Saturday, April 13, 2019

Curses and Clowns



Not only is the editing moving along, I managed to write something for both prompts. They’re not particularly good pieces, but they’re something. And I’d like to take a moment to remind you that they’re completely unedited.


Prompt One:
You put your house on the market and on the first day an extremely old woman comes knocking on your door. She’s not interested in buying your house though. Instead she tells you that this is the house she lived in as a child. The friendly mood suddenly changes when she reveals something terrible that took place in the house years ago.

The viewing of the house was supposed to be by appointment only. So Vanessa was a little surprised by the old woman who showed up on her doorstep.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Vanessa told her politely. “But if you want to see the house you’ll need to make an appointment through the realtor.”

“You misunderstand me, my dear. I don’t want to view the house – I know all its nooks and crannies first hand. I wish to talk to you about the house. There’s something you need to know.”

Vanessa’s curiosity was piqued. It would have been easy to dismiss the old lady, tell her firmly no and close the door, but in the light of what had been going on lately she figured she had nothing to lose.

“Why don’t you come in,” she said, opening the door wider.

She had the woman seat herself in the small living room while she hurried into the kitchen to make some tea.

“Thank you, dear,” the woman said when Vanessa set the tea tray down and handed her a cup.

“You said there was something I needed to know, Miss . . .” Vanessa prompted.

“Rose, you may call me Rose,” the woman said, taking a sip. “Skipping the niceties and straight to the point, I like that.” She nodded. “Saves time.”

“About my house?”

With a sigh Rose put her cup down. “You know of course the house is haunted?”

Vanessa’s cup rattled in its saucer. “Haunted? What makes you say that?”

“Come, come, my dear. The visions, things moving around, the voices?”

“How—how did you know?”

“Because the same thing has happened to every other owner of this house.” Rose leaned a little closer. “This house isn’t just haunted, it’s cursed.”

For a moment all Vanessa could do was gape at her. Then, “Cursed? What kind of curse?”

Rose relaxed in her seat again. “The original owner of this house was a witch. She was powerful but for the most part tried to do good. But for all of her power there was one thing she could do – halt time.”

“I don’t understand.”

“She got old,” Rose said dryly. “So she created a spell, one that would let her live forever. All she needed was a sacrifice, once every seven years.”

“Seven years?” Vanessa repeated faintly. She’d been in this house for almost seven years.

“There were only two catches. First, the spell wouldn’t reverse the aging that had already taken place. And second, the sacrifice had to have lived under this roof for at least part of those seven years.”

Vanessa felt a numbness starting to spread through her. “And the ghosts? They’re what’s left of her victims?”

“My, you are a sharp one, catching on so quickly. Yes, the poor things were trying to warn you to get out before it’s too late.”

Vanessa stared at her mutely, unable to move.

“But don’t fret dear, you’ll be joining them soon. You can talk to them all you want then. Won’t that be nice?”


Prompt Two:
Your wealthy Aunt Edna has died and left you all of her money. At first you’re excited as you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck your whole life, and this newfound money offers you endless possibilities. But, in her will, Aunt Edna left one big catch – and, if you don’t do it, all the money is to be given to your most unlikeable cousin, Wilfred.

Candace pulled the wig more firmly down on her head, the bright red curls jiggling madly. Satisfied it was secure, she inspected herself as best she could in the hand-held mirror. Face paint – check. Big, billowy, polka-dot outfit – check. Floppy shoes – check. But there was something missing . . .

Right. She dug around in the makeup case until she found it. One big red nose, coming right up.

This was the last time she’d have to do this, and truth be told she was going to miss it. The first time had been nerve-racking, but the joy she brought was infectious.

The terms of Aunt Edna’s will had been clear. Once each month she was to make a charitable donation dressed as a clown. The lawyer had the list of recipients as well as the envelopes with the cash. All she had to do was dress up like a clown and make sure no one uncovered her secret identity.

Candace had no idea what had prompted Aunt Edna to make such a stipulation in her will, but she was willing to do just about anything to keep her smarmy cousin Wilfred from getting his grimy paws on Edna’s money.

The newspapers had taken to calling her the Benevolent Bozo. Each month there was speculation on where he or she (there was no telling under the voluminous costume) was going to show up and who would receive the next envelope of cash. She wondered what they’d say next month when she failed to make an appearance. The thought made her sad.

Wait a minute. Candace stopped as a sudden thought struck her. After today, Edna’s vast fortune would be hers. There was no reason she couldn’t keep making these gifts if she wanted to.

No reason at all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A Tale of Two Word Files





Remember a few weeks ago I was whining about how I had two documents for Wandering Wizards and I didn’t know which one I should keep, so I deleted the shorter of the two thinking I must have edited stuff out of it? Then I printed out the one that was 165 pages so I could edit it.

I settled at the dining room table to work and I’m editing away, making pretty good progress, but I start getting the feeling that something’s missing. Weren’t my heroes at an inn near the beginning when Sebastian, the bard, gets a message about his mother? And wasn’t there a scene shortly after that with Dominic and Jessica on a boat?

Where’s the boat?

So I flip a few pages ahead and the first mention of Jessica and Dominic is pretty far in and there’s no Sebastian and I start getting this sinking feeling. I check the folder I keep all the files about Wandering Wizards in and I see one marked “throw away” and something clicks in my head.

At one point I had two copies of the original draft. One copy (the one that got printed out) was the original. The other copy I used to copy/paste into a new draft that I was adding new stuff to as it came to me. I was up to 150 pages of the latest version (and down to about 50 pages of the one I was cutting/pasting from) when I put everything aside for NaNo. And then I forgot what I was doing.

Fortunately the recycle bin in Windows does not automatically empty and I was able to restore the version of Wandering Wizards that was only 150 pages. Then I added in the remaining pages of the cut and paste. Then I deleted all other drafts.

Now I have a single, 200 page draft of Wandering Wizards, which I’ll still have to edit, weeding out the unnecessary NaNo fluff, before I can finish it. There’s still a lot of action between where I left off and the actual end of the story, but my hope is that this will wrap up the trilogy.

Barring any more stupidity on my part.

Prompts of the Week

Prompt One
You put your house on the market and, on the first day, a extremely old woman comes knocking on your door. She’s not interested in buying your house, though. Instead she tells you that this is the house she lived in as a child. The friendly mood suddenly changes when she reveals something terrible that took place in the house years ago.

Prompt Two
Your wealthy Aunt Edna has died and left you all of her money. At first you’re excited, as you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck your whole life, and this newfound money offers you endless possibilities. But, in her will, Aunt Edna left one big catch—and, if you don’t do it, all of the money is to be given to your most unlikeable cousin, Wilfred.

Remember, don’t spend a lot of time on these, they’re just meant for fun. Take 5 minutes to think about it, then write for 10 or 15 minutes. And if it turns out you like what you’ve written, then by all means turn your exercise into an actual story. You can find these prompts, and others like them, at Writer's Digest .

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Gambling and Tattoos



I may not have done a lot of writing this week, but I did manage a short piece for both of Tuesday’s prompts. They’re a little on the dark side, but that’s the kind of week I had. :-D

Prompt one:
Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back…what happens?

The fall air was damp and cool. Somewhere a clock tolled twelve as I hurried down the path. I shouldn’t be here; I knew that but the shortcut through the park was the only way I’d get there on time. I stumbled as a faint sound filtered through the darkness. Again it sounded, and again. What was it? Not a chime, not the bell from the clock tower…was the noise made by human vocal cords? Lord, I hoped so. The noise kept repeating every few seconds, growing closer. Or maybe it was just me getting closer to it. There – the park gates. I was almost to safety. The street lights on either side of the gate were the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. Suddenly I stopped. A whimper escaped my dry lips as a shadow formed in the light. Yes, taking the path had been a gamble. And I’d just lost.

Prompt two:
You are showering one morning when you notice a tattoo on your body that you’re quite sure you don’t remember getting. What is it, how did you get it, and what does it mean?

From all accounts it had been a wicked cool party. I just wish I could remember it. I remember Joyce talking me into going, I remember having a drink of the mystery punch, but everything was blurry after that.

I have no idea how long I was there or how I got home. And I certainly don’t remember getting the tattoo I discovered on my left hip when I woke up.

I made a few phone calls to friends who’d also been at the party, but their memories were as foggy as mine. Six of them also ended up with tattoos they didn’t remember getting. That made seven of us altogether.

It was Brian’s idea for us all to meet up to compare tats. At first we thought they were all the same but placed on different parts of the body – hip, thigh, chest, back, shoulder, leg, arm – but identical other than that. But Jackie, the artist of the group, noticed subtle differences.

Terry suggested we’d all joined a cult or something while we were high. I wanted to know what was in the punch, but no one knew who brought it. Then Simon suggested we’d been marked for something, but we laughed at his paranoia.

We stopped laughing when the first body showed up. One by one we’ve been killed, each time by a different method by all during the night of a new moon. Even though I’m under police protection I’m resigned to my fate. Tonight is the new moon. And I’m the last.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

False Advertising



There I was, merrily peddling away on my stationary bike as I read a book I found quite entertaining, when all of a sudden I see this: Ready for more Cry Wolf? Grab the next two books in the Cry Wolf Series Boxed Set…

Say what? And, seriously?

Okay yes, this was a freebie on Amazon, and yes it did show on the cover that it was Cry Wolf book one, but when I checked the next book in the series it was about someone different, so I downloaded this one thinking I had a complete story. Nowhere, neither in the blurb nor on the cover, did it mention that volume one was actually a three book set.

There’s only one thing worse than a book that is serialized – and by serialized I mean that the full book is spread over several smaller books – and that’s a book that has no warning that story has been serialized. It’s a cheap tactic that shows that the author is only in this for the money, not the story.

But wait, you say, what about your books? Aren’t they a series?

Yes. The Ardraci Elementals and the Moonstone Chronicles are both series, but they have not been serialized. These books are complete stories that also happen to be part of a larger story. You do not have to read the entire series to get a complete story from each book.

A serial is a single story broken into episodes.

A series contains the same characters throughout, but each episode is a different story.

With a serialized book, you have to buy several such episodes to buy the whole story. In the 19 century it was common for novels to be serialized in periodicals. But the thing is, people knew from the start of the story they’d have to buy several issues to get the complete story.

My beef is with the authors who don’t warn you ahead of time that the book has been serialized, that you won’t get the whole story unless you’re prepared to shell out for several volumes.

I have no problem with a book that’s been serialized. If the story is well written and piques my interest I have no problem paying for several volumes to get the complete story. But when I read a book with a story I’m really enjoying and at the height of the action I suddenly get presented with what amounts to “to be continued in the next book” then all I feel is cheated.

How about you? Do you enjoy serials or would you rather read a series?


Prompts of the Week

Prompt One: Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back . . . What happens?

Prompt Two: You are showering one morning when you notice a tattoo on your body that you’re quite sure you don’t remember getting. What is it, how did you get it, and what does it mean?

Remember, don’t spend a lot of time on these, they’re just meant for fun. Take 5 minutes to think about it, then write for 10 or 15 minutes. And if it turns out you like what you’ve written, then by all means turn your exercise into an actual story. You can find these prompts, and others like them, at Writer's Digest .

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Villainy!



So . . . last week was super busy for me, and quite honestly the prompts were the last thing on my mind. But I did, however, get a piece written for the villain challenge from a couple of weeks ago.

Surprisingly enough, my villain chose to speak for himself. Probably because if I had done it I would have tried to garner some sympathy for him – poor, misunderstood islander seduced by the dark side. But apparently Anakaron, my evil wizard from the Moonstone Chronicles, was having none of that. He’s bad, and makes no bones about it.

Anakaron Speaks:

I come from an island in the Mythric Ocean, so small it does not even have a name. My people were savage, but not savages; powerful and superstitious. I was born under a blood moon – it was known from the beginning I would be a blood mage. My mother was my first victim.

The lesson I learned while bathing in her blood is that only one thing in life matters – power. Those fools at the academy never suspected what they welcomed into their midst. My plan had been to rise in rank and rule them all, the city of fools, and I would have succeeded if not for HIM.

HIM, who had more power bubbling under his skin than he knew what to do with, while mine was hard won. HIM, whose path of veracity was sickening to me. HIM, who claimed to be my friend while scorning the dark paths.

He took everything from me. He basked in the admiration of the other students, not that I cared for their insipid company. He won the esteem of the instructors and the Wizard Council, who were never quite as impressed with my cunning and ability. And he captured the heart of the only woman I have ever loved. I will not rest until he is destroyed.

You say he did none of these things deliberately? Well consider this. I. Don’t. Care.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reading For Writing



I like to read while I’m eating my lunch when I’m babysitting, but the idea is to read only while eating my lunch and then sneak some writing in afterwards. To help get me in the right frame of mind, lately I’ve been reading books on writing.

I just finished reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and it was perfect for lunchtime reading with its super short chapters. I think what I found most interesting about it was her talk about filling notebooks with her “practice writing.” I never thought of practicing writing before, I tend to just . . . write.

I’m still kind of struggling with what I should or shouldn’t be putting in my writing journal/notebook. I write down lines, snatches of poetry, ideas, interesting quotes – which is better than my last journal, but Natalie has inspired me to take it a little further. I actually included my last two prompt stories in there and I plan on continuing to do so.

This is kind of a big step for me. Normally I’d maybe jot down the idea for a story in there, and then use a different notebook (one of those 3-subject spiral bound ones) or the computer to actually write it out. After all, I don’t want my writing journal to look messy. But really, who’s going to see it except me? This is why after all these years I’m only on my fourth journal, and the other three have plenty of empty pages.

Of course that being said, I have little snatches of things written on scraps of paper that should go in my writing journal but didn’t. There’s a quote I didn’t want to forget, a story idea, and a couple of lines for a poem. And then I had to finish my last prompt story before I could add anything else because I didn’t want to have half the story, jump to a bunch of unrelated stuff, and then jump back again.

This makes me wonder if I’ve really made all that much progress in my journaling after all. Maybe I should leave a couple of gaps before starting something that has the potential to be several pages, just so I have space for these random lines and don’t have to rush to get a story done.

Natalie talks a lot about timed writings for practice, just keep the pen moving without thought about what you’re doing. This is something which quite honestly never occurred to me before – the writing just for practice, I mean. I’ve always thought that if I sit down to write it should be with purpose. But artists practice, sports figures practice, why not writers?

Reading her book has helped me loosen up a bit, especially when it comes to the prompt stories. Last time I offered prompts I was only doing one a week, and I’d spend pretty much the whole week working on it, getting no other writing done. This time I’m giving myself a time limit which is incredibly freeing. And I’m having a lot more fun with them.

I would love to have a look at Natalie’s journals. I have this vision of them all lined up neatly on a shelf, overflowing with ideas and deathless prose. She talks about re-reading them and pulling a line here and a line there to create a poem. She advises you to go through your own journals and underline the lines that are good, they might be the basis for something even better.

I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I’m getting close.


Prompts of the Week

Prompt one:
As a doctor for hire you’ve met a fair share of odd folks. Nothing quite like this though. A man in his mid-thirties stands before you, clutching a wound just given to him by another man sprinting down the street. Now the perpetrator trips and lands on his own knife. Screaming for help and not knowing what the heck happened—what do you do?

Prompt two:

The ocean is a vast and beautiful thing. Taking a quick peak off the side of your boat you realize something strange. The tentacles slowly creeping up the hull aren’t your imagination and the captain’s nowhere to be found. Where do we go from here?

Remember, don’t spend a lot of time on these, they’re just meant for fun. Take 5 minutes to think about it, then write for 10 or 15 minutes. And if it turns out you like what you’ve written, then by all means turn your exercise into an actual story.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Cookies and Ghosts

Well, what do you know. I managed to come up with something for both prompts this week. Not only that, I had fun doing it. How about you? Anything you’d like to share?

And just so you know . . . these pieces are un-edited. So don’t expect any deathless prose. :-D



Prompt 1: One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously place on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one day a different object is left – and this time there’s a note.

Julia hurried into work, late again, with the words of last night’s argument still ringing in her ears. Maybe she’d been a little hasty, giving Geoffrey the heave-ho, but what was the point in staying in a relationship if it wasn’t going anywhere? She was tired of being someone’s “plus one.”

The cookie, centered carefully on the blotter on her desk, was a surprise – a welcome one. She loved cookies and this one was a rich, dark chocolate. Just what she needed to start her day off right.

The next day there was another one, this time a pecan cookie with buttercream frosting. It melted in her mouth and put a smile on her face for the whole day.

Julia never thought to question where these mysterious cookies came from. Perhaps everyone in the office received one for a job well done, or maybe it was just her. She didn’t really care, she’d just enjoy them while they lasted.

Every day it was a different cookie – shortbread, chocolate chip, macaroon – she never realized there were so many different kinds. She looked forward to going to work, just to see what cookie was waiting for her.

After several weeks of this she arrived at work one morning and instead of a cookie there was a flat, white bakery box. Opening it slowly she let out a gasp.

Nestled in a layer of tissue paper was a large, heart shaped sugar cookie. There was a diamond ring embedded in the point of the heart and the words, “Will you marry me?” written across it in pink icing. Smiling, Julia reached for her phone.

Prompt 2:Writing as yourself or a character, tell the following tale: A ghost appears before you one night and tells you to expect a visitation by three spirits who will each transport you to significant moments from your past, present, and future. However, you soon discover that the three spirits aren’t quite like the ones who visited Ebenezer Scrooge . . .

The first spirit that came to her was a shock. “Buttons!” Gracie exclaimed.

The grey and white tabby wove around her feet, rubbing up against her legs before jumping up on the counter.

“Okay, so here’s the deal,” the cat told her in a no-nonsense tone of voice.

“But you died when I was just a little kid.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“And you can talk!”

Buttons puffed out her fur and hissed. “Yes. I’m dead and I can talk. Get over it.”

“The Buttons I knew was never so rude,” Gracie muttered

“Pay attention. We don’t have all night. I’m here to take you into the past, to where your problems all started.”

“What problems? I—”

“Pfft!” The cat cut her off and suddenly they were in her grandmother’s kitchen.

Four year old Gracie was sitting at the table with a plate of cookies in front of her while her grandmother poured her a glass of milk.

“Wow, I forgot how stern grandma always looked,” Gracie said.

“Shh!” said Buttons. “Listen.”

“Always remember the golden rule Gracie,” her grandmother was saying as she set the glass of milk in front of her.

“What’s that grandma?”

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” her grandma said solemnly.

“I’ll remember,” little Gracie said.

“Only you never quite got it right, did you?” Buttons said.

“I don’t know what you mean,” big Gracie protested.

“You took the rule at face value. You thought that all you had to do was be nice to people and they’d be nice back. But it didn’t work out that way, did it?”

“Well, I—”

“How many times did people disappoint you?”

Gracie was silent. Suddenly she was back in her own kitchen again. There was no sign of Buttons.

“That was just weird,” Gracie said.

“It’s about to get weirder,” a voice behind her said.


And that’s as far as I got before I ran out of time. Looks like it’s going to turn into a short story and I’m going to have to finish it because I wrote it out long hand in my journal and I don’t know how much of a gap to leave, so I’ll have to finish it before I can move on.

But that’ll be a story for another day. LOL