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Aug 27

Titles: A Rose By Any Other Name…

By Melinda VanLone | Photos , Thoughts

flower, garden nature, rain, water, drops

 

… might stink to high heaven.

For the last year, I’ve been giving birth. Not exactly of the human variety, but it’s felt like it. I’ve written a novel. There, I said it.

I am a writer, and I’ve written a novel.

The labor was over a year long (can you imagine?), and involved a lot of pain. However, at long last, my baby has been born. I fed her, nourished her, bought her cute outfits, and now it’s coming to the point where I will have to let my baby grow up and move out of the house. She’ll head out into the cold, cruel world where hopefully she’ll help someone, somewhere, escape into another world for a day or two.

The problem is, I’ve struggled with what to call her. She’s had a lot of nicknames over the past two years and too many rejected names to count. You can tell what point I was at in revisions by the title on that particular manuscript (yes, I do save all the versions). One of my favorites is “Generic Title”.

For the last few weeks I’ve been giving myself a lecture. It went something like this:

“If you don’t put a title on this damn thing you can’t put it up on Amazon and nobody will ever read it.”

I know. I know. But nothing seems to fit.

“At this point it doesn’t matter if it fits. You can’t tell people about it if it doesn’t have a title. It’s the first thing people want to know.”

Yes, but…

“Pick something. Anything!”

But it can’t be just anything. It has to be perfect!

“Nothing is perfect. Perfect is code for “never”. Did you spend two years with this story so that it never saw the light of day? Did you write it just to hide it from everyone?”

Well, no.

“Then give it a name! Then get off your behind and write another story. People are waiting!”

Sigh.

Yes, I do have these conversations with myself.

And then I did what I imagine every girl in this position would do. I polled my friends. Some hadn’t read the story, some had. I got all kinds of feedback, for which I’m extremely grateful. In the end, though, I realized that just with any child, the responsibility of giving it a name is mine. I’ll have to live with it for the rest of my life, and I’ll worry about my poor baby getting teased and taunted about it at school. But, for better or worse, I must name her, and stick by it. And her.

I angst over character names, too, but this is ridiculous.

However, I believe I have landed on a title. I think it’s a good one. I think it fits the story, and pulls together a theme that runs throughout. Hopefully everyone else likes it, too.

Curious?

Here it is. *gulp*

 

 

Next week I’ll start a blog series to introduce you to the main characters, and to reveal the cover.

To those who helped me decide on this title, thank you. To those who have experienced all the different iterations, I apologize for being flighty. I swear the next story I write, I’ll think of the title first.

But I don’t promise not to change it!

 

Jul 27

Book Review: Liquid Lies by Hanna Martine

By Melinda VanLone | Book Review

I picked up this story Hanna Martine on a “you might also like” recommendation by Amazon. I hate to admit it, but they were right. I really liked this story. I was fascinated by the concept of elementals embodied in a race called Ofarians. The main character, Gwen (a surprisingly normal name for someone so exotic) can literally become liquid. Is she the Lie? Maybe, maybe not. The title really refers to a bottle of magic which they sell secretly across the world. Their entire race has blended into our society and become rich by selling this magic, which basically is bottled Glamor. Want to look young without Botox? Take a drop of Mendacia (lies). It hides your age. It doesn’t fix it, it merely conceals it from everyone else. I bet it would sell really well in certain circles.

Gwen has never asked how the stuff is made. She hopes to find out one day, because it’ll mean she’s finally accepted as a top leader among her people. This story is a classic case of be careful what you wish for, because when she finds out it rips her world apart. Through every hardship, though, she’s a strong person who sticks to her moral code no matter what the personal consequences. She’s a person to admire.

First Line:

At 3 a.m. Gwen Carroway and the chairman of the Company waited in an idling limo on the Embarcadero. To the left, the bay curled around a sparkling San Francisco. To the right, water poured incessantly from Vaillancourt Fountain’s hulking mess of squared concrete tubes. Water everywhere—soothing her, whispering to her, offering her protection.

She peered through the tinted windows. On the opposite side of the fountain, two male figures in dark suits appeared between a line of palm trees. Their steps slowed as they started across the angular half-moon of the plaza.

“They’re here.”

I loved the opening. It hooked me and took me right into the story. I also loved the twists and turns along the way. Just when I thought I knew where it was going, it went somewhere else. And just when I thought I couldn’t handle one more obstacle… well, read it, and find out what happens! If you’re a fan of light science fiction and romance, you’ll like this. It’s well written, with a solid plot, great pacing, nice romantic steamy moment or two and a heroine to root for.

Oh, and who wouldn’t like to be able to turn into a puddle? It’s fun to imagine just what I could do with that sort of power.

This is first in a series. I’m adding the next to my TBR list now.

 

Mar 26

Fluffy Girl Goes to the Gym

By Melinda VanLone | Thoughts

 

In my ongoing effort to add some fitness into my daily routine, the hubby and I have started to visit the gym on a semi-regular schedule. By regular I mean on the weekends. And maybe once or twice during the week, if the mood strikes and we’re up early enough. This feat would be easier if the time had not cruelly shifted ahead an hour, thereby depriving my body of much needed sunshine in the morning with which to awaken. But I digress.

Yesterday we crawled to the gym full of dread eager anticipation.

Row upon row of glistening cardio equipment greeted us, along with several hostile stares from users of said equipment. I guess everyone gets that glazed over, I-want-to-kill-you look when they are on the treadmill.

Ignoring the unhappy faces, we forged ahead to the elliptical machines. There happened to be two open machines next to each other, so Dear Hubby (DH for short) took the right one, and I mounted the one next to him.

To my left was Skeleton Girl. She pounded on the machine as if the hounds of hell were chasing after her. They might have been. Demons don’t always live outside the body…sometimes they live inside. Sometimes they make you do horrible things, and sometimes they simply make you kill yourself on an elliptical.

I hate being next to Skeleton Girl, because nothing makes you feel fatter than being around someone who doesn’t have any fluff at all. I instantly gained 200 pounds just by being near her.

DH climbed on the machine to my right and began his ritual of iPod tuning and button mashing. I did the same. I steadfastly ignored Skeleton Girl and focused instead on the monitors in front of me, which displayed a news story about a ship which has been adrift since the tsunami and which has now been found off the coast of Canada. My mind instantly whirled with possible stories. What if the tsunami snatched the ship from the ocean and deposited it 50 years later? Or opened up a wormhole to another planet?

What if all the people on board were stuck in between? They’d look like ghosts to us, but be real to each other. The ship itself is doomed to roam the oceans forever. Or becomes a starship. Oh, the possibilities.

Where was I?

Oh yes. It’s at this point that DH tapped me on the shoulder. I made eye contact with him, but couldn’t tell what he was trying to say. He wrinkled his nose. I wrinkled mine. He’s so cute!

He shook his head and laughed, then put a hand up to his nose and pinched it.

Oh!

Using my brilliant powers of deductive reasoning, I came to the stunning conclusion that something is stinky. I sniffed, but my nose has been on vacation since the beginning of allergy season, so I didn’t smell anything. I raised my eyebrows in silent question. DH gestured to the guy next to him.

He looked normal enough. T-shirt, shorts, shoes. Nothing full of holes or stained. He was sweating like a pig, though, which when you think about it is a really stupid expression because I raised a few pigs and they didn’t sweat. At all. Which doesn’t come close to describing the personal rainforest this guy was creating.

“Move to another machine,” I mouthed.

DH shook his head. I suppose he was worried that would look rude. I think it’s more rude to be stinky, although perhaps the guy couldn’t help it. I shrugged, and went on with my workout.

Two minutes later DH exited the machine and moved to one further down the line. I took another sniff and didn’t smell anything.

Sweaty Guy decided to towel off. He lifted his burnt orange hand towel and shook it out, then wiped his forehead off and replaced the towel on the handle of the machine.

It was then that I got my first whiff. My eyes teared up as the stench of several week’s buildup of human sludge wafted over me, blown by the ever so helpful fans. I tried to hold my breath, the machine chose that precise moment to implement a sudden increase in incline. I couldn’t help it. I had to take a breath. And then I choked.

When I had recovered from my coughing fit, I took a closer look at Sweaty Guy’s towel.

It could have stood on its own and danced. It could be used as a table leg, or perhaps a walking stick. I doubt that thing had seen a washing machine since it came home from the store. In 1995. And I bet anything that in between visits to the gym, this towel spends most of its time in the car. In the Texas heat. Baking. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the towel’s original color was probably not burnt orange.

How he didn’t smell all this when he wiped his own face with it I’ll never know. The thing was toxic.

As I contemplated his towel, Hostile Girl arrived. She took the machine DH had recently vacated, and began setting it up. I chuckled to myself and made a silent bet. Two minutes.

She lasted one.

She huffed away from the machine, leaving a trail of disgust. I saw her later on the end treadmill where she wouldn’t have to be next to anybody. Smart move.

The next person to take over on the machine was Happy Guy. He apparently didn’t have a nose, either. Happy Guy bopped and swayed as he worked out to his own private concert, oblivious to the stench next to him. He kept up with Sweaty Guy in the sweat department. When he got out a towel to start wiping his forehead, I left. I didn’t want to chance it.

My fitness quest might have to include a gas mask in the future. I wonder how that would look.

 

If there are any guys reading this, please note: the sweat towel does need a bath every now and then. If you notice people leaving your general area as soon as you arrive…it’s probably your towel. Please wash it! The nose you save could just be your own.

Feb 17

Fantasy Friday: The Raven

By Melinda VanLone | Stories , Thoughts

City Park...New Orleans ©Melinda VanLone

“Nevermore.”

Marcie frowned at Diego as they walked. He’d completely interrupted her thought. “What?”

“Nevermore.” He offered her a crooked grin. “Quoth the raven, and all that.”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him to a stop. “Have you heard anything I’ve been saying? Anything at all?”

“You’ve been ranting for almost an hour. I listened to every word, I swear.”

“They why are you suddenly quoting Poe?”

Diego pointed up. “Haven’t you noticed? He’s been following us. I think he likes the sound of your voice.”

She looked up and saw the bird, high above them. It didn’t move, or make a sound.

“Creepy.” A chill trickled down her back. “I don’t think it’s a he, though. I think it’s a she.”

“Lenore?” Diego nudged her, laughing. “I suppose it could be.”

Marcie pushed him back. “I’m serious. She looks hungry, too.”

Marcie jumped as a soft voice behind them sent her heart into overload. “She is. She’s very, very hungry. It’s been a long time since she’s feasted.”

They turned to see a woman standing in the path behind them. Her long black hair blended into a black cloak which draped from her shoulders to the ground. Her black eyes sparkled as though lit by a private, internal sun.

The woman extended a hand, her long elegant fingers offering to swallow theirs. “Come. Join us.”

Marcie backed away from the hand as if it were on fire. Her heart rushed blood through her ears making it difficult to hear.

“Diego, come on!” She screamed, but Diego didn’t turn. He inched toward the woman as if mesmerized.

“Diego!” Marcie tugged at his arm but he shrugged her off.

He placed his hand on top of the woman’s as if he were her lover. The woman placed her other hand on top of his. Her eyes flashed. Marcie blinked at the sudden bright light on an otherwise grey day.

When she opened her eyes, Diego was gone.

A raven now perched on the woman’s hand. She cooed at it, then lifted her hand to the sky. The bird flew up to the top branch to join the other.

“Who are you?” Marcie could barely whisper the word, her throat was so constricted.

“My name is Lenore.” The woman lifted her lips into a wide smile that never reached her eyes.

Feb 10

Fantasy Friday: Romance on the Gallery

By Melinda VanLone | Stories , Thoughts

Sharon stepped out onto the balcony and took a deep breath. The fresh morning air, touched with damp, was a delight. She knew later in the day it would feel more like a sauna, but for now it cleared her mind and awakened her senses. She glanced over to her right and started when she saw a man sitting in the chair under the tree, staring back at her. She relaxed as he nodded his head and smiled.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there.” She offered him a smile.

“I did not mean to frighten. Please, join me. The morning is pleasant, and I could do with pleasant company with which to share it.” The man made a surprisingly elegant gesture to the chair next to him. He must be an artist, or maybe a musician. There were so many of them here.

Sharon sat down. Now that she was closer to him, she could see he was quite good looking, in an old fashioned sort of way. He wore a suit, of all things. Maybe he had a business meeting later. His hair was a bit long, sandy, and his eyes were dark brown. They twinkled as he watched her examine him.

“My name is Henri Renaud, at your service ma’am.” He tipped an imaginary hat at her and offered her a half-bow.

“Very chivalrous, Mr. Renaud. I’m Sharon. Are you enjoying your stay in New Orleans?”

She was puzzled to see his face dim momentarily. It brightened a second later as if a cloud had merely passed over the sun.

“How could I fail to enjoy such lovely scenery?” His blatant stare left her soul stripped bare.

She felt heat rise in her cheeks. What a flirt! There was something very old fashioned about the way he spoke. He sounded French, but it was more than that. She was about to ask him where he was from when he coughed. A loud, wracking cough. The kind of cough someone with pneumonia might have after smoking a cigarette. He covered his face with both hands as the fit possessed him.

“Are you ok? Do you need some water? I can get some from my room. Here, I’ll be right back!”

He waved his hand in protest as he bent over in another cough. Sharon ignored him and raced back into her room. She grabbed a glass from the tray by the TV, then filled it with water from the bathroom tap. Better than nothing. She hurried back out to the veranda. Henri looked quite at ease again, the coughing fit gone as if it had never been.

“Well, just in case.” She sat the water down on the table between them.

“I appreciate the kind gesture. Tell me, what brings someone so lovely here at this particular moment?”

“Oh, I just needed a break. Work was getting…well, let’s just say my job isn’t something I look forward to when I get up in the morning. I thought if I got away for a bit I might find it easier to take.”

“You are unmarried?” Henri raised an eyebrow. “I’m delighted to hear it, and yet surprised. There is no one to take care of you?”

She laughed. “No, not married. I haven’t found the one yet. Though I do keep trying. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet him on Bourbon street.”

Henri shook his head, and frowned slightly. “You will not find what you are looking for on Bourbon street.”

“Where would you suggest I look, then, Mr. Renaud?” She tilted her head at him.

“I would suggest that this gallery is an ideal place to start your search.” His eyes twinkled, and he tipped his imaginary hat again.

The next moment he was bent over double in a cough that shook his entire body.

Sharon jumped up from her chair. “You need help! I’ll be right back.”

She raced back into her room and picked up the phone next to the bed. She hit 0 without even thinking about it. After waiting a second or two she realized she’d never heard a dial tone. She had her cell, but she didn’t have the number of the hotel programmed in. It would be faster just to run down the stairs.

Sharon ripped open the door and pushed through it. She ran as fast as she could down the old, narrow hallway, down the stairs and to the check-in desk. The chair behind the counter was empty.

“Shit.” She pounded on the counter with her fist. “Help! Someone help”

She saw a bell on the counter and started to beat on it. The sound rang through the empty foyer. Ding. Ding! Ding! Ding!

Finally, she saw a man come around the corner from a room somewhere in the back. His gray hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in days. When she’d checked in, she’d found it endearing. Now, though, not so much.

“Help! There’s a man on the upstairs balcony who is choking. Please, call 911.”

“I’m sorry?” The man looked confused.

She stomped her foot. “Call 911, dammit! There’s a man choking to death upstairs. He must be staying in the room next to mine. He’s on the balcony!”

The old man shook his head. “There cain’t be. You the only guest on that floor. All the doors are locked. And nobody’s come through the door this mornin’. I’d have heard the bell. There just cain’t be anyone on that gallery. ‘Cept you.”

“I’m telling you what I saw, dammit. A very nice man is dying! Right now. Where is the damn phone, I’ll call myself.” She moved around the desk and pushed past the old man, frantic to find the phone. Her heart pounded in her chest. He was dying! Dammit, she couldn’t move fast enough. Her hands fumbled through the papers on the messy desk.

“Ms. Preston.” The old man’s quiet voice cut through her panic like a knife. “Ms. Preston. You the only living guest on that floor.”

“He’s dead already?’ Her voice squeaked. “He was still breathing when I left. He’s just sick. He needs help.”

The man shook his head, his eyes filled with kind sadness. It was an expression usually reserved for funerals or really sick people. “Ms. Preston, the man you saw died a long, long time ago. His name was Henri, and he’d come to New Orleans to seek a new life, and, some say, a wife. He died in the fire. The big fire that wiped out the town. Surely you heard the stories.”

The old man put a comforting hand on her arm. “He just ain’t been able to let go of his quest. He only shows hisself to women, and I can see why he took a likin’ to you. But he ain’t in pain no more, Ms. Preston. And there’s nothin’ anyone here can do for him.”

Sharon stood there, shaking. Adrenaline coursed through a body that suddenly had nowhere to go. She felt tears rise in her eyes and tried to blink them away. This just couldn’t be true. Never mind the sad story. She knew what she saw. And heard. He was there. He was real. She’d seen the sparkle in his eyes. She wasn’t losing her mind. She wasn’t. Was she?

“Will he still be there? To say goodbye?” She whispered. She could barely breathe, the sobs choked off her air. More than anything, it hurt to think the first man who had felt real to her, the first man to show the kind of interest that could mean a lifetime together, didn’t actually have a life at all. He was probably just a figment of her imagination, brought on by too many Hurricanes and maybe a little voodoo.

“I can’t imagine he’ll be able to stay away from a pretty thing like you. Not during Carnival.” The old man offered her a smile. “Go on, now.”

She made her way slowly up the stairs. Tears streamed down her face but she didn’t bother to brush them away. After all, she was alone on the second floor. Nobody there to see.

She stood in her room for a long time, staring at the open balcony door. Would he be there? How was this possible? She didn’t believe in ghosts. This was ridiculous. But, he’d been so nice. She’d been so excited by his courtesy, his twinkling eyes, his smile…his genuine interest in her. Wasn’t that what she’d come to New Orleans for? Something new, something different?

She half giggled through a sob. Well, he might not be new, but he was certainly different.

If he was even still there.

She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and ran a nervous hand through her hair. Then she stepped out onto the balcony.

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