I do quite a bit of traveling, but I'm not sure I could sleep in any of these unique hotels. The puppy B&B is kind of cute, though. :-)
Thursday, April 30, 2009
I do quite a bit of traveling, but I'm not sure I could sleep in any of these unique hotels. The puppy B&B is kind of cute, though. :-)
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I love this! Maybe it's because of my musical background, or maybe because this is just so much fun! Love the little soprano whose voice is as clear as a flute. What fun!
Wonder what they're saying? "Bacon and eggs, with a side of toast?" What is a traditional Japanese breakfast? I have no idea.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Secrets Can’t Last Forever
A PAINFUL PAST
Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her memories.
A RACIALLY-MOTIVATED KILLER
As a Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. Difficult cases and broken relationships have plagued his entire year. But when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.
A LIFE-ALTERING CHOICE
A racist's well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. The dividing line between the two is the choice to heal. But when the attack turns personal, is justice enough?
Q & A with Amy Wallace
Q. Where did the idea for the stories in the DEFENDERS OF HOPE series come from?
A. The Defenders of Hope series started with a literal dream about an FBI agent with a wounded heart and a mom on a dangerous quest for answers. That dream became the book Ransomed Dreams. During the research for Ransomed Dreams, I met with a federal agent and asked the question—what would happen if an FBI agent found out he had cancer? His answer became the second book, Healing Promises. And the third book in the series, Enduring Justice, grew out of a secret one of the characters, Hanna Kessler, struggles to keep hidden.
Q. Is it necessary to read all three books in order?
A. I’ve been told by many readers and read reviews that have said the Defenders of Hope books can be read in any order as stand-alones. The cases and suspense story-lines are self-contained, no cliffhanger endings until the next book. But the characters’ friendships and relationships grow and are challenged in each book, so I’d say it’s best but not necessary for the stories to be read in order.
Q. You’ve said that Enduring Justice contains the shards of your once-broken heart. What do you mean by that?
A. Fifteen years ago, God placed me in a safe place and used my future husband’s hands to hold me together while my heart shattered. David was the first person to hear about my being date raped when I was a teen. For five years I’d denied what happened or blamed myself. So when my walls of secrecy started to crumble, I felt alone and terrified.
But God met me there. He covered my shame with His grace and we started down the painful path of healing. Even though this isn’t the same circumstances as what Hanna Kessler faces in Enduring Justice, a lot of my personal story went into the writing. And while this subject may qualify this story as “gritty,” the focus is not on the past experiences, but on the healing an adult woman finds as she opens up to her family and the man she loves.
Q. One of the key themes running through Enduring Justice is racism, as Hanna’s love interest, FBI Agent Michael Parker, is investigating a white supremacist. Why is this topic near to your heart?
A. I grew up in the military and had friends of all skin colors and nationalities. One of my best friends was African American. We never talked about our skin color, but I remember one time she made a comment about how people treated her differently because of her skin. She wouldn’t explain. It wasn’t until years later after hearing some ugly words from extended family members about people of other skin colors that I started to understand racism still exists. And it breaks my heart.
Through Hanna and Eve and Michael and Lee, I wanted to highlight some of the challenges I’ve learned about from friends of other nationalities and also to show that it’s not skin color that matters, it’s who we are on the inside.
Q. Where can readers learn more about you, Enduring Justice, and your other books?
A. I enjoy and value email from readers! So please visit me on the web at the Dark Chocolate Suspense site: www.amywallace.com and leave a note in the guestbook, drop me an email, or join the Dark Chocolate Suspense newsletter community: http://www.amywallace.com/Newsletter.html.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Boy, has this month flown by! I don't know how it is where you live, but Spring has sprung here and we're already into pre-summer. When the sun is out, it's hot!
Who do YOU think these cats could be?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
A friend sent me the link to the video above . . . and at first, I was blown away. Watch it now, and see if it affects you in the same way.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Have you read this book? I finished it a few days ago, as it's my book club's book for April. And I found it to be one of the most brilliant and sad books I've ever read. The book literally haunted me, then it wrenched and wrung my heart out at the ending.
Why do we put ourselves through the reading and viewing of tragedy? Why subject yourself to all that painful angst if it's not good for the soul? So here's a brief reminder of what tragedy is and does.
Tragedy recounts the fall of persons of high degree to low estate. It's about how the protagonist faces that inevitable failure, and celebrates courage and dignity in the face of defeat and attempts to portray the grandeur of the human spirit. According to Aristotle, the purpose of a tragedy is to arouse the emotions of pity and fear and thus to produce catharsis in the audience. Tragedy must involve a protagonist who is better than ordinary people, and he must be brought from happiness to misery. This hero must be a person of high character who faces his or her destiny with courage and nobility of spirit. That is the element that uplifts and inspires us.
(Slight spoiler here): Edgar certainly does this. Like Hamlet, he dithers and runs away from his problem, but then he makes a choice to go back and confront his nemesis, even though a prophecy has warned him to stay away or he will die. Drawn by his mother, his love for Almondine, and the Sawtelle dogs, he chooses to go back to the farm. He knows death and destruction await. He displays sacrificial love and honor and duty.
And that's why a tragedy--even this one--works. And Edgar is not completely lost, because in eternity he is reunited with Almondine, his soul mate, and his father, whom he adored.
I suffered through the ending like everyone else who has read it. :-) But I have to believe there's good in suffering, and that it IS good for the soul. Even when that good is not at all obvious.
Monday, April 20, 2009
by Leanna Ellis
Wizard of Oz meets Cinderella
When Dottie Meyers loses her ‘no place like home’ during a Kansas tornado, she wakes up to find a pair of ruby slippers left by her father who abandoned his family thirty years ago. With her sister hot on her trail to find the treasured ruby slippers, Dottie travels a yellow brick road with three friends to find her father. No wizard can solve her problems. Only the love of a heavenly father can heal her wounds and give her the desires of her heart.
There’s no place like … the heart for God’s healing touch.
Some people wish on candles, others on stars. When I was a girl, nose pressed against the passenger window of our Vista Cruiser, I watched truckloads of hay bales rumbling down the highway near our Kansas farm. Weather-beaten farmers driving thirty miles an hour (or slower), traffic piling up a mile behind them. Momma would ease the station wagon into the left lane to pass the snaking line and say, “Make a wish, girls, and don’t look back.”
My younger sister, Abby, always made a production out of her wishes. She squeezed her eyes closed, pursed her lips toward heaven, and proclaimed to all who were within hearing, “I’m gonna . . .” She leaned forward, her hand on Mama’s shoulder. “Can I wish on every hay bale?”
“Why not?” Mama shook her head with bewilderment as if my sister was a novelty act in the circus. To me, she was.
Puckering up again, Abby rattled off her litany of wishes. “I’m gonna be famous! I’m gonna be on the big screen! I’m gonna fly around the world.”
Like any good big sister, I rolled my eyes and let out a long, loud huff of irritation. Looking back on it now, I realize I was jealous that Abby knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to throw her dreams out there for all the world to see.
Cynical, even at age nine, I never wished on candles, stars, or hay bales. Maybe I’ve always been looking back rather than forward. Nowadays, I’ve become a moderately healthy realist at age thirty-five. But sometimes, in the dark of a lonely night, I do imagine wishes coming true.
Otto’s barking first signals something amiss on this damp, overcast afternoon. He’s my loyal, scruffy black dog, not more than ten or twelve pounds soaking wet. He follows me everywhere and will defend me if so much as a crow flies too near. Crouched on my knees in the garden, holding a prickly weed, I watch a strange sedan clip along the forlorn drive at an unsafe pace and feel a catch in my chest.
Squinting against the afternoon glare, I shield my eyes and push to my feet. Hope overrides any childhood cynicism. I decided long ago to hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Ever since I was small, I’ve kept watch on the drive to our small Kansas farm. “Momma,” I would shout, “somebody’s comin’!” She would stop whatever chore was occupying her—folding laundry, drying dishes, balancing the checkbook—and we’d stand on the porch, my hand in hers, tracking the approaching vehicle. “Do you think it’s—”
“No, Dottie.” Momma named the truck as some neighbor’s. “Don’t say anything to Abby, all right?”
Ever the protective big sister, I nodded, keeping my disappointment to myself. My little sister by two years tended to be more emotional than Momma and me.
Momma never acted sad, and I took my cue from her. But she never hesitated when I called out again, “Visitors!” Hope would crest, soon to be dashed by disappointment. Still, even after all these years, when Momma is no longer here to stand beside me, there’s that smidgen of hope at the sight of a strange vehicle coming up the drive.
Rolling my shoulder forward, I swipe my face with my sleeve, wiping away bits of dirt and sweat, and blink at the pale-gray four-door as it stirs up a whirlwind of dust in its wake. None of my neighbors drive this type of car. Craig Hanson, my lawyer and friend, drives a conservative dark-blue 4-Runner. Rhonda Cox, the preacher’s wife, drives a white Expedition to haul her three children along with Pampered Chef wares to parties in the adjoining counties. Homer Davies, from the feed store, drives a battered and weary Chevy truck he’s had since the seventies. Most come to drop off donations for the annual Easter egg hunt I’m organizing again this year, or if their kid needs help with math, or if they’re in need of a third on yet another church committee.
The darkened windows of the strange sedan veil the driver’s identity as it comes to a screeching halt in front of my house. I dust my hands off on the back of my overalls. My muddy Crocs leave a depression in the soft earth. Otto prances around me, yipping and barking. “Easy now. Let’s go see who it is.” I lift Otto over a chicken- wire fence I strung up last summer to keep out a family of rabbits that had been nibbling on my beets and sugar snap peas. The sedan hasn’t moved. No door opens. No window slides downward. Is the driver lost or confused? Reconsidering? My footsteps quicken.
The driver’s door swings open and a tall, shapely woman in a form-fitting white dress emerges. I keep my head upright as Momma always did, my footsteps steady. This woman is definitely lost, like she’s looking for the pages of a Vogue magazine to crawl into. She has long black hair and dark sunglasses that make her eyes as big as a grasshopper’s. It isn’t until she swings her hair over her shoulder in a familiar way that recognition causes a whoosh of air to escape me.
“Abby!” I holler.
She turns, raises her sunglasses to the top of her head and spots me.
“Come on, boy!” I slap the side of my leg. “Abby’s home!”
* * *
* * *
Winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, Leanna Ellis writes quirky women's fiction. When she’s not busy writing, taxiing her kids to and from dance and fencing, or taking the dogs in and out, then she’s contemplating some new weird plot. Visit her website at http://leannaellis.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I don't know about you, but I love dance. Not the teenage jittering kind, per se, but ballet and stage dancing and involved choreography. I love movies like Turning Point and that old-as-the-hills storyline of "teacher comes to rough school, teaches delinquents to dance, and turns their lives around." I wish I'd been able to take ballet as a kid. (I did take one lesson once--when I was thirty!)
So I was thrilled to discover that my pal Elizabeth White has a new book out about DANCE. I'd love to tell you about it.
TOUR DE FORCE: A Love Story by Elizabeth White
May 2009, Zondervan
A Passion for Dance
Gilly Kincade is a rising star on the New York ballet scene. Dancing is her life's passion, second only to her love for Jesus, and she believes her faith sets her apart--but hasn't held her back. Chosen for a plum role in a new ballet choreographed for her, it seems the sky's the limit. Then she meets Jacob Ferrar....
A Passion for God
Jacob Ferrar has left behind the glittering temptations of stardom in New York ballet. He has established a reputation as a brilliant, innovative artistic director of a regional dance company in Alabama, with a vision for choreography that glorifies God and encourages the audience. In fact, he's certain nothing could make him go back....
Becomes Love's Tour de Force
When Jacob offers Gilly the lead in his original Easter ballet, she begins to reevaluate what she's willing to sacrifice for dance. And he sees exciting potential of shining light on the world's dark stage. But their brilliant first performance is destroyed by a terrible accident, and Gilly and Jacob find themselves facing an uncertain future. Together, they dance the fine line between personal vision and God's will, listening for the beat of the Father's heart.
Romantic Times BookClub says:
“White takes readers behind the scenes into the competitive dance world. It's refreshing that Gillian befriends and respects people living different lifestyles while still boldly living out her faith.” (4 stars)
An interview with Beth about Tour de Force:
Q: What inspired you to write a novel about ballet dancers?
A: Too much cold medicine? JUST KIDDING! Actually, Gillian Kincade was a character in last year’s Off the Record.. As the off-beat teenage sister of Judge Laurel Kincade, Gilly took on such a distinct personality (as characters often do) that she demanded a story of her own. Readers have written to ask if she follows through with her crush on musical heartthrob Tucker McGaughan…To be blunt, no. Too easy. But rest assured, Tucker makes his appearance in Tour de Force.
Q: So were you ever a dancer yourself?
A: If you could see the bruises on my knees just from trying to make it across the Wendy’s parking lot, you wouldn’t ask that question. But since you did…I once took tap, jazz and rudimentary ballet as a child. I learned just enough to pick up elements of the dance language. Everything I know about professional ballet has come from interviewing and observing real dancers, notably the exquisite Kathryn Morgan of New York City Ballet and Kathy Thibodeaux of Ballet Magnificat! in Jackson, Mississippi.
Q: What spiritual take-away is involved in a story about dancers?
A: I was interested in exploring challenges to Christian artists in general. The Scripture I kept coming back to is Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”Debates have gone one for decades (probably centuries, for all I know) regarding Christian art. For example, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, the story goes, discussed whether the world needs more “Christian writers” or “writers who are Christian.” The only way I knew how to tackle the subject was to create characters who must face those questions, take a stand, and either live for God—or not.
It’s my belief that flawed people are more interesting than perfect ones. They’re also more real. Though Gilly and Jacob aren’t “real” in the obvious sense, they do struggle to cope with universal issues. How much overt “witnessing” should a Christian performer or teacher do? What’s the line of grace between acceptance (“tolerance”) of the lifestyle choices of non-believing friends and sticking up for morality and truth? How should we respond when God seems to pull the rug out from under our dreams and desires? Are Christians allowed to feel disappointed?
My job as a novelist is not to preach the answers to those questions, but to draw pictures of possibilities and to point readers back to God’s Word—the only place to find answers. If I succeed in making readers think and pray, then I’m happy.
Q: This book has a subtitle, “A Love Story.” Is there significance to that?
A: Well, I’ve always considered myself a romance writer, but this one is truly focused on the development of relationships—
Speaking of Dance--before you go, take four minutes to watch this performance art piece from Belgium. It's great!
Friday, April 17, 2009
One of my dear girlfriends has a daughter. You'll know her because she writes novels under "Stephanie Grace Whitson." The video above is her daughter, Shannon, who is singing a song she wrote and performed at a music competition--which she won!
Please join me in praying that the Lord would keep his hand on Shannon . . . .
Beautiful girl, beautiful song, no? I just love it. Can't wait for the CD . . .
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The other night I had some time to kill, so I opened my Netflix queue to see if there were any "instant" movies I could watch online. I discovered "Midnight Clear," and I knew it was based on a book by my pal Jerry Jenkins, so I settled back to watch it.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I got the idea for Miss Fortune in the middle of the night, when all good ideas come to me:
One sleepless night I was watching The Maltese Falcon and I started to wonder how different the story would be if Sam Spade had been a woman. She'd never have fallen for Miss Wunderly's charms and lies. She'd have been smart and tough and she would have solved the case in half the time it took Sam because she wouldn't spend all of her time smoking cigarettes and calling her secretary Precious.
The thought of a hard-boiled female detective got my mind whirling.
I paused the movie and sat in my darkened living room thinking about how much fun a female Sam Spade could be. Intrigued but not yet ready to dash to my computer, I changed disks and put on Casablanca (my all time favorite movie ever). The sweeping love story, a tale full of hard choices and sacrifice was what finally made the whole idea click in my mind. If I could just combine the P.I. detective story of the Maltese Falcon with the love story from Casablanca, and make Sam Spade more of a Samantha, I could have the best of all worlds.
These books are so good, I wish I'd written them. How did you set the stage to capture that gritty PI feel without being dark?
I find that a lot of PI stories are gritty and dark, focusing on the worst of the humanity, and while I wanted the Allie Fortune mysteries to be exciting and tension-filled I didn’t want them to be stark and hopeless.
One of the things I tried to do to counteract the darkness was to give Allie a multi-layered life. She has cases, relationships, friends and family, all of which I hope combine to make the stories textured, rich and full of life.
Allie is a character I'd love to have coffee with. What did she teach you while you wrote these books?
Allie was a great character to write. One of the things I learned from her was that human relationships (man/woman, mother/daughter, friends) are complicated and full of unspoken rules and expectations. Allie is a rule-breaker at heart and it complicates her life on a regular basis. One of the storylines I loved most is Allie’s relationship with her mother and how it grows and changes and how it’s shaped her.
Another dimension of Allie’s character that really taught me a lot was her willingness to do whatever was needed to help those she loves. There is no price on that kind of friendship and it’s a characteristic I’d like to see more of in myself. Okay I admit it, I’ve got a bit of a friend-crush on Allie. LOL.
One last question: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be and who would you take with you?
If I could go anywhere right now I’d head to Monterey, California (I’m writing a book set there right now) and I’d plant myself on the beach with a notebook, writing my story as the waves crashed. Sounds like my idea of heaven on earth. There’s something about the wind-shaped Cypress trees and the crash of the surf in Monterey that calls to me. I don’t know why, it just is.
|Miss Fortune, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #1|
By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers
In 1947 Allie Fortune is the only female private investigator in New York City, but she's kept awake at night by a mystery of her own: her fianci disappeared in the war and no one knows if he's still alive. Until Allie finds out, she will have no peace. When there's a knock on her office door at four in the morning, Allie suspects trouble as usual, and Mary Gordon is no exception. Mary claims someone is following her, that her apartment has been ransacked, and that she's been shot at, but she has no idea why any of this is happening. Allie takes the case, and in the process discovers an international mystery that puts her own life in danger.
Meanwhile, the FBI is working the case as well, and she is partnered up with an attractive, single agent who would be perfect for her under other circumstances-if only she knew whether her fianci was still alive.
|Miss Match, Allie Fortune Mystery Series #2|
By Sara Mills / Moody Publishers
FBI agent Jack O'Connor receives a letter from Maggie, a woman he used to love, saying she's in trouble in Berlin. The FBI refuses to get involved, so Jack asks Allie Fortune to help him investigate. Allie and Jack pose as a missionary couple who want to bring orphans back to the United States.
A child finds important documents that everyone in the city - Soviets and allies alike - want for themselves. Maggie refuses to tell Jack what the documents are, saying if things go wrong, they are better off not knowing. Through the course of the search, Allie's past is brought back to her, half a world away from home.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The other day I was looking through some Facebook friends' pictures, and I saw a picture of one friend's daughter at her science fair. I left a comment saying that I'd once been a science fair girl--and in the ninth grade I did a project called something like "The Effects of Pentylenetetrazol on Meroines Unguiculatus regarding Intelligence."
The finding of pentetrazol's effectiveness in treating Down Syndrome has lead to it being explored as a means of correcting other learning deficiencies. Specifically, hamsters denied their natural circadian rhythm (though not denied sleep) had their memory restored to near-normal levels when treated with pentetrazol.
Ha! Who knew? Maybe I was on to something . . . (And now do you see why I've fallen in love with "House?")
Sunday, April 12, 2009
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thi
ne the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!
Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.
My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.
Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.
The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.A blessed Easter to you!~~Angie