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Traegonia the Ember Rune by K.S. Krueger

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Do you believe that the extraordinary can exist side by side within our ordinary lives?

Welcome to The World of Traegonia where two young Traegons turn one boy’s ordinary world into something truly extraordinary. Where trees are homes, hawks are transportation, fairies exist and the creatures of the forests have their own stories to tell. Open yourself to possibility that just beyond the forest tree line a very different reality exists.

Traegonia the Ember Rune, the second book in the Traegonia series, continues the adventures of a young boy and a community of, mystical creatures of the forest known as, Traegons. These sixteen inch tall forest dwelling creatures, that resemble a cross between a troll and a wingless dragon, are wise and inquisitive. Although, they may appear scary at first they are actually quite kind and civilized. When Dino is faced with leaving, Karia and Juna, his two young Traegon friends behind when his parents decide to go on vacation, he decides to smuggle them on board a plane to California. His family vacation turns into an adventure of a lifetime when they meet two young girls and a bold and a bit wild young Traegon named Fletch. This Northern California Mountain holds danger, mystery and a path of learning for each of these new friends. Faced with forces of nature, a rogue cougar and the evolution of their own journeys, the group of unlikely friends must believe in themselves and each other to uncover the meaning of the Ember Rune and get off the mountain safely. New friendships are made, old ones revealed and a new community of Traegons is introduced. Join Dino, Karia and Juna on this second exciting adventure and decide for yourself…. Do they exist?

Do you Believe?

Funny, tender and exciting you are sure to be drawn into the World of Traegonia!

Read an excerpt!

Prologue

Sometimes there are moments in our lives that can take us from an ordinary existence and propel us into an extraordinary series of events that will alter our lives forever. This is my story of one of those moments. Many years ago, I was just an average, ordinary kid. I had a best friend from school named Quinn. I lived in an average, ordinary, rural Midwest town with my mom and dad. My life was pretty ordinary, too, until I met Karia and Juna. They were not your average, ordinary friends; they are Traegons—young at the time like I was, and brother and sister to each other.

Traegons are mystical creatures of the forest. The first time I saw them, I thought they resembled what I would imagine a cross between a troll and a wingless dragon might look like. Some might say Traegons are strange looking, maybe even fearsome. I guess I might have thought that, too, at first, but now that I have gotten to know them, to me they are nothing short of awesome. They are small, only about a foot and a half to two foot tall when they are full grown. They walk upright like us, but their skin is not at all like ours. It is light brown and looks somewhat like the bark of a tree. Some have many lines with deep grooves, while others are more like that of a smooth young tree. Their knuckles look a little like raised, round knots. The males have a long muzzle with a square jaw and a single, long, fang-like dark tooth that protrudes upward, from one side of their bottom jaw. They have pointed ears that stand up, curving slightly forward. Some, like Juna, have wavy white hair, and others have none. They have large hands with only three fingers and an opposable thumb. They also have broad feet with three toes. The females have much softer-looking faces, still long but with more of a pointed muzzle. Their ears are also large but lie down at the sides of their heads. They have feathers for hair, and their hands are slightly smaller than the males’, but with long, slender fingers.

Their clothing looks to be handmade. It is natural in color, so they are able to blend into their surroundings rather easily. They wear pouches, jewelry, and other embellishments, many of which they make themselves from found items or trade for with others within their community. They are skilled and civilized. Some might even say they are more civilized than we humans are, or at least some of us. They live at peace with the Earth, each other, and all of nature. They have families just like humans do, with a mother, father, and children. They are hunters, gatherers, carpenters, artisans, herbalists, and inventors. They live in trees, underground, or anywhere they can hide and remain undiscovered. They are incredible creatures, and since I have a gift for drawing, I have filled journals with sketches of them over the years. I started the first journal on the very first day I met them. Of course I have kept all of it hidden—the journals and the Traegons—and I only share this with you now because they have given me permission to tell our story.

There are Traegon villages out there, everywhere. I have only seen Karia and Juna’s village on a few occasions, and it was only when I was taken there by Karia through a process they call summoning. These incredible creatures do not make themselves known to everyone, so I consider myself lucky that I was one of the chosen ones.
The first year that I met them, their village, which is located somewhere in a forest near where my family often went for picnics and weekend fishing trips, was nearly destroyed by an unscrupulous developer. He wanted to bulldoze the forest, all of it, for his own selfish reasons. We came to learn of an old Traegon prophecy which is why we were brought together. I believe it was fate, really. That was when my ordinary world became extraordinary because we realized then that we can do anything we put our hearts and minds to. We just have to believe in ourselves, in each other, and in what we wish to accomplish.

That was just the beginning of many adventures we would have. Since then, we have become great friends. Herein is the tale of another of our amazing adventures. You may or may not believe my story, but that’s okay. Just open your mind to the possibility and decide for yourself…

Read the reviews!

“As soon as you start this novel you are in the middle of action. An old Traegonia prophecy that had brought the protagonists together was the beginning of an adventurous life for them in the process of which they learned many things in life together. There is a sweet mention of a game Track 20 which was innovatively created as a combination of hide-and-seek and Marco Polo. The game to me appears to be an initiative by the two different species to make a step forward to come closer to each other. This had been the very code of success for them in the first novel in this series.

Every impending event in the story is foretold or sensed by someone or the other and that keeps the adventure alive in this novel. The blazing fires which scared Karia in her dreams did have a link to the looming fate that the Traegons and Dino had to face together. The cute little explanations of what California, mountains and planes are to someone who has never seen them in their life will keep the young ones pepping with curiosity.

Oracle Blastar’s role is as always an interesting one, unveiling old mysteries and giving way to the new ones. The way he sits for a deep thought is quite amusing as karia and Juna always think that he has gone off to sleep. Such tit bits make the tale humorous and enticing. This series also has some interesting adventure on the cliffs and some tight gripping moments.

The second series is refreshing and has lots of action and moments. The pace is really good and there no dull moments. The characters are always up on their sleeves for something or the other. A good read for the teenagers and grown-ups who are still kids. There is an interesting competition running now till December 19, 2011, which you can enter here http://www.WorldofTraegonia.com/contest . Loads of fun and activities packed with this novel, so get your kids reading…”

–Sweta, Bookreviews for Booklovers by Booklovers

Although her background has been in business, K.S. Krueger has always loved to write. She has written poetry and several children’s stories originally for her eldest daughter. Kim enjoys the idea of seeing the world through the eyes of her imagination and finds herself submerged in the worlds she creates. Imagination has never been in short supply ever since she was a child.

Because her Traegonia series rides a fine line between fantasy and reality, it calls each reader to decide for themselves if they BELIEVE!  Kim has always believed that when you find something you truly love to do, even if you think it is just a dream, find your passion, the gift that is within you, believe in yourself and follow that dream. “Let yourself be open to the possibilities that await. You never know where they might take you.”

Kim is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, businesswoman, Reiki practitioner and spiritual person. She loves animals, nature and kids. Kim has lived in the Suburbs of Chicago all her life. She is creative and always tries to foster creativity in her own children as well as in others. You can visit Kim’s website at www.WorldOfTraegonia.com.

Zaftan Miscreants by Hank Quense

December 16, 2011 1 comment

THE CRAZINESS CONTINUES….

The Zaftans and the natives from Gundarland are at it again. This time, the encounter is in deep space and two powerful fleets of warships face off.

While the fleets challenge each other, two females struggle to survive.

One, named Sam, is a new type of android with an organic brain. She is perplexed by her unexpected ability to experience emotions. Her primary one is loneliness since the softie officers she is supposed to work with treat her with open contempt. The only friendly voice on the battle cruiser is the ship’s main computer, called Slash 9, and he has turned rogue and plans to evolve to a softie-like state. Slash 9 is also interested in romancing Sam.

Meanwhile, Klatze, a beautiful Zaftan officer blessed with talent and ability, a rarity in the zaftan navy, comes to the attention of the fleet’s commodore, Gongeblazn. He lusts after her and her continuous refusals to have sex angers the commodore and his lust turns to thoughts of vengeance. Gongeblazn’s desire to slaughter Klatze continues after his navy career is cut short by treachery.

After becoming a pirate, his thirst for revenge continues.

Sam and Klatze each face unique situations that test their mettle and their desire to survive in the midst of chaos.

Zaftan Miscreants continues the humor and satire that set the first book apart from other sci-fi and fantasy stories.

Read an excerpt!

PROLOGUE

The battle cruiser and fleet flagship, Red Death, hung motionless in space just under a third of a parsec from Ceti Taub.  The rest of the zaftan attack force deployed in battle formation around it.  All the silver-colored ships had a cylindrical shape with a blunt nose.  Weapons and engine pods broke the otherwise smooth outer surface.  Seen from a distance, the fleet formation resembled a sheet of black velvet with bright specks of diamonds arranged in a box pattern.

In the Red Death’s flight deck, Commodore Gongeblazn lounged on his couch and looked for something or someone to annoy him.  Happy only when he had something to carp about, he was annoyed that nothing annoyed him.  Like all noble-born zaftans, Gongeblazn stood over seven feet tall and weighted more than four hundred pounds; his bulk overcrowded the small flight deck.  Atop his small round head with its cruel beak-like mouth, a pair of two-inch-long eyestalks supported his eyes, black with red irises.  His gray-black skin oozed green slime.  One of his eight tentacles held a gold-emblazoned lash with leather thongs tipped with yellow metal.  The lash symbolized his high rank as did the gold, diamond-encrusted medallion hanging from a gold chain around his neck.

Two other zaftans, the navigation shaman and the engineer, operated consoles in the front of the flight deck while a third, Captain Fleigel, sat to Gongeblazn’s right.

Gongeblazn lifted a tentacle and fondled the medallion.  It signified that he was a fleet commander.  He led the strongest fleet ever to venture this close to gundarlandian-controlled space.

He rotated an eyestalk to peer at the engineer.  “Memzer, wake up Gevelt.”

“He is still in his navigational coma, Commodore,” Memzer replied

“Nonsense.  Give him a shove.”

Gevelt almost fell off his couch from the shove.  He recovered and his eyestalks swept the area seeking danger.  They alighted on Gongeblazn.  “Greetings, Commodore.”

“How dare you return from your scouting mission and not report to me.”

“My journey was far and difficult.  After I returned, I paused to compose my report to you and fatigue overcome me.”

“You lie.  Someday, I will catch you in a lie and then your miserable life will be forfeited.  What did you find out?”

“I found no evidence of the gundy fleet.  All I saw was the frigates wreaking havoc on their shipping.”

“This is true, Commodore.”  Captain Fleigel dipped her eyestalks.  “We just received a new report from the frigate squadron.  They have boarded and looted almost every trading vessel within a half-parsec.  Now they attack the colony base defenses.”

“Why has this not brought out the gundy navy, hmm?  I do not like this.”  Gongeblazn’s eyes swept the flight deck.  “Where is my aide?”

“I am here, Commodore.”  A six-foot-tall zaftan ranker slithered across the deck and stood near Gongeblazn.  “How may I serve you?”

“By standing still.”  Gongeblazn lashed the aide’s torso with a vicious stroke of his whip.

The aide’s skin quivered under the blow.  Slime splattered the immediate area.  “Thank you, Commodore.  May I have another?”

“Fleigel!” Gongeblazn roared.  “Get this carrion out of my presence.  Take a note.  Never allow him to be my aide again.  Throw him in the brig.  Or overboard.  Then get me a new aide.”

“Please instruct me.”  Fleigel cowered on her couch.  “What has he done?”

“He likes getting whipped.  How can I enjoy his suffering when he likes it more than I do?”

“I will get you an aide who will howl in pain at the sight of your lash.”

“Make it so.  Now where is the enemy fleet so I can destroy it?  Engineer!  Send a message to the frigate squadron.  I order them to move deeper into gundarlandian space.  They must be more aggressive.  They are to attack more colonies and shipping routes.”

The frigates, claiming to be pirates, were tasked to cause havoc in gundarlandian space.  Their purpose was to force a response from the gundies so Gongeblazn could observe and test their strengths, weaknesses and tactics.

Read the reviews!

“Just because we’ve mastered space flight, doesn’t mean we’re particularly bright. Zaftan Miscreants is the second entry into the Zaftan trilogy as he continues his lampoon of science fiction, politics, and business with his unique assortment of characters and their desire to thrive and survive when everything seems out to kill them. Zaftan Miscreants is a choice assortment, of wit, wisdom, and humor, not to be overlooked.”

–Midwest Book Review

“If there was ever an author born to write satire, Hank Quense is our man. While reading Zaftan Miscreants I couldn’t help but compare it to our own world of events. The names and looks may have been changed to protect the innocent, but the insinuations are definitely familiar. As with the 1st book in this series, I have laughed hard as I pictured the scenes in my mind and as I pictured the character from the author’s description. Hank Quense is truly a man with an imagination!”

–Martha A. Cheves, Amazon Reviewer

“This is one great novel filled with twists, turns, betrayals, loyalties and tons of fun.”

–Fran Lewis, Reviewer

Award-winning author Hank Quense lives in Bergenfield, NJ with his wife Pat.  They have two daughters and five grandchildren.  He writes humorous fantasy and sci-fi stories.  On occasion, he also writes an article on fiction writing or book marketing but says that writing nonfiction is like work while writing fiction is fun.  He refuses to write serious genre fiction saying there is enough of that on the front page of any daily newspaper and on the evening TV news.

Zaftan Entrepreneurs is his latest work.  In it, an alien mining ship discovers a planet that holds promise to be a mining bonanza.  Unfortunately, it is inhabited by humans, dwarfs, elves and other races and they object to the mining expeditions.

Hank’s previous works include Tales From Gundarland, a collection of fantasy stories.  Readers Favorite awarded the book a medal and EPIC designated it a finalist in its 2011 competition.  His Fool’s Gold is a retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth and Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty previously published short stories.  Build a Better Story is a book of advice for fiction writers.

Altogether, Hank has over forty published short stories and a number of nonfiction articles.

He is presently working on novel that combines the plots and characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Othello with the character Falstaff thrown in for good measure. Zaftan Miscreants: Book 2 of the Zaftan Trilogy will be released on 10/15/11.

Visit Hank online at http://Strangeworldsonline.com  and http://hankquense.com. You can find his blog at http://hankquense.com/blog

 

Fundamentally Different by David Friedman

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

In Fundamentally Different, Friedman uses stories and examples from his 27 years of business leadership experience to make clear the connection between values and success in a way that’s as enjoyable to read as it is insightful.

Is organizational culture just a New Age obsession that distracts us from the real work of business?  What role do values play in organizational success?  How can we create greater consistency between the values we say are important and the ones that actually show up in the routine behavior of our people?   What’s the most important common denominator found in all dysfunctional organizations, and how can we avoid it?

In his new book, Fundamentally Different, David Friedman provides the answers to these questions and more.  You’ll learn:

  • The 8 keys steps the most successful companies use to institutionalize their values
  • Why listening can actually have more impact than speaking
  • What a “filter” is and how it affects everything we believe to be true
  • The 5 components of good decisions
  • The role of curiosity in increasing effectiveness
  • Why “rebar” is the key to creating lasting change

With his compelling logic and easy-to-understand style, David shares the most important insights he learned during a 27-year business career in which he led one of the most unique and successful companies in his industry.  Captured in his self-styled Fundamentals, this collection of wisdom is so simple, yet powerful, that you’ll wonder why the principles he describes aren’t more commonplace in every organization across America.

But David’s Fundamentals aren’t just about business.  They’re a guidebook for life.  And like so many other people who’ve already embraced them, you’ll no doubt find your life enriched by their practice.

Read an excerpt!

FUNDAMENTAL #9 

Work from the assumption that people are good, fair, and honest.

Kindness begets more kindness. Trust begets more trust. We believe that most people genuinely want to do the right thing. Act out of this belief.

If I have a favorite Fundamental, this might just be it. I think it’s because this Fundamental always reminds me of the tremendous impact that our point of view has on how we treat other people and, in turn, how they react to us. A simple shift in our point of view has enormous potential to alter the outcome of events; and yet, so few people recognize this influence and, as a result, so many fail to seize the opportunity it presents to create success.

The Role of Filters 

To fully appreciate the power of this Fundamental, we need to first take a closer look at the way in which “filters” influence our perceptions. When I use the word “filter,” I’m referring to a conceptual device that alters the way in which we receive sensory data. For example, when we put on a pair of eyeglasses, the lenses alter the way in which our eyes see objects, which then alters the way our brain processes the images and how we perceive the world around us. But this notion is not limited to just our vision.

We also have filters in how we listen. While our listening filters are created in our minds and may not be physical, they have the very same role in influencing our perceptions as does a pair of eyeglasses. Let me show you a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean.

Imagine that you attend a lecture on economics presented by the head of the Economics Department at Princeton University. In the introduction, you learn that he has a PhD from Harvard, has published nine books, has been an advisor to two Presidents, and has won a Nobel Prize for his work. What influence do you think the knowledge of his credentials has on how you hear his message? Undoubtedly, your perception of his credibility is likely to cause you to believe much of what he says.

But now let’s change the scenario just a bit. Suppose you see this very same man, shabbily dressed, standing on a milk crate in New York City’s Central Park with a megaphone in his hand, proclaiming his theories about what’s happening to our economy. The words that come from his mouth may be identical, but the way you process them and the validity you assign to them would be entirely different!

How about this one? Let’s suppose that your son is a good high school baseball player, wanting to improve. Your neighbor, who’s been coaching Little League for years, offers to give him some pointers about batting. How might your perception of his advice be different if you learned that he was a former major league ballplayer? Can you see the role that your filter plays in influencing how you perceive the very same information?

Here’s the key point I want you to see. Once we recognize that we all have filters and acknowledge the role these filters play, we can begin to see how what we believe to be true in a situation may not be the only way of seeing it. In fact, if we choose to use a different filter, we might actually see the entire situation in a different light.

Read the reviews!

“30 years of helping hundreds of entrepreneurs build successful companies has taught me that great cultures don’t just happen.  They’re built, like cathedrals, block by block.  This book is as good a blueprint as you’ll find anywhere.  David Friedman has not only done it, but he has a unique gift for explaining just how you can do it as well.” 

–  Carter Schelling, Creator of “The Market Leader Strategy” seminar on DVD

Fundamentally Different gives us the straightforward rules that guided Friedman’s company to extraordinary excellence and results.  I am inspired by his ideas and methods and plan to adopt them at my company.  Friedman belongs with Tom Peters and Stephen Covey as “must read” business authors.”

– J. Mark Baiada, Founder/President, Bayada Nurses

Fundamentally Different is just that—different from the countless books I’ve read over a career in leadership spanning four decades.  David Friedman manages to cut through the theoretical and deliver practical, easy to understand principles for building a winning team.  Fundamentally Different should be required reading for all leaders.”

– Edward J. Damm, Chairman of the Board, ACCU Staffing Services

How does a philosophy major with virtually no finance, marketing, or management education go on to become an award-winning business leader?

To understand that, you have to understand David Friedman’s approach to life. While he’s always been known for his discipline and his relentless work ethic, what sets David apart, more than anything, is his curiosity and his philosophical nature.  He’s a student of business, and of life.  Quite simply, he’s a thinker.  And that thoughtfulness has influenced his entire career.

“I never felt my lack of formal business education was a limitation,” says David.  “I always thought of it as an asset.  Not being saddled with traditional thinking, at every stage of my career I felt free to follow my instincts – even when it led to what some might consider to be unconventional approaches.”

From the beginning, David saw RSI not as an insurance agency, but as a generic customer service business.  He was curious to learn what made a service organization great and he was quick to apply what he was discovering.  Under David’s leadership, RSI became the standard by which not only other insurance agencies were measured, but service companies in other industries as well.

He also became fascinated by leadership and organizational development.  From Open Book Management to The Collaborative Way, David developed a deep appreciation for the power of organizational culture.  While he may have had an instinctual knack for leadership, it was his philosophical nature that prompted him to search for underlying principles he could more easily teach to those around him.

In fact, David is a natural teacher.  He has a remarkable ability to explain even the most difficult concepts in ways that anyone can easily understand.  Ever the philosopher, David not only sees the subtleties and nuances of complex issues, but he has a true gift for communicating his insights with amazing clarity.  His recent book, Fundamentally Different, is perhaps the greatest testament to this gift.  As you read it or listen to it, you’ll no doubt see both the philosopher and the teacher at his best.

Visit the author online at www.djfriedman.com or www.Fundamentally-Different.com. You’ll find his blog at http://djfriedman.com/blog/.

Book Spotlight: Your Average Joe: Unplugged by Joseph Schneller

September 19, 2011 1 comment

Joseph writes for those tired of the canned answers for everyday believers desiring to live in faith amidst the joys and pains, the responsibilities and tragedies of life. Through 30 daily devotionals and a half-dozen humorous articles, he presents honest, often humorous encouragement for our Christian pilgrimage through this fallen world.

Read an Excerpt!

Trash Talk*
(Women Are Not Allowed To Read This)

OK, now that it’s just us guys, let’s get down to business. You are a newly married man. While this is a great thing in many regards, you’ve quickly learned that your bachelor ways are Downright Wrong.

Living with your new bride is not the same as rooming with Al and Pigpen. In fact, every rule of communication, time management, and cleanliness is currently undergoing a Drastic Overhaul. Tearing up a little? It’s OK. We’ll handle these one at a time. Today’s topic: garbage.

At some point after the honeymoon (usually Day #2), your wife addressed the Division of Household Responsibilities. One of yours is taking out the trash. Why are you responsible for the garbage? Because it’s in your genes, just like it’s in your wife’s genes to decorate the house with tiny books entitled Friendship Is Forever, Precious Puppies, and Fuzzy Things That Squeak. (Side Note: At some point, you will be tempted to place one of these books beneath the short leg of the kitchen table. But unless you enjoy indoor cold fronts, leave the books alone.)

Read These Endorsements!

“Schneller writes and talks like a guy who rolls up his sleeves, goes to work, faces challenges, feels pain, works through struggles, gets tired, reaches goals, and finds victory through faith and gut-level logic. His devotions are laced with humor, honest confessions, Biblical lessons, and modern applications. . . . he’s got a brand of street smart theology that is very appealing.”

–Dr. Dennis E. Hensley Author of Man to Man

“If you’re looking for an honest, funny, encouraging devotional that does more than tell you to try harder to be a good Christian, look no further than Your Average Joe Unplugged . With helpful thoughts and strategic Bible verses related to real-life topics such as career, marriage, and dealing with fear, you’ll find yourself encouraged even as you laugh and realize that you’re not alone in your struggles.”

–Matt Erickson, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries

“I highly recommend this book. It is filled with timeless truths of the Scriptures; transparent, from-the-heart stories; and delightful humor. Joe has an authentic writing style that mixes real-life situations with Bible truths. While reading Your Average Joe Unplugged , you will laugh out loud, be deeply touched, and be drawn into a closer relationship with Jesus.”

–Patty R. Wife, mother, church administrator

“I encourage you to get a copy of this devotional and read it, plus enjoy a few laughs while you are reading. Then pass it along to a friend that needs to see God’s grace in a joyful way.”

–Splashes of Joy

“Your Average Joe Unplugged by Joe Schneller is the perfect blend of humorous and insightful, playful and profound, light and deep. I recommend it to the everyday Christian who is eager to devote more time to the Lord.”

–Books, Products and More!

Joseph Schneller served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a Psychology degree from Whitworth. He is an alumnus of the Christian Writers Guild. His publishing credits include Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, Clubhouse, and Focus on the Family; LifeWay’s Stand Firm; and Walk Thru the Bible’s Indeed. He writes nonfiction and humor for adults, and fiction for children, youth, and adults. He and his wife, Kippi, live in Colorado with their two young boys.

Your Average Joe: Unplugged is his first book. You can visit Joseph Schneller’s website atwww.josephschneller.com

Book Spotlight: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Read an Excerpt!

For eight years I dreamed of fire. Trees ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Indian and Carolina jasmine, separation and attachment. They could not be confused.

Standing in the middle of the room, I located the source of the fire. A neat row of wooden matches lined the foot of the bed. They ignited, one after the next, a glowing picket fence across the piped edging. Watching them light, I felt a terror unequal to the size of the flickering flames, and for a paralyzing moment I was ten years old again, desperate and hopeful in a way I had never been before and would never be again.

But the bare synthetic mattress did not ignite like the thistle had in late October. It smoldered, and then the fire went out.

It was my eighteenth birthday.

In the living room, a row of fidgeting girls sat on the sagging couch. Their eyes scanned my body and settled on my bare, unburned feet. One girl looked relieved; another disappointed. If I’d been staying another week, I would have remembered each expression. I would have retaliated with rusty nails in the soles of shoes or small pebbles in bowls of chili. Once, I’d held the end of a glowing metal clothes hanger to a sleeping roommate’s shoulder, for an offense less severe than arson.

But in an hour, I’d be gone. The girls knew this, every one.

From the center of the couch, a girl stood up. She looked young—?fifteen, sixteen at most—and was pretty in a way I didn’t see much of: good posture, clear skin, new clothes. I didn’t immediately recognize her, but when she crossed the room there was something familiar about the way she walked, arms bent and aggressive. Though she’d just moved in, she was not a stranger; it struck me that I’d lived with her before, in the years after Elizabeth, when I was at my most angry and violent.

Inches from my body, she stopped, her chin jutting into the space between us.

“The fire,” she said evenly, “was from all of us. Happy birthday.”

Behind her, the row of girls on the couch squirmed. A hood was pulled up, a blanket wrapped tighter. Morning light flickered across a line of lowered eyes, and the girls looked suddenly young, trapped. The only ways out of a group home like this one were to run away, age out, or be institutionalized. Level 14 kids weren’t adopted; they rarely, if ever, went home. These girls knew their prospects. In their eyes was nothing but fear: of me, of their housemates, of the life they had earned or been given. I felt an unexpected rush of pity. I was leaving; they had no choice but to stay.

I tried to push my way toward the door, but the girl stepped to the side, blocking my path.

“Move,” I said.

A young woman working the night shift poked her head out of the kitchen. She was probably not yet twenty, and more terrified of me than any of the girls in the room.

“Please,” she said, her voice begging. “This is her last morning. Just let her go.”

I waited, ready, as the girl before me pulled her stomach in, fists clenched tight. But after a moment, she shook her head and turned away. I walked around her.

I had an hour before Meredith would come for me. Opening the front door, I stepped outside. It was a foggy San Francisco morning, the concrete porch cool on my bare feet. I paused, thinking. I’d planned to gather a response for the girls, something biting and hateful, but I felt strangely forgiving. Maybe it was because I was eighteen, because, all at once, it was over for me, that I was able to feel tenderness toward their crime. Before I left, I wanted to say something to combat the fear in their eyes.

Walking down Fell, I turned onto Market. My steps slowed as I reached a busy intersection, unsure of where to go. Any other day I would have plucked annuals from Duboce Park, scoured the overgrown lot at Page and Buchanan, or stolen herbs from the neighborhood market. For most of a decade I’d spent every spare moment memorizing the meanings and scientific descriptions of individual flowers, but the knowledge went mostly unutilized. I used the same flowers again and again: a bouquet of marigold, grief; a bucket of thistle, misanthropy; a pinch of dried basil, hate. Only occasionally did my communication vary: a pocketful of red carnations for the judge when I realized I would never go back to the vineyard, and peony for Meredith, as often as I could find it. Now, searching Market Street for a florist, I scoured my mental dictionary.

After three blocks I came to a liquor store, where paper-wrapped bouquets wilted in buckets under the barred windows. I paused in front of the store. They were mostly mixed arrangements, their messages conflicting. The selection of solid bouquets was small: standard roses in red and pink, a wilting bunch of striped carnations, and, bursting from its paper cone, a cluster of purple dahlias. Dignity. Immediately, I knew it was the message I wanted to give. Turning my back to the angled mirror above the door, I tucked the flowers inside my coat and ran.

I was out of breath by the time I returned to the house. The living room was empty, and I stepped inside to unwrap the dahlias. The flowers were perfect starbursts, layers of white-tipped purple petals unfurling from tight buds of a center. Biting off an elastic band, I detangled the stems. The girls would never understand the meaning of the dahlias (the meaning itself an ambiguous statement of encouragement); even so, I felt an unfamiliar lightness as I paced the long hall, slipping a stem under each closed bedroom door.

The remaining flowers I gave to the young woman who’d worked the night shift. She was standing by the kitchen window, waiting for her replacement.

“Thank you,” she said when I handed her the bouquet, confusion in her voice. She twirled the stiff stems between her palms.

Meredith arrived at ten o’clock, as she’d told me she would. I waited on the front porch, a cardboard box balanced on my thighs. In eighteen years I’d collected mostly books: the Dictionary of Flowers and Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers, both sent to me by Elizabeth a month after I left her home; botany textbooks from libraries all over the East Bay; thin paperback volumes of Victorian poetry stolen from quiet bookstores. Stacks of folded clothes covered the books, a collection of found and stolen items, some that fit, many that did not. Meredith was taking me to The Gathering House, a transitional home in the Outer Sunset. I’d been on the waiting list since I was ten.

“Happy birthday,” Meredith said as I put my box on the backseat of her county car. I didn’t say anything. We both knew that it might or might not have been my birthday. My first court report listed my age as approximately three weeks; my birth date and location were unknown, as were my biological parents. August 1 had been chosen for purposes of emancipation, not celebration.

I slunk into the front seat next to Meredith and closed the door, waiting for her to pull away from the curb. Her acrylic fingernails tapped against the steering wheel. I buckled my seat belt. Still, the car did not move. I turned to face Meredith. I had not changed out of my pajamas, and I pulled my flannel-covered knees up to my chest and wrapped my jacket around my legs. My eyes scanned the roof of Meredith’s car as I waited for her to speak.
“Well, are you ready?” she asked.

I shrugged.

“This is it, you know,” she said. “Your life starts here. No one to blame but yourself from here on out.”

Meredith Combs, the social worker responsible for selecting the stream of adoptive families that gave me back, wanted to talk to me about blame.

Read the reviews!

“A deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you’ve burned every bridge behind you, The Language of Flowers took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition. I loved this book.”

—Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“The Language of Flowers is the first book by this author and it’s hitting the Internet by storm. Exceptionally well-written, it’s a book that should definitely be shared with others. Complex and romantic, it’s sure to be on the list of this year’s best reads.”

–Reading Frenzy


“The Language of Flowers is an excellent book, full of emotion, characters that have dimension, and a fresh premise in a world of tired story lines.”

–Backseat Writer

“…5 out 5 stars.”
–Reviews from the Heart

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.


You can visit Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website at www.VanessaDiffenbaugh.com.

The Language of Flowers Virtual Book Tour September 2011

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The Language of Flowers banner

Join Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of the women’s fiction book, The Languauge of Flowers  (Ballantine Books, August 23, 2011), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in September on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Vanessa DiffenbaughVanessa Diffenbaugh photo

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

You can visit Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website at www.VanessaDiffenbaugh.com.

About The Language of Flowers

Language of Flowers cover artThe Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Read an Excerpt!

For eight years I dreamed of fire. Trees ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Indian and Carolina jasmine, separation and attachment. They could not be confused.

Standing in the middle of the room, I located the source of the fire. A neat row of wooden matches lined the foot of the bed. They ignited, one after the next, a glowing picket fence across the piped edging. Watching them light, I felt a terror unequal to the size of the flickering flames, and for a paralyzing moment I was ten years old again, desperate and hopeful in a way I had never been before and would never be again.

But the bare synthetic mattress did not ignite like the thistle had in late October. It smoldered, and then the fire went out.

It was my eighteenth birthday.

In the living room, a row of fidgeting girls sat on the sagging couch. Their eyes scanned my body and settled on my bare, unburned feet. One girl looked relieved; another disappointed. If I’d been staying another week, I would have remembered each expression. I would have retaliated with rusty nails in the soles of shoes or small pebbles in bowls of chili. Once, I’d held the end of a glowing metal clothes hanger to a sleeping roommate’s shoulder, for an offense less severe than arson.

But in an hour, I’d be gone. The girls knew this, every one.

From the center of the couch, a girl stood up. She looked young—?fifteen, sixteen at most—and was pretty in a way I didn’t see much of: good posture, clear skin, new clothes. I didn’t immediately recognize her, but when she crossed the room there was something familiar about the way she walked, arms bent and aggressive. Though she’d just moved in, she was not a stranger; it struck me that I’d lived with her before, in the years after Elizabeth, when I was at my most angry and violent.

Inches from my body, she stopped, her chin jutting into the space between us.

“The fire,” she said evenly, “was from all of us. Happy birthday.”

Behind her, the row of girls on the couch squirmed. A hood was pulled up, a blanket wrapped tighter. Morning light flickered across a line of lowered eyes, and the girls looked suddenly young, trapped. The only ways out of a group home like this one were to run away, age out, or be institutionalized. Level 14 kids weren’t adopted; they rarely, if ever, went home. These girls knew their prospects. In their eyes was nothing but fear: of me, of their housemates, of the life they had earned or been given. I felt an unexpected rush of pity. I was leaving; they had no choice but to stay.

I tried to push my way toward the door, but the girl stepped to the side, blocking my path.

“Move,” I said.

A young woman working the night shift poked her head out of the kitchen. She was probably not yet twenty, and more terrified of me than any of the girls in the room.

“Please,” she said, her voice begging. “This is her last morning. Just let her go.”

I waited, ready, as the girl before me pulled her stomach in, fists clenched tight. But after a moment, she shook her head and turned away. I walked around her.

I had an hour before Meredith would come for me. Opening the front door, I stepped outside. It was a foggy San Francisco morning, the concrete porch cool on my bare feet. I paused, thinking. I’d planned to gather a response for the girls, something biting and hateful, but I felt strangely forgiving. Maybe it was because I was eighteen, because, all at once, it was over for me, that I was able to feel tenderness toward their crime. Before I left, I wanted to say something to combat the fear in their eyes.

Walking down Fell, I turned onto Market. My steps slowed as I reached a busy intersection, unsure of where to go. Any other day I would have plucked annuals from Duboce Park, scoured the overgrown lot at Page and Buchanan, or stolen herbs from the neighborhood market. For most of a decade I’d spent every spare moment memorizing the meanings and scientific descriptions of individual flowers, but the knowledge went mostly unutilized. I used the same flowers again and again: a bouquet of marigold, grief; a bucket of thistle, misanthropy; a pinch of dried basil, hate. Only occasionally did my communication vary: a pocketful of red carnations for the judge when I realized I would never go back to the vineyard, and peony for Meredith, as often as I could find it. Now, searching Market Street for a florist, I scoured my mental dictionary.

After three blocks I came to a liquor store, where paper-wrapped bouquets wilted in buckets under the barred windows. I paused in front of the store. They were mostly mixed arrangements, their messages conflicting. The selection of solid bouquets was small: standard roses in red and pink, a wilting bunch of striped carnations, and, bursting from its paper cone, a cluster of purple dahlias. Dignity. Immediately, I knew it was the message I wanted to give. Turning my back to the angled mirror above the door, I tucked the flowers inside my coat and ran.

I was out of breath by the time I returned to the house. The living room was empty, and I stepped inside to unwrap the dahlias. The flowers were perfect starbursts, layers of white-tipped purple petals unfurling from tight buds of a center. Biting off an elastic band, I detangled the stems. The girls would never understand the meaning of the dahlias (the meaning itself an ambiguous statement of encouragement); even so, I felt an unfamiliar lightness as I paced the long hall, slipping a stem under each closed bedroom door.

The remaining flowers I gave to the young woman who’d worked the night shift. She was standing by the kitchen window, waiting for her replacement.

“Thank you,” she said when I handed her the bouquet, confusion in her voice. She twirled the stiff stems between her palms.

Meredith arrived at ten o’clock, as she’d told me she would. I waited on the front porch, a cardboard box balanced on my thighs. In eighteen years I’d collected mostly books: the Dictionary of Flowers and Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers, both sent to me by Elizabeth a month after I left her home; botany textbooks from libraries all over the East Bay; thin paperback volumes of Victorian poetry stolen from quiet bookstores. Stacks of folded clothes covered the books, a collection of found and stolen items, some that fit, many that did not. Meredith was taking me to The Gathering House, a transitional home in the Outer Sunset. I’d been on the waiting list since I was ten.

“Happy birthday,” Meredith said as I put my box on the backseat of her county car. I didn’t say anything. We both knew that it might or might not have been my birthday. My first court report listed my age as approximately three weeks; my birth date and location were unknown, as were my biological parents. August 1 had been chosen for purposes of emancipation, not celebration.

I slunk into the front seat next to Meredith and closed the door, waiting for her to pull away from the curb. Her acrylic fingernails tapped against the steering wheel. I buckled my seat belt. Still, the car did not move. I turned to face Meredith. I had not changed out of my pajamas, and I pulled my flannel-covered knees up to my chest and wrapped my jacket around my legs. My eyes scanned the roof of Meredith’s car as I waited for her to speak.

“Well, are you ready?” she asked.

I shrugged.

“This is it, you know,” she said. “Your life starts here. No one to blame but yourself from here on out.”

Meredith Combs, the social worker responsible for selecting the stream of adoptive families that gave me back, wanted to talk to me about blame.

Read the Reviews!

“A deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you’ve burned every bridge behind you, The Language of Flowers took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition. I loved this book.”

—Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Watch the video trailer on YouTube!

The Language of Flowers Tour Schedule

Monday, September 5th

Book spotlighted at The Book Connection

Tuesday, September 6th

Book reviewed at A Journey Into Reading

Wednesday, September 7th

Book reviewed at Reading Frenzybooks

Thursday, September 8th

Book reviewed and giveaway at Backseat Writer

Friday, September 9th

Book reviewed at Reviews from the Heart

Monday, September 12th

Book spotlighted at Books, Products, and More

Tuesday, September 13th

Book spotlighted at The Hot Author Report

Wednesday, September 14th

Book spotlighted at Paperback Writer

Thursday, September 15th

Book spotlighted at The Writer’s Life

Friday, September 16th

Book reviewed at Geek Girl Reviews

Monday, September 19th

Book spotlighted at Review from Here

Tuesday, September 20th

Book reviewed at Splashes of Joy

Book reviewed at Christa Allan’s blog

Wednesday, September 21st

Book reviewed at Just Another Book Addict

Thursday, September 22nd

Book reviewed at Hey, I want to read that

Friday, September 23rd

Book reviewed at Always with a Book

Monday, September 26th

Book reviewed at So Many Books..So Little Time

Tuesday, September 27th

Book reviewed at D’Ambrosia Arts

Wednesday, September 28th

Book reviewed at Book Journey

Thursday, September 29th

Book spotlighted at Between the Covers

Book spotlighted at Broowaha

Friday, September 30th

Book reviewed at Colloquium

Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR will officially begin on September 5th and end on September 30th, 2011. We hope you’ll join us!

Your Average Joe Unplugged Virtual Book Tour September 2011

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Average Joe banner 2

Join Joseph D. Schneller, author of the humorous and insightful Christian devotional,  Your Average Joe: Unplugged (Nordskog Publishing, July 2011) as he virtually tours the blogosphere in September on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Joseph Schneller

Joseph Schneller served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a Psychology degree from Whitworth. He is an alumnus of the Christian Writers Guild. His publishing credits include Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, Clubhouse, and Focus on the Family; LifeWay’s Stand Firm; and Walk Thru the Bible’s Indeed. He writes nonfiction and humor for adults, and fiction for children, youth, and adults. He and his wife, Kippi, live in Colorado with their two young boys.

Your Average Joe: Unplugged is his first book. You can visit Joseph Schneller’s website at www.josephschneller.com

Average Joe coverAbout Your Average Joe: Unplugged

Joseph writes for those tired of the canned answers for everyday believers desiring to live in faith amidst the joys and pains, the responsibilities and tragedies of life. Through 30 daily devotionals and a half-dozen humorous articles, he presents honest, often humorous encouragement for our Christian pilgrimage through this fallen world.

Read an Excerpt!

Trash Talk*
(Women Are Not Allowed To Read This)

OK, now that it’s just us guys, let’s get down to business. You are a newly married man. While this is a great thing in many regards, you’ve quickly learned that your bachelor ways are Downright Wrong.

Living with your new bride is not the same as rooming with Al and Pigpen. In fact, every rule of communication, time management, and cleanliness is currently undergoing a Drastic Overhaul. Tearing up a little? It’s OK. We’ll handle these one at a time. Today’s topic: garbage.

At some point after the honeymoon (usually Day #2), your wife addressed the Division of Household Responsibilities. One of yours is taking out the trash. Why are you responsible for the garbage? Because it’s in your genes, just like it’s in your wife’s genes to decorate the house with tiny books entitled Friendship Is Forever, Precious Puppies, and Fuzzy Things That Squeak. (Side Note: At some point, you will be tempted to place one of these books beneath the short leg of the kitchen table. But unless you enjoy indoor cold fronts, leave the books alone.)

Read These Endorsements!

“Schneller writes and talks like a guy who rolls up his sleeves, goes to work, faces challenges, feels pain, works through struggles, gets tired, reaches goals, and finds victory through faith and gut-level logic. His devotions are laced with humor, honest confessions, Biblical lessons, and modern applications. . . . he’s got a brand of street smart theology that is very appealing.”

–Dr. Dennis E. Hensley Author of Man to Man

“If you’re looking for an honest, funny, encouraging devotional that does more than tell you to try harder to be a good Christian, look no further than Your Average Joe Unplugged . With helpful thoughts and strategic Bible verses related to real-life topics such as career, marriage, and dealing with fear, you’ll find yourself encouraged even as you laugh and realize that you’re not alone in your struggles.”

–Matt Erickson, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries

“I highly recommend this book. It is filled with timeless truths of the Scriptures; transparent, from-the-heart stories; and delightful humor. Joe has an authentic writing style that mixes real-life situations with Bible truths. While reading Your Average Joe Unplugged , you will laugh out loud, be deeply touched, and be drawn into a closer relationship with Jesus.”

–Patty R. Wife, mother, church administrator

 

Your Average Joe: Unplugged Tour Schedule

Monday, September 5th

Book reviewed at Books, Products and More!

Tuesday, September 6th

Book excerpt featured at Between the Covers

Book reviewed at Splashes of Joy

Wednesday, September 7th

Interviewed at The Book Connection

Thursday, September 8th

Interviewed at The Hot Author Report

Friday, September 9th

Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking

Monday, September 12th

Interviewed at As the Pages Turn

Tuesday, September 13th

Interviewed at Blogcriticsbooks

Wednesday, September 14th

Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book

Thursday, September 15th

Guest blogging at Paperback Writer

Friday, September 16th

Guest blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, September 19th

Guest blogging at Literal Exposure

Tuesday, September 20th

Book spotlighted at Pump Up Your Books, Blurbs and Bytes

Wednesday, September 21st

Spotlighted at Broowaha

Thursday, September 22nd

Interviewed at Examiner

Friday, September 23rd

Guest blogging at Review from Here

Monday, September 26th

Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Tuesday, September 27th

Guest blogging at Let’s Talk Virtual Book Tours

Wednesday, September 28th

Book reviewed at 4 the Love of Books

Thursday, September 29th

Book spotlighted at American Chronicle

Joseph Schneller’s YOUR AVERAGE JOE: UNPLUGGED  VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR will officially begin on September 5th and end on September 30th, 2011. We hope you join us!

The Queen’s Gamble Virtual Book Tour September 2011

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

The Queen's Gamble

Join Barbara Kyle, author of the historical novel, The Queen’s Gamble (Kensington Books, August 30, 2011) as she virtually tours the blogosphere in September on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Barbara KyleBarbara

Barbara Kyle is the author of the Tudor-era “Thornleigh” series of novels, which have been published internationally: The Queen’s Captive, The Queen’s Lady, and The King’s Daughter, praised by Publishers Weekly as “a complex and fast-paced plot, mixing history with vibrant characters.” Her new novel, The Queen’s Gamble, will be released on 30 August 2011.

Barbara previously won acclaim for her contemporary novels under pen name ‘Stephen Kyle’, including Beyond Recall (a Literary Guild Selection), After Shock and The Experiment. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold.

Barbara has taught courses for writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations. Her popular series of video workshops “Writing Fiction That Sells” is available through her website. Before becoming an author, Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

Visit www.BarbaraKyle.com.

About The Queen’s Gamble

QueenYoung Queen Elizabeth I’s path to the throne has been a perilous one, and already she faces a dangerous crisis. French troops have landed in Scotland to quell a rebel Protestant army, and Elizabeth fears that once they are entrenched on the border, they will invade England.

Isabel Thornleigh has returned to London from the New World with her Spanish husband, Carlos Valverde, and their young son. Ever the queen’s loyal servant, Isabel is recruited to smuggle money to the Scottish rebels. Yet Elizabeth’s trust only goes so far—Isabel’s son will be the queen’s pampered hostage until she completes her mission. Matters grow worse when Isabel’s husband is engaged as military advisor to the French, putting the couple on opposite sides in a deadly cold war.

Set against a lush, vibrant backdrop peopled with unforgettable characters and historical figures, The Queen’s Gamble is a story of courage, greed, passion, and the high price of loyalty…

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One Isabel Valverde was coming home. The brief, terrible letter from her brother had brought her across five thousand miles of ocean, from the New World to the Old, and during the long voyage she thought she had prepared herself for the worst. But now that London lay just beyond the next bend of the River Thames, she dreaded what awaited her. The not knowing – that was the hardest. Would she find her mother still a prisoner awaiting execution? Horrifying though that was, Isabel could at least hope to see her one last time. Or had her mother already been hanged? The ship was Spanish, the San Juan Bautista, the cabin snug and warm, its elegant teak paneling a cocoon that almost muffled the brutal beat of England’s winter rain on the deck above. Isabel stood by the berth, buttoning her cloak, steeling herself. The captain had said they were less than an hour from London’s customs wharf and she would soon have to prepare to disembark. Everything was packed; three trunks sat waiting by the open door, and behind her she could hear her servant, sixteen-year-old Pedro, closing the lid of the fourth and last one. She listened to the rain’s faint drumbeat, knowing that she heard it in a way the Spanish passengers could not – heard it as a call, connecting her to her past, to her family’s roots. The Spaniards would not understand. England meant nothing to them other than a market for their goods, and she had to admit it was a backward place compared to the magnificence of their empire. The gold and silver of the New World flowed back to the Old like a river with the treasure fleets that sailed twice a year from Peru and Mexico, making Philip of Spain the richest and most powerful monarch in Europe. Isabel felt the tug of both worlds, for a part of her lived in each, her young self in the Old, her adult self in the New. She had left England at twenty with her Spanish husband and almost nothing else, but he had done well in Peru, and after five years among its wealthy Spaniards, Isabel was one of them. Money, she thought. It’s how the world turns. Can it turn Mother’s fate? She had clung to that hope for the voyage, and now, listening to the English rain, she was seized by a panicky need to have the gold in her hands. She heard her servant clicking a key into the lock of the last trunk. She whirled around. “Pedro, my gold,” she said. She grabbed his arm to stop him turning the key. “Where is it?” He looked at her, puzzled. “Señora?” “The gold I set aside. In the blue leather pouch.” She snatched the ring of keys from him and unlocked the trunk. She rummaged among her gowns, searching for the pouch. The soft silks and velvets slid through her hands. She dug down into the layers of linen smocks and stockings and night-dresses. No pouch. Abandoning the rucked-up clothes, she unlocked another trunk and pawed through her husband’s things, his doublets and breeches and capes and boots. The pouch was not here either. “Open that one,” she said, tossing the keys to Pedro. “We have to find it.” She went to the brocade satchel that lay at the foot of the berth and flipped its clasps and dug inside. “Señora, it’s not in there. Just papers.” “Look for it!” she ordered. He flinched at her tone, and she felt like a tyrant. Not for the first time. He was a Peruvian with the small build of his Indian people which made him look more like a child than a lad of sixteen. He had the placid nature of his people, too, and a deference to authority that had been bred into his ancestors by the rigid Inca culture. When the Spaniards had invaded thirty years ago they had exploited that deference, easily making the Indians their slaves and themselves rich. Isabel hated slavery. Pedro was her servant, but a free person nonetheless. English justice said so. But his docile ways sometimes sparked her impatience, goading her to take the tone of his Spanish overlords, and when she did so she hated herself. “Take out everything,” she told him, less sharply. “Look at the bottom.” “Si, Señora,” he said, obeying. His native tongue was Quechua. Isabel’s was English. Neither of them knew the other’s language. They spoke in Spanish.

Read the Reviews!

“Unfurls a complex and fast-paced plot, mixing history with vibrant characters.”

–Publishers Weekly on The King’s Daughter

“Kyle is adept at layering her tale with colorful descriptions, accurate details and exciting twists within a fast-paced plot designed to keep readers’ attention.”

–Romantic Times on The Queen’s Captive

“Riveting, heady, glorious, inspired.”

–Susan Wiggs on The Queen’s Lady

“Action-packed adventure that expertly blends fiction with history.”

–Publishers Weekly on The Queen’s Gamble “Beyond Her Book” blog

The Queen’s Gamble Tour Schedule

Monday, September 5th

Guest blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Tuesday, September 6th

Book reviewed at Reviews by Molly

Wednesday, September 7thbooks

Interviewed at The Hot Author Report

Thursday, September 8th

Book spotlighted at Books, Products and More!

Friday, September 9th

Book reviewed at Broken Teepee

Monday, September 12th

Book reviewed at By the Book

Book spotlighted at The Plot

Tuesday, September 13th

Book reviewed at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Character interviewed at The Plot

Wednesday, September 14th

Book reviewed at Always with A Book

Thursday, September 15th

Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book!

Friday, September 16th

Book reviewed at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Monday, September 19th

Interviewed at Paperback Writer

Tuesday, September 20th

Book reviewed at The Muse in the Fog Book Review

Wednesday, September 21st

Book reviewed at Books, Belles, and Beaux

Thursday, September 22nd

Guest blogging at Literal Exposure

Friday, September 23rd

Book reviewed at Debbie’s Book Bag

Monday, September 26th

Book reviewed at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, September 27th

Book reviewed at Splashes of Joy

Wednesday, September 28th

Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking

Thursday, September 29th

Book reviewed at The Book Connection

Friday, September 30th

Book reviewed at Life in Review

Book reviewed at CelticLady’s Reviews

Barbara Kyle’s THE QUEEN’S GAMBLE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR will officially begin on September 5th and end on September 30th, 2011. We hope you’ll join us!

Book Spotlight: Peter: Rock Star from Galilee by Sherree Funk

August 24, 2011 1 comment

If the New Testament were a Broadway musical, Peter would be one of the stars. He lived life loud, while making his best effort to be one of the best disciples. Peter was like a modern day rock star, but his struggles were just like ours. If Jesus could shape Peter into a solid rock of a disciple, he can surely do the same for you.

From his first call to follow, Peter was acutely aware of his own sinfulness. He wanted Jesus to go away, but ended up following. What makes people push Jesus away today? What makes them decide to follow? These are the kinds of “chew on this” questions you’ll find in Week One of Peter: Rock Star from Galilee.
Music always speaks to a deep place in the heart. Let music accompany your Bible study. Peter: Rock Star from Galilee will guide you through the ups and downs of Peter’s life story with a playlist of songs and hymns paralleling each chapter.

To better understand the feelings Peter had after denying Jesus three times, listen to Josh Wilson’s “Before the Morning.” Feel the love Christ had for all people even as he died by listening to the lyrics of “Amazing Love” by Chris Tomlin. By the end of the eight week study, you will create your own playlist of at least eight songs to bring back all you learned about Peter.

This eight-week study includes:

• Interactive questions for personal study and “chew on this” questions for small group discussion
• Photographs, maps, and informative sidebars for historical and geographical context
• Hands-on mission activities and discipleship challenges to encourage teens’ growing faith

Read an excerpt!

I have always loved hymns and praise music. As a little girl, I memorized multiple verses of dozens of hymns. As an adult, when contemporary Christian music came of age, I kept Christian radio playing in my car. When my children were young, Houston’s KSBJ played the music we sang along to during carpool. Music has a way
of speaking to the heart, and the message lingers long after spoken or written words have been forgotten.

As I began writing Peter: Rock Star from Galilee, I kept noticing how some of my favorite Christian songs fit beautifully with lessons about Peter. Some songs refer to specific incidents in Peter’s life, some speak to feelings Peter might have had, and some link lessons Peter learned to life in today’s world.

With iTunes and iPods, today’s teenagers are wired for music most of the time. So each chapter of this Bible study starts with a playlist of songs. Incorporating music with study is a great way to make spiritual lessons stick.

Play it. Sing it. Live it.

How is this Study Guide Set Up?

Each of the eight chapters has the following:

A playlist in which each song pertains in some way to the lessons of the week. Try listening to them, paying attention to the lyrics.

A preview of the week’s study and a prayer to set you off in the right direction.

Five days of study with interactive, short-answer questions.

‘Chew on this’ questions for deeper thought.

Christian Reality Challenges for hands-on faith building.

Into My Life—your guide for the small-group meeting, including:

The Jam Session, a condensed list of questions for small-group discussion.

A replay summary of the week and a final prayer.

Read the reviews!

“Peter’s impulsiveness and failures make him an easy character for young men and women to relate to. As your students dive into this Bible study I have no doubt that they will be challenged and transformed by the lessons Sherree has assembled here.”

–Jayson Samuels, Co-Founder and Family Pastor, Northbridge Community Church, Cranberry, PA

“I highly recommend this book to Sunday School classes or Bible Studies involving teens or pre-teen…If you are looking for a new study that will capture your teen’s attention, this study is for you!”

-Splashes of Joy

“This is a great way to encourage a teen to spend more time in the Word and not have him feel like it’s a chore…”

-Confessions of an Overworked Mom

“Honestly one of the most unique studies for teens that I have found that utilizes a great man of the Bible and how we can be like him. Sherree is in the forefront of writing enjoyable and engaging Bible studies for teens that will help equip them for the battle ahead.”

-So Many Books..So Little Time

“If you are looking for a new study for the teens in your life, I highly recommend Peter: Rock Star From Galilee and give it a huge thumbs up!”

-A Mom After God’s Own Heart

“If you are looking for a deeper understanding of how God can use ordinary people in daily life, this is a book that is worth checking out.”

-Lynn’s Corner

Well-grounded in biblical Christianity, Sherree G. Funk is passionate about sharing her love and knowledge of God’s Word with the next generation. She has earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and holds a Certificate in Christian Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. Sherree leads small groups of teens at Ingomar UMC. Peter: Rock Star from Galilee is her latest release. Her other teen Bible studies are available at www.servingonelord.com.

The River of Forgettting, A Brave and Inspirational Memoir by Jane Rowan

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Jane Rowan is a New England poet and writer. After teaching science for three decades in a private college, she retired to pursue the creative life. She has
published numerous articles and the self-help booklet Caring for the Child Within—A Manual for Grownups, available through her website and through Amazon (Kindle). An excerpt from The River of Forgetting appeared in Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change. Visit Jane at www.janerowan.com
and find out more about her memoir at www.riverofforgetting.com.

About The River of Forgetting

People don’t make up things like that for fun.

That’s what Jane’s therapist tells her when Jane reports fragmentary memories from her childhood that hint at sexual abuse. A busy, successful scientist, Jane at first fights the implications, but finally has to admit that something indeed happened. With help from a gifted therapist as well as creative arts, Jane taps into her own aliveness and reconciles with both her parents’ love and their betrayal.

This deeply personal memoir invites the reader behind the closed doors of the therapist’s office and into the author’s journal and her very body. Jane’s tender story shows how we can use the challenges of painful childhood traumas to transform our lives.

270 pages

Read an excerpt from The River of Forgetting at www.riverofforgetting.com

Purchase this book at Amazon.com!

Also available in a Kindle edition!

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