Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Characters Who Blog

Well, it's December and time for one of my favorite activities, watching holiday movies! The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Home Alone, and my personal favorite . . . DIE HARD! (And yes, it absolutely does count as a Christmas movie). So I thought we might like to see what John McClane would blog about during the A to Z Challenge. Let's take a look, shall we? 

And there you have it, the A to Z series of a major action hero. I personally like his letter "K" the best! I hope you all have started thinking about what themes you might feature on your blogs next April. Have a wonderful Wednesday and happy blogging! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Road Trip Themes for Blogging from A-Z Challenge Participants

The April A-Z Challenge is a big undertaking for bloggers of all levels. There's always the question of whether you will choose a theme or wing it when delivering on your commitment to post something on your blog every day for 26 days.

The real fun begins as you attempt to make your way in and around all 2,000 (give or take) places listed on the visiting map for this annual alphabet party town. While the insanely fast and wildly diligent men and women of our community manage to get it done, the A-Z Challenge Road Trip is for the rest of us. It brings remaining survivors together for an extended trip to cover additional ground leftover from April, but on cruise control.

So, here are two A-Z Road Trip inspired theme ideas that may help you with some of the toughest tasks in the challenge -- picking topics to blog about and visiting everyone on the list.

Blogs of the Day - List five favorite blog posts you read, for each letter of the alphabet. This theme involves visiting blogs on the A-Z signup list to find links that are worth sharing with your readers. In turn, those who visit to find out what your top picks are for the day will learn about blogs that might interest them. Everyone wins.

Of course, there is an alternative route to consider if you're the scheduling type of person who wants to enjoy the fun parts of this theme without the spontaneity of hitting "publish" every day. Since signups open up a few months in advance, you can start visiting blogs and go through their regular content to find something you like. Once you've found five different blogs for each letter of the alphabet, schedule your posts as usual and title them according to the traits they have in common. Or, just make up your own.

A-Z Social - Step it up a notch and be the go-to spot for all things related to what's happening within the A-Z community. Do a roundup of activities such as blog posts that are being shared (commented on, etc.) the most, tweets worth highlighting and/or blog comments that standout. As a surveyor of social activity related to the A-Z Challenge, your blog might become a cool watering hole for this community, in April.

Joining fellow bloggers on the A-Z Challenge Road Trip is an opportunity to visit undiscovered places and meet new faces you missed. However, making the Road Trip a part of your April blogging activities can be a way to make sure that you don't miss out on much!

Will you be taking any road trips during this holiday season?

The A-to-Z Challenge Road Trip is hosted by Nicole Ayers and C. Lee McKenzie who’s well-traveled  dashboard buddy Mario is gearing up for a great 2016!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Goodbye 2015. Hello Christmas.

It has been quite a year on the road this 2015. Here's a recap of some things that have made this year full and fabulous.

New Books Galore. Every time I visited a blog there were new books from the writers I've been connecting with for a few years. 

We had a great AtoZ Challenge with so many amazing bloggers entering to provide interesting and entertaining posts throughout April.

The Team put together a year long tribute to Tina who organized so well for the AtoZ Challenge. She was greatly missed, and hugely valued by her friends.

Some new Hops filled up the Summer Days and linked us with other bloggers we might have missed otherwise!

Unfortunately, a lot of the bloggers we enjoyed retired or took long breaks, but they left with grace and for good reasons.

Jeremy Hawkins designed a super T-shirt for the AtoZ Challenge Survivors. 

The Insecure Writers Group continued to be a huge success each first Wednesday of the month with so many excellent and supportive posts.

There's a lot more, but these were the highlights for me. Now I'm fastening my seatbelt and getting ready for 2016. This is my last AtoZ Challenge post of 2015, so I leave you now to hunt down the tree and find the egg nog.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Lady Monsters!

Diana Gordon at Part Time Monster went with the theme of lady monsters!

Your theme was Lady Monsters – was it an obvious choice given that your blog is called Part Time Monster?

Writing about female monsters seemed like the obvious choice once I thought of the idea to use Lady Monsters as the A to Z theme, yes. I actually hadn't written much monster-themed content before the challenge. But I do focus a lot of my writing on girls and women. I decided to marry that with my interest in monsters. There are a lot of female monsters who don't get much press time, and it seemed worthwhile to start talking about them, and to talk about them not just as monsters but as women, too.

Which Lady Monster was your favorite?

I think my favorite to write about was Queen Grimhilde, the Evil Queen from Disney's Snow White. She's iconic. It was quite an experience to write about a villain that has terrified me since childhood.

Which letter was the most difficult?

I didn't have a difficult time with any of them, oddly enough---but I suppose that the problem with this theme was that there were so very many possibilities to choose from, and only 26 could make the cut. There are a lot of fascinating monsters out there. I didn't really set parameters for where I'd pull from---so there are movie, TV, and comics characters plus mythological monsters from several different cosmologies just in those 26 posts. There are so many lady monsters that now, almost a year later, we're still writing about them. After A to Z, I started Monster Mondays, a weekly feature focusing on female monsters with several contributors. We're already planning our 2016 run.

Did you have a favorite monster you had to leave out?

I've since had a chance to write about her, but I really wanted to include Dragon from the Shrek franchise in the original run. Dzunukwa, a Native American mythological figure, made the list instead.

Irena Dubrovna Reed was the main character in The Cat People. Which version of the film do you like better, 1942 or 1980, and why?

I definitely prefer the 1942 version of Cat People to the remake. There's a sense of something about the first one--what I can only describe as impending doom. Irena knows about her curse, is steeped in the legends of her Serbian ancestors and afraid of her own sexuality because of what might happen. There's so much meaning in that, so many layers to pull apart as her lover and her psychiatrist try to puzzle all of this out. The 1980 version is almost devoid of that sense because Irena has been raised by a foster family and knows nothing of her ancestry.

That said, the 1980 film is a fascinating contrast with the 1942 original, and both tell us a lot about the sorts of women we fear, how those fears morph over time.

Why is the Chimera considered a hybrid and symbolizes wickedness?

The Chimera is, herself, a hybrid--though Greek sources vary a bit on her description, they seem to agree that she has parts of a dragon, of a lion, and of a goat. The Chimera was a great monster---she flew about burning the land and eating lots of cattle until she was killed in battle.

In the medieval ages, the Malleus Maleficarium, a famous treatise against witches, described women as a chimera, made of three corrupted parts. It is this work that aligned the Chimera with general wickedness and the female sex.

Why does the Red Queen have such a big head?

The Red Queen's power went straight to her head, enlarging it to 3 times its normal size. It is an outward manifestation of her inward condition, an inflated sense of self that overwhelms everything she does. It also infantalizes her---baby's heads are proportionally much larger than adults.

What theme are you considering for next year’s Challenge?

While I'd love to say that I have that all figured out, it would be so far from the truth! I generally start planning for A to Z in February. The one thing I can definitively say is that I plan to continue my pattern of focusing on girls and women---in 2014, my first year in the challenge, my theme was Girls in Children's Literature, and 2015 was, of course, Lady Monsters. 2016 will continue the thread.

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, and his blog can be found HERE

Friday, December 11, 2015

45 days until sign-ups begin!! #atozchallenge #atozchat

45 days doesn't sound quite as far away as 'next year' does it?

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge sign-up date for 2016 will be on January 25.

It is now officially time to get excited!

Party Time!

Other events to look forward to are the very popular Twitter Chats and, of course, the super-secret awesome Theme Reveal!

Take a knee!

Let's get motivated! Let's get out some paper and a pencil and start brainstorming what we want to do this coming April.

Theme or No theme.
Do I need to start reading books/watching movies/visiting restaurants to review?
What's my hook?
Should I start taking photographs?
Do I want to pre-schedule my posts?
What will make my posts so amazing and interesting that I get readers to come back each day of the month?

If you start answering these questions now, you'll be that much further ahead when it's time to sign-up.

Okay, people...

Heather M. Gardner

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Give a Little Thought to A to Z this Holiday Season

Wow. It's the holiday season! It seems as if 2015 just started and now here we are near the end of the year; amazing isn't it? With the holidays in full swing now is the perfect time to spend a moment thinking about the A to Z Challenge in 2016!

It's true, it's true! To be sure you'll be bustling about having lots of fun and shopping and whatnot but you'll probably have a spare moment here or there that is perfect for thinking.  Say you're shopping and you're standing in a very long line. Look around you for inspiration for the blogging challenge.

For example, while standing in line, what if you see an outrageous hat? Why not blog the A to Z of crazy hats? How about the A to Z of your grandma's clothes? Can you name the A to Z of Professor Snape sayings? Or what if you blogged the A to Z of movies you've seen in your lifetime? You could always go back and look at your old A to Z Challenge posts and see what posts worked and revamp those into something new. What about the A to Z of bad challenges? Bad blog posts? Bad dogs?

But seriously, the holidays provide you with plenty more time to think about the A to Z than you realize. When I'm standing in line or looking at a row of books I try to get inspired by the things that I'm looking at. Sometimes my ideas are genius and sometimes they're not. But you know what? Waiting til the last minute stinks. I've learned to use snippets of downtime each day to brainstorm: Sitting at a stop light? Thinking. Standing in line to buy presents? Pondering. 

You won't know if your idea is good or not until you think it through. So instead of playing Candy Crush with friends on your phone, consider that idea that is floating near the surface of your brain. The A to Z of lollipops? Possibly. How many flavors can you name? 10? 3? 60?  You won't know until you think it all the way through.  Isn't it better to discover NOW that your idea is no good rather than on April 5th when you've run out of flavors? 

Just like some gifts are better left on the shelf, some ideas are better left in your brain.

Make 2016 the best A to Z Challenge ever and start thinking about possible topics now! So tell me, what are some bad topics you've already tossed out for next year's challenge? Here's one of mine: The A to Z of dog books. I mean, seriously, how many could there be? 

Too many to choose from.

So, be prepared future A to Zers!

The A to Z Challenge is coming! 

Give a little thought to A to Z this holiday season. You'll be glad you did.

Many thanks to Pinterest and Buzzfeed for all the funny pics.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas stories to discover

Had enough of The Gift of the Magi for a lifetime, and always found The Fir Tree and The Little Match Girl sort of depressing? (Our teacher used to read them to us every Christmas in class, and I don't think I'll ever recover from it)
Here is a list of books you can explore for funny, heartwarming, less well-known, and lovable Christmas tales - most of them traditional.

Midwinter Folk Tales
Written by legendary storyteller Taffy Thomas, published in 2015. A collection full of winter tales from Taffy's own repertoire - free to tell for anyone who takes a fancy to them. He does not only include the best of his stories for the season; he also tells little anecdotes about how each story came into his possession, and what hidden importance they might have. It is an entertaining, lovely collection, written in Taffy's original voice and sense of humor.

Joy to the World: Christmas stories from around the globe
Okay, so not a recent edition, but one of my newly discovered favorites. Beautifully illustrated book, with well selected stories. I am including it with an extra recommendation because it features one of my favorite Christmas legends, the story of the Little Camel from Syria. In Syria, children who celebrate Christmas believe that their gifts are brought by the little camel that traveled with the Three Wise Men. It's one of the cutest stories ever.

Tell Me a Story for Christmas: Traveller Tales
A seasonal collection by another legendary storyteller, Scottish Traveller Duncan Williamson. Once again, not a recent edition, but many copies are still available from online stores and libraries. I highly recommend reading other books from Duncan Williamson as well; he is a huge name in the storytelling world, and did incredible work to preserve the oral traditions he grew up with.

The Other Wise Man 
Okay, so this is a more well known one, but also one of my favorites, so I will include it, in case it's new for some people. Written by Henry van Dyke in 1895, it is an original Christmas tale about Artaban, the fourth Wise Man that somehow got left behind. I love telling this story, and audiences respond to it really well. Also, there is a famous sapphire named after it. In case you like shiny things like I do.

May your days be merry, and full of books!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

'Tis The Season

'Tis the Season to Hit the Road. . .

and buy those presents!

Photo Credit

My family knows what they’re going to receive from me each Christmas. The only surprise for them is what book is hidden inside the glittery wrapping. And each season I search for both the classics and something new. I thought that since some of you might be on the hunt for book gifts I’d share what I’m considering putting under the tree. Family: DO NOT PEEK!

The Classics for young readers’ libraries

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Accord Publishing
The Elf on the Shelf by Carol Aebersold
Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe
The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
The Nutcracker by Alison Jay
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Reindeer Christmas by Mark Kimball Moulton
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Random House

Christmas Activity Books for the really young ones

My Very Merry Christmas Coloring and Activity Book 
Christmas Carol Activity Book, Book 2
A Very Krabby Christmas
The Berenstein Bears' Christmas Coloring and Activity Book
Christmas Is Coming
The 12 Days of Christmas: The Story behind a Favorite Christmas Song
Christmas Jigsaw Book

Some not so Christmasy ones, but great gifts for mature readers in the family

The Art of Racing in the Rain
The Book Thief
Women of the Silk and The Language of Threads (Series)
Bel Canto
The Suspect
Boy Toy
Marcelo in the Real World
The Kite Runner

Photo Credit

Merry Christmas!