CFBA Tour: Nothing to Hide

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Nothing to Hide
by J. Mark Bertrand
Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2012) 


J. Mark Bertrand lived in Houston, where the series is set, for fifteen years,
earning an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. But after
one hurricane too many he left for South Dakota. Mark has been arrested
for a crime he didn’t commit, was the foreman of one hung jury and served
on another that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an
honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.


A grisly homicide. An international threat.
The stakes have never been higher for
Detective Roland March.

The victim’s head is missing, but what intrigues Detective Roland March
is the hand. The pointing finger must be a clue–but to what? According
to the FBI, the dead man was an undercover asset tracking the flow of
illegal arms to the Mexican cartels. To protect the operation, they want
March to play along with the cover story. With a little digging, though, he
discovers the Feds are lying. And they’re not the only ones.

In an upside-down world of paranoia and conspiracy, March finds himself
dogged by injury and haunted by a tragic failure. Forced to take justice into
his own hands, his twisting investigation leads him into the very heart of
darkness, leaving March with nothing to lose–and nothing to hide.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Nothing to Hide, go HERE.

My thoughts: I’ve really been looking forward to reading this book, the third in the Roland March series (and I hope not the last). Unfortunately, I have not yet received my review copy so have not had a chance to read it. But I wanted to share the book information and encourage others to check out this and the earlier books in the series, Back on Murder and Pattern of Wounds. If you enjoy detective stories such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, you’ll enjoy these.

I’ll share my thoughts on Nothing to Hide once I’ve read it.


Common English Bible

For the column I just posted about my family, I used the Common English Bible for the Scripture. I usually prefer the ESV, but I’ve been using the CEB some over the last few months and have found it quite readable. If you’d like to know more about the translation, here are a few links:

A video:

Search on Bible Gateway:

I appreciate the readability of the translation and think it would be quite accessible for someone who is new to Bible reading.

(Note: I received a copy of the Common English Bible for review. This post is part of the “Common English Bible Change Your Heart and Life” blog tour.)

In which I return to the blog after a long absence

I’ve been away from the windowsill for a while. Some of it is life, some of it laziness. But I’m feeling the need to write and this is a good place to do it. So I think I’ll give this another try.

A few good links from the last couple of days:

Jeffrey Overstreet on art and faith and kitsch. He always makes me think.

A good basketball story about a former NBA player coaching at the college level.

I will be back.

CFBA: Pattern of Wounds

With the second book featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March,  I know I’ve found a series detective I want to keep following through further adventures. March is often an irritating and unsympathetic hero, but his determination to get at the truth, even when it may cost him his career, keeps me reading. And even when the case is solved, March’s personal struggles continue. There is no guarantee that Roland March, the character, will have a happy ending. And that’s OK.

This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingPattern of WoundsBethany House (July 1, 2011)byJ. Mark BertrandABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. Mark Bertrand lived in Houston, where the series is set, for fifteen years, earning an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. But after one hurricane too many he relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, was the foreman of one hung jury and served on another that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.


It’s Christmas in Houston, and homicide detective Roland March is on the hunt for a killer. A young woman’s brutal stabbing in an affluent neighborhood bears all the hallmarks of a serial murder. The only problem is that March sent the murderer to prison ten years ago. Is it a copycat — or did March convict the wrong man?

Alienated from his colleagues and with a growing rift in his marriage, March receives messages from the killer. The bodies pile up, the pressure builds, and the violence reaches too close to home. Up against an unfathomable evil, March struggles against the clock to understand the hidden message in the pattern of wounds.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Pattern of Wounds, go HERE.

CFBA Tour: Back on Murder, by J. Mark Bertrand

I’ll be posting my take on Back on Murder tomorrow, but for now, here’s the basic info. (Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.)

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Back On Murder Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

by J. Mark Betrand

J. Mark Bertrand has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. After one hurricane too many, he left Houston and relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota.

Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead. Besides his personal website, visit his Crime Genre website at

The next book in this series, Pattern Of Wounds will come out in the summer of 2011.


Det. Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out.

A missing girl. A corrupt investigation. They thought they could get away with it, but they forgot one thing:

Roland March is BACK ON MURDER…

Houston homicide detective Roland March was once one of the best. Now he’s disillusioned, cynical, and on his way out. His superiors farm him out on a variety of punishment details. But when he’s the only one at a crime scene to find evidence of a missing female victim, he’s given one last chance to prove himself. Before he can crack the case, he’s transferred to a new one that has grabbed the spotlight–the disappearance of a famous Houston evangelist’s teen daughter.

All he has to do? Find the missing teenage daughter of a Houston evangelist that every cop in town is already looking for. But March has an inside track, a multiple murder nobody else thinks is connected. With the help of a youth pastor with a guilty conscience who navigates the world of church and faith, March is determined to find the missing girls while proving he’s still one of Houston’s best detectives.

Battling a new partner, an old nemesis, and the demons of his past, getting to the truth could cost March everything. Even his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Back On Murder, go HERE.

For Your Consideration: The Writing Course

I recently had the opportunity to look at a writing program geared toward the homeschool community — The Writing Course — Educator’s Version. The course consists of a set of 21 audio lessons, with an accompanying ebook (a transcript of his seminar), workbook, answer key, and a few handouts. There’s also another course for learning to write essays. The author, Fred Lybrand, is a pastor, author and teacher who has used this approach with his own five children (some of whom are now grown and in college). Lybrand uses a conversational tone in the audio and written materials,  and it’s a very accessible style. His approach doesn’t focus on grammatical terminology (though he does talk about correct grammar), but instead on building confidence through practice. He does a good job of addressing many people’s initial fear of writing and teaches ways to overcome it. He recognizes that it’s OK to write something that’s less than perfect, then revise and rewrite to make it better. I think if I were teaching my children to write, I might find this course helpful, though I would probably supplement it with other English materials to help with grammar and spelling.Visit Lybrand’s company, Advanced Writing Resources, to find out more.

CFBA: Offworld, by Robin Parrish

This week’s featured book for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is one I’m excited about. I’ve been a fan of Robin’s since he started and edited the late, lamented online magazine, Infuze. His first three books, the Dominion Trilogy, were fast-paced, thrilling and wildly imaginitive takes on super-hero fantasy. I called it a “new mythology for a post-modern generation.”

So I was pretty interested to see what he would do with more straight-on science fiction. Once again, he’s told a story that grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let me go until the last. Check out the book blurb and first chapter and I think you’ll be hooked, too. (FYI, I’ll probably do a little more detailed review in a couple of weeks or so, when this book is featured for the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy tour.)

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Bethany House (July 1, 2009)
Robin Parrish


Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract with Bethany House Publishers. They contracted him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless — but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Robin Parrish is a journalist who’s written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.


“Every Person on This Planet Has Disappeared.”

Commander Christopher Burke and his crew are humanity’s greatest explorers. They’ve finished their mission on the red dirt of Mars and now they just want to get back to Earth. To see friends, family, and loved ones. To be home. But even with communication to ground control cut and a perilous landing, nothing could prepare the crew for what they discover when they step foot back on planet Earth.

Everyone…everywhere…is gone.

It’s not a dream. It’s not a trick. Now Burke and his team have one mission:find out who or what is behind the disappearance of all mankind.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Offworld, go HERE

True Purpose

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21 ESV)

Throughout our busy days, it’s often easy to lose sight of what’s truly important. While taking care of our families, doing our jobs, volunteering at church or service organizations, and even enjoying leisure activities are all fine, these things are not our sole purpose in life. Jesus laid out a different system of priorities in the Sermon on the Mount. And the apostle Paul is a good example of putting Christ and his purpose first in life.

The apostle Paul certainly did not lay up earthly treasure for himself. Instead, he traveled the known world proclaiming Christ and often suffering because of it. And yet, in Philippians 1:21 he says that for him “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Paul’s passion and purpose were focused on serving Christ and his church. Paul’s letters to the churches were full of encouragement and exhortation to remain firm in their calling in Christ. These churches — not physical buildings but the body of Christ — were Paul’s treasure. And when he died for the cause of Christ, I have no doubt that he heard his Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”



“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.  Nasty uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!”
(Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien)

“Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
(C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

I think God likes to keep us uncomfortable. Remember, our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and not a one of them led a comfortable life. David became a king, but it wasn’t a comfortable life. The apostle Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned — not exactly comfortable circumstances. And Jesus, God’s own son, lived his life on earth as an itinerant rabbi, without a settled home or material wealth.

If the champions of the faith lived in often unsettled and uncomfortable circumstances, why do we think our lives should be any different? The truth for most of us is, when we get comfortable, we forget about God. We trust to our own understanding, instead of acknowledging God in all our ways. But when our lives become less comfortable, we are more inclined to call out to God and remember that we have nothing apart from him.

In the life of our congregation, we’ve had few times that could strictly be called comfortable — we’ve seen a lot of change and growth, which is inherently uncomfortable. It can’t have always been easy for the older folks who, 30 years ago, prayed for families to come. Yes, their prayers were answered, but with those young families came new challenges, new music, new ways of doing things, a new building — uncomfortable. Those prayers continue to be answered and our church has continued to grow, which inevitably leads to more new, uncomfortable things.

But there’s a reason I quoted two of my favorite books above — we were not really made for a comfortable life. If we heed the call to an adventurous, uncomfortable life in the Lord, we will also be reminded that he is good. In all the difficult, uncomfortable circumstances we experience in our lives, God is with us and never forsakes us. One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8: 31-39, especially the last part —

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If Paul could rejoice in this assurance from his Roman prison, surely we can remember it in our daily lives.