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Monday, August 8, 2016

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Cherdo and Favorite Characters and Lines

Today we welcome Cherdo on the Flipside and her awesome theme of Favorite Characters, Favorite Lines!

Why did you choose the theme of favorite characters and lines?

As a movie buff, there's nothing I like more than an iconic line that captures the spirit of the movie or the essence of an important character. Even more important, is the instant recognition that comes with a GREAT quote; I'll drop that line in my day-to-day conversations when that happens.

Which character out of the bunch was your favorite?

Tough, tough question. A few names rise to the top: Brad Pitt's Achilles...Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark...Jack Nicholson's Melvin Udall...all truly great characters with great lines.

But in the end, "I'm your Huckleberry." It's gotta be Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holiday from the movie "Tombstone;" a wonderful fountain of quotables! Val's Doc was elegant, educated, and so snarky - but cool. Doesn't hurt that he knows his way around a gunfight and Latin. " In vino veritas!"

Which letter was the most challenging?

Actually, the challenging part came with the letters that had multiple great choices for quotes. Letters like X or Z that might seem challenging were actually a snap (X-men, Zoolander).

What movie or show got the best response from visitors? (Outside of the letter A, of course.)

If you would have made me guess in advance, I couldn't have picked it: E for Evil, as in Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame, got the most views of all. Who knew there was an evil fan base lurking on the blog-o-sphere.


How long did it take you to find the quotes and pictures for each letter?

About a month before the A-to-Z, I jotted down the letters and every time I was working at my desk, I'd glance at it and add names. Most of these names popped into my cranium attached to quotes, so the only thing to find was a confirmation that I was remembering it correctly. I probably spent less than fifteen minutes writing a post and adding pictures.

So many great Tony Stark lines – how did you resist the urge to just go crazy with that one?

You mean Stark-raving mad? Oh, that would have been so easy to do! What a perfect pairing of actor and character! At first, I was trying to find one great quote (as in Achilles) and later in the month, I tried to limit myself to five quotes. Basically, I was having too much fun and I always try to squelch fun.

But seriously, I could do a whole month of Tony Stark. Maybe that will be next year's theme: "All Things Tony Stark: The Sequel."

Would you need a little gin after a whole day with Jar-Jar Binks?

No, you'd need a lot of gin. The biggest problem is that you know you'll start doing the Jar-Jar voice after about ten minutes. The gin will only make you snicker while doing so.

If you participate in the Challenge next year, what themes strike your fancy?

Still loving pop culture, music, and humor. I'm pretty sure it will fall somewhere in that neighborhood. I toyed with the idea of "Ear Worms I Can't Kill" to address those songs that stick with you way too long.

All in all, I love the A-to-Z and I think you'll probably see me next year, too. Thanks, Alex, for including me!

I think All Things Tony Stark: The Sequel would be a great theme for next year! Thanks, Cherdo.


Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and his blog can be found HERE

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Blogging Strategy Works Best? (#atozchallenge)




        Our thanks to guest poster and A to Z Challenge veteran Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin who blogs at  Stephenyhoughtlin.com and Mainstreetrockymount.com.   In this post Stepheny shares her April blogging strategy--some tips you might find helpful in your own blogging.  



Reflecting on the A to Z Blog Challenge


“It’s true, with bloggers or a box of chocolates,
you never know what you’re going to get.”
Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin


Everyone comes to the blogging world in their own way with interests that are particular. The Challenge is like taking a class from a plethora of teachers who demonstrate what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t. I know I’m a better blogger for this teaching. After four years of participation, I hope this reflection adds to the consideration of the matter.  


There is major agreement that it is important to start early with the research and writing, placing your posts in a queue before April 1. Visit as many blogs as possible, leaving a comment behind will improve your stats as people return the favor. If you didn’t get a lot of comments perhaps the process is too complicated to be worth the effort. When I find a new blog that has my name on it because of content and presentation, I feel rewarded for the time it takes to work through the participation list. I gladly hit the FOLLOW button when the stars align, but I have high standards in that decision. If it isn’t readable, or the site is difficult to navigate, I’m a step away from moving on. An edgy blog does not persuade me either. Clarity: background/font size are essential. I want an uncluttered presentation that does not take away from the point of the post...to be able to READ the information. Short posts work best not only during The Challenge, but all year long. People are too busy to take the time no matter how worthy the content.


The subject matter you pick for the challenge has ramifications. Remember, a visitor might find you on day one or later in the month. You have one shot to intrigue them. A long tale that makes no sense on day 12, or a subject that is heavy, worthy as it may be, isn't great for what I call a "26 day expiration date opportunity." I encourage careful consideration of this goal: posts which demonstrate your blog is easy to read, the writing is your best effort, and that your blog is worth someone's valuable time to return and follow. NEVER start a post with, I don’t know what I’m doing, but here goes. Ask yourself, have I picked a subject that is better published at another time? The time frame of the Challenge should influence these decisions.


Whatever theme I have followed during April, I want people to know that the blog will continue on with content you would expect a writer, gardener, addicted reader and book-alcoholic to write about. I ask them for their company in the coming year. After reading this reflection, do come and find me by the garden gate at Stephenyhoughtlin.com where I’ll be waiting, or visit my 2nd blog about the revitalization of a small southern historic downtown, Rocky Mount, NC. Let’s have sweet tea and talk about blogging.   

IMG_1068About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East available on Amazon. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: stephenyhoughtlin.com or Mainstreetrockymount.com






If you'd like to contribute a guest post to the A to Z Blog, please let us know. We are happy to consider any topics that might be of interest to the A to Z Blogging community. Contact emails can be found at "Contact" tab at top of the page or you can contact me at ArleeBird@gmail.com





Monday, July 18, 2016

April In July (#atozchallenge)

It’s July. Time for beaches, bar-b-ques and planning your A to Z posts!
What?
Why so early you ask?

Blogging in the A to Z challenge takes time. If you are not used to blogging every day there is that, but even those of us that do blog everyday there is more time needed for this challenge. Especially to make it successful and more importantly fun.

So for me, July is the time I start planning my posts for next April.
I start off with a simple spreadsheet with letters A to Z going down the rows along with the date and days.  Sometimes having a particular letter on a particular day might influence me.  Like one year Z appeared on Saturday. Since I did a regular posting every Saturday about the comic book character Zatanna, I knew I was set.

Now for me I love to work with themes. I have been doing the A to Z Challenge since 2011 and been doing it with themes since 2012.  Themes give me focus and make me reach as a writer and blogger. Over the years I have done Games, Witches, Demons, Vampires and most recently Adventure.  For me a theme helps bring people back. I know there were several blogs I followed because of their interesting themes.  I want to choose a theme that first of all my regular readers will enjoy and then one that new readers will also find compelling and want to come back for more.  Since I am typing everything into a spreadsheet (a in truth I am using Google Sheets for this) I can actually develop a few themes at a time. Presently I have three I am working on.


I know there is the big theme reveal closer to April so I am kinda stealing my own thunder here, but the themes I am considering are “Undead” (like vampires, ghosts and the like), “OSR Games” (games of the old-school renaissance) and finally “Free Games” (games that you get for free).

Ok. I have my spreadsheet in place. I have an idea of my theme or two (or three).  What do I need to do now? Well I have nine months, give or take, to start writing my posts and gathering up what I need to make this all work.  Some of the posts of my themes almost write themselves.  Most don’t.  So I start to fill in the blanks to see what I have for each theme.  Some letters, Q, X, Y and Z I know will give me some issues, so I try to figure out what will go there first.
Well for Games and OSR I can use the game “X-plorers” and “Zfers” for X and Z respectively.  So that is a good start. For Undead I have “Zombie”, so not quite as good.

And...the search goes on. But you know what? That is OK since I still have some months yet.
A week or so later in July I am much closer to figuring out what I am going to do.

I know there is a big reveal in March, but I am going to give you a spoiler now.
I put down my first post for April 2017.  It’s for B and I picked “Basic Fantasy”.  I am going to focus on free games that you can download and play right away.
It is set now. I am committed. I just need 25 more posts! But now I know what I am going to do and a pretty good idea what the content of each post will be.   Come April I can concentrate on visiting all of your blogs now!

I say this summer spend a couple of extra minutes each day doing your April posts and make your April more enjoyable.  Sooner than you think 2017 will be here!

---
Tim Brannan is a blogger over at The Other Side a gaming and horror blog. He have been blogging since 2008 and been a participant in the A to Z Challenge since 2011.

He is also up for an ENnie Award (something like the Oscars of Gaming) for Best Blog and he would really like it if you voted for him.
http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/2016/ballot.php?category_id=6 
Please click on the link and vote "1" under "The Other Side".

Monday, July 11, 2016

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Retro Ads!

Today we welcome our very own Jeremy Hawkins and his awesome theme of old, retro ads.

Jeremy is also the genius behind the A to Z graphics. Many of his amazing graphics are available as t-shirts at Neat-O-Shop. He’s an author and you can find his books at Amazon. He also runs Howlin’ Wolf Records: Six Strings, a wicked cool online magazine, and he heads up the Horror Blogger Alliance.


Your theme was old ads – how did you come up with that idea?

Oh, I just completely love this kind of stuff, the early trial and error of the infomercial in written form. Coming up with it was simple, I had been downloading images for years and finally a place to share with people...

Which ad shocked you the most?

Many of the smoking ads, where at the time... putting babies with smoking mothers seemed like a good thing. Yes, the Fight Club soap for people who are heavy using headers “Fat is Folly”... what does that mean anyway?

Were you familiar with any of the odd products in the ads?

Not really, I think as I found them, I was like “what” are you kidding? It's amazing on crazy stuff then, transfers into crazy stuff now. There might have been much more “odd products” then due to there wasn't people look out like now.

Do you think any of the products actually worked?

Scarier thought, some of the corsets and nose products that actually look like they would just crush your bones... some of the products that are still in production today.

Why so many products about noses?

People with them big crooked noses, I am terrified to honestly know this actually work and how long people would keep using it before someone said, “hey stop that crazy thing”!

What was the obsession with the face vibrator? (And give people an idea how it worked. Well, not that it did…)

Well all vibrators work in all different ways, some better for others and in some in the best places... People must really needed them, think it's the early addition of Botox? Body shapes were like a bell or a pear... and coverage from neck to your toes, maybe it's the only thing people really see?

Any products you would be brave enough to try? (Besides the Vicks Vapor Rub of course.)

Honestly I am wearing Hanes underwear right now, though these adds have a body suit of coverage and I am sure I would never play sports showing my goods. I might even be up for using one one of those vibrator thingys for my face, yeah... my face. Lol.

If you participate in the Challenge next year, what theme would you run with?

I have always had a love for film score music for as long as I can remember, I might do a best of 26 composers, top 26 soundtracks that I like, best 26 sci-fi scores, best 26 horror scores, 26 scores you should skip or well the list goes on and on.

THANK YOU... for asking me to do this, you know I love talking about myself and it wouldn't be me if I didn't promote something... So here we go... Hey, everyone get the latest edition of our online magazine called “SIX STRINGS” where we share MUSIC, FILM, BOOKS, INTERVIEWS, etc. Some great stuff, it's free and some really cool giveaways. So please do check it out by going to Six Strings.




Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and his blog can be found HERE

Monday, July 4, 2016

Lessons from the Failure (#atozchallenge)

      And now for a bit of a confessional with some lessons for all from blogger Amita Gulia who can be found at Amita's Pen and Quotes.  Amita was also part of the 2016 Arlee's Ambassadors Team.  Don't feel too badly, Amita, at least you did some things right and most importantly you understand what some of your errors were.   Read on and enjoy...





Lessons from the Failure

         I first heard about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in May 2014 and was bit disappointed since I was late. I subscribed to the A to Z Blog and waited patiently for 2015. A to Z challenge 2015 was my first participation in the challenge and I was determined to survive it. I finalized on a theme and did some research. With some hiccups, I managed to complete the challenge and went on to write my reflections post. I was so proud of myself. Posting every day with relevant content on the blog made me feel bravura.

       My confidence touched no bounds as I managed to pull it off on two blogs simultaneously. Amita's Pen where I blog more often saw some great Indian women who made the road clear for future ladies in various professions. The other blog - Quotes, made me pen down at least one self-made sentence on Pregnancy. That section is very close to my heart and the words came directly from inside as I was expecting my second baby at that time.

       Then came 2016 and I was very confident of completing the challenge again. "If I can do it on two blogs at the same time while being eight months pregnant, nothing's going to stop me now", were my thoughts at the back of mind. I went a step further and went on to be on the team of Arlee Bird's A to Z Challenge Ambassadors. I had a great theme and finalized more great topics for each letter. April 2016 started and so did my challenge. After 10 days, I actually gave up. I knew I had failed it this time. I was sad. I felt embarrassed on not being able to contribute to Arlee's team - I volunteered myself for it and I was not doing anything. Honestly, I still feel bad more about being a non-active helper more than being a non-survivor.

I asked myself, "What went wrong?' 'Where did I lack?” My inner self shouted the following answers:

1. You did not Schedule the Posts

Plan, draft and schedule the posts. This is the top advice or tip anyone would get when it comes to any blogging challenge. And there I was an existing survivor and still ignoring this important advice. Mark it in bold letters:  If anyone want to survive the challenge with flying colors along with good content, scheduling the posts is a must.

2. You did not Seek Help

I have never had guest posts on my blog. May be this was the time to let the curtains up. I could have approached my friends and I am sure many of them would have helped even if I gave them the topics. But, I did not even try it. So next time, if you are having a hard time coming up with enough of your own original posts, try calling your friends - bloggers and non-bloggers both might be willing to lend a hand.

3. You were Over-Confident

Remember - success is never guaranteed. Just because I succeeded last time, does not mean I would continue to do so without more effort. Challenges often get tougher with each passing moment. Be prepared for them so they won't become insurmountable.

So, does that mean my failure was all my fault? Actually, I would not be so very harsh to myself. In my defense I had a very, very busy month at work. I was writing programming scripts at work all day long throughout the month of April and each day I when I took time to work on my blog posts, I got more behind at work. The official work pays me and needs to be completed at any cost. Thus, I forgive myself--just this time--for ignoring my dear blog. I would keep the learning in mind and definitely take up the challenge again in 2017.  Next year I hope to heed the lessons I learned in 2016 to make my life as a blogger far less stressful and uncomplicated.

PS - I hope I would still be chosen to assist on a team next time - Guilty me!  I'll do better next year!

        Thanks, Amita!   I'd be happy to give you another chance on my team.

         We're accepting guest post proposals for the A to Z Blog.   If you have something that you think might be of interest to the A to Z community of bloggers, contact us with your idea.   I'll be happy to work with you on a post for this site.