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June 2017

Featured Winter's Prey

The Story Behind Winter’s Prey

June 30, 2017

[Originally posted September 22, 2016 after the release of Winter’s Prey on Barrenfieldsfruitfulgardens.com]

Yesterday, I shared a little about the background of Winter’s Prey in a post on Facebook—from a writing perspective. But I think it is important to share a little more about the background of the story.

I started writing the book when I was 14 years old. That’s right, 14. There are many reasons why it took 26 years to finish this book, but mostly I think it had a lot to do with God’s timing.

When I was a little girl, about 9, something happened that greatly upset me. It was a little something. In fact, it was so insignificant that it doesn’t even warrant mentioning. So why am I mentioning it? Because I held onto that something for a long time—and it made me miserable.

On the first morning of third grade, I got up, pranced down the stairs of our parsonage-home in Illinois, and walked into the living room where my dad was reading his Bible.

“Good morning!” he said, “and how is my big third-grader this morning?”

Those words made me feel loved. They made me feel that Dad was so proud of me!

By the next year, our family had moved. On the first morning of fourth grade, I walked out of my bedroom in our apartment on the campus of a Bible college in South Dakota and into the living room where Dad was reading his Bible.

“Good morning,” I said.

“Good morning,” he replied, not looking up from his Bible.

I waited. He said nothing more. My heart sank, having expected to hear those same words again. Instead of being assured of how much my dad loved me and was proud of me, I was now certain that he didn’t care.

I understand now that what was going to follow was one of the greatest displays of love and self-sacrifice my parents had ever shown to my sisters and me. You see that was the day they started homeschooling us. Dad’s new position with the college meant he would be on the road a lot, and he didn’t want to leave us behind. So they dedicated themselves to the labor and expense of making sure we could be together and still get the education we would need for life. It would mean long hours, lesson plans upon lesson plan, textbook purchases, and even coaching girls’ basketball at one point! (Can you imagine teaching 2nd and 4th grades while trying to wrangle a 4-year-old all in a 1981 Chevy Citation!!!) The entire day (and the years to come) was a display of love—but I saw only my disappointment.

My dad never could have met my expectation because he did not know it existed. He was one of the most loving, caring, and kind men I have ever known. He never would have intentionally hurt me, but my 9-year-old brain didn’t really understand life for what it was.

Years passed, and even though I had a good relationship with my dad that little seed festered in my heart. It grew into, as the Bible puts it, a root of bitterness. I heaped other disappointments up on top of it. I kept score. And, while I loved my dad very much, attitudes of resentment and even rebellion began growing in my heart.

When I was twelve, we moved to Billings, MT where my dad became the pastor of a church that was about to close its doors. For the first few months, we lived in an RV behind the church. IT WAS COLD!!!!! Do you know how cold it can get in a trailer when it’s 20 below? Let me tell you, it’s C-O-L-D!

In the spring, we moved a mobile home onto a piece of property outside of town. That summer on those 80 acres, I fell in love with Montana. We didn’t get to live there long before we had to move back into town, but I memorized just about every inch of that land. And talk about treasures! Someone had used part of the land as their own little landfill—a long time ago. I found antique medicine bottles, an old purse, junk I didn’t recognize—all kinds of things to stir up the interest of an imaginative 13-year-old.

That winter we went to a special meeting where the speaker talked about forgiveness. It wasn’t until that night that I realized that I had a very unforgiving heart toward my dad. I really don’t remember anything the speaker said. I just remember the ugliness that God revealed in my heart. I confessed it to God, and found a new freedom in my relationship with Dad in the days to come. But I never told anyone about what had happened, at least not for a long time. Instead…

I started writing a story. I didn’t want others to have the hurt of bitterness in their lives. I didn’t want it to destroy their relationships like it could have destroyed mine. I don’t know if most 14-year-olds think this way or not, but I did. So, in our little space of prairie “Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens” and Marc and Jess and Jon and the whole Bennett family were born.

Obviously, the story doesn’t end there because it took me 26 years to get to this point! But I believe there were still things I needed to learn. Some of them you will see in this book, some of them don’t come out until the next book, or even the one after that. But Winter’s Prey is the beginning, and I hope it will do just what that 14-year-old girl—cuddled up on her bed with pen and notebook in hand and the relentless Montana winds beating and whirling about her mobile home—hoped it would do. I hope that it will bless. I hope that it will encourage. I hope that it will stir each of us to love when others are not lovely, to forgive when others seem unforgivable, to extend grace where judgment is more desirable, and to value our relationships with each of our family members to such an extent that we will work to make them what they ought to be.

I hope you enjoy Winter’s Prey and that it will bless many for years to come.


We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to bring the powerful story and message of Winter’s Prey to audiobook. Please check out the campaign and join us in this endeavor by clicking here!

Winter's Prey

Launching the Kickstarter for Winter’s Prey

June 27, 2017

 

Today’s the big day!

The Kickstarter campaign to convert Winter’s Prey to audiobook is live!

 

Go here to check it out!

I just did a Facebook Live to tell a little more about the project and how we can spread the word. Here’s the link in case you missed it: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1007227699/audiobook-for-winters-prey

One of the most important things is going to be getting the word out and getting it out in the right way to the right people. Here are some resources you can share it with others:

Tips on sharing. When you share the pictures, links, or videos:

  1. It’s not as important to talk about the Kickstarter as to talk about the book itself. The message of the book and why or how it impacted you are the reasons we’re doing the Kickstarter. Try to share something like this example:

    “I recently read a book that is being made into an audiobook. I loved Winter’s Prey because….(Your Reason Here)…the author has set up a Kickstarter campaign to cover the production costs, I’m backing it (or sharing it) to help her reach her goal. You can join us by checking it out here: (link).”

  2. Share a favorite quote from the book or a way the book encouraged or helped you along with one of the resources above.
  3. Invite others to join you in backing the project and in sharing it with others.
  4. Always include a link to the Kickstarter page.
  5. Tag specific people in your posts. If you know someone who likes to read, enjoys audiobooks, who’s read the book, or whom you have told about the book—tag them.
  6. When you back the book, let people know about it, tell them why, and ask them to join you.

We have 30 days!

I’m so excited to see what God will do!!!

Featured Winter's Prey

An Impossible Dream Coming True

June 27, 2017

Have you ever gone to bed praying something would change? You didn’t know what, but you knew something needed to happen to bump a situation in a different direction. I’ve had a few of those lately. The things on my heart were so heavy that I prayed most of the night, crying out for the Lord’s leadership, direction, and provision. Two weeks ago, I got very specific in a very unspecific way. “Lord, I said, “please do something in the next few days. I don’t know what the answer is, I’m leaving that part in your hands, but I ask that you do something in the next few days.”

The next morning, I got up (still praying), had my quiet time, and was about to head on with my day when I received a notification from Facebook. Over the last few months, I’ve been part of a couple of groups for writers and artists surrounding the launch of Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. These groups have been very encouraging and helpful. Often, a group member posts a question and other members of the group pitch-in with whatever information or resources are needed.

That morning was no different, I saw the request for information that came in on the notification and began pulling together a blog on how to set a featured image in a WordPress blog. This particular topic is not one I normally write about. I knew it would help others though, so I went ahead and did it, feeling that was what the Lord was wanting me to do.

As the morning progressed, a man named Jason Noxon joined the thread. In the process of trying to figure out why his blog wasn’t displaying photos when shared to Facebook, I went to his website and discovered that Jason is not only a writer but also a voice actor. At that I sighed. It’s been a desire of mine for so long to have Winter’s Prey and Field of Ashes converted into audiobooks, but it has seemed like something so very far away and impossible.

I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I didn’t know how to choose the right voice for the project. I didn’t know how to make sure I went with the right producer and got set up with the right contracts. There was just so much about the process that I didn’t know. As I looked over his page, I prayed once, “Lord, you know that’s a desire of my heart. It would be so cool to have the books in audio. If it’s your will, I’d love for that to happen someday.” And that was it.

The day wore on and somehow the blog issue was finally resolved. Jason posted his thanks to myself and Susan Pitman (who I think is really the person who fixed things) and said, “If either of you ever need voice over work done, I’d like to do it for you.” I laughed out loud when I read that, and replied, “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into with that offer.” I told him I have a really huge project, and that’s why it’s never been done. He asked me to send him more information in a private message, and the next thing I knew he had set the wheels in motion to see Winter’s Prey become an audiobook!

God answers prayer! He still gives us the desires of our heart. He wants our hearts to be ready and willing to receive it, and sometimes that means bringing us to the point of saying, “Lord, I don’t know what needs to be done, but I trust that You do and that You will do it.”

In preparation for the production of the book, we have set up a Kickstarter Campaign to crowdfund the project. Our goal is $3000 to cover the production expenses, fees, and taxes associated with the project. This is the first time I’ve ever done a Kickstarter campaign, or anything like it for that matter, but I’m not depending on Kickstarter or my experience and knowledge in this. I believe the Lord has led in this so far, and I believe He will continue to do so.

I’d like to invite you to join me on this journey, both as a backer of the audiobook and as an observer and participant in what the Lord is doing. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Back the book – A backer is someone who pledges $5 or more toward the project. (There are some pretty cool rewards for pledging, including lavender from my garden, having your name in the credits at the end of the recording, and a copy of the audiobook itself!)
  • Share the project with others! I will need help sharing the project with as many people as possible, especially people who love Christian fiction and audiobooks.
  • Invite others to join you. Maybe you don’t feel you can pledge at the level of a certain reward, but you would like to. Find others to join you and reach the goal together.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. This means we have 30 days to reach our goal. We really only need 120 people who will pledge $25 each. I believe that goal is within reach, and I believe that the Lord will help us as we step out in faith trusting Him to establish the work of our hands upon us.

I’ve already seen and heard from readers who have been touched and encouraged by the books, and I believe that God can use the audiobooks to take the message of the books to a whole new audience. I’m excited about the potential that this project has to help and encourage others in their walk with God and to glorify God.

I believe He is already answering prayer just by bringing things to this point, and I believe He will continue to. Please, join me in the journey!

Click here to see and take part in the Kickstarter campaign (which launches tonight at midnight)!

 

PS If you’re in the Billings area, I’ll be at City Brew on 24th and King at 9:30, Tuesday, June 27th, for the official launch. Come join me! Bring your laptop or other device and we’ll share about the campaign together!

PPS. If you’re going to bed praying that something will change, keep praying. Remember, this is something I’ve been praying about for years. I’m so excited to declare His doings in this, but I know that you may be praying for something as well. Let me know how I can be praying for you. (rmiller at barrenfieldsfruitfulgardens d0t com)

The Writing Journey Wordpress

Adding a Featured Image to WordPress Posts

June 13, 2017

Adding a featured image to a WordPress post is really quite simple, and makes your posts to Facebook and other social media much more attractive and eye-catching.

A blog post WITHOUT a featured image will appear like this in your Facebook feed:

 

 

A blog post WITH a featured image will appear like this in your Facebook feed:

So how do you take your posts from scroll-over status to stop-the-feed-I-need-to-see-this status? It’s easy. When composing a new blog post most of the important settings for your blog such as who can see them, what category the post will be in, and which tags you will be using are in a column to the right of your composition area. At the very bottom of that column, under “Tags,” you will see “Featured Image”:

Clicking on the link will take you to your media library where you can either choose an existing photo or add a new one. Once you have chosen your photo, it will appear in the column, and will post with your blog when you post it to Facebook.

The above illustrations were done in a WordPress.org site, but it works the same way in WordPress.com, even though it looks slightly different. Like this:

Click Featured Image, followed by Set Featured Image:

Choose your image, and it will appear in the column, like this:

One thing to keep in mind, some themes and settings work so that the featured image is automatically placed at the top of the page when you go to the blog itself or when you view it in your blog feed. This can be a little annoying if you have the image in the body of the blog because you see the picture twice as you’re scrolling through your feed. It seems a little redundant. I was able to prevent this by going to Appearance (left hand column)>Customize,>Posts and Pages, and then clicking on “Hide featured image from top of posts.”

Also, from time-to-time I have experienced issues with the featured image NOT posting to Facebook if I added it to the blog post AFTER publishing. I’m not sure what causes this, so I always make adding that image part of my pre-publishing “regime,” just like adding the category and tags.

Hope that helps! It’s quick, easy, and makes your Facebook blog posts more visible.

Featured The Writing Journey

Writing Journey: Scrivener

June 9, 2017

May was busy with the book launch for Field of Ashes, graduations, company, starting our summer focus at Forbid Them Not Ministries, and a host of other things. So Saturday, I finally got to sit down in the shade in my front yard, watch a hawk get chased by a raven who was being chased by the starlings—and write.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about the process I use for outlining. (You can read about that here.) This time, since I’m working on the first draft of Book 3, I thought I’d share a little about a special writing software that I use. First, I should mention that I have no affiliation with this software (they aren’t paying me to write about it.) So, here goes:

Once my outline is complete, it’s time to start writing the story. For many years, I either sat down with a pen and paper for the first draft or just opened a new document in MS Word and started writing. But a while back, I learned about a program called Scrivener. Scrivener is specifically designed for writers, and I love it, especially for the first draft!

When I create a new project in Scrivener, it gives me several project type options: fiction, non-fiction, screenplay, etc. It is already set up to help writers create the front and back matter of the book, such as the acknowledgments or foreword. Oddly enough, I usually end up doing those on my own because I like to tailor them to the book. Still, if you are new to writing, layout, and publishing, this is a very helpful feature.

I set up Book 3 in a basic novel manuscript. Once everything was in place, I began adding File Folders to what Scrivener calls the “Binder.” Each folder represents a chapter. Like this:

Inside the folders are text documents. Each text document represents a scene within the chapter.

This is probably my greatest reason for using this program for first drafts. This feature makes it possible to move a scene if I need to, even from one chapter to another. Which in the early stages of a book is a scenario that is highly possibly!

 

Scrivener has multiple views of the project as a whole. One view compiles all of the above documents and allows me to see the entire manuscript as text, which is great for reading through long passages and keeping things flowing. But my favorite view uses “index cards” to represent each chapter. Like this:

Another tool, which I haven’t used a lot in the past, but will be using more with this book is the Character Tool. These allow me to create and save character descriptions, which will be especially helpful as the Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens story grows and new characters are added. Here’s a sample:

 

Similarly, the Places Tool allows me to make notes about specific locations in which major (or minor) parts of the story take place. This is an especially important tool for making sure scenes are consistent. For instance, the Bennetts’ rocking chairs ALWAYS give me trouble because they tend to move around the house, but they “live” in the common area.

These are some of the cool tools that Scrivener has to offer, but here’s my favorite—the Name Generator. Before Scrivener, I used to scour phone books, hymnals, books of poetry, etc., for names that fit my characters. In fact, I have a character in an unpublished book whose name came from a license plate!

See if you can pick it out:

“Matt contemplated the whole process. It seemed somehow too easy. Things didn’t usually come together this way. Sure, it had thrown his entire day off, and he was still up at a quarter to two in the morning, but it just didn’t seem right. Worse yet, his heart told him it wasn’t right. It was a good, quick, viable solution to everyone’s problems, but it wouldn’t last. It gave Marsh and Line a whole new realm of influence for good. It would give their employees opportunities to get involved in the community. That had been the point at which Raska and Chalmers had been most supportive. Raska in particular had been excited. He’d even sat down at the conference table in Matt’s office and thumbed through the list of charities, commenting on how they could get various departments involved in each one. That had, in turn, excited Matt. Even so, Matt knew he was taking the easy way out.”

Now, when I’m stuck on a character’s name, I can go into Scrivener, put in my criteria, and generate up to 500 names at once. Believe it or not, sometimes I still have to go through the process three or four times. That means 1500 to 2000 potential names before finding the right one!

Scrivener also allows me to set word count goals for each day. Like this…

As you can see, I haven’t gotten far today, so I’d better get at it. Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my writing process!

Did you find the license plate name? What part of the writing process would you like me to share about next? Do you have a first draft tip for other writers? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured Life

When It’s Okay To Be A Copycat

June 7, 2017

Did you know that Michelangelo’s first commission was a swindle?

I have a lot going on these days, including writing new material for our FTN Friday Bible Study, and participating in a book launch for author Jeff Goins, whose new book Real Artists Don’t Starve comes out today. These things are very different (so bear with me). Yesterday, however, I found a common thread.

Michelangelo’s first job was to copy another artist, make the sculpture look old, and then sell it as an antique. He was caught in the con, but it worked out in his favor, for the Cardinal who had originally wanted the piece—hired Michelangelo!

Now, I would certainly never condone cheating people with cheap knockoffs. However, this story brings to light a very interesting fact about apprenticing artists during the Renaissance:

“During the Renaissance, apprentices were taught to copy their master’s work so precisely that the copies were indistinguishable from the originals. Being able to reproduce an earlier work was not something to be ashamed of—it was a point of pride. In the words of author Noah Charney, it was ‘a sign of ability, not duplicity’ to be able to copy the work of a master.” — Real Artists Don’t Starve pp. 27 and 28

I have seen the benefits of a similar approach in my own writing. I started writing at a very young age. Among other things, I had finished the first draft of Winter’s Prey, Field of Ashes, and books 3-5 of the series by the time I went to Russia at 19. But if you went back and read those drafts today, well, you’d probably laugh. I was a novice. I had not honed my craft, found my voice, or learned from others. A Russian friend once looked at me compassionately and said, “Rachel, you write like Tolstoy—long sentences.”

Ten years later, I returned to the States. I found myself needing to fill the evenings while my grandparents watched classic movies, so I wrote. But then I started noticing the difference between those classic movies and many contemporary movies. The classic movies truly told stories. They had plots! Character and dialog driven plots! They didn’t have to blow things up, drown the movie in excessive music, or go where they shouldn’t go simply to get ratings—because they knew how to tell a story. So I started watching, but not watching for the sake of entertainment, watching for the sake of study.

I also started reading again, which I hadn’t had a lot of time for in Russia. As I read, I started noticing twists of phrases and how authors I adored built their sentences and paragraphs. The authors I liked best wrote with rhythm, or what I like to call lilt. The more I read their work and listened to it on audiobooks, the more I realized that was the voice I was looking for. No, it wouldn’t be an exact match. My voice would have its own tone, but whatever that tone was, it had to have lilt. So I listened and read and practiced—and it worked.

As I read Real Artists Don’t Starve, Michelangelo’s story got me to thinking about this practice of being a copycat, but it was the story of dancer Twyla Tharp that started to bring things together for me.

“When she started dancing in New York, the dancer dedicated herself to studying every great dancer who was working at the time. She patterned herself after these professionals, learning what she could from them, copying their every move. ‘I would literally stand behind them in class,’ she said, ‘in copying mode, and fall right into their footsteps. Their technique, style, and timing imprinted themselves on my muscles.” — Real Artists Don’t Starve pg. 30

Anything we do often or repetitively (like typing or shifting gears) probably involves some degree of muscle memory. This is what Twyla Tharp was doing. She was copying the movements of the greats, training her own muscles to do what the masters were doing, so that it would flow naturally out of her. The brain and writing work similarly. Many writers copy out the work of great writers in order to learn from them.

This is the point where Jeff’s book and my own work intersected this week.

The material I have been writing touches on the importance of the example we set for others. Before we are required to set an example, however, we are given an example to follow. 1 Peter 2:21 says that Christ left us an example and we are to follow in His steps.

Check out the meaning of the Greek word translated example!

“A writing copy, including all the letters of the alphabet, given to beginners as an aid in learning to draw them.” – Source, BlueLetterBible.com

In other words, if we are to be like Christ, then—just like the writer or sculptor who wants to become like the great artists who have gone before them—we need to sit down and study His work, His words, His actions, His responses, and His attitudes. We need to practice what He practiced until it becomes as much a part of us as those dance moves that flowed out of Twyla Tharp or as that sculpture that came from Michelangelo’s hands. We need to sit as a child with a copy sheet and trace the lines of His life over and over until His grace, kindness, love, righteousness, and forgiveness flow from the pen of our lives onto the paper of our circumstances and relationships, creating a genuine copy of the Master’s work.

It doesn’t stop there. In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul tells Timothy to be an example of the believers. The word translated as example is the Greek word typos. Not typos as in mistakes in typing, but typos as in:

“The mark of a stroke or blow…print.” — Source, BlueLetterBible.com

All the copying we have done of the Master should now flow out in strokes, or be stamped out in images, which can be copied by others. And as the strokes of our example scribe their lines across our circumstances and relationships, they should always point our copiers to the Master.

This is when it’s okay to be a copycat. In fact, it’s more than okay. This is when it’s the preferred course because in being a copycat, we become the real thing.

Have you ever copied another artist’s work? What practices do you maintain in your Christian walk that allow you to copy Christ? Please share in the comments below.

Check Out Real Artists Don’t Starve
Don’t Miss My New Book Field of Ashes

 

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