Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fatal Convictions by Randy Singer

Please remember to scroll all the way down to see the giveaway details at the end!

Fatal Convictions

Alex Madison, both local preacher and lawyer, finds his life turning upside down when he takes on the case of defending a local Muslim imam accused of ordering an honor killing of a woman in his mosque. Torn between wanting to defend a man who he believes is innocent to issues that might come up as a result of defending him, Alex decides he must stay true to his late grandfather’s motto, “A lawyer’s highest duty is to defend an innocent client.”

Fatal Convictions is one of those can’t put down books. Just when you think you have it figured out, the author throws another sucker punch that leaves you thinking. Many moral questions are raised as the book goes on. After the 9/11 attacks, America has been on guard against terrorists and because of that, it’s difficult to avoid racial profiling. In the case of Khalid Mobassar, prominent Muslim leader, can the courts stand by their mantra of innocent until proven guilty? I believe it’s definitely tested to the max.

The reminder that I came away with after finishing this book, is that you can’t lump everyone of the same people group into one category. It’s simply not fair. I am again reminded of that dreadful day on September 11th. I was in route to a Muslim nation when those attacks happened. I was scared out of my mind and that fear grew when I looked around the plane and saw we were the only Americans on there. My fear grew into surprise and gratitude once I reached my destination.  I was met with such sincere sympathy at what had been done to my home country.

This book is an excellent read.  It was definitely one of those can't-put-down kind of books that leaves you thinking about and examining your own beliefs.  An A+ rating for sure!

Those are my thoughts and here are some directly from the author...
Don't forget to scroll all the way down for the giveaway at the end!

Randy Singer leaning against jury box

 Randy, how did you first come up with the idea for this story?

My idea for the book came when I asked this question: What makes To Kill A Mockingbird the best legal thriller of all time? My answer: Because Atticus Finch performed the highest duty of a lawyer, representing a man he believed was innocent, a man nobody else would defend. Then I asked a related question: What would that look like today? My answer was Fatal Convictions. A Christian lawyer defending a Muslim imam accused of honor killings.


How did you research your book to ensure that the Islamic faith was realistically and fairly portrayed?

You’re right, it was very important for me to portray Muslims authentically and accurately in this book. It was also important to show some of the diversity in the Muslim faith.

Thus, the imam whom Alex defends is an ardent reformer (or at least he appears to be). For the nuances of this character, I relied heavily on the Islamic reformers portrayed in Joel Rosenberg’s excellent book
Inside the Revolution. But there’s also a main character in Fatal Convictions named Hassan Ibn Talib, who is a committed Islamic radical. To portray Hassan accurately, I spent time with Kamal Saleem, a former Islamic terrorist and probably the most intense man I’ve ever met. With Kamal’s permission, I patterned the childhood, terrorist training and spiritual beliefs of my character after Kamal. In addition to this type of research, I’ve also spent time in Beirut, Lebanon, visiting my daughter who worked there with a ministry organization.  


How prevalent are honor killings within the Muslim faith?

A lot more prevalent than most people realize. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions has reported honor killings in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom. According to the U.N.’s Population Fund, there are an estimated 5000 honor killings each year. In Egypt, 47% of the woman were killed (usually by a woman’s father or brothers) after the woman had been raped. Amnesty International even received a report about a man who killed his wife on the basis of a dream he had about her committing adultery.

Honor killing has found its way to the shores of America as well. For example,
Fox News recently did a report on teenagers Amina and Sarah Said who were apparently killed by their father on New Year’s Day 2008 because they dated non-Muslim boys. There’s also the case of Faleh Almaleki in Arizona, who brutally beat his own daughter and then ran over her in his SUV to prevent her from dishonoring the family by adopting an American lifestyle. “For an Iraqi,” he said, “honor is the most valuable thing. No one messed up our life except Noor.” Sadly, Faleh’s wife supported him.


Now, you’re a lawyer…and a pastor…and so is your main character, Alex Madison. How closely does Alex’s life reflect your life?

I’ve been asked that question a lot. Other than our occupations, Alex and I have little in common. The church where I have the privilege of serving as pastor is very different than the quarrelsome and disputatious group that Alex pastors. I attended law school (and now teach at one), whereas Alex took the bar after serving a three-year apprenticeship with his grandfather. This is called “reading the law” and is one way to get a law license in Virginia. And while Alex and I are both trial lawyers, I’m not as theatrical and gimmick-driven as he is. I certainly don’t engage in the same shameless solicitation of clients—I’d prefer to keep my law license.


You like to address controversial issues in your novels—the last few have dealt with the insanity plea, gun control, and now, Muslim honor killings. Why do you choose controversial issues?

First and foremost, because I think addressing these controversial issues makes for interesting stories. We read stories with the heart. And when something is controversial we react strongly to it—in other words, it grabs our heart.

But the second reason I pick these kinds of areas is that I want to challenge readers to look at things through a slightly different lens. On controversial issues like these, we tend to construct a lot of automatic defenses and reactions when somebody asks us to look at these issues in a non-fiction context. But stories bypass those intellectual defenses and go right to the heart. And sometimes, by putting ourselves in the shoes of a character in the story, we can see these important issues from a slightly different perspective.

Isn’t that what Jesus did—address the hot button issues, like the legalism of the Pharisees, by telling a story? After all, who do you think the older brother represented in the story of the prodigal son? 


Nearly every person who has been accused of a crime in this country has legal representation, no matter how heinous the crime. How does a lawyer defend someone when there is overwhelming evidence of guilt?

Since I try civil cases, not criminal cases, I’m not confronted with this dilemma. Personally, I really must believe in my client’s case to be an effective advocate. I’ll turn down cases I don’t believe in. But you are right, somebody has to defend those accused of a crime even when there is evidence of overwhelming guilt. And I believe that Christian lawyers can do this without compromising their integrity.

First, by remembering that as a lawyer, you are not the judge and jury. Many times, somebody will “appear” guilty at first blush, even though they are actually innocent. Under our system, as you mentioned, everybody is entitled to an advocate.

But second, for the Christian lawyer, by focusing on mercy and grace while realizing that it’s the job of the prosecutor to focus on bringing this person to justice. Look at the example of Jesus in John, chapter 8, when he advocated for the woman caught in the very act of adultery. Under the law, she was guilty. But Christ was able to save her through a “technicality” (let him who is without sin cast the first stone) and then he counseled her to “go and sin no more.” This is the model for Christian lawyers who find themselves in the same circumstances—advocate and counsel.


One of the things that you have said that you treasure is freedom of religion in this country. What does that mean on a practical level?

We need to remember that religious liberty is always eroded at the margins. This means that the unpopular faiths are limited first. That’s why, as Christians, we need to stand with members of other faiths when people attempt to curtail their religious liberties.

And we should also remember that nobody ever talks about taking away religious liberty, they just redefine what it means. Right now, we see that sharing your faith with somebody else, what the cynics call “proselytizing,” is frowned upon. So political correctness tries to redefine religious liberty to say you can
believe what you want but nobody should try to impose their religion on someone else. That sounds a lot better than saying “no evangelizing,” but it means pretty much the same thing. And so we see lots of attempts to keep people from sharing their faith in various contexts.


Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’re working on next?

My next book is entitled The Last Plea Bargain. In it, I will shine on a light on the wheeling and dealing that dominates our criminal justice system.

Most people don’t realize that 95% of the criminal cases in our country are disposed of by plea bargains. This book asks the question: What if the defendants in a certain jurisdiction banded together and decided not to plea bargain, insisting on a full jury trial for every case? It would overwhelm the system. There wouldn’t be enough prosecutors or public defenders or available court dates. Even the defendants who lost would be able to claim ineffective assistance of counsel or the lack of a speedy trial on appeal.
The Last Plea Bargain is a sequel to False Witness and continues the story of Jamie Brock, a young prosecutor. Because Jamie’s own mother was killed in a violent home invasion, Jamie takes every case personally. Unlike other prosecutors, she refuses to even consider plea bargains. And she has a longstanding personal vendetta against defense attorney Bosworth Tate, the man who represented Jamie’s mother’s killer.

When Tate is arrested for allegedly poisoning his wife, Jamie talks the district attorney into allowing her to handle the case. But when he is confined to jail, Tate rallies the other inmates and they all begin rejected plea bargains. Those who don’t are punished or killed by their fellow inmates. Snitches who cut a plea and get released are killed on the streets. Fear causes other would-be-snitches to clam up. And the criminal justice system grinds to a halt.

There is one way to break the logjam. But for Jamie Brock, it would violate every ideal that has governed her young career. To convict the devil, sometimes you’ve got to cut a deal with a few of his demons.

Or do you?

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Maybe an appropriate place to end would be with the last two paragraphs from my acknowledgments page:

This book is the story of an advocate who stands up for a client when, from all appearances, the man should be condemned. Come to think of it, that’s the story of my life.

“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only for our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1-2.

I hope that gives you a glimpse into this great read!  And now for some fun stuff!  A giveaway!  You know how I love giveaways, so I'm very happy to offer to one lucky reader a certificate good for your very own copy of Fatal Convictions!  But wait, there's more!  You will also win a book plate signed by the author!  To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and make sure I have a way to contact you.  Giveaway will end Friday, September 3rd at 9 PM CST.  Unfortunately this giveaway is limited to US addresses only.  Good luck, friends!

Update...The random number generator chose courtney*adele.  Congratulations!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekending

The back to school grind has started which has provided some consistent routine to our day.  In honor of that, I thought it would be a great time to start up my Monday morning weekending posts!  This was one of those weekends that, at the end of it, you feel domesticated.  Honestly, it's a great feeling.  Several months ago I didn't have the energy to plan dinner, but now I'm so happy to be in the kitchen once again.  Here's my domesticated weekend...

made strawberry jam
look for my easy, 10 minute recipe soon!

strawberry jam

took the kids to their back to school blast
yes, the school activities have already started!

woo hoo!

on the slide

whipped up some pesto to freeze
so thankful my basil doesn't mind this texas heat!

fresh basil

cooked a favorite chicken recipe that i haven't made in ages
yea for fresh thyme from our little garden!

roasted chicken

flipped through my new cookbook that arrived in the mail,
rambling to my husband why this must be the greatest bread cookbook ever!

artisan breads

canned some apple butter,
the smell reminds me that fall is coming!

apple butter

It probably sounds like it was busy, but I loved every minute of it!  I even managed a Sunday afternoon nap.  And you?  How was your weekend?  Tomorrow I have a review and a giveaway, so I'll see you then!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whole Wheat Pasta

homemade pasta

On my birthday post, I mentioned that we made homemade pasta. I have, on loan from my brother-in-law, a pasta maker.  I thought, "Perfect.  We'll just put the dough in, and it will crank out perfect, beautiful noodles."  Not exactly.  I didn't have any instructions and there's none to be had online.  I couldn't get it to crank the noodles out.  It caused us to resort to rolling out the dough and cutting it.  This wouldn't have been so difficult if I had a rolling pin.  Emma G graciously lent us her play one.  It took a while and the pasta was a little thick (it grows as it boils).  I haven't given up on making homemade pasta.  Wheat pasta is so expensive in the store and doesn't cost that much to make.  And, for those interested, we used Sugarlaws whole wheat pasta recipe.

dinner with pasta

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's Hot Up In Here!

It sure has been a hot August!  I think we've only had a few days below 100F.  It's sad when lower 90's starts to feel cool!  The other day we were driving down the road when we spotted this sign.  116 degrees!  Definitely a reminder that summer is not leaving anytime soon... 

116F

Friday, August 27, 2010

What's Your ONE Thing?

With the kids in school, Jeremy and I have had lots of time to talk and reflect.  The other day he brought up a blog post he'd read, a challenge to find the one thing in your life that, if changed, would transform all other parts of your life.  I knew what that one thing was, because God was already pinpointing it.

standing out

I want to live in a more relaxed state.  You might be saying, "Who doesn't?"  Probably everyone does, but here's the deal with me.  I worry (a lot) which leads to stress.  I put expectations on myself that sometimes leads to stress.  I take on responsibilities that aren't mine to take on which, you guessed it, leads to stress. 

one thing...

It wasn't until recently that I realized I've been operating in these patterns for many years.  The roots are deep, so I'm extending lots of grace for myself in this process of cutting out the branches and digging up those roots.  I've been reflecting on Galatians 5:1 this week...

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.


Unhealthy patterns lead to bondage, which is not what Christ intended for us.  So, I'm working on my one thing.  I can easily see how this will transform my whole being.  How about you?  Do you have a one thing that is standing out?  Something that God is pinpointing that will transform every aspect of your life?



Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Home, The Art Gallery

prints above my desk

bedroom prints

The past week I feel like my home has turned into an art gallery! It's a bittersweet thing actually.  The reason for this is because my friend had to close her space at the shop in Frisco.  Since I had prints there, it meant taking them down.  So they made their way onto the walls in my house.  I absolutely love them decorating my walls.  But I didn't want to hog all the fun!  These framed prints are all available in my shop in select sizes while supplies last! 

flower wall

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Knitting for Babes

diaper cover

A high school friend contacted back in May about knitting some items for her soon to be niece!  Luckily, the baby wasn't due until August and I had 3 months to make everything.  Because of copyright laws, I had to come up with my own patterns which is still somewhat new territory for me.

pom pom hat

For this stripey, roll brim, pom pom hat, I used the jogless stripes method from Tech Knitting.  I love being able to stretch myself and learn new techniques that will help me with other projects!

hat with a tail

It was great that I had so much time to complete these 2 hats, diaper cover, and cocoon.  I wasn't rushed at all!  The cocoon looks much better with a baby in it and looks even better with a real baby in it! 

cocoon

baby in cocoon

These were ordered for the purpose of a photo session.  See Hollie's photo shoot pics here.  I personally think they make great props!  You can look for these coming in my shop soon! 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Birthday :)

happy birthday!

I had a great birthday this year!  I absolutely love birthdays!  In fact, I firmly believe that a birth - DAY isn't enough.  No, birth - WEEK is way more accurate.  A celebration of someone's life should take more than a day, right?  I believe so.  Here's what I enjoyed for my birth - WEEK!

jen and jeremy's coffee

drinking coffee

drinking coffee
dinner date with my love followed by coffee

eat, pray, love
and a movie on the same night!  i always say that's a proper date...dinner, coffee, movie...
(you can read my review of eat, pray, love here)

trying on clothes
spending birthday money at one of my favorite stores who just happened to have a 45% off coupon.  love it when that happens!

knitting without tears
added knitting without tears to my knitting library.  thanks, britt!

making pasta

rolling out the dough
making home made pasta together...i really wanted to, so my kids lovingly obliged.  when the pasta maker wouldn't work right, we resorted to emma g's little rolling pin!  memories!

brunch at mimi's

movie time
brunch at mimi's and a movie as a family

cheesecake

veggie tray

mother and daughter
to end my week, i spent a lovely evening with friends where my love made homemade cheesecake (first attempt and it was amazing) and homemade ice cream.

I had a great 33rd birthday!  Thanks for all the birthday wishes!  It was so great hearing from so many friends around the world!

my 33rd birthday
do i look any older? :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day Of School

first day of school 

Today marks the first day of school, but not in the home schooling sense.  No, actually the kids are going to public school this semester.  I guess you could say we are trying every possible kind of school we can. [Smile...]

too cool for school

On the contrary, this decision was one that we thought and prayed a lot about.  Coming back from Africa, I was very confident in our decision to home school.  Of course, most of this responsibility fell on me, but I was ok with that.  The one thing I did not realize was how much emotional energy it would take.  I came back from Africa literally exhausted, physically and emotionally.   

1st day of kindergarten

Since I was doing the bulk of home schooling, we shifted around some responsibilities so I wouldn't have so much on my plate.  That helped some but I just have still felt that I didn't have the emotional energy to put into home schooling.  I felt I was doing good to get through the curriculum for the day.  Definitely not what I envisioned it to be like.

walking to school

So we felt it was right and ok to put the kids in school for this season so that I could better engage this sabbatical and have the time to process.  I'm not totally ruling out home schooling for the future necessarily.  Jeremy quoted me R. Fulghum recently, "The examined life is no picnic."   I do believe that to be true.  It's not a picnic to be in a season of really examining your life.  Why?  Because it's hard work!  It takes a lot of energy.  Now the end result makes it worth it but in the middle of it, it's hard.

at her desk

Quite honestly, we've both been feeling restless.  We've been back in the states for 9 months and we're restless.  I know God is doing things and that there are upgrades happening.  Having an extra 35 hours a week is going to give me more time to process the things God is bringing up.  That will be a good thing.  And, thankfully, the kids are excited about their new adventure.  School is only a block from our house, classes are much smaller than in Africa, all good things in starting this transition.  Thanks for your prayers, once again...

mom, no!
this was literally joshua saying, "mom, no!  put the camera away!"  :)

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