In Recognition of National Foster Care Month: Overcoming Adversity in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

     Previously published in Catholicmom.com August 6, 2012

“Then why are we here?” Eva asked.
“You are here…” he began to say, and then wondered how much should really be said.
“You are here because God sent you to me.”
“Oh David!” Benedict protested and was about to walk away.
“It’s true,” David insisted, looking back at the boys. “Your mothers and fathers, for some reason or another, couldn’t do it right.”
“Do what right?” Tommy asked.
“Take care of you…they just didn’t have it in them. They weren’t strong enough.”
“Smart enough,” Tommy muttered.
“Sober enough,” Sebastian said.
“Stop,” David said gently. “Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what? Be mad at them?” Benedict asked. He could feel his face reddening.
“No…no, you can be mad at them,” David said. “You can be mad all you want, but at some point, you need to let it go. You need to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter anymore. You need to forgive them for what they did and did not do, and you need to move on.”
“What if I can’t do that?” Tommy asked.
David thought a moment before answering. “If you can’t forgive and move on, then your feelings will grow and fester and they will eat you alive.” (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

This is a snippet of the dialogue in a pivotal scene from my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. It comes in the middle of the book and is between David and five of his foster-children, Sebastian, Eva, Tommy, Benedict, and Micah.

It was a heart-wrenching scene to write, and I confess that I cried a little as it played itself out. But it needed to happen. Recognizing the children’s cynicism is essential to the story. My hope is that young readers find the exchange emotionally stirring, although tears are optional.

Equally, I hope readers share the feelings of anguish and sorrow as each character expresses these sentiments. Why? Because if they allow themselves to feel the depths of hurt, then the opposite feelings of hope and exhilaration will be enhanced in all the moments of joy and love and relief.

My desire in this novel and future books is to capture the hearts and minds of all my readers, especially those who have experienced past adversity or those currently dealing with it. In The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, I had to offer feelings they can relate to. And tweens and teens experience so many emotions as they transition from child to adult. Imagine the additional torment that a foster child experiences, or a child dealing with loss or abuse or neglect.

It’s possible that many of my readers will recognize themselves, or a fraction of themselves, in one or all of the characters. If they’re able to form such a relationship, they can tag along as each character journeys through the trials and tribulations that eventually deliver them to God and His unconditional love.

I’m an advocate for overcoming adversity. It’s not an easy endeavor, even in the least extreme circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God. And the premise of this novel is based on, Philippians 4:12-13, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

My prayer is that The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is an inspirational read and that each young reader gets from it what they need. So far, I’ve had positive feedback. One reviewer, author, Holly Michael recently wrote:

“This heartwarming novel leads readers, along with the characters, on a route toward God, toward His love, and toward healing and the hope of living a fulfilled life. And for those already rooted in Christ, the novel will surely be a faith-strengthener.” (Writingstraight.com)

Another reviewer, homeschool mom, and blogger, Catherine wrote that this novel has worthy teachable moments. I concurred in a post titled, The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch,” and listed them out. They include finding strength in God, staying pure in love, and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Catherine added:

“In addition to a delightful read, there are a few uplifting messages revealed in these pages.  For me, the most important was that faith is the only sure anecdote for anxiety.  Coming in closely behind were the ideas that God waits – and that where there is life, there is hope.” (Ourvillageisalittledifferent.com)

One thing I didn’t expect when writing this novel was that it would be inspiring to adults. I’d intended the story to be for tween, teens, and young adults, but grandparents and parents alike have voiced their positive feedback. Additionally, homeschooling parents have praised the book.

I had many hopes, prayers, and dreams when writing The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, and I believe that the final story exceeds my ultimate expectations. This was primarily because many of the scenes, although inspired by me, came to life and directed themselves. I didn’t know the whole story until it was written. I didn’t know the characters until they introduced themselves to me. I didn’t even know how God would make His appearance within the story, until He revealed Himself in my words.
It was a pleasure to write this novel, and I hope that it’s as much a pleasure to read.

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“Saving Faith” Featured on Catholicmom.com Book Notes

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The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

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Containing the Rebellious Character in Fiction Writing

I find the task of creating fictional characters a fun experience, for the most part. I determine their physical aspects, personality traits, background information, aspirations, fears, joys, and so on. No-one can tell me how to design a fictional character, because each one is created by me.

But what if the character takes a life of his own…I mean, that’s great, right? It drives the story along, creates a more natural piece of fiction. But what if the character becomes uncontrollable?

It doesn’t happen with all of my characters, but every now and then the odd boy (or girl) takes it upon himself to reveal an idiosyncrasy or personality flaw that bends and twists my story-line in a fashion that redefines it. It’s not always a negative awareness. Sometimes it’s a good revelation, but one that ultimately affects the story in some way.

Still, I allow him to let loose, and all I can do is follow his lead and hope that he behaves as best he can. Should the revelation be a negative one, I find myself in a bind. In order to maintain the integrity of the story, I am forced to lay down the law.

I have to remind my character of what’s expected of him, to a certain extent, of course.

I’m like a controlling mother, with more children than the ones I gave birth to physically. These are the babies I gave birth to creatively, and they had better behave, or they’ll be put in a time-out…which, of course, means I’ll save them for when another story, more fitting their rebellious nature, is conjured up.

Have you ever had a rebellious character take control of your fictional story?

Visit me on social media for more news and reviews on my Catholic fiction or just to say hi:
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Twitter: @TMGaouette

Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New Release! Saving Faith. Book 2- (Faith & Kung Fu Series)

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“Saving Faith” is the second book in my Faith & Kung Fu series and it follows the first story, “Freeing Tanner Rose.” In this new novel, we see more of Faith who is feeling very confined in her faith. The story explores many subjects including worldliness, self-control, friendship, dating, and forgiveness, among many others. I will be discussing this novel further and including a list of book study questions.

You can find free book study questions on my previous novels: Freeing Tanner Rose and The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch.

Blessings, TMG

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The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

*Note to home-school parents, youth leaders and teachers: You can pick and choose the questions depending on the purpose of your instruction and the age group of your students/readers.

Character development:

Characters-specific: Determine which characters you wish to discuss, either from the list given or others- Benedict, Micah, Isabella, Sebastian, Tommy, Eva, Faden, Roy, David, Martha, Mr. Jones.

How did adversity affect each character?

How was past or current adversity resolved as the character developed?

Why did Benedict have such a difficult time letting go of his past?

Why did Micah have such a strong faith?

Why was Isabella really called “mama Bella”?

Why did Sebastian resent his father?

What was Tommy most afraid of?

Why was Eva so afraid to sing?

How well do you think Faden handled his feelings for Tommy?

What do you think David’s biggest challenge was?

What was Martha’s biggest fear?

How important was Mr. Jones’ character and why?

How did Roy demonstrate that an adverse past can create a positive future?

Which character was your favorite and why?

Which character do you feel was the strongest emotionally and why?

Characters-general:

Were you able to relate to any of the characters portrayed and in what way?

Were the characters believable?

Was there any experience in the novel that you feel you can apply to your own life experience?

Do you find this novel valuable? Explain your response.

Which character made the biggest transition, in your opinion?

Which character made the smallest transition, in your opinion?

Spirituality:

In your opinion, how well does the author portray the presence of God in the everyday lives of the characters?

Is the author successful in presenting faith in a relevant and relatable way?

Give an example of each of the following Christian values and explain where they were best presented:
forgiveness, strong faith, honesty, loyalty, perseverance, purity, charity, compassion, tolerance

Book Structure:

Discuss some of the narrative devices that the author uses? E.g. Flashbacks, foreshadowing, third person narration, plot twists, dialogue, and imagery. Do they work?

Do these narrative devices help move the story along or are they just distracting to the story?

Style:

What can you say about the author’s writing style?

Discuss the narrative style.

What are some of the noticeable themes in the book? How did the author develop these themes? Were these methods effective?

The Author:

How well did the author take you into the story?

Was the use of description effective?

Could you envision each character?

Could you envision the setting?

Did you find this novel enjoyable?

Would you recommend it to a friend? Explain your response.

Does this book prompt you to want to read more from this author?

Quotes:

Which character quote did you find most effective?

Which character quote do you feel is the defining message in the novel?

.PDF VERSION of Book Study for “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Do You Carry the Burdens of Your Past Like Benedict?

The sun was still hot, wearing him down. But the breeze was intoxicating and he used it to pull him onward like a soldier crossing the desert. While he couldn’t remember a time when he was free of worry, he had never experienced this level of anxiety and it scared him. He stopped and gazed up at the blue sky, begging for relief. (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

Have you ever felt an anxiety this strong? Poor Benedict. He’s the main character in my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. From such a young age, Benedict carried the burdens of his past. He constantly looked back and couldn’t bring himself to to be positive about his future. It’s the life of the average foster child. Moved from one home to another, without any sense of stability. Until eventually, a home is just a unattainable dream.

This is the essence of the book. How do we deal with past adversity? All the Credence foster children have experienced some form of past adversity. But it’s how they deal with it that makes the difference.

Philippians 4:13 is the crux of this novel. “I can do all things,” Paul writes, “through Christ who strengthens me.” And that’s the foundation of our faith and the faith that the Credence family members must adhere to in order to cope with and overcome their adversity. With Jesus we can do anything, regardless of the circumstances that we are dealing with at the time.

Oftentimes, adversity occurs when we are children, but we take it with us into adulthood. For Benedict, it becomes consuming until the ache is just unbearable. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but I will definitely like to come back to this subject.

Well, my story is told, and you can find out what happens to Benedict and his foster siblings. After reading the book, come back and tell me why you think Benedict struggled with his past.

Do you have a past adversity that’s been difficult to overcome? Has your faith helped you move on?

Image: Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Book Reviews and More on “Freeing Tanner Rose”: “One of the Best Catholic Fiction Stories for Young Adults I Have Ever Read”

Freeing Tanner Rose is featured on Book Reviews and More. If you’ve read the book or like my work, please leave a comment and share it with others.

This is the second novel I have read by T.M. Gaouette and I have enjoyed both immensely. However the pace and intensity in this story was gripping. I barely put the book down and read it in two extended settings. When I finished this novel, I was really wishing for more. It was only when I went to do some research for the review that I discovered it is the first in a series called Faith & Kung Fu.
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This story was a very intense read. From the moment Gabriel met Tanner Rose he was apprehensive and reserved. Gabriel and his mother live in the country, he studies martial arts and is a young man of faith. Tanner Rose is a very young Hollywood starlet who dresses and acts beyond her years. At every Turn Gabriel’s patience and fortitude seems to be tested by this girl his mother has brought home. Gabriel and Tanner’s mother were roommate in university and even though they have chosen very different path’s Miss Ruth took Tanner in to try and help. Both Ruth and Gabriel have strong faith and personal practice. Tanner thinks they are just country hicks, and feels like she is being abandoned, punished, and neglected by her mother for pulling her from her party scene lifestyle. Will Gabriel’s steadfast faith and strength help ground Tanner or will her wild addictive and self-centered traits rub off on him.
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The characters are wonderfully written. The solid honest ethical life of Gabriel and his mother in contrast to Tanner and her Hollywood shenanigans is a stunning look at faith in the midst of modern life and culture. Read more of this review and others at Book Reviews and More
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Freeing Tanner Rose: Chapter 1

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1

THE music pounded within the constraints of the dimmed room, pulsating through the bodies of every dancing person. It was a large, extravagant room, packed far beyond capacity and marred by the quality of entertainment. The crowd created a thick, stuffy heat in the space, along with a stench that was a culmination of cologne, perfume, and sweat. But to the guests attending, it was a paradise. It was a place of refuge for some, and a place to hide for others. And you had to be someone special to be invited.

Tanner threw her head back and laughed, spilling her cocktail and squealing. She was sitting on her friend Emma’s lap, experiencing the perfect level of euphoria, and she didn’t want the feeling to end. As she looked around the room, she was suddenly aware of the fact that her life would probably never get any better than this. The thought seemed ridiculous, since she was only fourteen. But the idea that she could feel even happier than she felt at that exact moment, seemed even more inconceivable. She let out a content breath and scrambled awkwardly to her feet.

“I want to dance!” She yelled her announcement over the music and turned to Emma. She reached out to her friend, who let out a short scream.

“Watch your smoke!” Tanner had forgotten that she was smoking.

“Oh, my bad,” she said and giggled. She dropped the cigarette butt into an unfinished beer bottle and attempted to pull her reluctant friend off the couch. A hand grabbed her arm and spun her around, and almost off balance. She was suddenly face to face with Jason Allen. His brown eyes sparkled.

Tanner Rose, I’ve been looking for you.”

“I’ve been here,” she said, laughing and gesturing to her surroundings. He spun her again and the move caused her vision to swirl. She let out a screech and grabbed him for support. “Cut that out!”

“You look amazing,” he said, taking advantage of her backless dress and caressing her bare skin. “I was looking for a dance, but now I’m thinking we should take a little time alone.”

“Are you undressing me with your eyes, Mr. Allen?”

“Kind of,” he said and laughed, “but you haven’t made it too hard, if you know what I mean.”

“Whatever!” She laughed too.

“So, what about it?” he asked with a wink. “Wanna make out?”

“I want to dance!” she said sternly and grabbed his hand. She dragged him through the mob of people.

Tanner pushed her way in among the mass of bodies on the dance floor and closed her eyes. And then she lost herself. She lost herself in the music, the movement of the crowd, and the warm and fuzzy sensation that was consuming her. That was the last thing she remembered.

 CONTINUE READING