Potential Ax Murderers, Judgement and a Flock of Teen Girls

Wow, the past two weeks have flown by. I’m tired, but in a good kind of way.

aa1On June 12, I was all packed up and excited for my first writers’ retreat in almost a year.  After a knock at my door, I opened it to find author, Christine Steendam, someone I’d only met on Twitter and Facebook, on the other side. She looked trustworthy, so I grabbed my luggage and hopped into her car along with comic author, Andrew Lorenz. It occurred to me that I was violating every warning I’d given my kids about meeting up with people they met online. I chuckled as I told them, “I hope you’re not ax murders.”

aa2We drove out to the middle of nowhere to this trailer where we’d be staying along with another author, A.P. Fuchs and his wife. Yes, this could be the den of ax murderers and there did happen to be an ax, but it was beside a wood pile. My head remained intact, and I got to know a fabulous group of writers. Oh, yeah, and I got some writing done too. I didn’t quite make my 15,000 word goal, but I was pleased with my 13,000 words. I’ve since finished the novel I worked on at the retreat for a total of eleven completed manuscripts.

aa7At the end of May, I had the privilege of judging my first short story contest. I’d entered plenty of writing competitions, but this was my first time on the other side of the competition. What an enlightening experience! I judged the teen category and let me tell you, the future of writing is bright. The Writers’ Collective Gala was held on June 16, where I had to honor of handing out awards to these very talented young people. I also received my own award–an honorable mention for my short story, Bread for Five.

A few weeks ago, I’d been invited to speak at a teen girls retreat through Living Bible Explorers. This past Friday, I journeyed out to their camp to share during four chapel sessions. I’d chosen the theme The Fault is Not in our Stars–Bible Women with a Powerful Purpose. I spoke on the daughters of Zelophehad, aa3Rahab, Ruth and Esther. The camp is still under construction, so there was no electricity and no plumbing. Nothing like going without those things for the weekend to make me appreciate them when I got home.

aa5It was a huge blessing to get to know the ministry leaders and the girls. I’m told the retreat went well, and I’ve been invited to return in the future.

I have one more event to prepare for this week–my first school visit! The mother of one of my readers contacted me a couple of weeks ago to tell me that her son enjoyed my book so much that he decided to use it for his end of the year language arts project. She also asked if I’d be willing to stop by his class for his presentation and share a little about the book.

So, as I wrap up a busy two weeks, I take a deep breath and reflect on all of it with thankfulness. Writing is my passion, and it’s taking me so many wonderful places. aa4

Inspiration for the Setting of #Enslavement

IMG_0793 IMG_0929 The setting for Enslavement has a special place in my heart. As a young teen, I spent two summers with my aunt and uncle who lived outside of Comfort, Texas. Yes, Comfort is a real place. I returned after I graduated from high school to attend bible school. It’s there that I met my husband. I was 18, he was 19 and we were engaged by spring.

Many of the sights I talk about in the book really exist–the small deer, the narrow roads, the limestone, the dry twisted junipers. Justin tells Rielle a story about a flash flood on the Guadalupe River–that really happened. On July 17, 1987, school bus full of children was swept away by the flood waters. Ten children did not survive.  This is the same type of flood that Rielle got caught in. You can view the story here:

It was wonderful to get to return to this beautiful and sometimes dangerous place, if only in my thoughts. 

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Video

Presenting the Enslavement Book Trailer!

I’ve wanted this trailer for a long time, not only as a promotional tool, but as a showcase for this beautiful song. You only get a snippet of it here, so I’ll be posting the whole thing in the future.

A huge thank you to award-winning filmmaker, Corbin Saleken, for all your hard work in putting this together for me. And to Ariel Friesen, thank you for composing this beautiful, inspiring song that will always be score for Enslavement. I’m surrounded by brilliant people.

To Reluctant Readers and Those Who are Concerned for Them

girlreading1I’m in a minority among writers. Most author bios I read refer to the their lifelong love of reading, that they started reading at a young age and devoured book after book.

I am not one of those writers. Don’t get me wrong–I love to read. Now. Not when I was a kid. When I was a kid, reading was the last thing I wanted to do. 

I vividly remember my first grade teacher calling a meeting with my mother. They discussed how I was behind, how I just wasn’t picking up on reading the way I should be. They wanted to put me in a special reading group. I’m not making a judgement call on the teacher, regardless it made me feel like I wasn’t very smart. All the other kids were getting it and I wasn’t. Before that point, I hadn’t been concerned. I felt like I was learning and slowly getting better. I was trying hard to do classroom-488375_1280what the other kids were doing. After the meeting, I felt there was something wrong with me. I was embarrassed when they pulled me out of class for the special reading help. To add to my negative feelings, I was also placed in speech therapy. I needed it. I’m glad they did it. But, as a kid, it didn’t feel good. It reinforced my growing belief that something was wrong with me.

My second grade year was much the same. I was in the lowest reading group. Going to the library made me nervous. Books were for people who were good at reading. If I checked out a book at my level, the other kids would know I could only read baby books. Classmates would discuss books they’d read and I’d always find a way out of the conversation or lie and say I’d read the book and agree with whatever they said about it.

girlreadingWhen I changed schools for grade three my file followed me. Again, I was in the lowest reading group. I hated it. I looked at the kids in the higher groups and envied them. I changed schools again the year after and the year after that. I loved story time, when the teachers read to us, but reading for myself was tough. I could read, but I was slow. I couldn’t skim and it took me a painfully long time to get through a book, but I got it. I understood all of it. I hated being in the low group because the stories were too simplistic. I wanted more even though I knew it would be hard.

In the sixth grade I changed schools again, only this time there was a glitch. My new teacher told me that my file hadn’t arrived yet and he wanted to know what reading level I’d been in the year before. So I lied. I’d been in the highest level, of course. He put me in that group and I was determined to stay there. I worked hard. When my file arrived, my teacher and I had a little talk. In the end, he allowed me to stay in the group since I seemed to be doing well there. 

In junior high I was moved into the talented and gifted program and continued on in advanced classes all through high school.

Now, I’m an avid reader and a writer. I’m still a slow reader. I still can’t skim. I still read every single word, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger writer. 

What I’m hoping you take home from this–don’t write kids off if they don’t pick-up on reading when you think they should. Give them time. Help them to feel good about reading instead of feeling a ball of anxiety in their gut every time they look at a book. 

And if you’re a kid like I was, don’t label yourself. You are smart. You are a reader. Find someone to help you find a book you can read and that you’re interested in. And whatever you do, keep reading. Do NOT give up on yourself!

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A Thank-you #Giveaway for Enslavement Fans Only #freeRielleJames

I’m so thankful for those blog, Amazon and Goodreads reviews my readers have written for Enslavement. You all did this nice thing for me, so I want to do something for you. 

Free to all Enslavement reviewers.

In telling the story from Rielle’s point-of-view, there were so many aspects of the characters and situations, I couldn’t reveal. Did you ever wonder how the Banker and Nina ended up together? I mean, talk about an odd couple. Or how about, how did the “back door” end up on Nina’s chip and why was she so keen on giving it to Rielle? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

The Illusion of Choice is a short story I’ve written from Nina’s POV. It reveals why she married the Banker and how she came to possess the “back door.”  Whether you’ve reviewed Enslavement on your blog,  Amazon, Goodreads or all of the above, I’ll send you a free e-copy. Just DM me on Twitter (@melindafriesen) , Facebook (melindafriesen1)  or leave a comment below with your email address and the name under which you left the review; I’ll verify it and then make sure you get a copy. 

Haven’t left a review yet? Well now’s your chance: click here to write an Amazon review.

Thank you so much for your support!

How Can You Argue With a Review From a Horse Person?

Today’s review comes from the On Writing and Riding blog. We all know horse folks are good folks, so how can we go wrong with a review from one of them.

“I enjoyed Enslavement and look forward to the next book. The editing and formatting were topnotch. The book started with a bang and the author did an excellent job building an unfortunately possible-sounding world. It was easy to make an emotional connection to the main character, Rielle, as she is torn from her family and essentially sold as a slave…” -Marlene Moss, On Writing and Riding

Click here for the full review:

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Also, stop over at The Book Nut blog for a chapter one excerpt.

Enslavement Offers Something Fresh For Dystopian Lovers

Today’s review is the second to confirm that Enslavement is something new in the Dystopian YA genre.

“…a fresh take on an often overdone genre.” -Jenn at Book Reviews and Giveaways

Click here to read more:

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Today Free, Tomorrow a Slave

I’m hitting two blogs today and they’re all about excerpts. Take a look to get an idea of my writing style and the trajectory of the novel.

home is where

Chapter one excerpt–how it all begins: Home is Where the Wine Is Book Blog

addicted readers

Chapter two excerpt–First morning as a slave: Addicted Readers Blog