Just Sit Back and Read :)

For fun this week, I thought I’d let you all have a look at the first part of my short story published in the anthology Out Of The Storm.

Fire in a Storm

USSR, 1934

The stained glass shattered as the brick met the image of Christ, his hand raised to calm a storm. Shards sprayed the air, and Pavel Kozlov stepped back, wiping the mud from his palm. Lightning illuminated the century-old church, followed almost instantly by thunder. Pistol gripped, he mounted the steps. The large double doors at first refused him and he fired several rounds into the lock, leaving only twisted metal and splinters. He pushed his way in, his commander in his wake. Two other officers were stationed near the door at the rear to make sure no one slipped out.

Pavel’s boots echoed as he walked to the center of the Nave. The vast space was illuminated only by the flickering of several candles on the altar. He removed his cap and mopped the water from his face. Why did they have to do this tonight? Not that there was any option but to follow any order given him. His father’s connections had placed him among the NKVD, the Soviet Union’s secret police, and he had yet to prove himself.

“Perhaps they’ve already left.” His voice resonated off the vaulted ceiling.

“There’s one way to be sure.” Kupiev, his commanding officer, strode to the front of the chapel and took a candle. Then leaned it into a gathering of velvet drapery. The flame took to it, racing up the fabric.

What are you doing? Pavel clenched his hands. They were doing what was necessary. He had to learn to distance himself from sentiment. This wasn’t simply an architectural masterpiece, it was a symbol of organized religion and not worthy of remorse. Still, he hated fire.

Somewhere in the church, a door creaked. Father Anitoly Veselov appeared in the shadows, his priestly robes draped across his shoulders. “We have done nothing.”

“You’ve done enough,” Kupiev said. “We’re here to arrest you and your son.”

“But to destroy the church?” His face reflected the glow of the flames as they lapped at the pillars. Perspiration shone on his brow.

Kupiev’s retort was silenced by the crashing of an object through glass. There were more footsteps in the hall. Pavel darted past the priest, who leapt at him to cut him off.

“No!” Veselov’s cry shortened to a grunt as a shot rang through the church. He crumpled to the floor.

Pavel glanced back to Kupiev who was returning his gun to its place. “We have our orders,” he said. “Go.”

Yes, they had their orders, but they hadn’t included killing an old priest. Pavel swallowed back the distaste in his mouth as he continued on his course, reaching the hall just as a shadowed figure threw itself through a broken window. He choked on smoke. It seemed their men had torched the back door, and the flames were spreading quickly. Several more shots cut the night, followed by the deep rumble of thunder.

Pavel vaulted through the gap in the window, one hand pushing off of the heavy woolen coat that had been placed over the shards of glass. He met the ground as one of the other officers raced past. The man jerked, bringing his weapon to bear on Pavel.

“Avoid shooting just anyone, please,” Pavel grumbled, pushing him aside. “Where did the other priest go? That was him, wasn’t it?”

“I think so,” the officer nodded. “He disappeared behind the church.”

Pavel sprinted to the back of the building. Shivering as moisture ran down his neck, he pulled his coat’s black leather collar tight. The hiss of light rain meeting fire did little to hinder the growing blaze. He scanned the narrow canal and the aspen grove beyond. Seeing nothing, he crouched to examine the bank. The ground had been disturbed, a hint of grass ripped — probably by a shoe sliding downward. Straightening, he followed the canal to a rotted footbridge, fallen in halves to the bottom. He jumped in, sending up a spray of mud and water as his boots sank into the shallow stream. Pistol ready, he pulled up one side of the waterlogged structure. There was a feminine gasp.

“Anything?” An officer called from the edge of the grove.

I’m afraid that is all the publisher will let me share here, but feel free to visit amazon for the full book. There are some other great stories included. My favorites are The Grumpy Chronicles (an entertaining spin off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Dorthy’s Carol (just a sweet story), and Husband Hunting (western Romance).

Also, feel free to visit my pinterest board for some of visuals 🙂 and mood music!

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The Kindertransport by guest author Johnnie Alexander

One of the several infamous dates of the World War II era is November 9-10, 1938. Known as Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, the horrific event was a turning point in the amount of violence unleashed on the Jewish communities throughout Germany. Synagogues, businesses, and homes were destroyed; people were killed; and about 30,000 Jews were shipped to concentration camps.

An orphanage in Berlin was also burned that infamous night. Thanks to the valiant effort of the British Jewish Refugee Committee, these children were the first to travel to England, arriving on December 2, 1938. Over the next several months, until Britain entered the war, about 10,000 children participated in the rescue operation dubbed the Kindertransport.

These young refugees arrived at the train station wearing a numbered cardboard square tied with a shoelace or string around their necks. Some children had relatives in England or pre-arranged sponsors. Those who didn’t were first taken to camps or hostels until foster families could be found for them. Older youth often went to work.

This quote comes from a page titled “Life in Britain” from the official Kindertransport Association website:

Many families, Jewish and non-Jewish, opened their homes to take in these children. Many of the children were well-treated, developing close bonds with their British hosts; however, others were mistreated or abused. A number of the older children joined the British or Australian armed forces as soon as they reached eighteen years of age and joined the fight against the Nazis. Most of the children never saw their parents again.My Knees were Jumping

When the children arrived at the train stations, they wore a numbered cardboard square around their necks tied with a shoelace or string.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for parents to send their children to a foreign country. Their own circumstances had to be horrific—and, of course, now we know that Kristallnacht was only the beginning of a concentrated effort to annihilate all Jews. Thankfully, a unified effort saved at least 10,000.

The documentary My Knees were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransport is directed by the daughter of one of these surviving children.

If you’d like more information on this valiant rescue operation, please visit the Kindertransport Association website at http://www.kindertransport.org.

Johnnie AlexanderJohnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). Her first contemporary romance, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series; Revell), and her first novella, “The Healing Promise” (Courageous Bride Collection; Barbour), release in 2016.

She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest). She volunteers as a category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis Contest, judges various contests, and serves as marketing director for the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference.

A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area with a small herd of alpacas and Rugby, the princely papillon who trees raccoons.

Follow Johnnie Alexander:

Blog     Facebook Profile (Friend or Follow!)     Facebook Author Page     Twitter     GoodReads     Amazon Author Page

Where-Treasure-Hides-682x1024 new cover

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Read the first chapter here!

Or buy:     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Christian Book Distributors     Target     Walmart

I Stand on Guard!

Happy Canada Day yesterday to all you Canadians, and to those of you from elsewhere…you should know, yesterday was Canada day!

So in celebration of this wonderful day, which was commemorated with parades, eating and fireworks, I would like to share with you my national anthem and some why I sing it so passionately this year.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land, glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee;
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow,
Great prairies spread and Lordly rivers flow!
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western sea!
The land of hope for all who toil,
The true North strong and free!

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies,
May Stalwart sons, and gentle maidens rise.
To keep thee steadfast thro’ the years,
From East to Western sea.
Our own beloved native land,
Our true North strong and free!

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion, in thy loving care.
Help us to find, O God, in thee,
A lasting rich reward.
As waiting for the better day,
We ever stand on guard.

God keep our land, glorious and free.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

Christianity and our beliefs and values are under attack like never before. More and more, especially to the south, we hear of rights of religious conscience being revoked and prosecuted. And this is just the beginning.

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I do pray God will keep our lands free. Free to worship God according to the dictates of my own conscience.

Martha Fern–So much I never knew!

I recently decided — aka last week — that I should write something a little different on Sundays. Something with more meaning than a novel can hope to possess. A person’s life. A real human being who lived and loved and then said farewell to the ones she loved. She said farewell to me. Martha Fern Stutz was my maternal grandma. She lived on the family farm two miles from where I grew up and I spent a lot of time between those two wonderful specks on the earth. She passed away ten years ago in January. It doesn’t feel near that long ago.

As I’ve started researching, or “phoning Mom”, it’s amazing the little things I never knew, or thought about before:

It is hard to say how concerned 33 year-old Joseph Reuben Stutz, and 29 year-old Clara McLean Coombs were with world events, on July 19th, 1914 in the small hamlet of Leavitt near Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, as they welcomed their fourth child. In Alberta, the first great wave of immigration that had spanned that last twenty years was coming to a close, and in exactly nine days the world would charge headfirst into World War I.

Fern, (as she disliked the name Martha and so went by her middle name) came into the world with the help of the local midwife “Grandma Baker” who became legendary for the hundreds and hundreds of babies she birthed without losing any of them or their mothers.

Martha Fern is the adorable girl in the middle:

grandma

 

I look forward to more Sunday evenings delving into this wonderful life that has affected mine so greatly. I’ll share a few of the most exciting tidbits here 🙂

Of Books and Babes!

On the third of February my first publication was released, a story in the anthology Out of the Storm. Exiting, but slightly anti-climactic as I waited for my printed copies of the book to arrive. To save a significant amount of money on postage, I had the shipment sent to the a US address. Because of one delay after another, they probably sat there a full month and a half, their delivery to Canada out of my power. Finally, Saturday, they made their way to my door! I must say, even after a full two months, it’s surreal seeing your words printed in a actual book — a feeling I wouldn’t mind experiencing on a semi regular basis. 😉

 

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But it can’t compete with the euphoria of a delivery that took place exactly seven days earlier…

 

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What can I say…the past week has been a good one.

The Gorgeous Georgette: by Carolyn Miller

I’ve always hankered for an era not my own. Growing up, some of my favorite authors included such notables as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Mary Grant Bruce (an Australian author who wrote the Billabong series, about turn of the century Australian graziers—hello, I am Australian ), and of course, my favorite (perhaps because of her red-haired heroine): L. M. Montgomery. (Fresh thought: should I include a middle name for publishing purposes?)

The writing of these ladies varied, from flowery flights of imagination to pragmatic epistles of life on the land, but their skill in drawing the reader into their worlds made for many a pleasurable hour, envisaging Jo, Anne and many other spunky, imaginative girls from an era so different from 1980s suburbia.

My tastes matured, to appreciation for Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, and others who wrote evocatively about eras long gone. A more recent addition to my library is Georgette Heyer, an English novelist whose first novel, The Black Moth (written to amuse her sick brother), was published in 1921 when she was all of 19! Over the course of her life she published more than fifty books, many of them set in Georgian times.

Romance will always be a popular fiction genre, perhaps because it can be seen as a reflection of the hunger we all share for the God who is Love itself. Many historical romance novels, including those set in Regency times, tend to reflect modern (read: carnal) mindsets, with a lack of understanding of the moral sensibilities of the day. While Jane Austen could write about the times in which she lived, Georgette Heyer described settings and events that happened booksover a century earlier, yet did so with such finesse she could be considered to be one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent experts on Regency customs and language. Indeed, she is considered by many to have created the Regency genre of historical fiction.

Georgette Heyer is said to have amassed literally rooms of research – no Google searches for her! – a fact which further cements my belief in her brilliance. Books on everything from 18th century signposts to snuff boxes filled her shelves, her attention to detail so precise she is reported to have bought a letter written by the Duke of Wellington to ensure she could employ his manner of speaking in the novel An Infamous Army. Commitment indeed! Her zest for period precision is reflected in how she casually refers to events, such as the reactions of onlookers to the procession of Allied Sovereigns, as mentioned in A Civil Contract. Her depth of knowledge was such she could write with astonishingly accurate recall about the mid-18th century adventures of former Jacobites in The Masqueraders, all from a grass hut in Tangayika (Tanzania)!

Whilst Georgette Heyer does not write an overtly Christian worldview as presented in, say, Lori Wick’s English Garden series, her characters still exist within the moral code of the day, with definite consequences for actions. But despite her understanding of social structure and strictures, her novels offer hope, often displaying a form of redemption for those GHborn into unfortunate circumstances, or with pasts they now regret, and demonstrate that love and a successful marriage does not depend merely on emotional attachment, but the daily decisions that recognize the hero or heroine’s flaws, but chooses to love and bless them anyway.

My current favorite, The Unknown Ajax, tells the story of Hugo, an unpopular heir, whose long-estranged family become reconciled to his less than desirable heritage as they learn to appreciate his kindness, his generosity, and his willingness to turn the other cheek. Another novel, Frederica, sees a selfish marquis transformed, challenged by the heroine whose concern for her family overrides thought of her future. A Civil Contract shows how the thoughtful actions of a woman, who knows she is her husband’s second choice, can see a loveless marriage of convenience lead to a state of contentment, an ordinary life, which might not be “filled with moments of exaltation” BHbut consisting of times, not “very romantic, but they were really much more important than grand passions or blighted loves.”

If you want a little more period detail than what is provided by Jane (Austen, of course), and would enjoy some sparkling repartee without seeing any bodices ripped, be sure to check out Georgette Heyer. Like reading Shakespeare, it may require some time to tune your ear in, but if you value historical accuracy, you will enjoy the wit and wisdom of a writer who appreciated the value of love conquering all.

 

 

CMCarolyn (Ann) Miller

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of the Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her novels have won or finaled in over a dozen contests, including the 2014 RWA ‘Touched by Love’ and 2014 ACFW Genesis contests. Carolyn is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

Connect with her:         Website        Pinterest        Facebook

 

Call the Midwives! It’s not just a part of history.

I actually haven’t seen even a full episode of the TV series “Call the Midwives”, so I can’t say much about it one way or another. But with my due date literally only days away (4 – to be exact), midwives, and calling them, have been very much on my mind. I have some great ones, and they also assisted with my last two deliveries. (I’ll share some more on that in a minute)

Historically, all you had was midwives. The term midwife is derived from Middle English: midwyf literally “with-woman”, i.e. “the woman with (the mother at birth), the woman assisting” (in Middle English and Old English, mid = “with”, wīf = “woman”). It’s only been the last hundred years that doctors have become the main facilitators of birth in North America. In many other countries midwives are often still the primary birth attendance, equaling less intervention and ofttimes (in first world countries) lower maternal death rate .

I grew up in a community which had many older occupants who’d been delivered by the same midwife. The woman was a legend. Thousands of live births with no moralities of mother or child.

I could talk for hours about why I love midwives and why I think that for a healthy pregnancy and birth they are the best options, but instead I’ll just share my experiences.

Baby # 1:

Loving control of myself and my life as much as I do, I knew I wanted midwives before I even got married. My new husband, figuring it was my body and respecting my opinion, kept his mouth shut though he remained uncertain. About nine months after our wedding, I found myself about nine months pregnant. The pregnancy up to this point had been ideal and I was sold on the idea of a home-birth with midwives. Unfortunately at 38 weeks my usually very low blood pressure decided to play on the other side of the spectrum.

By 39 weeks I took a drive with my midwife to the hospital to have it monitored. By the end of our two hour session, we called an OB in to consult with. His opinion (or at least, the one he stated) was immediate induction. My blood pressure was pretty high, but I was confident not much was going to change in the next hour or so. Having a home birth planed, I wasn’t packed for the hospital and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast (it was now after four pm). I said I wanted to go home, pack, eat supper and then come back for the induction. The OB didn’t like this idea and tried to scare us into staying, naming every possible awful outcome from taking the extra hour to prepare myself. I consulted with my midwife, who, while not “disagreeing” with anything the OB said, painted a more realistic picture of where we were at and our reasonable options.

We went home.

About two hours later we got back to the hospital and I was induced with a small gel insert (prostaglandins) to see if that would get us started (I was two cm). A nurse helping out paused long enough to tell me I should get the epidural right away because of my blood-pressure, which was sure to rise in labor. I just smiled and said, “No, thank you.” Honestly the thought of an epidural and the complications that often arise from its use threatened to raise my blood-pressure more than pain. (After the birth we told one of my midwives what the nurse told us and she got quite upset that such was suggested as a “need”.)

My body reacted well to the mild induction and by 10:30 pm my body took over on it’s own and the gel was removed. Minute and a half contractions, a minute and a half apart made for a lovely wave across the monitor and my midwife again took over our care. Thankfully! Every hour or so she would hook me up to the machines to make sure all was well with BP and baby, but other than that I could spend my time walking the halls (I couldn’t stand to lay down for long) or hang out in the shower (hot water was just as good as any epidural for keeping that BP down and the pain manageable.)

Around 1 am I finally breached 4 cm and could move up to a labor and delivery room. My water broke half way to the stairs (Yep, I chose to take the stairs to help baby move down). Once upstairs, the birthing ball became my friend (I even fell asleep on it a couple times between contractions and hubby had to catch me!) and the monitor — my mortal enemy. The feel of those bands around my already pained uterus was just too much. Thankfully my midwife didn’t say much when she came back to find it without me as I’d escaped back into the shower. 🙂

By 4 am I stared feeling “pushy” and the midwife checked to find I was fully dilated. Yay! Except, wow, I hated pushing. The intensity of the sensation, and the need of my body to take over complete control was hard on me (I like to be the one in control!) Finding the most comfortable position was the next fun part. I tried several before ending up on my hands and knees, draped over the raised head of the bed. An hour later (though it honestly felt like a half-hour thanks to breaks between contractions), my baby was guided to the bed and I turned around to take him in my arms. Perfect. It was 5:35 am.101_0165

I’d like to say that was it, but probably due to the BP and/or induction, the placenta didn’t do it’s part and the full medical team was called in to keep me from bleeding to death. I’d never argue that Doctors and modern medicine and technology doesn’t have a place.

My midwife care continued for the six weeks after the baby, them coming to my home often in the first few days to check up on me and baby. Their care was professional, caring, well integrated, but most of all, about me and my baby and what I wanted.

Stay tuned for Birth story #2- a natural water-birth…in the hospital.