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Posts Tagged ‘Janice L. Dick’

As stated last Thursday on my blog, I will be releasing my Christmas-themed short story scene by scene through the rest of October and November. Stay tuned each Thursday for the next installment, and enjoy!

 

Chapter One—Scene One

I wrapped Sam’s ratty red-plaid shirt around me more securely as I sat on the couch and watched the snow pelt down from a leaden sky, indiscriminately covering both the immaculate lawn in front of my house and the mess my new neighbors had created while moving in. The mess didn’t surprise me. Debbie had always been surrounded by mess and half-completed projects back when I knew her as a kid growing up. Apparently, she hadn’t changed.

I still couldn’t believe that spunky little Debbie Doram, now McCorkmick, had moved back to Moffat’s Landing. The biggest shock came when she and Mickey bought the house next door to mine.

I’d always liked my former neighbours, the VanWoordens. They were friendly but discreet. We had coffee back and forth several times a year, but they never intruded into our lives, although Jerry and my Sam did collaborate on a few yard projects. I hated to see them leave, but Mrs. V was beginning to show signs of Alzheimers and her husband needed a low maintenance home where he’d be able to care for her.

I couldn’t have been more surprised when Debbie and Mickey bought the house. They were anything but discreet, as far as I had observed. As if to prove the fact, my doorbell rang—not once but three times—and, if my door hadn’t been locked, Debbie would have burst right in. As it was, she called to me through the door while I set aside my photo albums and carried my tea to the kitchen table. She was bouncing up and down by the time I unlocked the door.

“Jeannie!” she squealed as she wrapped me in a hug. “I can’t believe we’re next door neighbors.”

I extricated myself from her smothering hug and stepped back. “I go by Jeanne now,” I said, as she brushed past me.

“You got the coffee on, Jeannie?” she asked.

“It’s Jeanne,” I insisted, but I don’t think she heard me.

“So? Coffee?” Her brown eyes danced in her round face, surrounded by the bobbing auburn curls I remembered from high school, now streaked faintly with gray.

I took a steadying breath. “I don’t drink coffee.”

She shrugged. “Tea? Water?” She grinned widely, showing her beautiful teeth. “I bet you drink water.”

Her effervescent grin gave me a dull pain at the base of my neck. I glanced at the hall clock. Ten a.m. Time to dust and vacuum through the house. I doubted Debbie would understand. If I made her a cup of tea, maybe she’d go home and leave me to my work.

“What about this weather, eh?” she commented. “I haven’t seen a lot of snow these past thirty years. Texas doesn’t get much. I can hardly wait to go sledding and skating and make snowmen when the grandkids come. You have grandkids, Jeannie?”

I opened my mouth to answer but she was talking again. “We have eight now, mostly in Texas, a few in California. Have you been to California? Great place to visit but way too ‘out there’ for me.”

I couldn’t imagine. I led the way to the kitchen and plugged in the kettle.

“Whoa! Nice place you got here. Bet I could eat off the floor! My place is still in shambles, but I’m hoping to at least have the kitchen straightened up by Christmas.”

“Christmas!” I couldn’t help but comment. “That’s a whole month away.”

“Yeah.” She grinned and winked. “But I can do it.”

I was about to ask Debbie what kind of tea she wanted, but she beat me to it.

“Just don’t give me any of that herbal junk.” She pronounced the “h” in herbal. “Makes me gag. If I’ve gotta have tea, then give me the strongest you got.”

She reached past me into the tea cabinet and rummaged through it, knocking several boxes out of place.

“Hmm. Guess I’ll risk Earl Grey. Where’s the sugar?”

She pulled open the next cabinet, stepped back and shot me a look of disgust. “Has someone been filming a kitchen organization show from your home? Geez, Louise! You scare me.”

Frowning, I pulled out the seldom-used sugar bowl and handed it to her, then took the cream carton from the fridge and reached for the cream pitcher.

“Whoa, girl!” Debbie said. “Don’t fuss over me. If you make a big production of it every time I drop in for coffee—I mean tea—you’ll wear yourself out.”

My headache had crept forward to my temples.

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Debbie as she settled her rounded frame into Sam’s kitchen chair. I sat across from her, picking up my morning tea to finish it. She propped her elbows on the table, hands wrapped around her cup, and smiled at me with sadness in her eyes. Here goes, I thought.

“So how have you been doing these thirty years since I left you for life’s adventures?”

This time she waited for me to answer but I needed time to come up with something acceptable. I took a sip of my lukewarm peppermint tea, hoping it would calm the sudden sharp pain in my chest, and rubbed the rim of my cup with my thumb as I fumbled for words.

“Well, it’s…I’ve been…” I looked into her eyes, now soft with compassion. “It was a good life till Sam left me.”

“Left you?” Two deep ridges formed between Debbie’s eyebrows. “I thought he died.”

I didn’t look away. “Yes. He died and left me alone.”

She stared a moment longer, then smoothed out her features and reached across the table to lay a hand on my arm. There were tears in her eyes.

“I know, Honey. I always got Moffat’s Musings, even when we were in Texas. I read Sam’s obituary and my heart broke for you.”

Her words, meant to comfort, only pinched the nerve of grief that pulsed constantly within my chest. But Debbie, who had rarely been comfortable with silence when I knew her, carried on.

“What happened anyway? The paper said it was sudden.”

The pain in my chest spread to my gut and I set down my cup to hug myself. It was so difficult to put into words.

“He, ah, he was working in the driveway clearing snow. We had an early winter last year and he didn’t want it to pile up on the driveway and get icy, so he tried to keep it cleared.”

I could still see Sam attacking the heavy snow with his new yellow snow shovel from Canadian Tire, his green knit toque pulled down over his ears, breath coming out in white puffs.  A former farmer, he dubbed the backyard and driveway his “back forty,” and claimed it as his own turf.

“Sam always whistled while he worked. It didn’t register with me right away, but suddenly I realized he had stopped whistling. I looked out and there he was, lying in a heap in the driveway.”

On edge with the telling, I stood and moved to the kitchen window where I’d been that terrible day almost a year ago. “I heard a shout and saw our neighbour, Mr. VanWoorden, running toward him.”

I grasped the countertop with both hands to still their shaking. “I ran out the door and Mr. V yelled at me to call 911, so I did. The ambulance only had to come from the hospital two blocks away, and it probably only took five minutes, but it seemed like hours.” I leaned against the counter, remembering.

“I held Sam, begged him to stay with me, begged God not to let him die, but somehow I knew he wouldn’t make it. The EMTs tried their best, but they couldn’t bring him back. Massive heart attack.”

I turned to look at Debbie and was surprised to see tears running down her face. I picked up the Kleenex box and took it to the table for her. My own eyes were dry. Maybe I’d cried out all my tears through the months of being without Sam. She grabbed a couple of tissues, wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Then she jumped up.

“Oh Jeannie, I’m so sorry. You’ve lost the love of your life and I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out. I’ll get us some fresh tea.”

She plugged in the kettle again and fished around in my cabinet for whatever kind she thought I liked. “Here you go,” she said. “Chamomile. That’s relaxing, isn’t it? Oh girl, you’ve gotta learn to make coffee. This Earl Grey just isn’t cutting it.”

She refilled my cup with hot water, then added some to her own, along with two spoons of sugar and a generous splash of cream straight from the carton. Then she sat down across from me at the table again.

“So how have you been managing everything this past year? Did you have family here to help?”

“Emily—that’s our daughter—came out to stay with me for a couple of weeks, but she has a life out in Vancouver, and a job she apparently likes, so that was that. I had to pull up my socks and deal with reality.”

“What does that mean?”

Her question stumped me. Most people are content with stock answers because they really don’t want to delve into personal pain. But Debbie had never been most people. I rubbed my forehead to ease the ache. My fingers were cold. I was always cold.

“It means I’ve done what I had to do, asked for help when I needed it, hired a few people when I couldn’t do something myself. I’ve adjusted.”

Debbie frowned. “You’ve adjusted. Does that mean you’re coping or you’re content?”

I remembered Debbie being nosy and it irked me now.

“Yes.”

Her eyes narrowed and then she snorted. “You and your dry humour. At least you didn’t lose that.”

I couldn’t work up a smile for the life of me. Even when she was young she could move from caring to crass in very short order. I’d have to learn how to handle her if we were going to live in such close proximity. Set a few guidelines. Be upfront with her.

Suddenly she stood, carried her cup to the sink and set it down. “Well, Honey, I gotta go. Poor Mickey is up to his eyeballs moving furniture so I’d better tell him where to put it. He hates moving stuff too many times, poor guy, but I’m not sure myself where I want it all.”

She opened the door to leave, then turned back. “Too bad it snowed again. Makes everything wet and messy. Well girl, keep your chins up and I’ll see you later. Drop by for coffee if you can handle the mess. I’d love for you to meet Mickey. By the way, I love your shirt.”

I sensed sarcasm in her comment because the shirt, with its tattered tails, didn’t suit my image, not even at home, even though it was clean. Debbie came back over and hugged me, then walked out the door hollering “bye” as she went.

I sank into my chair, rested my head on my arms on the table and sighed deeply.

 

** Come back for the second scene next Thursday, October 18th.

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Hi! October is moving along quickly, we’ve had a couple of snowfalls—although the wet stuff has disappeared—and I’m thinking about Christmas.

I have a Christmas-themed short story I’d like to share with all of you who take the time to read my blogs. It consists of eight scenes, so beginning next Thursday, October 11th, I will be releasing one scene each Thursday.

I really enjoyed writing this story for several reasons:

— I usually write historical fiction, and sometimes I need a break from the past

— I was challenged to write something beyond my usual genre

– this story has a contemporary setting (instead of historical)

– it is written in first person (instead of third)

– it’s located in North America (not Russia or China)

— Without giving anything away, the story really took off when I “met” Debbie. She’s many things I’m not, and she gives life to the story.

So…stay tuned for October 11thfor the first installment.

Thanks for being there. Feel free to sign up for my infrequent newsletters on my website opening page for further news.

Jan

Janice L. Dick, Author

 

 

 

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My walk this morning reminded me of the indie publishing journey I’ve been on for the past few years, as I saw tansy and thistle growing along the fence line.

After much research and many trials, I created Tansy & Thistle Press…faith, fiction, forum. I already had a website, but I wanted to use create my own logo, describing the content of the site and the blog.

The creation of the independent business was a steep learning curve for sure, but I expected the choice of a name to be fairly simple, to think of something that portrayed what I write, and to polish it.

It turned out to be an exercise in frustration, as every name I tried was already used by at least one of the millions of people who have websites. I like the thistle idea, because we have thistles here, but it needed something more. It must have been my husband who suggested tansy, another type of invasive weed that grows heartily in our area. The tansy is yellow, the thistle purple, and I liked the sound of them together: Tansy & Thistle Press.

For the subtitle, I wanted to include fiction, because that is mostly what I write, and my faith always seems to come out in it, whether I plan it or not, which is also what I want to offer. But I also have a blog, and how does that fit in? Again, it was my brilliant husband who suggested the word forum, as a place to discuss faith and fiction and other topics.

I registered the business name and logo January 6, 2016, using the image above that a business on Fiverr created, and have enjoyed using it since. I continue to write, working on the third book in my In Search of Freedom series, and hope to have it available either for Christmas or shortly afterward. If life would stop interrupting, it would be easier, but I am enjoying this summer with family and friends, so at times, the writing is pushed back. But I will pursue it in order to tie up this series with Far Side of the Sea, as soon as possible.

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ARE WRITERS INTROVERTS?

Not necessarily. But, I would guess that a large percentage of writers are introverts. At conferences I’ve attended, the emcee will often comment about the buzz of talk among all the introverts, but that is, of course, because of our common interests, and the fact that we are respectful of one another’s reserved nature.

When I was young, I read a Peanuts® cartoon that stuck with me. Charlie Brown said to Linus, “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” I concurred, not knowing anything about the basic differences between people who love to foster new relationships, and those reluctant to do so.

However, there have been times—I call them magic moments—when I’ve met another introvert and we’ve become instant and lasting friends.

MOVING PAST INTROVERSION

I attended my first Write! Canada conference in Guelph, Ontario at the invitation of the planners, to facilitate a fiction workshop. (I felt anything but qualified, but that’s another story.) One of the responsibilities that accompanied the gig was that I agreed to be available at mealtimes to speak with people. I wanted to crawl inside my shell, to put my back to the wall and observe. But I couldn’t. I had to step out of my area of familiarity and pretend I was comfortable speaking with strangers.

At one meal, two women approached me, one being the spokesperson, because the other was too shy to come forward on her own. Barbara (not her real name) and I sat down together and found instant camaraderie that amazed both of us, as well as Barbara’s friend, who shook her head in wonder. The two of us chatted away about writing and life and stories until lunchtime was over, and we hadn’t thought to eat. That’s also rare for me. Although I’ve lost touch with Barbara, our instant relationship will always remain in my memory as a true heart-connection.

REWARDS FOR STEPPING OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE

Recently, we visited our daughter and family in Alberta. Since their son’s teacher knows I write, she asked if I’d come read to them and speak a bit about writing on Read Aloud Day. I was thrilled…until a few days before the event, when I had second thoughts. Silly fears jumped into my mind, questions like, why on earth did I agree to this? But I followed through and the event was lovely. The students were enthralled by the reading (excerpts from the beginning chapters of The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton), they participated in the discussion session, and they helped create a simple “Story Quilt.” The pièce de résistance was the gift of a story written just for me— Goldie Goes to the Vet—by Daniel, one of the grade three students.

As much as I love my quiet times alone, these magic moments are rare gems to store away in my memory, to remind me that I can do things that are uncomfortable, that introversion should not be allowed to control my life, and that opening up to people can be rewarding, no matter what my life work is.

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It’s called perseverance. That stubborn drive to reach for a goal. Dedication to a cause. Steadfastness. Endurance. Growing in spite of obstacles. Doing our absolute best.

These days of winter here on the prairies continue to drag. Temperatures are cold enough to freeze my brain. My focus shifts like the drifting snow and ideas are elusive. All I really want to do is curl up by the fireplace, wrap myself in a cozy blanket, and read a good book.

But where do those good books come from? They come from persistent writers who push through the dreary times when ideas are hard to pin down. They come through the tenacity of dedicated storytellers. Good books take work and resolve and heart.

Good books require effort, just like good marriages, good parenting, good friendships. All of life requires commitment to make it rich and worth living. But no one is going to do it for us.

I’ve come to the realization that no one is going to pull me along on the path to my goals. I’m the only one who can stretch to attain them. I’m thankful that over the years, God has pushed me in the right direction, helped me find connections, gently reminded me of my responsibility to apply myself to my calling (vocation, mission, passion). That’s because I foster my relationship with him. But the work is up to me.

Whatever your work, I encourage you to put your best into it and keep on keeping on. That’s what it takes to make a better world. I remind myself that God’s creation was never “good enough.” It was purely and simply “good.”

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I have exciting news for my Indie Blog this week: a new book!

In a Foreign Land_cover_5.25x8

 

 

Other Side of the River cover

 

 

In a Foreign Land is the second book in the In Search of Freedom series. The first book is titled Other Side of the River.

In a Foreign Land was released at the end of January through CreateSpace (print) and KDP (digital). I have to say this book release was easier on my nerves than any others to date. Firstly, it is independently published, so I set my own timeline and it happens when I’m ready for it. Secondly, I learned which parts of the publishing process I need to hire out.

I was able to come to a very mutually beneficial agreement for editing with my friend and colleague, Marcia Laycock of Small Pond Press. Marcia read through my manuscript with eagle eyes and gave me feedback in a short time-turnaround.

Then I sent the document to Rik Hall of Wild Seas Formatting for the…wait for it…formatting! In record time, he sent me the PDF for CreateSpace and the MOBI for Kindle Direct Publishing. Rik works quickly and is always willing to make corrections that I’ve overlooked or changed my mind on.

The cover, which I love, was created by Fred Koop of Fred Koop Design. He designed all three covers for this series at the outset, so they are ready for the ISBN, barcode and back cover copy when each book is completed.

Knowing I have these professionals to step up to the plate for me is very freeing. Yes, it costs me some cash, but it’s worth every penny, and I know the result will be professional too.

Now for the difficult part: starting the next book. I have the characters, the backstories, the probable ending, but there is so much to research and consider and build. I’m working through C.S. Lakin’s The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction in an effort to create more effectively and efficiently. I’ll let you know how this works out.

You can read the first chapter of In a Foreign Land on my blog, and purchase it at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

If you read In a Foreign Land, I’d be forever grateful if you’d leave a brief review. That’s one of the most valuable things you can do for an author.

Thanks,

Jan

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I began my writing career intent on assuring that my Christianity showed up clearly in my writing. In devotionals and inspirational articles, this worked well. In my first published short story about a young boy who gave his cloak to Baby Jesus at His birth, faith fit bfile000153464900eautifully.

But as I ventured into book-length historical fiction, the intentional insertion of faith sometimes came across as contrived. As a beginning writer, I did my best and my first books were relatively well accepted, but I had much to learn (we always have much to learn).

F A I T H. . .

As time passed, I learned more about creative writing and the unacceptability of forced theme, so in my next project, a cozy mystery, I endeavored to include no outward signs of faith. To my surprise, I realized that no matter what I write (or say or do), my faith will show up on its own, most often through the characters themselves. This, I learned, is called my worldview. I admit to being a slow learner, but this was truly a revelation for me. Everything I write filters through my belief system and life experience in specific ways.

Although we, as writers, need to take care how our worldview comes through in our work, we should not fight against ourselves. In fact, I have discovered much about myself through my characters and how they react to particular situations. This discovery has given me hope that I too could respond positively to challenges and tests, as some of my characters have done.

Whatever our level of faith, it needs to be allowed to dwell in our stories in order to make them real, authentic. We can’t write anyone else’s story, but we can write ours best if we give ourselves honestly to the creative process.

H O P E . . . 

I have been very blessed in my life, so writing fiction has given me the opportunity to give back in hope and encouragement, no matter what genre I choose. It’s a constant learning process, not just of writing technique but also of self-discovery and personal growth.

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