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Read an excerpt from my latest YA novel.

No, I haven't forgotten all my blog friends. Life just got crazy this week. That is a lesson in itself. Sometimes we just need to get out of the way so that life can throw a few requisite curve balls.

But, you don't want to hear about my issues, especially when they are of the negative variety.

How about playing helping me with one of my latest writing projects? It is unpolished and there are gaps to fill, but I am loving the concept so far.

Here is a little excerpt from Lila Rose and the Unibrow:

CHAPTER: A Day With Pastor Larry
As soon as I entered the front doors of Sacred Sanctuary, I instinctively knew that things had changed. Without Jay’s presence, a bit of the joy I normally felt was gone. Even though she always felt at ease here, Jay was a big part of the reason for that feeling. I really couldn’t put a finger on why I had come to the church anyway. There was no youth group today, the praise team was not practicing, and there were no tutoring sessions. It was just routine for Jay and me to meet here on a Saturday afternoon. This was essentially our social life. I really hadn’t given it much thought this morning as I tossed my back pack over my shoulder and mounted my bike. It wasn’t the most popular or cool mode of transportation, but it was my only way to easily get from point A to point B. I was teased and tortured enough, what was another reason for humiliation in the realm of all things Lilah?

It had never occurred to Lilah just how much she depended on Jay’s company. As annoying as he could be sometimes…make that all of the time…at least his presence was consistent. He gave her a kind of twisted purpose. Jay depended on Lilah. He made that obvious nearly every day.
And Lilah evidently depended on Jay. He was her only friend. He was her companion.
Would this procedure he was having done change that constantly.
She wanted nothing more than for it to work, for Jay to come out of it unharmed and whole. But would the success of this operation alter their relationship? When his eyes were corrected and his sight improved, would he still need her, the left behind handicap from his former life?
Jay was already gorgeous once you got past the weirdness of his roaming eye. Once he returned to Ellison with his new and approved appearance, Lilah felt certain that his social life would escalate. Where would leave her?
“Hey, Rosebud, I didn’t know you were here. What’s up?”
Pastor Larry’s special nicknamed for Lilah boomed off the vestibule walls. Sometimes he didn’t realize just how loud he was. But Lilah smothered a pleased giggle at the inclusion of his name for her. Pastor had a creative way of identifying his young (an even some of the older congregants) congregants. He didn’t mean any offense and surprisingly (especially in the case of the rather unfortunate choices like Spacey Tracy and VioLynn) everyone seemed pleased that he took the time to make them special.
And he did. He made everyone feel special.
Before I could gather an appropriate answer to his inquiry, a very strange thing happened.
I burst into tears. There was no preamble to the flow. No warning. The flood was accompanied with heaving sobs. Never in my life could I remember such an unexpected flux of sorry. And before I knew it I found myself engulfed in Pastor’s arms.
“There, there, Rosebud. Whatever it is we can take care of it.” Pastor Larry smoothed Lilah Rose’s hair and spoke softly near her ear. “You just get those tears out. Empty yourself so we can start filling you with good thoughts.”
And I did just that. In a position she would normally find awkward, she felt only love and acceptance. Pastor Larry never judged and rarely asked questions, unless invited.
“So, what’s up, Rosebud? Bad day?”
Although the tears had subsided, Pastor Larry offered a sense of peace that allowed me to regain enough composure to respond.
With a gulp and a tiny hiccup, I peered into those wonderful eyes and nodded.
“Oh, Pastor Larry, what am I going to do? Jay Allen is gone.” With another shaky gulp, I continued. “He went to get that surgery done on his eye and I don’t know when he will be back. Even though he is a bit of a pain, Jay is my best friend.” I wasn’t ready to verbalize my biggest fear that ay Allen was in reality my only friend.
“Well, little bud, I think I have just the answer for you. Something to occupy your time while Jay Allen is recuperating.” Pastor tilted my chin up to look at him and continued. “What if I told you that was actually going to call you today? I have been presented with a wonderful idea and you are just the person I need to get this plan airborne. Whatdya say? Do you have time in your schedule today to give me a hand? The rest of them will be here shortly.”
In typical Lilah fashion I found myself nodding in agreement without even giving Pastor’s proposal further thought. I might be a doormat, but anything, anything was better than sitting around boohooing about Jay Allen. I really did want his surgery to work and for him to have a better life quality that he does now, but I admittedly was a bit jealous that his condition was so easily remedied while the wooly warm that resided on my face refused to leave. I never confessed to being rational, so do not think for a minute that
Excusing myself to the rest room to straighten out my tear stained face, it suddenly hit me that there were other people involved in Pastor Larry’s plans. I had really hoped to putter around the church today by myself. I really did not want to be around the very core of my every day discomfort.
I had to follow the sounds of laughter to find the source. And it did not sound encouraging. Girls’ voices grew louder the c loser my feet took me to the hospitality room. Oh, great. They were probably all beautiful and full of beauty tips or, worse, superficial judgements.
“There she is. Hey, Lila Rose, come join the party,” Pastor Larry was busy mixing a giant vat of lemonade while a very familiar form tastefully stacked what smelled to be freshly baked brownies on platter. “Lilah, you know Maggie, right? Same school, same class?”
And there she was. Maggie Myers. Of course I knew here. Everyone knew Maggie. Pretty, smart, achingly wealthy Maggie Myers. She was probably one of the most recognized sophomores at EHS. IN the high school band, president of the French club, top honor student of our class. On top of all that, she was the most elusive student in school. So her presence was equally odd. Maggie was never seen in town on the weekends. Instead she tucked comfortably away on the grounds of the country club miles away where her family resided. It was rumored that she had an in ground pool in her back yard, so Maggie always sported the perfect tan from May until October. And here she was, right in front of me, wearing fashionably frayed blue jeans and an Ellison High School t-shirt. Probably trying to fit in with those of us of lesser financial privilege.

“Lilah Rose, hi! I am so glad you are here!”
I could not detect any trace of sarcasm, but there had to be a catch. The Maggie Myers’s of the world did not hang out with someone like me. What was she doing here? As far as I knew she did not attend Sacred Sanctuary and I would know since Jay Allen and I worked the sound for all three services every Sunday.
“Great. We are off to a smashing start. Now, girls, help me organize these song sheets before the others get here.”
I was so accustomed to cleaning up Pastor’s lack of organizational skills so it was not really surprising that he was not totally prepared for the day. But Maggie was equally ready to sort through the mess of papers in front of us. When our hands touched as we grabbed for the papers, Maggie giggled shyly before swooping up the entre pile and gesturing us toward a table in the corner.
“Let’s take these over there where we can be out of the way.”
Sure, out of the way. That was my standard concept of life. As long as I was out of the way no one could judge my appearance. Instinct warned me to be on alert. Maggie was being far too nice to me. Popular girl plus freak did not add up to anything positive.
But strangely enough, by the time the rest of the invited participants arrived, Maggie had worked her magic and charmed her way into my life. I didn’t want our time together to end. I sincerely wanted to believe that I had found a friend.
When more girls bond through the door, I knew that my moment was domed. They were all well-known students at EHS. They were more of popular variety where I did not belong.
There was perky red-headed Ginger ?????. Her brother Nico used to work the sound board before he went away to college. He had trained Jay Allen and I and was a super nice guy. I didn’t really know Ginger, but she had always been nice to me at church and she usually greeted me at school even if we did not run in the same social group. I had no problems with her.
Jasmine Smith surprised me. Although EHS is a rather small school, all students were visible on a daily basis. Jasmine kind of faded into the wood work and was easily forgotten. Where I was an obvious target for ridicule, Jazz tended to float through halls of school and the streets of the neighborhood in her own little bubble. It was a shame. Jasmine is probably one of the most physically perfect human beings I have ever known. A product of a Caucasian mother and light-skinned Afro American father, her skin was a coffee and cream hue and her sea blue eyes were impossible to ignore. But Jasmine never accentuated her beauty, hiding under umbrella of dark colored hoodies keeping her nose buried in a book instead of socializing at lunch time. I knew she studied ballet when we were in grade school. Her parents drove her neighboring Morgantown twice a week for classes. I wondered if she still did that.
I recognized three girls who entered together, but really did not know Poppy, Daisy or fraternal twins Ivey and Iris. These four certainly were familiar with one another, though, as they giggled and laughed at unspoken secrets in either an act of excitement or nervousness.
All the while Maggie stayed by my side as she greeted each new arrival with a little wave and a bright smile. She didn’t appear to need the comfort of other people and continued to work alongside me while we untangled Pastor Larry’s mess.
“Okay, girls, we are waiting on…” Pastor’s announcement was interrupted by the slamming of a distant door and the disgruntled voice of sa newcomer.
“Where are you guys? I can hear you, but this place is like a maze!”
Pastor laughed off the negative advancement of the next guest. “Just follow my voice.”
And, with that, he began to sing. His rich, surprisingly strong voice always amazed me. Week after week, it wouldn’t be surprising if Sacred Sanctuary, nicknamed The Church of Go, was filled to capacity because parishioners attended just to witness the beauty of Pastor’s voice. He didn’t sing often with the praise team because when Pastor sang the rest of the congregation stopped, just to listen to him. It is difficult to thoroughly enjoy the perfection of his voice while singing alongside him.
Fortunately his song of choice right now was one we all knew, and not surprisingly we all raised our voices to join in. I didn’t even think twice about adding my voice to the strains of my persdonal favorite hymn. Amazing Grace was just that. Amazing.
And the voices joining in were no less awesome. In fact the blended voices of Maggie, Ginger, Jasmine, Poppy, the twins, Pastor and myself was such a surprise that we burst into spontaneous applause as Lilly Jenkins popped through the door, out of breath and red-faced.
“Wow, thanks for waiting for me,” Lilly panted with her hands on her knees as if recovering from a track and field event.
Lilly “Godzilly” Jenkins. The single most horrible person in my life. I often thought I could successfully hide from existence if not for the constant tormenting of this one individual. Since kindergarten Lilly Jenkins has made certain to publicly announce my faults. She was infatuated with my cosmetic dilemma and delighted in drawing attention to it and to her at every occasion. Even though my family have been member of Sacred Sanctuary forever and a day, I probably would have eventually sought solace here sooner or later because Lilly’s family worshipped elsewhere. At least I guess they did. I just knew they never darkened the doors, making this place an honest sanctuary for me.
“What is she doing here?”
“I know, right?”
I turned my attention to the unexpected words from Maggie Myers, embarrassed that I had actually uttered that question out loud and shocked that that she had replied.
According to Lilly, she and Maggie were thick as thieves. The bestest of besties. For Maggie to agree with my sentiment set me back for a moment. I almost felt Maggie attempt to shrink in an attempt to hide behind me. Definitely a role reversal in my vast experience of hidingfrom the public.
“So, what’s going on here? Why am I here? On a Saturday for God’s sake! This better be good. We should be at the Mall!” Lilly seemed to have gathered her composure with a fluff of her white blonde hair. “Oh, hey, Mags! Good. You’re here too.”
Maggie stiffened as Lilly began her journey across the tiled floor in our direction, only halting along enough to wave a hand in my direction to indicate that my time beside her friend was over.
“Move over, caterpillar. What do you think you’re doing, anyway?” She glanced around the room, demanding attention. “Where’s that cock eyed buddy of yours? Aren’t the two of you inseparable?”
“Hello, Lilly,” Maggie quickly replaced the negative attention directed toward me with something I wasn’t accustomed to: kindness. “Lilah and I are sorting some papers necessary for today’s meeting. Maye you can grab a seat with the others until we are finished.” Maggie’s hand rested on my knee in a silent message to stay put.
I had no idea what was transpiring here, but an unfamiliar warmth of satisfaction swept up my body at being chosen as Maggie’s companion, at least for the moment.
With an audible “humph” and a twirl of her hair, Lilly reluctantly obeyed Maggie’s request. “Sure, girlfriend. We’ll catch up later.”
A collective sigh was heard in the room when Lilly finally flounced to a solitary seat away from the rest of the girls after pointedly regarding them individually before making her decision.
“Welcome, ladies!” Pastor Larry’s voice claimed all eyes and we waited for an explanation of this gathering.
“As some of you might know, Sacred Sanctuary is blessed with the finest Praise Team around and we are very proud and blessed to have such talent in our midst. At our latest administration meeting, though, an idea to begin something new this summer was introduced. And this idea includes each and every one of you exclusively.” Pastor Larry paused to sip from a plastic bottle of water. “I had no idea that our community contained so many flowers.”  Pastor included each of us with a slow wave of her his hand over our heads.
Exited chatter began to grow as we realized the meaning of his words.
“Oh, my. How did he know? ” Maggie whispered softly.
Her words really didn’t register until I took a silent inventory of the girls in the room. Jasmine, Poppy, Lilly, Iris, Ivey, Ginger, and Rose. Yes, we were a colorful arrangement. And then I looked at a red-faced Maggie. There was a mystery here that needed explanation.
Before any explanation could be offered, Lilly erupted.
“Hey, no offense, Jesus, but Red over there is not a flower. Ginger is a root. A filthy root that grows in the dirt. How can she be part of this so called flower garden?” The smug look on Lilly’s face reminded us that she was in control.

“You are absolutely correct, Lilly. A ginger plant does not flower, but our Ginger is here because her lovely voice could not be ignored. AND, I have it on good authority that her new kitten is named Blossom.”
A look of panic was replaced with joy on Ginger’s face.
“A technicality.” Lilly was not satisfied but let it go when her eyes fell upon Maggie for support. Realization shot across her face, growing the question in all of our minds. What was a Maggie flower?
Squirming unchareristactically in her seat, Maggie cleared her throat and nodded in Pastor’s direction.
“Okay, so I have a deep dark secret and it’s time to confess,” she began. “I have always been known as Maggie because it is easier, I guess. My parents are kind stuck in another dimension.” Maggie laughed softly, but with no bitterness toward those who named her. “Believe it or not, my mother’s name is Daisy and Dad’s name is Joshua, so plant names are not unusual in the Myers family.”
Lilly looked sincerely confused at that. She evidently knew about roots, but tree names eluded her.
“So, when I was born, there was no discussion about naming me after my great grandmother. My true name is, “Maggie squared her shoulders and sat a bit straighter, prouder. “Magnolia.”
“What??” Lilly practically screeched at this declaration. “Why did you never tell me that?”
I guess Lilly found higher value in their relationship than did Maggie and right now I could truly understand. This Maggie beside me was not who I thought she was. Many mysteries were unfolding for me today. I wish Jay Allen was here to witness this.
“I didn’t think it was that important. But, now that is out in the open, I am glad. Now that I think about it, I am happy to have great granny’s name. And I owe it to you, Pastor Larry, for making me see that. Thank you.” And with that said, Maggie Magnolia stood, crossed the room and gave Pastor a hug.
“Well, I suppose now is a good time to explain this gathering.  I look around this room and see the very essence of what I had hoped. Eight of God’s flowers budding up for a new adventure. An opportunity to relish in his glory doing what I know each of you do very well. As of today, if you each agree to accept this challenge, the eight of you will be known as the Pedals, The Praise Petals of Sacred Sanctuary, aka The Church of Go.” Without removing his arm from around Maggie’s shoulder, Pastor Larry asked us all to bow our heads in prayer before officially beginning the first meeting of our new singing group.

The rest of the morning went surprisingly well and no one seemed inclined to refuse the invitation to be a Petal, although I caught Lilly throwing Maggie inquisitive stares as if waiting for her hero to release them from this commitment. But that did not happen and Maggie continued to stay close at my side. Pastor even paired us up for a possible duet, which totally unnerved me since my number on rule is NOT to draw attention to myself for any reason. This did not seem to concern Maggie and pastor appeared oblivious to my discomfort. Only Lilly took advantage of the situation, but her hurtful words were brushed off immediately by Maggie, almost as if Lilly had not spoken at all.
“I had no idea you sing, Lila Rose! This is so exciting!” Maggie quietly gushed ignoring Lilly completely.
The remainder of the morning flew by and when Pastor Larry thanked us all for coming and announced that it was time to visit the local ice cream parlor as his treat, there was a unified cheer from the newly appointed Praise Petals.
“Oh, I nearly forgot. Lilah Rose and Maggie will be setting up a rehearsal schedule, so be sure to write your phone number and e-mail on the clip board before leaving.”
I raised a very large eyebrow at Maggie who returned my question with an excited smile and a thumb’s up. She actually seemed thrilled to be working with me. My heart raced with a new kind of a happiness. Maybe I was actually gaining a new friend. Someone not Jay Allen. A really and truly gal pal.
But catching a glimpse of Lilly Jenkin’s smirk rattled that hope and when she caught up to me at the door, a seed of doubt sprouted into a full-fledged plant.
“Don’t get any ideas, caterpillar,” Lilly whispered harshly at the back of my head. “You don’t really think Maggie will choose you over me, do you? She’s just messin’ with you.”

If you have read Bombs Bursting in Air, you are familiar with the Church of Go and Pastor Larry. My goal is to expand Bombs into a YA Christian fiction series with all installments set in the same town. Each book is a stand alone read, but the reader will be comfortable with the town of Ellison and Sacred Sanctuary.

All comments, criticisms, ideas, and encouraging words are welcome. 

I might have MS, but I can still be dedicated to my passion.

Love and Light,

ello, Lilly.


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