Sunday, May 16, 2010

Almost Forever; Wildflowers of Terezin

Almost Forever

by Deborah Raney

"...beautifully written and enthralling...made my heart sing, dance, cry, and turn more than a few flips!"
––Cindy Woodsmall, New York Times best-selling author

"As a fan of the very talented Deborah Raney, I expected a great read and I got it in the richly emotional Almost Forever, a story of faith, forgiveness and redemption. It began with a gripping scene and proceeded to hold me enthralled to the end. Don't miss this one!"
––Karen Young, author of Blood Bayou and Missing Max

Unearthing a lost memory may cause her to lose everything she holds dear… But could it also set her free?

Volunteer Bryn Hennesey was there at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter the night five heroic firefighters died at the scene. Among them was her husband, Adam. Now a terrifying absence of memory has her wondering if she might, in some way, be responsible.
Garrett Edmonds' wife, Molly, was the only female firefighter to perish in the blaze. He was supposed to protect the woman he loved…now she's the one who's died a hero. How can he go on in the face of such unbearable loss?

And what started the fire that destroyed the dreams and futures of so many? Investigators are stumped. But someone knows the answer….
Bryn drew the queen of diamonds from the stack of playing cards on the wobbly table between her and Charlie Branson. The grizzled Vietnam vet eyed her from his wheelchair as she discarded an ace. She put on her best poker face and pretended to rearrange her hand. From somewhere behind the peeling paint on the west wall, the pipes clanked in the bowels of the old hospital-turned-homeless-shelter and the furnace kicked on. Not that it would raise the temperature in this mammoth icebox by one degree, but something about the hiss of radiators was comforting.

Charlie pulled a card from the tattered deck and flung it away too quickly. He must be close to going out. Good. It was two in the morning, and Bryn was hoping to catch a few hours of sleep before it was time to get breakfast going for the shelter's residents.
Her husband's twenty-four-hour shift at the fire station ended tomorrow. Adam had said something about taking her to a matinee, and he'd be suspicious if she fell asleep during the movie. Of course, his invitation had come before their big fight. Knowing him, he'd still be brooding and they would stay home and sulk––or argue.
She shifted in the chair and rubbed the small of her back. She'd foregone sleep to stay up and play cards with Charlie in an effort to settle him down. He and the new guy had gotten into it again, and Charlie had been too worked up to sleep. He'd balked at her suggestion to read, but she knew the real truth––he was lonely. Just needed someone to sit with him.

Bryn had met Charlie at the library where she worked part-time. He was the most well-read man she knew, a fact that endeared him to Myrna Eckland, the library director at Hanover Falls' public library. Myrna had given Charlie a few odd jobs in exchange for the right to spend his days reading in a quiet corner of the stacks before wheeling to the shelter each evening––after securing his word that he wouldn't miss his daily shower, of course.

Bryn slid the jack of diamonds from the draw pile and discarded it, but something made her stop and listen. Somewhere above them she heard an out-of-the-ordinary noise. She looked at Charlie. "Did you hear that? Shhh…"

He put his free hand to his ear but shook his head. "I don't hear anything, sis, but that don't mean nothin'. My ears are no good." He craned his neck toward the hallway, listening again. "It's not the dogs, is it?"
Zeke Downing, a new client at the shelter, had brought a bulldog pup named Boss with him when he checked in two weeks ago. The pup had nipped at Charlie's dog, Sparky, the first day Zeke was here and Charlie had gone ballistic.

Sparky was a stray that Susan Marlowe, the shelter's director, let the old vet claim. Susan made Charlie keep the dog chained outside and buy its food out of his VA disability pension. But Charlie loved the mutt, a Labrador mix. Any friend of Sparky's was a friend of Charlie's, and any enemy of Sparky better watch out.
More than once, Zeke and Charlie had almost come to blows over the dogs. Bryn thought Sparky could take Boss without much effort, but Zeke was able-bodied and twice the size of Charlie. It would not be a pretty picture if the two men ever actually duked it out.
Charlie's eyes narrowed. "So help me, if that SOB let that mutt loose again…"
"Charlie…" She shook her head and feigned a stern look. "You'd better not let Susan hear you use that kind of language."
"What? Mutt's not a bad word."
"You know what I mean." His smirk made it hard not to laugh. Bryn was mostly teasing, but Susan did have a zero-tolerance policy when it came to cursing.
"I didn't actually say anything."
"Yeah, but you know Susan…even initials are pushing it with her."
He rolled his eyes and fanned out his cards.

"I don't think Zeke's even here tonight." She held up a hand, listening for the sound again. "Besides, it doesn't sound like dogs. Maybe it's just a siren, but it sounds different...more like a squeal. You don't have a battery going out in your hearing aid, do you?"
Charlie laid down his cards, put his thick pinky finger to his ear, and twisted. "That better?"
She shook her head. "I still hear it."
"This old building has so many creaks and groans I'm surprised anybody can sleep here. That's the only good thing about these blame things"––he adjusted the other hearing aid––"I can just turn 'em off."
The noise didn't sound quite like distant sirens, but nevertheless, she shot up a quick prayer for her husband the way she always did when she knew he might be out on a run. Guilt pinched her. Adam wasn't even supposed to be on duty tonight. He was only there because she'd talked him into pulling an extra shift. Ironic, given all the grief she'd thrown at him about the long hours he worked.
With Adam being low man on the totem pole, he always had to work holidays, and too many weekends. Sometimes Bryn wondered why they'd even bothered to get married if they were never going to be together. She thought she would go crazy if she had to spend one more long night alone in their little cracker box of a townhome. That was the whole reason she'd started volunteering here, taken the night shift. And how much worse would it be when they had kids?
The faint noise droned on. She looked at the stained ceiling. "It almost sounds like it's coming from upstairs."
Charlie shook his head and a glint of mischief came to his eyes. "Listen, girlie, if you're just trying to weasel your way out of this game, you can forget it." He drew another card and wriggled bushy eyebrows at her. "I'm about to clean your clock."

DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her 20th novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Almost Forever, first in her new Hanover Falls Novels series, will release in May from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. They are new empty nesters with four grown children and two precious grandsons, all of whom live much too far away. Visit Deb's website at
© 2010 Deborah Raney
Published by Howard/Simon & Schuster
Do not reprint without permission


Wildflowers of Terezin

by Robert Elmer

In Denmark's darkest days, is it duty, faith… or love? Historical fiction from Abingdon Press.
When nurse Hanne Abrahamsen impulsively shields Steffen Petersen from a nosy Gestapo agent, she's convinced the Lutheran pastor is involved in the Danish Underground. Nothing could be further from the truth. But truth is hard to come by in the fall of 1943, when

Copenhagen is placed under Martial Law and Denmark's Jews—including Hanne—suddenly face deportation to the Nazi prison camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia. Days darken and danger mounts. Steffen's faith deepens as he takes greater risks to protect Hanne. But are either of them willing to pay the ultimate price for their love?

"Elmer's work is… unaffected and genuinely heartfelt…" —Publisher's Weekly

chapter 1:

Bispebjerg Hospital, København
Friday morning, 17 September 1943

"I live in a crazy time." —Anne Frank
Hanne Abrahamsen awoke with a start in the middle of a bad dream, something about being in nursing school once again and a man who looked like Adolf Hitler (but with the face of a codfish) announcing at her graduation that she was a Jew, and didn't everyone already know that? The graduation had stopped, and she remembered wanting desperately to escape but not being able to move.
Hanne had never thought much about dreams, or cared. Until now.
Somewhere outside her window she heard what had awakened her: a line of cars and trucks roaring through the narrow streets of København, on their way to the devil's business. And even louder at this time of the morning, when the only ones awake were the skrallemænd, emptying garbage.
She shivered and pulled up the covers to her chin, but couldn't put away the feeling that something was not right. It was not the first time she'd heard German vehicles at odd hours, so maybe it was just the dream. Still, she slipped out of bed to check the window that faced Tuborgvej. Of all the nurses' apartments on the Bispebjerg Hospital campus, hers commanded the best, and sometimes the noisiest, view of the city. She shivered at the September predawn chill, reaching the window in time to peek through the heavy blackout shade and see a pair of brake lights flash as a vehicle careened around the corner.
"Well, they're in a hurry, aren't they?" she mumbled, pushing at the upper pane of her window to keep out the draft.
A Dane? Not likely. No dansker would dare make so much noise at this time of the morning—especially not after all the troubles and tension they'd seen here in Copenhagen over the past several months. After the strikes and all the troubles this past summer, no one wanted to make themselves a target.
No, she'd heard German vehicles—and then another truck screeching around the corner confirmed what she's feared. This one carried armed soldiers in back, holding on for dear life. This could only mean that the Germans had stepped up their campaigns against the Danish Underground—and that they were flexing their muscle in an early morning raid somewhere in the city.
Hanne drew back as the little cuckoo on the wall of her kitchen sounded four… five… six times.
"Too early, my cuckoo friend," she told the clock with a sigh. "Though I suppose I needed to get up for the morning shift, anyway."
But she stood there, shivering in her nightgown and bare feet, unable to move and unable to forget her dream—or the nightmare outside her window.
* * *
Here's the fine print: ©2010 Robert Elmer – Abingdon Press, Trade Paperback, $13.99 • ISBN 978-1-4267-0192-4
Available at your local Christian bookstore, wherever good books are sold, or online at Just paste this link into your browser if it doesn't take you there immediately:
Please be sure to visit Robert's website: to learn more about his writing. And finally, please do not reproduce this chapter without permission, but that goes without saying. Enjoy!

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