Guest Post: Rob Akers on Blogging

Standard

dsc_0087

Rob, with only mild kicking and screaming, agreed to be the last guest blogger talking about why they blog. I can understand the fear of being the last one in a row of excellent writers, but I trusted Rob and that trust wasn’t unfounded. On his blog, Rob shares personal thoughts, which are always amusing, and he also shares the story of his time in the Middle East. I found Rob through a mutual respect for our men and women in uniform and have enjoyed reading his posts. Now he’s asked me to do the first Alpha Reading on his novel. I have his permission to bleed all over it. I took him at his word.  He may regret it later, but it’s too late for that!

Rob is a husband and father residing in Culloden, West Virginia. An airline pilot by trade, he served twelve years in the West Virginia Air National Guard at the rank of Major. He deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan among other foreign nations and earned multiple medals including three Air Medals, four Aerial Achievement Medals and two Meritorious Service Medals. He is a freelance writer for the Putnam Herald-Dispatch and the online magazine The Magill Review. He hosts his own blog and has been published in a collection of works including the Words for Warriors Project. He is working to complete his first fictional novel.

Check his work out!

Next week will be the last installment of this series where I will talk about why I blog. But for now, enjoy Rob’s thoughts.


 

Hey Y’all,

If you are thinking that the usual link to Abby’s Gentle and Quiet World took you to a strange place, don’t be alarmed. This is only a temporary phenomenon that will soon be replaced again by the quiet and wonderful musings of the beautiful soul that is Abby. Unfortunately, Abby made a poor decision; she invited me to take control of the airwaves for the day. Let the record state that she approached me, offering me a seat at the motherboard of one of the most wonderfully peaceful places on the internet. Initially, I declined the invitation. But she persisted and we all know how a persistent woman can get what she wants. Is that called preaching to the choir or saying it like it is?

Abby told me that she wanted a man’s perspective on blogging. I always welcome comments from a professional and Josh is the walking embodiment of a professional writer. But Josh likes to wear those little biker shorts while pedaling his mountain bike in the hills of Colorado. I know from experience that it is really tough to be a man while wearing spandex. That is what my friends said when they caught me walking down Bourbon Street, dressed in a fishnet shirt and biker shorts. My friend, Mercedes kept calling me “En Fuego.” I still don’t know what that means and this is a story that I probably should cut short.

My point is that I refused Abby’s request to write this article because I didn’t want to be responsible for leaving man smell in the boutique. She said that potpourri and candles work wonders. Then I asked what does an audience of respectable women want to hear? She said just to be myself and we all see where that took us. I asked what could possibly go wrong. She said that y’all would immediately know that my wife is a lady of honor, full of the Spirit, compassion, integrity and that you would bless her soul. Out of excuses and ideas, I took a double dose of testosterone, a cycle of steroids and a shot of Five Hour Energy before I summoned up the courage to say yes. Ladies, strap in tight and hold on because we are going behind the curtain.

MV5BMTY1NDEzODkxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzA2NDg2._V1._SX475_SY356_

The topic is why do I blog? The easy answer would be because I have something to say. But that isn’t true. I don’t feel like I have to express myself to be happy and complete. In fact, I prefer to sit out of the spotlight and throw verbal rocks at those in the public eye. In times past, I served as an Air Force pilot. Returning from the Middle East, my wife and another lady were interviewed by the local news station while they waited for us to land. They agreed to allow the cameraman to follow them, record the reunion and then interview my friend and myself for the nightly news. When I stepped off the airplane, my wife ran up and gave me a huge hug and kiss. I didn’t mind that by the way. Out of the corner of my closed eyes, I felt the presence of a stranger.

I came unglued yelling at the cameraman and reporter. I told them that they were not allowed to film me and if they didn’t turn off the camera immediately I would break it. As I remember it, the words came out a in a hostile tone smothered with inappropriate language. I have embarrassed my wife before and since but the possibility of being filmed never entered my mind as the ideal start to the reunion. They did stop filming us and walked away. My friend and his wife had center stage for the one minute segment on the local news station. It turned out to be very cheesy, we all laughed later. The moral of this story is that I really don’t want to be on TV. I really don’t want to write for the local newspaper, I don’t want to be a blogger and I don’t want to be famous. I could be perfectly happy living a quiet life, staying in my little cocoon, raising my kids, working nights for my airline, watching TV during the day, doing fantasy football and never venturing out into the public arena.

little rascals14

Why would anyone do something they don’t want to do? I am a seasoned veteran of life having lived out all seven of the deadly sins to their fullest extent. All I learned after twenty years of excess is that the allure of sin nearly turned me into a dead beat, ex-husband. Fortunately, my wife is a lady of extreme forgiveness and understanding. In the last ten years, I have tried to replace hate with love. It is a hard way to live and I am by no means a finished product. But I began to recognize that love is the path to true happiness. It is the path to forgiveness and to healing. When my life came crashing down, someone told me the secret. The Bible verse Matthew 22:37-40 held the key behind my future life and to my blogging/writing career. I urge you to read it for yourself, I interpret it to say; Love God with all you got and love every human on the planet the way you would like to be loved.

I don’t write for me, I write for others. If you read my blog you might think the main goal of my writing is to write stories about my life in the Middle East. But those stories are for my kids. They are too young to understand today but they should know about the guy that would become their dad. I occasionally write about the novel that I am working on. But the purpose of that novel is to honor the men and women who keep us safe and to serve as a fictional example of how we should deal with evil. That answer is with Love, by the way. I write for the local newspaper. But the articles I write tell the story of the local community in a way that honors and encourages us all. I write for The Magill Review but I write to bring a different perspective that goes much deeper than what we would find in any mainstream news publication. I accept invitations to do guest articles on friend’s sites. But that Abby invited me in and gave me the run of the place. Sometimes smart people do dumb things. Ha Ha!

I am still the same fun loving guy that is documented in the stories above. But now the lenses that I view the world are colored by love. Yes, I still like my music loud and inappropriate. Yes, I am prone to an off color comment in the wrong company. I do get a kick out of the look I get when I say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people. I don’t enjoy the elbow from my wife and her reminder that I am out of control. But I can’t help if people don’t get my extremely sarcastic, gallows worthy humor. I built a reputation and an aviation career on the fact that if you give me an inch, I will take a mile.

Little_Rascals

I will leave you with this. When you come across the guy or gal who doesn’t quite fit in with what is going on in your world. Don’t be surprised if they throw out an unsuitable comment that hangs in the air like a floater in the punch bowl. Just redirect them like you would your five year old. But sometimes you can’t stop a guy like me because his mission to bring a shot of reality to your life. There is a chance that he is doing it because he likes rattling the cage or maybe he is doing it because he wants you to have a greater appreciation of your husband. In either case, never let him know he is irritating you because that is the best form of encouragement. Sometimes all you can do is accept him because even a knucklehead needs love and acceptance. And sometimes, your example can teach that knucklehead to love and accept others. We are all works in progress and when given a chance, that scoundrel might turn into someone that you can trust when life veers off the tracks and will surprise you with a wonderfully positive outlook when times are tough.

I want to thank Abby for the invite and access to all you wonderful folks. Once again she proves that she is a lady that walks the walk. At my heart, I am a writer of fiction. One of the stories I told is 100% true and the other is complete fiction created at 01:30 AM. Choose wisely.

On my site, I always sign off with this phrase: Until next time, keep on rockin. I truly hope there is a next time because I have enjoyed the trip behind the curtain. I hope you did too. Faith, Hope and Love to all.


I think Rob’s article was the most interesting of all my guest posts…if that’s the right word. ;-) Actually, I really enjoyed the fact that he took the more humorous point of view. Again, we see another take on blogging, and we get some good advice: Write for others. Josh said this same thing in his article. Notice the beauty of writing? Josh said it one way while Rob said it another, both made a good point. We are here to love and serve one another. Your blog should be no different even if the themes are as diverse as the guest posters I’ve featured this month. Thank you for reading. Next week I’ll answer the question as our last article on the issue.

Check out the other Guest Posts here:

Heather FitzGerald

Deanna Brown

Raelea Hiller

Josh Magill

 

 

 

Quote of the Weekend

Standard

“So we cannot go there with them. All I think I can say, now, with any degree of certainty, is that in one of those rooms, on a particular moment of a particular day in September 1942, although the moment and the day will never be known, the lives of my uncle Shmiel and his family, of Samuel Jager, my grandfather’s brother, the heir to and rebuilder of the business that t the cautious matrimonial intermingling of those generations of Jagers and Kornbluhs had been designed to enhance, a man who wrote a certain number of letters between January and December 1939, a woman who was very warm, very friendly, a forty-seven-year-old father of four girls, a natty dresser and a bit of a big shot, too, in the small town where his family has lived, it seems, forever, a young girl who was still very much a baby, to whom a seventy-eight-year-old man living in Sydney, Australia, will recall that he once said Hallo, Bronia! over a fence, a man, a woman, a child who have been forced by this point, to live with the knowledge that their third daughter, her older sister, a sixteen-year-old girl whom the father had named to perpetuate the memory of his darling sister who had died, it would one day be intoned, a week before her weeding, was shot to death at the edge of an open pit; an uncle, aunt, and cousin who at that moment, the moment at which he and then they hear, perhaps, the strange hiss begin, have a niece and a cousin whom they have never met but whom he has mentioned, politely, in a few of those letters (I say goodbye to you and kiss you, and also dear Gerty and the dear child, from me and also from my darling wife and children to you and all the siblings too), a niece who lives in  the Bronx, New York, a pretty blond eleven-year-old with braces who, in the first week of September 1942, has just entered the sixth grad (just as her future husband, then thirteen, so much of whose family would be lost to narrative, was just entering the eighth grade, where he played with a boy whom everyone called Billy Ehrenreich, which was not his real name but after all he lived upstairs with the Ehrenreichs, a refugee from Germany who would sometimes say to my father that had fours sisters from whom he’d been separated and whom, he said, he’d “lost”, a word that my father, just a boy then, couldn’t quite understand)–in that room, they had eventually to breathe the poisoned air, and after a period of minutes the lives of Shmiel Jager, Ester Schneclicht Jager, and Bronia Jager, lives that will, many years hence, amount to a collection of a few photographs and a few sentences about them, She called him the krol, the king, she was very warm, very friendly, she was just a baby, playing with her toys, these lives, and many others things that were true about them but which now can also never e known, came to an end. “

-A paragraph from The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

(I thought this paragraph captured the sense of lives just cut off by the Holocaust. I also found it interesting that this whole paragraph is only two sentences. I’ve read few writers with as many long sentences and Daniel Mendelsohn.)

Texas Cousins Adventure: Here there be Dragons (Part 4)

Standard
Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Spread out under the big Texas sky, seven cousins waited with bright eyes and perked up ears to see if they were safe or dragon dinner. Aunt Abby took her time settling in on Auntie Janet’s quilt. First, a drink of cool water, then she fixed Ellie’s hair, kissed Imogene, growled at Bruce, hugged Jules, seriously examined Joshua’s cars and trucks, tidied Constance’s braid, and at last, after spinning Jude through the air, sat down.

“Aunt Abby,” Jules said. “What about the eyes glowing in the dark.”

“Blue and green,” Imogene said.

“And Max,” said Ellie.

“I’m carrying him,” said Bruce holding out his hands cupped together.

“He’s so cute,” Constance said pretending to pet Max.

“Boys aren’t cute!” Joshua, Jude, and Bruce said all together.

“Well, we better start the story,” Aunt Abby said.

“Once upon a time…”


 

“Who dares to enter my chamber?” a deep, dark voice said.

“Well, it’s really more our chamber,” said another voice.

“Oh right, sorry,” said the deep dark voice sounding less deep and dark. It cleared its throat while the green eyes blinked away and then reappeared. “Who dares to enter our chamber?”

“Quick!” said Max. “Make animal noises. It’ll frighten them away.”

“No it will—” the dark voice started.

Quick as a whip, Constance started making a high-pitched, very demanding guinea pig squeak. It echoed through the cavern. Max shone just enough for all six of her cousins to turn and look at her. Joshua laughed and began barking like a dog. Jules meowed loudly like a very annoyed cat. Ellie trumpeted like an elephant. Imogene cawed like a crow. With each noise, Max glowed brighter and brighter. Bruce growled like a big lion and Jude mooed like a big angry bull.

“I’m not cawing like a crow,” Imogene said.

“Oh, you’re not?” Aunt Abby said.

“Yes, I am,” she said with a smile.

Aunt Abby shook her head.

“I sound like this,” Bruce said with a wild growl.

“Very good. You sound very big and brave.”

Everyone clamored to make their animal noise as big and brave as possible. It took several demonstrations.

The chamber vibrated with the sound of wildlife. Max’s blue glow shined. Suddenly, a scaled, smoking, green nose stuck right into the circle of light.

“Enough!”

The cousins shrieked and huddled together.

“Must you really be so loud? The eggs are sleeping, you know,” said another nose, this one a sky blue, appearing in Max’s blue circle of light.

“Wait! Eggs!” Jules said.

“Do you have Alchemist and Oceana’s eggs?” Bruce said stepping forward and holding Max high.

The light from the glowworm reflected off the green and blue scales of the two dragons somewhat smaller than Alchemist and Oceana. Their wings were not quite as wide and their heads were rounder and less pointy.

“Who are you?” asked Constance.

“Us?” said the green dragon. “Why I’m Cosmos and this is Zephyr.”

“Do you have their eggs?” Jules demanded stomping one foot.

Jude rushed to Bruce’s side raising one eyebrow in an intimidating glare.

“We’re here to rescue them,” said Joshua.

“It’s not nice to take people’s eggs,” said Imogene.

“We’re not afraid of you,” said Ellie.

Cosmos and Zephyr stared down at the line of seven brave children, who despite being smaller than them, much smaller, still courageously tried to help the parents waiting outside the cavern.

“Why should you be afraid of us?” said Zephyr. “We wouldn’t hurt you.”

“You wouldn’t?” Jules said with a frown. “Then why’d you take the eggs? Aren’t you bad?”

The others nodded and growled in agreement.

“Bad? Us?” Cosmos said. “No. These are our cousins. Alchemist and Oceana are our uncle and aunt. We brought the eggs in here to protect them from the evil boy who was throwing rocks at them. When we stepped in here we got trapped.”

“Then why’d you use your scary voice?” Imogene asked.

“Because we didn’t know you were seven brave children. We were afraid you were that mean boy again.”

Someone in the deep part of the chamber where Max’s light couldn’t reach laughed. He laughed a big, evil laugh.

“Mwahahahahah! Mwahahahahah!”

The cousins hurried to the dragons huddling around their knees. Cosmos and Zephyr turned to face the laugh protecting the eggs behind them.

“Now I have all of you right where I want you,” said the laugher. He stepped into the light.

The cousins gasped. He was the biggest little boy they had ever seen. Twice as tall as Bruce with black hair and a snarling face.

“Give me the dragon eggs!”

“Never!” shouted Cosmos.

“They’re not yours.”

“They will be mine!”

Jules counted heads. “Bruce,” she whispered. “There are seven of us and only one of him.”

Bruce counted heads. He nodded. Very carefully he set Max on Cosmos’ shoulder. “Jude, count to three.”

“Jude can’t count yet,” Bruce whispered.

“In the story he’s a little older,” Aunt Abby whispered back.

“Am I older?” Bruce said.

“Older and a little taller.”

“Me too?” Jules said.

“Yes you, too.”

“One. Two. Three,” Jude said.

“Charge!” shouted Ellie.

Constance, Joshua, Jules, Ellie, Bruce, Jude, and Imogene rushed the big, bad boy. They knocked him over onto the floor, kicking and punching him.

“Animal noises,” Max said.

Growling, barking, mooing, squeaking, meowing, cawing, and trumpeting filled the chamber.

“I surrender. I surrender,” moaned the bad boy who didn’t seem so big anymore.

“Huzzah!” shouted Cosmos in triumph.

“Hip, hip, hooray!” said Zephyr.

“We did it!” said Bruce.

“Hurry, we need to take the eggs back to Oceana and Alchemist!” Jules said.

Cosmos and Zephyr took the bad boy by the arms. Jules and Constance grabbed up one black egg, while Imogene and Jude gathered up the other one. Bruce took Max back to light the way while Ellie and Joshua kept an eye out for any other bad children who might spring from the shadows. Max led them out by a different tunnel even the young dragons could pass through. They reached the cave entrance where they had to come through in cousin pairs instead of sibling pairs and stopped.

“How do we get out?” Ellie asked.

“Just asked the cave nicely to open,” said Max. “It’s always better to try being polite first before breaking things.”

“They weren’t polite to me,” grumbled the bad boy.

“Because you, sir, were already being bad,” Max said glaring at him. Turning to everyone else he said, “Now dear friends, I must remain here in the cave. The outside world with all its sunshine is no place for a glowworm. Come visit any time.”

Bruce set Max on a little ledge in the cave walls. Each of the girls kissed him on his cute little head.

“Off with you now,” he said gently.

“Mr. Cave sir,” Jules started. “Please open.”

“What if it’s a girl?” Constance whispered.

The Cave opened wide, wide enough for even Cosmos and Zephyr to get out.

“I guess it was a boy,” Joshua said with a smile.

Oceana and Alchemist rushed forward with shouts of joy. They took their eggs and resettled them in their nests before kissing and hugging their nephew and niece.

“You two,” Alchemist said staring down at the bad boy who looked even smaller out in the sunlight, “take this boy home to his parents, and tell them the trouble he’s in.”

Cosmos and Zephyr told the seven cousins from Texas good-bye and marched the bad boy off into the forest.

“Well children, it’s time I take you home to your own beds,” Alchemist said.

“We can never tell you how grateful we are for all you’ve done,” Oceana said. She kissed each of the cousins on the head, even the boys.

“Now! Home,” Alchemist said. He gathered the children on his back, and, with a few beats of his mighty wings, took to the sky.

The door to their room opened quietly. Outside Jules’ window the street light still shone in the warm night. The cousins all kissed Alchemist nose in farewell and climbed into their respective beds and sleeping bags.

“I’ll leave you each seven pieces of paper with a door drawn on them. If you ever need me and my help, all you must do is tap the door with your finger and say my name. I will come on swift wings.”

They all quietly hugged Alchemist again as they soberly accepted the drawings of vine-covered doors with dragon doorknobs.

“Sleep well,” Alchemist whispered and disappeared.

The seven Texas cousins stared up at the ceiling each silent, thinking, none of them sleeping.

Suddenly Ellie sat up with a wide grin. “That was awesome.”

Laughing, they all agreed.


 

“The end!” said Aunt Abby.

“That was awesome,” Bruce said. “We took down that bad boy.”

“Yes, we did!” said Jules emphatically.

“We got Oceana her eggs back,” Constance said.

“We’re heroes!” Joshua exclaimed leaping to his feet and swinging an invisible sword.

Jude and Imogene joined him in the pretend sword fight squealing and laughing.

“Tell us another one,” Ellie said.

Aunt Abby groaned. “Don’t you ever get tired of stories?”

“Nope.”

The End

 

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

This is Jules and her Jaguar. Behind her is the picture of a dragon that I drew for her sparking this story.

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Bullet to the Head, Homefront, and Escape Plan

Standard

Bullet to the Head

I wasn’t going to even dignify Bullet to the Head with a review, but sometimes it’s just as helpful to think about what I didn’t like as what I loved.

Bullet to the Head is an action flick featuring my favorite, Sylvester Stallone. Many of you might be tempted to think this movie is bad due to bad acting, but I’ve watched enough of Stallone to know he does just fine with his action flicks and he can play even deeper characters, which I think is evident in Rambo First Blood, Rambo (4), and Rocky. Sure, he’s not as diverse as Bruce Willis, but that doesn’t make everything he does bad. I think what we had here was just plain, old, terrible story telling.

The first problem this movie had was its inability to decided if it wanted to be a dark serious movie or a cheesy action flick. Because it couldn’t make up its mind, it was neither. It failed to deliver the cheesy lines with any sort of cheese making them feel stilted and odd. The action wasn’t over the top or continuous–both hallmarks of a good cheesy action flick. At the same time it acted like it had a complicated plot more along the lines of an intense thriller. If it had been an intense thriller it could have thrown out the cheesy lines and played up it’s dark, realistic feel. If it had been a cheesy action flick it would have been way more fun and enjoyable. Instead, it tries to walk between the two and comes across as a bit strange all the way through.

It’s first few opening minutes are very confusing as you have cops undercover acting like drug dealers and you have hit men dressed up like cops only to find out they’re not along with the introduction of several characters without any explanation leaving the viewer to pull out their hair as they try to keep up with who’s who and why they care.

The dialogue was just bad. At one point Stallone’s character accuses his partner of being annoying when he wasn’t being annoying at all. This happened regularly. Lines were delivered with no story to back up their intensity.

The basic plot of the movie is similar to Tango and Cash. But, instead of two cops with opposite personalities forced to work together, you have a hitman and a cop. Great idea! Get Stallone in there and this movie looks like it could be so much fun. It’s not. Tango and Cash was fun because two men who hated each other had to learn to work together and in the end they became friends. This movie forces two actors with zero chemistry together and never resolves them. The hitman and cop never become friends. They save each others skin several times but they never respect each other. They don’t change. Neither man grows through this experience. Stallone doesn’t become a better person and the cop doesn’t become a better cop. They both remain stagnant throughout the movie.

Which brings me to the reason I hated this movie the most: no heroes. Action flicks are an exaggerated form of storytelling that focus on heroes. They’re kinda like more realistic or down to earth superhero movies. Think about Die Hard, Predator, Rambo, Commando, Terminator 1 & 2, Aliens 2. All these movies are about fairly everyday guys doing amazing things for the good and right. They are protecting their wives, their children, their men, and the future. They’re heroes. Exaggerated? Yes. But, that’s the point. That’s what makes them fun. Bullet to the Head had no heroes. Stallone’s character was a hardened criminal with no redeeming qualities and the cop was just really bland. Neither character inspired me or made me cheer. They both left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, if you were thinking about watching Bullet to the Head, don’t. It will only leave you wishing you could get back that 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Homefront

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for this movie and it stars Jason Stathem. Now for those of you thinking Expendables 2 off the bat, please remember that the Expendables series is designed to be as silly and cheesy as humanly possible. It is not to be taken seriously in any way. Stallone is a half-way decent storyteller who tells great warrior stories.

Homefront is about a DEA agent trying to settle down out in the country and raise his daughter after his wife dies, but his past comes back to haunt him and he is forced to violently protect his family.

This movie is less of a cheesy action flick and more of a good hero/warrior story. Don’t go into it expecting lots of Jason Stathem moves like Transporter. Oh, he does have a few good fights, but this movie is more about developing his character, his relationship with his daughter, and the dark underside of the small town where he lives.

If you know that going into it, the movie is a lot more fun. It reminded me of the first time I saw Rambo First Blood.  I totally expected to see a movie more like Rambo 2. Rambo First Blood is a serious piece of drama, not a cheesy action flick. While Homefront isn’t really serious drama, it was a good film. Also, Kate Bosworth does an amazing acting job.

This movie does center around the drug industry and has one completely useless and inappropriate scene. Other than that, there is just the normal intense violence and some language and obviously drug use. Homefront did a much better job than Bullet to the Head of balancing the action of the movie with the dark/thriller/realism of its subject. It also supplied the viewer with a hero.

 

Escape Plan

And now for complete cheese. Arnold and Stallone play two men trying to escape from a prison. One is innocent and the other isn’t so innocent, but they work together to escape from an inescapable prison. This movie is nothing but cheese and was pretty fun for what it was. If you go into it expecting nothing, you’ll probably like it. I enjoyed it just because it was exactly what it was: old man Stallone and old man Arnold in a movie together.

 

Guest Post: Josh Magill on Blogging

Standard

10339770_10202856272620250_1135803542079547182_n

This month’s Guest Posts have taken us from one end of the spectrum to the other. We’ve seen bloggers who blog to prepare the world for their novel, to share the lessons they’ve learned as a caretaker, and to just get their work out to readers. We’ve learned about building platforms, carrying our Christianity out into the blogging world, and been reminded that writers need to write – get that faucet turned on. Today, we hear from a professional blogger: Josh Magill.

Josh manages and juggles the Magill Review. He let’s me throw articles at him once a month about writing. Josh has been my first experience working with deadlines, an editor, and having my articles included in a monthly rotation. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to writing for a paper or magazine. The experience has been great and Josh is super easy to please. I first met Josh through the monthly Atom and Eve article which takes a less holy and more sarcastic look at science. I then joined the Tim Higgelmottham story project. After getting  positive feedback on an article I wrote about outlining, which Josh shared on the Magill Review, he invited me to do a monthly article for him. The rest is history. :-)

Next Tuesday, I’ll feature my last Guest Blogger: Rob Akers.

And now, Josh Magill:

 


Writing Blogs Need a Point (They aren’t Journals)

I hate the word ‘blog.’

I shudder when I hear it—an ick that quakes my body from the inside, deep-down where my soul hides from the ugly parts of life—because the word takes me to a time I once thought I knew what I was doing on the internet. It takes me to a time when I thought I understood writing. I thought writing was about me.

Don’t misunderstand, writing is about the writer and their thoughts, but by the time it bumbles out into the world the writing becomes more about the reader and what they will feel as the words encroach upon their lives. In the movie Finding Forrester, there is a question posed which always helped me consider the reader when writing: “Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words that we write for others?”

It’s a great question and one I never understood until my first attempt at blogging back in 2002. I prefer to use the term ‘website’ because it seems so much more professional. Ironically, when writers treat their online writing locations as websites versus a blog, the reader sees a tremendous difference in the level of writing and respect for the reader. Both are much more positive and it is definitely much more tolerable to read because hopefully there is a point to the writing. When a writer wastes my time (the reader) by not having a point, they lose me. Though many will tell you they read to relax or get lost in another world, the fact is that most readers want to learn or feel something from what they read. They don’t want that final word to pass without feeling edified and enlightened, feeling as though they are changed in some way, feeling refreshed or exhausted.

6a00e54f080aa188340134858ff4be970c

Allow me explain. As a boy, I would tell funny anecdotes to family and friends. They were simple stories that often made my aunts and uncles laugh. I thought I was a good comedian, but it was the way I told the story—the inflection in my voice, the motions I made with my face, hands, and body. It was the pauses at the right times or the lift in my voice during the climax of the story. In truth, I was a storyteller, but it wasn’t about me. It was about them—the listeners. I watched their reactions as I spoke and tailored my delivery. If the reaction wasn’t enough or what I had hoped for, then I gave a little more of the story, the intimate or embarrassing parts. I found that is what the listener wanted—the “juicy” parts, the parts they could relate to but were too ashamed to share themselves.

When I starting writing essays in college, I shared the uncomfortable and painful episodes in my life, and people loved them. Readers guffawed and gasped at my life because they had been there, too. I took to the University newspaper as a columnist, sharing the strangeness of being a newlywed and an older college student, and in 2002 (while still in college) I launched my first blog. I must say that not only did it fail; it seemed to turn away some long-time friends because it came off know-it-all and preachy. I bashed the poor fans of the football team, the girl down at the convenience store, the unpatriotic and lazy students. It wasn’t long before life got in the way of my writing and I shut down the blog because it wasn’t successful (in my opinion).

StoryTeller

So what made me start up The Magill Review (my website) in late 2012? It goes back to that question from Finding Forrester: Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?

It’s because we care about ourselves, but do we care about our readers—their lives, their families, their marriages, their feelings? Simply … No! We write for ourselves and if the reader doesn’t get it or is bored with our daily “journal” entries on our blog, then it’s because they just don’t understand writing and writers, right? Wrong! Our job as writers is to help them understand by “showing, not telling,” by infusing the story with life.

Again, indulge me. I grew up in the Deep South, specifically the hills of North Georgia. This is a place where old-timers enjoy cornering a young person to tell them the real stories of the Civil War (what they call the War of Northern Aggression), stories that have interesting twists, stories that end differently than history books, but then you see the sly grin creep across the old-timers face like a well-worn wrinkle and you realize where fiction began and why so many great storytellers came from The South. You understand that trying to debate the authenticity of the tale will only allow the old man to embellish more, allowing him to drag you into a world where the South triumphs or an account of the medal bestowed upon his grandfather by General Robert E. Lee that you dare not dispute.

The understanding and the legend of southern heritage is theirs to keep, and anyone that tries to change that is a “damned Yankee” that has been indoctrinated with lies about history. Yet, one thing both Yankees and Southerners usually agree on is that a good story comes from the soul. To tell the real story, to entangle the reader in a world where they want to take another step forward, the writer must give of their soul. It cannot hide from the ugly incidents of life because in doing so it never learns and will lose out on the wonderful chapters and friends around them.

images

And so it was with my second attempt at a blog (blech, I mean website). If I was to make this not about me, but about the readers, then I could not make the site all my writing. It had to include more writers, some professional and polished, some new and learning. I invited others and they came. The Magill Review blossomed and continues to do so, and most of the writing is not mine. I did not allow rants (that is for Facebook) or humdrum writing about a writer’s day that did not have a point (again, for Facebook or your mother).

Instead, I worked with writers like Melissa Fry Beasley and Mike Linaweaver to post beautiful poems, or best-selling author Jennifer Youngblood to add a touch of The South with her “Confessions of a Southerner” column. Richard Eaker gave me the idea to start a collaborative story (100 words at a time) with 15 other writers, and it was his idea for the beginning that made the character Tim Higgelmottham come alive. I was lucky enough to have Rob Akers, Mark Rossi and Abby Jones all decide to write ongoing columns for the website, as well as others that write occasionally. And when I wrote the series I affectionately call “The Fat Chronicles,” my cousin Jacob Finch helped by sharing his successes and struggles during our Fluff to Buff Challenge.

All these writers are passionate and soulful. They share everything with the reader because they care about them. We want to write for the reader as if we are writing for ourselves, holding nothing back, sharing even the embarrassing and painful moments of our lives. Do this at your blog and it will be a success no matter how many visitors come each day.


 

This is a refreshing take on blogging. I think many valuable blogs are more journalistic, but if it’s out in public it needs to be professional. We often forget this with the growing ease of publishing ourselves. I also found Josh’s thoughts to be helpful because we live in a very ‘me’ centered society where we often hear only about how important we are as the writer. The writer must never forget the reader, ever. If you want to be read, you must remember to include the reader. They’re part of the story as well. I hope you enjoyed Josh’s thoughts on blogging…website-ing…hummmm. :-) Remember, keep it professional and tell a great story!

To read the previous guest posts follow the links:

Heather FitzGerald

Deanna Brown

Raelea Hiller

 

Quote of the Weekend

Standard

My desire to have that narrative was no different from my grandfather’s desire to believe the stories about the Jewish neighbor or the Polish maid. Both were motivated by a need for a story that, however ugly, would give their deaths some meaning–that would make their deaths be about something. Jack Greene told me something else that night: that like Shmiel, his own parents had been hoping to get their family to safety, hoping to get visas; but that by 1939 the waiting list for papers was six years long. (And by then, he said, everyone was already dead.) Because I am a sentimental person, I would like to think–we will, of course, never know–that my grandfather and his siblings did everything they could for Shmiel and his family. What we do know is that by 1939, nothing they could have done would have saved them.

- The Lost: A search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

(This book is the story of a great nephews search for his great uncle, aunt, and cousins who did not survive the Holocaust.)

 

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters under the Beds (Part 6)

Standard

 

SpecialAgents

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

(Part 4)

(Part 5)

Gunning their extra quiet, matching purple jet packs to life, Rachel and Lauren shot up to the second story. Rachel pulled out her tablet and checked the house. Five red dots flashed in a ghostly image of the house.

“We have two kids’ rooms in the back,” she said.

“Parents?” Lauren asked hanging in the air.

“Both asleep.”

“Let’s silence and pause the rooms then check for monsters.”

“The girls are younger, let’s check there first.”

Lauren nodded and the girls darted around to the back of the house.

“Night vision,” they said together as they pulled down their goggles turning the world snot green.

The curtains over one window were camouflaged and heavy while the other window, in stark contrast, was covered in something floaty and ruffled.

“Girls,” Rachel said with a smile.

Moving in closer, their legs dangling in the air, Rachel and Lauren hovered next to the window. They couldn’t see through the curtain, so Lauren fished around in a pocket on her belt. She held up a flat silver key, slim as a lock of hair. Sliding it under the window, she turned it and heard a satisfying snitch.

“One down,” she said as she darted over to the camouflaged window and unlocked it.

Rachel slipped her tablet back in its pocket and held up three fingers.

They shoved the windows open, fired their pause/silence toys, darted—one up and one down—to opposite windows, and fired the toys again. Both rooms were prepped. They regrouped in front of the girls’ windows where the wind played with the frilly curtains.

Whaaaaaa!

A glowing fur ball, all teeth and long claws, shot out the window. It smacked right into Rachel as she raised her Super Soaker. The force of the tackle spun her off over a tree, the monster clinging and drooling on her shoulder.

Lauren flew off after them raising her gun to her shoulder. She would have to aim very carefully to avoid hitting her sister. Rachel spun around and around off-balance due to the monster clawing at her. She kept her lips sealed trying not to scream but her big eyes were even bigger.

Now!

A trail of yellow goo slammed into the monster hardening instantly. It dropped to the ground and Rachel regained control of her jet pack. Lauren waved her back to the house, yanked her tablet out of her pocket, and marked the monster on her map for the clean-up crew. Done, she darted back after Rachel.

They flew right through the window into the strangely still and silent room of the little girls.

“Bunk beds,” they groaned together.

Something giggled from under the bottom bed.

“Laugh it up,” Lauren said.

They dropped to their knees and fired. Yellow and blue goo froze the monster. The girls dragged it out from under the bed and examined it. Golden eyes peered angrily up at them blinking. A small mouth dribbled drool down a scaled belly. Suddenly, the belly split open in a wide, red mouth lined with lots of teeth. The hands and feet also spouted dangerous mouths.

Rachel snapped a picture of it, slipped on her ear buds, and called Sam.

“Did you get it?”

“Yep. Is this the first one?”

“Second,” Rachel said. “The first one leapt out the window at me.”

“What!?” Sam said. “But it’s a bed monster. They don’t leave the bed.”

“Does this look like a bed monster to you?”

“No, I’ll have it questioned as soon as the clean-up crew get’s it back here.”

Rachel hung up and tucked her gear away.

“What’s going on?” Lauren asked.

They’d been expecting the typical one-mouth, one-eyed bed monsters that enjoyed the dark little space. Sure, other monsters hid under beds, but bed monsters always had one eye and one mouth. This monster had lots of eyes and lots of mouths.

“This looks more like a vehicle monster,” Rachel said.

“Ouch!” Lauren said, jerking back. The monster had wormed one of its hands through the goo and bit her.

“We better have that looked at,” Rachel said.

“We better check the other room first.” Lauren stood up. She held the monster by the hardened goo at arm’s length and carried it out the window. After she dropped it to the ground and marked it, they flanked the window. The girls waited a minute to see if anything came flying out. Nothing.

With a nod, they flew in.

A boy with black curly hair stared at them.

“Oh no,” Rachel said.

Lauren gasped.

Rachel turned to her, surprised. It was frustrating that the boy was awake, but not gasp-worthy.

“Lauren?” she said.

Her sister dropped to the floor littered with GI Joe’s and Army men. She clutched her bitten hand and tears streamed down her face. Her brown hair, bright yellow only a little bit ago, turned green in the strange light of Rachel’s night vision goggles. Lauren rolled on the floor groaning. Suddenly, the room began to move again and the boy jumped out of his bed. He ran over to Lauren convulsing on the floor.

“Get away from her!” Rachel said raising her Super Soaker.

“But she’s hurt,” he said.

A ball of fur and mouths charged out from under his bed.

Rachel fired.

AAAAC13VmyoAAAAAARZjug