Starting With a Blank Canvas

At Wine and Canvas–I interrupt Book Talk Tuesday to talk painting–although, if you think about it, painting and writing novels are very similar. Both start with a blank canvas and end up telling a unique story!–

Last Friday my lovely daughter and I had a fantastic evening out at Wine and Canvas. It’s a brilliant business that makes artists out of EVERYONE, along with offering a varied selection of food and drink for sale. This concept has become popular across our nation as several similar businesses have popped up. In the Twin Cities area alone, I’ve discovered five similar companies.

For one price, each attendee is provided with an apron, a blank canvas, a plate of paints, and several paintbrushes.

Blank canvasThen an instructor leads the students through a step-by-step process, much of which makes no sense at the time, but if you’re smart, you follow their lead. Our first step was to paint the background with blue and green. As you can see, each individual artist already has their own interpretation of the instruction. My daughter blended her colors in a smooth flow while I created crisscross patterns. (Oh, and that plate in between the canvases? That was filled with Honeycrisp apple slices and a creamy brown sugar apple dip. Oh my! it was die for!)

Painting Background

Once the background dried, then we got to work on the Eiffel Tower. The instructor led us line by line until we came up with this skeleton:

Eiffel Tower Skeleton

After the basic structure was built, all we had to do was fill it in, and ta da! we had completed our masterpieces! Out of 50+ attendees, no two pictures were alike, but they were all fabulous! (No, the bugs weren’t part of the process, I’m just hiding the innocent :) )

Completed Eiffel Tower Painting (600 x 547)


It’s great fun, and I can’t wait to do it again!

Question: Have you ever participated in a similar class?


CIR March Madness Blog Hop!

CIR March Madness Blog HopWelcome to Brenda Anderson Books and the Clean Indie Reads March Madness Blog Hop! What a fun opportunity for readers to discover new favorite authors, with around 40 participants in this hop! Plus, you have a chance to win the March Madness Book Bundle Grand Prize (see book prizes >here<) with each participating blogger giving away an ebook! Please check out all the participants below and enter to win on each site.

To sweeten the pot a bit, I’m having a separate giveaway on my blog. One lucky commenter will win the first three books (e-books) in my Coming Home Series: Pieces of Granite (prequel), Chain of Mercy (book #1), and Memory Box Secrets (book #2 – coming out April 21, 2015). Giveaway details are below.

Now a little about me:

I write what I call contemporary family drama. If you’re enjoy gritty, authentic reads, then you’ll enjoy my Coming Home series.

Coming Home Series

Pieces of Granite (prequel) is about a couple who learns their unborn child has Down syndrome, and that causes a rift in their marriage.

Pieces of Granite available at Amazon | B&N | BAM

Chain of Mercy (book 1) is about a Manhattan executive who kills a teen in an auto accident so he runs from his successful life and hides as a janitor in Minnesota. But a beautiful and curious sales executive won’t let him remain hidden.

Chain of Mercy available at Amazon | B&N | iTunes

Memory Box Secrets (book 2) is about a Minneapolis executive who was abandoned by her parents years before, but then out of the blue her father wants to be back in her life.

Memory Box Secrets coming April 21, 2015!

Finding Home, the finale in the Coming Home series. After a woman is mugged by a homeless teen, she and her husband take the teen into their home.

Coming September 2015!

The Clean Indie Reads authors have teamed up to give away a huge assortment of books! To enter to win the March Madness Book Bundle Grand Prize, which includes one e-book from each author participating in the blog hop, just fill out the secure Google form below. To increase your chances, visit more of the blogs on this hop (see all their links below) and fill out the same form on each of their blog sites. One random visitor will be selected at the end of the blog hop! Many of these authors have their own giveaways, so be sure to check them out.

I’d also like to encourage you to visit the Clean Indie Reads Book Sale going on March 16 – 20, 2015! Lots of great clean reading is offered there, and most of them are at discount prices.  

*** Coming Home Series Three e-Book Giveaway ***Coming Home SeriesTo enter to win the first three books (ebooks) in the Coming Home Series by Brenda S. Anderson, in the comments section below, tell me who your favorite author is. Contest closes Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be announced on Monday, March 23, 2015.



PerceptionLast week I was fortunate to escape home to spend five days at a quiet writing retreat. All by myself! For a writer on deadline, it was perfect. I spent the time editing my next release, Memory Box Secrets, having received full manuscript critiques from my critique partners.

(I’m interrupting this post to say I have The Best critique partners. Period. Thank you, thank you Lorna Seilstad and Shannon Vannatter for helping me make this manuscript sing!)

Okay, back to the post …

Memory Box SecretsSo, I get to the end of Lorna’s critique and she said she was conflicted about the ending. That didn’t surprise me as the ending isn’t your typical Christian fiction ending, which makes me love it, of course. We corresponded a bit and when she told me what she discerned from the ending, I was horrified. That’s not what I wrote–or meant–at all! So, I read it over trying to see it from her perspective. Yes, I could see how she arrived at her conclusion, but in my mind, the ending was still clear.

(Does this remind anyone else of the blue-black, white-gold dress debate?)

Taking Lorna’s thoughts into consideration, and realizing that if Lorna perceived what she did about the ending, that others would as well. So, rather than leaving room for reader-misinterpretation, I changed the ending to be very specific. The readers will know that this is a blue-black ending, definitely not a white-gold one.

And Memory Box Secrets blue-black ending is one I absolutely love! I hope you will too!

Coming Home Series

So Long Supermom

supermomIt’s no secret that I love superhero movies. I’ve become a Marvel fanatic (thanks to my family) and my favorite Disney / Pixar movie is The Incredibles.

But, if you look closely at superheroes, none are great at everything, and they all have their kryptonite. They’re also strongest when they don’t go it alone. Consider The Avengers: Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Hulk. Yes, individually they each have their specialty, but when together, they’re a nearly impenetrable force. As for The Incredibles, they do their best work when teamed up as a family.

Over the last half-century, women have striven to achieve that superhero status as Supermom, and mom’s are told they can do anything and everything. They can hold down full-time jobs and be a full-time mom. They are chauffeur and chef. Scientist and athlete. Musician and author. Housekeeper and nurse. Oh, and I can’t forget loving wife.

All while managing to work out an hour a day and always having perfect hair.

I’ll bet you even know some of these supermoms. You sit next to them at church, PTA, scout meetings, book clubs. And chances are, you sometimes feel inadequate. I know I do. As does Debbie Verhoeven, my heroine in Pieces of Granite.

Debbie is a trained marriage and family therapist-turned full-time mom. Her toddler has asthma, the baby she’s carrying has Down syndrome, and her husband suffers from severe panic attacks. But she handles it all with grace …

Until she can’t handle it on her own anymore.

I often hear people say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Honestly, I believe He constantly gives us more than we can handle, and that forces us to rely on Him.

The fact is, no one can do everything well. That perfectly-coiffed, stylishly mother seated next to you? You should see her house! Oh, and then there’s that super-scout leader whose troops are always at the top of cookie sales, plus they’re volunteering everywhere, and they make the most fabulous crafts! But maybe her family life isn’t so super.

Despite what society wants to believe, moms are not and will never be super-human. No matter what they look like on the outside, inside they’re just plain-old human. They are moms who need fellowship. They’re moms who need that firm foundation to hold them up when life gives them more than they can handle. Because it will.

And that’s okay because we all have a true-life superhero to rely on, One who knows us intimately and has no weaknesses. He’s our strength when we’re weak, our friend when we’re lonely, and our teacher when starting something new.

So moms, I give you permission to be imperfect. You don’t have to do everything, be everything. Just be who God created you to be.

No, you’re not Supermom, but you are a mom and that’s special enough.

When Life Takes a Detour

DetourWe brought our youngest to college this past Sunday. Yes, college. Not kindergarten or middle school or even high school, but college. I have no clue how he got so old so fast!

By Saturday morning he was all packed with one important exception: he didn’t have his trombone. Have no fear, he’d just brought it in for a tune-up, which was scheduled to be completed Saturday morning. My son called the repair shop that Saturday morning, and was told it would be done in 20 minutes. Terrific! Since we were going to be in that area later in the afternoon, we decided to pick it up then.


What we didn’t know was that the repair shop (which is inside an instrument retailer) was not officially part of the retailer, therefore it kept different hours. So, when we arrived at 2:30, that repair shop was locked up tight. Until Monday. And the employees of the retailer couldn’t access it. Being our son was heading to college a week early specifically for marching band camp, having his trombone was a pretty big deal.

So, on Sunday we made the 3-1/2 hour trek to Fargo, ND, without his horn. We got him settled, treated him to a meal, then said our good-byes. We took a deep breath and made the long drive home.

Then, come Monday morning, I was at that repair shop bright and early to pick up his trombone so I could make that 7-hour round-trip trek all by my lonesome. I got a total of two minutes of face time with my son before he scurried back to camp, and I faced the long drive alone. Again.

Lemon Meringue PieYeah, it was a pain in the tookus, but I had a choice to make: I could grumble the entire way, or I could make lemon meringue pie out of lemons. (I prefer lemon the pie to lemonade.)

For a week, I’d been struggling with a few scenes in my novel, Memory Box Secrets (to be released in 2015). I liked them, but they slowed the beginning of the story down, so they had to go. But how do you squeeze all the important info from two long scenes into one smaller scene and make it interesting? I eeked out 700 words last week–words that were boring, sentences and paragraphs that leaped from one plot element to another, and a scene that had no cohesion. It was bleh and had to go.

I had no clue how to write this important scene, and include all the elements needed for the story, while making it riveting. No clue until this 7-hour trip. By the time I arrived home, I had the scene plotted, the pertinent info included, and just the right amount of conflict and tension to keep the reader engaged.

Could I have achieved this without the little detour? Sure, it would have come to me eventually, with a lot more wasted hours than the seven it took me to drive. Maybe the next time I’m struggling with a scene, I’ll just have to give my son a call and let him know I’m coming on up!

Now, to get that scene down on paper …

What True Love Is …

WeddingToday I celebrate 27 years together with my husband, Marvin. It’s been a fast 27 years, filled with a lot of ups and downs (mostly ups!) and a whole bunch of everyday moments. It’s living and loving through those everyday moments–doing dishes, mowing the lawn, changing diapers, etc.–when the euphoria of love has quieted, that shows what true love really is.

I’ve been blessed by this man who is my proudest cheerleader, a man who has selflessly provided for the family while I stayed home with the children, a man who loves Star Trek and books and roller coasters and baseball and Marvel movies as much as I do! Now that’s true love!

Henry Fonda says it perfectly in this scene from the 1968 version of Yours, Mine and Ours

Chain of Mercy Visits Target Field

Chain of Mercy at Target FieldOne of the things I enjoy about being an author is placing my characters in some of my favorite Minnesota locales. That’s something many of my readers have commented on–they’ve loved revisiting those sites in my book.

One location that plays a significant role in Chain of Mercy is Target Field, the home of our Minnesota Twins. (One of the best places to watch a baseball game!) Last Thursday, our family celebrated birthdays and graduations and Father’s Day and book releases at a Twins game. Since two scenes take place at Target Field, I had to bring my book along and get a picture!

And I had to find the seats where my character, Sheila Peterson, holds season tickets. These are cushioned seats located right behind the first base dugout. Wish I could have watched the game from there! Maybe someday. :)

Sheila's Seats

View from Sheila's seat

From Sheila’s seats looking waaaay out toward the grandstand seats in right field. That’s where our actual seats were.

Now, I did take a few liberties with the setting, particularly a scene that takes place in the concourse, but that’s authorial privilege, right? (Oh, in case you were wondering, we lost the game. :( But one of our guys hit a grand slam which was sweet to see.)

Question for you: Do you enjoy reading about familiar settings in novels? What’s one place you’d like to visit in a book?

It Happened in a Blink

Time FliesYesterday our youngest had his last day of high school. Forever. He graduates on Sunday, then in the fall, he heads off to college.

I look back over his 18+ years and wonder where did the time go? What happened to that roly-poly baby, that twinkling-eyed toddler?

He’s now a young man whom I look up to, both literally and figuratively.

And, it’s true, it happened in a blink.

The time did fly by, and as a family, we tried to capture each moment, to take vacations together, tour our state, catch baseball games, movies. And our kids have grown up liking us, even now! Best of all, they’ve all grown in their faith.

For those of you just beginning this journey with your children, don’t take your time together for granted, because when you blink, that precious time will have passed.

by Revive

Find Your Wings – A Graduation Prayer

Bald Eagle SoaringGraduation season is in full bloom in our household. Our daughter has just graduated college, and our son–our youngest–will graduate high school in a little over a week.

While this season brings many lasts, it also gives birth to exciting firsts. And as our children young adults move on to new ventures, it’s best to send them on backed with prayer. For those of us short on words as our children spread their wings, here’s a song by Mark Harris that prays those poignant words for us. (Warning: you might want to have a tissue or two handy)

by Mark Harris

Grad Party #3!

Graduation CelebrationOne would think that after planning three high school graduation parties within four years, I’d pretty much be an expert. Know what? I think I am. I have it down to a science–too bad (well, not really) this is our last graduate. The best advice I have is to Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

I’ve already purchased the basics: tableware, napkins, and tablecloths. The announcements went out today–a week later than I wanted them to, but at least they’re in the mail. I’ve lined up friends to hostess the party, so I can mingle with the guests (best idea ever!).

The menu is planned, and much of it is already purchased:

  • pulled beef
  • baked hot dogs (much easier than grilling and almost as good)
  • MP900314309[1]veggie & fruit tray
  • popcorn bar
  • bars (in Minnesota-speak, that means yummy desserts usually made in a cake pan or on a cookie sheet, and often involving chocolate)
  • cake

I do have a few items left on my to-do list:

  • Scan pictures from his 18 years. Year one is done, but that’s it.
  • Have child #3 create his slide show
  • Clean windows
  • Clean the house!

Unfortunately, painting the house exterior won’t get done until after the party, but that’s life.

Now, off to scan those pictures!