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!

My Book Goes A-Conference-ing

The book business has been busy, and I’m tired, so I’m going to keep this post short and tangy.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve hit two major conferences. On October 23, I joined part of the Rebelight Publishing crew at SAGE Conference, a professional development day for Manitoba teachers.Sage2

I had the opportunity to share Enslavement with oodles of librarians. It’s great to know young people all over the province will have the opportunity to check-out my book from their school libraries.

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Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet readers at Central Canada Comic Con. Author Christine Steendam was kind enough to share her table with me. As you can see below, she has a few more books than I do, but she made space for me. If you’re looking for an excellent sci-fi read, a high-seas pirate adventure or a cowboy romance, she’s got you covered.

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I had made hard copies of a One Bright Future supplemental short story, The Illusion of Choice, to give away with purchase of the book. I’ve been giving away electronic versions of this story to Amazon and Goodreads reviewers, but this is the first time I’ve made a limited number of hard copies available. 

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Saturday was a packed house.  Thousands of people wandered past, some stopped to look and chat, some bought. 

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One amazingly pleasant surprise was having people come up to my table who’d already read Enslavement. They wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed it and wanted to know when the sequel would be released. Music to this writer’s ears!

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These events are great for selling books, but even better for making connections with book lovers and other writers. I walked away from both events with a greater network and new opportunities for my book.

 

 

 

 

The Girl Who Burns Down Shadows has Left the Building

Every parent knows that time is relative. The toddler years last about 100 years, while the elementary years last Ariel and mearound three. The teen years are gone in six months. And the three months from when my daughter announced her engagement until the wedding day arrived took place in the span of a deep breath.


The past month has been a whirlwind that culminated in moving all her stuff from our house to her house. The room is now empty. I didn’t find myself tearing up at the wedding, but at the boxes full of her things, at loading them into the van, at seeing the room without her. She’d painted, “You’re the girl who burns down shadows,” on her wall a couple years ago. That girl no longer lives here.Ariel's room

The reality is, she’s not coming back home. This adventure that started with a little pink line on a pregnancy test has come to an end. Now, I know that I’m still her mom, but it’s different now. It will never be like it was and that is a bittersweet realization. 

So, I wanted to share my wedding speech with you. 

A baby is a terrifying prospect. Terrifying and wonderful and overwhelming and beautiful. I was twenty years old and this perplexing baby girl was placed in my unprepared arms. Ariel Ann Friesen has been a great adventure. A small thing I was given for too small of an amount of time.

Ariel is a feisty, energetic story.

Ariel was always getting into mischief. I had to make sure she was well occupied before I stepped out of the room or hell would be unleashed. When she was five, our laundry room was in the basement. I needed to change loads over, so I decided to give her a bag of raisins to share with her one-and-a-half year old brother. I thought, surely that would keep her busy for the five minutes it would take me to attend to the laundry. I hurried through my chore and returned to the living room to find raisins scattered over every square inch of the room and her skipping around, tossing the remainder over her head. I stood in the doorway and asked, “What are you doing?” She froze and stared at me. “Ariel, you have to clean this up.”Ariel and Corban

Her mouth fell open and she exclaimed, “Why do I have to clean it up?”

Her tenacity, at times difficult to deal with, would prove invaluable. I’ve many stories about the mischief she got into, but what you may not know is that she is a hero, a lifesaver. She saved her younger brother, Corban’s life. He was just over a year old when he fell into the baptismal tank at church. She was the only one who saw. She screamed and yelled until she had our attention. We bought her a happy meal for her good deed. I can say with absolute certainty that Corban would have drowned that day without Ariel.

When she was too young to remember, I lost our second child through a traumatic miscarriage. I was heartbroken. I came home from the hospital and held my precious baby girl in my arms and marveled at what a miracle she was. And she was with me, a comfort and a reason to get up in the morning, through losing two more babies. She probably doesn’t know that she saved my life too.

James, if you give her the freedom to be who God created her to be, she will enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine. I wish you both decades of blessings.

 

Ariel and James

It’s been an honor to be a part of her story.

 

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

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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Moms, No Matter How Hard You Try, You Will Never be Dads

I came across this meme on Facebook and it instantly made me hot under the collar. I don’t normally anger easily, so it took me a moment to figure out why it hit a nerve.AA

First, you should know that I am not a single mother, but I was raised by one and that’s the point of view I’m writing from today. As a child of multiple divorces, this meme totally pissed me off. Why? Because no matter how hard moms try, they will never ever be dads.

When my dad exited stage left, my mom gained a ton of new responsibilities that she had to tackle without support. She had to go to work full time and make ends meet when child support cheques were sporadic. She had to find us a place to live and feed us on a tight budget. She had to look after me and ensure I still had a childhood. She had to nurse her broken heart and try to put her life back together. Her job description expanded exponentially. But, she never became my dad. She couldn’t.

Implying that my mother could become mother and father, would have negated my need for a father, negated the gaping hole his absence left in my life. There was a hole. There is a hole. And that hole was impossible for my mom to fill. She was a good mom, but never for a moment did that make up for the fact that my dad left us. I’m glad she didn’t have the outlook conveyed in this meme. I’m glad she recognized that she couldn’t be my dad and that instead she strove to be the best mom she could be.

Dads own a special dynamic within the parent/child relationship. I’ve watched my own children with their dad, like one watches a wildlife documentary, thinking, “So this is how it would have been to have an attentive father.” I could never replace him in their lives.

I have other family members who were raised without their father—they’re all the same, they want to know their dad. They desire a relationship with him no matter how much of a douchebag he’s been. If moms could take the place of dads, no one would feel that way. And yet we do.

Hats off to all you moms out there going it alone. I remember my mother’s tears, her exhaustion, her frustration, her quest to give me the best of everything even though she was suffering. Be a great mom. But, don’t be a dad. That’s something that will just be missing. It always will be missing, even if you don’t want it to be. If you can recognize the loss and stop pretending that everything is a-okay, everyone concerned can heal, learn how to move forward and learn how to live each day without Dad. It hurts. It just does.