Saturday, July 28, 2012

A.E. Howard and her Flight of Blue!

 Today’s guest blogger is A.E. Howard! She’s a writer and an artist, as you'll see if you visit her blog. She is sharing with us an  interview with Reginald Long-Tail Jackson Weaver, Opossum Sorcerer, who is a character in her book Flight of Blue, released recently. We love the voice of this character, and wish Anna all kinds of success with her book. Take it away, Anna!

I sat down with Reginald the other day to get his view on the events in Flight of Blue, and also to fill in some of the blanks that I didn’t discover while writing the story. Some of the things happened so fast, I had to go back for details.

AEH: Reginald, thank you for being here today. I know you’re very busy.

Reginald: Yes, terribly busy indeed. What is it that you were so desperate to know that you dragged me out here?

AEH: Ah, well, some of the folks who’ve been reading the story I wrote about you and the other, you know, Flight of Blue and they want to know more about you. One of the questions I hear a lot is: what makes you different from normal Opossums?

Reginald deadpans me.

Reginald: I take it they have not yet read the book, have they?

AH: Uh, well, it just came out like four days ago, so, no, most of them haven’t.

Reginald: So you have dragged me out here to ask silly questions that people could easily understand if they simply read that... that... amusing little tale of yours.

AEH: I’m sorry, “amusing little tale”?

Reginald: Yes, that story in which you felt it necessary to render with precise detail situations that you found amusing while skipping over salient information about the folk you were supposedly writing about.

AEH: This is about the “playing possum” thing isn’t it?

Reginald: That is utterly irrelevant.

AEH: Oh, admit it, you don’t like how that made you look.

Reginald: I will tell you as I told Kai, that little trick has been ensuring the survival of my people for millennia. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little subterfuge to protect oneself when one is threatened.

AEH: True... but you’re “little trick” as you call it has become a sort of saying in the human world. It can mean anything from “feigning death” to “playing dumb” depending on how it is used.

Reginald: (bristling up his fur just a tad) How it is perceived in your world does not make it any less effective a strategy.

AEH: But it could be perceived...

Reginald: Oh, enough already. Perhaps the idea that the incident could be misconstrued, has, in fact, bothered me somewhat since you wrote the story. But what is done is done and cannot be undone. So let us move along with this inquisition you call an interview, shall we?

AEH: If you insist. Okay, so when we first meet you in the story, you’re naked by the side of the road, having been injured by a car. But later we see you dressed like the other Opossums, was there a reason you were running around nude?

Reginald: You have got to be joking. This is what you call an interview? I mean, other than the fact that you might be attempting to humiliate me with the reminder that I must masquerade as a common possum by running around in the buff when I am not with my folk, I can see no reason such a question is even relevant.

He’s glaring at me with those little round eyes at this point, and I’m beginning to wonder if messing with a powerful sorcerer is such a good idea. Even though he’s so cute when he’s grouchy. Oops. Don’t tell him I said that, okay? He really might curse me then.

AEH: Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. I just think it’s interesting.

Reginald: Of course you do, so a note on that little curiosity makes it into the story, and yet nothing about my family or lineage does. Now that is some interesting material.

AEH: Okay, then, Reginald. Tell us a little bit about your family... and, er... your lineage.

Reginald: Finally. A decent sort of question. Let us see. When you let me speak long enough in the story to introduce myself, you discovered that I am none other than Reginald Long-Tail Jackson Weaver, Sorcerer of the Third Order. And yet after that fascinating name and title, you asked no other questions, but rushed off, willy-nilly, into some discussion of how Kai and Ellie sneaked a stretcher out of the house to carry me in. I mean, really.

AEH: Er, Reginald? Your lineage?

Reginald: Ah yes, where was I? Let us see. It may interest you to know, although given your mundane tastes, perhaps not. But it should interest you to know that the First Order of Sorcerers died out seven generations ago. In our struggle to maintain our way of life, stranded here in the Middle Realm, our magic almost died out with the First Order as the Second Order, the magical line of Weavers, had no other magical line with which to procreate. But it was discovered by a fortunate accident as it were that there were traces of magical blood in the Jackson line, even though no full-blooded Jackson was a sorcerer. But my great-great-grandfather Archimedes Weaver (and his mother was a Long-Tail from the First Order), went against his parents wishes and married a girl from what all of them presumed to be a non-magical line, the Jacksons. And so it was that their descendants, and others from the two families that married as well, become sorcerers, not quite as powerful as their predecessors, but the magic lives on in us, the sorcerers of the Third Order.

AEH: Reginald, about their love story...

Reginald: I have not yet finished with explaining how Opossum folk take names. You see, I bear the surname of both my ancestors, as well as my great-great-grandfather’s mother, which indicates...

AEH: Reginald, I hate to cut you off.

Reginald: No, you do not. You are bored. Admit it.

AH: No, no, I’d love to learn how your surnames work, but right now, we need to stop, we’re taking up too much space as it is. Another time perhaps? The coffee’s on me...

Reginald: Humph.

AEH: Okay, then, thanks for your time!

I will confess to beating a hasty retreat at this point; he really looked unhappy with me. And, well, he has been known to curse things out of vengeance... I would hope after the traffic light incident, he’d have learned his lesson, but you never know...

Purchase Flight of Blue: Paperback | Kindle

A.E. Howard’s Author Page |

Friday, July 27, 2012

Alphabet Soup - Silver Screen Staples

This word puzzle is brought to you by Nicole at The Madlab Post...

It’s time for Alphabet Soup - The Word Scramble Puzzle of A to Z Wizards!

Since Sheila Siler who blogs at Sheila Scribbles won the title of "Alphabet Wizard" during the previous Alphabet Soup puzzle, we’re focusing on the Letter S today. The name of her blog also has me thinking about writing -- particularly screenplays, now that I’ve completed a draft of a short film that I’m working on this Summer. Today, S is for Silver Screen.

Unscramble the following Silver Screen related titles, credits and terms. The first commenter who is able to correctly unscramble all or most of these screen credits at best wins this weeks’ Alphabet Soup game. Answers and the name of the winner will be posted here at the A to Z blog during next week’s “Friday Fun Time - Alphabet Remix.”

1. cdnSuatork________________

2. tamnntuS________________

3. rpoSrpsetrvuiciS________________

4. neSec________________

5. lSaet________________

6. uSgadtenso________________

7. uqelSe________________

8. rSotodbyar________________

9. tuebsSilt________________

10. rrudonSduunoS________________


Sign up for the Monday Movie Meme, a weekly group blogging series that inspires discussion about entertainment in a whole new light and provides recommendations for your DVD, on-demand or theater fix. New topics are posted every Monday at The Madlab Post!
NICOLE is @MadlabPost on Twitter

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Social Media Tricks from A to Z from C.Lee McKenzie: An Post A-to-Z Road Trip Special

       C. Lee McKenzie can usually be found at her blog The Write Game, but today she's here visiting us at Blogging from A to Z.   She's also celebrating the release of her latest book Alligators Overhead, which you can find out more about by clicking on the links at the bottom of this post.  

If you're a writer, you want others to know who you are and what you're writing. You want to find other writers to connect with and readers who will buy your books. Today the publisher's budgets allow for very little support unless you're a bestselling author, so getting the word out is pretty much your job. Of course, if you're self-published it's 100% your job. 
 Social Media to the rescue. 
      And, in my opinion,  one of the quickest and most painless of these media is Twitter. 
     I thought it might be helpful for those A to Zers on this  Road Trip to have a few Twitter Do's and Don'ts--kind of road signs to read along the way--so here's my A to Z Twitter  Tips.

A. Ask for help. Do you need feedback on your WIP or do you want to know what readers think of your published work? Ask. Tweeters are eager to jump in with comments.

B. Be nice. Be kind. Snarky works for some, but like my grandmother always said, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."

C. Converse with your readers and other writers. Get to know them. Let them know you. That generates interest in your work.

D. Discover stuff: quotes, facts, other writers with the same or similar issues.

E. Events are out there on Twitter. Find out about them. Post some of your own. Maybe you're doing a giveaway or hosting a launch on facebook. Make sure your Twitter followers know about those.

F. Find a job. Writing doesn't always pay the electric bill, right? Here's a link that takes you to JOBSEARCH

G. Grammar check. There's always a prescriptive grammarian hanging out on Twitter. You just have to nudge them and they'll give you the "correct" answer. *Raises hand and admits to a touch of the prescriptive grammarian in her.*

H. Help others. When you're in a Twitter conversation you often find that a writer could use a "hug" or encouragement. Maybe just a, "I've been there and understand" will be enough.

I. Issue book updates or where you are in your current WIP. That creates a bit of buzz and interest.

J. Joke a bit and have fun. This is a great way to take that break from the scene that's not working. It's a great way to connect with others in the same situation. Who knows, you might pick up just the prompt you need to return to that scene and finish it. 

K. Keep in touch. I might be away from home and on my iphone, but I can pop into Twitter, say hi, share where I am and what I'm doing. My main blog might be quiet, but my "microblog" isn't.

L. Look for agents or new publishing houses, accepting submission. Link up with an agent and start a dialog. Who knows, they might like your style enough to check your blog out. It's happened. And I personally know of one contract signed because the agent loved the writer's blog style so much.

M. Motivate others and you'll motivate yourself. In 140 characters it's easy to say something encouraging.

N. Never be all about "ME."  Care about the people you follow and who follow you.

O. Open longer exchanges. I often DM a friend and say, "Check email" or "Call me" when I want to discuss something in more depth.

P. Practice writing short, specific and effective sentences. Be clever. It's good practice for writing anything.

Q. Quotes--share them. I love to find a great quote while I'm Tweeting. 

R. Report problems. When you see a blog post that's gone weird because of a code issue, alert the blogger on Twitter. I had someone do that for me, and I really appreciated it. I hate it when something's not right with my blog posts.

S. Search, using the search tool to find someone you'd like to follow. 

T. Tweet about conferences before you go to a conference. Establish a rapport with the presenters and those attending. This year I tweeted with an agent and knew she'd been out walking on the beach. When I met her at dinner, I had a way to introduce myself by asking her how she'd enjoyed her walk. Nice ice breaker.

W. Writing. Writing . Writing. Get help. Give help about this amazing talent you and the others on Twitter have. You never know what exchange might trigger an idea.

X. X-out people who don't follow back or interact with you. You want your Tweeter followers list current. Here's where you can find out who's following you and who's interacting with you .
Y. YOU. Be who you are. 

Z. Zippy Tweets pay off, so don't be mopey, just honest. "2day I'm not writing anything my dog couldn't chew up." 

Happy Tweeting. And  . . . ahem . . . RT if you found this helpful.
C. Lee McKenzie
Alligators Overhead AMAZON

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Challenge Participant Special - Marta Szemik

Today’s special Challenge participant feature is Marta Szemik! She’s the author of several books and just a really cool person. Her theme for the Challenge was “Changes Throughout History.”

A BIG Thank You to the A-Z Team for hosting me:)

What made you select the theme of changes through history?

I'm fascinated by what humans have accomplished in the past century, but honestly, the idea just dawned on me one day. Sort of like when you're writing a story and something clicks. I think I may also have been listening to one of my favorite songs by Ozzy & Kelly Osbourne "Changes".

What topic was the most fun to research?

Have you seen my post on the letter "O" titled: Oooo Yes, the Big O! Yes, I had to do some research for that one. I also liked my post for "C": Cell Phones. I still find the cases people used to carry as phones funny and yes, I do remember the days (as a kid).

What changes surprised you the most?

I don't know if I can pick one, but almost anything to do with advancing technology blows my mind away. I remember rolling my eyes at my dad in the 90's when he told me he didn't know what email was. His response was to wait 20 years and see if I'm up to speed on technology them. Yes, he was right.
I think because of my fear of flying, I would have to also say that airplanes always surprise me. Physics is a wonderful science to allow gazillions of pounds of metal to fly in the air.

You had fun finding all the pictures that accompanied your posts, didn’t you?

Yes, Google images was my friend for over a month. Ahh, the things I've seen! Internet is a scary place to be if you let it lead you to places you shouldn't be at. I know how cautious I will be when my kids turn to teenagers.

Why was J so challenging?

It still is challenging. Really, the only thing that comes into my mind are Jackets. Also, Jelly beans and J-walking, though it would be difficult to talk about the history of those. I guess Jokes would have been a good one, but I tend to not be funny when I try to joke on the spot. Like, right now... What do you call that? Online fright instead of stage fright? (See what I mean?)

For G you selected games – what are some of your favorite?

Non electronic: Any games with a jump rope like Double Dutch.
If we're talking electronics: Tetris and Pac Man. I still play Tetris on Wii. Recently I compete against my kids on Wii Sports (but I do let them win). I love the obstacle course and try to beat my own score which is really hard. I get addicted to beating my own scores.

Can you tell everyone why you think teleportation would be cool?

Ok, disclaimer first: IF teleportation did not disintegrate my body into goo and mush it would be my first choice for travel because I hate flying. I'm one of those people you don't want to sit beside on a plane.
Also, think about the time saved! You could travel across the world in seconds. But, what if there was a computer glitch or someone hacked into the device (like an ex)? Next thing you know, you're on Mars or sleeping with the lions at the Zoo!

If you do the Challenge again next year, what them will you tackle next?

This was my first year doing the challenge and I'm pretty sure I'll do it again next year. Spring time will be around the time I will be preparing to release a mystery series I started two years ago so I may do flash fiction that combines into a short story as a prequel to the series. I've seen other participants do that and it really intrigued me. I've never done anything like that before and I think it would be fun.

Thank you, Marta!

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex is the author of CassaStar and CassaFire and his blog can be found HERE

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Ebook or Not to Ebook, that is the question...

Last year for the A to Z Challenge, I wrote flash fiction for each of the 26 days, and then edited and compiled them into a book:  A to Z Stories of Life and Death.

Not only have sales continued to trickle in since last year without any marketing on my part, I've found folks reading and reviewing the book in some detail-- like this one, at The Conscientious Reader.

I'm now working on a novel, my first, for the past few months. I have no idea how good or bad it is, since I haven't yet finished the first draft. But prevalent wisdom says it is unlikely to be much good, all first novels are destined to remain in the writer's desk drawer. (Yes, I've had several short stories traditionally published, but a novel is a different beast.)

So, I'm wondering: would it be better to try this novel out as an e-book?

  • Conventional wisdom says no. It says I should try finding an agent, who will find me a publisher and so on.  (But printed books are slowly getting wiped out, marketing budgets are shrinking and writers have to do their own marketing, the agency model seems to be floundering a bit, Amazon looks poised to take over a big chunk of the publishing market)
  • New e-book wisdom says it may be more profitable and popular to self-publish. (But e-books means doing a lot of publishing and marketing work-- time that I'd rather spend writing. It also means writing a lot of books quickly-- but I'm a slow writer. Genre books tend to do better as e-books, but mine has a literary bent. Besides, I don't mind if the trad-pubbed book doesn't give me much money, I want my book read but don't expect to start rolling in money)

Since at my current stage of the novel I'm more bothered about writing the book well, than deciding on its mode of publication, I have at least an year or more to decide how I want the publishing to happen. In the meanwhile, I'd rather ask for opinions.

Should I stick to traditional publication? (And once I finish and polish the novel, start typing those query letters, and check if I have a shot at getting published.)

Should I e-publish? (And get ready for an exhausting binge of marketing-- hence push my social media presence an extra notch, starting now?)

Will all the advice you give me become invalid an year from now? (given the pace at which the publishing scenario is changing)

(Now that I've sufficiently spent my writing break on mulling over publishing a book that is 1 year or more from the finish line, I'm off to do some #amwriting. )

But I'd still appreciate your opinion: Querying or self-publishing-- what's your advice for me?

This post is brought to you by Damyanti, from Amlokiblogs.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Letter Play, Literally!

The following tutorial is brought to you by Nicole from The Madlab Post...
It’s time for Letter Play - Where DIY activities, cinema and life offline collide!
Letters come in handy when you don’t have the time, money or interest in shopping for greeting cards for birthdays and other special occasions. For today’s Letter Play tutorial, I set out to create a birthday letter that resembled a colorful ransom note. Time got the best of me, so I put something together that sorta illustrates the idea but didn’t turn out exactly the way I hoped.

I used markers, glue and cardstock to create a colorful birthday letter to a fictitious person whose name starts with the Letter L. So instead of offering a tutorial for one activity, here are three ideas that you can use as alternatives to birthday (or other occasion) greeting cards.

The Birthday Ransom Letter
Cut out letters from newspapers, magazines or your own written alphabet on paper and then assemble them into a funny joke, sentimental message or inspirational quote. Glue the message onto a colorful piece of 8.5x11 inch cardstock paper and fold it into three parts after the glue dries. Sign the bottom of the letter, put it in an envelope and mail away!

The Birthday Postcard Letter
Write a short form letter on a postcard that represents a place where the birthday boy or girl has either been or expressed interest in visiting. This can either incite fond memories of vacations that passed or ignite enthusiasm for future trips to explore. Double the fun by adding some travel vouchers, tickets or gear to this postcard, which will help the birthday recipient get a head start on their route.

The Birthday Photo Story Letter
Photos are some of the easiest items that you can use to send someone warm wishes for his or her birthday, when you don’t have a greeting card. Gather several photos featuring you with the recipient or old images of him/her at different stages in life. Flip the photos over and write a letter to this person, making sure to number the backside if necessary so that he or she will know where to pick-up reading from the previous image.

Until next week...have fun playing with letters!

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New topics are posted every Monday at The Madlab Post!
NICOLE is @MadlabPost on Twitter

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Partcle Accelerators - Just How The Heck do They Work?

Particle Accelerators. They're big. They're sexy. And they may change our view of the universe and our place in it. A particle accelerator is device used to accelerate sub-atomic particles (like a proton) to very high speeds. Particle accelerators have also been known as cyclotrons and atom smashers. Physicists design them in hopes of inquiring into the dynamics and structure of matter, space, and time. There are scores of particle accelerators and accelerator laboratories in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

These awe-inspiring and magnificent machines come in all different shapes and sizes. There are ring and linear accelerators and they perform various functions. Most people are excited about the colliders, like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

How an accelerator Works
The principle behind the LHC is pretty simple. First, you fire two beams of particles along two pathways, one going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. You accelerate both beams to near the speed of light. Then, you direct both beams toward each other and watch what happens.

According to Dr. Brian Cox, “In that moment of collision — less than a billionth of a second — you get extreme conditions, like the very early universe. You get a massive amount of energy, and loads of things flying out — like the debris of the collision. It can also form new particles that have never been seen before. And that’s what we’re really after.”

Just What the Heck are They Looking For
Today, physicists are looking for evidence to support their proposed model of the universe such as other dimensions we can't perceive. This could help support theories such as string theory and M-theory which need additional dimensions in order to make sense. Along with the Higgs Boson, they’re also looking for evidence of dark matter, dark energy, anti-matter, and whatever other surprises may appear.

We have to retain our sense of humor!

Scientists from CERN and around the globe will try to compute, analyze, and interpret massive amounts of data that could take many, many months. Will the LHC help us in advance our knowledge about our universe? It is almost certain it will raise more questions than it answers. Yet if past experiments at labs around the world are any indication, we can assume the answer is yes. Of course, there are those who claim these giant academic egghead toys are a complete and total waste of time and resources. Time will tell. Stay tuned!

Check out this computer animated YouTube Video on just how the Large Hadron Collider works!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post: Mare Ball: On Following, Awards, Tagging and the Other Mysteries of Blogging

Hello Fellow Alphabet Fans! Today I'm pleased to introduce Mare Ball as our guest poster.

Like me, she is a former educator. Unlike me, she can make a killer brownie ;-) An Air Force wife for 20 years, she now blogs about her life, including caring for her aging parents, and is working on a book about a family Christmas project. I found her post asks a lot of the same questions that I've been wondering about. I'm looking forward to a lively discussion! Please welcome her in true A-Z fashion with lost of comments. She certainly has opened the door wide for your opinion, so let it be heard!

I joined the A-Z Challenge for the first time this year. I’ve only been blogging for two years, and I’d not heard of the A-Z until just a week before it started. It was a wild and crazy ride, but I really enjoyed it. I wrote an A-Z reflection post on my blog about my experience, but I want to highlight some points here.
  1. I was shocked at the number of bloggers that signed up. It was 1800 at one point. I’ve since learned there are 181 million blogs. Good grief.
  2. I really wanted to at least look at every blog listed, but it was impossible. I did check out about half and found 100 that I really enjoyed. I continue to explore the blogosphere, and I’m still discovering blogs I love.
  3. Over the month of April, I developed serious eyestrain, wrist soreness and a flat, achy butt from all the sitting and reading. I’m glad the challenge is only once a year.
  4. I discovered that reading the “about me” page gave me more insight into a blogger than reading their letter-of-the-day post. The prompts were fun and revealed creativity, but I also wanted to know more about the heart of the writer, and the “about me” page provided that.
  5. I discovered that the most visually appealing blogs (and the easiest to read) were ones with light backgrounds, short paragraphs, and not too much clutter on the sides.
  6. I was impressed by the fact that there are published/professional writers who take the time to respond to and encourage other writers. I’m grateful for their generosity.
  7. The A-Z Challenge confirmed to me that, after being away from writing for five years, I still love to write.  I have to write.  It's weird, and I don't get it, but it completes me (in a non-cheesy, non-Tom Cruise-kind-of-way.)   Thanks to the A-Z Challenge, I fell in love with writing all over again.  
I share these points because it tells you a bit about where I’m coming from as a writer. Since the A-Z Challenge, I’ve discovered some things I’m trying to reconcile, and I’d like input from other writers.
  1. The “following” thing. I gained 70 followers over the course of the A-Z, and I followed as many or more. However, I can’t visit every blog I follow daily. I might check in with everyone weekly. It appears, though, that some of my readers comment on every post I write. I’m very touched by that and always respond…but, how do they do that? Does anyone visit every blog they follow daily?
Conversely, I have followers who drop in to follow and never visit again. That’s absolutely fine, but, then, why follow? I’m assuming the number of followers (for everyone) is somewhat deceptive, and I’m trying to discern the value/importance of the following system.

  1. The reading list thing. On my blog roll, I have 126 blogs listed. In the Blogger dashboard/reading list, I see the latest posts from blogs I’m following. If number 6 blog doesn’t show up on my reading list, I assume there are no new posts from that blog – am I correct here?

  1. The award/tag thing. Since May, I have received seven awards. I understand I’ve become more visible since the A-Z Challenge, and it’s very nice to be recognized. But, as one blogger wrote, awards seem a bit like chain letters. They involve answering questions (about yourself), then passing them on to other bloggers. Who may not want them, because they have to answer questions and pass them on to other bloggers. At some point, bloggers you want to give them to already have them. They whole thing, while kind, seems a bit silly. Am I alone here? I’m not ungrateful, I’m just trying to discern the value/importance of the award/tag system.
Thanks for reading. I’m expecting some great input. I might even give out some awards.