#TheFirstHostage will be featured on the TODAY Show on Friday, thanks to Kathie Lee Gifford. Here’s how that came about. (Also: novel hits #21 on USA Today bestseller list.)

TodayShow-FirstHostage

USAToday-FirstHostage(New York, New York) — One of the fun parts of being a novelist is meeting all kinds of different people all over the country and all over the world who read your books. Most of the people I meet at speeches, conferences and book signings are not famous, of course. They’re salt-of-the-earth folks who just love great stories, and I love them for it!

Every now and then, I have the opportunity to meet government leaders and generals and intelligence experts and the like who are drawn not just to thrillers but those with realistic geopolitical scenarios. And I always enjoy such meetings.

But today was different. Very different. It turns out that Kathie Lee Gifford, the long-time co-host of the Regis & Kathie Lee show, and now one of the co-hosts of the TODAY Show, is a fan of my novels. She reached out to me last year and we’ve corresponded by email. She also had me on her podcast last year for The Third Target release, so we had spoken by phone. But we’d never met in person.

Recently, however, she read an advance copy of The First Hostage and loved it. Next thing I know, she sent me a note inviting me to come to by the NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center to tape a segment with her and her partner-in-crime on the show, Hoda Kotb, plugging the book. I’d never been on the TODAY Show, and I was so honored that she asked, and I immediately said yes.

So late Wednesday night, I boarded a flight in Tel Aviv, Israel, flew twelve hours, landed in Newark around 4 o’clock this morning, and checked into a hotel in Manhattan to shower, shave and change. Then I headed over to NBC and we pre-taped the segment. It will air on Friday, January 8th, and I hope you’ll tune in, if you have a moment.

The segment itself isn’t long, but I have to say in all honesty that this was the most fun book events I’ve ever done (and we’ve done some really wonderful ones over the years). Both Kathie Lee and Hoda were lovely, warm, gracious, and hilarious. I felt like I’d known them for years, and we had a great time together. Hoda gave me a big hug the moment we met, saying that Kathie Lee is always raving about my books. That was certainly fun to hear, but it was also fun that Hoda just released her own book this week — Where We Belong: Journeys That Show Us The Way so we signed and swapped copies for each other.

Then Kathie and her brother, Dave — a wonderful Evangelical Christian pastor in Manhattan whom I’ve known for several years (and have had the honor of preaching to his congregation several times) — went out to amazing restaurant (Neary’s, on East 57th Street) for a thoroughly scrumptious lunch of lamp chops, creamy mashed potatoes, spinach, corn, and wine from Kathie Lee’s private label. Wow — incredible! Really. I have a new favorite restaurant in New York.

Now, all that would have been wonderful enough. But Kathie Lee, also a devout Evangelical, invited a dear Christian friend of hers to join us, a truly fascinating guy, Chris Clarke, who is a marketing genius from Australia and also produces movies. At the moment, Chris is developing and co-producing a major motion picture for Warner Brothers about the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul  The film will star Hugh Jackman as Saul of Tarsus, the Rabbi and Pharisee who is trying to destroy the early Church but suddenly as a vision of Christ on the road to Damascus and  becomes a follower of Christ and one of the greatest evangelists, church planters, and apostles of all time. Also signed on for key roles in the film are Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. So, as you might imagine, that was a conversation right up my alley. Chris was also interested in my novels and how I got into writing and why I chose to write this particular series about ISIS. I gave him a copy of The First Hostage (which we’ve just learned has hit #21 on the USA Today best-seller list), and, unfortunately, we all had to go our separate ways. It was a conversation I didn’t want to end.

It was a very fun day — a great way to kick off a new book tour — and I just want to say a special word of gratitude to Kathie Lee for her personal kindness and her enthusiasm about my writing and my faith. Five months ago, she lost her beloved husband, Frank, who passed away very suddenly on a Sunday morning, just before they went to church. So this hasn’t exactly been an easy season for her. But Frank loved Christ and is in heaven. She’s comforted by this truth, and she has a true joy within her that I found very encouraging. Please keep her and her entire family in your prayers. I certainly will, and I look forward to seeing them again soon.

That’s all for now. It’s nearly 9pm here in the Big Apple, which nearly 4am in Israel, so jet lag is killing me right now.  But I wanted to give you a snap shot of Day One of the book tour. Tomorrow, in addition to being on the TODAY Show, I’m doing a series of other interviews, including with Stuart Varney on the Fox Business Channel. Please follow me on Twitter for updates.

Thanks, God bless you, and good night!

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