Thursday, July 26, 2012

Organized and Energized: Digging out the Nuggets from the Great Lakes Getaway

Revived and Re-writing

I'm still panning gold nuggets out of the river of information I mined at last weekend's Great Lakes Getaway, a retreat sponsored by the Minnesota N.I.C.E branch of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Hobnobbing with other fiction writers and sitting under the tutelage of well known suspense author Colleen Coble is in some senses overwhelming, and in others the most extreme of relaxations. But now I've had a few days to evaluate and organize my thoughts. I am energized on several levels. Here are some of the reasons why.

I was reminded of the reasons why my voice is unique, why I should protect it, and how.

I have my own set of passions, goals, life experiences, strengths, weaknesses, strategies, instincts, and sources of creative energy. I use all of these and more to infuse my writing style, so I shouldn't try to copy someone else's or let their voices get inside my head. I should embrace my voice and develop it into consistency.

I garnered some pointers in tackling big editing projects.

I enjoy editing for the most part, but that's not to say they aren't intimidating at times, especially under a looming deadline. Colleen shared practical advice from "sleeping on it" to tackling plot issues by using 3x5 cards to rearrange scenes or add story lines. She also suggested printing out the edit letter (that letter than comes from your editor with all the suggested changes) and systematically highlighting sections to start with.

I felt the push to find a critique partner.

That's someone I've been without for a while, but I am reminded there's nothing more necessary to a writer as a first line of defense when we've finished a manuscript and begun the polishing stage. In my writing life, I've probably learned the most and the best from those experiences of letting down the defenses, stepping away from the project, and absorbing the suggestions of someone with a fresh pair of eyes.

I recieved reams of ideas for creating larger than life characters able to snag their way into a readers' hearts.

I love characterization exercises, and now I have more! Have you ever considered such character questions as, What trauman happened to her during adolescence? What should she fear but doesn't? What makes her laugh out loud? What smell does she associate with her childhood and why? This is just a sampling. Asking the most inane questions of our characters can bring out some of the most interesting story details. For instance, when asking how my character sleeps, I realized she sleeps on her side, against a rock, fully clothed, with a knife tucked into her sash -- of course!

I brainstormed my way out of a WIP dilemma and connected to new friends.

We gathered in small groups to present our current WIP dilemmas -- airing out where we were stuck with character or plot. Everybody had a question on their hearts. But in our small groups we found a safe place to toss our stories out there and get feedback. Boy, did the ideas flow! There was a lot of "what if they... Could she maybe... How about if he..." ideas popping like buttered corn in the microwave. Out of the pile of it, I really found some workable solutions -- not to mention some connections with other writers who I can now call friends!

I found affirmation that sometimes we have to step out of the story and live real life.

We writers are living all the time in our character's world. We can't go camping without picturing a murder in the forest, or go shopping without overhearing conversations we want to write down. But sometimes we just have to allow ourselves the freedom of living real lives -- the ones God gave us.

On the flip side of that, I was reminded that the BEST fiction comes from the heart. It's the pouring out through our characters and their lives the experiences that will reach into the hearts of real people. Yet, we ought not be focusing on agenda-driven fiction. Agendas don't change hearts, God does. So we need to always ask, "God, what lesson do you have for me in this story?" Only then can we ask, "How and what do you want me to show others?"

Of course, these were just a few of the nuggets I retrieved while I talked and brainstormed and took some time to gaze out at Lake Superior. And now I have to get back to my WIP, while all this energy is stirring like a cauldron inside me.

Write on!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Launch Party! Leave a Comment to Win a Copy!

This is it! This week my new book hits electronic bookshelves at Desert Breeze Pub., Amazon, B&N, CBD, Sony, and pretty much wherever you find Christian eFiction. I'm loving the cover. I hope you'll take a couple of minutes to scroll down and read the brief excerpt below. It's some gritty historical fiction, and this scene is one of my favorites! Then, leave a comment to win a pdf. I need at least 10  original comments to pick a winner.

New! From Desert Breeze Publishing:

~ The Black Rose ~

Empire in Pine, Book Three

When fiery Jesilyn Beaumont gives all to steal her twin's fiancĂ©, a flight and fall from grace into Wisconsin's, boomtown dark side is long and hard. Can a disillusioned camp preacher help her find self-worth again, or will hope and budding love be choked by her thorny past?  

Read on, then leave your comment at the bottom. The most interesting comment will win a pdf copy of The Black Rose, the Empire in Pine series finale!  

Despite the panic of 1893, logging reaches its golden era in the growing state of Wisconsin, and twins Jesilyn and Corianne Beaumont enjoy a comfortable life with family in the bursting, Great Lake city of Superior. But when jealousy incites Jesi to seduce Cori's fiance, a flight and fall from grace lands her in a boomtown brothel, where a fresh start is denied her.

Camp preacher Paul Winter longs to offer hope in the logging and mining towns of northern Wisconsin, but not in the way he expects when he meets a redhead he calls Pie Girl. He's never had to battle his own longings quite this way before.  

Meanwhile, stung by Jesilyn's betrayal, Corianne's bitterness might separate her fom a second chance at happiness and peace. Only by Grace can both women begin new lives, and budding love can bloom in places neither of them expect.

Jesi's stomach flipped. She hadn't even realized they stood in front of Maisey's Bar. She gasped and ducked her head, but it was too late.

Johnny Ray leered at her. "Well... look who the dogs dragged back. I know you, red. You're the little gal who left me with the sore head and a whole lot of unfinished business." He stepped close and jerked her chin up with his beefy fingers.

Clay laid a hand across Big John's forearm. "See here, mister."

The bear shook him off like a pesky black fly. "And now, here you are. Right back where we last met. We can pick up where we left off, but maybe we'll have a drink and a dance first." Johnny Ray gripped her arm and twisted her toward the door.

"No!" She yanked free and fell against Clay, clutching him.

Clay backed up looking dumbfounded, with Jesi clinging to his coat front.

"Oh. I see. You're busy now." He threw Clay a look. "Better mind yourself, mister. Don't turn your head. She's a thieving, mean little thing."

She shook her head and glanced at Clay. He scowled and removed her hand from his coat. "Jesi?"


"Jesi?" Another voice came from the street. Jesi twisted her head. Paul hoofed it around a pair of mud holes as he crossed the road. She turned back to Clay. His face had changed. His jaw was now set, and his brow dipped. His face had taken on the tell-tale shade of red it always seemed to turn when he was angry.

"What've you become?" he asked, his voice tight.
"Clay, no."

Big John burst out laughing. "What'd you think she was, mister? I can tell you what." He jerked his head toward Maisey's dark interior. "So can anyone in this fine establishment."

She shook her head. Tears blurred her vision. Gravy's piano playing clinked discordant tones in the background.

"Jesi?" Paul's voice, even but heavy with worry she recognized, rang out as he leapt onto the boardwalk. She turned to him, but didn't dare meet his gaze. She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes.

Big John kept laughing. Clay just stared at her, his countenance growing harder by the second. His eyes took on the shade of thunderclouds over Lake Superior.

"Is this how you've been living in Hurley?" His look scathed her. "Yet you were ready to try and fool me again."

She had no breath, no courage to deny it. Her heart had momentarily soared to the peaks, and then crashed down in a hideous mess.

His face contorted. "You're still nothing but a common trollop."

Paul's fist shot out without warning, catching Clay square in the jaw. He reeled backward off the boardwalk into the mud.

"Who the blazes are you?" John thundered, reaching for Paul's shirt.

Jesi covered her mouth and bit her palm.

Paul shoved a fist in his gut, but the big man merely cringed and pushed Paul back.

"What's your stake in all this?"

Paul found his footing. He glanced briefly at Clay, who'd gotten up and stood brushing mud off his suit. "I'll tell you." Paul took a run at Big John, crashing into his shoulder so that the brute fell hard against the side of the building. "She's my wife."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Heart Rending True Story Behind the Novel, "A Hometown Fourth of July" by June Foster

Guest Post by June Foster

I'm so excited about my book, A Hometown Fourth of July, which comes out July 1 with Desert Breeze Publishing. The story is a romance about a young Hispanic man and the beautiful woman he leads to a relationship with God. In seeking his true identity, he finds it, but not in his birth family, as he'd always believed. Though the story is fictitious, the premise comes from a real-life situation.

When Max Tate meets Lynn Marshall at the annual Fourth of July celebration in his hometown of Ft. Freedom, Washington, he believes she holds the key to discovering his birth mother and his roots.When his dreams are shattered, he walks away from his faith and the woman he loves. Only God can reveal Max's true identity so he is free to love her and celebrate another Fourth.

Here's the story - the real one, that is.
My husband loves to tell a story about his parents when they were childless. His mom and dad were of the Catholic faith, so after they'd been married for eight years with no babies on the way, they decided adoption would be a good route to begin expanding their family. They paid a visit to the Catholic Charities in Birmingham, Alabama. There they found a darling, four year old boy named Marshall and brought him home to be a part of their family.

For reasons known only to God, after two more years, Mrs. Foster found she was pregnant and delivered her first biological son, Mike. After that came my husband Joe, then Pat, then Helen, and finally Steve. Marshall was thrilled with so many brothers and a sister.

The story goes that Mrs. Foster decided that the two older boys, Mike and Joe, needed to learn that their oldest brother was adopted. She called a formal family meeting and made the solemn announcement about how Marshall came to their family. At the end of the meeting, Joe questioned his mother, "Marshall still gets to be our big brother, doesn't he?"

Even though my husband left for the army after he grew up, he and Marshall remained in touch. When we moved to Lacey, Washington where he lived, Marshall mentioned to Joe he'd be interested in finding his birth family but had no idea how to go about it. Since Joe had a good knowledge of the computer, he offered to help. Alabama, which had been a closed adoption state, opened their records up in the early 2000's, and Joe was able to find out some information.
Marshall was sorry to hear his birth mother had passed away ten years before, but was encouraged to learn he had a sister. Joe couldn't find a contact number for Marshall's sister, but located a number for Marshall's niece, his sister's daughter. Marshall was too ill-at-ease to make the call so Joe dialed the number while Marshall looked on, clasping his hands tightly in front of him.
When a woman's voice said hello, Joe said he was phoning on behalf of his brother, Marshall Foster, and that Marshall was looking for his sister. Joe asked if he had the right number. My husband thought the woman had hung up as he heard nothing but silence, then a sob carried over the phone. Finally, the woman said she believed he had the correct number. She was Marshall's niece and said her mother, Marshall's sister, had been looking for him for years, always hoping to meet her brother. Joe asked if the mother lived in the same town, and again, the niece let out a sob. She said her mother had died two months before.
Marshall was devastated, but his niece's promise to come to Washington to visit him with her other sister the following July, cheered him, and they made plans. But in June, just two days after Marshall's birthday, he died of cancer, never getting to meet even his nieces.
This sounds like a sad story, but wait. There's more. During the process of helping Marshall find his birth family, my husband and I had occasion to tell Marshall about our awesome and powerful God who sent his son Jesus to the earth to die for our sins. We shared how to have faith in the Savior and about our final home - Heaven. Marshall began going to church with us and gave his life to the Lord at Thanksgiving that year before the following summer. He started coming to Bible study in our home. We were warmed when he told us how he'd always felt empty. He pointed to his heart. He said he was no longer empty inside, and he finally knew who his real Father was.
Joe and I were present on that day in the middle of June when Marshall went to be with the Lord. I've never witnessed anyone die before, but I can say, truly, without hesitation, that the experience was beautiful. And I know that someday we'll see this wonderful man again when we join him in Heaven to be with Jesus forever.

A Hometown Fourth of July is available from Desert Breeze Publishing:
(And also available through Amazon, Barne & Noble, Sony, CBD, and wherever Ebooks are sold.)

June Foster is a retired school teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. She writes full time and travels in her RV with her husband Joe. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood SeriesGive Us This Day –February 1, 2012,As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1,2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. She's written two more books, The Way Home and Ryan's Father not yet published. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find the freedom to live godly lives.