What are you planning for #Writober?

#Writober – a writing and reading extravaganza leading to Halloween

September is flying by too quickly. I haven’t even posted my giant Summer reading review yet, but it’s already time to start looking toward October. October is a great time for writing, especially creepy fantasy and horror challenges. I’ve decided to use J.S. Nagy’s challenge name from last year #Writober to describe the whole month, because of all of the fun writing and reading challenges I’ve found to enjoy. I hope you’ll join me for a spooktacularly productive #Writober.

The Pinterest Board #Writober 2

Last year, I happened upon a great writing challenge called #Writober. The organizer, J.S. Nagy a.k.a @BrassGoblin, created a pinterest board and challenged himself to write a 101 word story inspired by one picture each day. He asked other writers to join him and read each other’s stories on Wattpad. Though I did not post my stories, I did read the other stories. I didn’t end up writing a story for each image and I collected some images of my own, but the stories inspired by the challenge were fun. One of them was even published!

This year, I got excited to add some of my own images to the #Writober board, so I contacted J.S. Nagy to see if he had started planning #Writober for this year. Sadly, for me, not him, he is headed to Japan and does not have time for it this year. So I have taken on #Writober 2 and hope you will join me. Here’s the #Writober 2 pinterest board. I have numbered each image in its description and hope you find inspiration for each day in the array of images I collected.

You don’t have to use the images to inspire daily 101 word stories as @BrassGoblin suggested. Last year, I used the images as inspiration for flash fiction of any length under 1,000 words. I also used them to inspire tweet length #microstories (#vss – very short story). This year, I plan to add poetry, a twitter flash fiction group, a reading challenge and #pessimisticmoustache to the mix.

Poetry

I took a CalArts poetry workshop online through coursera.org last month and got a lot out of it. I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to continue writing poetry with a daily poetry writing challenge. This will be the 6th year of #OctPoWriMo  poetry challenge. They have a poetry prompt for inspiration on the website every day. I wonder how my #Writober 2 images will interact with their inspirational prompts. Could be interesting. I’ll be posting my poems here on Experience Writing.

#FlashFicHive

FlashFicHive

This is a group challenge that comes up every two months. I’m glad it corresponds with #Writober. I’m hoping they will doubly inspire me to write flash fiction every day.

R.I.P. – Readers Imbibing Peril

This is the twelfth year of  Readers Imbibing Peril #RIPXII. This reading challenge has lots of different perils to choose from. It began the 1st of September, but I arrived late to the party and plan to participate for October. I’m planning to be in a lot of peril, including:

In peril the first:

The four books I want to read are:
What the Dead Know: A Novel – Thriller
Small Town: A Novel (Block, Lawrence) – Mystery
Gwendy’s Button Box – Horror
and a surprise that I’ll tell you about in about a week. I’ll be reviewing a book that isn’t released yet.

In peril of the short story:

I recommend looking for stories to read and linking your stories to #Writober.

There are also great stories at:

The Evening Theatre, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Sick Lit Mag, Five on The Fifth, Fictional Pairings, and many, many more great online literary magazines.

Peril on the screen:

For this peril, I thought I would watch Horns based on the Joe Hill novel and that made me think of Swiss Army Man which I also haven’t seen.

And Peril of the group read:

I already have my copy of Slade House by David Mitchell

#PessimisticMoustache

I created a creative description game based on a great line from Agatha Christie. Author Diana Rose Wilson and I play it sporadically on twitter. We post pictures and GIFs and challenge ourselves to come up with an ism to describe a feature. For #Movember it’s full of mustaches, and December was full of creepy Santas, but for #Writober, I’m thinking of using the images from the pinterest board. Here are the rules of play with links to lists of isms. I hope you’ll head over to Twitter and join us. Last year we had a lot of fun through November and December as well.

Enjoy #Writober!

So there you have it. A selection of fun writing and reading events I plan to enjoy this October. From experience, I know life will get in the way, and some days, I might just run out of time, but my #Writober is all about inspiration and creation, so I hope you’ll join me in any way that works for you. Please check back here at Experience Writing for my daily poems and flash fiction ideas and I hope you like the #Writober 2 pinterest board. I look forward to hearing about how you will be spending #Writober.

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Another First: McKenzie’s New Boyfriend

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

Galactic Unions                                                                                                    photo by Maria L. Berg

McKenzie’s New Boyfriend is my second story published by Fictional Pairings. They paired my story with a song called Recover by Second Still. I’m listening to it while I write this. It feels perfect for my story–spacey road trip–and on Second Still’s site it says the album was released on my birthday this year (coincidence?).

This is another first in my writer’s journey because this is the first time I have published twice in the same magazine.

When building a publication history, why the same magazine?

When I first submitted to Fictional Pairings, I had two stories that I thought might work. I chose the shorter and more obviously sci-fi because I thought it was a best fit. The moment I received my acceptance letter from Fictional Pairings for BAM-AG Home, I shot off an email saying that I thought I had another piece that would be a good fit. I asked if they might be interested and how long I should wait before submitting again.

Why did I do this? Because I love the musical pairings with flash fiction. It is a great fit for me and I think it will grow. It also shows a growing readership that your first piece was so good that the magazine wanted another.

Like I said in New #LitMag+, finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, so once you find a good match, I recommend submitting more than one best fit.

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Two

Episode Two: She Only Sees What She Wants To See

When we last joined Moxie Sharpe she was wondering aloud if she had blood on her hand . . .

“How doth it smell? It holds the appearance of the sauce of the Turkey Leg.”

“I am not going to smell it,” said Moxie wrinkling her nose.

“Prithy, how doth it taste?”

“I am not going to taste it.”

“Shall I taste it for thee?”

“No. That’s gross.” Moxie lifted her fingers closer to her nose. It did smell like a sweet barbecue sauce.

Moxie rubbed her hand with her skirt then offered it to her companion. “Okay. Now that I don’t think this lute is a deadly weapon–Hi. I’m Moxie Sharpe.”

He did not take her hand. “Oh, you can call me Nettles as I am known by all in the realm. Simon Nettle is my given name, as was provided in your preparatory materials. I hope you are prepared. The parade piece is rather lively.”

“No worries. I’m a professional.” Moxie went back to tuning the lute.

“Moxie Sharpe is an unusual title. But it seems to be apropos. That A-string is certainly sharp.” He laughed at his joke.

Moxie’s jaw tightened as she held her tongue. She thought the name Nettles very fitting as well.

“My duty to the king extends beyond leader of the Midsummer Minstrels,” he said. “I am also her ladyship’s jeweler. I am the shaper and setter of semi-precious stones. I made the Queen’s crown and necklace. If e’er you want to add some sparkle to that glare of yours, I am at your beck and call. My servants run the booth betwixt the costumes and the hair braiders.”

Moxie ran a hand through her own hedgehog-esque coif while wondering how Nettles thought she could tune and listen to him at the same time.

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s cute. The pixie cut, right? Or is it elfin?”

Moxie’s jaw began to ache. She found herself wanting to slap someone for the second time this god-awful, early morning.

“I’ll leave you to your warm-ups then. Sir Ryan and Lady Megan will meet us at the parade line up in,” he pulled a small watch from his pocket, “twenty minutes. They will undoubtedly be sprinting and out of breath. They have a habit of barely making it, in all things. Don’t forget to take off your watch. Wouldn’t want to frighten the peasants with contraptions from the future.”

“No worries. I don’t wear a watch.”

“Then how wilst thou knowest when to line up for the parade?”

“It’s twenty minutes, dude. I can figure it out.”

“Perhaps I should tarry.”

“I think I’ll be more prepared if you leave.”

“Thus, I take my leave.” Nettles bowed and took his leave.

Moxie figured he was standing directly outside the plywood door, but at least he was no longer talking. She removed her music from the large manila envelope labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Parade Music” in Old English calligraphy. The other envelope, labeled “Midsummer Minstrels Joust Music”, she put on the music stand. As she did so, her fingers ran across something rough in the metal.

She took a closer look at the music stand. Something was scratched into the thick black rectangle (the music stands were probably “borrowed” from the local high school) but only enough to be felt and not seen. She traced her fingers over two letters S and N. She checked the other music stands. None of the others had any marks. This must be Simon’s, she thought. I wonder why the lute player was using it. I guess Simon didn’t want it anymore.

The four selections looked straight forward enough, a lot of A and D, simple repetitive lines. She wasn’t sure which one Nettles had referred to as the lively parade piece. They all looked like dirges to Moxie—not a thirty-second note in the lot. While playing through the liveliest looking bit for the second time, she noticed a very slight incorrect shape to one of the notes. Is this hand written? she thought, now that is obsessive behavior. Oh Nettles, you need to find yourself a ren-friend.

The entrance to the Kingdom of Scandium

Feeling confident the Minstrels wouldn’t be throwing her any musical curve balls, Moxie left for the parade. She opened the door slowly expecting to hit Nettles, but he was nowhere to be seen. The eerie silence of the joust field and lower theater worried her, so she quickened her pace. At the top of the hill she heard the rumbling of parade preparation and relaxed. Nettles waved from the front of the line near the fair entrance. It appeared that the Midsummer Minstrels played directly behind the King and Queen.

Nettles positioned her behind the King and then went back to his conversation with a jester lined up behind them. Moxie stared at the thick textured faux-gold pattern in the long train of the Queen’s gown and pretended not to listen to the heated argument in progress in front of her. Moxie couldn’t help but overhear the angry whispers between the Lord and Lady.

“You can’t keep doing this,” said the Queen. “People don’t respect you or your IOUs in the real world. When they catch up to you, we could all be out on our asses or worse.”

“What the hell do you expect me to do? We’re all in too deep,” said the King.

“You could at least pay closer attention to who you take behind the castle for a little grab-ass. The woods aren’t sound-proof you know.”

“Yeah, I really messed up this time.”

“This time?”

“The show must go on. We’ll talk about this later. No one can hear us once the joust starts. Here we go.”

At that moment people began to stream in the front gate. Suddenly Moxie heard panting. As Nettles predicted, Ryan and Megan barely made it. They didn’t have time to introduce themselves before Nettles said, “One two three, four five six,” and the Midsummer Minstrels started into the “lively” parade music.

Moxie felt incredibly clumsy at first. Playing the lute was bizarre enough, but walking in a long skirt, on uneven ground, while stumbling through new music, was hazardous. She felt she was getting the hang of it when she had played through the melody a couple of times, so she looked up and saw the costume dresser smiling at her. She smiled back.

She heard a scream and turned her head just in time to see Megan falling forward onto the Queen. Megan had stepped on the train of the Queen’s gown causing the Queen to choke and then fall. Moxie bumped into the back of the King. Ryan grabbed her arm in an attempt to stop his own fall and pulled her to the ground. Moxie instinctually held the lute above her head. Luckily, the people behind her were able to stop in time to avoid a catastrophe.

During the commotion, Moxie saw something glimmer through the dust cloud. She thought she saw Megan rush forward and grab the Queen’s necklace and crown and hand them off to Ryan. Nettles had said they were semi-precious stones; they must be worth a lot of money. But when the dust settled, Ryan was helping Megan up from the ground. The Queen stood, dusted herself off and straightened her crown and necklace.

What in the world just happened? Moxie thought.

“One two three, four five six,” said Nettles.

Moxie plucked the strings of the lute and the parade continued its path to the joust.

It seems there’s something sinister happening in the Kingdom of Scandium. Was Moxie seeing things? What were the King and Queen fighting about? What has Pearl gotten Moxie into? Tune in next week for the electrifying continuation of Moxie’s startling, amazing and weird misadventure!

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode One

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe serial banner

Episode One

She Only Hears What She Wants to Hear

 

Moxie Sharpe felt increasingly uncomfortable as a young costumer pushed and prodded her breasts into the highest possible cleavage while tightening laces through each layer of metal holes. Pearl had messed up before, but this time was the worst.

“Take a deep breath.” The girl grabbed her reigns and yanked.

“You know I’m going to slap you once I figure out what the hell is going on,” said Moxie.

“Now I do,” she said. “Usually, this is why women pay for this costume. I’m just doing my job. Enjoy the faire, me lady.” She curtsied.

Moxie saw herself in the mirror. Damn, that girl knew how to make cleavage. “Sorry,” she said as the girl strangled her with a large necklace and handed her a claim check.

“You can keep the costume, but we have your clothes and we know where you live,” she said.

The script did not move the costumed.

The dresser whispered, “I know who you are. You are Moxie Sharpe. Would you sign my hands? Like, ‘These touched Moxie Sharpe’. Here’s a marker. I won’t tell. I mean, I will, I won’t be able to help it if you sign my hands.”

This costume rental comp didn’t make up for anything. After signing the girl’s hands, Moxie left the building cursing Pearl, human beings in general, life on any planet, the universe, and skirts. She was not costumed for the show she was prepared for and she did not walk into the world she knew. She especially did not walk into Scandrum–The largest rally for all motorcycle enthusiasts, not to be confused with Scandium the largest medieval larping excursion.

It is a fact that renaissance fairs, if well costumed, are all about great boobs and cleavage, so the pawing was not what upset Moxie. Moxie was upset because she was at a renaissance fair. When Pauline Pearl, Moxie’s mentor and seriously overworked agent, said Moxie was going to play Scandrum, Moxie jumped at the chance. She had dreamed about being the headliner at Scandrum since she was tall enough to compete in the bike-o-lympics. Her dad had taken her to the annual rally every year when she was little and she continued to go even after he split. She believed one day she would run into him and he would explain why he left without saying good-bye. She thought he would congratulate her the first time she won the bike-o-lympics, or maybe the fifth time. Now, up on the huge stage, he would have to see her. And how could he not be proud? Sure, she was only a stand in—The bass player for Sex With Helmets had crashed his Harley through the wall of the Wild Boar Saloon just three days before the largest gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts in the country. It had been all over the news—but it didn’t matter how she got there. It was the big show.

Moxie would have known something was wrong if she had looked at the music when it was sent over, but she knew Sex With Helmet’s set list. The bass player liked to bang away on open strings which made stepping in a breeze. This was important since he was also accident prone. Before this latest crash, she had stepped in when he had drunkenly stumbled into a bull and then again when he accidentally took a dangerous cocktail of controlled substances and tried out his new gliding suit. His foray into urban skydiving chipped some bricks in a downtown building and his front tooth. Luckily, the band name was a reference to the fact that he always wore a helmet. He never took it off.

Moxie also might have known something was wrong if she had been asked to provide her own instrument, or organize her accommodations, but Pearl had taken care of absolutely everything for Moxie since her first band hit the charts when she was sixteen. Moxie finally noticed something was wrong when Pearl sent a car without a trailer for her bike. Pearl explained that the misunderstanding wasn’t completely her fault when Moxie finally got her on the phone.

“I never said you were playing Scandrum. I got you the gig at Scandium before Sex With Helmets called about their unfortunate accident. I was having trouble finding you anything and then this job fell in our lap. The lute player for The—”

“Did you say lute?”

“Yes, the lute player for The Midsummer Minstrels had mysteriously vanished the Tuesday before opening weekend. They were desperate for an emergency replacement. And you seemed so excited when I called. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by how happy you were.”

“Pearl, I don’t play the lute. Why would you take that gig. Can’t we back out and get Scandrum. I want Scandrum.”

“No. They already went with Shayla. Besides, you always tell me you can play anything with strings. A lute has strings, right? I’m really asking. A lute’s kinda like a mandolin, right?”

“Yes, Pearl. But that doesn’t make this any better.”

“You’ll be fine. Plus, that lute player might show up and you can come home. You get paid either way. It’s a cushy gig. And you love camping.”

“Camping?”

“Yes, a big fancy tent set up on pallets in the woods. It will be magical. You might even meet a wood nymph. Who knows? There could be mini-dragons.”

“You are nuts Pearl. You know that? Fine, but I’ll need a couple rehearsals.”

“The fair opens tomorrow early.” She hung up.

Pearl was known to get confused sometimes. And shiny things like motorcycles and knights in shining armor can be incredibly distracting. But Moxie had to admit she might have heard what she wanted to hear.

Moxie couldn’t get a full breath without the bodice biting into her ribs. Despite her discomfort and devastating disappointment, Moxie was surprised to feel a little excited. She wasn’t sure if she was lightheaded from lack of oxygen or if it was the bright sunlight slanting through the thick green trees combined with the dust kicked up as she walked the sawdust covered path, but she felt a little dizzy in a good way. She passed the wenches setting up their food booths along the center path and the fool setting up his slack rope at the small theater as she continued down the hill to the joust field.

The moment she reached the bottom of the hill, her nose stung and her eyes watered, her senses overcome by sweaty horse and man. She covered her nose and mouth and ran around the jousting field to the faux castle at the far side. At the back of the plywood building she gasped for air and was rewarded with the fresh scent of pine.

“Good morrow, me lady,” said a man holding the door open and beckoning her inside.

I guess my character will be mute, thought Moxie, because I am not going to talk like that.

“You must be Sir Gerald’s replacement. He’s been amiss these four days. Your lute awaits. Follow me.” He beckoned and Moxie followed.

The Midsummer Minstrels’ main job, he explained, was to entertain the king and queen during the joust, once mid-morning and once in the afternoon. They were also part of the parade in the morning and evening. Moxie was sure she would be fine during the jousts because she could read the music, but during the parades she would really be winging it.

Moxie should have known she couldn’t be mute, not even for a minute, she was too curious. “What do you think happened to Sir Gerald?” she asked.

“I assuredly do not know. Though his eye doth wandereth upon the wenches.”

“Hey, man. Can you cut the crap. The show hasn’t started.”

Moxie’s companion looked shocked. “One should express oneself in language of the day every moment one is upon the grounds.”

“Wow. My bad,” said Moxie. She sat down and picked up the lute.

The instrument was badly out of tune. The first tuning peg felt gritty and sticky. She slowly let go and looked at her fingers then held them up. “Is this blood?” she said.

What happened to the lute player? Is there something sinister lurking in the forest? Can Moxie play the lute? Tune in next week for another pulse-pounding episode of daring misadventure.

Happy Thanksgiving

Herman rides on Gator McBumpypants' head next to their book.

Herman is thankful that Gator McBumpypants doesn’t eat flying things.

Gator McBumpypants wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. And to the turkey he says,

I don’t eat flying things if that’s what you’re worried about.

Don’t forget to pick up your free kindle download today to share with the whole family!

And for more fun Gator and Herman now have their own theme song and it is now on their video

Reading to Keep the Blues Alive

I recently received an email from author Ben Sandmel announcing that he is the recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive award in Literature for 2015, presented by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation. Congratulations, Ben! If you, dear readers, are at all interested in history, biography, New Orleans, rhythm and blues, music in general, or even me. I highly recommend checking out this book and its website erniekdoebook.com

The book has won many previous awards:

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is selected by National Public Radio as one of the Best Music Books of 2012

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Non-Fiction Books of 2012

selected as Blues Book of the Year for 2012 in Living Blues magazine’s annual Critics’ Poll

My email from Ben included a ton of wonderful reviews. Here are just a couple:

12-22-12, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, Staff Picks: Our Favorite Music Books Of 2012:  Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans, by Ben Sandmel:  “Much more than a biography of a New Orleans music eccentric, this perspicaciously researched book encapsulates the spirit of a city that honors the wisdom of its weirdos. It’s also the story of a unique place — K-Doe’s Mother-In-Law Lounge, the shrine to his career-defining hit, and a haven for connoisseurs of this precious city’s flamboyant expressive culture. Packed with rare photos and gorgeously produced by the Historic New Orleans Collection press, this volume will transport you to the liveliest city in America — a trip all music fans should frequently take. —Ann Powers

6-21-12, ROLLING STONE, 4 STARS: — “With passionate R&B-detective research and eyewitness accounts from local legends like Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, Ben Sandmel vividly captures K-Doe’s wild rise out of poverty, the riches on his many 45s and his long, strange rebirth as a Crescent City treasure. In a city that breeds and adores gifted eccentrics, K-Doe was royalty. And he reigned in style.” — David Fricke

So why, you may be asking yourself, did I list an interest in myself as a reason to pick up this award winning, critically acclaimed tome of American Music History? I’m in it!

Ernie was a good friend of mine. I was in a band called The Rubber Maids that performed with Ernie near the end of his life. After Katrina, I stayed near family in the Pacific Northwest, but Ben called and interviewed me for the book. I’m even pictured AND in the index. I love showing off that there’s a picture of me in a book that includes pictures of Paul McCartney and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin). Like I said, this is a must have for music lovers.

Personal poster from show not in book.

Personal poster from show not in book.

If you want to take a trip to pre-Katrina New Orleans from the comfort of your reading nook, I highly recommend the book that is Keeping the Blues Alive, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans.

Exploring the senses – Hearing

Auditory stimuli have the ability to trigger physical reactions. The calming sound of rolling waves, or the alarming jolt caused by a popped balloon can influence how we act and feel. Sounds, especially music, can also trigger memories.

Exercise: To explore hearing, each member of writing group brought a song to listen to. As we listened, we jotted down all of the thoughts that came to mind for the duration of the length of the song. I found that each song triggered personal memories and vivid imagery.

As with all of the sensory writing exercises I’ll describe, the results are twofold:

1. Sound triggers memories and writing ideas.

2. The exercise brings attention to how one’s fictional characters may react to sounds and music based on their histories and circumstances (perceptions).

Describing sounds, how they are perceived and their physical and emotional effects on the characters will add realism and depth to your writing.

Examples of my responses:

St. James Infirmary by Alan Toussaint

Railroad tracks

Otis playing piano in N.O. w/Kathleen on stand-up

I expect to hear Tom Waits start singing at any moment

The piano in that horrible apartment which I almost never played

La Belle Dame Sans Regrets by Sting

Ballroom classes at that weird dance studio in Metairie where I first met Bridget

The black and white checkerboard floor and the floor to ceiling mirrors in the middle of an empty club

Helping teach ballroom at Ruby Fruit Jungle

Drinking a tiny strong coffee at a café in Paris

The drawing Spencer did of his cousin Marie

The program from a Sting concert I thumbtacked to my wall over my desk

Like a Virgin by Madonna

Going to the record store with my gift certificate for winning the talent show and Mom making the clerk play every song on the Air Supply album, then saying it was too suggestive and making me get M.J.’s Thriller instead.

Buying Madonna’s tape from a friend at church because Mom wouldn’t let me get it

I hope this exercise triggers all sorts of ideas for you. I’d love to hear some of them. Also, if you have other sensory exercises you have found useful, please send them along. I love trying new things.