Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Word From the Muse:

I'm feeling colorful today.  I was sitting here this morning, on this terrace, creatively inspired.

Then it got drafty out there on the veranda, so I moved inside to the living room, where I began to write.

Later,recharged; ate a bowl full of greens with slices of deep red tomatoes for lunch in this room.

And all day long I'll write, and write, and write...

...wander around my big, colorful world and write...

I'm on a short break now, you see.  On my swing...

Okay, that's enough, Muse.  Thank you.  Now back to writing with you...

Hope your imaginations are COLORFUL today, too!

Psst! Don't forget to sign up for the Bernard Pivot Blogfest, set for Feb. 16.  Details here!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My New Blogfest -- Come Sign Up!

Right click the image and save.  Upload it to your sidebar and include a link back here, and you'll be entered an additional 5 times in the blogfest giveaway! (Details below)

I've surpassed the 500 followers milestone and I feel like celebrating!  This blogfest is designed to bring as many of us together, to get to know each other better.  And I thought it'd be fun to use Bernard Pivot's famous questionnaire to do it.

Anyone who's watched Inside the Actor's Studio will be familiar with the questionnaire.  The show's host, James Lipton, asks it of every celebrity guest at the close of the interview.  The questionnaire was originally created by Bernard Pivot, a French journalist, for the cultural series he hosted on French television from 1991-2001, called Bouillon de Culture.

What I love about the questionnaire is you can either answer the questions with all the truth in your heart, or you can approach them with creativity and cleverness -- finding answers or deliveries no one else has ever come up with.  But which ever way you go, each of your answers will be revealing, telling us interesting things about you.

What a fun way to get to know each other better, right?  And -- there's more...

To show my gratitude for all the wonderful people blogging brings into my life, I'd like to announce a giveaway!  Signing up for the blogfest automatically enters you in a drawing with cool prizes (TBA).

So, here's how the blogfest will work:

1.  If you aren't already a follower, click the button.  I can't wait to meet you!
2.  Sign up for the BPB Blogfest using Mr. Linky, below.
3.  Copy the questionnaire that follows these instructions and paste it, filled out, into your blog post on February 16.
4.  On February 16, we'll visit each other's blogs and get to know each other better, through reading each other's answers.  Fun!
5.  On February 18, I'll announce the winners of the blogfest giveaway random drawing!

Okay, here's Bernard Pivot's famous questionnaire:

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Ready to sign up? Great!! Fill in Mr. Linky's windows and you're in!

Please help me spread the word! Grab my BPBlogfest image and paste it onto your sidebar, linking to this post. You'll receive 5 extra entries in the giveaway if you do!!! (Come back anytime to leave a comment telling me you've done so.  Or, just to say hi! :D)  Thanks!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Dear Me...

The following is a letter I wrote to myself, outlining my writing goals for 2011. I do this every January to kick off the new year, and to hold myself accountable as the months tick by.  If you have never written a motivational letter to yourself, I highly recommend it. Even if you don't share it with anyone, it is a wonderful tool for self-organizing and prioritizing what's important to you.

It came yesterday in the mail.

Your heart banged a bongo beat and you broke a fingernail, tearing apart the cardboard box. You barely noticed. Within seconds the packaging and your nail tip lay abandoned on the kitchen table, and in your hands you held your latest book.

Okay, it wasn’t only your book. It was an anthology. But you are a proud contributing author to it, and the thrill of seeing your short story flow across the printed pages of a bound book left you momentarily speechless.

Yesterday was only the second time you’ve relished that thrill. You want to feel it again!

So, your goal for 2011 is to get more of your work in print. Published, rather: in print or online. (E-publishing is the future; embrace it. Don’t make that face.] Tech savvy though you are, you still prefer paper books. Therefore, your efforts will be most concentrated on seeking out print publication. And as long as we’re fleshing out the specifics of your goal, here’s another point: You want to SELL a story. That’s right, a paying gig. Even a Token Payment of up to 1¢ per word would do the trick, but isn't the whole point of this letter to set the bar higher? Therefore, you’ll seek out markets that offer Semi-Pro Payment (1¢-4.9¢/word) and Professional Payment (5¢+/word).

In addition to this goal, there's that little matter of your unfinished novel. You're going to finish it in 2011.

To reach these goals, let’s turn to the basics: The Three R’s.

ReadingWriting, and Arithmetic (*shudder*) will be the keystones of your success this year. Here’s how:

         A good writer is one who reads -- a lot. When you read a good book, you perch on the edge of the creative pool, skirt hiked up over your knees, swishing your feet through its invigorating waters. And when you read a bad book, (they’re out there!), you feel equally inspired. Two thoughts swim through your mind: I could write this better! ~and~ If someone published this nonsense, maybe my nonsense has a shot!

         Last year you set the lofty goal of reading 50 books in 52 weeks. Your attempt was valiant, though sometimes you resorted to speed reading just to get to the book’s end. Not altogether suprisingly, you fell short of your goal. You did complete 32 books, documented HERE   You definitely deserve an 'A' for effort!

         This year, to have more time to enjoy the reading experience, you pledge to read 25 books. At that pace, one book every two weeks, you’ll have time to savor every story, get your feet properly wet. Also, there is simply no better way to research the literary magazine market than reading the types of stories each magazine publishes. So you’ll purchase and read one, different literary magazine per month. This will cost you between $7 and $16 each month, so budget accordingly. 

         This is what it’s all about. It’s no secret: The more you write, the stronger a writer you become. You reached your 2010 goal of establishing a daily writing schedule. Now, you need to prioritize that schedule.

         You really ² want to finish your first novel. You worked on it all last year. You’d get on a roll and then hit a wall. Retrace your steps; start again; hit a wall. You went back to the outline; revamped. Started again; hit a wall. Then you fired your main character (a gutsy, but most appropriate deed). You replaced her with a more vibrant, engaging, interesting character. You started again… (…which brings us to today.)

         With every ounce of determination you can muster, you pledge to finish your first draft of WiP #1. To call yourself a novelist, you have to write a novel. And to write a novel, you have to let go of your fears. It’s okay if the first draft lacks polished perfection. All first drafts do! And so, with fearless resolve and with your door shut, your Google Chrome tabs closed, and your cell phone silenced, you will sit down, open your imagination and write that draft.

         Many authors declare it’s best to complete the entire novel’s first draft before beginning the revision process, or you may well never finish it. As a student of that school of thought, you agree. But that means months of raw, sometimes lackluster writing, and that scares you. You’re afraid this will confirm what your insecurity incessantly whispers: that you have no real talent, after all. So you will need to produce some short fiction this year, if only to affirm to yourself that you ARE capable of polished perfection. You pledge to write a minimum of eight new short stories, with the intention of submitting them for publication.

         You’re right-brained. You hate math. Number-crunching is your idea of cruel and unusual punishment. However, numbers (and lists and tracking charts) are important to your creative goals, so get over your aversion right now. Think of it this way: numbers equal word counts plus deadlines.

         Of your first draft, you have penned just over 30,000 words out of 80,000. That leaves approximately 50,000 to go. To complete the draft in six months, you pledge to produce 8,300 new words before every end-of-the-month deadline. By mid-summer, you will begin revising.

         As for the eight new short stories you will write in 2011, you’ll utilize several lists and charts to plot your submission progress. Use your free account at to create market lists. You’ve already started, with your literary magazine A-List that includes, among others, Glimmer TrainCrazyhorseTin HouseWriter’s Digest (Your Story), and The Paris Review. With an average acceptance rate of only .46%, Duotrope classifies these as Extremely Challenging Fiction Markets. The magazines on this list are your brass rings. Stretch! You CAN grab one, but you have to work hard for it.

         You’ll need tiers of B-List and C-List markets. When you receive rejections from one tier, submit the story to the next tier down. Use these lists to systematically submit your work until it’s published.
’s Submission Tracker is a great site feature. You’ve used it every time you submitted your short fiction, and you’ll continue this year. The tracking chart shows you at a glance where your work is being considered, what date you submitted, when the market expects to contact you with a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’, and the eventual outcome. (Ah, no shudder? You see? It doesn’t even feel like math!)

         All right, NickiD89, you have your work cut out for you in 2011. It’s going to be an exciting, productive and creative year. You’ve pushed your bar clear through the stratosphere, where rough weather in the past had your muse hunkered down and sheltered. Now it’s set beyond, somewhere in the mesosphere. You may encounter the occasional meteor, but by now you know how to handle yourself.

Your place with the stars is waiting for you. Go on. Soar!

How do you organize your creative goals for the new year?


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Please READ! (I need your help...)

Anyone looking for my Significant Other Blogfest entry, just scroll down :D

Since I changed my blog template, some of my followers are no longer able to view my blog. Obviously, if you are reading this, you aren't one of them.  I'm trying to figure out if the problem lies with the browser viewers are using, so please help:

Please leave me a comment today, or email me at NicoleDucleroir(at)gmail(dot)com. Tell me what browser you use, ie: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or any other one.

Thank you SO much for your help! Happy weekend :)


Friday, January 21, 2011

Significant Other Blogfest!

Thanks DL Hammons and Talli Roland for hosting the Significant Others Blogfest, where we writers give our blogs over to our better halves and let them rant express what it's like living with a writer.  Enjoy!!

This is me and my husband, Christian, a few weeks before our wedding.  My big, Italian family threw us a shower in New York state, since most of my aunts, uncles and cousins wouldn't be flying to France for the wedding.  One uncle and his wife gave us these glasses for a wedding present.  They explained:  "Eventually, you'll get pissed off at each other.  When you start to fight, put these on.  It's really hard to stay mad at someone who looks so ridiculous."  Luckily, we don't need them (that often).  I included this photo so you have a good idea of our goofy sides.  We're pretty care-free, and we laugh.  A lot!

[Before we get started, first let me say that Christian is supportive of anything I want to do...but, he does not share an iota of the passion I feel for writing.  He's annoyed when he has to write an email.  Therefore, Christian and I both felt more comfortable with me interviewing him for this blogfest rather then him writing down his thoughts.  Also, he is French, and English is his second language.  Many people have commented that Christian sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger when he talks, so go ahead and read Christian's lines with that accent. ;)]

Me:  What’s it like to be married to a writer?

Christian:  I don’t know.

Me(pause) You don’t know?

Christian:  It’s not too bad. There’s nothing wrong with that.  Except if you’re like me, all logical and fixing (Caterpillar) tractors for a living, then poetry isn’t really my field, if you know what I mean.  I read service manuals all day.   So of course, there’s some stuff I don’t understand.

Me:  What about my erotica?

Christian:  That’s the good stuff.  Make more of it.  I’ll read that.

(I roll my eyes and we both laugh.)

Christian:  Honestly, it’s not that, baby.  Most of the time, you don’t get it that I don’t get it.  That’s about all of it.  I don’t try to be mean to you.  It’s just not my cup of tea.  I just don’t get it.

Me:  I know, I know.  Next question:  Do you think I spend too much time on the computer or not enough time, and why?

Christian:  Is that the only choices we have?  I mean, sometimes you do spend too much time, and sometimes I don’t give a shit.  Sometimes, yes.  But most of the time it isn’t writing related, is it?  Lots of the time it's Facebook and stuff.  But, no.  You’re good about it.  When the three of us stand at the bottom of the stairs and scream, “MOM!” you come right down.

Me:  Can you tell when I’ve sort of zoned out and started thinking about my stories instead of what’s going on around me?

Christian:  Yeah.  ‘Cause when the zebra’s in the zone, you leave him in the zone.  (Christian and our two kids love the Madagascar movies.  They quote them whenever it’s remotely appropriate.  And, obviously sometimes when it’s not…) Woman, of course I can tell.  When I ask you a question and you answer something else, I know you’re thinking about writing. 

Me:  Hmm, I guess I knew that.  And don’t call me ‘woman.’ (Inside joke.  Clue:  We love Clueless.) What’s the first thing you’re going to buy when I sell a bestselling book?

Christian:  Nothing, baby.  That’s going to be your money.

Awww!  What a sweetie!  Maybe I’ll buy him a little present with some of it…
So there you have it, a glance inside our lives and my husband's mind.

Be sure to visit the other blogfest participants.  You can view the Mr. Linky list at Cruising Altitude <--> Click here.  

Thanks for stopping by!!!  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Off-the-Cuff Poetry: Double Acrostic

I'm feeling lots of love and harmony in my universe today, mostly because my sweet friend and crit partner showered me with both on her blog today.  I hope you pop over to visit Jessica Bell today, to see first hand why such a talented writer is also an amazing friend.

I'm into Day #7 of the 15 For 15 contest at  Halfway there!  Each day, out of the 50 entries the contest judge chooses her five favorites as that day's "winners."  Top pick gets 1004 points, second gets 1003, and so on.  A scoreboard is updated every day.  If you miss two entries in a row, you're dropped from the competition.  At the end of the 15 days, the writer with the most accumulated points "wins."  (Prizes of the sites virtual tokens are awarded the first, second and third place winners.)  Of course, it's not about the points.  If you stretch your writing muscles, rising to the challenge every day and producing creative, inspired entries, you WIN.

That said, I won yesterday, earning 1004 points.  My entry follows, but first here's what I wrote for the current photo which will be judged today:

When I first saw it, I groaned.  I suck at fantasy writing.
I went the metaphor route, instead.

                                      Heinous  m ~ o ~ n ~ s ~ t ~ e ~ r   HatreD
                                      Asphalt black, arched back, winged warrioR
                                      Terrorizing, blow torched words; boiling anger-spA
                                      Rancor rooted in fearful heart    ~~   RaginG
                                      Extinguish your flaming snout! Spout no mO'
                                      Decide to love, even that which you have yet to learN

And here is yesterday's prompt. The squirrel in this photo is actually a Malabar Giant Sqirrel.  Lives in India.  Go figure! My entry is below.  

Miss Pamela Parrot, while grooming the long red feathers in her right wing, noticed movement below on the forest floor. She pulled her beak away and cocked her head so she could see better out of the facing eye.

What in tar-nation? she wondered.

A furry mass of vibrant blue and red scuttled to the base of a long-dead tree just opposite the tree Miss Pamela perched upon. Her pupil dilated and constricted, trying to better focus on it, as the thing climbed with lightening speed to the topmost nubs of broken trunk. It was only then that she could pinpoint what she was seeing.

"Little Scotty Squirrel? Is that you?"

Scotty Squirrel didn't answer. He stared straight ahead, whiskers twitching in concentration. At the same time the tip of his pink tongue snuck out the corner of his snout, he lifted three paws off his wooden perch. Wobbling wildly, he clamped his claws back down, righting himself before he tumbled into the airy void. Then, composed, he tried again.

"Scotty? Son, what are you doing there? And what's happened to your beautiful golden coat. Looks like someone tried to paint a canvas with your pelt!" She cackled at the thought.

Scotty almost lost his balance again and glared at Pamela. She eyed him again, and a thought dawned in her mind. Slowly, she lowered the leg tucked up against her breast and wrapped the talons around the branch, side-by-side with the other claw. Scotty seemed relieved and placed again all four of his paws on solid wood.

"I've come," he began, then cleared his throat. He began again. "I've come, Miss Pamela, to ask your hand in marriage."

Miss Pamela began to laugh, but caught herself just in time. Little Scotty's eyes were bright, hard. He was completely serious.

Miss Pamela tossed her head, then bowed it. Raising her eyes, she said, "I'm very flattered, Scotty. Honest, I am! But, dear, we are two very different species."

"But I love you!"

She stretched her wings, flapped them before refolding them at her sides. "You are the sweetest little thing! But we live different lives, eat different things. And besides, I'm so old, I remember when your great-great-great-great grandparents were born!"

Scotty Squirrel carefully stood on his two hind legs. A breeze threatened to topple him but he held fast. When he was sure of his balance, he looked up and into Miss Pamela's eyes. "It's okay. You aren't ready. I understand. I can wait...."

As he raced down the tree trunk headfirst, he wondered what on earth parrots ate...

Thanks so much for reading!  Have a fantastic day :D



Monday, January 17, 2011

Off-the-Cuff Contest Entry #3

This is the exact photo prompt for yesterday's 15 For 15 Contest.  My strategy when drawing inspiration from these prompts is to avoid the obvious, and find the clever story hidden deep in the picture.  This time, for example, I didn't want to do a western-style story, a cowboys and Indians scenario, or a period piece from the 1800s.  Here is what I did come up with.  As always, forgive the punctuation and verb tense mishaps.  I wrote this in exactly 15 minutes (maybe going over by 30 seconds or so...)

Don't be too quick to judge, Lydia's inner voice chastised. She peered through the restaurant's front windows, but humidity fogged it from the inside. She took a deep breath and pulled open the door.

It wasn't so much a restaurant as it was a bar. This thought, too, dripped with conflicted disdain, and Lydia scolded herself again. This was what she'd expected, after all. She was meeting a man for the first time who she'd connected with on an online dating site. Of course the restaurant turned out to be a bar. And the hot guy in Stuart's profile picture would probably turn out to be George Costanza.

Her eyes scanned the scene that seemed to dance with the strobing lights. A hand shot up, waved. And there he was, standing and smiling, beckoning to her. Oh God, Stuart was even more gorgeous than the photo.

Talk of their work, her at the library and him in Delivery and Receiving, was brief. The dance floor called to them. They laughed the evening away. Her life as a librarian was turning upside down in a matter of hours. With each martini she decided with firmer resolve to stop living life in hushed tones. It was time for her to live out loud. Stuart, Lydia was pleased to learn, could really move his body. And there was a sense of humor to his style of dance, like he didn't take himself too seriously. She liked that. It was refreshing.

Hours later and after constant shushing of her prudent inner voice, they ended up at Stuart's apartment. He went to the kitchette to open a bottle of wine, leaving Lydia at the other end of the studio's main room. An armoire stood in the corner, its door ajar. Lydia shot a look at Stuart's back, muscles rippling as he worked the cork screw. She giggled, emboldened by the liquor, and swung open the armoire door. Her jaw dropped.

Costumes hung from one end of the armoire to the other. Sequins and leather, uniforms of every sort, handcuffs, whips, hats. She reached a shaky hand in and pulled a hanger out. Cowboy regalia including a gun holster, sheriff's badge, boots with spurs and chaps dangled before her shock-stricken face. Stuart's shuffled step sounded behind her. She spun around.

"What the hell is all this?"

"My work clothes," Stuart answered with a gleem in his eye.

"I thought you were in "Delivery and Receiving."

"Yeah, I deliver singing telegrams, sometimes. I also strip for parties. Bachelorette, birthday, retirement... Hey, you chose my favorite. This is an awesome act. Wanna see it?"

Lydia stared at his open, honest face. Pure joy shone in his eyes. There was no embarrassment, no shyness. No hushed tones. Her eyes dove down, scanned his body and then lingered on the items on the hanger in her hand.

Remember, her inner voice cooed, don't be too quick to judge...


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Off-the-Cuff Contest Entry #2

Today's 15 For 15 photo prompt was similar to this one.  The lion in the original picture is seated under a more majestic looking tree, and he looks more...I don't know, regal?  Anyways, this one gives you an idea of where my inspiration came from.  I was a little stymied; animal pictures do that to me.  I'm not a fan of stories from the POV of an animal.  Here's what I came up with for my entry.  I wrote it in just under 15 minutes:

I am the Lion, Lord of these lands.
I am the fiercest of beasts.  All tremor in my presence, not because I will destroy them, but because I could, if I wanted to.  Brute strength and handsome features aside, it is my cunning instincts that put me in that class by myself.
Those instincts guide me.  I trust them.
As I lie in wait, I am calm, no fear betrays my face.
When the time comes, I will pounce.  Attack.  Intimidate, if needed.  Assert myself.  Prove again why I am the Lion.  
The one everyone wants in their corner....

The door swings open.

"Mr. Mitchel?  Mr. Stephenson and his team are ready for you.  Good luck with your pitch, sir."


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Off-the-Cuff Contest Entry #1

This isn't the exact photo prompt from yesterday's 15 For 15 Contest (read contest explanation here), but it's close enough.  In the original, the trees have no leaves, taken in wintertime.  The following is my entry, written (per the contest rules) in only 15 minutes.  The goal is not to have a polished, typo-free piece.  There are plenty of places I would have liked to tighten up, but didn't have the time.  So, here it is, raw, by-the-seat-of-my-pants writing. :D

Marcus dragged on the cigarette pinched between his index finger and thumb. Numbing cold seeped through his britches from the park bench, despite its position in full sun, but he didn't mind. He'd rather sit here all day than return to work. When you rinse four star restaurant slop off fine China all day, you face your 'have-not' reality every minute of every hour. It wore him down. His fifteen minute break was more valuable to him than the restaurant's finest bottle of wine.

He blew a plume of smoke downwind and his eyes fell on the man making his way up the path. Marcus narrowed his eyes. The man's utilitarian clothing appeared too big for his frame and hung on his body like a sack. His bald head was dropped back and he stared straight up at the sky as he walked. As he neared Marcus's bench, the toe of his black rubber shoe hit a rock and he stumbled.

"Eh. Watch where you're going, dumb ass," Marcus said.

The man leveled his gaze. He was younger than Marcus had first thought. His drawn skin and stubbled chin suggested mid-forties, but now Marcus decided he couldn't be older than thirty.

"Yeah. Thanks," the man said. "It's just the sky is so blue. And those trees, well, they're things of beauty."

Marcus looked up. The trees looked dead to him. Leafless. Cold. "Whatever, man," he said, looking across the park to the restaurant. By his watch, he had five more minutes before he had to get back.

"Mind if I sit down?"

Marcus saw the man still stood there. He motioned his indifference.

"I just got out of the slammer," the man said, sitting.

An eyebrow shot up. He had Marcus's attention. "You were in prison?"

"Yeah, ten years, man."

"What'd you do?"

"I was convicted of attempted murder. But it was bullshit. Someone tried to whack my wife. They pinned it on me."

Marcus raised his chin. "No kidding. That sucks, man."

The man chuckled, but there was no humor in the sound. "Shit. Ten years is a long time to not see trees. I can't stop looking at them."

"You served your whole sentence?"

"Nope. Turns out my wife's boyfriend did it. Thank God for all that fancy DNA testing they can do now. Found out a week ago, and today I'm free. Just like that."

"Your wife's boyfriend...?" Marcus asked while checking his watch. He had to get back. "That's some story. Glad you're out. I gotta get back to work." He offered his hand as he stood to leave.

The man shook it. Marcus took a few steps then turned to look over his shoulder.

"What's the first thing you're going to do, now that you're a free man?" Marcus asked.

The man smiled a churlish grin, cold as the trees. "First thing I'm gonna do is kill my wife."


Friday, January 14, 2011

Enough, Cold in Hotlanta

Usually, I root for the underdog.  But we've been holed up by winter storm conditions for a week now, so I'm cheering on the sun.  (Sorry, neighborhood snowmen.)

The sun's shining bright over Atlanta as I type, and temperatures are supposed to climb above freezing through the weekend.

I'm ready for a return to normalcy!

Hoping you have a wonderful, warm, productive weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snowed In

Thanks to the extreme winter conditions down here in Atlanta, my daily life has come to a near standstill for days.  The kids are still home from school today, but hubby has left for work for the first time all week.  I don't know about you, but when the whole family is home, regardless of the day of the week, my brain goes into weekend mode.

I haven't been online for longer than five minutes since last Friday.  I look forward to reading some blogs today!

As for my own blog, I will keep this short with just a couple updates.

First, I have a new email account which will replace the one I have been using [heftynicki(at)writing(dot)com] for all my writerly correspondences.  The writing dot com email account will not close and I check it several times a day, so no worries if you contact me through that site.  But my new, "professional" email account will now be:  NicoleDucleroir(at)gmail(dot)com.

Second, today begins my favorite creative writing contest of all time!  It's epic, because it tests both your creativity and your endurance.  It's called the 15 For 15 Contest, and it is hosted by a member of  (The contest is full, but if you're interested in playing along in future rounds, it usually runs once every six months.  You have to be a member of the site, which is free.  Details HERE.)

The contest moderator posts a new picture prompt every morning.  Contestants are challenged to write something: a piece of flash fiction, a poem, song lyrics, a vignette, a dialog-only scene -- anything, based on the photo, and post their work in the contest forum.  The biggest challenge?  You are only allowed to write for 15 minutes.  (We follow the honor system, but most of us are serious writers who love rising to this challenge.)  Here's why it's a test of endurance:  The contest lasts 15 days, hence the title "15 For 15."  Believe me, into the second week your muse gets very tired!

As you can imagine, even the best typers can only type so fast.  I'm around 90 words per minute, when I'm on a serious writing high, so my longest entries are around 1300 words.  Many are much shorter, depending on the level of my inspiration.  I'll post my entries here -- probably.  We'll see...

Lastly, although I really dig this blog template, there are a lot of things I don't like about it (narrow post field, only two columns, heavy use of olive green, lack of tabs...)  I know, I know -- I'm the worst kind of fickle creative type out there!  I'm definitely going to change my layout, again.  Bear with me.  I'm a Libra; I need beautiful, calm, organized surroundings, even in my cyber-life.  (I knew you'd understand :D)

I'm off to contemplate the first 15 For 15 prompt, and to enjoy the last days of the snow.  Supposed to get above freezing on Saturday.  (The kids have their fingers crossed for no school again tomorrow.  If that happens, throwing in two weekends and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, they will have had 10 straight days without school.  That's a lot of lost creative/computer time for me.)  Since 49 states had snow this week, I assume you have been walking around in my shoes too.  Hang in there!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Who's Got Your Back?

After my Dead Hard Drive Scare a couple weeks ago, I realized it was time to face facts:  I am one of those people who don't back up my computer files.

I upload a great deal of my writing to my online portfolio at, and I save work on my WIP at the end of every writing session to a USB Flash Drive.  But here's the whole truth:  I start a lot of stories that never get out of the idea stage.  Their documents sit in files I've never backed up.  Only about 10% of all my digital photos are archived at  The other 90% are on my hard drive.  Not backed up.

I believe personal hard drives and home storage devices of all kinds are endangered species, as much so as paper books and CD/DVDs.  The future is all streamed, all virtual.  Including our data file storage.

Today I started researching online computer file back-up options.  I knew about Carbonite from word-of-mouth and then a recent TV commercial, so I started at their website.  Then I Googled 'online backup' and a slew of companies and articles popped up.  I had no idea there were so many options to choose from.

Here's what I've learned:  Finding the right online backup company comes down to deciding what features are most important to you.  Things to consider are:

How many PCs do you own to be backed up?
Do you have only Microsoft machines, only Apple machines, or both?
How much data (or how many gigabytes [GBs]) do you envision backing up?
And, do you want to be able to share backed up files (ie: photo albums or Word Docs) with other, remote users?

I read a thorough article by Michael Muchmore for (published 10/28/2010) discussing the site  editors' top online backup picks.  (Read the whole article here -- seriously, it's great!)  Basically, it boiled down to this:

Carbonite 4.0

For $54.99 per year, you get unlimited storage for just ONE PC.  Muchmore says, "Carbonite is a mature online backup service, but it lacks many desirable features you'll find in the competition. It offers unlimited remote backup storage, and handily marks backed-up files in Windows Explorer. It also has a good Mac version and a so-so iPhone app. But an account only covers one PC and its backup servers aren't geographically redundant. It also lacks file sharing or viewing, live protection, and doesn't back up external or network drives."

IDrive (Spring 2010)

For $4.95 per month per PC, you get 150GB storage space.  Muchmore says, "IDrive's support for up to five computers in one account, version saving, Web interface and fast operation are welcome, but you can't mix Macs and PCs, and there are still some rough edges, compared with the competition. Still, the service is much improved since our last review."

MiMedia (Beta)

For $10 per month, you get 50GB storage space on unlimited PCs.  Muchmore says, "Already-impressive beta service MiMedia offers hands-off, automated backup, the ability to play media files online, and a cloud-based disk drive. For more control over the upload process and backup set, SOS has it beat, and for simple syncing, DropBox is a better bet. But if you want anywhere access to your digital media, you could do a lot worse than the reasonably priced and well-designed MiMedia."

MozyHome 2.0

For $54.95 per year for only ONE PC.  Muchmore says, "Mozy improves ease of use and setup, but still supports just one computer per account and doesn't let you back up network or removable drives. That keeps it a step behind the competition."

Norton Online Backup 2.0

For $50 per year you get 50GB storage on up to 5 PCs.   Muchmore says, "With this release, Norton has brought its online backup service's features into the mainstream. Support for multiple PCs, including Macs, in one account and a slick Web-based user interface make this a Norton Online Backup 2.0 a real contender."

SOS Online Backup Home Edition 4.7.4

For $9.95 per month for 5 PCs and up to 50GB.  Muchmore says, "SOS still offers more than other online backup providers: multiple PC coverage, external and network drive backup, a local backup app, and an excellent iPhone app. Its Live Protect that watches folders for file changes and backs up immediately. In sum, SOS delivers more than any other online backup service."

Personally, I feel myself leaning toward Norton, because I have been very happy with their Anti-Virus software for years and trust in the quality of their company.  Also, I work on a Microsoft desktop now but anticipate adding a MacBook to my office (well, I dream of the day...), so I like that Norton interfaces both platforms.

Most of these companies offer free trial versions.  I'm considering trying a couple out.  The advantage to this, in addition to prolonging the time when I actually have to pay for the service :p, is that I will be able to make a more informed decision.  The disadvantage is spreading my data across corners of cyberspace.  I mean, these companies swear their storage centers are super-encrypted and secure, but, come on.  Hackers are like cockroaches.  They can squeeze into impossibly small access spaces.  My files = my identity, after all.

Anyone all ready using online backup?  I'm interested in recommendations and hearing your experiences.  Please share!