Friday, November 14, 2008

My Sister Dilly
by Maureen Lang

Hannah Williams couldn't get out of her small hometown fast enough, preferring the faster pace, trendy lifestyle and beauty of California's Pacific Ocean coast. But when her sister makes a desperate choice that lands her in prison, Hannah knows she never should have left her younger sister behind. She learns she can never really go back, only to accept the forgiveness God has already extended to both her and her sister. She only hopes she hasn't learned it too late to keep the love of the man she risked leaving behind.

Tyndale House Publishing

A sample of reviews for My Sister Dilly:

"sure to appeal to readers who enjoy compelling women's fiction."
˜Library Journal

"emotionally engrossing."
˜Romantic Times, 4 stars

My Sister Dilly packs a full serving of introspection, love, hope, and faith within the pages of this well-written, smooth reading contemporary novel.
˜BC Books


RAINDROPS SPATTERED the windshield of my car, leaving see-through polka dots. Then they came down harder, each thwack pummeling any remnant of symmetrical design. Instinctively I reached for the wiper. But my hand stopped midway, almost as if it knew before my brain told me movement would be the wrong thing to do. A parked car, across from a schoolyard, with someone inside . . . lurking . . .

Even I, childless at thirty-five, knew such a scenario would attract the interest of school staff or a parent, if not outright suspicion. So what if I was a woman with no record. It wasn't as if we carried that information on our foreheads. Even a momentary misunderstanding would be embarrassing and, considering what I'd come here to do, probably make a news story or two. Hannah Williams was questioned by police today . . .

So I sat. I would have welcomed the cover of rain if it hadn't sent the kids back inside as they waited for the parade of squat little yellow buses lining up to collect them all. Most of the children, the ones who were mobile anyway, were herded inside, but several of those in wheelchairs were given shelter under a wide red awning attached to the play yard. Umbrellas appeared; hoods went up. Children were wheeled out to the ramps attached to the bus, where they were locked in, chair and all. Then the first little bus zoomed off, making room for another just like it to take its place.

I had no idea there would be so many students in wheelchairs. Rubbing my forehead, feeling the start of an ache, I acknowledged my own ignorance. But what else was I supposed to do? I had to try spotting her because I knew without a doubt that was the first thing my sister Dilly would ask. "Have you seen her?" Followed quickly by, "How did she look?"

But there were dozens of kids who each looked around ten years old, strapped to a wheelchair with a headrest. From this distance and through the rain, I guessed the ones with pink or yellow raincoats were girls, but who knew if others in green or light blue might be girls too? I sat there anyway until the last little bus rolled away, never sure of my target. I'd failed Dilly again.

Chapter One

THE PRISON was in the middle of nowhere; at least that was how it seemed to me. Not many property owners must want a facility like that in their backyard, even one for women. So there were no crops of housing developments taking up farmland around here the way they seemed to everywhere else. Not that I thought much about farmland, even having grown up in the middle of it. The only green cornfields I'd seen since I'd left for college were from an airplane as I jetted from one end of the country to the other.

"Are you here for the Catherine Carlson release?"

I looked up in surprise as not one but a half dozen people seemed to have appeared from nowhere. I'd noticed a couple of vans and cars farther down the parking lot but hadn't seen any people until now. My gaze had been taken up by the prison, a forlorn place if ever I saw one. Even the entire blue sky wasn't enough to offset the building's ugliness. Block construction, painted beige like old oatmeal. If the cinder walls didn't give it away, the lack of windows made it clear it was an institution. The electric barbed wire fencing told what kind.

Two men in my path balanced cameras on their shoulders, and in front of them a pair of pretty blonde journalists shoved microphones in my face while another thrust forth a palm-sized recorder. One on the fringe held an innocuous notepad.

My first impulse was to run back to my car and speed away. But Dilly was waiting. I clamped my mouth shut, gripped the strap of my Betsey Johnson purse, and walked along the concrete strip leading to the doors of the prison. There was an invisible line at the gate that not a single reporter could penetrate. But I knew they'd wait.

At the front door, a woman greeted me through a glass window. Dilly was being "processed," she told me, then said to have a seat. I turned, noticing the smell of inhospitable antiseptic for the first time. Hard wooden benches were the only place to sit. Evidently they thought the families of those in such a place needed to be punished too. I'd have brought a book if I'd known the wait was going to be so long; there wasn't even a magazine handy to help me pass the time.

Only thoughts. Of how I would make up for my failures. I'd told Mac, my best friend and somehow it seemed he'd become my only friend that this was the first step in fixing things. Keeping a broken past in the past. Dilly's . . . and mine.

I hope this little peek into the book will stir your interest! My Sister Dilly is available online or in stores everywhere, including Christian Book Distributors at:

Maureen Lang

The Other Side of Darkness
By Melody Carlson
Multnomah Books


"That's not good enough."
I scratch the mosquito bite on the back of my arm and adjust my thick-lens glasses to look up at my mom. Her eyes feel like two sharp prongs probing right into my forehead as if she can read my thoughts. And maybe she can.
"Why not?" I say quietly, then glance away, wishing I'd kept quiet.
"Look at that carpet." Her index finger points down like an arrow at the new orange shag carpeting that goes wall to wall in our small wood-paneled family room.
I look but see nothing other than carpet. Still, I know better than to state this as fact.
"Pull the vacuum back and forth in straight lines. Back and forth, back and forth, like this." She uses her hands to show me, as if I don't fully understand the concept of `back and forth.'
I stand with my shoulders hunched forward, staring dumbly down at the sea of orange at my feet.
"If you did it right, Ruth, I would see neat, even rows about six inches wide. Now, start in the corner by the fireplace and do it again."
I frown and, although I know it's not only futile but stupid, say, "But it's clean, Mom. I vacuumed everything in here. The carpet is already clean."
The family room becomes very quiet now. With the Hoover off, I can hear the sounds of kids playing outside enjoying their Saturday freedom like normal ten-year-olds, not that I mistake myself for normal. And then I hear the familiar hissing sound of my mother as she blows air like a jet stream through her nostrils.
"Ruth Anne!" She bends down and peers at me, those flaming blue eyes just inches from my own. "Are you talking back to me?"
I glance down at my faded blue Keds and mutely shake my head. I do not want to be slapped. Without looking at her, I turn the vacuum cleaner on again and drag its bulky cavernous body over to the wall by the fireplace next to the big picture window, although I don't look out—I don't want to see my friends playing. Even worse, I don't want them to see me.
As I vacuum the rug all over again, I try not to think about my older sister, Lynette, the pretty one. I try not to imagine her at her ballet lesson just now, looking sleek and lovely in her black leotard and tights, doing a graceful arabesque with one hand on the bar, glimpsing her long straight back in the gleaming mirror behind her.
"You are not made for ballet," my mother had told me two years ago when I pleaded with her for lessons. "You're much too stout, and your arms and legs are too short and stubby. You take after your father's side of the family."
And I can't disagree with her when I examine myself in the bathroom mirror. With my dark hair of untamable curls and these muddy brown eyes, I definitely do not look like I belong in this particular family of blue-eyed, long-limbed blondes. Well, my mother isn't a true blonde. She helps it out with her monthly bottle of Lady Clairol, although no one is allowed to mention this fact, ever, and she takes care to purchase her "contraband" in a drugstore in the neighboring town where no one knows her. But she lets it be known that Lynette and my little brother, Jonathan, both get their silky blond locks from her side of the family—a respectable mix of English and Scandinavian.
Jonathan is four years younger than me, but unlike me, he is not an accident. Plus he is a much-wanted boy, named after my father, Jonathan Francis Reynolds. Once while playing Hide `n' Seek at church, I was hiding behind the drapes in the fellowship room when I overheard my mother talking to a lady friend. The other woman commented on how Lynette and I look nothing alike. "Oh, Ruth wasn't planned, you know," my mother spoke in a hushed tone, causing my ears to perk up and actually listen for a change. "Good grief. My little Lynette was still in diapers and suddenly I was pregnant again! Can you imagine? Well, I was completely devastated by the˜"
Just then Jonathan raced over and threw himself around my mother's knees, complaining that he'd been left out of the childish game.
"Now, this one," my mother spoke with pride as she ruffled his pale hair. "He was no mistake."


Thirty Years Later

"It's all a mistake." I wash my hands again, perhaps for the seventeenth time in the last hour. Never mind that they are already red and chapped, or that the skin on my knuckles cracks when I make a fist. "I will call Pastor Glenn first thing in the morning and tell him it's all just a stupid mistake."
But even as I speak these words aloud for no one to hear but myself, I know that's one phone call I will never make. Me, stand up to man in his position? Accuse him of error? Why that would be like taking a stand against the Lord.
Or my mother.
I suck in a deep breath. Everything will be okay. Somehow I will make everything right again. Instead of two, I will pray for three hours tonight. That should help.
I turn to see my younger daughter standing in the hallway, her pale pink nightgown backlit by the hallway light so I can see her spindly legs trembling. "What's wrong, sweetie?"
"That dream," Sarah says in a shaky voice. "I had that dream again."
I gather her into my arms, carry her over to the sofa, and pull a woolly afghan around both of us. "Dear Jesus, please drive away the demons—take them from us and throw them into Your fiery pit. Send Your angels to protect Sarah now. Take away those evil thoughts and replace them with Your good thoughts, O Lord" I ramble on and on, just as I've been taught, until I finally hear Sarah's even breathing and I am assured that she is asleep. I sigh. Once again, I have kept the demons at bay.
This is all my fault, I think as I tuck her back into bed. I glance over to make sure Mary is still asleep in the twin bed across from her little sister. Hopefully the demonic nightmares won't attack her as well.
Satisfied that both my daughters are safe, I tiptoe down the hallway where I pause by Matthew's bedroom. I shake my head as I push open his partially shut door and see his floor strewn with castoff pieces of clothing—jeans in a heap right where he took them off, dirty socks in tight little wads next to his bed. How many times must I tell him to put his things away—that cleanliness truly is next to godliness? When will he get it? I consider going in there right now, doing it myself, but that would risk waking him. And right now, Matthew is going through a difficult period.
Barely eighteen and out of high school, he threatens on a regular basis to leave home. I can't believe he'd really go through with it though. His job at the bookstore would never support him, and besides, wouldn't he be scared out there—all on his own with so much evil lurking about? If he's not careful, if he continues this careless living, the demons will come into his life and take over. And then what will I do?
I must pray harder than ever tonight. It seems the spiritual safety of my entire household is at stake. Maybe it has something to do with the full moon. Or the fact that it's autumn, with Halloween only a few weeks away. Pastor Glenn says the demons are more active now. Especially up here in the Oregon—where nighttime and darkness come quickly this time of year.
I bite my lip as I glance at the clock. Rick will be home from work in less than two hours. At first I hated his promotion because of the new nighttime hours at the shipping company, but sometimes like now, I'm thankful for his absence. And I cringe to think what he will say when he gets home and hears what I've done.
Perhaps I should keep this from him since it will only upset him. There must be some way to make up for this mistake. If it really is a mistake. Maybe it was meant to be, just a blessing in disguise that will unfold later. Whatever it is, I think I can keep this secret between the Lord and me—and, of course, Pastor Glenn.
I slowly kneel in front of the worn plaid sofa, my elbows digging into the familiar grooves in the center of the middle cushion. I bow my head and prepare myself for spiritual battle. I know I will be drained before this is over.

The Other Side of Darkness Published by Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
A division of Random House Inc.

Copyright © 2008 by Carlson Management Co., Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4000-7081-7
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