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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October, A Time For Ghost Stories

October is a time for settling in with hot spiced cider, a blanket and a good book, preferably one with a with a great ghost story.
 You’re seated around the campfire, light flickering over the faces of those huddled there with you, and one of your friends is telling a story--not just a story--a ghost story. That prickling at the back of your neck, the way your breathing grows shallow and you wrap your arms around yourself bumps your heart up to high. It’s a cool night, but tiny beads of sweat collect at your hairline. 

It’s fear time, baby, and your body’s reacting to that familiar emotion, the one you experience whenever you’re scared by something and you’d like to pull the covers over your head or--better yet--run!

And you’re thrilled, right? Fear heightens awareness and cancels all the mundane concerns. For this moment you’re transported, you’re “alive” and “tingly.” This is one reason everyone loves a good ghost story. Another is that ghost stories try to demystify death, that one inescapable universal. This is why Halloween with its seasonal creepiness has such appeal and why this ancient Celtic celebration, steeped in ghostly myths, has continued in some form into the present day. 

What's Halloween without a CAT and a Jack-O-Lantern? Oh and I know there's a ghost at the window.

A few literary facts: 

The thirteen stories nominated for the Booker Prize in 2011 were about death. Here’s an interesting link on how to get published by writing about death.

Some of the best known and loved classics in literature are ghost stories: The Raven [Poe], A Christmas Carol [Dickens], The Turn of the Screw [James]. 

Today ghost stories are among the favorites of young readers. Dead Connection, The Body Finder, The Ghost Sitter, Stonewords: A Ghost Story and on and on. 

So I’ve written some ghostly tales. Some have been published in magazines, some are still on my C drive waiting for a publisher to find them :-), and some are still in my head. But this time of year I’m stirred to read and write about ghosts who walk in the night, about restless spirits seeking revenge, about pumpkin-evil stuff. 

And you? Do you love to read ghost stories? Do you love to write them? What are your favorite ones?

Here are some Ghost Stories I've downloaded just to get in the mood.

Any ghost stories you particularly love and maybe read more than once? And speaking of ghost stories, if I could find a ghost story with X, I might consider the A to Z Theme, All About Ghosts. I know haunted places have been done, but has anyone A to Zed about ghosts?

Friday, October 17, 2014

#atozchallenge #roadtrip -- Stormy meets some NEW friends!

It's ME!

Stormy the Weather Gnome!

We're changing things up a bit so you don't get bored.

Don't worry, we're still on the road to nowhere, still can't drive 55, AND still running against the wind.

Pam Margolis from An Unconventional Librarian.

Pam's A to Z theme...of course...BOOKS! Books for the Middle Grade reader. So many fun, exciting, and interesting titles.

Old books, new books, award-winning books! More books than you can shake a stick at!
Go check them out!


And now, for some NEW friends!


C. Lee Mckenzie from The Write Game

This was a very inventive theme and probably a giant pain in the ass to pull off!
The Write Game's Theme AtoZ Blog Challenge
2014 - Stuff I Learned or Laughed at from Bloggers in the 2013 A to Z Challenge.
Each day C. Lee would give clues to a mystery blogger and everyone had to guess who it was! Lots of fun watching who would guess first and guess correctly!

S.L. Hennessy from Pensuasion

S.L.'s A to Z theme was fairy tales, inspired in great part by some of her current favorite TV shows, movie adaptations, and books.

Just to name a few! G is for Grimm. N is for The Neverland. U is for Ugly Stepsisters. W is for Wolves and Witches. And of course...Z is for Zombie Princess.

Did someone say Zombie Gnome?

Thanks for visiting with us today!
Are you finding any great blogs on your trip?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Show Up?

I'm amazed every year during November when so many writers take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. Challenge is the correct word as they attempt to write a novel in a month. Reading their tortured posts and updates on social media makes me wince in sympathy. 50,000 words in one month is hard work and some do it year after year. I gave some tips on succeeding at NaNo on Monday.

In April, thousands of bloggers will sign up for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. 2015 will be my fourth year and I couldn't be more excited. But honestly, after that first year I wasn't sure I would ever take it on again. It's work. But then my blogger friends were doing in, some of them running it, and I took the plunge again. I had learned some things the first year and the second year there was as much fun as there was work. I met so many wonderful bloggers outside the novel writing community and learned from them. My third year, I served as a Minion to Alex J. Cavanaugh and gained another perspective on the massive effort that is A to Z and appreciation for the people who started it and keep it running.

Some things I learned is that blogging isn't just about book promotion or 'building my platform.' And participating in the A to Z blog isn't just about growing my blog readership. It's about being part of a community. A welcoming community who offer understanding, advice and opportunities.

I blog three times per week at my personal blog, Susan Says, and take turns on the IWSG blog as well as occasionally at The Susquehanna Writers blog. And now you'll see me on this blog once or twice per month, one of those wonderful opportunities I mentioned. Like those taking on the work involved in NaNoWriMo, there are good reasons to show up and keep at it. Whatever your motivations for blogging, joining hops, posting regularly and being part of a community, you have to show up and work at it. I'm thrilled to show up here and be part of this team.

Why do you show up to blog on a regular basis? Are there days when it feels more like work than fun? Has blogging become easier for you with experience?

Susan Gourley writes science fiction romance and epic fantasy. She blogs at Susan Says, has a Facebook page and Tweets as Susan Kelley. This is her first post as a new member of the A to Z team.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Themes That Rocked - Historical Travels with Carrie-Anne Brownian!

Today we welcome Carrie-Anne Brownian, author of historical fiction set mostly in Europe and Asia. The locations and towns she featured were truly amazing and a great lesson in history and geography.

Your theme this year was geographical-historical locations in your books – what made you decide on that theme?

I felt like it might be more accessible to a wider range of readers, with more obvious interest than my prior two themes, characters I’ve created and chapters I’ve written. Not everyone is so interested in a theme revolving around someone’s writing, but many people are interested in travel. I’m also a Sagittarius, known as the Traveler of the Zodiac.

What city or location was your favorite?

I think my favorites were Kutaisi, Georgia, and Isfahan, Iran, both beautiful cities which have been continuously inhabited for thousands of years. I’m very eager to visit both of them someday, and to see beautiful places like the Bagrati Cathedral and River Rioni of Kutaisi, and Isfahan’s breathtaking Grand Bazaar and Khaju Bridge. It also meant a lot to me to positively feature two Iranian cities, since my family were dear friends with an Iranian family when I was growing up, and I know from my own experience that these are good, intelligent, modern, hospitable people, not xenophobic terrorists.

What letter proved the most difficult?

In terms of finding a wide sample of pictures to use, the most difficult letters were U (Uelen, Russia), O (Odžaci, Serbia), A (Abony, Hungary), and F (Fereydunshahr, Iran). In terms of finding a wide variety of information about the cities, A, O, and F were also among the most difficult letters, and V (Vratsa, Bulgaria) also proved to have somewhat of a dearth of in-depth information available. Many people have problems with X, but once I found the two cities I wanted to use (Xánthi, Greece, and Xanten, Germany), I was overwhelmed with both pictures and information.

Emotionally, the most difficult letter was Z (Zagreb, Croatia), whose post I put off and wrote very last of all. Croatia committed massive war crimes against Serbs, Jews, and Roma during World War II, to such a degree that even the Nazis found them too sadistic. And many modern Croatians have celebrated or downplayed those atrocities. That shouldn’t be swept under the rug. However, I had to keep thinking of Ivan Vranetić, a young Croatian who rescued many people (including his future wife) because it was his second nature to do the right thing, and of my characters Zvonko and Mirsada. Entire peoples are not evil.

Yerevan, Armenia was fascinating – have you been there? Want to travel there?

At the moment, the only countries outside the U.S. I’ve been to are Israel and Austria (and I was only in Austria physically, due to an emergency middle of the night plane landing for a sick passenger). Someday I’d love to see Yerevan, one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. I only hope I can make myself understood, since the bits and pieces of Armenian I’ve taught myself over the years are Western Armenian, and Armenia’s national language is Eastern Armenian. There are a number of important differences between them, beyond the pronunciation of some letters.

You did a lot of research for your posts – what were some of your sources?

Some of them were sources I’d used before for my writing, and I referred back to old print-outs or had to hunt them down again. I know the place I tracked down the information from some of my print-outs on Lille, France wasn’t where I’d gotten it from in 2002, but at least it had been transferred to a different website in the years since. I also used Jewish Virtual Library for information on a number of my cities, such as Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and Xánthi, Greece.

I know this is generally frowned on in serious research, but I used Wikipedia as a jumping-off point in a number of instances. It’s important to follow the links to outside, more scholarly sources, which in turn often leads you to other good sources of information. Many cities also had official websites for tourism or about their histories.

During your research, what surprised you the most?

One of the big surprises was finding out how some of these cities had been destroyed, sometimes more than once. With some cities, such as Tartu, Estonia, there isn’t much left of the historic buildings, due to so many fires and so much warfare. And yet these people kept rebuilding.

What was it like visiting Israel?

It’s truly a land of miracles and wonders, where old coexists with new, and every stone is steeped with deep, rich history and stories. My three favorite places are the Old City of Jerusalem, with its thousands of years of history and so many different cultures; Haifa, Israel’s best-integrated city, where members of all five of the country’s major religions live together peacefully; and the Galilee, an idyllic, peaceful, generally quiet region.

What theme do you think you’ll tackle for next year’s Challenge?

It’s once again going to be a theme related to my writing, but not directly related. It deals with one of my areas of greatest historical expertise, and two of the subjects I’ll be featuring were discussed during this year’s Challenge. I also included photographs related to a few of the other subjects to be featured. As a final hint, it’s going to include subjects from places including Bulgaria, Armenia, Ireland, Albania, and Bosnia.

Awesome! Look forward to your posts, Carrie-Anne.

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

What Your Visiting Behavior Brings to the Blogging Table #atozchallenge #roadtrip

You know those movie scenes where someone shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep of distant relatives, friends or lovers who are so overjoyed to be visited by another human being? In my experience as a blogger and two-time (or three-time…hard to recall right now) road tripper, this is similar to what someone feels like when you visit his or her blog. 

That is why your continued participation in the A-to-Z Challenge Road Trip counts the most; (most of) the blogs you missed way back in April are still cranking out the same, if not better, material that is worth a look-see. Even if you visit one blog a day from now until April roll around again, that will mean a lot for the bloggers who are operating those online entities. To them, it’s more than a visit. What you do (or don’t do) and what they see mean the difference between whether the blogosphere remains buzzing with activity or goes stale.

When you visit blogs, they see that some activity exists where there was once none. This traffic motivates a newbie blogger to put up a new post again. This is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling. The views you bring also keeps a seasoned blogger alert with an urge to grow his or her readership by putting one’s best foot forward.

When you read blogs, they see that their efforts were not made in vein because someone, somewhere, is paying attention. Not only did you stop by for a visit, but you're actually listening to what they have to say. This is especially evident in cases where bloggers have inspired a post on another person’s blog or ignited discussions around one particular topic. Anyone can visit but it takes an interested individual to read a blog post from beginning to end and then respond to it in a way that comes by total surprise. 

A few years ago, a Canadian blogger who I favored for some time had been featured in my local newspaper. She likely would have never even knew about the feature if I didn’t contact her about the article. So, someone in the states read her blog and thought it provided enough valuable information to warrant a mention in a newspaper. Who knows how the feature got from point A to point B – it could have been recommended from one friend to another, a magazine editor could have been doing research on one specific topic and just happened upon her blog. The possibilities vary but all it took was for someone to read this woman’s content.

When you comment on blogs, they see that there are people behind those visits and views; people with varied opinions and experienced; people who might share common interests; people who are an example of how big the world is compared to our little universes around us; people who also help us in creating and joining little universes within the larger one. You stopped by for a visit, were all ears for what was on their mind and either had a cup of coffee with them or brought some of your own to share. 

Bloggers see a reader who is willing to interact with them and enjoys further discussion on the content presented in a blog post. They see someone who is cooperative enough to step out from behind the shadows of the blog pages where he or she once lurked, and become a part of something that could turn out to be fun.

When you participate in the Post A-to-Z Road Trip by visiting, reading and commenting on blogs from the A-to-Z sign-up list, the people behind these places see that our A-to-Z community stretches far past April. They see a community that is like a gas station – open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They see how being a part of the A-to-Z Challenge can help them reap long-term benefits by the very nature of attracting new readers and hopeful friends to learn, laugh, cry, vent and celebrate with for as long as the effort is put forth on all sides.

How many new blogs have YOU visited this week?

Can you describe the most favorite or most interesting blog post YOU read this week while visiting new blogs?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers provides some insight on films that need to be on your radar at The Madlab Post. She is a proud supporter of the American Red Cross and is usually up for some brief Twitter (@MadlabPost) conversations.