#OctPoWriMo Day 21: Playing with Firewater

Melting Skull by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “drink,” I bought yummy, colorful juices and repurposed my candy mold as an ice tray. The drink photos did not go well. I made a terrible mess and I’m going to have to deal with a drunk alligator and zombie later, but I like how the candy pumpkin shots turned out. Making shots for a zombie, what was I thinking?


Today’s prompt is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. The 2018 prompt was “How Will I Know?” It recommended using poetry magnets. I haven’t played with mind in a while. Should be fun.

The dVerse Poet’s Pub prompt is the poetry form compound word verse.

At the Water’s Edge

Aspiring to some acceptance
Breaking down my mind’s resisting

How will I know to take the leap?
I imagine kisses’ sweet

After candy pumpkin shots and
warm-cheeked, heady, loose-lips demand

How will I know to go or stay?
After the bridge washes away

Is there a reward for rushing,
or a leftover brain-crushing

Candy pumpkin shots by Maria L. Berg 2021

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo Day 20: We’re All Part of the Decor

The New Me by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “decor,” I thought it would be a great inspiration to put up my decorations early, but it’s supposed to rain for a week, so I thought I might make some decor inside instead. Decor makes me think of lamps and wallpaper and carpets, but once I got started appreciating the things my friends and I have made over the years, I was exhausted. I definitely need to appreciate my decor more.

Our Cabin in the Woods Fell on the Witch by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is being part of a community. The 2018 prompt was “Time Stands Still.

In This Still-life

Things brought out from corners, corners created by entertainment “systems” or pianos
Things covered in dust and cobwebs gathered, brought into communion, become a community
of treasured objects, electrified, let, no longer in shadow, creating their own shadows, playing
together in foreground, in background, circling, layering, finding their place so I will see them
like I have seen them with love before and as I arrange them, the dust scatters, the webs break
the bulbs warm and they glow, wax flows, and surprises me with unexpected beauty of planned
destruction. If I had saved that candle, left it contained and whole; I would have ignored its purpose
and plan. These days of creating are expanding, building one on the next, finding ways to combine
find each other, another word inspires connections, overnight multiplying into multitudes, overlapping
concepts grow and spark searches in more dark corners.

The Witch’s Grasp by Maria L. Berg 2021 sculpture by ES3Creative

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo Day 19: Warning! Delicious Gore Story

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “desserts,” I looked at some fun Halloween desserts and found a vegan “white chocolate” recipe. I also loved the idea of putting raspberry filling in the center of my chocolates as blood, so I gave both ideas a try with my Halloween candy mold. The photos tell a Halloween horror story.

Mr. Skeleton offers us candy.
One pumpkin has cute little eyes.
The horror!
There’s blood everywhere.
It’s a plate of cute pumpkins and skulls.
Oh no! Watch out little pumpkin!
Here’s a happy little skull.
Why, Mr. Skeleton, why?


Today’s prompt is storytelling. The 2018 prompt was “What Do You Want?” I think the suggested form Palindrome Poetry will be fun with sonic surrender.


flickering fire gathering
filling our mouths with sweets
after dinner treats while
dark encroaches and dreamtime
closes firelight fading
stages for frightening storytelling
fiction milling, smoke smelling manipulator
spinning lore, remaking before, and later,
savor thrills and chills from tales of killing
shivering because we fear taboos
breaking rules even nightmares beware

in the dark

beware nightmares
even rules breaking
taboos fear we because
shivering killing of tales
from chills and thrills
savor later and before remaking lore
spinning manipulator smelling fear
milling fiction storytelling
frightening for stages
fading firelight closes dreamtime
and encroaches dark while treats
dinner after sweets
with mouths our filling
gathering fire flickering

Zombie Kitty Eats Dessert Maria L. Berg 2021
Tasty Brain by Maria L. Berg 2021

NaNo Prep

Yesterday’s obligatory scenes brainstorm was fun. It led me to starting the exercises in The Breakout Novel Workbook (affiliate link) by Donald Maass. I took a look at the novel’s public stakes and making them worse.

Then I took a look at the worksheets from Writing &Selling your Mystery Novel (affiliate link) by Hallie Ephron. Today I’m going to make a second copy of the protagonist worksheets and fill them out for both my detective and my MC. Once I’ve done that deep-dive into my main characters, I’m going to explore their internal and external conflicts as I continue through the Plotting chapters of The Breakout Novel Workbook.

I just remembered that I bought a copy of The Emotional Craft of Fiction (affiliate link) by Donald Maass this summer. I turned to chapter 5: The Emotional Plot and read:

Many authors motivate their characters with external circumstances. I must do this, because if I don’t, that will happen. The stakes in such stories are also external. Things need to come out right or, gosh, life will be terrible for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with what I call public stakes; they just don’t have automatic emotional effect. Personal stakes are the more reliable way to make a story matter to readers. Personal stakes are why protagonists must act for themselves. It’s the drive that comes from inner need and yearning. It’s what would propel a protagonist toward change, even if the events of the novel weren’t happening.

Maass, Donald. The Emotional Craft of Fiction (pp. 82-83). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And just last night I started plotting in my workbook with exploring public stakes. 😉 So today, I’ll be adding personal stakes to my plot brainstorming.

Happy Reading and Writing!

I Always Thought He Was Planning to Eat Me by Maria L. Berg 2021

#OctPoWriMo Day 18:Once Upon a Bloodsucker

Monsters in the Closet by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “vampire,” I created a fang filter and found the monsters in my world.

Coffee Vampire by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is an empty pot. The suggested form is Double Exposure. I like this type of poem-within-a-poem form. It provides the opportunity for more than one speaker, or combining two different related images (like vampires and empty pots 😉). The 2018 prompt was “Once Upon a Time.”

A Bite Out of Life

I wake before the dawn this once and make   
              looks sharp like stakes that pierce upon the lake
some fangs to bite the day and suck its ache
                   the thirsty smiles of dreamlike life to take
I wander filtered searching out my foes
            blue blood filled veins that pulse my presence known
and find them lurking everywhere I go
                           I am but juice a lifeforce to consume
there was a time I had a foggy view
                           Nocturnal beasts eternal feast infer-
no light to guide this urge of daybreak to-
                                nal damned immortal aortal portal

Monster House Across the Lake by Maria L. Berg 2021
Blue-head is a Vampire! by Maria L. Berg 2021

NaNo Prep

Today I’m going to have some fun exploring possible plot points. First, I’ll skim through the scenes from the 2019 draft. If I find any scenes that I want to keep and re-write in the new draft, I’ll fill in a scene card for that scene. Then I’ll look at the Story Grid obligatory scenes for a thriller:

  • Inciting Crime indicative of a master Villain
  • Point of no return
  • Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails
  • Protagonist discovers and understands the antagonist’s external object of desire
  • Protagonist becomes the victim
  • Hero is at the Mercy of the Villain / All is lost
  • False Ending

For each scene, I’ll quickly list 25 possible ideas then choose my favorites. Then I’ll fill in scene cards for each of my chosen plot points.

In my plotting post from NaNo Prep last year, #NaNoPrep 101 Week Three – Construct a Detailed Plot, I laid out a lot of plotting resources and tools. This year I’m adding the great worksheets from Writing &Selling your Mystery Novel (affiliate link) by Hallie Ephron. This week should be a lot of fun.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Sabertoothed Kitty by Maria L. Berg 2021

#OctPoWriMo Day 17: Masks and Madness

Mask on a Cat by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “mask,” I tried to put a mask on the cat, but he stabbed me. So I put a mask on a blue head and put it in front of the cat.

Mask Over Cat by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is Celebrating Milestones. The 2018 prompt was “Madness Reigns,” and talks about using homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently like reigns / reins / rains) in poetry which I think I’ll try today.

Masked Milestones

Try on a new face
slam on the brakes before I
break this pace racing

bear this pace racing
when I’m wearing this new face
masking feelings bare

bare raw emotions
behind many masks plain stares
on new planes upstairs

the new planes upstairs
scare bare bears and hairy hares
in the wild child’s lair

the liars wear masks
where chaos rules behind them
I come out to play

The One in the Mask by Maria L. Berg 2021

Look at these great jack-o-lantern sculptures! My friend made them.

They’re one of a kind, so hurry and get yours before it’s too late.

#OctPoWriMo Day 16 & #SoCS: If Caught When I Fall

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “spider,” all I had to do was step outside to find plenty of spiders. There was I giant wolf spider on the ceiling in the shop too. But I wanted to do something more creative. Though I really like creating scenes in the space in my bookshelf, I found there isn’t enough space to also do the bokeh the way I want, so today I cleaned off the area in front of the fireplace and began exploring its potential. Inspired by Tourmaline .’s witch fingers yesterday, I pulled out my witch fingers and some other craft supplies and made this little beauty.

Creation by Maria L. Berg 2021

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Today’s stream of consciousness is to start with “If.” I like that it’s “if” and not “what if.” “If” gets me thinking about action, “if/then” instead of maybes. Here’s an excerpt from my journal:

. . . if they actually cared not to disturb the fine wonder of the perfect beauty of this day: A hummingbird zooming to blow the pink trumpet flower then off again, the bee spider sprinting to bat at the air to my left then back to the shadows. If I filmed it all, and could produce the light, warmth, smells, sounds, taste of the vodka-lemonade everything the same, somehow immerse myself in the depth, trick myself to believe, would I be able to relive this whenever I wanted? Would I want to? Very often? Or is it really the unexpected surprise of it when it as equally could have snowed? Isn’t it the unexpected chance of this warm, sunny, quiet, joy of alone yet shared moment that makes it so wonderfilled?

Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is Sonnet which made me think of John Peale Bishop’s modernist sonnet “A Recollection” that we studied in the fourth week of ModPo (hint: it’s an acrostic 😁). The 2018 prompt was “Catch Me When I Fall.” The suggested form was the Terzanelle which has some interesting repetition.


When I fall, remember
not if, then the catch me
When I fall, remember

we are a spinning species
despite gravity’s writer releases
not if, then the catch me

describer I tell you these teases
because a rebel’s treble has legs
despite gravity’s writer releases

enough web will hold the dregs
but not catch me when I fall
because a rebel’s treble has legs

let my catcher quiver tall
with a finely spackled spine
but not catch me when I fall

the rind lined and intertwined
with a finely spackled spine
when I fall, remember
when I fall, remember

Screen in the Screen by Maria L. Berg 2021

NaNo Prep

Last night I got through my first skimming of the draft and listing all the characters. Wow that was a shitty first draft! Good for me, but I’m also glad I’m coming at this work as a complete re-write. Today I discovered the one thing I do not do enough in my work: sitting still with my eyes closed in the sun. I needed and wanted new names for my characters. I wanted to see what they look like and get to know them. It only took trying to sit still in a chair on a surprisingly warm sunny day to come up with all sorts of ideas and have to get up and write them down. I have always been bad at sun bathing. If the sun stays out, I might have my new writing technique: force myself to sit in a lounge chair and try to relax!

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo Day 15: If Umbrage Were an Umbrella

The Spooky Forest by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “spooky,” I created a spooky forest for my skeleton witches to lurk in. I had fun bringing the outside in to create this little world.

An Eerie Glow by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt is “leaves.” The 2018 prompt was “If __________ Were an Umbrella.”

If Umbrage Were an Umbrella

over a dark wood
spooky, haunting
look there, be aware
near fear’s edge
jump scares come–
banging cupboards
footsteps creek
floorboards weeping
moaning whispers
stale cigars linger
something scrapes the panes
incomprehensible sound
movement unfounded
unseen forces pushing
and pulling the ethereal–
even when expected make
shudder quiver shiver
spine tingling
gut clenching
skin-jumping scares
eerie dreary swampy
fear clings wavering
on wheezy breezes
leaves leave
dried and dreary
bleary and weary
tree-cast shadow
cover me, from
feelings of hostility
vague doubts
bouts of suspicion
of foliage affording
shade, colors vainly
display a crisp
mockery of time

Ghosts on the Wind by Maria L. Berg 2021

NaNo Prep

I think I’m done with Writober for this year. I’m going to focus in NaNoWriMo prep instead. I started reading through my 2019 draft yesterday and I’m getting excited for my complete re-write. I’m already planning big changes including the names of the main characters and the POV of the opening scene.

I’m looking forward to joining my first NaNoWriMo write-in of this year this afternoon. I usually enjoy them and get some good work done.

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 14: If I Were Me Dancing in the Rain

Familiar by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “cat,” I wasn’t sure what to do, because my kitty friend is too cute to be scary and too independent for costumes. So I had to put extra thought into this one. I woke up in the middle of the night and the power was out. After rummaging around and finding all my flashlights, hoping it was almost dawn, the power came back on and it was only 12:30 am. I was wide awake, so I decided to write in my journal. While writing, I remembered I have a weird little cat tree ornament, so after going back to sleep and waking up again, I made a little scene in which this creepy cat is the familiar of the skeleton witches.

A Monster Rages Inside by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt “rain” has “triumph” in the word prompts which I find interesting in relation to rain. In 2018 the prompt reflected yesterday’s with “If I Were Me.” That sounds interesting. If I were me, I would be dancing in the rain. The word “authentic” was on that list.

Another Rainy Day

rain makes green
and if I were me
I would be singing
“Once you’re wet
you’re wet” while
hopping from puddle
to puddle splashing
and laughing in my
thick rubber boots
that I bought from
the feed store full
of cheeping chicks
in Buckley. If I
were me, waiting
and it started
raining, I would turn
the music up loud
doors opened wide
dance ecstatically
under the clouded sky
until soaked in exhausted
triumph, I would pry
clumps of mud off
and run to the shower
and shiver in the steam
until glowing. If I
were me I would believe
that the rain brings
clean, fresh, new
authenticity, quenches
thirst, perks rebirth,
and reciprocity, but today
these days I’d say
I’m too tired and cold
and don’t want to get wet
or shiver or splash or drip
or trip through puddles
so I may not be me
maybe I need to
head back to Buckley
and see if I’m
peeping at chicks
in the feed store.

Levi became curious, and though not cooperative with my ideas, did get into a couple photos.

Behind the Veil by Maria L. Berg 2021
Possessed Mirror Kitty by Maria L. Berg 2021


This Week’s Story

Logline: An arrogant gossip hears noises coming from his shower. Exploring the drain isn’t enough, after cutting a whole through the floor, he finds that his problems run much deeper.

Today’s excerpt:

I pulled my poor mangled elbow out slowly this time. Sitting back on my haunches, I heard the scratchy voices and got the distinct feeling that they were talking about me. In retrospect, this is the point when I should have called a plumber, but

Maria L. Berg 2021
Conjuring by Maria L. Berg 2021

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 13: Haunted Surrender

Haunted by Maria L. Berg 2021

For Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, “ghost,” I changed the eyes on one of my ghost filters and got out the creepy children figurines. Then I thought it might be fun to try some shots from outside in to capture some ghosts on the furniture, so I hung some lights in the window and went out on the porch. Then the happy accidents began.

Ghosts on the Water by Maria L. Berg 2021

I am usually irritated by all the bright lights my neighbors burn all night. The light pollution blocks out most of the starlight in an area that should be a great place for stargazing. However, this morning before dawn, those lights across the lake created a perfect palette for ghosts and their oddly right-side-up (or upside-down) reflections on the still, glassy water.

Ghost Reflections by Maria L. Berg 2021


Today’s prompt “theater” goes well with the 2018 prompt which was “If I Were You.” It was the last prompt I responded to in 2018 and I wrote a blitz poem. There are a few lines from that blitz that I like and relate to today’s prompts:

Afraid to discover/Discover yourself/Discover you were wrong

Deceive your believer/Deceive with a smile/Smile through the pain/Smile while the heart breaks/Breaks barriers

Love ripped away in a day/Love in a paper heart

Consider your options/Consider how I feel
Feel the love/Feel for another

In the 2018 prompt, she talked about feeling the need to get things off your chest, and times you wish people would see things from your point of view, but “If I Were You” has very different connotations to me. And combined with today’s prompt “theater,” it could be about an actor’s process, trying to actually become someone else.

An Actor At Heart

This theater, repeat defeater, creeps
into everything, thespian terminator
of tastier chemistry, detonates the latch
that was holding me back, biting my tongue
biding my time to tame forgiveness wild
behind the clear fragile pane in its frame

And now, used as a mirror, a lover, afraid
to discover, discover myself in you, through you,
seen by you, discover I was wrong all along
that you deceive your believer, that I am
the believer deceived, deceived by a smile, the smile you
smile through, through the pain, through the
stuck loop-brain, mirrored smile as my heart breaks
finally breaking through the faux-mirror barrier,
the reflective shards splatter then scatter,
tatters of face laced lateral flattery lacks
fact staged as false safety now lost

And now, stage left alive while I writhe sleepless
again, rage kept aside childhood nights
of boogeymen, and man monsters in the closet
I posit I had no options frozen in loss
I tossed to any comfort familiar, known
clung to as home, though full of ghosts
haunted, roaming unwanted by most, I
became host to a diaspora of spirits

And now, I consider my options, plethora
of options to consider, one of those considerations
could be how you feel, how I would feel
if I were you, empathic fanatic actor
collector of others, crawl into your skin
shoes and eyes, see your lies and whys,
the trauma that creates drama in response
to the symmetry of leaves in trees

Studying the Beat Poets & My Exploration of Sonic Surrender

This week, week 6 of ModPo, we’re studying the beat poets. The section starts by reading and discussing Howl by Allen Ginsberg. As I read it I remembered a tape a friend gave me of Steven “Jesse” Bernstein. I heard the music behind Steven as he spoke his poems while reading Howl. I hadn’t noticed how close their rhythms are before.

Then I read some of “Old Angel Midnight” by Kerouac and watched Anne Waldman perform “Rogue State” and started to wonder about my concept of sonic surrender vs. “babble flow” vs. nonsense. I like the sound collecting I’ve been doing and connections I’ve been finding, but I’m not completely surrendering to only the sound of the words. I’m not even repeating words and phrases very much. I’m stuck in a constraint of creating meaning, wanting to create shared understanding, and I think I like that better than babbling sounds.

Last night I watched the movie Howl for the first time. It wasn’t what I expected. I liked how they included a dramatization of the obscenity trial against the publisher. But mostly it was a beautifully animated reading of the poem. One of the important things I took away from the film was Ginsberg’s belief that a poet had to bring the voice they use to talk to their friends to their poetry.

In the Light by Maria L. Berg 2021


This Week’s Story

Logline: An arrogant gossip hears noises coming from his shower. Exploring the drain isn’t enough, after cutting a whole through the floor, he finds that his problems run much deeper.

I’m having fun taking my time with this draft. Sharing my progress here is great accountability to keep me working on it. Today another fun idea came while I was writing. Here’s an excerpt:

I loosened my tie and pulled it over my head. I had the clever idea of lowering the tie down there, like a colorful silk claw-lure. After letting it dangle limply for a few minutes, I gave it a few quick jerks to make it dance, grab attention, but no takers. When I pulled it out it was splotched with black ooze. Ruined. Stupid.

Maria L. Berg 2021
Ghost by Maria L. Berg 2021

Happy Reading and Writing!

#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 12: An Ode to Tortured Love & Frogs

Light Frog by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today’s Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, is “frog.” My nephew told me that my next bokeh filter should be a frog a while ago. I’m glad I finally made it. I like how it turned out.


Today’s prompt is “ode.” The 2018 prompt was “Tortured.” I like the contrast of writing a tortured poem of praise. It really captures the chaotic loss of control of love.

The Tuesday Writing Prompt at Go Dog Go Café is to write a poem without using the words “the” and “and.” I think this constraint could work well with sonic surrender, so I’m going to give it a try.

Today’s Poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub: to write my way out of a place of pain, fits so perfectly with my thoughts of an ode to tortured love, it’s as if Ingrid was in my head this morning.

Oh, my Torture, this Love

When pain reigns, thrilling
heightened awareness glaring
nerves sparking with life
firing toward limitations
creating tense-muscled suspense
extremes of what I can stand

Is it fear that brings me here?
Does my flesh believe it will tear?
Warning of peril from unlimited pleasure
chaotic behavior when overwhelming
pre-frontal processes, living uninhibited

In dizzying free-fall, Contusia
dazed in a haze, purples
sensitive to touch, crazed
obsessive worries in separation
so unstable wobbles, topples hobbled
drained faint–that in-between pain

like frogs hopping perilously
across back roads in thick morning fog
brought on by a pond squashed in grills every year
I am drawn to danger, red cayenne heat of danger,
frying-pan-to-fire danger, tightrope-no-net danger,
thin lines connecting cliffs over synaptic canyons
too far to cross, between gains
lost, ends too soon

Lake Frogs by Maria L. Berg 2021


Go Dog Go Café also has a Halloween-themed Prompt Challenge looking for Halloween inspired original pieces of writing / and or art. Submissions are open until October 25th.

This Week’s Story

Logline: An arrogant gossip hears noises coming from his shower. Exploring the drain isn’t enough, after cutting a whole through the floor, he finds that his problems run much deeper.

This morning I started the draft and it already surprised me. I’ll keep writing to about 1,000 words today and then let it simmer again until tomorrow. Here’s a little excerpt from my protagonist’s childhood trauma flashback:

I’m not sure what I did to convince it to stop playing dead, but when it did it was all claws and teeth. Its feet pierced my neck and shoulders trying to hold purchase while its teeth and front claws went for my head and face. I dropped the wood and flailed, but couldn’t scream for fear that parts of it would get in my mouth. So no one came to my aide.

I fell hard to the concrete on top of the wood I dropped, bruising my ribs, and played dead myself. It didn’t take long for it to lose interest and scurry into the shadows. I crawled up the steps and cried for my mom. She covered my cuts in stinging alcohol. I filled the house with screams, outmatching the wind until it died, and she took me to the hospital.

Maria L. Berg 2021
Frog on Her Head by Maria L. Berg 2021

Happy Reading and Writing!