Sunday, November 30, 2008

Searching for a Better God by Wade Bradshaw

Tour date: December 2

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Searching for a Better God

Authentic (March 1, 2008)


Wade Bradshaw is currently a pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia. He has a diverse background working as a veterinarian in Nepal for three years, at the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary for four years, in the English branch of LAbri Fellowship for eleven years, and as the pastor of the International Presbyterian Church in Liss, Hampshire, England for a year. He is married to Chryse and has four children.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: Authentic (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934068004
ISBN-13: 978-1934068007


Have We Changed the Story?

Part 1

It seems people cannot flourish without hope. As a species, we need to be able to imagine a future that is better than our present, even if our present circumstances are not so bad. When someone truly feels hopeless, he withers. Other things may also be necessary for humans to flourish, but hope is crucial.

This need for hope has long been recognized. The Austrian psychiatrist Victor Frankl founded a school of psychology called “logotherapy,” which was inspired by his observations as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. As he watched some of his fellow inmates succumb to the inhuman conditions while others survived, he wondered what made the difference and came to the conclusion that essentially it was hope. Once a prisoner could no longer imagine a better future, he lost the ability to struggle on and he died.

Frankl himself did not think that the source of the hope mattered—it seemed to him that any hope conferred the same advantage. One man might say to himself, “When I get out of here, I’m going to go home and run my grandfather’s watch repair shop in Dresden.” Another might tell himself every day, “When I get out of here, I’m going to marry the girl I should have married years ago when I had the chance.”

Both the watch-repair shop and the marriage represented better futures and their promise would aid these prisoners to live. It didn’t matter if, once they had got out of the camp, they found that Allied bombs had destroyed the shop or that the woman had died in another camp: the hope of a better future had seen both these men through.

Thankfully, few of us struggle to survive in such evil conditions—and yet my experience is that whenever someone loses hope she withers, even when we would judge her circumstances to be perfectly acceptable. Successful people, affluent people, healthy people, children from loving and comfortable homes, once they lose hope, do not flourish. I have come across too many upper middle-class suicides not to take this issue seriously.

Once, a very dear friend of my family killed himself. He was a beautiful man, beautiful in both his body and his behavior. He was creative and athletic. A very attractive woman was deeply in love with him. When my eldest son asked me why he had done it, I told him that our friend must have forgotten something. What I meant was that he had momentarily lost the ability to imagine a better future. He had forgotten his reasons to hope.

Yet, actually, we have to admit that we all do in fact live in a death camp. Everything that is precious to us, everything we know, is in the process of perishing. This is true of watch-repair shops and young women, friends, institutions, and nations. It is true of ourselves. Without exception, everything is dying. Even the stars are slowly exhausting their energy and will one day go out. Of course, it’s also true that new islands are forming, new stars are igniting, seeds are falling into fertile earth, things are being discovered and invented—but ultimately none of them are going to last.

The world then is a labor ward as well as a death camp, but the delivery room is still inside the camp’s barbed-wire fence. Some people tell me that having a baby changed their lives for the better and helped them to see with new eyes the beauty all around them. Other people tell me they think it’s wrong to bring any more children into a world of suffering, decay, and futility. Both have some reason on their side—it is a basic tension of human existence.

Is hope, then, a fiction, no more than a story we have to tell ourselves to make us fit enough to survive? And what do we do once we know that this is the case? Is the fiction still effective when we know that this is all it is?

Some of us cope with this basic tension by refusing to contemplate it. We close our minds to the fact that everything around us is obviously dying. We find various ways to lie to ourselves. The present offers pleasure enough—why spoil it with anxiety about the future? It’s a bit like political discussions about pension funds or the environment: we may know that we ought to be concerned, but we find it hard to think of some unhappy distant future, possibly reaping what we have sown, when there is so much to enjoy right now. And it is even harder to be motivated to invest in the future when we have a strong suspicion that nothing we do will make any appreciable difference. To contemplate unavoidable futility leads to despair. How much more sensible not to think about it but enjoy the wine and olives and romance now.

Others of us survive by trying to accept death and decay as natural in addition to being real and inevitable. But because we want to imagine a better future, we learn to tell ourselves that this death and decay is not only a natural situation but also good and beautiful once we have come to see it as it truly is. The death camp, we may tell ourselves, is somehow found within the walls of the labor ward.

However, the universe is not ultimately a wonderful cycle of life, because with each turn of the wheel things grow that much colder and more dim. When the universe takes its last bow there will be no humans left to applaud it, and physical forces are no longer awesome when there is no conscious observer to be awed by them.

Most of us, as a result, are not very concerned about the survival of the universe—a small, personal future is good enough for us to hope in, and then when we are old and full of years, when we are tired of our bodies failing us in various ways, we will no longer need hope; we will become resigned to no longer existing. We burn the fuel of our desires until they run out, and then we welcome the long sleep from which there is no waking and of which there is no knowledge. Presumably it won’t be any worse than whatever preceded our births.1

I don’t think that any of these ways of coping ultimately leads to human flourishing. Sooner or later something happens that forces thoughts of decay upon us. The wheel of life spins but gets nowhere, for there is nowhere else for it to go. Being content with a small, personal future that ignores the fate of the universe is not an ultimate enough solution for humankind. Neither is it sufficient to view death as natural—and even desirable, once our abilities are impaired by age and daily life becomes an ordeal. These are attempts at resigned acceptance of a situation that should anger us. They are like telling one of Frankl’s roommates that he is free to move into a nicer barrack if he goes alone and that he won’t be mistreated or shot until just before the camp is liberated by the Allies. If we really believe that there is nothing outside of what is visible, we must give up our right to anger about many things. Nothing could be other than it is. Anger at lost opportunities and injustices in this case are irrational. There is no right or point in being angry at our circumstances. However, most of us intuit that being human means refusing the satisfaction of this kind of compromise, and we continue to give in to the temptation to import a transcendence that is alien to our dead-end materialism.

We have to admit that we find ourselves in a very strange place. The very abilities that allow us to dominate the planet we inhabit seem also bound to persuade us that there is little point in our doing so. In the original Matrix movie, the sensate program Agent Smith could have learned a few interesting things from Morpheus if “he” had not been so busy torturing him. A growing number of people in the West have come to agree with Agent Smith that humans are the problem. Our “stink” is everywhere. Only we seem to violate the natural patterns of behavior and ecology. And yet only we are conscious of the situation. No matter how much one may prefer other organisms to humans, one has to come back to humans for the hope of a better future. You, dear reader, are both part of the problem and a potential part of the answer—and you didn’t ask for any of this. If we were not so used to the situation, I think we would recognize how odd it all is.

In the Christian scriptures there is something that disagrees quite profoundly with Frankl as I understand him—it speaks of “a better hope.”2 The implication is that not all hopes are equally good. But can one imagined future that gives us the will to live really be better than another? Suppose that two men are mowing the lawn under a hot sun: one pictures himself drinking a beer afterwards, the other a Diet Coke. They are expressing a personal preference, but both pictures get them through cutting the grass. How can we say that one is better than the other?

I think that a “better” hope is an imagined future that turns out to be good and true when it becomes an experienced present. When the lawnmowers are put away, the Diet Coke proves to be the better hope if the fridge door opens to reveal lots of Diet Coke and not one can of beer. Many things, I think, can function as hopes for us in our present lives. (All of us, apparently, invest our hope in something, even if we may not find it easy to put into words.) But these hopes must also turn out to be good and true when the future finally arrives—as it must, because a future that never arrives cannot act as a useful hope.

We prefer not to think about death and decay, or tell ourselves that they are things of natural beauty, because there is nothing we can do about them—there is no alternative. It would be too painful to admit that we have a desire greater than the pleasures of life can meet. Admitting to such a desire could be labeled unhealthy. Why demand that things last when they cannot? Where is the sense in that? And who are we making the demand of anyway?

But what if that thinking is wrong? What if the really healthy thing is to be angry at the universality of death and decay? What if the correct way to endure our frustrated universe is to admit that we possess gigantic desires that defy this basic tension?

Many people in the past have had Heaven as their imagined “better future.” As a hope, it got them through tough times. It motivated them. It has made them willing to make sacrifices in the present and to be kind to others. It is common to criticize the idea of Heaven as a remote hope that causes people to neglect making the effort to achieve needed changes to present circumstances. However, I find that, when properly understood, Heaven’s effect on my life in the present is to cause me to be willing to postpone personal comfort and fulfillment (because these are assured in the future), and so I can better give thought to the needs of others in the present. The idea of Heaven, which can sound like a very selfish notion, has often served to produce the most unselfish people. (Of course, some ideas of Heaven—and ideas of how to gain admittance—have prompted people to become suicide bombers.) But only those who are dead know whether Heaven was a “better” hope in the sense I am using here.

The first movie I ever saw about neural nets and virtual reality was Brainwave. It came out before the film industry really had the technology to create vistas comparable to the ones we can imagine, but the story was fascinating. Two scientists were working together to develop a “net” that recorded every sensation the wearer experienced. If someone else put on the gear and played the tape back, they would experience exactly the same sensations. The scientists worked well together, despite the fact that one was an ardent optimist and the other saw only obstacles from horizon to horizon.

One day while the optimist was wearing the net, she died, and it was several hours before her colleague found her, slumped over the console. After all the distraction of doctors and relatives and a funeral, the pessimist finally found himself back at the laboratory. Gazing at the machine, he realized what an opportunity had been presented to him: he could experience death vicariously and—hopefully—continue to live afterwards.

Being as curious as any good scientist, he opted to take the risk and plunged into the death of his colleague. He was surprised to find that very soon after he “died,” other things began to happen. Previously—not being a very good scientist—he had merely assumed that physical death was the end of a human’s existence, but now he found himself approaching something bright, like a celestial city, the sight of which filled him with joyful anticipation. At this point, the tape ran out, flapping on its spindle. The pessimist had not yet arrived at the city, but he knew of its existence. Everything he had sensed made him think that it was a good and beautiful place.

Would such an experience make a difference in someone’s life? In the movie, it did. Thereafter the pessimist approached everything differently. He was still obviously the same person, but his outlook and his behavior had changed.

I like the story this film tells because it is the story that I think is true: hope is different from bare optimism. Our ground for hope, the story we tell ourselves about a better future, has to engage in some way with what we know. It cannot float above the world’s frustration and decay. It cannot ignore pessimism simply because pessimism isn’t fun. Equally, however, we should not deny our need for hope because we find that it takes less effort to be pessimistic, and we should not surrender to negativity only because it protects us from disappointment. Fiction cannot be a good hope, and a better hope must prove to be both good and true.

Many people, of course, don’t have a future hope in Heaven. This is understandable. They have never had a vicarious experience of death. Around them they see only decay, and they have concluded that when the tracings of the heart monitors and the brain scanners go flat, then the person the cords are hooked up to is gone forever. Usually they have also concluded that Heaven is a fiction invented to help us cope with the basic tensions of life. And now that it has been revealed as such, they refuse, quite properly, to adopt it as their own imagined future. Sometimes they also think they ought to tell others not to adopt it; sometimes they don’t. But in any case I don’t find their reaction hard to understand: they don’t think that the story about Heaven is true; they don’t think that Heaven is real, and so they do not hope in it.

No, the thing I find hard to understand is when someone does believe in Heaven and yet it doesn’t produce in him a sense of hope. I talk with people in this situation quite frequently. It used to seem bizarre to me, but I think I am beginning to see how it can be. It’s just a small symptom of something much larger.

1. When two of my neighbors died within a week of each other—one a woman of one hundred years who had just received a telegram of congratulations from the British Queen, the other a man of fifty-nine—it was fascinating to observe the different reactions at their funerals.

2. Hebrews 7:19.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley

Tour Date: November 30th

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Shadow of Colossus

Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)


T.L. Higley holds a degree in English Literature and has written three previous novels, including Fallen from Babel, and more than fifty drama productions for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and four children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080544730X
ISBN-13: 978-0805447309


Rhodes, 227 bc

Seven Days Before the Great Quake

In the deceitful calm of the days preceding disaster, while Rhodes still glittered like a white jewel in the Aegean, Tessa of Delos planned to open her wrists.

The death of her body was long overdue. Her soul had died ten years ago.

Ten years this day.

Tessa took in a breath of salty air and shivered. From her lofty position outside Glaucus's hillside home, she watched the populace's torches flicker to life in the dusk. Across the city the day's tumult at the docks slowed. The massive statue of Helios at the harbor's frothy mouth caught the sun's last rays as it slipped into a cobalt sea. The torch he thrust skyward seem to burst aflame, as though lit by the sun god himself.

He had been her only constant these ten years, this giant in the likeness of Helios. A silent sentinel who kept vigil as life ripped freedom and hope from her. Painful as it was, tonight she wanted only to remember. To be alone, to remember, and to mourn.

"Tessa!" A wine-sodden voice erupted from the open door behind her.

The symposium had begun only minutes ago, but Glaucus was already deep into his cups. Bad form in any company, thought Tessa, but Glaucus rarely cared. Tessa inhaled the tang of sea air again and placed a steadying hand against the smooth alabaster column supporting the roof. She did not answer, nor turn, when she heard her fat master shuffle onto the portico.

"Get yourself back into the house!" Glaucus punctuated his command with a substantial belch.

"Soon," she said. "I wish to watch the sun god take his leave."

A household servant crept out and set two torches blazing. An oily smell surged, then dissipated. From the house floated harsh laughter mingled with the tinny sound of a flute.

Glaucus pushed his belly against her back and grabbed her arm. The linen chitôn she'd taken care to arrange perfectly fell away, exposing her shoulder. She reached to replace it, but Glaucus caught her hand. He brought his mouth close to her ear, and she could smell his breath, foul as days-old fish.

"The others are asking for you. `Where is your hetaera?' they say. `The one with more opinions than Carthage has ships.'"

Tessa closed her eyes. She had long entertained Glaucus's political friends with her outspoken thoughts on government and power. While his wife remained hidden away in the women's quarters, Glaucus's hetaera was displayed like an expensive pet with sharp teeth. Tessa had once believed she led an enviable life, but the years had stripped her of her illusions.

She stroked the polished filigree of the gold necklace encircling her throat and remembered when Glaucus fastened it there, a gilding for his personal figure of bronze.

"Now, Tessa." Glaucus pulled her toward the door.

Her heart reached for the statue, clinging to her first memory of it, when Delos had been home and innocence had still been hers.

When I open my wrists, I will do it there.


The andrôn, central room of the men’s quarters, smelled of roasted meat and burning olive oil. Glaucus paused in the doorway, awaiting the attention of those who had curried enough of his favor to be invited tonight. When the small crowd lounging on low couches at the room’s perimeter turned his way, he pushed her into the lamp-lit center. “Tessa, everyone,” he shouted. “Making a grand entrance!”

The room laughed and clapped, then returned their attention to the food and wine on the low tables beside them. In the corner, a young girl dressed in gauzy fabric blew thin streams of air into a small flute. Tessa’s eyes locked onto the girl’s for a moment. A private understanding passed between them that they were both objects of entertainment, and the girl looked away, as though ashamed to be seen so clearly. A desire to protect the girl surfaced in Tessa, a maternal feeling that of late seemed only a breath away.

Glaucus pulled her to a couch and forced her down onto the gold-trimmed red cushions. He lowered himself at her right and leaned against her possessively. A black bowl with gold designs waited in the center of their table, and Glaucus ladled wine from it into a goblet for her. To the room he said, “To Tessa—always the center of attention!” He raised his own cup, and his guests did the same.

Tessa’s gaze swept the room, taking in the majority of men and the few women reclining against them. The moment was suspended, with cups raised toward her, drunken and insincere smiles affixed to faces, lamplight flickering across tables piled with grapes and almonds and figs, and the flute’s lament behind it all.

Will I remember this night, even in the afterlife?

“To Tessa!” Shouts went round the room, cups were drained and thumped back to tables, and the party quickened around her.

Glaucus reached for her, but she pushed him away. He laughed. “It would appear my Tessa is a bit high-spirited tonight,” he said to the others. “And what shall be done with a mischievous hetaera?” His thick-lipped smile and raised eyebrow took in the room and elicited another round of laughter. He nodded, then turned his attention to the man on his right, resuming a conversation whose beginning she must have missed.

“Your objections earlier to the naturalization of the Jews are noted, Spiro. But to extend citizenship to the foreigners among us can often be expedient.” Tessa could not see Spiro, his frame completely blocked by the bulk of Glaucus beside her, but his voice poured like warm oil. Yet underneath his smooth tones, Tessa heard the cold iron of anger. He was one of few among the strategoi to contradict Glaucus publicly.

“Like-minded foreigners, perhaps,” Spiro said. “But the Jews make it no secret that they despise our Greek ways. They disdain even our proudest achievement, our Helios of the harbor. They must be expunged, not embraced by weak-willed politicians who—”

Glaucus raised a pudgy hand. “You presume an authority not yours, Spiro.”

“Only a matter of time, Glaucus.”

Glaucus snorted. “Again you presume. The people of this island are too clever to choose seductive charm over solid leadership.”

Spiro laughed quietly. “Why, Glaucus, seductive charm? I didn’t realize you had noticed.”

Glaucus shook his head. “Perhaps the women are affected, but it is the men who vote.”

Tessa sensed Spiro lean forward, his eyes now on her. “And we both know where men find their opinions.”

Glaucus snorted again and swung his legs to the floor. It took several tries to raise his ponderous body from the cushions. “Get drunk, Spiro. Enjoy your delusions for one more night. But next week I sail to Crete, and I expect them to fully support my efforts.”

He nudged Tessa with a sandaled toe. “Don’t go anywhere. I will be back.”

Tessa watched him leave the room, relief at his temporary absence flooding her. She was to travel to Crete with him next week, though she had no intention of ever stepping onto the ship.

The previously unseen Spiro slid to her couch now, an elbow on the cushion Glaucus had just vacated. He was older than she, perhaps thirty, clean-shaven like most of the others but wore his jetblack hair longer, braided away from his face and falling just above his shoulders. His eyes, deep set and darker than the night sea, studied hers. A smile played at his lips. “What are you still doing with that bore, Tessa? You could do better.”

“One slave master is as another. To have something better is only to be free.” She was not truly Glaucus’s slave in the usual sense, and Spiro knew it, but it made little difference.

Spiro smiled fully now, and his gaze traveled from her eyes, slowly down to her waist. He took liberties, but Tessa had long ago become heedless of offense.

“That is what I like about you, Tessa. One never meets a hetaera who speaks of freedom; they are resolved to their place. But you are a woman like no other in Rhodes.”

“Why should I not be free?”

Spiro chuckled softly and inched closer. “Why, indeed? Ask the gods, who make some women wives and give others as slaves.”

Spiro’s hand skimmed the cushions and came to rest on her thigh. “If you were mine, Tessa, I would treat you as the equal you deserve to be. Glaucus acts as though he owns you, but we all know he pays dearly for your favors. Perhaps it is you who owns him.” Spiro’s fingers dug into her leg, and his eyes roamed her face and body again. Tessa felt neither pleasure nor disgust, a reminder that her heart had been cast from bronze. But a flicker of fear challenged her composure. Spiro, she knew, was like one of the mighty Median horses: raw power held in check, capable of trampling the innocent if unleashed.

A shadow loomed above them, but Spiro did not remove his hand. Instead, he arched a perfect eyebrow at Glaucus and smiled. Tessa expected a flash of anger, but Glaucus laughed. “First, you think to rule the island, Spiro, and now you think to steal Tessa from me, as though she has the free will to choose whom she wants?” Spiro shrugged and moved to the next couch.

Glaucus plopped down between them again. “She will never be yours, Spiro. Even when I am dead, her owner will only hand her to the next man in line to have paid for her.” He waggled a finger at Tessa. “She is worth waiting for, though, I can tell you.” Another coarse laugh.

Something broke loose in Tessa then. Caused perhaps by the vow taken while drinking in the sight of the harbor’s bronze statue, and the assurance that soon nothing she did now would hold consequence for her. Or perhaps it was ten years of bondage, commemorated this night with nothing more than continued abuse.

Whatever the reason, she rose to her feet. The room silenced, as though a goddess had ascended a pedestal. She lifted her voice. “May the gods deal with you as you have mistreated me, Glaucus of Rhodes. I will have no part of you.”

Glaucus grabbed her arm. “Your heart is not in the festivities tonight, my dear. I understand. I will meet you in the inner courtyard later.”

He did this to save face, they both knew. Tessa wrenched her arm free of his clutches, glanced at Spiro, and felt a chill at the look in his eyes. She raised her chin and glided from the room.

In the hall outside the andrôn, she looked both directions. She had no desire to stay, yet the world outside the house was no more pleasant or safe for her. She turned from the front door and moved deeper into the house.

The hallway opened to a courtyard, with rooms branching in many directions. Along the back wall, a colonnaded walkway, its roof covered with terra-cotta tiles, stretched the length of the courtyard. A large cistern gaped in the center. Beside it stood a large birdcage; its lone inhabitant, a black mynah with an orange beak, chirped in greeting.

Glaucus had said he would meet her here later, but from the sounds of the laughter behind her, the party raged without her. She should be safe for a few minutes at least. She crossed to the bird she had adopted as her own and simply named Mynah. Tessa put a finger through the iron bars and let Mynah peck a hello.

Her head throbbed, as it always did when she wore her hair pulled back. She reached above her, found the pin that cinched her dark ringlets together, and yanked it. Hair loosed and fell around her, and she ran her fingers through it in relief.

A sharp intake of breath from across the room startled her. She whirled at the sound. “Who’s there?”

A soft voice in the darkness said, “I am sorry, mistress. I did not mean to startle you.”

Tessa’s heart grasped at the kindness and respect in the voice, the first she had encountered this evening. She put a hand to her unfastened hair. Somehow she still found it within herself to be embarrassed by this small impropriety.

The man took hesitant steps toward her. “Are you ill, mistress? Can I help you in some way?” He was clean-shaven and quite tall, with a lanky build and craggy face, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant, Simeon.

“No, Simeon. No, I am not ill. Thank you.” She sank to a bench.

The older man dipped his head and backed away. Tessa reached out a hand. “Perhaps—perhaps some water?”

He smiled. “I’ll only be a moment.”

She had disgraced Glaucus tonight, in spite of his effort to laugh off her comments. How would he repay the damage she had done him? His position as a strategos of the polis of Rhodes outranked all other concerns in his life, and he would consider her disrespect in the presence of other city leaders as treasonous.

In the three years since Glaucus had paid her owner the hetaera price and she had become his full-time companion, they had developed an unusual relationship. While he would not allow her to forget that she was not free, he had also discovered her aptitude for grasping the intricacies of politics, the maneuvering necessary to keep Rhodes the strong trading nation that it was, and to maintain Glaucus’s hold on leadership within this democratic society. Power was a game played shrewdly in Rhodes, as in all the Greek world, and Glaucus had gained a competitive edge when he gained Tessa.

Rhodian society had declared her to be a rarity: beautiful, brilliant, and enslaved. But the extent to which the decisions of the city-state passed through her slave-bound fingers was unknown to most. And in this she held a measure of power over Glaucus. She recalled Spiro’s astute comment earlier: Perhaps it is you who owns him.

Simeon returned with a stone mug in his hands. He held it out to her and covered her fingers with his own gnarled hand as she reached for it. His eyes returned to her hair. “I—I have never seen you with your hair down,” he said. He lowered his gray head again but did not back away, and his voice was soft. “It is beautiful.”

Tessa tried to smile, but her heart retreated from the small kindness. “Thank you.”

He didn’t look up. “If you are not ill, Tessa, perhaps you should return to the symposium. I should not like to see Glaucus angry with you.”

Tessa exhaled. “Glaucus can wait.”

Another noise at the courtyard’s edge. They both turned at the rustle of fabric. A girl glided into the room, dressed in an elegant yellow chitôn, her dark hair flowing around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly when she saw them.

“Simeon? Tessa? What are you doing here?”

Simeon bent at the waist, his eyes on the floor. “The lady was feeling ill. She requested water.” His eyes flicked up at Tessa, their expression unreadable, and he left the room.

Tessa turned her attention to the girl, inhaling the resolve to survive this encounter. At fourteen, Persephone hovered on the delicate balance between girl and woman. Glowing pale skin framed by dark hair gave her the look of an ivory doll, but it was her startlingly blue eyes that drew one’s attention. In recent months, as she had gained understanding of Tessa’s position in her father’s life, Persephone had grown more hostile toward her.

She raised her chin and studied Tessa. “Does my father know you’re out here?” Her tone contradicted the delicacy of her features.

Tessa nodded.

“So he let his plaything out of her cage?”

Tessa’s eyes closed in pity for the girl, whose mother had abandoned her for the comfort of madness.

The girl flitted to where Mynah cheeped inside its bars. She picked a leaf from a potted tree and held it out to the bird. “But who am I to speak of cages?” she said. She raised her eyes to Tessa. “We are all trapped here in some way. You. Me. Mother.”

“Cages can be escaped,” Tessa said, surprising herself. She had never dared to offer Persephone wisdom, though her heart ached for the girl.

Persephone turned toward her, studying her. “When you find the key, let me know.”

"Tessa!" Glaucus's voice was thick with wine and demanding.

Tessa turned toward the doorway. The girl beside her took a step backward.

"There you are," he said. "I've sent them all away." He waddled toward them. "I am sick of their company." He seemed to notice the girl for the first time. "Persephone, why are you not in bed? Get yourself to the women's quarters."

Tessa could feel the hate course through the girl as if it were her own body.

"I am not tired. I wished to see the stars." She pointed upward.

Glaucus stood before them now, and he sneered. "Well, the stars have no wish to see you. Remove yourself."

"And will you say goodnight to Mother?" Persephone asked. The words were spoken with sarcasm, tossed to Glaucus like raw bait. Tessa silently cheered the girl's audacity.

Glaucus was not so kind. "Get out!"

"And leave you to your harlot?" Persephone said.

In a quick motion belying his obesity, Glaucus raised the back of his hand to the girl and struck her against the face. She reeled backward a step or two, her hand against her cheek.

Tessa moved between them. "Leave her alone!"

Glaucus turned on Tessa and laughed. "And when did you two become friends?"

Persephone glared into her father's corpulent face. "I despise you both," she said.

Glaucus raised his arm again, his hand a fist this time, but Tessa was faster. She caught the lowering arm by the wrist and pushed it backward. Glaucus rocked back on his heels and turned his hatred on her.

Tessa kept her eyes trained on Glaucus but spoke to the girl, her voice low and commanding. "Go to bed, Persephone." She sensed the girl back away, heard her stomp from the room.

The anger on Glaucus's face melted into something else. A chuckle, sickening in its condescension, rumbled from him.

"High-spirited is one thing, Tessa. But be careful you do not go too far. Remember who keeps you in those fine clothes and wraps your ankles and wrists in jewels. You are not your own."

But I soon will be.

Glaucus reached for her, and she used her forearm to swat him away like a noisome insect. "Don't touch me. Don't touch her. Take your fat, drunken self out of here."

The amusement on Glaucus's face played itself out. The anger returned, but Tessa was ready.

Glaucus's words hissed between clenched teeth. "I don't know what has come over you tonight, Tessa, but I will teach you your place. You belong to me, body and spirit, and I will have you!" His heavy hands clutched her shoulders, and his alcohol-soaked breath blew hot in her face. Every part of Tessa's inner being rose up to defend herself.

It would all end tonight.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

IN THE SHADOW OF LIONS by Ginger Garrett

Tour Date: November 29th

When the tour date arrives, copy and paste the HTML Provided in the box. Don't forget to add your honest review if you wish! PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST WHEN THE TOUR COMES AROUND!

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)


Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.

On September 11, Ginger's non-fiction book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen was released. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets.

A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living.

In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448875
ISBN-13: 978-0781448871


And Job said unto God:

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

now I have it all firsthand…

I’ll never again live

on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.

Job 42, The Message


Tomorrow, someone else will die in my bed.

Someone died in it last month, which is how it came to be called mine.

The infernal clock moved confidently towards 1 a.m., and I turned my head to look at the window. The window of this room is a miserly gesture from the contractors, producing more fog than visage. I watched the gold orbs—the lamps on the lawn of the hospice sputtering off and on in the darkness—that dotted the fogged glass.

That was the last moment I lived as an iver, one whose eyes are veiled.

One orb did not sputter but moved, gliding between the others, moving closer to the window, growing larger and brighter until the light consumed the entire view. I winced from the searing glare and tried to shield my eyes, but the IV line pulled taut. Wrestling with the line to get some slack, I saw the next movement out of the corner of my eye. I bit down hard on my tongue, my body jerking in reflex, and felt the warm blood run back to my throat.

Outside, a hand wiped the fog away from the glass, and I watched the water beads running down the inside of my window. There was no searing light, only this mammoth hand with deep creases in the palms wiping down the window until we both could see each other. A man’s face was against the glass, but no breath fogged his vision. He was a giant, grim man, with an earring in one ear and dark glasses, and he was staring in at me. Even through the morphine, fear snaked along my arms, biting into my stomach, constricting around my throat. I tried to scream, but I could only gulp air and heave little gasps. His expression did not change as he lifted his hands, curling them into fists. I flinched at the last moment, thinking him to be Death, expecting to receive the blow and die.

Then I grew suddenly warm, like the feeling you get stepping out from an old, dark city library into the busy street and a warm spring sun.

Death didn’t even hurt, I rejoiced. I could slip into it like I slipped onto that street, eyes down, my thoughts my own, and simply turn a corner and be gone. I lifted my fingers to beckon him. Yes, I thought. I saw the beautiful Rolex on my birdlike wrist, and saw that it had stopped. It is time.

When I looked back up, he was beside me, staring down, not speaking. I wasn’t dead. His frame was monstrously large, hitting what must be seven feet tall, with a width of muscle strapped across it that was inhuman. As he watched me, his chest didn’t move, and his nostrils didn’t flare, but heat and warm breath radiated from him. When he laid his hands across my eyes, I was too scared to move my head away. His palms covered most of my face, and a sharp buzzing drilled into every pore. He began to move his hands elsewhere, touching and bringing to life every splintered inch of my body. When he got to the cancer, with one swollen lymph node visible even through my stained blue gown, he rested his hands there until the swelling sighed and he swept it away with his hand.

“Wait!” I screamed.

I didn’t want to live. I hadn’t known that was going to be an option. I deserved to be damned. To return to my life was too much to ask of me. I was finished.

“You’ll still be dead by morning,” he reassured me. His voice was deep and clean, no tell-tale dialect or inflection. Taking off his glasses, I saw he had enormous gold eyes, with a black pinhole in the center that stayed round and cold. There was no white in them at all, and they were rimmed all the way around the outside with black. I stared at them, trying to remember where I had seen eyes like this. It was years ago, this much I remembered.

I had to shake myself back to the moment. Clearly, morphine was not setting well with me tonight. I wanted to die in peace. That’s what I paid these extravagant sums for. My hand moved to the nurses’ call button. Mariskka was just down the hall, waiting for her moment to steal my watch. I knew she’d come running.

He grabbed my hand and the shock seared like a hot iron. Crying out, I shook him off and clutched my hand between my breasts, doing my best to sit up with my atrophied stomach muscles and tangled IV.

He leaned in. “I have something for you.”


He leaned in closer. “A second chance.”

Second chances were not my forte. As the most celebrated editor in New York City, I had made a killing. I loved the words that trembling writers slid across my desk, those little black flecks that could destroy their life’s dream or launch a career. I bled red ink over every page, slashing words, cutting lines. No one understood how beautiful they were to me, why I tormented the best writers, always pushing them to bring me more. The crueler I was to the best of them, the more they loved me, like flagellants worshipping me as the master of their order. Only at the end, lying here facing my own death, did I understand why. They embraced the pain, thinking it birthed something greater than themselves. I saw how pitifully wrong they were. There was only pain. This is why I was ready to die. When you finish the last chapter and close the book, there is nothing but pain. It would have been better never to have written. Words betrayed me. And for that, I betrayed the best writer of them all.

“Burn any manuscripts that arrive for me,” I had ordered my nurse, Marisska. “Tell them I’m already dead. Tell them anything.”

“I’ll let you write the truth,” the man whispered.

“I’m not a writer,” I replied. My fear tumbled down into the dark place of my secrets.

“No, you’re not,” he answered. “But you’ve coveted those bestsellers, didn’t you? You knew you could do better. This is your second chance.”

It caught my attention. “How?”

“I will dictate my story to you,” he said. “Then you’ll die.”

Taking dictation? My mouth fell open. “I’m in hell, aren’t I?”

He tilted his head. “Not yet.”

I pushed away from the pillows and grabbed him. Blisters sprang up on my palms and in between my fingers, but I gritted my teeth and spat out my words. “Who are you?”

“The first writer, the Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it.”

“Why me?”

“I like your work.”

I started laughing, the first time I had laughed since I had been brought to this wing of the hospice, where the dying are readied for death, their papers ordered, and discreet pamphlets on “end of life options” left by quiet-soled salesmen. I laughed until I was winded. He rested his hand on my chest, and I caught my breath as he spoke.

“Let’s go find Marisska.”