A Mile In My Flip-Flops

I loved this book, too. This was so satisfying to my inner construction soul... and I mean that in two different ways. We actually get to gut and renovate a house in this novel... and we also watch a very depressed person metamorph into a beautiful butterfly.

I can identify because I actually did use landscaping as an escape route from a very depressing divorce, one not of muy own choosing. It really works and this story really works. There wasn't one bottleneck or dam of the storyline flow. It undulated quite nicely and was a refreshing change from some of the first tires of authors setting their toe prints in the wet concrete of publishing. This lady has quite a bit of experience and it shows to a nice perfection. Good read... Five stars... very worthy of the money.

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.

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione
(Multnomah Books - June 17, 2008)
Chuck Black

This novel gets five stars!

I cannot say enough good things about it. It is very well written.

It is an allegory and I find the contrasts between Good and Evil are extremely well done. The King and the Prince are talked about, but do not make an appearance. What a great aspect. I'm quite sure another author would have been greatly tempted to incorporate the King and the Prince. For this story, though, the focus is on winning the kingdom back from the Dark Lord, who also does not make an appearance.

Sir Kendrick is a Knight who has a tremendous reputation and who is charged with the mentoring of a fresh-faced recruit. The young one slices and dices with the sword, quite handily, but also very heavy handed. So, Sir Duncan needs a gentle training... or rather, a guidance filled with wisdom, but not necessarily overly cautious. Sir Duncan makes some mistakes along the way, including a heroic rescue attempt.

This novel is filled with chills and thrills, laughter and tears. It is written for Teens, but it is really good for adults, too. It may be a bit transparent for some more savvy, experienced readers, but Chuck Black explains all in the end. It also has a great Study Guide at the end for youth groups or study groups.

It is very much well worth the money. I highly recommend it!

Okay... so here's something about the author, Chuck Black...
Chuck Black first wrote Kingdom’s Edge to inspire his children to read the Bible with renewed zeal. This captivating expanded parable led him to write the Old Testament allegories, Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope. Chuck added three more titles to the series, Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign which were released in May of 2007.Chuck is a former F-16 fighter pilot and currently works as an engineer for a firm designing plastic consumer products. He has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and served eight years in the United States Air Force. Chuck and his wife Andrea have six children and live in North Dakota. It is Chuck’s desire to serve the Lord through his work and to inspire people of all ages to study the scriptures in order to discover the hope and love of a truly majestic King and His Son.

And if you'd like to read the first chapter, go here


The Hunted

Here we have an almost great book.

The writing is really good. The characterization is also really good. They are not predictable, but they are all in character. In other words, no one suddenly does something out of character in order for a surprise or theatrical jolt.

You find yourself drawn into this small town and a mystery very slowly unfolds, along with shredded people (shades of Freddie Kruger). Almost everything right about this.

Once again I have a huge problem with the editing of this novel. You are drawn into a tenseful situation, and almost find yourself biting your nails when you turn the page and suddenly the brakes are applied and you drop out of hyperdrive into a 25 mile per hour stretch of novel. It completely throws off the storyline flow.

There is a scene where everyone is after "IT" and its foggy and it's getting scary (really the writing is quite good), and suddenly you are whisked to the underside of a trailer. Tsk Tsk. It is so bad, I gave up and didn't even read the last chapter. I didn't care anymore.

When are people going to learn that novels are NOT TV movies or feature films? You don't do the same things in novels, you don't need theatrics in novels, you don't need the same kind of tension breaks in novesl that you do in two hour movies. I see this all the time. It completely ruins the storyline flow.

Yes, this book has some great reviews. If someone had warned me before I read it, I would have been prepared and I would have put up a wall between me and the story. Then the screeching halts would not have bothered me.

I have to give the writing in this book about 4 stars... the editing is a minus 1 star.

A little about this story...

A town's deadly secret will drive one man to the edge of his faith... After
learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his
childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found,
badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast
responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the
more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in
a deadly code of silence. As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of
unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law
enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life
into God's hands. Will his young faith be strong ehough to battle the demonic
forces of The Hunted?If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE.


Deep in the Heart of Trouble

This was sheer pleasure to read. I loved the story line, the characters, the period (1913 or there abouts) the early Texas oil fields, the suspense, the romance, and the humor, and more.
Deeanne Gist has the gift of good story telling. Not very many have that.
I'd like to take just a moment to talk to any aspiring author, any well-published author about theatrics.
There is something that on the Annoyance Meter rates about a 10 with 10 being the highest sort of annoyance. That is theatrics. It is something that is written in a novel but should be left in a script. Something that stops the flow of the story line and intrudes upon the mind making it shift from the story. Something that shoves imagination out of the way and parks in the brain pushing the brake on momentum.
As in the case of Essie and her father's discussion at the dinner table. In the middled of the discussion, Essie's father is pictured and a description of he softly burps into his napkin and continues to eat.
Come on!
I do not need someone to direct my imagination. Directing me to imagine and old gentleman softy burping and then telling me he "continued to eat", was like a cold glass of water in the face. It had no humor, it did not add to the conversation, it was not an allegory or a prop for someone's next statement. It was theatrics and completely unnecessary. If you are writing a novel, don't do that. Leave something for the imagination and coax it along with adjectives and adverbs that drive the action without actually saying the action.
The only reason that I mention this is because that one paragraph hit me raw in an otherwise very good read. Why couldn't I just let it go? Why couldn't I just say, "Oh, well, it was just a paragraph?" Because I'm so tired of the sloppy editing that is going in in publishing today.
I guess being an editor of a newspaper really spoiled me... or perhaps I'm just tired of the sloppiness of writers and authors as well as editors... but, mostly editors. That kind of thing should have been caught and fixed before the novel ever got into my hands. Anyhoot... I'm done with the soapbox for now. On to the other pertinent information about this book...

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Deep In The Heart Of Trouble

(Bethany House June 1, 2008)


Deeanne Gist


Deeanne Gist has been a busy lady. She had a career in elementary education. She raised four children. In fifteen years she has: run a home accessory/antique business, member of the press, penned freelance journalism for a few well-known publications, People, Parents, Family Fun and more. She was the CFO for her husband's engineering company, she did all this in her home.

She also founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products which would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility and provide character building activities. In answer to Gist’s fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publish the next generation of her system, thus freeing Gist to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she submitted A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers and they picked it up for their new "edgy inspirational" line of historical fiction. After its release in July 2005, Bride hit eight best seller lists and has sold over 100,000 copies and won the Christy Award for BEST ROMANCE 2006. The Measure of a Lady was her 2006 summer release. It hit five best seller lists and won the Christy Award for BEST ROMANCE 2007. Gist is contracted to have a new book come out every summer. Courting Trouble was her 2007 summer release and it hit three best seller lists.

Deeanne lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-four years. They have two kids in high school, two in college.


A Texas-Sized Tale of Unexpected Love

Essie Spreckelmeyer is the last woman anyone in Corsicana, Texas, expected to see with a man on her arm. Independent and outspoken, she’s known more for riding bicycles in outrageous bloomers than for catching a man’s eye.

And the last man who seems willing to give her a second glance is Tony Morgan, newly hired at Spreckelmeyer’s oil company. The disinherited son of an oil baron, Tony wants most to restore his name and regain his lost fortune--not lose his heart to this headstrong blonde. She confounds, contradicts, and confuses him. Sometimes he doesn’t know if she’s driving him toward the aisle or the end of his rope.

That’s how life is ...Deep In The Heart Of Trouble

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

“Christy Award winner Gist’s historical romances have increasingly gained popularity, combining witty dialog, well-balanced plots, and fully developed characters who seem almost real. Recommended for CF and romance collections.”
-- Library Journal

"Gist does it again! Her signature prose is consistent and she delivers a thoroughly delightful and entertaining story that’s worthy of our time and attention. Not only won’t you want to put this book down, you’ll want to enjoy this story again and again."
-- JUNE TOP PICK, 4-1/2 STARS, Romantic Times, Jennifer Reyes

"Gist has once again written a delightfully humorous historical romance. After reading the first book in this series of two, I was anxious to get my hands on this one. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed ... It is a spectacular, feel-good story which I highly recommend. You will definitely be glad you read it."
-– FIVE STAR RATING, The Romance Studio, Brenda Talley

The weakest link

There are a lot of things that I like about this book. Kenneth Poppe has some most excellent arguments as well as some of the tried and true ones. He's got all this very well organized... but....

Just like a lot of scientists, he grapples with Creation in 6 - 24 hour days. He assumes, just like a lot of people that the earth took millions of years to form into its present state. To me, that is one of the foundational stones of Darwin's theory. I used to believe that balderdash of my school days that millions of years have gone by since God's Spirit first moved over the face of the deep and formed the foundations of the earth.

Because of so many scripture passages, I know that [i]yom[/i] as God uses it in the first chapter of Genesis and in the second chapter, means 24 hours... morning and evening is the first day, morning and evening the second day and so on. When I'm reading some good logic and the person mucks it up with your basic disbelief in God's Word that He created the universe in 6 days, I have a tendency to turn off my hearing.

So, if you are looking for some good arguments that do not include Creation, this is probably the book for you. Laymen's English and not too scientific. But it has enough of that to whet the appetite of the most serious scientist.

It's June 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)


A career biology instructor, Kenneth Poppe holds a doctorate in education and taught in secondary schools for more than 25 years. He is now senior consultant with the International Foundation for Science Education by Design ( In addition to working in teacher education and assisting in DNA research of stream ecology, he has authored Reclaiming Science from Darwinism.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736921257
ISBN-13: 978-0736921251


The majority is not trying to establish a religion or to teach it—it is trying to protect itself from the effort of an insolent minority to force irreligion upon the children under the guise of teaching science.





A Monkey for an Uncle?

Consider your biological father. He is responsible for half of the genetic codes that shaped your body, and probably some of your personality as well. Now consider his father, your grandfather. If typical, I would guess at least a couple of your body traits are more grandpa’s than dad’s—having somehow skipped a generation. And how about your great-grandfather? Were you lucky enough to know him, even if just like me, through those vague and shifting memories as a very
small boy? Dare I throw in a great-great-grandfather—in my case known only through legend and those grainy black-and-white photos of a roughly dressed man beside a horse and buggy?

Consider that when your great-great-grandfather was your age, for surely he once was, he could try to reconstruct his lineage just as you have done. What names and faces would he have recalled? And if you could piece great-great-granddad’s and your recollections together, that would create a timeline taking you back eight generations—perhaps 250 years or so! Where would you find your ancestors then? In my case, I’m told, the Hamburg, Germany, area. And would my ancestors then be traced to the nomadic Gaelic stock that inhabited Western Europe before formal countries were established there? And then to where? Ancient Phoenicians, Sumerians, Egyptians? And how about yours?

Now to get to the main point. If you kept traveling back in time in this manner, generation after generation, where would you end up? Where would your dad’s ancestors have been living 1000 years ago? 2500 to 5000 years ago? And so on? Those who believe in strict Darwinism would say an extended family schematic would show your ancestors going back several million years ago where they first evolved on the African continent. And on this reverse journey you would see slowly reappearing total body hair, steadily shrinking brains, increasingly sloping foreheads and jaw protrusions, and extending arms whose knuckles would eventually be dragging the ground, assisting a clumsy, bent-over gait. In other words, strict evolutionists say if you could backtrack your family tree for, say, 5 million years, your ancestors would now be closer in appearance to a chimp than a human. And if you continued farther back in time, the coccyx bone at the bottom of your pelvis would extend into a prehensile tail, and the reappearing grasping toes on your feet would send you back to swinging in the trees from whence you came some 10 to 15 million years ago.

Stop and ponder your supposed family tree in this way—a videotape in rewind. Is this really how it went down? Did humans come from monkeys? (Often a Darwinist will answer no to this question by saying it wasn’t a direct path of evolution. But monkeys have to be on the path before apes, right? And apes would have to be on the path before humanoids, right? So it most absolutely is, in theory, “monkey to man”—no matter how crooked the line.) Now if this isn’t the truth, what’s the alternative? Unless you consult primitive worship superstitions, I’ve stated before that the world’s five major religions give you one origin—Genesis—and it includes a tantalizing tale of an innocent man Adam and his companion woman, Eve, in a pristine garden. But for so many, that’s a fairy tale of bigger proportions than monkeys becoming humans. So what is the truth?

Here’s my response. Regardless of which religious view(s) might supply the answer(s), I will stand firmly on this:

There is absolutely no scientific support for the
monkey-to-man scenario—absolutely none.

On the contrary, science, and even philosophy, validate the title of this book and its overriding message as stated a few pages ago.


If there is an alternative answer to the totally unscientific view that monkeys slowly turned into people, ostensibly it is one of the religious variety. But before we tackle the idea, let me first share the concept I find continually bubbling up from the origins cauldron: Almost every major issue concludes with just two choices—either it could have happened this way, or it couldn’t. So grab a writing instrument and check your choice of one of two for each of the ten statements below.

It Could It Couldn’t
Happen Happen

_______ ______ 1. The most violent accidental explosion ever, the big bang, was sufficiently self-appointed to create the largest and most fine-tuned object ever known, the universe.

_______ ______ 2. The sheer number of planets in the universe, and the number of years these planets have existed, give us a mathematical chance that at least one would become a fully interactive biological world—ours—by accident.

_______ ______ 3. Blind luck had the ability to construct the approximately 80,000 different life-required protein chains of specifically sequenced amino acids (from an “alphabet” of 20 different amino-acid choices)—even those proteins 10,000 amino acids long.

_______ ______ 4. The RNA/DNA molecules, containing information equivalent to all the books in 20 standard libraries, suddenly appeared by chance in the “primordial soup” before the first cell was a reality.

_______ ______ 5. Almost as soon as Earth’s conditions permitted, a functional cell appeared, selfprepared with a wide array of metabolizing and reproductive mechanisms.

_______ ______ 6. A half billion years ago, in the blink of an evolutionary eye, the Cambrian explosion self-generated the completely interactive gene pool of all 32 animal phyla with complex organ systems. Once complex life didn’t exist, then it was all there.

_______ ______ 7. After the Cambrian explosion, random scramblings of genetic information kept producing improved genetic codes. This allowed life to surge forward as animals kept giving rise to improved offspring with which, suddenly
or eventually, they could not mate.

_______ ______ 8. These accidental genetic surges adequately explain a whole host of large-scale advances— for example, straight bones in fins turning into jointed bones in legs, reptile scales turning into bird feathers, photosensitive cells turning into eyes, births from amniotic eggs turning into births from a placenta, and chordates like cows or hippos going back into the ocean to become whales.

_______ ______ 9. While animals randomly surged forward within 32 phyla from sponges to mammals, plants accomplished a similar advance in complexity from moss to cacti, but did it in only 8 steps, often called divisions instead of phyla.

And central to this book:

_______ ______ 10. Primates like monkeys left the trees and kept getting bigger, stronger, and smarter. About 5 million years of natural selection was sufficient time for hominids to adapt to walking on their hind legs, learn to use tools,
fashion clothes to wear, master fire, develop first spoken and then written communication, and finally organize societies in cave homes among maple groves that eventually became cottage homes on Maple Street.

So how did you score on this checklist? The two most extreme scores would be to have all ten checks in the right column of “it couldn’t happen”—like me—or all ten checks on the left column of “it could happen.” Of course, you realize that one single check in the right column dooms Darwinism to immediate failure. All it takes is one legitimate “couldn’t” check in this either-or set-up and natural evolution has no chance to produce me the writer, or you the reader. If you can, actually imagine trying to agree with all ten statements as checked on the left, and I’ll wager you’ll feel the full weight of the folly of “self-made” life. Therefore, if you find evolution insufficient in even one instance, you need to consider a bigger-than-science connection— unless, of course, you want to remain apathetic. So, if evolution or apathy is not the answer, I suggest you begin a quest to come to grips with the “God” who engineered this miracle.

Rejecting statement #10 above reflects this chapter’s opening rejection of the idea that all our ancestral lines slowly become more stooped and stupider as we observe the reverse of totally natural processes. If the world generally rejected that notion and stood on the “God alternative” with confidence, it would dramatically change the debate on the other nine statements. And yet if monkeys are not our uncles then how do you explain human origin? How do you explain the master plan of God the Designer?


House of Dark Shadows and Watcher in the Woods

Let me just say that I really love Bob Liparulo. He is such a sweetie and has such a love for the LORD. That being said, I have to be honest about this Dreamhouse Kings series.

I have mixed emotions about this fantasy series. What a great thing to be able to walk into a different world or to go to the squeeky-voice meadow to forget about the deepest troubles if only for just a little while. On the other hand, it isn't a solution. On the other hand, I know that kids don't confuse fantasy with reality unless they have a huge, quadruple dose of imagination. So, that being said...

These stories are gripping. They are written from a child's perspective, but with adult suspense. I was briefly reminded of To Kill A Mockingbird, but only briefly because the stories are not at all parallel, nor are they the same genre. But, writing a story from a child's perspective is not as easy as it may seem. You've got to get into the child's head and think like a child, but communicate on a level that has sufficient interest for young adults, but not leave behind the 12 year olds. This comes from a person who devoured Gone With The Wind when she was at the tender age of 13. Are you aware that most authors write at about a fourth grade level? Shocking, I know, but true.

Liparulo's stories are gritty and somewhat older than advertised because of the violence and subject matter. He leaves a lot to the imagination, and my imagination can sure run a marathon. I love that about Liparulo's stories. I think what he does not say is the most frightening. I love that, too. So often these days, authors (both Christian and secular) want that graphic, gut-spilling verbage that spells everything out, leaving nothing to the imagination. Where is the fun in complete nudity when tantalizing peeks at the trim ankle can stir the blood so much? Okay, so I was born in the wrong century... But, you do get my drift, right?

Without further ado... on to the sneak peek...

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing a double pair

House of Dark Shadows
Watcher In The Woods
(Books 1 and 2 in the Dreamhouse Kings Series)

Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)


Robert Liparulo


Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel, Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book, GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

And his third book Deadfall. debuted to rave reviews!


House of Dark Shadows
(Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Dream house...or bad dream?
When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

Watcher In The Woods
(Dreamhouse Kings Book 2)

It's not just the house that's keeping secrets.
Pretending everything's all right is harder than it sounds. But the Kings know that even if they told the truth about the bizarre things happening in their house, no one would believe them. They're hyper-focused on rescuing their lost family member before anyone finds out what's going on.

But when a stranger shows up to take their house, their options start dwindling fast. Why would he be so interested in a run-down old place? And what secret is he hiding--just as he hides the scars that crisscross his body?

The mystery gets stranger with each passing day. Will the Kings be able to find a way to harness the house's secrets and discover who is watching their every move before another gets snatched into an unknown world?

The Dreamhouse Kings Series has three contests that you will not want to miss...Dream the Scene, a weekly "Thanks For Reading Trivia contest, and the Dreamhouse Kings Street Team contest. There are also free bookplates that you can request, and a chapter of each book that you can download!

You can get all those goodies HERE.

Washington's Lady

This week is a twofer week. I was promised to the FIRST and now it is time for the CFBA review.
Washington's Lady is a fictionalized account of Martha Washington's life in first person, through her eyes. After the first chapter, I was ready to let this one go with no comment whatsoever. I am not a fan of someone trying to get inside a famous person's head and tell their story. How can anyone know what another is thinking or why another acts the way they do?
There are certain givens, such as intense grief at the death of a child or spouse. Joy at seeing a child when he's been away for a long while. Uncertainty at what the future will bring, new love, enduring love for one's spouse.
Also, Nancy Moser has done a ton of research, reading letters, studying portraits, tramping over familiar landmarks so I'm pretty sure she's got a good handle on what was going through Martha's mind at most of the points covered in this story. Nancy admits to making up a couple of things because of evidence such as finding some exquisite bowls smashed at the bottom of the well at her father-in-law's house after he dies. It was no secret that he did not like his daughter-in-law.
I give this one a thumbs-up. It is entertaining and it gives an excellent insight to Martha Washington's world.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Washington's Lady

(Bethany House June 1, 2008)


Nancy Moser


Nancy Moser is the author of three inspirational humor books and eighteen novels, including Solemnly Swear, Just Jane, and Time Lottery, a Christy Award winner. She is an inspirational speaker, giving seminars around the country. She has earned a degree in architecture; run a business with her husband; traveled extensively in Europe; and has performed in various theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She and her husband have three grown children and make their home in the Midwest.


It has been said that without George Washington there would be no United States. But without Martha, there would be no George Washington. He called her "my other self."

Who was this woman who captured the heart of our country's founder? She dreams of a quiet life with her beloved George, but war looms...

Though still a young woman, Martha Dandridge Custis was a wealthy, attractive widow and the mother of two small children with no desire to remarry. But when a striking war hero steps into her life, she realizes that she is ready to love again. She is courted by, then marries the French and Indian War hero.

Yet she wonders whether this man, accustomed to courageous military exploits, can settle down to a simple life of farming and being a father to her children. Even as she longs for domestic bliss, Martha soon realizes she will have to risk everything dear to her and find the courage to get behind a dream much larger than her own.

Her new life as Martha Washington took her through blissful times at Mount Vernon, family tragedies, six years of her husband's absence during the Revolutionary War, and her position as a reluctant First Lady.

Known for moving first-person novels of Nannerl Mozart and Jane Austen, in Washington's Lady, Nancy Moser now brings to life the loves and trials of the First First Lady of the United States.

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



> Well, I did not get this book until Friday. So all I've been able to do is read about 5 chapters. What I have read, though, is good. You do not feel like you've stepped into the middle of maze, or feel totally lost. It's just a good storyline. There are a LOT of weird words, though, which I personally do not like. I love fantasy fiction and Christian fantasy is a special treat. But... weird words are not cool for me. However, there is a glossary and I strongly recommend you just read over the words and meanings as well as the cast of characters. It will most definitely heighten your enjoyment because you won't be wondering who is who or what is what.

It is June 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 his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and her book:

WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)


Donita K. Paul is a retired teacher and award-winning author of seven novels, including DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, and DragonFire. 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 Books of the DragonKeeper Series:


Visit her website.


Castle Passages

Kale wrinkled her nose at the dank air drifting up from the stone staircase. Below, utter darkness created a formidable barrier.

Toopka stood close to her knee. Sparks skittered across the doneel child’s furry hand where she clasped the flowing, soft material of Kale’s wizard robe. Kale frowned down at her ward. The little doneel spent too much time attached to her skirts to be captivated by the light show. Instead, Toopka glowered into the forbidding corridor. “What’s down

Kale sighed. “I’m not sure.”

“Is it the dungeon?”

“I don’t think we have a dungeon.”

Toopka furrowed her brow in confusion. “Don’t you know? It’s your castle.”

“A castle built by committee.” Kale’s face grimaced at the memory of weeks of creative chaos. She put her hand on Toopka’s soft head.

The doneel dragged her gaze away from the stairway, tilted her head back, and frowned at her guardian. “What’s ‘by committee’?”

“You remember, don’t you? It was just five years ago.”

“I remember the wizards coming and the pretty tents in the meadow.” Toopka pursed her lips. “And shouting. I remember shouting.” “They were shouting because no one was listening. Twenty-one wizards came for the castle raising. Each had their own idea about what we needed. So they each constructed their fragment of the castle structure according to their whims.”

Toopka giggled.

“I don’t think it’s funny. The chunks of castle were erected, juxtaposed with the others, but not as a whole unit. I thank Wulder that at least my parents had some sense. My mother and father connected the tads, bits, and smidgens together with steps and short halls. When nothing else would work, they formed gateways from one portion to another.”

The little doneel laughed out loud and hid her face in Kale’s silky wizard’s robe. Miniature lightning flashes enveloped Toopka’s head and cascaded down her neck, over her back, and onto the floor like a waterfall of sparks.

Kale cut off the flow of energy and placed a hand on the doneel’s shoulder. “Surely you remember this, Toopka.”

She looked up, her face growing serious. “I was very young then.”

Kale narrowed her eyes and examined the child’s innocent face. “As long as I have known you, you’ve appeared to be the same age. Are you ever going to grow up?”

Toopka shrugged, then the typical smile of a doneel spread across her face. Her thin black lips stretched, almost reaching from ear to ear. “I’m growing up as fast as I can, but I don’t think I’m the one in charge. If I were in charge, I would be big enough to have my own dragon, instead of searching for yours.”

The statement pulled Kale back to her original purpose. No doubt she had been manipulated yet again by the tiny doneel, but dropping the subject of Toopka’s age for the time being seemed prudent.

Kale rubbed the top of Toopka’s head. The shorter fur between her ears felt softer than the hair on the child’s arms. Kale always found it soothing to stroke Toopka’s head, and the doneel liked it as well.

Kale let her hand fall to her side and pursued their mission. “Gally and Mince have been missing for a day and a half. We must find them. Taylaminkadot said she heard an odd noise when she came down to the storeroom.” Kale squared her shoulders and took a step down into the dark, dank stairwell. “Gally and Mince may be down here, and they may be in trouble.”

“How can you know who’s missing?” Toopka tugged on Kale’s robe, letting loose a spray of sparkles. “You have hundreds of minor dragons in the castle and more big dragons in the fields.”

“I know.” Kale put her hand in front of her, and a globe of light appeared, resting on her palm. “I’m a Dragon Keeper. I know when any of my dragons have missed a meal or two.” She stepped through the doorway.

Toopka tugged on Kale’s gown. “May I have a light too?”

“Of course.” She handed the globe to the doneel. The light flickered. Kale tapped it, and the glow steadied. She produced another light to sit in her own hand and proceeded down the steps.

Toopka followed, clutching the sparkling cloth of Kale’s robe in one hand and the light in the other. “I think we should take a dozen guards with us.”

“I don’t think there’s anything scary down here, Toopka. After all, as you reminded me, this is our castle, and we certainly haven’t invited anything nasty to live with us.”

“It’s the things that come uninvited that worry me.”

“All right. Just a moment.” Kale turned to face the archway at the top of the stairs, a few steps up from where they stood.

She reached with her mind to the nearest band of minor dragons. Soon chittering dragon voices, a rainbow vision of soft, flapping, leathery wings, and a ripple of excitement swept through her senses. She heard Artross, the leader of this watch, call for his band to mind their manners, listen to orders, and calm themselves.

Kale smiled her greeting as they entered the stairway and circled above her. She turned to Toopka, pleased with her solution, but Toopka scowled. Obviously, the doneel was not impressed with the arrival of a courageous escort.

Kale opened her mouth to inform Toopka that a watch of dragons provides sentries, scouts, and fighters. And Bardon had seen to their training. But the doneel child knew this.

Each watch formed without a Dragon Keeper’s instigation. Usually eleven to fifteen minor dragons developed camaraderie, and a leader emerged. A social structure developed within each watch. Kale marveled at the process. Even though she didn’t always understand the choices, she did nothing to alter the natural way of establishing the hierarchy and respectfully worked with what was in place.

Artross, a milky white dragon who glowed in the dark, had caught Kale’s affections. She sent a warm greeting to the serious-minded leader and received a curt acknowledgment. The straight-laced young dragon with his tiny, mottled white body tickled her. Although they didn’t look alike in the least, Artross’s behavior reminded Kale of her husband’s personality.

Kale nodded at Toopka and winked. “Now we have defenders.”

“I think,” said the doneel, letting go of Kale’s robe and stepping down a stair, “it would be better if they were bigger and carried swords.”

Kale smiled as one of the younger dragons landed on her shoulder. He pushed his violet head against her chin, rubbing with soft scales circling between small bumps that looked like stunted horns. Toopka skipped ahead with the other minor dragons flying just above her head.

“Hello, Crain,” said Kale, using a fingertip to stroke his pink belly. She’d been at his hatching a week before. The little dragon chirred his contentment. “With your love of learning, I’m surprised you’re not in the library with Librettowit.”

A scene emerged in Kale’s mind from the small dragon’s thoughts. She hid a smile. “I’m sorry you got thrown out, but you must not bring your snacks into Librettowit’s reading rooms. A tumanhofer usually likes a morsel of food to tide him over, but not when the treat threatens to smudge the pages of his precious books.” She felt the small beast shudder at the memory of the librarian’s angry voice. “It’s all right, Crain. He’ll forgive you and let you come back into his bookish sanctum. And he’ll delight in helping you find all sorts of wonderful facts.”

Toopka came scurrying back. She’d deserted her lead position in the company of intrepid dragons. The tiny doneel dodged behind Kale and once more clutched the sparkling robe. Kale shifted her attention to a commotion ahead and sought out the thoughts of the leader Artross. “What’s wrong?” asked Kale, but her answer came as she tuned in to the leader of the dragon watch.

Artross trilled orders to his subordinates. Kale saw the enemy through the eyes of this friend.

An anvilhead snake slid over the stone floor of a room stacked high with large kegs. His long black body stretched out from a nook between two barrels. With the tail of the serpent hidden, she had no way of knowing its size. These reptiles’ heads outweighed their bodies. The muscled section behind the base of the jaws could be as much as six inches wide. But the length of the snake could be from three feet to thirty.

Kale shuddered but took another step down the passage.

Artross looked around the room and spotted another section of ropelike body against the opposite wall. Kegs hid most of the snake.

Kale grimaced. Another snake? Or the end of the one threatening my dragons?

The viper’s heavy head advanced, and the distant portion moved with the same speed.

One snake.

“Toopka, stay here,” she ordered and ran down the remaining steps. She tossed the globe from her right hand to her left and pulled her sword from its hiding place beneath her robe. Nothing appeared to be in her hand, but Kale felt the leather-bound hilt secure in her grip. The old sword had been given to her by her mother, and Kale knew
how to use the invisible blade with deadly precision.

“Don’t let him get away,” she called as she increased her speed through the narrow corridor.

The wizard robe dissolved as she rushed to join her guard. Her long dress of azure and plum reformed itself into leggings and a tunic. The color drained away and returned as a pink that would rival a stunning sunset. When she reached the cold, dark room, she cast her globe into the air. Floating in the middle of the room, it tripled in size and gave off a brighter light.

The dragons circled above the snake, spitting their caustic saliva with great accuracy. Kale’s skin crawled at the sight of the coiling reptile. More and more of the serpentine body emerged from the shadowy protection of the stacked kegs. Obviously, the snake did not fear these intruders.

Even covered with splotches of brightly colored spit, the creature looked like the loathsome killer it was. Kale’s two missing dragons could have been dinner for the serpent. She searched the room with the talent Wulder had bestowed upon her and concluded the little ones still lived.

The reptile hissed at her, raised its massive head, and swayed in a threatening posture. The creature slithered toward her, propelled by the elongated body still on the floor. Just out of reach of Kale’s sword, the beast stopped, pulled its head back for the strike, and let out a slow, menacing hiss. The snake lunged, and Kale swung her invisible weapon. The severed head sailed across the room and slammed against the stone wall.

Kale eyed the writhing body for a moment. “You won’t be eating any more small animals.” She turned her attention to the missing dragons and pointed her sword hand at a barrel at the top of one stack. “There. Gally and Mince are in that keg.”

Several dragons landed on the wooden staves, and a brown dragon examined the cask to determine how best to open it. Toopka ran into the room and over to the barrel. “I’ll help.”

Kale tilted her head. “There is also a nest of snake eggs.” She consulted the dragon most likely to know facts about anvilhead vipers. Crain landed on her shoulder and poured out all he knew in a combination of chittering and thoughts.

The odd reptiles preferred eating young farm animals, grain, and feed. They did nothing to combat the population of rats, insects, and vermin. No farmer allowed the snakes on his property if he could help it. “Find the nest,” Kale ordered. “Destroy them all.”

The watch of dragons took flight again, zooming into lightrockilluminated passages leading off from this central room. Kale waited until a small group raised an alarm. Four minor dragons had found the nest.

She plunged down a dim passage, sending a plume of light ahead and calling for the dispersed dragons to join her. Eleven came from the other corridors, and nine flew in a V formation in front of her. Gally and Mince landed on her shoulders.

“You’re all right. I’m so glad.”

They scooted next to her neck, shivering. From their minds she deciphered the details of their ordeal. A game of hide-and-seek had led them into the depths of the castle. When the snake surprised them, they’d flown under the off-center lid of the barrel. As Mince dove into the narrow opening, he knocked the top just enough for it to rattle down into place. This successfully kept the serpent out, but also trapped them within.

Kale offered sympathy, and they cuddled against her, rubbing their heads on her chin as she whisked through the underground tunnel in pursuit of the other dragons.

Numerous rooms jutted off the main hallway, each stacked with boxes, crates, barrels, and huge burlap bags. Kale had no idea this vast amount of storage lay beneath the castle. Taylaminkadot, their efficient housekeeper and wife to Librettowit, probably had a tally sheet listing each item. Kale and the dragons passed rooms that contained fewer and fewer supplies until the stores dwindled to nothing.

How long does this hallway continue on? She slowed to creep along and tiptoed over the stone floor, noticing the rougher texture under her feet. Approaching a corner, she detected the four minor dragons destroying the snake’s nest in the next room. Her escort of flying dragons veered off into the room, and she followed. The small dragons swooped over the nest, grabbed an egg, then flew to the beamed roof of the storage room. They hurled the eggs to the floor, and most broke open on contact. Some had more rubbery shells, a sign that they would soon hatch. The minor dragons attacked these eggs with tooth and claw. Once each shell gave way, the content was pulled out and examined. No
hatchling snake survived.

The smell alone halted Kale in her tracks and sent her back a pace. She screwed up her face, but no amount of pinching her nose muscles cut off the odor of raw eggs and the bodies of unborn snakes. She produced a square of moonbeam material from her pocket and covered the lower half of her face. The properties of the handkerchief filtered the unpleasant aroma.

Her gaze fell on the scene of annihilation. Usually, Kale found infant animals to be endearing, attractive in a gangly way. But the small snake bodies looked more like huge blackened worms than babies.

Toopka raced up behind her and came to a skidding stop when she reached the doorway. “Ew!” She buried her face in the hem of Kale’s tunic, then peeked out with her nose still covered.

The minor dragons continued to destroy the huge nest. Kale estimated over a hundred snake eggs must have been deposited in the old shallow basket. The woven edges sagged where the weight of the female snake had broken the reeds. Kale shuddered at the thought of all those snakes hatching and occupying the lowest level of the castle, her home. The urge to be above ground, in the light, and with her loved ones compelled her out of the room.

Good work, she commended the dragons as she backed into the passage. Artross, be sure that no egg is left unshattered.

She received his assurance, thanked him, then turned about and ran. She must find Bardon.

“Wait for me!” Toopka called. Her tiny, booted feet pounded the stone floor in a frantic effort to catch up.
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