Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Tidbit Romance

A Tidbit Romance
by Erin Coss

Falling in Love with God’s Word One Devotion at a Time. 

It’s like sitting on the front porch with God, 
 having a chat over
fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Christian devotional seeks to engage readers in heartfelt study and time with God.

Cross writes on several "everyday" topics in her devotions, which she calls "tidbits."  Some of the subjects discussed include:

  • Why "ugly days" are a thing of the past.
  • What the common phrase "apple of His eye" really means.
  • Was the Holocaust prophesied in the Bible?
  • Which ghost story is included in the Bible.
  • Was there teleportation in the Bible?
  • Why God handpicked you!

Author Sandra B. Rice, contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul - Devotional Stories for Women, writes of the book: "In a hectic and time-consumed world, it is nice to find a place of peace. A Tidbit Romance gives us a chance to focus on God's Word as Erin's insightful and honest devotionals guide us through each day."
About the author: Erin Coss - A.K.A. The Chicken Dance Mama, is a published author and speaker. Her published works include Revival Nation Magazine, First Conversations, My Surgery Journal and My Hospital Journal. She resides in Delaware, Ohio with her husband Eric and their three children.


I enjoyed this devotional book. The chapters are short and easy to read. The devotionals tackle topics most of us deal with on a regular basis. Erin's writing style is casual so the book reads a lot like a conversation would be. Each devotional starts with scripture included right in the text which is nice. A Tidbit Romance would also make a nice gift!

Thanks so much to Erin Coss for sending me a review copy of her book.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Online with God, A 90 Day Devotional

This book is part of a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! You can find my personal review of this book HERE.

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zonderkidz (April 9, 2010)
***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***


Laurie’s first published work was a note passed to a boy in elementary school. You would have thought that this most embarrassing moment would have stopped her writing career. But instead, Laurie is the author of thirty five books and author/illustrator of two more. Laurie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and two daughters.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (April 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310716152
ISBN-13: 978-0310716150

Press the browse button to view the first chapter:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dark In The City of Light

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark In The City Of Light
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

Paul Robertson


Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and the author of The Heir. He is also a former Christian bookstore owner (for 15 years), who lives with his family in Blacksburg, Virginia.


What Evil Haunts the Shadows of 1870s Paris?

Baron Ferdinand Harsanyi — After his wife's mysterious death, this Austrian attaché holds control over mines whose coveted ore could turn the tide of war.

Therese Harsanyi — Swept up in new romance and the spectacle of Paris, the Baron's daughter is blind to the dangers stalking her family and the city she loves.

Rudolph Harsanyi — Unsure whom to trust, the Baron's son's grief over his mother's death twists into growing anger and a desire to break free.

As France and Prussia plunge toward war, one family is caught in a web of deceit, political intrigue, and murder that threatens to tear them apart.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dark In The City Of Light, go HERE.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Starlighter *review & GIVEAWAY!!* CLOSED

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to cherdon for winning.

by Bryan Davis

In the first novel of a new four-book fantasy series for young adults by bestselling author Bryan Davis, human and dragon worlds collide when Jason Masters enters the dragon planet and meets Koren, a descendant of humans who were kidnapped and are now the dragons’ slaves.

What if the Legends Are True? Jason Masters doubted the myths that told of people taken through a portal to another realm and enslaved by dragons. But when he receives a cryptic message from his missing brother, he must uncover the truth and find the portal before it’s too late. At the same time, Koren, a slave in the dragons’ realm, discovers she has a gift that could either save or help doom her people. As Jason and Koren work to rescue the enslaved humans, a mystic prophecy surrounding a black egg may make all their efforts futile. In Starlighter, bestselling author Bryan Davis masterfully weaves fantasy and inspiration into a captivating novel for young adults.

Bryan Davis is the author of the bestselling fantasy series Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire and Echoes from the Edge. He and his wife, Susie, have seven children and live in western Tennessee where he continues to cook up his imaginative blend of fantasy and inspiration.


Even though Starlighter is Teen Fiction I enjoyed it. I found the storyline intriguing and unique and I liked the main characters a lot. I found it to be a very easy read but I did talk to a 13 year old friend of mine who had read it and she said she found all the characters confusing and couldn't remember all their names very well. Perhaps it would be more suited to a slightly older group of teens.

I think that both boys and girls would enjoy this book- especially teens who enjoy the fantasy genre. Personally I hope I get a chance to review the rest of the series as it comes out!

Thanks so much to Zondervan for sending me a review copy of this book.


Just tell me if you are a regular fantasy reader or not!


For additional entries you can do any of the following- be sure to LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each thing that you do!

  1. Subscribe to this blog via email (there is a handy link to do that on my sidebar)
  2. Subscribe to this blog via the reader of your choice
  3. Follow this blog on google friend connect
  4. Add my button to your site or add me to your blogroll and leave me a link.
  5. Follow me on Twitter and tweet this giveaway (as many times as you like without annoying all your followers!) Use @Tarasview in your tweet if you would like me to retweet for you.
  6. Become a Fan of my main blog on Facebook
  7. Follow this blog on Networked blogs on Facebook
  8. Share this giveaway on your blog, Facebook or another social networking site of your choosing
  9. email a couple friends about this giveaway
  10. stumble, digg, tag, bookmark, vote up, thumbs up, favourite, mixx, kirtsy, or anything else you can think to do for this site or giveaway (as many as you like- there is a "share" bar at the bottom of this post to make this easier)
  11. publicize this giveaway in any way on any site and let me know that you did (ex. adding it to a Mr. Linky on a giveaway site etc.)

This giveaway is open to readers in CANADA ONLY. I will choose a winner on August 18, 2010.

Winner will be chosen with and notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to reply to my email or I will choose a new winner.


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Barbour Books (July 1, 2010)

Ronie Kendig


Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!

This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series begins in July from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.


After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he

struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restraining order against him and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.

Then a mysterious a man appears. He says he's organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It's a deep-six group known as Nightshade. With

the chance to find purpose in life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.

The team handles everything with precision and lethal skill...until they're called upon to rescue a missionary family from a rebel-infested jungle and

avoid a reporter hunting their identities.

Will Max yield his anger and pride to a force greater than

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

Watch the trailer:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Online With God *review*

Online With God
by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

This 90-day devotional written in blog form focuses on the challenges of growing up in a tech crazy world. This book tackles the Internet, text messages, IM’s, chat rooms, emails, PIX, FLIX, cell phones, and much more, offering positive answers for challenging times.

Put God on Your Buddy List. Finding God in the universe of computers and cell phones isn’t as easy as googling his name, but he’s there all the same. And what girl wouldn’t want him with her as she tries to make her way through a galaxy of emails, text messages, IMs, chat rooms—and middle school relationships? Written as a girl’s personal blog to God, Online with God teaches you how to stay safe while using today’s technology. This ninety-day devotional contains relevant Scripture verses, tips on making safe choices, and prayers for all the confusing times in your life. As you read it, you’ll realize that God listens when you blog as well as when you pray. After all, he’s the Lord of the universe—including cyberspace.

Laurie’s first published work was a note passed to a boy in elementary school. You would have thought that this most embarrassing moment would have stopped her writing career. But instead, Laurie is the author of thirty five books and author/illustrator of two more. Laurie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and two daughters and loves writing surrounded by horses, cattle, dogs, cats, and five turkeys.

Author Website:


This is a well written book for teens. The chapters are just the right length to hold the readers attention- not too long but with excellent life application. Online With God hits on some really great topics that teens today deal with in their daily lives. This book is an excellent way for teens to start learning how to do regular daily devotions.

Thanks so much to Zondervan for sending me a review copy of this book.

Ready, Set, Potty! *review*

 Ready, Set, Potty!

Toilet Training for Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disorders

Brenda Batts

Potty training a child with developmental disorders can be a real challenge, and sometimes the extra difficulties make you feel as though you've tried everything, and failed. In this book, Brenda Batts shows how you can overcome problems, big and small, and provides tried and tested methods that really work, tailored to each individual child.

Bursting with ideas on how to see past conventional strategies and adapt toilet training to suit your child, this book outlines methods that have helped even the most despairing of parents and caregivers. Examples of success stories range from two-year-olds to adults aged 20, and show that no matter how difficult it may seem, a little creativity and adaptation can get anyone toilet trained, however many previous attempts have failed. The program itself is supported by plenty of helpful hints and tips, as Brenda covers all you need to get your child past the diaper stage and help them to achieve a big step towards independence.

This book is a must for anybody looking to toilet train someone with developmental disorders.

September 2010


This is a book I REALLY wish I had had around when I was potty training my son Aiden. Ready, Set, Potty! is filled with fabulous ideas and I am actually going to use some with my daughter Olivia. She is developmentally "normal" but utterly opposed to the idea of using the potty so I am sure the ideas in this book will help.

If you are the parent of a special needs kid be sure to get this book- I am CERTAIN it will be a great help in your quest to toilet train that child!!! It is very easy to read and 100% practical. The ideas are doable for every family. I am happy to recommend Ready, Set, Potty!.

Thanks so much to Jessica Kingsley Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

Never Blame the Umpire *review*

Never Blame the Umpire

By: Gene Fehler  

Eleven-year-old Kate loves baseball, tennis, and writing poetry, but struggles to find joy when tragedy strikes her close-knit family.

Kate is having the best summer a sports-loving eleven-year-old could possibly have. Baseball. Tennis. And to top it off, Kate has just started a three-week class where she’s discovering a new love: poetry. Then comes the news that tears Kate’s world apart. In her close-knit family, Kate has always felt God’s love and protection. But how can she trust God now? Do sports or poetry matter when tragedy strikes? In Kate’s darkest hour, her mother’s faith shines its brightest, helping Kate to see that life is still beautiful and God is still good. Always, no matter what.

Gene Fehler, an award-winning and widely published poet, is the author of ten published books and over eighteen hundred published poems, stories, and articles. He and his wife, Polly, live in Seneca, South Carolina, where he writes, teaches, and participates in sports. Visit Gene at

Author Website:


Never Blame the Umpire is a great book for younger teens. I liked the characters and storyline and it even made me cry! The book has a wonderful message that most of us need to hear. It is a very easy read and is 100% family friendly. I suspect most teen girls would be able to relate to this book and enjoy reading it.

Thanks so much to Zonderkidz for sending me a review copy of this book.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ransomed Dreams

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc for sending me a review copy.***


When the going gets tough—or weird or wonderful—the daydreamer gets going on a new story. Sally John has been tweaking life's moments into fiction since she read her first Trixie Belden mystery as a child.

Now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life. Her passion is to create a family, turn their world inside out, and then portray how their relationships change with each other and with God. Her goal is to offer hope to readers in their own relational and faith journeys.

Sally grew up in Moline, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, married Tim in 1973, and taught in middle schools. She is a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois.

She and her husband currently live in southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414327854
ISBN-13: 978-1414327853


Topala, Mexico

Eighteen months later

Like everything about the small village tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Madres in central Mexico, sunrise was a leisurely event.

Sheridan waited for it, tea mug in hand, shawl over her cotton nightgown, bare feet chilled against the tile floor of the second-story balcony. Alone, she listened in the dark to the squawk of roosters and clung to their promise that the world would once again know light.

“Oh, good grief,” she murmured to herself with a groan. “That is so maudlin. Truly and hopelessly maudlin. You might try something more chipper. Something like . . . Something like . . .” Her foggy brain offered nothing.

She scrunched her nose in defeat. The morning had shuffled in on the heels of a sleepless night. Chipper was not going to happen, no matter how hard she tried to talk herself into it.

If she could turn the calendar back eighteen months, she would not be talking to herself. No. Eliot would be right next to her, responding, most likely pointing out a dozen chipper thoughts in that funny way of his.

Nostalgia and regret hit her, a powerful one-two punch that still took her breath away. She clenched her teeth, waiting for it to pass, mentally spewing forth a verbal attack at the counselor who had promised her that time healed all wounds, that month by month they would see improvement.

What drivel that was! Eighteen months—or to be more precise, seventeen months, three weeks, and two days; but who was counting? All that time had passed and only one thing was healed: Eliot’s gunshot wound. His other wounds, the invisible ones, still oozed like toxins from a waste dump site. He was not the same man she had married.

Sheridan took a deep breath and let the bitter argument go. Nostalgia and regret settled back down into whatever corner of her heart they’d found to hide out in. Their impact, though, lingered.

Would time ever erase her longing for the Eliot she had married? The animated one, the one others adored, the one who was engaged in every detail of life, whether simple or complex, with every person who crossed his path. The one from B.C.E., Before the Caracas Episode. Now, in their A.C.E. days, he might as well be a deaf-mute for all the interest he showed in the world around him.

Sleep-deprived, she totally blamed him. She didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. The bullet that shattered his nerves shattered their life. Everything about it was over. Health, career, home, friends. All gone. Kaput. Some days she barely recognized herself and Eliot. Where were the Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery she once knew? These routines, hometown, health, acquaintances, and even personalities seemed lifted from the pages of some stranger’s biography.

“Oh, honestly. Get over it already, Sher.” She forced a swallow of tea and focused on the scene before her.

A lone sunbeam pierced between two mountain peaks and sliced into the distant mists. Another followed. And another and another until finally pure light broke free. Valleys and canyons burst into sight. Loud birdsong erupted. Then, as if God had uncurled His fist, long fingers of sunlight shot forth and touched the wrought-iron railing where she stood.

It was achingly gorgeous.

Sheridan flicked at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye. “You should have stayed in bed, you foolish, stubborn woman.”

Sunrises were the worst because they represented the best of what had been.

Most days she could ignore that thought. Evidently not today. She and Eliot were morning people. Had been morning people. Their daily ritual of tea and conversation at an east-facing view, awaiting dawn, was seldom missed. With crazy-full schedules, they needed such a time to relate on the deepest levels. Some days their hearts positively danced and sang in union. Naturally, through the years the tune changed now and then, the tempo sped up and slowed down, but the music never stopped. It never stopped. They always talked. They always connected.

Until that day in Caracas.

Now she watched sunrises by herself.

“You really should’ve stayed in bed.”

But it was so beautiful. And it went on and on like a slow waltz. At the bottom of her street now, purple haze still shrouded the town square. The sky brightened in slow motion above it, the fiery ball itself still hiding behind a peak.

Something moved in the semidarkness below. A person. Early risers were not uncommon, but she was startled. Something felt off about this one.

Or was that just her hypervigilance? Compliments of the incident in Caracas, it kicked into gear at times without warning, filling her with anxiety and suspicion.

Now she could see that it was a man. He passed the bandstand, his strides too deliberate for a villager, too American. He headed straight for the steep incline that led up to her house. In city terms, the distance was perhaps a block. In Topala terms, it was simply up beyond the sculptor’s shop.

The sun overtook the peaks and the man came into view.

“No way.” Her heartbeat slowed, but not quite to normal.

Even with his face concealed by a ball cap, his body clothed in a generic khaki jacket and blue jeans, a city block separating them, she recognized him. She recognized him simply because the air vibrated with him.

Luke Traynor owned whatever space he occupied.

Sheridan set the mug on the table beside her, tightened the shawl around her shoulders, and massaged her left arm. She felt no surprise at his unannounced arrival nor at the early hour. It was as if she had always expected him to show up sooner or later.

But as he climbed the narrow street, an uneasiness rose within her. Her muscles tensed. Why was he here? He had promised not to come. Sixteen months ago he promised. Not that she was keeping track. . . .

The sound of a soft whistle drew her attention back toward the square. Javier, the young sculptor, stood on the porch steps outside his shop. Behind him, the handicraft shop owner emerged from his door.

Javier raised his chin in question.

Sheridan gave a half nod. They needn’t be concerned. The stranger was, so to speak, a known quantity. Not that she felt the least bit glad to see Luke. Eliot would most likely be severely distressed at his arrival.

Wishing Luke were an apparition did not make it so. He continued his steady pace, arms swinging gently, head down as if he studied the cobblestones, making his way to her house.

Since that day in Caracas—the day her husband died in every sense except physically, the day this man saved her life—Sheridan had understood intuitively that Luke would always be a part of her life. And there he was, out of the blue, ascending her street in the middle of nowhere on a spring day as if he visited all the time.

She suddenly remembered the date. “Good grief.”

It was Annunciation Day, a day of remembrance, of celebration for when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced her future. How apropos. Luke appeared without warning. He would not have come unless he had something to tell her, some message that would irreversibly change her future.

Was this his joke or God’s?

Luke neared and looked up, straight at her.

She saw not the man whose presence had always triggered apprehension in her, but rather the guardian angel who had saved her life.

Sheridan turned and made her way inside, down the stairs, and through the house.

* * *

Sheridan opened the front door and stopped.

Luke Traynor stood less than six feet away, at the low gate in the stone wall where her front terrace met the steep hill.

She returned his steady gaze, knowing full well her own expression did not mirror the one before her. While dread, relief, and excessive gratitude rearranged every muscle on her face, his remained perfectly composed. The sharp nose, thin lips, and deep-set eyes could have been made of the same cobblestone he stood on.

He flashed a rakish grin. “I was in the neighborhood.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

He cocked his head, somber again. Always the gentleman, he waited for her to make the first move.

Sheridan clutched her shawl more closely and resigned herself to riding out the emotional disarray rumbling through her. She both loathed and loved this man. Of course he knew that, so it didn’t matter how she reacted to him except that she’d like herself better if she were polite.

With a quiet sigh, she walked to him, planted a kiss on his scruffy, unshaven cheek, and eased into his embrace. Nestled against the rough collar of his jacket, she smelled the familiar scent of him, an indescribable mix of earth, sun-drenched air, and confidence that bordered on lunacy. She felt the hardness of his body, always unexpected given his average height and build.

“Sheridan. How are you?”

“Fine.” She backed away, crossing her arms.

“And Eliot?” he said. “How is he?”


Luke blinked, a slow movement of lids indicating he could take the truth.

She wanted to shriek obscenities at him. The disconcerting thing about angels, though, was that it was impossible to keep up any sort of pretense. Like an angel, Luke had stayed close beside her for long weeks after the shooting. He had gone with her to the edge of hell, holding on to her until she came back. He knew her better than she knew herself. Glossing over answers was a waste of time with him.

She tried another phrase. “We’re doing about as well as could be expected.”

He nodded.

“Eliot is still asleep.”

“It’s early. Perhaps I can greet him later.”

The resistance drained from her. Yes, Gabriel had come to deliver a message, and he would not leave until he’d done so.

She had no inkling how to shield Eliot and herself from this unexpected source of distress but gave a lame attempt. “I don’t suppose you’re passing through town and simply must be on your way right now, this very minute?”


She inhaled, her shoulders lifting with the effort, and blew the breath out with force. “Coffee?”

“Love some.”

Excerpted from Ransomed Dreams by Sally John. Copyright 2010 by Sally John. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gotta Have It!

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis of The B&B Media Groupfor sending me a review copy.***


Dr. Gregg Jantz is the founder of The Center—A Place of Hope and the best-selling author (with Ann McMurray) of 25 books including Hope, Help, and Healing for Eating Disorders. His center is a leading healthcare facility in the Seattle, Washington area and specializes in whole-person care serving clients internationally.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766241
ISBN-13: 978-1434766243


A Toddler’s Tale

These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. (Isa. 30:9)

Who hasn’t viewed an irate toddler in a store, yelling at the top of his tiny lungs, demanding the object of his heart’s desire? In the mind of that boy, he needs the candy, the toy, the bag, the box, or whatever. In

his mind, what he wants is what he needs.

Recently, I found myself in the grocery store at the end of a long day, needing to pick up milk on my way home from work. I was tired, distracted, and just wanted to be home. It turns out I wasn’t the only unhappy person in that store. A couple of aisles over, a little girl began keening loudly. I admit, grocery stores are incubators of human nature that I find irresistible, so—milk temporarily forgotten—I walked over to observe.

Usually I’m most interested in how the adult in the situation deals with the child. Believe me, over the years I’ve seen a variety of styles—some that have made me smile and some that have made me cringe. This time, however, I was focused on the child. This two-year-old was gesturing desperately, fingers extended, at some object just out of reach. The important thing to me wasn’t what she was looking at, but rather how she was seeing it. In her mind, the object wasn’t a mere want—it had become a need. When her mother denied it to her, she became absolutely bereft, carrying on in a way only a despondent, denied toddler can.

As I made my way to the dairy section, through the checkout line, and back into my car, I kept thinking about how this kind of behavior is typical of small children. But I had to ask myself—do we ever really get over that?

Fast-forward into adulthood and you’ll find the same thing: wants masquerading as needs. When we were two, we cried out to a parent to fill our heartfelt desires; as adults we endeavor to fill them ourselves. Once a desire has been categorized as a need, we’re pretty resourceful at finding a way to fill it—even when our methods are addictive, damaging, or hurtful. In our current credit-card-toting, get-it-now-but-pay-for-it-later society, we’re about as happy with the words no and not now as that bawling two-year-old.

Add to that our concept of “rights.” Once we’ve identified a desire as a need, we tend to demand the right to fill that need. Deep down, we seem to acknowledge that a desire doesn’t quite meet the level of a basic need. Desires can be selfish, but a need is always a moral necessity. Once our desire gets translated into a need, it becomes a necessity in our lives; we’re pretty militant about getting that newly defined need met.

This leads me to a question: Are you ready to take a deep, hard look at your own self-identified needs? I’ve found generally people haven’t really done any sort of intentional, directed work in this area. Mainly, they have a vaguely articulated sense of what they consider needs in their lives. Sometimes the only true way to determine how you really look at a particular aspect of your life—as a desire or as a need—is through your behaviors and your willingness or unwillingness to change. We’re willing to change, postpone, modify, or even relinquish a desire; we tend to take an over-my-dead-body approach to anything we think is a need.

Lest you think this book is only going to be about what you think or I think, I want to establish the overriding theme we’ll be using, which doesn’t come from you or me. The theme of this book comes from Jesus, speaking to a crowd of people very much like us, with desires and needs and a difficult time differentiating between the two. They were just as apt to run after desires masquerading as needs. In Matthew 6:31–33, Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Even if we don’t have a good handle on what our needs are, God does. And not only is He God, He’s also our Father. And as a father, He’s generous. He knows our needs, and He has a plan to supply them—and much more as well.

Background Noise

Have you ever experienced the sheer relief that silence brings? There are days, with two rambunctious boys in my house, when the noise reaches an incredible decibel. Now don’t get me wrong, I love to be

right there in the mix with them. But there’s something about the calm and serenity silence brings. There are times silence is just what my jangled senses need to be still and hear God.

In some ways, all of the excessities of life come with their own noise. They fill up our lives but leave no room for silence and contemplation, for rest and relief. God, when He fills us up, does so through a whisper, through the breath of the Spirit. A little of God goes a lot further than a great deal of anything else. King David put it this way in Psalm 84:10: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” When we feed on God, we diminish our compulsion to binge on anything else. Just as a toddler must trust a parent to know how to supply true needs, we, as children of God, must look to our heavenly Father to do the same. Our challenge is to approach God, our Father, with the faith and trust of a child.

The Bottom Line from Job

There is a story in the Old Testament book of Job about a man who faced this question of what is a desire and what is a need. This man, Job, is literally stripped of all of the things that made up his life. It is not an easy book to read or understand, but it’s very instructive in determining desires verses needs.

At the beginning of the book God and Satan have a discussion about Job, and God agrees to allow Satan to test Job’s commitment to God. In the first test, God allows Satan to take away all of Job’s possessions, including his children, but doesn’t allow him to harm Job physically. In the course of a single day, all of Job’s livestock, sheep, camels, servants, and children are killed or taken away from him. At the end of this single day, Job still praises God.

Not to be deterred, Satan comes again and this time asks to remove Job’s health from him. God agrees but says Satan may not take his life. Satan promptly strikes Job with painful boils from head to foot.

God establishes the bottom line with Satan where Job is concerned. Throughout the book of Job, no matter what else happens to him, Job has his physical needs met enough for him to continue to live. Job’s desires for understanding, vindication, relief, and restoration have to wait. With nearly everything taken away from him, it becomes clearer to see what constitutes a true need. In our own lives, we need that kind of clarity.

Unraveling Needs and Wants

It can be very difficult to determine what you consider a desire and a need in your life. When asked, you may give what you think should be the right answer instead of the truth. You may admit, reluctantly, that you don’t really need your morning coffee. However, when faced with the choice of being late to work because the line at the Starbucks is eight cars deep or going without your morning beverage … well … “It’s just work.” You may concede that your late-night snack of cookies and ice cream is not really a need, but you’ll leave your house at 9:47 at night with a coat over your pajamas to drive to the store in

order to replenish your Ben & Jerry’s.

Desires are things you want; you can do without them, but you still want them. Life goes on in their absence, but having them would certainly enhance it. Needs, however, have a greater sense of urgency.

A desire deferred is inconvenient, even uncomfortable, but a need denied is depravation. So, how can we trust that what we define as a need is really a need? And how can we be honest about what category our perceived needs actually fall into?

It’s difficult for us to put ourselves in Job’s position because of the extreme devastation of what Job initially experiences. So let’s go for something a little bit easier. I’d like you to take a moment and think about life on a desert island. I’m not really thinking of the Swiss Family Robinson type of island. If you’ve seen the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks, this is the picture I’m working toward. I want you to picture yourself stranded on a desert island, in the middle of nowhere, with very few resources. You need to survive—yes, survival is a bona fide need. So, what do you need to survive? (Because you’re on the planet, assume you’ve got something to breathe so you can move past that most primal need of life, oxygen.) Write down your top three needs:

What I would need in order to survive




If I were to answer this question myself, I’d say water, food, and shelter are my primary needs. Actually, these are pretty much what Jesus mentioned in the Matthew 6 passage. He put it as what to eat, what to drink, and what to wear. (Clothing is really a form of shelter, so I’m going to accept the similarity.) Those are pretty basic. In fact, outside of this prosperous nation of ours, a good deal of the human population spends a large portion of their time and energy searching after these basic needs. Go too long without water and you die of thirst. Go too long without food and you die of hunger. Go too long without shelter and you die of exposure. Needs can be determined by how essential they are to sustaining life.

Ahhhh, there’s the dilemma, isn’t it? When we consider what is essential to life, we aren’t always talking about physical life, are we? We have an emotional, relational, and spiritual life to go with this physical one. So, go back and relabel your needs list as “My Physical Needs.”

Now, I want you to come up with at least three needs under each of the other categories.

My Emotional Needs:




My Relational Needs:




My Spiritual Needs:




Under emotional needs, you might have such things as optimism, hope, joy. Relational needs might include things like acceptance, affirmation, forgiveness. And for spiritual needs, perhaps you listed things like faith, trust, praise. I share these with you not to say that these are definitive answers, but to give you an idea of the types of things you could choose. Again, I find that many people have never done this type of inventory, let alone put intentional thought into dealing with these types of questions.

Going back to our desert-island exercise, we’ve already established what our physical needs are, but, as Jesus said in Luke 4:4, referencing Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone.” So, let’s say you’ve got your physical needs taken care of. You’ve got food to eat, water to drink, and shelter from the elements. What other three things would you personally want (or desire) to survive on that island?

What I would want in order to survive:




After thinking about it myself, here’s what I’d want: a Bible, a purpose, and a chance of escape. Even though we’ve categorized these as wants (or desires), they’re still pretty important. I doubt any of you

would seriously put lattes and ice cream on this list. When reduced to choices of these kinds, those behaviors are pretty easy to label.

Short of being stranded on a desert island or experiencing a Jobtype catastrophe, it can be difficult to stop long enough to make sense of our busy lives. That’s what this book is designed to help you do. In the next chapter, we’re going to start by looking at the most common ways I’ve seen over my twenty-five years in counseling that people try to fill themselves up. These ways all have a similar “if some is good, more is better” deception, leading to compulsive, impulsive behavior.

Next, we’re going to begin to identify our real needs because every person who engages in excessive behavior has a true need at the core of that behavior. By discovering what those core needs are, we can detach the power of the need from the excess of the behavior and begin meeting the need in a positive, healing way. Finally, we’ll look at the gifts God gives us to meet our true needs. We’ll bring the words of Jesus from Matthew 6 full circle and learn how to live with our needs fulfilled as we seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

Stars In The Night

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stars In The Night
Summerside Press (July 1, 2010)

Cara Putman


A Word From Cara:

I graduated from high school at sixteen, college at 20, and completed my law degree when I was 27.

My writing journey started in 2005 when I decided to write my first novel. Now I have eleven books published with more on the way.

People say I've accomplished a lot and that I must have life by the proverbial tail. Hardly! I grew up as a home schooled kid when home schoolers were misunderstood and oddities.

I struggle with balancing my writing and law career, plus being a good mom and wife.

I often fear people won't like my books.

I've walked through the deep pain of miscarriage.

Really, I'm just like you – I don't have it all together and have gone through tough times. But in His strength, I've discovered a strength I never knew I had. A strength I want you to discover, too.

In the end I'm just an ordinary mom who has seen God do some wonderful things as I've been obedient to step into the calling He's led me into.

Stars in the Night Background

Stars in the Night was an idea that had begun to percolate in my mind. I’d written two World War II series and was actively looking for my next setting. My husband, a huge World War II history buff, and I were kicking ideas around, and I’d decided Hollywood was probably the next place for me. I’d gone to the library and gotten a stack of research books when I got the call. An editor I knew but had never worked with wanted to know if I might be interested in a new line they were starting. As we talked, I got so excited. And then she emailed me their guidelines, which listed that Hollywood was a location they were interested in setting books.

Only God could have known ahead of time. But because I followed His prompting I was ready to run with an idea. Stars in the Night is the result.


Hollywood 1942. When attorney Audra Schaeffer's sister disappears, Audra flies to Hollywood to find her.

Any day Audra might have been flattered by the friendly overtures of Robert Garfield, a real-life movie star. But on the flight from Indianapolis to Hollywood, Audra can think of little else than finding her missing sister. When Audra arrives in the city of glitz and glamour, and stars, and learns her rising starlet sister has been murdered, all thoughts of romance fly away.

Determined to bring the killer to justice, Audra takes a job with the second Hollywood Victory Caravan.

Together with Robert Garfield and other stars, she crisscrosses the southern United States in a campaign to sell war bonds. When two other women are found dead on the train, Audra knows the deaths are tied to that of her sister.

Could the killer be the man with whom she's falling in love?

If you'd like to read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Stars In The Night, go HERE.

Contest: Lots of opportunities to win and great prizes, and the grand prize contains some of Cara's favorite classic movies as well as all of her WWII novels: Launch Contest!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Bethany House (July 1, 2010)


Anne Elisabeth Stengl


Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.


Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. When Una makes the wrong choice, catastrophe ensues for the princess and her family, and love, courage, and trust are needed when darkness engulfs the kingdom.

Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

There are some delightful things and scenes: the Twelve-Year Market that appears in its own good time and sells fairy goods; a clever blind cat who is invariably underfoot and has, of course, a secret!

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010


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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***


Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children and a Golden Retriever. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers.

Visit the author's website and her book website,.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160260777X
ISBN-13: 978-1602607774



Crazy lights swirled against the evening sky. Day morphed into the merriment of night. Cotton candy and hot dogs. Teens decked out in Goth gear contrasted sharply with young couples dragged from ride to ride by squealing offspring. White smeared over a man’s face as red encircled his mouth. Like a giant maraschino cherry, his nose squawked when a child squeezed it. He threw his head back and laughed. The little boy stood perplexed, as if uncertain whether to laugh or break into tears.

Olin Lambert shifted on the park bench as a parade of kids trailed the balloon-toting clown through the park. He glanced at his watch. His contact was la—

The boards under his legs creaked. A man dressed in a navy jogging suit joined him.

“You almost missed the fun.” Olin tossed a few kernels of popcorn into his mouth.

Rolling his shoulders, the man darted his gaze around the carnival insanity. “You know how dangerous this is? What it took for me to get out here without being seen?”

The danger and risk to his contact were no greater than what was stacked up against Olin. They both had a lot to lose—careers, reputations, families. . . . “We could leave now.”

“You know this has to happen.”

After a sip of his diet cola, Olin stuffed the half-full bag of popcorn on top of the overflowing trash bin. He wiped his hands and turned back to the man. “So, the body count’s finally high enough?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “I’m here. That should tell you something.”

“Indeed.” Olin waited as the ice cream vendor wheeled his musical cart past. “I need full autonomy for me and my team.”

Music burst forth as swings whirled occupants in a monotonous circle. A performer tossed flaming sticks and maneuvered one down his throat, swallowing the flames. Ohs wafted on the noisy, hot wind from the audience gathered around him. A scream pierced the night—a woman startled by another clown.

“Okay, fine. Just get on with this. I’m a sitting duck out here.” He rubbed his hands and glanced around.

Olin swiped his tongue along his teeth, took a draught of his soda, then slumped back against the slats. “I want it in writing. Two copies. Mine. Yours.”

The man shook his head. “No trails.”

The corner of Olin’s mouth quirked up. “You’ve already got one.” He nodded to the ice cream vendor, who reached over the register and tapped a sign with a hole in the center where a camera hid.

A curse hissed through the night. “You’d bleed me out if you could.”

“Whatever it takes to protect these men.”

Eyeing him, the man hesitated. “The men? Or you?”

“One and the same. If they’re protected, I’m protected. Whatever happens out there, we’re not going to take the fall for it.”

“If it goes bad, someone will get blamed.”

Olin pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. “More dust has been swept under the proverbial Capitol Hill carpet than anyone will ever admit. You have to decide: Is the cost high enough? How many more lives are you willing to sacrifice?”


On his feet, Olin tugged up the hood of his jacket. “Then we’re through.”

The man caught his elbow. “Sit down.”

Teeth clamped, Olin returned to the bench. He bent forward and rubbed his hands together, more than ready to forget he’d ever tried to deal with this man, the only man with enough power on the Hill and the right connections to both fund and authorize deep-six missions. Missions nobody wanted to acknowledge.

The din of merriment swallowed the silence between them. A beat cop worked the scene, glancing their way as he walked, no doubt making a mental note to watch them.

“Get me their names. I’ll write a carte blanche.”

Olin’s gut twisted. “Not happening.” If he revealed the names of his elite, he would essentially place them on individual crosses to be crucified by some politician who got wind of this or by someone far more dangerous—media—if something went south. “Project Overlook happens under my guidance with all the freedom and resources I need, or it doesn’t happen and you have one heckuva mess to clean up.”

“If I do this, I could get put away for a long time, Lambert.”

“And a million people will die if you don’t.”

“We should sit back and let Congress grant the authorization to go in there.”

A deep-chested laugh wormed through Olin. “You’ve been around too long to believe that. Thick bellies and big heads crowd the halls of the Hill. They want the power and none of the responsibility.” Had he been wrong in talking to the man next to him? What if he went to the Hill and spilled the news about Project Overlook? They’d be dead before the elite soldiers he had in mind could get their feet wet.

He let out a long exhale. “If you aren’t going to pony up, this conversation is over. You contacted me because you knew I could take care of this little snafu. So let us go in and quell this before it destroys more and the body count rivals 9/11.”

He eyed Olin, a slow grin cracking his lips. “You’ve always impressed me, Lambert, even though you’re Army.”

“Navy lost the last game, Admiral.” Olin let his gaze rake the scene around him. “These men are fully capable, and the situation can be tamed before anyone is the wiser. We don’t have time to wrangle the pundits. Let’s get it done, Mr. Chairman, sir.”

Chairman Orr stood and zipped his jacket. “You’ll have it by morning.”

Chapter 1

Cracking open the throttle ignited a wild explosion of power and speed. Zero to sixty in less than three seconds left Max Jacobs breathless. Gut pressed to the spine of his Hayabusa, he bore down the mountainous two-lane road away from civilization, away from . . . everything. Here only pine trees, concrete and speed were his friends.

His bike screamed as it ate up the road. The thrill burst through him. He needed the rush. Craved it. Stop running, Max. Her words stabbed his conscience. Made him mad.

Rounding a bend, he slowed and sighted the drop-off in the road—remembered a full 10% grade, straight down. His gaze bounced between the speedometer and the cement. Common sense told him to decelerate. The boiling in his veins said otherwise.

He twisted the throttle.


Max leaned into the bike and felt the surge.


He sucked in a breath as he sped toward the break.

The road dropped off. The Hayabusa roared as the wheels sailed out. He tried to grip the handlebars tighter as nothing but tingling Virginia oxygen enveloped him. Silence gaped.

This could be it. This could end it all. No more pain. No more life without Syd . . .

Take me. Just take me.

The Hayabusa plummeted.

Straight down. Concrete. Like a meteor slamming to earth.

The back tire hit. A jolt shot through the bike. Then the front tire bounced. Rattling carried through the handlebars and into his shoulders. He grabbed the brake—

Stupid! The brake locked. Rear tire went right. He tried to steer into the skid but momentum flipped him up. Over. Pops snapped through his back as he spiraled through the air. In the chaos his bike gave chase, kicking and screaming as it tore after him.

Crack! Pop! The sound of his crashing bike reverberated through the lonely country lane. Scenery whirled. Pine trees whipped into a Christmas-color frosting. Tree bark blurred into a menagerie of browns, drawing closer and closer.

Thud! His head bounced off the cement. He flipped again.

Finally. It’d be over. He closed his eyes. No more—

THUD! “Oof.” The breath knocked from his lungs. Pain spiked his shoulders and spine. Fire lit across his limbs and back as he slid from one lane to another. Down the road, spinning. Straight toward the trees.

He winced, arched his back. Kicking, he tried to gain traction. If he wasn’t going to die, he didn’t want to end up paralyzed. Just like you not to think it through.

He dumped into a ditch.


Everything went black.

He blinked. Pain shrieked through his body, his thighs and shoulders burning. “Argh!”

Max pried himself onto all fours, hanging his head. A crack rent the face shield. A wicked throb pulsed through his temples and . . . everywhere. He fought with the helmet. Growled as he freed the straps. He pawed it off, cursing at the thing for saving his life. Those head whacks as he somersaulted through the air should’ve punched a hole in his skull. Warmth dribbled down his brow. He pressed a palm against his forehead. Sticky and warm. Blood. He grunted and strained to look across the road. Mangled. Twisted. His bike. Him.

Why couldn’t God just let him die? Humanity would be one up, and he wouldn’t have to face his consummate failures in life. “Just let me go!” he growled and pounded a fist against the pavement. He’d do anything to go back to the Middle East, pump some radicals full of lead, and unleash the demon inside. Anything that told him he still had purpose in life.

But that wasn’t an option anymore. Another bad choice. Could he get anything right? Maybe his father had been right to up and leave them. Just like his mother.

A glimmer of light snagged his attention. Less than a mile down the road, a black SUV barreled up the road from town. Max tensed. He’d seen a vehicle like that three times in the last week. But out here? In the middle of nowhere, invading his self-inflicted punishment? This wasn’t a coincidence. And he didn’t like being hunted.

Max dragged himself into the trees, wincing. Using his forearm, he wiped the blood from his face. Why? Why couldn’t he just die? Nothing here for him. No reason.

Sydney. . .

He banged the back of his head against the tree. Pain drove through him like an iron rod. Good. It felt good to hurt. A relief to the agony inside.

Glass popping and crunching snapped his attention to the road. The SUV sat like a giant spider. He wondered who was in the vehicle as he eased farther into the foliage. A carpet of pine needles concealed his steps. He glanced back to the intruder.

The SUV shifted as a man climbed out. Large, African American, and an expression that said he didn’t mess around. Whatever the guy wanted, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. At least not easily.

Even from ten yards away, Max could see the muscle twitching in the man’s jaw. He swallowed and licked his lips, readying himself for a confrontation. He swung back and gazed up at the canopy of leaves. Could he hoof it back to his apartment? Gathering his strength, he shrugged out of the shredded leather jacket, wincing and grunting as it pulled against raw flesh.

“You through? Or you want another go at it?”

What? Max peered around the trunk, surprised to find the man at the edge of the road, hands on his hips as he stared into the trees.

“We took you for stronger.” The man glanced back at the bike. “But maybe you’re nothing but broke and no use to no one.”

Heart thumping, Max jerked back and clenched his teeth. Who was this joker?

“So, what’s it going to be, Jacobs? You ready to face a little reality?”

How does he know my name? “Who are you?” Max hissed as the tree rubbed his raw shoulder. “What do you want?”


Max drew the SOG knife from his pocket and opened it. Holding it down, he pushed into the open, making sure his injuries didn’t show him weak. “What’s the game?”

The man’s eyebrow arched. He angled his left shoulder forward, tugged up his sweater’s sleeve, and flexed his oversized bicep. A tattoo expanded across his muscle. Marine. Force Recon, if Max made out the symbol correctly.

An ally? As he struggled out of the ditch and back onto the road, Max collapsed the blade. Heat rose from the cement, aggravating the exposed flesh on his back and legs.

“Navy and Marines, you and me. Almost brothers. It’s the Rangers I don’t like. So, I forgive you for coming at me with a blade. This time.”

Max stared. Confusion—and pain—wrapped a tight vise around his skull.

“What’s it going to be, squid?” The guy pointed to the wreck of a bike on the road. “You don’t have a ride back to town. So why don’t you climb in and listen to what I have to say?”

Might ignore the nickname jab, but the guy assumed too much. “You flash a tattoo and think I’ll just bend my knee? I don’t think so.” A silent brotherhood had closed Max’s knife. But he didn’t want company. The oaf’s or anyone else’s. But how else would he get home?

“What? You think you’re going home? To your can opener and mattress?”

Mr. Recon had a point. Still, he knew too much, and that made Max stiffen—fiery shards prickling his back.

“No obligation. Show me a little respect, and just hear me out.”

At least, as the man had said, he’d have a ride. Eyes on the large man, Max pocketed the knife as he trudged to the other side of the SUV and opened the door.

He paused at the plastic covering the seat. He jerked his gaze to the driver.

Mr. Force Recon grinned. “You’re predictable, Jacobs.”

Max lowered himself onto the seat, cringing as new fire crawled over his back and legs. He buckled in, the irony of the seat belt crossing his mind. “So what’s this about? Why have you been following me?”

A crisp cologne swirled in the air-conditioned interior as Mr. Recon folded himself behind the steering wheel. “You’ve been recruited, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Max snorted. “Already did my time. I’m out.” He gulped against the flurry of emotions within.

“Yeah? How’s that working out for you?”

Glaring, Max resisted the urge to thrust his SOG into the guy’s gut. He’d left the service for Sydney. Only it’d been too late. And in one fell swoop, he lost everything. “Why don’t you tell me? You seem to know everything.”

Mr. Recon pursed his lips and nodded. “Okay.” He rubbed his jaw. “You were discharged ninety days ago. In that time, you’ve been arrested twice, once for fighting. The second time—less than three days ago—for assault against your now-estranged wife.”

The words cut deeper and stung worse than his now-oozing flesh. Max looked at his hand and flexed his fingers.

“Yesterday you were hit with a permanent protective order by said wife. She filed for separation.” He leaned on the console and again arched that eyebrow. “How am I doing?”

“If you knew anything about me, you’d dull your edge.”

Wrist hooked over the steering wheel, Mr. Recon continued unfazed. “The military discharged you. Honorably. A veteran of two wars. Untold combat situations and medals. They tried to put you out medically two years ago, but you fought it.”

“And won.”

“Yessir.” The man nodded for several seconds. “So, why now? Why’d you let them put you out this time?”

Max shoved his gaze to the heavily tinted windows. That was a story nobody needed to hear. Bury it six feet under and walk away.

“You’re a discarded hero, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Head whipped back to the driver, Max fought the urge to light into the guy. But something in the amused eyes betrayed a camaraderie. An understanding. Acceptance.

“Who are you? What’s your story?”

“Name’s Griffin.” He bobbed his head as they pulled onto the highway, driving east toward the Potomac. “My story. . . ?” A toothy grin. “Let’s just say I got smart.”

The sound of crinkling and rustling plastic pervaded the cabin as Max shifted to alleviate a pinprick fire shooting down his leg. He hissed and clamped a hand over his thigh. “So, what’s the gig?”

“The gig is whatever nobody else will do. What you should ask about is our group—and I do mean our group, Lieutenant. Because you are fully a part of this. Are you ready to step out of the medical trappings of your discharge, of the devastation that has become your life since you’ve returned from your last tour?”

Max grunted. “Yesterday.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” Tires thumped over docks as Griffin steered into a warehouse. “Then this is where it starts.”

Elite soldiers stood in a semicircle, waiting. For what, Max wasn’t sure. And he wouldn’t ask. If his guess was right, then time would tell—because Griffin seemed to be the guy in the know, and his relaxed posture against the SUV said things were going according to plan.

“Hey, dude, want me to look those over?” A blond guy dressed in khaki shorts, a faded tank, and a pair of flip-flops motioned to Max’s scrapes and lacerations.

Right. Beach bum wanted to play nurse. “I’m good.”

“About as good as a dog in a meat grinder,” the guy replied.

Max clenched his teeth. Whatever kind of circus Griffin was running. . .

A diesel engine growled, the sound reverberating off the aluminum in the cavernous space, preempting the shiny blue dualie truck pulling into the dank building. The engine cut. A guy stepped out and donned a black cowboy hat that added about five inches to his six-foot-two frame.

Griffin’s laugh rumbled as he pushed off his SUV. “Colton.”

A broad grin spilled under the rim of the man’s Stetson. “Hey.” The two clasped hands and patted backs. “How’s Dante?”

A quiet dialogue carried between the two for several minutes that effectively cut out the rest of those gathered. Yeah, they had a friendship, one that said they trusted each other with more than superficial things. Something about the tight bond rankled Max. Hit deep.

“Why are we here?”

Max’s gaze bounced to the shortest and youngest of the six men in the building. The Kid had read his thoughts. A warehouse full of warriors? This setup smelled rotten.

“If you’ll be patient—” Griffin paused and glanced behind him. “I think it’s time.”

A black Chrysler 300 glided into the middle of the grouping. The hollow clunk of an opening door echoed off the steel rafters and grime-laden windows. A man emerged. White hair feathered back. A sun-bronzed nose sported dark-tinted sunglasses. The thud of the door almost swallowed the crunching of his squeaky shoes. New, expensive shoes. Maybe even tailor-made. He gripped the rim of his glasses and drew them off.

Was the old man supposed to mean something? Be someone who mattered? Irritation skittered along Max’s shoulders as the old man shook hands with Riddell and the cowboy.

“Who’s the hoo-hah?” Max mumbled to himself.

“You kidding me, man?” The blond look at him and smirked. “That’s—”

“For those not enlightened,” an authoritative voice cut through the surfer’s explanation, “my name is General Olin Lambert. I am a member of the Joint Chiefs. But among the seven of us, I am merely a citizen of the United States just like you.” Blue eyes probed each man.

Right into Max’s soul.

“With Mr. Riddell’s help, I’ve hand-chosen each and every one of you for a very specific purpose. There isn’t anything about you or your lives that I don’t know.” Lambert paused, as if to let his words sink in, but Max just wished he’d get on with it. Scabs were forming on his scrapes.

“Chosen us for what, ese?” asked the Hispanic man.

“A black ops team.”

And that meant two things: military and that this meeting was over. Max turned and started walking.

“It’s not military, Mr. Jacobs.”

Hesitation held him at the large, garage-style door he’d entered. “How can you do black ops without military aid, intelligence, and backup?” He turned around, ignoring what felt like glass stuck to his calves and thighs.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t have aid or intelligence.” Creases pinched Lambert’s eyes at the corners. “I said it’s not military.”

“Come again?” the beach bum asked, disbelief coloring his words.

“Let the general explain.” Griffin leaned back against the truck with his cowboy buddy.

“Thank you, Mr. Riddell.” Lambert tucked his sunglasses in his left breast pocket, then threaded his fingers in front of him. Impressive and commanding. “Each of you has returned from combat changed, affected.”

Nervous glances skidded from man to man. Max glued his attention to the general, refusing to acknowledge the truth of Lambert’s words.

“You’re what I’ve dubbed discarded heroes.”

Grunts of approval rang through the building, and the group seemed to tighten in around the old man. Being a general, he knew what it was like to have slanted glances of pity from those who knew where you’d been, what you’d probably done, and what it was like to go against a politically correct ideology and fight for freedom on foreign soil. Or to have some tree hugger spit in your face and call you a murderer.

“You served your time, saw and experienced things no normal person would be expected to deal with. Sure, you were trained. Taught to expect evil. Demanded success. However, when confronted with the true terrors of war, no human mind can dissolve the images embedded in memory for all time.

“Then it’s time to get out. They yank you back here, give you a once-over, and toss you out with a ‘thank you very much and have a good life.’ So you go home, try to reintegrate into society, and—”

“It’s screwed up,” the Kid said. He shrugged when the others scowled at him. “Well? I’m right, aren’t I? From what I heard you saying earlier,” he pointed to the beach bum, “you’ve spent time in Afghanistan—a lot.” Then to the Latino, “You probably did your tours of duty in Panama or the like.” His gaze came to Max.

“Don’t.” Fists balled, Max willed his feet to remain in place. He didn’t want anyone digging in his brain.

“Mr. Vaughn is correct,” Lambert said. “You’ve all seen combat. You’ve all been trained to kill; then you come back, and what do you do with those skills but go out of your mind?”

Max shifted. Was it over yet? He eyed the wide-open berth to freedom behind the blue dualie.

“Max Jacobs.”

Hearing his name felt like a detonation that blasted his attention back to the general.

“You served eight years with the SEALs. Your experience in command and combat no doubt left indelible scars. Watched your best friend toss himself on a grenade to save the team.”

Bile pooled at the back of Max’s throat as the memory surged. He flared his nostrils, pushing the images back into the pit from which they’d been drawn.

Lambert stalked the inner perimeter, as if prepping troops for war with a pep talk. “Lieutenant Jacobs is the man I’ve chosen as team leader, but his position is no more valuable than anyone else’s. You’ve all seen war. In this building are years of tactical experience. Incredible wisdom. And one element that makes each of you vital for this to work.”

“What’s that?” Cowboy asked, his arms folded over his thick chest.

“Loyalty, Mr. Neeley. Your duty with the Marine Special Operations Team is bloated with exemplary conduct, commendation after commendation.” He waved his hand around the cozy circle. “I’ve reviewed all of your files and found the same thing in every one.”

Awkward silence cooled some of the tension in the room, and once again Max eyed the exit.

“Mr. Reyes, your career as a pararescue jumper, specifically your medic skills, saved dozens of lives.”

“Pair o’ what?” Cowboy taunted.

“Hey,” Reyes grinned. “You’re just jealous. I’m a PJ. Why you think they call me Fix?”

“Because you put everyone in one?” Griffin chuckled, eliciting more laughter.

“Nah, man. It’s ’cause of this,” he said as he drew out a crucifix from his shirt and kissed it. “My crucifix. They called me Cru at first, then since I’m a medic, they started calling me Fix.”

Swallowing his groan, Max ran a hand through his short crop. Religion and military. This was starting to feel worse than an AA meeting. And there wasn’t a point. “This is a lot of flowery, moving discourse, but what do you want from us?” Max mentally shook off the way the others looked at him. Was he the only one who was still waiting for the boom to lower?

“Mr. Riddell, if you please.” Lambert pointed to the black SUV as Griffin opened the tailgate. “Give each man one.”

Griffin handed out small black packs that bore a lone symbol. A strange star backed by a sword and wings. The Kid, the Beach Bum, and the Latino dug into the packs, almost excited. In seconds, a black phone, keys, a watch, and a set of duds spilled across the gray cement floor in front of them.

Max remained in place, his pack dangling from his clenched fist. He didn’t like being played. And this definitely felt like a setup.

General Lambert faced him. “Is there a problem, Mr. Jacobs?”

He dropped his pack onto the floor. “Not seeing the point.”

Behind the general, Griffin seemed to grow several inches as he towered over the aged officer. “What?” he growled. “You want to take another nose-dive off that hill? Hope this time there’s only enough of you left to fill a baggie? Want to make that estranged wife of yours a widow before you can be called a failure?”

Hands coiled, Max drew up his shoulders. Saw red. No. No. He wouldn’t give in to the goading. He dragged his attention back to the general.

“Ease up, Legend,” Cowboy said, patting Griffin’s chest. “Give the guy a chance.” Lambert remained unwavering. “The point, Lieutenant, is to establish a team that can penetrate hostile situations without any entanglements, without any blame on the good ol’ US-of-A or any other entity or government. You returned from two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a covert mission nobody in this room will ever know about. You were the best, a natural, your CO said. But you were so volatile after those experiences took their toll they tried to discharge you, and your compatriots nicknamed you after a volatile chemical. Somehow you held it together. Then jumped ship out of the blue.” More than recitation of information lurked behind the general’s blue eyes. A knowing—no, an understanding, quiet and unnerving. “Tell me, Mr. Jacobs, what are you doing with your life now?”

“Minding my own business,” Max answered through tight lips.

Lambert laughed. “And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing as part of my team. Funding isn’t a problem. You’ll have unlimited resources.”

“That’d be a change,” the Kid grumbled.

“To go where?” the Beach Bum asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” the Kid interrupted. “Man, how is this any different than military? Igot out for a reason.”

“You’ll go wherever needed.” The general turned toward the younger man. “Yes, Mr. Vaughn, you did get out for a reason. Tell me, did abandoning the one thing you loved the most give you the love of your father after all?”

The Kid paled.

“Why?” Max couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why are you doing this? What’s this thing to you?”

Lambert lowered his head then looked back at Max. “I am. . .discarded just like you.”

“Bull.” Max tucked his hands under his arms. “You sit in a cushy chair in a carpeted office. You’re paid, you’re connected—”

“I know what you guys have been through.” The general tapped his temple. “MAC-V SOG in Nam. Two tours.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. That meant the man before him had likely seen more carnage than the rest of them put together.

“Heard the phrase ‘peace with honor’?”

Max shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Who hasn’t?”

“It was a platitude.” Lambert’s eyes flamed under his passion. “The armchair generals lost the war, not the grunts on the ground. We won every battle they let us win. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re the only guy who comes home from your unit with all his parts and pieces still connected where God put ’em.

“I may not be young, I may not have done combat tours in Iraq like you, Lieutenant, but I was tossed aside, too. For years I languished.” The general pushed to his feet, his voice thick and his eyes weighted by the story. “But I slowly remembered that I’d joined the military for a reason—I wanted to be a man. A real man willing to defend my country with life and limb. I knew then I could screw up my career or I could do my best to make a difference in the lives of those who came after.”

Silence hung rank and thick in the abandoned warehouse. Something akin to admiration leaked past Max’s barriers as he watched the indignant rise and fall of the old man’s chest. A smile threatened his resolve as the old man glared at the hulking men around him.

Lambert’s lips tightened over a clean-shaven jaw. “What’s it going to be, gentlemen? Do you have what it takes to finish the fight with the gift God gave you? Or are you going to turn tail, accept what the government stamped on your papers, and leave—go quietly into the night?”

“Whoa-hoa!” Laughing, Beach Bum stepped forward. “Old Man’s got some fire under that shiny dome.”

Lambert spun toward the bum. “What’s it going to be, Sergeant Metcalfe?”

The blond pursed his lips, considered Lambert, then nodded. “I’m in.”

The bright blue eyes shifted to the Latino.

“You need some CPR, ese? You look worked up.”

A half smile slid into Lambert’s face. “A little passion never hurt, eh, Mr. Reyes?”

“You all right, old man.” He hooked Lambert’s hand and patted his back. “You all right.” Reyes leaned in toward the general’s shoulders and looked at the Kid. “But I don’t know about this kid. He don’t look like he’s out of diapers yet.”

“That’s wrong. That’s just wrong.” The Kid’s face flushed. “I spent six years in the Rangers. I have enough—”

“Rangers.” Max couldn’t help but grunt his disapproval. “That explains a lot.”

The Kid’s chin jerked up in defiance. “I’m in.”

It seemed Lambert grew with each affirmation. He shifted to the cowboy. “Mr. Neeley?”

Cowboy gave a slow, firm nod, his hat shading his eyes. “I’m ready.”

Lambert smiled. “Good. Good.”

They were all crazy. Joining a group like this meant more problems. “What if we get in trouble out there?”

“Then get out of trouble,” Lambert said. “Understand that this team does not exist. If anyone comes looking, there will be nothing to find. Only one man besides those of us in this facility knows it exists, and he’ll pay the highest cost if that confidence is broken. No one—and I mean no one—will know your names.”

“So our orders are coming from on high?” Metcalfe asked.

A twinkle brightened Lambert’s eyes and gave silent assent to the question, although he gave no answer. Instead, he continued. “Any mission, any activity will be utterly and completely disavowed by the United States. You will be disavowed. If you get into trouble, Mr. Jacobs, count on your ingenuity to get out. If you are killed, no one will know.”

“Or care.” The Kid shrugged, a sick smirk in his face.

Max wanted to punch him.

“Or maybe that’s where Sergeant Metcalfe, call sign Midas, will come in with his golden touch.” Lambert ambled toward him.

The beach bum made a tss noise and shook his head. “Nothing golden, just hard work.”

The general’s smile disappeared behind a stern facade. “What is your answer, Lieutenant Jacobs?”

“This is crazy.” What else could he do? Flip burgers at the nearest fast food? What was worth staying here for? No wife. No family. “Fine.” The separation papers told him he had nothing left here anyway. “I’m in.”

“Good.” General Lambert’s smile softened his commando persona. “Look around. The men here are your new brothers, your family. Only they will understand when the horrors of war invade your sleep. Only they will be there when you’re pinned down and need an extraction.

Arms wide, Lambert smiled like a proud father. “Gentlemen, welcome to Nightshade.”
Design by Deluxe Designs
all rights reserved. 2011