Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Guest Blogger MJ Fredrick - Christmas On the Beach

This past summer I went to my very first writer’s retreat. Trish Milburn and I, who have been best friends for years, had been playing around with an idea for a Christmas book we could write together. and I said, “What about a beach Christmas?”

I had no intention of actually going to a beach for inspiration, but Trish was really excited by the idea. She brought in Tanya to write the third story, I played hooky the last day of school, flew to Nashville to meet Trish, and we drove down to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

We’d rented a three-bedroom condo right on the beach, with a terrific view of the coast. After stuffing ourselves on seafood the first night, we got to work the next day. We drove around the little town of Orange Beach, taking notes on what kinds of businesses we saw. Tanya was excited that we actually saw a beach wedding, since that’s what her story is about. We took more notes, took a walk on the beach, ate more seafood, and headed back to the condo to get to work.

The condo had this great patio, with a high table and Adirondack chairs, and we spread out to get to work. We brainstormed the town name (a LOT harder than you’d expect) businesses their names, and secondary characters.

Tanya had a better idea of what her story was about than I did, so we worked on her story first. Then we worked on Trish’s, then my nebulous idea started coming together. Earlier I’d seen an open-air bar that I wanted to use as my setting (which meant another bartender hero for me—my third in two years!) and I knew I wanted a little-sister-of-the-best-friend conflict, so they helped me figure out how to get the brother out of the picture, how to fix it so my heroine wouldn’t be spending Christmas with her parents.

During this time, we decided we should write a series—4 novellas, one per season, set in Starfish Shores.

All this work was exhausting, so we went to eat seafood. When we came back, we were going to walk on the beach, but storms were rolling in, so we watched Warm Bodies and talked until the wee hours.

The next day was rainy, and Tanya was good and worked on edits for another book. Trish was reading and I was probably posting pictures of Stephen Amell on Tumblr. Inspiration, you know! But we did toy with the idea of making our spring break story a rainy one—all those people, stuck inside for a week.

The following day Tanya headed home, but Trish and I decided to stay another day. We waited for the rain to stop, then went to the pier.

We were absolutely going to stay for about half an hour, but there was a LOT of excitement. First, the fishermen were hooking sharks left and right. I’m not even kidding—at least 10 sharks were hooked, and we saw a hammerhead and a stingray from the pier.

Then there was a rescue attempt, complete with lifeguards on jet skis, helicopters and a sonar boat. Unfortunately, the attempt did not have a happy resolution, but it was an experience.

We went out for seafood again, and the next day headed back to Nashville.

So I didn’t get much writing done on my first writing retreat, but I had experiences I’ll never forget (and lots and lots of seafood!)

Want to check out the stories we came up with? Look at Swept Away for Christmas, available at Amazon http://amzn.com/B00FKALO5K , Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/swept-away-for-christmas-a-starfish-shores-holiday-trish-milburn/1117012117?ean=2940148468998.
Kobo http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/swept-away-for-christmas

MJ Fredrick knows about chasing dreams. Twelve years after she completed her first novel, she signed her first publishing contract. Now she divides her days between teaching elementary music, and diving into her own writing—traveling everywhere in her mind, from Belize to Honduras to Africa to the past.

She's a four-time Golden Heart Award finalist, and she won the 2009 Eppie Award with Hot Shot and the 2010 Eppie with Breaking Daylight.


MJFredrick said...

Thanks so much for having me here, Meg! I hope to find some others who love Christmas, and the beach, even in October!

Meg Benjamin said...

Glad to have you MJ!

Sydney Somers said...

Sounds like a blast no matter how much writing you got done :)

MJFredrick said...

Sydney, I was texting my mom from the condo, and we decided next summer, my whole family is going to rent a beach house!

Juniper Bell said...

That sounds like an absolute dream come true in terms of a writers retreat. And what a great idea for a series! Thanks so much for providing such great vicarious enjoyment!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Thanks for featuring our book here today. I agree with MJ -- it was a lot of fun to put together, and we did eat lots of seafood. I know, what a hardship. :) Already looking forward to working on the next collection.

MJFredrick said...

Hey, fish is brain food, right?

Kate Davies said...

Absolutely! :) Thanks for blogging with us!