Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Twilight's Last Gleaming by Robert Jeffress - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Worthy Publishing)

Pastor and Fox News, CNN and MSNBC media personality Robert Jeffress shows us how America’s last days can be our best days. We have an unprecedented opportunity to have a positive, eternal effect on the lives of those around us.

Never in recent history have Christians been more discouraged and fearful about our country’s future. Economic chaos, immorality, terrorism and global turmoil have convinced many that we are living in the twilight days of America. Dr. Robert Jeffress agrees. But this is not the end of the story, he writes in Twilight’s Last Gleaming. Although we cannot prevent America’s eventual demise, we can delay it . . . and make a difference for eternity at the same time.

For everyone who wonders what can be done right now—within our culture, our churches, in the voting booth and our neighborhoods—Jeffress answers with biblical insight and real-world clarity, showing Christians how to seize this unprecedented opportunity and point people to our only Hope. Includes a foreword by Mike Huckabee.

My Thoughts:
This book is practical, honest and places today's political/economic/social design in biblical context. Jeffries' offers insight that is somehow encouraging and comforting rather than feeding the panic that seems to want to thrive in these uncertain days. He offers practical ideas and thoughts on many topics, but one in particular - how Christians should evaluate and decide whom to support in this most critical of election years.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun, and today's critical problems have been faced by Christians before. However, Christ's second coming has never been nearer, and we are called to be salt and light in a rapidly declining culture. I fully believe God has brought this book to publication for just such a time as this, and every Christian who is registered to vote - who cares about the future of our nation and our freedom to worship - should read this book!! I'm not being dramatic, just honest. It is thought provoking and convicting. I praise God that this book in in print in 2012!!

About the Author:
Robert Jeffress (DMin, Southwestern Theological Seminary; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is an author and the senior pastor of the 10,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. His bold, biblical and practical approach to ministry has made him one of the country’s most respected evangelical leaders and earned him a Daniel Award from Vision America. He regularly appears on major mainstream media outlets such as Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, The O’Reilly Factor, Cavuto on Business, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’s The Early Show. He also hosts a television program, Pathway to Victory, and teaches a daily sermon series that airs on 1,200 television stations and cable systems throughout the nation and in 28 countries around the world.

ISBN 978-1-936034-58-1Jacketed Hardcover w/ Study GuideList Price: $22.99
256 pages
© 2011 Worthy Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Fabry explores ethical dilemmas in his latest release - An interview by B&B Media

If your child needed a life-saving heart transplant, how far would you go to make it happen? How would you feel if a man convicted of murder offered his heart to your child? In his latest release, Not in the Heart, author Chris Fabry passionately delves into hot topics such as capital punishment, gambling addiction and organ donation, leaving readers to examine their own lives and views.

Not in the Heart is a story of redemption—the story of two men’s lives who bear the consequences of their addictions and receive a second chance. Unfortunately, addiction has become commonplace in our culture, with the effects not only impacting the individuals but also those around them. This story will encourage anyone who has a loved one battling addiction.
View the book trailer and read an excerpt at

Listen to Chris Fabry’s own radio show introducing the book and asking listeners “Who is your Truman?” based on the main character of the book.

Q: Your newest novel, Not in the Heart, faces heavy topics such as gambling addiction, capital punishment and organ donation. Where did you get your inspiration for the book?

My stories usually come from some aspect of real life. I worked in TV news with a friend who went on to work for CNN. He was the pool reporter for an execution of a man in South Carolina. That really affected him for a number of years and his views on capital punishment were altered. We have friends with a young son with a heart condition and many friends have marriages that are on the brink or have crumbled. There is also spiritual searching and gambling, so I feel it’s a pretty realistic picture of a lot of relationships.

Q: Several of the characters in Not in the Heart deal with life changing addictions. Have you struggled with addiction in your own life?

I’ve never been diagnosed with an addiction, but I can see how most people are addicted to something. We depend on something outside of us to make us happy, give us a good feeling. I’ve had issues with food and soft drinks and sports. That’s more respectable than gambling or cocaine or alcohol, but I’m in the same boat in a lot of ways. Anything we use to make ourselves numb to reality and numb to life can restrict our relationship with God.

Q: What encouragement would you offer to your readers who may be dealing with an addiction? What encouragement would you give to the family of an addict?

To the addict, I would say that there is hope for you. There is hope for your relationships. God offers you freedom if you will choose it. It’s not an overnight thing—it can be, but it usually isn’t. If you want freedom, you can have it.

To the family, I would say to hang in there and to love the other person well. Sometimes loving the other person means letting them go. It can look messy and not feel like love.

Q: Is addiction usually the result of other factors going on in one’s life? What drove the addiction of the character in your book?

My main character has an addictive personality, no doubt. The factors in his life are like those in society—the more stress, the more anxiety and pain, the more likely a person is to seek something that will soothe them and help them dull that pain. For some it’s drugs or alcohol; for others it may be sex or gambling. For some it’s food. It can really be anything that takes away the intense pain that person is experiencing. I’m not an expert or a psychologist, but I’ve observed addictions in people’s lives stemming from those surface struggles, but the addictions go way deeper.

Q: Problem Gambling Awareness Week is March 4-10, 2012. Do you know how many Americans struggle with an addiction to gambling?

I have seen stats that say as many as 15-20 million people in the U.S. are addicted to gambling. That’s 5-7% of the entire population. And those numbers are only going to go up with the increase in availability.

Q: You have had your own struggles over the past few years. Tell us about some of what your own family has gone through in regards to having to start over.

Our family moved into a huge home in Colorado in 2000. Soon after we started seeing some unusual physical problems that accelerated after we found mold growing behind a bathroom wall. The remediation was done incorrectly, and our problems got worse. We walked away from the house in 2008 with the clothes on our backs and moved to Arizona to get treatment. It’s been one of the most difficult things to go through, watching our children suffer, but also one of the most rewarding because we’ve seen God work in spite of our illnesses and losses.

Q: Didn’t your children become ill as a result of the mold problem? Much like your main character, you had to watch them struggle without much you could do to help. How did you work your own experience into this story?

Six weeks after the first exposure one son contracted Type 1 diabetes, which doesn’t run in our family. Another son had ringing in one ear and, as a result of surgery to correct it, he’s now deaf in that ear. I could go on with the sicknesses of the kids but, yes, watching our kids suffer helped in writing the book. I can see why Truman would want to run away from the pain. I also met a little boy named Levi who has a heart problem, and I extrapolated the pain his parents had gone through in deciding about his surgery.

Q: February 14th was the National Organ Donor Day. Do you know how many people in our country are waiting for an organ donor?

There are 70-80 organ transplants done every day, I believe. On the downside, about 18 people die every day awaiting an organ transplant. I’ve known several people who have undergone a transplant of a kidney or a liver, and the change in lifestyle is amazing.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Not in the Heart?

Love conquers all. What is done in secret will one day come to light. God is the great pursuer of our hearts and we are restless until we find our rest in Him. There is hope for even smarmy characters who set up their own morality. There is hope for the addicted.

Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry
Tyndale House Publishers/February 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4143-4861-2/418 pages/paperback/$13.99 ~

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Sweethaven Summer by Courtney Walsh - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Guideposts)

Suzanne's daughter, Campbell, journeys to Sweethaven in search of answers to her questions about her mother's history. Suzanne's three friends-Lila, Jane, and Meghan-were torn apart by long-buried secrets and heartbreak. Though they haven't spoken in years, each has pieces of a scrapbook they made together in Sweethaven. Suzanne's letters have lured them all back to the idyllic lakeside town, where they meet Campbell and begin to remember what was so special about their long Sweethaven summers. As the scrapbook reveals secrets one by one, old wounds are mended, lives are changed, and friendships are restored-just as Suzanne intended.

My Thoughts:

"...a look at the redemptive quality of unconditional love." (from the Author's notes p.317)

Courtney Walsh succictly describes the heart of her story, A Sweethaven Summer. Campbell Carter has experienced a great loss, but she knows her mother had experienced a loss of years of friendship and fellowship with the friends she loved as dearly as her own flesh and blood. Secrets have robbed them of something precious, and it seems that the revelations that come after years of separation and misunderstanding have come too late and at too great of a cost to ever be redeemed.

But mercy, grace and love are the underpinnings of these relationships, and the women who spent their summers in Sweethaven must choose once again, after twenty years and much loss, to forgive and love each other in spite of their mistakes and brokenness.

There are a lot of life lessons in this poingnant story of friendship and family. No relationship is perfect nor free of problems. The pain of secrets hidden for the sake of protecting others' feelings and relationships proves almost too much for love and forgiveness to breach. Will hope and friendship be restored? Read A Sweethaven Summer and find out! You'll be glad you did!

About the Author:
Courtney Walsh is a published author, scrapbook artist, theatre director and playwright. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, will be released in February, 2012 by Guideposts/Summerside, followed by two additional novels in the series. She has also written two paper crafting books, Scrapbooking Your Faith and The Busy Scrapper and is currently working on her third, The Scrapcrafter’s Idea Book (F&W Publications, February, 2013.) Courtney has been a contributing editor for Memory Makers Magazine and Children’s Ministry Magazine and, along with her husband, has written several full-length musicals, including her most recent, The Great American Tall Tales and Hercules for Christian Youth Theatre, Chicago. Courtney lives in Colorado with her husband and three kids where she consumes entirely too much coffee and works by day as the PR Manager for Webster's Pages.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Creative Slow-Cooker Meals: Use Two Slow Cookers for Tasty and Easy Dinners

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:

Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Cheryl Moeller is a seasoned mother and a standup comic. She is also a syndicated columnist with her own blog ( and contributes monthly to several online parent websites. Cheryl has coauthored two books on marriage with her husband and has written for and Marriage Partnership. Cheryl does comedy for parenting classes, MOPS groups, wedding or baby showers, church retreats, women’s conferences, and those in line at the grocery store.

Visit the author's website.


From the celebrated coauthor of The Marriage Miracle comes a new kind of cookbook and a new attitude toward planning meals. With an eye toward the whole menu, not just part of it, columnist Cheryl Moeller teaches cooks to use two crockpots to easily create healthy, homemade dinners.

Don’t worry about your dinner being reduced to a mushy stew. Each of the more than 200 recipes has been taste-tested at Cheryl’s table. Join the Moeller family as you dig into:

  • Harvest-time Halibut Chowder

  • Salmon and Gingered Carrots

  • Mediterranean Rice Pilaf

  • Indian Chicken Curry

  • Apricot-Pistachio Bread

  • Shrimp Creole

  • Rhubarb Crisp

... and many more! Perfect for the frazzled mom who never has enough time in the day, Creative Slow-Cooker Meals gives readers more time around the table with delicious, healthy, frugal, and easy meals!

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944915

ISBN-13: 978-0736944915

AND NOW...THE FIFTH CHAPTER (click on pages to enlarge):

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Telling Their Stories by Donna Fletcher Crow

“What drives you?” a particularly perceptive reader once asked me.

“The story,” I replied after a moment of thought. “I want to tell my characters’ stories.” This is especially true when working with historical characterssuch as those that form the background of A Darkly Hidden Truth. I’m driven— I’ll use the word— to tell their story.

We can learn so much from people of faith from the past. They have fought, suffered, endured to pass the faith on to us. We need to know and appreciate what they have done.

In A Darkly Hidden Truth I tell the stories of two remarkable women that I have long wanted to share with my readers. Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe were both mystical medieval women writers and their life spans crossed— they actually met in an event Margery records— but they lived far different lives, had far different personalities and wrote in vastly different styles.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) became the first woman to write a book in English when she wrote an account of the 16 mystical “showings” she experienced of the love of God.

After her amazing showings Julian lived a life of quiet contemplation as an anchoress in a single room attached to a church in Norwich, going nowhere and seeing only her servant and those who came to her worldside window for counseling— Margery being one of those seekers. Margery travelled the world, going on pilgrimages as far afield as the Holy Land and Santiago de Compostelo.

Julian wrote her Revelations of Divine Love, speaking only of her visions and of the love of God for his creatures. She divulges no details of her personal life— we don’t even know her name. We call her Julian because that was the dedication of her church. We know how she would have lived because she lived by The Ancrene Rule which set out rules for anchoresses. That left me free as a novelist to imagine a life for her prior to her visions which she experienced at the age of 30. Had she been married? Had she taken vows as a nun? No one knows, but I had great fun entering into “what might have been.”

Margery Kempe (1373-1440) “wrote” the first autobiography in English, although she was illiterate, by dictating it. Unlike Julian, Margery tells all. Even of the joyous sex life she shared with her husband. (They had 14 children.) She tells of her period of madness after the birth of her first child. She tells of her spiritual struggles with earthly vanity. She tells of her shrieking and bouts of uncontrollable weeping that made one group of pilgrims abandon her so that she had to cross the Alps in a blizzard with only an aged priest as companion.

And yet both women tell of the love of God, of the goodness of life. They speak of joy and beauty in the midst of unbelievable suffering. They tell stories I could never invent in my wildest fantasy. And it’s all true. And it’s all ours because two women centuries ago put their unique experiences on paper. And now I have the privilege of telling their stories alongside the adventures of my fictional Felicity and Antony in A Darkly Hidden Truth:

A Darkly Hidden Truth, book 2 in Donna's clerical mystery series The Monastery Murders. She also writes the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. To read more about these books and to see book videos for A Darkly Hidden Truth and for A Very Private Grave, Monastery Murders 1, as well as pictures from Donna’s garden and research trips go to:

A Darkly Hidden Truth by Donna Fletcher Crow - REVIEWED and a GIVE AWAY!

About the Book: (from the publisher)
Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, has to learn more about church history if she and Father Antony are going to unravel their second mystery. Past and present mix as the words of Julian of Norwich and the arcane rights of the Knights of St. John of Malta lead to a present-day killer. And as the friendship grows between Antony and Felicity, will Felicity choose a life dedicated to God as a nun or one with Antony?

My Thoughts:
Those high brick walls weren’t there to keep the nuns or monks in. They were there to keep the noise, the rush, the worry out.” (p.133)

Once again, Felicity finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation, well not entirely in the midst of…for she is seeking her true calling in life, and she thinks she should be a nun. The nun-in-charge of the novice program (trying to simplify here) tells Felicity that the process for being assured that your calling is indeed from God and not an attempt to run away from the world’s problems, takes YEARS. And Felicity is one of the most spontaneous decision makers ever invented! In short, patience is not one of her virtues.

So, this story follows Felicity’s search for her direction in life, alongside a murder mystery/theft/romance/family relationship reconciliation…it other words, Donna Fletcher Crow has created a multi-dimensional story line that takes the reader deep into England’s church and the inner-workings of faith, obedience to Christ, and the human heart’s search for meaning and direction. All along the way significant pieces of church history (icons) are being stolen, and the price of keeping the thief hidden is often paid in life’s blood.

As Felicity discovers the will of God for her life, she also uncovers a family relationship that had seemed to always elude her. Toward the end, she also discovers the very well-hidden thief and murderer as well as the real love of her life! There is much to be enjoyed in this story, and if you like a multi-layered mystery, you will enjoy this book immensely!


About the Author:
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 36 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. A Very Private Grave, Book 1 in the Monastery Murders series, is her reentry into publishing after a 10-year hiatus. Book 2, A Darkly Hidden Truth, will be out this fall, and she is at work on Book 3, An Unholy Communion, scheduled for 2012.
The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries is a romantic intrigue series using literary figures as background: Dorothy L Sayers in The Shadow of Reality and Shakespeare in A Midsummer Eve's Nightmare.

Her newest release in the ebook field is Lord Danvers, a Victorian true crime series: A Most Inconvenient Death, Grave Matters, and To Dust You Shall Return.

The Daughters of Courage, Kathryn, Elizabeth and Stephanie is a pioneer family saga based on the stories of Donna's own family and other Idaho pioneers in the Kuna, Nampa and Boise area.
Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren. Donna is remembered by Idahoans with long memories as a former Queen of the Snake River Stampede, Miss Rodeo Idaho and runner-up for Miss Rodeo America. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

Asenath by Anna Patricio

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:


Imajin Books (September 24, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Patricio for sending me a review copy.***


Anna Patricio is a lover of ancient history, with a particular interest in Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Rome. She is also intrigued by the Ancient Near East, though she has not delved too much into it but hopes to one day.

She undertook formal studies in Ancient History at Macquarie University. She focused mostly on Egyptology and Jewish-Christian Studies, alongside a couple of Greco-Roman units, and one on Archaeology. Though she knew there were very limited job openings for ancient history graduates, she pursued her degree anyway as it was something she had always been passionate about.

Then, about a year after her graduation, the idea to tackle historical fiction appeared in her head, and she began happily pounding away on her laptop. ASENATH is her first novel.

Recently, she traveled to Lower Egypt (specifically Cairo and the Sinai), Israel, and Jordan. She plans to return to Egypt soon, and see more of it. In the past, she has also been to Athens and Rome.

Anna is currently working on a second novel, which still takes place in Ancient Egypt, but hundreds of years after ASENATH.

Visit the author's website.

Two Destinies...One Journey of Love

In a humble fishing village on the shores of the Nile lives Asenath, a fisherman's daughter who has everything she could want. Until her perfect world is shattered.

When a warring jungle tribe ransacks the village and kidnaps her, separating her from her parents, she is forced to live as a slave. And she begins a journey that will culminate in the meeting of a handsome and kind steward named Joseph.

Like her, Joseph was taken away from his home, and it is in him that Asenath comes to find solace...and love. But just as they are beginning to form a bond, Joseph is betrayed by his master's wife and thrown into prison.

Is Asenath doomed to a lifetime of losing everything and everyone she loves?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 222 pages

Publisher: Imajin Books (September 24, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1926997263

ISBN-13: 978-1926997261


Egypt 1554 B.C.

The Nile had just flooded, leaving the ground moist, rich and black. The children of our riverside village, I among them, frolicked about in the cool, gooey earth. In the distance, the ancient river circled the land, glittering with a thousand tiny dancing lights from the sun-god's Boat of a Million Years. A breeze blew, rustling the branches of the palm trees that surrounded our home.


No sooner had I looked than a mud ball pelted me hard across the stomach.

"I'll get you for that, Menah." I bent down to gather mud in my hands when another ball landed on my back. He was a quick one, my best friend.

I had just formed a mud ball and was about to raise my arm when Menah suddenly charged forward and pounced on me.

"Now you'll get the tickle torture," he said in a mock evil voice.

"No, Menah. Please, no." But I was overcome by uncontrollable laughter.

"Menah! Kiya!" voices called out, interrupting our playful wrestling.

Our mothers approached.

"Come out now," my mother called. "It is time to prepare for the Feast of Hapi."

Covered in mud from head to toe, Menah and I scrambled toward them.

Mama shook her head, smiling. "You're such a mess."

She led me back to our hut.

"What is going to happen tonight, Mama?" I asked. "I mean, after we pray to Hapi? Will there be games?"

Mama's blue eyes twinkled against her brown skin. "I see no reason why there shouldn't be."

"And lots of food?"

"All the food you could ever want."

"May I wear my lotus necklace today?"

Years ago, when I was very young, Mama had given me a beautiful carved lapis lazuli lotus pendant strung on a simple piece of coarse rope. She told me it had been in her family for many generations and that her grandmother had received it from Hapi himself.

She ruffled my hair. "Of course. Today is, after all, a special day."

As we entered our mud hut, which had been my home since birth, I saw my father mending one of his fisherman's nets. When he saw me, he pretended to cower in fear.

"A mud monster has entered our house."

I laughed. "It's just me, Papa."

He leaned forward and squinted, as if trying to get a good look, though the gesture was comically exaggerated. "Is it? Let me see. Ah yes, it's my little Kiya."

He leapt to his feet, picked me up and swung me around, ignoring the mud that soiled his hands. I squealed with delight.

"Nakhti," Mama said. "I have to get her ready."

"Yes." Papa set me down. He gave me a gentle slap across the back, motioning for me to return to Mama.

"I get to wear the lotus today, Papa."

He smiled. "I am sure you will look very pretty."

Later that afternoon, four priests from a nearby town passed by our village. They shouldered on poles our patron god's idol, which nestled upon a bed of water lilies. A ray of sunlight bounced off the golden image and it flashed with brilliance. Behind the god was a small train of dancing priestesses. They rattled sistrums and twirled around, their white dresses billowing out like clouds.

My fellow villagers and I were assembled outside our village, awaiting the god's arrival. When he appeared, we fell to our knees and touched our foreheads to the sandy ground.

"Glorious Hapi," my father intoned. "We thank you for once again allowing your water to flow and give life. We thank you for nourishing our land and our people. We pray your sacred pitchers never cease to flow. We thank you, great god of the Nile."

My heart swelled with pride. Papa was the most renowned fisherman in our village. Though he was quite an old man - many years older than my mother - he possessed skills and strength that surpassed even those of the younger generations. Everyone thus hailed him as the favoured of the river god.

"Praise be to you, Hapi," I echoed along with the rest of my fellow villagers.

As the idol trailed away, we rose to our feet and gathered up the amulets and flowers, which we would be tossing into the Nile as offerings. It was sunset now and sheer red-orange skies cast a fiery glow upon the river's rippling surface. From a distance, we heard the warbling of river fowl and the screeching of monkeys.

We approached the riverbank. It was still soft and muddy from the inundation. We tossed our offerings in. All the while, Papa chanted hymns of praise. Afterward, we returned to the village for what we children had been anticipating the most - the games.

A kind, respectable widow named Mekten, whom everyone called "Village Mother", held a game called the "statue dance." She played a reed flute while we danced and would stop at random moments without warning. We had to freeze as soon as the music stopped. Those who were still dancing were out of the game.

My friends and I loved it so much that Mekten held several rounds of it. Unfortunately, I always lost, as I always got so caught up in the liveliness of the game. However, she awarded me a small spinning top as a prize for being the best dancer.

I danced so much that I could barely keep my eyes open as we later sat down to the feast. Papa picked me up and carried me back to our hut. I was too tired to protest. As soon as he lay me down, I fell into a deep sleep.

That night, I dreamt I was on a great winged barque sailing along the Nile. It was a bright day, with the white-golden Egyptian sun shining gloriously and flocks of ibises and herons gleaming against the clear blue sky. A group of friendly monkeys, like those who usually wandered near my family's hut, kept me company on the deck, entertaining me with their hilarious antics.

Suddenly, the skies darkened and the water began to thrash against the barque. The monkeys leapt up and down, screeching frantically. I grabbed onto the rail.

Thunder rumbled. Fierce white waves threatened to haul us overboard. The barque tipped to a dangerous level and I began to scream.

Waking, I placed my hand over my heart, which was pounding fiercely. I was about to heave a sigh of relief when I heard the rumbling from my dream. I sat up, my chest constricting in fear once more. The noise sounded like it was coming from outside our hut.

The rumbling stopped.

I heard a strange voice shouting in a language I could not understand.

My father appeared beside me. In the dim light, I could see the outline of his bony profile as he knelt by my side.

"What's that noise, Papa?"

He put his arms around me and before he could answer, a chilling scream sliced through the air. Other screams followed. Soon, the air was filled with a frightening cacophony - screams, cries and more shouts in that strange language.

Papa's grip on me tightened. "Come, Kiya. We must hide you."

The door of our hut flew open.

Two enormous, fearsome-looking warriors towered like the tallest trees. Their faces were thickly painted in bright, garish colours. They wore loincloths made of animal skin and peculiar pointed headdresses that emphasised their unusual height. In their hands were spears that glinted threateningly.

Mama screamed.

One of the warriors shouted something, while waving toward us. Another dashed forward and snatched me out of Papa's protective hold.


The monster hauled me outside.

I kicked and flailed. "Papa!"

"Kiya!" Papa hurried after me.

Alas, though he was strong and agile, he was no match for these giants. They ran with such enormous strides that in no time he was out of sight.

"Papa?" I writhed about in the warrior's iron grip. "Papa!"

I felt a blow to the back of my head and the world turned black.

Cold water slapped my face. When I opened my eyes, I was staring into the massive painted face of my captor.

"Get up," he snarled. His breath was fouler than rotten fish.

I struggled to my feet. Though I was still in a daze, I dared not disobey.

The warrior grabbed my arm and led me through pitch-black darkness. I was certain he was going to kill me. My chest tightened with fear.

He led me out into a brightly lit clearing. It looked like we were in the midst of a dense jungle. A campfire crackled at the centre where the warrior's comrades sat feasting and talking.

Relief washed over me when I noticed my fellow villagers huddled together at the far end. Menah was with them.

I smiled. "Menah!"

The warrior slapped me hard across the face. "You are not to speak. If you do so again, we will kill you."

I shuddered, though I was less frightened than before now that I knew I was not alone.

The warrior dragged me over to the villagers and shoved me amongst them. "Stay with them. No talking and no trying to escape." He glared at us, then went to the fire to join the others.

Menah took my hand.

"Where are my parents?" I asked in a bare whisper.

He looked at me sadly and shook his head.

I knew what that meant. They were not there.

I suddenly threw up.

In a flash, the warrior was before us. "What's going on here?"

No one answered.

"She felt sick and vomited," our village mother Mekten said finally.

The warrior turned to his comrades and said something in their language. They laughed boisterously. He shook his head and returned to them.

Tears spilled from my eyes. Menah held me and rocked me, comforting me. I sobbed for a long time, eventually crying myself to sleep.

What followed was an arduous journey through the jungle. The scorching sun was merciless and mosquitoes bit my arms, legs and face. The entire time, our captors threatened to murder us and I might have actually died with despair had it not been for the familiar faces around me.

I do not know how far we travelled, but just as I thought we would perish, one of the warriors announced we had reached our destination.

It was early evening. We were led toward a tribal encampment illuminated by a towering bonfire. Drumbeats pounded in my ears as we drew nearer. When we entered the camp, I saw tents made of dyed animal hides, as well as poles topped with the decapitated heads of people and animals. I averted my eyes, trying to erase the horrific images from my head.

The drums were deafening as the tribespeople surrounded us. Like our captors, they were wrapped in animal skins. Their bodies were pierced in just about every part and painted in bright colours. I shuddered when a small child with painted teeth and a pierced nose came over and poked at my face.

My fellow villagers and I were lined up in front of the bonfire. I thought for sure they would murder us. I whimpered as one of the warriors strode up to us. I recognised him. He had entered my family's hut.

The warrior paced the length of our row. "Do you know why you are all here?"

No one answered.

He glared at us. "Many years ago, your Pharaoh murdered our chieftain. I am that chieftain's son and will now avenge my father's death. Until your king makes amends, we will continue to destroy your wretched country. If he does not, we will fight until Egypt is no more."

As he reached me, he stopped pacing and smiled, revealing crooked yellow teeth. "What is your name, little girl?" His voice was gentle.

"K-Kiya," I squeaked.

"What a beautiful girl you are. Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?"

I did not answer.

"How old are you?"


"Ah. Perfect." His hideous grin widened. "You will be my slave, Kiya. And when your red moon comes, you will become my bride."

I stared at him, too horrified to speak.

He stepped forward. "That flower around your neck goes very well with your lovely face." He fingered the lotus pendant and I pulled back.

"Where are my parents?" I blurted.

"We left them behind, little one. We have no use for them." He laughed cruelly.

My fear was replaced by rage. "I want my parents. Bring me back to my parents."

One of the warriors rushed toward me, but the chieftain held up his hand. He stared into space for a moment. "Very well. If you work hard, I will send for your parents by the time you and I are ready to marry."

My anger began to abate. "You mean that?" I looked into his dark eyes, which were surrounded by a strange painted pattern of dots.

"Yes. So what do you say, little Kiya? Are you going to work hard?"

I hated that he called me "little Kiya." It sounded like he was trying to replace Papa. But I knew that if I wanted to see my parents again, I had to be obedient and silent.

I nodded.

"Good," he said, turning away.

"What is a red moon?" I asked.

Some of my fellow villagers stared at me, aghast, while the tribespeople roared with laughter.

The chieftain approached Mekten. "Be Kiya's advisor and explain to her what a red moon is. I am sure you know full well." He winked at her.

I felt sick at that gesture, even though I did not understand what it meant.

Mekten nodded in submission.

The chieftain waved his arm, inviting his people to pick slaves from among us.

A tall, thin woman with large bone earrings and a cold expression led Mekten and I to the chieftain's large tent. When we stepped inside, I nearly screamed. The place was festooned with more disembodied animal heads, as well as enormous wooden masks with frightening expressions. The dim light from torches cast shadows on the eerie things, making them look almost alive.

The tribeswoman pointed to a dirty mat at the far end of the tent. "You will sleep there. Go now." Mekten and I headed for the mat, but the tribeswoman grabbed Mekten's arm. "Not you. You will stay here."

I stared at them, confused, and the woman glared at me. "Go!"

I hurried over to the mat as the tribeswoman extinguished the torch, plunging the tent into complete darkness.

All was silent. Then the tent's flap rose, revealing the bulky profile of the chieftain. He shuffled inside and the flap swung closed.

Not long after, I heard Mekten crying out in fear and pain. Heavy breathing followed. The louder Mekten screamed, the heavier the breathing grew.

Though I had no idea what was happening, I knew I was hearing something bad. I covered my ears, but it was no use. Similar screams rose from the neighbouring tents. I slept amongst nightmares, waking at times to the sound of terrified cries and heartbreaking sobbing.

The following morning, Mekten acted scared of everything and everyone, which wasn't like her. I wanted to make her feel better, but I didn't know how. Even the most trivial things I did frightened her.

Throughout the day, I kept a distance from her. But at times, I tried to reach out to her. She was, after all, one of our dearest family friends.

"Mekten," I said in a timid voice. "What is a red moon?"

Mekten looked at me with sad eyes. Finally, she took a deep breath and explained everything in a shaky voice before breaking down.

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell - Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Into the Free

David C. Cook (February 1, 2012)


Julie Cantrell


A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie Cantrell was the editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and currently teaches English as a second language to elementary students. She has been a freelance writer for ten years and has published two children’s books. Julie and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm.

Julie served as contributing editor to MOMSense magazine and wrote content for Mothers of Preschoolers, Intl. for nearly a decade. Additionally, she has contributed to more than a dozen books. Into Th Free is her first book.


Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key which unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

My Thoughts:

The colors of chaos spill around me. Little pulsing hues of warning. I am hit with an old, familiar smell, a haunting odor that brings me back in time to the moment when the mama mutt dog swallowed the last of her puppies.” (p.149)

Julie Cantrell is a master wordsmith. She marries emotions with all five senses and you know the characters in a very intimate way. You walk in their skin. The walk you take with Millie Reynolds is tragic, yet her spirit is never crushed entirely. She grows through her lifetime and longs to discover the answers to her many, many unanswered questions.

And that is all I can tell you so far. For you see, life has interrupted me in very sudden unexpected ways, and I’ve spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices and hospitals in the past five days. Into the Free is a book meant to be savored and thought about and reminisced over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to reread a sentence just to enjoy it’s sound and rhythm. I’m not entirely finished with the story, and I don’t want to miss a single nuance. This is a beautifully written story! I am looking forward to reading more of Julie Cantrell’s work!

Watch the book video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of Into the Free, go HERE.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry - REVIEWED

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. (January 20, 2012)

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


As a child, Chris Fabry wrote stories, songs and poems. The creative process invigorated him. He may not have been a fast reader, but the words on the page had a deep effect. So he vowed that if he ever had the chance to write, he would take it.

After high school, Fabry attended and graduated from the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. After graduation, Fabry and his wife felt a desire for biblical education, so his pastor suggested they check out Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. At Moody, Fabry met Jerry Jenkins who learned of his desire to write and encouraged him to pursue his dream. In 1998, Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye hired him to write Left Behind: The Kids series. He wrote 35 books in that series over the next six years. He later collaborated with Jenkins on the Red Rock Mysteries series and The Wormling series, and in 2008 he worked solo on the NASCAR-based RPM series.

Since then he has published four novels for adults: Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven and his newest novel, Not in the Heart. Each of his first three books was nominated for a Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone Category, winning in 2009 for Dogwood and in 2011 for Almost Heaven. In addition to his fiction work, Fabry also collaborated on two best-selling football biographies with Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Altogether, Fabry has published more than 70 books for children and adults.

Fabry’s other passion is broadcasting. As part of the DECCA program in high school, he worked at WNST Radio in Milton, WV. During his senior year at Marshall University, he worked for WSAZ-TV as a weekend reporter. In 1985, he began hosting Open Line, a national call-in show which he hosted until 1997. In 1993, he began a six-year stint as co-host of Mornings with Greg and Chris on WMBI in Chicago. Then in May of 2008 he began Chris Fabry Live! which received the 2008 Talk Personality of the Year Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. He can also be heard daily on Love Worth Finding, featuring the teaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers.

Chris and his wife of almost 30 years, Andrea, are the parents of nine children.

Visit the author's website.

My Thoughts:
I very rarely even think about a book in terms of awards or recognition by others - only what truth I find inside the story and whether or not readers will be drawn in and touched by the story. However, Not in the Heart is award-winning fiction by any standard. The characters are realistic and their struggles are painful and honest. This broken family is facing the culmination of years of illness and the toll it has taken on every life it has touched. And when the last moments come - the reader is touched by a truth so undeniable - by grace and mercy so tender and divine - that it cannot be anything but God's message faithfully recorded by Chris Fabry.

Readers, don't miss this story! Please. Don't miss this story! Your heart will never be the same!

Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son’s failing heart.

With mounting hospital bills and Truman’s penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son.

As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman’s investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 20, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414348614
ISBN-13: 978-1414348612


30 days before execution

The trouble with my wife began when she needed Jesus and I
needed a cat. Life can be that way. That’s part of the reason I was on Sanibel
Island in the cottage I had always dreamed of owning and she was in Tallahassee
tending to the sick son of our youth. But it’s more complicated. There was more
troubling me than religion or people who think problems can be solved with a
leap of faith.

Said cottage was a tiny house that seems to be the rage
among those who believe we are warming the planet with each exhale. I didn’t
buy it because of that, but I recycle my Coors Light cans. My little
contribution to the cause. Lately it’s been a hefty contribution. There was one
bedroom in the back and a little bathroom, a walk-through kitchen, and a living
area that I used as an office. Murrow usually sat in the window looking out at
the beach with as much interest as I have in paying both of my mortgages. It’s
not that I don’t want to pay. I can’t.

I was on the bed, surfing news sites, fueling the ache about
my lack of direction and lack of a job. The satellite TV company disconnected
me a few months ago, so I got my news online from the unprotected network of a
neighbor who can’t encrypt his wireless router.

I could see the downsizing coming in every area of the
conglomerate media company. I knew it would hit the newsroom, but I always
thought when the music stopped, I would have a chair. What I got was severance,
a pat on the back, and a shelf full of awards I stuffed into a suitcase that
sat in the attic of a cottage I couldn’t afford.

I closed my laptop and told Murrow I’d be back, as if she
cared, and walked barefoot out the front door and down the long, wooden
stairway to the beach. I bought this cottage for these long, head-clearing
walks. The sound of the waves crashing against doubts and fears. The smell of
the ocean and its salty cycle of life and death.

A mom and a dad dressed in white strolled along the beach
with two kids who squealed every time the water came close.

I walked the other way.

The phone rang as I passed a dead seagull. Not a good omen.

“Tru, it’s me.”

The woman of my dreams. The woman of my nightmares.
Everything good and bad about my life. The “I do” that “I didn’t.”

“Ellen. What’s up?”

“How are you?” She said it with a measure of compassion, as
if she weren’t holding back years of boiling anger. As if she didn’t have
something else she wanted to ask me and wasn’t just setting the stage for the
coup de grâce.

“I’m good. Just taking a walk on the beach.”

Wish you weren’t here. Wish you
weren’t still in my head. Wish you hadn’t called. Wish the last twenty years
were something I could bury in the sand. What were you thinking marrying a guy
like me? My life is a sand castle and my days are wind and water.

“Hear anything back yet? Any offers?”

“There’s nothing plural about my job prospects. Not even
singular. I did hear from the Fox station in Des Moines yesterday. They went
with somebody with longer hair and bigger lungs.”

She spoke with a wry smile. “It’s only a matter of time; you
know that.”

“Right. It’s always been a matter of time, hasn’t it?”

She let the irony hang there between us, and I could picture
her in her wedding dress and without it. Then the first time we met in the
university newsroom, big glasses and frilly blouse. Hair that smelled like the
ocean and felt like silk. A sharp wit, infectious laugh, and the tenacity of a
bloodhound on every story she covered. I thought we were always going to be on
the same page, but somehow I kept chasing headlines and she moved to the Life

“I have something that might interest you,” she said.

“How old is she?” I’m not always a smart aleck with the
people I love. When I’m asleep, they tell me I don’t say much of anything.

“It’s not a she. It’s a he with a pretty good story. A great
story. A life changer.”

“Not into guys.”

She sighed and plowed ahead. “Have you heard of Terrelle

That was like asking a history major if she’d ever heard of
Alexis de Tocqueville. “I know he’s facing the needle.”

“Right. Next month.”

“Wonder what his last meal will be. How do they choose that
anyway? Shrimp and steak or lobster bisque? Macaroni and cheese? How can you
enjoy a meal knowing you only have hours left? Or what movie to watch? What
would you choose?”

“I know his wife, Oleta. She wants somebody to write the
story from his perspective. The whole family does.”

I laughed. “In thirty days or less.”

“They’ve scraped up some money. Not much, but it could
probably help.”

“How much is ‘probably’?”

“I don’t know exactly, but I was thinking you could call
Gina and find out if—”

“I’m not with Gina or the agency anymore. She dropped me.
Said it was a hard decision on their part. I guess they took a vote.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Just another bump in the literary highway. I don’t think writing
is my thing, anyway.” I said it halfheartedly, coaxing some kind of compliment.

“You’re a great writer,” she obliged. “You haven’t had as
many opportunities lately, but . . .”

“I haven’t had any politicians who want to be president or
sports stars who’ve been accused of steroids approach me in a few years. That’s
what you mean,” I said. “Where did you meet Olatha?”

“Oleta. I met her at church.”

Groan. How did I know that was coming?

I paused at a sand castle that had been constructed with
several five-gallon buckets. Towels and chairs had been abandoned for the
moment. Water filled the moat, and I heard laughter from a bungalow perched
like a lighthouse above. A couple in love.

“You must have some idea of how much.”

“A few thousand. We didn’t talk about that. The important
thing . . . it’s not just an opportunity for you. It’s for

“Now you’re really getting cryptic. You want to back up?”

“Terrelle’s wife is in a study group with me. She’s known
about Aiden’s condition for years. Always asks for updates. Terrelle came up
with the idea—he wants to be a donor. A second chance for Aiden.”

I should have been doing cartwheels. Our eighteen-year-old
son could get a new lease on life? Instead, I was skeptical, like any good
journalist. “Ellen, there’s no chance. Do you know how long something like that
would take?”

“It’s been in process for a while.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You haven’t exactly been available.”

“The prison system, the authorities, they’ll never let

“The governor is taking it seriously. I’ve heard he’s
working with the legislature. It’s not a done deal, but there’s a chance.”

The governor. The hair rose on the back of my neck.

“Ellen, there’s some law firm in Tallahassee salivating at
all the appeals and counterappeals that are going to happen. This is less than
a long shot.”

“Yeah, but right now it’s looking like a pretty good long
shot.” There was emotion in her voice and for the first time I noticed noise in
the background.

“Where are you?”

She swallowed hard and I imagined her wiping away a tear. My
wife has had plenty of practice.

“At the hospital again,” she said. “ICU.”

I cursed under my breath and away from the phone. Not just
because of all the hospital bills I knew were coming my way, but also because
this was my son. I’ll be honest—the bills were the first thing I thought of,
but picturing him hooked up to tubes and needles again crushed me.

“How is he?”

“Not good. They’re monitoring him. Same story.”

“How long have you been there?”

“Since late last night. He was having trouble breathing.
Lots of pain. He asks about you.”

Guilt. She had to get that in there, didn’t she?

“Tell him to hang in there, okay?”

“Come see him. It would mean so much.”

“Yeah. I will.” I said it fast, though I knew I’d have to
launder all the cat hair from my clothes because Aiden’s deathly allergic to
cats just like I’m allergic to the inside of the death chamber.

Someone spoke over the intercom near her and the sound took
me back to those first days when I wasn’t as scared of hospitals. Back then I
could watch a movie or a TV show with a medical setting. Now I can’t even watch
the TV promos. My chest gets tight and the smell of alcohol and Betadine and
the shape of needles invades, mingling with the cries of a young child in pain
and another memory of a man on a gurney.

We discovered Aiden’s heart malady by accident. Ellen was
into natural food, natural medicine, whole-grain seaweed sandwiches and eggs
that came from free-range chickens who had bedtime stories read to them each
night before they settled into their nests. Natural childbirth with a midwife.
All that stuff. She was convinced antibiotics were the forbidden fruit, so she
didn’t run to the HMO every time our kids were sick. But something told her to
take Abby in for some chest congestion she couldn’t get rid of. Aiden was with
her, and on a lark the doctor placed the stethoscope on his chest.

Ellen cried when she tried to explain the look on the
woman’s face. They’d missed it when he was born.

That sent us on a crash course of congenital heart defects
and a series of surgeries and treatments that would change our lives. Ellen
hates hospitals as much as I do, but you do what you must for your kids.

“Terrelle has the same blood type,” Ellen said. “He’s about
the same size as Aiden, maybe a little smaller, which is good.”

“Ellen, you know this is not going to happen, right? There
are so many hoops and holes. They don’t let doctors execute people.”

“There are guidelines, but they don’t have a problem
harvesting organs from an already-deceased donor.”

“Anybody who’s pro-life will howl. I thought you were

“I am, but this is something Terrelle wants.”

“Doesn’t matter. They harvest organs from prisoners in
China, but we’re not in China.” Though you wouldn’t know it by shopping at

“I know all that. But I also know my son is going to die.
And Terrelle and his wife want something good to come out of their tragedy.
They asked if you would write his story. I got to thinking that maybe . . .”

She broke a little and hearing her cry felt like some lonely
prayer drifting away and hitting the empty shores of heaven. Not that I believe
there is one, but you know, metaphorically speaking.

“You were thinking what?” I said.

“Maybe all of this is not really for Aiden. Maybe all we’ve
been through in the last eighteen years is for somebody else. If they deny
Terrelle’s request and Aiden doesn’t make it, maybe writing this story will
make a difference for someone down the road.”

Her altruism was more than I could handle. “Look, I don’t
care about all the people with sick kids. I don’t care about prisoners who want
to make up for their crimes. I don’t care about protesters or the politicians
who’ve found a wedge issue. I just want my son to live. Is that asking too

The emotion surprised me and I noticed the family in white
had changed direction but now quickly herded their children away from me.

It was Ellen’s turn to sound collected. “Do you have time to
work on something like that in the next thirty days? It would at least pay a
few bills.”

“If they’re trying to get a stay of execution, they need to
go straight to the press. Forget a book deal, forget a magazine exposé—it’s
already too late. Get somebody at one of the local stations to pick it up and
run with it—”

“Tru, they don’t want a stay. He wants to give his heart to
Aiden. And somebody has to get the story down before it’s over. No matter how
it goes, this will make a great story.”

I was already mulling titles in my head. A Heart from Death Row. Change of Heart. Pitter-Pat. Life in
Vein. Aorta Made a Better Choice.

She continued, “They know your history. What you’ve seen.
How you’re against the death penalty and why. For all your faults, Tru, you’re
the best reporter I’ve ever known. You get to the heart of the story like
nobody else. I think you should consider it.”

The Heart of the Story. Another
good title. I could tell she was buttering me up. I love being buttered up by
lovely women. But I hate the complications of life with beautiful women.

“I don’t write evangelical tracts.”

“Why are you so stubborn?” she whisper-screamed at me. Her
voice had an echo like she had moved into the bathroom or stairwell. “Why do
you have to look at this as some kind of spiritual conspiracy against you
instead of a gift? This is being handed to you on a platter. Don’t push it
away. I don’t care if you agree with them about God. You didn’t agree with
every sports figure or politician.”

“The only way I know how to do this job is to ferret out the
truth and tell it. Flat out. The way I see it. And if you’re expecting me to
throw in the third verse of a hymn every other chapter and quote the Gospel of
Terrelle, I can’t do that. Call somebody from the Christian right.”

“Tru, it’s because of who you are and how you tell the story
that they want you. Just talk with her. Let her explain. If you don’t like the
situation, they’ll go somewhere else. But they have to act quickly.”

The sun was coming down behind me and the wind picked up off
the water. I could smell the first hint of an impending storm. Or maybe I
forgot my deodorant.

“I’ll think about it.”

I hadn’t been gone that long, but as I walked up the
stairs, I heard a vehicle pulling away from the house. The taillights had
disappeared into the distance by the time I made it to my front door.

Murrow was still in the window, looking down on me with that
superior look. Humans are such a waste of oxygen,
she seemed to say. Maybe she was right. Maybe we are a waste of oxygen and the
best thing would be for us to be wiped from the planet. But something inside
said that wasn’t true. Something inside pushed me to keep moving, like an ant
dragging a piece of grass along the sidewalk until a strong wind blows it away.
The ant picks up another and starts over. I get exhausted just watching them.

On the front door was a legal document stating that whereby
and forthwith said mortgage company had begun said process with an intent to
foreclose and otherwise vacate said occupant’s tail onto the street to wit and
wheretofore so help them God, amen. I had received several such letters in the
mail, filing them carefully, hoping the rising tide of foreclosures would save
my little cottage until I got a new job.

I ripped the notice down and used it to wipe the sand from
my feet. And then a thought struck. A horrible, no-good, bad thought. The
newspaper. They published my name with each intent to foreclose. That meant
others would know where I was. Others, as in people I owed. Bad people.

Another car passed, slowly. Tinted windows. A low rumble of
expensive metal and fuel.

I hurried to the back of the little house and pulled out
every suitcase I could find and stowed everything of value. Books. Pictures of
me with newsmakers. Cloudy memories of trips abroad, war zones, interviews with
generals and dignitaries who went on to fame or perished in motorcades that
didn’t make it through IEDs.

It was hard not to sit and absorb the memories, but the
passing car gave urgency. I jammed every journal and notebook in with the
pictures, then put one suitcase with clothes in the trunk of my car and took
the rest on my shoulder down the sandy path to the Grahams’ house. Sweet
people. He retired from the Air Force and they moved for the sun and salty air.
Both should have died long ago from arthritis and other maladies, but they were
out walking the beach every day like two faithful dogs, paw in paw.

Jack and Millie were on the front porch, and I asked if I
could borrow some space in their garage for a suitcase or two. “I need to take
a trip. Someone new will be living in my house.”

“Relatives coming?”

“No, someone from the Bank of America wants it.”

Millie struggled to get out of her rocker and stood by a
white column near the front door. “If you need help, Truman, we’d be glad to.”

Jack nodded and the gesture almost brought tears to my eyes.
“How much are you short?” he said.

“Just a spot in the garage is all I need.”

“What about your cat?” Millie said.

“Murrow’s going with me.”

“If we can do anything at all . . . ,”
Jack’s voice trailed.

“I appreciate it. I appreciate both of you. Thanks for your

“We pray for Aiden every day,” Millie said.

The garage was spotless. Everything hanging up or neatly
placed on shelves. I should have joined the Air Force. In the back I found an
empty space near some gardening tools. I shook Jack’s hand gently and gave
Millie a hug. I only turned and looked at them once as I walked back to the
house. They stood like sentinels, the fading light of the sun casting a golden
glow around them and their house.

When Murrow saw the cat carrier, she bolted under the sofa
and I threatened to sell her to the local Chinese restaurant. An open can of
StarKist and my tender, compassionate voice helped coax her into the carrier,
and we were off.

I texted my wife: Will call your
friend tomorrow. Can I use Abby’s room?

The phone buzzed in my shirt pocket as I drove along the
causeway into darkening clouds. Key under frog. No
The next text gave Oleta’s number and a short message. You were made for this story.

Maybe she was right. Maybe I was the one for this job. One
loser telling the story of his kindred spirit. I sure didn’t have anything
better to do. But with the window down and my hand out, being pushed back by
the cool air, it felt less like the start of a new chapter and more like the
end of one.