Winter’s Prey Once Had Thanksgiving

Winter’s Prey Once Had Thanksgiving

This morning I was thinking back over my Thanksgiving and what a wonderful time we had gathered Thursday night as a family, laughing and joking and just relaxing. That sort of reminiscing usually leads to thinking of other Thanksgivings, and I suddenly remembered a Thanksgiving in Winter’s Prey’s past. So I did a little bit of digging in my file cabinet and found a few interesting tidbits that I thought I would share with you. It really is amazing how much a story changes from its first draft to its final draft. So here you go:

• The original Winter’s Prey was called Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens, which as you know is now the name of the series (and of this blog).

• The earliest drafts that I can find are either written out by hand or printed off of our old Mac on an old-school dot matrix printer (you can see the perforation marks where the old feeder edges were torn off). One version of it still has most of the pages connected end to end.

• That early version starts on Thanksgiving Day. Joe’s family and the Bennett’s celebrate it together. They also all have very poorly executed accents from another part of the country. (Learn the story behind Winter’s Prey here.)

• Jon and Hannah are still courting. (Although another early version does have them married as in the final version.)

• Joseph’s last name is Winters, and he has a brother names Corney (Cornelius). Aren’t you glad that didn’t stay in there! 😀

• The entire story is written in first person. And some scenes are written from both Jessica’s and Marc’s perspectives—in the first person! That would certainly be cumbersome! As the writer, however, it helped me come to know Jess and Marc a little better.

So there ya go! A few little Thanksgiving secrets from Winter’s Prey. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving! God has given us so much. Let us praise Him together as we enter this season of celebrating the birth of Christ and His amazing gift of salvation!


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

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The Story Behind Winter’s Prey

The Story Behind Winter’s Prey

screen-shot-2016-07-12-at-10-30-24-pmYesterday, 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.

——-

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

Unfinished Stories

Unfinished Stories

Life doesn’t always go the way we think it will. …Scratch that. …Life RARELY goes the way we think it will. We make plans, but they change, unravel, and sometimes just plain fall apart. Some people bounce back quickly or just go with the flow when this happens, but even the most fluid people eventually reach that point when they don’t know how they got where they are or where they’re supposed to go next.

Those moments can be terribly disheartening.

About a year ago, after years of painstaking work, I dared to send out a book to a group of friends who agreed to provide feedback on the novel. Their insight was amazing. They helped me spot numerous typos, found a few structural and conceptual issues, pointed out that a couple of characters needed more memorable names, and so on. I was very excited. I was sure that in a month’s time I would have the edits finished and be on my way to publishing the book.

And then, life happened.

With almost no warning, my writing time was suddenly gone (as the scarcity of posts to this blog bears witness). The few moments I had to work on the book here and there were usually interrupted, overwhelmed by other needs, or so far apart that I felt I had to start all over just to figure out where I had left off.

Talk about a plan gone wrong!

Week after week, I was editing someone else’s writing to make a little extra income, while my own writing sat in a pile of edits and drafts and notes—untouched. It was discouraging.

Finally, over this past Memorial Day weekend, I had time to make huge progress. I finished most of the changes and then started reading back through the book. But I only made it halfway before the weekend ended. Once again, the manuscript sat—always open and ready on my computer, but stuck on Chapter 22. The process seems to drag.

We all have “unfinished manuscripts” in our lives, whether they be actual books or some other goal or hobby or passion. Some of them we have pursued with every ounce of energy only to have our plans thwarted in some way or by someone. Sometimes it’s not just one manuscript; in fact, if you know many writers, you know that we usually have piles of manuscripts in progress. Even if those “piles” are organized neatly in our computer, they are still there.

Sometimes the unfinished or the failing or even just the faltering dream can weigh down on our spirits. We begin to let them define us. “See,” we say, “I’ve never finished this project or that one.” Or, “Look. Everything I’ve tried to do has failed.” Or, “Nothing every works out, so why should I try?”

That’s when it’s important to remember that what we accomplish is not who we are.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that before, but we live in a culture that denies it. We expect perfection from ourselves because our culture has set a very high standard of achievement before us, and to “be anyone” we must attain. This isn’t just a trait of our world. It has also crept into our service and worship. We mean well, but sometimes our expectations of service or participation or behavior just aren’t attainable. And the next thing you know, we’ve got everything upside down. We schedule every moment with so much “service” that we forget to take time to simply walk humbly before our God. We work so hard to keep ourselves unspotted from the world that we forget we must sometimes go into the hard places of the world to touch those in need. We overachieve when God simply wants us to be.

Sometimes, we just need a reality check. We need to remember that who we are is not what books we have written, what jobs we have worked, what programs we have developed, what ministry we have carried out, what businesses we have started, what businesses we have lost, how many children we have had, how many marriages we’ve had, how large a house we own, or if we can pay our rent. None of that makes us who we are. Those are a part of us. They have helped to shape us. They are the circumstances that help to form our character. Our world may identify us or classify us by some of them, but they are not what is important. One thing matters:

Who I am before Christ.

When He looks at me, what does He see? A lost sinner? A child that has wandered astray? A repentant heart? A labor-weary servant? A redeemed and precious child?

When He looks at my heart, is it pure? Is it a place where He has full reign? Is it growing to reflect and resemble more of Him and less of me?

One thing is sure—we are loved with a love that will pursue us to the end of the earth. When we fall, He will be there to lift us back up, brush us off, and set us on the right path—or to chasten us if need be. When we feel we have failed in an assignment, He is there to pull us back on track and to remind us that, just like my manuscripts,—our story isn’t done. There is still time to edit. We may not be able to change things in the past, but with God’s help we can do right in the future. One little decision, one little commitment to let God lead and to follow Him no matter what can change the plot lines we thought were already set. And then, the next thing we know, an adventure has begun.

So, to all of you who read my book last spring, thank you again, and please know that your labors weren’t in vain. The book is so much closer, and so much better, because of you.

And to those of you who are feeling like your “pile of manuscripts” will never be complete, rest in the Lord. Let Him guide you to the next step. After all, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Psalm 127:1)

And to those of you whose lives seem to be falling apart, remember that the Author and Finisher of our faith can restore all things. He does not leave us, nor does He change. In fact:

He writes the best stories.

 


Coming Soon:

Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens – Book 1: Winter’s Prey

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When the cruel elements of the Montana Territory inflict tragedy on the Bennett family, life is forever changed. Jessica is certain the answer to her pain lies in starting over. Her brother Marc is determined to stay true to what he has always known.

Amidst the constant battle for survival and the conflict in their hearts, both siblings stand at the threshold of surrender to God. What will they choose?

Beta Readers Needed

Big Lake, aka Big Dry, Molt, MT

Big Lake, aka Big Dry, Molt, MT

So, I’ve let the cat out of the bag…My first fiction book is almost done! Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be making the final changes and looking for a few people to read it and provide feedback before moving on to the next step. There aren’t any qualifications for reading it, but there are a few things that I would like each reader to be watching for so they can answer a short (anonymous) questionnaire at the end.

Below is a short description of the book and a list of the question topics that will be on the questionnaire:

Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens – Book 1 – Winter’s Prey

Description

When the cruel elements of the Montana Territory inflict tragedy on the Twin Pines community, life for the Bennett family is forever changed. Jessica is certain the answer to her pain lies in starting over. Her brother Marc is determined to stay true to what he has always known. Marc commits to show Jess God’s love no matter the cost; but when a courageous choice leads to disaster, he fears he has driven her further away. A crushing secret forces both to examine their lives: Will they choose to walk in God’s love and faithfulness, or to walk on in their own strength?

Winter’s Prey is the story of a pioneering family’s struggle not only to survive life on the frontier but also to maintain faith in the midst of tragedy. It is a story of love, surrender, and hope.

Approximately 285 (8.5 x 11) pages

Questionnaire Topics

1. First Impressions

2. Plot/Structure Development

3. Concept Development

4. Overall Readability

5. Character Development, Dialog

Don’t worry, the questions are easy, and you only have to answer the ones you are comfortable answering. If you’d like to be included in this fun, exciting project, just let me know via Facebook or at rmiller at gracewritingservice dot com as soon as possible, and I will send you the files as soon as they are ready. 🙂 I will be limiting the number of readers, so don’t miss your chance!