"There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." - Alice Kuipers

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bring On the Holidays

You may have noticed over the past several weeks that I've really been getting into the Halloween spirit here on the blog. Since the beginning of September, my weekly book recommendations have centered around the spooky, the creepy and the suspenseful, and for the month of October all of my Five Sentence Fiction Friday posts have a darker twist to them. Why? Well, last year I swore off the holidays. I was so sick of all the holiday mayhem (Christmas in particular, but the rest as well) that I decided to take a year off. I did the minimal requirements for each and it felt so good to just give it a rest for a year. I really needed the break.

Now, I'm feeling refreshed. I'm ready to take on the holidays again, but in my own style. I'm embracing the parts I love while leaving out the activities I just don't feel up to. Take Halloween for example. I probably won't get dressed up or decorate the yard this year. But I'm reading a giant stack of spooktacular books to get in the spirit, and having weekly get togethers with friends to watch classic horror. I'm going to carve a pumpkin and roast pumpkin seeds and hand out candy to trick or treaters. And so far, I'm having a blast.

So, if you're starting to get a little sick of all the Halloween spirit hanging around here, I apologize. And don't worry, I'll keep most of my Christmas spirit off the blog. That's one of those holidays that can be a little too... everywhere. I plan on enjoying Christmas this year, but I won't be cramming it down anyone's throat. In the mean time, Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Book Review - Up Jumps the Devil

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation!

UP JUMPS THE DEVIL by Michael Poore


 For our last macabre tale of fall, I bring you the biography of the devil himself. It seemed fitting, even though it wasn't spooky or scary. After all, what is Halloween without the devil? And in this charming, witty and clever tale is the world's best character, the first love story and the first broken heart. A complete delight.

I think it's obvious that my favourite thing about this book was Poore's rendition of the devil. He's as charming as you'd hope he would be, clever, but also complicated with a colourful history. It takes you back through history to the start of the world, with surprising twists and turns and intriguing subplots. Poore has created a truly vivid portrait of one of the most universally misunderstood bad guys, with a fantastic story to boot.

This was the perfect weekend read. Original and unique, a story I won't soon forget.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Determination

Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is determination. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

She sat in her car, waiting outside his building, like a cat for its mouse. Sooner or later, he'd have to come out, have to talk to her, acknowledge her existence. She knew if she could just talk to him, she could make him see they were meant for each other. He belonged to her. She would make him see that. 

Voila! Hope you enjoyed this week's story, and if you did, don't forget to check out past editions below. Have a great weekend everyone!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Malice
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Enrapture
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Celebration
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Magnetic

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tips for NaNoWriMo

Well, October is over the half way mark and for a lot of people that means gearing up for this year's NaNoWriMo. If you aren't familiar, November is National Novel Writing Month. Every year thousands of people sign up online and pledge to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. With daily word counters, a supportive online community and pep talks from some fantastic writers, it's a great way to blow your writer's block right out of the water. After all, there's no better silencer for the inner critic than a looming deadline. Unfortunately, I won't be participating this year, I'm deep in editing land, but I was a winner for the June Camp NaNoWriMo and so I thought I'd share a few of my tips and tricks for anyone who's considering giving it a try this year.

1) First off, do not fall behind. Hit your targets every day, right from the start. Don't assume that you'll be able to catch up on the weekend when you have all that free time. You won't. Believe me. You just won't.

2) However, if you do fall behind, don't give up. Yeah, I know what I just said, but falling behind doesn't mean you get to throw in the towel. Dig deep, throw in a few very late nighters and you'll be back on track.

3) Have an idea of your story before you start. No, you don't have to have it all mapped out ahead of time (unless you want to) but have a general idea of the characters, the plot. It'll keep you from staring at a blank page, wondering where the hell you're going with all this. Use this time before the start date to chew on your story, let it start building in your head and then let the momentum take you.

4) If your story just isn't working, change it. NaNoWriMo is the perfect chance to experiment with your writing. Think about it, with no time to care about the rules, you can be free to just create. (Because really, that's what it's all about.)

5) Please remember: Although it's called National Novel Writing Month, at the end you will NOT have a finished novel. What you will have is a rough draft and a very satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Don't get me wrong, completing a 50,000 word manuscript in a month is extremely impressive, but don't forget that there's a lot of work to follow. I won in June 2012, and I'm still editing. And frankly, I will be for a while. Every rough draft needs a ton of work before it's suitable for an agent, a publisher and the general public.

6) Have fun! I know that sounds like a cliche, but it really is fun. Incredibly stressful fun. But as your fingers race over the keyboard, pounding out word after word, an undeniable feeling of elation begins to envelope you. It's magic!

All right, good luck and God bless! I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Book Review - Fangland

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation!

FANGLAND by John Marks

I know we're all sick to death of vampires, but this is something completely different. FANGLAND has turned the vampire into a much creepier, darker monster, something more akin to a virus that infects your mind and your soul. It's brilliant.

My favourite thing about this book was the representation of the whole vampire mythology, the way Marks took it, twisted it and made it so much better. It's effortlessly creepy, sneaking up on you as you read. I also liked the format, almost as a kind of catalog of evidence, jumping from diary entries and emails, from character to character. It unfolds before you like a case file, the evidence building until it's undeniable.

It just isn't Halloween without a good vampire story and this is a really good vampire story. Read it. You're guaranteed to get creeped out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Malice

Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is malice. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

She didn't have the heart to tell her mother she didn't like the doll, not when she looked so excited and hopeful. But really, didn't her mother realize she was way too old for dolls? And besides, it was creepy, with its wide unblinking eyes and cruel little painted on smile. 
She carried the hideous porcelain creature upstairs, feigning excitement, and stashed it in the closet. She didn't like the way it stared at her, the way it almost seemed to move just as she was turning away...

I hope you enjoyed this week's slightly spooky tale. If you did, then please share it with friends. If you really liked it, then I hope you'll follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. Still in the mood for more Five Sentence Fiction? Just follow the links below to read past editions. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Enrapture
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Celebration
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Magnetic
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Wild

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beautiful Language Vs. A Great Story

You might have heard me rant a little on this before, but I've always had a hard time with literary fiction. I know that to many it's held in very high regard, and to that same many it's believed to be head and shoulders above main stream fiction. Part of me understands why, but the rest just shakes its head in disbelief.

Lately I've been reading ON BECOMING A NOVELIST by John Gardner, and I think it's helped me figure out what I dislike so much about literary fiction. In his book, Gardner talks about the importance of language. A writer's skill with language can be tantamount to their success, but it requires balance. When a writer becomes too obsessed with the language he's telling his story in, no matter how beautiful it may be, the story gets lost. Of course, neither should a writer neglect language. It adds depth to a piece that would otherwise be flat.

In a nutshell, I think that's why I find literary fiction so dry and boring. Too often I lose interest in the story because it seems to be a shadow in the background, a mere device to drive the language. The writer in question gets to hung up on his method and forgets about the story. First and foremost should always be the story, and the device, whether it be language, metaphor, symbolism, etc. should only be as useful as it is to making the story better. Once it starts to distract from the story, it's no longer useful and must be discarded.

So, what do you think? Am I way off base here? Obviously there are some excellent authors of literary fiction out there capable of telling a wonderful story, which are your favourites? What's more important to you? Beautiful language or a great story?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Book Review - We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation!



Mary Katherine Blackwood lives at Blackwood Manor with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. The rest of her family is dead. The villagers have always hated the Blackwoods, but more so since the bad thing happened. And when a new visitor shows up at Blackwood Manor, everything will come to light.

Deliciously creepy and unexpected, this was another perfect read for the Halloween season. I especially loved the character of Mary Katherine, also known as Merricat, with her strange rituals, her devotion to her sister, and the tickling sensation I had while reading it that she knew more than she was letting on. The whole story is deviously clever, well written and perfectly dark.

If you're looking for a creepy Halloween read, you've found it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Enrapture

Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is enrapture. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

When she sang, it moved him. His heart would thump harder against his chest even as his breath caught in his throat, his skin bubbling up with goosebumps as each hair stood on end. It was hard, watching her from so far away, but it wouldn't be for much longer.
Soon she would know who he was. Soon she would be his. 

Voila! I hope you enjoyed this tiny story, and if you did, then I hope you'll share it with friends. If you're still in the mood for more Five Sentence Fiction, just follow the links below for past editions. Don't forget to follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Celebration
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Magnetic
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Wild
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Flowers

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Importance of Editing

Great news, everyone! I have my manuscript back from the editor. And let me just say, wow. Her ideas and suggestions are so thought provoking, so utterly fantastic that I desperately wanted to jump up and down ecstatically for a few minutes when I read her memo. Of course I didn't, because I was at work at the time. And although my coworkers are aware that I'm rather strange (unfortunately it's impossible to miss), it would have required a little too much explanation. But suffice it to say, I have a lot of work ahead of me. Very exciting, thrilling, rapturous work.

Which brings me (in a very roundabout way) to my point. Editing is so important. Every writer on the planet knows they have to edit their work, that no first draft should ever be the last, but sometimes I think writers (especially new writers such as myself) don't realize just how much editing is actually required. I guess that's why I'm still reticent about self published authors. Now, I realize that there are some really great self published authors out there (Wes Funk for example), who have put their work through the wringer to make sure it's as good as humanly possible before it sees the light of day. But there are just so many writers out there who don't realize that they can't be the only editors of their book.

Here's what happens when only the writer in question edits their manuscript (by which I mean, they don't let anyone else read it and give editorial feedback). They may think they're being unbiased, but it's impossible. They will always have a vision in their head of how the story is supposed to go. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's important to be open to new ideas. When I'm done working through the suggestions the editor gave me, my book is going to be a lot different from the one I started with, but so much better. Unbiased readers, especially those with no emotional connection to you, can offer worlds of possibilities you never would have dreamed of. But you have to put in the work.

And speaking of editing, let's talk about the inevitable rejection. If you've written a novel, and you think it's amazing, that's all well and good. But believe me, it's not as good as it could be. Let it go through the wringer. Send it out, and with every rejection (and there will be tons), look for any hint of editorial feedback. If they say the main character was weak, or the plot wasn't believable, don't get angry. Really ask yourself, was it? I know a lot of writers out there are scared of all the hard work involved, of having to go back to the dreaded drawing board (I know I am!) but it's necessary. It's what molds us as writers. Send it out, take it to critique groups, go through a manuscript evaluation service, hire an editor. It's the only way to really grow as a writer and above all, tell a really, really good story.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Book Review - Christine

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation!

CHRISTINE by Stephen King

It wouldn't be Halloween without at least one novel by Stephen King. In my opinion, CHRISTINE is the perfect illustration of just how talented Stephen King really is. (Not that any of you needed convincing, I'm sure). But here is the story of an evil car, a murderously evil car, and ... it's riveting! This was the first Stephen King I've ever read (aside from his memoir, ON WRITING). I'd always wanted to read his work, but I wasn't sure where to start. A girlfriend suggested I start with this one and she was right. I'm hooked!

I'm pretty sure King could make anything terrifying. It's the writing. He so perfectly sets the scene, builds the tension and then takes it places you never would have dreamed of. And his characters are so well drawn that everything feels intensely real. An evil car becomes entirely possible.

If you've never read King before (or if you have but avoided this one because you found the idea of an evil car too ridiculous), give it a try. It's the perfect example of fantastic writing taking a very odd idea and making it not only believable, but so real you'll never look at a car the same way again. 

As a side note, I'm sure all of you have heard about Stephen King's latest novel, DOCTOR SLEEP, which is a sequel to THE SHINING. I've never read THE SHINING, so that's next up on my list of King's works. I can't wait to read both of them. What about you? What's your favourite book by Stephen King?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Celebration

Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is celebration. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

Artie lit the candles one by one. He set the places, placed a hat on each of his guests and sat down at the head of the table. He raised his glass and made a toast. He was having a lovely time, although the same could not have been said for his guests.
Of course, most people enjoy a party a lot more when they're given the option of attending, instead of forced there against their will. 

Voila! I hope you enjoyed this week's little story, and if you did, be sure to share it with friends! If you're still in the mood for more Five Sentence Fiction, just follow the links below. Don't forget to follow this blog (if you haven't already done so) and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Magnetic
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Wild
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Flowers
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Beauty

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Horror!

Well, it's officially October and that means the Halloween season has begun. As you already know, I'm reviewing scary, spooky, creepy books until the end of October for Book Review Mondays, but I'd like to take it one step further. To help us get in the spirit, every week my girlfriends and I have decided to get together and watch classic horror movies. These are a few of the titles that we're thinking of. Maybe there's something here that will get you in the spirit as well.

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

King Kong


Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds

And of course...

The Nightmare Before Christmas

What about you? How do you like to get in the Halloween spirit? Are you doing anything fun/different/special for Halloween this year? Do you have any classic horror movies you love to watch around Halloween? (God knows, I only offered a small sampling!)