Sticky Note

I'm on a blogging break, but will be checking in from time to time. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Double Trouble...With a Contest!!

Welcome to the blog tour for Susan May Warren's latest release, Double Trouble! Take a look at what it is all about and be sure to enter the fantastic contest below.

About Double Trouble:
With one solved case under her belt, PJ Sugar is ready to dive into her career as a private investigator. Or at least a PI's assistant until she can prove herself to Jeremy Kane, her new boss. Suddenly PJ's seeing crime everywhere. But is it just in her head, or can she trust her instincts? When she takes on her first official case--house-sitting for a witness in protective custody--Jeremy assures her there's no danger involved. But it soon becomes clear that there is someone after the witness . . . and now they're after PJ, too.

My thoughts:

Double Trouble is the second book in the PJ Sugar series and it does not disappoint! If you missed the first book (Nothing But Trouble) be sure to grab it too.

Where Nothing But Trouble leads us from PJ's haunted past and into a new life, Double Trouble takes us on the "Ok, I'm not the old me anymore, now what?" journey. Along the pathway PJ wrestles with conflicting feelings about who she really is and struggles with others not letting go of the old PJ.

The big step away from that old troublesome label lit a fire under PJ to conquer the world (or at least the greater Kellogg area) and prove to everyone that she really can be somebody. But true to PJ's passionate nature, she jumps in with both feet and then looks around afterward. She wants to help people, but finds herself hurting everyone she loves and putting her own life in danger. Can she trust her instincts, or is she still just a magnet for disaster? PJ feels like a different person than she was in high school, but maybe all she will ever be is trouble after all.

Sometimes sequels can be read as a stand-alone novel, but I highly recommend reading Nothing But Trouble first to get the full effect. Both are excellent summertime reads...or if you're ready for winter to be over (like I am!) go ahead and dive in and find yourself laying on a warm beach, blanketed by the sun.

Special thanks to LitFuse for providing a copy of Double Trouble for me to read and review!

About Susan:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of My Book Therapy, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:

About the contest!

Be sure to enter the Double Trouble Prize Package Giveaway by clicking on the ‘Double the Sass” button below! Susan’s giving away an iPod prize package that is anything but troubling! Check it out!


Prize Details

Double Trouble, the brand new PJ Sugar novel by Susan May Warren, is in stores now! To celebrate the release, we’re running a HUMDINGER of a contest!!

One Grand Prize winner will receive a $150 SUPER SLEUTH prize package that includes:

* A brand new iPod Shuffle (perfect for those all-night stakeouts)
* A $10 iTunes gift card (we recommend the ALIAS soundtrack)
* A $10 Amazon gift card (why yes, they do sell spy pens)
* A $10 Starbucks gift card (for fuel, obviously)
* A pair of designer sunglasses (be stealthy AND super chic)
* A gorgeous scarf from World Market (can also be used as a blindfold, and/or for tying up bad guys)
* AND signed copies of both Nothing But Trouble & Double Trouble. (romance! danger! intrigue! sooo much better than Surveillance for Dummies!)

We’ll announce our super sleuth winner on March 1st.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Swiss Courier Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey’s Swiss Courier! Keep reading for how to win a signed copy of the book…and some Swiss chocolate!!

About the book!

It is August 1944 and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich. When Joseph Engel, a German physicist working on the atomic bomb, finds that he is actually a Jew, adopted by Christian parents, he must flee for his life to neutral Switzerland. Gabi Mueller is a young Swiss-American woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) close to Nazi Germany. When she is asked to risk her life to safely "courier" Engel out of Germany, the fate of the world rests in her hands. If she can lead him to safety, she can keep the Germans from developing nuclear capabilities. But in a time of traitors and uncertainty, whom can she trust along the way? This fast-paced, suspenseful novel takes readers along treacherous twists and turns during a fascinating--and deadly--time in history.

My thoughts:

Prepare to be transported back in time and ripped from your cozy, secure life to a place of war and uncertainty. Swiss Courier will pull you in and open your eyes to the cruel reality of life during Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany. But it won’t leave you hopeless. Experience the selfless heroism of ordinary people who stand up and risk their lives trying to make a difference in the war. It is full of suspense, loyalties, and betrayal.

To be fair, during the first part of the book I thought that the history seemed somewhat forced into the story. The facts were interesting, but distracting the way they were presented.

By the second half of the book, though, I was thrown into the story and wondering how the characters were going to get out of each situation and hoping their missions succeeded despite unimaginable kinks thrown their way. Loved the ending! But I’m not going to spoil it for you.

Thank you, Litfuse, for providing a copy of Swiss Courier for me to review!

About the authors:

Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana. To find out more visit her website:

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.To find out more visit his website:

CONTEST (and this includes CHOCOLATE!)

Pst...pass it on! Help Spread the word about #SwissCourier on Twitter and enter to win a signed copy & Swiss Chocolate!

Just tweet this: The Swiss Courier by @triciagoyer fast paced and suspenseful! Don't miss out! RT #swisscourier and we'll enter you into a drawing for 1 of 5 SIGNED copies of The Swiss Courier!

Can’t wait? Buy the book here

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pearl Girls Tour

About Pearl Girls, from Margaret McSweeneyPearlGirls:

With His love and grace, God covered the unexpected pain in my life of becoming an adult orphan and transformed this pain into a pearl. We are all Pearl Girls. Each of us has been touched by God's gift of love and grace, and it's a gift that I want to share with others. That's why I am launching Pearl Girls.

Actually, my very first gift from my parents was a pearl. The gift of my name. Margaret means "precious pearl." So perhaps this is what I was always supposed to do. My heart's prayer is that Pearl Girls will be a blessing to others - to the women who contribute their literary talent to the Pearl Girls projects; to the readers who are inspired and comforted by the life experiences shared through these projects and to the women and children who will benefit from the proceeds given by Pearl Girls to various charities. This is a win-win for everyone, and each of us has a special part in making the Pearl Girls projects "blessed sellers."

After the first Pearl Girls tea in Atlanta, I went to my brother, Claude's home to help sort through our parents' boxes in his basement. It was an emotional experience and tedious process to discover what was in each box, to decide what to do with each item and to discard those belongings which we needed to let go. After several long hours of sorting, I received an incredible hug from heaven - a confirmation that Pearl Girls is something that is meant to be. I discovered a three strand necklace of painted pearls belonging to my grandmother from the early 1900s! Isn't that amazing?

Press Release

Read an excerpt of Pearl Girls!

My Thoughts:

We all have pain and hard times in our lives that can become a pearl if we let it. It’s easy to feel alone in our pain and that no one understands and even that God has abandoned us when we needed him. Pearl Girls is full of stories of women who have felt the same way, but found the pearl through the pain. I appreciate the wide variety of experiences covered in this book that reach out to the many different aspects of life. And if you’ve ever listened to a fantastic speaker or read books from amazing authors and thought, “If only my life were so put together like that,” then you’ll be blessed to hear from just such women who have struggled with hard times and sadness and see that you’re not alone and that good really can come out of difficult situations.

Thank you, LitFuse, for providing a copy of Pearl Girls for me to review.

It’s about Connecting Hearts and Souls to Impact the World.

Margaret doesn’t keep a penny of any proceeds. 100% of the royalties go directly to two charities:

WINGS (women in need growing stronger). The proceeds will help fund a Safe House in the Chicago suburbs. It costs $50 a night to provide safe shelter for a woman and her children. During this economy, WINGS is receiving even more phone calls for a safe place to stay. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided 60 nights with the advance royalties.

Hands of Hope. The proceeds will help build wells in Uganda for school children. Can you imagine a child at school without a water fountain in the hallway where he or she can grab a quick sip of water in between classes on a hot day? These children have to drink from puddles and other water sources which carry diseases and parasites. It costs $12,000 to build a well in Uganda. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided funds to build ¼ of a well.

Buy Pearl Girls here!

Inspired by the many women who opened their lives and shared their stories in Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, we have created sister site, Post-a-Pearl. A place to continue the connection and encouragement the book began. I hope you will take the opportunity to connect through the Post-a-Pearl site. Please post your own Pearl story and reach out to share your own story with others. Collaborating is an important purpose of Pearl Girls. We connect to make a difference in the world.

Want to see what others are saying about Pearl Girls? Check out the rest of the tour here!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Honor in the Dust by Gilbert Morris ~ Excerpt

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:

Honor in the Dust

Howard Books (August 25, 2009)


Gilbert Morris is the bestselling author of more than 200 novels, several of which won Christy and Silver Angel Awards. He is a retired English professor, who lives in Gulf Shores, AL, with his family.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (August 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416587462
ISBN-13: 978-1416587460


May 1497

Sussex County, England-

Claiborn Winslow leaned forward and patted his horse’s sweaty neck. “Well done, Ned.” He had pushed the stallion harder than he liked, but after so many months away he was hungry for home. He straightened in the saddle and gazed in pleasure at Stoneybrook, the Winslows’s ancestral castle. It had withstood seige and battle, and bore all the marks that time made upon structure——as well as upon men. There was nothing particularly beautiful about Stoneybrook. There were many castles in England that had more pleasing aspects, designed more for looks than for utility. But Claiborn loved it more than any other.

The spring had brought a rich emerald green growth to all the countryside, and verdant fields nuzzled up against the very walls of Stoneybrook. If they were any indication, the summer’s harvest would be good, indeed. The castle itself rose out of a hillside, and was dominated by an impenetrable wall, on the other side of which a small village thrived. Even now, late in the day, people and carts and horses moved in and out of the central gate, and from the battlements he saw the banner of Winslow fluttering in the late afternoon breeze, as if beckoning to him.

“My heaven it’s good to be home!”

He laughed at himself adding, “Well, I guess the next thing they’ll put me in Bedlam with the other crazy ones talking to myself. I must be worse off than I thought.” His mind cascaded back to the battles he had seen, rare but fierce, and the men he had encountered. Some dreaded battle, feared it, and could not force themselves forward. Others found joy in the clash of weapons and the shouts of victory when the battle was over. Claiborn was one of these, finding a natural rhythm to battle, a path from start to finish as if preordained for him. When the trumpets sounded, and the drums rolled, his heart burned with excitement. God help him, he loved it. Loved being a soldier. But this, returning to Stoneybrook, had its own charm.

“Come on, Ned.” Kicking his horse’s side Claiborn guided the animal toward the gate, and as he passed through, he ran across an old acquaintance, Ryland Tolliver, one of the blacksmiths who served Sir Edmund Winslow and the others of the family as well.

“Well, bless my soul,” Ryland boomed, “if it’s not the soldier home from the wars!” He was a bulky man, his shoulders broad, and his hands like steel hooks from his years at the forge. He laughed as Claiborn slipped off his horse and came forward, and he shook his hand. “Good to see you, man. You’re just getting home. All in one piece, I see.”

“All in one piece.” The two man shook hands, and Claiborn had to squeeze hard to keep his hand from being crushed by the burly blacksmith. “How are things here? My mother and my brother?”

“The same as they were when you left. What did you expect? We’d fall to pieces without you to keep us straight?”

“No, I’m not as vain as that. I’m sure the world would jog on pretty well without me.”

“Tell me about the wars, man.”

“Not now. I need to go see my family, but I’ll come back later. We’ll have enough ale to float a ship. I’ll tell you lies about how I won the battles. You can tell lies about how you’ve won over the virtue of poor Sally McFarland.”

“Sally McFarland? Why, she left here half a year ago.”

“I thought you were going to marry that girl.”

“She had other ideas. A blacksmith wasn’t good enough for her.” He looked at Ned and said, “Not much of a horse.”

“He’s a stayer. That’s what I like. He needs shoeing though. I’ll leave him with you and feed him something good. He’s had a hard journey.”

“That I’ll do.” He took the reins from Claiborn. “What about you, Master? What brings you home at long last?”

Claiborn glanced back at him, and a smile touched his broad lips. “Well, I’m thinking about taking a wife.”

“A wife? You? Why, you were made to be a bachelor man! Half the women in this village stare at you when you walk down the street.”

“You boast on my behalf, but even if it was God’s own truth, I’ll not have just any woman.”

“Ahh, I see. So have you got one picked out?”

“Of course! Grace Barclay had my heart when we courted and never let it go.”

“Oh, yes, Grace Barclay.” There was a slight hesitation in the blacksmith’s speech, and he opened his lips to speak, but then something came over him, and he clamped them together for a moment.

“Ryland, what is it? Grace is well?” Claiborn said, his heart seizing at the look on the blacksmith’s face.

“She is well. Still pretty as ever.” Ryland had ceased smiling, and he lifted the reins in his hand. “I best go and take care of the horse. He must have a thirst.”

“As do I. I’ll return on the morrow. Give him a good feed too. He’s earned it.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

The servants were busy putting the evening meal together, and as he passed into the great hall Claiborn spoke to many of them. He was smiling and remembering their names, and they responded to him well. He had always been a favorite with the servants, far more than his brother Edmund, the master of Stoneybrook, and enjoyed his special status. He paused beside one large woman who was pushing out of her clothing and said, “Martha, your shape is more…womanly than when I departed.”

The cook giggled and said, “Away with you now, m’lord. None of your soldier’s ways around here.”

He grinned. “You are expecting a little one. It is nothing shameful, I assume.”

“Shush! Mind that we’re in public, Sir. Such conversation is unseemly!” Her face softened and she leaned closer. “I married George, you know. A summer past.”

“Well, good for George. With a good woman and a babe on the way; he must be content, indeed. What’s for supper?”

“Nothing special, but likely better than some of the meals you’ve had.”

“You’re right about that. Soldier’s fare is pretty rough stuff.”

Passing on, Claiborn felt a lightness in his spirit. There was something about coming home that did something inside a man. He thought of the many campfires he had huddled next to out in the fields, sometimes in drizzling rain and bitter cold weather— dreaming of the smells and the sounds of Stoneybrook, wishing he was back. And now, at last, he was.

“Edmund!” He turned to see his brother, emerging from one of the inner passages.

Claiborn hurried forward to meet him and said, “It’s good to see you, brother.”

“And you,” Edmund said, holding him at arm’s length again to get a good look. “No wounds, this round?”

“Nothing that hasn’t healed,” Claiborn returned.

“Good, good. Mother will be so relieved.”

The two turned to walk together, down a passageway that would lead to their mother’s apartments. Claiborn restrained his pace, accommodating his smaller older brother’s shorter stride. “All is well here, brother? You are well?”

“Never better. There is much to tell you. But it can wait until we sup.”

A servant had just departed, after breathlessly telling Lady Leah Winslow that her son had returned. She wished she had a moment to run a brush through her gray hair, but she could already hear her sons, making their way down the corridor. She rose, straightening her skirts. How many nights had she prayed for Claiborn’s return, feared for his very life? And here he was at last!

The two paused at her door, and Leah’s hand went to her chest as her eyes moved between her sons. Claiborn’s rich auburn hair with just a trace of gold; Edmund’s dull brown. Claiborn’s broad forehead, sparkling blue eyes, high cheekbones, generous lips that so easily curved into a smile, determined chin. Here, here was the true Lord Winslow, a far more striking figure than his sallow, flabby brother. Her eyes flitted guiltily toward her eldest, wondering if she read her traitorous thoughts within.

But Claiborn was already moving forward, arms out, and she rushed to him. He lifted her and twirled around, making her giggle and then flush with embarrassment. “Claiborn, Claiborn!”

He laughed, the sound warm and welcoming and then gently set her to her feet. “You are still lovely, Mother.”

“You are kind to an old woman,” she said. She reached up and cradled his cheek. “The wars…you return to us unhurt?”

“Only aching for home,” he returned.

He took the horsehide-covered seat she offered and Edmund took another. A servant arrived with tea and quickly poured.

“Are you hungry, Son?”

“Starved, but the tea will tide me over until we sup.”

“Well, tell us about the wars,” Edmund said.

“Like all wars—bloody and uncomfortable. I lost some good friends. God be praised, I came through all right.”

Edmund let out a scoffing sound. “Don’t tell me you turned religious!”

“Religious enough to seek my Maker when facing death.”

Edmund laughed and Leah frowned. He had a high-pitched laugh that sounded like the whinnying of a horse. “Not very religious when you were growing up. I had to thrash you for chasing the maids.”

Claiborn reddened and guiltily glanced at Leah. “I suppose I was a terrible.”

“You were young,” Leah put in. “Now you are a man.”

“She forgets just how troublesome you were,” Edmund said.

“You might have been the same, had you faced manhood and the loss of your father in the same year. You were fortunate, Edmund, to be a man full grown before you became Lord Winslow.”

Edmund pursed his narrow lips and considered her words. “Yes. I suppose there is a certain wisdom in that, Mother. A thousand apologies, Claiborn,” he said, with no true apology in his tone.

“None offense taken. So tell me, what’s the feeling here about the king?”

“Most are for Henry. He’s a strong man—but it troubles all that he seems to have a ghost haunting him.”

“A real ghost?”

“No, but it might be better if it were,” Edmund grinned. “Henry defeated Richard III at Bosworth, and he claimed the crown. But he’s always thinking that someone with a better claim to the crown will lead a rebellion and cut his head off.”

“Do you think that could happen?”

“No. Henry’s too clever to let that happen.”

Leah fidgeted in her seat, wondering when Edmund would tell his brother what he must. Would it be up to her? She kept silent for ten long minutes as the men continued to speak of Henry VII and his various campaigns. When it was silent, she blurted, “Has Edmund told you of his plans?”

Edmund shot her a quick, narrowed glance, but then turned to engage his brother again.

“Plans?” Claiborn’s bright, blue eyes lit up. “What is it?”

“I’m to be married,” he said, uncrossing his legs and crossing them again in a studied, casual way.

“Well, I assumed you already long married. Alice Williams is your intended bride, I suppose.”

Edmund’s face darkened, and he took two quick swallows of tea and then shook his head. “No,” he said in a spare tone. “That didn’t come to fruition. She married Sir Giles Mackson.”

“Why, he’s an old man!”

“I expect that’s why Alice married him. She expects to wear him out, then she’ll be in control of everything.”

“I didn’t think Alice was that kind of a woman.”

“Come now, most women are that kind of woman. Apart from our dear mother, of course.” He reached out a hand to Leah and she took it. He held it too tightly, as if warning her. “You truly haven’t learned more of women as you’ve traveled?”

“Not of what you speak.” His eyes moved to his brother’s hand, still holding their mother’s. “Well, who is it then? Who is the future Lady Winslow?”

Leah couldn’t bear it then, watching her handsome son’s face. She stared studiously at her tea, waiting for the words to come.

“Obviously, I’ve considered it for some time,” Edmund said, releasing their mother’s hand, setting down his cup and rising to stand behind her chair.

Claiborn frowned but forced a curious smile. Why was he hesitating? “Cease toying with me, Edmund. Who is she?”

“I have selected Grace Barclay.”

Claiborn’s fingers grew white as he gripped the tea cup. With a shaking hand, he set it down before he crushed it. “Grace Barclay,” he whispered.

“Yes. She’s comely enough, and I’ve come to a fine arrangement with her father. We shall obtain all the land that borders our own to the east. That’ll be her dowry. We’ll be able to put in new rye fields and carry more cattle. It’ll add a quarter to the size of Stoneybrook. You know how hard I tried to buy that land from her father, years ago. Well, he wouldn’t sell, never would I don’t think, but when he mentioned the match I thought, well, why not? It’s time I married and produced an heir for all of this. I’ll show you around the property tomorrow.”

Claiborn said nothing further, and felt frozen in place. Edmund prattled on about the new land that would soon be added, how it would benefit them all, and finally turned toward the door and said, “Come along, you two. They ought to have something to eat on the table by now. You can tell us about the wars in more detail, Claiborn, now that you know all that’s new here.”

“Edmund, may I have a word with your brother?” Leah said quietly.

Edmund stared, as if having forgotten she was there. After a moment’s hesitation, he said, “Certainly, Mother. I shall see you both in the dining hall.” Then straightening his coat, he exited the room.

Claiborn struggled to speak. At last he asked, “When will the marriage take place?”

“The date has not been set, but it will be soon.” Leah turned warm eyes on her son. She reached out to touch his arm, but he flinched. She had stood idly by! Watched this transgression unfold! “Claiborn, it is a business arrangement. Nothing more.”

“But she was mine. He knew I courted her.”

“And then you left her. She has been of marriable age for some time, now. For all we knew, you could have already died on foreign soil, never to return. Like it or not, life continues, for those of us left behind. Grace needed a husband; Edmund needed a wife. It was a natural choice.”

Claiborn rose. “What of love? What of passion? Grace and I shared those things.”

“Years ago, you shared those things. Now you must forget them. Your brother, Lord Winslow, has chosen.”

“Chosen my intended!” Claiborn thundered, rising.

“You did not make your intentions clear,” Leah said quietly, pain in every word.

“I could not leave Grace, with a promise to marry. It was a promise I could not be sure I could keep. Too many die on the battlefield…” He turned away to the window, running a hand through his hair, anguished at the thought of never holding Grace in his arms, never declaring his love, enduring the sight of her, with him. His brother. His betrayer.

His mother came up behind him, and this time, he allowed her touch on his arm. Slowly, quietly, she leaned her temple against his shoulder, simply standing beside him for time in solidarity. “I’m sorry, Son. But you are too late. You cannot stop what is to come, only make your peace with it. It will be well in time. But you must stand aside.”

Claiborn went through the motions of the returned soldier through the rest of the evening. He was not a particularly good actor, and many of the servants noticed how quiet he was. Edmund did not, however, continuing to fill the silence with endless chatter. After the meal was over Claiborn said, “I think I’ll go to bed. My journey was long today.”

“Yes, you’d better,” Edmund said, mopping the gravy from the trencher with a chunk of bread “Tomorrow we’ll look things over, find something for you to do while you are home. Will you return to the army?”

“I’m not quite sure, Edmund.”

“Bad business being a soldier! Out in the weather, always the danger of some Spaniard or Frenchman taking your head off. We’ll find something for you around here. Time you got a profession. Maybe you’d make a lawyer or even go into the church.” He laughed then and said, “No, not the church. Too much mischief in you for that! Go along then. Sleep well and we’ll discuss it further on the morrow.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

As Claiborn rode up to the property owned by John Barclay, he felt as if he were coming down with some sort of illness. He had slept not at all, but had paced the floor until his mother sent a servant with a vessel of wine, which he downed quickly, and soon afterward, fell into a dream-laden sleep. As soon as the sun had come up, he had departed, only leaving word for Edmund that he had an errand to run.

Now as he pulled up in front of the large house where Barclay lived with his family, he dismounted, and a smiling servant came out. “Greetings, m’lord, shall I grain your horse?”

“No, just walk him until he cools.”

He walked up to the door, his eyes troubled and his lips in a tight line. He was shown in by a house servant, and five minutes later John Barclay, Grace’s father, came in. “Well, Claiborn, you’re back. All safe and sound, I trust?”

“Yes, Sir. Safe and sound.”

“How did the wars go? Here, let’s have a little wine.”

Claiborn’s head was splitting already from the hangover, but he took the mulled wine so that he might have something to do with his hands.

John Barclay was a small man, handsome in his youth, but now at the age of forty he was beginning to show his age poorly. He pumped Claiborn for news of the wars, customarily passed along the gossips of the court and of the neighborhood. Finally he got to what Claiborn had come to address. “I assume your brother has told you that he and my girl Grace are to be married?”

“Yes, Sir, he did.”

“Well, it’s a good match,” he rushed on. “She’s a good girl and your brother is a good man. Good blood on both sides! They’ll be providing me with some fine grandchildren. A future.”

Claiborn did not know exactly how to proceed. He had hoped to find Grace alone, but Barclay did not mention her, so finally he said, “I wonder if I might see Miss Grace? Offer my future sister-in-law my thoughts on her impending nuptials?”

“Certainly! She’s up out in the garden. Let her welcome you home. She’ll tell you all about the wedding plans, I’m sure.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Getting up, Claiborn walked out of the castle. He knew where the garden was, for he had visited Grace more than once in this place. He turned the corner, and his first sight of her seemed to stop him in his tracks. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. A tall woman with blonde hair and well-shaped green eyes, with a beautiful smile. He stood there looking at her, and finally she turned and saw him. She was holding a pair of shears in her hands, and she dropped them and cried out, “Claiborn—!”

Moving forward, Claiborn felt as if he were in some sort of dream world. He came to stand in front of her and could not think of what to say. It was so different from what he had imagained it would be like when he first saw her after his long absence. How many times had he imagined taking her into his arms, turning her face up, kissing her and whispering his love, and her own whispered declarations…

But that was not happening. Grace had good color in her cheeks as a rule, but now they were pale, and he could see her lips were trembling. “Claiborn, you’re—you’re home.”

“Aye, I am.”

A silence seemed to build a wall between them, and it was broken only when she whispered, “You know? About Edmund and me?”

“I knew nothing until yesterday when Edmund told me.”

“I thought he might send you word.”

“He’s not much of a one for writing.” Claiborn suddenly reached out and took her by the upper arm. He squeezed too hard and saw pain rise and released his grip. “I can’t believe it, Grace! I thought we had an understanding.”

Grace turned her shoulders more toward him. “An understanding, of sorts,” she said quietly. “But that was a long time ago, Claiborn. Much has transpired since you left.”

He couldn’t stop himself. He reached out his hand to take her own, gently. “I’m sorry. I was a fool.”

“You were young. We both were. Perhaps it is best that we leave it as that.” She turned her wide, green eyes up to meet his.

He frowned. “Is that all it was to you? The passion of youth? Frivolity? Foolishness?”

“Nay,” she sais softly, so softly he wondered if he had misheard her. But then she repeated it, squeezing his hand. His heart surged to doubletime. Her voice was unsteady as she said, “I did everything I could to get out of the marriage, Claiborn. I begged my father, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He’s determined…and so is your brother.”

“I know Edmund is stubborn, but there must have been some way, Grace.”

“No, both your brother and my father see a woman as something to be traded. I don’t think my father ever once thought of what I wanted, of what you and I once shared, of would make me happy. Nor Edmund. He’s never courted me. It is purely an arrangement that suits well…on the surface.”

Suddenly Claiborn asked, “Do you think you might come to love him, Grace?”

Tears came into Grace’s eyes. “No,” she whispered. “Of course not! I love you, Claiborn. You must know that.”

Then suddenly a great determination came to Claiborn. He could not see the end of what he planned to do, but he could see the beginning—which would undoubtedly bring a period of strife. And yet any great battle worth fighting began the same way. “We’ll have to go to them both, your father and my brother,” he said. “We’ll explain that we love each other, and we will have to make them understand.”

Grace shook her head. “It won’t do any good, Claiborn. Neither of them will listen. Their minds are made up.”

“They’ll have to listen!” Claiborn’s voice was fierce. “Come. We’ll talk to your father right now—and then I’ll go try to reason with Edmund. My mother will come to my aid, I am certain.”

“I fear it will do no good—”

“But we must try.”

She accepted his other hand and met his gaze again. “Yes,” she said with a nod, “we must try.”

“Grace Barclay, if we manage this feat, would you honor me by becoming my bride?”

“Indeed,” she said, smiling with fear and hope in her beautiful eyes.

“Come, then,” he said, tucking her hand into the crook of his arm. “Let us see to it then.”

The two of them went inside, and found Grace’s father eating grapes. Claiborn knew there was no simple manner to enter the discussion at hand so he said, “Mr. Barclay, forgive me for going against you and your arrangement with my brother, but I must tell you that Grace and I love each other. We want your permission to marry.”

John Barclay stared at the two, then hastily swallowed a mouthful of grapes. The juice ran down his chin, and his face was scarlet. “What are you talking about, man? I’ve told you, she’s to marry your brother!”

“Father, I never cared for Edmund,” Grace said at once. She held her head up high, and added, “I’ve loved Claiborn for a long time.”

“Have you lost your senses, girl? Sir Edmund is the lord of Stoneybrook. He has the money and the title. What does this man have? A sword and the clothes he has on his back!”

“But father—!”

“Not another word, Grace! You’re marrying Edmund Winslow, and I’ll hear no more about it!” Barclay turned to Claiborn, and his face was contorted with rage. “And you! What sort of brother are you? Coming between your brother and the woman he’s sought for his wife! You’re a sorry excuse for a man! Get out of here, and never come back, you understand me?” He turned to Grace and shouted, “As for you, girl, go to your room! I’ll have more words for you later…!”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

As Claiborn rode out of the environs of Barclay Castle, he felt as if he had been in a major battle. He loitered on the way home, trying to put together a speech that might move Edmund after so utterly failing with John Barclay. When he reached the castle he saw his brother out in the field with one of the hired hands. He was pointing out some fences, no doubt, that needed to be built, and he turned as Claiborn rode up and dismounted.

“Well, you ran off early this morning. What was so pressing that you could not even stop to break your fast?.”

“I must have a word with you, Edmund.”

His brother said something else to the field hand and then turned to walk beside him. “Well, what is it? Have you given thought to your profession?”

“No, no, it’s about Grace.”

Edmund’s eyes narrowed. “Grace? What about her?”

Claiborn faced his brother and said, “Grace and I love each other. We have for a long time. Forgive me for this, but we wish to be married, Edmund.”

Edmund’s face contorted into a look of confusion. “Have you lost your mind, Claiborn? She’s engaged to me! Everyone knows about it.”

Claiborn began to try to explain, to reason, and even to plead with Edmund, but Edmund scoffed, “You were always a romantic dreamer, boy. But you are a man grown now. You must embrace life and all its practicalities, as I have. Think if it. The woman is handsome, yes, but what she brings to this estate is even more attractive. There will be another girl for you.”

“Perhaps Barclay will still give the land as Grace’s dowry if she marries me.”

“Of course he won’t! Are you daft? I’m the master here! Now don’t be difficult about this, Claiborn. It’s for the good of the House of Winslow. Let’s hear no more about it.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

The thing could not be kept a secret, and soon everyone at both houses knew what had happened. Edmund made no secret of his displeasure, and finally, after three days, he found Claiborn, and his anger had hardened, but he gave Claiborn one more chance to change his mind. “Look you now, Claiborn,” he said. “You know you have no way to provide for a wife, without me. And if you stubbornly pursue this one as your wife, I shall turn you out. What kind of a life would a woman have with you then? You know as well as I she’d be miserable. Grace has always the best of everything. What would she have with you, outside of the House of Winslow? Dirt, poverty, sickness, misery, that’s what she’d have. You must see that.”

“But Edmund, we love each other. If you’d help me fit myself for a profession—”

“I will help you! I’ve said so already—but I’d be made to look ridiculous if my own brother took my choice for a wife from me. A lord cannot be made to look the fool. It will bind me in every future arrangement I make. No, the die has been cast. You must live with what has transpired in your absence.”

Claiborn had never asked his brother for anything, and he hated to beg, but he pleaded with Edmund until he saw that it was useless.

“You cannot remain here,” Edmund said flatly. “Not feeling the way you do about my intended. Refusing to act as a man. Refusing the way of honor.”

“I cannot be the man God made me, honor what he has placed on my heart, and do anything but this!” Claiborn cried, arms out, fingers splayed.

Edmund stared at him for a moment and said coldly, “I never want to see you again, Claiborn. You have betrayed me, turned away from all I’ve given you!”

“And you did not betray me? You knew I courted Grace!”

“Once upon a time, as a young whelp! How was I to know you fancied a grand return, a romantic reunion? No, I deal with a man’s responsibilities, and I shall move forward as that, as a man.”

Claiborn stared hard at him. “Mother will—”

“Mother will side with me. With the Lord of Winslow. She knows her place.”

“Just as Grace will know it, right? Pretty, and placed in a corner, until you have need of her in your bed.”

“Get out. My bride is my family, my business. And you, you are no longer kin to me.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

“Grace, I’ve hoped you’d show more sense,” her father said. “You don’t see life the way it is, so I can’t let you make such a terrible mistake.”

“It would be a terrible mistake if I married a man I didn’t love.”

“Nonsense! You’ve been unfairly influenced by those French romances. I knew I should not have allowed them in my house!”

Grace sighed. To be fair, she had placed him in a terrible position, and never challenged him on anything of note. Up until now. “Father, I believe in love. Did you not once love my mother?”

“There was no nonsense. She understood how things progress, between a man and a woman. She…” He colored, growing so frustrated in choosing his words that he shook his finger in her face. “My father and her father saw that there were advantages to our marriage, and we were obedient. We had a good life.”

Grace lost her mother to the fevers when she was fourteen, just as Claiborn had lost his father at the same age—but she well remembered how unhappy she had been, how she longed for affection, but got very little from her husband. John had loved her mother, just as she knew he loved her, but he seemed incapacitated when it came to showing it. “I love Claiborn, Father,” she repeated. “I beg you, don’t force me to marry a man I don’t love.”

John opened his mouth as if to say something in fury, then abruptly closed it, turning away from her. He took a step toward the fire, burning in the hearth, and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “We shall discuss it no further. You are marrying Sir Edmund Winslow. I shall see to it myself.”

. . . . . .

“We’ll have to leave here, Grace.” Claiborn had come under cover of darkeness to meet with her in the garden. The air was heavy for the rain had come earlier and soaked the earth.

“Yes, we will.”

“I have nothing to offer you.”

Grace looked up. “But I have something to offer you. You remember my Aunt Adella?”

“She married an Irishman when we were but children, didn’t she?”

“Yes, and he died, and now she’s dead. She left the farm in Ireland to me. That’s where we must go and make our lives.”

It sounded like a dream—an unfavorable dream since Claiborn had no good opinion of Ireland. But it seemed they had little choice. Perhaps it was of God, this provision.

“This asks much of you, Grace. You’d have the life you were born to, here, if you married Edmund.”

“No, my life would be tragic, living with a man I didn’t love and never again seeing the man I do. There is no choice. Come for me, in two days’ time. I shall meet you by the side gate, when all are deeply asleep.

.. . . . . .

Two days later, Claiborn waited outside the Barclay estate in the dark, nervously shifting from foot to foot. He had stolen away from Stoneybrook as soon as even the lightest sleeper was deep into his dreams. But if she didn’t emerge soon…if Edmund discovered he was gone, and here, or if Grace’s father came upon them…his hand went to his sword. He would do what it took to get his intended away from here. But if anyone died as they departed, it would haunt them forever. “Please Lord,” he muttered under his breath. “Make a way for us. Help us depart in peace.”

Two men approached and Claiborn narrowly ducked around a copse of trees in time. But the lads had been too deep into the ale to notice him—-nor Ned’s soft whinny in greeting to their own horses. They trotted past, laughing so giddily Claiborn wondered how they stayed astride their mounts. His eyes moved back to the side door, where he had sent word for her to meet him. “Make haste, Grace,” he begged through gritted teeth. “Make haste!”

Edmund was not a fool. He was certain to have encouraged servants to keep an eye out for him and any suspicious actions within Stoneybrook. With each minute that ticked by, their risk of exposure increased. Claiborn’s eyes traced the outline of the side door, willing it to open. Had she changed her mind? Or been intercepted? His mind leapt through different options, should she not emerge within a few minutes. Steal inside? Summon a servant and demand he see her? Or walk away?

But then, there she was. He hesitated for a moment, wondering if his mind was playing tricks upon him. No, it was her. She had come! He hurried forward, wincing as the cart behind Ned creaked in protest. Her head swung toward the sound and she hurriedly shut the door behind her, turning a key in the lock and pocketing it.

He took her hands in his. “All right, sweetheart. We’ll find someone to marry us straight away, and then we’ll make a life together in Ireland. Thank you for this honor. Thank you for trusting me.”

“I’m trusting you and God, Claiborn.”

Claiborn was well aware that he did not really know God in the way that Grace did She had a firm faith in the Lord, and his religion had been more of a formality, but now he put his arms around her and kissed her. “I hope you’re right, Grace. At least we’ll have each other.”

“Yes,” Grace smiled up, tears in her eyes. “We’ll have each other.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

Truth or Dare ~and~ All That Glitters by Nicole O'Dell

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 books:

Truth or Dare

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009) )


All That Glitters

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)


Nicole O’Dell lives in Illinois with her husband and six children—including triplets! Nicole has a heart for young girls and a special passion for the relationships between mothers and daughters as they approach the teen years. Her new book series, Scenarios Interactive Fiction for Girls, is designed to help girls develop sound decision-making skills and debuts in August 2009 with the release of the first two books. Her writing also includes devotionals and Bible studies for women of all ages.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

Truth or Dare:
List Price: $7.97
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602603995
ISBN-13: 978-1602603998

All That Glitters:
List Price: $7.97
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602604002
ISBN-13: 978-1602604001


Truth or Dare
Scenarios—Interactive Fiction for Girls

Nicole O’Dell

Chapter 1

Rule the School

The first bright, yellow light of day was starting to peek through the blinds covering her window. Lindsay Martin stretched and yawned as she slowly woke up. After tossing and turning much of the night, she was still sleepy, so she turned over and pulled the puffy pink comforter up to her chin and allowed herself to doze off for a few more minutes, burying her face in her pillow.

But wait. She sat up quickly, remembering it was the first day of school. With no time to waste, she jumped out of bed.

She had carefully selected her clothes the night before, and the khaki pants and screened-print tee were still hanging on her closet door just waiting to be worn. But, after thinking about it, they seemed all wrong. Frantically plowing through her closet for something different to wear, Lindsay pushed aside last year’s jeans and T-shirts, and found the perfect outfit: not too dressy, not too casual, not too anything. As an eighth grader, she wanted to look cool without looking like she was trying too hard—which was the fashion kiss of death. Confident she had selected the perfect outfit, she padded off to the bathroom to get ready to face the day.

Happy with how she looked—jeans with just the right amount of fading down the front, a short-sleeved T-shirt layered over a snug, long-sleeved T-shirt, and a pair of sunglasses perched atop her blonde hair—she bounced down the stairs, slowing as she reached the bottom. Just wanting to get out of the house and be on her way, Lindsay sighed when she recognized the smell of bacon coming from the kitchen. “Mom, I’m really not hungry, and I have to go meet the girls!”

“Now, you know I’m not going to let you head off to school without breakfast, so at least take this with you.” Mom held out Lindsay’s favorite breakfast sandwich: an English muffin with fluffy scrambled eggs, cheese, and two slices of bacon.

Lindsay wrapped it up in a napkin so she could take it with her and gave her mom a quick kiss before rushing out the door. “Thanks, Mom. You’re the best!”

Hurrying toward the school, Lindsay munched on her sandwich along the way. Nerves set in and, halfway through her sandwich, her stomach wouldn’t allow her to finish it; so she tossed what was left into a nearby trash can where it fell with a thud.

After her short walk down the tree-lined streets, she arrived at the meeting spot—a large oak tree in the front yard of the school—about fifteen minutes early. Shielding her eyes from the sun and squinting in eager anticipation, Lindsay watched the street for the first sign of her three best friends. She expected Sam and Macy to arrive by school bus—they lived too far away from the school to walk, so they generally rode the bus together. Kelly didn’t live too far away, but her mom usually dropped her off before heading to her job as an attorney in the city. Lindsay was thankful she lived so close to the school. She loved being the first one there to greet her friends each morning. Since her mom didn’t have to leave for work, and Lindsay didn’t need to catch the bus, she had a bit more flexibility and could save a spot for them under their favorite tree.

The bus pulled into the driveway, squealing as it slowed. It paused to wait for the crowds of students to move through the crosswalk. When it finally parked, the doors squeaked open and students began to pour off the bus just as Kelly’s mom pulled up to the curb right in front of Lindsay.

“Bye, Mom!” Kelly grabbed her new backpack out of the backseat and jumped out of the car. At almost the same time, Macy and Sam exited the bus after the sixth and seventh graders got off.

Excitedly, the four girls squealed and hugged each other under their tree, never minding the fact that they had been with each other every day for the entire summer. They shrieked and jumped up and down in excitement as if they had been apart for months. They were eighth graders. This was going to be the best year yet. With eager anticipation, each one of them could tell there was something more grown-up and exciting about the first day of eighth grade, and they were ready for it.

With a few minutes to spare before the bell rang, the girls stopped and leaned against their tree for a quick survey of the schoolyard. It was easy to identify the sixth graders. They were nervous, furtively glancing in every direction; and, the most telltale sign of a sixth grader, they had new outfits and two-day-old haircuts. The girls easily but not fondly remembered how scary it was to be new to middle school and felt sorry for the new sixth graders.

The seventh graders were a little bit more confident, but still not nearly cool enough to speak to the eighth graders. Most students, no matter the grade, carried backpacks and some had musical instruments. Some even had new glasses or had discarded their glasses in favor of contacts.

“Look over there.” Kelly pointed across the grassy lawn to a student. A new student, obviously a sixth grader, struggled with his backpack and what appeared to be a saxophone case. Two bigger boys, eighth graders, grabbed the case out of his hands and held it over his head. They teased him mercilessly until the bell rang, forcing them to abandon their fun and head in to the school. The girls shook their heads and sighed—some things never changed—as they began to walk toward the doors.

Kelly and Sam both stopped to reach into their backpacks to turn off their new cell phones before entering the school—it would make for a horrible first day of school if they were to get their phones taken away.

“You’re so lucky,” Macy whined as she watched Kelly flip open her shiny blue phone, carefully decorated with sparkly gems. Sam laughed and turned off her sporty red phone, slid the top closed, and dropped it into her bag. Macy’s parents wouldn’t let her have a cell phone until high school.

“When did you guys get cell phones?” Lindsay asked.

“I got mine yesterday, and Sam got hers on Saturday,” Kelly explained. “My mom wanted to have a way to reach me in the case of an emergency and for me to be able to reach her. I’m not supposed to use it just anytime I want to.”

“Same with me. I might as well not have it. I can call anyone who has the same service or use it as much as I want to on nights and weekends, but that’s it,” Sam complained.

“It’s still way more than I have. You’re so lucky,” Macy said emphatically.

Lindsay sighed and agreed with Macy while she smeared untinted lip gloss onto her lips. “I have no idea when I’ll ever get to have a cell phone. My mom thinks that they are bad for ‘kids.’” She rolled her eyes to accentuate the point that she not only thought she should have a cell phone, but that she definitely disagreed with the labeling of herself and her friends as kids. “She won’t even let me use lip gloss with any color in it. She thinks I’m too young.”

With cell phones turned off, backpacks slung over shoulders, lip gloss perfectly accenting skin tanned by the lazy days of summer, and arms locked, the four best friends were ready to enter the school to begin their eighth-grade year. Seeing their reflection in the glass doors of the school as they approached it, Lindsay noticed how tall they’d all become over the summer. Four pairs of new jeans, four similar T-shirts, and four long manes of shiny hair—they were similar in so many ways, but different enough to keep things interesting.

Kelly Garrett was the leader of the group. The girls almost always looked to her to get the final word on anything from plans they might make, to boys they liked, to clothes they wore. She was a natural leader, which was great most of the time. Her strong opinions sometimes caused conflict, though. Sam Lowell, the comedienne of the group was always looking for a way to entertain them and make them laugh. She was willing to try anything once, and her friends enjoyed testing her on that. Macy Monroe was the sweet one. She was soft-spoken and slow to speak. She hated to offend anyone and got her feelings hurt easily. Then there was Lindsay. She was in the middle, the glue. She was strong but kind and was known to be a peacemaker. She often settled disputes between the girls to keep them from fighting.

Amid complete chaos—students talking, locker doors slamming shut, high-fives, and whistles—the first day of school began. There was an assembly for the eighth graders, so the girls head toward the gymnasium rather than finding their separate ways to their first classes.

Unlike the younger students who had to sit with their classes, eighth-graders could choose where they wanted to sit. The girls filed into the bleachers together, tucking their belongings beneath their feet carefully so that they wouldn’t fall through to the floor below. The room was raucously loud as 150 eighth graders excitedly shared stories of their summers and reunited with friends.

The speakers squealed as the principal turned on his microphone and tried to get everyone’s attention. “Welcome back to Central Middle School. Let’s all stand together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Conversations slowly trailed off to a dull roar as teachers attempted to create some order in each row. The eighth-graders shuffled to their feet and placed their right hands over their hearts to recite the Pledge, and the principal began, “I pledge allegiance to the flag. . .”

Lindsay joined in, but her mind wandered as she looked down the row at each of her best friends. She remembered the great summer they had. They spent many days languishing in the hot sun by Kelly’s pool. She remembered the day when Sam got a bad sunburn from laying on the tanning raft for hours and not listening to the girls when they suggested she reapply her sunscreen. She wanted a good tan, and she paid the price. Kelly had the bright idea of using olive oil and lemon juice to take away the sting—she thought she had heard about that somewhere—but all it did was make Sam smell bad for days along with the suffering that her burns caused.

They also had gone shopping at the mall whenever Sam’s mom would pile them into her SUV and drop them off for a few hours so they could check out the latest fashions and watch for new students—boys in particular. Their favorite mall activity was to take a huge order of cheese fries and four Diet Cokes to a table at the edge of the food court so they could watch the people walk by.

They had a blast burying each other in the sand at the beach whenever Macy’s dad took a break from job-hunting to spend the day lying in the sun. One time, they even made a huge castle with a moat. The castle had steps they could climb, and the moat actually held water. It took them almost the entire day, but the pictures they took made it all worth it.

They had also shared a weeklong trip to Lindsay’s Bible camp. It was a spiritual experience for Lindsay, who used the time to deepen her relationship with God. She enjoyed being able to bring her friends into that part of her life—even if it was just for a week. Macy, more than the others, showed some interest and said that she’d like to attend youth group with Lindsay when it started up again in the fall. All four girls enjoyed the canoe trips—even the one when the boat capsized and they got drenched. They swam in the lake and played beach volleyball. The week they spent at camp was a good end to what they considered a perfect summer.

Although there was a certain finality to their fun and freedom with the arrival of the school year, there was excitement too, as they took this next step toward growing up together. Lindsay took a moment to imagine what it would be like in the future. Next year, they would start high school. After several years, they would head off to the same college and room together as the plan had always been. At some point, they would each find someone to settle down with and get married. They had already figured out who would be the maid of honor for whose wedding. That way, they each got to do it once. And they would each be bridesmaids for each other. Then, they would have children. Hopefully, they would have them at around the same time so they their children could grow up together too. Beautiful plans built on beautiful friendships. . .what more could a girl ask for?

“…One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The Pledge of Allegiance ended, and all of the students sat down to hear about the exciting new school year.

All That Glitters
Scenarios—Interactive Fiction for Girls

Nicole O’Dell

Chapter 1

Time for a Change

A fancy sports car on one side and a shiny, brand-new SUV on the other, Mrs. Daniels slid her car into a parking spot at the mall. More than any other year, shopping for school clothes this year was a very important task. Dani and Drew, identical twins, were starting the ninth grade—freshman year, the first year of high school. They knew full well how important their first impression was— well, at least Drew did. She had spent most of her summer planning and researching fashion trends, hairstyles, and makeup tips by reading fashion magazines. Not that it would do her much good, she often thought. Their parents didn’t allow them to wear makeup; and her long, straight, dark hair looked just like her sister’s and was cut and styled in the same style they had always had.

“Mom, I think it’s time for a change,” Drew announced as they walked through the parking lot toward the mall.

“What kind of change?” Mrs. Daniels asked hesitantly.

“You know, change isn’t always a bad thing.” Drew thought her mom might need some convincing before she tried to state her case. “Change can just be a part of growing up and a sign that a girl is secure and comfortable with herself.”

“Yes, Drew, I’m aware of that. Why do I have a feeling that I’m not going to like what you’re about to suggest?” Mrs. Daniels sighed good-naturedly and looked at Drew’s twin sister, who shrugged her shoulders not knowing anything about the big change that her twin was proposing. “Well, let’s have it. What have you got cooked up?”

“Oh, it’s really not a big deal, Mom. I’d just like to get my hair cut.” Drew pulled a picture of a hairstyle out of her pocket and showed it to her mom.

Mrs. Daniels could see immediately that the softly layered style would cascade to a very flattering place just below Drew’s shoulders. She looked at Dani and raised her eyebrows. “Do you want your hair cut like that?”

“No, Mom, you don’t understand.” Drew interrupted with a slight whine, nervous that she wasn’t getting her point across. “If Dani cuts her hair like that too, then I don’t want to. This is how I want to look. . .by myself. I want to make a change, even just a slight one like my hairstyle, to separate myself from just being ‘one of the twins.’ I want to be an individual; I want to be Drew.”

“Ah, I see, now.” Mrs. Daniels knew that this would happen one day and, she had to admit, high school was a reasonable time for this to occur. It pained her to think of her baby girls reaching such an independent place, though. “How do you feel about that, Dani?”

“Well, to be honest, I really don’t want to change my hair. And I like being ‘one of the twins’ as Drew put it. I guess I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. Why would changing your hair to look like a picture of someone else make you an individual anyway?” She asked pointedly, turning to Drew.

“It just gives me the chance to express myself and be different than I have been.”

“As long as you really mean ‘different than you have been’ and not just that you want to be different than me.” Dani tried not to be hurt, but it was difficult.

“Aw, Sis, I love you. Nothing can change that we’re twins. That will always be a part of us. We’re just talking about a haircut here.”

“I guess you’re right.” Dani laughed. “Let’s go get your hair cut so we can all get used to it while we try on clothes.”

First stop: Shear Expressions for a new hairstyle. The bell above the door jingled as they entered the store. Luckily, there wouldn’t be a wait because Drew was too excited and impatient to wait. She took her seat in the shampoo chair, and the stylist began to lather up her hair. After the shampooing was finished, she patted Drew’s hair dry and moved her to the station where she would be cutting her hair.

Drew struggled to get her hand into the front pocket of her jeans so she could show the stylist the picture of the haircut that she wanted. “Um, Drew, I didn’t realize that your jeans were getting so tight. We’re going to have to be sure to buy some new jeans today.”

“Mom,” Drew laughed. “This is how I bought them. I want them this way.”

Mrs. Daniels looked at the stylist, obviously a mom herself, and shrugged her shoulders. “I know,” the stylist said, “it looks uncomfortable to me too.”

“This is what I want.” Drew showed her the picture, ignoring the comments about her jeans.

“Oh, that’s going to be easy enough and beautiful too. We’ll just take this hair of yours and cut some layers into it. We’ll probably need to take off about three inches, but you have plenty of length so it won’t even be that noticeable. Are you doing the same cut?” The stylist turned to Dani.

“Nope, not me. I’m staying just like this.”

“All right then, let’s get started.”

Thirty minutes later, with dark hair in little piles all over the floor around her, Drew was staring into the mirror in front of her, getting her first look at her new self. She was stunned with what she saw. After looking at her sister for so many years, she was used to having a walking mirror right beside her. But now, as they both gazed into the mirror and took in the changes, they realized that a simple thing like a haircut signaled major changes afoot. Dani was sad when she saw the differences between them, but Drew was thrilled with her new look.

“I love it!” She spun around to the right and then to the left and watched her hair bounce in waves around her shoulders. “It moves, and it’s free.” She didn’t miss the long, thick straight locks a bit. “It has personality. Thank you so much. You did a perfect job,” she said to the hairdresser.

“I’m so glad you like it. I think it looks great too.” Both the hairdresser and Mrs. Daniels were a bit more reserved out of sensitivity to Dani.

“Mom, what about you? Do you like it?”

“You look beautiful, dear. Very grown up.”

“Now I’m ready to shop.” Nothing was going to contain Drew’s excitement as they left the salon; she was thrilled.

* * * * *

“We need to be wise now, girls. There is a limit to today’s budget. My question is whether you want to split the budget and each get your own clothes—or do you want to pick things out to share and get more that way?”

Drew was trying to be more of an individual, but even she could see the logic behind pooling their resources and sharing the clothing allowance; and she knew that Dani would agree. But Drew did have one trick up her sleeve that she decided to save for later in the day.

They spent the day trying on clothes. It helped that both girls were exactly the same size and basically liked similar things. By the end of the day, they had successfully managed to supply their wardrobe with all of the basics they would need for ninth grade, including new winter jackets, jeans, tops, sweaters, belts, socks, pajamas, undergarments, accessories, and shoes. They were exhausted by the end of the shopping trip, and Mrs. Daniels was more than ready to go home.

As they were walking toward the exit door, Drew said, “Mom, you mentioned that you have grocery shopping to do. Would it be all right if Dani and I stayed here and meet you when you’re finished? I have a few things I still want to look for.”

“I suppose that would be okay, but I’m done with dishing out money today. So what are you looking for, and what will you do once you find it?” Mrs. Daniels laughed.

“I brought some of the money I saved from babysitting this summer, and I really want to use some of it to get a few unique shirts or something that will be just mine—you know, signature pieces. I promise I won’t spend it all, Mom.”

“Oh, I see. This is part of your search for individuality? Is that it?” At Drew’s nod, she continued, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. But, Drew, just remember what your dad and I allow and how we expect you to dress. No super-tight jeans, no shirts that show your belly, nothing with a saying or advertisement that your dad and I would find inappropriate. Think of it this way: nothing that I wouldn’t let you wear to youth group. Deal?”

“Got it, Mom. Thanks, you’re the best.”

After they discussed their meeting time and location, Mrs. Daniels left the girls to their shopping. They hit all of their favorite stores again. Dani wasn’t too happy about it, though. “Why couldn’t you have done this while we were shopping earlier?” She asked Drew.

“Because, I wanted to finish the shopping for our stuff and then I would know what I still needed.”

“Oh, Sis, there’s nothing else that you need.”

“I know, that’s what makes this part so fun. It’s all about what I want.”

Dani sighed and suggested they get started before they ran out of time. With her own money, Drew selected two snug, plaid shirts to wear over a tight black T-shirt that she found. The flannel shirts barely reached her waistband, but the T-shirt was long enough, so she thought it would pass. She also selected a cropped denim jacket that was covered in studded rhinestones. Dani liked the jacket, but it wasn’t really her style at all. Drew also picked a few cropped sweaters that, if worn alone, would be way too short for Mrs. Daniels approval, but with a T-shirt or tank underneath, would probably get by. Her favorite and most expensive purchase was a black leather belt with a big silver buckle covered in rhinestones in the shape of a big rose. Drew thought that it was unique enough to become her signature piece.

“Well, one thing you won’t have to worry about,” Dani assured her, “is that I won’t be bugging you to borrow any of the things you bought. They’re all yours.”

Their time was up so they hurried to the exit door to find Mrs. Daniels already waiting there for them. As they slipped into the car she asked, “Well, was your search successful?”

“Oh, yeah! Mom, I found some really cute things,” the ever-excited Drew told her mom.

“Yeah, real cute,” Dani said, rolling her eyes.

Sensing from Dani’s reaction that there might be something she needed to see in those bags, Mrs. Daniels said, “Great. Then we can have our own private fashion show when we get home.”

“Sure, Mom. No problem.”

* * * * *

After dinner, Mrs. Daniels remembered that she hadn’t checked out Drew’s purchases yet. “Drew, why don’t you get those things that you bought so we can make sure that everything is acceptable for you to wear.”

“Mom, I know the rules and I followed them. I don’t see what the concern is.”

“There’s no real concern, honey; but I’d appreciate if you don’t argue with me and just humor me. I am only looking out for your best interests.”

“Okay, Okay, I’ll go get them.” Drew left to get her bags from her room. She stomped down the hall, careful not to be disrespectful but made sure that they knew she wasn’t too happy.

Plopping her bags down on the couch, Drew waited for the verdict. Her mom wasn’t too happy at all when she saw how small and short some of the shirts were. Drew said, “Hold on, Mom. Before you say no, let me try them on.”

Skeptically, Mrs. Daniels agreed to reserve her judgment until she had a chance to see the items on Drew.

After Drew had the first outfit on, Mrs. Daniels realized that they were layering pieces and that the shorter items were worn on top to reveal the layers beneath. “Well, now, that’s not so bad. But, Drew, you have to promise me that I’m not going to catch you wearing those clothes alone or in anyway that shows your belly.”

“I already know that, Mom.”

Mrs. Daniels raised her eyebrows, waiting.

“Okay, I promise, Mom. Really.”

“Well, then, everything is fine; and I especially like the belt you bought. It’s definitely a unique piece.”

Dani had been sitting quietly on the other side of the room, watching the process and waiting for the verdict. She quietly got up and went to her room, softly closed the door, and got ready for bed. She wasn’t too happy, but she didn’t really know what it was that was bugging her.

“Too many changes,” she whispered as she drifted off to sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Don't Miss Your Life by Charlene Baumbich

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:

Don't Miss Your Life!: An Uncommon Guide to Living with Freedom, Laughter, and Grace

Howard Books (June 2, 2009)


Charlene Ann Baumbich is an award-winning journalist, author of the Dearest Dorothy series of novels, author of the nonfiction titles The Book of DUH! and How To Eat Humble Pie and Not Get Indigestion, and a motivational speaker who makes frequent media appearances across the country.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416562990
ISBN-13: 978-1416562993


Don’t Miss Your Life!

It’s Better Than You Think

By Charlene Ann Baumbich


What We Already Know

MEMORY PORTFOLIO (MP): Your invisible, utterly personal, wholly

accessible, always readied for new entries, combination diary and scrapbook of

sensory loaded captured moments. Properly honored, added to, mined, evaluated,

sifted and sometimes even edited, gentle examination of said captured moments

can become the key—the very path—to your success in not missing your life.

When I was a child, I loved playing spaceship and building worm forts with the

Cook brothers. They lived just up the path through the weeds—the path we’d

created by endlessly running through them. (Cook brothers, if you’re out there, please contact me! My maiden name was Brown.) We once left this earth (for real)

on an abandoned hot water heater rigged with a control panel made of half-melted

camera flash cubes and pieces of wood which we wired and taped to its side. Of

course this was back in the pre-Wii days when our only option was to engage in

real-life hands-on play, like sifting through the remnants of the garbage our folks

burned in a rusty barrel out back. Where else could we discover a once common

flash cube transformed by fire into a crystal launch button?

During our space explorations, I was always Flash Gordon1. I mean to tell

you I was Flash Gordon, neither a pretend Flash nor one of those froo-froo tight clothed girls in the old black-and-white television show of my youth. Nope, I was

Flash, who was also tight clothed, but not in “that" way. As for the worm forts,

they were exquisite—although I do not recommend putting a swimming pool in

your complex. Don’t ask me how I know.

Over time, I became a gypsy (inspired by the exotic Sophia Loren), Annie

Oakley2 (sharp shooter), Calamity Jane3 (rough and tumble), Crazy Googenheim (I

loved making my mother laugh while pretending to be that wonderful character

brought to life by Frank Fontaine on The Jackie Gleason Show) and Doris Day,

that quirky fanny-swinging dame of a movie star with whom men always fell in

love. A comparative cast for today’s youth—or, on a bad day at the office or with

the kids, perhaps you—might be made up of an actual astronaut (we didn’t yet

have them back in the fifties), Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore or, say, Jim Carrey. Although I wasn’t doing typical childhood writerly things like reading stacks

of books or writing, not even in a diary, I always had a story running in my head. I

was too busy “living” in another world, or paying attention to the fine, wondrous,

confounding and startling details of my own life to sit down and write about it. At

the time, little did I know that my natural childhood inclination to live in “otherly"

skin was setting the stage for my all-growed-up, as my Grandma used to say,

“accidental” fiction writing career. Never did I suspect that my youthful God-given

instinct to pay close attention to the physical and emotional nuances of my own

life, as well as the lives of those around me, was preparing me for one of the most

fulfilling and rewarding joys of my entire life: writing this book.

However, during an astute memory portfolio (MP) review, my writerly path and this burning message became as clear as a bell. When we give our MPs a chance to work for us, what obvious and meaningful threads we discover woven throughout them! Not only that, but what might the patterns of our frayed threads teach us—spare us from in the future—if we learned to recognize and heed their warning stitches? Turns out I am best fed, educated and ministered to by the magical, mystical power unleashed through stories, and hugely blessed by passing them along. I’m also often a complete doofus, a “qualification” God uses to make sure I don’t run out of fun and wholly relatable, so I’m told time and again, material. Thank you,God—I think. That is why I’m offering you this easy-going pluck-and-play opportunity to pluck what you want from this book of stories and play theirimplications and possibilities into your life as needed. Be advised that along with a full exploration of your MP, a strong Play! thread will weave its way throughout these pages. Doesn’t this approach add up to more fun than a scary “self-help” theme?

In the most relaxing, amusing, yet thought provoking ways possible, I want to remind you, (and me, too) of an incredible asset you’ve been given. I’m talking a mega asset that is so easy to forget. Ready? Here it is: your one and only,

true-self—not someone else’s version/vision—God-breathed life. I don’t know how we can forget such an easy-to-remember asset, but we do. So, if you feel like you’ve lost your way, or like you might need an emotional laxative for your fun-impaired, spiritually-constipated, fear-laden self, this message is just the painless ticket (well, mostly) to help you get your life back to YOUR LIFE!

Then the Lord God formed man of

dust from the ground, and

breathed into his nostrils the

breath of life; and man became a

living being.

Genesis 2:7 NASB

‘Tis my quest to help you learn the lively and releasing arts of listening to,

mining, and then sharing your own stories. Yes, even that story which you hoped

you’d never have to think about again, since maybe, just maybe, you can at long

last learn to laugh about it, or at least unknot the emotional ties that feed its lifenabbing virility.

If you explore your happiest childhood memories of times at play with your

friends, I believe you will discover they reveal the same keys that can infuse you

with satisfaction today. This is one of the best features of a MP, demonstrated by

the fact that when I say something like “explore your happiest childhood memories

. . . ,” you can. Your MP is already up and running and contains everything you

need. Although it might require an occasional reboot or memory tickler—and I’m

going to deliver tons of them—no new software is required. Just dive in! In fact, do

it right now! Shine a light around in the alcoves of your childhood when you were

playing with your favorite playmates.

You are searching, remembering, rediscovering, reawakening . . .

What did you find? Did you spend the majority of your youthful play time

with your imaginary friend? Well that counts. If you thought, perhaps still think,

that imaginary friends are completely weird and unheard of in your land of play,

well that counts, too. After all, it is your brain, your life.

But the universal truth is this: whether our true friends were born of our

imaginations or our childhoods, or we cultivated them as adults, they can serve as

mirrors and stabilizers, partners and butt-kickers, examples and lessons in our

lives. Those voices from the past, trusted friends in the present, and conversations

regarding our futures can often guide us back to our personal north-star course

which we might have long ago lost in the shuffle. Please consider me one of your

new friends, for that is the spirit I bring to this book.

Are you unhappy in your current vocation? Perhaps something as easy as

perusing your MP and pondering your natural gifts, attributes and leanings can

point you toward a new, more satisfying career, or at least flush out a fresh,

rejuvenating and fulfilling avocation or hobby. Later, I’m going to help you

examine the “way" you used to play before someone encouraged you to start

“applying" yourself, which often implied you should knuckle down and leave your

natural-bent “fun and frivolous"—HA!—inclinations behind. Your MP is a great

place to search for the gifts you’ve lost or set aside, to lift them to the light and

reignite them.

What if you don’t even know if you have any gifts? Suggestion: Listen,

mouth zipped, to the way your friends, both old and new, can lay out your

strengths. If you don’t believe me, ask them. It’s time you shore up and reclaim

your uniqueness, if, somewhere along the line, you handed it over to the blandness of other people’s expectations for you. It’s time to reignite the Godgiven hope you already harbor within.

Hope is perhaps the first key that can enable you to wake up, then open up, to your life. Without hope, we are left only with despair. As I heard—and forever remembered—Marilla Cuthbert say to Anne Shirley in the 1985 made-for-TV adaption of Anne of Green Gables, “To despair is to turn your back on God.” Now who’s gutsy enough to do

that?! Not I!


Maybe you derailed (hey, you picked up this book, so something must have

happened!) when you began assuming your life is worse than its actuality. Our

assumptions can get us into whole heaps of trouble, not to mention waste big

blocks of our valuable time here on this earth. How often have you stood in the line

you assumed to be the correct line, only to learn upon finally arriving at the clerk

that you’ve wasted your time in the wrong line? How many times have you

assumed something about your spouse, say that she’d like a can opener for her

birthday, or that he’d welcome a subscription to Communicating 101 as a good

change of pace, only to learn you were wrong—by a gazillion miles? And not only

that, you’re now in deep doo-doo, buck-o or buckette. How often do you set a

course for your career, project or parenting skills based on assumptions that one of

those well-known and respected gurus, including the ones on television, is actually

correct about your individual situation? And surely they wouldn’t let people have

their own TV shows if they didn’t know what they were talking about! Would they?

Never mind that he or she knows none of the details about your personal life. So

you follow their advice to the letter, only to receive a gut-punch to your psyche

when your leap of assumption dumps you and your loved ones down the proverbial

drain. Again.

But even if my examples of errant assumptions did feel like personal

excerpts out of your past year (doink!), be of good cheer since you, you smart

smart person, are reading this book. I’m going to deliver handles and stories that

can help you learn the vital art of questioning your assumptions.

[MOMENT OF TRUTH: You’re on your own with those store lines.] Together, we will tame a few shrewish thoughts and ignite more noble ones. And if that’s not already a deal for the price, I’m even going to help you question your questions! For instance, in your valiant attempts to find out why your life’s trolley has slipped off its happy track, perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why can’t I be more like [fill in the blank]?”

BZZZZZZZZZZ! Wrong question! God and I are here to meet you exactly

where, how and who you are, which reminds me of a story logged in my MP that

well illustrates my point. See how this is going to work?


I love to attend stockcar races held on half-mile dirt tracks. My favorite part? The

glorious crescendo of rumbling thunder that comes rippin’ ‘round turn four when

the drivers see the track lights turn green. Previous to that moment, perhaps

they’ve had to circle the track once or twice, arranging and rearranging themselves

until they jostle into the track official’s liking, but then . . . GO! As opposed to the

“cleanliness” of NASCAR races, I adore the remarkable demonstration of energy

when, depending on track conditions, either dust or mud kicks out from behind the

tires as the metal-to-metal mass—or perhaps only two cars that have broken away

from the pack—makes its way past the roar of the crazed crowd. Heart pounding, I

sit in awe of each driver who dives into the turns (Man, I wish I was him!),

exploding the back end of his or her car into a wider skidding arc than that of the

curb hugging front end. Centrifugal poetry set to motion by wild childs! Oh, baby!

Although I feel badly for those who, on their own accord, spin out, I also secretly

revel in their courage, since it means they held nothing back. Full bore. Head on.

Havin’ at it! No put-puttin’for them! Isn’t that the way you want to go through life?

Years ago, the grand finale race at a track not too far from us held a “Run

What You Brung" event. (No doubt insurance eventually shut it down.) In other

words, if you’re revved up from watching the night’s action (Let me at it!) and

want to give it a whirl yourself, go ahead and line up your street car—the one you

drove to the races—for the “Run What You Brung." To be fair, you probably had

to prepare for this before the actual event since your car needed to be in the pits,

and there were no doubt indemnity waivers. But nonetheless, you “raced" your

street-drivin’ vehicle. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: Most nights for this event, the

word “race" was a gross exaggeration since gutsy racing appears easier than it is,

but buddy, by golly they were in it!]

So, too, all you need to begin this journey into not missing your life is to run

what you brung. You need no further preparation other than to show up, which

you’ve already done. If you’re happy and you know it, drive yer happy self right

on up to the starting line. If you’re lost and you show it, you, too, are on the right

track since you’re seeking a better way. So you see, you don’t need to be more like

somebody else; you just need to be whoever—and however—you are at this very


Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him

sing praises. James 5:13. Notice that doesn’t say snap out of it, shut up or go away.

Kinda sounds like God’s “Run what ya brung!" permission slip to me. Amen!


When I first started coming to grips with the fact that I’d “accidentally" (more on

this later) become a professional speaker, a professional writer (Stand back!

Professional words at work here!), I couldn’t for the life of me believe it.

[MOMENT OF TRUTH: To this day, only God can truly explain how I got so

“lucky!"] For years, every stumbling step of the writerly/speakerly way, I kept

thinking, “When are they going to discover I don’t know what I’m doing? When

will someone finally check my report cards and learn I received average grades in

all things English? How is it that editors at publishing houses, newspapers and

magazines have chosen to publish my articles and books instead of many others

written by people who’ve spent their lives doing all the right things to become

published writers, like write-write-writing stories from the time they were little,

keeping a diary or journaling every day, attending journalism school . . . none

which are in my history? How is it that kind folks pay me to come speak at their

events when I have no degrees in anything? Other than a couple miscellaneous

writing classes, an unending passion to share what I’ve learned, and more guts than

brains, I have no certifiable qualifications to do what I do. Oh, and that “mostly

Irish" thing, which not only honors Story, but believes in Story’s innate power to


But when I examine my childhood adventures with my friends, the writing

(hahahaha) was on the wall. Or rather it was lurking in the gifts God gave to me—

none which I earned or deserved—along with an unignorable lure to play with

them. (Ah, we’re back to the pluck-and-play mantra of this book. Nice!) Of course

when I was a child, I had no inkling about “gifts," nor did anyone pressure me to

use them. Thank you Mom, Dad! I had no drive to find a career path; my mom was

so happy in her homemaker role that all I wanted was to one day get married and

have kids too, which is what I did. My parents weren’t channeling all their energies

into pushing me down the “fast track" so I could attend the “right" college. Thank

you and bless you, Mom and Dad. (Don’t get me started on the topic of parental

pressuring!) Aside from school, household chores, horses to feed and stalls to

shovel, I had no demands. I simply had time to play at whatever floated my boat,

whispered to my creative brain, delighted my unstressed heart. I had leisure time

(which overbooked kids do not have—okay, I started anyway, but I promise that

I’m done now—I hope!) to explore my natural bents using the crude “tools" of

childhood that would one day help hone my happiness and ability to fully live.


In that last paragraph, you likely noticed that I tried not to get started on something

that launches me up on a soapbox—and not in a good way. (If you didn’t notice,

wake up, people! Thankfully, the next chapter is about wakefulness, but at least

flutter your eyes to let me know you’re still with me—and yourself.) Sadly, I failed

at my attempt to stifle myself since only three sentences later, I started! Is that kind

of lack-of-self-disciplined failure familiar to you? At least this time, even though I

sorrily started, I was able to quickly stop myself. [MOMENT OF TRUTH: I’m

getting better at catching myself. Just not always.] The encouraging part for all

of us is this: as opposed to the negativity of my soapbox , I also possess, and later

will share, many positive, productive antidotes and inspirations on the topic of

overbooked anyone, especially ourselves.

As with all of us, we possess our good sides, as well as our shadowy

soapboxy-y [or fill-in-the-blank] sides. Again, here’s where our MPs usher forth

yet another great incentive to explore them: I don’t want to one day open mine and

discover that every page is filled with me ranting. I feel assured you don’t want

that type of overriding vibe in your MP either. But here’s one of the truly great

things about life: right this moment, God is with us. Because God is with us and

holds us close, we therefore each possess the power—God’s power—to make our

new MP entries more positive. Wonderful! I’d much rather remember, and be

remembered for, my helpful attributes than my negative, harmful or sarcastic ones,

wouldn’t you?

So, even though we mess up, we’re here to run what we brung with the hope

that we can, and will, get better, especially if and when we let our MPs tutor us

while God holds our hands and hearts.

Summing it all up, friends [emphasis mine], I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and

meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the

worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what

you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes

everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Phillipians 4:8, 9 MES

We find what we look for, so let’s look for what’s right—including in ourselves.

How can we move forward in our lives if we’re using all of our energy pounding

ourselves and others downward?


Throughout these pages, I’m going to share many stories from my journey. They

will run the gambit between hysterical (both Ha-ha! and Oh, no!), pristine,

tormenting, profound, Duh! and beautiful. I have no doubt that within them, you

will connect with the good, bad and dubious shades of yourself. As you read,

pluck, and play along, you’ll be able to apply some order, meaning and a tad of

funk-tionality to your memory portfolio, and discover that your days are, or soon

can be, indeed better than you think.

God called his creation and everything in it—which includes us—good.

Even when we behave badly and fall short and say stupid stuff, we are loved by

God. Put that in your memory portfolio and bring it along. It will be the most

important thing you need to remember. But do yourself a favor: stop every few

pages and pray for your own stories, memories and joys to rise to the surface. Be

willing to put the book down when they do, close your eyes, and allow yourself to

sink into them. When you read about me second-thinking things or questioning an

assumption, you do the same. Sometimes those double-clutch discoveries are both

startling and illuminating. Perhaps they’ll even be life transforming.

In fact, let’s practice. Stop and pray right now. Pray that God illuminates

everything—all the lessons, options, goodness and choices—you need to extract,

then trust his grace to help you pray and play it into your life.

(You’re supposed to be praying!)