Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Having a Handle on Your Own Health

I tend to be the person in my family that everyone goes to when they have a problem. I think every family has one of these. Maybe it’s because I’m the only girl with two brothers, or maybe I just tend to be that way – the kind of person who pays attention to things like when someone’s birthday is, or which doctor to recommend. I also tend to be the person with the information – why dial 411, when I can give you the number for free?

I remember my dad calling me one afternoon out of the blue and asking me to make him an eye appointment (because, of course, I had the eye doctor’s number). My dad wore glasses for longer than I’d been alive, so this wasn’t so unusual. The rest of the conversation, though, was a little more out of the ordinary.

“Why? Isn’t your prescription strong enough?” I asked.

“Yeah, I think it’s okay. But my peripheral vision just went out.” You’d think that response would be more panicked or something, but he didn’t seem to see anything wrong with this.

“What do you mean, it went out?” I was less calm about the situation.

“It went out. I can’t see anything out of the sides, just straight ahead.”

I didn’t want to scare him by screaming, “You need an emergency room, not an eye doctor!” But I knew enough about stroke symptoms to know what he was experiencing was most likely not optical.

Traditionally, most people left their health information in the hands of their doctors. After all, they went to school and practiced for many years and must know more about what may or may not be going on in our bodies. And this is true to an extent. But the truth is, it helps to know what symptoms might be associated with a serious situation. Most people have warnings of heart trouble or any myriad of things well before the condition is life threatening, and they ignore these “aches and pains” because they don’t feel severe, or they go away, or they just don’t associate them with something life-threatening.

I’m not advocating people to go ahead and doctor themselves. Certainly, a trusted physician is the best person to see with regards to your health. But, I do strongly believe in educating yourself enough to know your body, and understand the recommendations that your doctor might give you.

Special thanks to Health Yahoo for sponsoring this post.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name Still Grows Best In Manure

I've been working on my pitch over at the Query Goblin's. While I'm still working on it (and would appreciate any critiques here as well) I'm really at a cross as to the title. I have two titles, both of which I like for different reasons, both of which give me pause for different reasons too... but rather than get into all of that, I'll just say that both are phrases used in the book. That's all you really need to know because a reader wouldn't have me there to feed them all the backstory of what the damn title means, now would they?

Let me know if you like one or if you think I should be brainstorming for a new one...

Redemption is a Road

From the Neighborhood

And onto the pitch:

When Jack Poverelli’s uncle bails him out of jail, packs his mom off to rehab, and whisks Jack out of the neighborhood, it should have been a good thing. What sixteen year old wants to wake up in the middle of the night and make sure his mom’s still breathing? But Jack doesn’t belong in the gleaming halls of his new high school where everyone judges him for what he looks like, and he doesn’t trust his uncle. Why would he show up now, after all these years? And why is he so interested in their house and finances?

Jack would give up clean sheets and full meals to be back with the friends who’ve looked out for him his whole life. Everything is pushing him into this new place – better classes, a job, a girl whose way out of his league but doesn’t seem to notice. Even Jack’s oldest friends are telling him to move on, that he should be trying to get out of the neighborhood, not stay in it. When his mother relapses, Jack and his friends step between her and a neighborhood drug dealer, setting off a chain of events that put them all in the crosshairs of both the dealer’s cronies and the police.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Many Thanks to Vista Print for Supporting the Blog

There are new things afoot on the blog... for starters, I have some lovely supporters.... Yay!

You'll notice a pretty new picture to the side that looks like this:

If you click on it, it'll take you to Vista Print a great place for your custom business cards and printing needs. So if you're looking for something that they supply, please feel free to click through here or at the sidebar.

Facing Your Finances

Anyone who’s ever had financial trouble can tell you how embarrassing it is. No one ever wants the neighbors to know that their phone’s been ringing off the hook with bill collectors or that they never go out when invited because they just can’t afford it. And I think most people hit those low financial patches in their life, but right now it seems like there are a lot of people struggling that weren’t quite acclimated to going without. It’s hard to streamline your bills to a manageable degree when your income has been cut in half – and that’s what many people are going through. And because financial problems are so socially embarrassing, many people will hide their heads in the sand rather than face it – which makes the problem ten times worse. You can’t keep spending as usual without the income stream to back it up.

A lot of people are turning to services, like to help them relearn how to manage their money and live within their current budget. They get pulled under with credit card debt because they overuse the cards trying to keep up with bills they can no longer afford. Or they simply need a sounding board to try to figure out how they got off track and relearn to live within their new means. Another thing they might do is look into debt consolidation in order to make their payments lower and more manageable per month.

Sometimes you don’t even need to use a company, just some standard research and a good common sense look at where you are, what you earn, and what you need in order to not only float but save a little to get a cushion… that’s the biggest problem I see. People will spend exactly what they make. But without that bit of savings then one extra bill can send you into a spiral. And who hasn’t run up against an unexpected bill?

In the last few years, I’ve adopted a few habits that have saved me a bit… still not completely there, but I’m working on it… how about you? What things have you started going without or doing in order to help your bottom line?

Special thanks to A New Horizon for sponsoring this post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pitch Critique: Jean Ann Williams Middle Grade Pitch

First, the pitch:
An Excerpt
Jean Ann Williams

One mother damaged, one family tested, one daughter determined to find her place.

At thirteen years old, ClaireLee Monteiro’s family life becomes a shambles. Feeling incapable of taking Mama’s position in the home, she longs for acceptance at school. She sets out to impress Wendy Lavender and her school cronies, and so she lies.

While the Lavender Girls Club receives ClaireLee into their fold, they do not choose her best buddy, Belinda Cruz. How far will ClaireLee wander from honesty, her devoted friend, and a feeble mother’s love?

Next: My Critique:
An Excerpt I’m not sure why this is here. It suggests you’ve included an excerpt of the work, but there isn’t one, it’s just the pitch.
Jean Ann Williams

One mother damaged, one family tested, one daughter determined to find her place. Great tagline! I’m interested.

At thirteen years old, ClaireLee Monteiro’s family life becomes a shambles. ’becomes a shambles’ sounds awkward to me. Maybe try a more active verb? Feeling incapable of taking Mama’s position in the home, she longs for acceptance at school. She sets out to impress Wendy Lavender and her school cronies, and so she lies. I need a little more. What does she lie about? Why does she need to take Mama’s position?

While the Lavender Girls Club receives ClaireLee into their fold, they do not choose her best buddy, Belinda Cruz. How far will ClaireLee wander from honesty, her devoted friend, and a feeble mother’s love?This seems like the real story, the Lavender Girls Club choose ClaireLee but not her friend, Belinda. I wonder if you might want to use your space to fill out this plotline, give us a little more on the family situation especially what’s going on with her mother.

Overall, I’m interested. It sounds like a good premise for Young Adult. I want to get to know the character a little better in the pitch and I think we need a little more information.

Okay guys, your turn. Please feel free to critique this pitch in the comments section. A big thank you to Jean Ann for being brave enough to submit her work for critique. I hope it's helpful!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Scrubbing In

With the current economy, I have a number of friends who’ve started rethinking their career prospects. Some of them have been outmoded by computers or employees overseas… some of them are just victims of a scaled back labor force, but either way they’re switching gears. A lot of them are going toward medical fields. Maybe it’s because all the forecasts say those jobs are stable. Maybe they envision themselves in cotton medical scrubs saving lives. I can see the romanticism there – if you’ve ever spent any time with a loved one in a hospital, a great nurse or technician can become a lifeline akin to a god.

I can totally see it – being completely in control in the face of chaos. And I wouldn’t be wearing any old cheap hospital scrubs, either. Mine would have to have Snoopy or something on them… ohhh, I wonder if they make them with Calvin and Hobbes? Don’t worry, guys. I’m not turning in my keyboard. But in a time when starting over seems to be the call of the day, I can see the draw to donning a pair of cotton surgical scrubs and getting to be the reason someone has more time with their loved one.

So, if you decided to call it and leave your current profession for a new one, which one would you pick? And could your write a really great novel surrounding it? (See, that last sentence is how you know I’m nothing if not a writer).

Many thanks to Blue Sky Scrubs for sponsoring this post.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Censorship: Things What Annoy Me

I’m going to guess that most readers of this blog will already know about the hubbub surrounding the new version of Huck Finn censoring all words deemed racist in nature.

I’d like to say that Twain, if he were alive, would smack his head at their idiocy and tell them all to go fuck themselves. (Sorry, I don’t censor). But Twain was well-versed in censors and exactly how to deal with them. Twain liked to tweak people’s noses. He did so purposely and by accident. This novel in particular garnered quite a bit of venom in its day. Here’s what Twain had to say about it in a letter to his editor, shortly after the novel’s original publication:

"The Committee of the Public Library of Concord, Mass., have given us a rattling tip-top puff which will go into every paper in the country. They have expelled Huck from their library as 'trash and suitable only for the slums.' That will sell 25,000 copies for us sure."

Of course, in the time it was released the novel was censored for the opposite reason – how’s that for irony? The thing with this that irritates me is not so much that the word offends people; it was supposed to offend people. His intention was to offend people. Twain took great pains with his words. It’s well-documented that his manner of reproducing dialect and verbiage was precise to the point of near perfection. The man read every single word out loud, every single revision until each character and voice sounded exactly right to his ear. Is anyone really under the delusion that he would use the word, “nigger” more than 200 times by accident? Mind you, he used the same word in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – 4 times.

It’s not a far stretch to understand he was making a point and he was doing so by purposely getting in the reader’s face. What I think is underestimated on a personal level is that this stance was brave for the author during this time period.

I think that should be honored rather than swept under the carpet. And by people who are using his exact ethical position – and whose ancestors, by all statistical likelihood, were not as highly evolved morally during its first printing.

I think literature should be read in the form it is written in any and all ways readers can scrutinize it. Like most cases of censoring, I have to believe that most people who have a problem with Twain’s prose have either never read or cannot understand the prose. There are a great many works of fiction (and non-fiction for that matter) that I disagree with… that doesn’t mean I won’t read them. It doesn’t mean I keep my children from reading them – in fact, disagreeing with a sentiment in literature is one of the greatest jumping off points for honest discussion I can think of.

I won’t be buying a copy that’s been censored. And I have to wonder whether there would even be a discussion about this if the author wasn’t a dead white guy… which makes me wonder who the real racist is in this scenario.

(psst: the Pitch Critiques are still open if you’re interested.)

Monday, January 03, 2011

Pitch Critique to Ring in 2011

I love the smell of red ink in the morning... well, it's afternoon, but you get the idea.

In my last post, I asked if some of you might like to open the new year by participating in a pitch critique session. I haven't done one in quite a while, but they're a great way to get feedback on your pitch, narrow down your focus for a new work, and just flex your muscles creatively. Pitching, for me, is harder than writing. It's more marketing and understanding the business end of publishing, and less about the play of words. It's a balance I think you have to attain in order to get to the next level. Personally, I get just as much for critiquing for others as I do getting my own work critiqued.

So, we haz sum rulz:

Any and all writers are welcome to participate. No matter where you are in your journey, from newer writer to seasoned veteran, the more the merrier.

It is NOT mandatory to submit a pitch. I know some people aren't ready or don't like having too many eyes on their own material and that's fine. You're still more than welcome to critique or comment on other peoples' pitches.

If you do submit a pitch, it IS mandatory to critique others. This is just a little sideline I like to include because, depending on what writing loop you're on, sometimes people stick around to get feedback on their own work but are less inclined, for whatever reason, to give the same feedback to others. This way, each participant will at least have some feedback coming their way.

ALL feedback must be constructive. (I have to note here, I have never had a problem with this on this blog, all of my writing friends are awesome.) But just in case there are some newer posters of a less constructive nature, I reserve the right to delete anything I see as inflammatory or derogatory, or any of the other tories that we no likey.

If you would like to submit a pitch to critique, please send it to: merry(dot)monteleone(at)gmail(dot)com

I was going to leave this option open, if you guys would like the critiques to be blind, as in I don't tell you who wrote it, that's fine. Let me know in comments or if you don't want your name on yours you can let me know when you submit the pitch.

I don't know how many pitches I'll be receiving, so depending on the volume, I might post one with my critique at a time, and then the comments would be open to other writer's critiques... or I might post two or more on a post, if there are a lot of them... I'll also try to let everyone know via email when their pitch goes up. But keep checking back anyway just to participate in the rest of them.

I'm looking forward to it. Can't wait to play!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Blog for the New Year...

Okay, the title's misleading. It's the same blog. Same URL. Yep, yep. But I've been contemplating what I want to do here, and I think I really want to get back to basics.

This was a writing blog when I started. Over the years I've been doing this, I've used it to flex my writing muscles, banter about my children, banter about myself... but my favorite posts were always the writing ones.

I can't promise not to tell you stories about the kids - they're usually a lot funnier than I am. I can't promise not to tell you neighborhood stories... they kinda suit me. But I would like to devote more time to booksies, and literary discussions, and writing exercises. I miss the writing exercises.

So, my writing colleagues, who's up for a good old fashion pitch crit? Anybody game to start their 2011 with a little bloodshed, er, umn, I mean solid, writing criticism...?

Let me know in the comments. If there are at least a few who might participate, I'll put a post up this week, and we can all play in the comments... if not, I guess I'll go back to silly stories.

Oh, and Happy New Year!!!! Let's see what 2011 has up its sleeve.