Monday, March 29, 2010

Sons of Thunder
by Susan May Warren

About the book:
Sophie Frangos is torn between the love of two men and the promise that binds them all together. Markos Stavros loves Sophie from afar while battling his thirst for vengeance and his hunger for honor. Dino, his quiet and intelligent brother, simply wants to forget the horror that drove them from their Greek island home to start a new life in America. One of these "sons of thunder" offers a future she longs for, the other-the past she lost.

From the sultry Chicago jazz clubs of the roaring twenties to the World War II battlefields of Europe to a final showdown in a Greek island village, they'll discover betrayal, sacrifice, and finally redemption. Most of all, when Sophie is forced to make her choice, she'll learn that God honors the promises made by the Sons of Thunder.

Read and excerpt here:

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.

Susan's 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, 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: Connect with Susan on Facebook:

Buy the book here:

Enter Susan's Memory Prize Pack contest:
Each one of us has a wealth of stories from the past - while they might not all be as sweeping and dramatic as that of Sofia and the Stravos brothers (swoon), your family history is a treasure nonetheless.

Well - let's hear them! Were your great-grandparents 'fresh off the boat'? Was your great uncle a war hero? Did your grandmother make unbelievable sacrifices to help or protect the family? Did your father harbor a family secret until his death? Are you related to someone famous (my assistant is related to presidents Harrison and Jackson - wow! Who knew?) Do you have a family treasure? Maybe you just have some lovely memories. Whatever it is that is unique in your family history - share it with us.

Have a photo to go with your story? Even better!!!! Email those to!
One grand prize winner will win a Memory Prize package containing a gift certificate to create your own hard cover photo book, a 6 month membership to Netflix (to satisfy that flick fix!) and a signed copy of Sons of Thunder! 5 runners up will also win signed copies of Sons of Thunder! Contest ends March 31st. Winners will be announced April 2nd.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Sworn to Protect by Diann Mills, Starfire by Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Sworn to Protect


DiAnn Mills

Tyndale Publishers

Danika Morales has sworn to protect our borders. But that oath has come with a price.

Two years ago, her husband was shot and killed trying to help undocumented immigrants--the very people Danika, a Border Patrol agent, is responsible for deporting. His murder was never solved.

Now, a recent string of attacks and arrests leads Danika to believe her husband's death may have been part of a larger conspiracy, and it appears that she's the next target, When the Border Patrol discovers that one of their own is leaking top-secret information, Danika turns to the only person she can trust--a doctor at the local medical clinic. Together they search for answers before more innocent lives are destroyed.

"We are truly a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws." Brent


Chapter 1

McAllen, Texas

The Rio Grande River separating Mexico and the US was not just murky. It was

toxic. Danika Morales respected the river's temperament—lazy and rushing, crystal and

muddy, breath-taking and devastating. To many illegal immigrants, its flowing water

signified hope and an opportunity for a better tomorrow, while others viewed the river

crossing as a means of smuggling drugs or spreading terrorism. But for Danika, the

depths meant death, and it didn't discriminate among its victims. That was why she chose

a Border Patrol badge and carried a gun.

Shortly after the 8:00 a.m. muster, Danika snatched up the keys to the Tahoe

assigned to her for the next ten hours and checked out an M4. A hum of voices, most with

Hispanic accents and clipped with occasional laughter, swirled around the station. A

labyrinth of sights and sounds had succeeded in disorienting her. A daze. She took a sip

of the steaming coffee in hopes no one saw how the day's date affected her. Her hands

shook. The twelfth of July. The second anniversary of Toby's murder. She thought she

could handle it better than this, but the raw ache still seared her heart.

"Tough day for me too," Jacob whispered beside her. "We can get through this

together." The familiar tone of voice, as in many times before, nearly paralyzed her.

Jacob sounded so much like his brother.

She stood shoulder to shoulder with her brother-in-law and glanced at his

muscular frame and the silver streaks in his closely cropped hair, everything about him

oddly different from Toby. Gone were the gentleness, patience, and the out-stretched

arms of love.

"Thanks. But I'm all right."

He frowned, a typical expression. "Well, I'm not, and you shouldn't be either."

She was in no mood to rile him today. "I miss Toby every minute of the day, but

we have to move on. He would have wanted it that way."

"Not till his murderer is found." Jacob's jaw tightened. "I'm disappointed in you."

Danika took another sip of the hot coffee, burning her tongue. Caustic words threatened

to surface and add one more brick to the wall dividing them. "I want the killer found too.

I'm committed to it. I think about him everyday and mourn for our daughter who will

never know her daddy. But I choose not to spend my time harboring hate and


"You must not have really loved my brother."

The words cut deep, and Jacob knew they would. No woman could have loved

Toby like she did. "I refuse to be brow-beaten by you any more. Your hate is going to

explode in your own backyard one day." She stopped herself before she lit a match to his

temper. Actually, she'd rather have been dropped in the bush for the next ten hours with a

shotgun and a can of OFF than argue with him. But the time had come to distance herself

from Jacob.

"Hey, Danika," an agent called. "Do these belong to you?"

She turned to see wiry Felipe Chavez carrying a glass-filled vase with a huge

bouquet of roses. They remembered. She swallowed a chunk of life. "Oh, guys, you

didn't have to do this."

Felipe made his way toward her. The other agents hushed, then one of them

started to clap. She smiled through the tears as he handed her the clear glass vase. The

sweet fragrance no longer reminded her of death, but of life and her resolve to live each

day in a way that commemorated Toby's devotion to her and their little daughter. Perhaps

this was what the two-year marker meant. She took the roses and studied the small crowd

of agents. Good men, all of them—even Jacob.

"We cared about what happened to Toby too," Felipe said, with a grim smile.

Danika brushed her finger around one of the delicate petals and formed her words.

Memories had stalked her like a demon since last night. "Don't know what to say except

thank you. Toby was a soldier for his own cause, and he spent his life doing what he

believed in. Just like all of us."

One agent shook his head, frowned, and left the room. Far too many reasons for

his disapproval raced through her mind. But Danika needed to put the ugliness behind

her. She set the flowers on the long table in front of her. "Today is the second anniversary

of Toby's death."

These books may be obtained from good bookshops everywhere.

Tyndale Publishers

ISBN: 9781414320519

Please do not reproduce without permission.

©DiAnn Mills 2010

Expect an Adventure


Stuart Vaughn Stockton

On an alien world far removed from Earth, Rache of Yanguch seeks to rise from lowly origins and achieve greatness in the Karn Empire. His chance comes on a military mission when he is imprinted as the protector for a childlike artificial intelligence from an all-but-forgotten civilization. Soon Rathe finds himself in the center of a war that threatens to tear his empire apart, and in search of a weapon that could save his nation or doom his world. Rathe must navigate treachery and prophecy to make a decision that will change Sauria forever.

"I have to admit I picked up this book, thinking it was a guy's book. It is a tribute to Stuart Vaughn Stockton's writing that within a few pages I was thoroughly enmeshed in his 'out of this world' world." ~Donita K. Paul, author of The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, WaterBrook Press


Rough stone tore Rathe's palms as he stumbled through the gaping maw of the cave. He tore away the makeshift leaf filter covering his mouth and sucked in the cool underground air, soothing his burning lungs. Pain lanced through his side as each breath tortured cracked ribs.

He turned to the entrance and gazed into the ash-clogged air outside. Grey blanketed the world like a shroud, quickly swallowing his large three-toed tracks, and obliterating any scent that would lead the trackers to him. Satisfied that he would be safe for the duration of the ash fall, Rathe staggered farther into the cave. His claws echoed hollowly on the stone floor, their quiet clack, clack, clack bouncing into the darkness.

The musical trickle of water sounded nearby, and Rathe angled toward it. Sudden wetness at his feet alerted him to the presence of a shallow pool. He lowered gingerly to the ground and stuck his snout into the chill liquid. The bitter taste of ash flowed over his tongue, but sweet relief filled his parched throat. Yet each swallow intensified the pain in his ribs. The cool, moist rock felt good against his hot skin, and he rolled onto his left side, away from the fire in his battered ribs, and stretched out to his full twelve-foot length. His tail-tip lazily slapped against the ground as drowsiness flowed over him. the water's flow sung him to sleep.

A shrill cry jolted Rathe from soothing darkness, pain seared through his right side and down his tail. Through the agony the fading echo of the cry played at the edges of his mind. He groaned as he rolled onto his belly and forced a few swallows of water despite the agony in his side.

After a moment's rest he pushed to his feet, swaying slightly as his stiff muscles adjusted to his weight. He cocked his head and listened, but whatever had made the sound had gone silent, or the cry had been only the vestige of a nightmare.

A glint of light drew his attention to the cave entrance. The remaining half of his sokae lay just inside the entrance. The curved blade winked in the renewed light filtering through the lessened ash-fall. He staggered to the entrance and slowly retrieved the weapon. Hefting its five-foot shaft gave him a renewed sense of confidence.

His gaze wandered the gray-toned landscape outside the cave. Ash blanketed the valley, yet even now bright flecks of color began stirring, as klants uprooted themselves and began skittering about, feasting on the bounty, their light-red fronds swaying as if in a gentle breeze. More plants joined in, some slowly moved about, scooping their harvest into their innards. Others made due with what fell nearby, slowly leeching away at the nutrients expelled from the volcano.

Just down the slope the Hekaret River rushed along its course, choked with the ash. Rathe grinned at the fortune that had washed him ashore so near to this shelter. By all rights he never should have emerged from the torrent after his failed fording. But the same rock that had cracked his ribs had enabled him to reach the shore. And though he had lost half his weapon, and all of his gear, he was still alive.

Rathe craned his neck and surveyed the damage done to his right side. A wide black-green bruise spread from just behind his shoulder, over his hip to just past the base of his tail. The skin over his ribs was torn, but he was close enough to shedding that only a few scrapes showed blood, already scabbing over.

A klant wandered close to the cave entrance, little spurts of dust spouted from under its hard shell as it moved. With a quick thrust, Rathe speared the plant on the end of his sokae. He grimaced as the impaled plant's legs continued moving as if nothing had happened. A savage jerk tore one wrigling leg free, releasing a pungent odor and dripping sap. Rathe's lips formed an involuntary snarl as he lifted the limb, crushed the hard exterior between his teeth, and sucked the pulp out.

Three legs later he tossed the boxy plant back into the ash-covered valley. Warmth and strength flowed through Rathe's body, renewed by the meager meal, despite a slight queasiness. He turned his gaze back to the landscape, scanning for any movement that wasn't a plant.

A bloodcurdling scream tore out of the depths of the cavern, chased by a savage roar. Rathe spun around, brining his weapon to bear as he scoured the darkness. The cries echoed into a skin-crawling silence. He backed toward the entrance a step at a time, but then froze as a new sound reached his ears.

The guttural cry of thorniks on the hunt sounded from the valley. A group of trackers, barely holding the beasts under control, appeared from behind a grouping of rocks on the far side of the river. There was no way they would have missed the scream or the roar. Rathe shrunk back into the shadow of the cave entrance as the group stared in his direction. After three weeks of dodging and hiding, he was finally trapped. It would take time for the trackers to cross the river, but even so, with his cracked ribs he'd never be able to outrun them.

He turned back to the black cave depths. Death waited within the abyss, he felt it. But better to chance death than face the humiliation of capture. With his sokae held in front of him, and his right hand pressed to the stone wall Rathe took soft steps into the dark.


Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller, By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) by Jill Williamson

Somewhere to Belong

Judith Miller

Miller creates two heroines who are on the surface opposite numbers, but have more in common than is apparent. Family secrets and misunderstandings drive the plot. Miller creates likable heroines, has done her historical homework, and develops credible tension because her characters are so flawed. The Amana lifestyle is also sufficiently different that bonnet fiction fans will be pleased by this variation on the theme of simple living. Publishers Weekly January 25, 2010
March 1877
Amana Colonies, Iowa
Johanna Ilg

Rigid as a barn pole, I stood planted in the parlor doorway with my gaze fixed upon the pink feather-and-plume bedecked hat. Sparkling pins held it atop wavy dark tresses that crimped and coiled. The girl's hair reminded me of the curly leaf lettuce we forced to early growth in our hotbeds each spring. An artificial rose peeked from beneath the curvy brim like a vigilant watchman. Although the visitors to our villages sometimes adorned themselves in outlandish costumes, the hat perched upon this young lady's head surpassed anything I'd ever seen.
She appeared rather young to be wearing such an ornate headpiece.
Not that I could imagine anyone attaining any age where they thought that hat becoming.
Touching her fingers to the garish chapeau, the girl's lips curved in a patronizing smile. She'd obviously noted my attention. "The latest fashion from England. My parents purchased it for me on their last visit."

My mother waved me forward. "Come in and meet our guests, Johanna." I tried to force myself to look away from the hat, but my eyes betrayed me as I stepped into the room. I couldn't stop staring at the unsightly mixture of fabric and fluff. My mother cleared her throat. "Come,
Johanna. Meet Dr. and Mrs. Schumacher and their daughter, Berta. They arrived only a short time ago. You remember we've been expecting them." I turned toward the well-dressed couple who sat side by side on our horsehair-stuffed divan. Berta, who looked to be sixteen or seventeen years old, had obviously inherited her dark curls and fine features from her mother.
As if prepared to take flight at the earliest possible moment, the girl sat balanced at the edge of her chair. And given the size of her hat, it would take only a slight wind to carry her aloft.
"I am very pleased to welcome you to Amana. I hope you will be happy living among us."
Berta's dark eyes widened to huge proportions. She shook her head with such fervor I expected the decorations to tumble from her hat. "Living?" She glanced around our parlor with a look of disdain. "We are merely vacationing for a short time. My father's family is from Germany, and we have a distant relative living in Middle Amana. My father thought this would be a pleasant place for our family to visit. I think he wanted to provide us a glimpse of his homeland without the expense of a voyage to Europe. Isn't that correct, Father?" When Dr. Schumacher didn't immediately reply, Berta leaned forward in her chair, her eyes flashing with impatience. "Well, isn't it, Father?" Her voice had raised several decibels and panic edged her words.
One look at my mother confirmed that I'd misspoken. I longed to stuff the welcome back into my mouth, but that wasn't possible. The damage had been done. Yet no one had forewarned me.
How was I to know Berta hadn't been advised of her father's plans to move his family to the Amana Colonies?
The multistriped woven carpet that covered the parlor floor muffled the stomp of Berta's foot. I arched my brows and glanced toward my mother. The girl was behaving like an undisciplined two-year-old.
"Now, Berta, please. You must remain calm." Mrs. Schumacher unclipped a hand-painted fan from her waist and handed it to her daughter. "Use this. I don't want you fainting and embarrassing yourself."
Berta grabbed the fan from her mother's hand and slapped it atop her skirt. "I don't need a fan.
What I need is an answer to my question." She waited only a moment. "Well, Father? How long will we be visiting in Amana?"
Dr. Schumacher shifted toward his daughter and inhaled a deep lungful of air. "We will be making our new home here in Iowa, Berta. I trust you will remain quiet until we can speak in private. I should have told you before we embarked on the journey, but I wanted to avoid a scene."
"Did you?" Berta jumped to her feet, a horror-stricken look in her eyes. "You don't really believe I'll agree to live in this place, do you?"
Before either of her parents could respond, our parlor door opened and my father entered the room with his flat felt cap pressed between his callused fingers. A few pieces of straw clung to his dark work pants. He smiled, and crinkles formed along the outer edges of his sparkling eyes.
Today his eyes appeared green.
When I was five or six years old, I'd asked him about the color of his eyes. He'd told me they were hazel, but my mother said they were brown. I argued they couldn't be both.
"Hazel is light brown," he'd explained before scooping me onto his lap. "But hazel eyes change and look different colors depending on what you wear. Sometimes they look green, and at other times you can see golden flecks." He'd nuzzled my neck. "Some people call them cat eyes. Do you think I look like a cat?" he'd asked. Remembrance of that long-ago conversation warmed me. I was glad Father was home. Perhaps his easy manner would calm Berta.
He extended his hand and stepped toward the doctor. "Willkommen!" His deep voice filled the room. "We are pleased to have you join our community and to have another doctor in the villages."
Berta glared at my father as though he'd committed a crime. "We won't be staying in Amana, Mr. Ilg."
My father's brow creased. I was certain he was expecting Berta's father to reprimand her for such rude behavior. Instead, Dr. Schumacher held a finger to his lips. "We will discuss this once we are settled in our rooms, Berta."
"First, you must tell me we aren't going to stay here more than one night," Berta said before tightening her lips into a pout.
The doctor stood. "If you could show us to our rooms where we can have a private family discussion, I would be most grateful."
My mother signaled me. "Johanna will be pleased to show you to the rooms. We must depart for evening prayer service soon. You are welcome to join us."
"Not this evening," Mrs. Schumacher said. "Another time."
As I led the Schumachers upstairs, I couldn't help but compare Mrs. Schumacher's gown to the blue, black, or gray calicos that were woven in the Amana mills and worn by the women of our colonies. No one longed to wear the bright calicos woven for those living outside the colonies—at least no one ever spoke of such a desire. We didn't object to the sameness of our plain waists or the wide-banded full skirts. Even our shawls, aprons, and caps were worn without thought to their sameness. Would Mrs. Schumacher, in her pale green silk dress, adapt to our ways with more enthusiasm than her daughter?

To purchase Somewhere to Belong, go to or or visit your local Christian bookstore
To discover more about Judith Miller, please visit her website at
Copyright 2010. Do not reproduce without permission.
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN 978-0-7642-0649-9
Available Now:Somewhere to Belong
* * *
By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1)
By Jill Williamson

By Darkness Hid tells the story of two young people with a unique, ancestral ability to speak to, and hear, the minds of others: a slave forced to serve a prince who wants him dead and a young woman masquerading as a boy to avoid a forced marriage. The novel alternates between their points of view until their stories collide on the battlefield.

"I love a good fantasy, and By Darkness Hid more than fills the bill. With an unpredictable plot, twists of supernatural ability, and finely crafted tension between the forces of good and evil, Jill Williamson's book had me captivated. I jumped into the skin of the heroine and enjoyed her journey as if it were my own." —Donita K. Paul, author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles

Chapter 1
Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch in front to light his way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anyone hungry?"

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

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

"Lo, Mox!" a familiar voice called from near the barn's entrance.

"Moxy poxy hoggy face, we know you're in here."

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

Mox's young voice cried out. "Stop it! Don't do that! Ow!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Achan held his ground. "Let him go."

Visit Jill's website to read the entire first chapter of By Darkness Hid and to learn more about the Blood of Kings trilogy.

To purchase By Darkness Hid, click on: or

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Captain's Lady by Louise M. Gouge, A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

The Captain's Lady

Louise M. Gouge

Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical

Torn between love and duty, American Patriot James Templeton must deny his heart to help win his country's freedom.

Captain James Templeton's orders from General Washington are clear. His target: Lord Bennington, a member of George III's Privy Council. The assignment: find Bennington's war plans. The risks: the future of the East Florida Colony, Jamie's life...and his heart. In spite of the dangers of their hopeless situation, he's fallen in love with Lady Marianne Moberly, Lord Bennington's daughter. Desperate to protect his country, Jamie carries out his orders with a heavy heart. But Marianne's persistence is a challenge he never expected. With love and faith, they must navigate troubled waters to win their future together.

Love Thine Enemy, Love
Inspire Historical, March 2010, ISBN: 13-978-0-373-82832-6
RT 4-Star Review

Chapter One

I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine. Song of Solomon 6:3

March 1776

London, England

Lady Marianne peered down through the peephole into the drawing room while her heart raced. Against her back, the heavy woolen tapestry extolling one of her ancestors' mighty deeds pushed her into the wall of her father's bedchamber, nearly choking her with its ancient dust. Yet she would endure anything to observe the entrance of Papa's guest.

Often in childhood she and her closest brother had evaded the notice of Greyson, Papa's valet, and crept in here to spy on their parents' guests, even catching a glimpse of the Prime Minister once when he deigned to call upon Papa, his trusted friend, the earl of Bennington. But no exalted politician captured Marianne's interest this day.

Her breath caught. Captain James Templeton–Jamie–entered the room with Papa, and warmth filled her heart and flowed up to her cheeks.

The two men spoke with the enthusiasm of friends reunited after many months of separation and eager to share their news. Unable to hear their words, Marianne forced herself to breathe. Jamie, the Loyalist American captain of a merchant ship. How handsome he was, taller than Papa by several inches. His bronzed complexion and light brown hair—now sun-kissed with golden streaks and pulled back in a queue—gave evidence of long exposure to the sun on his voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. In contrast to Papa's blue silk jacket and white satin breeches, Jamie wore a plain brown jacket and black breeches. Yet to Marianne, Jamie, with his stately bearing, appeared as elegant and noble as Papa.

Hidden high above the drawing room, Marianne could not clearly see the blue eyes whose intense gaze had pierced her soul and claimed her heart less than a year ago. Jamie, always honest, always forthright. No wonder Papa took an interest in him, even to the extent of calling him his protégé, despite his utter lack of social position and being an American.
Marianne suspected part of Papa's interest stemmed from wanting to secure the captain's loyalty now that thirteen of England's American colonies had rebelled against the Crown. But last year she had seen that the old dear truly liked Jamie, perhaps even more than his own four sons, a fact that stung both her heart and Mama's. Yet, despite that affection, the earl's patronage might not extend to accepting a merchant for a son-in-law.

How she and Jamie would overcome this prejudice, Marianne did not know. At this moment, all she knew was that her own affection for Jamie was unchanged. Last summer, against the better judgment of both of them, their friendship had intensified through shared interests, from reading Shakespeare and Aristotle to spending hours sailing on the Thames. On a short excursion with Papa aboard Jamie's large sloop, the Fair Winds, Marianne and Jamie had whispered their confessions of undying love. Then Jamie had placed the sweetest, purest kiss on her lips, sealing her heart to his forever. Now her pulse pounded at the sight of him, and her heart felt a settled assurance that no other man could ever win her love.

Wriggling out of her hiding place between tapestry and wall, Marianne brushed dust from her pink day dress and hastened to the door. No doubt Greyson was below stairs, for at this time of day, Papa seldom required his services. Marianne escaped the bedchamber undetected and hurried down the hallway to her own quarters.

"Lady Marianne." Emma emerged from her closet, her hands clasped at her waist. "Why, my lady, your dress." She took hold of Marianne's skirt and shook dust from it, then glanced up.

"Oh, my. Your hair." Her youthful, cherubic face creased with concern.

"Yes, Emma, I am a fright." With a giddy laugh, Marianne brushed past her lady's maid to sit at her dressing table. "Make haste and mend the damage. Oh, dear, look at this." She removed a silvery cobweb from her hair, pulling several long black strands from the upswept coiffeur Emma had created earlier. "Please redo this. And I shall need another of my pink gowns." More than one dandy had told her pink brought a pretty blush to her cheeks, so she wore the color often.

Her appearance repaired and Emma's approving smile received, Marianne clutched her prayer book and hurried from her room. With a deep breath to compose herself, she held her head high and glided down the steps to the front entry hall. A quick glance revealed Jamie and Papa seated before the blazing hearth deep in genial conversation.

Marianne opened the book and mouthed the words of the morning prayer as she entered the room, not looking their way. Last year, Jamie's parting words had encouraged her to greater piety, and she must let him know she had followed his advice.

The rustle of movement caught her attention. She cast a sidelong glance toward the men, who now stood to greet her.

"Why, Papa, I didn't realize—" She stopped before completing the lie, while heat rushed to her cheeks. "Forgive me. I see you have a guest. Will you excuse me?" She could not look at Jamie for fear that her face would reveal her heart.

"Come, daughter, permit me to present my guest." Papa beckoned her with a gentle wave of his bony, wrinkled hand. "You may recall him from last summer. Lady Marianne, Captain James Templeton of the East Florida Colony." His presentation was accompanied by a shallow cough, and he held a lacy linen handkerchief to his lips.

Gripping her emotions, Marianne permitted herself to look at Jamie. His furrowed brow and the firm clenching of his square jaw sent a pang of worry through her. Was he not pleased to see her? Worse still, his gaze did not meet hers. Rather, he seemed to stare just over her head. Surely this was a ploy to divert any suspicion from the mutual affection they had spoken of only in whispers during his last visit.

©Louise M. Gouge 2010 Available at Walmart,,, and, and fine bookstores everywhere.
For more information, contact author at

* * *

A Star Curiously Singing
Kerry Nietz
Book 1 in The DarkTrench Saga.

"Nietz has taken many standard sci-fi tropes...and put his own twist on them. In addition, he's pulled off something I haven't seen in a long time—a truly original way of revealing the truth about God in a world that doesn't know Him. It's highly creative and somewhat inspiring. Highly Recommended."—Christian Fiction Review

2000 AH, Day 36, 1:34:07 a.m.
Chute Sleep, Virtual
I am dreaming, and yet I'm not.
The night is cool, calm—the opposite of the big stew that has just happened. Like the Abduls' god was throwing everything he had down on the city. All flash and action. On the horizon I can still see the bursts of lightning, the power in the moving tempest.
The driftbarges took it the worst, of course. Seventeen of 'em rendered inoperable, according to messages on the stream. Unable to shift their precious cargo from sea to store.
Barges are really land boats—angular hoverlifts on two sides and a large bay in the middle for product storage. The bay is fitted with arms able to lift the product, stack it. They're built tough because they have to be. Anything that travels the streets has to be tough.
I am many stories above the streets. Seated in my personal transport on the strings—the cables that crisscross the upper levels—I scan the cityscape ahead. The streets are the reason for these too. Downriders travel the strings. Shiny, sleek, and compact, they carry people like me, and our glorious masters, to places we need to be. Without complication.
Complication is always waiting for me to arrive. Like the barges.
"Your presence is needed there immediately!" my master's voice says just now in my head.
That will take some explanation, I know. Don't worry, freehead, we'll get to that.
As my downer nears the stockyard, I see the mess the storm has made. To the east—my right—is the great river. A waterway snaking endlessly from north to south. To the west is another sort of river, but this one isn't moving. A long line of dead barges, loaded with valuable supplies. A clogged roadway. Ahead of them, maybe a kilometer away, I can just see the receding taillights of the last barge that is functioning. A lumbering automated giant, able to unload itself while Abduls sleep. Useful equipment, when it works.
The yard is still dark. No one has gotten the lights back on yet? Odd, since I'm not the first to arrive. Masters hate stoppage, so everyone who owns a stalled driftbarge has awakened his personal DR and sent them out here. Soon my downrider will touch down and I'll join them. There are nearly a dozen debuggers here already. I can sense every one of them in the stream.
I'm implanted, you see. Got a metal teardrop in my head. Keeps me connected to the information stream, helps me do my job. It does other things too. Things not as helpful. For me, anyway.
The work lights flicker on then, illuminating the yard below and the red downrider pylon ahead. Ten downers are nestled at the landing, though only one on the same string as mine. That's good, because deboarding gets a little shaky the further you are from the pylon, and I'm not a fan of shaky. I'd live at street level if I could. My downer stops, the transparent canopy slides back, and I step out. Reach back for my supply bag...
"Are you there yet, Sandfly?" my master asks, speaking straight to the implant again. He's not as anxious as he may seem, though. Not really. He just plays the part for appearances' sake. If he were actually upset he would've tweaked my head.
I respond in the affirmative, tell him I'll update him when I can. He goes away then, promising to leave me to my work. He probably will, probably sleep the whole night away.
I take another look at the yard. I see at least three bald heads already scaling barges. For some reason these three have picked barges near the end of the line, instead of near the front—those that will need to leave first. Low-level debuggers, I think. Have to be.
Or fixing only what they're responsible for and leaving. Just as likely.
I stream to my nano-enhanced jumpsuit—standard fashion for a DR—and tell it to take the chill out. The nanos make their presence known, singing back an "OK" and then making with the heat. I smile at their responsiveness, the warmth my chest and limbs now feel. At least something here is working.
The pylon's central ladder is already extended, so I grab hold and slide it to the ground. I make a quick check of the stream. Try to see if I'm familiar with any of the DRs hanging out out there. In my mind the words form, becoming part of my personal—implant-created—waking dream. DanceRate, FrontLot, BerryMast... Most are vague names to me, newer implants with only a single specialty.
Only the moniker HardCandy stands out at me. I know her by stream rep. She's unique, unusual. Better than most, they say. And on top of that—female. Almost unheard of in our world. Abbys, I mean "Abduls," like to keep females mostly for themselves. One with a shaved head must be truly remarkable.
Or real ugly.
To be social, I send out a quick "Hello" to anyone who cares to listen. I approach the mess, reaching the shadow of the nearest barge. This model is immense—maybe three times my height and thirty large steps long. Like all barges, its predominant color is grey, with only a burst of color—a logo or stylized script somewhere—to indicate its owner.
I get a handful of clipped acknowledgements in the stream. No real friends here. I can see bodies in motion on the ground too, though. Bald heads in jumpsuits climbing, running, pawing through their bags.
"Sandfly?" someone says then, aloud. A lanky youngster emerges, formerly hidden behind a barge to my right. He's barely half my age, and, since I'm only twenty-five, that's saying a lot.
"Yes?" I say.
"TreArc property, right?" The kid looks nervous, like this is his first big outage. The first time his master pricked his brain awake.
Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits—first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates's minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He has one previously published book, a memoir entitled "FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software." "A Star Curiously Singing" is his first novel. You're invited to visit his website at or join his fan group on Facebook. Marcher Lord Press is the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. Find "A Star Curiously Singing" and all the rest of the MLP novels at All Marcher Lord Press novels can also be purchased through Amazon and are available in print and several e-book formats such as Kindle, Nook, and the Sony e-book reader.
A Star Curiously Singing ©2009 by Kerry Nietz. Do not reproduce without permission

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon

by Leanna Ellis

Faith is the first step to soaring.

The day Armstrong stepped on the moon has special memories for most Americans, but not for Bryn Seymour. It’s the day her mother died. Despite death defying feats, guilt has always pulled Bryn down time and again. But a perfect love shows her taking a leap of faith is the first step to soaring. But it only happens … once in a blue moon.

About the author:

‘Leanna Ellis takes a back seat to no one,’ says Debbie Macomber. But Leanna hopes she allows God in the driver’s seat as she taxies her two children to and from all their activities, lets her menagerie of pets in and out … in and out ..., figures out what to cook for dinner (or where to order takeout), and at the same time keeps those quirky characters in her head from bothering others. Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna writes quirky women’s fiction with a splash of romance. From a long line of southerners and patriots, she lives with her family in Texas.

Amazon Purchase Link:

Excerpt Link:

Author website and blog:

Saturday, March 06, 2010

False Pretences by Veronica Heley and Rachel's Garden by Marta Perry

False Pretences
By Veronica Heley

Bea Abbot ran a domestic agency which didn't `do' murder – except that every now and then she found herself dealing with just that. At sixty years of age, she thought she ought to take it easy and let others handle routine cases, but what might be routine to some could be murder to others.


Heley's cast of intriguing characters from every walk of life will
please British cozy fans.

Thursday evening

He confessed the moment he got back. Perhaps, if she hadn't that minute returned from decimating the rabbit population, she wouldn't have thought of scaring him with the shotgun.

She aimed at his head.

`No, no! Honoria, no!' A scream. `No, please! No one knows that it was you who . . . where's my medication?'

He dived into one pocket after another but in his panic only succeeded in scattering keys, cash and the all-important pills on the ground around him.

She booted tmhe packet beyond his reach.

He collapsed, clutching at his heart. She lowered the shotgun to watch him die.

A week later, Friday afternoon

Bea couldn't concentrate.

Sometimes she could go for a whole day and not think about her dead husband. And then, wham! Down she went.

She needed a break.

She walked out of her office into her back garden. Wrestling a reclining chair into the shade, she collapsed onto it. Prompt on cue, there was an interruption.

A handsome man with a warm brown skin stood in the doorway, holding a large cardboard box.

Zander, short for Alexander. A man who'd refused to help a criminal some months ago, and in consequence ended up in hospital.

`Mrs Abbot. Could you spare ten minutes? I've been responsible for a man's death, and I need help.' He set the box down on the flagstones and from it withdrew a bronze figurine of a dancer.

`Signed. Art deco. Worth a bit.'

Smooth and classy, like him. One by one he produced a silver photograph frame, a gold pen, and a leather diary; pieces which must have cost someone a small fortune. `I need a witness, someone impartial but with a sharp mind, to go with me when I return these things to the dead man's widow. Let me explain. I'm the office manager for the Tudor Trust, a l9th century housing trust. It's old-fashioned, upright and well-meaning, but . . .'
She prompted him. `It's your personal Garden of Eden – with a snake in the undergrowth?'

`I admit I was naïve, but so were most of the board. They don't take a salary; just an honorarium and expenses. When one director retires or dies, someone of similar background is suggested to take their place. Noblesse oblige, they said. One of them was kind enough to explain it to me.' A tight smile.

Bea grunted, all disbelief. `Not sensible. Let me guess. Somebody from the real world exploded their bubble. Auditors?'

`A new man discovered the Trust was operating at a loss and, it being a trust, all the directors were liable to make it up. What a tempest that raised! They had never, ever. . .couldn't understand, etcetera. I started to look at the figures myself.

The biggest outgoing – and it's huge – is on maintenance. For years the work has gone to a contractor called Corcoran & Sons, who's been charging astronomical sums for changing a couple of light bulbs. The repair of a door hinge would pay a family's gas bill for a quarter.'

He braced himself. `The only person who could have swung such a scam was the director in charge of maintenance, who was on excellent terms with Corcorans. He – er – referred to me by names that, well, if I'd wanted to make trouble, I could have taken him to a race tribunal. I told myself it was a cultural thing, that he'd been brought up to think that way.'

Bea nodded. `A public school type who wasn't trained for the job but thought the world owed him a good living? Someone with a triple-barrelled name such as Montgomery-Peniston-Farquahar?'

A dimple appeared on Zander's cheek. He really was a most attractive man. `You've missed something. He's an Honourable, and his wife is a Lady.'

`So you took your research to the board of directors. And . . .?'

`He put up a brilliant defence. I wondered – I still wonder – if he was more stupid than sly. I can hear him now, saying that good workmanship always costs more but is economic in the long run. He pointed out that he'd given the best years of his life to the Trust, had done his best, had been tearing his hair out trying to make ends meet. It nearly worked.'

`They preferred to think him incompetent rather than criminal? Hmm. Ignorance is no defence in law, and usually gets thumped for it.'

`I could see they were going to close ranks against me, so I asked if he'd show his bank statements to the chairman, proving that he'd not received any kickbacks from the builders. He collapsed, and I was sent home. That evening he had a heart attack and died. The verdict of heart failure was accepted with some relief by all and sundry. But, his widow is a formidable person. She said that we'd driven her husband to his grave and vowed to sue the Trust for libel, slander and the cost of dry-cleaning the clothes he died in. The Trust couldn't afford to pay her off. Delegates of directors traipsed out to see her, trying to resolve the situation. Eventually they succeeded . . . but . . .'

He flicked a finger at the cardboard box. `Lady Honoria wants me to take her husband's things out to her, when she'll decide whether or not I'm to keep my job. I understand she shares her husband's view of people of mixed race, and I'm not sure how much more racial abuse I can take. But if you come with me . . .?'

Bea remembered that this man believed in a loving God, and tried to do the right thing in a world which didn't much care about right and wrong any more. If it ever had done, which she thought unlikely.

`When do you have to visit her?'

`Tomorrow at eleven.' He stood, smiling. `The only thing is, can you drive me? I haven't a car.'

These books may be obtained from good bookshops everywhere. The publisher is Severn

House, and the ISBN is 9780727 868336

Please do not reproduce without permission.

Veronica Heley

It has been almost a year since the Amish community of Pleasant Valley lost Ezra Brand to a tragic accident—a year in which Rachel Brand has struggled to raise their three children and run their dairy farm. The community has come forward to help, including Gideon Zook, Ezra's best friend, who survived the accident that took Ezra, but all their well-intentioned advice just puts more pressure on Rachel. As spring turns to summer, can Rachel discover the courage to make her own choices...and embrace new beginnings?

Second in the Pleasant Valley Amish series by Marta Perry, published by Berkley Books, March,

Do not reproduce without permission.


By Marta Perry

Chapter One

A flicker of movement from the lane beyond the kitchen window of the old farmhouse caught Rachel Brand's eye as she leaned against the sink, washing up the bowl she'd used to make a batch of snickerdoodles. A buggy—ja, it must be Leah Glick, bringing Rachel's two older kinder home from the birthday party for their teacher already.

Quickly she set the bowl down and splashed cold water on her eyes. It wouldn't do to let her young ones suspect that their mamm had been crying while she baked. Smoothing her hair back under her kapp and arranging a smile on her lips, she went to the back door.

But the visitor was not Leah. It was a man, alone, driving the buggy.

Shock shattered her curiosity when she recognized the strong face under the brim of the black Amish hat. Gideon Zook. Her fingers clenched, wrinkling the fabric of her dark apron. What did he want from her?

She stood motionless for a moment, her left hand tight on the door frame. Then she grabbed the black wool shawl that hung by the door, threw it around her shoulders, and stepped outside.

The cold air sent a shiver through her. It was mid-March already, but winter had not released its grip on Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania. The snowdrops she had planted last fall quivered against the back step, their white cups a mute testimony that spring would come eventually.

Everything else was as brown and barren as her heart felt these days.

A fierce longing for spring swept through her as she crossed the still-hard ground. If she could be in the midst of growing things, planting and nurturing her beloved garden—ach, there she might find the peace she longed for.

Everything was too quiet on the farm now. Even the barn was empty, the dairy cows moved to the far field already, taken care of by her young brother-in-law William in the early morning hours.

The Belgian draft horses Ezra had been so pleased to be able to buy were spending the winter at the farm of his oldest brother, Isaac. Only Dolly, six-year-old Joseph's pet goat, bleated forlornly from her pen, protesting his absence.

Gideon had tethered his horse to the hitching post. Removing something from his buggy, he began pacing across the lawn, as if he measured something.

Then he saw her. He stopped, waiting. His hat was pushed back, and he lifted his face slightly, as if in appreciation of the watery sunshine. But Gideon's broad shoulders were stiff under his black jacket, his eyes wary and his mouth set above his beard.

Reluctance slowed her steps. Perhaps Gideon felt that same reluctance. Aside from the formal words of condolence he'd spoken to her once he was well enough to be out again after the accident, she and Gideon had managed to avoid talking to each other for months. That was no easy thing in a tight-knit Amish community.

She forced a smile. "Gideon, wilkom. I didn't expect to be seeing you today."

What are you doing here? That was what she really wanted to say.

"Rachel." He inclined his head slightly, studying her as if trying to read her feelings in her face.

His own face gave little away—all strong planes and straight lines, like the wood he worked with in his carpentry business. Lines of tension radiated from his brown eyes, making him look older than the thirty-two she knew him to be. His work-hardened hands tightened on the objects he grasped—small wooden stakes.

He cleared his throat, as if not sure what to say to her now that they were face to face. "How are you? And the young ones?"

"I'm well." Except that her heart twisted with pain at the sight of him, at the reminder he brought of all she had lost. "The kinder also. Mary is napping, and Leah Glick took Joseph and Becky to a birthday luncheon the scholars are having for Mary Yoder."

"Gut, gut."

He moved a step closer to her, and she realized that his left leg was still stiff—a daily reminder for him, probably, of the accident.

For an instant the scene she'd imagined so many times flashed yet again through her mind, stealing her breath away. She seemed to see Ezra, high in the rafters of a barn; Gideon below him; the old timbers creaking, then breaking, Ezra falling as the barn collapsed like a house of cards...

She gasped a strangled breath, like a fish struggling on the bank of the pond. Revulsion wrung her stomach, and she slammed the door shut on her imagination.

She could not let herself think about that, not now. It was not Gideon's fault that she couldn't see him without imagining the accident that had taken Ezra away from them. She had to talk to him sensibly, had to find out what had brought him here. And how she could get him to go away again.

She clutched the shawl tighter around her. "Is there something I can do for you, Gideon?"

"I am here to measure for the greenhouse."

She could only stare at him, her mind fumbling to process his words. The greenhouse—the greenhouse Ezra had promised her as a birthday present. That had to be what Gideon meant.

"How do you know about the greenhouse?"

The words came out unexpectedly harsh. Ezra was gone, and plans for the greenhouse had slipped away, too, swamped in the struggle just to get through the days.

He blinked, apparently surprised. "You didn't know? Ezra and I went together to buy the materials for your greenhouse. He asked me to build it for you."