Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Walking On Sunshine



Oh, the difference a little sunshine (and a long weekend) can make.

We’ve had enough sun over the last few days – in and amongst the wind, rain, and clouds - that my solar batteries are starting to recharge. And you know what that means – my writing mojo is returning.

Of course it may look nice outside, but it’s still a little too cool for planting my gardens, so I felt no guilt whatsoever staying inside over the long weekend and getting some writing done.

I’m still working on the edits to Wandering Wizards, but I finally feel like I’m making progress. I’ve deleted two chapters worth of NaNo fluff, and added in over 5,000 new words for Jessica and Dominic. And most of that was done over the weekend.

That was the good news. The bad news is that I’ve been making these changes to a paper copy I printed out and I’m still going to have to make these changes to the electronic copy. My hope for this week is to hunker down and get the rest of the edits done by the week so I can spend the weekend making the changes.

I think it’ll be a race against time though. I still babysit for the better part of the afternoons and tonight I have Fight Club (AKA my poetry group meeting). Tomorrow morning I get to go on a trip to a farm with the granddaughter’s pre-school, and Friday the daughter leaves for a conference in Calgary so I have the pleasure of the granddaughter’s company all day.

This is also why I want to get the edits finished by the end of the weekend. The daughter will be away all week so it’ll be full time babysitting until Friday, when she returns. And once I’ve caught up to where I’ve left my intrepid band of adventurers, I can move Wandering Wizards from “Currently Editing” back to “Current Projects” where it belongs.

So let’s hear it for the sunshine that’s pulling me out of my funk!





Prompts of the Week

Prompt One
Go over to your bookshelf, close your eyes, and pick up the first book you touch. Open the book to a random page, read the first full sentence on that page, and use it as the inspiration for a story or scene. Please include the original line at the beginning or end of your response.

Prompt Two
Write a scene that involves a fairy tale trope turned on its head or otherwise deviating from typical expectations. For example: A princess who’s cruel to her kind stepmother; a golden goose that lays explosive eggs, a big, frightening wolf who really just wants a friend.

You don’t need to 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, May 18, 2019

Visions and Pirates



Believe it or not, I had something written to both of these prompts by the end of Tuesday, same day as I posted them. What I forgot was to type them out and schedule them to appear earlier this morning.

Oh, well. I’m only a little late, right? And they do say better late than never. LOL


Prompt One
You’re at work, like any normal day, and happen to look out the window as you head to the break room for a second cup of coffee. What you see makes you stop in your tracks. What is it?

It was fast turning into one of those days. First, I was almost late to work because the car wouldn’t start, then I was late to the meeting I’d forgotten all about. To top it off, I just couldn’t seem to wake up.

“This calls for another cup of coffee,” I muttered, getting to my feet.

“Save some for the rest of us,” my cubical mate, Sheila, said.

The break room was empty, but at least the coffee pot was full. Guess there might be hope for today after all. Or at least that’s what I thought as I went back to my desk. But then I happened to glance out the window on my way by. I stopped dead in my tracks, unable to tear my eyes away from the view.

“That’s a good way to catch flies,” Henry said as he passed by on his way to the break room.

I don’t know how long I’d been standing there with my mouth open. “Have you seen that?” I nodded towards the window.

Henry glanced towards the window and did a double take. “Oh my god,” he whispered.

In a short time Henry and I were joined by Bob, Francine, and Harold, from accounting, who had come upstairs to use our break room because their coffee maker was broken.

“For Christ’s sake Jonas,” Sheila said, coming up the hallway. “Just how long does it take to get a cup of coffee?” She didn’t appear phased by the small crowd at all.

Wordlessly, Francine pointed at the window. Sheila turned and let out a small gasp. “How did that get there?”

“I don’t know,” Harold said grimly, “But we’d better get back to work before the boss finds out.” Murmuring in agreement, we all went back to our desks.


Prompt Two
One day, while reading your favourite book on the beach, you notice a boat slowly drifting to shore. It eventually lands near your spot. A person, draped in pirate clothes, yells to you from the boat, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?”

I had saved for three years for this vacation in Cuba. This was not one of the popular resorts, it was tucked out of the way, overlooked by most tourists, which is just the way I wanted.

After three years of extra long hours in customer service, the last thing I wanted was to have people around me on my vacation.

It was early enough in the morning that only a few of the other guests at the small hotel were up. After a delicious breakfast in the dining room, I took my bag and went out to the beach.

I don’t think there’s a bad beach on the whole island. This one was a wide strip of sand bordering the curve of a bay. I was aiming for the spill of rocks leading right to the water, a few palm trees casting long shadows.

The hotel was just a spec in the distance as I spread out my blanket in the shade and dumped the contents of my bag onto it – bottles of water, sun screen, snacks, and three paperback books. Everything I’d need for the day.

I settled back with a sigh, opening up one of my favourite books. It held my attention for the better part of an hour when something made me look up and out over the water.

There was a large speck out there. I shaded my eyes with my hand and squinted, but couldn’t make out what it was. A passing ship maybe? For the next while I alternated between reading and watching the spec, which seemed to be drawing closer.

The sun was high in the sky when I abandoned all pretense of reading and stood to watch the approaching speck. It was close enough now for me to see that it was some kind of large sailboat, a rather old-fashioned one at that. And there was a man on board dressed up like some kind of pirate.

Was someone shooting a movie somewhere? Had I accidentally intruded on their set? I glanced quickly around – there were no signs posted.

“Avast, ye landlubber,” the man called when he was within shouting distance. “What land be this?”

“Cuba,” I answered, bemused. He was younger than I’d expected, but tall and lean with his dark hair pulled back from his face in a long tail. He appeared to be the only one aboard the boat.

“Cuba ye say?” He let loose a string of curses. “Damned storm blew me further off course than I thought.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Why to find me treasure, lass.” He gave me a speculative look. “Care to come along? I could use a hand.”

I glanced down at the book lying facedown on the blanket. The one with the muscular man in the billowy shirt standing on the deck of a beautiful, three-masted sailing ship. Then I looked at the boat with its raggedy sail, and its equally shabby but earnest looking pilot.

It was a no brainer.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Cartography Craziness



The mountains are on the wrong side of the planet.

At least mine are. This weekend I spread all the maps I made for the Moonstone Chronicles on the dining room table, and although there was a lot of work that went into them and they were something to be proud of, they were also wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

In the books I referred to the Shadow Mountains being in the west. Darkness is building in the west. Anakaron is holed up in the west. Well, when you’re facing north, then the west is on your left. The Shadow Mountains are on the right, making them in the east.

I thought briefly of flipping the map (or in this case multiple maps) over and tracing the outline from the back, but that’s not really going to work either. I have three big maps and a multitude of little maps. I need one map to rule them all.

See, the other problem I have with my maps is that they were created before I started working on the Chronicles. Other than Ghren and the Darkwood Forest, all the towns and cities were pretty much added in a haphazard manner, appearing just willy-nilly wherever my pen tip happened to land. And then I lost my maps when I was doing the actual writing, forgot the names of these towns (never mind where they were) and made up new ones. Ones that appear nowhere on my maps. And let’s not forget in Lucky Dog the action crosses and recrosses a river, which also does not appear on the map.

*sigh*

So what is the lesson to be learned?

When writing a fantasy series that involves a lot of traveling, a map is a very handy tool for keeping track of where your characters are and where they’re going. However, it is best to start out with a vague outline and fill in the details as you go along. Also, do them in pencil, going over them with ink when the series is done.

Someone should really write all these pearls of wisdom for writing a fantasy series down, eh?


Prompts of the Week

Prompt One
You’re at work, like any normal day, and happen to look out the window as you head to the break room for a second cup of coffee. What you see makes you stop in your tracks. What is it?

Prompt Two
One day, while reading your favourite book on the beach, you notice a boat slowly drifting to shore. It eventually lands near your spot. A person, draped in pirate clothes, yells to you from the boat, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?”

You don’t need to 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, May 11, 2019

Secret Rooms and Trees



I think the first of these prompt offerings is begging to be developed into a longer story. But the second one is short and sweet, and just might be included as part of a scene in the book I’m currently working on.

This makes me feel pretty good about the prompts, like I’m not wasting my time with them. A potential story and furthering something in progress – it doesn’t get much better than this.


Prompt One
You have discovered what appears to be an ordinary room. But as soon as you enter the room, time stops for you. When you leave the room, time picks up right where you left off. What do you use this room for?

They’d been living in the house for three weeks when Marissa discovered the secret room.

She hadn’t wanted to move, she’d been perfectly happy in their old house, but Doug insisted. They needed more space, he said. It was a bigger house and a better school district. And the best part, to his way of thinking, was that it was right beside his mother.

This house was old, with floors that creaked and heavy wood paneling that darkened the hallways and study. How hard would it be to remove that paneling, she wondered. She pulled gently at a corner of it under the stairs, thinking if it was already loose it should come off easily.

To her surprise, the whole panel swung open on silent hinges.

“Well! I don’t recall the realtor mentioning a room under the stairs,” she said aloud. “Maybe it’s a secret room.”

Cautiously she poked her head inside. It didn’t smell stale or musty, so she ran her hand along the inside of the wall until she found a light switch.

“Oh!”

Light flooded the room a multicoloured glass shade hanging from the ceiling. The room was larger than she expected, almost like a second study. “Only nicer,” she murmured.

Marissa glanced at her watch. It was 2:45. She had fifteen minutes before the girls would be home from school, more than enough time for a quick peek around.

The same dark paneling as the hallway lined the walls, and there was a lovely red Oriental carpet on the floor. There was a fireplace along one wall with two red velvet wing chairs in front of it. The opposite wall was one big bookcase, and off to the side was a roll top desk.

“I always wanted a roll-top desk,” she murmured.

The carpet was unmarked and there wasn’t a spec of dust on the furniture. It was as though the room had just been cleaned, waiting for her use.

She glanced at her watch again. “Damn!” It was still 2:45. Her watch must have stopped. She hurried out of the room, carefully making sure the door was secure behind her.

Marissa didn’t mention the room to anyone that night. If it was a secret room then she wanted to keep it that way – a secret.

The grandfather clock in the hallway was just ringing 10:00 when Marissa returned to the room the next morning. She had a cup of coffee with her and she was hoping to steal half an hour to read a chapter or two from the book she’d been trying to read for the past two months.

Much later, Marissa closed the book on its final chapter with a sigh. The she realized what she’d done and gave a guilty start. “I can’t believe I just did that!” She exclaimed. “It must be nearly time to get supper started.”

The clock in the hallway was just finishing its chime as she hurried by. She glanced at it, then did a double take.

“That’s not possible!”

It was still 10:00. Marissa glanced back at the panel concealing the secret room, then back at the clock. “Is it?”

Over the next several days, Marissa experimented with several different time pieces. Every one of them stopped just over the threshold to the room. Time itself stopped in the room.

“Finally,” Marissa said with a smile on her face. “Finally I’ll have some time to myself to do what I want to do.”


Prompt Two
Write a story that begins with the title of the book you’ve most recently read and ends with the name of your favourite character that you’ve written.

“In the Forests of the Heart grow trees unlike any ever seen before. Giant, like the redwoods, but filled with stories and songs. Serious, like the might oak, but with a puckish sense of humour. Twisted, like the Hawthorne, but capable of great peace and beauty. Walk among them and enter a world of utter tranquility.”

She shut the book, a pensive look on her face.

“Sounds like the afterlife to me,” he said. “Or one of them anyway.”

“You think there’s more than one?”

“I think there are as many as there are religions to believe in them.”

“Well I hope that’s not the afterlife I’m headed for. After all that time I spent in the Darkwood Forest, I’ve had more than enough of trees, thank you very much.”

Dominic grinned at her. “Then maybe you should find a different bedtime story, Jessica.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Poem Portraits



I’ve always written poetry – sometimes a lot of it, sometimes just a line or two – but it’s always there, lurking just under my skin. And even though I haven’t been an active member in the local poetry scene over the last few years, I still keep tabs on it and enjoy taking part of the “poetry in the classroom” day at the high school.

What happen was, I went through a poetical dry spell. The part of my brain that created poetry was like a dustbowl with ideas trying to take root only to wither on the vine for lack of nourishment. I wasn’t even reading poetry, never mind writing it.

However, at the beginning of the year I started getting my poetry mojo back. While I haven’t got back to my exploration of set forms (one of my passions), I have written a few poems – not just jotting down random lines, but actual poems. I even went so far as to go to one of the local poetry readings where I met up with some of my poetry friends.

I had so much fun at the reading that I went to the meeting of my old poetry group, where I had even more fun. I even did the “poem work,” which was to write a poem with the word poem or poetry in the title. I wrote an “Ode to Poetry” where I named 70 different poetry forms. And just so you know, that’s not nearly all the forms that are out there.

While I’m not ready to dive into doing a poetry thing on a regular basis here, you might see the odd poem or two peeking out. You know, once in a while. As the mood strikes me.

In the meantime, I’d like to share this link that showed up on my Facebook feed from one of my poetry friends. It’s called Poem Portraits, the brainchild of Es Devlin. It’s an online experiment combining artificial intelligence and human intelligence to create a collective poem. To participate, you go to the website and add a word. Simple as that. Then you have the option of allowing the site access to your camera so it can create your “Word Portrait.”

The word (one of many, I might add) I chose was magical. I never use the camera on my lap top so the program couldn’t access it, so the picture at the top of this post is what you get without access. But then I had the bright idea of accessing the site with my phone. Using the same word I got the picture below as the result (and yes, I know, I take terrible selfies!).



I don’t know why my phone turned the picture blue for the selfie. A couple of other tries I made (that were even worse that this one) were yellow and pink . . . Maybe the camera in my phone was just getting tired. LOL

If you want to give it a try, the website is HERE . Go ahead, give it a shot. All it takes is one word.


Prompts of the Week

Prompt One
You have discovered what appears to be an ordinary room. But as soon as you enter the room, time stops for you. When you leave the room, time picks up right where you left off. What do you use this room for?

Prompt Two
Write a story that begins with the title of the book you’ve most recently read and ends with the name of your favourite character that you’ve written.

You don’t need to 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, May 4, 2019

Comas and Fortunes



No one is more surprised than me that not only did I come up with something for both prompts this week, I wrote them in one evening. Now, if only that energy could translate to my other writing. *sigh*

Prompt One
You were involved in a terrible car accident and have been in a coma for the past three months. What your family and the doctors don’t know is that you can hear everything that they say. Write the scene.

“Is it true her husband was driving the car?” a young voice asked. Probably another candy striper. There seemed to be an abundance of them in this place.

“It’s true,” a second voice answered. It sounded like Sherry. She must have pulled a day shift this week. “Walked away without a scratch.”

“Isn’t that, like, kind of suspicious?”

“Not my place to say,” Sherry said a little stiffly. “Don’t you have magazines to deliver or bedpans to clean?”

There was a sound of someone leaving the room in a huff. A few seconds later I felt a pat on my head.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Sherry said. “He won’t get away with it.” Then she left too.

Get away with what? I wondered.

I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew I was awakened by the sound of many voices. Oh, good. Time for the family free-for-all.

“Oh, my poor baby!” Sniff, sniff. “She doesn’t even look alive.” Sniff, sniff.

My dear mother.

“Of course she’s alive, my father said irritably. “Just look at that heart monitor.” Was he annoyed at my mother or the fact my heart was still beating?

“Why do I have to be here? I’m missing the field trip. It’s not like she can hold up her end of the conversation.” That ray of sunshine would be my sister Cathy. Such a joy.

“It’s too crowded in here.” Sherry’s voice came like a blessing from above.

“It’s all right nurse,” my father said. “We were just leaving anyway.”

It was quiet for a long time after that, then I hear footsteps. Someone was in my room – a man, judging by the smell of his cologne. A second set of footsteps joined the first and then I was forced to endure the war of the aftershaves.

“I thought you said the respirator was the only thing keeping her alive? She’s been off of it for a week now, why is she still alive?” Ah, the dulcet tones of my loving husband.

“I told you in most cases the patient will expire on their own within a few days of being taken off of their respirators.” That was my doctor, my least favourite of them anyway.

“Well what are you going to do about it?”

“What do you mean, what am I going to do?”

“I paid you a lot of money—”

“To keep her in a coma and take her off the respirator, which I did.”

“She was supposed to die!”

“Keep your voice down,” the doctor hissed.

“I wouldn’t have to if you’d just done your job right.”

“I already did more than I should. I’m done here.”

“Well what am I supposed to do? She could live for years like this.”

“Why don’t you hold a pillow over her face. I’ll put in my report she simply stopped breathing.”

“Fine. But the least you can do is keep watch.”

Seriously? This was how it was going to end for me?

“Hold it right there! You’re both under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder.”

Was that Sherry’s voice?

“I don’t understand.” That was the doctor’s voice.

“We’ve had you under surveillance for a long time, Doctor Death. I’ve been working under cover her for the last six months – I have enough evidence to put you away for life.”

“Good work, officer,” my husband began.

“Nice try, slime ball. We know what happened to your wife was no accident.”

There was the sound of more people arriving, then Sherry’s voice again.

“Take ‘em away, boys. And no need to be gentle.”

There were the usual protests from my husband and the doctor as they were led away, then all was quiet again. But I had the sense someone was still in the room.

“Don’t worry, sweetie.” Sherry patted my hand. “You’re going to make a full recovery. Maybe even in time for their trial.”

Talk about incentive for getting better!


Prompt Two
A fortune teller at the local county fair tells you two things. She tells you something good that will happen, and something awful that will happen. What are these events or incidents?

When the fortune teller told me I’d be meeting a tall, handsome strange who’d sweep me off my feet, I nearly laughed. I mean really, don’t all fortune tellers tell you that? But then three days later I met Brian, tall, handsome Brian whom I’m madly in love with.

The other part of her prediction, the one about how I’d be leaving everything behind to go to a better place, like people do when they die, completely slipped my mind until much later.

It wasn’t until I got the message on my answering machine from my doctor’s office that I suddenly remembered the second prediction. I’d gone in for a routine check up and tests, and now the doctor wanted to see me in his office.

“Babe,” Brian said when he came home that night. “Where are you? We have something important to discuss.”

He followed the sound of my sniffles to the living room. Whatever he was going to tell me was forgotten as he held me in his arms and I poured my heart out to him.

“What if it’s cancer?” I asked, my voice cracking.

“Whatever it is, we’ll give it a good fight. I just found you, I’m not going to let you go that easily.”

He came with me to the doctor’s office the next day. We sat there holding hands as the doctor swept in.

“Look at you two,” the doctor said, shaking his head. “Who died?”

I flinched . Brian tightened his hold on my hand.

“Just cut to the chase, Doc,” Brian said.

“Fine, fine. That cough you’ve had is a little more serious than we thought. It’s that lung problem you were treated for when you were little.”

“But I thought you said I’d be fine as long as I took care of myself during damp weather.”

“Yes, but that was 15 years ago. We’ve had a series of cold, damp winters and high humidity in the summer. And it’s starting to take its toll on your health.”

“What can we do?” Brian asked when I couldn’t speak.

“You really need to spend some time in a drier climate. Move there if you can.”

“Move?” I squeaked out.

“I know it means leaving everything behind – friends, family, job – but you’ll be in a better place for your health.”

“A better place?” I repeated weakly. I turned to look at Brian. “Why do you look so happy?”

“My company offered me a promotion, but it would mean moving to Arizona.”

“Arizona would be perfect,” the doctor beamed.

“I’ve always wanted to live in the desert,” I told Brian with a smile.

“And it’ll be a great place to raise the baby,” the doctor added.

“Baby?” we chorused, looking at him in shock. “What baby?”

The doctor just smiled.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Focus Please!



You know, I started writing this post about being focused, and on how easy it was to lose that focus. But then I switched to how single-minded you can get when writing and waxing nostalgic, and I got up to ferret out a couple of stories I had stored on a USB key to check their length and on my way to doing that I went into the kitchen for another cup of coffee, had a text conversation with my daughter, and started to cook something to take for my lunch today. Then I sat back down in my chair – without the USB keys.

Got up and got my bag of keys, sorted through them until I found the one marked “everything” and stuck it in my lap top. But then there were all these folders to peruse. Some of the stuff was really old, I’d copied it off of a stack of floppy disks, and I couldn’t resist opening a couple of documents to check them out. One of them turned out to be a story I didn’t recognize as mine – it was a little rough but it had potential (sort of) – so I emailed it to the daughter, who also didn’t recognize it. Then I had to check on how my lunch was doing.

See how easy it is for me to lose my focus? I’ve been working on this post since 8 a.m. My mind keeps wandering off on tangents and I’m starting to feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. But when I started this blog 5 years ago I did promise to be honest.

When I first started writing, back in high school, I was very single minded. I’d do the assignments for my English classes (yes, I was one of those geeks who took 2 different English classes, one year I even took 3) – essays, poetry, whatever – but when it came to my own writing I stuck to short stories. I was going to be a writer of science fiction short stories.

And for it to be a legitimate short story, it had to be (in my mind) at least 4,000 words, but no more than about 6,000. If it ran longer than that, I abandoned it. I have at least three, maybe more of these longer stories stored away to finish one of these days.

The Moonstone Chronicles was one of these stories. The original story, Shades of Errol Flynn, made it all the way to Jessica waking up on the beach in the magical realm and meeting Prince Ewan, who was not, at the time, a dastardly prince. At that point, there were two ways the story could have gone and I had no idea which way to take it. So there it lay, abandoned, until I got the urge to turn it into a serial on a now defunct blog.

You may be wondering what the point of all this is. I have a confession. Me too. I know when I started this post I had a point in mind, but it got lost somewhere in the shuffle of social media, email, texting, and other assorted distractions. I’m sure it’ll come to me later.

But that’ll be a post for another day. :-D

Prompts of the Week

Prompt One
You were involved in a terrible car accident and have been in a coma for the past three months. What your family and the doctors don’t know is that you can hear everything that they say. Write the scene.

Prompt Two
A fortune teller at the local county fair tells you two things. She tells you something good that will happen, and something awful that will happen. What are these events or incidents?

Remember, don’t be like me and 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 27, 2019

Antique Dolls and Bootleg Games



The first prompt story ran so long that I didn’t think I was going to get anything done for the second one, but surprise, surprise, it just kind of popped into my head all at once.


Prompt One
While shopping downtown one day, you find an antiques store that has a rare, old doll. You buy it for your daughter. A few days later she tells you her new toy can talk. You don’t believe her, until one afternoon you find yourself alone in the house and it starts . . .

There was nothing Lucy enjoyed more than browsing through an antique or junk store. You never knew what treasure you might uncover. On this rainy Saturday morning, the treasure was an old doll, just like the one her grandmother had had.

Its green velvet dress and matching hat were a little moth eaten, the shoes were worn, as though the doll had walked many miles in them, and there were smudges on the porcelain face. But the blue glass eyes still shone brightly.

“I’ll take her,” she said to the woman behind the counter.

The woman took the doll from her, looking a little puzzled. “Isn’t that strange, I can’t recall seeing this doll before.”

“I found her on the shelf, right over there,” Lucy said, turning to point at the space between an antique hand iron and a cookbook that listed to one side without the support of the doll.

“There’s so much in here that sometimes it’s hard to keep track,” the woman said apologetically. She rang up the purchase and handed Lucy the bag. “Enjoy your doll.”

“Thank you,” Lucy said with a smile.

The woman smiled back, although her smile turned uneasy as Lucy left the shop. “I know I’ve never seen that doll before.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Lucy was a little disappointed at the lukewarm reception from her daughter when she presented her with the doll.

“It’s kind of old and beat up looking,” Janey said.

“Nonsense. It’s well-loved. And she’ll be perfect for that little wicker chair in the corner of your room.”

Janey just sighed a long-suffering sigh that spoke of knowing not to cross her mother when it came to decorating, and dutifully took the doll, placing it on the chair.

Three days later, Lucy came across the doll, sitting on a shelf in the bookcase in her office, right above the box of donations she kept meaning to take to the church. “Janey, what’s your doll doing here?”

“I don’t like the doll,” Janey told her.

“Don’t like it?” her mother repeated. “What’s not to like? She’s beautiful and her dress matches the ivy on your wallpaper.”

“There’s something broken inside her. She makes noises like she’s trying to talk and I can’t sleep.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Lucy frowned at her daughter. It wasn’t like Janey to be fanciful. “They didn’t make dolls that talked back when she was made; it’s just your imagination.”

“I don’t like her – she’s creepy!” Brown eyes, so much like Lucy’s own, filled with tears.

“Fine.” Lucy threw up her hands in defeat. “You don’t have to keep her in your room. But you’re being ridiculous about her trying to talk.”

That evening, as Lucy was catching up on some work in her office, she thought she heard whispering. She cocked her head to one side but couldn’t identify the source. The sound was muffled, like a radio left on in another room.

Over the next several days the sounds persisted, but only when she was in her office. They became stronger, more defined, but she still couldn’t make out the words. It was like whatever was being said was in a different language.

Janey refused to set foot in the office, and she and her mother argued every time Lucy came out, which was getting less and less often.

But as suddenly as her mother’s odd behaviour started, it stopped. Janey came down one morning, figuring on cold cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and jam for lunch – again – only to find Lucy in the kitchen at the stove.

“Hey, sleepyhead. Just time. The sausages are on the table and the French toast is just about done.”

“Mom?” Janey asked in disbelief.

“Who else would it be, silly? Now eat up or you’ll miss your bus. Your lunch bag is on the counter.”

Janey didn’t question her mother’s change in behaviour, she was just happy things were back to normal. She gave her mother a kiss on the cheek as she raced out the door to catch her bus. Lucy waved from the door, her blue eyes glistening like glass in the sunlight.

Closing the door, she went into her office and picked up the box of donations to take to the church, the doll in the green dress sting on top, its brown eyes staring vacantly in its porcelain face.


Prompt Two
You’re playing a video game called Wizards & Warriors when, suddenly, lightning strikes the house, searing you and causing you to black out. When you wake up, you’re trapped inside the game. The only items you have is a sword, a backpack and a note attached to your shirt that reads, “Beat me and I’ll send you home.”

Damn! No more drinking and binge gaming. My head felt like my brains were leaking out my ears. I didn’t think I’d had that much to drink, but obviously I was wrong. Now what I needed to do was open my eyes. I knew for sure I wasn’t in my own bed, and the chances were good I wasn’t even in my house. It felt like I was outside.

“C’mon Ryan, open your eyes,” I told myself. “Stop being a wuss.”

I took another minute to psyche myself up, then cracked open one eye. Damn, that sun was bright!

With a groan I pushed myself up into a sitting position, my head throbbing. This wasn’t good, this wasn’t good at all. I was in some kind of wooded area, it kind of looked like the woods from the latest RPG I was into. What the hell had happened to me last night?

The last thing I remembered was playing Wizards and Warriors. My buddy Paul had got his hands on the as yet unreleased newest version of the game and I’d just cracked the code to start playing. There was this flash of light, then . . . here I was. Wherever here was.

I got to my feet and just about tripped over a backpack.

“What the hell?”

It was a sturdy pack, bulging at the seams and totally unfamiliar to me. And there was a sheathed sword attached to it. I brushed my hands over myself to clean up and found a note pinned to my shirt.

“Beat me and I’ll send you home.”

Beat me? Beat who?

I grinned suddenly. Who cared? This was too cool.

“Game on, dude,” I said, picking up the pack.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The End of It All



Some writing advice came up in my Facebook feed the other day, and it said to “write the ending first.” It was linked to an article that listed 7 reasons why you should do this. I’m not going to go into all the details, if you want to read the entire article you can do it HERE, but I will agree that it makes some good points – but only if you’re a plotter and not a pantser.

Oh, c’mon. You know the difference between a plotter and a pantser right? A plotter starts out with an outline, plotting every step of their story. A pantser writes by the seat of their pants, taking the story as it comes.

When I wrote my first serial, which had the working title of Space Opera (later to become An Elemental Wind), I was a total pantser. I had no idea what I was doing, but I’d been challenged to write a serial on my blog and I was not going to back down from a challenge. It was kind of nerve-wracking – each week I was expected to provide a new instalment and I wouldn’t know what was going to happen until it did.

The story deviated a great deal from the original idea. And then it turned into a series. When I started writing it I wasn’t thinking beyond just getting the book done, but once I was at the end it seemed only logical to continue on. After all, there were three other elements to write about.

Being a pantser has its drawbacks though. Sometimes you start working on an idea and because you don’t know how it’s going to end, sometimes the story just peters out. I don’t know, maybe there’s something to this whole plotting thing after all.

At the very least, maybe I might consider working on the endings a little sooner.


Prompts of the Week

Prompt One
While shopping downtown one day, you find an antiques store that has a rare, old doll. You buy it for your daughter. A few days later she tells you her new toy can talk. You don’t believe her, until one afternoon you find yourself alone in the house and it starts . . .

Prompt Two
You’re playing a video game called Wizards & Warriors when, suddenly, lightning strikes the house, searing you and causing you to black out. When you wake up, you’re trapped inside the game. The only items you have is a sword, a backpack and a note attached to your shirt that reads, “Beat me and I’ll send you home.”

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 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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Getting It Together



Yup, that’s right. I feel like I’m finally getting my s**t together.

My depression usually gets a lot worse just after the time change in the fall, and I’ve noticed that this year it seems to be getting better now that the time has changed back again. Which begs the question, is it because of the time change itself, or is it because the sun has been making more of an effort to shine lately?

Maybe it’s a little of both. But whatever it is, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

I believe I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: if you are writing a series whereupon the plot of the next book relies on events of the previous one, DO NOT write the next book before finishing the previous one!

I’ve also mentioned before that the first 50,000 words of Wandering Wizards, the third volume in my Moonstone Chronicles, were written as a NaNo novel. This is all well and good, it got the novel started, but the problem was I hadn’t yet finished Lucky Dog, volume two of the Moonstone Chronicles.

I thought I only needed to make a few minor adjustments to Wandering Wizards and then carry on. Turns out I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. For one thing, considering the series is really about Jessica and her journey, there was very little Jessica in WW. And there were a few things from Lucky Dog that had a big impact on the action in WW. And WW ended up going in an unexpected direction that was taking it well away from the story line as a whole.

Normally I get the first draft done and then worry about re-writes, but Wandering Wizards is such a hot mess that I finally broke down and printed out the current version – all 165 pages of it. THEN I discovered a second document labeled “current version”, which was about 8,000 words shorter. Which came first, the long one or the short one? I had no idea.

After wasting far too much time on Sunday trying to compare the long one to the short one, I finally got fed up and just deleted the shorter one. If I edited out 8,000 words, well, I’m sure I can edit them out again. It was stupid to waste so much time (with the potential of wasting a lot more) trying to figure out what changed between the two. And no, I didn’t think of using the track changes option in Word until after I’d already deleted the short version.

So where does that leave me? With 165 pages to edit to get the story back on track. And hopefully before I get to the end of those pages I’ll have figured out where to end the book. There’ll be a case of mistaken identity, a kidnapping, and the potential for many bad things to happen - the big question is, will the book end before or after the wizard is rescued?

Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!


Prompts of the Week

Prompt one:
One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed 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.

Prompt two:
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 the past, present and future. However, you soon discover that the three spirits aren’t quite like the ones who visited Ebenezer Scrooge…


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 16, 2019

It’s A Start. . .

It was a busy week, it being March Break and all, so I only got one of the prompts done. But it’s better than nothing, right? This little story proves that you don’t have to take these prompts too seriously. :-D

To get the story straight. Dave, we think, has become a chicken. Just the worst of luck with that guy. Tom is claiming he married the futon that’s now covered in yogurt, Carl is on the chandelier with the dog and you just walked in after getting groceries. What the heck is going on?

You set the groceries down with a sigh. “Millicent!” you call.

There’s a pink swarm of dust motes hovering in the corner and a high pitched giggle comes from the sparkling cloud.

“Millicent,” you say again, looking sternly at the pink swarm. The sparkle intensifies and two bright fuchsia eyes appear. “What have I told you?” you ask sternly.

The effervescent of the swarm tones down slightly. “No using wild magic on your friends,” a high-pitched voice replied.

“And what did you do while I was gone?”

“It was just a little magic, and it wasn’t my fault.”

You sigh. Raising any child on your own is hard, but raising a half fairy, half genie is challenging, to say the least.

The swarm drifts down to the floor in front of you and begins to coalesce. Another few seconds and a small form takes shape. The fuchsia eyes remain the same and today she’s sporting bright pink, spikey hair, a pale blue tee-shirt with the slogan “Unicorn Trainer” emblazoned across it in darker blue sequins, and jeans. As usual, her feet are bare.

You crouch down so you can look her in the eyes. “You’ve had your fun, now change them back please.”

She looks down, hands behind her back, and her glow dims a little further. “I can’t.”

“What do you mean, you can’t?”

“Carl used my wand to play fetch with the dog and the dog bit it in half and it broke. That’s how they ended up on the chandelier.”

“And the rest?” you ask with the patience of a saint.

One bare toe rubbed on the carpet. “The magic kind of spilled out and went wonky.”

You sigh and straighten up again. “Okay. Give me the pieces and we’ll fix it.”

She produces the pieces from behind her back and hands them to you. You pat her on the head and take the pieces gingerly.

“All right, let’s glue this up and you can put things to right again.”

Millicent skips happily beside you as you go into the kitchen to get the super glue. At the rate she keeps breaking her wand, maybe you should be buying glue by the case.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Times They Are A Changin’



I’m going to be upfront with you here. I hate the time change. It serves no purpose, other than to mess with our circadian rhythms and I promise to vote for the first Politian who swears to abolish it.

The New England Journal of Medicine published an article linking the shift to Daylight Savings Time (DST)to a rise in incidents of myocardial infarction (heart attacks). Different studies have shown there is an increased risk of stroke in the days following a time switch. There is an increased number of traffic accidents and more on the job accidents in the days following the time change.

Danish researchers uncovered a link between time change and an increase of hospital admissions for depression. Another study shows a link between time change and an increase in suicides. This begs the question, why do we still do it?

Supposedly, the switch to DST saves us money on energy. Moving that extra hour of daylight from the morning to the evening means we can work longer, play longer, and have a longer exposure to vitamin D. But studies have shown this isn’t really the case. Just because it’s still light outside doesn’t mean we’re out there enjoying it. And the decrease in energy used in the evening is offset by the needed increase of use in the mornings.

Forbes Magazine published an interesting article showing that the top 5 reasons for keeping DST have no science to back them up. You can read it HERE.

So back to my question, why do we still do it? The only answer I can come up with is that we do it because we’re told to by the government. And that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to me.



Prompt of the Week

You may have noticed I forgot to post my take on last week’s prompt. Yeah, well, you didn’t send me anything either, so there! LOL

On the weekend I spent some time with the prompt jar actually going through the prompts which I had mostly copied from the Writer’s Digest site, not realizing that a lot of them you had to click on to get the whole prompt. And prompts from other sources that I again mostly just cut and pasted from proved to be . . . lame.

But the jar is refilled now and my friend and I both chose a prompt for the week, so you get to have your choice:

Prompt 1:
To get the story straight. Dave, we think, has become a chicken. Just the worst of luck with that guy. Tom is claiming he married the futon that’s now covered in yogurt, Carl is on the chandelier with the dog and you just walked in after getting groceries. What the heck is going on?

Prompt 2:
You take a sip from your drink and feel different. That may be because your torso has an extra arm protruding from it. Another sip, another arm. Then a wing. What happens if you finish the drink?

Bonus

My friend has extended a challenge: Everyone has had a villain in their life. Challenge. Write a paragraph or two about a villain’s point of view. What makes them tick.

Remember, these prompts are just to flex your writing muscle, so have fun with them!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish





I had a whole vision in my head of how life was going to continue after I got back from my retreat. I was going get back into my exercise routine, eat healthier, spend the mornings in my office writing, pay a little more attention to my blog by establishing a weekly prompt. . . Great goals, right?

What I hadn’t planned on was being struck down by the mother of all colds. I had a bit of a sinus thing going before I went on the retreat, and didn’t get enough sleep while I was away so the medicine I was taking was less effective, so by the time I got home I was really feeling like crap. And I felt like crap all of last week. So no writing, pretty much no anything.

I still feel like crap, but my head doesn't seem quite so muffled. And right now all my good intentions seem to be covered in a layer of snow – is anyone else as tired of winter as I am? Seriously! It kept waffling about whether it was going to be winter or not all season long, and now that it’s March it’s suddenly decided to commit. In fact, as I type this it’s snowing like crazy. Go away snow!

Back to my good intentions. One of the ideas I’ve been toying with is adding a weekly prompt to this blog. I was going to write out all these prompts and stick them in a jar, and a friend was going to come over and we’d pick a prompt for the week. The idea was for us to write from the prompt for 15 minutes to exercise our creative muscles, and I could share the prompt here for anyone else who wanted to give it a try.

Well, the friend blew me off but I’d already spent considerable time and effort on the prompts, so I see no reason why that time should go to waste. So I’ve picked a prompt for the week and I invite anyone who’d care to participate to use this prompt to kick start their own writing. It’s more fun if you use pen and paper, but that’s up to you, and I suggest limiting yourself to 15 minutes – write without thinking too much and without stopping.

If you like what you’ve written and want to continue, go for it. And if you don’t think it’s going anywhere that’s okay too – at least you’ve had a little fun with your writing. AND if you keep it to around 500 words, you can either post it in the comments or send it to me at carolrward(at)gmail(dot)com and I can post it here on Friday, when I’ll post my own.

Give it a try – at the very least it’ll get your creative juices flowing.

Prompt of the week:
There’s a thunderous knock at the door. You open it to find an improbably tall, black-robed figure towering over you with a scythe in one bony hand. The figure peers at you for a long moment, then looks down at a clipboard in its other hand. Then back at you. Then back at the paper. It has no apparent face, but you sense that it is puzzled.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Winterfire



I made it home from the retreat yesterday, although it was a close thing. There was a brutal wind, with snow on top of it, making the driving treacherous. One of the major highways was closed both ways due to accidents, and I only narrowly avoided being stuck waiting for an accident to be cleared away from the route I took. A second accident I was able to turn around from and take an alternate route.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about the retreat itself. The Winterfire Writing Retreat was held at the Loretto Maryholm Spirituality Centre, which is owned and administered by the Loretto Sisters of The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This probably accounted for the single beds with their super firm mattresses.

My friend and I got to the retreat on Friday with enough time to settle in, unpack, and relax a bit. Supper was a light buffet of seriously healthy food like avocado, shredded carrots, diced cucumber, couscous, chick peas – you get the idea – that you could combine in any way you saw fit. This was followed by the first workshop.

When I think of workshops, I think of everyone working at a single task. The Winterfire workshops were a little different in that we worked at several different things. For instance, there was a tiny card at each place with a single word written on it. We were to begin with the phrase, “I want to have” and write a short piece incorporating that word. The writing was timed, and after we were done we shared what we’d written before moving on to the next task. We’d usually do three or four of these little prompts (all different) before the workshop was done.

Saturday we did a prompt workshop as a group, then broke into two groups for more prompt writing. But it was after lunch that things got really interesting. We did something called “silent writing” for something like three hours. Now silent writing doesn’t just mean writing quietly, it means you don’t smile at anyone, don’t talk, don’t even acknowledge another person – not even to offer them a cup of coffee.

I was kind of skeptical of what this would accomplish, but I gotta tell you. I went into the silent writing time feeling tired and dragged out, but by the time it was done I felt rejuvenated. It was really weird, and really productive.

I got a lot of writing done at the retreat, most of it from prompts. And I completed two short stories. The other participants were a varied group, ranging from a young screen writer to a research doctor who was working on her memoir, with several different genres in between.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were divided into teams to make lunches and dinners and the purpose was two-fold. The first was to provide delicious, home-cooked meals, which were not included in booking the house, and the other was to allow us to get to know each other better through a shared task. Remember, there were 15 of us and we’d never met each other before.

Would I do it again? Definitely. Being unplugged for the weekend was in no way a hardship. I got a lot of writing done and met some very interesting women – everyone seemed to have a story.

But next time I’m getting a room to myself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Taking Note

I have a dilemma.

Most authors who write long hand have a favourite pen and notebook. I’m no exception when it comes to the pen, but the notebook is a whole different story. Don’t get me wrong, I love notebooks. Maybe I love notebooks a little too much…



I’m pretty sure I mentioned before about my borderline hoarding of office supplies. In particular I’ve mentioned my stash of notebooks of varies shapes, sizes and thicknesses. But I never mentioned the problem of what happens when you have too many notebooks to choose from. You tend to use several of them at the same time.

The picture shows just a few of the notebooks I have on hand. The spiral bound white one on the left is the one I took with me to my writing courses and then I used it occasionally when the writing group was doing weekly prompts. I don’t know how much writing I’ll be doing at the retreat, but I think this one will be staying home – I’m hoping there’ll be a new speculative fiction course starting up in a month or two and it would be great to be able to keep all my notes in one book.

The two off-white notebooks just below it are, to date, unused. One is labelled “Unicorns” and the other is “A Hobbit’s Journal.” These are made out of parchment and lavishly illustrated. And . . . they’re too pretty to use. I want to brush up on my calligraphy and then fill the unicorn one with unicorn stories and poems. You know, the ones I haven’t written yet. And I have no idea what to fill the hobbit one with, I just know it has to be worthy.

To the right of the fancy notebooks is a plain, black spiral bound one. It’s for jotting half-formed ideas down, or random thoughts, or mundane stuff I don’t want to forget. It’s like a catch-all of lists and poetic phrases, notes and reminders. I have three four of them on the go – they’re handy to make notes in when I don’t want to dig out one of my more important journals – I can transfer the words later to their appropriate place.

To the upper right of that notebook is one that looks like a large steno pad, which is exactly what it is. This is where I used to develop an idea until it was ready to work on, or record changes I want to make to a story. This is supposed to be only for novel length ideas, but sometimes when I start getting an idea on paper it turns out there’s not as much to it as I thought.

As I come to rely on the computer more, I kind of fell out of the habit of using this one for my ideas. Which is a shame really, I like looking back at my hand written notes and seeing an idea develop. It’s just not the same on the computer screen. Nor is it the same if I print the notes out and stick them in a file folder. There’s just something about having them written in a notebook…

To the left of this one, the most colourful of all, is my personal journal. Yes, I like a pretty book to record my life in. I try and update every couple of days, but more often it’s about once a week. Any longer than that and I’m in danger of forgetting things.

Finally, to the left of the personal journal is a plain black spiral bound one. It’s similar to my catch all notebook, but it has a hard cover. This is my writing journal, such as it is. I’m still kind of struggling as to how to make the best use of it. I look online for a glimpse of what other people are doing, and their journals seem to be so much more. I know I should probably just ditch the soft sided ones and put everything in my writing journal, but I don’t want it to look messy. Must be my OCD kicking in.

I find I enjoy writing in a spiral bound notebook. I like that I can fold it easily so I’m only seeing one page at a time. When I’m editing I use one of my full size spiral bound notebooks that I stock up on at the dollar store or the back to school sales. They’re great because you don’t have to worry about losing any notes – they’re all bound together. And if you do want to stick a page in a file folder you can just rip it out without having to worry about others falling out.

All in all, I have a lot of notebooks, and each with a purpose. Sometimes a couple with the same purpose, but still.

Which brings me to my dilemma. What notebooks do I take with me on the retreat?

The journals for sure. And maybe the soft-covered black one for random notes. I have a binder with some short stories I’ve printed out to work on in my spare time, so I guess I’ll take one of my full sized, spiral bound notebooks for editing. But what to take for the workshops?

Someone who’s less of a notebook fanatic than I would just use their writing journal. That’s what it’s for after all, isn’t it? And maybe I will use it for impressions and thoughts on the retreat itself, but for an actual workbook I need something else. Something like a full sized spiral bound notebook, but one that’s a little nicer than the cheap dollar store ones.

Guess this means a trip to the book store for a new notebook.

Gee, what a shame! ;-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Speaking of Prompts…





Last week I got a nice little package from the people running the retreat I’m going to. In it, among other things, were some writing prompts to get the creative juices going.

At one time, Brazen Snake Books offered weekly prompts for both poetry and prose. Sometimes the prompts didn’t strike a cord, but more often they did and I ended up with an amazing variety of flash fiction and poetry. Enough I could probably put together an entire anthology just from those prompts (maybe I should).

Over the course of the summer I got together on a weekly basis with some of my fellow speculative fiction writers, and if we didn’t have anything to share (which was often the case), then someone would suggest a writing prompt and we’d all be sitting there in the outdoor cafĂ©, scribbling furiously. It was really interesting to read our pieces and see the different directions our minds went.

When I went to Word on the Street in the fall, there were several writing groups and small presses with stalls, and almost every one of them had a writing prompt or two for you to take. One of them even had the unique idea of offering a seed with a word written on it. The idea was to plant the seed and watch it grow with your story.

And when I was going through a bag of books the daughter was going to get rid of (to see if there were any I wanted to adopt) I found a little booklet of writing prompts I made many, many years ago. I used to get the “writing prompt of the day” from Writer’s Digest delivered to my inbox, and this booklet contained a year’s worth of them.

I like prompts. I like writing from them – especially when I feel like writing but I’ve hit a dry spell with my current WIPs.

But one thing I’ve learned is that it’s easier (for me) to write from a written prompt, not a picture prompt. I vaguely remember doing a “Flash Me Friday” thing on one of my old blogs, and these were flash stories I was writing from a picture prompt. I also remember starting to struggle, as I did when I was doing just one prompt a month here (in 2017).

I’m seriously thinking of giving the prompt a week thing a try here again, but probably not from pictures. And probably not until after I’ve been to the retreat, which is in 10 days and counting.

In the meantime, if you’d like to try writing from a prompt yourself, Writer’s Digest is still offering them (although not on a daily basis). Here’s the link.