ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

The house sported original hurricane shutters and eight-over-eight leaded glass windows. Most rooms had a brick fireplace and decorative molding over the doorways.

The gutters leaked and the old house cried. The gnarled branches of the silver maples joined hands over the sagging roof, protecting it from the wind. It was a house well-lived and much loved and held promise.

It was demolished.

The newcomers arrive with their good intentions and money. A lot of money. How else can they buy a Dutch colonial from the ’20s or a Victorian with a brick foundation from 1890, or one of the first farmhouses in this town from the middle of the 19th century, and with merely a cursory glance at the interior, sign on the dotted line as the buyers. But after only a few hours consideration, they decide it isn’t exactly what they wanted (perhaps those Dutch doors didn’t lend themselves to marble and granite foyers), so instead of renovating, they tear it down. It doesn’t stop there. The two hundred year old oak has to go too, since the Bobcat couldn’t maneuver around it, and besides, it doesn’t mesh with their imported flowers and shrubs. Their landscaper says so.

A neighbor, who has lived in the town for over half-century, tries to explain the importance of preserving history. The newcomers decide right then and there to pledge a substantial donation to the historical society, perhaps to assuage any guilt. But it’s doubtful there is any.

They build their homes “in keeping with the aesthetics of the area” with dormers and gables and large porches. The interiors, though, are made for entertaining: six burner stoves with designer tile backsplashes, state of the art appliances, and custom cabinetry. And while they’re away at their other homes or traveling the world, they monitor the houses and keep them looking lived in, all wirelessly. The lights are on but they’re not home. Their busy lives make the houses a touchstone for when they need a day or two to return to an easier lifestyle. Or throw a big bash.

Within a few years, For Sale signs dot the perfectly manicured and chemically doused front lawns. There are other houses that call to them. Or the one they built just doesn’t cut it for their present day lifestyle. And once again, immediately after signing on the dotted line, the bulldozers clawing into another once-grand Victorian. They say, after much introspection (and no inspection), it was “too dated.”

And as the song by Queen goes, “Another one bites the dust.”

–Anne Skalitza, 2016

Stormy Deane Speaks!

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Many times characters in the books we are writing, speak so loudly (or as in my main character’s instance, over and over again), we have to listen. Thus my novel, Looney Dunes, came to be. Go here to see how my publisher was able to distract my main character, Stormy Deane, from perseverating over her immediate problems, and discuss her story.

Working At The Title

Whether you’re perusing books at a bookstore, visiting your local library, or scrolling through B&N.com or Amazon.com, there is one thing that makes many people stop and read more about that particular book.

The title. It’s said you can’t judge a book by its cover, but nothing else catches your attention so fast as the title of a book. It’s the first thing you see if you’re in a library or book store, and they’re shelved with their spines facing out. It’s the first thing you see online, since the title is positioned above the cover and printed in bold eye-catching letters.

As a writer, we angst over this. We know that when we send out our query letters to agents or publishers, this is the first thing they’ll react to. We type the title in all-caps in the letter (italics are used for already published books). It stands out.

But one thing to remember: when a writer labors over the title of their masterpiece, and even if the first reader to the agent or the publisher likes that title, it can still be shot down and other titles bandied about if and when the book is going through revisions before publication. Therefore when a writer sends off his or her query, happy in the knowledge that the manuscript is polished and ready for the eyes of the publisher or agent, that title is referred to as a “working title.” (The best bet for a title is one that is anywhere from one to four words.)

With books, the writer is always included in the decision during revising, so the title will be one that everyone is (hopefully) comfortable with. A title that will attract the attention of potential readers. For my most recent e-book, the publisher agreed with my working title: LOONEY DUNES. An apt description of the quirky people who inhabit Dune Island.

With short stories or essays in magazines, this isn’t always the case. One time I had a nice, three word title that I felt succinctly enticed a person to read my story. It was published with an entirely new title that was (count ’em) seven words long.

But I had to accept it, since I knew from all my years of writing, submitting, and getting my work published, that this will happen. What was done, was done.

And I move on, creating more working titles to go along with my polished gems.

A Day To Forget

I sit at my desk on a hot August day,

wondering whether to write or to play

Mystery Manor or 100 Floors,

or get on my bike and enjoy the outdoors.

 

The beach–it is beckoning, three blocks away,

my story revisions can wait a whole day.

I put on my suit and slather the lotion,

I grab up my chair and head to the ocean.

 

I sigh in content as I sit on the sand,

a best selling mystery in one of my hands.

A sea gull does fly overhead and then swoops,

and decides it is time to take a good poop.

 

It splatters my arm and the pages are struck;

I don’t need this type of so-called good luck.

I pack up my things and head off of the beach,

and stumble and fall and let out a loud screech.

 

I arise from the sand looking quite like

chicken that’s breaded (to observers’ delight).

On returning back home, I look at the date–

my work was due yesterday; now it’s too late.

–Anne Skalitza, 2013

*The above is fictitious.  Any resemblance to my everyday life would most definitely include chocolate. And I always meet deadlines. Yes, yes I do. 🙂

Writing Isn’t A Hobby

This bothers me so much I have to post it:

“I always wanted to draw and paint but that wasn’t to be, so I became an Author instead.”

I just read the above somewhere on the Internet, posted  by someone who shall remain anonymous. Without meaning to, I’m sure, this person demeaned writers. Why is it so many people feel that they can write a book when they don’t know the basics of writing to begin with? Would a teacher teach without knowing the material or how to reach the students effectively?

There are a few things a person should know about writing. First, take it seriously. It’s not just a hobby. Second, have a basic understanding of grammar and spelling. There are books on grammar, and get someone to check the manuscript for spelling. Don’t trust the word processing program. Third, a writer should hook the reader within the first page–better yet, the first paragraph. Then continue to engage the reader. Even if it’s nonfiction, make it interesting. And last, get rid of the exclamation marks. There is no need for those if you word your sentence to show it’s exclamatory.

Okay, rant over. Writers learn their craft by reading, writing, and rewriting. If you truly are interested, the best writers’  forums are at AbsoluteWrite.com Go over, introduce yourself, read through the many threads. It’s a great beginning.

Life Throws Curveballs…

…and they can almost knock you out. I took my husband to the local surgi-center for what should have been a routine procedure. Three hours later we were in a hospital emergency room. Seems his blood pressure skyrocketed to 260/130. And the surgeon and anesthesiologist had trouble bringing it down, even when he was put under. So…they stopped. And sent us to the local ER where controlled chaos reigned. It was only five o’clock in the late afternoon, but already there were several cases of ODing on drugs and/or alchohol. Sign of the poor economy maybe? My husband was shuttled on a stretcher to different parts of the ER to make room for yet more patients flooding the place.

The good news–he’s stable, all tests normal, and he’s home now. And I’m back to writing. 🙂

Character Development

I’m reading an article about character development in writing stories for middle grade readers (MG) and young adult (YA).  Some writers have asked how they can make their main characters more three-dimensional. A good way is to put the character’s name at the top of a page,  then list attributes that are physical (hair color, eye color, tall, etc). Then list what fears she might have, what she likes about herself, dislikes about herself, favorite foods, etc. You might not be using all of these in the story, but it helps the writer visualize the character and how she might act or react in a situation.

Currently I’m in the middle of rewriting an MG novel, trying to make the main character more “real.”