A-to-Z Challenge: Ethniko Apelfterotiko Metopo

There’s some enthusiastic transliteration, there, since I’m starting with something Greek, but more or less, it fits the M-theme for this fabulous alphabetical challenge. So, in translation–via the internet and one seriously old school dictionary–those nifty words add up to “National Liberation Front”.  (Lucky the Greeks speak Greek, or they wouldn’t fit this challenge at all.)

So the E.A.M. was a resistance group during World War II, when Greece was occupied by Nazis. And apparently, I need a note here abouts differentiating it from the current National Front (EM). (They’re different.)

I hit my limit on World War II stories back in high school, so let’s be honest… none of this would be here, if I didn’t need an E-M.

The group hits it’s high note toward the end of the war, when it has gained a sizable chunk of Greece and kept a lot of Greeks out of the forced labor pool, and sets up its own government. At the end of the war, a different government is set up.

The remaining group falls in and out of favor over the course of the next few decades, and the members are eventually recognized as resistance fighters and given government pensions in 1981.

That’s an interesting idea… the question of how to identify people who fought for your country, when your country was occupied and didn’t have an official military. Apparently, the correct response is a lot of political bickering. (Isn’t that always the answer? Or at least, the right answer if 1863 would look stupid in that space.)

IWSG: The A-to-Z Blogging Challenge

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

The awesome co-hosts today are Christopher D. Votey, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey!

April 5 Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Last year was my first year doing the A-to-Z Challenge, and it was the first time that I had managed to blog on any kind of a regular basis. 2016 was a hell of a year for me, and blogging gave it structure, and a “thing to do” because “that’s what we do” that I desperately needed. Maybe you know what I mean. That moment when nothing else holds, and… there you go. A thing to do.

In a more general sense, last year’s A-to-Z Challenge was just the kick in the pants I needed to get started.  I’d done some blogging, mostly just storytelling for some friends from other writers’ sites, and my routine was spotty, at best. I was going to blog a novel (which turned out to be both a good thing, and a bad thing, and an unmitigated disaster) but, as it turns out, getting things ready to post–really, edited, didn’t misspell anything, didn’t use the same word six times ready–meant I only posted a couple of times–if that–per month.

I managed to post every day last April–or close to it–and I started to see traffic. And wow, was there a lot of it! Well, I thought there was, anyway. It was something. I don’t know if I handled it as well as I could have. To be honest, I was mostly in shock that people were reading my blog, at all.

The month of April was the best one I’d had at that point (although I’ve passed it a couple of times since then.) I had views and comments, and gained followers, and yes… I’m doing it again, this year.

My insecurity of the month: Getting ready to go to the writers’ conference: the clothes, the travel, the reservations… and most of all that damn revision. I’m so insecure right now, I forgot to be Insecure. Time for me to track down the next must-have scene in my revision and either write it or revise it. See you all next month.

A-to-Z Challenge: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and Building Characters

For those of you who don’t know, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the most recent version being 5) is the great holy hand grenade of the psi-chiatric profession. In its most recent incarnation, it’s a riot-worthy brick of a book, suitable for hurling through plate glass windows and beating unarmed civilians.

Over the years, the DSM has grown from basically a pamphlet focused on a few major disorders to the fine, equal-opportunity diagnostic tool that it is today. And seriously, folks, with a code for caffeine withdrawl, we have a diagnosis for everybody. Stick around after the show and get yours.

I happen to own a copy of version 4 (left behind by an old friend who was studying social work) and it also has some nifty applications in Character development.

It doesn’t have slots for magical abilities, like a Warcraft character sheet, but it is pretty straight forward, and much more fun in fiction than in real life, where you have to write “Caffeine withdrawl” over and over and over… (I have a cure for that, by the way.)

There are 5 axes in the current version. Number five is level of function, ranging from “Respected psychiatrist” all the way down to “Bit someone’s ear off this morning.” If your character is Hannibal Lecter, this will require advanced math. In fiction, it just doesn’t deserve a square of it’s own.

So, divide a piece of paper into 4 quadrants.

Square number 1–Axis I if you want to get all fancy–is what’s going on, right now that needs (but will not get, because that’s the story problem) immediate attention. The DSM lists several examples, but they’re all relatively boring. This is fiction, so we’ll say “Brain invaded by sentient parasites from Mars.” Much more interesting than the day-to-day stuff, isn’t it?

Square number 2–is all the permanent stuff that’s going to impact the response to square number One. Personality disorders, developmental disorders… Not every character get a square number two. But if your character was a somewhat slow janitor who has parasites that can do theoretical physics, that’s here.

Square Number 3–oh, goody. Medical disorders. So, if the sentient parasites go unnoticed for a while because your character has already been diagnosed with brain cancer, this is the square where they run amuck.

Square Number 4–is all the other stuff that just makes the whole thing more difficult. Wife trying to get pregnant? Right here. Spaceship hurtling toward an exploding red giant? Yup. Crew trying to kill you because you have alien worms in your head? Here. Unless that’s all in your head, too, in which case, back to square #2.

This year, my inspired Alphabetical Challenge theme is “The Letter M”. I’m working my way through the alphabet, one M word, M, person, or M place at a time. No, I don’t have any idea what my Muse was thinking on this one.

If you want to learn more about the A-to-Z Challenge, or join in, the website is here.

A-to-Z Challenge: Content Management System

A content management system is basically a computer program that manages content, and typically the content of a website. So… well… WordPress springs to mind. There are plenty of choices out there.

So, once upon a time, I had some grade school teachers who decided (or possibly were told) that computers were the wave of the future. And since they were teachers, clearly this meant that they would be teaching computers/programming/technology-a-plenty.

The not so obvious flaw in this thinking was that they did not actually know anything about computers/programming/technology-a-plenty.

So… about that…

The school board procured lessons.

By which, what I mean is a series of “programs” that were intended to result in a specific and recognizable outcome. So, if it was Christmas, you were programming the computer to draw a Christmas tree. If it was Valentine’s day, you’d be looking for a heart. And so on.

These programs would be handed to you–no assembly required–on a Xerox handout, and you would type them verbatim, letter by letter into the computer while the 4th grade teacher (A former Marine who raised twenty-seven of her own children on nothing but MREs and Communist tears) loomed over you, waiting for a Christmas tree to appear.

One typo… anywhere, and the result would be either a blank screen or a shamefully lopsided Christmas tree. And of course, you would have to find that typo in a page of code that neither you nor the teacher understood.

Suffice it to say, I learned how to type.

I probably wouldn’t have learned to program at all, ever, and let’s be honest, after an introduction like that, I would have been perfectly happy with that arrangement.

I wound up building my own content management system later on, when I came up with a reason to do it. (Apparently, Christmas trees that would take twenty seconds with a crayon are not particularly motivating.)

I didn’t have any idea how big the project was before I was actually doing it. If I did, I probably wouldn‘t have done it. But I had an idea, and I couldn’t find any out of the box software that would do what I wanted, and besides, how hard could it be?

Yes, I hear you laughing.

Maybe “hard” isn’t quite the right word. Maybe “big” is better. It’s a long project, and you work on it a little bit at a time, until it starts to do the things you want it to do. You learn as you go along. You learn the things you need to know, so there’s a lot more motivation to do it.

This year, my inspired Alphabetical Challenge theme is “The Letter M”. I’m working my way through the alphabet, one M word, M, person, or M place at a time. No, I don’t have any idea what my Muse was thinking on this one.

If you want to learn more about the A-to-Z Challenge, or join in, the website is here.

A-to-Z Challenge: Bode Museum

You’ll be happy to know I’m taking the high road, today, and skipping the obvious scatological choice.

It took me a lot of effort to come up with a good, clean, Sunday-School B-M word, so you’ll appreciate the Bode Museum in Berlin. It’s also going to take me a lot of effort not to cheat and do all Museums for this challenge, so appreciate that while you’re at it.

So, let’s be honest. The first thought that popped into my head when I saw this place (the picture of this place) was Hadrian’s Pumpkins.  It has that dome-y, latter day Pantheon look to it. **sigh**

Conveniently, the museum has provided a virtual tour via You Tube.

And as if that weren’t proof enough that the Bode Museum wants to be my BM…. er, my M for the letter B, that is…

Here’s a second B… uh… M for the letter B. An E-normous coin called the Big Maple Leaf was stolen from the museum, and they’re still hoping for the 100 kg lump of gold to be safely recovered.

That more or less has to be a sign, doesn’t it?

This year, my inspired Alphabetical Challenge theme is “The Letter M”. I’m working my way through the alphabet, one M word, M, person, or M place at a time. No, I don’t have any idea what my Muse was thinking on this one.

Here’s to Discipline… And Coffee.

I have a day off from the A-to-Z Challenge, and I’m sitting back and thinking what a good B word would be. I’m not really ahead enough to have my short story for the StoryTime Blog Hop written, or any of the letters for the time I’m in Colorado. I’ll have to get on that. You know… right along with working out the draft of my novel and the day job and the… and the…

I can’t really be sure if I’m going to make it all the way to the end of the Challenge, this year. There are a lot of things going on, and the priority at the moment has to be getting that novel revised.

I’m developing quite a backlog of handwritten pages that need to be typed into my revision.

I hate typing.

But handwriting is good for me. It keeps everything in line, and coherent, and typing it in is a little bit of a mini-revision in itself, so I’ll keep going this way. The handwritten chunks are a lot smoother than the pieces that were mostly typed.

If I stayed ahead of the typing, it wouldn’t be so bad.

Back to work, then.

2017 A-to-Z Challenge: Ante Meridian

Morning, in other words. Technically, all the time before noon, but not in my neck of the woods. Around here, there’s morning, and there’s the day’s half over. You wake up in the morning, not in the day’s half over. How do you tell the difference? Well, look around. If the sun’s up when you open your eyes… Congratulations, slacker. You just slept through to day’s half over.

If the sun’s not up when you open your eyes, get on with it. Do you have time to get dressed, feed the animals, milk the cows, get the kids up and dressed, cook breakfast, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed again (city-like, this time), throw the kids on the bus stop, and get some words in on your novel before you go to work?

Good. That would be morning.

Morning can, of course, be delayed through wise career choices, such as not being a farmer, and through the judicious use of birth control.

It will still exist before the sun is up.

However, by special dispensation… During hunting season City-People will be permitted to observe morning at eleven, or noon, or at whatever time there’s enough light for someone without a farm husbandry background to reliably distinguish between a prize-winning Polled Hereford, my cousin’s husband, and a deer.

Yes. This will be on the test.

And possibly the indictment.

This year, my inspired Alphabetical Challenge theme is “The Letter M”. I’m working my way through the alphabet, one M word, M, person, or M place at a time. No, I don’t have any idea what my Muse was thinking on this one.

And They Had To Go and Make It a Costume Party…

I’m fiddling around with ideas for costumes, right now. Apparently, someone decided it would be a good idea to make dinner the first night at the writers’ conference a costume party… heroes and villains theme… and then set a bunch of writers loose to do as they please.

There are some practical limitations, of course. You have to be able to sit, and also eat. It would be nice if you could do those things comfortably, and also, you know… stand for a while.

I’d also like to be able to wear at least some parts of the costume again, in a non-costumey way, since I spend maybe… uhm… just guessing, but probably 99.9% of my time not at costume parties. So, that ruffle-y blouse that would be perfect with what I’m thinking, but which I would never wear again… gone.

At the same time, I feel like this is a good opportunity to be impressive as possible. Impressive=memorable. And after all, memorable is what I’m going for. In a non-trips over her own feet, takes out three tables of honored guests, and face-plants in the keynote’s spaghetti sort of way. Just to be clear.

I’m leaning toward some kind of steampunk demon-y thing.

Yes, I know you’re supposed to go as your favorite hero or villain… but in a room full of people who all have a vested interest in their own books… I’m not actually stupid enough to step in that hornet’s nest.

I might even get a haircut on the way out to Colorado. You never know.

Thoughts on Matters of Size

Recently, one of the literary agents who is fairly high on my “List” moved to a new agency. I can mention this because agents move around a lot, and by the time I get that query letter written, I’m sure every last one will think I mean them. (Which I do, BTW.)

Moving on, though… the two agencies are very different. One is much bigger than the other. And one of them “specializes” in the area of… well, my manuscript. So, in short, it looks to me like one of them is more personal, and the other is more powerful. The difference between the two agencies’ approach is fairly obvious, when you look at the way they present the same person.

One bio is long, detailed, and funny. And the other is much more… business, business, business.

So, there’s my moment of clarity for the week.

I’m crawling back in my research hole to think about how much the agency specs matter to me, and what my ideal agency would be, although the truth is, that’s probably a gut-reaction type decision, where I already know the answer, and now I’m just figuring out the reasons why.

So, what are your preferences? Small and personal or big and powerful? What makes you feel that way?

Diplomacy Is My Bag, Baby…

I have been maintaining a positive relationship with my co-workers, lately…. by which, what I mean is, keeping my mouth shut. Damn, that’s tough! And–since apparently, I have a very expressive face–going through all kinds of social gymnastics to keep from looking at them when certain topics come up.

And under no circumstances whatsoever am I asking any questions. Questions are pretty much first cousins to fist fighting, don’t you know?

So, the thing about small towns in the United States is that they tend to have ethnicity (Settled by Germans, French, Polish, etc.) And they also tend to have a specific time. You know… the point in history that most of the people immigrated. So, the collective memory of the old country will be focused around one time period. You wind up with entire towns that identify as descendants of countries and towns that no longer exist, and idealize times that passed long ago.

So, I have a co-worker… and she’s the same general ethnicity as most of the town (German) but she’s the wrong time period. (1945? Who the hell immigrates in 1945? Okay… in fairness, there are quite a few 1945’s here. I’ve been told they choose the place based on the number of German names in the phone book.)

I happen to be the wrong ethnicity and the wrong time period, and at one point, she asked me about that. (I can trace my family’s history in the United States all the way back to a Boeing five whole years before I was born.)

Well, you know small talk. It’s not all that long before I’m asking her the same questions.

And between the fact that the answer included the word Ar.gen.tin.a and the general level of defensiveness (I hadn’t uttered a word before she informed me that lots of Germans went to Argentina after the war. Woulda had to start over, anyway. Perfectly normal. Lots and lots and lots and lots…) I’m going to guess that her story (if I ever manage to pry it out of her) is all kinds of interesting.

Right now, and for various reasons, the Weimar Republic keeps coming up in the political commentary, and the creative imagination. And… well, my co-worker always seems to pop up right as I’m reading the news on my morning break.

I’m getting very good at taking a sip of coffee and saying “How ’bout them Huskers?” instead of “So, where were your family during—?”