It’s a snowy day here in southeast Virginia. Wonderful day to settle in with a great book. The eBook version of Set You Free is still just 99 cents. Get your copy today and enjoy. Here’s what readers are saying.
“This suspenseful and well-written book caught my attention with the first sentence and kept me guessing and engaged all the way to the last word.”
“Set You Free: Love, Lies and the Secrets that Bind is a gripping story. I felt a connection to Deena from the start. I understood her struggles and her having to deal with the past.”
“Honestly, for the three dimensional, interesting and unique characters alone, I’d read this author again.”
“Another great novel from this author. Highly recommend!”
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Only two more days until the release of Set You Free. It is much like my previous two novels, Dreams of the Sleepless and Hearts in the Storm. In fact, I would say that it takes the best threads of those two novels and weaves them into a story of mistrust, fear, despair, hope, and love. It is a story that plumbs the depths of the human heart. Like the other two novels, the main action in Set You Free occurs over the span of a week. During that week, characters whose lives are in a downward spiral will be thrown into a blast furnace that will either consume or refine them. A woman running for her life, two sadistic murderers who will do anything to find her, a man shackled by loss and guilt—the moment when their paths collide is that week entitled Set You Free.
Only 6 days until the release of Set You Free – Available only on Amazon
Last week, I posted regarding the significance of the main characters’ names in Set You Free. This week I want to talk about the setting of the novel. The fictional fishing village of Opechancanoe is a bit like the small bayside town that I live in. I chose the name Opechancanoe as my own variation on the Native American name Opchanacanough, a tribal chief in eastern Virginia during the 1600s. (It’s not uncommon for the Anglicized versions to mangle the original.) The name means, “He whose soul is white.” In contrast, Opchanacanough organized and led bloody attacks on English settlers in 1622 and 1644. Geographically, this name doesn’t fit the book’s setting. Although many places on the Eastern Shore bear Native American names, Opchanacanough’s tribal home was on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay from where our story takes place. I struggled with this over the two and a half years that I worked on Set You Free, and many times sought a different name. Each time I left the name unchanged. In the end, I ignored this inconsistency because I was drawn to the meaning of the name, “he whose soul is white,” in stark contrast to the killing of hundreds of English settlers. Set You Free is a story about people struggling with stark contrasts – right and wrong, good and evil, lies and truth. In some respects, Set You Free is a story about seeking a soul that is white – free from guilt and self-doubt. A little town named Opechancanoe was the perfect backdrop for this story.
Conventional advice for writers is to avoid starting your book with weather. Call me a rebel (or a fool), but that’s exactly where Set You Free begins, in the middle of a nasty storm. It is the vehicle for the unlikely meeting of the two main characters, Deena and Blake. It also represents the personal storms that ravage these two lost souls. Both characters are uneasy about being swept up in events that seem to be the wrong place and the wrong time. Only later in the book does Blake comment, “When you’re battered by the storm, all you see is rain.” In the moment, it does seem like the wrong place and the wrong time. They, like most of us, have trouble seeing beyond the storm, but there is a beyond. Every storm comes to an end. What lies beyond the storm for Dina and Blake? I guess you’ll have to read the story to find out.
Bits and Pieces
In the run-up to the release of my newest novel, Set You Free, I’m releasing a series of articles that I call Bits and Pieces. I hope that my stories stand on their own as great entertainment, but I want them to be more than that. I take care to weave threads into each story to give it deeper meaning. A message for those who seek it. Each of these articles will focus on one of the several threads that make up the message below the surface of the story. I hope that these will give richer meaning to the story and pique your interest in what I believe is my best writing to date. Enjoy the bits and pieces that make up Set You Free.
Set You Free -What is this book about?
Set You Free is what I refer to as “Suspense-pirational with a touch of romance.” It is the story of a young woman who is running from a dark past and running for her life. It is the story of a man who struggles with a heavy burden of guilt. It is the story of two individuals whose lives are spiraling downward . . . until their encounter in the middle of a storm.
Add into the mix two murderous psychopaths, a meddling old woman, and a secret journal and you have Set You Free.
As a boy, I was fascinated by magic. I would buy novelty magic tricks whenever I had the opportunity and perform them for captive groups of friends and relatives. As an adult, I found myself in situations where I was teaching lessons or making presentations. Once again, I turned to magic as a way to grab the audience’s attention at the beginning and a way to focus on the concept being presented. On more than one occasion, I visited magic shops and bought tricks that I could use to make a specific point.
Much of magic relies on misdirection. The magician creates a distraction that pulls the audience’s attention away from the real action and prevents them from seeing how the trick is performed. One great example is the wrist watch steal. The magician steps out into the audience and says he needs someone to help him with a trick. He grabs an unsuspecting individual and drags him onto the stage. The magician then performs some sleight of hand involving the individual. Before sending the reluctant volunteer back to his seat, the magician tells him that he has a gift for him. To the volunteer’s surprise, he produces a watch that he surreptitiously removed from the individual’s wrist earlier.
This trick relies on the audience member being so distracted and nervous about being dragged on stage, that he never notices that while the magician is grasping his wrist, he is removing the watch. The other members of the audience are so distracted by relief that they weren’t selected and amusement at the reaction of the individual that they don’t see the well-practiced move. No one realizes that the trick is happening in the audience, they expect magic to happen on the stage – misdirection.
Another fascination that I’ve had as an adult is with books or movies that have a plot twist. I love to have everything that I anticipated turned upside down at the end of a story. All three of my novels contain plot twists. Ironically, it wasn’t until recently that I became conscious of the fact that authors use the same concept, misdirection, to make the plot twist work (guess I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed). The author provides all of the information that the reader needs to see the plot line clearly but does it in a way that makes the important seem trivial. Then the author provides lots of distractors and makes them appear to be important. This leads readers in the direction the author wants them to go. A great example of this is In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. She takes an important detail and makes it appear to be a mere quirk of the main character. She gets the reader caught up in other distractions, and then hands them the wristwatch. The plot twist — In essence, it is the literary form of magic.
Cate Hogan recently shared George Saunders’s video on How to Tell a Good Story. It reminded me of something I’ve discovered as a writer. You’ve got to set your characters free to be themselves, to write themselves, and to write the story.
The character Sissy in Hearts in the Storm is a prime example. When I began writing, I have to admit that she was a very flat character. Early on, she took on a life of her own. She became this fiery, tenacious woman who tries, sometimes unsuccessfully, to hide her tender caring side. Because of her fiery nature, her behavior is sometimes aggressive and unpredictable. A number of events in the book were not in the original outline. They were dictated by the intense person that Sissy became.
In Set You Free, my current work in progress, the character of Enos was supposed to appear only briefly in one of the early chapters. As I wrote that chapter, it became apparent to me that Enos would become an important character in the story. He has a significant mental impairment, yet he makes some of the wisest observations. His character really embodies one of the underlying themes of the book – Things aren’t always what they seem to be. Once I set Enos free to be himself, he started driving events in the book. Things turned out differently than I had planned because of him. He became an important character because he says and does important things just in being himself.
Telling a good story is really about creating interesting characters, letting them write themselves, and then letting them write the story. As an author, you must be willing to turn the storytelling over to the characters. After all, they know their story better than you do.