Blog Archives

Billboard Bride Scavenger Hunt Clue #2

Depositphotos_54959697_original.jpg

Time for the second clue! This answer is not directly stated in the text, but if you know anything about baseball and you read about what Kyle did, it shouldn’t be too hard to Google and piece this one together. At least I hope not!

Don’t forget to submit your answers to the OFFICIAL LINK and don’t post them to Twitter or Facebook! Posted entries do not count–you have to go through the form. If you’re having trouble with that, comment on the post and I’ll talk you through it. Submit answers to any of the clues between now and May 13. Each answer counts as one entry for the grand prize drawing. Also, don’t forget to invite your friends and share the posts to get extra points! Each point puts your name in the drawing one more time.

If you don’t have a copy of The Billboard Bride, download it now for the promo price of 99-cents!

And… the clue:

Slide1

 

Christian Fiction Freebie: Pandora-the One Who Ran Away

Meet Pandora, the first of the seven Humbled Goddess Girls.  Pandora’s Deed released from Mantle Rock Publishing in February 2016. Click on the image below to purchase the Kindle version for $2.99.

Featured Image -- 1256

SAVANNAH BARRETT balanced the stack of envelopes atop her still-steaming latte and bumped the mailbox closed. She stepped to the right, making room for her fuzzy-leopard-coated neighbor and blew a strand of hair out of her eyes.

A blast of wind tore through the parking lot, and Savannah pivoted, losing a long, white envelope with embossed teal words.

“Here you go, sugar.” Leopard-print knelt straight down, her tiny skirt shrinking as she retrieved the letter. She stood and placed the envelope on Savannah’s stack.

“Thanks.” Savannah brought her latte close to her chin, securing the mail as she crossed the lot to her apartment.

A battered cardboard box leaned at a precarious angle on her stoop. She hooked a heeled sandal underneath and slid it to the ground.

Her keys. Where were her keys? She cast a glance over her shoulder at Nellie, her beat up Nissan, and groaned. Still in the ignition. A strip of duct tape waved like a flag from the driver’s side handle.

“Great.” As she lowered her latte to the tiny concrete porch, the letters fell to her feet. She slid the envelopes underneath the lip of the box, protecting them from the droplets, and hurried back to Nellie.

Rain pelted her as she fumbled with the handle, tugging and jerking until the stubborn metal yielded. She spotted her keys on the floorboard, snatched them, and slammed the door so hard the handle pulled free and dropped to the asphalt.

Sighing, she tossed it inside the car. Wouldn’t do any good to tape it up in the rain. She dashed to her apartment and unlocked it.

The dampened envelopes clung together. She balanced them on the box then laid them out on the counter to dry.

By the time she returned for her latte, rain had collected in the lid. Fantastic. She dumped the water in the small rectangle of grass before her apartment window and wiped the mouth with her sleeve.

A tiny sip of caramel macchiato sent warmth down her throat and through her soul. She secured the deadbolt and the chain, and grabbed the package.

Her adoptive mother’s scrawl covered the bright yellow label. Savannah eyed her calendar, which hung lopsided on the refrigerator by two weak magnets. Rose had sent a birthday present, no doubt.

Savannah sliced the tape with her apartment key and opened the damp lid. A shiny teal ribbon looped around a white dress box. Underneath, the Dreyfus High 2005 senior class cheered at her from a shiny yearbook.

She tossed the dress box into a crate of textbooks next to her wall-mounted mattress. Why would Rose send her a yearbook when she didn’t graduate from Dreyfus High?

A trickle of water dripped from her kitchen counter to the floor. She grabbed a handful of paper towels and mopped up the puddle left from the envelopes then blotted them with another wad of towels.

Perfect calligraphy smudged over the fancy white envelope, leaving dark splotches surrounding the embossed teal print. Savannah tore through the wet paper and spread out the letter. Not a letter. An invite.

They wanted her to come to the high school reunion? Why?

Savannah’s chest constricted. No way could she go back. Not ever.

Fourteen years fell away, and she saw her chunky middle-school face in the lipstick-smeared bathroom mirror. She’d adjusted her dress, smoothed her hair, and blown herself a kiss before walking into the gymnasium to join the other students.

Geoff Spencer grinned as he took her hand and led her across the dance floor to the opposite corner. “Let’s get our pictures made.”

The photo backdrop sheet reflected the dance’s jungle theme, complete with bright parrots, monkeys, and snakes. A sturdy fence surrounded the area, and a walkway led to a small stage where couples could pose.

Her friend Megan waved from the front of the line. “Let’s pose together.”

Savannah joined her, barely squeezing through the opening. She made her way to the stage and draped an arm over Megan’s shoulders.

“Say ‘Friends forever.” The photographer snapped the picture. Then Megan and Savannah exited the space.

“My turn.” Geoff dragged her back to the end of the line, and the photographer turned his attention to the other couples. Finally, the line dwindled to the two of them.

“Last ones?” The photographer yawned.

“Yep.” Savannah grinned. She stepped through the fence, and Geoff bumped the decorative gate shut behind her—only it wasn’t decorative. It locked, trapping her.

Behind the backdrop, giggling girls removed the sheet to reveal another depicting a mountain and deep blue clouds. In the forefront, bamboo trees hosted a mother and baby panda.

Her heart stopped. As Geoff leered from the other side, the crowd of students waved their fists. “Panda! Panda! Panda!”

The photographer struggled with the gate. It didn’t budge.

She should have known. Why else would Geoff have paid her sudden attention?

The chants stopped, and something creaked overhead. A bucket swung then teetered, dumping stalks of celery in her lap.

“Panda! Panda! Panda!” Amidst cheers and claps, the chants resumed.

While the principal sent the shop teacher out for tools to free her, she tugged the sheet, ripped it from the ropes holding it up, and cowered beneath it.

Taking a deep breath, Savannah blinked back to the present. She eyed the blurred numbers for the RSVP. Fate herself decided she couldn’t go. She shredded the invite into tiny wet pieces and dropped them into a bag of leftover takeout Chinese.

She settled on her worn linen couch, a spring poking her leg as she eyed the yearbook. Would her fingers burn from touching it? Curiosity battled resentment, and she took it in her hands.

Flipping pages to the senior spotlights, she traced the colored pictures. Megan Carter, her former best friend and partner in crime, glared through glazed eyes beneath jagged jet-black bangs.

A pang struck Savannah’s chest. Megan, who’d wanted to be a pediatrician from the second grade, listed her ambition as moving to California to be a beach bum.

On the next page she found Athena Lewis, another good friend, listed as Athena Clark instead. Athena, who’d sat next to her every week in church and spouted off scripture at every given opportunity? Married with a child in high school?

Below Athena, Anabelle Cooper’s frown punctuated her airbrushed face. The caption reflected her desire for happiness.

Tears wet Savannah’s cheek. They’d all been so close. But these girls were strangers. All her fault.

A couple more pages past, her heart flip-flopped when her gaze landed on Geoff Spencer’s sun-kissed face. A wave of nausea rendered her clammy.

She knocked herself in the forehead with the heel of her hand. “Shouldn’t have looked.”

His smile seemed genuine, less of the playful smirk she remembered. She eyed the caption. Born again Christian? No way. His life goals were to attend college, to find a good wife, and to have several children? Not the Geoff Spencer she knew.

She snapped the book shut and forced several deep, calming exhales. If Geoff Spencer was a Christian, then she was a deep-sea diver. No way. She’d take the stupid yearbook straight to the dumpster as soon as the storm ended.

Thunder cracked, as if in response. The book slipped from her grasp and landed on the carpet. A shiny piece of paper poked out of the pages.

First a glance, next a stare. Finally, she grabbed the book and peered at the marked page. Her breath caught when she saw the heading. The Ones We Miss. There, in the center, her brace-faced eighth grade picture overlaid a pale pink heart. Her picture, before Lynn Thomas, who died in a house fire. Before Keith Wells, who lost his battle to cancer.

And worse—apologetic messages from the horrid people who ridiculed her and drove her out of town, dedicated to Pandora, the dreadful name she legally changed years ago.

Six words, etched by a scratchy pen, sent a jolt through her. With all my heart, I’m sorry. And the signature beneath it… Love, Geoff Spencer.

She closed the yearbook and tucked it in the crate beneath her birthday box. As she settled on her couch, she raised her cooled latte and toasted the air. “Here’s to twenty-eight. May it be drastically better than fourteen.”

Christian Fiction Friday Cavernous #5

Time again for Christian Fiction Friday, hosted by Hallee Bridgeman and Alana Terry. This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

More from the first chapter of Cavernous, my inspirational YA dystopian.

When the church ladies are gone, I put plastic containers in the refrigerator and tuck baked goods in our breadbox. Knowing Mrs. Whitman, they’ll taste terrible. Still, my stomach rumbles, so I help myself to four slices of banana bread. The dry crumbs catch in my throat and I chase them with two full glasses of milk.

After breaking down the box and taking it to the recycle bin, I return to the armchair and concentrate on wiggling my feet. My cell rings, a number I don’t recognize. “Hello?”

“Oh, good, Callie. Michael Harding, from church. I’ve been trying to reach your dad.”

I draw in a deep breath and release it. “He’s at work. Do you have news?”

“Sorry, no. I wanted to be sure everything is okay. I heard them dispatch an emergency crew to your house on my scanner. An unresponsive woman. Do you know anything about that?”

“What?” Sagging into the cushion, I lean my head over the arm of the chair. “Everything is fine. At least I think it is. Except Mom.” My breath catches. “Could she be outside?”

“When will your dad be home?”

Shaking my head, I pace the kitchen. “A couple of hours. What do I do?”

“We’ll check the yard. I’m on the way.”

I peek out the windows and stick my head out the back door. “I don’t see anything.”

He blows a burst of air into the phone speaker. “Is Amber home?”

“She’s still asleep.”

“Well, you might want to wake her. Be there soon.” He disconnects before I can reply.

I stare at the blank cell screen. My teeth chatter so hard, my whole body shakes. Is Mom lying in the yard? I can’t imagine answering the door. What else could go wrong?

“Why?” I speak through clenched teeth. A sob jumps out, and I lift my gaze to the ceiling. “God, why did you let this happen?”

No answer. A grease spot I’ve never noticed stares back at me, and I feel icky, dirty.

I run to my room, grab clothes, and head into the bathroom to undress. Then I hesitate. What if I’m naked when the police get here?

After a few seconds of debate, I take the quickest shower in my entire life. I’m standing in the hallway with dripping hair when an ambulance screeches up the drive. The drugs. I try to wake Amber, but she rolls over and groans before closing her eyes again. Did she hide them? And if not, will they take her to jail? Will they take Dad to jail?

Footsteps pound the porch, shadows cross the window. I take a deep breath, and after staring a minute, go to the door.

When I open it, Mrs. Whitman drags a young, bald-headed paramedic up the porch stairs.

He narrows glassy eyes. “We have a report of an unresponsive woman at this residence.”

Mrs. Whitman beams at me. “I called them and told them you couldn’t rouse your sister.”

About the book:

In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?

The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.

Christian Fiction Friday Cavernous #4

christian-fiction-friday-banner-e1423219106167

Time again for Christian Fiction Friday, hosted by Hallee Bridgeman and Alana Terry. This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

More from the first chapter of Cavernous, my inspirational YA dystopian.

Three knocks rattle the front door, and I drag myself into the entry to answer. Mrs. Whitman and company stand on the porch with a box full of baked goods and plastic containers of food. “Morning, Callie. We’ve been praying.”

“Morning, Mrs. Whitman. Mrs. Spencer, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Bates.” I dole out hugs, my soft cotton tee catching on their gaudy polyester prints. Two still have hair in rollers. “Thank you so much.”

Mrs. Whitman shoves past me into the kitchen and sets the box on the counter. “This should keep you guys fed for a couple of days. We’ll be by with more sometime later this week.”

“It took forever to get here. Traffic’s backed up on the freeway for miles.” Mrs. Bates wipes a dramatic arm across her forehead. “I don’t know how I’ll get to the hairdresser.”

“Speaking of hair…” Mrs. Spencer lifts one of my matted locks and wrinkles her nose. “Go take a shower. It will help you feel better.”

“I’m sure you’re right.” I force a smile. “Thanks for stopping by.”

Mrs. Whitman shuffles around the kitchen, opening cabinet doors and glancing at the pile of mail Mom left on the counter. “What’s the smell? A candle?”

“Come on, Mary,” Mrs. Parker says. “Let the poor girl rest. She’s had a rough night.”

They tug Mrs. Whitman toward the door, and she pulls away. “What kind of candle, dearie? I’d love to get one.”

I sniff, detecting leftover pizza and the faintest hint of weed. “Um… pine?”

Mrs. Spencer also takes in a deep breath. “Have you been smoking marijuana?”

“No.” Pressing my lips together, I cross my arms over my chest. “No, I don’t do drugs.”

“It’s the college girl,” Mrs. Bates says. “The sister. Leroy always says she’s trouble.” She turns to me. “Is your sister still here?”

Leroy has no idea. “Amber’s asleep. I couldn’t get her to wake up this morning.” I walk over to the door and hold it open. “Thank you for the food. I’ll let you know the moment we hear.”

“Is she breathing?” Mrs. Whitman starts down the hall to the bedrooms.

Mrs. Parker links arms with her, dragging her toward the door. “Mary, we can visit later this week. Let’s go. We’ve got the women’s club meeting, and Ellen has a hair appointment.”

Mrs. Whitman harrumphs and follows the other ladies to the porch.

Outside, summertime dew covers the ground, and it smells like earthworms. I laugh as the ladies take ginger steps through the wet grass to Mrs. Whitman’s car, which is parked too close to the edge of the driveway. Hope she doesn’t hit the mailbox when she backs out.

About the book:

In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?

The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.

Christian Fiction Friday–Cavernous #2

christian-fiction-friday-banner-e1423219106167

Late, but not too late for Christian Fiction Friday, hosted by Hallee Bridgeman and Alana Terry. This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

I’ve been working on polishing three different manuscripts this summer–Humbled Goddesses, a series of short stories to introduce my romantic suspense series, Pandora’s Deed, the first book in my series, and Cavernous, my YA dystopian.

Mom’s been missing four hours. Priorities, Amber. Blowing hard, I puff my cheeks and count to ten. “Yeah, me too.” I head to the kitchen, grab a jar of peanut butter, and slather it on slices of multigrain bread. “I’m worried. Maybe we should call Dad again.”

Flickering candlelight crawls across her face, creating a landscape of shadowy slopes. “Maybe.” She takes a sandwich and downs it in four large bites.

I try his cell. Whatever keeps Dad from answering must be important. Mom wasn’t in an accident. At least I hope not. And he’d tell us. Besides, wouldn’t the police have called?

Another hour passes. The power returns, but wind still jostles the windows. Amber cowers on the couch, watching the radar on our old-school, boxy TV. A hint of her tawny hair peeks from under a blanket, and she resembles a Middle Eastern princess with her striking green eyes and perfect skin. She yawns, long and drawn-out like a cat.

I touch my own face, running my fingers over acne. “You should go to bed. I’ll wake you if there’s any news.”

“I think I will.” She stretches again and drops the blanket to reveal the low-cut tank top she wore under her jacket. Of course, said jacket spent most of the evening draped over the kitchen chair since Dad wasn’t home. She’s going to end up pregnant before my eighteenth birthday. By the boy I love.

“Monster.” I stalk to the opposite end of the couch, my head filling with sinister thoughts I’d never act on—shoving her off steps, tripping her as she crosses my path.

Thunder crackles as if in answer, and I glance at the sky with a sheepish grin. I get it. Thinking it in my heart’s as bad as doing it. Forgiveness and compassion… easier said than done.

I turn off the TV and flop down so hard it unsettles the cushions.

A piece of white plastic catches my eye, poking out from the depths between us. I reach for it, knocking it farther under Amber’s seat. “Get up a second.”

She dives under the blanket.

“Amber. Get up.” I scoop below the cushion and lift, uprooting her slender frame.

Loose change and junk food crumbs litter the burlap covering, as well as a tube of Mom’s favorite lipstick and a gas station receipt. Her purse must have spilled, and she was in such a hurry she didn’t notice. I grasp a plastic driver’s license, photo side down.

As I raise the edge, my heart skips a beat. West Virginia, not Kentucky. I turn it over, revealing Mom’s face underneath a dark wig, distorted by heavy makeup.

About the book:

In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?

The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.

Christian Fiction Friday–July 17 Cavernous #1

christian-fiction-friday-banner-e1423219106167

Time for Christian Fiction Friday, hosted by Hallee Bridgeman and Alana Terry. This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

I’ve been working on polishing three different manuscripts this summer–Humbled Goddesses, a series of short stories to introduce my romantic suspense series, Pandora’s Deed, the first book in my series, and Cavernous, my YA dystopian.

Someone suggested that I start from the beginning of Cavernous, so here you go. Installment #1. Meet Callie Noland, teen protagonist whose world is about to be rocked.

Enjoy!

The old grandfather clock chimes nine thirty, its echo searing the last of my frayed nerves. I follow a trail of wax to a chipped piece of Mom’s Fiestaware, two feet from the porch swing. Though it’s July, flickers in windows across the street make it feel like Halloween, and set my teeth chattering. The whistling wind overtakes my guiding flame, bringing an unseasonable chill, and causing the shutters to knock as though they, too, can sense my dread.

Where is my mom? Dad’s earlier words still haunt me. She’d never be late without calling.

A passing car illuminates silhouettes of trees, whose limbs tangle and snap in their frenzied dance. The car doesn’t slow, but it spotlights my older sister Amber sitting on the swing with the boy I’ve loved for two years. She’s wrapped in his muscular arms and caressing his silky brown hair, with her tongue somewhere down the middle of his throat. Ick. And apparently not worried at all about Mom.

Wish she’d hurry up and go to Eastern for the semester. At least I didn’t have to watch them when she was at college.

Ethan yawns and stretches, working himself free from her grasp. One side of his shirt is untucked and wrinkled, and he stuffs it back into his jeans. He runs a hand through his tousled hair. “I should leave. Gotta work an eight-to-four tomorrow.” He plants a lingering kiss on her then pats my shoulder. “Bye, Callie. Hope you guys find your mom soon.”

“Bye.” My skin tingles where he touched me.

I bite my quivering lip as lightning brightens the whole block, revealing the rural Kentucky skyline. Debris from our last storm swirls over sidewalks and skitters across the blacktop. Ethan hurries down the concrete steps to his black Mustang amidst pelting rain, and disappears into the shadows.

Amber’s perfect lips contort in a wistful pout. “He’s so good to me.”

“He’s too good for you.” The now-roaring wind masks my words, and I shiver with the bitter cold it brings, an odd end to such a warm summer day.

I’m too young for Ethan, of course. That’s what Mom said. Quit moping. He’s nineteen, I’m seventeen, and I can’t date anyone who’s not in high school. And, I can’t go out with anyone who can drive, which means no dating at all. Never mind Amber’s twenty and she didn’t have to follow these crazy rules.

I slam the screen door. Must be nice to do whatever you want. Although, I’d really love to hear Mom’s nagging about now. Where is she?

In the living room, I fluff already-plump pillows and dust the polished coffee table. Amber let wax spill all over the kitchen counter, so I scrape it with a butter knife. She also knocked over a rack of Mom’s crocheting magazines. Squinting in the candlelight, I alphabetize them the way Mom likes.

The power blinks on at the same time enormous crack of thunder sends me jumping. Amber rushes inside as the electricity fades again. “The storm’s getting bad, Callie. And I’m hungry.”

About the book:

In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?

The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.

Christian Fiction Friday–July 10

christian-fiction-friday-banner-e1423219106167

Once again, I’m participating in Christian Fiction Friday, hosted by Hallee Bridgeman and Alana Terry. This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

I’ve been working on polishing three different manuscripts this summer–Humbled Goddesses, a series of short stories to introduce my romantic suspense series, Pandora’s Deed, the first book in my series, and Cavernous, my YA dystopian.

For this snippet, I’ve chosen a snippet of Cavernous that is a good example of the overall theme. The book was inspired by Hosea 4:6, and my fear that since so many people no longer read their Bibles, they have no understanding of God’s ways and truth. What are the repercussions of that?

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.

This snippet is a chapel scene following the tragic death of one of Callie’s fellow students. Enjoy!

I can’t pretend I was a perfect Christian before this, but at least I knew what it meant to be one. Other students have no idea. The Alliance has reduced our faith to impossible-to-reach virtues—thou shalt not smile, thou shalt not frown, thou shalt not ever have any fun.

At the end of Art’s sermon, we stand and raise our Alliance Bibles. Though they include all the books, some have fewer chapters and verses, eliminating all mention of God and Jesus. The sad part? Most of the student’s don’t even know anything’s missing.

“And now,” Art flips pages, “the Book of James.”

I keep my face trained on his. In my head, I recite what I can remember of the first chapter before chanting with the group. The Alliance version starts with verse two and leaves out the part where James calls himself a servant of Christ.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds…

Yeah, right. This place brings nothing like joy. I think of Ben’s stiff body, motionless on the sun-scorched grass. Not joy. Fear and death.

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways…

I mouth the part about patience from Christ through clenched teeth.

Art holds a colorful comedy/tragedy mask in front of his face. “In our time before the Alliance, we faltered. A divided country with two missions, destined to fail.

“In six short months, we’ve reduced teen pregnancy, eradicated heart disease, and made great strides in helping our citizens overcome their vices and addictions.”

Overcoming vices. Yeah, by poisoning people. Wonder how they cut pregnancy. Did they kill the babies?

A large graph lights up on the screen behind him. “We’ve enforced portion control in our restaurants. As you can see, even in this short time, our nation has lost a staggering ten percent of our body weight. We will be forgiven for gluttony and shine anew in our disease-free world.”

I grit my teeth. Forgiven by whom?

He advances the slide. “Further, we’ve lost twenty percent body weight at our school. Look around at your thinner selves, conquering your obesity one healthy meal at a time.”

Where were these numbers coming from? As far as I know, I’ve never been weighed. Looking up at the cameras, I shudder. Talk about Big Brother.

Art resumes the recitation, skipping down even farther to verse twelve. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial,” I call out in chorus. For when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promises to them that love Him. “Every man is tempted. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

Ben’s stiff face appears on the screen, framed by a bed of grass. The students gasp, myself included.

“Consider your brother, a son who erred. Look at what happened to him.”

At the end of my aisle, Reva clenches the back of a pew.

“Don’t make the same mistake!” Art flips through several slides of drugs, beer, and people having sex. I glance at Maggie, who has narrowed her gaze at him. Her nostrils flare from the force of her breath.

Art bows his head. “Lord and Master, we mourn Ben Wilhelm’s tragic death, a seventeen-year-old child who followed the path of sin. We grieve his life, his very existence, and not helping him escape the wiles of alcohol.”

And then, he holds his right arm sharp and diagonal across his left shoulder and waves a rigid hand over the crowd. “You’re dismissed.”

About the book:

In a divided America, several secessions lead to the formation of a new nation, the Alliance of American States. Fueled by extremists who solicit members via social media, the Alliance has one weak point: Callie Noland, daughter of extremist leader Adrian Lamb. Can she maintain her faith in God and stand up to the man who calls himself Lord and Master?

The mission of the Cavernous trilogy is to incite a revolution for teen girls to delve into Scripture. Many of today’s society grasp at a meme-driven belief system and draw doctrine from Facebook and Twitter statuses. They need strong characters that write the words of God on their heart and take stands against slight untruths and injustices, especially the youth.

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.

Book Review: Together With You by Victoria Bylin

Together With You

Victoria Bylin’s Together With You is a charming story about ophthalmologist Ryan Tremaine, who is in over his head raising his three children by himself while his ex-wife is traveling. Penny, an unplanned product of an affair, was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and runs away at every opportunity in search of her recently-deceased mother. Kyle and Eric are distant, and in spite of his best effort, Ryan cannot find the cohesiveness he desires for his family.

Enter Carly Mason, preacher’s daughter and assistant toy store manager, who has expertise with FASD through her volunteer work back home in Kentucky. She’s finishing up her college degree and trying to forget a bad experience she had with a FAS teenager that left her feeling like a failure.

When Penny goes missing at the mall and wanders into her store, Carly can’t help but notice the symptoms. She’s able to reach Penny by talking through stuffed animals, and helps her get back to her dad. Ryan, impressed by how Carly handled the situation, offers her a job as Penny’s nanny.

Though reluctant at first, Carly agrees to take the job, and here we experience Bylin’s mastery of character. This book is a love story—not only between Ryan and Carly—but also between each member of the family. Kyle and Eric must learn to get along as brothers, and to accept Penny as their sister. Ryan must learn how to interact with each of his children in a different way, and wants nothing more than a normal family dinner. Carly smoothes their relationship with southern fried chicken and simple acts of kindness and love.

Bylin exceeded her reputation, depicting realistic and engaging characters in a way that I fell in love with each and every one of them, even Aunt Denise, who wants to take custody of Penny herself. The back copy of the book compares the story to The Sound of Music, and I agree. It has that heartwarming feel where chaos yields gradually to comfortable.

The tension between Ryan and Carly as they deny their attraction is subtle, but ever-present.  My heart ached for both of them throughout the story, as they fought their own inner battles and struggled to find the place where they could be perfectly right for each other.

I highly recommend this story, and give it five stars without reservation.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Don’t Let Your Characters Eat the Marshmallow

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE TED talks. I learn so much about life and people from them, and as a writer, I am continually drawing information about how to shape characters and the ways people truly interact.

One of my favorite TED talks is by Joachim de Posada, explaining a study where four-year-olds were given marshmallows and told not to eat them for fifteen minutes. If they succeeded, they’d be given another.

His point was that the students who delayed gratification were more likely to be successful.

This morning, I was working on a scene that has stumped me for months. I suddenly realized the problem–I was letting the characters eat the marshmallow too soon. Delaying gratification for characters is as important as delaying it for ourselves. Readers will continue to sympathize with a character who does not get what they want.

Off to reread my story to find other places I can keep the character from eating the marshmallow.

Hope you have a blessed day!

NaNo Time!

A few years ago, I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo, and it was a total debacle. I posted the whole thing on a blog for the world to see (and cringe). It was a great experience. Even though it was rough, horrible writing, a lot of people followed the story and gave me tons of encouragement. And I won NaNo that year with a story that eventually ended up in the ACFW First Impression’s contest and led me to my wonderful editor, Deirdre Lockhart.

I’ve decided to participate again this year, although I will not be posting the story. I’m going to write the first draft of book two of the Cavernous series, Cocooned.

In Cavernous, Callie Noland’s mother disappears, and then she’s snatched from her father and forced to live in the newly formed Alliance of American States. Cocooned continues her journey, taking her from an Alliance prison into a food sweatshop, where she will experience the devastation of the flailing nation firsthand. She’ll have encounters with American military personnel and eventually become the face of the rebellion.

Good luck to all other NaNo 2015 participants! My goal is 75,000 words, so about 2,500 per day. Here goes nothing!