He couldn’t breathe, woke to a hand clamped over his mouth. Eyes wide, arms flailing, Eoghan tried to scream, but the sound stopped in this throat. Panic burned in his chest until his eyes focused on the face of his brother, inches from his own. Giving the briefest of nods, Cal retreated silently into the darkness. Eoghan struggled not to gasp.
He waited for his heart to descend from his throat to his chest, for his frantic breathing to slow. It didn’t matter how often Cal came to him this way, he was never prepared. If once he could wake reassured by his brother’s presence rather than frightened ... but fear was his oldest friend. For fourteen suns he remembered little else.
He listened for sounds of wakefulness in the crowded boys’ dormitory. All he heard was a chorus of heavy breathing and soft snores. Thank Auraya hard work and
late services make for deep sleep. Slowly, he lifted the threadbare blanket and padded barefoot across the cold stone floor to the alcove where Cal waited for him.
The dormitory, so full of bodies, was somehow a hollow place. The high, small windows stole the light and life from the room. There never seemed to be enough air, but the chill multiplied like vermin in the walls. It was a dungeon, a place for the unwanted, where boys waited to become monks, or to be thrown out into the street. At fourteen, he’d waited longer than most.
Without preamble, Cal thrust the hardened leather case, broader than Eoghan’s chest and nearly as thick, into his arms. Eoghan’s foot slapped against the floor as he steadied himself and he waited, breathless, for some sign that other sleepers had woken.
Within the case he held was the Kas’Khoudum, the book of light: the reason Cal had fallen, but also why he’d been promised he’d soon rise above all others.
A respected scholar and priest, Cal was to take the position of chief archivist in the great library. It wasn’t a prestigious post. He’d have no land, no parishioners to tithe, and little possibility of becoming a member of any prelate’s staff, but he loved the old
books. Then his duties led him to the Kas’Khoudum and the terrible truths hidden
in its pages.
Because of this book, Cal discovered that everything the Faithful espoused was a lie. The Kas’Khoudum contained no commandments, no catalogue of sin, and certainly no list of penance or punishment. He hadn’t read yet of damnation or the tortures of the blessless soul after death. There was no instruction regarding the tithing of the people,
no hierarchy, and not even a mention of tonsure. Eoghan’s scalp prickled at the thought of it, the plucking. The monastery’s barber said it bred dedication and the stoicism to bear up under the burden of a monk’s duty. The goddess wanted them to suffer in this life, he said, so her consolation would be so much more rewarding in the next. Eoghan thought the practice unnecessarily cruel.
This book, with the shapes of dragons burned and burnished onto case and cover, encouraged Cal to enlighten his brethren, but they would hear none of it and accused him of heresy. Cal fled and became a fugitive.
Because of this book, Cal lived in hiding, preaching in the alleys, in barns, wherever the people would come to hear him, and snuck into the monastery dormitory in the middle of the night to teach Eoghan about the Kas’Khoudum and the truth of the
The book was the reason Auraya finally spoke to Cal and told him that he’d become the Kas’Hadden, the hammer of light, and her representative on Tellurin. Cal was going to change the world and Eoghan only felt proud, privileged, and intensely grateful that his brother hadn’t forgotten about him altogether.
Cal had visited him like this for moons, teaching him the language the book was written in, but tonight Cal didn’t lead him to one of the store rooms and ask Eoghan to read from the Kas’Khoudum. Something cold and hard settled in the boy’s stomach. He swallowed, his mouth dry and gummy.“ What?” Eoghan said, the word only
Cal grabbed his shoulders and spoke into his ear, saying the words slowly, clearly, and as loudly as he dared: “Hide it. It’s your responsibility now. Copy it. Bring faith back to the Faithful.”
Eoghan shook his head and Cal’s fingers dug into his flesh painfully. Giving him the book meant Cal expected something terrible to happen. Eoghan heard the confirmation of his suspicions in Cal’s voice, but how could this be? Auraya chose Cal for her champion. What would happen that the goddess couldn’t protect him from?
“They’re coming for me,” Cal said.
“Who?” It emerged a squeaky ‘oo.’
“Archbishop Manse and the Grand Inquisitor.”
Cal left Eoghan shivering from more than his bare feet on the cold stone, holding a book that might be the only thing he’d have to remember his brother by.
The thought galvanized him. Eoghan hastened to don cassock and cloak and scurried through the rain to the south wall, headed for the beggars’ graveyard outside.
Hunched over the book, he passed uncontested through the postern gate. Monks and the boys of the monastery came and went at all times of the day and night. Burial and vigil were nigh on continual. Though he felt certain they must have heard his heart pounding against his bones, the guards, huddled beneath their own cloaks, nodded him
through. On the other side, his bare feet squished in the mud, slipped until they scraped against buried stones, were cut on the sharp ones.
Eoghan buried the book along with its name, the language it was written in, and every other memory he had of it. He commended it to its new guardian and tried to forget. The girl had been interred that day and would speak of his visit to no one. Even using the spade, he was mud to the elbows, dirt to the knees. He had to strip off the cloak and cassock and let the rain cleanse him before he dressed again and returned through the gate.
Back on his pallet, holding his jaw closed to keep his teeth from chattering, Eoghan’s fear devoured him.
A few tense and sleepless days later, the news reached the monastery: a heretic had been captured and would be interrogated by Grand Inquisitor de Naude himself. Following the inquisition, there would be a public execution, the likes of which Aurayene hadn’t seen in many a sun. Though the name of the alleged heretic was made public, everyone in the monastery acted like they didn’t know Callum MacDubghall.
Only Eoghan harbored any doubt about Cal’s guilt. Wasn’t the point of an inquisition to ascertain the nature and degree of the sin? There seemed to be no investigation here, no considered judgment, just foregone conclusions.
Eoghan abandoned the scriptorium, buried himself in unauthorized research, and poured over the heretical annals. Had anyone accused of heresy ever been found innocent? So rarely that it gave Eoghan little hope. Many had been released for recanting their heretical beliefs, but Cal would never deny Auraya.
Melanie Marttila is an epic fantasy novelist-in-progress. Previously published in several poetry anthologies, her short fiction has won several prizes and appeared in the flagship issue of Parsec Magazine
. Her work is influenced by Guy Gavriel Kay, Diana Gabaldon, Robin McKinley, Jungian psychology, Joseph Campbell, and the serendipitous collision of dream, continual learning and her work as a learning and development professional. She blogs as Writerly Goodness
Melanie, it’s a pleasure to have you here in the Underground. We met, virtual style, on Author Salon almost a year ago, where you are hard at work on your epic fantasy novel, Initiate of Stone
. You’ve won a few prizes for your short fiction. I know a lot of writers find the leap from short fiction to full-fledged novels daunting. Many never make the leap. What made you decide to undertake the challenge of writing
a novel? MELANIE:
First, I’d like to thank you, Brian and Underground Book Reviews, for giving me this opportunity. I’m quite honored to be considered for the emerging writers series and happy to be here.
Novels have always been in me. I had several ideas, even as a child, that I knew couldn’t fit into a shorter form. At the time though, I didn’t have the skill or the dedication to devote myself to a novel. Plus, the opportunities presented to me were all contests. Short stories and poetry work better for that venue.
When I was seventeen I started writing novels longhand, in spiral notebooks. Graduating through a typewriter to a 286 computer with a rudimentary word processor, I wrote, rewrote, transferred my files using a 5 1/4 inch floppy to a newer computer, then a 3 1/2 inch floppy to an even newer computer, and now I have a desktop, laptop, and a tablet with USB drives and backups on DVD.
Even when I was published as a poet, though it was wonderful, it seemed a distraction, a detour from the path I should have been on.
So it’s never been difficult for me to write a longer work. Short stories have always been more challenging for me. BRIAN:
Please tell our readers a little about your project, Initiate of Stone
Just as all her dreams are about to come true, Ferathainn learns that her family and friends have lied to her all her life. The truth, along with her marriage and initiation as a mage await her on her sixteenth birthday but, come the day, soldiers, led by a red-haired butcher, attack her village and put every hope and support beyond her reach.
Alone, bereft, and raped, Ferathainn falls victim to a spirit that promises to grant her the power to exact her revenge. That ill-fated attempt leads Ferathainn to the discovery that the attack on her village was only part of a larger plot to destroy the land of Tellurin and free a mad god from his prison.
Her quest to become powerful enough to prevent the end of her world puts Ferathainn on a collision course with her rapist and the secrets of her past. BRIAN:
In my humble opinion, epic fantasy needs three things to make it work: believable worlds, believable characters and grand, sweeping plots. Worlds, character and plots – as a writer which one do you think is your strength and why? MELANIE:
Definitely the characters. Everything begins with my protagonist and her or his story. Without that character, none of the others would exist, nor the plot, nor the world. It all grows out of one imaginary person.
I think my fascination with character comes from introspection, primarily, but also my interest in Jung and Campbell, and my book addiction. When I read a character that touches me, I remember them, what qualities affected me, what actions made him or her heroic. Everything I’ve lived and experienced, everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve read, it all helps me improve my craft.
Christopher Savio resides in Northern New Jersey. By day he’s a teacher and family man. At night, the need to write drives him deep into the early hours of the morning. Growing up, his love of history and horror, including Stephen King, greatly shaped his reading and writing interests and style. His debut novel, The Beckoning, is a YA paranormal romance immersed in a historical setting. In additional to the sequel, Chris has two other YA novels in the
publication queue. BRIAN:
Chris Savio and I last year at New York’s Algonkian Pitch Conference. As we
nervously waited outside the rooms where we would pitch our novels to some of the biggest editors in the business we struck up several interesting conversations. I was struck by Chris’s strong belief in himself and his novel. We kept in touch since then and I’m pleased to welcome him into the Underground just as his debut novel hits the market. Chris, tell us a little about The Beckoning. CHRIS:
Brian, thank you for your kind words and for having me here. On the surface, The Beckoning
is a story of a young girl who is forced to move from New Jersey to a remote plantation house in Virginia. Isolated from her friends, and ultimately her parents, Marissa (my protagonist) and her dog Max are left to fend for themselves in a world dominated by a demon bent on killing her family. In addition to the demon, Marissa must deal with a paranormal town her family frequents that is populated by ghosts. Eventually, Marissa discovers these ghosts are trying to reach out to her for help, for reasons she doesn’t yet understand. On the brink of insanity, Marissa finds the journal of the young man that lived in her room over a century before. In his journal, the young man left vital information about the history of the house and how to survive it. Lonely and scared, Marissa begins to fall in love with the young man spiritually before he does the seemingly impossible. He materializes to save her from the demon and show her the special powers she possesses. The love Marissa feels for him immediately grows ten fold. While their relationship blossoms, Marissa comes to realize that Zachary has not come to save her. Rather he has come to show her how to save the ghosts who are imprisoned in Mills Run, her family, and possibly the world.
Along with the romance, The Beckoning
is packed with action, horror and the story of a young person finding out who she really is. Above all, The Beckoning
is a story of a young person gaining confidence in herself and standing strong in the face of overwhelming odds.
So I love you because I know no other way than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Anna didn’t like to run because, tethered as she was to me, she felt it was undignified. Which really was a joke, because generally she had about as much dignity as a rodeo clown. In all fairness, she couldn’t feel the ground as something beneath her to stand on, as compared to the air or any other possible place that her will might send her. So being pulled along behind me must have felt like the helpless fluttering of a kite on a string. Upsetting, if you are the kite.
To tell the truth, I was relieved that she kept herself elsewhere when I ran, which I did
most every day just to stay sane. She’d fold up small and compact inside my iPod or even wind herself up in my ponytail for the journey, though she preferred to make it seem a much larger imposition than that. Sometimes she showed herself standing
stiffly, a sullen monolith, her hair and clothes lashing about her in a wind that left the shrubs around her untouched. Or teasing the Johnsons’ dogs, sending them hurtling against the fence, desperate to get to an intruder they couldn’t see or even smell, just sense.
But running was a vital and liberating thing for me, so I shrugged off her displeasure and went anyway. My legs were strong. They reached out for the ground, pulling me away from the secrets and burdens that seemed almost more than one person should bear. My body occupied with its work, I could let my mind travel freely down one
imaginary path then another, exploring without staying anywhere too long. Or having to say what I’d found there. Discharging the contents of my overly full, overly active mind into the pavement with the jolt of each heel-strike was almost the best part of running. The best part, the most important part, was imagining myself alone. I admit it was a thin pretense of being alone, since I only had to stop for a breath, a heartbeat or two, and the illusion would slip away like the sudden clearing of fog from the fields.
But then, I was only fifteen, and I needed whatever privacy I could get.
Kati Thomson is a writer residing in northern California. She describes herself as a one-time AP English geek and mother to two teenagers and a ten year old. Her background is in nursing and she worked in Critical Care then pharmaceutical sales before deciding to follow more creative pursuits.
Kati has an appetite for film and recently Executive Produced a documentary titled ‘Sunset Strip’ about the fabled Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. She has written screenplays, many short stories and poems and is currently working toward publication for her novel, entitled ‘Twine’.
BRIAN: I’d like to welcome Kati Thomson to the Underground. I met Kati through our mutual affiliation with Author Salon, where we bared our literary souls to one another on our journey to publication. Before we begin, I want to tell our readers this lady can write, I mean really write. Her breakout novel, Twinecan’t get to the bookstores fast enough for me and has generated a tremendous amount of buzz among potential agents and publishers. Kati, without giving too much away can you tell us a
little about Twine?
KATI: Thanks so much, Brian, for having me! TWINE is a story about a teenage girl, Mackie, who has been physically and spiritually tethered to a capricious ghost since she was born. Her ‘twine’, Anna, has her own agenda and zero personal repercussions for bad behavior. This makes high school a bumpy road for Mackie. Mackie thinks she is utterly alone with this affliction, but after a traumatic event, she’s institutionalized and there meets others like herself. She finds she’s a sought-after commodity, and not because of her SAT scores. Her burgeoning psychic talents make her a healer, but also a weapon if she falls into the wrong hands.
BRIAN: Where did you come up with the idea for this novel?
KATI: Initially, I was fleshing out an idea for a horror film, because teenagers love great horror movies. But as I wrote the screenplay, the story emerged as a teen-paranormal thriller rather than a horror piece. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of imaginary friends. Childhood is a time when magical ideas are acceptable, even encouraged. But what loves and nourishes you as a child may be what’ll get you beat up in high school, or at least marginalized as looney. As a parent of teenagers and as a storyteller, I’m intensely interested in how kids deal with the things
they’ve outgrown, both emotionally and physically.
Also, my background is in nursing and I know that, sadly, real-life mental health issues often emerge during adolescence and young adulthood. I wanted to explore what it would be like to have that suspicion complicating an already difficult age. Especially because teenagers already feel like nobody understands them.
BRIAN: How does one go from a nurse to an executive producer?
KATI: It does imply a grandiose series of left turns doesn’t it? My family wonders if I’ll be a roughneck on an oil rig next. Life is long and my husband is patient. In all seriousness, I’ve been fortunate to be able to pursue my interests through work. As a profession, Nursing is an incredible foundation for my imagination. I gained some formal training in psychiatric care and first-hand experience working in locked psychiatric units. It’s fascinating, and tragic, the way people can construct an elaborate system of belief that is self-sustaining, defensible, and utterly pathological. A psychologist friend of mine likens deciphering the delusions of a psychotic patient as learning the language of their thinking. I’ve often wondered how it would be to live inside a world of your own making, and be sure that the people around you are just plain wrong. Working in ICU’s, I was inserted into the most catastrophic events families can experience. It taught me so much about group dynamics and the depths of emotional endurance. Nursing also taught me very practical lessons about project management and imposing order on chaos. Those skills are what made a friend think I could help him get his slate of films put together and made.
Chapter 1 — FIRST AID
It felt like a long splinter pushed into her soft flesh. The pain sharp, yet insignificant to her well-being. She considered it for a moment, pondering whether to ignore it. No, this presented a problem. This shard felt tainted, poisoned. As though it could destroy everything if allowed to fester.
Manhattan scanned her entire being, searching for the point of discomfort. There it was, in a corner of the place she sometimes forgot was still a part of her, on the other side of the Dead Walls. For a moment she wished for a body to pour a piece of herself into. She could pluck this thing from her, destroy it, annihilate it. Even without a body, the possibility existed. But the will to exert such forceful and direct action had left her long ago.
“This will not do,” Manhattan said only to herself.
A tool always existed to eradicate any temporary discomforts.
“Lonthalian, where shall I find you?” Manhattan peered into the place of knowing, searching for the one who could remove the source of her discomfort. The Lonthalian was not making it easy. He too was past the Dead Walls.
If Manhattan could sigh, she would have. Instead, she allowed herself one moment to brace before pushing a fragment of her consciousness through the Dead Walls. The sounds and sensations of New York City on a humid summer night slammed into her being.
Chaos. These humans live in chaos.
Her arrival was like a beacon shining into the black sky, bright enough to dim event the boldest lights of the city, though the beacon shone for only a pitiful few. She felt the Lonthalian spring to attention and found him gazing out his apartment window, waiting. He missed the Living City, but had grown fond of this shadow city.
“He’s here,” Manhattan said. “He’s committed a murder at the airport to the north.”
If you want to read the first chapter of Fran Kefalas's breakout novel, City of Her, vote in the 'comments' section of this blog post. For your vote to count, you must have an email subscription to the Underground. If Fran has ten or more votes by next Friday (July 27th) her first chapter will be featured on Underground Book Reviews.
Katie here. I’d like to introduce you to Fran Kefalas. I first met Fran at the Algonkian Writer’s Conference in December. We found we had much in common with our YA Fantasy manuscripts. I’ve since come to know Fran from working with her in our peer group on Author Salon. She is just as kind-hearted, determined and passionate as I found her to be at first meeting. Please welcome Fran Kefalas!Katie:
First of all Fran, please tell us about your manuscript, City of Her. Fran: City of Her
is a young adult fantasy set both in the NYC of our world and the Manhattan of world hidden from human eyes right here on earth. The two cities are very different, with the Manhattan of the other world actually being a living, breathing character. The Protagonist, 15-year-old Erin Angelo, finds herself pushed into the other Manhattan after being pursued by a menacing stranger. Then the real excitement begins. Erin is uniquely connected to Manhattan and that connection could be the savior or destroyer of both worlds. Katie:
You’re received lots of attention from agents and publishers on Author
. How has Author Salon changed how you are handling City of Her
How has guidance from Michael Neff changed or molded your story?Fran:
I didn’t know the first thing about writing a pitch, or a query for that matter, before I met Michael at the Algonkian Pitch Conference in NYC. Some how, Michael understood City of Her
and helped me frame it in a way that sounded unique. Manhattan was always alive in my book, but I never bothered to mention it. Once Michael figuratively slapped me upside the head, a whole new set of possibilities opened up. I threw out the first 100 pages of the book, rewrote 60 of them and joined Author Salon, where I keep rewriting and pushing the manuscript thanks to an amazing peer group, which you are one of. Michael helped me see the possibilities of City of Her,
and the Author Salon has meant I have the both the support and feedback needed to keep pushing. AND, they are actively pitching the work on the site, so I’ve gotten interest without having to send a single query. It’s the best of all worlds for me. Katie:
I know that you, like many of us, have a family, hold down a steady
job, but still find time to write. What drives your writing? Fran:
There are a few things that really drive my writing. The first is the idea that everyone has a story to tell. That comes from my journalism
background, and I have had a blast meeting some truly incredible people (and incredible is not always meant in a pleasant way). I've seen the best and worst of humanity fairly intimately.
The second, and again this starts with my journalism background, is the search for truth. Am I writing the truth? It's a question I ask myself a lot, even in my fiction. But the answer has become anything but absolute. That stems from my meditation practice, which has taught me truth is truly relative in many ways. What is my truth, is not yours or anyone else’s and vice versa. So, I’m talking about truth in a really pragmatic way but more in a philosophical way. That meditation practice is the third thing that really drives my writing. It has opened my mind and my creativity has flowed much more freely.
Behold from their seed shall arise another generation, much afterwards; He who raises that generation shall reveal to them the books of thy handwriting.
-The Secrets of Enoch 35:1
Part One: For the Money
I discover the body of my beloved Aunt Paula, lying next to a wall of holiday decorations like a discarded doll. For a moment I seriously think it's an elaborate practical joke and I look around expectantly, waiting for the punch line. Never one to let things get boring, Aunt P has a talent for making even the most mundane tasks seem like great fun. She's Mary Poppins and the Mad Hatter rolled into one and kids of all
ages flock to her like candy. This seems over the top, even for her, and it takes a minute to wrap my mind around what I'm seeing.
I had been sent down to the cavernous storage room under the sanctuary to retrieve a box of flyers; a menial errand to keep me occupied and out of the way. Not that I minded, but in a building that seats twenty-five thousand people, the trek down to storage is a long one. Rehearsals are going on for the big Easter Sunrise service and reporters are upstairs interviewing my mother and stepfather, John, about the elaborate festivities scheduled for Sunday. My stepfather is John Matthews, president and founder of the Omega Alliance, which is currently the largest church in the world. His face is broadcast to every country on the planet twice a day and ever since membership officially surpassed even the Catholics, the publicity has gotten ridiculous.
Back before I was two years old, my mother, Elizabeth Matthews, divorced my real daddy, Rick O'Bannon, who was a handsome son of a gun, but a drinker. I was still in diapers when he ran out for a pack of Camels one day and decided life would be better elsewhere. A couple years later she married John Matthews, who was the pastor of the little white church down the street from where we lived. John already had two kids from his first wife, who most people think passed away from some mysterious illness, but was really suicide. His daughter, Faith, was my age and his son Simon, two years older. While the rest of the family is tall and sandy haired with those famous piercing brown eyes, my hair is raven black and when I was real little my eyes were green, just like my father. As I've gotten older, they tend to be more hazel, which Faith says is further proof that I'm full of it.
About a year or so after they got married, my mother and John had another baby they named Joseph, after one of the great heroes of the bible. Before he became a hero though, his siblings found him annoying enough to try to kill him, but ended up selling him into slavery instead. Between you and me, there were a couple heated discussions over the years about doing the same thing ourselves. Not the killing part, of course, but
the slavery thing would be cool. Don't get me wrong, I love Joey, but he does tend to get a little high and mighty sometimes.
Shortly after Joey was born, John's little white church started to grow. The more it grew, the more confident John became and after a while he started doing Sunday morning shows for the public television station in town. Pretty soon that got so popular that one of the network bigwigs came to a service and decided right then and there that John was meant for bigger and better things. Five years later, John appeared on all the national networks and we had to build a brand new church to keep up with the new members who were flocking to our doorstep. On the church's tenth anniversary there were 50,000 members and the little white church became The Omega Alliance, with a dozen new buildings, including a seminary, child development center, medical center, foreign adoption agency, elderly care facility and the world's largest missionary organization. Fast forward another five years and the Omega Alliance was declared the most powerful religious organization on the planet, which started what the media called a “holy war.” You don't know mad until you've walked through Dublin airport with an OA pin on your lapel and been spotted by an Irish Catholic. Between the Catholics, the Baptists, the Pentecostals, the Mormons and even the Muslims, the OA has made more people mad than you'd care to know. In spite of all that, or maybe because of it, the OA just continues to grow.
My siblings seem to be handling the fame thing okay, with their larger-than-life personalities and million dollar smiles. Trouble, on the other hand, tends to follow me around like some pesky neighborhood kid who won't take no for an answer.
If you want to read the first chapter of Rachel Walsh's breakout novel, The Last Scribe, vote in the 'comments' section of this blog post. For your vote to count, you must have an email subscription to the Underground. If Rachel has ten or more votes by next Friday (June 22th) her first chapter will be featured on Underground Book Reviews.
Seven months ago I “met” Rachel Walsh on Author Salon
, where she is a staff member and my guardian angel. Her job is to guide me and half a dozen other fantasy authors on a grueling journey toward traditional publication.
Rachel is an artist and inspirational writer who resides in the Pacific Northwest. She is the proud mother of two beautiful teenage daughters and the caretaker of one cantankerous 94 year old grandfather with advanced Alzheimers. She has written hundreds of true short stories about her unusual life experiences that have gained worldwide popularity through her websites. Her current projects include The Truth About Butterflies: A Memoir You Can Use
, a children's book entitled Phoeb
e, Saving Papa
, Moon Lake
and The Last Scribe. BRIAN:
Rachel, welcome to the Underground and thank you for joining us today. Among other things, I’d like to touch on three facets of your writing career: Your debut novel, Author Salon and The Butterfly Project. Let’s start with The Last Scribe
. What’s it about and where you go the idea for it? RACHEL:
Thank you so much for inviting me, Brian! The Last Scribe is something I've been working on for several years now. It's the story of an irreverent, rebellious and completely unpredictable girl raised behind the scenes of the world's largest mega–church. In other words, she's the antithesis of everything her family represents. When her aunt is murdered in the church basement, she becomes the target of a conspiracy that gets wilder by the day. I think what makes it unique is that her story is based on actual prophecies written in the Apocrypha, which are books that were removed from the original bible. Being raised as the unruly stepchild of a pentecostal minister myself, the only thing I knew about the Apocryphal books were that they were banned and many churches frowned on people even reading them - so naturally I had to read them for myself. I was intrigued by certain books that told a fascinating story about the origins of man and a supernatural world. Being a writer, this was pretty heady stuff. I started asking myself “What if this is true? What if this really happened today?” The rest, as they say is . . . well, my interpretation of history anyway.
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Annalise sat in the small patch of grass to the left of the house watching her daughter watch a toad. She sat very still, her knees bent, back straight, palms pressing into the ground, pushing down deep to feel the cool swell of the moist dirt. The too tall grass licked at the back of her calves. Ants crawled up and around the thick blades. A fewested her flesh for greater purchase. Her body lotion proved to be too strong a deterrent. She would not move. Not for the tickling grass or the ants. Not for the cool breeze that she should have a sweater on for. Not for the sun peaking up over the silver maple, beaming directly into her eyes. Not if Willow called to her. She would not move.
Jaden’s voice rang out to Willow’s spot under her favorite silver maple, trunk size five and three-quarter inches in diameter, recorded on card number three hundred twenty-four. Willow’s deck contained cards on all the species of trees surrounding their house. And all the mushrooms. And grasses. Now her research led her from floral to fauna, starting at the bottom of the animal kingdom with reptiles and amphibians. Willow, pen in one hand and stick in the other, poked at a Northern American toad hunkered down in the shade of a fallen log. She counted the pokes, none touching the toad directly, but rather striking the ground in front of him, and recorded the number of strikes on the card tacked to the silver maple by a bit of chewing gum.
“Willow?” This time as a question.
“Yes,” Willow called back. She made two more strikes at the ground and then shrugged. No defensive toad poison to be seen today. She slipped the Northern American toad card back into her completed card stack and capped her pen. She raced down the hill to Jaden.