After 5+ years of the same photo, I decided it was time for a change. I took this image off the porch of a B ‘n’ B we stayed at in Buena Vista, Colorado. It was an amazing autumn that year and we had a grand time. Below are just a few more of the photos from that trip.
I enjoyed getting to know my fellow A to Z Blogging Challengers. Your blogs are great and I look forward to reading them through the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, I have to jump ship on the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I left off at R and with the deadlines I have been facing, well…………. S, T, U,V, W, X, Y, and Z will have to go on without me. Thank you to A to Z Blogging Challenge for hosting. I’ll be back in 2020!
Once we get into May, when the dust has settles, I will introduce everyone to the new blogs I found that I think you might enjoy as well.
What is the big deal about short stories? Why have them? Why do readers prefer the short story over a full blown novel? First, let me say that novel length manuscripts have NOT gone by the wayside. There are still vast numbers of people (myself included) who read the thousands of wonderful books out there. Yet, short stories are on the rise. More and more readers are turning to the short story. What is different today, then let’s say 40 years ago? Are there reasons the short story is more popular to day?
Short Attention Spans & Time
It has been said that our attention spans are shrinking, therefore our desire to sit a read a four hundred page novel has also shrunk. One study suggested that our attention span has dropped to a mere 8 seconds. The statistics were published in Time magazine, the Telegraph, the Guardian, USA Today, the New York Times and the National Post. Since 2015, that theory has been debunked.
Another angle is we just have too many choices (think mega-stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, or coffee shops like Starbucks). When I walk into a coffee shop with a menu the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica I can’t make a clear decision so I order coffee and leave. Quick, easy, and black.
Time, for many people, is a huge culprit. Busy lives can drain away minutes, hours, days, and weeks before we realize that the time has gone by. Careers and family obligations alone can drain the day away. When there is only twenty minutes left for reading, a novel is challenging to get through.
Whatever the reasons, a short story can fill the tiny gaps in our day. They are usually quick reads that are satisfying, and packed with meaning. Short story writers learn early on how to keep a tale riding on a tight rope. They are a trapeze artist walking a narrow path with the reader, their audience, holding their collective breath. When the artist reaches that last sentence the audience erupts with applause.
There is always the quick gratification that is gotten through a short story. A reader can sit and finish a full bodied story in about an hour.
Marion, Nelson, and Oscar were behind. Finals already started, and they had nearly a month of work to catch up on. Keeping up was a challenge at times, but they were lucky that most of their professors were understanding.
Oscar stared out the dorm window. He watched a few students crossing the quad with coats pulled tight against the blizzard conditions. Campus should have been shut down for classes but this campus never closed.
“It’s a bummer classes weren’t cancelled. It’s a bomb cyclone and a blizzard. They could at least give us a break.” Marion was the youngest in the crew. Her straw hair frizzed out in every direction.
“That would be pretty
cool.” Nelson, was a brainiac only because he had a photographic memory. He
complained it was a burden, but Marion and Oscar had a hard time feeling sorry
Simultaneously, three watches pinged incessantly and furiously they started thumb punching on their cell phones. “The other side of campus. Let’s rock.” Oscar gave a confirming nod to the other two just before they blinked out.
The three reappeared behind the chemistry building. Crouching low they scanned for any threats. The wind ripped through their clothing and snow pummeled into every crevice.
“See anything?” Oscar
shouted over the storm’s pandemonium. If anyone replied, it was ripped away by
A pop. Then another.
Oscar wheeled back
around to see Professor Bane standing over two forms lying in the snow.
“Next time, you might
want to materialize somewhere less in the open. Now, get back to the dorms. The
weather is quite unpleasant.” Professor Bane turned and blinked out before he
took a step away.
Oscar transported warm gear to the so none of them froze to death, but he still didn’t know how to transport anyone other than himself. He spent the next two hours dragging his crew back to the dorm room.
It took another hour for
the two to wake up. “What happened?” Marion was the first to wake, but they
waited for Nelson. The three settled, wrapped in thermal blankets drinking tea.
“Finals week happened. We just flunked the first part of Professor Bane’s test.” The three groaned in unison. Oscar continued, “I’m not sure how, but we have to get through these finals. My Dad will kill me if I flunk out again.”
Professor Bane went directly to the Director’s office as requested. Director Thorne sat behind an ostentatious mahogany desk looking up when Bane entered.
“How did they do?”
“Fastest reaction time on record, but they materialized in the open. They are going to be good though. I could feel their power surge when the signals came in and when they materialized. You were wise to choose them as recruits.”
Thorne leaned back in his chair, “Yes. I am looking forward to seeing how they progress.” A slow grin grew across his face, “I must say, tonight was a bit on the cruel side, don’t you think?”
Raising his shoulder in a shrug, Bane replied, “Maybe. But the storm will make sure Oscar knows how to transport others by the time they are tested again. Frost bite is a great motivator.”
This is a scene I wrote ages ago when I was thinking of a book about a school for gifted students. The school was going to be a college of sorts, but I never got a clear path as to where the story would go. Then a slew of books came out centered on schools like this and I decided to shelve it. I came across it last week and thought I would share it. I changed it up a little bit to fit my need to get caught up in A to Z. Life likes to rear up and grab me every once in awhile and I have to step away from my desk.
My inspiration for this post was: to catch up on A to Z in one post (sorry for the little bit of cheating) and for the letters……….
My middle name, if I had one, might be Glum, Morose, or Depressed. If I had my choice though, I’d make it Maudlin. It sounds more like a name rather than a state of mind. I could even change my entire name to something like, Dolorous Maudlin Lacherymose.
I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to change my name but she thought I would only be feeding into the monsters that lived in my head.
I like to feed the monsters. They are my only companions.
Jocund Ebullient Bright could have been my mother’s name. We aren’t sure what happened when she gave birth to me, but it was like night was born from day.
Mother is gone now. Father? I never knew. No sisters. No brothers. My cousins are too afraid of me to come around.
I like the room they gave me. White.
No. Beige trying to be white.
Crazy Cook likes to point the carving knife at us. I like to imagine it across my wrist.
My name is Dolorous Maudlin Lacherymose.
I”m never going home.
*** *** ***
This was my first attempt at this style of writing. The subject is a bit black but it fit the choppiness of what I was going for. I wouldn’t call it poetry. It’s not quite flash fiction nor a short story. What would you call it? Thoughts?
Pretty easy definition until those last three words, “voiceless velar plosive.” My knee jerk reaction was, “Is this some kind of new storm that replaces the Bomb Cyclone? Or, some other kind of explosive that has a silent EX at the beginning?
If you are anything like me, you may have already clicked the link above (or you’re a linguist and already know what it is). So, down the rabbit hole of links I went. If you haven’t clicked on the voiceless link above you should.
This is where things started to get tricky. In my writing I like to come up with different ways to show my readers how my character feels without actually saying the word, like sad, happy, depressed, or bored. It is a real challenge. When I read the definition of voiceless velar plosive I thanked the writing forces I did not have to come up with that definition. My eyes started to glaze over.
The next hop down this rabbit hole was, “…and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is k . X-SAMPA peaked my curiosity, and another click. There you will find, ” The Extended Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet (X-SAMPA.” (Aren’t you glad you came along for this ride?) I have been sitting here, re-reading what X-SAMPA is, only to scratch my head wondering if they were talking about a computer language rather than language.
Scrolling down there is a chart of the X-SAMPA, IPA, and IPA Image for Lower Case Symbols (aren’t they letters?). Keep scrolling and you will find charts for Capital Symbols (upper case in my dictionary), Other Symbols, Diacritics, and so on. Reaching the bottom of the page I lost it. Go ahead…I dare you to make heads or tails of that last diagram.
Feeling like Alice in a linguistic Wonderland I had to bail out. I think I’ll stick with just writing the words and leave the reason for their existence to someone else. With that, I will enjoy each letter for what they are; twenty six opportunities to write words that start with the letter K.
When I first delved into this writing adventure I thought it would be easy. In some respects it has been, but in others it has been a slog. My journey through writing began about six years ago when I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference that is held annually in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since then, I have been blown from one book to another.
After that initial conference I was jazzed. I wasn’t necessarily looking to write “the next great American novel”, but I was excited to write the book I always wanted to read. Six years later, and five attempts later, I am still working to find my groove.
I did edit my great grandfather’s memoir on his railroading days at the turn of the 20th century. It was published privately with only three copies in existence. What did I learn? Even with something already written out it is a long road to publication. What was the worst mistake? I misspelled my grandfather’s name on the cover and on the title page.
I am working on several other books that, one day, will be completed. As I’m writing this post, I think of the first two attempts as stretching my legs. I got the feel for writing, editing, critiqueing, querying, re-writing, and re-doing everything. I discovered what I liked about the stories and what I hated about them, then drew from those lessons to start a third book.
The book I’m working on now has been my favorite. It is fun, light, and airy. I am learning that as an author I am better at seeing the lighter side of life which helps me to stay upbeat when I step back into my regular life. I am excited that this third attempt is also seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Writing is not easy. If you are just starting out on this journey, I would say to you…try everything. In order to find your way through this journey you need to follow paths that might take you to dead ends, swamps, or it could very well take you to paradise. Most of all, enjoy the journey.
I have been asked where I get my ideas for my short stories. Recently, because of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, my ideas have stemmed from the letter of the day. I like playing with names and discovering odd or silly sounding names like Greta Grimmward and Horatio Horrocrux. I pulled the character’s first names off of baby name lists, and the last names are twisted versions found off of surname lists. Then, I write the story based on who I think the characters are because of their name.
Another place to find inspiration are the many websites that specialize in writing prompts or theme generators. One of my favorite sites is Writing Exercises and Prompts. This site has a plot generator, random first lines, random subject generator, etc. I have had some great ideas blossom here.
Chuck Wedig’s blog is another place I have found ideas. Every once in awhile he hosts a short story writing challenge with prompts posted by his readers. I picked up on one prompt that turned into a short story about a guy named Bob. It was a fun way to flex writing muscles that I didn’t know I had. If you visit his blog, be aware that he does not soften the edges. He freely uses every four letter cuss word there is, plus a few shorter ones too.
What are some other ways to find inspiration? Just look behind you. Where have you been? What have you experienced? Family members can provide a wealth of story material. Got a crazy uncle? What about Great Grandpa? Was he a horse thief? Have you ever gone into Walmart to see who’s shopping there? You can find such a huge variety of characters in a Walmart.
Where do you find your ideas and inspiration? Share them in the comments. I love finding new ways to get inspired. Like this post which was inspired by the letter…..
“Why, hello Horatio. Having some trouble?” I leaned against the door frame watching Horatio scramble to reach the blade I put in him. For the first time in a millennial, I am happy. What the heck, it felt good to drive it in to him. What a jerk he’d been all these years. I just wanted him back, but he tripped over himself on a daily basis.
I grabbed my hair. Out of habit I untied and retied the band that held it back. “How does it feel Harry? Do you recognize it?”
He turned on me, “Don’t call me Harry! You know how I feel about that.” Horatio went back to grabbing at his back trying, in vain, to get the knife out. “Am I supposed to know something about the knife? It is in my back. It does hurt. Let me tell you what else I know about you Greta. You’re jealous. You just want what you can’t have. You’ve been a step behind me trying to steal my mist. Every time you’re too slow, and you can’t stand that I’m there first.”
Laughter rippled up from my stomach. Heratio Horrocrux was an idiot. It’s safe to say I never really liked the guy, but like every feeder I did have a sympathetic side. His paranoia was pushing him further and further into the dark places that feeders end up. The deeper he went the further he fell from the tribe and it was time for him to find his way back. My job was to see he came back in the fold and yesterday I finally caught up to him.
“OK. I’ll give you my snarky name calling Horatio, but you need to focus. Stop thrashing around and tell me about the knife.” I moved closer to Horatio. “It was your’s at one time. Have you forgotten? You spoke the first enchantment, and captured the first feeder.”
Horatio froze. Something seemed to wash over him and I hoped it was recognition. He was the first chaser for the tribe, but after a thousand years of huffing the fumes from the humans he forgot his place. He lost his way. Addiction replaced responsibility.
Lunging at me he roared, “No! I won’t go back! I won’t do it!” He turned on his heel and slid through the window. The human stirred. Thank the Tribe he didn’t break the pane in his rush to leave. I followed him knowing he wouldn’t get far. The addict never did. Once the knife finished it’s job, and chemicals were out of his system we could work to bring him back. It took time, but I hoped he would recover. Maybe it would work this time. Maybe.
This ends Part 2 of the Greta Grimmward and Haratio Horrocrux series. Read Part 1 here.
Someone put a knife in my back yesterday and now I’m pissed. I had a list a mile long. Humans to feed on, fear and loathing to relish in, and death to ponder. Now, none of these things will get done. And worst of all? There’s a knife in my backside that I can’t get out.
What was yesterday? Yeah, now I remember – Monday. Mondays are a busy day for me. I relish the ooze that slithers in the ethereal stratum. Especially at first light. Humans hate Mondays. They drag from their beds with a luscious aura of dread. It is candy for me and I freely move from house to house, room to room, bed to bed, inhaling the raw bliss.
I remember most of yesterday with clarity, but toward the fifth or sixth house I felt a tickle. Or was it a niggle? Something was making the hair on my back ripple with static. I should have looked in the dark corners more closely, but this particular Monday was exceptional. My gorging distracted me. A floorboard creaked and a whisper of what I now know to be a blade being unsheathed.
The enchantment embedded in the blade was the crowning blow. The moment it pierced my flesh was the moment my ability to feed stopped. The abrupt cessation ripped through me with pain exploding along every nerve. I felt a raw surge of fire just before I blacked out.
I woke up just a bit ago with my face planted in a pile of dirty clothes. Normally I would have delighted in the sweet perfume that filth exuded, but not today. It was more like the vulgarity I usually felt with joy, happiness, or birth. All pleasures I felt yesterday were gone. I feel empty. Hollow.
Greta Gimmward’s name was all over this. She has been chasing me since…well, I’m not sure when. The first time we met humans they were barely scratching for survival. The fruits of their fear were less sweet than they are today. They existed back then without much regard for life or death.
We have competed for the same human feeding grounds, and I beat her to them nearly every time. At every village and hobble where humans gathered I was there feeding from the initial offgassing pouring off humans as they rise to face each day. It’s what we survive on. Greta Grimmward was always a step behind me. Always just a little too late, a little too distracted.
She warned me many times that she would catch up to me. “You’ll find a knife in your back one day. You’ll see.” I always waved her off like a speck of dust on my shirt sleeve. Then yesterday happened. I think I’m more mad at myself for letting my guard down rather than the fact that Greta managed to get an enchanted knife in my back.
Rubbing against the door frame proved futile in my attempt to remove the knife. It seemed to vanish whenever I tried to rub it off. Any attempts to reach to that one spot that, to all humanoid shaped creatures, impossible. Dancing in circles only made me howl at the sky. Like a scratch in the center of the back. Insanely impossible to reach.
“Why, hello Horatio. Having some trouble?”
This concludes Part 1 of Greta Gimmward. Tune in next time when the story continues with Heratio Horrocrux.