Thursday, July 31, 2008

CFBA Tour-DragonLight by Donita K. Paul

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


(WaterBrook Press - June 17, 2008)


Donita K. Paul

Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school, but soon got bored! The result: a determination to start a new career. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She says, “I feel blessed to be doing what I like best.”

She mentors all ages, teaching teenagers and weekly adult writing workshops.

“God must have imprinted 'teacher' on me clear down to the bone. I taught in public school, then home schooled my children, and worked in private schools. Now my writing week isn’t very productive unless I include some time with kids.”

Her two grown children make her proud, and her two grandsons make her laugh.

Donita is an award-winning author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicle series including DragonFire and DragonKnight.

When not writing, she is often engaged in mentoring writers of all ages. Donita lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she is learning to paint–walls and furniture! Visit her website at

The fantastic land of Amara is recovering from years of war inflicted on its citizens by outside forces–as well as from the spiritual apathy corroding the Amarans’ hearts. With Kale and her father serving as dragon keepers for Paladin, the dragon populace has exploded. It’s a peaceful, exciting time of rebuilding. And yet, an insidious, unseen evil lurks just beneath the surface of the idyllic countryside.

Truth has never been more important, nor so difficult to discern.

As Kale and her father are busy hatching, bonding, and releasing the younger generation of dragons as helpers throughout the kingdom, the light wizard has little time to develop her skills. Her husband, Sir Bardon–despite physical limitations resulting from his bout with the stakes disease–has become a leader, serving on the governing board under Paladin. When Kale and Bardon set aside their daily responsibilities to join meech dragons Regidor and Gilda on a quest to find a hidden meech colony, they encounter sinister forces. Their world is under attack by a secret enemy… can they overcome the ominous peril they can’t even see?

Prepare to experience breathtaking adventure and mind-blowing fantasy as never before in this dazzling, beautifully-crafted conclusion to Donita K. Paul’s popular DragonKeeper Chronicles fantasy series.

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

"DragonLight is a delight, but I wouldn't expect anything less from the marvelous Donita K. Paul. I heartily recommend her books to all ages who love inspirational fantasy and wonderful creatures. Ms Paul not only supplies imagination and talent, she provides heart and soul. Another winner!"
~KATHRYN MACKEL, author of Boost

"Donita K. Paul is amazing! DragonLight has the allegorical depth to satisfy the most discerning adult seeking spiritual depth, yet it is fun enough to fascinate a child. This book will enthrall, uplift, and if allowed, change lives--as we are gently drawn to realize that each of us is flawed and must have patience with other flawed believers."
~HANNAH ALEXANDER, author of Double Blind

FIRST Wild Card Tour-Searching for Spice by Megan DiMaria

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and his/her book:

Searching for Spice

Tyndale House Publishers (March 5, 2008)


Megan DiMaria has fond memories of childhood trips to the public library where, amid the mural of Gulliver’s Travels and stacks of books, she began a lifelong love of the written word.

Searching for Spice is her debut novel. It was written as a response to a running joke she had with some girlfriends because despite being happily married, women still want romance in their lives. Her second novel, Out of Her Hands, will release in October 2008.

Megan is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, HIS Writers, and is assistant director of Words for the Journey Rocky Mountain Region. She received her B.A. degree in Communication from SUNY Plattsburgh. Megan has been a radio and television reporter, freelance writer, editor and marketing professional. She volunteers her talents to her church and local non-profit organizations and speaks to writer’s and women’s groups.

Megan and her husband live in suburban Denver near their adult children. They often travel back to their roots in Long Island, NY to visit family and get their fill of delicious Italian food.

Her next novel, Out of Her Hands, goes on sale October 1, 2008.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 12.99

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (March 5, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1414318871

ISBN-13: 978-1414318875


Chapter One

Jerry looks at me as if my head has sprouted petunias. “Linda, the half-and-half isn’t cold.”

I regard him through bleary eyes and swallow a yawn. His silhouette appears soft and gauzy, framed by the daylight pouring through the kitchen window, glowing like a Thomas Kinkade painting. I should have given myself an extra dose of eyedrops when I got up this morning. Ever since my LASIK surgery, I’ve applied a thick, Vaseline-like ointment to my dry eyes at night before dropping into bed. “What?”

He’s standing in the middle of the kitchen, the questionable carton of half-and-half in one hand and a mug of steaming coffee in the other. His plaid robe hangs partway open, the belt loosely tied over wrinkled pajamas. A look of perplexity transforms his intelligent features into a caricature of a hapless sad sack. But truly nothing could be further from the truth. My husband is a PhD chemist. So who is this clueless schmo standing before me?

Jerry raises the hand holding the half-and-half. “Warm.”

“Is the refrigerator broken?” I launch from my seat and open the door of our five-year-old GE side-by-side fridge that I just had to have and, by the way, got at a fabulous discount at the scratch-and-dent sale at Sears.

The interior of the appliance is dark, the first clue that something is amiss. And come to think of it, the refrigerator’s typical hum of electrical activity was absent from my morning symphony of appliances that serenades me while the coffee brews and the microwave heats my favorite tall latte mug.

I peer inside. Oh, rats. Condensation coats the exterior of a large jar of dill pickles on the top shelf. I put my hand on a glass casserole dish to confirm my diagnosis. “It’s not working.”

My dear husband is still rooted to the floor. Some people are dependent on that caffeine jolt to get them going in the morning, and he’s their poster boy.

“Pour some half-and-half in your coffee, Jer. It’s probably okay.”

He follows my instructions and takes a seat at the table. “Well, I don’t think I could stomach warm milk with my shredded wheat.”

I open the freezer door and root around until I find the Sara Lee pound cake I was saving for the weekend. This cake would have been so delicious with some fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I console myself with the knowledge that I really don’t need the extra calories; I’m fluffy enough. That’s the loving word the Revere family uses to refer to those dreaded unwanted pounds. As in, “Don’t you love to hug Grandma? She’s so fluffy.”

“This will have to do for breakfast. Can you run down to the basement and get the picnic cooler? Maybe we can salvage some of the frozen meat.”

Jerry takes a deep swig of his legal stimulant and disappears into the basement. While I pour my tea and set the table, I hear him muttering amid the noise of boxes being shifted across the cement floor.

“What’s Dad doing?” Emma stands at the top of the basement stairs, her ear cocked to the sounds coming from below. At fifteen she’s still my little girl on some days, but on others I see the lovely young woman who’s emerging from within.

I fill her in on the morning’s tragedy.

She flips a strand of light brown hair behind her shoulder and saunters to the table. “Whatever.”

Okay, so today I see that snotty teenage brat who’s hijacked my little darling. Obviously she doesn’t feel my pain and is clueless about the cost or inconvenience of a busted refrigerator. Ah, the bliss of youthful ignorance.

Em picks up the knife and slices a piece of cake. “No juice?”

“Help yourself.”

She pushes to her feet, grabs a glass, and opens the freezer to retrieve three measly ice cubes.

Just as Jerry’s emerging from the basement with the dusty cooler, our son, Nick, joins us, wearing a pair of green sweatpants and a faded T-shirt. His eyelids are at half-mast, and he has a bad case of bed head. Emma’s only too happy to give him our news.

I begin to load the picnic cooler with frozen meat and toss the few anorexic ice cubes left in the freezer on top of our chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, ground beef, and frozen vegetables. “Well, this won’t do the trick.” Too bad it’s springtime. Otherwise I could toss my food in the snow.

No one responds to my comment, so I turn to my college-age son. “Nicky, would you please run to the store and get a bag of ice?”

He grimaces, but he’s maturing nicely and agrees to drive the few blocks to the store to run my errand. Emma plops herself down in front of the computer, no doubt relieved for once that she doesn’t have her driver’s license yet.

I paw through our junk drawer in the kitchen for the stack of business cards to find a repairman. Mechanic. Insurance agent. Day spa. Where did that come from? My nerves begin to dance like a cat on hot pavement. I don’t have time for this. “Jer, who should I call?”

My honey squeezes my shoulder. Ah, marital solidarity. He walks toward the desk that sits between the kitchen and family room. “Em, may I use the computer?”

She glares at him but silently gives up her seat. In a moment, Jerry has the telephone number of the Sears repairmen. He passes the scrap of paper to me. “Here ya go.”

Great. So much for marital solidarity.

I dial the number, navigate the menu, and plead my case to the dispatch associate. “Two o’clock? Um, okay. Thanks. Someone will be here to let him in.” I disconnect the call and secure the handset back on the base. “Jer? What’s your schedule today?”

He grunts out a reply with his back toward me while he pours another mug of coffee.


He turns and takes a careful sip of the hot liquid. “Sorry. Faculty meeting. No can do.”

Anxiety builds in my chest. Swell. As usual, I’m the one who has to make the appointment and alter my schedule to accommodate this fiasco.

I’m loading the breakfast plates into the dishwasher when Nick walks in bearing a twenty-pound bag of ice. He opens the back door, then drops the bag onto the brick patio.


He retrieves the bag of crushed ice and beams his killer grin—the one that made my sensibilities melt nearly twenty-six years ago when his father favored me with the same endearing smile at a gas station off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I have to confess it’s as though Jer saw my heart soar toward the heavens in that moment and caught it in his hand. And that’s where it’s been ever since. I had run out of gas, and he was fueling his 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Both Jerry and his cute little red car were about the best thing I’d seen in forever. He offered to drive me and my gallon of gasoline to my stranded car, and the rest of the story, as they say, is history.

The grandfather clock chimes from the living room, reminding me that I’m behind schedule. Being late for work at Dream Photography is a major transgression. My stomach knots to think that not only will I be late, but I’ll have to leave early too. A hive of angry bees bounces off the inside of my skull, clamoring to escape, and a deep sigh drains from the bottom of my lungs.

“Mom?” Nick lays his hand on my shoulder. He is so like his father, bless him. “Chill. It’s only a refrigerator.”

He makes me smile in spite of my poor attitude. “I know. It’s just that I’ll have to leave work early, and—”

“What time is the repairman coming?”

Praise God—we must have done something right to deserve this child. “Two o’clock. Will you be home from school?”

He shakes his head. “Sorry. I need to buy a book for my history class.”

Are you kidding me? My hands ball and land on my hips. “Can’t you buy the book another day?”

“I really need to get going on my term paper. It’s due in three weeks.”

My anxiety level rises again. “Won’t the bookstore be open tomorrow?”

Nick rolls his eyes. “I won’t have time to stand in that line at the bookstore tomorrow.” He pours the ice cubes onto the meat, ending our discussion.

I toss the lid on the cooler and scurry upstairs to get ready for work. So what’s our new family slogan? Every man for himself?


I walk into the organized chaos that is Dream Photography—one of the best-known portrait studios in metro Denver. The ringing telephone provides nerve-jarring background noise for the pandemonium playing itself out.

A well-groomed toddler makes serious work of tossing neatly arranged brochures onto the floor, while his mother wipes baby spit from her infant daughter’s dress. Another client is tapping her foot and checking her wristwatch. Add to that the family being escorted to the lobby to schedule their image presentation—aka sales session—by none other than Luke Vidal, my surly boss.

My tardiness is noted by Luke with a raised eyebrow and a brief tic of his head, one that goes unnoticed by our clients but hits pay dirt in my always-too-willing-to-accept-guilt gut. “Linda, can you schedule an image presentation for the Murrays?”

Sure, Luke would have to enlist me to wait on clients before I get the chance to clock in and get my bearings. That must be my punishment for coming in late. I hurry behind the reception desk and smile at the Murray clan—the ones who think Luke is the greatest thing since the invention of the daguerreotype.

Luke pumps the outstretched hand of Andy Murray. “The shoot went well. I think you’ll love the images.” He gives a peppermint-sweet grin to the rest of the family and struts from the beautifully appointed lobby of his home away from home.

I take care of business and trot to the break room to clock in and catch my breath.

My coworker Traci looks up from a pile of five by sevens. “Hey, girl. Where have you been?”

“Don’t ask.”

She puts down a print of a gorgeous bride and waits for the information she knows I’ll spill. I unburden my tale of woe, and she nods and gives me the expected platitudes.

She smiles her Pepsodent grin and pats me on the back. “Isn’t life grand?”

I really love Traci, but sometimes she can lay it on too thick. She passes me the day’s schedule, then exits the room.

I glance at the list of appointments. Rats. I better get moving. The bees have begun to swarm in my brain again.

After grabbing the necessary client files and slipping into a salesroom, I power up my Mac and access the network. Within moments I’ve loaded my client’s images and have chosen an appropriately sentimental song to accompany the slide show. I turn on the projector and dim the lights. Clients go gaga over our well-designed salesrooms—I mean, image presentation rooms. They look more like an elegant home theater than a place of business.

I race back to the lobby, discover that my 9:30 sale has arrived, and paste a smile on my face. “Heidi, Ken, it’s good to see you again. If you don’t remember, my name’s Linda.”

They greet me, and I escort them to the salesroom, chatting them up to break the ice.

The freshly baked cookies placed on the coffee table make my mouth water and hopefully put our well-heeled clients in the mood to take an emotional journey while gazing at the incredible images produced in our high-end studio.

“Can I get anyone a bottle of water before we begin?”

“Yes, I would love some water.” Heidi claims a seat in one of the overstuffed chairs. She looks toward her husband, who is inspecting the frame on one of the portraits that adorn the walls. “Ken?”

“Oh yes. Please.”

I excuse myself and go to the fridge to get some of our private-label water bottles. From the first moment our customers call to schedule their appointment and until they have their portraits delivered, they’re treated like royalty. Fortunately, most of them deserve such treatment.

Heidi and Ken are clients from way back. They’ve been through everything with us, from the old days of film to the current high-tech, all-digital studio we’ve evolved into.

When I return, I distribute the water and start the viewing program. The swell of sentimental music explodes from the speakers in the ceiling, and images of two adorable little girls move across the big screen. They sit in a wicker swing under a towering oak tree in a field of tall, natural grasses. The lighting illuminates the canopy of green branches above them, while they are perfectly shaded from the bright morning sun. The girls are wearing off-white linen dresses and holding lovely vintage rag dolls. The camera changes perspective, and the girls are in the foreground, framed by the leaves from the branch of a nearby tree. In the next scene they’re sitting at a small, white bistro table enjoying a tea party with a rose-patterned porcelain tea set and a teddy bear for a guest.

The music plays on as the girls pose by an antique baby carriage. They both gaze off into the distance, their expressions a paragon of youthful innocence.

I’m so sick of these types of saccharine images, I could puke. But day after day, they provide the all-natural, nitrate-free bacon I bring home to my family.

Heidi sniffs and reaches for the box of tissues that sits on the table. The last image fades from the screen, and the music stops. Heidi grasps for her husband’s hand. He nods and smiles.

I hand a price list to Ken, and we get down to business.

Heidi appears to suffer heart-wrenching torment as we narrow the number of images down from thirty-nine to fifteen. You’d think I’m dishonoring her cute little daughters by deleting some, but unless you’ve got a huge bank account, you can’t buy them all.

She clutches a hand to her heart, and her husband says, “I love that expression on Olyvia’s face.”

I slip into sales mode. “That image is gorgeous, but look at the subjects. Your girls are beautiful.”

They smile in agreement. We continue to weed through the images to find their favorites. I’m getting dizzy from comparing similar poses and going back and forth while Heidi hems and haws about the merits of each picture.

“Ah, can you pull up number twenty-two?”

I maneuver the program to display an image of the girls sitting at the bistro table.

“And can you compare it to number twenty-four?”

Could this woman say please just once? Would it kill her to treat me with a modicum of respect?

She turns to her husband. “What do you think?”

Poor Ken looks as though he’s pulling himself out of a stupor to respond. “Uh, I don’t like the way Trynity’s hand is curled on the table.”

Heidi stands and moves closer to the screen. “Really? I think that’s cute.”

He sighs. “Okay, keep that one.”

“But Olyvia isn’t looking in the right direction.”

“Heidi, sit down so I can see the screen.”

She flashes him a look that could take the merry out of Christmas. Uh-oh. This isn’t good.

I clear my throat and try to maneuver the sale in the right direction. “What if we take Olyvia’s head from image twenty-five and put it on this image?”

They both study the pictures that I put side by side on the screen.

“And, Ken, didn’t you say you love that expression on Olyvia’s face?”

He jerks in my direction, and I don’t know if he’s pleased that I’m asking for his input or annoyed. “What will this cost?”

Oh, so that’s the way we’re going to be, huh, Ken? “Well, there will be an extra art fee to swap out that head, but if you both love the images and you’re purchasing a wall portrait, it’s well worth the charge.”

“How much?” Ken insists.

Heidi shifts in her seat. “Oh, it will be perfect. We could hang it in the dining room across from the china cabinet.”

That Heidi, she’s my kind of gal. Press on, full steam ahead.

“How much will it cost?”

I wave my hand to minimize the bombshell. “Oh, only about fifty dollars.”

If the room were brighter, I’m sure I’d see steam floating from his ears. “Can you show us what that would look like?”

I don’t know why he’s giving me a hard time. He’s bought images with head swaps from us before. “Sure, this is down and dirty, but it will give you an idea.” My artistry is crude at best, but I do a quick swap. “Of course our imaging artists will make it look 100 percent natural. No one will know this isn’t the original image.”

Ken leans back in his chair, a movement I take for acceptance.

I go in for the close. “Now what size portrait were you thinking of?”

Heidi clasps her hands. “Maybe a sixteen by twenty.”

“Okay. What size is the wall it’s going on?”

She looks confused, as if I’m speaking in Mandarin.

I stand and pick up a twenty-by-twenty-four-inch frame that holds a white piece of foam core. “Let’s look at this size, and tell me what you think.” I step into the middle of the room and center the image on the blank canvas.

They respond with the usual sigh of desire.

“You may even want to see the next size up.” No sense in not trying.

“Okay, let’s see . . .”

Cha-ching. Looks like I’m well on my way to exceeding my weekly goal. By the time they’re ready to leave, I can tell Heidi wants nothing more than to go home and hug her little darlings. For the amount of money I collected from their mom and dad, I want to hug the girls too.

If only the rest of my day goes as well. After the refrigerator crisis, I could use a break.

Friday, July 25, 2008

CFBA Tour-Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Painted Dresses

(WaterBrook Press - July 15, 2008)


Patricia Hickman

Patricia Hickman is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, whose work has been praised by critics and readers alike.

Patricia Hickman began writing many years ago after an invitation to join a writer's critique group. It was headed up by best-selling author Dr. Gilbert Morris, a pioneer in Christian fiction who has written many best selling titles. The group eventually came to be called the "Nubbing Chits". All four members of the original "Chits" have gone on to become award-winning and best selling novelists (good fruit, Gil!).

Patty signed her first multi-book contract with Bethany House Publishers. After she wrote several novels "for the market", she assessed her writer's life and decided she would follow the leanings of her heart. She says, "It had to be God leading me into the next work which wound up being my first break-out book, Katrina's Wings. I had never read a southern mainstream novel, yet I knew that one lived in my head, begging to be brought out and developed." She wanted to create deeper stories that broke away from convention and formula. From her own journey in life, she created a world based upon her hometown in the 70's, including Earthly Vows and Whisper Town from the Millwood Hollow Series.

Patty and her husband, Randy, have planted two churches in North Carolina. Her husband pastors Family Christian Center, located in Huntersville. The Hickmans have three children, two on earth and one in heaven. Their daughter, Jessi, was involved in a fatal automobile accident in 2001. Through her writing and speaking, Patty seeks to offer help, hope and encouragement to those who walk the daily road of loss and grief.


In this story of sisterhood and unexpected paths, Gaylen Syler-Boatwright flees her unraveling marriage to take refuge in a mountain cottage owned by her deceased aunt. Burdened with looking after her adult sister, Delia, she is shocked to find a trail of family secrets hidden within her aunt’s odd collection of framed, painted dresses. With Delia, who attracts trouble as a daily occupation, Gaylen embarks on a road trip that throws the unlikely pair together on a journey to painful understanding and delightful revelations.

Steeped in Hickman’s trademark humor, her spare writing voice, and the bittersweet pathos of the South, Painted Dresses powerfully captures a woman’s desperate longing to uncover a hidden, broken life and discover the liberty of living authentically, even when the things exposed are shrouded in shame.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CFBA Tour-Try Darkness by James Scott Bell

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Try Darkness

(Center Street - July 30, 2008)


James Scott Bell


JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, TRY DYING, was released to high critical praise, while his book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.


Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancée and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts.
One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights.
But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk.
But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good.
Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive.
Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.

If you would like to read chapters 1 & 2, go HERE

“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”

“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”
—Publishers Weekly

“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Times

“A master of suspense.”
—Library Journal

“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”
—In the Library Review

Friday, July 18, 2008

CFBA Tour-Promises, Promises by Amber Miller

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Promises, Promises

Barbour - July, 2008


Amber Miller


Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. Writing had always been a hobby, a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings in a way I sometimes find difficult with the spoken word -- although my friends will tell you 'shy' is not in my vocabulary. Thanks to the gentle nudging of a fellow author -- Tracie Peterson -- in 2002, I took the next step in my writing career and joined the American Christian Fiction Writers. I owe all so many there a hearty hug of appreciation for their constant encouragement and unselfish assistance. I feel a lot more confident thanks to their support and love. For those of you who are also fiction writers looking for a wonderful support group, check them out!

I got involved with web design in 1997, when I was asked to take over running the official web site for the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. That eventually led to a series of negotiations where I was offered the job of running world-renowned actress Jane Seymour's official fan site. That has branched into doing web sites for a variety of clients, including: authors J.M. Hochstetler, Trish Perry, Kathy Pride, Louise M. Gouge, Susan Page Davis, and Jill Elizabeth Nelson, actor William Shockley (the voice of AT&T and Sony) and many others. With the help of a handful of other web site "technos," Eagle Designs was born! Feel free to visit and see our other clients.

Books are a definite passion. Why else would I be writing and publishing them? I firmly believe that a good book can take you away from all of your problems, into a world you've never seen. My favorite food is Italian; I sing all the time, and I once worked with my church choir to do a professional recording for a music CD of our performances.

I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher nestled in the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write.


Raelene Strattford knows God has promised never to leave or forsake her. But after the catastrophic deaths of her parents, she doesn t believe it. What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? Gustaf Hanssen has admired Raelene from afar for a while, but his poor attempt at courting her in the past has made him unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?

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

At this time,
Promises, Promises
can only be purchased through the
Heartsong Book Club

Friday, July 11, 2008

CFBA Tour-Wind River by Tom Morrisey

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Wind River

(Bethany House July 1, 2008)


Tom Morrisey


Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section.

He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure-travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both evangelism and the arts. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines.

His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of four other novels: In High Places (Bethany House Publishers, 2007), Dark Fathom (Zondervan, 2005), Deep Blue, (Zondervan 2004), and Turn Four (Zondervan 2004). In addition Tom has also written two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.


You Can't Outrun the Sins of Your Past
Desperate to forget what happened to him in Iraq, Tyler Perkins flees to the emptiness of Wyoming. He's here to escape and also to fulfill a long-ago promise by accompanying his 86-year-old friend Soren Andeman on a fly-fishing trip--once more for old time's sake. But their trek to an idyllic trout lake soon becomes something more deeply harrowing--a journey that uncovers long-held lies, deadly crimes, and the buried secrets of the past. Ty barely has time to contemplate the question of what constitutes justice when nature unleashes her own revenge. Trapped in a race back to safety, he must face his own guilt-ridden past or risk being consumed.

Powerfully imagined by the acclaimed author of In High Places, Wind River is an engaging wilderness adventure that explores the power of confession, the beauty of forgiveness, and the freedom of truth unveiled.

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

Monday, July 07, 2008

FIRST Wild Card Tour-Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and her book:

Love Starts with Elle

Thomas Nelson (July 8, 2008)


Rachel Hauck is a graduate of Ohio State University, and is a former software trainer. She published her first novel in 2004. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband, Tony, a youth pastor.

Some of Rachel's other books are:
Sweet Caroline
Diva Nash Vegas
Lost In Nash Vegas

Visit her at her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (July 8, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595543384
ISBN-13: 978-1595543387


Chapter One

December 21

From the loft of her Bay Street art gallery, Elle Garvey leaned against the waist-high wall, admiring GG Galley’s “Art in Christ-mas” show. Visitors and patrons—some Beaufort residence, others curious tourists—milled among the displays, speaking in low tones, sipping hot cider.

The mellow voice of Andy Williams serenaded them. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .”

“Elle,areyouthequeen,surveyingherkingdom?” Arlene Coulter gazed up from the bottom of the loft stairs, her bright red Christmas suit its own fashion work of art.

“Yes, and are you my loyal servant?”

Arlene curtsied,her bottle-blonde hair falling forward like silky angel hair, the hem of her skirt sliding up her knee. “Yours and yours alone, O you of whom Art News wrote, ‘One of the lowcountry’s finest galleries.’”

“Best hundred-dollar bribe I ever spent.” Elle descended the stairs, catching sight of her baby sister, Julianne, selling a bronze sculpture to a young woman wearing pearls.

“Darling”—Arlene linked arms with Elle and led her to the back wall—“your artist eye is truly God gifted.Tell me now . . . is this the work of the great Alyssa Porter?”

“It is.” Elle surveyed the paintings. They spoke to her each time she viewed them. She envied Alyssa and artists like her—the ones who had the courage to chase the dream.

Elle had lost hers a long time ago.

“And what do you like about this artist?” Arlene squeezed Elle’s arm tighter.

“Her paintings move me.” Elle freed herself from Arlene and moved to Alyssa’s Rose Garden, convinced it’d be a masterpiece one day.

“Move you?” Arlene studied one of the abstracts through a one-eyed slit, her short, red-tipped fingers squeezing the point of her chin. “I suppose they move me too. I’m just not sure where.”

“You’re looking for a definite image, Arlene. Don’t be so con-crete. Let your imagination run ...” Elle hooked her arm around the woman’s shoulders. “Follow my hand. See how you just moved out of the sunlight into the shade?”

“No, but, girl, I really love your bracelets. Where’d you get those?” Arlene grabbed Elle’s wrist to study the tricolor bangles.

“You beat all, Arlene.” Elle twisted her hand free.

“Well,a good set of bracelets is hard to find.” Arlene gazed again at the painting. “So, what should I do about Miss Porter?”

“Buyher.The New York art scene has discovered Alyssa and if you don’t purchase something before her first auction, you’ll never be able to afford it. Here...” Elle walked to the other side of the display. “This one on the bottom right is only two thousand dollars.”

Arlene stood an inch way from the bottom painting,tipping her head to one side. The track lighting haloed the back of her head.

“I’m afraid if I buy one of these I’ll wake up one night with the dang thing hanging over my head whispering,‘I see dead people.’”

“If it does, call Pastor O’Neal, not me.”

Arlene bent in half as if she hung upside down, then snapped upright. “What about this artist over here. Coco Nelson. Now this I get. Look—a woman’s face, with eyes and hair.”

“Coco’s a wonderful artist,” Elle said. “Very realistic work. This series is called ‘Love and Romance.’”

“Very fitting for you, sugar.” Arlene arched a brow at Elle.

“This piece, Proposal, is stunning.” Her voice rose and fell into a

Elle ignore her subtle teasing. “Yes, there’s something about it.
An ordinary gentleman down on one knee proposing to an ordinary

But the emotion Coco evoked in the scene was anything but ordinary. When she’d sent in the piece, Elle couldn’t hang it at first. Too embarrassed after last year’s Operation Wedding Day fiasco when she tried to date every available bachelor in Beaufort. She wanted no reminders of love and romance.

Until Jeremiah Franklin.

“Okay.” Arlene spun around. “I’ll take the Alyssa Porter and this Coco Nelson.”

“You won’t regret it.”

“Says who?” Arlene passed Alyssa’s abstract piece again, sidestepping the image as if it might spring to life and spar with her.

Elle laughed, leading the way to her desk across the old, former hardware store. She treasured the talented, sometimes whacky, interior designer who landed lowcountry clients like doctors, lawyers, and hotel developers. In the early days of GG Gallery, business from Coulter Designs had helped keep the gallery lights burning and
Elle’s hopes alive.

“What’s the damage?” Arlene flashed her checkbook.

“Hold on, now, let me add a few more zeroes.” Elle jammed her finger on the adding machine’s Zero button.

“Add all you want. I’m only writing three.” Arlene fanned her face with her opened checkbook. “So, how’s it going with the good pastor?”

The mere hint of Dr. Jeremiah Franklin made Elle feel bubbly. “Good.”

“If the glow on your cheeks is any indication, I’d say it’s more than good. How long y’all been together now? Few months?”

“Two.” Elle wrote up Arlene’s order with a ten-percent discount.

“And it’s love?” Arlene leaned to see Elle’s eyes. “Don’t tell me it ain’t ’cause I can see it written all over your face.”

“Here.” Elle laughed low, passing over the order ticket with the total circled. “I appreciate your business—and nosiness—Arlene.”

“Any time, sugar. Any time.” Arlene peeked at the total, then started to write.

“Hey, babe.”


He still took her breath away after two months. When he’d told her he loved her in the setting sunlight during a beach walk, Elle had handed him her heart on a silver—no, gold—platter. Key included.

“Jer, what are you doing here?” She met him on the other side of her desk and stepped into his arms. His fragrance awakened her yearnings.

“I’m on my way to rehearse tomorrow’s sermon. Couldn’t pass the gallery without stopping in for a minute.” His kiss was soft and sweet, a pastorly display of public affection. But enough to make Elle glad to be a woman. His woman. “We’re still on for dinner?”

“Absolutely. You still haven’t said where you wanted to go.”

Jeremiah’s hazel wink teased her. “Patience, girl. Do you have to know everything?”

“Do you not know me after these few months?”

“Exactly . . .” He stooped for another soft kiss and backed away. “Good to see you, Arlene.”

“You too, Dr. Franklin.” Arlene watched Jeremiah exit the building with a wave. “Hmm-um, Elle, it must be breaking your heart.” Rippp. She handed over her check.

“What? What are you talking about?” Elle brushed the check absently between her fingers.

Arlene gaped at Elle with an “Um, what now?” expression, then punched the air with a darn-it fist, chewing her bottom lip. “Me and my mouth. Shoot fire, my Dirk will kill me.” She clutched her buttercolored Dooney & Burke to her chest. “Just forget I said anything, Elle. I am so sorry.” She whirled around and hurried away with a
swirling, swing-swing of her hips. “See you in church.”

“Oh no you don’t.” Arlene’s diverse network of informants was infamous—a mixture of truth and town lore, and eerily accurate. Elle scurried after her, blocking her before she reached the door. “You can’t drop a bomb like that then wiggle out of here with a ‘see you in church.’ What were you talking about?”

“First of all, I have a very natural swing to my hips. It’s what caught Dirk’s eye in the first place, mind you. As for the other, well, Elle, Jeremiah can tell you himself. Don’t worry. It’s good, I think.” She squared her red-jacketed shoulders. “Like I said, see you in church.”

Elle watched her go, thoughts racing. Jeremiah had just been here. He’d acted perfect, like always. What was Arlene talking about? This time her information network must have supplied the wrong details. What did you hear, Arlene Coulter?

“Elle, Mrs. Beisner is curious about a discount for buying three pieces.” Julianne held out an order pad, tapping the total. During art show openings and art fairs, Elle’s baby sister worked part time for GG Gallery. “What do you think, fifteen percent?”

“Sure.” Elle raked her hair with her fingers. “Whatever she wants.”

Julianne observed her sister through narrowed eyes. “Whatever she wants? Elle, are you okay?”

“I don’t know.” Elle walked around Jules to her desk and opened the bottom drawer where her handbag lived. “Can you watch the gallery for me?”

“Where are you going?”

“To uncover a rumor.” She didn’t feel like waiting until dinner to hear his news—if there was any news.

“Now?” Julianne called after her.

“I won’t be long.” But the front door was blocked by Huckleberry Johns and his fish tank of eco art. Oh, please, not tonight. “Huck, what are you doing? You’re dripping muddy water all over my clean floor.”

With a lopsided grin, he scanned the gallery, vying for attention. “I call it Death at Coffin Creek.” He raised his composition of reeking pluff mud and marsh grass. “Developers are ruining our ecosystem.”

Elle dropped her shoulders in fake defeat. “Huckleberry, you are too good-looking and too young to be so weird.” She grabbed his shoulders and turned him around. “Out. You’re stinking up the place. Julianne, we need a mop up here.”

Huck was an art school dropout—or, rather, they’d dropped him—and he hit the sidewalk, protesting, “I deserve to be heard.”

“Not in my gallery.” Elle stepped out after him. “Right message, wrong venue, Huck.”


Elle’s smile broke. “Slob. Talk about it later?”

“It may be too late.”

“For who? You or Coffin Creek?” Elle backed up the sidewalk in the direction of her car.

“You.” Huck hollered between his wide grin, spinning off in the opposite direction, disappearing around the corner.

Elle held the sanctuary door so it closed quietly without squeaking or thudding. She paused for her eyes to adjust to the dim light, then spotted Jeremiah up front, striding across the stage as he rehearsed his sermon, his lips moving in silent recitation.

His movement was graceful and controlled, an extension of his inner being.

“He can preach up a storm, that one.” A slight, round-shouldered, snowy-haired Miss Anna Carlisle emerged from one of the sanctuary’s dark pockets, jabbing her finger toward Jeremiah.

“Then we should bring our umbrellas tomorrow,” Elle said, giving Miss Anna’s shoulders a hug.

“Best to be prepared, I suppose.” Miss Anna’s pushed open the sanctuary door. “I’m praying for that boy,” she said with a wag of her finger. “And you.” Her words were intentional and steady.

“For me?” Elle asked.

“For you.”

Elle regarded her for a moment. “Are you walking? Can I give you a ride?” Elle went with the older woman through the foyer to the outer doors.

“I do believe it’s a fine, crisp evening for walking.” She buttoned the top button of her blue sweater and buried her hands in the frayed pockets. Elle thought the garment’s spacious weave would do little against the night’s chill. “Good night, Elle.”

“Are you sure you want to walk, Miss Anna?”

“I’m sure.”

Elle watched her until she disappeared between the trees and night lights. Then, back inside, she slipped into the back pew and watched Jeremiah practice his message. She’d never met a man like him—one who breathed in confidence and exhaled all doubt.

Her emotions tugged between the man she knew and Arlene’s slipup. What’s going on, Jeremiah? If anything?

Even for a Saturday-night sermon rehearsal, Jeremiah wore gray slacks and a starched cotton button-down. For the hundredth time, Elle wondered how he’d survived three years in the National Football League, three years of Bible college, and seven years of full-time ministry single.

But she wasn’t complaining. God had saved the best for her.

Under the low stage lights, Jeremiah paused as if waiting for a response. He acted out a laugh, making his way to center stage with an even gait. At the podium, he gripped the sides and leaned toward the empty sanctuary, bobbing his head to the beat of internal words. Can I get an “Amen,” somebody?

Why not oblige? “Amen.” Elle rose from the pew as Jeremiah squinted beyond the spotlights into the shadowy sanctuary.

“Elle, babe? Is that you?” He came off the stage with a touchdown power stride. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, fine, but”—she met him in the middle of the aisle—“I heard a rumor.”

He growled, teasing her. “Is that ever good?” He touched his lips to hers with the passion that came when they were alone. “What kind of rumor?”

“Something about you and my breaking heart, Jeremiah.”

“And who delivered such almost horrifying news?” He locked his arms around her waist, his hazel eyes searching hers.

“Arlene Coulter, though she stopped herself when she saw I didn’t know what she was talking about.”

“She heard from her husband, one of our trusty elders?”

“Who else?” Elle broke her gaze from Jeremiah’s, smoothing her hand over the crisp surface of his shirt.

“You’d think the man would know better after twenty-five years of marriage.”

“And what should I know after two months of dating?”

He brushed her hair away from her shoulder, letting his fingertips graze her skin. “Can it wait for dinner?”

His touch was fiery to her. “You tell me. Can it?”

“Are we answering questions with questions?”

“Are we?” Some time in the past week they’d started this new back-and-forth questions-with-questions dance.

“Did I start this, or you?”

“Does it matter?”

“Only if we want to get off this ride.” He pressed his lips to hers again, breathing deep.

His kisses defied all bad news.

“Tell you what.” He held up his wrist to see his watch in the stage light. “I’m almost done here. Another thirty minutes. What time does the gallery close?”


“Can Julianne close up for you? We’ll slip off to dinner.”

“If I pay her.” Elle brushed her hand down the sleeve his oxford shirt. “That girl’s all about moh-ney.” She eyed him. “Monet. Mo-net . . . Get it?”

“Yes, I get it. Artist jokes. So, meet me here in thirty?” He walked backward to the stage. “Remember, I love you.”

“What’s up, Dr. Franklin? If I have to remember . . .” She caught the high and low contours of his face as he stood under the lights. “Not a good sign.”

His smile dried up the beginnings of her self-pity. “Just remember, Elle.”

CFBA Tour-The Edge of Recall by Kristen Heitzmann

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Edge Of Recall

(Bethany House July 1, 2008)


Kristen Heitzmann


Of her three main interests, art, music and writing, she chose to study English at the University of Colorado and thrived on Creative Writing and Literature classes. She married her husband Jim, and turned her energy to building a family. They have four children whom they have home schooled for all or most of their education. Kristen is a music minister with the ecumenical covenant community People of Praise.

Once she realized the stories in her head were truly a calling from the Lord, she made writing not just a passion, but a ministry. She has written seven historical fiction novels as part of the The Rocky Mountain Legacy series, the Diamond of the Rockies series, and the Christy Award winner Secrets. Most recently, she has written several contemporary fiction novels, including Echoes, Freefall and Unforgotten.

Kristen and her husband, Jim, and their family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she serves as worship leader in their church.


Tessa Young, an up-and-coming landscape architect who specializes in the design and creation of labyrinths, has immersed herself in the mythological, spiritual, and healing aspects of the elaborate structures. She also is searching for God and hoping to make sense of the nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.

When Smith Chandler, an estranged colleague--with whom she'd half fallen in love a dozen times before catching herself every time--calls to propose a project he claims is the opportunity of a lifetime, she reluctantly agrees to check it out. Smith is reconstructing a pre-Revolutionary War abbey for wealthy clients. Among its remarkable features is an overgrown labyrinth.

Unable to resist, Tessa accepts his offer to work with him. Soon she is immersed in the project of a lifetime. But one evening, after weeks of work in the labyrinth, Tessa and Smith are attacked. While protecting Tessa, Smith is stabbed, and the nightmare begins...again.

If You would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

FIRST Wild Card Tour-A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson

It is July FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and her book:

A Mile in My Flip-Flops

WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)


In sixth grade, Melody Carlson helped start a school newspaper called The BuccaNews (her school’s mascot was a Buccaneer...arrr!). As editor of this paper, she wrote most of the material herself, creating goofy phony bylines to hide the fact that the school newspaper was mostly a "one man" show.

Visit Melody's website to see all of her wonderful and various book titles.

Don't miss her latest teen fiction, Stealing Bradford (Carter House Girls, Book 2).

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1400073146

ISBN-13: 978-1400073146


I’m not the kind of girl who wants anyone to feel sorry for her.

So after my fiancé jilted me less than four weeks before our wedding date, and since the invitations had already been sent, my only recourse was to lie low and wait for everyone to simply forget.

Consequently, I became a recluse. If I wasn’t at work, teaching a delightful class of five-year-olds, who couldn’t care less about my shattered love life, I could be found holed up in my apartment, escaping all unnecessary interaction with “sympathetic” friends.

And that is how I became addicted to HGTV and ice cream. Okay, that probably calls for some explanation. HGTV stands for Home and Garden TV, a network that runs 24/7 and is what I consider the highest form of comfort TV. It is habit forming, albeit slightly mind numbing. And ice cream obviously needs no explanation.

Other than the fact that my dad, bless his heart, had seven quart-sized cartons of Ben & Jerry’s delivered to my apartment the day after Collin dumped me. Appropriately enough, dear old Dad (who knows me better than anyone on the planet) selected a flavor called Chocolate Therapy, a product worthy of its name and just as addictive as HGTV.

But now, eighteen months and twenty-two pounds later, I seem to be in a rut. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so.

“Come on, Gretchen,” urges my best friend, Holly, from her end of the phone line. “Just come with us–please!”

“Right…,” I mutter as I lick my spoon and dip it back into a freshly opened carton of Chunky Monkey–also appropriately named, but let’s not go there. Anyway, not only had I moved on to new ice cream flavors, but I also had given up using bowls. “Like I want to tag along with the newlyweds. Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Like I keep telling you, we’re not newlyweds anymore,” she insists. “We’ve been married three months now.”


“And it’s Cinco de Mayo,” she persists, using that little girl voice that I first heard when we became best friends back in third grade. “We always go together.”

I consider this. I want to point out that Holly and I used to always go to the Cinco de Mayo celebration together–as in past tense. And despite her pity for me, or perhaps it’s just some sort of misplaced guilt because she’s married and I am not, I think the days of hanging with my best friend are pretty much over now. The image of Holly and Justin, both good looking enough to be models, strolling around holding hands with frumpy, dumpy me tagging along behind them like their poor, single, reject friend just doesn’t work for me.

“Thanks anyway,” I tell her. “But I’m kind of busy today.”

“So what are you doing then?” I hear the challenge in her voice, like she thinks I don’t have anything to do on a Saturday.

I slump back into the sofa and look over to the muted TV, which is tuned, of course, to HGTV, where my favorite show, House Flippers, is about to begin, and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. “I’m, uh…I’ve got lesson plans to do,” I say quickly. This is actually true, although I don’t usually do them until Sunday evening.

She snickers. “Yeah, that’s a good one, Gretch. I’ll bet you’re vegging out in front of HGTV with a carton of Chocolate Fudge Brownie.”

“Wrong.” Okay, Holly is only partially wrong. Fortunately, I haven’t told her about my latest flavor.

“Come on,” she tries again. “It’ll be fun. You can bring Riley along. He’d probably like to stretch his legs.”

I glance over to where my usually hyper, chocolate Lab mixed breed is snoozing on his LL Bean doggy bed with a chewed-up and slightly soggy Cole Haan loafer tucked under his muzzle. “Riley’s napping,” I say. “He doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“Like he wouldn’t want to go out and get some fresh air and sunshine?”

“We already had our walk today."

Holly laughs. “You mean that little shuffle you do over to the itty bitty park across the street from your apartment complex? What’s that take? Like seven and a half minutes for the whole round trip? That’s not enough exercise for a growing dog like Riley.”

“I threw a ball for him to chase.”

“So there’s nothing I can do or say to change your mind?” House Flippers is just starting. “Nope,” I say, trying to end this conversation. “But thanks for thinking of me.”

“Want me to bring you back an empanada?”

“Sure,” I say quickly. “You guys have fun!” Then I hang up and, taking the TV off mute, I lean back into the soft chenille sofa and lose myself while watching a hapless couple from Florida renovate a seriously run-down split-level into something they hope to sell for a profit. Unfortunately, neither of them is terribly clever when it comes to remodeling basics. And their taste in interior design is sadly lacking too. The woman’s favorite color is rose, which she uses liberally throughout the house, and she actually thinks that buyers will appreciate the dated brown tiles and bathroom fixtures in the powder room. By the time the show ends, not only is the house still on the market despite the reduced price and open house, but the couple’s marriage seems to be in real trouble as well.

“Too bad,” I say out loud as I mute the TV for commercials. Riley’s head jerks up, and he looks at me with expectant eyes.

“You just keep being a good boy,” I tell him in a soothing tone. Hopefully, he’ll stretch out this midday nap a bit longer. Because once Riley starts moving, my tiny apartment seems to shrink, first by inches and then by feet.

My hope for an elongated nap crumbles when his tail begins to beat rhythmically on the floor, almost like a warning–thump, thump, thump–and the next thing I know, he’s up and prowling around the cluttered living room. Riley isn’t even full grown yet, and he’s already way too much dog for my apartment. Holly warned me that his breed needed room to romp and play. She tried to talk me into a little dog, like a Yorkie or Chihuahua, but I had fallen for those liquid amber eyes…and did I mention that he’s part chocolate Lab? Since when have I been able to resist chocolate? Besides, he reminded me of a cuddly brown teddy bear. But I hardly considered the fact that he would get bigger.

After he climbed into my lap that day, licking my face and smelling of puppy breath and other things that I knew could be shampooed away, there was no way I could leave him behind at the Humane Society. I already knew that he’d been rejected as a Christmas present. Some dimwitted father had gotten him for toddler twins without consulting Mommy first. Even so, Holly tried to convince me that a good-looking puppy like that would quickly find another home.

But it was too late. I knew Riley was meant for me, and that was that. And I had grandiose ideas of taking him for long walks on the beach. “He’ll help me get in shape,” I assured Holly. She’d long since given up on me going to the fitness club with her, so I think she bought into the whole exercise theory. She also bought Riley his LL Bean deluxe doggy bed, which I could barely wedge into my already crowded apartment and now takes up most of the dining area, even though it’s partially tucked beneath a gorgeous craftsman-style Ethan Allen dining room set. Although it’s hard to tell that it’s gorgeous since it’s pushed up against a wall and covered with boxes of Pottery Barn kitchen items that won’t fit into my limited cabinet space.

“This place is way too small for us,” I say to Riley as I shove the half-full ice cream carton back into the freezer. As if to confirm this, his wagging tail whacks an oversized dried arrangement in a large bronze vase, sending seedpods, leaves, and twigs flying across the carpet and adding to the general atmosphere of chaos and confusion.

My decorating style? Contemporary clutter with a little eclectic disorder thrown in for special effect. Although, to be fair, that’s not the real me. I’m sure the real me could make a real place look like a million bucks. That is, if I had a real place…or a million bucks.

I let out a long sigh as I stand amid my clutter and survey my crowded apartment. It’s been like this for almost two years now.

Overly filled with all the stuff I purchased shortly after Collin proposed to me more than two years ago. Using my meager teacher’s salary and skimpy savings, I started planning the interior décor for our new home. I couldn’t wait to put it all together after the wedding.

“Have you ever heard of wedding presents?” Holly asked me when she first realized what I was doing.

“Of course,” I assured her. “But I can’t expect the guests to provide everything for our home. I figured I might as well get started myself. Look at this great set of espresso cups that I got at Crate & Barrel last weekend for thirty percent off.”

“Well, at least you have good taste,” she admitted as she stooped to admire a hand-tied wool area rug I’d just gotten on sale. Of course, she gasped when she saw the price tag still on it. “Expensive taste too!”

“It’ll last a lifetime,” I assured her, just like the Karastan salesman had assured me. Of course, as it turned out, my entire relationship with Collin didn’t even last two years. Now I’m stuck with a rug that’s too big to fit in this crummy little one-bedroom apartment–the same apartment I’d given Mr. Yamamoto notice on two months before my wedding. It was so humiliating to have to beg to keep it after the wedding was cancelled, but I didn’t know what else to do.

And now, a year and a half later, I’m still here. Stuck. It’s like everyone else has moved on with their lives except me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had enough room to make myself at home or enough room for Riley to wag his tail without causing mass destruction…or enough room to simply breathe. Maybe I should rent a storage unit for all this stuff. Or maybe I should move myself into a storage unit since it would probably be bigger than this apartment.

As I pick up Riley’s newest mess, I decide the bottom line is that I need to make a decision. Get rid of some things–whether by storage, a yard sale, or charity–or else get more space. I vote for more space. Not that I can afford more space. I’m already strapped as it is.

Kindergarten teachers don’t make a whole lot. I feel like I’ve created a prison for myself. What used to be a convenient hideout now feels like a trap, and these thin walls seem to be closing in on me daily. Feeling hopeless, I flop back onto the couch and ponder my limited options. Then I consider forgetting the whole thing and escaping back into HGTV, which might call for some more ice cream.

But that’s when I look down and notice my thighs spreading out like two very large slabs of ham. Very pale ham, I might add as I tug at my snug shorts to help cover what I don’t want to see, but it’s not working. I stare at my flabby legs in horror. When did this happen?

I stand up now, trying to erase that frightening image of enormous, white thunder thighs. I pace around my apartment a bit before I finally go and stand in front of an oversized mirror that’s leaning against the wall near the front door. This is a beautiful mirror I got half price at World Market, but it belongs in a large home, possibly over a fireplace or in a lovely foyer. And it will probably be broken by Riley’s antics if it remains against this wall much longer.

But instead of admiring the heavy bronze frame of the mirror like I usually do, I actually look into the mirror and am slightly stunned at what I see. Who is that frumpy girl? And who let her into my apartment? I actually used to think I was sort of good looking. Not a babe, mind you, but okay. Today I see a faded girl with disappointed eyes.

Some people, probably encouraged by Holly, a long-legged dazzling brunette, used to say I resembled Nicole Kidman. Although they probably were thinking of when Nicole was heavier and I was lighter. Now it’s a pretty big stretch to see any similarities. To add insult to injury, Nicole has already hit the big “four o,” whereas I am only thirty-two. Her forties might be yesterday’s twenties, but my thirties look more like someone else’s fifties. And I used to take better care of myself. Okay, I was never thin, but I did eat right and got exercise from jogging and rollerblading. Compared to now, I was in great shape. And my long strawberry blond hair, which I thought was my best asset, was usually wavy and fresh looking, although you wouldn’t know that now. It’s unwashed and pulled tightly into a shabby-looking ponytail, which accentuates my pudgy face and pale skin. Even my freckles have faded. It doesn’t help matters that my worn T-shirt (with a peeling logo that proclaims “My Teacher Gets an A+”) is saggy and baggy, and my Old Navy khaki shorts, as I’ve just observed, are too tight, and my rubber flip-flops look like they belong on a homeless person–although I could easily be mistaken for one if I was pushing a shopping cart down the street.

Then, in the midst of this pathetic personal inventory, my focus shifts to all the junk that’s piled behind me–the boxes, the myriad of stuff lining the short, narrow hallway and even spilling into the open door of my tiny bedroom, which can barely contain the queensize bed and bronze bedframe still in the packing box behind it. If it wasn’t so depressing, it would almost be funny. I just shake my head. And then I notice Riley standing strangely still behind me and looking almost as confused as I feel. With his head slightly cocked to one side, he watches me curiously, as if he, too, is afraid to move. This is nuts. Totally certifiable. A girl, or even a dog, could seriously lose it living like this. Or maybe I already have. They say you’re always the last to know that you’ve lost your marbles.

“It’s time for a change,” I announce to Riley. He wags his tail happily now, as if he wholeheartedly agrees. Or maybe he simply thinks I’m offering to take him on a nice, long walk. “We need a real house,” I continue, gathering steam now. “And we need a real yard for you to run and play in.” Of course, this only excites him more.

And that’s when he begins to run about the apartment like a possessed thing, bumping into boxes and furnishings until I finally open the sliding door and send him out to the tiny deck to calm himself.

After he settles down, I go and join him. It’s pretty hot out here, and I notice that the seedling sunflower plants, ones we’d started in the classroom and I’d brought home to nurture along, are now hanging limp and lifeless, tortured by the hot afternoon sun that bakes this little patio. Just one more thing I hate about this place.

So much for my attempt at terrace gardening. I’d seen a show on HGTV that inspired me to turn this little square of cement deck into a real oasis. But in reality it’s simply a barren desert that will only get worse as the summer gets hotter. I feel like I’m on the verge of tears now. It’s hopeless.

This is all wrong. On so many levels. This is not where I was supposed to be at this stage of the game. This is not the life I had planned. I feel like I’ve been robbed or tricked or like someone ripped the rug out from under me. And sometimes in moments like this, I even resent God and question my faith in him. I wonder why he allows things like this to happen. Why does he let innocent people get hurt by the selfishness of others? It just doesn’t make sense. And it’s not fair.

Oh, I’ve tried to convince myself I’m over the fact that my ex fiancé, Collin Fairfield, was a total jerk. And I try not to blame him for being swept away when his high school sweetheart decided, after fifteen years of being apart, that she was truly in love with him. I heard that the revelation came to Selena at the same time she received our engraved wedding invitation, which I did not send to her. She wasn’t even on my list.

And I actually believe that I’ve mostly forgiven Collin…and that sneaky Selena too. And I wish them well, although I didn’t attend their wedding last fall. A girl has to draw the line somewhere.

But all that aside, this is still so wrong. I do not belong in this stuffy little apartment that’s cluttered with my pretty household goods. I belong in a real house. A house with a white picket fence and a lawn and fruit trees in the backyard. And being single shouldn’t mean that I don’t get to have that. There must be some way I can afford a home.

Of course, I’m fully aware that real estate isn’t cheap in El Ocaso. It’s on the news regularly. Our town’s prices certainly aren’t as outrageous as some of the suburbs around San Diego, but they’re not exactly affordable on a teacher’s salary. I try not to remember how much I had in my savings account back before I got engaged and got carried away with spending on my wedding and my home. That pretty much depleted what might’ve gone toward a small down payment on what probably would’ve been a very small house. But, hey, even a small house would be better than this prison-cell apartment.

And that’s when it hits me. And it’s so totally obvious I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I will become a house flipper! Just like the people on my favorite HGTV show, I will figure out a way to secure a short-term loan, purchase a fixer-upper house, and do the repairs and decorating myself–with my dad’s expert help, of course!

And then, maybe as early as midsummer, I will sell this beautifully renovated house for enough profit to make a good-sized down payment on another house just for me…and Riley. Even if the secondhouse is a fixer-upper too, I can take my time with it, making it just the way I want it. And it’ll be so much better than where I live now.

I’m surprised I didn’t come up with this idea months ago. It’s so totally simple. Totally perfect. And totally me!

“We are going house hunting,” I announce to Riley as I shove open the sliding door and march back inside the apartment. His whole body is wagging with doggy joy as I quickly exchange my too-tight shorts for jeans and then reach for his leather leash and my Dolce & Gabbana knockoff bag–the one I bought to carry on my honeymoon, the honeymoon that never was. I avoid looking at my image in the big mirror as we make a hasty exit.

“Come on, boy,” I say as I hook the leash to his collar at the top of the stairs. “This is going to be fun!” And since this outing is in the spirit of fun, I even put down the top on my VW Bug, something I haven’t done in ages. Riley looks like he’s died and gone to doggy heaven as he rides joyfully in the backseat, his ears flapping in the breeze. Who knows, maybe we’ll find a house for sale on the beach.

Okay, it’d have to be a run-down, ramshackle sort of place that no one but me can see the hidden value in, but it could happen. And while I renovate my soon-to-be wonder house, Riley can be king of the beach. The possibilities seem limitless. And when I stop at the grocery store to pick up real-estate papers, I am impressed with how many listings there are. But I can’t read and drive, so I decide to focus on driving. And since I know this town like the back of my hand, this should be easy.

But thanks to the Cinco de Mayo celebration, the downtown area is crowded, so I start my search on the south end of town, trying to avoid traffic jams. I’m aware that this area is a little pricey for me, but you never know. First, I pull over into a parking lot and read the fliers. I read about several houses for sale, but the prices are staggering.

Even more than I imagined. Also, based on the descriptions and photos, these houses already seem to be in great shape. No fixer-uppers here. Then I notice some condo units for sale, and I can imagine finding a run-down unit in need of a little TLC, but it’s the same situation. According to the fliers, they’re in tiptop, turnkey shape–recently remodeled with granite counters and cherry hardwood floors and new carpeting and prices so high I can’t imagine doing anything that could push them a penny higher. My profit margin and spirits are steadily sinking. Maybe my idea to flip a house has already flopped. Just like the rest of my life.

Excerpted from A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2008 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.