A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, May 31, 2010

Always Remember Our Soldiers

Before we were even a country
Men stood up to heed the call
They fought against injustice
And they formed a solid wall

They left behind their loved ones
Grabbed a weapon and stood a post
They watched over home and country
Guarding what they loved the most

Wars began in other countries
With evil men at the helm
Soldiers valiently fought against them
To bring freedom to the realm

Though many soldiers have fallen
Others stand to take their place
They travel to where they're needed
To aid the human race

They live without the luxuries
We enjoy here everyday
But they do their job without complaint
It's the American soldier way

As you breathe the air of freedom
And enjoy this holiday
Remember the lives of those lost
And honor them in some way

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blog Chain - What's My Motivation?

The blogchainers are at it again, and I guess my name came up early in the list. Amanda is posing the question this time around:

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you're not making any progress in your writing career?

This question is incredibly timely for me because - as you can see by my lack of regular posts - I'm not exactly that motivated lately. This is the question that has been driving me mad every waking moment. How do I get back on track and motivate myself?

It doesn't help that everyone around me (at least here in blogland) is picking up an agent or multi-book deal. Don't get me wrong. I am incredibly happy for Elana, Shaun, Cole, Beth, Amanda...I could go on and on, because there are so many of you enjoying success right now (and I apologize if I didn't mention or congratulate anyone else). I really do wish you all great success. But I do get down when I think about how far away I am from being "that good". Of course, one post on here and all you wonderful people come forward to prop me back up, kick me in the behind, and tell me to keep at it.

As far as what I do to keep motivated is concerned though, I guess I just keep imagining how I'm going to feel when I get that email or phone call. You know, the one from an agent, where I'm finally rewarded for all this hard work. I read the words from all of you who are achieving this and I can imagine just how incredible that must feel. It's not the idea of publication nor the glory of having an agent that drives me - it's the feeling of success I'll have when I am writing that well.

It's kind of funny. When I first started this journey, I think I was more interested in being able to walk into Barnes & Nobles and see my book on the shelf than anything else. After writing this long though, my goal has changed. I still do want to take a picture of my book on the retailer shelf of course, but I'm really more interested in being able to say I'm a successful writer. I want to feel confident in my writing and have a reason to jump up and down in my living room after hearing from an agent. The promise of what will come if I keep at this is enough to motivate me, even on the days when I'm not feeling particularly talented. Especially on those days, in fact.

I don't know if I've provided a very concrete answer, but there it is. If you didn't get a chance to read what Sandra had to say, bop on over there. Michelle H. is scheduled to follow me tomorrow, so check that out too.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blog Chain - Are You Under The Influence?

This chain question is my favorite so far. Brought to us by Christine, she asks:

Which author or authors have most influenced your writing and how?

Reading through everyone else's answer has given me a huge list of authors I need to check out. There are some talented writers on this chain, and it's been truly interesting seeing who influenced them.

I was a reader way before I was ever a writer (much like you all, I'm sure). And I can't say that everything I ever read was necessarily good writing. From as early as I can remember, I consumed books by the pound. I remember fun books like the Encyclopedia Brown series. I read alot of sci-fi and fantasy. Piers Anthony was one of the most influential authors for me, with respect to his imagination and creativity. On A Pale Horse is still one of my all time favorites. Of course, his descent into mediocrity with continuing the Xanth crap has been hard to take. Okay, so I abandoned him because of it. Sue me.

Like so many of the rest of you, I have always read Stephen King. There may be one or two books of his I haven't read, but that's about it. He has been a significant influence on me, because I would love to write "creepy" the way he does. In fact, I'd say it's my goal to capture that essence in my writing every time. I love when I get the chills from a truly creepy passage.

Tom Clancy is another influence, probably due to my Army/Military Intelligence background. While I'll be the first to admit he sometimes puts in too much detail, I admire the amount of research it must take to write the way he does. He's another author that I've read almost everything from.

My parents introduced me to alot of things outside my "norm", handing me James Michener books (among others). He is a great storyteller, and his amount of detail is staggering as well. Sometimes he seems to stall the action (compared to today's mainstream authors), but I have always enjoyed it nonetheless. They also gave me Russka by James Rutherford, which I still remember vividly. And my dad let me read through all his Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks. Now granted, he is probably not counted on the greats of literature, but I enjoyed the stories.

And probably the great influence (besides King) was Tolkien. Trudging through The Silmarillion was an adventure all in itself, and understanding the concepts in it was a true challenge. Why was this good? It taught me to NOT write a story that your reader has to struggle through a few times before they understand what you're trying to say. Simplicity can be a good thing sometimes.

Fast forward to today and you'll find my influences are all of you. Reading through excerpts from Cole, Shaun, or Michelle H. help me improve all the time. Elana's sense of humor reminds me to have fun in my writing. The writers of The Literary Lab teach me something new every day. I could go on and on, but I am significantly influenced by each and every one of you as I try to hone my craft. Published or not, you all have something you do well. This may be outside the realm of Christine's requirements (since some of you aren't published authors), but it's worth mentioning anyway. I am also picking up new authors to check out all the time, so my list of influencers continues to grow.

Well, I've rambled long enough on this one, so I'll pass the torch to Michelle H. If you didn't get a chance to read my predecessor Sandra's post, head on over there. And thanks Christine for this really fun and interesting question. It's been awesome reading everyone's answer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tagged By A Friend

Just when you think you're feeling down, people reach down and pick you up. Thanks to Cassandra, I have been tagged. I promised her I'd join in the fun and (although I'm late) this post is about keeping that promise. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy this peek into little ol' me.

Question 1 - Where were you 5 years ago?

Let's see. My wife and I were just getting over a rough patch. Though most of our years have been awesome, we've had our issues from time to time. I hadn't yet started going to school online; I was on a break. I was still at the same job I'm at now, doing network administration. I was not writing at all.

Question 2 - Where would you like to be in 5 years?

I hope to be working from home as a student mentor for my college. I will have obtained my Masters degree. My wife will be healthy. My oldest son will be in college or figuring out what direction he wants to go. I will have published something, even if it's just a short story. I hope to have a new, bigger motorcycle.

Question 3 - What is on your to-do list today?

Finish critiques of two of my classmates' short stories. Start writing article for Brighthub.com. Spend time with my wife. Put up posts on my blog.

Question 4 - What snacks do you enjoy?

Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (white chocolate). Skittles. Beef Jerky, almost any flavor. Any kind of crackers. Frozen grapes. Chocolate-covered raisins.

Question 5 - What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?

Set up all my family members so they could truly enjoy life without concerns. Travel all over the United States, to every state possible. Start a foundation or non-profit where I could help the homeless get back on their feet, one person at a time if necessary. Buy my wife the red Corvette she has always wanted. Build my ultimate writing room, a cabin with a mountain view, where I can walk out every once in a while and see a deer in my front yard.

The lucky 5 I am going to pass this on to are some of my newer followers:

Matt Betts

Hilary Wagner

Tim Riley

Michelle Scott

Alex J. Cavanaugh

I hope you all have fun with this and put up a post too. And thanks Cassandra, for making me smile. You're one of the many cool people have really helped make me feel better about my writing and remember to stay optimistic about what I can do if I try.

Ten Word Tuesday - Friendship

Hands helping you up when you really need it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Feeling a little...uncertain

I apologize for the long gap between posts. I guess I'm just feeling a little...uncertain.

My last post was really fun. And judging from the comments, it was well received. The problem is that when I sit down to do it again - you know, catch that same electricity - it just isn't happening. I really like when something comes out halfway decent, but man do I hate the seemingly vast periods when things are just rough.

Anyway, this is a short post. I will do my best to get over this ugly feeling I have about my writing, so bear with me. I'll do a longer post tomorrow. I have some comments to share about Galen Kindley's book Hearts Of The Morning Calm and coming soon I may even have an interview with the author.

Thanks everybody.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Diary of a Grateful Lemon

Family is important. Being able to provide what your parents need is even more important. I learned that fact early, the day all my toys were sold to help pay the rent. Mom and Dad had bills to pay, and we all had to pitch in. They didn't think - or care maybe - about little things like toys.

The one thing they paid alot of attention to was the idea of a lemonade stand. Life was constantly handing them lemons, and they spent a great deal of time trying to make lemonade. Like when they decided I should become the next great one-handed piano player. I'd make lots of money in Hollywood, get a recording contract. Dad was right when he said it wouldn't hurt for long. The Methadone and shots of whiskey helped dull everything nicely. I barely remember the feel of my hand on the butcher block, the sound of the knife slamming through wrist bones. And wham - I'm the next musical sensation.

Maybe they should have checked me out first. Checked to see if I could tell one note from another. But how could they have known I was tone deaf?

My younger sister took my spot a few years later. Dolled up like one of those porcelain statues, she was Marilyn Monroe in miniature. She even did a photo shoot with the wind blowing up through a grate, though the publication that bought the pictures wasn't exactly Vanity Fair. It also didn't help that all the contest judges got to know her very intimately - again, thanks to Dad and Mom. Another beauty queen high on meth, another Hollywood suicide. Another spoiled batch of lemonade.

Fast forward a couple decades and here I am, working at the stand once more. The new hand is pretty cool actually, bands of steel taking the place of real fingers. I have to be careful not to squeeze too hard sometimes, since the control software can be glitchy. As long as I keep the crosshairs lined up, the paydays keep coming in. I used to think about the lives I'm ending, but the whiskey helps drown out the faces. Dad is proud of me. The accident that enabled us to file the claim with the insurance gave me this career. Along with my new mechanical eye, of course.

Slow my breathing. Tighten the index finger ever so slightly. The recoil is jarring, but I'm used to it. The head is gone, just a messy stain on the wall and couch. Time to disappear, take the payment to Dad. What can I say? I'm just another grateful lemon, happy to finally be making lemonade.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Contest Results - Time Again To Celebrate

I have been running a contest for a couple weeks now to celebrate my 200th post. I had planned on choosing the winner this morning, but what can I say. My day job had me busy - on a weekend no less - and I honestly forgot all about it until now.

Thank you for all of the people who stopped by to comment or add their own story of celebration. The stories and poems were fun to read, and I'm happy you all honored me with your entries.

To make things fair, I had my youngest son do the work for me. I typed the names on a page. He then cut the names out, folded them, put them in a hat, and drew out the winner at random.

Before I announce WHO the lucky recipient is, I'll mention the prizes. These prizes come care of the awesome Elana Johnson, who graciously agreed to help me out. They are:

1. A critique of the first 10 pages of a work in progess/final draft/whatever.
2. A critique of your query letter.
3. A free copy of Elana's magnificent e-book From The Query To The Call.

Now if those aren't awesome prizes, I don't know what is.

Are you waiting on the edge of your seat? Can you feel the tense anticipation? Okay, I've made every wait long enough. The lucky winner is:

B.J. Anderson

Woohoo, congratulations B.J.!! I'm pretty sure you already have Elana's email address, but if not, let me know and I'll get you in touch.

Thank you once more to Elana for being so awesome. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your support of newbie writers like myself. And thank you everyone else for being a part of this. Maybe I'll do another one of these sometime soon.