“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, 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.