Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secrets and Lies by Rhonda McKnight

Introducing SECRETS AND LIES by Rhonda McKnight

Amazon link
About the Book

Faith Morgan is struggling with her faith. Years of neglect leave her doubting that God will ever fix her marriage. When a coworker accuses her husband, Jonah, of the unthinkable, Faith begins to wonder if she really knows him at all, and if it's truly in God's will for them to stay married.

Pediatric cardiologist Jonah Morgan is obsessed with one thing: his work. A childhood incident cemented his desire to heal children at any cost, even his family, but now he finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Will he continue to allow the past to haunt him, or find healing and peace in a God he shut out long ago?

About the Author

Rhonda McKnight owns Legacy Editing, a free-lance editing service for fiction writers and Urban Christian Fiction Today ( ), a popular Internet site that highlights African-American Christian fiction. She’s also the vice president of the Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta. Originally from a small coastal town in New Jersey, she’s called Atlanta, Georgia home for almost twelve years.

Rhonda, tell us how you came up with the idea for this story? I woke up one morning and these people were talking in my head, or rather arguing. (LOL). I thought this could be interesting, turned on the creativity, and came up with the “issues” in their marriage. I also did a lot of research about heart disease. Jonah is a pediatric cardiologist and that’s central to the story. I knew absolutely nothing about heart disease before I wrote this novel.

Who is your ideal reader? I think most people will think my ideal reader is women who are married. While I think the book will definitely appeal to married women, I’d love for single woman who are thinking about marriage or waiting on Mr. Right to read the book. There is a valuable lesson for single women in the story. Faith chose to overlook a very important issue prior to her marriage to Jonah. This issue becomes a huge source of pain for her. Ten years later her ideal black man has her pulling her hair out.

Name something about the book that will appeal to readers? I think readers will find it appealing, because more than half of it is written from Jonah’s point of view. My informal research amongst readers has taught me that women readers love stories that are written from a man’s perspective. Like most men, Jonah is complex. He’s a love to hate kind of guy. People will love him because he’s dedicated his life to physically healing children, but he’s emotionally and spiritually sick himself. What a burden for Faith. Faith’s pain will have some folks shaking their heads at Jonah.

When's your next book being released? My second novel, An Inconvenient Friend comes out August 1, 2010. I have a nasty little character in Secrets and Lies who gets her own story, and what a story it is. She's up to no good. Can she be redeemed?

How can readers find out more about you? Readers may contact me at my website at I love for people to sign my guestbook and share their thoughts about the story. I'm also a complete Facebook addict. You'll definitely find me there more than you should at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Reality of a Times Bestseller by LViel

A few years ago I made a promise to my writer friends that if I ever had a novel hit the top twenty of the New York Times mass market bestseller list that I would share all the information I was given about the book so writers could really see what it takes to get there. Today I’m going to keep that promise and give you the stats on my sixth Darkyn novel, Twilight Fall.

We’ve all been told a lot of myths about what it takes to reach the top twenty list of the NYT BSL. What I was told: you have to have an initial print run of 100-150K, you have to go to all the writer and reader conferences to pimp the book, you can’t make it unless you go to certain bookstores during release week and have a mass signing or somehow arrange for a lot of copies to be sold there; the list is fixed, etc.

I’ve never had a 100K first print run. I don’t do book signings and I don’t order massive amounts of my own books from certain bookstores (I don’t even know which bookstores are the magic ones from whom the Times gets their sales data.) I do very little in the way of promotions for my books; for this one I gave away some ARCs, sent some author copies to readers and reviewers, and that was about it. I haven’t attended any conference since 2003. To my knowledge there was no marketing campaign for this book; I was never informed of what the publisher was going to do for it (as a high midlist author I probably don’t rate a marketing campaign yet.) I know they did some blog ads for the previous book in the series, but I never saw anything online about this particular book. No one offered to get me on the Times list, either, but then I was never told who to bribe, beg or otherwise convince to fix the list (I don’t think there is anyone who really does that, but you never know.)

Despite my lack of secret handshakes and massive first print runs, in July 2008 my novel Twilight Fall debuted on the Times mm list at #19. I’ll tell you exactly why it got there: my readers put it there. But it wasn’t until last week that I received the first royalty statement (Publishing is unbelievably slow in this department) so I just now put together all the actual figures on how well the book did.

To give you some background info, Twilight Fall had an initial print run of 88.5K, and an initial ship of 69K. Most readers, retailers and buyers that I keep in touch with e-mailed me to let me know that the book shipped late because of the July 4th holiday weekend. Another 4K was shipped out two to four weeks after the lay-down date, for a total of 73K, which means there were 15.5K held in reserve in the warehouse in July 2008.

Here is the first royalty statement for Twilight Fall, on which I’ve only blanked out Penguin Group’s address. Everything else is exactly as I’ve listed it. To give you a condensed version of what all those figures mean, for the sale period of July through November 30, 2008. my publisher reports sales of 64,925 books, for which my royalties were $40,484.00. I didn’t get credit for all those sales, as 21,140 book credits were held back as a reserve against possible future returns, for which they subtracted $13,512.69 (these are not lost sales; I’m simply not given credit for them until the publisher decides to release them, which takes anywhere from one to three years.)

My net earnings on this statement was $27,721.31, which was deducted from my advance. My actual earnings from this statement was $0.

My advance for Twilight Fall was $50,000.00, a third of which I did not get paid until the book physically hit the shelf — this is now a common practice by publishers, to withhold a portion of the advance until date of publication. Of that $50K, my agent received $7,500.00 as her 15% (which she earns, believe me) the goverment received roughly $15,000.00, and $1594.27 went to cover my expenses (office supplies, blog giveaways, shipping, promotion, etc.) After expenses and everyone else was paid, I netted about $26K of my $50K advance for this book, which is believe it or not very good — most authors are lucky if they can make 10% profit on any book. This should also shut up everyone who says all bestselling authors make millions — most of us don’t.

My next royalty statement for Twilight Fall probably won’t come until October or November 2009, but when it does I’ll post copies of it so you can see what a top twenty Times bestseller does in the first year after it’s released.

In Publishing telling the truth about earnings smashes the illusions publishers and writers want you to believe and, like breaking mirrors, it never brings you good luck. Thing is, when I was a rookie I wanted to know exactly what it took to have a top twenty Times bestselling novel, because that was such a big deal to writers. Everyone I asked gave me a different answer, told me a bunch of nonsense, or couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me at all. For that reason I want you to see the hard figures, and know the reality, and the next time someone asks you what it takes, you can tell them the truth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Wild Card Tour--What To Do On the Worst Day of Your Life

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:

What To Do On the Worst Day of Your Life

Christian Life (March 3, 2009)


Brian Zahnd is the founder and senior pastor of Word of Life Church, a congregation in St. Joseph, Missouri. He and his wife, Peri, have three sons.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Christian Life (March 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599797267
ISBN-13: 978-1599797267



As David stood among the smoldering ruins of what had been his home, he wept. As he faced the awful fact that the Amalekites had in one day reduced him to financial ruin, he wept. As he contemplated the terrifying reality that cruel and murderous bandits had kidnapped his family, he wept. All he could do was cry. Hot tears flowed down his face, and heavy sobs made his body convulse. The only outlet David could find for the fear and the anger and the pain that seized his soul was weeping.

David was not alone in his weeping. Six hundred men, all of them strong and valiant soldiers, men who had faced death many times without a hint of fear, now wept openly and uncontrollably. Many of these men were the champions whose heroic deeds would become legendary in Israel. These weren't weak men. These weren't men prone to emotional histrionics. But they couldn't hold back the hot, salty tears, nor did they want to. The biblical narration tells us they wept until they had no more power to weep. Powerful men wept until weeping had drained their power. They cried and cried until they were too tired to cry anymore.

What do you do when trouble hits you so hard that it knocks the wind out of you and makes you feel that it must be the worst day of your life? The first thing you do is to go ahead and weep. Stoicism has nothing to do with faith. Living by faith is not living without feelings. Being strong in faith does not make us immune to emotion. Those who live by faith experience emotion like everybody else--they just don't allow emotion to have the last word. God has created us as emotional beings; it is part of our human nature. Emotions are an essential part of experiencing pleasure and joy in life. Those who deny their emotional makeup become people with bland personalities incapable of really enjoying life. To deny true sorrow is also to deny true joy. Having a flat, prosaic personality is not what it means to be a person of faith.

You cannot even worship God without involving your emotions. David, who is depicted in Scripture as a great worshiper of God, was highly demonstrative in his worship. He would sing, shout, and dance in his praise of God. We can involve the full range of our emotions when we worship God. The emotion that proceeds from a deep understanding of God's glory and goodness is filled with spiritual substance and is both vital and valid in worship. It should not be confused with empty emotionalism, which is emotion for emotion's sake.

If you can contemplate the rich salvation accomplished for you through the suffering of Jesus Christ upon the cross and be completely devoid of any emotional response, there is something wrong. God has made us to feel things. We feel joy, we feel peace, we feel excitement, we feel anger, and we feel sadness--this is how God created human beings. To deny these emotions is to deny your humanity. When the troubles of life strike us with particularly cruel blows, it's natural and perfectly acceptable--and perhaps even helpful--to respond with weeping. Weeping is not inconsistent with faith. Some of the greatest giants of faith in the Bible wept:

Abraham, the father of faith, wept at the death of his wife Sarah.

When Jacob met his future bride Rachel, he was so overwhelmed that he wept.

When Joseph was reunited with his estranged brothers, he wept.

Hezekiah wept when he received the bad report that he would die from his illlness.

Nehemiah wept over the sad state of Jerusalem.

Job wept in the midst of his trial.

The prophet Jeremiah wept over the sins of Israel.

Peter wept over his failure and betrayal of Christ.

Paul wept in the middle of his trials.

John wept during his heavenly visions.

Even Jesus wept!

The weeping of Jesus is a powerful testimony to the fullness of His humanity. There is much sorrow in this fallen world, and men and women have many reasons to weep.

One of our most beloved Christmas carols is Away in a Manger. Recently, while splitting wood on a subzero day during the Christmas season, I found myself humming the melody as the words circled through my mind:

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,

The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,

But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes . . . 1

I stopped right there. Baby Jesus doesn't cry? Of course He does. Like every baby, Jesus cried at birth. Like every baby, Jesus cried when He was hungry. Like every child, Jesus cried when He was hurt or unhappy. The baby Jesus who doesn't cry is the halo Jesus--the Jesus depicted so often in religious art. The problem with the halo Jesus is that He is not human. A baby who doesn't cry is not human. A person who doesn't cry is lacking in humanity. Jesus cried. He cried as a baby, as a child, and as a man. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Jesus cried. He shed the tears of God.

God in Christ shed tears? This is an astounding acknowledgment. But nothing that is common to man was kept from God in Christ. Not birth, nor death; not trial, nor temptation; not sorrow, nor suffering. And not tears.

Some theologians have argued for the doctrine of divine impassibility. This doctrine, which states that God is without passion or emotion, was first developed by early theologians who were heavily influenced by Greek philosophers. It was later adopted by some of the Reformation theologians. Well, I have a bone to pick with these theologians. They have woefully underestimated the Incarnation. Christ is not God masquerading as human. The Incarnation is God made fully human--and tears are part of the human condition. Thus, in Christ we find not divine impassibility but divine suffering. We find the tears of God. These tears are integral to our salvation. For, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, Only the suffering God can help. It's interesting to note that as a direct result of the Holocaust, most theologians now reject divine impassibility. Apparently, the notion that God adopts a passive attitude toward human suffering is no longer tenable in light of the horrendous suffering of the Holocaust.

It's not the Stoic Greek philosophers who reflect the heart of God, but the weeping Hebrew prophets--not Zeno the Stoic philosopher, but Jeremiah the weeping prophet. The prophets wept because God weeps. Jesus wept because God weeps. The Word became flesh that God might join us in our tears.

Joy Comes in the Morning

Yet, the tears of God are not tears of mere commiseration. These are holy tears that lead to our liberation--liberation from the dominion of sorrow. God in Christ did not join us in sorrow merely as an experiment in empathy. He joined us in sorrow that He might lead us to the joy that comes in the morning. Jesus has entered fully into the new morning of resurrection. The rest of creation groans, eagerly awaiting the promised liberation.

In the meantime, we who suffer are comforted with the knowledge that we are not alone in our suffering. Jesus joined us in our suffering and shed the tears of God. It is in those tears that we will ultimately find joy unspeakable and full of glory.

In the first Advent two thousand years ago, God in Christ joined us in our tears. The Son of God was born in tears, like every baby that has ever been born. In His second Advent, or Second Coming, God in Christ will join us again, this time to wipe away all of our tears!

In the course of my life and ministry, I've had my own nights of weeping. When I was just a young twenty-two-year-old pastor, I wept as a disgruntled man in the church stood in a service and shouted, Ichabod, Ichabod, the glory is departed, and then led half the congregation to leave the church. Later, there were times when the pressure and stress became so severe that I was reduced to tears during a very difficult multimillion-dollar building project. I wept when I stood in a hospital room with grieving parents as their teenage son was pronounced dead. There have been times of tears still too personal to talk about. I can say with the apostle Paul that I have served the Lord with many tears.

The Bible says there is a time to weep,14 and that cannot be denied. It would be an added cruelty to deny yourself or others tears in times of tragedy or deep personal pain.

But there is also a time to dry your tears and stop weeping. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

There is a night of weeping, but there is also a dawn of faith. When the morning comes, it is time to stop weeping and start rejoicing in God. If you continue to weep . . . if you continue to hold on to your grief and sorrow, it will turn into self-pity, which can destroy your faith and prevent you from coming out of your pain and into a place of victory.

It's important to realize there is a perverse weeping that is founded in self-pity and sinful unbelief. Such weeping arouses the anger of God. When the wilderness generation of Israelites were filled with cravings for the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they used to eat as slaves in Egypt and complained and wept because all they had to eat in the wilderness was the manna God supernaturally supplied to them, Òthe anger of the Lord was greatly aroused

Sinful unbelief led the wilderness generation of Israelites to weep in fear and self-pity. This kind of weeping aroused the anger of God. You will never move out of a place of personal misery into a better and healthier place if you become locked into perpetual self-pity--it's one of the most destructive emotional states a human being can indulge in, and it must be resisted. Even when you have encountered the worst day of your life, there comes a time when you have cried enough. Eventually you must tell yourself, Enough is enough, and make up your mind to cry no more. Never forget that self-pity is deadly. It has the capacity to destroy your faith and lock you in a self-imposed exile that is difficult to escape. The bottom line is you will never change your life by feeling sorry for yourself.

Listen for the Sound of Marching

There is an interesting story in 2 Samuel 5 about the time when David and his army were in the Valley of Rephaim (rephaim means giants). They were camped under a grove of mulberry trees. In the Hebrew language, the mulberry tree is called the baka tree or, literally, Òthe weeping tree. In other words, when the army of Israel was in the valley of giant trouble, they sat under the weeping trees. That is what we often do when we find ourselves in the valley of big-time trouble--we sit under the weeping tree. But God gave David a strategy to defeat the Philistines in the Valley of Giants. He told David, ÒWhen you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. If David would follow these instructions, the promise was, Òthe Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.

I like that! God instructed David to listen for a sound that could be heard above the mulberry trees--a sound that could be heard above the weeping. It was the sound of marching. What was it? I think it must have been the sound of the angels, the armies of heaven, going forth into battle! When all you can hear is the sound of your own weeping, listen with your spiritual ears for the sound of the angels of God marching into your battle to defeat your adversaries. If you will dry your tears and rise up from under your weeping tree, you can march forward into the battle with the angels. There is a way to move from weeping into victory.

I have seen people who have allowed their grief to conquer them. It's sad and tragic. Their faith atrophies as they languish under the weeping trees. They become so absorbed in their own sorrow that they take it on as their new identity. Instead of passing through the valley of weeping--they make a decision to take up residence there. Natural sorrow, when indulged for too long, will cause you to develop a dark and morose personality that will attract demon spirits of depression. No matter what tragedy has visited your life, you still have a divine destiny and an eternal purpose in God that have the potential to bring you joy and satisfaction. Don't allow grief to conquer you! You don't have to stay in the sad place where you find yourself right now. It is possible to rise up and take the steps of faith that will carry you toward a better tomorrow.

The Book of 2 Kings tells an amazing story of four lepers outside the gate of Samaria who had suffered more than their share of hard times. They all had an incurable disease. They were separated from their families and friends, and now they were besieged by famine. They could have easily allowed themselves to be conquered by their grief, and few would have blamed them. But instead, they asked themselves one simple question: Why sit we here until we die?

These four men weren't just lepers; they were philosophers of a sort. In their miserable plight, they posed a philosophical question to themselves: Why should we just sit here until we're dead? People who have been overwhelmed with sorrow often ask all the wrong questions--questions like: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How much more will I have to endure? But this was not the question that the four lepers outside the gate of Samaria asked. They simply asked themselves, ÒWhy sit we here until we die? Of course, this is a rhetorical question designed to reveal the absurdity of inaction and thus spur them to some kind of positive action. They chose to shake off their depression and to rise up from the miserable place where they had been sitting. With hope renewed, they took faltering steps of faith and marched into a better tomorrow. By rising up and moving forward in faith, they not only found a better tomorrow for themselves, but they also brought salvation to a dying city.19 You can do the same thing. You can rise up out of your miserable situation and begin to move toward a better tomorrow.

On the worst day of your life you will weep. This is inevitable and understandable. David did, and you will too. It's all right to release the poison of pent-up emotional pain through weeping. But remember, although weeping may last for a night, there will come a dawn of faith when you need to stop weeping and start believing. To turn your tragedy into triumph, you will have to go beyond weeping.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Wild Card Blog Tour--Illusions by Wanda B. Campbell

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:


Urban Books (February 1, 2009)


Wanda B. Campbell is an extraordinary and talented writer who brings creativity, a new sense of hope, and restoration through the healing power of God to the Kingdom, by way of Christian fiction. She uses real life everyday issues to exhort, motivate, and give comfort.

An avid reader since childhood, Wanda recently responded to the voice in her head by penning and self-publishing her debut novel, First Sunday in October, (January 2007). A romantic at heart, Wanda uses relationships to demonstrate how the power of forgiveness and reconciliation can restore us back to God and one another.

Wanda currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband of nineteen years and two sons. She also has the unique position of being the oldest of five siblings and also the youngest of twelve. Her hobbies include writing and reading of course, traveling, and collecting magnets from around the world. Wanda is the self-proclaimed biggest Oakland A’s fan.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Urban Books (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601629435
ISBN-13: 978-1601629432



Bryce, having been married for a little over three years, stared appreciatively at the bare woman before him. By all accounts, she was everything he physically desired in a woman; ample and curvaceous from top to bottom. Her honey colored legs seemed to go on forever. He could look at her perpetually and never get tired of the view she provided. Bryce had an arsenal of beautiful women at his disposal, but she was his favorite. He could drink the sweetness of her lips through eternity and still thirst for more.

Bryce often wondered how he ended up with such a beautiful and voluptuous woman, considering he was just an average looking man, and short at that. Bryce was only 5’9’’ tall. He didn’t house the physique of a body builder, but he did wear his 200 pounds well. Thanks to his love for Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, Bryce didn’t have a six pack, but a slightly budding pot belly. None of that mattered to the woman before him, though. To her, he was perfect. He was strong and secure. He was her king. Bryce was by far the best lover she’d ever had, and each time that they came together was always better than the time before.

Bryce blocked everything from his mind except her. He moaned deeply as his mind focused on the soft kisses she planted all over him and as her hands massaged him in places only known to her. He leaned back, allowing her full access to all parts of him. Bryce was hers and she could do whatever she wanted to do with him. The semi-sweet chocolate brother was all hers and she knew it. Bryce was so engrossed in his woman, he lost track of time. The knock on his office door brought him back to reality.

“Are you ready, Sir?” the voice on the other side of the door asked.

“I’ll be right out,” Bryce responded after steadying his breath.

He quickly closed the magazine and discreetly tucked it away in its hiding place between the wall and the tank of the toilet. After fastening his pants and belt, he washed his hands without looking in the mirror. He could never look himself in the face after an encounter with the woman he nicknamed, Daija.

Back at his desk, Bryce hurriedly put on his suit jacket and tucked his Bible and notebook under his arm then headed for the sanctuary. It was time for Pastor Bryce Hightower to preach the Word of God.

Chapter 1

Out of habit, Pastor Hightower greeted the elders and ministers seated on the platform with his customary handshake and brotherly hug. He continued the ritual by kneeling before his reserved leather chair and praying. The elders and ministers extended opened hands in Pastor Hightower’s direction, symbolic of touching and agreeing for the Lord to anoint their pastor to preach a powerful Sunday sermon. Pastor Hightower was too busy repenting for the defiled behavior he’d just participated in to be concerned about his sermon.

Being certain his cries for forgiveness reached heaven, Pastor Hightower rose to his full height, raised his hands with closed eyes and joined the congregation singing Total Praise along with the Praise & Worship ministry. Once seated, Pastor Hightower’s gaze drifted to the end seat on the front row. The overgrown smile that covered his face gave the appearance of being manufactured, but was genuine. That’s just the way Pastor Hightower smiled. Every facial muscle appeared strained whenever he displayed his perfectly straight white teeth. Pastor Hightower added a wave with the smile he afforded his wife. When Denise smiled back, the pastor mouthed the words, “I love you,” causing Denise to blush and cover her face. Satisfied that he still carried the ability to make his wife excited, Pastor Hightower directed his attention to his sermon. He grunted at scripture text then quickly closed his black leather organizer.

“How can I stand before these people and talk about Samson’s lust and weakness with Delilah?” Bryce’s heart asked the question, but his distorted mind blocked an honest answer from coming forth.

Pastor Hightower squeezed his eyes close in an attempt to shut out his conscience like he always did before mounting the podium and preaching another message he was incapable of living. Today, his evasion tactic worked too well. In no time, Pastor Hightower’s reality merged with fantasy, and in place of Samson, it was Pastor Hightower with the beautiful Delilah in the Valley of Sorek. It was his head lying in Delilah’s lap enjoying the feel of her soft expert fingers as they explored, sending a soft moan from his lips.

“Honey, are you alright?”

Pastor Hightower’s head jerked forward at the sound of his wife’s voice. His imagination had drawn him so deep into the illusion that he hadn’t heard Minister Jackson call him to the podium. He hadn’t noticed the entire congregation standing, waiting to hear the words the Lord had given him. When he didn’t respond after the third call, Denise rushed to his side and was now shaking him.

“Are you alright?” Denise questioned again.

Bryce mentally and frantically searched for an answer. He couldn’t tell his wife that the images he’d just experienced left him feeling better than alright. He also couldn’t lie in the sanctuary.

“Just mediating,” Pastor Hightower finally answered, then moved his head from side to side to demonstrate how “deep” he was.

Denise’s doubts dissipated once her husband rose to his feet and began speaking in tongues then started dancing the length of the platform.

Once he settled down, Pastor Hightower said, “Let’s pray,” and opened his Bible to the story of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys.

“Son, you know you preached today!” Lucinda stepped into Pastor Hightower’s office without knocking or being invited.

Bryce didn’t address the mother’s forwardness. Lucinda had been doing that since the day her daughter married Pastor Hightower. In Lucinda’s eyes, being the pastor’s mother-in-law had its privileges, and having free range of the church was one.

“Thank you, mother. I could feel you out there interceding for me.”

“That’s why you made me president over the Intercessory Prayer Ministry. You know I can get a prayer through. I can dismantle any attack of the devil once I start praying in the Spirit.”

Bryce studied his mother-in-law’s round face, searching her eyes for any indication that she was aware of how the devil not only attacked him, but triumphed over his will.

“Keep praying for me, Mother.” Bryce placed his Bible into his briefcase the same time Denise knocked and waited for permission to enter.

“Hello, First Lady.” Bryce leaned in to kiss Denise, but she didn’t reciprocate.

In the midst of the congregation was one thing, but behind closed doors, perpetrating wasn’t necessary. Before Bryce’s flirtation from the pulpit, he hadn’t spoken three words to her in as many days.

“Hello, Bryce,” Denise responded emotionless, almost cold.

“How dare you speak to your husband like that?” Lucinda scolded. “He’s a man of God. He deserves respect.”

“So do I, Mother!” Denise shot back. She glared at her husband. “And not just from the pulpit.” Denise continued holding his gaze.

Holding on to her anger was useless. Bryce knew with every squeeze Denise’s anger was evaporating. By the time his lips reached her neck, she couldn’t remember why she was mad in the first place.

“Stop.” She playfully hit him then returned his kiss.

“You know you like that.”

Her mother cleared her throat. “It’s time for y’all to go home.” Before exiting, Lucinda addressed her daughter. “Let this be the last time I see or hear you disrespect my pastor. I don’t care if he is your husband.”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she endured twenty-six hours of labor with you and not me.” Denise smirked.

Bryce didn’t respond to the statement, but asked Denise what she’d cooked for dinner.

“Me,” she answered flirtatiously and waited for his usual hungry response.

Bryce did respond, but neither fire nor desire radiated from him. His actions more closely resembled that of a convicted man being led off to prison, than that of a man needing to be alone with his wife. Bryce’s shoulders slumped and he inhaled deeply. With his third labored breath, he still hadn’t conjured up a tactful way to tell Denise he wasn’t interested in sex, at least not today and not with her.

Bryce held the office door open for his wife. “Let’s get something to eat first and then see what happens.”

Nothing happened. After dinner Bryce hibernated in his study until bedtime.


Denise studied her husband’s stiff torso and wondered what had happened to her once stress-free life. When she married Pastor Bryce Hightower three years ago, everything was perfect. She was both honored and delighted to be the wife of an influential man of God. In the pulpit, Bryce preached powerful life-changing messages. It was one of those “hot” messages that burned Denise’s soul and steered her down the aisle to her heavenly Father that hot Sunday afternoon in August. Having grown up in the church, the daughter of a deacon, Denise was familiar with God, but had resisted making Him her personal Savior. That is, until she heard Pastor Hightower’s preaching. Bryce’s teaching gift afforded him the ability to philosophically preach the Word of God on a scholarly level, but what mesmerized Denise was listening to him break the same Word down to the understanding of a two-year-old.

That second Sunday in August was Denise’s first time in six years attending services at the church in which she’d grown up. She’d left the Bay Area to attend college. After graduating Fresno State, Denise decided to give California’s central valley a chance at residency. Unfortunately for Denise, the valley’s thermostat reached an all-time high at the same time California was forced to rely on rolling blackouts as a way to conserve energy. When Denise’s air conditioner broke down, she packed her belongings into her Honda and headed for cooler climate.

After confessing before God and the congregation of Word of Life that Jesus was the Son of God, died and resurrected to save her from sin, Denise rejoined the church to the delight of her mother and the newly appointed pastor. Denise didn’t have to wait long before discovering Pastor Hightower was interested in more than the well-being of her soul. Along with the standard new member’s welcome letter that she received, Pastor Hightower included a handwritten note with a dinner invitation. A brief consultation with her mother was all the confirmation Denise needed to accept. The lavish wedding eight months later was still a conversation piece three years later.

At home, Bryce couldn’t keep his hands off Denise. As a twenty-six-year-old virgin bride, that made her feel special, because she was apprehensive of her ability to meet her husband’s needs. Bryce had more experience and his choice of available women in his church, but he loved every inch of her voluptuous size sixteen. In the beginning, Denise thought his sexual appetite was a bit excessive, but what did she have for comparison? He certainly gave her unlimited pleasure. The least she could do was to return the favor and give her husband all the loving he wanted, which is what she did. The problem was, lately Bryce didn’t want any loving from her.

Admiring his sleeping body, Denise couldn’t figure out what had changed. As if someone had blown out a candle, the fire in their bedroom was instantly gone. Bryce barely touched her anymore, and when he did, it wasn’t the same. Denise didn’t feel that her husband cherished making love to her anymore, but felt more like he was simply obliging her. Bryce used to be slow and caring with her, making sure she was completely satisfied. Now, he seemed so engrossed in his own world, Bryce hadn’t even noticed Denise counting sheep during their last encounter.

Denise turned over on her side and gave her body a thorough examination. She was the same size she was the day she married Bryce. She kept her hands manicured and her feet always looked like they’d been freshly dipped in hot wax. Denise had a standing appointment with Kadijah at the Hair Haven salon every week, insuring she was always presentable. She also made sure she dressed in clothes that accented her fuller figure and kept her makeup flawless. So why had Bryce lost interest?

Denise’s job as Budget Director at the local medical conglomerate didn’t prevent her from cleaning the house and cooking balanced meals every night. In the bedroom, she used powders and potpourri to scent their bed and candles to freshen the air on a regular basis. Denise never wore flannel pajamas or hair rollers to bed, instead, opting for sexy lingerie and sometimes nothing at all, depending on Bryce’s mood. That’s what she’d done tonight. She climbed into bed wearing nothing but a smile, hoping to get Bryce’s attention. It worked. She held his attention the entire five seconds it took for him to say goodnight, and then turn his back to her.

At church and public appearances, things were the same as they always had been. Not a Sunday went by that Pastor Hightower didn’t acknowledge his beautiful and devoted wife. “She’s the beat of my heart,” is what he’d say, or “the wind in my sail.” Denise was trained by the older mothers in the church so the young wife knew all the “insert smile here,” moments. Denise could put on the manufactured smile and nod in agreement faster than she could write her name. Every time Bryce preached, the devoted supporter provided him with his personal “Amen” corner. Tonight though, Denise was tired of the façade. If she couldn’t sleep, then neither would the perpetrating Pastor Bryce Hightower.

“Bryce, wake up.” She shook him until he groaned. “We need to talk.”

“Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” he grumbled.

“No it can’t,” Denise determined. “I’ve held this in long enough.”

Bryce sighed heavily, more out of irritation than fatigue. He turned over and sleepily looked at his wife. “What is it?”

His tone and demeanor told her this late night pillow talk would be fruitless. She pressed on anyway.

“Honey, what’s happening to us?”

“You’re pushing for a conversation that I don’t want to have. Aside from that, we’re fine.”

Denise’s heart sank because she knew Bryce really didn’t see anything wrong with their life. And why should he? He got every thing, including all the support and love from her that he needed.

“Bryce, we’re not fine. You haven’t touched me in over a month.” Denise pulled the sheet tightly around her. She hadn’t felt the need to conceal her body since their wedding night.

“Is that what’s this is about?” Bryce propped his body, using his elbow as support. “You woke me up because you want sex?”

Denise fought back the urge to cry. The expression on the face of her beloved husband was distorted and filled with distain. “It’s not just the lack of sex, Bryce. You hardly ever touch me at all anymore, and when we do have sex, it’s quick and routine. The only conversations we have are casual. You don’t even comment on how I look anymore.” Denise was able to say all that without losing her voice, but a tear had managed to escape and burned a trail down her cheek. Bryce noticed the tear and softened a little.

“Baby, come here.” He pulled her close to him and held her. She felt good to him and Bryce had to admit he missed her warm body against his. “I’m sorry.”

Denise tried to accept the comfort he offered her, but couldn’t just yet. It didn’t feel genuine. She held her head so she could gaze directly in his eyes. “Bryce, are you having an affair?”

The direct question seemed to have caught him off guard, causing Bryce to hesitate before answering. “No, I’m not having an affair. I’ve just been preoccupied with other things. Being a young pastor is a hard job.”

“Why can’t you share what’s on your mind with me? I’m your wife; I’m designed to help you.”

“I know.” Bryce kissed her forehead. “But some things I have to handle on my own.”

Denise placed her head against his chest. She didn’t say anything, just lay there listening to his heartbeat, wondering when it became out of sync with hers.

Bryce didn’t say anything either. He was fighting a war with his conscience and his spirit. He didn’t actually lie to Denise, or did he? He didn’t view his time with Daija as an affair. How could he have an affair with his imagination? True, the things he did with her, he should have been doing with his wife. The time he spent with his imaginary friend, could have been spent with his real-life wife. But when he finished with Daija, he was fulfilled and too tired to be with Denise. Bryce enjoyed being with Denise, but couldn’t let go of his fantasy. With Daija, Bryce was uninhibited and free, never having to worry about his desires being considered nasty or berated. That’s what it was. Daija allowed him to be free. What was so wrong with that? Everyone is entitled to a little fantasy. As long as he’s not having sex with anyone else, what was the harm?

If it’s right, why can’t you tell her?

As always, Bryce heard the still small voice loud and clear, but instead of responding, he closed his eyes in an attempt to prevent the truth from spilling from his lips. He wasn’t ready to face the truth. He didn’t really know what the truth was anymore. He believed he could stop his extra-curricular activity any time he wanted. Bryce just didn’t want to, but for Denise’s sake, he was going to try.

“I promise I’ll work on giving you more attention.” Then after a prolonged silence Bryce added, “I love you.”

Denise didn’t respond. The words, meant to be enduring, sounded void and hollow, but they were better than nothing. Bryce tightened his hold on her and she relaxed in his arms and fell asleep.


Bryce mounted the podium and quickly scanned the audience. Something was not right. He closed his eyes tightly then reopened them just to make sure he was seeing correctly. He was. “Oh God,” he gasped, surveying the congregation. He stepped toward the edge of the platform, hoping to see Denise, but she wasn’t there. His eyes frantically searched for his mother-in-law. She wasn’t there either. The elders and deacons weren’t there to offer him the much needed prayer and support. Bryce slowly walked back to the podium, bowed his head and wept.


At the sound of her voice, Bryce’s cries stopped and he jerked around to find Daija occupying his leather chair, beckoning him with her index finger.

“No!” Bryce screamed, but the congregation, filled with the faces of the many women with whom he’d found pleasure, cheered him on.

“Daija, you can’t be here! Not in the church!” Bryce’s attempt to sound authoritative amused Daija and the rest of the congregation.

Daija stood on Bryce’s chair, and after throwing her long black hair over her shoulder, motioned to the congregation. “Why not, Bryce; you brought us here.” Daija smiled and struck one of Bryce’s favorite poses.

“Pastor Hightower, why don’t you save us?” someone in the audience mocked.

Bryce fell to his knees and sobbed uncontrollably, “God help me!”

Bryce bolted from his bed dripping with perspiration and shaking. The dream, like the one two nights ago, frightened Bryce with the implications, however true they were. Bryce was polluting the house of God and his addiction rendered him defenseless to stop the infection from spreading. This morning, Pastor Hightower had a reality check as images captivated his mind and lured him into lust as he sat in the pulpit, the holy place, waiting to present the Word of God. Never before had he been overtaken in the House of God. His prayers were rendered useless. In the past, he’d do his business, ask God to forgive him, then mechanically fulfill his pastoral duties. That didn’t happen today and now his demons haunted his dreams.

After stumbling into the master bath and splashing water unto his face, Bryce studied his mirrored reflection. Except for the extra inch around the middle and short haircut, Bryce looked the same as he did seventeen years ago, at age 17, when he was forced to face life alone following the unexpected and tragic death of his parents. It was while sorting through his father’s belongings that pornography was officially introduced to him.

He’d known about the “business” his father kept in the bottom nightstand drawer most of his teenage life, but assumed the magazines were nothing more than women in string bikinis. He soon found out differently and discovered porn was “therapeutic” in helping him deal with the loss of his parents. In some distorted way, when Bryce carried out his secret acts, he felt close to his father.

It didn’t start out as a daily ritual; maybe once a month to help relax him on days he felt overwhelmed. When that wasn’t enough, he added masturbation. Eventually, the old magazines weren’t enough to satisfy Bryce; he began purchasing his own collection.

At age twenty-one, he gave his virginity to a woman without knowing her real name. For the right price, she was willing to do the things he requested without complaining.

After joining the church at age twenty-five, Bryce felt convicted about his habit. He began to feel dirty after every encounter. For` a while, he stopped masturbating and purchasing magazines, but one session with his pastor changed his mind. Following Bryce’s confession, the late Reverend Daniels brushed off the habit as if it were no more than a piece of lint.

“Son, ain’t nothing wrong with looking at a beautiful woman,” Reverend Daniels had said, “just as long as you don’t touch. When you get a wife to enjoy, the need for those pictures will go away.” Reverend Daniels gave him a look whose meaning could only be interpreted between men.

Bryce soon learned that the church that he attended had its own version of the “good ole boys’ club.” It was a common thing for preachers and elders not only to lust with the eyes, but to also sleep with the sisters in the church. The indiscretions were usually swept under the rug unless the sister in question became pregnant or if her husband discovered the affair. Then the woman would be shunned from the church, but not without being labeled a “loose Jezebel” or a home wrecker. The preacher, however, would continue preaching, and in some cases, be elevated to a higher office in the church.

Bryce didn’t buy into the double standard and tolerated behavior set forth by his spiritual fathers. Eventually, Bryce lost respect and moved his membership after enrolling in Seminary. There, Bryce was too busy focusing on the Word of God and praying constantly for his imagination to run wild. The more he read the Bible and the more he prayed, the less desire he had for self gratification. The day Bryce graduated Seminary, he vowed to parallel his life with the standards set forth in the Bible. Bryce was determined to be a true man of God. “If I can’t live this Gospel, I won’t preach this Gospel,” was his slogan. He recited those eleven words faithfully before every sermon. The more he preached, the purer the pictures in his mind. The more he fasted, the less he fantasized, until eventually, the imagery stopped. That’s when he met Denise.

From the day he saw her standing before him at the altar, giving her life to God, Bryce loved her. Actually, he’d noticed her before mounting the podium. She carried her curves well with her five-foot seven-inch height. Bryce loved the fullness of her body, but even more so, the sweetness of her spirit. He still loved her, but he’d allowed

himself to become comfortable in his walk with God. Now, he was paying the price in his bedroom, in the pulpit, and in his dreams.

“Are you sick?” Bryce was too engrossed in his thoughts to notice Denise standing in the doorway.

He turned and stared at his wife hard and long as she leaned against the door frame. She’d put on a robe and her hair hung wildly at the nape of her neck. Her face, void of make-up, allowed Bryce to see the genuine love she held for him. A love that said, “Whatever it is, I’m here for you.”

When he didn’t answer, Denise asked the question again. Bryce slowly made the three steps that placed them an inch apart. He wanted to tell her that he was, in fact, very sick. That he had broken fellowship with God and that the line between reality and fantasy was so blurred, he couldn’t tell the difference anymore. He wanted to tell her the reason for his inattentiveness and reassure her of his love for her. Bryce didn’t say any of what made his heart ache to have released. He simply kissed her forehead and went back to bed.

Review forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Wild Card Tour--Milk Money

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:

Milk Money (Maryland Wedding Series #2)

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)


Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602557
ISBN-13: 978-1602602557


Dumbfounded, the accountant gazed at a cow giving birth. He dropped his briefcase when he saw the feet of the baby sticking out of the mother’s canal. A rope was looped around the legs of the young animal, and a brown-skinned woman pulled so hard that the muscles in her slender arms flexed. Her eyes squeezed shut while she grunted, reminding him of the noises people made when they bench-pressed weights.

She opened her eyes.

“Casey, hold on,” she cooed. When he watched the birth, his sour stomach worsened, and the bagel and cream cheese he’d managed to eat for breakfast felt like a dead weight in his belly. Her tears mingled with the sweat rolling down her face. She continued to pull and glanced in his direction. “Oh, thank God you came. Come and help me.”

A plethora of unfamiliar scents tingled his nose. He swallowed, losing his voice. What was he supposed to do? She continued to look at him, pulling on the rope periodically.

“I already left a message on your answering service that it was coming out backward.” Pushing the door open, he entered the room adjoining the barn, still hoping he wouldn’t throw up. She nodded toward the rope, still tugging. “With both of us pulling, maybe we’ll be able to get the calf out.”

“Okay.” He swallowed his nausea and pulled, mimicking the way he used to grunt when bench-pressing heavy weights. He followed her example, keeping tension on the rope and pulling each time the cow had a contraction. She grunted also, and their noises continued until the calf exited the birth canal minutes later. She dropped the rope, and he rushed behind her to look at the young animal. He touched the newborn,

awed by the birth. She glanced at him as she cleaned gunk off the calf ’s nose and mouth.

Her sigh filled the space when she noticed the animal was breathing. “Aren’t you going to examine the cow and calf?”

Before he could respond, a young man holding a large black plastic tote entered the pen. “This the Cooper farm?”

Confusion marred her face when she glanced at Frank. Then she focused on the new arrival. The newcomer rushed to the baby cow and began examining it. “I’m Dr. Lindsey’s son. I’m taking over my daddy’s practice this week since he’s on vacation. He told you that, didn’t he?”

She nodded, still looking confused. “I left a message on your answering service earlier.”

The vet grunted. “I was down the street at the horse farm helping out with another birth, so I couldn’t leave.”

“Are the cow and calf okay?”

“They both look fine.” He stopped his examination and looked at them. “I’m glad you had somebody helping you. You might not have gotten him out in time if you’d been pulling him on your own.” He pulled a tool out of his bag. “You have antibiotic on hand for the calf, right? If not, I’ve got some.”

The attractive woman nodded, her dark hair clinging to her sweaty neck as she promised the vet she would give the new calf the medicine. Frank watched, mesmerized by the whole process. A short time later, the newborn nursed from the mother. “Thank you, doctor,” said the woman, patting the man on the shoulder.

The doctor shook his head, placing his tools back into his bag. “Don’t thank me. You two got him out in time.” He told Emily he would send her the bill, and then he left the farm.

Emily glanced at Frank, as if taking in his khaki slacks and oxford shirt. Noticing his bloody hands, she beckoned him over to a room containing a sink and a large steel tank. After ripping off the long plastic gloves covering her hands and forearms

and dropping them into the trash can, she turned the water on, pumped out several squirts of soap, and washed. “I thought you were the vet,” she said, continuing to scrub her hands and forearms. “I’ve never met Dr. Lindsey’s son, so that’s why I

assumed you were him.” After rinsing, she pulled paper towels from a dispenser and gestured for Frank to use the sink.

Frank shrugged and walked to the sink, placing his hands under the running water. “Sorry. I helped you out, but I didn’t have any idea if I was doing it right. It’s probably good I showed up when I did. It looked like you’d been trying to help

that cow for a long time.”

She shook her head. “Cows are tough. They can be in labor for hours before giving birth. When you came, I’d just started pulling the calf out with the rope.” She continued to stare, frowning. “Well, if you’re not Dr. Lindsey’s son, then who are


He offered his recently washed hand, glad the nauseous feeling had evaporated from his stomach. “I’m Franklin Reese, Certified Public Accountant.”

Review is forthcoming.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

First Wild Card Blog Tour (Married Strangers)

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:

Married Strangers

Urban Books (December 1, 2008)


Dwan Abrams is a full-time novelist, freelance editor, publisher and speaker. She's the best-selling author of Married Strangers, Divorcing the Devil, Only True Love Waits, The Scream Within, and Favor (a short story appearing in The Midnight Clear anthology). She's also the founder, publisher and editorial director of Nevaeh Publishing, a small press independent publishing house.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Urban Books (December 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601629753
ISBN-13: 978-1601629753



Rayna’s eyes welled with tears as feelings of loneliness and disappointment overtook her emotions. All of the romance and passion she envisioned would occur during her honeymoon didn’t happen. She imagined that this would have been one of the happiest times of her life. Instead, she was miserable. She had already felt a sense of cognitive dissonance, better known as “buyer’s remorse,” after her new husband, Bryce, had promised to take her on an exotic vacation in Cancun. Yeah right! she thought. Here they were, two weeks before Christmas, in a log cabin at Forrest Hills Mountain Resort in Dahlonega, Georgia. It was a five day package that Bryce’s best friend, Fox, had given them for a wedding present. A friend whose nickname came as a result of not so savory sales tactics, Fox earned the nickname because, according to Bryce, he was slicker than a snake oil salesman. Rayna found it strange that Bryce would refer to his friend in such a derogatory manner. It vexed her spirit, and she immediately remembered Proverbs 27:19: A mirror reflects a man's face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.

Now Rayna faced a deeper problem, the dislike of her honeymoon location. Besides the fact that Rayna was not the outdoorsy type, hiking and horseback riding never appealed to her. She and Bryce had discussed at length where they would spend their honeymoon… on the beach. Rayna’s fondest memories are of her vacationing in the Bahamas, Hawaii, and different beaches in Florida. There was something about the tranquil waters that made her feel at peace; almost as if she was communing with God.

Bryce had promised her they’d go to Mexico. At the last minute, he told her that he was unable to get the time off from work. He worked as a field reporter, and although he could have gotten a few days off, it wouldn’t have been long enough. She was disappointed. Her heart was set on an exotic locale, not somewhere with frost on the trees and snow on the ground. She wondered whether she was catching a glimpse of what her life with Bryce would be like. Broken promises. Even with advance notice, he still wasn’t able to come through for their honeymoon. The only person she blamed was herself for not getting to know her husband better before marrying him. As far as Rayna was concerned, a year of knowing Bryce hadn’t been nearly enough time. Trying to deal with her regret seemed overwhelming at times.

Rayna considered herself to be spiritually intuitive. But this time, she ignored the signs. A couple of weeks before getting married, Rayna had a disturbing dream about her wedding day. In the dream, her wedding day was a fiasco. She couldn’t remember all of the details, but one thing was clear—her feelings throughout the dream were unpleasant. At one point she said, “I’m marrying the wrong man.” Having awoken with beads of sweat on her forehead, Rayna dismissed the dream as a case of wedding jitters.

Even though the log cabin was nice—hot tub, double showers, and fireplace—the problem was Bryce.

“Good morning, Mrs. Henderson,” Bryce said as he kissed Rayna on the cheek.

“Morning.” She stretched her arms over her head.

The way Bryce said, “Mrs. Henderson,” sent shivers up her spine. To her, he sounded so macho at times. She found that whole “I’m Tarzan, you Jane” thing sexy.

“You hungry?” he asked.

She looked at the clock sitting on the wooden nightstand next to the canopy bed. The LED display read 9:00 a.m. in red digits.

“We need to hurry up before they stop serving breakfast,” she said.

Rayna wanted to escape out of bed and get dressed before Bryce touched her, again. His passionate desires seemed to be insatiable. Once, she asked him whether he had an implant or took drugs, because even after making love, Bryce’s physical disposition remained the same. Of course, he denied it. Most women would love to have a man who could last for hours. For Rayna, it didn’t take all that. Not if he knew what he’s doing. Unfortunately, Bryce wouldn’t know how to satisfy her if she were an air traffic controller directing him from the lighthouse. She remembered hearing that sex comprised only two percent of a relationship, if it’s good. But when it’s not-so-good, it’s about ninety-eight percent, she thought. Having an ungratifying sex life made it difficult for her to appreciate the good things about Bryce. Like the way he’d rub her feet whenever they sat next to each other on the couch, or the way he’d give her an all over body massage.

“Let’s take communion first,” Bryce suggested, revealing a devilish grin.

Communion was Bryce’s way of asking for physical intimacy, and she thought it was sweet. He had this good guy, bad boy routine down to a science. Rayna looked over at him and immediately became turned on. Her husband was hot. Brad Pitt and George Clooney had nothing on Bryce. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and his smooth, hairless chest was toned and muscular. She noticed that his abs workout was working, because the lining of a six-pack was visible. She thought he was sexy. Too bad he can’t deliver.

“Not right now,” she grumbled.

It amazed Rayna how her husband could have so much going on—good looks, a body like a Greek Adonis, sex appeal, a smile that could light up a room, yet he didn’t know how to straighten her hair and curl her toes, so to speak. It’s not like she hadn’t expressed her dissatisfaction to Bryce. He knew full well that she was frustrated; yet he wouldn’t do anything to change it. Every time she wanted to try something new or different, he called her sadistic. Her feelings were crushed. More than anything, she wanted to please him, and in the process, get pleased. His inflexibility made Rayna feel less desirable and unappreciated.

She got out of the king-sized bed, walked across the hardwood floor, and went into the double showers. Thankfully, the water running down her face camouflaged the tears streaming down her cheeks. Rayna felt as if she had made a terrible mistake by marrying Bryce. After they consummated their marriage a couple of nights ago, she went into the bathroom and cried. How could two people be so physically incompatible? she thought. She had never heard of such a thing, especially not with married couples. She wondered what she had done to deserve such an unfulfilling union. Silently, she prayed.

Lord, forgive me for my sins. Please help me deal with this marriage. Whatever sin is blocking me from being a good wife, I ask that you remove it. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

As she exited the shower and wrapped her body in a towel, Bryce entered the bathroom. He embraced Rayna, and she melted. Her desire to be close to him was overwhelming; then the thought of being disappointed crept in and immediately turned her off. Not because she didn’t love him, because she did. It was more because of his indifferent attitude. When they made love, she sensed that his thoughts were elsewhere. He wouldn’t look at her, and that bothered her. She wondered whether it was because he was white, and she was black. Then she quickly dismissed that notion because Bryce didn’t seem to have a racist bone in his body. His expectation of going all the way at the slightest hint of affection made her hesitant to hug or kiss him. She couldn’t even rub her hand along her leg without him getting turned on.

Freeing herself from his toned arms, she looked at his disappointed face and said, “I saved you some hot water. I’m going to get dressed.”

She went back into the bedroom. Since it was cold outside, she slipped into a cashmere sweater, jeans and boots. Her hair was styled in a short, curled “do” like the actress Halle Berry.

Several minutes later, Bryce came from out of the shower. “You look nice,” Bryce complimented as he dried off, and changed into a gray mock neck sweater, jeans and Timberlands.

“Thanks. So do you.”

They put on their coats and gloves and left the cabin. Rayna noticed there was frost on the surrounding trees. They walked to the couples-only “Secret Garden” dining room, which happened to be a few feet away.

The hostess, dressed in a sweater and jeans, said, “Are you on your honeymoon?”

“Yes,” Bryce replied, smiling. “How could you tell?”

Rayna felt like saying, “Because we’re in the couples-only dining room,” but she refrained. In Bryce’s defense, they could’ve been dating and vacationing together, she reasoned.

“You have that glow about you,” the hostess replied.

Bryce looked at Rayna lovingly, and grabbed her gloved hand.

“It’s a buffet,” the hostess explained, smiling. “Seat yourself wherever you like.”

Thank goodness, Rayna thought. Every time they went out to eat, Bryce always asked the waiter or waitress, “What do you recommend?” It used to bother Rayna, so she asked him why he did that. He told her that it eliminated the guesswork. “Who better to tell you about the food than the people who work at the restaurant?” Bryce replied. She understood, but never adopted that philosophy. She enjoyed scanning the selections. When she would narrow her choices down to two entrées, then she would ask the waiter or waitress for their opinion. Her indecisiveness tended to bother Bryce, but she didn’t care.

They sat at a table surrounded by large, panoramic windows. They took off their coats and gloves and placed them on an empty chair.

“Can I get you something to drink?” the hostess asked.

“Two hot teas with sugar and lemon,” Bryce replied.

“And an orange juice,” Rayna added.

After the hostess took their drink orders, they got up and each fixed themselves a plate. The food looked scrumptious and fresh. Rayna had the cheese grits, scrambled eggs and bacon. Bryce filled his plate with French toast and sausage links.

They went back to their table, and Bryce led them in prayer.

“Father, thank you for this food and fellowship. I pray that this meal is nourishing to our minds and bodies. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

She mixed her eggs with the grits and crumpled bacon on top. Then she stared out the window. Trees for as far as the eyes could see… acres and acres of secluded woodlands. Her thoughts drifted to the first time she and Bryce met.

They were standing in line at the cafe in the Barnes & Noble off Cobb Parkway in Atlanta. After striking up a general conversation, Bryce paid for her latte. He seemed intelligent, not to mention handsome, with that sandy blond hair and green eyes. So when he asked for her phone number, she gave it to him.

Rayna went home immediately afterward. Within twenty minutes, her phone rang. It was Bryce, asking her to go out with him.

“When can I see you, again?” Bryce asked.

“How about tomorrow night?” she responded in a flirtatious tone.

“Great.” He sounded excited. “Where would you like to go?”

“Pizza Hut,” she laughed.

“Pizza Hut?” She could tell by the influx in his voice that he had expected her to name some fancy restaurant.


Besides the fact that Pizza Hut was her favorite pizza establishment, she didn’t want Bryce to feel as though she were trying to take advantage of him. When they met, he was dressed in a suit. Not a cheap suit either. Rayna checked his shoes and Bryce wore black Kenneth Cole. He seemed to be doing pretty well. Even still, Rayna had wanted to get to know him personally. At the time, she was not impressed by the fact that by all appearances, he could have taken her to an expensive restaurant.

The following day, he picked Rayna up at her apartment in a rental car and took her to Pizza Hut. While at the restaurant, he explained to her that he actually lived in Chicago and was in Atlanta on business. He worked as a field reporter and was chronicling a news story. He also wrote a newspaper column. His profession seemed exciting to Rayna, because she had written numerous poems and short stories. One day, she planned to write a full-length book. Speaking with a real life reporter/writer fascinated her. As he told Rayna about his travels and how he became a writer, she hung on his every word.

“I have always been fascinated by the written word,” Bryce explained. “You know, it’s funny how I became a columnist,” he chuckled. “A friend of mine used to write a column for Chicago Tribune. She got a promotion and recommended me for her old job.”

“Wow! That was a major blessing.” Rayna smiled.

“I know,” he laughed. “Especially since I had just graduated from college.”

Rayna was not surprised to hear about Bryce’s accomplishments. He seemed so eloquent, well- spoken, cultured, and poised. When they arrived at the restaurant, they talked incessantly. She felt as though she were in a therapy session, because he was so easy to talk to.

“Where are you from?” Bryce asked, looking at her.

“I grew up in Orlando, but my parents and I moved to Georgia about…” she rolled her eyes upward, “ten years ago.” She took a bite of pepperoni pizza.

“Tell me about your family.”

She held up her index finger while she chewed the pizza. After she swallowed, she said, “I’m an only child. My mom’s a pharmacist, and my dad’s a neurologist. What about your family?”

“I have two older brothers and two younger sisters. I’m the middle child. I spent a great deal of my childhood being raised by my grandmother.”

“What happened to your parents?”

He sipped a glass of soda, or “pop” as he called it. “My dad died of a heart-attack when I was five, and I don’t have a good relationship with my mother.”

Curious. Rayna was taken aback. What kind of guy doesn’t get along with his mother? she wondered.

“My brothers and sisters have the same father, and I have my own father,” he explained. “As you can imagine, I was the black sheep.”

“You’re the middle child, yet you have a different dad?” she said more of a statement than a question, trying to make sure she understood him correctly.

“Yes. My mom was married, but she had an affair. I’m the result.” He stared at a scratch in the wooden table before taking a sip of his sparkly drink.

Rayna cleared her throat, not really knowing what to say. His candor surprised her.

He looked at her and sucked in his cheeks as if he were sucking a lemon. “My mom’s marriage suffered because of it, but they stayed together and had my twin sisters.”

“Then why did you have to stay with your grandmother?” She tilted her head to the side.

He looked her in the eye and said seriously, “Because my stepdad didn’t treat me the same as the other kids. He was harder on me. My mom figured that with me out of the house, the family could be put back together.”

“That’s terrible.” She furrowed her brow.

She felt sorry for him. Rayna hadn’t expected to learn such personal information about him on their first date. In a strange way, seeing him in such a vulnerable state attracted her to Bryce. She had finally met a man who was in touch with his feelings and knew how to convey them. Something in his almond shaped eyes expressed sadness. She could tell that his hurt ran deep. He was so nice that she wanted to help him.

Bryce squeezed Rayna’s hand, which was resting on top of the table, and said, “What were you thinking about?”

Rayna had been so deep in thought that she hadn’t even realized that the hostess had placed their drinks on the table.

“How do you know I was thinking?” she answered, smiling. “I could’ve been admiring the scenery.”

“You might’ve started out doing that, but I can tell by the way your eyes shifted downward and to the right that you were remembering something.”

He’s so analytical, she thought. He pays attention to everything. That’s what she gets for hooking up with a brain-iac.

“I was thinking about us,” she admitted. “I can’t believe that after six months of being engaged, we’re finally married.”

Rayna’s decision to marry Bryce was an easy one. He proposed to her three months after they met. They had been talking on the phone every day, several times per day. Maintaining a long distance relationship wasn’t easy. She missed him terribly and wanted companionship. She was twenty years old and a sophomore at Mercer University. Bryce was three years her senior. They were deeply in love.

“Rayna,” he said, interrupting her thoughts once again. “I love you so much,” he grinned sheepishly, licking his pink lips.

“I love you, too.” She gave a faint smile.

“You don’t understand. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anybody, including my own mother. I don’t know what I’d ever do without you, Rayna,” Bryce declared.

Somehow, hearing Bryce say he loved her more than his mother disturbed her, because although she loved him, she didn’t think it could be compared to the love she has for her parents. Never had she met anyone who could make her remotely think that she loved them more than either one of her parents. She couldn’t even imagine. Then again, she thought, Bryce’s relationship with his mother was strained. So was it really far-fetched for him to love someone more than her?

Even though she believed him wholeheartedly, Rayna wasn’t sure how to respond to his statement. The first time Bryce ever told Rayna that he loved her was one week after they met. It caught her completely off guard. She found it peculiar, because she thought it was too soon for them to exchange those three little words that carry a whole lot of weight. She didn’t say it back to him, because she didn’t take saying, “I love you” lightly.

Marrying Bryce seemed to make logical sense to Rayna. He was an avid reader, had an incredible vocabulary, and was well-versed in many different things. And she couldn’t deny the obvious. Bryce was fine and saved. And in Rayna’s opinion, that was definitely a plus. Not to mention that he’s a visionary and ambitious. One of the things Rayna admired about him was the fact that he knew a little about a wide array of subjects. He was able to discuss anything with anyone ranging from jazz music to the Greek classics to the Bible. And her parents loved him. Before deciding to commit, Rayna had a conversation with her Aunt Sylvia, which persuaded Rayna to marry Bryce.

Aunt Sylvia and Rayna had a close-knit relationship. She was Rayna’s mother’s younger sister, in her forties, and has never been married. Based on what she had told her aunt, like the way Bryce would call throughout the day, or send flowers, or take Rayna to nice restaurants, Sylvia was convinced that Bryce loved Rayna. What tilted the scale in Bryce’s favor was when Aunt Sylvia said, “Girl, what are you dragging your feet for? Do you know how hard it is to find a man who wants to get married?”

Rayna was glad when the hostess returned and asked, “How’s the food?”

“Fine,” she replied. That way, she didn’t have to acknowledge Bryce’s declaration.

He bit into his French toast. “Delicious.”

Rayna picked up her cloth napkin and wiped the powdered sugar off Bryce’s full lips. His lips don’t look like the average white boy. Not Mick Jagger, but luscious and sexy. He smiled a dimpled smile. She could tell he appreciated the gesture. They finished their breakfast and walked back to their cabin, glove in glove. As they breathed the cold, crisp air, smoke formed every time they exhaled.

Back in the cabin, Bryce started a fire in the gas log fireplace. They took off their shoes, wrapped themselves in a colorful quilt, and cuddled in front of the blazing fire. It was quite romantic. Rayna closed her eyes, listened to the crackling noises being emitted from the fireplace, and imagined that Bryce would ravish her body and leave her feeling satisfied. Fantasizing and praying helped her get through the remaining three days of her honeymoon. Thankfully, she had her fantasies.

Please visit the following sites also on the tour:


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First Wild Card Tour--John's Quest (Book Review)

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:

John's Quest (Maryland Wedding Series #1)

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)


Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.

Don't miss the second book in the Maryland Wedding Series, Milk Money!

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602600066
ISBN-13: 978-1602600065


The loud banging at Monica Crawford’s front door awakened her. Forcing herself out of bed, she glanced at the clock and saw it was two in the morning.

“I’m coming!”

She ran to the door. Looking through the peephole, Monica saw her little sister Gina smiling at her.

Her heart pounded as she opened the door, gripping the knob. “What are you doing here?” Playing an internal game of tug-of-war, she wondered if she should hug her sister or slam the door in her face. Humid heat rushed into the air-conditioned living room. She stared at Gina, still awaiting her response.

“It’s nice to see you too, sister.” Gina pursed her full, red-painted lips and motioned at the child standing beside her. “Go on in, Scotty.”

Gina had brought her seven-year-old son with her. Dark shades hid his sightless eyes. “Aunt Monica!” he called.

Monica released a small cry as she dropped to her knees and embraced him. “I’m here, Scotty.” Tears slid down her cheeks as she hugged the child. Since Gina had cut herself off from immediate family for the last two years, Monica had wondered when she would see Scotty again. “You remember me?” Her heart continued to pound as she stared at her nephew. His light, coffee-colored skin glowed.

“Yeah, I remember you. When mom said I was going to live here, I wanted to come so we could go to the beach in Ocean City.”

Shocked, Monica stared at Gina who was rummaging through her purse. Gina pulled out a cigarette and lighter. Seconds later she was puffing away, gazing into the living room. “You got an ashtray?”

Monica silently prayed, hoping she wouldn’t lose her temper. “Gina, you know I don’t allow smoking in this house.”

Gina shrugged. After a bit of coaxing, she dropped the cigarette on the top step and ground it beneath the heel of her shoe. “I need to talk to you about something.”

Scotty entered the house and wandered through the room, ignoring the adults as he touched objects with his fingers. After Monica fed Scotty a snack and let him fall asleep in the guest bedroom, she confronted Gina.

“Where have you been for the last two years?”

Gina strutted around the living room in her tight jeans, her high heels making small imprints in the plush carpet. “I’ve been around. I was mad because Mom and Dad tried to get custody of Scotty, tried to take me to court and say I was an unfit mother.”

Groaning, Monica plopped onto the couch, holding her head in her hands. “That’s why you haven’t been speaking to me or Mom and Dad for two years?” When Gina sat beside her, Monica took her sister’s chin into her hand and looked into her eyes. “You know you were wrong. Mom and Dad tried to find you. They were worried about Scotty.”

Jerking away, Gina placed a few inches between herself and Monica. “They might have cared about Scotty, but they didn’t care about me.” Gina swore under her breath and rummaged in her purse. Removing a mint, she popped it into her mouth.

“They were worried about you and Scotty,” Monica explained. “You were living with that terrible man. He didn’t work, and he was high on drugs. We didn’t want anything to happen to the two of you.”

Gina’s lips curled into a bitter smirk. “Humph. Me and Scotty are just fine.” She glanced up the stairs. “You saw him. Does he look neglected to you?”

She continued to stare at Gina, still not believing she was here to visit in the middle of the night. “What do you want? What did Scotty mean when he said he was coming here to live?”

Gina frowned as she toyed with the strap of her purse. “I want you to keep Scotty for me. Will you?”

Monica jerked back. “What? Why can’t you take care of your own son? Did that crackhead you were living with finally go off the deep end?”

Gina shook her head. “No, we’re not even together anymore. It’s just that. . .” She paused, staring at the crystal vase of red roses adorning the coffee table. “I’m getting married.”

Monica’s heart skipped a beat. “Married?”

Gina nodded, her long minibraids moving with the motion of her head. “Yeah, his name is Randy, and he’s outside now, waiting for me in the car.”

Monica raised her eyebrows, suddenly suspicious. “Why didn’t you bring him inside? Are you ashamed of him?”

Gina shook her head. “No. But we’re in a hurry tonight, and I didn’t want to waste time with formalities.”

“You still haven’t told me why you can’t keep Scotty. Does your fiancé have a problem with having a blind child in his house?”

Gina scowled as she clutched her purse, her dark eyes darting around the room. “No, that’s not it at all.”

“Uh-huh, whatever you say.” She could always sense when Gina was lying. Her body language said it all.

“Really, it’s not Scotty’s blindness that bothers Randy. It’s just that—he’s a trapeze artist in the National African-American Circus and they’re traveling around constantly.” Her dark eyes lit up as she talked about her fiancé. “This year they’ll be going international. Can you imagine me traveling around the globe with Randy? We’ll be going to Paris, London, Rome—all those fancy European places!” She grabbed Monica’s arm. “We’d love to take Scotty, but we can’t afford to hire a tutor for him to travel with us.”

“You’re going to marry some man and travel with a circus?!” Monica shook her head, wondering when her sister would grow up. At twenty-seven, she acted as if she were still a teenager. Since Monica was ten years older, she’d always been the responsible sibling, making sure Gina behaved herself.

Gina grabbed Monica’s shoulder. “But I’m in love with him!” Her eyes slid over Monica as if assessing her. “You’ve never been in love? I think it’s odd that you’re thirty-seven and you never got married.”

Monica closed her eyes for a brief second as thoughts of her single life filled her mind. Since her breakup with her serious boyfriend two years ago, she’d accepted that God wanted her to remain single, and she spent her free time at church in various ministries. She filled her time praising God and serving Him, and she had no regrets for the life she led. But whenever one of the church sisters announced an engagement, she couldn’t stop the pang of envy that sliced through her.

Forcing the thoughts from her mind, she focused on Gina again. “This discussion is not about me. It’s about you. You can’t abandon Scotty. He loves you.”

Gina turned away, as if ashamed of her actions. “I know he does, and I love him, too. But I really want things to work out with Randy, and it won’t work with Scotty on the road with us. He needs special education since he’s blind.”

Her heart immediately went out to Scotty. She touched Gina’s shoulder. “Scotty knows you’re getting married?”

Gina nodded. “I didn’t tell him how long I would be gone, but I told him I’d call and visit. Please do this for me.” Her sister touched her arm, and her dark eyes pleaded with her. She opened her purse and gave Monica some papers. “I’ve already had the power of attorney papers signed and notarized so that you can take care of him.” She pressed the papers into Monica’s hand.

“How long will you be gone?” asked Monica.

“The power of attorney lasts for six months. Hopefully by then me and Randy will be more settled. I’m hoping after the world tour he’ll leave the circus and find a regular job.”
Monica frowned, still clutching the legal documents.

“Please do this for me, Monica,” she pleaded again.

She reluctantly nodded. If she didn’t take care of Scotty, she didn’t know who would.

John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy is a touching story about Monica Crawford who finds herself caring for her blind nephew, Scotty. Scotty has some behavioral issues and needs help with his studies, so John French enters the picture to tutor him. Although Monica and John are attracted to one another, they are torn because Monica is a Christian and John is agnositc. Will John see the light?

John's Quest was not a page turner for me. There were parts of the story that seemed a bit rushed, and I would have liked for the events to have unfolded better. The story itself seemed predictable. Long before reaching the ending, I had already figured most of it out. At times I felt that the dialogue was too stiff. Even when the three best friends conversed, they still used well thought out sentences. Overall, the author's writing style was polished and the story was sweet; however, I wouldn't consider this book to be a "must read."