Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful Today

Black Friday is finding me at home just as it has for the past decade. No crowd fighting, traffic jams or parking lot cursing for me. This day is more restful for me than the actual day of Thanksgiving. With six children in our family, we have a good-sized gathering at our house. I make everything. I get help with cleanup  but mostly the day is massive work for me. But today, I'm not fixing any meals. Good turkey sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner while mom rests.

I'm sure I'll be working on some writing projects but I wanted to take a moment to share what I'm thankful beyond just my wonderful family and comfortable home.

*I'm part of wonderful writing groups both online and local. I can find the answer to almost any question I have about this business and I learn from them.

*Beyond questions, these groups offer endless moral support.

*With the world in shambles in many ways, I'm glad I can search out facts from a variety of sources online and form my won opinions. I always suspect bias when I read or watch traditional media like newspapers and TV.

*Along the same lines, I'm thankful that where I live the government never tries to shut down or block twitter or other social media expressions.

*And I'm thrilled with the invention of online shopping. I'll probably get more Christmas shopping down from my office than most of those people standing in long lines at stores. And now that my children are grown, I don't have to search out any 'toy of the season' like I did when my boys were into The Power Rangers all those years ago.

*I'm absurdly grateful when readers take the time to review my books.

Hopefully, you have today as a holiday after yesterday's indulgence. Or if you're not from the USA, I hope you know that we're thankful to have friends across the globe.

Anything besides family, home and hearth, you're thankful for today? Do any digital shopping today or did you venture out into the malls of bedlam? Any special online support you're grateful to have?

Susan Gourley writes epic fantasy and also romance as Susan Kelley. She's the author of the bestselling Recon Marines Series and The Warriors of Gaviron Series. Her blog is Susan Says.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When You Don’t Know What to Blog About…

The internet can seem like a scary place for bloggers who are experiencing a bit of writer’s block. After all, you have followers who visit regularly to read the latest pondering on your topic of choice. Who knows what’s going to happen if they arrive and there’s nothing new on the horizon? Do you even really want to find that out? Here are a few ways to get through those periods when your creativity engine has halted and you don’t know what to blog about.

Post a picture because images are nice to look at. It’s an easy way to deliver one thousand words to your blog readers without having to write a single sentence.

Tell a story because people relate to each other through shared experiences and intrigue. You’ll probably get return visitors if it’s funny, empathy from readers if it’s sad or hate mail if it’s controversial enough to make someone uncomfortable.

Ask a question because you’ve been dying to know something. Maybe you want to know if it’s just you who does that unspeakable thing sometimes in the middle of the night. Maybe you’re curious to find out where other people stand on a particular subject. Maybe you want options to troubleshoot a problem you’re having. Or maybe…just maybe…you want to outsource the need for having to come up with blogging ideas on your own. Whatever the reason for asking is…just ask.

Link to someone else’s blog because he or she has already done the work and beat you to it. Ugh. Don’t those prolific bastards just make you sick?! Yeah. They’re blogging it up while you’re staring at the keyboard and a blank page on the computer screen. Don’t hate them. Congratulate these bloggers instead by telling your readers to go check out the good blog post they recently put up. It will make you look good to your blog visitors because you’re helping them find other cool blogs to read and it will also save you from having to put up your own post…at least for now.

Respond to a current event because everybody has an opinion about the latest stories being reported on by the media. Whether it’s Dunkin Donuts’ new Cronut, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” Ebola, Immigration, Olivia Pope’s outfits on the last episode of ABC’s “Scandal,” Martha Stewart’s recipe for pumpkin soup, there’s something in the news that you surely can comment on in 400-500 words or more. Do that.

Review a product, service or event because that new thingamajig you recently bought or ate or participated in has exceeded your expectations. That is, unless it fell short of what you thought you were getting into, for one reason or another. Either way, blog about whether you are happy with your purchase or experience. The information could possibly be very helpful to another person who is considering buying/reading/eating/using/doing the very thing you already bought/read/ate/used/did.

What do YOU do when you don’t know what to blog about?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers blogs at The Madlab Post and she is an official ambassador of the 2014 Couch Fest Films Festival. Connect with her @MadlabPost on Twitter.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Joss and Dogs All Day!

Today we welcome Joss from Dreaming of Publication and her theme of dogs all day long!

What made you choose dogs as your Challenge theme?

Dogs have brought so much joy to me, throughout my life that I wanted to do something that celebrated them. The A to Z challenge provided the perfect opportunity to do just that and so I figured, why not.

Which dog or letter is your favorite?

I had so many wonderful dogs, owners and charities get involved that it would be impossible for me to choose just one. They were all amazing and absolutely adorable.

Which letter was the most challenging?

Definitely X. I just had no idea how I was ever going to find either a dog whose name began with X or a breed. To my amazement I found the Xoloitzcuintle or Xolo for short and an amazing doggie rescue along with them, called The Naked K9 Rescue. Xolos are adorable, by the way, you should definitely check out the rescue if you are looking to add an lovely new, furry, or not so furry friend to your life.

How many of the dogs featured were your own?

Well, I only have the two dogs now Harley De and Ludo, both of whom played a part, but there was also a couple of my past pups in there too. Indie who was a lively little Westie and Hooch, our Rottweiler, who sadly passed away a few months before A to Z began.

Which breed makes the best family pet?

That depends on the family. There is such a diverse range of breeds out there, all with a very different set of needs. The more active family might enjoy a working breed such as a Border collie or Springer spaniel while the more relaxed family might favor something a little less energetic like a Chihuahua or a Bulldog.

When it comes to finding the perfect dog for your family, you really have to do your research. There are so many aspects to consider beyond is the dog cute.

A good rescue centre is a great place to start, because they know the dogs in their care and will take the time to help pair you and your family with just the right pet.

One thing that people really do need to remember; however, is that it doesn’t have to be pedigree to be great, there are a lot of wonderful mixed breeds out there. My Harley de included.

What is the most misunderstood breed?

Right now I think it is probably Pit bull terriers, they have a terrible reputation which is entirely unfounded. It’s important for people to remember that any dog can be dangerous. Dogs are what we make them. If you raise them right, any breed can be fantastic. It’s the irresponsible owners not the dogs that cause the problems.

What’s the funniest dog story you can tell us?

That has to be a story about my beautiful Rottie Hooch. Hooch was very much a lover of food and in his later years his waistline really suffered because of this. Like most dogs who are a little too fond of their food, hooch was not adverse to stealing it.

One afternoon, while my husband was working in the loft and I was in the living room playing a game with my son, hooch decided to do some thievery of his own and headed for the kitchen.

Shortly after, there was a loud crash, followed by a fair amount of rustling that brought me quickly to my feet and had the hubby yelling “Hooch!!!”

As I opened the living room door and headed out into the hall the hubby’s anger turned to laughter. Somewhat perplexed I rounded the corner and smiled. Dan was gazing down from the attic, at our big dumb rottie who stood below wagging his stump and giving his best “What I didn’t do anything face.” A face that might have had us fooled if it wasn’t for the bin lid stuck around his neck.

What theme are you considering for the Challenge next year?

I’m really not sure yet. I was thinking I might go for easy and just do a random things theme, but knowing me I’ll probably change my mind last minute. Nothing like giving yourself a stress boost, right?

Nothing like those last minute posts for stress. Thanks Joss!

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Effectively Human: 2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive #feedthehungryeh

Effectively Human:
2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive

I can say I was honored to be asked to help out with this, it brings to light a need for all of us to do something to help others. Also a great person we had lost this year, Tina Downey... who had helped in the first year of this drive... so I was thrilled to be asked by "M. J. Joachim" that she was going to keep this going...

A bright spirit shines down on us, smiling that our efforts don't go unnoticed.. remember we can do something and we should do something... so please COMMENT/SHARE/HELP!

Be Safe, Be Well... Hug Someone you think might need it and please, GIVE... thank you!


So here is the information:

2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive
December 4 - 6, 2014
Everywhere on the World Wide Web
Hosted by Effectively Human

Goal: To help fill our local food bank shelves, so as many people as possible can get the food they need.

How? Promote local food banks via sharing their websites on our social network sites, profiling them in our writing, sponsoring activities for them and volunteering to help them in any way we can.

For 3 days we want to saturate the web with anything food bank and hunger related to raise awareness about hunger and help feed those in need.

Why? Because people are hungry, food banks need our support and we want to help.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Characters Who Blog

The other day I caught the end of the Lord of the Rings: Two Towers film on TV. It's my favorite of Peter Jackson's adaptations, in no small part because of his depiction of Gollum. A tragic character, I always find myself drawn in by his multiple personality disorder and obsessive love for the object of his (both literal and figurative) demise. 

As such a fascinating creature, I couldn't help but wonder what he might write about if he participated in the A to Z Challenge. Let's take a look: 

I have such a soft spot for tortured characters, especially ones who are at odds with themselves. Gollum was definitely some of Tolkien's best work. I hope his blog inspires you in your upcoming A to Z Challenge foray! 

Have a great weekend everyone and as always, happy blogging!

S. L. Hennessy can be found blogging over at Pensuasion

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Man-Made Islands ... Cities of the Future?

Problem: Many large cities, such as crowded Tokyo, are running out of space for an ever expanding population. And the problem is only getting worse as the global population increases. Especially for cities built on a shoreline such as an ocean or a major river where expansion is limited by mountain ranges or other geological obstacles. 

Solution: Artificial islands. Man-made islands are an answer to finding suitable space to expand living, work, and leisure space. Man-made islands are constructed by people rather than formed by natural means. They are created by expanding existing islets, construction on existing reefs, or amalgamating several natural islets into a bigger island. 

A number of countries have been reclaiming land for centuries such as the Netherlands. But man-made islands are an engineering feat that have only recently left the drawing board. And the vision will continue to grow exponentially into truly amazing cities and other marvels during our lifetime that will marvel the imagination 
San Diego's Plan for Floating Airport. Why Not?

But Wait, That’s Not All: Airports are also being built on man-made islands. Japan and China are helping to lead the way. Yep, a mini-series is on tap for this very topic that will truly amaze you. Really. It will. San Diego has plans on the table for a solution to their land-locked airport that is in need of expansion. Check out this Reference

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Storyteller's Perspective: Story Books and Story News

I always like to see folktale and fairy tale news on my feed. It gives me hope that people are still interested in them, and also shows how much is still out there, waiting to be re-discovered. Storytellers, professional or not, are always on the hunt for new stories, and if you are one of my kind, the kind that mostly works with traditional tales, every new folktale collection you come across is a potential treasure trove.

Christmas is... well, more than a month away, but this past week my Facebook wall has been so clogged with folktale collection news and reviews that I decided I might as well compile a Storyteller's Most Wished For list for the season (and beyond). Here are my Top 3 picks:

(Note: I have not read any of them yet, so this is not an endorsement of their contents. I am just excited as a puppy about the upcoming possibilities)

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales
Remember the flood of "500 New Fairy Tales Discovered" articles on your news feed? I do. It was around for more than a year. This new volume contains a collection of them translated into English. There has been a previous edition of some of the tales, and they were really great, so I am absolutely looking forward to this one. Have you ever seen a title and thought "whatever it is, I gotta read it just for the title?" Well, that's me and The Dung Beetle Prince.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition
All the gore and none of the Disney. This has been all over my feed this week; I even wrote about the hype and why dark stories are important for children on my own blog. This is the first complete unaltered English edition of the first Grimm collection, including tales that have been censored or left out of later volumes. Yes, Rapunzel gets pregnant. Cheers.

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
The first English translation of the oldest known Arabian stories, from the 14th century. Like the Arabian Nights, except from an even older source. Apparently it includes stories about treasure hunts similar to the City of Brass, one of my all-time favorite stories in the world. I am shamelessly excited about this one.

In advance I wish you all a holiday season filled with the smell of new books and quiet reading hours!

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why Blog, or "A Break From Blogging? What Is That?"

Why do you Blog? Do you ever take blogging breaks? How does that work? I remember the days when I didn't care about whether or not I blogged on a schedule or what I actually blogged about. I blogged whenever I found something to write about. It was MY blog, right? Now, going on my third year of blogging more diligently, I find other bloggers talking about frustration with their blogs. Numbers aren't high enough, or it's too difficult to find something to blog about, or it takes up too much time, and the like. Why do you blog? Have you questioned whether or not it is time well spent, or just a waste of it? I think that, as with anything done regularly, we all question the why of what we are doing and whether we're doing it because we have to, or choose to. I understand blogging burn out. I've been there. It isn't fun. But neither is feeling cut off from my perceived communication with a larger world. I regularly participate in at least five blog hops. I do this because each of these offers me something I like having in my life (and schedules I can keep up with!). I feel that each blog hop speaks to different parts of me, who I am and what I'm interested in. Plus I'm always finding out new things and "meeting" new people. How about you? What's in it for you?
This is my second post here on the A to Z blogging Challenge site and I appreciate the opportunity to participate. A huge thank you to all my teammates and their help in showing me the ropes. I hope to have something a bit more interesting to post in the months to come... 

Images From:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cookbooks Make Great Challenge Posts

Everyone loves a good cookbook. Even if you don't cook, I bet you can find someone who would appreciate knowing about the latest cooking trend. Perhaps it's time to gift someone a new cookbook to replace their tattered old favorite?

No matter the reason or the season, cookbooks make great challenge posts. Let's take a look.

Starting with the letter A you could feature:

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Then move straight to:

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

Meandering through the alphabet is easy; Jamie Oliver is cute and also works for letter J.

Jamie's Dinner

If vegetarian fare is more your thing, why not feature Yotam Ottolenghi's 

Plenty More

Ever have trouble finding a post for Q? This is where creative license is at it's best! You could try

Quantum Wellness

or even

Quaker Oats 

If you can't find a cookbook that starts with the letter Z you'll have to improvise. Perhaps the letter Z is in the title somewhere?

Chocolate & Zucchini

See? Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I hope I've given you some tips that will help you craft the most amazing challenge posts yet.  Good luck, you can do it.

All photos courtesy 

Friday, November 14, 2014

This Week on Route AtoZ: Ghosts, Puppies and a Sparkling Anniversary! #atozchallenge #RoadTrip

There is a lot of activity buzzing in our A-to-Z Road Trip section of the blogosphere. If you haven’t visited new blogs on the 2014 signup list, now is the time to get acquainted with some of the sweetest, scariest and most sparkly blog posts you’ll read between now and the next Road Trip check-in. Don’t know where to start? Here is what’s going on at a few blogs worth visiting that you may have missed back in April.

Diana at PartTime Monster has a travel itinerary that includes thirteen fictional places where one can hang out with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a bunch of Hobbits. Safety is optional. After tearing some tendons in her calf and foot, Marianne at Adventures in the Ballpark is trying to figure out how we’re supposed to identify aches and pains that come from aging versus those that are the result of injury. Regardless, she’s content with handling the balls life throws at us as they come, and to that end, celebrated her recent 39th wedding anniversary with ice cream and relaxation.

Guilie Castillo at Life in Dogs chronicles the unlikely and short-lived friendship between a puppy and crab who met on the beach while also paying tribute to her late street rescue named Frida in celebration of the Day of the Dead. Aside from doing NaNoWriMo and finding tricks to keep her face from looking extra shimmery, Lisa-Marie Jordan at this little life of mine added one of the coolest Owl light switch plates to her redecorating process, not to mention bedroom paint color choices with fun names including “Silver Screen” and “Twilight Grey.” The sounds of both names are reminiscent of the movies, which is fun. After Manzanita at Wanna Buy a Duck met another blogger in person, she shared an overview of their outdoor escapades, complete with bright Halloween costumes, mountain climbing and visits to ghost towns in Montana. 

What activities have YOU noticed the A-to-Z community blogging about lately?

Have you visited the 2015 A-to-Z Challenge Blogging Team yet?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers shares observations on films at The Madlab Post. She supports organizations that provide humanitarian aid in the wake of disasters. You can connect with her @MadlabPost on Twitter.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 2015 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Team!

And the 2015 A to Z Team is...

...okay, well, technically the team is already up and running right now in 2014, so telling you it's the 2015 team is kinda/sorta misleading.

So, it's actually the 2014/2015 A to Z Team.

Maybe I should explain...take too long...let me sum up. :)

As the A to Z Challenge grows by leaps and bounds each year so does the list of A to Z Team Members.

There's a lot of behind the scenes work, that I won't bore you with, but just know that we need lots of great bloggers to organize such an amazing Challenge.

So, without further ado, here is your new A to Z Team line-up...

The Founder
Arlee Bird

The Veterans
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy Hawkins 
Stephen Tremp
Nicole Ayers
Matthew MacNish (Returning)

The Staff Members
AJ Lauer
Pam Margolis
Heather M. Gardner

The Brave New Members
C. Lee McKenzie
S. L. Hennessy
Zalka Csenge
Susan Gourley
Lisa Buie-Collard
J.L. Campbell
John Holton

What a fantastic group of people!

Make sure to visit the A to Z Main Challenge Blog frequently to keep up with all the latest and greatest updates about our next Challenge and to meet some of these new members as they post on the blog!

Also, don't forget, all of these awesome people are going to need ambassadors/minions/helpers/assistants/teams/whooligans/alliances and/or sidekicks.

If you're interested in helping out the greatest Blog Challenge on the internet, stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holiday season is upon us

If you haven't noticed, it's not long to Christmas, Hanukkah and many other festivities relating to the middle of winter or the solstice.  It's even closer to Thanksgiving.  If you like being bombarded with things you can buy and throw away again when you're bored with them you are probably enjoying life to the full.  Since I dislike waste, and don't like shopping, and would rather sit in a corner by a log fire with a book (or my eReader) than party outrageously, this is the time of year that I go into hibernation.

What really frightens me is the number of books that are available now.  Self-publication has a lot to do with this.  The flood has turned into a tsunami, and good books are being tossed in the flotsam of life, hoping to surface long enough for the right reader to find and enjoy them.  It always was this way around now, every commerical organisation hoping to make its big buck in the run up to the present-fest.  I don't compete - I try not to bring my books out when there is fierce competition, fuelled by deep pockets.

But I do try the odd promotion.  I'm working on an anthology for middle grade children (8+), with six writer friends, called BookElves Anthology Vol. 1 and I'm doing some Giveaways.

I'll draw your attention to Read Tuesday, styled as a "Black Friday type of event for readers and authors" which takes place on December 9th.  Hundreds of special offers will be featured, on all types of books, with particular emphasis on family friendly ones.  And in the lead up to the event there are things to interest authors and readers and bloggers, so that probably includes you!

The A to Z Blog Challenge is another promotion for authors and bloggers, but of a less 'in your face' kind (on the whole).  I'm constantly amazed by the number of writers taking part.  Not all of them blog stories during the Challenge: some choose different topics entirely, others mix and match.  It's only five months till we reach G in the Challenge, so anyone writing short stories may already be past that!  I have seen blogs that do a serial through the month, but I confess that turns me off.  It's difficult to get into those serials if you're blog-hopping, and very disappointing if you arrive on day 23 and find the story makes no sense to you.  I also learned the hard way the first year I took part, that doing a detailed background to your stories only works if you already have a core of readers who would be interested!  It may help your own writing, though.  Blogs that do flash fiction during the month work best for my style of doing the challenge - but you may disagree.  That's what makes this whole thing so much fun.

I've met some wonderful people and wonderful writers during the Challenge, so many that I'm hard pressed to keep up with them all.  Damyanti Biswas writes amazing short stories as well as talking about writing, and she does two blogs (at least) plus Team Leading through the Challenge!  I've thoroughly enjoyed Sue Ann Bowling's Homecoming blog for the last three years thanks to her Challenge participation.  She writes great stories as well as blogging about her Alaska home.  Sadly, Sue is seriously ill, but I hope this mention cheers you up, Sue. 

More writing blogs I've enjoyed through the Challenge you could look out for:
Hilary Melton Butcher at Positive Letters, Inspirational Stories
Ragged Writers
Sara C Snider, a lovely author
Patricia Stoltey, Writing, Colorado and things
Madeline Mora-Summonte's Flash Fiction Collection
Silvia Writes
Noelle Granger Sayling Away
Tyrean's Writing Spot
and so many more, and not forgetting Samantha Redstreake Geary and Csenge Zalka who were among my co-minions #Team Damyanti on last year's Challenge.

Jemima Pett writes scifi/fantasy The Princelings of the East for older children and is working on a new scifi series, with asteroid miners and sentient trees, for publication in 2015.  Twitter + Pinterest

Monday, November 10, 2014

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Karen in Guatemala!

Today we welcome author Karen Jones Gowen and her rocking theme of life in Guatemala!

Your theme was living in Guatemala – which you do! What prompted you to select that theme?

We had recently moved and at the time, it was the most interesting topic I could think of! It also gave me an opportunity to take lots of photos with a purpose.

Which letter and topic was your favorite?

Probably "W" for women, because I find the Mayan women so fascinating. They work extremely hard, are quiet and family-centered, and they dress simply and modestly in their native clothing that has particular meaning to them. I admire the women I see around me in this community a great deal and I could have done an entire month on just that theme. Maybe I will!

Which letter was the most difficult?

I don't think there was a difficult letter because I had so much to say about my new environment there were usually numerous topics for each day. The hardest thing was narrowing it down to just one! Even X was easy because many items in the Mayan language begin with X-- it has the "sh" sound-- and we'd just been to visit the city of Xela.

What would surprise people the most about Guatemala?

There are a lot of misconceptions in the U.S. about it, I think, and one of the most common is that it's a dangerous place with crime and bandits everywhere. I'm sure there are places you wouldn't want to go alone at night in the cities, but so far I've found a feeling a safety and neighborhood in the town of Panajachel, where we live. People watch out for each other and children, families, everyone are out on the streets day and night. I feel safe everywhere I go.

What was the biggest adjustment when you moved there?

Termites in the house! Apparently termites are part of living in Guatemala and they are everywhere outdoors, often finding a home inside as well. Our rented home has wood beams in the ceiling and I quickly learned the habits of these invaders. Finally, we moved out for a couple months while parts of the ceiling were being replaced, and although it's still a problem, it's not as bad. (I can't believe I'm even saying "not as bad." Guess I've adjusted a little!)

What is a tuk tuk?

It's a little car/scooter that holds 2 or 3 people plus the driver and functions as a taxi. For a small fee, they will drive you anywhere in town. And they are everywhere on the roads so it's easy to flag one down.

What’s the most unusual vegetable in Guatemala? And have you encountered anything you won’t eat?

So far I've been sticking to the ones I can recognize, like onions, carrots, squash and peppers. I used to like chicharones, or in English "pork rinds"-- they were a snack I enjoyed occasionally in the U.S., but the way they prepare them in Guatemala is a lot different. The first time I tasted them was the last. My dog loves them though!

Have you thought of a theme for next year’s Challenge?

I haven't yet decided, but it will somehow be themed around Guatemala. People really seem to enjoy learning about it and seeing the photos, and it helps me to appreciate the beautiful and interesting land where I now live.

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, November 7, 2014

#atozchallenge #roadtrip - Stormy is napping on the job!

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.

I'm a little nap-ish today (too much Halloween partying) so I'm going to introduce some friends and their A to Z Challenge themes!

Zalka Csenge Virág / - The Multicolored Diary

We call her Csenge! And awesome. Her amazing theme?

Tales With Colors - posting about folktales, myths and legends that have something to do with a certain color of the day.

E is for Ebony. M is for Mint and Love in the Underworld. Red is for Red and not just Riding Hood. X is for Xanadu, the color not the movie.

You've got to check these posts out! Beautiful and informative.

Susan Gourley/Kelley - Susan Says

Susan writes fantasy, romance and science fiction. Her theme for the A to Z Challenge?

World Building - Susan asks some really important questions about the worlds we create in our stories for each letter of the alphabet.

From Art and Architecture to Kinship to Politics to Race to Vocations. Going more in depth on any of these subjects is a great way to make a story richer and more believable.

How is your road trip going?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

We Built This City, But Not On Rock And Roll

We Built This City: According to the US and World Census Population Clocks, there are well over 7 billion people in the world today, with about 320 million in the U.S (the third most populated country). Here in North America, there is one birth every eight seconds, one death every twelve seconds, and one new migrant every 38 seconds. The world population is expected to reach 8 billion people in 2024. Reference 

How are so many people to find adequate housing, food, clothing, healthcare, etc on a planet with limited resources? Let’s face it. Major cities around the globe were not designed to handle the demands of 21st century life and the mass influx of more people, let alone what the surprises the next 100 years holds. 

What To Do? There are lots of amazing ideas on Cities Of The Future that I’ll be posting right here on Thursday November 20th. But here is one idea that is brilliant in its simplicity. 

Artist's Version of City of Lusail
Example: Qatar (part of the oil rich United Arab Emirates) is planning on building a city from the ground up. Cost? A mere 45 billion dollars. 

The planned city, called Lusail, will cover about 30 square miles along the Persian Gulf and accommodate 250,000 people. It’s been referred to a very large five star hotel. Lusail will include marinas, residential areas, island resorts, commercial districts, luxury shopping and leisure facilities, including two golf courses, an all giraffe zoo and an entertainment district. 

Lusail Stadium to Host 2022 FIFA World Cup
As the venue for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, the Lusail Iconic Stadium will provide a world-class football facility for 86,250 spectators during the opening ceremony, group games and final. Reflecting Doha’s culture and heritage, the stadium is designed to be highly energy efficient and capable of performing in extreme summer climatic conditions. (Folks, this is a complete city built from scratch!!!)

Can We Do It? Of course we can. The politicians of California are trying to raise money for a High Speed Rail system that would be expected to easily exceed $45B. So money really isn’t the issue here. 

No Caption Needed for the Renaissance City
Problem: Once a city like this is built, it has to be maintained. That means, the citizens cannot let it go to hell or riot and burn it down. In Qatar, known for its gross human rights violations, they will simply make trouble makers disappear. In Japan, their citizens desire to build a progressive city where the citizens can thrive and continue building for the future, such as what they did with Hiroshima after it was nuked at the end of World War II. 

However: here in the United States things are different. Even if we raze existing entire sections of a major city and build from scratch, would we as a civilization be able to maintain, or would they simply crumble back into what we now see in many sections of our inner cities? 

Question: Should countries, states, and communities raise money to build new cities from scratch to replace what clearly needs to be replaced? 

I’ll leave you with some really cool pics of Hiroshima today to give you a bit of vision. 

Stephen Tremp, author of the BREAKTHROUGH series, is finishing his fourth book titled Murcat Manor. You can visit Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Storyteller's Perspective: Matters of Life and Death

I joined a group of friends last week to go and see The Book of Life, a new animated movie for the Halloween season directed by Jorge Gutierrez and produced by Guillermo del Toro. Most preliminary reviews I read said that the visuals were absolutely stunning, but the story left some to be desired.
As a storyteller, I beg to differ.

One definitely positive point about this movie is diversity - it introduces kids to a different culture and its colors, its words, its mythology, and its festivities. In the past years Día de los Muertos has often been added to Halloween as if they were the same thing - and they are definitely not. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion around cultural appropriation, and turning a serious, religious holiday from another culture into Halloween party make-up. The movie, while it definitely does not solve the entire problem, did add a very clear, colorful, and original voice to it.

Second: It is about storytelling.
And it is also about death.
The death of loved ones, family members, and ultimately, yourself.
Dark enough for kids yet?
You bet.

One thing storytellers these days have to struggle with is the increasing pressure from parents and educators to avoid all "sensitive topics" - among others, death. We are often asked, or even required, to avoid all casualties in our folktales; even villains have to repent and walk off into the sunset instead of dying in the end. While I definitely see where the people asking us are coming from, it is important to know that their request does not make sense.

As a storyteller, I have had more kids complain that the monster or the villain lived in the end than how many parents asked me not to do it. And not because kids wanted to revel in gore and violence. They simply did not feel safe, and they were anxious for the heroes: What if the wicked witch returns? What if the boogeyman is not really dead? Kids think of death as closure, and as long as a menace is not eliminated, the story does not come to a satisfying happy end.
Now, making said end child-friendly is the storyteller's work; it does not have to sound like a play-by-play from last week's episode of The Walking Dead. BUT there is also no reason why we should avoid the mentioning of death.
Death is something we all live with. It happens. Everywhere. To everyone. And if we never tell stories that psychologically prepare children for dealing with its presence, they will have a lot harder time adjusting to it later on in life. There are many, many stories - funny stories, tricky stories, creepy stories, even stories with happy endings - that talk about death in ways that are accessible and comforting to children.

Much like The Book of Life does.

Quoting Neil Gaiman:

“If you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up.”

For the end, here is an animated short about Día de los Muertos that has been going around on the Internet lately. Lovely, lovely piece.

As usual, you can find @ TarkabarkaHolgy at:
The Multicolored Diary - Adventures in Storytelling
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Four Reasons I Do National Novel Writing Month

This month I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, which if you haven't heard of it, is National Novel Writing Month. One signs up at the site  and writes 50,000 words during the month of November. I'm on a good start this year and wanted to share with you why I do this and how it can impact anything you write, be that a blog, short stories, novels, non-fiction, etc.

The first major benefit in participating, in my opinion, is that you write every day no matter what, no matter how much.
Second, it can teach you how to outline, because if you outline you have a road map for those 50,000 words so if you get lost or sidetracked, you can get back on track easily. I did that for the first time last year and it literally saved me. I ended up doing 70,000 words. I don't like outlining, but now I'm a convert.
Third, you learn, if you don't know already, how to write a first draft WITHOUT EDITING AS YOU GO. This is so important for anyone writing anything. To get it down while it's fresh in your mind and unsullied by your inner editor gives you more wiggle room when you move on to the second draft.
Fourth reason is, if you are new to writing, you will learn what it really means to write EVERY DAY. If you are seasoned veteran, you will find that the freedom of allowing your thoughts to freely roam while your fingers take dictation is addicting. Each day watching that word count rise keeps the brain high as a kite with not only a sense of accomplishment, but also a joy in allowing yourself to write for whatever reasons you have chosen to write.
I don't need more than four reasons to do NaNo, because these four are good and critical no matter what I write. Imagine how many blog posts you could get done in one month (you AtoZer's know what I mean)! If you're going to participate in A to Z next year, you could get them all done with some to spare (30 compared to 26)! One participant I know will be writing ten short stories this month. I'm working on a memoir. Use your imagination!That's what NaNo is all about.

If you're doing NaNo, what are your reasons? If not, why not? Thanks for stopping by!

Images from:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Characters Who Blog

With the passing of one of my favorite holidays, I always feel a little sad. Halloween in over -- no more costumes, no more candy gorging, no more pumpkins. Sigh. I had such a good time celebrating this year (my friends and I went as the characters from Mario Kart, complete with cardboard cars and balloons). And then I realized that we're one month closer to the A to Z Challenge, hooray! I've already started working out my theme for 2015 . . . have you? 

If you need a little inspiration, here's a little peak at what England's most notorious spy might blog about:

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you have a great start to the week. And don't forget to be thinking about your theme for next April's Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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