Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Fire Is Woken - Officially DONE!


Flight Lieutenant Peter Standish thinks he is unstoppable: until the day he goes down in flames. His body burned beyond recognition, his world in ashes, Peter Standish is alone; except for Julie Knight, a young woman shadowed by her own dark past. Together, they might find courage to face their futures, but suspicion and mistrust worm between them at every turn. When Julie sails into danger overseas as an SOE agent and Peter flies into the deadliest battles of his life at D-Day, their very survival depends on their ability to trust God and each other. Will they get a second chance at happiness?


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That's the premise for our novel, A Fire Is Woken, which we've finally finished! Not by the deadline, sadly, because I came down with a nasty flu which turned into pneumonia, which is shockingly effective at keeping one from writing. However, Ruth did a fantastic job on her end, and the first day I could drag myself to the computer I wrapped up the few scenes I had left, and now IT IS DONE.


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Whew!

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It's been a little under a year and a half since we started writing A Fire Is Woken, and two years since its conception. Seems like forever and seems like yesterday. We've so much invested in these characters; they've been part of our lives for so long that suddenly things are a bit bleak without them. We'll revisit Peter and Julie briefly in bk 3, and again in the Korea novel, but truth be known, their story is told.

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And we're not quite sure whether to host a party or have a good cry! :) But in celebration, today's blog post will be two exciting excerpts from the novel itself! Enjoy them!

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May had come with a bright burst, Peter thought, as he walked from the dispersal hut to the main offices. Grass crushed beneath his flight boots and scattered wildflowers waved in a breeze.

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Peter let the door slam behind him as he stepped inside, and knocked at the Group Captain's office.

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“You wanted to talk to me, sir?”

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Reeves glanced up. “Yes, sit down.”

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Peter sat on the edge of the chair, leaning forward, elbows on knees. He waited while Reeves wrote, the only noise other than the coarse scratch of the Group Captain's pen the buzz of a bee on the windowpane.

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Moments stretched long, and then Reeves set his pen down and pushed his chair back, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “You're heard of the invasion, I suppose.”

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Peter looked at him keenly. “There's been talk of a European invasion for years, sir. Practically since the Blitz ended.”

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Reeves nodded, standing up and walking to the window. Cigarette smoke drifted out the crack, a blue ghost on the spring breeze.

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“It's real.”

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Peter raised an eyebrow. “More than rumor, then.”

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Reeves turned, his face serious. “There's not much I can say, and I've probably already said more than I should. But it's drawing near. The RAF will be expected to play a part, of course.

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“I need many things, Standish, and most of them the RAF is giving me. New planes; new pilots...” He ground his cigarette out in the ash tray and sat down, fingers steepled. “There's one thing I need more than anything else, though. I need good leadership.”

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“Sir?”

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“The RAF wants me to send a whole wing. Most of them will be new pilots. I need someone who knows their stuff to lead them.” His blue-grey eyes sliced into Peter. “I want you to lead them. Through fire, through danger, to victory. I know you can do it. You're one of the old school. You've seen combat—perhaps more than any man should.”

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He sighed and leaned back. “I'm offering you a promotion here, Standish, but it's under very strict terms. I need you to understand them.”

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“I can't say as I understand at all, sir.” Peter shoved his feet against the floor.

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“I'm going to ask you to go into combat, combat like you haven't seen since the Battle of Britain. And I'm asking you to go in with young men who know little to nothing of what they're doing. There's good Squadron Leaders; but the boys themselves...”

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“They'll be green.” Peter understood.

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Reeves nodded. “I'm asking you to do perhaps the most dangerous thing you've ever done. You don't have to accept it, of course.”

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Peter sat back for the first time since he'd entered the office. Images flashed, faster than he could stop them. The old days when they were all invincible. The ones who never came home.

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Broken formations.

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Headstones, but no casket.

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And more recent events. Writing the reports of the ones lost in the North Sea. MIAs over Germany. And the accident at the aerodrome—a kid, barely eighteen, dead.

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Peter's breath thickened in his throat, and he stood up, walking to the window like Reeves had just minutes ago. His Spit sat perched in front of the hanger, and a lone mechanic crouched on the wing, wrench in hand, tuning up the delicate machine.

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She's ready to fly.

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Excitement boiled deep down in him.

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And so am I.

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His fingers ran along the wood of the windowsill, his mind racing away from the confines of the office, to a sky so blue that it made artists paints pale in comparison. Clouds; great piles of white hanging effortlessly above the cities and farms. The roar of the Spit's engine and the rattle of the machine guns. Black and white. Good and evil. Spits and Snappers. Fire and glory.

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Conquering. Riding a red wave of victory across vast expanses of the sky.

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To what?

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Peace.

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His hands clenched tight, muscles straining them into rocky fists.

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For Will. For Mum.

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For Dad.

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He turned from the window. Reeves was sitting at the desk, writing again. The silence snapped, and the scritch of Reeves's pen and the chirp of song birds filled Peter's ears.

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“I'll go.”

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Reeves looked up sharply, and the weight of responsibility crashed down onto Peter's shoulders.

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“You're sure?”

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How sure am I? Peter didn't know. Sure enough that I'm not going to back out. I've got to do this.

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How many times had he said he was going to go back? How many times had he boasted of settling Hitler himself?

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And I have.

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He'd flown against the might of Germany in the depths of night with no noise other than the roar of bombers, Spits, and bursting flak in his ears as he peered into the darkness, nerves stretched tight and and all his senses strained for any sign of danger. And he'd defied the German war machine as he flew high above the convoys in the North Sea with grey fog swirling and the sea rough beneath him.

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But this was different.

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This is it.

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This was why he'd come back.

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“I'm sure.” Peter locked eyes with Reeves. “I'm very sure.”


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Julie turned in a slow circle, taking in the low, long hulks of hangars, the smaller, more habitable structure she guessed was a mess hall. Beyond the buildings, the sun bounced off the length of concrete, a grey slash stretching for what looked like miles in the green field.

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Along the concrete and in the grass planes perched, their airscrews still, their noses pointed up at the empty sky.

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“The planes,” she said. “Can you show me the planes?”

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“How many do you want to see?” The tension slid from his face as he took her hand and they crossed the field. Grass stuck in the toes of her shoes, but she ignored it as they came up under the shadow of the nearest plane.

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“It's...huge.” She squinted up at the wings, enormous over her head.

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Peter chuckled. “This is a Spitfire, honey. Smallest fighter in the service. If you want big, you should see some of the bombers. They're over there, behind the hangars.”

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“This is big enough, thank you.” Julie put out a tentative hand. “Can I touch it?”

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“This is my bird. You can do anything you want.”

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She held her breath, oddly nervous as she reached out. The body of the plane was surprisingly warm, and it gave beneath her touch. A shiver went through the entire plane and she stepped back hastily. “It feels alive!”

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The twinkle in Peter's eye was backed by something deeper. “We like to think they are.”

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Confidence grew and she ran her hand along the wing, stood on tiptoe to run a finger down the sharp edge of the airscrew. .

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“How do you get in?”

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“Like this.” Peter put a hand on the wing and vaulted up. Laughing, he hung down and reached for her hand. “Come on.”

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She hesitated a minute, judging the distance. “What about my shoes?”

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Peter glanced down at her heels, then at the canvas cover of the plane. “Ah, they won't hurt it.”

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She rolled her eyes. “No, I meant they'll slip. But never mind—I'll just take them off.” Kicking the shoes aside, she grabbed Peter's wrists and wriggled clumsily up next to him.

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He put an arm around her to steady her, and grinned into her eyes. “Not so bad?”

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She rose cautiously to her feet, gripping with her bare toes. Beneath her, the plane shuddered like a bird about to fly. A wind swept through the grass and over the nose, catching her hair and blowing it behind her. The sense of freedom took her breath away.

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Peter's hand tightened around hers, and she knew he felt the same thing. For the first time, a thread of understanding ran between them.

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“I can see what you like about planes,” she said quietly.

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“Oh, this is only the beginning.” He turned suddenly and held her gaze for an intense moment. “Wait...wait...I've got an idea. How'd you like to take a flight?”

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Her mouth opened. “How?”

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“That trainer.” Excitement ran across his face. “Only one person can fit in a Spit or a Hurri, but the trainers—they're set up for two people. Usually a student pilot, but the front man can fly the plane. I've got to fly one over to another airfield today. There's not a thing says you can't come along.”

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For one moment, she hesitated. Against her will, the nightmares rose in front of her vision. She fought them back. Peter's gaze rested on her, and his yearning tugged at her heart.

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He wanted to share with her. This was his world, and he wanted to share.

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“All right,” she said, “but Peter, I don't know anything about this.”

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A grin split his face. “You don't need to. Come on, I'll get you a coverall and we'll leave.”

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Julie thought her heart was going to crawl right out her mouth. Rough canvas coveralls scraped her bare legs; her bunched-up skirt offering no protection. Straps across her chest and back bit into her flesh. Peter had shown her only two things when he'd settled her in the hard bucket seat; the ripcord on her parachute and the eject lever under her seat.

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His eyes had twinkled. “If it were Monty flying this bird, you'd need 'em. But don't worry, I'm not so fond of nose dives into farm fields.”

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She could only see the back of Peter's head now, as he adjusted a dial on the console in front of him, then made a few quick hand gestures to the ground crew standing outside the plane. They'd looked oddly at her, but apparently Peter's rank did hold weight, for they'd said nothing.

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Peter twisted to look back at her. “I'm going to start her up. Hold your ears if you want—but it won't be so loud once we're up.” He held her gaze for a minute. “Ready?”

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Her mouth was too dry to talk. She nodded.

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He gave her a thumbs' up and turned back, waving. In front of the windscreen, the airscrew swirled to life.

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A moment later the engines exploded into action; Julie gasped and shoved herself against the seat as a deafening roar filled the cockpit and vibrated every inch of the plane. She clenched her hands in her lap as Peter put a hand on the stick between his legs, and the plane started to move. From her seat, she couldn't see the ground, just the sky and the edge of the treeline, which blurred as the plane gathered speed. The roar filled her ears, pressed her chest till she couldn't get a breath.

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And then it was gone. Air slipped between her surprised lips as the roar died away, the sensation of vibration, everything.

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They were...flying.

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Peter twisted around. “We're up.”

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“I know!” She squirmed against the straps, pressed a face against the glass of the canopy. With startling speed the ground fell away beneath them, the huge hangars and buildings of the airfield becoming smaller than the miniatures in Johnny's toy. “The world looks...so strange from above!”

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“Good strange?”

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“Yes! It's...incredible!”

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She caught the tail end of his smile as he turned back from flying. “Hold tight. I'll make a turn, you can see better when the plane's tilted.”

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She suppressed a gasp when, easy as thought, the plane turned on its side. World and sky spun, the rules of horizon and distance mixing. The plane made a lazy loop, then swung to the other side and looped again.

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Julie started smiling and couldn't stop. This is why Peter went back. This is what he lives for.

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Oh Peter, I understand.

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Before closing, I want to give a shout-out of thanks to everyone who helped us finish this novel! Storytellers, as always you guys are THE BEST. For encouragement, feedback, and support—a million thanks.

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And hey, Miss Ruth Rockafield, thank you for writing this novel with me! It's been the best of times.


3 comments:

Kate said...

AH!!!!!!! LOVE it!

And you're welcome, btw. ;) *is one of the (insane) Storytellers*

Elisabeth said...

How exciting! It's always such a wonderful feeling to complete something, isn't it? The excerpt is great - it leaves you wanting more.

Nina Hansen said...

*hugs* Oh Hannah, thanks so much!

Great, Elisabeth! I'm thrilled you like the excerpts!

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