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!

Friday, January 31, 2014

What Is the Scariest Kind of Storyline?

The Hitcher (1986 film)
The Hitcher (1986 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
     There are plenty of storylines that can give us the creeps.  Monsters, zombies, and creatures of the night can give us chills and may make us a bit jumpy in the dark after having seen one of these kinds of films.  Stories about hauntings and demonic possessions have provided some very edgy plots.  Dark crimes or stories that delve into the essence of evil might make us want to leave the lights on before going to sleep.   It's kind of fun to be scared by a well told horror story or a movie that makes us a bit jittery.  That's probably why scary stories are so popular.

       Truth often being stranger--and scarier--than fiction, one of the genres I find to be the creepiest of all is the good old stalker stories.   Out of control obsession can drive humans to do some truly bizarre things.  We've seen the stories in the news.   There have also been many fine films with the obsession theme.  I'm sure you can name many favorite.

        Alfred Hitchcock was a master of films about obsessions.  He could tap into the darker or curious side of human emotions that may make us obsess upon an idea.  There have also been the films such as Cape Fear, Fatal Attraction, The Fan, or One Hour Photo.   Then what about the over the top films like The Hitcher or Jeepers Creepers.  Those will make you grip your seat.

      When it's a story that can really happen to any of us, it's a story that can be pretty scary and make you double check who's behind you or why that creepy fellow across the street always seems to be looking at your house all the time.  What's in that guy's (or gal's) bedroom anyway?   Pictures of you on the walls?

       What story genre frightens you the most?    Have you ever been stalked?   Does online visibility ever make you a bit wary about your vulnerability to obsessive creeps?

        Tomorrow Saturday February 1st will be a special Battle of the Bands post.  The above post is a clue to the song I've chosen.   Can you guess the song?  It's a somewhat obscure one that was covered by a group at least of few of you are fans of.  

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting Organized for the #atozchallenge


      Todays post was inspired by a post by Lynn at Connecting Stories.  That post is actually a few years old, but just as relevant now as it was then.  Take a look at Lynn's post and see if you suffer from "Organizationitis".

Getting Organized

       I'm one of the worst people in world when it comes to being organized.  I've got my systems, but they don't always look so good.   My office is chaos and I don't even want to talk about my garage.  I do have my moments of organizational genius, but things in my everyday life are often in shambles--or would at least appear so.

       One area of my life where I tend to do pretty well organizationally speaking is blogging.   My last few A to Z efforts have come off very smoothly due to structure and planning.  Since the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an event, I plan it much like I would plan a trip, a party, a meal, or anything else you are expecting to happen within a designated time frame.

        Trip planning is something I've always been meticulous about.   In part this is due to my years of travelling.  I like for things to go without a hitch so I can enjoy the scenery and not worry about the trip details while traveling.  When I've planned well I'm better prepared for surprises if the unexpected awaits around the next bend.

         In the same way the A to Z April Challenge has a destination and a schedule so I start with a roadmap and a calendar.   I'll decide on my theme in January or February at the latest and then wait for the ideas to come.  When those ideas start popping into my head I'll start a post prescheduled for the date on which it will appear.

         Another way to start ahead is to put placeholders for each letter on the designated day on your blog composition pages.   If you happen to get inspired you can go ahead and write posts in those reserved dates as they come to you.  Or you can set aside a portion of each day to come up with an April post or at least part of one.  Sometimes I'll sit down on a Saturday or Sunday when I've got time and write several posts.   I don't know about you, but when I get on a roll I can sometimes crank out several posts at a sitting.

        Once you've got a post that's completed then go ahead and schedule it to post automatically on the day you want it to.  If you've started this process in February or even before, you'll find that prior to April's arrival you'll have all of your Challenge posts done.    When your blogging chores are already finished come April then you can cruise through the month and have plenty of time for networking and visiting the other participating blogs.   It really takes a load off when you do it that way.   How else do you think I managed to manage four blogs in the previous two years' Challenges?

        And one of the many positive benefits of participating in the April Challenge is that you'll likely establish the habit of preplanning posts in your regular blogging.   A to Z can make you a better--a more efficient--blogger and writer.  If you're using the excuse that you can't participate in the A to Z Challenge because you don't have time, scrap that poor excuse and just sign up to the list.  Start your posts now and you'll find that you have more time than you thought.   Getting organized to blog through the alphabet is your key to successfully winning the Challenge.

         Have you decided on your A to Z theme yet?   Do you set up your letters ahead of time and fill the posts in prior to April?    What are your organizational strategies for making the April Challenge go more smoothly?

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Monday, January 27, 2014


      Several of you have been asking and many have waited in anticipation.  The countdown to April has begun!   You'll find the sign up list for the 2014 edition of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge at the bottom of the page.  But before you rush down to add your link to the list let me indulge your patience a bit.

        We have a new A to Z Team for 2014!

         Half of the old team is back.  You probably know them already, but here is the veteran team line-up:

Nicole Ayers

Arlee Bird 
Tossing it Out (I have a few other blogs as well)

Damyanti Biswas
Writing on Writing: Amlokiblogs

Alex J. Cavanaugh (self-titled blog)

Tina Downey

Jeremy Hawkins

Stephen Tremp

         Now meet our new Team additions:

Heather Gardner
The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Teresa (MJ) Joachim
M.J Joachim's Writing Tips (she has several other blogs as well)

AJ Lauer

"Pammy Pam" Margolis (online, but will also answer to Pam)
An Unconventional Librarian

      Be sure to stop by to visit all the co-hosts to introduce yourself and don't forget to follow each of them.  We will all have A to Z information appearing on our own blogs until April.   Of course you will want to be sure to visit the Blogging From A to Z Blog on a regular basis to stay in touch with what's happening.

Just One More Thing:

       The co-hosts will be calling out for helpers again this year to make our job easier and help those who volunteer to get more name recognition and perhaps a spot on next year's team.   Some of the co-hosts already have their auxiliary teams formed.  Some of us still need help.  If you are interested in being part of the effort to work behind scenes let me know in the comments.  I still need some helpers as do some other co-hosts.   Just let me know.

And now for the official announcement and sign up!!!!!

Please read and follow the sign-up instructions outlined below so you sign onto the list correctly!   

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

We recommend short posts, turn off Word Verification, and visit five blogs (or more) a day beginning with the one after yours on the list.

To streamline legitimate blogs from advertisement blogs, the Co-Hosts will be visiting each blog on this list throughout the Challenge. Blogs on the list showing no activity once the Challenge starts will be removed.

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows:

2. BOOKS: (BO)
3. FILM: (FM)
6. CRAFT: (CR)
7. ART: (AR)
8. MUSIC: (MU)
14. GAMING: (GA)
19. HUMOR: (HU)
20. TRAVEL: (TR)

Be sure to grab the badge and display it in your sidebar so we know you are participating and link to the 
A to Z Blog.  (

For more information we recommend you follow the A to Z Challenge Blog and the hosts:

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out

email address is,
and the Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge.

Sign up below and join us for a month of alphabet fun!


       Anything you fully don't understand?   Got any questions about sign-ups or the Challenge itself?   Feel free to ask in the comments or just tell us what's on your mind.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

"Almost Blue" and Almost Here.


        My song choice for the last Battle of the Bands may have seemed a bit lackluster and the turnout of voters may have reflected that.   The song "Almost Blue" might be seen as sad or mellow or just plain slow--and it is--but it's a song that especially caught my attention during my Christmas vacation travels and the period of illness that ensued after I got home.   The song just seemed appropriate for this round of song match-ups.

       During our long cross country trip my wife and I listened to Alison Moyet's terrific album Voice several times.  My wife is not usually big on music albums, but this one has become one of her favorites and I concur with her on this choice.  Listening to the album so many times I started paying very close attention to each of the songs Moyet covers on this recording.

       I was the Lone Ranger in choosing Alison Moyet's version of "Almost Blue", but it is my favorite.  The other versions are fantastic, but I prefer the orchestration and the smooth perfect delivery that Moyet presents.  If you like excellent traditional song interpretations, you might want to check out Voice by Alison Moyet.

       The song's composer Elvis Costello does a fine job, but it's my least favorite version presented in my Battle.  His take is a bit roughshod for my taste, but it'll certainly do.   Elvis managed to sway two votes in this contest.

       The real surprise for me was my throw away toss in of the long depressing version by Chet Baker.  Like Stephen T. McCarthy, I thought Baker had died long before this song was written.   In fact I initially thought Costello had remade a Baker song.  In the end, Chet Baker ran away with the contest having received nine votes.   His version is darn good, but I still prefer Moyet.

        So final tally in the "Almost Blue" contest is Moyet 1, Costello 2, and Baker 9.

         Next Battle of the Bands will be on February 1st.   I will have a special Saturday edition for that post.

A to Z Challenge Sign-ups Start Monday!

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
        Yes, many of you have been asking, and now the time for Blogging from A to Z April Challenge sign-ups will be here on Monday.  Be watching when the Linky List appears at 3 AM EST on Monday January 27th.   What a day!  We'll debut the new badge for you to add to your sites and announcing the new A to Z Team for 2014.

          Don't miss it and sign up early!

          Do you enjoy sad or depressing songs?    Are you familiar with Chet Baker?    Will you be signing up for the A to Z Challenge on Monday?   
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Did You See It?

       If you missed the What Works...Online Marketing Symposium you can still visit the posts of the participants by clicking here, or on the badge on the right sidebar, or by just scrolling down to my previous post.  Alex J. Cavanaugh has culled the Linky List of non-participants and all of the links should lead directly to the Symposium posts.

        Don't be misled by the reference to "Marketing".   Many readers may have decided that marketing does not apply to them, but believe me it touches us all in some way.  And even if you aren't interested in marketing, there are some excellent posts here.   It's a treasure trove of information that may get you thinking.

         I'm still making my way through the list and like many who did visit the participating sites, I'm taking notes and bookmarking posts for future reference.   If you can't use this information now, you may want it later.  It's good information with applications that go beyond writing and publishing.

         Check out at least a few of these posts.  I think you'll be glad that you did.

          My thanks to everyone who participated and a special thanks to my co-hosts Yolanda ReneeJeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh. 

What's Next?

        Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2014 sign-ups open on Monday 27th.  Yes, that's next Monday!  The list will be open until start date April 1, but it's a good idea to sign up as soon as possible so others can start visiting your site before the Challenge begins.  A lot of networking will be going on over the next couple months so join early to be a part of the early action and make new blogging friends.

         Also on that same day the new A to Z Team will be announced.  You'll see some veteran Team members as well as a few new members.   Meet the Team and maybe you can sign up to assist those members.   We expect another big turnout so we'll need some help just like last year.

       Big things are coming as April grows nigh.   Be sure to visit the A to Z Blog regularly for updates and helpful Challenge tips.   

         Was the What Works...  symposium helpful to you?   Would you like to see us do something like this again in the future?   Are you going to be blogging from A to Z with us this year?   Why or why not?

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Monday, January 20, 2014

What Works?...and what doesn't

What's Happening?
        Anyone who has been following my blog for some time is probably aware of my keen interest in the topics of marketing and promotion and how the two can be used effectively in blogging.  I'm not going to delve too deeply into my own thoughts on marketing as you can do a search of my blog under the terms "marketing" or "promotion" and come up with plenty of posts on those and related topics.  

        In fact my A to Z theme in 2012 was marketing and promotion and those posts would be a good place to find out some of my thoughts on the subject as well as get an idea of what the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is about.   If you want to read the first installment of that series you'll find it here and then just continue on if you want more.

        The current blog event is about what you bloggers think and have to say about marketing, promotion, and related ideas.  There's no magic formula that I know of that makes for successful marketing.  Sometimes what works in one instance may fall flat in another.   Other times totally absurd ideas may work in a big way. Some ideas are fairly tried and true while others are just a shot in the dark.  Sometimes they work and and sometimes they don't.

       With What Works....and what doesn't we want to get some idea of what some of you may have actually tried or observed.   We hope to learn some of your philosophies, psychological insights, hard factual data, or your pipe dreams about marketing.   We want to try to figure out What Works...

Why What Works...?

     In November Yolanda Renée and I were having an email interchange about the guest post she did at my dream blog, A Faraway View.  We were examining stats and experimenting with different tactics to see what worked in drawing visitors to the site.  A Faraway View typically is a low activity blog, but our combined efforts brought considerably more viewers to her post than I usually get.   Though the numbers for that post are still low, through our combined marketing efforts the post garnered some of the highest views and most comments of any other post on that site.  Was it due to our marketing efforts?

          During the course of our exchange I came up with what I thought might be a good idea for a blog event.   The "blogfest" should have a wide range of interest among most of our followers since we all are promoting something whether we admit to it or not.   This would not be just a fun blogging exercise, but " a blogfest with information you can use."

        The premise would be for participants to tell about a marketing idea they've used that worked or one that didn't work.  Their post could describe a campaign that succeeded in a big or small way or one that failed drastically.  This wouldn't only be limited to authors but also apply to those who have gone into business,  observed in another business campaign, participated in an organizational event, helped their kids with a fundraiser, or anything where a bit of promotion was necessary.  In other words this is a blogfest anyone could participate in and everyone can learn from.  Posts can be informational, a personal experience account, or a funny marketing story.  Experience gained from a promotional effort in one area can have applications in other efforts.  

         The ultimate goal is to learn what others have done right that we all can use and what to avoid.  Hopefully we can get marketing stats like Yolanda and I were doing in our study and other hard data that might be compiled into specific or fairly decent conclusions.   We want to know What Works... and I'm sure many of you would find this type of information useful as well.

Also Brought to You By:

         Since I've had more than a few interchanges on the subject of marketing with my good friend Jeremy Hawkins, I contacted him to bring his knowledge to the table.  I know Jeremy is very interested in marketing since he has a number of ventures going.   His artistic expertise provided us with a super cool logo for the event.

        And of course no great blogging event would be complete without Alex J. Cavanaugh.   Alex has mastered the art of cross promotion, building his name, blog recognition, and brand by promoting others.  I owe a special thanks to Alex for being at the helm of this event while I was on vacation and during my subsequent illness.  That's why we call him "The Captain".

Be sure to check out all the blogs of the hosts.  And if for some reason the Linky List does not appear on my page you should be able to find it on theirs:

Jeremy Hawkins -

Now let's find out What Works...and what doesn't.  
Here's the list of participants!  

<!-- end LinkyTools script –> *****
Remember--if you don't see the Linky List here then check the other participating sites.  I've been having some computer problems.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Benefits of Joining a Professional Writing Organization

     I'm pleased to host Nutschell Windsor, The Writing Nut, to talk about belonging to writing organizations and the collaborative effort published by her group.   Thank you, Nutschell!

 The Benefits of Joining a Professional Writing Organization

While some writers can pursue a career without being part of a professional writing organization, most will benefit from joining one.
I belong to two wonderful writing organizations: The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators ( and the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles (, which I founded.
Here are some of the benefits I see from being a part of both:

1.       Networking

Networking is an important part of growing any business. And writing is a business. Gone are the days of hermit writers and hidden authors. Nowadays, with so many books vying for readers’ attentions, the name of the game is exposure. Networking with fellow authors will give you the chance to increase your book’s visibility. And if you aren’t published yet, networking will open various opportunities for you. You might find critique partners through networking, or find a freelance editor or literary agent who will help you improve your craft. You might meet a blogger who will enthusiastically review or books or even help you set up your own website.

2.       Career Opportunities

Joining a writing organization might also present you with opportunities to get published or expand your career options. You might impress a literary agent or editor during a workshop or conference and find yourself faced with an offer of representation or an offer of publication. Likewise, a writer you meet at a schmooze might invite you to be a speaker for their writing group, or might offer to write a stellar review of your book.

3.       Professional Development

Writing organizations often present workshops and conferences which feature industry professionals. This presents budding authors with an opportunity to learn from the best. Agents, editors and other authors have a storehouse of knowledge and personal experience in publishing and gaining access to both will help writers improve their own craft. These industry professionals will not share writing techniques, they’ll also provide you with helpful tips on how to market your books.

Aside from workshops and conferences, writing organizations will also have other resources like newsletters, magazines, handbooks, and websites full of helpful links and insiders’ information. You might also find online critique partners through your writing organization.

4.       Recognition

Writing organizations will also have a slew of contests, scholarships, and awards. Your talent will be recognized by professionals if you win any one of these; and having that recognition will certainly help open doors and push you further along on the road to publication. If you’re already a published author, winning an award might help boost sales or help improve your next contract.
Winning a contest might also provide you with an opportunity to attend a conference or workshop for free. The Los Angeles branch of the SCBWI, for example, offers the first place winners of their annual Writer’s Day contest a chance to attend one of the three local events they hold each year.

5.       Support

Writing can be a lonely task and the road to publication is never easy. Having the support of fellow writers who understand the journey you’re taking will help you overcome many of the obstacles you’ll encounter along the way. You’ll also get great support in terms of legal and professional situations.
For instance, if you were offered a contract by a publisher, but you have no literary agent to help you look it over, your writing organization might provide you with a handbook, a set of guidelines or some helpful information to help you figure it out. They might also provide you with a directory of entertainment lawyers, and you can hire one of them to help negotiate a better publishing deal for you,  or to help you out in case you get tangled in some legal situation.
Some writing organizations will also have member insurance policies or emergency funds which might help you in your time of need.

6.       Publication

While schmoozing with agents, authors and editors might get your foot in the door, they don’t necessarily lead to instant publication.
Some writing organizations, however, provide definite opportunities for you to get published in other ways. They might encourage submissions to their newsletters or magazines. Or they might even allow you an opportunity to get published in an anthology.
CBW-LA, for example, holds an annual Writing Day Anthology Workshop where participants are led through a series of writing exercises. At the end of the workshop, each participant produces two pieces which are published months later in the group’s STORY SPROUTS anthology.

Joining a writing group will cost money and also require time, since you’ll have to attend various events to make full use of your membership. While there might be detriments to being part of one, such as possible group infighting or power struggles, I have yet to see this in the writing organizations I belong to.
Whatever other cons there may be for joining a writing organization, I can say from experience that the benefits of belonging to one far outweigh them all.

Super thanks for having me on your blog, Arlee!

·                          Paperback: 240 pages
·                          Publisher: CBW-LA Publications (October 18, 2013)
·                          Edited by: Alana Garrigues, Nutschell Anne Windsor
·                          Language: English
·                          ISBN-10: 0989878791
·                          ISBN-13: 978-0989878791
·                          Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
·                          Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)

·        19 Authors
·        38 Combined Anthology Entries – 2 per Contributing Author
·        6-hour Workshop
·        10 Writing Exercises (included in Story Sprouts)
·        Dozens of Photo, Character and Conflict Prompts (included in Story Sprouts)
·        240 pages

What happens when linguistic lovers and tale tellers workshop together? Inspiration. Wonder. Discovery. Growth. Magic.
Brave and talented, the writers featured in this anthology took on the challenge of dedicating one day to the raw and creative process of writing.
A rare view into the building blocks of composition, Story Sprouts is made up of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose from 19 published and aspiring children's book authors.
This compilation includes all of the anthology writing exercises and prompts, along with tips, techniques and free online writing resources to help writers improve their craft.

Learn more about Story Sprouts at
Join the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles at 

Find Nutschell at:

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