Amandaism – Original Cover Inspiration
There was a picture I saw while I was writing the book that really solidified my vision of what the area around the Survivors’ City looked like. It was of light coming into darkness – the clearing between the trees serving as an ironic light. I actually used it when I was doing mockup covers on manuscripts for friends. It inspired the eventual cover.
I strapped the bag to myself and walked around back. Behind the lodge, there was hardly anything. The landscape blurred quickly into mountainside, which blurred even faster into nothingness. Confident no one was looking or could even see me between the tall trees, I took off running. If I ran at my absolute fastest pace—about three miles a minute if I sprinted across even terrain—I was not likely to be seen by humans. There was a fair chance I wouldn’t pass anyone on the way there anyway.
After five or ten minutes, I slowed my pace to a walk among the tall trees some 6,000 feet up the isolated mountainside. I was close now, and I suddenly realized I had never decided on how I wanted to enter the city. I walked more slowly as the forest grew so dense that it completely obscured the light of the sky. I was also stalling.
Ahead, I could see bright sunshine filtering in at the edge of a clearing, obliterating the darkness created by the forestation. Just beyond where the sun shone in, maybe fifty yards further up the mountain, I knew, were the gates to my family’s city. Approaching the clearing but still hidden by the heavy shade of the trees, I quickly tried to devise a plan.
But once I was in full view of the gate, coated in glaring sunlight, I knew my decision had been made for me. Spread out like a wall in front of the village were the furrowed brows, folded arms, and narrowed eyes of all fourteen original Survivors.
I changed into my favorite pair of jeans, layering a long-sleeved T-shirt under a hoodie. I would be warm in the mild air of the Montana summer, but I wanted the hoodie to blur the edges of my figure. I pulled on socks and tied on a pair of Pumas. I examined myself in the mirror, satisfied that the only skin showing was my face and part of my hands and neck.
I tucked the room key into my jeans pocket, slid my cell phone into my back pocket, and picked up a bag containing things I’d bought that my family would need if they believed me.
The Laughing Horse Lodge, a tiny bed and breakfast of eight rooms, which I had passed on my way out, was exactly where I remembered it to be. My tires crunched against the gravel as I pulled into the rocky drive. I had been able to go very fast, headlights off, through the winding highways during the night, but in daylight I had to drive at legal speeds. Despite that, I had traveled over 2,000 miles in the twenty-seven hours since I had left Nashville. It still hadn’t felt like adequate time to prepare.
I got a room key and drove my car around to the side of the small building. I pulled a small suitcase from my car and put it in my room. The rest I’d leave in the car in the likely case of a necessary quick exit.
It was around noon on Tuesday when I wound down to the two-lane Montana highway that hugged the coast of the deep blue Swan Lake in the northwest part of the state. As I passed the small houses and sparse landmarks inside the town of Swan Lake, I felt tension. I hadn’t seen this road, this water, this place since I’d gone.
South Dakota and Survivors’ City Map: http://goo.gl/maps/9movJ
My family began as fourteen children, abandoned and left for dead in the frozen hell that was now South Dakota. They had retreated to the northern Rockies in Montana, and by some miracle, they had survived. They had lived together under a God they knew existed—who else could have saved them?—and taught each new generation dedication to God, to family, and to the land. But ours was not a family held together only by bloodlines. We cared about where we came from and where we were headed. We were dedicated to each other, to our purpose. In the human world, I had heard of only one culture that had a virtue approximating this: It was part of ancient Confucian ideals, set in ancient China as far back as the fifth century bc. They were the only ones who valued the notion enough to name it. They called it filial piety. These ideals were rooted in the same sentiments on which our family philosophy was based.
Our undying bond to one another may have begun because we were a species all our own, because we needed each other in a world where we were different, or because our still-living ancestors believed so heavily in the Puritan doctrine they had been born into. Whatever it was, it was effective. No one ever strayed from the family. At least, no one but me.
My leaving meant that going back to warn them might be useless. I had left without even a goodbye, adding insult to injury. In their eyes, I had stomped all over our values. I couldn’t imagine they would welcome me back. I wondered if, initially, they thought it was a temporary exile. Did they wait for me to come back? How many sunrises and sunsets passed when they thought, Any day now…?
I knew they would paint me forever as someone who threatened all our family was based on, as a causeless rebel and a disloyal child. I hated that this was my legacy. I guess that by now my family had translated my actions into a cautionary tale for all of the youth, telling them stories of how God had smited me when I left, and possibly insinuating I hadn’t made it past the pastures around the city walls. They’d tell them how I was a slave of Satan now, condemned to an eternity of servitude and torture. And some of them might believe that.
This made it difficult to drive toward Montana, but I still had the ache in my bones. Something inside of me belonged to that place, and I had to go back to make sure my family would be protected from threats outside their walls. I knew there could be threats. If there were more Mark Winters out there, if he had come from a family like mine, and if they had any of the human urges to conquer or reign, then we were in trouble. And Mark’s threat had been clear. He knew who we were, likely even where we were. And I couldn’t set my family up to be massacred by a war-hungry version of ourselves out there. I had to protect them. In a strange way, because I had left, I was the only one who could.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was certain it wouldn’t be pleasant. If they had told all the young ones I had been destroyed, they would be frustrated that I proved them wrong by bursting through the city gates. Not wanting to pour salt in the wound, I planned to arrive as quietly as possible. It didn’t matter, though. I assumed that Hannah, our original elder, either had already seen me coming, or she would soon enough. And as soon as the first one of them spotted me, all 164 would swarm the center of our village at supernatural speed to see what the cat had dragged in. I squirmed as I thought about the attention.
I intended to stop at a small bed and breakfast about a ten or fifteen mile run as the crow flies from the city walls so I could stow my car and luggage and prepare. I had dressed comfortably for the trip, so I would change into more appropriate clothes to meet my family again. There were rules and expectations, and I would be respectful of them, within reason. My sleeves would touch my hands (they always did), and my legs would be covered. My chest and back would be covered up to my neck. I would not wear makeup. But I wasn’t going to wear a dress, nor pull my hair back and tuck it into a bun or a braid. I’d be covered, but I had every intention of walking into the village in a modest top and jeans, hair free flowing as I always wore it. They were going to hear me out and take me as I was or not at all. I had no plans to return to the life they had made for us, and I refused to give anyone a moment’s doubt about that by dressing the part. I had already broken all the rules anyway.
Why House of the Rising Sun by Bob Dylan
There are countless versions of this song, and I love them all. I was practically raised on The Animals’ version (featured in the previous post). But this version (Bob Dylan’s) gets me for its haunting quality, the way that it’s about someone who is broken and this sound actually sounds…broken — in the best way possible. I’ve listened to this song driving down the Natchez Trace in the middle of the night more times than I could ever count. And just as many times, it’s been Bob Dylan’s aching voice that’s brought me home, haunted by a new idea for my ill-fated heroine, grateful that magic as pure as his exists so that I might be inspired by it. For Sadie, she has two thousand miles to think. For me, it’s been just as many listening to this song.
I’m particularly drawn to the unique variations in the lyrics of this version, most specifically that it’s written from the point of view of a woman, as opposed to The Animals version I grew up on. The lines, “So tell my baby sister not to do what I have done, spend her life in sheer misery in the house of the rising sun” do me in. The fact that this line means more to the story than I’d ever be allowed to say at this point is simply a bonus. The real reason it gets me is this: If Sadie has a heart song, this painful, shattered ballad is it.
Excerpt - Nomad: Driving Thoughts
I had 2,000 miles to think. I spent the first 500 miles trying to convince myself there was a reasonable explanation for Mark Winter’s powers so I could turn my car around. Was there a technology I wasn’t familiar with, perhaps? Was he a superhero like those I saw in comic books and in movies? Couldn’t he be something other than what I was? Because if he were like us, then that would mean there were others roaming the earth, and I refused to believe that. Why would the elders lie about that?
But secrecy wasn’t out of character. My family had kept us isolated in a walled city in Montana, and had banned the reading of books from the outside except for evolving translations of the Bible (with the exceptions of the books Lizzie and Sarah had given Noah, Ben, and me). And why? They never offered explanations for the isolation.
As I chased the sunset near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, thirteen hours after I had said goodbye to Nashville, I began to get nervous. When I had walked out the gates of my family’s settlement in Montana three years earlier, I had never envisioned returning. I found it difficult to imagine what it would be like.
This felt very much like I was returning for good, a white flag flying above my head. But that was not my intention. I had made it out once, and I was desperate not to jeopardize my freedom. I could never go back to the life I had lived there. I was returning this time out of loyalty, and temporarily.
Nashville to Survivors’ City: http://goo.gl/maps/WP7iY
The valet pulled my car around, and the bellhops loaded my luggage, puzzle-pieced to fit in my trunk. I thanked them graciously, pulled out of the lot back onto West End, turned left, and quickly merged onto I-40. I wove my way out of Nashville’s giant roundabout of interstates, onto I-65 northbound, then I-24 westward, and finally left the city in the rearview mirror. As I saw the last of the city’s skyline fade away, my stomach caught. It had been the only human home I’d ever had, and now this was it for Nashville and me.
vintage #hartmann suitcases…a bit above my budget, but couldnt pass up #hartmann
Excerpt - Nomad: Packing Up
I spent most of the day with my eyes closed, sitting on the bed, trying to focus on anything I could about Mark Winter. I had never encountered someone I could not read, though clearly Mark was unlike all the humans I had spent my time with for the last three years. I could always sense my family, though, so why couldn’t I sense Mark? After he walked out the door of my penthouse, it was as if he’d evaporated.
I needed to be able to see inside his mind because, despite his warnings, I planned to track him. First, I would tell my family of his existence, and then I hoped to provide them with his whereabouts. Then I would go, my part in this ended. But I had to find a way to sense him first.
In the meantime, I got ready for my journey. I had to pack everything I owned, which was not quite the feat it would be for a typical person. Despite using Nashville as home base for some time, I was still a nomad. I didn’t travel as lightly as the typical nomad, true, but I could fit everything I owned into a large set of Hartmann luggage that fit in my car. I had never had the desire to stay in one place, and I had used up the resources in Nashville, so it was time to move on. Now that Corrina was gone, I had no ties here.
The next morning I gathered all my things and called for a bellman. I took the elevator down to the lobby and asked a young girl behind the desk to get the general manager so I could speak with her. I explained that it was time for me to leave, and assured her that they had done all they could have to make this hotel feel like home to me. I meant every word I said.
She shook my hand and thanked me graciously for my patronage. She inscribed her private cell phone number on a business card and encouraged me to use it should I need anything. I handed her a stack of sealed envelopes, each marked with a hotel employee’s name. I had made a mental map of everyone I had met here, and I put at least a $50 bill into each envelope, along with a thank you. For those I perceived needed or deserved more, I threw in a little extra.