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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Misunderstanding

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

"Hey, is he gone yet?"
"Yeah, he just left."
 "Ugh, can you believe what a pompous, controlling, bald-headed ass Brian is?"
"This is Brian."
"... Uh, I think I dialed the wrong number."

I hope I made you smile with this very short story. If you'd like to read more Five Sentence Fiction, just follow the links below. Also, please feel free to follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Sunshine
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ache
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Sparks

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Removing Distractions

This week's lesson was about the removal of distractions. During another productive and invigorating session with my mentor, we discussed the problem with my procrastination. I came clean over what a stupendously crappy two weeks I'd just had and asked her advice on how to be more disciplined.

One of the things I like best about my mentor is she doesn't sugar coat things. She wasn't having any of my feeble excuses (although she did sympathize). Her advice was simple. She told me that this is what separates the real writers from those still dreaming of being 'a real writer'. They show up and they write, even when it's hard. It was time to step up. Was I made of strong enough stuff? Was I willing to do what it takes?

It wasn't hard to see that she was right. I have a pretty soft touch when it comes to self discipline. And procrastination is my way of life, a deeply set routine I have trouble shaking off. So, I decided it was time for a more drastic solution. It was time to get tough.

I have a hard time denying myself, especially when I'm tired from a long day at work. I get home, kick off my shoes and all I want to do is flop on the couch and watch TV, usually until bed time. I have an even harder time saying no to my husband, who also had a long day and wants to come home and watch TV as well. I can't work when the hubbie is watching TV. I can hear it pretty much anywhere in the house and it always manages to suck me in and drain me of any productivity whatsoever. The answer seemed clear. I needed to get away from the television. And not just out of the room, out of the house. I decided that on nights/days when my husband is home, I'll pack up my stuff and head for the library, that universal location of quiet and solitude. A coffee shop is too noisy and ripe with distractions, but a library is just right. And when my husband is going out for the evening, I've asked him to hide all the remotes (our TV doesn't work without them), making it impossible to turn on.

On Sunday, I gave my plan a try and hauled my stuff to the library. And it worked perfectly! In just an hour, I'd accomplished more than I had in the past two weeks combined, and not just a little more, A LOT more. I was ecstatic! And tonight, I have the house to myself, so I'm giving the hidden remote scheme a try.

Sometimes, you just need to know yourself and your limits. My mentor agreed with my plan (especially if it would produce results), but also encouraged me to get in the habit of writing so I wouldn't need these gimmicks. And I agreed with her. But for now, I'm grateful to have a way to trump my procrastination. Hopefully, with temptation firmly removed I can develop those habits so I don't need the gimmicks any more, but until then, I know what I need and it's a strong hand.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Book Review - Spanish Fly

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation.

SPANISH FLY by Will Ferguson


This is a kind of prequel to Happiness by Will Ferguson, although each easily stands on its own. This is the story of Jack McGreary, a brilliant young man who finds himself lost in the world of con men and shifty dealings. The lessons in this world don't come cheap and often have fatal consequences, so he'll need to use every ounce of his cleverness to make it out alive.

I picture Ferguson spending hours in the library while he was researching this book. From all the brilliant factoids to the histories and fates of real con men, this book crackles with realism, a kind of texture that brings the story to life. He gives Jack and his accomplices a complexity that some authors wouldn't have bothered with and it really makes this story something special.

You'll never be able to guess the ending to this one. It's as clever as its main character. This is one to add to your list, just don't blame me if you start feeling suspicious of repairmen and state officials.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Sunshine

Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. This week's prompt is sunshine. (As soon as I saw that I thought of Robin McKinley's book, SUNSHINE. I love that book). If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. Enjoy!

Sunshine; they call me that ironically because of my dark moods and foul temper, but they don't realize how true the name is. The sun is a billion miles a way and made of molten fire, which sounds a lot like me. A girl has to keep her distance in a world like this, and if you're not made of fire then what the hell are you made of? And I know something else the sun and I have in common. One of these days, no one knows when, we're both going to implode.

A weird little monologue for this week's tale. Hopefully you enjoyed it, because I won't lie, it was fun to write. I also hope you'll have a great weekend, and maybe even follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. If you're still in the mood for more Five Sentence Fiction (and who wouldn't be?) just follow the links below.

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ache
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Sparks
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Clutch

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Breaking Point

We've officially found that point in winter where all hope seems lost and the idea of getting out of bed every morning seems insane. We're a little over halfway through February, and if you live in the Canadian prairies that means we have two more months of winter. Yes, that's right. Two more months.

So, is it any surprise that people (myself included) are testy, impatient and just plain sad? I'm like a walking Eeyore cartoon. I could stand in for Charlie Brown. And I'm self medicating with so much chocolate I'm going to end up with diabetes.

The only solutions I can see are travel (which I can't afford) and time travel (which hasn't been invented yet). Therefore, I'm stuck with the consolation prize: distraction. You'd think I'd be crazy productive right now, but it's amazing how much of a bite depression takes out of your work ethic. With all the effort it takes to push myself out of bed each morning and trudge through another work day, the thought of going home to write is hilarious. All I want to do is collapse on the couch, eat something bad for me and watch Downton Abbey until it's time to go to sleep.

But, I don't have time for that. There are only two months left in my mentorship and I want to make the most of them. Plus, this problem is temporary. Sooner or later, spring will come and I'll start to feel better. In the meantime, it's just going to have to be force of will pushing me to the computer every day and out of bed each morning.

How do you beat the winter blues? Do you throw yourself into your work? Hibernate? Share in the comments.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Book Review - Hollow City

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation.

HOLLOW CITY by Ransom Riggs


You might remember my review of MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (if not you can find it here). This is the second installment in the series and it's just as marvelous as the first, with a new collection of eery photos to accompany the story. It follows Jacob and his 'peculiar' friends as they attempt to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine.

I should have been prepared for the amount of imagination, after reading the first one, but it's easy to forget how splendid a story is when you've been away from it for a while. I was continually flabbergasted by Riggs and his ability to twist and turn a plot, as well as create unique characters with unique abilities. Combine that with the suspense of the story and you'll understand why it's a best seller.

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a healthy dose of originality. You won't find another story like it, I can pretty much guarantee that.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sorry one and all! Unfortunately, this week got away from me and I didn't have time to write any Five Sentence Fiction for yesterday, and with it being Valentine's Day as well, my little gift to myself was to not sweat it and take the day off. So, I hope you will all excuse me, and join me on Monday for the coming week's book recommendation. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Time Management

I think one of the hardest things to figure out when you're trying to be a writer, but still have a full time day job, is time management. How do you give your writing the focus and dedication it deserves, without burning out?

This is a tightrope I've been walking lately, especially since my mentorship requires a minimum of 20-25 hours per month. On the surface, that really isn't a lot. In fact, it's only five hours a week. That's an hour every evening, Monday to Friday, with weekends free for fun. So why is it so hard?

There's a lot of answers to that question. The first, is that it isn't. Not really. There aren't many things in this world that are easy, especially not those worth doing, so why complain about such a minimal requirement? Why not accept it as set in stone and move on? We know with absolute certainty that we must get up and go to work in the morning. We have to if we want to continue to have a roof over our heads and food to eat. Why not approach our writing schedule the same way? Why not be uncompromising?

Of course, that leads me to my second answer. Which is that work sucks, and when we finally get to come home for the day, we don't really like having something else that we have to do waiting for us. We want to unwind, relax and put the nasty, icky-ness of work out of our minds until tomorrow. But having a set schedule for writing doesn't mean there's no time to unwind. It means just the opposite. If I have time set aside specifically for writing, and use it, then when I'm done I can relax guilt free. There's no "I should be..." hanging over my head. And often, once I start writing, I quite enjoy it and will often work past the required time because I'm in the zone.

And then there's the third answer. Not only does work suck, but it sucks the life out of you. That sounds more depressing than I mean to, but it's kind of true. Depending on your job, it can take a lot out of you. Whether it be customer service, number crunching or other kinds of problem solving, by the time you're done, you aren't just bone-tired, you're brain-tired. So, it can be hard to coax out a creative thought. I do my best to remedy this, by fitting in a little creative time throughout the day. I read a book at lunch, and if I'm waiting in line or have a free moment, I give myself permission to daydream. I let myself drift off to la-la land for just a few minutes. Sometimes, it's writing related and I'll use the time to try play out a scene and get inside the head of a character. But sometimes it's a free for all. In any case, I find when I come home I'm a lot more primed and ready.

The truth is, writing with a day job will always be difficult. But it's a sacrifice a lot of us have to make in pursuit of our dream. And in the end, it's worth it, because a harder life with the dream is better than an easier one without it. At least, that's how I see it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Book Review - River of Stars

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation.

RIVER OF STARS by Guy Gavriel Kay


Normally, I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I listened to a reading and interview with Guy Gavriel Kay at Word on the Street last September, and I was floored by his eloquence, good humor and wisdom. His latest epic intrigued me and my husband, so we bought it and had him sign it. I've only finally gotten the chance to sit down and read it and I loved it.

There was a point in the reading when the interviewer told a story about the first time he ever read a book by Guy Gavriel Kay. He was working on his father's farm and he was supposed to be watching something, although I can't remember what. He had one of Kay's books with him and was reading it while he worked. Normally, when he would bring a book to work, he would read a page or two, look up and make sure everything was fine, then read another page or two and so on. But as he got into Kay's book, he couldn't keep from reading more and more pages and of course everything went haywire from there. The story was incredibly accurate, as I found the same thing happening to me. The further I got into the story the more I couldn't put it down, the more desperate I became to read just a few more pages.

I don't know how I could possibly sum up the plot. RIVER OF STARS has far too many characters and far too much intrigue to ever attempt such a thing. What I can tell you, is Kay's own description of his books, which I think sums it up nicely. "History with a quarter turn to the fantastic". It was a fantastic read, and it won't be my last. There are many more books by Kay to enjoy, and I plan to do just that.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Ache

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

It felt like a lump in her stomach, a big aching ball of tension. She swallowed hard, blinking back tears, willing them to stay behind her eyelids. The only choice she had was to get out of there, fast. Any moment now those tears would start to fall and everyone would know that the smile she'd pasted on her face was fake. She ducked her head down, let her hair fall in a curtain around her face and made for the door. 

Voila! I hope you enjoyed this little story. If you'd like to read more, just follow the links below and read past editions. Don't forget to follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Frozen
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Sparks
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Clutch
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Moon

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Precipice

This past weekend I had another meeting with my mentor. Now, every meeting thus far has been great. Amazing, actually. But this was on a league of its own. Sometimes we grow in inches, sometimes in leaps and bounds. This was a bound.

We were discussing my manuscript. She had officially read through the whole thing and we were discussing big picture issues, problems with plot, believability and certain characters were feeling rather flat. And in the course of that discussion, she was giving advice on rewriting. Because that's what this would be. A lot of rewriting, not just editing.

"Editing is when you go in, and you're making little tweaks here and there. Adjusting a word, changing a sentence. If you get too caught up in the manuscript as it is and wanting to keep it, you won't allow your characters to make their own choices, you won't give yourself the room to make real change." I thought about it, picturing how we often make those minor, esthetic changes, wandering through rooms and straightening pictures, changing the paint, adding accessories. That's great, but sometimes we need to knock down walls, rearrange pipes and wiring. That's when rewriting is called for.

It's scary, but it's also exciting. I'm standing on the edge of the precipice. When I step over the edge, I won't be settling for the story I started to tell, I'll be striding for the story I want to tell. This is a point where a lot of writers stall. It's a point I've stalled. But now I have someone to hold my hand, lead me through, and even though it's going to be frustrating and a lot of hard work, it's also going to be rewarding and challenging and enlightening. This is where I really grow as a writer. And that's amazing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Book Review - The Uninvited

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation.

THE UNINVITED by Tim Wynne-Jones


THE UNINVITED is a story about secrets, escape and finding family in unexpected places. It centers around Mimi, a University student on the run from an obsessed professor, Jay, a music student trying to find his voice and Cramer, a young man desperate for change and the chance to be noticed. As their paths cross, they realize their lives are connected in ways they never expected...

Un-put-downable. Is that a word? It should be, because it describes this book very well. My mentor actually recommended this one to me and I'm glad she did. Although at times it was hard to pay attention to the lessons I was supposed to be learning because the story was so willful, it just pulled me along without stopping. It was suspenseful and twisted, with characters that I really enjoyed. Especially Cramer. He really kept me reading. There's something about him that's just so easy to root for. 

This was the first book I've ever read by Tim Wynne-Jones, and it won't be the last. It was just too good. I want more! Definitely give this one a read.