It’s Writober! Time for some creepy flash fiction and poetry

across the street sI had pretty much spaced #Writober3 until this morning. Because I’m in New Orleans and my schedule is out of my hands, I won’t be as on top of my daily writing as I have been the last couple of years, but I’m going to try to do the daily poems for OctPoWriMo and I started adding pictures to a #Writober3 Pinterest board to inspire Halloween themed flash fiction.

The first pins I added are pictures I took from my immediate surroundings and a crow claw that I had on my camera from late July.  I decided not to number the images this year. Just choose the image on the day it speaks to you. I am going to start with this one:

painting of a girl s

The theme for this year’s Halloween party  is “Strange Brood” and this little lady definitely came from one. I think writing her story will  set the tone for a great #Writober.

The OctPoWriMo theme for today is Surrender. Here’s the poem I came up with:

Callistemon

Callistemon, the bottle brush tree
releases her red tassels
as I surrender to the moment
From elation as the light shines
through the erect, lush hibiscus
to the frustration of a burning throat
and muddy head of acclimation
I focus on the detailed lines of a glistening dragonfly’s wing
She extends
tail to the sun
on the tip of a twig
fully splayed

Like a kite escaping its tether
on a fitful wind, I surrender
to each fleeting change
Revelations bombard by the hour
The days pass too quickly
Each stuffed full of muti-days of meaning
I swirl in the dance of confusing splendor,
facing my first regret of ever catching your eye while I recognize the truth of my bliss
The white flag
wavers
I yield
to whatever comes

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington’s Emerging Writers Anthology now available!

Information about Almost Paradise, a short story by Maria L. Berg that is in the Washington's Emerging Writers Anthology

Click on the image to get your copy today!

The Leviathan In The Fog

This week, I had fun with Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds.com blog. He offered a list of ten titles and challenged writers to choose one and write its story. I tried out a few different titles and story ideas, but “The Leviathan In The Fog” triggered a memory of a personal encounter, so I felt the most connection to this story. And with no further ado . . .

 

The Leviathan in the Fog

by Maria L. Berg

Moments past dawn and it is already hot. Dew, settled on the long blades of grass during the chill of night, sizzles to steam, creating a thick fog that hovers near the earth. The orchestra of invisible locusts plays a deafening song. The leviathan stirs, alert to an invisible invasion.

Fumes of diesel and rubber, hours old, still linger. A pungent deterrent, narrowing possible paths. The leviathan slowly stretches along the cracks and pebbles, finding every sensation an irritant. Gone are the days of wandering in mindless solitude, tentacles swaying fearlessly in the breeze. With the humans encroaching and the new fad of rampant hermaphroditic reproduction, the once vast world feels confining. Recently, the bumbling masses started eating each others’ shells. Eating each other! That’s what their uncontrolled orgies have gotten them. Terrestrial gastropods have no self-control.

Contracting, toward a leaf, the leviathan smells distinct clues of foreign intrusion: an unfamiliar sweet, rotting fruit; soil of a course mineral make-up; the bark of an unknown tree. Curiosity becomes alarm. The invasion is happening, but where are the invaders? The locusts continue their two-note serenade without pause. No breach could escape their scrutiny. Hunger prevails over alarm, but the leaf is all wrong: rubbery and stringy; each vein leaks a gluey, bitter puss.

Dissatisfied, the leviathan stretches further through the fog and discovers, retracting in horror, a capacious piece of broken shell. The deep mahogany and umber swirls are slashed with jagged white edges where violent pressure transposed it from home to waste. Only two other small pieces remain, the rest are crumbled and trampled to tiny specks and flakes. While tasting one of the smaller pieces of shell, the leviathan worries that the pebble irritants, glided over earlier, are pieces of a trail of snails.

The recognition of self in the smell is difficult to process. A perceptual dilemma like sucking on one’s own eye stalk. The leviathan feels ill and wants to recoil, but the calcium is difficult to come by these days.

The sun rises behind the trees. The fog will soon burn off and the leviathan will need to dig into the soft dirt under the tall grass to hide from predators and the blistering heat, but the second small piece of shell is too tempting. Enraptured in gluttony, the leviathan doesn’t hear the lack of locusts’ song, or the generators’ rising hum as lights are flicked on. Vibrations growing underfoot like a stampede gaining momentum do, finally, reach into the gorge. The click and scrape of heavy doors is the final warning.

The sole of a shoe. An earth shattering crunch.

In the throws of death, the leviathan hears, “Ew. What is that? There’s like slime up to my ankle. Is that a snail? A snail? We must be in hell because a snail that big will eternally haunt my dreams.”

Then a scream of shattering revelation.

“They’re everywhere. Oh, Lord help me, they’re everywhere.”

Final Days of 2017 Day 23: Yeti Paws

This has been hanging on the inside doorknob of my bedroom door ever since I received it from my Swedish “sister”. God Jul means Merry Christmas in Swedish. I am not sure what the fur is, but I’m going to go ahead and say it was made from Yeti paws.

#vss very short story

Hannah thought the furry Christmas decoration looked like a fluffy bone, so she put it around her dog’s neck. She loved how it bounced as he frolicked in the fresh snow-drifts. She heard a yelp and her little Prince didn’t emerge. She tromped through the thick snow, her heavy steps crunching on the top layer and then quickly sinking up past her knee. It was exhausting work to walk the few steps to see behind the hillock. She gasped. Her eyes traveled up the white fur to the blood dripping from the Yeti’s mouth. The strand of string still holding the fluffy bone was stuck around a huge, sharp tooth. Hannah screamed.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s prompt is a tough one:

Write your own memoir in 10 lines. No more, no less.

A Creative Life

Abject antecedent agonizes an allimentation allowance
Circumspect creature charily content
Rapacious reader reaching recalcitrant
Timely travel tunes tenacious talent
Educated egocentric eagerly endeavors
Antiestablishmentarian acts autarkically
Tumbling terrifically toward the twilight
Impossible issues invert imagined ills
Voracious verbiage vanquishes vile visions
Erasing exasperation eases endangered existence

 

#FlashFicHive

ff23

I really like Ask the 8 Ball prompts. This one was fun. I asked the question as written and got:

replay hazy

So I tried a different question. I asked: Should I start my story with an onomatopoeia?

outlook good

Don’t Forget To Read!

To fit with today’s theme, I thought I would find some books about the Snow Beast.

Yeti – The Ecology of a Mystery by Daniel C. Taylor

My Quest for Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas’ Deepest Mystery by Reinhold Messner

The Abominable Snowman (Choose Your Own Adventure 1) by R. A. Montgomery

GAMAGO Yeti Journal I have this journal. I really like it. I bought it at the Seattle MoPop when it was the EMP (Experience Music Project). I write my ideas for kids stories in it.

Yeti Rescue Kit

And there are many kids books that look cute:

Yeti, Turn Out the Light! by Greg Long, Chris Edmundson and Wednesday Kirwan

No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser

Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen

Happy Reading and Writing!

Final Days Of 2017 Day 20: Fight For Your Right To Party!

Santa in a box

This glittery Santa ornament still lives in its box. I thought about taking it out for the picture, but then he reminded me of The Prospector from Toy Story 2, so I left him in his box.

#vss very short story

Tears pushed at the corners of the collector’s eyes as he lifted Formalwear Santa to his place of honor on the center of the clear latex boxes that lined the wall. One specifically crafted staging area for each of the Waterforce ornaments.

He stepped back and admired his work, his life’s work, now completed. Overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, he let the tears flow down his cheeks, no longer able to fight them back. He dropped to his knees.

At first he thought his legs had given under the weight of his accomplishment, but then the ornaments began to jump and dance along the wall. Dust fell from the ceiling in larger and larger pieces. The floor shifted beneath his knees. The wall cracked and splintered behind his display. A roar like a freight train filled his head and the last thing he saw was Formalwear Santa shattering in his box as the room collapsed.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Prompt: Write a poem about an action or event you were directly involved in that makes you proud. Consider writing this poem in quatrains, rhymed or unrhymed, but as many four-lined stanzas as you’d like.

The Royal Bear

As we moved my belongings to my new abode
We passed a club on the side of the road called the Royal Bear
Now that’s a great dive, I thought to myself
If I find a band here, I want a show there.

So far from the city, it was hard to find gigs
I tried to fit with heavy metal, but who was I trying to kid
I gave up for a while and poured my all into work
But I missed the music and decided to renew my search

An announcement on Craigslist made my heart skip a beat
A group needed a bassist and practiced right down the street
I had promised myself college was the end of playing covers
But location was key and I had no luck with the others.

I had a huge list of songs to learn in a hurry,
A gig in two weeks at a motorcycle rally
Learning not only bass lines but an alternative world
Of chapters and rides, rodeos and leathers.

We played The Royal Bear on a semi-regular basis
I recall one show of which I’m particularly proud
My whole family came and had drinks together
My mother didn’t even complain it was loud.

Then came the moment when my life was complete
My mother and father got up from their seats
Joining their kids on the dance floor, they danced
As I played Fight For Your Right To Party!

Editing Focus

Today, I’ll expand the Story Grid spreadsheet.  According to The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyle, the next step is to evaluate each scene for Value Shift, Polarity Shift and Turning Point.

Value Shift – Human experiences that can shift in quality from positive to negative or negative to positive. (e.g. happy/sad, love/hate, innocence/experience). Every scene must turn a story value.

Polarity Shift – Is the visual representation of  the value change in the scene: +/- or -/+. There may be some scenes that move from good to great or bed to worse, +/++ or -/–.

Turning Point – The precise moment/beat in the scene when the value shifts. Turning points either occur through action or revelation. It is important to track your turning points to make sure there is variation.

#FlashFicHive

fff20

graphic by Anjela Curtis

Oblique Strategy:

Look at a very small object, look at its center.

I like this idea. For today’s story, I’ll practice starting in a universal perspective and then quickly diving in to tighter and tighter view until I get to the center of a small object. Oh, I think I have an idea! Following today’s theme, I’ll use this technique at a party.

Don’t Forget To Read!

Don’t forget to read Christmas gift books: I don’t always have the time, but I like to try to read the books I give as gifts, so I can discuss them with the people I give them to. I especially like to read the books I give to my nieces and nephews to make sure they’re appropriate.

For the next few days, I’ll be evaluating–

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride

The Best of Talebones edited by Patrick Swenson

–as possible Christmas gifts.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Christmas In Japan: Final Days of 2017 Day 19

kimono ornament

I still haven’t been to Japan. I hope to visit some day. This pretty, colorful kimono seemed like an odd addition to the tree, so I thought I’d spend the day exploring Christmas traditions in Japan.

You can read about Christmas traditions in Japan at All Things Christmas, The Culture Trip and Why Christmas?

#vss very short story

Hoteiosho wanted to bring all of the presents this year, so he challenged Santa to a sumo match. Santa wasn’t willing to take off his Santa-suit, so he had to forfeit. He got home early from deliveries and took a nice long nap.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s theme is Clouds
clouds
light and                                                     mean and
fluffy white                            foreboding dark warning
pareidolia for                      of a storm approaching, blocking
grass-layers in spring                          the sun’s warmth and light
moving              swiftly            swirling      and               roiling overhead
drifting

Editing Focus

I made some progress yesterday. Through meticulously filling in  The Story Grid: What Good Editors Knowspreadsheet, I noticed stronger places to start the story and places where point of view would be stronger from another character.

Today, I will continue the process of finding the Story Event of each scene.

#FlashFicHive

ff19

graphic by Anjela Curtis

Looks like this is a story and poetry prompt.

To keep with today’s theme, I looked for a Japanese Christmas song and found some Christmas songs in Japanese matched with anime images:

Then I found this gem:

A cover of Christmas Eve by Chemistry. Definitely what I was looking for.

Here’s a translation of the lyrics. I cannot attest to the accuracy.

Christmas Eve

All alone I watch the quiet rain
Wonder if it’s gonna snow again
Silent night holy night

I was praying
You’d be here with me
What it used to be
Silent night holy night
For Christmas

Somewhere far away
The sleigh bells ring
I remember
When we used to sing
Silent night holy night

I keep you inside me
Oh the truth is unspoken
So my heart won’t be broken
On Christmas

They lit the trees
Along the avenue
Twinkling silver with a touch of blue
Silent night holy night

Don’t Forget To Read!

To go with today’s theme, I found a couple of books about Christmas in Japan:

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (light novel) (The Haruhi Suzumiya Series) by Nagaru Tanigawa

Happy Reading and Writing!

#FD2017 Final Days Of 2017 Day 16: Joy To The World!

Ocarina

Many people put fake, plastic instruments on their Christmas trees. I like real ones. I received this Ocarina in a basket of world instruments as a Christmas gift. It adds gorgeous color to the tree and when the spirit moves, I can grab it and play along with my favorite carol. Or, in all honesty, make horrible noises in a joyful manner.

#vss very short story

Pepito wore his ocarina everywhere he went. His grandmother had told him it would protect him from harm and he would be a great savior to his village. One day, while he was skipping along the mountain trail, the ground shook and a generation of vipers slithered from the rocks toward the village.

Pepito pulled his ocarina from his neck and showed it to the snakes, but they were not deterred. He prayed that its power would flow through him as his grandmother had promised, but he did not feel any power come.

Finally, as the snakes were about to reach him, he brought the ocarina to his mouth and blew a loud and ugly note. The snakes stopped, confused by the sound waves. They licked at the sound in the air. Pepito fluttered his fingers over the holes blowing as hard as he could. The song he played was a terrible noise; the vipers fled and hid.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Though some reports say the HHS word ban is a misunderstanding, just the idea of a government agency telling people that they can’t use certain words is an affront to any wordsmith. So, though I think it will be difficult and I will have to update this post with the drafted poem, I am happy to take on the challenge proposed by MoSt Poetry:

Use the words vulnerable, fetus, diversity, entitlement, transgender, science-based, and evidence-based in a poem.

Health And Human Services

All humans are endowed by their Creator
Human health is All inclusive

With the Rights to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness
The Center for Disease Control is tasked to help with this

Their scientists prevent the spread of disease
Using science-based data they fight the good fight

Against microbes on the hunt for human hosts
All life is vulnerable from fetus ’til lost to death

The evidence-based bias is skewed
Correlation is Not equivalent to causation

Gender identity and biological sex assignments
Do not change those entitlements

Transgender humans are part of our diversity
Diversity is necessary for genetic survival
Survival being that entitlement
Entitlement to Life

Editing Focus

Today and tomorrow, actually for as long as it takes, I’ll be separating out each scene in my draft and attempting to analyze it down to its essence, one sentence that captures the scene. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be creating a spread sheet for a Story Grid. While I do this, I’ll also be following The Ultimate Revision Checklist.

The first thing on the Revision Checklist is to take a good look at your Main Character (Lead Character on the checklist). As I read through my scenes, I’ll ask myself:

  • Is my MC worth following for a whole novel? Why?
  • How can I make my MC “jump off the page” more?
  • Do my characters sufficiently contrast?
  • Will readers bond to my MC?

I’ll also make a physical diagram of my character arc using the Kubler-Ross Change Curve For Story like I talked about on Day 14 Stages Of Change.

#FlashFicHive

With all those happy words it could be a challenge to create conflict in my story. Ha Ha. Just Kidding. It’s the holidays. However, let’s see what Oblique Strategies says:

Accretion

And suddenly we have a

Word Of The Day

I love when that happens!

accretion – noun
1. an increase by natural growth or by gradual external addition; growth in size or extent.
2. the result of this process.
3. an added part; addition: The last part of the legend is a later accretion.
4. the growing together of separate parts into a single whole.
5. Law. increase of property by gradual natural additions, as of land by alluvion.
There’s another word for today!

alluvion – noun

1. Law. a gradual increase of land on a shore or a river bank by the action of water, whether from natural or artificial causes.
2. overflow; flood.
Now I see many possibilities for conflict.

Don’t Forget To Read!

I thought for today’s theme it would be fun to look up books on instruments around the world.
The World Atlas of Musical Instruments by Bozhidar Abrashev and Vladimir Gadjev
Musical Instruments: From Flutes Carved of Bone, to Lutes, to Modern Electric Guitars from Scholastic
And I need this one! Play The World: The 101 Instrument Primer from Mel Bay.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Pink Flamingos: Final Days Of 2017 Day 17

I received these at a white elephant gift exchange. I think every tree needs some thoughtful pink flamingos.

#vss very short story

The reindeer became skittish as they got closer to Florida. A crew of pink flamingos were vying for their jobs and were always trying to show of for Santa. Trying not to kick a flamingo had become a hazard of delivering presents.

Today’s Poetry and Poem

Write about inheritances. The real, the imagined, the wished for, the cursed…

Her Mother’s Pink Flamingos

Her mother’s pink flamingos
Were all she ever wanted
She spent hours playing with them
As a child while she waited
For her mother to get home
Day or night, in the heat or cold
She imagined the flamingos hopping
And flying around the trailer park
She imagined them lifting her up
On a multitude of soft feathers
And landing on candy-floss clouds
Where they watched the sunset
But when her mother kicked her out
She took a bat to those flamingos
They had left her there to rot
Now she had nothing and nowhere to go
She instantly regretted her actions
But she couldn’t bring back
Her mother’s flamingos.

Editing Focus

Chapter 16 of Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell is The Ultimate Revision Checklist. Starting tomorrow, I plan to begin following the checklist on my draft for Throwing Stones while also creating a Story Grid following the guidelines in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne.

To prepare for this intense editing practice, today I’m going to follow Mr. Coyne’s suggestion and separate my novel into each scene, print out the scenes and staple each one into a short piece of writing. Then I’ll start a spreadsheet for Throwing Stones with a SCENE column, WORD COUNT column and a STORY EVENT column. Then I’ll be ready to dive in, first thing tomorrow.

#FlashFicHive

Since I didn’t find the prompt for #FlashFicHive yesterday, I thought I would combine it with the prompt for today. And that means, there will be pink flamingos. Oh yes, there will be pink flamingos.

I have two options for my pink flamingos in the fill in the blanks sentence:

  1. The pink flamingos lived in a bright place with cryptids.
  2. The dogs lived in a hairy place with pink flamingos.

I used this as a short mad libs game with a friend and those are the words I got. Let’s try a couple more to fill out the idea:

1. The pink flamingos lived in a dark place with helicopters.
2. The tree lived in a fiery place with pink flamingos.

So this place, with at least of tree, full of pink flamingos, dogs and cryptids could be dark and hairy but becomes bright when set on fire. Luckily the helicopters were already there, so they put out the fires quickly.

Don’t Forget To Read!

I thought I would keep with today’s theme and look for some books on Pink Flamingos.

There is a surprisingly small selection of books to choose from. There are exactly two books in the King County Library System with the words “Pink Flamingos” in the title:
The Pink Flamingo Murders by Elaine Viets and Pink Flamingos by Carlo Mari.

I had a little more luck on Goodreads and Amazon finding such gems as:
Pink Flamingos All Aroundby Michael J. Andersen
What Makes Flamingos Pink?: A Colorful Collection of Q & A’s for the Unquenchably Curious by Bill McClain
BUGS BUNNY AND THE PINK FLAMINGOS (A Little Golden Book, 110-63)by Gina Inogoglia.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Final Days Of 2017 Day 16: Aloha Santa

aloha santa

In the mood for a Hawaiian Christmas? This Santa is. My sweetie and I agree he would know the words to Mele Kalikimaka, so we’re not sure what he’s looking at in this book. If you’d like to listen to the song here’s some Bing Crosby.

#vss very short story

Santa let his elf take the reins while he thumbed through his Hawaiian translations. He was pretty sure the man with the red face, shaking his fist and pointing at his broken chimney, wasn’t saying “Merry Christmas.”.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Write a poem about/for/against/including Pantone’s color of the year for 2018: Ultra Violet.

https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2018

UltraViolet

A light beyond the spectrum of sight
A flower with super-powers
A girl who summons all her might
A field full of wild-flowers

Happy Reading and Writing!

Stages Of Change – #FD2017 Final Days Of 2017 Day 14

tigger ornament

#vss very short story

“Now Chris Kringle, what happened to your neck?” asked Mrs. Claus when her husband came in after his package deliveries wearing a thick brace.
Santa moaned and stiffly bent into his chair. “I thought it would be fun to let Tigger lead my sleigh last night.”

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

“A man carrying a rifle approaches . . .”
Write a poem.

Curiosity mixed with trepidation
Approaching friend or foe?
Setting and scene
If distant and serene
Would have pleasantly
Let you know
To get out of harms way
For someone was hunting today
But here that is not rightly so
The cues all around
Make you yell, Get Down!
And panic quickly ensues
Peering into dead eyes
You hope for reprise
Not ready to meet your due.

Editing Focus

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve For Story

KublerRoss_112514-copy-2-1024x791

This section of The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne resonated with me. I wish I had read this earlier and added it to last month’s study of the Hero’s Journey. There is also an article on the Story Grid website called Stories Are About Change that covers this idea of examining The Kubler-Ross Change Curve in relation to your character arc.

As you think about your Main Character going through these stages, do specific scenes come to mind? Is your main character’s psychological turmoil dramatic enough to create  change in your character? Does your main character go through each of these eight stages? Could you add some scenes to show the progression through each stage more clearly?

#FlashFicHive

ff 14

graphic by Anjela Curtis

I certainly would like to finish a recent flash draft! Maybe I’ll tackle my convict with powers story.

Don’t Forget To Read

Don’t forget to read newspaper articles. Not just politics and world news, but the odd stories and obituaries.

Throwing Stones was inspired by a news story. I was looking up facts about South Africa and came across a story about people throwing stones at fire fighters, stopping them from putting out a fire. This fascinated me. I wanted to know why anyone would do that, so I continued looking for stories about people throwing stones at fire fighters. I found examples all over the world. Then I widened my search to people throwing stones. There’s a history, a mythology, and a deep symbolism for throwing stones.

I also found an idea for a science-fiction short story in the obituaries. The mysterious death of a hacker just before he was supposed to speak at a convention.

There is a great resource on the web called The Google New Archive where you can see actual scans of old newspapers from around the world. It’s a treasure trove of stories. I talked about it last year in my post A great tool for research, inspiration and hours of fun. Give yourself a present and check it out.

Happy Reading and Writing!