Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Amy Burle: Write! Write! Write!

Amy Willoughby-Burle is the author of Out Across the Nowhere, a collection of short stories. Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals such as Potomac Review, Inkwell, Sycamore Review, Reed Magazine, The MacGuffin and many others. She is the editor of Blue Lotus Review, an online journal for literature, art, and music.

Amy was raised in the small coastal town of Kure Beach, North Carolina. She graduated with a BA in English (and an unfinished Masters in Creative Writing — "sorry Mom and Dad") from East Carolina University. She spent several years in her husband's home state of Missouri before getting homesick for North Carolina. She now lives in the mountains near Asheville with her very gracious husband and three children. In her spare tune she searches the universe for hidden portals to magical places.  Please welcome her to the A-Z Blog!

The Secret Hidden Portal to “Writing Time.”

During my time on the A to Z April Challenge I chose to post excerpts from my novel in progress The Lemonade Year. As a homeschooling mom of 3 (4 by the time this post appears), homemaker and part-time grocery clerk, I knew I wanted to try my hand at daily blogging, but my writing time is limited.

Who’s isn’t, you’re probably chortling. Well, that’s my point exactly. I’ve been asked on many occasions—“How do you find time to write?” Answer” “I don’t.”

I make the best use of the time I already have. There’s no extra time hiding under the couch cushions. Believe me, I’ve looked. Writing time already exist within your day, you just have to utilize it. That sounds a lot like good old fashioned time management doesn’t it? You nailed it. That’s all it is. There is no secret portal to “writing time.” Darn.

Here’s some advice that I give for making sure you use the time you have and use it well.

1.      No amount of time is too small. Don’t wait for some magical large amount of free time to present itself. It might not, so keep your writing utensil (laptop, notebook, etc.) at the ready. Keep it open and available. Write even if you think you’ll only get 10 minutes or 250 words on the page. All that writing will add up fast! All the days you spent waiting for more time will go by even faster!

2.      Don’t worry about writing crap. You will. I do. It’s called a first draft. Don’t say things like “I can’t write till I know exactly what’s going to happen or how I’m going to say it.” There’s a good chance that you’re just stalling. That’s why you revise and edit.

3.      Don’t set up too many rituals around your writing. You can LIKE, but don’t NEED to have complete silence, a cup of tea on the upper, right hand side of your desk, sun shining in your window, to be wearing your favorite shirt or drinking from your favorite cup, etc. 

4.      Be able to write anywhere. You don’t need a writing desk, a private room, or a padded wall sanctuary. Be flexible. If you know you’re going to be sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontists for 2 hours, take your laptop or notebook and write. Your legs stretched out across two chairs make a fine desk. (Yes, I actually did this.)

5.      Write when you’re not even writing. At the start of your day, turn your brain on. Tell it which scene, character, plot twist, etc. you plan to deal with that day. Let your brain churn while you’re driving, folding laundry, filing, making copies, whatever. This will surprise you. Ever been searching your brain for the name of some actor in a movie you saw 20 years ago only to give up, assuming you’ll never remember it and then 2 days later, while you’re in the middle of a meeting, you shout out the actor’s name while your boss is talking. See what I mean?

6.      Monitor the time you spend online. Answer e-mails and visit message boards quickly and effectively. You don’t really NEED to know whose cat just ate a box of crayons or whose adorable children just built a replica of the statue of liberty out of toilet paper rolls. You don’t HAVE to comment on these things. Don’t let the internet become a time vampire. Be purposeful, blogging and following blogs that are meaningful to your overall goal. Networking IS important in this business (HUGELY), but those contacts will only come in handy if you actually have a product for sale. Keep a good balance on these two aspects of the writing business.

7.      Be realistic. You know what you will do and what you won’t do. Don’t plan to write for 2 hours starting at 5am if you know you aren’t going to do that. Don’t sabotage yourself and your writing by setting goals that you aren’t going to keep.

8.      Don’t tie your writing time to your goals for a perfect life. Meaning: This is not a New Year’s resolution. This is real. Don’t include “finding” time to write into eating healthy and doing yoga twice a day and remodeling the guest room into a writing den and wearing only organic cotton. Don’t make your writing part of a list of things you aren’t really going to do.

9.      Understand that writing and the completion of a great poem, a powerful short story and yeah, you bet—a novel—is a long process. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s not sitting at Starbucks and toying around with an idea. It’s long hours of writing and rewriting, plotting, sub-plotting, rethinking the whole damn thing and starting over. Be ready for that. Be ok with that.

10.  Don’t let fear lead to failure when you haven’t even given success a shot. Believe in yourself and your writing!
Now Write! Write! Write!

Thanks for taking the time to be with us today! This advice is great for all levels of writers. We appreciate you sharing with us!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tree of Life: A Collaborative Writing Challenge by Samantha Redstreake Geary

Tree of Life_Album Cover

Tree of Life: Origins is a collaborative journey in epic writing, where a single writer will interpret the cinematic scores of audiomachine's Tree of Life album to create an original, music driven tale. Every artist--whether a painter or poet, dancer or director, storyteller or sculptor, choreographer or composer--is driven by their passion to create. When you let your passion guide you, great things are born. It is when these passions converge that the real magic happens. My passion lies in pulling the threads of imagination that live and breathe in each eager note until I have woven a story worthy of the song. Every piece of music tells a tale, one that will bend and bow for every ear. Music is a meal rich in emotion that feeds the soul. A writer's soul has a voracious appetite, capable of devouring every last sound, leaving a plate of pure inspiration in its place.

It is my hope that you will all join me in this creative venture by following this epic tale as it unfolds. Starting July 24th through August 18th, I will be posting daily excerpts of the Tree of Life: Origins serial, each one featuring an inspirational album track. As the story unfolds, readers will have the opportunity to win prizes. Since this is a collaborative project, we would like you, the readers, to get involved by leaving your feedback in the comments section of the story's excerpts. The more you interact with us, the better your chances are of winning, say, a signed novel or ebook from one of our brilliant authors or an autographed Tree of Life album by the celebrated composer, Paul Dinletir!

Audiomachine will choose their top 10 favorite story posts. A lucky reader will be randomly chosen from the comments section of each selected post. Winners will be announced the week of August 18th!

And now for our list of master storytellers who graciously donated the following for your reading pleasure! Be sure to visit their websites to learn more about these amazing authors: Shana Abé -- signed copy of The Sweetest Dark Stacey Jay -- signed copy Of Beast and Beauty Chris Howard -- signed copy of Rootless Susan Kaye Quinn --The Debt Collector Season one ebooks Ellie Garratt -- Taking Time and Passing Time ebooks M. Pax -- signed copies of The Backworlds & Stopover at the Backworlds’ Edge and The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear ebook

treeoflife_branchingout_badgeTree of Life: Branching Out is a collaborative writing challenge, where creative minds meet epic movie music. Preselected guest writers representing all genres, from all across the globe, will contribute their own 150 word excerpt (wc is flexible) to a continuing story collectively written over the course of 26 days. Each of the 26 writers will find inspiration in a featured composition from the motion picture music production house, audiomachine's new TREE OF LIFE album. These clever masters of the craft will spin the story in whatever direction they choose, picking up where the previous writer left off, resulting in the ultimate collaborative tale. The challenge kicks off July 15th through August 9th. Be sure to check back HERE daily for exciting new excerpts. When the collaboration is complete, fans will have a chance to vote for their favorite guest excerpt starting August, 10th. Submit your votes in a private message to Sam's FB page by August 17th. Winners will be announced August 18th. The top three writers will be awarded prizes.

Audiomachine will also choose their top three favorite guest excerpts! ATTENTION FANS: You can WIN an autographed TREE OF LIFE audiomachine album by LEAVING COMMENTS! On August 17th, two lucky readers will be chosen at random from the comments section of the story excerpts. The more you comment--the better your chances are of winning a piece of cinematic history! We want to hear from YOU!
Samantha Redstreake Geary :Unlocking Imaginations and Evoking the Essence of Memory
Sam's Blog: Writerly Sam
Sam's FB page

Sam, this sounds like such a great project! Thanks for sharing with us. I can't wait to write my section!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Alicia Bien: Wine, Wonderful Wine

"You're going to write about wine?" Mr. Wonderful said setting his espresso cup on the breakfast table.
"Yep," I said stirring my green tea.
"For every day in April?"
"Have you lost your mind?"

Mr. Wonderful is my biggest fan, which he should be since, well, he is my husband. In fact when we got married, his vowed to love, honor and support all my crazy plans. And in return I promised to love, honor and keep things interesting. After several years of marriage, we're both batting a thousand.

But perhaps I was biting off too much with this A-Z Blogging Challenge? Twenty-six days was a lot of writing, blogging and all around suffering. But then I reconsidered: I'd been a wine drinker since college; I was a member of a wine group and; I'd been writing about wine for some time, which meant I had plenty of stories to tell about wine, wineries and winos. The wino bit I knew from personal experience. Lots of personal experience. But the question remained: could I write about wine for 26 days in April? I had to find out.

"A" was a great place to start. Wine had plenty of "A" words like Aroma, Acidic and Alcohol Induced-Fun-Times-Rock-On! I did not, however, use any of these words instead opting for "A is for Drinking Alone" because if you wanted to learn about wine you have to be okay drinking wine alone in moderation. I know I am.

Would the other letters be as easy to write about? I had to find out.

I wrote my way through the alphabet without struggling for subject matter because I'd chosen a great theme. Wine encompasses worlds of material such as: flavor, taste, smell, geography, weather, farming, history, language, culture, international-geopolitical-fashion-giraffes. Well, maybe not that, but a whole lot nonetheless.

Of course some letters were more challenging that others. Could I write posts for "Q" or "U" or the dreaded "X"? I had to find out.

I tackled these posts and thanks to the pressure of needing to have the posts done--that glorious pressure!--I was able to write these and all the other posts for the Challenge. 

Part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge was to visit other blogs. Could I work, write and read others' blogs? I had to find out.

I started with my own name and worked my way down the list and it was a treat to discover new blogs. Clicking on a new blog was like opening a gift on Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. You didn't know what would be there except it would be a surprise. I relished reading these other blogs. I wished I could have read all 1,900,126 of them. But next year is another Challenge and opportunity to do so.

Having completed the Challenge I now had 26 wine stories as well as many others from various outlets I'd written for, therefore I decided to collect my favorite wine pieces into a comical book about one woman's wine journey from discovery to appreciation.

"You're publishing a book?" Mr. Wonderful said sipping his espresso.
"Yep," I said stirring my green tea.
"A book about wine?"
"You certainly keep things interesting."

About the Author:
Alicia Bien is a wine drinker and comedy writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her spouse, "Mr. Wonderful", in their fixer-upper house, which they are fixing upping. She blogs at New House Girl. Her book EVOLUTION OF A WINE DRINKER will be released July 31, 2013.

Thanks for being with us today, Alicia.  Good luck with the release of your book!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cori McKeivor: Channeling the A to Z Motivation All Year Long

Well, I hope everyone is enjoying their post-challenge roadtrips and new projects. I entered two blogs into the A to Z challenge and found it a great motivator for my blogging. Tiring, yes. Stressful, yes. However, it was ultimately a great motivator and a great source of inspiration (but my post challenge 'reflections' blog post will tell you more about that if you are interested).

What I want to talk about today is channelling that A to Z motivation all year round. Shelina wrote a great post last month about missing the April challenge and trying to plan the month ahead to get more regular writing done. I did just that. As discussed in my reflections post, I had a plan for April. Since then I have had a (bit more disorganised) plan for the following months.

It has been working well even if it is a bit haphazard juggling an extra blog. This month I have started a new A to Z challenge all of my own to boost the content on my new blog.  I have chosen to write an "A to Z of Skills" for my DIY Career Development Blog which was 'born' out of the challenge. It is a new blog and I am still trying to build up the useful content. This will be weekly post which I started at the beginning of the month (which means if I stick to it it will end neatly at the end of 2013).

It is a great new challenge if you are still feeling the post challenge blogging blues or have lost your momentum. Action point: Try a themed weekly a to z for a topic you want to write more content on but never quite get there. So why not try it yourself to build up you content on a particular theme or topic without the stress of the daily challenge but still maintaining some consistency. Besides, being in a weekly A to Z zone might also inspire you to check off some blogs on your post-challenge roadtrip.

Info about me:  Cori of Printed Portal is a young professional working and writing in the UK. She writes about planning and organisation at her blog Planning with Printed Portal, about writing (when she has time) at Putting Pen to Paper and more recently has started a new blog about taking control of your own career development at DIY Career Development after an enjoyable A to Z Challenge in April.

Thanks so much for being here today, Cori, and for sharing your enthusiasm and great ideas.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dystopolis by Ian Anderson

A-Z 2013: "Dystopolis"

Last year my theme was Beautiful Things, inspired by the title track of Gungor's album. I enjoyed it, and the challenge lived up to its name! This year I was all but decided I wouldn't participate due to another job change and an addition to our family. However, there was a story bubbling under my skin, and a couple nights before April I made quick plans to jump in no matter how unorganized I was.

The theme from last year had me writing about different objects that I considered beautiful, but this year I wanted something different, something more cohesive. The idea I settled on was a short story. The plan was to post a small portion of a dystopia each day of April, and at the end of the month I'd have a rough draft.

I had no outline to begin the month, and I had no idea if it would work (and that's still up for debate). The only bit of story I did have was the ending, and I wrote everything with that in mind. The challenge created a deadline that I thrived upon - and it really drove the story. I was forced to pound away at Adam and Evie's tale, even if I had no idea where it was going when I sat down. Those April mornings weren't something I dreaded, but something I looked forward to, something I needed.

And when I remained faithful to that deadline, faithful to the story, I found that the story flowed. Characters surprised me, events popped up that I didn't foresee, and the tale took up its own life.

Of course I couldn't sustain the pace of April. At times I'm glad for that, and at times I hope for the day when I can sit down every day with a deadline in front of me and allow the story to come to life. Maybe next April will be another step in that direction.

If you're looking for a way to jump start your blog or give yourself a deadline for that short story you've been meaning to write, why not join the fun next April? The A-Z Challenge will stretch you and encourage you, just as it did me!

Additionally, I hope you'll give "Dystopolis" a chance. You can now purchase the story for the Kindle on Amazon for $0.99. Stop by my blog, Reflections on things fantastic, to read a preview!

Thanks so much for being here today, Ian, and for the chance to get your book at such a good price! I'm looking forward to reading it – one of my favorite genres!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Susan: How to Help Bloggers Connect Across Platforms

Please welcome Susan, who joined us this year for her first A-Z Challenge. She has an interesting proposal for next year – check it out!

As a relatively new blogger looking for something to write about I came across the Blogging from A to Z challenge just at the right time. I had been blogging for about 8 months on my first blog, Sue's considered trifles which was intended to be the basis of a book on the English language from an enthusiastic amateur. I had sometimes deviated from my original intention and blogged about other subjects of in a different style.

At the beginning of Holy Week I had started posting to a new blog, Sue's Trifles in order to blog in whatever way I chose, while working on my original blog in a more consistent manner. I had already created and published two posts about letters of the alphabet, P and R and had begun making notes about other letters. I was considering taking the words PRECIOUS and WALK which do not have any letters in common. 

Precious is a word used to mean valued or special. Isaiah 28:16 is one example of its use in the Bible. However that was only going to use twelve out of the twenty six letters in the alphabet. An A to Z challenge was right up my street. I was at a slight disadvantage during the challenge as my blog was so new.

I also found that it was difficult to direct other A to Z bloggers to my A to Z posts. My username on WordPress is more closely connected to my other blog. I have learned a lot during and since the challenge about using widgets to customise my blog. I have also improved my Gravatar profile to help with this. I also created a page with a list of links to my A to Z posts, having seen a similar one on another blog.

I use facebook a bit, but have very few friends on facebook and don’t often look at links to it from blogs. However I set up a facebook page for my blogs during April. When I published post U, I had already prepared and scheduled my posts for the rest of the challenge, so I had a bit of “spare” time and discovered the facebook page for the A to Z community. I posted links to my posts from Q to the end of the alphabet on the appropriate threads there, but did not seem to have any additional traffic from this source, although I looked at some posts myself using links from the same threads.

Now as a blogger on the WordPress platform, it is simple for me to post comments on other WordPress blogs and keep track of the answers without flooding my email inbox. However, I found that to comment on other blogs, whether on blogspot or other web-sites required a great deal of patience, perseverance and ingenuity. Even then it often did not work. I had thought carefully about what I wanted to say, typed it and it either gave a page not found error, or just failed. I learned to copy my comments before trying to post them, but even so my failure rate was very high.

So here is my proposal. For bloggers who really want to interact with others on different blogging platforms, why not set up a facebook page for your blog. (You need to have a personal facebook account first.) The help pages on facebook allowed me to do this, so I’m sure you can manage it too! Then if you find a blogger you wish to give a comment to, use your facebook page identity to comment on the facebook page of the other blogger.

I’d like to do the A to Z challenge again next year. I have found some interesting blogs and wonderful bloggers through it. There are links to some of their blogs in my reflections post and on my links page. I have also learned a great deal about blogging and social networking. What do you think? Have you already set up a facebook page for your blog(s)? Did you use the A to Z community page on facebook? And how difficult is it for non-WordPress bloggers to comment on WordPress blogs?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"It's Time" Book Tour - Jeremy Hawkins

I have been making some changes on my site "Being Retro" [formally Retro-Zombie] that better suits the way I feel and the look that I have always wanted. I thought I would share a little more about me in another way that I know how and that is in my art/design. I had a little bit of an life altering situation in the start of this year, that made me open my eyes and made me come to realize that I wasn't going to be here forever. So I decided to share me with you in these four book that spans the last several years in my progression of where I was artistically.
I want to have a book tour I am not even sure how to do it, so I thought a giveaway that would include sets of the book, my t-shirts and Cds from the music label I work with. Anyone want me to host your site for a day, share a little more about me with you and your readers? If you are interested please contact me for open dates "RE: IT'S TIME":
Also if you have any helpful advice, please share and I do appreciate all that you do... I also am going to contact a few of my close friends. The books are available at AMAZON right now, so I please take a look and I can send over a "digital edtion" for those interested being part of the tour.
It's art, who doesn't love art?
Being Retro


Monday, July 8, 2013

Calling All Roadtrippers! Pit Stop Time!

Hey Roadtrippers! Calling you all in for a pit-stop. I don't know where you are on Route 66, but let's all meet here at the A-Z for a little chat about how our journeys are going.

I'm still chugging along, though not at nearly the pace I first started with. Then I was hitting 7-8 new blogs a day, out there meeting and greeting a socializing. Then I started to miss some of my old blogging buddies, and decided that I needed my friends, and the adventure at the same time. This choice did slow me down...

For me it was a good choice though, because some of these buddies were new ones, and it's not good to disappear at the beginning of a friendship! Those relationships have grown, and they feel like old friends now.

What I'm really loving is taking the Reflections part of Route 66 first. That way I know that the person I'm visiting took the Challenge seriously, probably finished, and had something to say about it. I've found some truly excellent examples, and some of those bloggers have agreed to share their Reflections here. You may have read some of them.

I've read gaming blogs, music blogs, atheist blogs, journal blogs, cooking blogs, craft blogs that make me envious of their enormous patience and talent, I've learned some new scrapbooking techniques (not that I'll ever have time for that in my life again, I'm predicting), I've seen other countries, experienced other cultures, read some amazing poetry, bought WAAAY too many books on my Kindle, just like last year, and met some incredible people. It's a blast! I'm going to just keep swimming, just keep swimming!

Please share some of the highlights of your journey in the comments!


Friday, July 5, 2013

Kriti: Curing Writer's Block one Rhyme at a Time

Please welcome Kriti to the A-Z today! She hails from India and is an engineer and a photographer, and has THREE blogs. I want her time management skills...

Hola people!

Accompanying the Friday bliss, this is Kriti Bhatnagar, back in the game with all my chaos! Just for a better case study…across the web I can usually be located on my blogs Just a little time , Bumps and Bruises and Alpha and Omega unless it’s raining or I’m into some abrupt kind of surfing or busy stalking the profile of my blogger friend I’m having a crush on :P

Firstly, I’d like to thank Sir Arlee Bird whole heartedly for providing me with this fabulous opportunity ‘Blogging from A to Z Challenge’! It occurred as the most rough, adventurous (because of some stupid things I did to get some fine ideas! :P) and super fun experience for April 2013 and if you ask it’s candid description according to my views…it was a Ninja Act for me! Not because it was quite a commitment but because I dived into it off the cuff. Each night I fell asleep with hundreds of thoughts, about the supposedly next post I needed to write, haunting my mind and the next day I woke up just to pen down a sufficiently alien thought…it was kind of a repeated blackout each day for 30 days…ummm…29 actually! The ‘Z’ post I had prepared in advance…it consisted of a kind of tribute to Sir Arlee Bird which later got published in Woven Tale Press…I felt really glad as it got a position next to the introduction of the very host! Felt like all my endeavors amidst that dust and sweat paid off…thanks to Sandra Tyler, Editor, Woven Tale Press, for that!

The thought that stalked my mind at usual punctuations was…the writer’s block! :P The experience and pain, I felt like rhyming up it all! Life seems bit lively when you introduce a tinge of rhyme to it…I think! :)


So…here it comes again…the famous writer’s block!

A drink might help…a shower or maybe a distant walk…

I thought I’d go with the walk…try out the new shoes I just bought…

Some flora and fauna around…I might get some new thought…

But I came back with the same head…wherein there was nothing right…

And my new shoes…don’t ask about them…like hell did they bite…

Worked out on substitutes…the first, the second, the third…

And tried out every word with my vision all blurred…

I tried to make them fly like a free bird…

Got stuck…helplessly…surrendered to the Crossword…

Choked with it all…as I tried sipping on my Ice tea with a straw…

I tried to replace the words…instead, they all formed a Jigsaw… 

They never got straight…struggling I felt as a groove… 

Didn’t stop…kept turning and twisting them like a Rubikks cube move…

I tried and tried and tried to think…

They seem more or less like some Cubin link…

I had to get it done…so applied all my wit…

And in the end…guess who won…

Somehow I got rid of it…

Somehow I got it all done!


This is from me as for now! Keep blogging…it refines a soul in the best possible way :)

To express it all is so not a crime

Just try to introduce a little bit of rhyme

Put your faiths and sorrows in a fine string of words

Let your thoughts fly, in this open sky, like free birds

Love and Regards


About the Author: Kriti is an Artist as well as an Engineer hailing from India. She can eat, she can sleep and she can write!

Thanks for sharing your tips with us, and congrats on making it to Woven Tale Press!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Suzy Turner: My Blogging Journey and FREE Book Giveaway!

I first started blogging on Monday September 22, 2008. It seems like such a long time ago now doesn't it? My first blog was entitled Iberian Bird and it was about my life as a British woman living in the south of Portugal. I moved here when I was ten years old and have now been here for 27 years. Hubby and I came very close to moving back to England recently, we had our house on the market, and then we realised that, actually, we've got a pretty good life here. So we decided not to give it up. But I digress.

Blogging. After almost exactly two years of posting about Algarvean life on Iberian Bird, I created a brand new blog. It was very uniquely and originally entitled... Suzy Turner (!). It was to become my author blog. You see, at around that time I was also busy writing my first YA book, Raven (I've since written five more).
So I said farewell to Iberian Bird and hello to Suzy Turner and I haven't looked back since.

Speaking of looking back, as I was writing this I decided to check out some of my original posts - what a blast from the past! Surprisingly, most of my early posts had little to do with writing. Instead they were about my general life in Portugal - visits to Lisbon, a fashion show where I was the guest of honour (I use to be a magazine editor), posts about the real me, etc. I recommend reading back over your blog, it's actually quite entertaining as well as being somewhat therapeutic!

More recently though, my blog has been all about writing. Whether it be about my books or other people's, there are tonnes of interviews, guest posts, giveaways, and more. But it's made me realise that it's nice to sometimes have more personal posts in there. To give the reader a glimpse of my life here. Funny isn't it, how doing one thing like writing a guest post for A to Z has allowed me to see the bigger picture?

Currently, three of Suzy's books are FREE:

Find Suzy:

Wow, Suzy! Thanks for offering your books for free! Bonus! It was nice to hear about your blogging journey, too. Thanks for being here!

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Prepare a Dragon Cave Without Tossing Your Dwarves

Today’s Challenge Participate Feature is the awesome Father Dragon Al!

Al’s dwarves had committed to being Ninja Minions during the Challenge, which meant they were busy before April. Dragon caves need cleaning. Dwarves must be tossed. And in between it all, Al had to maintain his sanity…

Your theme was the preparations of your dwarves for visitors to the Dragon Cave during the Challenge. What made you chose that theme?

I tend to be wordy and that makes me terrible in flash writing. Previous to the challenge, the advice I saw the most was to keep the posts between 100-300 words. Keeping it short was a challenge in itself for me. Since the subjects I discuss at the dragon cave often take longer than the average post, I searched for a "lighter" theme. My usual readers know I focus more on exploring the dragon wisdom but the name "Father Dragon Writes" sometimes makes people to think I am focused on fantasy. I thought it would be fun if I put aside the philosophy of life for a month and show the magical (or chaotic) side of the Cave and the "finest" dwarves in my staff. It really helped me to get reasonably short but still entertaining posts.

What was your favorite letter?

R for Rehearsal. It was the day the Dwarf Cheering Squad presented their new drill "Fireworks". I had so much fun with it that the clip still puts a smile on my face each time I see it. At least in my case, the Squad's success was total. They do cheer me up.

For F, it was Father Dragon – and a sculpture. (Which was amazing by the way.) How long did it take you to make that?

Two months, but it is not finished yet. This was funny. I promised my knight friend I would make a dragon for him. When I was wiring the skeleton, I had a different dragon in my mind. While I was shaping it, I thought it would be cool if the dragon have a special meaning for both of us. I thought on how our friendship started and how he encouraged me to let the world know who I was. All of a sudden, I was shaping Father Dragon and making plans to add the dwarves, S.A.M (the ninja muse) and a knight as a set. I'll have to make another dragon to make up for the time this project will take but I'm stating in my last will the whole set shall go to him.

Is Pancholin a good dancer?

Not really. In his mind, he has two left sides and two right sides. Tell him to go right and he moves left. Say "front" and he goes right. Motion him to step back and you'll have him spinning. Tassin came up with the idea to have Pancholin hold a taco on his right hand and a beer on his left. He did better at the orders of "taco" and "beer" but he also won some extra pounds. Besides, being shy made things even more difficult.

Tell us about the X-Dwarf Files.

Must I? I still have nightmares about cloned dwarves coming out of a tea pot like ants smoked out of a hole. When I allowed my dwarves to become Ninja Minions I thought I had trained them better than to be snooping around the Ninja Headquarters. Tassin was in charge to report their daily performance. At first, it sounded like they were not doing good and many dwarves went missing. I suppose that's when they found the cloning machine. Aware of their crime, they tried to hide it from me by sending a picture of the group. Just they sent me the picture of the clones instead. I almost had a heart attack when I got 600 dwarves back instead of the original 150. Look, I still suffer a nervous tail twitching as a consequence. It got better after I took most of them to the pawnshop for fantastic creatures, though.

How does Dwarf Tossing work?

Dwarf Tossing is a championship to see who can throw a dwarf farther. I used to throw them when I was angry and found out it was extremely therapeutic so I invited my friend, Sir Jeff, to try. That's how the competition started. Since these are Heavy-duty dwarves, they are also dragon proof. They are certified under the DWARF 9002 Quality Standards so they are resilient and bounce well. If you want to enter the championship, you are required to bring your own certified dwarf. However, I offer lessons for beginners and the fees include a dwarf for practice.

Do the dwarves enjoy playing Angry Birds?

No, if my nephew is involved. The hatchling likes to play rough, you know. But it's part of the dwarves' job profile. There is a specific clause that reads they have to wear any clothes (or costumes) their Master may require, be it Angry Bird, cheerleader or Copacabana show dwarf.

After a tour of the Dragon Cave, guests were invited to hit the souvenir store. What gifts were available for purchase?

The original idea was to have lunch boxes, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. Unfortunately all dwarves were on commission as ninja minions. Zenon, the oldest of my dwarves, did a few postcards for the souvenir store. He didn't sell anything but we made him believe the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought them all. Now he spends his time creating "Post-modern Doodlism."

What about the Challenge stands out to you most? What moments were really cool?

The chance to meet some really wonderful and interesting people was what I liked the most about the Challenge. There were many cool moments. The first week was very special for me as I got surprises that touched my heart. However, I must confess the coolest moment was when I realized people actually liked my posts. I had started blogging only four months before I heard about the Challenge. This was my first A to Z and as I said, I had no experience in flash writing. Honestly, I signed up pleading the Higher Powers for help, so I wouldn't suck too much. I certainly didn't expect the positive response I got. I must thank all those who visited the cave and I take the chance to thank you too. I was very surprised you thought it would be interesting to interview me. I feel really honored.

If you were to do the Challenge next year, what theme might you tackle?

I don't know. The A to Z proved to be extreme excitement for me. I might let Zenon do Post-modern Doodlism from A to Z. If he doesn't get lost again on his way to the toilet, that is. Last time, it took us two years to find him.

Thanks, Al! Hope you are back next year. And we’ll keep the dwarves away from the cloning machine

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