Saturday, June 27, 2009

Book giveaway - Vanishing Sculptor by Donita Paul

Camy here, giving away another book! (No, not mine)

The winner of
Mixed Bags
by
Melody Carlson
is
Prism
Congratulations!

Didn’t win the book but want to read it?
Buy from Christianbook.com
Buy from Amazon

Blog book giveaway:

To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter!

Please leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on June 27th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Today I’m giving away:

The Vanishing Sculptor
by
Donita K. Paul


Return to the world of the dragon keepers, where the fate of three missing statues will determine the fate of the world. Tipper, a young emerlindian woman, has been responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate since her sculptor father disappeared several years ago. To make ends meet, she’s been forced to sell off the artwork he left behind. When at last her father returns, accompanied by two strangers from a distant land, Tipper discovers that her actions have unbalanced the foundation of her world, as well as her father’s life, and she must act quickly to undo the threat. But how can she save her father and the world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions—including her guardian, the giant parrot Beccaroon, the wizard Fenworth, and his librarian Librettowit—and sets out on a quest, eventually witnessing the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder.

Join new characters and old friends on a journey into a fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.

Excerpt of chapter one:

Sir Beccaroon cocked his head, ruffled his neck feathers, and stretched, allowing his crimson wings to spread. The branch beneath him sank and rose again, responding to his weight. Moist, hot air penetrated his finery, and he held his wings away from his brilliant blue sides.


“Too hot for company,” hemuttered, rocking back and forth from one scaly four-toed foot to the other on a limb of a sacktrass tree.The leaves shimmered as the motion rippled along the branch. “Where is
that girl?”


His yellow head swiveled almost completely around. He peered with one eye down the overgrown path and then scoped out every inch within his range of vision, twisting his neck slowly. A brief morning shower had penetrated the canopy above and rinsed the waxy leaves. A few remaining drops glistened where thin shafts of tropical sun touched the dark green foliage. On the broot vine, flowers the size of plates lifted their fiery red petals, begging the thumb-sized bees to come drink before the weight of nectar broke off the blooms.


Beccaroon flew to a perch on a gnarly branch. He sipped from a broot blossom and ran his black tongue over the edges of his beak. A sudden breeze shook loose a sprinkle of leftover raindrops. Beccaroon
shook his tail feathers and blinked.When the disturbance settled, he cocked his head and listened.


“Ah! She’s coming.” He preened his soft green breast and waited, giving a show of patience he didn’t feel. His head jerked up as he detected someone walking with the girl.


“Awk!”The sound exploded from his throat.He flew into a roost far above the forest floor, where he couldn’t be seen from the ground, and watched the approach of the girl placed under his guardianship.


Tipper strolled along the path below, wearing a flowing golden gown over her tall, lean body. She’d put her long blond hair in a fancy braid that started at the crown of her head. A golden chain hung from
each of her pointed ears. And she’d decorated her pointed facial features with subdued colors—blue for her eyelids, rose for her lips, and a shimmering yellow on her cheeks. Beccaroon sighed. His girl was
lovely.


The bushes along the path behind her rustled. Beccaroon’s tongue clucked against his beak in disapproval. Hanner trudged after Tipper, leading a donkey hitched to a cart. The man’s shaggy hair, tied with a string at the back of his neck, hung oily and limp. Food and drink stained the front of his leather jerkin, and his boots woremud instead of a shine. The parrot caught a whiff of the o’rant from where he
perched. The young man should have carried the fragrance of citrus, but his overstrong odor reminded Beccaroon of rotten fruit.


A tree full ofmonkeys broke out in outraged chatter.Tipper, when alone, walked amid the animals’ habitat without causing alarm.


“Smart monkeys,” said Beccaroon. “You recognize a ninny-nap-conder when you see one.” He used the cover of the monkeys’ rabble-rousing to glide to another tree, where he could hide at a lower level. He had an idea where Tipper would lead Hanner.


“Here it is,” said the pretty emerlindian. She pulled vines from a clump, revealing a gray statue beneath. “My father named this one Vegetable Garden.


Hanner pulled off more vines as he made his way slowly around the four-foot statue. “Vegetable Garden? Mistress Tipper, are you sure you have the right one? This is a statue of a boy reading a book. He’s not even chewing a carrot while he sits here.”


“Father used to say reading a good book was nourishment.”


Hanner scratched his head, shrugged his shoulders, and went to fetch the donkey and cart.Tipper’s head tilted back, and her blue eyes looked up into the trees. Her gaze roamed over the exact spot Beccaroon used as a hidden roost. Not by the blink of an eyelash did she betray whether she had seen him. Hanner returned.


Tipper spread out a blanket in the cart after Hanner maneuvered it next to the statue, then helped him lift the stone boy into the back. Hanner grunted a lot, and Tipper scolded.


“Careful… Don’t break his arm…Too many vines still around the base.”


They got the statue loaded, and Tipper tucked the blanket overand around it. She then gave Hanner a pouch of coins.


“This is for your usual delivery fee. I couldn’t put in any extra for traveling expenses. I’m sure you’ll be reimbursed by our buyer.”


He grunted and slipped the money inside his jerkin.


Tipper clasped her hands together. “Be careful. And give Master Dodderbanoster my regards.”
He tipped his hat and climbed aboard the cart. “I always am. And I always do.”


She stood in the path until the creak of the cart wheels could no longer be heard.


Beccaroon swooped down and sat on a thick branch wrapped with a leafless green creeper. The vine looked too much like a snake, so he hopped to another limb.


“Was that wise?” he asked.
“I don’t think so either, Bec, butwhat else can I do? I sell the artwork only as a last resort when we need quite a bit of cash. The well needs re-digging.” Tipper pulled a tight face, looking like she’d swallowed
nasty medicine. “We’ve sold almost everything in the house. Mother sees our things in the market and buys them back. Sometimes I get a better price for a piece the second time I sell it, and sometimes not.”


Beccaroon swayed back and forth on his feet, shaking his head. “She never catches on?”


“Never.” Tipper giggled. “She shows remarkably consistent taste. When she spots something that was once ours, she buys it, brings it home, shows it off to me, and tells me she has always wanted something just like it. And she never notices pictures gone from the walls, rugs missing in rooms, chairs, tables, vases, candlesticks gone. I used to rearrange things to disguise a hole in the décor, but there’s no need.”


The sigh that followed her explanation held no joy.Tipper looked around. “There never is a place to sit in this forest when one wants to plop down and have a good cry.”


“You’re not the type to cry. I’ll walk you home.” Beccaroon hopped down to the path. His head came up to her waist. She immediately put her dainty hand on his topknot and smoothed the creamy plumes back.


“You’re the best of friends. Keeping this secret would be unbearable if I didn’t have you to confide in.”


Beccaroon clicked his tongue. “No flattery, or I shall fly away.”


They moseyed back the direction Tipper had come, opposite the way Hanner had departed.


Beccaroon tsked. “I don’t like that greasy fellow.”


“I know.”Tipper gently twisted the longest feather from the center of Bec’s crest around her forefinger.
The grand parrot jerked his head away and gave her his sternest glare. She was his girl, but he still wouldn’t let her take liberties. She didn’t seem to notice he was disgruntled, and that further blackened
his mood.


“Hanner is all right, Bec. He takes the statues to Dodderbanoster. Dodderbanoster takes them to cities beyond my reach and gets a fair price for them. Sometimes I think the pouch Hanner brings back is
way too full.”


Beccaroon clicked his tongue. “Your father is a master artist. His work is worth a mighty price.”


“Hanner says sometimes Dodderbanoster sells them to a dealer who takes them even farther away, to thriving districts.Wealthy patrons bid to own a Verrin Schope work of art.” She held back a leafy branch
so Beccaroon could strut by with ease. “Late at night when I sit inmy window and think, I hope that Papa will see one of his sculptures or paintings in a market in some far away metropolis. I imagine the scene. He exclaims with shock. He turns red and sputters and shakes his fists. In fact, he’s so angry he comes straight home and yells loud and long at his daughter who dares to sell his masterpieces.”


Beccaroon rolled his shoulders, causing his wings to tilt out, then settle against his sides. “What of your mother? Does she ever mention your father’s absence?”


“No, why should she? He’s been gone for years, but she still sees him. She talks to him every night after his workday is done. Promenades through the garden with him. Pours his tea, and just the other evening I heard her fussing at himfor not giving enoughmoney to the parish.”


“I suppose she dipped in the household funds to make up for his neglect.”


Tipper sighed. “Yes, she did.”


They went on a ways in silence. Tipper picked a bloom, savored its spicy odor, then placed it behind one pointed ear. “Mother has an idea in her head.”


“For anyone else, the head is a splendid place to keep an idea. For your mother, she should just let them go.”


“She’s determined to visit her sister.” Tipper raised her eyebrows so that the upside-downV was even more pronounced. “She’ll go if she manages to pack her long list of necessities. Some of the items are quite unreasonable.”


Beccaroon snatched a nut from an open shell on the ground. He played the small nugget over his tongue, enjoying its sweetness, then swallowed. “And you? Is she taking you?”


“No, I’m to stay here and make sure Papa is comfortable and remembers to go to bed at night instead of working till all hours in his studio.”


“I don’t like you being alone in that house.”


“I don’t either.”


“Of course, there are the servants.”


“Only two now.”

Beccaroon ruffled his feathers, starting at the tuft on top of his head, fluffing the ruff of his neck,proceeding down his back, and ending with a great shake of his magnificent tail.


“It seems I will have to move into the house.”


“Oh, Bec. I was hoping you’d say that.”



Excerpted from The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul Copyright © 2009 by Donita K. Paul.


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Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi is out now, and her romantic suspense Deadly Intent will release in July. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Schedules, Schmedules


I have discovered something about myself.

I'm a routine girl.

Without a schedule, I cannot accomplish anything! Even something as normal as breakfast doesn't happen (mostly because I'm sleeping in until 11AM. Then it's time for lunch). It's when a shower seems like the most I've gotten done all day that I start to worry.

My husband is a teacher and today is his first day of teaching summer school. So, we're getting some semblance of a schedule back. Definitely good news for my deadline! Jon has had this whole last month off of school and I'm sad to say, we haven't been too fruitful. We've slept in, we've gone on vacations, we've watched movies all day.

I think it's important to take time off from work (obviously God thinks so too - read about the year of Jubilee in the Bible - one whole year off!). But, it's also important to distinguish work from necessities. So, here are a few things I think are necessities:

* A shower - I don't care how you look at it, a shower is a must-have.

* Brushing teeth - Again. Major necessity.

* Making the bed - My mom used to say it makes the whole room look cleaner.

* Coffee - Nothing else need be said.

* Bible reading - Worth more than food, right?

* Food - I find Krispy Kreme to be the best vacation food, but we don't have one in New Mexico.

Even though summer is definitely upon us, let's take the time to do what needs to be done. Whether that's sticking with your daily devotions, keeping up your workout routine or just staggering out of bed by noon, set goals for each day despite the lack of a schedule.

Enjoy your summer!

Love,
Erynn :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Engagement, Turtles and Fortune Cookies


As of 11pm last night…….. I’M ENGAGED! I had already been preparing today’s entry entitled “False Expectation”, which I will post next week, but I just had to share this news with all of you!! One day I’ll probably share the journey that Brian and I have been on, and how he proposed, but I really feel like sharing about what’s been going on in my heart.


As of late, and honestly for longer than I’d like to admit, the Lord has been speaking to me so much about surrendering, waiting and timing. (see my post from May 23rd!) Over an over these themes would seem to pop up everywhere I turned; clearly the Lord was trying to communicate something to me and for the most part, I knew He was speaking about my desire to get married.


For example, a few weeks ago Brian and I were driving to my apartment. We had just had an intense conversation about “our future”, and I was extremely frustrated! I suddenly saw something in the middle of the driveway. It was a turtle. I got very excited, I’m not an animal freak but for some reason turtles excite me! I picked him up and drove him the rest of the way up the driveway. I decided that I should let him go, which was tough even though he’d only been my pet for 5 minutes! It was a beautiful day and after he crawled away, I decided to grab a book and read outside.


I have been reading the book Dateable and going through some of the reference materials for a teaching series I’d been doing for my youth on purity. The books have cool doodles and fun artwork on every page. I can remember as I was reading, still feeling frustrated about the conversation I had just had on the way home. I turned the page and in the bottom right corner of the very next page was a small doodle of a turtle walking off the page! I’m sure I’ve shared this before, but anytime something out of the ordinary happens several times, or I see an object or theme multiple times, I know that the Lord is trying to communicate something to me. So, I asked the obvious question- “God, what’s up with the turtle thing?” He replied with- “Slow and steady wins the race.” Clearly I knew exactly what he was referring to, and I honestly wasn’t very happy about it! I have really grown tired of hearing about so many people around me getting married and moving on with their lives. There was no denying though, He was in control and He saw the big picture.


A few weeks later I had yet another turtle encounter! I was driving home from visiting a friend who lives about 3.5 hours away. I was just enjoying my drive, when suddenly I saw the biggest turtle I have ever seen, (besides the mammoth ones at the zoo) crossing the road! I actually had to swerve slightly to avoid him. Yet again, “Slow and steady wins the race”.


By this time, after three close encounters of the reptilian kind, I think I got it. I did however, have one final experience. I think after He knows I’ve finally grasped the truth He’s been conveying, He likes to make me laugh and jokes with me; I love how divinely personal our God is. So, last week I was out eating Chinese with my family celebrating my sister’s high school graduation. Now I am in no way condoning the use of fortune cookies as a valid means of seeking spiritual guidance or direction, but God will use anything He wants to reinforce a point, or in this case, make me laugh! I opened my cookie, and this is what it said: If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is it naked or homeless? What kind of fortune is that? I have never read anything so random out of a cookie in my life! Clearly it was nothing of consequence, nor had any other value than to make me smile. That’s why I love Him.


All of that to say, He knew that it would be way more special to get engaged the way I did and to have walked such a journey to get to this point. I’d love to say that I’ll never doubt again. It was truly worth the wait.


Daniel 2:20-22

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Checklist

Around this time of year I tend to start evaluating what I've done and what I would like to do with the rest of the year. Especially because this is when my half birthday hits and I love to look back at the last year of my life and really feel like I could check some things off my list. So just for fun, I thought I'd share my list of things I have done and list of things I want to do with you!

This year I have:



  • Changed jobs! That was a scary moment for me, but it's turning out to be a huge blessing.

  • gone apartment shopping.

  • taken HUGE steps towards getting over one of my biggest fears in life.

  • made my veil for my wedding.

  • decided to sponsor a second little girl with Compassion Internation (her name is Kidist and she lives in Ethiopia!)

  • tried...and failed...to return my library books on time. Oops! (And my mom is a librarian! Ha!)

  • been a bridesmaid in my future sis-in-law's wedding.

This year I will try to:



  • keep up with my Spanish! It was my minor in college, but I've forgotten a lot of it in the past couple of years. It's my goal to be fluent.

  • write thank you notes to my friends as quickly as I can.

  • go on vacation! I haven't had a vacation since the summer of my sophomore year in college. I'm looking forward to one this summer!

  • get more organized by finding a desk with drawers for files. For some reason, I've only been able to find desks without drawers! Well, on my budget anyways...

  • look into taking more classes so I can get a second degree. Maybe this time in graphic design or psychology. (My first was in Creative Writing.)

  • read more books! And turn them back into the library on time, for real...

  • finish my new Beth Moore Bible study!

  • paint some pictures for the extra room in what will be our apartment after I get married.

  • pick up horseback riding again.

We're almost half-way through the year and I still have a ton of stuff I want to do! What have you done this year? What do you WANT to do this year? Let me know! anmblogs@gmail.com


Love,


Ashley

Friday, June 19, 2009

What Are Your Plans for the Future?


Meet my son Christian. He is 18. As you can see, he just graduated from high school. If you have really good vision you might be able to spot the Honors seal on his diploma. Yes, I’m a proud mom. In the fall he starts college at a university that is practically in our back yard.

So now Christian is hearing those popular “graduate” questions:
“What do you plan to study?”
“Have you chosen a major yet?”
“What do you want to do, as far as a career?”

Even with an honors diploma, scholarships, and admission to a university Christian honestly doesn’t know what he wants to do or even major in. You’d think that, as a parent, I would be upset by this. But I’m not. Here is why.

I know that Christian is smart, has a variety of interests, and works hard. Obviously he will be successful in whatever he chooses.

I know that many kids who do have a major declared will most likely change it.

When I was 18 I thought I knew what I wanted. I changed my major to something more practical half-way through college (from Theater to Early Childhood Studies). Now I’m doing something completely different. So much for knowing my ideal career path right out of high school.

I understand that it takes awhile to see God’s plan. Christian is clearly searching for it, so I know he’ll find it.

Are you in the same boat? Did you rush off the graduation platform to a mob of friends and relatives wanting a list of your future goals? If you had to honestly answer, “I’m not sure,” don’t feel bad. Christian is an example that other smart, talented graduates don’t know either. But you can feel encouraged, knowing that God has an incredible plan for you.

Now you get to start the exciting process of finding out what it is.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The King is Enthralled

Psalm 45:11 tells us, "The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord."

Who is the king? God. 

Who is the beauty? You. 

And what does it mean to be enthralled? That's where  this verse really gets good. Webster's dictionary gives three definitions for enthrall. 
1. to hold spellbound
2. to hold captive
3. to enslave

The God of the universe is enslaved by your beauty. You captivate Him. Your beauty holds Him spellbound.

Why? Because you are having a good hair day? Because you wear a certain size jeans or manage to temporarily have clear skin? Do you think these powerful words were written because of your ability to ascribe to the version of beauty the world esteems? I don't think so. 

God is enthralled by your beauty because He created it. We read in Psalm 139 that He knit every part of you together in your mother's womb and that you were made fearfully and wonderfully. 

My greatest desire for you girls is to know that the world's beauty standards are fleeting at best (and destructive at worst). The world may never recognize your beauty at all, but there is one who does. He is a great king. And He is enthralled by you. 




Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Friends




I was talking to my 25-year-old daughter yesterday about friends. "Katie," I said, "I'm almost 50. I have a few really close friends. I probably won't make many more. Remember in high school? You thought you'd stay close to everybody you hung out with. Life happens and you just don't keep in touch."

She agreed.

This is a picture of one of my lifetime friends. Robin and I met when we were 14 and 15. We're at Katie's wedding. I can't tell you how good it felt for her to be there. To come sit down at me at the reception. To laugh with me. To understand what it feels like when your daughter marries.

Maybe other people are different. Maybe there are girls/ladies with tons of friends. Not me. I know plenty of people but there are only a handful I'll call when things in life get tough.

Do you have a lot of friends or just a few?

What makes someone a good friend?

Can you share something a friend has done for you when you were down?

Is there a time a friend just listened (which is a gift) and made your day better?

I love that scripture that says, "There is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother." Sometimes friends can love us more than family. I'm so glad God lets that happen.

Love,
Julie

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book giveaway - MIXED BAGS by Melody Carlson

Camy here, giving away another book! (No, not mine)

The winner of
Lunatic
by
Ted Dekker and Kaci Hill
is
Debbie
Congratulations!

Didn’t win the book but want to read it?
Buy from Christianbook.com
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To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter!

Please leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on June 27th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Today I’m giving away:

Mixed Bags
by
Melody Carlson


When her mom died, DJ had to move in with her grandmother, internationally famous ’60s fashion model Katherine Carter. Now Mrs. Carter’s opened a boarding home for young ladies, and DJ—who would rather wear her basketball team uniform than haute couture—is just sure they’ll all be unbearable fashion snobs. One by one, the girls arrive and begin to figure out how to fit into this new family, getting to know each other and forming friendships. Sure, there’s an aspiring diva or two, but before long, the Carter House girls are dating, fighting, laughing, shopping, sharing clothes, purses, shoes … and their deepest secrets. DJ may not turn into the perfect little lady her grandmother has in mind, but one thing’s for certain—with all these new “sisters,” her life will never be the same!

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Excerpt of Chapter One:

“Desiree,” called Inez as she knocked on the other side of the closed bedroom door. “Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs.”

“The name is DJ.”

“I’m sorry, but your grandmother has instructed me to call you Desiree.”

DJ opened the door and looked down on the short and slightly overweight middle-aged housekeeper. “And I have instructed you to call me DJ.”

Inez’s dark eyes twinkled as she gave her a sly grin. “Yes, but it’s your grandmother who pays my salary, Desiree. I take orders from Mrs. Carter. And she wants to see you downstairs in her office, pronto.”

DJ grabbed her favorite Yankees ball cap and shoved it onto her head, pulling her scraggly looking blonde ponytail through the hole in the back of it.

“You’re wearing that?” asked Inez with a frown. “You know what your grandmother says about?—?-”

“Look,” said DJ. “My grandmother might pay you to take orders from her, but I’m a free agent. Got that?”

Inez chuckled. “I got that. But you’re the one who’ll be getting it before too long, Desiree.”

“DJ,” she growled as she tromped loudly down the curving staircase. Why had she let Dad talk her into living with her grandmother for her last two years of high school? She’d only been here since last spring, late into the school year, but long enough to know that it was nearly unbearable. Boarding school would be better than this. At least she’d have a little privacy there and no one constantly riding her?—?-telling her how to act, walk, look, and think. She wished there were some way, short of running away (which would be totally stupid), out of this uncomfortable arrangement.

“There you are,” said Grandmother when DJ walked into the office. Her grandmother frowned at her ball cap and then pasted what appeared to be a very forced smile onto her collagen-injected lips. “I want you to meet a new resident.” She made a graceful hand movement, motioning to where an attractive and somewhat familiar-looking Latina woman was sitting next to a fashionably dressed girl who seemed to be about DJ’s age, but could probably pass for older. The girl was beautiful. Even with the scowl creasing her forehead, it was obvious that this girl was stunning. Her skin was darker than her mother’s, latte-colored and creamy. Her long black hair curled softly around her face. She had high cheekbones and dramatic eyes.

DJ noticed her grandmother smiling her approval on this unhappy-looking girl. But the girl looked oblivious as she fiddled with the gold chain of what looked like an expensive designer bag. Not that DJ was an expert when it came to fashion. The woman stood politely, extending her hand to DJ.

“I’d like to present my granddaughter, Desiree Lane.” Grandmother turned back to DJ now, the approval evaporating from her expression. “Desiree, this is Ms. Perez and her daughter Taylor.”

DJ shook the woman’s hand and mumbled, “Nice to meet you.” But the unfriendly daughter just sat in the leather chair, one long leg elegantly crossed over the other, as she totally ignored everyone in the room.

Grandmother continued speaking to DJ, although DJ suspected this little speech was for Taylor’s mother. “Ms. Perez and I first met when my magazine featured her for her illustrious music career. Her face graced our cover numerous times over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard of Eva Perez.”

The woman smiled. “Or perhaps not,” she said in a voice that was as smooth as honey. “According to my daughter, kids in your age group don’t comprise even a minuscule part of my fan base.”

DJ smiled at the woman now. “Actually, I have heard of you, Ms. Perez. My mom used to play your CDs. She was a serious Latin jazz fan.”

“Was?” She frowned. “I hope her taste in music hasn’t changed. I need all the fans I can get these days.”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree’s mother?—?-my daughter?—?-was killed in a car accident about a year ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

DJ sort of nodded. She never knew how to react when -people said they were sorry about the loss of her mother. It wasn’t as if it were their fault.

“Desiree,” said Grandmother, “Would you mind giving Taylor a tour of the house while I go over some business details with her mother?”

“No problem.”

Grandmother’s recently Botoxed forehead creased ever so slightly, and DJ knew that, once again, she had either said the wrong thing, used bad grammar, or was slumping like a “bag of potatoes.” Nothing she did ever seemed right when it came to her grandmother. “And after the tour, perhaps you could show Taylor to her room.”

“Which room?” asked DJ, feeling concerned. Sure, Taylor might be a perfectly nice person, even if a little snobbish, but DJ was not ready for a roommate just yet.

“The blue room, please. Inez has already taken some of Taylor’s bags up for her. Thank you, Desiree.”

Feeling dismissed as well as disapproved of, DJ led their reluctant new resident out to the foyer. “Well, you’ve probably already seen this.” DJ waved her arm toward the elegant front entrance with its carved double doors and shining marble floor and Persian rug. She motioned toward the ornate oak staircase. “And that’s where the bedrooms are, but we can see that later.” She walked through to the dining room. “This is where we chow down.” She pointed to the swinging doors. “The kitchen’s back there, but the cook, Clara, can be a little witchy about trespassers.” DJ snickered. “Besides, my grandmother does not want her girls to spend much time in the kitchen anyway.”

“Like that’s going to be a problem,” said Taylor, the first words she’d spoken since meeting DJ.

“Huh?” said DJ.

“I don’t imagine anyone is going to be exactly pigging out around here. I mean aren’t we all supposed to become famous models or something?” asked Taylor as she examined a perfectly manicured thumbnail.

DJ frowned. “Well, my grandmother did edit one of the biggest fashion magazines in the world, but I don’t think that means we’re all going to become famous models. I know I’m not.”

Taylor peered curiously at her. “Why not? You’ve got the height, the build, and you’re not half bad looking .?.?. well, other than the fact that you obviously have absolutely no style.” She sort of laughed, but not with genuine humor. “But then you’ve got your grandmother to straighten that out for you.”

DJ just shook her head. “I think my grandmother will give up on me pretty soon. Especially when the others get here. She’ll have girls with more promise to set her sights on.” At least that was what DJ was hoping.

“Has anyone else arrived?”

“Not yet.” DJ continued the tour. “This is the library.” She paused to allow Taylor to look inside the room and then moved on. “And that’s the sunroom, or observatory, as Grandmother calls it.” She laughed. “Hearing her talk about this house sometimes reminds me of playing Clue.”

“What?”

“You know, the murder game, like where Colonel Mustard kills Mrs. Peacock with a wrench in the observatory.”

“Oh, I never played that.”

“Right .?.?.” Then DJ showed Taylor the large living room, the most modern space in the house. Grandmother had put this room together shortly after deciding to take on her crazy venture. Above the fireplace hung a large flat-screen TV, which was connected to a state-of-the-art DVD and sound system. This was encircled by some comfortable pieces of leather furniture, pillows, and throws.

“Not bad,” admitted Taylor.

“Welcome back to the twenty-first century.”

“Do you have wireless here?”

“Yeah. I told Grandmother it was a necessity for school.”

“Good.”

“This house has been in our family for a long time,” said DJ as she led Taylor up the stairs. “But no one has lived here for the past twenty years. My grandmother had it restored after she retired a -couple of years ago.” DJ didn’t add that her grandmother had been forced to retire due to her age (a carefully guarded and mysterious number) or that this new business venture, boarding teen “debutantes,” was to help supplement her retirement income. Those were strict family secrets and, despite DJ’s angst in living here, she did have a sense of family loyalty?—?-at least for the time being. She wasn’t sure if she could control herself indefinitely.

DJ stopped at the second-floor landing. “The bedrooms are on this floor, and the third floor has a ballroom that would be perfect for volleyball, although Grandmother has made it clear that it’s not that kind of ballroom.” She led Taylor down the hall. “My bedroom is here,” she pointed to the closed door. “And yours is right next door.” She opened the door. “The blue room.”

Taylor looked into the pale blue room and shook her head in a dismal way. “And is it true that I have to share this room with a perfect stranger?”

“Well, I don’t know how perfect she’ll be.”

“Funny.” Taylor rolled her eyes as she opened a door to one of the walk-in closets opposite the beds.

“I try.”

“It’s not as big as I expected.”

“It’s bigger than it looks,” said DJ as she walked into the room and then pointed to a small alcove that led to the bathroom.

“Do I get any say in who becomes my roommate?”

“I guess you can take that up with my grandmother.”

Taylor tossed her purse onto the bed closest to the bathroom and then kicked off her metallic-toned sandals. “These shoes might be Marc Jacobs, but they’re killing me.”

“So, you’re really into this?” asked DJ. “The whole fashion thing?”

Taylor sat down on the bed, rubbing a foot. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.”

DJ felt the need to bite her tongue. Taylor was her grandmother’s first official paying customer to arrive and participate in this crazy scheme. Far be it from DJ to rock Grandmother’s boat. At least not just yet.

“Well, thanks for the tour,” said Taylor in a bored voice. Then she went over to where a set of expensive-looking luggage was stacked in a corner. “Don’t the servants around here know how to put things away properly?”

“Properly?” DJ shrugged.

Taylor picked up the top bag and laid it down on the bench at the foot of one of the beds and opened it.

“Don’t you want to go down and tell your mom good-bye?” asked DJ as she moved toward the door.

Taylor laughed in a mean way. “And make her think she’s doing me a favor by dumping me here? Not on your life.”

“Here are some more bags for Miss Mitchell,” said Inez as she lugged two large suitcases into the room, setting them by the door.

“Put them over there,” commanded Taylor, pointing to the bench at the foot of the other bed. “And don’t pile them on top of each other. This happens to be Louis Vuitton, you know.”

DJ saw Inez make a face behind Taylor’s back. But the truth was DJ didn’t blame her. Inez might be a housekeeper, but she didn’t deserve to be treated like a slave. Suddenly, DJ felt guilty for snapping at Inez earlier today. She smiled now, and Inez looked surprised and a little suspicious. Then DJ grabbed the largest bag, hoisted it onto the bench with a loud grunt, and Taylor turned around and gave her a dark scowl.

“Thank you,” she snapped.

“Later,” said DJ as she exited the room with Inez on her heels.

“Mrs. Carter wants to see you downstairs, Desiree,” announced Inez when they were out on the landing.

“Again?” complained DJ. “What for?”

“Another girl just arrived. Your grandmother wants you to give her a tour too.”

“What am I now?” asked DJ. “The official tour guide?”

“That sounds about right.” Inez gave her a smirk.

DJ wasn’t sure if she could stomach another fashion diva with an attitude problem, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to risk another etiquette lecture from her grandmother either. Once again, she clomped down the stairs and made her appearance in the office, suppressing the urge to bow and say, “At your ser-vice, Madam.”

“Eliza,” gushed Grandmother, “This is my granddaughter, Desiree Lane. And Desiree, I’d like you to meet Eliza Wilton.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Desiree.”

DJ nodded. She could tell by how formal her grandmother was acting that Eliza Wilton must be someone really important?—?-meaning extraordinarily wealthy?—?-even more so than the Mitchells. And that’s when she remembered her grandmother going on about “the Wilton fortune” this morning at breakfast. Of course, that must be Eliza’s family.

“Nice to meet ya, Eliza,” DJ said in a purposely casual tone. This girl was pretty too, but not like Taylor’s dark and dramatic beauty. Eliza was a tall, slender, impeccably dressed, blue-eyed blonde. She wasn’t exactly a Paris Hilton clone?—?-and she didn’t have a little dog as far as DJ could see?—?-but there was a similarity, except that Eliza’s face was a little softer looking, a little sweeter, but then looks could be deceiving.

DJ wondered if the Botox was starting to wear off, as her grandmother studied her with a furrowed brow, probably comparing her to Miss Perfect Eliza. Naturally, DJ would not measure up.

“Eliza is from Louisville,” said Grandmother. “Her parents are presently residing in France, where her father just purchased a vineyard. But Eliza’s grandmother and I are old friends. We went to college together. When she heard about what I was doing up here in Connecticut, she encouraged her daughter to send dear Eliza our way.”

“Lucky Eliza,” said DJ in a droll tone.

Eliza actually giggled. Then Grandmother cleared her throat. “Desiree will give you a tour of the house,” she said. “And she’ll show you to your room.”

“Which is .?.?.??” asked DJ.

“The rose room.”

Of course, thought DJ as she led Eliza from the office. Next to her grandmother’s suite, the rose room was probably the best room in the house. Naturally, someone as important as Eliza would be entitled to that. Not that DJ had wanted it. And perhaps her grandmother had actually offered it to her last month. DJ couldn’t remember. But she had never been a flowery sort of girl, and she knew the rose wallpaper in there would’ve been giving her a serious migraine by now. Besides she liked her sunny yellow bedroom and, in her opinion, it had the best view in the house. On a clear day, you could actually glimpse a sliver of the Atlantic Ocean from her small bathroom window.

DJ started to do a repeat of her earlier tour, even using the same lines, until she realized that Eliza was actually interested.

“How old is this house?”

“Just over a hundred years,” DJ told her. “It was built in 1891.”

“It has a nice feel to it.”

DJ considered this. “Yeah, I kinda thought that too, after I got used to it. To be honest, it seemed pretty big to me at first. But then you’re probably used to big houses.”

“I suppose. Not that I’m particularly fond of mansions.”

“Why aren’t you with your parents?” asked DJ. “In France?”

“They’re concerned about things like politics and security,” said Eliza as they exited the library. “In fact, they almost refused to let me come here.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I think they felt I was safer in boarding school. If our grandmothers hadn’t been such good friends, I’m sure they never would’ve agreed.”

“So, you’re happy to be here?” DJ studied Eliza’s expression.

“Sure, aren’t you?”

DJ frowned. “I don’t know .?.?. I guess.”

“I think it’ll be fun to go to a real high school, to just live like a normal girl, with other normal girls.”

DJ tried not to look too shocked. “You think this is normal?”

Eliza laughed. “I guess I don’t really know what normal is, but it’s more normal that what I’m used to.”

“But what about the whole fashion thing?” asked DJ. “I mean you must know about my grandmother’s plans to turn us all into little debutantes. Are you into all that?”

“That’s nothing new. Remember, I’m from the south. My family is obsessed with turning me into a lady. That was one of the other reasons my parents agreed to this. I think they see the Carter House as some sort of finishing school.”

Or some sort of reformatory school, thought DJ. Although she didn’t say it out loud. Not yet, anyway.


Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi is out now, and her romantic suspense Deadly Intent will release in July. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beautiful

Hi guys!

I want to share a video with you. This is a commercial Dove created that I'm sure some of you have seen - what do you guys think?



Instead of looking at the world, at magazines, at movie stars for our definition of beauty, let's look to the One who created us. Let's fix our eyes on the Sculptor who formed every cell in our bodies.

Psalm 34 - "They looked to Him and were radiant..."

What do you think? What are your thoughts on beauty?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

You Just Never Know


A couple weeks ago I received an e-mail from a high school bff. She attached a couple pics from a time I visited her house a year or so after she married and moved to Oregon. I was in my early twenties at the time and taking a road trip with a couple of friends as a break after an intense time of launching a new program at a church where I worked.

In my memory, that road trip was a fun time with a couple of friends. That’s it.

But as I looked at those pictures, it hit me. God had his plans, and that trip changed the course of my life.

We had driven through the most picturesque parts of Oregon, through the forests of central Oregon to the lighthouses of the coast. Played on beaches and jetties and made a meal out of fruit, crackers, and Tilamook cheese straight from the Oregon factory. Even pitched in for a one-hour private plane ride over the Eugene-Corvallis area.

Then we drove back to California to return to our homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. On the way we stopped to visit a friend at a residential ministry for at-risk youth, spent a night, and went home.

But that friend got an idea while we were visiting. She wanted me to meet someone. I went out on a date, even though we started by me adamantly clarifying where I stood: “I know everyone is trying to set us up, but just so you know, I'm really not looking for a relationship right now.”

So much for that. We dated some more. Later married, actually having the wedding on the ministry property in a beautiful green meadow. Today we’re still working at that ministry for at-risk youth, and I’m writing for the teen/audience on tough issues.

Where would I have been if . . .
Stop. Not even gonna to go there.

You just never know where one simple choice in your life will take you.


Jan
author of the Live Free series, Standard Publishing

true stories, true hope

for teens, young adults,
and those who care about them.

    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    What's your "it?"

    I hate my eye flaps. They are these little flaps of skin that cover the corner of my eyes. No one else has them and I've spent years thinking I would be so much prettier if I didn't have them either. 

    See?









    Not sure what I'm talking about? Here's a close up (thanks to my 
    built in web cam!) 









    Still don't see them? They're there. I promise. And they drive me crazy. But no one else even notices them. In fact, when I talk about how much they bother me, most people just stare at me like I'm crazy. "What are you talking about?" my friends say. " You're eyes look just like everyone else's" they promise. 

    But still...they bug me. 

    I bet you've got something like that. Maybe your curly hair makes you want to scream (us straight haired girls would love to trade, by the way). Maybe you've got freckles you wish you could erase. Perhaps you have a birth defect or disability that makes you feel self-conscious. 

    Whatever our "it" is, our tendency is to see them as flaws. We agree that God did well when he created sunsets and zebras and ocean waves but we secretly suspect that when He made our eye flaps or freckles or hair or shape or size he simply...goofed. But this is contrary to God's Word. 

    Psalm 139:13-14 says, " For you created my inmost being; 
    you knit me together in my mother's womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

    He created every part of you. Even your inmost being. And you were made fearfully and wonderfully. Not accidentally. Not mistakenly. But with great precision. That's even true about whatever part of your beauty you're not so crazy about. 

    Today, I am going to choose to walk in God's Truth about my beauty--eye flaps and all. Will you? 

    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    The Size of a Mountain

    My assistant and I came to the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. We're here to attend the Gideon Christian Film Festival and Conference. I like these events. I get to meet wonderful people, renew acquaintances with people I only run into at conferences, and catch-up with old friends. We arrived a day early to do some sight-seeing and make some local contacts for marketing my books. We did a historical tour on a bus, gathering material for a new novel. This isn't unusual. I can't seem to take off my writer's hat, and truly, I don't mind. When I see the rich green and crowded trees in the forest next to the road, I imagine kimens and all sorts of woodland creatures, going through the underbrush. I see an old house and my mind conjures up characters to live in that house. I love it. 
    But back to the mountains. They have a peak here that is the highest east of the Mississippi. The tour guide rattled off the elevation and Rachael and I laughed. Their tallest mountain was the elevation at which we live with towering mountains reaching 14,000 feet beyond our relatively flat city. 
    It's a matter of perspective. Ever heard of people making a mountain out of a molehill?  God tells us not to sweat the small things. What? You've never heard of that verse? There are quite a few of them in Proverbs. But the one that pops up in my mind is 2 Timothy 2:23
    "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." 
    So don't make mountains out of molehills, don't burst other people's balloons just for the fun of it, (our mountains are REAL mountains), and don't get caught in a bramble over something that doesn't really matter, like who told the story that made everyone laugh four years ago at the annual anti-climax reunion in post mortar park. Or was that five years ago?

    SNAKE!! Oh my gosh!!



    I can't figure out how this happened.

    A few weeks ago, I'd used this rubber snake to teach high school Sunday school. I brought him along as an example of how the evil one can sneak up on us. Last night I went out with some friends. I picked Leigh Anne up at her house. She jumped into the passenger seat (I have a PT Cruiser) and Mr. Snake was in the floorboard near her feet. I'd kinda forgotten to clean out my car. (I also have a winter coat and a bunch of other stuff in the back.)

    She screamed. I laughed.

    "Oops. Sorry. I forget he was still in here."

    Leigh Anne carefully picked Mr. Snake up by the tail. "I'll just toss him in the back seat. I don't like snakes."

    We met some friends at Chili's restaurant for dessert. By the time we got back out to the car it was dark. I slipped in to drive and saw MR. SNAKE wrapped around my steering wheel.

    He'd moved from the backseat to the steering wheel. I'm not kidding.

    Leigh Anne promises she didn't do it. She called her husband to see if he'd played a prank on us. Nope. I called my daughter and husband. Nope. We asked the ladies who met us. Nope. I could have sworn I locked my car--so that part is even weirder.

    Okay, moving right along.

    I started thinking today...when something creeps into our lives to trip us up or lead us down the wrong path, it's usually not as easy to spot as a snake on a steering wheel.

    Sometimes the wrong choice can seem so right.

    Tricky snakes might be:
    1. Saying yes when no is the right answer answer.
    2. Trusting a guy with not-so-great intentions.
    3. Looking the other way when someone needs a friend.

    Does anybody need help with a snake who's somehow crept onto your steering wheel?



    Julie

    Girls, God, and the Good Life

     
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