“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

~*~Ecclesiastes 9:11~*~

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chapter Seventeen, Part One

           Elizabeth started her first job a mere three days after graduation.  It was a job that Sandra had helped her find—a cashier in a small bookstore in the mall.  When Elizabeth had found out how interested Sandra was in helping her find a job, she had been incredibly confused.

            “Wouldn’t making money be greed?” she had asked.

            Sandra had shaken her head and answered, “Unfortunately, the world we live in is all about greed, and in order to survive in this society you have to have money.  You want extra spending money when you go off to Drighton in a few months, don’t you?”

            “Yeah, of course, but…”

            “Then stop worrying about it.  Besides, to make yourself feel better and be less greedy, you’ll donate most of your money to the church anyway.”

            Now Elizabeth was a week into her new job and loving every minute of it.  She couldn’t believe she was being paid to work with books—it seemed more of a luxury than a job.  Weren’t you supposed to hate your summer job?  Dread going into work with every fiber of your being?  Be counting down the days until you move back to school and don’t have to work there ever again?  Every person she had ever talked to about summer jobs had said this—that they hated working in retail, that people were stupid, that it was the worst possible job you could ever have.  It was supposed to be the reason you go to college, to avoid having to work in a job like this ever again.  In truth, at work was the happiest Elizabeth had felt outside of the church in months. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chapter Sixteen, Part Two

           The gown was scratchy.  The mortar board felt like it was trying to squeeze her brain out of her ears.  Elizabeth was shifting uncomfortably in the metal folding chair.  It was hot, Elizabeth was tired, and she was already so done with this place—high school.  She’d been done with it as soon as she’d been baptized.  This graduation was merely a formality, a way to make her family happy.  Not that she really cared much anymore about making her family happy—she’d given up that hope as soon as she’d joined the Children—but the opportunity was kind of nice.  For the first time in months, her parents weren’t looking at her with that concerned gaze, the wrinkled forehead, the squinting eyes.  They were looking at her with pride, like she was the only one in their world.  She had yearned for that feeling for fourteen years, ever since Evalynne had been born, screaming every minute from the time she exited the womb.  And now, here it was—but it was too late.  She had the Children now, she didn’t need the McLancys.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chapter Sixteen, Part One

           Elizabeth stared at the calendar hanging on her wall.  May 19.  Time had flown since she had joined the Children and she barely even registered that any time had passed.  She’d be graduating high school in just a couple of weeks.  But tonight, she’d be going to worship with Aimee and Sandra then taking Aimee to her first seminar.

            Without thinking about what she was doing, Elizabeth pulled her hair back into an almost perfect French braid.  It was just an automatic process for her now.  Briefly, she marveled at how long her hair had gotten over the months.  So much had happened over the last months that Elizabeth hadn’t really thought about—a feeling, she had learned, she kind of liked.  Her walls were almost entirely bare now, her room almost completely devoid of color.  The bulk of this had occurred recently, when Sandra ordered her to overcome greed and donate her pointless material items to the church.

            “We should have done this earlier,” Sandra had sighed as she took note of Elizabeth’s room.  “Clearly your greed is holding you back.

            “It is not!” Elizabeth had said.

            “It’s so bad that you don’t even realize how bad it is.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chapter Fifteen, Part Two

            “Aimee Jones.”

            This jolted Elizabeth out of her musings and she guided Aimee to the front of the room and removed her visitor’s scarf.

            “Aimee Jones,” Pastor Simon said, putting his hand on the back of her head, Elizabeth following suit, “do you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?”

            “I do.”

            “Do you place your life and trust in the hands of the Children of the Rose?”

            “I do.”  Elizabeth could feel Aimee shaking a little.

            “Do you believe that the Children of the Rose is the one true path to salvation and an eternity in Heaven?”

            Here Aimee paused and looked up at Elizabeth, who raised her eyebrows expectantly.  Elizabeth gave a small, curt nod and Aimee finally said, “I do.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chapter Fifteen, Part One

           “And then you say…” Sandra prompted.

            Elizabeth rolled her eyes and sighed.  She stared determinedly at the car ceiling as she recited in the most bored, monotone voice she could muster, “Aimee Jones and Kristen Peters, today is a special day.  We put it to you both again…do you trust us?”

            “Good girl.”

            Elizabeth dropped her gaze from the ceiling to the side of Sandra’s face.  Sandra was too busy focusing on driving to notice.  “We’ve been over the whole thing about fifty times.  Can we please stop now?”

            “No,” Sandra said sternly.  “You have to know exactly what to do, be able to do it in your sleep.  I don’t want you to embarrass Pastor Simon, me, or yourself.  You don’t want that either, right?”

            Elizabeth sighed again and returned her gaze to the ceiling.  “Right.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Author Update: November Hiatus

I hate to do this to all of you again, but I also hate to give you chapters I haven't been able to spend sufficient time working on.  So for my sanity and for your pleasure, I am calling a November hiatus.

This is for two reasons:

1. National Novel Writing Month.  This is my ninth year participating, so my writing focus is currently on getting a first draft done by November 30.  It kind of demands my attention.

2. Holiday Insaity.  With Thanksgiving this month and all the holiday fun starting, I'm pretty packed with obligations.

I'm hoping to update with behind-the-scenes posts every so often during the hiatus, and I might be back sooner than planned (if NaNoWriMo goes well), but for now, Liz and Co. needs to take a holiday break until December.

Love you all!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chapter Fourteen, Part Three

         Both Aimee and Kristen looked so hopeful.  Elizabeth found it fascinating—she couldn’t help but think that she had been exactly like this when she had first visited.  Now she was far along on her journey to purification and salvation, she could hardly remember those moments of wonderment.  She couldn’t fully remember anymore what it felt to be an outsider looking in, but she was pretty sure that she hadn’t enjoyed it as much as being part of the Children.  How could she not like being in the Children more?  They were saving her, they were her path to Heaven and her path to being a better person.  Back when she was an outsider, she hadn’t known how it could feel to believe so strongly in these things, in the teachings of Pastor Simon.  She hadn’t known how it felt to have such great friends who were so concerned with her entire well-being, with her soul and her safety.  Elizabeth realized with a jolt that she liked this feeling still, the same feeling she had when she was baptized—that she was someone important.  She hadn’t always felt that in her family.  It was hard growing up with six siblings, but suddenly, even as a Level Two, she wasn’t lost in the mix.  Sandra cared, Delia cared, Morgan cared, Jacqueline cared, and now she got the chance to care for Aimee.  What more could a girl want but to be loved by a family that loved her back?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chapter Fourteen, Part Two

May 11

            Aimee’s been on my mind for the last two days.  I can’t help but think that I was almost exactly like her only five months ago.  Savannah told Sandra that she’s been bringing Aimee to things for the last couple weeks.  She thinks that Aimee only needs a little bit more convincing before she’ll be ready to be baptized.  I can’t wrap my head around the fact that if I’m able to convert Aimee completely I’ll be a Rose Angel.

            “Elizabeth, for the love of all things good in the world, put your journal away!” Sandra cried for at least the third time on the car trip.  Elizabeth had honestly not heard her the first two times, she had been so deep in her own thoughts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chapter Fourteen, Part One

         Sandra picked Elizabeth up for worship earlier than usual the Sunday a week after the retreat.  As Elizabeth climbed into the car, adjusting her scarf frantically and trying to pin a few stray strands of hair back into her braid, Sandra gave her a hard look and pulled her hand away from the dark green scarf Elizabeth was picking at.
            “Stop it, Elizabeth, it looks fine,” Sandra ordered.
            Elizabeth nodded and put her hand into her lap.
            “We have more important things to talk about anyway.”
            “Is that why you picked me up so early?” Elizabeth asked.
            “Yes, it is.  Are you going to complain the entire way to the church?”
            Elizabeth shook her head, but didn’t say anything.  Sandra was clearly in a mood and she didn’t want to make her angrier than she already was.
            “Today is a big day for you, Elizabeth,” Sandra began as they backed out of the driveway and started down the street.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chapter Thirteen, Part Two

          By Saturday morning, Elizabeth was both exhausted and starving—and she had barely been at the retreat for twelve hours.  It was seven in the morning and she was sitting in the kitchen with Morgan and a handful of other new Level Twos, working on a service project for the church.  A huge pile of brochures not unlike the one that Jacqueline had shown Elizabeth before her first visit to the church all those months ago sat on the card table.  The small group in the kitchen was folding the brochures into shape, making them as perfect as could be.  Every few minutes one of the older members—a Rose Angel, Pastor Jeffrey, or Benjamin—would walk in and double check their work.  If it wasn’t satisfactory, they had to fix the ones they had ruined.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chapter Thirteen, Part One

          The view of the church was both a comfort and a mystery to Elizabeth.  She, Sandra, Delia, and Morgan were, once again, driving down the street in Sandra’s car.  It was an all-too familiar route to Elizabeth now, having driven down this street more times than she could even remember over the last four months.  Now, here they were again, pulling into the church parking lot, the outer stone wall of the colony visible just beyond Elizabeth’s view.  She wasn’t one hundred percent certain what she was doing here this time—Sandra had called her earlier that afternoon, informing her that she was to go on a youth retreat with the rest of the new Level Twos and their Rose Angels.

            “We’re all gathering at the colony, spending the weekend together—bonding, becoming closer in our beliefs,” Sandra had explained over the phone.

            “Do I have to?” Elizabeth had asked, thinking of all the homework she had to finish before Monday.

            “Yes, you have to.  I’m still concerned about the thoughts you’ve been having about Derek…”

            “That was almost two weeks ago!” Elizabeth had interrupted, but Sandra had talked over her.

            “…about the questions you’ve been asking.  Every new Level Two is required to go to this event, and I highly suggest you stop questioning everything.”

            “I don’t question everything,” Elizabeth had mumbled.  Her comment had gone ignored.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Small Announcement and a Song

The Announcement:

I won't be putting up a new chapter this week.  There are about a thousand things I'm juggling over the next several days, so for my general sanity, I'm taking a week off from Liz and the Children of the Rose.  Also, I want to actually give you guys a decent story and I just don't feel like I can put the time into it that I need to this week.

HOWEVER, this doesn't mean I'll be quiet.  I'm going to instead treat you to a few behind-the-scenes posts.

So here's your first one for this week.

A Song:

I have this thing I do when I'm writing...which is also an excuse to procrastinate.  I always make a playlist of songs for that particular project.  And inevitably one or two of those songs become that novel's "theme song" of sorts in my head.

So here's one of those theme songs for Nor the Battle.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chapter Twelve, Part Three

         “I was just thinking…” Elizabeth said, stealing a glance at Morgan out of the corner of her eyes before continuing.  “I was just thinking, don’t any of you ever wonder about your choices?  I mean, were you always so sure about your religion…about being a Rose…don’t you ever question what Pastor Simon says?”

            “Are you questioning what Pastor Simon says?” Delia said sharply.

            Morgan shot Elizabeth a glare and elbowed her in the arm, willing her to shut up.  Elizabeth ignored the signal and said, “I don’t know.  I guess…sometimes…”  In her peripheral vision, she saw Morgan put her head in her hands hopelessly.

            “I’m very disappointed in you, Elizabeth,” Sandra sighed.  “I thought you had gotten beyond this.  You were promoted last in your group!”

            “It’s just…I was thinking…why hasn’t Derek been—”

            “Seriously?” Delia interrupted.

            “You’re still stuck on Derek?” Sandra gasped.

            “Who’s Derek?” Heather and Jacqueline asked at the same time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chapter Twelve, Part Two

         Elizabeth and Morgan stood shoulder-to-shoulder along the perimeter of the room with many other Children of the Rose members.  It was the same room in which Elizabeth had been baptized and promoted—a small room off one of the hallways in the church.  Elizabeth noticed how different it felt witnessing a promotion, rather than waiting anxiously in the middle of the room for a ceremony to begin, like the Level Twos who were being promoted to Level Three stood now.  She could see Jacqueline, Sandra, and Delia all standing near each other, looking anxiously at the table in front of them.  It was the same set-up from when Elizabeth had been promoted, except with light green scarves and stoles instead of the dark green of Level Two.

            Pastor Simon made his way to the front of the room and scooted behind the makeshift altar.  A distinct silence fell upon the room.  Elizabeth stole a glance around the circle of members standing along the walls.  Most of them she only recognized from seeing them at worship services.  The members of her baptism group that had moved up to Level Two with her were interspersed within the older members.  She made a note that Derek was still nowhere to be found—apparently he still hadn’t moved up to Level Two yet.  Silently, Elizabeth willed Derek to just do what he was told, so she could talk to him again.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chapter Twelve, Part One

          Elizabeth watched as Jacqueline hauled her suitcase up the attic stairs.  It thudded on each step, a bit harder than Elizabeth thought was necessary, and she had the feeling her sister was doing this on purpose.

            “You hate coming home.  Why are you here?” Elizabeth said as she followed Jacqueline into her bedroom.  She flinched as Jacqueline threw the suitcase onto the bed, rattling the box springs.

            “Yeah, well,” Jacqueline looked at the suitcase bitterly before turning to Elizabeth and flashing a smile.  “I couldn’t very well leave you to suffer alone for much longer.  And it’s only a weekend.  We’ll have Children of the Rose stuff to go to anyway.”

            Elizabeth didn’t answer, just smiled.  She knew the last thing Jacqueline had wanted to do was come home for the weekend, but she also knew that come summer Jacqueline would have to move home for three months, so she might as well get used to it now.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Meet Jackie

I have to admit that Jackie was probably the hardest character for me to write in this story. It wasn't that she didn't come into my mind as solidly as other characters (in fact, Jackie was the first main character who came into existence for me after Liz). It wasn't that she had something wrong with her or that her voice was difficult for me to put to paper. It wasn't that I had to change her in any way. None of those things were problems with Jackie (but are problems I have had with other characters, both in this story and in others).
The problem with Jackie--what made her so fundamentally difficult for me to write--was that she has two very different personalities.

I know what you're saying. Liz has two different personalities too. She changes in the cult. And, yes, that's true, but I experienced Liz's change along with her. It was a gradual change. Jackie, however, comes into the story already in the cult, already changed, and the only taste you get of her actual personality isn't until much later (or in the "present day" scenes). Other than Liz, Jackie is the only character whose personality is so drastically different throughout the story, but unlike Liz you don't get to really know what Jackie's personality was ever like before she entered the cult.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chapter Eleven, Part Two

           Elizabeth picked at a stray strand of hair that had escaped from her French braid.  She was sitting on a bench in the park, waiting for Morgan to show up.  People looked at her strangely—she was wearing a long-sleeved denim dress and boots and most people were walking around the park in tshirts.  She realized that people probably thought she looked a little strange, but she didn’t care.  She didn’t even watch the people walking by, merely watched her finger twisting the stray hair into a spiral.

            “Hey, Elizabeth.”

            Elizabeth finally pulled her attention away from the hair, which was now thoroughly twisted around her finger, and looked up at the newcomer.

            “Hey, Morgan,” she said with a smile, disentangling her hair.  “What’s up?  Why did you want to meet here?”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chapter Eleven, Part One

           Elizabeth’s stomach rumbled.  She glared down at it and tried to turn her concentration elsewhere as soon as possible.  Being a Level Two was hard, that was what she’d learned over the days following her promotion.  Everyone was more demanding, there were stricter rules to follow, Sandra was being less patient, and Elizabeth still had no idea what had happened to Derek.  She’d seen him from time to time at a distance at the church, while coming and going, but Sandra had always steered her away before she’d even gotten the chance to wave.

            And now she was hiding in her attic, as she’d gotten into the habit of doing over the last few days.  Every meal had culminated in an argument and every time she’d ended up escaping up here.  Tonight had been a particularly nasty fight, during which her mother had been about one step from forcing food down her daughter’s throat.  So Elizabeth sat on the futon in the attic common room, her knees folded up under her chin.  Her journal was balanced on top of her knees and she was scribbling in it with renewed fervor, as though her life depended on it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chapter Ten, Part Three

            Once the two girls were settled in Sandra’s car, and the front door of the house had closed, Sandra turned to Elizabeth and handed her a piece of black fabric—a blindfold.

            “What’s this for?  I thought we were going to the mall.”

            “Do you trust me?” Sandra asked as she pulled out of the driveway.

            “Of course, but—”

            “Then put on the blindfold and stop asking questions.”

            Preferring to just trust Sandra than feel her wrath, Elizabeth tied the blindfold tight over her eyes.

            “So we’re not going to the mall?”

            “What did I just say?”

            “Stop asking questions.”

            “Good girl.” Sandra patted Elizabeth’s arm.  “And, no, we’re not going to the mall.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chapter Ten, Part Two

           After the lunch-time fiasco on Saturday, meals had gotten tenser around the McLancy house.  Elizabeth took to staying in her room until she was yelled at to join the family.  Even then, she still refused to eat anything she deemed unacceptable.  Elizabeth and her mother frequently argued over the meals, Evalynne throwing in her share of snide remarks. 

            Becoming more annoyed with the behavior of her family, a few days after the Saturday argument, Elizabeth could be found sitting sullenly at her desk, scribbling in her journal:

April 6

            I’m so sick of this family.  They never understand where I’m coming from.  They only question all of Pastor Simon’s teachings and the word of the Bible and it’s incredibly annoying.  I wonder how people get to live in the colony.  I’d take spending every moment of the day with my church family rather than dealing with my siblings and parents at all times.

            “Liz!  Dinner!” Mom yelled up the stairs.

            Sighing, and rolling her eyes, Elizabeth shut her journal and walked downstairs as slowly as possible.  Once she finally entered the kitchen, she took her place at the table between Evalynne and Danielle.  She didn’t make eye contact with a single member of the family, but instead stared at her plate.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chapter Ten, Part One

           The sun glared through the windows, but it didn’t faze Elizabeth, who was asleep at her desk…again.  In fact, she didn’t even open her eyes until she felt a sharp prod in her side, then on her shoulder, and finally in her ear.  Batting away the intruder, she finally looked up to see Evalynne and Thomas standing over her.

            “Seriously?” Evalynne said, raising her eyebrows. “I know it’s Saturday and all, but it’s almost one in the afternoon.  You never sleep this late unless you’re sick.”

            “Mom wanted us to check on you,” Thomas explained.

            Elizabeth rubbed her ear and glared at her siblings.  “So the way you checked was to put your finger in my ear?”

            Evalynne shrugged and rolled her eyes.  “It seemed like a good idea at the time.  And anyway, it got your attention, didn’t it?”

            Elizabeth glared again before leaning back in her chair and staring at her desk.  The entire desk was covered with her Rose belongings—her old visitor’s and her Level One scarves sat folded in a corner, her Rose notebook opened in the opposite corner, various papers with Bible assignments and announcements from church spread out over the surface, and her Rose Bible sat open and dead center.  The revealed pages of the Bible were slightly wrinkled; Elizabeth had fallen asleep on top of it and had been using it as a pillow all night.  She noticed Evalynne and Thomas looking at her desk as well and hurriedly closed her Bible, slipping a bookmark into the pages before it shut.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chapter Nine, Part Two

         Many of the Level Ones shifted uncomfortably, including Elizabeth.  What would they be forced to do to prove their trust?  The older members in the room did not move even an inch.  They simply looked serenely at Pastor Jeffrey, who continued, “I want each of you to write your biggest secret down on your piece of paper and fold it in half.  I will give you the rest of the instructions when everyone has accomplished this step.”

            Elizabeth stared at her paper uncertainly.  Her biggest secret?  After a couple minutes of pondering, she finally scribbled down:

            I sometimes miss my old self.  And I almost always miss the old Jacqueline.

            She folded her slip of paper in half and looked resolutely forward.  Pastor Jeffrey waited until every member was done writing before motioning that everyone should stand.

            “Bring your papers, but leave your notebooks here.  We’re going on a walk.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chapter Nine, Part One

          Elizabeth stared into the mirror, tongue half sticking out, pulling her hair back into a French braid.  She realized that over the last three months of being a member of the Children of the Rose, she had become incredibly skilled at French braiding her own hair.  She picked up her scarf and fastened it carefully onto her head.  She could hear her family milling around downstairs.  She and her mother had barely talked since her visit to Jacqueline at Drighton three days ago.  Finally ready, Elizabeth tucked her house key into the pocket of her long, brown corduroy skirt, left her room, and started downstairs.

            As she walked past the rooms of her siblings, she stared pointedly at the floor.  Elizabeth was determined to avoid any interaction.  If she was able to avoid interaction, she wouldn’t be tempted to argue.

            “‘Keep thy tongue from evil,’” Elizabeth muttered to herself, “‘and thy lips from speaking guile.’  Psalms, chapter thirty-four, verse thirteen.”

            At the sound of Elizabeth murmuring Bible verses under her breath, Evalynne stuck her head out her bedroom door.  “Seriously?  There isn’t anyone listening to your creepy evangelical babblings out here, so why the hell are you still quoting Bible verses?”

            Elizabeth picked a spot on the floor and continued to stare, although she stopped walking.  “We should remember Bible verses at all times during the day, whether we’re talking to others or not.  Quoting Bible verses to myself allows me to focus on the path.”

            Evalynne stared at Elizabeth for a few seconds, as though trying to decide if her sister was being serious, then she rolled her eyes.  “You’re weird.”  With that, she left her room, pushed past Elizabeth, and went downstairs.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Research and the Summer of Freaking Out My Family

When I first sat down to write Liz's story, for a little while I didn't have too much trouble when it came to knowing the general structure and behavior of cults.  I had read novels centered around cults before, and from that had developed a marginal, general interest in them.  So while that marginal, general interest was developing, I would sometimes stumble upon an article about a cult, or some factoid, or a Wikipedia article, and all of that marginal, general knowledge just kind of got stored in the back of my mind and is what fed the first few chapters of the first draft.

I then hit a point in the first draft where, even though I'd actually outlined pretty much the entire story (which I needed to do, because of needing two timelines), I couldn't move myself forward.  I struggled with the wall I had hit for a good few months, but for a long time I couldn't figure out what was causing my writers block.  I had the outline in front of me--I knew exactly where Liz was, where Liz needed to go, how Liz needed to get there, and what was going to happen to her in the end.  There was absolutely no excuse for me to be so stuck.

Magazine articles and photocopies that made up a bulk of my marginal, general knowledge.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chapter Eight, Part Two

           The next morning dawned far too early for Liz, who was woken up by Jackie shaking her frantically.  “What?” Liz whined, pulling the sleeping bag up to her chin.  Jackie merely flipped on the light, resulting in Liz’s agitated groan and her putting a pillow over her head.

            “Come on, we’re having a prayer session in the hallway,” Jackie said, while grabbing Liz’s arm and pulling her sister to her feet.

            “What time is it?” asked Liz.  She rubbed her eyes and, a moment later, felt a piece of fabric hit her face.  It was her church scarf and Jackie had just thrown it at her.

            Jackie picked up a hair elastic from the desk and forcibly pulled Liz’s hair back into a ponytail.  “Put on your scarf, for crying out loud!”

            “What time is it?” Liz repeated.

            “Five.  Jennifer is already outside.”

            “In the morning?!” Liz’s eyes went wide and she looked out the window.  Sure enough, the sun had not even come over the horizon yet.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chapter Eight, Part One

           The scenery of the Ohio country passed by the car window.  Liz had her forehead pressed up against the window, allowing her breath to fog the glass.  Her mother, who was driving, kept throwing concerned glances at her daughter, although the two hadn’t spoken since they had left the house.  Liz twirled the edges of her Rose scarf in her hand—it was sitting in her lap.

            Only a week ago, as Jackie had been talking to Liz on the phone in one of their regular conversations, this whole trip had gotten planned.

            “Your spring break is next week, isn’t it?” Jackie had asked.

            “Yeah, it is,” Liz had answered, curious as to why her sister was bringing this fact up now.

            “You should come up and visit me at Drighton!” Jackie had exclaimed. “It’ll be the perfect opportunity for you to see the campus and get to know the colony up here and some of the other Roses that you’ll get to hang out with next year when you’re here.”

            “I haven’t been accepted yet.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chapter Seven, Part Two

          The older members looked at each other, shocked, as though he had just said he had murdered someone.  The newer members just looked at Derek with wide eyes, not believing that one of their own would actually admit to this sin.

            Pastor Jeffrey closed his eyes, gathering himself before speaking, then opened them again and said, “Having doubts is a weakness, cowardice.  It is saying that you do not trust your brother and sister Roses.  It is the greatest sin of our church, for doubt is what will keep you from performing the most holy acts and leading others to our church so they too can see the light of our worship.  We are all greatly disappointed in you, Derek.  For this, you must meet with your Rose Angel for at least two extra hours a day, pray for an extra four hours a day, and you must publicly apologize to this church—both now and at worship tomorrow.”  He looked expectantly at Derek.

            Derek now moved his gaze to his folded hands.  “I’m sorry.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chapter Seven, Part One

February 6

            I’m in Sandra’s car again with Sandra, Delia, and Morgan.  We’re going to some Rose youth group bible study thing…no idea what it is.  Sandra won’t tell me.  Both of them—Delia and Sandra, I mean—are being particularly secretive about whatever’s going on.  I wonder

            Elizabeth, put the journal away,” Delia ordered.

            Liz looked up to find Delia glaring at her—not in a particularly harsh way, but stern enough that Liz knew she meant business.  Quickly, Liz shut her leather-bound journal and put it and her pen back into her bag.

            Delia didn’t see any of this.  She seemed to know that Liz would do as told, because immediately after telling off Liz, she returned to staring out the front windshield of Sandra’s car.  Delia was right, of course.  Liz would always do as told.  She liked both Delia and Sandra—they were her friends, after all—but she had absolutely no desire to cross them.  She had the feeling that they wouldn’t be quite as friendly if she and Morgan didn’t obey.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapter Six, Part Two


            Liz jumped slightly, jerked out of her thoughts, and turned to look at who was addressing her.  She found herself looking up at Derek, whom she hadn’t ever seen outside of Children of the Rose functions.  Ever.  And yet, here he was, standing on the sidewalk, staring down at where she was sitting on the grass under a tree.

            For a moment, she couldn’t think of what to say.  She hadn’t often found herself speechless around guys, but for some reason she found herself unable to think clearly when Derek was around.


            Derek cocked his head to one side.  “What are you doing here?”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chapter Six, Part One

        Liz slumped into Sandra’s car, followed closely by Morgan.  Delia and Sandra, as usual, took the front seats.  Rubbing her eyes, Liz glanced at the clock.  Two in the morning.  The group had just been released from another seminar.  This seminar was about the proper dress of the Children, led by Pastor Jeffrey because Pastor Simon was at another colony this week.

            “We are a humble group,” Pastor Jeffrey had explained, “thus we dress humbly.  People should be attracted to our path to God because of what we portray from our hearts, not what we portray from our clothing.  Women wear long skirts to keep the men from the temptation of their bodies.  Remember the words of Matthew, chapter five, verse twenty-eight: ‘But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’”

            The older members had nodded their agreement, like they always did during seminars.  The newly baptized members had merely stared blankly ahead of them, nodding slightly with the others.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chapter Five, Part 2

         The prospect of returning to school the next day made Liz uneasy.  She didn’t have many friends in the first place, and those she did have she was afraid to encounter.  She didn’t want to hear the comments they would have about her wardrobe or her new diet.  That morning, she dressed carefully.  She selected a long denim skirt and long sleeved black t-shirt.  She pulled her hair back into a French braid, as she had done so many times since her baptism, pinning back the stray ends with bobby pins.  And lastly, she fastened her Rose cross around her neck.  Sandra had given it to her at the last church service.

            “A small token,” Sandra had said as she handed Liz a long, thin box.  “Just something to commemorate your baptism.  Each Rose has one.”

            Liz had opened the box carefully.  Inside was a silver chain with a single charm—a cross wrapped in a rose.  She had pulled it out of the box and stared at it with fascination.  When she had seen this same necklace on Jackie’s neck, it had meant nothing to her.  Now, she was actually excited to have one of her own.

            “Allow me,” Sandra had said with a smile, taking the necklace out of Liz’s hand and fastening it around her neck.  “I’m so proud of you, Elizabeth.  Have I told you that?”

            Liz had returned the smile.  “Yeah, you’ve told me.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chapter Five, Part One

          The Christmas break had ended.  The day Jackie went back to Drighton was a hard one for Liz.  Jackie stood at the bottom of the stairs, her suitcase sitting beside her, and the family gathered around.  Her father stood nearby, spinning his keys on his right finger.  Everyone in the family except Liz gave Jackie her space.  Liz kept close to her older sister and tried to ignore the fact that the rest of their siblings were standing several feet away, watching them warily.  Their brothers and sisters just didn’t know how to approach them anymore.

            “I’m going to miss you,” Liz whispered as she gave Jackie a hug good-bye.  She had changed too, over the last couple weeks of being in the Children of the Rose.  It wasn’t as drastic as Jackie’s change, yet, but a change was certainly evident.  Her family couldn’t understand how quickly this had happened.  Her wardrobe reflected that of Jackie’s, her hair always pulled back in a French braid.  The vegan diet had set in almost immediately after that first seminar.  She had found herself subconsciously repeating “It is right to be vegan, the outsiders are wrong” in her head several days after that lesson, and even now she would start writing it against her will in her Rose notebook.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Going on a Brief Hiatus

Greetings, Readers!

Starting today, and going through next week, I will be on a brief hiatus from posting on this blog.  It's not that I don't love you guys.  It's that I will almost literally have no time.

Tonight starts the Dublin Irish Festival here in Columbus, Ohio...and as an Irish dancer, that means I will be living at the festival all weekend (and am currently freaking out about my dance competition tonight).

And then next week will have to be devoted to packing and heading to LeakyCon in Chicago.

However, never fear, because I will be back with a vengeance the week after next!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chapter 4, Part 2

            After the service, Sandra took hold of Liz’s hand and led her out into the atrium.  A large table was set, filled with donuts, cookies, and large containers of lemonade.

            “Grab some food, Elizabeth,” Sandra said.  “We have some time to socialize.”  She handed Liz a plate with a couple donuts and cookies.

            “Aren’t you going to have more?” Liz asked.  She noticed Sandra only had a small sugar cookie on her plate.

            “Nah,” Sandra shrugged.  “I’m not very hungry.  But that’s no reason for you to not enjoy!”

            As the socializing ended, the congregation split into two groups—one group was filled with the members of the church who had been there longer.  The other group consisted of the newly baptized and the older members who had helped baptize them.  Jackie headed off to the group with the older members.

            “Wait!  Where are you going?” Liz squeaked, grabbing hold of her sister’s wrist.  And then she let go quickly, realizing that she sounded like a little kid.

            Jackie smiled and squeezed Liz’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll see you in a bit.”

            Liz kept her eyes on Jackie until Sandra took her hand and led her off down another hallway, away from the larger group of older members.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chapter 4, Part 1

           It was like the whole world looked different to Liz; she felt so completely joyful and alive after her baptism.  Never could she have guessed that something as simple as dunking her head in a basin of water would make her feel so whole all of a sudden.  She finally understood why Jackie now seemed so different, for the better.  She never even once thought of how she’d never been asked if she wanted to join the Children.  She was just glad she had.

            Ever since the Christmas incident, their mother had taken to walking around the house with her eyebrows furrowed, her own personal sign of pure worry.  The crinkled, worried eyebrows had only gotten more distinct when the girls had come home and informed her that Liz had joined the church as well.  Because she still hadn’t gotten over the shock of Jackie speaking to her like she had on Christmas, their mother didn’t push the subject.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Meet Liz

Unsurprisingly, Liz McLancy was the first character that came into my head for this story (which is likely why it's her story).  In the middle of my Philosophy class sophomore year of college, she just came slinking into my head and started talking.

What did she tell me about that day?

She told me that there was a family reunion she didn't want to go to, that she didn't want to return to her childhood home because there was something from her teenage years that was still haunting her, and that she and her older sister had been outnumbered in the decision to come back.  So come back she did, with her own family.

I knew nothing more than that.  At that time, I had no idea what was holding her back from returning home.  I had no idea what her demons were.

Granted, for the entire first draft, the "present" version of Liz was married and had two daughters, but something changed the more I thought about it.  And that's exactly what she says in the opening of the story--she doesn't know exactly what Eric is to her, she doesn't know the term, because she'll never get married again.  (You'll find out more about that in a while.)

Several things about Liz never changed, though.  She's a quiet girl who feels like she falls into the background, even in her own family.  She looks up to her older sister, Jackie, which is what inevitably gets her into the sticky situation you see her getting into.  She's uncertain about her own beliefs about anything, but in particular anything regarding religion--but she's so desperate to fit in somewhere, to be part of something, to be more than a shadow, that she's willing to try to believe in anything.  And, in the glimpses into the "present", she has demons that she does not want to face, but that she must.

Of course, I won't tell you about all of her demons.  You've only just begun to see the root of them--this is when things start to get a little interesting.  Hopefully, her strange behavior in the "present" sections, her exaggerated reactions to what may seem like everyday situations, these will become explained as you see what she experiences within the Children.

And in case you're wondering, Liz is entirely the reason for the novel's title.  She's not strong--not in a traditional sense, and often not even in an emotional or mental sense.  She's able to be easily manipulated and it takes her some time to find any kind of strength in the situation she'll find herself in.  But this battle is entirely her own.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chapter 3, Part 2

The candlelight burned into Liz’s eyes and she blinked, noting that the small pinpoints of light were there even when her eyes were closed.  She hadn’t even noticed that she had been staring so intently at the nearest row of candles.  She was exhausted.  She could barely keep her eyes open, but Jackie kept nudging her in her ribs every time her head nodded.  She didn’t even have the slightest idea how long they’d been here or what time it was.  All she knew was that it had to be well after midnight.

            Jackie and Liz had fought to get out of the house that night.  Their parents had been clearly less than thrilled about their going to the church so late at night.

            “Where are you going?” their mom had asked as the two girls made their way to the front door.

            “It’s Christmas Eve,” Jackie had said, like this was the most obvious answer in the world.

            “Thank you, but we already know that,” their father had said.

            “Well, on Christmas Eve, there’s a midnight candle service at my church.”

            “Is that why you’re wearing those scarves again?” their mother had asked.

            “Yes, and I don’t see why it matters.  Look, it’s our choice if we want to go to a church service.  Just let us go.”

            Reluctantly, their parents had let them leave.  Not that Jackie would have let things happen otherwise.  They would have ended up at the church even if Jackie had to sneak them out the attic window.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chapter 3, Part 1

         The church was decorated for the season.  Garlands hung over the front door and on the steeple.  Inside, a Christmas tree, decorated with fabric roses and a large, white angel perched on top stood in the atrium.  Liz gaped at the tree until Jackie took her hand and lead her into the sanctuary.  They followed Delia, Sandra, and Morgan into a pew near the middle of the sanctuary.

            Liz let her eyes wander.  It was a bit emptier than it had been on her first visit, and most of the people there looked to be in late high school or college.  None of the older members were present.  Apparently, this was actually a youth meeting.

            “Where’s Pastor Simon?” she asked suddenly, turning to Jackie.

            Jackie didn’t appear concerned.  “He’ll be here.”

            “So there’s a different activity each night this week?” Liz asked no one in particular.  “What’s tonight’s?”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chapter 2, Part 3

          The mall was packed full with frantic Christmas shoppers and lazy students adamant to do anything but homework.  The group of five girls had slowly meandered through the shops, chit-chatting about nothing in particular as they walked.  Morgan and Liz tried on clothes, but none of the older girls did.  In fact, none of the older girls bought anything at all, which Liz thought was a little weird, since they were the ones who had wanted to come to the mall.  Instead, they kept the conversation going, asking questions about Liz and Morgan.  What colleges they were looking at.  How their senior classes were going.  What they liked to do for fun.

            Liz may have felt weird about the questions for a moment, but she got over it quickly.  She was mostly just flattered at the attention.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chapter 2, Part 2

         Liz blinked rapidly when the service finally came to an end.  She was pretty sure that she hadn’t fallen asleep, but she was dazed all the same.  Pastor Simon, it transpired, talked in an incredibly soothing voice.  She had lost complete track of time during the sermon, which had taken up most of the service.  As she, Jackie, and Jackie’s friends shuffled back out of the pew to join the flow of people back out into the atrium, she tried to figure out how long she’d been sitting on that hard pew.  From the numbness in her lower back, Liz guessed that they had been sitting there for at least a good hour and a half. 

            Pastor Simon had lectured on the importance of faith, of suffering persecution from those who don’t understand the faith.  Even though the subject itself was dull in thought, Liz noticed that she didn’t find listening to Pastor Simon speak as dull as she had found listening to other sermons at other churches.  For once in her life, Liz found herself speechless and barely cynical.  For some reason, she didn’t find this service, this church itself, as boring as she had found others.  In fact, she actually found herself feeling a little uplifted.  She didn’t know if she could quite explain how this had happened so fast, but she just found Pastor Simon interesting to listen to.  She found him easy to believe.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chapter 2, Part 1

          The following Sunday, it was impossible to leave the house without being noticed or getting snide remarks from the family.  Subtlety had never been a talent of the seven McLancy kids.  Liz and Jackie entered the kitchen that morning, dressed for church in dull ankle-length skirts, long-sleeved sweaters, braided hair, and scarves fastened to their heads.  The moment they entered, their siblings started with the comments.
            “What the hell are you guys wearing?” Eva asked, while the rest stared at their oldest sisters in a mix of amusement and confusion.  Their mom shot Eva a warning look, but didn’t say anything.
            “It really shouldn’t bother you,” Jackie retorted, reaching for the cereal box.
            “Milk?” their mother asked, offering the jug.
            “It comes from a cow.”
            “So you just eat your cereal dry?” Andi said, looking at her cereal bowl like it was the most unimaginable thing to eat dry cereal.
            “At school, I use soy milk.  So if you had any soy milk, then, no, I wouldn’t eat my cereal dry.”
            Liz stared at her sister, feeling more uncomfortable as the conversation continued.  She had never seen Jackie be quite this set on something, or take this kind of tone with their family.
            “What are those stupid things?” Eva snorted, reaching across the table to flick the end of the pure black scarf on Liz’s head, which was responded to by a slap on the shoulder.  Tommy, who apparently found this to be an entertaining game, flicked the end of Jackie’s green scarf.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chapter 1, Part 3

           “I just do, okay?” Jackie said, getting defensive.  She turned to Liz, who had stood by, watching this exchange with wide eyes.  “Help me take my stuff upstairs?”

            Liz nodded and grabbed one of Jackie’s bags, following her up to the attic that the two of them shared.  As soon as she’d dropped the bag on her older sister’s bed, she perched on it as well.

            “So…you’ve changed,” Liz said once Jackie was bustling around the bedroom, putting her clothes away.

            Jackie rolled her eyes.  “Oh, god, Elizabeth, not you too.”

            Liz raised an eyebrow.  The only person who called her Elizabeth was their parents, and that was only when she’d done something to royally piss them off.  “Not me too?”

            “Dad was unbearable the whole drive home.  I tried to explain to him about this church I joined and then he got all—”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chapter 1, Part 2

         For the third time in the last half hour, Liz looked up from her journal at the sound of an approaching car.  She held her breath, hoping that she would hear it come to a stop in front of the house, but just like every other time the car continued on down the street.  She sighed and looked back down at her journal, trying to get her mind off of her sister’s return.

December 11

            Jackie comes home from college today.  I can’t wait.  She’s the one piece of sanity in this family.

            I can’t wait until I’m out of here.  Graduation is only six months away and it can’t possibly come soon enough.  I want to be done with high school, and off to college, and start new without being shoved into the background of my own family.  It’s just because I’m not as loud as the younger five.  If I was as obnoxious as Greg or Tommy, or as mouthy as Eva, then maybe I wouldn’t always get so lost.  Even Andi and Dani don’t fall into the background as much as I do.  Jackie’s the only one who ever seems to notice me.

            Which brings me back to…I can’t wait until Jackie gets home for her Christmas break.

            Liz sighed and looked up at her clock.  Her dad and Jackie should be getting home from Drighton University, where Jackie was a freshman, any minute now.  She stretched and stood up from her desk, where her homework had gone forgotten in favor of writing in her journal.  Someone started screaming downstairs, and Liz rolled her eyes.  If Eva and Greg weren’t fighting about something, she was fairly certain the world would come to an end.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chapter 1, Part 1 (The Present)

            The well-worn leather journal rests on her lap as the frighteningly familiar scenery flashes by.  It doesn’t matter that this is the place where Liz grew up.  It doesn’t matter that, until her senior year of high school, she was perfectly happy here.  Liz still refuses to open her eyes.

            “Car sickness,” she said by way of excuse, to defuse suspicions or worried glances from her fiancé.  Boyfriend.  Life partner.  She isn’t honestly sure what to call Eric, because she’ll never get married.

            Not again.

            The truth is Liz would rather be anywhere else in the world right now.  Ten years of avoidance down the drain.

            Liz’s sole comfort is the journal in her lap.  She clutches it like a lifeline as the car drives toward her childhood home.  A family reunion.  All seven kids back together for an anniversary party.

            Whose crazy idea was this?

            She had been all for a party.  She had not been okay with the reunion.  She had not condoned returning to Columbus, suburbs or otherwise.  Jackie had been on her side.  The younger five used the argument that this would be good for the healing process.

            If ten years of being not here haven’t healed things yet, a family reunion definitely isn’t going to help either.

            No.  A whole week of concerned stares and questions and forcing repressed memories is not going to help.  Liz is positive of that.

            “We’re here,” Eric announces, folding the directions and reaching into the backseat to nudge awake their young daughter, Sara, who fell asleep only fifteen minutes ago.

            Liz finally opens her eyes and stares at the house.  It hasn’t changed in all these years.  Perhaps a new layer of paint, but it looks the same as it did when Liz was seventeen.

            Seventeen.  The year Liz doesn’t want to remember.

            She closes the journal, her one constant comfort.  A journal much like it got her through that year…

            Liz pushes the thought out of her mind, takes a deep breath, and opens the car door, taking the first step toward memories she knows she’ll have to relive but that she’d rather just forget.  Forever.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Welcome to my blog novel!

Nor the Battle to the Strong was a novel I started writing while in college, and finished the first draft of soon after graduating.  It's always held a special place in my heart, and I've wanted to share it for some time, but over the years since graduation my writing style and voice has changed.  What I originally wrote (and the revisions that happened soon after) no longer sound like ME.

With that, I've decided to revise it again.  Update the story.  And I want to share it here as I do so.

This is an experiment.  An opportunity for me to share with you some characters that I very much love, and a story that has remained in my mind over the years.  I hope you will join me on this, and I hope you will convince others to read it as well.

For now, as I figure out how best to run this blog, I'm going to stick to the following schedule, so you will know what to expect.  This could change down the line, and perhaps there will be times when I will be unable to follow this schedule, but I'm going to do my best to stick to it.

  • Mondays: Novel post.  This may be a full chapter, or a half a chapter, or a page.  But it will be consecutive in the story.  I won't jump around.  You will get the novel in the order it was written.
  • Wednesdays: Another novel post.
  • Fridays: Either another novel post or what I'm going to coin a "behind the scenes" post.  Behind the Scenes posts will be whatever I feel like sharing about the writing process, or the characters, or the research, etc.
  • Weekends: I'm not planning on posting on the weekends right now, but this does not necessarily mean you won't get a surprise post from time to time.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me on my Facebook author page, on my twitter, or in the comments on this blog.  Perhaps I will answer some reader questions for "behind the scenes" posts!

I'm very excited about this, and I hope you are as well!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Introducing the Battle...

Second oldest of seven children, seventeen-year-old Liz McLancy has felt lost in her life and her family for years.  Now she only wishes to graduate high school and get away, to start again somewhere new.  And when her older sister arrives home from college acting differently, appearing happier, it doesn't take much convincing for Liz to follow her into the benevolent Children of the Rose church.

But the more time Liz spends with the Children, the more strained her relationship with her family becomes.  She finds herself voluntarily doing things she never would have done before--things that hurt her emotionally, mentally, and physically.  By the time she would have realized how wrong the Children are, however, she's too far gone from even herself, sucked into the life of not making her own decisions in favor of feeling like part of something special.  It will take all of her strength--both now and long after--to leave her scars behind.