>Our Bookshelf

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>Click here to read the first chapter of Debbie Fuller Thomas’s Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, a book about family, trust, and healing.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon Discussion Questions
1. How does Andie’s physical description of the Blue Moon Drive-in reflect the spiritual lives of Marty and Andie as the story begins?

2. Marty says the drive-in is ‘family friendly’? Do you find this ironic, and why or why not? What are the comparisons between the future of drive-in theaters and the traditional family unit?

3. Marty seems eager to ‘replace’ Ginger but Andie isn’t eager to ‘replace’ her parents with Marty. What is the difference? In what ways does Marty make Andie feel that she wants her to replace Ginger?

4. Why was it so important to Marty to open a bakery? What does it represent to her, and how does it compare to her father’s desire to be an artist? What do Coconut Dandies represent to Winnie, and how does Marty’s baking contribute to her need for constant grazing?

5. How would you rate Marty’s parenting skills with respect to Deja? Compare it to the relationship between her father and her brother. How do you think Deja will ultimately turn out, and what will she be doing after high school (assuming she graduates)?

6. Marty has a mini-breakdown and ends up many miles from home. Contrast the reasons she left with the reasons she went back. What was the outcome? Did anything change for Marty?

7. At one point, Andie says her ‘heart-shape is plugged.’ What specific instances help to loosen the debris inside of Andie in regard to both the family and to God? In what ways is Marty’s heart-shape plugged?

8. After several years, Marty is still mourning her broken marriage. At what point does she begin to feel the need for closure?

9. When Marty ‘dropped’ the cake at Julian’s feet at the farmer’s market, would you say it was more accident or more subconsciously intentional? Who or what did he represent to her at that moment?

10. In what ways does Andie gradually accept that she is really part of the family? On what points does she feel a kinship with Ginger?

11. When Marty finds Ginger’s hospital bracelet, she reflects that we are all switched at birth and that God wants to reclaim us. What do you think she means? What would have eventually happened to Andie if Marty hadn’t ‘claimed’ her?

>The Fiction Conversion

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By: William Carmichael, co-author of The Missionary

I have been a published author of non-fiction over many years. But in my heart, I always wanted to have a try at fiction. In 2001, having no training in writing fiction (believe me, it is very different from writing non-fiction), I decided to give it a go. The first thing I did was purchase about ten books on writing fiction and devoured them. While I read about Point of View, Character Arc, Dialogue, Plot, Pace and Scene, I did not realize the magnitude of those aspects of good fiction until I began to write.

Then, for five years, I worked on a fiction book idea that had been rumbling around in my head. I allowed my wife to read the first draft, which, at that point, was a mistake, as she became pretty much bored with it after about two chapters. That was when I realized there was something major wrong, even though the manuscript made perfect sense to me. As an avid reader of fiction, she was kind enough to point out some of the problems she saw. Over the next couple of years, I continued to write and rewrite. I showed the story to friends who gave additional advice. But, by now, some of the “fun” of writing fiction was beginning to disappear. I later discovered that my frustration was due to a lack of some basic knowledge I did not have about the mechanics of writing good fiction.

I had bouts of “writers block” and while I did extensive research on the country I had selected as the scene for my story, I had never actually been there to see the people, smell the smells, taste the food, and sense the spirit of the place. It was then that I decided I needed to go to Venezuela, where the story in my novel took place. I was there for about two weeks, and you guessed it….this prompted another complete rewrite. But being there gave me a new vision for the story.

Through a series of events, I came in contact with David Lambert who eventually ended up as my co-writer of The Missionary, published by Moody. And that is when I really learned some key things about fiction. David is one of the leading Christian fiction editor/writers in the country. For many years he was the Senior Fiction Editor for Zondervan. He had also written the fiction curriculum for the Christian Writers Guild.

Here are two key things about fiction writing, among many, that I’ve learned from David.
First, a good profile of your characters is essential to knowing how to create their voice and make their character unique. David asked me to write a multi-page biography of my protagonist. “A lot of this will never make it in the book,” he said, “but we need to know what he is like from the time of his birth.”  So I began writing a rather exhaustive profile of my protagonist….where he went to school, what was his family like, how did he fit in the birth order of his family, what was his relationship with his father, his mother, his siblings. What was his attitude about life, God and education. Was he a leader or a follower? What were his physical characteristics….tall or short, fat or skinny, athletic or couch potato? What personality traits stood out? How would he react or respond to crisis, to injustice, to new experiences or to someone’s gestures of love? It was a small book by itself…a short biography of my protagonist’s life.
I wrote these profiles for each of my main characters in the book. These became the basis of how we then created unique characters, with unique voices, who stayed “in character” (Would he/she say that or do that based on their character?). Writing these profiles was a lot of work, but it made the task of creating voice, dialogue and character arc much easier.

Second, David taught me that conflict has to continue to build in a good fiction story. A basic flaw in a lot of aspiring fiction writers is that while we tend to create some really good conflict, we are temped to resolve the conflict right away. We let our characters “off the hook” too soon. That is death to a good novel. Conflict needs to build. In a good novel, things continue to get more tense, increasingly worse, more involved as the story progresses. Conflict and how it will eventually get resolved is what keeps the reader reading. If it is resolved too soon, the desire to continue to follow the story is diminished.

Just now, I am beginning to feel like a beginning fiction writer. It has taken about eight years of work on my first novel to get to this point. David and I are now working on novel number two and with the added skills I now have and, of course, a guy like David as my co-writer from the beginning, it won’t take eight years this time around! Writing fiction is a lot of fun…again.

Check out more of William Carmichael and David Lambert’s fiction invention at http://missionarynovel.wordpress.com/home/

>Click on these new titles to read the first chapter of the book!

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>Nighmare on Creative Street: How Author Debbie Fuller Thomas Tackles Writer’s Block

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How do we create life from lifeless tissue? The fact that I had to ask for my husband’s help to think of a title for this post only confirmed my urgent need to figure this out. (Thanks, honey) Most writers experience dry times when the ideas just won’t come. What are the causes and what are the cures? Let’s button up our lab coats and pull the third switch!

I brainstormed a list of causes for lack of creativity and came up with: fear of failure, fear of transparency, feeling restricted by guidelines/formulas/word counts, burnout, real or imagined criticism, anxiety over deadlines, worry, feeling overwhelmed and stress about life in general. I’ll admit that for me, stress is the worst culprit and maybe yours is listed, too. Maybe recognizing it is the first step toward overcoming.

The good news is that we swim in a rich gene pool. Our Creator gave us the desire to write and it’s part of what makes us tick. We don’t create alone. Here are some ideas for cures:

  • Read widely. Feeding your mind with interesting and thought-provoking material results in interesting and thought-provoking writing. These new ideas can blossom into a story idea or influence the direction of your WIP.
  • Write at the same time every day. This creates memory triggers that can flip on the power switch.
  • Enjoy beauty. Find a quiet place that you love and take time to meditate. Don’t write or think about your WIP. Take your lunch to the cemetery. It’s quiet and peaceful, and no one knows you’re there but God. Or listen to your favorite music without distractions, or take a scenic detour home from the grocery store and listen on your car stereo. It can help you get perspective.
  • Practice ten or fifteen minutes of free style writing. Write about whatever comes into your mind. It’s okay to write with abandon and flourish. That’s how I picture the Lord pitching armfuls of stars into the galaxy at creation. Or choose a topic like your favorite childhood vacation or your favorite Christmas. The point is, do not stop to rewrite! No one else will read it but you.
  • Write someplace new. Sometimes the same old ideas sit in my office, fish-eyed and lifeless. Taking my laptop to a different environment helps me get away from them and makes room for new ideas.
  • Read about the lives of famous authors. They, too, suffered from periods of dryness and thought their writing was lifeless at times, and they overcame. You will, too.
  • Get out and do something. If you spend all your time in your office bent over your laptop, you will not gather rich experiences that your characters can share. They don’t want to be dull.
  • Ask God to refresh you. Ask fellow authors, family and friends to pray. If God calls us to a ministry, He will equip us for the task.

*This article is originally found on Novel Matters

Debbie Fuller Thomas is a freelance author published in Lord, I Was Happy Shallow, Coping with Cancer, Sacramento Sierra Parent, and Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul. He debut novel was Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, with Moody Publishers and her latest is Raising Rain. As a former pastor’s wife, she has been involved in children’s and worship ministries at church in northern and southern California for 30 years. She currently manages youth programs for over 250 children at her local parks and recreation district. She is a breast cancer survivor and mother of two adult children. She and her husband, Don, enjoy their “empty nest” in a historic gold rush town in northern California.

>First-Liners

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Authors everywhere sit anxiously, chewing their pens, brainstorming the perfect hook that will catch their readers at first glance and not let them go until the final page: the first line of their book. Maybe you don’t judge a book by its cover, but a reader can tell a lot about a story from simply reading the first sentence. Classics such as George Orwell’s 1984 begin with, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Or observe how beloved C.S. Lewis captured his readers in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Here are a few of our favorite first-liners from this year’ s fiction:

“That Wednesday two weeks before Thanksgiving was a bad day to find a corpse on campus…” –Rhapsody in Red by Donn Taylor

“There on the damp pine needles Kirsten Young lay on her back, a serene Ophelia in her dusky pond of blood…”-Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott

“Our worst spring storm broke on the edge of midnight, a river thrown from the sky…”-I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke