Monday, March 26, 2012

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot
Historical Fiction by Stephen Bly
with Janet Chester Bly, Russell Bly, Michael Bly & Aaron Bly

Finishing Dad's novel was a family affair. Can a committee create fiction? We had the passion to find out. Here's how we did it:

It's 1905. Two orphans flee from Oregon's Tillamook Head. One of them is branded a hero. Do they tell the truth and risk the wrath of a dangerous man? Meanwhile, a retired lawman searches for his missing U.S. Marshal friend while he grapples with the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity tournament.

Rancher and widower Stuart Brannon had no intention of leaving his beloved Arizona Territory to attend the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland. His life no longer consisted of men to track down ... outlaws trying to kill him ... gangs preying on the innocent. Then the telegrams came ... how could he refuse Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher and the President of the United States?

"Stuart Brannon's Final Shot delivers and reminds us what we'll miss most about the beloved author." Jerry B. Jenkins, NYT Bestselling novelist & biographer

"Bly throws his readers into the fray from the first page and never lets up...." Award-winning author Kathleen Y'Barbo

Michael Ehret, Christian Writers Guild editor-in-chief: "...unusual experience... I found it a fascinating look into the process (of the writing of Stuart Brannon's Final Shot)."
"...comes alive with vivid details...has all the adventure one would expect from a Western, with enough humor to appeal to non-Western readers." Jennifer Slattery, CWG reviewer
"a rich much wisdom...I loved the story...(and) the colorful characters" Angie Arndt, ACFW Carolinas Coordinator



Sunday afternoon, June 11, 1905, south of Portland

"I thought you was dead." The words rumbled out of some deep, dark pit of tales told at late night campfires and smoky saloons. Thick drops of dirty sweat careened down the bearded man's face. A ripped-in-shreds shirt sleeve exposed a long, jagged old scar on his left arm. Bloodshot brown eyes glared into the future as if forecasting bad news. Very bad news.

"A common mistake."

A faded, red bandana brushed the man's bulging neck. His bronzed face held to the tight expression of a man looking for an advantage. "No foolin'. Argentiferous Jones said he shot you dead over a poker hand in Bisbee. I believe you was packin' three queens."

"He was wrong." Every eye in the dining car watched the trigger of Stuart Brannon's drawn Colt .44 revolver, ready to witness a sudden blast.

"I can see that now and would like to be given a chance to atone for my erroneous assumption."

"I'm sure you would. You stopped this train on a tall trestle in the middle of a river, cold-cocked the conductor, stole the possessions of all the passengers and whatever else of cargo you found on board, and in the mix scared the women, children, and most of the men near to death. Out West a man can hang for such offenses."

He tried to straighten his bow-legs, puffed out his huge chest. His good eye glared at Brannon like the headlight of a locomotive. "What do you get out of this? Surely you don't expect to shoot me in front of these delicate ladies. What if I just put down my pistol and . . ."

Brannon glared right back. "And what do all of us get out of that?"

The man croaked out the words. "A clear conscience?"

"Already got one." Brannon shoved the muzzle closer to the man's ripped ten-gallon-hat with the creased crown and molded brim.

"What if I return the money and goods to all these fine folks on the train?"

"That's a start."

He dropped a leather sack to the carpeted floor, stepped back, and raised his hands. "What else can I do?"

"Hike down the track to the next town and turn yourself in to the sheriff for robbing this train."

"You mean, turn myself in on my own accord?"

"Yep. You can do it. We'll just ride on up ahead and let them know you're on your way."

"No one does that, especially Slash Barranca." He studied Brannon to watch for the reaction.

Brannon didn't blink. "Well, Slash, here's your chance to stand out from a crowd of no-goods."

"So, you know who I am?"

"Nope. Never heard of you."

"Are you sure you're the original Stuart Brannon?"

"The real question is, do you trust that I'm Stuart Brannon? If you aren't certain, then make your move and see what happens. And if you still wonder, then say goodbye to these nice folks. I'm pullin' this trigger right now. So, what's your choice?"

The man looked over the crowd. His gaze stopped at two men in their fifties in brown suits. One of them glared a kind of warning. The other looked down. Brannon wondered if Barranca was going to make an appeal to them. But his chin drooped to his chest and his words blurted out with such force, the windows almost rattled. "Yeah, you're Brannon, all right."

"Good. Leave the stash, your gun and your boots in the car. Then, start walkin'."

"Now, how do you expect me to make it to town without boots?"

"Very slow. By the time you get to the other side of the bridge, there should be a nice little posse gathered. And don't think about diving over the edge. You've got one foot of water and a fifty foot drop."

Slash Barranca pulled up his pants' legs as he climbed out of the train and stepped onto the rough track surface. Applause and "hurrahs" rocked the car as the train rolled away without the bootless outlaw. The staff seemed eager to return order and routine for the passengers as quick as possible. Announcements of supper followed with beefsteak, fried eggs and fried potatoes wheeled out to the dining car. A little overdone, but no one complained.

A huge sign made of logs greeted them at the next stop when they transported the injured conductor off the train.

100 Miles to Portland, Oregon
Home of the world's famous
Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition

Brannon stretched his arms and legs and tried to remove the dust from his travel suit. No amount of brushing or shaking made a dent. He pulled out a copy of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson that his daughter-in-law, Jannette, had given him before he left Arizona, but his mind wandered. He ran through the recent events once more.

It started at the Prescott Post Office with one of those rosy-scented letters from Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher.

When Lady Fletcher sends you a scented letter, it's a dangerous omen.

The answer he gave her was "no."

At fifty-eight years old, Stuart Brannon had no intention of leaving his beloved ranch or Arizona Territory, not even for a long-time, good friend like Harriet. No matter how many times she offered her appeal—"I need one more celebrity . . . It's for the Willamette Orphan Farm . . . It won't cost you anything." But she could not convince him to go to Oregon, especially to participate in a golf tournament charity event in conjunction with the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.

What was she thinking?

Yes, Captains Lewis and Clark were his heroes.

Yes, they deserved a gala celebration.

And yes, from what he heard, the Oregon coast promised a refreshing change from the desert landscape.

But he had never once picked up a golf club. An old rancher and retired lawman playing on a golf course? What a ridiculous idea.

And the Triple B ranch needed him.

Or he needed the ranch, since his adopted son, Littlefoot Brannon, could oversee and do most of the work.

Life had become a peaceful routine. L.F. and his wife, Jannette, provided him with four over-active grandchildren, who played tag, leapfrog, hopscotch and occasional simple card games, but more important, listened to his stories.

No more evil men to track down. No one trying to shoot him in the back. No lawless gangs preying on the innocent . . . not near his ranch anyway.

Then the telegram came from another friend, Theodore Roosevelt. Stuart, I need you in Portland. Tom Wiseman is missing. I think there's a cover-up going on. Say you're going to the Exposition. Find out how a U.S. Marshal can disappear and no one knows why. T.R.

If Tom Wiseman had vanished, Brannon suspected the marshal initiated the event. But why? And where?

But he was too close a friend to ignore this plea. As a government worker, as well as an Arizona rancher, Tom Wiseman had aided him with personal and legal problems. And many times Tom Wiseman had stood with Brannon against lawbreakers, when no one else could or would.

And how could he refuse a request from the President of the United States?


Copyright©2012 Please do not reproduce without permission.

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot now available in hardback & via all popular ebook formats. Paperback edition coming soon. Order through your local bookstore or online at sites such as or

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot
NOW AVAILABLE! -- hardback

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot
by Stephen Bly
with Janet Chester Bly, Russell Bly, Michael Bly & Aaron Bly
Finishing Dad's novel was a family affair.

It's 1905. Two orphans flee Oregon's Tillamook Head. One of them is branded a hero. Will they tell the truth and risk the wrath of a dangerous man? Meanwhile, a retired lawman searches for his missing U.S. Marshal friend while he grapples with the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity tournament.

Christy Award winning author Stephen Bly left us 7,000 words, a one-page synopsis, some penciled notes on a page and a long list of character names. Finishing Dad’s novel became a family affair. Could a committee write fiction? We had the passion and four months until deadline to find out. Here’s our thoughts on the process of completing Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot.

1) What did you like the most about Stuart Brannon: The Final Shot ?

Russell: Being part of the process of writing a book is exciting.

Michael: I love that Brannon has stuck to his principles and is still ‘fighting the good fight’ and ‘keeping the faith.’ His methods may be a little out of place in the modern world of the 20th Century, but the same guiding principles apply. And, he golfs!

Aaron: I really enjoyed getting to not only re-introduce myself to the characters of the original novels but to also be a part of creating additional stories for them. It was empowering.

Janet: Getting Steve into the book through his sons, through using as much of his own writing as we could. Getting a more intimate look into Steve’s favorite character. The journey along the frontier of this man’s soul was like peering into my husband’s.

2) Any frustrations over the doing of it?

Russell: Of course the obvious one, not having Dad there.

Michael: I would have liked to be able to spend more time during the process (I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to want more time!). With jobs and families and responsibilities, it isn’t easy to dedicate all the time you’d like to a project, even one as important as this.

Aaron: Only frustration was the fear that we wouldn’t be able to match the story writing ability that my dad possessed — that we’d let him down somehow. But I think we gave it our best.

Janet: The short length of time. We didn’t have ‘rest’ time to see the manuscript fresh. Had to turn it in after a frantic few days of critique and re-write. I was thankful that we were able to include some changes before the final print stage.

Find the rest of the interview at:

"Stuart Brannon's Final Shot delivers and reminds us what we'll miss most about the beloved author." Jerry B. Jenkins, NYT Bestselling novelist & biographer

"Bly throws his readers into the fray from the first page and never lets up...." Award-winning author Kathleen Y'Barbo

Michael Ehret, CWG editor-in-chief: "...unusual experience... I found it a fascinating look into the process (of the writing of Stuart Brannon's Final Shot)."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Saving Hope, The Baker's Wife

Saving Hope
By Margaret Daley
Abingdon Press, March 2012
ISBN #978-142671483

Blurb for Saving Hope:

When a teenager goes missing from the Beacon of Hope School, Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan and school director Kate Winslow are forced into a dangerous struggle against a human trafficking organization. But the battle brings dire consequences as Wyatt's daughter is terrorized and Kate is kidnapped.    

Now it's personal, and Wyatt finds both his faith and investigative skills challenged as he fights to discover the mastermind behind the ring before evil destroys everyone he loves.

"Saving Hope is a story straight from the headlines. Missing teens, a Texas Ranger Dad, and a woman who just wants to make a difference in the lives of the girls she loves, all come together in an explosive story that will make you turn the pages as fast as possible to get to the end--which has a nice twist that you won't see coming. Just make sure you have plenty of time to read because you WON'T want to put this one down. A fabulous romantic suspense." -- Lynette Eason, best-selling, award-winning author of the Women of Justice Series.

Excerpt from Saving Hope:

Rose gripped her cell phone so tightly her muscles ached. "Where are you, Lily?"

"At—Nowhere Motel." A sob caught on the end of the last word.

"Help—me." Lily's breath rattled, followed by a clunking sound as though she'd dropped the phone.

Rose paced the small bathroom at Beacon of Hope. "Lily?" Sweat coated her palms, and she rubbed her free hand against her jeans.

Silence taunted her.

What have you done? But the second that Rose asked that question, an image came to mind of her friend lying on the dingy gray sheets in the cheap motel, wasted, trying anyway she could to forget the horror of her life.

"Lily, talk to me. Stay on the line." Pulling the door open, Rose entered her room. When she saw her roommate, she came to a stop.

Cynthia's wide-eyed gaze fixed on Rose for a few seconds before the fourteen-year-old dropped her head and stared at the hardwood floor. Rose crossed to her dresser, dug into the back of the top drawer, and grabbed a small, worn leather case.
She pushed past her roommate and headed into the upstairs hallway.

Striding toward the staircase, Rose dismissed her room- mate's startled expression and focused on the crisis at hand. "Lily, are you still there?"

A sound as though someone fumbled the phone and caught it filtered through the connection. "Rose, I need—you."

"I told you I would come if you wanted to get out. I'll be—"

A click cut off the rest of Rose's words. No, Lily. Please hang on.

Rushing down the steps to the first floor, she quickly re- dialed the number and let it ring and ring. When she approached the program director's office, she finally pocketed her cell, took out her homemade tools, and picked the lock, a skill she learned to give her some sense of control over her life. In the past she'd done what she had to in order to survive.

Guided by the light through the slits in the blinds, Rose entered Kate's darkened office and switched on the desk light. A twinge of guilt pricked her. If Kate found her in here after- hours, how could she explain herself? Especially with what she was going to do next to the woman who had saved her and taken her in.

Kate's gonna be so disappointed in me for stealing—no, borrowing—the van. She's put so much faith in me. But I've got to save Lily. I promised her. When I bring Lily back here, Kate will understand.

Rose used her tools to open the locked drawer on the right. Pulling it out, she rummaged through the papers to find the set of keys at the bottom, then bumped the drawer closed with her hip.

I have no choice, Kate. Please forgive me.

The memory of the words, I need you, spurred Rose to move faster. She had to get to her friend. Get her out . . . finally. Bring her to Kate.

Clutching the keys in one hand, she turned off the lamp and carefully made her way to the office door. She eased it open a few inches and peered out into the short hallway. The empty corridor mirrored the feeling inside her.

When would it go away? When will I feel whole?

After she checked to make sure the office door was locked, she hurried toward the side exit of the building that housed the residential program for teens like her. Outside the summer heat blasted her in the face even though it was past midnight. Her heart pounded as hard as her feet hitting against the concrete. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she rushed toward the parking lot to find Beacon of Hope's van. The security light cast a yellow glow on the vehicle at the back of the building. Visions of her friend slipping into drug-induced unconscious- ness, no one there to care whether she died or not, prodded her to quicken her steps.

I won't let you down, Lily. She was the reason her friend was where she was right now, stuck in a life that was quickly killing her.

As Rose tried to unlock the white van, her hands shook so badly the keys dropped to the pavement. Snatching them up, she sucked in a breath, then another, but her lungs cried for more oxygen. With her second attempt, she managed to open the door and slip behind the steering wheel. Her trembling hands gripped the hot plastic. After backing out of the parking space, she pressed down on the accelerator and eased onto the street in front of Beacon of Hope. With little driving experience, she would have to go slower than she wanted. She couldn't get caught by the cops. This was her one chance to save her friend. If all went well, she could be back here with Lily before morning.

She tried to clear her mind and concentrate totally on the road before her. She couldn't. Memories of her two years as a prostitute tumbled through her mind, leaving a trail of regrets. One was having to leave Lily behind.

Nowhere Motel—her and Lily's name for one of the hell- holes where they'd had to earn their living. A place—one of several used when they were brought to Dallas—near the highway on Cherry Street. A place where inhuman acts happened to humans—young girls who should be dressing up for their prom, not their next trick.

She'd escaped only because she'd been left for dead on the side of the road when a john discarded her like trash. But the Lord had other plans for her besides death. A judge had seen to it that she came to the Beacon of Hope program, and Kate had given her a glimpse of a better life.

And I'm gonna start with rescuing Lily. I'm not gonna let her die. She's gonna have a chance like me.

Rose slowed as she neared the motel, two rows of units. Bright lights illuminated the front rooms, which maintained an appearance of respectability, while the rooms in the back were shrouded in dimness.

After she parked across the street from Nowhere, she sat in the van staring at the place, its neon sign to welcome travelers taunting her. Sweat rolled down her face, and she swiped at it. But nothing she did stopped the fear from overwhelming her to the point of paralysis. Memories of what went on in the back rooms of the motel threatened to thwart her attempt to rescue Lily before it began.

I owe her. I have to make up for what I did to her.

She pried her hands from the steering wheel and climbed from the van. After jogging across the two lanes, she circled around to the second building that abutted the access road to the highway.
The sounds of cars whizzing by filled the night. People going about their ordinary life while some were barely hanging on. A loud, robust laugh drifted to her as she snuck past the first unit, heading for room three, the one Lily always used at Nowhere.

Someone opened a door nearby and stepped out of a room ahead of her. Rose darted back into a shadowed alcove at the end, pressing her body flat against the rough cinder block wall. Perspiration drenched her shirt and face. The stench of something dead reeked from a dumpster a few yards away. Nausea roiled in her stomach.

Two, sometimes three, of his guards would patrol, making sure the girls stayed in line. She wasn't sure this was a guard, but she couldn't risk even a quick look. She waited until the man disappeared up the stairs, then hurried toward the third unit. With damp palms, she inched the unlocked door open and peeked through the slit.

Dressed in a little-girl outfit that only underscored Lily's age of fifteen, she lay sprawled on the bed, her long red hair fanning the pillow, the sheets bunched at the end. Her friend shifted, her eyes blinking open. Groaning, she shoved herself up on one elbow, only to collapse back onto the mattress.

Footsteps on the stairs sent a shaft of fear through Rose. Her heartbeat accelerated. She pushed into the room and closed the door, clicking the lock in place. She almost laughed at her ridiculous action as though that would keep anyone out. But she left it locked.

The scent of sex, alcohol, and sweat assailed her nostrils and brought back a rush of memories she'd wanted to bury forever. For a few seconds she remained paralyzed by the door as memories bombarded her from all sides. Hands groping for her. A sweaty body weighed down on top of hers. The fog she'd lived in to escape.

She shook them from her thoughts. Can't go there. Lily is depending on me.

Turning toward her friend, she started across the room. Lily's glazed eyes fixed on her. For several heartbeats, nothing dawned in their depths. Then a flicker of recognition.

She tried to rise, saying, "Rose, so sorry . . ." Lily slurred her words as she sank back. "Sor—reee."

"I'm here to get you out." Rose sat on the edge of the bed.

"You've got—"

A noise behind her and to the left cut off her next words. She glanced over her shoulder as the bathroom door crashed open, and he charged into the room.

"Did you really think I'd let you go?"

His gravelly voice froze Rose for a few seconds. King never came to Nowhere Motel. Too beneath him. He should be—

Finally, terror propelled her into action. She scrambled off the bed and ran for the door. She grappled for the lock, her sweat-drenched fingers slipping on the cold metal.

*Do not reproduce without permission

Margaret Daley

Barnes and Noble:

* * *

© 2011 by Erin Healy

"Healy's fascinating plot is fast-paced and difficult to put down once started. The meaningful faith message is communicated through various ways and will help the reader's own faith to grow. The characters are easy to relate to in both their good and bad choices, and the delectable bakery descriptions will have readers hungering for more." –Romantic Times, 4-1/2 stars

To save her husband and son, Audrey Bofinger must rescue her enemy, who has vanished like the morning fog. With only an excruciating spiritual gift, an ex-con, and the missing woman's estranged daughter to help search for clues, Audrey has six hours to find her.


The day Audrey took a loaf of homemade rosemary-potato bread to Cora Jean Hall was the day the fog broke and made way for spring. Audrey threw open the curtains closest to the dying woman's bedside, glad for the sunshine after months of gray light.

Audrey moved quietly down the hall into the one-man kitchen, where she sliced the bread into toast, brewed tea, then leaned out of the cramped space to offer some to Cora Jean's husband, Harlan. He refused her without thanks and without looking up from his forceful tinkering with an old two-way radio. Over the past month, his collection of CBs and receivers had overtaken the small living room. His grieving had started long ago and was presently in the angry stage. Clearly, he loved his wife. The retired pharmacist dispensed her medications with faithful precision but didn't seem to know what else to do. If not for the radios, Audrey believed, he might have wandered the house helplessly and transformed from smoldering to explosive.

As Audrey arranged the snack on a tray, one of her earrings slipped out of her lobe and clattered onto a saucer, just missing the hot tea. She rarely wore this pair because one or the other was always falling out, but Cora Jean liked the dangling hearts with a rose in the middle of each. The inexpensive jewelry had been a gift to the women of the church on Mother's Day last year.

She put the earring back in her ear, then carried the tray to Cora Jean's room, settled onto an old dining room chair by the bed, and steered their conversation toward happy topics.

Cora Jean was dying of pancreatic cancer, the cancer best known for being unsurvivable. Audrey sat with the woman in the late stages of her illness for many reasons: because she believed that people who suffered shouldn't be left alone; because she was a pastor's wife and embraced this privilege that came with the role; because Cora Jean reminded Audrey of her own beloved mother.

She also went to the woman's home because she couldn't not go. In the most physical, literal sense, Audrey was regularly guided there, directed by an unseen arm, weighty and warm, that encircled her shoulders and turned her body toward the Halls' house every week or so. A voice audible only to her own ears would whisper Please don't leave me alone today. It was no pitiful sound, and Audrey never resented it, though from time to time it surprised her. In these moments she thought, though she had never dared to try it, that if she applied her foot to the gas pedal and took her hands off the wheel, her car would take her wherever God wanted her to be.

This five-years familiar experience had not always involved Cora Jean, but others like her, so Audrey had long since stopped questioning how it happened. The why of it was clear enough: Audrey was called by God to be a comforter, and she was glad for the job.

Audrey had a knack for helping people in any circumstance to look toward the brightness of life—not the silver lining of their own dark cloud, which often didn't exist—but to the Light of the World, which could be seen by anyone willing to look for it. In Cora Jean's case this meant not dwelling too long on the details of her prognosis, but in reading aloud beautiful, hopeful, complex poetry, especially the Psalms and the Brownings and Franz Wright. It meant watering the plants (which Harlan ignored) and offering to warm a meal for him before she left. It meant giving candid answers to Cora Jean's many-layered questions about Audrey's personal faith—in particular, about sin and forgiveness and justice.

And about the problem of so much suffering in a world governed by a "good" God. Cora Jean seemed preoccupied with this particular question, and her focus seemed to be connected to the yellowed family portrait hanging on the wall opposite the bed.

There were two brunette girls in the thirty-year-old picture. Audrey judged the age by Cora Jean's bug-eyed plastic-framed glasses, Harlan's rust-colored corduroy blazer, and the children's Dorothy Hamill hairstyles. Audrey had a similarly aged childhood portrait of herself with her parents. She guessed the daughters to be nine, maybe ten, and they appeared to be twins, though one of them was considerably chubbier than the other.

A pendant on a large-link silver chain hung from the upper left corner of the cheap wood frame. The pendant was also silver, crudely hammered into a flat circle, like a washer, that framed a small translucent rock. Audrey suspected it to be an uncut diamond.

It would be rude to ask whether she was right about the stone, but on the day the fog broke and the sun brought a wispy smile to Cora Jean's pale face, Audrey decided to ask about the portrait she often stared at.

Audrey lifted her teacup to her lips and blew off the steam. "Tell me about your family," she said gently, indicating the picture with her eyes.

Cora Jean's smile crumpled, and the soft wrinkles of her skin became a riverbed for tears.

Audrey wished she hadn't said anything. Meaning to apologize for having heaped some kind of emotional ache on top of the cancer's pain, she returned her sloshing teacup to the tray, then reached out and placed her hands on top of Cora Jean's, which were clutching the sheets.

That was the second unfortunate choice Audrey made that day, with a third yet to occur before the sun set. The woman's sorrow—if it could be thought of as something chemical—entered Audrey's fingertips, burning the pads of her fingers, the joints of her knuckles, her wrists. The flaming liquid pain seeped up her arms, searing as it went: elbows, shoulders, collarbone. And then the poison found her spine, an aqueduct that delivered breathtaking hurt to every nerve in Audrey's body. She yelped involuntarily. Here was a sensation that she had never experienced.

She wished that she could save the dying woman from the terror. She also wished that she had never dipped her toe into these hellish waters.

The pain bowed her over Cora Jean's fragile body, a posture at once protective and impotent, and paralyzed Audrey. The women cried together until every last drop of the agony had let itself out of Audrey's eyes.

In time Cora Jean said, "Thank you for understanding" and fell asleep, exhausted.

Audrey, who understood not a bit of what had transpired, said nothing. She tuned the radio to Cora Jean's favorite classical station, then waited, agitated and restless, for the hospice nurse to arrive.

For more information about The Baker's Wife, including a free download of the first four chapters and links to reader reviews, please visit Erin's website. To find a store where The Baker's Wife is sold, please click the "buy now" link on Erin's page at Thomas Nelson.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Echoes of Titanic, Sarai


by Mindy Starns Clark
and John Campbell Clark

This thrilling new mystery combines a fascinating tale of modern day corporate intrigue with the deeply moving story of Titanic's fateful voyage.

Kelsey Tate's great-grandmother Adele endured the sinking of Titanic and made it safely to America, where she not only survived but thrived. Several generations later, Kelsey is a rising star at Brennan & Tate, the firm Adele helped to establish 100 years ago. Now facing a hostile takeover, the firm's origins are challenged when new facts emerge about Adele's actions on Titanic's tragic last night. Kelsey must defend the company and the great-grandmother she has long admired, but the stakes are raised when someone close to her is found dead. Kelsey pursues mysteries both past and present to defend her family legacy, her livelihood, and ultimately her life.


From the Prologue:

Lower Manhattan, New York

April 15, 1913

A lone figure stood near the bulkhead, a young woman looking out at the Hudson River. The day had grown windier, not to mention cooler, and her silk hat and spring coat did little to keep out the chill. She made no move to warm herself, however, nor to join the others. Instead, she continued to stare out at the water, allowing the wind to whip at her face and body.

To her, nothing compared to the coldness she'd suffered that fateful night one year before, waiting for the help that wouldn't come till sunrise. As her lifeboat had bobbed in the ocean for hours, the bitter chill had permeated to her bones. Even colder, however, had been the frigid waters themselves, which her two beloved family members had been forced to endure. Given the torment they had likely suffered before their bodies finally went still, she had no right to complain of cold—then or now.

More than fifteen hundred people had been left without lifeboats that night and had been plunged into the icy North Atlantic when the ship went down. Would the cacophony of their screams ever fade from her memory? Had her two loved ones joined in with that chorus, their own cries a part of what she'd heard? How long had their misery gone on before they found relief in blessed unconsciousness?

Those were but a few of the many questions that tormented her days and haunted her nights—and had since the great Titanic sunk, exactly one year ago today.

By the time the searches had ended, most of those bodies had not been recovered. They had either drifted off with the currents or been pulled down with the ship. Her two family members were among those that had never been found; thus, they had not been given a final resting place in any cemetery. Instead, a small memorial had been erected in Battery Park, in the shade of a gnarled old elm tree. The carved stone was tasteful and elegant, yes, but altogether insufficient as far as she was concerned. No bodies, no headstones, no graves.

No peace in the heart of this survivor.

Foolishly, she had agreed to come here today to this memorial service. She'd thought she could endure a brief ceremony, but just the sight of the two names etched in bronze on the memorial stone had been far too much to bear. Let others tend to their ritual.

She needed air. She needed to breathe.

Oh, how she missed them…

…The dear man, father to one and uncle to the other, yet father figure to both. He'd been a loving and calming presence to the end.

…The young woman, precious cousin, so beautiful inside and out. Raised in the same home, just two months' apart in age, they had always been inseparable.

Now she'd be separated from the two of them for the rest of her life.

Standing there, facing the water, she felt the wind whipping at her hat, threatening to whisk it from her head. As she placed a hand atop the stiff fabric surface to hold it in place, her fingers grazed the cold metal of a hat pin.

The hat pin.

She pulled it loose to study it. Never mind that the wind made short work of both head covering and hairdo after that. Soon, the hat was skittering briskly across the grounds of the park, and her long brown locks had fallen loose and were fluttering wildly about her head. She didn't care. She merely grasped the pin in her hand, the tiny gold harp at the end sparkling in the morning sun. She brought it to her lips, pressing the cold roughness of the pin's decorative surface against her skin. Originally, there had been two hat pins, designed to wear separately or as a set. The cousins, as close as sisters, had chosen them together in London the day before they set sail for America. While on the ship, they had taken turns wearing each one, both girls trying to decide which pin they would call their own once their journey was complete. That question had been answered, of course, as soon as she'd climbed into the lifeboat. Simply by default, the one she'd been wearing at that moment had become hers forever—just as the one her cousin had been wearing now lay at the bottom of the ocean, probably still affixed to the hat she'd had on when the unsinkable ship went down.

Again running a finger over the pin's unique design, she closed her eyes. In the past year, the nightmares had grown less frequent, less intense, but her daytime torments had not ceased. She still found herself crying for no reason, still spent far too many of her waking hours trying not to think about all that had happened.

She still ached with guilt and shame for what she'd done.

Only she knew the full reason that she had lived and her cousin had died. She knew because she'd had a part in it herself—a fact that would haunt her for the rest of her days. She rarely spoke of the tragedy, and those close to her had learned not to ask. It was a grief she could only bear alone, a pain that could be understood only by those who had lived through it.

Yet, perhaps even her fellow survivors could not fully comprehend her pain. Certainly, they all felt the grief, the loss, the sorrow. But she also felt guilt, a guilt that wrapped around her chest and threatened to choke the air from her lungs and the very life from her heart. Was there any justification for her actions? Any chance of forgiveness? Only time would tell.

She ran her finger along the empty slot in the side of the harp, where the other pin had been designed to fit. Just as this pin set would never be complete without its other half, she would never be complete again, at least not in this lifetime. The best she could do was to live in a way that would honor her cousin's memory and keep her dreams alive. That would start, she decided, by rejoining the others at the memorial stone now, no matter how difficult it was for her.

As she neared the group gathered in remembrance, she spotted him among the mourners, his black overcoat blowing in the wind, and a chill went through to her very bones. The narrow brim of his hat cast a shadow across his eyes, but she realized he must have been watching her because he quickly turned his face away.

Her heart pounded. She knew his secrets from that night, and he knew hers. Would they both remain silent to the end?

Or would one of them end up breaking their uneasy truce, driven by the cries they had both endured, cries that still echoed across the blackest waters of a deep and unforgiving sea?

From Chapter Three:

Lower Manhattan, New York

April 3, 2012

Kelsey gripped each side of the podium, her mind racing. Someone needed to shut this man up—though a part of her very much wanted to hear what he had to say. He was lying, of course, but he must have some reason for making such a crazy claim.

Suddenly, the back door of the auditorium swung open and two security guards came marching in, followed by Walter. At that moment, as if sensing that the most interesting person at this event was about to be carted away, the media people hopped up from their seats and began moving toward the man, throwing questions at him.

"How do you know this?"

"Why have you come here?"

"What was the imposter's real identity?"

The nature of their questions sent a chill down Kelsey's spine. Were they really going to give this man's words credence? The very notion that the woman who called herself Adele Brennan had been an imposter was absurd!

The room quickly dissolved into pandemonium after that, with the guards grabbing the man's arms and trying to drag him out, the reporters continuing to shout questions, a woman Kelsey didn't know—a tall redhead with shortly cropped hair—begging the man to "Stop it! Stop it!" and the man himself still shouting even as he slumped down in the guards' grip. A heavyset man, he used his dead weight to his advantage.

"I came here to tell the world," he yelled as loudly as he could, "that I have proof that the woman who called herself Adele Brennan was actually Jocelyn Brennan, Adele's first cousin! Jocelyn assumed Adele's identity after Titanic sank and came here to America pretending to be Adele so she could steal her inheritance!"


Once the truth about Kelsey's ancestor has been challenged, the novel flows back and forth in time between each woman's story, culminating in the discoveries that will challenge Adele's legacy and either save or destroy Kelsey's livelihood, relationships, and ultimately her life.


Mindy Starns Clark is the #1 bestselling author of 19 books, including The Amish Midwife, Whispers of the Bayou, and more. Visit her website at

John Campbell Clark is an attorney and CPA and works in the faith-based non-profit field. He has been a brainstorming partner, researcher and first reader for Mindy for many years. As a lifelong Titanic buff, he was thrilled to coauthor this novel with her.

Echoes of Titanic is available wherever books are sold, including,, and

Copyright © 2012 by Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark

ISBN 978-0-7369-2946-2

Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

* * *


by Jill Eileen Smith


¡°Smith is at her best in handling the triangulated relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar¡­Smith breathes new imaginative life into a well-known sacred story.¡± --Publishers Weekly

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?

Sarai, the last child of her aged father, is beautiful, spoiled, and used to getting her own way. Even as a young girl, she is aware of the way men look at her, including her half brother Abram. When Abram finally requests Sarai¡¯s hand, she asks one thing¨Cthat he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even her father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if Sarai makes a promise in return¨to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.


Ur, 2051 BC

Sarai glanced across the courtyard, catching Abram's gaze. His half smile and the twinkle in his eye warmed her more than the wine she had tasted at the start of the ceremony. Music drifted around them as the bridal couple, their nephew Lot and his new wife, Melah, took their seats on the bench beneath the canopy and accepted rich foods from the hands of the servants.

"This whole wedding is a disgrace, you know," Sarai's sister-in-law Milcah stood at her elbow and leaned close to her ear. "Why her father agreed to the marriage after Lot had already humbled the girl . . . Though I suppose he didn't have much choice. Who else would want her after she'd already given in to Lot's charms?" Milcah batted at a fly, sending it away. "I can't imagine why Lot couldn't wait with such a one. It's not as though she's a beauty or a temptress. It seems like he could have done better." The last words came out in a whisper as Milcah moved in close again.

Sarai turned from watching the bridal couple to meet Milcah's pinched gaze. "If it is true that a babe is already on the way, it is better they marry." She had wearied of the heated debate and shame Lot had brought down on her household, particularly on Abram.

"Abi Terah seems pleased with the arrangement." Milcah touched Sarai's shoulder and pointed toward their father. "Though his conditions did seem a little harsh toward Lot, while Melah came away already with child and married to a man who can never put her aside or take another. I might have given in to Nahor before our betrothal for such a promise." She laughed at that, then shifted her ample bulk, bursting with child herself, to face Sarai once more.

Sarai stifled her hurt at the critical words, remembering her own wedding promises, hers and Abram's. She smoothed imaginary wrinkles from her skirts and avoided Milcah's perusing gaze.

"I see I have upset you." Milcah patted Sarai's arm. "Your time will come, Sarai. At least you can rest in knowing Abram loves you. If he didn't, he might have broken his vow to you long ago." She placed a protective hand over her middle and shook her head, her gaze pitying, though Sarai sensed, as she always did, a hint of arrogance in Milcah's tone. The beautiful Sarai was barren. She'd become a fool. A laughingstock.

She clenched her jaw and held herself erect, lifting a jeweled hand to her throat. "Thank you, Milcah." She forced a smile. "If you will excuse me, I must check on the food." She glided away from the bench along the courtyard wall, skirted the crowds, and hurried into the house, the vows at her own wedding feast suddenly sharp in her ear.

"I promise never to take another wife," Abram had said, his gaze full of love for only her.

"I promise to give you a child." Sarai had gazed into his hand- some face, her heart doing a little dance at having finally convinced her father to let them marry.

"I hold you, my son Abram and my daughter Sarai, to your promises this day. If you, Sarai, do not fulfill your vow to my son, his vow to you is null." Her father's unwavering gaze had held her fast.

How easy such a promise had seemed then.

But after thirty-two years of marriage, she had yet to conceive. And here Melah was already with child even before her wedding day. She blinked back stinging tears. Conversations and laughter filtered through the open windows while a harpist played quiet music in the background. After the meal, there would be singing and dancing, and guests would remain until well past nightfall, only to return again on the morrow for several more days of feasting.

She rested her head against the cool limestone wall aligning the comfortable sitting room, unobserved by the servants as they rushed down the halls from the cooking rooms with platters piled high with food. She had no reason to be jealous. She was mistress of a wealthy estate, wife to one of Ur's finest nobles, whose father had long held the king's ear. A princess of Ur, if ever there was one.

But she could not stop the pain Milcah's presence always evoked. Milcah already had one son who had weaned only three months before. She did not deserve another so soon.

"I thought I might find you here." At Abram's voice and his touch on her shoulder, she turned into his comforting embrace. "What's wrong, dear one?"

Sarai released a troubled sigh and leaned back to better see his face. "Milcah."

He nodded, but at his quizzical look, she knew he did not understand. "She is flaunting her swollen belly, and I have no patience for her criticisms."

"Ah," he said, pulling her close again. "Milcah is jealous of your beauty, dear wife. She has nothing else to flaunt." He patted her back, but the action did not soothe.

"I would rather have a child than beauty." The words were a mere breath against his chest, but when his hands stilled, she knew he'd heard.

"And I would rather have you just as you are." He held her at arm,s length, his gaze searching. "Do not trouble yourself or deny joy to others, dear one. You have nothing to fear."

She looked into his handsome face and cupped his bearded cheek with her hand. He still carried the vigor of one much younger, and she rested in his strength as he held her. "But I do fear, dear husband. I fear I have failed to give you what you most deserve. Perhaps if I had been as Melah, you would already have a son."

"I deserve nothing, Sarai. What I possess is only a gift. Adonai will give what He will." He lifted her chin to look into her face. "Lot will have to live with his errors the rest of his days. Trust me in this, Sarai. A man who takes a woman before the proper time lives with long regrets, whether he realizes it or not."

"Do you think Lot regrets marrying Melah?" she whispered. Abram often had Lot's ear, and Abram had given the younger man a scathing lecture after the truth had come out.

"Lot is too brash and too charming, though he did repent of his act and agree to the marriage. But then, Father gave him no choice. He would have lost any inheritance if he had refused. Father has his honor."

"Lot should have had his own." Sarai looked into her husband's loving gaze, grateful all over again for such a man. A man whose character surpassed most men in the city, even those in her own family. A man who had earned her devotion and her respect.

Abram bent to give her a gentle kiss. "Come, sit with me at the feast. You need not endure Milcah's pity on such a day."

Tears rose again at his kindness, at how astute he could be to her emotions. He brushed the tears from her cheeks and slipped her hand in his. "Do not fear, Sarai. In His time, Adonai will give us a son. And if He does not, we will discuss what to do about it then."

She nodded, following his lead as he guided her back through the house to the courtyard. But as the music played around her and the well-wishers shouted blessings of fertility to the bride and groom as they entered the sparkling bridal tent, Sarai could not stop the worry or the fear.

How flippantly she had promised her husband a child in order to convince her father to give her to Abram.

She did not know how much that vow would cost her then. And how impossible it all was now.

Jill Eileen Smith¡¯s website:



For links to purchase the book online visit: or go to,, or, or your favorite bookstore, wherever fine books are sold.

Do Not Reproduce without permission of Baker Publishing.

Monday, March 05, 2012


by Jill Eileen Smith

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?

Sarai, the last child of her aged father, is beautiful, spoiled, and used to getting her own way. Even as a young girl, she is aware of the way men look at her, including her half brother Abram. When Abram finally requests Sarai’s hand, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even her father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if Sarai makes a promise in return–to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.

But as the years stretch on and Sarai’s womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain–lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram’s patience last?

From PW (Publisher’s Weekly):
“Smith is at her best in handling the triangulated relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar…Smith breathes new imaginative life into a well-known sacred story.”

Ur, 2051 BC
Sarai glanced across the courtyard, catching Abram’s gaze. His half smile and the twinkle in his eye warmed her more than the wine she had tasted at the start of the ceremony. Music drifted around them as the bridal couple—their nephew Lot and his new wife, Melah—took their seats on the bench beneath the canopy and accepted rich foods from the hands of the servants.
“This whole wedding is a disgrace, you know.” Sarai’s sister-in-law Milcah stood at her elbow and leaned close to her ear. “Why her father agreed to the marriage after Lot had already humbled the girl . . . Though I suppose he didn’t have much choice. Who else would want her after she’d already given in to Lot’s charms?” Milcah batted at a fly, sending it away. “I can’t imagine why Lot couldn’t wait with such a one. It’s not as though she’s a beauty or a temptress. It seems like he could have done better.” The last words came out in a whisper as Milcah moved in close again.
Sarai turned from watching the bridal couple to meet Milcah’s pinched gaze. “If it is true that a babe is already on the way, it is better they marry.” She had wearied of the heated debate and shame Lot had brought down on her household, particularly on Abram.
“Abi Terah seems pleased with the arrangement.” Milcah touched Sarai’s shoulder and pointed toward their father. “Though his conditions did seem a little harsh toward Lot, while Melah came away already with child and married to a man who can never put her aside or take another. I might have given in to Nahor before our betrothal for such a promise.” She laughed at that, then shifted her ample bulk, bursting with child herself, to face Sarai once more.
To read the rest of the chapter, visit Jill’s website:
For links to purchase the book online visit: or visit your favorite local bookstore.
Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling author of Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba, all part of the the Wives of King David series. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Friday, March 02, 2012


by Terri Blackstock

The Third and Final Book in the New York Times Best-Selling Intervention Series

Will Emily's dark past lead to her downfall?

Emily Covington has turned her life around after a drug addiction, but her family still has trouble trusting her. Though Emily has committed herself to a year-long treatment program and has been sober for almost a year beyond that, even her mother walks on egg shells around her, fearing she'll relapse. After her behavior during her drug years, Emily realizes she has a lot to prove. When police discover a home-made bomb under Emily's car, and she then learns the wife of one of her friends was murdered that same morning, she knows things are deadly serious.

But who wants Emily dead? And why? A conversation she had with two men, an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and a plan for a double-murder all conspire for one explosive ride … and Emily is the only one who can identify the killer and save the life of the next potential victim. As she frantically works to solve this ever more complicated puzzle, Emily finds herself playing right into the killer's hands.

The neighborhood was quiet at three a.m. Bugs flew in the yellow halo around the street lights, and the half moon gave a gray cast to the coveted homes along the Boulevard. It was the kind of home his mother had dreamed of having, the kind that had always been out of her reach.

The air reeked with greed and ambition. The Avenger, as he liked to call himself, walked in front of those houses, carrying his load in a backpack, thinking maybe he should double back just to blow up some of the BMWs parked in the driveways. Wouldn't it be a thrill to watch from somewhere on the street as businessmen came out of those houses, briefcases in hand, and slipped into their cars? If they all went up at the same time ... mushroom clouds of fire whooshing over each house in choreographed order ...

But that was a fantasy for another day. Today only one car would go up like that.

The Avenger strode around the corner to a street where smaller houses lined the road. Though they weren't as expensive and extravagant as those on the Boulevard, they were still out of his mother's reach. Destined to live in a rotting rat hole, she papered her moldy bathroom with pictures from Southern Living. These weren't mansions, but they were big and new. He was sure no mold grew on the attic walls. No cracks ripped the sheetrock in the living rooms. No paint peeled. No sounds of rats scratching through the walls. The people who lived here probably weren't business owners. They were the goons who worked for them, but they were still snotty and superior.

Steam fogged in front of the Avenger's face with every breath as he approached the Covington house. One lamp shone in a room on the side. Out of sight, he'd followed twenty-year-old Emily home a while ago. Now she probably lay tucked in her bed with some feather comforter that cost a mint, smug about her sobriety. Oblivious.

Like always, she hadn't pulled her car into the garage where her mother's car sat. Hers was on the driveway.

The Avenger set his package down beside her car.

Right here, under the wheel well ... that was the best place. He took the jar half-filled with gasoline and the roll of duct tape from his backpack and ripped off enough to tape the bottle under the car, careful not to cover the lamp cord coming from the hole he'd punched in the jar's lid. The gloves on his hands made it difficult work, but he didn't give up. When he'd gotten the bottle in place, he checked to make sure it wasn't leaking. The small amount of gasoline seemed stable. The bottle was angled so it wouldn't leak.

Now if he could just find the right place to connect the other end. He pulled the lamp cord out from under the front of the car, then quietly opened the hood. It made a clicking sound. He froze, looking from left to right. No one stirred at this hour. He shone his flashlight to the place where he needed to connect the cord.

He held the small flashlight in his teeth as he found the spot in the wiring that would ignite his bomb.

The Avenger chuckled to himself as he closed the hood as quietly as possible, pressing down until it engaged. He checked to make sure the cord coming from under the car into the motor wasn't noticeable. If someone knew to look for it, it might be. But he doubted Emily would see it walking out to her car.

If this worked the way it was supposed to, the bomb would explode when Emily started the car. She would probably escape, but hopefully, she'd be wounded or burned. And she and her family would be terrorized. He'd make them homeless by making them fear their home, and that would just be the beginning.

He chuckled as he gathered his equipment. Then he dropped his gloves into his bag and walked slowly back up the street to where he'd left his car. He reveled in the sense of power his actions had given him. He would never be powerless again.

Too bad he hadn't had an audience tonight. That would have made it so much sweeter. But manipulating victims like chess pieces was almost as good.

It was cold, but the thrill of victory warmed him. He thought about the stash he'd left in his glove compartment, his reward for carrying out his plan. He'd wait until he got home, to the privacy of his basement, and when he was high, he'd go back and carry out the rest of his plan. And what a genius plan it was.

Headlights turned onto the street, illuminating him like a stage star. He pulled up his hood and looked down at the sidewalk as the car slowly passed. As soon as darkness enveloped him again, he broke into a trot back to his car.

There was still so much to do. He had to go take care of Devon, put a gun to her head, watch her bleed. He'd planned it for weeks, waited for the right mixture of courage and cockiness. He'd found it tonight. Freedom had been birthed inside him with one act of will. Now he could set everything right. He'd continue exacting revenge on all those who'd messed with him. So much fallout. So many consequences.

He was the great Avenger.


Emily Covington had managed to slip into the house and down the hall to her bedroom without waking her mother, a major feat since her mom slept lightly when Emily was out. Emily hadn't meant to stay out so late tonight without calling, but one thing had led to another, and she'd wound up coming in at two a.m., tiptoeing like a high-school kid who'd broken curfew.

Now she had to cram for her test before she could go to bed. Why had she waited until the last minute?

"Emily? You're home?"

She turned to see her mother standing in her bedroom doorway, her hair tangled and disheveled from bed. "Hey. I didn't want to wake you up."

"Did you just come in?"

"A little while ago. Sorry I didn't call. I went to the show choir concert at school, and afterward some of us went to a movie. Then we hung out for a while in Ree's dorm room."

"Emily, it's three o'clock, and you have class tomorrow."

"I know. It'll be fine."

"Don't you have a test?"

"Yeah, but it's okay. Just go back to sleep."

Her mother just stood there for a moment. "Okay. Come give me a kiss."

Emily grinned. It was her mother's way of smelling her breath and her hair, to see if she'd been drinking or smoking dope. Emily went to her mom, kissed her cheek, and gave her a hug. "Get a good whiff," she said. "All you'll smell is popcorn and coffee."

Her mother let her go and stared into her eyes, as if checking her pupils for normalcy. "All right, but you're going to put me in an early grave with these long nights."

"Mom, if I lived on campus, you wouldn't even know when I came in."

"Well, you don't live on campus. You live here, and I worry. Go to bed soon, okay?"

"Okay." Emily went back to her bed where her books lay spread out, wishing she hadn't made her mother lose sleep, tonight of all nights. Her mom had a big presentation tomorrow at work, and she wanted her to do well. Her mother had been elated to have this job in Atlanta after they'd struggled so much in Jefferson City. Emily hoped her actions tonight hadn't messed her up.

She resolved to do better next time. The least she could do was call to let her mom know not to worry. But after all she'd put her family through, worry had become a way of life. Staying out so late only exacerbated old memories—and old fears.

But one day Emily would prove to her family that her life of addiction was behind her. Then maybe her mom could sleep better at night.

Downfall (Zondervan, 2012) ISBN-13 # 978-0310250685

Join Terri at:

Contact her at: