A to Z Challenge – The List Is Open

There are still 61 days until the start of the A to Z Challenge on April 1st, but in case you’re itching to get the ball rolling here is the all-important sign-up list provided by our own Alex J. Cavanaugh.   But let's not get the cart before the horse here, so let me make sure everyone knows what I’m talking about? 

Adding your name to the linky list below (also located on the A to Z site or any of the co-host blogs) means you’ll be signing up to post a blog every day (except Sundays) during the month of April.  There are 26 days in April after you subtract the Sundays, which corresponds to the 26 letters of the alphabet, and therefore 26 blog posts.  Blog posts about what, you ask?  Any topic themed around the letter of the alphabet corresponding to that day.  Day 1 = A, Day 2 = B, Day 3 = C, 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.  Some participants choose an over-arching theme to tie all of their 26 posts around, but others (like me) just wing it.

I've posted this before, but here again is a list of this year’s awesome co-hosts.  I am honored to stand alongside them in organizing this challenge!

Co-Hosts:

Arlee Bird @ Tossing It Out
Damyanti Biswas @ Amlokiblogs
Alex J. Cavanaugh @ Alex J. Cavanaugh
Tina Downey @ Life is Good
DL Hammons @ Cruising Altitude 2.0
Jeremy Hawkins @ Retro-Zombie
Shannon Lawrence @ The Warrior Muse
Matthew MacNish @ The QQQE
Konstanz Silverbow @ No Thought 2 Small
Stephen Tremp @ Breakthrough Blogs
Livia Peterson @ Leave it to Livia
L. Diane Wolfe @ Spunk on a Stick
Nicole @ The Madlab Post

Something new this year -- we're introducing Blog Categories for Participants. This is entirely optional, other than for blogs with Adult Content, which will be taken off the list unless marked (AC).

If you'd like to categorize your blog, please choose ONE of 22 categories listed below that best fits the way you would like to describe your blog, and add the code after your blog name while signing up on the linky list.

e.g. Damyanti @ Amlokiblogs (WR) (--we could all tailor the example of our choice here)

Only the codes from the following list will be admissible, in the format they are presented below: e.g. (WR)

Of course you may sign up with just your blog name without a codes, but if you do choose to use one you won't have the option to change it. Multiple entries of the same blog will be deleted.

1. WRITING :                          (WR)
2. BOOKS:                              (BO)
3. FILM :                                  (FM)
4. PHOTOGRAPHY:               (PH)
5. GARDENING:                     (GR)
6. CRAFT:                               (CR)
7. ART:                                    (AR)
8. MUSIC:                               (MU)
9. CULINARY:                         (CU)
10. LIFESTYLE:                      (LI ) 
11. FASHION:                          (FA)
12. PERSONAL:                      (PR)
13. SOCIAL MEDIA:                (SO)
14. GAMING:                           (GA)
15. EDUCATION :                    (ED)
16. POLITICS:                          (PO)
17. HISTORY:                           (HI)
18. SCIENCE:                          (SC)
19. HUMOR:                             (HU)
20. TRAVEL:                             (TR)
21. MISCELLANEOUS:            (MI)
22. ADULT CONTENT:             (AC)

How about it?  Are you as excited to get going as I am?  Who's going to come out and play in April?  Register your name below and let the count down begin!


Re-Introduce Myself Blogfest



This awesome blogfest – which is designed as a cool opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to our ever-expanding circles of fun-fluence -- is the creation of Stephen Tremp, C.M. Brown, Elise Fallson, and Mark Koopman.   You can find the link with the names of everyone participating right HEREMy contribution was originally posted during the 2012 A-Z Challenge, but it fits the bill here better.  Hope you enjoy it.

My given name is Donald Lee Hammons, but the only person that ever called me Donald (other than teachers reading from the 1st day enrollment roster – which I quickly corrected) was my mother when I had done something to draw her ire.  Most of the world knows me simply as Don.  My family and a few friends call me Donnie.  I secretly toyed with the idea of going by my middle name for awhile because I really don’t like my name.  It’s so…vanilla!  There were numerous nick-names throughout my high school and college years, but once you get to a certain age nick-names kind of fall by the wayside.  Let’s face it; a fifty year old “Scooter” just seems kind of desperate.

But there is only one group of people, and one group alone, that know me by DL.  That’s anybody in the writing community.  Wanna know why?  One of my early short stories I seriously considered sending to contests was written from a female POV.  As it made the rounds through my critique partners I received a lot of comments expressing confusion/surprise about the main character because they naturally expected it to be male.  That got me thinking about the possible unconscious bias from contest judges towards male writers with female characters.  That’s when I decided to neuter myself and go with DL.  No more gender-related predisposition. 

A secondary benefit is that it helps me keep my writing life and everything else separate.  DL has his own email.  Anything writing related (Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, Forums, Subscriptions, etc) is setup under DL.  It’s not technically a pen name, but it’s the next best thing.

Donald was born in 1956, has a handful of friends and a family of five.

DL was born in 2009, has 1062 followers and a family that expands every day. J

Pleased to meet you!

WRiTE CLUB - Skirmish #5

I'm at it again, offering a chance in the ring for the writers who submitted an anonymous sample of their work to WRiTE CLUB 2012, but weren’t lucky enough to be chosen to compete. There are no prizes to be won, or further advancement beyond this one bout, but as all of the other contestants have discovered before them -- there is still plenty to be gained…and learned. I will post one of these skirmishes each week until I run out of contestants.

This week it's Tasha Yar's turn in the ring.  Here is her 498 word submission.



The unwanted solitude came to a resounding end when she barged into his coffee shop, wild-eyed and out of breath. Most people who walked into his store were either sleep-deprived or hung over, looking for that caffeine jolt to start their day. She looked like neither, more like a prisoner on the run. That’s if prisoner garb consisted of a low-cut black T-shirt and a flowery flippy skirt.

Frank wiped his hands on his apron. “Can I help you, miss?”

Two of the bluest eyes he'd ever seen looked his way. Ah, to be thirty years younger and fifty pounds lighter. Captured in her gaze, he felt a stirring in his head and his heart nearly stopped.

“Do you have a back way out of here?”

He could swear her lips didn't move, yet he heard a woman’s voice. “Did you say--?”

“Back way? Do you have one?” This time her lips clearly moved and she gestured for him to hurry up.

Okay, he must have imagined it. “Afraid not. Do you need help? Should I call the cops?”

“No!” The young woman gritted her teeth then sprinted around the counter, hunched low out of sight of the door. Her breasts nearly fell out of that tight little shirt and caused him to pause. Before he had a chance to protest, she hissed at him, “If you value your life, you didn't see me.”

Fifty-four and twice divorced, his life wasn't perfect, but he wasn't willing to end it quite so soon, either. She held no weapon on him, so he'd play her game. What else was there to do? It wasn't like the customers were knocking down his door to get inside.

Two men came into the shop and Frank’s jaw dropped. Was she afraid of these two jokers? They appeared to have stepped out of some period clothing store, wearing red and white plaid jackets he would have considered ugly in the decade they came from.

The taller of the two, which wasn't saying much as both were shorter than Frank’s 5’10” stature, had blond hair that would make a Marine proud. Mr. Buzz-Cut shoved his sunglasses to the top of his head and looked around the empty room.

“What can I get you gentlemen?”

Buzz’s partner, a man who clearly had an acne problem during his teen years, scowled at Frank. “We're looking for someone.”

“Aren't we all?” Frank waved his arm toward the empty room. “Don't trip over the customers in your search.”

"Very funny." Acne-man pulled a photo from the inside pocket of his blazer and slid it across the counter. "Have you seen her this morning?"

The picture resembled the woman crouched down at his feet. "Now, why should I tell you? Is she a fugitive? Because you two jokers don't look like cops."

In a flash, Buzz reached out and grabbed Frank's shirt at the neck, making small ripping sounds. Frank struggled to catch his breath. Who moved that fast?
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And in the other corner, checking in with 323 words, is Lynette Railey.


The setting sun bathes the deck in an unnatural light.  The men are restless.  They have been too long from land, too long from home and it weighs heavily upon their spirits.  This night will be a rough one with choppy seas and razor sharp tongues.  My hand is firm upon the railing and my body sways in rhythm to the waves.  Eyes peer into the fading light as if to see land just beyond the portal.  I will get no rest this night.
 
Voices waft up from below; a harsh word muttered here and there as the men settle down in cramp quarters which reek of sweat and dirt from many days at sea with only each other and the moonlight for company.   My body begs for rest but my mind races.  Crowded with the what-ifs and what-could-have-been of another life time.  Too late to change things.  The sea is my master and I follow wherever it leads me. 
 
I struggle to stay awake.   Many depend on me to lead them through the rocky maze which lies before us.  But I am confident.  I know this path well, having traveled it many times.  Truth be told,  I could steer this ship through these waters with my eyes closed.  Every rock and shell is as familiar to me as the stars in the northern sky.
 
The maze is done and once again we are on the open sea.  A solitary moon looms before me, the only other thing awake at this time of night.  Midnight hour. Witching hour.  A time when the portal opens between the here and now to stretch into the outer world.  My heart races as if mere wishing could make these sails quicken the journey.  At last we are homeward bound and another moon will not rise before we are once again in the arms of our loved ones.  All that stands between them and me is the moon.
*********************************************************

What do you think? Which one resonates with you the most? Why? Leave your vote (and a brief critique if you have time) in the comments below.

See you back here at the ring again next week!

 

A 2-Ply Ass…in a 1-Ply World

Ever feel like you’re constantly defending the creature comforts in your life – even to yourself?

Heated car seats…Self-parking cars…A Boat...Satellite TV…Xbox…Xbox LIVE…Netflix…Home PC…Home PC and a laptop…iPad…Lawn sprinklers…Riding Lawn Mower...Lawn care service…A Pool…Garage door opener…Treadmill…Health club membership…Country Club Memberships...Ten pairs of shoes (just for Monday’s)…Thermostat set on 60 (when its 99+ outside)…72” wide-screen TV…a TV in every room…Blu-ray discs…$5 Starbucks coffee…Fine Dining…Designer clothes…Pedicure…Manicure…Botox…etc...etc.

We all have them…to varying degrees…and usually they come with a cost. Sometimes that expense can be very small or not monetarily based at all, but other times the price tag can be staggering and turn into a significant financial drain.  The pleasures we draw from these indulgences are personal, and subjective, to the point where one person’s convenience can be another’s necessity. How many of you considered an item on my list above a necessity?

Like every married couple on the planet, the wife and I get into a spirited debate from time to time regarding our monthly budget.   NO, this is not a post where I act like a baby-whinebag and complain about how she regulates our expenses.  This is more about me, and my own world- view.

You see, I used to play that game all the time where you ask yourself “Do I really need this?” In fact, there was a period when our family cut out almost everything we considered frivolous or a luxury.  Know what I discovered?  Yes, we saved money, but life SUCKED!

Why are we so hesitant to admit that we like to be pampered?  I myself love conveniences.  I have my own level of embellishing pleasures that to do without...life would be grey, mundane, hard.  And we shouldn't beat ourselves up whenever the subject of cost is raised because this is not your typical ROI (return on investment) formula.  As funny as it sounds, I shop in stores that stock their bathrooms with actual toilet paper and not the stuff that could substitute for low-grade sandpaper.  Why? Because I know the management there understands that I'm more than part of an economical equation. How do you put a price tag on morale?

What’s the point of socking away pennies for a tenuous retirement if all of those years leading up to it are spent denying yourself?

So put an extra shot in that latte today, download that app you've been thinking about, or treat yourself to a dinner out tonight.  Make that smile just a little bit brighter.  You deserve it!  :)


She’s a Little Bit Country…..

…and I’m a little bit Rock & Roll!  I’ll bet money that you can't guess the theme of this post from its title…or the first line.  Let’s see if I collect.

There’s something that I’ve always wondered about novelists…or more specifically, the craft of writing a novel…and that is the dualism involved.  I’ve read authors who command the written word so beautifully that it takes my breath away, but their plots are so thin it’s a wonder they could support the weight of an entire book. On the other hand I’ve also read books by authors with intricately devised plots, but the writing itself bordered on pedestrian. I’m going to call the writers who excel in prose…Country…and the delightfully torturous plotters…Rock & Roll.  Now do you see where I’m headed with this?

In my mind, the ability to paint a picture with words that intoxicate a reader, and the capacity to develop a compelling storyline that both engages the reader and keeps them wondering what comes next, are two different skill-sets.  As I pointed out above, writers can definitely demonstrate strength with one particular skill over another, but both can (and should) be cultivated or improved. But whether your own writing style leans towards Country…or Rock & Roll…doesn’t really matter because reader’s tastes follow the same proclivity, so there is a market for both.

Does that mean the perfect balance of the two ensures success? Is a duet between a country singer with laryngitis and a tone deaf rock star something you’d want to listen to?  Quality still supersedes everything else!

Which skill do you think is harder to develop? Here's a better question -- which skill is holding you back from obtaining your goals? I’m aware there are many more elements involved in crafting a solid manuscript worthy of publication, but to me, these two are cornerstones of the whole process.  I will offer an observation.  I can definitely state that my own strengths are more Rock & Roll (plot) than Country (prose), and the authors I read regularly are also so inclined. What I have noticed over time is that the prose of these authors has remained fairly constant, but certain books of theirs suffer dramatically in the plot department.  For me, Stephen King is a prime example. It’s almost as if he phoned in his effort on a few of his books.  So, what does that say about the two skill-sets? Food for thought and interesting debate-fodder. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

So, do I collect on my bet?  Are you Country? Rock & Roll? Rockabilly? Care to share?

 

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