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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Storyteller's Perspective: History and fiction

Today I stray a little from oral storytelling to telling tales of history.

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is taking the Internet by storm. Seriously, has any of you been to Goodreads lately without seeing the banners for the book? Some people cite the show as the "feminist response to Game of Thrones," while others cite the books as the long-awaited revival of historical fiction.
Which is what got me thinking: Is historical fiction really in need of a revival?

I'm going to tell you up front: I don't have an answer to that question. Really, I'm just writing this post to pose the question to the A to Z audience. Visiting blogs as a minion this April I encountered many wonderful authors who work in many genres, and I enjoyed all of those visits. I also noticed that the hottest genre right now seems to be romance and its subgenres (paranormal, erotic, historical, etc.). Which is probably why Outlander reached more exposure (ha! kilts!) and more popularity than many other historical fiction books lately.

I had conversations with people about historical fiction and the challenges authors have to face when they decide to work within this genre (disclaimer up front, I am one of them, hence the interest). The thoughts and opinions I gathered ranged from "Well, no one gives a **** about history" to "It is a lot harder to read than other fiction." Other complaints about historical fiction included "Well, it's kinda boring" (coming from a person that had no problem blazing through 5 volumes of Game of Thrones) and "I have never heard of that place/those people/that time period, so I am not really interested."

With all of that said: Historical fiction lives, thrives, and does have a serious following. People like Philippa Gregory and Bernard Cornwell are doing active and amazing work. The fandom might be less visible than fans of other genres, but that is a topic for another time. For now, I would like to ask a few questions, and see where they take us:

1. Do you read historical fiction?
2. If so, who is your favorite author / what is your favorite book?
3. Do you write historical fiction? What kind? Why?
4. What do you think makes a historical book good?
5. If you want to share any blogs, Twitter feeds, FB pages, etc. related to historical fiction, please do!

Happy last weeks of summer, everyone!

You can find Csenge (@TarkabarkaHolgy) at
The Multicolored Diary - Adventures in Storytelling
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back-to-School Means...

Hey there friends, it's been a while since I've taken a turn at this wonderful venue.  It's been quite the summer for us - each day a new surprise adventure, some good, some bad, some scary, some a total blessing.  I'll come out and say it: I consider summer over as of today. My youngest started high school.

For many of us, end of summer and beginning of fall doesn't much matter.  Our lives run on a regular schedule, January-December.  Once we were done with school, we became adjusted to a different calendar.

That's never been the case for me.  I went from being a student into immediately being a teacher into having kids and then they had a school schedule.  My life runs mid-August, then all around the year, with summer in between.

There are many rituals I enjoy about getting ready for a new school year to begin: buying school supplies, getting new clothes, getting a fresh haircut, and other preparations.  Egads there's more when you have a senior.  I had been warned repeatedly by my friends with older kids, but being me, Schedule Woman, I thought, "How much different can it be?"  I was wrong.  I'm adjusting.

What does "back-to-school" signify for you?  What's the school year like in your country?  What calendar does you life run by?  Do tell.

~Tina, feeling a bit blue, yet also excited because my son was so thrilled about going :-)

Friday, August 15, 2014

August’s Delicious Detour for Bloggers #atozchallenge #roadtrip

Teriyaki Chicken from Koja Grille. Photo by Nicole Ayers.
What’s a road trip without snacks, drinks and good food?! After all, they are the very basic necessities for a spontaneous picnic, or two. That is why today’s pit stop involves one of the most delicious scavenger hunting activities ever introduced to the A-to-Z Challenge Road Trip, to keep our engines running throughout August. I double dare all road trippers to complete the following tasks before my next Road Trip check-in:

1. Find and visit blogs named after food on the 2014 A-to-Z Challenge Signup List
It doesn't have to be a foodie blog with recipes or restaurant reviews per se. Just look for blogs that include food in their title such as Buttered Toast Rocks and you're good to go.

2. In 150 words or less, write a “(Blogging) Book Report” on your blog about one of the places you visited on the list. Make sure that your Blogging Book Report includes information about the following topics:
  • The name and subject of the blog.
  • Your favorite post on the blog.
  • Whether you would visit the blog again in the future.

There are so many blogs on the A-to-Z Challenge list with fruits, nuts, baked desserts, cookies, bread or chocolate in the title (some even with the term “food”) that this is an easy way to get your road trip on while also having a writing prompt for your own blog. Plus, I’m sweetening the deal – send me a link to your “(Blogging) Book Report” post after it’s published and I’ll list your blog my Road Trip check-in next month.

Who’s in?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers brings the 411 on indie films at The Madlab Post. She recently ate a Mr. Goodbar for lunch and then washed it down with a Snickers; all after months without eating these types of candy, in favor of assorted cakes and pastries. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Can we blog from Aardvark to Zebra?

Dylan at work
Some time last month my guinea pig Dylan announced he was going to do the A to Z Challenge next year.  He wouldn't be the first guinea pig, since Victor took part in 2012, doing the A to Z of guinea pig food.  Dylan hasn't come up with a theme yet, but I think if he does, he's going to need some help.

Victor made a lot of friends with other animals on the A to Z challenge that year.  There was Dreamweaver, The Mane Point, and Rob Bear, who comes out of hibernation around then to do his blog Chrome on the Range.  I don't think he kept up with them for very long, but time flies when you're a guinea pig.

Last year I noticed that my good friend and fellow A2Z minion Guilie Castillo has a second blog called Life In Dogs.  It's about dog rescues - which she does in Mexico, but also about cat rescues and any animal rescues at all.  She set up a linky for other pet bloggers on the A2Z which I thought was a wonderful way of getting special interest sites together.  If she does it again next year then I'll tell Dylan to sign up for it, as well as the main challenge, and the Theme Reveal, and all those other extras that go with being part of the A to Z Challenge in April.

Are there any Aardvarks or Zebras blogging out there who would like to get involved in the A2Z Pet Network?


Last week was a painful reminder for me of the good reasons for backing up your blog.  Mine was out of action (although readable by viewers) for nearly a week after a conflict in upgrades gave me no back office/dashboard access.  Faced with the prospect of rebuilding it, I looked for my last back up.  I can do a simple posts export which is the easiest way of keeping content - and in a useable format should I need to change hosts.

I last saved my posts on April 17th - presumably the date I had all my A2Z posts done for the month.  So if things had gone wrong then, all my posts were ready and scheduled.  It's a good reason to schedule posts anyway - you never know when the gremlins are going to hit you!

Given that I'll be away for a week at the end of March, I think I'll have to do most of my April posts before then.  Schedule, and back-up (or save off line).  It's the only way to get peace of mind.

Dylan had better start planning his posts now - then I can back up his blog too!

What about you?  Any interest in pet blogging?  Done a back-up lately?

Jemima Pett blogs at, and is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  She has written the Princelings of the East series (whose characters are guinea pigs) and is working on a new scifi series, the first of which, The Perihelix, Viridian System #1, will be out in 2015.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Themes That Rocked! Abandoned Places With Andrew Leon

Please welcome author extraordinaire, Andrew Leon!

What made you run with the theme of abandoned places?

It was an idea my wife had. Initially, the idea was, "Wouldn't some of these places be cool as settings for stories," which I thought was a cool idea, but I didn't want this year to be as research intensive as the last couple of years, so I thought I'd just post a few pictures and a blurb to go with them. However, once I started looking up the places, the histories were often so fascinating that I couldn't resist telling about the places, too.

Did you Google search or were there websites you used for resources?

The original concept came from a news article... somewhere. I probably have the link still lying around. After that, I started looking up some of the places from the article and, from there, I found several websites that specialized in pictures of abandoned places. Still, it was a lot of back and forth, because, frequently, the pictures wouldn't come with information, so, then, there ended up being research even though I had intended to not spend time on research. heh

Which place was your favorite?

Oh... Man, I don't even know. North Brother Island? Qasr el Baron? Kalavantin Durg? Angkor Wat? Basically, I picked places (overall) that made me say, "Oh! This place is cool!" so I liked nearly every place I picked.

Which letter was the most challenging?

J, I think. That's why it got a more generic entry than most of the others. Not that X was easy. Or Z. Surprisingly, I had a lot of options for Y.

What’s the most common location of abandonment?

That, I'm not really sure about, but the type that surprised me the most was the amusement parks. There are a ton of abandoned amusement parks all over the world, and I don't think I was really expecting that.

I’d never heard of Teufelsberg. Which place (or places) surprised you?

Places like Craco surprised me, where whole populations had to just get up and move. Holland Island, too. I was surprised to find that that had been a whole town and that they had packed up and moved, including many of the buildings, away. Actually, I suppose I find it surprising that they lived there to begin with, but I suppose it seemed safe enough when they moved onto the island.

Have you visited any of them? Do you want to?

I went to Wolf House. It's pretty amazing looking at the stone walls that have been there for a century. London was correct that the place was built to last. Except for the whole fire part. I almost went to Alcatraz, but I got left behind. The pictures from there were taken by my wife. I suppose I will eventually get around to going. I'd like to take a trip to Devil's Slide; it's not too far from here. Those are the realistic ones, but I'd love to visit most of the places. I mean, there are some amazing places. I'd love to go up the climb to heaven. That would be amazing.

If you participate in the Challenge next year, do you have a theme in mind?

Ah, yes, well, I had decided to not participate next year but, then, I had an awesome idea. My own idea this time, not my wife's, and an idea that hasn't been done before. Not just a theme that hasn't been done, but a whole way of doing it that hasn't been done. It's... well, let's just say it's ambitious, and I'm already working on it because of that.

Dude, that is ambitious. I don’t even know what I’m posting next week… Thanks, Andrew!

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