Monday, November 30, 2009

SPRINTING TO THE FINISH!

Good morning! Hope you all had a fantabulous Thanksgiving weekend and are recovering from your turkey-induced stupor.

As you know, today is the last day of NANO!!! Below is my word count, which will update throughout the day as I sprint to the finish:




Last Friday I produced my personal best word count, 5256 words!!! (Normally on a 1st draft I hit around 1500-1700.) My keyboard was on fire, and it took a combination of writing in the car with Dana and sneaking off to the keyboard to make it happen. It also helped that my heroine was heading for a serious trainwreck because those are always fun! Today I have to write just short of my personal best word count in order to complete NANO.

Do tell--what's your average daily word count, and what is your personal best?

PS. Congratulations to those of you who already crossed the finish line :D Hope you found a chance to do the NANO dance!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WITHDRAWAL!

Cold sweats...anxiety...paranoia...It could only mean one thing:

My internet connection is down.

{insert scary music}

On Monday when I came home the connection had been lost. I called the phone company and the soonest they could send someone out was the next day. DO THEY UNDERSTAND THE RAMIFICATIONS?

Anyhoo, phone guy came out today and told me it was a problem with the main connection coming into the neighborhood, but that it would be fixed today. When 5 o'clock rolled around the giant phone company truck started pulling away. I briefly considered running after him in my stocking feet to bribe him with ice cream, but alas, I run too slow.

How sick is it that I'm connected to the internet like a lifeline? I didn't realize how addicted I am, and how much I rely on talking to my friends, seeing what's going on in our special writer's universe, and updating my NANO count every few hundred words. (Hey, don't judge!)

Right now I'm at B&N saving every morsel of web time I can before my battery runs out. Or until I have to pack up and go to the bathroom because I have a large peppermint mocha. By the time you read this my DSL will hopefully be back up, but until then I'll live like a frontierswoman, content to work on my manuscript without checking email, and waiting for that blinking light on the modem to magically reappear.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT INTERNET?!?!?!
A NOVEL IDEA

Once you dig into this great resource your head will spin. SO much information with a heart for fellow writers and for God. This is the perfect Christmas gift for the Christian writer in your life...or for yourself. The wisdom you'll glean from these pages is worth it!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card authors are:


Various Best-Selling Authors
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)


and the book:



A Novel Idea

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE BOOK:




Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414329946
ISBN-13: 978-1414329949

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Chapter 1: Plot

The Plot Skeleton

Angela Hunt

Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.

In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.

Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.

After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.

When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.

To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.

The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.

This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.

Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.

Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.

Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”

“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.

Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.

Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.

In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.

Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.

The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.

The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.

Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.

So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.

For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.

In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.

The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.

You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.

James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.

When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.

The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.

The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.

Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”

Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.

What Next?
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.


Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 23, 2009

THE TOP 5 THINGS.....

.....I've learned about myself during this year's NANO:

5. I really like writing heros with last names as first names. This has happened several times now, but I just now made the connection.

4. I'm not as fast as I thought I was. 1667 words a day...pfft, I thought, I've got that licked. Not exactly....I hadn't factored in weekends. Oops!

3. As much as I plot and learn my characters and let the story soak into my heart, big changes sneak in and reroute my plans.

2. Rough drafts stink, but not as much as I thought. While barreling through the first 100 pages I truly thought most of it was rubbish. Then I reread portions that I thought were particularly bad, and they were ok. Of course, some parts were worse than I thought. It took those entire 100 pages to get into the rhythm of my heroine's voice.

1. Letting go and freeing myself to write willy nilly makes a huge difference in how I approach the keyboard. There's no hesitation or anxiety. Almost pure fun.

*BONUS* I just thought of one more: The word MORPH has taken over my manuscript!

What have you learned about yourself or your writing, either during NANO or in your regular writing time?

Friday, November 20, 2009

AND THE WINNER IS....

CJ! Congratulations, and I do hope you enjoy The Swiss Courier!
THE SECRET BOOK

Today is your day to come clean, and we all know confession is great for the soul. Plus there's no place like here to let it all out, amongst friends ;)

What am I talking about?

Your secret book, of course!

The other day, a friend (who shall remain nameless because maybe she doesn't want everyone to know her secret, LOL!) came clean and said she'd been working on a book in secret. It wasn't with the goal of publication, it was for fun! Yes--writing can be fun!

So I fessed up and told her I have one too! Only about 10 pages into this secret book and I've discovered something about myself: it's incredibly cathartic to write about a heroine who is experiencing some of the same struggles I am, only worse. There's comfort in watching her deal with issues on a larger scale, and asking the tough questions about God and life. (Yeah, it's not all in the first 10 pages, but it is built into the story.)

Oddly enough, I only pull up the document when a tough day slams me in the behind. A paragraph here and a sentence there. Not surprisingly, there's a powdered donut involved.

Not every piece is meant to be read by others and maybe, just maybe, God has something special to show you through the private stories in your heart. When your words pour out, whether for fun or for therapy, pay attention to what He might want to say.

Anyhoo, my question for you--DO YOU HAVE A SECRET BOOK? Or maybe for you it's poetry or song. Greeting cards? Surely there is something. Do tell!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A GIVEAWAY!!!!

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, I have a giveaway!

The Swiss Courier is a story set in WWII Switzerland, shortly after an attempt on Hitler's life. It's got a good balance between action and romance, and of course the spy parts are cool. Because of the action and technical war-type details in some parts, I think this book will appeal to men as well as women (in other words, don't let the cover fool you!)

Read the official post below, and leave a comment for a chance to win! I will pick a winner tomorrow.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:





Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author's website.



Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.


Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.


Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.


Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.


An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.


What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.


This is that story . . .



1

Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.


He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.


Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.


His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.


Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.


Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.


His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.


Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.


Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.


Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.


Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.


Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.


Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.


She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.


She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.


“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.


“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.


He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.


Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.


“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”


Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.


A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.


Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.


A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.


“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.


Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.


Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.


One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.


As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.


Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.


The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.


“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.


What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.


With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.


“Don’t shoot!” one cried.


The sound of a police siren split the air.


“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.


The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.


Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”


Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.


Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.


They needed to find cover—


More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.


The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.


Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.


“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”


She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”


“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.


“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.


“But what if—”


“I’ll join you. Now go!”


Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


No!


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.


I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.


Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .


He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.


“Go,” Suzanne whispered.


“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”


Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.


Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.


Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.


He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.


Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.


With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.


Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.


The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.


Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.


Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.


He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.


Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CHUGGING ALONG....

You asked for more updates, and I am happy to oblige!

NANO is chugging along, and I do mean chugging--as in huffing and puffing and gasping for air. I thought surely with all I knew about my characters and backstory and what was going to happen that I'd breeze through the first draft.

Rude awakening!




Every time I sit down I wish it was already written. Yes, it's fun to write with reckless abandon, (as I told Erica the other day, it's fun to write "turd" and not self edit). Once I get past the first 500 words I get absorbed into the fictional world, but wow is it hard to focus. For some reason it takes me longer to shut out the world and get into the zone than it used to.

The only thing I've found that works is to tell myself to "just write one paragraph, that way I can say I wrote something." Usually once I get past the first paragraph I can write another. Sometimes that's the furthest it goes, but 7 out of 10 times I can hit at least 1000 words. Not the NANO count I was shooting for, but more than if I kicked back and watched TV for the hour. When I went to the library this past weekend I actually wrote 1000 words in a half hour. Seriously...didn't know I could type that fast!

So what are your tricks for "getting into the zone"??? Please tell me, as NANO is more than halfway over!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

What The Bayou Saw

Kregel Publications (March 24, 2009)

by

Patti Lacy



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Though Patti's only been writing since 2005, she thinks her latest profession of capturing stories on paper (or computer files) will stick awhile.

The Still, Small Voice encouraged Patti to write after a brave Irish friend shared memories of betrayal and her decision to forgive. In 2008, An Irishwoman’s Tale was published by Kregel Publications. Patti’s second novel, What the Bayou Saw, draws on the memories of two young girls who refused to let segregation, a chain link fence, and a brutal rape come between them.

The secrets women keep and why they keep them continue to enliven Patti's gray matter. A third book, My Name is Sheba, has been completed. Patti's WIP, Recapturing Lily, documents a tug-of-war between a Harvard-educated doctor and an American pastor and his wife for a precious child and explores adoption issues, China's "One Child" policy, and both Christian and secular views of sacrifice.

Patti also facilitates writing seminars in schools, libraries, and at conferences and has been called to present her testimony, "All the Broken Pieces," at women's retreats. She also leads a Beth Moore Bible study at her beloved Grace Church.

Patti and her husband Alan, an Illinois State faculty member, live in Normal with their handsome son Thomas, who attends Heartland Community College. On sunny evenings, you can catch the three strolling the streets of Normal with their dog Laura, whom they've dubbed a "Worchestershire Terrier" for her "little dab of this breed, a little dab of that breed.



ABOUT THE BOOK


Segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal assault bound them together. Forever. Thirty-eight years later, Sally, a middle-aged Midwestern instructor, dredges up childhood secrets long buried beneath the waters of a Louisiana bayou in order to help her student, who has also been raped. Fragments of spirituals, gospel songs, and images of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are woven into the story.


The past can't stay buried forever Rising author Patti Lacy's second novel exposes the life of Sally, set amid the shadows of prejudice in Louisiana.

Since leaving her home in the South, Sally Stevens has held the secrets of her past at bay, smothering them in a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband, has heard the truth about her childhood.

But when one of her students is violently raped, Sally's memories quickly bubble to the surface unbidden, like a dead body in a bayou. As Sally's story comes to light, the lies she's told begin to catch up with her. And as her web of deceit unravels, she resolves to face the truth at last, whatever the consequences.

If you would like to read the first chapter of What The Bayou Saw, go HERE

Watch the Book Trailer:

Monday, November 16, 2009

YIKES!

Like every true NANO-er, I started the month with the best of intentions. But like rapid fire, things came at me, distractions and...laundry...and more distractions. Needless to say, I fell behind.

But I did find a cool word count gadget:



The great part is that when I DO get to sit down and write uninterrupted, the words come slamming out like you couldn't believe. For the record, I'm not saying they're good words, or even mediocre, but words nonetheless. Right now my story is a big, beautiful mess.

On another note, is it wrong to laugh hysterically at something that's supposed to be totally serious? I ran across this video and somehow it's not right for a coiffed woman to do THIS. Judge for yourself!

NANO-ers, how is the word count coming? Non-NANO-ers, how is the word count coming?

Monday, November 09, 2009

THINGS ARE NOT LOOKING GOOD FOR OUR HEROINE!

(That means me!)

I started off NANO right on track--not too slow, and definitely not too fast. Then something happened: the story I'd been working on threw a tantrum and demanded to be finished. No longer could I ignore my big-boned and loveable heroine in favor of some newbie with strawberry blonde hair and her best friend with a flair for theatrics.

Soooo.....

I lasered in on Fit for Love and finished it off. While I still have one more read through, I can now focus my actual writing time on this new story that has yet to find a working title.

My NANO word count stands at 8432. I'll be holing up this week with coffee and ice cream bars (shhhhh, don't tell my workout buddy or my doc) and pounding out some word count. I'm quite excited. You see, there's a ginormous train wreck coming in my heroine's life, and I can't help but be a rubbernecker.

Friday, November 06, 2009

TOO TRUE FOR WRITERS!!!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

ARE YOU A WINNER?!

Well, Carly sure is! She won The Bartered Bride!!! Enjoy the book and let us know what you think :D Thanks to all who entered.

PS. In accordance with the new FTC regulations I must tell you that I get free books. Ooooo, I'm sure you're all shocked! And maybe even a little astonished.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NANO UPDATE #1

3400 words and counting!

I've realized that no matter how much pre-work I do, I wish I'd done more.

Anyone else have a word count? Those of you who aren't NANO-ing, how are your Nov. goals coming? It's way more fun when we're all chugging along together :D

Monday, November 02, 2009

IT'S MY PRIVILEGE TO PRESENT...

...The Bartered Bride!!!!

Today I'm really excited to introduce Erica Vetsch's debut book!!! I'm certain you will all love this book as much as I do.

I've had the privilege of being Erica's crit bud for a few years now, and it's been good times. Let's just say, The Bartered Bride is only the beginning. Erica comes up with amazing heroines who are full of strength and ambition, and I've learned a lot from her about writing tight and making every scene count. This lady can plot! I'm blessed to not only call her a crit bud, but a true friend.

SOOO proud of you, my friend!

For those of you who haven't read the book yet, ENTER A COMMENT TODAY for your chance to win a copy. Drawing will be on Wednesday. Here is the blurb, and scroll down to read her fantabulous answers to my riviting questions.



BLURB:

Duluth, Minnesota in 1905 boasts more millionaires than any other U.S. city. Tycoon Abraham Kennebrae intends to marry his grandsons off to three of the wealthiest heiresses in town and allow Kennebrae Shipping to gain control of Duluth Harbor.

Tempests rage, in the board room, the ball room, and on treacherous Lake Superior. Will hearts and helms survive? Will God prove Himself sovereign over wind, waves, and weddings?

Jonathan Kennebrae, oldest of the three Kennebrae brothers, finds himself backed into a corner. Marry heiress Melissa Brooke or lose his own considerable inheritance. Can he find a legitimate reason to avoid the wedding and still keep his fortune? But as the wedding day approaches, does he want to escape?

Melissa Brooke, only heir to her father’s empire, is bartered by her parents into a marriage contract to a man she’s never met. Can she trust him with her deepest secret? Can she trust him with her heart?

INTERVIEW:

We'll start with my favorite question first :D If you were the casting director for The Bartered Bride, The Movie, who would you cast for Jonathan and Melissa? What about Grandfather?

I love this one too! No one has asked this one yet.

Jonathan Kennebrae - Dylan McDermott
Melissa Brooke - JoAnne Dru (From the John Wayne movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)
Abraham Kennebrae - Jimmy Stewart as he was in the movie Shenandoah.

Ooo, Dylan McDermott--great answer! Without giving anything away, what's your favorite scene in the book?

I'd have to say one of my favorite scenes is when Jonathan's brother comes home and finds out about the engagement. I had a lot of fun writing that scene, trying to capture the brotherly banter, and yet underlying care and concern they had for one another.

If Melissa were alive today, what would she be?

Wow, another good question. I would hope she wouldn't be a spoiled princess like some of the heiresses we read about in the news today. I would hope she would still be conscious of the needs of those less fortunate, and be working hard to advance their causes. Maybe she'd be a spokesperson for RIF?

Since I've had the privilege of reading your books, I've noticed that you have strong heroines who have ambitions and confidence ahead of their time. Is this on purpose, and if not, when did you start to notice the pattern?

I think it stems more from the plotting process for me than from any real purpose on my part. I like to read about heroines who have more on their minds than getting married. They have to want something, to have goals, and to be planning their lives not factoring in the arrival of "Mr. Right." That Mr. Right shows up and derails some of their plans just adds to the conflict and tension, in my opinion.

What has been your favorite part of the writing journey, and what kept you writing in the hard times (ala pre-contract)?

Every part of the journey has taught me a lot, helped me mature in areas that I didn't realize I needed growth in, and opened more opportunities. From that first draft of the first novel to holding my first published novel in my hands, every step has been harder than I thought, taken longer than I thought it would, and been better for me than I could've imagined.

Agent Terry Burns once said. "The publishing industry has never failed to publish someone. People just quit too soon." I took that statement to heart. I didn't want to be a quitter. I knew I'd always regret it if I gave up my dream just because it was hard. And I really wanted to be an example to my kids not to quit pursuing a dream.

I love the quote! I'm really glad you kept going, too. Moving on, you homeschool, work in the family business, and write books. DO TELL us your secret to juggling and take us through a typical writing day.

There's a secret? ARGH! Someone should tell ME what it is!

A typical day for me looks like this:

Morning - get son started on schoolwork, take care of the bookwork for that day, get caught up on emails, read blogs and comment, etc.

Afternoon - write, plot, edit, etc.

Evenings - I try not to write in the evenings or on the weekends if I can help it. Months like November when I'm trying NaNo are the exception.

It sounds like you have your priorities in place. It's nice that you keep family time. Tell us, what's next for you?

I've got several more Heartsongs coming out this year, and I'm always working on new projects.

Parting thoughts?

Thank you, G, for featuring me on your blog. And for all you've done to help me get this far in my writing career. I'd be happy to give away a copy of The Bartered Bride to someone who leaves a comment today.

Woohoo!!! Thank you for stopping by Good Times...Good Times... !!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ERICA VETSCH is married to Peter and keeps the company books for the family lumber business. A home-school mom to Heather and James, Erica loves history, romance, and storytelling. Her ideal vacation is taking her family to out-of-the-way history museums and chatting to curators about local history. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College in Secondary Education: Social Studies. You can find her on the web at http://www.onthewritepath.blogspot.com/


Remember to enter the drawing. And if you can't wait, CLICK HERE to order your copy today!
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