Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloweens Past


This was a photo moment that I'll never forget. My husband had just carved this pumpkin and set it out, when our cat, Champ, jumped onto the railing and poked his nose in to see what that other CAT was doing on his deck. Champ isn't with us anymore, but this delightful moment is, and I trot it out every Halloween to remember and enjoy.

When I debuted with my first book,  I was lucky enough to be in a group called the 2009 Debutantes. A lot of those writers had a lot of experience in promotion, something I sorely lacked. Here's one of their ideas that I took part in that October. We competed to see who could bake the best Halloween cake. Mine was a graveyard cake. I thought it was First Prize material, but I didn't win. Someone much more clever than I baked a Red Velvet Pulsing Heart Cake. I had to admit it was special and creepy. But here's my attempt. 

What do you do to celebrate the ancient holiday? Has anyone done a theme on the A to Z about Halloween? I know it's hard to think about pumpkins in April, but it might be interesting. I'm thinking ahead, you see.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Blog?

When I first started my blog, I did it just to see what blogging was. I knew so little that I fumbled around just trying to figure out how to first format it, and then second, what to put in it.
Later, when I was ready to publish my first novel, I became mercenary in my intentions. I wanted to sell books.  The blog became about selling and getting my name out into the Internet universe.
Over the last three years I’ve become more serious in my intent. I’ve discovered that blogging is truly my journal. It isn’t just about selling or getting my name out there anymore, though both of those are still very important to me.
Instead, I’ve learned a few lessons, as we all do, along the way. Like, I want feedback. I want people to read my blog because they find it interesting and/or informative enough to follow “me.” I need to express my emotions and/or thoughts sometimes, to let them breathe outside of my self.  And yes, I want people to read my novels, to be curious as to where my ideas come from, or where they can find out more about a certain subject I’ve written about, perhaps the real life aspect of an issue. But most of all I’ve found I love blogging. I didn’t think I would so much, but I do.
Below is a link to an article on blogging that seemed to hit my nail right on the head.
Why are you a blogger?

Lisa Buie-Collard is an new member of the A to Z Team and is excited about all she's learning "behind the scenes." She posts on her blog which can be found through the link on

Image from:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Blogging Under the Influence

A lot of the decisions we make for our blogs are based on the views, interests and behaviors of outside forces, whether we realize it or not. These forces are influential in almost everything bloggers do -- from the design of our blogs to the frequency of posts we make and maybe even the platforms we choose to use. Here are some factors that play a part in our habit of blogging under the influence of our immediate and distant surroundings.

The Personal Interests behind your Blogging
A person’s favorite colors, bands, hobbies, foods and the like are all personal interests that can have an impact on how he or she blogs. It is worth considering the possibility that incorporating blogging elements based on the things, people and places you love tends to give your blog more personality and make you more relatable to readers. The design of our dear late great Tina Downey’s Life is Good blog has sunflowers and flamingos on display, as they are among the greatest forms of living organisms she favored most. This is an example of how bloggers make a blog their own while also creating a way for visitors to familiarize themselves with the space and person behind it, even before reading a single word that we write.

Your Blog Visitors and Readers
The people who visit, read and comment on our blogs also influence how we manage our little corners of the online world. Chances are slim that posts will be frequent if you don’t think anyone is reading your blog. On the flipside, you might be more likely to keep a consistent blogging schedule or at least post more often if there are people visiting your posts to discuss whatever you have presented to them. Our readers also impact the topics that we blog about and how we deliver this information. When similar questions related to the A-to-Z Challenge arose among various participants – such as categories and Adult Content, some A-to-Z Challenge Co-Hosts centered our blog posts on subject matters that addressed these concerns.

The Topic(s) You Blog About
If your blog focuses on a certain topic (writing, fitness, books, music, food, art, etc.), or several thereof, this tends to influence other elements of your blogging – from the fonts and colors that you use to the overall tone of the blog. For example, the dark background and glowing text on Jeremy Hawkins’ Being Retro blog is very reminiscent of Halloween and other creepy cool stuff. This works well for his blog because he writes about zombies, comics and monsters. The same type of color and font choices would likely be off-putting for a blogger who wrote about…say…bird-watching or the history of Jamaicans in the Olympics.

Your Favorite Blogger(s)
Anyone who has been blogging for a while knows there are times when we make decisions for our blogs based on what someone else is doing with his or her blog. Have you ever noticed a layout, style, social media button, sharing banner, design or blog post topic on another blog and then adapted that very same thing for your own, because you liked it so much? Sometimes our favorite bloggers that we look up to (or we think are just doing it right) inspire us to make changes or updates to our blog that wouldn’t have even been considered if they didn't do it first.

Anyone who has participated in the A-to-Z Challenge after seeing other bloggers they know signing up is a prime example of others in the blogosphere having influence on when and how you blog. If you've ever written a blog post in response to another blogger, that right there shows that someone else had an impact on your blogging decisions. A few years ago, one of my blog friends posted photos of his movie collection and invited readers to do the same with an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” persuasion. Welcoming the invitation, I not only posted a photo of my messy batch of VHS tapes and DVDs but I also took the subject matter a bit further, responding to his original post by blogging about My Top Ten Independent Films. This is an example of how our favorite blogger(s) can influence the topics of the next blog post we make.

Statistics and Trends in the Blogosphere
Common technical and behavioral factors such as turning Word Verification on (or off), having music on auto-play, responding to comments and page-load times are things that affect our blogging decisions. Knowing that people are less likely to return visit or comment on your blog if it requires them to sign into Facebook or perform some other annoying task, will determine the features that you choose to implement for readers. Bloggers who place importance on engagement and interacting with their readers will be mindful of the trends that work against their blogging goals versus those that help them. The flipside of that would be bloggers who place their own interests above the visitors, and thus, would only receive a smaller sector of visitors who are members of whatever platform they limit the blog to.

What influences YOUR blogging decisions the most?

Are there any other influential factors that YOU think play a part in how someone blogs?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers discusses the misadventures in cinema at The Madlab Post. She is currently supporting the American Red Cross and chatting with funny folks on @MadlabPost on Twitter.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - 90's Pop Culture with Nicki Elson

Today we welcome extra hip author, Nicki Elson!

Your theme was 90's Pop Culture Favorites – what made you choose that theme?

I firmly beleive that the 80s were, like, the best decade ever, and as a result, I don't typically give the 90s their due. But when I think about it, the 90s contributed a lot of pop culture that I still enjoy today, so my theme for this year's A to Z was a way to give tribute to a decade I tend to underrecognize.

Which letter was your favorite?

S: Sex and the City. I know that's way girly to say, but I just loved that show (and the first movie. I'm still pretending the second one doesn't exist). That self-deprecating humor and camaraderie between women as they navigated treacherous romantic waters pushed all the right buttons with me. And ahhh, Mr. Big---has there ever been a more intriguing love interest? Not for me.

Which letter was the most challenging?

Probably the same letter most people have trouble with---X. I had to resort to naming a show I hadn't actually you've diligently noted below. *ahem*

What pop culture things did you leave out for lack of room?

Wellll, these were left out more to protect my street cred than for lack of room: Blue's Clues, Arthur (the aardvark, not the drunk) and Thomas the Tank Engine. I had wee ones about the house in the late 90s and was surprised to feel a bit melancholy when they stopped chain-watching these shows in the aughties.

What music from the 90’s still tops your chart?

Smashing Pumpkins. Those guys still rock.

Do you still go all Martha Stewart sometimes, like at Christmas?

Who told you I was ever Martha Stewartish? Oh, right, I did. *sigh* I think that exquisitely decorated ship has sailed for me. Every year I take out fewer and fewer holiday decorations and give another box full of them to Goodwill. Though this reminds me---I should probably set out a couple ceramic pumpkins or they'll take away my Suburban Mother Card.

Your choice for X was The X-Files – have you finally started watching the show?

Look, I've been really busy...Netflixing How I Met Your Mother. I don't know how I completely missed that show until now! Anyhow, I'll have an opening once I finish that, and it looks like The X-Files just moved to the top of my list. ;) Thanks for the warning about the last season.

What theme are you considering for the Challenge next year?

I have a chick-lit set in Chicago that's slated to release next spring, so I've been thinking about a "Cool Places in Chicago" theme to highlight interesting spots in the city that the average visitor might not know about. It's a great city, so those would be fun posts to put together. And fun is what it's all about, right?

Thanks so much for inviting me over!

Nicki, thanks for visiting, and looking forward to a tour of Chicago next year!

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 24, 2014

Characters Who Blog

It's the final countdown to Halloween, T minus seven days. I'm new to the A to Z team, so you won't yet have become familiar with obsession with holidays (but stick around, you'll see). I love getting into the spooky spirit, so in honor of the upcoming holiday I started reading one of my very favorite Gothic novels, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's the perfect story for this time of year when the days get shorter and the characters get more and more terrifying. 

And speaking of characters, as I read along I couldn't help but wonder what Dr. Frankenstein would be like. Would he be a cool guy to catch a movie with? Grab a drink? I imagine his stories would be . . . interesting to say the least. And if he had a blog, well, just imagine what that would look like. I did. And now for my second 'Characters Who Blog' post, I give you: 

I hope you enjoyed this post and it helped get you pumped for a spooky and spectacular Halloween! Muah-ha ha ha ha . . . 

A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy can be found blogging at Pensuasion

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.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Moon is round

It's full moon tonight, and it'll be low enough in the northern sky to shine through my bedroom window when I'm asleep.  I explained why in my blog yesterday.

I like moon-gazing, in fact I like all sorts of natural phenomena, which is why I'm working on making that my theme next April. I'm a long way from being the only moon-gazer, and the moon has played a huge part in our folklore and mythology.  Csenge is a better person to tell you about that than me, and then, of course, there are all those other stories with reference to paranormal influences from the moon!

Whenever I see the phrase "The Moon is round" I think of an old game that was in a book of 'Wonders' I had as a kid, showing various party games to mystify your friends.  The idea was that you had a stick (or pole, or rod) which you used to draw on the ground a circle (representing the moon), then adding two eyes, a nose and a mouth with dots and a line.  You recited "The Moon is round, and he has two eyes, a nose and a mouth" followed by passing the stick to the person on your left and asking them to do it exactly as you did it.  Most of the time the person would not follow your actions perfectly, and you said "No, try again", or passed on to the next person.  Anyone that did it exactly as you had you congratulated, which mystified the rest of your friends even more.  The secret was that you drew the moon with one hand, but passed the stick into your other hand before passing it on, and most people never changed hands.  Silly, but a fun (or infuriating) way to pass the time - especially with nothing more than a stick to play with.

If you're still wondering about a theme for next April's A to Z Challenge, you could look at games, children's games, folklore, or your preferred science.  If you cover any of these things in your blog, why not add a link in the comments below.

Jemima Pett writes scifi-influenced stories for children and adults, including the Princelings of the East books - mystery with a time travel twist - and her new series about asteroid miners caught up in a freedom fight.
Follow her blog Jemima Pett, Author
The Princelings website

Monday, October 6, 2014

Characters Who Blog

First of all, I want to say my first official "hello" as a new member of the A to Z team! I am honored to be joining this amazing group and I simply cannot wait for April to get here.

My favorite part of the A to Z Challenge every year is always checking out all the different themes people come up with. I'm often surprised at how inventive they are, not to mention how wide-spread. The themes we come up with are wonderful reflections of each blogger's own interests and, in a way, our chosen themes express our personalities.

Which got me thinking . . . I wonder what themes and topics some my favorite characters would come up with if they blogged. Would they write about books or TV shows? Scientific studies or supernatural forces? 

For example, what would the blog of one of film's most infamous villains look like? Well, let's see . . .

I've got to say, if Mr. Vader really did have a blog, I'd be his very first follower. I could use a few lessons in world domination. 

Have a villainous Monday and happy blogging!

Upcoming A to Z Challenge Co-Host S. L. Hennessy can be found blogging at Pensuasion

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's Friday! What is your #FridayReads ?

We made it to Friday, friends, hooray! Give yourself a pat on the back.  If you're like me, you're always reading and Fridays are no exception.  If you're short on ideas during April's A to Z Challenge maybe you can do a #FridayReads post each friday? Surely you're reading something, right?

Currently I'm reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  I know it's not my usual kids' book, but I'm reading it for one of the book clubs I host at work.  It's a great story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic champion, WWII vet, POW survivor, and all around amazing guy.

It's non fiction so if that's your schtick then you'll understand why it's ben on the New York Times bestseller list for years.  Nonfiction takes me a long time to read, because I have to look up all the references and then I get distracted learning what an atoll is, for example, and then before I know it, I've spent an hour studying something marginally related to the book.  

But oh the knowledge I've gained!

The better news is that the movie of the same title is slated to be released during the holiday season and it looks like a winner. I'm sure I'll drag my family to see it.

So, that's my #FridayReads.  Post yours below!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Asteroind Mining: Good Idea or Bad?

You can visit guest blogger Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs 

After spending a year gazing at Vesta , NASA's Dawn spacecraft was set to cruise toward the most massive space rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — a voyage that will take nearly three years. 

Dawn slipped into orbit last year around Vesta — about the size of Arizona — and beamed back stunning close-ups of the lumpy surface. Its next destination is the Texas-size Ceres, also known as a dwarf planet (folks, these are some very large pieces of rock!!!). 

Vesta and Ceres are the largest bodies in the asteroid belt littered with chunks of rocks that never quite bloomed into full-fledged planets. As cosmic time capsules, they're ideal for scientists trying to piece together how Earth and the other planets formed and evolved. 

This Being Said: A group of wealthy, adventurous entrepreneurs announced a new venture called Planetary Resources, Inc., which plans to send swarms of robots to space to scout asteroids for precious metals and set up mines to bring resources back to Earth, in the process adding trillions of dollars to the global GDP, helping ensure humanity’s prosperity and paving the way for the human settlement in space. 

“The resources of Earth pale in comparison to the wealth of the solar system,” said Eric Anderson, who founded the commercial space tourism company Space Adventures. 

Nearly 9,000 asteroids larger than 150 feet in diameter orbit near the Earth. Some could contain as much platinum as is mined in an entire year on Earth, making them potentially worth several billion dollars each. 

The new company is backed by Google’s CEO Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt, former Microsoft chief architect Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot Jr. The venture also counts on filmmaker James Cameron, former astronaut Tom Jones, former JPL engineer Chris Lewicki, and planetary scientist Sara Seager as advisors.

Platinum Alone Is Worth:  around $23,000 a pound — nearly the same as gold. Mining the top few feet of a single modestly sized, half-mile-diameter asteroid could yield around 130 tons of platinum, worth roughly $6 billion. One possibility might be to find a useful asteroid and push it closer to Earth. A fairly low-power solar-electric ion engine could nudge a hunk of rock into orbit around the Earth, effectively creating a small second moon that could be easily accessed. 

Asteroids contain water that can be used for drinking and broken into its constituents. Oxygen is valuable for life support in space-based habitats, while liquid oxygen and hydrogen are both used to produce rocket fuel. Having a “gas station” in space could help enable missions to Mars and beyond. Such a refueling depot might allow people to permanently live and work in space, another goal of Planetary Resources. 

Question: Do you think its a good idea to mine asteroids by pulling these monstrosities into our orbit? Better speak up now or forever hold your peace because it's probably going to happen.