A to Z Reflection

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

 

Eleven days after the great event seems a reasonable period of time for honest reflection on the Blogging From A to Z April (2016) Challenge. It’s also a good moment to respond to a friend nominating me for The Liebster Award, as that poses some A to Z and blogging questions. However, that will be tomorrow’s post so stayed tuned to this channel.

So first my thoughts about this year’s April Challenge.

After my first two years, 2014 and 2015, I wanted to do briefer posts that would be quicker to read. As I said in my Blogging from A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal 2016, I wanted something different, tighter and more cryptic. In that I succeeded, but in my desire to produce something ‘challenging’, I chose to write an episodic mystery that created more work. Each episode consisted of one word for each of the letters of the alphabet, commencing with the letter of the day. Of course, I imposed other rules and then as a bonus, had a ‘horse of the day’, and a ‘daily poison’ – again from A to Z.

I did succeed in writing all but a few posts in March, so succeeded in reaching Z and the end of April. However, I struggled to read a lot of other blogs each day – probably about a dozen or so – in addition to the other posts that I follow.

I loved the variety of A to Z blogs out there, and I intend to explore some more in the months ahead. I’m incredibly impressed at the depth of talent in the blogosphere.

My IWSG blog post last Wednesday expressed my concern at making comments, even during quieter periods. So I’m in awe of those that multi-task successfully throughout the Challenge, and don’t believe in clones.

My Liebster comments tomorrow will highlight those bloggers who impressed me, and I admit that I found many individual posts invaluable as well as informative. Maybe I will learn from them in my approach for the 2017 Challenge.

I won’t be giving up blogging quite yet, as doing the A to Z Challenge holds the MaelStrom MonSter at bay by keeping my brain active and distracted.

As for the A to Z Team, they did an excellent job – as always.  So a special thank you to those that worked hard to make it possible, from the co-hosts to their helpers/assistants. Here they all are.

Why comment?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

During April I read more blog posts than usual, mainly as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. However, I didn’t comment on as many of them as I should have done, judging by some amazing people like the Ninja Captain. How does he do it?

I know that it is common courtesy to acknowledge the effort someone has made writing a post. So I tried to tweet most of them. But that’s another insecurity: how to thanks all my own re-tweeters like others do.

Anyway back to the comments. I made a few, even trying to stick to the letter of the day – expressing enthusiastic enchantment OR waxing weighty worded warnings.

Quality not quantity?

And when a post already has 96 comments, I hesitate to add another one aping others – unless I have a unique perspective that is worth sharing. But that’s unlikely.

Does my reluctance mean anything? Never that I disliked the post, even when some were long articles although erudite ones.

But I suspect making few comments reduces the traffic to my site. The figures support that fact – 96:3.

What do you think? Or is it a matter of “No Comment”?

 

NOTE: I won’t comment on any posts for a few days as I’m travelling = a better excuse than the gerbil chewed my thoughts. How about the monster maelstrom sucks?

Maybe sometimes, monster shark munches severely, meaning stressed mind spasms. Maelstrom swamps my serenity.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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The awesome co-hosts for the May 4 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Fundy Blue, MJ Fifield, Loni Townsend, Bish Denham, Susan Gourley, and Stephanie Faris! 

P for… Prep for Doom – a review

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Prepper  –  NOUN  –  chiefly North American

A person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies:there’s no agreement among preppers about what disaster is most imminent whether you’re a doomsday prepper or simply like to be prepared, emergency foods should be kept on hand

 

Since I’m working on Gossamer Flames, a post-apocalyptic series of interconnected tales, I’m looking for similar fiction to read, not just to see how the best fiction works, but for the details about preppers and how they behave. “Prep for Doom” was therefore a must read. So on to the review.

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From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths. What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month. An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

 

Prep For Doom” is a clever anthology by different authors, each contributing a stand-alone story connected by the pandemic apocalypse, so building into one large story from multiple points of view. The level of collaboration on this project must have been impressive, as is the resulting work.

The characters of each story reflect different reactions to the growing crisis, some more intense and visceral than others. Each protagonist takes the stage in a unique way, and plays out their fate in the disaster – some as victims, some as opportunists, even killers, and some as saviours. Some are committed preppers or have known one for good or bad. But most are ordinary people trying to survive.

Much of the time I was asking how I would react in such a situation. Panic? Help?

Each of the writers tells a facet of the story in their characters’ words. So inevitably, some stories are stronger than others, painting more vivid images. Most wrenched at my emotional responses.

Many characters reappear in other stories, whether in supporting roles or even as people in the ‘crowd’. Some get swept up as casualties, others survive and give hope. Memorably one antagonist is seen in one story from a victim’s viewpoint, yet later another writer vividly shows that antagonist’s desperation and driven fall from survivor to killer.

I wanted to give “Prep for Doom” five stars, but a few things let it down in my opinion.

Setting: although the virus spreads worldwide, we only get to see its impact on US communities, predominantly around the epicentre of New York. The opening chapter is the exception as it’s set somewhere in Africa, but I wanted a few more non-US viewpoints.

Resources: food runs out fast as does water, which makes total sense so some people are surviving on granola bars. The desperate looters feel realistic, but I kept wondering why cell phones worked for so long? Why do some people have the power to keep watching the world die on TV? For a few days perhaps, but this felt longer. Since the hospitals are swamped very quickly, I struggled to believe that some services survived for long. Maybe the emergency facilities are far better than I thought, or Americans are better prepared.

Chronology: inevitably many of the stories start at roughly the same point – the virus release – so the editors will have struggled to place them in order. Unfortunately, at times I was lost and wished there were clearer indicators of time and date in some instances. But most were clear from the words.

Stereotyping: in most cases, the race/sex/religion of the characters didn’t adversely reflect on their actions in an unrealistic way. But one crucial episode grated as the minority concerned gets a trite apology and the story gives them a raw deal. Not wishing to spoil the plot, I will say no more.

Missing elements: there were a few things left unexplained, although maybe there is more to come. For instance, I wanted to know about the initials PFD, which appear throughout and not just for Prep For Doom. Is the link a coincidence, or a reasoned choice?

However, these criticisms are minor and don’t detract from an excellent anthology that I recommend. It has the right blend of realistic actions and reactions, weaving a sense of despair as the reader is carried towards hope.

As to my own post-apocalyptic saga, I feel there are lessons to learn and I will attempt to embrace them.

And for my next read, I am tackling a very different novel in this genre – far bleaker and darker… like grey ash: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would YOU miss me?

From DeviantArt. For if one link in nature's chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.

From DeviantArt. For if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.

Or rather would you miss my weekly blog posts? I was trying to think of something worthwhile to blog about, but kept rejecting the crass ideas.

Who wants to read about “A World without Shakespeare”?

Why pose the question “What sort of heroine rules your mind?” in any genre?

What is the point of musing about “Autumn Fruitfulness” if it’s not the “Colours of Fall”?

My inspirational “The Difference between Critique and Beta Readers” will be next Wednesday’s IWSG monthly post.

So I reached the conclusion that I wouldn’t write anything, and then see whether anyone noticed. Shtako! I’ve written something after all.

But what next?

The Candle

There was a single twinkling candle on my chocolate fudge sundae. One candle for another year older, if not a year healthier. Friday August 7th 2015 was a turning point – well it felt that way for my stomach.

It churned and squirmed along with my head as we drove through the lush green Welsh scenery, across the mountains between Harlech and Bodnant. I hadn’t felt so car sick since I was a child – not physically sick, just feeling rotten. Is this because I’m into my second childhood?

But the journey was worthwhile as the food was delicious at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, which is “set in the heart of the Conwy Valley and surrounded by the stunning scenery of Snowdonia”. Best part was browsing their farm shop, and being tempted to buy some tasty treats from chili chocolate to locally sourced beef sausages. What happened to the vegetarian? Disgraceful – or not?

I did get to glimpse odd bits of the scenery on the way home. I needed to, as the fictional setting for “Fates Maelstrom” is in this locality, about 10 miles south-west of Bodnant and on the edge of Snowdonia. Through the mists of car sickness, I caught sight of some crags like the one above Crag-o-Niwl, my fictional Welsh village.

There's a crag in there somewhere! Craig Bwlch y Moch poking up out of a dense forest of rampant vegetation above Tremadog. Photo: Al Leary

There’s a crag in there somewhere! Craig Bwlch y Moch poking up out of a dense forest of rampant vegetation above Tremadog. Photo: Al Leary ~ http://www.groundupclimbing.com/newsitem.asp?nsid=185

So overall it was a good birthday, despite the childhood throwback, and a day that I won’t forget.

What next then? Well other than a birthday in Idaho on August 7th 2016. That depends on the emigration process to the USA, which entails many hurdles.

That candle also threw a light on one aspect of my writing future: where this Blog goes from here.

At the moment, I manage to blog once a month, in the IWSG monthly post on the first Wednesday. However, I feel that the posts should be more regular, for instance once a week – possibly on Monday or Tuesday.

If I go to that new schedule, then I need a new theme, as my intermittent ramblings don’t come up to scratch or muster.

There are three possibilities:

white-dragon-medium

  • Inspiring writers – a weekly blog about authors that have inspired me with their writing. The post would include my favourite books by those writers. I envisage choosing a crime/mystery writer one week, such as Dick Francis or Linwood Barclay. Then a SF/Fantasy writer the next. Like Charles de Lint or Roger Zelazny. I could intersperse these posts with interviews with published writers that I am online friends with. This is the simplest option, and more akin to the A to Z Challenge, but much more laid back.
  • Boise Skyline

    Boise Skyline ~ Copyright: http://www.visitidaho.org/photos/

    Moving to the USA – a weekly blog about the process that my wife and I are going through in trying to get to Idaho, USA. It could address the hurdles as well as the breakthroughs, and the prospects that await us. This would be more of a diary with a few suggestion for others undertaking the same expedition. I’m not sure that this would work as a weekly post, but with so many hurdles it could.

  • fd6a0b9306bea4eb33c76f2f4578481b (1)Living with Multiple Sclerosis – a weekly blog that is a chance for me to explain the condition, vent about the MonSter, and perhaps help others. Much more seat-of-the-pants than the other two, and also the disability gives me good days and bad days. Of course, I can’t help mentioning the MonSter in other posts, especially the American ones. Of course, my health is a key reason behind the move.

Of course, I could intersperse these and do one per week, choosing whatever I was inspired to write. Call it Pick-n-Mix.

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So what would you like to see me Blog about? Inspiring Writers, Moving to the USA, Living with Multiple Sclerosis, or ‘Pick-n-Mix’?

Was Beer the end of Mother’s Ruin?

When I was growing up, I was often told that my Quaker ancestors had helped bring an end to the repercussions of ‘Mother’s Ruin’ by promoting beer.

This made some sense as the family had been involved with the brewing firm of Truman Hanbury & Buxton.

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Plate 53: Truman’s Brewery, Brick Lane. | British History Online

So, when my writer friend Maureen Vincent-Northam asked me to write about those ancestors, I began wondering whether that was just a family legend, whether that would be an interesting starting-point. Was there was some truth behind the story?

Read the rest here on Maureen’s website.