Friday, March 30, 2018

Inspiration From Improv

This week's workshop was Inspiration From Improv. I first read about the connection between theatre and writing many years ago, which is why even though I knew it would take me out of my comfort zone I thought I’d give the workshop a try. Or maybe because I knew it would take me out of my comfort zone.

At any rate, though for the most part I enjoyed the class, I can safely say I suck at actual improv. We weren’t just writing, we also did some physical improv during class. From movement to tableaus to enacting headliners, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. LOL

The first thing we did was circle the table, pretending to move through various landscapes. When we sat down again we were asked to write a brief piece describing one of those landscapes. I chose what it would be like to walk on the moon.


My feet are heavy as I lift them up and set them down, small puffs of dust rising with each weighted step. Too small. Had I been somewhere with more gravity I would be trying to kick up as much dust as possible, just for fun. But there’s no atmosphere on the moon. No matter how hard I step it makes little difference. I can’t even hear my own footsteps. There’s no sound at all, save for that of my own breathing inside my sealed suit. The dust is grey. Everything is grey, here on the moon. An unrelenting grey stretching out to the horizon in one direction and to the equally grey mountains in another. Even the domes we live in are grey - the clothing, the furnishings...How I long for a bit of colour.

Later we were asked to do a monologue. I’m not sure if mine qualifies as a monologue, it seems more to me to be a first person narrative, but maybe that’s what a monologue is. I chose for my speaker my character on the moon.

Life Under the Dome

I always thought the moon was the epitome of romance - moonlit strolls, dancing by the light of the moon, all the poems and songs written about it. But when John first came up with the idea of applying to be colonists on the moon, I thought he was kidding. It was the moon, for crying out loud. Then he showed me the application forms and I was seized by the fear he’d be accepted and I wouldn’t be. After all, he was an astrophysicist while I was just an engineer. But they wanted couples, fertile couples, so I was given a pass, even though I barely squeaked through the training. Crazy, right? After that, things moved very quickly and the next thing I knew I was saying goodbye to my friends and family and giving away all my books and collections. No room for unnecessary items under the dome, you know. But not all the training in the world could have prepared me for the reality of my new life - the cramped quarters, the bland food, the unrelenting grey. I tried to make the best of it, I really did. We were just the first wave after all, and really, what choice did I have? We were here. Forever. There was no going home. John told me things would get better, to give it a chance. But it turned out he was wrong. Things didn’t get better, they were never going to get better. And the thing was, he wasn’t just lying to me, he was lying to himself and the psychologists too. Far from being a romantic adventure, the moon was desolate and depressing. So depressing that one day, without warning, John walked out onto the grey plains and broke the seal holding his helmet to his suit. This was all his idea, and he left me! I feel so angry and betrayed. And don’t think for a minute I haven’t seen the pitying glances of the others. The couples who no matter what have each other while I have no one. Nothing. I carry on my life, alone, putting in my time. I stare out at that unrelenting grey and wonder how soon I’ll be able to follow in John’s footsteps.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


In a nutshell, Steampunk is historical fiction crossed with science fiction. But of course it’s not really that simple. The history is that of the Victorian age, while the science is for the most part steam driven. To tell the truth, it’s a little hard (and a lot complicated) to try and explain, so I’m not going to try. If you’re really interested, check out this article from the Huffington Post it's really good.

Now, without further ado, here’s my story from last week’s workshop:

“Damnation!” Lord Montague cursed as the spring he’d been trying to insert in the delicate piece of machinery went flying.

“Geoffrey!” his lady wife admonished him.

He looked up, his irritation sliding into embarrassment. “Sorry.”

“We had an agreement. You are only permitted to work on your inventions in the parlour if you take care with your language.”

“I said I was sorry,” he said, becoming irritable once more. “Now where did that d--” He glanced at his wife’s frown and quickly corrected himself. “Where did that spring go?”

“Here it is, papa,” said his daughter Marion, from where she was sitting near the fireplace attending to her embroidery. She gave an unladylike giggle. “You see? It has become tangled with my hair comb.” Her needlework lay forgotten in her lap as she reached up to extract the spring.

“Marion, I do wish you’d leave those combs in your hair,” said Lady Montague.

“I cannot help it, mama,” Marion said. “They simply will not stay put. Why, this spring works much better.” She proved her point as she demonstrated the difficulty she had removing it from her hair. Wincing, she finally freed the comb, the spring attached, as well as several strands of honey blond hair.

“Papa,” she said, working the spring free of the comb and handing it to him. “You have invented so many wonderful things, could you not invent a hair comb that will stay in my hair?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” her parents said, both at the same time.

Marion pursed her lips but let the subject drop. This was not the first time one of her suggestions was dismissed out of hand, nor would it be the last, she supposed. But the idea of somehow using a spring along with a comb so that it would stay in her hair would not leave her.

Several day late, an opportunity finally presented itself for her to experiment on her own. Her parents were attending the opera, and as the Italian sopranos tended to give Marion a headache, she begged off and was allowed to remain at home with Tilly, her maid, for company. This was doubly fortunate for Marion as Tilly had begun keeping company with the new footman not a fortnight ago and the girls were quick to seize the opportunity before them. Tilly could visit her paramour whilst Marion worked uninterrupted in the parlour.

Marion often sat quietly in a corner of the parlour under the guise of writing letters or doing needlework while her father was busy at his work table. Her attention, however, was not on what she was doing but rather on what her father was doing. She was intelligent and quick witted, and knew far more about mechanics than either parent would have guessed.

Her first attempts at improving a hair comb proved unsatisfactory at best. Attaching a spring to the comb was not much of an improvement, and the spring would become tangled in her hair requiring more patience than she feared she was capable of to extract it. She tried various combinations of various tiny gears and the spring, but the resulting comb was rather large and unwieldy.

“Damnation!” she exclaimed as the silver comb of her latest attempt went flying and hit the stone of the fireplace. Had her mother been within earshot, she would have fainted dead away at the language coming from her daughter. A knack for inventing was not the only thing Marion had inherited from her father.

The force with which the comb hit the stone had bent it at almost a forty-five degree angle. Marion picked it up and turned it around in her hand.

“Hmm. I wonder.”

Fired by new ideas and possibilities, she worked well past the time she should have, which is why when her parents returned they found her asleep at the work table, surrounded by the detritus of her work.

“What is all this?” thundered her father.

Her mother was too overcome to speak, and plunked herself down on the settee, fanning herself furiously.

Marion raised a sleepy head, a thin winding wheel from a watch stuck to her cheek. “Oh, hullo father, mother. How was the opera?”

“Never mind that,” her father said, picking up one of her discarded pieces and turning it around in his hand curiously. “How many times have you been told--what is this?”

“I call it a hair clip,” Marion said proudly. “You see how when it is closed it looks like a pair of lips? But it’s made from a pair of combs - comb, plus lips - clip.”

“How ingenious,” her father murmured. He glanced at several of her prototypes made with straight pieces of metal, some made with different sizes of gears, some with winding wheels from watches coming together. “And what of these?”

“Oh, those,” Marion said offhandedly. “Those were just prototypes, not very efficient for holding hair.”

“No, but they would be perfect for holding other things in place. Show me how you made these,” Lord Montague said eagerly.

Lady Montague stared at the pair from where she sat on the settee, appalled at the turn things had taken.

She had not been keen on having children, but Geoffrey spent so much time on his inventions she thought a child would help fill the void. When she gave birth to a daughter she couldn’t have been happier. A son would have most likely followed in his father’s footsteps, but a daughter - a daughter would have none of that kind of interest. A daughter would be sweet and gentle and keep her company in the long evenings while Geoffrey tinkered with his bits and pieces.

She sighed heavily and rose to her feet. “I’m going to bed,” she announced, unsurprised when she was ignored.

Maybe I should get a dog, she thought, closing the door behind her.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Darn That Life!

Yeah, just when I figured I was getting things back on track, life interferes. Ain’t that always the way?

Last week’s workshop was on Steampunk. I came away with a better understand of what Steampunk is, and the knowledge that it’s not a genre I’ll be working in much. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not my cup of tea.

The class assignments were to create a Steampunk invention, and then use your invention in a story. I have to admit, I found the invention part way harder than I expected. I finally came up with a toaster made of mahogany on the outside, and brass on the inside. It had racks on the inside so you could toast several pieces of bread at once, and was powered by a Tesla coil.

Pretty lame. So I was a little appalled when the next part of the assignment was to write a story around it. The story I started has nothing to do with toasters, it revolves around a hair clip, and I was about half done (300 words in) by the end of the class. Actually, I don’t think anyone finished. We were all still writing away furiously when the class ended. I had intended to finish my story in time to post on Friday, but as I said, life intruded and I just haven’t got back to it. Maybe I can get it done for this Wednesday instead of a poem.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” Well, that’s my new lap top, in spades. I’d like to mention at this point, I hate Windows 10. A lot. And this has nothing to do with my Apache, I’d be faced with this no matter what new lap top I bought.

I hate Cortana too, who’s not really as helpful as she pretends to be. I hate that I had to create a Microsoft account - what’s the deal with that? I hate Microsoft Edge and I don’t care how much better it is than Chrome for surfing. And I really hate that it keeps telling me that I could make my computing experience so much better if only I would let it track my every movement. Not. Going. To. Happen.

So at this point I kind of have a love/hate relationship going on with my new lap top. But it looks pretty sitting on my desk, and I’m sure that once I get over the whole Windows 10 thing I’ll be writing up a storm on it.

Just don’t count on it happening anytime soon. ;-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


One of the fun things that the poetry group I was once a part of did was what we called “poemwork,” that is, writing a poem from a prompt that was provided at the previous meeting. One month the prompt was to take any 3-5 consecutive lines from the index of Bartlett's Famous Quotations. Filling in the gaps with your imagination, expand on the thoughts and feelings you glimpse between the lines to compose your poem.

My five lines were:
Imagination, cold and barren
Imaginations are as foul
Imagine why or whence
Imagining fear in the night
Imagining the grave

And I wrote not one, but two poems. :-D

Imagination, cold and barren,
a bleak landscape stretching forth
into a wasteland of empty dreams.

Imaginations are as foul creatures,
intentionally misleading,
inspiring hope that has no place here.

Imagine why or whence we came
into this space between realities,
the great void that enshrouds us.

Imagining fear in the night
surpassed only by
the waking dream.

Imagining the grave that awaits
Reality shatters, fragmenting,
a downward spiral into madness.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

cold and barren
as the grave,
like a demon
darkly filled with things I crave;
thoughts and feelings of despair
like an omen,
a vivid fantasy to ensnare.

are as foul
as phantom screaming,
sounds of terror
within your darkest dreaming.
raids the landscape of your mind,
a standard-bearer
of future curses intertwined.

Imagine why
or whence
this inner madness springs.
What wrong committed?
What spiteful spirit to you clings?
Nightmare outcry,
sticky web of madness daunting;
a dread submitted
to a darkened inward haunting.

Imagining fear
in the night,
time of darkest sin.
Fractured sanity,
your thoughts have let the chaos in.
You persevere
and hope to end this nightmare soon.
Be gone humanity,
you’re dancing to the devil’s tune.

the grave
in which your conscience lies,
dark illusion
holds you fast before it dies.
A fragile thing
this life you cling to valiantly;
while dark delusion
transmits your uncertainty.

Monday, March 19, 2018

And The Real Winner Is....

So... a couple of weeks ago I mentioned about needing a new lap top and then I whined complained ranted related the problems I was having trying to get the lap top I’d settled on from Lenovo.

Well, I finally got all my money back from them - money they never should have taken in the first place because it said right on their order confirmation email that they wouldn’t until the order was ready to ship - and on the weekend I started researching lap tops again.

I mentioned my computer wish list to a tech savy friend and they suggested I look at a gaming lap top - apparently they’re not just for gaming. So I started looking at gaming lap tops and I really liked what I saw. Lots of power, lots of hard drive space, good screen resolution with anti-glare, and backlit keyboard. They don’t have the awesome battery that the ThinkPads have, but to be perfectly honest I seldom run off the battery for more than an hour or two anyway.

Staples just happened to be having a lap sale so I went over to have a look at what they had and I am now the proud owner of an MSI Apache. And I didn’t know it when I settled on it, but not only is the keyboard backlit, you can adjust the colour - I can make it rainbow if I want! LOL

I’m sure most of you will understand the need for speed and the large sized hard drive, but you’re probably wondering why I’m so set on a backlit keyboard. It’s not because it’s pretty (although that’s kind of a bonus) it’s because the light in my new office isn’t so great, especially when I’m working at my desk.

Of course I won’t know for sure it’s “the one” until I actually use it (they were out of stock but one’s coming from a different store tomorrow). And I have up to 14 days to make up my mind if I want to return it. For me, the keyboard is key. I’ll know the moment I start typing.

In other news....the writing is at least trickling in. I wrote three blog posts last week - haven’t done that in a while. And I wrote two flash stories and one brand, spanking new poem using a brand new poetry form.

Might not be much, but it’s a start. Maybe my new lap top will make me type faster. ;-)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Once Upon A Time

Remember the Speculative Fiction workshops I mentioned I was signing up for? Well, I had the first one this week, on writing fairy tales. I’m with a great group of people and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun over the next eight weeks.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to revive my Fiction Fridays for a while now, and I figured what better way to start that sharing the piece I wrote in class?

During the class we were asked to write an interesting thing about ourselves. Then we handed them in and the instructor passed them out again at random. The exercise was to write a fairy tale based on the incident we received. We had about 20 minutes or so to write. This was mine (unedited):

We lived a simple life in the wide ocean, and when I say simple, I mean boring. When you’re a mermaid, and a thirteen year old mermaid at that, it’s tedious to be confined to the grotto, or to only be allowed to swim back and forth along the edge of the kelp beds. under the watchful eye of our parents of course.

My sister Sonia was the first to rebel. We’d all heard stories of the little mermaid of course, and how she traded her voice for a pair of legs. So we knew the magic was out there. Sonia decided she was done being a mermaid. She wanted to walk on the shore, bask in the sun, feel the wind in her hair.

“It’s only a story,” our mother tried to tell us. “And in the original version she didn’t find her prince, she turned to sea foam.”

“Every story starts with a grain of truth,” Sonia said stubbornly. So certain was she that she stopped eating. She would rather waste away to nothing than live the rest of her life under the waves.

At last our parents gave in and took Sonia to the Hermit of the Sea. They came back alone.

“Where’s Sonia?” my sister Tanis and I cried.

“She’s gone where you cannot follow,” our parents said sadly.

Of course it wasn’t long before Tanis and I wanted to follow Sonia. After days of arguing my parents realized it was no use, and we were taken to the Hermit as well.

Now the three of us sisters live in a cottage by the sea.

After a few years I found I missed swimming and tried it as a human, but it was never the same.

I can't wait for next week's class - Steampunk!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Passion For Poetry - Dansa Poetry Form

Not only do I have a new poem to share today, I have a new form as well! Be still my heart - can the end of the world be far behind? LOL

Today’s form is the dansa, which is an Occitan verse form developed late in the thirteenth century by the troubadours in southern France. It’s actually fairly simple, which makes me wonder why I never tried it before.

It’s short, only three verses. You start with a one line refrain that’s repeated at the end of each verse, so the first verse has five lines and the other two verses have four. The rhyme scheme is Abba(A) bba(A) bba(A). Easy peasy.

Now, having nothing more to say about this form, here's my example:

Mythic Wind

The wind has blown a myth to me.
He came to me within a storm
I let him in one early morn
He was the fairest man to see
The wind has blown a myth to me.

With cloven hoof and curling horn
He was not from a human born
His eyes they held a silent plea
The wind has blown a myth to me.

His sweet embrace was oh, so warm
A night with him I was reborn
And now we dwell beside the sea
The wind has blown a myth to me.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Lap Top: A Sad Story

I love my Samsung lap top, it has served me well over the last..umm...many years. But nothing last forever, especially in this day and age. And let’s face it, things just aren’t built to last anymore. It really doesn’t owe me anything - I think it’s actually lasted longer than it should have.

But alas, it’s starting to feel its age. It’s taking longer to boot up, a few of the letters are worn off of the keyboard (which tells you how much use I’ve made of it), and it’s starting to slow down. In fact, as I type this post I have to keep waiting for the letters to catch up. And this is after I gave it a rest because it was all but frozen earlier.

So a couple of weeks ago I started looking at other lap tops. Having worked in tech support at one time, I’m not a fan of Dell or HP. And it’s a sign of the changing times that most of my research was done online.

Though our town has doubled in size since I was a kid, it’s still relatively small. Which means there aren’t a lot of places to check out computers. At any rate, I had it narrowed down to three: Asus, Acer, and Lenovo.

I loved everything about the Lenovo that Staples had, except the keyboard. But then I was looking at them online and found I really liked the look of the keyboard on the ThinkPad T580. I checked out the Asus and the Acer online too but I kept coming back to the ThinkPad.

Decision made, I went to the website and...they were out of stock. Figures. But I kept checking and finally they were back. I navigated the ordering system, ended up with two lap tops in my shopping cart, deleted one, and placed my order. The next day I was looking at my order confirmation email and realized I had deleted the wrong one.

So I called them up and you can’t change an order once it’s placed so I had to cancel it. Got the confirmation email that my order was cancelled and went back to the website and ordered the right lap top and saved enough money that I sprang for a wireless mouse and a messenger bag too.

Here’s where the story turns sad.

It says right on the order confirmation that your payment won’t be processed until the order is ready to ship. So when I got an email asking me to get in touch with their accounting department in regards to the second order, I figured it was because I used my debit VISA instead of a credit card. Until on a whim I checked my bank account and saw that they’d taken a payment out for the first order on the day I ordered it. And I guess they forgot to give me my money back when I cancelled that order.

Anyway, I talked to their accounting department this morning (only yelling a little), and everything is supposed to be straightened out now. *knock on wood* Now all that’s left is the waiting. And the crossing of fingers.

And if nothing else, at least I've got a good idea for my story for the Please Hold, Your Murder Is Very Important To Us anthology (about customer service) I've been invited to participate in.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Easier Said Than Done

As you can see by the lack of my wordage summaries, once again there was no joy in Wordville.

To be honest, it’s starting to get a little frustrating. I’ll open up my WIP and my mind goes blank. And the thing is, I know what’s supposed to happen next, I’m just lacking the words to make it happen.

I get lines of poetry appearing at random in my head, only to have them disappear as soon as I have a piece of paper in front of me.

And yet....I’m far from ready to give up. I keep trying because I know that sooner or later the words will be back.

To spur them on a little, I registered for a night school course. One of the local colleges (and by local I mean about an hour’s drive from here) is offering a whole bunch of interesting courses, but it was the one for speculative fiction that caught my eye. It’s actually a series of workshops - once a week for eight weeks, two hours long.

The workshops, starting March 14, are as follows: Writing Fairy Tales, Steampunk, Inspiration From Improv, Inspiration From Music, Adjectives and Adverbs, Writing Poetry, Writing From Dreams, and Alternate History. The way it’s set up you can take as many or as few as you like. I looked them over and there were a couple I thought were a little iffy, but I figured maybe they’d help me step out of my comfort zone so I signed up for them all.

I’ve taken a couple of night school courses in the past, a long time ago. One was at our local high school, run by a local author, and was pretty much just for fun. The other I took with a friend at a different college in the same city as I’ll be going to in a couple of weeks. It was a little more serious, although the instructor was not a writer herself. Still, I enjoyed both courses, even though I didn’t keep in touch with my fellow participants.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy these workshops as well. There’s nothing like being around like-minded, creative people to get your own creative juices going. And there’s always something new to learn, yes, even from the Writing Poetry workshop.

Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted.