Hold On to Your Hat!

November 22, 2010 - 2 Responses

I’m happy to announce that my new website is up and running!


This site includes my blog AND my design and writing samples. Yes, a couple years ago I decided to separate my writing and design sites, but that proved to be more of an ordeal than it was worth. So until I decide to change my mind again (I kid), melaniehoo.com is your place for one stop Hoo shopping.

Can you guess which part I’m most excited about?

I adore the photos (which I took in my basement Saturday afternoon), and I’m proud that after nine months I’ve finally updated my blogroll (let me know if you’re not listed), but the item that has me most excited is the Google Friend Connect! I can finally see who’s following me!

So, please please please go to melaniehoo.com — or better yet, hop right to melaniehoo.com/hoosblog — and bookmark it, copy and paste it, or do whatever it is you do to save highly important websites. Ahem. I’ll love you forever if you follow me.

Special thanks to my friends who succumbed to my brow-beating on Sunday.

Feel free to leave comments on this post, but starting Wednesday all posts will be at melaniehoo.com/hoosblog. I’ll leave a light on so stragglers can find their way.

Now, can anyone name the movie reference in the title?

Post Up at Ermas

November 19, 2010 - Leave a Response

Today my a post  Can I Tell You a Secret is up at the Army of Ermas blog. Please go check it out!



November 17, 2010 - 18 Responses

It’s that time — the midway NaNo update. I had planned to tell you about my progress a little more often, but here we are on the downslope of November (don’t get me started on that…) and I haven’t told you how it’s going.

I knew going into NaNo as a gainfully employed person that I may not reach my goals, and not reach them I did. Well, I reached my personal goal of 1000 words per day, then played massive catchup the first weekend. I even topped my all-time daily word count and hit 4000 words in one day (in three sittings), for a grand total of 7000 words in two days.

The second week went better and I reached the NaNo goal of 1667 words almost every day. On Saturday Erica and I got together again and I wrote my daily words in one sitting. This may not sound exciting, but one of the purposes of NaNo is to train yourself to get into the habit of writing every day.

In 2008 I learned that I am able to write that much in one day. This year I’ve learned that I can write 1000 words in 45 minutes, as long as I have the story plotted out. Monday night I wrote my 1667 words in an hour and a half and passed the halfway mark (25K words).

Will I keep all of it? I hope so. I’m sure some will get cut but I don’t let myself write fluff just to reach my goal. Yesterday I only wrote 500 words, and while I’m disappointed at falling beneath my goal, I know that forcing it doesn’t work for me. I’ll catch up this weekend.

Finally, a brief excerpt. I realize I still haven’t told you the premise so this is a little out of left field, but I haven’t written my hook yet. This is the first draft, so bear with me.


Light pulses across the imitation leather of the dashboard.

Light. Dark. Light. Dark.

My eyes stutter and my heart jumps around in my chest, but I blink it away. My tongue strokes the grainy piece of cement stuck between my back teeth. The orthodontist swore he got it all, but that was as true as his promise that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable. Right.

A tingling sensation pricks the tips of my fingers. I press them together, watching the blood shift beneath my skin. The tingling turns to those sharp needles that remind me of anything but sleep.

I press harder and my toes start tingling too. What the hell?

The dancing on the dashboard gets faster. The trees here are taller, straighter, and the sunlight strobes through the branches. My breath catches and a sudden heaviness pushes me deep into the seat.

I glance at my mom but she’s concentrating on the road, humming along with golden oldies or whatever the hell it is she listens to, oblivious to the fact that something very weird is happening to her daughter.

I close my eyes. The heaviness lifts. Too much. Now I’m floating and—

“But mom, I’m fine.”

My mom crosses the kitchen and leans against the counter. “Luz, you’re going. The dentist said your face will get all out of whack if you don’t get braces. Your entire face could change…”

A sense of déjà vu slams me over the head. I’ve had this argument. Next mom is gonna grab the stack of mail that dad set there earlier and toss it in the basket.

She does.


The words stumble out of me. “Mom…” The déjà vu doesn’t lift. This isn’t a memory. I’m not in the car anymore.

I’ve gone back to yesterday.

When to Delete a Friend

November 15, 2010 - 27 Responses

This isn’t one of those posts. I have no complaint and no one has slighted me. Quite the opposite in fact.

Technology and social media has drastically changed the way we live our lives, most noticeably in how we communicate with people. I’m connected with friends and family on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, blogs and email, not to mention the phone and actually getting together in person.

I was on Skype over the weekend and when I scrolled through my list of contacts, I realized that one name towards the bottom of the list is a friend who died almost two years ago. We used to catch up as she traveled between Vegas, Chicago, and the various countries she’d visit to dance tango. Seeing her name brought all that back, much the same way looking through photos would.

Part of me feels like I should delete her as a contact, since clearly I won’t be calling her anymore, but it feels like a slight. I would never throw away her pictures, and I still have a few emails saved from back when we used to dance together, so why does it feel weird to keep her there?

I have other friends who’ve died and their Facebook accounts have been turned into memorial pages, but she didn’t have that. Aside from her email address, this is my only online evidence that she existed.

I realize there’s no right answer, but I’m curious what you all would do.

The Circle of Life. Or Meat.

November 12, 2010 - 10 Responses

*cues theme song to The Lion King*

Do you remember the cows? At the time there was a bit of debate as to the fate of the two cows grazing in the field near my house. My mother finally ended the discussion when she announced they were beef cows and wouldn’t be around much longer.

That was in July. Since then I’ve watched the field, anxious for the day they disappeared.

About two weeks ago, three baby cows appeared in the far end of the field in a separate, fenced-off area. My first fear was that they were veal cows. There was a veal farm near my high school and every time we went into town I’d cringe at the tiny cow houses (like dog houses and not much bigger) where these animals lived. I don’t know a lot about raising veal, but my understanding is they keep them in there so they can’t get very big. Rows and rows of houses. Very depressing. It’s also why veal is the only meat I refuse to eat.

Anyway, I was nervous that was the fate for these cows (because being slaughtered as an adult is so much better, but it seems like infanticide…) but even more worried about the two grown cows. Oh wait, I said two, didn’t I? There used to be three, but at some point their numbers were reduced by one. Labor Day picnic, perhaps?

The two cows remained in the larger field, but some days I’d notice them close to the fence, like they were talking to the babies. Maybe they were telling them how to plot an escape. I knew it was only a matter of time before they’d be gone, but that didn’t lessen the surprise the day I came home and the three baby cows were grazing in the front field, looking a little overwhelmed.

They’ve got big shoes to fill.


November 10, 2010 - 18 Responses

Last week I had the honor of meeting another online writing friend, Erica. We’ve been friends for a couple years and even though I’ve been in Michigan for over eight months, this was the first time we’ve gotten together.

She drove an hour and a half (!!) to join me at a local NaNo write-in. I’ve met quite a few online friends over the past year so my biggest concern was not recognizing her (Starbucks was filled with brunettes when I arrived) but I was her first. Once I realized that, I thought back to meeting MY first online friend and how nervous I was, but Erica was fine. We split a blueberry dessert minutes after meeting and debated skipping the write-in altogether. (Which probably would have been more productive.)

Neither of us had attended a write-in before and weren’t really sure what to expect. I haven’t sat in a roomful of people and been expected to write since high school, and even then I still talked to my neighbor. (Shocking, no?) We arrived about half an hour late (that dessert was goooood), sat down, and started taking pictures.

It’s a very important part of the writing process. Don’t question it.

There were maybe ten people there and while everyone had their laptops out (except for one girl writing by hand, oy) no one seemed to be actually writing. Conversations popped up at each table, then we all introduced ourselves. No one really knew what to say when I said I’m querying my novel from 2008. Maybe they aren’t writing with publication in mind, I don’t know.

Anyway, we shifted to the sofas since Erica’s computer was dying, and I was able to bang out 500 words — but that’s only because we did a word wars thing through the NaNo website. After the word wars one girl proceeded to tell us the plot for her SEVEN book series, then which jeans make her butt look good. Srsly.

Erica stopped at my house afterwards to meet Owen, who would NOT leave her alone. After twenty minutes of him gnawing on her fingers and trying to make her face his own, she headed out for the hour and a half drive home. Then I went back to writing.

We’re meeting again this Saturday, but I think we’ve agreed to skip the other writers and just do our own thing. And maybe go to dinner — but only after we meet our daily word goal.

Yet Another Example of Truth Being Stranger Than Fiction

November 8, 2010 - 39 Responses

Today is my divorce hearing. The past couple months, while stressful, have been relatively smooth (mom, it’s all a matter of perspective) and this date has arrived with little fanfare.

My friends and family have been very supportive since we first decided to split up, but I found an ally in one person I didn’t anticipate. I have an aunt who’s also going through a divorce, and over the summer we discovered that we could talk to each other in a way we couldn’t with anyone else. (At least that was the case for me.) Yes, I have friends who’ve been divorced and they’ve offered wonderful advice, but there’s something about talking to someone who’s going through it at the same time that’s especially helpful. Plus, most people — no matter how supportive — get tired of divorce talk after a period of time.

This morning I’m meeting my aunt for breakfast before I head to the courthouse, but she’s not joining me for moral support. As fate, luck, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it would have it, her court date is also today. At the same time. In the same courtroom. With the same judge.

And to top it all off, we’re both going back to our maiden names — Hooyenga. You can bet the judge doesn’t see THAT every day.

Zommmmmbies! (part 2)

November 5, 2010 - 8 Responses

Picking up where I left off on Wednesday…

Through a combination of staying out too late and being an Eastern Time zoner, I got one hour of sleep before meeting my friend Mary (who I know from Zihua) for breakfast at Pike Place Market. The one where they throw the fish. And get this — they threw TWO fish for me to take a picture but they threw them OVER MY HEAD! (the fish is the blurry thing right above the guy’s hands.)

I also ordered a dozen cookies. Through jail.

I got back to the hotel in time for Stacey’s 11am panel, which had been changed to 10am. From that point on it was referred to as the nanel (the non-panel) and we’ve affectionately renamed the entire weekend the Nanel Weekend. At least we got to see a group perform Thriller.

She got reeeeeally into it.

Their Sunday panel was also moved so I had the opportunity to lounge on a fancy couch at the front of the room and pretend I was important enough to be a panelist. Although one of the very helpful organizers (who looked JUST like John Malkovich) treated me as if I was part of their group, so I almost felt like an honorary member of their super cool club.

The rest of Sunday was a bit of a blur (one hour of sleep people) but I do recall the hottest tea I’ve ever been served and the best fish tacos I’ve had in a long time.

The whole reason we came!

My trip ended on a high note when Jesse and I ended up on the same flight to Chicago. We talked shop (and roofs) for the ENTIRE flight and I’m very excited to count her — and everyone else — as my new friends.

I did learn a few things worth noting:
– the publishing industry is hard even after you’re published
– “they” aren’t always right (in regards to writing/querying rules)
– George Romero is very tall
– Chuck Palahniuk (or Palucknucknuck as we kept calling him) is rather frisky
– it doesn’t rain EVERY day in Seattle
– people are rude no matter how polite you are
– little tiny cupcakes in the hotel lobby make everything okay
– fish don’t drip when flying through the air

And finally…
– zombies can’t talk because they don’t breathe

Zommmmmbies! (part 1)

November 3, 2010 - 10 Responses

I try to live my life by the mantra that if I go into a situation without any expectations — good OR bad — then more times than not I’ll end up having a good time. (Not that I didn’t expect anything but FUN with Jen and Stacey…)

This past weekend was no exception. After my four and a half hour flight to Seattle — during which I plotted my nano novel (yay!) — I galloped (yes galloped) into the arms of Jen!

(I swear I didn’t copy her post — I didn’t realize we used the same descriptions until after I wrote this. But check hers out for pictures.)

I hiked through the airport with her adorable family, then drove through a rainy Seattle (who knew?) to the Barnes & Noble where Stacey was signing books. Except she wasn’t there.

Turns out B&N had a booth at the actual convention. After much running in the rain and lamenting the jokers that kept moving the “you are here” dots on the directional maps, we found her!

That’s also when I met Scott, the author I interviewed last Friday. I attended their panel with writers Jesse and Scott, where I learned that zombies are people, too, then our entire entourage headed to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with the oddest menu I’ve ever seen. (Precious Nuts anyone?)

I was a little star-struck by all these published authors. And not just published — multi-published. We didn’t talk shop ALL night since half our group were non-writers, but it was fascinating to hear their stories. (I bought a book from each of them so my stash of autographed books doubled!)

We continued the evening at a couple places near the hotel where I learned that one person has been to Zihua several times (and lives a block from where I lived in Chicago), Stacey and Jen are super hugable and fun to take pictures with, and it is, in fact, today.

Tune in Friday for the rest of the story and more pictures!

Oh hi

November 1, 2010 - 3 Responses

My long weekend got away from me and I forgot to schedule a post. Details on the zombie conference coming Wednesday!

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