Monday, March 28, 2016

Back from the Road

Last week I drove from Upstate New York to Alabama and back in six days, with three kids and my mother in a cramped, mid-size car.

Here’s what I learned.

A.     Plans that sound all warm and fuzzy while at home may not necessarily be so on the road. Meaning:

1.      Stopping every few hours at various points of interest just isn’t as wonderful as it seems. Especially with three tired, cranky kids. On the road, you just want to get there already.

2.      My kids are very, very loud, especially when going through rush-hour traffic.

3.      I turn into a grizzly when #2 occurs.

4.      The phrase “Are we there yet?” is still in use. Every three miles. And we drove two thousand.

But it was all worth it because…

A.     We were traveling two thousand miles for a reason. My Aunt and cousins live in Alabama

1.      Now my kids get to see how wonderful Aunt Patty is.

a.      Best cook ever.

b.      Drips with southern hospitality.

c.      Wonderful Christian woman.

2.      All of us got to experience a whole new culture (If you’re from New York, that’s what Alabama is).

a.      It was fun watching my youngest daughter trying to pick up the accent. She fell in love with it, along with most of the people there.

B.     I was able to stop in Versailles, one of the settings for The Newstead Saga. For some reason, going to the actual sites is very inspirational for me.

C.     I saw versions of my kids I never knew existed, my son especially. He’s unknowingly hilarious when he’s cranky. Example: When we finally pulled up to my Aunt’s house, my son was the first to roll out of the car, yelling, “I’m never going to Alabama again!” We were greeted with my Aunt’s booming laughter, who had heard every word.

How about you every had a vacation that was wonderful in spite of itself?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Goal Time

Last Friday of the Month

Hello everyone, it’s the last Friday of the month, which makes it time to review my five year goal. Thanks to Misha for putting this on. If you’d like to join us you can, just sign up here .

My five year goal is to have a world class publishing company. Dream big or go home, right? I’m a little over a year into this goal and so far it’s going well.  I hired a marketing director and so far that’s going well. Marketing isn’t one of my strengths, so it’s good to have someone on board who is an expert. Next month is A to Z, where I plan to showcase Ubooks. Hopefully that will get word out about this patent pending new book format. And then there’s May. Every time I look at the calender for May I either groan or clap my hands in excitement. Here’s what’s going on:  On May 3rd, my short story, Haunted, is being released as part of Parallels: Felix was here. On May 8th Black and White’s first children’s book, Jellyfish Jones, will be released. On May 31st my short story, The Reader, is set to be released as part of The Thing that Turned Me anthology. Oh, and did I mention Black and White is opening for submissions beginning May 1st? Crazy, right? But that’s okay. I like things a little crazy; that’s how I get things done. How about you, is life looking crazy?

Monday, March 21, 2016

A to Z Reveal

 A2Z 2016

Welcome. It’s the 2016 A to Z reveal day. I’m keeping this short and sweet.

This year I’ll be doing my usual flash fiction in an unusual way: *Ubook style. Each video will be 90 seconds or less and will feature the darker side of my work. I hope you enjoy them.

*Ubook is a patent pending book format where a the story is told as a video set to reading speed, enhanced with music.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pilot Project: Last Man Standing

 Pilot Project:

Continuing in our search to replace Friends, my daughter and I have viewed yet another pilot: Last Man Standing

My daughter is the one who suggested this and since I’m a huge Tim Allen fan, I quickly agreed. I was secretly hoping for a modern Home Improvement, and in some ways it was. Tim Allen is a strong character, as is his wife. Instead of three sons, as in Home Improvement, he has three daughters. He has a very masculine job, and fumbles through parenting in often hilarious ways. Check. Check. That’s what I liked, what I didn’t was the extreme in which Tim’s character, Mike Baxter, was portrayed as a “Man’s Man”. He was a stereotypical gun-toting, chauvinistic republican. To the opposite extreme is his eldest daughter, Kristin, who continues to live at home with her young son. They take every opportunity to have her say/do something extremely feminist/liberal. Now, I’m not easy to offend, but in this show I found myself offended, for both extremes.  Is this how conservatives and liberals are viewed by each other? I hope not. Actually, it ended a little worse for the liberals. Mike, thinking he was setting his middle child up on a date with a young co-worker, was the cause of the debacles. Kristin was the one who opened the door to this young hunk and she turned into a giggling school girl. She comes home and hugs her father, thankful he saw what she really needed, and despite her many, many earlier statements, it turns out what she needed was a man. Now, even though I lean more to the conservative, I cringed inwardly, feeling for all those who had been watching and rooting for this young woman, so easily turned away from her stance. Not good.

Now, keep in mind I’ve only seen the pilot, hopefully these extremes settled down a bit as the show went on.

Also, I'm being featured today at Yolanda Renee's blog for my story, Haunted, which will be included in Parallels: Felix was here being released May 3rd. Stop over and say hi!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Submitting to Black and White

Today, I’m going to go over what publishing with Black and White will look like. For starters, we’re publishing exclusively in *Ubooks. We’re the only ones who can, so why not? What this means for you: The stories you submit can be ones that are already published, as long as you hold the necessary rights. We aren’t looking to compete with standard books/ebooks; in fact, we’ll be happy to post a link at the end of the Ubook to sites where the reader can purchase those other formats. 

What we’re looking for: Really, really good stories. Genre doesn’t matter, although it should be noted here that we’re Christians (aka we prefer clean romance to erotica). Length doesn’t matter either. You’re welcome to submit short stories, flash fiction; whatever. Ubooks are published a chapter at a time, so series are great. Shorter chapters are better, just based on the reader’s preference we’ve seen so far. Also, because of that, stories done in Ubook format will be streamlined. Think Reader’s Digest versions. If, as people get used to this format, reader’s preference changes that will be revised.

Why would I want to submit to Black and White? We work closely with our authors, getting their input on font, backgrounds, and music choices. Basically, we see our authors as partners. And why not? The story originated in them, they should have say in the finished product.  

If you’re offering Ubooks for free, how do they make money? Simple. Just like Pandora is to music, this is to books. The reader can view the Ubook for free, but only after viewing a commercial. The more times the Ubook is viewed, the more income is generated.

So, how much will I make? Royalties will work like this: For children’s books, the author will receive 25% gross of all income received, the illustrator will receive the same.  For works without illustrations, the author will receive 40% gross. The sky is the limit here. The more views, the more money you can make, so, needless to say, promotion is important and needs to be an ongoing group effort.

How do I submit? Black and White will be open to submissions beginning May first; come back here that day for the link to our new site.

We look forward to seeing what you’ve got.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Road Trip

In four days I’m taking my kids and going on a road trip. Alone. As in I’m leaving my husband at home. Now, my husband is the one who usually does the driving, so this should be interesting. As the time grows closer, I find myself looking at my smallish car (Chevy Malibu) and picture the five of us in there. Not pretty. But, on the other hand, something about the idea of a real road trip is so appealing. I’ve got my nine-year old picking up wacky places to stop—hoping for something crazy like the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine. Anyone got any suggestions? I’m going from Upstate New York through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennesee to Alabama. We’ve got Lehman’s (Amish old-time store) and Wendell August (Foraging) on the list so far. Anyway, at the very least should give me plenty of new interesting new pictures for Instagram.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Pilot Project: Jane the Virgin

Hello everyone. It’s Friday, which makes It Pilot Project time. For those of you new to this, let me explain: For the last three years my daughter and I have spent a few nights a week watching Friends together. Well, all good things come to an end, and eventually Friends did. So now, we’re looking for a new show to watch; aka The Pilot Project. We’re reviewing the pilots of various new/new to us comedies to see which one will be THE one and today’s show might just be it.

Jane the Virgin.

What I love most about this show is its originality. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of Hollywood and Disney recycling everything. Can’t anyone come up with anything new? Well, in this case they did. Jane, a twenty-three year-old virgin, goes for her annual gynecologist appointment where she is accidentally artificially inseminated. Oh and by the way, it was with semen from a man she fell in-love with five years ago. But it’s not five years ago, it’s now and now she’s been dating someone for two years and it’s serious. So how does she explain this new development? I love watching her try. This show has twists and turns and many more than a few unexpected surprises, one of them being how much I like Jane, the main character. She’s smart and tough (in a good way) and seeping with integrity. She’s the good girl, but not with all the annoying preachy-like qualities usually associated with that particular virtue. I also like her mother, who, although less than virtuous, is full of maternal love and loyalty in her own right. And did I mention the show is hilarious? Because it is. One warning, though: Each episode ends with a massive cliff-hanger, so better plan on spending hours on end watching. The good news is is that the first season is on Netflix, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Beloved Belinda

Yesterday, one of the absolute worst things happened. My phone went off while we were in church (that’s not the bad thing). Now, there’s only three to four people who call me on a regular basis and they were all sitting next to me, so I knew something was up. And it was. It was my neighbor calling to say she’d seen one of my chickens being carried away by a fox. Now, I know what you’re thinking; a little dramatic here Melanie, don’t you think? And you’d be right, except for one thing:

That is Hannah, my nine year old daughter. She loves these chickens, has named each one, and spends the majority of her day playing with them. The one in question, Belinda, was her pupil in chicken school (she had a nasty habit of pecking everyone but Hannah, so Hannah has been trying to reform her). I even have a video of her pushing one on a baby swing. I kid you not. So, needless to say, one of these precious ones being carted off by the big bad fox led to more than a little trauma and tears at our house yesterday. And after finding such a tasty meal I'm sure the fox will be back. Any suggestions?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Pilot Project

Pilot Project Time.

In order to fill the void that finishing Friends created, my seventeen year old daughter and I are watching pilots of various comedies to find the next great show for us to watch. This week’s show is:

Fuller House.

My daughter grew up watching Full House, so this one came from her, which probably accounts for the reason why she enjoyed this more than I did. She was and is emotionally invested in the characters and was glad to see them all again, years later. Most (all but the Olson twins) made an appearance, and all (especially John Stamos) aged well. They used their same catch phrases, which to me was annoying, but, again, my daughter appreciated it. The premise was similar to the original, only now it’s DJ who’s widowed and overwhelmed with raising her kids by herself. And this time it’s best friend Kimmy Gibbler and sister Stephanie who step up and offer to help out. Dj’s dad offers his house for this new venture, so the set is the same, which also adds to the nostalgia. Steven, DJ’s old boyfriend is also there, promising potential romance. All in all it was a good, enjoyable show to watch, but not necessarily one that will keep me up late at night clamoring for the next episode like aka Jane the Virgin, which I will be reviewing next week, if I can pull myself away from Netflix long enough to write the review.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016


First Wednesday of the Month


Today is the first Wednesday of the month, which makes it IWSG time, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosts for putting this on every month. If you’d like to join in the fun, you can sign up here.

This month I’m dealing with a fresh insecurity. My marketing director has determined the target population for my books are females ages fourteen to twenty-four, which is news to me, since I wrote them for boys/men ages whatever. Since she made that determination, she has had me set up an Instagram account to reach that audience.


Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’m a visual person—there’s all sorts of inspiration in pictures. But my pictures? I’m not so sure. You see, I’m sort of a strange breed. I have a large garden where I’m trying to grow most of the fruit/veggies we eat fresh in the summer, canned/frozen for the rest of the year. There’s the orchard we planted, and oh, yeah, woods behind the house where I gather wild cherries/black raspberries. And did I mention the chickens? And the dairy sheep I’m getting next month? I mentioned this to my marketing director who hemmed and hawed and said, “Yeah…about that…you may want to tone that down a bit.”

 So that’s where I’m at. I’m supposed to use Instagram to show people who I really am, but unfortunately those people who can relate to who I really am have been dead for a hundred years.

I kid you not. They put up a sign for a spinning class at my work and there was a whole five minutes where I thought they were talking about wool and yarn.  Any suggestions?

And, being Wednesday, it’s also time for this week’s *Ubook installments. I’m also converting Erron to this format, so I’m including that one as well. Enjoy.
The Newstead Project, Chapter Eight:

The Newstead Project, Chapter Six, Narrated by Nathan Moran:
Erron, Chapter One:


*A Ubook is a patent pending book format where the book is a video set at reading speed and enhanced with music.