A to Z Challenge 2013

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blog Chain - An Irish Hobby Song

When I woke up 'dis mornin'
And clambered outta bed
The question posed by that crafty Cole
Knocked me in da head!

She talked about the Internet
And how the love was gone
In the battle for attention
Her sewin' hobby won

Michelle then jumped on stage
And did a country dance
Swingin' her pencil to and fro
She thrust it like a lance

What ya do fer hobbies?
These women yelled at me
What ya do to keep yer muse
Laughin' wild and free?

I had to think a moment
'Fore yellin' me reply
I didn' wanna come off soundin'
Like a dorky guy

So I struck a manly pose
And flexed me biceps too
I wove a tale of splendor
Bout what I like to do

The games, they come a callin'
When I be needin' a smile
Me n the boys, we play the games
Laughin' all the while

And when all is said and done
My muse, he beckons me
He whispers words in me ears again
While swingin' from a tree

With nothing more to tell 'em
I spied the other Michelle
It's time for her to share her tale
C'mon lass, ring their bell!

And those of you out there listenin'
Come and join the show
Tell us 'bout your hobbies
Before it's time to go

Tell us 'bout your hobbies

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ten Word...Okay, A Lot of Words Tuesday

I was going to just put up my usual Ten Word Tuesday and I realized something.
  1. I'm 'bout out of words of wisdom that can fit in a Ten Word jar.
  2. Ten Word Tuesday is me being lazy lately, especially since my posts have been infrequent at best.
Most of all I realized I have scheduled some writing and blogging time, so I better dang well use it.  So hi all.  Didja miss me?  I've got a few things going on.  For one, I've adjusted pretty well to using this calendar and schedule.  I even worked on my homework yesterday evening without any heartache, even though I'd been off all day and could have called it "a day off" like I used to do.  It's amazing what a simple thing like organizing a schedule can do for me.

So here I am using my blogging time and listening to some great instrumental music:

If you've never heard Vangelis' music before, be careful because you might enjoy it.  Vangelis is all instrumental, but I love to jam this stuff in the background.  The album Direct is a must have IMHO.  Okay, it's from the 80's and maybe sounds like it's taken directly off Miami Vice or something (the television show, not the waste of time remake movie they did), but I like it.  Besides, it's from the same guy who created Chariots Of Fire.  How can you go wrong there?

In other news, my buddy Matt Conlon has started a new blog with a very interesting and useful purpose.  He would like it to be the go-to place if you want to know what writing challenges are out there (i.e. A to Z blogging challenge in April, NaNo in November, etc) and where all the blog chains are at.  It will be a one-stop-shop for all us budding and accomplished writers.  He does a much better job of stating things, so go here if you want to find out more.  The really cool part is that he has managed to get BlogMakeOver to help him launch things with a really cool look.  The new blog is called JoinSomething and I highly recommend everyone go check it out.  He already has a decent amount of content and it's only going to get better.

On the writing front, I've been editing my short story that is slowly becoming a regular length story.  The initial idea I had has increased bit by bit (both from my own ideas as well as feedback I received from others), so I'm doing what I can to expand it while keeping the same flavor.  I realized something however;  I have a visual image in my head of all the principal characters except one - my MC!  I mean, I have always had a rough idea of who he is, but I've never sat down and really thought hard about it.   So since I'm in the process of reinventing myself in so many other ways, I'm going to do my best to interview this guy and see if together we can help solidify him a bit more.

On that note, I'm going to drop off and see if I can't have a virtual chat with the fellow.  Have you ever had that happen though, where you write and write and then realize you don't know your characters as well as maybe you should?  Did you change how you do things or just flesh that character out?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Schedule? Are You Crazy?

In an interesting twist of events, I've hooked up with a Graduation Specialist Mentor at my school (Western Governors University, for those who don't know - Woohoo WGU).  Graduation Specialist Mentors are there to help us students keep pushing ahead on our classes and succeed each semester.   This guy is great because he's working with me on improving my other skills.  What I mean by that are things like organization, keeping a scheduled calendar, dealing with procrastination, study skills, setting goals, etc.  And because I'm a big believer in self-improvement, I'm attempting to embrace this new ideology with open arms.

Okay, brace yourself.  Those of you who have known me for a while will probably fall off your chairs.  Monday night I actually did sit down and create a scheduled calendar.  My wife had to help me, but I mapped out how many hours I spend studying, when I cook dinner (yes, I cook), when I spend time with the family, and...wait for it...when I get to write/blog.  I even have a few open areas (not large ones) that allow me some flexibility in case I have to work late, or need a little more study time, or need some quality hubby-wife time (so I stay in her good graces too).

I do admit that it's been difficult adjusting, but the one thing that has made it easier is that I get reminders on my cell phone for each "appointment".  And I carry my cell phone with me everywhere because of work.  Being reminded of when I have to do these things has helped alot.

The reason I am able to put up a post tonight in fact is due to one of those flexible areas.  I just got done reading the chapters I needed to finish and I have a couple minutes before heading upstairs to bed.

Yesterday I did not get to do any of my scheduled tasks however, since I was at work for 15 hours.  Yeah, I got there at 6 a.m. and didn't leave until 9:30 p.m.  It was truly rough, and not only was I really tired, I was actually disappointed because yesterday I had time set aside for writing.  But such is life.  On the good side, it looks like I'll be able to take Friday off, so maybe I can get in some writing time then (since all that time during the day is unscheduled.   Muhahahahahaha!

Anyway, I hope everyone else is finding time to write and though it's difficult, I highly encourage any of you who were like me (completely disorganized, not writing much, etc) to stop and evaluate whether you can change your spots.

Wow, maybe I'll even stop writing by the seat of my pants...
...Nah, I don't think so.  Let's not go overboard.

For those of you who are extremely organized, how do you manage your time?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blog Chain - Love Stinks...Sometimes

Okay, so I'm being a bit caustic with my choice of videos (compared to everyone else), but it actually is appropriate...sometimes.

The topic our own illustrious Kat has chosen is the following:

How do you feel about love scenes? As a reader, are you put off by the gratuitous? As a writer, do you shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? Or do you write until your computer lights a cigarette?

To say I run screaming from love scenes is probably an understatement.  As a reader, unless I'm turning the pages on the latest Penthouse Letters mag (which I've never read btw.  That was just a rumor started by somebody that really hated me in high school.  I swear!), I really am not interested in who does what to whom and how they do it.  Even from a romance perspective, I'd rather get the idea that two characters are in love by what they say and do outside the bedroom instead of in the bed itself.  I have definitely been known to skim past love scenes with a dismissive eye roll and a sigh of exasperation.

As a writer, I am scared to death of them.  For one thing, I'm a (almost) forty year old white male.  That makes me a borderline pervert in too many states, by too many uptight societies.  It's a fire I'd rather not play with if I can avoid it.  And to write a decent love scene where I'm making sure it's about love and not sex is something I'm not sure I could do.  It becomes way too easy to be cliche, too easy to be gratuitous, or too easy to be a non-event.

To take this even further however, there are very few times I can think of where a love scene helped move the story along.  Sure, it's great for characterization and depicting the relationship between two characters.  But is it always necessary?  I doubt it.

Don't get me wrong on this.  I'm not an uptight guy by means.  Outright sex doesn't bother me (at the right moment, for the right reason).  And although I could probably be a bit more romantic in my marriage from time to time, I'm probably as romantic as the next guy.  Wait, that doesn't really help my case, does it?  Anyway, my point is that I don't look for romance much in the books I read or the books I write.  I will probably have to work harder on the latter though.

Since I've now probably left you all shaking your head (or laughing in wonder at me), I'll turn the mike over to the awesome Michelle McLean.   She ought to have something cool posted tomorrow for your reading pleasure.  If you didn't get to read the ever-talented Michelle Hickman's answer though, get on over there.  She actually introduces us to a snippet of her work (sorry Michelle, I didn't really have anything to toss up here or I would have followed your example).

And how do you all feel about love scenes in writing?  Good or bad?  And should they be tame or explicit?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blog Chain - Not Quite What You Expected

It's time to jump on the blog train...er, chain.  And the super-talented Sarah's got quite a challenging question for us this time around:

What has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have expected? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

I say this question is challenging because I'm at a different point in the writing journey than so many others on the chain.  There are some who are querying, some who have been literally been writing for years, and some who are experiencing the joys of publishing bliss (or even multiple book bliss).  Me, I'm still working on getting an entire story written all the way to final draft.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this as a denigration of self.  I'm proud of the fact that I've stuck it out this long.  But where I'm at in the journey does make me think when it comes to questions like this.  And that's not a bad thing.

Probably the most unexpected aspect of writing for me has been finding humility and pride, one right after the other.  When I first started writing, I jumped on the awesome writer train as I cranked out my first book.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I assumed because friends and family were lauding my mad writing skills that obviously I was awesome.  Then I asked somebody to help critique it, figuring I'd tweak things a bit and be ready for querying.  The returned copy was less than flattering - but it was honest.

After picking myself up off the floor (figuratively anyway), I realized I wasn't this instantly awesome writer and I needed to stay grounded as I learn.  Then I took a writing class, learned a bunch, listened to all of you, and I was able to be proud of what I write.  Sure, it's not perfect.  But it is better than when I started.

I'm usually pretty hard on myself, particularly with regards to areas of my life that I care a lot about.  I agonize all the time over mistakes I might be making as a Dad.  I worry that I'm not doing enough for my wife.  And I used to beat myself up all the time over my writing.  I'm getting better at being proud of what I write, of acknowledging when I write well.  I remind myself of the awesome writer train mistake  constantly, but I also remind myself to have some pride.  It's an odd feeling, this balancing act between humility and egotism.  But it allows me to keep going, to keep writing.

Yesterday Michelle Hickman put up a great post on the subject that you have to check out.  And tomorrow you can look forward to hearing from Michelle McLean.  Both are awesome writers, so make sure you check them out.

And what has happened to you that you didn't expect while making your way through this writing journey?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dealing With Failure And The Funk

I failed.

Yep, despite my weeks of studying and cramming for my test, I was not able to pass it.  I don't feel as bad as you might think though, since (according to my Student Mentor) most people don't pass it the first time.  For those unfamiliar with IT-type certification exams, failing is a common affair.  Don't get me wrong; most of the time I nail my certification exams with no problems.  But there are plenty of exams in the IT world that stump even the most brilliant of us.

One of the reasons for this failure rate is because these tests want you to know anything and everything that is possible within the realm of the tested subject.  Then they randomly ask you questions from this massive pool of possibility and you hope you can remember it all.  Incidentally, I've noticed that as I get older, pulling files from this mental file cabinet in a coherent manner is getting tougher and tougher.  The good thing though, is that I can re-take this test again soon and I should do fine.  I needed a 70 to pass and got a 63, so I'm not that far off.

Still, it wasn't the greatest way to start a weekend.  Then a good friend of mine had a personal tragedy that left me feeling extremely bad for him, and so I basically spent Sat evening in a funk.  No writing, no studying, just not wanting to do anything.  Sunday I chose to mindlessly lose myself in a game or two.  By late afternoon/evening, I lost myself in a book.  I actually felt bad about it because I was being fairly selfish.  My son wanted to play some games with me and I declined (something I rarely do).  I knew he really wanted to spend some quality time with dear ol' Dad, but I just didn't have the energy to do it and I also (knowingly being selfish) wanted to just be by myself for a time - even if I was really being with all the characters in the book.

So here we are at Monday and I'm reflecting on things.  I still feel a bit out of sorts, but I'm working on it.  I've got to get the test rescheduled asap, and I've got to make sure I'm ready for the next time.  I have only a rough idea (since they don't tell you what questions you missed) of what areas I need to study harder on, but I'm confident in my ability to overcome.  I need to check on my friend, though it's a very touchy, personal situation that I have no experience dealing with.  And I also have to continue working on papers for my next class (which thankfully have to do with the same subject matter as my test).

I realize lately I haven't been posting as much writing-type stuff as I have personal stuff, but I hope everyone will bear with me.  I continue to strive to get back on the writing train every day, and I really do appreciate all of you hanging in there as I sort myself out.  As has been said way too many times, the writing community members are some of the most awesome people in the world.