Reflections on the 2017 A to Z Challenge #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge2017

As part of the 2017 A to Z Challenge, participants are asked to provide their “Reflections” on their experience.

This is a quick post to share mine and to provide my humble suggestions to the A to Z Challenge organizers for 2018.

Let’s talk about my experience…

I started off strong and ahead of the game with “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”, using a flash fiction piece “Living To Die”, as a base for 26 posts to serialize the story. When I first posted “Living To Die – An Intro to Kate”, it was a one-time stand-alone piece. But after a trip to Hawaii, I thought it would be cool to incorporate little Hawaiian details into a story and so I picked on “Kate”. I had no set storyline and/or ideas except wanting to tackle a more “serious” topic and explore someone’s regrets when death is banging at the door. I took countless hours perfecting those first four posts to my liking but I didn’t mind being behind the schedule I had set for myself because I was proud of my work.

But life took a turn and a health scare forced me to truly think about some of the same questions I was throwing at Kate. I got stuck and my pen became very, very heavy. I found myself struggling to write because in the back of my mind, I was thinking, “Could I be writing certain things into my own existence?”

Is that crazy or what?

Somewhere in the midst of it all and to distract myself, I came up with the idea of introducing “Kate” to “Galen”.  While I waited to find out if things were okay health-wise (they were), the distracting of having to think through Galen’s “purpose” gave the story an unexpected “spin”, one that I had not planned on.

And if you read the Epilogue, you know what I mean. 🙂

All in all, the A to Z Challenge started out smoothly, hit a few bumps but ended well with content I can revise into a novella. I’m exhausted and happy it’s over but I do look forward to next year. Now, it’s time to revise and edit!

Thank you to all who followed the story and became so invested! I truly appreciated your ongoing feedback and commentary.

Let’s talk about the technicalities of the A to Z Challenge…

Kudos to the A to Z Challenge organizers! And congratulations to all those who survived and won!

I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of hours and work that they put in to ensure that everything runs smoothly. This year, the organizers decided to make a big change to the “link posting” process as a way to make the administrative side of things easier for them – which is totally understandable.

If you don’t try new approaches, there can be no progress, right?

I’ll try my best to avoid pointing out what I felt worked/didn’t work during this year’s challenge.

Instead I’m posting what my ideal wish list would look like for the 2018 A to Z Challenge:

  • Limiting links to the A to Z Challenge Facebook Group ONLY.
    • Having to post links on FB + the A to Z Challenge website + the A to Z Challenge WordPress site, more than once I was tempted to simply post my link in the FB Group and call it a day…well, it was more like call it a night.
  • Time Zone Confusion Equality
    • Initially, I was confused when I saw the official “letter drop” the day before it was due at 3PM. Then, I realized that it was because I am in Eastern Standard Time but still often found myself forgetting and posting “early” thinking that I was behind! 🙂 I would love to see the letter drop more  “in the middle” of the road for all so that it is late for some, on time for others and early for the rest of the participants.
  • A return to Category Codes.
    • “Category codes” would make it easier to focus on blogs that truly pique our interest. For example, I write a lot of fiction and also have an interest in reading other people’s fiction so by placing a “category” next to our linky, it would be easier for others to know right away if they want to read or not. As an example, here is the introduction I used and what I added in bold is only as an illustration of what I propose:

There were even a few blogger-writers who took the initiative to list “fiction” participants on their own blogs as a way to make the differentiation. I’ll be doubling back to give all of those a read…

Generalized categories like “Fiction/Poetry”, “Blogging/Writing”, “Travel”, etc. would help me with my “blog follow” choices. Sure, I like to read the occasional post about pets and mommy blogs but not necessarily 26 posts in a row about them.

Sorry… uh, not sorry.

  • A Call to Action to all A to Z Survivors on Facebook
    • In addition to the “Reflections” post, I would love to see the A to Z organizers ask all “survivors” who completed all letters on time to say it on a specific FB post. Besides bragging rights, it would be a place where participants like me who plan on “doubling back” to read “completed” challenges. I’ll be honest, I find it frustrating when I start following a blog, look forward to more and then the blogger/writer goes MIA…

Those are my thoughts in a nutshell on a rainy Sunday morning!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

M  xoxo

 

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For Email Subscribers Only…”Living To Die” #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z #fiction

Hey Lovelies!

Kate’s story from “Living To Die” is over.

I purposely left you with an ending that made you go “What?”, “WTF?“, “Noooo!” or a combination of all three.

I left a few  subtle Easter eggs throughout the story but it is really up to YOU to make up your own mind about what really happened to Kate in Hawaii, that is, if she even really went there in the first place.

But for those of you who subscribed to my email list and who need a slightly “happier” ending, you may like the “Epilogue”.

You’ll let me know what you think in your feedback – there were a number of ways this epilogue could have gone that I’ll tell you about through the email updates. Enjoy!

EPILOGUE

M   xoxox

All Rights Reserved ©2017 Marquessa Matthews.

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It’s Over! Post 2017 A to Z Challenge @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

Post-A to Z Challenge! It’s Over!

The 2017 A to Z Challenge is finally over and it was indeed a feat when “real” life had to take priority!

I was hoping that my 26 stories of “Living To Die would get stuck in your head and from a number of your comments, it did!

I’m still smiling.

Twisting hearts with unexpected turns in fiction is always a good thing, don’t you think? 🙂

I wanted to do the opposite of my 2016 A to Z Challenge and I accomplished my goal.

Again, for those of you on my email list, you’ll get a notification when Kate’s “Epilogue” is posted. If you like Happily Ever Afters (HEA), I think that you’ll enjoy Kate’s unexpected outcome…

While I take a break in May, I’ll be throwing you all back to my 2016 A to Z Challenge where my 26 posts were based on song titles and the feelings they evoked for me.  Take a little time to get friendly and/or reacquainted with Delaney, Ella, Tyler, Alejandro. And take a listen to the embedded music in each post.

Ladies, beware of Tyler and Alejandro! I’ve already seen how some of you were pulled into their web of … well, you’ll see.

During my break, you’ll see me on your blogs catching up on reading and commenting. I’ll also be spending time on my 52/52 via Instagram so you can check me out there for some mini-updates.

Thanks again for all the support and feedback during the 2017 A to Z Challenge you provided along the way!

I’ll see you in June!

©2017 Marquessa Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

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Z is for “Zori” #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge2017

“I dropped the phone and ran to the bathroom to throw up. When I had nothing left in me, I closed my eyes and lay my cheek against the cold bathroom floor where I lay for an eternity…”

To start from the beginning of the story, click HERE first.

All those who sign up for my mailing list HERE will receive a FREE copy of this story after it has been revised into a novella. 

It was impossible.

What the fuck was going on? 

I scrolled through all the photos a thousand times until my cell battery died. Then I pulled out my laptop like a crazy person, rushed into the kitchen and sat down at the table to try again. Maybe Meghan was right, maybe I did have some kind of alternate link to my cloud that was playing tricks on me…

But no, just like the first time, all of the photos I had taken with Galen were gone. There was no trace of him anywhere.

Nothing.

Where were the pictures of us at the Banyan Tree, near the wharf in Lahaina, Black Rock, the romantic bistrot and Mount Haleakala?

Photo credit: Foter.com

I scrolled back to my photos in Oahu, before Galen, and my heart stopped again. The selfie of Gran from Diamond Head and the one taken with Joshua and Jennifer at the Dole Plantation were also gone. I felt sick and my head began to pound. The kitchen walls were closing in and I suddenly found myself on the floor clutching my stomach.

Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God… What the hell was happening to me?

With my cell being dead, I rushed to find the number on my itinerary for the Maui condo. My heart raced as I picked up the landline to make the call.

“Aloha! Lahaina Mahalo Breeze Condo Resorts! How may I direct your call?” The front desk agent was cheery and perky.

“Uh, I need to reach Mr….I mean, Galen in Building 1 Unit 816.”

“Mahalo, one moment please.”

I held my breath and waited on hold. I waited, waited and waited. I was just considering hanging up and trying again when the front desk picked up again when a new and more official voice picked up.

“Aloha. May I help you?”

“Yes, I’d like to be connected to Unit 816 in Building 1.”

“Oh,” the voice quietly hesitated. “I’m sorry to inform you that…that resident, Mr. Galen, is no longer with us.”

I felt vomit bubble in the back of my throat.

“What do you mean that he is no longer with you? Since when?”

“I’m sorry to say that he passed away a little over a month ago.”

I froze. This had to be a prank.

“Is this some kind of joke? If it is, it’s in very bad taste!” I said, angrily.

I couldn’t catch my breath, my throat was constricting and my heart was pounding against my chest.

“I’m sorry Ma’am but it is no joke. I’m sorry to be the one tell you. From what we know from the authorities, it seems that Mr. Galen might have lost his footing at one of the lookout points off the main highway near to where his son drowned a few years ago. It was such sad news for all of us. He was with us for quite a few years and such a lovely man…”

I dropped the phone and ran to the bathroom to throw up. When I had nothing left in me, I closed my eyes, lay my cheek against the cold ceramic tile where I lay for what seemed like an eternity.

This isn’t happening…I must be going mad. Or had I died and teleported into an alternate universe?

I managed to get myself back into bed where I curled up like a baby. My eyes focused on the new pair of sandals that sat next to my unpacked luggage across the room, sandals Galen had helped me pick out after I’d busted the strap on my old ones. I could almost hear his voice as clear as day echoing in the room.

“Those zoris look cuter on you! Sometimes a new pair is just what you need when you find yourself taking a new path.”

Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via Foter.com / CC BY

Suddenly remembering that the only photo of Galen and I not uploaded was the very last one at the WikiWiki shuttle, I grabbed my cell in desperation.

When I saw Galen’s beautiful blue eyes staring back at me with his infectious smile, his cheek pressed tenderly against mine, I sighed in relief.

I no longer cared about all those other photos that had disappeared – I had this one and that was all that mattered to me…that is, until Galen’s lovely face slowly vanished from the screen, leaving me smiling all alone…

For those readers who are not subscribed to my email list, this is the end of my A to Z Challenge story, “Living To Die“. I hope that you enjoyed it. It was indeed a challenge but I’m looking forward to adding more “Easter eggs” during my story rewrite for the free novella I plan on creating. FYI – while I catch my breath and take a break during the month of May, I’ll be throwing back to my 2016 A to Z Challenge.

And for those who have subscribed to my email list and are looking for a “happier ending”, you’ll receive the password for the “Epilogue for Kate” post in a few days. 

©2017 Marquessa Matthews.

If you liked this piece and want to see more like it, please click on “Like” and/or “Comment” below and share with others who would also enjoy it. You can also sign up for my mailing list here to get the latest news from me. 

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Y is for “Yes” #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge2017

“I almost dropped the phone at hearing the sleepy woman’s voice on the other end of the line. I was speechless and my world started to spin again. My stomach sank and I no longer knew what to think.

This could not be happening to me. My Galen could not do this to me… ”

To start from the beginning of the story, click HERE first.

All those who sign up for my mailing list HERE will receive a FREE copy of this story after it has been revised into a novella. 

I lay in bed staring out the window long before the sun thought about raising its sleepy head.

The good news I had gotten from the doctor combined with missing the warmth of Galen’s body next to mine in bed had me unable to sleep for the past two days.

I was still partially in disbelief, thinking that the doctor would call and tell me that another mistake had been made…that I was dying for real this time. All I had been doing was thinking and talking to Meghan since she had dropped me home… Though she had insisted I stay at her house for a while, I needed space to myself. After leaving the doctor’s office, my first impulse had been to call my kids but then I remembered that no one had known except for Meghan and Galen.

Galen…

Before the diagnosis, I had never had the desire to really live for myself. After the diagnosis, I had somehow decided to live to die. And now with absolutely no diagnosis, I was dying to live.

It was barely two days but I already knew what I needed.

I needed to continue saying yes to me.

It had felt good and now that I had experienced it, I was never going to let anyone dull that feeling ever again.

Saying yes had gotten me out of my comfort zone and had led to so many exciting experiences…facing the fear of travelling solo for the first time in my life, discovering what a true friend I had in Meghan, using my voice at Hannah and not backing down, the challenge of trekking up Diamond Head and meeting no nonsense Gran, the protectiveness of Jennifer and Joshua who had led me to Galen…

Photo credit: Foter.com

Galen…

…the beautiful man who had saved me from a killer cockroach, introduced me to the Banyan Tree, malasadas and cliff jumping.

…the soulful man who made me believe in who he was as a person and that I could believe in love again.

…the man who made me realize that I was worthy of love, attention, protection and most importantly, that I could love myself again.

I needed to tell Galen that I was fine as soon as I could, regardless of the time difference.

I grabbed my cell and texted him good morning and while I waited for a response, I got up and made myself a mug of Kona coffee that he must have packed in my bag while I wasn’t looking.  

Typical Galen. 

When I finished my coffee and I still had no return text, I decided to call him instead.

“Hello?”

I almost dropped the phone at hearing the sleepy woman’s voice on the other end of the line. I was speechless and my world started to spin again. My stomach sank and I no longer knew what to think.

This could not be happening to me. My Galen could not do this to me…

Who was she? 

And what was she doing boldly answering Galen’s cell?

“Hello? Helloooo.”

It was clear that the woman was becoming annoyed. I swallowed hard and bit the bullet.

“Could I speak to Galen please?”

I held my breath and waited.

“Who? I think you have the wrong number.”

I stared down at my cell to check. I hadn’t made a mistake.

“No. I’ve got the right number. Could I speak with Galen?”

“I told you that you have the wrong number. You know, you woke me up…”

“That’s not possible, about the number I mean. I’ve been texting a man at this number for the past two weeks.”

There was a moment of silence and then I heard her sigh.

“Oh, I get it now. I just got this number activated yesterday. Whoever you are trying to reach must have changed to a new number. Sorry dear, aloha.”

And with that, the mystery woman hung up on me.

How could Galen have changed his number and not tell me? Was that woman even telling the truth? 

With no way to reach out to Galen unless he did first, I remembered that Jennifer had put her number into my cell. I decided to give her a try. Jennifer had been the one who had given me Galen’s number so maybe she and Joshua had another number for him.  

But when I scrolled through my contacts, I could not find Jennifer’s name or number. I searched and searched and came up with nothing.

What the hell was going on?

It was just at that moment that my cell rang and I answered without looking at the caller id.

“How are you doing? Has the shock worn off yet?” It was Meghan checking in.

“I’m good. And no, it still hasn’t fully sunk in.”

I tried to keep my voice upbeat but my mind was racing.

“Have you told Galen yet? He is going to totally freak out on you when you do!”

“I plan telling him today,” I said. I didn’t want to say anything about Galen until I had sorted the situation out.

“Oh, by the way, I think that you sent me the wrong link to your photos on the cloud. There were only photos of you and a bunch of other great beach and landscapes shots. I’m dying to see what this Galen looks like so be sure to send me the right link.”

“Meghan, I only have one shareable link to my cloud…”

“Well, you must have another because I looked at them all and there were no photos of him.”

I heard shuffling in the background. “I’ll talk to you later. I’ve got to get to the office.”

When we hung up, I immediately accessed my cloud and had the shock of my life as I scrolled through each and every photo I had taken in Oahu and Maui…

Continuation – Z is for “Zori”

Photo credit: Foter.com

©2017 Marquessa Matthews.

If you liked this piece and want to see more like it, please click on “Like” and/or “Comment” below and share with others who would also enjoy it. You can also sign up for my mailing list here to get the latest news from me.

 

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X is for “eXcuses” #atozchallenge @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge2017

“White walls, no splashes of color, white decor…I longed for the lush green and blue colors of Hawaii. And Galen…”

To start from the beginning of the story, click HERE first.All tho

se who sign up for my mailing list HERE will receive a FREE copy of this story after it has been revised into a novella. 

“How can you be so calm?”

Meghan linked her arm with mine as we made our way up to my doctor’s office. As we got into the elevator, I shrugged my shoulders.

“Because it’s not like I’m getting bad news. I’ve already gotten the bad news. All I want from this visit is to get a referral to a specialist and for them to stop leaving me messages. I checked my home voice mail just after I landed and there’s like a dozen messages from them.”

“Maybe it’s because of the way you walked out on them.” Meghan gave me an incredulous look. “You know, you aren’t the same woman who I found crumpled up in that doorway weeks ago. What happened to the Kate I knew?”

I smiled thinking back to the wonderful time I had had.

“She decided to get out of her own way.”

“Or maybe it’s about that man who got into you,” she laughed as we made our way down the hallway to the office. “That man must really have worked some wicked magic on your…”

“No,” I cut her off. “It wasn’t just Galen. There were lots of little things that happened before I even met him. It’s hard to explain. Hawaii opened my eyes to many different things about myself.”

Before I reached out to open the office door, I stopped and took a deep breath.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so tired. I should never have scheduled this appointment the same day that I got back. I’m dead tired.” I snickered at my own words. “Dead tired. Get it?”

Meghan’s face twitched with discomfort. 

“Well, I’m glad that you can joke about it but I can’t. I still can’t wrap my head around all of this.”

We joined the line at the medical secretary’s desk to sign in. It was the same young lady I had walked away from the last time I had been there.

When it was my turn, the secretary was all over me like white on rice. I didn’t even need to remind her of my name.

“Ms. Reynolds. Our office has been trying to contact you for the longest time…I mean, for that follow-up.”

“I was away,” I told her and pulled Megan along to sit at the far end of the room. I could feel the nervousness radiating from her.

“I’m freaking out a bit Kate. I hate doctors and I hate doctor’s offices.”

“Well, you had better relax because we’re in for a long wait.”

stethoscope-and-ballpen-on-prescription

Photo credit: Foter.com

I took out my cell and started scrolling through my cell, hoping for but nor finding a text from Galen.

“You never did send me any photos of your guy. Is it because you want to keep him all to yourself or was he just really a troll?” Meghan whispered, tried to joke.

“Oh, Galen was definitely no troll. I was just too busy enjoying my time to think about sending pics. And when I ran out of space on my phone, I uploaded them most of them to the cloud. I’m not hiding anything about him…I’ll send you the link to my cloud now.”

I had barely sent the link to Meghan and was just about to show her the last picture I’d taken with him when I heard my name being called. We hadn’t been sitting for more than 5 minutes. We both looked at each other in surprise. One of the other secretary’s ushered into the doctor’s office and as we took a seat, my last visit flashed back through my mind.

White walls, no splashes of color, white decor…I longed for the lush green and blue colors of Hawaii. And Galen.

The doctor rushed into the room, looking quite flustered.

“How have you been Kate?” she started with small talk that I didn’t care to have. I just wanted the referral so that I could be on my merry way.

“I feel as good as I can considering the circumstances Doctor. Oh, this is my friend Megan.” I watched as they acknowledged each other. “I’ll make this quick Doctor. I just need a referral to a specialist. No offense to you but I need to get a second opinion so that I can decide on what’s best for me.”

The doctor eyed me nervously.

What’s up with all these people today?

The doctor opened her file, scanned the first page and then shut my file.

“About that referral…I don’t know how to tell you this so I’ll just dive right in. There was an incident with one of the technicians at the hospital lab and it was discovered that a number of errors were made by him with respect to patient results being wrongly attributed. He’s been since fired.”

I still wasn’t sure where this story was going. All I had wanted was to get a referral and leave, not a story about a fired employee at the hospital.

The doctor took a very long pause and I felt Meghan grab onto my leg – hard.

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Meghan shrilled.

“Kate, we’ve been trying to reach for weeks to tell you that you are completely healthy. Those test results weren’t yours.”

The room was spinning, I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt like I would hit the floor.

What the fuck?!” Meghan was livid. “Are you telling me that Kate’s been bugging out about dying for almost two months because some asshole mixed up her results?”

What? I’m not dying? I’m not dying.

“Yes, but if Kate had just come back as she should have when she should have, the matter could have been cleared up weeks ago,” the doctor defended.

I was still too much in shock to truly absorb that she was throwing the blame at me. I was still hearing “healthy” reverberating in my head.

But Meghan wasn’t having any of it and jumped out of her chair.

“You almost killed her just from the stress of it all and now you have the audacity to blame her? What kind of person are you with all these fucking eXcuses?” Meghan looked down at me, her face full of concern that I wasn’t saying anything. “Kate? Are you okay? I think that you’re in shock.”

Meghan sat back down and took my hand as the doctor stood up and came around to where I sat. She crouched down to my level and searched my face.

The room went silent as they both stared at me.

“Kate? Aren’t you going to say something?”

I looked at Meghan and then to the doctor who knelt before me. I gently took the doctor’s hand and took a deep breath.

“Mahalo,” I whispered.

Continuation – Y is for “Yes”

©2017 Marquessa Matthews.

If you liked this piece and want to see more like it, please click on “Like” and/or “Comment” below and share with others who would also enjoy it. You can also sign up for my mailing list here to get the latest news from me. 

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