It’s Banned Books Week

Books have always served an important function in the world: sharing culture, knowledge, and ideas, and of course, providing entertainment.

We all (most likely) know the name Johann Gutenberg ~ the storied inventor of the fabled printing press. Prior to his invention, books and reading were mainly the purview of the Christian Church. Specially trained monks copied religious and classical works in a scriptoria (writing room); “the compilation of comprehensive knowledge into a single document was considered a vital, even sacred endeavor”*.

Needless to say, that meant:

a) they controlled the books that were distributed, and
b) it was a painstaking process, and
c) books were very very expensive. And
d) not everyone could read, because why should they?

Early wooden printing press, depicted in 1568. Such presses could produce up to 240 impressions per hour. *Image from Wikipedia.

“Early wooden printing press, depicted in 1568. Such presses could produce up to 240 impressions per hour.” *From Wikipedia.

The story of the printing press is fascinating … A new historical novel that I’m in the midst of reading, Gutenberg’s Apprentice, delves into how he did so: he used a converted wine press, and created moveable lead type, and of course, didn’t do it alone.  (But that’s a subject for another blog post.)

Did Gutenberg create the printing press because he was greedy, and saw the potential for profit? Was he a genius? A madman? Or a man intent on spreading knowledge?

I, for one, cannot say for certain sure, but I can get to the point of this post, what has drawn me out of my blogging dryspell to write: we do owe him a debt of gratitude for his role in delivering books unto us.

And we must note… despite how amazing it is that most of us can even read, let alone own and hold multiple books in our hot little hands…

…Today, 559 years after Gutenberg’s invention, some books are challenged or banned.

That’s right… some people don’t like other people’s words, so they want them to be banned. Because they are offended by something about it. So that no one else can read them. Like, ever.

Clearly, this is not a new thing.

Various books have been banned or challenged (asked to be removed) for a long, long time.

Per the American Library Association, Banned Books Week was started in 1982 to “to celebrate and defend the freedom to read.” (Be sure to check out the cool timeline on their site, and the list of Books that Shaped America on the BBW site.)

So, what are some of these horrible, horrible books that have been challenged, and frequently so?

Except for Captain Underpants, I’ve read all of those books, and they all touched / moved / taught me stuff / made me think / entertained me in various ways.

Of course, Fifty Shades of Grey and the Twilight series have also been challenged, books that are not my cup o’ tea (sorry; can’t think of a non-cliché to use) and that I will never ever read. But I would never ever challenge anyone’s right to read them, much less try to get them removed from library or bookstore shelves.

One of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett, is quoted as saying:

As far as I'm aware I'm not specifically banned anywhere in the USA, and
am rather depressed about it.  Surely some of you guys can do
*something?*
        -- (Terry Pratchett, alt.books.pratchett)

And so, my dear readers, I encourage you to read a banned book, or three. Or write one.

banned_books

 

 

*quote from Converging Media: A New Introduction to Mass Communication, Pavlik, John V., and McIntosh, Shawn. 4th ed. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Cover Reveal for debut author Chad A. Clark!!!

I am beyond pleased to bring you a cover reveal this fine day middle of the night. Why, you may ask, is dSavannah so excited? And why has she begun speaking of herself in the third person?

Well, I’ll tell ya.

If you’ve read my blog over the past few months, you’ll know that one of my writer friends is Chad A. Clark. He was my partner in crime writing for April’s #AtoZChallenge. He answered The Questions on May 4.

And today it is my honor, nay my privilege, nay my joy, nay my supreme raison d’être (I may be getting carried away here…) Anywho, I’m pleased as punch to be part in the cover reveal for his debut book, which will be released for Kindle and paperback on July 18.

First, the book description:

Borrowed Time is a collection of six tales bridging the chilling world of horror and the mind-bending realms of science-fiction. Join a young man searching for answers in the wake of a friend’s suicide, who uncovers an evil that proves some questions are best left unasked. Journey with a young artist along haunted back-country highways, hoping to make it home while re-discovering herself in the process. Travel to the distant future where one man breaks free from the safe isolation of his existence and risks everything so that he might learn what lies beyond the confines of his reality.

Second, a bit about Chad:

Storytelling has always been one of Chad A. Clark’s passions. A Midwestern raised author, he specializes in horror and science fiction. Learn more about him at his website, cclarkfiction.net. You can also enjoy a new original work of fiction every week on his website, bakedscribe.net. Borrowed Time is his debut book.

Find Chad:

Third, why I’m especially excited:

I designed the cover. That’s right, lil ole me, your friendly bloggess and snarky girl, designed the book cover.*

Not only that, but them photos? I took ‘em.

You wanna know the weird thing about this?  No? Well, then stop reading. ;)  So, one day a few months back, Chad had sent me the title story for me to see about editing it (which didn’t work out, due to my schedule). I had sorta skimmed through the story, but I didn’t really read it, read it, if you know what I mean. I couldn’t even really tell you anything about it.  But I had a dream about it. I dreamed this scene…..  a tiny cabin, in the middle of a desolate landscape.

When I woke up, I looked through my photos and found that very image. I’d taken it in 2006, in Arkansas, in one of the rambles that hubs and I do. I sent it to Chad and said something along the lines of “this made me think of your book”.

And turns out, it was pretty much exactly what he had imagined for his book cover.

So despite the spookiness of my psychic-ness, he hired me to design the cover. And so I did. I hope you like it. And go buy the book when it launches.

And finally, the cover itself:

front_cover_sm


*I’ve done graphic design for years, and I also teach it, but despite my enduring love of books, this is the first cover I’ve ever designed. And you know what they say about your first time….

Posted in author, community, cover reveal, e-book, fiction, friends, giving to others, hard work, horror, kindle, paperback, photography, sci-fi, writershelpingwriters | 10 Comments

Goodreads Book Giveaway from Rachel In The OC

As y’all know, I am a big supporter of fellow writers and artists, and so I’m pleased to share this special giveaway with my loyal readers.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Broken Pieces

by Rachel Thompson

Giveaway ends June 30, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 
 
Broken Pieces paperbackTitle: Broken Pieces
Genre/Keywords: Non-fiction
Length: 113 pages
Extras: Free Sample * Authorgraph
Publisher: ebook: Rachel Thompson * print: Booktrope Editions
Release date: ebook: December 19, 2012 * print: December 12, 2013
ebook ISBN: 9780578117836
ASIN: B00AR0T74S
Purchase: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Book Summary: Broken Pieces is an award-winning book about relationships, a study of women, and a book with heart. Vastly different in tone from her previous essay collections A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed, Broken Pieces is a collection of pieces inspired by life: love, loss, abuse, trust, grief, and ultimately, love again. While still non-fiction, best-selling Broken Pieces is not humor at all. In Thompson’s most intensive work to date, she opens her soul and invites the reader in for a visit. Thompson goes into those long buried rooms we lock up deep inside and shares a bit of her soul. Broken Pieces is vulnerable, raw honesty, and no-holds barred.

AWARDS

  • 2013 eBook Cover Design Award Gold Star Winner
  • 2013 San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention
  • 2013 Global eBook Award Women Studies Non-Fiction Gold Medal Winner
  • 2013 eFestival of Words Best Non-Fiction (General) Winner and Best Literary Fiction Runner Up
  • 2013 Orangeberry Hall of Fame Best Non-Fiction Winner and Best Cover Art Winner

GEbA_GoldBEST NON FICTION2013winnerECA-Feb-2013-GS ebook cover awards gold starBEST COVER

 

 


PRAISE FOR BROKEN PIECES:

“This is a book about rising above; about becoming more than you can possibly believe you ever will be at those terribly low points of your life. It is about surviving, thriving and living and I recommend it more than any other book I have read.”
~Tracy Riva, Midwest Book Review, Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer

“The book is written as a series of fragmentary essays. Thompson is a wonderful stylist, and the whole book is written in a very lyrical and poignant prose. This is not a book for leisure reading, but a powerful testament to the resilience and the indomitable nature of human spirit.”
~Dr. Bojan Tunguz, Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer

“So ridiculously amazing, I can’t take it”
~Gabe Berman, author Live Like A Fruit Fly

“Engrossed. It is a grippingly brilliant work”
~Frank Feather, author and blogger

“Any woman who has had a former lover (or two or three) will be able to relate to this. Her writing is very poetic”
~LS Hullinger, reader, writer

“A brilliant and intense must read”
~Jeffery Rowan, reader

Posted in abuse, author, childhood, community, contest, depression, dreams, family, feminism, giving to others, hard work, inspiration, literary fiction, making a difference, paperback, shining a light, the dark places, writershelpingwriters | Leave a comment

Orange is *still* Orange ~ #TeamOrange!

orange_blog_header_06062014

I am a proud member of #TeamOrange, a group of writers who banded together in 2012 to create the anthology Orange Karen: A Tribute to a Warrior, with all proceeds going to help fellow writer Karen DeLabar and her family pay for medical expenses associated with her bout with Toxic Shock Syndrome.

We released the anthology to great fanfare in April 2013. It’s been a while since I’ve promoted it, and I think it’s time to do so again.

Fellow author and anthology compiler Christina Esdon inspired this post with these words on her Facebook page:

orange_karen“Hiya friends, as we gear up for summer vacations and enjoying the sunshine, and enjoying life, it makes me think about someone I know who almost lost her life two years ago. She almost died of something rare, Toxic Shock Syndrome, but she survived. She survived to see her two little ones grow up and to bring a third sweet bundle of joy into the world. She survived, but still has to have surgeries for a near lethal infection that almost took her limbs. She still has a whack load of medical bills. And amidst all that she still soldiers on.

“That’s why a bunch of way talented authors and editors got together and put together an anthology of short stories in her honor that represented her and her “orangeness” (she has awesome orange/red hair).

“So, I encourage all of you to pick up a copy of ORANGE KAREN – the stories are fantastic and you can read multiple genres (humor, romance, sci-fi, fantasy…you name it!), AND ***ALL*** proceeds of book sales go directly to Karen DeLabar to help pay for her medical bills. Pretty darn fantastic, right?”

RIGHT!


Learn more about the authors and Karen’s story:

Buy the Book:

  • CreateSpace – paperback (purchasing this version gives Karen and her family the most money)
  • Amazon – paperback
  • Amazon – kindle

Other ways to help:

  • Donate via Paypal to the Orange Karen fund (go to the anthology website and click the ‘Make a Donation’ button on the right side of the page)
  • Write a review on Amazon or Goodreads
  • Listen to a few authors (including me) read their #OrangeKaren story on The Word Count Podcast
  • Share Karen’s story and info with on the anthology with your friends, followers, enemies, frenemies, et al.
Posted in #TeamOrange, author, books, community, e-book, family, fiction, giving to others, inspiration, joy, kindle, love, making a difference, The Questions, writershelpingwriters, writing | Leave a comment

Back to Back…

Random pic of signs in Arkansas. Posted with this erm, post, since it's better to have a picture with a blog, erm, post, than not.

Random pic I took of signs in Arkansas. Posted with this erm, post, since it’s better to have a picture with a blog, erm, post, than not.

Get it? Get it? Yes, I crack myself up. (Also a pun. Get it? Get it?!?!?) {…Never mind…}

The first time I met hubs’ mama’s brother, the incorrigible Uncle Noel, the first thing he said to me was “I swore when I got old I wouldn’t go on and on about my health problems”… and then he proceeded to tell us all about his broke back.

Now, I never promised nor swore nor affirmed in any way that I would never discuss health issues, but I also never expected that I would wax poetic about it either.

But since I done did, I guess I oughta write a follow up to my last post, in which I described and belabored my back pain, to let my fine readers (and the ones who aren’t so fine… you know who you are!) an update on Operation FixMeBack.

Yesterday (Monday), I slept as late as I could, then got up and wrote a letter of recommendation for one of my former students. (A teacher’s work is never done…)

Then I put on some pants, as for some reason that is encouraged out in the real world, but since I’m a rebel, I did not put on any makeup, and I headed 40 minutes north to my chiropractor. Who, hallelujah, had contacted me and made space for me on his busy after-vacation schedule. He took one look at me and said:

 
Girl, you are twisted!

 
 

Duh! Everyone knows that!

Apparently in the various activities required of being a human being ~ breathing, eating, sleeping, grading, moving furniture ~ I had twisted my lumbar, so he whaled on me for a while and also used some weird machine that was, as he put it, as if an acupuncture needle and a {I forget what exactly, something electric} had had a love child. Kinda weird, but it did seem to assist in making the adjustments of my broke back go a wee bit smoother.

Then, later in the afternoon, a 20 minute drive made 40 minutes thanks to an inevitable wreck on Atlanta’s fine surface streets, I had a massage, thanks to my dear Twink in Texas, who knows a massage therapist here in Atlanta, and who she hooked me up with*. (It’s a small world, but as Stephen Wright said, I wouldn’t want to paint it….) (*And yes, I know that’s horrible grammar, but it’s my blog, so I don’t care…)

She (the massage therapist, not my Twink) said my whosiwhatsit muscle that’s attached to my something vertebrae near my something (floating?) rib was out of wack, and proceeded to gently massage my bumps and bruises. … including sore spots I didn’t even know were sore!

Then I drove the 30 minutes home and laid (lied? gosh boy howdy, I hate that word construction!) on an ice pack and eventually went to sleep.

When I woke up this morning, I still had back pain, but it is (and was) now localized in the region of that lower back lumbar whosiwhasit, and isn’t shooting up my back and down my legs and making me want to crawl into a ball and cry and suck my thumb. I’m attempting to baby my back, and still sink using my knees, not bend over if I need something down low, and hubs is fetching stuff for me, the sweet thing.

So: THANK YOU to everyone who sent wishes and suggestions. I have not tried them all, but:  hubs did purchase me some castor oil, but I have not yet attempted to use it (and I’m still a leettle skeered, as it says “use as a laxative”, and that’s decidedly not my issue); I have now been taking turmeric (how in the heck do you pronounce that anyway!) tablets for two days now, although they do not seem to be helping and my tummy’s not exactly happy with them; hubs is going to purchase some Epsom salts for me (not “slats”, as I originally typed) and will draw me a bath (say that with a veeerrrrryyyyy drawn-out Southern accent and picture me with one arm flung up over my forehead); I’m gonna look into an acupuncture specialist and the Laser Touch One; and I’m going to be kind to myself, as my loyal follower and fellow blogger JT Twissel suggested.

Stay tuned… I swear there will be some The Questions and posts that don’t discuss my health issues. But of course, there will be some that do… As my grandpa used to say (more ‘n likely quoting someone else, but of course I shall always attribute it to him):

 
I knew I would get old; I just didn’t know it would be this soon.
 
 

Yours in the search for better health:
dSavannah


Posted in age, community, depression, funny funny, health, hell, illness | 12 Comments

Not according to plan…

Last post, I had the unmitigated gall to give you a list of things I’d like to do this summer.

Sleeping. I have gotten some sleep, with the help of Piper, my snuggle kitty.

Sleeping, the first thing on my list.
I have gotten some sleep, with the help of Piper,
my snuggle kitty. {Photo by hubs.}
I have also done some reading.
The remainder of the list? Not so much.

And then I hurt my back.

Now, I have had back problems for the vast majority of my life. Untreated scoliosis, a wreck my senior year of high school, a wreck soon after graduating college…

The pain is just a part of my life. I complain, I go to the chiropractor, I take a pain pill if it’s real bad, and I usually just keep going.

But this pain is new, and different. And 1,000 times worse.

On Wednesday (or maybe Tuesday; I can’t quite remember), I start having what I can only call back spasms. The lower part of the right side of my back is seizing up, and sending pain radiating out to the rest of my back, like a spider with long electric tentacles. Sometimes my back is fine, but the pain starts up again, especially if I bend down. And do you know how many times you have to bend down in a day? I can’t even put on my shoes without pain! I can’t pick up the fur bunnies flying around the floor. I can’t get a roll of TP out of the bathroom cabinet, nor unload the dishwasher. Showering requires a level of coordination I don’t possess on a good day. Even the slight bend to reach the lid of the trash can in the kitchen – a mere three inches or so below where my hand naturally hangs! – can cause paroxysms of pain.

Thursday, I stupidly go grocery shopping.  My hubs doesn’t mind going to the grocery store every. single. day., as long as he’s just purchasing a handful of things, usually milk and coffee creamer and bagels and eggs. Things likely to go bad quickly.

Me? I can’t stand to do that. I’ll wait until even the church mice have run away due to starvation, and then do a big trip to buy everything: huge bags of dog food and the largest boxes of cat litter available; my health and beauty stuff, like makeup and shampoo; lots of nuts and seeds and chocolate chips because I like to make my own trail mix; and of course, food: blocks of cheese and boxes of crackers and bags of chips and piles of frozen veggies (love the PictSweet edamame) and ice cream and pasta and bread and any number of things that can be frozen for later use.

I also clip and save coupons, so I have to stand in the aisle and sort them and look for the specific brand and make sure I follow the instructions (some have crazy requirements, ya know!) and make sure I’m getting a deal with the coupon – if I’m not, I’ll leave the coupon on the item for someone else to use. {However, please note that this effort works: what with my coupons and items on sale, I saved over $60 at Target!}

This endeavor means I’m on my feet, doing a lot of walking, not to mention lifting and pushing and moving and unloading. It also takes the entire day, and, in retrospect, was a rather stupid thing to do, because it only exasperated my poor back.

And then, because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I do laundry! {Stupid, stupid girl…}

I try many remedies. I wear my scoliosis brace, but it really only helps keep my shoulders up. {And boy howdy is it super-attractive.} Hubs rubs my back. It feels nice, but the relief only lasts as long as he’s actually rubbing it. Since he has a job, that’s not exactly a long-term, practical solution. {Tho he did carry the laundry upstairs and folded it so I didn’t have to do that bending/lifting/carrying.}

I’d go see my chiropractor; he’d fit me in even if he didn’t really have any appointments available, but (speaking of unmitigated gall) he’s on vacation all week!

I have pain meds, the real kind, but they don’t seem to help. I use heat. I use ice. I use tears. Nothing works. In desperation, I take a muscle relaxer, knowing it won’t work, because it never does… and it doesn’t. Well, that’s not exactly true. The muscle relaxers work in that they knock me out so I don’t know I’m in pain – I sleep all Thursday night and all day Friday…. and of course then I can’t sleep Friday night because I’m in pain and I don’t want to take more of them stupid pills because I don’t like the zombie-ness the muscle relaxers give me. I’m having a difficult enough time getting things done without adding brain-dead and asleep to the mix. The pain alone is making me brain-dead, thankyouverymuch.

Facebook fiends friends suggest things I’ve already tried, and some I haven’t: long soak in a bath, which would be great, and we even have a lovely bathtub, but the hot water runs out long before the tub is full and I’m not a fan of hanging out in tepid water; castor oil, which scares me – I’m not sure of its application, and I’m afeared to ask, not to mention the visions it conjures of kids being punished with it in all them stories I read as a kid; turmeric, which we go buy at a health food store, but which so far has done nothing (to be fair, tis only been one day); massage, which I would adore but I don’t have anyone I trust, so a friend in Texas has hooked me up with a friend here, and tomorrow I go see this person. And chiropractic is also suggested, but my D.C. is on vacation. Sigh.

At this point I would also welcome a back replacement and/or a hot poker, which would probably feel good compared to my current state.

So, other things that needed (and wanted) doing? Not done. No draft of a book cover. No story or book edits. No art made. No writing.

So I guess those old quotes are terribly true (the first is attributed to writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders, not John Lennon as many people have stated; the second to Woody Allen):

“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.”

and

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

I just hope somebody’s laughing, cuz it ain’t me. :/

Posted in age, depression, dreams, family, health, hell, illness, insomnia, quotes | 8 Comments

What I’ll do on my summer vacation

One of the first shots I took with my nice camera in 2009. Queen Anne's lace says "spring is here" to me!

One of the first shots I took with my “real” camera, a birthday gift from my hubby (2009). Queen Anne’s Lace says “spring is here” to me!

I know, I know… you’re groaning at the silly reference to first-day-of-school assignments given across the world. Or is that a myth? Do teachers still require that essay? I know I certainly don’t, but then I’m teaching college students, and many of them don’t have a summer vacation because they are taking classes. Also, I teach graphic design, and asking them to illustrate what they did using an entirely foreign program might be a tad evil on my part. (Eviler than I usually am, that is. *cackles*)

Anywho, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, what I plan to do on my summer break, which includes but is not limited to:

    • Sleeping. Okay, that sounds silly, but I need to rest. I’m worn out. I’m drained. After giving it my all during my first year of full-time teaching, and dealing with the loss of someone so dear to me, and participating in the #AtoZchallenge2014, and some traveling and traipsing… I need rest. In fact, since it’s 2:20:01am, I should probably be sleeping now, but I’ve learned to follow my Muse where she leads, when she leads. And by the way, if anyone has ideas for a theme for next year’s challenge, let me know. Callers, we are standing by…
    • Reading. Obviously. I just finished reading an amazing amazing book called Invisible Ellen. Oh, how I LOVE this book. The author, Shari Shattuck, is also an actress, and you’ll probably recognize her if you go look at her pics. She says on her blog that she’s working on a sequel, Emerging Ellen. I wonder how much bribing I’ll have to do so she’ll give me an advanced copy. Have I mentioned I LOVE this book?!?!?  The next book I’m going to start is the ARC for Tom Rachman‘s new book, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. I was lucky enough to get an ARC for his debut novel, The Imperfectionists, a couple years ago. Loved it. (You can read my review if’n you wanna. And holy crap, the book has 523 reviews! Took me forever to find mine.)
    • Creating Art. I have a pile of jewelry and such that needs restringing or re-vamping or re-sizing or whatnot. I don’t even want to tell you how long it’s been there. And I wanna paint. I want to buy the biggest canvas I can fit in my car and set up my easel and throw some paint at it until I’m fat and happy. Or it’s fat and happy. Whatever. I also have some other various art projects (scarves, shoes, etc.) to work on.
    • Editing. I have some people who have patiently patiently patiently waited for me to get my head together to edit their babies. So, I need to work on them. Play on them. Help the author make their babies sing. Oh, and I’ve been asked to create a book cover. Of course, I’ll use my own, original photography. Go traipsing through the billions of photos I’ve taken to find just the right ones to put together? Play with fonts and typography? Yes, please! Just don’t throw me in the briar patch!
    • Life Coaching. I’m pretty sure that’s not the way it should be said, but… Hey. I’m a writer. I can write what I want. Anywho, a girl I used to do freelance PR for is studying to be a life coach, and I’m going to be her guinea pig! Or one of them! I’d been thinking I needed to find a counselor/therapist near my house, due to not wanting to leave it due to the bullet points above, and this is a wonderful wonderful opportunity for us both. She’s someone I already trust, and really admire, and, well… you can’t beat having sessions in your very own home. :) She lives across the country, so we’ll skype!

And finally, and probably most importantly:

    • Writing. So my novel (whose name I dare not speak aloud for fear someone will hear and use it; it’s that good) has been languishing off and on since I started it in 1996. Yeah, before (or soon after) a lot of my students were born. *shakes off feeling of being old* I love my character, Jessie, as has anyone who has ever read any bit of her story. (You can read an excerpt here.) The only problem is that I’ve been writing bits and bobs over the years and the book is just a mess. I know how it starts, and I know how it ends, and I know some of the stuff in the middle, but not all of it, and I’m not sure exactly when the stuff in the middle fits. So, I’m gonna stop being a pantser (which is a term used by writers who ‘fly by the seat of their pants‘; getcher mind out of the gutter, people!), and become a planner. I hope to re-start my #500WordsADay challenge, wherein I challenge myself to write 500 words a day on it, of course, and increase my novel’s girth from 40,000 words to around 90,000. Of course, I shall also bring you the best in rambling on this here blog. I’ve got some answers for The Questions already…. just need to schedule ‘em, make ‘em purty, and publish them!

So, what are y’all gonna do now that spring summer is finally here?
 

PS a shout-out to one of my biggest fans; she’s having a medical thingybob done soon. Send her some love and prayers if y’all don’t mind!

Posted in art, books, childhood, dancing, depression, drawing, dreams, editing, fiction, giving to others, happiness, hard work, history, humor, inspiration, making a difference, painting, photography, poetry, shining a light, the dark places, writershelpingwriters, writing | 12 Comments

#AtoZchallenge2014 ~ Reflections

dSavannah note: I have been working on this post for what seems like weeks. Okay, when I consult the calendar, I guess it has been weeks… Since before the end of the challenge on April 30 and when I posted The Questions with my erstwhile partner, Chad Clark.

As I mentioned in one of my posts, I’m a teacher. End of school year arrived, with the resultant craziness. And it also meant I needed to grade my students’ Final Projects. Plus, as usually happens, lots of other stuff descended at the same time. Which meant this post got pushed off til… well… now.

And I even missed the deadline to post this on the #AtoZchallenge2014 site. *shrugs* What can you do?  So, without further, ahem, ado, here is:


A-to-Z_Reflection_[2014]-hdr

If I had known that in addition to the 26 posts to write for the #AtoZchallenge2014, they wanted a post where I write about my feelings on the challenge, I might not have bothered. Ahem.

Maybe.

Just kidding.

I think.

Anywho, as you are more than well aware, unless you’ve stumbled on my blog for the first time (and welcome!), for the month of April, I participated in the challenge, writing 26 posts corresponding with the 26 letters of the alphabet.

When I learned about the Challenge and decided to participate, I had really hoped to recruit several friends, people who might help me come up with topics and then we’d all write and it would be fun to see what different things we each came up with for the same idea.

But it didn’t work out that way. I managed to recruit one person who stuck with it and me: Chad Clark. As I said in his The Questions post, he wrote 26 stories about monsters. Now, I think I’m fairly well-read, and I’m familiar with various mythological entities and whatnot, but… other than the “R” monster, which I requested and he kindly complied, I had not heard of any of them. So, from that standpoint, the Challenge was a great success, in that I learned new things!

My scribbled ideas for topics.

My scribbled ideas for topics.

Now, the reason I wanted “help” with the topic stage was… I’m quite terrible at coming up with short ideas. Even way back in college, when I served as editor of the entertainment section of the newspaper, I always made my assistant write the headlines.

Now, give me the topic, and I can write and write and write about it. I’m verbose.

So, for me, the hardest part about the challenge was coming up with an idea to write about. A few of the letters? I just had no clue.

But that was also part of the fun – asking friends/followers what I should write about, or consulting my dictionary and encyclopedia, or simply racking my brain, and then writing about whatever floated to the top.

Finding the time to write was a bit of a challenge, especially with school and life and everything else, but I was bound and determined to finish this challenge. And I did! Woot woot!!! And the best part is it re-awakened in me the love of writing blog posts. And writing in general. Of expressing myself. Of sharing how I feel or things I know or things I find interesting.

Will I do the challenge again? Probably. Will I keep blogging? Heck yeah! (Maybe not every single day, tho…)

And, bonus: in April, my blog got the most hits for a month since I started dSavannahRambles.  So thank you to everyone who supported me and my ramblings and posted comments and shared. Y’all are the best.

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2014, author, community, friends, giving to others, happiness, hard work, humor, inspiration, making a difference, memory, perseverance, writershelpingwriters, writing | 8 Comments

The Questions with Chad Clark: writer and #AtoZchallenge2014 partner

Holy cannoli. My last entry for The Questions was July 2013. Ten months ago. Wow. I am feeling like a major slacker right about now. Or that I’ve been majorly busy.

Actually, that’s it. Majorly busy. Life. Work. The pursuit of ways to support my eating habit. {In other news, I’m accepting applications for a patron… :) }

As you are more than well aware, for the month of April, I participated in the #AtoZchallenge2014, writing 26 posts corresponding with the 26 letters of the alphabet. Per my usual, I basically just rambled with no rhyme or reason or plan or, in some cases, actually having a coherent thought.

For this endeavor, I had a partner to cheer me on: Chad Clark. Unlike myself, Chad had a plan. He wrote 26 stories about monsters, which is quite a feat, in my humble opinion. I mean, really, 26 monsters, all starting with the letters of the alphabet? I consider myself fairly well read, and I didn’t even know about the vast majority of these scary creatures!

Since you read his stories (I’m guessing… and if you didn’t, go read them now! {You’ll have to scroll down to find them; his “Z” is at Issue 60, and the stories go backwards from there}), I thought I would introduce you to the dude behind the Monsters. So, please give Chad a nice rambly welcome!

About Chad (in his own words):

chad_clarkI have been a life long writer but I have not been writing for my whole life. My earliest memories of my passion for writing seem to begin in the third grade but I have since been given examples of poetry and short stories that I was writing even before that. Regardless, it was a unit on creative writing in the third grade when I realized that as much fun as reading was, now I could create the entire story myself. I could make whatever I wanted. I was hooked from that point on.

My first experiences with writing was naturally pretty derivative. I read a lot of Stephen King so I wrote a lot of messy, gory horror stories. I also started getting into Tom Clancy about that time and there were some attempts at some horrible techno-thrillers. I was a HUGE Star Trek and Star Wars fan so there was plenty of science fiction and poorly drawn comics.

As much praise as I got from my family for my writing, as I got older I began to get more stressed about my writing as I started to feel like it should be maturing as much as I was. As my opinion of myself and my education grew more inflated I tended to look down more on genre fiction and started to focus on what I considered “serious literary fiction”. Writing stopped being fun, mostly because I wasn’t any good at what I was trying to accomplish. As life often does, I moved on to other things and although there was no conscious moment to do so, I turned my back and left the pen behind.

Flash forward ten years later and I started to get the bug again. This time, I gave myself the freedom to write whatever the hell I wanted. With no possibility of a professional career that I might have once imagined for myself, I remembered how much fun literature was supposed to be. I wrote a Justice League fan fiction book. I went back to my roots and wrote a gritty horror story. I gave myself permission to be the kind of writer that I was, not waste my time trying to be the kind of writer that I thought other people would want me to be. I started producing real stories, original works of my own and eventually I made the decision that I needed to devote myself 100% to my craft. That meant writing every day. Even if it was only a few hundred words, I wrote. That was the watershed moment.

These past few years have been great for my craft. For the first time, I don’t really see it as a hobby as much as something that is a part of me, something I was meant to do. I remember once in junior high we were at a wedding reception and I met someone who was a writer. When I mentioned that I liked to write he told me that the important thing is to not just “like” writing. You have to NEED to write every day. If you get through a day without writing anything down you should feel like you did something wrong. I find that I understand that better now. I played bass in a number of bands for quite a few years and despite getting pretty decent, I never felt comfortable calling myself a musician.

I am a writer.

I write horror. I write science fiction. I have dabbled in some fantasy and I write some literary fiction here and there. It’s my passion and I write what feels natural to me. The best way I can demonstrate the change in my mentality is that I used to hate giving out my writing to others for critiquing. I would stress and kill myself over it and it would be the worst heartbreak in my life if someone didn’t like my writing. Why did I feel this way? I reacted like this because I think that deep down, the main reason why I was writing was because I needed other people to tell me that I was a good writer. What I have realized is that the key is to be able to tell yourself that you are a good writer. Let the words be what they are and celebrate what you have created.

Remember, even Shakespeare gets one star reviews :-)

(dSavannah note: Yup. What he said.)

The Questions

5. What skill(s) do you wish you’d learned as a kid?

I wish I knew more about cars; about how they work and how to fix them. There are a lot of basic handyman and repair type activities that I feel like the majority of the male population seemed to just intuitively grasp and I’m just hopeless. Even fixing things around the house freaks me out. I’m great at the more abstract, creative stuff in my life, I am a good cook for example but when it comes to more fundamental work that would probably save us a lot of money having to hire professionals, I wish my knowledge was more extensive.

18. Your work space: neat or messy?

I try to not focus too much on my work space. It sounds trite to say that I think it’s more important to just focus on the words but it’s kind of how I feel. One thing that does concern me is that if your brain starts to attach a particular place or setting with your ability to write, it can become hard to create anywhere else. I remember a comment Stephen King made about writing Carrie in the laundry room of their trailer, with a typewriter balanced on his lap. The point is that I think the important thing is to focus on the page more than what might be happening around the page.

(dSavannah note: That is true. Write where you are, not where you want to be. But I – and a lot of readers – are intrigued by the environment where their favorite author tends to find themselves.)

24a. If you could go back and give your 20-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Two pieces of advice come to mind.

First, I would say “Get over it, they’re just women not magical creatures! They actually do find you attractive just ask her out” – Now ultimately I think my life worked out for the best. I have the most amazing wife that a person could ever hope for. I have a son who makes me smile every day of my life and is the greatest blessing I could ever hope for. But I do wish I had lived my life in my twenties with a little bit less fear. I wish I had taken some more chances, tried different things, taken more trips, met more people, taken advantage of the freedom that only youth can offer.

(dSavannah note: Dangit! To have to learn this way that I’m not a magical creature… *sobs*. In all seriousness, I too wish I had lived my 20s with less fear. {See my post for “R”, on “Regrets”.})

Secondly, I would try and encourage myself to keep up with the writing. Even if it seems like it isn’t any good, even if you think no one is going to like it, just keep it going. Don’t give up. Just keep working away and keep writing the words down because eventually they will start being good on a regular basis. Every writer starts out like this, you are going through a normal process and the worst thing you could possibly do is leave your gift behind.

(dSavannah note: Amen. And all God’s children say AMEN.)

26. I wish I was rich enough to ____?

I wish I was rich enough to support my family with just my writing. I don’t need to have a rich lifestyle with multiple mansions, a dozen cars. I would just like to be able to give my family a comfortable lifestyle, the ability to travel now and then to new places and to have the time within the confines of a “work day” to create.

48. What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? When was it?

I saw Jaws when I was in grade school. I know that people don’t generally classify this as a horror film but for me I am much more scared of things that actually have the potential of happening to me. I’m not generally worried about being abducted by aliens or ripped apart by a supernatural demon spirit but I could see myself getting killed by a shark. To this day I still don’t feel comfortable swimming in open water.

(dSavannah note: I have never seen that movie. I bet Chad will say we can’t be friends any more now. LOL)

33. Why do you create in your medium/genre? What about it speaks to you?

I have had a hard time with this question and it is one that I have rolled around in my head quite a few times. For the outside observer, I think the question naturally arises, why would someone who is a good person write about things that can be pretty horrific, why focus so much on such dark subject matter? I still can’t think of an answer that really makes any sense. I suppose that I find the drama inherent in such stories to be more compelling. To me, I find the best stories are colored in gray as opposed to the starkness of black and white, where the heroes are very heroic and the villains are horribly evil. I enjoy reading books like that but they aren’t my favorite kinds of stories. I believe that for most writers, the genre chooses us as much as the other way around. I have had first hand experience all through my twenties what happens when you try and force yourself to write something that isn’t right for you. I know that my writing leads to situations that at times might make some readers uncomfortable. All I can say is that I have devoted so much of my life to watching movies and reading books that my biggest love is for the story. I have the ability to separate what I’m writing from reality and just revel in it as a structure, an artificial creation. I’m not acting out any kind of unconscious feelings or desires, it’s all about the story and creating something that is hopefully compelling and dramatic.

In the end I have to be honest and let the words be what they are.

39. What super power do you wish you had?

I’ll end with a light one. I know the natural answer with so many people is to be able to fly but with so many other planes and now camera phones it just wouldn’t be practical. My super power would be to be so fast that when I take off, I leave behind a cloud impression of myself.

Find Chad:

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2014, author, childhood, fantasy, fear, fiction, hard work, horror, inspiration, movies, perseverance, The Questions, writershelpingwriters, writing | 2 Comments

Z is for…

Z is for Zee End

ZThe letter Z is for many things, but in my world (at least today), it stands for three things in particular.

Of course, it doesn’t really stand for “Zee End”… just the end of this blogging challenge, the end of April, the end of cheering on my challenge partner, Chad Clark, who in addition to his usual writing, did this challenge with me and wrote stories about 26 monsters, most of which (whom?) I’d never even heard of. So I learned a lot.

(I’ll save my ramblings on the challenge for the “Reflections” post, which is to be published on May 5. And in a couple days, I’ll publish Chad’s answers to The Questions, so you can learn more about my partner in crime.)

So anywho, Z #1:

Z is for Zoolander

Those of you know me well may have noticed that I left a movie off my list of favorites, which I wrote about for the letter “M”. That movie is Zoolander, one of the stupidest, funniest movies ever written. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson play competing male models, with Christine Taylor (Ben’s wife in real life), playing a dumpy reporter trying to get at the bottom of a conspiracy regarding male models. (David Duchovny has a hilarious cameo.) I just love love love this movie. Again, if you watch it, and find it hideously dumb, it is indeed that. But it makes me laugh, and, like with Nacho Libre, I often quote lines from the movie.

Like these:

zoolander-ridiculously goodlooking

 

Upon being presented with a model of the Derek Zoolander School for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too:

65405-zoolander-ants-gif-XoWe

 

This occurs after giving up modeling and working for all of one day in the mines with his dad and brothers (note a resemblance to any famous actors?)…

zoolander-black lung

 

Zoolander falls prey to the dastardly machinations of acclaimed fashion designer, Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who says, backstage at a fashion show:

65402-zoolander-crazy-pills-gif-6laR

(Tho granted, I would probably say that anyway.)

I’m giggling just looking for and at these gifs!

Z #2:

Z is for Zevon, Warren

Such a shame that the amazing musician and songwriter Warren Zevon is no longer with us. I really wish I could ask him if he ever did get to the Louvre Museum and throw himself at the wall…

and the final, and #3 Z:

Z is for Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a beautiful place in East Africa, part of Tanzania, and most importantly (well, really, least importantly), one of those words that sounds like a curse word, if spoken with enough venom and vehemence (gack! two more “V” words!), but isn’t.


So that’s it for me for the challenge. Thanks for rambling along with me, and supporting me, and commenting on my words (I’m looking at everyone, but specifically Elaine, Brandi, and Betsy).

Never fear, I shall endeavor to keep writing, and I shan’t wait six months again to do so.

dSavannah

Posted in #AtoZchallenge2014, author, community, funny funny, guilty pleasures, happiness, hard work, humor, inspiration, learning, making a difference, perseverance, writing | 14 Comments