Thursday, July 31, 2008

More Harry Potter on the Horizon

Well, J.K. Rowling may have completed Harry's tales, but she's not done with his world yet. Fans can rejoice at the upcoming release of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Right now, you can special order them from by clicking the links below. I've already put mine in for the standard edition. As cool as the special edition is, I just don't have room in my library.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard Standard Edition - PRE-ORDER NOW!

In December 2007, J.K. Rowling unveiled The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a very special book of five fairy tales illustrated by the bard herself, embellished with silver ornaments and mounted moonstones. Amazon was fortunate to come into possession of one of the original copies, and it was our privilege to share images and reviews of this incredible artifact. Now J.K. Rowling is giving millions of Harry Potter fans worldwide cause for celebration with a new edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, available December 4, 2008.

Offering the trademark wit and imagination familiar to Rowling's legions of readers--as well as Aesop's wisdom and the occasional darkness of the Brothers Grimm--each of these five tales reveals a lesson befitting children and parents alike: the strength gained with a trusted friendship, the redemptive power of love, and the true magic that exists in the hearts of all of us. Rowling's new introduction also comments on the personal lessons she has taken from the Tales, noting that the characters in Beedle's collection "take their fates into their own hands, rather than taking a prolonged nap or waiting for someone to return a lost shoe," and "that magic causes as much trouble as it cures."

But the true jewel of this new edition is the enlightening and comprehensive commentary (including extensive footnotes!) by Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, who brings his unique wizard's-eye perspective to the collection. Discovered "among the many papers which Dumbledore left in his will to the Hogwarts Archives," the venerable wizard's ruminations on the Tales allow today's readers to place them in the context of 16th century Muggle society, even allowing that "Beedle was somewhat out of step with his times in preaching a message of brotherly love for Muggles" during the era of witch hunts that would eventually drive the wizarding community into self-imposed exile. In fact, versions of the same stories told in wizarding households would shock many for their uncharitable treatment of their Muggle characters.

Professor Dumbledore also includes fascinating historical backstory, including tidbits such as the history and pursuit of magic wands, a brief comment on the Dark Arts and its practitioners, and the struggles with censorship that eventually led "a certain Beatrix Bloxam" to cleanse the Tales of "much of the darker themes that she found distasteful," forever altering the meaning of the stories for their Muggle audience. Dumbledore also allows us a glimpse of his personal relationship to the Tales, remarking that it was through "Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump" that "many of us [wizards] first discovered that magic could not bring back the dead."

Net proceeds from this Standard Edition and the Collector's Edition support of the Children's High Level Group, a charity co-founded in 2005 by J K Rowling and Emma Nicholson MEP to make life better for vulnerable children. (The Children's High Level Group is a charity registered in England and Wales under registered charity number 1112575.)

The Tales of Beedle the Bard Special Collector's Edition - PRE-ORDER NOW!

Tucked in its own case disguised as a wizarding textbook found in the Hogwarts library, the Collector's Edition includes an exclusive reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, as well as 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition or the original. Opening the case reveals a velvet bag embroidered with J.K. Rowling’s signature, in which sits the piece de resistance: your very own copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, complete with metal skull, corners, and clasp; replica gemstones; and emerald ribbon.

On an even happier note, you can see the first trailer for the latest Harry Potter film. VH-1 has some really interesting feedback, check out what others are saying about the preview.
I can't wait. I think the film comes out right around my birthday, so I know what I'll be doing to celebrate. Me and my girls are going Potter.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CFBA: DragonLight by Donita K. Paul

Song Stuck on the Brain: Do You Believe in Magic by The Lovin' Spoonful

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:



Donita K. Paul
(WaterBrook Press - June 17, 2008)


How can I possibly say more about how much I love this series? If you haven't figured it out yet, I LOVE THIS SERIES. I'm hooked. Addicted. Completely Crazed. Plus, I've managed to get at least 3 other people as addicted to them as I am. Which of course is a start, but my goal is world domination - for Ms. Paul, not me. So, as a means to that end, I present once again the latest info on her most recent release. I'm also giving away a copy of DragonLight, so be sure to read to the end to find out more.

The fantastic land of Amara is recovering from years of war inflicted on its citizens by outside forces–as well as from the spiritual apathy corroding the Amarans’ hearts. With Kale and her father serving as dragon keepers for Paladin, the dragon populace has exploded. It’s a peaceful, exciting time of rebuilding. And yet, an insidious, unseen evil lurks just beneath the surface of the idyllic countryside.

Truth has never been more important, nor so difficult to discern.

As Kale and her father are busy hatching, bonding, and releasing the younger generation of dragons as helpers throughout the kingdom, the light wizard has little time to develop her skills. Her husband, Sir Bardon–despite physical limitations resulting from his bout with the stakes disease–has become a leader, serving on the governing board under Paladin. When Kale and Bardon set aside their daily responsibilities to join meech dragons Regidor and Gilda on a quest to find a hidden meech colony, they encounter sinister forces. Their world is under attack by a secret enemy… can they overcome the ominous peril they can’t even see?

Prepare to experience breathtaking adventure and mind-blowing fantasy as never before in this dazzling, beautifully-crafted conclusion to Donita K. Paul’s popular DragonKeeper Chronicles fantasy series.

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

"DragonLight is a delight, but I wouldn't expect anything less from the marvelous Donita K. Paul. I heartily recommend her books to all ages who love inspirational fantasy and wonderful creatures. Ms Paul not only supplies imagination and talent, she provides heart and soul. Another winner!"
~KATHRYN MACKEL, author of Boost

"Donita K. Paul is amazing! DragonLight has the allegorical depth to satisfy the most discerning adult seeking spiritual depth, yet it is fun enough to fascinate a child. This book will enthrall, uplift, and if allowed, change lives--as we are gently drawn to realize that each of us is flawed and must have patience with other flawed believers."
~HANNAH ALEXANDER, author of Double Blind


Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school, but soon got bored! The result: a determination to start a new career. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She says, “I feel blessed to be doing what I like best.”

She mentors all ages, teaching teenagers and weekly adult writing workshops.

“God must have imprinted 'teacher' on me clear down to the bone. I taught in public school, then home schooled my children, and worked in private schools. Now my writing week isn’t very productive unless I include some time with kids.”

Her two grown children make her proud, and her two grandsons make her laugh.

Donita is an award-winning author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicle series including DragonFire and DragonKnight.

When not writing, she is often engaged in mentoring writers of all ages. Donita lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she is learning to paint–walls and furniture! Visit her website at


Win a free copy of DragonLight. Click on the book cover in the sidebar to email me your entry. The contest is open to US and Canadian residents only and ends at midnight on July 31, 2008. GOOD LUCK!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Outlaw or Villain?

I've always been a Robin Hood fan. I've read every version I can get my hands on and watched all the movies worth seeing. This new series on BBC America is my latest addiction.


CFBA: The Falcon & the Sparrow by M. L. Tyndall

Song Stuck on the Brain: Every Breath You Take by The Police

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Falcon And The Sparrow


M. L. Tyndall
(Barbour Publishing, Inc - August 1, 2008)


Wow, what a great read! I completely fell in love with Dominique and Chase. Their romance was moving and heartfelt and I very nearly bit all my nails off in frustration, just waiting for the two of them to get it together! When they did, it was fantastic. I couldn't help grinning like a goof.

What made this story all the more incredible, was the faith interwoven so carefully throughout the story. Dominique's questions about her faith and ability to serve God in a bad situation rang true because it's a situation all of us find ourselves in at some point. I love how the author showed Dominique's struggle, as well as the hope she finds to keep going. The man in black that shadows her was a truly genius addition to the story.

In fact, all the characters were very well written. On first glance you might find them typical. A harsh, rugged Admiral; a shrewish lady rival; a bossy older sister out to get the heroine... but Tyndall takes the reader so far beyond the surface and I was surprised more than once by a characters depth and originality.

When Mademoiselle Dominique Dawson sets foot on the soil of her beloved homeland, England, she feels neither the happiness nor the excitement she expected upon her
return to the place of her birth. Alone for the first time in her life, without family, without friends, without protection, she now faces a far more frightening prospect, for she has come to the country she loves as an enemy-a spy for Napoleon.

Forced to betray England or never see her only brother alive again, Dominique has accepted a position as governess to the son of Admiral Chase Randal, a harsh man, still bitter over the loss of his wife. Will Dominique find the strength she needs through God to follow through with the plan to rescue her brother? Will Chase find comfort for his bitter heart in God's arms and be able to love again?

And what new deceptions will they both find in France when they arrive to carry out their plan?

If you would like to read an excerpt of The Falcon And The Sparrow, go HERE

M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

Her current releases in the Legacy of The Kings Pirates series include:The Restitution, The Reliance, and The Redemption

Friday, July 25, 2008

GRPR: A Promise for Tomorrow by Sara DuBose

Song Stuck on the Brain: Baby It's Cold Outside

I wish! It's 97 and humid! There are days I'm actually very thankful that I work in a batcave. Today is one of them. :)

Today, Glass Roads PR is touring:



Flea. Who calls a little girl Flea? Everyone in Sugar Hill, Alabama apparently. Funny, it's the same question I asked in high school about To Kill A Mockingbird. Who calls a little girl Scout?

That's not the only way these two stories resemble one another. It's not that I believe Ms. DuBose is copying Lee's masterpiece, but it's hard not to feel the similarities in style and setting. It drew me in, making me wonder where the similarities would end.

Flea is a great character and I enjoyed the story a great deal. I'm not sure anything could top Harper Lee's masterpiece, but Sara DuBose did an admirable job of creating her own classic.


In the mid 1950’s small town, Sugar Hill, Alabama was quiet and sleepy in every way imaginable. Fannie Lea Rockwell has few pressing concerns, save for her dreadful nickname, Flea. Few concerns that is until she crosses paths with Mr. Boyd, Sugar Hill’s resident hermit and mysterious citizen. Mr. Boyd lives across the railroad tracks deep in the woods and his anti-social tendencies only fuel the gossip fire; its rumored that he keeps his daughter, Mavis, locked in the attic all day and that he brews moonshine in the woods behind his house.

One day when Flea and her brother, Rand, trespass on Mr. Boyd’s property to get a better view of Mavis, they encounter more than they bargained for. A grip around her waist, a knife to her throat and a threat on her life are quite enough to convince Flea to never return. His breath which smelled of rotting cabbage only served to fuel her fear.

As she unravels the mystery behind Mavis Boyd, Flea uncovers secrets of other Sugar Hill residents and soon discovers how little she actually knows her neighbors. Soon Flea will find herself in a life-or-death situation where she places herself in danger to save the life of someone more helpless than herself.


Sara DuBose is a motivational speaker and author of three other novels: Where Hearts Live, Where Love Grows, and Where Memories Linger. Sara is also author of Conquering Anxiety, published by the Presbyterian Church in America. Her other writing credits include numerous articles and stories for publications such as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Today’s Christian Woman, Virtue, Decision, The Christian Reader, and Family Life Today. She also appears in several anthologies published by Multnomah and Barbour. Sara received a first place fiction award from Putting Your Passion into Print and a first place fiction award from the Southeastern Writer’s Association. She currently travels as a speaker for seminars, festivals, civic clubs, schools and churches and may be contacted at Sara and her husband live in Montgomery, Alabama. She is the mother of two daughters.

Q&A with Sara DuBose, author of A Promise for Tomorrow:

Q. Everyone seems to be affected by today's tenuous economic environment. From housing to jobs, it seems there's always bad news on the 5 o'clock news. How can you 'live expectantly' in these uncertain times?

A. Sometimes our children show us how to live expectantly. Years ago I lifted my sick three-year-old from her bed and plopped us both in the rocking chair. Cherie felt hot and clammy. I was hot with fatigue and anxiety, having nursed sick people for over a month. I said, “Honey, I’m so sorry you are not feeling good.”

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

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

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

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

Q. In A Promise for Tomorrow, Flea learns a lot about God's promises to His children. What can we derive from His promises for tomorrow?

A. Flea observes, and later interacts, with a neighbor who has become a victim of her circumstances. By applying what she has learned from her father and through her own spiritual growth she is able to offer a compassionate reprimand. Flea also learns the truth of Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” As the story progresses, Flea begins to understand a basic principle. Life is hard, but it can still be lived with hope.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

CFBA: Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman

Song Stuck on the Brain: Karma Chameleon by Culture Club.

Much to the dismay of everyone around me. I only know the "Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma Chameleon..." part. Which I then find myself repeating. Over and over again. I'd like to slap myself silly. Can't imagine what the rest of the office is thinking. I'm trying to keep it in my head and not blast everyone. :)

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Painted Dresses


Patricia Hickman
(WaterBrook Press - July 15, 2008)


In this story of sisterhood and unexpected paths, Gaylen Syler-Boatwright flees her unraveling marriage to take refuge in a mountain cottage owned by her deceased aunt. Burdened with looking after her adult sister, Delia, she is shocked to find a trail of family secrets hidden within her aunt’s odd collection of framed, painted dresses. With Delia, who attracts trouble as a daily occupation, Gaylen embarks on a road trip that throws the unlikely pair together on a journey to painful understanding and delightful revelations.

Steeped in Hickman’s trademark humor, her spare writing voice, and the bittersweet pathos of the South, Painted Dresses powerfully captures a woman’s desperate longing to uncover a hidden, broken life and discover the liberty of living authentically, even when the things exposed are shrouded in shame.

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


Patricia Hickman is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, whose work has been praised by critics and readers alike.

Patricia Hickman began writing many years ago after an invitation to join a writer's critique group. It was headed up by best-selling author Dr. Gilbert Morris, a pioneer in Christian fiction who has written many best selling titles. The group eventually came to be called the "Nubbing Chits". All four members of the original "Chits" have gone on to become award-winning and best selling novelists (good fruit, Gil!).

Patty signed her first multi-book contract with Bethany House Publishers. After she wrote several novels "for the market", she assessed her writer's life and decided she would follow the leanings of her heart. She says, "It had to be God leading me into the next work which wound up being my first break-out book, Katrina's Wings. I had never read a southern mainstream novel, yet I knew that one lived in my head, begging to be brought out and developed." She wanted to create deeper stories that broke away from convention and formula. From her own journey in life, she created a world based upon her hometown in the 70's, including Earthly Vows and Whisper Town from the Millwood Hollow Series.

Patty and her husband, Randy, have planted two churches in North Carolina. Her husband pastors Family Christian Center, located in Huntersville. The Hickmans have three children, two on earth and one in heaven. Their daughter, Jessi, was involved in a fatal automobile accident in 2001. Through her writing and speaking, Patty seeks to offer help, hope and encouragement to those who walk the daily road of loss and grief.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CFBA: Try Darkness by James Scott Bell

Song Stuck on the Brain: Waterloo by ABBA

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Try Darkness


James Scott Bell
(Center Street - July 30, 2008)


I'd love to give you my take, but for some reason, I haven't received this one yet. Although, it looks like a great read.


Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancée and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts.
One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights.
But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk.
But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good.
Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive.
Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.

If you would like to read chapters 1 & 2, go HERE

“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”

“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”
—Publishers Weekly

“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Times

“A master of suspense.”
—Library Journal

“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”
—In the Library Review


JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, TRY DYING, was released to high critical praise, while his book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CSFF: DragonLight by Donita K. Paul

Song Stuck on the Brain: Do You Wanna Dance by The Beach Boys

The CSFF is touring:


I know I've already been raving about this one. I posted my first review on June 1st. You can read it along with the first chapter HERE.

Donita's books are just so fantastic, that I can't help but promote them every chance I get. If you're as excited as I am by the prospect of a new series, you can visit her website to find out more. Just click here:

You can also check out her blog for more fun info and updates at:

Don't forget that I'm giving away a copy of DragonLight this month, click the book cover in the sidebar to email me your entry.

I'd love to hear how the rest of you have enjoyed the Dragon Chronicles. Leave a post and let me know what you think.

For more, check out the other members on tour:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
Karina Fabian
* Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Terri Main
* Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
* Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice
* Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams

Monday, July 21, 2008

TF: Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo

Song Stuck on the Brain: I Have a Dream by ABBA

It's May 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!

and his book:

Dreamhouse Kings, Book #2
Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)


I'm gaga over this book series. If you didn't read my original review, you can check it out here. I highly recommend these books. Fantastic reading.


Robert Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Here are some of his titles:

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Comes a Horseman





At twelve years old, David King was too young to die. At least he thought so.

But try telling that to the people shooting at him.

He had no idea where he was. When he had stepped through the portal, smoke immediately blinded him. An explosion had thrown rocks and who-knew-what into his face. It shook the floor and knocked him off his feet. Now he was on his hands and knees on a hardwood floor. Glass and splinters dug into his palms. Somewhere, all kinds of guns were firing. Bullets zinged overhead, thunking into walls—bits of flying plaster stung his cheeks.

Okay, so he wasn’t sure the bullets were meant for him. The guns seemed both near and far. But in the end, if he were hit, did it matter whether the shooters meant to get him or he’d had the dumb luck to stumble into the middle of a firefight? He’d be just as dead.

The smoke cleared a bit. Sunlight poured in from a school-bus-sized hole in the ceiling. Not just the ceiling—David could see attic rafters and the jagged and burning edges of the roof. Way above was a blue sky, soft white clouds.

He was in a bedroom. A dresser lay on the floor. In front of him was a bed. He gripped the mattress and pushed himself up.

A wall exploded into a shower of plaster, rocks, and dust. He flew back. Air burst from his lungs, and he crumpled again to the floor. He gulped for breath, but nothing came. The stench of fire—burning wood and rock, something dank and putrid—swirled into his nostrils on the thick, gray smoke. The taste of cement coated his tongue. Finally, oxygen reached his lungs, and he pulled it in with loud gasps, like a swimmer saved from drowning. He coughed out the smoke and dust. He stood, finding his balance, clearing his head, wavering until he reached out to steady himself.

A hole in the floor appeared to be trying to eat the bed. It was listing like a sinking ship, the far corner up in the air, the corner nearest David canted down into the hole. Flames had found the blankets and were spreading fast.

Outside, machine-gun fire erupted.

David jumped.

He stumbled toward an outside wall. It had crumbled, forming a rough V-shaped hole from where the ceiling used to be nearly to the floor. Bent rebar jutted out of the plaster every few feet.

More gunfire, another explosion. The floor shook.

Beyond the walls of the bedroom, the rumble of an engine and a rhythmic, metallic click-click-click-click-click tightened his stomach. He recognized the sound from a dozen war movies: a tank. It was rolling closer, getting louder.

He reached the wall and dropped to his knees. He peered out onto the dirt and cobblestone streets of a small village. Every house and building was at least partially destroyed, ravaged by bombs and bullets. The streets were littered with chunks of wall, roof tiles, even furniture that had spilled out through the ruptured buildings.

David’s eyes fell on an object in the street. His panting breath froze in his throat. He slapped his palm over his mouth, either to stifle a scream or to keep himself from throwing up. It was a body, mutilated almost beyond recognition. It lay on its back, screaming up to heaven. Male or female, adult or child, David didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. That it was human and damaged was enough to crush his heart. His eyes shot away from the sight, only to spot another body. This one was not as broken, but was no less horrible. It was a young woman. She was lying on her stomach, head turned with an expression of surprised disbelief and pointing her lifeless eyes directly at David.

He spun around and sat on the floor. He pushed his knuckles into each eye socket, squeegeeing out the wetness. He swallowed, willing his nausea to pass.

His older brother, Xander, said that he had puked when he first saw a dead body. That had been only two days ago—in the Colosseum. David didn’t know where the portal he had stepped through had taken him. Certainly not to a gladiator fight in Rome.

He squinted toward the other side of the room, toward the shadowy corner where he had stepped into . . . wherever this was . . . whenever it was. Nothing there now. No portal. No passage home. Just a wall.

He heard rifle shots and a scream.

Click-click-click-click-click . . . the tank was still approaching.

What had he done? He thought he could be a hero, and now he was about to get shot or blown up or . . . something that amounted to the same thing: Dead.

Dad had been right. They weren’t ready. They should have made a plan.


David rose into a crouch and turned toward the crumbled wall.

I’m here now, he thought. I gotta know what I’m dealing with, right? Okay then. I can do this.

He popped up from his hiding place to look out onto the street. Down the road to his right, the tank was coming into town over a bridge. Bullets sparked against its steel skin. Soldiers huddled behind it, keeping close as it moved forward. In turn, they would scurry out to the side, fire a rifle or machine gun, and step back quickly. Their targets were to David’s left, which meant he was smack between them.


At that moment, he’d have given anything to redo the past hour. He closed his eyes. Had it really only been an hour? An hour to go from his front porch to here?

In this house, stranger things had happened. . . .

Friday, July 18, 2008

CFBA: Promises, Promises by Amber Miller

Song Stuck on the Brain: The Prayer by Josh Groban & Charlotte Church

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Promises, Promises


Amber Miller
Barbour - July, 2008


Raelene Strattford knows God has promised never to leave or forsake her. But after the catastrophic deaths of her parents, she doesn t believe it. What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? Gustaf Hanssen has admired Raelene from afar for a while, but his poor attempt at courting her in the past has made him unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?

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

At this time,
Promises, Promises
can only be purchased through the
Heartsong Book Club


Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. Writing had always been a hobby, a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings in a way I sometimes find difficult with the spoken word -- although my friends will tell you 'shy' is not in my vocabulary. Thanks to the gentle nudging of a fellow author -- Tracie Peterson -- in 2002, I took the next step in my writing career and joined the American Christian Fiction Writers. I owe all so many there a hearty hug of appreciation for their constant encouragement and unselfish assistance. I feel a lot more confident thanks to their support and love. For those of you who are also fiction writers looking for a wonderful support group, check them out!

I got involved with web design in 1997, when I was asked to take over running the official web site for the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. That eventually led to a series of negotiations where I was offered the job of running world-renowned actress Jane Seymour's official fan site. That has branched into doing web sites for a variety of clients, including: authors J.M. Hochstetler, Trish Perry, Kathy Pride, Louise M. Gouge, Susan Page Davis, and Jill Elizabeth Nelson, actor William Shockley (the voice of AT&T and Sony) and many others. With the help of a handful of other web site "technos," Eagle Designs was born! Feel free to visit and see our other clients.

Books are a definite passion. Why else would I be writing and publishing them? I firmly believe that a good book can take you away from all of your problems, into a world you've never seen. My favorite food is Italian; I sing all the time, and I once worked with my church choir to do a professional recording for a music CD of our performances.

I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher nestled in the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chocolate addiction pays off big

Song Stuck on the Brain: I'll Stand By You by Carrie Underwood

Did anyone see the article on Yahoo! about the French stewardess that won a trip to space?

How cool would it be to spend 4 days in space camp? Better yet, blasting 60 miles into space for 5 minutes of weightlessness? I'd love to experience being weightless. (There are all kinds of jokes I could crack now, but I'll restrain myself...) :) I'm probably way too much of a wuss to make it through something as tough as space camp, and I doubt I have the brains either, but I've always wanted to go to space camp. I loved the 1986 movie Space Camp as a kid and was addicted to Rick North's Young Astronauts book series. Being an astronomer was one of my three career choices. It was either Doctor, Marine Biologist, or Astronomer. So what do I do for a living now? Accounting. With writing and Photography on the side. Hmmm. That's okay though, cuz I still enjoy learning about all the science, I just don't have to do the hard stuff that goes with it.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Win DragonLight by Donita K. Paul

Win a copy of DragonLight by Donita K. Paul

Read my review of the book here.

How to Enter:

Click on the book cover in the side bar to email me your entry. The contest is only open to US and Canadian residents, and ends at midnight on July 31, 2008.

Good Luck!


And the Winner Is...

Congratulations, Donna P.!

Donna is the winner of Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson.

Monday, July 14, 2008

CFBA: Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn

Song Stuck on the Brain: Bubbly by Colbie Caillat

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Sisterchicks Go Brit


Robin Jones Gunn
Multnomah Publishers (May 20, 2008)


SISTERCHICK® n: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you’re being a brat.

Two midlife mamas hop over to jolly ole England and encounter so much more than the usual tourist stops. Liz does have a bit of a childhood crush on Big Ben, and she has hoped to “meet” him ever since her fifteenth birthday. Kellie dreams of starting an interior design business and figures Liz needs to be a part of that equation–a calculation that hasn’t added up for Liz yet.

Nothing on the excursion goes the way these two friends had envisioned. They start with a village pancake race and end up being held for questioning on The Underground. Kellie and Liz take a wild tour through the land of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and then find themselves swept up, up, and away in a hot air balloon over the Cotswalds. London beckons with the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, shopping at Portabella Road in Knotting Hill, and of course, reservations at the Ritz for a posh high tea.

A few detours along the way and the possibility of being lost in a London fog of wonderment aren’t enough to stop these two Sisterchicks! Each step of their regal journey is lined with evidence of God’s gracious compassion, and both come to realize that God knows their every wish. He is the One who planted every dream in their hearts.

And, oh, what a surprise awaits them when they return home!

To read the first chapter, go HERE

“Robin has done it again! You and your Sisterchicks will love taking this new adventure together!”
- Karen Kingsbury, New York Times best-selling author of Between Sundays and Ever After

“My only complaint about Robin’s latest is that now I want to hop a plane to England! But combine a cup of Earl Grey tea and this charming story and you’re halfway there. Another delightful tale about women helping women to live their lives to the fullest.”
- Melody Carlson, author of These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking and A Mile in My Flip-Flops

“Sisterchicks in Gondolas is a true delight. The characters shine, and evocative language will make any reader want to visit Venice. Biblical truths are portrayed simply, yet will touch hearts and lives with their realistic application.”
- Romantic Times magazine


Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawaii.

Robin’s first novel was published in 1988, and she has continued to write between two to five books a year. Her 63 published books include 47 novels, all of which are still in print. Sales of her popular Christy Miller Series, Glenbrooke Series and Sisterchicks Series, including Sisterchicks in Gondolas and the new Katie Weldon Series including Peculiar Treasures all of which are approaching four million copies sold, with translations in nine languages.

Robin’s passion for storytelling and travel are evident in all her books, especially the Sisterchicks novels, and she has received thousands of letters from readers around the world who have come to know Christ through her writing. She sees this as her dream come true. Her novels are traveling to foreign lands and her characters are doing what she always longed to do; telling people about God’s love.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

GRPR: Blood Brothers by Rick Acker

Song Stuck on the Brain: As the Dear by The Cadets

Today, Glass Roads PR is touring:

Blood Brothers


Rick Acker
Kregel Publications (May 31, 2008)


I am so excited about this book! The concept is really intriguing and the characters well written. The suspense and twists are excellent. I especially like the connection to Nordic legend and history. The best part of the book, in my opinion is how the brothers' relationship is resolved.

In a lot of ways this was like reading the best of Michael Crichton and John Grisham, all rolled into one with a strong thread of faith tying it into a nice package. How can you get better than that?This is apparently book two in a series, but I didn't know that until after I read the book, but it didn't matter, because the book easily stands on it's own as a novel. However, I now have to go find book one, because I'm seriously hooked on this author's style.

Great read, I highly recommend this one.


Rick Acker writes his novels while commuting to and from his "real job" as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. His most recent novel, Blood Brothers, is an intense sequel to the legal thriller Dead Man's Rule. Christy award-winning author Randy Ingermanson calls Blood Brothers "an excellent legal suspense novel, with a strong biotech backdrop. It reminded me of Michael Crichton's latest novel, Next, except that Blood Brothers is better." Rick is also the author of the well reviewed Davis Detective Mysteries, a series of adventure/mystery novels for "tweens."

Rick is a transplanted Chicagoan who spent thirty-five years in the Midwest before finally trading the certainty of winter and mosquitoes for the risk of earthquakes. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Anette, their four children, and two cats.

Visit the author's website.

Read the First Chapter:

Chapter One

A Gift From the Past

A chill April rain fell outside Chicago’s Field Museum, drenching the wide black umbrellas that protected the designer gowns, suits, and hairstyles of the arriving guests. They came in couples or small groups, checked their coats and umbrellas, and found their way to the reception in the Founders’ Room, a venerable chamber with the feel of old money. The room’s reception area held a collection of fine artifacts never seen by the general public. A massive, ornately-carved fireplace greeted guests with a roaring blaze. Two large crystal chandeliers cast a soft light from the high ceiling onto the guests mingling below.

The room was full, but not too full—the mark of a well-planned event. White-coated servers maneuvered deftly among the clusters of chatting guests, offering appetizers or glasses of champagne. The selection of baked appetizers reflected a bias for salmon—perhaps because the hostess had been craving it when she planned the menu. Fortunately, most of the guests seemed to like salmon.

Ben Corbin, who did not like salmon, stood by a table of cheese-based hors d’oeuvres and watched his wife work the crowd. Two hours ago, Noelle had been a no-nonsense accountant, but now she had fully morphed into the role of society hostess: bright smile, well-coifed brown hair, unostentatious—but not inexpensive—diamond jewelry, and an elegant blue sheath dress that complemented her athletic figure and matched her brilliant sapphire eyes. Her dress had been let out a little in the middle to make room for her expanding belly; she was four months pregnant with their first child and just starting to show.

Shortly after Ben and Noelle had told his mother the happy news, she had commented to Ben that pregnant women “glow.” Ben had privately questioned whether glow was an appropriate synonym for “exhausted, moody, and nauseated,” but now he saw what his mother had meant. Tonight, Noelle glowed. She radiated happy expectancy and never tired of answering the same questions about how far along she was, how she was feeling, whether they had settled on names yet, and so on.

Ben put down his plate and sauntered over to intercept his wife as she walked from one group of guests to another. “Having fun?” he asked as he fell in stride beside her.

“Yeah,” she said distractedly as she quickly scanned the crowd for new arrivals she hadn’t greeted yet. There were at least two dozen, and more on the way.

Ben followed her gaze. “Too much fun?”

“Yeah. I’ve got to say hi to Senator Fintzen and Justice Gaido. Could you go talk to those people over there?” She nodded in the direction of a group just leaving the name tag table. “That’s Gunnar Bjornsen and his family.”

“No problem.”

Ben sauntered over to a group composed of two young men in their twenties, an attractive woman of about fifty, and an imposing sixtyish patriarch. The younger men were both blond and handsome; otherwise, they looked nothing alike. The older one had slightly unkempt long hair, earrings in both ears, a paunch, and a Bohemian air. His younger companion had short-cropped hair, a lean, muscular build, and a well-tailored Brooks Brothers suit.

He looks like he just stepped out of a Young Republicans leadership meeting, thought Ben.

Both men were over six feet tall, but they were dwarfed by the man whom Ben guessed to be Gunnar; he stood at least six feet four and still had the arms of a weightlifter, despite his age.

The two young men talked to the woman, an elegant, aristocratic-looking lady whom Ben assumed was their mother. The older man loomed over the little group, saying nothing, but scanning the crowd with intense, pale gray eyes. His craggy face wore an undisguised look of displeasure, though it wasn’t clear what had upset him.

“Hello,” Ben said as he walked up smiling. “My name is Ben Corbin. Thank you for coming to the reception tonight.” He glanced at their name tags. “Are you related to the Bjornsens of Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals?”

The storm clouds on the older man’s face darkened further. “I am the Bjornsen of Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals.” His basso profundo voice had a trace of a Scandinavian accent.

Oops. Ben’s smile didn’t waver. “Pleased to meet you, sir,” he replied, extending his hand. “Thank you for your company’s generosity in making this exhibition possible. I know the museum is very excited to be able to display artifacts from a royal Viking burial. I’m personally looking forward to spending an afternoon or two in the exhibition hall.”

“So am I,” said the big man as he shook Ben’s hand with a firm grip. “Gunnar Bjornsen. This is my wife, Anne, and our sons, Markus and Tom.” The sweep of his hand identified the Bohemian as Markus and the Republican as Tom. “My brother Karl runs Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals now,” he continued with a trace of bitterness in his voice, “so I never saw the final selection of pieces for this exhibition.”

“Oh.” Momentarily at a loss for words, Ben wished he had paid more attention when Noelle had briefed him on the guest list last week. “I . . . well, I hope you like the choices he made. I’ve seen pictures of some of the items, and they look terrific.”

Anne Bjornsen took pity on him and changed the subject. “Are you the same Ben Corbin who won that lawsuit against the terrorists?”

Five months ago, Ben had discovered that a routine breach of contract lawsuit was actually a battle over possession of a deadly biological weapon. “That’s me. I had a lot of help, though—and I had no idea I was up against terrorists when I took the case.”

“I read about that in the papers,” commented Gunnar. “Very impressive. But I assume litigating against terrorists isn’t a standard part of your practice—or is it?”

“If I did that full time, I would have a very short career. No, that’s the first—and hopefully the last—time I take on a case like that. My real specialty is business disputes: breach of contract cases, shareholder fights, things like that.”

Gunnar looked at him with interest. “Is that so? I’d like to—” he began, but Noelle’s voice over the speaker system cut him off. “Thank you all for coming. As you know, we’re here tonight to celebrate the tremendous generosity of Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals. They have made it possible for the Field Museum to be the first American museum to display artifacts from the Oseberg excavations and the Trondheim Riksmuseum. Let’s welcome Karl Bjornsen, president of Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals, to the Field Museum.”

“Please excuse me,” said Gunnar. He turned abruptly on his heel and headed for the door. The other attendees applauded as a large man approached the front of the room, where Noelle and half a dozen museum worthies awaited him. He appeared to be a bit shorter than Gunnar, but burlier, and he had the same fading blond hair and fierce gray eyes. He walked with the confident, shoulder-swinging stride of a man who was used to having people make way for him.

While all eyes were on Karl Bjornsen, Ben also took the opportunity to slip out of the room. He had never been a great fan of the windy speechmaking that went on at receptions and award dinners. Worse, when executives from corporate donors spoke, they often seemed to feel that they had been invited to do an infomercial for their companies. Now that Noelle had sat down in one of the chairs on the dais, Ben figured he could quietly escape. He made for the entrance to the exhibit hall, which was framed by wooden pillars and a lintel carved with entwined geometric patterns, mimicking the entrance to a Viking hall.

* * *

Back at the reception, Karl Bjornsen walked up to the podium and looked out over the crowd. He recognized a dozen CEOs and other senior executives, several reporters, and the head of a large mutual fund. There were lots of decision makers here tonight, and that was good. “Thank you, Noelle,” he began, with a smile and a nod in her direction. “And thank you, Field Museum. Without the partnership of this great institution and the hard work of its staff, this exhibition would not have been possible.”

Polite applause.

“I am very lucky to be part of this great effort to bring treasures of ancient Norway to this new land. When I was a child growing up in Oslo, I remember going to the museums with my parents to see beautiful artifacts that had lain buried and forgotten for a thousand years. It thrilled me then, and it thrills me even more now, to share the glories of my ancestors with the people of this great city where I have made my home and built my company.

“But I would like to take a few minutes to tell you about a Norse treasure that is not locked in museum cases—a treasure that we can hold in our hands and that can change each of our lives. Last year, a hiker in one of Norway’s national parks got lost in the mountains. He wandered for days, growing hungrier and weaker. He would have died of starvation and exposure if he had not saved himself . . . by starting an avalanche.”

A few chuckles rumbled through the crowd.

“How does an avalanche feed a hungry man? The rock and ice that thundered away down the mountainside that day uncovered a cave that had not seen the light of the sun for a millennium or more. And in that cave were some leaves and seeds from an extinct tree.

“The hiker took those leaves and seeds and ate some—but fortunately not all of them. After he ate, he had a new will to live, more energy, and he was suddenly able to think of a way to escape from his predicament. He managed to rip open one of his hiking boots and pull out the steel shank. He found a sufficiently hard stone and struck sparks off it into a pile of dry grass and pine needles. Once he had a fire going, he made himself a torch and limped along the timberline starting fires at regular intervals, which he knew would get the attention of the park rangers pretty quickly. They did, and he was rescued.” Karl paused for a moment to let his audience appreciate the story. “Quite a tale, isn’t it?

“But why didn’t the hiker think of that sooner? And where did a man on the brink of death get the strength to tear apart a hiking boot?

“The hiker was unable to guide the rangers back to the cave he’d found, so unfortunately whatever secrets it still holds have been lost again. But he did have some of the leaves and seeds in his pockets. Norwegian scientists began studying them, and what they found was truly amazing: the leaves, and particularly the seeds, contained complex compounds that acted together to make it possible for neural impulses to move through chains of nerve cells more efficiently and at greater speed. Theoretically, that means that these chemicals should make the subject’s brain operate faster and his reflexes quicker.

“Theoretically, that’s how it should work, but what does it really do? We knew the hiker’s story, of course, but that was only one individual and was hardly a controlled experiment. I wanted to find out more, so my company licensed the rights to perform experiments on extracts from these plants and make products from them. Let me show you what we found.”

The lights dimmed and a motor whirred as a screen descended from the ceiling. The crowd watched in complete silence.

Karl picked up a remote control from the podium and clicked. The screen came to life, showing two lab rats negotiating identical mazes. A digital display at the top of each maze tracked the rats’ performance.

“The rat on the right has been fed an extract from the seeds,” Karl said. “The rat on the left has not.”

As the video proceeded, the rat on the right finished well ahead of the other rat.

“On average, rats with the extract finished mazes twenty percent faster than those without it.

“But those are rats. What about something closer to a human being?” He pressed another button on the remote. The scene on the screen shifted to show two rhesus monkeys struggling to open clear containers with complicated lids that looked like blacksmith’s puzzles. Inside each container was an apple slice. Again, a digital monitor timed each monkey. “The results were even more impressive than with the rats. The monkeys who took the extract completed the same intelligence-testing puzzles in roughly thirty percent less time, and they were able to do more difficult puzzles than the control group monkeys. In fact, they did puzzles more difficult than rhesus monkeys had previously been known to solve.

“And there may be another benefit to this extract.” He clicked the remote again and a picture of a monkey cage appeared on the screen. The cage was empty and two of the bars had been noticeably bent. “This is a picture we took last week. We left the bowl of apples too close to the monkeys one night.”

A laugh ran through the crowd.

“But as often happens in science, our mistake led to a fascinating discovery: those cages are actually designed to hold larger and stronger monkeys than the ones we were using. There’s no way that our monkeys should have been able to bend those bars—but they did! There was nothing wrong with the metal; we tested that. So the only possibility left was that these rhesus monkeys did something that rhesus monkeys can’t do.

“We’re doing additional studies right now, but our best guess is that the extract increases muscle strength by increasing the speed and strength of the electrical impulses transmitted by the nerves to the muscle cells. That’s only a guess, but it happens to fit the facts as we know them today.”

He turned off the projector and the screen recessed into the ceiling. “Many companies say that their products will ‘change the world,’ and virtually all of them are wrong. But I ask you to imagine a time when a firefighter can take a pill that will give him increased strength and speed of mind and hand before he enters a burning building; when our men and women in uniform can make themselves stronger, faster, and smarter than their enemies during battle.” He swept his hands over the audience. “A time when any of us can make ourselves a little smarter and faster whenever we need to face life’s challenges.”

He held up a single leaf. “This came from a tree grown from one of the seeds found in that ancient cave. It is a gift from our past. It is also our future, and it is a future bright with promise. We stand here tonight at a meeting of the ages. Past, present, and future have come together, each enriching the other. Thank you for coming tonight. I hope you enjoy the exhibition.”

* * *

Ben crossed the threshold of the exhibit hall and paused to let his eyes adjust. The interior had been made to look like the longhouse of a Viking king. There were no windows, and the only light came from the entrances and strategically spaced “smoke holes” in the roof. Dark timbers covered the walls and sloped upward to form a steeply peaked roof supported by richly carved beams bearing images of dragons and serpents that intertwined to form complex patterns that confused the eye. Artifacts protected by Plexiglas cases were arranged to make them appear to be a natural part of the long hall. A collection of eight golden arm rings, each in the form of an emerald-eyed serpent swallowing its tail, lay carelessly arranged in an iron-bound chest, as if some warlord had tossed them there after returning from a raid. Two swords with gold-inlaid hilts hung from pegs on the wall, their bright blades still bearing the notches of long-ago battles. In a dark corner near the end of the hall, an ancient chair of exquisitely carved black oak sat in a rough circle with several modern copies, in which visitors could sit and imagine a conversation with the lord of the hall. To complete the illusion, one of the chairs held the hulking figure of a Norse warlord bent in thought and shadow, brooding over plans for his next conquest.

Ben decided to give his feet a rest and headed for the little grouping of chairs. As he got closer, he noticed that the clothing on the Viking mannequin didn’t look right, though the light was too dim to say exactly why. As Ben approached, the figure stirred and looked up. It was Gunnar. “Ah, Mr. Corbin. I see that I’m not the only escapee from the hot air blowing out there.”

“The speeches do start to sound the same after a while. I figured the exhibit might be more interesting than the people talking about it.”

“Well, what do you think?”

“Pretty impressive, especially when it’s empty like this. They’ve really created the atmosphere of another place and time. When I walked in here, I almost felt like I’d arrived early for a Viking war council and that any minute the king and his generals would walk in.”

Gunnar regarded him with an odd, piercing look for a moment. “It’s interesting that you should put it like that. I—” There was a noise behind them and Gunnar looked past Ben’s shoulder. Ben turned and saw Karl Bjornsen walking up to them. “Gunnar!” he said in a booming voice. “I’m so glad you could make it to our exhibition.” He was smiling, but it was the hard, predatory smile of the victor greeting the vanquished.

“I wanted to make sure you didn’t screw it up too badly after I left,” Gunnar replied. He stood and looked around. “It looks good. I assume someone else took care of it.”

Ben shifted his weight uncomfortably and looked away, but Karl continued to smile. “You’re right. I was so busy cleaning up the mess you left at my company that I didn’t have time to work on this myself.”

Gunnar’s face hardened. “Ditt selskap, sier du?”

“Ja. Og min teknologi som du stjal,” Karl growled in reply.

Gunnar tensed and clenched his fists. “Din helv—” He stopped himself as he noticed a group entering the exhibit hall from the reception. “Excuse me; do any of you speak Norwegian?”

“Yes, I do,” replied a matronly woman with white hair and a tentlike dress.

“How unfortunate. Since that is the case, I will limit my remarks to wishing you all a good night,” Gunnar continued with an icy smile. “Even you, little brother.” Then he pushed past Karl and out of the hall.

* * *

Two hours later, the festivities were winding down. The bar was closed, everyone who wanted to see the exhibit had been through the hall, and most of the crowd had left. The Corbins had spent the past half hour near the door, saying good-bye to guests. At last, even Karl Bjornsen and his wife had gathered their coats and were on their way out into the blustery night. As Ben watched their retreating backs, he leaned over to his wife and asked, “What’s the deal with him and his brother? I thought they were going to start fighting when they ran into each other in the exhibit.”

“I told you about that,” replied Noelle. “They founded Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals together decades ago. Karl was the chairman and Gunnar was the president, but they set it up so that neither of them could make any major decision without the other’s consent. That worked fine for a long time, but about a year ago they stopped agreeing. It turned into a feud over control of the company, and Karl won. He forced Gunnar out in a proxy fight about a month ago.”

Ben vaguely recalled seeing articles about the brothers’ battle, though he hadn’t read them. “That was in the Tribune a while back, wasn’t it?”

“And Crain’s,” replied Noelle. “A couple of the board members didn’t want to invite Gunnar tonight, because they thought there might be a scene.”

“There was a scene.” Ben recounted the incident in the exhibit hall.

Noelle sighed. “I’m glad it wasn’t worse. It sounds like Karl gave Gunnar the bump just as their company was developing a new product that could be huge. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”

“What new product?”

She looked at him first with surprise, and then with suspicion. “You snuck out before Karl’s presentation, didn’t you?”

“I knew the speeches would go downhill as soon as you stopped talking,” he replied.

She smiled affectionately. “Good answer, but you missed a really interesting talk.” She summarized the story of the hiker’s discovery and the results of Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals’ test results.

“Wow,” Ben said when she had finished. “I’m sorry I missed that. So he’s invented brain steroids, huh? I wish we’d had those when I was in law school.”

One of the servers walked up with a question, and Noelle turned her attention to the aftermath of the party. “The caterer says there’s seven pounds of grilled salmon left,” she informed Ben a few minutes later. “What do you say we bring it home?”

“Brutus will love it,” he replied. Brutus was their ten-pound cockapoo—fifty percent cocker spaniel, fifty percent poodle, and one hundred percent terror. Noelle had picked the breed, and Ben had picked the name. Brutus was still a puppy and had a huge appetite, particularly for human food.

She made a point of looking appalled. “No way are you giving it to the dog!”

“It’ll stink up the fridge if we have it in there for more than a day,” Ben countered.

“Okay. We’ll take half, and it will be gone in thirty-six hours.”

Ben knew she was up to the challenge. “Deal.”

* * *

Gunnar’s car would have been uncomfortably silent had it not been for Markus’s intermittent snoring. Tom nudged his brother, who was quiet for a moment before starting up the chain saw again.

Markus was drunk, as he generally was by late evening. After a contemptuous remark from his father in the parking lot, Markus had put in his iPod earbuds, tuned out his family, and fallen asleep by the time the car reached the highway. About fifteen minutes later, Gunnar said “Markus!” in an irritated voice. No response. “Markus!” he boomed.

His son bolted awake and cringed. “What?”

“You were snoring. Stop it.”

“Yes, sir,” Markus replied in a slurred mixture of subservience and resentment. He turned up the volume on his music and closed his eyes again. But he didn’t snore.

Gunnar drove fast. He always did when he was angry. Early in their marriage, Anne would urge him to slow down, but she soon learned that there was no reasoning with him when he was like this. All she could do was wait for the storm to pass and pray that he didn’t hit anyone. So far, he hadn’t.

“Are you still planning on taking the boat out on Thursday?” she asked, hoping to distract him from his wrath.

“Maybe,” he said.

“Did the weather forecast change?”


She debated whether to dig deeper and decided it was worth the risk. “Then why wouldn’t you go sailing?”

He was silent for so long that she began to think he wouldn’t answer. “I think I’m going to see a lawyer.”

She leaned over and whispered, “About the boys’ inheritance—about Markus?”

“No,” he replied. “About the other problem male in the family.”

* * *

The Corbins walked into their Wilmette home and were energetically greeted by ten pounds of fur, tongue, and bark. “Whoa! Down boy!” said Ben as he tried to protect the pants to his best suit. “I just had these dry cleaned.”

After Brutus’s affections subsided, Ben and Noelle trudged upstairs, worn out by the busy evening. Ben changed into a pair of sweats and got ready for bed. Then he lay down and let his mind idle as he waited for Noelle to finish her complicated ritual for removing her clothing, jewelry, and makeup after society evenings.

His thoughts wandered for a few minutes, but he soon found himself thinking about the exhibition. The intricately worked gold, the weathered runic inscriptions, and the sense that he had been walking among the ghosts of warrior kings all percolated in Ben’s tired brain. He imagined mist-shrouded fjords and mountain forests growing over the burial mounds of ancient Viking lords.

Noelle walked in, interrupting her husband’s Nordic reverie. “Hey, honey,” he said, “what do think about maybe taking a trip to Norway? We’ve never been there, and it’ll be a lot harder to take trips after the baby comes.”

“That’s true.” She thought for a moment. Every now and then they had vaguely discussed taking another overseas vacation, but they had mostly talked about Asia, not Scandinavia. “We’ve also never been to China.”

“Yes, but just imagine how good the Norwegian salmon will be. Also, I’ll bet the plumbing is a lot more modern in Norway.” Two years ago, they had spent three weeks touring southern Italy and Greece. During their travels, Noelle had found exactly one bathroom that was remotely acceptable by her standards.

“Those are excellent points,” she responded. “But do you think you can take any more time off from work?”

Ben hesitated before answering. Shortly after his victory against the terrorists, and partly because of his sudden celebrity, he had settled a large trade secrets case on very favorable terms. The contingent fee portion of his compensation had amounted to two million dollars, plus one hundred thousand per year for at least the next ten years. That, combined with some good investing, meant that he no longer had to work unless he wanted to—and he often didn’t want to.

He had a couple of cases that occupied about fifteen hours per week, and some pro bono work that took around five hours more, but that was it. He spent most of his time reading, working in his woodshop, or watching old movies. Noelle was not a great fan of her husband’s newly relaxed lifestyle, and had said so on more than one occasion. Her question was therefore a dangerous one and needed a careful answer. “I think so. Things are starting to pick up at the office, but I should be able to make the time for a vacation. Besides, this will probably be our last chance before the baby is old enough to travel.”

She thought about that for a moment and then shook her head. “Maybe you can take the time, but I can’t. There’s just too much to do. I’ve got two new clients with quarterly reports coming due, and one of them has SEC filings to make. And that’s on top of all the other stuff I’ve got to do.” Ben knew that most of that “stuff” involved catered brunches in large homes, luncheon board meetings, and charity dinners. He was surprised she hadn’t put on thirty pounds even before she got pregnant. “Oh, and it looks like we’re going to get invited to the Adlers’ son’s bar mitzvah. The Bishops and Gossards are likely to be there.”

“That’s nice,” Ben replied with a yawn. “We can send him a card and a sweater from Norway.”

“You mean we could if we were going to be there instead of at his bar mitzvah.”

“You’d give up three weeks in the Land of the Midnight Sun for three hours making small talk with the Bishops and Gossards? They’re nice people, but they’re not that nice.”

She looked at him with raised eyebrows. “You were thinking of taking three weeks off?”

“Okay, two weeks.”

She shook her head. “I just don’t have time, bar mitzvah or no. And neither do you. Going to Norway would mean even more time out of the office—and you couldn’t possibly spend less time there without retiring.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “If I take up shuffleboard and start complaining about how young people drive, would you stop bugging me about that?”

“No, I’d bug you about being boring.” She changed her tone and tried again. “Do you remember what you said when we were thinking about going out on our own?”

He shrugged. “I said a lot of stuff. The only one that sticks in my head was that I was going to miss the free catered lunches at B&R.”

“The one that sticks in my head was that you wanted to do something more important than defend the rights of Fortune 500 companies. Remember that? We prayed about our decision, and you said you felt that God was calling you to use your gifts to make a real difference in the lives of real people. What happened? Now that we’ve got money, is God calling you to spend more time sitting in front of the TV or to make Shaker chairs in the basement?”

“Man, you’re hard to please! A few months ago, you were complaining because I worked too much. Now you’re complaining because I’m not working enough. Make up your mind.”

“I’m not saying you have to spend all your time suing people, I’m just saying you should do something. Maybe you could do some work for the Field. I could introduce you to some very interesting and charming people.”

“There are plenty of interesting and charming people in the world,” Ben replied testily. “Not all of them have five-thousand-square-foot homes and live on the North Shore. In fact, I’ll bet a lot of them live in Norway. Who knows, maybe we can even find some rich people there for you to talk to.”

She stopped getting ready for bed and glared at him. “Do you really mean that? Do you really think I spend over a hundred hours every month working for free just so I can talk to rich people?”

Ben sighed inwardly. Why did these speak-the-truth-in-love conversations always seem to happen when he wanted to go to bed? “That was a cheap shot, and I’m sorry. No, I don’t think that’s the only reason you do it, but I do think it’s one of the perks. I mean, if there was nothing to it, would I have hit a nerve like that?”

“Let’s test that little theory,” she returned sharply. “Why don’t I try hitting a few of your nerves, and then you can tell me whether there’s anything to my comments. Deal?”

Ben chuckled ruefully and sat up in bed. “How about I apologize again and you forgive me and then I give you a backrub to soothe that nerve I hit. Deal?”

“No deal. As long as we’re sharing constructive criticism here, I want a real answer out of you on why you think it’s okay to spend ten hours a day putzing around here at home and only four or five in the office. And half the time when you’re there, I see you playing solitaire on your computer or surfing”

“I need to remember to keep my door shut.” He yawned. “Look, we’ve had a long night and I’m beat. Can’t we talk about this over coffee and muffins in the morning?”

“No, we can’t. You’ve been ducking this one for months. I want to hear what you have to say for yourself.”

He flopped back down onto his pillow. “Okay, fine. The answer is that I worked my butt off for eight years after law school because I had to. Now I don’t have to anymore. I kind of like the change, but I’m not as motivated as I used to be. Maybe I should be, but I’m not. It’s a lot harder to drag myself out of bed at six o’clock every morning when the only reason I’ve got to go into the office is that I feel called to do it. Satisfied?”

She smiled. “Of course. I just needed to hear you say it. And I think you needed to hear yourself say it. Now, did you say something about a backrub?”

* * *

Captain Tor Kjeldaas put the Agnes Larsen’s engines in reverse and pulled her out of the slip she occupied at the crowded municipal pier in Yuragorsk, a small but booming port city tucked away in the far northwest corner of Russia. It was a starless, rainy night and the seas were choppy, but the captain welcomed the darkness and the foul weather.

The Agnes Larsen was a fishing boat, but there were no fish in her holds tonight. The Norwegian and Russian processing plants had dropped the price they would pay for cod, and the crew of the Agnes Larsen were feeling the pinch. So they decided to supplement their income by importing fifty cases of vodka with them when they returned to their home port of Torsknes, Norway. The Norwegian government held a monopoly on sales of hard liquor and charged exorbitant prices—usually three times or more the price in neighboring countries. The result, of course, was a brisk bootlegging business over Norway’s long and sparsely populated borders and coastline.

Captain Kjeldaas steered his little ship cautiously, his leathery face a picture of concentration in the dim, green glow of the instrument panel. He continually made minor adjustments to the wheel and throttle, his gnarled hands moving with great precision and delicacy despite arthritis and dozens of scars from a half century of working these waters. His experienced blue eyes scanned the black waters for the subtlest change.

April was a dangerous time for sailors on the Arctic Ocean, even in calm waters and bright daylight. Warmed by the spring sun, icebergs calved off from the polar ice pack and coastal glaciers, drifting for weeks or even months until they finally melted. They ranged in size from huge floating islands, which could be easily spotted and avoided, to small chunks that were little more than ice cubes and bounced harmlessly off even the thinnest hulls. The truly deadly bergs lay between these two extremes—jagged masses of ice that barely disturbed the waves rolling over them, yet could smash fatal holes into any ship unlucky enough to meet them.

The Agnes Larsen puttered along at only a few knots to minimize the risk from ice. Her speed was further reduced because the running lights were set as dim as possible to avoid detection by the Kystvakt, the Norwegian coast guard. Captain Kjeldaas was a careful and experienced sailor, but neither care nor experience were complete protection against the hazards of the Arctic Ocean. As he looked out through the rain-streaked pilothouse window, he saw an odd pattern in the waves a hundred meters ahead. He frowned and turned his craft a few points to starboard to avoid whatever was causing the water to behave strangely. Then a trough in the waves exposed a pale white mass several times the length of his ship. Most of it lay to port, but a long spar of ice jutted straight toward the bow of the ship.

The captain swore and slammed the wheel as hard to starboard as he could, but the wind and current pulled the little craft to port and she barely altered course. The captain gunned the engine in a desperate effort to give the Agnes Larsen enough power to answer her helm. She began to turn, but it was too late. “Hold fast!” he shouted to his crew as he braced himself against the pilothouse walls.

A second later, the ship lurched, shuddered, and tilted sharply to starboard. Men shouted incoherently belowdecks and objects fell and crashed. A loud, deep groan issued from the ship’s timbers, accented by the squeal of ice on wood. Then came the sound the captain feared the most: a sharp crack followed by screams of “Water! Water! The pump!”

All at once, the Agnes Larsen rolled back to port and then rode level. The noises of wood and ice ceased, but the men still shouted belowdecks. Captain Kjeldaas swore again and hurried down to see how bad the damage was. The Agnes Larsen was too small to carry a lifeboat, so if the ship went down, he and his crew would be adrift in the frigid sea. Hypothermia would kill them a few minutes after they went into the water.

Water sprayed in from a half-dozen leaks, but the hull planks had buckled in only one place—and that was above the waterline. The men had already started the pump and were breaking out the emergency patching kit. The first mate looked up at Captain Kjeldaas with a giddy, relieved grin. “She’ll be dry in half an hour, captain!”

The captain surveyed the scene again and nodded curtly. “Good.” He turned and went back to the pilothouse.

As dawn broke, signaled only by a lightening of the gray sky, the Agnes Larsen limped into Torsknes. Water continued to drip inside the hull and the pump ran intermittently. The growing light showed that much of her paint had been scraped away on the port side, which also bore several deep gouges. Captain Kjeldaas knew where his share of the vodka profits was going. In fact, he’d probably have to make another smuggling run next week just to cover the cost of repairs.

The ship cleared the sea wall and came into view of the dock. Captain and crew had expected to see a truck waiting at the dock to take their cargo. Instead, they saw a police car. Two Kystvakt launches floated just inside the sea wall, lest the Agnes Larsen try to run back out to sea.

Captain Kjeldaas set his mouth in a hard line and headed for the dock. He’d lose his cargo, of course, and probably get slapped with a stiff fine. That would likely be all, though. There were enough ex-fishermen in the police force and judiciary to ensure some leniency when an old sea captain got caught in the time-honored practice of rum-running. Still, the loss of his cargo, a fine, and the repair bill for his ship would come close to bankrupting him. He’d have to find a way to make a lot of money fast—faster than he could smuggling vodka, and a lot faster than he could catching cod.

* * *

The evening was a great triumph, Karl decided. A great triumph. He walked over to the living room window of his palatial sixtieth floor condo and looked out on the glowing Chicago skyline, replaying pleasant memories from a few hours ago—the interest and applause during his remarks, the enthusiastic questions about his new product from stock analysts and captains of industry, and the jealous bile in his brother’s face and voice. With luck, Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals’ stock would be up strongly tomorrow as reports of his presentation circulated.

His satisfied smile faded as he recalled a detail he hadn’t focused on at the time. Gunnar had been talking with a younger man who seemed vaguely familiar, but whom Karl couldn’t immediately place. He also recalled having seen the man with the hostess at some point during the evening. Who was he? And what had he and Gunnar been talking about in the exhibit hall during the speeches? Karl turned as his wife walked into the room. “Gwen, who was that man at the reception with Noelle Corbin?”

“In his thirties, brown hair, athletic build, good-looking, but a little on the short side?” she responded.

“You have an excellent memory of him,” Karl replied drily. “Yes, that’s the one.”

She laughed. Before marrying Karl fifteen years ago, Gwen LaCharriere had been a runway model known for two things: her elegant, raven-haired good looks and her reputation as a flirt—though she had always thought of herself as merely friendly. One of the things that had drawn her to Karl was the fact that he was confident enough not to be bothered when she talked to other men. Still, it was fun to tease him. “That’s her husband, Ben Corbin. He was in the papers a while back—something about Russian terrorists.”

Now he remembered. He stood silent for a few seconds, weighing the significance of this new piece of information. “Chechens,” he said. “The terrorists were Chechens. They bought their weapons from Russian smugglers. Ben Corbin was the lawyer who beat the Russians in court and then hunted down the Chechens, wasn’t he?”

“That sounds right.”

Karl began to understand his brother’s interest in Mr. Corbin. He also began to wonder just how much Gunnar knew about Bjornsen Pharmaceuticals’ activities. This situation bore watching. Close watching. In fact, it bore more than that.

Karl considered what to do next. When he and Gunnar were boys, one of their favorite pastimes was to spar with long sticks. At first, Gunnar always won, because he was older and had a longer reach than Karl. But Karl eventually learned that if he could strike the first hard blow, he could put his brother on the defensive and control the fight.