A to Z Challenge 2017!

staytuned500x500April is coming, and with it, the Blogging A to Z Challenge. For one month, minus Sundays, participants blog daily and follow the 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s fun, and all types of bloggers are encouraged to participate.

I started doing the A to Z Challenge back in 2012, and for the first three years, I didn’t do any particular topic… I just wrote about whatever came to mind.

In 2015, I did, “Things I Love,” and last year’s theme was “Books That Influenced Me.” (On a related note, I’m sorry that I don’t have an easy way to access archives, but if you want to look back at any of my posts, you can type “A is for” into the search bar. All my A to Z blogs start with the letter of the day.)

This challenge is a great way to “meet” other bloggers and find other interesting blogs.

On March 20, I’ll be revealing my theme (and hopefully will know what it is and have most of my posts written by then). The theme was much easier for me, and stopped some of the panicked searching for a topic that I did in other years.

Will you be joining?

J is for John Saul

Unknown-3I discovered John Saul when I was a teenager, and I fell in love with his stories.  They were so dark and creepy.  I loved the supernatural threads that wove through all of his books.  They were different from Stephen King’s books and Dean Koontz’s books (my other two favorite horror authors) in that they focused more on psychological terror.  His books often made me think and wonder.

I love quite a few of his books, but the one that influenced me most was The Blackstone Chronicles.  This is a serial story that was published over the course of a year in six stories, then later published as one complete book.  In the book, the Blackstone Asylum is set to be demolished and turned into a shopping mall.  The plans fall through, but then an artifact from the asylum is delivered to six different people who then have bad things happen to them.

I read the completed book, but loved the concept of a serial.  In fact, it’s something I’d love to do, tell a complete story using different people and perspectives.  Though I tend to write from one point of view, I don’t think any story can be complete from one person’s perspective.  No matter how objective people try to be, they’re biased and will make interpretations based on their values and experience.

On a side note, this challenge is making my already huge TBR pile get bigger.  I want to go back and read some of the amazing books I’ve talked about, and I also want to read the books talked about by other bloggers.  Luckily, I don’t think it’s possible to have too many books to read.

I is for In Death

Unknown-2JD Robb has written 53 books in the In Death series in the past 21 years.  That’s a huge number of books.  (Some of these are novellas that appear in anthologies, but it’s still impressive.)

The books center around Eve Dallas, a police lieutenant in the New York Police Department, and her husband Roarke, multi-billionare businessman and former criminal. There are also multiple supporting characters that make regular appearances.

Each book centers around one or more murder that Dallas must solve.  As the series has continued, Roarke assists her more and more often.

I love reading these books, but I’ve also started studying them from a writer’s perspective.  If you’d ask me, I would have told you I didn’t think that a character arc could span over 53+ books, but I would have been wrong.

Dallas and Roarke have continued to develop, as a couple and as individuals.  Though the focus tends to be on them and their relationship, the other characters in the universe are interesting and often experience character growth of their own.  I love the fact that a married couple can continue to be the subject of a series; too often the curtain drops just after the wedding, but that’s not real life.  They argue, they compromise, they have past lovers, and yet they navigate it together.

Each story shares characteristics, but they’re not formulaic.   There are multiple series subplots, like Dallas’s past, and information about these is doled out over time.  It’s masterful the way Robb keeps my interest in these subplots.  She drags them out for just the right amount of time so that they never get stale, but also never turn into an info dump.

The books are thrillers with elements of romance and science fiction, and while the science fiction might not please hard-core sci-fi fans, they’re always a good story.

More than anything, I want the stories I tell to be compelling and interesting.  I think that’s the best rule for any author: tell a good story.

“Life is never as long as we want it to be, and wasted time can never be recovered.”
― J.D. Robb

A to Z Challenge 2016

For the past 4 years, I’ve participated in the blogging A to Z challenge.  It’s a challenge to write 26 posts in a month, but it’s a lot of fun.  I’ve been pretty absent from the blogosphere recently, and I’ve tried several things to get back on track, but it hasn’t happened.  I think life’s that way sometimes.  I knew I’d be back to regular blogging eventually.

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

Today’s the official theme reveal, and while I haven’t done themes in the past, this year, a friend and I have both decided to do the theme of Books that Have Influenced Me.  I’m excited about this, and expecting her list to be very different than mine, since she tends to enjoy non-fiction and humor a lot more than I do, while my tastes lean more toward horror.

Her blog is funny and touching, so check it out.

 

See you on April 1!

J is for Journals

A few of my favorite upcycled journals from Etsy.

A few of my favorite upcycled journals from Etsy.

I started collecting journals before I actually started writing in them.

I kept a diary as a kid, faithfully recording the events of my day, until I stopped for no real reason when I was in my early 20s. Life got in the way, maybe.

Being a writer, I wanted to go back to journaling, so I’m not really sure why it took me so long to do it. I found really pretty upcycled journals on Easy, and I bought several of them, but I didn’t write in them. I put them on a shelf and left them there.

When I did start journaling again, I got myself a plain, spiral bound notebook, not wanting to write in a pretty journal. I’m not sure why I thought I shouldn’t scribble my thoughts in something nice, but I didn’t want to “ruin it.” I didn’t write much in my plain notebook, and journaling became something I made myself do because I think writers and therapists “should” keep a journal, instead of something I actually wanted to do. I kept trying to start a journaling habit, but it just didn’t stick.

Then one day, a friend of mine showed me a notebook he keeps with his favorite quotes. I loved the idea. I had done something similar as a kid, writing in quotes and my favorite bits of poetry or prose. For years, I’d been collecting quotes in my email, where they’d sit in the dark to never see the light of day again. Without hesitating, I grabbed one of my nice journals off the shelf, and started putting quotes into it. The blank pages were no longer waiting for words.

It felt right to fill those blank pages; my journals were finally fulfilling their purpose. While I still don’t have a journaling habit, I do journal pretty regularly now. Sometimes I write several times a day, and sometimes once a week. It just depends on how much I have to say. At this point, my journaling is often kind of like thinking on paper. I just write stuff down and afterward see what it was I had to say.

What’s the point of having something and not using it for it’s intended purpose? Honestly, I think it’s a little sad that I let those journals sit empty for as long as I did. So, I say: use that pretty journal, light the decorative candle, drink out of your crystal goblet. In my mind, things are meant to be enjoyed.

And besides, when I fill that pretty journal, that means I can go on Etsy to buy a new one. Right?

H is for History

For this month’s A to Z Challenge, I’m focusing on things I love.

Turtle on a Swing, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Turtle on a Swing, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

When I was a kid, I hated history. I thought it was the most boring thing imaginable, and in some ways, I still do.

Most of the time, when someone talks about history, they’re talking about what happened. I know it’s important, but I don’t care. I want to know about the people it happened to, what they thought about it, how they lived before, and how whatever event changed them.

On a most basic level, history is about the people, but it often doesn’t seem that way. Sometimes it seems like the stories about people get lost behind the events. And really, what do the events really matter, except how they affect the people involved?

My brother in law LOVES history. I mean, loves it the way I love Dean Koontz books. When the husband and I get together with the in-laws, we tend to go see something history related. Last visit, we went to the Alamo and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library. What could have been horribly boring for me was actually interesting, because I focused on what interests me: the people, and how those events affected them.

It never made sense to me that I disliked history. After all, as my post last week indicated, I love antiques. But the reason I love antiques is because those things meant something to someone at one time. I wish I had understood when I was younger why history bored me, and how I could have better learned it.

It’s never too late though. I’m learning new things everyday.

Is there a subject you used to hate that you’ve grown to like or understand better as you’ve gotten older?