A to Z Challenge

Zero to Sixty…Blogger Style!


It’s been over a year since I last posted on the blog, and with each month that passed, it became more difficult to return. I love being part of the community, so I’ve been looking for a way to ease back into  things. Of course, easing in has never been my style! So, when I read Jacqui Murray’s post (author of To Hunt A Sub, and Twenty-Four Days) about her participation in this year’s A to Z challenge, I decided to take the plunge.


As today is Theme Reveal Day – here is my theme for the A to Z Challenge 2018:-

Peculiar ‘Pen fellows’  – An A to Z of Quirks only a writer can understand

The first post will be Sunday the 1st of April 2018.

Thanks for stopping by



A to Z Blogging Challenge – A Reflection

A-to-Z Reflection [2015] - LgThis was my first year participating in the A to Z Challenge, and I had a lot of fun. Like any journey, the road was easier because of the friends I met along the way, those who supported me during my travels. It made a difference.

I visited many new blogs, as well as keeping up with those I visit regularly. One of the things I’m enjoying at the moment, especially as I have more time, is exploring and connecting with some of the ones I missed during the actual challenge. People like Sabina (Victim to Charm) has made that even easier – Sabina organised an excellent after party. You should check that out.

I know some of my friends will groan when I say this, but I’m not all that interested in stats. In fact I haven’t looked, so I don’t have any magic numbers to share with you. What I can tell you is that I got more comments than ever before, and visitors really responded to my theme. I’m glad I provided something worthwhile, and I had a blast preparing the posts, so I see that as a major achievement.

Speaking of scheduling. I was warned about preparing my posts ahead of time and, the fact I didn’t, was my greatest challenge by far. Next year I’ll do things differently. I can still write posts on the fly, only next time I’ll write them before the first of the month!

As I reflected on the challenge, and I reflected daily, I began to realise that a regular theme or format is what’s missing from my blog. I need a clearer sense of direction. When people visited during the challenge they got exactly what it said on the tin, so to speak. I want to ensure that happens consistently. I talked a little about this during my weekend coffee post, so I’m not going to go over old ground, or over-egg the pudding as it were.

Here are a few of the changes I will make over the coming weeks:

  • A complete overhaul of Writing Room 101. The site has evolved naturally and I will now focus on author spotlights; cover reveals, reviews, interviews, excerpts, etc. For the interviews I’d like to take a different approach, and where possible, incorporate a level of interaction. My next interview will be with Luther Siler on Thursday, and I had so much fun chatting with him about his work – including new release, The Sanctum of the Sphere.
  • The monthly writing challenge I run at WR101 got a little lost along the way, so I’ll be moving it over here. More news on that soon.
  • I will create two regular features per week (this site). I’m considering a fantasy based theme for one of these. Still working through the ideas.
  • I plan to give the site a facelift – it’s too similar to my author site and the repetition isn’t needed. This will give my personal blog more focus, and allow me to separate the two.
  • My overall aim is to post three times per week. I would love to post more than that, but I really enjoy collaboration, so by allowing time to contribute on other sites – it’s the best of both worlds.

The challenge was an extremely positive one, and I’m so glad I took part. I can’t end without thanking a few people though. First, thanks to all my visitors during the challenge; those who took the time to chat with me, or left encouraging comments. I’m thrilled I met so many new people. There were also those I consider my cheerleaders. They stopped by regularly to check in and offer their support. So, a huge thanks to Callum, Natasha, Charles, Jacqui, Patricia, Robin, Alex, and Hannah.

There are so many blogs and posts I enjoyed along the way and I intend to create a top ten. I’ll do that once all the fun is over, and I’ve explored those areas I’ve yet to visit!

Thanks for stopping by.


A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 28: Fantasy Squad – Zombies

ZIt might be an obvious choice, but who wouldn’t include Zombies as part of their theme – they’re awesome! Much like vampires, zombies have been portrayed in a variety of ways and apart from the (mostly) undead part – writers have enjoyed to play with the rules and, well, basically scare us half to death. If we’re not laughing that is (see Shaun of the Dead)!

Zombies appear extensively in myth and folklore. I could write an essay on that alone, but instead I’ll cut straight to the fun part. I’m going to finish the theme with a final top-ten list. These are my own personal favourite depictions of zombies in media, and include film, television and a music video!

  • Zombies y Joe-Roberts Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Macabre & Horror©2010-2015 Joe-Roberts
    Zombies y Joe-Roberts
    Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Macabre & Horror©2010-2015 Joe-Roberts

    Night of the Living Dead – When I was eight or nine I woke up and went downstairs for a drink. My father was watching this movie at the time and I walked into the living room to see monsters on our television set! I only saw a few seconds, but it was enough to give me nightmares for weeks! I’m still terrified of zombies, and sometimes watch from behind my Superman cushion, but they also fascinate me.

  • Pet Sematary – The book terrified me, and the film is a decent adaptation. The thought of reanimating dead family members sends a chill down my spine. The motivations are clear, but the family got more (or less) than they bargained for, and the result was truly horrifying.
  • Warm Bodies – When I heard they made a zombie romance I had to go see it, no matter how sceptical I was. I loved the film, particularly because it didn’t take itself too seriously, and the transition these creatures went through – the general humour of Warm Bodies was extremely entertaining to watch.
  • 28 Days Later – I spent the majority of this movie behind my cushion! It scared the living daylights out of me. I watched it with a friend, who went home shortly afterwards – or so I thought. Needless to say there was a prank, a few strong words, and a long and sleepless night because of his twisted sense of humour.
  • Thriller (Video) – I put this in because I used to own the making of this music video and I enjoyed the way they brought zombies to life. I also liked how they choreographed the dance, and though zombies are about as likely to hit the dance floor as they are to break out in song, it sticks in my memory.
  • World War Z – I loved the action in this movie, the speed at which the infection spread, and the general chaos of a world gone mad. Rather than hide, my eyes were glued to the screen. The Israeli wall scene, though horrifying, was exceptional in terms of special effects. It was one of those movies where you want to scream at the television to warn everyone what’s coming!
  • I Am Legend – I put this in because I loved the film (it stars Will Smith, people!), but many would argue that the creatures are more vampire than zombie – especially in the book.
  • Shaun of the Dead – This is one of my favourites. I love Simon Pegg and this is one of his best films, in my opinion. It’s funny, inventive, while still managing to achieve the scare factor.
  • The Walking Dead – You can’t have a list without including the Walking Dead. It took me a while to get into it, but now I’m a huge fan. Luthor Siler writes great reviews over at Sourcerer – they are extremely entertaining.
  • iZombie – A new show, but one which is shaping up to be a great series. The main character, Liv Moore, snacks on brains to keep her darker impulses at bay and helps to solve crime. Do you really need to know any more than that!

I didn’t rank them, but you’re welcome to. I’d love to hear about your favourites, so feel free to leave your list in the comments.

So that brings the A to Z Challenge to a close. I hope you enjoyed my fantasy squad, and I’d like to thank all those who joined me on the journey. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and discussing the various creatures with you.

Thanks for stopping by.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 29: Fantasy Squad – Yeti

YThe Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, is an interesting creature because, though most agree the Yeti is part of myth, cryptozoologists have been trying to prove the existence for years.

I remember an advertisement years ago for Stones Bitter. The barman was based on this legendary creature, which led to lines such as “Are you open, Yeti?” and “This barman’s abominable!” As far as advertising goes, it’s quite clever – it certainly stuck with me and I don’t even drink bitter!

In media, the Yeti has made several appearances. The list includes:

  • Yeti by Seb-M Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Illustrations / Storybook©2010-2015 Seb-M

    Yeti by Seb-M
    Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Illustrations / Storybook©2010-2015 Seb-M

    The Yeti appears in a variety of films, including: The Snow Creature; Half Human; The Abominable Snowman; Monkeybone; Yeti: A Love Story; The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Monsters, Inc.

  • In television depictions include: Hugo the Abominable Snowman (Looney Tunes); Robbie the Reindeer; Power Rangers Operation Overdrive; The Secret Saturdays: Ugly Americans, and Regular Show. A robotic Yeti appeared in The Abominable Snowmen (Doctor Who).
  • The Yeti features in numerous video games: Urban Yeti!; Spyro: Year of the Dragon; Carnivores: Ice Age, and Warcraft.
  • There are references in literature: The Abominable Snowman is a Marvel character; a Yeti is the main creature in Goosebumps (The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena) by R. L. Stine, and the creature features in The Red Guard, a Nick Carter novel.

As always, this is just a flavour. Do you have a favourite story? Have you seen the Stones advert? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 28: Fantasy Squad – Xena (and other female warriors)

XMy options were limited today, so I had to find a best fit. I was going to talk about Xelhua, one of the seven giants from Aztec mythology. But Xelhua doesn’t work for two reasons: one, I’ve already done giants, and two, I cannot find any references to the giant in fiction.

But I will tell you this interesting fact, because the Greek reference might amuse you. Xelhua sought refuge from the flood by climbing to the top of Tlaloc’s mountain. It has been noted that Tlaloc (along with Quetzalcoatl) was a version of Atlas, one of the Titans. There are depictions in temple art, of a bearded man supporting the four quarters of the sky.

Xena by karracaz Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Sci-Fi©2007-2015 karracaz

Xena by karracaz
Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Sci-Fi©2007-2015 karracaz

But let’s move on. Today I decided to use Xena, not only because she fits nicely into the theme, but to represent all kick-ass female warriors. There are a  number of them in the squad, and though Xena herself won’t be joining the party, she can be used as an example.

Xena is known as the Warrior Princess and Destroyer of Nations. She had her own show, Xena: Warrior Princess, and appeared regularly in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. She was a woman to be feared and certainly earned a name for herself. Though she made many mistakes, she chose a different path and sought redemption, eventually sacrificing her life to save thousands of souls.

Because I enjoyed the top ten list yesterday, I decided to deviate a little and, using Xena as an example, I’ve listed a few of my favourite female warriors below. I haven’t put them in order, I’d like to know how you would rate them. I’m sure I’ve missed a number of kick-ass women, but I know you’ll help me out!

  • Michonne – The Walking Dead
  • River Tam – Firefly
  • Black Widow – Marvel
  • Wonder Woman – DC Comics
  • Yu Shu Lien – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Selene – Underworld
  • Alice – Resident Evil
  • Storm – X-Men (Marvel)
  • Ellen Ripley – Alien
  • Leeloo – The Fifth Element

So, who did I miss? Who are your favourite female warriors? Can you believe that this post will be the last with a Greek reference?

Until next time. Thanks for stopping by.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 27: Fantasy Squad – Witches

WThere are various myths surrounding witches. Many of these include pointy hats, broom sticks, spells and potions, and even pacts with the devil. It’s a mine field.

As far as references go, there are just too many to choose from. So I decided to do things a little differently today. I found an article on Flavorwire – (The 10 Coolest Witches in Pop Culture) and decided to share it with you. It’s quite an old article (2011), but I thought it could help us populate our own list.

So, according to the article – here is the top ten.

  • 10 – Sabrina the Teenage Witch – I remember enjoying the show, especially when Sabrina got herself into trouble, as she so often did. But my favourite character was probably Salem. Who doesn’t love an acerbic feline?
  • 9 – Hermoine Granger, Harry Potter Series – I can’t comment on Hermoine because I haven’t yet read the series (or watched the movies). I was surprised to find she wasn’t ranked higher.
  • 8 – Alexandra Spofford, The Witches of Eastwick – I’m going to be honest and admit I can’t remember much about the character. Perhaps it’s because Jack Nicholson was also in the move and, what can I say – it’s Jack!
  • 7 – Gillian Holroyd, Bell, Book and Candle – Again, I can’t comment because I haven’t seen the movie, but I’d love to hear from those who have.
  • 6 – Endora, Bewitched – I always found Endora highly entertaining because she was the mother-in-law from hell!
  • 5 – The Wicked Witch of the West – She certainly gets points for the wicked, especially in The Wizard of Oz. She was the stuff of nightmares and she gave me plenty as a child. I can still hear her voice in my head!
  • 4 – The White Witch, Chronicles of Narnia – Tilda Swinton is just awesome. She takes spine tingling to a whole new level!
  • 3 – Lafayette Reynolds, True Blood – I’m not a fan of the show (and haven’t read the books), but from what little I’ve seen, Lafayette stood out.
  • 2 – Nancy Downs, The Craft – Another I haven’t seen, but she certainly ranks high on the list. What did you think of the character?
  • 1 – Willow Roseberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I was almost afraid to discover who had the number one spot. But Willow is deserving of the position, at least in my opinion. She was my favourite character from Buffy.

So now it’s our turn. Who are your favourite witches? You don’t necessarily have to rank them, but it could be fun. Let’s populate a list!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 25: Fantasy Squad – Vampires

VThe origins of the vampire myth are difficult to pinpoint, but certainly vampires have been around for centuries. There is a belief that vampires were born of sorcery in ancient Egypt – the summoning of a demon into our world. The Chinese jiangshi are wrathful dieties who attack people to drain their life essence. They appear in a variety of works, such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Vampire by KaloqnStoqnov Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Illustrations / Conceptual©2007-2015 KaloqnStoqnov

Vampire by KaloqnStoqnov
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Illustrations / Conceptual©2007-2015 KaloqnStoqnov

There are many elements of the lore people associate with vampires, but interpretations vary considerably. Some consider them shape shifters, able to turn into bats or wolves. In some tales they have a reflection, in others they don’t – a fact which helps to identify their true nature. There are differing views and depictions on sunlight, and holy water, and the ways in which people defend against the creatures are also many and varied.

There is no doubt that writers enjoy to play with the rules, as it were. The one reoccurring theme, which is rarely deviated from, is that vampires drain a body of its life energy – normally blood. The idea that you become a vampire by being bitten is a one of the modern interpretations. Earlier beliefs relate to a vampire being identified at birth.

Superstition clearly plays a role in the creation of vampires, especially in their association with death. The most famous vampire is perhaps the character created by Bram Stoker. This interpretation could be based on the Romanian prince Vlad Tepes, who is actually viewed by some, not as a blood sucking monster, but as a hero who defended his people.

Besides Stoker, vampires were also used in the Penny Dreadful serial publication. Vampires play an important part in classic horror films, including Nosferatu and the 1931 film Dracula, staring Bela Lugosi.

There are a multitude of references in film, literature, gaming and television. Rather than listing them, I’d prefer hear from you. What’s your favourite depiction? Let’s talk vampires!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 24: Fantasy Squad – Undine

You might be surprised by my choice today, then again, you might not! I considered unicorn, and though I love these mythical creatures, I decided to explore something new.

UUndines, (also spelled Ondine) are water nymphs, and some people believe they have been around since the beginning of time. Nature spirits are common to all cultures, and undines are believed to inhibit the element of water. They are depicted as either human or animal, or half-animal; half-human. Normally invisible to humans, views about their nature vary – a scale which ranges from kind and friendly to malevolent. The general consensus seems to be that they are emotional beings, who enjoy to serve mankind.

Undine by dewmanna* Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2011-2015 dewmanna

Undine by dewmanna*
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2011-2015 dewmanna

One of the most influential stories is the belief that undines become human when they fall in love. They are normally female and do not possess a soul until they marry. There are some references to male undines, but those are rare. There is also a darker side to the tale – if an undine marries and her husband is unfaithful, he is destined to die.

The group has many species, such as mermaids, for example. Some even believe undines are derived from the Greek figures, Nereids – who were attendants of the sea god Poseidon. Nereids were the daughters of Nereus and Doris. Their number varies, but is either recorded as fifty or one hundred. One of the best known Nereids is Amphitrite (Poseidon’s spouse).

In media, undines are depicted in literature, drama, ballet and music. These include author, Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué; poet, Aloysius Bertrand; playright, Maurice Maeterlinck and author, Hans Christian Andersen.

I think it might be fun to play with these delightful beings! There are so many possibilities when it comes to water based powers, making undines an entertaining addition to the squad. But what about you – are you familiar with these creatures? Do you have any stories to share with us?

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 23: Fantasy Squad – Trolls

TWhen I was little I used to believe trolls lived under bridges. Clearly that stemmed from one of my favourite stories – The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I liked to think of the billy goats as siblings; the younger two relying on their big brother for protection. I enjoyed the way the tables were turned and when the third ‘victim’ came tripping along the bridge, he had no fear of the bully – or the threat of being eaten up!

Well, come along! I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I’ve got besides two curling-stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones.

Source: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, De tre bukkene Bruse som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, Norske Folkeeventyr, translated by George Webbe Dasent in Popular Tales from the Norse, 2nd edition (London: George Routledge and Sons, n.d.), no. 37, pp. 275-276. Translation revised by D. L. Ashliman.

Children’s stories have some of the best trolls. Perhaps one of my favourite modern interpretations is the trolls from Disney’s Frozen.

These ancient creatures might be found in the Valley of the Living Rock, but only if they want to be found. Trolls are masters of minerals and yielders of the night sky. They are also overbearing, loud, meddlesome, inappropriate, and heavy–really heavy. But they mean well and love well.”―Official Disney Bio

Trolls by Kimsuyeong81 Traditional Art / Drawings / Fantasy

Trolls by Kimsuyeong81
Traditional Art / Drawings / Fantasy

Of course, there are far nastier trolls – truly the stuff of nightmares. Tolkien’s trolls were large and monstrous. In other depictions too, they are seen to be fiendish giants.

In some legends they can eat anything, literally, making them sound more like a giant trash can! They are normally associated with an element and, in most cases, have regenerative powers. If the troll in The Three Billy Goats Gruff had been half as dangerous, the ending might have been very different. Unless the billy goat was a shape-shifter and then all bets are off!

Trolls appear across media; comics, film, music, art, television and literature – the list would be so long today I’m not sure we’d get through it.

Still, I think they deserve a place on the squad. Though which side they would be on, that is the question! How do you envisage trolls? What is your favourite interpretation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.



A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 22: Fantasy Squad – Sirens

SI’ve talked about my father’s love of Greek mythology before, (Melissa was the name of a nymph who nursed an infant Zeus), and my interest in sirens probably stems from his own fascination (I’m lucky he wasn’t a sailor!).

Siren by PinkParasol* Traditional Art / Paintings / Fantasy©2011-2015 PinkParasol

Siren by PinkParasol*
Traditional Art / Paintings / Fantasy©2011-2015 PinkParasol

Sirens are often confused with harpies because they are both hybrids; combining women and birds. I’m sure you’re familiar with the legends about these beautiful creatures luring sailors with their enchanting voices. They were said to be handmaidens of the goddess Persephone (Demeter’s daughter), and when Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter gave the sirens wings to aid in the search – or at least that’s one of the tales.

As their appearance in media is limited, I decided to follow a similar format to the Imp post, and share with you a preview from my upcoming fantasy story, The Contract. Sirens will play a big part in the series, and the serialised offshoot of the novels – The Collective. So, here’s a taste:

As a little background, the sirens referred to in this snippet are twins. They form part of Tobias Locke’s Guard (the Hympe King). Tobias is in trouble and has asked Maddison (a freelance hunter) for help. They have agreed to meet on familiar ground.

Sneak Preview – The Contract

Tobias followed his guards through the portal, his senses on full alert. The twins had already scouted the area, a necessary precaution even if the meeting spot did border his land. He accepted their need to protect, yet their obvious concern was starting to grate along his nerves.

“She’s here,” Rheia said, eyes narrowed on a patch of trees.

“Of course she is.” Maddison was always on time. “I think I can take it from here,” he told them.

Obeying the subtle command, the twins changed shape and took to the air, their wings glinting under the afternoon sun.

He watched them for a moment, admiring their exquisite grace, before he walked across the clearing. He stopped when he saw Maddison. She was half-way through a familiar warm-up routine. It shouldn’t have pleased him to discover she was still angry, but it did. He could see the tension in every line of her body, knew she would not welcome such thoughts. Yesterday, when he’d sought her out, he’d expected a fight and had relished the idea. She had accepted the assignment far too easily, even without the punishing lip-lock. Maddison never mixed business with pleasure. But then, right now, everything about her was business – right down to her kick-ass boots.

He was playing with fire, seeking her involvement. She was dangerous, at least to him, because she made him long for the impossible. He was a king, and when he took a bride he would be condemning her to a life of sacrifice. He wouldn’t, couldn’t, do that to Maddison.

“When you’re through with the peep show, how about you come spar with me for a while?” she asked without turning.

The witch has eyes in the back of her head.

He crossed the field, appreciating the fact she came prepared. Her uniform was custom made, though it surprised him to realise she had accessorised with a number of blades. The twin machetes strapped to her back were familiar, but the holstered daggers on her thighs were new to the party. They were overkill, in his opinion. Maddison was tall and lithe, and exuded danger like a carefully applied camouflage.

Her dark, midnight blue hair was pulled back in a long plait that hung down her back. It was adorned with harmless looking jewellery, but Tobias knew that was an illusion.

“I see you brought the man-eaters,” she said, looking up into the sky.

He didn’t need to follow her gaze to the siren twins circling above, he could feel them. As part of his guard they were connected by blood.

“You know they hate it when you call them that.” He also knew she meant no offense. “Besides, the curse was lifted eons ago, now it’s more about the pleasure.”

She laughed, eyes still on the sky as she watched the twins. They resembled large, fierce birds of prey, as beautiful as the eagle and just as deadly. “So I’ve heard.”

Finally, her gaze dropped to his, and he saw her intent swirling in a sea of green. They circled each other, eyes locked, until she made her move.

He felt the jolt of magic like a fist to the side of his jaw. A silken snake wound its way around his neck and squeezed tight, blocking the airway.

By the Gods, she was beautiful, he thought, staring into eyes that became a filter to her power. It shone with a vibrant glow, making her appear almost feral.

“The next time you put your hands on me, I’ll put you in the ground,” Maddison said in a husky, sensual tone, which had his eyes flashing. She was still pissed, all right.

“If you think you can take me, witch, be my guest,” he challenged, manipulating the branches of a nearby tree into doing his bidding.

He had the power to control any living organism, with a few exceptions. Maddison was one of them; her mind was too strong to manipulate.

“Tempting, half-blood, but we have a job to do.”

She used the term half-blood to annoy him, and it would have worked, if she’d put any effort into it. But she didn’t really consider him a lesser being, so he accepted the jibe. Anyone else he would have crushed.

His father was king before he’d renounced his title and married a mortal woman. They had conceived Tobias before the ritual, making him heir to the throne. Now he ruled, and he allowed few to challenge his authority.

“I’m not the one who lost control,” he reminded her, stretching his neck.

With a muted curse, she released him. The silken strand whipped back towards her and coiled into the long braid she wore. It was powerful magic, a fact which made her more than a witch.


I hope you enjoyed the snippet. I had so much fun with the sirens, and I think my Dad would have liked them. But now it’s over to you. Do you know of any sirens portrayed in media that you would like to share? I’d love to hear  your thoughts on these beautiful (and sometimes deadly) creatures.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.


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