“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~*~

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.”