<h3>Excerpt</h3> <div><div> <h2>CHAPTER 1</h2> <p>Amy couldn't resist visiting the final scene of the novel one last time. Repositioning her long legs on the leather ottoman, she pushed her straight brown hair behind her ears and adjusted her brown-framed glasses. She shifted her laptop so the sunlight streaming through the window didn't wash out the words on the screen:</p> <p>For a few anxious moments I couldn't find Rick among the crowd of passengers making their way across the tarmac.</p> <p>Then I saw him.</p> <p>He was walking slowly, his right leg dragging slightly behind him, his left arm immobilized in a sling and strapped close to his body. As always, his khaki uniform was neatly ironed and creased. He was staring intently toward the terminal building. I knew he was looking for me.</p> <p>Tears, a mixture of joy that he was alive and sorrow at the pain he'd endured, streamed down my cheeks. I bowed my head in thankfulness and leaned my forehead against the window glass for a second. I glanced up as he reached the terminal and quickly dried my eyes. Rick's first sight of my face should be filled with nothing but welcoming love. He held the door open with his good arm to let an elderly woman pass through ahead of him, then followed her into the baggage claim area. I cried out in a loud voice that couldn't hide the anguished longing of my heart.</p> <p>"Rick!"</p> <p>He turned his head. And in that instant everyone and everything else in the airport vanished. Rick was home. The sleepless nights and lonely days were over. The fretful hours sitting at the computer waiting for an e-mail had ended. Ten thousand prayers that he would come home to me were answered.</p> <p>We met at the end of the baggage carousel. A red light flashed as the carousel noisily started to turn, but nothing existed in my world except Rick. He held out his right arm and wrapped it around me as I buried my face in his shoulder. Now my tears could flow without spoiling the moment. I raised my head, and our lips met.</p> <p>"It's you," I said softly when our lips parted.</p> <p>"I came home, just as I promised," he said.</p> <p>"Yes."</p> <p>"Thank you for waiting, Kelli."</p> <p><i>"Wait,"</i> I repeated, shaking my head. "That's a word I don't want to think about or hear for a long time."</p> <p>Rick smiled.</p> <p>"Our new word is 'now,'" he said.</p> <p>I gently touched his left arm.</p> <p>"How is it?"</p> <p>"Not much use to me yet," he said with a shrug. "The doctors say the shrapnel severed a nerve. Other nerves will try to take up the slack, but it will take a long time to see how much strength and mobility I get back."</p> <p>"I'm sorry. I wish it could have been me."</p> <p>"No!" Rick's face grew serious. "I went over there to keep something like this from happening to you. Knowing I was protecting you kept me strong."</p> <p>There was more strength in Rick's little finger than most men had in their entire being.</p> <p>"Do you know what I thought about when I was lying on the ground waiting for the helicopter to rescue me?" he continued.</p> <p>He reached into the front pocket of his uniform and took out a worn sheet of paper. It had been opened and closed so many times that there were tiny rips at the crease lines. Instantly, I knew what it was. He handed it to me, and I cradled the sheet as gently as I would an ancient parchment. Penned in my best handwriting were the words of the verse I'd given him the night before he left. One corner of the paper was stained dark brown. I stared at the corner.</p> <p>"Is this—" I stopped.</p> <p>"Yes, but that's not what I want you to see. Read the words. I want to hear them in your voice."</p> <p>I took a deep breath. "'The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27.'"</p> <p>"My arm may be weak," Rick said, touching his left shoulder, "but his arms stayed strong."</p> <p>"I needed them too," I said softly.</p> <p>We kissed again. I tucked my hands beneath Rick's right elbow.</p> <p>"And now his arms are going to keep us together," I said. "Forever."</p> <br> <p>The voice of Ian, Amy's ten-year-old son, shattered the moment. "Mom!"</p> <p>Amy lowered the screen of the laptop.</p> <p>"I'm in the writing room!" she called out.</p> <p>Ian's feet pounded up the steep, ladder-like steps. Amy's husband, Jeff, had converted a corner of the attic into a private place for Amy to read, work, and pray.</p> <p>"We're out of milk," Ian panted when his freckled face came into view. "And there is only one cookie left in the jar. Me and Bobby are hungry."</p> <p>"Bobby and I are hungry," Amy corrected him.</p> <p>"Bobby and I are hungry," he responded dutifully, "but that doesn't make there be any more cookies in the jar."</p> <p>"I baked two dozen oatmeal raisin cookies on Wednesday. What happened to them?"</p> <p>"Ask Megan." Ian looked down at his scuffed sneakers. "She was in the kitchen with a bunch of her friends yesterday while you were up here. Maybe they ate them."</p> <p>Amy set her computer aside and got up from the chair. She knew she'd neglected her family. The final edits of her second novel had consumed every spare moment during the past three weeks. She'd challenged adverbs, mercilessly shortened narrative paragraphs, and made countless changes designed to increase microtension on every page. Finally, she spent two whole days on the last chapter. An emotional payoff at the end of a contemporary romance novel is crucial. She hoped the scene in the airport was a satisfying cherry on top of the fictional sundae.</p> <p>"My book is done," she said, getting up from the chair. "From now on I'll have the time to make sure we have plenty of milk and cookies in this house."</p> <p>"Yeah!" Ian responded.</p> <p>"And fresh fruit," Amy added. "Why don't you eat a banana? I know there are bananas on the rack next to the microwave."</p> <p>"Bobby doesn't eat bananas. He likes apples."</p> <p>"Okay. I'll come to the kitchen in a minute and help you find a snack."</p> <p>Ian bounded down the steps and out of sight. Amy followed, keeping a tight grip on the handrail. Ian had the nimble balance of a gazelle. Jeff was convinced their son's combination of strength and agility would translate into high school football stardom with a possible college scholarship. Amy didn't like the thought of eleven muscular brutes trying to slam her baby violently to the ground. She could casually allow the male lead in her novel to be seriously wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade, but when it came to her son being tackled in real life on a grassy gridiron, she was as protective as a mother bear.</p> <p>The second floor of the narrow house contained three bedrooms. The master suite was beneath the writing room. Two other bedrooms were down a narrow hallway. Ian's bedroom was next to his parents' room. Megan, age fourteen, had turned the third bedroom into a private world she preferred to keep off-limits to the rest of the family. When guests from out of town came for a visit, Ian gave up his room and slept on a trundle bed.</p> <p>The stairway from the second floor ended at one end of the large, rectangular family room. To the left of the family room was the eat-in kitchen. Except for Megan, the Clarke family spent most of their waking hours in the kitchen and the family room.</p> <p>Ian was balancing on the arm of a dining room chair trying to open the door of one of the top row of cabinets. Bobby stood beside the chair, holding it steady.</p> <p>"Ian, what are you doing?" Amy asked. "Get down before you fall! There's nothing you need up there."</p> <p>"That's where Daddy hides those chocolate peanut things he eats after I go to bed," Ian replied from his perch above her head.</p> <p>"And he's all out until I go to the grocery store."</p> <p>Ian jumped from the arm of the chair and landed cat-like on the floor. Bobby, who idolized Ian, watched in awe. Amy rubbed the top of Bobby's closely trimmed brown hair.</p> <p>"Let me see if I can find an apple."</p> <p>There was a solitary apple in the vegetable keeper of the refrigerator. Amy pressed the skin. The flesh was still firm.</p> <p>"I'll cut this into pieces," she said.</p> <p>"Can we share the last cookie?" Ian asked.</p> <p>"After you eat the apple."</p> <p>Standing at the sink, Amy looked across the front yard toward Canterbury Lane, the neighborhood street that ran in front of their house. Ninety miles southeast of Raleigh, Cross Plains, North Carolina, was in the middle of the sandhills region of the state. With its slender pine trees and loamy soil, the town bore no similarity to the English countryside, but that didn't keep the subdivision's developer from borrowing street names from famous English locations. Amy's best friend, Natalie Graham, lived a few blocks to the east on Devonshire Way. Amy cut the apple into four identical slices and handed two to each boy.</p> <p>"My mom just finished writing her new book," Ian said to Bobby as he munched on one of his pieces of apple.</p> <p>"My folks keep the one you signed for my mama on the table in the living room," Bobby said in his slow drawl.</p> <p>Amy smiled. A trade paper novel, even if autographed by the author, wasn't exactly display material for a formal living room.</p> <p>"That's very sweet of her."</p> <p>"My daddy started to read it," Bobby continued as he took a bite of apple, "but he didn't finish it. He has a big stack of hunting and fishing magazines that he looks at all the time."</p> <p>"Because he likes to hunt and fish," Amy replied. "People read what interests them. If I ever write about a man who loves the outdoors, I'll be sure to talk to your daddy about it."</p> <p>"Did Mr. Clarke read your book?" Bobby asked.</p> <p>"Of course." Amy winced.</p> <p>Jeff had enough husband sense not to complain when Amy asked him to read the manuscript of her first novel. The occasional sighs that came from his chair while he turned the pages communicated all she needed to know. For him, reading a romance novel was in the same category as going to the dentist for a root canal.</p> <p>"Is Dad going to read the new one?" Ian asked as he popped the last piece of apple into his mouth.</p> <p>"That's up to him. One of the main characters is in the army, and I used information he told me to make the story more realistic. A writer has to do research to make sure a book is accurate."</p> <p>Amy broke the cookie in two and handed a piece to each boy. Ian gave her a puzzled look.</p> <p>"I thought you got your ideas when you were dreaming?" he asked.</p> <p>Amy caught Ian's eye and quickly shook her head. Bobby didn't seem to notice.</p> <p>"You boys go outside," she said. "It's not going to be this warm in a couple of weeks."</p> <p>There was a scuffed-up football on the floor in the corner of the kitchen. Ian picked it up and twirled it around a few times on the tip of his index finger. It was a trick he'd seen an NFL quarterback perform on TV, and he'd practiced until he could do it, too.</p> <p>"You can be quarterback first, and I'll be the wide receiver," Ian said to Bobby. "I've figured out a new pass play we can use during recess at school."</p> <p>The boys ran out of the kitchen. Amy took the broom from the closet and swept the kitchen floor. It needed to be mopped, but there was no use doing it now. The boys would return shortly with bits of dirt stuck to their sneakers.</p> <p>Completing the novel was bittersweet. Amy would miss the daily interaction with her fictional friends. Much of her life, even before she became a novelist, had been spent in her imagination, and it was the place where she felt most comfortable. During the months it took to write a book, the characters she created were her closest companions. They ate together, lived through trials and hardships, laughed, cried, and interacted with the Lord. Although not strictly autobiographical, the main character in both her novels reflected Amy's personality—a veiled public expression of her private self. And like a woman giving birth to a child, Amy sacrificed a part of herself to bring forth the book to a waiting world.</p> <p>Writing had also opened the door for a shy, reserved person like Amy to interact from a safe distance with a multitude of people she didn't know and communicate with them at the intimate level reserved for the readers' own minds. The end result was a tremendous opportunity to bless people. She could influence total strangers for good without having to leave the security of her attic writing room.</p> <p>Amy thought again about the airport reunion between Kelli and Rick as she used the broom to dislodge a few bits of food from the corner of the room. Her cell phone on the counter vibrated, and a picture of her agent, Bernie Masters, came up on the screen. In the photo, the balding, overweight man was holding an advance copy of <i>A Great and Precious Promise</i>, Amy's first novel.</p> <p>"Hey, Bernie," Amy said. "Good timing. I finished the final line edit of the new novel about fifteen minutes ago, and I'm ready to send it to the publisher. I'll pop off an e-mail to Cecilia thanking her for the editorial help and letting her know the manuscript is coming."</p> <p>"Great. Have you been to your mailbox?"</p> <p>"No. Why?"</p> <p>"The royalty check paid this quarter for <i>A Great and Precious Promise</i> isn't going to overwhelm you."</p> <p>Amy glanced at the calendar on the wall of the kitchen. She'd not realized it was time for a sales update.</p> <p>"I haven't gotten the statement," she said.</p> <p>"Mine landed on my desk ten minutes before I called. I didn't want you to be shocked."</p> <p>"Shocked?"</p> <p>"Yeah. The total paid for the quarter was $843. After deducting my fifteen percent, your check will be $716.55."</p> <p>Amy leaned against the kitchen counter. "I brought home more than that working two weeks for the law firm."</p> <p>"Which is why most writers don't quit their day jobs. But it's not your fault. Listen, I know you don't want to make the publisher mad by complaining, but it's my job to speak up for you. Just because a novel has cleared advance isn't an excuse to drop the ball on marketing. If you give me the green light, I'll go straight to Dave and find out what's going on."</p> <p>Dave Coley, the head of the publishing company, was a dour-faced man who rarely smiled.</p> <p>"I don't want to risk having them decide not to exercise the option for a third book," Amy said.</p> <p>"Don't let fear dictate what we do. We have to hold the publisher's feet to the marketing fire. <i>A Great and Precious Promise</i> earned back the advance in a little over twelve months. Less than half the novels in this market ever dig out of that hole. My beef is with the lack of ongoing publicity and marketing efforts. You're a fresh talent that deserves a chance to shine."</p> <p>Amy appreciated Bernie's zeal, especially considering that his part of the royalty check was only slightly more than a hundred dollars.</p> <p>"And <i>The Everlasting Arms</i> is going to solidify your brand and enable you to go to a much higher sales level," he added.</p> <p>"You haven't read it yet."</p> <p>"I looked at the synopsis and first three chapters. There's an immediate hook with the conflict between Kelli, Rick, and the old boyfriend with cancer who comes back into her life. A snappy beginning is the key to any story. After a reader swallows the hook, you can drag them anyplace you want."</p> <p>Bernie's use of clichés and disconnected metaphors was his trademark.</p> <p>"The ending is important, too," Amy said. "And the spiritual message."</p> <p>"Sure, so long as the couple lives happily ever after."</p> <p>"Rick has permanent nerve damage from his battle wounds. Will that spoil the happy ending?"</p> <p>"No way. That gives Kelli an excuse to baby him. Women readers love a strong man with just enough weakness to need the feminine touch. Believe me, your new book is going to hit a huge, fat sweet spot in the market."</p> <p>"I don't exactly say that Kelli is going to baby Rick," Amy replied, still stuck on Bernie's previous comment.</p> <p>"It's implied. And if I got the message from the synopsis, don't you think your intuitive female readers will, too?"</p> <p>"I'll ask Cecilia about it when we talk about the manuscript. Her insights and suggestions about both novels have been so helpful. I don't know where I'd be without her."</p> <p>"Do whatever you want, but don't slow down the printing press with more revisions. We need to get this book into the stores as soon as possible." Bernie paused. "When are you going to start book number three?"</p> <p>Amy almost dropped the phone.</p> <p>"I thought I'd bake a batch of cookies first," she managed.</p> <p>"Buck up. You're a professional now with two books under your belt. Remember, a writer isn't a writer except on the days she turns on the computer and cranks out at least a few decent paragraphs."</p> <p>"I know, but I don't have an idea for the next novel. I haven't given it any thought because I didn't want to be distracted."</p> <p>"And the ability to focus is one of your strengths. Don't take me wrong. I'm just doing my job. Most cheerleaders have hair on their heads, not their legs, but I'm going to do my best to keep you moving forward."</p> <p>An image of Bernie Masters in a cheerleading uniform flashed before Amy's eyes. She smiled.</p> <p>"Thanks, Bernie. I promise I'll start praying about my next novel. You should pray, too."</p> <p>"My skills lie elsewhere. And hear me on this. I'm not going to let the publisher lie down like a camel in the middle of the road. You did your part delivering a good, solid book. Their job is to make sure it's on the bookstore shelves and has a strong presence in the e-book market. As soon as Cecilia accepts the manuscript for the new novel, I'll give Dave a call."</p> <p>"And be nice."</p> <p>"I won't yell. And get back to me as soon as you have an idea for the next novel. You've primed the pump and need to keep the water flowing." </div></div><br/> <i>(Continues...)</i> <!-- Copyright Notice --> <div><blockquote><hr noshade size="1"><font size="-2">Excerpted from <b>the living room</b> by <b>ROBERT WHITLOW</b>. Copyright © 2013 by Robert Whitlow. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.<br/>All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br/>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.</font><hr noshade size="1"></blockquote></div>