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!

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!

The Bookfunnel Campaign Post 1

In an effort to be transparent about my Bookfunnel campaign, and to possibly help authors in the future, I’m going to spend the next three posts discussing my results for The Dirty Campaign. I will cover the build up to the campaign, to include the writing process, the Bookfunnel campaign in general, to include the raw download/newsletter signups data, and finally, at year’s end, I’ll talk about what’s still working with the campaign, meaning, am I seeing newsletter signups turning into fans.

I know that’s a lot. First, an assumption: I assume that people reading this three-part blog series are writers, or interested in the craft and business of writing. If you’re not in that situation, this may sadly get boring pretty quick. Anyway, that assumption is also a sort of disclaimer. I have switched to writing almost exclusively fiction, so you’ll find a lot of nuts and bolts in this blog series.

First things first: My plan of action

1.  Write the story. If you already have a system for writing, then don’t worry about this. Just do what you normally do. I did try a new thing that I’ve continued to incorporate. I’ll write about that in the future.

2. Edited the story significantly. I verified POV so often I got sick of some of the characters. But it paid off in the end.

3. Sent the story to a handful of beta readers. Not all of them gave me feedback unfortunately, but enough of them did that I could feel confident about moving forward.

4. Converted the final draft to .epub and .mobi using draft2digital.

5. Uploaded the files from draft2digital to BookFunnel.

6. Paid for advertising on Facebook (because that’s where my page already resides and I knew it would cost for people to actually see it). 

7. Wrote several blog posts to announce the coming publication. Shared on Facebook. 

8. Prepared a drip sequence in Mailchimp ready to go for new subscribers as they signed up for the newsletter and downloaded the novelette. This drip sequence introduced new readers to me as the author, to the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas, and to my characters, and included three emails spread out over two weeks.

As you can see, I laid out what was basically a business plan. I had all of this ready to go two weeks before the soft launch, which went to current subscribers and to my personal Facebook page. The soft launch occurred one week before the main launch, and gave me a chance to reward my current subscribers for their loyalty as well as test out a couple of ideas in a setting that allowed me to make corrections before going wide release.

In the next post, we’ll do the numbers!

 

* None of the links in this email are affiliate links. I don’t stand to make any money off of this blog post. It is for informational purposes only and for the edification of other authors.

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!

The John Grisham of Christian Authors

I want to be the John Grisham of Christian authors. Now…what exactly does that mean? And isn’t John Grisham a Christian? Doesn’t that make John Grisham the John Grisham of Christian authors?

44753992_10156416069126187_5351631750210519040_nOk, that’s a lot of questions, so let me break that down bit by bit. First of all, yes, John Grisham professes to be a believer. However, as he writes secular novels, I believe 100% that there is space in the Christian market for a John Grisham-like writer.

Now, what does it mean to be the John Grisham of Christian authors? First, let me discuss what it isn’t. It doesn’t mean that I want to sell 275-300 million copies of my books. I’m not against it, mind you, but it’s not necessary. The truth is, I can’t actually fathom what that looks like, nor can I see myself having so many movie deals. So, what being John Grisham isn’tis being one of the richest and biggest sellers in history. Point of fact, even John Grisham said the meteoric rise in fame and fortune was “unsettling.”

It also isn’t about law and lawyers, though I include them in some of my stories. While they are immensely popular, I don’t have much experience in law or courtroom drama, so that isn’t going to be my main focus.

What I mean by wanting to be the John Grisham of Christian writing is that I want to create crisp plots that move quickly and keep people engaged. I want to be more organized in my fiction, so that when I sit down to write, I know exactly what I want to say. Mostly, it’s about churning out good quality books with concise plot lines, twists only when necessary, and only delving into the human condition when necessary to advance the plot.

frontAnd I believe that my story, The Dirty Campaign, accomplishes this goal. In this novelette,  I wrote a simple, straight-forward plot that moved with an easy, but quick, cadence. I’m very pleased with it. It’s for free if you sign up for my mailing list. Go HERE to get it!

Focusing on plot cadence over the human condition can sound so…un-literary. Well, John talked about that too, and I agree with him. And let me say this about literary writing when it comes to Christian authors: Why? My mission is to use my writing to advance the gospel. I’ll let you in on a little secret about the human condition as it relates to the gospel: Without Jesus Christ, we’re screwed. We’re just too muddied by sin to be of any eternal use without God’s intervention. Ok, side note over. Back to the main point.

As you can see, being the John Grisham of Christian fiction is more about the writing style and production than it is a level of success. I can’t even foresee that level of success anyway, so I need to focus on what I can see: A well-written, concisely-designed plot that keeps readers turning pages. I’d love to have you along on this journey. A great starting place is to sign up for my newsletter.

Books of John’s that I’ve read in the order I think I remember reading them (affiliate links):

The Rainmaker

The Street Lawyer

The Testament

The Broker

The Racketeer

The Rooster Bar (Current Read)

Interested in keeping up with my progress? Click HERE To sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you a link for a free story when you do, and you can unsubscribe at any time. You have nothing to lose!