Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Totally Random A - Z Challenge Survey #1

by M. J. Joachim

Because I think you guys are awesome, and I want to know what you think about when it comes to all things A - Z.

Please share your answers in the comments, or email me at mjjoachimswriting@gmail.com with these answers and anything else you want to share about the A - Z Challenge. I’m one of your biggest fans, and I want to know your take on a few things.

1. What is the first shape that comes to mind when you think of the A - Z Challenge?

2. What is the first color(s) you think of, when you think about the A - Z Challenge? 

3. Why do you like visiting the A - Z blog?

4. If you could change anything about the A - Z Challenge, what would it be?

5. What is your absolute favorite thing about the A - Z Challenge?

This is the first of a few A - Z Challenge Surveys I plan to share on this blog in the coming months. Your answers are appreciated and will be considered thoughtfully. Thanks for visiting Writing Tips and taking time to comment on this post. 

Bonus question:  What's your favorite letter of the Alphabet and why?
M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Sorry, no photos or pics today. I want to know your raw answers, and don’t want to include any outside data that might influence your initial, gut reactions.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review: Sold by Patricia McCormick

by M. J. Joachim

Map of Trafficking of Men, Women & Children by Country/Destination

Researching human trafficking couldn’t have been easy for McCormick, based on the story that unfolds. It is a diary of sorts, of a young India girl from a very poor family. All she wants is to help her mother keep food on the table and buy the much needed roof their little family needs, since her stepfather does nothing much but gamble away any meager earnings they have, leaving them even more destitute than they already are. 

Herein reveals the plight of women and young girls in these distant countries - a gender without a voice, reliant on a man’s status, even if he is unwilling to care for them like anything more than possessions, to be tossed, used and mistreated, broken, disregarded, whatever he wants, because women clearly have little or no value to this culture or society. 

You’d think it couldn’t get any worse than that, until you get to the part about selling the daughter into servitude, to provide for the family and her younger brother (again the gender issue exposed, but he is a baby, after all). Except the 13 year old daughter isn’t being sent to work as a maid to a wealthy family. Instead she is being sold into prostitution, something she and her mother do not know. Her stepfather literally sells her to get more gambling money. 

She progresses on a long journey, and her story unfolds in rapid page turning fashion. Readers can’t help but be intrigued by the lengths these human smugglers go to, to hide and keep the girls, intimidating and instilling fear in them every step of the way, dashing their hopes, dreams and any dignity they might have, all to earn a price from the highest bidder. 

Sold was a National Book Award Finalist. It is geared toward young adults, but I believe it is important for adults to read it too. It is a gentle way to understand the background of human trafficking, and what truly happens to these girls. It is a call to action, if one has the heart and means to listen and respond. Sold is a story that is bound to make a difference for everyone who reads it, which in turn might cause a ripple effect and make a difference for those caught in the throes of human trafficking. 

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Writing Tips today. I do hope you’ll make time to read Sold, and that it will inspire you to reach out in even the smallest of ways to help these young girls and many others like them. These are the stories with the ability to change our lives, if only we will let them. 

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: KVDP, Trafficking of Women, Children & Men (2012), CCA - Share Alike 3.0 License 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie Review: Playing for Keeps

by M. J. Joachim

Priorities are challenged and rearranged for washed up super soccer star, George Dwyer in this playful, romantic sports comedy about a deadbeat dad, who gradually comes to his senses. Falling from grace as an amazing soccer star, Dwyer makes his way back to his son and ex-wife. 

The journey is filled with opportunity, as Dwyer ends up coaching his son’s soccer team. The mom’s on the team throw themselves at him. And a few of the dad’s are less than savory characters. George is put in the precarious position of making important personal decisions, which go against the grain of his former personality.

Playing for Keeps is a love story, a warm and fuzzy family story, where wrongs are addressed and healed, so all family members can move forward in more positive relationships, and it was pretty fun to watch.

That’s all for now, kind followers. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and looking forward to seeing you again soon. Thanks for visiting and commenting on Writing Tips today.

M. J.

© 2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Rick Dikeman, Football iu 1996, GNU Free Documentation License

Thursday, May 15, 2014


by DL Hammons

First off, I’d like to thank Teresa for the opportunity to talk to you today about something near and dear to my heart…WRiTE CLUB. My modest writing contest has proven so popular that the DFW Writers Conference is now considering incorporating it into their agenda for 2015. 

For the newbies out there, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is? It’s a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB. There are numerous versions of this concept around the internet, but nothing like we do it. Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Over the course of eight weeks I hold twice-weekly bouts in which the winners advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion. Bouts between who…or what…you ask? Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that’s who. The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure. 

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!

To find out how to become part of the fun just head on over to DLHammons.com and click on the WRiTE CLUB tab. 
Submissions are open until May 31st. After that date a panel of a dozen judges will read all of the entries we received and pre-select 32 of the best writing samples to climb into the ring. Those 32 participants will then be randomly matched to compete over the next eight weeks, each of them hoping to make it into the play-off rounds and moving towards the ultimate goal – WRiTE CLUB Champion. No one (other than my wife)…not even the judges being used to pre-select the 32 contestants, will see the true identity of any sample. Unless you win, of course.

Again this year, the most exciting part is the winner of the final round will be chosen by a panel of publishing industry professionals! Judges include New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author Jonathan Maberry, Agents Katie Grim of Don Congdon Associates, Margaret Bail of the Andrea Hurst Agency, Sarah Negovetich of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, Brittany Booker of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. Also included is Candace Havens, Editorial Director of Entangled Publishing Covet line, Authors Les Edgerton and Lydia Kang, and previous WRiTE CLUB winners Tiana Smith (2011), Mark Hough (2012) and Tex Thompson (2013).

Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want? Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination. And whatever you do, tell your friends!

WRiTE CLUB – The contest where the audience gets clobbered!

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Writing Tips today. I hope many of you will stop by and check out DL's WRiTE CLUB competition. I've enjoyed reading and commenting on some of the entries in the past, and it sure is a whole lot of fun. 

Thanks again, DL, for sharing this wonderful post on Writing Tips today. 

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit:  Sonia Sevilla, 10th Students Crescent Camp University of Nishapur, CCA Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Helium Writing Community is Closing Its Doors

by M. J. Joachim

Helium is finally shutting down. I wondered when that would happen. It’s where I first started writing online, immersing myself in a strange new world of Internet writing, promotion and making pen pals, if only by visiting and commenting on their work. Later it became a source of writing income for me, as a couple of clients recruited me to be among their freelance writers, and Helium itself recruited me to write for their assignment desk. It was a good gig while it lasted, until I moved onto blogging, eliminating the middle-man between me and my writing.

I made a lot of cool online friends through Helium, many I still keep in touch with today. A few years ago, I pretty much walked away and didn’t look back - no regrets, and the site still has hundreds of my articles on display. From what the email said, these will be converted to read only in the next few weeks, before everything completely goes offline at the end of the year. I haven’t checked in for a while. I suppose I should see if my pennies for page views added up to the minimum payout of $25. (Of course, I haven't done any rating, so probably not.) It was so hard to get to that payout, as their percentages for doing so were always in the favor of big business, and rarely in favor of the independent writer trying to compete against all the other independent writers, busting his butt to crank out consistent work as rapidly as possible. 

Helium taught me a lot, so I will gladly tip my hat in its direction. I’m not sorry to see it go, as I think it should have gone a long time ago. Their business model never was about the little guy struggling to collect and cash out those too few pennies. It was always about big business bottom line, imo. I guess big business discovered Helium wasn’t going to the be cash cow they had hoped for, and finally cut their losses. Or maybe they got busted for changing the rules too many times. I don’t know. All I know is there’s a reason I walked away without apology, but I will always be grateful for discovering online writing and meeting some of the most amazing writing friends a girl could have. 

Farewell, Helium. I’m glad to see online writing will continue to move in new directions. 

Did you start writing in an online writing community? How do you feel about them? Do you miss them when they go away? How have online writing communities helped or hindered your writing goals?
M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Jurii, Helium-glow, CCA 3.0 unported license

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Movie Review: The Lorax

by M. J. Joachim

Dr. Seuss stories make for some amazing animation. The characters are charming, while the thought-provoking tale fully engages the audience.

The Lorax is an intriguing satire about greed, jealousy and control. I couldn’t help but think about how society never dreamed selling water would be profitable. In The Lorax, the story is about selling air. The parallels did not escape me. 

True to form, Dr. Seuss’s story shares the consequences of one’s actions, providing a reasonable solution to remedy the ill-effects of poor decisions on a happier note. It’s a good movie, one children and adults will find information and enjoyable.

I’m so glad you stopped in for a visit today, and look forward to seeing you again soon. 

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved No part of this review may be copied. However, links to this post are greatly appreciated.

Photo credit: Ted Geisel, NYWTS, Library of Congress, Public Domain

Monday, May 12, 2014

Movie Review: The Rebound

by M. J. Joachim

Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the mom in this atypical family drama about a single mom who falls for a younger man. She’s the happy homemaker who gets an unexpected rude awakening about her husband’s extra-marital affair.

Devastation turns into survival and ultimately self-affirmation, as Zeta-Jones moves to the city with two kids in tow, takes on a career and meets a new man who also has romance problems of his own. 

The love story unfolds in a light and easy to watch romantic comedy, nothing too thought provoking, good for when you want to zone out, watch a movie and just vegetate for a couple of hours.

Thanks for stopping by commenting on Writing Tips today. I appreciate you more than you know, and it always makes me smile when you stop by for a visit. 

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved No part of this review may be copied. However, links to this post are greatly appreciated.

Photo credit:  U. S. Library of Congress, Public Domain

Photos are chosen at random, because I like them and because I think they somehow fit the topic in a direct or odd sort of way.