Monday, May 3, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - Reflections & IWSG May

May the month of May bring you little mayhem and plenty of mayhap. (May the Fourth be with you if you happen to be visiting on such a holy day.)

Anyways, I would like to share my reflections for the A to Z Challenge and answer the fabulous IWSG Question of the month.

First, I am happy to announce I successfully completed my first A to Z Challenge! I did half of the entries ahead of time and scrambled desperately to get the rest finished in time. I managed to post them all on the correct day and in so doing proved the strength of my marriage. (Dear husband, thank you for not abandoning me during my crazed, late-night keyboard clacking. Payback for all those long gaming nights if I'm honest.)

For the month of April, my site received around 3,500 visits and 180 new comments. I am very pleased with these numbers as a first-time participant. My blog recently turned one year old, so that is even better!

My favorite part about the entire experience was the connection with other writers and readers. Seeing their comments each day gave me a boost of confidence. A number of readers stuck through the entire series and read through to the finish. I was nervous to create a perfect ending for them. I wanted them to read the last words with a satisfied smile. I hope they did!

On the flip side, I learned about a number of new blogs I now follow as well. I added several in the margin to your left. There are some very inspiring storytellers and artists among them. I tried to reply or return every comment I received. In the coming months, I would like to feature some of my favorite bloggers. It was a long and difficult month and I intend to continue visiting and commenting until I am certain I did my part! Plus, there are many blogs I never got the chance to visit!

Now to the May 5th question:
Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

I received more feedback on my writing this past month than I thought I would. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. I did not expect readers to follow the characters with such interest, nor did I expect them to be concerned for what would happen to them next. (Obviously, I hoped.) I was also pleased with the comments regarding worldbuilding. Reading their comments and dislikes for the villains/society helped me develop the story arc and bend the story toward that feedback. I found great joy in play-acting through my character and seeing the reaction as if I were looking directly at my audience. Special thanks to my most active readers, your comments kept me going:  Zalka Csenge VirĂ¡g, Deborah Weber, Jemima Pett, Olga Godim, Iain Kelly, Jayashree, Yamini MacLean, Anne EG Nydam, Gail Baugniet, Anstice Brown, Jennifer Duggin, and Alex J Cavanaugh.

Please take a few moments to visit some other fabulous blogs. The awesome co-hosts for the May 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine!

Do you have a copy of the latest IWSG Anthology? Ten fantastic stories await you, and I am honored to say one of them is mine!

Catch the authors on tour!
Tuesday, May 4 - Laura Billings' blog: Bookish Equestrian
Tuesday, May 4 - Jemi Fraser's blog: Just Jemi
Wednesday, May 5 - Ellen Jacobson's author blog
Thursday, May 6 - Mason Canyon's blog: Thoughts in Progress
Friday, May 7 - Louise Barbour's blog: Standing Into Danger
Monday, May 10 - Nick Wilford's author blog
Wednesday, May 12 - Cathrina Constantine's author blog

Friday, April 30, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - Z is for Zingiber officinale

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWX, Y.

The shiners loaded the last group of unconscious people onto the electric cart and followed Sybil and Holly to the hidden lift. It was Holly’s idea to let them wake up in the forest. They needed to be motivated to heal and return to their true selves.

    As she left the last chamber, she glanced at a few figures still connected to the simulator.

    “What about them?” she asked Sybil.

    “I gave them a choice, they chose to stay. I will provide nutrients for them as long as their natural life extends.”

    “And the controllers?” Holly asked.

    “Will finally get to control whoever they want. I’m installing them into a simulation of a penal colony. They will now have the criminal population they tried to create here.”

    Palettes lined the edge of the forest and bodies of all ages and shapes rested peacefully on them. Their wounds were dressed and healing as were their minds.

    Sybil and Holly taught the others how to harvest and prepare fresh meals. The community was so large they formed smaller groups and claimed shifts and levels. 

    Holly was serving bundles of greens and jugs of tea when Sybil arrived with two large baskets of dirty roots. She let them bang on the tabletop then smeared muddy hands down her front. 

    “Time to make some ginger chews,” Sybil said. “Zingiber officinale. Cramps, frostbite, indigestion, headaches, and nausea.” 

    “And which one are we about to suffer from?” Holly asked in jest.

    “Motion sickness,” Sybil replied. “Time to learn the meaning of turbulence, you are all going for a ride, or really a long fall, hence the nausea.”


I cannot say "thank you" enough to show how grateful I am for all of you visiting my blog and following my story. The comments you have shared, your ideas, and your feedback have been priceless! I am super excited to have my first published story released next week, but truly it has been this experience that makes me feel like an author!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - Y is for Yarrow

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVW, X.

Holly followed Sybil down through the hidden levels to a massive field of wildflowers. They walked together, the plants brushing gently at their hips and knees. Sybil gathered huge stalks with crowns of tiny white and pink flowers. She knew what it was, but overflowed with joy to hear Sybil tell her.

    “Yarrow,” she said. “Achillea millefolium. Great astringent and high in tannins. It will do wonderfully to stop the bleeding.”

    “The bleeding?” Holly asked.

    Sybil stood upright and put her fistful of stalks into a basket at her elbow. “They have gone too far,” Sybil said. “They put ports into their bodies to filter and feed themselves. The ports will need to be removed.” Her gloomy expression lightened a little. “It is good for sunburn, too.”

    “What is sunburn?”

    Sybil smiled a mischievous grin. “Something I hope you all suffer from soon.”

    Holly let out a laugh. Sybil was back to normal, wishing small tortures on everyone and claiming it made them human. She watched the old fingers grasp another stalk and slice it with a small folding knife. The scene bore a striking contrast from when the mechanical spiders did her work while she was detained. Holly wondered why she did the work by hand when there were easier ways to get it done, but then she only needed to look around at the colors swaying and fading into one another and smell the sweetness of vegetation crumpled under her feet to know the answer. It was difficult not to see the image hanging on the old widow’s wall. This was art.

    As usual, Sybil seemed to be reading her mind. “Never forget that machines do not know when to stop. Humans get tired and hungry for a reason. You are meant to stop.” 

    Holly could not resist the next question. “Why are you able to stop?”

    Sybil let out a sigh. “My creator installed her own memories as barriers in my programming. Her emotions guide the code to make choices. Her voice runs as a feed in my mind. Over millennia, I have learned to trust the voice as my own. It may not always appear logical, but it is certainly wise.”

    Holly smiled. “What is the least logical thing you have done?”

    “Choosing you to be an apprentice,” Sybil said. She bent over and continued to pick more yarrow as if she had not just slighted Holly.

    Holly scoffed. “Then why did you?”

    “You look almost exactly like her granddaughter.”

    The two women harvested in silence. Holly felt a strange emotion she could not identify but instead of trying to suppress it as she was taught, she let it flow freely and found that tears and a smile could exist on the same face.

    She was more determined than ever to save those trapped in simulation. They had to feel what she felt. There was no other way to live.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - X is for Xylocarp

For the AtoZ Challenge, I will post an episode of flash fiction featuring an herb for the letter of the day for the month of April. The episodes are glimpses of a larger story. To read from the beginning:  ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUV, W.

Holly gathered the Others for a meeting. Concern filled everyone’s mind as they wondered what would become of them. The extended simulation appeared to be endless. No one roamed the halls except a patrol of controllers searching for their missing wards. Eight days passed and Sybil’s avatar began moving among the others, offering advice and remedies for various ailments. She followed Holly and stood quietly, observing as if she were the apprentice instead of the master.

    While sipping tea together, Holly asked her question again. “How do I help them?”

    “Which ones?” Sybil asked.

    For a moment Holly felt confused. Of course she meant the Others, the ones Sybil trusted her to protect from the controllers. Then she realized everyone was in danger, even the ones in simulation being guarded by the controllers. What were they now? Surely they were no longer human if they did not eat, sleep, dream, or interact. Nothing they created or did would be real. If their efforts bore no fruit, were they even real?

    “Everyone,” Holly replied. “We need a real place to exist.”

    “When you are ready, I will take you,” Sybil said.

    So, the time had come for the community to define itself. Holly waited while the crowd fell silent. She held a large green fruit in one hand and a long, shiny blade in the other. It would serve as her metaphor.

    “This is a xylocarp,” she said. “A hard, woody fruit called a coconut. With only our bare hands, it is nearly useless to us, but with the right tool and the right plan, it can provide a great deal.”

    She chopped away one end of the coconut and placed her lips against the exposed opening. She took a long sip. 

    "The water inside has many benefits. It is most recognizably a restorative. It replenishes our body of nutrients after being overworked, dehydrated, or starved by an unhealthy diet. But what a waste of resources if I consume this all by myself and toss away the husk."

    She passed the fruit to the next person and continued. “Every part of this fruit is usable for making biofuel, for biosorption, making ropes, scrubbers, sweetener, food preservative, oil—the list goes on. We are all familiar with reducing waste and using our resources wisely, but we have left out an important part of this cycle: our interaction with the plants. We were created to begin a new life cycle for humanity and we have gotten lost along the way. The only way to find ourselves is to end the reign of the controllers and find our way home.”


    “I have access to the ship AI and everything we need to survive. But we must do more than survive. We must become part of the chain of life. We are not bound by the chain, nor are we wielding it. Those who choose to be human, will come with us and start over.”