#Writober Day 18: The first time you were disappointed

Eyes for Lies


Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is The first time you were disappointed.

Life’s disappointments come early

I got too big
too big for the carrier on a hike
too big for the seat on the back of her bike
too big to be carried asleep from the car
too big to play airplane or horsey
or hold hands and swing really far
too big to play tent under sheets on the bed
too big for stories and a kiss on the head
too big to crawl in with them in the night
too big to believe that they were always right
too big to sit in the cart at the store
too big to even hold hands anymore
I got too big


The image for Day 18 on the Pinterest board shows a tall, slim humanoid form leading a small boy into the forest. The boy appears to have a small shovel in his hand, leaving a trail of dirt and leaves behind him.

My take: I zoomed in on the picture this morning and though I like my first impression that the child held a trowel, I now think it’s supposed to be a knife. What I thought was a trail of dirt, I now think was supposed to be blood. This image is much darker than I originally thought. It works for a creepy story either way.

Micro-fiction: The tall man always came when Tommy’s mommy was “sleeping.” Now he could play with the tall man in the special place and never get in trouble again.

Writing Process and Tools

Emotion: Jealousy

Creepy verbs: bind, ensnare, capture, hide, obscure

Story Cubes Symbols: padlock, monster shadow, fountain, parachuting, building, crescent moon, light bulb, balance scales, eye

Woodland creature: bear – a maul of bears, a pack of bears, a sleuth of bears, a sloth of bears. From all of those different collective nouns for bears, you would think there were roaming packs of bears. The only bears I’ve seen in the wild have been alone, or a mother and cubs. One of my neighbors got a picture of a lone black bear in their yard last night.

Collective nouns: a colony of herons, a flight of herons, a hedge of herons, a rookery of herons, a sedge of herons, a siege of herons, a station of herons – like with the bears, A Compendium of Collective Nouns: From an Armory of Aardvarks to a Zeal of Zebras would give the impression that herons hang out in groups, but I see a heron all the time and it doesn’t appear to have any friends. 😉

Horror trope: a dark and stormy night

Oblique Strategies: Don’t break the silence

Celtic Cross Plots:

  1. Three of coins 2. The Hierophant 3. Knight of coins 4. The Emperor 5. The fool 6. Knight of swords 7. Four of swords 8. Ten of swords 9. King of coins 10. The Empress

This plot worked for my story. It helped me flesh out some of my ideas about the image. I could see how the boy’s father and mother fit into the story and how the shadowy, tall figure influenced the boy.


Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 17: Family

bokeh photography experiment with a wide angle attachment on a zoom lens

Galactic Unions photo by Maria L. Berg


Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Family and the suggested form is Kyrielle.

Unbreakable Bond

Whether of birth or of choosing
Family supports and they care
Bonds there is no risk of losing
When nothing is left, they are there

There may be strain and confusion
Misunderstandings and anger
Patience will bring a reunion
When nothing is left, they are there

When times are hard, their arms are strong
When dreams achieved, they celebrate
They hold a light when nights are long
When nothing is left, they are there


I did some exploring online yesterday and came across this great post: Invented Poetry Forms-The ‘Lewis Carroll’ Square Poem. If you’re looking to try a new form and you like a challenge. I recommend giving it a look.

I also found some great beautiful poems to read by Paul Vincent Cannon over at parrallax.

And don’t forget the great prompts and community of poets at dVerse Poets Pub.


The image for Day 17 on the Pinterest board shows a comic page for Vampira. I looked on Amazon and didn’t find any Vampira comics, but I did find Vampira and Me which looks like a fabulous documentary. Vampira and Me

My take: My favorite type of horror is the horror/comedy. This image makes me think of the schlock side of horror. What kind of character could we write that might be in love with Vampira? S/he may see her as the ideal woman, even want to be her. This electric chair also makes me think of the Addams Family Values movie (to tie this to the theme of family).

Micro-fiction: How could the electricity be on? Fiona and her brother had played in this abandoned building for years. Today, she finally coaxed her bother into the chair with the creepy arm clamps and rusting helmet. There couldn’t be any electricity to that chair, but somehow, there was.

Writing Process and Tools

Over at Go Dog Go Café I found some daily writing prompts for the Halloween season inspired by Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Andersen. When you need another prompt to get those brain juices sloshing, head over to Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt.

It’s also a great way to find another book for Readers Imbibing Peril!
st.-lucys-home-for-girlsOne of the prompts is St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves  by Karen Russell. I love this cover. I’ve heard it’s good. I have Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories. Maybe I’ll reread some of those stories, at my peril.

If you’re looking for a quick warm up, there are prompts for 5 lines or less poems and stories at Patricia’s Place.

emotion: disbelief

Creepy verbs: attach, bind, affix, link, adhere

Story Cubes Symbols: hand, building, key, keyhole, light bulb, bee, balance scales, eye, magnet

Woodland creature: slug – a cornucopia of slugs

Collective noun: a pandemonium of parrots

Horror trope: genetic experiments

Oblique Strategies: Towards the insignificant


Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 16: Father Time


Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Father Time and the suggested form is Blitz. I have enjoyed the blitz for in the past and Morgan’s right, it does have a bit of a running out of time, ticking clock feel to it. Let’s see what happens when I put some time into it. 😉

Time To Time

Time keeps on ticking
Time after time
Time in a bottle
Time for a change
Change your ways
Change your tune
Tune up
Tune out
Out of sight
Out of time
Time is precious
Time can tell
Tell a tall tale
Tell me a story
Story book life
Story time
Time enough for . . .
Time for work
Work at what you love
Work force
Force for good
Force for change
Change the channel
Change your mind
Mind over matter
Mind the time
Time keeps on slippin’
Time stood still
Still as a statue
Still doing time
Time flies when you’re . . .
Time crawled
Crawled under a desk
Crawled along with traffic
traffic of humans (how can humans be so horrible to each other?)
traffic stole your morning
morning glory
morning is coffee time
time is what you make it
time moves on without you
you space off
you stare out the window at the day
Day light
Day break
Break through the monotony
Break a habit a day at a time
Time to get to the point
Time marches on



The image for Day 16 on the Pinterest board is an illustration by Russian artist Anton Semenov. It shows a blind creature with a beak holding onto an ill looking child.

My take: The cloth that I see as binding his eyes, could be a head band. What I took as nostrils could be tiny eyes. Though, at first impression, I took the scissors to be a horrible old medical tool, they could be the tool of a tailor and that changes the narrative of the child from being ill to perhaps being an over-worked apprentice.

Micro-fiction: I don’t remember how I came to be the tailor’s apprentice. Maybe she found me in the rubble when I lost my parents. Now I follow her, walking the grimy, sticky streets until my feet bleed. The smells of death in the thick air cling. When we find them, she shows me the delicate stitches, the careful way to hold the edges together. For now, I tie the knots.

Writing Process and Tools

Read to get inspired: This morning I found this great list to links to flash fiction stories at Lit Hub: 11 Very Short Stories You Must Read Immediately. It’s a good list with links to famous flash pieces. I enjoyed it.

For further reading,Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from Around the World is an intriguing collection of stories from around the world. John Dufresne, whose books on writing are always good, wrote FLASH!: Writing the Very Short Story which is full of good examples. I wrote a review of the book a while back.

Today’s emotion: Nostalgia

Creepy verbs: attack, onslaught, outbreak, raid, invasion, intrusion

Story Cubes Symbols: lightning bolt, sheep, fish, key, airplane, monster shadow, thought bubble, bridge, postcard

Woodland creature: rat – a horde of rats, a pack of rats, a rabble of rats, a swarm of rats

Collective nouns: a rumba of rattlesnakes, a lock of hair

Horror trope: zombies

Oblique Strategies: Don’t be afraid of things because they are easy to do


Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 15: Mother May I

under a sheet


Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Mother May I. And the poetry form suggested is a Ballad. “Mother May I” makes me think of a domineering, strict mother. Definitely something for a Halloween themed poem.

She Keeps Me Digging

Dig a hole, a deeper hole
Oh, Mother, Mother may I?
This time I doubt the dirt will hide
Your dark deeds though we may try

I dug until my back would break
that first time I split this earth
You hovered over with that shaming sneer
I shrunk in the shadow of your girth

I dug until my blisters split
the second time was harder
I hit some rocks and up one flew
You locked me in the larder


I dug with an aching, heavy heart
knowing love’s sweet kiss
I knew the danger, but couldn’t stop
That day you hovered in bliss

The yard is getting lumpy
I find it hard to mow
It’s strange how no one notices
as your violent temper grows


My hands are quite arthritic
I can barely hold the handle
But the truth it must come to light
Someday, I’ll hold the candle.



We’re just about half done with Writober 2019. Hard to believe. As usual, I have fallen behind, but yesterday I sent in my final story for The Writer’s Games and November’s planner pages are almost done, so this week will be a good time to catch up. How are your stories coming along? I hope you’re having a lot of creepy fun.

The image for Day 15 on the Pinterest board is one of my photographs. It shows a body under a sheet surrounded by evidence markers.

My take:. The story question here is: what happened to make emergency services abandon this site in the middle of processing it and the surrounding seen? Did the monster that killed the person return? Were they all abducted by aliens? Where did everybody go?

Micro-fiction: Detective Lisa Murray bent over the body. She was about to lift the sheet when she shivered with cold. She looked up. The sun still pushed through the trees. She heard a voice. “Excuse me, ma’am. I must ask you to order everyone off my property. Hurry now, please.” A man spoke clearly in her ear, but the closest person was ten feet away. “It’s me, Fred. The dead guy. I want to go to the light but I need all of you to clear the area. Now! There’s deadly gas coming up from underground. Get out of here!”

The detective stood up and ushered people out of the yard. When they were a safe distance away, she tossed a match. Fred had not been wrong. “Thanks Fred,” she said as she watched him burn. No need for forensics. She knew how he died.

Writing Process and Tools

dictionary.com’s word of the day is flagitious adj.

1. shamefully wicked, as persons, actions, or times.
2. heinous or flagrant, as a crime; infamous.
That’s a great word for our story today.
Today’s emotion: loneliness ( the story, or character)

Creepy verbs: belittle, discredit, disparage, blister, roast, squash

Story Cubes Symbols: postcard, arrow (down-left), airplane, magnifying glass, arrow (bow and arrow), shooting star, magnet, drama masks

Woodland creature: cougar

I had some fun with collective nouns yesterday. I have this great book A Compendium of Collective Nouns by Woop Studios. It’s a beautiful book full of lovely graphic art illustrations. Let’s see what it says for cougar. It didn’t have anything specific for cougar, so I went to cats. With a kitty on my legs, I would probably say there’s a comfort of cats (if there were more than one), but if there were a bunch of strays staring through my window, I might say there was a glaring of cats, or if they had recently torn up my couch and curtains, I might say I had a destruction of cats.

Collective nouns are fun. I wrote a couple posts about them if you want to read more. For our story today, I’m going to open to a random page and choose a collective noun.

Collective noun: a hotbed of quilts

Horror trope: ghosts

Oblique Strategies: Reverse



Happy Reading and Writing!

I hope you’re having a lot of fun with your flash fiction and poetry.

#Writober Day 14: Mother Earth

lillly pad#OctPoWriMo

Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Mother Earth.

Mother earth → Earth mother

Mother earth
Earth mother
Plentiful creator
dark and warm
deep and cool
I rock onto my heels
then back to my toes
which curl into the dirt
I feel her → squishy
I feel her → grit
I am grounded
but will I sprout


The image for Day 14 on the Pinterest board shows a giant clown with an axe coming down from an attic into a living room with a family sitting, probably watching TV.

My take: This image is so creepy. I know it’s a perspective trick, but that clown looks huge.

Micro-fiction: Samantha was having a great time watching Charlie’s Angels with her family when the screaming started.

Writing Process and Tools

Today’s emotion: Regret

Creepy verbs: abuse, corrupt, offend, misuse, pervert, wrong

Story Cubes Symbols: eye, magic wand, cane, die (dice), arrow, sheep, arrows in all directions, flashlight, question mark

Woodland creature: coyote

Horror trope: serial killers

Oblique Strategies: Tidy up



Happy Reading and Writing!

#Writober Day 13: Hugging a tree

Tree eating military gravestone

photograph by Maria L. Berg 2017


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



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!

#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.


Today’s OctPoWriMo theme is Black.


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



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


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.


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


                                                                                                           photo by Maria L. Berg


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

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


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:


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



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.



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!