Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Class Management Skills

One of the first teaching aides I learned as a trainee instructor was the list of class management skills. I had to memorize all ten and demonstrate them in a classroom situation. During each of my recertification seminars, these skills were reinforced and practiced. These skills show how well the instructor is conducting the class and how much he/she cares about the students. The next time you’re in class, check off how many the instructor is following:

1. Set mood and tone of class. Is the instructor happy to be there or showing what a bad day he’s having?

2. Set a direct goal. Does the instructor have a game plan for the evening and does he announce it?

3. Create positive environment. Does the instructor smile and share his enthusiasm?

4. Personal approach/individual contact. Two examples of this are the instructor acknowledging the individual student by giving him a high five or touching them to make corrections in technique.

5. Give positive feedback to questions. Does the instructor give intelligent answers to questions or ignore them? Even if the question is asked by a child and does not relate to taekwondo, how does the instructor respond?

6. Reinforce positive behavior. Acknowledge the attributes for a successful class. Is a student standing at attention, paying attention? Does a particular student assist another having problems?

7. Realistic praise. “That is the most awesome front kick I have ever seen in my life.” The student isn’t going to buy this and it’s wrong. Praise the student for improvements made from the last attempt or praise some quality in the technique.

8. Positive correction instead of criticism. “That’s a bad stance, you should try harder.” How will the student feel after hearing this? A good formula is praise-correct-praise. Praise the student for the attempt and find a good quality about the technique. Then show the necessary correction to make it better. Then praise the student for the correction made.

9. Refer to students by name. Everyone wants to hear his or her name and to be remembered, especially in a large class.

10. Promote personal victory. As an example, don’t tell the student he needs to kick head high. Rather, give them a realistic goal, and count that as a victory. Even if the improvement is kicking two inches higher than yesterday, it’s an improvement and victory for the individual.

Many of these skills are designed to promote the individual, which is one of the best attributes of martial arts. Yes, there is a team atmosphere, but the individual is the key. I can’t play football, so I wouldn’t make the team. I can’t dribble very well, so I’d sit on the bench a lot. However, I can practice hard and after a few months be worthy of testing for a higher rank. Others may have moved up faster, but that’s okay. I’m concerned with me.

These skills show how the instructor cares about the students. In my book, Beta, my heroine, Mallory Petersen, is a private investigator and head instructor in her taekwondo school. She cares about every one of her students, from the black belt who’s won multiple trophies at tournaments to the squirrelly lower rank who has problems with a basic front kick even after eight weeks’ worth of classes. She has meetings with her staff about instruction techniques and concerns about the students. She knows every one of her students by name and how each is progressing through the curriculum.

Class management skills are vital for a successful club or school. If the instructor isn’t using these on a regular basis, then these are something to pass along.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Random Christmas Thoughts

Well, another year has rolled around and the holiday season is upon us. Last year I discussed the groups out there who protest Christmas depictions and exhibits in any given community as well as the PC crowd wanting everyone to not say Christmas. I’m pleased to note that this year I didn’t hear any incident on the news of the AFL-CIO or other such group suing a community over a Nativity scene on the town square. I’m sure such a suit came to pass somewhere, but I wasn’t privy to any.

This year, as so many others November and December seemed, in one sense, to drag by. However, as I post this blog today, there is only another week and some change before 2012. Once it’s here I’ll have wondered why the holiday season passed by so quickly. I feel the same way about warm sunny spring and summer days. I want to enjoy them, cherish them, have them last for more than they do. I get excited when April and May arrive e and suddenly – boom! – August is ending and Mother Nature throws us September and warnings about what’s coming.

I wrote a recent Facebook post about enjoying a green Christmas. As children, my sister and I differed on Christmas weather. She always wanted snow and I always wanted green grass (or at least the semblance of green grass). And not a flake in sight. Usually, she won. I have experienced some green Christmases in the past number of years and I enjoy not having to worry about slipping and sliding on ice and snow while traveling.

This year, I requested not to work the holiday. I was granted the time. Usually, my family tries to schedule things around my free time which, sometimes, isn’t the best for everyone else. However, since Christmas falls on a weekend, I pounced at the chance to get it. I’ll just have to wait to see if the same holds true for New Year’s Eve.

So, what did this past year bring me? Two published books and a possibility of a third for next year are the big highlights. Also, I started a new venture in reviewing books for an online magazine and two other websites. Which of course means MY unread books stay on the shelves for a bit longer.

I made some new friends and contacts and continued writing stories. I’ve almost reached my goal of finishing the first draft of a new private investigator story by the end of the year. Next year I would like to wrestle with and pin (or is that pen?) the sequel to Night Shadows as well as a few other projects.

What didn’t this year bring me? Uh, no new girlfriend, new job, or new apartment. Same ol’, same ol’. But, my buddy Thomas the cat is still with me. He turns eleven on Christmas. (I don’t know if he actually was born on Christmas but what the hec, it’s easier to remember.)

So, next week and into next year, look for more writing blogs. Some of them will be fresh and some of them will have been seen on other sights this past year. Any author/writer wishing to be a guest on my blog is more than welcome to submit. Plus, anyone wishing to be interviewed for the Around the Globe with… series may also contact me.

Otherwise, Merry Christmas, happy New Year, and may all your dreams come true.

(Yeah, I know corny standard ending, but hey, sometimes the old lines are the still the best.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

Maybe a more appropriate title would be “How do you hear me?” Or maybe, “Sounds like…” with the proper charades gesture.

What I’d like to discuss is how to add voice or sound to your stories. How do characters speak? What do specific noises sound like? Taking the second question first, it’s not enough sometimes just to write something making noise. To add elements such as mood or emotion, you must show the reader how things sound. You do this by relating the particular noise to something recognizable. For instance, “The rain fell hard against the roof.” This can be spiced up depending on what you’re trying to convey. “The rain falling against the metal slats sounded like a hail of machine gun bullets.” “She sat alone in the cabin. The light rain against the screens was as many whispers silently calling to her.”

Wind and rain are fairly easy to bring to life. The wind can moan like a dying asthmatic, cry like ghosts from the past mourning their own passing, sing like a teakettle on full alert, or whine like an injured animal. Other sounds may challenge the writer. I’ve heard the familiar blatting exhaust of a passing bus described as ‘snoring’ and ‘farting.’ Did you know cats doing the courting dance sound exactly like a crying baby? The similarity is downright eerie.

Voices are another area where you can bring the reader closer to your story. In nearly every story I read, I assign a specific voice to each character, sometimes by the author telling me how someone speaks, sometimes with only the character’s description.

I have a friend who suffers from MS and as a result she can’t read a book very long before her mind gets tired. So she listens to audio books. When we dated, I’d spend hours reading aloud to her. She ended up with someone else, but since then, when I discover a book I think she might like, I’ll record it for her. I’ve heard hundreds of audio books and I enjoy them so much more when the narrator uses a different voice for each character. One who reads in a monotone or with no emotion even in the action packed scenes tends to make a good story boring.

I’ve developed a standard set of voices for various types of characters when I read aloud. Unless I’m specifically told the person has a particular voice, I usually rely on past experience and descriptions. With exceptions, of course, see if you hear the same voices.

Attorneys, especially the adversarial ones usually have an aristocratic tone.

Techno geeks and some doctors are nasally.

Military colonels and general will speak in a bass or gravelly voice.

The beat cops or veteran detectives talk out of the side of his mouth while their captains are gruff speakers.

Preachers are charismatic with maybe a touch of a southern accent. On the other hand, priests are quiet and subdued.

Unless specifically mentioned, I usually put a little high pitched waver to elderly voices.

Women are of course done in a higher voice except when you have a Lauren Bacall type character. Breathy, perky, whiny, nasally, domineering, seductive, grating…the voice depends on the character.

Accents are fun, too. Does the Irishman have a Dublin or north country accent? Is the British speaking in a London or rural twang? Cockney or House of Lords? Is the Mexican high pitched or raspy? Is the black person speaking in a deep, formal, commanding voice (think James Earl Jones), sassy street slang (think Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy), or very distinctive (everybody recognizes Morgan Freeman)? Is the businessman from Mississippi, Alabama, or is he a boisterous Texan with a hat too big to fit inside his pickup truck? Is the Russian a weary ex-KGB officer or his sexy partner (a’la James Bond movies)?

The point is to make the reader mentally hear the sounds and the voices by giving them life and distinction. How many books have you read where everybody sounds the same, where you don’t here any “grinding metal gates, nerve shattering creaking doors, Armageddon like eruptions, droning insects like miniature model airplanes?” They’re not very exciting, are they?

Give your readers some sound. Their ears will thank you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Around the Globe with MELODIE CAMPBELL

Well, my part of Iowa received about two inches of snow last night, reafffirming my loathing of winter. The temp is sitting at a crisp (ugh!) 12 degrees. So, I hop in my transporter, pick up this week's featured author and it's off to England...where I think she forgot it's still winter.

Anyway, we land in Shropshire at an old Norma castle with the traditional turrets and crenalations and merlons (whatever the hec they are) and I'm still cold the castle is cold, but, the Ms. Campbell thought enough to bring wineskins. But this is a fascinating place because it's used in one of Melodie's books. Let's interview!

1. Who is Melodie Campbell and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

Nix the fascinating, but I am probably one of the silliest. I’ve written comedy for years and opened the 1999 Canadian Humor Conference. Way back in the early 90s, a producer from fledgling HBO saw my play ‘Burglar for Coffee,’ labeled it “completely nuts” and offered me a spot writing pilots, which I stupidly turned down. This goes on record as one of the worst decisions ever made by a person not officially insane.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I love sportscars. My first car was a Triumph Spitfire. Dang, I loved that car. Second was a Lotus Europa. I now own an older Porsche Boxter. One person I really envy is Jay Leno. I want his garage…and the contents.

3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as becoming an astronaut?

Well, I’ve already been a bank manager, marketing director, college instructor, association executive, and possibly the worst runway model ever. (Never could get the hang of high heels.) You could say I’m running out of professions.

Okay, to be honest, I was the class clown in high school, always getting in trouble for being a smart-ass. So the progression to writing humor was natural.

I’ve been writing professionally since 1991, when I won my first short story contest, and then snagged a humor column contract.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

Janet Evanovich. Charlaine Harris. Lisa Lutz. All the first ladies of comedy. How I would love to be counted in their number. Andrea Camilleri and Donna Leon from Italy. Also Douglas Adams (but he’s dead, so it might be more difficult).

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?

I write escape novels! Escape with me into a grand adventure for a few hours, Stephen! Pretend to be someone else for a while, in a different world, with different challenges and delights. Let me take you out of your real world, be it the airport or that blasted island. When you need a laugh the most, pick up Rowena Through the Wall. It’s funny, sexy, and totally free of any messages.

6. Share the Campbell process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.

I am the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, so my days are rather full. I write at night, for breaks and on weekends. I watch very little TV, because you have to give up something to get time for writing. Oh, and I gave up exercise.

Now the process: I was trained as a mystery writer, and cut my fiction teeth on short stories. In writing mystery, you always start with plot. You don’t start writing until you know the ending. So…when writing mystery or crime, I always know the ending before I start writing.

When I write fantasy, it is a teeny bit different. But I still start with plot, and then figure out what sort of characters I need to make the plot work. In Rowena Through the Wall, I needed a character who had the guts to walk through the wall into an unknown world. The plot needed a character who was spunky, who was smart, and who would be the cause of a lot of hot passion among the guys on the other side of the wall. Rowena was born.

Research? I write what I know. I know what Norman castles look like; I have relatives in England and have been there many times. I know something about the medical field (I was a hospital director). I know about the life of college instructors and students, and I ride horses. For ‘Rowena Through the Wall’, I had to research medieval weaponry and satanic weddings. For the most part, I lean on my personal experience, and do research for secondary aspects of my fiction.

Number of edits or rewrites? I’ve written professionally for 20 years, so my work is very clean from the start. But even then, I’ll go through 4 complete edits on my own, before it hits the publisher’s desk.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Just start writing! By this I mean, start writing anywhere in your story, to see if you actually like writing. I find a lot of my writing students want to be authors, but discover the process of writing is too much like work. It is work. No excuses – get in there and get your hands dirty! You’ll find out soon enough if you are one of us.

8.I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

My most commonly quoted quote is: “Recent studies show that approximately 40% of writers are manic depressive. The rest of us just drink.”

Philosophy? Guh - I was a business major, Stephen! “When in doubt, Integrate” was as close as I came to philosophy.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

‘The Goddaughter’ has been bought by Orca Books and will be out in mid 2012. It is a comic mob caper.

“Stolen jewels, smoggy Steeltown and a reluctant mob Goddaughter make for a whole lot of laughs!”

(Again, write what you know. My mother’s family is Sicilian, and I live on the outskirts of industrial Hamilton…)

Also, the second in my comic time travel series, “Rowena and the Dark Lord” is well underway.

Stop writing? Ask me to stop breathing. Or eating. Pass the wineskin.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

I have a comic blog, where I am currently featuring previously published humor columns.

More information is available on my website, where you can view trailers and read opening scenes:

You can reach me by email at


Do you like comic time travel?
Meet Rowena Revel!

“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”

When Rowena falls through her classroom wall into a medieval world, she doesn’t count on being kidnapped – not once, but twice, dammit. Unwanted husbands keep piling up; not only that, she has eighteen-year-old Kendra to look out for, and a war to prevent. Good thing she can go back through the wall when she needs to…or can she?

“Hot and Hilarious!” Midwest Book Review
“Jack Sparrow meets Stephanie Plum” Former editor, Distant Suns Fantasy Magazine
Rowena Through the Wall (Imajin Books) is available at,,,, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Short bio:
Melodie Campbell has been a bank manager, marketing director, comedy writer, college instructor and possibly the worst runway model ever. Melodie got her start writing comedy, so it’s no surprise that editors have called her fiction “wacky” and “laugh out loud funny”. She has over 200 publications and has won five awards for fiction. She is the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, and has taught fiction writing for ten years.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Some time ago, a friend dropped me an email I thought was just delightful. I had never heard the term, don't know if it's even a real word or something someone made up to fit. But, these are wonderful and shows creativity. Plus, they make great story inserts.

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax.

1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

2. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

3. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
4. If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

9. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

10. How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

11. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

12. I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

13. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "In an emergency, notify:" I put "Doctor".

14. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

17. The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

18. Hospitality: Making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

19. I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.

20. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

21. I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.

22. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that theFire Department usually uses water.

23. You're never too old to learn something stupid.

24. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

25. I prayed to God for a new bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness.