Six things I learned from the Ultimate Blog Challenge (#blogboost)

This is the last day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, at least this particular round of it. By the end of today, I hope to have posted 31 times to this blog in October, once for each day of the month.

I do this and other challenges (the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, NaNoWriMo, A Round of Words in 80 Days) because they teach me something about myself and point out things about the way I work that are good and things that I would like to improve on. It’s fun to “win,” but that really isn’t the point. I’m not competing against anyone but myself. And this time through, the first time I’ve done this challenge, there are six things that I have learned.

  1. This is a lot harder than it looks. I really admire the bloggers who can make this look easy, because it isn’t. Coming up with ideas for posts every day ain’t no box of chocolates, as my friend Forrest Gump would say.
  2. Preparation is the key. Blogging every day requires a game plan. As I said at the beginning of the challenge, I have one feature on this blog, Two for Tuesday. I’m now mulling ideas for additional features. Maybe TV Thursday and The Friday Five. Knowing what you’re going to write about on a given day makes the job much, much easier.
  3. Mine other blogs for ideas. The two most popular posts this month were based on things I found elsewhere.
  4. It’s fun. As hard as it was to come up with ideas sometimes, I had a blast doing this.
  5. Visit other blogs, and they’ll visit yours. I apologize to other bloggers doing the challenge this month that I didn’t make more of a point of visiting blogs. Next time, for certain.
  6. Write ahead. There was something catty-wampus with WordPress last night and I almost didn’t get the post out. If I had a stockpile of posts, I could have just released one of them.

Did you do this challenge? What did you learn from it?

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Happy Hallowe’en! (#blogboost)

A little music by the incomparable Henry Mancini:

WGN used this song as the theme for its Saturday night horror movie screamfest, “Creature Features.” Maybe they still do. I doubt it, though.

I have to confess, I’m not into Hallowe’en. Thinking back, I never was. No offense intended, it just never appealed to me. It was my duty as a kid to put on a costume and go trick-or-treating, and it wasn’t something I looked forward to. The year my dad died, Hallowe’en was on a Tuesday, and all the kids in the neighborhood were going out on Sunday. It was colder than a well-digger’s backside, and I decided that I wasn’t going to do it. My mom gave me five dollars and told me to get myself a costume. The only costume left by then was a devil costume. I felt like an idiot. I did go out in 7th and 8th grade, mostly because I was with my friends. They were into it. It didn’t catch on. Oh well.

Hallowe’en has become big business these days. I’m told people spend more money for Hallowe’en than for any other holiday but Christmas. Wow.

I have nothing against it. I don’t believe that it’s a Satanic celebration, though many would disagree, nor do I believe that it’s a gateway into the occult. In fact, its name comes from “All Hallow’s Eve,” the day before All Saints’ Day, a day that the Catholic Church honors the holy people who lived lives of heroic faith. We don’t pass out candy (we don’t need the temptation, believe me) and we are certain to keep Jasmine, our one black cat, in the house on the day. I’ve never understood the whole aversion to black cats, by the way. We’ve had a few of them over the years, and they are wonderful pets, most of them are a little goofy (then again, cats in general are a little goofy, especially torties and calicos), and too many of them don’t have “forever” homes. When we adopted Jasmine, the lady who ran the pet rescue was so thrilled that she gave her to us. If you’re ever looking for a companion animal, consider a black cat.

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

Writing advice from a successful author (#blogboost)

Chuck Palahniuk (Source:Amazon.com)
Chuck Palahniuk (Source:Amazon.com)

Someone from The Future of Storytelling Facebook group linked to this blog post by Marmaladia. It’s advice by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club (but let’s not talk about that). I’ve printed it, added the link to Springpad, sent it to the members of my writing group, and might just tattoo it on my stomach to remind me not to make these mistakes.

Granted, there are times when you just can’t avoid using some of this. At the same time, using them is a crutch. I have a character that I invariably describe as short and busty with red hair and green eyes (many of you know who I’m talking about). I’ll be finding other ways to say that now, because after a while it becomes a cliché.

So, what are you still doing here? Go over, read the post, and post your comments below.

One house that will be TP’ed tomorrow night (#blogboost)

This has been the topic of discussion on social media today.

Apparently there’s a woman in Fargo, North Dakota who, if she decides that a trick-or-treater who shows up at her door who appears to be “moderately obese,” will send a note home with the kid rather than giving the kid candy.

The letter in question (source: USAToday.com)
The letter in question (source: USAToday.com)

I understand that childhood obesity is a problem. I’m not saying that being obese is a good thing. Having been a fat kid and being a fat adult now, in fact, I can tell you that it really sucks. Regardless of how you feel about Hallowe’en, though, it’s a day when kids, fat kids and skinny kids alike, dress in costumes and go from house to house collecting treats. It’s a tradition. Kids do it even if they’re not crazy about it. It’s part of being a kid.

I mean, really, where does this lady get off? She’s deciding what kids are obese and denying them candy, and sending a snarky note home to their parents. Say the kid comes to her house with half a dozen friends, and all of them get candy, but he gets a note telling his parents that he’s fat and they’re not doing their job. Really, who died and made her the Hallowe’en police? Giving the kid a note for his parents is akin to giving him a rock.

What she’s planning to do is a form of child abuse. Really, humiliating a kid in front of his friends like this? You don’t think that’s going to get around school on Friday? You don’t think the kids in his neighborhood are going to hear about it? And telling his parents how to raise their kid? I can tell you that, if someone did that to me or one of my brothers, my mother would be in this woman’s face about it.

Maybe, instead of giving candy out just to the kids that she judges to be acceptable, she should give out bags of celery and carrot sticks. Or sugar-free candy. Or apples, or bananas, or little boxes of raisins, or popcorn balls. Or maybe she should turn out the lights and leave the house until trick-or-treat is over.

Oh, well. We know what she’ll be doing on Friday: trying to get the toilet paper out of her tree, washing shaving cream off of her windows and broken eggs off the side of her house. Maybe some kid will leave the hose running on her front porch all night. It’s supposed to be below freezing Thursday night….

What do you think about this?

He’s doing it again… (#blogboost)

2013-Participant-Facebook-Profile

What did you think I was talking about?

This Friday is November 1, and that means two things: All Saints’ Day and the official start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’ve participated most years since my first one in 2004, and every one of those stories has been utter crap that I never wanted to see again. I’m not even sure that I can find any of the ones that I wrote. I know, bad John…

This year I’m doing things a little differently than in previous years: I’ll be starting two 25K-word projects on Friday. I saw this article yesterday that suggested that the main offender when it comes to you not getting work done is your own brain. The author says that the human attention span can be as short as ten minutes….

SQUIRREL! (source: bestclipartblog.com)
SQUIRREL! (source: freeclipartblog.com)

I’m going to take the suggestion the author of the article gives and switch off between the two projects, though not every ten minutes, as she suggests. (Really, how can a writer do that?) If I write 1000 words on each every day, I can finish both. 1000 words a day on two projects doesn’t seem as daunting as 1667 words a day on one. If all goes according to plan, I finish both on the 25th. If not, I have five additional days to pick up the slack.

Wish me luck!

Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year?