Showing posts with label A to Z Challenge themes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A to Z Challenge themes. Show all posts

Monday, March 16, 2020

Theme Reveal 2020 #AtoZChallenge

Theme Reveal #AtoZChallenge 2020 badge

It's time to reveal your theme for 2020! 

We'll even share our theme. It's 2020 Vision, of course! Join us here on the A to Z Blog all month long for posts from our team, and be sure to sign up with your theme reveal here.

Please make sure you share the link directly to your Theme Reveal Post and not your general blog post.

You can see your blog immediately on our Theme Reveal List and you can see the list of all Blogs on our Master List!

Be sure to sign up for the Theme Reveal by Thursday, March 26th! After that, the form will be closed. 

If you haven't signed up for the challenge on the Master List, you can do so here.
#AtoZChallenge 2020 badge

Monday, June 13, 2016

Themes That Rocked the Challenge – J.A. Scott and Childhood Shows and Commercials

Today we welcome author J.A. Scott and his rocking theme of childhood television shows and commercials. Prepare for a trip down memory lane!

What made you select television shows from your childhood?

My theme last year was pet peeves (though I call them rants). Though mostly they were something everyone could relate to, I was never too sure everyone found them enjoyable to read. I wanted to do something nearly everyone would have fun with. And who does not enjoy watching television? When I was younger, we didn't have cable and video games. Sure, they were around, but they were in their infancy and expensive. If not for the TV, I would be outside playing with a stick. Also, growing up, TV watching was something everyone in the family did together. So when I wanted to revisit those days, it was in the hopes it would bring back fond memories not only for me, but for everyone reading as well.

The bonus commercials from the past were funny. Did you get lost wandering You-tube looking for them?

If you mean, was there a snowball effect of watching one video, leading to another and another video, yes. Fortunately, I had a few tools at my disposal. A 1001 classic TV commercials DVD and an A-Z Guide to TV Guide book. These tools made it easier to look for the exact commercial I required. Hard to believe they were all on you-tube. Thankfully, some people have too much time on their hands.

What was the most obscure show you remember?

The most obscure in my list was most likely 'Quark'. A TV show set in the future about a crew collecting space garbage. As you might imagine, it didn't last long. It's so obscure, even I never recall seeing it. And I've always been into

As for the most obscure I HAVE seen, I noticed there were a few. 'Misfits of Science' was a zany slap-stick super hero series featuring a young Courtney Cox. Quite easily my favourite of the obscure shows I featured.

There was also 'It's a Living', a sit-com about waitresses in a swanky restaurant. The comedy was mediocre, but at the time, it was all I knew. And Ann Jillian certainly drew me in.

The final one (and I'm sorry I selected more than one), was the Krofft Supershow. Most people seemed to have no idea what it was. The theme music included an awkward 70's-ish, annoying theme. Most people did not recognize the show in question from the theme music. But when fast forwarded to the last minute, you would realize these were the people who brought us such children's classics as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Wonderbug and Dr. Shrinker. Incidentally, they also were responsible for bringing us; Sigmund and the Sea Monster, the Far Out Space Nuts, the Lost Saucer, Lidsville, the Bugaloos and of course, the Land of the Lost. (Yes, I watched most of those…)

What was the show everyone remembered?

Whether a person watched it or not, I received many comment on Knight Rider. This was a classic show which everyone seemed to remember. There was a talking car and David Hasselhoff. There were even a generous supply of car jumps (to compete with Dukes of Hazard I guess). Ironically enough, I got almost as many comments for Dukes of Hazard.

How many of the commercial jingles did you still know by heart?

As long as I was aware of the commercial, 9 times out of 10 I could recite any jingle the commercials offered.

I can still sing the jingles from Coke, McDonald's, Oscar Mayer, Dr. Pepper, you name it, I probably remember it. Even the ones without a jingle, I could most likely recall verbatim most of the lines. (I’d like to teach the world to sing!)

What aspect of this theme was the most fun?

When putting this theme together, I loved searching the internet/You-tube for those rare gems. I particularly enjoyed recalling my favourite TV shows through the theme music. As for the commercials, I loved searching for the ones with early celebrities appearances or the ones not so PC any more. I found those the most humorous. After putting this theme together, the most enjoyable part was reading the comments. Seeing which ones people remembered or how many fond memories this theme revisited for many was another great result.

What was the worst commercial you featured? The one that you watched and wondered what the heck the company was thinking.

There was quite a few which made me scratch my head. The Ultra-Brite and Xerox commercials were utterly ridiculous. But then again, they were memorable. For Xerox, they wanted to illustrate the ease of their equipment and Ultra-Brite, well, sex sells. Essentially (Use our toothpaste and the girls will finally notice you). So those two get a pass from me because I see WHAT they were trying to accomplish. The Jell-O commercial might have been offensive to many, but it also was long before the PC world we live in now. Then we have the Winston commercial. It was quite the shock for me to discover Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble selling cigarettes. But that wasn't even the worse commercial as far as I'm concerned. The ultimate winner of the 'Who Were the Ad Wizards That Came Up With This One' award goes to the Nabisco Cookie Man Superhero commercial. Or was he Kooky Man? A portly man donned in a poor excuse for a costume, fights puppet like "greedy" monsters to rescue stolen cookies. Which, of course, he promptly eats when recovered. Don't miss the 10 second super extreme close-up of this super hero's mouth enjoying a cookie. I can only assume this was a "winner of a competition or something because it looks like a grade school class put the commercial together. Seriously, I've had nightmares better directed than this... this.... schlock.

What theme are you considering for next year?

There are a number ideas running through my head for next year. And like last year, I've already begun preparing a few. Whichever ones I don't do next year, I may do at some point on my blog as a regular feature. But what I have been considering are the following (and I would LOVE input on what others would like to see.)

1. Music - I own over 500 CD's. And yes, I already CAN put together a list of AtoZ of my favourite CD's.

2. Movies - I've started to amass a large film collection. Not quite as spectacular as my music collection, but it is starting to grow.

3. Milwaukee - Milwaukee is so much more than beer or Happy Days. But we have them too. People will truly be amazed at what Milwaukee has to offer. It's a great place by a great lake, and TONS to do, especially in summer.

4. Games - I'm a gamer, and I don't mean video games. Since I was young, games have been a big part of family time. And I have passed this on to my children. Board games, card games, dice or whatever else you can think of. I have a large selection, and they are all fun to play.

5. Story - Though this would be challenging and there were not as many people interested in this according to my reflections post, I'm still considering a group participation story. Essentially, it will be a flash fiction which develops over the course of the month. One paragraph a day will end with a choice for the readers. Depending on the majority vote, the story will shift and change according to what people would like to read.

Thanks, Jeffrey! And I won’t tell you how many CD’s and albums I own…

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and his blog can be found HERE

Monday, March 14, 2016

A to Z Tips - Running with a Theme #atozchallenge

If you’re participating in the Challenge, you are probably already planning your posts. That’s great–plan and write as many as possible before the Challenge begins so you have more time to visit other bloggers in April.

If you’ve toyed with the idea of a theme or not, let me tell you - it’s easier if you have a theme for the month. We offer the Great Theme Reveal on March 21, which gets people excited about your theme. Plus we run a feature here during the year called Themes That Rocked the Challenge that gives you an idea of the variety of themes out there.

Here are some reasons why a theme helps:

The first year of the Challenge, I didn’t have a theme. Of course this meant some days I was scrounging for something that matched the letter. (For Q, I blogged about Q*Bert and some obscure band called Q-Tip–not good!)

A theme will give you direction. You don’t want to be confined? Choose a good theme and it will expand your possibilities, not limit them. If you select movies, you can go with the movie titles. Music? Go with band or song titles. Sports? Go with players or teams. By narrowing the focus, it’s actually easier, because then you won’t feel overwhelmed.

A theme also lets visitors know what to expect. They will be more apt to return, especially if they like your theme. We’re creatures of habit and like consistency. Include a line or two at the beginning of each post that states your theme for the month if it’s not obvious in your post title.

It’s good research. Select a topic you want to know more about – you’ll learn something as you search. Perhaps it’s something you need to research for your next book or for school. Kill two birds with one stone – and educate others in the process.

Does the theme have to match your blog exactly? No, it can be anything you want. If it’s something that interests you, chances are you’ve already talked about it on your blog. Brainstorm some different themes and pick one. If it fits your style, then do it.

Have fun with it. Just think–your blog is a theme park for one whole month. Make it fun! Because if you’re having fun, so will your visitors.

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

A to Z Themes Made Easy – Handy Lifestyle Hacks for the Busy Blogger

Photo courtesy of Tristan Colangelo
It’s never too early to start preparing for your participation in next year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Year after year, themes continue to be one of the best ways to survive this April blog hop with ease. Themes give readers a good idea of what to expect when visiting your blog while helping you better organize ideas into 26 cohesive pieces of alphabetic content.

Choosing a theme does not have to be a daunting task in itself. In fact, it’s as simple as becoming a virtual handyman for some of life’s challenges. If you’re stumped for topics to blog about during the next April A-Z Challenge, consider teaching people how to do quick repairs -- whether that be for damaged household items, bad hair days, or even a broken heart. Don’t think you have any knowledge of tips or tricks to help other people solve everyday problems? You may be able to provide more handy hacks than you think. 

Just recall the last few times you’ve fixed a dilemma that you or someone you know encountered. Now use these instances to jump-start the topics of your April Blog Posts. Here are some quick topics that can be worked in many ways to help you get from point A to point Z, based on my own experiences with quick fixes that came in handy.

Technical/Hardware Hacks
When cassette tapes were still a thing in the early 90s, I used to play them on a boombox style stereo system. The Bad album by Michael Jackson was one particular cassette that I rocked as a kid “until my tape popped” (*extra brownie points for those who can identify the song/artist reference here) one day while playing in the stereo. Determined to not have to throw this cassette away, I grabbed a screwdriver (or maybe it was a kitchen knife…the specifics of that memory has faded after all these years), opened up the cassette and snapped the jumbled up portions of plastic tape off of the spool. I then re-attached the two remaining portions of the music on this cassette, using a small piece of adhesive tape.

Cassettes remain available from some places such as
The result wasn’t perfect – the beginning of the first song on Side 1 of the cassette was now gone, as well as the end of the last song on Side 2 – but I could now still continue to enjoy most of the album.

Cassettes may be a thing of the past but so long as people still like to listen to music, there are quick fixes that you might know how to employ in the age of modern technology. Do you have a neat way to organize playlists on a home entertainment system, tablets or related electronic devices?

How about syncing or migrating your iTunes library on a computer where the system had to be re-installed? These nuggets of knowledge may come in handy for those of us who do not know how to navigate through various software programs and/or devices.

Style, Fashion & Wardrobe Hacks
When one pair of my jeans started to rip in the back, I continued to wear them until the tear became too large. Having no patience to sew or patch-up denim (or really most other garments), I just wore tights under my jeans, to prevent me from unintentionally flashing people during my daily travels out in the street. Sometimes these tights had cute heart patterns on them and sometimes they were solid colored. It all depended on my mood, the climate or temperature and whether the laundry was done or not. Did you ever experience any clothing malfunctions that you’ve dealt with in a hassle-free manner? If so, try to come up with 26 ways to get around the problem, from A-Z, without throwing the garment away!

Food Prep Hacks
Have you ever made a salad only to find out that there isn’t any dressing in your refrigerator or cupboard? What do you do in that situation? When I found myself in a similar situation, I combined some olive oil, vinegar and all-purpose seasoning such as (Mrs. Dash or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute) to make a quick vinaigrette. Not only did it save me time in contemplating on whether to eat something else altogether or consume the salad dry, this quick fix was also a money-saving solution; I didn’t have to make a trip to the store just to buy some salad dressing.  If food hacks are up your alley, try coming up with an A-Z theme that provides some quick seasoning tips for when people don’t have the usual staples on-hand and need to substitute it with other items in the refrigerator or cupboard.

Productivity Hacks
My morning routine usually involves books, writing and meditation of some sort. I try to read first thing in the morning to get it out of the way because unless it is for research purposes, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that I will pick up any book whatsoever later in the afternoon or evening after my day gets started and filled with other tasks.  Do you have a productivity hack that helps you get things done? Maybe other A-Z participants can try it to figure out if the hack might work for their lifestyle needs.

Providing handy lifestyle hacks to your readers will save you time on writing and publishing blog posts. That time saved could then be spent visiting your fellow participating blogs on the A-Z Challenge list. Happy blogging!

Have YOU decided on a theme for next year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge yet?

A-to-Z Challenge Co-Host Nicole Ayers writes about international films, Cinematography and movie goers at The Madlab Post. You can connect with her @MadlabPost on Twitter. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Themes That Rocked the Challenge - Elizabeth and My Little Pony Artwork

Today I welcome author and artist extraordinaire, Elizabeth Mueller! I’ve known her for many years and have seen her talented artwork. She really did something unique with it for this past Challenge.

Your theme was My Little Pony fan art – what made you choose that theme?

To be honest with you, I had already written 50% of the A to Z's posts (on writing) and scheduled them before April started. Being the hermit that I am, I had barely heard about a successful adult coloring book by a self-published artist, and I thought to myself, I can do that! I can draw just about anything, and people can color my art. Also, drawing takes less brain power and after having Babykins, my brain has been pretty mushy since.

Feeling a bit weird about where this was leading, because I typically keep my art low key, I asked my daughters what they thought about a My Little Pony fan art theme for the Challenge. I wanted to retest my skill in drawing horses (horses were my first drawing love). It turned out that they loved it, and volunteered to color them for me. You should've seen the amount of hours they dedicated!

How long did it take you to draw all those ponies?

Straight up? About three hours all squished together just to *draw* them. Not counting the coloring. Or researching A to Z worthy flower names. Or inventing the storyline. Or getting them printable worthy. (And the scheduling of the posts is a whole 'nother story.) Whew!

Which letter was the most difficult?

X was the most difficult! I searched each letter of the alphabet for flowers and then I'd comb down each one to see which sounded the best sounding name for the character. Xs didn't have much of a selection and we (yes, my daughters helped me, it was a labor of love!) had to do many searches on different sites.

Which flower was the easiest for visitors to guess?

There were many flower names that had a good number of correct guesses, but I'm thinking Zinnia won the race. I suppose that is a very popular flower.

Which flower was the most difficult for visitors to guess?

Adonis, Firethorn, and Knotweed are a tie--no one was able to guess those guys. Not very common flowers, are they?

You had a cool prize for those who made the most guesses, right or wrong – tell everyone about it.

As you said, my goal was to get as many friends to participate. Right or Wrong. It was a little party every day for us! I converted every one of the illustrations into coloring pages along with edited versions of the stories I had included in the blog posts. I did the illustration process backward: I pencil sketched them and then colored them for the Challenge before I had turned them into coloring pages. Turned out alright anyway, though.

What theme are you considering for next year?

That is something I'm still mulling over!

I bet it will be something good! Thanks again, Elizabeth.

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

Themes That Rocked the Challenge – Jenn Ventures into The Twilight Zone!

Today I welcome Jennifer from Scribbles From Jenn. For the A to Z Challenge, she ventured into… The Twilight Zone!

Your theme was the Twilight Zone show – what made you chose it?

As a kid, I was babysat by my brother who loved Sci-Fi. Since we only had one TV, and he was the oldest, I watched a lot of Sci-Fi. I came to enjoy the Twilight Zone because it didn’t have a lot of scary images. It didn’t need to; it was able to scare the bejeezus out of me, in black and white, without using blood, guts or gore. Now, as a writer, I appreciate the genius of Rod Serling. Additionally, I’ve come to see Rod Serling as visionary who, over five decades ago, wrote on topics that are surprisingly relevant today.

Which letter was the most challenging?

In previous A to Z challenges X was the most challenging, but this time it was the letter S. Not because I couldn’t find a T.Z. episode to match, but because I had about fifteen to choose from. In the end I went with a cult favorite, To Serve Man, but it was a hard choice.

Which episode was your favorite?

My favorite? I can’t really say I have a favorite, I like them all!

What made V’s Valley of the Shadow unique?

Besides the fact that the Sci-Fi worlds collide in this episode when James Doohan, who also plays Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, the engineer of Star Trek (1966)'s Starship Enterprise, is the dad of one of the main characters, I think it’s the fact that in Peaceful Valley miracles seem to occur due to technology. Again, Mr. Serling was ahead of his time as today’s technology really is creating the appearance of miracles.

What’s a great episode that most people haven’t seen?

A great, but little known, episode is No Time Like The Past. In this episode scientist, Paul Driscoll, acquires a time machine and with the help of a friend decides to travel back into the recent past to alter events and remake the present. After several failed attempts, he concludes that, “the past is sacred” and returns to his own time declaring, “… instead of continuing to fixate upon the past, he will now try to do something to positively impact the future.” With all that’s going on in our world today, I think that is still great advice.

Which episode was the creepiest?

As a mother the creepiest episode for me is Long Distance Call where a toy telephone becomes the link between a young boy and his dead grandmother. After her death she calls him on the toy telephone she gave him before her death, and beckons him to come join her. What’s creepy for me is how that episode has become a parallel to today. However, it’s not a toy telephone, it’s the internet, and it’s not dead grandmothers, it’s a variety of other things often just as bad.

Ever felt like you were in the Twilight Zone?

Yes! Haven’t we all? I wonder if that, and the thought-provoking writing, has anything to do with the longevity of the series.

What theme are you considering for the Challenge next year?

I’m not sure. I only hope I find something I enjoy as much as I enjoyed my theme this year. Blogging from A to Z on the Twilight Zone made the challenge so much fun!

Thanks, Jenn! We want the Challenge to be fun.

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

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Here's An Idea!: My Vacation Scrapbook (#atozchallenge)

English: Northern terminus of California State...
Northern terminus of California State Route 23 outside Moorpark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            So how's your summer going so far?   I'm on the road right now.  Actually I've settled in for a few weeks at my mother's house in East Tennessee.  I'm enjoying time with family and hopefully will have a chance to see some old friends.   But the main purpose of the trip is to spend time helping my mother and just hang out with her.   I don't get to see her very much since I moved to California 23 years ago.

           I'll also be visiting my daughters in New Jersey and Houston and have some special times with my grandkids.  Don't get to see any of them nearly enough either.  The family is scattered and that means a major vacation trip in order to see everyone.

           So what's all this have to do with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge?  Well, since I'm doing a series about coming up with theme ideas for the 2015 Challenge (visit Part 1 here), I thought why not use this summer's activities as a basis for your blogging theme in April.  It's kind of like the "What I Did During Summer Vacation" essays you probably had to do back when you were in school.  Same thing for your month long A to Z theme except you can get super detailed and add pictures.

          Travelling affords so many inspirations and opportunities for good blog post ideas that you can not only use them now, but you can still organize them later for your April A to Z theme.

Here's a Few Ideas:

  • I Spy Travel Game--This is always a good way to entertain the kids if you're in the car for a long ways.  Have them look for something that starts with the letter A and so on through the alphabet.  And while they're playing the game find some inspiration of your own for your April theme.
  • Places A to Z--When you're traveling you come upon all sorts of place names that will range through the alphabet.  Towns, streets, rivers, mountains. and all sorts of other place names will give you ideas for every letter.  Make a list as you go for reference later on.
  • Business names--This is one I've been tempted to do.  Use the restaurants you eat at, the places you stay, stores you shop in, or just businesses you pass by.  Take pictures of them if you can.  If you have time you can even interview the owners or customers to add some dimension to your blog post.  There are plenty of businesses from Aamco to Zaxby's and you can fill up your theme fast.  And you don't even have to leave your home town to do this one.
      This is just to get you started.  Get your creative mind to working and I'll bet you can come up with a lot more ideas that will keep you busy while on your vacation.  Have fun with it!

          Be sure to visit Wednesday's post with more on this idea and some links that might inspire you.

          What travel games did you play as a kid or do your kids play now?     If you're traveling during the summer, where will you be going?   What are some other A to Z themes you can think of that relate to travel?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Themes That Rocked! Cool Speculative Fiction Book Covers from Bob Miline

Please welcome book reviewer Bob Miline!

Your theme was speculative fiction book covers – what made you chose that theme?

Well, I knew my theme was going to be book related (that was a given), but I wanted to do find a way to do something different. In hindsight, my little literary alliteration of the year before really used up 2 themes at once, matching authors and titles, so I was stumped. For a while I actually considered skipping this year’s challenge, until a review copy of Words of Radiance landed on my doorstep. I review so many digital titles, a hardcover was something of a novelty, so I really spent some time admiring the wrap-around dust jacket – and that’s when the idea for the theme clicked.

What type of artwork draws you in? What do you look for in cover art?

Something bold and vivid is what usually draws me in – I like a book cover that calls to me from across the room, demanding that I give it a closer look. It’s not so much a style or even the lines, but the colours, the interplay of light and shadow, and the illusion of movement. I prefer a cover that captures a scene, as opposed to one with characters posing for the artist’s eye.

Which artist was your favorite?

I’d have to go with Michael Whelan as my favourite. He has such an identifiable sense of style, with covers that are vibrant and real, and which just have that ‘epic’ sort of feel to them.

Which cover was your favorite?

That’s hard to say. John Harris’s cover for Ancillary Justice definitely caught my eye, as did Daniel Dociu’s covers for The Expanse series. I think the cover I found most striking, though, was Richard Anderson’s cover for The Emperor’s Blades. The colours there are more subdued, and more background, but the layering of the three almost jagged silhouettes with the background imagery really worked for me.

Which letter was the most difficult?

Everything was sailing along nicely until I hit the letter ‘X’. I searched for days trying to find an artist or two, but kept coming up empty. In the end I had to bend my theme a bit and just look for an artist with an ‘X’ in their name – which, as it turned out, was fine since it allowed me to give Richard Hescox some page time.

Who was the oldest artist you featured?

That would have to be Eddie Jones (born 1935) and Frank Frazetta (born 1928), both of whom are sadly no longer with us.

How important is cover art? Does it influence your decision to read and review a book?

As a reader, cover art still has significant appeal to me when physically browsing a bookstore, and has led me into giving more than one a new author a read. I’d never choose (or not choose) a book based solely upon the cover, but that cover can tempt me into reading the back cover.

As a reviewer, however, cover art has almost no impact. Most of my review requests are either based on a pre-publication ARC that doesn’t have a cover, or a text-based sales pitch that comes in via webform or email, so it’s really all down to whether the cover blurb catches my attention.

If you do the Challenge next year, what theme(s) are you considering?

I’ll probably be scratching my head over that again until the end of March, but I’m toying with something revolving around names (characters or places) that have been memorable for me.

That would be a cool theme – thanks Bob and see you 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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Themes That Rocked! Challenge Participant Lanise Brown and Libraries From Around the World

Please welcome book reviewer, Lanise Brown!

Your theme was libraries around the world. What made you choose that for the Challenge?

My idea for the challenge sort of came last minute. While I was thinking up a theme and searching for cool bookish things online, I came across an article about the amazing libraries of the world. And I had my theme.

Which one was your favorite?

It’s difficult to pick just one, but I think the Rijksmuseum Research Library in Amsterdam and the José Vasconcelos Library in Mexico top my list.

They were all very unique – which one was the most unique or even odd?

The most unique and unusual was Mexico’s José Vasconcelos Library because of the building’s size, the painted whale skeleton that’s on display in the main hall, and the fact that the library’s been nicknamed the Megabiblioteca (megalibrary).

Which letter was the most difficult?

All of the letters towards the end of the alphabet were challenging, but the letter X was the toughest by far. No states or countries in the world begin with the letter X, so I had to resort to cities. Eventually, I found the Zhangzhou Campus University Library in Xiamen, China. There weren’t many pictures of the library though.

Have you ever visited any of the libraries you featured?

Sadly, no. But I hope I’ll get to visit a few of the locations some day.

Which one is the oldest?

The oldest is the National Library of France, which was founded in the 14th century. I featured the library’s Richelieu Reading Room that houses the library’s rare and antique collections.

If someone let you loose in one of those libraries, what would you do and how long would you stay?

Oh my goodness. I’d be like a kid in a candy shop. I’d probably grab more books than I could possibly read, and take a lot of pictures of the architecture. I’d make it a daylong event of course.

If you do the Challenge again next year, do you have a theme in mind?

I’ve been thinking about next year’s challenge. I suppose I’ll go with the rarest books from around the world, or I might even continue the library theme. There are so many more libraries to share.

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