Today, I’ve decided to join in with Jewel Series author Hallee Bridgeman and cohost Alana Terry and participate in Christian Fiction Friday, which is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress!
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 pivotal moment in Cavernous, where Callie, the protagonist, faces the end of life as she’s always known it.
Michael backs against the wall next to Dad. “Can we help you?”
The taller man snarls, tugging the waist hem of his uniform coat while the shorter one presses forward with the barrel of his rifle. They resemble Union men in Revolutionary red, like a mismatched reenactment from history class. Strange, and chilling.
He lowers his gun to one side, nodding for the shorter man to advance. “Agent Kevin Wiseman. I’m looking for Callie Noland.”
Me? Why would they be looking for me?
Dad holds unsteady arms in front of him. “I’m Martin, her father. What do you need?”
Wiseman smirks. “I’ll be transporting Ms. Noland to her new home.”
I jolt. Ethan covers my mouth before I can protest, and my shoulders slump. He’s right. I’ll get us all shot.
Face tightening, Dad lowers his hands while Michael steps forward in full courtroom stance. He releases a shaky breath. “Did her mother send you?”
Michael’s scoff shatters the brief silence that follows Dad’s soft words. “Under whose authority? What organization are you with? Where’s your badge?”
“Under her father’s authority.” Agent Wiseman stands even taller, his chest puffing like a blowfish. “That’s all you need to know. Like I said, Ms. Noland needs to prepare for transport.”
The man accompanying Agent Wiseman lowers his rifle and pulls a folded manila envelope from under his arm. “According to this DNA test, she’s not your daughter.”
Angela, still bustling in the kitchen, drops a full platter of chicken.
Trembling head to toe, I dodge the crumbs scattering across the floor. Of course Dad’s my father. And yet… the driver’s license… Mom’s alias… No, it can’t be true.
“I don’t believe you.” Dad crosses his arms and straightens.
Wiseman hands him a piece of paper, which he scans, his face blanching.
All I can see is a blend of colors—the red flecks in the carpet, the gray steel of the gun, and the gold trim on the agent’s pants—swirling into a twisted mess. It takes a few seconds to realize I’ve doubled over in Ethan’s arms, and my hands grasp his legs for dear life as he tries to help me stand.
Wiseman snatches the paper and tucks it into the envelope, then removes another page. He shoves it in my face. “Your real father has filed for and received custody.”
Dad steps in front of me. “Not possible. When was the hearing?”
“We sent you a notification, and you didn’t bother to show.” Wiseman hands him the document.
Falling against the wall, Dad steadies himself with quivering hands. “I never received a notification.”
Snorting, the other agent turns to me. “Consider yourself fortunate. Provisions have been made for you to attend the Monongahela Military Academy. We’re leaving immediately.”
Ethan’s strong arms loosen their hold of my rubbery ones and his fists clench. The second agent aims his rifle, and Ethan relaxes his posture. “Can she at least have time to process it? Or to say goodbye?”
“I—” A military academy? My gaze darts between Dad’s gaping mouth and Wiseman’s rifle.
“I’ll be waiting by the car.” Wiseman nods to his partner. “Agent Burton will escort you when you’re ready. You have five minutes to gather your things and say your goodbyes, or we’ll have to resort to bigger extremes.”
Chills surge through my entire body. I lick my dry lips, hoping I can find the words to say goodbye. “But most of my things aren’t here.”
He points the rifle out the front door and shoots across the yard. “Five minutes, and no more. Resistance will not be tolerated.”
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.
I spent a couple of hours tonight on a Facebook party supporting debut author Nadine Brandes with the launch of her new release, A Time to Die, first in a series of three published by the newly-branded Enclave Publishing. It was incredibly cool, and a great time. She had video interviews, giveaways, great discussion, and it was interesting to connect with other writers and fans.
One of the activities we did centered on the premise of the book–what if you knew exactly how much time you had to live? How might you live differently? I would evangelize more. Although, I fear that knowing a date and time would just lead me to do as I sometimes do in other facets of my life–wait until the last minute and make a good run at it.
I’ve heard people, both in the church and out, throw around the “life is a vapor” and “no one knows when He’s coming” verses like candy, but they live their lives as if they don’t believe them. And they don’t share their faith as if they don’t believe anyone else is lost. So I’ve been thinking a lot tonight about evangelism and procrastination.
The Bible makes it really simple.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We whine all the time about how our churches are losing members and people are losing their faith in God’s existence. But I think it’s time we face a bitter truth–we aren’t doing our jobs!
Think about it. How many employers would be content giving us a task that we ignore day-by-day? God has given us a charge–to go into the world and make disciples. And if we aren’t actively working on talking to people about God each day, we’re ignoring that task. The message is simple. God exists. He loves you. He sent his Son to die for you. Obey him and receive eternal salvation. Why is that so hard to share?
And we ignore this task for what? Sports? Work? Entertainment? Fear?
Have we made these things our all, when the Bible clearly tells us that keeping God’s commandments should be our all?
One reason I want to write Christian fiction is because it gives me a tool to share my faith. Even if someone never reads my work, I can tell them about my books and it opens the door to a conversation about God. But I should do so much more.
How do you fit evangelism into your daily lives?
We did the Active Shooter Response Training this week at school. Big shoutout to the KSP--it was fantastic. I learned so many things I’d never thought about before, and for the first time in my career, I don’t feel like a sitting duck.
One thing the speaker said resonated with me as a writer. He talked about how in a scenario like a school shooting, the body tends to focus on a single sense, like tunnel vision. The person in danger could literally see everything in the room and hear nothing. I heard what he said, but it wasn’t until we started doing drills that I really understood. We get so carried away with trying to throw in all those sensory details that sometimes we forget to check reality.
In some of the drills, we had to flee. I’ve never ran so fast in my life, and surprisingly, I wasn’t breathless. Here I’ve been making excuses about not running 5K’s and who knew I could jet across a parking lot in ten seconds, ha ha. But the crazy thing is, I remember all of the cars in the parking lot beside where I was standing. I remember details of the back of our school that I’ve never noticed before even though I’ve been out that same door several times. Everything I saw the second the drill was over is blazed in my mind.
Then it hit me (duh) that I’ve taught anatomy, and human reflexes are pretty well-researched phenomena.
Here, for example, is one of the sites I like to use: Our Body’s Rapid Defense Mechanism. It explains involuntary movement and what almost always happens when we get injured.
Tying this back to characters, it makes me wonder how well we pace their reflexes. When I heard gunshots in the hallway, I stood frozen for about 5 seconds before I ran, evaluating which direction was safe. Sitting in a room with someone pointing a gun at me completely changed the way I see that kind of scene. They told us in the training to fight the man, and I dove at him before I even knew what I was doing. Let me tell you, in that instance, I wasn’t thinking about what color shirt he was wearing or whether or not he had a certain hair color or style.
What I’m saying is placement of details matters. In that 10-15 seconds that I held the “shooter’s” wrists and the other teachers helped me ambush the poor guy, my only thought was keeping that gun out of my face. Now after he was on the table and the “danger” was over, I noticed everything in the room.
Now I’m pumped, ready to write a good fight scene 🙂
Weather forecasts like the one for today always make me nervous. I want to just cuddle up with my family in a cave somewhere and hide until it’s over. Twice in my life, I’ve driven in tornadic storms, and I don’t think I’ll ever lose that fear. Fear is something I carry with me a lot in my life, and something I need to let go of.
Fear has two meanings–anxiety and respect. It’s healthy to want to take cover in impending weather. But the anxiety… that’s something I really struggle with, both as a person and as a writer.
Joshua 1:9 is constantly on my mind:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong, and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Part of my struggle with this verse is that fear is such a physical response for me. If I have to speak in front of a crowd, butterflies fill my stomach regardless of how much I pray. If I have to drive home in a bad thunderstorm, I tremble. If I think my children are in danger, my heart pounds. Looking over a high point, my knees knock. But I think perhaps those fears come from the respect for the possibility of a dangerous or unpleasant outcome.
With writing, though, it’s another ball game. Complete and utter anxiety. What if I spend months writing and polishing this book and no one wants to read it? What if it’s not good enough? What if I finish and sell the first book of my trilogy and stall out on book two? What if teens don’t relate to my characters or plot? What if people do read it and they hate it? What if people think I’m weird for writing Christian fiction? What if my characters come across too weak? What if I inadvertently misrepresent God’s truth?
Charles Spurgeon says this of anxiety:
Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.
So true, and such hard advice to follow. And from a writer’s standpoint, our anxiety does not put words on a page, but only distracts us from writing brilliance.
Right now, my proposal is out there, in the hands of a couple of people who may hand me my dream or tell me now is not the time, and I’m anxious. But my brilliant editor gave me a fantastic pep talk this weekend, reminding me that I’m writing for Him, and He’s read the whole thing. Which makes me wonder–why do I not have anxiety over that?
I saw a Facebook meme earlier this week that asked why we worry so much about what others think and not enough what God thinks.
My prayer for today is that my words will please Him and further His truth.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and redeemer.
Hey Ladies! Yes, Christian ladies who are raving over the recently released movie trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey. Christian ladies who apparently see nothing wrong with it–who are shamelessly posting it on Facebook and Twitter for the rest of us to see and share in its lustful glory.
Let me start by saying I’m not perfect or sinless, and sometimes I struggle with temptation. Perhaps, even mild curiosity. Maybe, a pause before deciding not to click. I haven’t read this book, nor do I have a desire to read something tauted as “Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving.” But lust is a sin that affects all of us, and you never know who, by sharing, you’ll entice into a deep battle with sexual sin. Are there teenage or college girls on your friend list, looking to your example and finding that you deem this acceptable?
Just the thought should make us blush. Right? But if we’re posting the trailer on social media, we’re surely not blushing. Have we forgotten how?
Kind of reminds me of Jeremiah 6
“Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest My soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.”
Then, these troubling words:
“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush. Therefore they shall fall among them that fall; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down,” saith the Lord.
Kind of scary, right? Enough to make a girl want to put down fiction novels for good. Unless…
We have an alternative! Today, there are thousands of writers in the Christian fiction market trying to make a positive change in the world. Multiple genres–YA Dystopian, Speculative, New Adult, Contemporary–just Google it and you’ll find tons of titles. Good titles. And a lot of free titles. You’ll find heartwarming stories that make you cry, romances that make you melt, and suspense that makes you shiver.
Christian Fiction readers–what’s the best CF book you’ve read lately? I just finished Luminary, second of the Anomaly series by Krista McGee.
So, let’s forget about that whole grey thing, okay? And don’t forget to put your blush on.
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?