This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Is It Good To Get Hurt Bad?

A network of pain & suffering
A network of pain & suffering (Photo credit: looking4poetry)

         Today's post is really just a prelim to my Battle of the Bands post that will be coming tomorrow.  It's a bit of a hint of the song I'll be using in my Battle, but with a touch of "controversy" or at least something to gnaw on with your mind.

          Does Getting Hurt Make You Better?

         An argument is often made that pain and suffering builds character.  If we don't know what it's like to be down then we can't understand what real happiness is.   Getting hurt emotionally isn't a great feeling, but if we manage to live through it all and eventually get over it we become tougher.  We are better for having endured and emerged from the depths of darkness.

         We've all been burned in relationships whether it be love, friendship, business, or family.  Some people will hold a grudge and never get over their negative feelings about the person who hurt them. But how much does that accomplish?  We usually hurt ourselves when we do that.  Often the person against whom we hold our grudge doesn't even realize that anything is wrong.  Our resentment becomes a useless burden that we carry around draining our energy and stealing our joy.

       When we've shed the resentment and get over that bad episode in our life we feel better.   Our thoughts are able to turn to more useful enterprises.  If we've learned a lesson that helps us in the future then we have experienced self-improvement and demonstrated the inner strength which we are capable of having.

         Let's face it.   There will always be jerks in the world.   We don't have to be one of them.

         Do you think that holding a grudge ever improves a situation?   Is experiencing pain and suffering good for character building?   Do you feel better when you've gotten over a painful situation?   What is a positive alternative to feeling angry with someone else?   Can you guess what my song pick for tomorrow will be?

Be sure to be here tomorrow for the Battle of the Bands!

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Friday, September 27, 2013

What Should a Successful Writers Group Be?

English: Board Meeting.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         Something has come up recently that has turned my attention back to the concept of in-person meet-up style writers groups.  I've been a member of one for going on two years now.  The local group that I joined has been around for fifty years so it's well established and has a history behind it.  Now the group has dwindled to a handful of mostly older members and is contemplating a gradual fade-away into non-existence.

         Our group is primarily a critique and support group that usually meets once a month excepting summer months and other times of the year when the meeting conflicts with other things.  It's an informal situation where we try to meet, but sometimes just decide not to.   We each pay membership dues of $11 per year. 

         Each meeting consists of a bit of social chat during which we talk about what we've been working on and if we've gotten anything published since the last meeting.  Then, works submitted by members are read to be critiqued by those who are present at the meeting.  Sometimes this is in the context of a contest where favorites are voted on and the winners receive small cash prizes.  That's essentially all we ever do.

         Since I've joined we've seen a few younger folks drop in to see what we are about.  They might return for another meeting or two, but then we don't see them again. Our group is obviously not creating enough of a draw to attract a significant number of new potential members and enough appeal to hang on to the ones who are curious enough to see what we are doing.

        We obviously need to do something different if we want to keep the group alive.  In this post I'm turning to you readers for advice.  If you are a part of an active group (not necessarily a writers group), what does your group do?   What would appeal to you if you were looking for a group?

Here are some thoughts:

What do you want from a writers group?

  • Speakers --other writers, people with interesting stories or occupations, agents, teachers, etc.
  • Workshops--Paid?  Free?   Taught by someone within the group?  Let by a professional in some particular field?  What kind of topics?
  • Support--Guidance and networking to get your work published.
  • Meals--Should a meeting be held at a restaurant and include a meal?
  • Refreshments--If held in a suitable location should light refreshments and beverages be available?
  • Critique sessions--Several entries discussed or more focus on just a few each meeting?
  • Social activities--Directed discussions on selected books or movies, debates, outings or excursions, or other group events?
  • Contests--Submitted writing for special writing contests such as poetry, memoir, fiction, etc with cash or other prizes?
  • Strong leadership--Active membership drives and outreaches
  • Online presence--Should a group have an active blog or website?   What should that site include to be of most benefit to members while acting as a promotional tool to gain new members?
  • Meeting time--Is a weeknight better or is a weekend day preferred.  More than once per month?
  • Location--What type of meeting place is best?  How far are you willing to go to attend a writers meeting?
  • Dues--How much is too much?   What should you get from your dues?
  • Club publications--Would you be interested in yearly or occasional group anthologies that would include contributions from each member?  Would you be drawn to a club that guaranteed that you the participating writer would be seeing your work in print?    
      I'm looking for feedback from you no matter what experience you've had with this sort of thing.  Any idea is worth considering so please don't hold back.  Please let me know in the comments section your thoughts on the questions and ideas I've outlined above.  Or add your own ideas if you think of something else.   I'd like to be part of a vital group that adds something to my writing life. 

       A big thank you to all!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ask Arlee: How Should I Catch the Attention of a Blogger I've Mentioned In My Post?

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

         Today's question comes from Robin at Your Daily Dose:

Well, I do have one question for you. On my Thursday posts I dedicate Youtube footage that (ideally) resonates with something a reader wrote earlier in the week. Sometimes I have a difficult time getting that person to SEE it. In the past, I have taken several routes with this problem. I have left a note on their blog. Usually this is only necessary if they are a sporadic blogger. However, this isn't always the case. What do you think I should do? Should I have to hold their hand (aka leave a blog note)and lead them to the "good stuff?" Or should I just let them miss it? What would you do?

        Robin, I think you've taken the best approaches there are.  My favorite is the comment left at the blog of the blogger whom I've mentioned in my blog post.  If that blogger is a regular visitor to my blog I don't say anything about my mention of them.  I just hope that my comment will serve as enough of a prompt for them to come to see my post about them without being too blatant.

        Sometimes the direct approach is the way to go if you really don't want your featured blogger to miss your mention of them.  I try to avoid a direct email but I have resorted to that a few times.  More often I will leave a comment at that blogger's site that lets them know that they have been featured.  That usually does the trick with the added benefit of drawing a few of that blogger's readers to see what I've posted.  

        I guess it depends on how badly you would like them to see your post.  When you've included me as one of your dedications, I usually find it because you've left a comment at my site.  When you have directly told me in the comment that I've been featured, I'm over at your site right away.  Some I've almost missed but gotten to later because I'm visiting you after the fact and remember your Thursday dedications.  

        The best way to get your featured bloggers to be less likely to miss that you have dedicated a video to them is to get them in the habit of visiting your site all the time.   Isn't that the goal most of us have?  Your presence on the sites of others through your comments reminds us to visit your posts.  I know this to be true because my comments have dropped drastically since I have been commenting less on other sites. Time consuming I know, but it's the catch 22 of social networking.  It's a matter of priorities.

      So I've answered with the obvious that you already knew and that most of us bloggers learn pretty quickly:  Do we spend the time blogging and promoting our blogging efforts or devote our time to doing the things that we need to get done.  It's mostly about balance, but it's also a matter of priorities and what time we have available to us.   

     The bottom line is that I think you're doing your job the right way.  You, as well as I and all the rest of us, have to do what's best for our lives.  Some bloggers (such as Alex whose last name doesn't even have to be mentioned to know who I'm talking about) have things down to such a slick system that they can manage work, writing, blogging, and other activities with seemingly effortless proficiency.  We are all different and have our own life situations which face us.  

     Now back to the question.  I'm going to test the simple comment method.  I'll go over and leave a comment on Robin's most recent blog post. If I've already left one I'll leave another one referring to my current post mentioning her.  Since Robin is a regular commenter on this blog this may not be the best measurement as to how well my suggestion works, but we'll see what happens.  Will Robin see this post in which I've mentioned her?  Probably.

      Oh, and any of you who are reading this, why don't you stop by Your Daily Dose and say hello to Robin.  You can tell her that you saw her mention here.   And maybe later you'll be featured on one of her upcoming video dedications. 

        Can you think of any other ways to get someone to see a post you've put up that mentions them?   What is your best advice on achieving balance that includes adequate time for blogging?   Have you had a video dedicated to you at Robin's site yet?


Winner of Yolanda Renée's  e-book

The winner of the drawing for a choice of Murder, Madness & Love or the upcoming release Memories of Murder is commenter Sheena-kay Graham.  In order to make arrangements to receive your e-book copy please contact Yolanda at address: and she'll send a gift card for the book to your email address.

Thanks again, Yolanda and all of you who left comments for her guest post!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Hair Is a Mediocre Musical and BOTB Winners

Battle of the Band Winners from the September 15th Contest

        In the Battle of the Bands round presented on September 15, 2013 the theme of the co-hosts was songs from the Broadway musical Hair.  The candidates on my blog were the original cast of the musical Hair pitted against Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity with their version of Ain't Got No/I Got Life.

        I confused my contest for some voters by using a medley of two different songs from the musical in the Trinity version and using separate clips (as was necessary) for the two songs as used in the musical.  I hope I have counted the votes correctly to have a proper outcome.  One thing is certain though:  Julie Driscoll did not have many fans among you.

       This is somewhat surprising to me as Julie Driscoll--or Julie Tippets as she is now known--has been a respected jazz vocalist for some 50 years now.  Her dead pan delivery and singing style puts me in mind of Keely Smith or Cher in her days singing with Sonny Bono.

        The voters decided heavily in favor of the original tracks from Hair with Driscoll's vocals as the biggest factor that detracted from that version.

        It looks like I am going to gain the reputation as the contrarian in these battle picks.  My choice in this matchup is strongly in favor of Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity.   I enjoy Driscoll's vocal style and have been a long time fan of Brian Auger and his jazzy bands.  I also prefer the slicker studio production over the stagey sound of the theatrical cast.

         The cast recording wins by a landslide vote of 11 to 3.  Poor Julie.

Is Hair a Good Musical?
Hair (musical)
Hair (musical) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        The cast album is okay as an artifact of its times, but I'll admit that I'm not a very big fan of the musical Hair.   It's outdated and for the most part rather trite and useless.  There were some good songs that came out of the musical in the recordings that others made, but the Hair soundtrack album is not one that bears many repeated listenings with me.  Oh maybe, once every two or three years, but if I never heard the album again I wouldn't miss it.

        This past weekend I watched the 1979 film version of Hair.  I was not impressed.  It had been at least three years since I last watched this film.   I liked it okay then, but not so much this time.  In all fairness I was watching the film in a critical state of mind after reading Stephen T. McCarthy's fine review from a while back.  The film has some strong sequences that Stephen points out in his review, but overall I found the characters mostly to be annoying.  While I am in agreement with most of what Stephen says in his review, I lean on the negative side regarding the film version of Hair.

       Why?  Firstly I see the film as a relic of a past that is probably not very interesting to most who were born after that era and an embarrassment to many of us who are a part of that generation.  For this same reason I don't think that the musical itself will be of much interest to the potential audiences of future staged revivals that might occur if they ever do occur.   The drivel in this show is no longer groundbreaking or shocking to audiences in our era.  The show was among those cultural contributions that opened doors that would have probably been better left closed.  I don't think a lot of the movements introduced by the hippies or whoever is to attributed to them have made our world a better place.

       Likewise the music doesn't have the staying power of the more classic musicals that were written by artists who have proven track records and left a legacy of fine music.  Just look at the guys who wrote Hair.  Music composer Galt McDermot was already established in his field and being an accomplished composer he has had a successful career since doing the music for Hair.  And I don't have any complaints about the music in Hair for the most part.  I think that aspect is a highlight of the musical.

       It's the book and song lyrics that leave me unimpressed.  I understand they were going for some shock value and trying to capture the hippie spirit and that's my problem.  The message is for the most part empty and unproductive.  Hair authors James Rado and Gerome Ragni put together a bunch of sloppy songs that don't connect well with the other songs or with lead-in dialogue.  Their success with Hair was a fluke.  They managed to capitalize on something topical and got attention by doing it.  They never came up with anything successful to follow their musical debut.  They were one-hit wonders for a good reason:  They weren't that good.

       I agree that there are some decent songs from Hair that have been covered by other artists.  I wouldn't go so far as to call them standards that we'll see oft recorded in the future.    Hair is not a musical soundtrack that I cared for very much when it first entered my life in 1969 and even though I own a CD copy of it, the soundtrack will not be something I'll probably be playing much in the future.  The Hair soundtrack is merely part of a CD collection--an exhibit from my personal museum of stuff from my past.

      The next time I watch a musical off my DVD shelves it won't be Hair.  Maybe Carousel, 42nd Street, Evita, or something else with quality entertainment value.   But probably not the mediocre musical Hair.

          What's your opinion on the musical Hair?   Did you like the movie version?   What are some of the good points about Hair--the musical or film?  If you like musicals, what are some of your favorites?   If you don't like musicals, why not?

For the winners of  other BOTB participants visit:

           Faraway Series
              Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
             Your Daily Dose

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Alex J Cavanaugh on Morality in Writing

My Battle of the Band winners will be announced in my post of Monday September 23rd.  I will also have a bit of controversy related to this particular Battle of the Bands face-off.   

     Here's a blogger who needs no introduction so I'll just say "Hello Alex J. Cavanaugh--Tell us what's on your mind today."

Morality in Writing

       Big thanks to my long-time friend, Lee, for letting me invade his blog yet again. Not only did he agree to host me during the release week of CassaStorm, but he gave me free reign on the topic.

       Of course, knowing he likes topics that stir conversation with a bit of controversy, it took me a while to select one. Confrontation is not my thing. I finally decided to talk about morality in writing. And there are several considerations that come into play.

  •  Should an author’s moral compass be reflected in his writing?
  • Does it depend on the genre or does it depend on the author?
  • What about thrillers, crime novels, or horror, genres that require a dark center?
  • Does it matter to the reader?

      How much of an author’s own moral compass should appear in his writing? I think the answer to that lies in balance. If an author’s views are strong, he needs to be aware of that while writing. It would be easy to hit people over the head with prose that is preachy. To completely abandon it though would also be wrong. So it’s all about balance.

      Does it depend on the genre or the author? Certainly there are genres that would suffer from a heavy dose of morality. Of course, as the movie Legend stated so well, you cannot have light without darkness. Does it depend on the author then? How far he is willing to push the boundaries? That is something each writer must decide for himself.

      Without pushing the moral compass though, would we even have crime thrillers, horror, and similar genres? For many of those stories, somebody has to be morally twisted in order for it to work. Of course, most of those still boil down to good versus evil and with good winning.

      What about the reader? They approach the story with their own moral sense of right and wrong. Since authors have no idea what that might be, they must walk a fine line. We don’t want to offend and turn readers away. Nor do we want our work to seem soft or unrealistic.

      That’s a lot to consider. And we all approach it in a unique manner.

       Since I always end my posts with a few questions, and I would never ask anyone something I was not willing to answer, I will do that for you now.

       I read a variety of science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. I don’t mind some vile characters and immoral behavior, but I do expect good to triumph in the end.

      I’m more strict on myself though. I’m a born-again Christian, and I wouldn’t write anything that I couldn’t share with my Christian friends or even my pastor. Sure I hint at fast women on Spaceport 89 and Byron’s willingness for a night in bed with Athee. I never show it though, and I don’t use language stronger than damn. Sure I could’ve written some really edgy books, but I wouldn’t have been proud of them. I do believe my books are a reflection on me. I also want anyone to be able to pick them up and enjoy, and that includes a ten-year-old, which is when I discovered the genre.

Now I ask you…
Should an author’s moral compass be reflected in his writing?
Does it depend on the genre or does it depend on the author?
What about thrillers, crime novels, or horror, genres that require a dark center?
Does it matter to the reader?

Thanks, Lee!

By Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“CassaStorM is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.” – Edi’s Book Lighhouse

“…the racial conflicts propelled much of the plot in this story, driving home a message that's relevant to our own world and giving the book an interesting texture.” 
- C. Lee. McKenzie, author of Alligators Overhead

“Cavanaugh has created wonderfully moving moments of great poignancy… CassaStorm could have been a dark story full of hardship and angst, but instead it's a cleverly balanced story about hope and triumph.”
- Lynda R. Young, author of Make Believe

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Find CassaStorm:


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's In A Name?

       Today we have a blog tour stop from author and blogger Yolanda Renée.     You can find Yolanda's blog at Defending The Pen.  Leave a comment on this post and you'll be eligible to win a copy of one of Yolanda's e-books.   Details at the end of this post...

   What's In A Name?

                Lucifer S Reynard is the antagonist of my soon to be released novel Memories of Murder, the second book in the Murder trilogy. A young man raised by his prostitute mother to believe that he is Lucifer's son. She gives him the name Lucifer and calls him Lucii for short. She promises him that his future holds a place of power and raises him to believe that he is the devil incarnate. While still a child, friends point out to him a picture of his father, the horned Beast, which is Lucii's first introduction to the real monster. At first horrified, Lucifer, with his mother's support, learns to accept his fate, and as an adult transforms himself into the Beast. Lucifer is a man determined to fulfill his mother's vision.

                During the research for Memories of Murder, I found that there are at least 1500 people with the first name of Lucifer in the United States. Not that unusual when you consider that the name Lucifer is Latin for morning star and the morning star refers to Venus. However, what I also found was that Lucifer and Satan are not the same, yet most of us believe that they are, therefore the title of this blog, What's In A Name. Well, if your name is Lucifer, quite a lot, especially if it's linked so deeply to Satan, the Beast, the Evil One. FYI – there are at least 40 names for the Devil.

                Why do most of us attribute the name Lucifer to Satan, or the Devil? Apparently, scribes made a bit of a mistake when deciphering the Old Testament. A Babylonian king named Lucifer was condemned for his treatment of the Israelites, but that incident was and still is, interpreted as the fall of Satan from heaven. Therefore, the Prince of Darkness, Satan, and The Morning star, Lucifer, became one and the same, but because of theologians, poets, and writers—myth and doctrine became interwoven, and the fall of Lucifer a Babylonian king, became not a man but an angel condemned by God.

                Interesting isn't it? Words do have power, and some mistakes last ages, but a lie can never really become truth, no matter how often it's repeated.

                Thanks Lee, for allowing me to discuss Lucifer, and my book Memories of Murder to be released on October 4, 2013. Murder, Madness & Love is now available, and one lucky commenter will receive an eBook copy of Memories or Murder, their choice.  The winner will be announced next Wednesday on Tossing It Out.

Yolanda Renée

Defending The Pen

Memories of Murder
October 4, 2013

Decades ago, the seeds were planted …
Today, dark, fathomless eyes rake the image before him. One final task and the transformation is complete. Steady fingers screw intricately carved horns on each side of a stiff brow, and a gargoyle suitable for Notre Dame scowls from the smokey mirror in satisfaction.
A jagged smile rips through his smooth, hairless face, and inked, reptilian scales caress his naked body.
A laugh of hideous resonance emanates from his gut as the demons of hell welcome Lucifer into their fold.
In a dungeon-like chamber, his Lilith awaits. The kidnapped daughter of a nun, groomed to fit the final piece in the complex puzzle for world domination. Will Lucifer marry his bride, on the summer solstice?
Only two things stand in his way ...
His greed ...
And ...
Detective Steven Quaid.

~ Murder, Madness & Love is available now at ~
AmazonKoboB & N
~ Memories of Murder will be available October 4, 2013 ~

~Yolanda Renée~

             Do you have any thoughts on today's post?   What is the most problematic name that you've heard?    Do you think that our name given at birth can effect how we turn out later in life?

          The opinions expressed in today's post are those of guest Yolanda Renee and not necessarily held by the owner of this blog.

Be here on Friday as Alex J. Cavanaugh raises another controversial literary topic.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

What Do You Think of Musical Theater?

      Yesterday was my Battle of the Bands post.  If you missed it or didn't vote yet, be sure to visit my BOTB post .   Also stop by to vote at the sites of the co-hosts  Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends .  Keep in mind that there is a prize for the most frequent voters.

       Some others who put up their own Battle of the Bands posts can be found at  Your Daily Dose and   DiscConnected.   

And While on the Subject of Musicals...

        Since the Battle of the Bands theme of the host blogs matched up different takes on songs from the hippy era musical Hair, that got me thinking about musical theater as it was in its Golden Age, where it started going in the 1960's, and where it has come to now.

         I grew up on the traditional theatrical musicals such as those by Rodgers and Hammerstein and those light works of stage entertainment filled with music in the vein of the old standards and fun show tunes.  Those presentations probably look old-fashioned to anyone more familiar with the musicals of the post 60's.  Some of the old-school musicals are now and then revived by professional and semi-pro companies and are presented on high school stages that still have the money to present extravaganza stage productions.  But musical theater has changed a lot since the 1950's.

        When I was a kid in the 50's and early 60's, my parents took me to see a number of live stage musicals and many of the movie versions of the popular musicals of those times.   I enjoyed these until I reached my teens and that's when I began to take a more cynical view of musicals.  It began to seem kind of dumb for people to just break out into song.  Rock and roll was where it was at for me and musicals were passé.  That is until they became relevant for me.

Hair (musical)
Hair (musical) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar caught my attention with good music and good songs. Musicals were in my musical radar once again.  Then for the next couple decades I was involved in touring groups that could be considered as musical theater and for a brief period actually played in the band for a musical at a dinner theater in Virginia. I began attending musical productions whenever I had an opportunity.

          Now in my current stage of life I would still count myself a fan of musical theater, but more so the old school styles that I grew up with.   I love Evita but don't have the least bit of interest in the musicals of recent decades like Rent, Dreamgirls, or for that matter Les Miserables.  I want my musicals to be fun or at least have songs that I might be singing later.

           A lot of the innocence of musicals is gone,  Now they often are more raunchy and filled with bad language--probably partly as a result of musicals such as Hair.  Or they deal with social issues or ridicule conservative or religious values.  Of course since I have distanced myself from the world of musicals and theater maybe I'm misreading things.   I'm going by what I read or hear about in the media.  And I don't think much of most of the media either.

           I've changed a bit over the years.  Now you might call me an old fuddy-duddy.   Or you might think I'm spot on.

            What do you think of musical theater?    Do you think musicals used to be better or do you like the direction they've taken?   What is your favorite musical?   What is the last musical you've seen live on stage or on screen?

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