BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

LOVE'S PURSUITE by SIRI MITCHELL


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love's Pursuit

Bethany House (June 1, 2009)

by

Siri Mitchell



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.

A Constant Heart was her sixth novel. Two of her novels, Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door were Christy Award finalists. She has been called one of the clearest, most original voices in the CBA.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In the small Puritan community of Stoneybrooke, Massachusetts, Susannah Phillips stands out both for her character and beauty. She wants only a simple life but soon finds herself pursued by the town's wealthiest bachelor and by a roguish military captain sent to protect them. One is not what he seems and one is more than he seems.

In trying to discover true love's path, Susannah is helped by the most unlikely of allies, a wounded woman who lives invisible and ignored in their town. As the depth, passion, and sacrifice of love is revealed to Susannah, she begins to question the rules and regulations of her childhood faith. In a community where grace is unknown, what price will she pay for embracing love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love's Pursuit, go HERE

BY DARKNESS HID, THE BLOOD OF KINGS by JILL WILLIAMSON

Today's author is:


and the book:


By Darkness Hid, The Blood of Kings, book one

Marcher Lord Press (April 1, 2009)






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She writes stories that combine danger, suspense, and adventure for people of all ages. An avid reader, she started Novel Teen Book Reviews to help teens find great books to read. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two book-loving children. By Darkness Hid is her first novel.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 508 pages
Publisher: Marcher Lord Press (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982104952
ISBN-13: 978-0982104958

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch out in front to light his way.

He wove between dark cottages in the outer bailey of the castle, mindful to keep his torch clear of the thatched roofs. Most of the residents of Sitna still slept. Only a few of the twenty-some peasants, slaves, and strays serving Lord Nathak and Prince Gidon stirred at this hour.

Sitna Manor sat on the north side of the Sideros River. A brownstone curtain wall, four levels high, enclosed the stronghold. A second wall sectioned off the outer bailey from the inner bailey, temple, and keep. Achan wasn’t allowed to enter the inner bailey but occasionally snuck inside when he felt compelled to leave an offering at Cetheria’s temple.

The barn loomed ahead of him in the darkness. It was one of the largest structures in Sitna Manor. It was long and narrow, with a high, thatched gable roof. Achan shifted the pail to his torch hand and tugged the heavy door open. It scraped over the frosty dirt. He darted inside and pulled it closed.

The scent of hay and manure drifted on the chilled air. He walked to the center and slid the torch into an iron ring on a load-bearing post. The timber walls stymied the bitter wind, and Achan’s shivering lessened.

The torch cast a golden glow over the hay pile, posts, and rafters and made Achan’s orange tunic look brown. A long path stretched the length of the barn with stalls on each side penning chickens, geese, pigs, and goats. Two empty stalls in the center housed hay and feed. He approached the goat stall.

“Morning, Dilly, Peg. How are my girls? Got lots of milk for me?”

The goats bleated their greetings. Achan rubbed his hands together until they were warm enough to avoid getting him kicked. He perched on the icy stool to milk Dilly and begin his tedious routine. He could have worse jobs, though, and he liked the goats.

By the time Achan had finished with Dilly, the stool under his backside had thawed, though his breath still clouded in the torch’s dull glow. He lifted the pail to get a better look. Dilly had filled it a third. Achan set it between his feet, slapped Dilly on the rear, and called Peg. When he had finished milking her he moved his stool outside and set the milk on top of it. He grabbed a pitchfork off the wall.

“Anyone hungry?”

Dilly and Peg danced around as Achan dumped fresh hay into the trough. The goats’ excitement faded to munching. The other animals stirred, but they were not his responsibility. Mox, the scrawny barn boy, had arrived a few minutes ago and now shuffled from stall to stall at the other end of the barn.

As Achan leaned the pitchfork against the wall, he had to pause. A chill ran through him that had nothing to do with the temperature. He felt the familiar pressure in his head. It wasn’t painful but it brought a sense of a looming, sinister shadow. Someone was coming.

“Lo, Mox!” a familiar voice called from near the barn’s entrance.

“Moxy poxy hoggy face, we know you’re in here.”

Achan sucked in an icy breath and slid back into the goat stall. The voices belonged to Riga Hoff and Harnu Poe, Sitna Manor’s resident browbeaters.

Mox’s young voice cried out. “Stop it! Don’t do that! Ah!”

Achan set his jaw and thunked his head against the wall of the stall, earning a reprimanding look from Dilly. Poril would flay him if he returned late. And there was no guarantee he could beat both boys. He should mind his own business. Regular beatings had made him tough—they could do likewise for Mox.

Or they could cripple him for life. An image flooded his mind: a young slave being dragged through the linen field by Riga and Harnu. They’d crushed his hands so badly that all the boy could do now was pull a cart like a mule. Achan sighed.

He edged to the other end of the barn, stepping softly over the scattered hay. Two piglets scurried past his feet. He clenched his jaw. If the animals got out, Mox would be punished by his master too. Riga and Harnu knew that, of course.

Achan spotted them in a pig stall at the end of the barn. Harnu was holding Mox’s face in a trough of slop. The mere thought of the smell turned Achan’s empty stomach. Riga leaned over Harnu’s shoulder laughing, his ample rear blocking the stall’s entrance. Fine linen stretched over Riga’s girth and rode up his back in wrinkles, baring more skin than Achan cared to see.

He sent a quick prayer up to the gods and cleared his throat. “Can I help you boys with something?”

Riga spun around, his mess of short, golden curls sticking out in all directions. His face was so pudgy Achan could never tell if his eyes were open or closed. “Stay out of this, dog!”

Harnu released Mox and pushed past Riga out of the stall. The torch’s beam illuminated his pockmarked face, a hazard from working too close to the forge. “Moxy poxy piglet got out of his pen. He needs to learn his place.” Harnu stood a foot taller than Riga and was the real threat in the barn. He stepped toward Achan. “Looks like you need to learn yours too.”

Achan held his ground. “Let him go.”

Harnu’s gaze flitted to a pitchfork propped against the wall. He grabbed it and swung. Achan jumped back, but the tines snagged his tunic, ripping a hole in the front and scratching his stomach. Achan squeezed his fists and blew out a long breath.

Harnu jabbed the pitchfork forward. Achan lunged to the side and grabbed the shaft. He wrenched the weapon away and spun it around, prongs facing Harnu. He waved it slightly back and forth, hoping to scare the brute into flight.

“The barn is off limits to your instruction. Anything else I can do for you boys? A little hay? Some oats, perhaps? Drag you to the moat, tie a millstone to your ankles, see how well you swim?”

Like a dog being teased with a bone, Harnu lunged.

Achan stepped back and raised the pitchfork above his head the way he’d seen knights do in the longsword tournaments. With nothing to stop his hurtling bulk, Harnu stumbled. Achan swung the tines flat against Harnu’s backside, and the bully knocked head first into the chicken pen. The birds squawked and fluttered, sending a cloud of dust over Harnu.

Riga slipped past the stall and made toward the milk pail. Achan darted forward and stuck the pitchfork in the clay earth to snag Riga’s foot. The big louse tripped and sprawled into the dirt and hay.

Footsteps behind Achan sent him wheeling around just in time to lift the pitchfork to Harnu’s chest. Over Harnu’s shoulder, Achan could see Mox climbing out of the geese pen with a squirming piglet under one arm.

Harnu raised his hands and stepped back, a thin scratch swelling across his reddened cheek. “Lord Nathak will hear ’bout this, stray. You’ll hang.”

Achan knew he wouldn’t hang for a tussle like this, but he might be whipped. And Lord Nathak’s guards were merciless. Besides, Achan doubted Lord Nathak’s servants would bother their master with such a trivial matter. He shrugged. “Not much to tell. You fell into the chicken pen.”

“You attacked me with a pitchfork when I caught you trying to steal a horse.”

A tremor snaked down Achan’s arms. Stealing a horse was cause for a hanging. And no one—especially Lord Nathak—would take the word of a stray over a peasant, even one like Harnu. Achan jabbed the pitchfork out. “If Lord Nathak hears a breath of that tripe, I know where you lay your head.”

Harnu snorted and beat his chest with a clenched fist. “You dare threaten me?”

Achan glanced around for Riga, but the swine had vanished. He backed toward the hay pile, feeling cornered. Achan took another step back, keeping the pitchfork aimed at Harnu. His boot knocked against something.

Harnu cackled and pointed at the ground behind Achan’s feet. Achan looked down. The stool and pail lay on their sides, milk seeping into the clay soil.

Pig snout!

Riga charged out of the hay stall with a roar. Achan turned but Riga jerked the pitchfork away. Harnu rushed forward and battered Achan to the ground.

The pitchfork dug into Achan’s back. He gritted his teeth, not wanting to give the brutes the satisfaction of hearing him scream. He was more upset over the spilled milk than the pain.

Pain, he was used to.

Mox pointed at Achan from the end of the barn, his face gooey with slop. “Ha ha!”

The ungrateful scab was on his own next time.

Dilly and Peg kicked against the wall of their stall, agitated by Achan’s distress.

Harnu crouched in front of him, grabbed the back of his head, and pushed his face toward the puddle seeping into the dirt floor. “Lick it up, dog!”

Achan thrashed in the hay but lost his battle with Harnu’s hand. He turned his head just as his cheek splashed into the milky muck. The liquid steamed around his face. Harnu released Achan’s head and sat back on his haunches, his wide lips twisting in a triumphant sneer.

Riga chortled, a dopey sound. “I’d like a new rug, Harnu. What say we skin the stray?” He dragged the pitchfork down Achan’s back.

They never learned.

Achan pushed up with his arms. The prongs dug deeper but he was able to slide his right arm and leg underneath his body and twist free. He grabbed the handle of the pail and swung it at Harnu’s face. Harnu fell onto his backside, clutching his nose.

Achan scrambled to his feet. He grabbed another pitchfork off the wall and squared off with Riga.

The fat boy waddled nearer and lifted his weapon. Achan faked an upswing.

When Riga heaved the pitchfork up to block, Achan swung the shaft of his weapon into Riga’s leg.

The boy went down like a slaughtered pig.

Harnu approached, pinching his nose with one hand and wiping a fistful of hay across his upper lip with the other.

“This does grow old,” Achan said. “How many times do I have to trounce you both?”

“I’m telling Lord Nathak,” Harnu said, sounding like he had a cold.

“You’ve no right to attack us,” Riga mumbled from the dirt floor.

Achan wanted to argue, And what of Mox? but he’d sacrificed enough for that thankless whelp. He grabbed both pitchforks and fled from the barn.

Pale dawn light blanketed Sitna Manor. He ran toward the drawbridge, glancing at the sentry walk of the outer gatehouse. The squared parapet was black against the gray sky. A lone guard stood on the wall above like a shadow.

Achan ran through the gate and over the drawbridge. As usual, the guards ignored him. Few people in the manor acknowledged anyone wearing an orange tunic. One small advantage of being a stray. He sank to his knees at the edge of the moat to wash the blood off the pitchforks.

Riga and Harnu wouldn’t let this go easily.

Achan sighed. His fingers stiffened in the rank, icy water. One of these days he’d accept pretty Gren Fenny’s offer to weave him a brown tunic, and run away. He was almost of age—maybe no one would question his heritage. He could tell people his mother was a mistress and his father was on Ice Island. Sired by a criminal and almost sixteen, people wouldn’t ask too many questions.

When the pitchforks were clean, Achan returned to the barn. His attackers had left and, thankfully, had not done any damage they could blame him for. He shuddered to think of what their feeble minds hadn’t. The torch still burned in the ring by the door. They could have burned the barn to ashes. They were truly the thickest heads in Sitna, maybe even in all Er’Rets.

Not that Achan was much brighter, sacrificing himself for an ingrate who was probably out chasing piglets.

Achan hung one pitchfork on the wall and used the other to clean up the hay. When the ground was tidy, he picked up the empty pail and sat on the stool to catch his breath.

The consequences of his heroism were suddenly laid before him. The scratches on his back throbbed. The goat’s milk had completely soaked into the ground, the front of his tunic, and his face. Only the latter had dried, making the skin tight on his left cheek. His nose tingled from the cold. He shivered violently, now that he’d stopped moving. He scowled and pitched the pail across the barn. It smacked the goat stall, and the girls scurried around inside, frightened by the sound.

But Achan didn’t want a beating. So he picked the pail up againa, dragged the stool into the stall, and managed to squeeze another two inches of milk from the goats. It was all they had. Poril would be furious.

Achan jogged out of the barn, around the cottages, and across the inner bailey. By now, more people were stirring—it was almost breakfasttime. He wove around a peddler pushing a cart full of linens and a squire leading a horse from the stables. A piglet scurried past, just avoiding the wheels of a trader’s wagon. Achan ignored it. Mox could hang for all he cared.

Pressure filled his head again.

This time the insight that followed was not dread but kinship and hope. Achan paused at the entrance to the kitchens and turned, seeking out the source of the sensation. His gaze was drawn to the armory.

There, Harnu slouched on a stool clutching a bloody rag to his nose. His father stood over him, hands on hips. The warm glow of the forge behind their menacing forms brought to mind the Lowerworld song that Achan had heard Minstrel Harp sing in the Corner last night:

When Arman turns away, Shamayim denied

To Lowerword your soul will flee.

At the fiery gates meet your new lord, Gâzar

And forever in Darkness you’ll be.

Achan shuddered. The sensation of kinship was definitely not coming from them.

He spotted someone else. A knight stood leaning against the crude structure of the armory watching Achan with a pensive stare. He wore the uniform of the Old Kingsguard—a red, hooded cloak that draped over both arms and hung to a triangular point in the center front and back. The crest of the city of Armonguard, embroidered in gold thread, glimmered over his chest. The knight pulled his hood back to reveal white hair, tied back on top and hanging past his shoulders. A white beard dangled in a single braid that extended to his chest.

Achan recognized him immediately. It was Sir Gavin Lukos, the knight who had come to train Prince Gidon for his presentation to the council.

For what purpose did the knight stare? Achan had never met anyone above his station who hadn’t wished him harm or hard work. Yet his instincts had never been wrong. Sir Gavin harbored no ill will. Achan gave the old man a half smile before entering the kitchens to face Poril’s wrath.

* * *

Achan settled onto a stool by the chest-high table. The table was worn by years of knives and kneading. Poril, a burly old man with sagging posture, poured batter into stone cups and carried them to the hearth oven. Serving women scurried about filling trays with food and gossiping about Lord Nathak’s latest rejection from the Duchess of Carm.

Achan’s stomach growled at the smell of fried bacon and ginger cake. He wouldn’t be able to eat until after the nobility were served, and then he would be allowed only one bowl of porridge. Poril had a knack of knowing if Achan had eaten something he shouldn’t have. Achan suspected the serving women’s tongues flapped for extra slices of Poril’s pies.

The scratches on his back burned. He was in no mood for Poril’s daily lecture, nor could he stomach the cook’s nagging voice and the queer way he spoke about himself using his own name. Especially not when he was hungry and had a beating coming. He only hoped Harnu would keep his accusations of thieving to himself. Maybe it was time to talk to Gren about that brown tunic.

Poril scurried back to the table with a linen sack of potatoes. His downy white hair floated over his freckled scalp. Sometimes Achan wanted to laugh when he watched Poril. The man looked more like he should be wielding a sword than a wooden spoon. Some of the serving women said Poril was part giant. Achan wasn’t convinced. The cook might be tall and thick, but his sagging posture and thinning hair just made him look old.

“It’s what comes from giving a stray responsibility, that’s what. But Poril’s a kind soul, he is. Mother was a stray and no kinder woman there ever was, boy, I’ll tell yeh that. Worked hard so Poril could have better, she did.”

Poril dumped the potatoes onto the table. Several rolled onto the dirt floor, and Achan scrambled to pick them up. He spotted a crumbled wedge of ginger cake on the floor and stuffed the spicy sweetness into his mouth. It was even a bit warm still. Achan took his time setting the potatoes back on the table and pressed the lump of cake into the roof of his mouth to savor it, hoping Poril didn’t see. Then he grabbed a knife and hacked at the peel of the biggest potato.

Poril pointed a crooked finger in Achan’s face. “It’s only ’cause Poril’s the best cook in Er’Rets that Lord Nathak won’t be aware of yer blunder with the milk today, boy. ’Tis my responsibility to beat some sense into yeh, not his. Poril’s a fair man, and yeh deserve to be punished, that’s certain. But turning yeh over to the likes of the master is cruel. And cruel, Poril’s not.”

Achan set the peeled potato aside and picked up another. Poril always threatened to tell Lord Nathak of Achan’s every misstep, but the man was all talk. He was more scared of Lord Nathak than Achan was of Gâzar himself. True, Poril was not as cruel as some, but he was of the opinion that beatings with the belt were kinder than beatings with a fist. Achan grew tired of both.

Poril clunked a mug of red tonic onto the table beside Achan’s potato peelings. Achan glanced at it.

The old man’s gray eyes dared him to refuse. “Drink up, then. Poril’s waiting.”

Achan sucked in a long breath and guzzled the gooey, bitter liquid. He’d been fed the tonic every morning his whole life, and every morning Poril insisted on watching him drink. The taste killed the lingering ginger cake flavor on his tongue.

The thick mixture always churned in his gut, begging to come back up. Achan sat still a moment, breathing through his nose to calm his nerves. Then he rose to settle his stomach with a few mentha leaves from the spice baskets. Achan might not have free range of the kitchens, but Poril had learned long ago to allow Achan as much mentha as he needed.

Poril always claimed that Lord Nathak had insisted Achan drink the tonic to keep away illness—that strays were full of disease. But the tonic hadn’t prevented Achan from being ill several times in his life. Plus no other stray he knew had to take the drink. The one time he’d refused, he’d received a personal summons from Lord Nathak.

Achan shuddered at the memory and chewed on the leaves. Their fresh taste dissolved the tonic’s bitterness and tingled his tongue.

Poril wiped his hands on his grease-stained apron and sprinkled a bit of sugar over the prince’s ginger cake. Hopefully he’d forget to clean the crumbs off the table when he left to deliver it.

“Never wanted yeh, Poril didn’t. But the master brought yeh to Poril to raise and that’s what Poril’s done. Yeh brought none but trouble to the kitchens, the gods know. None but trouble. ’Tis why I named yeh so.”

As if an orange tunic wasn’t humiliation enough, achan meant trouble in the ancient language. Achan returned to his stool and raked the knife against another potato, trying to block out Poril’s braying voice. His pitchfork wounds stung but it would be at least an hour before he could tend to them.

“…and Poril will teach yeh right from wrong, too. That’s Poril’s duty to the gods.”

If that was true, Achan would like to have a little talk with the gods. Not that the all-powerful Cetheria would be burdened by the prayers of a stray—despite all the pastry tarts Achan had offered up at the entrance to the temple gardens over the years.

Day-old tarts didn’t compare to gold cups, jewels, or coins when you’re trying to win a god’s favor.

An hour later, Achan stood over the sink basin washing dishes while Poril delivered Lord Nathak and Prince Gidon’s breakfast. There were servants to do the task, but Poril insisted on being present when the first bites were taken.

Achan shifted his weight to his other leg. He hated cleaning dishes. Standing in one position for so long made his back ache, and today, with his pitchfork wounds, the pain doubled.

Though strays were lower even than slaves in most parts of Er’Rets, Achan had more freedom than most slaves. Poril kept him busy tending the goats, getting wood, and keeping the fireplaces hot and both kitchens clean, but at least there was variety. Some slaves worked fifteen hours a day at one task. Such tediousness would have driven Achan insane.

Achan dried the last pot and hung the towel on the line outside. When he came back in, Poril had returned. The cook wiggled his crooked fingers, beckoning Achan to follow him down the skinny stone steps to the cellar. Achan sighed, dreading the bite of Poril’s belt buckle.

The cook lived in a cramped room off of the cellar, furnished with a straw mattress, a tiny oak table, and two chairs. Achan slept in the cellar itself, under the supports that held up the ale casks, although he barely fit anymore. He feared to be crushed in his sleep one night when he rolled against one of the supports and it finally gave way.

As per routine, Achan went to Poril’s table, removed his tunic, and draped it over the back of one chair. He straddled the other chair in reverse and hugged it with his arms. His teeth fit into the grooves of bite marks he’d made over the years. He clenched down and waited.

Poril ran a finger down one of the scratches on Achan’s back. “What’s this?”

Achan quivered at the feel of crusty blood under Poril’s touch.

“Well? Speak up, boy. Poril don’t have all day to waste on yer silence.”

“I met some peasants in the barn this morning.”

“Spilled yer milk, did they?”

Not exactly, but Achan said, “Aye.”

“Yeh cause trouble?”

Achan didn’t answer. Poril always complained when Achan defended himself or anyone else. He said a stray should know his place and take his beatings like he’d deserved them.

“Ah, yer a fool, yeh are, boy. One of these days yeh’ll be killed, and Poril will tell the tale of how he knew it would come to pass. The boy wouldn’t listen to Poril. Had to smart off. Had to fight back. Not even Cetheria will have mercy on such idiocy.”

Achan doubted it mattered if he stuck up for himself or not. If a stray was invisible to man, how much more so to the gods?

He heard the swoosh of Poril pulling his leather belt from the loops on his trousers. He hoped his pants fell down.

When Poril was done flogging Achan, he kindly swabbed his back with soapy water, washed the blood from his tunic, and gave him an hour off to rest while it dried.

Good old Poril.

* * *

A kindly presence flooded his mind.

Achan was returning from the well carrying a heavy yoke over his shoulders with two full buckets of water. He rounded the edge of a cottage and found Sir Gavin Lukos heading toward him. Achan stepped aside, pressing up against the cottage and turning the yoke so the buckets wouldn’t hinder the great knight’s path. The buckets swung from his sharp movement, grinding the yoke into his shoulders.

Sir Gavin slowed. “What’s your name, stray?”

Achan jumped, wincing as the yoke sent a sliver into the back of his neck. Sir Gavin’s eyes bored into his. One was icy blue and the other was dark brown. The difference startled him. “Uh…Achan, sir.”

The knight’s weathered face wrinkled. “What kind of a name is that?”

Poril’s voice nagged in Achan’s mind, ’Tis trouble, that’s what. “Mine, sir.”

“Surname?”

Achan lifted his chin and answered, “Cham,” proud of the animal Poril had chosen to represent him. Chams breathed fire and had claws as long as his hand. Such virtues would tame Riga and Harnu for good.

Sir Gavin sniffed. “A fine choice.” His braided beard bobbed as he spoke. “I saw a bit of that ruthless bear in the barn with those peasants.”

Achan stared, shocked. He’d seen the fight? Would he tell Lord Nathak? “I…um…” Had Sir Gavin asked him a question? “I’m sorry?”

“I said, what’s your aim, lad?’

“I should like to serve in Lord Nathak’s kitchens…perhaps someday assist the stableman with the horses.”

“Bah! Kitchens and stables are no place for a cham. That’s a fierce beast. You need a goal fit for the animal.”

What could the knight be skirting around? “But I…I don’t have a…what choice have I?”

“Aw, now there’s always a choice, lad. Kingsguard is the highest honor to be had by a stray. Why not choose that?”

Achan cut off a gasping laugh, afraid of offending the knight. “I cannot. Forgive me, but you’re…I mean…a stray is not permitted to serve in the Kingsguard, sir.”

“It wasn’t always that way, you know. And despite any council law, there are always exceptions.”

Achan shifted the yoke a bit, uncomfortable with both the weight and the subject matter. He cared little for myths and legends. Council law was all that mattered anymore. Despite his fantasy of running away, he was Lord Nathak’s property, nothing more. The brand on his shoulder proved that. “Even so, sir, one must serve as a page first, then squire, and no knight would wish a stray for either.”

“Except, perhaps, a knight who’s a stray himself.” Sir Gavin winked his brown eye.

A tingle ran up Achan’s arms. He’d known Sir Gavin was a stray because of his animal surname, but it had been years since strays had been permitted to serve. Surely he couldn’t mean—

“Come to the stables an hour before sunrise tomorrow. Your training mustn’t interfere with your duties to the manor. Tell no one of this for now. If I decide you’re worthy, I’ll talk to Lord Nathak about reassignment to me.”

Achan’s mouth hung open. “You’re offering to train me?”

“If you’re not interested, I’m sure another would be eager to accept my offer.”

Achan shifted under the weight of the yoke. “No. No, sir. I’ll be there tomorrow.”

“Good. I’ll show you a trick or two you don’t yet know.”

Achan grinned. “Yes, sir.”

WILD CARD - ROBIN SHOPE - FIRST CHAPTER

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Wildcard

The Wild Rose Press (April 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



In Robin's words:

I am the Special Education Coordinator for Denton County Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. For our first two years of marriage, my husband and I traveled overseas as missionaries before pastoring a church for six years. Rick and I have been married for over thirty years and have two grown children. We live near Dallas, Texas.To date, my literary works include approximately two hundred articles in magazines such as: Live, Lookout, Mennonite, Christian Reader, Decision, Breakthrough and Today’s Christian. Other short stories appear in the books: Stories from the Heart, The Evolving Woman, and in the New York Times bestseller, In The Arms of Angels by Joan Wester-Anderson. Ann Spangler also used one of my stories in her book, Help! I can’t stop Laughing. Another two-dozen stories have been published in the Chicken Soup books. One story, Mom’s Last Laugh, was re-enacted for a PAX-TV program: It’s a Miracle. I co-authored three thrillers; The Chase, The Replacement, and The Candidate. I am writing The Turtle Creek Edition series, The Christmas Edition Nov. 2009, The Valentine Edition Jan. 2009. More Edition books will come out in 2010. 2009. Wildcard is a thriller/romance stand alone and the release date is late April 2009.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601544871
ISBN-13: 978-1601544872


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


He stared at her with superb green eyes the color of a calm sea, but it was his slow smile that pierced her heart. Eyes and smile. Together they pulled her into the deep waters of wild imagination. The six-footer awkwardly tugged on his collar and no wonder, he seemed totally out of place at the theater’s cast party. Ivy Dillon was ripe for romance. She had to meet Whatzhisname.

“Here’s your fruit punch.” Jordan nudged. “I snagged you a cup before the alcohol went in.”

“Thanks.” Ivy turned toward her roommate. “By the way, who’s that?”

“Who?”

“The great looking guy near the window.” Ivy tipped her head in that direction.

“You can’t mean Martin?” Jordan snorted.

“Martin?” Ivy whipped around and squinted. Sure enough, the man she set her sighs on meeting had disappeared and in his place was Martin, still wearing his stage makeup. He waved at her. Ivy waved back, disappointedly. “No not him.”

Ivy cruised through the stage director’s apartment, trying to catch sigh of the man with the interesting angular features, the hair that curled up along his neckline, and, oh yes, those eyes—those amazing eyes.

On the way by the dessert table, the chocolate covered strawberries distracted her. She bit into one, enjoying the meeting of two rivers of flavors, and just like that Whatzhisname appeared in front of her. A miracle!

“You have a bit of chocolate right there,” he told her pointing at the corner of her mouth.

“Thanks,” Ivy croaked.

“May I?” he asked permission to touch her skin and wipe the chocolate away.

Ivy moved closer and felt the gentle stroke of his touch. Just like strawberries and chocolate, Ivy knew they were meant to be.

“There, you’re perfect again.” He licked his chocolate finger and then glanced around the room scanning faces. “Great opening night for the play. Do you know the cast?”

Ivy nodded. “Yes, in fact, the leading actress is my friend.”

“Jordan Belle is your roommate? Interesting.”

“How did you know she was my roommate?”

Just as Whatzhisname opened his mouth to answer, Martin swayed up and held out a platter of canapés. “Would you help pass these for me, doll?” he asked Ivy.

No, no, definitely no. No way did she want to do anything that would take her away from a promising evening. It was hard to resist the urge to shove the food back toward Martin. Politely, Ivy accepted the canapés and offered them to the guests. The next time she looked up Whatzhisname was heading toward the front door. Running after him would be way too pathetic so she let him go. She had to. He went one way and she went the other way to the balcony where she hoped to catch one last glimpse of him as he left the building. Ivy leaned over the railing and waited. And waited.

An unexpected hand on her shoulder made her jump back, dropping her purse as she did so. The contents flew everywhere. “Oh no!” Ivy chased her belongings, hoping to save them before they rolled over the edge.

“Are you all right?” a male voice asked, as she saw hands scrambling to help pick up the loose items—lipstick, business cards, inhaler, loose change and billfold.

She looked into his face and sighed. “It’s you!”

Whatzhisname was back, with the perfect stormy eyes and that slow smile. It was enough to melt the ice sculpture on the buffet table. She shivered with delight.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“You didn’t frighten me.”

“I hate to contradict you, but you looked quite frightened.”

“Startled may be the more appropriate word choice, but I assure you I ain’t frightened,” Ivy panned.

“Ain’t ain’t a word.”

“I know. I used it for effect.” She loved the color of his eyes.

“I guess that makes it all right then.” One at a time, he handed back he items However, he held tightly onto her business card. “Is this your card?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then I must keep it,” he sweetly added as if he had no other desire than to know her.

Just like that, Ivy let him pull it from between her fingers. “I think I have everything now, thanks to you.” She snapped her purse shut.

“That’s good.” He straightened, slipped the card into his jacket pocket and turned to leave the party.

His abrupt exit made Ivy dizzy. Nonchalantly, she strolled through the party, smiling and nodding at the guests hoping to find Whatzhisname again. She had a dozen things she wanted to know about him, among them his name. However, they all drained from her head when Jordan hooked her by the arm.

“Catch a cab home. I’ll see ya in the morning.” With the toss of her long hair, Jordan skipped out of the party with a man on her arm.

Just then Whatzhisname sailed right by on his way out the front door, without even so much as a goodbye. Her window of opportunity had shut. After a few more chocolate covered strawberries eaten over deep sighs, it was Ivy’s turn to go home.


****

Ivy sat at the end of the pier with her feet in the water. She stared up at the oversized moon. The reflection of the heavenly constellation floated across the bay toward the shore on a parade of ripples. Suddenly, they turned into hands that leapt toward her, cold wet finger wrapped about her ankles. With a jerk, she was pulled beneath the lake. Frantically, she fought to free herself but she was no match. She lay motionless at the sandy bottom. Something poked her. Slowly, Ivy opened her eyes and inches away lay a body with hair swirling around the head. A skeletal hand reached out to her.

A dog howled outside on Washington Street.

Ivy bolted straight up in bed and pulled at the constricting button on the neck of her nightgown. She couldn’t breath. Mechanically, she swung her arm toward her prescription inhaler and accidentally propelled it across the room. It smacked the wall and ht the floor.

She knew it would be impossible to find her inhaler in a room draped in shadows so she staggered to the window and yanked open the shade. With daylight now sparkling on the floor, she found her inhaler on its side beneath the green cushioned chair alongside her bed. She dropped to her knees and snatched it. Ivy rocked back on her heels and opened her mouth. Several blasts of medicine sprayed her throat, allowing air to rush into her lungs. Slowly she counted her breaths as her eyes settled on a single rosebud in the pattern of her curtains. Bit by bit, she recovered.

Now all she wanted to do was fall back into bed, drag the blanket over her head and sleep for ten hours. Instead, she mustered her strength and latched onto the arm of the chair to pull up. It didn’t matter how sick she felt, she had to go to work.

She took off her nightgown and tuned the radio to a news talk station. Two political analysts from opposing parties were doing what they did best—arguing.

“Slow down, men,” she told them on the way into the bathroom. “The next presidential election is still two years away.”

Ivy stepped into the shower. The whoosh of the water in her face resurfaced the nightmare of the moonlight, the fingers, and the feeling of not being able to breath. Ten years later and she was still haunted by finding her best friend dead in the lake shallows. She felt thankful that during the day she was able to skate above the thoughts, but sometimes at night, when her defenses were down, they returned. Ivy shut her eyes tighter but the memory of Karin’s pale skin and dead eyes was all she could see. It weighed her down making her weak with terror. Ivy leaned against the tiles until she regained her balance.

The phone rang. Ivy didn’t move. On the third ring, she reached turned off the stream of water. After she slipped into her robe, she made her way to the phone. The caller ID read anonymous. She shouldn’t answer, she knew this, but she couldn’t stop herself. Her hands shook as she picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Erin, thank goodness I finally found you.” As usual the ‘Voice’ was calm, so in control.

“No one by that name lives here,” Ivy pushed out the words in a whisper and then slammed down the phone. She waited for it to ring again since it always did. The sound of his creepy tenor seemed to drip from the bathroom walls. Ivy kept staring at the phone, trembling. This time, there was no second call.

Now all Ivy wanted to do was to get out of the apartment and on the street where she felt safer and not so isolated. In her hurry, she nearly broke the zipper on her skirt as she struggled to get dressed.

Then, just as she reached the door, she heard someone fiddling with the doorknob. Ivy set her briefcase and purse down and peered through the peephole. In the hallway was the unmistakable form of her roommate who was now digging through her bag. Ivy turned the lock on the door and Jordan sailed into the apartment.

“Thank goodness you’re still here. I can’t find my key again.”

“Its lucky you caught me. Another minute and I’d be gone.” Jordan hugged several copies of the theater critic’s section to her chest. “Do you have time to read my reviews before you leave?”

“I always have time for you.” Ivy took a paper and read the metro section. “Jordan Belle Stands Out Among a Talented Cast. The only way it could get better is if people knew who you really were, Erin Lowe.”

“My theater name is Jordan Belle. Never, ever refer to me using my given name again.”

“What’s the harm” There’s only the two of us here.”

“Because you might slip up when it really matters,” Jordan said dramatically with a lift of an eyebrow.

“I can’t shake the feeling that there is something more you are not telling me.” Frustrated, Ivy needed to know. “What is it?”

Jordan bit her lip.

“Jordan, we’ve been though a lot since your sister Karin’s death. You owe it to me to let me know what it is you’re hiding from. Help me to understand.”

Jordan dropped into a chair, crossing one leg over the other. “All you need to know is that it involved the ‘Voice’. As long as he can’t find me, I’ll be happy.”

“Well, Jordan Bell, prepare to be sad. The ‘Voice’ called this morning asking for Erin.”

WILD CARD - REVIEWED



Wildcard
By Robin Shope
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
ISBN# 1-60154-487-1
221 Pages


Back Cover: What would happen if someone secured a microchip that could be manipulated to give his or her candidate the edge to win the next presidential election? Not enough votes for a landslide, but just enough to put their candidate over the top in a decisive win.

During Ivy Dillion’s last week as a Washington Intern, she and Ms. Geneen Waters, the secretary to the President of the United States, overhear a conversation about voting machines and missing software. Months later Ms. Waters body is found floating in the Potomac River.

FBI Special Agent Ian Serby, who swears he will give his life to protect her, takes Ivy into protective custody. Ian is smart, sexy and seems to have a hidden agenda all his own.

Review: “Ivy, never react to any situation emotionally. I survived all these years because I remained in the shadows and kept my emotions in check. It would behoove you to do the same.” This is advice from FBI Special Agent Ian Serby. .

Ivy starts an investigation of her own. Agent Sherby had told her she couldn’t trust anyone but herself - especially after uncovering information about a microchip used to manipulation election figures. Things get complicated and life threatening -the stakes of getting to the bottom of this situation are high. Ivy quickly realizes she has to stop reacting to things emotionally, like Agent Serby said. She has to think clearly and not feel—this can save her life and that of her loved ones.

When Ivy’s friend; Ms. Geneen Waters turns up dead, realization of how dangerous her predicament is comes to light. She knows she could be blamed for Ms. Geneen’s death; but why?

An agent tells Ivy she could be accused of stealing something from Ms. Waters, this is all so crazy! She tells the agent, “Look here, the only thing she had that I wanted was her love and her kindness…The most important things in life can’t be held in your hand, only in your heart.”

If the scenario in this book ever happened in real life it could rock the world. At the end I began to wonder if we’d already experienced affects of the microchip. Robin pens an endearing, action packed; suspenseful story that will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next. In parts it will make you smile as Ivy learns, who to trust and discovers the really important things in life.

Book Club Servant Leader

TURNING BACK THE PAGES WITH - GENTLE JOURNEY by ELAINE LYONS BACH - REVIEWED


GENTLE JOURNEY
By Elaine Lyons Bach
Published by Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN#1-5980-886-2
240 Pages







Back Cover: Driven, altruistic Eden Barrett yearns to bring about social reform using her artistic talent. Unaware of the enemies lurking in her future, when her initial plans go awry, she finds employment as a governess, hoping to continue to hone her talent in her free time. Eden immediately defies tradition when she rescues two climbing boys and houses them on the estate of her new employer. A man of integrity, like-minded in all but one insurmountable aspect, Colin Ashton, Seventh Earl of Edmund, finds the sparks flying as he matches wits with the new governess to his high-spirited, precocious, and controlling sister. He would fire Eden if not for his sister’s pleas on her behalf. Eden spurns marriage as a sure way for a female in her society to become a slave to the will of another. Fully aware, though, that her will and his do not agree and that he is far above her station, she is helplessly drawn to the capable lord. It seems his interest is in a beautiful neighbor. The Honorable Cassandra Bradley, whose brother is obviously taken with Eden. Lives will be transformed in their unforgettable journey of adventure, passionate emotions, and enduring love.

REVIEW: “Father God, how can I help children like them have a voice? Show me a way. And help me not to judge. Help me to condemn the deed and not the man. Only you know the circumstances of his life, what made him the way he is. Take this situation and turn it for good. Father, comfort those boys; protect them. Help them to grow straight and tall in spirit and not be disfigured by their awful experiences. “

Eden was a child advocate at a time when such a thing didn’t exist. She was passionate about children and making things right. Colin, master of the house, learns of her attempt to protect some boys from an evil man. Eden takes change and loses her temper in this situation. Colin says this to Eden,”You loose your temper easily, Miss Barrett. I suggest you find it immediately.”

This is what Colin thinks of Eden, “You’re a stubborn, unreasonable, perverse and frustrating creature!! Your ideas are not only ridiculous; they are dangerous!”

Elaine Lyons Bach, pens a tale of a strong, stubborn women that knows what she wants. The author weaves humor throughout her story like the line above. Eden aspires to be an artist. She’s the oldest sibling and instead of marring she desires to learn how to be the best artist she can be. But, there are no artist assistant openings, so she takes a job as a governess, she has such a passion for children and teaching them.

Then she meets Colin. He has hired her to educate his sister. Every time they talk, sparks fly - and not in a good way. Collin finds her outspoken and willing to talk back to him. How does she do that? She is beautiful, and he does find her a little appealing. But, both are stubborn people – only friendship could come of this relationship.

Here is an example of their talks. Colin scolds Eden after she loses her temper with the man who was mistreating boys.

She thinks, “How dare he lecture me! Right or not.”

“Patch it up between you and Mrs. York. I will not stand to suffer for your sins.”

..”When you see her, choose your words carefully; be sure to include ‘my fault.’, ‘very sorry’, ‘forgive me’, and ‘never again’ among them”

This scene is hilarious. I enjoyed how the author develops their relationship. Eden is so unlike the women of her time. Maybe that’s why I liked her so much.

The author weaves a strong spiritual thread in the story as well. Eden loves the Lord with all of her heart and doesn’t want anyone to perish, she says, “God does all that he can to keep us from going to hell short of removing our free will, it is we who don’t forgive ourselves. I think souls go to hell because they dare not approach Heaven in their guilty state. They are too ashamed. They send themselves to hell.”

This was a period of time when there were actual gentlemen and ladies existed. There were very clear rules in society that governed the way people lived their lives. Eden had a personal relationship with Jesus she held dear. Her desire was to share that with Diana her student. But Colin won’t hear of it. He didn’t believe in God.

But Diana’s curious and begins to ask Eden questions that lead to talking about God. Whether Colin likes it or not, he starts to hear about their conversations from Diana.

I enjoyed this story and the bantering that went on between Eden and Colin - it definitely made you smile. Eden and Colin - get mixed up in a bunch of misunderstandings with one another that brings them straight in the middle of a tragedy. All things become clear for a ending that satisfies.


Book Club Servant Leader

GUEST BLOGGER KAREN WHITING - MULTIPLE STREAMS OF CONTENTMENT



MULTIPLE STREAMS OF CONTENTMENT
By Karen Whiting


My mother didn't smile on my wedding day. She spent the day overwhelmed with sadness although she loved me and loved my fiancé. He was everything she wanted in a husband for me. The wedding stayed within budget and everything went off fairly smoothly. My extended family all attended, everyone got along, and tried to cheer her up. Yet, my wedding photos will always show her sad expression.

The day before the wedding my mentally handicapped brother had lost his little job of waiting on tables at a school cafeteria. Although social workers could easily place him in a new position, mom remained discontented and focused on that problem the entire day. She made the mistake of magnifying one problem, so that it robbed her of joy on such a happy occasion.
Many people let one problem override all the blessings in their lives. It steals their contentment. They forget to trust their anxieties to God and rejoice in the blessings he has given them.
Some people fixate on something until it changes their personality and fills them with negative emotions that spill out in sin. Herodias, in Matthew 14, is an example of a person whose discontent led to a life of sin. She had a husband but chose the sin of adultery. She must have been discontent with her husband. She felt more discontent at hearing John the Baptist speak of repentance and point out her sin. That led to her plotting the murder of John the Baptist. She trampled over people and even used her beautiful daughter to get her way. She ignored John's calls to repent, the one action that would have healed her heart and given her joy. Her bad choice snowballed into disaster for many.

In contrast, Paul spoke about contentment, in Philippians four, and said that he had learned to be content in prosperous circumstances and impoverished situations. His circumstances could not rob him of his joy or peace. It is very seldom that every detail in life is perfect because we live in a fallen world, but we can make choices that help us remain content despite our circumstances.

My mother finally discovered how to be content after a stroke left her partially paralyzed. She started to listen as we expressed gratitude for her life and what she could still do. When she complained that she could no longer do crafts, I mentioned that with her good hand she could write letters, a lost art, to grandchildren away at college and to her friends. She struggled to use a walker and spent much of her time in a wheelchair, but she spent time thanking God for her blessings of family, the patient care-giving of my father, the use of one hand, and a new ministry of writing letters of encouragement to family and friends. She realized that joy came as she filled her life with multiple streams of contentment.
Viewing all the different blessings in life is like seeing many streams that flow into an ocean or a lake. If one stream dries up, others keep flowing. One stream of contentment we can create is to do something for others. It gives us purpose. List your abilities and talents and consider ways to use them to bless others.
God is a giver of blessings. We learn in James 1:16-17, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. Blessings from God may be in the form of friends, financial security, a home, health, pets, clothing, and food. The meeting of our basic needs is a gift. Each one of these can become a stream filled with blessings. So let the abundance of gratitude for blessings flow into your heart. Consider each aspect of life as a different stream. There is always one stream that is bubbling up with blessings to fill your life with contentment.

In Philippians four, Paul provides wisdom regarding contentment: he urges people to live in harmony, rejoice in the Lord, and give anxieties to God in prayer. He encourages people to let their minds dwell on positive thoughts, stating that we should think about what is true, lovely, honorable, pure, true, and anything excellent. Positive thoughts help our emotions flow in an optimistic direction. To do this, list the blessings in each stream of life.

Spiritual streams include a relationship with Jesus, prayer, church family, Christian music, Bible study, and church fellowship.

Relational streams include family, friends, faith friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and new people we meet.

Blessings in daily life include past memories, pleasant thoughts, encouraging words, compliments, accomplishments, laughter, and smiles.
In creating the world, God also created beauty to provide natural streams of contentment filled with beautiful sunsets and sunrises, wonders of nature, blossoms, gentle breezes, showers that cause the earth to spring forth in color, and creatures that scurry and fly about.
After listing the positives, praise God for each one. Thank God for each friend and every little circumstance that is going well.
Then list past prayer requests that God answered. Thank God again for each response. Then add any new prayer needs. It's easier to trust God and give away worries when you recall the past times when God met your needs.
To prevent the flow of blessings from drying up, of being blocked as a dam blocks a river's flow, spend time nurturing the streams. Paul's contentment continued in prison and despite hardships. He nurtured his relationships. He continually prayed and wrote letters. He sent greetings to friends and encouraged his companions and fellow-workers with praise. Paul's later years stood in stark contrast to the discontented man who watched alone, as his soldiers stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58-8:3). They placed Stephen's cloak at Paul's feet. It's a lonely image of someone isolated from others. He made threats from the anger of discontentment and asked others to write letters for him, letters to imprison Christians. As a Christian, he viewed the blessings in life as gifts from God and knew the joy of friendships.
Paul developed a network of friends everywhere he traveled. And he encouraged his friends to live in harmony and stay focused on their relationship with Jesus. Paul's letters to Timothy urge Timothy to continue his relationship with God, to visit him, and to fill his life with loving actions.
Paul's wise words offer ways to keep the streams flowing. First, continue in your relationship with God. Do not let blockage occur from sin. His letters encourage people to keep the relationship with God right and strong. He sang songs in jail and praised God in the midst of trialsSecondly, work at relationships. Keep in touch with people, invite them to
visit, praise them and express gratitude for their friendship. Paul generated streams in lives of others. Paul had discovered the truth of Jesus' words in John 7:38, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.

My mother suffered from cancer in the final months of her life. When she called to say she had cancer I asked, "Mom, are you ready to go home to the Lord?" She said, " Yes." I could hear joy in her voice in spite of pain that filled her body. My children put together little care packages and wrapped up a tiny treasure to open each day. They made little crafts, wrote cards, wrapped photos, and taped messages. She smiled at each little gift. She had something positive to look forward to each day. My father, her husband of fifty years, read Scriptures at her request. She nurtured the streams.

My mentally handicapped brother had to be coaxed to visit her. He didn't think mom would know him because she was so near death. As he entered the room I asked, "Mom, do you know who is here." She almost yelled, something very difficult for her to do and said, "Johnny. I hear Johnny." That melted Johnny's heart and he stayed by her side for the afternoon, holding a cup and straw for her to sip water. She thanked him. She had learned to work at the relationships even when it became most difficult.

Until her final hours my mother did not feel pain. As she passed on to heaven, my dad and some siblings surrounded her. My mother had learned an important truth: streams of contentment can be a powerful force to ease pain, change our perspective, and create peace in our hearts.
About the Author:
A creative person with creative solutions- that's Karen Whiting! She has a heart for busy women and desires to help them free up time for what God has truly called them to do in relationships and ministry. She challenges listeners to discover ways to connect, serve, and treasure one another.
Karen found time to follow God's call to write even while she and husband, Jim moved around the US and raised their five children. They currently live on Maryland's eastern shore and are new grandparents.
An author of ten books for women, families and children, Karen writes to creatively strengthen families. Her articles have appeared in dozens of magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today's Christian Woman, Christian Parenting Today, and Parent Life. Karen has been named Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the World, and Professional Speakers Network member of the year award. Karen has been a guest on numerous radio shows and hosted the educational television series Puppets on Parade. With humor and inspiration, Karen loves to encourage women to nurture their relationships and family life.

Find out more about Karen at her website http://www.karenwhiting.com/

You are welcome to post this entire article on your site, or you might wish to post a few teaser paragraphs and then post this link where readers can see the whole article at http://www.docstoc.com/docs/7088309/Mutliple-Streams-of-Contentment.

TALKING TO THE DEAD by BONNIE GROVE - FIRST CHAPTER

Today's author is:


and the book:


Talking to the Dead

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Working Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Talking to the Dead is her first novel. Grove and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.

Author website: www.davidccook.com – www.bonniegrove.com

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766411
ISBN-13: 978-1434766410

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.


Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake? I refused to pick at dainties and sip hot drinks. Instead, I wandered into the back yard.


I knew if I turned my head I’d see my mother’s back as she guarded the patio doors. Mom would let no one pass. As a recent widow herself, she knew my need to stare into my loss alone.


I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes, letting the June sun warm my bare arms. Instead of closing the door on my pain, I wanted it to swing from its hinges so the searing winds of grief could scorch my face and body. Maybe I hoped to die from exposure.


Kevin had been dead three hours before I had arrived at the hospital. A long time for my husband to be dead without me knowing. He was so altered, so permanently changed without my being aware.


I had stood in the emergency room, surrounded by faded blue cotton curtains, looking at the naked remains of my husband while nurses talked in hushed tones around me. A sheet covered Kevin from his hips to his knees. Tubes, which had either carried something into or away from his body, hung disconnected and useless from his arms. The twisted remains of what I assumed to be some sort of breathing mask lay on the floor. “What happened?” I said in a whisper so faint I knew no one could hear. Maybe I never said it at all. A short doctor with a pronounced lisp and quiet manner told me Kevin’s heart killed him. He used difficult phrases; medical terms I didn’t know, couldn’t understand. He called it an episode and said it was massive. When he said the word massive, spit flew from his mouth, landing on my jacket’s lapel. We had both stared at it.


When my mother and sister, Heather, arrived at the hospital, they gazed speechlessly at Kevin for a time, and then took me home. Heather had whispered with the doctor, their heads close together, before taking a firm hold on my arm and walking me out to her car. We drove in silence to my house. The three of us sat around my kitchen table looking at each other.


Several times my mother opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Our words had turned to cotton, thick and dry. We couldn’t work them out of our throats. I had no words for my abandonment. Like everything I knew to be true had slipped out the back door when I wasn’t looking.


“What happened?” I said again. This time I knew I had said it out loud. My voice echoed back to me off the kitchen table.


“Remember how John Ritter died? His heart, remember?” This from Heather, my younger, smarter sister. Kevin had died a celebrity’s death.


From the moment I had received the call from the hospital until now, I had allowed other people to make all of my bereavement decisions. My mother and mother-in-law chose the casket and placed the obituary in the paper. Kevin’s boss at the bank, Donna Walsh, arranged for the funeral parlor and even called the pastor from the church that Kevin had attended until he was sixteen to come and speak. Heather silently held my hand through it all. I didn’t feel grateful for their help.


I sat on the porch swing, and my right foot rocked on the grass, pushing and pulling the swing. My head hurt. I tipped it back and rested it on the cold, inflexible metal that made up the frame for the swing. It dug into my skull. I invited the pain. I sat with it; supped with it.


I opened my eyes and looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed. Layers of white moved rumpled and languid past the azure heavens. Their shapes morphed and faded before my eyes. A Pegasus with the face of a dog; a veiled woman fleeing; a villain; an elf. The shapes were strange and unreliable, like dreams. A monster, a baby—I wanted to reach up to touch its soft, wrinkled face. I was too tired. Everything was gone, lost, emptied out.


I had arrived home from the hospital empty handed. No Kevin. No car—we left it in the hospital parking lot for my sister to pick up later. “No condition to drive,” my mother had said. She meant me.


Empty handed. The thought, incomplete and vague, crept closer to consciousness. There should have been something. I should have brought his things home with me. Where were his clothes? His wallet? Watch? Somehow, they’d fled the scene.


“How far could they have gotten?” I said to myself. Without realizing it, I had stood and walked to the patio doors. “Mom?” I said as I walked into the house.


She turned quickly, but said nothing. My mother didn’t just understand what was happening to me. She knew. She knew it like the ticking of a clock, the wind through the windows, like everything a person gets used to in life. It had only been eight months since Dad died. She knew there was little to be said. Little that should be said. Once, after Dad’s funeral, she looked at Heather and me and said, “Don’t talk. Everyone has said enough words to last for eternity.”


I noticed how tall and straight she stood in her black dress and sensible shoes. How long must the dead be buried before you can stand straight again? “What happened to Kevin’s stuff?” Mom glanced around as if checking to see if a guest had made off with the silverware.


I swallowed hard and clarified. “At the hospital. He was naked.” A picture of him lying motionless, breathless on the white sheets filled my mind. “They never gave me his things. His, whatever, belongings. Effects.”


“I don’t know, Kate,” she said. Like it didn’t matter. Like I should stop thinking about it. I moved past her, careful not to touch her, and went in search of my sister.


Heather sat on my secondhand couch in my living room, a two seater with the pattern of autumn leaves. She held an empty cup and a napkin; dark crumbs tumbling off onto the carpet. Her long brown hair, usually left down, was pulled up into a bun. She looked pretty and sad. She saw me coming, her brown eyes widening in recognition. Recognition that she should do something. Meet my needs, help me, make time stand still. She quickly ended the conversation she was having with Kevin’s boss, and met me in the middle of the living room.


“Hey,” she said, touching my arm. I took a small step back, avoiding her warm fingers.


“Where would his stuff go?” I blurted out. Heather’s eyebrows snapped together in confusion. “Kevin’s things,” I said. “They never gave me his things. I want to go and get them. Will you come?”


Heather stood very still for a moment, straight backed like she was made of wood, then relaxed. “You mean at the hospital. Right, Kate? Kevin’s things at the hospital?” Tears welled in my eyes. “There was nothing. You were there. When we left, they never gave e anything of his.” I realized I was trembling.


Heather bit her lower lip, and looked into my eyes. “Let me do that for you. I’ll call the hospital—” I stood on my tiptoes and opened my mouth. “I’ll go,” she corrected before I could say anything. “I’ll go and ask around. I’ll get his stuff and bring it here.”


“I need his things.”


Heather cupped my elbow with her hand. “You need to lie down. Let me get you upstairs, and as soon as you’re settled, I’ll go to the hospital and find out what happened to Kevin’s clothes, okay?”


Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones. “Okay.” She led me upstairs. I crawled under the covers as Heather closed the door, blocking the sounds of the people below.

TALKING TO THE DEAD - REVIEWED


Talking to the Dead
By Bonnie Groves
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-143476410
384 Pages


Back Cover: Twenty something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving-widow thing down. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living-room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep—Is she losing her mind?
Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then to a shrink with a bad toupee, a mean-spirited exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warm hearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past …and Kevin begins to shout.
Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on in this tender, quirky story about second chances.

REVIEW: They were high school sweethearts with so many dreams for their future. They wanted the American Dream then suddenly that dream dies unexpectedly with Kevin. Kate’s life wasn’t supposed to be like this. Now she was hearing Kevin talking to her. How could that be? How could she move on with him so near? Why couldn’t she shake this feeling? She had to get help but where?

I felt for Kate as she was willing to try anything to get normal again. Part of getting her life on track was getting her finances in order. There’s so much paperwork where to begin? In the process she uncovers something so disturbing she can’t breathe. Who was this man she’d been married to for five years? On top of everything else this couldn’t be happening to her, not now.

Kate reflects “…my heart was still a box of shattered glass. And I had serious doubts that God could put it back together. Or would care to. At least the God I saw reflected in The Reverend. His was an angry God. A black and white, right and wrong sort of God…A God who’d condemned me with his “high beams of holiness.” Kate is struggling in every area of her life. Who can she turn to? Who could possibly understand?

Talking to the Dead is not something I’d normally read. I didn’t know what to expect from the front cover and title but I plunged in anyway, and to my great surprise I found a brilliantly refreshing story of hope, healing and second chances. The author takes you on an unexpected adventure so intriguing and different you can’t stop reading. Trust me you don’t want to miss this story. You’ll be keeping a watch for what Bonnie Groves writes next.

Book Club Servant Leader

THE KING'S LEGACYby JIM STOVALL - FIRST CHAPTER

Today's author is:


and the book:


The King’s Legacy

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Jim Stovall is a national champion Olympic weightlifter, former president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought after author and platform speaker. Jim was honored as the International Humanitarian of the Year, joining previous recepients Mother Teresa and Nancy Reagan. He is the author of the best-selling book The Ultimate Gift, now a major motion picture.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765938
ISBN-13: 978-1434765932

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Once upon a time, there was an enchanted kingdom in a land far, far away. The kingdom was ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king. He had led his people through many difficult times, and they had finally reached a golden age of peace, prosperity, and happiness.


The king summoned all of his wise men together and said, “Now that our land is enjoying a season of prosperity and peace, I wish to leave a permanent legacy of my reign as your ruler.”


The king went on to tell his wise men that he would like their best thoughts and ideas as to what he could do to create a fitting tribute to all the people of the kingdom and his reign as their leader. Each of the wise men left the Throne Room determined to come up with the best idea to present to the king, as they all knew that the king’s chosen action would be remembered for generations.


On the appointed day and hour, the wise men reconvened in the Throne Room.


The king said, “I want to hear your suggestions one at a time, so that I might determine what would be a fitting legacy for me to leave in honor of my reign as king.”


The first wise man approached the steps leading to the throne, bowed with dignity, and began. “Your Highness, since the beginning of recorded history, great rulers have left magnificent feats of architecture as tributes to their greatness. One need only look to the east and think of the great pyramids that have stood for generations and will remain throughout time, paying homage to the pharaohs.”


The wise man bowed again and backed away from the throne.


The king fell silent and was lost in deep thought, then said, “I am pleased with your suggestion as it has much merit. Indeed, a great edifice could stand for thousands of years to proclaim the greatness of our people and my reign as their king.”


The second wise man approached the throne and bowed reverently. He said, “Oh, great King, if I may humbly suggest that a gold coin be designed and minted bearing your image and in your honor. This coin could be distributed throughout the kingdom and, carried along the trade routes as if by friendly winds, it would literally be distributed around the world signifying your power and majesty.”


The king nodded and smiled. He seemed pleased with this suggestion also. He then beckoned the next wise man to approach. The wise man dutifully bowed and said, “Your highness, may I suggest that a monument of heretofore unknown proportion be erected in your image. Great reflecting pools and immense gardens would surround the statue. People would travel from the four corners of the earth to marvel at its splendor and pay respect and tribute to your greatness.”


The king smiled and stated, “Each of these suggestions has been well thought-out and presented. Before I go to deliberate my final decision, are there any other suggestions?”


After a long pause, the eldest wise man stepped forward. The king smiled and said, “My great and wise advisor, you have been with me from the beginning of my reign to this day, and you have always served me well. What say you in this matter?”


The elderly wise man replied quietly, “Your highness, may I suggest that each of my colleagues has proposed a fitting tribute to your greatness in the traditional sense; however, great buildings, gold coins, and monuments serve as tributes to other rulers from other days. May I humbly offer my suggestion? Something altogether different?”


The king nodded in assent.


“The one thing that could pay tribute to your greatness for thousands of years to come would be the proclamation of the Wisdom of the Ages. This would be an opportunity for you, oh great one, to communicate the greatest secret of the known world to benefit all humanity.


“Buildings and coins and statues will all pass away, but the Wisdom of the Ages would last forever. This would, indeed, be a fitting tribute to the king I humbly serve.”


The king fell into deep thought. Finally, he told all of his servants and the wise men to leave him so that he might choose the tribute most fitting to his reign as their king.

THE KINGS LEGACY by JIM STOVALL - REVIEWED



The King’s Legacy: A Story of the Wisdom of the Ages
Best-selling author Jim Stovall’s classic parable returns in an updated gift edition


From the best-selling author of the The Ultimate Gift, now a major motion picture, comes an ageless tale with a profound message: Sometimes wisdom is where you least expect it. This summer, Jim Stovall’s classic parable, The King’s Legacy: A Story of the Wisdom of the Ages (David C Cook, June 2009), will return in an updated, revised gift edition. Featuring an enhanced look and new illustrations, this simple, insightful story is perfect for readers of all ages.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was an enchanted kingdom ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king who, through his uncommon wisdom and insight, led his people through many difficult times to a period of peace, prosperity, and happiness such as the kingdom had never known.

Now, nearing the end of his reign, the king longs to leave a lasting legacy for his people. What would be a fitting memorial to his time on the throne? A monument to rival the pyramids of Egypt? A gold coin bearing his likeness? A colossal statue carved in his image? No, such an enlightened ruler would choose a very different kind of memorial.

But then the king has a remarkable idea: To discover the most profound words of wisdom in the world. So the king invites citizens from all walks of life and all corners of the realm to share with him the best of their life lessons. Farmers and physicians, hunters and historians, jesters and judges—all come before the monarch. From the wisdom that they share, the king will select the one bit that surpasses all the others, wisdom that will be passed around the world, wisdom that will benefit all people from all lands, forever: the Wisdom of the Ages.

But as the king hears from more and more of his subjects, he becomes worried and restless. From so much profound and wonderful wisdom, how will he discern the Wisdom of the Ages? How will he know when he has found it? The answer comes in a form that no one, from the king to the lowliest peasant, could expect. For the greatest wisdom comes from the most unexpected of places….


Author Bio
Jim Stovall is former a national Olympic champion weightlifter, president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought after author and platform speaker. For his work in making television accessible to our nation’s 13 million blind and visually impaired people, The President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity selected Jim Stovall as the Entrepreneur of the Year. Jim was also honored as the International Humanitarian of the Year, joining previous recipients Mother Teresa and Nancy Reagan. He is the author of the best-selling book The Ultimate Gift, now a major motion picture.

The Kings’ Legacy
By Jim Stovall
Published by: David C. Cook
ISBN# 978-1-4347-6593-2
156 Pages


Back Cover: In a land and time far from our own, there was an enchanted kingdom ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king. He had led his people through times of uncertainty and turmoil into a golden age of prosperity and peace

Now nearing the end of his storied reign, the king longs to leave a lasting legacy for future generations. He considers soaring monuments, precious coins bearing his likeness, larger-than-life statues. But then the king's most trusted advisor steps forth with a remarkable idea: To discover the wisdom of the ages, the greatest secret of the known world to benefit the entire human race.

So the king invites citizens from all walks of life and all corners of the realm to share with him the best of their life lessons. Yet as the king encounters a wealth of wisdom from his subjects, he faces a new dilemma, just how to determine the single greatest truth in life. Little does he know that the profound answer will come from the most unexpected and unassuming of places.

REVIEW: Jim Stovall is popular speaker and has written several books. Another book I’ve read by this author was, The Ultimate Gift, it’s an amazingly powerful book that’s been made into a movie – that’s really good; make sure you watch it with tissues handy- it’s a tear jerker.

This book is written in a fairy tale fashion. Each chapter has a picture on the left hand side and the beginning of the chapter on the right. The first sentence of this book starts out, “ONCE UPON a time, there was an enchanted kingdom in a land far, far away….”

The king summons his wise men together and says, “Now that our land is enjoying a season of prosperity and peace, I wish to leave a permanent legacy of my reign as your ruler.” After talking to his wisemen the King realizes that he can’t do this task alone. He starts to seek the wisdom outside his counsel and opens up talks with people from all walks of life.

Each chapter of this book is about the King giving audience to his people from all walks of live, in search for wisdom; the very wisdom that will benefit all people and forever improve the lives of all humanity. Some of the people the King talks to are a merchant, a soldier, a poet, a farmer, a physician, a jester, a teacher, a parent and so on. The book ends with two chapters called ‘The Wisdom of the Ages’ and a special chapter just for you called ‘The Wisdom of You.’

This small book packs a thought provoking punch. It gives you a glimpse of so much wisdom from so many angles. I enjoyed it. It doesn’t take long to read. I think it’s something I’m defiantly going to read to my kids.

Book Club Servant

CROSSING THE LINES by RICHARD DOSTER - FIRST CHAPTER

Today's author is:


and the book:


Crossing the Lines

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Richard Doster is editor and frequent contributor to byFaith magazine, winner of the 2006 and 2008 Evangelical Press Association’s Award of Excellence. A native of Mississippi and a graduate of the University of Florida, Doster is now concentrating on Southern fiction, beginning with the well-received Safe at Home. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Sally.

Visit the author's website.






Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799840
ISBN-13: 978-1434799845

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands

(1 Thessalonians 4:11)


There was a time when I aspired to only three things in life: to enjoy my work, to love and care for my family, and to take pleasure in the company of a few good friends.


I never coveted fame nor craved fortune. My proper place, I knew, was adjacent to the fray, but never in it. As a reporter I gathered facts and presented them well. With nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives I ushered readers to a ringside seat; I put them front-and-center where they could—without obstruction—witness the drama of life in the world around them.


I prowled at the fringes, hovering where I could keep an eye on the men who moved the world. Like a hummingbird, I flitted from one story to the next, extracting what I needed and then quickly moving on in search of more.


In a perfect world, I thought, I’d do my job and then go home. And there I’d savor the last hours of each day with my wife, Rose Marie, and our son, Chris.


But it’s been some time since the world was perfect.


Our ambition, the Bible says, is to live a quiet life, but none of us will ever know one. If we’re awake in this world, if we breathe in and out, if we put one foot in front of the other, or so much as encounter one other human in the course of a given day—then there’s not much hope for more than a few hours rest.


God has set this goal before us, and then placed it beyond our reach. And that’s a mystery that tangles up my mind. If He is good (and I believe He is), then why does His world conspire against us? And if He loves us (and I’ll grant that He does), then why does everything get stirred up into one mess after the other, depriving us, every day it seems, of the peace we are meant to have?


I suspect that you’ve had doubts, too; that you’ve seen the evidence as clearly as I have. And that we’ve all, in the midst of grief or confusion, built a case against Him, that we’ve proved, at least in our own minds—and way beyond a reasonable doubt—that God has lost control of this world. Even the dullest among us can point to war and communism, or to hurricanes and tornadoes. And God Himself surely knows we’ve had our fill of polio and cancer and tuberculosis.


But the testimony that’s even more disturbing is what we see two feet in front of our own faces. It’s what I have seen up and down Peachtree Street; in Montgomery and Little Rock and Nashville; and even in the hearts of the people I love.


There was a time when I rarely yearned for more than a peaceful life, when I was content with a backyard barbeque, a good ballgame, cuddling with Rose Marie while we watched Ed Sullivan.… And for years the world spun my way. Month after month, life provided more than I asked—until the summer of 1954, until the night my home was bombed, until the lives of my wife and son were threatened, until—in the pitch-black hours of a brand-new morning—our comfortable existence was shattered, and every good thing that I had taken for granted was—in the flash of that single explosion—gone.


Ever since, I’ve been nagged by the thought that God Himself has been plotting against me; that He has—for reasons He hasn’t deigned to share—mined my path with the worst of the world’s problems. There’ve been days that I even thought He hovered above, just waiting for the pieces of my life to come “this close together,” and then Wham! He dusts off some favorite calamity, hurls it my way, and watches as life peels off into some new wreckage, forcing me to sort out some mess I never made.


It’s ridiculous, I know, to think that the God of the universe would trifle with the likes of me, Jack Hall. And trust me, I’ve spent the opening hours of a thousand mornings wondering,

Why me Lord? Why, when there are so many deserving creeps in the world, me?


To date, God’s felt no obligation to answer. And by His silence He sets before me the same question He posed to Job: “And exactly who are you, pip-squeak, to question Me?”


Fair enough, I suppose. But like Job I’ve been wounded and forever scarred. An event like that lingers—it’s always there, lurking, and I’m not sure I’ve known a sound night’s sleep in the past six years.


~~~~~


What is it, exactly, that drives a fellow human to so much malice? By what logic does one conclude that a bomb—thrown through the window of a quaint, three-bedroom home—is the wise and sensible course of action?


The answer to questions like these is rarely simple, but I’ll do my best to explain: We lived in Whitney, once the world’s most beautiful town, and a place that felt more like home than anything ever built by human hands. But in 1954 we tore the place in two. With bitterness and violence we slashed it along the seam where black met white—and I bore a share of the blame.


I’d been the sportswriter for the Whitney Herald, and I had, in an effort to salvage the town’s struggling baseball team, engineered the signing of a Negro player, the now famous Percy Jackson. But white fans and most of the city’s leaders shuddered at the thought of mixing races, anywhere or for any reason. And night after night Jackson felt, and heard, a full measure of the town’s wrath.


We might have survived that. We might have outlived those first bursts of outrage, just as the Dodgers had with Jackie Robinson. And who knows, we may have flourished. But, in the midst of our experiment, the Supreme Court fielded one of its own. Nine black-robed justices outlawed “separate but equal” schools, and Whitney’s mothers and fathers came unglued. Our bankers, lawyers, and merchants panicked. Our city councilmen scurried for cover, shielding themselves behind a chorus of defiant proclamations. Our pastors joined the battle, too; white and colored both, they stormed to their pulpits and exhausted every ounce of the moral authority they had, urging their congregations to either comply or resist, deepening the wound that had gashed us.


The presence of Percy Jackson, living and playing in the midst of white teammates, was more stress than Whitney could bear. In a Negro ballplayer, my friends saw the looming threat of racial integration. When they watched him play they faced the unbearable truth that a Negro was better than the white men around him; it was a chilling glimpse into a dreadful future, and the threads that had held us together frayed.


As colored folks inched forward, as they crept—ever so scarcely—into the fabric of everyday life, their white neighbors scurried to block the path. And we all, in pursuit of the one thing we most treasured, ran ourselves right out of Eden.


Percy Jackson and I became the flesh-and-blood faces of one town’s trouble. He and I— a colored kid and a white reporter—personified every last drop of Whitney’s strain. And on a summer night in 1954 my home, and then his, became the bull’s-eye of our neighbors’ rage.


~~~~~


As I faced the aftermath an old college professor had called. And it is there that this story begins.


He had heard from the sports editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Furman Bisher. “I knew him when were both at the Charlotte News,” my teacher explained. “He’s looking for somebody who knows baseball, for a guy who’s just itching to cover the Atlanta Crackers and the Southern Association. You’d be perfect,” he said. Then he chuckled—a little too sadly I thought—“and besides, Ralph McGill, the editor down there, he’s probably the one guy who won’t hold all that Percy Jackson crap against you.”


My heart thumped audibly at the sound of the words “Atlanta Crackers,” and my salivary glands oozed. The Crackers were the New York Yankees of minor league baseball, the best team ever assembled in a Southern city—and that made this the best sports job south of Baltimore. “Who else is Bisher talking to?” I asked. “How long’s he been looking? When he’s going to decide?”


My friend chuckled. “I think I was his first call,” he said. “So if I were you, I’d hang up on me and call him. He’s expecting to hear from you.”


Furman Bisher had been in Atlanta for three or four years. I’d seen his work and I knew he possessed a first-rate talent. I remembered him from a few years before—it might have been 1949 or ’50—when he’d snagged an interview with Shoeless Joe Jackson. There wasn’t a sportswriter alive who wouldn’t have killed to swap places. It’d been thirty years since the Black Sox scandal, and the world had yet to hear from its fallen hero. An explanation was overdue, and when the time had finally come, it was Bisher who got the story.


The man wrote sports like Thomas Wolfe wrote novels—vividly and with elegance. He took his readers where they most longed to go—to the sixteenth green at the Augusta National, where the air was thick with just-bloomed azaleas; to Churchill Downs where the ground shook under the pounding hooves of Native Dancer; to Ponce De Leon Park where, as they read Bisher’s words they would, within the expanse of their own imaginations, crane their necks to follow the path of a long fly ball drifting back, back, back … and just clearing the left-field wall.


There wasn’t a game he didn’t love: baseball, basketball, football—he devoured them all. And he looked the part, too; a sportswriter straight out of central casting: curly black hair combed straight back, a boxer’s nose, thick, dark brows that arched above playful black eyes. He was rough and old school, but his words were always refined and perfectly mannered. And every time I read his work, I envied the talent he’d been given.


~~~~~


I lingered outside his office. It was 9:51 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 1955. A reporter leaned over the desk, both hands planted squarely on top, waiting. Bisher read; he tapped a pencil, his eyes racing left to right and down the page. A moment passed, and then another.


And then I heard the dreaded sigh. “What the—? What is this, Bill? The lead’s hobbling around like it’s crippled; there’s no drama, it might be nice to see a verb somewhere.…” There came another words-fail-me huff, then a crumpling sound, and then a ping into a distant trashcan. “Do it again,” Bisher snarled. “I need something in a half hour.”


Bill turned and stomped away. He was hunched low like a middle linebacker who’d tear your head off and know nothing but glee for the effort. He trudged fifteen feet down the corridor and punched the wall. At twenty feet he muttered furiously and unintelligibly. “Son,” “cram,” and “stick” were the only words I actually heard, but everyone within fifty feet got the gist of what was on Bill’s mind. Ten feet farther and he disappeared around the corner, still grumbling, the back of his neck now tinged with bright red rage.


Swell timing I thought. I took a deep breath, poked my head into the office, and rapped on the door. “Look, maybe it’s not a good time,” I said. “But—”


“Hall?”


“Yeah. We had a ten o’clock appointment, but really if it’s not a good time—”


He glanced at his watch, scowling. “Good a time as any,” he muttered.


I eased into a coffee-stained, lopsided, and threadbare chair. Bisher tossed his pencil onto the desk, sat back, and opened with the only cliché I’d ever hear him use: “So tell me a little about yourself.”


Our conversation began, and I have loved Furman Bisher from that day to this one. I told him how much I had enjoyed his work, and on the day we first met he’d been kind enough to say some nice things about mine. We talked about the Atlanta Crackers and the Georgia Bulldogs. He described what it was like to follow Bobby Jones at the Masters. And I rendered a picture of what life was like covering minor league baseball. I told him how it felt to trail a flock of ugly duckling farm boys who dreamed of waking up one day—transformed—and standing at the plate in Yankee stadium … honest-to-goodness ballplayers.


We talked about coaches and athletes and the writers we most loved to read. We talked about the most thrilling sporting events we had ever, actually seen. We talked about why we loved the newspaper business. And we had talked for the better part of two hours when Bisher caught sight of the time.


“Geez, it’s nearly noon,” he growled. He stared up at the ceiling. Then he popped up from his chair and grabbed a wrinkled blue blazer. “You hungry?” he asked.


“Sure,” I told him. “I could eat.”


There’s a little cafeteria down near Tech.…” Bisher motioned for me to follow him. “Skillet-fried chicken’s terrific down there.”


We rode down Marietta to Highway 41, to where it changed to Hemphill Road, and then just a little further to Spring Street. The Pickrick restaurant was white with black trim. Four large windows sandwiched a pair of glass doors, and two small billboards—one advertising Dr Pepper, the other 7UP—were posted along the fence at the far side of the building. Inside, the placed swarmed with businessmen, carpenters, plumbers, and college kids—everybody shoving trays down the line, choosing from sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, chicken, and pork. From the back side of the counter Negro servers heaped mountains of food onto glistening white china—all of it cheaper than anything you’d ever find in Whitney. From the moment I crossed the threshold, my mouth watered at the blended scents of the fresh-cooked foods.


The owner was easy to spot. He was a sunny, bald, round-faced man wearing thick black-framed glasses. He skimmed from customer to customer like a bee in a flower garden, calling his friends by name, asking about their kids and their work and their wives—working the room like a small-town mayor—smiling, backslapping, and joking with every human who had a heartbeat.


This guy would’ve been a perfect fit in Whitney, I thought. Homespun and natural, a man in his element, presiding over a room that was filled with friends, all sharing delicious conversation, and where everyone felt at home.


Bisher and I huddled over a tiny Formica-topped table, and we dreamed out loud about the future of Atlanta sports. It wouldn’t be long, Bisher thought, before Atlanta lured a big-league team to town. “This place is booming,” he told me. “There’s so dad-gum much money pouring in here.…” His eyes filled with thought of it. “Town makes Fort Knox look like a welfare case.” Bisher devoured the scene, savoring our rustic surroundings. “Take a good look,” he said, grinning. “This right here … this is the capital of the New South.”


He shoveled a forkful of fried chicken into his mouth. “I’m not kidding,” he went on. “You take this job and it won’t be long before you get a shot at the big leagues. There’s already talk about a new stadium; won’t be long after that.”


I held out my glass for a refill. “Sounds promising,” I said. “But can I tell you something?”


Bisher glanced up.


“I’m real partial to the stadium you got.”


A smile rippled across his face. “You’ve been to Ponce De Leon?”


“Yeah,” I said. “Once or twice.”


“Nothing like it in the world,” Bisher replied. “That old magnolia up on the terrace …” he tipped his glass toward me. “If that old boy could talk, now there’d be some stories to tell.”


“Somebody told me that Eddie Matthews hit a ball into the tree. That true?”


“It is a fact,” Bisher proclaimed. “And he was just a kid at the time; nineteen maybe?” Bisher stabbed at a mound of green beans. “Story goes round that Babe Ruth put one out there too.” He tossed back a who-knows smile. “I can’t confirm that one.”


“It’s a great place to watch a game,” I said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to cover the big leagues—that’d be a dream come true. But there’s a piece of me that’ll hate to see Ponce De Leon go.”


Bisher’s head bobbed. “I know what you mean,” he replied, his voice lilting to the wistful side. “Place has got more memories than my wedding album.”


We joined the line at the cash register. Bisher fished for a couple of bucks, and I had just reached for a toothpick when a neighborly clap slammed down on my shoulder. “Hadn’t seen you in here before.” The owner of the Pickrick reached for my hand and shook as if we were distant cousins at a family reunion. “Lester Maddox,” he beamed, “the proprietor.”


“Jack Hall,” I replied. “Food was great.”


“That’s what we like to hear,” Maddox said, still pumping my hand warmly. “We want to see you back here real soon, and bring your family next time, you hear?”


I raised the toothpick into the air. “I’ll be sure to do that,” I promised.


He angled his head toward Bisher. “Now this man right here,” he said. “He puts out the best sports section in United States of America.” I heard the wink in his tone.


“Yeah,” Bisher growled—he handed the cashier a five—“but tell me something Lester: Which is better, my sports section or your fried chicken?”


Maddox tossed me a sly nod; he slapped me on the back and said, “Well listen, you boys hurry back, you hear?”


Bisher laughed and the two of us ambled outside, visoring our eyes against the midday sun. “Seems like a nice guy,” I said.


“Yeah …” Bisher stretched one syllable into four. “He is a nice guy. But he’s got this weird love-hate thing going on with the paper.” Bisher reached for his keys. Over the roof of the car he said, “And he and McGill—let’s just say they’re not on each other’s Christmas card list.”


I twirled the toothpick between my lips. “Why’s that?”


Bisher climbed into the car; he leaned over to unlock the door. “No need to get into the details,” he said, “but Lester’s been running these cockamamie ads for years; runs ’em on Saturdays when the rate’s cheaper, and he runs ’em in the Journal; he won’t put anything in our paper.” He shot me a quick glance. “And I don’t believe we’d take ’em anyway.”


“Because they’re ‘cockamamie’?” I asked.


“Yeah,” Bisher said. “He’s turned them into these bite-size editorials. He carries on about politics mostly; hardly ever says much about the food. But it’s funny, the ads actually work, and the truth is old Lester’s got a following that most columnists envy.” Bisher cut his eyes at me again. “He’s actually given their Saturday circulation a pretty good bump; people go out and buy the paper just to keep up with what ‘Pickrick Says.’”


“McGill can’t be jealous,” I insisted.


“No,” Bisher chuckled, “let’s just say that Lester’s politics don’t jibe too well with Mac’s.” He swung the car onto Forsythe Street. “We can probably leave it there for now.”


~~~~~


I began to gather my things, wondering in earnest what it’d be like to work here. My eyes toured the room, watching people scurry from point A to point B. Phones rang. Typewriters clacked. Copyboys raced from reporter to editor to composer. This was a different world than the one I’d known. The place surged with energy. People rushed with purpose. They were driven by deadlines and competition—by a hounding need to have their words read and admired.


Being there, standing in the midst of the clatter and chaos, I felt like a drunk in a Budweiser brewery. The sights and sounds stirred something inside, and it wouldn’t be long before I’d have to have at it.


Bisher tossed his coat onto the rack. “You mind hanging out for another minute?” he asked. “I think Mac wants to say hello.”


I snapped out of the trance. “McGill?”


“Yeah, if he’s got time. Just sit tight for a second, I’ll be right back”



I grabbed a copy of yesterday’s paper, wondering why Ralph McGill would even bother. This was low-level stuff, and Bisher could make the hire. But I was happy to have the chance to meet him. McGill was famous; I’d read his articles in the Saturday Evening Post and Atlantic Monthly. He was quoted in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. He had even been on national television, dubbed by the northern media as “the moderate voice of the New South.”


McGill was one of those guys you either loved or hated. And Joe Anderson, my old boss at the Whitney Herald, groused about him fifty-two times a year. “Pompous ass,” Joe’d complain, shaking his head and making this tsking sound every time McGill’s name was mentioned. “Ain’t his job to get people all riled up, that’s what the politicians do; good newspaperman just gives ’em the facts,” Joe’d mutter. “People want to get riled up about ’em, that’s their business.”


Five minutes later Bisher ushered me into Ralph McGill’s office. He sat behind a humble and cluttered wooden desk. To his right, on a gray metal stand, sat an Underwood typewriter, a page cranked halfway down and paused in mid-sentence. A roll-top desk was behind him, nicked and scarred and worn with age. Piles of papers were littered across the top of it. In the back corner a coffee mug was crammed full of dull-edged pencils. Manuals and reports were stuffed in the overhead slots, and across the top a dozen books and binders slumped to the right in sloppy formation.


McGill stood and waved me in. “Make yourself at home,” he said. He looked at Bisher, “I’ll send him back as soon as we’re done.”


McGill was shorter than I’d imagined, paunchier too. But there was an air about him—an aura I’d guess you’d say—of grand ideas and purpose.


He reached for my hand. “I’ve read your work,” he said. “It’s good.”


He motioned for me to sit, and then dropped into his chair. He threw his legs over a corner of the desk, and then, as if he’d read my earlier thoughts, he explained: “The Sports page has always been important to me. When I started in the business Sports was the battleground. It was where a paper won or lost the circulation war. When I came here.…”