#Writober Day 31: Happy Halloween!

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

As I did last year, I found this Halloween challenge inspiring. I made more detailed cuts for my filters this year inspired by PBS’s Monstrum, and came up with the idea to use tiny brads to add movable aspects to my filters. Thank you Tourmaline .

Today’s prompt is Costume. I put my lights and decorations along the driveway. The candy table is ready just inside the door, and the candy bowl is full. Now for my costume:

My Halloween Costume by Maria L. Berg 2022

I think it’s a good fit. I’m drinking “Three Ghost” Pinot Noir. I had to open it early to let the ghosts out.


I didn’t see a prompt today, so I’ll finish out my thirty-one poems with an Ode to Halloween.

Ode to Halloween

The neighbor’s black cat
has crossed the path
and back, and he’s the
kind to keep company
of witches, so I await
their hour to witness
their power, or at least
a glance of bewitched dancing
in the moonlight

Soon it will be night
time to plug in all the lights
to invite the strangers to come
the monsters good and ill
the doorbell gives a thrill
and I’ll run to see the
hideous and cute candy
grabbing hands

Oh, Halloween
finally arrived
that one night a year
we accept the dead
alive, and slash
open the veil
to the other side
where do they all hide
when November comes?

Writober Flash Fiction

We made it! The last flash fiction story of Writober. Thirty-one flash fiction story drafts, or at least some. Did you try it? I managed full drafts the first two days, but then didn’t write much more than what I shared here until I joined 4theWords. The last few days, I’ve been writing one or two full flash fiction drafts each day. I mean, they are absolute garbage first drafts, but they are complete stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. It has been great!

Today’s image is “Tree-Demon” by Disse86.

I was so excited to be invited to the bonfire. Janie and I had been friends until middle school but then she developed early and I stayed awkward. And stayed awkward as she became more popular. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous when she was kissing Terrance by the lockers in High School. I had liked him since elementary school when we played kickball during recess. It was the only group game I was good at, and he always smiled at me when I kicked his serves, and he chased me, but always let me get on base. That was a lifetime ago. Now he was a quarterback, and I was a swimmer, good but not good enough for anyone to care. So when Jamie separated her lips from Terrance long enough to look at me and say, Hey. You comin’ to the bonfire tonight? I was so flustered I said, “Sure.”
She didn’t say anything else. She didn’t have to. Everyone knew about the bonfire. There was a place through the woods behind the school that led up a hill under the power lines. No one went there but high school kids  and there was always a bonfire on Friday nights. Now that I think of it, now that I’m on the trail, and see the glow of the fire, and hear the drunken laughter of jocks and giggles of flirts, I wasn’t really invited. Jamie just asked if I was going. She had never asked me before. I guess that’s why I considered it an invitation, but now I felt uneasy. Was this some kind of trick? Was she planning to embarrass me for some reason? I tried to play through the last week or so in my mind, had I done anything embarrassing, or bothered her in some way? I couldn’t think of anything. My AP homework and extracurriculars didn’t leave me any time to be around her and I usually ate lunch by myself in the library. But maybe that was it. Maybe they wanted to pick on some nerd.
I suddenly felt like my jeans were too crisp and tight, my shirt too low-cut, my make-up too—too something. But then the path opened and there was the roaring bonfire. It was all you could see. Tree limbs, and broken furniture, crates, and pallets all roaring with licking and lapping giant flames, sparking and reaching into the stars. It was beautiful. All the people were only small shadows joining, touching, separating, moving to the next group of shadows.
One of those shadows approached me along a serpentine path,  all wavy legs and arms. I saw a large cup in one hand. “Hey you. I’ve never seen you at one of these. Glad to see you. What brings you here?”

Maria L. Berg Writober7 Day 31 2022

I hope you enjoyed Writober as much as I did. Now it is time for Novel Writing Month. Are you ready? Me neither. But here we go!

#Writober Day 8: #SoCS The Strange and Wonderful in the Back of the Fridge

Blood Inkblot One by Maria L. Berg 2022

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Today’s prompt for some stream of consciousness writing is “back of the fridge.” At first I thought of the space behind the fridge: dark, collecting dust and cobwebs that are impossible to get to. I wasn’t going to have a lot to say about that back of the fridge. But then I thought of the decomposed cucumber turned to liquid in a baggie at the back of the inside of the fridge, and the prompt made more sense. It inspired me to pull out some old an drying condiments to see if they looked like blood. That reminded me of the time I was working on a local movie as an assistant designer. One morning, I was part of a conversation about how to make a dried blood stain out of the condiments we had available at the cafe where we were drinking coffee. Everyone had ideas about how to make the right color, viscosity and texture. There was ketchup, hot sauce, honey and I offered the idea of coffee grounds to darken the color, but also for the crusty texture when blood dries. Amazing what comes up when an independent film crew forgot they needed fake blood for a scene.

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s prompt is Blood. Last year I used color filters and camera effects to turn the lake to blood, and create a river of blood. This year inspired by the Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt, “back of the fridge,” I made inkblots with ketchup and Tabasco (salsa did not work).

Blood Inkblot Two by Maria L. Berg

So what do you think? Could those inkblots have been painted in blood? I also made a plastic filter inkblot using ketchup. It actually worked. And unlike the other inkblots so far, the shape appeared in the orange light.

Ketchup Inkblot Filter by Maria L. Berg 2022


Today’s prompt is “the Strange and Wonderful.” Magnetic poetry is a perfect companion for my “blood” inkblots. I used the Sasquatch magnetic poetry kit.

Deep in the Wonder-filled Wood

wilderness of strange fears
secretive wood between blur and wise
wander free—but the frightening must appear
suddenly chasing the known from sight

majestic forest wild, ancient and dark,
I roam your giant infamous escape
encounter evidence of legend in silent watch
understand story in every track I make

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s creepy image is by Michael Glooh. A young woman, holding an open umbrella inside as if she has dashed in out of the rain, crouches against a wall. She appears unaware that menacing hands reach down out of her umbrella. Here’s an excerpt from “Those Horrible Hands:”

Ever since that horrible night, which she can’t really remember, it’s been raining. She’s been seeing strange things just out of view in her peripheral vision, that spot in the corner of her eye where images disappear when she turns her head. It makes her think that something is about to clasp her shoulder, or jump out of the shadows. It’s as if menacing, demonic hands are trying to grab her from every direction and take her to a dark and evil place.
The rain doesn’t help, collecting in pools, making every surface reflective. The reaching hands haunt her dreams, so she can’t sleep. It could be her own tired, anxious face that haunts her everywhere she goes. And she feels vulnerable, her hands unable to push or punch while clutching an umbrella. Her hands shake, and she jumps at every noise. But she refuses to give in to her terror. She grabs her umbrella and her galoshes and braves the night.

Maria L. Berg #Writober7 Day 8 2022

#Writober Day 7: Courage to Persevere Through the Fog

Fall Fog Rolling In by Maria L. Berg 2022

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s word is “Fog” which immediately made me think of the movie “The Fog.” I first watched The Fog thinking it was the movie that inspired the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror V in which a fog made their bodies turn inside out, so I was surprised that the movie was about ghost pirates and not people turning inside out.

So last night I did a little searching and found a movie from 1979 called Screamers that advertised men turned inside out, but after reading about it, it turns out that like The Fog, it does not have people turning inside out. Finally I found the actual inspiration for the Simpsons sketch which was an episode of the Lights Out radio show called The Dark (1937).

The fog was so thick yesterday morning, I thought today’s images would be easy. But, no, of course there was no fog this morning, so I had to be creative. I came up with the idea to use hairspray on my plastic filters to create a misty fog. I made two filters: one I crumpled up before spraying and one I left flat and sprayed. The hairspray didn’t want to dry, so I tried my hairdryer. I thought it might melt the plastic in an interesting way, but the plastic wasn’t affected.

It turned out that the crumpled one made a fog effect in reality, and the plain one made a foggy effect in the mirrorworld.

Fogging Up a Sunny Morning by Maria L. Berg 2022
Kitty in a Fog by Maria L. Berg 2022


Today’s prompt is finding the courage to persevere. The suggested forms are Villanelle or Cascade. I haven’t played with either in a while. I’m feeling a Cascade today.

Facing Day

This morning is a joy of possibilities
scattered with barriers and disappointments,
challenges with the potential to deter or discourage,
but there’s light I want to capture, so I persevere.

As if gratitude asks for trouble,
each tool soon breaks from obsolescence,
but I release the need and adapt, knowing
each morning is a joy of possibilities.

It’s not in my nature to see failure
as opportunity to fail better—I try
to fight the perfectionist, but she disapproves
scattering conflicts, barriers and disappointments.

However, starting each day in creative action
fills me with such complete satisfaction
even slow progress armors me against
challenges with the potential to deter or discourage.

I have to fight a dark fear of complete loss,
of the coming change that will rearrange
my view, values, and purpose,
but there’s light I want to capture, so I persevere.

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s image is “Self Exposed” by Thomas Barbèy. Click on the link to go to his gallery. The site states that he is now retired and no longer selling prints. He created his surrealist images by combining negatives in the dark room. The image shows a woman’s face being draped aside to reveal a town on the other side of a bridge on which a couple is kissing. Here’s an excerpt from my story “Her Face a Veil:”

A black streak near her eye caught my attention. I reached out to brush it away; that is how comfortable I felt with her, as if we had known each other intimately, though we just met. She didn’t flinch from my touch, but moved into it, or should I say through it? Her skin was not solid, but fluid, like a high-thread-count cotton sheet. And the black spot that I thought to wipe away turned out to be a slight gap at the edge of the fabric. I wiped my hand across her face and it draped into soft waves and revealed a bridge leading to a city European design, that appeared trapped in time.

I yanked my hand back, and her face returned, appearing complete and alluring. She smiled coyly as if letting me glimpse the truth behind the facade was a normal form of flirting. The cafe blurred and whirled.

Maria L. Berg #Writober7 Day 7 2022

#Writober Day 4: Trying New Tricks

Ghostly Orbs by Maria L. Berg 2022

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s prompt is Trick. So what new trick do I want to try today? Yesterday’s ideas of wisdom being connections of ideas inspired me to try sewing, typing with an old typewriter, and writing on transparencies. Then I thought about all the fun I had with inkblots, and tried making inkblots with acrylic paint on plastic filters.

It was a misty-moisty morning, so I tried hanging some lights under the deck. Then I hung some lights inside on the hearth. It was a fun morning exploring new tricks.

TR TR ICKS or EATS by Maria L. Berg 2022
New Sewing Trick by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem


Today’s theme is Collaborative Dreaming. The prompt is to write a poem describing a collective creative project I’ve worked on.

dVerse Poets Pub

Today’s Poetics prompt is to write in the style of the Beat Generation. Sanaa challenges us to trust our first thought as best thought and play some word-jazz.

Every Morning Someone Shares

another picture, fuzzy and grainy
of the stranger slinking up the drive
sneaking behind gates,
rummaging through cars,
lurking on the porch
in the uninviting hour
around three am

a time that used to be magic
full of electric love
Three-o-eight, it’s getting late we’d say
when we would meet after our gigs
you with the boys, and me with the girls
before there was a band that was ours
in the city that let the bon temps
rouler from night into day into night
’til the glitter never washed off
even the expelled excess wafting
from the gutters didn’t dispel
the new song growing
as I made my way to work

in that community of creators
our small town in the big city
anything was possible for a while
sadly passion subsides
and all those deals came due
the Emperor of the Universe died
we finally broke and the levy did too

Now, at three-o-eight when
it’s well past late, I
have nowhere to be and hope
for no one to see

Inkblots by Maria L. Berg 2022

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s image for inspiration is Heir of Fire Spoiler by May12324. This image has such beautiful colors and such creepy creatures. Here’s the beginning of my story, “Speaters in the Spirit Light”:

They’ve always been there. For as long as I can remember. They’re not pretty to look at, anyone else, if they could see them, would call them horrifying, but I’m used to their long, pointed, too-white teeth, claws as long and skinny as my legs, and dark holes like empty bottomless wells where eyes should be. If anyone else saw them they would scream forever like I did when Mom took me to the eldercare home where she works. But now they’re more like annoying dogs that the neighbors let run loose that follow you around yapping and nipping at your heels.
I know they would reach in and reap my soul if they could. Every once in a while one will try, being either too brave, or naive. But along with being able to see them, I have the gift of light. Great Aunt Beatrice says it’s my spirit light, and whenever she senses the Speaters near—that’s what we call them, short for spirit eaters—she says, “Baby, you let that spirit light shine!”
It’s not easy to do.

Maria L. Berg #Writober7 Day 4

#Writober Day 3: Naive Skeletal Wisdom

Skeletal Remains by Maria L. Berg 2022

Contradictory Abstract Nouns

This week I am exploring the naivete in wisdom and the wisdom in naivete. Yesterday, while reading The Senses: Design Beyond Vision edited by Ellen Lipton and Andrea Lipps, I read, “Sensory design activates touch, sound, smell, taste, and the wisdom of the body.” That really opened up this week’s study for me. I already found my naivete in wisdom: I was only thinking of wisdom as a mental property. “Wisdom of the body, has a lot to do with homeostasis, but I’m just starting to think about it. I’ll be talking more about it throughout the week. Happily, the idea of wisdom of the body, goes great with Tourmaline .’s prompt “skeleton.” The visual prompt for #Writober titled “Owl Queen,” also fits perfectly with naive wisdom and wise naivete. I love it when all the prompts come together. 😍


I was mistakenly under the impression that October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo) wasn’t happening this year. But this morning, I received a nice note from Morgan letting me know where to find this year’s prompts. This year’s theme “Growing Your Creative Soul,” and the first prompt, “Shine your light,” fit so well with the amazing summer I’ve been having. It’s October and I spent most of yesterday swimming in the lake with my nieces. I’ve had incredible months of light and growth.

So I have some free-writing to do on how I shine my light, and an ode or sonnet to write about a Thunderstorm. But now it’s Day 3 and the prompt is Spirals of Creation. The loop form is recommended. I wasn’t going to use it, thinking the loop form was one long stanza using the last word of a line to start the next line, but there are two other variations. I like the third one for this poem.

New Poem

It’s also Quadrille Monday at dVerse Poets Pub. The prompt for Quadrille #161 is “track.”

Track the Spiral Back

It’s naive
to believe

wisdom lies
in ideas: it resides

among connections
connections like threads
threads of web
webbing truths

once weighed and lived,
applied, sifted

through, with devotion,
all one’s previous notions

wisdom is looping
a looping track
track the spiral
spiral back

Skeletal Radiation by Maria L. Berg 2022

Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge

Today’s prompt is skeleton. Thinking about how weird and horrifying it would be if we could see the skeleton’s within the people and creatures around us, talking and walking around, I made a wire “skeleton” and added it to the Monster Me filters from Day 1.

Beneath the Skin by Maria L. Berg 2022

Writober Flash Fiction

Today’s image is called “Owl Queen” on Pinterest and Imgur, but I ran into trouble trying to find who the artist is or any more about the work. It’s fun that this image coincided with this first day of looking at wisdom and naivete. I definitely didn’t plan it. It begs the question, does the naive young woman sit among wise old owls, or are the owls being naive?

Here’s the beginning of Aiolyn Among the Owls:

By the end of summer Aiolyn had no choice but to run away. Mom wouldn’t even notice, she was so wrapped up in her newest summer fling. But he had noticed Aiolyn, and she didn’t like the way his eyes poured over her, wet and sweaty. He always managed to get too close, so he would have to brush up against her with his bulging biceps, and bulging thighs, and other bulges.

Her new life in the forest was fun at first. Grandpa thought it was important for her to learn all about the local flora and fauna, so he took her along on his nature walks as soon as she could keep up which was a couple years before he passed. So she was great at foraging, and there were plenty of berries and greens. But soon the nights made her shiver and she woke up damp. Greens were now brown, and the berries were gone. Aiolyn dug for roots and made a fire. She kept telling herself she would be okay, but then the rain came.

When the rain fell so hard it broke through her shelter, she began to think maybe Mom was done with sweaty-bicep-man. She could go home at least until spring. But what if there was someone worse? Or what if Mom was in one of her post-man moods? No, she was better off on her own.

Then the owls came. At first their shiny eyes in the branches, watching, scared her. She thought maybe they were hungry, too. But then something fell and hit her shoulder. A strange, papery, gray egg fell at her feet. Then more and more fell. She covered her head with her arms until the sound of them falling stopped. She gently picked them up and placed them in her sad, wet shelter.

Maria L. Berg Writober7 Day 3

#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 8: Moments of Madness, or Clarity through the Fog

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge “fog,” I jumped out of bed and was rewarded with a little morning fog on the lake. I love the pareidolia of a giant ghost bat in the trees over that mysterious light in the water.

I love how a photograph through the fog made this house look like a painting. All I did was crop the photo.


Here we are starting our second week already. Today’s prompt didn’t appeal to me (my whole life is either before or after the storm), so I took a look back at 2018. I like the prompt Moments of Madness. I didn’t respond to it in 2018, so now’s my chance.

If I truly surrender to love (of words and sound), will it be in a moment of madness that I glimpse genius: perhaps not genius, but the genuine, truth, my truth, the elusive in which I would choose to surrender forever?

Twine Twirling in the Fog

Flowing fog,
the groggy morning mist
kissing frogs
of lingering madness,
mysteries shrouded
through history fester
with testimony
slogging along with hints,
tinted glints
glimmering lint littering
winter darkness bringer,
but the crazed found ways
through the maze,
a chance to dance
along the fine line
between life and divine
and entwine
the obsessed with the possessed
inner-child and beguiled
within this damned pestilence
of tormented sadness
within a ballet of blessings
where delicious gets messy,
fomenting malicious decisions
for salacious reasons,
or threads of sanity.
Is it sanity clinging
that hinders full progression
to wild recession
reminders in the cinders
that logic, though toxic,
still reigns
in this brain
still clinging to meaning, never
truly trusting surrender?
The twine
though unraveled and taut
twirls between
my fingers never released,
teases the flowing
fog burns
then ceases to be.


The first story

I named the first story of this Writober “But No One Died This Year.” Here’s an excerpt from the draft:

Rafael had to admit that Reese could even make a boar costume look sexy. The tusks jutting along her high cheekbones had accentuated her smile; the shadow from the snout protruding from her forehead made her brown eyes even bigger; and the spiky, glow-in-the-dark fur stripe down her back drew the eye to her tight, curved tail.

She had traipsed so lightly before she tripped, but her bloodied body curled in the wheelbarrow was heavy. Every rock, rut, and twig unbalanced the dead-weight of muscle and bones. The blade of the rusting shovel mercifully covered her face. Full concentration and determination were the only things that kept him readjusting and pushing forward.

The sound of snorting, snout rooting through dead leaves and underbrush, was all he could hear. He thought it was his guilt, bringing Reese’s costume to life, but then he heard footsteps.

Maria L. Berg 2021

The second story

I’m feeling intrigued by the image and microstory from October 14th last year. The image is by Gregory Crewdson. His cinematic scenes are great for story inspiration. Here’s the microstory I wrote:

He couldn’t stand that scraping sound under the bathroom floor for another day. He chiselled through the tile, and cut through the wood. He gripped the hammer, prepared for something to run out: a mouse, a rat, even a opossum, but nothing came. The scratching continued. He couldn’t see anything in the darkness. He grabbed his flashlight and slowly reached down.

Maria L. Berg 2020

Like last week’s story, this image and microstory present an intriguing image, but leave the real story untold. This week, I’ll attempt to remedy that.

During the first #Writober, I wrote a story about something found in a crawlspace. I’ll give it a read and see if the ideas can combine.

Let’s see. What questions arise when I look at this picture? Why did he dig through the bathroom floor? Is he one of those people who refuses to call a plumber? Did he bury something there in the past and is trying to get it back? Did he find out that someone else buried something there? Is he hoping to find something that someone else buried and thinks it’s there? Is this the spot where a sound or smell is coming from? Maybe the linoleum started bubbling up in that spot, or a tile kept hopping around?

Upon closer look, is he supposed to be reaching down the shower drain and there’s nothing there? And why is the cupboard under the sink open? And what’s up with the medicine cabinet over the sink? And the two white lights in the photo, what are those? I think Pinterest is trying to sell me his shower and medicine cabinet, so that’s just plain meta-weird.

There’s a lot to play with there. I have an obsessive do-it-yourselfer with a scary bathroom. Do I need to do some plumbing research? Maybe. Taking a look at A. M. Moscoso’s Halloween Prompt Challenge I might include:

  • A terrifying dark place, such as a basement, attic, or cellar
  • Fear of and contact with spiders or snakes
  • A repetitive scary noise without any apparent source

and maybe my DIYer could be

  • a Weird new neighbours with a secret
  • who finds out he had a close relative he knew nothing about that was insane
  • or Makes the mistake of stealing from witches

How are your spooky stories coming along?

#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 7: Balanced Between a Zombie and a Horror Story

Good Morning Monster Pooper by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge “zombie,” I wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not a fan of dead people walking around trying to eat my brain, so I avoid them. Yesterday, however, I had to go to the store, so I took a look at the slim Halloween offerings (my local Walgreen’s shelves were quite bare), and found a few fun zombies. This morning, I hopped out of bed and “unboxed” my wind-up zombie that poops candy. What a great way to start the day.

And speaking of zombies, I watched the new Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City trailer this morning. The movie looks pretty dumb, but it has some cool looking monsters in it.

Wind Up Your Pooper by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is about finding balance. Living a creative life, it often feels like everything I do is work, and that I’m always working. However, I’m working at the things I love, and I am always playing (or should be). It’s a sad part of the human condition that ecstasy wears off. Everything, no matter how wonderful and enjoyable, becomes work eventually. How do I find that sweet spot where I’m improving, but still ecstatically enjoying the process?

The Balance looks like a fun form. I’m going to give it a try.

Waking the Zombies

talons balanced on live wires ignite fires
slicing and dicing upon flight
sparks in the dark excite
my mushy mind
to find

a sign
for these dark times
every monster alive
alert and flirting for brain-bites
meets ancient rites and smoke-filled skies from pyres

carefree banshees alarm like squealing tires
mired in blood the body still fights
a dance of duck and dive
freezing fear climbs
and chimes

through grime
I design crimes
against the monstrotized
the zombie hoard, now bored, alights
talons balanced on live fire-wires ignite

That form was fun, but didn’t feel like surrender, so I’m going to try a Cadralor to further explore my yearning for balance. Over at dVerse Poets Pub Björn challenges us to try this poem form made of 5, unrelated, numbered stanzas created by the editors of Gleam.

The Scales

1. moans and groans fill the blood-red morning
waking bones creak, seeking footing
then should-ing begins even before
pouring the mind-pricking poison

2. a dalliance with the day’s events
sends me scurrying through tales regaling
reveries, new discoveries, I flit like a feather
until sore eyes and worry lines retether

3. in the carnage brain-eaters stain two-seaters
like teenagers on a rampage hearty to party
after, their bodies teeter entranced like plants
to a heater, a sunbed of the well-fed undead

4. slanted light heightens delight as I search
out the angles and tangles to represent
my vision without derision or indecision
I click and snap intending dissection

5. The swell and the crest of the wave
rolling through each making day at play
equivalent gold dishes chained, swinging
fiercely alive, tamed, murdered, revived

Brains by Maria L. Berg 2021


With everything going on, I almost forgot about the fun writing prompts of A. M. Moscoso’s Halloween Prompt Challenge over at MY ENDURING BONES. Luckily, I saw her story, “The Lady in the Walls,” yesterday which reminded me.

I think Rafael and Anouk’s story which I am drafting today will cover:

  • Being lost in the woods at night and something following you
  • Losing any knowledge of who you are or where you live
  • A repetitive scary noise without any apparent source

Tomorrow, I’ll share the title and an excerpt, then I’ll find another image and microstory from previous Writobers to turn into a short story. Do you have any favorites?

#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 6: Treating Myself to Conquering My Fears & Bokeh Jack-o-Squashes

Jack-o-butternut by Maria L. Berg 2021

For today’s prompt at Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “treat,” I reworked the mouth of my Jack-o-lantern bokeh filter. Since my treat today is going to be homemade butternut squash soup, I thought I’d try my idea of putting jack-o-lantern faces on my squash. And it worked! So fun.

Jack-o-spaghetti squash by Maria L. Berg 2021

Since treats are usually associated with taste, other than the soup, I wanted to think of treats for all of my other senses. I’m thinking of reading Salman Rushdie in a nice bath with lavender epsom salts while listening to piano classic records, then putting on my footie pajamas and playing with paint. That might have to happen.


Today’s prompt asks what we do to achieve our dreams. The chess piece (representing strategies) made me think of a great puzzle I designed for Artifact Puzzles.

Tyukanov Cheshire Cat has Alice in Wonderland inspired whimsies including chess pieces. I love that the thickness of the wood allows the pieces to stand up. Wooden jigsaw puzzles are definitely a special treat.

The suggested form is a Villanelle. With its repetition, it might work nicely with sonic surrender.

In 2018 I didn’t write a poem for the day 6 prompt “Conquered.” The prompt asks the question: Does love conquer all, or is love just a battlefield? With words and poetry as the focus of love, I would have to settle squarely on both. “Conquers” has some great sonic surrender potential.

Strategies of Perpetual Patience

Fear’s conquered contours
linger on my fingers
eternal patience fills the room
with ginger blossoms and
persistence tastes like plum-halves
straight from the freezer
their sweetness teases my teeth
but fear conquered, I risk
fleeting pain and am rewarded
unguarded I eat my treats
at my seat meeting defeat
to the beat of my talking drum
squeezing it between my thigh
and side to hear it sing
and sigh, a seesaw of highs
and lows, to and fro
the daily dance, love’s caveat
emptor of risks taken
leaps leapt, hopes kept
to on-lookers bonkers
I endure and conquer

(I guess the Villanelle will have to wait for another day)

Jack-o-acorn by Maria L. Berg 2021


While figuring out my plot points and filling in my outline, I got curious about what the “obligatory scenes” of the horror genre are, so I headed over to StoryGrid.com and found Secrets of the Horror Genre.

Looking at the horror genre conventions, I would say, so far so good. I have a huge power divide between my body-burier protagonist, Rafael, and a mystical wild boar monster. Rafael is unable to escape the isolated forest and small village. Rafael is actively burying Reese in the woods and following/interacting with the man and the boar. The idea of a giant boar protecting a forest and needing human sacrifice every fall is pretty improbable. If the boar isn’t satisfied, it will lash out and kill the villagers.

Both Rafael and the reader (and me at this point) don’t know what the boar and the man with it will do. Rafael’s goal to stay alive and not be damned is a common goal. The boar cannot be reasoned with and I think Rafael will remember Reese telling him that it cannot be defeated (speech in praise of the monster). Rafael will be the last one standing/ live to tell the tale and I’ll need to end with an implication that the boar will be back.

So there we have it. Characters and an outline. Time to start the draft. Here’s the logline for this horror masterpiece: The man selected to bury this Halloween’s sacrifice to Anouk, the wild boar that protects the forest, has to face the price of mocking superstition, and ignoring tradition.

Hanging out with this guy is my favorite special treat.

#OctPoWriMo & Writober Day 5: Tricks Played Along the Path

Homemade Healthy Halloween Chocolates by Maria L. Berg 2021

How’s that for a trick? I found a simple healthy dark chocolate recipe, and a Halloween chocolate mold (glad I had one skull left, I already ate all the pumpkins). I think those little people are supposed to be cherubs (other chocolate mold), but I choose to see them as people running in terror.

Jack-o-Lanterns by Maria L. Berg 2021

My best trick, in my opinion, is my bokeh photography. For today’s prompt at Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “trick,” I made a new filter, so I can now put jack-o-lantern faces on every point of light.


Today’s prompt, Follow you path wherever it may lead was the focus of my August “Pathways” project. I think most of you have already watched it, but if you haven’t, I read two poems about pathways over my original music and a video of bokeh footprints. So I’ll choose a different path and look at the 2018 prompt for Day 5: Denied. “Denied” has a great sonic quality. I used it in a song I wrote a long time ago called “Dry Your Eyes.” Here’s the first verse and chorus.

I feel it building,
coming up from deep inside.
Imploding bits of yearning, parts of everything denied.

But no don’t do that, girl don’t do that, please, just dry your eyes.

Maria L. Berg from Live Bait Machine 2002
Dry Your Eyes by Maria and the Aftermath from Live Bait Machine 2002

I hadn’t planned on sharing the song, but I’m enjoying listening to it, so I thought you might too. Does it sound like “denied?” I sure think so, but I’m a bit biased.

In 2018 I wrote a short poem called “Denied” exploring all the senses of “denied.” I like the smell I came up with. So I’ve got a sound and a smell (laundry left in the wash overnight). But what is the texture of denied? Slippery, I think. I remember trying to get out of a pool of water that had been a treacherous jump to get into. The rocks were too slick and I couldn’t get out. It took one person pulling me from above and another pushing from below (embarrassing) before I finally found a foothold.

The taste? For me, cilantro. And these days, “denied” looks like rejection letter after rejection letter. The joy of the life of a fiction writer.

So I have my senses wrapped around “denied.” How do I sonically surrender to it? What’s the trick? Bring it back to this love of words and poetry. Accept that being denied is part of the process of the path I’m on. Let’s see what happens.

All the Judgy Jack-o-Lanterns by Maria L. Berg 2021

I opened the washing machine and I faced

forgotten laundry, wet, rotten, and tawdry
sodden limp bodies, whirled cotton underthings
left too long, waft wrong

a sharp reminder of efforts denied
intentions resigned, redefined
dallies-dillied, willies-nillied, paths-a-wandered
time squandered, thoughts pondered
monkeyshined attention bamboozled to other directions

but funkified clothes are but a sigh and an eye-roll
a stale-fail waste of soap and water
but taken in stride those whites get another ride
the flunk undone and a battle soon won


I did my character sheets: Time-consuming, but fun. I love when the random selections fit the character I have in mind, almost as much as when they create conflict in the character.

All my characters have names now. Harvey is gone. My dead body is now name Reese Tribble. She was the school nurse of the small village, but got murderously greedy. The wheelbarrow man is named Rafael Minghella. He was an introverted ap designer who thought Reese was his best friend. Anouk, the mystical wild boar, protector of the forest, is an egocentric idealist whose destructive flaw is impatience, has a bad habit of snacking, and is afraid of the number four. Anouk is accompanied by Boonam Funk who is also impatient and egocentric and is moved by evil forces.

The story so far:

Every year on Halloween night, the people of a small village by an ancient forest bury the body of someone recently deceased deep in the forest as an offering for Anouk, the mythical wild boar that protects the forest. This year, however, no one has died and people are beginning to worry about Anouk’s wrath. Raphael Minghella, this year’s designated body burier, doesn’t believe in Anouk, and gets in an argument with his friend Reese, the school nurse who has been offered a lot of money to “come up with” a body. Reese doesn’t like the way Raphael is looking at her, and assumes his lustful pass at her is an attempt to strike first. She evades him in such a way that she slips and impales herself on his high hat stand. He decides to bury her in the forest and try to collect the money she was offered. On his way out of the forest, he sees Boonam Funk, the man with Anouk, approaching.

As you can see, the micro-story has expanded, but I still haven’t gotten to the real story. What happens to Raphael? To the village? Where is the fear and horror of the story?

At the moment, I still think the story is from Raphael’s point of view and starts as he is leaving the forest. Maybe it starts with his thoughts as he is burying his friend, and the turn of the story is when he sees Anouk and Boonam approaching. Since everything with Reese happened because he didn’t believe in Anouk and she did, his world view would completely change.

Okay, I think I’m getting somewhere. Rafael’s main fears are separation and dying which are pretty universal fears, so I’ll dig into those fears as my themes. Now that I have my themes and my turning point, I can get started on a chiastic outline. This article “The Strength of a Symmetrical Plot” does a good job of explaining chiastic structure and has a great example created by Susan Raab using the story of Beauty and the Beast. I created a similar worksheet for myself to print out and use to brainstorm my story outlines. Hopefully I’ll have a completed one to show you tomorrow

Ghosts of judgy jack-o-lanterns by Maria L. Berg 2021

My Skeleton and Other Wild Animals: #OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 4

From the Lake by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today’s theme for #tshalloweenchallenge is Skeleton. I’m so glad I found this challenge yesterday. I’m finding it very inspiring. Yesterday, I started looking through my Halloween fabrics and today, I started playing with my Halloween decorations. For once in a long while, my Halloween might not feel rushed and last minute.


Today’s prompt is about the turning of the season. In the word prompts “change of direction” speaks to my interest in forces (In physics, a force is an influence that can change the motion of an object – Wikipedia) and peripeteia (noun – a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in a literary work). I also like “fresh starts” and “cool nights.”

The suggested form is Pantoum. I enjoyed how Michele Vecchitto used the form to talk about the comfort of traditions in her poem Change of Season, Change of Heart this morning.

In 2018 the prompt was “_________________ and other strange animals.” In my journaling this morning, I remembered it as wild animals and for some reason I’ve decided my skeleton is a wild animal. The poem I wrote back in 2018 “The Guilty Man and Other Animals” also removed the word strange, and the imagery is definitely more in the wild, or feral category.

I don’t think I explored the prompt much back then because I’ve never read My family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell or seen the film. I watched the first ten minutes this morning and I think I will enjoy it.

The suggested form was Kennings which will be a great compliment to sonic surrender. A Kenning is a two-word phrase describing and object through metaphor. The example given often is “whale-road” meaning “sea” from Ezra Pound’s The Seafarer.

What’s a Kenning for skeleton? bone-train, internal-frame, calcium-hoarder, marrow-storage, organ-armor, giblets-cage, meatless-me, meatless-motion, sated-dermestids (flesh-eating beetles), people-stands, people-poles, maggot-leftovers, X-ray-art, radiation-picture, X-ray-white.

What a great way to get the mind thinking metaphorically and to generate imagery. I’m so glad I came back to this prompt and really played with it.

So much to play with: surrender to sound, repetition of the Pantoum and metaphor-fun of Kennings. Here we go!

The Bone-train Symphony

I listen for the tones of my X-ray-whites
the meatless-me meanders along the tracks
the bone-train, pops and grinds when gravity fights
groans and moans, creaks and cracks

the meatless me meanders along the tracks
a shell of elemental elegance sketched
groans and moans, creaks and cracks
a schism, a radiation-picture etched

a shell of elemental elegance sketched
rattling, prattling, tattling organ-armor
a schism, a radiation-picture etched
why does action bring on such a clamor?

rattling, prattling, tattling organ-armor
the bone-train pops and grinds in gravity’s fight
why does action bring on such a clamor,
a cacophony of tones from my X-ray-whites?


So far I came up with an idea: A man coming out of the forest with a wheelbarrow and a shovel passes a man in dark goggles and a leather trench-coat, carrying a large suitcase and leading a tusked boar by a sheer scarf. Okay, that’s not really an idea, more of an intriguing image.

Then I did some research and found that there is mythology around boars as protectors of forests and that they are tenacious and hard to kill (especially if supernatural 😉). They may symbolize luck and fulfilling desire for some, but betrayal for others which fits well into a story.

The collective noun for boars is a Herd, a Singular, or a Sounder; as in how did this boar get separated from his singular? Or why did this boar choose the company of a man over his sounder? Yeah, anything other than “herd” would probably just confuse the reader.

Then I started to develop my characters. I need another day to develop these characters, so I’m going to put off theme and outline until tomorrow.

Any of you working on fun spooky story ideas for #Writober?