Excerpt: With You Here by Sarah Monzon

Amber seethed. How dare he? Taking away the younger kids’ shoes had been bad enough, but Seth’s actions had only gotten worse as the day went on. Her tongue was near raw with how much she’d been biting it to keep from reaming him out in front of the players. But now the last teenager filed out the center’s door, the required after-soccer tutoring hour having ticked its last tock.

The door clicked shut behind Roy, a shy boy Seth had playing goalkeeper who could speak a marginal amount of English.

Finally. No audience.

Amber spun on her heel, her fists planted on her hips. “Care to tell me what in the world you were thinking out there? The older kids were about to toss their cookies after the amount of running you had them do. And what if one of the younger ones had cut themselves on a sharp rock? We’re supposed to be helping those kids, not torturing them.”

Seth met her gaze with a steady one of his own. His eyes didn’t spark with anger at her accusation, but he did widen his stance.

Good. He’d need it. She’d only gotten warmed up.

“Don’t you think those kids have been through enough? That the world has been tough enough on them? We need to be a safe place, Seth. Not just another person yelling at them and pushing them and telling them how worthless they are.”

“I never told a single one of those boys or girls that they were worthless.” His nostrils flared, the only indication that her words were having any effect on him.

“Not in those words, but how do you think they felt to have a stranger shouting at them in a language they are just beginning to grasp, putting them through the same drill over and over again. Don’t you think they got the message that you didn’t think they were good enough?”

“Were they good enough? Could these kids work together on the pitch to beat another team?”

“No, but it isn’t about winning. It’s about—”

“I beg to disagree.”

Her brows jumped to her hairline. “Excuse me?” If he really thought the most important thing here was a bunch of hurting kids winning a stupid sports game, there was a lot more she had to say to him.

“It is about winning. Not football, but in life. You’re right, this world has been hard on them. Harder than any one of those kids deserves. But I have news for you—life isn’t going to ease up. It’s going to continue to be tough, especially for them. So, yeah, I’m going to be tough too. But I’m not tearing them down, Amber. I’m helping to build them up, together. They need to learn to work as a team so that they’ll have each other when this world tries to tear them down again. Together they’ll be stronger.”

The hot blood pumping through her veins cooled a little. She’d been surprised when little Yara had prattled on in accented English. Four years old and trilingual. When Amber had asked, the girl had said that her baba always spoke English to her and her brother at home. She’d started crying at the mention of her father, and Amber had remembered Seth saying the man had died in the war in Syria. All Amber had wanted to do was scoop Yara up and cradle her to her chest. “And you think your method is the best way to do that?”

Amber couldn’t. She would never be able to bring herself to be steel around those kids. Not when they made her insides turn to mush. She wanted to smooth back their hair and kiss their booboos and reassure them that everything would be okay. Even the big teenage boys that towered over her. They may have scowled and acted tough, but she could see their pain. If pushing them and acting like she didn’t care when her heart wanted to cry for them was the best way to help…well…this would be yet another arena in which she wasn’t equipped to do the job.

“The best way?” Seth turned his body slightly away and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. Is there only one right way?”

Wasn’t there? Wasn’t that how life worked? Black and white. Right and wrong.

But people weren’t two-dimensional. They weren’t a true or false question on a pop quiz. They were heart and soul. Mind and strength. If Seth could speak to one part of them, maybe God could use her to reach another part. Then their two halves would make a whole. She could hope. And pray.

She licked her lips, feeling a little sheepish for laying into him when all he’d been trying to do was help the best way he knew how. “Sorry for…” She gestured between them. “You know.”

He shook his head. “Don’t apologize. It’s good for someone to fight for them for a change.”

Amber smiled, then remembered something. “At the end of each practice I saw you handing out slips of paper to everyone. What was that?”

Color climbed his neck. “My phone number. Most of those kids are in their flats by themselves while their mothers work long shifts.” He opened a box that had been left on one of the tables and then pulled out a striped shirt with a number on the back. The newly ordered jerseys for the kids. He glanced back up at her. “If they ever needed anything or find themselves in trouble, they know they can call me. Any time, for anything.”

Amber’s tongue thickened in her mouth. Moments ago, she’d boiled with how angry she was at the man before her. Now she flushed for a different reason.

How? How could another person have such control over her body?

Biologically speaking, it didn’t make sense. Then again, she had barely passed her high school anatomy and physiology class. Maybe she’d missed something important.

Philosophically speaking, she knew of Plato and Aristophanes’ idea of soulmates. That humans originally had four arms and four legs and were split apart by the gods, forever to seek their other half. And then the Jews had their idea of bashert, or destiny, found in the proverb that marriages were made in heaven. Two souls predestined to be together for all time.

But those were cerebral ideas. Ones she’d learned about in the classroom and could discuss with a certain amount of distance.

This? Her quickening pulse, the tingles she felt along her scalp, the queasiness in the pit of her stomach, and the perspiration dotting behind her ears? These symptoms were not academic philosophies that she might weigh and measure their merits. These were physical displays over which it seemed she had no control, as if her body revolted against the confines of her mind, seeking its own will. And its desire was to draw closer to Seth. To breathe in his scent, musky though it may be from running practice drills all day. To trace the black lines of the tattoo that marked his bicep. Push up the sleeve of his shirt and get a good look at what he wanted to commemorate on his skin for the rest of his life.

She swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump that formed there and get her thoughts back on the right track. She averted her gaze as her face flamed. If anyone could see inside her mind, feel the things that hummed just under the surface of her skin, they’d kick her out of the theology program for sure. She could almost hear members of the older, stauncher faculty quoting verses about thinking only on pure and good things and not falling to the lust of the eyes or flesh.

Is that what this was? Lust?

Shame filled her, causing her chin to fall to her chest. She wanted to hide, afraid her thoughts would be written clearly across her face. She twisted the purity ring around on her finger. A physical reminder of the promise she’d made to stay chaste until marriage.

Her jaw firmed. She hadn’t done anything wrong, so why should she feel guilty? If the deep study of the Bible in her theology classes had taught her anything, it was to study the Scriptures for herself. There were too many personal interpretations found among the different denominations. Conservative. Liberal. Moderate. They each wanted to tell her something different, to get her to believe the same as they did. But she wasn’t a baby anymore, needing someone to spoon feed her doctrines and creeds.

Like a gentle spring breeze dissolving the mist, her mind cleared. In her Intermediate Hebrew course, the class had translated the first five chapters of Genesis together. “Your desire will be for your husband…” The words of God to Eve. The original word for desire was the Hebrew Teshuqah—a rare word that was used only three times in the whole Bible—twice in Genesis and once in Song of Solomon. It meant…

“Longing.” She whispered the word. A God-given yearning between man and woman and between humankind and God.

Not lust.

Not sin.

“Amber?” Seth stepped toward her. “You okay? You look, I don’t know, lost in thought maybe?”

“Hmmm?” She raised her head to look at him, startled again by the pull in her chest. This feeling may be natural, but that didn’t necessitate that it was a good idea to pursue at the moment. “Oh, just working something out in my head.”

“Whether you think I’m a barbarian or not?”

“What?” The last tether to her internal thoughts snapped, and Seth came into complete focus. She laughed. “I don’t think you’re a barbarian. Quite the opposite really.”

He grinned. “Good.”

Taken from With You Here by Sarah Monzon. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

A Carol award finalist and Selah award winner, Sarah Monzon is a stay-at-home mom who makes up imaginary friends to have adult conversations with (otherwise known as writing novels!). As a navy chaplain’s wife, she resides wherever the military happens to station her family and enjoys exploring the beauty of the world around her.

Connect with Sarah through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Excerpt: The Rescue by Tanya Eavenson

“Father, can we do nothing?” Rosalind asked. “Mother?” She looked from one to the other, but they both looked afraid and lost, an expression she’d never before seen on either of their faces.

When they arrived at the house, Father instructed Mr. Richards to find the doctor, and only after several stumbles did they manage to get Mother inside. Mother’s strength had simply vanished, leaving her pale and aged, too weak to even keep her eyes open as they helped her to bed.

It seemed a lifetime passed before the doctor arrived. During the examination, Mother lay still. Too still. Fear surged to Rosalind’s core at Mother’s motionless state. Then another cough raked through Mother’s body, blood dripped from her nose, and Rosalind didn’t know which was worse—watching Mother lie still as death or seeing the spasms and hearing the awful retching. Tears filled Rosalind’s eyes as she stroked strands of soft brown hair from her mother’s face and tucked them behind her ear.

“Do you know what’s wrong with her, Doctor? Is it consumption?” her father asked.

Kneeling next to the bed, the physician wiped her mother’s nose and folded the cloth. “Her coughing is worse. I’m afraid you are correct. She has tuberculosis.”

Rosalind shook her head and ran from the room. She flew down the stairs, faltered into the stagnant night air, and stopped on the porch as reality weighed heavily on her shoulders. She swallowed down her screams. “God, are You listening? Don’t You see? You must help my mother. Please don’t take her. Don’t …” She fell to her knees, sobbing into her palms.

Arms came around her shoulders, and she jerked back, biting back her tears. “Mr. Richards.” She moved from him and stumbled on the hem of her gown but caught her balance.

“It’s all right.” He followed her. “I have your father’s permission.”

She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. “What do you mean you have his permission?”

“We will be married.”

Rosalind fought to understand what Mr. Richards was saying, but the words seemed scrambled, incomprehensible. Her mind a fog. “What do you mean, married?”

“Earlier tonight I asked permission to court you, but moments ago, he gave me his full blessing.”

Surely she’d misheard him. “You asked for my hand in marriage now, while we’re learning my mother is dying? My father is as distraught as I am.”

“Perhaps the doctor’s wrong,” Mr. Richards whispered against her ear. “Perhaps she will recover. Nevertheless …”

“We shouldn’t be … you shouldn’t be alone with me here like this. Propriety …”

He dragged a fingertip along her jaw, then down her bare arm, his expression declaring ownership even as it dared her to argue.

Though her heart galloped, she fought her instincts to flinch. Glover Richards was a very powerful man, she’d overheard her father saying once, powerful enough to harm his enemies. Father must need the man’s friendship, otherwise he would never have agreed. “Why? Why me?”

“I will court you as your father wishes.” A slow smile slid up one side of his face. “And at nineteen you will be my bride.”

Rosalind’s pulse pounded in her ears. None of this made sense. If only Mother were well. She’d never let Father agree to this marriage, and he would listen to her.

She balled her hands into fists at her waist, squeezing the satin lace crisscrossing there—satin meant to draw Trenton’s eye. Yet Trenton was packing his trunk for Texas, even as Mr. Richards’s gaze roamed her hair, her face and throat, and her bodice and cinched gown.

“We don’t have to announce our betrothal … yet,” he said as if the deed was done.

She swallowed, meeting Mr. Richards’s stare.

He took her hand and slid it through the crook of his arm. “Let’s get you back inside, shall we?”

She let him lead her, but her heart recoiled, and she threw a desperate prayer toward heaven. Lord, You must heal my mother and rescue me. Save us.

Taken from The Rescue by Tanya Eavenson. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Tanya Eavenson is an international bestselling and award-winning inspirational romance author. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book.

You can connect with Tanya through her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Interview: Melanie Dobson

How did you come across the true accounts that inspired Memories of Glass? Tell us about some of the research that went into writing this novel.

Several years ago a dear friend told me about thousands of Dutch mining tunnels in Maastricht that were used to hide people and artwork during World War II. As I researched those tunnels, I stumbled onto the incredible story about a network of seemingly ordinary people in Amsterdam who rescued more than six hundred children from a Nazi deportation center during the war. This amazing feat became the foundation for Memories of Glass.

During my months of research, I read countless interviews with men and women involved in the Dutch resistance and then spent a week in the Netherlands visiting all the major locations for my story, including the Amsterdam deportation center and the marlstone tunnels down south. When I boarded a bus to Kamp Westerbork, the elderly driver was so pleased to hear I was writing a novel about Holland’s Holocaust that he covered my fare. Across this beautiful country of windmills, canals, and fields of flowers, I discovered a number of gracious people like this gentleman who were eager to share what happened to their ancestors during the war.

What is the inspiration for the title of your book, Memories of Glass?

In both the past and present stories, my characters wrestle with how to process the broken memories of loved ones who were stolen away from them, and one of my Dutch heroines collects antique glass bottles many years after the war to remember someone she lost. At the end of the story—well, I won’t tell you exactly what happens in the end, but after many years of brokenness, the shards of these memories are finally welded back together again.

How did the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands differ from their occupation of other European countries?

Before the war, the Netherlands had been a neutral country, welcoming many German Jewish refugees across the border, but everything changed for the Dutch in May 1940. After promising not to attack, Hitler’s army swept furiously into Holland and overtook this beautiful land. The Dutch were stunned but consoled by promises that the persecution happening in Germany wouldn’t occur in their country.

A special council—the Judenrat—was formed to meet the needs of Jewish citizens. Even as new regulations were implemented in Holland, many of the 140,000 Dutch Jews believed they were safe because the Nazis granted thousands of exemptions to their growing list of rules. In 1942, assisted by the Judenrat, the Nazis began rounding up the Jewish people and cramming them into a gutted Amsterdam theater called Hollandsche Schouwburg. Still they continued to grant exemptions to elite Jewish citizens until near the end of the war when even the leaders of the Judenrat were rounded up and deported to concentration camps. More than a hundred thousand Jewish people lost their lives during the Dutch Holocaust, but of the twenty-five thousand who went into hiding, including four thousand children, more than fifteen thousand remained hidden until liberation.

You’ve highlighted three real-life Dutch heroes in this novel. Could you tell us a bit about their stories?

Walter Süskind was a German Jewish salesman appointed to register each man, woman, and child forced into an Amsterdam theater for deportation. Across the street from the theater, separated by a tram line, were two brick-clad buildings—a day care run by a matronly Jewish woman named Henriëtte Pimentel and the Reformed Teacher Training College, overseen by Johan van Hulst. These three leaders partnered together to rescue six hundred children from their vigilant occupiers, and the Nazis never found out what they were doing.

Sadly Henriëtte was killed at Auschwitz in 1943 after accompanying her staff and the remaining children in her care. Walter was exempted from deportation, but his wife and daughter were not. He chose to leave with them and many think he was killed in 1945 by fellow inmates at Auschwitz who thought he, a former employee of the Judenrat, was a traitor. Dr. Hulst passed away last year at the age of 107. He knew that I was writing Memories of Glass, and it was a great honor for me to connect with those who loved him.

What is your favorite thing about writing in the time-slip genre? What’s the most challenging aspect of it?

I love to research and learn stories from the past, especially stories about ordinary people who did extraordinary things to fight against evil. In time-slip fiction, I can write a past plot alongside a contemporary one to show the repercussions of an event that occurred long ago. I like peeling back the layers of a family secret to discover the reality of what really happened and how it continues to impact people today. The most challenging aspect of writing time-slip fiction is weaving together the past and present stories so readers will be engaged with the characters in both time periods.

In this novel, one of the contemporary characters must confront a difficult truth about her family’s history and involvement with WWII. What lessons do you hope readers will learn from this character’s struggle?

Ava is shocked to discover the terrible destruction initiated by some of her ancestors during World War II, but near the end of the novel, she is also encouraged to find that others in her family tried to repair this damage.

Through my life, I’ve learned that it’s difficult to understand someone’s actions—a relative or friend—until you understand their journey. Many people, though, are ashamed or embarrassed about their pasts. I hope this story encourages readers to share their own stories and then, with a heart of compassion, be diligent about learning the stories of those they love. The truth, through Christ, has the power to set all of us free.

About the Story:

1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape.

Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life—and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried.

Connect with Melanie through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Guest Post + Giveaway: 10 Ways to Identify a Writer

Guest blogger: DiAnn Mills

We writers can be a bit eccentric, sometimes bizarre, and those who love us may wonder if we need to be on meds. The truth is we’re creative people, and we look at life a little differently. You may be wondering if you’re a writer or suspect someone close to you has the ability to string words together into memorable passages.

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
– Orson Scott Card

Take a look at the following characteristics of a writer.

  1. Writers explore people, places, and things. We want to see how life is impacted by every object placed on and around our planet. We are filled with curiosity and love to explore the world.
  2. Some of us have a difficult time paying attention because we are always in our creative writing mode. Our minds wander, so our responses to questions are often quirky. It’s not that we don’t care what is happening. The possibilities dancing in our mind is more powerful than reality.
  3. We wear our emotions like a model wears a designer outfit. Many life experiences hit us in our tear ducts.
  4. I’m an early morning riser. While the rest of the world is sleeping, I’m wired to write while the sun is thinking about what it wants to do for the day. Some writers treasure late nights. They don’t come alive until the sun goes down. We focus when our minds work best.
  5. We’d rather listen and watch what is going on instead of being the center of attention. Time speeds past us, and we are oblivious to the rest of the world. Actually, we prefer it that way.
  6. We’re comfortable in our own skin. Our minds are filled with nonfiction topics or characters from our stories, and we can choose with whom we want to spend our hours.
  7. It’s personal. It’s who we are. The beauty of the written word gives us purpose. Yet sometimes we are melancholy.
  8. We manage life on our own time. Change is great when it’s our idea, but not when it comes from someone else.
  9. We scribble outside the lines, blend colors, and allow possibilities to embrace our minds and heart. Play is vital mental health, and truth matters instinctively.
  10. We imagine ourselves in other worlds, and we fit just fine.

There you have my 10 ways to identify a writer. Or perhaps you’re creative in other areas. What is an identifier for you?

Comment below and be entered in a random giveaway for a personalized copy of Fatal Strike.

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About the Story:

There’s a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. Authorities have reasons to believe the Veneno gang is behind the hits, and FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down those responsible. Their best lead is an eyewitness who identifies a young man dumping the third body on a church doorstep. But their suspect has gone into hiding, and those closest to him are reluctant to reveal anything that might help investigators find him.

As Leah and Jon check connections among the victims and dig deeper into motives, they discover appearances may be deceiving. Someone is desperate to keep their secrets hidden, and Leah and Jon must face their greatest fears in order to stop the next fatal strike.

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About the Author:

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

Connect with DiAnn through her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Interview: Janice Cantore

How do you expect Cold Aim, the final book in your Line of Duty series, to resonate with your readers?

Besides the spiritual message that God can be trusted even in the most difficult situations, one of the things I wanted to bring out had to do with human trafficking. Yes, the book is fiction, but the problem of human trafficking is very serious. Young girls in all walks of life are targeted, not unlike in the manner my bad guy Ice uses in the story. They seek to separate children from their parents, at first in an apparently nonthreatening way. When the threat arises, it’s too late for the child. Parents need to be vigilant. Keep your children close and your eyes open.

Cold Aim delves into the mystery surrounding a twenty-five-year-old murder case. Can you share some of the real-life experience and research that went into crafting the plot of this novel?

I’ve always been fascinated by cold cases. In Long Beach, there were a couple of long-cold murder cases where officers were killed and their killers never caught. One was shot and killed in his driveway as he got home from work. My prayer is that the killer will be caught, someway, somehow. In my novels, my imagination can dream up ways for cold case killers to be brought to justice.

What lessons does the Line of Duty series teach about the importance of strong communities?

Disasters like fires can happen anywhere. Last year just about the whole town of Paradise, California, burned to the ground. It’s people pulling together in community that helps those suffering from great loss. Many people escaped the fire with only what they were wearing, and the community came together. People helping one another with the loss, with rebuilding, buffers the lost and helps everyone move forward.

There’s a contrast between your two main characters, Tess and Oliver. How are they unique, and how do they complement each other?

God gives us all some measure of gifts. One theme working in my head was the contrast between Tess’s and Oliver’s giftings: she can see the need for swift justice—she is the law—while Oliver always looks at things with the heart of a pastor—he is grace. We all need a little bit of both.

Now that you’ve finished this series, can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?

I’m working on a new book with a new main character. It deals with trusting God when you don’t want to or when you don’t understand why you’re going through what you’re going through. The law enforcement topic is domestic abuse, and the police officer finds herself on the wrong side of the victim/protector wall.

About the Story:

Police Chief Tess O’Rourke’s small town is still reeling from a devastating fire when the FBI asks for help: Could she shelter a witness in a high-profile human trafficking case? Initially reluctant to put the townspeople of Rogue’s Hollow at risk, Tess is swayed after she sees Pastor Oliver Macpherson’s genuine conviction to rescue those in need, a trait in him she’s coming to love more each day.

Tess’s fledgling faith is tested when crews of workmen from out of town come in to assist with the fire cleanup and she worries that one of these strangers might shine a light on things best kept hidden. Neither she nor Oliver knows that Rogue’s Hollow is already home to a suspect from a twenty-five-year-old murder case . . . and someone is taking cold aim at those Tess is sworn to protect.

Connect with Janice through her website, Facebook, and Twitter.