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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Writing Through the Holidaze

Even the Cat Can Go Bonkers with Holidaze Stress

Nothing's busier than a person who writes, unless it's a person who writes during the Thanksgiving holiday. I prefer to call it "holidaze" for the obvious reason. The only way I get through this time and still remain sane is to have a schedule. I schedule everything during November, even when to take out the garbage. If I didn't, the garbage just might be ignored and that would be very bad indeed.



  • 4:00 open eyes, create mental list for the day
  • 4:30 find coffee maker in dark--don't risk waking family with bright lights
  • 4:40 boot computer, sip coffee, wait for computer to wake up, sip more coffee, nudge computer, cuss
  • 5:00 answer emails
  • 5:40 check blogs and respond to all comments, visit at least 15 blogs before break
  • 6:15 BREAK, coffee maker now clearly visible in dawn light, so make another cup, listen for footsteps upstairs
  • 6:20 fb, twitter, LinkedIn, Google+
  • 7:00 greet first family member with smile, but silence. They are very cranky in the morning.
  • 7:30 find food, eat, talk about the day's plan, do dishes
  • 8:15 return to computer, more emails and blogs
  • 9:00 shut down social media, pull up WIP, cry, then rewrite
  • 10:00 check garden, clean up after raccoons, cuss
  • 11:00 eat lunch, take a walk down to the creek
  • 12:00 call friends and family re: Thanksgiving plans to firm up menu and make sure they're bringing stuff
  • 1:00 Take out garbage (See, I was serious.)
  • 1:15 Make Turkey Stuffing, boil Sweet Potatoes, look for wine.
  • 3:00 Set table for T'day
  • 4:00 Call in and order Pizza for pick up.
  • 4:45 Drive to town, pick up Pizza, return home (MY ROAD TRIP FOR THE DAY)
  • 5:15 Drink wine, make salad
  • 5:30 Eat Pizza, drink more wine--use counter because table's set
  • 6:30 Stack dishes in sink and call Elves
  • 6:40 Find happy 30 minute sit-com on Netflix
  • 7:15 Shower (if we have water--drought year)
  • 8:00 Open Kindle and read
  • 9:00 Face in pillow
Repeat with adjustments for after the T'day celebration. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 20, 2015

#atozchallenge -- Let the Challenge inspire you!

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is more than just a bunch of letters.

It's a community.

Not just for writers, but for any number of creative people all around the world. 

Doing this Challenge brings bloggers together that might never have found each other.

It unites like-minded bloggers and yet it also introduces us to brand new ideas, categories, and people.

The Challenge gives us all something to look forward to and something to strive for.

Meeting our own expectations, and cheering on our fellow bloggers, is not only exciting, but also inspiring!


Monday, November 16, 2015

The A to Z of Harry Potter Names

If you're a book lover, you probably love Harry Potter as much as the next reader. Harry Potter blogs abound on the internet and it's easy to get your Harry Potter fix. Sometimes we even get Harry Potter themed posts for the A to Z Challenge.

Recently I hosted a Harry Potter Tea Party; it was an all ages affair and I was impressed at the level of knowledge the adults had! One of the games we played was a Harry Potter Who's Who where everyone had a note taped to their back with a character's name on it. The object was to give clues to your partner and they had to guess who their character was.

Harry Potter Party table display

This game made me wonder if it was possible to do an A to Z of  Harry Potter names?

Let's see:

A - Hanna Abbott (part of Dumbledore's Army)

B - Katie Bell,  Sirius Black, and Lavender Brown (that's who I was dressed as for the party).

C - Cho Chang, Vincent Crabbe, and Barty Crouch (Jr & Sr).

D - Fleur Delacour and Cedric Diggory (way before Twilight)

E - Marietta Edgecomb (I know, who?)

F - Nicholas Flamel, and Mundungus Fletcher (I love that name)

G - Hermione Granger (of course) and Godric Gryffindor

H - Rubeus Hagrid and Helga Hufflepuff

I - Ivanova. An obscure Bulgarian Quidditch player

J - Angelina Johnson

K - Viktor Krum

L - Bellatrix LeStrange (try explaining who that is to a 9 year old), Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin

M - Malfoy (yuck) and Professor Minerva McGonagall

N - Theodore Nott (he sees Thestrals)

O - Garrick Ollivander

P - Harry Potter!

Q - Quirinus Quirrell

R - Helena Ravenclaw

S - Rita Skeeter (and her pen)

T - Nymphadora Tonks (Tonks!)

U - Dolores Jane Umbridge (kittens & pink do not make her a nice person)

V - Voldemort, duh.

W - Ron Weasley (or any of them really)

Y - Yaxley, a Death Eater

Z - Blase Zabini, friend of Malfoy

Well, how'd you do? Were you able to name that many?

Pam Margolis
A to Z co host and Unconventional Librarian

Many thanks to these websites for the odd bit of help:,

Monday, November 9, 2015

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Mark Twain's Boyhood Town

Today we welcome Jennifer Hawes!

If you've struggled with your A to Z theme, it might be right there under your feet. Jennifer chose her hometown of Hannibal, MO, which also happens to be the boyhood town of a certain author named Mark Twain…

What made you choose Hannibal, MO as your theme? (Besides the fact you live there!)

I love the natural beauty of this town nestled on the Mississippi River. Photography was a big part of why I chose to feature Hannibal for the challenge.

Which topic was your favorite?

My posts on "Trains" and "Meet Me in St. Louis" were fun to feature because of the recent trip I took with my family exploring the train yards in St. Louis. Urban exploration and photography remain my favorite activities besides writing ,of course!

Which letter was the most challenging?

Toward the end I was getting burned out. Y was a bit of a challenge so I changed my post to "whY you should visit Hannibal" and featured football and my oldest teenage son. This town worships football. This year my son's team, the Hannibal Pirates, went 10-0 are in the playoffs! He was also chosen for first team all conference in Northeast Missouri High Schools two years in a row. I'm one proud mom!

What should first time visitors absolutely not miss?

Mark Twain's dream was to be a riverboat captain. He adored the Big River. You will get a wonderful tour aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. And don't forget to visit the famous cave!

How many places are named after Mark Twain?

I've lost count.

Just what is the Tom and Becky contest?

Every summer five Tom and Becky couples are chosen right before their eighth grade year. One couple is the main Tom and Becky and the rest stay busy hosting the numerous festivals in town. Tom and Becky are fictional characters created by Mark Twain in his book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. They had a major crush on each other. They hid inside the cave to escape Injun Joe who was after them. Mark Twain really did have a crush on his next door neighbor Laura Hawkins aka Becky Thatcher.

Did you find it odd there was a lighthouse in town?

Not really. With all the hills, rocky terrain, and endless fog, I'm sure the town built the lighthouse to help navigate the boats safely down the river.

What theme are you considering for the Challenge next year?

Oh boy. I'm glad I have some time to think about it! I've debated whether or not to write about the writer's journey to publication. Or something to do with writing. My theme last time featured Mark Twain, one of the greatest fiction writers of all time, and his boyhood home town. Maybe I'll feature more great writers. Writing is my life and passion!

Thanks, Alex, for featuring my blog from AtoZ!

Thanks for doing the interview, Jennifer! I want to visit now.

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, and his blog can be found HERE

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 tips for authors who work with folktales

Fairy tale adaptations are all the rage these days. Some of them are stellar, some of them are decent, and some of them are... boring, I guess. But whatever the case, here is something that not many people talk about: Adapting fairy tales (especially if they are also folktales - not all of them are!) is a tricky issue. Many people just automatically assume that folktales are in the public domain - therefore there is no copyright to consider, or intellectual property to tread on. However, when working with traditional stories - especially if they are from a culture other than your own - is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind if you work with fairy tales:

Make sure it is actually a folktale 
Not all fairy tales are folklore. Some of them are literary. These might look like a folktale, but they still fall under copyright and intellectual property rules. This becomes especially tricky when some authors write "fakelore" - publish their own work under the title "folktale" (or, ironically, "original folktale"). In other cases they might publish folktales that are real, but publish them in their own version, re-written, re-told or adapted.
This is not only important because you might get in trouble for copyright infringement. You might also be unwittingly propagating false information on the traditions and culture of a certain group of people.
How to avoid: It is useful to look for the same story in other sources. Sometimes you have to approach the author to ask. Good thing we have social media.

Check on a culture's actual stories before you make up new ones
Attributing a fake "folktale" or "legend" to a foreign culture is a huge literary faux pas - especially in the case of indigenous and marginalized groups. This was one of the main problems people brought up about the Twilight series - the author took an indigenous nation, and made up legends that don't actually exist in their tradition. Since most people had never heard about the Quileute before the books/movies came out, they automatically believed that those stories were real "Indian folklore."
How to avoid: If you are featuring an existing culture in your work, do your homework. Go the extra mile. Read their stories. Maybe you'll find more useful things than you thought.

With that said...

Make sure you are not committing cultural appropriation
Not all folktales are up for grabs. They might not be protected by copyright law, but that doesn't mean you are not being offensive, inconsiderate, or hurtful towards the community that claims them and keeps them alive. Don't assume that finding an indigenous folktale in a written collection automatically means they wanted it to be out there.
How to avoid: Be respectful. Educate yourself about cultural appropriation. Ask.

Make sure you are not promoting stereotypes
Even if certain folktales are okay to use and adapt - make sure you are using them the right way. Selecting certain stories to represent certain cultures (especially if those cultures are not generally well known) puts you in danger of upholding a Single Story.
How to avoid: Read more stories from the same tradition. See if you can present a more diverse picture.

Note your sources
This is more of a courtesy than a necessity: I personally love reading about the original sources of folktales and fairy tales people use. I will be eternally grateful if you note them in your Introduction, or Afterwords, or... wherever. In addition, if you are working with less well known tales from other cultural groups, is is courteous to point people in the direction of your sources, in case they want to find out more, and educate themselves about the oral traditions of the world.

Do you like fairy tale adaptations? Do you write them? Let me know what you think!