Friday, March 30, 2007

ABCs of Achieving Your Dreams

These ABC's got me through so many hard times. I hope you'll find as much inspiration from it as I have.

A-void negative sources, people, things, and habits
B-elieve in yourself.
C-onsider things from every angle.
D-on't give up and don't give in.
E-njoy life today:yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.
F-amily and friends are hidden treasures. Seek them and enjoy their
G-ive more than you planned to give.
H-ang on to your dreams.
I-gnore those who try to discourage you.
J-ust do it!
K-eep on trying, no matter how hard it seems, it will get better.
L-ove yourself first and foremost.
M-ake it happen.
N-ever lie, cheat or steal. Always strike a fair deal.
O-pen your eyes and see things as they really are.
P-ractice makes perfect.
Q-uitters never win and winners never quit.
R-ead, study and learn about everything important in your life.
S-top procrastinating.
T-ake control of your own destiny.
U-nderstand yourself in order to better understand others.
V-isualize it.
W-ant it more than anything.
X-cellerate your efforts.
Y-ou are unique of all Nature's creations. Nothing can replace you.
Z-ero in on your target, and go for it!

posted by Rachelle
at 1:42 PM


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thought of the Day

He who awaits much can expect little. -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

. . . What am I waiting for?! . . .

Results are the product of action. If you want to change the results you are experiencing, change your actions – or change inaction into action.

Try this . . .

Could I allow myself to take this action? (Yes, you sure could!)
Am I willing to take this action?
- If the answer is “no”, then what action am I willing to take?
When will I take this action!?

posted by Rachelle
at 1:45 PM


What Color Green Are You?

You Are Mint Green

Balanced and calm, you have mastered the philosophy of living well. Your friends seek you out for support, and you are able to bring stability to chaotic situations. You're very open and cheerful - and you feel like you have a lot of freedom in life. Your future may hold any number of exciting things, and you're ready for all of them!

posted by Rachelle
at 10:35 AM


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Book Review: Never Ceese by Sue Dent

After a 3-day late night gloom, I finally finished reading Suzanne Dent's debut novel, Never Ceese and as with any good book, it was sad to reach the end of it. Not being a fan of the genre, I initially digressed the idea of reading it. First, because the cover looked like my nemesis, warped in certain angles . Second, because it looked like a saga-type novel and I'm a short-span reader . Third, because it seemed a stereotypical story of vampires and werewolves up in arms. But I decided to peruse it anyway just to see if it actually offers anything new. I'm not sure what it was that sucked me in but I was immediately hooked! It was one of those rare fantasy books that explores faith and gets at deeper truths in life without trying too much and still leaves you breathless and wanting for more. Now, I could hardly wait for the second installment of this series (Is it done yet Sue?). How fun is it to find a new author to love?


A determined werewolf, acting on her long-held wish to free herself of her curse, teams up with a skeptical vampire who can no longer admit that having his curse removed is something he wants.

Will Cassie Felts be able to help them as her grandmother implored her to do or will they suffer at the hands of a radical and evil stem cell researcher who want the fame and immortality he believes their blood will give him?


Never Ceese breathes some new life into the classic urban fantasy werewolf/vampire genre, synthesizing paranormal and Christian fiction to create a YA-spiritual fantasy that does not only entertain and delight but also mystify the mind and stir the soul.

Sue Dent has brought Christian fantasy to a whole new level in her debut novel, Never Ceese. Humorous, but refreshingly defiant, the story is elaborately played out through flashbacks and narratives with excellent dialogue that almost feels like a movie on its own. With an intriguing and well-researched historical/scientific extrapolation, the story explores spiritual concepts without bogging the reader down in endless detail. One-dimensional folkloric beings are skillfully recreated into realistic three-dimensional characters that the reader cannot help but sympathize with. The plot line, on the other hand, twists and turns, with evil plans, double crosses and plenty of back stabbing between humans, vampires and werewolves.

From the character interactions, to the adventure and plot line, to the emotional roller coaster of Richard, Ceese, Penelope, and Cassie, Never Ceese is a sure winner! If you haven't read a horror vampire/werewolf story, this is a great book to start with and if you've read plenty in this genre, this would definitely make it to your keeper shelf.


This first foray into Sue Dent's series is truly a work of literary art. My only significant disappointment with it is the cover. (or maybe it's just me) The image looked undersampled and the title's font style has no immediate appeal in a somewhat similar manner as items near the checkout that trigger impulse buying. Apart from that, it's a great book worth spending bucks on! Die-hard romantics might want to give this one a miss though; it’s really not a romance but vampire/werewolf junkies will love this one immensely!


I'm not really the type to shower stars like confetti but I'm giving this fast paced, exciting and enjoyable read my highest rating, 5 STARS!
Never Ceese has all the elements of an exciting great book

posted by Rachelle
at 2:49 PM


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Eye Candy

Here's a hottie for your viewing pleasure...the ultimate beefcake!

Question: Do you think I should post more pictures like this?

posted by Rachelle
at 1:36 PM


Saturday, March 24, 2007

It Happens Every Spring by Gary Chapman and Catherine Palmer

(Tyndale Fiction, 2007)


GARY CHAPMAN is the author of the New York Times best seller The Five Love Languages and numerous other books. He's the director of Marriage & Family Life Consultants, Inc., and host of A Growing Marriage, a syndicated radio program heard on over 100 stations across North America. He and his wife, Karolyn, live in North Carolina.

CATHERINE PALMER is the Christy Award-winning, CBA best-selling author of more than forty novels--including The Bachelor's Bargain--which have more than 2 million copies in print. She lives in Missouri with her husband, Tim, and two sons.


IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING is the first of The Four Seasons fiction series, based on the ever-changing cycles of relationships detailed in Gary Chapman's nonfiction book The Four Seasons of Marriage. The novels will focus on four couples, each moving in and out of a different season.

Word travels fast at the Just As I Am beauty shop. it happens every spring

So when a simple homeless man appears on Steve and Brenda Hansen's doorstep, the entire shop is set abuzz, especially when Brenda lets him sleep on their porch.

That's not all the neighbors are talking about. Spring may be blooming outdoors, but an icy chill has settled over the Hansens' marriage. Steve is keeping late hours with clients, and the usually upbeat Brenda is feeling the absence of her husband and her college-age kids.

Add to that the unsavory business moving in next to the beauty shop and the entire community gets turned upside down. Now Brenda's friends must unite to pull her out of her rut and keep the unwanted sotre out of town. But can Steve and Brenda learn to thaw their chilly marriage and enjoy the hope spring offers?

The book link is:

posted by Rachelle
at 4:37 PM


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

3 Contests and 3 Prizes Up for Grabs this Month

This month, I'm holding 3 fab contests which will last until April 17, 2007. If you have been following my blog posts, you know that I love to give away FREE stuff. This month I'm giving away more FREE stuff to all of you! Be sure you get yours!

Contest 1
Trackers by Kathryn Mackel
Post and Win Contest -- The usual procedure: Post anytime this month to be entered for this month's giveaway. Leave a comment on any of my blog posts, giving your name and saying you want to enter. Don't forget to leave your email address where I can contact you if you win. Winner will receive a brand new paperback copy of Kathryn Mackel's novel, TRACKERS.

Contest 2
Subscribe to Stifled Squeal -- Win a hardcover copy of Abiding Darkness Abiding Darkness by John Aubrey Anderson by John Aubrey Anderson just for subscribing to my blog. All you have to do is enter your email ad on the box located on the upper left corner of this page to receive notification when posts are updated. I will draw a winner from all new subscribers this month.

Contest 3
Refer a Friend Contest -- Do you know someone who likes to win stuff? bath and body works gift cardTell them about my monthly giveaway and the mechanics of my contests (post and win) and once they comment and mention your name in one of their posts, you get 2 extra entries in the drawing for a $25 Bath and Body Works gift card.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, international readers are welcome to enter. So, what are you waiting for? Comment and spread the word...pronto!


posted by Rachelle
at 2:43 PM


Saturday, March 17, 2007

You might be a writer if ...

(Note: Got this from a writer-friend's newsletter - Sharon Hinck.)

I’ve been pondering the clues that led me to decide I had a calling to write. I found and compiled a few old adages, collected ideas from friends, and sprinkled in a few of my unique experiences (and won’t admit to most of them). Here is my helpful guide for discerning your calling.

You might be a writer if . . .

1. You stop random strangers to tell them about your plot ideas
2. You believe that jail time is an appropriate punishment for misuse of the apostrophe
3. You participate in four different online critique groups simultaneously
4. You wake in the middle of the night with a brilliant line of dialogue and get up to write it down
5. People change tables in a restaurant because they notice you were writing down their conversation word for word
6. When you go grocery shopping you notice things one of your characters would like – and put it in your cart
7. You write a post-it note to one of your characters and leave it on the kitchen table to remind her of something she needs to do in her next chapter. (Okay, I confess. I did this one. My husband says it’s okay for me to write notes to my characters, as long as they don’t start writing notes to me).
8. There is no such thing as a “quick trip” to a bookstore
9. You wish Channel made a perfume with the scent of printer ink
10. One minute you’re convinced that every word you write is dreck and the next minute you’re sure your manuscript has the makings of a best seller
11. Your car is rear-ended and your first thought is what metaphor you would use to describe the sound
12. You bring a notebook to your child’s piano recital and jot a scene while the other kids are playing
13. You walk by the book aisle in Target and burst into tears because your heart has such a powerful yearning to see your stories on a book shelf one day
14. A police car with sirens blaring drives in to a scene you’re writing – and you didn’t see it coming.
15. You get paid for telling people what the voices in your head are saying.

posted by Rachelle
at 7:31 PM


The Reliance by M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall

(Barbour, January 1, 2007)


A YOUNG BRIDE separated from her husband just as a child has been conceived...

A GRIEVING HUSBAND tempted to take his anger out through the vices of his past...

A MARRIAGE AND A SHIP threatenend to be split apart by villainous Caribbean pirates...

THE RELIANCE, Edmund Merrick tormented by the apparent demise of his pregnant wife Charlisse, sails away to drown his sorrows. He turns his back on God and reverts to a life of villainy, joining forces with the demented French pirate Collier. When his mind clears from its rum-induced haze, will Edmund find the will to escape?

Seemingly abandoned by her new husband, Charlisse battles her own insecurities as she is thrown into the clutches of the vengeful pirate Kent, who holds her and Lady Isabel captive.

Will she be swept away by the undertow of treachery and despair? Can Edmund and Charlisse battle the tempests that threaten to tear them apart and steer their way to the faith-filled haven they so desperately seek? Or will they ultimately lose their love and lives to the whirlpool of treachery and deceit?


M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she's only give her heart to Him completely.

The book link is:

Mary Lu's website is:

posted by Rachelle
at 2:33 PM


Friday, March 16, 2007

Photo Friday

Bodiam Castle is situated beside the River Rother in East Sussex and was built in the late 14th century by a veteran of King Edward III's wars with France, originally as a coastal defence. In 1385, Sir Edward Dalyngrygge was given permission to fortify his house against invasion from France, but then decided to build a new stone castle a short distance away from the house.

What can be seen today is a relatively small, picturesque building that symbolises the movement from traditional medieval castle to comfortable manor house. With an almost square construction, Bodiam Castle has a notable symmetry and is surrounded by a wide moat. The moat was created from an artificial lake which, in turn, originated from allowing the river to flow into a rectangular area of marshy land.

At each corner of the curtain wall stands a four-storey, cylindrical tower, with rectangular towers located mid-way along each wall. The southern rectangular tower of the Postern Gate at one time carried the drawbridge across the moat. Symmetrically opposite stands the Gatehouse with its twin, rectangular towers consuming one third of the northern wall. A deep arch and parapet connect the towers of the Gatehouse. The gun-ports on the towers were a later edition to the castle. Access to Bodiam Castle today remains via the moat on the north side, passing through the Octagon and the Barbican before reaching the Gatehouse. The Barbican was originally constructed as a two-storey gatehouse but only the lower part of the western wall survives. Bodiam Castle has no keep, thus employing the gatehouse as a defence to the bailey within the castle walls.

The fortifications were never tested to any degree, although during the Civil War the interior of the castle was virtually gutted. After surrending, Bodiam Castle was then left to deteriorate until the early 20th century. At that time, Earl Curzon undertook a sympathetic re-building programme in order to restore Bodiam Castle to its former medieval appearance. However, little remains of the interior buildings other than remnants of fireplaces and doorways. The doorway to the Great Hall and some doorways and windows of the kitchen area are still standing.

The excavation works of Earl Curzon also uncovered a wide range of artefacts in the grounds of the castle, which can be seen in Bodiam Castle museum. Walking around the landscaped grounds - which are believed to follow the design by Sir Dalyngrygge to compliment his original construction of the castle - some spectacular views of Bodiam Castle can be seen. The construction of Bodiam Castle appears to have been a perfect combination of medieval defence strategies and remarkably comfortable accommodation, thus creating a magnificent fortified building in an idyllic rural location.

***Text courtesy of English Heritage
***Photos courtesy of Innes Dinn

posted by Rachelle
at 7:23 PM


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How to Lose One Pound a Week

Lose one pound a week, by trimming 500 calories from your daily diet. Try some of the following food and beverage swaps.


LOSE: bagel with cream cheese and coffee with cream and sugar.
CHOOSE: toasted English Muffin with light cream cheese and coffee with skim milk or nonfat creamer.

Save 500 calories


LOSE: 20-ounce soda, one cup orange juice, and second glass of wine
CHOOSE: unlimited H2O, naturally flavored seltzer and unsweetened tea

Save 500 calories

Daily Lunch Sandwich:

LOSE: sub roll, the mayo, high fat meats and cheese (bologna, salami, pastrami, etc.)
CHOOSE: whole wheat bread, spicy mustard, lean turkey or ham, reduced fat cheese.

Save 500 calories


LOSE: candy bar, chips and 20 oz soda
CHOOSE: baby carrots, string cheese and an apple

Save 500 calories


LOSE: Steak, fried potatoes, dinner roll, buttery vegetables
CHOOSE: Grilled chicken or fish, baked potato with tablespoon sour cream, sautéed spinach (in 1-2 teaspoons olive oil and garlic)

Save 500 calories

posted by Rachelle
at 3:24 PM


Monday, March 12, 2007

Diets Don’t Work!

That’s right, diets don’t work! Why?

Tell me something, how many diets have you been on in your life? Are
you on one now? Have you achieved and maintained your ideal weight yet?

More importantly, what happens when you stop your diet?

Gosh, imagine being on a diet for the rest of your life! It gives me
the screaming heebie-jeebies just thinking about it!

A diet doesn’t work because they always have an end. You’re always on a
diet for a few weeks, a couple of months, or before that party, wedding
or diet. When a diet ends, you go back to eating the same old food you
ate before, and guess what? Your weight goes up again.

The permanent solution to your weight programs is to start a healthy
living program.

This is not a scary concept and doesn’t involve a lifetime of lettuce
leaves. It involves listening to your body and giving it food that it
wants and that is best for it. It doesn’t mean denying yourself food and
pleasure. It means you choose what food you are going to eat. It means
you take responsibility for what you shovel into your body.

You can choose to eat chocolate, or you can choose not to. You can
choose to eat a lovely salad, or you can choose not to.

Choosing the food you eat puts you in control of yourself. When you are
on a diet you are far too busy suffering and saying, “I can’t have
that”, “I mustn’t have that”, or “I’m not allowed that” to be in control of
your eating.

Take control of your life, get off your diet, and choose what you eat.
You’ll discover a permanent solution to your weight problems through
this responsible attitude and find you enjoy life more.

posted by Rachelle
at 10:33 PM


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Up Your Fiber For Nutrition and Weight Loss

Fiber can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, plus it helps fill you up, so you eat less and lose weight!

If your daily diet falls short on the recommended 25-35 grams, boost your intake with high fiber cereals, whole wheat bread, brown and wild rice, whole wheat pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables. Also, take advantage of your local salad bar - build a power salad using the following fiber guide:

Food Fiber in Grams:

Romaine lettuce (2 cups): 2
Spinach leaves (2 cup): 5.5
Artichoke hearts (1/2 cup): 4.5
Onions (1/2 cup): 1
Carrots (1/2 cup): 2
Mushrooms (1/2 cup): 1.5
Corn (1/2 cup): 2
Peppers (1/2 cup): 1
Beets (1/2 cup): 2
Broccoli (1/2 cup): 1.5
Black beans (1/2 cup): 7
Navy beans (1/2 cup): 9
Chickpeas (1/2 cup): 6
Tomatoes (1/2): 1
Green peas (1/2 cup): 3.5
Chopped walnuts (2 tablespoons): 1
Slivered almonds (2 tablespoons): 1.5
Sunflower seeds (2 tablespoons): 1.5

For more information on healthy eating, check out "Joy Bauer's Food Cures" or visit this site

posted by Rachelle
at 3:21 PM


Friday, March 09, 2007

Right Attitude

Harvard and Stanford Universities have reported that 85% the reason a person gets a job and gets ahead in that job is due to ATTITUDE; and only 15% is because of technical or specific skills. Interesting, isn't it?

You spent how much money on your education? And you spent how much money on building your positive attitude? Ouch. That hurts.

Now here's an interesting thought. With the "RIGHT" attitude, you can and will develop the necessary skills. So where's your emphasis? Skill building? Attitude building?

Unfortunately, "NEITHER" is the real answer for many people. Perhaps if more people knew how simple it is to develop and maintain a positive attitude they would invest more time doing so. So here we go.

Five steps for staying positive in a negative world:

1. Understand that failure is an event, it is not a person. Yesterday ended last night; today is a brand new day, and it's yours. You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win, and then you can expect to win.

2. Become a lifetime student. Learn just one new word every day and in five years you will be able to talk with just about anybody about anything. When your vocabulary improves, your I.Q. goes up 100% of the time, according to Georgetown Medical School.

3. Read something informational or inspirational every day. Reading for 20 minutes at just 240 words per minute will enable you to read 20, 200-page books each year. That's 18 more than the average person reads! What an enormous competitive advantage . . . if you'll just read for 20 minutes a day.

4. The University of Southern California reveals that you can acquire the equivalent of two years of a college education in three years just by listening to motivational and educational cassettes on the way to your job and again on the way home. What could be easier?

5. Start the day and end the day with positive input into your mind. Inspirational messages cause the brain to flood with dopamine and norepinephrine, the energizing neurotransmitters; with endorphins, the endurance neurotransmitters; and with serotonin, the feel-good about-yourself neurotransmitter. Begin and end the day by reading or doing something positive!

Remember: Success is a process, not an event. Invest the time in building a positive attitude. It will pay off well in your skills as well as your career.

posted by Rachelle
at 2:44 PM


Thursday, March 08, 2007

What Type of Writer Should You Be?

My result says:

What Kind of Writer


posted by Rachelle
at 4:40 PM


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Watchers by Mark Andrew Olsen


MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.


Just below the surface among the family of God lives another family tree--one traced in spirit, invisible and ageless, known as the Watchers. For two thousand years they've seen beyond the veil separating this world from the next, passing on their gift through a lineage mostly overlooked. Throughout history they've scouted the borders of the supernatural frontier, but now their survival hangs by a thread. And their fate lies in the hands of a young woman, her would-be killer, and a mystery they must solve....

"Congratulations. You just reached my own little corner of cyberspace.

Who am I?

Abby Sherman, that's who.

Who are you? And why are you checking me out?

Drop me a few pixels, and let's find out!"

With that innocent invitation, Abby Sherman unwittingly steps in the crosshairs of history, and thus begins her harrowing tale--taking her from ocean-front Malibu to the streets of London, the jungles in West Africa, the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and to the very gates of heaven itself!

A sneak preview of eternity becomes her one-way ticket to danger--and discovery….

Two lives collide in a globe-circling adventure involving both peril and discovery: Abby, a young woman whose visions of heaven turn her into a Web-celebrity; and Dylan, a troubled young man sent by an ancient foe to silence her. From California beachfronts to Nigerian rain forests to Jerusalem and back again, THE WATCHERS is high-octane blends of action, mystery, and spiritual battle spanning centuries.

A woman's awe-inspiring vision launches her on a quest through distant lands and ancient history, face-to-face with eternity and into the arms of a family line on the brink of annihilation...

A man who is hired to exterminate her discovers the folly of blind loyalty, then learns how to wage war in a realm he never believed had existed...

An extraordinary saga of the unseen war against evil, the reality of the supernatural, and the transforming power of forgiveness.


"A writer who can take your breath away with a single sentence. A welcome, fresh voice that must be read!"--Ted Dekker

The book link:

posted by Rachelle
at 8:11 PM


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

You Got MaiL!

I had a quick run to the post office last week to check if I had any mail. I was hoping to see a package or two from the online contests I joined last January. Imagine my surprise when I found these instead:


I have to admit, I was a little skeptical on these online contests at first but decided to take the risk anyways. I'm so glad I gave it a try. Now I've won (and received) not one but 37 books (and still counting) in just a month and couldn't be happier with my prizes.

posted by Rachelle
at 5:01 PM


Sunday, March 04, 2007

And the Winner for February is...

Congratulations Loney! Email me your postal address here, the book you want (if you'd rather opt for an ARC of Wedgewood Grey) and all of that… and we’ll get the ball rollin’, aight?

For the souls that didn’t win—-it’s not ’cause you’re not lucky or anything, yo—-there’s always the month of March! Bigger and better prizes! Maybe a new car! Or a dinner date for two at a 5-star hotel! Just kidding. Until next month, ciao!

posted by Rachelle
at 10:51 PM


Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Valley Of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer

(Moody Publishers - February 1, 2007)


For more than twenty years, the Christian Writers’ Market Guide has offered indispensable help to Christian writers. This year, for the first time, this valuable resource comes with a CD-ROM of the full text, so you can search with ease for topics, publishers, and other specific names.

The 2007 edition also includes up-to-date listings of more than 1,200 markets for books, articles, stories, poetry, and greeting cards, including information on forty new book publishers, eighty-three new periodicals, and thirty-four new literary agents. Perfect for writers in every phase, this is the resource to get noticed–and get published.

It contains listings for: 695 periodicals, 228 poetry markets, 355 book publishers, 133 online publications, 29 print-on-demand publishers, 1185 markets for the written word, 321 photography markets, 31 e-book publishers, 122 foreign markets, 112 literary agents,and 59 newspapers.

It also gives you comprehensive lists of contests, writers groups and conferences, search engines, pay rates and submission guidelines, editorial services and websites.

Christian Writers’ Market Guide is a "must have' for any serious Christian writer that is looking to get published!


Tricia is a member of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. She also has a blog, It's Real Life and a parenting blog, Generation NeXt.

TRICIA GOYER is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She also was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana.

The book link is:

Tricia's website is:

posted by Rachelle
at 6:11 PM


Friday, March 02, 2007

Q & A with Marvin Olasky

1. What's the book about?

At its basic level it's about Americans who go to Turkey for a vacation -- I spent a month there two years ago -- and are kidnapped by Turkish Hezbollah; the question then is how to get away and whether to forget about the whole thing or attempt to fight back. In another sense Scimitar's Edge is about America and the war against terrorism: Now that it's almost five years since 9/11 many of us almost seem to be on vacation again, but the terrorists are not.

2. You're a journalist and professor by trade, with about 18 non-fiction books in your past. What led you to turn to fiction?

Largely fun. In one sense I was playing SIM Turkey: Drop four people into a harsh foreign environment, give them action and adventure, build a romance … I grew to like the characters and wanted to see what they would do. I also enjoyed the challenge: I've written lots of nonfiction books and know how to do that, but this was all new.

3. Is your research for fiction different from your nonfiction research?

The trunk is common - as I traveled through Turkey I took notes on geography, food, customs, and so forth - but the branches differ. My nonfiction research emphasizes accuracy concerning what has happened; for example, every quotation has to be exactly what a person said. In fiction, though, I'm inventing dialogue, yet everything that happens has to be true to the characters and the situation.

4. What's been the feedback from your fans since your switchto fiction? Oh, are there fans?

Actually, I've gotten excellent reactions from many of the folks who like my nonfiction. A few worry about sexual allusions - one of the characters is a serial adulterer and two of the others, as they fall in love, encounter sexual tension. Scimitar's Edge is also an action/adventure novel so there's some shooting, and one of the main characters is a terrorist who relishes lopping off heads. So anyone who wants a sugary book should look elsewhere.

5. You also include some descriptions of what's been called "the forgotten holocaust" a century ago, and explain some Turkish history.

Turkey was the proving ground for the first sustained governmental attempt at genocide, as Turks killed over one million Armenians and sent many to concentration camps; Hitler admired that effort. But Turkey has often been a central player in world affairs, not a backwater. Nearly two millennia ago Turkey became a Christian stronghold: The seven churches John addresses in the book of Revelation, for example, were in what is now Western Turkey. Going back one millennium, what is now Turkey was the front line for a clash of Christian and Muslim cultures.

6. I know you wrote your doctoral dissertation about film and politics from the 1930s through the 1960s, a time when Westerns were one of the dominant genres, and I see certain Western-like elements in this book.

Westerns came in about seven different varieties, and one of them was called the "revenge Western," where a bad man has killed a beloved person and the hero heads out to bring him to justice. In nuanced Westerns the hero at various points asks himself whether his end justifies his means and whether it's worth giving up a lot to carry out what he planned. An internal struggle of that sort occurs in this book as well.

7. Scimitar's Edge is an unusual novel that combines action against terrorists with quotations from Walker Percy. In fact, the book ends with an allusion to one of Percy's most enduring characters, Will Barrett. Were you consciously trying to walk a knife-edge between high-brow and low-brow culture?

Not consciously; that's just where I am myself. Since evangelicals are sometimes disparaged as dumb, some press to show we're not by tossing around Latin phrases or going to opera rather than popular movies -- not that there's anything wrong with opera, as long as there's a car chase within the first five minutes. To me it comes down to enjoying the pleasures God gives us, including those from both popular culture and literary culture.

8. Are you planning a sequel?

When I talk with students about careers we discuss the importance of both internal calling and external calling - do you feel God's pleasure as you do something, and do other people think you're good at it? I feel the internal call to write more novels; I'm trying to discern the external call from readers.

posted by Rachelle
at 2:39 PM


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Scimitar's Edge by Marvin Olasky

It is March 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

Marvin Olasky

and his book:

Scimitar's Edge

Dr. Olasky is editor-in-chief of World Magazine, a senior fellow of the Acton Institute, and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Susan have been married for 30 years and have four sons. He has written 17 non-fiction books and has also started (with several others) a Christian school; he has been a crisis pregnancy center chairman, a foster parent, a Little League assistant coach, a PTA president, and an informal advisor to George W. Bush. He is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Michigan.

Stepping away from his roles as professor, historian, and creator of "compassionate conservatism," Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine has penned an edge-of-your-seat novel that educates as well as it informs.

SCIMITAR'S EDGE is the story of four unique Americans on a journey that takes them to a world of great beauty and great danger. Olasky uses his vast knowledge of the culture to pen a tale about the War on Terror that is so realistic it might have been taken from today's headlines.


Zeliha Kuris sat in her living room in Konya, scarcely believing what she was watching on TRT1, the major government-run channel in Turkey. The second of the twin towers of New York was crumpling. She cried, thinking of the horrible way so many were dying. Then came a knock on her door.

She peered out cautiously. Ever since her last book, threats from Hezbollah terrorists had come as fast as the sewage ran after heavy rains. One fatwa against her read, “She has confused and poisoned Muslims with her Western ideas. She deserves death.”

But it was only a man, Trafik Kurban, whose ailing mother she had helped. They had met in the room at the hospital where the old woman was dying of lung cancer. Trafik’s hollow cheeks and chain-smoking habits made generational continuity likely, but he had seemed friendly enough as he joked about his favorite American film, The Wizard of Oz. Zeliha opened the door to him.

“I have a present for you in my car,” he said, taking her hand in his own—it was sticky soft—and pointing to a white Mitsubishi that sat at the curb. “You showed yourself a true daughter of Turkey during my mother’s duress, and I want to thank you.”

Zeliha looked up and down the street but saw no danger signs. She smiled and followed him to the vehicle. Trafik reached in, pulled out a three-foot-tall scarecrow stuffed with straw, and handed it to her. She gave it a puzzled look before smiling and saying, “It’s lovely.”

Then Trafik stuck a needle into her arm and shoved her into the car.

She came to in a dank basement. At first all she could sense was the overpowering smell of onions. The odor hung in the air and left her struggling for breath. Her hands were bound behind her back, her legs tethered to a pillar. All was quiet, but then she heard movement and conversation on the floor above.

She strained to catch what was being said. A man with a booming voice. He sounded joyous. “Passed the initiation . . . Trafik, one of us . . . member of Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah! So Trafik was not just a petty criminal. Hezbollah! Instantly she knew what would happen though her tormentors made her wait. She lost track of the time and must have dozed because when she awoke her throat was parched and a glass of water sat just beyond her reach.

She often heard the man with the loud, harsh voice talking and then laughing outside the door. When the door opened, the smell of fresh bread wafted into the room. Only when her mouth was as dry as Saudi sand and her stomach cramped from hunger did the loud man enter. Even then he was patient, standing for a time just staring at her.

Finally he leaned close, smelling of garlic, his thick black mustache tickling her check. Spit from his mouth sprayed her face. “You wanted to be Turkey’s Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasrin, eh? They deserve to die, and you will.”

On the first day he beat her. On the second day he dripped burning nylon on her, all the time complaining that he had to use primitive torture devices because her Western allies kept him from getting modern electroshock devices. He demanded information about the members of her conspiracy. She explained that there was no conspiracy, that she had only written what was true. He became furious.

Upstairs she could hear The Wizard of Oz playing nonstop, with the Munchkins’ song turned up loud to cover up her screams. She imagined Trafik was watching, and her one hope was that he would come to see her so she could ask him how he felt betraying the woman who had been his dying mother’s only friend. Trafik did not descend, but she heard him chortle as the Wicked Witch screamed, “I’m melting, melting.”

Finally he did stand in front of her, but instead of displaying remorse he held a camera. As the loud man did his work, Trafik silently recorded the ravages of torture. Summoning her remaining strength, Zeliha spat at him. “How could you do this?” But before he answered, if he answered, she lost consciousness and never returned to life.


Providence Community Church in South Philadelphia was hosting its end-of-the-school-year rally. Five hundred members of church youth groups from the Philadelphia and Wilmington areas came to hear a hot rock band and enjoy a cookout, with a skit about the danger of growing gang violence sandwiched in between.

The band was hammering at high decibels in the low-lit sanctuary. Teens stood on the pews, swaying and clapping to the music. No one noticed a young man entering through the double doors at the back. A white and blue bandanna covered his head and an obscenity-laden T-shirt hung nearly to his knees, still not far enough to reach the crotch of his baggy blue jeans. His right arm was tattooed with spiderwebs, “laugh now, cry later” clown faces, and the name “Luis.” His right hand held a .38. Before a greeter could offer a welcome, Luis sent a bullet through one guitar and another clanging into a microphone stand.

As the band members froze in confusion, teens in the audience laughed and applauded the clever opening to the skit. A third bullet tore into the bass drum and sent the band members scurrying.

A lone voice yelled, “He’s shooting at us! Duck down!” The skinny youth pastor, looking not much older than the kids who packed the dark sanctuary, stood up and waved his arms wildly. “This is not the gang skit. This is for real.” His voice cracked, sending the crowd into fits of laughter. Suddenly his left arm jerked wildly and a red stain spread over the sleeve of his white shirt. “Get down in the pews!” he screamed.

Kids close to him began to yell and duck under their pews. Those on the other side still thought they were part of an interactive skit. “Paintball!” one boy yelled. ”Awesome!”

Luis was outraged. “Shut up! All of you just shut up! Enough of this Jesus crap!”

One girl whispered, “Can he say that in church?” The boy next to her shouted, “Wash your mouth out with soap!” His friends gave him high fives.

The shooter turned and glowered at them, cursing in a combination of Spanish and English, swinging the gun from side to side as he sidled away from the doors and snarled, “Where’s Carlos?” He snapped off two shots, hitting a girl. She screamed, moved her hand to her shoulder, looked at her red-stained fingers, and screamed again: “He shot me!”

Her voice reflected shock and betrayal. That’s when panic set in.
Across the parking lot in the church manse the old air conditioner rat-a-tatted as Washington Post national security correspondent Halop Bogikian finished his interview of pastor David Carrillo, known for his work with gangs. This was an unusual assignment for Hal, but reports of Al-Qaeda connections with a Hispanic gang, Mara Salvatrucha—MS-13 for short—were surfacing; and his editor thought he should learn about the gang and the possibility that it could smuggle an atomic bomb across the border.

The journalist and the pastor sat across from each other at a round oak table in the book-lined study. Carrillo leaned back in his chair, a smile playing around his lips. Hal thought the pastor too relaxed, too comfortable in his own skin, so it was time to pounce. Leaning forward, pen poised above his reporter’s notebook, thin and wiry Hal searched the pastor’s face. “You’re saying that hard-core gang members, even members of MS-13, get religion and turn from their wicked ways?”

“I know you don’t believe it, but that’s what often happens.” Hal shook his head as though dealing with an imaginative six-year-old. “Church and state issues aside, why should anyone believe that gang members will give up power—and what seems to them an efficient way to get money—for God?”

Carrillo smiled. “I’m not expecting you to take my word for it. A young man, Carlos, is waiting in the living room. He has a remarkable story to tell you if you’ve got the time.”

Hal glanced at his watch. He wanted to get back on the road to Washington. This whole trip to Philly had been a mistake, proving once again that you couldn’t trust an editor to know the elements of a decent story. He began to offer an excuse as he capped his pen, but the pastor looked like a little kid who had called him chicken. Hal removed the cap from his pen. “OK, I’ll listen.”

Carrillo opened the door to the living room. “Hey, Carlos, come on in.” A heavy-set boy with a bad case of acne shuffled into the room, his pants dragging on the floor. His black hair was slicked back from his face, and the beginning of a wispy black goatee shaded his jaw. Though he was seventeen, his voice cracked when he spoke: “Me and my friends joined a street gang last year, La Mara Salvatrucha. Guys call it MS-13.”

Hal nodded, thinking, Here comes one more of those born-again stories.

“A couple of weeks ago, a little after midnight, three of us were standing near a 7-11, and some chicas cruised by, shouting insults at us. Our leader, Luis, hurled a bottle at them, but they kept going. Then a few minutes later we saw this big old Chevy come by. Three guys from the South Side Locos with baseball bats. They chased us into the projects.”

Hal thought, Might as well get some more human interest. He began writing.

“Luis said, ’Let’s get our machetes and show them.’ Those Locos saw us coming out and ran, man. It was funny. But one of them tripped. The others kept going, so we caught him. I kicked him a couple of times. But Luis said, ‘Let’s teach the Locos that they can’t mess with MS-13.’”

Carlos was silent for a time. He pulled a chain out of his pocket, which he twisted and twined between his fingers. The faint roar of noise from the nearby highway continued. A car backfired.

The pastor said, “Sounds like the concert is over. I’m not hearing the bass.” Hal took another look at his watch and tried not to let the kid see how impatient he was to be off.

Carlos started up again: “OK, I want to get this off my chest. Luis started to nick that guy with his machete: hands, head, all over. I tell you, Luis is more loco than the Locos. He covers his whole body with MS-13 tattoos. But when he started to cut that guy’s fingers off it was bad, real bad.”

Hal’s pen flew over the page of his notebook. He kicked himself for not bringing a tape recorder. While he wrote, trying to capture the cadence of the boy’s speech, he felt the first flutter of excitement: This could be a good column, maybe even award winning.

Across the table the boy’s voice stopped. Hal looked up from his notebook and saw Carlos crying. “The guy was screaming. I was screaming. Luis kept cutting. Left only the thumb. He laughed and said the guy could hitch a ride home. That’s when I decided I had to get out. My mom could tell something was wrong. She nagged me nonstop and wouldn’t get off my back until I came to talk to the preacher.”

Just then a young woman ran in. “Pastor, come quick.” Hal took in bright hazel eyes, slender neck, soft shoulders, and a name tag reading “Sally.” He had never seen anyone so lovely. Then her words sank in: “Someone’s shooting in the sanctuary. I’ve called 911.”

Carrillo jumped up and headed out the door to the church building. Carlos’s face blanched. “Luis! It’s gotta be. He’s gonna kill me.” He looked desperately for a place to hide. Sally bit her upper lip. “Stay here. You’ll be safe.” She looked up at Hal as though seeing him for the first time: “You stay with him.”

Hal said, “Can’t. I’m a reporter.” He grabbed his pad and slammed through the front door toward his car. He heard Sally’s scornful voice at his back: ”That figures. He wants to be first with the story.” She gave Carlos a reassuring pat on the back before following the pastor.

Carrillo entered the sanctuary through a side door and surveyed the scene. Children cowered behind the pews as Luis stalked back and forth, careful to stay away from doors and windows. “I want that traitor! Where is Carlos?” he kept yelling.

Carrillo took a step into the sanctuary: “Put the gun down, son. This is a house of God.”

Luis sneered and swore at him. Carrillo kept his voice even. "You haven’t killed anyone,” he said, hoping it was true. “The police will be here soon. It will be better for you if you put the gun down.”

“Shut up! I don’t want more Jesus junk like the lies you told Carlos. I should just shoot you and put you out of your misery. Want to die?”

Carrillo said evenly, “You can shoot me if you want. I’m not afraid to die. I know where I’m going.”

“Don’t give me any heaven stuff,” Luis screamed. “I can turn this place into hell. My boys and me are gonna nuke the city. And I’ll start with you.” He pulled the trigger, and Carrillo felt a piercing pain on the right side of the chest. As he crumpled to the floor, the shooter turned his gaze toward the front of the sanctuary.

Suddenly a voice from the back demanded, “Drop your weapon.”

Sally stood just outside the side door through which the pastor had entered. With her foot she held the door open about six inches. She could see Carrillo on the floor. The mystery speaker was outside her line of vision. She strained to hear police sirens.

Luis ran past the side door toward the back. She could hear his heavy breathing and his heavy footfall on the tile floor. He raised his gun and fired twice. Then Sally heard an answering shot and the metallic sound of a gun being kicked across the floor. She opened the door cautiously and saw Luis on the floor, and a shadowy figure walking away.

With no time to puzzle over the identity of the second shooter, Sally pushed open the door completely and crab-walked to the pastor as he moaned and a rising chorus of cries filled the sanctuary. Carrillo’s shirt was soaked with blood. Sally looked vainly for something to use to staunch the bleeding, before settling on her skirt. She unzipped it and slipped it off, then bunched it up and pressed it into the wound.

She waited for the sirens. What’s taking so long? she thought. She hadn’t prayed for a long time, but she did now, although it was more of a complaint: God, how could you let this happen? What’s the point?
As the first police cars fishtailed into the church parking lot, followed by ambulances, Hal started up his Jetta, which he’d parked on the street across from the manse. The hand that had held the Colt .45 shook, and he wished that he still smoked. He didn’t know if he’d killed Luis or not; he hoped not. Not knowing whether he should stay, he asked himself what the penalty was for a person with one shooting in his past using an unlicensed gun to save lives. He decided not to stay and find out.

As Hal headed onto the highway, he called his editor, gave him the outlines of the story, and said wire service reporters would be there soon. Brushing off demands that he stay and do the reporting, he used the sentence he had used many times before: “If you don’t like it, fire me.” Sometimes editors had complied.

He turned on the radio, scanning the stations until he found a news-talk station where some caller was blathering about delays at airport checkpoints. He was about to jab the button again when he heard a special bulletin giving brief details about the shooting. Then the soft voice of an eyewitness identified as Sally Northaway was describing the pastor’s action and telling a reporter, “I’ve never before seen bravery like Reverend Carrillo’s.”

Hal scribbled “Sally” in his reporter’s notebook as he tried to erase the memory of her scornful denunciation when he fled the room. He flipped to another station: “A pastor is in critical condition, and four others plus the accused gunman are wounded. It would have been much worse except for the intervention of an unidentified bystander.”

Hal honked as a Mercedes cut him off. He let a Ford Focus get in front of him as they approached a tollbooth. He turned on the CD player and listened to Patty Griffin’s melancholy voice: There’s a war and a plague, smoke and disaster Lions in the coliseum, screams of laughter, Motherless children, a witness and a Bible, Nothing but rain ahead, no chance for survival.

Hal let himself be lost in her misery and hellish visions, preferring them to his own. Only when he reached the outskirts of D.C. and saw out of the corner of his eye an IKEA store with a sign proclaiming “Manager’s special. Swedish meat balls $5.68. Comes with salad,” did he think about eating. He parked in a huge lot, noting with irritation the SUVs surrounding him.

Hal entered the modern building and immediately felt himself relax. Something about the white walls, cool wood floors, and spare furniture always did that to him, though he didn’t know why. Probably had to do with all the stories of human abuse and torture he’d been forced to endure at his granddad’s knee: IKEA represented cool detachment.

The cafeteria was nearly empty except for a couple drinking coffee by the windows. Hal pointed at the meatballs and said, “No gravy, please. Vegetables instead of potatoes.” He filled his salad bowl with lettuce and added two cherry tomatoes. The cashier rang it up: “$7.10.”

Hal waited a second and said, “Taxes aren’t that much, even here in Maryland. The sign said $5.68.”

The cashier stared at him and replied, “That don’t include the toppings on the salad.”

He stalked back to the salad bar and dumped the tomatoes into their bin. He returned to the register: “How’s that?


The cashier laughed. “Yes, sir.”

Hal took a table away from the windows and as far from the register as he could get. He ate slowly, relishing the meatballs and remembering how his grandparents had told him to chew everything twice and hug every penny. Contemplating how they had nearly starved as small children during the Armenian holocaust that was a sidelight of World War I, he wiped his plate clean, then drove to his apartment in a not-yet-gentrified building east of Capitol Hill.

Outside his door, Hal took in the odor of urine that never went away. One of the neighbor kids had left a couple of matchbox cars in front of his door. He gave them a soft kick that sent them rolling down the corridor. He unlocked his door and stepped into the living room, which was largely filled by an IKEA couch, its once-white cushions turned gray. A round pine table covered with cigarette burns, stains, and words etched into the soft surface by Hal’s too enthusiastic scribbling sat in front of the room’s one window.

One wall was decorated with portraits of Armenian leaders that he’d inherited from his dad. On the opposite wall an entertainment center looked forlorn, with a twelve-inch television in the space allocated for one much larger. A folder containing photos taken of Hal with important politicians was nearly buried beneath a stack of papers. He threw his rumpled blazer onto the couch and flicked on the news. The church shooting received some play, but his role merited only a brief mention at the end: “Police are trying to pin down the identity of the hero who prevented a mass killing today.”

He paced the room, thinking it crazy that he had a good story but couldn’t write it and even had to hope that no one would connect him with the shooting. Maybe it would be best to get out of town for a while. He could use a vacation.

Hal spent the next hour jotting down notes for a presentation he would make the next morning in response to a speech from an academic crank—not just any crank but his freshman roommate from Columbia sixteen years before. Finally, near midnight, he flopped down on his mattress, which lay on the floor next to wire baskets filled with clothes. He complimented himself on his stoicism and lack of concern for material things. But as he drifted uneasily off to sleep, he was asking himself what he did care about.
Also at midnight Washington time—seven a.m. in Antakya, Turkey, the city known in biblical times as Antioch—a man who knew what he cared about convened a meeting in a terrorist safe house to discuss his next move.

The man, Suleyman Hasan, had a Middle Eastern marquee idol’s features—height, thick black mustache, and olive skin. His lieutenant, Trafik Kurban, sat to the right, sucking furiously on a cigarette and grimacing frequently, as if pressing salt on an open wound. Mustafa Cavus, his well-muscled but potbellied special agent, sat to Suleyman’s left in a molded plastic chair, wiping at his nose with a gray handkerchief as he waited for the chief to speak.
Sitting in the back were Suleyman’s wife, Fatima, and a friend of hers, Kazasina, along with four students: Gurcan Aktas and Zubeyir Uruk from the University of Bosphorus in Istanbul, Sulhaddin Timur from Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir, and Fadil Bayancik from Mustafa Kemal University in Antakya.

The students all wore thick mustaches in imitation of Suleyman as well as school insignia because their leader insisted that his new insurgents have degrees. He had told them in his loud, deep voice, “We do not want to be seen as ignorant and poor people adopting terror out of desperation. We are poets and chess players, not gunmen.”

Tonight Suleyman was so bored that he was soliciting suggestions: “It would be wonderful to have a nuclear bomb, but while we are waiting, what should we do?”

Mustafa and Trafik argued for what they knew how to engineer— more bombings of synagogues and government buildings— but Suleyman shot down that suggestion: “I’d like a vacation from small-scale bombings. They’re the same old same old, as my classmates at the University of Texas used to say. Interns, what do you suggest?”

Sulhaddin perked up: “How about using poisonous gas on a subway train?”

Suleyman shook his head, arguing that it was too random in its effects: “We want to show the world that terror is not anarchy, that we can be precise in dealing even with those who resist Allah.”

Gurkan had been weaned on violent videos: “Let’s take a hostage and film his beheading.”

Suleyman stood up and began pacing: “That’s a good thought. I haven’t kidnapped anyone for a couple of years. But how do we rise above run-of-the-mill hostage-taking?”

The room was silent until Suleyman pulled from a bookcase a small volume with yellowed pages. “I have an idea. I have studied the work of my ancestor Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, peace be unto him. A brilliant scholar, he died in Baghdad in 1058, but first he discoursed on how to treat captured enemies. He gave four possible actions. The first of the four is to put them to death by cutting their necks.”

“Yes, neck-cutting is good,” Mustafa said in his high, puffy voice. “What are the others?”

“The emir also may enslave captives,” Suleyman recited, almost seeming to go into a trance. “He may show favor to them and pardon them. He may ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners.”

“That would be fun,” Fadil said. “We’d see the captives squirm, competing for our favor.”

Suleyman stroked his mustache and agreed: “This could be a pleasant vacation activity while our allies work on finding nuclear materials. We could show the world that we act thoughtfully, in accordance with our history.”

He paused in contemplation, and the room was again silent until Suleyman clapped his hands and said, “Yes, let’s do it. We may have to wait a while, but I would like to capture four Americans vacationing in our country and use all four of my ancestor’s options.”

“An elegant plan,” Mustafa exulted.

Suleyman spelled out the details: “We will cut the neck of one captive. A second will be a woman to enslave so we can repay the Americans for the way they treat women. A third we will pardon, so that person will tell the world our story along with one important detail: that we are ready to ransom a fourth.”

“Brilliant,” Trafik coughed.

“Excellent,” Suleyman smiled. “We will do our scouting and find the right group of four. We will all have a wonderful vacation.”

posted by Rachelle
at 1:41 PM