Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yoruba Proverb isn't Always True

Missionary kids are "playing" together again after twenty years.
by Harriet E. Michael

"Ogún ọmọdé kìí ṣeré ogún ọdún.”

This is a Yoruba proverb which translated into English says, “Twenty children cannot play together for twenty years.”

The Yoruba people are native to the country of Nigeria, West Africa where I was born and spent my childhood. They use proverbs often to explain the world around them. This proverb belongs to the category of “simple truth”—proverbs used to explain simple truths. It means people grow and make new friends. They move away and do not stay with the same group of people who were their childhood playmates. Some English expressions with the same meaning might be, “life goes on”, “times change and we must change with them”, or “nothing stays the same.”

Well, my group of childhood friends is the exception to this truth. Though we grew, changed, moved apart, and became very different individuals living in many different parts of the USA and even the world, we nonetheless managed to remain close friends. This unique group of individuals, who shared a common childhood in Nigeria in our beloved tropical homeland half a world away from where most of us live now, grew up calling each other’s parents aunt and uncle. Even as adults, we still feel a kindredship as though we are family—cousins perhaps.

One of my missionary cousins is Shirley Crowder. Some years ago, at a mission reunion, she handed me a book to which she had contributed. That was the first time I knew she was a writer. I don’t know when she discovered that I was a writer, too, but a few years ago, she suggested that we prayerfully consider writing a devotional book together. Through that experience, we learned that we work well together. We have similar views on scripture but different strengths when it comes to writing.

Since that first book, we have worked and continue to work together on other projects. She wrote a STUDY GUIDE to my book, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, and now we are working on two more books in our prayer series which will be released in the coming months by Write Integrity Press's nonfiction line, PixNPens.
So, I guess it could be said that I am once again “playing” with my childhood friend in spite of a lot more than twenty years having passed since we played together happily beneath the shade of mango trees.

About the Author:

Harriet E. Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one. Her first book with Pix-N-Pens Publishing, PRAYER: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, began an unexpected series she now calls the Prayer Project.

In coming months, this project will release its third book, a devotional on prayer. In 2018, she and her writing partner, Shirley Crowder, will release the final book, an anthology of prayer and the stories around them.

Learn more about Harriet and her books on her author page at WriteIntegrity.com.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

This New Release Will Have You Belly-Laughing!

Deborah Dee Harper has expanded her Road's End Mishap series. Her newest book delves into politics and romance - strange bedfellows, but not compared to the quirky collection of citizens in Road's End.

Be prepared to laugh aloud as you're reading and read it in public places at your own risk!

Here's the short version of FAUX PAS:

What would you do if you discovered, by accident, no less, that the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding in less than two weeks?

Panic. You’d panic, I tell you.

That’s what the parents of the bride, Pastor Hugh Foster and his wife Melanie did. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and well … you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (gasp!... not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a FAUX PAS! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

Oh, and Heaven help the president.

Enjoy the first scene:

The man in the doorway stood about as tall as your average redwood. He wore a navy-blue suit, white shirt, and a red and white striped tie. Put a few stars on his forehead, and he’d have made a great flag. You could slice carrots with the crease in his pants, but I doubted he had much experience in the kitchen aside from maybe bench pressing the stove. The old-fashioned cast iron kind, not one of today’s namby-pamby appliances.

I stood and walked toward him. “I’m Hugh Foster, sir. Welcome.”

He whipped out a snazzy-looking badge holder, flashed it in my face, then snapped it shut. Efficient.
“Ross MacElroy,” he said. “Pronounced Mack-el-roy. Accent on the ‘Mack.’ I’m from the government.”

Government? Take our county job handing out church basement repair permits seriously, do we?
“Nice to meet you, Mr. MacElroy. I’m the pastor here.” I stuck my hand out. He looked at it. Okay then. He’d fit right in around here. He had all the charm of my unconventional, and some would say, demented elderly neighbor, Sadie Simms, and the rugged good looks of … oh, I don’t know, maybe a T-Rex?

“From the church,” I added, as if I should own up to it. “The Christ Is Lord Church. Only church in Road’s End, I might add. My wife and I also run The Inn at Road’s End on the corner.” I gestured behind me. “Back there. Other side of Rivermanse Lane.”

“How many entrances?”

“Pardon me?”

“Entrances. To the church.”

“Oh. Well, just the two—front and back.”

He peered at me as if I had an escape hatch built under the pulpit for those moments when a pastor needs to make a quick getaway—one I wasn’t about to let him in on. “You sure about that?”

I nodded. “Yep,” but it sounded lame even to me. It came out more like “I’m pretty sure, but I suppose I’d crack under torture, so please, no thumbscrews.” I cleared my throat and tried again. 

“Yes, that’s it. Say, would you like some coffee before we get down to business?”

Mr. MacElroy, from the government, scanned the sanctuary from side to side and back to front without appearing to move his head. How did he do that?

He nodded; I wasn’t sure if that meant he wanted coffee or the coast was clear or he’d decided I wasn’t withholding valuable egress or ingress data. So, I went out on a limb—coffee it was.

“Well, we can either sit in here or go into my office.” I pointed to the sanctuary doors behind him. “In either case, the coffee’s back there, so I’ll just go get us some. Take anything in it?”

Silence. I took that as a no. I left him and his X-ray vision to their probing evaluations and scuttled out. I peeked in on Grace, our church secretary, before heading into our micro-kitchen. “We have a visitor, Grace. Our inspector guy, Mr. Ross MacElroy, accent on the ‘Mack’. Bit of an odd duck. 

Flashed a badge at me; says he’s from the government.”

She shrugged. “Not sure why’d he’d admit that, but then some folks take their work seriously, I guess. At least, he’s prompt. I didn’t think he’d be here for another half hour or so.”

“That’s all well and good, but I hope he doesn’t take his job so seriously he denies our permit. If we don’t get this building shored up pretty darned soon, we’re gonna find ourselves working eye-to-eye with Roscoe and the rest of the gang out in the cemetery.”

She sighed, shooed me away with the flick of a finger, and said, “Least Roscoe’s quiet. Go away.” 

Grace is a subtle soul.

I started to walk away then remembered my manners. “Coffee?”

“Shoo!” Guess not.

I gave her a mock salute and left. I poured two mugs of coffee from our ten-year-old Mr. Coffee and returned to the foyer. I spotted Mr. MacElroy in my office. He stood with his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels, peering out the wavy-glassed front window at the parking lot. I wondered if he’d had time to peruse my files or hack into my computer. Hope he didn’t find my miserable Solitaire scores.

“Here you go,” I said, setting the mug in front of him. “Nice and hot. Grace makes great coffee.”

He nodded. “I know.”

Right. I motioned to the chair in front of my desk and sank into my own. He sat—I marveled that the chair didn’t collapse—took a sip of coffee, then set the mug down and pulled out a small leather-bound notebook and expensive-looking pen. “Let’s get down to business.”

I nodded. “Shoot.”

His head snapped up. “That supposed to be funny?”

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. Do you want it to be?”

He glared at me for a few more seconds then tapped his pen on the pad, cleared his throat, and scanned the information in his book. “All right then. You’re Hugh Foster, recently retired Air Force chaplain. Married to Melanie Foster.”

I nodded.

“Your parents and in-laws are still living in Michigan where you and your wife grew up and eventually met at Michigan State University,” he continued. “Melanie majored in horticulture; you went on to become a pastor. You served in the Air Force for twenty-seven years then retired here to Road’s End, Virginia, bought The Inn at Road’s End—a lifelong dream of both you and your wife—on the southeast corner of Gloucester Street and Rivermanse Lane. Shortly after opening up for business, you assumed the pulpit at the Christ Is Lord Church across the road from said inn on the southwest corner of the aforementioned Gloucester Street and Rivermanse Lane.”

Right. The very church we’re sitting in, on the only corner in the entire town. I hoped he couldn’t read minds.

He stopped to take a breath. I would have, too, but I was fresh out, so I blinked vigorously instead.

He flipped back a few pages in his notebook and continued with my life story. “While in the Air Force, you were stationed at eleven bases, lived in thirteen different houses, and served in both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Lived outside the country for a few of those years, raised your three kids—now all grown. One of them is getting married this June—on the 20th. A daughter. I have their names,” he glanced up, “but then you know them, don’t you?”

I gulped. I had a moment before, but I wasn’t so sure anymore.

“While in the military, you and Melanie were active in your communities, had numerous friends, and visited Virginia—Colonial Williamsburg and its environs, in particular—every chance you got.”

“Wait, wha …?” That was me, always the glib one.

He held up his hand. “There’s more. As recently as this past winter, you and your wife and most of the townspeople were involved in an altercation in which … uh, let’s see, a late model Hummer was blown up by a person named Sherman DeSoto. I see he had an accomplice named Sophie who was never charged.” He paused and made a notation in his notebook; I wondered if Sophie was about to be arrested. Good luck with that, Ross.

“Shortly after, a hostage situation occurred involving several senior citizens,” he droned on, “one man was shot, though not fatally. Coincidentally, shortly after said altercation, renovations were made to the church with monies collected by one Bristol Diggs, former homicide detective who served a year in prison on felony charges before being released under mysterious circumstances, retiring from the police force, changing his identity, and moving to Road’s End to become a part-time church caretaker and town handyman. Am I correct so far?”

I nodded. Stupidly.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

I tried to think of something he didn’t already know. “I had Cheerios for breakfast.”

He stared at me with those beady, T-Rex eyes. “You find this amusing, Pastor Foster?”

I shrugged. “Well, yes, I guess I do. I mean all this to dig out of the mess we’re in? To shore up a crumbling foundation? All we’re asking for is clearance. Should be a simple enough operation.”

“Is that what you call it? A mess? A crumbling foundation? And you’re asking for clearance for just what operation?” He said the last word as though he were vomiting.

This guy was starting to get my goat. I ignored his questions. “According to the information I’ve been given by Bristol Diggs—and given his expertise in this area, I trust his judgment—this is necessary, even urgent. This situation needs immediate attention before everything falls in around our heads. And the operation I’m talking about is simple. Out with the old, in with the new. You know about these things. What’s so difficult about fixing what’s broken? After all, you’re with the government, right?” It occurred to me that I was probably asking the wrong guy considering that part about working for the government.

His glare could have boiled water. “Let me get this straight. You’re admitting that you’re planning to undermine the current foundation and replace it with a new one, right? And this Bristol Diggs you’re collaborating with—would that be the same Bristol Diggs involved in the altercation this past December?”

I stared at him. “How many Bristol Diggs can there be? And no, I’m not undermining anything. The damage is done. Decades of neglect have brought us to this point. Bristol assures me it'll be a relatively painless procedure. The transition from old to new will be seamless, and once we’re finished, no more worries about the world crashing down around our shoulders.”

The man literally puffed up like one of those pans of popcorn you heat on the stove—probably the same stove he bench presses—and pulled himself to his full height, about nine feet from my angle. “I’m afraid, Pastor Foster, that I can’t allow this to go on any further.”

When I stood, I noticed that even though he wasn’t nine-feet tall, I was still considerably shorter. It crossed my mind to stand on my chair so I could address him at eye level, but then I remembered it was on casters. Just my luck, I’d pitch backward through the window to the parking lot behind me and frankly, the building had enough things wrong with it without me adding a broken window to the list. I settled for standing on tiptoes. “Listen, Mr. MacElroy, we seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here. If your agency can’t accommodate me, I understand. You have bosses, too. All I seem to be doing is shooting the messenger.”

Hard to say what happened after that. One minute I was standing behind my desk with my head thrown back at a forty-five-degree angle admiring Ross the Redwood, and in the next, I was sprawled face down on my desk with my nose pressed into my first draft of Sunday’s sermon. Hulk’s little brother and his beefy knee seemed bent on smashing my spine through my lungs and nailing my ribs to the oak desktop.

I remember wondering, as I drifted toward asphyxiation, if he’d turned green.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Welcome to Our Newest Release!

We're so excited to share about Betty Thomason Owen's second book of her Kinsman Redeemer series! SUTTER'S LANDING is a visit to a simpler, more gentle time where neighbors went out of their way to help you, and love expanded like the blossoms of a rose.

Here's the short version: 

Still reeling from tragic losses, Connie and Annabelle Cross face life with their signature humor and grace, until fresh hope arrives on their doorstep.

In early spring of 1955, Annabelle Cross and her daughter-in-law, Connie have nearly made it through the first winter on their own. Then the skies open up as West Tennessee and much of the south endures one of the worst floods in history. As many of their neighbors endure losses due to the flooding, Annabelle and Connie sit tight on dry ground.

As spring gives way to summer, Annabelle begins to dread Connie’s upcoming marriage and removal to Sutter’s Landing. Though she’s happy to note the growing affection between Alton Wade and her daughter-in-law, their marriage means Annabelle will be on her own for the first time in her life.

Connie’s doubts increase when Alton’s bigoted brother Jensen uses every opportunity to drive a wedge between them. Is she doing the right thing? Did she move too quickly? Unexpected summer visitors and anticipation of a new neighbor provide diversion and open possibilities for both Annabelle and Connie.

Enjoy this preview:

Chapter One
April 8, 1955
Trenton, Tennessee

Connie Cross sat straight up in bed. What was that sound? Slowly, her vision adjusted to the semidarkness of her room. Outside, but close—too close. A gunshot? She slipped out of bed, donned her robe and tiptoed through the next room where her mother-in-law Annabelle lay. A soft snore told her the woman still slept.

Quiet as possible, Connie opened the back door and stood looking through the screen. Chilled air curled around her ankles and sent a shiver up her spine. She pushed the screen door open. Outside, on the small back porch, she stood for a moment to get her bearings. A thick, white fog enveloped the surrounding area. She wrapped her arms around herself for warmth and peered into the mist.

One of the hens broke into a loud cackle, which wasn’t unusual, though a bit early in the morning for such a racket. Connie was just about to retreat to the warmth of her bed when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She squinted in that direction, listening. Was someone approaching the house? An odd noise, like an animal snuffling, was the only sound. Her scalp prickled. She trembled, though not because of the cold. The sound moved closer.

Gradually, a shape emerged, advancing through the mist. Before she could make out what it was, there came a sharp whistle. Her back straightened as her nerves uncoiled. She recognized that whistle. The thing halted. Connie stepped forward. “Samson, is that you?”

The dog whined, and gave a soft yip. He trotted closer, nose to the ground, tail at attention.

A smile warming her insides, Connie peered into the mist. “Alton?” Their nearest neighbor, Alton Wade, was also her fiancé, though they hadn’t publicly announced it yet. A moment later, she made out his lanky frame, moving toward her.

“Samson, sit,” he said.

The dog sat.

Alton stopped below the porch, too far away for her to make out the face beneath the brim of his hat. Dressed in a loose jacket, he held a disjointed shotgun in the crook of his arm. “Did I wake you?” His voice was low, as though he was not yet fully awake.

Keenly aware of her state of undress, Connie kept both arms crossed over the front of her blue chenille robe as she crept closer to the edge of the porch. “You did. Was that a shot I heard?”

“Yes, it was. A fox was about to have herself a morning snack on Miss Annabelle’s chickens.”

Connie caught her breath. “Did you kill it?”

“Of course, I did.”

Connie could hear the prideful grin on his face. She gave him an answering one. “Of course, you did.”

Behind her, the screen door inched open and Momma spoke. “Killed what?”

Connie turned to look at her. “Alton killed a fox about to get your chickens.”

“Land sakes. Well, thank you kindly, son. Will you come in and warm yourself?”

He gave a low chuckle as he shifted his stance. “No, thank you, Miss Annabelle. I’ve got to get back home and see to my animals. I’ll take that vixen’s carcass with me, if you don’t mind.”

She giggled. “Not in the least. You take it with my blessing.”

Alton hesitated another moment, while his gaze burned into Connie’s. He lifted one hand to tug the brim of his hat. “Good morning, ladies. I’ll be back around later on.”

“Good morning,” Connie whispered. I love you, her heart sang, as a thrill chased up her spine.

Momma held the door for her. “You best get in here before you catch your death.”

Death. As she turned toward the door, Connie glanced over her shoulder to the place where Alton had disappeared into the mist. By now, he’d be back at the chicken coop, gathering his prey. Would death steal him away from her, too? She sucked in a jagged breath as the screen door eased shut behind her. She sincerely hoped not. But thoughts like these were a daily struggle. When did one overcome such a fear?

It was less than a year since she and Momma had been widowed. Ray Cross and both his sons had drowned in a boating accident. Three lives snuffed out in a moment’s time. She rubbed her arms against another tremor that shook to the very core of her being. Forcing those thoughts aside, she moved purposefully toward her bedroom, to make the bed and get dressed before little Joseph David awoke. She hoped he’d sleep for another hour or so, since he’d been awake so much last night.

As she straightened the bedclothes, Momma shuffled in from the kitchen. “I’ve gotta get a peek at my grandbaby.” She bent over the cradle for a moment. “Good morning, precious.” Before leaving, she pressed a kiss against Connie’s cheek. “Coffee’s on.”

Connie hoped she’d brewed it good and strong. Perhaps the grayness of the morning had set her on edge, she wasn’t sure, but she’d need to pull herself up and out of this melancholy soon. She glanced at the snoozing baby and breathed a soft prayer.

She and Alton had sat together at church for the first time this past Sunday. Up until that time, they’d been discreetly separated by his mother and Momma. The rumor mill that had been a mere trickle, let loose like a flood. The looks cast her way after the service told her she was not a popular choice for this eligible bachelor.

Alton’s older brother Jensen’s gaze was the most brutal of all. She could easily understand why he was such a success as a lawyer. His wife, who had never said two words to Connie, looked down her regal nose before turning her back, feigning an interest in the altar bouquet.

Connie blew out a breath in an effort to cleanse her mind of the troubling memories. The only expression she should be remembering was the one on Alton’s face. She smiled at that thought. His eyes had taken possession of hers, searched the depths, and left her weak in the knees. In church. She’d scurried down the aisle to join Momma who’d been busy showing off her precious bundle. Joseph David was the delight of the senior ladies’ Sunday School class these days.

Momma was certainly humming a happy tune when Connie entered the kitchen a few minutes later. The sweet, spicy smell of cinnamon rolls filled the air. Connie breathed it in. “Oh, my, what’s the occasion?” Momma usually saved cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, or once in a while on Easter Sunday.

“Does it have to be an occasion?” She cast a grin over her shoulder as she drew out a pan of the fragrant pastries. “I just had a craving for cinnamon, and this is what came of it.”

“I’m not complaining,” Connie assured her. She crossed to the dish shelf, grabbed a cup and poured herself some coffee. While Momma iced the rolls, Connie stirred the eggs. Their hens weren’t laying yet, so Mrs. Byrd, their neighbor across the road, kept them well supplied in return for a bit of help. Connie had learned to gather the eggs, clean out the chicken coop, milk the cows, and feed the horses. She enjoyed most of it, and Momma didn’t mind watching the baby. It was a lot easier than picking cotton. She hoped her cotton-picking days were over.

Momma set a heaping plate of rolls in the middle of the table. “I expect to see Riley one of these mornings. He did promise to plow my garden.”

Connie ladled a serving of scrambled eggs onto their plates. She set the skillet back on the stove. “Maybe he expects Alton to do it.”

“Now why would he expect that? Y’all haven’t announced anything.” She settled into her chair and waited for Connie to join her.

“I imagine by now, it’s probably all over town.”

Momma giggled. “Only that he’s interested. Interest doesn’t obligate a man to take care of a widow’s chores. Riley’s one of my oldest friends. Besides, he promised.”

Joseph David decided now might be a good time to wake. He let out a squall just as someone knocked on the front door.

Momma frowned as she pushed away from the table. “You get the baby, I’ll get the door.”

Curiosity drove Connie to peek out the window on the way to the bedroom. Why had she done that? A black sedan with an emblem on the door sat in the drive. A man in a dark suit stood on the porch. Not again. Please, God, not again.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


We're so excited to launch the first book of this new dystopian series! Kristen Hogrefe merges the action and adventure of the post-apocalypse with the richness of a historical. Who would believe these two could come together so perfectly?

But the setting is only the first best thing about this book. Portia Abernathy is a most unexpected heroine. Physically impaired and petite, this blonde has one goal: to arrange her brother's release from the satellite.

Here's the short version: 

A Revisionary rewrites the rules.
A Rogue breaks them.
Which one is she?

Nineteen-year-old Portia Abernathy plans to earn a Dome seat and rewrite the Codex rules to rescue her exiled brother. Her journey demands answers from the past civilization, but uncovering the truth means breaking the rules she set out to rewrite.
Where will the world be in 2149? If citizens forget their past, they will be lost in an identity crisis. That's exactly the state of the American Socialists United (ASU). This dystopian story opens in Cube 1519, a ghetto where the only use for obsolete cell phones is to throw them like rocks at mongrels. Portia and her father survive like many other citizens, with no electricity or technology and no expectation for a better life.

Yet Portia remembers her brother Darius—before he was taken from her. Now that's she's graduated, she determines to get him back. She thinks earning a Dome seat as a Revisionary candidate will be her ticket to rewriting the Codex and reversing his sentence. However, when she receives her draft and arrives at the Crystal Globe University for training, she discovers the world is very different outside her cube and that prisoners like Darius aren't the only ones trapped by the system.

Written for young adults, THE REVISIONARY offers a suspenseful plot, flashbacks to America's Revolutionary era, and rediscovery of the founding values needed to rebuild Portia's unraveling world. "In school, teens hear that if they don't learn from history's lessons, they're destined to repeat them," author Kristen Hogrefe says. "Portia lives in a world where leaders wield ignorance to control citizens. Only when Portia sets out to rescue her brother does she realize the lie she's been living and determines to break free."

Blockbuster novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver popularized the dystopian YA genre. THE REVISIONARY builds a dystopia of a different kind—one that looks backward to find wisdom to move forward to offer an underlying message of heritage and hope.

Preview the First Chapter

Saturday, 9.5.2149
Chrysoprase, Cube 1519

Some people are born with defects like mine. Others are damaged at the hand of another.
Lying flat on a frayed mat, I tug one leg and then the next to my stomach to stretch the tension in my back. Dawn streaks through the cracked pane above me, brightening the dull gray outline of my graduation uniform to navy blue.
I stand and tip-toe across the loft room’s cold wood floor. Pulling up the hem of my sack pajamas, I strap on my thigh holster and then try not to trip while climbing down the ladder. Whoever owned the rag dress before me must have been a good foot taller.
Dad is asleep on his mattress, which takes up half the room downstairs. The other half is our kitchen and wooden table.
We’ve called this converted barn home ever since our ration reduction ten years ago. Ever since the Court convicted Darius and our family shrank to two.
I start the fire and add water to the cast iron tea kettle. Dad says there are rumors of electricity being restored in some of the squares for the first time in decades. For me, a hearth works just as well.
With the kettle set to heat, I slip out back to use the shower stall, pausing only to grab a towel and the wishbone from last night’s wild turkey.
I’ve no sooner shut the door than the growling begins—and I double check the latch. It will hold. I reach for the lye soap and twist open the rusty metal spigot. The cold water drizzles onto my shoulders and dances down my skin. I shiver deliciously. This must be the feeling that makes little sparrows cavort in puddles.
My mind wakes up by spinning lines of verse. I work them out by singing a low alto tune, the best I can manage early in the morning.
my friend or foe?
If foe, then off you go.
If friend, then don’t bite me but a
The growling resumes, louder this time. Either the alley mongrel is extra hungry today, or another mutt has crossed its territory. I shut off the tap, mop the water off my skin with a threadbare towel, and rub dry my pixie-cut hair.
Then, I redress and reach for my Taser. Dad insisted I apply for a permit to carry one when medical pulled me out of a physical education course on account of my back. He figured that if I can’t run from danger, I should at least be able to aim at it. The process took a few years and required a security elective class, but the trade-off was worth the hassle.
There are some things in life no one can outrun.
I press my body tightly against the stall frame and peak through a fractured panel. A mutt with matted gray hair and one good eye paws at the door. I relax and re-holster my Taser. I won’t need it today. Our alley mongrel is testy but harmless.
I crack open the door and toss the wishbone into the woods. The mongrel bounds after it, and I hurry to the kitchen where my tea kettle puffs steam and whistles like the boy who used to live next door. The simple fragrance of tea and oatmeal wakes Dad, and he joins me at the table. The bench groans under his weight. His mechanical work and years of physical labor have built his naturally thick frame to the size of an ox.
Well, at least compared to me. I’m barely five-feet tall. My mom was small too, or so Dad tells me.
We sip our tea in silence. I won’t waste words with another argument.
Dad doesn’t want the draft board to call my name. I do. Today, one of us will get our way.
Only the hearth heard those long debates between us. Its crackling tongue, like an old gossip, provokes my memory.
I was a child of nine, unable to sleep in a room bereaved of a brother. Can’t we bring Darius back?”
Sweetheart, we can’t change the ruling. Only the Court could if someone amended the satellite sentencing laws.”
Who could do that?”
His eyes had betrayed the hopelessness of such a reversal, but for my sake, he offered one possibility, one he later regretted. Why, that would be our Dome Revisionaries. They interpret our Codex, or law book, and decide how to apply or improve it.”
Dad never gambled his little girl would pursue training as a Revisionary candidate, but that’s exactly what I did. My scores in school climbed to the top of the charts. I used my accomplishments in language arts, Revisionary theory, debate, and logic as leverage to persuade my professors to enroll me in a Revisionary undergrad program I finished two years early.
But my achievements frightened Dad. Do you want the draft board to notice you?” He demanded.
Yes, I do.”
The draft is what Darius defied. I may never see you again if you are drafted.”
“We’ll never see Darius again if I don’t try.”
Darius may already be dead.”
But he might still be alive.”
There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.”
There’s the chance that I might. You said yourself it’s the only way to change the rules and bring Darius back.”
I’ll find another way.”
There isn’t one.”
Dad gave in, but something changed. Many nights and weekends, he never came home. When he did, he looked like soot and smelled like earth. I bandaged everything from cuts to broken fingers, but nothing kept him from leaving again the next night.
Once, I tried to follow him, but he caught me. My gentle father transformed into a ferociously protective papa bear. His warning and whipping sent my feet scrambling home as fast as my sore backside could manage.
After that, I never asked where he went, and he never offered to explain.
When Dad was home in the evening, he invented a game called “Forget and Remember” to help me focus on what we had, not on what we had lost. In the firelight of our small hearth, I also spun my verses. He especially liked the ones that included a riddle for him to solve. Those dusk hours are some of my happiest memories.
To most, the man across the table from me is nothing but an old broken Tooler with knobby fingers and dirty nails. To me, he is everything left that’s kind and lovely in the world.
The hearth’s chattering fades.
You’d better hurry up and get dressed.” Dad stands and starts for the door. You don’t want to miss the train.”
Where are you going?”
He puts on his leathery hat. I have something to do first.”
My lip trembles in disappointment. I had hoped he would walk with me today. Promise you’ll meet me at the station.”
His hand slides off the door latch and reaches for my chin. Of course, sweetheart.” Dad pauses and takes a deep breath. Even if attendance weren’t mandatory, I wouldn’t miss the train. My brave girl’s quest is a fool’s errand, but I’m proud of her spirit.”
I search his deep brown eyes, so much like Darius’s. Are we not all fools for those we love?”
He smiles and is gone.

Get Your Copy and "Meet" the Author!

THE REVISIONARY is now available in print and e-book at Amazon. Get your copy HERE! But that's not all.

In just over an hour, (7PM Central) Kristen will chat with our WIP executive editor, Marji Laine Clubine. Get the inside story on this book and the dystopian genre, in general! Here's the link to Blogtalk Radio, the "Along Came a Writer" Network!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Young People and the Bible

Just because the word teenager doesn’t exist in the Bible doesn’t mean that young people aren’t represented within its pages.

Although art and movies of the past often portrayed biblical figures as much older than their real counterparts, the Bible contains many youthful characters. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably around 16 years old when the angel announced she was with child.

Of course it’s not necessary for the Bible to be mostly about young people for God’s Word to be relevant to teenagers and for them to appreciate it. But what better way to get a teen’s attention, or engage a reluctant young reader of scripture, than to feature a young biblical figure in discussion or study right off the bat?

As in contemporary young adult/teen novels, characters such as parents, grandparents, and mature authority figures like teachers can be as likeable and interesting as the teenage characters.  But a YA author writes the opening scene of a novel with the focus on the teen protagonist, and soon, if not right away, shows that life is just-not-fair for that teenager.

I know I would’ve been much more interested in the Bible in junior high and high school if I could’ve related my feelings of being treated unfairly sometimes to the same treatment of a young biblical figure. Teens are all about their own problems and validating their feelings about those problems.

As Christian parents, grandparents, counselors and others helping our teens make it through these difficult years, we can point them to God’s Word to encourage and help them find answers to problems.

For example, while Isaiah 40:30-31 recognizes the weariness and discouragement that young people might experience, the passage identifies the solution—reliance on the Lord for strength and endurance.  (With Him on your side, things will get better, right?)

Isaiah 40:30-31 KJV

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

Just like today, troubles can start early. The youngest king of the Bible was Joash (or Jehoash), who was only seven years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem. His father had died when he was one year old. Before he took the throne, he had to hide for six years (with the help of his aunt) from his wicked grandmother who had killed all her other grandchildren and children in order to rule herself.  See 2 Kings 11:1-3.

As a tween or teen, this story would’ve hooked me on the Bible, but I never heard it! Like many young people, I would’ve felt Joash’s sadness over growing up without a father.  I would’ve related to his fear while hiding. I would’ve been angered by the wicked actions of the grandmother and wept that she would want me dead. My own grandmother!

Joash goes on to be a good, wise king and reigns for 40 years. Teens would recognize from this story that their childhood problems, although possibly serious, don’t have to hold them back or make them lose faith in themselves or in God. 

Which Bible figures do the teens you know like or relate to the most?

About the Author

Cynthia T. Toney is the author of the widely popular Bird Face series and will be debuting her first middle grade historical this fall. She is a former advertising designer, marketing director, and interior decorator who holds a BA in art education with a minor in history. While employed by a large daily newspaper, she tried to rewrite some ad copy without permission and got into trouble for it. At that point, she knew she was destined to become an author.

Learn more about Cynthia at her author page on Write Integrity Press.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Mountain Hike by author Harriet Michael

A Hike Through Matthew

Summer time is fast approaching. Time to think about summer vacation plans. Do you like roughing it while camping or staying in a fancy hotel? The beach or the mountains? Salt water or fresh water? Sand under your feet or a mountain path to hike?

Today, for a little pre-summer adventure, I’m going to lead you on a hike through the mountains in the book of Matthew. Let’s see what we discover.

The Mountain of Temptation
In Matthew 4:8, Satan took Jesus to the top of a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. There the devil tempted Jesus by promising to give them all to Jesus if only Jesus would worship him. Because the Bible doesn’t tell us the name of this mountain, we don’t know exactly where it is. All we know is that it was a very high mountain. Of course, Jesus refused to worship Satan. Though He was tempted, Jesus did not sin.

The Mountain of a Sermon
A mountain is seen again in the next chapter of Matthew—chapter 5. This time it was a small mountain near the city of Capernaum and instead of being tempted, Jesus was preaching what is often referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” This sermon of Jesus contained the Beatitudes—a list of conditions under which a person is blessed. Again, the Bible doesn’t tell us the name of this mountain; just that it was near the city of Capernaum.

The Mountain of a Miracle
Jesus is once again on a mountain in Matthew 15: 29-39. Here, He worked a miracle, feeding 5,000 people with only the lunch of one little boy—just five little loaves of bread and two small fish. It was lunch time and the people were hungry. Jesus told them to sit down and they obeyed Him. Then he kept breaking up the little bit of food that was available and sharing it. Miraculously, there was enough to feed all the people with twelve baskets left over! The Bible does not give the name of the mountain but does locate it near the Sea of Galilee.

The Mountain of Transfiguration
Mathew 17:1-9 tells of the “Mount of Transfiguration.”  In this story, Jesus took three of his disciples with Him up to a mountain and his appearance changed right before their eyes. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as snow. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and began to talk to Him too. The three disciples stood near Jesus and watched in amazement.

The Mountain of Olives
In Matthew 24, Jesus is on a mountain again and this time the Bible tells its name—the Mount of Olives. Here, Jesus told the crowd listening to Him all about His second coming—the time when He will come back to the earth again.

The Mountain of Ascension
And finally, in the very last verses of Matthew after Jesus had been crucified and rose again, He claimed to have all authority in heaven and earth and He told His disciples to go into the world and tell others about Him in a passage often referred to as “the Great Commission.” Then He went up to heaven and He did all of this from a mountain, which again is not named.

Now we have hiked up and down the many mountains mentioned in the gospel of Matthew. Not the same sort of hikes we will take this summer but an interesting one just the same. It’s interesting to realize that mountains were important in Jesus’ life.

About the Author
Born in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries, Harriet E. Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one.

She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions.

You can learn more about Harriet on her author page at WriteIntegrity.com or on her website.

Monday, May 1, 2017

HAVEN'S FLIGHT is taking off!

We are so excited about our newest suspense, HAVEN'S FLIGHT by Dena Netherton. With a strong faith thread and a high level of conflict and tension, suspense lovers are going to enjoy this one! Make sure you take a breath now and then, because Ms. Netherton doesn't offer many opportunities for normal breathing through this story!

What readers are saying:

"... quite gripping.  Rather than "painting" a story, it's more like the author has architected a three dimensional structure of a story. Well done!"

"... keep you on the edge of your chair."

"... I couldn't put it down!"

"... expertly reeled me in to the finish."

"... incredibly descriptive language ..."

"... a plot that captures your imagination and takes you to a setting that is as beautiful as it is dangerous."

"The unpredictable plot kept me guessing throughout."

Short Version of HAVEN'S FLIGHT:

How can you flee from an unseen enemy?

Haven Ellingsen enrolled in Life Ventures Therapy Camp in the Cascade Mountains to help her heal from horrible memories of her mother’s violent death at the hands of an armed robber. But now, a greater fear dogs her steps. The rustle of leaves or the snap of a twig could be nothing. Or it might signal the sinister presence of the stalker who won’t stop following her. It seems like a cruel trick from God to throw Haven into another dangerous situation only a year after her mom’s murder.

He hides near her tent and listens to the girl talk with the counselor. Mostly she talks about her father. She’s unhappy, and he can’t stand to listen and do nothing about it. He needs to rescue her. He needs to make sure she doesn’t ever go back to that man. His own father was the cause of his mother’s death. And Ruth’s. He can’t let that happen again. Not with this girl. When the time is right, he’ll take her away to his hidden cabin where she’ll be safe. And he will feel peace for the first time in years.

Can one month of survival training equip a girl to face all that the rugged wilderness and a madman can dish out?

First section:

Thomas Dade Boone held his breath and eased the back door shut. Then he listened hard, fearing the creak of his father’s pursuing foot on the upstairs landing. Hearing nothing, he turned noiselessly, hefted his duffle bag, and stepped onto the dark, dew-filled grass.

He patted his back pocket one more time to reassure himself that his wallet hadn’t somehow fallen out. He’d failed to escape his drunken father before. This time, he had money. This time, he would not fail.

A June fog eerily shrouded the half-acre that separated the old Tennessee country house from the barn and chicken coop. Beyond those buildings, in the midnight gloom of trees, his girl waited for him. Beautiful, dainty, and blue-eyed.

If the moon had been out, he would have glimpsed the shimmer of her long, pale hair reflected by the rays of the moon. Ruth. He crept around the barn and strained to see her. Once reunited in the trees, she’d reach her arms around his neck the way she’d done that other day in the barn, and pull his face down to hers for a kiss.

In the morning, his father would see that his bed hadn’t been slept in. Then he’d phone Ruth’s mama and find that her things were missing, too. They’d know. They should’ve known from the day Mrs. Gatling—soon to be Mrs. Bartholomew Boone, Thomas’s step-mama—brought Ruth over and introduced her as his future step-sister. That was nigh on four months ago. Ruth could never be his sister. Not when he’d fallen in love with her on first gander.

He cleared the open space in front of the barnyard, felt with his foot for the drainage ditch that formed the boundary of his father’s property, and leaped the six feet to the soft dirt on the other side. Beyond the ditch, a row of maple trees hid his father’s property from neighbors.

“Here, Tommy.” A feminine hand grasped his and tugged him under the branches of the nearest maple. “Did you get your daddy’s money?” Her fingers wormed around his back pocket.

“Hold your horses,” he whispered and nudged her hand away. “I got it. C’mon. Let’s git a ways down the road before we do any more talkin’.”

He gripped his duffle and they took off diagonally across the woods. In another quarter mile, they met the gravel lane to his father’s farm where it rounded the last acre of baby corn before intersecting with the county road. Though he couldn’t see it through the fog, just a tad farther down the road lay the bridge, then the town and the bus station.

He used his flashlight just long enough to help Ruth scramble across the dry ditch and up onto the road. Distant lights from the closest neighboring farm glowed like fading embers. A dog’s bark echoed from somewhere far off. His nostrils twitched at the familiar earthy scent of cow manure rising from the nearby fields.

“Can’t we use the flashlight? It’s too dark, Tommy. I’m gonna trip.”

“No, girl.” He pulled her closer. “Too risky jes yet. Someone might see the light and git suspicious.”

The warmth of her body and the brush of her bare arm filled his gut with fire. If they hadn’t been in such a hurry to get to town he would have held her and shown her just how she made him feel. “After we git over the bridge we can use the flashlight. There’re so many trees on the other side, nobody’ll see us.”

Minutes passed. No sign of pursuit. It had to be safe enough to talk now. “Once we’re in town we’ll have ’bout an hour till the bus comes through.”

Ruth gasped when she stumbled into an unseen rut in the road. She gripped his hand. “How long will it take to get to Cincinnati?”

“’Bout six hours, I think.” He shifted the duffle bag and rolled his shoulder to work out the stiffness. “But once we git there, we can buy a ticket to anywhere.”

“We got that much money?”

“Uh-huh. Tons.” A soft breeze cleared the haze for a moment, and the sickle moon dimly revealed Ruth’s pretty face. She gazed up at him with such adoration that he dropped the duffle, scooped her up and swung her around, making him dizzy.

“I love you, Ruth.” He lowered his lips to hers, and she clung to his neck.

They’d get so far away that his father would never be able to knock him around anymore. Some safe place. In a few months, he’d be old enough to marry Ruth, and then they could get started on having all those babies she was always talking about. His father wouldn’t win this time.

He set her down and they started to walk again.

“How come you didn’t bring your rifle? How you gonna hunt without it?”

Thomas gave a little snort. “Now can you just see us gittin’ onto the bus and me totin’ that thing? Looks suspicious enough, us being teenagers.”

Their boots crunched on the gravel road. A cricket chirped, then silenced as they passed nearby. “Besides, I’ll get a job, and then I can buy a really good gun. I’ll bag a deer, and you can make us venison steaks every night.”

Ruth sighed with a voice as sweet as molasses on a cornmeal biscuit. He ran his hand down her soft hair. Yes, they’d find a place where his father wouldn’t be able to track them. As far as his money would take them.

The foggy night air laid a sheen over his face. Gurgling sounds, the echo of currents slapping the banks, the silken slipping of leaves as they washed over soggy branches—the song of the river—made him quicken his pace. They rounded a bend and their feet met concrete. The bridge loomed up ahead. Thomas hadn’t set foot on the bridge since …. A pain, hardly dulled by the passage of nine years, squeezed his heart … since his Mama had died.

She’d been running from Father, too.

He held his breath for the last seconds it took to reach the structure. At the edge, he peered over the bridge’s guardrail. The water flowed swift and deep. Deadly, after a season of rain, with a jagged log or two hiding in the murky underwater, like mean old snapping turtles. Crazy currents. He’d taken the canoe out last year when it was like this. Wanted—out of some perverse need—to see the spot where his mama had died. He’d accidentally rammed the canoe into a submerged log. When his father saw the hole in the boat and found out where he’d been, he beat him with two belts tied up together.

Thomas started at the approaching crunch of tires on the gravel road behind him. His heart pounded at the sound of the motor. Had to be Father’s truck. The lights of a big vehicle crashed through the murk, and its diesel engine snorted like a raging feral hog. Fear and hatred seized Thomas’s gut and twisted it till his breath came out in short gasps. Ruth stood paralyzed and her big eyes searched his with a pleading look.

“I’m scared, Tommy.”

“Quick, Ruth, run ‘n hide down the bank.”

But Ruth seemed glued to her spot on the paved bridge. “Run, girl, before he sees you.” The roar of the truck drowned out his voice. Thomas shoved her behind his body and braced his legs as if fixing to stand up to the blast of a hurricane. He blinked into the glare of Father’s headlights.

The truck screeched to a halt and Judge Bartholomew Boone opened the door and launched himself onto the pavement. He stuffed the truck keys into his pocket. Thomas trembled when the silhouette of his father’s form passed in front of the headlights. Strong, purposeful steps approached. Though not as tall as Thomas, he had a head and shoulders of massive proportion and a voice to match. Even big men trembled when Father’s voice thundered from the judge’s bench.

“Thomas, step aside.” His father’s eyes dismissed him as if he were no more than another small-time criminal in his court, facing sentence.

Thomas turned slightly and shook his head. “N-no, Sir.”

Only a twitch in his father’s graying mustache betrayed surprise. “Boy, do you dare to disobey your father?” The man raised his arm to backhand Thomas’s face.

No, no, no, no. You won’t win this time. Before the slap connected, Thomas lunged and sent his own fist into the man’s gut.

Judge Boone hunched over and clutched his stomach, unable to speak.

“You’re never going to hit me again.” Thomas’s jaw clenched so tight he almost couldn’t get the words out.

Ruth started to cry.

“You-you made Mama go away. You take away everything I care about. Well, you can’t take Ruth.”

Thomas turned, pushed Ruth ahead of him, and hurried away. They’d made it halfway across the bridge when a hand grasped his shoulder and spun him around. His father’s fist met bone and flesh. Thomas crashed to the pavement, clutching his jaw. The world seemed to tilt and twirl. It took Ruth’s scream to bring him back to full consciousness. His eyes focused on his father, dragging Ruth toward the truck.

Thomas scrambled to his feet and ran after them. He threw himself onto his father’s shoulders. Ruth scurried out of the way of his flying fists. But this time the judge was ready. He guarded his head and blocked his son’s punches.

“You come at me again, boy, and I’ll have you thrown in jail for a year.”

Breathing hard, Thomas stared at his father, at the sagging jowls and the discolored cheeks that came from hard drinking, the cruelty that had etched deep lines around the man’s eyes.

“I’ll tell them about you—how you beat me like an old mule.”

“You think they’d believe you?”

When his father snickered, Thomas’s breath emptied like a punch to the gut.

“I’m a judge and you, well, you’re just a troubled boy who never got over his ma dying.”

From somewhere deep, a roar thundered up Thomas’s torso and erupted. He lurched for the man’s throat. But strong as he was, he could not overpower his father. Another blow made him stagger backward.

Ruth ran to him and tried to stop him. “Please, Tommy, take me away from here. Let’s go.”

Thomas’s father laughed. “You think you’re going to get far? The police will pick you up before you even get over the county line.” He straightened and swaggered back to the truck. In the glare of the headlights he called out, “By tomorrow morning, you’ll be in jail and Ruth will be back where she belongs.”

All true. The police would be looking on every road, every bus station, every train station. At the age of seventeen, the law would say Thomas had no safer place than his parent’s home. And Ruth was only sixteen. After Mrs. Gatling married his father, Ruth would surely have to endure the same kind of beatings Thomas had lived with all his life.

“You can’t beat me, Thomas. I always win.” As if to rub it in, he lifted the corner of his lip like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Thomas’s face drained of expression. His father would win again. There was no way to keep Ruth safe. Except.

The whoosh of Tommy’s pulse surged in his brain, rivaling the roar of the river fifty feet below them. He shut his eyes and saw again the image of his mama’s car as it sailed off the bridge, sailed far away from his father. The river had rescued Mama. It would do the same again.

He looked down at Ruth.

“Please, Tommy, let’s get away.”

Yes, get away. For good.