ABOUT AUTHOR: LAURA FORD was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to a Southern Baptist missionary family. Ford holds a degree in theology with an emphasis in Christian Scriptures from Seattle Pacific University. She currently resides in Sugar Hill, Georgia with her husband and two daughters.


Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.  Psalm 9:10

Once barely whispered, these names of the Lord,
For holiness and reverence each meaning does afford.

Lord God Almighty, You are the El Shaddai,
You are Jehovah Jirah, The Lord who Will Provide.

You are The Lord who Is My Shepherd, Jehovah-Raah,
And The Lord who Is always There, Jehovah Shammah.

Jehovah Mekoddishkem, The Lord Who Sanctifies,
El Elyon, You are The God Most High.

El Olam, You are The Everlasting God.
Jealous in Your love for us, this names You, Qanna.

The Lord Is our blessed Peace, Jehovah Shalom,
The Lord of all the heavenly Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth.

Jehovah Nissi, The Lord My Banner, raise it high,
Lord and Master over all of life, You are the Adonai.

The Lord He is Our Righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu,
Elohim and Yahweh, God and Lord of all we do.

He is Jehovah Rapha, The Lord That Heals His own,
With His Son He made this complete...
When He stepped down from the throne.

Many other names can describe our Sovereign King,
But truly, my dear friend, how wonderful are these!

And only if we named a few, our hearts should still be pleased,

To consider all He is for us and the promises we've received! 

~Laura Ford~


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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Whitaker House (February 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

Donna Carter is an author and popular women’s speaker whose fans have been clamoring for more since she released her book and DVD 10 Smart Things Women Can Do to Build a Better Life. Donna is known for her clarity, humor and the “light bulb” moments she triggers for women seeking spiritual direction. She grew up in a family of girls and continues to relish opportunities to share and learn from other women, maintaining that a good women’s retreat should include “laughing, crying, and hugging.” Donna and her husband Randy are the co-founders of Straight Talk Ministries, a non-profit organization committed to helping people find faith and apply it to everyday life. They live in Calgary, Canada, and are the parents of two young adult daughters and a new son-in-law.
Visit the author's website.

Everyone from grade schoolers to grandmas are accumulating Facebook friends but fewer people than ever are developing close friendships according to Donna Carter, author of Friend Me. “Real face to face friendship is becoming a lost art,” she says. “In a world driven by social media, friendships can be a mile wide and an inch deep.” In her new book from Whitaker House, Carter maintains that humans need real relationships that require live interaction with real individuals. She shows readers how to win friends as well as how to take the risks associated with building, repairing, and preserving friendships. Filled with examples, humor, and framed by a poignant, personal story, Friend Me leads readers along the path to more soul satisfying friendships and challenges them to embrace, heal, and nurture the relationship of ultimate importance -- a friendship with God.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (February 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603746900

ISBN-13: 978-1603746908


Just One Friend

My friends all thought they were there to help me celebrate my fortieth birthday—to have lunch, sing, eat cake, and laugh. But that wasn’t why I had invited them to the restaurant. I had something quite different in mind. The poor waiter must have been confused by the whole event. One minute, he walked into the private dining room we occupied and found us laughing uncontrollably; when he came back, moments later, he found us all in tears.

Why had I arranged a gathering of my friends at the restaurant that day? Because I was determined not to repeat a mistake for which I was still struggling to forgive myself. On that day, I told my friends—all of the dear women who mean so much to me—how much I appreciated them, the specific ways in which each of them enriched my life, and how thankful I was that God had brought them into my life. I knew I might not have another chance….

I could hardly believe it. After twenty years of living at least half a continent away from each other, my dearest childhood friend, Sonja, and I would finally be living in the same neighborhood again. After years of missionary work in Europe and ministry elsewhere in Canada, Sonja, her husband, Brian, and their children were moving back to Calgary.

I first met Sonja when I was ten, and we were inseparable from that point forward. When we grew up and got married, she was my maid of honor, and I was hers. At my wedding reception, I introduced her with several lines from “Seasons in the Sun,” a song by Terry Jacks that was popular then—specifically, the verse that reminisces about the joys of childhood friendships and the shared lessons of life and love learned in that season.

Shortly after our marriages, our paths diverged. And it wasn’t until August 2000 that we were together again.

But there was a problem.

During Sonja’s second pregnancy, thirteen years prior to our reunion, she had developed a pesky cough that wouldn’t go away. The doctors suspected pneumonia. After performing some tests, they delivered some good news: Sonja was carrying twins. They also delivered some bad news: Sonja had cancer—specifically, a very aggressive cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She and Brian were stationed in Germany at the time, and because the doctors couldn’t guarantee the effectiveness of the treatment protocol on a pregnant woman, they scheduled her for an abortion. Sonja and Brian both refused, and they brought their family back to Calgary, where she underwent aggressive chemotherapy, even though the doctors weren’t sure how it would affect her unborn babies. Their speculation about deformities and other severe birth defects challenged Brian and Sonja’s faith daily as Sonja endured the treatment and its side effects.

But the treatment seemed to be working. The twins were born three months premature, and, while they faced profound breathing problems and other issues common among preemies, they were otherwise healthy and whole. Immediately after the twins’ cesarean birth, Sonja’s radiation treatment began.

Only months after Sonja and her family returned to Germany, the cancer came back. So, it was to Canada again for further chemo, followed by a bone marrow transplant. The treatment was successful, in that Sonja was cured of cancer—yet the treatment also resulted in complications that now posed a new risk to her cancer-free body.

I met Sonja halfway through the school year in fifth grade at Mapleridge Elementary School, when she moved to the area with her family. I remember thinking that my new classmate looked very grown-up and very, very, groovy. Her hair was long, styled in a wavy shag, and her blue eyes peered somewhat shyly through her oval wire-rimmed glasses. She wore denim hip-huggers and a macramé belt. She was tall and curvy; I was skinny and, well, skinny. I was very impressed by this cool new girl, and I wanted to be her friend. So, I introduced myself. And our lives were forever changed.

A few weeks later, we were standing outside the school, talking, as usual, until we had to part ways. We couldn’t walk home together because Sonja lived to the west of the school, while I lived to the east. That day, Sonja told me that her parents were getting a divorce. I felt sad for my friend. I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if my parents decided to separate.

I started inviting my new friend to attend various church activities with me, including girls’ club, camp, and Sunday school. Sonja seemed happy to oblige, and it wasn’t long before she made the decision to become a follower of Jesus. Faith in God was just one more thing we had in common. Beyond our shared interest in boys and books and clothes and music—and our mutual, alarming lack of athletic prowess—we now shared the unique bond of those who have given their lives to Jesus. What had been a close friendship became much more. We were, in the words of L. M. Montgomery’s character Anne of Green Gables, “kindred spirits.”

As Sonja’s parents’ divorce was finalized, Sonja’s mom, Bonnie, decided that she wanted to get away from Calgary—away from her ex-husband, away from the memories, just away. She decided to move with her three girls to Lethbridge, a city about two hours south. Sonja and I were devastated. We couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing each other every day. We moped and we mourned.

And then, the house across the street from mine went up for sale.

My bedroom window overlooked that brown bungalow, and I’ll never forget the day Sonja and I knelt together at that window and prayed to God that Sonja would live in that house instead of moving to Lethbridge.

The next phase of our plan was to march up to the door of the house, knock, and request entrance, to find out whether it would be a suitable home. (We needed to gather some ammunition for our argument to Sonja’s mom if we hoped to convince her that she should move six blocks away rather than leave the city altogether.) I can only imagine what the homeowner across the street thought when two twelve-year-old girls showed up to talk real estate.

The house was all wrong for Bonnie and her three girls. It had only three bedrooms, the basement had not been finished, and, most significant, it wasn’t located in Lethbridge. Still, I knew it was meant for Sonja and her family.

Bonnie bought the house. To this day, I don’t know what made her change her mind and make such a radical change of plans. It must have had something to do with our childlike faith in a great God who loves to give good gifts to His children. For I can think of no greater gift in those early years of adolescence than having my best friend close by. Besides my family, Sonja was my whole world. To this day, I can’t imagine what my teenage years might have been like without her.

Living across the street from each other enabled us to spend even more of our time together. Sonja became part of our family, and I part of hers. If she wasn’t at my house, I was probably at hers. My other friends would actually phone Sonja’s house and ask for me. More than once, I went along on a family vacation with Sonja, her sisters, and her mother. Maybe Bonnie wanted to avoid all of the hugs and tears that went on whenever we had to spend a week or two apart.

Living so close also meant that when I went to church, Sonja came, too. When my parents dragged me to girls’ club, I dragged Sonja to girls’ club; if I went to Bible camp, so did she. It was through these contacts that she learned to love God with her whole heart, grew a strong faith, and met a young man named Brian—with whom she eventually fell head-over-heels in love.

It was okay that I wasn’t popular at school. It was okay if I was mocked for taking a stand when my faith demanded it. It was okay to say no to peer pressure. Because, at the end of the day, Sonja was still my friend; I always had someone to walk home with. Cool or uncool, cheerful or ill-tempered, succeeding with flying colors or failing miserably, I knew Sonja loved me for who I was, and I returned her unconditional love.

Our loyalty faced occasional challenges. When we were approaching our graduation from ninth grade (long before Sonja met Brian), Sonja secured a date to the festivities—a boy she’d met in band. I had no such prospects. Unwilling to leave such an important match up to chance, I mustered my courage and invited a high-school boy named John, whom I knew only slightly from church but had admired from afar.

He must have been flattered, because he agreed to go. Soon after, we started dating. Of course, everywhere I went with John, Sonja came along, because wherever there was a Donna, there was a Sonja, too.

Somewhere along the line, however, John’s affections shifted. It turns out that I was the third wheel, not Sonja, and I didn’t even know it. When I was on vacation, John made his interests known to Sonja, and they started spending time together.

When I returned, the truth came out. Sonja admitted to having stolen “my” boyfriend. We talked about it—amazingly enough, without a lot of emotionalism or drama—and decided that no boy was worth jeopardizing our friendship. Sonja dialed his number, I picked up another receiver, and together we made a “Dear John” call. As cute as he was, our friendship was way more important.

When I look back at the depth and quality of our relationship, I am simply amazed. I know I must have driven Sonja crazy at times. Walking to school with me every day meant earning at least a dozen late slips a year, for which she was not to blame. I was the flighty extrovert; she was the voice of reason. I had the wild imagination; she, the dry sense of humor. Outside my family, no one but Sonja could have known how fragile I truly was. How often she protected me, comforted me, and steadied me! Without her, this social butterfly would have dissolved like tissue paper in a pounding rain.

At my wedding reception, when I introduced Sonja with those lyrics from “Seasons in the Sun,” I didn’t quote the line that came next. Now, it haunts me, because it’s basically a farewell to a dying friend.

During the summer months before Sonja’s return to Calgary, I had been studying the life of King David and was deeply touched by the biblical account of his final encounter with his best friend, Jonathan, who knew that he was about to die. In a moving scene of love, grief, loyalty, and commitment, Jonathan asked David to make a solemn promise: that when the battle was over and the dust had settled on his grave, David would take care of his family.

On Tuesday, September 19, I was on my way to see Sonja with the intention of making a similar promise to her. I knew her fragile body was failing fast, and I struggled to prepare myself emotionally for what I knew might be our last encounter this side of heaven. I stood in the main lobby of the Foothills Hospital, waiting for one of the six elevators to admit me. One set of doors opened, and out stepped Sonja’s mom, Bonnie, and her sister Paula. They were as surprised to see me as I was to see them, and we stood there, looking at each other, not sure what to say in such a heavy moment.

Finally, Paula broke the silence. “She’s gone!”

I stood there silently, trying to take it in.

I had missed my chance to say good-bye by mere moments.

Thankfully, I had been to see Sonja a few days prior. I had helped her into a wheelchair and moved her outside into the sunshine. She’d always loved the sun. We’d talked and prayed together. I’d hugged her and told her I loved her. But there was so much more to say.

I had tried to see Sonja two more times before she passed away, but neither occasion was convenient; either the room had been full of relatives or doctors, or Sonja had been taken elsewhere for tests. We never got to say all there was to say—to laugh at all our old jokes, to smile at all our long-held secrets, to relive all our precious memories. I wish I’d had the maturity when we were teenagers, or the sensitivity later, when the miles came between us, to tell her just how much she had always meant to me.

Losing Sonja was like having the core of my childhood ripped out of me. That sensitive, silly young girl still living somewhere deep inside of me feels such a profound sense of loss.

Yet, in other ways, I have not lost Sonja at all. I would not be who I am today if it hadn’t been for her. I would not enjoy the rapport I do with other women. The close connection I had with Sonja has become the standard, the template, for every friendship I’ve formed since knowing her—the foundation of empathy and trust on which all of my relationships have been built.

Thank you, Sonja, my friend.


ABOUT AUTHOR: Ruth Axtell is the author of thirteen novels, including Wild Rose, one of Booklist's Top Ten in Christian Fiction. Currently a resident of Downeast Maine, Axtell has lived in the Canary Islands, Miami, and the Netherlands.

ABOUT BOOK: Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need--or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess's butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London's West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham's spell. Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, will he do the right thing?

ABOUT AUTHOR: MESU ANDREWS - Mesu grew up with a variegated Christian heritage. With grandparents from the Pilgrim Holiness, Nazarene, and Wesleyan Churches, her dad was a Quaker and mom charismatic. As you might imagine, God was a central figure in most family discussions, but theology was a battlefield and Scripture the weapon. As a rebellious teenager, Mesu rejected God and His Word, but discovered Jesus as a life-transforming Savior through the changed life of an old friend.

The desire for God's Word exploded with her new commitment, but devotional time was scarce due to the demands of a young wife and mother. So Mesu scoured the only two theology books available--children's Bible stories and her Bible. The stories she read to her daughters at night pointed her to the Bible passages she studied all day. She became an avid student of God's Word, searching historical and cultural settings as well as ancient texts and original languages.

Mesu and her husband Roy have raised those two daughters and are now enjoying grandkids, but Mesu's love for God's Word has never waned. She now writes biblical novels, rich with spiritual insight learned through fascinating discoveries in historical research.

ABOUT BOOK: Hosea has been charged by God with a difficult task--marry a prostitute in order to show God's people the nature and depth of his love for Israel. When Hosea goes to Israel to proclaim God's message, the prostitute God tells him to marry turns out to be his childhood friend Gomer. He finds her broken and abused, unwilling to trust Hosea or his God. But when marrying Hosea becomes her only choice, Gomer does what she's good at--she survives. Can Hosea's love for God and God's love for Israel heal Gomer's broken spirit?

About the Author: Siri Mitchell has written nearly a dozen novels, three of which were named Christy Award finalists. A graduate of the University of Washington with a business degree, she has worked in many levels of government and lived on three continents. She and her family currently reside in the D.C. metro area. Learn more at

ABOUT BOOK: Lucy Kendall always assumed she'd help her father in his candy-making business, creating recipes and aiding him in their shared passion. But after a year traveling in Europe, Lucy returns to 1910 St. Louis to find her father unwell and her mother planning to sell the struggling candy company. Determined to help, Lucy vows to create a candy that will reverse their fortunes.

St. Louis newcomer Charlie Clarke is determined to help his father dominate the nation's candy industry. Compromise is not an option when the prize is a father's approval, and falling in love with a business rival is a recipe for disaster when only one company can win. Will these two star-crossed lovers let a competition that turns less than friendly sour their dreams?


Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! 


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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

 Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.
Visit the author's website.

A Home for Lydia, the second book in a new romantic series from popular author Vannetta Chapman, centers again on the Plain community of Pebble Creek and the kind, caring people there. As they face challenges to their community from the English world, they come together to reach out to their non-Amish neighbors while still preserving their cherished Plain ways.

Aaron Troyer simply wants to farm like his father and grandfather before him. But instead he finds himself overseeing the family's small group of guest cabins nestled along the banks of Pebble Creek. That also means he must work with the cabins' housekeeper, Lydia Fisher.

Lydia is the most outspoken Amish woman Aaron has ever met, and she has strong opinions about how the guest cabins are to be run. She also desperately needs this job. Though sparks fly between boss and employee at first, when the cabins are robbed, nothing is more important to Aaron than making sure Lydia is safe.

Together they work to make the vacation property profitable, but can they find out the identity of the culprit before more damage is done? And is Lydia's dream of a home of her own more than just a wish and a prayer?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736946144

ISBN-13: 978-0736946148


• Prologue •


Lydia Fisher pulled her sweater around her shoulders and sank down on the top step of the last cabin as the sun set along Pebble Creek. The waters had begun to recede from last week’s rains, but the creek still pushed at its banks—running swiftly past the Plain Cabins and not pausing to consider her worries.

Debris from the flooding reached to the bottom step of cabin twelve. She could have reached out and nudged it with the toe of her shoe. Fortunately, the water hadn’t made it into the small cottages.

Almost, though.

Only two days ago she’d stood at the office window and watched as the waters had crept closer to the picturesque buildings nestled along the creek—watched and prayed.

Now the sun was dropping, and she knew she should harness Tin Star to the buggy and head home. Her mother would be putting dinner on the table. Her brother and sisters would be needing help with schoolwork. Her father would be waiting.

Standing up with a weariness that was unnatural for her twenty-two years, Lydia trudged back toward the front of the property, checking each cabin as she went.

All were locked and secure.

All were vacant.

Perhaps this weekend the Englisch tourists would return and provide some income for the owner, Elizabeth Troyer. Guests would also ensure that Lydia kept her job. If the cabins were to close and she were to lose her employment, she wouldn’t be able to convince her brother to stay in school. Their last conversation on the matter had turned into an argument—one she’d nearly lost.

Pulling their old black gelding from the barn, she tied Tin Star’s lead rope to the hitching post, and then she began to work the collar up and over his ears.

“You’re a gut boy. Are you ready to go home? Ready for some oats? I imagine you are.”

He’d been their buggy horse since she was a child, and Lydia knew his days were numbered. What would her family do when he gave out on them? As she straightened his mane and made sure the collar pad protected his shoulders and neck, she paused to rest her cheek against his side. The horse’s sure steady breathing brought her a measure of comfort.

Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, she brought out a handful of raisins. Tin Star’s lips on her hand were soft and wet. Lydia rubbed his neck as she glanced back once more at the cluster of buildings which had become like a small community to her—a community she was responsible for maintaining.

Squaring her shoulders, she climbed into the buggy and turned toward home.

• Chapter 1 •
Downtown Cashton

Thursday afternoon, two weeks later

Aaron Troyer stepped off the bus, careful to avoid a large puddle of rainwater. Because no one else was exiting at Cashton, he didn’t have to wait long for the driver to remove his single piece of luggage from the storage compartment. He’d thanked the man and shouldered the duffel bag when the buggy coming in the opposite direction hit an even bigger puddle, soaking him.

The bus driver had managed to jump out of the way at the last second. “Good luck to you, son.”

With a nod the man was back on the bus, heading farther west. A part of Aaron wished he were riding with him. Another part longed to take the next bus back east, back where he’d come from, back to Indiana.

Neither was going to happen, so he repositioned his damp duffel bag and surveyed his surroundings.

Not much to Cashton.

According to his uncle and his dad, the town was about the same size as Monroe, but Aaron couldn’t tell it. He supposed new places never did measure up to expectations, especially when a fellow would rather not be there.

The ride had been interesting enough. They had crossed the northern part of Indiana, skirted the southern tip of Lake Michigan, traveled through Chicago and Rockford, and finally entered Wisconsin in the south central portion of the state. Aaron had seen more cities in the last twenty-four hours than he’d visited in his entire life. Those had been oddities to him. Something he would tell his family about once he was home, but nothing he would ever care to see again. But passing through the Hidden Valley region of southwestern Wisconsin—now that had caused him to sit up straighter and gaze out of the bus’s window.

There had been an older Englisch couple sitting behind him. They’d had tourist brochures that they read aloud to each other. He’d caught the highlights as he tried to sleep.

He heard them use the word “driftless.” The term apparently indicated a lack of glacial drift. His dat would laugh at that one. Not that he discounted all aspects of science, but he had his doubts regarding what was and wasn’t proven as far as the Ice Age.

According to the couple’s brochure, Wildcat Mountain to the east of Cashton was teeming with wildlife and good hiking. Any other time he might be interested in that piece of information, but he wasn’t staying, so it didn’t matter much to him.

He also learned that small towns in the Driftless Area were at risk of major flooding every fifty to one hundred years.

Staring down at his damp pants, he wondered how much rain they’d had. How much rain were they expecting? He hoped he wouldn’t be here long enough to find out.

Aaron glanced up and down the street. He saw a town hall, a tavern, a café, a general store, and a feed store. A larger building, probably three stories high, rose in the distance, but he had no desire to walk that far because it could be in the wrong direction. Already the sun was heading west, and he’d rather be at the cabins before dark.

Several streets branched off the main one, but they didn’t look any more promising. Pushing his hat down more firmly on his head, he cinched up the duffel bag and walked resolutely toward the feed store.

Instead of heading toward the front door, he moved down the side of the building to the loading docks, where two pickup trucks and a buggy were parked.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the buggy that had sprayed him with rainwater and mud. He would rather not ask information of that person, though in all likelihood the driver had no idea what he’d done. Folks seldom slowed down enough to look outside their own buggy window—even Amish folk. It appeared some things were the same whether you were in Wisconsin or Indiana.

He approached the loading docks, intending to find the owner of the parked buggy.

“That duffel looks heavy… and wet.”

Turning in surprise, he saw a man leaning against the driver’s side of the buggy. Aaron could tell he was tall, even though he was half sitting, tall and thin. Somber brown eyes studied him, and a full dark beard indicated the man was married. Which was no surprise, because a basket with a baby in it sat on the buggy’s floor. The baby couldn’t have been more than a few months old, based on the size of the basket. He couldn’t see much except for a blanket and two small fists waving in the air.

“Duffel wouldn’t be wet if someone hadn’t been determined to break the speed limit with a sorrel mare.”

The man smiled, reached down, and slipped a pacifier into the baby’s mouth. “That would probably have been one of the Eicher boys. I’m sure he meant no harm, but both of them tend to drive on the far side of fast.”

He placed the walnut bowl he’d been sanding with a piece of fine wool on the seat, dusted his hands on his trousers, and then he stepped forward. “Name’s Gabe Miller.”

“Aaron Troyer.”

“Guess you’re new in town.”

“Ya. Just off the bus.”

“Explains the duffel.”

Aaron glanced again at the sun, headed west. Why did it seem to speed up once it was setting? “I was looking for the Plain Cabins on Pebble Creek. Have you heard of them?”

“If you’re needing a room for the night, we can either find you a place or take you to our bishop. No need for you to rent a cabin.”

Easing the duffel bag off his shoulder and onto the ground, Aaron rested his hands on top of it. “Actually I need to go to the cabins for personal reasons. Could you tell me where they are?”

“Ya. I’d be happy to give you directions, but it’s a fair piece from here if you’re planning on walking.”

Aaron pulled off his hat and ran his hand over his hair. Slowly he replaced it as he considered his options. He’d boarded the bus ten hours earlier. He was used to long days and hard work. Though he was only twenty-three, he’d been working in the fields for nine years—since he’d left the schoolhouse after eighth grade. It was work he enjoyed. What he didn’t like was ten hours on a bus, moving farther away from his home, on a trip that seemed to him like a fool’s mission.

“Sooner I start, sooner I’ll arrive.”

“Plain Cabins are on what we call the west side of Pebble Creek.”

“You mean the west side of Cashton?”

“Well, Cashton is the name of the town, but Plain folks mostly refer to Pebble Creek, the river.”

“The same river going through town?”

“Yes. There are two Plain communities here—one to the east side of town, and one to the west. I live on the east side. The cabins you’re looking for are on the west. The town’s sort of in the middle. You can walk to them from here, but as I said, it’s a good ways. Maybe five miles, and there are quite a few hills in between, not to mention that bag you’re carrying… ”

Instead of answering, Aaron hoisted the duffel to his shoulder.

Throughout the conversation, Gabe’s expression had been pleasant but serious. At the sound of voices, he glanced up and across the street, toward the general store. When he did, Aaron noticed a subtle change in the man, like light shifting across a room. Some of the seriousness left his eyes and contentment spread across his face.

Following his gaze, Aaron saw the reason why—a woman. She was beautiful and had the darkest hair he’d ever seen on an Amish woman. A small amount peeked out from the edges of her prayer kapp. She was holding the hand of a young girl, who was the spitting image of the man before him. Both the woman and the child were carrying shopping bags.

“I was waiting on my family. Looks like they’re done. We’d be happy to take you by the cabins.”

“I don’t want to be a bother,” Aaron mumbled.

Gabe smiled, and now the seriousness was completely gone, as if having his family draw close had vanquished it. As if having his family close had eased all of the places in his heart.

Aaron wondered what that felt like. He wanted to be back with his own parents, brothers, and sisters in Indiana, but even there he felt an itching, a restlessness no amount of work could satisfy.

From what he’d seen of Wisconsin so far, he could tell he wasn’t going to be any happier here. He’d arrived less than thirty minutes ago, and he couldn’t wait to get back home.

Gabe was already moving toward his wife, waving away his protest.

“If it were a bother, I wouldn’t have offered.”


AUTHOR BIO:Patrick Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of the cold war. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee. Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer. Patrick's day gig for the last five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist. Patrick thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

How did you come up with the idea for a cast of stones?

I was reading my Bible and this verse, “God is in the lot,” jumped out at me. Originally, which was six or seven years ago, I wanted to write a fantasy which was going to be a critique on the whole idea that life and universe happened by chance. I’m so glad I didn't do that. It would have been way too preachy. About three years ago, after I’d given up on the idea, I had an inspiration for a whole new direction with the story. I've been told several times in the past few years that readers don’t like to be preached to, so I’m really happy I gave up on that first idea.

How long did this novel take to write? What surprised you about being an author?

My Supportive Family

I’m not a very fast writer. I see people posting about how they cranked out four or five thousand words in a day and I’m dumbfounded. Two thousand is my upper limit. The nice thing about being slow and deliberate though, is that I don’t have to do a lot of whole-sale rewriting. Most of my edits are for tone and readability, not for plot. The exception is this last book in the series. I completely rewrote the first five chapters three or four times. Getting the initial direction of the novel right drove me crazy for a while.

Your main character Errol finds himself running for his life. He’s challenged to fight in order to move up in the ranks when he joins a caravan - The fight scenes were so believable. Do you and/or have you used a sword or a staff? What made you interested in this type of fighting, especially that of the staff. It was interesting. If not, what prepared you to write the fascinating fight scenes and the training involved in learning to use both of these weapons?

I fenced when I was college before my knees convinced me to do otherwise, but I've never fought with a staff. What helped with the fight scenes more than anything, oddly enough, was all the physics courses I took on my way to an engineering degree. That, coupled with my own experiences in different sports, gave me a feel for how things behave in the physical world and I was able to translate those ideas into words. I also did some research, which I found quite rewarding, especially the information on why swordsmen don’t, as a rule, strike for the legs. Those scenes are easy to write but take a long time because you have to make sure the details are perfect.

This is a land of Kings and Knights, in this case King Rodran has no heir and the knights were called the Watchmen – How did you come up with your imaginary kingdom and what did you imagine it to look like? Did you base it on a real place? Did the King Arthur stories inspire you?

I originally thought of my world as an alternative history of Europe, so there are a lot of those influences. In the original research, I settled on the 13th century because I wanted to identify a period in which cannon were not used in warfare as of yet. The inspirations came more from history that King Arthur. I've become more confident as a writer in the last three years, but Arthur is pretty hallowed ground for a fantasy writer. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable tackling that as a topic. Maybe in a couple more decades.

In your novel you talk about Herbwomen. They seem to be nurse practitioners with a few extra gifts. Some people feared them, hated them but Errol liked and respected them. You mention several herbs and what they do and how they played a major part in a few events these characters went through. You mention Urticweed , Crimsonweed and Veritmoss. Are these herbs real? If so, how did you learn about them and their properties to help people? What do the Herbwomen represent in this story?
A Scene in my book

Awesome question. In some cases the herbs are real, but those are rare. What I did try to do is base the effects of the herbs on things known to us. For example, zingiber is another name for ginger root which really does help relieve queasiness. The others, however, are purely fictional, but if you research the names I made up for them, you may discover something interesting. Crimson, as everyone know, means red. What the herbwomen, and those like them, represent in this story is pretty complicated. Most readers will notice that the church in my story operates pretty mechanistically. This has a parallel to our own history in the middle ages prior to the Reformation. I’m going to stop at that point, though I will be happy to finish the answer down the road. Readers will bring their own interpretation to the story and I think some of those will actually be superior to my original intention. I wouldn’t want to spoil that.

I like the fact that you didn't get really graphic with the violence or have the story creepy. Do you have a code you write by? A line you won’t cross when you describe fight scenes and the ferrals etc?

Thank you. Yes, I had a code for the story and applied it as well as I could. I allowed death to be personal, which is why I recommend the story to about fourteen and up, but I’m not going to indulge in any graphic descriptions of death, violence, or sex. In some writing and a lot of movies there’s a line that gets crossed where people slow the story to sort of revel in the violence. I didn't want to do that because it wouldn't have fit the tone of the book. There’s a warmth that would have been lost and that would have bothered me.

Errol learns to use the punja sticks, staff and prefers it to the sword in fighting. I found that fascinating how Errol learned to use the staff and how everyone he studied under had a different style. I also found it interesting that the different types of wood that the staff was made out of made the instrument act differently in his hands and how it affected his moves in battle. Is this form of fighting real? If so, how did you learn about it? Why did you make Errol use this weapon when no one else did? What research did you do in order for you to write the complex scenes of Errol’s training and when he used it in the challenges he faced?

I would so love to answer this, but it would be a major spoiler. J I hope we can do this again in about a year. My question to readers is this: What do you see when you read the book? What do all these things mean? I’d love to hear your take!

Rale trains Errol to use the staff and says he’s doing well. But He’s lost! Errol says no he’s not he’s right here! Grin. Rale continues to say, “Keep your sense of humor boy. You’ll need it, such as it is. What I meant was you've lost your sense of self. I've seen it happen to other men who've crawled out of the barrel. For the past 5 years your aim has been to keep yourself drunk enough to keep from remembering Warrel’s death. Now, without that, you’ll have to find some other purpose.” I like how you describe it’s not about the drinking its why he is numbing his brain and emotions. I liked Errol from the start, what do you hope readers learn from Errol? Did you base Errol on someone? If yes, please tell me who. If not how did you come up with his character?
A Scene from My Book

Errol in a broad sense is Every-man. I've yet to meet anyone that didn't struggle with something they used to numb their feelings when life got too real. I chose to give Errol a drinking problem because it’s so visual which makes it easy to use for a book but that’s certainly not the only type escape people use. What I want people to take from Errol is his courage. I love the way he forces himself to confront his memories and feel those feeling no matter how much they hurt. Often we write about the people we would like to be. Writing and fiction aside, Errol is my hero.


You've been given the opportunity to use a time machine. Where would you go and what would you do?

Journey back to the time of Christ. In all honesty, this has both good and bad reasons. First, I would like to worship him in person, to kneel at the feet of the creator of the universe and worship. The second reason is a bit shameful really. I would like to be able to take those occasional doubts and kill them once and for all.

If you had 24 hours to hang out with any two people alive or dead in the history of the world (besides Jesus – that’s a given) What two people would you pick and what would you do?

I would pick a pair of people who've passed away. The first is my dad. He died about six years ago and I’d just like to see him one more time to tell him how much I still love and miss him. He was such a great storyteller. The second person would be Robert Jordan. His “Wheel of Time” series is magnificent (though a bit long), and I’d like to just sit under his teaching for a while to refine my craft.

What three things would you not want to live without? (besides your family – think of creature comforts you look forward to daily)

Our Crazy Dog

Coffee, hot showers, and good books. If I've got my family and those things, life is pretty good.

Name two jobs that you've had people might be surprised at.

Grandfather clock delivery man and mechanical design engineer for a project designing flight software for the F-16. Those two don’t really have a whole lot in common.

You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?

I've got an engineering degree, so I’d probably be working to help build the tools we would need to survive. I’m definitely not the guy to put in charge. I hate having to tell people what to do.

What movie greatly impacted you as a child? Why? If you didn’t watch movies as a kid what book affected you?

In 1977 I saw Star Wars when I was fifteen. Get this, I loved the movie so much, I bought the soundtrack on 8-track tape and listened to it for hours in my dad’s car parked in the garage. The music would play and I would see the movie all over again in my head. What a wonderful mix of science fiction and swashbuckling and romance. The movie was the perfect piece of escapism for an angsty teenager.


Yes. Thank you so much for reading. I sincerely believe that the desire to create is one of the deepest desires we have as people. Mine takes the form of words on a page and so many of you have already told me how much you've enjoyed the characters and the world I've created. I’m so grateful you've taken the time to turn the pages.

I love to hear from readers they can contact me on my website

Thanks for stopping by and helping us get to know you and your book Patrick. I really enjoyed reading about Errol and his wild adventure. I can't wait to read the next book.

READERS BETHANY HOUSE is giving away 10 copies of this book. ENTER the DRAWING NOW!! GO TO TBCN You must join the site to enter. It's FREE and EASY!!

This books will take you on a wild adventure and Patrick has a cast of characters you'll be rooting for Especially Errol!



Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!! 


ABOUT AUTHOR: JANICE THOMPSON is the author of over eighty books for the Christian market. She is best known for her comedic "Weddings by Bella" series from Revell Publishing. Her tagline "Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters" pretty much sums up her take on life. Janice makes her home in the Houston area near her children and grandchildren.

Did your family have sayings like those of Hannah’s family and the Irish sayings you've listed in the book? Which ones do you find yourself reciting to your kids? Grand children?

Oh my goodness! Well, our “sayings” aren't related to our heritage, but I certainly heard a lot of these while growing up:
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” (I heard this every single time I didn't carry through with something.)
“People in hell want ice water” (My dad loved this one. Whenever we kids would ask for anything, we’d get this response.)
“For lack of a nail, the horse was not shod” (This always led into a lengthy tale about the need to be prepared.)
“Grandma was slow, but she was old” (My dad would say this whenever I moved too slow!)
“It is what it is” (Or my mother’s version: “What it is, is!”)

Nora: OHMYGOSH!! These crack me up. Thanks for sharing.

You mention Hannah’s BFF Scarlet who is a professional cake decorator and some of her beautiful cakes. I've checked out some of your cake decorations on your facebook page, lovely. What is your favorite cake to eat? What is your favorite cake to decorate and/or create? Favorite cookie? Cupcake?

 I've always told my kids this story: If you want to know if there’s life after death, just lean over my casket and whisper the words “Italian Cream Cake!” Chances are very, very good I’ll come springing up for one last slice before heading over to Jordan’s shore.

Seriously, I love anything with homemade cream cheese frosting. I’m best known for my white cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting. I also adore carrot cake, but probably because it, too, has cream cheese frosting.

As you mention, I love to decorate cakes. I’m attaching a couple of photos so you can see some of my favorites. It’s easier to decorate a fondant covered cake, but the cream cheese frosting usually wins out, simply because of the taste!

As for my favorite cookie, I make a mean oatmeal/walnut/raisin cookie.
FYI, this conversation is killing me! I’m on a diet, you know, and I’m off of sugar!

Nora: These are BEAUTIFUL!! You are a woman of many talents!

You described an event in your book where Hannah looks down at her feet in an important interview with a reporter and discovers she has two different shoes on. Has this ever happened to you or something like it? If so, what did you do? If not, where you with someone this happened to? What did they do? What would you do if this happened to you or something similar?

Oy! You WOULD have to ask this! Three years ago I went to a Christmas brunch. The room was filled with other writers, and we had a grand time! We exchanged gifts, nibbled on Christmas foods, drank hot apple cider, and basically celebrated the season. I was in full-out-great-mood time when I happened to glance down. Yep, you guessed it. I had on two COMPLETELY different shoes. Girl, they weren't even close. Different color. Different style. Different toe, etc. From that moment on, I knew that I would have to create a character who did the same. Another thing I did once: I curled one side of my hair but not the other. In my own defense, I have A.D.D. I truly can’t seem to remember from one moment to the next what I’m doing!

Nora: I had wondered if you had experienced something like this, it felt real. I laughed so hard reading about this scene. I could so see this happening. It made me love Hannah even more!!

In your other series with Bella Laz and Rosa has a battle between which singer was better, Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. In this one you talk about Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. There is even a special yearly party dedicated to these guys in Hannah’s family. What is your favorite movie from each of these guys? Why is it your favorite? What do you enjoy most about these two and how they worked together?

I love, love, love adding real heroes from old movies and TV shows to my books. I’ve always been a huge Dean Martin fan, and I’m nuts about Bob Hope. To answer your question, I’d choose the following favorite songs: Bing Crosby (White Christmas); Bob Hope (Thanks for the Memories). Interestingly enough, I’m not a huge fan of the movies these two fellas did together, but I loved White Christmas (Bing) and I’m still nuts about any old television show that featured the amazing Bob Hope. What classics!

Hannah responds to Bella’s comment, “See, that’s the problem. None of it is small stuff to me. It’s all huge.”

Bella replies, “Girl, I get it. I totally and completely get it. It’s going to sound so cliché, but you got to stop trying to fix everything…I know, I know- this coming from the fix-it-queen. But you were never meant to hold all things together. Only God can do that.”  How did God reveal this concept to you? What had God turned around for you? Done far more than you could imagine?

 I’m the ultimate fix-it queen, just like Hannah. I've always had this motto: “Never pay anyone to do what you think you can do yourself.” Well, I HAD this motto until I crossed the wires on my A/C unit in 1987 and blew up the fan in the attic. Since then I've had to admit that some things just aren't personally fixable. Still, that hasn't stopped me from trying! I’m always trying to fix: relationships, problems, books, etc. Every now and again I get a little nudge from the Lord, reminding me that He’s the ultimate fixer, NOT me. Ha. I learned this first-hand back in 2007 when I shattered my ankle and was wheelchair-bound for nearly two months. God taught me a lot in my “ unfix able” state and has continued the lessons, (painful as they are), ever since.

Hannah says to Bella, ‘You’re pretty good at seeing inside my head.” “Told you, we’re two peas in a pod. Been there, done that. But if you want change, whether it’s in your personal life or your business, there’s really only one way-you have to start thanking God for it now, before you ever see a thing. In all things give thanks.” Bella grins. What was the hardest challenge you've faced? How did God help you get through? Through a Change? Praise your way through the storm? Help you stay focused and on course?

I’m a huge believer in praising God in the middle of life’s storms. This is scriptural, of course. “In ALL things give thanks.” It’s not easy, but we have to try. Between 2006 and 2007, several major catastrophes took place in my life: my 26-year marriage ended, my father died, my sister died, one of my best friends died, my first grandchild was born six weeks early and (as mentioned above) I fell down some stairs and suffered what the doctors called a “catastrophic” break to my leg/ankle/foot that required two surgeries and many weeks in a wheelchair (with tons of complications related to the meds afterwards). In the middle of all of this, I lost the one and only book contract that I had, thus ending (to my way of thinking) my career. A good friend reminded me to keep praising. . .and I did. It wasn't easy, but those words of praise encouraged me and kept me going. God turned my writing career around (praise His Name!) and I’m so grateful for the lessons I learned while in the valley.

Nora: I'm sorry to hear that so many things happened to you at once. Thank you for sharing your testimony and how God got you through! It's inspiring.

Hannah and Drew are excited about meeting Brock Benson (famous actor in your series) and are nervous about the photo shoot. You've worked in Hollywood writing scripts and things who did you get a chance to work with and/or meet that had you feel the same way Hannah and Drew felt about meeting Brock and Sierra the country singer in your series? Do tell!

Back in 1979, my dad moved our family to Los Angeles so that he could get into the movie business. We subsequently wrote Liar’s Moon and I was blessed to meet (and work with) Matt Dillon, Cindy Fisher and others. My favorite was Hoyt Axton. I still remember the day I picked him up from the airport and drove to the shoot location (about an hour and a half away). He played his guitar the whole way and sang love songs. What a precious memory of a well-known man who cared enough to make “normal” conversation.

Nora: Fun!

I wondered if you had a Jacquie Goldfarb in your life? If not where did the idea for this person come from? Do tell!

      Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t believe you actually asked this question! YES, I had a Jacquie Goldfarb in my life. NO, I will not give you her name. I will say that I was a drama kid in high school. I sang, acted and danced my way through life. But I never seemed to get the lead role in any show. I’d always get the “second-lead” (if that makes sense). Sounds silly, but at the time my Jacquie Goldfarb always got the lead. She was thin, pretty and had gorgeous long hair. She also sang like the wind and could play any role with ease. I hated her. Well, I didn't hate her, exactly, but I certainly envied her. Not publicly, of course. We were good friends. I've since looked back on that whole experience and laughed. How silly it seems now. We've both grown up and have seen many of life’s successes and failures. We’re equals in every regard. Funny thing is, we always were…I just never saw it.

Nora: Of, course I had to ask you this!! I think we all have a Jacquie Goldfarb in our lives!! Thanks for sharing yours!

You talk about the show Dancing with the Stars in this book. Do you like dancing? Do you watch the show? What is your favorite dance and part of the show?

I’m nuts about Dancing with the Stars. I watch every episode. I’m particularly partial to Derek Hough. (He’s adorable.) I also love watching the non-dancers give it their best shot. I dream of one day appearing on Dancing with the Stars. Hey, it could happen!


1. If you had the time and money to go anywhere you desired, where would you go and what would you do?

Easy! I would go to ItalyI've been dying to go for years. I’d love to leisurely travel from one end of the country to the other, staying in small B& B's and seeing the wine country in its entirety. (FYI, one of my favorite movies is “Life is Beautiful” which is set in Italy.)

2. Name two jobs you've had people might be surprised at hearing you did?

Some people don’t know that I bake cakes. Even though that’s not a “job” it feels like one at times! I also worked at a check verification company years ago. Not my bag, but it paid the bills. J

Nora: THANKS for sharing cake pictures. They are beautiful! 

3. You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?

Entertainment director? Seriously, I’d be the one trying to get everyone to see the bright side of the experience. Before long we’d put on a show and everyone would be smiling.

Nora: Of, Course! Sign me up!

4. What movie greatly impacted you as a child? Why? If you didn't watch movies as a kid what book affected you?

 The Sound of Music is still my favorite movie. There simply aren't enough words to explain my fascination with it, particularly the gazebo scene, which is pure bliss (and, to my way of thinking, the most beautiful love scene ever filmed). I played the role of Brigitta when I was in 10th grade. (As you might remember, she’s the one who arrived late because she was busy reading a book. Prophetic, perhaps?) As for favorite books, I loved the Bobbsey Twins. Read every single book and even wrote one of my own in 6th grade because there were no more to purchase!  


Yes, I love to hear from readers. They can reach me on the web. I'm on facebook, twitter and everywhere else.

Thanks for having me here! Want a peek at book two's Wedding by Design series book cover, The Icing on the Cake?" It will be out July 2013! 


Janice Hanna Thompson
"Love, Laughter and Happily Ever Afters!"

Thanks for stopping by and letting us get to know you and your novel, Janice. I enjoyed this book as much as The Wedding planner series you wrote in the POV of Bella Neeley. I’m thrilled that Revell Publishers will be giving away 5 copies of your novel starting the first of February. Everyone will have the opportunity to enter the drawing and you’ll have a chance to interact with readers Janice. They look forward to author interaction as much as winning the book. I’m looking forward to that discussion. 

I highly recommend this book to take you away from the troubles of the day and to read for book club. There is so much to talk about, Fun. Oh the book club goodies you could make! Grin!
All participants need to join TBCN. To join the fun AND the Discussion you must join The Book Club Network, its fun, easy and free. Go to

ALL ENTRIES ARE TO BE MADE @ TBCN TO JOIN IN THE FUN go to  not on this blog post.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins