Mommy, Dearest?

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I recently gave my dad a birthday card which I chose because of the sentiment. It thanked him for always being there and providing a comfortable childhood so that I never even had to worry about food on the table or a roof over my head. Nice, right? But I almost put it back because the inside said “daddy.”

I’m an adult. I don’t call my parents Mommy or Daddy. In fact, it kind of freaks me out when anyone other than a young kid says it.

There have been a few pieces presented at my writers groups in which the narrator refers to his or her parent with the…diminutive. One particular piece I remember was a creative non-fiction (it turns out) piece about the narrator dealing with her dad’s Alzheimer’s. I felt the pain and sense of loss along with the narrator, but every time she said Daddy, I winced. My mental image of the narrator changed. Instead of a grieving adult, I pictured a woman who was childish and, frankly, not independent. While it shouldn’t have made my connection to the narrator lessen, it did. And when it came time to critique, I said so.

Of course, the writer said that’s how she really did refer to her dad. There’s really no backpedaling from that insult.

Several other group members jumped in and said how they thought referring to her father as daddy was sweet.

I did notice that those group members were older than me, about my parents’ age (although my parents never used mommy or daddy when describing their parents). Perhaps, however, it is a generational thing. Or a regional thing.

Mama makes me wince slightly less. While I do think of younger children, I also think of the South and historical books like Little House on the Prairie. I grew up in the South and I really liked Little House when I was a kid, so maybe I’m more forgiving because mama is something I’m more used to. That’s not fair, but I can’t help it.

Are there names or titles that creep you out or color your image of the person or character who uses it?

“How We Fall” Cover Reveal

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During my blog hiatus last year, I went to the Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State.

The highlight of the workshop was being around people who got “it” and me. We were all at some point in our writing journey, and were supportive of and excited for each other.

One of those wonderful people was Kate Brauning. We attended the same Thursday intensive workshop. At some point during the day, she got the author running the workshop to pay her $1 for an answer. I wish I remembered her answer…or the question. I just remember the dollar and that, as he put the money on table in front of her, he told her that since she had made money off of her writing, she could claim the conference on her taxes.

I’m so glad I got to know her. She was warm and supportive and knowledgable…and now the book I heard her pitch is being published!

Kate also critiques and talks shop on Twitter (for where to find her online scroll down).

I’m excited to share with you the cover reveal for…

HOW WE FALL by Kate Brauning

YA contemporary
Publication date: 11/3/2014
Publisher: Merit Press, F+W Media Inc.
ISBN-13: 9781440581793
Hardcover, 304 pages

About the Book:

He kissed her on a dare. She told him to do it again.

Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting—a bit too much—with her cousin, Marcus. She pushes away the inevitable consequences of their friendship until her best friend, Ellie, disappears, and the police suspect foul play. Just when she needs him most, Marcus falls for the new girl in town—forcing Jackie to give a name to the secret summer hours she’s spent with him. As she watches the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance start to break, Jackie has to face that she’s fallen in love at an impossible time with an impossible boy. And she can’t let Marcus, or Ellie, go.

The Reveal!

 

 

 

greenish-blue view of water from below the surface looking toward the light. A charm bracelet floats through the title as if falling to through the water

Sneak Peek Page:

Chapter One

Last year, Ellie used to hang out at the vegetable stand with Marcus and me on Saturdays. This year, her face fluttered on a piece of paper tacked to the park’s bulletin board. Most weeks, I tried to ignore her eyes looking back at me. But today, Marcus had set the table up at a different angle, and she watched me the entire morning.

The day that photo was taken, she’d worn her Beauty and the Beast earrings. The teapot and the teacup were too small to see well in the grainy, blown-up photo, but that’s what they were. She’d insisted sixteen wasn’t too old for Disney.

The crunch of tires on gravel sounded, and a Buick slowed to a stop in front of the stand. I rearranged the bags of green beans to have something to do. Talking to people I didn’t know, making pointless small talk, wasn’t my thing. My breathing always sped up and I never knew what to do with my hands. It had been okay before, but now—surely people could see it on me. One look, and they’d know. Chills prickled up my arms in spite of the warm sun.

Marcus lifted a new crate of cucumbers from the truck and set it down by the table, his biceps stretching the sleeves of his T-shirt. Barely paying attention to the girl who got out of the car, he watched me instead. And not the way most people watched someone; I had his full attention. All of him, tuned toward me. He winked, the tanned skin around his eyes crinkling when he smiled. I bit my cheek to keep from grinning.

The girl walked over to the stand and I quit smiling.

Marcus looked away from me, his gaze drifting toward the girl. Each step of her strappy heels made my stomach sink a little further. Marcus tilted his head.

He didn’t tilt it much, but I knew what it meant. He did that when he saw my tan line or I wore a short skirt. I narrowed my eyes.

“Hi,” she said. “I’d like a zucchini and four tomatoes.” Just like that. A zucchini and four tomatoes.

Marcus placed the tomatoes into a brown paper bag. “Are you from around here?”

Of course she wasn’t from around here. We’d know her if she were.

“We just moved. I’m Sylvia Young.” The breeze toyed with her blonde hair, tossing short wisps around her high cheekbones. Her smile seemed genuine and friendly. Of course. Pretty, friendly, and new to town, because disasters come in threes.

“Going to Manson High?” Marcus handed her the bags.

She nodded. “My dad’s teaching science.”

Finally, I said something. “Three bucks.”

“Hmm?” Sylvia turned from Marcus.

“Oh. Right.” She handed me the cash and looked over the radishes. “Are you here every day?” Her eyes strayed back to Marcus.

“Three times a week,” he said.

“I’ll see you in a day or two, then.” She waved.

I was pretty damn sure she wouldn’t be coming back for the radishes.
____

Pre-Order How We FallBooks-A-MillionBarnes & NoblePowell’s BooksIndieBoundBooks Inc., Joseph-Beth BooksellersBook DepositoryAmazon U.S.Amazon CanadaAmazon U.K.Amazon GermanyAmazon Japan.

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About the Author:

Kate's author's photoKate spent her childhood in rural Missouri raising Siberian huskies, running on gravel roads, and navigating life in a big family. Now living in Iowa, she is married to a videographer from the Dominican Republic, and still owns a husky. She loves bright colors, fall leaves, unusual people, and all kinds of music. Kate has written novels since she was a teen, but it wasn’t until she studied literature in college that she fell in love with young adult books. Kate now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she’d want to read. Visit her online, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

You Know You’re a Writer When: Stairs

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Front steps to a business and the surrounding sidewalk are torn up during construction, revealing the space underneath the steps.You know you’re a writer when you’re on your way to a restaurant for dinner, pass a mini-construction site and think not “ooh, I should avoid the yellow roped-off area” or “I’d better be on the look out for debris” or “gee, I’m really hungry, I hope we get there soon.” No, you think “I wonder what they found when they opened that up. Ooh, a body. No, a skeleton. No, a mummy. A mummified skeleton.”

I do tend toward the dead bodies, don’t I? I really should branch out my line of thought, or start writing mysteries.

Branching out, exercise 1:

Other things that could be found in the hole under the stoop:

Jacks

Treasure

An old lotto ticket

Barer bonds

Jewelry…engagement ring or locket with old photo.

Baby shoes

Key

What is my list missing?

Squatting: a Writing Break

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I‘ve noticed that several characters in Korean dramas like to squat. Waiting for someone? Squat. Breaking down by yourself in an emotional scene? Squat. Scraping gum off the sidewalk? Squat. Bench? Squat on it.

So, when I recently helped my sister paint and had to use the short-handled roller to get the lower walls, I thought, “hey, instead of potentially sitting in a wet paint drip, I’ll just squat.”

I’m dumb.

Really, really, painfully dumb.

Not everything is as easy as it looks on TV, kids. Excuse me while I go ice the back of my thighs.

Writing and Fingerprints

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“We can find out if the suspect is a male or female. We can understand whether or not a person has dealt drugs or actually taken drugs” Dr Simona Francese, Project Leader, Sheffield Hallam University

Here’s an interesting BBC article about how the police may be able to use fingerprints in the future. It sounds a little CSI-y…you know, the point in the show where they get a crystal clear image of someone’s eye from a security camera across the street and then proceed to zoom in and ID the perp off the reflection on said eye.

The fingerprint findings aren’t quite court-ready yet, and I’m sure it will be even longer before those methods making across the pond. However, my brain is already spinning. How could this be used, or better yet, misused in a story?

 

You Know You’re A Writer When: Paparazzi

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Living in Chicago, so I’m used to tourists standing in the middle if the sidewalk, gawking up. Most wield cameras and I usually look where their lens is pointed. I’m curious which building caught their attention. Is that the best angle? Is the light sparking off the all-glass building at this time today?

However, when I see a guy using a tripod, I perk up. He’s not your average tourist.

The other day, I noticed that the photographer in question had set up his tripod across the street from a building which only lists a law firm on the sign outside. I couldn’t help but imagine all of the scandals he could be trying to capture as we all stream into work.

Writing Habits: A Questionnaire

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A.K.A.: stealing a post idea from Jodie Llewellyn, aspiring YA author.

Writing Habits 

1. Typed or Handwritten?

Definitely typed. Unless I’m on the train to work…or stuck on an elevator…or in the doctor’s waiting room…or in the middle of a meeting at work… My notes are handwritten, but actual sentences are usually typed.

2. Cursive or Printed?

Crinted? Pursive? It’s a combo of cursive and print that’s nothing more than chicken scratch.

3. Show us your favourite pen.

Which ever one is at hand. Bic or gel, I don’t care as long as the ink flows.

4. Where do you like to write?

Last year, I created a writing space in our second bedroom/catch-all room. Now that I’ve stacked papers and books all around me, it feels right. If I could write anywhere, though, it would be a cottage that my family went to during my childhood summers. Inside or out, I’d watch the lake, smell the pine and write. It was fantastic.

5. Who are your five favorite authors in terms of authorial style?

This is the question that’s kept me from posting this blog for weeks. So many authors, so many books… It’s probably a criminal offense, but when I find a writer I like, I rarely run out and read all their books. I think this goes back to my childhood (right Freud?). I loved LOVED The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I rushed to get A Little Princess and couldn’t get into it, no matter how many times I tried. If I like an author, I am certainly more inclined to read their other stuff, but I don’t search it out. And I’m not just  holding on to some childhood notion. If I LOVE a book by a certain author, I’ve found that I’m less likely to be as swept away by their other books. I suppose I want to be swept away by everything and that’s not realistic. I know that this survey is about writing rather than reading, but I still have a very difficult time separating them. If I try to read something strictly as a study of writing, I end up losing. My inner reader takes over.

So, to kind of answer the question, here are 5 books I really like:

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor – I really like how the narrator describes people as food. I loved the idea and could clearly see what she was describing. When another character points out that this dehumanizes people, the narrator changes how she views the world and, consequently, how she describes things. I loved see the change in the character and having what I liked about the descriptions challenged.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris – I like this less for the writing style and more for the building blocks. This is one of the few books I’ve read multiple times. There are a few instances when he shifts tense in the middle of a paragraph and that always throws me, but I am so engaged in the characters that I forgive it. I also like that the story is so micro and macro at the same time. We get to know the characters very well (I’m always worried that something will happen to Barney), but the plot is larger than the transformation of just one person. I am always worried that the universes I write about are too small. Harris is able to show the details of a person while not confining the story to their small world.

Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – I loved Harry Potter and her style in this book was very similar. I love how she builds characters. They feel like flesh and blood and they are always true to themselves, no matter how much I yell at them not to do certain things. No one is truly good. No one is truly bad. And because her characters are true to themselves, her ending is satisfying even if a certain character really upsets me.

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb – I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at characters more. I’d put the book down, swearing it off completely, only to come back to it a few days later because I had to see how it turned out…only to want to hurl the book across the room after a few pages. And yet, I’d come back to it because of how much I hated and cared for the characters. For Lambs She’s Come Undone, I kept checking the book jacket to see if he was indeed a he. Dolores was so well drawn that I found it hard to believe she was written by a man.

When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson – I love Reggie. This book follows three different stories. While I was engaged in all of them, I couldn’t predict how they would all come together. However, watching them come together became secondary for me as a reader. I was more interested in their personal stories.

Bonus: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Fantastic unreliable narrator. Go read now.

6. What are you your three favourite books on writing?

Hmm…I read more writing blogs and Twitter accounts than I have books. I go back to Ann Lamont’s “Bird By Bird” every so often.

7. Have you ever competed in NaNoWriMo?

Yup. Several times.

8. Have you ever won NaNoWriMo?

Yes! It wasn’t always pretty, but I made it to the finish line at least twice.

9. Have you ever had anything published?

Yes, check out my writing links for Russia: St. Petersburg Self-Service and Transplant. Oddly, my publications are both creative non-fiction.

10. What projects are you working on now?

SKC/VC is the folder name. I’m terrible with working titles…they are usually just my characters’ names. My WIP is a suspense that follows the aftermath of a serial killer. The serial killer’s daughter tries to prove that she won’t turn into her father and the last victim’s son is out for revenge.

11. What is your soundtrack to writing?

I am weird. I write with no music. In my writing room, there’s a ticking clock and a humming aquarium filter, and the rumble of the train that passes by hourly, so I can’t say I write in silence.

12. Do you have a writing pump-up song?

Nope…maybe I need one.

9 Facts About FRENCHED (Book Release)

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I’ve been MIA (not to be confused with Mia) for the past few weeks and I apologize. I was working on answering one of those writer survey things, thinking it’d be an easy post. Unfortunately, one of the questions has be more stumped than it aught to and several weeks have flown by.

But book release to the rescue! Back in February, people in my Twitter feed were all aflutter about the upcoming release of FRENCHED. I have an on again, off again relationship with romance novels, but the Twittersphere can’t be wrong, right? So, I signed up to learn more…and now you can learn more, too! (Psst…there’s giveaway info at the bottom of this post)

Frenched by Melanie Harlow book cover - woman in lacy bra

Nine Facts about FRENCHED

By Melanie Harlow

  1. The main character in Frenched, Mia Devine, loves to make lists for everything, and I do too! So making this list is totally fun for me. ☺
  2. The bar Mia wanders into in the Latin Quarter (where she meets Lucas) is based on a real Canadian sports bar in Paris called The Moose. In Frenched, I called it…The Beaver. (This gives you a good idea of my sense of humor.)
  3. The restaurant Lucas takes her to is based on a real Italian restaurant in the Latin Quarter called Marco Polo—one of my favorite restaurants in Paris!
  4. There is one photo in the book: it’s a picture I took in the Musee Rodin the last time I was there of a beautiful sculpture called The Cathedral. (In the book it plays a role in a somewhat dirty moment between Mia and Lucas…)
  5. You can stay in Lucas’s Paris apartment! I found the inspiration for Lucas’s St. Germain neighborhood apartment on Vacation Rentals By Owner. Here’s the link: http://www.vrbo.com/270121. (Wish I could put Lucas in there for you!)
  6. You can also stay in the villa Lucas takes her to in Provence. I based it on this one: http://www.onlyprovence.com/villas/saumane. Not bad, huh? I’ll meet you there for drinks on the pool deck…
  7. Lucas and Mia fall for each other pretty fast, and while I’m not sure about love at first sight, I do believe you can love someone within a short amount of time. I believe some people just have a connection that they feel right away.
  8. There is quite a bit of sex in Frenched because it is such an important part of their chemistry, but I think my favorite one is the shower scene—Mia has a pretty big revelation at that point. However, the scene in the bedroom at the villa (the one involving the neck tie, ahem) was ridiculously fun to write…that’s a favorite too.
  9. I’d love to continue their story somehow, either in a novella or another full-length novel, but the next book in the series will focus on Mia’s friend Coco, who falls for a chef/restaurateur who’s strictly off limits. It’s called…Forked. ☺

RELEASE EVENT:

FRENCHED

By Melanie Harlow

Release: March 18, 2014

A  Sexy Adult Contemporary Romance

Amazon (Kindle) | Barnes and Noble

Mia Devine plans over-the-top weddings for a living. So when it comes to her own nuptials, she spares no expense—hand engraved invitations, Vera Wang gown, luxury honeymoon in France. And since her fiancé is Tucker Branch, playboy heir and notorious flirt, local media is obsessed with every little detail.

Which is why it really sucks when he jilts her a week before the wedding.

Mortified, Mia wants nothing more than to crawl under her newly monogrammed sheets and plan a funeral for her dignity, right after blabbing to the world how fitting it is that Tucker will inherit a bolt and screw company, because that’s all he wants to do—screw, and bolt. And he doesn’t do either with much finesse.

When her friends convince her that bitter tastes better when it’s drowned in Bordeaux, she grits her teeth and packs her bags, determined to make the best of a week in Paris alone.

She never planned on meeting Lucas Fournier.

The free-spirited musician’s scruffy good looks and less-than-sympathetic ear annoy her at first, but when she takes him up on his offer to show her around the city, she discovers that the romance of Paris isn’t just a myth.

Nor is the simultaneous O.

The last thing Mia needs is another doomed love affair, but since she only has a week, she figures she might as well enjoy La Vie en O with Lucas while she can. But each day—and night—with him is better than the last, and suddenly her heart is telling her this is more than a rebound fling.

Is it just the seduction of Paris…or could this be the real thing?

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About the Author

Melanie Harlow likes her martinis dry, her lipstick red, and her history with the naughty bits left in. I write New Adult historical and contemporary stories.

Website | Facebook | Twitter Goodreads

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There’s also a Rafflecopter giveaway. Enter to win a signed print copy of Frenched and some sweet swag (US).

Guilty Pleasure: Korean Drama

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Almost every day last week, I watched an episode of a Korean historical drama titled Arang and the Magistrate.

It’s the typical boy meets girl story with a twist…in this case, she’s a ghost trying to discover who murdered her. He’s the illegitimate son of the ex-prime minister in search of his mother. The ghost bamboozles him into becoming the magistrate of a small town that’s ruled by a villainous overlord and his bumbling yes-men so that the now-magistrate can help in her search. He goes along because he suspects the ghost may know his mother. They bicker, they hate each other, they fall in love!

I’m dependent upon subtitles, so I have no idea if it’s the writing or the translation, but there are so many western -isms that it’s annoying: i.e. the clothes make the man. There are plenty of tired (what I assumed were western) tropes: nagging girl, condescending guy, the scene where she dresses up and ‘holy cow’ she’s pretty, the I’m wet and shake my hair sexily scene, and the…you get the picture. Since this is a historical piece, I try not to get irked by the class differences, but the servants couldn’t be any more oafish. I mean seriously bizarre pretzels of physical comedy.

I’m 6 episodes in and I have no idea how they’re going to stretch this for 14 more episodes. If this were an American show, I would have given up on it by now. However, I keep coming back.

Why? I’d like to think it’s the depiction of the afterlife and the fact that the story itself is based on a Korean myth. This a mythology that I’m unfamiliar with and yet it’s explained well enough through the story that I think I understand it. Loosely anyway.

But it’s quite possible that I’m just jealous of the Jade Emperor’s hair…and fascinated by gats (Korean men’s hats) and the villainess’ hair. Holy coils Batman!

For an impressive showing of hats and headgear, The Talking Cupboard has a nice post.

While the -isms, tropes and clichés annoy me, they do help me parse the story quickly.

There are ways of getting people into a story, even an unfamiliar mythos, without relying on overused tropes. But, then again, everyone seems to like the wet Darcy scene in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.

I try not to use tropes and clichés in my own writing and am lucky to have people in my writing group who call me out when I do. Or should I be using them more judiciously?

Excuse me, I’ve got to go watch episode 7…