Tag Archives: short stories

An Altered Existence – Giveaway Winners!


Thanks to everyone who entered my book’s giveaway.  It was a treat to read your wonderful comments!
It is my pleasure to announce the lucky giveaway winners.  The following three people have each won a signed copy of my new book, An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past.

1. Mayah
2. Debbie M.
3. Amie*

For those of you whose name I didn’t draw, please visit my books’s amazon.com page and consider purchasing a copy – I’d really appreciate it.  Big thanks to those who’ve already ordered a copy!  :]


If you’re planning to buy  – or have already purchased – a copy of my book from Amazon.com, but would like it signed, I can provide a signed bookplate/label for you to put in your book.  Simply send me a SASE – I’d be happy to send a signed book plate your way!  Here’s my mailing address:

Melody M. Nuñez
P.O. Box 60030
Irvine, CA 92602

Happy reading, y’all!

Warm regards,

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The Launch of My Book! And a Giveaway!

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I’m thrilled to announce the release of my book, which is now available on Amazon.com!
The title of my book is An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past.  It’s a combination of both my writing and altered art, and I’m so happy to see the project come to fruition!

About the Book (from the back cover)

An Altered Existence is a collection of short stories, each illustrated with a vintage photo.  These photos, also known as cabinet cards, were “orphans” collected from flea markets and antique stores.  They sparked the author’s imagination, and resulted in 14 short stories illustrated with photos “altered” by the author.

  • A photo of a bearded man with haunted eyes is paired with a silver key, and a story of a family with hoarding tendencies emerges.
  • A wedding portrait of a young couple, combined with a gold wedding band and the words “false” and “true”, yields a tale about a gentle schoolteacher who sets her small town’s rumor mill on fire when she poses for a photo with a local scoundrel, though they’re not engaged or married.
  • A young girl’s portrait, when paired with vintage buttons, births a story that many can relate to: loss, and the subsequent struggle to feel whole again.

Look into these 14 portraits from long ago, and venture into the “altered existences” they inspired.  This collection includes stories about life, love, birth, death, self-acceptance, salvation, and taking chances.  Their stories just may be our stories, too…*


In honor of the launch/release of my book, I’m going to give away THREE signed copies!  In order to enter, simply leave a comment here on this post.  The winners will be announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, so please enter by Monday, March 4th.  Good luck!

Please spread the word!

I’d really appreciate it if you’d share the news about my new book with family, friends, fiction readers, book clubs, and artists – anyone that might enjoy my illustrated collection of short stories.  Thank you in advance!
I hope you all have a wonderful week…*
Warm regards,
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I’m Publishing a Book – Soon!


Happy Thursday, dear readers!

If you’ve been following this blog since the very beginning you know that I wrote a collection of illustrated short stories some years back, and shopped the collection around to agents in hopes of landing a book deal.  The results were both encouraging and discouraging.  Folks liked my writing, illustrations, and book concept – that was the good news.  The bad news is that readers seldom buy short story collections unless the writer is very well known, so publishers very rarely publish them.  I accepted the fact that I’d have to find another way to publish and put the project aside for a time.
Fast forward about three years to now, when self-publishing is much more common, accepted, and is much easier to do.  I decided to take the plunge and publish my book through Amazon’s Create Space, as an early 40th birthday present to myself, and hope to have the book available for sale on amazon.com by February 28th.  I’m SO excited!  My wonderfully talented husband, José, has been designing the book cover and laying out the book for me (he’s both artistic and tech savvy) and it’s been a thrill to see the book really coming to life.
I’ll post a sneak peek at the cover here soon, but just wanted to mention it now, so it’s on your radar.  I’m keeping the title, illustration concept and other details under wraps just a wee bit longer, but will reveal more very soon.  I’ll likely post photos when my proof copy arrives, and will be interested to see what you think of the book’s cover design.  I think hubby has done a phenomenal job on it.
As part of my book’s launch I’ll be giving away a copy (or three!) here on my blog, and hope you’ll enter to win!  I’ll also be adding a special BOOK page to my website’s main page.  Publishing and publicizing this book is going to be a learning experience, I’m sure.  Have any of you out there published or self-published?  Do you have any suggestions for a newbie author?  I’d appreciate your feedback and insight.  As for those of you who are readers and book buyers, do you buy hard copies or do you buy books for an e-reader like a Kindle, Nook, or tablet? Thanks in advance!
Warm regards,
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Book Giveaway Winners Announced!


Thanks to the kind and generous author Catherine Ryan Hyde, I get to announce SIX giveaway winners today!  Woo hoo!  Ms. Hyde has signed all six of these hardcover books, and I sincerely thank her for such a generous gift to my blog and to my readers!  In this case talent and generosity go hand in hand.

Once again, here are the book titles:

Chasing Windmills
Electric God
Walter’s Purple Heart
Funerals for Horses
Love in the Present Tense
Earthquake Weather (short story collection)

And here are the six giveaway winners:
K. Regier
D. Chen
T. Laycook
D. Lawyer
B. Nielsen
J. Santini

Congratulations to those who’ve won!  I’ll be contacting you today via email to get your mailing addresses.

I hope you’re all having a great week thus far, dear readers.  Please keep an eye out for details about my next giveaway, which will be revealed in the next week or two.  Coming this Thursday: a post on beautiful Cambria, California!

Warm regards,

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April Giveaway: 6 books by award-winning author Catherine Ryan Hyde!


I had the pleasure of meeting Catherine Ryan Hyde in person last week.  You know, the incredibly talented author who’s written and published 15 books, including the world-changing novel Pay It Forward.  I became friends with Catherine through Twitter and Facebook, and interviewed her on the topic of rewriting and draft revision.  (You can read that interview here.)  Catherine lives in Cambria, CA, and since I was in Cambria last week, I suggest a meet up.  It was wonderful to meet her – and her canine sidekick, Ella – in person!

Literary Goodies for My Readers!

Catherine was kind enough to give me copies of some of her books for a giveaway here on my blog.  Thank you, Catherine!  These are the titles included in the giveaway:

Chasing Windmills
Electric God
Walter’s Purple Heart
Funerals for Horses
Love in the Present Tense
Earthquake Weather
(short story collection)

All six of these hardcover books have been signed by Catherine Ryan Hyde – even better!


Giveaway Details – How to Enter


Three books will be given away to folks on my blog’s subscriber list, so please subscribe today if you’re not already signed up!  It’s quick and easy to subscribe – and you’ll be eligible for all my future subscriber-only drawings.

The other three books will be given to folks who email me via my website’s contact page.  That means that folks following my blog via an RSS reader instead of a subscription can get in on the fun too, as well as folks who follow me on Twitter or just happen to stumble upon my site.

It also means that folks who subscribe AND send me an email via the contact page have an even better chance of winning!  One email/contact page entry per person, please.  Multiple contact page entries won’t increase your odds of winning – only the combination of an active subscription and one contact page entry will.

The drawing is on April 26th!

I’ll be drawing six names on Tuesday, April 26, 2011, so be sure to enter by Monday April 25, 2011.  Good luck, everyone!

Big thanks – again – to Catherine Ryan Hyde.  It was a pleasure to meet you in person, and it’s such a treat to be able to share these books with my readers!

Warm regards,

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Author Interview: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde works magic with words.  Not only does she conjure them, she arranges them in a way that draws you into a story and keeps you there long after the last word of the story has been read.  It’s so much more than a mastery of words, though.  Ms. Hyde’s plots draw you through the pages, and her characters ring true.  The intricacies of human emotion are putty in her hands.

I first experienced her literary dexterity when read the novel Love in the Present Tense, which I happened to pull off the shelf at my local library.  I soon realized she’d also written the book Pay It Forward, upon which the movie was based, and read that as well.  Vastly different from the movie, I enjoyed this book immensely, too.  Appreciative of the wonderful stories she’d created, I emailed Ms. Hyde to thank her, and found her to be very humble and kind in her response despite her success.

Ms. Hyde has had 50+ short stories and 13 novels published, in addition to a collection of short stories, and has won numerous awards along the way. Her most recent novels are Second Hand Heart (UK) and Jumpstart the World, and though Jumpstart the World is Young Adult fiction the story crosses boundaries of both age and gender.  I recently read Jumpstart the World, and loved it.  I can’t wait to read Second Hand Heart!

I “reconnected” with Ms. Hyde this fall when I started researching blogs of writers and artists I respected in order to determine how I might proceed with my own blog. Once I started my blog and accepted the need for a blog-related Twitter account, I started following Ms. Hyde on Twitter.  I’ve since learned that she’s tucked away in one of my favorite coastal towns in California, Cambria, and was delighted to exchange some tweets with Ms. Hyde regarding her home town.

Just beginning the rewrite of my first novel, I’m very curious about the rewriting methods of successful novelists.  I asked Ms. Hyde if she’d answer some of my rewriting questions, and she graciously accepted.  So, without further ado, here is my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Thank you for your time, and for sharing information about your rewrite process.  How soon after you finish a first draft do you begin your rewrite?



Let me start by saying that my method of revision is a little different.  And possibly not advisable for someone just starting out.  Then again, it may work fine for others, provided you can avoid the trap of getting stuck on revisions to the detriment of moving forward.

Here’s how I do it: I start the draft, and move forward for as long as I can before getting stuck.  By stuck, I’m not talking about full-on writer’s block.  Just that inevitable low wall that tells you the next chapter needs flesh, details, life that haven’t yet arrived.

At that point, I go back and start cleaning and polishing the part of the draft I’ve already written.  And I just keep working on it until I’m able to move forward again.

This works well for me, because I find I turn my attention away from a first draft at my own peril.  Not that I can’t get back in again.  Just that the longer I wait, the further away I go, the harder it is to gear myself back into the work.  When I look away, the ideas stop coming.  So revising and polishing earlier chapters is a perfect way to keep my head in the work.

By the time I finish the draft, the first three-quarters are pretty darn well squeaky-clean.  I don’t stop at that point.  I just keep cleaning and polishing until I feel I have something worth showing.

If I have time to allow myself the luxury, I’ll set it down for a month or two and come back at it with fresh eyes.  But often by the time I finish the draft, it’s been so long since I’ve reread the beginning that I can see it with a whole new perspective.


What does your first rewrite or run through consist of?  Please give us an overview of your process.


It’s fairly unstructured and something I do by feel.  I think this was less true when I was newer to novel writing, but now almost every run-through consists of simply rereading the work, with my “feelers” at the ready for any gnawing sense that something is off.  Usually I find smaller, more sentence-level issues.

If there’s anything bigger and more substantive, it tends to present itself to me on a hike, in the bathtub, or as I’m waiting to fall asleep at night.

I realize this is not a very helpful how-to, but I hope it’s encouraging to hear that, with continued experience, revision gets more instinctive.


And the second rewrite? Is it more of the same?


I think each time I hone it down a bit, so that what I find is smaller, more at an almost cellular level.

On average, how many times do you rewrite your novels?



I’d say I give each passage a good 25 to 30 run-throughs before I feel ready to show the work to anybody else.  But toward the end, this may be no more complex than reading it through, changing a word here and a sentence structure there.  When I read it through more than once without anything changing, I figure I must be done.  For the moment.

Do you have anyone read drafts along the way?  If so, at what point?



I don’t.  I used to.  But now I find I can locate my own inner guidance, and follow it, saving the perspective of others for later, when the draft is done and they can’t possibly pull me off track.

How much does your word count change from the first draft?  Does it usually go up or down?



I’d say less with each consecutive novel.  But it definitely tends to go up rather than down.  What is almost always needed is a bit more fleshing out here and there.  My earlier novels were only in about the 60,000-65,000 word range.  I haven’t had to learn to be less verbose.  Pretty much the opposite.

Start to finish, from the time you type the first word of a story to the time you send it to your agent or editor, how long does the whole write/rewrite/polish usually take?



If it’s a Young Adult, which tends to run much shorter, about five months.  For an adult novel, eight or nine.  This is fast.  I write faster than average.  I don’t know why, but please don’t anyone feel they need to aspire to it.  If you’re getting words into memory, you’re doing it right.  And if it takes longer, it just does.

Wow, that is quick!  Though you’re a seasoned pro at this point.  Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding the rewriting process?  Anything I may have left out?

Well.  Just that neatness does count.  And spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, along with too many typos, can be off-putting to agents and editors.  It’s a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, writers tend to think the small stuff can be left to the copyeditor.  And the copyeditor will indeed check your small stuff, if you’re able to secure a publisher.  But meanwhile, anything less than a polished work tends to make agents and editors feel that you’re asking them to work harder than you were willing to work yourself.

So think of your manuscript as a job interview—for that dream job you want more than you’ve ever wanted a job in your life.  You wouldn’t go in wearing those sneakers with the holes in the toes.  Even though it’s supposed to be about your work skills, not your sneakers.  But every aspect of your presentation speaks to your professionalism and your pride.  So prepare your manuscript in a way that shows your commitment to it.  And others will be more inclined to commit to it as well.

Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Hyde.  I wish you continued success!  Thank you for sharing your gift, and your heart, with the world.


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The Exciting (and Challenging) World of Publishing!


In 2007 I was inspired to create 18 altered art illustrations, which I then wrote short stories for.  I wrote the collection of short stories during the month of November as part of National Novel Writing Month, though I didn’t write an actual novel (technically speaking).  I adhered to all the other rules though, and was elated when I completed my 18 stories – and exceeded the 50,000-word goal with a day or two to spare.

Next came the proofreading, re-writing, and polishing.  This process took quite a while, and I was lucky to have three people read my manuscript – extra pairs of eyes that helped weed out some of the missing words, extra words and other oddities I’d become blind to because I was too close to the project.  They also pointed out areas that needed fleshing out, clarification, and alternate wording.

Earlier this year I finished a final tweaking of the manuscript, pared my collection down from 18 stories to 16 stories, and began the arduous task of researching the publishing process.  I quickly realized that creating the artwork and writing the related short stories, as labor-intensive as it had been, had been the easy part!  I had a long road ahead of me – one filled with possible wrong turns and likely rejections.  It soon became clear that the road to getting a book published is not for the faint of heart.

I had many questions, so I dug in and started reading.  I started with the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, which was very informative.  It answered one of my first questions: Do I really need an agent?  The answer is yes, as many publishers won’t even look at your work unless an agent submits it.  Next I read Making the Perfect Pitch – How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, which shed some light on how to submit a strong query letter to the aforementioned agent.  I also scoured the web for other relevant information.

Armed with that knowledge, I drafted a query and a synopsis, and started sending query packets out.  Each query is a bit different, as each agent wants to see something slightly different.  A query letter is the absolute minimum, and may be accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope, a synopsis, and a sample chapter or two.  I sent queries out to about twelve agents to start, and began the wait.  Could a request for a full manuscript review possibly come in amongst the rejections?

Somewhere along the line, between starting my research and mailing out my first queries, I read something that might’ve stopped me in my tracks: short story collections are particularly difficult to get published unless the author is very well known.  And while I’ll continue to work towards my goal of seeing this short story collection published, that information is key. It reminds me, as the rejections keep coming in, that this is a particularly difficult project to get representation for and that I’ve got to be persistent.

It’s also inspired me to change my battle plan.  It occurred to me that I might need to successfully publish another book (or two) before this book is ever published, so I’m moving on to the next manuscript.  I’ll be participating in National Novel Writing Month again this November, and will begin the process again.  Write, revise, query.  Hopefully this new manuscript can pave the way for the first one – if it hasn’t already been picked up by then!

As of this posting I’ve submitted queries to 25 literary agents, and have gotten 17 definitive no’s.  So I’ll keep chipping away by querying, honing my writing skills, and will be busily writing a novel in November.  As I said before, the road to getting a book published is not for the faint of heart.  However, I’ve chosen this road and will follow it to the end…

Warm regards,

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