Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exposed by Shannon Deitz

Tour Date: June 29
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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Hopeful Heart Ministries (May 18, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


 Shannon Deitz is a woman in love with God and excited about her faith. But it wasn't always that way. While still a teen, her boyfriend was tragically killed in an auto accident, and she began to question a God who would claim a young man with so much life yet to be lived. At the fragile age of seventeen, she was raped and she began to distrust a God who would allow such a thing. Again, as a freshman in college, she was raped a second time, and she began to earnestly put as much distance between herself and God as she possibly could. At the age of 27, having run from God as far as she could go, she found herself at the bottom of a life that was no longer tolerable. Having no place to go but up, she looked to Heaven. And there was God, surrounding her with His peace. It was the beginning of a love story that has grown more beautiful with each passing day.

Shortly after her love affair with God began in earnest, Deitz felt a distinct calling to begin teaching the teens at her local church. Her work with teens led to a full-time youth ministry. Within the next four years, that ministry bloomed, allowing her to witness God's amazing work in her church and her life. In 2007, her youth group was voted in the top five of EWTN's Catholic Youth Groups in the United States, and in 2008 she was invited to speak on God's unfailing love at the World Youth Day Festivities in Sydney, Australia. In 2011, she was again asked to speak at the WYD Festivities in Madrid, Spain.
Deitz has also served as a team speaker for the Franciscan University Steubenville Youth Conferences in Ohio, Louisiana, Florida, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington State, collectively reaching more than 40,000 teenagers. She also reaches out to her audiences through her popular blog, .

Deitz has been a 'featured columnist' on She and her husband, Neal, live in Kingwood, Texas, where they are active in their local church and community. The couple has two sons, Ryan and Seth, who provide them with endless joy and reason to continually count their blessings.

Information regarding her book and current speaking schedule may be found on the site, as well as specifics for engaging her as a speaker for an upcoming event.

Visit the author's website.


We all yearn to be loved. It is our self-imposed litmus test for worthiness-our way of confirming we are special and knowing that we matter. Acclaimed author and speaker Shannon Deitz understands that yearning well. Raped at seventeen and then again as a freshman in college, she felt completely bypassed by love. Rebelling against the violent attacks on her body and struggling to quiet the pain through self-abuse, her feelings of worthlessness eventually became so palpable she could not fathom how anyone-most especially God-could love her. This only caused her to push deeper into her own torment.

Then, at the age of 27, unable to fight the battle raging inside her any longer, she gave it all up. Face down on her bedroom floor with her life in shambles all around her, Deitz surrendered every aspect of her being to God. She gave up the self-judgment, the condemnation, the need to be better. She let it all go. And, in that moment, every fear faded away and for the first time since childhood she experienced true peace.

Now, a dozen years later, having shared her remarkable story of transformation in her critically-acclaimed and award-winning book, Exposed: Inexcusable Me...Irreplaceable Him (Pleasant Word Publishing, 2010), Deitz is taking her message to audiences across the country and abroad. Passionately sharing her own story, she unabashedly offers new hope to the hopeless and rekindles flames in coals of faith grown cold.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Hopeful Heart Ministries (May 18, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985250305
ISBN-13: 978-0985250300



Why me?

I have asked this question many times in my life. Growing up, I wondered why I felt so ugly and wanted so much attention, why my older sister told me secrets I never wanted to hear, why it felt like our family was falling apart and I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and why it felt like bad things kept happening to me and I never could catch a break.

The most common response would be that “it all happens for a reason.”  Looking back, however, it is obvious to me that is not necessarily true. I cannot ignore the decisions that were made on my part, or my sister’s, friends’, family’s, or acquaintances’, and not recognize the course life took because of our decisions.

Some would argue that God is the reason. God is in the illnesses or forces of nature that strike hard and uproot your core existence, forcing your hand in strength and causing your tomorrows to change. Everything else? Well, that is due to an abuse of God’s gift of free will. I cannot look back at my life and ignore the fact that free will, on my part or the part of others in my life, led to life-altering circumstances.

What it comes down to is the reaction.

How do I respond? How do I move forward? What do I internalize? To whom do I turn?

When a stranger among the 1.2 million Catholic Young Adults that had gathered for the 2005 World Youth Day festivities in Köln, Germany called me by name, I didn’t have time to respond, react, or internalize. I only knew that I needed to go and listen.

Once I heard the message, I could no longer feel sorry for myself or throw out blame. I was called by name, and it was about time I reacted.

Why me? Why not?

The ‘Nothing’  Child

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it (Mark 10:15)

In the beginning, under the watchful eye of an enormous thunderbird, wings outstretched, in the barren, blistering city of El Paso, outlined with white rock alongside Coronado Mountain, our family of six struggled against the clashing waves of good and evil. At the age of seven, far too young to comprehend the very real but incomprehensible battle, I was sucked into the undertow.

Perched like a vulture on the arm of the couch, with her bronze legs folded up to her chest, my thirteen year old sister Carrie smirked and said, “I’m not your sister.” My older brother, Kyle, who was only seventeen months younger than Carrie, sat beside her and laughed, “Yeah! We’re not your brother and sister!”

“Yes. You. Are!” I protested each word sharply and with great calculation. Carrie and Kyle were inclined to gang up on me, when all I longed for was to be accepted and involved in everything my siblings did and invited to every place they went.

“Nope,” Carrie said. “Daddy is not my daddy.”

My undeveloped mind could not grasp what she was trying to say. Of course Daddy was her daddy! We had the same sandy hair. My face was a little more round than theirs, but they were all I knew as family. No one was supposed to look alike anyway. In a flash of a moment, the world I knew to be predictable and safe was shaken and unrecognizable.

I ran to Mom, who was busy in the utility room sewing a dress for one of us girls, flung my arms around her waist, and wailed, “Carrie says she’s not my sister!” Carrie and Kyle, who had been running close behind me, stopped short and nearly toppled on top of us when they reached the door. My sobs were muffled in Mom’s lap, but I could still hear the disappointment in her voice.

“She is your sister, and that is not nice to say.”

My head shot up in a flash. “See! You’re lying!”

“No we’re not!” Kyle insisted. “Dad is not our dad, Mom.”

Mom sighed a long, slow, “the weight of the world had just been dumped on her shoulders” sigh. I looked into her green eyes, and for the first time I really saw her. She had jet black hair that was cropped and straight—completely the opposite of my waist-length, wavy mop– and a beautiful, small oval face with a smile that radiated warmth and love. We looked nothing alike.

Fear came alive within me. “Am I adopted?”

“No, Shannon,” she sighed again, “but your daddy did adopt Carrie and Kyle.”

“See,” Kyle said as he tapped my shoulder. “I told you so.” He and Carrie started to laugh, and I wailed louder.

Mom called for my father. “Tom!”

“What?” he shouted from the living room.

Mom pulled me up with her as she stood. “Let’s all go into the TV room. We need to have a family talk.”

Within the sanctity of my home, amidst those closest and dearest to me, who I knew to be my family, I was prematurely stripped of the honor young children have to be naïve and carefree.

Tears began to build at the corner of Mom’s serene eyes as she explained the details of her first marriage in a way that my young mind could comprehend. It wasn’t until I was in college, struggling through my own personal trials, that I finally understood the story and became privy to the rest of her secrets.

Mom’s first marriage was sad, abusive, and short-lived. It began soon after high school and ended when her husband returned home from Vietnam. The demise of her innocence, however, began much earlier.

Mom’s earliest memory goes back to when she was still in her crib, and it is the first of ten years of memories of a stolen childhood and loss of innocence. The eldest of five, she was the only one to claim the pink bow in her testosterone filled home. “Thank God,”  she’d say. If her brothers had been girls, they, too, would have suffered at the perverted hands of her father.

Like many girls who suffer in silence, to the outside world my mother seemed to have it all. She was captain of the cheerleading squad, bubbly, bright, and envied by her friends. At home, she was envied by her mother. But my mother did not ask for the kind of attention she got from her father. Instead, she spent her teen years pushing every memory of him into a tiny black box in the corner of her mind, and began seeking after the love her young soul craved.

Pregnant too young and married too young, Mom entered into a new world of abuse, orchestrating a spiraling descent that eventually led her into recovery. The box was opened, and she wanted to heal, help, and forgive.

As a seven-year-old, I couldn’t help but wonder where this past marriage left me. Where did I fit in? Was this why Carrie and Kyle were always giving me a hard time, when all I wanted was to be with them?

My mind reeled as I realized the obvious gap that had formed between us as children. Carrie and Kyle were so close in age, and they were five and six years ahead of me. Morgan and I were three years apart. Morgan was the baby. She was cute and entertaining, and I felt like an annoyance. The divide between us created a festering knot of insecurity.

“I’m nothing!” I wailed, perched on Dad’s lap with my head tilted back dramatically.

Giggling, Dad mustered a serious tone. “You are too something. You’re my little girl.”

“No!” With great zeal, I shook my head and added, “Carrie’s the oldest, Kyle’s the only boy, and Morgan’s the youngest! What am I? Nothing!” For my young mind, this was the truth.

One afternoon, Carrie changed course with a simple gesture of kindness. Desperate for her acceptance, I jumped at the opportunity.

“Hey, Shannon, come here for a sec,” Carrie called as she walked past my room and into her own.

“Is this a trick?” I thought. Fueled by excitement and honor, I jumped up from the floor. She never asked me into her room, but, after hesitating, I stepped in.

“Hey, come here,” she said. “I want to show you something.” She was on her stomach with her legs fanned out on the bed.

Without hesitation, I hopped up onto her bed and sat Indian style beside her. Her profile was magnetic, and in that moment I couldn’t help but stare. As far as I knew, my time in her room and presence was limited. But the more I stared, the sadder I felt. Carrie was a classic beauty. Her eyes were a petite almond shape and tortoise green. Mine were round as quarters and mint blue. The slope of her nose finished into a defined and delicate tip, and mine formed a small but not so delicate round ball. Everything about Carrie was distinct and defined yet feminine at the same time, and, even though I was still a young girl, everything about me was unusual. I had big round eyes, full lips, and a widow’s peak that came to a dramatic point in the middle of my forehead.

She held a shiny piece of paper that looked like a small poster. I looked over her shoulder to see what held her attention. It was a list including photographs of pills in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with their names below them.

“I’ve done this one, and this one . . . and this one,” she said, smiling with a strange satisfaction as she pointed out the various medications she had taken. That was what I thought, at least—that they were just pills. Medicine. I never understood why she was pointing out pills, and giggled as she did so, but then again, I was in her room and she was paying attention to me. That was all that mattered.

Of course, I knew nothing about recreational drugs. I knew there was a big scare about not accepting stickers from strangers because there was some kind of poison called LSD on the backs of them. I knew not to talk to strangers or take anything from them. Carrie was not a stranger.

That wasn’t the last of the invites into her room. No longer was I nothing. Instead, I felt like something, because Carrie, the most beautiful, funny, and perfect girl was finally taking notice of me, her bratty half-sister.

For months I trailed behind Carrie and her new boyfriend, Jose. I sat in on their conversations and make-out sessions, being sure not to be seen but staying close enough to be there if she needed me for anything. It was fascinating to witness the same girl who would sometimes rant and practically spit bile at my parents become giddy when this boy was around, often to the point of being taken over by hysterical laughter. The medications she had pointed out in her room were never seen. I was unsure if she was taking anything. If anything, this boy was a cure for whatever had made her sad and angry.

I noticed that the more Jose was around, the more Mom and Dad would yell at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I would hear the door to Carrie’s room slam, and I would press my ear up to the wall that separated us and listen to her muffled cries and curses. Sitting on the corner of my bed, I would pray to God, asking him to make my parents leave her alone. All I knew of God was that he was our protector and I needed him to protect her.

One night, I gathered up the courage to leave the safety of my room and enter Carrie’s without her permission. She was sitting in the corner, scratching on her desk with the tip of a ballpoint pen. “What do you want?” she grumbled.

“Are you okay?” I whispered, afraid that if my parents heard me in her room she would get in more trouble.

She shrugged her shoulders with little effort. “They don’t get it. They are so stupid.”

“Yeah,” I said in bogus agreement. I didn’t think my parents were stupid, but I was desperate for Carrie’s approval.

Her face softened when she turned to look at me, and she stopped tormenting her desk. I smiled because I knew I had said the right thing. I am not sure what she saw in me at that moment, or if she ever truly considered me a friend, but I was the only one around who was eager to listen. A sense of trust began to develop between us.

Weeks and months passed, and I became more knowledgeable about what Carrie was doing as I listened in on various conversations of her sexual prowess, hearing words that made no sense, and feeling the air around me thicken with sounds and moans that sounded as if she were being wounded. And during her last years in our home, I unintentionally witnessed these acts that were beyond my years and understanding.

When it came to Carrie, nothing ever felt right. She was like an injured animal that had lost trust in the ones who wanted to help her most. When I was sucked into this vortex, spinning uncontrollably as Carrie whirled around in the air above, battling the unfair tactics of parents and social propriety, I hadn’t even reached puberty. She was beyond reach, and although I had become so immersed in her teenage world, I was still a helpless child, looking up and desperately trying to save her.

None of us were aware. My mother’s demons had entered into my sister’s world wreaking this havoc in our family.  Carrie was only six when her innocence was stolen. Mom thought she could protect us by keeping a watchful eye and she took a chance by taking us with her to attend a family reunion. Unfortunately, my grandfather’s disease was never cured. Tainted by someone she loved and trusted, my sister did not know how to create that tiny black box in the corner of her mind to block the sickness of what he did to her. Instead, she retaliated against the pain she held inside never sharing her dark secret. Like my mother, she, too, sought after love and healing, but never through healthy means or relationships.

In many ways, he hurt me, too—not physically, but through Carrie’s retaliation and through her search for the love that his disease created. All I did was love my sister. All I wanted was to see her happy and be able to witness God’s protection. I wanted to finally rest inside, because I knew she would be OK. Instead, my hope faded with each passing day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shoot the Wounded by Lynn Dove

Tour Date:  June 25

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

 Word Alive Press (November 2, 2009)

***Special thanks to Lynn Dove for sending me a review copy.***


Lynn Dove calls herself a Christ-follower, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a teacher and a writer (in that order). Her debut novel, Shoot the Wounded , written for teens and young adults, was published in November 2009. Shoot the Wounded was a finalist in the 2010 Readers Favorite Book Awards. The second book in the “Wounded Trilogy“, Heal the Wounded was released on Oct. 18, 2010 and it won the Bronze Medal in the Young Adult – Coming of Age category in the 2011 Readers Favorite Book Awards. Love the Wounded, the final book in the trilogy is scheduled for release the summer of 2012.

Lynn’s personal blog, “Journey Thoughts” was the 2011 Winner of a Canadian Christian Writing Award in the blog series category. The Journey Thoughts blog is slightly quirky, sometimes off-beat, and inspirational to all readers. She also has a blog called "Word Salt" that is specifically for author interviews, writer’s tips, and book reviews for those called by God to write, and for those who love to read the Word.

Visit the author's website.


Shoot the Wounded, the first book in the "Wounded Trilogy" written for youth and young adults, addresses how lies and gossip destroy a person’s spirit. It speaks to the heart of relevant themes such as bullying, teen pregnancy and family violence all the while pointing the characters and ultimately the reader, to hope in Jesus Christ.

SHOOT THE WOUNDED is a contemporary Christian novel that deals with relevant social issues such as teen pregnancy and family violence. Set in the small fictional town of Maplewood, in southern Alberta, best friends Leigh and Ronnie find their friendship and faith challenged when Jake, a good looking Christian boy, moves into their neighborhood. Leigh is especially delighted that Jake is paying more attention to her than any other girl at school or church, but what she does not know is that despite his bold declaration of being a follower of Christ, he's carrying a dark secret from his past that has the potential to destroy his integrity and have his friends question the legitimacy of his faith.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Word Alive Press (November 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1926676394
ISBN-13: 978-1926676395


“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”


“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”



Leigh stared at the wild, varied assortment of flowers: marigolds, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, and roses. All of Ronnie’s favourite flowers spread out in a wild assortment of mixed bouquets all across the front of the church sanctuary. It may have been an attempt by someone to cheerily try to camouflage the cherry wood casket, but it was a bleak attempt at best. The church’s stained glass windows reflected beams of rainbow light through the flowers’ petals that further served to enhance the already impressive array of colour, but eyes were constantly drawn to the coffin more so than the flowers surrounding it. Ronnie would have liked the flowers, may even appreciated the deep, polished beauty of the casket’s wood, Leigh thought to herself, but not so the mournful groans of the old church organ played with sad conviction by Ronnie’s aged Aunt Edna.
The sanctuary was filled with family and friends, some openly weeping, others talking barely above a whisper. Hanging in the air was a feeling of sombre solemnity that dared not be interrupted by small talk. Leigh heard a giggle from somewhere in the back and, contrasted with the muted tones, her anger bristled against whoever had the audacity to think this occasion funny. She felt her mother touch her hand, and looked up to see her mother’s soft brown eyes damp with unshed tears.
Mom hurts for me, not Ronnie, Leigh thought. She doesn’t completely understand, but that doesn’t matter. I’m glad she’s here. Leigh squeezed her mother’s hand gratefully. Seated next to her mother was her father, stoic and protective in his blue business suit. Leigh wouldn’t even try to guess what he was thinking. He sat with his eyes focused ahead, his jaw firmly set and the little vein in his temple pulsing as it always did when he appeared upset.
Leigh had tried to approach her father and put into perspective the past actions of her best friend, Ronnie, but her father wouldn’t listen.  “Don’t make excuses for her, Leigh. The past is past,” he said. “She had a future. How could this have happened?” He had shaken his head and fumed behind his dark eyes and expression all night. He couldn’t possibly understand why Ronnie had done the things she did. She didn’t even understand it all and Ronnie was… had… been her best friend!
There sat Ronnie’s parents at the front of the church. Mr. Webber’s hand hung limply over his wife’s shoulders and Mrs. Webber was weeping, her head bowed in prayer and misery. Ronnie’s two younger brothers were huddled together beside their dad, both quiet and subdued.  And there sat Jake with his parents. He looked over at Leigh and smiled weakly at her. He was trying to get her attention, trying to make up for all the weeks they had been silent to one another. Leigh quickly looked away. She couldn’t bear to see his face. After all, he was partly to blame for this.
Her attention was drawn to the pulpit where the youth pastor, Scott Robinson, now stood. A young man in his late twenties, tall and handsome, with a heart for the young people in his congregation, he had been asked by the family to lead the service. Never in his experience had he spoken at a funeral before. He was nervous, especially under these tragic circumstances with the death of one so young, and a member of his youth group. He wanted the words he said to comfort, to focus attention not on the tragedy, but on God, Who was supposedly in control of all things, even in the midst of sorrow and heartache. Scott cleared his throat nervously and spoke to the people gathered.
“‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…’” Scott led the congregation, reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm,“‘…surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’”
Scott cleared his throat nervously a second time. “We are here to remember and celebrate the life that was Veronica Marie Webber.  Ronnie, as she was known to all her friends and family, grew up in this community. She came to know the Lord at a youth rally when she was twelve and was an active member of our youth group. She served in our children’s ministries and was on the volleyball team at school. She loved music, swimming, camping, and she loved all of you here in this room.” He paused. Leigh squirmed uncomfortably in her chair.
The youth pastor faced the congregation and saw the faces of pain and grief on the family members. They had been through so much this past week—actually, these past several months. Asking God for courage to speak boldly, he sighed and continued. He glanced through the crowd of mourners and his eyes settled on Leigh’s face. He was well aware that the two girls had been close for years. Looking directly at her, he spoke with conviction.
“I know Veronica… Ronnie, loved all of you. She had a zest, a love of life that knew no boundaries. She made mistakes, true, but that did not negate the fact that she knew her friends and family supported her, encouraged her, and believed in her. Perhaps that is why we all ask ourselves today how it is we may have failed her at a time when she needed us the most. There are so many whys. God never promised that every question we asked would be answered. Some of us may even feel angry with God for allowing this to have happened…” He saw a slight nod of affirmation from Leigh, but continued, “Psalm 91 says that he who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Ronnie is resting with God now…” And his voice broke with emotion.
Leigh did not hear more. She was aware of Scott referring back to different passages of scripture as he eulogized her friend. One of Ronnie’s uncles, a cousin, and one of the church’s deacons followed, sharing little snippets of stories they remembered of Ronnie’s childhood and teen years. Leigh didn’t recall the words, nor did she much care what was said. Only immediately following the service when Jake tried to stop her in the church foyer to give her a hug did she react with venom.
“Don’t, Jake!” she hissed. He stepped back in surprise. “You can’t make me feel better. You did this to her! I don’t want anything to do with you, ever!” With that, Leigh pushed away from him, leaving him bewildered and hurt.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Cindy said the next day.
Leigh’s group of friends had circled around her at school. Short, with chestnut-coloured hair, Cindy was the pragmatic one. She tried to find reason to all things. She tried to find a solution when none existed.  She also tried to rely on herself for all the answers. Tina was the crier.  Stout, with long hay-coloured hair, overly-sensitive, Tina was emotional to a fault. She wept in happiness and in despair. Auburn-haired, with dark hazel eyes and a creamy flawless complexion, Janelle was unforgiving. She held grudges the longest, and spent days in moodiness.  Of all of Leigh’s friends, Leigh wondered why she even associated with Janelle. Some days Janelle was so unlikeble. Corey was the clown. Tall, gangly, with short, bleached-blonde streaks in her already lightened blonde hair, Corey tried to make light of everything. Sometimes it was therapeutic to have her as comic relief; sometimes she chose comedy inappropriately to relieve the tension. Today was such a day.
“Well, at least now I don’t have to pay Ronnie the twenty bucks I owed her.” Corey said without thinking.
“What?” The other girls reacted with disbelief.
“How could you say that?” Tina wailed and slapped Corey soundly on her arm. “You are heartless!”
Leigh walked away in disgust.
The remaining crowded around Corey, reprimanding her viciously for her insensitivity. Leigh knew it would do no good. Some kids would continue to say and do things over the next several weeks that would be totally inappropriate. Leigh knew that many of her friends couldn’t express grief, some honestly didn’t care, and others would just choose to forget or move on with life in an effort to pretend it had never happened. Leigh wasn’t sure which category she would eventually fall into. At present, she just felt angry and numb. She despised the fact that rumours were running rampant, everyone speculating, trying to piece together the puzzle on their own to determine what exactly had happened to Ronnie. Truth was not part of the equation, it seemed, just sensationalism and gossip. It made Leigh even angrier.
What bothered Leigh more than anything else was the feeling of unconnectedness with her friends, her family, her church, and God. She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so alone. No one, not one person, seemed to understand the torment she was going through. She knew that she should pray, she knew she could journal her thoughts, and maybe feel a sense of release doing that, but there was such weariness in the idea. She couldn’t face it right now. Then, of course, there was Jake. How could she love him and hate him at the same time? She fumbled with the lock on her locker. The numbers blurred before her and her books tumbled with a loud splat on the floor at her feet. She cursed and immediately looked up with guilt. Swearing was considered inappropriate in her church circles.
“Crap!” she raged. I can’t even act like a normal human being! I want to swear! I want to yell and scream and kick in this… She stopped herself from using an expletive about her locker. That wasn’t the answer, either. She couldn’t just drop sixteen years of upbringing and forego all that she had been taught just to satisfy a need to vent her anger. There had to be a better way.
Janelle handed her a math book she had dropped, and bent to pick up the remaining books at Leigh’s feet.
“Corey is an idiot,” she calmly stated. “Don’t let her bug you.”
“I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” Leigh confided. She leaned wearily against the locker and gratefully allowed Janelle to retrieve all the books. “I’m not sure about anything anymore. I was so angry with Ronnie. I was yelling at her for getting herself in trouble. I wasn’t her friend; I didn’t do anything that showed to her that I was her best friend. I let her down.” Janelle put an arm around Leigh. “I had no idea that Ronnie was so messed up. I was mad at her. I don’t even know why I was mad at her. I mean, the only person she was hurting was herself, yet I was mad at her because somehow or another knowing she had messed up was hurting me!”
Janelle walked with Leigh to their homeroom. “Too bad Ronnie didn’t listen to you months ago. Seems to me, this is all her doing. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
Leigh did not feel encouraged in any way as she entered the class.  The seat up front that would have been Ronnie’s was so obviously vacant that she had to choke back a sob as she passed it. The whole day passed like a great heaviness was weighing on her. If someone had asked her what the teachers had said or what homework assignments were due, she wouldn’t have been able to respond. She sat on the bus alone, ever mindful of the seat across the aisle, Ronnie’s seat… vacant…just like the one in homeroom, and in English class, and the chair in Science right next to hers. This was supposed to have been the year for new beginnings and to put all their past mistakes behind them.
“Ronnie, how could you do this to me?” Leigh dropped her head into her hands and wept.

Copyright © 2009 Lynn Dove 

 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without prior permission from the publisher. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Telling by Mike Duran

Tour Date: June 21, 2012

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


Mike Duran was a finalist in Faith in Fiction's inaugural short story contest and was chosen as one of ten authors to be published in Infuze Magazine’s 2005 print anthology. He is author of the short story “En Route to Inferno,” which appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner: Back from the Dead edition, and received the Editor’s Choice award for his creative nonfiction essay titled “The Ark,” published in the Summer 2.3 Issue of Relief Journal. In between blogs, he also writes a monthly column for Novel Journey and has served as editor on the Midnight Diner’s editorial team. Duran is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children in Southern California.

Visit the author's website.


A prophet never loses his calling, only his way.

Disfigured with a hideous scar from his stepmother, Zeph Walker lives his life in seclusion, cloistering himself in a ramshackle bookstore on the outskirts of town. But Zeph is also blessed with a gift—an uncanny ability to foresee the future,to know peoples’ deepest sins and secrets. He calls it the Telling, but he has abandoned this gift to a life of solitude, unbelief, and despair—until two detectives escort him to the county morgue where he finds his own body lying on the gurney.

On the northern fringes of Death Valley, the city of Endurance is home to llama ranches, abandoned mines, roadside attractions...and the mythical ninth gate of hell. Now, forced to investigate his own murder, Zeph discovers something even more insidious behind the urban legends and small-town eccentricities. Early miners unearthed a megalith—asacred site where spiritual and physical forces converge and where an ancient subterranean presence broods. And only Zeph can stop it.

But the scar on Zeph’s face is nothing compared to the wound on his soul. For not only has he abandoned his gift and renounced heaven, but it was his own silence that spawned the evil. Can he overcome his own despair in time to seal the ninth gate of hell?

His words unlocked something deadly,
And now the silence is killing them.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616386940
ISBN-13: 978-1616386948


He used to believe everyone was born with the magic, an innate hotline to heaven. Some called it intuition, a sixth sense; others called it the voice of God. Zeph Walker called it the Telling. It was not something you could teach or, even worse, sell-  people just had it. Of course, by the time their parents, teachers, and society got through with them, whatever connection they had with the Infinite pretty much vanished. So it was, when Zeph reached his twenty-sixth birthday, the Telling was just an echo.
That's when destiny came knocking for him.
It arrived in the form of two wind-burnt detectives packing heat and a mystery for the ages. They flashed their badges, said he was needed for questioning. Before he could object or ask for details, they loaded him into the backseat of a mud-splattered Crown Victoria and drove across town to the county morgue. The ride was barely ten minutes, just long enough for Zeph Walker to conclude that, maybe, the magic was alive and well.
"You live alone?" The driver glanced at him in the rearview mirror.
Zeph adjusted his sunglasses. "Yes, sir."
"I don't blame you." The detective looked at his partner, who smirked in response.
Zeph returned his gaze to the passing landscape.
Late summers in Endurance were as beautiful as a watercolor and as hot as the devil's kitchen. The aspens on the ridge showed gold, and the dogwoods along the creeks had already begun to thin. Yet the arid breeze rising from Death Valley served as an ever-present reminder that beauty always lives in close proximity to hell.
They came to a hard stop in front of a white plaster building. The detectives exited the car, and Zeph followed their cue. A ceramic iguana positioned under a sprawling blue sage grinned mockingly at him. Such was the landscape decor of the county coroner's building. The structure doubled as a morgue. It occupied a tiny plot of red earth, surrounded by a manicured  cactus  garden complete  with

2   | Mike Duran

indigenous flora, bison skulls, and birdbaths. Without previous knowledge, one could easily mistake the building for a cultural center or art gallery. Yet Zeph knew that something other than pottery and Picassos awaited him inside.
The bigger of the two detectives, a vaquero with a nifty turquoise belt buckle and matching bolo tie, pulled the door open and motioned for Zeph to enter. The man had all the charm of a cage fighter.
Zeph wiped perspiration off his forehead and stepped into a small vestibule.
“This way.” The cowboy clomped past, leaving the smell of sweat and cheap cologne.
They led him past an unoccupied desk into a corridor. Bland southwestern prints adorned sterile white walls. The stench of form- aldehyde and decay lingered here, and Zeph’s stomach flip-flopped in response. The hallway intersected another where two lab technicians stood in whispered conversation. They straightened as the detectives approached. After a brief nod from one of the white-jacketed men, Zeph’s escorts proceeded to an unmarked room.
“We got someone fer you to ID.” The cowboy placed his hand on the door and studied Zeph. “You don’t get sick easy, do ya?”
He swallowed. “Depends.”
“Well, if you’re gonna puke, don’t do it on these.” He pointed to a set of well-polished eel-skin boots. “Comprende?”
“No, sir. I mean—yes! Yes, sir.”
The detective scowled, then pushed the door open, waiting. Zeph’s heart was doing double-time. Whose body was he about to
see? What condition was it in? His mind raced with the possibilities. Maybe a friend had suffered a car accident. Although he didn’t have many friends to die in one. Perhaps the Hitcher, that mythical appari- tion who stalked the highway in his childhood, had claimed another victim. More likely Zeph’s old man had finally keeled over. However, he was convinced that his father had stopped living a long time ago.
Zeph drew a deep breath, took two steps into the room, perched his sunglasses on the top his head . . . and froze. In the center, framed under a single oval swath of light, lay a body on a autopsy table—a body that looked strangely familiar.
“Take a good look, Mr. Walker.” The detective’s boots clicked with precision on the yellowed linoleum. He circled the rolling metal

th e  te ll i n g       | 3

cart, remaining just outside the reach of the fluorescent light. “And maybe you can help us figger this out.”
Zeph remained near the door, hesitant to take another step.
“Go ahead.” The second detective sauntered around the opposite side, gesturing to the body. “He ain’t gonna bite.”
The detectives positioned themselves on either end of the table. They watched him.
A black marble countertop, its surface dulled by a thin blanket of dust, ran the length of one wall. In front of it sat a single wooden stool. The low-hanging lamp bleached the body monochrome. Zeph had seen enough procedurals and CSI knock-offs to know this was not an autopsy room. Perhaps it was used for viewings, maybe occa- sional poker games. But as the detectives studied him, he was starting to wonder if this was an interrogation room. Scalpels, pincers, saws. Oh, what exotic torture devices one might assemble from a morgue! Nevertheless, this particular room appeared to have not been used in a long time. And by the fevered sparkle in their eyes, these men seemed inspired about the possibility of doing so.
Zeph glanced from one man to the other, and then he edged toward the corpse.
Its flesh appeared dull, and the closer he got, the less it actu- ally looked like skin. Perhaps the body had been drained of blood or bleached by the desert sun. He inched closer. Sunken pockets appeared along the torso, and he found himself wondering what could have possibly happened to this person.
The head lay tilted back, its bony jaw upturned, cords of muscle taut across a gangly neck. A white sheet draped the body at the chest, and just above it a single bloodless hole about the size of a nickel notched the sternum. He crept forward, trying to distin- guish the person’s face. First he glimpsed nostrils, then teeth, and then . . . something else.
That something else brought Zeph to a standstill.
How could it be? Build. Facial features. Hair color. This person looked exactly like him. There was even a Star of David tattooed on the right arm, above the bicep—the same as Zeph’s.
What were the chances, the mathematical probabilities, that one human being could look so identical to another? Especially in a town the size of Endurance.

4 | Mike Duran

“Is this . . . ” Zeph’s tone was detached, his eyes fixed on the body. “Is this some kinda joke?”
The detectives hunkered back into the shadows without responding.
Goose bumps rose on Zeph’s forearms as the overhead vent rattled to life, sluicing cool air into the room. He took another step closer to the cadaver until his thigh nudged the table, jolting the stiff and bringing Zeph to a sudden stop. He peered at the bizarre figure.
Their similarities were unmistakable. The lanky torso and append- ages. The tousled sandy hair. Thick brows over deep-set eyes. This guy looks exactly like me!
However, it was one feature—the most defining feature of Zeph Walker’s existence—that left him teetering in disbelief: the four-inch scar that sheared the corpse’s mouth.
Zeph stumbled back, lungs frozen, hand clasped over the ugly scar on his own face.
“Darnedest thing, ain’t it?” The cowboy sounded humored by
Zeph’s astonishment. “Guy’s a spittin’ image of you, Mr. Walker.” Zeph slowly lowered his hand and glanced sideways at the man.
“Yeah. Except I don’t have a bullet hole in my chest.”
The detective’s grin soured, and he squinted warily at Zeph. “Indeed you don’t.” The second man stepped into the light. “But
the real question, young man, is why someone would want to put one there.”