#Writober Day 13: Hugging a tree

Tree eating military gravestone

photograph by Maria L. Berg 2017

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Hugging a tree. I took the picture above in an old military cemetery outside of Orting, WA. The giant fir has grown completely around the headstone in an eternal hug.

To get the full experience, I went out in the yard and hugged a couple trees. The first was a large fir. The second, a deciduous, I wasn’t sure of, so I did a search. I found a great tool on the Arbor Day Foundation website for Tree Identification. I think I’ll be playing with that a lot!

Here’s my attempt at a Rondeau:

Fresh, Calming Air

I breathe deeply, searching for the smell
of the large fir, bark sharp like broken shells
which seems to part to fit my cheek and core
but I sense not scent only cool air galore
I decide to hold on for a spell

Another tree in this yard does dwell
A canyon maple I now can tell
Bent limbs like arms of one I adore
I breathe deeply

I do not mean to undersell
for fresh, calming air no parallel
but I worry that I will want more
And there are things I must do indoors
What happens next I cannot foretell
I breathe deeply

 

#Writober4

The image for Day 13 on the Pinterest board shows a young man and woman standing in fitting coffins on either side of an empty child-size coffin. They wear bright colors, red and white but are shrouded in fog.

My take: Either some death obsessed young adults are planning to have a child, which is an odd contradiction and conflict, or this poor couple has recently lost a child and while planning  the child’s funeral, they made a murder suicide pact and organized their funerals while they were at it.

Micro-fiction: Harlan and Sarah’s neighbor made coffins that had always had an odd, morbid appeal. When they arrived to pick up their son’s coffin and saw the coffins on either side would fit them each perfectly, they silently agreed to take all three. Now, they only had to discuss how and who would be the suicide.

Writing Process and Tools

Plot and form: Yesterday, while reading more about flash fiction, I came across some form articles by Kathy Fish. This one is about Segmented Story Structure.

Today’s emotion: Depression { not you, the story 😉 }

Creepy verbs: agitate, concern, worry,  alienate, estrange

Story Cubes Symbols: house, scarab, airplane, magic wand, pyramid, question mark, volcano, drama masks, alien

Woodland creature: mouse

Horror trope: premonitions

Oblique Strategies: Be extravagant

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

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#Writober Day 12: Shadows

cloud shadow

The colors this morning took my breath away. My world was, for a fleeting moment, this beautiful. The image above has not been altered in any way other than cropping.

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Black.

Absorbed

Shocking color around the mountain
I jump to action
must capture the moment
the first time I think of
the mountain on the lake
not as reflection,
but as shadow

absence of light, shadow
black hole → being pulled in
all light absorbed into nothing

black bird gobbles like a turkey
upon a garbage can at the park
an unforgettable sound
wings talons strewn
among fir needles by my door
an unforgettable sight
a murder of crow

 

#Writober4

The image for Day 12 on the Pinterest board shows a happy conductor of bells tied to legs hanging around his head.

My take: Maybe our conductor is a murderous warlock who has finally achieved his dream of the perfect bell choir.

Micro-fiction: Gila Dummitt had finally reanimated his perfect bell choir. The severed legs, the perfectly tuned, hand-crafted bells tied to their toes, floated around him awaiting his command. He became increasingly annoyed as certain specimens proved to have two left feet.

Writing Process and Tools

Focus on one emotion: Yesterday, while reading about how to write great flash fiction, I came across a helpful tip- Focus on one emotion. This gave me an idea of how to use a tool in my tool box. I have found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi in my efforts to show and not tell my character’s emotions. I like the idea of having a pre-chosen or randomly chosen emotion as a prompt to go with the image prompt. Then I can look the emotion up in the emotion thesaurus to find physical signals, internal sensations and mental responses to include in the story.

To execute this idea, I put the list of emotions from The Emotion Thesaurus into my character creation spreadsheat and selected an emotion using the official random number generator from Math Goodies.

Today’s story emotion is Annoyance.  If we apply that to our image, is that smile on our conductor’s face a false front, or does he start our ecstatically happy and become annoyed by the events of the story? As he becomes annoyed he may speak in short phrases in a sharp tone. He may get a headache and become increasingly sensitive to noise. That could create conflict for our conductor. He may start thinking of excuses to leave, or avoid the object annoying him.

Creepy verbs: disgorge, spew, erupt, invert, explode

Story Cubes Symbols: smiling with worried eyes, bridge, eye, frowny face, arrow down-left, house ,monster shadow, arrows all directions, padlock

Woodland creature: blue jay

Horror trope: haunted house

Oblique Strategies: Look at the order in which you do things

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 11: Silence or noise

racing the angry sky

photo by Maria L. Berg

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Silence or noise. I like today’s suggested poetry form Loop poetry.

I tried a loop poem, but didn’t like it as much as the free form poem I wrote first. It was   inspired by silence or noise, so here’s that one instead.

Writing In Silence

I write in the bright morning silence
The grass sparkles with dew
The water laps the shore
A fish leaps with a tap of a splash
A bird calls from the leaves
The radio warns the neighbor’s construction
Country music invades
The hammering begins
Bang! Bang!
Bang Bang Bang!
A motor boat roars the length of the lake
And back again
Its wake, roiling the water, pounds the shore long after
The morning’s illusion of seclusion polluted
The eagle screams, another fish jumps, an airplane splits the sky
I go inside and flip on the news.

#Writober4

The image for Day 11 on the Pinterest board (and above) shows a small boat in a storm.

My take: I took this picture last summer. I love the way the sky looks like it is reaching down to grab that boat. I also like how it looks like tendrils coming down from the clouds.

Micro-fiction: It fascinated her when boats came out in a storm. Today, the sky reached down and plucked the foolish from the water as if they were hors d’oeuvres at a party.

Writing Process and Tools

What makes great flash fiction?

This morning I did some reading about writing great flash fiction. I enjoyed the article Expert Tips for Writing Great Flash Fiction from the Writer. They included a great quote from Anthony Varallo, fiction editor at Crazyhorse:

“A good flash fiction leads the reader into a world already in full swing – if the story isn’t already underway by the first punctuation mark, forget it – and builds to a moment of change or transformation.”

The best way to learn about what makes great flash fiction is to read flash fiction. You can find an amazing amount of flash fiction online:

Smokelong Quarterly
Atticus Review
The Carolina Quarterly
Flash Fiction Online

Bookfox put out an interesting list of sites to find flash fiction online with traffic numbers.

Creepy verbs: damn, curse, descend, burn, cremate, deal

Story Cubes Symbols: magic wand, light bulb, world, magnifying glass, tree, drama masks, cane, question mark, volcano

Woodland creature: lizard

Horror trope:Giant squids and sharks

Oblique Strategies: Accept advice

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober 2019 Day 9: Sight

sight

                                                                                                           photo by Maria L. Berg

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Eyes or What do you see? I wrote a post about vision back when I started this blog and did a series on exploring the senses.

A sight

What a sight
a sight for sore eyes
a vision
out of sight
out of mind
in the mind’s eye
or the eye in the sky
the eye is on you

Look
and you will see
seeing is believing
what lies beyond the veil
veiled truth
is veiled lies
in the eye of the beholder
all is but perception

#Writober4

The image for Day 9 on the Pinterest board is another painting by Daniel Richter. This one shows electrified looking human forms falling to earth.

My take: This image makes me think of a terrifying falling dream coming true. You’re suddenly falling from a great height and don’t know when you will land, but you’re sure when you do, you’ll die. It brings to mind the horrible choice to jump from a burning building, or souls descending into eternal damnation. It also makes me think of falling into another dimension. It could also be the opposite: gravity suddenly stops working and nothing holds us to the earth and people float away.

Micro-fiction: James pinched himself, bit his tongue, pulled a nose hair, but he wasn’t asleep, so he couldn’t wake himself up. He had taken his first sip of his morning Americano, burning his tongue, as usual, and then he was here, floating or falling, he couldn’t tell. He thought he was floating, but it could have been an illusion because everyone was falling faster than he was. His mind raced: biblical apocalypse, aliens, the earth stopped rotating? None of those were good for him. He was alone. No more people were falling around him. He felt tingly, light-headed like at the dentist, peaceful, sleepy. He saw stars.

Writing Process and Tools

Hero’s Journey with tarot:

Today, I thought we would look at another plotting technique with the cards (and I found some monster stickers I forgot about, so I’ve got more decorating to do). Two years ago for NaNoWriMo, I got the book Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot: 33 Days To Finish Your Book by Arwen Lynch and went through it step by step.

Recently, I’ve been approaching my short stories as the hero’s journey plot and also finding the Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need beat sheet a useful plotting tool.

Today, I want to see if these tools will also make my flash stronger. So first, let’s look at our characters. Keeping in mind the image of the figures either falling or rising I pulled:

characters

The first character I pulled was the King of cups. He’s my main character, but when I pulled a card for his past and future, hoping to get an idea of whether he’s falling or floating and why, I pulled two more court cards which made me think more of the figures  were hero’s in my story.

So I drew past and future cards for all three:

characters past and future

This gave me the idea that maybe my main character is rising and the other characters are falling which is a neat idea that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Cool.

Now let’s look at our hero’s journey:

today's hero's journey
1. Ordinary world:Seven of cups
2. Call to Adventure:The Empress
3. Refusal:The Star
4. Mentor:The Tower
5. Crossing the Threshold:Eight of swords
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: King of wands
7. Inmost Cave:Four of coins
8. Ordeal:Queen of swords
9. Reward:The Lovers
10. The Road Back:Five of wands
11. Resurrection:King of Swords
12. Return:The hermit

We have a lot to work with now. I’m going to write my draft and see if the hero’s journey works for this flash story.

Creepy verbs: abominate, despise, hate, loathe

Story Cubes Symbols: apple, book, drama masks, shooting star, volcano, light bulb, turtle, postcard, cane

Woodland creature: woodpecker

Horror trope: vampires

Oblique Strategies: Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 8: Scent

DSC00427

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Scent. I wrote a post about smell back when I started this blog and did a series on exploring the senses.

Passing Thyme

Passing the pots on the porch, I fondle the herbs
Thyme lingers on my fingers
surprising me later with a trip to my past
a pizza party with rainbow bubbles
from a pipe organ
giggling while writing song requests
dancing and running around the long table
interrupted by the arrival of gooey-cheesy pizza
oregano and thyme hiding in the sauce.
I return to my herb garden
and pinch leaves between my fingers.

 

#Writober4

The image for Day 8 on the Pinterest board shows two children approaching a large glowing object or creature in the woods.

My take: An alien has set up shop in a forest and is luring children to it for nefarious purposes.

Micro-fiction:”Ugh, Mary. That deer carcass smells horrible.” “Ignore it, Christian. Come on. I want to get a closer look. What do you think that green glow is? Do you hear it calling? It’s like it’s singing to us.” “I don’t like that song.” “I think it wants to give you something, Christian. It’ll be just like Christmas. Come on.”

Writing Process and Tools

Plot-o-matic: A nutritionist–Wants to save her self-destructive child–calls a radio talk show

Creepy verbs: dread, panic, forebode, agitate, concern, worry, perturb

Story Cubes Symbols: man parachuting, alien, fountain, apple, book. magnifying glass, postcard, arrow, erupting volcano

Woodland creature: chipmunk

Horror trope: Frankenstein’s monster

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

#Writober 2019 Day 7: Tongue

tongue-flavors-300

physical sensations on the tongue

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Tongue, Tasting and Speaking. I wrote a post about taste back when I started this blog and did a series on exploring the senses. Today’s poetry form is Tongue Twister.

Bitter, Sour, Sweet

Flitter glitter emitter
jitter critter
transmitter
spitter embitters
sitter knitter

Deflower willpower
scour our shower
devour cauliflower
cower glower hour
in wallflower tower

Defeat deceit
complete browbeat
discrete elite cheatsheet
eat treat receipts
backseat heartbeat
concrete feet
meet, heat, repeat

 

#Writober4

The image for Day 7 on the Pinterest board shows two hands (the rising dead) reaching up the base of a tree that has a picture of a missing cat stapled to it.

My take: That zombie really wants a kitten, or perhaps the poor kitty got run over and the dead don’t want the owner to look for it anymore. Either way, the dead are rising and are interested in your business. It’s not a good sign.

Micro-fiction: Approaching the bookstore, I noticed a lost kitten poster on a tree. The kitten was so cute. My heart ached for the owner. Before I stepped up on the sidewalk, the ground shook. A warm gust flooded my nostrils with decay. Two large hands burst from the dirt and reached up the trunk of the tree as if reaching toward the kitten. I turned, got back in my car and drove home, vigilant for small creatures. One should pay attention to bad omens.

Writing Process and Tools

Plot-O-Matic: I thought we would switch things up today and use a different plotting tool. Follow the link to learn more about the plot-o-matic and how to make your own.

Today’s plot: A conspiracy junky–wants to be happy again–paints the kitchen at three a.m.

Creepy verbs: terrify, terrorize, bludgeon, force, dragoon

Story Cubes Symbols: padlock, flower, airplane, key, pyramid, sleeping person, die (dice), alligator, lightning bolt

Woodland creature: turtle

Horror trope: possession

Oblique Strategies: The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten

Sleep on it: This morning, “sleep on it” actually worked for me. I woke up with the idea I needed for my story and went straight to writing. Remember to always keep a notebook and pens and pencils next to your bed. Don’t get up to get coffee or anything first. Get the ideas down, then go get your coffee. I am so glad I did.

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

#Writober 2019 Day 6: Blue

Quintessence of the abstract

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Blue. I liked all the different ways blue is used, especially “bluing the air.” I don’t remember hearing that before.

Blue Sidewalk

You yelled ’til you were blue in the face
while the blue clad woman just won the race
and the blues man played his bluest blues
without hitting a single blue note
which made you bluer than blue
but no one would know because your blue eyes
reflected the bluest skies.

#Writober4

The image for Day 6 on the Pinterest board shows a frightening head/mask floating in the corner of a kitchen.

My take: I find this image particularly disturbing. I think it’s the juxtaposition of the giant, disproportioned figure-are there shoulders there in the shadow?-to the mundane, every day, safe kitchen. Is that monster always there lurking and only showed itself in this moment. If you hadn’t looked in that split second would it have only been a chill or a shudder?

Micro-fiction: Brenda sat at her meager kitchen table, her tear dripped into her coffee. It had been their first night apart in ten years; she didn’t want to face this first day alone. But she wasn’t alone. She shivered and looked toward the stove. Through the blur of tears a distorted head floated near the ceiling. A shadowy hulk blocked her way from the room. She settled in with her tear-salted coffee. At least she was distracted from her other problems.

Writing Process and Tools

Celtic Cross Plots: How could we use yesterday’s reading for today’s plot?

What if: our character has been sick for a long time and has finally gotten out of bed and gone to the kitchen to get some tea. While she was ill, she reflected a lot on her life and has decided it’s time to quit the rat race and start a new project. Just as she is feeling like she knows what good she can do for the world and how to get others involved, she sees the haunting figure staring at her from the corner. She feels it judging her. It frightens her. She wonders if it will see the her of her past or the her of now, but mostly she fears not knowing what it wants. The creature won’t say anything, so she has to come up with a plan.

Did the tarot plot inspire or change today’s story idea inspired by the image? It brought up the idea that the character had been ill for a long time which I think goes well with the image and brings new meaning to the scene.

Creepy verbs: startle, jump, burst, jerk, seize, shiver, revive, resurrect

Story Cubes Symbols: bridge, arrow(bow&arrow), earth, keyhole, magnifying glass, rainbow, balance, question mark, fire

Woodland creature: frog

Horror trope: cabin in the woods

Oblique Strategy: Emphasize the flaws

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

#Writober 2019 Day 5: Doorways

conjoined twins

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s theme is doorway- open or closed. Bop poetic form

Crossing the threshold

Inside
Flannel pajamas
covered in blankets
heating pad on my belly
alone in thoughtful silence
imagining a better world
Need a push to cross the threshold

Outside
People, places, things
aspirations and collaborations,
beauty, love fresh and new
expectations, disappointments,
together in thoughtful silence
peppered with communication
that can be misunderstood
Need a push to cross the threshold

Inside Out
Comfort or  adventure
alone together
creating more existence
forming bonds
entering or exiting
Need a push to cross the threshold

#Writober4

The image for Day 5 on the Pinterest board two women in masks, sitting at an upright piano, pointing guns at each other. A man’s head sits on top of the piano between two bottles.

My take: Two women are in a deadly stand-off. Will they continue to play duets, or can only one pianist survive?

Micro-fiction: Azealia couldn’t practice the duet with her sister anymore. She would rather die. She should have known her twin would pull her gun at the same time.

Writing Process and Tools

Celtic Cross Plots:

  1. Four of Swords 2. Ten of coins 3. Nine of cups 4. The magician 5. The Hierophant 6. Seven of coins 7. The Chariot 8. King of swords 9. Ace of swords 10. Three of wands

Today I’m using The Tarot Revealed: A Beginner’s Guide by Paul Fenton-Smith to interpret the cards for our plot.

A person in physical or mental retreat is in conflict with material success. S/he reflects on success earned, but it is time for a new project. S/he believes others will follow. S/he is at a crossroads pondering long-term needs of hopes. Others see him/her as clear-thinking, practical and honest. S/he puts these plans into action.

How would this plot work with a scary story? I’m thinking one member of a business partnership gets a conscience and wants to dissolve the business, maybe come clean about bad business practices. The other partner needs to stop him putting them at deadly odds.

Creepy verbs: awe, reverence, wonder, scorn, frighten

Story Cubes Symbols: cane, bridge, apple, light bulb, keyhole, rainbow, scarab, magnet, key

Woodland creature: snail

Horror trope: omens of death

Oblique Strategy: Use filters

Oblique strategies are creativity cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. I often like to draw a random card for inspiration. Today’s card “Use Filters” is an interesting one for me. I like to use filters in my photography: color filters and handmade bokeh filters. What kind of filters could we create for writing?

Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober 2019 Day 4: Escaping the Cage

Escaping the Cage

Burning sculpture by Spencer Matthews photo by Maria L. Berg

#OctPoWriMo

Today’s theme “Cage – Pewter, Silver, or Gold” has to do with feeling caged, even in a beautiful, shiny cage. The poetry form Tetractys looks like fun. It is a form of counting syllables that can be used forward and backward.

Hem No More

Hem
inside
expecting
available
Not this time: without respect: I want more
Friendship isn’t a one way street today
I don’t serve you
I want some
equal
ground

#Writober4

The image for Day 4 on the Pinterest board is a painting by Berlin artist Daniel Richter. The painting shows two electrified looking silhouettes with frightened eyes.

My take: This image works well with the idea of escaping the cage. For some people, their whole world is a cage. If a portal to a new world opened up, that could be an escape from a cage. The figures appear to be running through an alien, unknown land that is unstable, perhaps erupting, crumbling, deconstructing. They appear frightened and look to be carrying weapons.

Micro-fiction: Dr. Haviaras pulled the plug and smashed the crystal of Havmillarium. She knew there might not be another speck left, so her life’s work could never be repeated. The glimpse of that world and the figures running toward her was enough to quash her ambitions.As she yanked the cord and raised the hammer, one of the attackers put a hand on the other’s chest as if to restrain their flight into her dimension, but she didn’t have time to ponder what that could mean. She had to stop them. She was the only one who could.

Writing Process and Tools

Celtic Cross Plots: Here’s another celtic cross plot

Writober plotting with tarot 2

  1. Four of Swords 2. Ten of coins 3. Nine of cups 4. The magician 5. The Hierophant 6. Seven of coins 7. The Chariot 8. King of swords 9. Ace of swords 10. Three of wands

Creepy verbs: slash, gash, pierce, slice, hack, flay, blister

Story Cubes Symbols: pyramid, flashlight, magnet, arrow (down, left), clock (four o’clock), crescent moon, question mark, flower, scarab

Woodland creature: hedgehog

Horror trope: monsters

 Using the October Planner Pages

Planner exterior

Last night, I posted the Fourth quarter opening pages and the pages for October. I started working with the pages this morning and found that the prompt for October 14th somehow moved up to the middle of the previous page. Sorry about that.

I typed in the names of my stories and poems that need homes. I needed to add text boxes to type inside the boxes. I highly recommend starting with this exercise. I found it inspiring to see all of the work I have done that is ready to be sent out into the world listed on one page like that. Fun and exciting!

Planner interior

Then I printed the planner. Make sure, when you select duplex printing, that you select staple on short side left. I took my little chisel (couldn’t find my awl) and quickly pierced the pages along the fold. I sewed them together into a book. I am really liking the look of things now.

Self-critique: At this size, I think the boarders around the sections are a little too thick now. The writing prompts need to come down a bit from the top edge on some of the pages and the fonts within the daily boxes can now be smaller. Next month I’ll definitely try a different color scheme which I plan to do each month anyway. Overall, I think it’s almost there.

This month, I hope to fill in every box on every page, so I get the full experience. I hope to try every prompt and hope you will tell me which prompts (written and visual) you like the best. Thank you for playing along. I hope you find inspiration in these pages.

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

The Planner Project Returns

fourth quarter goals

I remember why I needed a break from this project: It is incredibly time consuming, which I find stressful. However, I like to finish what I begin, so I have made the opening fourth quarter goal pages and the pages for the whole month of October.

What has changed

As you will see, I’ve made some changes. I reformatted the pages to use as much of the page as possible with two pages per letter-sized piece of paper. I have continued to group my original prompts with the intent to work together to inspire a story per week. The major change, this time around is moving the featured magazine information from the left side to the center top and instead of including an image of a magazine cover, I decided to include my original photography and artwork for inspiration as another writing prompt.

The pages

The pages are made in open office and can be printed or typed in your word processing software. Once you have downloaded the pages and worked with them, please come back and give me some feedback. I would love to hear what you like and don’t like. What parts are useful and what you would find more useful. Thank you in advance.

Fourth Quarter 2019 Planner Pages

Printing as a booklet

I redesigned the pages, so there would be a lot less white space, but when I tried to click booklet printing in my printer properties, it reduced my pages and put large white space around everything negating my efforts. It took some time, but I figured out how to print it (almost) how I want it.

  1. Select File →Print
  2. Select the Page Layout Tab and select brochure
  3. Click the General Tab and click properties
  4. Select duplex printing. Make sure, when you select duplex printing, that you select staple on short side left.
  5. Print

Next Steps

The next steps are to submit stories and poems to all of these opportunities. Remember, the goal is to get 100 rejections by the end of the year. I’m not quite half way there, so I need to get back to submitting at least once a day to reach my goal. And with the response times what they are, I’ll want to get as much out this month as I possibly can.

Good luck with all your submissions!

Get those stories into the world.