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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Frantic by Mike Dellosso

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (February 7, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***


Mike Dellosso is the author of numerous novels of suspense, including Darkness Follows, Darlington Woods, and Scream. He is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College and frequent contributor to Christian websites and newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and FaithWriters, and he plans to join International Thriller Writers. He earned his BA degree from Messiah College and his MBS from Master’s International School of Divinity. He lives in Hanover, PA, with his wife and daughters. Hometown: Hanover, PA

Visit the author's website.


Gas station attendant Marny Toogood thinks it’s just another ordinary day on the job until an urgent message from a young girl in the backseat of a car draws him into a daring rescue attempt. Now he is on the run with Esther and William Rose from their insane “uncle” who thinks it is his mission from God to protect William, a boy with incredible faith that gives him supernatural powers.

As they face kidnapping, underground cults, and other evils, can Marny trust the simple faith of a child and stand his ground against a power so twisted?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (February 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616384808
ISBN-13: 978-1616384807


    The night Marny Toogood was born it rained axheads and hammer handles.
  His grandfather made a prediction, said it was an omen of some sort, that it meant Marny’s life would be stormy, full of rain clouds and lightning strikes. Wanting to prove her father wrong, Janie Toogood named her son Marnin, which means “one who brings joy,” instead of the Mitchell she and her husband had agreed on.
 But in spite of Janie’s good intentions, and regardless of what his birth certificate said, Marny’s grandfather was right.
 At the exact time Marny was delivered into this world and his grandfather was portending a dark future, Marny’s father was en route to the hospital from his job at Winden’s Furniture Factory where he was stuck working the graveyard shift. He’d gotten the phone call that Janie was in labor, dropped his hammer, and run out of the plant. Fifteen minutes from the hospital his pickup hit standing water, hydroplaned, and tumbled down a steep embank- ment, landing in a stand of eastern white pines. The coroner said he experienced a quick death; he did not suffer.
 One week after Marny’s birth his grandfather died of a heart attack. He didn’t suffer either.
 Twenty-six years and a couple of lifetimes of hurt later, Marny found himself working at Condon’s Gas ’n Go and living above the garage in a small studio apartment George Condon rented to

    Mike Dellosso 
him for two hundred bucks a month. It was nothing special, but it was a place to lay his head at night and dream about the dark cloud that stalked him.
 But his mother had told him every day until the moment she died that behind every rain cloud is the sun, just waiting to shine its light and dry the earth’s tears.
 Marny  held  on  to  that  promise  and  thought  about  it  every night before he succumbed to sleep and entered a world that was as unfriendly and frightening as any fairy tale forest, the place of his dreams, the only place more dark and foreboding than his life.
  On the day reality collided with the world of Marny’s night- mares, it was hotter than blazes, strange for a June day in Maine. The sun sat high in the sky, and waves of heat rolled over the asphalt lot at the Gas ’n Go. The weather kept everyone indoors, which meant business was slow for a Saturday. Marny sat in the garage bay waiting for Mr. Condon to take his turn in checkers and wiped the sweat from his brow.
    Man, it’s hot.”
    Mr. Condon didn’t look up from the checkerboard. “Ayuh.
Wicked hot. Newsman said it could hit ninety.”
    “So it’ll probably get up to ninety-five.”
    Mr. Condon rubbed at his white stubble. “Ayuh.”
He was sixty-two and looked it. His leather-tough skin was
creased with deep wrinkles. Lots of smile lines. Marny had worked
for him for two years but had known the old mechanic his whole
    Mr. Condon made his move then squinted at Marny. Behind
him Ed Ricker’s Dodge truck rested on the lift. The transmis-
sion had blown, and Mr. Condon should have been working
on it instead of playing checkers. But old Condon kept his own
schedule. His customers never complained. George Condon was
the best, and cheapest, mechanic around. He’d been getting cars
and trucks through one more Maine winter for forty years.
    Marny studied the checkerboard, feeling the weight of Mr.
Condon’s dark eyes on him, and was about to make his move

Fr antic 
when the bell chimed, signaling someone had pulled up to the pump island. Condon’s was the only full-service station left in the Down East, maybe in the whole state of Maine.
 Despite the heat, Mr. Condon didn’t have one droplet of sweat on his face. “Cah’s waitin’, son.”
 Marny glanced outside at the tendrils of heat wriggling above the lot, then at the checkerboard. “No cheating.”
    His opponent winked. “No promises.”
    Pushing back his chair, Marny stood and wiped more sweat
from his brow, then headed outside.
    The car at the pump was a 1990s model Ford Taurus, faded blue
with a few rust spots around the wheel wells. The windows were
rolled down, which probably meant the air-conditioning had quit
working. This was normally not a big deal in Maine, but on a rare
day like this, the driver had to be longing for cool air.
    Marny had never seen the vehicle before. The driver was a large
man, thick and broad. He had close-cropped hair and a smooth,
round face. Marny had never seen him before either.
    He approached the car and did his best to be friendly. “Mornin’.
Hot one, isn’t it?”
    The driver neither smiled nor looked at him. “Fill it up. Regular.”
    Marny headed to the rear of the car and noticed a girl in the
backseat. A woman, really, looked to be in her early twenties. She
sat with her hands in her lap, head slightly bowed. As he passed
the rear window she glanced at him, and there was something in
her eyes that spoke of sorrow and doom. Marny recognized the
look because he saw it in his own eyes every night in the mirror.
He smiled, but she quickly diverted her gaze.
    As he pumped the gas, Marny watched the girl, studied the
back of her head. She was attractive in a plain way, a natural pret-
tiness that didn’t need any help from cosmetics. Her hair was rich
brown and hung loosely around her shoulders. But it was her eyes
that had captivated him. They were as blue as the summer sky, but
so sad and empty. Marny wondered what the story was between
the man and girl. He was certainly old enough to be her father. He

    Mike Dellosso 
looked stern and callous, maybe even cruel. Marny felt for her, for her unhappiness, her life.
  He caught the man watching him in the side mirror and looked at the pump’s gauge. A second later the nozzle clicked off, and he returned it to the pump. He walked back to the driver’s window. “That’ll be forty-two.”
 While the man fished around in his back pocket for his wallet, Marny glanced at the girl again, but she kept her eyes down on her hands.
 You folks local?” Marny said, trying to get the man to open up a little.
    The driver handed Marny three twenties but said nothing. Marny counted off eighteen dollars in change. “You new in the
area? I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before. Lately, seems more people have been moving out than in.”
  Still nothing. The man took the money and started the car. Before pulling out he nodded at Marny. There was something in the way he moved his head, the way his eyes sat in their sockets, the way his forehead wrinkled ever so slightly, that made Marny shiver despite the heat.
 The car rolled away from the pump, asphalt sticking to the tires, and exited the lot. Marny watched until it was nearly out of sight, then turned to head back to the garage and Mr. Condon and the game of checkers. But a crumpled piece of paper on the ground where the Taurus had been parked caught his attention. He picked it up and unfurled it. Written in all capital letters was a message:


My Review: 

I received a copy of this novel barely a week ago and am still working on it. I am enjoying my read and hope to post a review after I've finished it. Congratulations on another novel, Mike!

Friday, February 17, 2012

10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, Part 1

My new post is up at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spurgeon: Daily Supply

A daily portion is all that a man really wants. We do not need tomorrow's supplies; that day has not yet dawned, and its wants are as yet unborn. The thirst which we may suffer in the month of June does not need to be quenched in February, for we do not feel it yet; if we have enough for each day as the days arrive we shall never know want. Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy. We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day's supply of food and raiment; the surplus gives us the care of storing it, and the anxiety of watching against a thief. . . . When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance. 

Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply.You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above. It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you. In the word, through the ministry, by meditation, in prayer, and waiting upon God you shall receive renewed strength. In Jesus all needful things are laid up for you. Then enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.

Michael Hyatt: 10 Ways to Generate More Blog Traffic

Very good article about pulling readers into your blog.

001: 10 Ways to Generate More Blog Traffic [Podcast] | Michael Hyatt

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Quiz About Expletives

Not, this is isn't about cuss words, but rather about how to weed the "there is/there was" construction out of good writing. Very important advice for editors.

A Quiz About Expletives

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Christian Author and Self-Promotion, Part 3

In previous installments, we discussed self-promotion and took a hard look at what the Bible says. In Part 2, we learned from Scripture that everything we do should be for the Lord and not for men (Eph. 6:7; Col. 3:23). Therefore, if we look at what we do—write and sell books—from a biblical perspective, we'll see that it's really God we are/should be promoting and not ourselves. We are merely microphones for a greater purpose. We glorify Him through the beauty of words, through the spiritual struggle of the characters in our stories, by depicting faith and goodness winning the war over evil, by offering a message of hope to a needy world. In essence, as John Piper pointed out, God has called us to have an influence for truth in this world—and that calling requires death to self. "He who would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." How can we promote ourselves if we're to be "dead" to self? That would be like giving an award to a corpse. 

In short, according to Scripture, we should be God promoters, not self-promoters. Unfortunately, the world gets caught up in the cult of personality, and we can't control whether people see us as celebrities or "famous people" because we happen to write and publish novels. But what we can do when this occurs is point them to the One who let us borrow these gifts during our brief time on earth. After all, without Him we are nothing. 

Consider these words from Glass Road Public Relations
When someone comes to Christ, he/she forsakes all in order to come under His Lordship. Think of a servant in a royal household. Are the clothes on the servant’s back owned by the servant or provided by the Master? The food that the servant eats – a possession of the servant? If the servant is granted time by the Master to, say, pen a treatise on serving with humility, is that treatise the Master’s or the servant’s? If the servant is called to the Master’s chamber to sing or perform a role, who owns that production? In Christianity, it is all the Master’s. Everything is done for love of the Master and anything produced at His direction is His – not only because it is created with talents on loan from Him, but also because the servant’s heart seeks only the Master’s glorification.
But what if we go astray? What if ego trumps calling and we find ourselves reveling in—and even seeking—the praise of man? What did Jesus say in Matthew 6? "Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven" (NLT).

Sobering words. Convicting words. Words that go against the grain of what the world tells us every day. 

We've all been there, haven't we? A friend slaps us on the back and says, "Wow, that was the best story I've read in years." Do we say, "Well, praise the Lord" or do we allow our egos to swell? We are so prone to words that caress our pride (I'm preaching at myself here), as if we wrote that story out of our own creativity. As if God had nothing to do with any of it. As if we have fallen prey to the world's philosophy of self-exaltation. By taking for ourselves the glory He alone deserves, do we not in essence deny Him? 

What a tragedy, for we are mere stewards of His gifts. Whatever greatness we achieve has nothing to do with our own greatness. It's all about God's greatness. So then why would we accept glory for the gift God let us borrow for a while? All glory should go to the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31). If not, as Matthew 6 says, we'll have our reward. We'll get no reward for that good deed—for that novel we wrote—in heaven. 

So what is our motive for writing and promoting our books? Are we truly writing to glorify God? Or are we seeking fame and fortune—to be the next best-selling author with the six-figure book deal? If so, what a tragedy, for we are called to so much more. 

Recently, novelist Ann Tatlock summed up our calling well:  
Why do you write? Why do I write? Is it so that we might experience what the world calls success? Is it for recognition? Awards? Money? Is it so we have a means whereby we can measure our own self-worth?
There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to succeed. There is nothing wrong with wanting remuneration for the work we do. Nor is there anything wrong with longing for the satisfaction of seeing our words in print. But it is not these that are at the core of our calling. Not if we are Christian writers. Not if we have been called by God. 
We write to tell [the world] that [God] is here with us. . . . As writers, we are one small part of God’s voice answering the cries, telling men and women to hold fast because there’s hope.
There is hope, and God has called us to glorify Him by publishing that hope. That must be why we write and market our books. Anything less will be void of heavenly reward. 

Great Expectations coming soon to PBS

This might be worth checking out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

FREE DOWNLOAD: Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

This month the audio book of Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges is a free audio download at Christian audio. This book has made such a big impact on my life and understanding of God's sovereignty even amid heart-wrenching situations. Don't miss out on this powerful book!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Do We Write?

This is worth reading. An important reminder.

Book Review: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

I own several novels by Chris Fabry, just waiting to be read, but this is the first one I've read from start to finish. Now I realize I've been missing out. What a find I discovered when I read Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry.

This is the story of Truman Wiley, an unemployed reporter whose son, Aiden, will die without a heart transplant. The fascinating premise is that a man on death row, Terrelle Conley, has offered Truman's son his heart, but here's the catch: while investigating Terrell's story for a book, Truman discovers that Terrelle may not be guilty of the crime. But if Truman's investigation prevents Terrelle's execution, then Aiden won't get the heart transplant he needs to live. What's a man to do? Either way, someone has to die. This is a complicated situation, and thankfully the story offers no pat answers.

Chris has won the Christy Award for good reason; this guy knows how to write and spin a tale. His writing is often poetic and always vibrant and meaningful. His characters have depth. His dialogue sings. Every phrase counts, often with humor, sarcasm, and startling insights. Even the suspense works (especially in the last quarter of the book) for a novel that isn't really pegged as suspense.

Still, I must admit that I had a difficult time getting into the first half of this novel. Though Truman is an interesting character, he comes across as across-the-board unsympathetic for a good while. He doesn't want to see his sick son, he's messed up his marriage, he's in terrible debt, he's estranged his daughter, and he literally gambles away the advance for the book he's writing about Terrelle. Things just seem to go from bad to worse—and Truman is frankly his own worst enemy. Several times I felt like screaming, "No, don't do it!" And then Truman would do it, and I'd wonder if there was anything to like about this guy and his pitiful existence. This all made for difficult reading at times, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

Thankfully, the plot kicks in, the suspense revs, and the tension builds—and we're up against the clock as each chapter counts down the days to execution. Truman begins a formal investigation with the help of his estranged daughter. Meanwhile, the gentle testimony of Truman's Christian wife, Ellen, and Terrelle and his wife gradually tear away the Christian stereotypes and work away at Truman's jaded, cynical heart, showing him faith in action. I love the way these characters show true faith more than they talk about it (words are cheap). Though the message in this novel is never heavy handed, it permeates the story line from beginning to end—and yes, it's all about redemption. Redemption for a man whose self-centered ways have alienated him from everyone he loves and distanced him from true meaning in life. Jesus is clearly the answer (as Chris clearly shows without compromise), but will Truman reach out for Him? Chris wisely steers clear of a cookie-cutter, cliched altar call. Instead he gently reveals a dawning desire for grace.

As the story drew to a close, I thought I knew what was going to happen—and was pleasantly surprised by a masterful twist I didn't see coming. All in all, I was impressed and am glad I persevered and read this novel. The writing is impressive, the premise is original and fascinating, the author doesn't cop out on message (a growing trend in CBA), and the unexpected, redemptive ending provides just the right sense of closure. This was a very good read. Now I eagerly reach for more Fabry on my shelf.

Note: B&B Media Group and the publisher provided a free pre-press galley of this novel for review purposes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Make Your Settings Sing

A great article about showing instead of telling in fiction writing.

The writing world is cyclic, just like everything else. Right now, the cautionary phrase on the tip of every critique partner’s tongue is show don’t tell. They’re right, of course. Showing draws the reader deeper into the story, and adds an immediacy to the reading experience. But many well-meaning crit partners often label narrative or exposition as telling.  

Read the rest: Make Your Settings Sing