A to Z Challenge - 2012


It’s finally time to throw your name in the metaphorical A to Z hat for 2012.  The special linky tool is situated at the bottom of this post (or you can find it at one of the other co-host blogs listed) for those of you who are primed and ready to sign up.  For the rest, those who are still sitting on the fence trying to decide if you want to do this or not, here’s my pitch for adding your name to the list.  I am not an everyday blogger!  I do not post on any sort of schedule (except for WRiTE CLUB).  I mostly blog when I feel like it.  So why am I doing A to Z, because I'm committed to changing things up in 2012.  I’m making it uncomfortable in my comfort zone.  It is also another way I can link arms with the awesome writers who inhabit this blogosphere and demonstrate my commitment to the craft.  Will it be hard?  Sure!  But with preparation, grit and determination, I will come out on May 1st successful.  You can too!

Just in case there’s someone reading this who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a recap.   By registering below you’ll be signing up to blog every day (except most Sundays) during the month of April.  Most years there are 26 days in April after you subtract the Sundays, but this year there are only 25, so we will be blogging on the first Sunday.  Blogging about what?  A topic themed around the letter of the alphabet that corresponds to that day.  Day 1 would be something with the letter A, then on April second another topic with the letter B as the theme, and so on until you finish on April 30th with the theme based on the letter Z.  It doesn't even have to be a word--it can be a proper noun, the letter used as a symbol, or the letter itself.  The theme of the day is the letter scheduled for that day.  Your posts should be short and sweet (like this one) because there will be a LOT of bloggers making their way from site to site.   

Here is a list of my awesome co-hosts.  I consider myself honored to stand alongside them in organizing this challenge!

Co-Hosts:
Tossing It Out (Arlee Bird)
Amlokiblogs (Damyanti Biswas)
Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh)
Life is Good (Tina Downey)
Cruising Altitude 2.0 (DL Hammons)
Retro-Zombie (Jeremy Hawkins)
The Warrior Muse (Shannon Lawrence)
The QQQE (Matthew MacNish)
Author Elizabeth Mueller (Elizabeth Mueller)
Pearson Report (Jenny Pearson)
No Thought 2 Small (Konstanz Silverbow)
Breakthrough Blogs (Stephen Tremp)
Coming Down the Mountain (Karen Jones Gowen)

Please enter code carefully so that it is accurate. If you enter your link incorrectly please notify us so we can correct it. You can find our emails in the CONTACT US tab on the A to Z Blog. If you do not plan to participate in the Challenge during April or your purpose is to lure visitors to an advertising site, please do not enter a link as it will be removed--save us the time and trouble.

Registration starts TODAY!  How about it?  Are you up for a challenge?  Who wants to come out and play?


WRiTE CLUB Wrap Up – Preliminary Rounds


I guess you gave me your answer after mentioning the possibility of ending WRiTE CLUB on Monday and told you it’s in your hands.  Sixty three comments!  WOWZA!  There were some duplicates and some votes from suspicious profiles, but after I weeded those out it was still an impressive showing.  Thank you everyone for contributing your opinions.   

How about we tally those votes and fill that final spot in the twelve WRiTER playoff?  The official score ended up:

EMMILOU HAYRISS - 30 votes     I.M. XTNQSHR - 17 votes

EMMILOUS HAYRISS is now our twelfth semi-finalist!  The roster for the final rounds is set, and here are your contestants.

Round 1 Winner - Anne Shirley
Round 2 Winner - Jamie Stuart
Round 3 Winner - Timothy Nine
Round 4 Winner - Casey Brooks
Round 5 Winner - Panama Red
Round 6 Winner - Lucky Left Hook.
Round 7 Winner - Terri Lee
Round 8 Winner - Spectral
Round 9 Winner - Lily Mason
Round 10 Winner - Art Gallery
Round 11 Winner – Lady Grimm
Round 12 Winner – Emmilou Hayriss

Here’s what will happen next.  These twelve semi-finalists will be given the choice of letting their original submission stand as is, or augment it by expanding it to 500 words, or submitting a new 500 word writing sample altogether.  Then the twelve of them will be paired up (by random drawing) and a different bout will be held every day the week during February 6-11.  On Sunday February 12th the six winners will be announced and again paired off again (using the same 500 word writing sample) for bouts to be held every other day on starting on February 14th.  Three winners will be chosen from those matches, along with one wildcard selection who’ll be the WRiTER who scored the most points but didn’t win his/her bout.  The winner with the most points will be face-off against the wildcard selection, and the other two contestants will duel it out.  Those two matches will take place on February 20th and 23rd.  The final clash between the last two standing will be on February 27th for all the marbles.

Now it’s time to talk marbles.  When I started this endeavor I hadn’t really planned on giving an actual prize, other than the recognition of being the winner.  But after a while I started to change my mind, and then I fell into something that would serve as a perfect reward.  The WRiTE CLUB Champion will be awarded (apart from the nifty badge below) a signed copy of Shelli Johannes-Wells debut novel, UNTRACEBALE, along with a query critique and/or one hour consultation with her about marketing or anything else. She is a marketing whiz and picking her brain for an hour is certainly a prize to cherish.
  
So, things will get rolling again on February 6th.  As always, anyone can vote…but only once per bout.  Leave your vote for the WRiTER that swayed you the most in the comments of each post, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer.  Please spread the word and remind your friends to make a selection as well.  Remember, even though participation in the last round was phenomenal, the amount we continue to see over the next couple weeks will help decide if WRiTE CLUB continues on.

Don’t forget the WRiTE CLUB motto, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!


Hair-Trigger


I want to thank everyone who contributed their input to help improve my query letter by visiting the QQQE last week.  Obviously I have a ways to go, but now I’m one step closer to being ready.  I must have revised that query letter a bazillion times and as I contemplate incorporating what I learned from Matt, my mind continues to agonize.  About what, you ask?  One simple thing…the hair-trigger.

Agents receive so many submissions they have to utilize whatever individualized method they can to whittle down their pile (including using interns).  In an idealized world, they’d completely read each and every query letter that comes across their desk and never fall behind.  However, here in this world there’s a gun planted on the temple of each letter, a rejection letter loaded in its chamber, and a trigger becomes touchier as the pile grows higher.  Regardless of how close to perfection my letter approaches, I will still worry about that trigger and how sensitive it can be.  The majority of literary agents out there have one and I understand completely, it’s a matter of survival for them.  But for those of us on the other side of that barrel, we live with the knowledge that one miss-step, one false move, could result in a snuffed out dream.

Put the genre and word count in the first paragraph instead of the last.  BLAM!

Misspell a single word, or let slip a grammatical error.  BLAM!

Mix tenses.  BLAM!

Your word count is 105 000 and their self-imposed limit is 95K.  BLAM!

Addressing the letter to Mr. Bobbie Robinson, but Bobbie is a girl.  BLAM! BLAM! (You needed to be shot twice for that one).

You used a cliché.  BLAM!

You failed to recognize that one element of the plot still remains vague.  BLAM!

You used the wrong font and/or character size.  BLAM!

They read your query on Monday, and Monday’s are always bad.  BLAM!

Yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point, but really, by how much?  It doesn’t really matter what their reasons are, the sensitivity of the trigger can be correlated not only to the height of their stack, but the depths of their mood.  That’s why we work so hard to compose the perfect letter, and even then it can still fall short. 

There is so much riding on this letter that I see now why it’s recommended by so many of those “in the know” that aspiring novelist should attend as many writers’ conferences as possible and get to know the agents representing that genre.  Interact on their blogs, follow their Twitter and/or Facebook feeds, anything to link your letter to an actual person and make pulling that trigger that much more difficult.



PS.  Did you know that Ian Fleming, the author known for creating the iconic James Bond 007, also wrote the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

Rebel Pledge and WRiTE CLUB – Round 12


I need to take care of a little business before we get to WRiTE CLUB.  A while ago I signed up to be a part of Sheri Larsen's Rebel Writers Pledge, which means today I need to list one of my writer goals for 2012.  It may sound simplistic, but my goal for this year is to determine which path I need to take to see my novel published.  Will my query letter prove successful and land me agent so I can follow the traditional route?  Will I pursue a publisher and see where that leads me.  Or will I simply e-publish?  I WILL know the answer to that question by December 31st...that's my pledge.  


And now let's move on to the last chance for advancement to the WRiTE-Off rounds.  Today we christen our eleventh winner and ready the ring for one final preliminary battle.  It’s unfortunate that because of the number of submissions we received, there are WRiTER’s that will never get to take a turn in the ring.  I could save them to use for the next iteration of WRiTE CLUB, but frankly its future is tenuous.  I consider WRiTE CLUB only a modest success and doubt that it will continue beyond crowning a champion.  To be fair, I’m going to wait and see what the response is like during these next couple weeks before I make a final determination.  So it’s in your hands.  If you would really like to see WRiTE CLUB continue, then spread the word and get your friends to come out and vote.   

Here’s a little reminder of what we have in store for the next several weeks. Our twelve semi-finalists will be given the choice of letting their original submission stand as is, or augment it by expanding it to 500 words, or submit a new 500 word writing sample altogether.  Then the twelve of them will be paired up (by random drawing) and a different bout will be held every day the week during February 6-11.  On Sunday February 12th the six winners will be announced and again paired off (using the same 500 word writing sample) for bouts to be held every other day on starting on February 14th.  Three winners will be chosen from those matches, along with one wildcard selection who’ll be the WRiTER who scored the most points but didn’t win his/her bout.  The winner with the most points will be face-off against the wildcard selection, and the other two contestants will duel it out.  Those two matches will take place on February 20th and 23rd.  The final clash between the last two standing will be on February 27th for all the marbles.

Before we get to any of that let’s first announce the winner of round 11 and get the next round kicked off. The official score ended up:

ALNAIR - 8 votes     LADY GRIMM - 17 votes

LADY GRIMM is now our eleventh semi-finalist!  As always, you can check my WRiTE CLUB page for a breakdown of all the winners along with links to all of the writing samples.

We did receive a new submission last week, but I’m using my authority as WRiTE CLUB manager to suspend Rule #8 (If this is your first week at WRiTE CLUB, you HAVE to WRiTE), because of what I mentioned earlier.  There are WRiTER’s that have been waiting a long time for their chance in the spotlight and it’s a little unfair that a newby would steal that opportunity at the last minute.  So, both of this week’s contestants will come from the open pool.  Without further ado....



Here are this week's randomly selected WRiTER's.

Standing in the far corner, weighing in at 251 words (we’ll let that extra word slip), please welcome to the ring……..

EMMILOU HAYRISS

Late May, and it was already a million degrees outside. And wet. A veil of humidity pasted the few escaped strands of my stringy blonde hair to my sweaty neck, and I tried not to stir up dust as I walked.

It was my last day working with Dr. Green, the only large-animal vet in Dabb Creek, but it wasn’t much different from my first. Only that day it’d been storming, and Doc said to meet him in Mrs. Blalock’s barn.

Jackson and D’Lo had to tag along, of course. They didn’t think I’d go through with it. I think even Dr. Green was skeptical, which is why he said I’d have to palpate the widow’s best milking cow before he’d agree to make me his assistant.

Palpate. I knew what that meant. Fancy word for sticking your hand up a cow’s backside to see if she’s pregnant. They didn’t think I could do it because I was so little. Years of stretching and drinking milk had only got me up to five-foot tall, but I climbed up on that stool, set my jaw, and plunged right in.

“Make your hand like a wedge, Prentiss…” Dr. Green stood close by holding up Elsie’s tail. His man-sized plastic glove went all the way over my shoulder to my neck, and it was slathered in lubricant. It kept me clean, but I was getting the full experience of hot, smelly cow butt.

“Now slowly reach all the way to your elbow,” he said


And in the other corner, weighing in at 249 words, let me introduce to you ……..

I.M. XTNQSHR

Some days it’s enough that he breathes. The exchange of air grates on my psyche like the high-pitched squeal of a six-year-old at the sight of a spider. And his endless television shows, the intolerable stupidity followed by commercials selling drugs with side effects more damning than the symptoms they claim to cure. It all culminates into a farce.

Hands on hips I look at the obstinate water softener spewing its juices over my walls. Yesterday, I replaced the damn thing, the day before, the water heater. Disgusted, I walk into the garage where the car lays in shambles begging me to crawl beneath its underbelly hoping for an altered result. 

None of it comforts. Inside I stare into the family room. The black leather chair faces a dark computer desk. I miss him. His stupid haircut. I could use his help as the house crumbles around my feet. He’s off serving his country, proudly wearing shades of green I associate with baby puke. Risking his life, our happiness, as if I didn’t matter.

If here, nothing would change, but his dulcet voice complaining about the ineptitude of the cashier, a speeding car, the fashion styling’s of kids. Solace in the fact that I can take care of myself I return to the pipes and with the twitch of a finger, bring to life the flames from a torch wishing in the back of my overtired mind I were Sigourney Weaver about to barbeque a bunch of freaking aliens.

As always, anyone can vote so leave yours for the WRiTER that swayed you the most in the comments below, along with any sort of critique you would like to offer.  Please remind your friends to make a selection as well.  The voting will remain open until noon Sunday. Remember, the amount of participation we see over the next couple weeks will help decide if WRiTE CLUB continues on.

Here in WRiTE CLUB, it’s not about the last man/woman standing, it’s about who knocks the audience out!

 
Where words are the true knockout!


Hardened

Anybody remember Jan-Michael Vincent? He's an actor known mostly for a string of minor movie roles, but he was mainly famous for his part as Stringfellow Hawke in the 1983 television series Airwolf. He had fallen off the radar since the series was cancelled, that is until a couple weeks ago when I was watching some run-of-the-mill TV movie and there he was again. His reappearance took me by surprise, but it wasn’t because of how much older he looked, or how gruff he sounded, but rather how “stiff” his acting was. Granted, he never was Laurence Oliver, but back in the day he was rather expressive and communicated his emotions quite effectively. Looking at him now in this low budget film, I couldn’t get over how he reminded me of a handicapped vocalist who could only sing one note. Surprise, elation, fear, joy, anger…all looked the same on the man’s leathery face. The words coming out of his mouth were the only clue to the emotional state he was attempting to portray. It was as if he was dealing with the side-effects of having caught a glance of the snake-headed Medusa. It was hard to watch.


I had seen this before with other actors, but now it got me wondering about the people in my life, friends and family both, who were getting up there in age.   For some of them the highs and lows seemed to have eroded away much like Jan-Michael Vincent, washing out all of the bright colors with it, leaving behind a bland monochrome version of their former selves.  It seems like arteries aren’t the only thing that harden when we grow old.  Does our emotional range, the peaks and valleys of who we are, wear down over time…or is it just our ability (or energy) to convey them?  Can it be there are feelings being held hostage behind those wrinkles and liver spots?  Sure, I see flashes of their old selves from time to time, but those are the exceptions and not the rule.

Then as I always do, I turned this reflection inward.  Could this be happening to me?  I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so maybe.  How old is Jan-Michael Vincent?  He’s 67 now, so he’s got a few years on me.  But I’m sure the hardening process doesn’t take place overnight; rather it’s probably something that happens so gradually that we’re not even aware what’s taking place.  Maybe there’s some kind of vitamin I could take to slow it down, like the other supplements I take for preventative purposes.  Ginkgo Biloba supposedly helps with memory retention and Acetyl-L-Carnitine improves the firing of brain nerve messengers, why not a pill that prevents emotional fossilization?   I know what my wife would say, take a trip to Disney World every year; it’ll keep you young forever!  But she would also say I have nothing to worry about because I’ve always been the stoic type, emotionally economical when it comes to being expressive.

That may be so, but what about my writing?  Me being a writer is comparable to Jan-Michael Vincent being an actor, the prose is my acting…a way to express myself in a way I feel most comfortable.  Is it destined to stiffen right along with my outer demeanor?  I’m hoping not.  My optimism lets me believe that it will continue to be the portal that allows me to escape my insecurities and let everybody see the true me.

For those of you in pursuit of that “hard body”, maybe as part of a 2012 resolution, remember that there are other muscles that need attention as Father Time descends upon us.  There are 43 of them in the face and maybe some smile-ups instead of push-ups would be time well spent! :=) 

PS.  My latest query letter is getting the treatment by Matt at the QQQE (The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment) today.  I would really appreciate it if you stopped by and offered your opinions as well.


 

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