My Action-Thriller, "The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou"

My Action-Thriller, "The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Actress-Dancer "Lady Laraine" Rises to Become Successful Author-Songwriter

I was just 10-years-old. But I remember it so vividly--as if it had happened just yesterday. My beloved father drove me and my older sister to an audition at the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. It was for a romantic comedy entitled, "Under the Yum Yum Tree." My sister was great. I didn't think I really did that well myself, but I couldn't have performed too badly, since my father enrolled me that same year in a drama class at the theatre, located downtown. One of my strongest memories was portraying "Beth" in "Little Women" at the Fort Wayne Fine Arts Festival (a fitting role, since I was so shy).

I dreamed several years of becoming a dancer, although years of dance lessons were out of the question for a daughter of twelve children. (I considered myself fortunate to have had the one year of drama lessons.) However, I reemerged, years later as a dancer in talent shows and as a street performer (Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco). I didn't tell very many people about my dreams of becoming a serious dancer, since I saw myself as fat and klutsy). This photo was taken around the time that I appeared in a talent show for the U.S. Army Reserves (where I was enlisted). The director of the show nicknamed me "Lady Laraine," which stuck. (They also nicknamed me "Carol Burnett" in my platoon). The other photo is of me (above this one) was in a community theatre role as "the evil Miss Hamilton," in the musical "Curly McDimple." I was also proud of my part as "Miss Liberty" in "Funny Girl." I had to "block out" the face of the talented actress in the play, since I haven't seen her for years and I respect her privacy. I was very proud of the reviews I received as "Miss Hamilton." One reviewer even compared my performance to the legendary Carol Burnett. I've always seen myself as quite the clown. It was also very exciting one night when "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schultz was in the audience along with Scott Hamilton, Olympic ice skater. After the show, I was thrilled when Mr. Schultz came by to see the actors (in our show, including myself) and to congratulate us on our performances.
The photo on the top right (under "Magnet Drama Teacher Mesmerizes Audience") also looks a little strange, because, again, I had to "block out" the faces of the students I worked with as a former magnet drama teacher at a magnet-arts school in southern California--for privacy reasons. (No, they weren't picketing with me on a strike in the school auditorium that day!)
It was a dream come true again. I had, for the longest time, had a fantasy about marching students around somewhere to the melody of the patriotic song, "Stars and Stripes Forever" as I lead them with my baton. Well, one year the music (chorus) teacher had been out ill and for the annual school musical, I happened to choose (along with the arts director), a patriotic play entiled, "America, My Home," which I adapted somewhat. I also added patriotic musical songs for the chorus (which again, the arts director had chosen ahead of time). Well, it just so happened that I had to choose a good patriotic march for the chorus. I came up with--of course, what else??--but "Stars and Stripes Forever!" Not even realizing I was fulfilling my fantasy-dream (including, also, conducting and directing the chorus class)--I ended up, to my thrill (and, of course, most importantly, the children's--leading the three talented classes in the auditorium with my enthused baton twirling. (I had been a majorette in high school).
After the loud shrill of a whistle, I directed the three classes who finally made their way (two classes to the stage and the chorus class to the risers)--and then gallantly headed my way up the MPR staircase. After that, we all joined together--a standing-room gym including the mayor of the city--and solemnly sang a beautiful ballad entitled, "America, My Home" (from, which of course, came the title of the show). Altogether, in my six years as a magnet-drama teacher, I was honored to have directed musicals such as "Annie, Jr.," "Sweet Dreams," and "The Wizard of Oz." I couldn't have done it at all without the hard-working and talented students, faculty, and parent-support.
Referring back to "America, My Home," I remember thinking how strange and amazing it was, all at the same time--how things seemed to have just "fallen into place" that year. But I knew in retrospect that it wasn't just an accident--and proof that "Nothing is impossible if you believe!"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Songwriter Turns Out Third Award-winning Song - David Foster, Are You Listening?? Laraine Elizabeth Turner has been finalist three times in the VH-1 Song of the Year international songwriting contest. The first time she placed as a finalist was in January of 2005 in the pop category for her ballad, "The Thorns of the Rose" (which she says is directly related to her sequel to her other children's story, "The Little Rosebud," also entitled, "The Thorns of the Rose.") The second time was in the year 2006 in February, in the folk category, for her song, "Long, Long Ago." (Other songs she's written include "Song of the Bayou (Chanson du Bayou), " "Love is Not Defied" (which she's sung acapello at Author's Festivals), and "Little Rosebud" (written for her children's book of the same title).

The third time Turner placed as a Finalist in Song of the Year was in the pop category in June of 2007, for her song, "Never the Same Again," which she claims she intentionally wrote for her mystery-murder-romance, "Spanky." (However, she claims she'd be happy to record it simply as a "hit love song on its own." She's open to all kind of possibilities!) People have told her that it's a song which would be a perfect fit for legendary singer Peter Cetera to perform. Turner claims she could almost hear Mr. Cetera (famous for the rock group "Chicago," of course) belting out her catchy song when she composed it. Oh, Mr. David Foster--are you listening???

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bio Background - My Testimony and Story Behind "The Witch on the Bayou"

Let me take you way back now to the beginning of my life. I will be honest, because the "truth will make us free." It has not always been an easy journey for me. I came to the Lord Jesus Christ when I was 19, mainly because I needed Him to heal me--mostly from a very low self esteem. Although I came from a good family, I didn't know God personally--especially how much He loves me (and all of us). I also battled with an unknown condition for years (still do), which I later realized was Restless Legs Syndrome. (When I heard the name of this condition - RLS - I knew immediately that was what I had). God has very slowly been healing me over the years. When people haven't seen me for maybe even a few days--they've sometimes told me how much better ("more confident," they sometimes say). But I know that it's because of God's mighty healing!

I was only 12 years-old. I had to stay inside the house after school and babysit my baby (twin) brothers, since both my parents were working fulltime. (My father was a technical writer and my mother worked as a nurse in the evening shift). I was growing up in the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana to a strict, but loving Catholic family of twelve children. (My aunt was a nun. And the home I grew up in was an ex-convent). Babysitting included cooking supper for Dad, and sometimes it was discouraging and lonely. I hardly saw Mom at all during that time. My classmates (and neighbors) would come by, knocking at our livingroom door--requesting to borrow our basketball for play at the nearby (school) playground. I'd hand them ball, noting their expressions of guilt and pity, knowing they would be free playing outside (with our ball), while I was confined inside to babysit my baby brothers.

To pass the time, I played music--a lot of music. And I would also write. In fact, I'd care for my brothers often by rocking them on the livingroom rocking chair, as my imagination would run away with me. I would soothly sing them a lullaby--one which eventually became a haunting lullaby, entitled, "Poor Li'l Baby." And I would remotely wonder about how a good mother might feel about children as they'd grow up--and go out into the world. I would think about her protective love in a world of evil. Slowly, I began to weave a story. It was about a young, sheltered girl living way, far away in the deep, deep south--in the Louisiana bayous. I knew intuitively that she was a Cajun girl who spoke broken French. Her auntie was loving and Creole--black-skinned. The little girl's name would eventually become Stephanie Anne Jones. (I later changed her name to Stephanie Anne Josephine LeBeque). She was barefoot and felt abandoned, because her family and home (which consisted of a shack) had been destroyed in a hurricane fire.

But one of her close family members had survived that day. But he was only five days old. Her love for him was strong. In fact, Stephanie's love for her baby brother became almost obsessive, especially as he became older. Her love for her brother was almost like a mother's love--only more protective. As he grows older, she seems him becoming more and more rebellious, which terrifies her. She especially panics as she witnesses him becoming swayed--by an evil force, an evil power. That evil power slowly becomes a witch---a witch who lives on the bayou.
When I first began penning my action-thriller, I called it "The Witch on the Bayou." Tragically, it became misplaced and eventually was destroyed, although, truthfully, it only started as a few pages in length along with sketches of my characters. During this time also, I composed three songs directly related to "Witch on the Bayou." One song was the afore-mentioned "Poor Li'l Baby." I also composed a romantic ballad entitled, "Song of the Bayou." (I later added, "Chanson du Bayou" to the title). And my last song I wrote then was "Love is Not Defied." (I didn't even really know what the word "defied" meant. Guess I just thought it sounded good).
Years later, after a month in bed recovering from a pinched nerve and years of doing many different jobs and searching for my path in life, I finally, with the encouragement of my parents and my husband, penned The Rise and Fall of the Witch on the Bayou (Publish America, Inc., 2001).

The three earlier-mentioned songs that I composed were somewhat "shelved" in my mind for years, as I couldn't really believe that I had written them myself. (I thought, perhaps, I must have heard them somewhere and subconsciously "composed" them). Upon my father's encouragement to write my own songs--he noticed I was writing names of famous songs in my manuscripts--I began composing more songs. I realized to my delight, that I had, like authoring books, a talent for songwriting, as well.

It's been years since those lonely days in my livingroom rocking my baby brothers to sleep. Since then, I had the privilege of finally travelling to the state of Louisiana, where my debut book was set and appeared in book signings and on TV morning shows in major cities there. It was surreal but fulfilling to setting foot into a place that was before that time, just a dream--but turned out to be everything that I had imagined. I also was blessed with twins of my own (along with my husband) after years of praying.

But For a long time before that remarkable experience, I didn't understand some things in my life and I was confused. But I held on then-- as I hold on now--to the Scripture that says, "All things work together for good, to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose," (Romans 8:28). God had a plan. And once again, He's demonstrated that "Nothing is Impossible" if only you believe!

Breaking News: Turner's Newest Thriller - "Western Sunrise," Set in Kansas City, KS

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Bayou Book Tour" Completed in 2002 with Appearances on TV Morning Shows

In the year 2002, I completed a successful "Bayou Book Tour" in Louisiana, where my debut action-thriller was set. I was very nervous, since this, you must understand, was the very first time I set foot in the great state of Louisiana! I had "already been there" in my imagination, but, of course, the real thing is always different. But--I must say, to my credit--God's credit--when I actually went there, it was really not any different than how I had imagined.
I was very excited to do book signings and appear on TV morning shows there in major cities like Baton Rouge and Lafayette. (Lafayette, the beautiful unofficial "capitol of Cajun Country" was actually, where we stayed. It was very peaceful and the people were friendly). The anchors of most of the TV shows I appeared had to calm me down, as I was SO nervous being on TV for so long on an interview. (I had been on TV before as an extra and on TV game shows--but nothing like this!) I was on mostly ABC affiliates. I recall walking down the studio halls of the TV stations and seeing pictures of Oprah on the wall. And, of course, it was fun seeing people like the great lieutenant governor of that time coming on before me (although, I can't remember her name now!) And it was weird getting up SO early in the morning and watching the show in the hotel and then--minutes later--actually being in the show. They were definitely live telecasts, (except for one in Baton Rouge, which was taped).
After that experience, I gained more confidence, and when I was invited to make other appearances, I agreed to it--like on WDAF-TV in Kansas City, Kansas (Fox TV!)

Author-songwriter Laraine Turner Successfully Completes "Bayou Book Tour"

Hometown Girl Makes Good! (The Article That Started it all!)

This is the article that started it all! I owe it to writer Henry Veneracion and "The Downey Eagle," (now called "The Downey
Patriot!", along with then-editor John Adams for this wonderful
front page lay-out about my debut action-thriller, "The Rise and
Fall of the Witch on the Bayou" when it was first published by
Publish America, Inc. in 2001.
If you type in "Google" and then the name of my debut book,
you'll see that it is now being sold in bookstores and on websites all
over the world--ranging from India to France t0 South Africa to
New Zealand! But I've also done numerous book signings at Borders
Books and Music and Barnes and Noble Bookstores, as well as Authors
It is a book that is "rising in popularity with both children and adults!"

Author-Songwriter Laraine Elizabeth Turner Rises to Success!