A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blog Chain - Monster Hunting

This round of the blog chain is awesome because it's just the right topic at just the right time.  That ever-talented Matt has challenged us with this fun question:

What is your all-time favorite monster? You can take this in any direction you'd like. For example: my most bad-ass monster would easily be a dragon, and it is my favorite in some ways, but you don't have to go with that kind of measurement. Like me, you could go with the most ridiculously hilarious monster you ever heard of, or, like Stephanie Meyer, you could go with the most romantic creature to ever grace the pages of mythology. Or like Carrie Ryan, you could choose the old standby: Zombies. One alone might not be much to handle, but the horde is probably the single most powerful monster force ever invented in gaming, film, literature, or legend. It's up to you: what's your favorite monster?

This was such a fun question to think about.  Picking your favorite monster is no easy task, nor should it be.   Monsters are the things we cringe from as children, the hidden breathing entity in the dark.  They challenge us to face them, to face ourselves and deal with our own irrational fears.  Picking the one monster however, that gives me goosebumps while making me wish I could meet it in person is difficult.  There can be only one though.

Strahd.  For those unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons, Count Strahd von Zarovich was the most powerful of vampires.  Now before everyone starts whining, understand that Strahd was no Twilight-esqe vampire.  He was more akin to the evil entity Bram Stoker wrote about, though slightly different and infinitely more powerful.  Should you enter Strahd's realm, you would soon find yourself his prisoner, his slave, or his latest victim.  Strahd was master and lord, understandably arrogant, and lacking any mercy for those he used or destroyed.  Strahd was also a warrior and a powerful necromancer, using magic to rule and protect his realm effortlessly.

Every time we played Dungeons and Dragons, I hoped and feared we would go to Ravenloft (Strahd's domain).  And though he almost never made a personal appearance (after all, how often does the king deign to visit the "little people"), you could feel his presence everywhere and in everything.  Strahd embodies everything we love, respect, and fear about vampires.

That's my take on the subject.  If you haven't had a chance to read Michelle H's excellent post, head on over and check it out.  Tomorrow you can look forward to PK's favorite monster.

What is your favorite monster and why?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Searching For Zombies

I'm sure everyone is tired of this genre, but I need some assistance from all you well-read writers.  My son's 18th birthday is tomorrow and I would like to get him a book to read in addition to all the other non-literary stuff he wants.

Since he is a huge fan of zombies and the grim reaper, I was hoping one of you would know a decent book (that isn't a comic book) involving this subject matter.  He is already reading through The Walking Dead series of books, but I was hoping to provide him with something a little different.

If you know a great book involving either zombies or the grim reaper, please let me know in the comments.  I don't mind if it will be late getting here as it'll be a surprise for him anyway.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A New Writing Toy

My loving wife and kids bought me a Galaxy Tab for Father's Day and I initially had thought it would make a convenient way to write in bed (as opposed to lugging my laptop up here).  I picked up a bluetooth keyboard, but unfortunately it didn't work out too well.  Because it had to transmit the data wirelessly between keyboard and device, there was a huge slowdown in performance.  Since I'm not the most patient person in the world, that just wasn't going to work.

Today I received a new toy - a keyboard dock.  My Tab is now docked in this almost-full-size keyboard and I'm sitting here in bed typing this post.  No latency, no issues, just writing posts with ease.  It's not perfect of course, because I have to get used to the keyboard size.  But it's better than the alternative - not writing at all.

I plan on using this thing as often as possible.  In fact, after this post I will open up my WiP and get to work.  I can't tell everyone just how much fun it is to type on this thing.  And I get to sit here next to my wife as opposed to being down in the office.  Sure, there might be times when I need the distance to concentrate, but most of the time this will work.

At this point I'm going to get busy writing.  But what's the latest thing that's got you writing?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Facing My Fear

Despite my reservations at the latest Blog Chain post, I found I had a lot to think about.  One thing I've always tried to teach my sons is to not allow fear to paralyze them from doing anything.  And here I am being hypocritical about my own fear.  Specifically, my fear of putting my work out there (my real work, not the off-the-cuff stuff I toss up on this blog).

After all the advice in the comments (which I'm very thankful for everyone) from the last post, I gave it some serious thought.  I can't say I'm not afraid to take the plunge, but I need to get off the bench so-to-speak and get in the game.  I'm writing my stuff, but I do believe I'm at the point where an outside perspective can help me out.  So begins my search for some crit partners.

Goodbye fear.  I'm done listening to you.

Anyone else overcoming their fears lately?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Chain - Let's Get Critical

It's time for another round of the Blog Chain, brought to you by the talented Sarah Bromley who asks:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals and what influence have they had on your work?

The fact that I'm posting this late in the evening should give some indication of just how hesitant I am to answer.  Honestly, I've really had to give this one some thought because I just wasn't sure what I'd put down.  Like everything else in my writing career however, I'm just going to work my way through the answer so bear with me.

Critique partners is an area where I am truly lacking.  In all honesty, I've only had my stuff critiqued twice (and one of those times was for a writing class).  So at this point, I really don't have critique partners.  And while it might be hard for me to admit it, a lot of it revolves around fear.  I know we all feel that fear at one point or another, but I guess I haven't conquered that particular mountain just yet.  This is probably why I'm still editing, still trying to find those golden nuggets in my story that will make it shine brightly enough so I can share it with someone else.

Having said all this, I know how valuable having a critique partner is.  The two times I did have my stuff critiqued, I learned a lot (both about my own writing as well as other ideas for where to go with things).  Intellectually I realize that having a critique partner is what I need to get to that "next level", to truly advance my writing ability, to keep myself motivated, and to eventually get to the end goal - completing a whole book.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I am not ruled completely by the intellectual side of my brain, hence the reason I'm not there yet.

One looming question I have (and anyone can feel free to offer advice if they like) is how the heck I'll ever find a critique partner.  I did join a critique site and tried doing critiques that way, but honestly it just feels too disconnected.  While I don't mind reading and critiquing anyone else's work, I don't know that I could just toss it out there for anybody to critique.  I guess if I had my way, my crit partners would definitely be somebody whose writing skill I respect greatly.  It would also have to be somebody that really "gets me", if that makes any sense.  I tend to pour a lot of myself into what I write, because I believe writing from the heart is the best way.  So that kind of connection is probably helpful.

Since I don't have a crit partner however, I could just be spouting nonsense (feel free to call me on it, anyone).  As far as influence, I can tell you that my reasons for joining the blog chain fall along that path.  Every member on this chain is extremely talented, and I grab whatever I can from each of their posts.  They influence me because I learn new ideas, techniques, and habits from them all the time.  I read their books because I know there's good stuff there that I can learn from.

If you didn't get a chance to read what Michelle Hickman had to say yesterday, get on over there.  Yes Michelle, I do know I need to get my first one done.  I hear you loud and clear (grin).  Tomorrow everyone can look forward to PK's answer.

How about the rest of you?  Do you have crit partners?  And how do they influence your writing world?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Think It's Over...Please Be Over...

Yeah, my last post was a mistake.  Not two days after that, we had ANOTHER issue with email and I worked hard to get it resolved.  To say this has been a hellish couple of weeks is an understatement.  Last night I had to work until midnight writing a Root Cause Analysis document, knowing all the time that the true root cause is not one my management wants to admit to.  After all, it was truly their constraints on us as email administrators that put our agency in a position to fail.  The answer wasn't one they wanted to hear, so I spent 18 hours total trying to creatively word it in a manner they could accept (without lying of course).

Today however, is the first day I've been able to go to work and come home without being completely stressed about whether our email environment is going to fall to pieces.  It's not Gmail-status, mind you.  But at least it's stable for the moment.

I'm still enjoying my way through Elana's book Possession.  I can't seem to hear any other voice from the main character than Elana's.  I don't know if she intended that, but it is what it is.  I think Elana just has such a strong and unique style with her writing that it's impossible to read her book without hearing it in my mind.  Thankfully, I really enjoy her style so it's been a pleasurable read.

Shaun Hutchinson recently asked the blog chain to name three books we had refused to put down despite the fact that they started out slowly or didn't grab us from the get-go.  I had mentioned that there have been instances where I've definitely put a book down and Shaun wanted to know some examples.

The most recent example is when I tried to read Black Hills by Dan Simmons.  The premise sounded great.  It was supposed to be about this Native American who absorbed Custer's spirit accidentally.  The book skipped back and forth between this Native American's story (including a plan to blow up Mount Rushmore) and Custer's ghost reminiscing over his life before death.  Sounds great right?  Yeah, not really.

I have no idea whether it's true or fiction, but Dan Simmons was hell-bent on depicting Custer (and his wife) as an incredibly sexual person who's thoughts after death centered on all the ways he and his former spouse enjoyed each other.  And just as I was getting into the story about the Native American, Simmons would jolt me back to this psycho-sexual Custer world.  I'm not a prude, but it was just so idiotic (not to mention having no point in the context of the larger story) that it ruined the story before I could even get halfway through.  And believe me, I struggled to even get to that point.

A book I read all the way through (and then regretted reading once I got to the end) was Under The Dome by Stephen King.  The premise was awesome.  A town in MA gets surrounded by an invisible, impenetrable bubble.  This was one massive tome, and I loved every bit of the story...until I reached the end.  The bubble was put into place by the equivalent of technologically superior alien children who wanted to watch how the humans reacted, much like shaking an ant farm.  So how did the characters get the aliens to remove the barrier (moments before everyone died, no less)?  The used the magic word (aka please).  Really?  It was so implausible and stupid that I actually hate the fact that I wasted my time reading the damn thing.  And I REALLY like King.  Not on that day, however.

So there ya go, Shaun.  There's a couple examples of books I either put down or regretted picking up in the first place.  How about the rest of you?  Have you ever put down a book, for whatever reason?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Raising My Head To Look Around

Two days after my last post, we had a hard drive fill up on one of our email servers.  Although it was preventable through the careful use of mailbox limits, appropriate mail server usage, and limits on attachment sizes, our wonderful executive management doesn't believe in such silly notions.

Needless to say, after working 75 hours over the last two weeks, I can finally raise my head and say the crisis is over.  Yep, that's the life of an email administrator.  At one point I struggled my way through 32 hours straight, not even sure if we would ever fix things.

Where does that leave me?   Well, there's a few things we still have to clean up tomorrow morning, but now I get to catch up on all the rest of the work that piled up while I was firefighting.  As they say, that's why I get paid the big bucks.  Or something like that.

Anyway, I hope everyone's weekend is better than mine have been of late.  Oh, and I'm LOVING the book, Elana.  Possession is an awesome read.  What cracks me up though is how clearly I hear your voice telling the tale.  Since you're such a crack up anyway.

See ya'll next week.