Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Annual List Of Possible Topics For the #AtoZChallenge

Every year I try and post a few ideas for the upcoming A to Z Challenge which begins in April. (The sign-up list is not open yet, so follow the link and keep an eye on the page.) With thousands now joining from all over the world, it's become quite an event. Some write each of their posts on a daily basis (I've done that) while others plan and write posts ahead of time (I've done that too). Whichever route you choose, now might be a good time to at least think about it. Not everyone uses a theme, by the way. But it can make things a little easier for some of us.

This year I'm planning to write about half of my posts ahead of time.  There will probably be a "theme reveal" closer to the contest; but just to get it out there, I've settled on the topic of poison; posts will probably be a combination of flash fiction and informative type articles.

I reserve the right to change my mind a hundred times before April, of course.

One year I wrote a piece of flash fiction or poetry every single morning.  That was rough!  Last year I tried to choose a topic no one else had done, and settled on "Psychological Tests and How You Can Use Them To Construct Characters". (Not as boring as it sounds.)  Since a lot of research was required, posts had to be either fully written or at least blocked out ahead of time.

Anyway, here's a short list of possible topics to get you thinking.  I've even supplied one tough letter for each. There are also links to a previous list and posts I've done in the past.

1.  Unsolved murders/crimes A to Z (Z is for Zodiac killer)

2.  Disasters, natural or man made (K is for Krakatoa)

3.  Minerals (Z is for zinc or zenzenite)

4.  Breakthroughs in science, recent or all time (T is for teixobactin)

5.  Mythological creatures and beings (K is for kraken)

6.  Superfoods (Q is for quinoa)

7.  Famous artists (Z is for Zaganelli)

8.  Quotes from movies (Z is for Zero Dark Thirty: "Facilitators come and go. One thing you can count on in life is that everyone wants money."

9. Poetic forms, terms, examples (V is for villanelle)

10. Terms or glossary of words from a particular place or time (Q is for quintain or quim)

11. Best links to sites for writers (Q is for QueryLink or QueryShark)

12. Dumbest misjudgements ever made (W is for Western Union memo: This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.

13. Dumbest quotes (Q is for Dan Quayle, of course:  "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is." Actually, you could probably do a full A to Z just on him.

14. With a new Jurassic movie coming, how about dinosaurs? (Z is for Zuniceratops)

15. Architects (Z is for Peter Zumthor) or architectural terms (J is for jacal)or even famous structures

16. World historical sites, national historical sites, odd or quirky museums

17.  New words added to the dictionary (V is for vato)

18.  New "words" used by young people we wish would go away (T is for thot)

19.  Fashions that never should have happened (W is for wedge sneakers)

20.  It's the new year! Time to get fit, A to Z (K is for kettlebells)

21.  Conspiracy theories

22.  Evidence of aliens on earth (U is for Ubaid Lizard Men Figures)

23.  Notable (and/or magical) weapons from history, mythology, legend (X is for Xiuhcoatl)

24.  Quotes/lessons from your favorite book, maybe one that changed your life. (K is for Key: "The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."-Epictetus)

25.  YouTube video a day (This is a pretty easy one, as there are SO many to choose from.)

Have you done the challenge in the past? Chosen a topic for this year? Waiting till the last minute?  Did you spot the vulgarities? Are you offended? Have I asked too many questions?

A to Z Topics to use
Compendium: My 2012 A to Z Flash Fiction
Interaction Styles: 2014 A to Z Crafting Characters Sample

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I've Been Reading - Book Reviews



     I decided to spend my vacation relaxing and doing some reading. I managed 4 books so far, which is more than I read in the last 3 months of 2014.

     First off was Seeing Ghosts by James Garcia Jr. .  It's a paranormal thriller, and anyone who has lost someone close to them will be able to relate to the main character Paul Herrera, who is mourning the loss of his wife and unborn son and seems unable to move on with his life.  He and his brother inherit a farmhouse from a mysterious aunt, and upon taking a look at the property discover some very strange people - or are they ghosts? Just a little creepy, which suited me since I'm not a fan of real horror but do enjoy stories which interlace reality and the supernatural. Well-paced, with several twists and turns.

     Next was Tesla: Man Out Of Time by Margaret Cheney.  This is an old book (1981) and so some of the references to "current" technology are dated, but overall it's an excellent resource for detailed information on Tesla's life, including not only his groundbreaking discoveries but his rivalry with contemporaries like Edison and his personal struggles.

     Since I enjoy both history and medicine, the next two books were fascinating. The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle and the Quest To Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz brings together two famous men in the search for a "remedy" to cure one of mankind's worst scourges.  Koch was the founder of modern bacteriology and celebrated for discovering the causative agents of cholera, anthrax and tuberculosis. But his "cure" for TB proved to be his undoing, mainly due to his abandonment of his own scrupulous laboratory rigor.  Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town English doctor and aspiring writer, attended a conference in Berlin held to announce Koch's "remedy". Already utilizing the powers of observation which would later define his books' main character, Doyle determined that Koch's science was either sloppy or skewed, and published a paper saying so.  From there we follow the lives of the two men and the surprising twists and turns which cemented both as brilliant but often flawed men.

     The Tale Of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean is a history of human brain studies, beginning with Henry II's eventually fatal jousting injury (the title is derived from this unfortunate event). Each chapter is devoted to a specific part of the brain, introduced via a case study and/or anecdotes detailing some sort of trauma, the effects it caused, and treatment at the time. It's written with humor and wit and very readable, although one or two passages are not for the easily nauseated.

    Still waiting to be read:  The Poisoner: the Life and Times of Victorian England's Most Notorious Doctor by Stephen Bates, and Enigma: the Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes by David Kahn. (I just saw the movie The Imitation Game, and I loved it.)

     What have you been reading?