talking or quit wrestling?

Digging deep for composure, Grace said, “You girls return to your seats, please. And thank you for your help.”

Beth shook her head frantically, obviously sensing Grace wasn’t going to take her advice.

“It’s all right, Beth. I’ve put this off too long as it is. And thank you again.”

Beth’s feet dragged as she followed her sisters and the other girls to her seat.

Grace waited as the room returned to relative quiet, except for the usual giggling and squirming of the Reeves boys.

Glancing between her chair seat and her open desk drawer, Grace was worried she might develop a nervous tic. She sat down but left the drawer open. An almost insane calm took over her body. “School is dismissed except for Abraham, Isaac, Mark, Luke, and John Reeves.”

Forehead furrowed over her blond brows, Beth shook her head and gave a little “don’t do it” wave.

Grace could tell by the way the sun shone in the west window that it was only a few minutes early for dismissal. Good. That gave her time to settle with these boys, and then she’d have it out with their father. Things were going to change around here!

The rest of the students, stealing frequent glances between her and the blond holy terrors in her midst, gathered up their coats and lunch pails and left the schoolhouse in almost total silence.

And that left Grace.

Alone.

With the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Here is my review of this wonderful novel:

Mary Connealy does it again! “Calico Canyon” is an amazing novel that will grab your attention immediately with the humor and action of the opening classroom sequence! Grace is a proper lady working as a teacher in a small Texas town. Tying to escape her abusive father and rescue the family she had to leave behind from his clutches as well, she secretly sends most of her income back home to her sister, Hannah. When her father finds her, she manages to escape right into the arms of a man she dislikes. The story that unfolds is priceless!!!!!

Mary Connealy is the master teller of the “marriage of inconvenience” story! Her humor will have you rolling on the floor. Her touching moments will being tears to your eyes. She writes characters that you want to invest in and are sorry to say goodbye to when the last page is turned. (I loved the reunion with the “Petticoat Ranch” characters!) You had better begin reading this book early in the morning on your day off so that you can savor it throughout the day. Although, I must admit that I enjoyed this book so much I couldn’t make the pages turn slower…

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mixed Bags (Carter House Girls, Book 1) by Melody Carlson



It's June 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 her book:



Zondervan (May 1, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.

Visit the Melody's website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.

Don't miss the second book in this series: Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2)

And one of her latest, A Mile in My Flip-Flops will be featured on FIRST Blog Alliance on July 1st!

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714885
ISBN-13: 978-0310714880



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Desiree,” called Inez as she knocked on the other side of the closed bedroom door. “Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs.”

“The name is DJ.”

“I’m sorry, but your grandmother has instructed me to call you Desiree.”

DJ opened the door and looked down on the short and slightly overweight middle-aged housekeeper. “And I have instructed you to call me DJ.”

Inez’s dark eyes twinkled as she gave her a sly grin. “Yes, but it’s your grandmother who pays my salary, Desiree. I take orders from Mrs. Carter. And she wants to see you downstairs in her office, pronto.”

DJ grabbed her favorite Yankees ball cap and shoved it onto her head, pulling her scraggly looking blonde ponytail through the hole in the back of it.

“You’re wearing that?” asked Inez with a frown. “You know what your grandmother says about — -”

“Look,” said DJ. “My grandmother might pay you to take orders from her, but I’m a free agent. Got that?”

Inez chuckled. “I got that. But you’re the one who’ll be getting it before too long, Desiree.”

“DJ,” she growled as she tromped loudly down the curving staircase. Why had she let Dad talk her into living with her grandmother for her last two years of high school? She’d only been here since last spring, late into the school year, but long enough to know that it was nearly unbearable. Boarding school would be better than this. At least she’d have a little privacy there and no one constantly riding her — -telling her how to act, walk, look, and think. She wished there were some way, short of running away (which would be totally stupid), out of this uncomfortable arrangement.

“There you are,” said Grandmother when DJ walked into the office. Her grandmother frowned at her ball cap and then pasted what appeared to be a very forced smile onto her collagen-injected lips. “I want you to meet a new resident.” She made a graceful hand movement, motioning to where an attractive and somewhat familiar-looking Latina woman was sitting next to a fashionably dressed girl who seemed to be about DJ’s age, but could probably pass for older. The girl was beautiful. Even with the scowl creasing her forehead, it was obvious that this girl was stunning. Her skin was darker than her mother’s, latte-colored and creamy. Her long black hair curled softly around her face. She had high cheekbones and dramatic eyes.

DJ noticed her grandmother smiling her approval on this unhappy-looking girl. But the girl looked oblivious as she fiddled with the gold chain of what looked like an expensive designer bag. Not that DJ was an expert when it came to fashion. The woman stood politely, extending her hand to DJ.

“I’d like to present my granddaughter, Desiree Lane.” Grandmother turned back to DJ now, the approval evaporating from her expression. “Desiree, this is Ms. Perez and her daughter Taylor.”

DJ shook the woman’s hand and mumbled, “Nice to meet you.” But the unfriendly daughter just sat in the leather chair, one long leg elegantly crossed over the other, as she totally ignored everyone in the room.

Grandmother continued speaking to DJ, although DJ suspected this little speech was for Taylor’s mother. “Ms. Perez and I first met when my magazine featured her for her illustrious music career. Her face graced our cover numerous times over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard of Eva Perez.”

The woman smiled. “Or perhaps not,” she said in a voice that was as smooth as honey. “According to my daughter, kids in your age group don’t comprise even a minuscule part of my fan base.”

DJ smiled at the woman now. “Actually, I have heard of you, Ms. Perez. My mom used to play your CDs. She was a serious Latin jazz fan.”

“Was?” She frowned. “I hope her taste in music hasn’t changed. I need all the fans I can get these days.”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree’s mother — -my daughter — -was killed in a car accident about a year ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

DJ sort of nodded. She never knew how to react when -people said they were sorry about the loss of her mother. It wasn’t as if it were their fault.

“Desiree,” said Grandmother, “Would you mind giving Taylor a tour of the house while I go over some business details with her mother?”

“No problem.”

Grandmother’s recently Botoxed forehead creased ever so slightly, and DJ knew that, once again, she had either said the wrong thing, used bad grammar, or was slumping like a “bag of potatoes.” Nothing she did ever seemed right when it came to her grandmother. “And after the tour, perhaps you could show Taylor to her room.”

“Which room?” asked DJ, feeling concerned. Sure, Taylor might be a perfectly nice person, even if a little snobbish, but DJ was not ready for a roommate just yet.

“The blue room, please. Inez has already taken some of Taylor’s bags up for her. Thank you, Desiree.”

Feeling dismissed as well as disapproved of, DJ led their reluctant new resident out to the foyer. “Well, you’ve probably already seen this.” DJ waved her arm toward the elegant front entrance with its carved double doors and shining marble floor and Persian rug. She motioned toward the ornate oak staircase. “And that’s where the bedrooms are, but we can see that later.” She walked through to the dining room. “This is where we chow down.” She pointed to the swinging doors. “The kitchen’s back there, but the cook, Clara, can be a little witchy about trespassers.” DJ snickered. “Besides, my grandmother does not want her girls to spend much time in the kitchen anyway.”

“Like that’s going to be a problem,” said Taylor, the first words she’d spoken since meeting DJ.

“Huh?” said DJ.

“I don’t imagine anyone is going to be exactly pigging out around here. I mean aren’t we all supposed to become famous models or something?” asked Taylor as she examined a perfectly manicured thumbnail.

DJ frowned. “Well, my grandmother did edit one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world, but I don’t think that means we’re all going to become famous models. I know I’m not.”

Taylor peered curiously at her. “Why not? You’ve got the height, the build, and you’re not half bad looking . . . well, other than the fact that you obviously have absolutely no style.” She sort of laughed, but not with genuine humor. “But then you’ve got your grandmother to straighten that out for you.”

DJ just shook her head. “I think my grandmother will give up on me pretty soon. Especially when the others get here. She’ll have girls with more promise to set her sights on.” At least that was what DJ was hoping.

“Has anyone else arrived?”

“Not yet.” DJ continued the tour. “This is the library.” She paused to allow Taylor to look inside the room and then moved on. “And that’s the sunroom, or observatory, as Grandmother calls it.” She laughed. “Hearing her talk about this house sometimes reminds me of playing Clue.”

“What?”

“You know, the murder game, like where Colonel Mustard kills Mrs. Peacock with a wrench in the observatory.”

“Oh, I never played that.”

“Right . . .” Then DJ showed Taylor the large living room, the most modern space in the house. Grandmother had put this room together shortly after deciding to take on her crazy venture. Above the fireplace hung a large flat-screen TV, which was connected to a state-of-the-art DVD and sound system. This was encircled by some comfortable pieces of leather furniture, pillows, and throws.

“Not bad,” admitted Taylor.

“Welcome back to the twenty-first century.”

“Do you have wireless here?”

“Yeah. I told Grandmother it was a necessity for school.”

“Good.”

“This house has been in our family for a long time,” said DJ as she led Taylor up the stairs. “But no one has lived here for the past twenty years. My grandmother had it restored after she retired a -couple of years ago.” DJ didn’t add that her grandmother had been forced to retire due to her age (a carefully guarded and mysterious number) or that this new business venture, boarding teen “debutantes,” was to help supplement her retirement income. Those were strict family secrets and, despite DJ’s angst in living here, she did have a sense of family loyalty — -at least for the time being. She wasn’t sure if she could control herself indefinitely.

DJ stopped at the second-floor landing. “The bedrooms are on this floor, and the third floor has a ballroom that would be perfect for volleyball, although Grandmother has made it clear that it’s not that kind of ballroom.” She led Taylor down the hall. “My bedroom is here,” she pointed to the closed door. “And yours is right next door.” She opened the door. “The blue room.”

Taylor looked into the pale blue room and shook her head in a dismal way. “And is it true that I have to share this room with a perfect stranger?”

“Well, I don’t know how perfect she’ll be.”

“Funny.” Taylor rolled her eyes as she opened a door to one of the walk-in closets opposite the beds.

“I try.”

“It’s not as big as I expected.”

“It’s bigger than it looks,” said DJ as she walked into the room and then pointed to a small alcove that led to the bathroom.

“Do I get any say in who becomes my roommate?”

“I guess you can take that up with my grandmother.”

Taylor tossed her purse onto the bed closest to the bathroom and then kicked off her metallic-toned sandals. “These shoes might be Marc Jacobs, but they’re killing me.”

“So, you’re really into this?” asked DJ. “The whole fashion thing?”

Taylor sat down on the bed, rubbing a foot. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.”

DJ felt the need to bite her tongue. Taylor was her grandmother’s first official paying customer to arrive and participate in this crazy scheme. Far be it from DJ to rock Grandmother’s boat. At least not just yet.

“Well, thanks for the tour,” said Taylor in a bored voice. Then she went over to where a set of expensive-looking luggage was stacked in a corner. “Don’t the servants around here know how to put things away properly?”

“Properly?” DJ shrugged.

Taylor picked up the top bag and laid it down on the bench at the foot of one of the beds and opened it.

“Don’t you want to go down and tell your mom good-bye?” asked DJ as she moved toward the door.

Taylor laughed in a mean way. “And make her think she’s doing me a favor by dumping me here? Not on your life.”

“Here are some more bags for Miss Mitchell,” said Inez as she lugged two large suitcases into the room, setting them by the door.

“Put them over there,” commanded Taylor, pointing to the bench at the foot of the other bed. “And don’t pile them on top of each other. This happens to be Louis Vuitton, you know.”

DJ saw Inez make a face behind Taylor’s back. But the truth was DJ didn’t blame her. Inez might be a housekeeper, but she didn’t deserve to be treated like a slave. Suddenly, DJ felt guilty for snapping at Inez earlier today. She smiled now, and Inez looked surprised and a little suspicious. Then DJ grabbed the largest bag, hoisted it onto the bench with a loud grunt, and Taylor turned around and gave her a dark scowl.

“Thank you,” she snapped.

“Later,” said DJ as she exited the room with Inez on her heels.

“Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs, Desiree,” announced Inez when they were out on the landing.

“Again?” complained DJ. “What for?”

“Another girl just arrived. Your grandmother wants you to give her a tour too.”

“What am I now?” asked DJ. “The official tour guide?”

“That sounds about right.” Inez gave her a smirk.

DJ wasn’t sure if she could stomach another fashion diva with an attitude problem, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to risk another etiquette lecture from her grandmother either. Once again, she clomped down the stairs and made her appearance in the office, suppressing the urge to bow and say, “At your ser-vice, Madam.”

“Eliza,” gushed Grandmother, “This is my granddaughter, Desiree Lane. And Desiree, I’d like you to meet Eliza Wilton.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Desiree.”

DJ nodded. She could tell by how formal her grandmother was acting that Eliza Wilton must be someone really important — -meaning extraordinarily wealthy — -even more so than the Mitchells. And that’s when she remembered her grandmother going on about “the Wilton fortune” this morning at breakfast. Of course, that must be Eliza’s family.

“Nice to meet ya, Eliza,” DJ said in a purposely casual tone. This girl was pretty too, but not like Taylor’s dark and dramatic beauty. Eliza was a tall, slender, impeccably dressed, blue-eyed blonde. She wasn’t exactly a Paris Hilton clone — -and she didn’t have a little dog as far as DJ could see — -but there was a similarity, except that Eliza’s face was a little softer looking, a little sweeter, but then looks could be deceiving.

DJ wondered if the Botox was starting to wear off, as her grandmother studied her with a furrowed brow, probably comparing her to Miss Perfect Eliza. Naturally, DJ would not measure up.

“Eliza is from Louisville,” said Grandmother. “Her parents are presently residing in France, where her father just purchased a vineyard. But Eliza’s grandmother and I are old friends. We went to college together. When she heard about what I was doing up here in Connecticut, she encouraged her daughter to send dear Eliza our way.”

“Lucky Eliza,” said DJ in a droll tone.

Eliza actually giggled. Then Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree will give you a tour of the house,” she said. “And she’ll show you to your room.”

“Which is . . . ?” asked DJ.

“The rose room.”

Of course, thought DJ as she led Eliza from the office. Next to her grandmother’s suite, the rose room was probably the best room in the house. Naturally, someone as important as Eliza would be entitled to that. Not that DJ had wanted it. And perhaps her grandmother had actually offered it to her last month. DJ couldn’t remember. But she had never been a flowery sort of girl, and she knew the rose wallpaper in there would’ve been giving her a serious migraine by now. Besides she liked her sunny yellow bedroom and, in her opinion, it had the best view in the house. On a clear day, you could actually glimpse a sliver of the Atlantic Ocean from her small bathroom window.

DJ started to do a repeat of her earlier tour, even using the same lines, until she realized that Eliza was actually interested.

“How old is this house?”

“Just over a hundred years,” DJ told her. “It was built in 1891.”

“It has a nice feel to it.”

DJ considered this. “Yeah, I kinda thought that too, after I got used to it. To be honest, it seemed pretty big to me at first. But then you’re probably used to big houses.”

“I suppose. Not that I’m particularly fond of mansions.”

“Why aren’t you with your parents?” asked DJ. “In France?”

“They’re concerned about things like politics and security,” said Eliza as they exited the library. “In fact, they almost refused to let me come here.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I think they felt I was safer in boarding school. If our grandmothers hadn’t been such good friends, I’m sure they never would’ve agreed.”

“So, you’re happy to be here?” DJ studied Eliza’s expression.

“Sure, aren’t you?”

DJ frowned. “I don’t know . . . I guess.”

“I think it’ll be fun to go to a real high school, to just live like a normal girl, with other normal girls.”

DJ tried not to look too shocked. “You think this is normal?”

Eliza laughed. “I guess I don’t really know what normal is, but it’s more normal that what I’m used to.”

“But what about the whole fashion thing?” asked DJ. “I mean you must know about my grandmother’s plans to turn us all into little debutantes. Are you into all that?”

“That’s nothing new. Remember, I’m from the south. My family is obsessed with turning me into a lady. That was one of the other reasons my parents agreed to this. I think they see the Carter House as some sort of finishing school.”

Or some sort of reformatory school, thought DJ. Although she didn’t say it out loud. Not yet, anyway.





Here's my review of this incredible book:



Melody Carlson is an amazing writer. “Mixed Bags” is typical Melody. Well-written toward her teen audience, this novel not only entertains but examines issues that our daughters face today.


The highest praise I can give this book is that my fourteen year old daughter snatched it, devoured it, and is now begging me to take her to the store to buy the sequel “Stealing Bradford”. I love that there is material out there like this that is creating a love of reading in my child that other material has failed to do. Thank you, Melody Carlson.