I can't believe it's the last entry. For me the challenge will be over after today, because I've gone through A to Z in April. An amazing challenge and honestly, challenge is the right name for it. It's not as hard to come up with topics, at least not for me. But spending the days writing the post, even when it doesn't actually take that long for each one, it's still a huge amount of work. I loved doing it, but there was so much going on for me in April, that I really struggled to finish it. The more I am glad it's been successful. Thank you so much for setting this up: Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out Jeffrey Beesler's World of the Scribe Alex J. Cavanaugh Alex J. Cavanaugh Jen Daiker's Unedited Candace Ganger's The Misadventures in Candyland Karen J Gowen at Coming Down the Mountain Talli Roland Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blogs I wish I would have had more time reading other people's blog entries. I found awesome blogs and even better readers, so thank you for that. This is my final post and I dedicate it to you guys, writers, readers and hosts. Nahno ∗ McLein

Old music. Do you like to listen to the classics?

YMCA is one of these well-known songs with a silly move. I encounter this kind of music everywhere, in Germany, in England, USA and even Costa Rican guys know these. Who knows if Lady Gaga will one day move up to one of those. Madonna definitely made it - she sang classics that cross decades.

Which songs do you listen to that you're maybe even ashamed of sometimes? The macarena is probably the most ridiculous song that people (mostly with a bit of alcohol) love to dance. At least English people do. We have a night called "Big Bad Cheese" - it took me a year to figure out that it's an ironic title commenting on the cheesy music they play there. The macarena is a weekly special. YMCA not so much, though I'd have loved to do the moves. I'm lucky though, because it's played quite often in Germany.

This poem was inspired by Chandra, an x-ray space telescope, and was published online by NASA, US. For the challenge, I'd like to reuse it. I hope you enjoy it.

Cas A

strangely bright,
outside where there’s no light:
flaming spots whisk an internal fight.

¡Vaya CasA!

When matter
matters more,
out there, where
it’s their fuel and ore,

¡Vaya CasA!

every core
is an assembly fort
of a mysterious world.

¡Ver la CasA

dank Röntgens Strahlen,
which collide with
la sphère d’une glace!

¡Vaya CasA!

A gaseous orb,
a giant house -
the factory’s
on hold.

¡Vaya CasA!

It melts,
consumes the storm
and bursts.

La CasA
-cries unheard-,
renewed, enriched the universe.

Vaya Casa – what a house.
Ver la Casa – See the house
Dank Röntgens Strahlen – thanks to the rays of (Mr.) Röntgen
La sphère d’une glace – the field of a mirror
La Casa – the house/Cassiopeia A

Do you like welcoming back old friends when they return to your life?

This weekend I had another round of coincidences. First I met old school friends that I hadn't seen in years. It was interesting how everyone seemed to be happy with their studies, their life in different parts of the world and most importantly their love life. It's weird how they all have longterm relationships and even if they broke up with the one I used to know, then they have been together with another one for over a year at least. Talking about rumors of old classmates was hilarious, too. You begin to wonder how people end up with what they are doing right now, whereas others were obvious to foresee.

Later that special Easter weekend (Happy Easter to everyone by the way), I met friends I grew up with. Again, we hadn't seen each other in 3 years. It was a blast to recount all the stories, all the teenage or childhood mischief we could still remember. Pure fun. It's great to know that they are all doing fine. Relationships for 5, 11 or 3 years. A good perspective on regular income and generally a happy life.

Now I look at my own circumstances. Big question mark. Do you have interesting stories meeting someone from the past?

Total: 1280 km/800 miles
Second day: 520 km/330 miles

Monday morning, and I'm off again towards Berlin.

What happened with my bike?
Well, we went to a car repair shop and they managed to get the broken spark plug out of my engine and in a different shop we were lucky to get a new spark plug. Put it back in and happy me, when the motor sounded like I knew it. Once I drove off from the repair shop, I had such a big grin you wouldn't believe it. And a rush of light air wallowed up in my chest as well.

The weekend I spend with my friends, having BBQ, experiencing the amazing Ruhr, a metropolitan area in West Germany full of a mining history and fantastic new developments with superb green environments. Awesome how you can turn dirt into a beautiful tourist attraction. Then I went golfing and mostly relaxed before the last part of the trip.

Monday was fast. High velocity, to get the oil from the broken spark plug out of the engine. It was fun to drive on the German autobahn, as fast as I could, with 100 m/h or 160 km/h through the country. 6 hours later I arrived in Berlin without any complications. It's worth a ride, trust me. You see a lot on a bike and it's fun up the mountains and down again, even though yuo have flies sticking all over your visor.

Total: 1280 km/800 miles
First day: 760 km/470 miles -
after the ferry: 430 km/270 miles left

Friday evening, time has changed, the sun is still out and I'm happy.

Driving on the right side is strange at first, but after all these years I get used to it quickly. Happily I'm singing into my helmet as I drive though the north of France and into Belgium towards the Netherlands. My excited jumps on the bike and flips with my head must have looked amazing - I didn't care, it was fun.

I drove and I kept driving. Then I had to get petrol, so I could have a break, sit down in the sinking sunlight and eat some bread and my biscuits. Off to the motorway again.

Suddenly, not far from the next major city - close to Germany - my motor kind of buzzed, got much louder and my speed dropped abruptly. Shock. I went to the side and stopped the engine, swearing inside. It was dark by now.

I called for help and then I phoned my friends, who were expecting me soon. They said I should have it checked, but it's likely to be a faulty spark plug. The mechanic said the same, but he couldn't fix it.

So I had to drive another 130 km / 80 miles with only 80 km/h 50 m/h. I really was afraid. The mechanic warned me to do it, but my friend said it will be ok. Two traffic jams, a couple of red traffic lights and a few engine break-downs later and I was at my stopover for the weekend.

See tomorrow what happened with my bike and how I got home.

Now it was time for me to drive back to Berlin - from England.
Total: 1280 km/800 miles

First day: 760 km/470 miles

Friday morning, everything's packed and I'm ready to leave England for the summer. No, I wasn't ready, but I did.

I drove down M1, all the way to London. Lucky me, the sun was out, it was warm and I was boiling under my 4 layers of clothes despite the wind that hit me with 120 km/h or 75 m/h. I loved riding my motorbike, especially with my new headphones and the awesome playlist I assembled the day before.

There was only one issue on the first journey to the ferry: English roundabouts. I drove 260 km/160 miles without a break. It surprised me to get that far. My bike was running on the last drops of fuel and to Dover it was another 20 miles, so I had to get of the motorway and find a petrol station. I'd read about a shopping centre, but finding it? I took three different roundabout exits before I hit the one with the petrol station. And don't think you'll find another petrol station in England. No. They only have one.

I had my break and made it to the ferry just in time. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the rest of that day which ended with me being all alone in the dark at the side of a Belgium motorway.

Part 12 – the end of the Hero’s Journey

Whatever it is the hero gained or obtained, he brings it back to the starting point. It changed his life forever. Else the whole thing wouldn’t have a meaning after all.
Whether it’s knowledge, an elixir or a new ability, the hero will suddenly manage all the difficulties of his ordinary life as he never would have imagined. In case the hero didn’t get what he was supposed to, he will have to repeat the whole adventure until he does (this is likely an ending for comedic effect).

In Star Wars, the Jedi reappear and the old threat is finally gone with the destruction of the Death Star. E.T. is reunited with his family and takes back something from the world; initially they came to earth to collect plants and seeds. Also, Elliot has grown into a post-puberty state and can accept the absence of his father and even the mother has learned to realize the good things – family, her kids. In the end, Elliot is not the small brother anymore, but somewhat a leader of the gang, the cool kid, even if it’s just for a while. Happy end.
Of course, a good writer has something more to give than just a happy end – don’t get me wrong, for some stories a happy end is the best you can get, but life doesn’t normally end with the ultimate luck. Small doses can sometimes be more effective and if you want realism, maybe then a happy ending could be everything you don’t want.

Part 11 of the Hero’s Journey
Oh my.
As in the Ordeal phase, the hero symbolically – rarely even really – dies and experiences a miraculous resurrection. This is just as important as the ordeal, because the hero, often back in the ordinary world with his new powers, still struggles to defeat the enemy that is so much bigger than the ordeal phase. He nearly dies, showing how extraordinary his achievement is, when he finally conquers the evil. It’s all about drama, really. Through that final dead/not-dead experience, the hero also learns the last drop of holy knowledge which sometimes gives him the strength and will to survive and win.

The Star Wars films of course play with death all the time. Luke nearly dies so many times it’s needless to count. In the last film, he turns off his radar and symbolically dies while his father guides him through the gun shots. E.T. already died for real, but this time it is Elliot that needs to learn to let go, which E.T. teaches him by saying, he will always be right there inside of him. The old boy Elliot is dead and the new accepting Elliot appears who can cope with E.T. departure (a symbol for the Dad who left him of course).

This is always the heart-touching part, but as we know, in Hollywood films there will be a happy end. In our writing, maybe it’s the reader that should imagine what happens here. Sometimes you don’t need to give him all the answers (although novels tend to do so and it’s kind of expected as well).

Part 10 of the Hero’s Journey

Better get back safely. That’s not always as easy as it sounds. The bad guys probably don’t like it if you stole their precious prize and want it back.

This is the best place for chase scenes, however, the hero doesn’t win by getting back. The journey is not at an end yet. Most stories have a little twist here. You think everything’s won, but in reality you still need to finish what you started. This may have been something unexpected in the early days, but now it is a significant part of most stories, as the hero commits again to the change his quest has brought him.

The initial threat in E.T. was the illness and his need to be reunited with his family. At this point, the real threat shows its face in form of the police who appear to be nice, but in effect try to hinder the boys from bringing E.T. back – this is where the spectacular moon bicycle ride comes in handy. For Luke in Star Wars, he escapes the death star and joins the rebels. The new ultimate goal is to destroy the death star.

Like I said, this quest is like another part of the story that gives us a new goal, one which makes the first success necessary to win this ultimate one. To be fair, it gives the story a larger, more-than-one dimensional appeal.

Part 9 of the Hero’s Journey
Finally the hero gets something.

The task is accomplished and the hero can take the treasure he has been looking for. Sometimes it’s only knowledge that the main character gains or he realizes his own potential at last. Often it is something the hero needs for the Ordinary World to heal someone or beat an enemy. And other times he just gets the girl, even though the story is not yet finished.

Luke’s prize is that he knows his father is not as bad as he thought and they escape with the plans of the Death Star. Elliot in E.T. finds out that the machine to call home is still working, so they know that the mother ship is coming to pick E.T. up.
This is essentially what we’ve all been waiting for, were we start gaining something in unison with the characters. I love this bit, even though it’s not yet over. Unfortunately many films and stories make this part too obvious and you know that all the following challenges are easy to overcome.

Part 8 of the Hero’s Journey
Might not seem as important, but it’s the heart of the Hero’s Journey. It’s where the magic comes from.

For the reader or viewer, it’s tragic, sad and unbelievable. The hero appears to lose, to fail or to die. He has to face the greatest ordeal so far and is likely to go down trying. It is where the hero figuratively dies and is born again anew – and so is the viewer after a shock period.

E.T. is sick, found by the older brother at the creek, and Elliot has the same symptoms. “We are sick”, he says. Then E.T. dies on the operating table. Luke and the others with the rescued princess Leia are in the worst place you could imagine – the waste bin of the Death Star – and a monster pulls Luke down, so it appears for a moment that he is dying.

This works because you’re never more alive than when you were just reborn, when you faced the worst. In real life, this could be a threatening disease or a murder attempt, and once that is survived, we get the best reward you can imagine.

Part 7 of the Hero’s Journey
All the tests have prepared the hero for this one sinister place – the cave.

This is where the hero closes in on the dangerous space, mostly underground or somewhere very far away, probably a dark area. The hero will be challenged to go near something hazardous to achieve his goal, to obtain his treasure.

In Star Wars it’s where Luke gets sucked into the Death Star to save Leia. In the whole film, this is the most dangerous place and its name itself tells you how dark it is – pure death awaits you. In E.T., it’s less obvious to define, but you can take the Halloween night, when the kids and E.T. set out to call for help in the woods at night as this stage. Here Elliot learns something crucial about friendship from his alien friend.

For the sake of tension and as another incentive to keep reading, this is pretty important in every story and it usually comes as a pre-climax in the middle somewhere in the Special World.

Part 6 of the Hero’s Journey
Yes, the fighting can begin.

Here the hero meets what you can simply call the challenges of the story. It’s the very things that he will have to fight or in another way cope with to evolve and reach his goal. The character is formed and shown by his reactions to the tests, most often under high pressure and stress.

In a way, this is where we are shown the Special World, where our enemies and our allies are introduced. The typical scene in the bar in the Star Wars series is where Luke learns about the rules in this new world. He has to prove himself in a fight and also finds new friends that will come in handy much later. Elliot needs to hide E.T. from his mother and E.T. explores Elliot’s world, getting drunk, experiencing adulthood and lastly getting sick.
This is often the first time that we see real action, which is why the other stages are much shorter normally. The time in the Special World is where the focus of the story lies. We do wisely to develop it well, because if we got a reader this far, better give him some of what he has been longing for.

Part 5 of the Hero’s Journey

So we made it out of the Ordinary World, the exposition is over and the adventure begins. The hero has taken a leap of faith.
It is quite easy to define where the actual journey starts. It’s where the ship sets sail, when the train leaves or when someone steps out onto the fortuitous street. We leap over the threshold to the other world.

In E.T. that happens through a less physical, but metaphysical event. Elliot and E.T. start getting to know each other, they enter the house. We can see that a connection between them has been established, through E.T.’s magic, when they both fall asleep in dodgy manner. In Star Wars Luke travels with a spaceship and the empire suddenly becomes real as he enters the new world.

I guess this stage naturally happens when you write a story. I still think it’s helpful to be aware of where it works best – in between the first and the second act.

Part 4 of the Hero’s Journey

A knight has a stubborn head, covered in an iron helmet. For the Mentor it is hard to get through that, but in many stories an older, wiser parent figure is at hand to guide the initial clumsy steps of the child
The Mentor isn’t always included and he can turn up anywhere in the story, but it’s usually right before the departure to the Special World. As discussed in Part 3, he might help the hero to overcome his last reluctant fear before leaving the Ordinary World.
In Star Wars, it’s Obi-Wan that guides Luke, even gives him his father’s light-saber. In E.T., one hero is at the same time mentor for the other hero: E.T. steps in for Elliot’s absent father and guides him through high school experiences like the first kiss and teaches him about coping with loss.
Honestly, I love the Mentor in stories. It makes you feel safer and the scary truth becomes less frightening. Unfortunately, it is necessary for the Mentor to leave at some point, or the hero will never develop on its own.

Part 3 of the Hero’s Journey
Well, you can’t jump right into it, can you?

For the sake of suspense, or merely to annoy the reader, or maybe even to include some reality – because when ever do you just drop everything and do something different – we have this reluctant refusal here.

Or is it actually important to make it believable? After all, the journey out of the Ordinary World leads to something unknown, most likely even dangerous. Something is needed to convince the hero, who more or less is jinxed with confusion and reluctance, – this could be the mentor, which I will talk about tomorrow.

In a nice story, this last threshold before the adventure is merely old memories, let’s say an old relationship failed, so we don’t wanna rush into it too quickly. In Star Wars, it is rather dramatic, because Luke decides to stay at home, not going away with Obi-Wan, when his Uncle and Aunt are slaughtered. In E.T., Elliot runs away twice and tells his family to not go looking in the shed – as if that had ever worked.
It might be arguable whether this stage is needed at all times, but I think it’s a good way to include deeper issues from the characters. Most humans don’t go into the unknown darkness easily.

Part 2 of the Hero’s Journey
At some point, our hero needs an incentive to set the story in motion. The Call to Adventure initiates the journey, by introducing some kind of problem or challenge. This also poses a question that holds the suspense for the rest of the film: will the hero be able succeed?

Often at this stage the characters meet (lovestories) or something bad has happened and action needs to be taken to find justice (revenge-detective story). In Star Wars again, it is Leia’s message that makes Luke join the rebellion. In E.T. it is the encounter of Elliot and the little alien, which starts a story of friendship, sharing experiences and helping each other.
As a writer, this most often is the main idea of the story. It is the reason for our characters to set off. Without it, I would question the readability. Not all stages of the Hero’s Journey are always necessary, but this surely is essential.

Part 1 of the Hero’s Journey:
The beginning most likely takes place in the here and now, the Ordinary World.

It often introduces us to the problems, the boring reality, and the characters merely hover in it. After all, if you want to show how amazing or plainly different the Special World will be, the reader/viewer needs to know the comparable side, too.

In Star Wars, we find out that the empire rules the galaxy and the Jedi’s disappeared, while Luke is wasting his life. In E.T. we find out that Elliot’s father has left and the family struggles to cope with it. At the same time, E.T. was left behind by his family and is searched for by the government. Here you see that the “hero” can be anything, in this case even two characters at the same time.
Even if you use a flashback or flash forward, I think it’s necessary to set up the ordinary world quite soon.

12 days to uncover the hero in all stories - coming from the Hero's Journey (also known as Writer's Journey):
The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (1949) by Joseph Campbell brings us the monomyth concept of the Hero’s Journey. George Lucas even admits that Star Wars was heavily influenced by his theory and many Hollywood films thereafter incorporate the resulting Hero's Journey (Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola …).

But what is it?
Campbell discovered that all hero myths are basically the same story. He describes a universal pattern that lies in literally all literature, from jokes to novels. There are differences in the details, but fundamentally it’s the same. Basically there is always a journey: the hero leaves the ordinary world, comes into unfamiliar terrain, undergoes some sort of change or growth and journeys back home with something new.
Christopher Vogler has slightly adapted the Hero with a Thousand Faces into the Hero’s Journey in his screenwriter guide.

In the next 12 days, I will explore his concept, because I think that writer’s can learn from it just as much as the filmmaker’s already have. Although I advise to not follow the Hero’s Journey step by step like successful Hollywood films, because we should strive to write excellent work and not just for the masses.

I like it fresh.
As part of a couple of green initiatives, I value fresh vegetables and fruits. Fruits - in their sweet juice - are fabulous.

Does that mean I should say no to frozen food?

I don't think so. Early farmers already preserved their game in cold areas over the winter season. I actually believe that frozen food can be much healthier than for example vegetables that you get on a local market. What happens is, the water freezes and thus bacteria don't have a chance to do their evil workings.
This way, frozen food is clean and doesn't come with invisible appendices.

What does that have to do with writing or film?
Nothing. I don't want the A-Z challenge to be solely about writing. If we'd all do that, the over 1200 participants will inevitably be full repetitions.

From Greek: endo (ενδο) = within and Morpheus (Μορφέας) God of dreams.
So we're dealing with the dreams within us, but actually it relates more to a pharmacological activity in our body that is triggered by neurotransmitters.
Why this is important for me today?

Because we writer's shouldn't forget that exercise and the outside world is just as important. We shouldn't underestimate the power of endorphins. Whenever I come home from yoga or a good workout or maybe just a swim, I feel much more productive. It's like a rush, especially when I had some sugar. I would call this a sugar-endorphin rush.

Also, I wanted to know if you get the same feelings when you start dating someone. Do you get endorphin rushes?

I officially plead guilty for the crime of dumbness and by doing so I make it even worse.

I don't like to assume that the world is going down, but judging by how little privacy is left these days, the statement achieves a greater sense of plausibility.

It's not just CCTV surveillance by the watchstate (especially in England) or fingerprints on passports coming to Europe. Worst of all are the users of the internet themselves, me included. Blogger, Facebook, Livejournal and most openly Myspace - just to name a few - have convinced us to share private, sometimes very private, things with the whole world. Isn't that a bit dumb?

Most people know the stories of businesses checking on their workers (some did get fired just by having a negative Facebook status about their work). Much more concerning is what we share online that normally only our closest friends would know. My post from yesterday is the best example - it's likely that the person read the C-entry and now knows much more than I would like them to know.

We writer's need to be aware of the consequences of volatile dumbness. We never know who might read what is published.

Just a quick note: The A-Z challenge is amazing. I need more time to read more blogs (Cute smile for God!?).
Coincidence and Chance have always been bugging me and this week once again they were either very present or fate has a weird sense of humour.
Do you have these days or weeks, when so many unlikely things happen and you question what is the meaning behind this?

Last week, my fictional Peter-self went to Nottingham for a 2 h event. The sunny and warm spring feeling was still in the air, until he arrived in the city. First, Peter got lost, because there's a lack of visible street names in England. Then it started to rain. Fate? Chance?

Next day, Peter went out, meeting the girl he kind of fancied and had been talking to online for a while. They didn't talk much until alcohol was more at work. In the end, she decided to go for another guy, but not without constantly throwing these looks at Peter.
Now here is the coincidence: Next day, Peter is about to tell his friends about the night while they are in a shop and suddenly he bumps into the girl. They talk, but both are still a bit tired. Then, Peter watches a film and can't remember the name of one figure - online, the girl suddenly tells him she is dressing up for the party of that figure (name riddle solved). Chance? You tell me.

The queen of beauty enters the stage. She rests her arms in prayer-pose in front of the heart centre and watches indifferently.
Then the music sets in, a melodic rhythm that makes the queen swing from end to end. Her tiptoes make her graceful body float above the surface.
She takes of the top garment to everyone's pleasure and reveals an oriental corset, shining in red and gold. When she turns around for everyone to gape at her bare legs, her arms jiggle slightly upwards and wide golden wings extend to her sides, the fabric shimmering.
Her dance continues as she swivels around and flaps the arms delicately. Eyes are drawn to her fragile figure, as long as she moves in a ballet surrounded by the feathering. She is about to turn a gay guy straight.

What do you think of burlesque? Can you enjoy it or do you think getting naked publicly is dishonorable?

The next 26 days we will go through the alphabet as part of the A-Z challenge.

As this is the beginning, I want to start with an unfinished poem a là work in progress. What do you think? Where does the Ode not serve the overall piece? What did you like?
Ode to Apple

A magical sound
like bells on a tree.
This is your juicy cacophony
from the branches of excess.

We all want to eat you.
I’d kill just to feel you,
I want you – bad.

It makes me so sad,
when I wonder what it’s like 
to explore your world
from the out- and the inside.

I need to take a bite.

An Apple is lustrous and hard on the shell,
But open the cover and flimsy glimmers a light
On erratic lines – my fingers wild.

Varieties in shape and taste,
an Apple is a legend to the eye,
so Adam got one right away.

Delicious Apple
There’s only one way
to savour your sweet vitamins.

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