A to Z Challenge: Reflection

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

When I first discovered this challenge, it was only a day or two before sign-up closed. I ended up making a snap decision to participate, hoping to build up my blog. It would be easy, right? After all, it was just a simple post every day except Sunday throughout the month of April. I could probably wing it. Maybe.

So signing up, I now had to chose a theme. Easy enough. This blog is all about writing, so I would make my theme Everything I Love about Writing. There! I was going to breeze through this. Then I stumbled over my first obstacle. I actually had to come up with subjects the fit this theme using every letter. Do you know how hard it is to find X and Z words? Neither did I.

My good intentions of getting all the posts written ahead quickly fell through and I was writing a blog post every day. That actually turned out to be fun as I could approach it from a fresh perspective. Also, as I mentioned several times during the month, I am a pantser, not a plotter. I had a master list of the subjects I had picked, but every new post was a delightful surprise.

For example, my theme was Everything I Love about Writing.  However, I realized that that was too one-sided of an approach to what I consider my writing journey. After all, how can you recognized good if you never see bad? So I expanded it to all aspects of my journey. Something that surprised me was my G post, G is for Grammar. I didn’t like that post, I don’t like grammar, it was the antithesis to my theme. It was one of the most popular posts from the entire challenge. Every post revealed something new to me, challenged me to change and grow.

A particularly fun part of the A to Z challenge was getting to blog hop to other bloggers. I only visited about ten consistently, but I was delighted to get to know them through their blog posts and A to Z journey.

So how can I sum up the A to Z challenge? I still don’t know what happened to April. I scrambled to keep up with the posting and comments. There were days when I felt like I fell far short and others that I felt like I’d won a gold medal. I got to met new bloggers and made some amazing friends over the course of this challenge. As my dad says, ‘Would I do it again?’ The answer is yes. I’m looking forward to next year.

My thanks to everyone who stopped by during this challenge, you’re the best!

 

Z is for Zest

Zest

 

No, not that kind of zest. I’m talking about the other types of zest.

 

Definition of zest

*An enjoyably exciting quality

*Keen enjoyment

Source: Merrian-Webster Dictionary

 

Over the past month, I’ve had lots of fun sharing with you Everything that I Love about Writing. I’ve covered a myriad of topics, some I never anticipated and others that turned out totally different than I set out to write. I got to read some phenomenal blogs and make some new blogging friends. But we have reached the end of the A to Z Challenge. So where do I go from here?

Well, right now I’m busy trying to make sure that everything is ready for my May 15th release of the next book in my series: In Search of Healing. It’s the second book in a six part series and I’m excited about its upcoming release. For my blog, I still plan on my Feature Fridays, plus I hope to start a serial story sometime in May.

But most of all, I plan to continue writing with zest. For many years, I hid my writing away as unimportant and not good enough. But my writing brings me joy and I hope that I’ve been able to share a small measure of that joy with you over the past month. So thank you for supporting my A to Z journey and I encourage you to live every day with zest and joy.

Here’s to a great 2018!

Y is for Yowl

We are now on our second to last post and I realize that I have been terribly remiss. While I have had a fabulous time talking about Everything I Love about Writing, I have left out an important part of my writing. My critics, cough, I mean, my cats. Whenever I sit down to write, they wake up and decide that it’s time to mess with me. Also, as anyone with cats know, you can learn great nonverbal body language from them which can be useful in writing. Did you know that cats do not meow to other cats, only to humans? I’ve watched my cats carefully after learning this and its the truth 🙂

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my writing assistants.

First up is Beni Tetu

 

She is the oldest of our kitties, coming in at four years old. One night in July four years ago, one of our dogs started her fear barking. We live in the country, so we were naturally concerned. Was it a coyote? A rattlesnake? Something else? We run out to look and to our surprise it was a tiny kitten that had her spooked. We live out in the country, so we had no idea where she had come from. After much discussion, she ended up being named Beni which means Blessed, and Tetu which means stubborn. She is our most independent kitty and comes and goes as she will.

 

Next come the boys, Indiana Jones and Valentino

 

Although they weren’t the prettiest kittens, they have grown into handsome Toms. At three years old, they are our biggest cats, weighing in at around 18 lbs. The black one is Indiana Jones, he was named that because he is an adventurer. The striped one is called Valentino because he’s a lover, not a fighter. Both have turned out to be incredibly sweet toms. Surprisingly enough, they are quick on their feet and are great hunters.

 

Next come the Ginger Girls, Lea and Munca

 

The girls just turned two last month. My brother’s cat got pregnant and because he has four little ones we took in the kittens to foster. 3 out of 5 went to other homes, but I simply became too attached to these two to give them up. Lea was originally a Leo until we found out that he was a she. Like how Calico cats are predominantly female, most orange tigers are male, with the ratio coming out to about 80/20. However we ended up with two females. Munca on the hand loved to climb across the top of her cage on the inside like she was doing monkey bars. We named her Monkey, but it is usually shortened to Munca. As seen in the above pictures, Munca loves to sleep in bowls while her sister Lea prefers the softer option of fleece. However, they love to snuggle together and get into trouble together 🙂

 

Rounding out this age group is Zazzles.

 

Around the same age as the gingers and a suspected half brother, Zazzles has a special story. My brother was driving home one night and found a kitten in the middle of the road injured. He brought him home and gave him a bath (and didn’t die for his impudence). His tail was broken but he was in good spirits and had a sweet disposition. My brother was unable to keep him as he was in a pet free rental, so he brought him out to the acreage. His tail healed up and other than a slight crook, you can’t even tell that it was broken. He is the most vocal of all of our felines and loves to love on all of us. I don’t know if you have ever watched the Big Bang Theory, but that is where we got his name from. “His name is Zazzles because he’s the Zazziest” – Sheldon Cooper

 

Finally, we have Duckie

 

Another rescue, Duckie is only 6 months old. We got her in October. Something happened to her mother and as it was around Halloween, some kids were talking about hurting her because she was a black cat. She was just a bitty thing when we first got her, only a few weeks old. She had obviously been crying for her mother and her throat was distressed, so when she meowed, she sounded like a duck. Although her throat has healed up, the name stuck. Although the smallest and youngest of the pride, she has no fear and loves to mess with all of her siblings. As you can tell from the picture above, she’s a sassy one. She is currently very unhappy with us as she was recently fixed and is being kept indoors until she is completely healed. However, give it a week or so and she’ll be right back to terrorizing the world, both inside and out 🙂

 

Also, I can’t write this post without a special mention.

Sassy 1

This is Sassafras T. also known as Sassy II a.k.a. Sassy. We sadly had to say goodbye to him this winter. He was my writing companion for 17 years and is sorely missed. However, he had quite the eventful life, full of fun and adventures, raised lots of puppies and kittens.

 

So tell me about your special writing companions 🙂

X is for Xanadu

Xanadu definition

An idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

quote-in-xanadu-did-kubla-khan-a-stately-pleasure-dome-decree-where-alph-the-sacred-river-ran-samuel-taylor-coleridge-220658

As shown above, Xanadu was originally mentioned in the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Coleridge. You can find the whole poem here: Kubla Khan I really advise going and reading it, the mental imagery is gorgeous

Now can you imagine coming up with a word like Xanadu? Here is a great link about how words are formed: Word Formation The correct term for what Coleridge did was that he coined Xanadu.

Now my family has a few words that we’ve made up, mainly remnants from when we were kids. I’ve never included them in with my writing though as you need to understand the story behind to really get them.

So what is a word that you or your family has coined? I’m looking forward to seeing the answers 😊

W is for Worldbuilding

In case you can’t tell from some of my other posts, world building is one of my favorite aspects of writing. It’s time for me to confess another flaw of mine. When it comes to writing, I hate researching. Let me explain a little bit. I absolutely love researching, I have an endless curiosity and always like to look up random things. For example, did you know that there is a dark soy sauce and a light soy sauce? I know, that totally blew my mind. So why did I say that I hate researching? Well, it’s more the history that I dislike researching. I love history, after all, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. However, my characters are too mule headed to play with real history. They don’t like the restrictions that come with real history. And I struggle with writing alternate history. Some people do an amazing job of it, but my imagination just doesn’t work that way. When I try to do that, my stories end up, odd, to say the least.

 

history

 

So I make a world where I can create histories that work for my characters. Where I am in charge of all the elements and anything can happen. That doesn’t mean that my worlds don’t have rules, it just means that I have more leeway with what is going on. For example, in most of my stories I tend to not have in a modern age with modern weaponry. I prefer having my characters having to get up close to handle problems, not just snipe them from a mile away. I guess you could say that most of them are set in almost a King Arthur time frame, the times of knights and chivalry.

I did take a side step in creating my world for The Seeker Files though. It is set in modern times, in a city that is a lot like NYC in my imagination, although a bit smaller. The characters have guns, cell phones, all the modern conveniences. But there is a difference between this world and the real world. In the world that the Seeker Files is set in, Humans and Supernaturals live side by side. This creates a whole different dynamic than that of the real world. Because there is magic, I have been able to include traditional weapons like swords and bows in addition to modern weapons like guns and tasers. Magic can also be used offensively and defensively, although it has many, many uses besides that.

So how deep do I go in my worldbuilding? It really depends. I tend to leave commonsense things alone, everyone still eats, drinks, sleeps, etc. Gravity that we consider normal is still part of it and there is day and night, the sky is blue and water is wet. 24 hours days, 7 days a week, 12 months, 365 days in a year. Most of the things that we don’t even consciously think about, I leave alone. My biggest thing is creating new history and events. Also, spending time playing in the world. When I’m writing and I come across something that I hadn’t anticipated, I take a stroll. I throw on some music, close my eyes, and simply stroll through the world in my imagination, looking for the answers to my question. It is usually pretty straightforward and I get the answer quickly, but sometimes I have to dig through the layers to find it.

For example, I recently had to figure out how to share magic between my characters. Well, magic doesn’t really exist in our world, so I can’t really use that as a reference. While some people can make magical objects, most of the magic in my world is intangible outside of the user. How then can I get it from character A to character B. After playing around with several different ideas, it suddenly came to me. It’s like giving a blood transfusion. Different blood types or in this case magic types can only receive or donate magic to certain other magic types. It’s an idea that people can understand and one that allows me to have a measure of control over magical exchanges. These are the sort of challenges and puzzles that I live for.

 

Red-Blood-Cell-Compatibility-Table-1

 

So how do you world build?

V is for Villains

My theme for this A to Z Challenge is Everything I Love about Writing. Well, here’s a little secret for you, I don’t really like villains. I write and read to get away from the real world and all of its sorrow. There are even movies that I refuse to watch because they end sadly, Steel Magnolias and Love is a Many Splendored Thing to name just a couple. However, without a villain, something for good to strive against, many books and movies would not exist. After all, can you imagine Lord of the Rings without Sauron? Makes the whole series kinda moot, doesn’t it?

In the series I’m currently writing, The Seeker Files, it is a fantasy/mystery series. Most mysteries need a bad guy, not all, but most. A little bit of a sneak peak, but there will be a villain through the entire six books series. So, in my mind, what do I think about when writing about villains?

 

Here are the top 3 things:

 

  1. No villain is one hundred percent evil

Lilo explaining

Even though it would be easier if the villain was just pure evil, that is not the case. No one is ever entirely good or entirely bad. Both of these things will cause people to put aside a book or turn off a movie because they can’t relate. After all, how can one relate to pure light or pure darkness? Our world is filled with different degrees of grayness, that is what makes us human. Villains are still human to some degree, so to make them pure evil is doing your story a disservice.

 

  1. Every villain has a backstory

 

Villains don’t just appear out of nowhere. They have parents and childhoods. They might have had pets and friends. They have foods that they prefer to eat and clothes that they like to wear. They have all the quirks that every person living has. Some people are born sociopaths, that is true, but they can still feel emotion even if it’s just a burning desire to take things for themselves. Their backstory might even contain what made them turn into villains. Maybe they had abusive parents or a drug habit. Maybe they are adrenaline junkies that need to keep getting more extreme to feel that rush. Who knows? But next time you’re reading, take a moment to think about what might’ve caused them to be the villains that they are.

 

  1. Villains are the heroes of their own stories

A villain is not a villain to themselves. They may know that they are opposed to the ‘good guys’, but they do not believe that they are in the wrong. For example, think of Ursula in A Little Mermaid. She believes that she is helping the merfolk even as she is taking advantage of them. The villain might have even started out as a good guy, only to get twisted over to evil as he does his journey. Anakin from Star Wars is a prime example of that. His worry for Padme, a noble thing, got so twisted around that he ended up becoming Darth Vader.

 

 

I know that there have probably been several posts about villains during this A to Z Challenge, but here is my take on them. Let me know what you think 😊

U is for Unexpected

Writing for me is not a thoroughly planned journey. It is often just a rough sketch and I usually end up coloring outside of the lines. For me, creativity happens spontaneously. If I try to plan out every little nuance before I begin to write, I find I have no desire to actually write the story. It takes all the joy out of it for me. So although I may have a general outline, I tend to just let my storyline flow and see what happens.

However, that does not mean that I am never surprised by what happens. This weekend I was working on my novel. The scene was going well, we were working on setting up a game plan for their undercover operation. Then, right in the middle of this, one of my characters decides to have a deep, introspective moment. I’m like, ‘Where is this even coming from and you choose now to have this conversation? We are right in the middle of a battle plan, not a why did you trust me conversation.’ Still, my character was unwilling to progress any farther until this matter was dealt with, so we rolled with it. It may or may not become important later in the plot, I have no idea as I never planned for this conversation.

This is part of why I love writing, the joy of discovering surprising backstories and hidden depths to characters. The twists and turns in plots that I could never anticipate. Sometimes it irritates me and I rant for a while or even walk away from the story for a time. But in the end, the curiosity about what happens next always draws me back.

So what is something unexpected that happened in your life recently?

 

writing-is-a-journey-of-discovery-because-until-you-start-you-never-know-what-will-happen-and-you-quote-1

T is for Traits

As a writer, this is a big question every time I sit down to write. What do I want my characters to embody? Is it something that I resonate with or is it something against everything I believe in. People are not two-dimensional beings and I don’t believe that characters should be either. People are extraordinarily complex and rarely have a single clear cut reason for doing anything.

For example, someone who volunteers at a food pantry may have a myriad of reasons that they do so. Their parents may have done so, so they do it out a sense of familiarity and tradition. On the other hand, maybe they grew up poor and were often hungry, so they want to give back so others don’t feel that pain. Maybe their love language is feeding others, so it’s a way to share their warmth with the world. Or it could be something else. They were caught shoplifting and ordered by the court to do community service. Maybe they’re looking for someone to do a criminal act for them and think that they can find that person amongst the homeless and people down on their luck. Could be that they are just doing it for appearance’s sake, so they can look like good citizens. The possibilities are endless.

So what are some traits that I look for and prize in my characters?

Loyalty

I can deal with a lot of less than ideal traits in my characters, after all, they would be no fun if they were perfect. However, if they are disloyal, they are the villain. Someone who turns their back on their friends and family is not someone that I want to associate with at all.

Compassion

They don’t have to be a bleeding heart that tries to fix others woes but they have to have a sense of humanity. They have to be willing to extend a helping hand to those around them and to accept help that it offered to them occasionally. They have to see the problems around them and not just look away but try to help out somehow.

Humor

They have to have a sense of humor. It can be subtle, witty, dry, odd, any type you can think of. But if someone is serious and straight laced all the time, they quickly become boring and two-dimensional in my mind. I soon lose all interest in them and they fade away in my stories.

 

What sort of traits do you look for in characters?

 

charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-character-traits-3-638

S is for Surroundings

Now earlier in this challenge on Day O, I talked about observation. So how are observation and surroundings different? For me, when I’m talking about observation, I’m talking about observing people and animals. When I’m talking about surroundings, I’m talking about my physical surroundings. These are the things that make up the world around me, the little nuances that are easily missed in the bustle of everyday life.

For example, are you in an urban area or rural area? What is the defining characteristic of the area around you? Is it tall buildings of steel and glass that reach up until you can only see bits of blue sky? Or are you surrounded on all sides by nature, rolling fields, a few trees that are a nice mixture of pines and cottonwoods, the only sounds bird song and wind whispering through the leaves? Maybe you’re in a combination of both, a quiet park situated in the middle of a bustling city.

 

 

Now, take a moment and look closer your surroundings. If you are in an urban area, is the area well-kept, neatly maintained? Or is there trash littering the sidewalks, graffiti on the walls, houses and fences are starting to look broken down and worn? Or if you are in a rural area, is it heavily forested or mainly field land? Let’s look even closer. Is the graffiti layered with new and old? Does if have pictures or is it mainly words? Is it monochromatic or is it a dazzling burst of colors? If it’s a rural area, is it lush and fertile or is it dry and desolate? Are there a bunch of animals or eerily empty of all life?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a new area to you. It could be someplace familiar. Take a moment to study a room, any room, in your house. I would recommend someplace where the family gathers, like the kitchen. A room like that is the heart of the house and you can get the real feeling of the occupants from a room like that. So let’s try the kitchen. What does the décor look like, sleek and modern or classic and homey? Are the colors dark or light, making it feel more closed in or more open? What sort of food or dishes are in the kitchen? All of these are personal choices and it will help build your story.

So take a look around a familiar room like you are seeing it for the first time. What does the room tell you about the occupants of the house? Try it and share what you discover 😊

examining
Be Curious, like these Cheetah Cubs

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