Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zee, or is it Zed? Overcoming the language barrier

I live in New York close by the Canadian border. When my children watch education programs Z is said two ways; Zee and Zed. It’s a small thing, but it represents a much bigger issue. Even though Canada is less than 30 minutes away from me, it’s a whole different country with its own language and culture. And that’s Canada, what about say Japan?
That’s where research comes in. Books are good, the internet with Google earth is better, but actually going to the place is best. I like to stay in small bed and breakfasts; it helps me to get to really know the people better.
A hotel is so impersonal. I remember a trip I took once to Ithaca with my husband. It was ok, but just that, ok. A few years later I went back and stayed with someone who lived there. It was like seeing the place for the first time. Did you know that in Ithaca there are waterfalls everywhere you turn and some of them you can dive over the edge into a deep pool below? I do now.
That’s why I love traveling almost as much as I do writing. It helps me to get to the heart of things and be as authentic as possible.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

X and Y chromosome; the difference between men and women

I don’t care what people say, men and women are different.
I don’t know this because I’ve been married for sixteen years, although that certainly helps. I don’t know it because I’m a psychiatric nurse and intimately involved in the details in peoples lives.
I know it because I’ve spent my entire life watching people.
This isn’t a complaint session about either of the sexes, instead I simply want to point out some observations I’ve made over the years. Now it's time for my disclaimer: Please note this is a general observation, not intended to imply that all people are the same. There are vast differences amoung people, no matter what their sex is. That being said, these are my observations.
Men need respect, even more than love. Although I really believe men love very deeply, possibly even deeper than their female counterparts. Men need to be needed. The worst thing you can say to a man is that you don’t need him. Men tell you what they’re thinking. If you want to know what a man is thinking, just as him. Men feel good when their woman is happy.
Now to women. Women need love, even more than respect. They need to be cherished and adored by their man. They need their man to be strong, to know that he will put her first always, to take care of her before himself. A woman doesn’t necessarily tell her man something hoping he’ll fix it; most times she just wants him to listen and support her.
These are a few of the observations I’ve complied, but I’m always looking for more. If you have any to add, or want to dispute my claims, I welcome your comments.
Until then,


Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Words

Which words are the right words? That is the question. As writers we know what we want to say, but how to say it? I’ve often found that a single word can change the feel of an entire paragraph.
I didn’t start out intending to write Young Adult. I had a story that I wanted to tell and I wrote it. It just happened to be happening to a sixteen year old. Because of that, the voice of my character ended up sounding rather, well, not like a sixteen year old. But as time has passed and the story has been revised, I’ve chosen other words to tell the same story. I didn’t “dumb it down”, I spent time watching and listening and I enlisted the help of the most wonderful Alpha in the world (thanks Matt). In other words I wanted the words, the voice, to be authentic. How else would my readers give a crap about what happens to my MC if they can't relate to him?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Voice

When I first started writing I didn’t know what this meant. Often other writers would allude to it, but they could never quite explain what it was. Two SCBWI conferences and almost two years later, I think I’m finally beginning to figure it out.
The reason the other writers had such a hard time describing it is because it’s indescribable. It’s just that certain something, call it charisma, call it It, it just is, or it isn’t…
We’ve all met people like that, you don’t know why you’re drawn to them, but you are. And so is everyone else. It’s the same thing with voice, you don’t know what it is unless it’s there, but you do know when it isn’t.
Now I am joining the plethora of writers who are trying to describe something totally intangible. I guess it just took a little time, a lot of reading, and even some writing thrown in on occasion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for UFOs, or ramblings with some loose ties to UFOs

I’ve never written a science fiction novel, or anything like it. After reading all of your lovely blogs over the last month, I must say I’m tempted.
I have read a few science fiction novels in the past; DUNE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and a lot of Ray Bradbury. I enjoyed them all. It’s just not what I’ve gravitated towards as a writer. On a blog I read recently (don’t ask me to remember which one, I’ve read too many to keep track) the person writing said for science fiction you needed either aliens, UFOs, or machines. Is that true? 
And what about hybrids? I read a book the other day called ELEMENTAL by Emily White; it’s coming out in early May. In her book there was a bit of fantasy mixed in with the science fiction, in that there were fairies. But they were teleporting fairies, so maybe that counts as only science fiction after all. But there also was a war between planets and lots of space travel.
Is there more crossing over of such different genres now?
I know I personally had a hard time choosing a genre for my novel. I ended up just calling it YA Fiction because it would have looked rather wordy to say it was a paranormal romance, militaristic young adult rural fantasy thriller.
And I know that almost none of this had to do with UFOs, but U is a hard word to come up with a word for, especially since I did Utopia last year.
Have a great night everyone, Melanie

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Timing

T is for Timing
In my life things have not worked out on my personal time clock. I got married young (19), and my husband and I thought we were way ahead of the game. We would have children young and be laughing at everyone else who was struggling with young ones as we enjoyed our forties as empty-nesters.
We thought we were being so smart. And then something completely unexpected happened.  I wasn’t able to have children right away. In fact it wasn’t until after our third anniversary that we had our first child. And that was only the beginning. Our next one didn’t come for another eight years. Eight years of trying, fighting, crying, and struggling with just about everyone, God included.
And then our third came, a little over two years ago.
I laugh when I think about that, as some of my friends who are empty-nesters are watching me chase after our toddler. I don’t laugh because I wish I was them. I laugh because I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

R and S are for Sweet Revenge

I’ll pretend I didn’t forget to post on R and did this simultaneous post on purpose.
Actually it worked out rather well, because there are lots of different types of revenge (I’m speaking strictly literary here).  There is the unfulfilled revenge and the revenge gone wrong.  But that’s not what I’m discussing here. I’m talking about the Sweet Revenge, like in the Count of Monte Cristo, and Shawshank Redemption. I love both of these stories. Both protagonists were wronged, and both came out victoriously in the end in such a satisfying way. 

Imagine if the ending had been different. In the case of Shawshank Redemption, imagine that Andy didn't have his genius plan come to fruition.  The story wouldn't be even half of what it could be, what it should be, as the following video clearly shows.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Query

Query. That's the word that comes to mind today as I tried to come up with something that starts with the letter Q. It isn't suprising, Query seems to be all I've been thinking of lately. I love to write, but for some reason that Q word has been a true thorn in the flesh. Below I've pasted a copy of the description portion of my query. I would love to know what you think.

Joel Cranston shouldn’t exist. He just doesn’t know that yet. He’s lived a pretty normal life for the last sixteen years. If you consider being almost seven feet tall and good at about every sport you’ve ever played normal. Normal ended the day Newstead showed up with an invitation to come to their school.
Newstead is a private high school in Central Vermont by the Green Mountains. It’s a great place to hide a few hundred people who shouldn’t exist while you train them to be tomorrow’s rulers, tomorrow’s dictators, tomorrow’s gods.
Joel Cranston does exist. Because he was made to exist, for this time, this place, this purpose; to destroy every last one of them.
The Newstead Project is a completed 100,000 word YA fiction based on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It is the first novel in a planned interlinked trilogy, similar in style to HOLES by Louis Sacher. I am a member of SCBWI and have attended their last two winter conferences in New York City.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Published and Patience

P is for Published, and maybe Patience.

Getting published; isn’t that what goes through our head day in, day out? And to make matters worse, now we have options. If I really wanted to, I could hit the send button and in two minutes have an ebook on Amazon. But I don’t want to, at least not yet. Which leads me to my second P word, patience. I started writing my book not quite two years ago, and after a couple of rewrites and a few revisions, it’s (in my mind) ready for the submission process. I’ve only queried seven agents at this point, with a couple of rejections already received and I’m already getting frustrated. How Pathetic is that?  What has helped me is reading other people’s blogs and finding out rejection is typical. In fact, it sounds like I have a lot more to look forward to. So this is me saying thank you to all of you bloggers out there who keep it real, so that when I open my inbox and see yet another form letter I don’t feel so alone.               

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Opposition

Every protagonist needs a good antagonist. The novels I like best are the ones where you don’t even know who the antagonist it, at least not at first. Kind of like a Marvel comic’s adaption to novels, the antagonist is your best friend, or your roommate, or someone else, where having them be your enemy means something.

 In real life it’s the same. If someone tells you to go f**k yourself, you might get upset, but if it’s your husband? Then it’s a whole new ball game.  The ones closest to us are the ones most capable of hurting us. They know just which targets to aim at.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Narcissistic Society.

Have you ever read something that truly horrified you?
I did last year, and it wasn’t fiction.
As I’ve mentioned before I’m a psychiatric nurse. Part of my job is to review criteria for certain diagnosis with our psychiatrist during our treatment meetings. We refer to a book that is published annually; DSM.  It is organized by a list of diagnosis and behaviors a patient must exhibit to be given that diagnosis.   
Last year DSM took Narcissist out of their list of diagnosis. Their reasoning? Too many people exhibited the traits to have it be a diagnosis anymore. In essence they were saying we live in a Narcissistic society and that those types of behaviors are the new norm.
How scary is that?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Masculinity.

I am a woman, but for some reason whenever I sit down and write, I usually write in a male voice. Not always, but more often than I do a female one. I have no idea why that is. My Alpha reader is a twenty-three year old guy who works with troubled teen boys. He tells me my voice is authentic. I have no idea how that happens. I am not only a girl, I’m really a girl. You know, the kind that has tea parties, and knits and sews and likes to wear dresses almost all the time; that’s me, but that’s not what I write. I write dark. I write masculine.

Am I alone out there, or is there more of us?

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Longevity

What makes some books, some authors, last in the market longer than others? The other day I bought CARRIE, Steven King’s debut novel that was released in 1974. I’ve never read it. I’ve read most of the rest of his early stuff, but never that. I wanted to see what his debut would look like. But he’s just one. There are many authors whose work has stood the test of time. I’ve heard one agent describe it as wanting a perennial, not an annual. As a gardener, I got what he was saying. He wants someone who will keep producing year after year, not just one novel, but many. And as a writer, I know that’s what I want, too. I think it’s what we all want. I don’t think any of us dream of being a one hit wonder in the literary world. So what happens? What’s the secret- Besides great writing of course; I’ve seen great authors produce only one book.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kiss

His hands brushed against her face lightly. Just a touch, but it was enough for her to realize he was there. She stood still knowing, hoping it was coming. And it did, softly at first, as he tested his control, and then again, that time with the full force of his want, his need. His lips, her lips, found each other again and again. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t see him. At that moment the only thing that mattered was that he was there, and that he was kissing her.

Does that snippet fill you with a deep sense of fulfillment?
No, it doesn't. And why not? Because in order for a kiss to mean something, you have to be emotionally vested in the people who are doing the kissing. There has to be some buildup, something to make you desperately want these two people to come together against all odds; to kiss.

Please enjoy the following video that has some of my favorite kissing scenes from a variety of movies. As you watch it, ask yourself – Are you moved? If you are, I guarantee the scenes are from movies you’ve already seen. You’re already emotionally vested.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Junction

Definition: the joining of two or more people, things or parts.
Writers need people.
First off they need people for inspiration. Being a psychiatric nurse and mother has given me enough ideas for at least a dozen novels. I have a journal that’s full of yellow post-its from when I observed people doing things or interacting with others (or not interacting with others) that I found particularly inspiring.  In an earlier post I asked if you would quit your job if your career as a writer took off.  There are several reasons I wouldn’t (Please note here that I only work one day a week, so continuing to work and write wouldn’t be a hardship).  I wouldn’t because being around people during life’s hardest moments teaches me to feel and love deeply. It opens my eyes to a whole different world and people I normally wouldn’t get to meet. I truly believe the characters I’ve written are all the richer because of the people I’ve grown to know and care for at work, and I’m all the richer, too.  
OK, so an idea needs people. And then, after the draft is written, more people are needed. It’s given to critique groups, or mothers, or husbands, or thirteen year old daughters, or Alpha or Betas.  In essence it is given to others to see if what you meant to tell is coming across on the page or if it needs more work. And it often does.  In some cases it’s revised, in others it’s rewritten, each time going back to people to help the writer see things they may have missed.
Finally it's just right, or so the writer thinks.
The writer sends it to agents, hopefully followed by editors, then reviewers. Finally the junction has met its desired haven when it reaches the hands of its readers.
Did you notice that I stopped personalizing somewhere along the Beta part? That’s because I’m currently in the process of looking for an agent. I could self-publish, I could, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in this whole process is that writers need people.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Intrinsic

Intrinsic is who you are, what you’re made of.  You can’t force it and you certainly can’t change it.
I am a reader. I love to read. And when I started writing I naturally found myself comparing my work to the authors I’ve grown to love. Either one of two things happened. I either felt superior, which is bad, or I found myself completely discouraged, which is worse.
After months of trying to change my work to be better (?), to reflect what is already out there, I have finally come to one conclusion.
The world doesn’t need another Jane Austen, or Steven King, or Stephenie Meyer, or Shakespeare, or fill in the blank. But they might just need you or me. My writing style is mine, it may not be Pulitzer Prize worthy, and it may have way too many adverbs and sentences starting with I, but it’s how I write. It’s what comes naturally. It’s intrinsic.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Home.

 What does Home mean for you?
I was thinking about that very thing this last Friday. My husband was home from work and my three children weren’t working on school. It was just us and it was one of those rare precious moments when everyone is getting along and happy to be together. I was making chocolate chip pancakes and my husband was making his famous scrambled eggs.
Now to understand how I was feeling at that particular moment you have to know something about me. I battled with infertility for a total of eleven years. Three years for my first daughter, then eight for my second. My son was a wonderful gift. I know a lot of people love their children, but there’s something about being given something you never thought you’d have that makes you cherish it even more.
That morning as I was sitting down for breakfast and I looked around at the faces of all those people that I am most grateful for, only one word was going through my mind.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gardens

This is another thing I enjoy, besides writing. This time of year my head is swimming with plans for my garden. I’ve had many flops, but for the last several years I’ve used the square foot garden approach and have fallen in love with gardening all over again. Think about it- no weeds, no tilling, no bugs.  It’s wonderful.
For those of you that have never tried a vegetable garden before I highly recommend it. I’ve taken his (Mel Bartholomew, he also has a blog that I highly recommend. The link is at ) approach one step further, in case those pesky weeds still try to weasel their way in. I cover the basic four by four raised bed with weed cloth before I place the grid.
With planting a lot of flowers in between my veggies, I managed to create an organic garden rather easily. Mainly I use zinnias, marigolds, and snapdragons. They attract the bugs you want in your garden to take care of the ones you don’t. With that and the weed cloth, there really is no need for spraying.
I’ll post pictures later in the summer when things are in bloom. Right now they’re only in my head.   Does anyone else out there enjoy gardening and have some tips to share?

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Fun

Is writing Fun?
Sometime yes…sometimes no. There are times when I struggle and after five hours squeeze out three pages. And then there are other times I am so filled with an idea that it practically writes itself.  I can look back and read and see that I got it. I wrote exactly what I wanted the character to say/see/do. 
But those pages I had to push and squeeze in order to write? They’re almost never right.  Usually I look back at them and wonder what I was thinking.
So my new method? If it’s not there, I don’t force it. I have plenty of good reading to do that would be a better use of my time.
And that my friends, is fun.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Enigma

This is what I hope to always achieve as a writer. I want my readers to always be guessing and even when the end happens I want them blown off their seats.
I want them thinking for days later –How did that happen?
Those are the books I really love; the Count of Monte Cristo of the literary world. They have you guessing the entire way only to find out at the end you were wrong. Dead wrong.
Steven King is another author that I think does this very well. I’ve often thought he reminded me a lot of a modern day Edgar Allen Poe, minus the marrying his thirteen year old cousin of course. His books have that something that keeps you guessing right up to the very end.
As an author, what are your goals? What heights do you hope to achieve?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for depression and other mood disorders

I am a psychiatric nurse. It’s not just my day job, it’s who I am. I love what I do. I get to walk with people through life’s valleys and just be there. Sometimes just being there is the best thing you can do. Even if I were to have my books published, I don’t think I’ll stop doing what I do. Maybe scaled down, but I couldn’t imagine stopping altogether.
It’s real. It’s raw. It’s important.
So the question is- What’s your “day” job – And would you stop if you were published?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Catalyst

What moves your book forward?
Sometimes I use small inconsequential things that no one realizes the ramifications of until it’s too late. The letter that was never mailed, the plane that left five minutes early. Things no one suspects will change their lives forever until they do.
Or sometimes I make it so huge that the characters know through every moment of it that the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan.
I actually like a mixture of both. Because like life, either one can change the final outcome forever.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for B**tard, B**ch, and other "Bad" words

To include or not to include, that is the question.
People swear.
So the question is, should your characters? In the beginning I struggled with this, because I don’t swear (much), so it felt strange to write the words. But that was only in the beginning. Because as time went on and I grew as a writer, I realized it doesn’t matter if  I swear or not. What matters is if my characters do. And it turns out that some of them do. In fact one in particular has quite the potty mouth. It’s rather contagious. After spending hours and hours last week with her, I found myself saying things I normally never would have to people who looked at me strange (Sorry Mom). What could I say? One of my best friends is rubbing off on me.
What are your thoughts on swearing in our writing?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for And then...

And then…

This is my Achilles heel of writing. I know why it happens; when I write my rough draft, it tends to be a series of summaries. By the time I’m done it ends up looking like a very long synopsis.

And then…

I go back and fill in the dialogue and other details.

And then…

I spend the rest of my revisions trying to get rid of the And thens…