The Whys and Hows of Guest Blogging

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

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jenny3 author J. A. Allen

Dan Alatorre recently invited me to post a guest blog while he vacations with his family in England. I jumped at the opportunity to fill the opening.

Why?

To newbie bloggers, expending the energy to write a post for someone ELSE’S site can seem like a lot of work with little reward.

So, I’m visiting DanAlatorre.com to talk you through it.


stock-vector-welcome-to-england-red-round-ribbon-stamp-285269771 I’m still vacationing! – Dan

Writing a guest post is a great way to build relationships with other bloggers.

Forging strong connections with other bloggers/writers is highly beneficial to everyone involved.

I’m happy to write this post for Dan, because he’s a great friend to my site: Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. And, as a conscientious guest, I will promote this post on HIS site on Twitter, share it on Facebook, stick around to reply to comments after the piece goes live, and re-blog…

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Going Up

J. S. Mueller wrote a short piece inspired by the latest Scribble Challenge. While the story is too long to be considered for voting purposes, it’s certainly a pleasure to read!

I’m happy to share it with all of you.

Blood, Fire & Grit

A little thing inspired by a prompt on J. A. Allen’s blog.


The elevator door opened. Matt surveyed the space inside. A metal box with walls painted to look like wood grain, a stainless steel hand rail wrapped around three sides at hip height, dirty red linoleum on the floor. He contemplated taking the stairs. What’s eight flights anyway?

“Hold that, please.”

He put out a hand and held the door. A woman strode past him into the elevator, turned and smiled. She looked like a young Rosario Dawson, but with a pixie cut. She was dressed like she might have been coming from a job waiting tables, black cotton pants and white collared shirt.

“Thanks. You comin’?” she asked, cocked her head to the side.

Matt blinked and stepped into the elevator without giving it another thought. That was a mistake. The moment he turned and the door bumped…

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How to close a killer deal – how I got tricked by a 5-year-old

I follow quite a few blogs…
And without question, Allie Potts writes one of my favorites!
Thought I’d share this little snippet to tickle your funny bone. Her little guy is clearly an evil genius.

Allie Potts Writes

How to close a potentially killer deal - www.alliepottswrites.com #salestips“If you lost all your skin …, would you die?”

Up until that moment, I’d been enjoying a few minutes of downtime with some light reading after a long work day. LT’s latest five-year-old pondering caught me off guard. He had to be asking someone else.

Putting down my magazine, I looked around the room, attempting to locate any other member of my family LT could be addressing. Of course, neither my husband nor my eldest son made eye contact. It would appear I was on my own. “Er … um … as in, if I lost all of it? All at once?”

He nodded.

“Then, yes,” I answered with caution, somewhat worried about what must be going through LT’s head to prompt such a random question.

“Why?” LT asked, elongating the word as only kids can as he took a step closer, eliminating any chance for my escape.

Once again…

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Dan Alatorre’s WORD WEAVER Writing Contest – let the games begin!

This contest is such a great opportunity aspiring writers. The prizes listed here are amazing.

Dan has dedicated his website to help new and established authors and bloggers for years, and this contest is just one more way he’s contributing to the writing community. I’m proud to share the details here.

Be a part of something fantastic. Have your work critiqued by a professional, best-selling author.

Good luck to all who enter!

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed

Announcing the Word Weaver Writing Contest!

Enter your amazing piece of writing! We have over $400 of valuable prize packages!

YOU will have the month of April to enter an amazing piece of your own writing to our contest.

Here’s what you do:

Uh, enter a piece of your writing in the contest. I thought that was obvious.

Here’s what you GET:

1stThe FIRST PLACE Winner will receive THIS prize package valued at over $200:

kelly selecto

  • $125 Professional BOOK COVER designed by Select-O-Grafix, LLC (www.selectografix.com)

  • $50 Amazon GIFT CARD, compliments of ME

  • PUBLICATION of their winning piece on this website

  • Signed copies of a multi-book package from several published authors who graciously donated their books to our contest (see list below).

  • A GUEST BLOG POST or AUTHOR PROFILE to appear on this site (that’s priceless, really)

  • a video interview with me, should they so choose, also to appear on this site**

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Blogapolypse: A Scribbles Apocalypse


What would your final blog post be?

It was a question posed over at DanAlatorre.com yesterday morning. His response was short and simple: Was I a great writer? No. But I helped a lot of people and sincerely believe they could be. Which is true, in that his instructional posts have helped a lot of people, and also modest, in that he is an exceptional writer. Bloggerly phenom Allison Maruska posted her response here, which I found quite funny.

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Well, let me start by saying the same thing I’d say if I found out I was going to die tomorrow.

I am pissed.

Because, come on. Things are just getting started!

Maybe the old adage is true: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

Well, except that I know exactly what I have, and it isn’t gone.

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins started on a whim. My writerly friends had websites. It seemed to be the cool thing to do. Like smoking across the train tracks at fourteen. (See me in high school, where students stood on the far side of the tracks directly outside the front doors to smoke, or risk suspension. Funnily enough, I never realized how much of a small town cliché that  train track marker was until this very moment.)

To be fair, I don’t smoke anymore, and blogging won’t give me outrageous wrinkles and/or a voice like Kathleen Turner. 1l7r2c.jpg

While I began the site by emulating Dan and Allison’s instructional posts, I soon realized I enjoyed writing them about as much as branding my face with a soldering iron. So, I branched out into Scribble Challenges. These friendly competitions gave aspiring and established authors a chance to get their creative juices flowing while working in a limited word count. The winner received an opportunity to guest post here.

I loved hosting the changes, but the number of participants quickly grew beyond my ability to keep up with.

And last summer, I took a blogging hiatus.

Despite those growing pains, Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins seems to have hit its stride in the last three months. Every week, it averages sixty new followers. So, I’ve been thinking about bringing the Scribble Challenge back as a bi-weekly (or monthly) event. I’ve been thinking of posting a short-short story every second Friday. I’ve been thinking about all the great and talented writers who’ll let me interview them next.

And, I’ve been thinking of publishing book and short story reviews. Poggibonsi. Drake and the Flyers. American Gods. The Goldfish Pool. The Bob Watson. Year of the Rooster. Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.

But now you’re saying I can’t do ANY of that, because THIS bloody post is my last one??!!1l668o

So yes, I’m PISSED.

Except I’m not.

Because this is all hypothetical.

And maybe I’ll just go ahead and continue thinking about doing some of those things.


In all seriousness, and with the threat of blogapolypse behind us, I’d like to send a big thank you to the newest Scribble followers.

What would YOU write about if it was your last chance?


 

Too Excited to Sleep


I think I might have spent my whole life running away. I was raised as a wild child. There were very few rules in our house until one day my dad remarried, and certain incredibly unrealistic expectations descended like a pox upon our household. Expectations like: notifying my parental units about where I was at night, coming home at a reasonable hour, cleaning up after myself, and not having giant parties while said parental units spent the weekend out of town.

So, I moved out at sixteen.

I didn’t get very far at first. We lived in a small town in Manitoba. I packed a bag between classes and stashed it outside my best friend’s bedroom window up the street, in a house where I ended up staying until graduation.

Then, I moved to an itty-bitty apartment on the second floor of another house, roughly seven blocks away.

A year later I moved to Australia.

When I left Manitoba, I never thought I’d miss it. The first time I came home, I cried in the airport bathroom. I’d commandeered a very dapper Australian boyfriend while away, and would have stayed substantially longer if not for silly things like paperwork and visas. The drive home from the airport was bleak. The prairie sky was heavy and gray, the landscape dead and brown: a stark contrast to the eternal green of the tropics I’d basked in all year.

But, when I obtained a fresh visa and went back to Oz, it simply wasn’t the same. They say you can never go back, and in this case, maybe it was true.

So, I moved to my sister’s house in Calgary, Alberta. I worked in a pub, where I met my husband. We didn’t get together for a while, as I was still hooked on the dapper Australian and my hubby was still sewing a few wild oats. It wasn’t until his niece came to visit from Prince Edward Island that we got together. Being the gracious hosts of Calgary we were, we, okay I, decided to take her to the strippers.

I guess strippers have a way of bringing people together. It wasn’t long after that we summoned three hellions into the world and got married.

And then we moved here, to Charlottetown.

I was very lucky in Calgary. I lived a few blocks from my sister when we had our babies. Our first-born children are five months apart, and the second set of kids are four months apart. We were pregnant together. We raised our babies together. We talked on the phone eleventy-billion times a day. And when I came to PEI, it was like a rip or a tear in the fabric of that life. Talking on the phone with her became too painful overnight.

When my grandfather passed away a couple years ago, I realized just how far from home I was. I missed the giant prairie sky, the wind that sweeps through Portage and Main, and midnight slurpee runs. I missed the possibility of going to the store and running into people I went to school with.

And I missed the family I’d spent all my life running from.

Prince Edward Island is beautiful. It’s safe, and family oriented. It’s the perfect place to raise kids, and it’s close to my to my stepdaughters. But, I think that everyone who’s moved from home understands how heartbreaking it can be to be away when people get sick.  To be unable to drop by your parents’ houses to help shovel snow. To have to FaceTime at Christmas.

And, while I wasn’t exceptionally close with my mom in my childhood, I am now. I’ve been feeling the distance between us a lot.

I was two hours late getting home from work tonight. I had to deal with a woman on the phone who was very, very bad at her job. In the end, the situation we danced around wasn’t even resolved, but I was too tired and frustrated to stay any longer. I came home to cuddle the hellions before bedtime and a pour a giant glass of wine.

My husband was watching for me in the window, which was odd.

There was a scuffle of movement as I came through the door.

I went up to see the boys–and complain about my day to the man who puts up with all my complaints–and my mom was standing in the living room.

She’s been in cahoots with my husband the last few weeks.

Plotting to give me a heart attack.

Well the joke’s on them, because I’m still alive. I have my mom here a full week. My eyes are puffy from crying, and I’m grateful and happy–even though I’m way too excited to sleep.

Becoming a Free Time Ninja


Yesterday morning my friend Dan sent me this message, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:15am, his time:

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Good morning! What are you working on this week? Any new blog posts coming?

(That’s Dan speak for, it’s time for another effing blog post, Jenny.)


Dan is one of my very best writing compadres. Along with being a writer who produces entertaining prose faster than Agatha Christie on speed, he’s a critique partner that gives me grief whenever I take too long to email an edited chapter. He’s always sure to tell me what works, and what needs work. He encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. He’s a republican that calls me a commie. And, to be honest, being called a commie by Dan makes me laugh out loud, Every. Single. Time.

I responded to his message with a pretty standard J. A. Allen reply:


13686538_316709032000883_4678767774587559035_n  I don’t have time.


Because I don’t have time.

These days, I hardly have time for anything. I’ve devoted three days a week while the kids are in school to my writerly endeavors. Of my last six “writing days,” only ONE was actually spent writing. It’s man-cold season in the Allen house, and everyone afflicted needs their mawmmy. The oldest hellion just celebrated his eleventh birthday, resulting in a slew of preparation and general chaos clean-up. And, every second day the teachers seem to be partaking in professional development, resulting in about a bazillion days off school and practically eliminating my designated writing days.

Working as a manager in hospitality, I am often outnumbered by a younger subset of humans, ranging in age between eighteen and, ohhhh, twenty-three. selfiesSome of these people don’t go to school. Some of these people still live with their parents. None have kids. And yet, they still complain about doing laundry. One person’s laundry. Not FIVE people’s laundry, like there is in my house. These are people who spend their free time on Netflix, Snapchat, and Buzzfeed, getting their eyelashes extended, going to the gym, and taking selfies.

Every day, I ask these free-time squanderers, “What did you do today?” Mostly to torture myself. Because I don’t have time to do any of that. Because the last time I had time for ANY of that malarkey was when I was twenty-three, and said eleven-year-old turned my previous affinity for the smell of cooking chicken into a dastardly trigger for morning sickness. Not that I don’t love my life as mother of hellions. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just very busy. When I’m not at work, my day is spent cleaning the kitchen, breaking up fights, putting away laundry, watching futsal and basketball, helping with homework, and (lovingly) swearing under my breath at little-boy-aim as I wash the floor beside the toilets.

It begs the question: how the hell does any human with offspring AND full-time employment find the time to learn to write well/produce a book/blog/participate in a web show/tackle social media/apply to be a member of the Florida Writers Conference?

And why the hell would they torture themselves by trying?

(Just joking about the writer’s conference. Because, Florida.)

But then, about half an hour after messaging with Dan yesterday–while perusing my Instagram feed–I came across this little image, posted by none other than my favorite republican: Untitled.png

Sweet baby Jesus. Why the hell was I scrolling through Instagram when I could be writing  the blog he just bugged me about?

I was spending what little free-time I had as a squanderer.

Every now and then I need these reminders to get my butt in gear. There is never going to be time if we simply try to find it. There isn’t going to be time to write if we wait for it to fall from the sky like manna from the pearly gates. There isn’t going to be time if we wait for Ryan Gosling to hand it to us on a chocolate platter.

There is only going to be time to write if we MAKE IT. If we put our phones down. If we unplug from Instagram and Facebook and focus on the writerly endeavors in what little time we have.

In truth, operating Scribble on Cocktail Napkins is one of my guilty pleasures. I do it for me more than anyone else, so within reason, I can write whatever I want. Interacting with readers fuels my fire.jhv The people who leave comments give me all the feels that can be missed while writing a book—because novel writing can be a long and solitary endeavor, similar to telling a joke and waiting in a vacuum for two years to find out if anyone laughed.

So, as per my friend’s direct and indirect cajoling, I woke up early for the sake of writing this blog, and that was easy because A: it’s probably going to get Dan off my back for five minutes, and B: it’s going to bring me a little instant gratification.

Finding time to edit Old Souls can be harder. And maybe that has less to do with not having time, and more to do with procrastination than I’d like to admit. Finding time to write is a never ending battle. Sometimes I win. 1jd7whSometimes I’m defeated before I even bother to try. I go through periods of protecting my writing time with the tenacity of a momma bear protecting her cubs, and periods of handing my writing time to any task that wants it.

And that’s not how anyone anywhere completes a book. If you want something, whether it’s to write a book, further your education, pick up a new skill . . . chances are you’re going to have to be uncomfortable. You’re going to have to fight for it, and protect the time to work on it with every fiber of your being.

It’s about focusing on the dream.

My dream is to see my book on a bloody bookshelf in a bloody book store. And then the sequel. One day I want to earn my living writing on a beach in Aruba. Because who doesn’t want to earn a living by writing on a beach in Aruba?

So, I’m going to post this blog for anyone who, like Dan, has been wondering what I’ve been up to lately. Then, I’m going to daydream about Aruba and shovel my driveway, ‘cause last night a pretty layering of fluffy clouds dumped six feet of snow in front of my garage. And THEN, I’m going to cut chapter thirty-six out of my manuscript, paste it into a new document, and make it better, ninja style.