Monday, December 31, 2012

And Another New Year

Happy New Year to all of you, whether you've already celebrated because you're on the other side of the world or not. I hope 2013 is good to you and brings you all you hope for in life.

This is, of course, the time when we reflect on what we've done, set our goals for the coming year, and, quite often, make a series of predictions about what's going to happen in the world. I'm not much for the latter; I have no crystal ball, and I honestly don't understand enough about how the world works to have even a hope of a shred of accuracy over where we're going to end up as a society. And if I try to narrow down and focus on something like, say, publishing, I'm equally in the dark. About all I do know is that paper books aren't going away any time soon. Beyond that? Call me clueless.

But Bonnee Crawford fired the first shot across the bow of writerly resolutions (appropriate enough, given that she's one of those people who is already in the wild, wild world of 2013) when she asked in her blog last week: What is everyone else aiming for? And I thought about it and realize that my goals for this year (as a writer) are pretty much the same. So I took a look back to my first post of 2012, and here is what I found:

  • Get an Agent.
  • Write a New Book
  • Improve, Improve, Improve.
Well, the sad thing is I still don't have an agent. But I've also backed off the query process a bit lately. The overwhelming silence from agents since the first round went out in April is significant. I believe in Parallel Lives, but I think I'm still pretty bad at the querying thing. So I spent most of NaNoReviMo pounding away at my query. Sent out a newer version at the beginning of December, got some rejects, got some more silence, and I'm back in the query workshop. I'd have asked Santa for a new query for Christmas, but let's face it, this has got to come from me. I realize that an inability to create an articulate query could point up to troubles in the manuscript, but I don't believe that's the case with PL. I would not, however, be surprised to find myself querying some of the same agents who rejected PL with Barton's Women.

And speaking of which, that was one goal I definitively met. At the time I wrote my goals for 2012, Barton's Women was still just a glimmer of an idea born of a hurricane. Six days later, in my writer's group, I wrote the first paragraphs. I finished an first draft in August, read and revised, and have it out with some excellent critters. My wife has read it and given me invaluable feedback. So my list for 2013 includes doing another revise round on that one and getting it out in front of agents, too.

As for the new, new book, I mentioned a while back that I had an idea that was floating in my head. Though I've not had that crystallizing "Ah ha!" moment with it, I've decided to try to write my way into it and have made some headway. It's definitely proceeding slowly so far, but it is proceeding. I certainly hope to be able to finish a draft of it in 2013.

Finally, we should always strive to keep improving. This is a tough one, since I am the Doubting Writer, after all, and I'm always going to find my work...not as good as I want it to be. On the other hand, I"m pretty sure that Barton's Women was in better shape when I sent it out for critting than Parallel Lives at the same stage of its life. But I've kept reading, I think when I read, and I'm trying to crit where I can. I haven't read many books on the craft this year, but I'll be honest, a couple of the ones that everyone cites as being Godly have left me kind of flat. I'll have to look into some others and see how they strike me.

And now I've rambled on too long. I wish you all a very happy new year, with good things for you and your family.

And just for fun, here's the Grateful Dead New Year from 1980/81. I cut out about two minutes of the late Bill Graham riding on top of a giant skull to the stage. Happy New Year, all!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow Day

And who gets to shovel all that?

Blog closed.

Sorry, guess I should have made that announcement before you made the drive over, huh?

Reminds me of the time I took the Magpie and Catbird down to the bus stop. We crunched our way over the ice-covered lawn, and slid down the ice-slicked street, and waited dutifully in the cold, watching cars crawl past on the treacherous road. After ten minutes, someone slowed, rolled down their window, and said, "You know, school is closed today, right?" Oops.

Enjoy the weekend, all. Here's a few pics of yesterday's scenery.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Musical Monday: The Christmas Song

What a voice that man had.

I think, when I was a kid, I actually liked Christmas Eve better than Christmas itself. It was just so full of excitement and anticipation, but there was more to it than just that. For whatever reason, my family didn't decorate our Christmas tree until Christmas eve. I don't know if it was just a tradition handed down from one side of the family or the other, or something that came about by design or by accident. With three kids to take care of, maybe it was a way of giving us something to do.

But we'd decorate the tree, then eat, then we'd go to church. Odds were good that we'd have a visit after church from my Uncle Joe, who'd stop in for a bit. At some point, we'd end up in the living room with all the lights off except for the tree, Christmas music playing. And as excited as we three kids always were, I also remember those hours of Christmas eve being among the most perfect, and, oddly, the most peaceful of the year.

May your Christmas be perfect and peaceful. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Author Interview: Lisa L. Regan

Well, I figure I woke up and found the world still here this morning, so it's going to be a good day. Christmas is nearly upon us (and from the looks of things, we may have snow on the ground for it for the first time in a couple of years), the Magpie is now home, and I'm pleased to be hosting my friend and newly-published author, Lisa L. Regan here today. Lisa's debut novel, Finding Claire Fletcher, was released to the world on December 6th, from Sapphire Star Publishing Company.

I'm not sure if I found Lisa's blog before she found mine, but I remember liking her style right away. She was immediately relatable. After lots of commenting back and forth, Lisa very graciously offered to read the manuscript for Parallel Lives. She's given me great advice on PL and a few other things, and has been sympathetic and supportive when I get grumbly or insecure. I confess I haven't read Finding Claire Fletcher in its entirety yet. The Wife has it on her phone and she won't let me read it until she's done. She's enjoying it quite a bit so far, but life and Christmas and all that is slowing her down madly, and she won't let me have it until she's finished first. I'm going to have to start stealing it from her in the middle of the night. However, what I have read is compelling, and I've also had the pleasure of reading the first chapter or so of an upcoming Lisa Regan work. Good stuff, folks. Anyway, Lisa graciously offered to answer a few questions for us, so here we go.

First, Lisa, you've been an officially published author now for a couple of weeks. How does it feel?

It's weird, but in a really fabulous way.  The first few days are really crazy.  There were so many messages via email and social media--people sending congrats and kind words.  It was amazing.  At one point, my phone actually just froze.  It was really incredible though.  Then things settled down and now, in some ways, it's like nothing has changed at all.  I go to work, take care of my family, the days are the same.  But then I'll get a message from someone via Facebook or email saying they just finished my book and it was awesome.  Then I'm like oh, right, my book is out there for anyone to read, and I'm completely euphoric! 

Okay, we've all seen the bio, now tell us something about yourself we WON'T learn from reading your 'About Me' page.

One of my favorite things in the world is “tv show night” with my husband.  Depending on the time of year, we’ll choose a TV show that we’re going to watch together and that day of the week becomes a kind of at-home date night.  We watched both seasons of Game of Thrones.  We just finished watching the last season of Boardwalk Empire.  It’s just fun to cozy up with some snacks and be absorbed into a great story line together.  Then we talk about it, make predictions, etc.  If one of us can’t be home the night a new episode is on, we tape it and save it until we can both watch it together.  No show-cheating allowed!

That's a very nice way to spend some time together, and I love that you make sure to talk about it, too. I love origins stories. Tell us about the origins of Finding Claire Fletcher. How did it come about?

I’ve been obsessed with missing children ever since I was 11 and Jacob Wetterling went missing in Minnesota. [Jeffo's note: Wetterling went missing in 1989] That case really captured the attention of the entire country.  I never forgot it.  On the anniversaries of his abduction, the media would put out age progression photos.  I kept thinking, “I bet someone in this country has run into him and didn’t even know it.”  The idea of a random encounter with a missing or abducted person was the premise for FCF.  It just didn’t turn into a book until 2004 when I started writing FCF. 

The idea for the premise was there for years—at least a decade.  In 2004, I was trying to get back on the horse as they say and start a new novel.  I had written an adult novel before that, but it was terrible.  So I was playing around with different projects and premises at that time, trying to find something to write.  Then the first line of the book popped into my head:  “First time in a bar?”  It’s actually the first line of chapter 2 now.  I sat down in my writing chair with a notebook and wrote the first 65 pages of the book in one sitting.  I knew there was a man and a woman in a bar and that the woman had said that line.  It just came out.  Just like that.  I didn’t even have character names.  When I finished, I knew that this was the story I need to write next.

It's funny how an idea--a good idea--can float around in your head for so long before it's 'ready' to be written, and funny how the tiniest thing can trigger it. Has the story changed from your initial vision? 

In some ways, it hasn’t changed at all, and in others, it’s changed dramatically.  The parts that are almost exactly the same as the day I hand wrote them in my many notebooks are the sections from Claire’s point of view.  Very, very, very little changed in those sections—the ones told in her voice—from the first draft to finished product.  This has always been her story, and my initial vision of it and the telling of it hasn’t changed at all from start to finish.  What did change dramatically was the plot of the second half of the book.  Originally the book went much farther into the future than it does now.  Also my bad guy was far more maniacal in the second half of the book than he is now.  Finally, the pacing is a lot different.  I originally had Claire’s story framed by Connor’s search, and now I have the chapters staggered. I think it adds suspense.

Now, Plotter or Wingman?

These days I am much more of a plotter.  Although I had the best time writing I’ve ever had writing Finding Claire Fletcher, forging ahead with no plan at all really crippled me in terms of seeking publication.  It took a very long time to get the book to where it is now.  I think if I had plotted more ahead of time, my journey would have been easier.  So now I begin with a premise in mind, character names, a loose idea of the plot and then I write a few thousand words.  Then I do a plot outline from there and continue writing.  I will reference and change the plot outline as I move along, depending on what twists the actual writing takes.  But now I try to start out by asking myself:  “What am I trying to accomplish in this book?”

We often hear about 'saggy middles' and writers who get 10, 20, 30,000 words into a book and then get lost and discouraged. Did you ever hit a point during the writing of FCF where you thought about throwing in the towel and giving up? What kept you going?

Never in the actual writing of it.  The book came out of me fast and furious.  I couldn’t get it out fast enough.  I was so sad when that first draft was over.  During the lengthy, prolonged, painful revisions there were many times I wanted to throw in the towel.  But Claire’s voice was too compelling to me. She felt so real, and I was haunted by her voice, her story.  I felt some weird sort of obligation to her to see this thing through.

Describe your writing routine, if you have any. Are you a morning writer, evening? Anytime?

I have none!  I keep a notebook in my purse and whenever I have time (waiting in line at the post office or in a store, waiting at the doctor or dentist, waiting in the car while my husband runs into a store) I will write.  I try to always have whatever I’m working on in the back of my mind so that when I do get ten minutes to pick up a pen, I can get right into it.  Then usually at night when my daughter is asleep and my husband has fallen asleep watching TV, I will pull out the old laptop and work on there.  I just grab whatever free time I can get wherever I have it and use that.  Some of my best work has been written in line at the post office.
What's next for Lisa L. Regan? Do you see yourself continuing in the same genre, or changing things up?

I will definitely continue in the crime fiction/suspense/mystery/thriller genre.  This is what I love.  My new novel, Aberration will be out 6/6/13 from Sapphire Star Publishing.  It’s got an FBI agent.  Then after that will be a Philadelphia detective.  Then I’d like to bring Connor and Claire back as minor characters or intrepid crime solvers in a book with a mystery at its heart.

Wow, thanks so much for being here, and good luck with all of your projects. Merry Christmas, too!

Now, all, Lisa has a giveaway going on in celebration of Finding Claire Fletcher. Today is the last day to get in on it. You can win a $25 Amazon  giftcard, a signed copy of Finding Claire Fletcher, or an e-book version of FCF. All you have to do is go here and leave a comment, but hurry! Signup ends today, drawing is on Christmas eve!

About Finding Claire Fletcher
Newly divorced and with his career in jeopardy, Detective Connor Parks takes solace in the arms of a beautiful woman he meets at a bar. The next morning, Claire Fletcher is gone, leaving nothing behind but an address and a decade-old mystery. The address leads to the Fletcher family home where Claire's siblings inform Connor that their fifteen-year-old sister was abducted from a city street ten years ago and is presumed dead. During those ten years, Claire endured the cruel torture and depravity of the man who abducted her. Paralyzed by fear and too ashamed to return to her family, Claire is resigned to her life as Lynn, the identity her abductor forced upon her. Every time she attempts escape or betrays him in the smallest way, someone dies. Even now, her clandestine run-in with Connor Parks may have put his life at risk, as well as the lives of her family. Connor is convinced that not only is Claire Fletcher alive, but that she is also the woman he met at the bar. Driven to see her again, he begins his own investigation, off the clock and without the police department's consent. He is determined to find her and unravel the mystery of her abduction and odd reemergence. But finding Claire Fletcher proves more dangerous than he anticipates. In fact, it may be deadly.


If you haven't already done so, get it today, because the world is NOT ending today. Have a great weekend, everyone, and thanks for coming by!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sucky First Drafts

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the first draft of anything sucks.* This 'truth' is a great comfort to writers who read their first drafts and want to tear their hair out. "Oh, this sucks!" they scream, while dragging their poor monitor to the window, as if it's the monitor's fault. But then they take to a writer's forum to bemoan the horrible state of their first draft, and someone points out this truth, and they feel better, and press on.

It's liberating, being allowed to suck. It allows one to proceed with some degree of confidence. 'If shitty first drafts were good enough for Hemingway,' we think, 'they're good enough for me!'

As I read a thread over the course of the weekend, however, something started gnawing at my insides. A feeling that some are starting to take to this 'truth' and turn it into a Truth, or that they're looking at it as—dare I say it?—another rule.

But remember this: Just because the first draft is allowed to suck, doesn't mean it's supposed to suck.

What I mean here is, if you draft at all like me, then much of your draft will, in fact, suck. I'm a brain dumper. In my head is a slippery, slimy story scampering around in the dark. It's hard to see all of it. It's quick and elusive. Drafting, for me, is the act of dumping that thing out into the bright light where I can pin it down and examine it. That first draft is full of typos, awkward sentences, and needless repetition. I'll repeat, almost verbatim, the same paragraph in three different places, because I'm desperately trying to communicate a particular idea or theme. Once this thing is on the page and has stopped moving around so much, I'm looking for things that don't suck: believable characters, a compelling plot, authentic dialogue. The prose itself can suck, but these things have to be sufficiently non-sucky to convince me to go on to the next phase, the (hopefully) Quality Wordsmithing phase.

So, I guess if there's any advice in here, it's allow that 'truth' to grant you freedom to write without too much worry, but make sure you've got something good in there.

Looking forward to Friday, when I'll have Lisa L. Regan here—see you then!

*Apologies to Jane Austen. And Hemingway's quote is, "The first draft of anything is shit."

Friday, December 14, 2012


So, I watched a good chunk of the 12-12-12 concert Wednesday night. I forgot it was on, to be honest, and only found it when I decided I needed some brain melt time, shortly after 8 PM. I turn on the TV and there's Bruce Springsteen, looking like he's the one who should be playing a mobster on The Sopranos, instead of his buddy, Little Steven, wrapping up Born to Run. I stuck around for the next four hours, until I was driven away by a deadly combination of fatigue, Kanye West, the truly awful 'Drunk Uncle' sketch, and one-too-many instances of Brian Williams saying, "You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a celebrity back here."

I did enjoy the show overall. I thought most of the musical performances were strong, though I also thought the comedic bits were universally unfunny. The cause is excellent, and I suspect the concert raised a lot of money that will hopefully get to the people who need it the most. There is, however, one question that's been bugging me since somewhere in the middle of the evening. I think it first popped into my brain when they started flashing the 'coming up' promos during stage changeovers:

Where were the women?

There were plenty of women in Madison Square Garden for the show. I saw them dancing, smiling, waving their cell phones in the air. They were at the phone bank, there were at least two who appeared on camera between musical acts. And there were a lot of women onstage, but aside from Alicia Keys, they were backup singers and part of the band. So, where were the women?

Now I know there's a lot of things that go into producing something like this, a lot of considerations that go into selecting the acts. Most of the acts were 'classic' acts--Springsteen, Clapton, The Who, the Stones, Roger Waters--giants in the industry, big box office draws, who appeal to the demographic that I presume is seen as having the most money to give. You're not going to stuff this event with teeny-bopper heartthrobs, because the teeny-boppers can't fork over the cash.

There's also availability. Bruce and Bon Jovi are local guys, you know they're going to turn out for something like this. So is Billy Joel. The Who and the Stones both happen to be touring the US right now, and Sir Paul McCartney can do whatever he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants--he's Paul freakin' McCartney, after all. So the biggest women stars in the business today--Adele, Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna, and I know I'm missing many others--may not have had the right combination of interest, audience, and availability for an event of this sort. Still, the night was notable for what it lacked.

I hate to see these kinds of events, because it means something terrible has happened somewhere in the world, something that has caused suffering among large numbers of people. But it will happen again, because that's just how the world is, things happen. And it will happen again because people want to help, they want to contribute and make things better, and that says a lot about us. I just hope that, when it does happen again, we see a better balance on the stage.


In light of Monday's post about John Lennon, I came across a link to the so-called 'last interview' he did for Rolling Stone magazine, about three days before he was killed. It's a really interesting read, and some parts that struck me as being appropriate for all of us writers here. Check it out here.

That's all for me, have a great weekend, all!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Musical Monday: John Lennon

John Lennon was really my first hero of rock and roll. As a kid I didn't really latch on to any one particular performer. We had our Partridge Family records, of course, and I remember playing Don McLean's American Pie over and over for a  while (and it was a single, so it faded out and had to be flipped over to hear all of the song, for those of you who remember those funny things called 'records'). Oh, and I had a brief love of Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy. But it was the Beatles that first really grabbed me, even though it was six or seven years since they'd broken up.

Now, I'll confess, I actually liked Paul McCartney better at first. Paul was...safer, more immediately approachable. But over time, I found Lennon ultimately seemed so genuine. As glib as he could be in interviews (and we've probably all seen those clips: "How did you find America?" "Turn left at Greenland."), the more you watch and read, the more you realize he laid himself out there. He held fast to his ideas. He wasn't afraid to express himself, he wasn't afraid to say what was on his mind, and he took his share of lumps for it.

I was one of the people who waited with bated breath for the release of his first album in five years. Lennon, after a tumultuous few years in his personal life that included a separation from Yoko Ono and a heroin addiction, gave up the life to help raise his son, Sean. He was emerging from five years of exile. (Just Like) Starting Over had come out in October, raising expectations for the album, and an entirely appropriate re-entry into the world. And then, three weeks after the album's release, Lennon was gunned down outside his apartment.

I don't know what we were watching on TV that night, but I remember the eleven o'clock news coming on, and the report that John Lennon had been shot. I went to bed not knowing what happened, but in the morning, I turned on my radio to my favorite rock station and heard...a Beatles song. I don't remember which one, but it was a Lennon song, and I didn't need anyone to tell me what that meant.

I didn't cry, I didn't stay home from school and bury myself in the covers, I didn't cut school and travel to Strawberry Fields in Central Park, but Lennon's death hit hard. Other rock heroes had gone. 1977 saw three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd die in a plane crash; Keith Moon of the Who died a year later, and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham passed away about a month before Double Fantasy came out. None of those deaths hit me in the same way. Lennon was different. Lennon is different. It's a shame he was taken away so young.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Who Are We Trying to Reach?

On Wednesday, my friend Nancy Thompson made her monthly Insecure Writers Support Group post. She's published now, but admitted to feeling a bit of a letdown. Part of it, I'm sure, is the physical reaction to the go-go-go that was her blog tour and the high of being able to go to Amazon and Barnes & Noble and say, "Look, that's me!" At some point, you're just going to run out of steam. But she was also noting how hard it is to connect with readers. Nancy noted that, while writing The Mistaken, she connected with writers, which is great, but she goes on to say:

I didn’t take the proper time to make more connections, the kind I should’ve made in order to help sell my book.  Writers make great friends and give wonderful support and advice, but, for the most part, they're not really buyers.  Readers are buyers

We'll say it again, because it's important: Readers are buyers.

I'm a dedicated reader of a number of blogs, a regular participant in the Absolute Write forums, and one thing that comes up all the time is the notion of 'rules'. You know them well: Don't use adverbs. Don't use passive voice. Show, don't tell. Write what you know. The rules have a place, but they cause a lot of problems for new writers who see these rules broken all the time by established authors. And the confusion is compounded when New Writer posts a two sentence excerpt on a forum because they're confused about grammar, and they get an answer that says something like, "Grammatically, you're fine, but I'd be concerned because that sentence is all telling." They then get lectured by four or five people for telling when they should be showing. I hate those kinds of answers because they ignore context, and they ignore the fact that sometimes, it's just plain best to tell.

Now there's a new rule, a rule that is heavily-pushed by industry insiders: "you must have presence." 'Presence' in this case refers at the very least to a website, though preference is given for interactive social media. Like the 'Show, don't tell,' and 'Don't use passive voice' rules, a lot of new writers are taking this to heart, and the result is a lot of blogs out there like…well, like this one, and a lot of writers despairing over what it means.

The problem is that new writers almost invariably blog about writing. There's nothing at all wrong with this. It's a good way to help process and channel the sometimes maddening things we go through, and it's a great way to meet people and to learn and be inspired. I've gained so much from reading your blogs and interacting with you, and from forcing myself to write something meaningful twice a week. Best of all, I can say there are some real friendships that have formed through this effort, and I don't make friends easily.

But Nancy is right. Blogs like hers and mine attract like-minded people, and those like-minded people are mostly fellow aspiring writers. And as Nancy says, writers are not buyers. Yes, when I am published, some of you will buy my books (now we're getting ambitious: it's not enough that I'm saying 'when', I'm assuming multiple books – dream big, or go home!). Many of you will promote it on your blogs and participate in blog tours and interviews and, like ripples on a pond, word will spread of my fantastic contributions to literature – to other writers. Getting the word out to the general reading public is another story.

So, how do we do that? Lisa Regan made a great point in the comments section of Nancy's post: "it's hard to connect with readers when you have nothing out for them to read." What reader (meaning the generic reader, as opposed to the aspiring writer reader) is going to visit this blog? There's no reason for them to come here because I have nothing published, they don't know me from Adam. And if I did somehow find a way to attract them here, well what's there for them to see? A wanna-be writer whining about how he's stuck in the middle of his manuscript, or recounting a crazy dream that relates to how anxious he is about sharing his work. Who really wants to read that? Other writers who are in the same or similar boat, that's who. When I'm published, I would need a different sort of presence, I think, for the benefit of reader readers who are interested in me.

There's a lot of energy being expended on the internet by writers trying to establish presence. My feeling, the longer I'm involved in this, is relax. Blog if you want. Tweet, Facebook, whatever. But don't break your back on any of them on the assumption that it's going to help get you an agent or a publication deal, or that it's going to sell you a lot of books when you do get your deal. Because chances are, you'll be trying to sell yourself to yourself. 

What do you all think? Am I nuts for saying this? Or is there some other way to really connect with and build a readership before you've been published? I really want to know.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding Claire Fletcher Launches!

Since starting this blog nearly two years ago, I have met many wonderful people. It's strange to think of people you've never seen face-to-face, or never even spoken to in a normal conversation, as friends, but there are a number of you I feel that way about. It brings me great pleasure to announce that my friend, Lisa L. Regan  is releasing her first novel, Finding Claire Fletcher, today!

Lisa's going to be busy this month. She'll be here for an interview on December 21. For a full schedule, and to earn a chance to win valuable prizes, stop by here!

Here's the short story on the book:

Down on his luck, Detective Connor Parks takes solace in the arms of a woman he meets at a local bar, but in the morning, Claire Fletcher is gone, leaving behind clues to a decade-old mystery. Abducted at age fifteen, no one has heard from Claire Fletcher in ten years.  Until now.  Driven by an unsettling need to see Claire again, Connor sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance once and for all.

I am really looking forward to reading this, and I'm very excited for Lisa. It has been a long time in coming! 

Where can you buy Finding Claire Fletcher, you ask?

Be sure to stop by Lisa's blog to find out where she is and wish her well! I'll be back tomorrow (I think).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Musing: Captcha Gone Crazy!

Is it me, or has Captcha gotten a bit … out of hand lately?

Captcha, in case you're not familiar with it, is the verification code you have to enter in order to comment on some blogs, or register for certain websites. I always assumed it was just a jazzy way of saying 'capture', but it's an acronym that means "Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart." Seriously.

Anyway, I started keeping a list back in May of 2012, a list of the strange word combinations I was encountering while trying to leave my pearls of wisdom around the blogosphere. Something struck me about those twisty little things. Mostly, they made me laugh. They also made me think, "I can use this!" For what, I didn't know, but I was compelled to copy them down, certain that I could use them in some bizarre work of fiction yet to be thought of.

sporse nizoe  
sistf manymob   
chicero ptiera

See what I mean? Catchy, aren't they? That last one sounds like a South American nightclub singer.

At first, they were a source of amusement and mild annoyance, but somewhere along the line, they made them twistier, harder to read. That might have actually been what prompted me to start keeping the list in the first place. Some blogs, it seemed were tougher to crack into than others, and I was curious. Still, they were a mere annoyance, a brief speed bump on the road to commentary. But then they started to change. They started to add numbers.

smsvI 45
spitaggl 13
byaques 14

It was an interesting new wrinkle. And it was also the point where it started to become a pain in the butt. I usually had no trouble with mere letters. But the numbers were frequently hard to read. They were blurry. They looked like grainy photographs of house numbers taken with a cheap camera by a sleep-deprived PI staking out a wayward spouse.  I started guessing, and some of the guesses were so blind I wondered if coming close is good enough - that or I'm getting extremely lucky. I also started getting them wrong with greater frequency, but, fortunately (or unfortunately, if you've been on the receiving end of many of my comments, hah hah) not often enough to make me not leave a comment.

I stopped keeping track of the Captcha codes, but I've started up again, because they just seem to be going crazy lately.

shonees 12636
orldVeq 4519
8931 myUSBus

I suppose it's just a way of trying to keep ahead of the bots.

I remember considering the comment options when I started this blog. Verification on, or off? Comment moderation: yay or nay? I'm pretty sure I started with verification on, because I'm pretty sure someone told me not to bother, that it was an impediment to conversation, and people wouldn't bother if they had to wade through the trouble of captcha. Comments are important. I want to hear what you have to say. In hindsight, it was a silly decision to use it for me, especially because I receive every comment as an e-mail, and I have the luxury of being able to act quickly, should anything spammy or objectionable come in. Maybe if I were receiving hundreds (or even scores or dozens) of comments per post or had thousands of visitors per day, it would make sense, or if I found myself having to clean up loads of obvious spamments each  day. As it stands now, it doesn't make sense for me to keep that barrier up. (On the other hand, I must have crossed some  threshold; twice in the last month I've received offers of free quality eye-wear should I promote some company on this blog – big time, baby!)

Anyway, I think I'll stop keeping track of Captcha codes for a while. At least until they change things up and make it interesting again. Viva, Chicero Ptiera!