Reflections on the 2019 Blogging from A To Z Challenge

reflectionHi, everyone. As is traditional after the annual Blogging from A to Z challenge, I’m doing a reflection on the experience.

My theme this year was a celebration of 10 years in print for In The Eye of The Beholder, my debut novel. I enjoyed sharing excerpts, facts gleaned in my research, and other information about the book.

badgeReadership was up 1 percent over last year’s challenge, where the theme was the music of David Bowie. I shared my posts each day in the comments section of the main A to Z blog, on my Facebook author page, in a group of Phantom of the Opera fans, and on Twitter. I gained some new followers, and followed some new blogs myself. I responded to about 99 percent of comments I received.

Still, this means that readership was down 19 percent from 2017, the first year I did the challenge. Considering that I leaped in on a whim, with no real plan or theme, that is a little disconcerting. It takes a lot of work to plan 28 posts (counting the theme reveal and reflection) on a single subject.

I am not certain I will do the challenge again in 2020. Of course, I have a lot of time to change my mind. We’ll see. Still, I appreciate everyone who stopped by and took a look, followed my blog, or shared their own art, information, and stories during the challenge. Thank you!


Blogging from A to Z: Z is for Zareh

AtoZ2019tenthAnnAt that moment, a dark-skinned man in an Astrakhan hat came down a side stair that I had not noticed.

“Ah, Zareh,” Erik said, standing. “May I present Mademoiselle Claire Delacroix. I presume you have been successful in your quest?”

“Yes, Erik, I have,” said the Persian, of whom I now knew something from Erik’s conversation. “Madame Giry is waiting in the coach for me on the Rue Scribe. Where are Mademoiselle Claire’s bags?”

Erik handed him my two valises.

“I will take them to the carriage and then come back for Mademoiselle. Less than five minutes, Erik.”

That was when I realized that Zareh meant for Erik and me to say our goodbyes. — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder

Celebrating 10 years in print!

Here we are, on the last day of the 2019 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Coming to the end of the challenge is bittersweet; it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work.

So, who is Zareh? Well, if you read Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, you will remember references to the daroga … the Persian shah’s chief of police. Erik worked for the shah as an assassin and torturer at one point in his life, and the unnamed daroga was the closest thing he had to a friend during that period. It is the daroga to whom he pours out his heart at the end of the original novel.

In my book, Zareh is the daroga. I named him after a Persian colleague. He is friend, “fixer,” and Erik’s liaison with the outside world on a great many matters.

I hope you have enjoyed this month-long look into my debut novel which, like the blog challenge, premiered 10 years ago. There are still a few redemptions left on the Smashwords coupon if you would like to get your own eBook edition of In The Eye of The Beholder.

Thank you to all of the new followers who have come along during the challenge, and to those writing the blogs for which I am myself a new follower. It’s been quite a month!

Blogging from A to Z: Y is for Yellow

AtoZ2019tenthAnnFor entertainment, Erik, Gilbert and I frequented the nightclubs of Montmartre. I had never been to a follies and seen the singers and dancers there. Again, no one seemed at all shocked at a woman with two men, let alone that one of those men was masked. It was a rather more dissolute world that we inhabited by virtue of avoiding the Opera Quarter. Erik began an occasional indulgence in opium. I developed a fondness for absinthe, amused and intrigued by the so-called ritual that turned the strong-smelling yellow drink into a pale green treat called louche. I even had my own special sugar spoon after a while, shaped like the Eiffel Tower in honor of its opening. Gilbert was the only one in our trio who abstained; that way, he knew we would all get home safely. — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder

Back in 2017, the first year I did this challenge, I also used Y is for Yellow. Today’s look at the color is based not on a dress, but a drink.

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Absinthe verte (green absinthe) starts out as a clear yellow or green liquid that smells strongly of licorice/anise. It is entirely too strong to be drunk at full strength. When you add water, it becomes what is called a louche … and it changes color to a pale, cloudy green. Absinthe blanche (white absinthe) is a clear liquid that louches blue.

By now, you know that I prefer primary experience whenever possible in my research. So yes, I’ve taken absinthe. I’ve had both types, and prefer absinthe blanche.

The ritual described in the passage above may be found in its entirety here.

Note: quality absinthe does not need to be sugared, but some people louche through sugar as a matter of personal preference.

It is worth noting that, despite its reputation, absinthe does not cause hallucinations.

There is an interesting timeline of absinthe history here.


Blogging from A to Z: X is for 10

AtoZ2019tenthAnnX is always the hardest letter for the challenge. I didn’t have to struggle too much, though; X is the Roman numeral for 10.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the A to Z Blog Challenge. It’s also the 10th Anniversary of In The Eye of The Beholder, my first novel, which I’ve been celebrating all month. The choice was obvious.

Today, X is also for 10 lucky readers. I am giving away 10 copies of In The Eye of the Beholder on a first-come, first-served basis. All you have to do is click on the Smashwords link, use coupon code YL33Y at checkout, and the book is yours. Once 10 people have redeemed the coupon code, it will no longer be valid.

eyeThe great thing about Smashwords is that it doesn’t matter what kind of eReader you use, or whether you just want to read on your computer. There’s a format for everyone.

Here’s the back cover copy, in case you aren’t sure what the book is about:

When French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiance in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday.
Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other’s past?

Updated for 2015 with glossaries of equestrian terms and French words used in the text.

Blogging from A to Z: W is for Walking Suit

AtoZ2019tenthAnnOn Friday afternoon, Antoinette stopped by with a package for me: yet another box from my favorite modiste.

“A gift from Erik,” she explained, “which he hopes you will wear tomorrow for the performance.”

Inside was an elegant ivory moire walking suit. I was glad that I had a duster coat to wear over it; I would not want such beautiful garments to be travel-stained.

“I will see you tomorrow, my friend,” Antoinette smiled as she departed. “Sleep well.”

There was a rare joke! It was far too long since I’d last seen Erik, and all I knew was that he was giving a mysterious concert in another town. I doubted I’d sleep a wink. Nevertheless, I would try. I wanted to look my best at this performance, knowing Erik would be there somewhere — perhaps hidden, perhaps not — and would want to see me looking well in the beautiful clothes he had sent for me. — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder

Victorian walking suit, circa 1888, via

A walking suit was an outfit that a lady might wear for a stroll in nice weather. It usually had weights in the hem in case a breeze blew up; one would not want to show one’s ankles! The skirt was also usually a little bit shorter to keep the hem out of the dust, and there were not a lot of frills or trim.

The blog at Lily Absinthe informs us that these suits were sometimes called “tailor-mades.” (If you’re interested in historical attire, you really must be following this blog, by the way.)  Many couturiers of the day did not like the more simple lines of the walking suits. They claimed that the simpler styles were for younger women only, as older ladies would look better surrounded by frills and ruffles.