Thursday, August 15, 2013

A visit with author Cindy Bennett

I recently was able to ask author Cindy Bennett some questions and here are some of her answers...

Tell us about your latest books.

I recently released two books, Whispers of Razari and The Experiment. Both were collaborations with other authors. Whispers of Razari I co-wrote with Jeffery Moore, a singular story that we both wrote entirely together. The Experiment I wrote with Jeffery as well as Sherry Gammon. That one was a little different because we each took a character, and then wrote each chapter first person from our characters POV, alternating between them, though it is also a singular story. It was a lot of fun to write a book that way, to see what the next person would bring to the story, and how it would affect the storyline.

When working with other authors on collaborations like that, you have to be willing to be very flexible. You have to accept that the other author/s have their own thoughts and ideas, and their own creativity. You might have an idea of where the story is going, and then someone changes it, and you have to accept that and go with the flow, so to speak, rather than trying to pull it back to your idea of how it should be. You need to be open to discussion about the story, and listen to the other author/s. Sometimes you might feel strongly enough to fight for an idea, but you have to pick your battles. In both of these cases for me it was an easy process without any bickering or hurt feelings. We all managed to agree fairly easily on a variety of things.

What are the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing?

I’m a “hybrid” author, meaning I’ve been both traditional and self-published. The authors I worked with are self-published so we didn’t even question that was how we wanted to publish these two books. For me, I like the control you retain with self-publishing, but you have to understand that it means not more work but different work than traditional publishing. That includes cover, formatting, and editing, all things done for you with a traditional publisher. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, and willing to pay someone to do the things you can’t do for yourself, you not only have higher earnings on your sales, but you can also retain complete creative control. There’s something very satisfying in that.

Whispers of Razari
When sixteen year old Olivia Adams wakes from a horrible car accident that killed her parents, she knows she’s something different. Olivia died, and now the soul inhabiting her body needs to find out who - and what - she is. A glimpse of a world called Razari burning is the only clue to her previous existence—a tragic memory, sparking events that endanger the people helping her.

Jacobi McKenzie has lived in Crescent, Montana for more years than he can remember, even though he's only seventeen. He's been waiting, but for what he isn't sure. Jacobi recognizes Olivia for what she is before she's even aware of it herself and the effect she has on him threatens to expose his true identity--a thing he’s worked hard to conceal.

They come together in an explosion of emotion that neither of them is supposed to feel. As Jacobi fights for Olivia's life, protecting her from those who would use her for their own selfish purposes, together they unravel the mystery surrounding the destruction of their race.

To learn more go toWhispers of Razari
Purchase at:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

The Experiment
Time is running out for the Collaborative's oppressive rule of the remote world Senca One. The government attempts to suppress the escalating riots, even while seeking to further their experiments. When their parents are taken, triplets Juliet, Cilla, and Emiah Tripp set out to locate them, and soon discover they are at the center of a hunt to capture them.

Evading the Collaborative across Seneca One’s harsh terrain, they’re confronted with the trials of survival. They also discover something that changes the very core of what they are: they’re morphs. Struggling to adapt to the strange new ability, they question what they really are . . . and why. Are the rumors of experiments done on children true? Did their scientist parents have anything to do with it?

Their quest brings them to the capitol city of Brighton, which is on the verge of revolt. While searching for information about their parents, the Tripps align themselves with the very people fueling the rebellion. They unwittingly spark the revolution they want no part of and discover something more dangerous than they suspected.

To learn more go toThe Experiment
Purchase Amazon
Barnes & Noble


About Cindy Bennett

Bennett is the YA author of several books. She lives in Utah with her husband and two daughters. Both of her sons have married, giving her two more daughters (in-law). She loves gooey cookies, dark chocolate, and cheese popcorn. She hates housework and cooking, and has no plans to become a domestic goddess. She occasionally co-hosts a geek podcast with her son, called Geek Revolution Radio. Her favorite pastime is riding her Harley.
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Review of The Reluctant Blogger--by Ryan Rapier

If it was a movie it would be described as a dramedy—a drama and a comedy. Since it is a book I have to use different words to describe it: words like refreshing, enchanting, fun, poignant, hilarious, though-provoking, profound.

Ryan Rapier’s debut novel, The Reluctant Blogger, takes a candid look at Mormon life through the eyes of an active priesthood holder who is dealing with one heart-aching layer of life after another. The plot is braided together in so many ways it is impressive. Rapier has done a great job of bringing together the lives of the main characters. The author’s ability to also weave words into that glorious fabric is another big part of the charm of this novel.

Hero Todd Landry has lost his wife of fifteen years. Before he can heal from that loss he finds himself reluctantly blogging about his life and his loss. He also finds himself shopping at Wal-mart with a cart full of kids and potato chips, looking for the fastest check-out line.

“Regardless of a person’s ability to predict or prophesy,” Todd blogs, “choosing an express lane is always tricky business.....Crossing my fingers, I inhaled sharply and ventured forward. At first, things looked positive as my cart made steady progress toward the cashier. Then suddenly things came to a grinding halt. The individual two spots in front of me began to raise her voice regarding which brands should be included in the price match guarantee for whipped cream. Seriously?"

When I read that I wanted to shout out with Todd..."Seriously??!!! It's called an express lane for a reason! If you're going to argue over price matches, go to a regular line!"

In addition to Wal-Mart trips, Todd blogs about golf, Boy Scout paperwork, the calling of a bishop, making pies for Thanksgiving, and his own first attempt to enter back into the LDS dating scene. At his first Single Adult activity it doesn’t go well for Todd and his memories of high-school and college dating angst causes him to blog about what the Discovery Channel might have to say about LDS dating rituals. The hilarious script (complete with British accent) is right out of a nature documentary. (I had to wonder how many documentaries Ryan Rapier watched to perfect the wording! Nicely done, Ryan!)

After one particularly spontaneous decision the hero finds himself committed to date someone he loathes. Later he is bluntly asked, “Tell me, had you given any thought to asking this woman for a date prior to the moment you began to verbally vomit all over yourself in front of her?”

I LOVED the description of verbal vomit! I think we’ve all done that.

And there are unique, fun and enchanting descriptions on every page, like the time Rapier returns the novel’s momentum after an awkward silence. “Slowly, the noise level in the room returned to normal, like a 45-speed vinyl record starting up with the needle already in place”

And his description of Ms. Turcel is wonderful when Todd derisively blogs, “She’s the only woman I’ve met who clearly missed her calling in life as an IRS auditor.”

But there are also endearing moments through out the book as Todd struggles with the loss of his wife and how that affects every aspect of his life. Some of the fallout is deep and soul searching—like the time Todd blogs, “Up next is the ambivalence—the day when everyone’s life starts again and yours doesn’t.”

Other moments are light-hearted, like the night he tries to dress his youngest son for bed and places both of the boy’s feet into the same pajama bottom leg…three different times.

Though Todd blogs about the routine things in life there are also moments of deep, honest reflection. Slowly, Todd’s blogging helps him recognize that he needs to build a closer relationship with his domineering father, help his daughter Alex grieve, and repair a falling out with his best friend. Yet through all of his ups and downs and growing understanding, Todd still manages to painfully ignore the one good thing that has happened to him in the last eighteen months—Emily. Will he realize he also needs to heal the hurt he has caused her?

I found this book so engaging—from the writing style, to the plot and characters, to the way Rapier manages to get the reader laughing and reflecting tenderly on their own attitudes at the same time. When demands pulled me away from the book my thoughts reflected on his novel until I could return to its pages and even after I finished I found myself often thinking about the life issues handled by the author.

Though Todd faces plenty of diverse turmoil the humor and humanity on each page lightens the mood without detracting from the message. I loved a question posed toward the end of the book and I felt this question (which I’ve slightly reworded to avoid any spoilage of the story), really underscored every part of this novel. As Todd struggles with so many different things, one person lovingly asks, “What if this isn’t God’s test for him? What if it’s God’s test for us?” I think many problems in life faced by those we love are just that—tests for us more than for them.

Great job on a first novel, Ryan! I look forward to reading more of your wit and wisdom in the future.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Emerald Ring--an excerpt

The Emerald Ring
Cleopatra's Legacy series
Book One
by Dorine White

Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus spends the last few days of summer anticipating middle school and helping her Grandma Dora around the house. Her ordinary life turns upside down when she discovers an emerald ring once belonging to Cleopatra. Touching the ring sends a lightening like zap through her system, while putting the ring upon her finger causes it to stick like glue.

Now strange things are happening to Sara. She has troubling visions, can understand animals and learns to transform herself into an Egyptian cat. However, the worst thing is the strange man that shows up in town. He is hunting for the emerald ring, and will not stop until he acquires it. With the ring stuck on her finger, Sara has no choice. She can be hunted, or become the hunter.

A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom--an excerpt

A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom
by June McCrary Jacobs

EXCERPT COMING SOON!

This debut novel by June McCrary Jacobs won the 2012 Cedar Fort Holiday Tale contest. It will be released in October 2013.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blue Sky--an excerpt

Blue Sky
by Melissa Lemon


Sunny pulled out a deck of cards and began shuffling them.

“Do you have a good poker face?” she asked.

“No.”

“Will you teach me?”

“To play poker?” He obviously thought she must be joking.

Sunny nodded. Was this a good idea? Why did she feel like she had to take his side now? Her dad had always said that when two teams were bad it was okay not to choose a side. You could just sit back and watch the game and hope that they both lost somehow. You could forget about the score and just revel in every mistake, injury, and bad call made by the officials.

Lewis stared at her for several moments, but then he sat down across from her. “What are the stakes?”

“Let’s see…” Sunny began, putting her index finger at the side of her mouth. “If you win, I’ll make you breakfast.”

He seemed to like that. But then he became somber. “And if you win?” he asked.

“If I win, I get one request.”

“And what is it that you’ll be requesting?” he said with suspicion, perhaps even hopelessness. He trusted her as much as she trusted him. Nice.

“That’s part of the risk. I won’t tell you until after the game is over.”

He thought only briefly. “I’m in,” he said. “We’ll play Five Card Draw.”





The Siren's Secret--an excerpt

The Siren’s Secret
by Heather Ostler

A dark shape appeared next to her, and Julia tripped on an uneven surface. Falling onto the noisy gravel, she scrambled. When she tried to scream again, a clammy hand fell over her mouth.

“Julia Levesque,” the figure whispered. “Don’t be afraid.”

The hand was removed, and Julia sat up. “Who are you?” she demanded.

A small light illuminated the space around Julia. She took in the image of a tall, beautiful woman with brilliant blue hair. Her face was round and her eyes were dark. Was this the creature from her dream?

“I am Riley, and I am a friend of yours.”

Julia took a deep breath. “A friend? But I’ve never met you. And anyone using dark magic is not my friend.”

Riley opened her eyes wide, looking confused. “I had to talk to you. This is urgent.”

“This is not okay,” Julia retorted. “Once they realize I’m gone, we’ll both be in a lot of trouble.”

“Julia,” Riley said, her tone becoming a little more serious, “I had to talk to you. And I knew the Soldier Union would never let me speak to you.”

“What do you want?” Julia asked. “Are you with the Guild?”

Riley’s face became troubled. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

Julia looked at the castle. She wasn’t close enough for anyone to see what was going on. And who would even be looking out the windows right now? Sierra wouldn’t realize Julia was missing until morning.

“It seems pretty suspicious that you lured me out here. Please say what you need to, quickly, and then release me.”

“This is important, Julia,” Riley answered. “I’m about to change your life.”

“Ch-change my life?” Julia’s heart began to beat madly. It was time she shapeshifted and clawed her way back into the castle.

“Yes. You see, you are a siren.”

Julia willed herself not to shapeshift. “What?”

Riley nodded innocently. “I’ve been sent on behalf of our leader. It’s time you know the truth.”

“I’m not a siren,” Julia answered. “I’m a werecat, a shapeshifter.”

“I know what a shapeshifter is,” Riley said. “And I know what a siren is. You are both.”

Julia shook her head. “No!” she yelled. “That’s impossible. Sirens are evil.” She’d been taught repeatedly to stay away from them because of how dangerous and manipulative they were. “You’re lying to me. It’s not true.”

Riley watched her. “So you haven’t had any strange occurrences lately? Nothing to do with,” she glanced at the lake, “water?”

She didn’t answer. Whenever her reflection changed, it had been in water.

“You’re a siren, Julia. And it’s not the first time someone’s been half-werecat, half-siren.”

Julia opened her mouth to protest but fell silent. Could this be possible? She had once denied that she was a werecat. What if she were a siren too? The thought made her feel sick. Sirens were scary, terrifying creatures.

“And now having told you that,” her sweet voice began again, “I need to continue my mission and take you to Loretta.”

Julia immediately took a step back. “Loretta?” she whimpered.

Riley walked closer, and her blue hair moved softly in the breeze. “Yes, it’s my job.” She spoke so kindly.

Something stirred in the lake, and Julia froze. She watched as two more sirens arose from the water and slowly walked out onto the lake’s shore. The women looked almost identical to each other, but one had long, silvery white locks, while the other had short, apple-green hair.

“I’m not leaving the castle grounds.” Julia planted her feet.

“Come with me,” Riley said, an edge to her voice. “Now.”

Julia closed her eyes and began to imagine herself shapeshifting. She felt the fear rising inside of her and used it to motivate the process.

However, as two clammy hands gripped each ankle, Julia’s legs flew out from under her and she landed on her back. She yelled out as the two women dragged her away from the castle.

“Stop! Help!”

“Quiet, Julia,” Riley ordered. “You’ve left us with no choice.”

Riley stepped onto the shore and the two sirens followed, pulling Julia. She kicked and thrashed against them, but they were too strong and only ignored her cries. Julia dug her fingers into the lake’s gravel, but she could already feel her foot in the water. She let out one last cry before she became completely submerged, and her consciousness slipped away.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Thousand Suns-an excerpt

A Thousand Suns
By Jim Haberkorn

A Rulon Hurt Adventure

Chapter 1

In the bowels of the Kremlin, two hundred yards from Lenin’s tomb, late at night, hallways dark and deserted except for the occasional security guard and tired custodian, a guard made his rounds, the click of his boots echoing on the polished floor. Checking each door, he came to one and saw the fractured luminescence of a small green lamp through the frosted glass. This one he knew to avoid and moved on. The echoes of his passing faded down the hall.

Inside the room, the lamp’s soft glow dropped a dim circle of light on a gray metal desk, leaving an old man’s hollow eyes and hawk-like face securely in the shadows. He sat in a wooden roller chair talking quietly into a speakerphone. The voice on the other end was male, mid-thirties, insistent.

“Reconsider, sir. Please.”

“Why?” the thin man asked.

“The Serbians are demanding revenge,” the younger voice said.

“As they have since Kosovo Fields,” said the old man impatiently, referring to the 1389 battle with the Ottomans.

“Please reconsider, sir. Except for this, I have never asked for anything twice.”

“And that is why you are still around to annoy me,” said the old man sharply. Instant silence. Then more patiently to his protégé, “I said there would be no retaliation. I did not say we would do nothing.” The old man pressed a button, ending the call but not his dilemma. He sat thinking, slowly stroking the chair’s left arm, buffed smooth by decades of hard decisions. Both he and the chair were old comrades-in-arms, he liked to joke – both relics of the siege of Stalingrad. He tapped his finger on his laptop touchpad. For the fifth time that night, he clicked ‘play’, closed his eyes, and listened to the DVD from CERN.

The camera had been knocked over as soon as the American cowboy broke free, giving only an angled, distorted picture of a table leg, a confusion of booted feet, and the cowboy’s black loafers. The audio came through perfectly, however. An unintelligible, bellowing roar. And they say we Russians are brutes. Yells of alarm. Thudding, hammering blows. Two explosions – gun shots three seconds apart: an eternity in that room. Now screams from the dying – sounds impossible to interpret unless you saw the bodies, which the thin man had. The cowboy with his hammer. The old man tried recalling an expression he once heard. It came to him…anger management problem. He smiled grimly. The Americans and their euphemisms.

The thin man ejected the DVD, returned it to its plastic case, and resumed stroking the chair. After a few minutes, he reached into his top drawer, pulled out a file and laid it on the desk. Flipping through the tabbed sections, he came to a picture of a man and woman taken in a stairwell by a CERN surveillance camera: Rulon Hurt, cowboy from America, and Yohaba Melekson, Swiss citizen, his woman. He picked up the photo and studied the girl closely. A smart girl, he’d been told, and quite lovely. Yes, the cowboy had his reasons.

He carefully replaced the photo in the file. Yes, the cowboy would live. There would be no hollow-point bullet in the face from close range. No camouflaged sniper in the hills above the ranch in Idaho. No poison-tipped umbrella. No booby-trapped cell phone.

Neither mercy nor romanticism played a part in the thin man‘s decision. In fact, any suggestion of either would have only made him laugh. Having ordered in his lifetime the deaths of many enemies and more than a few comrades, he no longer felt intoxicated by the power of life and death, or the need to wield it indiscriminately. An execution was but a tool, and he understood its limitations. And while he did not believe in God he did believe in martyrs.

The cowboy would not be executed. The dead men had disobeyed orders. The cowboy had meted out … a proportional response. But something would have to be done. Something.

A Thousand Suns-a review

A Thousand Suns

by Jim Haberkorn
I have a new favorite author of intrigue and suspense…Jim Haberkorn! I just devoured his newest book, A Thousand Suns and wanted to read more.


I love books and Haberkorn’s writing has garnered him a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I want his book always visible, always waiting for me to pull it out again and get lost in its exciting pages. Move over Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Tom Cain. Haberkorn writes just as fast and keeps my interest tied just as tight without the crudeness, language, sex or graphic details.

Like a correctly delivered roundhouse, Haberkorn packs power in his style. The writing is intelligent, crisp and rapid. It flows over the page with no wasted words.

Rulon Hurt is a tough, no-nonsense cowboy whose earlier encounters in Europe garnered him some powerful international enemies. It also got him a wife.

Yohaba is a brilliant, playful partner who can get her husband into trouble as easily as she can pull him out of it. She can also assemble and shoot a gun better than most wives can clean and dress a turkey. (Gotta love that in a wife. Never know when it will come in handy.) With the aid of a lethal Russian who has more than one secret to hide, Yohaba takes the battle for Rulon’s life across the world.

The plot twists are as tightly coiled as the barbed wire on Rulon Hurt’s Idaho property. The facts are woven seamlessly into the plot and show a great deal of research and personal knowledge on Haberkorn’s part. (I love it when an author is that dedicated to getting things right.) The Rulon Hurt series is set in modern times with plenty of action and suspense, thrills and footwork…all of it racing over shadows of fact.

And I have to say I have never crossed paths with an author who can write about duct tape in quite the way Haberkorn can! What he has Boris do with duct tape is one of my favorite scenes of the book. I had a smile as big as the Russian all the way through that part and chuckled later in the church when the Russian makes a comment about it. Absolutely perfect dialogue in my opinion!

I started to read A Thousand Suns one night just before dinner. Somehow I managed to get in a few chapters while burning (oops) cooking the chicken and doing the dishes. Then, for the next few days, every time I got a chance between my own job as a writer and the never ending pile of laundry, I hungrily swallowed a chapter or two.

His first book, Einstein’s Trunk, is coming to join A Thousand Suns on my bookshelf. I want to know just how Rulon and Yohaba mix it up in the first story--and I have to find out more about this dangerous and mysterious Elsa that’s making the rounds. (A quick search on the internet tells me Elsa is very real…another one of those intriguing facts Haberkorn has masterfully woven into fiction.)

Here’s a great interview with Haberkorn that explains things like Yohaba’s name, how music influenced one of my favorite scenes in the book (and his), and other thoughts on writing. Getting to know Jim Haberkorn

(If you want to have fun, go back and read that scene while listening to the music that inspired it. I did and, yeah, it fits.)

You can order a copy of Jim Haberkorn's book here. A Thousand Suns

Trust me, his books are like rolls of duct tape...you'll want more than one!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Winner for Lair of the Serpent giveaway!

Sarah Kozlowski...You won!

Congratulations! You will receive a complete Tombs of Terror series which has been optioned by Hollywood producer Kevin Buxbaum! His movies include Academy Award winning Life of Pi and Avatar.

In the 3-book Jonathon Bradford encounters mummies, terrorists, and the lost tunnels of the Incas in Tombs of Terror. He and his friends face the Death Light, a skin walker and international archaeology thieves in The Lost Curse. And, in the newly released Lair of the Serpent, Jonathon deals with his most dangerous challenge yet--human traffickers and the Naga in the jungles of Cambodia.

You can read all the first chapters right here, on this blog. Just click on the book covers and immerse yourself in legend and very real facts.

A big thanks to everyone who entered and all the great blogs who helped promote the release of my book Lair of the Serpent!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Blog Tour Schedule

Here is the Blog Tour schedule for my new book, Lair of the Serpent! Some of these sites will post reviews, others will share excerpts from the book, still others will have interviews with me. All of them will have ways to enter the giveaway.

So check them out as they join the tour and sign up to win the entire Tombs of Terror series for free!

Lair of the Serpent Blog Tour

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Today is the day!

LAIR OF THE SERPENT
is officially released today!


And so far early readers have been giving it a solid five-star rating!


Don't forget to hit the web sites stirring up excitement for my newest book in my Blog Hop. Some of them are posting reviews, others are posting blurbs or excerpts from the book, still others are posting interviews with me. All of them are participating in the give-away for my entire Tombs of Terror series in either e-book or paperback. Find out more about the Blog Hop and participating web sites here June Blog Hop for Lair of the Serpent

Also, in the middle of all of this, author Steve Westover asked me to read his newest YA book and write a blurb for it's cover. That is always fun to be contacted by another author. Now I am reading a book that will be going to the printer next month. Talk about getting a real sneak peek! I am actually reading a book only a few eyes have seen so far! Here's his web site. Steve Westover

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The contest has started!

Win the entire Tombs of Terror series!

That includes the newest release, Lair of the Serpent! Other web sites are taking part in the giveaway and that gives you more chances to win!
During the first week of June, you can increase your chances of winning at these sites:
June 3 visit author Cindy C. Bennett
June 5 visit Inksplasher
June 6 visit Fic Talk
And here are the giveaway instructions, just log in and it will give you a list of ways to earn points. It is free to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Read the first chapter of Lair of the Serpent!

Here it is! Enjoy!


CHAPTER ONE

Nāga! Nāga!”

Cries of warning rose in the jungle and men turned to the terrified sound. Strewn like tiny human islands through the muddy water of a Cambodian river, the men packing supplies over their heads froze, eyes searching for the deadly creature.

Ahead of them, near the edge of the jungled bank, water splashed and a man screamed in terror. The event spurred the others into action and they tried to run through the murky water for their own safety and to help. Cargo and current slowed their trek.

Again water boiled and the man who screamed vanished beneath the surface. Those already on the bank set down their burdens. Some held back, taken with fear. Two men grabbed machetes and rushed forward.

Out of the brown churning and frothing water rose a great head, but it did not belong to the man. Instead, water ran in sheets off the flattened head of a giant snake, its glistening body wrapped in gold and brown coils around a man battling for life and air.

A loud warning hiss came from the creature and the first man with the machete stopped. All his life he had heard of demon snakes in the jungles…Nāga large enough to swallow men whole. They could spit paralyzing poison from their mouths and shoot deadly fire from their eyes. The man had not known what to think of the stories…until now.

Though its deadly body writhed and roiled in power, constricting and drowning the thrashing man in its coils, the snake’s head stayed upright, out of the water, almost motionless at it stared at the men with razor-edged knives.

One human body length away, the second man hesitated, not sure he wanted to step into the water and the lethal fight. Then, his decision made, he lowered his machete and stepped back, just as the first man also made his decision and lunged forward. In that moment a mighty explosion of fire rocked the earth near the second man. Mud and blood and water blew upward into the sky, throwing both rescuers backwards, into the thick growth.

The giant serpent did not even blink, its cold, red eyes watching and memorizing the faces of the men. Then it sank into the water, taking the now lifeless prize in its coils.

* * * * *

The team of medical volunteers arrived at the impoverished shanty town of Preak Torl. The smell of the notorious garbage dump, Stung Meanchey, permeated the air. Plumes of smoke drifted upward from the dump and the stench of raw sewage wove its way into the acrid smell of smoldering trash and moldering refuse. Even though the team had been working in Preak Torl for almost two months, the first assault on their senses overwhelmed them each morning.

Arriving at a shack built out of plywood and balancing on stilts, the South American crew began the tedious task of unloading the day’s supplies. They would treat those scavengers injured while digging through the rubble of Stung Meanchey, inoculate the children, tend to an endless array of rashes and skin infections, and continue to train a group of seven Preak Torl residents to take over their duties when they left.

It was hard to get the residents to stop digging in the garbage dump and study medicine each day. Every family member in Preak Torl, including the children, dug in the dump for recyclables, food and anything of value they could resell or use. If they were fast, they could make fifty cents an hour. If they were lucky they would do it without getting cut or pierced by the trash yet, to leave the sea of human discards and study basic medical care meant they wouldn’t earn money that day. Few could afford that loss so they would come for a while, but then the need to feed their family pulled them back into the dump.

In an effort to encourage those with the mind and ability to work in the medical field, each morning the team with World Medical Corp also unloaded bags of rice and fresh vegetables. Every day the trainees came to work and learn with the team, they received three pounds of rice and a small bag of yams, beans and other vegetables. It was enough to feed an entire family two meager meals for the day and it worked to keep seven dedicated residents returning to learn medicine and, hopefully, work their way out of the Stung Meanchey dump.

his morning, some members of the World Medical Corp worked to unload the truck of medical supplies and food while the trained emergency response workers and their medical assistants set up the small clinic. Fear of theft forced them to dismantle and reconstruct their tiny clinic each day and they could now do it in just a matter of minutes but, already, they had patients waiting to see them.

One child grabbed a medical worker’s hand and tugged her toward the shanty town, talking urgently, gesturing for her presence. In broken Khmer, the worker tried to convince the child to bring the person to the clinic but the child persisted. Finally she turned, smiled at a team member carrying a bag of rice, and let the young boy pull her down the dirt and trash strewn road.

Burdened with a large bag of rice on his shoulder, the worker watched her go, uncomfortable. It was never good to go far from the clinic, from the other team members.

The young woman brushed tendrils of long, dark hair off her face. A careful French braid fell down her back. As the child pulled her along, she tried to communicate with basic words she knew of Khmer and Vietnamese. Animated, the child pointed toward a narrow road that disappeared between houses made of scavenged dump finds.

She hesitated. The trek would take her farther from the clinic than she wanted to be. Turning back, her dark eyes met the worried gaze of the worker still watching from the steps of the clinic.

Then several men burst out from between the closely packed shacks and rushed the young woman. The child, job completed, released her hand and scurried to safety. At the onslaught of men, the female medical worker gasped in shock then, as they grabbed her and lifted her into their control, she screamed in protest and fear.

From the steps of the clinic, a desperate hundred feet away, the worker dropped his bag of rice and jumped to the ground, shouting her name, calling for the men to stop. Other workers froze in surprise and then moved to help the young woman being dragged away.

A truck, its fully exposed engine welded to a crude frame and axle system, appeared around the corner of a teetering building. The attacking men brutally threw their captive into the back before jumping up behind her. The men shouted commands to the driver and held the fighting woman down. In response to the shouts, the truck lurched into a higher gear and sped up the road, toward the clinic.

Almost to the truck, the worker increased his speed, desperate to reach her, to help her. Without hesitating, he lunged for the moving truck, grabbed hold of the wooden slats that encased the sides, and drew himself up into the vehicle. Half over the wooden barrier, he saw the girl fighting, her eyes terrified and desperate. Reaching out for her with his hand, he called her name. Before their fingers could touch two men descended on him with heavy pipes; beating him off the edge of the truck, kicking him away, knocking him from the side, letting him fall toward the heavy tires beneath.

In the bed of the truck, the kidnapped woman felt the truck lurch as it hit something and she closed her eyes, heartsick with pain and fear.

* * * * *

Even with the ceiling fans moving and the doors open to the small balcony, the early morning air already felt hot and heavy. Outside the hotel room, the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh bustled with a mixture of modern and old. The Raffles Le Royale Hotel stood in four-story grandeur over a modern section of town. Its white columned front rose above a circular driveway to red tile roofs. Open breezeways caught and channeled the cooling breeze into a variety of rooms. A mixture of foreign sounds and smells drifted in through every open balcony doors.

Seated at a desk in the room, Jonathon Bradford tried to ignore the uneasy feeling he had and placed a Skype call to the United States. It took several minutes for the connections to go through over the internet but then his father answered the phone and Jonathon forced a smile, hoping the connection would hide his tension. He should be excited to be in Cambodia, but something just didn’t feel right. “Hi, Dad. I’m here. I’m calling you from the hotel.”

On the other end of the rough connection, David Bradford smiled. “Good. I’m glad to hear that. How was your flight?”

“It was great. No problems.”

“And your ride from the airport?”

The questions allowed him to focus on something else, and he did. “Crazy. This place is insane. It’s still pretty early in the morning and there are people everywhere.”

“That’s what happens in a city of three million people.”

A shrug moved out of Jonathon. “Yeah, well they must have four million tuk-tuks. I don’t know how they even drive here, the streets are so crowded.”

“What’s a tuk-tuk?”

“They’re these things like golf carts that people ride in and haul stuff in. And they have moto-taxis—old motorcycles that have a wagon or cart welded to them and they haul people and stuff in those carts, too. Dad. I took tons of photos already. I’ll try to send you some.”

“Good. I’d love to see them. And when you get to the temple of Angkor Wat don’t stop taking photos until you have recorded every stone, every carving, every statue. You got that?”

A smile of understanding crossed Jonathon’s face. “I will.”

“Your mom isn’t here right now. She left after dinner to take your brother to his basketball practice but she is going to want to know if your luggage arrived.”

Jonathon looked at the suitcase and his carry-on, resting on the highly polished wood floor. “Everything made it.”

“Have you met up with Severino and Delia yet?”

Again the strange uneasiness filled him when he thought of his teenaged friends from Peru. “No. I’m supposed to meet them downstairs for lunch, at the Café Monivong. Severino is taking Delia there for her birthday.”

“So, she doesn’t know you’re coming yet?”

Though nervous, Jonathon allowed a small upturn of his mouth. He’d been friends with the pair since they saved his life in Peru. Delia found Jonathon unconscious in the secret tunnels of the Incas and, with the help of her brother, Severino, got him to safety. Later, when the Shining Path terrorists of Peru took Jonathon hostage, Severino risked his own life to help the American teenager escape.

For a moment, Jonathon’s thoughts eased as a mental image of his friends moved through his thoughts. “No, not yet. She won’t know until she gets to the Café.”

Across the miles, David laughed. “That is going to be one big surprise birthday present.”

“Yeah. She’s excited enough about going on the tour this week and thinks that is her birthday present. She has no idea I’m joining them. It will be fun to see her reaction.”

For a moment Jonathon sobered and looked at his father. “Listen, Dad, I really want to thank you for letting me come. I know it wasn’t easy for you and Mom to agree to this but I do appreciate it. I felt like I wanted to be here, like I needed to be here, for her birthday and everything.”

On the other end of the connection, David nodded. “You’re right. It was very difficult but you’ve earned our trust, so don’t do anything stupid to destroy that, okay?”

“I won’t.”

“And don’t spend a lot of time alone with Delia. I know you like her and…”

“Dad—” The protest came with a roll of Jonathon’s brown eyes.

“I mean it, Jonathon. You’re seventeen, in a foreign country, touring with a girl you like, and you will have your own hotel room…with no parents around. Remember, she is not to come up to your room unless her brother is there with you the whole time. And you are not to go to hers. That was part of the deal before we agreed to let you spend some of your money on this trip. I’m trusting you to keep your end of the bargain.”

“I will.”

David’s eyes didn’t waver. “Jonathon, I’m being serious. I know how easily some things can happen when you like someone.”

“Dad, I’ll be careful. I promise. Besides, she may not even like me or care if I’m here.”

“I’m pretty sure you don’t have to worry too much about that…that’s why your mother and I are counting on you to keep your promise.”

“I know. I know.”

“Okay.” Now David smiled. “Now that you’ve had your daily lecture, just remember to have some fun. A week in Cambodia should be the experience of a lifetime.”

Jonathon laughed and nodded his head, his focused changed. “It already is, Dad. I can’t believe this place and the hotel is awesome. Thanks for helping me with it. I’ll send you pictures of that, too.”

Then Jonathon hesitated. “Listen, I don’t know when I’ll call again. Most of the time we’ll be with the tour group and probably won’t be anywhere near our hotel rooms.”

“That’s probably good,” his father joked. “Just check in when you can, so I know I still have a son.”

“I will. I love you. Tell Mom I love her, too, and say ‘hi’ to everyone, okay?”

“Okay. We love you, Jonathon. Be careful. See you soon.”

When the call ended, Jonathon sat back in the desk chair and stared at the empty computer screen for a moment, trying to pin down the reason for his anxiety. It had started this morning, when he was deboarding the plane. Maybe it was the new country, the new language…

An exhale moved out of his chest. He needed to call his friend, Tallie, and let her know he had arrived safely. The pair had been close friends since childhood and Tallie wanted to come to Cambodia with him to see the country and spend time with Severino and Delia again, but her first year in college demanded all her time and money.

The cooing of doves drifted through the open French doors and he turned toward the soothing sound, needing its calming effect. The world outside the doors lured him away from the desk and to the open balcony off his room. Below him, the blue water of the hotel’s swimming pool lapped and moved with the motions of a couple of swimmers getting their exercise for the day.

Awed by the beauty around him, Jonathon leaned against the railing and drank in the colors, culture, and character around him.

Then his thoughts turned to Delia and he felt his stomach churn with both nervousness and excitement. In just a few hours Delia would be at the hotel with her brother and Jonathon would get to see her again. Though they had stayed in touch with e-mails and Skype calls, he hadn’t seen her since he’d left Peru almost a year ago.

A knock on the hotel door caught his attention and Jonathon startled, wondering if they had arrived early. The pounding of his heart filled his chest. It had not been in the plan for Severino to bring Delia up to his hotel room. They had planned to meet in the café downstairs.

Anxious, not knowing who stood outside the door, Jonathon moved across the wood floor, past the comfortable looking queen-sized bed and opened the portal.

He didn’t expect the sight in front of him. Three men stood in the hallway. Their khaki uniforms, pistols strapped to their hips and semi-automatic rifles in their arms told him who they were even before he read the English word Police on their uniforms.

“Are you American Jonathon Bradford?”

Hesitant, Jonathon responded. “Yes.”

“You have papers to prove you Jonathon Bradford?”

“Yes.”

An officer stepped into the room. “Must see papers.”

A nervous feeling he’d been trying to suppress for several hours surged through him. Trembling, Jonathon reached for his wallet, not wanting to show them his passport. “What is this about?”

“See papers.”

Concerned but not wanting them to think that, Jonathon opened his wallet and showed them his driver’s license. The man in charge stared at it and frowned. “You have passport?”

“Yes.”

“Must see passport.”

More hesitant, Jonathon moved back to his luggage. As he unzipped a pocket on his backpack one of the officers pointed his rifle at him, covering him to make sure he didn’t pull anything else out of the pack. Jonathon slowed, his nerves tight. The police were not here for a social visit and he didn’t relish the thought of facing a foreign arrest and jail time. “Have I done something wrong?”

Holding out his hand, the man waited for the passport and Jonathon reluctantly placed it in his hand. This time the man looked at the image and nodded his approval before handing the passport back to Jonathon. Relieved to have it in his possession again, Jonathon slid the vital document back into his backpack.

Convinced he had the right person, the officer stepped closer. “American Jonathon Bradford, do you know…” To make sure he had the information correct the officer removed a piece of paper from the breast pocket of his uniform and looked at it, trying to pronounce the word on the paper.

Shifting his eyes to the paper, Jonathon saw the handwritten name. Severino Mayuri Quispe. Inside, his blood chilled. “Yes, I know Severino.”

“You come to station then.” The police officer touched the paper, pointing at the name. “We have this person.”

No more explanation. No more information. The police just stepped aside and expected Jonathon to fall into step between their rifles and pistols.

Twenty minutes later, Jonathon sat in a private room at the crowded police station, waiting. No one would answer his questions about why they had Severino or where Delia was. He didn’t know anything—only that his emotions twisted like corded wire inside him. The hammering in his chest had not stopped since he’d opened his hotel door and now it seemed as if it would break through his rib cage. If Severino had been arrested for something…

The door opened and two police officers entered, escorting Severino. Coming to his feet, Jonathon felt his body sway at the sight of Severino’s battered face and body, his bloodied clothes. He stepped forward, awash with concern. “Severino, what happened?”

Dark eyes filled with pain and glistening with tears met Jonathon’s. “Delia’s gone. They took her. I tried to stop them, but I couldn’t!”



Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm doing my own giveaway!

Starting in June, I will be doing my own giveaway...a free copy of Lair of the Serpent! It's the first time I've done a giveaway but I'm using Rafflecopter, which tracks participation and lets me know the winner. I hope to make giveaways of books and gift cards, and links to giveaways, a regular feature on my blog.

So be looking for my first official giveaway right here....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You've heard me rave about it!
Now you can win your own copy!



Goodreads Book Giveaway


A Thousand Suns by Jim Haberkorn

A Thousand Suns

by Jim Haberkorn

Giveaway ends May 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter to win



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Truth in Fiction-Guest post


By Jim Haberkorn, author of A Thousand Suns


Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction must not be a stranger to truth. Consider these examples: Virtually every word of dialogue by every character in Gore Vidal’s Lincoln – an historical novel – was taken from actual diaries, newspaper accounts, memoires, and letters. If you want to know the truth about Lincoln and his cabinet, read that work of fiction. Further, those of us who have read Gone With the Wind or Killer Angels have a more complete, truthful, and balanced picture of the Civil War and the pre and post bellum South than any textbook has ever provided. And there are many other examples: I’ve never lived in a small Oregon lumber town, but after reading Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, I might as well have. And I had never visited Russia before the fall of the Iron Curtain, but I did read Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park, so I’ve got a good feel for what that was like. The Spanish Civil war pitted citizens of the same towns against each other in a life and death struggle. It would have been impossible for me to imagine that if I hadn’t read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.


I write thrillers and read lots of thrillers, and nothing causes me to put a book down faster than a lack of truth. And by truth, I’m referring to something that goes far beyond getting street names right in a car chase – today with Google maps any halfway diligent author can do that.


Here is what I mean. When I was eighteen years old, I was a careless reader. I didn’t have a strong sense of the power and insight a good book could deliver. I enjoyed reading but my expectations were low. About that time, I read For Whom the Bell Tolls and ploughed through the book reading the words but not engrossed enough or smart enough to appreciate Hemingway’s skill. Then I got to the scene where El Sordo and his guerrilla band were trapped by the Fascist soldiers and for me, that’s when the pixie dust finally took effect. It was as if I was tucked behind a dead horse with my head down right next to El Sordo on that hill. At the time, I didn’t understand why that scene gripped me so much, and I had to find out.


Even though there were less than a hundred pages left in the book, I stopped after that scene and went back to page one and began reading the book all over again. I realized that up until then, I had read the words but only superficially. In the course of reading it again, more slowly this time, and with more effort to appreciate, I realized what made Hemingway’s story so meaningful. He had infused into his story his skillfully crafted and honest observations about life, friendship, love, loyalty, and courage. His characters were real people, complex, flawed, and struggling together within the universal human condition. And though at that time, I had never been to Spain and knew almost nothing about Spanish history, I could tell by the details he inserted into his story that the canvas, set in the mountains of Spain during the Spanish Civil war, was authentic. In other words, he wrote something true even though it was fiction. And to this day, the memory of that experience has never left.


Now, I constantly look for that experience again in the books I read. And sometimes I find it, even in thrillers.




Friday, April 19, 2013

Music and Writing

I can't write a single musical note and the only note I can find on a piano is middle C, but I love music and tell people that music is the most inspiring form of writing in the world! There is something magical and mathematical and technical and spiritual about great music.


Yet, I don't listen to music when I write. I thought it was always distracting. Maybe I need to rethink that.


Normally when I write I prefer quiet...no television, no music and no kids. (As the mother of six children that means I don't write very often!)


Yes, there are times when music will put me in the mood to write. On those days I listen to a song or two, get my inspiration and then shut off the music and move to the keyboard.


But maybe listening to inspiring music while I am writing might be allowed. Melissa Lemon, who wrote Blue Sky, said music from Micheal Buble inspired her to write a scene in her book where Lewis and Sunny are apart.


And in his book, A Thousand Suns, author Jim Haberkorn was inspired while listening to the theme to Inception to write the powerful scene in his book where Yohaba is walking calmly through a sea of Russian agents toward just one...Boris. (I have actually gone back and listened to both of those songs while rereading the very scenes they inspired. That was an interesting experience and I would recommend it to the fans of those books. It confirmed to me the powerful emotions I had already felt and they were so able to capture in those scenes.)


If you want to learn more about Blue Sky or A Thousand Suns, check out my reviews of both of these books by clicking on their book covers to the right. Then follow my reviews back to the author's web site for some additional great reading.


And next time you hear a song that makes you stop and think about one of the characters you are writing about, turn up the music and get to work.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Take a FREE tour of The Lost Curse!

Most readers don't know that the places in my book are very real, so are the legends and many of the details.

I have provided a tour of "The Lost Curse". It goes in chronological order. Just click on the photo and read a brief excerpt from the book. It's all there...the turtle, the heart on the mountain, the Death Light...

Enjoy your free trip

Real Locations for The Lost Curse


Monday, April 15, 2013

It has gone to press!

Here is the final cover. It went to press last week. I love the graphics, the design, the layout, the artwork and font choice. Everything about it is outstanding. I also love the endorsement from Kevin Buxbaum on the front cover? Check it out!


For those who can't read the tiny print, the endorsement on the front cover reads: "A young adult series destined to become Hollywood's next major motion picture trilogy. A must read." Kevin Buxbaum, Associate Producer, Life of Pi

Here, too, is the copy that they selected to put on the back of the book, starting with an excerpt from the book…

“The shock of the assault caught the men off guard, and they struggled to control the American. They wrestled him to the ground, pinning him there, holding him fast, as Sang stood up from the ground. Cursing in Khmer, Sang pointed the gun at Jonathon’s head and, without hesitating, pulled the trigger.”

Jonathon can’t wait to surprise Deliah for her birthday. With a little help from Deliah’s brother, Severino, he plans to visit her in Cambodia where she’s working as a humanitarian volunteer. But Jonathon arrives only to find a panicked Severino—
and no Deliah.

Jonathon and Severino are determined to find Deliah before it’s too late—but it might not be that easy. Now, with the orphan Chey and their friend Juan, Jonathon and Severino must fight their way through human trafficking rings, a dense jungle, and a radical group bent on using Deliah as a human sacrifice in order to find the Nāga Mani, a sacred and powerful stone.

Lair of the Serpent seamlessly blends intense action and suspense with family loyalty and tender romance. The rich setting and colorful characters will ignite your imagination, while the twisting plot and elements of fantasy will satisfy every adventurer’s thirst for exotic quests.

“Lair of the Serpent is full of adventure, memorable characters, and enough suspense to keep you at the edge of your seat.” Heather Ostler, author of The Shapeshifter’s Secret

The book can be preordered through online. It will be released in June!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Twitter Tweets


One thing my publisher asked me to do was set up a Twitter account and start sending Tweets out to the world. I am still learning how to use Twitter but I have quickly learned that the Tweets are amazing, fun, informative 140 word tidbits about life. Here are some that I hope will make you smile.

Auther of The Kindling, Braden Bell‏@bradenbellcom One good thing about spring break: I can wear socks that don't match.

My son: My friend on my upcoming date: "Oh man, don't take her anywhere fancy. Buy her a pez dispenser and call it a wrap.

Author of The Lost Curse, T. Lynn Adams@TLynnAdams: Wrote today for my job, on my book Lair of the Serpent, emails, texts on Twitter. There's a reason I don't keep a computer by my bed!

Author of The Kindling, Braden Bell‏@bradenbellcom : Somehow this new tie was manufactured to be either too short or too long. No medium ground. Kind of amazing, really.

Author of The Reluctant Blogger, Ryan Rapier‏@RyanRapier: In 4 hours...Vegas Baby!!! Oh, wait. I'm a Mormon. Dang It!

My Son: Dude. You just followed my Mom on Twitter......
(Yeah, I can just imagine my son's expression on that one!)

Author of Lair of the Serpent, T. Lynn Adams@TLynnAdams:I have the flu. Thought I'd stay on the couch and write. I'm on the couch but, counting this tweet, I've composed 137 characters all day.

Author of The Maze Runner (soon to be a major motion picture), James Dashner @jamesdasner: My son just googled how to cook a hot dog in the microwave. I'm at a loss for words

Author of The Kindling, Braden Bell‏@bradenbellcom: So, I got an illness that causes arthritis, headache, fever, and weight loss. I got 3 of those 4 symptoms. Guess which I didn't get.

Just someone who's tweet I found:If u are thinking of posting an inspirational tweet, don't, you're not Churchill, you're Pete, and u work in sales.

As you can see, I like to smile and I hope you did, too. But Tweets are also a great way to get fast information from your favorite authors. That's how I know the casting choices for The Maze Runner movie. That's how I know which authors are working on sequels, when new books are being released, where I can read reviews about the books and even order them. I can join a chat with James Dashner or Melissa Lemon.

Go to Twitter and set up a free account, follow me and your favorite authors to start your audience going, and have some fun!

Friday, March 1, 2013

How Severino Changed...and hint number two

When I was first starting out, an author friend of mine told me to know my characters before I started. “One time I made the mistake of not introducing myself to one of my characters before I began,” she said. “He took over and 350 pages later I realized I had to reclaim my story and the only way to do that was to kick him completely out of the book. That was a waste of time. I’ll never make that mistake again.”

So, when I began Tombs of Terror, I knew my characters…or at least I thought I did. Severino was, originally, a very minor character. In the first draft, I only needed Severino’s muscle to move Jonathon out of the tunnels. I gave him his assignment and he fulfilled it in two pages.

However, once Severino did that, I realized he was going to be hanging around the house until Jonathon left. That’s when I decided to use the Peruvian teenager to add tension to the story, so I gave him a rifle and made reference to his membership in The Shining Path terrorist group who was lurking just around the manuscript corner--forcing Jonathon to feel the need to escape from Severino.

I also had to explain why Severino's parents were not there...so I killed off the dad and sent the mom to Lima to work and provide for the family (a very real scenario for too many Peruvian families).

Yet, I knew I had Severino originally 'help’ me in my plot so, despite his terrorist affiliation, he still had to be a good guy. That’s when part of Severino’s back story came to me…he was involved with The Shining Path but didn’t want anyone else involved in them. Though he appeared rough, he was really just trying to protect his sister and keep Jonathon away from the terrorists because he knew what they’d do to him.

At that point, all was good. I let Jonathon escape and figured he was never going to see Severino again. Carlos was going to help Jonathon get into the tunnels. But the quiet Peruvian teenager showed up again, letting me know that since he was a member of The Shining Path he was the only one who could get Jonathon away from terrorists…and he’d do it at the risk of his own life.

How can you turn down a sacrifice like that?

So, I let him. He got Jonathon away from the terrorists and handed the American over to Carlos; and the book moved on without Severino. But I realized that terrorists would not be kind if one of their own was caught helping a hostage escape. They are, afterall, terrorists--not pacifists.

That's when I had Carlos tell Jonathon about the risk Severino took to get him away from The Shining Path. Jonathon listened to the explanation and moved on through the tunnels with Carlos as his Inca guide.

But, by the end of the novel I wanted to make sure that Severino was fine so I had Severino give Jonathon the Inca coin and the letter. With that final addition to the manuscript, I packaged it up and sent it to the publisher.

The publisher liked the story and agreed to buy it. However, their beta readers had all commented so positively on Severino, they wanted to know if there was some way I could weave him into more of the story.

I knew I could because I had grown to like the Peruvian teenager myself. That’s when I went back and gave a 'good guy' a good reason for being part of The Shining Path…he was looking for the terrorist who killed his father. It was easy at that point to place Severino throughout the story and let readers take a peek into his mind and life.

When Life of Pi movie producer Kevin Buxbaum read the book and contacted me about turning it into a movie he said he liked Severino and Juan and wanted to see even more of both of them. So I brought Severino to the states to join Jonathon for new adventures in The Lost Curse.

Though I always knew strong, independent Tallie was going to make her debut in The Lost Curse so many readers had said they wanted to see Jonathon get with Delia that, from the get-go, Tallie was always assigned to be a sisterly friend to Jonathon. Do you remember the first time Tallie saw Severino? Without much of an introduction, she gave the surprised Peruvian a hug and I knew, from that very moment, she and Severino were going to click. It was easy to build their relationship from there.

Even when he was a very minor character originally sent in just to move an unconscious Jonathon out of the tunnels, Severino has always been very intelligent. His only hindrance, I knew, was his lack of formal education because of his poverty and harsh life in the mountains of Peru.

Because so many ‘unschooled’ Peruvians fluently speak Spanish and Quechua, as Severino grew and developed I wanted him to show that ability to pick up languages. Some people just can. Severino uses his language gift in The Lost Curse to increasingly communicate with Tallie. He also uses it in Cambodia, in Lair of the Serpent.

Additionally, Severino’s life in Tombs of Terror has clearly introduced him to rocks and geology and it has become one of his passions. He uses this knowledge to save Tallie’s life in the The Lost Curse and also to set up a powerful criminal in Lair of the Serpent.

That, by the way, is the second hint…Severino uses his knowledge of geology to set up a criminal in Lair of the Serpent. You will have to read to find out if it works.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Blue Sky by Melissa Lemon

In the new novel, Blue Sky, by Melissa Lemon, a young woman finds a man in her basement. After the initial shock and terror of coming face to face with a stranger, she discovers he has been living on the streets for three years and only sought refuge in her basement from a winter storm. She decides to try and help the young man and, eventually they fall in love. However, their different backgrounds put a wall between them and they are going to have to find away around or they will lose each other forever.

Now, for my first confession…I have not read a romance novel in 14 years—not since my oldest child starting bring home YA novels and I realized not all YA books were appropriate for youth. (That’s when I started the daunting task of reading ahead of all my book-loving tweens to check out every book they brought home--Whew! That is also when I started writing YA novels that I wouldn’t mind my own kids reading.) So I was a bit curious about how much I would enjoy my step back into the romance genre.

Because of Melissa Lemon’s characters and plotting I have another confession to make…I absolutely loved my journey back into romance.

In Blue Sky, Sunny is dealing with the loss of both of her parents to a car accident when she discovers Lewis in her basement. Their first encounter is dramatic and, with the storm outside, Sunny realizes she has just been taken hostage in her own home.

In his own way, Lewis is also a hostage—held prisoner by a past he lets rob him of his future. As the storm outside dissipates, their relationship grows and Sunny makes a decision to help Lewis. Over time she becomes fearful of losing someone else she cares about so she carefully avoids developing a friendship with him beyond her efforts to help. Lewis, on the other hand, is fearful that his past will prevent him from having a future with Sunny. Through a series of misunderstandings, the pair separate and Sunny realizes that, to find a homeless man she is going to have to walk a similar path—including the ironic twist of living a hidden life in a stranger’s home.

Blue Sky was a clean and tender romance filled with characters I quickly cared about…so much so that, at just over 400 pages, the book was too short! I wanted to read more about them.

Melissa Lemon also uses Blue Sky to enter the world of homelessness and take a poignant look at family dysfunction and the hidden pain it causes.

I enjoyed both Sunny and Lewis’ characters and the way Melissa lets us look into their inner emotions. Through the personal loss both characters experienced, each felt alone in the world yet they guarded that hurt and loneliness in very different ways. When Lewis tells Sunny the worst part about being homeless it caused an audible reaction in me because it was a perfect response. And when Lewis finally comes clean about his past the entire scene was so well written, including the body language, that I half suspect the author has sat with someone who has struggled to share painful memories.

In fact, some of the descriptions in the book were so well written that, as a writer myself, I went back and reread them a second and even a third time to analyze how she crafted the scene and study the word choices she used. (I especially loved the kiss where Sunny pulls away and Lewis isn’t ready to let her go and tries to reclaim her.)

Now for one more confession…I liked the character of Lewis’ brother, Jack…a lot! Often people do deal with difficult problems by using humor and that made Jack’s almost cocky comments both sad and endearing. His willingness to stand in front of family problems and 'take it on the chin' for them was very believable. In fact, I would love to see a spin-off book that moves Jack forward as a main protagonist…or at least places him along side his brother, Lewis. So, how about Melissa? If you’re up for a sequel, I’m up for another great read!

If you want to learn more about Melissa Lemon and her writing, check out her home page Melissa Lemon



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lair of the Serpent: Hint Number One...

This last week I was going through an edit of my third book, Lair of the Serpent. I was able to work with a great editor at Cedar Fort, Justin Kelly. He made some wonderful observations and suggestions and I was thrilled for his input. It's always nice to have another pair of eyes and, in truth, I am glad they were male eyes! Men notice different things and react to stories differently than women do. Since my protagonists are teenage boys, his male viewpoint was very valuable to me...and to you.

In my new book, I throw Jonathon and Severino into the jungles of Cambodia where they face the most difficult physical and emotional challenges of their lives.

So why are an American and a Peruvian in Cambodia in the first place? Well, a lot of it has to do with Severino's sister...

I will be letting out hints in the coming weeks and that was your first one: they are there for Delia. Then I will give away an early, signed copy of my book to someone who has been following my hints, so be looking for them!

Lair of the Serpent is filled with action and, like Tombs of Terror and The Lost Curse, it blends truth with fiction. Once again, the places are very real, the history is accurate and the dangers are current and eye opening. Even the Cambodian legends in this book will make you wonder about what is or isn't possible.

I've had some beta readers tell me this book is the best of the three! With Justin's help this past week, the story became even better.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Interview with Melissa Lemon, author of Blue Sky


I had the chance to visit with Melissa Lemon about her latest book, Blue Sky. Here is what she had to say...

You are having a blog tour for Blue Sky. What is a blog tour and how can people participate? A blog tour is a way for lots of people to learn about a book, usually about the time it is released. Different blogs host your book on a certain day during the tour. Tours usually run for two to three weeks. If you would like to host blog tours, begin building a following on your blog, reviewing books, and building a network of other authors and reviewers.

How do some of your book ideas come to you?
Well, I spend a lot of time in my imagination. Really, they just come. Sometimes from a dream or a life experience, but much of the time it seems like they come out of thin air.

How did you get the initial idea for Blue Sky? Growing up, my sister and I wondered at times if somebody was living in our unfinished basement. In the end, we decided it was haunted, but that is really where the idea came from. I wondered why somebody would be secretly living in a stranger's basement. Would it be because they were bad, or could they possible be a protagonist?

Blue Sky is coming out only a few weeks after the release of your novel, Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem. Those releases are very close together. When did you start and finish each book? I wrote Blue Sky in the spring and summer of 2008. It was my first novel and needed LOTS of editing. I wrote Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem early 2012.

Can you share a similarity you have to one of your characters in Blue Sky? I think I'm kind of bossy like Meg.

What is a similarity you share with a character in Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem? I can be pretty snarky, which shows up in Jasper (the one telling the story) as well as several of the dwarfs.

You are a busy writer with books to promote. You also run #authorchat on Twitter every Tuesday night at 9 p.m., and take care of a growing family. How do you carve out time to write? Good question. Anybody want to answer that for me? I haven't written much lately. :)

What are your daily and weekly writing goals? Right now I'm working on a book launch so I'm not writing new material. In March, that will change. I don't set hourly goals because I'm kind of a free spirit and tend to rebel against such things. I'm more spontaneous with my writing.

When do you prefer to write? When I'm alone and really feeling a story.

Knowing that ideas often come when authors are away from their computer, what is the strangest thing you have ever written on to record a sudden idea, conversation snippet, or description for a book you were writing? Napkins and receipts are pretty common when I'm in my car. I've probably jotted things on my hand as well. I wish I had something really odd to share, but that's all I can think of.

What was the best piece of writing advice you ever received? It's not really advice, but this poem really helped me through all the rejections.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
--William Ernest Henley

What do you do to get through writing slumps? Take a break. Whether it's an hour, a day, a week, or a month, it always does the trick.

If you could swap one chore in your life for more writing time (and only one chore), what would be the chore you would give up first? Laundry. Oh wait, I already gave that up. Okay, making dinner.

Thank you, Melissa! It is always fun to learn about our favorite writers. Be sure and come back on February 25, when I post my review of her new book, Blue Sky!




Wednesday, February 13, 2013

There is a growing number of satisfied readers and reviewers of Melissa Lemon's new book, Blue Sky. If you want to see the different reviews, check out this list of where they are at. I will be posting my own review right here, on February 25! In fact, it may go up a little bit early, so check back...:)
Melissa Lemon's Blog Tour

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who do you write like?

A few years back, a writing friend of mine connected me with a fun site called “I Write Like...”

It is a simple site with a simple purpose. It lets you paste or type in an excerpt of your own writing and then the site tells you, in seconds, the name of a famous author who shares your writing style. It is fun and fast. Best of all, there is nothing to buy and no information required. If you try the site, I would recommend doing it with several different excerpts from your writing until you find a pattern emerging.

For my pattern, I found myself writing like men-in particular, Dan Brown. Now, I don't mind writing like a man since I enjoy hanging out with men at family reunions and social events and becuase most of the main characters in the books I write are men. I also don't mind writing like Dan Brown. He is a master at action-suspense and his ability to weave fact with fiction--two things I love in the books I read and write--will be talked about for generations.

But Dan Brown writes for adults and I am writing for the YA fiction market.

Now, as a reader of YA books, I enjoy Anthony Horowitz. He knows how to keep action flowing across the pages in YA novels.

Yet, no matter what action-packed passages I had the site analyze, it never said I wrote like Anthony Horowitz.

Then an unlady-like thought crossed my mind (probably because I do tend to hang out with men at family reunions and social events). I decided to see what would happen if I typed in an excerpt from an Anthony Horowitz novel. Would it say he writes like Anthony Horowitz?

So, I typed in two pages from his YA novel, The Skeleton Key.

Guess what? The site says he writes like--Rudyard Kipling!

If you want to have some fun and maybe a name or two to brag about with your writing style, just go to I Write Like

And if one of you writes like Dan Brown, Anthony Horowitz or Rudyard Kipling, you probably have a fast adventure style I would like.

.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I'm excited about this...I will be starting a page for book reviews and previews of books written by other authors. I will also be starting a new page for interviews with authors. Find out facts about them and their books that few know.

And, today, check out the first book preview, Where the River Once Flowed, by Jennie Hansen. Just click on the top tab, Books by Others.

Most important of all, if you have any books you would like me to review or authors you would like to have me interview, please contact me...even if you are the author yourself! You can contact me at iwritzz at yahoo dot com. I'd love to hear from you and help me get this new part of my site rolling!



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Runaway meatballs!

Years ago my children were watching a Sesame Street special. In the show a giant meatball rolls off of a table. Snuffalaffugus runs after the meatball yelling “Runaway Meatball!” as a warning to all in its path.

A scene or two later, Snuffalaffugus returns to the screen. This time he is being chased by the rolling meatball and is yelling, “Run away! Meatball!”

I was charmed by the way the writers were able to change the entire meaning using the same words. It made me wonder about writing and how what we write can often mean two totally different things, depending on how we place our words on the paper.

Occasionally, as a newspaper writer, I will bump into silly typos or headlines that change the entire meaning--such as "Student cooks serve parents".

But stuff like that never happens in books, right?

Hopefully not. Hopefully all the mistakes will be caught at some point in the editing process.

Yet, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, some mistakes will pass into print. Why is that?

Well, it has been proevn taht, if the fisrt and last lettrs of a wrod are in the rihgt positoin, the eye will fix the rest.

So that can explain most typos in print. Even the best eyes will fix a misspelling now and then.

But this is about changing the meaning of things, not misspelling a few words...

So, I do have a confession about what almost made it into my second book…

In the first chapter of The Lost Curse readers find this description: “Zippers sounded as passengers placed items back inside their carry-ons, seatbelts unclicked for last minute trips to the bathroom.”

Do you want to know how it almost read?

“Seatbelts unclicked and zippers sounded as passengers made last minute trips to the bathroom and put items back inside their carry-ons.”

Yeah, glad we caught that! It that would have produced some interesting visual imagery!


Monday, February 4, 2013

The Lost Curse -- first chapter

Prologue: Gunfire exploded through the remote canyon, filling the air with a thunderclap of gunpowder, bullet, and primer. Even as the sound bounced and echoed its way across the cliffs, a single brass casing ejected from the pistol. Still hot, it spun through the air, flashing in the setting sun. The light ricocheted off its metal jacket like ball lightening.

Birds, startled from their evening roosts, erupted with disapproval. Their protesting wings beat the cooling air as they lifted out of the canyon, cackling their alarm. But the bullet did not pursue any of them. It has already found its target.

When the projectile penetrated him, the young Paiute Indian stiffened in protest. The man crumpled to the ground, his face and torso landing in the cold water of a thin stream.

From across the creek, a young dog heard the sound and saw the outcome. Fury at the attack drove the dog, without hesitation, through the water and toward the shooter. Teeth bared and hackles bristled to their fullest, the animal rushed to defend his slain master.

A second bullet pierced through the dog’s face and neck, exiting out its shoulder and stopping the dog just short of its target. Seventy pounds of remains crumpled to the stone-strewn earth in a heap.

As the second casing fell to the earth, three men remained standing. Two stood, shocked at the sudden turn of events. The other, stilled by hatred, breathed deep and waited a few moments. Then, not wanting even the animals in the canyon to find the man’s body, he ordered the frightened pair to lift the corpse and carry it deep into a crevice in the side of a cliff.

The dog they left for the scavengers and maggots.

Chapter One: Shooting through the sky at 510 miles per hour, the A320 cut through the icy atmosphere and left a contrail dissipating behind them. Somewhere below, a child or adult saw the white line spreading across the blue expanse between Los Angles and Salt Lake City. They didn’t see the killer on board the plane.

Most of the hundred and thirty passengers inside the plane’s cabin—oblivious of the contrail, the killer, or the people watching them from below—read, slept, or stared out the windows. None of them knew of the deadly cat-and-mouse game taking place.

Halfway back in the plane, vivid blue eyes watched a tiny cell phone screen. A special app tracked every keystroke and recorded every word that passed through the “mouse’s” cell phone a few rows ahead. Still, the cat didn’t want to miss a thing.

Sitting in the business section, Cole Matthews didn’t know he sat so close to the claws of a hungry cat that tracked his electronic moves. Instead, he remained focused on a valuable chunk of cheese waiting for him in Utah.

Dressed in a Valentino business suit and Berluti shoes, Cole worked his smartphone. A large gold ring, with a tiger’s-eye stone, encircled his left thumb. The ring only fit his thumb, but he liked it that way. It reminded him of a business deal that went bad a decade earlier. That’s when he discovered, the hard way, that everyone has a different motive for working, and sometimes their reasons interfered with his plans. Now, every time he hired a new employee, he let the ring remind him to be cautious.

Cole’s thumb pressed the keys of his phone. I’ll be on the ground in twenty minutes. The ringed thumb pushed Send.

A minute later, the response came back. I’m waiting at the baggage claim.

The plane slowed its airspeed and descended half a mile in the atmosphere. Though no cabin lights indicated their descent, the passengers felt the shift and knew it signaled the end of their two-hour flight. Zippers sounded as passengers placed items back inside their carry-ons; seatbelts unclicked for last-minute trips to the bathroom.

Next to Cole, a handsome Hispanic teen straightened and glanced at the overhead indicator lights with deep brown eyes. For Cole, who spent his time more worried about making money than making conversation, the teenager had been a perfect seat companion. The youth had spent the entire flight watching the landscape out the window. Now, however, the teen’s movement distracted Cole from his phone. Looking at the change in cabin activity, Cole glanced back down and sent one final text. No mistakes this time. I have several buyers waiting.

A few rows back, in the economy seats, Ryan Polson intercepted a copy of the final text and then saw that Cole had shut off his cell phone. Punching in a few commands, Ryan closed his own phone and slipped the still-active devise into an inside suit pocket. His jaw worked a piece of gum while he finger-combed his blonde hair. Intense blue eyes tracked the stewardess making her final walk through the aisle. If she asked to see his phone, it would appear turned off even though ti still recorded everything the “mouse” did electronically. As soon as Cole Matthews reactivated his phone when they landed, Ryan would know.

The plane slowed and descended further until individual buildings came into view, sitting like gray and brown cubes on the landscape. Flaps lowered on the plane’s wings. The aluminum bird rocked gently on the air currents as it came closer to the earth. Through the window, cars came into view on I-15.

Now the man-made bird lowered its landing gear, the hydraulic system humming through its belly and locking into place with a deep, powerful sound. Trees came into focus and the flight attendants took their seats. A few horses appeared in the fields. The runway came into view and the plane swept in, one hundred feet above the ground, fifty, twenty. Lights and signs appeared on the runway, whisking by at one-hundred and thirty miles an hour.
On the runway, the rear wheels touched ground, followed by the nose wheel as the plane settled to earth.

Resting from its flight, the airplane exited the straight runway and rolled toward its numbered gate. Across the cabin, the sound of seat belts unlocking filled the air in staccato announcements. A few impatient passengers stood up to retrieve their bags from the overhead bins even before the plane stopped.

Once the covered walkway had been extended to the cabin door and the secure portal released, passengers left their seats, threaded together, and moved up the narrow aisle toward the Salt Lake International Airport.

Lifting a backpack to one shoulder, eighteen-year-old Severino stood, anxious to be finished with sky travel for a while. It had been a long journey of airplanes and airports since he’d left Cusco, Peru, almost twenty hours earlier.

Bent under the overhead compartment, Severino waited for his older seatmate to rise form his seat and, again, noted the tiger’s-eye ring on the man’s thumb. Tiger’s-eye stones increased focus and promoted balance. To hide a smile, the teen looked away. Even though the man stayed focused during the two-hour flight out of Los Angles, anyone who spent that much time texting had to be out of balance. Someone needed to tell him the ring wasn’t working.

The older man, with silver streaking his dark hair and business deals filling his mind, didn’t know or care about the teenager’s thoughts. He rose from his seat without looking at the youth and pushed his way into the line of people shuffling toward the exit.

Without moving, Severino watched him leave and then turned his attention back to the still-crowded aisle. People moved by, shoulders hoisting luggage, bags jostling other people. One passenger smiled and waited, creating a slot for the teenager. Severino nodded his gratitude and entered the aisle. Mimicking the short steps of those in front of him, he moved with the crowd toward the door. Passengers moved out of the crowded warm plane and entered the ramp’s cool interior.

Ahead of him, the line of people moved up the ramp and spilled into the openness of the terminal, breaking apart—wanting more distance between them than normal. Their actions were a common response to the confines of the airplane and Severino felt the desire for more space wash over him. As he moved from the passenger seating area into the large corridor, he rolled his shoulders in appreciation of the reclaimed freedom.

He followed the crowd ahead of him, knowing they would lead him to the baggage claim area where, he hoped, the Bradfords would be waiting for him. In Los Angeles, Spanish had been as prevalent as English, but here, in the center of the United States, he doubted he would hear much Spanish and not a word of Quechua.

Coming down the escalators, his dark eyes searched the sea of faces below him. Then he made a visual connection and smiled.

On seeing the Peruvian descend the escalators, Jonathon Bradford returned the smile and stepped forward. The last time he’d seen Severino had been at midnight beside a river in the Andes Mountains while terrorists searched the jungled slopes for him. Severino saved his life that night and Jonathon hopes, in some small way, to be able to repay him.

Still, he wasn’t sure how to greet the teen.

Jonathon’s mother answered the question for him. She surged passed Jonathon and swallowed Severino in a full hug as soon as he stepped off the moving stairs. “Mi hijito precioso,” she breathed, “my precious son—you are finally here.”

At the emotional welcome, the backpack slid from Severino’s shoulder and he hugged the woman he had never met, holding her tight. For a full minute they embraced, Rosa murmuring her gratitude over and over, and Severino whispering that she did not need to thank him. He would do it all over again.

The words and the scene filled Jonathon and his father with their own sense of emotion and they waited, respecting the union and not wanting to intrude.

When Rosa stepped back she wiped the tears from her eyes, speaking in fluent Spanish. “Es increible to finally have you here.”

A smile emerged from the Peruvian. “Si, it is incredible. I can’t believe it. Thank you so much.”

A hand to the shoulder and a grin became Jonathon’s greeting to Severino. “Well, believe it, hermano. You’re here in the U.S. You made it.”

The group spoke in Spanish, the language flowing from all of them like water. The luggage carousel began to turn, a metal whirlpool that pulled everyone toward its slow, circular current. Though Jonathon’s parents still chatted with Severino, they drifted with the others toward the carousel’s pull. In the slow human current, Severino moved with them, nodding quiet replies, his answers polite.

This hesitant side of Severino intrigued Jonathon. In Peru, Severino held a rifle with ease and risked death by the Shining Path terrorist to free Jonathon from their grasp. Now the Peruvian stood on foreign soil for the first time in his life; holding a backpack instead of a gun, his gaze downcast instead of elevated with fury.

Through light brown eyes, Jonathon watched Severino, withholding his own questions. There would be time later to get to know him. For now, Jonathon would let his parents claim Severino’s attention. He understood their need and the instant bond they felt. Twice last year, the eighteen-year-old saved Jonathon’s life in Peru—once by getting him out of the sacred tunnels of the Incas and, a second time by helping Jonathon escape form the terrorists. That made Severino an instant and cherished member of their family.

As an expression of gratitude, his parents paid for Severino’s visit to America. For the next month, they wanted to get to know the Peruvian and let him experience a world different form his own. Jonathon also knew his parents hoped that if Severino saw opportunities beyond his impoverished mountain home, then he would accept their offer to pay for a college education. So far, Severino refused to go to school.

They extended the same offer to Severino’s sister, Delia, who nursed Jonathon back to health after finding him in the tunnels. It took a while for the shy sixteen-year-old to accept their offer, but she now lived with her mother in Lima and attended a private high school. Through emails and Skype calls, they saw her adjusting and growing in confidence and ability, adapting to life in a metropolitan area. Most important, she no longer lived in fear of the Shining Path terrorists.

Jonathon lowered his gaze at the discomforting thought. Though he hadn’t told his parents, he knew Severino refused to go to school because of his association with the Shining Path terrorists. Severino had not given up his quest to find his father’s killer, and Jonathon doubted he ever would. By posing as a terrorist, Severino planned to discover the man responsible for killing his father and bring him to justice. Whether that justice would be legal, Jonathon honestly didn’t know.

A drinking fountain became Jonathon’s temporary oasis, and he moved there to distract himself and give his parents more time to visit. The steel bar responded to his push, and cold water hummed out of the belly of the machine, arcing over the drain. Several mouthfuls of water moved down his throat before Jonathon straightened and turned, colliding with a man engaged in a quiet cell phone conversation.

“If you’re sure he’s found a real Spanish turtle, I want a photo now…”

Startled and apologetic, Jonathon stepped back, out of the man’s path. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t see you.”

Anger at the unexpected collision lifted the man’s face. Beneath a crown of blond hair, the man’s vivid blue eyes displayed fury. The man’s expression pushed Jonathon back even more. He saw enraged muscles work along the man’s jaw and Jonathon braced for a verbal barrage; then the voice on the other end of the cell phone reclaimed the man’s attention. Returning to the conversation, the man cursed the jostling, pressed the phone tighter to his ear, and walked away.

Uncomfortable with the entire moment, Jonathon watched him go.

“Type A personally,” a quiet voice commented. Startled, Jonathon turned to find Severino standing beside him. The Peruvian nodded, motioning toward the man walking away. “I saw you bump into him.”

“It was an accident.”

“I know. You okay?”

“Yeah.”

“He chew you out for it?”

“I think he wanted to, but he went back to his phone conversation instead. Something about a Spanish turtle. Do you know what that is?”

Unfamiliar with the term, Severino frowned and shook his head. “A turtle that speaks Spanish, I suppose. He probably won’t find too many of those around here.”

The remark brought a smile to Jonathon’s face. “Well, apparently someone has. The guy said he wanted to see a photo of it now.”

Classic Type A personality—very impatient. They make great terrorists but rotten friends.” With his last comment hanging in the air, Severino bent and got a drink form the foundation.

Next to him, Jonathon’s gaze followed the Peruvian, thoughts spilling through his mind like water. Would a month with Severino prove the youth to be more of a friend or a terrorist?

Jonathon didn’t know, but for his family’s sake, he hoped Severino would be more of a friend.
If Severino knew the thoughts his comment provoked, he didn’t show it. Finished with his drink, he nodded toward the carousel. “They might pick the wrong bags if I don’t help.”

At the baggage claim, the pair joined Jonathon’s family and watched the luggage drop out of the square portal and onto the convey belt. Backpacks, duffel bags, garments bags, soft-sided and hard-sided suitcases of all colors circled n front of the flight’s passengers. Hands emerged from the crowd and claimed each piece.

A press against his shoulder turned Jonathon’s attention. Severino stood close, his eyes on the carousel. “There’s your angry friend. He is more interested in his phone right now, not the luggage. Maybe the photo of his Spanish turtle is coming soon.”

Though Severino did not point, Jonathon knew where to look,. The blond man stood next to the baggage clam, watching the baggage but holding his phone in his hand.

A duffel bag fell out of the portal and landed on the silver conveyor belt. It would pass in front of the blond man before it reached them. Severino nodded. “There’s my bag.”

“Want me to go get it?” Jonathon asked.

“No. I’ll get it. Maybe I can spot what a Spanish turtle looks like while I’m there,” he grinned.

Before Jonathon could protest, Severino moved through the crowd, working his way between people until he stood on the opposite side of the man. Positioned next to him, Severino pretended to watch the passing luggage but Jonathon saw his focus stay on the phone. Bags passed in front of them, including Severino’s duffel. Checking the tab, Severino let it move on by and waited for the next duffel. When it passed he checked the tag. The man glanced at his phone then back that the conveyor belt. More luggage passed, more duffel bags, Severino’s bag began to come around again

Through the sounds of a busy airport, Severino heard the quite hum of a phone on vibrate. The blond-haired man turned his hand over and checked the phone. Wanting a bit more privacy, the man shifted away from the Peruvian and opened his phone. He worked a few buttons and an image uploaded on the screen. As it did, the man’s blue eyes scanned the image and the muscles in his face went slack. Stunned, the man looked up, trying to process what he had just viewed.

When the opportunity to view the picture appeared for that split second, Severino reached in front of the man and apologized. “Con permiso.” Checking the tag, Severino locked his hand around the duffel’s straps, lifted the bag from the belt and pulled it across, in front of the man. “Discúlpame.”

Annoyed, the man stepped away, glanced again at the picture on his phone, and exhaled under his breath at the image. Though only a whisper of sound, Severino heard it and knew the photo had a powerful impact on the man.

With his duffel bag in hand, Severino turned and threaded his way back through the crowd to the Bradfords.

“Is that it?” David Bradford reached for the duffel.

Sí, es todo,” Severino confirmed.

“Great, then we can head home. We have three other children waiting at home who are very excited to meet you,” he said and smiled. Holding the duffel in his left hand, David slipped his right arm around his wife and led the way to the exit.

Jonathon hung back. “Pretty slick move. Did you see the photo?”

“I saw something, but it didn’t look like a turtle to me. It looked like a rock.”

“A rock?”

“Si, a very big rock.” Severino shouldered his backpack, his eyes scanning the crowd, his voice conveying disappointment. “And I had been hoping a Spanish turtle was an American term for a really cute girl.”

He brought his gaze back to Jonathon’s and smiled.

For that brief moment, Jonathon saw a typical teenager, not a terrorist, in Severino’s dark brown eyes. Relief and surprise brought laughter form him. “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll meet plenty of American girls this summer, I promise.”

“If they look like rocks, I’m not interested,” the Peruvian teased.

“Hey, all the girls I run with look like models.”

Dark eyes canted sideways, and the Peruvian looked at Jonathon. “Did I tell you all terrorists can spot a liar?”

The comment froze Jonathon’s smile even as the doors opened and they stepped out of the terminal into the hot, dry air of a Utah summer.