A to Z Challenge

Pandora’s Tacklebox Returns!

Last year, as some of you remember, my theme for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge was Pandora’s Tacklebox: The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days. I showed everyone who showed up for the challenge how NOT to write, through the adventures of manly billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle and his mermaid lover Dropsy Velvet.

Many of you got a laugh out of this, and it’s been brought up over and over during my theme reveal for this year. Some of you suggested I should put Pandora’s Tacklebox in e-book format for distribution, and so guess what I went and did?

PANDORA’S TACKLEBOX IS NOW AN E-BOOK! Ahem, that is, a FREE e-book (I wouldn’t try to charge you good people for this nonsense). You can download it in tons of different formats on Smashwords!

Let me teach you how NOT to write a book…

Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.

There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.

Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever…

——-

This book was originally a collection of blog posts that made up my theme for the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which lasts 26 days and covers each letter of the alphabet. My hoped-for goal, gentle readers and writers, is to teach you how not to write a book. From awful dialog to awkward foreshadowing, cartoonish villains and even more cartoonish heroes, useless details, too many details, plot that goes nowhere, and metaphor-laced drivel, there will be something to offend even the most seasoned writer/agent/editor/beta reader/long-suffering friend of an author who thinks they’ve seen it all. Take notes, learn, discuss, and most importantly–laugh.

GET IT FREE AT SMASHWORDS!

Blogging From A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

This is my third year doing the challenge, and it’s time to bring the truth.

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Here’s 26 things that are just the worst about writing:

A – Authors
B – Books
C – Creating Characters
D – Dialog
E – Edits
F – Fantasy Worlds
G – Grammar
H – Homophones
I – Inconsistencies
J – Jealousy
K – Killing Your Darlings
L – Language
M – Message
N – Notes
0 – Originality
P – Plot
Q – Quantity
R – Readers
S – Self-Publishing
T – Transitions
U – Unfinished Manuscripts
V – Viewpoint
W – Word Count
X – Xeriscaping
Y – You
Z – Zero Days

Take heed! Hear my warning. Do not let yourself fall prey to this insidious pastime called writing, for down that path is nothing but tears, aggravation, folly, and disappointment. Not to mention: deadlines! Plot holes! Poor character development! Awful dialog! Rejection! Grammar mistakes! Bad reviews! Oooooh, it’s enough to chill the blood. WRITE AT YOUR OWN RISK.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, this theme will be pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

It’s Coming!

I realized with a shock this past weekend that January is almost over, and The Blogging From A to Z Challenge will be upon us in three short months! I always try to queue up my posts in February so that when April rolls around, I can sail through the challenge. Last year, of course, my theme was Pandora’s Tacklebox, the worst romance novel ever written in 26 days. I came up with a theme for this year while writing this week’s IWSG post. Now let’s see if I can capture any of the wit and humor of last year.

Nothing is officially scheduled on the site yet, but I hover anxiously, awaiting sign-ups. Are you in this year?

Edit: There will be a big announcement about the challenge February 6th!

Blogging from A to Z–it approaches!

In case you don’t know, sign-ups are open for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge! At the moment, there’s over 800 blogs participating–wow, that’s a lot! The challenge is simple: blog every day in the month of April (except Sundays) using each letter of the alphabet for your post subject. You get to pick whatever you’d like to write about, there’s no rules or restrictions. As a bonus, you get tons of visitors to your blog and make a whole bunch of new friends and find new awesome blogs to read.

Last year, the A to Z Challenge was what made me a ‘real’ blogger. Prior to taking the challenge (my first), I was a lazy blogger and when I did blog, I scrabbled for subjects to write about. I still struggle now and then, but I’m a much more consistent blogger and I can come up with ideas more easily. I found that like anything, blogging takes practice to get good at it. I still wouldn’t call myself some blogging expert, but I enjoy it and it’s my most active form of social media. I also got most of my blog followers from the challenge as well as the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop, which is run by the same group of people who run the A to Z Challenge.

Speaking of that, I’m going to be an April co-host for IWSG, which means I’ll be co-hosting in the middle of the A to Z Challenge as well! How’s THAT for taking some blogging risks? I would have never dreamed of trying something like this last year. Now…bring it on! I’m ready to be a mega-blogger.

I’m hoping to do something both educational and entertaining with my A to Z theme this year. Speaking of that–the theme reveal sign-ups are now open as well! Ha, can you tell I was eager to sign up judging by who got the first slot on the list? (Actually, I had to get up for work at 5 am and I just hit up the list when I got up because I knew it was sign-up day and I didn’t want to forget…but I was also eager.) You’ll have to wait until March 21st to find out what I’ll be blogging about this year.

Are you doing the A to Z Challenge this year? Are you curious? Do you need some encouraging words? I’d be happy to help!

My style and reflections on the A-Z Challenge.

Today I’m combining my NaBloPoMo post with my A-Z Challenge reflection post.

I loved doing the A-Z Challenge during the month of April. This was the first year I did it and I was surprised by how much fun I had, how many new people I met, and how many wonderful conversations I had on my blog as well as the blogs of others. I honestly wasn’t much of a blogger before this challenge, but it certainly turned me into one!

The challenge is quite a marathon, but I queued up all my posts well ahead of time (I started writing them in February). I don’t think I could do the challenge if I wrote the posts daily, so I’m glad there is plenty of time in advance of the challenge to get the posts written. Being able to pick your own theme–or no theme at all–is great too.

I have no complaints about the challenge. I think it’s what you make of it. The idea was great, the community is great, the blog hop is enormous and gives you the opportunity to visit and be visited by many others, and overall it just made me a better blogger. I will definitely be doing it again next year. Thank you so much to all the organizers and co-hosts. Your job was huge and you did it beautifully!

And now, hello to all the new friends I made, and thanks for sticking around to see me through the next challenge. Which is…


NaBloPoMo_PHOTO

During the month of May I’m doing the NaBloPoMo challenge–blogging every day of the month on the theme of photos.

Today’s prompt: What is your favourite angle for being photographed? Head-on? Slightly above, below, to the side?
Photo: Your Style

Any good selfie-taker will tell you that the best angle is from slightly above. It stretches out your neck, makes your jaw sharper, your eyes bigger, and just makes your face look overall awesome:

And makes your boobs bigger?

And makes your boobs bigger?

My style is wild and colorful. I try to be unique and slightly fashionable, though I don’t really care much about fashion. People often tell me I have a fun style. I can rock the weirdest things and make them work. This is a huge advantage, because it means I can get tons of clothes and accessories on clearance that no one else wants.

I love pink, can you tell?

I love pink, can you tell?

I also love scarves.

I also love scarves.

I never met a mirror I didn't like.

I never met a mirror I didn’t like.

Z is for Zipping It Up

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

On the last day of the challenge, I’m going to focus on the end of one part of the writing process and the bridge to the next: the submission. Zipping up your work and sending it off into the world can be nerve-wracking, and there’s so much to remember you might feel a little intimidated. As someone who has gone through the process a lot, I’m going to offer a few pieces of advice to make it easier on you.

Make sure you have everything: There is no sinking feeling in the world like hitting the ‘send’ button and realizing you forgot to attach something. Sure, you can do an ‘oops, forgot this’ follow up email, but how embarrassing. Make sure everything you need to send along is attached (and it’s the right things) and all the information you need to provide is in your cover letter. I’m a stickler for checking multiple times to make sure everything is good to go. This is an important interaction and you want to make the best first impression you possibly can.

Follow guidelines: Don’t deviate from the editor or agent’s guidelines for any reason. Some editors and agents will immediately reject any submission that deviates from their rules–cause ain’t nobody got time for that. You just helped them trim their submission pile which, make no mistake, is huge. If you want to survive the hacking, be professional, courteous, and follow their guidelines to the letter. Even if you think a guideline is silly, they have a reason for implementing it.

Check small details: You may do all the big things right and have some small detail trip you up. I operate several email accounts through Gmail, so I check to make sure I’m using the right email address when I send something out. Make sure THEIR email address is right, too. Make sure your attachments actually attached. Spell check your cover letter. Don’t let some small, silly detail screw up everything.

Keep track: You may send out multiple submissions, so keep track of where your work is going and when you sent it out, as well as when you can expect to hear back from the person you sent it to. This will help you from going as crazy.

That’s the end of the challenge! Do you have any additional tips for zipping it up and sending it off?

Thank you so much to everyone who visited my blog, read my posts, and commented this month–I’ve had a lot of fun doing this and making new friends! I’m quite sorry to see it end and I’ll definitely be doing it again next year. I had no idea when I started this how it would change me as a blogger. I never expected so many people to show up and chat with me, to tell me their stories, and to be so engaged in my posts. I am truly touched. If you want to continue following me and talking to me here, or on Twitter or Facebook, you are certainly welcome!

By the way, now that this challenge is over, I’m moving on to the next! Come join me in May for NaBloPoMo, blogging every day in May about photos! I’m a bit of a blogging addict now…

NaBloPoMo_PHOTO

nablopomo-may

Hope to see you there–or at least here!

Y is for Yearning

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

For most of my life I’ve wanted to be a writer. It was never just a hobby for me, even when I wasn’t getting anywhere with it and I was far, far away from making any kind of money off it. Even through years of frustration, false starts, and rejections, I knew I was a writer. Nothing ever made me feel like writing did and when I looked into the future, I couldn’t imagine being anything but a writer. It took a lot of years to get to where I am now, maybe a lot more than some people take, but I always followed the same path.

That’s not to say the path was easy, or I didn’t sometimes fall off. More than once I shook my fist at the Universe and swore I was done. I’d had enough heartbreak, I’d failed enough times. I wanted to do something easier, something that wouldn’t hurt me so bad. The problem was, there was nothing else. The future without writing looked gray and bleak. Eventually I’d wander back to the page, roll up my sleeves, and get back to work doing what it was I was meant to do.

Writing has always been a yearning in me, something coded into my DNA that I couldn’t remove if I wanted to. It made me who I am from a young age and gave me a purpose. I always knew I was a writer and I didn’t question it. I’m blessed in that way, to always know what my role in life is, what I’m supposed to be. I struggled to get to a place with it where I’m content, but I have a feeling I won’t stay here long before I want to surge forward again. The yearning remains.

How about you, have you always been a writer? Did the yearning keep you on the path even when you wanted to wander off?

By the way, when this challenge is over, I’m moving on to the next! Come join me in May for NaBloPoMo, blogging every day in May about photos!

NaBloPoMo_PHOTO

X is for Xesturgy

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

The word ‘xesturgy’ means ‘polishing.’ Technically it means to polishing an object, like stones, but it’s hard to find good words that start with X, so I’m going to use it in the sense of polishing your writing. After all, a body of writing is an object, sorta, right?

The xesturgy of a manuscript is vital to its success (see, I used it in a sentence). No one turns out a perfect first draft. If you know any writers who claim they do, they’re lying. It’s impossible to turn out a perfect first draft because you don’t know what the story looks like until you get it all out. Something you inserted in the beginning might not fit anymore by the time you get to the end. Some details may have ran into dead ends. Things need to be clipped. Xesturgy isn’t editing, though. Editing and rewriting are vital first steps to shaping up a rough draft, but it still needs a bit of polishing before you send it out into the world.

Even when you think you’ve done all you can to edit and fix up a manuscript, you should go over it one more time. Run that cloth over it and make it shine. Ideally, let it sit for a bit so you can look at it with fresh eyes, then give it another wipe. This will increase your chances of success when it lands in the hands of an editor or agent. And don’t worry–if it gets accepted, there will still be more arounds of xesturgy. Editors will polish that baby until you can see your face in it. It seems like the polishing is never done, but some day it will be. Then you won’t ever have to look at that story again if you don’t want to.

How do you use xesturgy on a manuscript? How much do you polish before you’re comfortable sending it off?

By the way, when this challenge is over, I’m moving on to the next! Come join me in May for NaBloPoMo, blogging every day in May about photos!

NaBloPoMo_PHOTO

W is for Writing

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

Of course writers write, that’s why we’re called that. We can also at times be called editors and procrastinators and coffee and wine connoisseurs, but hopefully that’s not the bulk of what we do. I thought about using W for ‘Wasting Time’ because I do a lot of that, but I wanted to be encouraging instead–and not admit to my own slacking. Though of course I just did.

So many things can distract a writer from writing. ‘Real life’ of course takes our time and we can’t fight that–jobs and family, chores, errands, the necessities of life in general. Some things we can avoid, but they’re so tempting: mindlessly browsing online, incessantly checking our reviews, TV shows we need to catch up on, and just generally being lazy. Of course to be writers we have to write, and sometimes I admit I sit down to it with a lot of moaning and a great big sigh, but once I get into it I feel a lot better about myself and the work.

It doesn’t matter how you write as long as you do it. You can write on paper or tap away on a computer, you can do it at a coffee shop or hidden away in a closet. Nothing else makes me feel like writing does. I feel like myself when I write, and it’s the only time I don’t feel like I’m wasting time and should be doing something else. Writing is part of my soul and I know a lot of other writers feel the same way. It can be a lot of hard work, but it’s good, happy work, too.

How about you, do you have to make yourself stop procrastinating and just write? How do you motivate yourself?

V is for Voice

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

Writers often talk about finding their ‘voice,’ especially when they’re first starting out. What is a voice? I suppose it means your own unique way of telling stories, the part of yourself that you weave into the narrative. Some authors have distinctive tones and moods they set with their writing, and this is partly what a voice is. Some authors tell a story like you’re sitting around a campfire with them, close and companionable, and some tell stories in a more dry, straightforward way. Readers enjoy different things, so you’re sure to find someone who enjoys your voice, whatever it is.

How do you develop a voice? Mainly through writing–lots of writing–and working through the words to find it. It comes from creating different characters and building worlds for them, watching them interact and driving them with your plots. Voice is developed through writing different kinds of stories and seeing what you enjoy the most, what sticks, and what makes the most sense to you. Testing it out on other people and seeing what they think is valuable too, but you are the most important person when it comes to your voice…after all, you’re the one who has to write in it for the rest of your career.

Voice can come from your own life experiences and how you see the world. It can be derived from your morals and personal beliefs. It can be shaped by the lessons you want to teach through your writing. Your voice is you, what’s in your heart, and when that’s where it comes from it rings the most true.

How about you, are you still developing your voice? What voices of other writers do you enjoy?