Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Take A Chance Tuesday - 2nd Edition

After a week off, Take A Chance Tuesday is back on schedule.

Since many found the first challenge far too onerous for their busy lives, let's try something (I hope is...) easier and you don't even have to leave the blog to accomplish it.

In the comments below, name the top 5 books that, in your opinion, defines your primary genre or niche, and write a one or two sentence reason why you feel the book is essential. (i.e. The books that are most like what your write yourself)

Be sure to include-

  • Title of the Book
  • Author's Name (Real or Pen name, if applicable)
  • All kid and teen friendly genres eligible
  • You can nominate adult books so long as they are not erotic in nature (We try to say a soft PG-13 around here)

Be personal, and yes, I will disqualify entries if they go over two sentences per book.

Deadline: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 at NOON EST

Do your best, and until next time,
Take a chance!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Musical Musings #1.5 (Special Cheer Up Edition)

Sorry I was MIA last week, lots of non-writing related, as well writing related snafus brought me down, and the blog, along with my new WIP novel suffered because of it.

I won't say much now to avoid a rant that helps neither you nor me, so instead, here's a video I hope will lift your spirits, as it does mine. (All you die hard realists, the following video might be seen as sappy and too cute to exist, but some of us need it to avoid being drunks or bitter old sticks in the mud, okay?)

Everyone else, enjoy! 

Ciao for now,

P.S. Don't worry, there will be a proper Musical Musings review later this week if not today, but until things improve on my end, my posts will be late at times, but I will update some this week.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Face Your Fear Friday - Episode 1

Today's Friday, and that means it's time to, "Face Your Fear."

Every Friday, you'll be given three days to meet a personal goal, and report back on what you learned, even if you don't complete your goal as planned, do you best to learn at least one thing that will help your writing process in the long run. If abundant success comes from countless failures, you will learn something worth learning, even if you didn't meet the goal as intended.

Be kind to yourself. Pick a goal that you know won't require more you can give in three days, something you know your writing lacks, and won't inherently require a certain kind of study or focus you know you can't achieve in that short a time frame.

For example, most writers can't draft a book or even short story in a day or two, however bad, but we can study up on craft and catch up on some market or story research.

Here are the rules (Only 3)

1. Pick a challenge that will aid in honing a weak point in your writing process. Small enough to finish over three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Midnight)

2. Comment on this post before Midnight about the writing challenge you're giving yourself and why.

3. Report back here again in the comments on Monday before 1:00 AM Tuesday, EST. What was your weekend challenge? Did you complete complete the challenge, and if not, what did you learn from your challenge that will help your writing in the long run?

To all those who join me in this challenge, I wish you all luck.

So go and face that fear!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Random Wednesday #1 (3-7-12)

Today's Wednesday, and that means it's time to get random.

Today I'll share some links to some of the more interesting things I found on the web this week. Some may be writing related, some may not, it all depends on what caught my eyes the most in a given week.

Take A Chance Tuesday - 1st Edition

I know today's Wednesday, but I had too much to do offline to get it up yesterday, so bear with me a moment. Every week (On Tuesdays from now on!), I'll post a new  writing challenge prompt, and you have only until next Tuesday to finish, and report your findings.

I'll discuss the submission part in a moment, bur first it's time to reveal this week's challenge-

Since writers are at varying stages of the process, you'll have a choice of two challenges, you can do only one, or both if you really want to get ambitious.

Challenge #1: To celebrate revision week on my new favorite blog of the moment (Dear Editor) your challenge is to take a chapter from your WIP novel, and try to shorten it to half it's current length.

Challenge #2: Write a one page letter in the voice of your main character or antagonist.

Since I got this up a day late, I'll give you until next Thursday before Noon EST to finish, and you don't have to share the work on the blog.

To enter, all you need to do is post in the comments below, state your first name or pen/nickname if easy to remember and fairly short, and which challenge you're taking on, or both if you're the ambitious type.

Next Thursday, BEFORE Noon EST, go back to the first "Take A Chance Tuesday" post, and comment on how you did with the challenge. Whether you succeeded, or not, and why.

Share anything and everything you learned.

T.A.A. is about celebrating success and rising above stumbles along the way.

NOTE: After this week, all Take A Chance challenges must be completed by the following Tuesday.

The reason I don't ask to submit your results to the blog is twofold. First, especially for new writers, it's easier to acknowledge our growth (However fast or slow) when we don't get overly competitive towards others, since not everyone needs or responds well to heated competition when they're struggling to learn new skills.

Second, theses challenges are meant to help writers build their own sense of progress, rather than use other writers as a yardstick for excellence, since unless you know your process naturally gels with another writer, especially if you're in a hands-on critique group, you can make yourself insane trying to work out if this is general info you need or  is just one writer's subjective preference they make work fine for that writer, but will do more harm than good if you employ similar counsel.

I want to help writers learn to better trust their own judgement, because the better judge you can be to you, the more civil and impartial you can be toward others when you critique their work, and be able to provide better feedback to them.

Do your best, and until next time,
Take A Chance!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Musical Musings #1 - Down Home Jazz and Groovy Hospitality

Welcome to the first edition of T.A.A.'s Musical Musings, where every Monday I'll talk about my second love after writing fiction, music, give a review of various music albums, and profile an artist I love and why.

Now since this is the debut edition of Musical Musings, I want to start with two albums that speak to two parts of myself, the "Golden Oldie Lover Under 30" part of me, and the "Modern Eclectic Rebel, again, under 30" part of me. Sometimes at odds. But are equally vital pieces to myself.

Let's begin with a compilation of one of the most influential music duos in my life, and to give you a hint, they're not anyone on the current top charts, and have been dead nearly (if not over) three decades.

Give up? It's The Carpenters - Singles (1969-1981)

(Click the Album Picture to find it on Amazon)

If you're tired of songs about bashing politicians, glorifying gender inequality,shallow lyrics and perverse sexual escapades, stay with this blog post.

I first heard a Carpenter's song when I was eight years old on one of those Time Life CD collection commercials (For those born after the 90s, this was pre-1st gen iPod (Now called Classic) and iTunes was still a technological pipe dream).

But it wasn't until my early teens that I bought a copy of their most well known singles that spanned a wide range when they were on top in their career, before things got "Heavy and Trippy" as it might be described in the culture at the time.

Instead of listening to "My Generation's music", which was dense with hip hop and heavy metal stuff that was simply not my thing, often it was the ballads and show tunes of old that did it for me, when it wasn't Mozart and Beethoven (Yeah, I was not a mainstream kid, and proud of it, just wish it wasn't as lonely).

Back to the point, this album a great primer for newbies to the groovy, yet timeless feel of a group that may sound tame compared to the envelopes being pushed and pretty much torn to shreds today, turned many heads in their prime.

In one sense, you could say they were one of the many musical counterparts to writers like Judy Blume Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, or Ellen Hopkins who are no strangers to the banning and censorship challenges relating to their books,

Many of my favorite songs are in this complication, most notably are-

"Rainy Days and Mondays"

For being "The most hated day in the week" we got one heck of a righteous song for it.

"Goodbye to Love"

I guess you could call it "The love song for people who've had it with love songs" subversive kind of thing. But like many of the more serious matured tunes, it has a tinge of hope, which I certainly appreciate.

"It's Going To Take Some Time"

For impatient folks like me, this is a life mantra in addition to being a bang-up song.

"Those Good Old Dreams"

I'll wager you a cheesecake that you can't help wanting sing along to this one, even if you aren't musically inclined.


If you, or your kids/grandkids were raised on Sesame Street, you'll have heard this song before, but hearing Karen's take on it brings a more timeless feel to it, not that it needed any extra help there, but these days you flaunt whatever you can, right?

"All You Get From Love Is A Love Song"

In that same viral "Love song for folks who've had it with love song" vibe, but clearly more overtly cheeky and humorous than the more subtle and open-ended "Goodbye To Love."

Karen's vocals bring it all home, it's strong, while retaining that uniquely feminine pitch, powerful without beating you over the head. Sharp lyrics that aren't pretentious.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most enjoyable overall, Carpenters "Singles (1969-1981)" compilation gets a solid 9.

For something more modern, let's fast forward to the 21st century for my second pick for this week, a jazz

album by Catherine Russel titled "Inside This Heart of Mine."

(Click the Album Picture to find it on Amazon)

Now this may at first sound like the old-school lounge jazz your parents/grandparents/great-grandparents even, worshiped as their "Non-Gospel" Gospel, if you get my meaning. But these songs have a faster pace than some of the hardcore 1920s and 1930s Jazz, but don't sacrifice the charm, cheek, or experimentation this style of music was born with. The title song is a strong representation of what I mean.

Other songs worth noting-

"All the Cats Join In"

This is the kind of song that makes you want to open your own Honky Tonk. Well, me anyway.

"We The People"

Probably the only overtly politically inspired song I not only love, but want to dance to!

"Quiet Whiskey"

Only the world of Jazz can make drunks and family dysfunction sound almost spiritual, in a comedic sense, mind you.

This is Catherine's third album and in my opinion, one of her best, and one of the few albums where I feel nearly all the songs are equally well composed and performed.

Her fourth album, Strictly Romancin', came out around Valentine's Day this year, but this a great place to start if you've not heard Catherine Russell previous two albums, Cat or Sentimental Streak (Despite the name, don't think after-school special meets The Grande Ole Opry) it's the good, non-cheesy sentimental.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most enjoyable overall, Catherine Russell's "Inside This Heart of Mine" earns a 10.

That's it for Musical Musings, so until next time, this hep rat has left the cheese shop.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New Blog Schedule!

After much thought and care, I can announce the new schedule for T.A.A. starting next week-

Each day will a special feature unique to that day, as well as posts dealing with a particular aspect of books and writing. This will keep my eclectic interests in check, and still have some sense of order, but in a more flexible way.


Musical Musings
I review music, profile new artists (at least new to me), and share my passions and frustrations of what's become my second art form/passion. 


Take A Chance Tuesday
A weekly writing challenge to get out of our comfort zone and unleash our inner-Avant Garde vigilante.


Random Wednesday
Thoughts and musings of anything intriguing in my world.

The World Building Wars
An ongoing series about ways to take some of the "Crazy!!" out of crafting our fantasy worlds.


Get VersedThursday
If you're ready to take the pain out of poetry, whether you read it, write it, or both, stop by and learn along with me.


Face Your Fear Friday
Writers don't just need to "Write outside the comfort zone" but also must "Read" outside it, too. Every week a new prompt will get you, and me, to embrace worlds and ideas we may NEVER want to live, but are fun to read!

I know many writers who thankfully don't have this problem, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who goes through this, and I invite those of you like me in this regard to take the leap of faith along with me, we need to show writers who deal with this they are not alone, even if we are not the majority. 

T.A.A. Top 5
A weekly list of anything and everything I love, and why, in as short a way as I can say it. (That in and of itself is a fear worth facing)

Saturday (Check Back Tomorrow!)


Shout-Out Sundays 
Every week I'll highlight any blog, book, writer or publishing tips that I want to spotlight.

The T.A.A. Sunday Gazette 
(Info to come 3/3/2012)

More tomorrow,

I've been tagged (This time it's For Real!)

Not only was I tagged by someone, as opposed to tagging myself, but was awarded this-

Here are the answers to questions asked of me by tagger, Mariah, who I tagged in February-

1.   If you could ask any author for a critique/advise, who would it be?
I'd ask the now late Brian Jacques-

"How did you tow the line between your animals being human-like in their thinking, yet using their natural instincts and sensibilities without turning it into a nature documentary, and doing what your story wants, without the reader having a 'Realism' complex?"

2.  What’s your favorite movie? (We all can’t write and read all the time. :))
Whisper of The Heart.

3.  If you were trapped on an island, would you rather have a box of books or a box of paper and pens?
A box of books and at least ONE notebook. I'd prefer a pencil, can erase misspellings without things looking like a classified evidence document (Yes, I'm that kind of chronicler).

4.  Favorite Candy?
As a kid: Hershey's 
 Whatchamacallit  (Still love them, but they're hard to find) and yes, it's a real word too, go figure!

Now: Chewy Caramels and Snickers bar (WAY easier to find)

5.  What is your favorite animal?
I know I write a lot about rats, and they are in my top 5, but my favorite animal is actually wolves. In part, because they are wild cousins of domestic dogs, but also because like rats, there's more to their behavior and intelligence than people first think. I just  haven't found the right story to really make use of them in my own writing.

Right now I'm working with Weasels in my new WIP.

6.  Do you have one place on earth that you dream of visiting?
Japan, for three key reasons-

1. Restaurant food!
The soups, sweets, fried stuff, and dumplings I can't get where I live without making it myself, and just finding the ingredients'/equipment is a challenge…

I know ramen has a sordid reputation among college students in the USA, but like sushi, it's an art form in the east. Like sushi chefs who train for a decade or more to be certified, there are folks who spend years crafting their own signature soup to use in their ramen shop. 

No different than homemade waffles versus the frozen box version.

2. Jinbo-Cho (Think of it like the "Hollywood for books" or New York Literary culture in Japan)

 If you've seen either Read or Die or R.O.D. the TV, you'll know the place I'm talking about. If not, Google it sometime! I'm hoping I'll find some obscure rare book for my collection, even if it's not in English, though preferably something I can read as well as covet.

3. Fish Market!
Had there been a market like this in my youth, I might've been a seafood lover years ago! I still don't cook it at home for fear of not getting it right, and with the expense and finding places that have it fresh and unsmelly when you live in the Midwest, not easy!

7.  What is your favorite paranormal power and why?
As much as I'd like to fly, have the strength of a 10 grizzly bears, or turn into a wolf (While still being able to talk and have my humanity in tact) I'd most rather just be able to talk to animals.

8.  Coffee?
Yes, so long it's well made, and I consider myself a "Barista-in-training" when it comes to making my own.

Grinding my own beans (as I need them), carefully brewed in small batches, that kind of thing. I 've yet to learn how to make certain things like milky foam for cappuccino, but for me fresh beans ground as needed is the only way to go. I only used the pre-ground instant stuff for baking, unless the recipe otherwise calls for freshly brewed coffee. I can take it straight with sugar, I'd only like milk it it's a cappuccino, which I'm still learning to make better at home.

Though I do like tea as well. That I can't enjoy on average without milk! Sugar too.

9.    Who is your favorite storybook character?
As a reader I've got too many to name.

But as a writer I really love Lyle the Crocodile.
Primarily because I'd personally find a great challenge (being a non-illustrator) to write a character who despite not being able to talk, has such depth, and thoughtful expression that's organic.

For a writer like me, who's all about chatty and witty, taking away a character's ability to speak, be they human or otherwise, would be a great challenge for me, but one I do want to tackle one day.

10.  Do you believe in magic? Why or why not?
I do, but not the top hat kind. More the kind you see in Harry Potter.
It's a part of daily life in the non-Muggle world, but has varying levels of being typical, unusual, or seemingly simple yet majestic, it often depends on the user.

Besides, almost every religion you can name has those few stories that frankly can only make sense (And be true!) if there's some variant of magic or otherworldly power involved, so even if it's not as common as breathing air, to like what's in Lord or the Rings, it's got to exist in some form.

I mean, how many people do you know who can part The Red Sea?

Now since most of the blogs I follow have been tagged more than once, my list will be smaller, but still blogs I follow-

Cat Woods (Words from the Woods)
She was a big inspiration to me when query letters were Hell on Earth two years ago, and like my friend Kelly Hashway who I interviewed for Critter Chat, she has had a long, hard road, and still struggles to stay on the sunny side of her writing life. Still, she is many ways a far braver and practical about her writing process than I can say, though much has improved since the last time we talked.

(Katrina D. (Cat) This is the "Other Cat" I know)

Kristi Holl (Writer's First Aid) based on her books, Writer's First Aid, and More Writer's First Aid,
A blog I follow and refer to often, and while the advice is not easy to follow, or read, I commend Kristi for still understanding the writer's side of the story, not just the business side, which some blogs don't respect enough, even if the facts are correct.

Here are your questions-

1.  What is the weirdest book you read as a kid?

2. What's the weirdest book you read as a teen?

3. Name one book you read that took something you normally don't enjoy reading but made it enjoyable for you once you read it.

4. What's your favorite Movie?

5. What's your Chinese Zodiac Sign? Are you at odds with it? Why or why not? (Not sure of your sign? Click here!)

6. Who's the most "Out there" writer you've ever read, and LIKED anyway?

7. Bake from scratch or from mix?

8. If you could spend the day with any author, living or dead, who would it be? What you thank him or her for writing?

9. Favorite Musical Instrument (Whether you play it or not)

10. Are there "Classic" books you comprehend and love
(Classic in this context is ANY book originally published before 1960)

11. Are you more adventurous in "risque" material as a reader than a writer?
(I don't just mean S-E-X...)

12. What animal do you think is the most misunderstood and why?

Stay gripped to your mouse, there's more to come today,