Saturday, November 30, 2019

I've Seen the End of You by W Lee Warren MD

Warren is a brain surgeon and a man of faith. He shares his struggles of seeing so many with brain tumors (glioblastoma) and a hopeless prognosis while believing in a God who can heal but most often does not.

Warren shares many of his experiences with patients, changing names to protect their memory. There is the good guy with the tumor so extensive there is no remedy. It will kill him. There is the bad guy whose tumor was found and operated on and will live another day. There is Warren's own self doubt when surgery does not go as planned. There is guilt at an unexpected death. There is the 18 month old, severely shaken by a drunken boyfriend who had been using the child as a punching bag for some time. There were families taken in by fraudulent cures, spending their life savings. There were prayers answered, just not in the way Warren had expected.

I like that Warren includes many life lessons learned from his experiences. One example is focus. A surgeon can focus so much on the immediate narrow problem, a deadly problem nearby may be ignored. One needs to maintain perspective, being able to see the narrow problem but also the larger issue. He shares how he helps people learn to live in a painful world of the deadliest cancer.

This is an engaging memoir. Warren's writing style is captivating. I am amazed at and have great respect for those who work in emergency rooms and deal with head traumas. Readers with weak stomachs may have difficulty with some of the head trauma descriptions.

Warren notes that he wrote this book to help people navigate the path of faith and doubt and loss. The latter he experienced when his own son died. I think he achieved his goal. The book is a very good one for Christians troubled by the place of faith in their painful lives.

You can read the first three chapters here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

W. Lee Warren, MD, is a brain surgeon, inventor, Iraq War veteran, and writer. His most recent book, No Place to Hide, was named to the 2015 US Air Force Chief of Staff's Professional Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and CBS Evening News and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. He plays the guitar and loves to make connections between faith, science, and the realities of life. Dr. Warren lives in Wyoming with his wife.

WaterBrook, 272 pages. This book releases January 7, 2020.

I received a complimentary ARC of book from the publisher. My comments are an honest and independent review.

Letter From Paul Blog Tour

About the Book

Book: Letter from Paul
Author: Mary Weins
Genre:  Christian Non-Fiction, Bible study
Release Date: April 5, 2019

A devotional workbook on Galatians that gives enough substance for the interactive part of the workbook. It is worthwhile for small groups or individuals.” Dr. Dennis Beatty

Draw closer to God. Revel in the knowledge that you are saved by grace, not works. Discover how Paul addressed the Galatian people when they veered from the truth back into bondage to the rules and customs of their time.

This Bible study takes you verse by verse through the book of Galatians, with insights into what occurred so many years ago yet is still relevant today. Bringing home the truth that we don’t have to perform a certain way to be accepted as heirs to Christ, Letter from Paul offers relief to those who feel pressured to live by the world’s standards.

You will be refreshed and renewed as you lean into the fact that God loves you just as you are. Yes, He has given us the commandments, but He doesn’t pile additional rules on us that we can’t possibly follow. Instead, He gives us grace. And mercy. And love.

“Galatians is about the difference between salvation by works and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not about obeying all the rules versus having a good time. It is about a personal relationship with our Creator and Savior.” – Mary Weins

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is a good introductory study of Galatians. It is not overly academic in style and would be suitable for new Christians or Christians coming out of a legalistic church. Weins covers the main points in each chapter of Galatians and provides a number of good questions for discussion or personal study.

It was interesting that Weins tells a story at the beginning of each chapter study illustrating the major truth contained in that section of Galatians. Those stories help new Christians get an idea of how biblical truth is translated into action today.

Recommended for new Christians, young Christians, or those needing to experience the freedom in Christ after having been dogged by legalism.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

As a Pastor’s kid, Mary has been involved in the church most of her life. She has led many Bible study groups in homes, in the church environment, and in jails; Mary has worked in various women’s ministries, and is a writer, speaker and Bible Teacher.
Currently, Mary and her husband are retired and live in Northern California. They have 3 sons, and 5 grandchildren who live nearby. When not writing, speaking, leading Bible study groups, or studying God’s Word on her own, Mary enjoys entertaining friends, cooking, and playing with her grandchildren…not necessarily in that order.

More from Mary

Letter from Paul: to the Church in Galatia…and Us! As a preacher’s kid, I was brought up in a strict, structured home environment. This upbringing created a harsh view of Christianity and an overwhelming fear of hell, fire, and damnation for me. It was not until years later that I found a church emphasizing God’s love. I read the Word and prayed daily and began to develop a close, personal relationship with God. But fear kept haunting me until I really got into Galatians and broke it down, verse by verse. The book of Galatians is a crucial book of the Bible for me because it emphasizes God’s love and forgiveness and provides assurance that, even though I mess up at times, God still loves me! It is my hope and prayer that you, too, can embrace the beautiful message of love and acceptance contained in Galatians and apply it to your life. When we fully submit and trust God for our lives, an overwhelming peace envelops us. We no longer need to fear Him. He is a loving God who provides all our needs and protects, encourages, comforts, and directs us. He is our heavenly Father, our constant companion, and a friend who really does have all the right answers. Living in a right relationship with God dramatically changes the way we view ourselves and the world. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17 KJV). Written in a down-to-earth, easy-to-read approach, the Bible studies contained in Letter from Paul highlight the main points covered in each chapter of Galatians. It is my hope and prayer that this book will erase the doubts and fears of Christians who question their salvation or fear that they are not good enough to maintain it and to point the way for the unsaved to realize how easy it is to become a child of God.

Blog Stops

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Dreams Deferred by June Foster

I liked this Christian romance novella with an unusual plot line. Matt is a Catholic priest and has taken vows of celibacy. But when his attention is captured by a beautiful young woman while he is saying mass, he is faced with a dilemma.

I am not Catholic so this novella interested me. How was Foster going to solve this immense obstacle to romance? I think she did a fine job.

I liked that she included some interesting issues in the plot. One was expectations from parents. Matt was a priest mostly because it was expected of him by his devout father. Another issue was the presentation of the gospel. Matt had experienced saving grace and freely helped others experience it too. One more issue was Matt hearing from God and doing what he really felt God was calling him to do, even if it meant forsaking previous commitments.

This is a good novella with engaging characters and an unusual plot for romance. Foster's writing style is a pleasure to read. That this novella was based on the true experience of Foster's great grandparents is a plus.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

June Foster is an award winning author and a retired teacher with a BA in Education and MA in counseling. She is the mother of two and grandmother of ten. She began writing Christian romances in 2010 as she and her husband traveled the US in their RV. She enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. You can find out more at

Forget Me Not Romances, 137 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novella from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, November 25, 2019

An Unexpected Family by June Foster

This is a fun novella and makes a good evening's entertainment. Foster has a pleasant writing style, well crafted characters, and a good romantic plot. I like how both of the main characters have issues with their fathers. Grant thinks his father disapproves of him wanting to be a small town veterinarian rather than a part of the family chain of fancy animal spas. Kate is convinced her father thinks she is a loser because she can't make a profitable run of the bakery she inherited from her aunt.

And, of course, Grant and Kate meet over Kate's dog who managed to eat some nuts she had out for baking. The road to romance is not smooth as obstacles arise.

There are several good family issues explored in this novella. Relationships with parents is a big one. I like how Kate and Grant are Christians and going to church is a natural weekly event. The resolution of the issues seemed quick to me but that is often the case with novellas. All in all, a heartwarming read of an evening.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

June Foster is an award winning author and a retired teacher with a BA in Education and MA in Counseling. She is the mother of two and grandmother of ten. She began writing Christian romances in 2010 as she and her husband travel the US in their RV. She enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. You can find out more at .

June Foster, 133 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novella from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Real Change for Students

This is a short (6 week) study for anyone who wants to understand how God changes us. It is based on the “Three Trees” diagram developed for a CCEF course on spiritual change. It deals with how we respond to pressure and how we can position ourselves to see change. Each lesson has a combination of teaching, group discussion, discussion with a partner, and homework. Students are encouraged to journal their personal reflections on their lives and the changes they desire.

The book itself is about half study guide with the rest being leader information. Leaders are given ideas how to plan for the entire study and for each meeting. Specific times are offered, giving suggested number of minutes for each aspect of the study. There are suggestions for questions to ask, Scripture to read, discussions to lead, and homework to assign. The detailed information for leaders makes it possible for people without much experience in leading a study to do it well.

I appreciate the material covered in the study. It is a good introduction to spiritual change. It requires quite a bit of “homework” in the form of reflective journaling. It also requires establishing discussion partners with the two discussing personal struggles, praying for one another, etc. This might be difficult for some to do. It is suggested the leader assign the discussion partners so I am not sure there will be instant willingness to share. I think this might be a potential problem for a teen study.

The strength of this study is the leader material. Half the book is help for leaders, making it a study for a novice leader. I see some potential issues with forming meaning discussion partners but other than that, a good 6 week study on spiritual change.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

New Growth Press, 96 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Last Friend of God by Paul Johnson

This is a very powerful novel. When I finished it, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself it was only a novel and not a prophetic vision of the future. Then I wondered. I wondered if the world Johnson created might not be the one we are journeying toward.

What if our attractive idea of escaping via a rapture is all wrong? What if the influence of believers and the number of believers themselves fade away? What if there is only one friend of God left? What if God asks him to warn the sin sick city that judgment will come in six days?

Johnson has captured well a potential future. There has been a great falling away. Christianity has declined to the point of being nonexistent. In its place is a life of indulgence and a religion of self potential and fulfillment. The sinful nature of man is expressed with abandon.

Johnson includes many thought provoking issues in this novel. Eschatology is a big one. Others include original sin, why and when God performs miracles, how the Old and New Testaments portray God, why God delays judgment, and many more.

I highly recommend this novel. Oh, there might be a few issues theologically picky readers my raise an eyebrow at. I am always a bit leery when Jesus appears in human form and speaks, for example. But I feel that was done well. The strength of this novel is the portrayal of a very possible future. Johnson extrapolates current cultural trends to a world where God is unknown. It is not pretty. Yet the novel begs believers to think about our own responsibility as witnesses to the world today.

Food for thought: Jesus says to His last friend, “Do what you can. That's all I will ever ask of you.” (52)

My rating: 5/5 stars.

The Last Friend of God is Paul Johnson's first novel. He lives in Michigan with his two children, a dog who loves him maybe too much, and a cat who seems willing to tolerate him. A constant reader from childhood, it is Paul's goal to write the kind of stories he'd like to read. You can follow him on Twitter at @GPaulJ and on Facebook at  

Covenant Books, 315 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Lone Falcon Blog Tour

About the Book

Book: Lone Falcon
Author: Merrijoy Wennerlind Buist
Genre: Christian Romance/Coming of Age
Release Date: October 2, 2018

What if you had to choose between your friends and your faith?

It is 1971. Eighteen year-old Carrie Falconer goes to college and joins the rowing team, where she receives praise and popularity for the first time. She also finds her first boyfriend. Not just anyone, but the heart-throb men’s crew captain! As coxswain of the varsity squad, she leads her team to four gold medals, allowing them to qualify for Nationals. However, while pursuing her collegiate dreams, she has left behind most of her traditional religious beliefs. While preparing for the National tournament, she is hit by a life changing consequence and is forced to decide between pleasing her team or letting them down by following what she believes to be the right path.

Click here to get your copy. 

My Review

I enjoyed this coming of age story taking place in the early 1970s. It was a time of change for young women. Roe Vs Wade made abortion legal and many young women were taking advantage of it. But what about Carrie, a somewhat naive Christian girl taken in by a suave hunk of an athlete? What will she do when her choices lead to a life she had never imagined?

Buist explores several issues in this novel. I remember my own parents struggling over the cost of a Christian college and the dangers of going to a secular university. Carrie came from a family where her father valued the son and his athletics so much Carrie felt almost like an outcast. That made me think about parental attitudes and how they influence the decisions young people make. Another issue was making a terrible mistake and knowing God forgives but not being able to forgive ones self. And then there is the whole issue of hiding sins so people in the church won't know about failures. What people won't do to save their reputation!

This is a good novel for young people and for parents. It has thought provoking issues for both. And you'll get to learn quite a bit about women's crew at the University of Washington during the time.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

The first four chapters of Lone Falcon and the general plot were written when Merrijoy Wennerlind, was a student at the University of Washington. The rest was finished up years later by Merrijoy (MJ.) Buist who worked hard to keep her 24-year-old spirit alive.
MJ. is currently a Diaconal Minister at the Anaheim United Methodist Church. A native of Seattle and a UW graduate, she lives in Santa Ana, California with her husband and two sons. She is currently working on the sequel, Lone Choices, which tells how Carrie lives out her decision. You can reach MJ. at her facebook page: Merrijoy Wennerlind Buist@mjwb

More from MJ

How far would you go to research your book? Would you sit on a narrow crew boat with eight other women and learn to row? That’s what I did to get a feel for what my main character, Carrie Falconer, in Lone Falcon experiences as she joins and excels in the college crew team. Why did I choose rowing over another sport? I couldn’t resist the metaphor of steering your own boat, which led me to the sport of rowing and its navigator, the coxswain. I fell in love with the idea of choosing your own path and what happens when one goes off course. You, the reader, will follow Carrie from her strict Christian upbringing to attending a secular college, experiencing her joys and victories as she rises to popularity, and of her first love, the hunky Lenny, men’s team captain. You will struggle along with her as she makes a life decision of whether to turn back to her faith or do what her friends ask. I originally wrote Lone Falcon in response to all the Young Adult (YA) books and T.V. shows of the times which said, “Your parents and their beliefs are all wrong, do what your friends and the times say.” In the wisdom I’ve acquired in my years of mothering, earning my master’s degree, and becoming a Minister, I adjusted my theme to making your own choices, not what others and society may tell you to do. I hope this book will encourage other brave young women to live up to what they believe within and not be influenced by what others without tell them to do.

Blog Stops

Rebecca Tews , November 23
Blossoms and Blessings, November 24 (Author Interview)
CarpeDiem, November 25
Texas Book-aholic, November 29
janicesbookreviews, November 30
Through the Fire Blogs, December 1 (Author Interview)
A Reader's Brain, December 3
Godly Book Reviews, December 5

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple Blog Tour

About the Book

Book: Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple
Author: Ellie M. Littleton
Genre: RELIGION / Christian Ministry / Discipleship  

The twenty-first century Church has the same Holy Spirit power and many more modern-day resources than the first century Church, yet the first century Church had greater success in making disciples. Why? They followed the plan Jesus gave them, and He blessed it. But the more worldly progress we’ve made, the more we’ve deviated from Jesus’s plan by choosing programs, entertainment, and socials with only surface-level encounters.  

We neglect to make a connection with the lost, and they see no real commitment from the church. So they come and go as we continue to meet and plan more programs. To end the cycle, we must go and make disciples as Jesus taught—investing our lives in the lives of others.  

Do you long to live the Great Commission and make disciples, but you’re not sure how? In Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple, Ellie Littleton offers biblical examples and concepts that break down the hard work of discipleship into sixteen thought-provoking lessons.  

So go and make disciples. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 niv). 

Click here to get your copy.

My Review

Do we need disciple makers? I was shocked when Littleton cited a study showing how few “Christians” read their Bible regularly. “The survey reveals a critical issue for the Church, especially the local church: many people who claim Christ have no knowledge or interest in Him.” (Loc 362/1492) Since Littleton defines a disciple as one becoming more obedient to God and His Word, yes, we need disciples and disciple makers in the local church.

This is a good study to help Christians know what a disciple is, how to grow and mature as a disciple, and the why and how of making disciples. She uses Jesus' teaching and experiences with His disciples as a model for disciple making today. She covers many topics, such as prayer, fellowship, Bible study, and more. She draws from a number of authors who have written on discipleship.

I like this sixteen week study. It has a good combination of personal study and group discussion questions. Readers will be challenged to evaluate their own Christian walk and encouraged to grow in it. You will also be challenged to help others grow in their discipleship.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Ellie Littleton has spent most of her adult life teaching both high school and adult Sunday school. She is minister of Vision Teams at her church, and serves as an officer on the planning team of her church’s annual Women of the Word Conference. Her husband of twenty-one years and high school sweetheart, Brad Littleton, serves as minister of music at their church. Their daughter, Hannah Kate, has been active in AcTeens and children’s church. She plans to continue competitive cheer in college. Son, Grayson, is home from a six-month internship at Lifehouse Church in Tokyo, Japan, and is seeking a position as a youth pastor. Ellie and her family love their church, family-and-friend cookouts, volleyball, boat riding, and music. She also enjoys reading, women’s conferences, and sneaking away to occasional girlfriend getaways at the beach. 

More from Ellie

Eighteen years ago, I was blessed to be a part of a church plant in the community where I was raised and still call home.  The new church, South Shelby Baptist, gave me the opportunity to dig in and exercise the spiritual gifts given to me by the Holy Spirit.  As I begin to write and teach Bible lessons, a deep passion arose and bloomed within my heart to grow in the grace and knowledge of our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and see others grow too.  I am a people-person and find great joy in connecting with people and seeing people connected, especially within the Body of Christ.  In the past five years, God has been and is pulling me out of that comfort zone of lessons into writing Bible studies.  My pastor, David Warren, leads the vision of our church- be a disciple and make a disciple.  He asked me a couple of years ago, to write a Bible study on the topic of discipleship for our folks as a resource to help us grow and activate the call to make disciples.  And that is how Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple Bible study began.  I wrote this Bible study for my church to use as resource to grow in discipleship, because my heart for ministry is in the local church, especially my local church, South Shelby Baptist.  But God.  God began prompting my heart with the dream to have Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple published… and here it is.  God is good and He is faithful; great is your faithfulness, O LORD!  It is my prayer that you can use it as a resource to help you and your local church grow in discipling others too.  To God be the glory and blessings to you in Christ, Ellie.

Blog Stops

Mary Hake, November 23
Sara Jane Jacobs, November 24
CarpeDiem, November 25
Artistic Nobody, November 27 (Author Interview)
Discipling4Life, November 28
Texas Book-aholic, November 30
janicesbookreviews, December 1
A Reader's Brain, December 2
Simple Harvest Reads, December 4 (Author Interview)

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Eat the Elephant by Jen Crosswhite

If you feel you have a novel inside of you and you don't know how to get it out, this is the book for you. Crosswhite, an author and editor, helps you with all of the elements of a novel, how to develop them, and even gives examples.

I like her suggestions for writing. She calls it blueprinting. It gives you the major components of a novel yet allows for individual creativity as you write. She includes a site where you can download a 5 page PDF of The Novel Blueprint so you can use it again and again. I did download it and am impressed with the amount of writing ideas it contains.

I like how Crosswhite freely uses and suggests the material from other writing mentors. She makes good use of The Snowflake Method and gives the appropriate sites to use Ingermanson's information. She also recommends books on the craft and includes an excellent resource list.

As you read through the book, you'll learn how to plot, how to develop characters, how to write scenes, how to do research, determining point of view, how to prewrite for scene structure, and much, much more. Crosswhite gives you opportunity to practice your craft with an “Apply It” section at the end of each instruction.

This book is a great resource for budding novelists and I highly recommend it.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Jen Crosswhite is an Amazon bestselling author, mother of two young adults and resident of California. She writes under three different names and owns a publishing services company, Tandem Services, helping writers learn the craft of fiction and navigate the world of publishing. You can find out more at and

Tandem Services Press, 192 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the author. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Death and Conspiracy Blog Tour


Death and Conspiracy

by Seeley James

on Tour November 11 - December 6, 2019


Is Jacob Stearne a terrorist or a hero?

After fabled Ranger Jacob Stearne kills two terrorists before they can shoot hundreds of worshippers, he’s sent undercover to disrupt their neo-Nazi group’s plans for a global religious war. But the CIA agent who sends him on his mission may not be who he claims.

In his search for the dangerous terrorists, Jacob finds himself manipulated by international agencies, used gods, potential lovers, and racists alike. Everyone wants him to believe something he doesn’t. While infiltrating a neo-Nazi gathering, he must handle both warring factions and authorities who believe he’s the real terrorist.

Death & Conspiracy poses the question: Could you befriend white supremacists to stop mass-shootings?

My Review:

This was my first adventure into the world of Jacob Stearne and it was exciting. The novel has a bit of a twist on the one man saves the world idea. He has a spent god, Mercury, for a side kick. That added some humor but I also think it detracted from the hero's mystique. Mercury frequently gives Jacob information he could not know on his own. I would have been more impressed with Jacob if he had battled forces with just his own super abilities. He also has the aid of the well resourced security firm he works for. You know, a firm that seems to have unlimited financial resources, can hack into any surveillance system, etc. That is more common to novels of international suspense.

I think the strength of this novel was the exploration of extreme white supremacist philosophy and the terror they want to inflict on the world.

This is a good novel for readers who enjoy suspenseful international intrigue. There are many deceptive characters frequently fooling our hero. There are many dangerous situations where Jacob could face his last nemesis. Potential readers who are Christians or faithful to another religion may be offended by the critical comments of the god Mercury toward them. Otherwise a good novel of international suspense.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Action/Adventure
Published by: Machined Media
Publication Date: September 24th 2019
Number of Pages: 303
ISBN: 9781732238886
Series:Sabel Security Book 7
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

I trudged along the stone-paved streets at dawn wearing my blue jeans and black leather jacket over a t-shirt that read, “That which does not kill me—should run.” I was thinking things over. There were no real indicators I could put my finger on, but when I said we should step out for coffee, she offered to join me “later.” Something in her tone of voice. Something in her distant gaze.
What happened? Last night we were thirsty for each other. I did my Julius Caesar impression, Vini, Vidi, Vici. She channeled the Whore of Babylon. Laughter and romping ensued.
This morning, she was different.
A shop lady dragged a stand filled with bouquets onto the sidewalk in front of her store. Figuring flowers might perk Jenny up, I picked one. The lady took one look at my face, smiled, and told me they were free for lovers. At least, I think that’s what she said. I studied Arabic and Pashto to get me through my eight tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. French never came up. I thanked her, sniffed the bouquet, and kept strolling.
We’d had a whirlwind romance, the kind you read about in books. If you read that kind of book. Which I don’t. So, I guess it was how I imagined a storybook romance goes. I’d saved her mother’s life, which led to Jenny getting a pardon. As soon as she got out of prison, she came to my house to say thank you in person. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound like a storybook romance at all. Anyway. One thing led to another. Two weeks later, I invited her for a getaway weekend. I was thinking something like a bed-and-breakfast in the Shenandoah Valley. Cozy and affordable and nearby.
Then I made the mistake of telling my boss, Pia Sabel, about my plans. She thought Jenny Jenkins would prefer Paris. After all, Jenny’s the daughter of Bobby Jenkins, the billionaire drug lord—I mean, founder of Jenkins Pharmaceuticals. Since no one can say no to Ms. Sabel, especially when she insists on paying and providing a private jet, the next thing I knew we were in Paris, staying in the Hotel Lutetia on the Left Bank.
It turned out Jenny had been to Paris so many times it was like going to Walgreens. Her dad rented out Napoleon’s Tomb for her ninth birthday. For my ninth, Dad filled a barn bin with dried soybeans so we could jump in them. Things are different for farm boys in Iowa.
There was an upside. Instead of going to see the fire damage at Notre Dame or visiting the Louvre, she wanted to spend the entire trip in bed. I was fine with that.
Then this morning happened.
My brain came back to the street in front of me. Two men hauled tables and chairs out of a café and placed them on the sidewalk. I put my flowers on a table and dropped into a wicker chair. One of the men said something about not being open yet, but the other guy pulled him away.
I said, What did I do wrong? I made sure she was satisfied several times over. Wait. She wasn’t faking it, was she?
Mercury, winged messenger of the Roman gods, pulled up a chair next to me. If she be faking an orgasm when you’re going downtown like a Detroit rapper, who is she cheating?
Sometimes it’s nice to have a god you can chat with. Most of them are invisible and mute. I enjoy our little chats. Sometimes. But every now and then, the diagnosis of my Army psychiatrists rolls through my head like a thunderstorm. “PTSD-induced schizophrenia,” they said. Yeah. Well. What do they know? The guys who served with me in combat considered me divinely inspired.
Mercury first came to my aid in a battle where a company of Iraqi Republican Guards had pinned down a Marine platoon. I’d been separated from my Army Ranger unit and snuck through the combat zone lost, scared, and confused. With Mercury whispering in my ear, telling me where to aim, I took out half the Iraqis attacking the Marines and scattered the rest. The Marines loved me. I got medals. From then on, my heavenly powers on the battlefield made me the soldier’s soldier. Everybody wanted to transfer to my platoon.
All Mercury wanted was a return to his former glory. Just kick Christianity to the curb and reinstate the whole Roman pantheon. No problem. After fifteen hundred years, he and his buddies were done with living on food stamps and desperate for a reunion tour.
I said, Is it me? Too much of a socio-economic divide?
Mercury leaned in. You want a woman like that, brutha? Really want a woman like that? Then you gotta think like a Caesar.
I said, I’m her master and commander in the bedroom.
Sheeyit, dawg. Mercury rolled his eyes and leaned back. (Did I mention he’s black? He cites the Judeo-Christian Bible, where it says God made man in His image. Mercury points out that the Great Leap Forward happened in Southern Africa. There were no white people in Southern Africa in the days of Adam and Eve. Therefore, all gods are black. Yeah, took me a while too.) I’m talking real Caesar, not just another white dude whipping out some cheap leather gear in a hotel room. I’m talking invading nations, burning villages, raping, pillaging…
And that’s where I tune him out. Certain aspects of civilized behavior have changed a good deal since he whispered in the ears of the rich and powerful. I texted Jenny that I was waiting for her at the Café de la Mairie. She didn’t reply.
Ever listen to some old guy go on about winning the state championship back in high school? Try spending an hour listening to a used god talk about the good ol’ days when Julius Caesar defeated the official Roman Army under Pompey—not because he should but because he could.
Mercury said, And that’s how Julius Caesar became emperor. The lesson here is: Kill everyone who defies you.
I said, How’d that work out for ol’ Julius in the end?
The streets began to fill with enough vehicles to start the rhythmic honking cycles peculiar to big cities. It sounded a lot like that Broadway tune by George Gershwin. What was it called? “An American in …” somewhere.
There were no texts from Jenny on my phone when I checked for the three hundredth time. I sent her a picture of the menu and asked if she wanted me to order for her. No response.
Mercury said, There they go again. Those two clowns been circling the block all morning, dressed like Siberians.
I had a croissant with jam and a coffee. Alone.
Are you listening to me, homie?
Mercury’s supposed to be the god of eloquence, but tutoring William Shakespeare five hundred years ago didn’t work out for his resurrection, so he tried channeling inner-city kids. He thinks he sounds like Dr. Dre, but he comes off more like Eminem will in forty years. Desperately dated.
I’m telling you, Mercury said, those two are your ticket to fame. You kill them, and the press will love you. Glory will be ours!
Having lost track of which two people he wanted me to kill, I said, Jenny doesn’t care about glory.
The sun rose higher in the sky. The waiter brought more coffee. People going places began to fill the sidewalk. Singles, couples, families. It was Sunday, and many of them were filing into one big-ass church across the street.
Mercury said, What’s the big deal about this here girl has you so distracted, brutha?
I said, Remember when I rescued her mom from the assassins? Before her mom was VP, she was an admiral. And brass tends to expect a concierge rescue. But not Admiral Wilkes. She fought and ran and knocked out bad guys like a superhero. That woman was determined to get out of there. I was impressed. When Jenny showed up, I realized the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. She was just as determined and driven as her mom. A woman like that, you can build a life together. A real partnership. The two of us working out family, friends, and careers together. We could grow old without the flame dying out.
Mercury said, Determined? Driven? You really want a woman like that, dude? Nothing but trouble if you ask me. In my day, women didn’t read, they didn’t vote, they didn’t talk back. We had a good thing going and y’all messed it up.
My phone’s screen was blank. Still no word from Jenny.
I said, Maybe she needs something more than just sex?
Mercury said, What else is there?
I dunno, I said. Like therapy or something. She had a traumatic year. Maybe she needs help with her mental health.
Mercury said, What would you know about mental health?
The waiter brought a vase for my bouquet. It was wilting. I gave him a nod. “Merci.”
Pretty much the extent of my French vocabulary.
I was stuck. If I went back now, I’d look insecure, worried. If I kept my cool, acted unconcerned, maybe she’d come around. Maybe she’d text me back.
I hate playing games like that. Unless I win.
See here now, bro. You need to take down those terrorists with the two coats. Mercury nodded at the men he’d pointed out earlier. You can be a hero again.
I said, What makes you think they’re terrorists?
Mercury said, They radiate hate.
Across the lane was a large, open plaza. In the center stood a massive chunk of marble with statues of ancient Frenchmen in niches surrounded by water splashing from a central fountain. The Frenchmen were probably important at some point in the history of the area, but now they were just a backdrop for selfies.
Two guys stood next to the fountain. They stole glances at the cathedral doors. They had jet black hair and beards. One had a swarthy, Mediterranean look. The other looked distinctly American. They kept their heads down, their hands shoved in their coat pockets. Their overcoats were heavy enough for winter, but it was a sunny spring day.
Maybe Jenny was worried about the paparazzi. We’d been swarmed outside the hotel. Again later when we went out to dinner. Neither of us is a celebrity, but her divorced parents are minor tabloid material. Jenkins Pharma sold a questionable number of opiates, and her mom is the Vice President of the United States. Which is why there’d been plenty of controversy over Jenny’s pardon.
The paparazzi couldn’t be it. I’d shared Ms. Sabel’s advice for dealing with tabloid photographers with Jenny. Ms. Sabel told me to smile for the cameras because (a) they hate that, and (b) they’ll print it anyway so you may as well look good. Jenny still hated them.
I thought about going to church. I checked the name of the one across the street. Église Saint-Sulpice. I invited Jenny in a text. We hadn’t discussed religion, and she didn’t seem the type, but if she was mad at me, where better to work things out? She was the kind of woman worth working things out for. The kind worth having an intimate relationship with. Someone you could tell all your secrets to. Or is it, someone to whom you could tell all your secrets? I never get that stuff right. Maybe she didn’t like my grammar.
Mercury grabbed my hair and pulled my head up out of my phone. He pointed at the two guys. Quit thinking about getting laid and ask yourself the million-dollar question: why two coats?
Shoplifters wear overcoats. It gives them room for all their stolen merchandise. So do mass shooters. Coats cover weapons.
The shorter guy fiddled with a string of beads. Sweat dripped from his forehead. He mumbled to himself. The American looked calmer, yet significantly more agitated than your average churchgoer. My military training included a good deal about recognizing terrorists. They often say prayers. They’re often quite nervous. They often sulk to avoid notice.
Either these two were sinners in desperate need of redemption … or they were terrorists.
I found myself crossing the street, heading for the fountain. At the same time, the two men headed for the church. As he pushed off, the short guy tossed his beads into the water.
It was a wide plaza, and they had a shorter distance. I changed course to intercept them. Being unarmed put me at a disadvantage. But they had the terrorist’s tunnel vision. Their eyes remained glued to the entrance. Nothing around them mattered anymore.
A few people in nice clothes funneled up the steps and filed through the massive front door, each taking a bulletin from the greeters. None of them wore more than a light sport coat.
The overcoat guys slowed and hung back. When the funnel cleared, the greeters at the door waited. The overcoat guys trotted up the steps and entered without taking the offered bulletin. Without a bulletin, they would have no idea which hymns to sing. Definitely terrorists.
I bounded up the steps, full throttle.
Excerpt from Death and Conspiracy by Seeley James. Copyright 2019 by Seeley James. Reproduced with permission from Machined Media. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

His near-death experiences range from talking a jealous husband into putting the gun down to spinning out on an icy freeway in heavy traffic without touching anything. His resume ranges from washing dishes to global technology management. His personal life ranges from homeless at 17, adopting a 3-year-old at 19, getting married at 37, fathering his last child at 43, hiking the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim at 59, and taking the occasional nap.
Seeley's love of creativity began at an early age, growing up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture in Arizona and Wisconsin. He carried his imagination first into a successful career in sales and marketing, and then to his real love: fiction.
His writing career ranges from humble beginnings with short stories in The Battered Suitcase, to being awarded a Medallion from the Book Readers Appreciation Group. Seeley is best known for his Sabel Security series of thrillers featuring athlete and heiress Pia Sabel and her bodyguard, veteran Jacob Stearne. One of them kicks ass and the other talks to the wrong god.

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