A to Z Challenge Reflection Post

Another A to Z challenge done! It went okay. I did every single letter, on time. Well, sometimes I pushed that, but I usually made it.

I only brainstormed the first few letters, so 3/4 of the challenge was done on the fly. I did that last year, too, but with slightly more planning; I prewrote most of my posts the day or two days before. I brainstormed a lot of them on Sunday.

So last year I actually had more time to actually visit A to Z Challenge blogs. This year, I mostly visited the same ones I visited last year. At least the WordPress ones I had subscribed to. I know I visited a lot on Blogger regularly, but I don’t remember which ones now. Plus a few more I discovered this year, also mostly on WordPress. (These few were very interesting and that is why I subscribed to them.)

But it was a good challenge. I think it would have been easier if I had brain-stormed ideas for posts in advance. I will do that next year. And I will try to write more of them in advance, too, preferably on Sundays.

Z is for Zombies

The zombie is the second creepiest icon of horror. Just witness:

It’s the whole shambling walk and rotting body parts thing. And fingers and toes crawling on their own. And that skeletal grin.

I can’t watch without being seriously creeped out. I just can’t.

At least if you chop off vampire’s hand, the hand won’t crawl forward and try to strangle you. It will stay chopped off!

It’s why I don’t watch Walking Dead and other zombie TV shows/movies. And I pretty much avoid all zombie novels, including the  Newsflesh Trilogy. I have heard so much about it, but no.

It feels like zombies are becoming more and more popular, which is disturbing.

Do you avoid zombie shows?

Y is for Yucky Scenes

merriam-webster defines yucky as:

adjective \ˈyə-kē\

: causing discomfort, disgust, or a strong feeling of dislike : unpleasant and disgusting

: having an unpleasant feeling in your stomach : somewhat sick

What scenes in a book did you read and go: This is disgusting.

I think probably most books have a few scenes that are like that. They don’t make you dislike the whole book

But some stand out.

One I remember was one of the sexual scenes in A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. I don’t think the scene ever said and I don’t think the main character ever thought of it like that, but it felt like gang rape to me. (I think it was rape.) It’s just that characters were never portrayed as rapists and it caused me some cognitive dissonance.

Like: how could they even do that and be okay with themselves.

It was part of the book, it made sense in the book, but it was disturbing. But I enjoyed the book as a whole so . . . Sometimes I wonder if I should revisit and see if it is as disturbing as a I remember.

What yucky scenes stand out for you?

X is for Xris Cyborg

While searching my WordWeb dictionary for a word starting with X. I didn’t find anything I could use. Why there are so few words starting with X?

But than I recalled a character whose name started with X: Xris Cyborg. 

Xris Cyborg is the cyborg leader of a mercenary group called Mag Force 7. There is a fantastic pilot and a poisoner who spends half his time on recreational drugs and lots more fun characters. The books are by Margaret Weis and Don Perrin.

I really loved them and reread the books every so often – a future mafia, crazy plans to break into a top secret military installation, a man who changed gender to hide from everyone who wants to kill him/her.  It’s lots and lots of fun.

So I Googled Xris Cyborg – I was hoping to find a picture or something someone had drawn. I have no artistic talent, so I could not draw him myself.

But! The Wikipedia listed every book I’d read – plus three more. Three books that had been published previously and apparently feature my favorite cyborg as a minor character.

The Mag Force 7 books I loved were a spin off series, not the original, and all this time I never knew. I don’t know how I missed them, but I am hoping they are still in print.

I think the lesson here is to look at all the books from the writers you like rather more carefully. So you know if the character you love pop up somewhere else, in some other series.

W is for Weird

I had a Twitter conversation today where it occurred to me that sometimes it is possible for a book to be too creative. A book about weird things, a book that involves things that are not familiar to the reader will not be as successful as a book that does involve the familiar.

It’s not as if I am unfamiliar with this concept. I read an article months on how successful books need to be like something else people knew about, but just different enough to stand out. I can’t find this article now. :(

I have heard it before in the advice that you need to know what genre your book is. Because if a book doesn’t slot neatly into an existing genre, publishers won’t buy it.

It’s just . . . Accepting people won’t like a book if it’s too different from what they are used to is hard to accept.

I grew up thinking the more creative a book, the better it is. Maybe that’s not true.  Maybe it’s just weird.

That’s sort of depressing.

V is for Verse in Books

I don’t often encounter verse in the books I read. There may have been more poems in the books I read as a child; I don’t really remember.

The first one that stayed with me, the first poem I really liked in a novel, was in high school. The novel was Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey. This whole series is especially prone to poems and songs, because the main character is a singer.

But I like it. I’ve taken it out just to read the poems sometimes.

“The little queen all golden
Flew hissing at the sea.
To stop each wave
Her clutch to save
She ventured bravely.

As she attacked the sea in rage
A holderman came nigh
Along the sand
Fishnet in hand
And saw the queen midsky.

He stared at her in wonder
For often he’d been told
That such as she
Could never be
Who hovered there, bright gold.

He saw her plight and quickly
He looked up the cliff he faced
And saw a cave
Above the wave
In which her eggs he placed.

The little queen all golden
Upon his shoulder stood
Her eyes all blue
Glowed of her true
Undying gratitude.”

I think I just really, really like the imagery in this poem. (Even though I read the scene that inspired this poem and it was, well, this is a good summary.)


This flash was inspired by the letter U!

She pondered the picture.

It showed a lady, dead from drowning. She knew that face.

She glanced over her shoulder at the rest of her class; they wandered the room, looking up at the photographs on the wall. Her teacher was across the room, with most of the kids.

She turned back to the picture. It was colored, but not pretty. She took a step a closer and peered closer at the woman’s face.

She took her wallet out of her bag and slipped out a picture hidden away behind her school id and transport card. The black-and-white photo was yellow with age and tattered at the edges. Grandmother was young in this picture; she grinned into the camera, knee-deep in the ocean, holding up her printed maxi out of the water.

She studied the picture on the wall, then her wallet picture and back again.

“Girls and boys!” The teacher clapped her hands. “Gather around now. I want to introduce to artist. She composed these photographs with herself as the model.”

A woman who looked exactly like the picture of her grandmother stood beside the teacher.

T is for Teleport

Today is a chilly, spring day. It is cloudy and overcast and even snowing in some places.

I found this storify of snow today: https://storify.com/cmgnationalnews/springtime-snow. I think it’s mostly lake effect snow

I am not really feeling the spring today and that is why I chose Teleport today. It starts with T, it is vaguely book-ish.

Yes, some books have people who got tech or spells that Teleport. And I suppose I could do a post about magic teleportation and techy teleportation. Or the teleportation in my own WiP! Ha!

But I don’t want to. I don’t feel like it. Right now, I seriously wish I could Teleport to someplace with sun. And heat. Someplace I could stroll in short sleeves and shorts.

S is for Series

Series abound in fantasy and science fiction. There are so many that finding stand alone books can be something of a challenge.

I guess two or three types of series.

  1. episodic series, where each book is an episode and can be read on its own without needing to read anything that came before. I am not sure there are too many pure examples of this type of series. You know, like the James Bond movies.
  2. a long long story broken up into several novels. (Because you can’t publish 50 million words worth of one story all at once!) Like Tolkien or Wheel of Time or Way of Kings. 
  3. I am not sure this counts as a separate type of series, but maybe? Anyway, the kind where the book has a stand alone-ish type plot of its own, so you have a conclusion at the end. But there is also a longer series plot and the episode plot sort of falls neatly into it. Harry Potter is like this. And so are a lot of TV shows. Maybe this is really just a subtype of 1 or 2. I don’t know.

There are also series that start out as episodic and turn into the series-as-a-long-novel. Actually, I think that’s when I fall behind on my reading.

That’s what happened with the Dresden files. That’s why I am so behind in this series, because I feel like, I didn’t get to read the previous book and now I can’t read this new book that just came out because I won’t know what’s going on.

The shift is really quite annoying.

What do you think?

R is for Rejected

The word rejected came to me from a friend on Twitter. Than I thought: I can do a post on books that have been rejected before.

Not how many times my stuff has been rejected. I don’t collect rejections. They are so depressing.

But looking at how many times other people had to try is inspiring, you know? It make you think: if you try enough times, eventually you will succeed.

Cracked has five. Flavorwire has ten, and there are many, many others. But I like Cracked’s best.

  •  Harry Potter: rejected for being too long
  • Animal Farm: rejected for because of current politics. published after the war ended and those politics ceased to matter.
  • And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss: rejected for being different and silly.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: rejected for being about nothing. I had never even heard of this book before, but it was published after the author’s death because his mother found a publisher. It won a Pultizer.
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: rejected by  for (1) not being edgy enough and (2) no one buys short stories.