Aside

Enslavement’s Cutting Room Floor

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I wrote Enslavement, my first novel, many moons ago. In April, it will be seven years since I completed it.

It was a very different story back then. It was 60 pages long and contained more characters and far fewer subplots. As I learned more about writing, I made large changes to the manuscript. I cut three of my first four chapters, I cut characters, but added scenes which fleshed out the subplots. With this post, I wanted to share some of what ended up on the cutting room floor, that is if authors had such a thing.

Avery: Originally, Rielle had twin sisters. In the opening scene, she held Avery and Alyssa on her lap as her parents were arrested. I cut Avery because twins just weren’t necessary. The story was just as well told with only one sister, so one had to go.

Kenzie: She was another slave in the Banker’s house. She shared a room with Lydia and Rielle. She was very weepy, and again, didn’t add anything to the story. To be honest, after the 20th reading, her weepiness got annoying. I didn’t feel one bit bad about cutting her.

Chapter one, the school scene: In its early stages, Enslavement’s opening chapter took place at Rielle’s high school. Her frhill-country5iends were making plans to see a movie, but of course, Rielle couldn’t go. She was feeling left out and angry with her parents, but her friends decided to have a stay-in movie night so that she could join them, though one of her friends’ parents didn’t want her hanging out with  a Resistor.

Chapter two, the walk home: This chapter ended with her stopping a half a block from home when she saw the Bank Security cruisers parked in front of her house. She had to make a decision–run away and save herself or go home and try to help her family. She was about to run, but she heard her sister cry out and her decision was made and her fate was sealed.

The title: I called the first draft Silence. I felt that was too vague, so I renamed it The Fear of Drowning. After a couple years, I decided that that title was too figurative, and it became The Enslavement of Rielle James, which was the  the working title until it was about to be published. When my publisher suggested shortening it to Enslavement, I agreed. I like the simplicity.

While sometimes it’s difficult to delete scenes or characters I like, it was necessary to give readers the best experience possible. I believe the story is better for these cuts, but I do hold those pieces dear. They are something I get to keep for myself. I still think about Rielle as the cold Minnesota wind whipped passed her and she tried to make that decision to go home or run away. How difficult it was for her! I love how, even early on, she was brave and she didn’t even know it.

Yet Another Book I Thought I’d Never Write

If you would’ve told me when I set out on this writing journey that I was going to write a book about zombies, I would have laughed. Me? No way! Once again, I’ve learned to never say never.

On November 18, alongside co-author Christine Steendam, I launched my third book, The High-Maintenance Ladies of the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s my first book for grown-ups, first zombie book, first co-authored book. So many firsts. 

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This book was so much fun to write. I hope that it’s equally as fun to read. It’s got humor and the gore you expect from zombie fic. It’s The Walking Dead meet Sex and the City.

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Here’s the back cover copy:

Seriously, we need a synopsis? Doesn’t the title say enough? Okay, if we must . . .

Only the finest will do for Maddie and Vanessa. From Yoga to spa days to the best bottles of wine—life is good until a routine pedicure turns violent.

With an unknown and highly contagious illness sweeping the city, Maddie and Vanessa attempt to maintain their lifestyle as supplies run low.  To survive, the high maintenance ladies must fight off blood-thirsty, decaying hordes while armed with only a baseball bat, a tennis racquet, and an awesome pair of stilettos.

So crack open a box of wine. It’s the zombie apocalypse.

Find it on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats. Click here.

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Why This Writer Supports Independent Film

film fest1Because of my involvement in the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival, I’ve been asked on several occasions if I’m involved in film making in some way. The answer is “no”. I’m simply involved because I want to support independent artists. As a writer, I was familiar with the writing and publishing industry, but I was curious about the film industry and thought the best way to learn more was to talk to people involved.

This year I had the privilege of seeing some great independent films, chauffeuring Toronto filmmaker, Zahra Faraji, around Winnipeg and leading talkback sessions for four films. Each time I introduced myself to theater patrons, I opened with the following, which I think encapsulates why I continue to volunteer at the festival:

“My name is Melinda Friesen. I’m an author, and I also work for a local publishing company. I believe strongly in supporting independent artists because not every great book is found on a bestsellers table, not every engaging piece of music makes it to the Grammy stage, and not every worthwhile film lands at the Cineplex. It’s festivals like this one that open our eyes and our ears to new perspectives and new voices.”

I encourage everyone to find ways to support and champion local and independent artists. Not only will you encounter some new and amazing material, but you might even get the opportunity to interact with creatives. You may be surprised what you discover.

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Filmmaker panel.

Author Meets Podcast

I was super excited when a local book club made contact and informed me they’d chosen Enslavement as their November read. They invited me in when they met together to discuss the book. One of the club members also had a podcast called Literally, Katrina. She informed me that she intended to record the meeting for the podcast. Honestly, I really hate the sound of my own voice, but never one to let a good opportunity slip away, I enthusiastically agreed to join them. After I forgot about the microphone, I had a great time listening their impressions of my book.

Take a listen: click here.

Thanks to the whole Literally A Book Club crew! It was great meeting all of you.

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Back at the end of October, a fellow writer at Comic Con asked me for an interview for his podcast, Just Joshing. It’s short interview, but hey, I’ve never been verbally wordy. I also get to share the podcast with fellow writer and friend, Christine Steendam. You’ll hear her at the beginning, and I’ll show up toward the end.

Head over to Just Joshing to read a short interview, then get more info in the recording: click here.

Thanks Josh for the opportunity!

 

A Peek into My “Completed” Files

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my “to-do” list. Other times I get overwhelmed by my “completed” list. Why? Finishing a story is only the beginning. Here’s a list of my “completed” projects and where they are in the process of getting them from my computer to readers.

Novels

Captivity (One Bright Future book 2): I’m deep into editing on this one and aiming for a spring release.

Book three and four in the One Bright Future series: Tangled messes. My publisher has asked me to complete the series in three books, so many plot lines and and characters are up in the air as I attempt to condense and finish the series much faster than I thought I’d have to.

Solar: This YA sci-fi/twisted romance has receiving over 80 rejections. I’ve stopped querying this one, acquired some new beta readers, wrote a new beginning and am reworking the solar-flare-601043_1280manuscript. In the spring, I hope to have it ready to start sending out again.

Solar Book Two: The sequel to Solar is hibernating until I find a publisher for Solar.

Solar Book Three: Work-in-Progress. I’m 60 pages into the final installment in the Solar series.

The Miller’s Daughter: This new adult paranormal romance is currently being queried. Several editors and agents are currently reviewing full manuscripts. I’ll be querying this one more in the new year.

Window Pain: My first YA contemporary novel is in third draft mode. I’m currently going through the manuscript with my writer’s group. Once the fourth draft is complete, I’ll start querying this one as well, hopefully before summer hits.

Snodgaard and the Moustache of Power: I still love this humorous middle grade fantasy. I have a mid-sized publisher looking at this one right now with more querying to come.

The Typhon Project: I finished this YA sci-fi during the 3-Day Novel Contest. It’s more of a novella. I’ve considered rewriting to extend it to a full length novel, but that project is on the back burner right now.

Isadora’s Big Bleep: My first attempt at a picture book has been run by my writer’s group, and I’ve received some great advice on how to improve it. This project is  back-burnered as well.

Emerald (workinfull-moon-496873_1280g title): I finished this post-apocalyptic YA novel last summer. It’s probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever written. It’ll remain in rough draft form until I can finish a couple other projects.

Three Moons: My active work-in-progress. I’m 12,000 words in on this YA urban fantasy.

Short Stories

The following is a list of short stories I’ve completed and still in need of a publication:

  • A Life as Twisted as Mine: retelling of a gruesome Bible story.
  • A Thirty Minute Head Start: the visitors will hunt her and use someone she cares about against her.
  • Bread for Five: a historical piece about loss on the frontier.
  • Bread and Butter: a young mother fights to keep her family together.
  • Confusion: A woman deals with sudden memory loss.
  • Flesh and Memory: a detective attempts to solve unusual murders amidst a developing illness.
  • Kicking the Habit: a quirky serial killer that can’t resist temptation.
  • Marriage Enrichment: when an attempt to improve their marriage goes terribly wrong.
  • The Will of Carlo Claeys: what she has to do to get her father’s money will bring out another side of her.
  • Water: all but four colonists have disappeared, have they brought the threat aboard the ship.

I have a lot of editing and querying ahead. Wish me luck!

The Worst Novel I’ve Ever Written

cloud-705729_1280My character is still naked. When I started my latest manuscript, I didn’t think he’d have to be naked for quite this long. Admittedly, it’s causing some funny mayhem. But, it’s at this point when I start questioning if this is the story I should be writing. Will I be able to finish it? Will it be any good?

I know my writing process now, so I know this doubt will continue for the next 300 pages. When I’m done, I’ll say to myself, “That is the worst novel I’ve ever written.” I’ll tuck it away in folder on my computer. I won’t look at it for a year.

I tell myself to persist, though. Without fail, I open the file at the end of the year and actually like what I’ve written. I say to myself, “Hey, this isn’t half bad. Maybe with a couple dozen edits . . . .” That’s the way it happened with my new adult novel, The Miller’s Daughter. I honestly thought that one was going to do me in. It took me longer to write than anything else I’ve undertaken, and when I finished, I was sure it hadn’t come together at all. Now, it’s my favourite.

Living with the self-doubt has become easy. I know it’s coming before it arrives. I know the lies—you’ll never be ableeagle-656437_1280 to finish this one, you’re going to run out of ideas, this MS is never going to come together. So, that little voice chirps out the lies while I keep writing.

I’m not far from the end of my naked scene. I know exactly where the story is going. It’s a terrible story—worst I’ve ever written, but I’ll finish it. In a year, I know I’ll feel differently.

I’ve had new writers tell me they’ve abandoned projects because they don’t think they’re any good. This feeling is normal, but my advice is always the same—trudge ahead. Don’t give up. Maybe it will be terrible, but maybe it will be fantastic. Really, what do you have to lose?

Why This Writer Strives to be a Weed

aaa1Certain things seem like a great idea. Never again having to mow the lawn, for example. Lay down some landscaping fabric, plant some shrubs and perennials and throw down some river stone and, voila, a low maintenance yard, which is precisely what we wanted when we landscaped.

I like the look. I like not having to mow. However, I’m not really enjoying the weeds that pop up faster than I can pull them. Dandelions are particularly difficult. The tap root tap snaps off when I try to uproot them, they grow in rock-solid clay and with little water. They keep coming back. Over and over and over again. Dandelions will still be here, long after other plants have succumbed to the elements.  aaa8

 Their heartiness has earned my respect.

The hours I spend pulling weeds, has given me plenty of time to reflect and philosophize. I’ve decided that, as a writer, I should strive to be a dandelion. The writer’s life, at least, this writer’s life is no place for delicate tropical flowers that can only bloom under ideal conditions. I need to be hearty and tenacious and annoyingly persistent. I need to bloom in drought and bad soil and when homeowners try to rip me, root and all, from the ground.

Dandelions may not be the loveliest of flowers, but they persist. That’s what I want to be—the one who persists, the one that keeps going despite set-backs, rejections and disappointments. The one gardeners may get irritated with but have to admit—that’s a plant I can respect.aaa7

Summer Reading Blast Tomorrow at The Forks!

summer reading blastMy writers’ group, the Anita Factor, is celebrating eight published books over the past year. If you know the odds of getting published, you’ll know that it’s reason to strap on our party hats and break out the silly string.

On Saturday, July 18, we will head to The Forks in Winnipeg for the Summer Reading Blast, a massive book signing, reading and meet the author opportunity. Find us in the south atrium from 11-7.

Read The Herald interview with fellow author and friend, Deborah Froese, and I. We discuss the event and our writers’ group. Click here.Herald article

For more about the event and the Anita Factor take a listen to this radio interview, click here.Dahlia show

 

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We’ll see you at The Forks!

Can the Ability to Dream Big Be a Curse?

aIn 2008 we built a new house. I say we “built” as though we had picked up hammers and actually worked. I should say, we contracted a builder to build our house. We picked out flooring and counter tops and wrote checks.

During the building process, someone made the comment that it must be fun building my dream house. Dream house? Um, no. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house, but it’s not my dream house. I can dream pretty big. I once had a dream that my husband bought us a house with a water slide in the bathroom. I was pretty upset at him because I felt it a little over the top, upset–until I slid down the thing, and then I realized he was a genius. Needless to say, the house we “built” does not have a water slide in the bathroom.

My daughter inherited this “dream big” gene. When she was four years old, we picked up circus tickets. For weeks, we pumped the event–elephants, clowns, acrobats. She was most thrilled about the acrobats. She talked about them non-stop. Finally, the day of the circus arrived, and I sent her to her room to get dressed. When she emerged from her bedroom, she had on tights and a leotard. Turns out, she misunderstood. She thought she was going to be in the circus, not merely watching it. The whole thing turned out to be a big disappointment for her.

My dream of publishing my book was much the same. I dreamed big, huge, colossal. The reality didn’t quite match. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very pleased to have my book, but sometimes being able to dream big is a bit of a curse. Sometimes there is no way for reality to match dreams–no matter what it is–house, spouse, career, children.

My daughter’s big dreams ruined her time at the circus. Instead, of a fun time, it was a disappointment. My big dreams could have ruined the excitement of setting foot inside my new house for the first time and finally publishing my first book. It’s okay to have big dreams, but I’ve realized the need to keep them in perspective, otherwise life becomes one big disappointment. It’s my choice–view my life with thankfulness or with disappointment. Life can still be exceedingly good even if dreams aren’t realized.

So dream big, but don’t let them ruin your reality. Never forget to be thankful for what’s real.

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