Fakers, Bakers, and Music Makers – Bonding via Unforgettable Characters

How do you sum up a weekend adventure that had approximately 865,342 high points?

I’m not sure I can, but I’ll at least attempt to highlight a few moments that made my time at the #UCIJretreat2021 amazing and memorable and oh-so-worth-it. (That’s Unforgettable Characters & Incredible Journeys, in case you were wondering.)

A few months ago, author Ralph Walker put out a call for writers. The response was overwhelming, and RW successfully arranged a virtual retreat via Zoom for 20 lucky writers to learn plotting techniques and how to dive deep when it comes to creating memorable characters. In the retreat’s inaugural weekend, writers from all walks of life and all stages of writerhood (Is that a word? It is now.) gathered in their Brady Bunchesque Zoom boxes to talk craft, brainstorm, laugh, and have a good time.

I’m happy to report I was one of those lucky writers. One might wonder: How much can a writer learn from…other writers? The answer is a lot. The thing about writing is that there’s never a time you’re done learning. There’s never a point where a writer can say they’ve mastered the craft so expertly that there’s nothing more to be learned from others. (I guarantee you this is still the case even for Stephen King and Nora Roberts. I promise they, too, can still learn. Knowledge is like Thanksgiving dinner. You may think you’re full, but there’s always room for dessert.)

Plus, friends. Who doesn’t want new friends!? So many writers I’d known via Twitter, but had never gotten to actually know on a more intimate level, and now I had the opportunity! And they write everything. I followed along with characters from everywhere and anywhere (hence the title of this post) and what a ride it was. I fell into so many amazing worlds and so many raw emotions.

To read the words of a fellow writer is a special gift. It’s an invitation into a person’s soul, into their world, into a special place in their heart, and no one who reads a writer’s words should take that honor lightly. I am so very grateful to have been trusted with the words of so many kindred spirits.

As you might have guessed by the name of the retreat, the weekend encompassed creating unforgettable characters and incredible journeys. We discussed what makes a character unforgettable and how to take a reader on a journey with all its rollercoaster twists and turns while still providing an explosive ending that delivers.

And the swag! Did I mention the swag? A box full of goodies and treats, writer fuel (coffee and tea), a #5amwritersclub mug, stickers, and an organized binder chock full of information. It’s clear RW put a lot of work into this retreat, and how grateful I was to have been on the receiving end of it!

Plus, secret envelopes. Did I mention the secret envelopes? RW is a master at the secret envelopes and they were filled with…

Wait.

…if I tell you, they won’t be secret anymore. I guess you’ll just have to apply for the Fall 2021 UCIJ Retreat to find out.*

Bonded by a shared retreat. Love these faces!

*Seriously, do it.

Soul of the Storm

Join me in welcoming author Jean M. Grant to my blog again today as she releases the second of her three 2019 anticipated books and novellas. Soul of the Storm is a sweet romance novella  ebook from the Deerbourne Inn series that features a heroine you’ll enjoy rooting for, a hero you can fall in love with, and a rescue dog who will steal your heart. 

Did I mention the rescue dog who will steal your heart?

Soul of the Storm (a synopsis):

Charlotte MacGregor lost the thrill of conquering mountains five years ago when her sister disappeared on a hiking adventure without her. Still guilt-ridden, Charlotte heads for a vacation to rustic Vermont with a friend—where she’s surrounded by reminders of her devastating loss and plagued with unanswered questions.

Matiu Christiansen is an outdoors buff. He works multiple jobs to save for his dream of owning an outfitter in New Zealand. He’s never quite felt at home in the United States and he yearns for his Maori roots, but his attraction to Charlotte puts a kink in his plans to move home later this year.

Thrown together by coincidence, Charlotte and Matiu form a kindred bond through their shared love of the outdoors. Can Charlotte surmount her demons to assist Matiu on a rescue when a late-season snowstorm hits? And can Matiu help Charlotte heal from the pain of the past?


An interview with the author:

LRS: Tell us about your writing, about your history, what you love to write and why!

JMG: I began my writing journey in the Scottish middle ages. My first love has always been medieval romance, and later 18th century stories of kilted men (ala Outlander…). Castles and crags, warring clans and cultures, sweeping landscapes of mystery and moor, lairds and ladies, gallantry and greed. After spending a good deal of time hanging out with my medieval heroes and heroines, I jumped ahead in time and wrote a contemporary novella as part of a new series put out by The Wild Rose Press. It takes place in Vermont…and I jumped at the chance to write about my region of the world. At the same time, I delved into a contemporary women’s fiction story. Now I’m back finishing up a trilogy in historical Scotland. Jump, jump through time and space…

LRS: So why write across genres? 

JMG: Good question. I have diverse interests. Maybe too many interests? By writing different genres I feed different passions and my ideas don’t fall stagnant (though I am amazed by authors who stick with one sub-genre and continue to churn out incredible, fresh stories!). Maybe I am too faceted, a bit scattered, and just write what my heart tells me. It’s fun though. Going back and forth in editing between my brogue Scottish men and my modern voices can be tricky, but it keeps my brain sharp (and exhausted!). I also write in both first and third person. 

Will I delve into another genre? Probably not. But never say never. I’ve found my niche in historical (with paranormal elements) and contemporary romance, and women’s fiction. There is a central thread weaved into all my stories: journeys of hope, spirituality, and of course happy-ever-after. My women’s fiction usually has a romantic element. So even though I write across genres and sub-genres, I find that I home in on a central theme with each story.

LRS: Now the quick questions. What are some of your go-to methods for writing?

JMG: Notes, charts, charts, charts. Plotting, planning, but being flexible to divert off the path if my characters take me that way. Being willing to kill my darlings.

LRS: Where is your favorite place to visit?

JMG: Tie: New Zealand or Scotland.

LRS: Makes sense. You write about both!


And lastly, an excerpt!

Charlotte sat on the top porch step instead of in a rocker. Her breath puffed in a misty cloud before her as she waited. Again, the scent of a fire from the back pit infused the air. She traced the knots in the planks of the porch with the toe of her shoe, ignoring her thudding pulse. Matiu shuffled through the side door. She rose to help him with the cups. 

“Hi.” 

“Kia ora,” he said, smile deep and teeth bright beneath the lamps. “It’s colder tonight.” 

“You need a jacket,” she said with a nod to his thinner long-sleeved top that clung nicely to his muscles. 

“I’ll sit closer to you. Nice quilt.” 

“I’m always cold. I won’t have much heat to share.” 

“Logging in my assessment file.” He tapped his temple. 

She shivered from nerves as he settled beside her on the top step. 

“Ya know, we could have tea inside,” he suggested. 

“What about consorting? Besides, I like the clear sky and fresh air. Night is my time.”

He nodded. “Ah, clear skies are amazing. I prefer morning. Not sure about tomorrow. Neil’s sick with the flu, and so is Kelly. They work on the search and rescue team, and Kelly also does mucking with us for the US Forest Service. Seems like the germs haven’t left for the season.” 

“Nor the cold temps. Both tend to bite us in the ass in April.” 

“I was serious. You going to share that quilt with me?” He inched closer. 

“Nope. Get your own.” 

He pressed a hand to his heart. “Shot down!” Tea splashed as his laugh vibrated. 

Her pulse quickened with the idea of sharing warmth with him. 

He said, “I’m knackered. That paddle got me sore. Bit more wind today than I’d expected.” 

“You’re not the only one.” 

He was so close. She subtly inhaled his natural scent. She couldn’t place it. Probably his shampoo… combined with sweat and cooking oils. They sat quietly, unsure what to say next. His nearness upset her equilibrium. She drank the tea.


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Like what you see? You can order Soul of the Storm through any of these online vendors:

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ GooglePlay

Want to see Jean M. Grant’s other published works? Visit here and here.

Indie Author Storms

Indiana_Jones_in_Raiders_of_the_Lost_Ark
I’m no Indiana Jones.

Maybe it doesn’t quite have the ring of Indiana Jones, but I think Indie Author Storms has a nice sound to it. So why did I decide to go indie and what’s next?

I’ve been writing seriously for seven years, querying for four, and have four completed manuscripts—some of them with quite wonderful feedback from agents and editors. And until the last year, I really wanted to take the traditional route to publishing.

So what changed?

Cancer.

Cancer is one hell of an eye-opener. And when my husband was diagnosed in April of 2017, it didn’t just change the rules; it changed the entire game. He’s doing well now—a year and a half cancer-free. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t celebrate this. (Insert happy dance emoji right here!)

But his diagnosis wasn’t all.

At the beginning of my foray into Writer Twitter, I made friends with a wonderful professor and writer who had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She documented her journey in life, and through diagnosis, and I had the pleasure of beta-reading for her about a year and a half ago. As with most interactions on social media, we dipped in and out of each other’s profiles here and there, commenting and leaving digital hearts in our wake. I learned only recently that she passed away in June.

 

Before she succumbed to the terrible disease, she followed her dream and published Blooming Out of Darkness: A Memoir about Cancer, Spirits, and Joy. The book, which sits on the bookshelf beside my piano, is a stark reminder each and every day—a reminder that we don’t always have the time we think we have. Between Alicia’s story and my husband’s ordeal over the last year, I’ve decided that it’s time to take the next step in the journey to authorhood. 

There’s a beautiful change in perception that occurs when you reach your forties. (Okay, I’m not quite there, but I’ve got less than a year, so…) You begin to care less about what other people think or what other people would do in any given situation, and so much more about what you feel and how you can be good to yourself.

Indie authorhood is me being good to myself. I’m ready to have the fun, to release a book baby into the world, to take the next step and grow as an author. A Thousand Years to Wait is my gift to the world, yes. But it’s also a gift to me. And I hope we can enjoy it together.


A Thousand Years to Wait will be released on April 30th, 2019. You can add A Thousand Years to Wait to your Goodreads list here. Check back for excerpts, teasers, a cover reveal, and more! I’ll be updating regularly over the next six months.