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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, June 6, 2016

Personal Challenges and Light Bulb Moments (#atozchallenge)

       This guest post comes courtesy of writer/blogger Lissa Johnston.   If you would be interested in contributing your guest post to the A to Z Challenge Blog please contact us

Personal Challenges and Light Bulb Moments

2016 is my first year participating in the A to Z Challenge, though not my first blog challenge and definitely not my first writing challenge. I’m familiar with deadline pressure - what writer isn’t? - but the A to Z presented a couple of different types of pressure, for different reasons. As I progressed through the challenge, and even afterward, my opinions on some blog-related issues have been swinging back and forth like a West Texas weather vane, to wit:

To Theme Or Not To Theme
When I started the challenge, I didn’t realize what was going on with the ‘theme’. I thought ‘A to Z’ was the theme. Once I figured it out, I thought, Whew! So glad theme is optional. Themes are stupid. Themes tie me down and restrict my writing. I’ll write whatever the heck I feel like. And of course after the hundredth random theme-less blog I visited, I was so thankful to stumble across blogs that had such narrowly focused themes I marveled in their ability to find 6 topics to write about, much less 26. I became a believer. Themes are the bomb. Themes are like fences. They may seem restrictive and unsightly, but in addition to keeping good things in, they also keep bad things out.

Categories and Comments
After the challenge concluded, we were encouraged to post a recap of our experiences. Of 1300+ bloggers who completed most of the challenge, less than a third shared a recap. Still, that’s over 300 opinions, and I’ve worked my way through nearly half.

Two areas were mentioned repeatedly: requests for tweaks to the blog category codes; and hand-wringing over the low percentage of participants who visited and commented at other blogs. My flip-flop on these two issues is intertwined.

First, to the categories: When we registered for the challenge, we were asked to describe our blogs using a two-letter code. The idea was to give other bloggers some idea of what your blog was about before they clicked. Many participants thought there should be more categories added. Some also suggested they should describe the theme, rather than the blog, since the two could vary wildly. My initial reaction to the category idea was, Categories? I don’t need no stinking categories! I assigned myself one. But I basically ignored other people’s blog categories because I wanted to visit ALL of them, regardless of topic.I will also admit my initial reaction to blogs being categorized is that it had the potential to hurt some blogs that might be at a disadvantage if ghetto-ized into a category with a very small niche.  

Secondly, the comments: Some participants said they didn’t leave comments because they couldn’t think of anything to say. And I’m like, What? Most bloggers are writers, for crying out loud. Surely you can come up with 10 words on the fly, like that old Toastmasters improv exercise. If you can’t come up with a few words for a token comment, blog comments are the least of your worries.

That’s how I felt about categories and comments - until I had my light bulb moment.

I’ve been listening to several writing podcasts recently. One in particular really solved a problem I’ve been having with a current WIP. I couldn’t wait to get to the keyboard and type up a comment. And that’s when I realized: If I’m not that excited about every comment I leave, I shouldn’t be leaving it. I shouldn’t be wasting my time on meaningless ‘hey, just dropping by from the A to Z’ comments in a likely fruitless attempt to increase my page rank.

After my light bulb moment, I now understand why people want the categories to be clear, unambiguous, and definitive of both blog and theme if possible.The bloggers who are asking for this have already had the light bulb moment. They know what they are interested in and where they will have the best chance of finding blogs they will want to comment on organically. Otherwise, they’re wasting their time as well as yours.

I like to think I have an open mind. I’m willing to change my opinion when I’m wrong, especially when learning through personal experience. The 2016 A to Z Challenge was full of those experiences for me. What were some of your light bulb moments this year?

Lissa Johnston is a writer. Her latest book, The Dala Horse, is a middle grade adventure available now at Amazon. She blogs at

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Time for the 2016 A to Z Post Challenge Road Trip

Are YOU ready to cruise through the 2016 A-Z Challenge list?  If you're like most of us, you didn't make the total rounds during April.  Now's your chance to catch up to some of the great bloggers who posted during the 7th annual Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  And the good news is that we've got the rest of this year to do our road trippin'.

Thanks to the late great Tina Downey at Life is Good and Shannon Lawrence at The Warrior Muse who started the Road Trip (formerly known as the Post-Challenge Challenge) -- by calling on each other to visit all of the blogs on the list before the next A-Z Challenge rolled around -- we now have this year-round event to stay active in the blogosphere during the "off-season."

Now I invite you to join us on the 6th annual Post-Challenge Road Trip, a meandering journey through the 2016 list of A-Z participants, at your own pace, with your own rules, and very few expectations.

The most important thing to keep in mind is you're the boss of you're own schedule and approach to visiting blogs. Whether you want to visit one new blog on a daily basis or hundreds of blogs per day, you're the one at the wheel. The Road Trip is really just some buddies in the blogging community hanging out and visiting new voices in the A-Z world.

A few strategies that may have worked for Road Trippers include...
  • Visiting all the blogs with similar topics or categories as yours
  • Visiting all the blogs whose names make you curious
  • Visiting all the blogs at even (or odd) numbers on the list
  • Start from where you left off and keep on truckin'...
  • Visiting blogs that are low (or high, or in the middle) on the list
  • Visiting blogs randomly by just clicking on titles located in different areas of the list
Whatever you do, remember that signing up on the linky doesn't mean you're committed to visiting ALL of the blogs on the list. Coming along with us on this Road Trip just indicates that you're not done yet and would like to show your fellow A-Z participants some visiting and commenting love. These are among the things that keep a blogging community strong.  In your blog travels, if you run across any bad links on the list please let us know (contact info at tab)--we've tried cleaning up the list, but there still may be some bad links in there.

Who's with us for the 2016 Post-Challenge Road Trip?  Sign up below!