Click Bait Be Gone


Click bait bothers me. Yet, I can’t not click for fear of being the only person on the planet who doesn’t know the ten highly effective habits of millionaires.

Once Google informed the publishing universe that I had self-published a book, the promise of literary fortune flooded my mailbox and social media accounts. “Top five ways to sell more books, click here.” “Find a literary agent in less than ten days, sign up now.” “Learn how [IMPORTANT AUTHOR] writes blockbusters.”

These infinite “listicles,” which promise instant success, trick me every time. I click, hoping to discover easy solutions and shorter paths to literary immortality. Instead, I’ve lost time I can’t get back, time which I could have devoted to writing.

Having now spent a few years in the writing wardrobe, I’ve learned there are no shortcuts to writer’s Narnia. Serious reflection, writing every day, and interacting with a writing community are the true paths for obtaining literary goals. Add hard work and a pinch of luck for good measure.

As John Lennon sings: “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun,” I state my 2018 writing resolutions.

1st Resolution: avoid fleeting guarantees of instant New York best seller fame.

2nd Resolution: hold fast in my confidence as a writer with meaningful messages.

If 2018 is the year you’ve resolved to write your story, take advice from a novice novelist who’s been there. Spend less time traversing internet rabbit holes. Instead, kick off your writing year by interacting with other writers and those who want to help you succeed.



Join me for James River Writers’ January Writing Show – A 2018 Creative Plan: Scheduling, Motivating & Organizing Your Writing Life.

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Serving up a sequel




Attention Iris Lee and Heyu fans: they’re back!

Creating a worthwhile tale takes as much patience as preparing a Saturday evening dinner. The opus casserole should always leave a guest asking for more.

Before shopping for that first word, consider guests’ preferences while composing a table of contents. Sift through heaps of contemplation, set the extra darlings aside for another use. Gather all ingredients: character sketches, story outline, and a first draft synopsis.

The recipe for a hardy story calls for a prime ingredient of raw characters. Once unwrapped from the butcher’s paper, they must rest awhile to expose the essence of their promise and disappointments. Season with spicy phrases to amplify their innate nature and to test their fortitude.

Select choice verbs. Peel and chop sentences; blend together paragraphs and scenes. Sautee, or toast on one side, chapters. Marinate plot and theme then sear to fuse. Next, simmer manuscript for just the right amount of time. To ensure that the story doesn’t curdle into a tome of mush, sample often for desired taste.

Then, voila! A book for the reading appetite.


Ready for seconds? Every Now and Then, the sequel to When Are You Leaving, is currently simmering in the editorial stewpot on a slow burner. Set your timers for an early spring 2018 release.

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A Drummer Boy Christmas Card


For a holiday treat, my husband and I traveled to the epicenter of retail magic to immerse ourselves in Christmas mayhem, glitter and make believe.  The hustle and bustle of Manhattan’s avenues swept us up and squired us around midtown to show off their holiday fanfare.

With hundreds of other pedestrians, we gaped at the musical castle of lights attached to the stone walls of Saks Fifth Avenue department store. Across the street the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree beckoned us to watch skaters of all size and ability as they circled and squealed with the anticipation of the season’s bringings. For a second or two we were spell bound.

We journeyed over to Macy’s Herald Square on W 34th Street. There we found it, the Spirit of Christmas. At the store’s entrance a drummer boy dressed in a Salvation Army uniform beckoned shoppers to toss their coins into the red kettle. He did this not with that droning, one-note, “bring out your dead” klaxon but with open-armed flair and a boom box spilling out Mariah Carey’s version of All I Want for Christmas.

Hallelujah, and praise baby Jesus! The sad, tired tolling of that monotonous, unending clanging of a single bell is retired, departed. And in its place the young cadet’s swagger filled the air with love and possibilities as happy shoppers formed a line to take a turn dancing with the hip hop shepherd of glad tidings.

He played his drum for Him, he played his best for Him and He smiled at him.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Parkland Tales Is Here!



I’ve written a book of bedtime stories for adults. No, no, it’s not a titillating romance or pornography but stories for those of us of a certain age who find ourselves wide awake in the middle of the night. Yeah, you know who you are.


Here’s my (shameless) pitch on why Parkland Tales is your kind of read:

Parkland Tales by Melissa Powell Gay

  • You loved The Little Golden Book bedtime stories as a child.
  • You love stories with animals. To name a few, Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down, Redwall, The Wind and the Willows, Moby Dick, The Call of the Wild. I could go on.
  • You wake up at all hours of the night, can’t get back to sleep and want a little something to distract you.



Parkland Tales also makes a fantastic holiday or birthday gift to all your reader friends.

Find Parkland Tales and my novel When Are You Leaving on Amazon Books.

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Parkland Tales: A pleasant distraction on sleepless nights.


Parkland Tales by Melissa Powell Gay

I am excited to introduce the cover for my new book Parkland Tales, Stories for 3 a.m. Readings. 

The book features a series of connected stories about the furry and feathered residents of Parkland, an urban park surrounded by concrete and asphalt. Inspired by city parks and classic literary characters like Don Quixote, Bambi Deer, Romeo and Juliet and others, this book is for every adult who still likes a good story to escort them into sleepy times.

Parkland Tales, Stories for 3 a.m. Readings will be available on Amazon Books and other book sellers by October 16, 2016.

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And they live happily ever after, sort of.


Tragic lovers, they’ve been on my mind lately. I re-read William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as research for a short story I wrote called “Howlin’ at the Moon Kind of Love”.

The master playwright just couldn’t leave it at true love found. Oh, no, he had to go and make it all fateful by including a double suicide. (His play was inspired by stories written by 16th century Italian authors.)

But, Melissa, you say, the story is a tragedy. The characters are supposed to die.

Ever since its creation circa 1597, the play’s DNA has been passed down through most boy-meets-girl love stories. To satisfy the 21st century reader’s tastes, the true love gene has been modified to block out the play’s unbearable ending. After all, if the hero is dead, it’s kind of hard to imagine the character stumbling into another adventure after turning the last page.

AnneFortierMPGAuthor Anne Fortier manages to satisfy both the literary elite and the common reader in her book Juliet (published 2010). She creates a story true to the original format of tragedy and woe and a companion happily-ever-after tale. Similar to Lauren Willig’s The Pink Carnation series, Ms. Fortier’s novel uses a double narrative format with chapters alternating between present day and 14th century Italy.

In chapter one we meet young Juliet Jacobs who directs summer plays for pre-teen thespians. When Juliet is called home to Virginia to bury her dearest great-auntie Rose, she is presented with a mysterious letter informing her that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei and her future awaits her in Siena, Italy. Off she goes in search of fortune and, perhaps, true love.

Juliet_MPGLike her main character, Juliet, Ms. Fortier has a devoted love for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. At times, her prose feels as if the Bard himself directed her fingers as they must have flown across the computer’s keyboard.

If you’re looking for a modern love story with a classical pedigree, Juliet is the stuff. To heighten the experience, humor your inner geek and read the play as a companion to Ms. Fortier’s delightful novel.

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Finding True Love in a Bookstore

Al and Mr. Chuck

Al and Mr. Chuck


My friend Al and I trade book titles. Her recommendations are profound, the writers are clever and usually on the verge of becoming famous. Al can surely pick ‘em.  Here are her impressions of author Lou Berney and his novel The Long and Faraway Gone.

“I was driving home from work one cool evening in March listening to a story headlined “The Final Chapter of a Tale of Books, Love and Mystery in Minneapolis” on NPR’s All Things Considered. As the stop light changed from red to green, I turned the corner listening to Ari Shapiro interview Pat Frovarp, the 75-year-old co-owner of Once Upon a Crime, a basement bookstore in Minneapolis.  Pat was reminiscing about meeting her husband Gary Shulze in a bookstore, falling in love, and marrying. With the help of friends, the two purchased and ran Once Upon a Crime bookstore for fourteen years.

I said to myself and the traffic surrounding me, ‘True love. Pat and Gary have true love.’

At the end of the interview, Pat recommended a book by author Lou Berney titled The Long and Faraway Gone. As I crossed Brookland Park Boulevard, I repeated, ‘The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney’ over and over so I wouldn’t forget to make a note, when I got out of my car, to purchase the book. It is now one of my favorites.


Lou Berney takes you into the minds and souls of his people from beginning to end.  Sounds, colors, smells, tastes, passions and fears keep your hands gripped to the paperback like a white knuckle drive in a car.  Although I have never been to Oklahoma, I can see the clear shimmering heat coming off of the pavement in his story. I take an imaginary back seat ride through 1986 when life in retrospect was so simple yet so cunningly evil.  Lou’s people become real, living people who cannot shake their mind’s burdens no matter how hard they try. The Long and Faraway Gone brings you to the here and now by making you accelerate your reading adventure like you have a tornado on your tail.  It’s a true crime twister.”

Lou Berney


Look for Mr. Berney’s books on his website or the local library.

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On Reading Books about Writing


As we’ve all been told, perspective employers, customers, and friends skulk around our digital profiles to determine if we have pre-existing conditions like “bad spelling-itis” or “incorrect word usage addictions”. However, for me, life is too short to spend time thumbing through The Chicago Manual of Style to verify the proper placement of quotation marks. For publications on the golden rules of grammar and punctuation, I prefer brevity and entertainment.

AllrightKris SpisaKris Spisakk’s ebook Alright? Not All Right! is a quick reference on common mistakes we all make on our social media feeds while pinning, posting or tweeting about puppies and politicians. Want to avoid bad first impressions and improve your day-to-day written communication skills? Download Ms. Spisak’s 100 Writing Tips for the Curious and Confused.

Here are some other writing reference publications which meet my brevity and entertainment criteria.

For grammar and punctuation, try:

Harbrace College Handbook (7th edition) by John C. Hodges and Mary E. Whitten. The indexing format of this comprehensive guide enables me to find answers fast. This 7th edition was issued to me my freshman year at college. In 2013 the publisher celebrated the book’s 70th anniversary and published an 18th edition titled The Hodges Harbrace Handbook by Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Learning the correct way to use a semicolon is actually fun when reading Ms. Truss. Using jokes (a panda walks into a bar with a gun and orders a bamboo shoot) and real life bad examples, she shames us all into becoming better writers.

For the craft of writing, there are hundreds of books on the subject. Here are three classics I have enjoyed:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. Only 105 pages long, I re-read this one each time I start a new writing project.

On Writing by Stephen King. Part memoir and part writing craft advice, this book reads, well, like a Stephen King novel. A page-turner until the end, the book is a must for the novice novelist.

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. According to the cover of my copy, more than a million readers think this book offers good advice on writing nonfiction. Tips from this book helped me with business and technical writing when I was a product development manager.

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Channeling The Bard


Is there really anything new under the stars when it comes to creating love scene dialogue?

You had me at "hello".

You had me at “hello”.

Remember the run away line from the movie Jerry Maguire?  Showing up unannounced, Jerry (Tom Cruise) professes in a garrulous soliloquy his undying love for Dorothy (Renee Zellweger). She patiently listens then delivers her love punch, “You had me at ‘hello’.”

Something about the understated line rings true for those struck with the “love at first sight” fever. The phrase inspired country crooner Kenny Chesney to write a song titled “You Had Me At Hello.” And when the opportunity arose in which he met the object of his song’s affection, the lovely Ms. Zellweger, he, like Jerry Maguire, howled at the moon then declared his eternal love for her with a marriage proposal.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that this wonderfully simple claim of one’s instant devotion had been written before. That’s right, William Shakespeare’s Juliet used the same sentiment on the obviously clueless Romeo when he showed up at her residence unannounced.

487009351Upon Juliet’s insistence that it is time for the love-struck and babbling lover to leave, Romeo asks, “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?”

To which she replies, “What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?”

And he begs, “The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.”

Then she asserts, “I gave thee mine before thou didst request it: And yet I would it were to give again.”

In other words, Romeo, you had her at “hello.”

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Mary Dulcie’s Jam Cake and The Christmas Lasagna Mutiny


IMG_8478By the time I was old enough to boil water, my mother welcomed an extra pair of hands into her kitchen. At twelve, I was promoted to holiday cookie baker. However, my mother entrusted no one but herself with the baking of her mother’s Christmas jam cake. Think English figgy pudding meets American candied fruit cake.

According to Mom the Christmas season wasn’t upon us until the old fashioned Bundt brick was resting under the cake tent in her dining room cupboard drying out nicely for the big day. And every year, all but a slice or two of the dense block of nuts and dried-out cake dough managed to survive the entire two weeks of gluttonous jubilations. The cake, along with the half-eaten, mint jelly centered Whitman samplers, was always the last holiday fare eaten, sometime between the waning days of January and Fat Tuesday.

Chef Iris at Christmas

Chef Iris at Christmas

As it came to pass, the year I turned eighteen, Chef Mom gave me free reign over the Christmas Dinner menu. By then, I estimated, our mother had prepared over 23,000 meals; for her, the excitement of preparing a holiday feast had lost its luster. On this most high of culinary occasions, she abdicated her favorite whisk and mixing bowls to me.

These were pre-Martha Stewart-Paula Dean times, ya’ll, but like those culinary trend setters, I was ready to shake things up in the kitchen. The first item knocked off the menu was, you guessed it, the jam cake and the second item was the standard, ho-hum roasted turkey. Both were banished. In their place, I smugly announced to the family, we would be supping on lasagna on December 25.  “She’s joking,” they said, “No turkey at Christmas? That’s madness. Heresy!” When the day of celebration of the birth of baby Jesus arrived, the lasagna was paraded around the dining room and placed at the table’s center among the yuletide side dishes my parent’s English and German ancestors had handed down to their daughters over the ages.

The diners grumbled over the absence of giblet gravy and mashed potatoes as every morsel of the lasagna disappeared. My sister still refers to that particular holiday supper as the Christmas Lasagna Mutiny. But, as I recall, no one asked for a slice of jam cake.

They were right, my ancestors and my family, and I was wrong. Christmas isn’t Christmas without our holiday memory comfort foods like the roasted turkey and all its trimmings or simple sugar cookies shaped as Christmas trees and angels. The act of baking the cake, rather than eating it, was Mom’s way of celebrating the season’s traditions, the experience which connected her to warm memories of her childhood Christmases. Since she passed away, I’ve baked the cake at Christmastime to honor her and her mother and to connect with my own Christmas Past.

Come January, when the days are their darkest and the cold wind pits freezing rain against your face, I invite you over for a cup of coffee and a slice of Mary Dulcie’s jam cake.  Don’t worry, there will be plenty left over from our Christmas celebrations for you to enjoy.

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