Time--2017 A to Z Theme

My theme for the 2017 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge was "Time". The posts are of a more philosophical, contemplative, and even autobiographical bent. No time management tips in this theme, but stuff intended to make you think.

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Do You Have a Book to Promote? Let Damyanti Help

Novels in a Polish bookstore
Novels in a Polish bookstore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         Besides being a terrific A to Z Co-host, Damyanti is a good friend to all of us--especially writers.  She's making an offer you should not refuse!

Marketing:  Someone's Gotta Do It


Whether traditionally published or self-published, writers these days have to do more than writing, and that includes marketing, publicity and what not. Being a writer myself, this thing scares me because I’m terrified of toting my own work.

But I like reading books by my fellow-authors, and would like to push their books as much as possible – it helps them in some small way, and it helps my blog audience discover additions to their reading list. Keeping this in mind, I’ve started a Wednesday book feature on Amlokiblogs.

If you're an author looking to get more publicity for your latest book, or buzz up an old one, send me the following at atozstories at gmail dot com:

1. Title of Book, Genre, Author Name
2. A one to two sentence elevator pitch (Not more than 50 words)
3. Author's fave excerpt from the book (Not more than 250 words)
4. Links from where the books can be purchased.
5. Blogpost-sized Book Cover

I'd like an email expressing your interest first, with a link to the book, before you send out the above.

The elevator pitch and the teaser excerpt need to be well-polished, ready to be showcased. This is for books only-- novels and short story collections. I'd like to feature non-fiction as well, but no poetry or erotica(sounds horrible, grouped like that, I know, but I run fiction-based, PG13 blogs).

I have books going till August, and have slots in September open now. If you need your book featured urgently and I particularly love your book, I might also feature them on Daily (w)rite.

I look forward to reading your excerpts, and if intrigued enough, featuring them and buying your books!

Thank you Lee, for letting me speak about this on your blog--- and for being an awesome blog-friend.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do YOU Have Lazy Commenters’ Syndrome?

      Today I leave my blog in the very capable hands of a frequent visitor to Tossing It Out, my A to Z Co-host and friend Nicole Ayers:

Do YOU Have Lazy Commenters’ Syndrome?
Photo: Relaxing with his first born...
Arlee's son-in-law dog tired from reading blogs (Photo by Ada Z)

      Some people who do not leave comments on most of the blog posts they read tend to have a few lazy habits in common. Excuses are among the most discouraging habits that one can possess when it comes to engagement within the blogging community. The habit affects bloggers who have taken the time – and sometimes courage (if the blog post is revealing) -- to share a bit of knowledge, wisdom, personal experiences and/or useful resources with their readers, through the power of the written word. Here are some solutions that can help get rid of the excuses that people make for why they are not commenting on blogs.

 “I don’t have enough time to leave a comment on the blogs I read.”

    Depending on the length of a blog post, reading it takes up more time than commenting. If you have time to read a blog post that is 500-1,000 words in length, then you have time to also comment on that post. Are you still really short on free time? Consider leaving a comment during commercial breaks while you’re watching a TV show. You could also play some music to provide a three-five minute “countdown” limit, of sorts, where you write comments on blogs within that specific timeframe. When the song (or TV commercial break) is over, you will have completed a task that was once low on the priority list. The central focus here is about making time where (you thought) there wasn’t any available.

“I don’t know what to say/can’t relate to the post/am unfamiliar with the topic or subject matter”

       Ok, we’ve all been there – when one finishes reading a blog post and realizes that he or she is at a loss for words, and thus, clicks away without leaving a comment. Maybe you liked the post but don’t think you have anything further to add to the conversation. Or, maybe you didn’t like what you read at all and would rather soon forget about it like nothing ever happened. Even when neither of the two apply because you’re neutral and fall somewhere in the middle of “I can take it or leave it” land, there are always options for commenting on a blog post – just be honest.

       When you really don’t have anything to say, consider writing a sentence that expresses what you didn’t like about a post or mention one small part of the entire post that stood out to you and why. Also, I’m going to let you in on a little secret “Hack” that I use sometimes when reading blog posts – especially when I’m short on time and need to get things moving along – commenting on comments! When you’re lost for words, just read a few of the comments that are already on the blog and then either respond to that commenter, or reference what the person said by using it as the basis for your comment.

“I’m not a member of the blog/social network/third-party app that is requiring me to sign-in or complete some sort of extra task just so I can add my two cents to the conversation”

      If this scenario applies to you, there is good news – you are not among those with this particular case of lazy commenters’ syndrome. The bloggers who make it difficult for people to leave a comment on their blog have this one! Yep, bloggers are not immune to the poor commenting habits that spread through the blogging community like a disease. If you are among those bloggers who place all sorts of hoops for readers to jump through before posting comments on their blog, you have created an unnecessary barrier to audience engagement. The hoops include world verification, placing the comment box in a hard-to-find location on the page or requiring people to sign-up for third-party apps and platforms such as Facebook, Disqus, Intense Debate, Google+ and Wordpress. Keeping these barriers in place is doing a disservice to your own blog. It is also just plain rude and shows a lack of courtesy to readers who have dedicated a portion of their busy day to engage with your blog posts.

     Providing a variety of options is the best way to accommodate comments from people who use different online platforms and profiles for their commenting activities. If this is not a feasible option for you, consider at least adding an optional “Name/URL” field – one of the most general fields to grace the comment boxes on many blogging platforms including Blogger and Wordpress. Since no one owes us or our blogs any attention, if you make it difficult for people to leave comments, it could cause them to start visiting someone else’s blog instead of yours!

Have YOU ever had a case of lazy commenters’ syndrome?  What is the #1 reason why YOU have chosen to not leave a comment on a blog post, at one time or another?

MadlabPostNicole Ayers is a writer and filmmaker who hosts the Monday Movie Meme, Co-Hosts the 2013 Blogging from #atozchallenge and Co-Hosts the Post A-to-Z Road Trip. She also wrote and directed the short film “Abyss” and can be found @MadlabPost on Twitter.

The ‘Monday Movie Meme’ Listing: http://thedailymeme.com/day/monday/

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Does Violence in Entertainment Contribute to Violence in Society?

 
Colby Marshall 
     Colby Marshall is no stranger to controversial topics and that being said, she is an ideal candidate to stand in for our Monday controversy post on Tossing It Out.   Her new book, The Trade, deals with a topic that's sure to stir some discussion.  Thank you, Colby, for taking over for me today.

Violence and the Entertainment Media

Columbine High School; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood; Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; Sandy Hook Elementary School; Boston, Massachusetts; Santa Monica College…

These are only some of the biggest mass killings related to guns and explosives in the United States in the past few years.

When my debut thriller, Chain of Command, released a month before its scheduled release date last year on December 8, 2012, little did I know that in only a few days, a gunman would walk into an elementary school in Connecticut and fatally shoot twenty school children and six adult staff members. I happily celebrated my release, posting my book’s cover image all over social media and blog posts, reveling in the fact that real, live humans were finally reading my book.

Then, six days later on December 14, families were torn apart by a senseless act of violence, and I sat looking at my new book, its cover proudly showcasing the assassination scene the book’s premise is built on.  But suddenly, the target caught in the crosshairs on my novel’s cover didn’t seem as perfect as it had a few days before.  For the next several days, I asked myself some hard questions about violence in entertainment, and if it was possible that I could be contributing to a problem sweeping across our nation, even if only indirectly. That week I had a tearful discussion with my editor, terrified everyone would suddenly hate me and my book and everything it stood for. I told her how scared I was of being a part of some unidentifiable problem, because when I wrote about such things, it was purely for entertainment and not because I think gun violence is good or to be encouraged.  I was a brand new mother. What if some kid out there was reading my material and thinking this was a good route to take to solve problems? What if my kid read my book and thought that? Grab a gun, and you’ll be okay…

My editor said something to me that has resonated with me since then, and it launched me into some deep thought, and ultimately, resolution about my feelings surrounding violence in entertainment.

She said, “Books don't cause tragedies, they simply reflect life.”

My new book, The Trade, is about a serial killer who cuts infants out of the bellies of pregnant women before ultimately killing the mothers, then sells the babies on the black market. Before the shooting in Connecticut, I was worried about what audiences would think about this premise. Pregnancies are considered sacred in many cultures, and people shy away from stories involving children in danger. If ever The Trade got published, would readers stay far, far away?

But now, after my editor’s words to me following the shooting in Connecticut, I don’t worry about it as much.  I will always wonder if it’s possible that violence in entertainment contributes to violence in society, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized violence in books and movies shows up there because it happens in real life—not the other way around.

The killers in my books, like evil people in real life, don’t care if society thinks their crimes are heinous and unacceptable. The malevolent might discriminate amongst victims based on age or their family history, but the reality is, most don’t. Children were present during the Boston Marathon bombings, and a mother of two as well as a six-year-old little girl were amongst the Aurora shooting victims.

But surely children being killed isn’t entertainment to us…right? What does it say about us that we read, write, and watch these sorts of things? It’s a question I asked so many times, and finally, one day, I found my answer.

We do it because it gives us control over the outcome.

I write stories about bad, bad guys who often have no conscience and commit twisted crimes, but for every bad guy, there’s a good guy fighting back, which brings up a whole new question: since often my heroes or heroines fight back with weapons—sometimes guns—does that mean I support citizens snapping up guns to use any time they deem appropriate?

Honestly, I don’t know. I know in the books it feels right, but at the same time, I do have control over the characters, their actions, their aim, and their training. When you can control the thoughts surrounding when a weapon is fired and the person who is firing it, arming someone is infallible. They can only hit those you choose, their minds will be sound if you deem them so, they are safe while firing as long as you keep them that way, and they will only endanger others through their actions if you decide they will. Real people aren’t quite as fail-safe or predictable.

Then again, if I ever come face to face with one of the characters in one of my books, I’d sure feel better if a gun was between the two of us…as long as I was the one holding it.

Do you think violence in entertainment plays a part in the upswing of mass killings in our country? Do you think arming good characters versus arming good people in real life is the same or different?  Why?



ABOUT THE TRADE:

Stolen lives…

Reporter McKenzie McClendon is on the trail of her next hot story, tracking a sadistic serial killer known as The Cradle Robber. This brutal murderer preys on pregnant women, slicing their infants from their wombs, leaving the helpless women to die while he disappears with their babies.

The trade of innocents…

Jonas Cleary is out of options. McKenzie, his former sweetheart, is his last hope. Jonas believes his slain wife was The Cradle Robber’s first victim and that his son is still alive, lost in the underground world of the black market baby trade, where ruthless people are happy to prey on the desperation of those willing to pay any price to have a child, and infants are just another commodity.

Before another one dies…

Aided by former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins and a clever FBI data specialist, McKenzie races to unravel the web of lies, drawing dangerously closer to the ruthless, brilliant surgeon at the heart of the maze. With a child’s future hanging in the balance, the lives of five people careen toward a terrifying collision. It’s up to McKenzie to discover which key will unlock the puzzle, and which will get her killed.


THE TRADE is currently available

on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/k4kxunv

Directly from the publisher with free worldwide shipping: www.stairwaypress.com/bookstore

Coming Soon on Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Sony, Kobo, and other major e-readers.
To learn more about Colby Marshall and her books, visit her website: www.colbymarshall.com
Watch the official book trailer for The Trade here: http://tinyurl.com/lqjcb8v
Follow Colby on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/colbymarshall



Colby Marshall



BIO:  Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status.  Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is now available, as well as the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade.







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Friday, June 21, 2013

There's Something I've Been Meaning To Do

World wide web
World wide web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        There's something I've been meaning to do here at Tossing It Out, but you probably know how one can get distracted and keep putting things off and that sort of thing.   I'm always thinking of blog post ideas that I put in the queue to write about some day and then they become outdated or I just flat out forget why the topic was so important or interesting to me at the time.  But it's probably time to get to this one thing I've been meaning to do.

         However before I get to that here are a few little things that have crossed my mind:

The Infinite Web

         They say that once something is on the web that it stays forever.  I'm not sure that I totally buy that theory.  There are lot's of things that I've found on the internet that seem to get lost when I go back to look for them.  Besides all this data isn't just floating out in space as far as I know.  If I understand correctly I think everything is stored on servers or something like that.  What if there was some major catastrophic event that destroyed all servers?   Or some electromagnetic pulse type thing that eradicated all man-made power?  I'm probably not being technologically correct in some of my terminology or thinking, but I'm just not sure that the statement "What goes on the internet stays there forever".   Will there be internet in Heaven?   Or maybe it will be reserved for Hell.

From the Arlee Archives:

       Here's a relic that I ran across on the internet regarding my own past.   A wedding announcement from my first marriage to Cathy Clarke appeared in the December 20, 1976 edition of Circus Report.   Scroll down to the top left side of page 36--it's not far down since the pages start at 33.

Check it out:


http://circushistory.org/Publications/CircusReport20Dec1976b.pdf  

        Maybe things do stay on the internet forever.

College of Blogging

         Sommer Leigh at Tell Great Stories offers some great suggestions in her College of Blogging posts. This is actually an entire series of blogging help tips.  If you're looking for a good resource for yourself or to help someone you know who is new to blogging, send them over to Blogging College with Sommer.

Update!! -- Looks like the individual "College" Posts are all gone!   But you can still get to Sommer's blog.  Maybe she compiled them into a book form?

Vacation Notice

         I'll be taking a leave for the next couple of weeks.  I'll tell you more about this after my return in July.  In the meantime I'll be leaving Tossing It Out in the very capable hands of bloggers such as Colby Marshall, Damyanti Biswas, Nicole Ayers, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Stay tuned as the blog will remain open while I'm gone.  I'll probably be scarce or nonexistent in blog visiting for a short while.  But I'll be back.

Now What Was I Going To Say?

         I know I had something else that I intended to do in this post, but I guess I got sidetracked.  Besides, this post is long enough now.   Whatever it was that I meant to do can wait until another post.

         What odd tidbits about your own history or someone else's have you run across on the internet?   Do you believe that what appears on the internet will really stay there forever?   Do you have any things that you keep meaning to post about but keep postponing?   


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How I Quit Smoking in One Day

The No Smoking sign, designed by one of the me...
The No Smoking sign, designed by one of the members of AIGA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        I've known many people who smoke.   Many of those smokers say that they'd like to quit.  At times they may have tried unsuccessfully,  only to go back to their old smoking habits.   Some have tried varying methods such as the patch, hypnosis, or substances like Nicorette gum.  In the end they often will go back to their old habit.  If they do manage to curb the habit they may suffer withdrawal symptoms or have overbearing cravings.  They are addicted--or so they say.

        I have never had to deal with much in the way of addictive behavior other than my cravings for sugar and salt.  I suppose these could count as my addictive substances, but tobacco was never a problem for me to kick.   I had two heavy smoking periods--one from 1980 to 1983 and the other from 1990 to 1997.  During these periods I smoked a steady two to three packs a day.   I think that qualified me as a fairly heavy smoker.

        At the end of each of these smoking periods there came a time when I just decided to quit and did.  My experience is different than that I've heard from many life-long smokers.  The excuse (I'm going to call it an excuse) is that they've smoked since teenage or even childhood years and the habit is too ingrained.  Some might say they have a physical addiction to smoking and actually suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop.  I'm not sure if there is credible research about this or not, but I am more inclined to believe it's mainly a psychological addiction and for some a crutch that they don't want to let go of.

         There were several factors that led me to stop smoking.   A big one was the economic factor.  When someone asked me how much it cost me just for the cigarettes (that's not including the health costs down the road), I figured I was spending over $2000 per year on cigarettes during my second bout with the habit.  When buying one pack or a carton of cigarettes at a time, the scope of the cost wasn't so evident, but to look at the cumulative figures was eye-opening.  I might as well have been burning money.

         The other factors were my health, my kids, and the way I smelled.  Then I met the woman who was to become my present wife.  She was a non-smoker and though she accepted my smoking, I knew she didn't like it.  When I recognized that we were looking at a future together, that's when I decided to just quit.  I finished that last pack and never bought another after that.

          Quitting had virtually no effect on me.   Sometimes I might smell someone else's cigarette smoke and have a brief craving, but that was about it.  I'm glad I stopped.  I feel much better.  And cigarettes are more expensive now than they were when I was smoking back in the '90's.   That's money that I can put to far better use.

          Do you or have you ever smoked?   Have you ever quit smoking or tried to quit?   How did it affect you?   Do you think that cigarette smoking is actually physically addicting?   


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Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You Care About Apathy?

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....
The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency. The first use was in September 1966, replacing an older seal which was used briefly.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      There are many things that annoy me about my local paper The Los Angeles Times.  I've tried to cancel on several occasions, but then some phone agent in the Philippines gives me a better offer that makes me decide to keep the subscription coming to my house.   At the rate they're going I figure that eventually they'll start paying me to take the paper.

         It's no wonder that they've been steadily losing subscribers over the past several years.  The Times is no longer a quality news reporting service that delivers objective journalism, but instead it has become an agenda driven rag that clearly doesn't speak for those who should logically be counted as its true readership. Conservatives can rarely count on receiving any fair coverage let alone much positive coverage at all.

         The latest outrage that has raised my annoyance level has to do with an editorial that appeared in the Thursday edition on June 13th.   This piece comes from regular columnist Meghan Daum.  This writer is well credentialed with many articles in national publications and a few somewhat respected books to her name.  I was not familiar with her work until I read this editorial piece and I daresay I will not be seeking out anything else by her based on what I've read in her editorial.

         The subject of her editorial was in regard to the National Security Agency whistle blower Edward Snowden, who released information about how the government is spying on the citizens.   We've known much of this already, but Snowden confirmed more of what we'd already suspected.  If you don't know what this Snowden story is all about then Baum's piece is partly about you.

           Actually, Baum's editorial covers an important issue in our society--our general apathy about what's going on in our country.  She titled her piece "Big Brother? Meh."   Aside from from using "Meh"--one of my least favorite modern expressions--I was extremely bothered by her statement, "I'm betting he'll eventually be revealed as an angry white geek."   If this statement had been applied to any other race or cultural group, we would have undoubtedly heard a clamorous uproar of protest.  But maybe few noticed that she said this and even fewer cared.

          Discounting that statement and moving on to her premise, Daum suggests that most of us don't care if the government is spying on everything we do and that we are more than willing to divulge ourselves to the world without any second thoughts.   We don't care who knows what we do.  And that often seems to be true.

         My post of last Monday asked if the U.S. should give military assistance to the Syrian rebels.  The general attitude of most Americans is one of ambivalence.  Even after my post, as the President was doing a Father's Day tribute, a nonchalant aside was given by a White House spokesperson to the press that the U.S. was indeed going to provide arms to our future enemy, the Syrian rebels.  Ho hum.  Who cares.  It's like the surveillance.  "Well, they're gonna do it no matter what I think, so why should I care?"   Then again many may not care because they figure they can't do anything about anything anyway or maybe somebody else will fix things.  It's easier not to care.

          "Meh--don't bother me.  I'm on Facebook."

           Do you think most people are fairly apathetic about what government does?   What can citizens in free societies do to influence government?    Is it worth the time and effort?   Does it bother you that government agencies might be monitoring your phone records, internet usage, and other aspects of your life?

       
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Friday, June 14, 2013

The 13th Comment Phenomena

Cover of "JCVD"
Cover of JCVD

Do You Fear the Number 13?  

        Maybe it's just my imagination.  Tell me from your perspective.  Do your comments ever stall at number twelve?   It's almost like a lot of people don't want to be the one to leave the 13th comment.  When my comments reach number twelve I will often jump in to make a response at the 13th spot.    I know it might sound kind of weird, but I've noticed other blogs where the comments seem to stall at number 12.  Have you ever noticed this on your own blog?

Who's Your Favorite Action Hero?

        My wife and I enjoy action movies.  Lately we've gotten into Jean Claude Van Damme movies.  I've realized that I'd never seen a Van Damme film until last year when I watched JCVD.   I enjoyed that film immensely.  

       Then a while back during one of the blogfests, someone happened to mention the Universal Soldier series and got me curious.  My wife and I started watching from the first movie onward and loved them.  Lately we've been watching a Jean Claude movie just about every other week and have yet to find one we haven't liked.

        Now I'd rank Jean Claude as one of my top favorite action stars.  The guy's good and his films are fun.

        Did you know that Jean Claude Van Damme was a serious student of ballet for five years?   That explains some of his moves.   I think his age has also been handled well in his recent films.  I'm sure there will be many who will dispute my opinion, but if my wife enjoys a film then that's good with me.

Have You Seen Spielberg's Lincoln yet?

        My recommendation is forget it unless you like these sorts of pretentious borefests that are of the ilk that often end up in the running for an Oscar.   This is two and a half hours of time that I'd had rather spent watching a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.   My wife and I both managed to stay awake for the whole thing, but the story could have been more efficiently told in a half hour documentary.

         This is not to say the film wasn't well acted, beautifully shot, and meticulously researched.  It was all those things.  But for my taste it was really boring like so many Academy Award nominees that have preceded it.

          If you're interested in a good film about the great Civil War president then let me recommend Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  This one is great fun and actually pretty true to history--aside from the Vampire parts of course, and, well, it could have happened.

Any Interesting Plans for Summer?

         I've got some things coming up that I'll be writing about on my blog later.

          How about you?   Anyone have any interesting vacation plans coming up this summer?

           Pick a question.  Any question.  They're all over this post.  Even better, answer them all.

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