All posts by Melanie Anastasiou

Writing tip. Dishing in Acquisitions

It’s no secret that acquisitions editors have red flags. We twitch when we see spelling errors or the wrong publishing house’s name in the cover letter.

However, as a group we do appreciate authors who write with authority, finding ways of getting time of day, setting, tone, the promise of genre, and some hint at the central conflict up front.  We want to know, “What is this story about?” And, “Why should our readers care about this protagonist?”

Heroes and Villains: Not All Good or All Bad.

Alien 2’s flesh-eating monster cared about her children, and Narnia hero Digory’s vanity echoed his Uncle Andrew’s. Happily, unflawed white-hat heroes rarely sail in and out of my acquisitions in-box.  The trouble is that, more often these days, I read heroes that are bad through and through.  It’s pretty easy to write an all-bad hero. Balancing flaws believably, perhaps with some small sacrifice or reluctant, kind act, are a couple of ways to show narrative skill.

And, inside the acquisitions in-box, I read on.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers to you. Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

 

 

Review: I Remember Nightfall, by Marosa di Giorgio

 I REMEMBER NIGHTFALL, by Marosa di Giorgio, translated by Jeannine Pitas: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017

Poetry Review by Daniel Cowper

Often my own dreams are set on a fictional island. The shores are dark rock, cluttered with docks and boardwalks. Shallow lakes and marshlands pockmark the interior, interrupted occasionally with steep hills and mountains. Sometimes the hills are only little sugarloafs you could scramble up in half an hour; sometimes they are filled with alpine flowers, and depressions shelter reservoirs of snow in summer.

 I am inclined to think most of us have one such landscape inside us, which we have created unconsciously. Sharing that internal world is part of what art can offer.

An extraordinary dreamscape belonged to the Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio (1932 – 2004), four of whose books of poetry have been published by Ugly Duckling Presse collectively under the title of I Remember Nightfall, with en face English translations by Dr. Jeannine Marie Pitas, a poet and scholar.

The translations themselves are fluid and supple, maintaining momentum and rhythm with simplicity of phrasing. The poet’s voice feels entirely natural and consistent throughout.

Perfect translations fit the original so naturally that the translator’s word-choices and turns of phrase feel inevitable, once compared with the original. Judged by the limited samples over which I applied that test, Dr. Pitas’ translation approaches perfection.

 I Remember Nightfall is a rich and mercurial collection, and provides English speaking readers perhaps their first access to the work of di Giorgio. I regard this as an event of some significance, since the more I read of di Giorgio, the more I am persuaded that she is an essential poet.

The best poems are overwhelming in their originality and visceral power. Their narrative unfolds like an avalanche. Blessings and torments are dispensed in an agony of beauty. There is an experience of both helplessness and power.

It is not unfair to compare the astonishment with which one reads di Giorgio’s poems with the experience of first reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Both portray a specific natural order, on which the supernatural constantly impinges. This technique of apparition or visitation can lead to an excessive reliance on the element of surprise, but di Giorgio refrains from ambushing the reader. She is a poet of discovery, not jump-scares.

Much of di Giorgio’s power, especially in translation, derives from the incredibly vivid world she describes in her poems. To give you a sense of that world I will simply list the ideas in a randomly selected passage of poetry:  baskets, fruit trees, mushrooms, chimeras, horses, eggs, bones, bells, the slaughter of livestock, grapevines, almonds, fire, planets, hunger, the moon, feathers, lettuce, magnolia blossoms, coconut, bonfire, boat, telegram, teacup, tablecloth, hyacinths, roses, star anise, honey, dentures, citrus fruits, squashes, tulips, the sense of being followed, vermin, escape, concealment, cattle.

The items on this list are representative. Di Giorgio’s world contains a kitchen, where food is stored and prepared; a garden, where flowers are grown; and farmland, where food is produced and livestock maintained. This kitchen, garden, and farmland provide a mental setting within which the poet may ecstatically describe domestic incidents, spiritual visitations, or the enactment of mythic parables:

The Carnival barely arrived, there in our beloved land.

The pea plants loaded with little fruits and flowers burned, and the long-antlered potato, and the pink, hairy yams; and in the air, the spiders walked, calmly…

And the house. There were only two dwellings in that vast region. Ours and “the other”. Our family and “the other”; that was how we referred to each other.

At times we would exchange an emissary, a hare; otherwise we would say “It’s raining ‘over there.’”

But we went for years without seeing each other. The children married their own siblings at a young age. When hunger and thirst became unbearable, a family member would be surrounded, then roasted, and life would go on. …

The Native Garden is in Flames, poem 4

Frequently the poet depicts, with mingled alarm and delight, encounters with of the alien or supernatural in her essentially domestic landscape:

Everyone goes to bed. The romantic aunts rest with a hand on the pillow and their corollas open.

Then someone gets up. Are they going to commit a crime? But all we hear are moans and then everything remains at peace.

A horse comes up the road like a terrible girl, with its mane and its haunches. In the air a planet or a bat is spinning.

…And under the magnolias — who’s there?

The War of the Orchards, poem 7

It is impossible to fairly excerpt these poems, and they must be read in full to experience their effect.

Di Giorgio’s poetry has a tendency towards the naive, and an inevitable criticism of a large volume of her work is that she can be repetitive.  I do not consider repetitiveness to be a major defect in a writer, as it is often the result of either perfectionism or a refusal to shilly-shally. With Di Giorgio, it seems to me to be the byproduct of the density or concentration of her inspiration.

I do not advise trying to read all of I Remember Nightfall at one sitting. I found the poems most refreshing and exciting when taken in small batches.

The four books collected in this volume (The History of Violets, Magnolia, The War of the Orchards, andThe Native Garden is in Flames) were published between 1965 and 1975, and represent the poetic production of the poet’s thirties and early forties. It would be interesting to compare these poems with the work produced in her youth and later in her life.

It is always a gift to encounter a poet of unique vision and powerful expression. I will return often to this collection, and I look forward to the release of any future translations of Di Giorgio’s work.

-Daniel Cowper, Poetry Editor, Pulp Literature Press.

Daniel’s poetry has appeared in the Literary Review of Canada, Prairie Fire, Vallum, CV2, Dalhousie Review, Freefall, the Hart House Review, and is forthcoming in Noise Anthology; his poetry chapbook, The God of Doors was a winner of Frog Hollow Press’s Second Chapbook Contest. His non-fiction has appeared in the Puritan’s Town Crier.

Issue 2, Spring 2014

Jeannine Pitas’s poem ‘Feynman’s Flowers’ appeared in Pulp Literature Issue 2, Spring 2014.

The Big, Bright, and Butt-chair Goal

Every goal you write takes you a step closer to your grand and astonishing dreams. –Thaddeus, The Writer’s Boon Companion.

The Big Bright Goal

The big goal is worth writing down right now, and even on a daily basis. For example: I am a best-selling fantasy author.  I publish one or two novels a year, and I love speaking at fantasy conferences and talking with my readers.

The Butt-Chair Goal

If you too are a fan of Steven King’s On Writing, you know that his aim is 1,000 words a day.  Which means getting your butt in a chair and writing. My personal goal is 3,000 words a week to a cogent outline. That gives me two short novels a year.  Your writing tip prompt is to  jot down your butt-chair goal now.

The Yearly Goal

How many books written, how many books sold, where to focus new learning?  Yearly goals almost necessitate charts and erasable felts. This sends us to the stationery story on a righteous mission. Because, when writers note down goals for the year, whether in general terms, as in big bright and butt-in-chair goals, the activity keeps our feet on the ground, and our heads in that creative space which designs and executes unique, exciting reads for our readerships.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here.  Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

 

Running with the Theme

Here’s a fun game—spot the theme, as stated in the first half of the first act of the novel or film, usually by a supporting character or similar. What about the moment in Spectre when Moneypenny, on the phone with Bond, tells James she can’t help him just then because she has a life, and he should get one too?  Because, there may be shooting, peril, fab inventions, and mad escapes, but in my view (not the only view, obviously) the film’s theme is, It’s hard to get a life, when you’re Bond.

 Your Writing Tip: Run with the Theme.

In The Wizard of Oz, look for Professor Marvel to state the theme in his conversation with the runaway Dorothy in Act 1. The theme is repeated throughout. There’s no place like home. So, for a strong line, write out the theme 3-6 different ways. You can use each of these in strong but subtle ways to draw out the theme throughout the story.

One Theme, Several Ways.

Here’s part of a list of different views on the same theme that I wrote for ‘Stella Ryman and the Ghost at the End of the Bed’, the ninth Fairmount Manor Mystery novella starring my octogenarian sleuth, trapped in a down-at-heel care home. (Pulp Literature, Issue 16.)

  1. Reach out or die.
  2. Without connection, we’re just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
  3. If we can let go of loving people, we might form new and greater passions. What would they be?
  4. Or, maybe it’s the other way around, and all the love we feel makes supports for more passions.
  5. In Fairmount Manor we residents are like hermits or saints, who must connect to nature because we’ve cut ties with the world.

(The author takes no responsibility for the views of her characters.)

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.  Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

Five Minutes, Five Stories: Pulp Literature Writing Tips

Even at the start of a new tale, it’s worth thinking about the next five stories in your body of work.

“Yes, the story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” Jules Renard.

Talk about your cool self-confidence, Jules Renard. But it’s possible, even probable, that all our stories exist in Renard’s “some place,” viz. the fertile fields of our writing minds. It’s tempting to push these upcoming stories away to concentrate on the work at hand.

Visit five future tales

Without sacrificing progress on a work-in-progress, it’s worth taking a look now and then at the broader creative vista.

Your writing tip: take five

Take five minutes to list the next five tales before you. Your writing mind will benefit from this ‘heads-up’ (pun intended) on future plotting. And, in this way you remind yourself that you are not only writing, you are a writer by trade, and yours is a great future in our field.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

 

The One Word Writing Tip

Some movie titles resonate over the decades, with just a single word:
GreedSupermanHeistMementoCharade.

 One Great Word

I’ve been reading Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. I admire the way he joins the inner and outer conflicts in the single word, crossing. The outer problem is finding the point of crossing between victim and murderer. The inner problem is that hero ex-cop Bosch faces crossing a line he swore he’d never cross, in order to solve a murder mystery.

Your Writing Tip: One Word Two Ways

Find one word that describes your protagonist’s story. You get bonus points for pulling off a similar grand feat as the one above. That is, connecting the inner and outer struggle through a single word with two meanings. Moments of clarity like this may help inform an entire story and save truckloads of revision time.

I hope you’ll have another  brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, pick up her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

This is the End. Writing Tips at Pulp Literature Press

Sometimes the end of the book seems so far off that a writer starts to feel that fashions will have changed and technology moved on to a still more distant generation before we’re likely to finish it.

The End is Closer Than You Think

Still, objects in the rearview mirror, and all that. The end is nearer than you’d think, so long as you keep this writing destination in mind. The writing brain knows its business, but if an author can’t picture the final scene, the brain is likely to follow its many interests, tracking a long and winding road through the story map. And then … massive rewriting.

Start With the End in Mind

When starting a story, take a few minutes to write the end. This could be

  • the last word,
  • the last sentence,
  • the last paragraph,
  • the final scene.

Set a timer and write for 10 minutes. Remind yourself that you are the respectful and fun boss of you, and you can change it completely if you like.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

 

Tough Choices = Character Development

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” ― Robert McKeeStory: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Consider a number of things that are wrong in a protagonist’s life at the start of the story. Listing them, either before or during development,  produces a template for character development.

Character Development via Tough Choices

Inner and outer problems set the stage for tough and even impossible choices.  The protagonist will have to do what she or he would never have done earlier in the book. That, in a nutshell, is character development. Supporting characters and antagonists go through this process, too, but their real job is to force the protagonist to make those choices.

Choices: Your Writing Tip

Make a list of 6-10 things wrong in your protagonist’s interior and exterior life at the start of the book. The protagonist’s tough choices in dealing with these inner and outer problems drives your story ahead.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens.  She is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Turning Points

Listing at least ten ideas for each turning point in a tale is tough digging. Still, brainstorming is a reliable practice for raising stakes and ensuring brilliant character development in a narrative.

Digging Deep via Brainstorming

For example, your Act 2 or, as Campbell and Vogler* call it, the “Belly of the Beast” section, is packed with energy. It’s filled with trials and learning for your protagonist and allies. I see a lot of good writers rushing into writing a first, not bad, but somewhat obvious idea, when they might have found a great one by digging deeper. Quick plotting shows. An Act 2 succeeds when authors dig deep for ideas. That shows, too, and keeps us all turning pages.

More Brainstorming, Less Revision

When writers take time for this sort of intense planning, stories grow in strength and originality.

Your career is right on track. I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.
Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

* Christopher Vogler. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Third Edition. Michael Weise Productions, Studio City Ca, 2007.

 

 

Reflective Practice in a Writing Career

It’s been years since we realized that becoming a writer is not about arriving someplace. We never stop becoming writers. We try our craft, inspiration, and imagination against those of our most admired models and masters. They would have done the same in their time.

Reflective Process

Journaling, or stream of consciousness writing about a growing career may bring even greater satisfaction with our progress in writing, publishing, and other facets of a writing career.

Reflective Practice

Charging ahead with planning, drafting, and revising a work in progress is basic to our enterprising spirits. However, looking back over the week is a professional habit that brings new levels of learning.

One Week at a Time

Everybody’s practice varies. Still, taking a few moments once a week to set down the week’s learning, in anecdotal or even point form, can go a long way towards creating a solid platform for  the next week’s work.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, why not try her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

The Writer’s Boon Companion is a quiet, thoughtful chap.  Boon offers daily hints and exercises to support your narrative along its road to completion.  You’ll also find generous servings of motivation and philosophy to help you forge ahead over 30 days of drafting towards a completed novel or novella.

The thirty days may be profitably spread out over a longer writing period.  The author using this reflective journal may wish to draft between the pages; that is, for every day in the book, drafting 2,000 to 3,000 words to a cogent outline will get you your novella or short novel in short order.  For briefer or longer works, multiply or divide as wisdom dictates.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.