A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve-Eve

I can hear Travis groaning from here.  Yes, I am stretching this holiday out as far as I can.  As I've said before, I love this time of year and I'll make up a day (like Christmas Eve-Eve) if that allows me to revel in the holiday spirit.

And though I haven't exactly been active on the blog (particularly in the latter half of this year), I'm going to be on hiatus until after New Years.  I've got a bunch of soul searching to do, and luckily I'm on vacation from work after today so I'll have plenty of time to do it.  Don't worry, I'm not contemplating abandoning the blog.  I just need to find my focus, get the "good writer feelings" back again, and come back next year fully charged.

I have many ideas I've been tossing around.  For example, I have been trying to stay focused on finishing my WiP and honestly I'm feeling fairly stagnant.  I don't want to toss it to the side of course, but I feel like I need to try something new (something short) just to pull my mind out of editing mode.  I haven't been creating new things much, and I'm wondering if that's what I need to get invigorated again.

Anyway, in honor of Christmas Eve-Eve, I wish you all a wonderful day today and hope the rest of your holidays include many warm moments with loved ones.  I will return after the 1st, refreshed and focused.

Happy Holidays For Everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeling Particularly Blessed

One of the best aspects of this season is the reminders I get all the time.  The reminders that I lead a blessed life.  For example, yesterday I was driving into work and came upon an accident scene.  A volkswagon bug was literally in flames with the firefighters fervently working to put it out.  Another car was pulled over down the way, the rear end crumpled.  My first thought was to pray that nobody had been inside the vehicle when the flames began.

Situations like that really make me take a moment, pray for those involved, and thank God that I am not in that situation.  Too often we forget how much we really have that isn't damaged, how healthy and safe our loved ones are.  We forget how blessed we are that we don't walk with a cane or that we have a working car to take us back and forth.  We forget how blessed we are to have a roof over our heads and easy access to food and warm clothing.  Though these are simple things, there are a huge number of people in the world who lack even these basic items.  And for those who have never ventured outside of the US, I can tell you from experience that seeing real poverty first-hand has a sobering effect.  It's something you never forget.

I guess the aura of this season makes me think about these kinds of things more often as I wish everyone in the world peace in some form or another.  I hope that somewhere a life is better, even if only for a small moment.  And I continue to pray for those dealing with difficulties, particularly during this time of the year.

This may have come off as one of those chain letters everyone hopes to avoid in email, but I hope everyone takes a moment anyway to be thankful for what they have and pray for those who are not as blessed.  I wish every single one of you peace and contentment, even if it's only for one small moment.

Take a deep breath, revel in a quiet moment, and be thankful for the blessings in your life.  I know I do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview With Travis Erwin

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the talented author Travis Erwin.  Travis recently published his hilariously enjoyable book The Feedstore Chronicles, and I can vouch for how awesome this book is.  The Feedstore Chronicles is a coming-of-age memoir, based on Travis' days working for (as he puts it) the most morally bankrupt man he's ever met.  While the book does involve topics of a more mature nature, I found myself laughing the whole way through.  Travis has an astounding storytelling ability, so much so that I found myself imagining him sharing these stories over a campfire, surrounded by friends who are hanging on his every word.  The fact that a great deal of this book is true makes it that much more enjoyable.

1.  First off Travis, I just want to thank you for taking the time to stop by. But let's talk about your new book. The Feedstore Chronicles is a hilarious peek into an interesting time in your life. What made you decide to share these tales with the world?

Desperation. You can laugh, but it’s actually the truth. You see, I first shared a few tales about my feed store days on my blog back in 2007. At the time my blog was brand new and I was struggling to come up with entertaining and fresh content. As well as gathering enough readers to make writing it worthwhile in my mind. A few months in, I began a weekly series called THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES highlighting my rather incredulous boss’s exploits. My blog readership took off and one of the most common comments I received was, “Man, you should write a book about those days.”

2. Well Travis, I'm glad you decided to take the plunge and get the book published. Not everyone in the book is shown in a favorable light however. Did you ever worry about hurting anyone's feelings?

Come on Eric, you’ve read the book. No one that hung at the feed store had feelings. Just kidding. Actually I worried about misrepresenting the people the characters were based upon. I wanted to cast them in an honest light. Myself included, which was harder to do than one might imagine. Luckily, you can get away with lots of things for the sake of humor that otherwise might be considered mean-spirited. I certainly didn’t want to vilify my boss as I still count him as a friend, but I didn’t want to sugar coat his personality either. Most if not all of the people who were a part of my life in those days have read the book. Several attended the release party, including my boss and one of his ex-wives. (Yes the one that twice tried to kill him. but no there was no bloodshed at the party) My ex-boss has even pledged to supply me "more shocking tales"for a sequel should the demand call for one.

3. You can bet I'd buy a sequel in a heartbeat. Instead of Shock and Awe, your book is more like Shock and...Damn That's Funny! So now that you've worked your way through the publishing process, what advice can you give those of us working towards that goal?

Don’t give up. Yeah, I know it’s clich├ęd, but I’ve seen firsthand lots of talented writers (certainly more so than me) simply toss in the towel because they couldn’t handle the rejections and disappointment. I’d also say be active. The days of the solitary writer pecking away in seclusion, sending off their query/manuscript and finding an agent/editor to be their champion are over. Oh, I suppose it might happen but dang near every writer I know finding success these days is out there hustling, marketing, social networking to build name recognition and a brand name – before they have an actual book on the shelf. In 2011, I published 3 shorts stories, landed a job at a sports magazine, and published my first full-length book all as a direct result of networking.

4. Wow, that makes for a busy year (but congrats on all that success). Juggling time with a family and a writing career (not to mention a full time job) is difficult at best. What do you do to satisfy all these demands on your time?

Forego television, sleep, and many a fishing trip. It’s tough at times, even more so now that I’ve saddled up the promo horse. I sneak in writing time when I can. At work when the boss ain’t looking. At my son’s soccer practice. In the doctor’s office. Used to be I’d read during those times, but sadly my reading time is another casualty in the war of career building.

5. I feel your pain regarding the lack of reading time. It's important to read as a writer, but fitting it in with all the rest of what we're trying to do can be difficult at best. So can we expect a book tour to celebrate the awesome-ness that is The Feedstore Chronicles?

Yes. As a matter of fact the final touches are being put on a trip up your way to Colorado. Coordinating the dates to hit multiple venues on one trip has been tough but I should have details soon. And come spring, I’ll be hitting feed stores and books stores in Texas and Oklahoma.

6. There's nothing I'm looking forward to more than catching up with you when you hit Colorado. Okay, maybe I am really looking forward to the new pipes I'm getting for my motorcycle (Christmas present), but you're a close second. Anything else you want to share about yourself, the book, ....your hatred of lettuce?

I am putting together another humor book based on both my personal experiences as well as my skewed opinions of food. It is titled LETTUCE IS THE DEVIL:The Culinary Dogma of a Devout Meat Man and depending how things go it could see the light of day sometime in 2012. I’d also like to thank you Eric for having me and for the kind words about my book.

Travis, it has been a true pleasure having you here. You continue to be an inspiration to all of us, particularly now that you've achieved this publication goal. For those interested in picking up a copy of Travis' new book The Feedstore Chronicles (everyone nod your head, you know you want one), head on out to Amazon or Barnes & Nobles and get your copy today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blog Chain - Searching For The Right Place

I'm a day late, but it's Blog Chain time. This round is brought to us by the talented Tere, who asks:

What conditions do you need to get your writing done? Closed door, crowded coffee house? Computer or notebook? Can you just sit down to write, or do you need to wait for time to be right?

For me, it isn't about peace and quiet as much as it's about focus. I have no problem listening to music while I write or even in absolute silence. But if my train of thought gets interrupted by a distraction or two, it takes some time for me to get back on track. In a household of two rowdy boys and one spouse, I usually have to make an announcement of sorts:


Once I do that, I generally get the undisturbed focus time I need. I then disappear to my bedroom or office and get to work.

As far as what tool I use, it's gotta be on my laptop or tablet. Writing by hand just doesn't work since my handwriting is atrocious and I usually become self-conscious about my handwriting AND the writing itself. The other problem is when I try to write by hand, my mind works faster than my pencil on the paper, making me start and stop over and over. I read back over what I've written and more often than not, I've skipped words or whole ideas. When I'm typing, my fingers more adequately keep pace with my thoughts. With all this in mind, I'm much better off using electronic tools.

There have been times in the past when I could just sit down and start writing, but of late I've had more and more difficulty. In fact, anymore I really have to be in the mood or be feeling that urge to crank out something useful. I'm not sure what the problem is, but at least I haven't completely thrown in the towel. As long as that's the case, it's good enough.

If you haven't had a chance to see Michelle Hickman's incredible response, you should head on over there. And PK's take on the subject is already up for your reading pleasure. Before you go however, how would you answer this awesome question?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life Is Too Crazy...But Christmas Is Comin'

Wow, where do I start?

Between crazy work days, issues when I'm supposed to be off work, and a weekend filled with a fever of 102 degrees, I can safely say my life is way too crazy.  Oh, and did I mention our server room at work caught on fire on Sunday?  Just when you think things are at their worst, they actually do get worse.

Of course on the good side, my fever is gone and it's the Christmas season.  That's almost enough to make  the pains of the last week a faint memory.  If there's one thing I love, it's the feeling of Christmas.  I can ignore all the sensationalism and materialism with almost no effort.  I don't get caught up in anything other than the festive feelings of the season.  Moments like when they play Christmas songs using the bells at the City & County building downtown cause me to pause on the sidewalk, a huge smile on my face and my heart soaring.

I love the glint in my kids eyes as they think about being out of school.  I love putting up the tree and then watching the twinkling lights for weeks.  I love taking an entire day where the television stays off and Christmas music fills the house.  And I love taking as many opportunities as I can to hug and kiss my lovely wife as we thank God that we have survived another year with numerous blessings.  We don't have a perfect life, but we have a roof over out head, clothes on our back, and are able to feed our family.  That's a blessed life in my book.

It might be too early to put up a post about Christmas, but as I sit here next to our Christmas tree and gaze over from time to time, I think it's just right.

Now if I can just get one calm weekend.

Anyone else out there enjoying the holiday season?