Monday, November 2, 2020

Out of the Way

Story A Day September went well. I achieved my goal of writing one story every weekday for a total of 22 stories. Of course, some stink like tortoise poop, while others have potential. 


But writing momentum came to a standstill in October. I could not get anything going. Everything I wrote came across blah, flat. I couldn't submit my work anywhere. Nothing I wrote was good enough. 


An entry for one of Janet Reid's flash fiction contests had me tearing my hair out (and since I have very short hair, this is a real problem.) I liked my idea but could not for the life of me get it to work. I finally said f@ck it (this is a tortoise friendly blog, people!) and wrote it – fast, sharp, without the usual protagonist and set-up, etc. It was good enough to submit. It didn’t win, but it made Ms. Reid's list of standout entries. Her comments gave me a creative boost and a sense of validation. 


Next project – I spent days on an idea I liked, but once written, turned into such a big yawn fest I put myself to sleep. So, again, I said f@ck it (which I really hope is not going to be my new mantra or I'll have to start covering the tortoises' ears.) The new story came together in a day, and off it went to a Crystal Lake Publishing contest. I'm pleased to announce it made the finals!  


Both times, I got out of my own way, but more importantly, I got out of the story's way. Sometimes I'm afraid to let the story "go there." To let a twisted protagonist rule. To let an inanimate object own the POV. To let the story roar over the page like a hurricane. To let it slither onto the scene, licking lines with a poisonous tongue. 

To let the story lead the way.




Here's my entry from the No One Moves to NY for the Weather contest with Ms. Reid's comments at the end. A list of rules apply, like the 100 word limit and the inclusion of the following words: cold, blue, shiver, sox, fox. I hope you enjoy it!


She is his oxygen. His passion. His obsession. She just doesn't know it. Yet. 

He is the shiver down her spine. The shadow sliding behind her on the sidewalk. The sly fox slinking in the woods near her house. The presence she senses but does not see. 

He daydreams. His knife traces the cold blue roadmap of her veins. He licks the hot red river it leaves behind. 

She pays attention now. Looks over her shoulder. Watches out her window. 

He has gotten sloppy. She has gotten ready. 

He just doesn't know it. Yet. 

Utterly brilliant. It's not quite a story, but this is stunning writing. 


Are you standing in your own way, with writing or something else? Or have you in the past? Any suggestions on how keep out of the way? 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Rattled - Shallow Waters Vol. 6: A Flash Fiction Anthology

What happens when Rosemary finds an old abandoned car seat that might have more life in it yet? 

Find out . . . in my story "Rattled."

From the publisher - 

Take a Deep Breath and Dive Beneath the Surface of Shallow Waters—Where Nothing Stays Buried.

With 20 Dark Fiction & Horror tales diving beneath the surface of life, death, and the mystery that lies beneath.

Monday, August 31, 2020

September in Stories

My creativity is – finally! - creeping back into the light, showing itself cautiously, slowly, much like Larry did after his very first visit to the vet. 


Unfortunately, the results are less than stellar. Unlike a tortoise, my creativity cannot be coaxed out of its shell with basil. None of the stories I worked on are submission-worthy so I have to let various contests and open submission windows pass on by. Sure, I'm disappointed, but I'm also reminded of something incredibly important – 


"When you're writing, no matter how hard it is, 

you are more truly yourself than at any other time." 

(Julie Duffy)


YES! That's exactly how it felt. 


So, to keep up that momentum, I signed up for Story A Day September. (I participated in Story A Day May years ago and enjoyed the challenge.) All the information is at the Story A Day site, but the gist is to write a story every day in September. Now "every day" is open to interpretation, so I'm aiming for a story every day Monday through Friday for a total of 22 stories. The only strict rule is you have to FINISH the story. It doesn't have to be pretty, but it has to be done.  (Much like every art project I've ever undertaken.)


So, here's hoping for a September full of stories. Wish me luck!




Any plans for September, writing or otherwise? What are you looking forward to this fall?


Monday, August 3, 2020

Bins, Boxes, Bubble Wrap - Oh My!

Hmm, apparently in my packing frenzy, I misplaced some items: 





I didn't realize how fragile they were. I can only hope I wrapped them carefully in bubble wrap. (I know I'm not myself when I haven't played with popping all of those delightful little bubbles.


Of course, I found some things so easily they might as well have jumped out of the boxes on their own:





Pfft. Isn't that always the way?


Really, though, I am incredibly grateful for all the good in my life and things are definitely okay overall. They're just progressing at the pace of a tortoise dozing in the sun. So, much like the bubble wrap, I'll still pop in and out, but I'm extending my blogging break a bit longer. 



What's new with all of you? How's your summer been? Looking forward to fall? 


Monday, June 22, 2020

Time for a Break

So far, summer is hot and stressful, my focus scattering, evaporating like water droplets sprayed from a hose. 

We're moving soon – fingers crossed! It's been a huge, messy process for many reasons and even though it's far from over, I'll take whatever progress we make, whenever we make it, one step at a time, one packing box full of bubble wrap at a time. 

I'm still writing, but focusing on brainstorming and shorter projects. I'm still reading, because believe me, you don't want to be around when I don't get to read. My husband is still keeping me from totally melting down. And the tortoises are still . . . tortoise-ing. 

Since the tortoises are the sanest ones around here – I swear having shells has something to do with it - I'm going to listen to their advice about taking a blogging break until some time in August. I'll still be around, popping in and out, but no new posts for a bit. 

Take care, everyone!


How's your summer? Is your focus scattered or sharp as tart lemonade? Any packing/moving/getting settled tips? Any advice for an anxious introvert about meeting new neighbors and not appearing like a total wackadoo? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

June 2020 IWSG: A Giant Chicken

This month, the IWSG wants to know: "Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?" 

I'm not sure how much of a secret this actually is, especially to anyone who knows me, but here goes: I am a Giant Chicken. 

Yes, I read, watch and write horror, but I do it all with many, many nervous glances over my shoulder. 

Yes, I am a grown woman, but I still cower under the covers. (Mostly because I'm not sure I can fit under the bed.) 

Yes, logic and reason tell me - logically and reasonably - that most of what I create, read and watch couldn't or wouldn't happen. But, as a Giant Chicken, I must point out that's exactly what every Doomed Character says right before they go into the pitch-black basement where the light bulb has, of course, burned out but it's too much trouble to go back for a flashlight, so they keep going until they die a horrible death by way of teeth and tentacles. 

I'm a worrier from waaaay back. The anxieties and fears are worse now, and some days are extremely hard. Some days I wish I were different – braver, stronger, more normal. 

But I'm learning not only to manage my issues the best I can but also to accept how my mind works, even embrace it. So, I will continue to wring the fear from my terror-soaked imagination and splatter it on the page for you all to read and - hopefully! - enjoy. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to evict some dust bunnies from under the bed. Just in case. 

Join Us!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Superheroes and Surprises

Since a number of nice surprises have come my way recently, I wanted to share some of that positivity with you all. I hope you find something here that lifts your spirits!


I'd heard so many good things about Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center that even though it's a different genre for me - more contemporary fiction/women's fiction/romance – I had to give it a try. I LOVED it. Loved. It. It's heartbreaking AND heartwarming. I cried, I laughed, I rooted for pretty much every single character. I can't recommend it enough.


You know that saying about finding heroes in unlikely places? Well, the other day, my husband and I were out walking  – social distancing rules applying (not for each other, although my husband might have wanted a break from me but was too nice – afraid? – to ask.) We're passing by a tree with a plant – orchid? – growing around it. I keep walking, but my husband stops. Laughing, he waves me back to show me . . . 


Photo by Madeline Mora-Summonte, 2020

Of course, we then spent the rest of our walk wondering about that Batman figure. Who put it there and why? Is it some sort of secret code for local kids? Did an adult find it and place it there, hoping the owner of the lost toy would come back for it? How long has it been there? No one stole it? 


The post "Have Shocking Coffee with Your Lead Character" by James Scott Bell is a fantastic tool to get us past those "safe places" in our writing. He mentions a few different ideas in the post, and I hope to try them all, but this is my favorite: 

You, the author, imagine you are seated with your main character over a cup of coffee. She tells you she doesn’t think you’ve quite captured her. That surprises you a bit. I mean, after all, you created her.

So you ask, “In what way?” And your character tells you something that shocks you. What is it? (I have the students write for one minute.)

Then I say: You’ve spit out your coffee. Your character hands you a napkin and then tells you something even more shocking! (Write for one minute.)


After struggling with creativity and focus, I was thrilled to learn one of my flash fiction stories received second place in a contest AND will be published in an upcoming anthology. More information to come!


This month, the tortoises turn 11 years old! The surprise here is that while I like animals fine, I never really considered myself an animal person or a pet person . . . until the tortoises came along. These two make me smile every single day. They're like my own little superheroes, only they have shells instead of capes. 


What pleasant surprises have come your way lately? Read any good books? Seen any superheroes lately? Will you have coffee with your characters? Any creative/publishing/writing news? Do your pets get anything special on their birthday? (The tortoises will get banana but sssh, don't tell them! It's a surprise!)