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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Launch

Tomorrow night I'm going to a book launch and I couldn't be more excited. It's for the new book written by the current Writer in Residence, David A. Poulsen. The book is called Old Man and the launch is at 7:00PM at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon, so if you're around you should definitely check it out.

There are several reasons why I'm so excited. First of all, I love book launches. It is my most hopeful dream that I will one day have one of my own, so I would never turn down the opportunity to go to someone else's. Having a book published is an enormous accomplishment (especially in this day and age) and whether it's the first or the twenty seventh, it's worthy of celebration and fanfare.

Second, David is probably one of the nicest human beings on Earth. Seriously, I can't tell you how much he's helped me with my own writing. He is always going above and beyond the call of duty and he's been incredibly supportive. I'm excited to support him in his own endeavors for a change.

Third, and maybe the most important reason, Old Man promises to be an excellent book. I've read the synopsis and I'm desperate to get my hands on it. I can't wait to be the proud owner of one of the first copies. You better believe I'll be getting it signed too.

What's your favourite part of a book launch? Being one of the first to one a new brilliant piece of fiction or non-fiction? Getting to meet the author responsible for some of your favourite reads? Being the discoverer of fantastic new talent? Share below in the comments section!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Monday Morning Weekend Conundrum

How was your weekend? Isn't that such an odd question? There's really no good way to answer it. Unless of course something really fabulous happened, like you got married in Vegas, or got invited to a major movie premier, or maybe got pulled up on stage at a Rolling Stone concert. But more often than not it's usually just a one word answer. Good. Or maybe, if you did something slightly interesting, pretty good.

It's become the obligatory question on a Monday morning that makes us all feel inadequate. You have to stop and think, how did I spend all that free time? On a weeknight, there's no scrutiny when you have a bowl of ice cream, watch a TV show or two and hit the sack early. But on a weekend, aren't we supposed to do something? Even though, deep down, all we really want to do is take multiple naps?

It's easy to feel guilty when you're talking to one of those superstars that spend the weekend running a marathon or solving an eight hundred year old murder. But at the same time, you don't want to get caught talking to that poor soul who goes on and on about how they spent the entire weekend making an egg salad sandwich ala The 40 Year Old Virgin. (Even though, let's face it, they do make you feel pretty good about your own life). What's to become of this question? Either we need to stop asking, and leave each other's weekends shrouded in mystery, or we need to start getting out there and actually doing some stuff.

This leaves me with a bit of a conundrum. I'm a big fan of doing nothing and taking multiple naps on weekends, but at the same time, I don't see us giving up the whole "how was your weekend?" ice breaker. How else are you going to start a conversation with your coworkers on a Monday morning? If we stop asking, will the laws of society break down? Will we descend into anarchy? Maybe. But I still don't see myself giving up on weekend naps.

Maybe we need a new question. Something more specific. Perhaps, on Monday mornings, when you and a coworker catch yourselves hanging out at the water cooler, you should try something different. Something like, "So, did you kill anyone this weekend?" That way, you still have an ice breaker with your coworker, without having to hear about how they built houses for the homeless or made an especially complicated turkey sandwich, and they get to feel good knowing they didn't spend their weekend committing murder. And, if by chance they did kill someone and confess, you can report them to the police and become a hero. It's win win for everyone! (Except of course for the coworker who murdered someone, but really that's their punishment for murder).

What do you think? Have I solved yet another problem for society, as well as possibly future murders? What question do you think should replace the standard, "how was your weekend?" Share it in the comment section below.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Abandoned

Welcome to Friday. That special time each week when we celebrate the quickly approaching weekend and enjoy some Five Sentence Fiction, a story told in just five sentences. If you'd like to learn more about it, or give it a try yourself (which I highly suggest), just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. This week's prompt is abandoned. Let's get started!

She whispered the lullaby under her breath, careful not to walk too fast or swing the basket erratically. It was impossibly dark out and too many times she almost stumbled, making her entire body clench with fear.
Ever so slowly and carefully, she set the basket down on the doorstep, tucking the blankets around the darling little face that slept within. She tiptoed away, waiting until she was down the drive and on the sidewalk before sprinting away as fast as she could.
She didn't look back, didn't think about the family within and what would happen when they discovered that the thing in the basket wasn't a baby; all she could do was save herself.

I hope you enjoyed my twisted little tale. And if you did, I hope you'll share the link with friends and perhaps even follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. Further more, I hope you'll follow the links below and check out previous week's editions and share your comments and insights. There's one more thing I hope for, and that's for you to have a great weekend! Thanks for reading!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Cherish
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Purple
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ringing

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Mystery of a Good Mystery

I've been reading a lot of detective novels of late, and by a lot, I mean two. First, there was THE SHERLOCKIAN by Graham Moore and lately I've been enjoying THE MANUAL OF DETECTION by Jebediah Berry. Normally, I wouldn't say I'm much of a mystery buff, but I've been enjoying these detective novels so much that I'm starting to really warm to the genre. And I think what makes both of these novels great, is their ability to keep the whodunnit completely unguessable right up to the bitter end.

It's a very rare and precious skill to able to craft a good mystery. I'd say ninety five percent of the time, when I sit down to read one, I already know who did it within the first chapter or two. But to be completely dumbfounded page after page, desperately trying to assemble the clues as you creep towards the end, that is something brilliant. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know how they do it. It's like a really good magic act. The slight of hand is so subtle you don't even realize it's happening.

What is the best mystery you've ever read? Of course, we have to give props to the Sherlock Holmes stories, those are undoubtedly the best. But, aside from such an obvious choice, which mystery left you so startled and amazed you never forgot it? What was it that made it so unforgettable? I'm not just asking rhetorical questions here either. I really want to know. Because when I finish my current detective novel, I want another one. So, help a fellow reader out!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Great Beginnings

A few days ago I responded to a writing prompt on a Wattpad Workshop led by Alice Kuipers. It was about writing great beginnings, which is a skill every great writer needs (and one I'm not sure I've mastered yet). How many great books have been put down and never finished because they failed to pull you in right at the beginning? I have so many books I want to read that if one doesn't pull me in within the first couple of chapters, I give up and move on. And those are the lucky ones to have made it that far. If I'm standing in a bookstore, trying to decide on a book, I'll read the first page. If I'm not immediately filled with desperation to know what happens next, I don't buy it.

So, the challenge was to write the beginning of a story or novel using the phrase "A storm is on its way" and try to make it irresistible with only 400 words. Alice was kind enough to give feedback on the entries, but I thought I'd also like to share my entry here and let you be the judge of whether I was successful or not. Tell me, have I created an enticing beginning? Enjoy.

“A storm is on its way.”
I wish I could get that line out of my head. That and the way she’d looked at me when she said it. She tried to play it cool, bending over my palm, frizzy black hair falling across her face. But I could still see the frown lines decorating her face, the creases in her forehead. Her mouth tight and straight as a pin.
“It can be a good thing,” she reminded me. “Storms bring renewal, they cleanse.” But we both knew it wasn’t that kind of storm.
I tried to remind myself that I didn’t believe in fortune telling as I walked home, trudging along the sidewalk. Fall was in full swing, the leaves dancing across the sidewalk like kids at play. I’d only done it for fun, I told myself. They’re all fake anyhow. It was how they made their money. They made you want to come back and learn more. They made you desperate.
Despite it all, I couldn’t rid myself of a growing sense of foreboding. Every shadow seemed to be reaching for me, their sharp fingers stretching out long and narrow. Every object seemed full of malice. The swings at the park seemed to shriek, the mailbox on the corner gaped at me with its open, hungry mouth.
When I got home I locked the door behind me, taking the stairs two at a time, pushing my bedroom door closed behind me. It was all just make belief. That fortune teller couldn’t actually tell the future. I moved towards the window and peered out around the curtain. It was bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. It should have reassured me, but it didn’t. A storm was on its way, I could feel it in the pit of my stomach.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Cherish

Welcome to Friday. It's been another slow week for me, so I can't wait to sink into the weekend. My plans? Nothing much, there are a few good books and a soft bed calling my name, maybe I'll throw some ice cream into the mix for good measure.Who knows? But what I do know, is it's time for Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is cherish. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

Every Wednesday it's my job to polish it. I hate doing it, my hands tremble the whole time and my stomach clenches like a fist. The rest of the week, as I clean, I watch her hold it and stroke it, whispering to it like it's a beloved child. It's not though, it's just a box, a gleaming, little black box the size of her hand. I don't know what's in it, but every once in a while I could swear I hear it whisper back to her.

There you have it! If you enjoyed my little tale, I hope you'll check out the rest of them. Just follow the links below. If you really enjoyed it, I hope you'll share it with friends, and perhaps follow my humble little blog. As always, I welcome your comments and insights below in the comments section. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Purple
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ringing
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Forgotten

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Learning French

Have you ever met someone who likes to make completely unrealistic goals and really believes they'll attain them? Well, now you have. Yes, it's me. Your good friend, the optimistic. My latest pronouncement to the world? I'm going to try and learn French!

I should probably back up a little. For the past year and an half (actually, probably closer to two years), my husband and I have been planning a trip to Paris for our fifth wedding anniversary, which is this July. And as with most things, I let my procrastination get the better of me. I've left it until now to try and learn some French, with just four months to go. Yes, I realize I have absolutely no chance of being fluent or even remotely fluent by then, but dammit! I'm going to try. I know I won't be able to converse, but I'd like to maybe be able to read a menu, or possibly ask where the bathroom is.

So now I have half a dozen language apps on my phone, as I attempt to fit tiny French lessons into my very busy life. Oh yes, I'm going self taught. No time for real, classroom lessons for this girl. I'm going to wing it! (Are you nauseated by the unrealistic expectations yet? Don't worry, you will be soon.) Of course, I should also note that I'm terrible at this sort of thing. I took six years of German in my youth and all I have are an assortment of phrases. But I'm still going to try.

I guess I'm just that kind of girl.

While I'm on the subject of learning French, I really must insist that you read the personal essay, "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris. So hilarious. In fact, do it right now. You'll thank me for brightening your day. As for me, it's back to my French lessons, so I too can "talk pretty one day". Wish me luck.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Holiday Reading List

One of my favourite things about going on a beach vacation (besides, of course, the beach itself) is the amount of reading I get done. There's no better way to enjoy the sun and the surf than with a really good page turner. I'm low tech, so my bags are always bulging with books. I realize how much more efficient it would be to bring a kindle or e-reader but I just can't give up the weight and texture of a book in my hands. I love it too much, even the smell of it makes me happy. Anyway, since I just got back from Cuba, I thought it would be fun to share with you the best of the books I read while on vacation. I'm always looking for recommendations, so I try to make sure I share mine as well. Here we go!

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Punchy, funny and so unique! The story of a pair of sisters with a very strained relationship, brought together when their eighty-four year old father marries a thirty-six year old blonde. I whizzed through this in a day, I just couldn't put it down.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

A mysterious murder with a Sherlock twist. Not only was this a great piece of fiction on its own, with great writing, characters and a "killer" story, it made me want to reread all the old Sherlock Holmes stories again. I also recommend you give Arthur Conan Doyle's biography a perusal as well. He was a very interesting man.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This was one of the recommendations from Erin Morgernstern. It was whimsical, unique and entertaining. I loved everything about it. This was definitely a favourite. 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

I've loved Margaret Atwood ever since I read The Edible Woman but I had yet to read Alias Grace. I couldn't think of a better time and I'm glad I did. It pulled me in from page one, as her work always does. Definitely a must read.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Purple

Welcome to Friday! I personally rejoice in the end of each week, as it means we are one week closer to spring and eventually, summer. It's also time for more Five Sentence Fiction! This week's prompt is purple. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

The room was almost perfect, all it needed was one last little touch. I pulled the deep, dark purple pillows from the shopping bag and placed one in each of the corners of the buttery suede sofa. The house looked exquisite, perfect for the open house tomorrow. 
I gathered my things and left the key under the doormat for the real estate agent, smiling as I got in the car. The real estate agent should have no problem selling the house quickly, and it would be years before anyone discovered the body under the floorboards.

There you have it! I hope you liked it, and if you did, please feel free to check out past editions by following the links below. Your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated in the comments section below. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ringing
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Forgotten
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Inspire

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Memories Flamenco in Cayo Coco

On Sunday, I got back from a vacation to Cayo Coco, Cuba. My husband and I had a lovely time, spending almost the entirety of the week lying on lounge chairs in front of the ocean. We picked the perfect week to go too, while we were basking in summer temperatures, it was -40 degrees Celcius at home. The reason we took the trip (aside from the obvious: who wouldn't like a beach vacation in the middle of winter?), was to give the budget vacation a try. We have a lot of family and friends who like to mock our addiction to luxury. We're rather spoiled, especially when it comes to taking vacations, which means we don't get to go very often. So, when we saw a rather good deal for a week's vacation at the Memories Flamenco All Inclusive Resort in Cayo Coco, Cuba, we couldn't think of a better way to dip our toes in a more budget friendly vacation. Who knows? Maybe we'd like it just as much and therefore could fit in a lot more vacations.

Over the course of the week, we discussed our impressions of the resort and compared it to our other beach vacations. These are the conclusions we arrived at.

The High Points
  • The resort was pretty and the landscaping was lush with flowers and palm trees. 
  • Our room was bright, clean and spacious. 
  • The staff were friendly and helpful.
  • The beach was beautiful, with sparkling turquoise water. Although I should note, it was rather rocky. You had to walk gingerly over a couple of yards of rock before reached the softer sand in the water. But altogether pretty good.
  • It seemed to be a really good fit for families. It was pretty, affordable and had a big pool for splashing about.

The Low Points
  • The food was truly awful. I'd been warned that it would be bad, but nothing prepared me for how bad. I kept hearing from people who had food poisoning, so I tried to stay clear of anything that seemed iffy, but despite my caution, my husband and I both had bouts of it. If you plan to go, bring food. Lots of it.
  • The hours for the restaurants were terrible. I'm used to an all inclusive with food available 24/7. Not so at this one. The buffet was only open from 7:30AM-10:00AM, 1:00PM-3:00PM and 6:30PM-10:00PM. There was a 24 hour snack bar, but it was definitely not open 24 hours. It seemed to operate along the same hours as the buffet. The other A La Carte restaurants required a reservation and were only open in the evening. If you missed the window of opportunity, you were going hungry until the next one.
  • The resort was needlessly complicated. Although we got the hang of it by the end, it was irritating dealing with the complicated process of getting your towel, finding your room and figuring out where to go for what.
  • The hotel website boasted that their resort had an adult's only pool. It did not. It had a pool where adult supervision was required for children. That is not the same thing. 
  • Cuba appears to be a big draw for smokers. They were everywhere and they were allowed to smoke everywhere. By the time we were sitting in the lobby waiting for the shuttle back to the airport I was on my last nerve. It was only my pina coloda that saved random strangers from threats of being burned with their own cigarettes.

The Conclusion

The resort was pleasant enough, and it was nice to sit on the beach for a week, but we agreed we wouldn't be going back. We like our luxy vacations too much to give them up for something mediocre. Don't get me wrong. We're still happy we went. It was a fun experiment and we figured out just what we need in a vacation. I won't deny I sorely needed to see a beach this winter. But next time, I want a cushier cabana and a massage to boot.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February Challenge

Now that January is behind us and we're in the second month of the new year, I feel like I need to give myself some kind of challenge. Something to revive my stale New Year's Resolutions and give my writing routine some pep. Unfortunately, the next NaNoWriMo isn't until June (and that might be a little over ambitious at this point in my harried life), so I'm left with the question of what to do.

I've found that I respond really well to challenges and deadlines, which I think is one of the many reasons why I've been loving my meetings with the Writer in Residence. It's forcing me to get my editing done, which would otherwise have probably sat on my To Do pile for months.

The important thing is to give yourself achievable goals that push you but don't break you. I'm thinking maybe I'll do some kind of submitting challenge, I haven't done one of those since October, or maybe now is a good time to sign up for another online writing class. The point is, I need to do something. What do you do when your writing routine needs a little shaking up? Are you feeling the need for a change of pace now that we've settled into the new year? Share your comments and ideas with us below in the comments section!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen

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

He had to admit, his solution felt a little cowardly and shortsighted, but it was the only thing he could do. He'd warned the elders that the spell wouldn't last forever, that one day she would wake up and wreak her vengeance on all of them, but they didn't seem to care. He closed his book, taking a moment before he left to run his finger gently along her frozen cheek. It was strange to think that someone so beautiful could be so dangerous. But that was a problem for another generation.

Voila! I hope you've enjoyed this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. Please feel free to peruse the links below and read some from previous weeks. As always, I greatly welcome and appreciate your comments below in the comments section. Hopefully I've inspired you to follow this blog, and maybe come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. In either case, have a fantastic weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ringing
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Forgotten
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Inspire
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Midnight