Friday, July 29, 2011


Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 6:01 AM 27 comments
At last, it's here, it's finally (almost) here! My book comes out in a month and it's available for preorder NOW. To celebrate, I'm doing some super fun stuff today. Check out the cover (feel free to tell me you love it because I do, so much!) and then read the backliner (and the first chapter if you want to), and THEN find out how you can win the very first copy of my book I give away or an Amazon gift certificate. Here we go:
Twenty-three-year-old Pepper Spicer is not living the dream. She ended her engagement at the last minute because her fiancĂ© — a musician and soon-to-be reality TV star — wanted her to sacrifice her own career ambitions for his. 

Now she's stuck at home sharing a room with her little sister, trying to pay off massive debt for a wedding that didn't happen, and spending Friday nights Facebook-stalking everyone who has a better life. Her therapist father urges her to choose her career dreams and count her blessings by writing weekly thank you notes, but gratitude is a tall order when she botches an important job interview and has to settle for writing an undercover dating web-zine column — the last thing in the world she wants to do. Still, as Pepper (byline: Indie Girl) chronicles her bizarre and hilarious blind dates, she gives her father's challenge a try and slowly finds herself leaving self-pity behind. Life takes a major upswing as Pepper's column hits the big time and she tastes the exhilarating thrill of success. But there's one tiny problem: the intensely hot man she's falling for is having issues with her job (again). Will Pepper trade her personal ambition for another chance at love?

Sounds so fun, right? If you want to read the first chapter, you can check it out HERE on my website.

So how do you win it? Easy! There are two ways.

1. If you're on Goodreads, add it to your "To Read" shelf. This link will take you right to the book.
2. Become a follower of this blog. Go right on ahead and click it and tell me you did. 

So if you add it on Goodreads, or follow my writing blog and want to win, leave a comment and let me know.

How do you win a $25 Amazon gift cardPreorder it, let me know you did, and you're entered! Deseret Books has it available for preorder here (even though they don't quite have the cover yet) and and AND . . . You can get it for 30% off today and tomorrow only. Just enter JULY30 for the discount code.

Hooray! Hip hip hooray!

(Tweets are not mandatory but appreciated, btw!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anatomy of a bad review

Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 8:15 AM 12 comments
Before you read this post, you should first know that me even writing it is a REALLY bad idea.  When you become a published author DON'T DO THIS. It's completely immature of me. I'm stooping way, way down here. But I vent or explode, so . . .

Congratulations if you're reading this in Google Reader because I imagine one of my friends will be emailing me soon to tell me to take this down and the only place it will ever appear now is in your reader.

Secondly, before you continue, YOU HAVE TO PROMISE NOT TO TAKE ANY ACTION. I mean it. NONE. I hope what I'm about to share just makes you laugh, but if you become enraged on my behalf and are overcome with the need to inflict soul-deep violence on someone, then

1) You are probably a very good friend
2) You are a probably a little crazy

Now, if you can abide by that rule of DON'T DO IT, then you may proceed. But you have to promise. Reading on means you've promised. 

Okay, you've officially promised.  Let's begin.

Bad reviews happen. Bad in the sense that someone might not like your book and bad in the sense that it's just a poorly written review. I got one of this double whammy variety.

Here's the thing.  Wiser, more experienced writers will tell you to prepare for this. And I really thought I had. Except for the part that I truly thought no one would ever legitimately give The List a 1-star review. I expected some cranky people who hate the genre might give it 2-stars and a handful of people did. According to the site I check most regularly (and which I will not name because remember, DO NOTHING), a fair amount of people liked my book just fine (37 nice folks) and gave it 3 stars, a bunch of folks wrapped their arms around it and said, "This is such a fun read!" (97 people) to the tune of four stars and then 73 people have either known me from childhood or thought Matt Gibson was so hot that they couldn't in good conscience give it less that 5-starrrrrrrz (woot!)

But like I said, it finally happened. The dreaded 1-star. And while it bothers me more than it should in proportion to the number of GREAT reviews The List has gotten, it bothers me way less than I thought a 1-star would.  (My husband is less sanguine about all this. There may have been swearing involved which only made me love him more because he's SOOOOO on my team.)

But this is what I figure. I wrote something. I put it out there knowing it became fair game for other people to judge it. And this reviewer did. And wrote her review and put it out there for people to judge. And so I will.

I present my first 1-star review, complete with commentary. Tada! Check it:

If you like Mormon Romance, you'll love this book. If you care about literature, go find some. (You obviously hate the genre. Next time you find yourself near LDS romance, put it down and back away slowly. People with peanut allergies are smart enough not to eat peanuts. Be smart, lady. Be smart.) I made it through exactly one chapter. (And now I know I really don't need to take you very seriously because really? One of my longest reviews comes from someone who only read one chapter? Really?) As my friend KTrip says, this should be categorized as fantasy. (I admit being totally impressed by both of these people's clear intellectual superiority at this point.)  I made it just one chapter because it was completely unbelievable and aggravatingly so. The main character is a moron, plays games, and thinks a little too well of her attractions (remember the paragraph where she described herself in detail, focusing on her absurdly wonderful features?) (Sorry. Should have started her off as perfect, because: HOW BORING TO WATCH HER GROW.)  I wouldn't want to be friends with her. (It's okay. I don't think you guys would get along.) So I stopped, because my brain was turning to mush and my stomach was churning (All of my comments here are too mean so I'll say nothing). (Though I will own that the writing was fine.) (THANKS) Perhaps I did not give the book a fair chance (Duh), and there are so many reviews here of folks who totally loved it (205 to 7. I win), so I allow that for some it may be great escapism -- just not for me, or those I love (it's good of you to protect them from all the bad things in the world, like my book). Many pleasant readings to all -- let them read how, where, or what they may. (Do I need to say anything about this conclusion, like that it's utterly pretentious? No? Good).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Freaking hilarious. Let me diagram it for you . . .

Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 10:01 AM 16 comments
This one time, I felt sorry for Robison Wells and it's not even because a horn is trying to erupt from his forehead. That in itself is not a big deal. (I mean, if it's a unicorn horn it would be pretty cool. If it's a goat horn, well then . . . yeah. Okay, that's a problem.).

Anyway, I felt sorry for him because he was talking about how he had to put together a class on how to write humor for a writer's conference.

Now I also pity Sarah M. Eden for the exact same reason. She's stuck with this topic, too. I think they are both brave and good people (of questionable sanity) for taking this on . But I still feel sorry for them.

Here's the thing. I don't think you can teach people to be funny. You got it or you don't. It's that indefinable thing that makes someone become a massive pop star and someone else never make it at all when they have equal talent and looks. The "it" factor, maybe. (Oh, and minus any sleeping with the right people hijinks. (Cheating slutty McHohos. [I'm looking at you Susan McBoyle. {I'm totally not, cuz I'm writing about jokes, see? See how I did that?}])

But you're funny . . . or you're not.

Unless you're like me. In which case, you are HILARIOUS to the people that know you and often lock up around everyone else.

But, and for the sake of this argument and also because I think it might be true, my books are pretty funny and those jokes are cracked in front of thousands of people I'll never meet. And yet if you put me in a social situation where I  know less than 20% of the players, most of the time I morph into this interested observer and nothing funny to say comes to mind at all.

Get me in a room full of friends, I kill.

Get me in a room full of friends who are also funny, I lock up again. I think I can only be funny if I'm the clear alpha funny dog or if I've known everyone in the group FOREVER.

It's a weird thing.

Anyway, the point is, I know funny. I am funny. This has been voted on and ratified by the marketplace, so say the sales of my book. That's the expertise I'm claiming. Oh, and you can ask the 25 classes worth of 8th graders I taught over five years. They'll tell you: I'm funny. And get me in front of a room full of teachers in a staff development meeting? I will destroy them.

The thing is, I can't turn it on or off. I just am or am not. There's no deciding I want to be funny and then the jokes come. They're there or they aren't.

I truly believe most funny people are this way.

It comes down to this: as soon as you explain a joke, it's not funny anymore. Or put another way by Sarah Eden, "In my experience, classes on humor are the unfunniest classes at all."

I bet if you surveyed the attendees in Sarah or Rob's classes on humor (and I've been to other classes they taught and can vouch they are each hilarious), this is what you would find. 15% of attendees are friends or acquaintances who are there for a good laugh and didn't even read the title of the class. The rest are people who have no inherent funniness and will leave with lots of earnestly taken notes and still no clue how to crack a joke, much less a good joke.

Case in point: This Wired magazine article from May looks at humor through the lens of science, trying to quantify what makes something funny. (Yes, I read my  husband's magazines in the bathroom. If he can stay in there with it for an hour, so can I. Also, I'm suddenly a genius when it comes to buying his gifts because, hello? I could blindly point to any item on any page in that magazine and he'd want it.) And while it's an utterly un-hilarious article about humor, it's fascinating. This is kind of the nutshell, although seriously, go read the whole thing:

It makes perfect sense.

But if you have to explain it to someone . . .

I'm just saying. Rob, Sarah . . . you have my deepest sympathies.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Melanie Jacobson is ruining my life.

Posted by Melanie Bennett at 9:22 PM 11 comments
Melanie Jacobson is getting on my last nerve.


Or at least, she's ruining dot com for me.

Some time, long ago, before I was even Melanie Jacobson, she went and registered for herself. And you know what she does with it?


I want it. I want DOT COM. I have dot net. Whatever. It's fine.

And as my husband points out every time I whine about this (and it comes up more than it should), I am WINNING GOOGLE. I, me, myself, moi, get the top seven search returns.

So that's something.

A big something, even.

But I tried to buy this from her, this domain that she's not even using, and she was open to sell, but not for as much as I was offering. Which was only enough to buy a nice pair of shoes. I think she was thinking more along the lines of mortgage payment money. But I am simply not worth that much.

But still! She could have had new shoes and I could have my domain all to myself. She already has the good gmail address. And the good Twitter handle.

Although I got to the Melanie Jacobson Facebook domain first.

Oh, and did I mention I'm winning Google?


Take that, Melanie Jacobson. TAKE THAT.

(And I dearly, dearly hope she has a Google Alert for our name. Nothing could make me happier right this second.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lose the Jeep

Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 7:35 PM 1 comments
Or maybe not lose it. But we probably don't need to know it's red yet.

Nathan Bransford, former literary-agent-turned-middle-grade-author, offered a critique of a first page for someone on his blog the other day. It's a fascinating look inside the editing process from someone who knows what he's doing, so it's well worth a look for the handful of you writers out there who don't already follow his blog. I find his red line markup especially helpful. Anyway, you can check it out HERE. He makes a GREAT point about the difference between writing and being writerly.

Seriously. Go read it. Then come back.

Well, hey again.

What caught my eye in the author's submission was the last sentence in her opening paragraph: The telephone rang, awakening me from a deep Valium-induced stupor. A disembodied voice said, ‘the Inn’s on fire’, and then the line went dead. The clock read 3:00 - the witching hour. I grabbed my dog. Still wearing pyjamas and slippers I jumped into my red Cherokee Jeep, and drove to The Witch’s Inn. 

It's the very first thing people are reading about your character and her world and her voice. So what really, REALLY needs to be there? Do we need to know that she drives a red Jeep Cherokee? And if we do need to know that because it tells us something about her character, do we need to know it very first thing? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Probably no.

Maybe we never need to know at all. Most likely at some point, as readers, we would like this little detail because the profile on someone driving a late-model Lincoln Town Car is far different than the profile on the person who is driving the red Jeep. It's a helpful clue.

Just not opening paragraph helpful.

I think this really caught my eye because I recently won a 1200 word critique from one of my dream agents, Sara Megibow. I sent her the most polished pages I could bleed out. I really thought I nailed it. 

She liked it. She didn't love it. But I'll tell you what she said and why.

Here's my first paragraph: Jolie fingered the remnant of soft gray corduroy in the moldy pile of fabric and wondered about her odds. Could she yank it out without toppling the massive stack on top of it? With a quick prayer to the imaginary saint of crazy hoarders, she jerked it and ducked, ping ponging her way between a wall of newspapers on one side and precarious piles of nearly everything else on the other.

Here's Sara's response:

Writing – You are using lots of imagery in the opening pages. Your writing is interesting, engaging, full of life. I really “feel” the chaotic, cluttered world that Jolie is navigating. A suggestion – it feels a wee bit as if you are trying too hard on the first two pages to insert details. It’s not a deal-breaker, just an observation. If I were reading this from the slush pile, my response would be along the lines of “new writer, trying too hard, a bit too wordy, hopefully it smoothes out.” For example:

“I fingered the remnant of soft gray corduroy in the moldy pile of fabric and wondered about my odds. (soft gray corduroy and moldy fabric) Could I yank it out without toppling the massive stack on top of it? (massive stakc) With a quick prayer to the imaginary saint of crazy hoarders, (quick prayer, imaginary saint, crazy hoarders) I know this is just the opening paragraph and we think “goodness, that’s nitpicky” but it’s my observation. My suggestion would be to trim the details just a hair in order to make the narrative flow a bit more smoothly. ***

So, I'm thinking . . .yeah. Lose the Jeep.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Just what the world needs . . . another writing blog.

Posted by Melanie Jacobson at 10:02 PM 1 comments
When I started my other blog, I thought I was going to spend all kinds of time writing and thinking about writing and blogging about reading.

But I realized as a novice writer, there's only so much to say.

And I quickly discovered that I'm not a super huge fan of people blathering on about writing when they don't really have any credibility. Meaning, they're not published.

I'm good with people talking about their journey and their thought processes, etc. I just don't think I can get behind someone setting themselves up as an expert on point-of-view or . . . you get the point. I'm always left with the same question: And how are you an expert?

I have no idea what I'm going to do with this new blog, or if it's even going to be a thing. I dunno.

But I've been thinking about writing so much lately, about the process of creating and breathing life into words and all of that good stuff that I had to let it out somewhere.

Oh, and also, it gives me an excuse to play around with templates. Because I needed another time waster in my life.

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