Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I love Charles Dickens--Diving Into the Story World

by Jen Slattery

A few years ago someone mailed me a historical fiction about.... Well, I'm not sure what it was about because I never made it that far. I tried. Oh, my, did I try, but after page upon page of life-activities, my perseverance waned and I put the book aside. I learned the heroine wore her hair in ribbons, what she ate for breakfast, and numerous other details of her daily life. To the author, perhaps these events were significant. Maybe she had fond memories of getting her hair done and thought perhaps if she outlined these details, one movement at a time, she could invoke those same emotions in her reader. But sadly, her over-abundance of minute details, void of conflict, dulled my brain.

As I read over today's excerpts again--talking of spiritual warfare, castles, and jail sentences--I realized one of the things I long for in a story is the ability to visit a place other than my own. That doesn't mean I always gravitate toward time-traveling speculative fiction, but I don't want to relive the monotony of life either.

I love books that raise the stakes, introduce me to unique settings and unique characters, and allow my mind to drift from the day-to-day. One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. Upon first glance, I might conclude this is due to his "other-than" settings, but I believe it's more than that. His use of language creates images so vivid and emotive, he manages to turn a walk through the city into a unique experience. And yet, somehow he does this without losing the human element--the universal emotions we all share. So basically, he creates a world that is unique enough to grab my attention and propel me into the story, but he does it in such a way that I deeply connect with the characters.

This week's excerpts captured my attention with their unique settings and story-lines. The shuffle of monotony in a high school is intensified by the presence of evil. In excerpt B, I'm introduced to the magnificent Hearst Castle, and the world of antiquity. In both, I realize much more is at stake than castle restoration and chemistry class.

What about you? What are some things you look for in a story? Think back to a story you've particularly enjoyed. What was it about that novel that grabbed you? Is it a slightly quirky character or a castle shrouded by clouds and hidden behind a patch of trees?

(If you haven't already done so, read over both excerpts. And remember, there are numerous ways to be entered into our drawing for the book give-aways: leave a comment on any of the articles posted over the next week, fb share us, tweet us, or subscribe. Remember to shoot us an email letting us know you've shared, tweeted, or subscribed.)

To our blogging readers, if you'd like to join the COTT family as a blog alliance partner, shoot us an email at contactcott(at)gmail(dot)com. We'd love to tell you more.

Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, freelance writer and biblical studies major at Calvary Bible college. In 2009 she won first place in the HACWN writing contest in the book category, placed second in the 2010 Dixie Kane, fourth in the 2010 Golden Pen and third in the 2010 CWG Operation First Novel Contest. She has a short piece appearing in Bethany House's Love is a Flame (under a pen name), forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar's A Still and Quiet Soul, and writes for Reflections in Hindsight, Christ to the World, Samie Sisters, The Christian Pulse, and reviews for Novel Reviews. She's also written for Granola Bar Devotions, Afictionado, The Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Romantic Times Review, Bloom and the Breakthrough Intercessor. 

Contact Jennifer: slattery07(at)yahoo(dot)com
Jennifer's Blog, Facebook



Unbridled Hope ~ Book Review

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:

Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Loree Lough is a well-known, beloved Christian romance writer with nearly three million books in circulation. She's released 78 books, including one that's been optioned for a TV movie, 68 short stories, and over 2,500 articles. A tireless advocate of Christian fiction, she's recognized as a leader in the genre and spends time mentoring aspiring writers. She's also a sought-after speaker who encourages audiences with her comedic learned-the-hard-way lessons about writing and life. Loree and her husband Larry have four daughters and seven grandchildren. They split their time between Baltimore and their cabin in the Allegheny Mountains. An avid advocate for endangered species, Loree supports The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania and other worthy causes close to her heart including The Wounded Warriors Project and The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Callie Roberts' life is turned upside down when her parents, older brother, and fiancé are killed in a steamboat boiler explosion that leaves her younger brother deaf. Callie survives with a scar from cheek to chin that serves as a daily haunting reminder of the tragedy for which she's partly to blame. Hoping to put the past behind her, Callie moves to Eagle Pass, Texas, launches a successful business, and meets local rancher Micah Neville who is embroiled in a different kind of family drama. In an attempt to protect his cousin's honor, Micah returns from what he told others was a business trip to San Antonio, with a baby boy in tow. He handles the gossip just fine, especially when Callie volunteers to help -- and manages to capture his heart.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742271
ISBN-13: 978-1603742276

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

December 1887

On the Brazos River near Sweetwater, Texas

Raw, unrelenting wind whistled across the deck boards, scattering newspapers and rattling the cleats as the steamboat chugged toward its next major stop, Clear Fork. Callie cupped her elbows, wishing she’d thought to grab her shawl. She’d never liked weather like this, for it reminded her too much of the bitter Baltimore winter of ’85 that had nearly killed her mother and had prompted her father’s decision to move the family west. Ever since, Callie had begun every day with a prayer for her mother and ended by asking God to ease the ache of homesickness.

In time, the Lord had answered her first prayer, restoring her mother to robust health. The second He’d granted in the form of a young seminary graduate who’d been hired to entertain guests with the soothing sonatas of Beethoven and Bach. And, just as the sunshine dispels the nippy mists from the river, the music of Seth’s love had turned her longing for Maryland into a dim yet melodious memory.

Tonight, her beloved beau would give his final performance for the tycoons, high rollers, and politicians who gathered nightly in the grand salon. His final because, in twelve short hours, Callie’s father, a chaplain and owner of the Maybelline, would pronounce him and Callie man and wife.

Heart throbbing with hope and excitement, she hurried toward the jackstay, the secret meeting place where Seth had first confessed his love. Her fingers throbbed, too, from sewing fifty-two satin-covered buttons up the back of her full-skirted gown and from attaching a feathered headdress to her long, lacy veil. Callie smiled, knowing the discomfort would vanish the instant she saw Seth smiling at her from the makeshift altar where he would become her husband.

Sadly, the gown would not fit inside her valise. What a pity she wouldn’t be able to save her beautiful dress for the daughters she and Seth might have! She imagined a bright-eyed young woman with her papa’s dark eyes and her mama’s diminutive stature, walking down the center aisle toward her intended in the little church in Eagle Pass, Texas, where Seth’s dream of shepherding a flock of his own would come true, and he would eventually unite his own daughter with her soul mate.

Still, she took comfort in knowing that her hours of hard work had not been in vain. She said a little prayer for the senator’s wife, who’d agreed to pay a handsome sum for the gown and veil—and for Callie’s eternal silence. “Lord, help the poor woman keep secret the fact that her daughter will be married in a used—”

“Talking to yourself again?”

She stifled a tiny squeal. “Jonah Everett Roberts, you frightened me half to death!” How a boy of her brother’s height and weight managed to sneak up on her at least once a day, she’d never know. Raising one eyebrow, she rested a fist on her hip. “Say, what are you doing out here, anyway? Didn’t I hear Papa ask you to sweep out the saloon?”

He frowned. “I’m waiting for the green flash,” he said, taking a bite of an apple.

Not that again, she thought. “Well,” she said on a sigh, “if that’s the cause for the holdup, you’ll never get the job done, because the sun went down more than an hour ago.”

“Humpf. Leave it to little miss stick-in-the-mud to spoil the moment for a boy.”

“Boy, indeed. Papa says when he was sixteen, he worked as hard as any man on the family farm, and that his folks never had to remind him to do his chores.”

Jonah swallowed a mouthful of fruit. “Yeah, and he also says that if I’m patient, I’ll see the green flash, eventually.”

Callie couldn’t count the number of times she’d heard the same assurance. In fact, she’d heard so much about the elusive emerald flare, which was visible only under precise atmospheric conditions as the sun disappeared into the horizon, that she’d wished a time or two for the patience to believe in the phenomenon, herself.

But wishing wouldn’t get her any closer to the jackstay and her darling Seth. “Your tactic might work on Mama and Tim,” she said, giving his shoulder a playful shove, “but I see it for what it is: a ‘clever’ way to shirk your responsibility—”

A thunderous roar set the deck to quaking beneath their feet. Please, Lord, not the boilers! she thought as a second deafening blast threw her and Jonah to the floor. Instinct made her grab his collar and drag him under a heavy table, where she covered their heads with a tablecloth. Shards of glass and splinters of wood rained down as a third explosion rocked the steamer.

Choking smoke closed in around them as flecks of glowing ash floated down like fiery snowflakes. With its shallow keel and inch-thin hull, the Maybelline’s flimsy design assured swift river travel—and guaranteed that it would sink swiftly, too.

If that happened, it would be her fault.

If only she’d stoked the boilers like she was supposed to, instead of handing the job over to Tim! She’d seen the vacant “I don’t understand” stare in her older brother’s eyes enough times to recognize it for what it was, yet she’d ignored it to gain a few minutes more with Seth.

Callie scrambled forward with one objective: to make sure that Tim, her parents, and her beloved Seth had survived.

“Wait!” Jonah hollered.

“You’re safer right here,” she said, meeting his frightened eyes. “I know you’re scared, Jonah. I’m scared, too.” Using a corner of her apron, she dabbed at the blood dribbling from both of his ears. “But you need to stay here, before you’re hurt even worse.” She gave him a little shake. “If the steamer starts taking on water, I want you to make your way to the riverbank. Once you’re there, find the biggest tree and stay put. Do you understand?”

His confused expression mirrored the one that had long seemed frozen to Tim’s face. But their older brother had been slow from the day he was born, unlike Jonah, who could solve arithmetic problems without the aid of slate and chalk. She blamed Jonah’s expression on fear and scrambled to her feet. Why did both her brothers turn to her for comfort and support, when she was younger than both of them?

On the heels of a frustrated sigh, she scooted out from under the table. “Lord, watch over him,” she prayed as she raced along, darting between rivers of blue-orange fire that snaked and coiled across the deck and dodging the witch-finger flames that flared from each cabin window. When a fierce groan sounded from above, she crooked her elbow to protect her eyes and looked up. The breath caught in her throat when she saw the tallest of the three fat smokestacks teeter as it gave way to the gluttonous fire monster gnawing at its wooden moorings.

Callie barely gathered her wits in time to sidestep it. If only she’d thought to gather her skirts, too. The heel of her boot caught on a fold of muslin, slowing her escape by a mere fraction of a second. She was already falling when a grapefruit-sized lump of glowing coal slammed into her right temple.

“Sweet Jesus,” she prayed as dizziness overwhelmed her “Keep…them all…safe.”

For the second time in as many minutes, her prayer was interrupted, as she slipped into the dark unconscious.

Two years later~October 2, 1889

The Lazy N Ranch, Eagle Pass, Texas

The sweet-smelling envelope was addressed to “M. Neville.” At least, that’s what Micah had thought at first glance. But the message inside the envelope didn’t make a lick of sense. So, he studied the addressee a second time, and a third, before realizing that the fanciful M was, instead, a D. Guilt at reading his cousin’s mail was quickly overshadowed by concern at the nature of the message. Dan had already lived two lifetimes’ worth of misery in his twenty-eight years.

Micah shook his head and said a silent prayer for Dan, who’d shouldered a burden of self-blame ever since his twin sister had died tragically at the age of thirteen, even though nobody held him responsible. Guilt and remorse, along with the whiskey used to numb the emotional pain of his loss and the physical torment of a bum leg suffered in a stampede, had managed to turn the once shy, gentle boy into a man hell-bent on self-destruction and prone to angry brawls. About once a year, Dan had summoned the strength to shake his addiction, but, all too soon, self-loathing would lure him back to the bottle. Fourteen months into the latest stint of sobriety, Micah had begun to notice signs that made him fear things were about to take another ugly turn, but then, praise God, Levee O’Reilly had come to town as the new schoolteacher. She’d taught her students reading, writing, and arithmetic, all the while teaching Dan to value his own life.

The two had married, and their relationship seemed solid and strong. But now, something like this? Micah glared at the single sheet of scented ivory paper on which, with a few well-chosen words, the writer had implied a dozen sinister things, any one of which could start the dominos toppling in Dan’s life yet again.

Slumping onto the edge of his bed, Micah read the letter a fourth time. Maybe he’d underestimated his cousin’s ability to stand strong, even in the face of this woman’s spiteful threats. He had a lot more to live for now, though. Maybe this woman wanted to destroy him, once and for all.

Micah would not take that chance. For one thing, Dan had always been his favorite cousin—a statement in itself, since there were dozens in the Neville clan. For another, Dan had protected him more times than Micah could count. As a youngster, he’d been puny and timid and had spoken with a lisp, just the sort of stuff that invited the taunts of the bigger, older boys. But, without fail, Dan would always put a stop to it.

Eventually, Micah’s front teeth had grown together, eliminating the lisp, and his body had grown, too. At six feet three inches, and with two hundred and twenty pounds of raw muscle, Micah’s size alone would have discouraged any bully. But by the time the Neville men had embarked on the trail drive of ’86, Dan’s determination to defend Micah had become so ingrained that he hadn’t thought twice about maneuvering his horse between his cousin and a bevy of gun-blasting rustlers. Dan had laughed off the bullet in his shoulder in exactly the same way he’d laughed off every swollen knuckle, bloodied lip, and black eye endured to protect Micah. “You’ve done me a favor, cousin,” he’d said, gritting his teeth as Cookie dug out the slug, “because certain ladies like a man with scars!”

Had the author of this letter been one of those ladies?

Micah harrumphed. “A female, maybe, but I’d bet my horse she’s no lady.” Scooting closer to the night table, he turned up the lantern and leaned into the golden light to read those ominous closing lines yet again:

…at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, the fifteenth of October, I will be at the train station in San Antonio, Texas. If you choose not to meet me there, I shall have no alternative but to bring this very urgent matter to the attention of the authorities.

Most sincerely yours,

Pauline Eden Devereaux

“Urgent matter”? A dozen possible scenarios flashed in Micah’s brain, none of them good. Under ordinary circumstances, Dan wouldn’t squash a beetle under his boot, but there was nothing ordinary about the way his personality changed once a few pints of whiskey burned in his veins. If he was drinking when he ran into this woman….

Micah got to his feet and started pacing. He didn’t want to believe that Dan was guilty of any offense. The more likely story, he told himself, was that this Pauline character had gotten wind of how many acres made up the Lazy N Ranch and hoped to weasel a few hundred dollars in exchange for her silence about whatever matter she seemed to believe might interest the authorities. And, since the family never discussed their troubles beyond the closed door of Uncle Matthew’s office, she had no way of knowing how steeply their profits had dropped due to anthrax, weevils, droughts, and storms.

There was only one way to know for sure, and that was to take a trip to San Antonio to meet this femme flimflammer face-to-face. He didn’t know what excuse he’d cook up to put himself there, or how he’d squash her scam, but Micah knew this much: he intended to defend Dan for a change.



My thoughts:
This was a great book. I enjoyed the storyline and characters. When you first start reading you are surprised at the first development...and it just gets better. You have a woman who has experienced tragedy and is quite ready to never give her heart again. Then as she begins to think maybe she can  - the man she fancies has a child out of wedlock? Or so she thinks. :) Highly recommended!!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

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The Trigger - Book Review

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:

Living Impact (May 16, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Hon S. Hoh is a gifted teacher of the Word. He is a minister committed to the calling that God has placed on his life. He began studying the Book of Revelation in Bible college, and he is passionate about reaching people with the truth and love of Christ.

Hoh has been a pastor in Australia for over ten years and is gifted in preaching, teaching, and visionary leadership. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (Psychology), the Swinburne Institute of Technology, the Bible College of Victoria, and the Harvest Bible College (M.A. Ministry). Hoh worked in the field of social welfare prior to entering pastoral ministries.

Hoh is the author of Risen Lamb, Empowered Saints: The Book of Revelation Made Easy (Maryland: McDougal Publishing, 2002). His latest book, The Trigger: A Novel on the Revelation, is based closely on the theology expressed in his first book.
Hoh is the founder and executive director of Living Impact Inc, a non-denominational Christian ministry with an emphasis on global missions. He founded the ministry to help fulfil the Great Commission in reaching some of the poorest and most unevangelized peoples of the world. Living Impact started at the turn of the century, in 1999.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Do each of us play a role in the kingdom of God? Can the choices we make affect God’s timing of future events? Hon Hoh examines these questions while taking his readers on a riveting adventure in The Trigger: A Novel on the Revelation. Through twists and turns, readers will be led on a powerful journey.

The Trigger follows three individuals (a pastor, a spy, and a missionary) from three continents (the United States, China, and Australia) who find their lives merged in a single divine purpose: to win the last unreached people group on earth and usher in the Second Coming of Christ. They must succeed in order to release the trigger for the return of the Lamb as declared in Matthew 24:14.

In their way stands a legion of demonic principalities intent on destroying the plan. Against the backdrop of unprecedented persecution and the onslaught of cataclysmic events, they must remain steadfast in order to carry out the priority revealed to them by God. It is evident that no believer will escape the greatest tribulation in human history and that only the matchless return of the King can deliver mankind from evil’s reign.

The climactic battle between Good and Evil unfolds as Lucifer executes his definitive act of defiance: the global genocide of all Christians. With the sound of the trumpets reverberating throughout the heavens, the events that have been set in motion must now complete their course. Eternity and the fate of the earth are at stake, and there is no plan B.

Far more than just another End-Times novel and theologically distinct from the Left Behind series, Hoh will alter the way you see the world and prepare you for the future. This novel is based closely on Hoh’s theology expressed in his book Risen Lamb, Empowered Saints: The Book of Revelation Made Easy. Although the events described are entirely fictional, they are but one of many plausible scenarios in which the end could occur. Though these depictions may not arise for more than another hundred years, it is conceivable that they could begin to unfold within the next decade—or less.

Hoh has written a thought-provoking and exciting novel that looks at the events leading up to the Second Coming and challenges us all to follow the plans that Christ has for our lives.




Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Living Impact (May 16, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578071959
ISBN-13: 978-0578071954

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Josh felt exhilarated as he left the apartment of one of the five key leaders of the persecuted church in China. Preaching and teaching the scriptures was one of Josh’s greatest ministry gifts. A distinct and powerful anointing of the Spirit came upon him whenever he was engaged in the delivery of the Word of God. That was abundantly evident while he was speaking in the underground churches of Shanghai, China.
“Jai Jian—goodbye,” Josh blurted out awkwardly. They were about the only Chinese words he had managed to learn in the past three weeks.

“Tank you for being good blessing to our people,” said Tai, one of the leaders sending him off. “Soli we cannot go wit you to airport; it not safe for us to do that for long time now. Government eyes everywhere, you know.”
“I understand. God bless you, brothers.” Josh waved his final farewell as the yellow taxi drove slowly away.

Everything had gone remarkably smooth. Despite the heightened crackdown on underground churches in the past six months, he had not run into trouble with the Public Security Bureau. Around five hundred Han Chinese had made first-time decisions to follow Christ during the many evangelistic meetings in and around the Shanghai area. Josh’s teaching had been well received by congregations of all sizes, a few of which had as many as a thousand worshippers. The secret police had been well aware of those larger congregations for many years. According to the latest statistics, 48% of mainland Chinese professed to be Christian, but only 15% were registered with the government endorsed Three-Self Patriotic Church. The Communist Party was clearly worried.

The journey to Hongqiao Airport was relatively short; soon Josh was lining up to check in for his flight to Australia. He was looking forward to his stopover Down Under before traveling home. The queue was long, but Josh was relaxed, thankful that his Shanghai mission had gone so incredibly well. He had at least a dozen intriguing stories waiting to fascinate Beverly and Rebecca, the two most precious women in his life.

His moment of reverie was quickly interrupted by a loud squeal as a dark green van braked to a stop at the entrance of the airport. Within seconds, a group of uniformed police stormed in the double glass doors. Josh quickly counted—there were eight of them. He tried to convince himself that it was just a routine operation in communist China, especially with the ongoing international clampdown on terrorist suspects.

To his dismay, the officers were moving in his direction. As they approached the United Airlines counter, Josh instinctively looked away. Surely they can’t be searching for me. The commotion was drawing closer to where he stood. He could feel his heart begin to race.

Please, Lord, make them blind to my presence if it’s me they’re After.
He had barely completed his lightning prayer when he felt a firm tap on his shoulder.
“Are you Mr. McGuire?” One of the officers inquired.

“Why?”
“Show me passport.”
“Sure, but can you tell me what’s happening? I mean, is there a problem?” Josh handed the officer his American passport, trying to keep as calm as possible.
With barely a glance at the document, the officer announced, “Come wit us, Mr. McGuire.”
Grabbing his bags, Josh hoped they would ask him some questions at the airport, but they placed him in the police van instead and sped off, honking impatiently at the passersby.
“May I know where you’re taking me, please?”

“Headquarter.”
“The local police headquarters?”
“No. MSS.”
“Forgive my ignorance, sir, what is this MSS?”

“Ministry of State Security! No more questions.”

Josh’s heart immediately sank with that curt reply. The Ministry of State Security was the Chinese equivalent of the CIA, or worse, the Soviet KGB in the former USSR. Josh figured that he could be in serious trouble. What did they want from him? What if they were after the names of his contacts, or wanted him to divulge some incriminating evidence? What was he going to do? Josh slid his left hand slowly on top of his trouser pocket to make sure his cell was still there. Perhaps he should call the American Embassy, if they’ll even let him. At least he was assured of one

thing, folks at home were praying. Bev would be, no doubt about that. His staff, his elders, and his band of intercessors had also assured him of their daily prayers.
What’s your purpose for allowing this to happen, Lord? Strengthen me now that I may know and fulfill your will in this .Josh closed his eyes to focus on Jesus. It took a while for his heart to stop pounding. Gradually he began to sense the presence of God permeate his soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~
Michael was about to enter, then hesitated. The Twenty Four were in session, and he had no desire to interrupt. It was not that he was intimidated—the Twenty Four and the archangels had always gotten along perfectly well ever since the dawn of time, and angels have no human apprehensions—not archangels anyway. Like Michael, the twenty-four elders were spiritual beings of an exalted order, not humans, even though they were referred to as “elders” in that sacred scroll called the Apocalypse.

He knew the session they were having with the Lamb was of paramount importance. At the appropriate moment, Michael made an entrance into the throne room, kneeling before the King of Kings. He had always felt amazed before the presence of the Resurrected One. Since the ascension of Jesus over two thousand years ago, the splendor of the Lamb had never ceased to create a sense of awe and wonderment in him. The face of Jesus beamed with pure power, and His voice thundered mightier than Niagara Falls. The matchless Lamb of God was on the throne—the only one worthy to open the seven seals, slain in weakness yet risen with power. For centuries angels had striven to determine Yahweh’s plan of salvation, but they couldn’t—until the crucifixion and resurrection.

The Lamb stood to welcome Michael into the celestial council, and immediately the Twenty Four bowed in worship as Jesus rose to His feet. Michael could not get accustomed to that either.

The glorified Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, approached to make him feel welcome while he elders knelt in meek reverence to the Almighty. Then again, the Ascended One did put His hand on old Apostle John, saying, “Do not be afraid,” when the beloved disciple first received the vision of Revelation. John was trembling with dread as any man would.

“Forgive me for interrupting, my LORD,” Michael said. “The accuser has come to make his demands once again.”

“We know what he wants,” one of the Twenty Four said.

Michael nodded. “Yes, he wants all restraints to be removed so that he can begin his vengeful and wicked scheme.”

“Tell the evil one,” Jesus said, “that Gabriel will be out of his way only at the appointed time. If he maneuvers for more information, you may reveal a little extra at your own discretion.”

“Yes, my LORD.” Michael took a bow to the Lamb and the elders before exiting the throne room. As he was leaving the chamber, he heard one of the spiritual beings ask, “While we are on the matter, LORD, may I inquire if our favored servant is on schedule?”

“Most definitely,” the Lamb said. “It is progressing exactly as I have anticipated; he truly does have an obedient heart.”

Michael smiled, and sped to his destination in a brilliant beam of light.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~
The interrogation room was bright and clinical. The entire building looked new, or at least recently renovated. In the middle of the room was a chrome rectangular table with a red chair on each side. The walls were painted stark white, with no sign of a two way mirror on any of them. The guards confiscated Josh’s phone and ordered him to sit and wait for the interrogating officer. He looked at his wristwatch; it was 10:15 A.M.

An hour later, the door swung open. Two sagacious-looking agents entered swiftly, files in hand. The female officer sat down without a word, studying the files. The silence was disquieting and deafening, with the only sound an antiquated Mandarin clock on the wall.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, on it went.

“Mr. McGuire, what have you been doing in Shanghai?” the woman finally asked.
“I came as a tourist. This is my first time in China.” Josh was relieved to tell the truth. He was touring the underground house churches and some Three-Self congregations, and he had ticked the ‘tourist’ box on the disembarkation form on arrival.

“Have you been visiting illegal churches?”

“Why do you ask?” Josh tried to give nothing away. Maybe they are only fishing for information, he hoped.

“We know you’ve been preaching Christianity at some illegal gatherings.”
Josh swallowed hard. “Have you been following me? Why is it illegal to worship God?”
The man who was standing next to the female officer weighed in, “We don’t want to waste your time, Mr. McGuire, and believe me, you don’t want to waste ours. Whether you get out of here in a matter of hours, days, or weeks is up to you. Just answer the questions.”

For a moment Josh was glad he didn’t say months or years.

“Who are your contacts for the house churches? We want all their names!”
Josh was silent. He could not give them the names of the underground leaders. It would implicate them, and they could be imprisoned for years as a result. Those flourishing house churches could be closed down forever. Josh did not want to jeopardize the work of God, no matter what they might do to him personally. He decided to keep quiet.

“Names, Mr. McGuire!”
Josh stared hard at the files on the table in front of him.

“Your contacts, McGuire, or you will know the true meaning of PAIN,” the male officer hollered, pounding the table with his huge palm.

Josh clasped his hands tight beneath the table and raised his eyes to bravely meet the agent’s.
The man swung his fist in a rapid move, striking Josh with the back of his knuckles. The blow landed hard upon his right cheek. He fell off his chair on to the floor, and bubbles of blood instantly oozed from his nose.
A solid kick directed firmly at the abdomen followed.

Josh gritted his teeth to endure the agony. He had never been punched or kicked by a grown man in his life. He’d had fights with others when he was a young boy, but that was long ago and far different.

“I…demand…to see the U.S. ambassador,” Josh managed to say, groaning as he sat up on the floor. “You…have no right to strike me…. I’m a citizen of the United States.”

“Sure, you can tell that to the chief when you see him!”

The two agents stormed out the room, infuriated by Josh’s refusal to cooperate.
Did he say the chief? That was probably the last person Josh wanted to see; he could imagine a three-headed beast coming to torture him. With his handkerchief, Josh wiped the blood off his nose. Oh, Lord Jesus, help me to fear nothing and no one. Help me to be your faithful witness, and when your purpose for this is completed, get me out of here.


There was nothing Josh could do in the interrogation room but wait, pray, and not allow his imagination to run wild with anxiety. He remembered the strong anticipation he’d had for this trip and the thrill he’d felt at the airport before boarding. For a long time, particularly after the much-needed renovation, JFK has been his favorite airport. Actually, he had quite enjoyed visiting international airports around the world. This in spite of September Eleventh, which had taken place thirty-one years ago. Airports had not been quite the same since; for some, flying had permanently lost its appeal, with pleasure being replaced by apprehension and in some cases loathing because of those obtrusive security checks. The same couldn’t be said for Josh, though. Perhaps it still gave him

a sense of adventure—the restaurants and cafes, the bookstores, the movement of different people, planes taking off, each stirring within him a feeling of embarking toward something exciting.

It was often hard saying goodbye for the pastor and his wife, even if it was only for four weeks. One month could seem like a long time, and it sure did feel that way for Josh and Bev, particularly for this trip. He was travelling to a “closed” country on a mission, ministering and preaching at different underground churches. In the continuing era of international terrorism, he knew how difficult it would be for Bev not to worry about this particular mission of his. But her faith in God’s willingness and capacity to protect His own in any and every circumstance had rarely wavered over the years.

Josh remembered Rebecca, who’d been waiting ruefully at the front door, looking a little sad but eager to give Josh her warmest goodbye hug. “Go give them all you’ve got, Dad. I’ll be waging war on your behalf 24-7, both mom and I.” She’d given him the tightest bear squeeze a teenager can muster.

“I know you will, my panda bear. And you’ll look after mom for me, won’t you?”
He used to call her panda bear when she was little. He would never forget that cherished occasion when Rebecca was just four years old. She was playing in bed with both him and Bev when he cuddled her gently and asked, “Will you still be my panda bear when you grow up?”

“Yes, a BIG ONE!” was her spontaneous reply. They all broke into laughter. It was one of those precious moments enshrined forever in his memory. Now she was sixteen, and exceedingly pretty with her mesmerizing blue eyes.
Josh recalled giving Bev a long caress. “The Lord is with you as always, my dear, so there’s nothing to fear. Love you heaps.”

“We’ll be fine, hon, don’t worry about us. I’ll be praying hard for you. Hurry on now, Bill’s been out there a long time.”

Senator Bill Davies had been patiently waiting in his white limousine for Josh to say his good-byes. He usually insisted on chauffeuring his pastor to JFK, knowing that Bev didn’t fancy the 90-minute drive.

“Love ’em lots, don’t you? Gonna miss them, I bet?” the Senator had said when Josh climbed into the back seat.

“Nah! Not much,” Josh had joked, half-smiling, staring blankly out the tinted window.
“You’re a great pastor, Josh, and you have a wonderful relationship with Bev and Rebecca. Everyone in the church knows that. But tell me, why do you do this?”
“Do what, pal?”
“Go preaching to these dangerous and peculiar places.”

“Compelled to.”
“Just make sure we don’t have to send in our Special Forces to get you out of the ‘Middle Kingdom,’ okay?”

“Oh, I won’t bother; God has already sent His units ahead of me. Your guys are no match for His.”

The Senator had smiled and nodded. “Dead right there.”

Given what had just transpired in the last four hours, Josh sure hoped Bill wouldn’t have to stage a rescue from Shanghai.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~
The Prince of Darkness had been pacing restlessly. His hollow eyes revealed nothing except a pit of venomous hatred stretching back through eternity. “What took you so long? Did He just delay you as usual?” The voice of Satan, once called Lucifer, was deep and demeaning.

“Keep your sarcasm to yourself,” Michael commanded, unfazed by Satan’s provocation, though saddened at the sight of such insatiable evil. “You shall not begin global persecution of the faithful until the time foreordained by the LORD God Almighty. Gabriel will not be out of your way until then.”
“Spare me your totalitarian autocratic babble. Tell me when that time is.”

“When the designated one is born again—”

“And who might that be?”
“You know.”
“I see. You mean the one whom my foot soldier has been pestering the last few years. Why is that pathetic, insignificant soul so important?”

“The LORD rebukes you, Satan. I do not want to see your face here ag—”
“Oh, you surely will. Just let Him know that I have the right to begin implementing my great plan for the earth when the hour arrives. I will not wait for even half a second longer.”

As the devil swept out on his scheming way, Gabriel appeared alongside Michael. His being emitted a pure, shimmering glow, much like his comrade except for a tint of sapphire.

“The Day is drawing very near indeed,” Gabriel said.

“You are right, my friend. The Great Commission has made outstanding progress over the past two decades. The gospel of our LORD has touched almost every people of every nation.”

“Only one city and one group remain…our very last bastion.”

“Hmm. The final frontier...”
From an enormous distance, they were taking an extended gaze at the Earth.

She was exceptionally beautiful.


My thoughts:
As we all know - by the unfounded prediction for May 21, 2011 - we have no clue when the end will come. We know it will but nobody but the Father knows when...yet it's something that is constantly questioned and researched. This book is a fictional story of the end of times. It gives possible events that lead up to the Second Coming. It was very interesting and makes you wonder just how things will happen.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fully Engaged ~ Book Review

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:

Summerside Press (May 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


John Busacker is president of The Inventure Group, a global leadership-consulting firm, and founder of Life-Worth, LLC, a life planning creative resource. He is a member of the Duke Corporate Education Global Learning Resource Network and is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Carlson School’s Executive Development Center.

In 2009, Busacker released his first book, 8 Questions God Can’t Answer, which unlocks the profound power of Jesus’ timeless questions. He annually teaches in a variety of emerging faith communities and supports the development needs of leaders in Africa through PLI-International.

John is an avid explorer, occasional marathoner, and novice cyclist. He and his wife, Carol, live in Minneapolis and have two adult sons, Brett and Joshua.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Doing less is typically equated with laziness in our culture, but on a recent trip to the Serengeti plain, author John Busacker learned that doing less can actually be a very productive strategy for living. As Busacker and his family realized that they were lost in the wilds of Africa, their guide, Moses, stopped and waited for a new course to emerge. Within moments, the family was back on the right path. What John learned that day was the power of what can happen when he stopped DO-ing in order to focus on BE-ing found.

In the same way, says Busacker, we have to allow our internal GPS to stop and recalculate the direction of our life. As we do so, we’ll find greater abundance, contentment, and peace of mind. If you are like most people who feel lost on the road of life, Busacker’s new book, Fully Engaged: How to Do Less and Be More, is perfect for you. Fully Engaged encourages and equips us to move beyond what Busacker calls an “air guitar life”—a life of furious motion and considerable energy, but in the end one with no sound and little lasting impact. In a world filled with noise and fury, Busacker offers a measured and wise strategy for living that is marked by three key components: 1) Awareness, 2) Alignment, and 3) Action.

· Living with Awareness means that, instead of piecing together random moments, you begin to live intentionally. By doing so, you no longer measure your life worth by your pay check, but by your attitude.

· Living with Alignment ensures that what you have and what you do match what you really want out of life. It means that your job is not simply a means to make money, but a calling to be pursued with vigor.

· Living with Action compels you to move in directions that propel you toward an exhilarating future. This means that you’re not afraid to fail and that setbacks are to be celebrated as progressive steps on the journey of success.



John Busacker - Fully Engaged from John Hoel on Vimeo.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (May 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609361156
ISBN-13: 978-1609361150

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Measure Your Worth

Your life is worth so much more than money.

It seemed like a good plan at the time.



Seven years ago, our family decided to spend spring break in Tanzania, East Africa. One night, we stayed in a quaint African lodge on the edge of the Serengeti Plain. The plan was to wake up at dawn, drive out into the vast national park at first light, and see who was eating whom for breakfast. By noon, we were to have made it to the gate of the Ngorongoro Crater, intending to venture down in for additional afternoon wildlife viewing.

Of course, nothing on an African safari goes exactly according to plan. It rained during the night, so what passes for roads quickly transformed to goo-filled ruts. Our guide, Moses, was forced to navigate by feel, having neither a map nor GPS.

It became increasingly clear that we were driving in circles, making no progress toward the Ngorongoro Crater. Not wanting to sound any alarms, as discreetly as I could I leaned forward and quietly inquired, “Moses, are we lost?”

What followed was a rapid-fire conversation between Moses and Ramos, our driver. Having limited Swahili vocabulary but reading the body language and urgency of tone, I was guessing that this was not good news!



After about a minute, Moses leaned back, looked straight at Carol, and delivered the verdict: “We could be.”

Uh-oh!
Carol, who is an intensive-care nurse by background and who values both having and then executing an orderly plan, began to envision our imminent death at the mouths of the same lions we had just observed eating a Grant’s gazelle for breakfast.

I knew what our older son, Brett, was thinking by the gleam in his eye. He who has never seen a 50-foot cliff he didn’t want to drop on a snowboard and authentically values adventure, especially accompanied by a little danger, was thinking, This is AWESOME! I’m the fastest guy in the car! So what do I have to worry about anyway?
Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost. This is especially true of American humans.

Moses, our guide, did the exact opposite. Rather than speed up, he came to a complete stop and waited for someone else to catch up so he could determine where we were in the Serengeti and then chart a new course to our destination.

He stopped DO-ing in order to focus on BE-ing found.
What we needed that day on the Serengeti Plain was a GPS. What an amazing technological device. Using the broad perspective of three coordinates—latitude, longitude, and altitude—a GPS can find your car amongst the millions of cars on the planet, tell you exactly where you are, and then help you navigate to your desired destination…all in a soothing, patient voice too.

Humans, it is said, are the only animals that speed up when lost. This is especially true of American humans.

When you screw up or are too stubborn to heed its advice, it doesn’t bark, “You moron! Why don’t you ever listen?”
No, it simply says “Recalculating” and calmly charts and then gives you a new route. Now that’s grace!

So why don’t we apply the same broad perspective and grace to our own lives? Our tendency is to zero in on only one coordinate—money—and then ratchet up our speed at all costs to get more money or the stuff that more money can buy (like prestige or power).
Let’s be honest. Too often we value our stuff above our health, relationships, spiritual vitality, or life itself, don’t we? If you don’t think so, take a quick peek at your schedule right now…bet you just winced a bit, didn’t you?

It’s so easy for our personal GPS to get messed up— especially if we’re willing to let a single-minded pursuit of financial assets spin us in circles in the wilderness. After all, we believe, assets and liabilities determine our financial health and overall success…don’t they?
Net worth—what you have minus what you owe—has long been the key scorecard of prosperity and progress. Are you successful? on track? Check your net worth statement.

But is that really an accurate measure of a successful, fully engaged life?

An abundant life is that healthy but elusive blend of play, work, friendship, family, money, spiritual growth, and contribution.
Abundance creates contentment. Contentment inspires gratitude. Your peace of mind, sense of fulfillment, and joy are determined by how well you manage many life dimensions, not just your finances. Intimate relationships, deep spiritual life, right work, good health, a vibrant community, interesting hobbies, and active learning all impact your sense of engagement with life.

Life worth is the investment you make into and the return you receive from all of these dimensions. It is both internal (a deep personal sense of engagement and fulfillment) and external (the ability to bring joy and lasting value to others). And, like a GPS, it takes more than one coordinate to determine your location and direction.
You can be fully engaged with little or no net worth. Here’s what I mean.

Net worth: what you have minus what you owe.

Life worth: the investment you make into and the return you receive from all life dimensions.
The first time I visited Tanzania, I was amazed at how content the people seemed to be, even though they had next to nothing in possessions. I wondered, Is it because they are unencumbered by the shackles of “stuff” that they are fully able to connect with their families and friends? Is that why they are happily able to do the work required to live yet another day? Why they are content, even when they’re not sure sometimes where their next meal is coming from?
Upon further reflection, I couldn’t help but add to these thoughts: And why is this sense of joy sorely lacking in our affluent Western world?

The thought was sobering…and enlightening.

As Os Guinness says:

The trouble is that, as modern people, we have too much to live with, and too little to live for. In the midst of material plenty, we have spiritual poverty.1

Simply stated, material wealth is measured by net worth. Spiritual wealth and engagement are summed up by life worth. So let me ask you: What’s your life worth right now?

Many people decide they must build their net worth first in order to fund life worth later.

But putting life on hold for one more business deal, one more project, a pay increase, a hopeful inheritance upon a relative’s death, or an investment return ensnares the unsuspecting in its grip of “not quite enough.” It can slowly form habits of overwork and selfishness. The focal point is always on what’s next instead of what’s first.

Do you find yourself falling into the trap of thinking, Hey, I’ll just hang in there. What’s coming next has got to be better.
If so, you are in danger of driving in endless circles— and exhausting yourself in the process.

Don’t fall for that kind of thinking. Dreams delayed can become a life unlived. As American journalist and best-selling author Po Bronson put it:
It turns out that having the financial independence to walk away rarely triggers people to do just that. The reality is, making money is such hard work that it changes you. It takes twice as long as anyone plans for. It requires more sacrifice than anyone expects. You become so emotionally invested in that world—and psychologically adapted to it—that you don’t really want to ditch it.2
Dreams delayed can become a life unlived.

Always DO-ing more ultimately causes us to BE less— less of a friend, mother, partner, student, or son.
I know. I’ve experienced it firsthand. I spent 14 years in the financial services industry, sitting at the table with countless people as they discussed their life dreams and financial goals.
What moved me were the life stories of the people with whom I met. Embedded in the discussion of money were the hopes, dreams, fears, regrets, beliefs, and biases of each person. Asking the right questions and then listening with both head and heart got right to the core of the matter with most people. And it was always about so much more than money. Inevitably, meaning trumped money. Life worth always outweighed net worth.

Don’t wait until you have your own “lost in the Serengeti” experience—divorce, death, job loss, a failed semester, or a sick child—in order to enlarge your perspective. Choose to take an accurate reading of your life worth now so you can make a balanced investment in each of your key life dimensions.

To do this, you have to practice a “salmon perspective”—swimming upstream against a rushing torrent of marketing and messaging to the contrary. But nothing wonderful is ever gained by taking it easy. It requires commitment on your part. Let me share something with you. It’s worth it. Your life, thinking, and relationships will be transformed.
Jesus knew all about our natural inclination to fret about our finery and stew about our stuff—to live a one-coordinate life. That’s why He cautioned His closest friends:

Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.3
Leading a fully engaged life begins with a multi-coordinate focus on your life worth—a realization that

Relationships matter more than anything.

Health determines your quality of life.

Work gives voice to your giftedness.

Hobbies engage your energy beyond work.

Learning animates your imagination.

And Faith gives all of your life purpose.

Nothing wonderful is ever gained by taking it easy. It requires commitment on your part.
To determine your current life worth, use the assessment that begins on the following page. There are 10 dimensions of life worth. Measure each one. Your life is worth so much more than money. Are you living like it?

DO less. BE more.

What Is Your Life Worth?

How satisfied are you with each life dimension listed below? How important are these life dimensions to you? Please rate each on a scale of 1–5 (1=low; 3=medium; 5=high).

Satisfied Important

HEALTH ______ _______

Regular routines that promote healthy energy and vitality
LEARNING ______ _______

People and environments that stimulate growth

FAMILY ______ _______

Interest and involvement in the lives of family members
WORK ______ _______

Work that expresses talents and passion

LOVE RELATIONSHIP ______ _______

Alignment with loved one’s values and dreams

SPIRITUAL LIFE ______ _______

Sense of purpose, relationship with God, and/or service to others





Monday, May 23, 2011

COTT Congratulates Christine Lindsay

by Michelle Massaro
Christine Lindsay crowned COTT champ!
Shadowed in Silk won the vote for Best Back Cover Blurb against competitor Sunny Eads.
A clip of her winning excerpt:
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.
read the full blurb here
A few reader comments
  • I'm drawn to the post war aspect of the second one.
  • Both really pulls you in but the romance of India under the Bristh rule caught my attention.
  • Oh, India! Sounds mysterious!! Makes me wonder if this is a romance or not. Would def give this book a go.
  • Blurb B is just so intriguing! Definitely makes me want to read the whole thing. So much clearly going on.
Christine says
The only reason I write is in order to encourage readers to love Christ and follow Him. He's God---if He wants me to succeed, then He'll make it happen. And if He wants me to have quiet success, then I'll praise the Lord for that.
read the full interview here.

About her experience with COTT she writes:
I'm so thankful for this opportunity. Thank you every one, especially Sunny and Lisa. What a fun contest. And to every one for their positive comments.

Want to get in on the voting action? Head over to Clash of the Titles now and cast your ballot for this week's Clash!
PLEASE CHECK 
OUT OUR EXCITING NEW VENTURE:
Join us in June as we premier COTT's book club! Karen Witemeyer and her COTT winning novel, A Tailor-Made Bride is up as our first read (The books is offered as a free e-book here; if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the program to your pc or mobile device free here). More details and to vote for July's book, CLICK HERE 

Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist. She is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles and writes for COTT's Blog Alliance. Michelle also serves on the worship team and teaches origins science to the youth at her church. She and her husband of 15 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook, Clash of the Titles, and her blog Adventures in Writing.



False Witness - Book Review

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:

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife's life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor's church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they're on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer's most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414335695
ISBN-13: 978-1414335698

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

MONDAY, AUGUST 9

THE LONGEST THREE DAYS of Clark Shealy’s life began with an expired registration sticker.

That was Clark’s first clue, the reason he followed the jet-black Cadillac Escalade ESV yesterday. The reason he phoned his wife, his partner in both marriage and crime . . . well, not really crime but certainly the dark edge of legality. They were the Bonnie and Clyde of bounty hunters, of repo artists, of anything requiring sham credentials and bold-faced lies. Jessica’s quick search of DMV records, which led to a phone call to the title holder, a Los Angeles credit union, confirmed what Clark had already guessed. The owner wasn’t making payments. The credit union wanted to repo the vehicle but couldn’t find it. They were willing to pay.

“How much?” Clark asked Jessica.

“It’s not worth it,” she replied. “That’s not why you’re there.”
“Sure, honey. But just for grins, how much are we passing up?”
Jessica murmured something.

“You’re breaking up,” Clark said.

“They’d pay a third of Blue Book.”

“Which is?”

“About forty-eight four,” Jessica said softly.

“Love you, babe,” Clark replied, doing the math. Sixteen thousand dollars!
“Clark—”
He ended the call. She called back. He hit Ignore.

Sixteen thousand dollars! Sure, it wasn’t the main reason he had come to Vegas. But a little bonus couldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the vehicle came equipped with the latest in theft protection devices, an electronically coded key supplied to the owner. The engine transmitted an electronic message that had to match the code programmed into the key, or the car wouldn’t turn over.

Clark learned this the hard way during the dead hours of the desert night, at about two thirty. He had broken into the Cadillac, disabled the standard alarm system, removed the cover of the steering column, and hot-wired the vehicle. But without the right key, the car wouldn’t start. Clark knew immediately that he had triggered a remote alarm. Using his hacksaw, he quickly sawed deep into the steering column, disabling the vehicle, and then sprinted down the drive and across the road

.

He heard a stream of cursing from the front steps of a nearby condo followed by the blast of a gun. To Clark’s trained ears, it sounded like a .350 Magnum, though he didn’t stay around long enough to confirm the make, model, and ATF serial number.

◁▷

Six hours later, Clark came back.

He bluffed his way past the security guard at the entrance of the gated community and drove his borrowed tow truck into the elegant brick parking lot rimmed by manicured hedges. He parked sideways, immediately behind the Cadillac. These condos, some of Vegas’s finest, probably went for more than a million bucks each.

The Caddy fit right in, screaming elegance and privilege—custom twenty-inch rims, beautiful leather interior, enough leg room for the Lakers’ starting five, digital readouts on the dash, and an onboard computer that allowed its owner to customize all power functions in the vehicle. The surround-sound system, of course, could rattle the windows on a car three blocks away. Cadillac had pimped this ride out fresh from the factory, making it the vehicle of choice for men like Mortavius Johnson, men who lived on the west side of Vegas and supplied “escorts” for the city’s biggest gamblers.

Clark speed-dialed 1 before he stepped out of the tow truck.
“This is stupid, Clark.”

“Good morning to you, too. Are you ready?”

“No.”
“All right. Let’s do it.” He slid the still-connected phone into a pocket of his coveralls. They were noticeably short, pulling at the crotch. He had bought the outfit on the spot from a mechanic at North Vegas Auto, the same garage where he borrowed the tow truck from the owner, a friend who had helped Clark in some prior repo schemes. A hundred and fifty bucks for the coveralls, complete with oil and grease stains. Clark had ripped off the name tag and rolled up the sleeves. It felt like junior high all over again, growing so fast the clothes couldn’t keep up with the boy.

He popped open the hood of the wrecker, smeared his fingers on some blackened oil grime, and rubbed a little grease on his forearms, with a dab to his face. He closed the hood and walked confidently to the front door of the condo, checking the paper in his hand as if looking for an address. He rang the bell.

Silence. . . . He rang it again.

Eventually, he heard heavy footsteps inside and then the clicking of a lock before the door slowly opened. Mortavius Johnson, looking like he had barely survived a rough night, filled the doorway. Clark was tall and slender—six-three, about one-ninety. But Mortavius was tall and bulky—a brooding presence who dwarfed Clark. He wore jeans and no shirt, exposing rock-solid pecs but also a good-size gut. He didn’t have a gun.
Clark glanced down at his paper while Mortavius surveyed him with bloodshot eyes.

“Are you Mortavius Johnson?”

“Yeah.”
“You call for a tow?”

Mortavius’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. The big man glanced at the pocket of Clark’s coveralls—no insignia—then around him at the tow truck. Clark had quickly spray-painted over the logo and wondered if Mortavius could tell.

Clark held his breath and considered his options. If the big man caught on, Clark would have to surprise Mortavius, Pearl Harbor–style, with a knee to the groin or a fist to the solar plexus. Even those blows would probably just stun the big man momentarily. Clark would sprint like a bandit to the tow truck, hoping Mortavius’s gun was more than arm’s length away. Clark might be able to outrun Mortavius, but not the man’s bullet.

“I left a message last night with the Cadillac dealer,” Mortavius said.
The Cadillac dealer. Clark was hoping for something a little more specific. “And the Cadillac dealer called me,” Clark said, loudly enough to be heard on the cell phone in his pocket. “You think they’ve got their own tow trucks at that place? It’s not like Caddies break down very often. If everybody could afford a Caddie, I’d go out of business.”
Clark smiled. Mortavius did not.

“What company you with?” he asked.

“Highway Auto Service,” Clark responded, louder still. He pulled out the cell phone, surreptitiously hit the End button with a thumb, then held it out to Mortavius. “You want to call my office? Speed dial 1.”
Mortavius frowned. He still looked groggy. “I’ll get the keys,” he said.
He disappeared from the doorway, and Clark let out a breath. He speed-dialed Jessica again and put the phone back in his pocket. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.

Give me a break!

Another tow truck was pulling past the security guard and heading toward Mortavius’s condo. Things were getting a little dicey.

“I left some papers in the truck you’ll need to sign,” Clark called into the condo. But as soon as the words left Clark’s mouth, Mortavius reappeared in the doorway, keys in hand.

Unfortunately, he glanced past Clark, and his eyes locked on the other tow truck. A glint of understanding sparked, followed by a flash of anger. “Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

“I told you . . . the Cadillac place.”

“The Cadillac place,” Mortavius repeated sarcastically. “What Cadillac place?”

“Don’t remember. The name’s on the papers in my truck.”
Mortavius took a menacing step forward, and Clark felt the fear crawl up his neck. His fake sheriff’s ID was in the tow truck along with his gun. He was running out of options.

“Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

Clark stiffened, ready to dodge the big man’s blows. In that instant, Clark thought about the dental work the last incident like this had required. Jessica would shoot him—it wasn’t in the budget.
A hand shot out, and Clark ducked. He lunged forward and brought his knee up with all his might. But the other man was quick, and the knee hit rock-solid thigh, not groin. Clark felt himself being jerked by his collar into the foyer, the way a dog might be yanked inside by an angry owner. Before he could land a blow, Clark was up against the wall, Mortavius in his face, a knife poised against Clark’s stomach.

Where did that come from?

Mortavius kicked the door shut. “Talk fast, con man,” he hissed. “Intruders break into my home, I slice ’em up in self-defense.”
“I’m a deputy sheriff for Orange County, California,” Clark gasped. He tried to sound official, hoping that even Mortavius might think twice before killing a law enforcement officer. “In off hours, I repo vehicles.” He felt the point of the knife pressing against his gut, just below his navel, the perfect spot to start a vivisection.
“But you can keep yours,” Clark continued, talking fast. “I’m only authorized to repo if there’s no breach of the peace. Looks like this situation might not qualify.”

Mortavius inched closer. He shifted his grip from Clark’s collar to his neck, pinning Clark against the wall. “You try to gank my ride at night, then show up the next morning to tow it?”

“Something like that,” Clark admitted. The words came out whispered for lack of air.

“That takes guts,” Mortavius responded. A look that might have passed for admiration flashed across the dark eyes. “But no brains.”
“I’ve got a deal,” Clark whispered, frantic now for breath. His world was starting to cave in, stars and pyrotechnics clouding his vision.
The doorbell rang.

“Let’s hear it,” Mortavius said quietly, relaxing his stranglehold just enough so Clark could breathe.

“They’re paying me six Gs for the car,” Clark explained rapidly. He was thinking just clearly enough to fudge the numbers. “They know where you are now because I called them yesterday. Even if you kill me—” saying the words made Clark shudder a little, especially since Mortavius didn’t flinch—“they’re going to find the car. You let me tow it today and get it fixed. I’ll wire four thousand bucks into your bank account before I leave the Cadillac place. I make two thousand, and you’ve got four thousand for a down payment on your next set of wheels.”
The doorbell rang again, and Mortavius furrowed his brow. “Five Gs,” he said, scowling.

“Forty-five hundred,” Clark countered, “I’ve got a wife and—”
Ughh . . . Clark felt the wind flee his lungs as Mortavius slammed him against the wall. Pain shot from the back of his skull where it bounced off the drywall, probably leaving a dent.

“Five,” Mortavius snarled.

Clark nodded quickly.

The big man released Clark, answered the door, and chased away the other tow truck driver, explaining that there had been a mistake. As Mortavius and Clark finished negotiating deal points, Clark had another brilliant idea.

“Have you got any friends who aren’t making their payments?” he asked. “I could cut them in on the same type of deal. Say . . . fifty-fifty on the repo reward—they could use their cuts as down payments to trade up.”

“Get out of here before I hurt you,” Mortavius said.

◁▷

Clark glanced at his watch as he left the parking lot. He had less than two hours to return the tow truck and make it to the plastic surgeon’s office. He speed-dialed Jessica.

“Highway Auto Service,” she responded.

“It didn’t work,” Clark said. “I got busted.”
“You okay?”

He loved hearing the concern in her voice. He hesitated a second, then, “Not a scratch on me.”

“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Jessica said, though she sounded more relieved than upset. “You never listen. Clark Shealy knows it all.”
And he wasn’t listening now. Instead, he was doing the math again in his head. Sixteen thousand, minus Mortavius’s cut and the repair bill, would leave about ten. He thought about the logistics of making the wire transfers into accounts that Jessica wouldn’t know about.
Pulling a con on pimps like Mortavius was one thing. Getting one by Jessica was quite another.