Sunday, November 10, 2019

All Aboard the Crazy Train



I sent this quote to my best bud Jamie this week:
You are doing this because you are fantastic and brave and curious. And, yes, you are probably a little crazy. And this is a good thing.
— Chris Baty

As soon as I saw that quote I started hearing Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train” in my head. I’ve always thought of it as my theme song. In fact, I’ve been on that train so often I could probably drive it.

Anyway, I must be crazy because I’m still plugging away at NaNo. As I type this, I’m 6,000 words behind. When this is posted I’ll be behind by 7,667 (when you add on the daily 1667). Hopefully by the end of the day I’ll close the gap at least a little.

I’ve changed the beginning a few times, added a prologue, decided to add journal entries to the beginning of each chapter – which can be as time consuming as an actual chapter. And I’ve been struggling with the words themselves. AND I’ve done a crap ton of research on rogue planets and gas giants before deciding the Illezie have only disguised their planet to look like a gas giant. All that time wasted. *sigh*

Then yesterday I actually parked myself in my office, and after hemming and hawing over the words I’d written during the past week I finally convinced myself that I needed to stop worrying and start writing. No one’s ever going to see this but me, so it really doesn’t matter whether it makes sense or not. All that matters is it gets written. Which is kind of the point of NaNo, isn’t it?

So then I pulled out my trusty Neo and made some actually progress – I always seem to write faster on my Neo, maybe it’s because it’s free of distractions. Of course some of that progress was an info dump that I was going to use in the journal entries, but whatever. Words is words.

Goals for the Week:
Forget the anthology (for now) this week is going to be all about catching up on my NaNo word count. This means I have to write 815 words a day in addition to the required 1667. No mean feat considering I haven’t hit the daily goal yet.

I was going to leave you with Ozzy’s version of Crazy Train, but this one was impossible to resist. LOL


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Crap! It’s Thursday!



How did Thursday sneak up on me so quickly?

As you can see, I’m still woefully behind words-wise on my NaNo novel. It’s still early yet, lots of time to catch up. Possibly. Maybe. Hopefully.

As well as adding a prologue that I re-wrote about three times (a NaNo no-no but it was important to the rest of the book) I also kept changing my mind about where exactly it was going to start. Hopefully now that I’m pretty sure I’ve got that right it’ll go a little quicker, if not easier.

And yeah, I am starting each chapter with a journal entry. Or an excerpt from historic records, to be more precise. It’s actually kind of fun – I don’t even have to come up with an actual prophecy, I can just hint at it.

I was going to use the prologue as my excerpt, but it’s over 1,000 words, which is kind of long for an excerpt. So instead I’ll share a piece from the opening of chapter two (which was going to be chapter one before I decided I needed to start further back).

For those of you familiar with the series, this excerpt is about Kaine, whom we met near the end of An Elemental Water. He was a guard who was in love with Nereida, sister of Kairavini (the water elemental).

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, this excerpt is about Kaine. :-D



It was dark, he was surrounded by it. He couldn’t see, couldn’t move, but he could feel. Loss, despair, anguish – the same feelings that had drawn him to her in the beginning. So much pain, but underlying that an astonishing strength of spirit. The strength of her spirit was such that it had been a shock the first time he’d laid eyes on her, so painfully thin she was more skin over bones than flesh and blood. But he’d known in that moment she was his beloved and that he’d do anything, risk everything, to save her. But in the end she’d left him behind. Alone.

“Not alone,” her voice whispered in his mind. “Never alone.”

He felt the fear, almost overwhelming, hers and the others as he worked at the master lock to the doors, felt the heat as he lead the way through the tunnels of the active volcano. He felt her growing weaker in his arms as they finally reached the shore on the other side. And then he felt only despair as her spirit became closed to him.

“I am with you always, my love.”

A speck of light in the darkness, moving closer, resolving itself into the form of a woman. She was tall and thin, but with a healthy glow to her skin unlike the sickly grey tone he was used to. Her hair was long and flowing, and the eyes . . . the eyes were her eyes.

“It is almost time, my love. Soon we will be together once more.”

“You are not real,” he said, but without conviction.

“Soon, my love,” her voice whispered to him, and she turned away.

He could not help himself. “Nereida!” he called . . . and woke up.

Kaine was sitting up in bed, one hand outstretched as though reaching for her. As he recognized his surroundings his hand dropped and he took a couple of deep breaths. This was the fourth time in the last week he’d had the dream, and it was getting more intense each time.

Throwing back the covers he got out of bed.

“Lights, thirty percent,” he said.

He knew by now there was no point in trying to get any more sleep, what he could use was a drink. Pulling on his clothes from the day before, he ran a hand through his hair by way of combing it, and left his room for the lounge.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

It’s NaNoing Time! (God Help Us All)



I freely admit I was not as prepared as I would have liked to be on November 1, but then I’m not usually. At least this year I had my idea ahead of time. Not that it’s doing me any good. There’s a lot of research to be done and I’ve already had to adjust the events I want to have happen because they’re just not scientifically possible. However, as research quite often does, it closed one avenue while opening another.

See, the whole elemental series is rooted in a prophecy that was predicted way back in the mists of time. And to make it even more complicated, it connects back to my very first, unedited, badly written, first novel, the idea for which I came up with in high school. And I really need to start writing some of the pertinent information down so I don’t forget any of it because this was not the only prophecy to set things in motion.

Anyway. I was kind of hoping there’d be a center to the universe, but there isn’t. However, I learned that just as planets orbit a sun, galaxies orbit the universe and that might work even better because I need there to be an extreme amount of time passing between the prophecy and the fulfillment of the prophecy.

I still only have a vague notion of said prophecy, and it’s really something I need to share for the reader to understand what’s going on. Unfortunately, it’s going to take me a while to figure out exactly how to word it properly and I don’t have that kind of time. Plus, starting with a prophecy would be kind of boring, I really need to start with some action. There’s only one solution.

*heaves a big sigh*

I’m going to have to start each chapter with a journal entry, like I did in Elemental Fire and Elemental Water. Something I swore I’d never do again.

Goals For The Week:

At least 2 more stories edited for the new anthology
Catch up and stay on track for NaNo.

Don’t forget to check back Thursday for an excerpt!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy All Hallow’s Eve

As you can see, I did not get my monk story written for today. While the picture intrigues me, I can’t decide whether the monks were good or bad. So I will write the story . . . some day, just not today.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t just leave you hanging so I thought a little poetry might be in order. I wrote this poem a few years ago because I wanted to write something about the Wild Hunt, but I couldn’t come up with an idea for a story.

For those of you who care about these things, this poem is written in the Zejel form.



THE WILD HUNT

The Wild Hunt makes its ride tonight
underneath the pale moonlight
a rare and yet a chilling sight.

First the horn sounds loud and fey
Then the hounds begin to bay
And soon the riders are away
To seek a soul, as is their right.

I hear them as they thunder past
They take their freedom while it lasts
These hunters that are unsurpassed
The huntsmen on their quest this night.

Damned are these souls that come from hell
who, in dishonest battle, fell
and now condemned to ride the dell
in search of one more fallen knight.

Merciless, they seek their prey
or any soul that’s lead astray
They’re focused on the need to slay
to set the ancient wrongs aright.

Beware the Hunter’s moon, my friends
Take heed to what the sight portends
The Wild Hunt rides when it ascends
A rare and yet a chilling sight.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Back On A Whole New Track



Despite the lateness of this post today, I feel like I’m getting back on track, albeit a brand new track. Last week got really busy towards the end and it kind of got away from me. But I’m here now, right?

Alrighty then.

As you know, I was trying to put together an anthology of my darker flash stories in time for Christmas. It’s not that I didn’t have enough stories for at least a slim volume, but they all needed work (and my head’s just not in edit mode these days), and who wants to read horror at Christmas? Okay, well some people do, but not the majority of people the anthology is intended for.

So the dark anthology has been scrapped until the new year, and the new plan is to have it ready for next Halloween. This lets me take my time and perhaps it won’t be just flash stories, I have a few longer ones that would fit the bill too.

But I haven’t given up the idea of a book flood anthology. I have a number of lighter stories that will work, and they’re in much better shape than the darker ones. So cross your fingers for me.

Meanwhile, I promised to talk about NaNo for those of you who haven’t yet discovered the joys of writing in a pressure cooker.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) takes place during the month of November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days – that’s 1667 words per day. Now they’ve redesigned the website and I don’t find it as easy to navigate as it used to be, so if you’re looking for the full history of it, you might want to do a Google search.

In a nutshell, it started in July of 1999 with Chris Baty and consisted of 21 writers. They had such fun that in 2000 it was moved to the month of November (because it’s such a grey and dismal month and there’s nothing better to do) and they created an official website as well as a few ground rules: you had to use new words only, you couldn’t have a co-author, and your word count had to be verified by the end of the month. They had 140 people sign up – about 30 of them finished.

The next year, to Baty’s astonishment, 5,000 people signed up with 700 finishing, and it’s been growing steadily larger ever since. Last year there were 287,327 participants with 35,387 finishing.

I first attempted NaNo in 2006. I say attempted because I had no clue what I was doing and my story ended at 35,000 words. I missed the next year but in 2008 I completed the challenge, as I did for the next 6 years in a row. I did not participate in 2015, figuring I had enough un-finished books on my hard drive, but I got back in the saddle in 2016 and have been participating ever since. You might find it ironic that my 2017 novel is a sequel to my failed 2006 one.

NaNo is fun, NaNo is frustrating, NaNo is addictive. I totally regret the year I skipped it – I felt itchy the whole month and didn’t really get anything else accomplished. And I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s something that can’t be duplicated at any other time of the year. Under a deadline? Why not try a January NaNo? Nope. Doesn’t work. You have to do it at the same time as the other crazy people around the world.

If you’d like to learn more or sign up, visit their WEBSITE. As I mentioned, they redesigned the site so I’m finding it a little difficult to navigate these days, but I’m sure they’ll iron out all the wrinkles soon. And if you do sign up, look me up to be your buddy – I’m Carol R. Ward over there – and I’ll buddy you back.

Goals For The Week:

At least 3 more stories edited for the new anthology
Come up with a cover design for NaNo novel
Get my research done for NaNo novel
Come up with a game plan for NaNo novel

And since I won’t have an excerpt ready for Thursday, I’m hoping to have a monk story ready for you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Got Cheese?



You know, to go with all that whining I’ve been doing lately. ;-)

Here’s the part where I confess that I’ve been working on this blog post for the last two three hours. I keep deleting what I’ve written because it also seems rather whiny.

“This year’s been a struggle” – whine, whine, whine.

“I suffer from depression” – whine, whine, whine.

“I also have seasonal affective disorder and it’s raining” – whine, whine, whine.

So then I tell myself I need to be more positive, and myself sits back with her feet on my desk, sticking her tongue out and shooting rubber bands at me.

Take a deep breath.

The best writing I’ve done this year is when I don’t stop to think about it, I just do it. I don’t know if that’ll work so well with the editing, but I’m going to give it a try this week. I have come to the conclusion that I will probably not have my anthology edited before the end of next week, but that’s okay. I have an alternate plan for it which might work out even better.

In the meantime, if you saw Saturday’s post then you also saw the picture I posted with the suggestion it be used for this week’s writing prompt (which is why I’m not ending this post with a prompt).

I’ve been posting here on Saturdays and Tuesdays to make it easier on myself because I post on my other blog on Mondays and Fridays. I was going to switch the writing prompt to the Saturday post, like I did this week, and Tuesdays I was going set my goals for the week (with the results showing the following week) but that just seems weird to start the week on Tuesday.

Hmm. Maybe I’ll start setting my goals on Sunday and go to Thursdays for sharing and prompts. Well, for sharing anyway. I’ll probably just forget about the prompts for the month of November while I’m busy with NaNo. And maybe I won’t make the switch until the first of November.

Confused yet? Yeah, me too. LOL

In a nutshell. This week I’m posting today and Saturday – here’s the LINK to that post if you want to give the monk story a try. Next week I’ll post my weekly goals on Tuesday (this week’s goal is simply to get myself organized and moving forward), but then my next post will be Sunday, which will also be a goals post and my strategy for NaNoWriMo.

What’s NaNo, you ask?”

Come back Saturday and I’ll tell you. :-D

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Monks



As you may have noticed, I’m not having much luck getting my days organized lately, which also means I’m not getting a whole lot of writing/editing done either. I have all these ideas and good intentions and plans in my head, but something goes seriously awry between the thinking stage and the execution stage.

It’s kind of like learning tai chi. It looks so easy when I watch others do it, one movement flows into another in a graceful ballet, but when I try it myself . . . my feet and my hands don’t like working independently of each other and if I focus on one I lose track of the other.

The stories I’ve been editing were written quickly, with little attention to detail, the focus being on the story itself. Most of them are 1,000 words which makes for good flash fiction but I’m not sure if it makes for a complete story.

So I’m facing a bit of a crisis of conscience with them. Should I add more detail to flesh them out, or would that just be padding them to make them longer? Should I just leave them alone?

No, seriously, I’m asking you – I don’t have the answers.

The more I practice tai chi the easier it gets, just like I’m sure the decisions I’m making on the stories for the anthology will get easier. The routine, however, keeps eluding me as I try and find the perfect spot to work. I’ve been moving from the living room, to my office, to the dining room to work. All of them have their benefits, but none of them are perfect. The living room is the most comfortable, the office is most professional, the dining room allows me to spread my stuff out.

The real problem is my lap top. It has a sucky battery life, which means I need to plug it in wherever I go. At night the lap top is plugged into the powerbar in the living room, which means I have to crawl over the cuddle chair to get to it. It’s a big enough pain in the butt that I tend to stay in the living room even when I know I’m not being as productive (because when I get too comfortable I tend to play a lot of games).

It seems pretty obvious to me that I need to pick a place to work and stick to it. And admit to myself that I get more editing done on a hard copy than an electronic copy of a story. And stop playing so many games. And if I can’t see a way to improve a story I should just leave it alone.

All things to work on this week.

And what has that to do with the monks in the picture? Well, nothing really I guess. I was looking some old writing files for something wondrous to post here and found the picture in a folder. I really wish I’d labelled it with some kind of detail because it’s made me curious. Where was this taken? Are the monks carved from the remnants of trees or from stone? Who were they? So many questions!

This week’s prompt is the picture above. See if you can find some of the answers for next Saturday. :-)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Stitching the Words



Writing is like sewing – but just as I’d rather sew something from scratch than alter it, I’d rather write something fresh than edit something old.

Once upon a time I sewed for a living. No, I wasn’t a tailor, although I had tailoring skills. And yes, I made a bit of money at it (a very little bit). The problem was, most of what people wanted were the fiddly little things they were too unskilled (or lazy) to do themselves, like repairs, hemming, or alterations. Things that weren’t particularly difficult, but they were time-consuming.

With sewing, you need to learn how to use a pattern – pin it to the material, cut along the lines, transfer the markings to the fabric – you need to learn how to thread a needle and do the basic stitches, then you’re ready to use a sewing machine. The machine is intimidating at first, threading it, pressing gently on the presser foot to start it stitching, feeding the material through, learning to reverse stitch and turn corners . . .

With writing you need to know how to use words to make a sentence, string sentences to make paragraphs and pages. You need to learn the rules of grammar and punctuation, and when it’s okay to break those rules. Maybe you’ll start with pen and paper before graduating to a computer where you’ll have to learn to use writing software, maybe you’ll even have to learn how to type.

Just as there are finishing touches to sewing – reinforcing the seams, trimming the threads, adding lace or buttons or other embellishments – there are finishing touches to writing – rewriting, editing, proof reading.

The stories I’ve been editing for the anthology were mostly written from prompts with restricted word counts or made to fit within narrow parameters. Getting them into shape is a lot like altering a garment – letting a seam out here, taking a tuck in there, adding some embellishments.

Quite frankly, I’d rather be writing something new.


Prompt of the Week

Between working on Wandering Wizards and working on the anthology - I really want to get one of them done before Christmas - I’m not sure if I’ll have time to work on a prompt story or not this week. However, if you’d like to give one a try, here’s the list of prompt generators:

The Story Shack
The Plot Generator
Writing Exercises and Prompts
Springhole
Seventh Sanctum
RanGen

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Shipwrecked Romance

Surprise! I got the prompt story done this week.

Actually, no one is more surprised than me. LOL And I wrote it in longhand in my writing journal at that. Sometimes it’s just easier to write if I get away from the computer. Also, it’s about 150 words over the word count, but too bad. While I could have made it longer, I definitely didn’t want to make it shorter.

To remind you, here’s the prompt from The Story Shack that I used:

Word count: 350
Genre: Romance
Character: An expert gardener
Material: An onion
Sentence: "I'm sorry."
Bonus: Your character is shipwrecked.



“It was all so silly,” I said, leaning on the ship’s rail.

“Most lover’s quarrels are, dear,” replied the matronly woman beside me. “Don’t you agree sister?”

“Oh, indeed!” The matron’s much thinner shadow nodded vigorously. She would never think to disagree with her domineering sister. “How did it start, if you don’t mind my asking?” the sister added.

The matron shot her a disapproving glance, but I had no idea whether it was at her forwardness or because she didn’t care to know. Throwing caution to the wind, I continued my story.

“It started because of an onion.”

“An onion?” the matron repeated, startled.

I nodded. “That’s right, an onion. You see Geoffrey, that’s my fiancĂ©, fancies himself a chef, although he’s never had any training. And I was making a ratatouille for him. He wanted to add an extra onion but I disagreed.”

“Too much onion can ruin a ratatouille,” the sister murmured.

“We had a big fight over it and Geoffrey stormed off.”

“Just like a man,” the matron said with a sniff.

“We had booked this cruise months ago,” I said. “I was sure he’d be waiting for me on board.”

“But he wasn’t?” the sister suggested timidly.

I shook my head.

“Never mind, dear.” The matron patted me on the hand. “There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”

“But that’s just it,” I told her. I smiled as I pulled back from the rail and waved the telegram I was holding in front of her. “I received it just this morning.”

“What does it say?” the matron couldn’t help asking.

“It says he’s sorry for being such a boor and he’ll meet me at our next port of call.”

“How romantic!” the sister gushed, clasping her hands to her chest.

Just as the matron opened her mouth for a rebuttal, the ship lurched, and there was a grinding, scraping noise. The telegram I’d been holding fluttered away.

A klaxon sounded as people began screaming and running about.

“What is it? What’s happened?” the sister gasped, clutching at the rail as the ship lurched again and began to list to one side.

“Abandon ship!” The order came over the loudspeaker. “Everyone to the lifeboats. Abandon ship!”

The matron grabbed the arm of a passing sailor. “What’s happening?” she demanded, fingers digging into his arm.

“We’ve gone aground ma’am,” he gasped. “Run up on some rocks.” He pulled free. “You ladies best get to the lifeboats,” he called back over his shoulder as he hurried away.

* * * * *

“This is most inconvenient,” the matron stated, once we were settled in our boat.

“I think it’s rather exciting,” the sister replied. “Just look at that island we’re headed for. So verdant! I’ll finally be able to put my expert gardening skills to good use. But you, my dear.” She took my hand. “Just when you were to be reunited with your young man.”

I smiled wanly. “I just wish I'd had the chance to tell him I’m sorry.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Routine? Fate Laughs at Your Puny Routine



Well . . . I dodged a bullet, that’s for sure. Just when I thought it was safe to sort of have a routine, the education workers (CUPE) decided to strike. And this would mean Grammie would be back on babysitting duty – just when she was used to not babysitting – in the late morning/early afternoon.

I was already labouring under the lack of writing last week – the daughter was away for another conference. Babysitting last week wasn’t bad – for one thing it was later in the day, and we kind of missed the little rug rat. But the CUPE strike would be back to same old/same old, only with a bit of an overlap with things I have going on during the week now.

But as I said, I dodged that bullet. CUPE and the government came to an agreement and school continues as usual. Which also means, my friends, that I’m going to have to come up with some other excuse for my lack of writing.

I’d like to put it down to my regular pre-NaNo October dry spell, but this dry spell hit long before October. I’ve been suffering from a serious lack of motivation (as you’ve probably noticed).

But . . . it’s still only the beginning of the second week of October and I only have about 20,000 words left to go on Wandering Wizards. If I can write 50,000 words during the month of November while babysitting every week day, then surely I can write 20,000 in just under 4 weeks. Right? Right.

And I haven’t forgotten about the anthology. It’s inchworming along, giving me something to do when I get tired of my wizards. There’s still a chance I’ll have it done before Christmas – a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless.

To paraphrase Nike, I just have to do it.

Prompt of the Week

Surprise! I have a prompt for you this week. I moseyed on over to The Story Shack and generated this:

Word count: 350
Genre: Romance
Character: An expert gardener
Material: An onion
Sentence: "I'm sorry."
Bonus: Your character is shipwrecked

The betting is now open as to whether I’ll actually get a story done for Saturday. :-)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

To Be Here



To Be Here: The Writing Place, run by poet Tanis MacDonald, was probably my favourite master class from last weekend. I even bought a couple of her books – one non-fiction and her latest volume of poetry.

She’s also a writing instructor and has her own class up in Waterloo, Ontario. I guess whatever she said sunk in because I don’t have a lot of notes from her class. However, I do have this poem:

The exercise was: “Here” is subject to your own definition: it can be either the ground upon which you stand right now, or your homeplace as you define it, but it should be a definite geographical place. “History” is your lived experience of a place with an emphasis on your (and possibly your family’s) place in it.


“Here” is only a memory
of home/not home
another city, another time
the house that Al built
for his beloved Florence
two thirds of the way down the hill
or one third up
depending on your point of view.
Black walnut trees
manned by squirrels
guarded the road and driveway
flagstone sunken patio above the rock garden
green, green, green: memories . . .
in front of me the steep green hillside
below me old growth maple, beech, and aspen.
Follow the green pathways
down to the sleepy river
or up to heaven’s cascade of colour.
Change catfoots in on the trail of loss
home/not home
the sentinels have fallen to
the axe and saw
stone has been restructured
like pieces of my heart
green is fading, dozed over
the river is somnolent and thirsty
there are houses in heaven now
childhood’s end, ploughed over.
“History” lives only in my memory.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Writersfest 2019



Home again, home again, hot diggity dog, as my daughter used to say.

If you’re a writer, or have writing aspirations, and you live within travel distance of Kingston, Ontario, I strongly urge you to start saving now to attend the Kingston Writersfest in 2020.

There were two parts to the festival: onstage events such as literary talks, workshops, readings, literary dinners, and lectures; and a writing retreat filled with master classes. I took part in a two-day package which included an awesome room in the Residence Inn by Marriott, and six master classes.

The classes were two and a half hours each (with a break part way through). The first one was “Choosing Your Words,” run by poet Lorna Crozier. She talked about word origins and the difference between Latin based words and Anglo Saxon based words, and the appropriate uses of each. We heard about verbals versus verbs and how they applied to both poetry and prose.

The next class was “The Decisive Moment” by Voaden prize winner Damian Tarnopolsky. Using Shakespeare’s Richard III as an example, we discussed pivotal changes in character and why they’re important. We dissected Act I, Scene ii to discuss event, structure, pulse, and outcome. Then we applied what we learned to an exercise in improv.

The final class of the day was “Writing Character and Voice,” offered by Erika Behrisch Elce. We learned what exactly voice is and the little things that bring a character to life, how dialogue is not a character’s voice, but reveals a character’s voice.

Whew! What a long day!

The next day started with “To Be Here: The Writing Place” offered by poet and creative writing teacher Tanis MacDonald. I have to admit, of all of the classes it was the one that least interested me when I read about it, but it turned out to be my favourite. I think we did more writing – creative, not just note-taking – in this class, and although I came away with a poem I’m pretty happy with, much of what we learned can be applied to prose as well.

After this came “Beyond the First Draft: Polishing Your Work,” which was mostly a lecture by Rabindranath Maharaj. A lot of what he talked about was information I already knew, but there was enough new information to keep me happy. I couldn’t help thinking how useful a writing friend of mine would find this class, and just before the class ended I looked across the room and there she was, sitting at another table.

She was in the area for family reasons, and escaped just long enough to take in this one class. Talk about a coincidence! She had to rush back to her family, but we made a coffee date for when we got back home so we could talk some more about the class.

I was pretty much done for the day at this point and I chose to skip the last class, which was “Yoga and the Art of Relaxed Writing.” Instead I wandered around the city, stumbled across an outdoor fleamarket where I snapped up a couple of amazing finds, got myself a coffee and the most wonderful almond croissant ever, and took them down to a little park near the water. I tell you, I found that far more relaxing than any yoga would have been.

So yeah, I’ll definitely be going back next year. But next time I’m going for the whole thing.

Prompt of the Week

Once again instead of picking a prompt to work on this week, I’m going to list the generators and let you pick your own. I’m not sure if I’ll get to a prompt this week myself, but hopefully I still post something on Saturday. Maybe the poem I wrote at the retreat. :-)

The Story Shack
The Plot Generator
Writing Exercises and Prompts
Springhole
Seventh Sanctum
RanGen

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Cheating at Poetry



It’s been a busy week. And as you’re reading this I’m away at the Kingston Writersfest, immersing myself in writerly things.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything on a Saturday, and I didn’t want another week to go by without something new here, but I also didn’t have time to work on a prompt story. Then I thought, it's been a long while since I've posted any poetry...

I was going to post something old, but I was trying out prompt generators I listed in last week’s post, and started to have a lot of fun with the Poem Generator option from The Plot Generator.

In fact, it was so much fun I cheated on my “poemwork” for my poetry group, which was to write a Cinquain, and used the generator to produce two of them. Then I went on to generate a Tanka and a Sonnet.

The group enjoyed them when I read them aloud . . . until I fessed up about the poetry generator. At that point they seemed pretty divided: a couple thought it was fun (taking it in the spirit in which it was intended), a couple were pretty put out by the idea, most were more or less indifferent.

Que sera, sera.

In any case, I thought I’d share them here and you can decide for yourself – good fun, or an abomination?


Cinquain

Love by C. R. Ward

Love
Dark, delightful
Adoring, caring, conquering
It put hunger at rest
Romance


Summer by C. R. Ward

Summer
End, hot
Falling, being, sounding
I was surprised
Summertime

Tanka

Book by C. R. Ward

I so love my book
It is warm and powerful.
It has wild humors
Playful personalities
When it stings I feel happy

Sonnet

Ode to the Ghost by C. R. Ward

My evil ghost, you inspire me to write.
I love the way you cuddle, look and skip,
Invading my mind day and through the night,
Always dreaming about the scholarship.

Let me compare you to a nonmember?
You are more playful, shrieval and sunny.
Big fogs hide the oceans of November,
And autumntime has the easy money.

How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love your drastic elbows, feet and lip.
Thinking of your plastic feet fills my days.
My love for you is the benign blue chip.

Now I must away with a divine heart,
Remember my kind words whilst we're apart.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Routinely Yours



In my quest for a workable routine I came across a piece of advice that said when you’re setting a daily goal aim low. Start with one sentence a day, make it a good one, and go from there. It reminded me of a little notebook I have that I created for just such a purpose. I even found notebooks like it to give to a few other writer friends.

Inside the front cover of the notebook I printed out the following:
The purpose of this little journal is a challenge of sorts. The idea is to write a single sentence every day for five years. Just random sentences so that you get into the habit of writing every day.

To be honest, I also questioned the point of just one sentence a day, and that five years was a pretty long time to commit to something like that. I even suggested keeping it going for a single year or until I filled the notebook.

So . . . how did I do? I started on June 6, 2014 and it’s now over five years later. I am less than a quarter of the way through the notebook, probably closer to an eighth of the way through. I reached sentence 42 on November 9, 2014 and skipped to October of 2015 for sentences 50, 51, and 52 – I have no idea what happened to sentences 43 through 49. Sentence 53 has no date, sentence 54 was written in November, 2015.

There is only one sentence written for all of 2016, at which point I decided not to number them anymore. There are three sentences for 2017, and only one in 2018. In 2019 I stopped dating them as well, and I have 14 of them so far.

I fully admit to slacking off in the writing department on my quest for a workable routine, but I’m thinking the one sentence a day would be an easy habit to pick up. I read over the sentences I’ve written and there are some interesting images – some could be developed into a story, some could be used in a poem. And if I added that one sentence to a WIP – well, even one sentence a day will start adding up.

So . . . until I get my wordage and timing worked out, I’ll aim for one sentence a day and hope for more.

Prompt of the Week

As you may have noticed, I haven’t exactly been doing much with the prompts lately. So instead of picking one to work on this week, I’m just going to list the generators and let you pick your own. And if I happen to be inspired by a prompt as well, I’ll post it on Saturday. But don’t hold your breath, I have a busy week ahead.

The Story Shack
The Plot Generator
Writing Exercises and Prompts
Springhole
Seventh Sanctum
RanGen

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

It’s a Hard Knock Life



As you may recall, I promised to do better writing-wise last week. Well, I kind of broke that promise.

I was full of optimism, thinking I’d jot a little something for both prompts, and I started with the prompt about the lonely wizard. Only I started getting bogged down in riddles (because he had to solve three of them) and then I realized this was not going to be a short story – there was too much going on. I may, or may not, write this story some time when I have more time, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

So I turned to the second prompt – dinosaur versus the monster under the bed – and I just wasn’t feeling it.

Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. I was definitely the bug last week. And, to be honest, I’ve been the bug on the windshield for a while now. I’m in a bona fide writing slump.

So I spent a bunch of time reading blogs of other authors, and was happy to see I’m not alone in my slump. Call it a sign of the times, but there are a lot of unmotivated writers out there. Some of them even big name authors. Kind of makes me feel a little better.

But I need to shake it off. I’ve got too much writing to do; I’ve no time to hunker down in the bottom of the abyss. Winter is coming, and if things are bad now they’re nothing compared to what they’ll be later on.

Time to set up a routine, and if that doesn’t work I need to find another one, and another, until I find something that does work. Writing needs to be distilled into a habit – and I’ve gotten out of the habit over the last couple of years.

So for the rest of the week I’m going to be trying out various times/places for writing and see which one feels right. I think the fact that I’m so determined is a point in my favour (although the fact that this post is so late takes that point right away again).

At any rate, I’ve been doing some research online to help me get started/motivated into my new routine, and I’ve found these articles particularly helpful:

Developing the Writing Habit
How to Create the Habit of Writing
Form a Daily Writing Habit
Writing Routine

You aren't the only ones curious to see how this will turn out.

Prompts of the Week

I think I need to find some new prompt generators because it took awhile to come up with something that was workable. This one came from good ole Springhole, and once again I chose Creepypasta & Horror Creep Generator.

It looks like a police officer with an emaciated body and a misshapen torso. It has been observed in the forest. It's said that it can pass through solid objects.

With Halloween just around the corner this should be a snap, right? Why don't you give it a try too?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Theoretically Speaking



Let’s recap last week for a minute. It was my last week of babysitting, plus it was a short week – holiday Monday, plus a free day on Thursday. Theoretically I should have been able to get all kinds of writing done, right?

I can see you know me well enough by now not to have such high expectations. LOL

Here’s the sad truth. Tuesday I had my yearly (because I’m diabetic) eye exam. Later (much later) that night I had a bad reaction to what I suspect were the combination of drops used in my eyes. So when I wasn’t babysitting I pretty much spent the rest of the week curled up on the couch watching TV.

I was starting to feel better on Sunday, but then I accidentally shattered the chimney from the floor lamp in my office over my head. Who knew those things were so fragile? Anyway, that’s my sad little story. I’m thinking things can only get better. Right? (knock on wood)

It’s been so long since I’ve worked on Wandering Wizards I’ve kind of lost track of where they are. And, if I’m perfectly honest, I’ve kind of lost interest in the whole thing too. I need to re-read and maybe edit a little to catch up/regenerate my mojo.

What’s that, you say? Why didn’t I catch up/regenerate yesterday, which was my first full day of non-babysitting? Well, uh, I got busy taking pictures of butterflies, looking for a replacement chimney for my lamp, and catching up on my journal. Don’t judge.

I’ll do better today – promise!

Prompts of the Week

I went through a whole bunch of prompts (another time waster) and generators before settling on these two from Springhole. This site has a whole lot of options and if you don’t like the prompt it generates just click it again. Maybe I’ll just go straight here next week.

First I clicked on the Fairytale Plot Generator, which gave me this:

The story is about a lonely wizard who must outwit a faerie, defeat a giant, and find a magic mirror to solve three riddles. Assistance comes in the form of a magic ring.

Then as a bonus prompt I clicked on the Really Random Plot-o-tron, which gave me this one:

An ordinary dinosaur gains control of a monster from under the bed and discovers the princess.

Go ahead, play along with me. Or go to Springhole and generate a prompt of your own.

You know you want to…

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ghosts & Friends

Originally I’d planned to do a short bit for each of this week’s prompts – I thought they’d be quick and easy. But the first one ran so long (and I was already a day late) that I figured one was plenty.

To refresh your memory, the prompt was: One day in an abandoned factory haunted by a restless spirit, a lost girl summons a restless spirit.



“She’s one of the lost ones, Talla,” Jem said, placing a hand on her sister’s arm. “Everyone knows you can’t trust a lost one.”

Talla jerked her arm free. “Then don’t come with me.”

Jem watched her sister head towards the abandoned factory, biting her lip in indecision. The building had a reputation for being haunted, but of course that was why Talla was so interested in it. She had a soft spot for ghosts. Jem sighed and hurried to catch up.

Talla was waiting just inside the factory and gave her sister a small smile before leading the way to where the lost girl promised to meet them. The factory was dark and damp, smelling of mould and dust. It was sectioned off into empty rooms, all of them stripped of anything valuable by scavengers long ago.

The lost girl waited for them in the central most chamber, sitting on an empty crate. She was small and thin and dirty, dressed in raggedy black clothing. Her eyes seemed to glow in the dark.

“I am here, as promised,” she said to Talla. “What would you have of me?”

“There’s a ghost haunting this place,” Talla said without preamble.

“Yes, I can feel it.”

“I want to help it – I’m told you can do this.”

“Who says it wants or needs your help?”

“I…” For once Talla seemed to be at a loss for words. “I don’t know. I just get this overwhelming sense of sadness when I’m in here. This ghost has been here a long time, I think it needs help moving on.”

The girl cocked her head and studied her for a moment. “All right,” she said at last. “But I do this my way.”

“But what—” Jem started to ask before Talla elbowed her into silence.

The lost girl stood up from the crate and reseated herself on the floor, sitting cross-legged. After a second of hesitation, the others joined her.

“What do we do?” Jem asked.

“Be quiet,” the lost girl replied.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Closing her eyes she rested her hands on knees and began to chant. The chanting rose and fell with musical cadence, although she never actually sang.

Jem gasped as the ghost began to manifest above them, but Talla just looked up in wonder. It was a smoke-like wisp, a ragged remnant floating gently in the air above them. It dipped and bobbed and turned as though dancing. Still the lost girl chanted.

A second wisp appeared in a corner and moved slowly forward. The first one stopped its dance and waited. The girls watched in wonder as the second wisp drifted towards the first. The two entities circled each other, seemed to acknowledge each other’s presence, and moved in tandem in a lazy circle. They continued the dance the first one had started before flowing upwards and out of sight.

“What do you sense now?” the lost girl asked. The others hadn’t even been aware the chanting had stopped.

Tally looked surprised. “Peace and happiness.”

The lost girl nodded and climbed to her feet.

“I don’t understand!” Jem said. “I thought—”

“You thought I would banish the spirit.”

Jem nodded.

“The spirit was unhappy, lonely. All it needed was a friend.”

“So you summoned it one.”

“I said I would do it my way.” The lost girl shrugged. “It seemed a better choice than banishment.”

“Everyone needs a friend,” Talla said with a smile at the lost girl.

The lost girl smiled back.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Summer’s End



Can you believe that summer’s over? Okay, maybe not literally, fall doesn’t officially start until September 23, but everybody knows Labour Day marks the end of the summer season.

For my part last week was a flurry of activity, and while I managed to squeeze in time for reading, I didn’t do so well with the writing. I don’t know if it’s so much a dry spell, it’s more like an energy slump. It’s been a tiring time

But whatever it is, I need to get over it. Next week the grandbaby starts Junior Kindergarten, which is now full time and full weeks. Which means no more babysitting. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On the one hand it’ll be nice to have that three or four hour chunk out of the middle of my day back, but on the other hand I’m going to miss the little rug rat. She’s an amazing kid (and I’m not just saying that as a doting grandmother, everyone who meets her says the same thing). She’s sweet, and kind, and stubborn (no idea who she gets that from), and artistic, and has an incredibly vivid imagination. I’m really going to miss reading to her, and playing with her, and doing arts and crafts with her.

Surprisingly I get some of my best writing done while we’re together. After lunch she likes to have quiet time, where she expects me to write while she plays quietly close by. This is where my Neo comes in handy. And if she wants to have a turn I just open a fresh document and then print out what she types when I get home. It’s a great way to teach a pre-schooler her letters.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I admit that while the quiet time writing works when I’m with the grandbaby, I have a problem replicating it at home. Sort of like trying to do NaNo at any time other than November. I had a four day weekend and not once did I get any quiet time writing in. Another reason I’ll miss our time together.

So . . . fun times for grandbaby, sucky time for Grammy ahead. LOL

Prompts of the Week

I have to keep reminding myself that these prompts are not meant to be time consuming, they’re just for a bit of fun. Last week’s three word prompt was more like what I had in mind here, and although three words didn’t seem like a lot at the time, once I got working with them it went fairly quickly. And the bonus is I now have a character who needs his story told (some time in the future).

Being the contrary person I am, I decided to try a different prompt generator for this week’s prompt. Actually, I picked two prompts from Springhole.

First I picked a Creepypasta & Supernatural Horror Story Prompt, which gave me this:
One day in an abandoned factory haunted by a restless spirit, a lost girl summons a restless spirit.

And just to hedge my bets, I also clicked on Really Random Plot-o-Tron and was presented with this gem:
A lost fungus invokes the wrath of the planet by finding a primitive country.

It’s anyone’s guess which one will make it onto the blog on Saturday.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Fallen

This week’s prompt came courtesy of RanGen and consisted of three words: Grace, Confusion, and Brilliance.

Honestly, this was a little too easy. When I started playing around with these words I was able to get all three in a single sentence. I toyed with the idea of doing a series of sentences using all three words, but ended up looking for different meanings for the words.



His fall was a lengthy one and he landed hard on the grass-covered dirt of the earthly realm. At first he looked around in confusion, not really understanding what had happened.

The realization of what he’d lost came as a shock. He had been cast out, no longer one of the Chosen. He had gambled with his brilliance and lost everything.

Unused to corporeal form he rose slowly to his feet, dusting off his wings and folding them to his back out of sight. He was at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively.

Glancing upwards he saw nothing but blue sky. Determination filled him as he picked a direction at random and began to walk. He’d be back. If it was the last thing he ever did he would return and once more bathe in the light of the Grace. No matter what.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Time In a Bottle



Wouldn’t it be great if we could save time in a bottle, like the song says?

Actually, this song came out just after Jim lost his life in a plane crash. How ironic is that? And the sad part is, it was written for his wife just after they found out she was pregnant.

But imagine if we could save time in a bottle. No more time wasted waiting in line, or waiting for a ride, or waiting in a doctor’s office. Instead, you could just save that time to be used later when you need five more minutes to finish something, or just a half an hour of peace and quiet to save your sanity.

One of my guilty pleasures on Sunday mornings is to watch Top Chef Canada. For those of you who don’t indulge, this is a show that pits amateur chefs against each other for a modest cash prize and bragging rights. They may be home cooks, but they sure know their stuff! I’m more of a throw-things-in-a-pot-and-see-if-it-works chef myself. But I can’t help thinking that if some of these chefs had just a few more minutes . . .

Last week, and especially on the weekend, I found myself with a lot of extra minutes. There weren’t enough to actually do anything with them, but it was enough I felt like it was wasted time. It would have been great to be able to save all those five minutes here, ten minutes there, and then put them all together for a nice little chunk of freed up time.

Yup, Jim Croce had the right idea.

Prompts of the Week

You might have noticed that I did nothing with either prompt last week. Part of it was lack of energy, part of it was lack of time. I really wanted to do something steampunkish with the prompt from The Story Shack (even before I saw the booth with the steampunk hats at Fan Expo in Toronto) but the weekend kind of got away from me.

So let’s change things up and try a different prompt generator this week.

I checked out one called RanGen, which gave me these three words:
Grace, Confusion and Brilliance.

They have all kinds of cool stuff here, including generators for creating characters or world building. A writer could have a lot of fun do a lot of procrastinating find some useful resources here. But I’ll stick to my writing prompt for now.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Chocolate Weather



You’re probably wondering what I mean by chocolate weather, aren’t you? Well, I’ll tell you (as you knew I would).

Chocolate weather is the overcast, depressing weather – sometimes with rain, sometimes with just the promise of rain – that makes you crave chocolate. Chocolate is the only thing that makes life worth living on a day like this.

As you recall, I’m a diabetic, which means the only kind of chocolate I’m supposed to have is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is okay, I mean it’s better than no chocolate at all and one of the benefits is that it’s so strong tasting you can only eat a little at a time, so no overindulging.

But that’s not the kind of chocolate I crave during chocolate weather. Nope, the only kind of chocolate to combat chocolate weather is milk chocolate. Pure milk chocolate. Lindt or Cadbury or Belgian or Godiva – decadent, creamy, smooth milk chocolate. And if it has hazelnuts in it, that’s okay too.

Unfortunately, even indulging in my chocolate fix wasn’t enough to motivate me into a whole lot of writing. I got the prompt story done (eventually), and a couple of thousand words added to Wandering Wizards, but the word counts weren’t nearly as good as last week.

Keep the faith though, despite the slow pace my characters are moving forward and I figured out a new threat to throw at them that’s also going to solve the problem of how one of them gets kidnapped.

I can’t wait!

Prompts of the Week

Seeing as I waffled so much last week, I decided to just go ahead and get prompts from both The Story Shack and The Plot Generator.

Your random plot points from The Story Shack are:

Word count: 550
Genre: Fantasy
Character: A healer
Material: A steam boat
Sentence: "You don't have to love me."
Bonus: Your character is loved by everyone.

And this week I chose the “Smelly Trolls” option from The Plot Generator to get this:

Your hero –Matthew Parker
The child's age in years - 5
The town where it all takes place – Bogstaple
An evil troll – Maud Speckledtongue
A good troll – Flappy Suzanne Boglewax
Two meals, plural – chips, lasagnes
A type of vegetable, plural – turnips
Something yucky, plural – dustbins
A part of the body, singular – elbow

Feel free to play along, or visit one of the sites to create your own prompt.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Moving Out

I had an idea for the prompt from the Story Shack first, but there was no way I could stretch it to make 600 words. So I went with the one from The Plot Generator instead:

Your main character –name – Elizabeth Chan
An adjective to describe him or her - adorable
Somebody who might try to help your main character – Sarah Gloop
His or her relationship to the main character - sister
Jobs – doctor, gardener, fishmonger
An object - book
An adjective that could describe an object - crumpled
A number between 2 and 400 - 3
A location - Devon
Three more adjectives – feathery, backward, worrying
Three animals, singular – frog, fox, badger
Something a ghost might appear when photographed – skeletal
Two body parts, plural – fingers, legs
A type of accident – dancing
An adjective that could be used to describe a place – noisy

This time I’m just going to bold the words I included – I don’t know about you, but I found the changing colour really annoying. :-D



“I thought Devon was in England,” Sarah Gloop said to her sister.

“You’re thinking of Devonshire,” Elizabeth replied, then frowned. “At least I think you are. At any rate, this Devon is in Alberta.”

“I still don’t know why you and Henry have to move there,” Sarah grumbled, an adorable frown on her face.

“They need a new doctor,” Elizabeth told her patiently, trying to fit the book she was holding into the box of crumpled paper. “There. Seven down, three to go.”

“You should have married Larry the fishmonger. At least then you’d be Elizabeth Smith.”

“Sarah! I thought you liked Henry!”

“I do, it’s just . . . he’s like one of those dancing figures we put up at Halloween, all long fingers and clacking legs – he’s positively skeletal. It’s as though one of these days he’ll just fly apart.”

“What utter nonsense! And there’s nothing wrong with my name. Elizabeth Chan is perfectly respectable.”

Sarah blew out a noisy breath, blowing the feathery bangs out of her face. “Oh, don’t mind me,” she said apologetically. “I think I’m just a little jealous. You’ve found your true love and the closest I’ve come is that fling with the gardener last year.”

“You’re forgiven, of course,” Elizabeth told her. “Now help me take these boxes out to the truck.”

Sarah’s attitude was worrying, but Elizabeth was sure it was something they’d be able to overcome in the future. After all, it only took one bite from Henry to convince her. Closing the door behind her, she left her old life behind without so much as a backward glance, and hurried towards her future.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What I Did On My Vacation

I had the week off from babysitting last week, and even though I didn’t go anywhere, it was still pretty darn nice.

I spent more time in my office than I normally do, although some days it got rather steamy in there, and I don’t mean what I was writing – there’s no a/c in my office. It was kind of a pain because I’d have to carry all my stuff out to the living/dining room area, and find a new place to plug in the lap top. It wasn’t so bad going from the dining room to the office or back again, but it’s a big pain when I relocate to my chair in the living room.

As you may recall from a previous post, last year I replaced my recliner with a cuddle chair. A cuddle chair I bought online from Costco so I didn’t realize how truly big it was until it was delivered.



See that light at the back? That’s where the power bar is, which means I have to crawl over the chair and hang off the back to plug the lap top in. I knew there was a reason why I meant to go for the lap top with the super big battery instead of the one with the pretty lit up keyboard. ;-)

But I digress . . .

The writing got off to a very slow start – I kept finding other stuff that I had to do first. Sadly, it took me until Friday to run out of distractions. But then I sat myself down in my reading chair in my office, whipped out my Alphasmart Neo, and pretended it was NaNo time. I didn’t quite get 1667 words (which is what you need to write daily for the NaNo challenge) but it was well over 1,000 – and I got more writing done on something else that evening.

Saturday the grandbaby came over for the day but surprisingly I still managed to get a fair amount of writing done. If you’re able to see the side bar on the right, you’ll see that the word count for Wandering Wizards jumped by a little over 5,000 words last week, and most of that was written on Friday and Saturday.

All in all, I’d say my vacation was a pretty good one!

Prompt of the Week

Woot! The Story Shack is back! Well, I guess technically it never left, but the security glitch seems to be resolved and I’m able to access it again. And here’s my prompt:

Word count: 600
Genre: Magical Realism Character: An art therapist
Material: A very old sofa
Sentence: "We can repair this."
Bonus: The story takes place two-hundred years from now.

While I do love that it gives me a word count and a little more leeway for creating, I kind of liked all the detail from The Plot Generator. So . . . I decided to give it a whirl as well. This time I clicked on Story Idea and then Horror:

Your main character –name – Elizabeth Chan
An adjective to describe him or her - adorable
Somebody who might try to help your main character – Sarah Gloop
His or her relationship to the main character - sister
Jobs – doctor, gardener, fishmonger
An object - book
An adjective that could describe an object - crumpled
A number between 2 and 400 - 3
A location - Devon
Three more adjectives – feathery, backward, worrying
Three animals, singular – frog, fox, badger
Something a ghost might appear when photographed – skeletal
Two body parts, plural – fingers, legs
A type of accident – dancing
An adjective that could be used to describe a place – noisy

Hopefully if I don’t come up with something for one of the prompts I’ll come up with something for the other. Guess you’ll have to come back Saturday to see which.

In the meantime, why don’t you play along?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Aardvarks and Hedgehogs



Okay. I know what you’re thinking. What the heck does “aardvark” have to do with any of the prompts I got from Seventh Sanctum? Well, nothing really. Nothing, as in the five prompts I generated did nothing for me. LOL

When I was busy generating prompts Monday night and Tuesday morning, I copied down a couple of the earlier attempts but thought I could do better and continued on. This prompt actually came from The Plot Generator. Unfortunately I didn’t write down what options I clicked on, so your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, here are the plot particulars that were generated for me.

Your main character: Phil DeVito, male
An adjective to describe him or her: intelligent
Secondary character: Graham Bond, male
His or her relationship to the main character: uncle
Jobs: navigator, gardener, homemaker
An object: piano
An adjective that could describe an object: peculiar
A number between 2 and 400: 32
A location: Scotland
Three more adjectives: windy, cursed, ample
Three animals, singular: aardvark, rabbit, tortoise
Something a ghost might appear when photographed: distorted
Two body parts, plural: elbows, fingers
A type of accident: boating
An adjective that could be used to describe a place: chilly

That’s a lot to include, when you think about it, but it was also a lot of fun. Just to help you keep track, I’ll highlight the specifics I include in green.

Aardvarks and Hedgehogs

Phil DeVito had to admit, Uncle Graham had outdone himself this time. He regarded the piano through the glass of scotch he was holding, the distorted image making the aardvark shape look like it was melting.

“Why an aardvark?” he asked. “Why not a rabbit, say, or a tortoise?

Uncle Graham shifted his ample form in his chair and rested his elbows on the table. Fingers steepled, he looked at his highly intelligent 32 year old nephew and grinned.

“Amos MacIntyre was my best friend back in Scotland - Mac and Bond, that was us. He was a navigator by trade, until that terrible boating accident on the North Sea. Chilly, that.”

“What’s chilly?” Phil asked, having a bit of trouble following his uncle’s train of thought.

“The North Sea.” Graham took a sip of his drink. “Windy too.”

“But where does the aardvark fit into all this?”

“Yes, well. After the accident Amos though he was cursed so he became a gardener.” He lapsed into a thoughtful silence.

Phil took a sip of his drink as he waited patiently for his uncle to answer his question.

“He moved to America. I can’t remember the name of the place…I know it was hot there, and he took up with a housewife or a homemaker or someone like that.” He shook his head. “At any rate, the place was just lousy with aardvarks and he developed a fondness for them.”

“I still don’t understand why you painted a piano to look like an aardvark,” Phil said.

“He saved my life, don’t you know.” Graham looked at him seriously. “I was on that boat that sank too. The piano is my gift to him.”

“I didn’t know you were in the navy Uncle.”

“I wasn’t.” He finished his drink. “I was a stowaway.”

Phil looked at him in astonishment.

“Maybe it wasn’t aardvarks,” Graham mused. “Maybe it was hedgehogs.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Revisiting Goals



Summer’s half over and it got me to thinking that the year is half over as well. And I think it’s high time I checked out the goals I set out at the beginning of the year to see how I’m doing.

First up, a reminder of those goals:

Publishing: Wandering Wizards and an anthology; start submitting poetry and stories.
Organizing and indexing
Writing every day
Less gaming & social media, more exercising and eating healthy

Doesn’t look bad, does it? Because technically there are only four goals. But three of them are multi-part goals so it’s not as simple as it looks.

Publishingutter fail
Wandering Wizards has been moving forward at a snail’s pace and the anthology is still nothing but an idea. And I definitely haven’t been submitting anything to any kind of publications.

Organizing and indexingutter fail
I did get the rest of my files pulled off of my old lap top, but they’re still scattered amongst various USB sticks. And I think I’ve pretty much figured out how I’m going organize my poetry, but haven’t made any effort to do so.

Write every daysort of fail
It’s kind of feast or famine with me, especially lately. The spirit is willing my but mind is weak, and the distractions are many.

Less gaming & social media, more exercising and eating healthysemi-win
The gaming and social media are kind of hit or miss – some days are more successful than others. It’s an ongoing process that I’m still working on, especially the games. But the more exercising and eating healthy is going well. I haven’t lost any weight yet, but my A1C (I’m diabetic) has gone down 1.4 points.

So . . . it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me if I’m to reach my goals by the end of the year. But the grandbaby starts kindergarten in the fall, which means I have my days to myself again. So if I can’t reach at least one of my writing goals by the end of the year then maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer.

Prompt of the Week

The Story Shack still won’t let me in, so this week I used the Seventh Sanctum writing challenge generator, which came up with the following:

The story takes place in the early morning. A character will send a letter.
A character will prepare for a religious ceremony. A character becomes attracted to someone during the story.
A character writes a book, but the action goes terribly wrong. A character becomes happy during the story. During the story, there is a sudden change in weather.
The story must have a giant at the beginning. The story must involve a pendant at the end.
A character is misunderstood throughout most of the story. During the story, a character drinks something that disagrees with them. The story is set during a day off. The story takes place at noon exactly. During the story, someone is mistaken for someone famous.

Last week I spent way too much time thinking about my story and doing research, but to be perfectly honest it just wasn’t happening for me. Hopefully this week I’ll have better luck with one of the prompts from above.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Empires Rising and Falling



I actually got some writing in last week. Real writing I mean, something besides blog posts and the prompt story. And how did I do this? By choosing to ignore my email and Facebook in the morning.

For me the best time to write is between breakfast and babysitting, you know, after I finish a whole list of other stuff. Suddenly it occurred to me that empires wouldn’t rise or fall if I failed to check my email first thing, same goes for Facebook. Instead I used that time to write.

That worked for pretty much two days in a row. Monday and Tuesday I spent the time between breakfast and babysitting writing my blog posts for those days, and Friday I had grocery shopping and a coffee date.

But I really think I’m onto something here. What if I got my blog posts done the night before, like I used to, and waited until later to check my email and Facebook?

It sounds good in theory, let’s see what happens when I put it into practice.

Prompt of the Week

Well this is annoying. I really, really like The Story Shack for generating story prompts, but every time I tried to click on it yesterday I got a security error and I couldn’t find a way around it. I’m kind of bummed about it. If I’m ever able to access it again, I’m going to download a bunch of prompts, just to have them handy.

So, for this week at least I’m going to have to find a different prompt site. First I tried a site called The Plot Generator. There were a lot of options for generating ideas and I tried Create a Paranormal Romance Plot in Seconds and Create a Smelly Troll Plot in Seconds. The resulting prompts were okay, so I saved them, but not quite what I was looking for.

Next up was the site called Writing Exercises and Prompts where I clicked on Quick Plot Generator, Random Plot Generator, and Random Scenario. Of the three, I liked Random Plot Generator the best. It gives you some details to work with, but not as much as I got from the previous site.

On to Springhole which is more geared to RPG, but it was still kind of fun. I tried the Creepypasta & Supernatural Horror Plot Creator, the Fairytale Plot Generator, and the Really Random Plot-o-Tron - Medieval-esque Fantasy Edition. While they were fun, they still weren’t quite what I was looking for. I want something quick and easy, so I’ll definitely go back to this one when I’m in the mood for something longer.

Finally, I tried the Seventh Sanctum writing generators. These generated ten choices at a time. I tried the romance story generator with fantasy as the category and received ten interesting ideas. Then I tried the writing challenges generator and got ten more interesting choices.

Are you starting to see why this blog post was late today? :-D

In the end, I went with the random plot generated by the Writing Exercises and Prompts site. It gave me:
Main character: A woman in her early thirties, who is very reckless.
Secondary character: A man in his early twenties, who is very compassionate.
Setting: The story begins in a church crypt.
Situation: Someone is being blackmailed.
Character Action: Your character has to do some quick thinking to keep ahead

Feel free to play along, or if you prefer, try out one of these generators on your own.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

When Crime Pays

I have to admit I had a wee bit of fun with this one.

And I apologize to any programmers out there for the liberties I took with the job description. Programming is hard work—if it wasn’t everyone would be doing it. Obviously I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I do know a few programmers and I am in awe of them. :-D



Word count: 600
Genre: Crime
Character: A programmer
Material: A pencil
Sentence: "It was her!"
Bonus: Your character is imprisoned.

Sometimes my job can be really boring. A lot of what a programmer does is just sit in front of a computer screen looking at mile after mile of code streaming past, watching for errors – so mind numbingly boring. It’s no wonder I started amusing myself by taking a stroll through the bank’s computer system. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I was just curious.

Their firewalls were okay and security was pretty good, not as tight as I could have made it, but that’s not what I was there for. I was just there to upgrade the accounting software to the new system and figure out why it didn’t work with the old system.

I was pretty sure I had all the kinks worked out between the old and new programs, but I wanted to wait until it was running for a while to make sure. On a whim, to pass time while I waited, I decided to check the rest of their system, just to make sure everything else was running smoothly. I was doing them a favor, for crying out loud! I never expected to find anything amiss.

But wouldn’t you know it, a red flag went up on some purchase orders for pencils. You’d think with the bank finally getting on board with the computer age the number of pencils they were going through would be reduced, but that wasn’t the case. So I took a look to see why pencils of all things were a problem.

Not only was someone buying an excessive number of pencils, they were pretty pricey ones at that. Then I took a closer look. The pencils themselves weren’t expensive, but the bank was being charged an outrageous amount for them. And there was a big discrepancy between what the bank was being charged and what was paid to the manufacturer. Where was all that extra money going?

I should have just reported what I’d found right away, but I didn’t know how to do that without admitting I was poking around in something I shouldn’t have been in the first place. Instead I started tracing the money to where it was going. It was all going into a single account in the same bank – the idiot embezzling didn’t even have the sense to stash it in an offshore account. Taking an even closer look I discovered that the stealing had been going on for years, well before the bank started using computers.

Right about then someone complained about my work, that I was incompetent and took too long at my job. One of my friends warned me that the head teller, who’d been with the bank from the very beginning, was trying to get me fired.

That snide bitch hadn’t liked me from the moment I stepped foot in her bank. I played it cool though and continued with my job. And I still curious about who’d been accumulating all that money. Imagine my surprise when I uncovered the culprit. It was her!

I knew the ax was about to fall and I’d have to act quickly. So I did what I had to do, then I set a harmless virus to activate when the computer system updated in the morning. It was risk-free, honest. A joke. But it was enough to send me to prison for three years for messing with the bank’s computers.

But that just gives me three years to figure out how to spend that 4.7 million I transferred to a bank in the Cayman Islands.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Backing It Up



You know, it breaks my heart every time I read/hear about someone who’s lost that precious story or even the next best-selling novel because their computer crashed or got stolen, or there was a fire or flood, or the apocalypse happened. And in this day and age it’s so unnecessary!

You never know when disaster will strike. So I tell you all now, BACK YOUR WORK UP!

But wait! Get back here. Don’t go backing up yet, I have more to say.

Be organized when you back your work up.

*cue puzzled murmuring*

Let me tell you a story.

*waits for heartfelt groans to die down*

I’ll try and keep it short.

Really.

Okay, maybe not really. But you need to hear this. So quit belly-aching and just read.

As you know, I’ve been procrastinating spending a lot of time lately cleaning up and generally trying to get my writing files organized. Many writing files. Many, many writing files. While I’ve always been pretty good at backing my documents up, I’ve been pretty bad about doing it in an organized fashion. What I typically did was create a folder on a USB key and then just copy everything (and by everything I mean all my documents, whether I’d changed anything or not and any miscellaneous files, photos, etc.) from my laptop into the new folder on the key and call it done.

These folders had names like: short term 1, short term 2, miscellaneous 1, miscellaneous 2, current stuff 1, current stuff 2 . . . I think you get the idea. This is called laziness (in case you were wondering). The problem with this method is that it leaves me with multiple copies of the same document and I don’t know which is the one I’ve been working on. Did I mention I have about a dozen USB keys and all of them have got stuff saved to them in this fashion? And it gets better.

Not being entirely trusting of the whole USB key thing, every once in awhile I’d back my files up to a DVD. All of my files. Together. Then I’d label the DVD with the current date and stick it in a box. A big box. And now I have an external hard drive sitting in a box just waiting for the day when I get my files all organized so I can save everything to it. You know, unless everything crashes first or I get hit with an EMP or some natural disaster occurs.

The moral of the story, kiddies, is: Save your work and back it up on a regular basis, but do so in an organized fashion!

Prompt of the Week

I’ve been having so much fun with the prompts from The Story Shack that I think I’m going to keep using them until I stop having fun. :-D

Go ahead and give it a try! And don’t forget to check back Saturday to see what I’ve come up with.

Word count: 600
Genre: Crime
Character: A programmer
Material: A pencil
Sentence: "It was her!"
Bonus: Your character is imprisoned.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Happy Days

Maybe I knew you could do it (on Tuesday’s post), but I should have given myself a little more thought. I didn’t remember about the prompt until early Friday evening. And then I sat there simmering in the sweltering summer heat, trying to imagine “winter is long and extremely cold” and failing miserably.

So this morning I turned on the air conditioning and thought about it some more. Then I checked my email and Facebook (several times). Finally I convinced myself that empires were not going to rise and fall on my deathless prose, just start typing and be done with it.

Then I poured myself another coffee and did just that.



Word count: 500
Genre: Drama
Character: A child hater
Material: Not enough money
Sentence: "I'd like a day without punishing you."
Bonus: Winter is long and extremely cold.

The small, squat building was painted a pale pink, the happy colour at odds with what had gone on inside of it. The antiquated playground equipment lay abandoned, the swings hanging still, the monkey bars dusted with snow, the slide listing to one side. A half deflated ball nestled in the frozen sand box.

It had been a long and extremely cold winter, a fact the media reminded people of daily, but if it had not been for that, it might never have been discovered what was happening in that pretty pink building. But the boiler was old, like everything else, and working beyond its capacity. A pipe had burst and needed to be repaired.

Even so, it was by sheer accident the repairman stumbled upon the secret of Happy Days Daycare. He was declared a hero by the authorities. Who knows how far things might have gone if he hadn’t opened the wrong door?

The extreme cold of winter was forgotten as the story caught fire. It was the case everyone talked about – Sophie Fairchild, whom the press dubbed Satan Fairchild, an innocuous seeming woman with a heart of pure, black evil.

Pictures showed her to be short and slender, skin pale and smooth, mousey brown hair held off her face in a bun. She looked almost ordinary, until you looked into her eyes – dead eyes set in a face that never smiled.

The director of the day care facility cited the lack of funding as the reason why a better check of Ms. Fairchild’s credentials hadn’t been made in the first place, how things had gotten so out of hand. The center itself was part of a chain of daycare centers, all of which were currently closed pending the vetting of the other employees.

When the parents were asked if they’d ever had concerns about the day care, many of them shamefacedly admitted they had, but there were no other daycares available. Besides, things couldn’t be as bad as the children described. Ms. Fairchild might not be the warmest person around, but any time they had any contact with her she was unfailingly polite. It couldn’t be easy running a day care by herself. And children often exaggerate, right?

The families of the children involved in the incident were offered counseling. In fact, the number of caring counselors who volunteered for the opportunity to help was staggering, almost as staggering as the number of charges brought against Ms. Fairchild.

During the trial, Ms. Fairchild was asked what motivated her to act as she had against innocent children. She remained tight-lipped, as she had throughout her trial. Some believed her mind had snapped, that she wasn’t really there mentally.

In some respects they were right. When the judge handed down her sentence it wasn’t his voice she heard, but that of her mother. “Just once I’d like a day without punishing you.” Sophie was still waiting for that day.