Book Review: Under God by TobyMac and Michael Tait

Under God Cover

I just finished reading this book, and it is amazing!

Under God is a compilation of stories of sacrifice and faith from America’s history. From the American Revolution to the Civil War to the post-Civil-War segregation, this book is filled with touching and inspiring true stories. As TobyMac states in the book: “Knowing the past is crucial to dealing with the present.”

Along with awesome quotes…

Freedom is not an ideal, it is not even a protection, if it means nothing more than freedom to stagnate, to live without dreams, to have no greater aim than a second car and another television set.

-Adlai Stevenson, American Statesman

“Racism is not a skin problem; it’s a sin problem.”

-Nathel Tait, Michael Tait’s father

And touching stories like the Sand Creek Massacre, there are some great verses pointed out and wonderful commentary. I highly recommend this book. It was absolutely awesome.

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Insanity – Part Two

The continuation and completion of the insane story. Part One. Let me know what you think of this… entertaining story. 😀

Douglas arrived at Door C at about the same time as two other agents, both tough-looking older agents. They nodded at Douglas, and he nodded back, feeling awkward. What was Halloway thinking, sending him, a twenty-eight-year-old agent fresh out of training, out to rescue his brother with two older agents who looked like they’d never felt an emotion in their life? He sighed and followed the other agents outside where a black sedan was waiting for them.

The drive out to the mountain where Mac was hiding out was a long one. Douglas’s ride was probably the most uncomfortable of all of them. The driver had piles of papers and his laptop in the passenger seat, so the three agents had to squeeze in the backseat, and Douglas was sandwiched in between the two burly agents. He couldn’t even move his arms. Very uncomfortable.

After forty-five minutes in their squished positions, they finally reached the mountain. They were nearing the cabin when the driver pulled off of the road into the trees. “The cabin’s just a short ways up the road and down a trail on the right. You’ll see it,” the driver told them, consulting his GPS. He nodded at them and they scooted out of the car.

Douglas waited for the other two agents to lead the way, but they just stood there, looking at him. He looked from one to the other, confused.

They quickly caught on to his confusion. “You’re the leader, Agent Jackson,” one of them explained.

“Me?” Douglas asked, astonished.

The other agent nodded. “Yeah. We’re just here as back up, to make sure Mac comes with us,” he told Douglas. “You get the kid, we get the ‘napper.” The agent guffawed.

Douglas gulped and led the way down the road. They quickly found the trail the driver had mentioned and headed down it. The going was rough, since the trail was overgrown and not clearly marked. Luckily, it was short, and they soon reached the clearing. The three agents ducked behind the trees to study it.

An ancient-looking cabin stood in the middle of the clearing, almost built into the side of the mountain. It looked almost as old as the mountain itself, but surprisingly it still stood solidly. The door hung slightly ajar, and both of the windows were open.

“Do you think he could have known we were coming and escaped?” one of the agents asked.

Douglas shrugged. “I don’t know. There’s only one way to find out.”

The agents looked surprised. “You’re going in?” one asked.

Douglas nodded, keeping his eye on the cabin. “You stay here and cover me. Watch the door and both the windows.”

“And if Mac’s in there?” one of the agents asked.

Douglas smiled grimly. “Then I’ll just have to take a chance and try to reason with him,” he said. Suddenly, an idea popped into his head, and he bent down and picked up a stick. “I can throw this out one of the windows or the door if I need help.”

The other two agents nodded their approval, and Douglas began to head towards the cabin. He moved cautiously, and it was a matter of minutes before he crept silently onto the porch. His hands clenched his pistol, ready at a moment’s notice. He reached the door, nudged it open with his foot, and slipped into the cabin, pistol ready.

The cabin was only one room, and it was sparsely furnished. There was a fairly nice kitchen in one corner, complete with a dining table and a pair of chairs. The other half of the cabin held a cot and two chairs. Tied to one of these chairs was Harold.

Douglas nearly shouted with excitement, but contained his joy and rushed over to his brother. By this time, his brother had noticed him, and a spark of hope was in his eyes. Douglas untied his brother’s gag and pulled out his own pocketknife to cut the ropes tying Harold to the chair. As soon as his brother was free and his wrists and ankles loosed, Douglas enveloped his brother in a tight bear hug.

“You have no idea what it’s like to be kidnapped by a nutball,” Harold murmured as he rubbed his raw wrists after their embrace.

Douglas laughed. “You’re right, I don’t know, and I’m glad.” Shouting outside interrupted their reunion and caused them both to listen.

“That sounds like Mac,” Harold said. The brothers rushed to the door.

The other two agents each had the arm of the man from the picture Agent Halloway had sent Douglas. The man was fighting the agents furiously, kicking and howling like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum. The two agents had him secured, but he continued to struggle and make as much noise as possible.

Douglas led Harold out of the cabin. Mac’s eyes grew fiery with rage and he struggled even harder.

“Agent Jackson, do I have your permission to knock him out so he’ll come with us quietly?” one of the agents asked Douglas impatiently.

Harold laughed. “All you need is food, and he’ll follow you like a puppy.”

An idea struck Douglas. “Wait,” he said, digging in his pocket. He pulled out the plastic bag that he’d put the bacon in that morning. It was a little smashed, but it still looked pretty appetizing. Mac’s eyes lit up greedily when he saw it, and he stopped struggling, focused only on the bacon.

“I’ll give it to you if you come with us quietly,” Douglas promised.

Mac nodded hungrily and followed the two agents docilely, even with his hands cuffed. Harold walked next to Douglas, who slipped the bacon back in his pocket.

“You’ve started carrying bacon with you in your pocket?” Harold asked teasingly.

Douglas grinned. “It was supposed to be a snack in case I didn’t get lunch.”

Harold smiled. “Well, I guess I’m lucky that I’ve got a big brother in the FBI, huh?”

Douglas laughed, putting his arm over his brother’s shoulders. “You sure are, Harold. You sure are.”

Writings About Writing – The Who

Not Doctor Who. Just thought I’d make that clear.

The Who I’m talking about is your readers: the people who read your stories. Who is your target audience? What kind of people like your characters? Who do you think most needs the message in your story, and is your story directed towards them?

From my (limited) experience, I’ve learned that a lot of writers write what they themselves like to read. There are exceptions, but most people don’t write something they wouldn’t read themselves. As a teen writer, most of my work is YA. And as a girl, yes, most (but not all) of my main characters are girls. I’m sort-of adventurous, so I occassionally write something that doesn’t have a female main character, which is always interesting, for me, at least.

It’s important to know what your audience likes, and what turns them off. If you find that your book doesn’t fit your audience, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should toss it out. Maybe you just need to find a different audience that does like your book. Look at other books that are like your book, and see who reads them. That could be your Who.

What about you? Do you write what you read? Who is your audience? Have you ever had trouble finding your audience?

Book Review: Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

WARNING: This is book one of the Ivy Malone Mystery Series. So just keep in mind that it’s part of a series if you decide to buy it and read it.

Hello, fellow booklovers. Let me start off by saying that the description for this book ended up being a little misleading, but I definitely enjoyed it in spite of that. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

She’s not your average crime fighter!

Ivy Malone has a curiosity that sometimes gets her into trouble, and it’s only aggravated by her discovery that she can easily escape the public eye. So when vandals romp through the local cemetery, she takes advantage of her newfound anonymity and its unforeseen advantages as she launches her own unofficial investigation.

Despite her oddball humor and unconventional snooping, Ivy soon becomes discouraged by her failure to turn up any solid clues. And after Ivy witnesses something ominous and unexplained, she can’t resist putting her investigative powers to work again. Even the authorities’ attempts to keep Ivy out of danger and her nosy neighbor’s match-making schemes can’t slow her down. But will the determination that fuels this persistent, quirky sleuth threaten her very safety?

*MINOR SPOILER WARNING: If you want to be completely surprised when you read this book, don’t read any farther. I will not reveal any big spoilers, only a few things that show what was misleading about the description (to me, at least). You have been forewarned.*

So now that we got that out of the way, let us begin. First off, my interpretation of this description was that Ivy Malone finds out that she can turn invisible.

I quickly found out that Ivy Malone was not a teenager, a twenty- or even thirty-something-year-old, but was a… well, she was somewhere between sixty and seventy, I believe. Never figured that out for sure. However, because I had already gotten connected to her as only awesome authors can do, I continued to read, and soon found out she was not literally invisible, she was LOL invisible. No, no, not laugh out loud. Little old lady.

Trust me, I didn’t come up with that myself. There’s a reason I kept reading.

So maybe the character wasn’t what I was expecting, but other than that, this book was awesome! Lorena McCourtney kept me on the edge of my seat with her awesome suspense building, whether it was with the mystery or with the slight bit of romance mixed in. And of course, all that humor… I was LOL-ing while reading about a LOL.

And then the quotable moments, of course.

“…if I had to spend the next three months hiding in a closet eating grits.”

“‘BLOL.’ ‘What?’ ‘Busybody Little Old Lady.'”

“The good Samaritan with a gun. I didn’t stop to ponder the inconsistencies inherent in that.”

There were so many more awesome funny spots and memorable quotes in this book that I’d have to reread it and highlight (on my Kindle) if I wanted to find them all. And Lorena McCourtney has an awesome way with words. There’s also a lot of good messages in this book, and Ivy Malone’s faith is so strong and such a great example. Read it.

There is some mention of blood, bullet wounds, murder, death, uh, Ivy visits a morgue, and she also does some crazy LOL things, like camping out in a cemetery, but no gory descriptions of any of that. And the ending definitely entices you to read the next book. 😉

Oh, and did I mention that it’s free on Kindle? 😉

So go read it! You’ll enjoy it, that’s for sure!

Apologies, Dear Readers

Hey, everyone! I must apologize for the lack of posts lately. What with the beginning of school and such, I have not had much time for posting, and my blog has gotten pushed towards the back burner, in a way. Since school is definitely more important than blogging (sorry, folks!) I probably won’t be posting much during the week, except for pre-scheduled posts. But on the weekends… Watch out! Actually, I’ll try not to go overboard. 😉 I hope everyone has a wonderful day/night, and that you have not gotten tired by my ramblings. Again, apologies.

Insanity – Part One

Let me just warn you, the title fits. ‘Nough said. Love to hear your opinions! 😀

Douglas Jackson popped the last bite of his homemade bacon-and-egg biscuit in his mouth and stood up, tossing his napkin in the trash. He stretched and glanced at his open laptop on the counter. A message popped up on the screen. He frowned, noticing it was from Craig Halloway, the agent above him in rank. He clicked on the message.

“We need you. Get to headquarters ASAP. Urgent. –Agent Halloway.”

Douglas sighed. So much for his day off. Ah, the life of an FBI agent¸ he thought. He stuffed some leftover bacon in a sandwich bag for a snack in case he didn’t have a chance to eat lunch. He slipped the bag into his pocket and headed out the door.

~~~

Douglas hurried down the hall to Agent Halloway’s office. He knocked on the door.

“Who is it?” a gruff voice called from inside.

Douglas smiled a little. “Agent Jackson, sir.”

“Come in.”

Douglas slipped into the small office. Agent Halloway motioned him towards a chair. Douglas couldn’t help but notice the worry lines creasing the agent’s face. He quickly became concerned.

“What’s wrong?” he asked immediately after sitting down.

Agent Halloway sighed. “We’ve gotten a report of a kidnapping.”

“And…” Douglas prompted.

“It’s your brother,” Agent Halloway told him.

Douglas’ jaw dropped. “Harold?” he asked incredulously.

Agent Halloway nodded. “We have all the information about the case: the car’s license plate, the kidnapper, and even where they are.” He paused. “Apparently the kidnapper, named Mac, is literally insane, and has an obsession with red hair.”

Douglas nearly laughed. “Really?”

Agent Halloway nodded. “He’s got food obsessions, too. We have it on our records that he robbed a restaurant to get some of their food, and he’s broken into a cupcake shop.” Douglas snorted. Agent Halloway gave him a half smile. “He is armed, and most likely won’t hesitate to use his weapons.” Agent Halloway looked intently at Douglas. “Are you willing to try and get your brother and the kidnapper without hurting anyone?”

Douglas nodded determinedly. “Yes, sir.”

Agent Halloway motioned him over to stand next to him at the desk. Douglas looked over Agent Halloway’s shoulder and studied the map that his superior had pulled up on the computer.

“I’ll e-mail this to you so you can look at it on your phone,” Agent Halloway told Douglas, who nodded in reply.

Agent Halloway clicked on another window. A picture of a man with gray hair popped up. “This is Mac, the kidnapper,” Agent Halloway said. “He looks a lot older than he is; he’s really about forty.” Agent Halloway e-mailed the information to Douglas’s phone and turned to him. “I’ll send a couple of agents with you, so you can get your brother and they can handle Mac.” He looked Douglas in the eye. “Think you can handle this?”

Douglas nodded firmly. “Yes, sir.”

Halloway half-smiled, approving of Douglas’s confidence. “All right. I’ll get some agents and a car to meet you at Door C.”

Douglas nodded and turned to leave, but was stopped by Halloway clearing his throat. “Good luck, Douglas,” the agent said, smiling supportively.

Douglas smiled. “Thanks, Craig.”

A Quick Quote from ULOR

In celebration of finishing the first vague round of editing.

“You have opposed me. For this, even though you have proved that you have the brain of a bug and the imagination of a plumber, you still must be punished.”

Raltan Menger, ULOR

Do You Want To Write A Novel?

At the request of erinkenobi2893, I’m posting my version of Do You Want to Build A Snowman. Beware, I made this on the spur of the moment. 😉 

Do You Want to Write A Novel

Do you want to write a novel?

Come on let’s get to work.

Grab a pencil and some paper too,

We’ve got a lot to do,

So le-et’s start—

 

You’ve got to write a lo-ot,

Fifty thousand words,

So keep an eye on your word coun-ter—

 

Do you want to write a novel?

It doesn’t have to be a romance.

Or it might.

 

Do you want to write a novel?

You might not become rich.

But you’ll have a lot of fun,

And when you’re done,

You’ll feel overjoyed—

 

There could be a knight,

Or a ni-in-ja,

Or even a samurai—

 

Writer?

Please, I know you want to.

It may seem hard at first,

But after a while,

You’ll get the hang of it,

I know you will,

So why not try?

You’ve got something to sa-ay,

It’s worth share-ing,

So please won’t you give it a try—

 

Do you want to write a novel?

Writings About Writing – Those We Love, Part Three

Part 1 and Part 2

Here’s a tough question. (One I don’t have an answer to, too.) Why do people like some villains?

I mean, really. They’re the bad guys. (Ahem, Loki, Moriarty… Read more in this post from my other blog.) We’re not necessarily supposed to like the bad guys.

That said, maybe we can learn a lesson or two from these bad guys, to apply to the characters we want our readers to like.

Appearance. We live in a culture that is totally concerned with how people look. If you think about it, yeah. Most of the characters that get fangirled over (if that’s even the right term) are “cute”.

Backstory. This is the bigger of these two points. Now, I don’t know about Moriarty, since I haven’t watched BBC’s Sherlock, and he certainly wasn’t that likable in the books, but (from what I’ve watched, remember that I’ve only seen him in The Avengers) Loki’s got a pretty sad backstory. Adoption, under his brother’s shadow, and all of that. People like characters with sad backstories. Just don’t give your character a tragic backstory that has absolutely nothing to do with your story. Have it play in somehow.

That said, it’s back to editing… So long, friends!

Do you like characters with tragic backstories? Do you like Loki or Moriarty? Do any of your favorite  characters (in your stories or others) have a sad story, and how does that play into the overall story? Do you think a backstory needs to affect the overall story?

Tales From The Writer’s Desk: Invisible Invasion

I hum as I finish off the last bit of a short story. I smile as I click ‘print’. I still have to proofread, edit, and revise the story, but I’m pleased with what I’ve done so far. I’ve always heard that it’s best to step away from a story for a while before going over it to edit and proofread, and I’ve found that to be good advice. I stretch as I stand up before walking over to the printer and pulling out the newly printed sheets. After stapling them and laying them on my desk, I step into the book room. I should probably work on organizing some of these stories, and the interviews, better. Or maybe I should just re-organize the whole room.

The first thing I notice when I step into the room is that there’s an open book simply floating in the air. I stop in my tracks. The second thing I notice is that the pages are flipping slowly, like someone’s reading them. Yes, very creepy. The third thing I notice is that the window is open. I sigh and put my hands on hips. “Iris!”

The book starts to fall to the floor, but I manage to leap out and catch it before it hits the ground. I close it and put it back on the shelf. “What are you doing here, Iris? You know this space is supposed to be off-limits unless I say otherwise.”

A teenage girl with wavy dark brown hair appears in front of me, a sheepish look on her face. “Sorry. I was just kind of bored and needed something interesting to read.” Iris pauses, then smiles. “I knew the perfect place to find good stories.”

I smirk. “Ha-ha. You know flattery doesn’t work with me. And, although I thank you for your compliment, you should probably leave.” She looks like she’s about to protest, but I hold up my hand. “Come back later and ask for permission. Right now, I’m going to be cleaning out and organizing, so I need the room empty. Unless you would like to help…” I suggest.

Iris mumbles something about needing to get back to the group for a meeting and disappears out the door. I smile to myself as I begin moving stacks of books. The oldest trick in the book.