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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dear Reader...Finding Hope


I've been amazed at the number of comments I've received from people who have been struck by the fact that slavery is still an issue today and how they have been disturbed by its implications. Today, I received an email that said, "When I first began reading it (Blood Ransom) it was so intense it riled up in my sense of indignation against injustices, so I had to pray..."

What I want my readers to see, though, is that despite the horrors that are taking place around the world, there is hope. As we move into Easter weekend, much of the world is focused on what Christ did on the cross. He came to set us free both physically and spiritually.

Revelation 5:9 says, "And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

What a powerful verse. What a powerful God.

Today, I wanted to share a letter I wrote to my readers. Parts of this I've already shared, but here's the entire letter. I hope you will be encouraged and inspired.

~~~~~~

Dear Reader,

Have you ever noticed how God often uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things? In writing Blood Ransom, I wanted my heroes and heroines to be ordinary people, faced with extraordinary circumstances. Chad and Natalie’s lives were changed not only through the challenges they faced, but also through their reliance on God. And when they set off on their journey to the capital to save Joseph’s family, they never imagined that God would call them to a task that was beyond the scope of their own power.

But while this story is fictional, the issue of a modern day slave trade is very real. It is estimated that there are currently more than 27 million slaves on the world today from Africa, to Eastern Europe … to the United States of America. The fact is, we don’t have to travel around the world to see people hurting and exploited. They’re real people we pass every day, living in our neighborhoods, and attending our churches and schools. They’re empty and broken, searching for freedom and hope in an often hopeless world.

Maybe you feel the same as I often do. God I’m too small and inadequate to do what You’re calling me to do! But Paul says that it is through our weaknesses that we are made strong because of Christ’s power. And how through His sacrifice, at the greatest moment of weakness from the world’s point of view, Christ’s death on the cross brought victory as He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Have you noticed that the Bible is filled with inadequate people? When God called Gideon, Gideon’s response was that not only was his clan the weakest in his tribe, but that he was the least in his family! God proceeded to lead Gideon to victory with only three hundred men, some trumpets, jars, and torches. David was a shepherd who became the king of a nation. Rahab was a prostitute, yet because she feared God, she not only saved Israel’s spies, but she became a part of the linage of Jesus. They were ordinary people, who God used to do extraordinary things with His power!

Do you remember what Esther’s uncle told her when faced with the possible sentence of death for her and her people? “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” I truly believe that we’ve all been placed here for such a time as this. The Bible says in Acts 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (NIV) That means you! In the middle of your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, take-out-the-trash and drive-the-kid-to-school routine, you’ve been called by God for this time. For this moment. Wow!

So what does all of this have to do with you and me? One person at a time, we can make a difference in the world through His power. If God has used you in an extra ordinary way, I’d love to hear from you and the impact it made on you and those around you. Or if God has worked through someone to change your life, I want to hear your story. Then stop by my blog or my Be Inspired blog, where you’ll meet other people, just like you, who are being transformed by God. They’re stepping out in faith and allowing Him to use them for extraordinary things. They’re touching lives by sponsoring an orphan in Africa, taking in foster children, going on mission trips, impacting a child’s life, feeding the homeless, visiting the sick in the hospital, praying with those who’ve lost all hope.

It starts with each one of us, wherever we are, letting God take us on that amazing journey He’s prepared for us. Hebrews 10: 24 says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

Why?

Because of what Christ did for us on the cross. It is there, and only there, that we can find hope.

Be blessed today,

Lisa

(Thank you to Freefoto.com for the photo of the cross.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Congratulations to...


... Jeanne Corrigan who won a copy of Blood Ransom and the goodie basket from the heart of Africa! Yeah, Jeanne!! Thanks so much to all of you who participated.

Blood Ransom’s official publication date is April, which means that by then, it will be in stock for distributors and book stores that have ordered it. It’s already been spotted in at least one bookstore and is available on Amazon and at Christianbook.com. Thanks so much to those of you who have read it and have already let me know that you enjoyed it.

Lena Dooley, a close friend of mine, recently interviewed me and is offering a free copy of Blood Ransom on her blog. Stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win. I'd love to see you there!

~~~~~~~~~~


Things have been busy here as usual. We had a wonderful weekend with a friend from the States who was passing through on his way home from up north. He spoke at several of the churches over the past few days and was a real encouragement.


We also enjoyed a time of fellowship and worship with Luis and Fernanda our teammates, and two other couples from the area. One couple is from Brazil and works at the hospital across the bay, and the other from South Africa who have a son Jayden’s age and works out at one of the lodges near the beach. We’ve decided to try and do this every month as everyone really enjoyed it.

Be blessed today!

Lisa

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Launch Giveaway!


I'm excited to announce that Blood Ransom is now available on line at places like Amazon and Christianbook.com and should be arriving at your local bookstore soon!

To end my month long celebration of its release, I'll be drawing a winner for goodies from Africa and a copy of Blood Ransom. Leave a comment below with a way for me to contact you between now and Sunday night (CST) and I will include you in the drawing. If you sign up to receive my blog posts through feedblitz AND let me know I will add another entry for you.

Since I have yet to hold a copy of the book or see it sitting on a bookstore shelf (the nearest bookstore is a day's drive) please let me know, if and where you happen to see a copy. (And if you snap a photo and send it my way, I'll put your photo on my blog and be forever grateful. :-))

Have a great weekend!

Lisa


Contest is limited to the US and is void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Behind the scenes


Several people commented on my book trailer for Blood Ransom because they recognized the young man who plays the part of Joseph in the video. Ivanildo was a part of our English camp last year and has been coming consistantly to the activities, ministry time, Bible studies, and English classes we've held since then. I thought it might be fun to give you a quick sneak peek behind the scenes of making the trailer.

From the beginning, when I started writing Blood Ransom, I had several goals in mind. First of all, I wanted a page-turning adventure that readers loved. (Isn't that what all writers want? :-)) And with the setting in Africa, I wanted to show both the beauty of the land and its people, as well as focus on an issue that was having devastating effects, not just in Africa, but around the world. For this story, and for Joseph's family, the issue is slavery.

When it came time to think about putting together a trailer to promote the book, I found the prospect exciting because I see my own stories play out in my mind like a movie. There was a lot of enthusiam from the young men who agreed to help help out, and even Scott was key in setting up some of the scenes as they played the role of captured slaves.


There was one point, though, that I remember so clearly as I snapped this photo of them standing in a row with their hands tied behind their backs. Chills ran through me, because I was reminded of how while this story was fictional and all the photos in the trailer were set up, this is happening in real life everyday.

What I enjoyed the most was hanging out with these guys and watching them have fun with the camera and photography. The hardest part was definitely getting rid of Ivanildo's smile. :-) In the end (after a half dozen takes) I thought he did fantastic! (If you missed the trailer, you can view it on my blog or here.)

What do YOU think?

Since we're talking about trailers and promotion I'd love your take! What do you think about book trailers, front covers, back covers, and word of mouth promotion? Or more specifically, what catches your interest in a book to the point that you're willing to invest not only your hard earned money, but a good chunk of your time. Leave a comment below. I'd really like to hear what you think.

And to learn about what's being done to save the lives of children caught in slavery, please click here to check out the blog Lynne and I recently started and read our latest post that deals with this issue.

Be sure and stop back tomorrow (Friday) as I'll be posting the last (and biggest) giveaway to celebrate Blood Ransom's release!

Be blessed today,

Lisa


Ivanildo


Jose


Gito


David

Monday, March 22, 2010

Discipleship in Action

One of the things we want to teach our disciples is what it means to have a heart of service toward others. Last Saturday, a number of young people from last years English camp joined together to build a house for a widowed lady whose house had burnt down. We are so thankful for their enthusiasm and joy in serving!



Be blessed today!

Lisa

Friday, March 19, 2010

And the winner is...



Congratulations to Alesha for winning a copy of Blood Ransom!

Many of you have made comments about your surprise on how wide spread the issue of human trafficking is. Please visit Inspire. Be Inspired. to find out about a group of children who are finding hope in Ghana, West Africa.







(Rachel from Touch A Life Foundation on Be Inspired this week).

And lastly, stay tuned for a behind the scenes peek at my video trailer, one more chance to win a copy of Blood Ransom AND a gift basked from the heart of Africa.

Be blessed today,

Lisa

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reader Feedback


I love receiving reader feedback. Every book I write is for the reader, so your comments are always appreciated. And like every author, I’ve received my fair share of reviews. Thankfully most are positive, but there are always the occasional negative review.

I received an email this weekend, though, that was a bit difference from the typical letter. A young man had been asked by his grandmother to email me, because she wanted to make the Lemon Crumb Cake in the back of Recipe for Murder. She was confused because there was no sugar in the cake, and could I please clarify if that was correct before they made it.

At first I was horrified. He couldn’t be right. I’d worked hard on that recipe, trying out several versions until my family said, “This is the one!” And now, if he was right, there were thousands of copies of the recipe out there with a major mistake.

I looked in my copy of the book, searching for the sugar that had to be listed right under the butter…

It wasn’t there.

I couldn’t believe it.

So first of all, to any of you who have tried Pricilla’s recipe, my deepest apologizes. At least this story has a happy ending. The young man and his grandmother made the cake and I heard from him again on Monday. He told me that the cake was, and I quote, “A-MAZ-ING!!!”

Of course his grandmother was still a bit cross with me, or rather she told me that her waist was rather angry with me. :-)

So, I’ll go ahead and try again to post the recipe, with hopes of getting it right this time! It really is good.


Pricilla Crumb’s Recipe for Lemon Crumb Cake

LEMON CAKE:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup milk

CRUMB MIXTURE FILLING:

1 C flour
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
1/3 c butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13x9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients then set aside.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar then increase the speed to medium-high. Continue to beat about 3 more minutes.

Add the whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the lemon juice.

Beat in part of the dry ingredients and alternate with part of the milk until it is all mixed together.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crumb mixture filling evenly across the top then cover with remaining cake batter, careful not to mix the filling into the batter.

Bake the cake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake completely.

FROSTING:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ c unsalted butter, softened
2 C powdered sugar, sifted before measuring
½ c heavy cream
1/3 c lemon curd

With an electric mixer, blend together: cream cheese, butter, sugar, cream, and lemon curd. When cake is completely cooled, frost.

Enjoy!

Lisa (whose planning to stick to stories from now on and not recipes!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photos

It's been such a busy week, but I thought I'd quickly post some new photos.


The kids have just started playing with the rabbits. Jayden has already chosen the one he wants to keep and brings it in the house to play with.




The kittens are getting big and more independent. The kids love them and how they follow them around the house.


Babies, babies, everywhere...Baby Scott and Mariah


I always find it interesting that here are oranges ... green. But they still taste great! This morning I made an orange juice, mango, banana shake. Yum!

Be blessed today!

Lisa

Friday, March 12, 2010

Human Trafficking 101

First of all, thanks to all of you who joined me in my launch party this week. This week's winners are Charity and suseduhbee! Leave a comment on this post between now and next Thursday, with a way to contact you, for another chance to win another copy of Blood Ransom. I'll post the winner next Friday.



What is Human Trafficking?

Until I did research for Blood Ransom, I had no idea that slavery was still a huge global issue. According to the Polaris Project's Action Center, "Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Victims experience a loss of freedom and exploitation at the hands of their traffickers who buy and sell them in pursuit of profit. As a result, human trafficking is commonly known as modern-day slavery.

In human trafficking situations, traffickers gain complete control over victims and force them into the labor, services, or commercial sex industry in order to generate profit from their labor and commercial sex acts. Some of the forms of violence traffickers use to control their victims include brutal beatings, rape, lies and deception, threats of serious harm or familial harm, and psychological abuse."

Victims can be anyone. U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, any race, mail or female, child or adult, rich or poor, educated or uneducated. And the situation isn't limited to exotic locals. The US State Department estimates that there are around 16,000 people trafficked into the US annually. And thousands of American children are lured into the industry every year.








RESCUED CHILDREN IN GHANA

There are people who are trying to make a difference and who are determined to put an end to this horror. Touch A Life Foundation, for example, are working with a children's home in Ghana where they rescue children working as slaves and give them hope. For a more personal look at what is being done, I'll be interviewing Rachel from this organization on my Inspired blog next week.

Thanks so much to the Polaris Project for allowing me to post this video and much of this information. And for Touch a Life Foundation for the photo. For more information on how you can find out more and get involved, visit these websites.

Touch A Life Foundation
Polaris Project
Not For Sale Campaign

Be blessed today!

Lisa

This contest is limited to the US/Canada. Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Facing the Storm


Blood Ransom is obviously a work of fiction, but what has been chilling to me since I first began writing and researching the book is that slavery today is very real.

There are 27 million people in the world today who are victims of human trafficking. One million of these are under that age of 18.

I’ll be sharing more about this later, but let’s bring it closer home. There are people lost and hurting all around us. In your own town. In your neighborhood. In your own home. Feeling lost. Looking for hope.

Do you remember the story in Mathew 14 when the disciples were out on a boat and a storm struck? In verse twenty-four the disciples feel the hopelessness of the situation. They are away from the shore, hit by the waves and the winds with seemingly no way out.

What about you? Are you there right now? Lost job, deserted by a spouse, rebellious children, illness… As hard as you look for Jesus you can’t see him. Maybe your heart has even hardened because you feel so alone.

In our Bible study with my kids, I was stuck by today’s lesson from Max Lucado’s Experiencing the Words of Jesus when he talked about this story. The storm was raging, the boat was being battered from every angle, and the disciples were terrified. Where was Jesus?

Many of us, Lucado writes, feel “suspended between verses 24 and 25.” We’re trying to ride out a storm, but with the fierce winds and high waves around us it seems impossible to survive.

Yet Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

It’s not always easy to keep trusting or to keep believing, is it?

But Jesus was there.

It wasn’t a ghost playing with their senses as they looked out over the storm-tossed sea, it was really Him. And He told them to take courage and not to be afraid.

If you feel lost in the midst of a storm today, brace yourself with his promises. When you can’t see Him, trust Him.

Psalm 37 says “Commit your ways to the Lord; trust him, and he will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness...


The other day, one of the new Christians asked,

“What does it mean to do good works?”

The question was asked not in the context of “doing good to earn salvation,” but rather in their wanting to come to an understanding of how living out a Christian life makes one different.

Scott spent time talking with them about serving our neighbors in Jesus’ name. The next time we visited one of the ladies was preparing food to take to a sick neighbor. This is not something that necessarily comes natural to their culture, and profoundly shows the light of Christ shining through them.

I find this sincere desire to learn what it means to be like Jesus refreshing and humbling. Last Sunday, the Christians in Magola shared some of their fruits of their crops with those who’d come from the city. It’s a challenge to me to see how they are so freely willing to give out of what little they have.

Already there are plans underway, at the suggestion of the Christians, to have a day when the different house churches come together for worship and fellowship. With many of these new churches set in isolated villages, we are exited to see them hunger for fellowship with other Christians.

On another note, The Borrowed Book and International Christian Fiction Writers are both promoting Blood Ransom and offering a chance to win a copy. Stop by and leave a comment!

Blessings,

Lisa

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sneak Peek into Blood Ransom

Thanks to all of you who have stopped by and left comments to enter this week's contest for a chance to win a free copy of Blood Ransom. There's still time before the drawing on Friday! In the meantime, here's the prologue and first chapter if you'd like to take a sneak peek!


"And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it.
For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Revelation 5:9 NLT





PROLOGUE

A narrow shaft of sunlight broke through the thick canopy of leaves above
Joseph Komboli’s short frame and pierced through to the layers
of vines that crawled along the forest floor. He trudged past a spiny
tree trunk — one of hundreds whose flat crowns reached toward the
heavens before disappearing into the cloudless African sky — and
smiled as the familiar hum of the forest welcomed him home.

A trickle of moisture dripped down the back of his neck, and he
reached up to brush it away, then flicked at a mosquito. The musty
smell of rotting leaves and sweet flowers encircled him, a sharp con-
trast to the stale exhaust fumes of the capital’s countless taxis or the
stench of hundreds of humans pressed together on the dilapidated
cargo boat he’d left at the edge of the river this morning.

Another flying insect buzzed in his ears, its insistent drone
drowned out only by the birds chattering in the treetops. He slapped
the insect away and dug into the pocket of his worn trousers for a
handful of fire-roasted peanuts, still managing to balance the bag that
rested atop his head. His mother’s sister had packed it for him, ensur-
ing that the journey — by taxi, boat, and now foot — wouldn’t leave his
belly empty. Once, not too long ago, he had believed no one living in
the mountain forests surrounding his village, or perhaps even in all of
Africa, could cook goza and fish sauce like his mother. But now, hav-
ing ventured from the dense and sheltering rainforest, he knew she
was only one of thousands of women who tirelessly pounded cassava
and prepared the thick stew for their families day after day.

Still, his mouth watered at the thought of his mother’s cooking.
The capital of Bogama might offer running water and electricity for
those willing to forfeit a percentage of their minimal salaries, but
even the new shirt and camera his uncle had given him as parting
gifts weren’t enough to lessen his longings for home.
He wrapped the string of the camera around his wrist and felt
his heart swell with pride. No other boy in his village owned such a
stunning piece. Not that the camera was a frivolous gift. Not at all.
His uncle called it an investment in the future. In the city lived a
never-ending line of men and women willing to pay a few cents for a
color photo. When he returned to Bogama for school, he planned to
make enough money to send some home to his family — something
that guaranteed plenty of meat and cassava for the evening meal.

Anxious to give his little sister, Aina, one of the sweets tucked
safely in his pocket and his mother the bag of sugar he carried, Joseph
quickened his steps across the red soil, careful to avoid a low limb
swaying under the weight of a monkey.

A cry shattered the relative calm of the forest.

Joseph slowed as the familiar noises of the forest faded into the
shouts of human voices. More than likely the village children had
finished collecting water from the river and now played a game of
chase or soccer with a homemade ball.

The wind blew across his face, sending a chill down his spine as
he neared the thinning trees at the edge of the forest. Another scream
split the afternoon like a sharpened machete.

Joseph stopped. These were not the sounds of laughter.

Dropping behind the dense covering of the large leaves, Joseph
approached the outskirts of the small village, straining his eyes in an
effort to decipher the commotion before him. At first glance every-
thing appeared familiar. Two dozen mud huts with thatched roofs
greeted him like an old friend. Tendrils of smoke rose from fires
beneath rounded cooking pots that held sauce for evening meals.
Brightly colored pieces of fabric fluttered in the breeze as freshly
laundered clothes soaked up the warmth of the afternoon sun.

His gaze flickered to a figure emerging from behind one of the
grass-thatched huts. Black uniform . . . rifle pressed against his shoul-
der . . . Joseph felt his lungs constrict. Another soldier emerged, then
another, until there were half a dozen shouting orders at the confused
villagers who stumbled onto the open area in front of them. Joseph
watched as his best friend Mbona tried to fight back, but his hoe was
no match against the rifle butt that struck his head. Mbona fell to
the ground.

Ghost Soldiers!

A wave of panic, strong as the mighty Congo River rushing
through its narrow tributaries, ripped through Joseph’s chest. He
gasped for breath, his chest heaving as air refused to fill his lungs.
The green forest spun. Gripping the sturdy branch of a tree, he man-
aged to suck in a shallow breath.

He’d heard his uncle speak of the rumored Ghost Soldiers —
mercenaries who appeared from nowhere and kidnapped human la-
borers to work as slaves for the mines. Inhabitants of isolated villages
could disappear without a trace and no one would ever know.

Except he’d thought such myths weren’t true.

The sight of his little sister told him otherwise. His mind fought
to grasp what was happening. Blood trickled down the seven-year-
old’s forehead as she faltered in front of the soldiers with her hands
tied behind her.

No!

Unable to restrain himself, Joseph lunged forward but tripped
over a knotty vine and fell. A twig snapped, startling a bird into flight
above him.

The soldier turned from his sister and stared into the dense fo-
liage. Joseph lay flat against the ground, his hand clasped over the
groan escaping his throat. The soldier hesitated a moment longer, then
grabbed his sister’s arm and pulled her to join the others.

Choking back a sob, Joseph rose to his knees and dug his fingers
into the hard earth. What could he do? Nothing. He was no match
for these men. If he didn’t remain secluded behind the cover of the
forest, he too would vanish along with his family.

The haunting sounds of screams mingled with gunshots. His
grandfather fell to the ground and Joseph squeezed his eyes shut,
blackness enveloping him. It was then, as he pressed his hand against
his pounding chest, that he felt the camera swinging against his wrist.
He stared at the silver case. Slowly, he pressed the On button.

This time, the world would know.

With a trembling arm Joseph lifted the camera. Careful to stay
within the concealing shade of the forest, he snapped a picture with-
out bothering to aim as his uncle had taught him. He took another
photo, and another, and another . . . until the cries of his people dis-
sipated on the north side of the clearing as the soldiers led those
strong enough to work toward the mountains. The rest — those like
his grandfather, too old or too weak to work in the mines — lay mo-
tionless against the now bloodstained African soil.

In the remaining silence, the voices of two men drifted across the
breeze. English words were foreign to his own people’s uneducated
ears but had become familiar to Joseph. What he heard now brought
a second wave of terror . . .

“Only four more days until we are in power . . . There is no need
to worry . . . The president will be taken care of . . . I can personally
guarantee the support of this district . . .”

Joseph zoomed in and took a picture of the two men.

A monkey jumped to the tree above him and started chattering.
One of the beefy soldiers jerked around, his attention drawn to the
edge of the clearing. Joseph froze as his gaze locked with the man’s.

Someone shouted.

If they caught him now, no one would ever know what had hap-
pened to his family.

Joseph scrambled to his feet as the soldier ran toward him, but the
man was faster. The butt of a rifle struck Joseph’s head. He faltered,
but as a trickle of blood dripped into his eye, he pictured Aina being
led away . . . his grandfather murdered in cold blood . . .

Ignoring the searing pain, Joseph fought to pull loose from his
attacker’s grip, kicked at the man’s shins. The soldier faltered on the
uneven terrain. Clambering to his feet, Joseph ran into the cover of
the forest. A rifle fired, and the bullet whizzed past his ear, but he
kept moving. With the Ghost Soldier in pursuit, Joseph sprinted as
fast as he could through the tangled foliage and prayed that the thick
jungle would swallow him.


CHAPTER ONE

Monday, November 16, 3:11 p.M.
Kasili Outdoor Market

Natalie Sinclair fingered the blue-and-yellow fabric that hung neatly
folded on a wooden rod among dozens of other brightly colored
pieces, barely noticing the plump Mama who stood beside her in
hopeful anticipation. Instead she gazed out at the shops that lined
the winding, narrow paths of the market, forming an intricate maze
the size of a football field. The vendors sold everything from vegeta-
bles and live animals to piles of secondhand clothing that had been
shipped across the ocean from charities in the States.

Natalie stepped across a puddle and turned to glance beneath the
wooden overhang at the stream of people passing by. Even with the
weekend over, the outdoor market was crowded with shoppers. Hip-
hop-style music played in the background, lending a festive feel to
the sultry day. But she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in the pit of
her stomach.

Someone was following her.

She quickened her steps and searched for anything that looked
out of place. A young man weaved his bicycle through the crowded
walkway, forcing those on foot to step aside. A little girl wearing a
tattered dress clung to the skirt of her mother, who carried a sleeping
infant, secured with a length of material, against her back. An old
man with thick glasses shuffled past a shop that sold eggs and sugar,
then stopped to examine a pile of spark plugs.

Natalie’s sandal stuck in a patch of mud, and she wiggled her foot
to pull it out. Perhaps the foreboding sensation was nothing more
than the upcoming elections that had her on edge. All American
citizens had been warned to stay on high alert due to the volatile
political situation. Violence was on the rise. Already a number of
joint military-police peacekeeping patrols had been deployed onto
the streets, and there were rumors of a curfew.

Not that life in the Republic of Dhambizao was ever considered
safe by the embassy, but neither was downtown Portland. It was all a
matter of perspective.

And leaving wasn’t an option. Not with the hepatitis E outbreak
spreading from the city into the surrounding villages. Already, three
health zones north of the town of Kasili where she lived were threat-
ened with an outbreak. She’d spent the previous two weeks sharing
information about the disease’s symptoms with the staff of the local
government clinics, as well as conducting awareness campaigns to
inform the public on the importance of proper hygiene to prevent
an epidemic.

In search of candles for tonight’s party, Natalie turned sharply to
her left and hurried up the muddy path past wooden tables piled high
with leafy greens for stew, bright red tomatoes, and fresh fish. Rows
of women sat on wooden stools and fanned their wares to discour-
age the flies that swarmed around the pungent odor of the morning’s
catch.

Someone bumped into her from behind, and she pulled her bag
closer. Petty theft might be a constant concern, but she knew her
escalated fears were out of line. Being the only pale foreigner in a sea
of ebony-skinned Africans always caused heads to turn, if not for the
novelty, then for the hope that she’d toss them one or two extra coins
for their supper.

Her cell phone jingled in her pocket, and she reached to answer it.

“When are you coming back to the office?” Stephen’s to-the-point
greeting was predictable.

“I’m not. I’m throwing a birthday party for you tonight, remem-
ber? You let me off early.” A pile of taper candles caught her eye in
a shop across the path, and she skirted the edge of a puddle that,
thanks to the runoff, was rapidly becoming the size of a small lake.

Stephen groaned. “Patrick’s here at the office, and he’s asking
questions.”

She pulled a handful of coins from her pocket to pay for the can-
dles. “Then give him some answers.”

“I can’t.”

Natalie thrust the package the seller had wrapped in newspaper
into her bag and frowned. Patrick Seko, the former head of security
for the president, now led some sort of specialized task force for the
government. Lately, his primary concern seemed to revolve around
some demographic research for the Kasili region she’d been com-
piling for the minister of health, whose office she worked for. Her
expertise might be the prevention and control of communicable dis-
eases, but demographics had always interested her. Why her research
interested Patrick was a question she’d yet to figure out.

The line crackled. Maybe she’d get out of dealing with Patrick
and his insistent questions after all.

“Stephen, you’re breaking up.”

All she heard was a garbled response. She flipped the phone shut
and shoved it back into her pocket. They’d have to finish their con-
versation at the party.

“Natalie?”

She spun around at the sound of her name. “Rachel, it’s good to
see you.”

Her friend shot her a broad smile. “I’m sorry if I startled you.”

Natalie wanted to kick herself for the uncharacteristic agitation
that had her looking behind every shadow. “I’m just a bit jumpy
today.”

“I understand completely.” Rachel pushed a handful of thin braids
behind her shoulder and smiled. “I think everyone is a bit on edge,
even though with the UN’s presence the elections are supposed to
pass without any major problems. No one has forgotten President
Tau’s bloody takeover.”

Natalie had only heard stories from friends about the current
president’s takeover seventeen years ago. Two elections had taken
place since then and were assumed by all to have been rigged. But
with increasing pressure from the United States, the European Union,
and the African Union, President Tau had promised a fair election
this time no matter the results. And despite random incidences of
pre-election violence, even the United Nations was predicting a fair
turnover under their supervision — something that, to her mind, re-
mained to be seen.

Natalie took a step back to avoid a group of uniformed students
making their way through the market and smiled at her friend. After
eighteen months of working together, Rachel had moved back to the
capital to take a job with the minister of health, which meant Natalie
rarely saw her anymore. Something they both missed. “What are you
doing in Kasili?”

“I’m heading back to Bogama tomorrow, but I’m in town because
Patrick has been meeting with my parents to work out the labola.”

“Really? That’s wonderful.” Her sentiment was genuine, even
though she happened to find Patrick overbearing and control-
ling — as no doubt he would be in deciding on a bride price. She
hugged her friend. “When’s the wedding ceremony?”

Rachel’s white teeth gleamed against her dark skin, but Natalie
didn’t miss the shadow that crossed her expression. “We’re still dis-
cussing details with our families, but soon. Very soon.”

“Then I’ll expect an invitation.”

“Of course.” Rachel’s laugh competed with the buzz of the crowd
that filed past them. “And by the way, I don’t know if Patrick mentioned
it to you, but Stephen invited us to the birthday party you’re throwing
for him tonight. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course I don’t mind.” Natalie suppressed a frown. Stephen
had invited Patrick to the party? She cleared her throat. “Stephen
just called to tell me Patrick was looking for me, but it had some-
thing to do with my demographic reports. Apparently he has more
questions.”

“Patrick can be a bit . . . persistent.” Rachel flashed another broad
smile, but Natalie caught something else in her eyes she couldn’t
read. Hesitation? Fear? “I’ll tell him to wait until they are compiled.
Then he can look at them.”

Natalie laughed. “Well, you know I’m thrilled you’re coming.”

She would enjoy catching up with Rachel, and she had already
prepared enough food to feed a small army. It was Patrick and his an-
tagonistic political views she dreaded. She’d probably end up spend-
ing the whole evening trying to avoid them both.

“I’m looking forward to it as well.” Rachel shifted the bag on her
shoulder. “But I do need to hurry off. I’m meeting Patrick now, but
I’ll see you tonight.”

Natalie watched until her friend disappeared into the crowd, won-
dering what she’d seen in her friend’s gaze. It was probably nothing.
Rachel had been right. Her own frayed nerves were simply a reaction
of the tension everyone felt. By next week the election would be over
and things would be back to normal.

A rooster brushed her legs, and she skirted to the left to avoid
stepping on the squawking bird. The owner managed to catch it and
mumbled a string of apologies before shoving it back in its cage.

Natalie laughed at the cackling bird, realizing that this was as
normal as life was going to get.

Spotting a woman selling spices and baskets of fruit two shops
down, she slipped into the tiny stall, determined to enjoy the rest of
the day. She had nothing to worry about. Just like the UN predicted,
the week would pass without any major incidents. And in the mean-
time, she had enough on her hands.

She picked up a tiny sack of cloves, held it up to her nose, and
took in a deep breath. With the holiday season around the corner,
she’d buy some extra. Her mother had sent a care package last week
filled with canned pumpkin, chocolate chips, French-fried onions,
and marshmallows. This year Natalie planned to invite a few friends
over for a real Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, mashed potatoes, green-
bean casserole, pumpkin pie —

Fingers grasped her arm from behind. Natalie screamed and
struggled to keep her balance as someone pulled her into the shadows.





ZONDERVAN
Blood Ransom
Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Harris
Used with permission from Zondervan
This title is also available as a Zondervan ebook.
Visit Zondervan's website for more information including the audio version. www.zondervan.com/ebooks.
This title is also available in a Zondervan audio edition.

Author’s disclaimer: “While Blood Ransom is a work of fiction, including the setting I chose
to use, modern-day slavery is very real. Drawing from my own experiences across Africa
over the past twenty years, my goal in writing this book was to weave current issues facing
this vast continent into a riveting story that depicts not only these adversities, but also its
beauty and hope.”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Blood Ransom- Book launch!



It's been a long time in coming, but today is Blood Ransom's official release day! What does that mean? Over the next couple of weeks, the book will be shipped out across the country to book stories and distributors and on the shelves by April, the book's official publication date.

To celebrate, I'm planning a month-long blog party! What does that mean for you? Chances to win copies of Blood Ransom every week, a sneak peak at the prologue and first chapter, blog tour with interviews and giveaways, a chance to win a goody basket from the heart of Africa, and more!

The first giveaway starts today. I'll be drawing two winners next Friday, who will each win a copy of Blood Ransom. Those signed up for my newsletter will automatically be entered in this week's contest for one copy. You can sign up here if you haven't already. Leave a comment below for a second chance to win, and for fun, tell me why you love to read suspense novels!

Be blessed today!

Lisa

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

It's a Zoo!

Despite the fact that my house feels a bit like a zoo (The rabbits just had babies as well) the kittens are adorable. Took a little video last night while playing with them to ensure they don't get wild.

Thanks to kids' logic, they kittens are all named...Elizabeth. And why not when they all come when they are called!



Enjoy!

Lisa

PS Be sure and drop by on Friday when I kick start my blog party celebrating the release of Blood Ransom!