Tag: 2013 A to Z Challenge

O is for Office Worker #atozchallenge

Day O of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: office worker.

My writer’s biography starts out, “ED Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places.” Some of those jobs are ones I want, like teaching and research-based ones, and others are placeholders that give me a paycheck.

The problem with placeholder jobs is that they don’t require much from you. Type, file, no thought required. And I’m a thinker. When spending my days completing mindless tasks, I evaluate the computer system and come up with shortcuts that produce more meaningful information. I mentally add fields and procedures to enhance the product.  But because often I’m just an over-educated automaton, no one wants to hear my ideas.

So I look for creative outlets. Like popping all the keys off my keyboard in the name of cleaning it (those things get nasty fast), but then rearranging the keys when I put them back on. And being amused when another data-entry person uses my computer and becomes all confused because she can’t type well enough to do it without looking.

Or plastering my workspace with origami fish, culminating in a “tank” that I earnestly reminded people to feed if I was going to be gone.

Or decorating Santa for the off-season (he didn’t last very long, unfortunately; supposedly a patient complained, although we suspect it was a fun-hating

But the best, by far, was Norman.

Norman was a life-sized turkey head we adopted from the cover of an old hunting magazine we found lying around a waiting room.  He loved to travel around the office, jumping out at people when they least expected it.

Chris over at Plumbed Down shared some of his workplace antics, which are a lot more athletic than mine and definitely worth checking out if you want a good laugh.

What kind of I’m-bored-and-don’t-care-if-I-get-fired pranks have you played at your workplace?

N is for No #atozchallenge

Day N of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: No.

Such a simple little word.  No.  N-O. Nu-uh. No way. Not gonna happen. No, no, no.

When I was younger, I read voraciously. I read good books, okay books, and bad books. And I always finished them. If I started a series, I read them all, complaining about how much I disliked them. But I still finished.

And then a few years ago I had an epiphany. I could say NO to a book I didn’t like. It was okay for me to not finish it. In fact, sometimes it was great if I didn’t finish; I had more time to read things I did enjoy.

And so I’ve been branching out and saying NO more often. No, I’m not going to continually go out of my way to help someone who never helps me in return.  No, I’m not going to sit quietly while my bosses encourage my coworkers to make up program data. No, I’m not going to let someone get away with spreading false rumors and ideas or using offensive slurs.

Recently I’ve expanded this to people too. If someone in my life is a negative influence, and rather than have a debate based on reasoned ideas would again and again prefer to resort to hyperbole and insults, or would constantly tear me down for my actions and opinions, what do I gain by having him or her in my life besides constant anxiety? 

So I’ve said NO. And I feel so much better for it.

Sometimes you have to put your foot down and cut your losses.  Life is too short to spend on bad books, or with bad people.

What do you say NO to in your life?

M is for Mary Efflandt Photography/cover reveal #atozchallenge

Day M of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: Mary Efflandt Photography.

My best friend from middle and high school is a photographer who graciously made the cover of my upcoming short story collection, The Futility of Loving a Soldier, which will be released Memorial Day.

I told her what I wanted: a kid dressed as a soldier waving a flag. She took the concept and did a fantastic job with it.  And now every time I see this cover, I get super excited about my book!

Weekend Writing Warriors 4/14/13 #8sunday

Today’s eight are from one of the stories in the collection I’d like to release next winter, and I’m pretty sure this story is directly linked to last week’s.

Alec (who also appears in my flash story “The Kindness of Strangers” in The Indiana Horror Anthology 2011) is some kind of incubus-like demon who travels around devouring souls and just generally causing destruction and chaos.  In this excerpt he’s lured Brianna, someone he met at a bar, back to her apartment and already incubus-ed her, but she’s not passing out/dying like they usually do.

“I know it sounds like something from a bad romance movie but you complete me, Alex.” She giggled and reached out for him, saying, “Kiss me again.”

Alec stared at the woman in front of him, barely believing what was happening; it had been so long since a woman asked him for a kiss, not since- A name buzzed in his subconscious, a name from before.

He frowned, trying to catch that name, that memory. It had been so long ago, whatever life he’d come from, that he’d given up trying to remember any of it. For so long he’d been focused on sowing chaos and feeding on the ensuing fear and despair, unable and unwilling to think about before, and now Brianna was triggering it all for him.

“Who are you?” he whispered.

Post a link to your eight sentences blog entry, or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website

L is for Lakes, Rivers, and Oceans #atozchallenge

Day L of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: lakes, rivers, and oceans.

I have a strong affinity for water.  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces? Whatever the reason, I find bodies of water, no matter the size, relaxing and rejuvinating. They help me focus, help me think.

When I’m looking for a quiet place to read or write, there are several spots along the nearby rivers that I head to. And when I lived in North Dakota, I frequently found my way to a secluded spot along the Missouri River (if not randomly driving along it to the South Dakota border).

La calanque d’En-vau, Cassis

One of my best memories of my semester studying in France was a weekend spent in Cassis, just lying on the beach watching the water.

And when I lived in North Carolina, I loved weekends spent at the beaches near Wilmington.

Last spring I went on a massive week-long roadtrip, following the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico to spend an afternoon lying on a Florida beach, alternating between reading and writing.

I also made a couple weekend roadtrips to Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, and this summer hope to hit lakes Erie and Ontario, Niagara Falls, and maybe Lake Huron too.

I write about water as well. My story “Of Gods and Floods,” published in last year in Shadow Road Quarterly, is about two kids living in Cairo, IL, when the Army Corps of Engineers blew up levees to alleviate flooding along the Mississippi.  And I’m currently working on a story about a guy who lives near the Kerguelen Islands (see map), which is probably my #1 destination right now.

photo from http://prullmw.xanga.com/

That being said, I don’t do boats because I get seasick very easily. I can do canoes, but anything larger – motor boats, small cruise ships, ferries, etc – is out of the question.  And I don’t go in water deeper than my knees or where I can’t see the bottom because of sea monsters – sharks, squids, jelly fish, Leviathans, etc.

Which element do you most rely on to relax and focus?

K is for the Kingdom of Loathing #atozchallenge

Day K of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: The Kingdom of Loathing.

When my kid was a baby, a couple friends tipped me off to one of the funnest games online, The Kingdom of Loathing.  It’s a text-based MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) consisting of stick drawings.  It’s very tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, and sometimes just plain silly, poking fun at various cult and pop culture offerings from the past few decades.

You start off as a stick figure in one of the six various classes (I prefer Seal Clubber or Disco Bandit), then complete fifteen main quests and numerous smaller ones, fighting off reanimated leftovers, drunk hobos, hippies and frat boys, pirates, and really just a bunch of random bad guys.  You start each day with forty turns, but you can get more by eating food and drinking booze you find along the way.  Gold buys you new skills,

Once you beat the Naughty Sorceress in the final quest and free King Ralph, you have two choices: keep playing (the Old Man by the Sea directs you to harder oceanic levels), or ascend to Valhalla.

Normally I choose to ascend. You pick who to be for your next run.  In addition to gender, class, and skill to learn permanently, you can choose various options to make the game harder, like playing hardcore (can’t use anything from your previous life, including all your old stuff, or get help from friends) or going on a restricted diet.  A harder run gets you special items when you finish.

I find this concept really interesting, to the point that it’s influenced the collection of short stories I’m currently working on, to be released hopefully around Christmas.  What if when we die, we get a checklist of options to choose in our next life – ways to make it easier or harder, with more karma earned for a harder run? What if the choices we made in a previous life influence our future lives?

All the stories in this collection, tentatively titled Between Light and Dark, will focus around this idea, of two soulmates dealing with the repercussions of the choices they make not only in their lives, but in their afterlives.  And making it even more complicated for them is that often they don’t even know what those choices were.

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J is for Jesus’s abs #atozchallenge

Day J of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: Jesus’s abs.

A few weeks ago, I came home to this picture on a brochure for a local religious group. This guy is what is commonly referred to as “White Jesus.” It’s a well-known fact that since Jesus was a Jewish carpenter from the Middle East, he would most likely not have brown hair, pale skin, or blue eyes (you can’t see his eyes in this picture but I’m sure they’re blue). But that hasn’t stopped generations of WASPs from portraying him this way, or ignorant Americans from declaring that the Bible should be read in its original English.

Similarly, I’m pulled out of many stories I read when the author gets details wrong. Little things, that could easily be checked. For example, one story I’m beta-reading is set in Michigan, and the plow comes by and plows everyone’s sidewalks and driveways.  Yeah, I wish that was how it worked! Another story has characters stargazing in mid-summer, and they see Orion in the night sky, even though he’s a winter constellation.

It might be big things, too. Like using English terminology for a story set in Seattle. Anachronistic things in historical stories, like inventions 50 years before they were invented.

In my own stories, I try to fact-check as much as possible. For example, I recently wrote a story about guys in a small rock band. One thing my beta-readers were quick to point out was that the guys would load their own equipment, not roadies. And in a story involving a scene set in Iraq, I asked several people who’d been there to fact-check it. They pointed out terminology and protocols that would be fine to a civilian, but stuck out to military personnel.

When you read a story and come across wrong details, what’s your reaction?

And as a writer, how much effort do you put into fact-checking your own stories?

I is for Inspiration #atozchallenge

Day I of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: Inspiration.

A big question writers seem to be asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”  For me, there are several places I look to for inspiration:

  • Life experiences – Not just mine, but how I perceive the experiences of those around me. My students, for example, have been a goldmine, with all the drama in their lives.
  • What if’s – What if that hotel clerk has to bring his young daughter with him on the night shift? What if a distant relative really had died in Chile and not the small Midwestern town she’d been born in, as many (erroneous) Ancestry.com records seem to say?
  • What’s it like – to live in the dying small town I drove through? To be the band onstage, having aspirations of rockstardom while playing regional venues? To order a pizza for a woman at a bar who’s half your age?
  • Dreams – I rarely remember mine, but when I do they find their way into my stories.

And of course, all of those mix together, into something completely new.

If you’re a writer, what inspires you?

H is for handwritten #atozchallenge

Day H of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: handwritten.

Generally I type the first draft of all my stories. I’m most creative from about 10 pm to 2 am, and I’m home in front of a computer during that time, so it’s not an issue.

However, my second most-creative time is about 9-11 am (during which I’m at work). My job has some slow periods during which I can read, but I’m not sure how well it would go over if I started writing on the computer.

So for times like that, and when I’m hiding out at my favorite writing spot, I write everything out by hand.  I also jot down notes by hand if something comes to me and I want to get it down before it’s gone, because although I have a great app on my phone, GNotes, that syncs up with my gmail account, it’s a pain to have to tap out a story with a touchscreen keyboard.

Which method do you generally use when writing?

G is for Goals Review #atozchallenge

Day G of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: goals review.

Each year I set goals for myself, and every three months I review my progress.

2013 goals:

  1. Publish my novel, The Lone Wolf.
  2. Average a short story acceptance each month, with the majority of them in paying markets.
  3. Put out a short story collection.
  4. Get another novel ready to query.
  5. Read 100 books this year
  6. Kayak the entire length of the Hennepin Canal.

So far this year, I’m off to a pretty good start.

  1. A full manuscript of The Lone Wolf was requested by a publisher after I queried them, and it’s currently in review.
  2. I’ve only had one acceptance so far this year, “Us, Together” which was published in Fiction365, on Mar 27, but it was a paying market. I pulled a bunch of my stories from the submission queue in order to include them in my upcoming collection, so I’m down to just seven to send out. I have several dozen started and ideas for a dozen more, so maybe I can get some finished during next month’s Story-A-Day Challenge. Because forcing myself to write under a deadline has worked so well for me in the past.
  3. I have a short story collection, The Futility of Loving a Soldier, set for release on Memorial Day; I just need to finish one story and edit another. And I have the stories all lined up for another collection I’d like to release for Christmas; 3 are finished which leaves just 14 to go.
  4. I’ve been focusing on short stories so I haven’t been working on novels much. Last year’s NaNo needs an overhaul; maybe once this short story collection’s done I’ll spend the summer working on polishing a novel.
  5. So far I’m at 26, which according to Goodread’s tracker is where I should be. I have a bunch of books on my Kindle app, and I’ve been trying to read some of those when there’s a lull at work.

    2013 Reading Challenge

    2013 Reading Challenge
    E.D. has
    read 26 books toward her goal of 100 books.

  6. Spring is just now making an appearance; I’m not hardcore enough to kayak in cold, crappy weather. 

If you’re a writer, what are your goals for the rest of the year?  If you set goals for yourself at the beginning of the year, how are you doing with them? 

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