#Excerpt #Giveaway: 'Fireweed' by Terry Bohle Montague

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Lisel Spann has dreamed only of wonderful things in her future. Living with her father, sister, and brother in a cramped apartment in Berlin, the small family shares what seems to be an unbreakable spirit of love and security. However, with the rise of the Nazi party and approaching dark clouds of war, any kind of future grows increasingly uncertain. Knowing little of hate and destruction, Lisel is ill prepared as the storms of battle erupt in full fury and loved ones are taken from her as her beautiful city is reduced to rubble.

With fear and despair rising within, it is through her quiet, compassionate father that Lisel discovers faith and hope. Now, in a desperate journey to find her sister, Lisel and her neighbor flee Berlin and the advancing Russians for Frankfurt, a city under the protection of the Allies. But their flight to safety is filled with pain, hunger, and terror. However, with spiritual lessons and blessings from her father, the support of departed loved ones, and her tried but undying faith in a loving Heavenly Father, perhaps Lisel can emerge like the fireweed—rising strong and beautiful from scorched earth —transforming bitterness and despair into a charity that never faileth.



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When I was about three, my mom said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think she was expecting me to say, “A mommy, like you.”  Instead, I popped off with, “I want to be a writer.” I can still remember her face.  She said, “Well, don’t you think you need to learn to read first?” 
I didn’t think so.


Terry Bohle Montague is a BYU graduate and a free-lance writer, having written for television, radio, newspaper, and magazines including The Ensign and Meridian Magazine.  She has also been published as the author of book length historical non-fiction and fiction.
Her non-fiction work includes the book, Mine Angels Round About, the story of the LDS West German Mission evacuation of 1939 which occurred only days before the Nazi invasion of Poland. 
Her LDS fiction, Fireweed, is loosely based on her interviews with the evacuated West German missionaries and their families.
Terry studied with Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham, as well as David Farland. Her writing awards include those from LDS Storymakers, Idaho Writers’ League, and Romance Writers of America.

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Excerpt


Lisel sat in the blackness with a half dozen other workers, either leaving their workplace late or going early. All of them expressed surprise the bombers would come over at such an hour. Several said someone set off the sirens by mistake, that they would not have to wait long for the all clear. Someone else, an older, faded-looking woman who had come in after Lisel, sighed heavily. “How much longer can this war go on? I am so tired of the whole thing.”
A tall, paunchy man from the corner answered her. “It will not be long now. Those British have about had it. In a few weeks, they will be begging us for peace. A few more weeks and it will be all over. You will see.”
From overhead came the thundering sounds of the antiaircraft guns. Then cannon from the chasers. Lisel clapped her hands over her ears.
A nearby explosion shook the earth around and beneath the shelter. Lisel was thrown from her seat. She heard the crack of wood and masonry as the walls twisted with the force. Someone screamed. Someone called out in prayer. Dust swirled in the clouds that choked. Underscoring the commotion came the hiss of severed pipes. Lisel smelled the sharp, piercing odor of gas. A rumble near the stairway spewed more dust. Lisel gagged on the contaminated air. It was truly the end. The building above her was collapsing. She would die, crushed to death, in the dark, buried beneath this building with people she did not know. For the first time in weeks, she cried out in prayer. Not for rescue, not for mercy, but in bitter questioning, “Why?”
“Gas! It is gas!” Lisel recognized the tall man’s voice. A new dread shot through her. Lisel scrambled to her feet and reeled toward the stairway, her hands over her mouth and nose. She collided with someone in the dark. Someone else pushed her. Lisel pushed back and fought her way over the heap of crumbing rubble that blocked the way to the stairs. From behind, someone shoved her forward and she stumbled. The smell of gas came stronger.
Lisel gained the stairs, lost her grasp on the twisted, splintered railing and groped for the wall. The man ahead of her broke through the door into the early morning and Lisel followed. The cold air hit her lungs like ice water. The atmosphere smelled of smoke and Sulphur and stung her nose and burned her eyes. She ran into the street. The dawn was a dirty yellow.
Lisel felt something fall into her hair and something else pelted her shoulder. Her first thought was that it was hailing. Then she realized it was not hail but ash and flaming cinder and shards of metal shrapnel falling from a burning sky. With freshened fear, Lisel ducked her head, threw her arms over her hair and sprinted down the street toward the railway station. The distance seemed miles and miles. Sparks eddied around her like tiny, flitting, orange birds. A smoldering cinder fell against the skirt of Lisel’s coat and she slapped at it with her bare hand, sobbing between gritted teeth with fear and anger. Fear for her life and anger because the cinder had left a black hole in the aged-thin wool of her only coat. Lisel ran on, over the slick, uneven cobblestones.
A shout brought up Lisel’s head and she saw, in a recessed doorway, three people, their faces turned toward her in expectation. One beckoned. Lisel swerved and pitched toward them. They reached for her. Lisel felt their hands on her arms, pulling her into the doorway. One banged her back with the flat of his hand, putting out sparks that scorched her coat.
An explosion shook the sky. The four cowered farther into the doorway and covered their faces. Lisel’s breath burst in and out of her lungs. Whether from the exertion of running or the fear, she did not know. Both were the same.
“She is a German,” one of them said. Lisel heard the loathing in the man’s voice. Then she heard him spit and felt the splatter near her foot. She turned and looked into the grim faces of her rescuers. The shaved heads, stubby beards, and pallid skin of the two men made them look almost identical. Their pale eyes blazed at her with the same identical hatred. They wore the badge of the Polish slave laborers, a purple “P” over a yellow diamond.
“So she is German.”  The woman shrugged.  “She looks as bad as we do.”
The woman also wore the letter on the front of her coat.  She might have been a little older than Lisel.  It was hard to tell. Her face was gaunt, her complexion jaundiced and flaky.
“I say we turn her out,” the first man snarled.  The anger in his face was as hot as the swirling sparks. “Did the Germans allow us shelter during the raids? Why should we share ours with one of them? I say we turn her out.”
Lisel glanced out to the street, to the hail of shrapnel and flaming cinder.  A nearby fire stained the morning sky with red. And in the distance, black smoke rose in rounded masses until it looked like some blossoming, poisonous flower. Lisel gritted her teeth and clenched her fingers into her palms. They would have to fight her to put her out in that.
“Turn her out? Is that all?” the other man closed in on Lisel so he blocked her from the street. “What satisfaction is there in merely turning her out? I say we give these Nazis what they have given to us.” He grinned, showing a row of blackened, decayed teeth.  “When they find her body, they will think she was killed in the air raid.”
The threat brought Lisel to herself she had just clawed herself out of a collapsing building and run through a street raining with death. She had spent several weeks, unsheltered, in a room of shattering glass and the last year huddling in an air raid shelter.  Death no longer held the threat it once had. From this moment, she was no longer frightened. Only contemptuous.
Lisel drew herself up and face the Pole. “It would take more than a couple of scarecrows like you to kill me, she sneered.
The Pole blinked his surprise. Then his face twisted. He took a step toward Lisel, his claw-like hands reaching for her face.
“Stop it!” the Polish woman commanded. She clutched at the man’s arm.  “If you act like a Nazi, you become a Nazi.”
The hatred in the man’s eyes burned and his long, loose lips drew back in a snarl. “Nazis deserve no compassion.”
“But because of the Nazis, the Poles understand compassion. Therefore, we can be more generous with it,” the woman came back softly.


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Comments

Terry said…

Thank you so much, Penny, for hosting Fireweed today.

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