Clash of the Title Winner: Hearts Crossing by Marianne Evans

Saturday, July 30, 2011





guest post by April W Gardner





Clash of the Titles is proud to announce that author Marianne Evans with her novel, Hearts Crossing, is our newest champion!





About the book:

Collin Edwards, a former parishioner at Woodland Church, has renounced God without apology, his faith drained away in the face of a tragic loss. Daveny Montgomery cares deeply about her relationship with God, and the community of Woodland. Lately though, she's been in a rut, longing for something to reignite her spiritual enthusiasm. A beautification project at Woodland seems the answer for them both. Daveny spearheads the effort and Collin assists, but only with the renovations, and only because he wants to know Daveny better. Despite his deepening feelings for her, even stepping into the common areas of the church stirs tension and anger. Can Daveny trust in Collin’s fledgling return to faith? And can Collin ever accept the fact that while he turned his back on God, God never turned his back on him?





Marianne competed with the
Adam and Andrea Graham, and their YA book Tales of the Dim Knight.



What readers said:




  • I'm amazed--can't wait to read more!

  • These books have very different plots and backgrounds, but both sound as though they are great books. Congratulations to the writers.

  • Both were so well done and packed with emotion. This just keeps getting harder and harder!



A glimpse at Marianne's winning excerpt:



Officer Lance Edwards banged hard on the front door of the home. A cacophony of sound increased. “Saint Clair Shores PD. Open up.” Seated in the squad car, Collin Edwards watched his brother cast a quick glance back at the squad car then up and down the street.


Lance trotted back to the vehicle, opening the door. “I'm calling for back up.” He was laser focused. “Stay where you are, and keep alert.”


“Yeah. Got it.” Collin frowned as Lance barked into the car radio and activated the roof top light bars. He left the car to return to the front door.


This time the door was yanked open. A hulking, angry man filled the entrance.


“Step outside, sir.” Lance rested a hand against the butt of his gun.






About her Clash Marianne said:




It has been an honor to "clash" with such a worthy opponent! :-) I love Clash of the Titles.





Next week, April Gardner hosts a special "Author's Choice" Clash. Anything goes with this one--authors chose their favorite excerpts from their own works to submit, and we narrowed it down to the top two for readers to vote on. Spread the word!





-April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles


and author of Wounded Spirits.




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Tell Me About You Thursday!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hey everyone! I'm a guest @ Tracy's blog, Tracy's Treasure of Books today! Stop by and check out her great site and say hi!

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Recipe: Yummy Dessert Pizza!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


A few days ago for my mother's birthday I made a delicious fruit pizza. Due to the response I got on Facebook when I posted a photo of my yummy creation I decided to post the recipe here so everyone can enjoy this different take on the classic pizza pie. It's fun and easy to make.

Ingredients:
~ 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
~ 1/4 c. sugar
~ 1 package 16.5 -18oz. refrigerated sugar cookie dough
~ Fresh fruit of your choice
(I used 1 lb. strawberries and about 1/4 c. of blueberries and 1 sliced kiwi)

Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of an ungreased 12 to 14in. pizza pan. Bake as directed on cookie dough packaging. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Blend cream cheese and sugar in medium sized bowl. Spread on cooled cookie dough. Top pizza with your cleaned and sliced fruit, refrigerate and enjoy!


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O Happy Day!

Monday, July 25, 2011


In case you didn't know I'm a huge football fan and the NFL lockout was really killing me. The thought of having to live without football, especially Steelers football, for AN ENTIRE YEAR nearly did me in. The past week or so has been full of talk between owners, players and the commish himself, Roger Goodell and I was getting excited that a collective-bargaining agreement could be reached. Low and behold an agreement was reached and I could breath easier! Whew! Just in time for training camp. So in case you wanted to know I'm posting links to the Steelers training camp schedule (more complete info at a later date) and the regular season game schedule for you. :-)


2011 Pre and Regular Season (Times subject to change due to flex scheduling)

I know it's going to be a great year for the Steelers and I'm really looking forward to seeing all the rookies in action for the first time and the returning veterans.


Go Steelers!!!!!

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Clash of the Titles: Gut-Wrenching Passages

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Clash of The Titles





Guest post by Michelle Massaro, Asst Editor for Clash of the Titles
This week COTT is focusing on gut-wrenching passages, which are some of my favorites! So it got me wondering, why do we so enjoy reading those scenes that tear our hearts out and end with an empty box of tissues?

Most of us already know about stress hormones and how they build up in the body, causing all kinds of problems. According to one article I read, emotionally-induced tears contain protein-based hormones as well as leucine enkephalin, a natural painkiller. So "a good cry" flushes all those stress hormones out of our system.

Well, the science is all fine and dandy but I still wanted some experiental answers. Here's what some of you had to say:
Diana Prusik: Tears are cathartic. There's nothing like a good cry during a touching scene . . except for a good cry followed by laughter. (Think Sally Fields' stellar graveside scene in Steel Magnolias. Poor Ouiser!) Something about reading or watching a scene like that feels emotionally cleansing.

Brian Heffron agrees: Catharsis

Barbara Robinson: Because a book has to touch us emotionally or it's nothing to us. It must evoke reader emotions. If I don't feel anything when I read a book, the book is not any good, and I wouldn't finish it.

Christine Lindsay: I think we need to cry as much as we need to smile and laugh. Although when we cry, it's because we are always reaching out for hope. That this sad situation will not remain, but that the sun will shine again. It's about hope.

Jessica Patch: God designed us to connect with others. The bible says rejoice when others rejoice and weep when others weep. We're built to care. We want to. Real life or fiction, we're drawn to it and good writing makes us feel like it's real even when it's not.

Those are some great answers! What about you? Why do you love those gut-wrenching scenes? (Or if not, why don't you care for them?)
~ Connect with Michelle at her blog, Adventures In Writing.

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Surrender the Dawn Giveaway Winner!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thank you so much to everyone who entered my giveaway of Surrender the Dawn! The winner as chosen by random.org is...


Julie J.


Julie has already been notified that she won and her address was provided. Thank you again to everyone who entered and remember to check out the free Kindle download of Surrender the Heart available on Amazon through July 31 if you haven't already done so. :-)

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FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour + My Review: Shadows on the Sand: A Seaside Mystery by Gayle Roper

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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:


Shadows on the Sand: A Seaside Mystery

Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)

***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Gayle Roper, a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, is the multi-award-winning, best-selling author of Fatal Deduction and more than forty other books. She teaches and leads mentoring clinics at writers’ conferences across the country. Gayle lives in eastern Pennsylvania.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Carrie Carter’s small café in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals … although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin.

When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, leaving only cryptic clues in her Sudoku book, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all too present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.

Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry?


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420846
ISBN-13: 978-1601420848

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


So Bill punched him in the nose, Carrie!” Andi Mueller swung an arm to demonstrate and nearly clipped me. “He was wonderful!”

I leaned back and held up a hand for protection. “Easy, kiddo.” I smiled at the girl and her enthusiasm.

Andi giggled like the smitten sixteen-year-old she was. “Sorry.”

“Mmm.” I rested my elbows on the pink marble counter that ran along one wall of Carrie's Café, located two blocks from the boardwalk in the center of Seaside, New Jersey. I was the Carrie of the café's name, and Andi was one of my servers, in fact, my only server at the moment. She'd been with me almost two months now, taking up the slack when the summer kids left to go back to college or on to real jobs.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “On Saturday night Bill, who is your true soul mate, punched Jase, our Jase, for paying too much attention to you at a party.” I didn't think my voice was too wry, but soul mates at sixteen made me both cynical and scared, teen hormones being what they were.

Andi just grinned with delight of the even-mentioning-his-name-givesme-the-vapors kind and nodded as she sat on a stool at the counter. “Isn't it romantic?”

I was hearing this tale today, Monday, because now that the season was over, Carrie's was closed on Sundays. My staff and I had earned our day of rest over a very busy and marginally profitable summer. We might be able to stay open for another year if nothing awful happened, like the roof leaking or the dishwasher breaking.

Listening to Andi made me feel ancient. I was only thirty-three, but had I ever been as young as she? Given the trauma of my growing-up years, I probably hadn't. I was glad that whatever her history, and there was a history, she could giggle.

“How do you expect to continue working with Jase after this encounter?” I was very interested in her answer. Jase was one of three part-time dishwashers at the café. All three were students at the local community college and set their schedules around classes. Jase worked Tuesdays and Saturdays from six in the morning until three, and the last thing I wanted was contention in the kitchen between Andi and him.

Andi looked confused. “Why should I have trouble with Jase? I didn't punch him. Besides he's an old--” She cut herself off.

I wanted to pursue her half-thought, but the door of the café opened, and Greg Barnes walked in, all scruffy good looks and shadowed eyes. His black hair was mussed as if he hadn't combed it, and he had a two-day stubble. He should have looked grubby, but somehow he didn't. He looked wonderful.

All thoughts of Bill and Jase fled as my heart did the little stuttery Snoopy dance it always did at the sight of Greg. Before he could read anything in my face, assuming he noticed me as someone other than the person who fed him, I looked down at the basket of fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon-swirl muffins I was arranging.

Andi glanced from me to him and, much too quick and clever, smiled with a knowing look. I held my breath. She wasn't long on tact, and the last thing I wanted was for her to make some leading remark. I felt I could breathe again when all she did was wink at me. Safe for the moment, at least.

Greg came to the counter and slid onto his favorite stool, empty now that the receding flood of summer tourists left it high and dry this third week in October, a vinyl-covered Ararat postdeluge.

“The usual?” I asked, my voice oh-so-casual.

He gave a nod, barely glancing my way, and opened his copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Press of Atlantic City waited. I turned to place his order, but there was no need. Lindsay, my sister, partner, and the café's baker, had been listening to Andi's story through the serving window. She waved her acknowledgment before I said a word. She passed the order to Ricky, our short-order cook, who had stayed with us longer than I expected, long enough that he had become almost as much of an asset to Carrie's as Lindsay was.

My sister gave me a sly smile, then called, “Hi, Greg.”

He looked up from his paper and gave Lindsay a very nice smile, far nicer than he ever gave me.

“The sticky buns are all gone,” he said in mild accusation, nodding toward the glass case where we kept Lindsay's masterpieces.

She grinned. “Sorry. You've got to get here earlier.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Or you could make more.”

“I'll take the suggestion under advisement,” she said agreeably.

“Haven't you heard the adage about making your customers happy?”

“Yeah. So?”

He laughed and turned a page in the paper. I brought him a glass of OJ and a cup of my special blend.

“How're you doing?” I asked, just as I did every morning.

He gave me a vague smile. “Fine.” Just as he said every morning.

But he wasn't. Oh, he was better than, say, a year ago, definitely better than two years ago, but he wasn't well. Even three years after the tragedy that had altered his life, he was far from his self-proclaimed fine. If you looked closely--as I did--you could see the strain never completely left his eyes, and the purple stains under them were too deep and dark, a sure sign that a good night's sleep was still little more than a vague memory for him.

But he was sober. More than two years and counting.

“Keep talking, Andi,” Lindsay said as Ricky beat Greg's eggs and inserted his wheat bread in the toaster. “This is better than reality TV. It's really real.” She walked out of the kitchen into the café proper. “Bill bopped Jase,” she prompted.

“Our Jase,” I clarified.

Greg looked up. “Your dishwasher?”

I nodded.

“Hmm.” And he went back to his paper.

“And Jase went down for the count.” Andi's chest swelled with pride at her beloved's prowess.

I flinched. “Don't you think knocking a guy out for talking to you is a bit much?”

Andi thought for almost half a second, then shook her head. “It wasn't for just Saturday. He knows Jase and I work together, and he was staking his claim.”

I'd seen Jase and Andi talking in the kitchen, but there never seemed to be any romantic overtones. “Jase is a nice guy and a good worker. I don't want to lose him because of your boyfriend.”

“He is, and I don't want him to go either,” Andi agreed. “I like talking to him.”

“Me too.” Lindsay rested an elbow on the counter and propped her chin in her palm. “I think he's sad.”

“What do you mean, sad?” But I'd sensed he was weighed down with something too.

“He's funny and open most of the time,” Lindsay said, “but sometimes when no one's talking to him, I see this look of sorrow on his face.”

I nodded. “All the more reason to hate that he got punched.”

“Yeah.” Lindsay got a dreamy look in her dark brown eyes. “But there's something about a guy defending you, even if what he's defending you from isn't really a threat.” She sighed.

“Lindsay!” I was appalled. “Get a grip.” Though if Greg ever wanted to defend me, I was pretty sure I wouldn't mind. Of course, that presupposed he'd notice I was in trouble. I glanced at him bent over his paper. Not likely to happen. I bit back a sigh.

“Tell me, Andi. Does Bill plan to punch out any male who talks to you?”

“Come on, Carrie,” Andi said. “Don't be mad at Bill. You know how guys can be when they've had a few beers.”

I did know how guys could be, beers or no beers. “What were you doing at a party where there was drinking?”

She became all prim and prissy. “I did not drink.”

“I should hope not, but you shouldn't have been there.” Good grief. I was sounding more and more like her mother--or how her mother would have sounded if she weren't missing in action somewhere. Part of that history I didn't know.

“Order up,” Ricky announced as he walked to the pass-through. “The food is never better than when I plate it.”

You'd have thought he was Emeril or Wolfgang Puck or one of Paula Deen's sons, not a stopgap cook who couldn't find any other job after graduating from college with a psychology degree and who stayed around because he had a crush on the baker.

I grabbed Greg's scrambled eggs and wheat toast and served them. He accepted them with a nod and a grunt.

“So what happened to Jase?” I asked Andi. I found myself hoping Bill had bruised a knuckle or two in his violence, though I was pretty sure it meant I was a terrible person too. I didn't wish for a broken hand or anything that extreme, just something to remind him that punching wasn't the way to handle a perceived rival.

Andi waved her hand vaguely. “Bill and a buddy carried Jase to his car. They only dropped him once.”

I imagined the thunk of poor Jase's head hitting the ground and flinched in sympathy. No such thought bothered Andi. She was too busy being thrilled by Bill, who rode in like her shining knight, laying waste to the enemy with knuckles instead of the more traditional lance.

“How much older than you is Bill?” Lindsay asked.

Good question, Linds.

Andi studied the cuticle of her index finger. “He's nineteen.”

Lindsay and I exchanged a glance. Those three years from sixteen to nineteen were huge.

I couldn't keep quiet. “So he shouldn't have been drinking at this party either.”

Andi slid off her stool. If looks killed, Lindsay'd be sprinkling my ashes in the ocean tomorrow morning.

“What does Clooney think of you and Bill?” Lindsay asked. Clooney was Andi's great-uncle, and she lived with him.

Andi cleared her throat. “We don't talk about Bill.”

“Does he know about Bill?” Lindsay's concern was obvious.

Andi stared through long bangs that hung over her hazel eyes. The silky hair sometimes caught in her lashes in a way that made me blink but didn't seem to bother her. “Of course Clooney knows. Do you think I'd keep a secret from him?”

“I didn't think you would.” Lindsay smiled. “I'm glad to know I was right.”

So was I. Sixteen could go in so many different directions, and I'd hate for this pixie to make wrong choices--or more wrong choices.

“Is he going to college?” I asked. “Bill?”

“He was, but not now.” Her fingernail became even more absorbing. “He dropped out of Rutgers at the end of his freshman year.”

Uh-oh. Dropped out or failed out? “Does he plan to go back? Try again?”

She shrugged. “He doesn't know. Right now he's happy just being. And going to parties. And taking me.” By the time she was finished, she was bouncing at the excitement of it all, her strawberry blond ponytail leaping about her shoulders.

Greg looked up from his newspaper. “So this guy took you, a very underage girl, to a party where there was lots of drinking?”

Andi looked at him, eyes wide, acting as if he'd missed the whole point of her story. “Don't worry about me, Mr. Barnes. Or any of you.” She included Lindsay and me with a nod of her head. “I can handle any problems that might develop at a party. Believe me, I've dealt with far worse.”

I was intrigued. I'd stared down plenty of problems in my time too, and I wondered how her stare downs compared to mine.

She grinned and waved a hand as if she were wiping away her momentary seriousness. “But I'd rather talk about how great Bill is.”

“So how great is he?” Lindsay asked. “Tell me all.” At twenty-seven, she was an incurable romantic. I wasn't sure how this had come to pass, since she had every reason to be as cynical as I, but there you are.

I frowned at her. “Stop encouraging the girl.”

Lindsay just grinned.

I looked at Andi's happy face and had to smile too. “So what's this wonderful guy doing if he's not in school?” Besides being and partying.

“Uh, you mean like a job or something?”

“Yeah.” Lindsay and I exchanged another glance. Greg looked up again at Andi's reluctant tone.

“Well, he was a lifeguard over the summer. He's got this fabulous tan, and it makes him so handsome.”

Soul mate stuff if I ever heard it. I half expected her to swoon like a nineteenth-century Southern belle with her stays laced too tightly. “What about now? Postseason?”

“And he was the quarterback on the high school football team two years ago when they won the state championship.”

“Very impressive. What about now?”

“He was named Most Valuable Player.”

“Even more impressive. What about now?”

She began making sure the little stacks of sugar and sweetener packets in the holders on the counter were straight. “Right now he's just trying to figure it all out.”

Being. Figuring. And punching guys out while he thought. “You mean he's trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up?”

She glared at me. In her mind he was grown up. She turned her back with a little sniff and went to clean off a dirty table.

Lindsay swallowed a laugh. “Your sarcastic streak is showing, Carrie.”

Mr. Perkins, another regular at Carrie's Café and at eighty in better health than the rest of us put together, rapped his cup on the pink marble counter. He'd been sitting for several minutes with his eyes wide behind his glasses as he listened to Andi.

“No daughter of mine that age would ever have gone to a party where there was drinking,” he said. “It's just flat out wrong.”

Since I agreed, I didn't mention that he was a lifelong bachelor and had no daughters.

He rapped his cup again.

“Refill?” I asked, not because I didn't know the answer but because the old man liked to think he was calling the shots.

He nodded. “Regular too. None of that wimpy decaf. I got to keep my blood flowing, keep it pumping.”

I smiled with affection as I topped off his cup. He gave the same line every day. “Mr. Perkins, you have more energy than people half your age.”

He pointed his dripping spoon at me. “And don't you forget it.”

“Watch it,” I said in a mock scold. “You're getting coffee all over my counter.”

“And a fine counter it is.” He patted the pink-veined marble slab. It was way too classy and way too pricey for a place like the café. “Did I ever tell you that I remember when it was the registration counter at Seaside's Grand Hotel? And let me tell you, it was a grand hotel in every sense of the word. People used to come from as far as Pittsburgh, even the president of U.S. Steel. Too bad it burned down. The hotel, not U.S. Steel.”

“Too bad,” I agreed. And yes, he'd told us the story many times.

“It was in 1943,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes. “I was thirteen.” He blinked back to the present. “It was during World War II, you know, and people said it was sabotage. Not that I ever believed that. I mean, why would the Germans burn down a resort hotel? But I'll tell you, my father, who was an air-raid warden, about had a seizure.”

“I bet he was convinced that the flames, visible for miles up and down the coast, would bring the German subs patrolling offshore right up on our beaches,” Lindsay said with a straight face. “They might have attacked us.”

I glared at her as she repeated word for word Mr. Perkins's line from the story. She winked unrepentantly.

Mr. Perkins nodded, delighted she was listening. “People kept their curtains drawn at night, and even the boardwalk was blacked out for the duration, the lights all covered except for the tiniest slit on the land side, so the flames from the fire seemed extra bright. All that wood, you know. Voom! ” He threw his hands up in the air.

Lindsay and I shook our heads at the imagined devastation, and I thought I saw Greg's lips twitch. He'd heard the story almost as many times as we had.

Mr. Perkins stirred his coffee. “After the war some investor bought the property.”

“I bet all that remained of the Grand was the little corner where the pink marble registration counter sat.” Lindsay pointed where I leaned. “That counter.”

Again she spoke his line with a straight face, and this time Greg definitely bit back a grin.

Mr. Perkins added another pink packet to his coffee. “That's right. The buyer decided to open a restaurant around the counter and build a smaller, more practical hotel on the rest of the property.”

Even that hotel was gone now, replaced many years ago by private homes rented each summer to pay the exorbitant taxes on resort property.

I walked to Greg with my coffeepot. “Refill?”

He slid his mug in my direction, eyes never leaving his paper.

Be still my heart.



2

The café door opened again, and Clooney sauntered in. In my opinion Clooney sauntered through life, doing as little as possible and appearing content that way. I, on the other hand, was a bona fide overachiever, always trying to prove myself, though I wasn't sure to whom. If Clooney weren't so charming, I'd have disliked him on principle. As it was, I liked him a lot.

Today he wore a Phillies cap, one celebrating the 2008 World Series victory. His gray ponytail was pulled through the back of the cap and hung to his shoulder blades.

“You work too hard, Carrie,” he told me frequently. “You'll give yourself indigestion or reflux or a heart attack or something. You need to take time off.”

“If I didn't want to pay the rent or have insurance or eat, I'd do that very thing,” I always countered.

“What you need is a rich husband.” And he'd grin.

“A solution to which I'm not averse. There just seems to be a shortage of candidates in Seaside.”

“Hey, Clooney,” Andi called from booth four, where she was clearing. She gave him a little finger wave. Clooney might be her great-uncle, but try as I might, I couldn't get her to call him Uncle Clooney. Just “Clooney” sounded disrespectful to me, but he didn't seem to mind.

“Hey, darlin'.” Clooney walked over to Andi and gave her a hug. Then he came to the counter and slid onto the stool next to Greg. He did not take off his cap, something that drove me crazy. I've developed this manners thing, probably because my childhood was so devoid of anything resembling pattern or politeness. I know people thought me prissy and old-fashioned, but I am what I am, a poor man's Miss Manners.

Clooney pointed at a muffin, and I placed one on a dish for him. He broke off a chunk, then glanced back at Andi. “She tell you about that fool Bill?”

I grinned at his disgruntled expression. “She did.”

“What is it with girl children?” he demanded. “I swear she's texted the news around the world.”

“She thinks it's a compliment--her knight defending her.”

Clooney and Greg snorted at the same time.

“Slaying a dragon who's threatening the life of the fair damsel's one thing,” Greg said, actually looking at me. “Decking a kid for saying hi to a pretty girl is another.”

“Your past life as a cop is showing,” I teased.

He shrugged as he turned another page of the paper. “Old habits die hard.”

The door opened again, and in strutted the object of our conversation. I knew it had to be him because, aside from the fact that he looked like a very tanned football player, he and Andi gazed at each other with love-struck goofy grins. I thought I heard Lindsay sigh.

Andi hurried toward the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes from booth four. She squeaked in delight as Bill swatted her on the rump as she passed. Clooney stiffened at this unseemly familiarity with his baby. Mr. Perkins tsk-tsked his disapproval.

“Can I have breakfast now?” Andi asked when she reappeared empty- handed.

The wait staff usually ate around ten thirty at a back booth, and it was ten fifteen. We were in the off-season weekday lull between breakfast and lunch, and the three men on their stools were the only customers present. I nodded.

Bill looked toward the kitchen. He appeared overwhelmed at the prospect of food, unable to make a selection. He draped an arm over Andi's shoulder as he considered the possibilities, and she snuggled against him. Clooney's frown intensified.

Bill was a big guy, and it was clear by the way he carried himself that he still thought of himself as the big man on campus in spite of the fact that he was now campusless and unemployed. As I studied him, I wondered if high school football would end up being the high point of his life. How sad that would be. Clooney drifted through life by choice. I hoped Bill wouldn't drift for lack of a better plan or enough ability to achieve.

Careful, Carrie. I was being hard on this kid. Nineteen and undecided wasn't that unusual. Just because at his age I'd already been on my own for three years, responsible for Lindsay, who was six years my junior…

Bill gave Clooney, who was watching him with a rather sour look, a sharp elbow in the upper arm and asked, one guy to another, “What do you suggest, Clooney? What's really good here?”

Clooney's relaxed slouch disappeared. I saw the long-ago medal-winning soldier of his Vietnam days. “You will call me 'sir' until I give you permission to call me by name. Do you understand, boy?”

Bill blinked. So did I. Everyone in Seaside, no matter their age, called him Clooney.

“Stop that, Clooney!” Andi was appalled at her uncle's tone of voice.

“Play nice,” I said softly as I realized for the first time that I didn't know whether Clooney was his first name or last. I made a mental note to ask Greg. As a former Seaside cop, he might know. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, darlin'.” Clooney gave Andi an easy smile. He gave Bill a hard stare. “Right, Bill?”

Bill blinked again. “Y-yes, sir.”

Andi took her beloved's hand and dragged him toward the back booth. “Ignore my uncle. He's having a bad day.” She glared over her shoulder at Clooney, who grinned back at her.

“She's got spunk, that one,” he said with pride.

“How'd she end up living with you?” I'd been longing to ask ever since Clooney showed up with Andi just before Labor Day and asked me to give her a job. I did, and I guess I thought that gave me the right to ask my question.

Clooney disagreed because he said, “I think I'll have one of your amazing Belgian waffles with a side of sausage.”

“I'm on it.” Lindsay headed back to the kitchen before I said a word. “Got it, Ricky?”

“Got it.” Ricky tested the waffle iron with a flick of water. He smiled as the water jumped and evaporated. He was a handsome kid with dark Latino looks of the smoldering kind, a young Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately for him, his smoldering looks appeared to have no effect on Linds.

Another victim of unrequited love.

Andi came to the counter and placed an order for Bill and herself. I blinked. We could have served the whole dining room on less.

Mr. Perkins eyed me. “Are you going to make him pay for all that? You should, you know.”

True, but I shook my head. “Job perk. He's cheaper than providing health benefits and not nearly as frustrating.”

“So say you.” Clooney settled to his waffle and sausage.

I watched the parade of laden plates emerge from the kitchen and make their way to the back booth, making me reconsider the “cheaper” bit. Andi took her seat and stared at Bill as if he could do no wrong in spite of the fact that he leaned on the table like he couldn't support his own weight. Didn't anyone ever tell the kid that his noneating hand was supposed to rest in his lap, not circle his plate as if protecting it from famished marauders or little girls with ponytails?

“Look at him,” Clooney said. “He's what? Six-two and over two hundred pounds? Jase Peoples is about five-eight and one-forty if he's wearing everything in his closet.”

“Let's forget about Jase, shall we?” Andi's voice was sharp as she came to the counter and reached for more muffins. “The subject is closed.”

I grabbed her wrist. “No more muffins. We need them for paying customers. If Bill's still hungry, he can have toast.”

“Or he could pay.” To Mr. Perkins a good idea was worth repeating.

Andi laughed at the absurdity of such a thought.

Ricky had left his stove and was leaning on the pass-through beside Lindsay. “Four slices coming up for Billingsley.”

“Billingsley?” I looked at the big guy as he downed the last of his four-egg ham-and-cheese omelet. With a name like that, it was a good thing he was big enough to protect himself.

“Billingsley Morton Lindemuth III,” Ricky said.

“I should never have told you.” Andi clearly felt betrayed.

“But you did. And you got to love it.” Laughing, Ricky turned to make toast.

“He hates it,” Andi said.

I wasn't surprised.

Greg drew in a breath like you do when something terrible happens. We all turned to stare at him.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

He was looking at the front page of The Press of Atlantic City. “Jase Peoples.”

“What?” I demanded.

Clooney grabbed the paper and followed Greg's pointing finger.

I could see the picture and the headline above it: “Have You Seen This Man?”



My Review:
As a reader of many different types of fiction I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was classified as a cozy mystery until now, I've really been missing out. Shadows on the Sand, a Seaside Mystery by Gayle Roper will definitely please fans of mystery, suspense and Christian fiction. While there was a bit of romance I felt that it wasn't as strong and developed as other suspense novels with romantic elements that I've read so if you are strictly a reader of romance this might not be a favorite. However, the story-line of this book is very interesting. Kidnapping, murder, and especially the Pathway cult cronies make for spine tingles times ten! Michael aka "The Archangel" is as creepy a villain as I've ever met and there are really not a whole lot of details about him or his past! Ms. Roper definitely does the subtly creepy (for lack of a better term) character very well. All in all this was a good story, it wasn't very in-depth but it definitely holds your attention and is an easy read that's not too preachy. I look forward to seeing what happens next in Seaside.

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How Lassie Really Feels....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

funny dog pictures - Caring is for the birds
see more dog and puppy pictures

I found this cute pic on Icanhascheezburger and couldn't resist posting since today is a "Don't know. Don't care." day for me. I'm not feeling the greatest so this entire week will probably be a don't mess with me week. Of course I love you, my blogger friends, so you can "bug" me all you want. :-)

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Clash of the Titles Ellie Gustafson and The Stones

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Clash of The Titles





This week, COTT's Book Club is taking a further look at The Stones by Eleanor (Ellie) Gustafson!

Much of it is narrative, but when Ellie pens dialog, she does it with expertise. The things her characters say either crack me up or sober me with their depth of wisdom. Ellie is indeed a master at crafting compelling dialog.

The event that stood out to me the most during the second quarter of the book was David’s move from Hebron to Jebus (which he renamed Jerusalem). I’m not sure if I just glanced over it every time I’ve read it in Scripture or if there just isn’t much there, but it was practically new information for me.

Ellie wrote a nail-biting account of the take-over of the city from the Jebusites. I never thought about who occupied Jerusalem before David or for how long. For those who haven’t read the book, the Jebusites had control of the city for hundreds of years before David decided he wanted it for his capitol. But that’s all I’m saying! You’ll have to buy the book if you want to find out exactly how David entered the highly-defended and, up to this point, unconquerable fortress.

Before the battle David addressed the troops. This is what he said:
“Look up, all of you, to the hill above Jebus. Mt. Moriah, Abraham brought his son Isaac from Beersheba to this place to sacrifice him in obedience to God’s command. He stood right where you’re standing now. He looked up in dread, yet set food to the mountain, confident that God—somehow, in some way—would provide. And he did. As Abraham raised his knife, the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. So shaken he could hardly stand, Abraham looked around, and there in the thicket, caught by its horns, was the sacrifice God provided in place of Isaac.

“Abraham called the mountain, ‘The Lord will provide,’” David continued, “and we’ll hold to that word today. We’ll climb Mt. Moriah, and there Yaweh will provide. Here, in the name of the Lord, we claim that miserable shelf called Zion. It shall be cleansed of Jebusites and be forever known as Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Holy City of God.”

That passage deeply impacted me. Having grown up on the Thoene’s work, I’ve always been fascinated with Jerusalem, but Ellie took me back to the beginning and drew a thread through the centuries, through David and to Christ. Although you didn’t mention it, the reader easily draws the thread the rest of the way through to present-day and the ongoing struggle for God’s Holy City.

Our God is an awesome God! History is already written and he sees the big picture with perfect clarity. We can only hope to catch a glimpse.

Head over to COTT's Bookclub Blog, or join us on Facebook, to hear what the author has to say!
Have any of you visited Israel? If so, share your favorite part of the experience. If not, tell us the first place you’d want to see if you were told you’d be flying there tomorrow.

I hope you'll join us over at our Book Club headquarters for more conversations on this wonderful book And if you'd like to read along with us next month, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's, Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance in August!

~April Gardner is the Senior Editor of COTT and author of Wounded Spirits

*********

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Can't get this song outta my head!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'm not normally a fan of country music but I absolutely love this song. It's sooo cute and the video is cute too. It's most definitely the perfect song for summer. Here's the video in case you never seen it or heard the song.

"Honey Bee" by Blake Shelton



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Review (Christian Fiction): The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart

The Blessed
by Ann H. Gabhart
Copyright 2011
Revell Books
416 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3454-1
Fiction/Historical Romance

From the publisher:
Trapped by obligation, one woman longs for the freedom of true love.

It is 1844 and Lacey Bishop's life is a tangled mess. When circumstances move Lacey to a nearby Shaker village, she is not prepared for the new life that awaits her. In the midst of her deep loneliness, Lacey works to fit in with this odd group. But everything shifts when she finds herself drawn to a Shaker man in a village where such relationships are forbidden.

Can Lacey ever find true happiness in this mysterious place?


My Review:
These days it's hard to find any kind of romance be it Christian, general market or otherwise, that has such an original and complex setting as Ann H. Gabart's Shakers series. Where Amish fiction seems to have flooded the market it's nice to pick up a "bonnet" book that doesn't quite fit the mold. I'm not the biggest fan of slower paced novels like this one but Ms. Gabhart definitely catches the oddities and strangeness of the Shaker religious sect.

That said, at times, it was a little too much for me. I found that since most of the book took place in a Shaker village with little interaction from the outside world or a secondary story line set in the surrounding town I got a little bored. Not much happens until the very end that held my attention for more than a few chapters at a time. I was a little frustrated that there seemed to be absolutely no happiness or pleasantness, not even a smile shared among the Shakers. I was also a little frustrated at the relationship between Rachel and Lacey. At one point in the novel it was mentioned that Rachel no longer wanted Lacey as her mother, which I understood, but all seemed to be forgotten and came together too easily for my taste by the end of the book.

Don't get me wrong I liked the book and it was a good conclusion to the series but after having read and loved The Seeker, book 3, I was a little let down by this one. For those readers who love multi-layered characters (you either love or hate those in this book!), different religious groups, or just plain ol' historical fiction you might want to give The Blessed a try!


“Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

To learn more about the author visit:

* I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*

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Giveaway: Surrender the Dawn (Surrender to Destiny, Book 3) by Marylu Tyndall

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yes you read that correctly I have a copy of Marylu Tyndall's August release, Surrender the Dawn, book 3 in the Surrender to Destiny series, from Barbour Publishers to give away to one lucky winner! The book came today (Amazon doesn't even have it yet!) and its cover is just lovely! If you've read any of Marylu's books you know they are terrific romantic adventures and I expect this one to be no less than awesome. If you think that you'd like to read this book too just check out the synopsis below, follow the giveaway rules and fill out the form (it's my first time using the forms so please bear with me, if something is amiss with it please let me know). Thanks so much! Don't forget up until July 31 you can download the first book in the series, Surrender the Heart in ebook form free on Amazon (link on right sidebar of this blog)!!


Surrender the Dawn (Surrender to Destiny, Book 3)
by Marylu Tyndall
Copyright 2011
Barbour Books

About the book: You’ll be gasping for air in this seafaring romance by popular author and Christy Award nominee MaryLu Tyndall. Baltimore’s Cassandra Channing will do anything to provide for her family—even if it means hiring the town rogue as a privateer. Luke Heaton is a handsome rake with a tortured past who is blackmailed by the British into selling supplies to their ships just off the coast. Cassandra and Luke’s worlds collide as they are drawn into danger, secrets, romance, and war. But when the British begin to bombard Fort McHenry, how long can they protect their love—and each other?



Good luck!!!

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Feast: Harvest of Dreams Giveaway Winner!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Many thanks to all the new visitors and followers who entered the Feast: Harvest of Dreams giveaway and Merrie for offering the awesome giveaway! If you were not the lucky winner I encourage you to check out this book at your local library or order up a copy for yourself! Now to the news that you've all been waiting for - the randomly selected winner...

Tanya1224


Congratulations to Tanya, she has been emailed and will have 48 hours to respond with her mailing address or another winner will be chosen.

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Paranormal Fiction Review: Feast, Harvest of Dreams by Merrie Destefano

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Feast: Harvest of Dreams
by Merrie Destefano
Copyright 2011
Harper Voyager
304 pages
ISBN: 9780061990823
Fantasy

From Goodreads:
Madeline MacFadden ("Mad Mac" to fans of her bestselling magical stories) spent blissful childhood summers in Ticonderoga Falls. And this is where she wants to be now that her adult life is falling apart. The dense surrounding forest holds many memories, some joyous, some tantalizingly only half-remembered. And she's always believed there was something living in these wooded hills.

But Maddie doesn't remember the dark parts -- and knows nothing of the mountain legend that holds the area's terrified residents captive. She has no recollection of Ash, the strange and magnificent creature who once saved her life as a child, even though it is the destiny of his kind to prey upon humanity. And soon it will be the Harvest. . . the time to feast.

Once again Maddie's dreams -- and her soul -- are in grave danger. But magic runs deep during Harvest. Even a spinner of enchanted tales has wondrous powers of her own.


My Review:
4.5 stars

I love to read paranormal fiction and as such I've read a lot of it in the past few years so not much surprises me but Merrie Destefano has once again captured me from the first page with her imaginative characters and originality. The elements that make an awesome story, interesting characters, fascinating, fast-paced plot and tons of action tinted with just a hint of romance were all present in spades! Feast: Harvest of Dreams reminded me of a scary fairy tale. At times it left me breathless.

Merrie definitely writes the best canine characters into her stories. Samwise, Madeline and her son Tucker's loyal German Shepard steals the show more than once and often shows up in the nick of time. Ash, the Darkling/shapeshifter leader of Ticonderoga Falls is quite a story in and of his own self. I couldn't quite decide whether or not he was a "good guy". He always seemed to be walking the fine line between good and evil, so if you like your characters to be somewhat tortured and complex he definitely fits the bill.

I loved every second of this story and I'm hoping a sequel is in the works. There's some violence and mild language but not enough to make it graphic so I think this is perfect for both older teens and adults. If you're looking for an interesting fantasy read I definitely recommend Feast!

To learn more about the author visit:

****Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of Feast HERE!****



*I received my complimentary review copy through Net Galley.*

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International Giveaway, Feast: Harvest of Dreams by Merrie Destefano

If there was one book in the general fiction market that I was super excited for this year it was Merrie Destefano's, Feast: Harvest of Dreams. I'm a huge fan of the supernatural/paranormal fiction genre and Merrie's books stand out. I'm in the process of reading Feast and all I can say is wow, I know I'm going to enjoy this one! I definitely love the concept of creepy dream snatchers. I'll be posting a review later in the day and hope you stop by to read it, in the meantime check out my review of Afterlife and this super fun giveaway open to ALL of my blog readers! Yep you read correctly this giveaway is open internationally, many thanks to the author!



One winner gets:
1. Signed copy of FEAST
2. Bookmarks
3. Buttons

To enter: Please leave a comment with your email address disguised something like this, steelergirl83(at)gmail(dot)com saying that you want to be entered.

For 3 bonus entries: Leave a comment telling me what your dream come true would be! Easy right? My dream come true would be a garage full of Mustangs, a cozy library, Steelers season tickets for life, an unlimited supply of dog treats (for Coco), and of course world peace. ;-)

Contest closes for entries July 12, 2011, 11:59pm EST. Winner will be chosen using random.org on July 13 and notified via the email address left in their comment. They will have 48 hours to respond or another name will be drawn. I am not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. Void where prohibited.

Be sure to stop by and say hi to Merrie @ her website!

Check out the Harper Collins site HERE for a huge excerpt from Feast.

Go HERE to order Feast

Go HERE to order Afterlife

Good luck and happy reading!!!

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Clash of the Titles: Victory for Joanne Sher

Monday, July 4, 2011

Clash of The Titles





Guest post by Michelle Massaro
The winner of this week's COTT battle is....










Joanne Sher!






Joanne joins the notable COTT Conquerors family as a pre-published author. Her writing passion is Biblical and historical fiction—paving rough roads with God’s presence. Joanne says her dream is to be able to submit to Clash of The Titles as a published author. We are confident that day will come.




Her winning excerpt came from her manuscript entitled Handmaiden to a Princess:
“Don't you have to leave now?” Mama took a sip of water and looked out at the sun. Rivka's eyes followed her mother's. The colors of the sunrise were already beginning to fade into the blue of the Israeli sky.
Rivka nodded. “Good bye, Mama. Off to the gardens.” She half-jogged toward the next part of her morning ritual.
Rivka’s sandals flip-flopped on the dirt, her steps brisk and light. The scents of the lilies of the valley and hyacinths slowed her pace the closer she got. The grass before her, still touched with the last of the morning’s dew, slapped against the sides of her sandals. She stopped, closed her eyes, and took in a long, slow breath.
Aroma fit for royalty.


read the full excerpt, and that of her most worthy competitor, Mary Hall, here.


Some reader comments:
I felt that excerpt 'A' was really good in that the little girl was so a part of the description.
I want to go walk in the garden!
I felt the soil in my hands, and smelled the fragrance of flowers in the air. Lovely!
I could see and smell the flowers

About her win, Joanne said:
WOW - I'm SO excited! What an honor. And what a FUN clash it's been.
Like the other members of the COTT family of authors, Joanne and Mary both praised each other's work and exuded a Christ-like spirit throughout the competition.

Get to know Joanne through her interview with her COTT hostess, Gail Pallotta here.




Congratulations, Joanne! We can't wait to see you in print!




Join us at COTT for our next Clash. Vote for your favorite and be entered to win a free book. Have a book or theme suggestion? Send it in! Have you written the next blockbuster hit? Send us your 500 best words. We want to hear from you.

bio: Michelle Massaro is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles. She has written for The Write Conversation, Pentalk, COF Ministries, and Romantic Times. She and her husband of 16 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Above all, she is a follower of Christ Jesus, unashamed to stand upon the Word of God from beginning to end. Connect with her on her blog, twitter @MLMassaro, and Facebook.

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*Image from Jen-A-Roo Blogs*

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