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.
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.”
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!
I can’t get this line out of my head:
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.
Not only is it adorable to hear little girls everywhere singing their hearts out about fractals, but I thought it might be a great concept to describe the character arc of a Christian fiction progatonist through a fractal.
Factoring in this thought was something I’d just read in Krista McGee’s Anomaly, which is one of the better books I’ve read lately. In it, the main character is a musician, and she plays out her emotions and thoughts in her songs. If it works for a song, why wouldn’t it work for a mathematical pattern?
This idea isn’t completely original. I’ve tried several different methods to organize plot, including Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. I really like his method, although sometimes it’s a little too linear for me. So today, as I was trying to reorganize the plot of Cocooned, the second book in my trilogy, I did a web search and found the picture at the top of my post. I imagined my four characters, each moving on their own fractal path, with the protagonist and antagonist facing off at the end of the story, just like the two bigger fractals in the picture seem to be facing off. I can see my whole plot in that picture.
I tried to imagine the white and blue spaces as safe moments for the character, that build as the color intensifies. They walk through these situations, in and out of the paths of other characters, spiraling into the climax of their own. There would be some things to draw them away from their main, spiraling path. I loved the symmetry of it, and the pacing/timing seems perfect for the twists and turns I’d like to place in the story. It fit so perfeclty. How cool is that?
If I ever end up publishing Cocooned, I’ll share it someday 🙂
Anyone else have any cool fractal pics?
Sometimes it scares me how impatient we’ve all become, and how few people seem to take time anymore to stop and smell the roses. But the things we do take time for…always Facebook, right?
According to this NBC News article from 2013, smartphone users check their Facebook pages an average of fourteen times every day. That’s the average. The article goes on to mention that 79% of users check their phones in the first fifteen minutes of their day.
Think about how different the world might be if those same people checked their Bibles first thing or opened their Bibles fourteen times every day.
I think there are a lot of Christians out there who live busy lives and take comfort in being able to post a Bible verse or a religious-themed meme. We do so with good intentions–it’s an easy way to “share Christ” with everyone who follows us in their news feed. But what are we really sharing? It’s Cracker Jack Christianity. Dig through the sticky muck on our newsfeed and pull out a cheap imitation for the real thing. But at least people are reading Bible verses, right? Well, yeah. Right.
And this is a big however…
According to several studies, there are a lot of Christians out there not reading their Bibles very often anymore. Take this article from the Huffington Post, for example (April 2013). They cite a survey from the American Bible Society claiming that only one in five Americans read their Bibles on a regular basis. It said that fifty-seven percent only read their Bibles three or four times per year, and that the same percentage of young people ages 18-28 read their Bibles three times or less per year.
What this means is for many, the only access they have to Scripture is whatever random verse they see on someone’s Facebook wall. They might base their faith entirely on that, thinking they’re okay when they’re not. And like Psalm 119:105 says, the Bible is a light to our path–without it, we’re just walking blindly in the dark.
This is what prompted me to write Cavernous. It’s a what-if book, considering the idea that our obsession with social media might lead to the next big political revolution. First, a presidential assassination, and then a planned effort that leads to the secession of several states. And a group of extremists who recruit through their Facebook page lead several states into secession to form their own country.
Is that so far fetched? How many blog posts have we shared without looking to see what the writers really stand for? How many memes have we passed on without looking at the names of the original poster? I for one have seen Christians post pictures from users or groups with inappopriate names on multiple occasions and they probably didn’t even notice.
What if–we like the pages, we sign on via the comfort of our own homes, and then suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of a great divide?
Suppose a new political leader came along who didn’t agree with three verses in I Corinthians–so he has them removed and reprinted. And he didn’t like part of Romans, and he couldn’t leave in the verses that address his favorite sin… and suddenly we have a Bible that doesn’t reflect God’s true plan of salvation. And we might not realize it because WE HAVEN’T READ OUR BIBLES LATELY!
It would never happen, right?
But think about it, thoughout history, political leaders have had influence on printing the Bible. The King James version, for example, was commissioned by King James IV and the church of England. And these days, anyone can self publish whatever drivel they feel like.
In Cavernous, one of the themes is to not only read Scripture, but to write it on our hearts. The main character, Callie, is able to stand up to the political leaders because of her Biblical knowledge. I’m not sure I could do that myself, which is why this is a message for me as much as anyone else. These days, it’s so easy to read the Bible. There are even phone apps that will read it out loud to you. None of us have an excuse to rely on statuses and memes to give us our daily Biblical nourishment.
Rant over 🙂 Back to writing!