Tuesday, May 28, 2013

FIRST Wild Card Tour: SHOWgrins by Betty Collier

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

XLIBRIS (February 12, 2013)


Betty Collier is a nurse by profession, author by passion, and storyteller by the grace of God. After reading the headlines that tennis pro Venus Williams suffers from Sjogren's syndrome, Betty discovered she had many of the same symptoms. This began her quest to share the journeys of five other remarkable women battling this incurable illness. The third in her Living Inside The Testimony Book Series, Betty hopes others will discover that they too live inside testimonies meant to be shared. Betty lives in Bartlett, Tennessee, with her husband, the absolute love of her life, and their two sons. Betty's passion for increasing awareness of this silent disease takes her beyond the inspirational stories she has written about to the streets of Nashville, TN where she will run with Team Sjogren's on April 27, 2013 in the Country Music Half Marathon to help increase awareness and raise funds for Sjogren’s research.

Visit the author's website.


Award-winning author Betty Collier has intricately woven a beautiful, edifying and inspirational book that informs readers of Sjogren's syndrome - its signs and symptoms, diagnosis, medication and treatment, complications, and other related information. Readers will be captivated by the inspiring and uplifting story of five remarkable women who embarked on the same journey through Sjögren’s syndrome. This book takes Venus Williams’ fight against the same autoimmune disease many women are suffering right now as a concrete instance. Along with her story, Collier brings into the limelight the cases of Cathy Taylor, Estrella Bibbey, Judy Kang, Lynn Petruzzi, and Paula Beth Sosin, the five women who opened their hearts and shared their Sjogren’s stories with the world for everyone to understand more about this incurable disease. Through the heartwarming stories of these five women and the intimate details of their journeys, millions will be inspired, encouraged, and motivated to face the crossroads in their lives.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 102 pages
Publisher: XLIBRIS (February 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1479780154
ISBN-13: 978-1479780150


Fame, Fortune, and Fatigue

Who wouldn’t want to be like Venus Williams, one of the most admired professional athletes in the world? Continue reading for about three or four minutes, and I’ll answer that question. But first, let’s take a quick glance at the trophy room of this phenomenal tennis superstar. She has won an astonishing forty-three singles titles, including two U.S. Open Singles and five Wimbledon Singles. Along with her sister Serena Williams, she has also won an amazing nineteen doubles titles which include two at the U.S. Open Doubles, two at the French Open Doubles, five at the Wimbledon Doubles, and four at the Australian Open Doubles. And lastly, she has been an Olympic gold medal tennis champion for an unprecedented four times.

In addition to her tennis accolades, Williams is CEO of her interior design firm, “V Starr Interiors” and realized a dream come true by launching her fashion line “EleVen.” She has been recognized by Forbes on numerous occasions such as Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, Forbes Most Powerful Black Women In The U.S., and Forbes the Celebrity 100. If that’s not enough, she’s also part-owner of the Miami Dolphins along with her sister Serena, making them the first African-American females with ownership in an NFL franchise.

So why am I talking about Williams in my book? After all, she wrote a New York Times Bestseller, a book entitled Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession. What does her book have to do with my book? Absolutely nothing. However, this book does have a lot to do with Williams. You see, Williams had to pull out of the U.S. Open in 2011 due to yet another undertaking, undoubtedly her toughest challenge yet, one that up to four million Americans are also battling to live with.

Williams is fighting Sjögren’s syndrome, the second most common autoimmune disease. Prior to her announcement, Sjögren’s syndrome was probably the most common, unknown disease in the world even though it was first identified in 1933 by Dr. Henrik Sjögren.

Classic symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, but Sjögren’s may also cause dysfunction of organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Williams, along with millions of others, experience extreme fatigue and joint pain, which is likely why she had to withdraw from the tournament.

I will ask the question again. Who wouldn’t want to be like Venus Williams? Up to four million Americans can answer in the affirmative, with approximately 3,600,000 of them being females. I think I am one of them. I have not been formally diagnosed yet, but I am seeing the specialist my primary care physician referred me to. Before I finish writing this book, I will know for sure if I have it, but that's another chapter toward the end of the book.

For now, let's see what happened after Williams pulled out of the U.S. Open. I read a story on the internet a couple of days after she withdrew, Venus Williams Battles Sjögren’s Syndrome. Needless to say, my curiosity got the best of me. I wondered how she could have such a dreadful disease which forced her to leave the tournament after only one match. Would she ever be able to return to this sport that she loved and once ruled?

Much to my surprise, the article only had two paragraphs about Williams. She was quoted as saying, “I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon.” The rest of the article was about the disease, not Williams. It was only one day after reading Williams had to withdraw that I began writing the first chapter of this book.

As I was trying to comprehend what had happened to me over those twenty-four hours, I had already self-diagnosed myself as being affirmed with this same condition, and I was now totally obsessed with writing a book about it to help others. I just wish Dr. Smith had identified the illness instead of Dr. Sjögren. Hence the book title, SHOWgrins, because I read that Sjögren’s is pronounced “SHOW-grins.” In my haste to start writing this book the very next day, I entitled it SHOWgrins so I wouldn’t forget how to pronounce my new diagnosis and new book title.

So how does this story fit into my book series of uplifting, real-life, inspirational testimonies? Let’s see what Venus Williams had to say about all of this.

Friday, May 24, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: Diamond in the Rough by Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Whitaker House (May 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


Veteran authors Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson have combined their considerable skills to create the action-packed historical romance series, Charm & Deceit, for Whitaker House.

Jennifer AlLee is the bestselling author of The Love of His Brother (2007) for Five Star Publishers, and for Abington Press: The Pastor's Wife (2010), The Mother Road (April 2012), and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012). She’s also published a number of short stories, devotions and plays. Jennifer is a passionate participant in her church’s drama ministry. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Visit the author's website.

Lisa Karon Richardson has led a life of adventure — from serving as a missionary in the Seychelles and Gabon to returning to the U.S. to raise a family—and she imparts her stories with similarly action-packed plot lines. She’s the author of Impressed by Love (2012) for Barbour Publishing’s Colonial Courtships anthology, The Magistrate’s Folly, and Midnight Clear, part of a 2013 holiday anthology, also from Barbour. Lisa lives with her husband and children in Ohio.

Visit the author's website.


Grant Diamond is a professional gambler on the run from his past. When he comes across a wagon wreck, the chance to escape his pursuers is too good a gamble to pass up, so he assumes the identity of the dead wagon driver. His plan takes an unexpected turn, though, when heiress Lily Rose mistakes him for the missionary she had asked to come to Eureka, California to work with the local Wiyot Indians. Seeing Eureka as a promising place to lay low, Grant plays along. Before he knows it, he’s bluffing his way through sermons and building a school. But with a Pinkerton on his trail and a rancher rousing fresh hatred against the Indians, Grant fears the new life he’s built may soon crumple like a house of cards.

Genre: Historical Christian Romance

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (May 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603747427
ISBN-13: 978-1603747424


April 1861

Eureka, California

“They’re dying, Hodge!” Lily burst through the door of the general store. “I don’t know what’s wro—oomph.” She jerked to a stop as her hoopskirt caught in the door. Again.
A handful of choice phrases leaped to mind, but she settled for inarticulate grumbling as she reached back with one hand to wrench the flexible metallic hoops free. As she staggered forward, her skirts belled out, knocking over a display of stacked baking soda tins. She stooped to prevent the cans from rolling willy-nilly across the floor, only to have the back of her skirt swing in the opposite direction and make contact with something solid.
Hodge wiped his hands on his apron as he hurried around from behind the counter. “Just leave it, Miss Lily.”
Lily straightened, shifting the cumbersome flowerpot she held in the crook of one arm. With her free hand, she swept the loose tendrils of hair from her eyes and tucked them behind her ear. “You really need to widen that door.”
Hodge cocked his head and planted his hands on his hips. “You really need to wear skirts that don’t endanger life and limb.”
Lily narrowed her eyes and opened her mouth to correct him, but she snapped it shut again when she noticed a man leaning against the counter. His dark hair stood up in spiky patches, as if he’d run his fingers through it repeatedly since removing his hat. His craggy complexion was saved from severity by the quirk of a dimple at the corner of his mouth and the glint of humor in his green eyes.
With a barely perceptible nod, Lily turned away from the stranger’s amused glance and squared her shoulders. She wasn’t above arguing with Hodge, but she couldn’t afford to antagonize him right now. She needed his help.
She thrust the flowerpot she carried at the shopkeeper. A feathery purple peony drooped listlessly over the side, its leaves marred by irregular black spots. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with this thing?”
Hodge plucked off one of the saddest-looking leaves and rubbed it between his fingers, then lifted it to his nose and sniffed. “You’ve got blight.” He tossed the leaf back into the pot.
“Blight?” That sounded bad. And pervasive. Whatever it was hadn’t afflicted just this particular plant. Half the peonies in the greenhouse looked the same. Mama was going to have a fit when she got back from San Francisco. “What did I do?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. It’s caused by a fungus.”
“Oh.” That was some small consolation. “Is there any cure?”
“Sure, there is.”
Lily tamped down her irritation, forcing a smile instead. Getting information out of Hodge was more tedious than pulling weeds from the garden. “And what might that cure be?”
“Steep a handful of elder leaves in hot water with some Castile soap, then rub it on the leaves.”
“Castile soap?”
“Yep. I’ve got some in the back.” Hodge held up his hand, halting her attempt to follow him. “Oh no, you don’t. You’ll leave another trail of destruction in your wake.”
Lily sniffed and raised her chin. Hodge didn’t know the first thing about fashion. Granted, she hadn’t quite gotten the hang of these hoops yet. But, when she did, the whole town would be impressed with her grace and style. And Mama would finally be happy.
With great care, she glided across the room, mindful not to knock over anything else. No use proving Hodge’s point. She halted at the counter and picked up a seed catalog. Maybe Mama need never know. Lily could order replacement seeds, or bulbs, or whatever these plants came from. Only, how long did they take to grow?
The black-clad stranger stood only a few feet away, studying a sheaf of paper in his hands. For some reason, his dimple showed. Lily made a pointed flip of the catalog page. If he thought she’d come over here to speak with him, he was sorely mistaken.
“You’ll need root cuttings to plant peonies.” The stranger turned his head and offered her a roguish smile.
Lily nodded once. They hadn’t been introduced, but a lady wasn’t rude without reason.
“I don’t think they’ll carry them in that catalog, though.”
“Where might I get some?” The question crossed her lips before she could frame it in her mind. Her hand jerked to her mouth, as if she could catch her words and snatch them back before they reached his ears.
“Special dealers, horticultural friends, botanical gardens.” The words rolled effortlessly off his tongue.
Lily blinked. He looked so…rough. What did this sort of man know about frivolities like flower gardens?
He pushed away from the counter and turned to face her fully, giving her an accurate picture of just how tall he was. At eye level with her was his neck, which, she now noticed, was encircled by a clerical collar. Her jaw dropped a notch. A clergyman? Mindful of Mama’s opinions on good breeding, she pressed her lips together again, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from that stark white square.
Hodge bustled back in from the storage room. “Here you go, Miss Lily. Had to open a new crate.” He held out a bar wrapped in paper.
“Thank you.” Lily accepted it, then glanced at the stranger again. The way he looked at her made it feel as if the room were ten degrees warmer. Resisting the urge to press her palms against her cheeks, she fumbled with the clasp of her reticule. “How much do I owe you, Hodge?”
“A dime’ll do it.”
The preacher put on his hat, tipped it at her, and headed outside.
Lily found the coin and handed it over without bothering to quibble about the outrageous price.
“See you were talkin’ to Reverend Crew. He’s fresh from out East. Sent by some missionary society, think he said.”
Lily’s head jerked up. “Missiona—oh, no!” Snatching up her flowerpot and bar of soap, she whirled around and strode toward the door, heedless of the destruction she wrought in her pursuit of the stranger.
The smell hit him first. Pinkerton Detective Carter Forbes covered his mouth and nose with his handkerchief. His trusty mare, Friday, hesitated, and he patted her neck. “It’s okay, girl. Whatever caused this should be long gone by now.”
She whickered softly in response, then moved forward with cautious, delicate steps, her muscles bunched and ready to gallop if necessary.
Around the next bend in the trail was a covered wagon toppled on its side. Carter scanned the area. The horses that had been hitched to it were nowhere in sight. Enormous redwoods stood like sentinels protecting the smaller denizens of the forest. One wagon wheel had caught against a tree. Leaves covered the chassis and littered the torn canvas. Nothing moved.
Senses jangling, Carter dismounted and looped Friday’s reins over a nearby tree limb. The birds overhead ceased their chattering, and even the breeze stilled, as if the whole forest held its breath in anticipation. The rustle of his footsteps through dry leaves sounded remarkably loud in the hush. His fingers grazed the butt of his pistol.
He twitched aside the flap of the canvas. The stench redoubled nearly knocked him off his feet. He staggered back, letting the fabric fall closed again. Gagging, he sucked in a gulp of relatively pure air, but the foulness refused to be purged from his lungs. Over and over he inhaled, pressing his nose against his shirtsleeve in a futile attempt to mask the disgusting odor. At last, he clamped one hand over his mouth and, with the other, wrenched the canvas away with a terrible rip.
The dead man lay on his back. Carter swore under his breath. Why did he always give in to his infernal curiosity? A prudent man would’ve ridden on by. Minded his own business. But not Carter Forbes. Oh, no; he had to see. The quality made him a good Pinkerton, but it could be downright inconvenient.
He squatted and moved closer to the man. The scurry of tiny, clawed feet against the wood made him flinch. The corpse had lain exposed to the elements and scavengers long enough to make identifying the fellow impossible. Carter shook his head. The poor man hadn’t had anyone on hand to mourn his loss.
Sighing, he backed away. The least he could do was dig the man a decent grave. A shovel was still tied to the outside of the wagon. He grabbed it and began digging. The rhythmic thump of the blade biting into the earth sounded a primitive lament.
By how much would this set him back? He had made up a lot of time by riding hard. Still, Diamond probably had almost a day on him.
At last, the hole was large enough. Panting, Carter put aside the shovel and scrabbled out of the pit. He removed his coat and vest and slung them over Friday’s accommodating back. Now for the worst of it.
He ducked inside the wagon again. He couldn’t bring himself to touch the body’s decaying limbs, so he grabbed a fistful of pant fabric and another of jacket. The corpse was heavier than he’d expected it to be as he dragged it to the edge of the makeshift grave.
Lord, keep me from such an end. Carter rolled the corpse over so that it lay facedown. A small round hole penetrated the back of the jacket at about the level of the heart. The area around the hole was stained with blood, but death must have been nigh instantaneous.
He stood and pushed his hat back from his forehead. Why hadn’t he passed on by when he’d had the chance? Blast. Maybe God was punishing him for leaving his sister alone for so long.
He maneuvered the body so that it was face-up again and then methodically searched the pockets. He needed to figure out who the victim was. Then he would ride to the nearest town and turn the matter over to the local sheriff.
When he reached his hand inside the inner breast pocket of the jacket, his fingers found something hard. He plucked out the item—a locket on a gold chain. Could it be? He opened the tiny silver clasp to reveal the serious-eyed gaze of a striking young woman.
Triumph tasted bitter—too tangled up with the scent of death. Could it be that he’d finally found Grand Diamond, the infamous murderer?
His search intensified, as though the evidence might begin to vanish if he wasted any time. He turned up a pocketknife, a handkerchief, a twist of string, a pencil stub, and a thin packet of letters. No gun. Carter frowned. A man wanted for murder wasn’t likely to travel unarmed. Whoever had killed him had probably stolen his weapon.
Carter sat down on an overturned bucket and took up the packet of letters. He pulled on the end of the faded satin ribbon that bound them together. The pages were fragile and scarred with soft, fuzzy creases, as if they’d been folded and unfolded with great frequency.
Grant, my love, I will wait for you in the conservatory at midnight.
More confirmation that the dead man was Diamond. After three years of near misses, Carter finally had his man. Now he could collect his bonus, return to Emily, and get her started on her new treatments.
Yet he didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment. His fingers caressed the worn paper. These letters would be enough proof for anybody. But it was wrong—all wrong. The body was damp, as if it had been out when it had rained two days ago. The letters weren’t. They were almost entirely dry.
And the body was too far decomposed to have been dead only a day or two. This man must have been killed at least a week ago.
Carter pinched the bridge of his nose. He’d been after Diamond for so long, and he wanted nothing more than to close the case and go home. But he couldn’t. Not yet. There was more to this thing than met the eye, and Carter had to see it through, no matter where it led.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: The Fearless Passage of Steven Kim by Carl Herzig with Steven Kim

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Whitaker House (March 14, 2013)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


Seung-Whan (Steven) Kim is a South Korean/American businessman and leading human rights advocate described by ABC news as "a face and a voice on behalf of suffering North Koreans." After serving four years in a Chinese prison camp for rescuing North Korean refugees, Kim returned to the U. S. and founded 318 Partners, a humanitarian organization that continues the work he began, focusing especially on the plight of trafficked North Korean women and children being sold into the sex trade. Kim and his wife are the parents of three grown children and live in Huntington, New York.

Carl Herzig, PhD, is a professor of English at St. Ambrose University where he teaches sacred poetry, contemporary fiction, and creative writing. He is a fellow of the National Writing Project and reviewer for a variety of literary and creative arts journals. Dr. Herzig has served as an Iowa Humanities Scholar and evaluator for the Hearst Foundation U.S. Senate Youth Program, the Iowa Humanities Board, and the Illinois Council for the Humanities.

Visit the authors' website.


Seung-Whan (Steven) Kim was a successful but self-absorbed businessman living the American dream as a South Korean-turned-American citizen when he felt God calling him to intervene on behalf of North Korean refugees. In 2003 Kim was arrested in China for harboring and helping refugees escape through an underground railroad. He would serve four years in prison camps where his faith flourished despite the harsh environment. Immersing himself in Scripture and prayer, he secretly lead fellow inmates and their guard to Christ at great personal risk. Today Kim's refugee mission continues and he's known as a powerful voice for human rights, especially North Korean women and children being trafficked for profit. The Fearless Passage of Steven Kim serves as an inspiring reminder of what God can accomplish through one willing and obedient heart.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (March 14, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160374729X
ISBN-13: 978-1603747295


A remarkable story that is both well-written and touching.  Steven Kim came to the United States at the age of 27, determined to create a life for himself.  An amazing story about hard work and persistence along with the change that dedicating oneself to Jesus Christ brings.  The way Steven and his wife built their business despite several severe setbacks is fascinating in and of itself, but what is truly touching is the way his priorities change when he gets involved in helping North Korean refugees.  And his time in prison really seems to have refined him and changed his priorities from making money to helping suffering people.  This kind of story is for me a powerful reminder of the difference one person can make. Highly recommended.


New York

Saturday, May 31, 1975

“Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”
—Job 8:7

Though already twenty-seven, Steven Kim felt like an excited teen as he stepped onto the tarmac at New York’s Kennedy Airport. His heart was bursting with an overwhelming sense of possibility, his head swimming with American-Dream visions of unbridled prosperity. He knew some English, if not as much as he thought, and crossed to the terminal with every assurance that a bright future awaited him around the first corner.

Steven had dreamed of this moment for almost twenty years, ever since he and his classmates in South Korea had studied English as a second language in middle school. For him, the United States had always been a nation of salvation; a champion-state of equality, individualism, and democracy; a bastion of both personal and political freedom. In the late 1960s, he had gone so far as to volunteer to fight alongside American forces in Vietnam.

And the U.S. was a mostly Christian nation, Steven knew. There would even be Korean churches like the ones he’d grown up with back home, established by Korean immigrants generations before, in the early the twentieth century. In South Korea, the number of churches was increasing dramatically, and there were already more Korean Christians than there were adherents to any of the country’s other religions. By this point, Steven figured, there must be tens of thousands of Korean Christians in America, and plenty of churches in New York from which to choose.

Most important for Steven, the American flag had become for him, as it had for Koreans in every walk of life, a banner of unlimited economic promise and business opportunity. For them, the U.S. was the place to go if you wanted to become rich. Wages were higher across the board, even at the lowest level, and one’s earnings, he believed, in the tradition of Horatio Alger, were in direct proportion to how hard you were willing to work. It was simple ingwa ŭngbo, cause and effect, based on initiative and poram, worthiness. The U.S. economy was less vulnerable to market fluctuations than Korea’s, and, in stark contrast to Korea’s highly politicized atmosphere, family and political connections in the U.S. were not always required for commercial success. All one needed, Steven thought, were initiative and a willingness to work hard—and he was chock-full of both.

The long path that had brought him to America hadn’t been easy, though. He’d been born Kim Seung-Whan to Korean parents in Seoul, South Korea, in 1949, just a year before the outbreak of the Korean War, and had grown up in a world full of violence, poverty, and hunger.

Seung-Whan’s father, Kim Ki-Hong, was from Sineuju, a lumber town on the northwestern border across the Yalu River from China, and had spent his youth in the town of Sariwon. After high school, Ki-Hong went to Japan to study photography, and he later moved to China and opened a studio in Beijing, where he lived for over ten years, earning a respectable income as a well-regarded photographer.

During the Second World War, Ki-Hong joined the Chinese Army to fight the Japanese, whose brutal, genocidal occupation of Korea had lasted thirty-five years, since 1910. When the war ended, he was still relatively young, and his army service earned him the freedom of travel. He chose to return to his “liberated” homeland in the north.

Ki-Hong arrived in Sariwon expecting to help build a new, free Korean society. With the 1945 division of the once-unified country at the 38th parallel, however, he found that one occupying force—the Japanese—had been replaced by another: the Soviets. Conditions were just as repressive as they had been under Japanese rule, in some ways even worse. Many of the Soviet soldiers stationed in North Korea had been criminals and prisoners. Now, disdainful of what they saw as a subhuman foreign populace and free to act on even their grossest desires, they rampaged through the towns and countryside, taking what they liked; raping women and young girls, often in front of their parents, husbands, and children; and pillaging family homes and property. Anyone who protested their behavior was mercilessly beaten or executed on the spot.

Ki-Hong had never considered himself a communist or espoused an overtly political position, but neither had he been averse to the philosophy. Now, however, his hatred of the occupation forces caused him to despise all communists, and he did so with a vengeance, not making a distinction between Soviets and Chinese. He helped organize an underground resistance group called Young Friends against Soviet Soldiers, comprised mostly young North Koreans, whose goal was to protect the citizenry and fight against the new army of foreign invaders. Every night, they went out into the streets to search out isolated Soviet soldiers to kill and confiscate their weapons.

Ki-Hong was one of the leaders of the emerging grassroots resistance, but his position was difficult to keep secret. Other members of the community became aware of his role, and within months, an infiltrator in the Young Friends exposed him publicly and informed the Soviets of his identity. Suddenly Ki-Hong was on the run, a wanted man, facing sure execution if apprehended. Only with the help of a few trusted friends was he was able to disappear, eluding the search and, in 1946, escaping to South Korea.

When he arrived in Seoul, Ki-Hong sought out like-minded activists. Still filled with hatred for the Soviets in the north, he searched for the most anti-communist group he could find and eventually joined the influential West-North Youth League.

As he had in the north, Ki-Hong helped direct the anti-communist campaign. But he no longer needed to conduct his activities underground, since he had the support of the South Korean government. He and his fellow activists searched the country for communist sympathizers and North Korean agents. Eventually, his role was formalized, and after the war he joined the South Korean police. Now it was his job to arrest communists and send them to prison. Fluent in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese, he soon rose to the rank of detective, and he remained there until his retirement.

Ki-Hong soon met and married a South Korean woman, Hong Do-Won. And on April 17, 1949, in Seoul, the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a son, named Seung-Whan.

One of Seung-Whan’s few early or happy memories of his father was riding on the back of his motorcycle down a dusty city street. But Ki-Hong never really committed to either his wife or his child. They rarely ate or enjoyed activities as a trio, and the family didn’t hold together for very long. In 1956, when Steven was six, his father left to live with another woman.

For the next six years, until Ki-Hong returned for good, Do-Won was without her husband or the benefits of his income; he didn’t send them anything or stay in touch. As a single mother without other means of support, she was forced to work long hours in the nearby textile mills to keep herself and her son housed, clothed, and fed.

Ki-Hong’s mother, Grandma Hong In-Sung, remained a part of their lives. A proud woman of strong Christian faith, she looked after Seung-Whan’s religious upbringing, taking him to church and Sunday school every week. When he was sick, or pretending to be, he might miss school, but he never missed church; his grandmother would go so far as to carry him there on her back, if she had to. After the war, he later remembered, she would always iron paper money for him to place in the offering basket, even when times were lean.

Despite the witness of Grandma In-Sung, church was more a social opportunity than a spiritual experience for Seung-Whan. He had been born into a Christian family and had attended worship services for as long as he could remember, so he didn’t feel as if there was anything more for him to learn; he just practiced without thinking. Unlike the many South Koreans who converted to Christianity during and after the war, Seung-Whan was hardly conscious of the tenets of his faith; being a Christian was just like being a member of a family, in his eyes—a birthright, not a belief. His converted friends had to learn about who Jesus was and what He had taught—for them, a whole new philosophy—but Seung-Whan never really thought about those things. They were automatic, routine.

“I didn’t know Jesus Christ personally,” he said years later. “‘Jesus Christ—oh yeah, I believe in Jesus Christ,’ I always said, but inside I didn’t really know who He was.”

At age fifteen, Seung-Whan sang in the church choir and helped teach Sunday school, but he wasn’t moved by the services or inspired by the knowledge the ministers passed down; he didn’t feel anything inside. As he grew older, he continued to tithe money to the church, but in his life outside, he did whatever he wanted, not treating Sundays—let alone any other day of the week—as God’s.

Like all South Korean children, Seung-Whan learned English in school and developed a steadfast belief in “the land of the free.” He pushed himself hard in his lessons and made friends with American officers serving as volunteer teachers. To him, the United States was both a land of opportunity and a refuge from communist oppression.

In the early 1960s, when the Vietnam conflict had expanded into a full-fledged battle between the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese government and the communist north, South Korea provided the second-largest contingent of foreign troops. Never having left Korea, Seung-Whan was desperate to see the world, but no one could travel abroad without fulfilling his compulsory military duty. And so, immediately upon graduating, Seung-Whan enlisted with the Korean army, along with 320,000 of his compatriots.

Despite having grown up in a war-torn land, his youthful exuberance blinded him to the dangers of fighting. As luck would have it, he landed a job in the Educational Department of the 36th Regiment of the South Korean Army’s Operational Command Post, where he was tasked with preparing annual education timetables for the entire regiment. Although he was safe in his position, he was restless; he wanted to fight. Four times he applied for a transfer to combat duty, hoping to join the American forces on the ground in Vietnam. His job was vital to the regiment, though, and not everyone had the ability do it, so none of his four applications were supported or forwarded by his commanding officer. Seung-Whan was destined to serve his nation from the peaceful security of operational headquarters.

Upon completion of his term of duty, Seung-Whan returned to civilian life and decided that he wanted to go back to school. He’d always excelled in academics, and he knew that a degree could serve as a gateway to a more fulfilling life. To his disappointment, however, he wasn’t able to afford the tuition, nor could he obtain a scholarship to help cover the expenses. So, he accepted a paid position as tour director with church-run cultural youth group.

Seung-Whan enjoyed his job coordinating appearances for the young performers, and it satisfied his appetite for travel, but it still wasn’t what he was looking for in terms of a career. He wanted to succeed financially—to earn “real” money. This, he decided, should be his main focus. And so, after considering the best places in the world to launch a prosperous career, he weighed his options and turned his attention to his capitalist dreamland: the United States.

When Seung-Whan arrived in New York, the Korean and Vietnam wars were over, the last of the American troops having been lifted out of the chaos of Saigon just weeks earlier. The world was entering a new, modern age, based on the evidence all around him, and New York would be the center of global commerce—it was the place to be. He could hardly believe his good fortune as he set foot on U.S. soil for the first time. He had even adopted an English name to fit his new identity—Steven Kim. And he felt sure that nothing could hold him back.

Steven’s most pressing challenge was money—he was practically broke. With just a few bills in his pocket and not a penny more to his name, he needed to find a job immediately, that very day. Whatever work he could find, he told himself—whatever he was offered—he would do. I’ll do anything, he decided as he passed through customs. If I don’t work, I’ll die.

Fortunately, Steven had a contact—a high school friend who had come to the States a few years before and, like so many other Korean immigrants in New York since the beginning of the 1970s, opened a fresh produce store.

In 1960, only around four hundred Koreans lived in New York City, many of them students at Columbia University. By the end of the decade, however, Koreans had become the fastest-growing ethnic group of small-business owners in America’s largest metropolitan area.

Early on, the Koreans mostly sold wigs and other Korean-made goods or subcontracted in the garment industry. Then, first in the poorer minority neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, Koreans began buying up grocery stores from their American owners, who were retiring at an increasing rate. They also set up shop in vacant, abandoned buildings. Many of these entrepreneurs had come from Korea with experience managing or working in small retail outfits. Now, grocery stores, produce shops, and fruit stands owned and run by recent immigrants from Korea were sprouting up weekly on almost every block and street corner in the residential districts of Manhattan. Some of these businesses operated around the clock seven days a week to take full advantage of the “City That Never Sleeps.”

Without question, Steven was ready and willing to do his part. Before the sun had set on his first day in New York, he had a job selling fruit and vegetables in his family friend’s produce shop in Massapequa, on Long Island, just an hour’s train ride east of Manhattan.

The next morning, the owner walked Steven through the shop, pointing out bins and crates brimming with unfamiliar produce. “What’s this long green thing?” Steven asked in Korean. “What do you call that red one?” He was practically bursting with questions and nervous enthusiasm. He could barely wait to start.

“You have your work cut out for you,” the owner said. And he was right. But Steven didn’t mind hard work. Neither did he mind getting up before dawn to prepare the store for opening, nor staying late into the night, long after the last of the evening customers had returned home, to shut it down. He quickly learned almost all of the hundreds of names for the fruits and vegetables for sale in America, and it didn’t take long for his English to improve enough for him to converse comfortably with Korean and American customers alike.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: Katie's Choice by Amy Lillard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

B&H Books (May 1, 2013)


Amy Lillard is an award-winning writer who loves reading romance novels from contemporary to Amish. These two genres met in her first book, 2012's Saving Gideon. Born and bred in Mississippi, she now lives with her husband and son in Oklahoma. To find out more about Amy and her books, please visit her online at http://amywritesromance.com.


Katie Rose Fisher loved Samuel Beachy with an intensity that shook their Amish district. No one doubted they would one day marry, until Samuel turned his back on the church and joined the world of the English. Alone now in Clover Ridge, Katie Rose dedicates her life to God and the school children she teaches each day. Although she secretly longs for more, Katie knows God’s hand is at work, and she is happy. News correspondent Zane Carson never even knew Oklahoma had an Amish community until he got the chance to live among them and learn about their day-to-day activities. Their simple way of life is intriguing, but not half as much as the young teacher. Katie Rose is flattered over the attention she receives from Zane, but she has resolved to never marry. Even if she were to entertain the idea, it surely couldn’t be with an outsider like Zane. Never one prone to the restraints of organized religion, Zane finds a comfort in the rituals and blessings in the day to day righteous living of this small Amish community. He finds himself, God, and love with Katie Rose. But as Zane draws closer to Katie Rose, Samuel comes back to repent his ways and return to his place at her side. Can Zane convince Katie Rose that he is committed to adapting to her way of life, or will Samuel win her affections back for himself once again?

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (May 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433677539
ISBN-13: 978-1433677533


Are you ready to go back out on assignment?” The phone line crackled slightly on the last word, but he thought Jolene Davidson, senior editor for Around the World magazine, had said “assignment.”

Zane Carson sat up in a hurry. He’d been lounging on the couch watching reruns of Happy Days when he should have been at his physical therapy session. But he just wasn’t up to another round of incredibly boring exercises with the commando instructor. No sir, he just couldn’t do it again today. He’d been a little contemplative lately.

Okay, so he had been downright depressed. But who wouldn’t be? One bullet and his entire life had been put on hold. His entire life had changed. He’d been sent home, grounded, and for once he’d started to think about the future. His future. His and Monica’s.

“Of course I am,” he lied. But what better way to prove to everyone that he was ready to hit the red zone than jumping on the horse, so to speak?

“Are you sitting down?”

“As a matter of fact, I am.” Jo was always one for drama. If she weren’t such a wordsmith, she could have been an actress instead. “Lay it on me.”

“Oklahoma Amish country.”

“Come again?” Surely he heard her wrong, because he thought she’d said—

“Oklahoma Amish country.”

He leaned forward. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about you . . . going to Oklahoma . . . and living among the Amish to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be part of such a community.”

“Jolene, I am a war correspondent. That means I cover wars.” He purposefully made his voice sound like he was talking to a four-year-old. When would they accept that he was ready to go back out into the field? Maybe ready was a bad word, but he needed to get back out there, if only to prove that he could.

“Now, Carson, this is an important assignment—”

“Jolene, there aren’t many wars in Oklahoma, and there certainly aren’t any in Amish territory.”


“Whatever.” He flopped back on the sofa, then grimaced as he jarred his healing shoulder. “Aren’t they conscientious objectors?”

“You’ve been calling every day asking for an assignment.”

He hadn’t called today and look where that got him.

“Now they want to give you one. You can’t turn it down if you ever want to get back into the red zone.”

She was right. But . . . “Did you say Oklahoma?” Did they even have an Amish community? Why not Pennsylvania? Everybody knew about Lancaster County.

“Everybody knows about Lancaster County. We’re looking for something different—smaller settlement, tighter surrounding community. Alternate worship right there in the buckle of the Bible Belt.”

Zane didn’t know if he would call their manner of religion “alternate,” but what did he know about such things? He’d never been to church. His parents had preferred to worship nature and his uncle hadn’t had time for that sort of thing.

“I need you to do this for me.” Those quietly spoken words held a wealth of information. “You do this and I’ll make sure you get the Juarez assignment.”

“I thought Douglas was in Mexico.”

“He’s ready to come home, but he’s willing to stay until we can find a suitable replacement.”

Juarez, Mexico. Where innocent people died for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was dangerous, very dangerous, this war on drugs. And exactly where Zane wanted to be. Jo knew that, and she used that information to her advantage.

He sighed. “When do you want me there?”

“Day after tomorrow.”

That didn’t give him much time. Zane pushed his fingers through his hair. It needed a cut, but it seemed like even that would have to wait. At least he was going back to work. Sort of. He really didn’t consider an assignment like this work. How challenging could it be? Amish. Right. But with Mexico dangling in front of him, what choice did he have?

“You’ll fly Chicago to Tulsa. There’s a driver who will pick you up and take you to Clover Ridge. And . . .” she paused for dramatic effect. “I’ve arranged for you to stay with a host family.”

“Wait. What? Hold on.” Zane ran his hands down the legs of his faded jeans and tried to get a handle on the information she just dumped on him. “A driver? Why do I need a driver? What about a car?”

Jolene sighed in an aren’t-you-just-the-silliest-thing kind of way that set his teeth on edge. “Zane, the Amish don’t drive cars.”

What had he gotten himself into?

“You’re going there to learn how to live like them, give the world an inside perspective. You certainly can’t do that if you’re zipping all over the place in a rental.”

That might be true, but he was sure he could get the feel for the lifestyle without being stranded in podunk Oklahoma with no means of transportation. But he knew better than to argue with Jo when she thought she was being brilliant. “Define ‘host family.’”

“Basically there’s a family, let me see here . . .” Zane could hear her shuffling papers. “The Fishers. You’re going to stay with them, and learn how to live like the Amish.”

“And what do they get out of the deal?”

She paused. “The satisfaction of helping their fellow man?”

He shook his head. “Helping their fellow man sell countless magazines and make lots of money. Isn’t that a little . . . un-Amish?” Even writers were sometimes at a loss for words. But someone once told him that the Amish weren’t interested in making money and getting ahead. They only earned what they needed to in order to care for their families. Or maybe he had read it in a magazine during one of his countless layovers.

“The mom has cancer. They’re hoping that the exposure will help bring more people into the community and thereby raise enough money to cover the medical costs.”

That seemed a little out of character too. But what he knew about the Amish could fit on the back of a postage stamp—with room to spare.

Host family usually meant an in-depth study, a series of articles, and quite a bit of time away from home. Zane glanced around his tiny apartment. He was so sick at looking at these walls. Maybe an assignment like this was worth getting out for. “How long are we talking about here?”

“Three months.”

“Are you insane? Three months?” He flipped the calendar to October. Three months would get him back to Chicago at the first of the year. “I’ll be gone during Christmas.”

Jolene snickered. “I thought you might like to spend the holidays with someone other than me.”

Truth was he’d never spent any personal time with Jo at the holidays, or any other time for that matter, but he was one of the few reporters at Around the World that had no family to speak of. No one would miss him if he were on assignment Christmas Day. Not even Monica. Well, she might miss him, but she would understand. Not that it mattered. It’d never been a big holiday for him before or after his parents died.

“And you’re sure it’s okay with them?” The Amish were a tight-knit group, and the last thing he wanted was to invade their inner sanctum. He’d been in war-torn countries with bullets whizzing past his head like fiery hail, he’d suffered discrimination of being the only white face in the jungles of Africa, but there was no way he’d overrun someone’s private time with their family. That was not a road he wanted to travel down.

“Are you worried, Zane?” She said this, but what she really meant was, Are you going soft on me?

“Not at all.”

“Good, then. They’ll be expecting you on Thursday. I’ll send over the specs on the angle we’d like to see. This is a serious assignment, Zane. We want it all—interviews, pictures, the works.”

“Got it.”

“In the meantime, it’s probably best to start your own research. You’d better get on it though. You only have a day and a half to learn how to live like the Amish.”


Soft music played in the dimly lit restaurant. Zane smoothed a hand down his tie, resisting the urge to loosen it. He was certain the maitre d’ would frown upon anything less than perfection from his diners. And the noose was for a good cause. He glanced at his dinner companion.

To call Monica Cartwright pretty was the understatement of the century. With her silky, black hair, flawless complexion, and petite frame, beautiful didn’t seem to cover it either. Gorgeous, stunning, breathtaking—those came close. Or maybe it was the way she carried herself, with a self-assurance that came from old money. Why she had set her sights on a footloose vagrant like him was beyond comprehension.

He wasn’t going to examine it too closely, though, but instead ride it for all it was worth. He absently fingered the little black box he’d tucked away in his suit coat. Tonight was a special night. And he had yet to tell her about his sojourn into the land of the backward.

That wasn’t fair. He was sure the Amish were good people, but he needed to be in the thick of things. That’s what made him tick, made him feel alive. What had Jo talked him into this time? Amish. She had better deliver on Mexico the minute he returned.


He lifted his gaze to Monica, only then aware he’d been staring at the menu without even reading it.

She shifted in her seat. “You’re a million miles away.” The immaculate navy blue cocktail dress hugged her like a second skin and matched her eyes to perfection.

“Sorry.” He smoothed his tie once again. She was probably sensing his unease. He’d have to tell her eventually about his assignment. She’d be disappointed, but she understood the business. Even if the magazine she worked for was owned by dear old Dad, Monica prided herself on working her way into her current position as staff editor of Talk of the Town magazine. Of course, she wrote about Chanel lipstick and Louboutin shoes, not the harsh realities of war. But she understood.

Of all the days to get an assignment.

“It’s all right.”

He was about to spill the news when the waiter came to take their order. One prime rib and one frou-frou salad later, he couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“I got an assignment today.”

“Oh.” Crestfallen was the only word he could think of to describe her expression. Of course, she thought he was going back to the Middle East.

“It’s an easy assignment.”

She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, then gave him a sad, brave smile. “Where are you going?” For all her talk about accepting his job, he knew it wouldn’t be easy for her when he headed off to Mexico.


Her brows rose. “Are you joking?”

“I wish I was. It’s a crazy assignment, but if I want to get back out in the field, then I have to go.”

“I understand.” She looked down, seemingly captivated by the pattern on the ends of their flatware.

He hated the resigned slump of her shoulders. “It’s only for three months.”

“That’s not bad.” There was that brave smile again.

He shook his head. “There’s something else I want to talk to you about.”

She took a sip of water, watching him over the rim.

Zane’s hand started to tremble. Surely a natural reaction. After all, it wasn’t every day a man got engaged. He pulled the velvet box from his suit pocket and placed it on the table in front of him.

Her sapphire eyes grew wide. “Zane, I—”

He shook his head, effectively cutting off whatever she was about to say. “Just hear me out.” He took a deep breath, then flipped open the top of the ring box to expose the sparkling ruby and diamond engagement ring inside. Another breath. “Monica, I’ve always been something of a loner. I guess it’s in my genes, but getting shot made me stop and think about the future. That’s when I realized I didn’t have one. At least, not one that I was looking forward to.”

He cleared his throat and dropped down on one knee beside her. “Monica Cartwright, will you marry me?” His voice cracked on the last word, but she didn’t seem to notice.

She looked from the box on the table to the knot in his tie, but made no move toward the ring. “I don’t know what to say.” She didn’t meet his gaze.

“I believe this is where you’re supposed to say yes.”

“Oh, Zane.” Her voice was filled with anguish and indecision instead of the happy love that he’d been expecting. She tugged on his sleeve. “Stand up. Stand up.”

Zane rose, then sat in his chair, wondering where his proposal had gotten off track.

“What about your job?”

He shrugged, his shoulders stiff. Then he tried to laugh it off. “I’ll need to keep it, don’t you think? We’ll still have bills to pay.”

She dropped her gaze to her lap. “You’ll be gone most of the time.”

He reached across the table and took her hands into his own. “I was laying there in that hospital bed wondering if each sight was going to be my last and all I could think about was you. And the future. That’s how those soldiers do it, babe. They can go over there and fight because they know they have someone to come home to. I need you to be my someone.”

Tears filled her eyes, but she blinked them back. “I don’t know, Zane. I—I just don’t know.”

This was not the response he’d expected. In all fairness he was asking a lot. For her to wait on him, to wonder and worry, raise their family and never know if he’d return in one piece. But they weren’t the only couple facing the same prospects in this time of war. Others survived. They could too.

He picked up the ring box, snapped it shut, and pressed it into her hand. “You think about it while I’m gone, okay?”

She nodded and slipped the box into her evening bag. “It’s not that I don’t love you—”

“Shh. I know.” He pressed one finger to her lips. “We’ll talk about it when I get back.”


Engaged. He was engaged. Well, almost engaged. He’d taken Monica by surprise was all. And now this assignment. He was counting on the old absence makes the heart grow fonder thing to kick in while he was gone. She’d come around to his way of thinking. He was certain of it.

Engaged. It was a weird thought. There was someone waiting for him to return. Someone who counted on him to come back and continue their relationship without question. The idea was as foreign to Zane as the landscape whizzing past.

As promised, a driver named Bill had met Zane at the airport. Bill was more than willing to talk about the weather, the trees, and how the University of Oklahoma football team was playing this season, but Zane didn’t think it was the time to drill him for secrets into the culture he was entering. Bill wasn’t Amish.

“Mennonite,” he supplied with a smile and a glance in Zane’s direction.

“And what would you say the primary difference is?” Zane asked. “Besides driving.” He’d been a little surprised that the driver was also of the Anabaptist sect, though he wouldn’t have known it if the chatty Bill hadn’t volunteered the info.

“Well, now, there are quite a few differences. ’Course you got your Old Order Amish and your New Order Amish, they differ greatly as well.”

“And Clover Ridge?”

“Definitely Old Order.”

Zane nodded. Not that he understood any of what that meant. He wished he’d done a little more research. All he could remember about the Amish was the tragic shooting several years ago and that they seemed to be a loving and forgiving sort of people. He had been in Bosnia when it happened, so all his info had been filtered by the time it reached him.

“I thought Oklahoma was flat and dusty.” Zane gestured toward the green grass. The sky was colored a pristine blue, and the hills seemed to roll on forever into the distance. Sort of reminded him of Oregon and the commune where he grew up. At least how he remembered Oregon.

Bill laughed. “Not this part. You’re in what’s called Green Country. Out in western Oklahoma, it’s like that. Dry prairie. But neither side lives in teepees.”

Zane turned to face him, questions on the tip of his tongue.

Bill’s eyes twinkled.

Must be an inside joke, Zane thought, and leaned back in his seat.

The rest of the trip flew by in a blur of unexpected green. Bill pointed out a few more things along the way—mistletoe, the state flower, and the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the state bird. And in less time than it would have taken him to drive from his apartment to downtown, they were entering Clover Ridge.

The town was a mixed oddity of old and new. There was a McDonalds and a Walgreens, but somehow they had managed to keep the Walmart invasion at bay. A general store named Anderson’s sat next to the post office, then a lumberyard, and a Dairy Queen.

But most interesting of all were the buggies hitched to horses and tethered in front of all the stores. At least they weren’t in the drive-through line at Mickey D’s, he thought, hiding a smile.

In no time at all, they pulled into a long dirt drive lined with wooden fences on both sides. Across the road from the turn, a field had been left fallow, the rich, dark earth looking like no soil he had ever seen. A small wooden shanty stood at the edge of the field, seeming too new for the rest of the farm.

“Here we are.” Bill pulled the car to a stop in front of a rambling white house that looked like it had been added on to several times.

A big red barn stood opposite the haphazard structure, a pasture with no end spreading behind it. The yard itself teemed with life. Chickens, dogs, cats, geese, and even a duck strutted around pecking at bugs and giving the occasional cat a chase.

Bill didn’t even honk the horn. At the sound of the car’s engine, three people rushed from the house to the porch. Zane stepped from the car, looking from them to the stern-faced man coming from the barn, the obvious Amish patriarch.

Before he could utter one word of greeting, Bill raised his hand toward the elder man. “Abram Fisher. I’ve brought your new house guest.”

Abram raised his hand in return. “Bill Foster. It is good to see you.” The men shook hands and clapped each other on the back as Zane watched the group on the porch. A tall, slender woman stood in the center of the fray, most likely Abram’s wife. What had Jo said her name was? Ruth, yeah, Ruth.

“You’ll stay for natchess,” Abram said, not quite a question, but Bill nodded in return. “Wouldn’t miss Ruth’s cookin’ for nothin’ in the world.”

Abram shook his head. “Ruth’s restin’ more these days. It’s Gideon’s Annie who’ll be preparin’ your food for the evenin’. But a right fine cook she is at that.” Zane couldn’t help but notice the haunted look in his eyes at the mention of his wife’s name and once again he worried that his staying with them might turn out to be more of a hardship than a benefit.

He mentally shook himself. Maybe Jo was right. Maybe he was getting soft. Normally he wouldn’t care about such things. They had invited him here. They were getting something from the deal. He was just doing his job. And that’s all there was to it.

“What say you, Bill Foster?” Abram asked. “What else do we need to pay you for your services this evenin’?”

Zane stepped forward and reached for his wallet. “I’ve got this.” He pulled out two twenties and a ten, more than enough to cover the gas for the trip. He thought better of it and pulled out a couple more twenties. Surely that would pay for the man’s time.

Bill shook his head and made no move toward the money. “I’d rather not have money, if you’ve still got any of them pickles.”

Abram nodded. “That we do. A couple of jars of those, and I’ll say we’re even.”

Zane looked down at the cash he held in his hand. Pickles? Was he serious? The Amish man and the Mennonite shook hands. Evidently they were.

“But—” he started, not really knowing what to do and how to protest that Bill hadn’t taken his money in trade for services. Bill looked down at the bills in Zane’s hand.

“That’s mighty kind of you, son,” he said, plucking it from his fingers and handing it over to Abram. “Perhaps this would be better used in Ruth Ann’s fund.”

“Danki, Bill Foster,” Abram gave a nod of his head. “I’ll make sure Annie gets it.”

“Come on with you both.” Abram pointed to the bags Bill had pulled from the back of the car. The men grabbed the luggage and started toward the house.

“By the way, I’m Zane Carson.” He didn’t know why he felt compelled to say anything. It wasn’t like they had paid him the slightest attention, but he felt he should say something. Or maybe not. He adjusted the strap of his laptop bag and followed behind Bill and Abram.

“Ach,” Abram said with a shake of his head. “That you are.”

Zane didn’t have time to think about the lack of greeting. All at once they were standing at the foot of the porch.

“Annie, I hope you’ve prepared enough, we’ve got guests for supper.”

A petite woman with dark hair and unusual eyes nodded to Abram. “I have indeed. There is more than enough to go around.”

Her accent was different from the others’. Abram’s voice held the lilt of his German ancestors, but Annie sounded like a purebred Texan. And stranger still, Zane had a feeling he’d met her before.

“Abram,” the woman on the porch said, “introduce the family and guests.”

The eldest Fisher jerked his head. “Zane Carson,” he said with a motion back toward him. “This here’s my wife, Ruth Ann, and that’s Annie Hamilton, my son John Paul. Gideon will be along directly with our son, Gabe, and his boys.”

“And Lizzie,” Annie said. “I mean, Mary Elizabeth, will be here too.”

“Don’t forget Katie Rose,” John Paul added. “She’s my sister.”

Zane did a quick mental calculation and, depending on the number of boys that belonged to Gabe, there would be at least twelve people at this natchess, maybe more. He hadn’t survived in the Middle East without being quick, and he could only assume that natchess was the next meal.

Everyone bustled into the house, the inside much warmer than the greeting he’d received from Abram. Yet, there weren’t any of the vanity objects that dominated non-Amish housing. No pictures on the walls, no knickknacks scattered about. The floors were solid wood, covered only by a few homemade-looking rag rugs. There were no curtains on the windows, no cozy items strewn about. All in all he couldn’t figure out why it seemed so welcoming.

Maybe it was the family. Despite Abram, Ruth Ann and Annie seemed to welcome him into the house. Upon closer inspection, he could see the ravages of cancer treatment on the Fisher matriarch. She wore a black bonnet that he was pretty sure hid the last remains of her chemo-ravaged hair. Her skin held a gray tinge, her cheeks puffy from the steroids, her eyes sunken. Her dress hung on her frame, but those mossy green eyes sparkled with a light that even medical science couldn’t extinguish.

Annie was much younger and healthier, though Zane noticed she hovered close to Ruth as if to spot her in case she stumbled. Zane still couldn’t shake the feeling that he knew her somehow. They say everyone has a twin. Well, at some point in his life, he’d run across Annie’s.

“John Paul,” Ruth commanded, her voice strong despite her frail condition. “Take Zane Carson’s things upstairs and show him to his room.”

“Thank you, ma’am, but I can get it.”

Ruth shook her head. “John Paul will help.”

The young man stepped forward and for the first time Zane noticed he wore faded jeans to rival his own. His blue shirt looked impeccably tailored, and he’d rounded out his attire with a pair of dirty running shoes. Had he not had the distinctive chili-bowl hairstyle, John Paul Fisher would have looked like any other teenager in countless other small towns around the country.

Yet the women had both dressed the same: dresses covered in some sort of apron and shawl, hair pinned back and covered with a small, white cap. Why did John Paul dress differently? Zane made a mental note to find out the first chance he got.

John Paul picked up Zane’s suitcase and started toward the large set of stairs. “This way.”

Zane grabbed his computer and followed behind.

“You’ll be sharin’ a room with me, since Gideon’s Annie has the other.” He nodded his head to the closed door directly across the hall. He pushed open the opposite door and ducked inside.

Two neat beds sat side by side in a surprisingly large bedroom. Each bed was covered with a quilt of vivid colors—black, red, yellow, orange, and green. A rocking chair had a strange-looking floor lamp next to it, the neck of it protruding out of an old propane tank.

“This one’s the bed I usually sleep in.” John Paul pointed to the one on the right, and it wasn’t lost on Zane that he didn’t call the bed “mine.” “But I’m not here much.” He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “whatever.”

“Then I’ll take this one.” Zane hoisted his laptop bag into the center of the quilt. “Tell me again, Gideon’s Annie is who?”

“She’s the dark-haired girl downstairs. She’s intended to my older brother Gideon.”

“Why do they call her by his name too?”

“You see, there’s a lot of Annies, but she is—”

“Gideon’s. Got it.”

“Come next fall, they’ll be married. Well, once she joins the church.”

Zane sat down on the bed, briefly wondering if John Paul would mind if he opened his laptop and took notes while the young man talked. Probably. So he kept his expression blank as he asked, “She’s not a member of the church?”

“No, she just moved here.”

“From another community, you mean.”

“From Dallas.”

As in Texas? He wasn’t so far off the mark after all. He was pleased to know that six months stuck in his own apartment hadn’t dulled his instincts. “I wasn’t aware they had an Amish settlement in Dallas.”

John Paul shook his head. “Gideon’s Annie isn’t Amish. She’s an Englischer wantin’ to be Amish so she can marry my brother. She can’t do that until she joins the church. And she can’t join the church until she passes her lessons and proves that she’s committed to our ways.”

Now that sounded downright cultish, but Zane supposed love could do that to a person. “How did an Amish man meet a city girl from Texas?”

“Ach, man, now there’s a good story,” he said, sounding all the more like his father. “But it’s better voiced by Gideon or Annie. I can tell you, though, that Annie, she wrecked her car on a snowy night this past spring. Gideon rescued her from the car, and she . . . well, I suppose you could say that she rescued him from his grief. His wife and son died over a year ago. Gideon never quite recovered. Until Annie, that is.”

“I see.” In the shoes he wore right then, he couldn’t imagine how Gideon felt. How would he feel about the matter after Monica gave birth to his child?

John Paul sat down opposite him, and Zane nodded toward the young man’s jeans. “So the men are able to dress like they want and the women wear the . . .” He motioned toward his torso and head.

John Paul laughed. “No. All Amish men and women dress the same as each other, but I’m in rumspringa.”

“And that means . . . ?”

“I get a chance to go out and experience the world. I can wear what I want, drive a car, drink alcohol. Make sure I really want to join the church.”

“And if you decide not to join?”

John Paul shrugged. “Then I can leave the district and go to live with the Englisch.”

“Interesting.” More than, actually. He would have loved to question John Paul some more about the rum-whatever, but they had been gone long enough. Time to get back downstairs and meet back up with his host family. He made a mental note to find out more at the first available opportunity.

“Is there a place I can plug in my laptop?”

John Paul grinned. “No.”

“But the lamp?” He nodded toward the corner light.

“Runs off propane. Didn’t anybody tell you? There’s no electricity in Amish homes.”

He had heard something to that effect, but it just hadn’t sunk in. Or maybe it just didn’t seem possible. “They were serious about that?”

John Paul’s grin got a little bit wider. “Absolutely.”


Back downstairs, it seemed that the house would burst with all the people who had arrived for dinner. Gabriel, it turned out, had five sons ranging in age from four to thirteen with his daughter Mary Elizabeth topping the list at fifteen. From her, Zane learned that rumspringa started at sixteen and could last as long as five years. Soon Mary Elizabeth would be joining the run-around time. By the gleam in her eyes, she could barely stand the wait. Gideon also arrived, looking as much like Abram as Gabriel did. Both Fisher boys were bulky and solid, with coffee-dark hair. Their mossy-green eyes were identical to their mother’s, the one trait she seemed to have passed to her sons.

Zane couldn’t help but notice Gideon and his intended were not very affectionate—at least not outwardly. He did catch them staring longingly at each other when they thought no one was looking. Maybe that was part of the culture as well. He wished he’d thought to bring his notebook from his case, but then again, maybe it wasn’t kosher to take notes at the family dinner. Even if Bill the Mennonite driver was also attending. So Zane made do with mental notes, etching the questions into his brain so he could retrieve them later when he went to his room.

“Katie Rose,” Mary Elizabeth said, grabbing the arm of a woman he had yet to meet. With all the milling bodies, it was no wonder he hadn’t seen the Fisher daughter as she had arrived with her brothers.

She turned to face him, and Zane’s greeting died on his lips.

Tall and slim, she looked as much like her mother as the Fisher boys favored their father. Honey-blonde hair, pale green eyes, with the barest hint of color high on her cheekbones.

And she took his breath away.

She exuded an angelic quality that even surpassed the peace and love that shone in Ruth Fisher’s eyes. Wholesome. That was the first word to come to mind. She was what Monica would call a natural beauty. No makeup, no highlights, no artificial anything, and yet she was perhaps the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Was that his voice? He nodded to Katie Rose, still trying to get his bearings, as he reached out to shake her hand.

“And you as well. Welcome to Clover Ridge.” Katie Rose smiled as she shook his hand, and Zane’s breath stilled in his chest. Her fingers were warm in his, solid with just a few rough spots that told the tale of the life she lived. Monica would have been at the salon every day to have them removed, but they fit the natural beauty of Katie Rose Fisher.

He couldn’t pinpoint what it was about her that seemed to seep into his bones. She was not his type, but the man in him could appreciate her beauty. The engaged man in him, however, knew to keep his distance. Now was the time to show his professionalism.

“Katie Rose is our teacher,” Mary Elizabeth gushed. “Well, not mine anymore, but the other children’s. She’s wonderful.”

“I’m sure she is,” he said, realizing that he still held her hand in his.

Katie Rose pulled away, her smile unwavering. “I hope you enjoy your stay here.”

“I’m sure I will.” Zane did his best not to feel discarded as she nodded a “so long” and disappeared in the throng of her family.

Just when he thought the house couldn’t get any fuller, someone called out, “Go get Noni.”

From the back, John Paul brought in a stooped, elderly woman who couldn’t have been a day younger than ninety. Arthritis had gnarled her hands into near talons, but her eyes still held the sharp edge of intelligence. She had a walking cane and a long black dress, her iron-gray hair parted down the middle pulled back and covered just like the young women.

Once they were all seated around the two large wooden tables, everyone bowed their heads. Everyone, but Zane. He looked around at their bowed heads, his gaze stopping on one of Gabriel’s sons. Samuel? Or was it Simon? It didn’t matter. Only the buzzing silence that filled the room as everyone prayed. For what, he didn’t know. Zane had never been one to pray. At least not to a god . . . or the God. He just . . . never saw the point.

His gaze flitted from Simon to his aunt. Katie Rose had her head dutifully lowered, her eyes closed, and her hands folded neatly on the table. There was a peace about her that Zane couldn’t place, and he pushed back thoughts of his earlier reaction to her. Her beauty had taken him by surprise. Where he came from, women did everything from color their hair to inject their lips in order to gain the aura that Katie Rose held by the grace of nature.

Professional, he reminded himself. Be professional. He was a little out of practice at living with other cultures. Six weeks in Chicago had done that to him. Maybe Jo had a point: He needed this assignment more than he realized. He’d definitely be in trouble if he lost his edge in Juarez. Better to get back in the habit of adapting to the Amish before he had to survive in the wild world of Mexican drug lords.

He cleared his mind of personal thoughts of Katie Rose and inspected her with a journalist’s eyes. She, like the other women, wore a white kerchief-kind of hat perched on the back part of her head. Must be an Amish thing. He’d never thought about it until now, but in all the pictures he had seen of the Plain people, the women wore that same type of covering, or something similar. He made a mental note to ask John Paul about it.

Thankfully, Abram uttered “Aemen” and everyone raised their heads. Being at the table with so many people brought back memories of the cooperative where bowls of food were circulated and everyone served their plates before passing to the next person.

Someone burped. No one made mention of it, no one said excuse me or waited for another to do the honors. Another Amish thing? For so many people at the table, there wasn’t a great deal of talking. Even the children were strangely quiet. Granted, what he had seen of Amish children tonight led him to believe that they were better disciplined than kids on the outside. Still, he couldn’t help but believe that his presence at the table had something to do with it.

“How’s your natchess?”

Zane’s gaze jerked to Katie Rose. She smiled, and he realized her eyes were a lighter green than her mother’s. And sweetly smiling instead of tired, as she waited for him to answer.

He realized he wasn’t eating. Old habits and all. He’d never been a big eater. He was usually much more interested in what was around him than in food. But he had the next three months to absorb all he could of the Amish way of life. No sense in starving himself this early in the game.

“Oh, fine, fine,” he answered, taking a bite to add credit to his words. “Very good, in fact. My compliments to the chef.”

A few seats down, Annie blushed.

The meal was tasty. Some of the best food he had ever eaten. Maybe because it wasn’t full of preservatives or lean on fat and calories. He could feel it clogging his arteries that very second, but he wasn’t sure he cared. It was that delicious. “What do you call this?”

“Chicken pot pie,” Annie answered.

“It’s Annie’s specialty,” Mary Elizabeth said with a smile.

“And onkel’s favorite,” Matthew was quick to add.

Everyone laughed.

Another inside joke?

“There was fine weather today,” Abram said from his place at the head of the table. “Tomorrow we’ll start plowin’.”

“Plowing?” Granted he’d been a city boy for the last twenty years, but he’d spent quite a few formative years in a commune. And he’d learned a thing or two about farming. One thing he knew was that it was October. Not time to plant anything.

“Jah,” Abram said with a short nod. “Plowin’.”

“You made out easy,” John Paul added with a nudge to his side. “Last week we laid the manure.”

“Seems like I came just in time,” he said with a laugh. For the first time since he agreed to this crazy plan of Jo’s, he realized the extent of what he’d gotten himself in to. Farming. And backward farming, at that. He rubbed at the dull pain in his shoulder. He supposed it was better than heading into a war zone. Safer, and not as stressful. A little cleaner and a lot cushier. But how was he supposed to live his life to the fullest on an Amish farm in the backwoods of backward Oklahoma? Three months, he told himself. Three months, and he was out of here.


Abram Fisher had made a mistake. He was a godly man. He had learned humility. And he could admit when he’d done wrong. And this time he hadn’t done right by his family.

He looked down the table to the stranger he had invited into his home—their home. He’d done it all for Ruthie. He was a selfish man, he knew. Every night he prayed to God to forgive him and his selfish ways and thoughts, but heaven help him, he wasn’t ready to let her go.

But this Englischer with his hard eyes and unsmiling mouth was not a man he should have asked to come into his house. Not like this. But the deed was done. Zane Carson was staying, living among them, writing about what it felt like to be Amish.

Abram couldn’t understand the draw of the outside world to their little community, but the Englischers seemed to be fascinated by the ways of the Plain folk. It beat him as to why. They all acted like Plain folk did something special. More special than just follow God’s plan. Everything was right there in the Bible for everyone to see, to use. T’weren’t any more special than that.

But with Ruthie’s cancer treatments draining the funds from the district, Abram had to do something to put it back. The only thing he could do was take the fancy, fast-talking editor lady up on her plan. Invite a reporter to come into their midst, live with them, work beside them, and then write a bunch of stories about the experience. She assured Abram that the articles would bring tourists from all over to sample the wares, tastes, and simple life that was offered in Clover Ridge. More visitors meant more money for the town, and more money for the town meant more funds in the emergency coffers. More money for cancer treatments.

So he had done it for Ruthie. Everything for Ruthie.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Seeds of Evidence by Linda J. White


Stressed-out FBI Special Agent Kit McGovern returns to her grandmother’s Chincoteague Island home in search of peace. But when a little boy’s body washes up on the beach, Kit cannot resist throwing herself into the mystery of his murder. Her only clues: the tomato seeds in the Latino boy’s gut, and the acorns in his pockets.

The medical examiner points out that the volume of tomato seeds in the boy’s gut could indicate he was from a farm worker’s family. But the acorns? Kit discovers they’re from a Virginia live oak, not native to the area where the boy was found. Can she use those to identify his origins anyway? And why hasn’t anyone reported him missing?

Kit meets David O’Connor, a D.C. homicide detective in Chincoteague recovering from a shooting incident. She makes it clear she’s not interested in a relationship, but their passion for justice is mutual and they soon forge a partnership to find the boy’s murderer. As plant DNA evidence leads them straight into the dark world of human trafficking, Kit and David wrestle with the depths of human evil, with questions of faith, and with possibilities for hope. “Seeds of Evidence” takes readers on a white-knuckle ride they won’t soon forget.

Purchase Your Copy:



By day, Linda J. White writes editorials for The Free Lance-Star, a newspaper in Fredericksburg, VA. By night, she plays the “what-if?” game, entangling engaging characters in “white-knuckle” plots. Her first FBI thriller, “Bloody Point,” was published in 2005. “Seeds of Evidence” (Abingdon Press) will be released in April 2013. Linda’s husband, Larry, was a video producer/director at the FBI Academy for over 27 years. Married since 1970, they have three grown children and now live with two dogs and two cats on two beautiful, wooded acres in Virginia.

You can visit Linda’s website at www.lindajwhite.com.

Connect with Linda!

See the rest of the tour here

Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Beautiful Moments kit by Newlife Dreams