Z is for Zephyr

Never has a word more mundane had such an amazing sound; a perfect lilt upon the lips as it is spoken. Zephyr, merely a gentle breeze, invokes a certain satisfaction, a certain contentedness in the world around us––a light and invigorating freedom in life.

So, I guess, it actually is aptly defined.

Today is the last day of the Blogging April A to Z Challenge, and I thought there would be no better way to conclude the event than to share with all of you some of the most amazing bloggers I’ve gotten to know over the last month. I didn’t ask anyone ahead of time if they would mind being mentioned, so if any of them want to be removed, feel free to let me know. So! For the last day of this challenge, and in the spirit of zephyr, I present to you my personal list of the 2014 Blogging April A-Z Challenge’s Must-Reads.

MUSTREADSaz2014
Graphic by Alex Hurst; free-use. Just link back to me so I can read yours!

As a rule, all of the following bloggers wrote such awesome posts that I didn’t want to miss a single one, and will be playing catch-up in May for the posts I didn’t get a chance to read this month.

I followed a LOT of blogs for this challenge––close to 300 of them. I didn’t get to all of them, obviously, but there were a lot of really awesome ones in there who unfortunately didn’t complete the challenge, so I’m not mentioning them here. However, Jelly-Side Up gets a mention anyway, because she’s simply amazing. (Seriously, check her out!) I’ll divide them by platform, since some blogs are easier to follow depending on what service you use.

WordPress Blogs

  • Bigger on the Inside: I absolutely adored this poetry blog. Kell was participating in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) concurrently with A-Z, so her theme was appropriately all of the different poetic forms, A-Z. Rather than just write the poems, Kell also included wonderful explanations for each form which helped me understand poetry a lot more. An absolute must-follow. Check out “Nonsense Verse” and “Iambs, and Other Metric Feet” for samples from her amazing month of poetry writing.
  • Caro Ness: Born in Jamaica, but now a resident of England, Caro Ness writes an incredibly wide range of accessible and fun poetry that sometimes takes dives into the more subdued. I loved her blog a lot, and I’m not a huge poetry person, so that should tell you something! My favorite posts of hers were “Let’s Go to a Hotel” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain?“.
  • Claire Gillian: Oh, I eagerly anticipated every post from Claire’s amazing series of parody romance covers and blurbs. She was one of the gems of the A-Z challenge I really would have liked to have seen get more notice. Filled with enough snark and wit to keep me following for a long time. Check out her posts “Panda Mine” and “The Lacemaker’s Husband” for samples of the genius she shared with us this month.
  • D Lonely Stoner: An amazing flash fiction writer, D Lonely Stoner had a strong month of fiction and poetry that I thoroughly enjoyed savoring. On her own bio, she quotes “Being the odd one out may have its temporary disadvantages, but more importantly, it has its permanent advantages.” Check out her posts “Yours Truly (poem)” and “Antithesis (fiction)” as starters.
  • Editorial Stand: You can never follow too many editors, and Editorial Stand is definitely one of the ones that stood out to me in the last month. The theme Laura took on was, unsurprisingly, editing and publishing, and I loved every post I read. Simple, easy-to-digest definitions of everything made this blog a pleasure to read and share with other writers. Check out her posts “E is for Editors” and “D is for Dashes“.
  • Ramblings | On | The | Wall: Another blogger that I would definitely count as a friend made from the challenge, even though she isn’t quite finished with the challenge yet, I couldn’t help mentioning her. Sam dresses up her posts with fun reaction gifs (which makes her blog pretty unique on WordPress), and in general has a lot of fun, interesting stuff to say. Be sure to check out “Word Porn Wednesday : Letter of the Day – T” and “P is for … Patience“!
  • Sayling Away: One of the most visually appealing blogs I followed during the challenge (it certainly kept me busy on Pinterest) was the series on classical artists curated by Noelle A. Granger (whose name doesn’t actually appear in her bio, but I found through one of her published works). Feast your eyes with these posts on W = Van der Weyden and U = Ucello.
  • Veronica Sicoe: A science fiction writer with a clean, fun blog, Veronica’s A-Z topic was all about, you guessed it, writing. But like I said, I followed over 300 blogs in the (WR) category of this challenge, and Veronica’s blog stood out. I liked her opinions about genre and creative ways of discussing common topics. Be sure to check out her posts For the love of SPACE OPERA and The flexible definition of LIFE.
  • WORDS from SONOBE: Probably my FAVORITE theme of the year, Words from Sonobe’s topic was “Letters to My Younger Self”, an inventive and intimate look at self-evaluation and all of the little trials and successes that make up one’s life. I hope this series eventually turns into a book. It was so wonderful. Here are a couple of her posts to get you started: Mired in a Mad Woman’s Madness and Lessons from Leaping.

Blogspot Blogs

  • Lexa Cain: Not much more needs to be said beyond Lexa Cain’s theme being “Hauntings”, but I’ll add that they were written so well that I got the creeps on several of the posts, and I’m the type of person who giggles during horror movies. Be sure to check out all of her posts from April, but here are a couple highlights: “Hauntings: Waverly Hills Sanatorium” and “Hauntings: La Laurie House“. Note: Her website does take a while to load sometimes, just so you know.
  • StrangePegs: The blog home of Andrew Leon, a wonderful author whom I used to blog with on Out of Print, a free fiction blog. I’ve been a long time reader of his blog, where he reviews movies and talks about writing. His theme this year was “Abandoned Places”. It was a thoroughly researched, thoroughly enjoyable series. My favorite two posts were “Abandoned Places: Shi Cheng, the Sunken City” and “Abandoned Places: Qasr el Baron“.
  • On Writing and Riding: This was a really awesome blog that not only discussed grammar and various other elements of writing, but also the many various horses the blog owner, GS Marlene, has owned in her lifetime. As a lover of horses, I couldn’t resist following her for the equestrian and educational updates. Well worth a follow. Here are some of her beauties: “Santana” and “Kit Kourageous“.

Custom Domain Blogs

  • Patricia Lynne (YA Author): Patricia was kind enough to visit my blog every day during the challenge, and even retweet my posts (THANK YOU!), but that doesn’t mean I’m simply favoring her. Patricia took on one of my favorite topics for A-Z 2014: Words. Basically every single post she made is going to eventually make it into my Dictionary of Purple Prose (in the tabs). Also, her Skittles avatar just made me happy. For whatever reason. An awesome lady; be sure to check out her awesome lexicon! Good places to start would be Nugatory, Seriatim, and Witzelsucht. She also contributes posts at Story Dam, which was in the challenge as well.

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That’s it! YAY! Finally! (Wow, this post took me over five hours to compile…) In any case, did you find any awesome blogs not mentioned here? How many new blogs did you find that you will keep following after this challenge?

If you want to make your own list of must-reads, feel free to steal the graphic above, and use the twitter hashtag #atozstars on Twitter so I can find you!

Thank you, everyone, for an awesome month!

Y is for Yggdrasil

Have you ever appropriated elements of the worlds’ mythologies without researching them first? When I was younger, usually one image was enough to inspire something in me, and so I would roll with it, without considering things like the origin myths (and how they might help me or make me further avoid the road I was heading down).

I’m going to assume that most of the readers on here have heard of Yggdrasil before, or have at least seen images of it. The giant ash tree that holds together the world. The tree that Odin called “noblest of all trees” before sacrificing himself upon it.

I didn’t. The very first picture of Yggdrasil that I ran across didn’t even look like a tree:

yggdrasil

The graph has inspired me several times for many stories (which is unfortunate, because when I play favorites on a theme, I really play favorites. Case in point: In 2013, 80% of my short stories dealt with death in some way).

I won’t go super into detail about everything its inspired me for, but it’s a good example among many. I borrow a lot of elements from non-European sources these days, mainly because I think elements of central European and Christian stories are overdone in fiction, but Yggdrasil is an interesting point for me.

I recently have decided I want to get up to speed on all of the Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies that I skipped out on learning as a teenager (mainly because one of my favorite authors is writing a bunch of LGBT works in the Greek world of gods and goddesses and I have no idea what’s going on), so I looked up Yggdrasil.

Independently of the image above, I made a tree central to my plot in the stories influenced by the graph. Not only that, but I have the main, tragic antagonist run around with one eye missing. Sound familiar?

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Odin says: AAAAARGH.

It’s kinda cool, now that I think about it. It seems that there really are some tropes that are just ingrained into us, no matter what culture we come from.

If you’ve incorporated mythology into your work, what would you say surprised you, or helped you most from the experience?

Tomorrow: Z is Zephyr !

X is for Xueqin

My first semester at UC Berkeley, I took a literature course entitled “Dynamics of Romantic Core Values in East Asian Premodern Literature and Contemporary Film”. I’ve actually talked about it before, in my post Social Experiments.

One of the books we read in that class was Story of the Stone, or as it’s most commonly called, Dream of Red Chamber. The story was written by Cao Xueqin, and has easily become one of my favorite texts, even though I haven’t finished it yet (I’ll explain later).

Xueqin was a pretty amazing man, and he leaned on his life experiences to write this fanciful, dramatic tale in five volumes (or at least that is how Penguin divided them). As Betty Radice writes on the first page of Volume I:

Cao Xueqin was born into a family which for three generations held the office of Commissioner of Imperial Textiles in Nanking, a family so wealthy that they were able to entertain the Emperor Kangxi four times. But calamity overtook them and their property was confiscated. Cao Xueqin was living in poverty near Peking when he wrote his famous novel. []

The story is dense, with flowery descriptions out the wazoo, but this makes it an extremely important text for understanding life in Nanking during that time. While

Statue of Cao Xueqin
Statue of Cao Xueqin

sometimes you do have to plod through the fiftieth description of what the characters are wearing (remember: fabulously wealthy), the story’s heart is in its characters, whom I love intensely.

Xeuqin based many (perhaps nearly all) of his female characters on cousins or other relatives he knew in his life, and my favorite of all of them is Xi-feng. She is a precocious, firecracker of a teenager, who is married to an older man who simply can’t restrain her.

The story basically starts out with a lame Taoist and a monk in the Realm of the Fairies, and they talk about the things you would expect. There is also a moment when the Taoist finds a rejected piece of stone from Nüwa’s building of the world (an origin goddess in China), which he pockets for a journey. This stone eventually makes it into the realm of the fairy Disenchantment, and takes the form of a boy. The boy soon finds a beautiful Crimson Flower, and waters it with dew, until it comes to life as a girl. The girl, then and there, decides that the only way she will ever be able to repay the stone is to shed a lifetime of tears in his honor.

And so she is made to make good on the promise, and stone and girl are sent to the mortal, mundane world, where the majority of the story takes place.

There are literally hundreds of characters in this book, each with their own little plots and stories to tell, and I can say with fair certainty that even though I’ve only gotten to Volume II, I’m in love with each character. The only problem is that the satellite characters tend to die quite suddenly, and that makes me sad.

It also has that fun, old-style narration where the narrator often talks to the reader, which makes for some wonderful jokes and quips throughout the piece. There is also a healthy dose of fantastic poetry, as the characters are called on quite frequently to compose. The story takes itself as realism, even with the superstitions and fairies, and that is part of what makes it so great.

The only reason I haven’t finished it? I was told that if I thought the first volume was sad, I would find the later volumes extremely depressing. There is a prophecy of sorts that the main character stumbles on in the first volume which warns that the twelve women in his life are all destined for sad endings. I’ve been afraid to finish it! But… it’s on my reading list this year, so I’m going to get through it. I need to know what ends up happening to Bao-yu (the main character) and Xi-feng (not the Crimson Flower, but still my favorite)!

Interested? Buy it here.

Some art, depicting scenes from the novel:

Tomorrow: Y is Yggdrasil!

W is for Wonderland

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

I’m fairly certain that everyone who can read is familiar with Alice in Wonderland, the wonderful, strange tale by Lewis Carroll. It has been a beloved favorite of children, movies, TV shows and cartoons for many decades now.

But maybe you didn’t know that the story isn’t nonsense. It’s actually a huge allegory for mathematics, as outlined at the following blog. This makes me really happy, because it disproves that whole idea of science and humanities not being able to mix.

Besides for that awesome tidbit, Alice in Wonderland is also an extremely quotable book, with some of the greatest gems from literature to date. You can check out a lot of them on Goodreads.

Tomorrow: X is Xueqin!

V is for Venn Diagrams

Not much in the way of words today (aren’t you glad?), just a bit of humor. I’ve always loved Venn Diagrams, and bar graphs, and basically any mathematical diagram that has been re-purposed for humor. So, I sat down in front of Photoshop for about twenty minutes and thought of these guys. Do you have any others that you can think of?

NOTIME fans THESTORY goodvsevil

Tomorrow: W is for Wonderland!