Thinking and Follow-up #AtoZChallenge

Don't confuse your path with your destination. Just because it's stormy now doesn't mean that you aren't headed for sunshine.I delayed a long time this year before finally committing to the challenge–mostly because now I’m in school, and I’m having a hard enough time finding time to write fiction, I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge of daily blogging.

Somehow, I managed.

I think it had to do with guilt: I wasn’t doing the whole, huge guest post, blog hop promotion thing for the latest installment of the Red Slaves series, and I had liked the attention that effort had earned me last year. There were a few letters I would have preferred to have skipped, but I did get to share some of the research I had done in a context where I didn’t have to worry about how or whether it might bog down my story. In particular, I enjoyed blogging about Ghilen, the Dashka Stone, and Kazakhstan. There were a few others, too, that covered unorthodox or unusual topics. I’m enough of a pedant that doing something different that way makes me happy.


Of course, I promptly took almost two weeks off of blogging. But I’ll be returning to at least weekly blogging this week with a Sunday ROW80 report. And I have reviews and author interviews coming up this month too. So maybe now I will have returned to a blogging happy medium. And I’ll probably return again next year for more A-to-Z challenge blogging fun.

#AtoZChallenge – Z is for Shr Zen

universal-eyeI’ve made it to the end of another A-Z challenge–despite crazy MBA classes and four weekends’ worth of overtime at work. It’s shocking me a little, to be honest… so I thought I’d share the shock Anne experienced the first time she saw her new ghilen friend Shr-Zen hover on the verge of shifting back to her natural form.

Something about an all-black eye has freaked me out since I first saw the effect in an X-Files episode some 20 years ago.

This version captures the broader impact of having a mythical beast with millennia of experience stare you down–you feel smaller and more defenseless than just the regular version of eyes could ever make you feel.

The funny thing to me is that when I created the name for this particular character, I knew she would be based on Chinese mythology, so wanted something both meaningful and vaguely accessible. I knew from my couple of semesters of Mandarin that “shr” (with the proper intonation) means “to be”. I thought it would be interesting to make her name be something on the order of “I am Zen” since she’s trying to teach the young dragons how to reach that appropriate mindset. What surprised me in the character’s evolution was that she ended up being anything but.

That brings us to the end of this year’s installment of A-Z posts about the Red Slaves series and Blood to Fire more particularly. I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of characters, places, and concepts (with a few language lessons thrown in), and look forward to hearing whether any of you have been enticed into reading based on these teases.


#AtoZChallenge – Y is for Yi Ding

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. -Stephen HawkingSince book two of Red Slaves brings in the Chinese angle on dragons, I thought it would be appropriate to comment on a Chinese word: Yi Ding means “certain” in the sense of “fixed, given, particular, or necessarily.” It’s the trap Anne falls into: She considers herself well-educated and firmly grounded in reality. So when she’s forced to face the fact that there IS another perspective on the world her first response is to retreat into herself. And become rather a bother to the people around her.

She becomes annoying for exactly the reason Stephen Hawking’s quote is genius: “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

It’s one of those cautionary tales about how certain we can be about being right–while we are, in fact, wrong. One of my favorite TED talks is by “wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz, who asks a question about what it feels like to be wrong. Her audience falls into her trap, describing the embarrassment and pain we’ve all felt at one point or another. Schulz points out… really… that’s the feeling of realizing we’ve been wrong. We were wrong before we discovered we were wrong, and it felt an awful lot like… being right.

So while Anne faces her wrongness with little grace, my invitation to my readers is follow Schulz’s invitation to look out at the universe’s vastness with the eyes of wonder that allow us to say, from time to time, “I don’t know.”

#AtoZChallenge – X is for Expatriate

a-to-z-letters-xThis was another tough letter, until I realized one of the things Anne resents the most in Blood to Fire is her forced expat status. The book opens, in fact, with the revelation that she’s all but sequestered herself in a passive-aggressive rebellion against what she views as her entrapment in the Russian Federation. She almost comes across as a xenophobe–despite her love of research and learning.

This is the way she is most different from me. I still count as close friends people I met when I (or we) were not in our home countries. Something about exploring new things together is an uncommon bond, and makes friendships established in those circumstances last beyond what many Americans expect.

In fact, I recently read an insightful blog post about what it means to be an expat, and, even though my experiences as one were primarily from a child’s perspective, I still found myself nodding at the strange dislocation returning “home” can bring. I am a third-culture kid, with the perpetual outsider’s view on the communities I inhabit, which is in many ways a freeing perspective, and also, I suspect is part of why I have the romantic sense of “home” being where those I love are, rather than any geographic location.

It’s a lesson Anne will continue to learn as the Red Slaves trilogy comes to a close.

#AtoZChallenge – W is for Winners

BLOOD TO FIRE TourCarla and I have counted, coordinated, and confirmed, and we have an official list of winners from the Rafflecopter that went along with my recent virtual book tour.


$25 Amazon Gift Card

Beth Gallinger


5 Sets Autographed Paperbacks

Amber Hall

Beth Haney

Mary Preston

Tes Halim

Tina Connor Myers


10 Sets eBooks

Arely ZPerez

Bonnie (Book Lady)

Christy Harrelson

Elizabeth L

Katrina Whittaker

Kristen Heyl

Natalie Cleary

Sandy Lion

Shadow Kohler

Shannon G*

*Not yet confirmed


Congratulations to everyone who won and thanks to everyone who participated–I felt well-loved with the huge participation the give-away garnered.

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