Monday, December 26, 2011

COTT: Christmas Cover Images Winner




*by COTT Sr. Editor, April W Gardner


Cover Images Clashes are becoming hugely popular at the literary contest site, Clash of the Titles. Voters have been turning out by the droves to give their opinion about which cover they find most eye-catching.


Their latest Clash featured three Christmas cover images, all of which would have been worthy winners. There’s just something about holiday d├ęcor that warms the heart! A book cover with Christmas dressings is no different.


Here’s what hostess Gail Pallotta had to say about the three covers. “The mountain scene in A Log Cabin Christmas took away my breath and sent a peaceful feeling over me.  The lovely smile on the young lady on the cover of Christmas Belles of Georgia brightened my day and spoke to me of Christmas joy. Christmas Pearl stood out and proclaimed this holy season.”


But the voters decided, and the winner of the 
Christmas Cover Images Clash is:






 A HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH THE 
AUTHOR AND THE COVER ARTIST!


This is what voters said about Christmas Pearl:

*'Christmas Pearl' simply struck me as beautiful & I sank right in as I read the blurb.
*I think all three are charming, but 'Christmas Pearl' does it for me!
*"Christmas Pearl" is just plain lovely. I love the way the pearl imitates a tree ornament. Very well done cover and quite evocative of Christmas.


Well said!


COTT  is currently taking a Christmas break, but please visit  January 9 for a new clash that will – literally – take your breath away! If you're an author, don’t forget to check upcoming open clashes and submit.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Clash of the Titles!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Interview Game

It's been awhile since I've posted on here. My apologies to those of you who are faithful readers. Life has been a bit crazy these past couple of months. I'll tell you more about that at a different time. 

I was perusing Twitter one night and saw that Amy from My Friend Amy was wanting to revive an oldie but goodie kinda game. I couldn't resist playing along! I hope you'll join in the fun as well! 

Okay these were the official rules:
  • Leave me a comment saying, "Interview Me." Please include your e-mail address. 

  • I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions.)

  • You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

  • You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

  • When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


  • Thanks for playing along! Here are the questions that Amy has sent me to answer! 

    1) Has a book ever changed your life?

    Yes, the Bible. I know it's a cliched answer but it really has changed my life. I wouldn't be the person I am today without the Good Book and more importantly, the salvation within! 

    2) What's your favorite holiday treat?

    Do I have to pick just one??? I'd have to say pumpkin bread (you know, the one with cream cheese in the middle?) for Thanksgiving and then hot chocolate for Christmas time. I'm trying to cut down on too many sweets though!  (Oh, btw, I HATE pumpkin pie...weird eh?)

    3) If you could trade places with a character on a TV Show for one day who would it be?

    Hands down, it would be Elena on Vampire Diaries. Who couldn't resist a kiss or two from Stefan and/or Damon? 

    4) Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, or ebook? Why?

    Believe it or not, I do not have much of a preference. I'm an equal opportunity book binding reader! :) 

    5) If you could wish one thing for the world for Christmas, what would it be?

    For every soldier to be home with his/her family for an entire month....at bare minimum!! 


    Now, I'm challenging all of you to do the same. I'd love to interview Renee next, if she's up for the challenge! 

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    CFBA: Lost Melody by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith

    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Lost Melody
     
    Zondervan (October 25, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHORS:



    Lori lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband Lance.  Lance and Lori have three sons, three daughter-in-laws, and six wonderful grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters. Lance and Lori are very involved in their church, and active in supporting mission work in Mali, West Africa.


    Lori began her writing career in 1982, writing for the secular book market.  In 1995, after many years of writing, Lori sensed that God was calling her to use her gift of writing to honor Him.  It was at that time that Lori began writing for the Christian book market.  To date, she has had over 100 books published.




    Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen Christian novels and over fifty articles and short stories. Her books have been named finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the American Christian Fiction Writer's Book of the Year Award, and ACFW's Carol Award.


    A Certified Lay Speaker for the United Methodist Church, Ginny's messages are always well-received by a variety of audiences in conferences, retreats and churches across the country. When she isn't writing or speaking, Ginny and her husband, Ted, enjoy exploring the extremes of nature – snow skiing in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, motorcycle riding on the curvy roads in central Kentucky, and scuba diving in the warm waters of Mexico and the Caribbean.

    ABOUT THE BOOK


    The beautiful piano sitting in the corner of Jill King's apartment begs to be played. For over a year, it has sat untouched, ever since a terrible accident shattered Jill's ambition of becoming a concert pianist. The ragged scar on her left hand is a cruel and constant reminder of the death of her dream. But another dream is about to come to life---an unexpected, horrifying dream that will present Jill with a responsibility she never wanted. And choices she never wanted to make. Hundreds of lives depend on Jill's willingness to warn her small, oceanside town in Nova Scotia of a nameless, looming disaster. But doing so could cost Jill her reputation, jeopardize the political career of the man she loves, and ruin their plans for a future together. The fate of an entire community hangs in the balance as Jill wrestles with the cost of heeding one still, small voice.


    If you would like to read a chapter excerpt of Lost Melody, go HERE.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Merciful Law by Darby Rae

    Merciful LawMerciful Law by Darby Rae
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    In this debut novel by Darby Rae, you are taken on the journey of Deborah's life. She is a successful attorney who has just had enough of marriage to her attorney husband, Lawrence. For reasons unbeknownst to the reader (until the very end), Deborah feels that she has to leave Lawrence and change her identity. She moves to Indiana and finds a job working for Emmet. As Annie, Deborah feels pretty safe but enrolls herself in self-defense classes and continues to fear her husband will find her.


    This is a very fast paced novel full of adventure, romance, and mystery. It keeps you on your toes wondering who might die (the over tells you someone will!) and how they might possibly breathe their last breath. I predicted who it might be but not the manner in which it would happen. I fell in love with several characters in this book. My only complaint is that there are several typos and grammatical errors throughout.


    I recommend this book to those who like a good mystery!


    You might want to know that there is strong language, mention of Mass (not real heavy on the religious issues), and intimate scenes.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review, which you have received here.

    View all my reviews

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    CFBA: A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman

    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    A Marriage Carol
     
    Moody Publishers (September 1, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


    CHRIS FABRY is a graduate of W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and Moody bible Institute's Advanced Studies Program. Chris can be heard daily on Love Worth Finding, featuring the teaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. He received the 2008 "Talk Personality of the Year" Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. He has published more than 60 books since 1995, many of them fiction for younger readers. Chris collaborated with Jerry B. Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye on the children's series Left Behind: The Kids. His two novels for adults, Dogwood and June Bug, are published by Tyndale House Publishers. Chris is married to his wife Andrea and they have five daughters and four sons.






    GARY CHAPMAN is the author of the bestselling Five Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio program airs on more than 400 stations.


    ABOUT THE BOOK


    On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm.   This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they’re traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer’s office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Paul is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.


    The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs—and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

    If you would like to read the first chapter excerpt of A Marriage Carol, go HERE.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Guest Post: Thanks for the Bird

    Thanks for the bird!

    About ten years ago I read the book, You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar, by David H. Sandler.  In the first 15 chapters, the author is teaching the reader his seven step selling system.  Chapter 16, ‘Getting the Angle in Success,’ is where he talks about a concept called the Birdcage Challenge.  In this chapter, he challenges the reader to buy a birdcage, put it in their kitchen, and see how much time passes before someone buys them a bird.

    The birdcage is a metaphor for our goals.  Setting it in the kitchen symbolizes telling others our goals.  Someone buying us a bird reflects our friends and family wanting to help us achieve our goals.  This story encourages us to speak our goals to our network of family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  It is my experience that while there are always people who can’t wait to tell you something is unachievable; there are many others standing in line to help you get there.  (If you find the opposite is true—you may be hanging around the wrong people!)

    Over a year ago, I metaphorically brought my birdcage into the kitchen.  I discovered I had a burning desire to finish writing a fiction novel I had started, and wanted to have it published.  If this goal had surfaced years ago, I wouldn’t have told anyone.  Frankly, I used to be afraid if I failed, and all these people knew about it, I would look like a loser!  I shed this belief when my very wise mentor once told me (or maybe he told me repeatedly until it sunk in), “If you never fail, you aren’t trying hard enough!”  He pushed me often to stretch out of the safety of my comfort zone.

    When I realized how committed I was to being a published author, I shared this goal with my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  Over the past year, the outpouring of support from my personal network of ‘bird buyers’ has been tremendous!  Initially this was in the form of accountability.  I hardly had a conversation with family or friends without the question surfacing, “have you finished the book yet?”  The most relentless to keeping me accountable to finishing my novel were my kids and their teenage friends.  You want to be accountable to a goal…tell your kids and their friends!  What parent wants to face their children and their children’s friends admitting they gave up…decided not to finish/pursue their goal.  Not this parent. 

    An empty birdcage is a powerful thing! So during this wonderful Thanksgiving season, I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of those who saw my empty birdcage…and helped me fill it!  To my family, fans – who I call friends, friends of my children, friends of friends, and friends-of-friends-of-friends, and infinitum…thanks for the bird!  Now go get your own birdcage.

    THIS week only, you will be able to download Merciful Law (from my website, www.darbyrae.com) for only $.99!! That’s right – from Sunday, November 20th through Sunday, November 27th you can download any electronic version of Merciful Law for only $.99 using the special promotional code TURKEY99. Thank you to all of my fans! Happy Reading! & Happy Thanksgiving!!  -Darby Rae

    CFBA: Promise Brides by S. Dionne Moore

    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Promise Brides
     
    Barbour Books (November 1, 2011)
     
    by
     
    S. Dionne Moore
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





    S. Dionne Moore resides in South Central PA with her family. She is a weekly contributor to The Borrowed Book where she posts tips on the writing life, recipes, and teaches on various writing-related subjects. In addition to writing cozy mysteries, she pens historical romances that bring strong focus to locales within her region of Pennsylvania as a way of indulging her passion for history. In Fall of 2011 her first of three romances set in Wyoming, A Sheepherder's Song, will release.



    ABOUT THE BOOK





    Love is the same, no matter when, no matter where—it never comes without sacrifice. Theodore risks capture for Ellie, but will their hope for a future together be defeated? Can Marylu trust Chester, or is she asking for another broken heart? Will Alaina and Jack find common ground, or will flood waters destroy any possible future? Enjoy three romances from the historic state of Pennsylvania.

    If you would like to read the first chapter of Promise Brides, go HERE.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    New Review Coming Soon!!

    I just wanted to pop in really quick to let you know that I have a review coming up later this week. For those of you who love suspense, this is a book you'll want to read. The good news is, you can read it this week for a very reasonable price! Check it out...Darby Rae's debut book, Merciful Law, is available for $0.99 for a limited time at her website,  www.darbyrae.com

    I'm having a hard time putting this one down!

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    CFBA: Christmas in Sugarcreek by Shelley Shepard Gray

    I just received my copy yesterday so a review will follow soon! I'm looking forward to getting into the Christmas spirit with this book!



    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Christmas In Sugarcreek
     
    Avon Inspire (October 25, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Shelley Shepard Gray
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Since 2000, Shelley Sabga has sold over thirty novels to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Abingdon Press. She has been interviewed by NPR, and her books have been highlighted in numerous publications, including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.


    Under the name Shelley Shepard Gray, Shelley writes Amish romances for HarperCollins’ inspirational line, Avon Inspire. Her recent novel, The Protector, the final book in her “Families of Honor” series, hit the New York Times List, and her previous novel in the same series, The Survivor, appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Shelley has won the prestigious Holt Medallion for her books, Forgiven and Grace, and her novels have been chosen as Alternate Selections for the Doubleday/Literary Guild Book Club. Her first novel with Avon Inspire, Hidden, was an Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist.

    Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two children in college, and is an active member of her church. She serves on committees, volunteers in the church office, and currently leads a Bible study group, and she looks forward to the opportunity to continue to write novels that showcase her Christian ideals.

    When she’s not writing, Shelley often attends conferences and reader retreats in order to give workshops and publicize her work. She’s attended RWA’s national conference six times, the ACFW conference and Romantic Times Magazine’s annual conference as well as traveled to New Jersey, Birmingham, and Tennessee to attend local conferences.

    Check out Shelley's Facebook Fan page


    ABOUT THE BOOK




    Judith Graber has always been the obedient daughter. When her older brother Josh struggled with his love life, she offered wise counsel. When her younger brother Caleb flirted with the idea of leaving their order, she firmly told him he was wrong. Over the years, she’s watched her younger siblings, helped around the house, and worked in her family’s store during her spare time. Judith feels overworked, overlooked, and underappreciated this holiday season.

    But everything changes when her father hires Ben Knox.

    Ben Knox is the “bad boy” of Sugarcreek. Though he’s never considered jumping the fence, he’s certainly never tried to be anything close to dutiful. Two years ago he left Sugarcreek under a cloud of shame. Rumors circulated that his rumspringa had been filled with more than the usual harmless explorations.

    Now he’s back and working side by side with Judith.
    As the chaos of the holiday season threatens to sap all joy, sparks fly between Ben and Judith. But Judith steels herself to ignore her infatuation. The last thing she wants to be is just one more girl who falls under Ben’s spell. Ben, on the other hand, wants Judith to realize there’s more to him than his bad reputation. When he fled Sugarcreek, he was running from a disruptive home life. Now that he’s back, he wants a fresh beginning.
    Could this Christmas season bring love and a new life for the unlikeliest pair in Sugarcreek?

    If you would like to read the first chapter of Christmas In Sugarcreek, go HERE.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    CFBA: Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough




    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Long Trail Home
     
    Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (November 1, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Vickie McDonough
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  


    Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of twenty-four books and novellas. Her books have won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW’s BOTY/Carol Awards. She was voted Third Favorite Author in the Heartsong Presents Annual Readers Contest in 2009. Vickie is the author of the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series from Barbour Publishing. She has also authored two books in the Texas Trails: A Morgan Family series, in which she partners with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin to write a six-book series that spans fifty years of the Morgan family. Also, next year brings the release of a new series from Guidepost/Summerside: Pioneer Promises, set in 1870s Kansas.


    ABOUT THE BOOK


    The Long Trail Home is third in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896. Although a series, each book can be read on its own.When Riley Morgan returns home after fighting in the War Between the States, he is excited to see his parents and fiancee again. But he soon learns that his parents are dead and the woman he loved is married. He takes a job at the Wilcox School for the blind just to get by. He keeps his heart closed off but a pretty blind woman, Annie, threatens to steal it. When a greedy man tries to close the school, Riley and Annie band together to fight him and fall in love.But when Riley learns the truth about Annie, he packs and prepares to leave the school that has become his home and the woman who has thawed his heart. Will he change his mind and find the love he craves' Or will stubbornness deprive him from the woman he needs' Through painful circumstances, Riley and Annie learn that the loving and sovereign hand of God cannot be thwarted.


    If you would like to read the Prologue of Long Trail Home, go HERE.

    The book for this tour has not yet arrived. I'll post a review as soon as the book is received and I have had an opportunity to read it. 

    FIRST: Dragons of the Watch by Donita K. Paul BOOK I WANT!

    I REALLY want to read this book! I love Donita Paul's work! This is a wish list book! :) 

    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


    Today's Wild Card author is:


    and the book:

    WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Donita K. Paul is the author of The Dragons of Chiril, Dragons of the Valley, and the bestselling DragonKeeper Chronicles with more than a quarter of a million books in print. She enjoys cooking, beading, stamping, knitting, and her grandsons. Not necessarily in that order.


    Visit the author's website.


    SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

    Trapped in a forgotten city, bound by secrets, Ellie and Bealomondore must enlist the dragons of the watch to find freedom.

    Ellie knows exactly where she is going. She just wants to experience the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding, then settle into a simple life with a country husband.

    With too many choices, Bealomondore’s future is a tangle of possibilities. He is respected, well-known, and admired among the elite of Chiril, but Wulder demands he narrow his focus and follow his Creator, one step at a time.

    Both Ellie and Bealomondore’s plans are thwarted when they find themselves lost in an isolated city. As they discern the needs of a group of wild children and a very old man, clues began to surface and a bigger picture is revealed. With the help of the dragons of the watch, can the two tumanhofers find the way out—and perhaps discover their connection to something greater than themselves?

    Product Details:

    List Price: $13.99
    Paperback: 400 pages
    Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1400073413
    ISBN-13: 978-1400073412

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

    Invitation

         Ellie sat on her favorite boulder and looked Tak right in the eyes, telling him what was on her mind. “Gramps shouldn’t have taught me to read.”

         Tak responded as he usually did when he received Ellie’s confidences. He lowered his head, placing it on her knee for a rub.

         Ellie obliged her pet, stroking the white hair between his nubby horns with one hand while digging in the pocket of her homespun pinafore with the other. The mountain breeze toyed with the paper she withdrew. With difficulty, she smoothed the small poster out on her other knee. Dirty and wrinkled, it still made her heart beat a little faster.

                   

                                 Royal Wedding and Coronation

                                             Princess Tipper

                                                      and

                        Prince Jayrus, Dragonkeeper and Paladin

               

                                 All invited to the celebration

         “All invited. But Ellicinderpart Clarenbessipawl and her goat Tak can’t come. No chaperone, no travel. Ma and Da aren’t interested. And Gramps just laughs. ‘You’ll see. You’ll see,’ is all he says. He should take me himself.”

         Her younger brother’s shrill yell came from the knoll rising out of the river to the east. “Ellie! Ellie!”

         He stood on the hill, grinning like a bear with a paw in the honey hive and his face red from running. His stubby tumanhofer body bounced with excitement. He held his fists above his head and whirled them around in circles. Something had set him off.

         She stood and hollered back. “You be calling me by my proper name out in the open ’n’ at the top of your lungs, Gustustharinback. Ma will tan yer hide if she’s finding out you disgrace the family with such shabby care of our dignity.”

         When he saw her, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Yer wanted at home. Itta be good news.”

         That information didn’t impress her. Probably a delivery of the bolt of muslin ordered, which meant she’d be cutting and dyeing lengths for making new clothes. Not exciting news at all.

         “Can it wait?” She gestured behind her to the scattered goat herd. “I’ll have to gather Tak’s clan if I’m to come home now.”

         “I’ll come help you.” Gustus charged down the hill toward the footbridge across the river.

         Ellie stared at him for a moment with her mouth hanging open. The good news had nothing to do with cloth. Her brother would never voluntarily help bring in the goats for something as mundane as new clothes. He scurried down the path, slipping some on the loose rocks. But the precarious descent did not slow him a bit. Even in the narrower patches, where exposed roots of arranndon bushes tripped careless hikers, her sturdy brother skidded downward.

         Folding the royal celebration notice into a small square, Ellie stuffed it back in her pocket. She turned away from watching her brother’s progress and nudged the goat. “Come on, Tak. You find the nannies, and I’ll find the billies.”

         Ellie went one direction and Tak another. In a few minutes, she located the fifteen goats that formed the herd. Mostly young males, these animals preferred the rockier terrain. She suspected it had to do with their perpetual game of I’m-up-highest.

         She clicked her tongue and tapped her staff on a rock. Their heads rose as if all attached to the same string, though they didn’t come right away. Each one chewed what was in his mouth and casually left his place one by one. Taking a serene amble down the hillside, they passed her, heading toward the bridge and home.

         When the last one clomped by, Ellie rested her staff on her shoulder and followed. Tak already had the nannies plodding along the bank toward the footbridge. Gustustharinback trailed the nannies and carried the smallest of the baby goats in his arms.

         He shouted when he caught sight of his sister. “Hurry! Aunt and Uncle Blamenyellomont are at the house. I can’t tell you the surprise, and I’m gonna burst with keeping my tongue from waggin’ and you from knowin’.”

         She tapped her staff on the rock beneath her feet. The billies scampered before her, picking up her impatience and gratefully heading for home. Even after eating all day, they appreciated the handfuls of button grain they got from the farmer’s younger children.

         With the goat hoofs pounding on the wooden bridge, Ellie couldn’t hear or be heard. So she waited until she’d caught up with her brother on the other side.

         “What’s with all the falderal, Gustus?”

         She watched as he forced a glare onto his face, erasing the impudent grin he’d been wearing. “You are to call me by my proper name if I have to call you by yours.”

         “There’s a difference between shouting ‘Ellie’ and speaking ‘Gustus’ quietly.” She grabbed his arm. “Now tell me, or I’ll toss you into the river.”

         He pressed his lips together and gave her his most obstinate glower. The corners of his lips twitched, and she knew he wanted to laugh. She let go. She couldn’t really dunk him while he carried the small kid.

         “Why are our aunt and uncle here?”

         “Can’t tell you that either. But they’s only stopping, not staying. We’d better hurry.”

         Ellie lost Gustustharinback’s help as soon as they came in sight of the pens. He scuttled down the last hill and opened the gate but then ran through the goat barn, across the yard, and into the house.

         The herd followed the leader through the opening and took up different places to observe their world. Ellie and Gustus had put many odd things within the goat pen for the animals to climb on. Old wooden benches, barrels, a huge thick branch they had pulled with the donkey’s help, and crates littered the ground. The goats enjoyed scrambling up, over, and around the obstacles.

         Tak stayed at Ellie’s side as she put water in the trough and fastened the barn door securely open so the animals could come in if they wanted. He followed her out the door on the other side of the barn and waited patiently while she latched it shut.

         Entering the back door so she could wash before meeting their visitors, Ellie noticed that the kitchen showed signs of serving tea. Her mother must have prepared refreshments to carry into the common room. Through the pantry door, she could see empty spots on the shelves, which meant the good china pot and the blue glass dishes were being used.

         Warm water sat in a tub in the sink, and she used that to wash her face and hands. She pulled the scarf off her head, gathered her long, curly black locks into a ponytail and used the scarf to tie it in place. Wisps of hair immediately escaped and framed her tanned face. She washed her face again as if she could rid herself of the look of a farm girl. Hopefully Aunt Tiffenbeth wouldn’t make that tired old comment: “Your blue eyes would be more attractive if you scrubbed away some of that mud you use for face cream.”

         Voices from the family’s conversation drifted through the partially open door. Aunt Tiffenbeth quarreled with Ellie’s father.

         “Brother, you are wrong in this. Ellicinderpart is your eldest child and way past the age to be in the village looking for a husband.”

         “If there’s a man good enough for her, he can just come courting here.” Her father’s voice rumbled in the wood-paneled room, and Ellie did not even have to strain to hear him. She stepped closer to the door in order not to miss a single word her aunt spoke.

         “You are the most vexing man. That is not going to happen. It isn’t the way of things, and you know it. You’re selfish and your mind is rootbound.”

         Only his older sister could get away with talking like that to Ellie’s father. She probably ought to go in before the discussion escalated to verbal warfare. She finished wiping her hands and draped the towel over one of the kitchen chairs around the square table.

         “The girl is needed here.”

         “The young woman is your unpaid servant.”

    Excerpted from Dragons of the Watch by Donita K. Paul Copyright © 2011 by Donita K. Paul. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    CFBA: Shadowed in Silk by Christine Lindsay

    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Shadowed In Silk
     
    WhiteFire Publishing (September 1, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Christine Lindsay
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Christine Lindsay writes historical Christian inspirational novels with strong love stories. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects such as the themes in her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK which is set in India during a turbulent era. Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj was seeded from stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India. SHADOWED IN SILK was the Gold winner of the 2009 ACFW Genesis for Historical.


    The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home. It’s a special time in her life as she and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but also the noise and fun when the kids and grandkids come home. Like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.


    ABOUT THE BOOK


    She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

    After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women...but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

    Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

    Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.

    If you'd like to read the first chapter of Shadowed In Silk, go HERE.

    Watch the book video trailer:

    FIRST: A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


    Today's Wild Card author is:


    and the book:

    WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
    ***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy.***

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Award-winning writer Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.


    Visit the author's website.

    SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

    A house shrouded in time. A line of women with a heritage of loss. As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

    When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, it isn't long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

    With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.





    Product Details:

    List Price: $14.99
    Paperback: 336 pages
    Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0307458857
    ISBN-13: 978-0307458858

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

    Excerpt

         The bride stood in a circle of Virginia sunlight, her narrow heels clicking on Holly Oak’s patio stones as she greeted strangers in the receiving line. Her wedding dress was a simple A-line, strapless, with a gauzy skirt of white that breezed about her knees like lacy curtains at an open window. She had pulled her unveiled brunette curls into a loose arrangement dotted with tiny flowers that she’d kept alive on her flight from Phoenix. Her only jewelry was a white topaz pendant at her throat and the band of platinum on her left ring finger. Tall, slender, and tanned from the famed and relentless Arizona sun, hers was a girl-nextdoor look: pretty but not quite beautiful. Adelaide thought it odd that Marielle held no bouquet.

         From the parlor window Adelaide watched as her grandson-in-law, resplendent in a black tuxedo next to his bride, bent toward the guests and greeted them by name, saying, “This is Marielle.” An explanation seemed ready to spring from his lips each time he shook the hand of someone who had known Sara, her deceased granddaughter. His first wife. Carson stood inches from Marielle, touching her elbow every so often, perhaps to assure himself that after four years a widower he had indeed patently and finally moved on from grief.
       
    Smatterings of conversations wafted about on the May breeze and into the parlor as received guests strolled toward trays of sweet tea and champagne. Adelaide heard snippets from her place at the window. Hudson and Brette, her great-grandchildren, had moved away from the snaking line of gray suits and pastel dresses within minutes of the first guests’ arrival and were now studying the flower-festooned gift table under the window ledge, touching the bows, fingering the silvery white wrappings. Above the children, an old oak’s youngest branches shimmied to the tunes a string quartet produced from the gazebo beyond the receiving line.
       
    Adelaide raised a teacup to her lips and sipped the last of its contents, allowing the lemony warmth to linger at the back of her throat. She had spent the better part of the morning readying the garden for Carson and Marielle’s wedding reception, plucking spent geranium blossoms, ordering the catering staff about, and straightening the rented linen tablecloths. She needed to join the party now that it had begun. The Blue-Haired Old Ladies would be wondering where she was.
       
    Her friends had been the first to arrive, coming through the garden gate on the south side of the house at five minutes before the hour. She’d watched as Carson introduced them to Marielle, witnessed how they cocked their necks in blue-headed unison to sweetly scrutinize her grandson-in-law’s new wife, and heard their welcoming remarks through the open window.
       
    Deloris gushed about how lovely Marielle’s wedding dress was and what, pray tell, was the name of that divine purple flower she had in her hair?
       
    Pearl invited Marielle to her bridge club next Tuesday afternoon and asked her if she believed in ghosts.
       
    Maxine asked her how Carson and she had met—though Adelaide had told her weeks ago that Carson met Marielle on the Internet—and why on earth Arizona didn’t like daylight-saving time.
       
    Marielle had smiled, sweet and knowing—like the kindergarten teacher who finds the bluntness of five-year-olds endearing—and answered the many questions.

         Mojave asters. She didn’t know how to play bridge. She’d never encountered a ghost so she couldn’t really say but most likely not. She and Carson met online. There’s no need to save what one has an abundance of. Carson had cupped her elbow in his hand, and his thumb caressed the inside of her arm while she spoke.

         Adelaide swiftly set the cup down on the table by the window, whisking away the remembered tenderness of that same caress on Sara’s arm.

         Carson had every right to remarry.

         Sara had been dead for four years.

         She turned from the bridal tableau outside and inhaled deeply the gardenia-scented air in the parlor. Unbidden thoughts of her granddaughter sitting with her in that very room gently nudged her. Sara at six cutting out paper dolls. Memorizing multiplication tables at age eight. Sewing brass buttons onto gray wool coats at eleven. Sara reciting a poem for English Lit at sixteen, comparing college acceptance letters at eighteen, sharing a chance letter from her estranged mother at nineteen, showing Adelaide her engagement ring at twenty-four. Coming back home to Holly Oak with Carson when Hudson was born. Nursing Brette in that armchair by the fireplace. Leaning against the door frame and telling Adelaide that she was expecting her third child.

         Right there Sara had done those things while Adelaide sat at the long table in the center of the room, empty now but usually awash in yards of stiff Confederate gray, glistening gold braid, and tiny piles of brass buttons—the shining elements of officer reenactment uniforms before they see war.

         Adelaide ran her fingers along the table’s polished surface, the warm wood as old as the house itself. Carson had come to her just a few months ago while she sat at that table piecing together a sharpshooter’s forest green jacket. He had taken a chair across from her as Adelaide pinned a collar, and he’d said he needed to tell her something.

         He’d met someone.

         When she’d said nothing, he added, “It’s been four years, Adelaide.”

         “I know how long it’s been.” The pins made a tiny plucking sound as their pointed ends pricked the fabric.

         “She lives in Phoenix.”

         “You’ve never been to Phoenix.”

         “Mimi.” He said the name Sara had given her gently, as a father might. A tender reprimand. He waited until she looked up at him. “I don’t think Sara would want me to live the rest of my life alone. I really don’t. And I don’t think she would want Hudson and Brette not to have a mother.”

         “Those children have a mother.”

         “You know what I mean. They need to be mothered. I’m gone all day at work. I only have the weekends with them. And you won’t always be here. You’re a wonderful great-grandmother, but they need someone to mother them, Mimi.”

         She pulled the pin cushion closer to her and swallowed. “I know they do.”

         He leaned forward in his chair. “And I…I miss having someone to share my life with. I miss the companionship. I miss being in love. I miss having someone love me.”

         Adelaide smoothed the pieces of the collar. “So. You are in love?”

         He had taken a moment to answer. “Yes. I think I am.”

         Carson hadn’t brought anyone home to the house, and he hadn’t been on any dates. But he had lately spent many nights after the children were in bed in his study—the old drawing room—with the door closed. When she’d pass by, Adelaide would hear the low bass notes of his voice as he spoke softly into his phone. She knew that gentle sound. She had heard it before, years ago when Sara and Carson would sit in the study and talk about their day. His voice, deep and resonant. Hers, soft and melodic.

         “Are you going to marry her?”

         Carson had laughed. “Don’t you even want to know her name?”

         She had not cared at that moment about a name. The specter of being alone in Holly Oak shoved itself forward in her mind. If he remarried, he’d likely move out and take the children with him. “Are you taking the children? Are you leaving Holly Oak?”

         “Adelaide—”

         “Will you be leaving?”

         Several seconds of silence had hung suspended between them. Carson and Sara had moved into Holly Oak ten years earlier to care for Adelaide after heart surgery and had simply stayed. Ownership of Holly Oak had been Sara’s birthright and was now Hudson and Brette’s future inheritance. Carson stayed on after Sara died because, in her grief, Adelaide asked him to, and in his grief, Carson said yes.

         “Will you be leaving?” she asked again.

         “Would you want me to leave?” He sounded unsure.

         “You would stay?”

         Carson had sat back in his chair. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to take Hudson and Brette out of the only home they’ve known. They’ve already had to deal with more than any kid should.”

         “So you would marry this woman and bring her here. To this house.”

         Carson had hesitated only a moment. “Yes.”

         She knew without asking that they were not talking solely about the effects moving would have on a ten-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. They were talking about the strange biology of their grief. Sara had been taken from them both, and Holly Oak nurtured their common sorrow in the most kind and savage of ways. Happy memories were one way of keeping someone attached to a house and its people. Grief was the other. Surely Carson knew this. An inner nudging prompted her to consider asking him what his new bride would want.

         “What is her name?” she asked instead.

         And he answered, “Marielle…”
       
    Excerpted from A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner Copyright © 2011 by Susan Meissner. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Cheese and Fish...reviews

    Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your LifeWho Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I was required to read this book for a class that I am taking on teacher leadership. This book focuses on people at a high school reunion talking about the changes that have happened to them over the years. Some were more successful then others while happiness was also equated differently among the groups. One person tells a story of 4 characters and their challenges when their cheese is moved. How do you handle change?




    View all my reviews


    My rating: 4 of 5 stars
    This is another book I was required to read for a class on teacher leadership. I enjoyed this book much more than the previous one mentioned. This book focuses on the Pike Fish Market and how success can come in a variety of forms. Who wants to work in a smelly fish market?? A business exec looking to turn her department around used the philosophies and work ethics of the Pike Fish Market to turn her once labeled "toxic dump department" to the one that everyone wants to work for. There are four tactics that can be used in any situation. I highly recommend this book! 


    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    CFBA: Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett

    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Proof of Heaven
     
    William Morrow Paperbacks (November 1, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Mary Curran Hackett
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Mary Curran Hackett is the mother of two children, Brigid Claire and Colm Francis, and is married to Greg Hackett. She received an MA in English Literature from the University of Nebraska and a BA from the University Honors Program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Danbury, CT, she has traveled extensively and lived in various places throughout the U.S., but her favorite place in the world is home with her kids, husband, and her stacks of books. Like her character Colm Magee, Mary suffers various heart and brain ailments, but thanks in part to her brother, a physician, as well as her own doctors, she now has a pacemaker and a heart that beats on its own at least most of the time. This is her first novel.  


    ABOUT THE BOOK


    A mother’s faith, a child’s courage, a doctor’s dedication—a moving and thought-provoking tale of hope, love, and family.


    He might be young, but Colm already recognizes the truth: that he’s sick and not getting better. His mother, Cathleen, fiercely believes her faith will protect her ailing son, but Colm is not so sure. With a wisdom far beyond his years, Colm has come to terms with his probable fate, but he does have one special wish. He wants to meet his father who abandoned his beloved mother before Colm was born.
    But the quest to find the dying boy’s missing parent soon becomes a powerful journey of emotional discovery—a test of belief and an anxious search for proof of heaven.

    A magnificent debut novel, Mary Curran Hackett’s Proof of Heaven is a beautiful and unforgettable exploration of the power of love and the monumental questions of life, death, and the afterlife.

    If you would like to read the first chapter of Proof of Heaven, go HERE.


    Monday, November 7, 2011

    COTT: Tournament of Champions Week 4

    Week FOUR of COTT's Tournament of Champions saw four more authors compete and three more scavenger hunts played. 
    Here's a recap:
    Becky R went to Gail Pallotta's Blog on Monday to find out when Love Turns theTide's Cammie sees a different side of Vic. She got the correct answer and walks away with a $10 Starbucks card from Lisa Lickel. Pumpkin Latte, anyone?
    Megan D visited Marianne Evans' blog Tuesday to discover which of Marianne's books was a Christian Small Publisher's Book of the Year nominee. She won a $10 Amazon gift card from Amanda Stephan. Awesome!
    Theresa M stopped by Margaret Brownley's Blog on Wednesday and found the name of the Christmas anthology which Margaret contributed to. She also received a $10 Amazon gift card donated by Raquel Byrnes.
    Congrats ladies! Clash of the Titles has awarded over $125 worth of game prizes, thanks to its generous sponsors. Thanks, COTT--and another round of applause for all those game winners!
    This was the last week of reader games, but fear not! There's still a chance to win the Grand Prize! I'll share how in a minute. But first...


    Which Books Won the Clashes?
    Rosslyn Elliot's "Fairer Than Morning" and Delia Latham's "Destiny's Dream" clashed last Monday. "Fairer Than Morning" came out the winner.
    Shellie Neumeier's, Driven and Ann O'Barr's Singing in Babylon struck swords on Wednesday. Driven took the top spot. 
    These two victorious titles competed together on Friday to determine which would move on to the finals for a chance to win the Laurel Award. And that finalist is...
    Rosslyn Elliot's "Fairer Than Morning"
    She joins Marianne Evans' Hearts Crossing, Elaine Cooper's The Road To Deer Run, and Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride. We now have all four finalists vying for the ultimate COTT honor.
    Voting for the Big Winner is going on RIGHT NOW, and continues all week long. The big announcement will be made on November 12th. Public vote determines the outcome, and one reader will receive a Grand Prize of 15 books!!!  Want a shot at it? Enter by sharing links, putting up buttons and banners on your blog, becoming a follower of COTT (just make sure you tell them you've done so--they aren't psychics!) Details on the prize basket and full instructions on how to enter can be found here. To make it easy to grab n go, here are the banner and button codes.

    OR

    Clash of The Titles

    Here's the button code:




    Find me on twitter @MLMassaro, and Facebook.

    CFBA: Valley of Dreams by Lauraine Snelling


    This week, the
     
    Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
     
    is introducing
     
    Valley of Dreams
     
    Bethany House (November 1, 2011)
     
    by
     
    Lauraine Snelling
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Award-winning and best selling author Lauraine Snelling began living her dream to be a writer with her first published book for young adult readers, Tragedy on the Toutle, in 1982. She has since continued writing more horse books for young girls, adding historical and contemporary fiction and nonfiction for adults and young readers to her repertoire. All told, she has up to sixty books published.


    Shown in her contemporary romances and women’s fiction, a hallmark of Lauraine’s style is writing about real issues of forgiveness, loss, domestic violence, and cancer within a compelling story. Her work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish, and German, and she has won the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Land and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.

    As a most sought after speaker, Lauraine encourages others to find their gifts and live their lives with humor and joy. Her readers clamor for more books more often, and Lauraine would like to comply ... if only her paintbrushes and easel didn’t call quite so loudly.

    Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a cockatiel named Bidley, and a watchdog Basset named Winston. They love to travel, most especially in their forty-foot motor coach, which they affectionately deem “a work in progress”.  

    ABOUT THE BOOK


    Addy Lockwood's mother died when she was little, so Addy traveled with her father's Wild West Show and became an amazingly skillful trick rider, likened by some to the famous Annie Oakley. When her father died, she continued to work with the show, having nowhere else to go.


    Now Addy has discovered that "Uncle" Jason, the show's manager, has driven the show into debt, and he's absconded with what little money was left. Devastated, Addy decides to try to find the hidden valley where here father had dreamed of putting down roots. She has only one clue. She needs to find three huge stones that look like fingers raised in a giant hand. With Chief, a Sioux Indian who's been with the show for twenty years, and Micah, the head wrangler, she leaves both the show and a bundle of heartache behind and begins a wild and daring adventure.

    If you would like to read the first chapter of Valley of Dreams, go HERE.

    FIRST: Mercy Come Morning by Lisa T. Bergren

    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


    Today's Wild Card author is:


    and the book:

    WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (August 16, 2011)
    ***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy.***

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    LISA BERGREN is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty books, with more than two million copies sold. A former publishing executive, she now splits her time working as a freelance editor and writer while parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of the family’s next visit to Taos.

    Visit the author's website.

    SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

    There are no second chances. Or are there?

    Krista Mueller is in a good place. She’s got a successful career as a professor of history; she’s respected and well-liked; and she lives hundreds of miles from her hometown and the distant mother she could never please. It’s been more than a decade since Alzheimer’s disease first claimed Charlotte Mueller’s mind, but Krista has dutifully kept her mother in a first-class nursing home.

    Now Charlotte is dying of heart failure and, surprised by her own emotions, Krista rushes to Taos, New Mexico, to sit at her estranged mother’s side as she slips away. Battling feelings of loss, abandonment, and relief, Krista is also unsettled by her proximity to Dane McConnell, director of the nursing home—and, once upon a time, her first love. Dane’s kind and gentle spirit—and a surprising discovery about her mother—make Krista wonder if she can at last close the distance between her and her mother … and open the part of her heart she thought was lost forever.

    “A timeless tale, to be kept every day in the heart as a reminder
    that forgiveness is a gift to self.”
    —PATRICIA HICKMAN, author of The Pirate Queen


    Product Details:

    List Price: $13.99
    Paperback: 240 pages
    Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (August 16, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0307730107
    ISBN-13: 978-0307730107

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

    “She’s dying, Krista.”

    I took a long, slow breath. “She died a long time ago, Dane.”

    He paused, and I could picture him formulating his next words, something that would move me. Why was my relationship with my mother so important to him? I mean, other than the fact that she was a patient in his care. “There’s still time, Kristabelle.”

    I sighed. Dane knew that his old nickname for me always got to me. “For what? For long, deep conversations?” I winced at the harsh slice of sarcasm in my tone.

    “You never know,” he said quietly. “An aide found something you should see.”

    “What?”

    “Come. I’ll keep it here in my office until you arrive. Consider it a Christmas present.”

    “It’s December ninth.”

    “Okay, consider it an early present.”

    It was typical of him to hold out a mysterious hook like that. “I don’t know, Dane. The school term isn’t over yet. It’s a hard time to get someone to cover for me.” It wasn’t the whole truth. I had an assistant professor who could handle things on her own. And I could get back for finals. Maybe. Unless Dane wasn’t overstating the facts.

    “Krista. She’s dying. Her doctor tells me she has a few weeks, tops. Tell your department chair. He’ll let you go. This is the end.” I stared out my cottage window to the old pines that covered my yard in shadows. The end. The end had always seemed so far away. Too far away. In some ways I wanted an end to my relationship with my mother, the mother who had never loved me as I longed to be loved. When she started disappearing, with her went so many
    of my hopes for what could have been. The road to this place had been long and lonely. Except for Dane. He had always been there, had always waited. I owed it to him to show. “I’ll be there on Saturday.”

    “I’ll be here. Come and find me.”

    “Okay. I teach a Saturday morning class. I can get out of here after lunch and down there by five or six.”

    “I’ll make you dinner.”

    “Dane, I—”

    “Dinner. At seven.”

    I slowly let my mouth close and paused. I was in no mood to argue with him now. “I’ll meet you at Cimarron,” I said.
    “Great. It will be good to see you, Kristabelle.” I closed my eyes, imagining him in his office at Cimarron Care Center. Brushing his too-long hair out of his eyes as he looked through his own window.

    “It will be good to see you, too, Dane. Good-bye.”

    He hung up then without another word, and it left me feeling slightly bereft. I hung on to the telephone receiver as if I could catch one more word, one more breath, one more connection with the man who had stolen my heart at sixteen.

    Dane McConnell remained on my mind as I wrapped up things at the college, prepped my assistant, Alissa, to handle my history classes for the following week, and then drove the scenic route down to Taos from Colorado Springs, about a five-hour trip. My old Honda Prelude hugged the roads along the magnificent San Luis Valley. The valley’s shoulders were still covered in late spring snow, her belly carpeted in a rich, verdant green. It was here that in 1862 Maggie O’Neil single-handedly led a wagon train to settle a town in western Colorado, and nearby Cecilia Gaines went so
    crazy one winter they named a waterway in her honor—“Woman Hollering Creek.”

    I drove too fast but liked the way the speed made my scalp tingle when I rounded a corner and dipped, sending my stomach flying. Dane had never driven too fast. He was methodical in everything he did, quietly moving ever forward. He had done much in his years since grad school, establishing Cimarron and making it a national think tank for those involved in gerontology. After high school we had essentially ceased communication for years before Cimarron came about. Then when Mother finally got to the point in her descent into Alzheimer’s that she needed fulltime institutionalized care, I gave him a call. I hadn’t been able to find a facility that I was satisfied with for more than a year, when a college friend had shown me the magazine article on the opening of Cimarron and its patron saint, Dane McConnell.

    “Good looking and nice to old people,” she had moaned. “Why can’t I meet a guy like that?”

    “I know him,” I said, staring at the black-and-white photograph.

    “Get out.”

    “I do. Or did. We used to be…together.”

    “What happened?” she asked, her eyes dripping disbelief.

    “I’m not sure.”

    I still wasn’t sure. Things between us had simply faded over the years. But when I saw him again, it all seemed to come back. Or at least a part of what we had once had. There always seemed to be a submerged wall between us, something we couldn’t quite bridge or blast through. So we had simply gone swimming toward different shores.

    Mother’s care had brought us back together over the last five years. With the congestive heart failure that was taking her body, I supposed the link between us would finally be severed. I would retreat to Colorado, and he would remain in our beloved Taos, the place of our youth, of our beginnings, of our hearts. And any lingering dream of living happily ever after with Dane McConnell could be buried forever with my unhappy memories of Mother.

    I loosened my hands on the wheel, realizing that I was gripping

    it so hard my knuckles were white. I glanced in the rearview mirror, knowing that my reverie was distracting me from paying attention to the road. It was just that Dane was a hard man to get over. His unique ancestry had gifted him with the looks of a Scottish Highlander and the sultry, earthy ways of the Taos Indians. A curious, inspiring mix that left him with both a leader’s stance and a wise man’s knowing eyes. Grounded but visionary. A driving force, yet empathetic at the same time. His employees loved working for him. Women routinely fell in love with him.

    I didn’t know why I could never get my act together so we could finally fall in love and stay in love. He’d certainly done his part. For some reason I’d always sensed that Dane was waiting for me, of all people. Why messed-up, confused me? Yet there he was. I’d found my reluctance easy to blame on my mother. She didn’t love me as a mother should, yada-yada, but I’d had enough time with my counselor to know that there are reasons beyond her. Reasons that circle back to myself.

    I’d always felt as if I was chasing after parental love, but the longer I chased it, the further it receded from my reach. It left a hole in my heart that I was hard-pressed to fill. God had come close to doing the job. Close. But there was still something there, another blockade I had yet to blast away. I would probably be working on my “issues” my whole life. But as my friend Michaela says, “Everyone’s got issues.” Supposedly I need to embrace them. I just want them to go away.

    “Yeah,” I muttered. Dane McConnell was better off without me. Who needed a woman still foundering in her past?

    I had to focus on Mother. If this was indeed the end, I needed to wrap things up with her. Find closure. Some measure of peace. Even if she couldn’t say the words I longed to hear.

    I love you, Krista.

    Why was it that she had never been able to force those four words from her lips?


    Excerpted from Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Tawn Bergren. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.