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

My review of the book:
This was my first Mary Pierce book I've read. Mary is very humorous and charmingly witty. She can be silly as well as serious. She knows how to take the every day things and make them funny as well as get her God given point across. She compares Mrs. Proverbs 31 to today's Modern Mrs. Proverbs 2031. I think she is related to Dr. Seuss (see P. 50 in book). She in a humorous way helps us to see that it is God that calls the shots and not we ourselves. However, there is only one thing we do control in our life and that is our "atti-toot" as she calls it. I think her theme songs must be Day by Day and Moment by Moment. Each chapter has Points to Ponder on at the end. Not to put any more stress in your life but if you are stressed this is an excellent read for you. You will find Mary's humor to be the medicine that you need. They say laughter is best medicine so this book is just what the doctor ordered. By the way, did I mention that Mary is very funny just in case I forgot to tell you go ahead read the first chapter and see for yourself. And be careful not to get to twisted up in the game of life while you're reading because its all about removing the stress from your life and giving God the controls.

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?




books

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Author interview: Sara Dubose

Author interview with Sara Dubose:


Sara DuBose is a motivational speaker and author of three other novels: Where Hearts Live, Where Love Grows, and Where Memories Linger. Sara is also author of Conquering Anxiety, published by the Presbyterian Church in America. She currently travels as a speaker for seminars, festivals, civic clubs, schools and churches. Sara and her husband live in Montgomery, Alabama. She is the mother of two daughters.


Everyone seems to be affected by today's tenuous economic environment. From housing to jobs, it seems there's always bad news on the 5 o'clock news. How can you 'live expectantly' in these uncertain times?
Sometimes our children show us how to live expectantly. Years ago I lifted my sick three-year-old from her bed and plopped us both in the rocking chair. Cherie felt hot and clammy. I was hot with fatigue and anxiety, having nursed sick people for over a month. I said, “Honey, I’m so sorry you are not feeling good.”

Sensing my frustration, Cherie pushed the hair back from my eyes and replied, “Dats all right, mama. We pray about it, den you won’t haf to worry.”

Can three or four-year-old children show us the way home? They can when our home is with the heart of God who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). So, whether it’s personal, financial, or even a global crisis, the Christian won’t find rest in another news report of the latest terrorist attack, freeway accident, or stock market slide. No, lasting peace is only found in Christ who lifts us from our sick bed of worry, pushes the hair back from our eyes, and rocks us for awhile.

Worry seems to be the opposite of 'living expectantly,' but isn't some worry necessary for day-to-day life?

Yes, some anxiety or tension is warranted. We want to be alert when we pull into a six-lane highway at rush hour, take a test, or interview for a job. Above all, we want to be anxious to please God. As we begin to recognize and appreciate a holy, sovereign, just and merciful God we begin to lose our fear and anxiety over other people, our needs, adversities, or any uncertainties of life. The closer we draw to the Lord the further we withdraw from worry and fear.

In A Promise for Tomorrow, Flea learns a lot about God's promises to His children. What can we derive from His promises for tomorrow?
Flea observes, and later interacts, with a neighbor who has become a victim of her circumstances. By applying what she has learned from her father and through her own spiritual growth she is able to offer a compassionate reprimand. Flea also learns the truth of Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” As the story progresses, Flea begins to understand a basic principle. Life is hard, but it can still be lived with hope.

I've heard it said that faith is the opposite of fear, but many times Christians feel afraid even though they have faith that God will deliver them from the situation at hand. How do you balance faith and fear?

Yes, Christians are sometimes afraid just as Christ’s disciples were fearful during a storm (Luke 8: 22-25). In fact, those guys panicked as the squall continued and the boat began to sink. After bailing the water with little results, they called to their sleeping Savior. Three words from Jesus and the winds and waves obeyed.

"Quiet! Be still!” Then came the questions. “Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?”

I think we should take note of these questions. Jesus didn’t say, “You have no faith,” but he did tell them to exercise it. As you and I apply our faith, fear must leave because faith and fear don’t belong in the same mind. Alarm, fear, and worry should never rule our lives, not when Jesus is in the boat with us.

Visit her at SaraDubose.com

Interview provided by Glass Road Public Relations.


books

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Author interview: Christine Lynxwiler


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 dogslive in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in their home state of Arkansas.

In Along Came A Cowboy, the lead character struggles with forgiving herself for a past sin that has had a major impact on her life. Why do you think it is easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves or even to accept forgiveness.

I don’t know the answer to that, but I have a few ideas. First, I think we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others. Or we might feel, like Rachel did, that if we beat ourselves up enough about the past, then we’ll feel worthy of forgiveness. Also, it’s much easier to give than it is to receive. Same goes with forgiveness. Maybe because our pride isn’t battered by forgiving someone, but being forgiven implies owning up to sin and recognizing that we can’t fix our mistake on our own.

What would your advice be to someone who is struggling to come to terms with a past indiscretion?

Obviously, if you’re a Christian, I’d advise giving the past to God and once you’ve repented and asked His forgiveness, forgive yourself, forget it and move on. But that’s a little simplistic for most of us. I think many of us tend to do what Rachel does in Along Came a Cowboy and magnify our own sins. What seems like an unfortunate little stumble on someone else’s path can appear to be a plunge to certain death on our own life’s road. So consider how you’d feel about a friend or loved one if they’d done exactly what you did. If the answer is, “I’d forgive them” then forgive yourself. You deserve no less kindness and mercy from yourself than anyone else does. If that doesn’t work for you and you have children, ask yourself how you would feel if your child did this thing. Would you still love them? If they turned from this sin, would you forgive them? If the answer is yes, then your Heavenly Father still loves you and forgives you too, so it’s time to let it go and forgive yourself. If the answer is no, then maybe your current sin is an inability to forgive others and that’s a whole ‘nother problem.

When you’re writing, what do you use as your inspiration?

Inspiration and ideas come from everywhere. But as I said in an interview recently, I’m an Arkansas country girl, born and raised on a farm, and currently living in the most beautiful small town (in my opinion anyway) in the Ozarks. So these are the places and people that inspire me to write. My books are almost all set in small town Arkansas. My characters are rarely ever patterned after one specific person. Instead each one is a conglomeration of people I meet and interact with every day. I get inspired when I ask “What if?” That’s the neverending question and asking it usually will bring more stories than one person can write in a lifetime.

What do you enjoy most about writing Christian fiction?

One thing that I used to complain about that I’ve now come to enjoy is the fact that all my books have a common theme—God is in control. Sometimes it’s the main theme, sometimes it’s just an underlying thread. Each story line is very different from the last one, but the theme is always there. As this theme emerges in a new story, it brings me joy and sometimes even laughter because I know that this is a lesson God is patiently teaching me. I told someone recently that around book seven I began to look for a new theme. “I’m going to get boring,” I wailed. But apparently, even now on book fourteen, I haven’t quite mastered this “God is in control” concept, because inevitably by the end of the book, my character is struggling to come to terms with the fact that she is not in the driver’s seat of her own life. Now when I start a story, I look forward to seeing how this particular theme is going to show up.

On a more serious note, I enjoy knowing that the stories God allows me to write not only entertain, (which is why I wanted to be a writer) but that they also touch readers’ lives in a deeper way than I could ever imagine or take credit for. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

As an award-winning Christian romance writer, do you have any advice for novice or aspiring writers?

Never give up. And once you’ve decided that you’re not quitting, join American Christian Fiction Writers. The annual fee of $50 will be the best money you ever spend on your writing career. And don’t just pay the dues and not get your money’s worth. Join a critique group. Get to know other writers. Dedicate yourself to learning the craft. And never quit learning. Being published isn’t the end of the journey. It’s only one step along the way to being the best writer you can possibly be. Settle in for a long, bumpy, exhilarating ride!

Visit her at http://www.christinelynxwiler.com/
Interview provided by Glass Roads Public Relations.

Read first chapter here.


books

Calico Canyon by MARY CONNEALY


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Calico Canyon

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2008)

by

Mary Connealy



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Mary has also written Petticoat Ranch, Golden Days, and her latest, Alaska Brides that will debut in August.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

Running from her Abusive foster-father, a man intent on revenge, the prim and perfectly proper Grace Calhoun takes on the job of schoolmarm in Mosqueros, Texas.

As if being a wanted woman isn't bad enough, Grace has her hands full with the five rowdy and rambunctious Reeves boys─tough Texan tormenters who seem intent on making her life miserable. When, in an attempt to escape from the clutches of her pursuer, Grace is forced to marry widower Daniel Reeves, father of the miniature monsters, she thinks things couldn't get any worse. Or could they?

Daniel Reeves, happy in his all-male world, is doing the best he can, raising his five boys─rascals, each and every one. Since his wife's death in childbirth, Daniel has been determined never to risk marriage again.

When God throws Grace and Danielt together─two people who couldn't detest each other more─the trouble is only beginning.

Will this hapless pair find the courage to face life together in the isolated Calico Canyon? Or are their differences too broad a chasm to bridge?

If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE


books

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

Read author interview here.



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.





books

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione by Chuck Black


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione

(Multnomah Books - June 17, 2008)

by

Chuck Black


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chuck Black first wrote Kingdom’s Edge to inspire his children to read the Bible with renewed zeal. This captivating expanded parable led him to write the Old Testament allegories, Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope. Chuck added three more titles to the series, Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign which were released in May of 2007.

Chuck is a former F-16 fighter pilot and currently works as an engineer for a firm designing plastic consumer products. He has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and served eight years in the United States Air Force. Chuck and his wife Andrea have six children and live in North Dakota.

It is Chuck’s desire to serve the Lord through his work and to inspire people of all ages to study the scriptures in order to discover the hope and love of a truly majestic King and His Son.


ABOUT THE BOOK

A dangerous new order threatens the mission of the Knights of Arrethtrae. Only loyalty to the King can bring victory!

As the Knights of the Prince await His triumphant return, they are steadfast in their mission to take His story into the kingdom and recruit as many as are willing. But when a new and dangerous threat is revealed, their mission is jeopardized.

Sir Kendrick and his young charge, the impetuous Sir Duncan, are sent on a mission to discover the identity and origin of a secretive new order known as the Conquistero Knights. They travel to the city of Bel Lione where Lord Ra has been enticing young people in the kingdom to join his festivals, after which many choose not to return home. Their families keep quiet for fear of repercussion.

When Sir Duncan disappears while trying to discover the truth of Lord Ra’s castle, Sir Kendrick attempts to find and enlist the help of a mysterious warrior. Time is short for he must save Duncan and call upon the knights of Chessington to join in the battle against the evil Lord Ra.

Journey to Arrethtrae, where these knights of noble heart live and die in loyal service to the King and the Prince. These knights are mighty, for they serve a mighty King. They are...the Knights of Arrethtrae!

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE


books

Monday, June 23, 2008

sample download

Heart of Wisdom has posted a sample of the book He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen
You can also download the first draft of the book and read it. Remember it is just the draft so may possibly be mistakes. But then maybe again you'll like it so much you'll want to buy a copy for yourself.


books

Sydney Clair’s Season of Change by Pam Davis with my review



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:



Sydney Clair’s Season of Change


Authentic (March 1, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Pam Davis is an author and motivational speaker who views her charge as bringing the timeworn truths of Scripture to life. Pams candid teaching style not only enlightens but also entertains, leaving her audiences with a refreshed desire for the living Word of God. She lives with her husband, Steven, and three children in Fort Worth, Texas.

Visit her at her website.

Product Details:

Reading level: Ages 4-8
List Price: $7.99
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Authentic (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068500
ISBN-13: 978-1934068502

My Review:
This was a fun book to read. I read it aloud to my daughter. It didn't take us long. In this story your child well learn about equal rights of blacks and how they were treated in the 60's. Sydney Clair not only goes through changes but so does her friends and family and the whole USA for that matter as equal rights was a great issue that had to be overcome. Peer pressure was a great issue that Sydney Clair had to overcome also. With God's help we can overcome any obstacle that comes in our life. Oh, yes and did I mention that in the back of this book there is a step into the past section where there are pictures and a brief history of the time period. Kind of like a scrapbook type idea. I liked the fact that Davis used the KJV of the Bible when scriptures were used. Good job Pam Davis. Thumbs up for this book. Also there is a website to visit for girls to do girly things on. It is very much along the line of the American Girl history books. Go ahead and read the first chapter and see for yourself.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

It’s going to be a bad day, Sydney Clair thought to herself. She snuggled deeper under the covers. Maybe if she stayed in bed all day, nothing would change. Her sister wouldn’t leave. She’d stay right here with the rest of the family, the way things had always been.

But she could already hear Penny moving about the room they shared, packing last-minute items and singing to herself. Sydney Clair pulled the pillow over her head.

It sounded like she was taking everything.

“Not the dancing clowns!” Sydney Clair removed the pillow when she heard the music box.

Penny smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m not taking the dancing clowns.”

Sydney Clair thought her sister was the prettiest girl ever. She blinked back tears, but Penny still saw them.

“I’m only a twenty-minute bus ride away, Clair-Bear. You can come visit anytime.”

Clair-Bear. It was a nickname her sister had given her when she was just a baby. She’d loved it when she was little.

Sydney wasn’t a very common name amongst her friends’ Susies, Vickys, and Lucys. Mother had named her Sydney in honor of her grandfather who passed away shortly before Sydney Clair was born. Now Sydney Clair appreciated the name more—and liked the uniqueness of it—but “Clair-Bear” still had a special place in her heart. Though, with Penny leaving, who would call her that now? And who would braid her hair for school? Who could she talk to about what was happening in her favorite book series? Who would walk down to the Dairy Queen with her for Dilly Bars?

Who would be her sister?




The family’s Plymouth station wagon meandered its way onto the University of Texas campus. Sydney Clair could tell Penny was practically bursting with excitement. She stared out the window, pointing to every statue and building on campus. “That’s Hogg Memorial Auditorium. That’s Austin Tower. You can see the whole campus from the top of it.”

Sydney Clair didn’t even pretend to be interested. But her dad slowed down the car and stretched to see the Tower. “Can you read the inscription?” he asked.

“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” quoted Penny. “Isn’t that a Bible verse?”

Mother nodded. “John 8:32, I believe.”

“Ding, ding, ding,” Mr. Wilcox chimed. “Your mother wins the prize.”

“And what might that prize be?” Mother asked teasingly.

“Uh . . . I’ll make dinner tonight,” Mr. Wilcox said.

“That means we’re having peanut butter and jelly,” Sydney Clair interjected from the back seat.

“Or corn chips and soda pop,” said her mother, laughing.

Mr. Wilcox pretended to pout. “You have no confidence at all in my cooking abilities.”

“I’m just remembering when you made me that birthday cake while we were dating.”

“Uh, oh. Don’t bring that up . . . ” Mr. Wilcox said.

“What was wrong with it, Mother?” Penny asked.

Mother turned her head to look at the girls. “He decided to frost it before he put it in the oven.” She began to laugh. “When he took it out, the whole top was charred black.”

“I didn’t know you were supposed to bake the cake first and then decorate it,” Dad said with a grin on his face. “And, bless her heart, your mother ate it anyway.”

“What you lacked in culinary skills, you more than made up for in charm,” Mother told him.

“I’m voting that Mother keeps her job of doing the cooking,” said Sydney Clair.

Sydney Clair tried to imagine her mother and dad before they were married. She knew they must have laughed a lot—because even now they were always joking about something.

Her dad pulled into a parking spot and shut off the engine in front of Penny’s dormitory.

“Here we are,” said Mr. Wilcox. “Bradshaw Hall.”

“Isn’t it beautiful?” said Penny.

“It’s very stately,” Mrs. Wilcox agreed, opening her car door.

All Sydney Clair saw was a boring brick building. She stepped out into the hot, dusty Austin summer, already feeling the start of sweat on her temples. Not only was her sister abandoning her to go to college, but she’d have to spend the next few hours carrying boxes up and down stairs.

“What’s going on over there?” Mrs. Wilcox asked. Sydney Clair looked in the direction she was pointing toward and saw a swarm of college students marching around in a circle waving signs. Some seemed to have relinquished themselves to the heat and sat lounging in small circles on the grass.

“They’re protesting bleached toilet paper,” said Penny. “Leah told me all about it. Companies whiten toilet paper with chemicals that can ruin our environment. It needs to be stopped.”

Leah was Penny’s best friend and an expert in everything.

“We should get started,” Mr. Wilcox said. He lifted a large box out of the back of the station wagon.

Sydney Clair kept watching the protesters. A young man, whose hair hung down to his waist and wore a colorful headband, seemed to be in charge. He shouted from the steps of a building, waving his sign high in the air. Like the others, he wore frayed blue jeans, and his feet were bare. “The land has taken good care of us—we need to take good care of it!”

The other protesters shouted back in agreement. “Right on, man!” “That’s right!” “Protect our planet!”

Sydney Clair’s dad broke into her thoughts. “If I’d have worn my hair like that, your grandmother would’ve never let me out of the house.”




Sydney Clair lost count of the number of times she climbed the three flights of stairs to Penny’s new room.

She still didn’t understand why Penny was so excited about college. The room they shared at home was twice the size of this one. She felt her eyes moisten thinking about sleeping in the room all by herself.

As Sydney Clair reached the third floor for the umpteenth time, Penny’s squealing voice caught her attention. “It’s so great to finally meet you!”

Sydney Clair turned into Penny’s dorm room and plopped down the avocado green beanbag she’d been carrying.
A red-haired girl. who wore a peasant blouse and a denim skirt, sat cross-legged on the bed next to her sister.

“Sydney Clair, this is Moonbeam,” Penny said. “My roommate.”

Sydney Clair quickly shoved aside the thought that she used to be Penny’s roommate. “Hi,” she mustered. She wondered what Moonbeam’s parents had named her brothers and sisters. Star? Planet? Galaxy? Were they astronomers?

“Peace,” Moonbeam said, holding up two fingers in a V-shape.

“What are your sisters and brothers named?” asked Sydney Clair.

“What kind of question is that?” Penny said.

“It’s cool,” said Moonbeam. “I have two brothers, named Jack and Harry.”

“Those names are pretty normal,” said Sydney Clair. “Why isn’t yours?”

Penny glared at her. “Sydney Clair!” she scolded.

“No sweat. Little Daisy here is curious,” said Moonbeam. “My parents named me Shirley. But I chose Moonbeam. It seemed to fit my personality better—y’know, who I really am. I shine in the midst of dark ideas.”

Penny nodded in agreement, but Sydney Clair thought it was just plain weird. Why was Moonbeam calling her Daisy? She liked the names Shirley and Sydney Clair better but thought it best not to say.

“You have to listen to this record,” Moonbeam was saying. “Have you heard of Jefferson Airplane?”

“No, but I really like the Beatles. And Peter, Paul, and Mary,” Penny said. Moonbeam nodded approvingly. “Their song ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ is far-out.”

Sydney Clair noticed a guitar case in the corner. “Do you play the guitar?”

“I’m learning,” said Moonbeam. “Maybe someday it’ll be the group Peter, Paul, and Moonbeam.”

Sydney Clair didn’t think so, but she kept her mouth shut.

Another girl burst into the room. “Guess what, Moonbeam! We have a colored girl on the floor.”

Moonbeam quickly introduced Sydney Clair and Penny to Beth. “What room is she in?”

“Two doors down.”

“Didn’t the University of Texas open up to colored students several years ago?” asked Penny.

“Sure,” said Beth. “But this is my third year here, and I’ve never lived on the same floor as one before.”

Sydney Clair wondered what was taking her parents so long. She didn’t really like college life. But she knew she felt bad for the colored girl living two doors down. She hadn’t been exposed to a lot of colored people in her life. There weren’t any Negro families in her neighborhood. Only a handful of colored kids went to her school and they pretty much stuck to themselves.

“Well, I don’t have a problem with it,” stated Moonbeam.

“I do. And my mother certainly will when she finds out. She’s from Alabama, and things are different there,” said Beth. She started talking about some town named Birmingham and how the town residents set buses on fire that Freedom Riders were riding.

Sydney Clair wondered who Freedom Riders were. The whole thing sounded scary.

A knocking sound came from the hallway.

“Come in,” called Moonbeam.

A petite colored girl swung open the door. She wore a white blouse and plaid skirt. “Sorry to bother you. Can you tell me how to get to the library?”

Moonbeam started giving directions, but Sydney Clair noticed that Beth turned away and stared out the window.




Outside her car window, Sydney Clair watched the pink sunset fade into the Texas plain. It had been a long day, and she was tired.

“I hear some larger companies are coming into town. There will be some good-paying jobs opening up,” Mother was telling Dad.

Mother often talked about “larger corporations” these days, but Dad never seemed as interested. “And all those good-paying jobs will require a suit and tie,” he said.

“I think you’d look very handsome in a tie,” Mrs. Wilcox said.

Sydney Clair was still thinking about the university they’d
just left. The whole place seemed crazy and loud and chaotic.
Even as they’d pulled out of the parking lot, girls wearing flower wreaths in their hair waved signs saying, “Bring our GIs home!” She remembered the young man with the long hair. Yep . . . college was a far cry from the white picket fences of their quiet neighborhood, where walking to the Piggly Wiggly for candy was enough for excitement.

“Don’t you like the name Shirley better than Moonbeam?” she asked her parents.

Mr. Wilcox chuckled as he drove. “College students have their own way of doing things.”

“Especially in this day and age,” said Mrs. Wilcox. “I hope Penny does okay there.”

“She’ll be fine.” Mr. Wilcox patted his wife’s hand. “We’ve raised her well.”

“Do you think she’ll change?” Sydney Clair wondered aloud.

“In some ways,” her dad said. “She’s growing up. She’ll be learning new things, meeting new people.”

“I mean really change. Will she still be our Penny?”

“She’ll always be our Penny,” her mother said.




Sydney Clair was still missing her sister as she and her mother washed the dishes that evening. The sounds of The Dick Van Dyke Show wafted in from the next room where her dad sat in his easy chair with the newspaper. Her mother had made Sydney Clair’s favorite dinner—roast beef with mashed potatoes—but it hadn’t cheered her up much. She kept thinking of Penny at college.

“There’s only three of everything,” she said. “Three plates, three forks.” She handed her mother a sudsy glass to rinse. “Three glasses.”

“I guess things change,” Mrs. Wilcox said. “They’ll always change. Someday you’ll go off to college and move away from home.”

“Maybe I’ll just move into the playhouse,” said Sydney Clair. Her dad had built her a new playhouse over the summer. It was better than any playhouse she’d ever seen, and her friends Vicky and Ann had agreed. It had shutters that opened and closed, a little kitchen with a sink that held water, and even electricity for the light that hung over the table. Mrs. Wilcox often brought cookies or snacks to Sydney Clair and her friends, who regularly hosted tea parties from the playhouse. Inside the playhouse or out on the lawn in front—it didn’t matter. Mrs. Wilcox would often say, “You need to eat more than just tea and crumpets,” which were usually Kool-Aid and corn chips. But with Sydney Clair’s imagination, they were never just tea and crumpets. They were exotic concoctions from far off lands. Sydney Clair cherished her playhouse. Because it never changed, she thought.

Her mother chuckled. “Someday you’ll even outgrow the playhouse.”

Sydney Clair couldn’t imagine that.

Mr. Wilcox walked into the kitchen, carrying the newspaper. “Did you see this article, dear?” He handed Mrs. Wilcox the newspaper, and they started talking about some race riots that had taken place in California.

“Do you know there’s a colored girl that lives on Penny’s floor?” Sydney Clair said.

Mrs. Wilcox nodded. “Yes, and I hope your sister will make sure she feels welcome.”

“Knowing Penny, she’ll do just that,” said Mr. Wilcox. “Can I help you finish the dishes?”

“As always, your timing is perfect,” said Mother. “We just finished.”

“And I missed it,” Mr. Wilcox feigned disappointment.

“Someday we’ll have to get one of those new automatic dishwashers they have out now. We’d be done doing dishes in no time,” said Sydney Clair.

“I thought you were my automatic dishwasher, Sydney Clair.” Her mother smiled.

“I think she might need a tune-up,” Dad said. “She’s slowing down a little.”

“Maybe she needs some chocolate cake to get her going again,” Mother suggested.

Sydney Clair’s spirits lifted a bit. “We have chocolate cake for dessert?”

“We do,” Mrs. Wilcox said, her eyes twinkling. “And because I love you so much, I baked the cake before I frosted it.”

“Wow, what an interesting idea,” said Sydney Clair.

“I can tell when I’m being made fun of,” Mr. Wilcox said. “But I’m still sticking around for chocolate cake.”




Sydney Clair chewed on the end of her pencil while she stared at her calendar. Bo, the family’s golden retriever, brushed past Sydney Clair’s bare legs and curled up on a rug in the middle of the floor. Every day, Sydney Clair would write either “good day” or “bad day” to describe how the day had gone. All day, she’d planned that this would be a “bad day.” She mindlessly scratched behind Bo’s ears.

Boy, I’m really going to miss Penny,” she said. Penny’s bare bed, now stripped of its pink sheets, made the room look so empty.

Bo looked up at her with big brown eyes, as if he understood Sydney Clair’s sadness.

“At least I still have you to keep me company,” Sydney Clair told him.

Bo answered by putting his head on his paws.

Sydney Clair penciled “bad day” on the calendar. But then she thought about joking around with her parents, having chocolate cake, and talking to her mom about going shopping for school. I guess it wasn’t all bad, she thought. Sydney Clair jotted “mostly” in front of “bad day.”

“What do you think, Bo?” she asked.

The dog perked up and seemed to smile back in agreement.



books

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.




books