What you Should Know about Tragedy in Sunset

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As I drove my family out of Kansas and into Oklahoma on our way back to San Diego, it occurred to me that, outside of some very vague references to my work in progress, I have not done a very good job of telling you about Tragedy in Sunset.

Here’s the bottom line: Tragedy in Sunset is about a family’s struggle to respond and recover from the rape of their daughter. The scene is the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas. I use the entire town as the scene because, in the end, it will take the town to help the family heal.

Several years ago, a friend asked me to honestly consider how I’d react to hearing that one of my daughters was assaulted. I was on my ship when that happened (I’m active duty Navy), and I can remember the thoughts that swirled in my head. It was out of those thoughts that the characters of Tom and Janet Reynolds were born. Marcy, their daughter, came quickly after.

As I thought through my responses to this horrible possibility, Pastor Raul Sanchez was came to be, as did his wife Maria, and they were at the Reynolds home immediately. Before I knew it, the story was writing itself!

While I’m still struggling with some parts of the story’s ending, Tragedy in Sunset is alive and well and seeks to tell the story of Marcy Reynolds as she tries to heal from the assault on her innocence. Her father and mother struggle with what it means for their entire family while her community is forced to come together to stop a growing threat from hurting more of the town’s young people.

I love this story, and this town, and I can’t wait to someday show it to you in more detail!

Oh, and if you’re interested in a short work to introduce the main characters, you can download my e-book The Dirty Campaign for free by signing up at my monthly newsletter at THIS LINK.

A real Trope of a Character

I’m currently listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’m doing that because Thomas Umstattd Jr. and James L. Rubart told me to, in order to become a best selling author in the next 5 years. Since I have a resolution of having an agent by the end of this year, having a 5 year goal to being a best seller is a good range I think.

Anyway, my first podcast from the folks behind Writing Excuses is about cliches and tropes. They suggest I go through my writing and seek out these cliches and tropes to make sure I’m not using them without originality. I hadn’t thought about it too much, but after listening to the podcast, I realize that I do have a couple of these as characters in my stories.

For example, in The Dirty Campaign, I have two characters that would be considered tropes. The first is Mildred, who is the town gossip. She hangs around, gathering bits and pieces of a story, and then tells it as gospel truth. She is a trope, bordering on the cliche. Yet, Mildred also plays an important part of the story by forcing the reader to consider the damage gossip causes in our churches. This is something I’ll explore more in future stories with her as well.

In the current WIP (Work in Progress), J. William Seymour, the intrepid young reporter for the Sunset Sentinel that you met in The Dirty Campaign, also serves in the trope/cliche role. He dreams of being the big city investigative reporter who breaks the big case, and Sunset just isn’t big enough for him. Because of that, he over-attacked the situation in The Dirty Campaign and, not to spoil things, causes issues in Tragedy in Sunset as well. Whereas Mildred served to move the story along and sound the warning, however, I need to work more on Will Seymour. Truth be told, right now, he’s too canned.

While I wish I had great examples to share with you in addition to Mildred above, the truth is, I have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be as an author. I’ll get there, though, and I’d love to have you along for this ride of a lifetime! Sign up HERE to get on the mailing list and join me on this adventure!

Advances in DNA Analysis Affect Tragedy in Sunset!

So the crux of my work in progress, Tragedy in Sunset, is that a young woman is assaulted and raped, but is too scared to give a name to the police. They have a DNA sample, but it doesn’t lead to any new results.

Well, all of that might be about to change, and I’ll have to figure out how it affects my story. According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, DNA samples are being used to match alleged perpetrators to a crime scene by matching the sample against a family tree. The suspect is then narrowed down and an arrest made.

This was used most effectively in 2018 to find the Golden Gate Killer, so named because he raped over 50 women and killed 13 people in the years between 1974 and 1986 in California.

When I first wrote Tragedy in late 2016, this data wasn’t available like it is now. That’s the problem when writing a story that relies on systems and processes that are apt to change wildly from year to year.

The basic plot is still fine and will provide quite the story, but I will probably have to do a little modifying as I go.

One idea, thanks to one of my friends, is to bring up the privacy issues that go with matching publicly-available DNA samples when handling crime evidence. I think that might very well figure into the rewrite of Tragedy. Stay tuned to see how it plays out!

To stay up to date on Tragedy in Sunset, as well as my other writing, sign up for updates at THIS LINK and get a free ebook as my thanks!

Small Town Christmas Displays

As Alicia and I planned our trip to Kansas, it dawned on me that I didn’t know how long it’d been since I’d last gone home for Christmas. Living in North Chicago, Jacksonville, and San Diego for the last 8 years of Christmases (and San Diego again before all of that) has meant that I haven’t enjoyed a small town Christmas in over a decade…except for Alicia’s Hallmark movies, which all seem to be set in a small, rustic town. But I digress.

I’ve picked this subject as my last post for 2018…a nice reminder of what makes small towns wonderful at Christmas. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I’ll start with my hometown, (Girard, KS) because…yeah. Girard is a town of roughly 2,700 souls. As it does every year, GN Bank (formerly Girard National Bank) hosted a Christmas Eve dinner. I took the opportunity to get around the square and take some snaps:

One of my favorite daytime displays came from the town of Portales, New Mexico, a town of roughly 12,000 people:

 

My favorite nighttime display of the trip came from Coffeyville, Kansas. Coffeyville is special because it’s one of those towns that fairly closely resembles what I modeled Sunset after (10,000 people):

 

I was pleased to see that the mighty Big Brutus coal shovel museum in West Mineral, Kansas (population 200), was decked out for the holidays too!

We saw a neat little line of Christmas Trees just outside of Glenpool, Oklahoma (population ~ 14,000):

 

Season’s Greetings from Ruidoso Valley (population 7,700)!

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The following pictures were taken at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso Downs. This horse is one of the bronze sculptures that make up the “Free Spirits at Noisy Waters,” sculpted by Dave McGary.

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Download The Dirty Campaign Today!

frontThe political season is upon us…

Download The Dirty Campaign today!

Incumbent Senator Moreland (R-KAN) is up for reelection and he’s a shoo-in. Who wouldn’t vote for him? He had a good track record (two terms in House of Representatives and two terms in the Senate), almost always votes conservative, and his opponent is a lesser-known liberal Congresswoman from Overland Park. Most Kansans aren’t even interested in the campaign.

Until evidence of an affair surfaces at a campaign stop in Wichita. In an ugly turn of events, Pastor Raul Sanchez is dragged into hot water for supposedly “forgiving” the Senator as a minister.

Sunset is now in upheaval. Supporters of the Senator think Pastor Sanchez is a hero for the party. Supporters of Pastor Sanchez want to protect him. Supporters of the challenger for Senate want to make a public spectacle of him.

And Sunset is about to explode in a protest-fueled conflict on 3rdStreet between Broadway and Main, at the entrance of the 3rdStreet Baptist Church. As people from all over descend onto the town for the coming fight, can Sunset be spared?

It all comes down to three key individuals in Sunset coming together to put things in a right balance again, and somehow get the message of God’s love out in the process.

Sign up for my monthly e-newsletter and get the novelette for free! Sign up here!

My Writing Strategy

In my Sunset series, I’m embarking on something completely new. It’s not that several authors don’t also do it, but it’s new for me. In the past, whether fiction or nonfiction, I’ve bounced from idea to idea. With Sunset, I’m sticking with a community of characters who will tell my stories for me. I’ve picked the idea of Sunset because it’s been a dream of mine since I was in my early 30s.

This flies in the face of my previous post about wanting to be the John Grisham of Christian writing. With very few exceptions, John has never returned to any of his characters. I can see the wisdom in that. It’s a blank slate every time he sits down at the desk. There are definite advantages to that.

But that also means he faces a blank slate every time he sits down at the desk. I’ve already got a couple of short stories (Forgotten Name / Friday Night in Sunset), a novelette (The Dirty Campaign), and several character sketches. I’ve got stories out for review by editors of Christian magazines as well, and one was published by The Gem.

At least in my head, I know how Tom Reynolds reacts to things. If a reader wants to know why Tom Reynolds reacted a certain way, he or she can go find out about Tom’s history and what made him the way he is. They’ll know that J. William Seymour, a reporter in town, is so desperate to make a name for himself that sometimes he creates stories where there isn’t one and his editor has to shoot him down. They’ll know how Bill Summers gained his land holdings and, in the future, how he throws his weight around to help the community.

So what is the grand strategy? It’s simple: I’m creating a community of people from which to draw stories about life. In some ways, the stories build on each other, but in most cases, the shorter stories are episodes which give the novels freedom to build the series. And always at the heart is making God known.

I’ve planned, at least to a degree, two more novelettes and four novels. Both novelettes are in progress and will serve to further advance the background understanding of Sunset. One novel is complete and in rewrite at this time (Tragedy in Sunset). The sequel is about 6,000 words in. Two others are notes in my journal. I’d like to see ten novels before I close down this project.

My hope is to secure a literary agent and then a book contract. I’d love to have you with me on this journey. Please sign up here to get on the mailing list!

My Hopes for The Dirty Campaign

Special note: Sign up at this link to get your free copy of The Dirty Campaign, which will be released on Aug 27th to current subscribers. 

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I’m just over two weeks from launching The Dirty Campaign. Can you believe it? I’m very excited about this story, which puts the reader in the middle of Sunset, Kansas during the 2018 election cycle.

I have several hopes for this novelette. Some of those hopes are for my writing career and some are for my ministry. Let’s start with the ministry desires.

  1.  I hope I can help people make good political decisions this coming cycle. I can’t know all of your reasons for voting the way you do, and the opposite is obviously true, but I believe I can help you focus your energy on the overall picture through the characters in my story. Each of them has a reason for voting the way they do, just like each of us does, and I hope that by presenting that, I can help you make good decisions in November.
  2. I hope I can help Christians realize that they represent God when they talk about their election choices. One of the minor characters in the book makes things worse because he forgets that he’s an ambassador for Christ instead of a bullhorn for conservative values. We have to be better and I hope we can all use his example to fuel a correct posture toward others.
  3. I hope I can help unbelievers see that politics isn’t a black and white issue, that there are many nuances that we struggle with just as much as they do. I have a lot of friends who are unbelievers. Some are more hostile than others (just like believers can be), and I hope that they can see, should they decide to read this story, that we are multifaceted just as they are.

The Dirty Campaign was written with a couple of career hopes, and I’m going to be upfront in the hopes that you won’t judge me as I do.

  1.  Entertain you. Fiction exists to entertain. Yes, it teaches, encourages, enlightens, convicts, and all the rest, but it exists to entertain. I hope you are entertained by The Dirty Campaign.
  2. Build a subscriber base. Part of offering the story for free in the beginning is to build a subscriber base. I’m very confident that the Sunset series will stick around for a long time, and I want people on board who will be interested in receiving information about the story for years to come! With Facebook, Amazon, Google, and other major social media players changing algorithms, email remains the best way for people to receive updates about the series.
  3. Create fans. My biggest career hope for this story is that it successfully introduces you to the main characters of Sunset and that you fall in love with them. Not my writing, not my tone or style, but with my characters. I want you to love them as much as I love them. This is the first big step in that process.

I would love for you to partner with me on this project, first by downloading and signing up for the Sunset newsletter, and by sharing it with your contacts. I’ll share more about that in a future post.

To get on the list now, sign up here. Your free link for the story will be in your in box the last week of August! You can unsubscribe at any time.