Destination. . .Italy!
I have absolutely loved the chance to write romantic suspense novels for Love Inspired Suspense, all set in international locations. So far, I've been able to write stories set in South Africa, Paris, islands off West Africa, the Sahara, and today, Fatal Cover-Up
, set in Italy, officially releases today.
One of things I loved about writing this story was that I was able to do research in Italy. (Yes, I LOVE research!) Two years ago, on our way back to the US, our family stopped in Italy and visited Rome, Pisa, and Venice as part of my research for the book. Here's the set up for the story that's set primarily in Rome, Florence, and Venice.Talia Morello moved to Rome for a fresh start—but instead finds herself at the center of a deadly art smuggling ring with everything to lose, including her life. Someone's dead set on retrieving three priceless paintings believed to have been stolen by Talia's late husband. And when his unsolved murder is linked to the bullet that killed FBI agent Joe Bryant's brother during a museum heist, Joe is determined to find out all of Talia's secrets. When she denies any involvement, Joe's gut and heart tell him to trust her. But with the target on Talia's back only growing, there may not be time to uncover the whole truth and save the woman he's falling for…
I've been going through our photos from the trip and thought I would like share some of my favorites with you. And BTW, if you enjoy the international suspense, watch for my next book with LIS will be set in Amsterdam and releases in January, and I'm currently working on Brazil. . .Rio and the Amazon!
So much has been happening the past few months that my blog has been completely neglected. We weathered the cyclone that hit in February, but are still involved in community clean up. Right now the priority is several schools that still need roofs. Thanks to those who gave so generously to the ECHO Project, we are moving ahead and doing the necessary repairs. On top of that my wonderful daughter finally finishes her last exam for her senior year--today, actually. Hard to believe I will have two college age kiddos.
Another huge project I've undertaken is going Indie with one of my books. In June, 2008 the Dallas Morning News carried a story on the atrocities committed against albinos in Tanzania. The picture of a terrified albino caught Lynne's attention. As she read about the horrors these fragile people face, she couldn’t believe that such evil existed in the world. She contacted me and asked if I could find out if the genocide of albinos was being carried out simply because of the difference in the color of their skin.
To be honest, until Lynne wrote to me about the article she’d read, I’d never heard of these barbaric crimes. But after doing some further research, I discovered that what she’d read was true. Once we learned that the witch doctors use the pale skin and hair of these fragile people to make good luck charms and potions, we knew we had to tell their story.
The writing--and recently rewriting--of this book has been a long journey, but we believe the timing for its release is perfect. Because while we live in a fallen world, we believe it is possible to bring light into the darkness. The journey of these characters challenged us, comforted us, and pushed us to live life more courageously. But most of all, writing this story opened our hearts to wanting to do our part to create a world that loves no matter what the color of our skin, education, financial status, or nationality. And reminded us that God's light truly does shine, even in the darkest places. We pray this story will do the same for each person who reads it.
I'm excited to announce the the book is up for pre-order
as an ebook on Kindle. The book will be officially on sale August 1st on all other platforms including paperback.
With today being the official release date of Pursued, book three in the Nikki Boyd Files, I thought it would be the perfect time to share at the first chapter! Happy reading!!
11:24 a.m., TuesdayFlight 1545 from Houston to Nashville
Nikki Boyd grabbed the armrest of the aisle seat as the plane hit another air pocket and the fasten seat belt light flickered on above row 29 on the Airbus. Her stomach lurched at the sensation, rattling her nerves like it had throughout the past hour of the ight.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just turned on the seat belt sign again. We need all passengers to return to their seats immediately and ensure that your seat belt is on.”
Nikki frowned, not amused with the fight attendant’s sing- song voice making it sound as if they were on a ride at an amusement park instead of thirty thousand feet above the ground, flying on the edges of a storm. She tugged on the end of her seat belt, then glanced out the window, where rain slashed against the pane and streaks of lightning ashed in the distance. Flying on a commercial airline across the country should be a piece of cake compared to her day job, where risking her life had become routine. If one could ever call risking one’s life routine.
Shooting up another prayer that they’d make it to Nashville safely, she let go of the armrest and slid out the photo of Tyler Grant tucked away in the pocket of the e-reader in her lap. She willed herself to relax. If she were honest, the constant turbulence over the past hour wasn’t the only thing that had her stomach tied up in knots. Even more nerve-wracking than the bumpy ight was the fact that Tyler would be waiting for her once they touched down.
The plane dipped again, rattling her tray table. The twenty-something brunette sitting in the middle seat beside her snapped shut the book she’d had her nose buried in most of the trip and gripped both armrests. “I thought reading would distract me, but even that’s not helping anymore.”
“You okay?” Nikki asked as the other woman grabbed a couple pills from her purse and washed them down with a half-empty bottle of water.
“I will be once we land.” She shoved the bottle back into the seat pocket. “The next time I have to make this trip, though, I’m going to drive.”
“Hopefully we’ll be through this turbulence soon,” Nikki said, catching a flicker of fear in the woman’s brown eyes. “But I’m sure we’ll be ne. I’ve always heard flying is safer than driving.”
“Maybe, but a lot can go wrong at thirty thousand feet.” She clutched the book between her fingers until her knuckles turned white. “Sorry. It’s just that I was nervous about this trip before I stepped on the plane. Add a turbulent flight and I feel like my heart’s about to burst out of my chest.”
Nikki nodded, wondering how the man sitting next to the window with the military haircut had managed to sleep through the entire nerve-wracking ight without noticing the light display across the darkening skyline outside his window. She icked the edge of Tyler’s photo with the edge of her ngernail, completely understanding the woman’s unease. She wasn’t the only one trying to get her nerves in check.
“Boyfriend? Husband?” the woman said, then shot her an apologetic look. “I know it’s none of my business, but he’s gorgeous.”
Nikki chuckled at the description, but as far as she was concerned, the woman was right. She’d taken the photo of him three months ago, right before Tyler had left for Liberia. As former military, he still wore his hair short. Add to that a five-o’clock shadow and those familiar brown eyes that could always see straight through her, and yeah . . . he was definitely gorgeous.
“He’s . . .” Nikki paused, trying to find a logical response to the question. “Honestly, I’m not sure what to call him. It’s a long story, actually. And a bit complicated.”
Nikki slipped the photo back into the e-reader. She never talked about her personal life with strangers. Or her job and certainly not her relationships. And talking about Tyler was definitely personal. Three months ago, he’d left for Liberia to work with the State Department in an effort to help improve regional stability. That and to gure out how to deal with life as a single dad and widower. But before he left, he’d asked her to wait for him. Something she was still half certain she’d dreamed up. Because not very long ago she would have laughed at the idea of falling in love with her best friend’s husband. Then somehow over the past few months, everything had changed.
“I’ve got time for complicated.” The other woman grinned. “Because by the look in your eyes, I’m thinking you’re already smitten.”
“You can tell that by my eyes?” No. Nikki wasn’t ready to believe that she was actually that far gone.
“Definitely. I’ve always been told I’m perceptive. When it comes to other people’s relationships anyway. My own perceptions of men usually leave something to be desired.”
Nikki laughed, still not ready to admit the woman was right. “For now, he’s just a friend. Well, maybe a bit more than a friend. He’s been overseas the past three months, so we’ve never even been on an official date. I’ve been waiting for him to come back so we can figure things out.”
Three months in Liberia had been the perfect combination of time away to figure out his new role in life, as well as giving him the extra experience he needed that would allow him a foothold into a new career path here in the US.
Nikki’s finger ran along the edge of his photo. And time for him to decide if he was ready to start a new relationship after losing Katie. Something she knew she couldn’t do for him. What she hoped, though, was that after being away for so long, he’d discovered there was a place for her—full time—in his life.
The woman beside her glanced down at the book she’d been reading.“Sounds far more romantic than this story. So no wedding plans yet?”
“Wedding plans?” Nikki felt a blush creep across her face at the personal question. No. They definitely weren’t at that stage. Not that she hadn’t thought about it. When that day did come, she knew her mother would try to talk her only daughter into a large, catered reception in some swanky Nashville hotel ballroom, but all she wanted was a small wedding and reception at her church with family and a few close friends. She brushed away the thought. “No. A wedding—even if it does happen—won’t be for a long, long time.”
The plane hit another pocket of turbulence, rattling the carts in the galley behind them.
Nikki glanced out the window at the darkening sky, wondering if the bad weather was going to follow them all the way to Nashville. The problem was, talking about Tyler was not only personal, it was still new. Something she preferred to think about while she was by herself. And while her mother had a habit of trying to set her up with men she believed to be perfect marriage material, Nikki hadn’t even told anyone in her family about her relationship with Tyler. Which was why saying it out loud made it feel real.
While he’d been in Liberia, they’d stayed connected via Skype and texts. And while they hadn’t exactly skirted around the subject of their relationship, it wasn’t the same as the two of them sitting down face-to-face and exploring their feelings. But she hadn’t minded. Building a relationship that went beyond friendship was going to take time, something she was willing to take. Tyler had gone from being her best friend’s husband, to a grieving widower, to the man who’d managed to completely steal her heart. Completely unplanned. Completely unexpected. And yet she knew for herself, anyway, there was no turning back to just the friendship they’d had for so many years.
She really had no idea what the future held. The only thing she did know was that whatever did happen, she wanted to spend that future with him. But getting to that point—for both of them—wasn’t going to be easy.
If she closed her eyes for a moment, she could feel the lingering kiss he’d given her at the airport the day he’d told her goodbye. Their first kiss had left her breathless and promising she’d wait for him. But the waiting had been harder than she’d expected.
“Is he going to be there to pick you up?” The woman’s ques- tion pulled her out of her thoughts.
Nikki glanced at her watch and nodded as another wave of anticipation uttered through her. She’d been counting down the weeks to his return. Then the days. Then the hours. And now she could finally count the minutes. They’d land in twenty. In another ten or so she’d be at the baggage claim, where he’d promised to meet her. His scheduled return hadn’t exactly meshed with hers. He arrived back in Nashville three days ago. Four days after she’d left for a week of required training in Houston. On the positive side, she knew it had given him time to connect again with his son, Liam, leaving her out of the mix. But that hadn’t taken away her longing to be there with him. With both of them.
“What about you?” Nikki asked, ready to change the subject. “Going to visit family?”
“Now, that’s a long story,” she said with a laugh. “I lived in Nashville for a long time, then moved to Houston because of a guy. I’m coming back to see some old friends and take care of some business.” She glanced at the man next to her, but he was still asleep and wasn’t paying attention to either of them. “Your relationship sounds so romantic. Mine on the other hand . . . well . . . it’s been pretty turbulent.”
Nikki wasn’t sure what to read into the statement. An abusive boyfriend? Cheating spouse?
“Relationships can be complicated sometimes,” Nikki said. Tyler had told her their relationship didn’t have to be complicated, but she still wasn’t sure that was possible.
“Though I am looking forward to one thing while I’m there,” the woman continued. “I’m a bit of a country music fan. I never miss a chance to go to at least a concert or two when I’m in town.”
Nikki smiled, not minding the conversation, but glad the subject had finally shifted away from Tyler. “My brother’s one of the hundreds of aspiring musicians, so I go listen to him play from time to time.”
The plane dipped again, shuddering from side to side.
“I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.” The woman’s face paled as she turned to look out the window. “And on top of that, they booked me in a middle seat. I hate the middle seat.” She leaned over to slide her book into her bag, then groaned as her watch snagged on her red cardigan and dropped into her lap. “Can you believe I just had the clasp fixed?”
Nikki looked at the beautiful detail on the watch. “It’s lovely.”
“Thanks—it was my mother’s, and—”
A deafening explosion rocked the back of the plane before the woman could finish. Nikki’s stomach heaved as the plane dropped several hundred feet. She glanced out the window and caught a glimpse of the forested ground below. This wasn’t normal turbulence. Something was very wrong.
“This is the pilot speaking. I need everyone to stay calm and brace for impact. We’re expecting a rough landing.”
A coffeepot smashed to the floor as the plane made a sharp descent. Someone screamed behind her. Nikki glanced at her seatmate’s terrified expression as she leaned forward and braced herself on the seat in front of her. The man at the end of the row was now wide awake as the plane plummeted toward the ground. Her mind spun, unable to focus. So this was what it was like to die? To watch her life flash before her during these final seconds? Her parents, her sister, Tyler . . .
Her body strained against the seat belt. Funny how she’d accepted years ago that the possibility of dying in the line of duty was high, but this way—a plane crash—this was never what she’d imagined. And why was it that all of a sudden she felt like so many things had been left undone? So many things she wanted to tell her family. Instead, all that was left was a fleeting kaleidoscope of memories of people she loved. Random thoughts of things she wanted to say to her family and friends.
Like how her parents had already lost her sister. How were they going to survive the loss of another child? And then there was Tyler—
I’m not ready to die, God. Not yet.
Nikki held her breath as the ground rose up to meet them. Instead of panicked screams, the passengers around her seemed lost in a state of confusion. As if the reality of what was happening had yet to fully sink in. The feeling of weightlessness washed over her as gravity seemed to disappear completely, and the landscape appeared beside them in the window. Then for a few brief seconds after impact there was only silence.
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BACKGROUND: While it’s hard for us to make an accurate estimate of how many people were effected by the devastating cyclone, what we do know is that Dineo made landfall just north of Inhambane City where we live, alone the coast of the Indian Ocean late last Wednesday, Feb 15th. According to the National Institute of Disaster Management, 20,000 homes were destroyed, with over 650,000 people affected. The city was struck by high winds, torrential rain, and rough sees. There were also a number of schools and health centers destroyed. Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, is now battling to rebuild. Working with the Mozambican, we are doing what we can with funds from the ECHO Project—a part of African Outreach Ministries. We are mainly cutting down trees—many that have crushed home—as well as rebuilding the houses of those in need.
I'd like to ask for prayer not only my family, but for the people who are facing this tremendous cyclone here in Mozambique. The cyclone is a type 2 and so far has ripped tiles off of the guard roof, solar panels off our roof, and a few other casualties. We have very limited remaining electricity and are holding the fort (literally) as best as we can. So I would like to ask for prayers over this cyclone as we know it is destroying houses and roads, causing flooding, and taking lives. We are blessed enough as it is to not have our house blow away. Constant prayer would be really appreciated. - Mariah
|Rural school that lost its roof.|
Feb 16, 8:08 am
We made it through the night. It was a bit scary, but we're fine. Some damage to our house, mainly roof tiles, our hot water solar tank fell and shattered, half of our solar panels flew off the roof, one walkway veranda covering blew off, and lots of trees limbs broke. But many people in our neighborhood--and beyond--lost their roofs, so clearly lots of damage especially with all of the rain. The main cell phone service is out, though we still have internet for now on another carrier. Water is out as well, and electricity is out in places, though we don't know how extensive.
We are planning to organize some teams to send out and help clear roads--lots of trees down--and help with roofs once the roads are passable, (right now our only road out is blocked in multiple locations) we will take teams out to the villages to help as we can.
If you would like to donate money that we will use to help with roof supplies, roads, etc, in the churches and in our communities, you can donate to the ECHO Project, and we will funnel the money to help the community here. Please send us an email if you give, or mark online that it is for Cyclone Dineo Relief.
Thank you for your prayers!!
|Hundreds of tree fell during the storm, especially the cashew trees|
Feb 16, 5:22 pm
Prayer Request: We've got a friend trying to source us some things in another town including nails for roofs and one or two gas chainsaws. With so many fallen trees and no power, this is a huge need. Please pray that he can find some of the things we need to help those struggling right now in our community.
Feb 16, 7:54 pm
Some cell service is back and I have had contact with Frank out in Guinjata. A lot of damage to homes, even to the crops. One lady from the Guinjata church had a tree fall on her house. She is a widow and takes care of a lot of children. The ECHO project sends her food each month to help sustain her. We will be sending food out to her as soon as we can get out those roads. The ECHO project will also plan to build her a new home as soon as we can. Pray for Helena and the children tonight...
|Woman sitting outside their compounds|
Feb 17, 10:15 am
First of all a huge thanks to all of the comments and notes we've received from people praying for this part of the world!
Today's praise is that the sun is shining and we've had no rain. We've spoken to friends in South Africa where the rain was supposed to be extremely heavy as the downgraded cyclone moved across SA, but they didn't get much either. So one, this means people aren't having to deal with repairing and replacing roofs in the rain, and two, we will hopefully avoid the devastating flooding that comes to Moz when certain South Africa's rivers flood.
Water is still out at our house, but I spoke with a neighbor and theirs is on, so at least that is progress. Power seems to still be out in our area as well, though I'm not sure if parts of the city and surrounding areas have it yet or not. Cell/internet service is on and off. We're running half our solar panels--the ones still on the roof--which is giving us enough to charge our fridge (though not 24/7) and keep things charged like our phones, computers, and neighbors' phones.
Scott and David are out this morning with teams starting repairs. They found one chain saw and bought it, but it won't work, so they are still looking. We have a friend who found one south of us, so hopefully he can get that one to us today along with some of the other supplies we need.
Please continue your prayers!
|Flooding in town|
Feb 17, 1:32 pm
Scott spent two hours trying to buy a chain saw and some basic tools this morning, only to find out that the chainsaw--the only one we could find in town for sale--didn't work. Thankfully, a missionary friend three hours south found one and is bringing it to us this afternoon.
They started working in town to salvage a bedroom belonging to several girls in a compound. The girls actually slept there last night, even though there was a coconut tree that had crushed it. They had to cut up the tree with an ax, removed two walls and the roof, managing to safe two of the wall. Now they will clean the area and put in new posts, but will wait for the chain saw to do any more cutting down of the trees in the neighborhood, as it is so much work to do it by hand.
This afternoon, they will start on a couple more houses that were severely damaged. With so many people affected, the rebuilding will take time. Please pray as well for the weather, as it is predicted to rain again tomorrow which will make the rebuilding much harder.
|A coconut fell on the room where several girls slept. Thankfully they were already up when it fell.|
Feb 17, 4:52 pm
Yeah! We finally got our chainsaw. This is going to be such a huge blessing. And a huge thank you to Franco for transporting it here for us!!!
Feb 17, 8:17 pm
The team helped Isaias move his things to his mothers after his house was totally destroyed. With the chain saw, we can now go out early in the morning and start cutting down trees. Also have been able to source nails and other local building materials to help with the re-building.
|The rebuilding begins.|
Feb 18, 7:19 am
I've had a number of questions on how to give to the ECHO Project to help with the rebuilding after Cyclone Dineo, so I'm sharing how below. We were able to source a chain saw for $500 and are finding that even some of the local building materials like the woven palm branches used to build walls have almost doubled in price. Even so, through the ECHO Project funds, we will continue to help as many people as we can.
There are two options for your tax-deductible donation. Use the Pay Pal link below, or send a check made out to African Outreach Ministries to:
ATTN: Greer Yeldell
5401 E. Hwy 287
Midlothian, TX 76065
Write ECHO Project in the memo.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support of the ministry here!
|The gas chainsaw has been a HUGE blessing. We've gone from house to house cutting up fallen trees for people.|
Feb 18, 9:36 am
We have water!! David called early, early this morning to let us know the water was on. There wasn't enough pressure to get to our house, but Scott managed to get about 6 gallons of water from a tap at the edge of our property before it ran out. Don't think I've ever been so excited about doing dishes! About an hour after we finished days worth of dirty dishes, the pressure increased and the water came on at our house! Next on the to-do list is clean laundry! Praising God as well that there is still no rain, which means clean up is easier and our solar will charge.
Feb 18, 6:15 pm
Another busy day! While some of the brothers worked to rebuild a fallen house, Scott and Franco walked through the neighborhoods and used the chainsaw to cut down around forty trees.
|Cooking hut about to fall over after the storm|
Feb 19, 3:02 pm
Despite the destruction, I was so blessed by the testimonies at church. So many thought they wouldn't make it out alive. They shared their stories of how God protected them. One widow had a tree fall on their house. She had to cut it away to get her children out. Then the next room they went to lost the roof. But none of them had even a scratch on them.
Those of you who have been to visit us will recognize many of these places. While we've been in contact by phone, today we went out to visit the Guinjata church. We will take teams out there as soon as we can
|Rebuilding a widows house|
Feb 20th 1:30 pm
After two days of using the using the chain saw and dozens of trees cut down, the blade is already dull! Searching for a place that has electricity who ca sharpen it.
|Flooding in town|
Feb 21, 9:48 am
Here's the team on their way out to the Guinjata area to help a couple of widows in our church there, as well as to help as needed in the community. We've discovered that in town seems to be worse because of the high density of houses. A single tree there can easily hit two or three compounds, while out in the villages the compounds are spread out meaning less damage.
|This is what is left of Isaias' house.|
Feb 22, 3:59 pm
The team headed out again to Guinjata for the second day where they started building a house for one of the widows in the church. Yesterday they put up the frame and today they almost completed all the walls. The plan is to return tomorrow to put on the roof.
While the group was finishing the house, Scott and one of the other brothers worked to cut up a number of cashew trees that had fallen in the compound of another widow. (And BTW Scott's body isn't keeping up with all he wants to do, meaning he's been reminded more than once lately that he's 50 now!)
Scott also received a phone call from a lady representing City Hope Disaster Relief that is run out of a large church in Durban. They are looking for a partner on the ground to send relief, and are ready to send ten food pallets, roughly 20k meals. They also talked about sending a team next week to help, and Scott asked if they could bring more chain saws to help with the clearing thought the neighborhoods, particularly in Inhambane City. Please pray for wisdom as we work out the details of this help.
We also heard from some of the brothers in Zimbabwe who were also effected by Cyclone Dineo. They had major storms, flooding and lightening. In some places people were even evacuated by army helicopters.
|Team that went out one day.|
|Debra after the cyclone|
|Here are some of the girls whose room was crushed.|
Here are some photos of our town the day after the cyclone hit. Trees are down everywhere, and hundreds of roofs are damaged. Still no electricity or water. Please pray for our community and the surrounding villages affected by the storm! We will send out a couple teams to help tomorrow. Pray as well that we can get the supplies we need.
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