J. Grace Pennington

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We Only Care For Faces, Part 2

STAR TREK

Recently, I wrote about how it was hard to conjure a lot of deep emotion for the victims of the Orlando attack, or really any other mass tragedy. Who could have guessed that circumstances would arise so soon that presented the other side of the coin so tragically?

Also in Orlando, a two-year-old little boy was pulled into the water by an alligator. He was just playing in the lagoon at a Disney resort. The happiest place on earth. Who would have thought what danger awaited him? One moment he was playing, the next his father was trying desperately to wrench him from the beast’s jaws, to no avail. Little Lane Graves died tragically.

I heard the story in detail on a news podcast on my commute to work one day. And I cried.

A few days later, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw some posts from the Star Trek Instagram asking followers’ thoughts and prayers to be with the family and friends of Anton Yelchin, the young actor who plays Pavel Chekov in the new movies. Curious, I googled for more information, and found he had died just that morning. How? His friends found him pinned between his car and his brick mailbox. They say he left the car running in the driveway, got out, and the car rolled back and trapped him. He wasn’t much older than me.

I read the story in news articles online and I cried. My heart remained heavy throughout the day.

These are terrible tragedies. It’s hard to imagine many worse, more unexpected horrors. But only two people died. In the shooting at the Orlando nightclub, fifty did. Why does my heart ache more for one toddler and one actor than fifty humans?

It’s like I said. Fifty is too many. It’s a mass of unnamed humanity. Lane Graves has a face. I’ve seen it in pictures, his precious baby smile as he was cuddled in his mother’s arms. He has a father who fought to drag him from danger and failed. Anton Yelchin has a face. Millions have seen it up on a screen and felt they knew him.

I wish I could look into the eyes of every victim of the mass shooting, to learn their name, their loves, even their favorite food. But if I could, my heart would break with pain. I’m finite. My love has limits. It’s like there are dozens of concentric circles–I care for all the people of the world in theory, I care for the people of my country by association, I care for the people of my city through shared culture, I care for the people that I know by allowing the barest details of their lives to enter into mine, I care for my friends more closely, my family more closely still, and those closest to my heart I love intimately. Because in truth, we cannot love what we do not know. The more we know, the better we can love.

I may not know the faces, names, joys, sorrows, pasts, loves, and pain of each and every person killed by the shooter in Orlando, but there is Someone who knit each of them together in the womb, who knows their every heartbeat. My sorrow over Lane Graves and Anton Yelchin may fade as I forget their faces in the sea of others, but He counts the hairs of their heads and His thoughts towards them are without number. And even those closest to me, boyfriend, family, dearest friends, times come when there are things I cannot know, and therefore things I cannot love even if I was purely selfless.

But to Him, every heart is an open book, one that He never stops reading.

To Him, we all have faces.

We Only Care for Faces

Something terrible happened this past weekend. A man burst into a nightclub in Orlando and killed at least fifty people and wounded fifty more. He just walked in and mass-murdered or maimed over one hundred human beings. They say the floor was covered in blood.

To call it a tragedy is an understatement.

I say “that’s so sad” and I mean it. It’s terribly sad. It’s sad that a person could do that to other people. It’s sad that so many lost their lives and that so many more may be scarred for life. It’s sad that so many others lost friends and loved ones.

But can I tell you a secret?

I don’t really care.

I feel so guilty about that. I hear everyone talk about how shocked they are by it and how saddened they are. And I’m sad too, in theory. But how much does it affect my life? It doesn’t. How many times a day do I stop and think about those victims and ache for them? Not too often. I’m not as sad as I should be. Or am I?

As a race I think that humans truly only care for faces. It’s hard to care about the nameless masses. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the individuality in a group of hundreds. It’s why one picture of a child washed up on shore elicits a more emotional response than the abstract idea of hundreds of Syrian refugees. It’s why we’ll shed a thousand times more tears over the death of a sibling than over the death of thousands in war. I want to hurt for the victims in Orlando. I want to be affected by the thought of a hundred people’s tragedy. But without knowing someone by name, without being there to see the blood and the lifeless bodies, without putting faces to the scenario–it’s still only numbers and ideas in my head.

And like the politically-bent who exploit the situation to defend their own views on gun control or Islam, I shape my thoughts about this tragedy to my own interests. As a writer, this led me to consider how we portray tragedy in our own stories, particularly those of an epic nature. I think this principle, the selfishness of human hearts, is why I dislike most battle scenes. They’re too big. I see a thousand people killing each other, and it doesn’t affect me as much as I wish it would. I hate it. It’s terrible. But there are too many of them. I don’t know any of them. I don’t really care if they die. Much as I may wish I did, I just don’t.

But give me a person I know, a character I’ve grown to love, and kill him–then I care. Because in our self-involvement, that’s all the capacity we have. There are too many people out there to be cared for. A single heart can only care for so many. It’s one of our many limitations. Trying to care deeply about every terrible thing that happened everywhere in the world all the time would make us go insane or kill ourselves with despair. We are not God. We don’t have infinite love or infinite ability to know each person’s heart and mind. We need faces.

As a writer, I want to give my readers faces to care for in the midst of any tragedy I write. As a human being, I want to pray for the victims of the Orlando attack and their families, and to not feel guilty for my lack of emotion–to trust to an omnipotent Father the responsibility to care for them and bring people into each of their lives who do.

Myself, I have many faces of my own that He has given me to care for.

A Firmament Fan’s Look At Andi Lloyd

Today I am proud to feature a special guest post by my talented sister Hope Pennington, whose book FairyTale will be released soon! I enjoyed reading her assessment of the main character of the Firmament series, and I hope you will, too. I’ve invited her to write a few more of these character studies over the next weeks, so stay tuned!

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First and foremost *clears throat*

Firmament-is-definitely-absolutely-most-assuredly-certainly-non-negotiably-the-best-modern-YA-christian-sci-fi-series-in-existence-cause-characters-and-space-and-action-and-adventure-and-spaceships-and-banter-and-feeeelsssssssssss!!!!

Moving forward with this assumption, let’s examine in DETAIL the main coolness protagonist Andi Lloyd.

I’m going to be covering four attributes of character study in this post.

– Character Type

– Relationships

– Habits and Quirks

– Character arc

Now, I have no extra bonus intel about the series or what it holds so I’ll be guesstimating here as we look as what we know about Firmament‘s sweet, introverted, brave and sensitive protagonist Andi.

– Character Type

My favorite thing about Andi HAS to be all the character tropes she defies. She’s not the “damsel in distress” because she’s usually the one who saves the day and saves the men around her from all kinds of trouble, but she’s also not the “sexy fighter girl.” She’s the opposite of flirty, being introverted and unassuming, and only wanting to encourage and uplift those around her. She’s frankly like a lot of smart and sweet girls that I know whose personality type is very underrepresented. Far from the passive over-emotional heroine, she always tries to solve the problems at hand and isn’t so obsessed with getting a guy that she looses her identity in just a pining wistful corner of a love triangle. Finally a girl who doesn’t have to fight and kill to prove she’s not worthless.

– Relationships

Andi is warmhearted and gentle developing tender relationships with nearly everyone around her.

She’s slow to insult and quick to defend others.

She gets defensive when anyone offends someone she cares about. This is just one of the many ways she shows her love for people unconsciously.

I think one word to define how Andi’s does relationships would be: loyal.

– Habits and Quirks

Andi is genuinely fascinated by medical science and loves flaunting all her medical knowledge to anyone, especially those who challenge her authority as second medical officer.

She tends to worry not when someone says they’re upset with her, but rather when they neglect to say or show that everything is good between the two. If someone comes right out and insults her she tends to get defensive and frustrated, but if they simply insinuate it she gets worried and tries to fix whatever she might’ve done to offend them.

Being very caring and empathetic gives her the ability to comfort people, make friends quickly, and pick up on tiny details that most people don’t notice, but it can also be a burden when she can feel everyone’s hectic emotions all at once and gets very tense and worn.

She always wears leggings and a skirt even though pants are an option for the women’s uniforms on the Surveyor.

– Character arc

So far we’ve seen Andi grow out of her uncertainty and come into more confidence, not only in herself but in her friends, family and faith in God.

We’ve seen her get more comfortable and relaxed in her relationship with her brother and more confident in voicing her opinions.

I’m only guessing (and hoping) that we’ll see more of her growing in peace and confidence.

Assuming a lot of Andi’s anxiety and fear (in, granted, very frightening situations) comes from her doubt of herself and what God can do in and through her, I’m assuming as she learns to trust herself, her brother, the Doctor, and God in a lot of ways she’ll also find more confidence and peace, which I’m frankly really looking forward to seeing!

We’ve already seen a theme of trust in book 1, Radially, when Andi had to trust the Doctor when everything she saw and felt around her was telling her not to listen to him.

We’ve also seen strong themes of family as everyone, including the rest of the crew of the Surveyor (who are basically family at this point), gets closer as the series goes on and we learn more and more about them.

I believe and hope we’ll learn yet more about all of them and that the journeys will resolve conflict instead of drive people further apart, but only time will tell and of course everything can’t resolve perfectly all the time.

This has been A Firmament Fan’s Look at Andi Lloyd! Join me next week for part 2 where I take a look at Doctor Gerard Lloyd!

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Hope author photoHope Pennington is a homeschooled manga artist and sci-fi fan who blogs at TheEpicPlace.com, and the author of the soon-to-be-released YA novel Fairytale. In her spare time she enjoys coffee, YouTube, and making new friends ^_^

Deja Vu

Haven’t I promoted Red Rain before? Well, seeing as you can’t have too much of a good book, here I am doing it again! Read on for details about the book and the blog tour…

Good morning, Ladies and Gents! Welcome aboard Flight 74 heading for the Red Planet, Mars. Please strap on your seat belts because this promises to be one wild ride. We’ve got free books galore, three fun giveaways, author interviews, and more. Let’s get this adventure started!

About the Book

17-year-old Philadelphia has been imprisoned most of her life because of her Christian beliefs. When her father is sent to Mars against his will to work on a mysterious science project and a benevolent official allows her to accompany him, Philadelphia knows she must keep her head down or be sent back to prison on Earth. But when she stumbles into the wrong hallway and accidentally learns too much, Philadelphia is faced with a question she doesn’t want to answer: the choice between returning to Earth—or destroying it.

Free Offers

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Aubrey is such a generous gal. She’s not only offering Red Rain for free this week, but if you sign up for her newsletter, you can also get the prequel short story for free! What are you waiting for?

About the Author

Author Picture

Aubrey Hansen is a pink-haired, caffeine-fueled twenty-something. She’s a writer (obviously), barista, dog trainer, and the co-founder of Penoaks Publishing. She shares her house in Kansas City with three cats, a pit bull, a snake, a ferret, and a husband.

What Reviewers are Saying

“One day while I was busy mindlessly entering data into the computer at work, I put on my head phones and started listening to the book. I was hooked from the first few sentences. In fact, I stayed up late when I got home (even though I had to get up early the next morning) to finish the book.”-Amazon Reviewer

“With solid craft and poignant world building, Aubrey Hansen has outlined a future both horrifying and realistic. I appreciated Hansen’s character building skills.”-Amazon Reviewer

“I loved this book! I didn’t realize it was a short novella, and I wished it would have been longer.”-Goodreads Reviewer

“The story was fascinating. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but everything came together in the end and it made sense.”-Goodreads Reviewer

Giveaway

Red Rain Giveaways

Aubrey is offering three paperback copies of her book, Red Rain. This book will have the new cover on it. And the grand prize offering will also have the paperback of Faith Blum’s book, Heaven’s Jubilee, a Christian futuristic collection of short stories. To enter the giveaway, please fill out this Google form (you do not need a Google account to enter). The only required entries are your name and email address, but the more you do, the more chances you have to win.

Excerpt

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Dr. Nic turned to me again, voice strangely calm. “I expect you will refrain from any further snooping. You have been far too inquisitive for having been here less than 48 hours.”

At first I couldn’t think of anything to say. My breath rose in my throat, and my volume rose with it. “I was just asking about my brother! He’s my brother! And you took him away!”

“I took him away?” His mustache twitched.

“You’re the one that requested him, weren’t you? You didn’t give him a choice! You didn’t give my father a choice, either.” I took two more steps backwards.

“No,” he said without regret. “I’m also the one that called for you.”

I froze.

“The commander didn’t want to let you come. Said it was against ‘regulations.’ But I didn’t think it was right to leave a young girl in the hands of strangers. Your brother was an adult,” he cut off my excuses before I could think them, “you’re a minor. And you have nobody. I didn’t think that was right.”

I backed away. He advanced and narrowed the gap. “If you don’t want to be here, I could… send you back to Earth.” The threat was calm, flat like a sheet of razor-sharp ice.

I sucked in several gasps. “I’m… sorry. I’m sorry.”

He was smiling again, but it wasn’t an encouraging smile. I didn’t feel like he was forgiving me for my disrespectfulness—I felt like he was accepting my surrender.

“It’s all right,” he said, and he sounded reasonably truthful about it. “Just stay out of my way.” His smile deepened, eyes glittering. “Just keep your head down, Philadelphia, and no one will know the difference.”

I turned and ran for the dorms.

 

Tour Schedule

June 2
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Introduction and Excerpt
Laurel’s Leaves-Author Interview
Frances Hoelsema-Excerpt
Aubrey Hansen, Author and Screenwriter-Excerpt
Perpetual Gardener, Writer, and Mormon-Book Spotlight
The Overactive imagination-Book Spotlight

 
June 3
Grace Pennington-Excerpt
Gabriellyn-Excerpt and Author Interview
Joyful Peacock-Author Interview

 
June 4
Letters from Annie Douglass Lima-Excerpt
Another OtherWorld-Character Interview with Philadelphia
Jaye L. Knight-Excerpt

 
June 5
Mary’s Writing World-Book Spotlight
God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae-Book Spotlight
Rachel Rossano’s Words-Excerpt and Author Interview

 
June 6
Tale Weaver-Author Interview
Lisa Swinton Queen of Random-Book Spotlight
Irly Scribblings of David J Hartung-Excerpt

 
June 7
Bookish Orchestrations-Tour Wrap-up and Giveaway Announcement

Read-to-Win!

Some of you may remember last year’s Read-to-Win event on the Homeschooled Authors website. It was a blast, with featured books, prizes, and interviews to help you get to know your favorite homeschooled authors better. Well, this year we’re gearing up for the event again, with a few tweaks! I’m excited to be featuring Implant, my young adult dystopia novel, this summer. It will be on sale for just 99 cents for the whole summer, and if you review it, you’ll be entered to read cool stuff. I’m really excited to get to share it with a bunch of summer readers. So stay tuned for more news about great books to read and review this summer!

Implant read-to-win