I’M FIGHTING THE MARCH BLAHS

MOODS OF MARCH

I AM APPROACHING MY 79th BIRTHDAY

The “nines” are a dreaded number for me…

They harbor the entrance into another decade

My life plodding along through its time

With nothing but accumulated miscellany

To mark where I’ve travelled

To show who I’ve been

To prove how I’ve lived

Another decade to reach for some goals

THE 80’S LOOM LARGE BEFORE ME

To review old discarded dreams

And try to revive their glittering charm

That will rekindle a fire of inspiring stories

To move me from this lethargic ennui

Into a fresh hope for meaningful action

Into a zest to create again

Into a renewed love of life

And a revised belief in the future

THE WINTER OF 2018-19 HAS BEEN HARSH

Huge mounds of snow cover the landscape

Block our passage on roads

Fell roofs on barns and porches

Hide the debris of last fall

Which will appear rudely to haunt us

When 30 inches of snow finally melts

Flooding the environment in every nook and corner

My spirit feels weighted by the drifts

Like an animal caught mid-storm

Trying to dig out and run free again

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TWO OLD FRIENDS

A very short story written as an assignment for Story Cartel at The Write Practice.

The assignment was to write with a specific person or audience in mind.  I wrote this and shared it with my good friend of over 40 years!

 

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TWO OLD FRIENDS

I am blessed, in my old age, to have one long-time friend with whom I enjoy daily encounters of lengthy dialogue on topics deep and wide-ranging.

We walk and talk with our heads in the clouds… set apart from the hum-drum world around us.  Among the topiary and ornamental plants of our local arboretum, we hobble on our canes, our backs bent so our robes drag the ground.  Today we ponder the prospect of future lives and the synchronicity between past, present and future.

I say to my friend, “Confucius, shall we divine the future? Tell me what you see when I cast these yarrow sticks here, on the pristine gravel path.”  I toss a handful of sticks before us on the path.

The sticks scatter to form a complex web of geometric shapes.

Confucius’ eyebrows rise in sharp points of surprise.  He peruses the pattern of sticks for some minutes while I watch in anticipation of divine enlightenment to harmonize our aging souls with cosmic forces.

“Why Lao Tzu!” he exclaims.  “I am astonished to see us in some amazing strange place.  There are great huge machines whizzing past us on a wide hard path, and buildings of many windows rising high into the sky!”

Surprised, I query him, “But what can that be, Confucius?  Where are we two, in that place?”

He studies the sticks, searching for us from different angles, twisting his neck so he can see around his long beard.  Finally, he speaks.

“Why Lao Tzu, there we are!  Just the two of us, sitting on a bench in the middle of a park surrounded by conifers and evergreens.  There is a pond with ducks and geese and swans’ swimming… very like where we are right now, here in China.”  We shake our heads in wonder and continue to ponder the marvels of the universe.

xxx

On a bench in Loring Park, in the midst of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, my friend and I study an astrological chart while discussing beliefs in reincarnation.

” But Herbert,” I say, “what if we don’t only reincarnate, but also perhaps live several lives at one time?”

He looks at me in surprise.  “Do you mean, like in some other world out there in the cosmos?”

“Yes!  Maybe right now we are together in a parallel world, where we are a pair of famous old philosophers!”  I laugh at the ridiculous idea.

“Sure!  We could be Confucius and Lao Tzu in ancient China around the fifth century BC!”

“Hey that’s cool!” I slap him on the back. “Let’s go pick up an ‘I Ching’ divination set at the Art Institute and see what it shows us.”

xxx

Posted in astrology, Fantasy, FRIENDSHIP, reflections, relationships, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Practice | 2 Comments

I’m Posting a Promo for a friend’s new book

M MacKinnon and DartFrogPlus announce the debut novel in the Highland Spirits series—The Comyn’s Curse—a paranormal romance set in the magical Scottish Highlands. Available on Amazon and other online platforms as well as selected bookstores, this novel has something for everyone: history, eternal love, humor, murder, and a spicy bit of angst! Subscribe to my website: https://mmackinnonwriter.com. Read the review on Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/m-mackinnon/the-comyns-curse

Monica is a member of the Writers Workshop group where I am also working on my next novel: “A Roaring Deep Within”. I have admired Monica’s writing for the past year as she shared her earlier draft with our group. We learn from and support each other in the joys and agonies of authorship. It is a pleasure and honor to now help her promote this fantastic book. Check out her blog to learn more.

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Suspending hoops – the only hope

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It’s all in the stitches

This beautiful piece brought me peace and tears this morning. I had to share.

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SPRING SHORT STORY CONTEST LIST

THE WRITE PRACTICE and SHORT FICTION BREAK partnered to offer a fantastic contest experience.  Hundreds of writers joined and wrote their stories and exchanged critique and feedback online for about two weeks.  Then we submitted our efforts to the judges, who will announce winners in about six weeks.

Meanwhile we can go to the list and read each others final submissions and vote on our favorites.  And you can too!  There are some dynamite stories on this long list, so be prepared for a lot of inspiring entertainment!  Check it out!

Here is the information and a bit of a sample from my story:

https://shortfictionbreak.com/power-of-the-ring-and-the-amulet/

 

POWER OF THE RING AND THE AMULET

The ring throbbed on her finger to the rhythm of the drums that beat in the jungle clearing. Miira’s heart pounded to the same beat, as she watched men dance in pantomime of hunters stalking wolves. Her wolves. Her family.

The dancers, trimmed in fur and feathers, stabbed the air menacingly with their spears. Miira knew this was no local tribe of hunters. It was the lost tribe of Am Arikka. They sought to capture the wolf pack with whom Miira had spent most of her 13 years.

April 10, 2018 by Spring 2018 Writing Contest Leave a Comment

This story is by Karin E Weiss and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.

This spring, Short Fiction Break is partnering with The Write Practice to host a writing contest in which everyone gets published.

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WORD PLAY

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WORD PLAY

I am posting a few exercises I did in an on-line writing class some years ago.  They are such fun to do and a great way to practice writing when the inspiration for more serious work-in-progress needs a boost.

 

1:  OBSERVATION AND DESCRIPTION:

BARE DEAD BROWN YARD WHEN SNOW MELTS AWAY

Well, it happened again.

Weather turned warmer, snow melted.  Today is only February 25.

I feel disoriented.

A blanket of white should cover last fall’s detritus;

Sparkling mounds and humps and bumps would sculpt my yard into a cotton-batten bed

Anchored by clumps of dried cone flowers and sumac stalks in muted shades of orange and gold;

There should be a pristine landscape outside my windows.

 

Instead, a disheveled deadness greets my eye

Dun-drab leaves, matted chloroanemic ground-cover,

Ashen soil pock-marked with fallen acorns,

Patches of dingy flaccid snow-slush dribble down the drain

My yard is an eyesore that cannot be camouflaged by a colorful quilt as if it were an unmade bed.

 

But beauty can be found even in death

The camera frames a sleeping sepia-toned grove gilded by sunbeams cast down from a blue flannel sky.

Mother Earth in a tattered nighty is exposed beneath her misplaced blanket of snow.

A myriad of botanical trophies, withered and mummified by winter freeze,

Await the scavenger-artist to claim them.

 

2:  FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

The following exercise was done using a “word basket” and combining random combinations of verbs and nouns.  It is one of my favorite writing exercises.

 

~The wounded deer’s death meanders across the snow like red icing dribbled on a white cake~

~Elk horns harp through a valley of sharp stones~

~My memory of her is framed by a rainbow~

~Icicles droop on the wire like angel wings frozen in sorrow~

~Mercury drowns in its own reflection~

~Neptune’s eyes gaze up from the aquamarine glass sea~

~Morning rises like marmalade roses blooming through the mist~

~Cottonwood trees argue with the whirling wind~

~Tulips, broken by a storm’s sharp talons, are gobbled by the hungry night~

~Cows sleep like hefty ships at port~

~Mystery drives the train like a magician’s wand cast across the plains~

~Daredevil gypsy spirit rides the carnival wheel of love~

~Detours haunt the calendar of my life where plans failed to materialize~

~The arms of daisies flutter, throwing kisses to the sky~

~A choir of crows chant their evensong from autumn’s woodland chapel~

~A minstrel’s flute brushed the air like the feathers of a robin settling in its nest~

 

 3: DESCRIPTION USING ANIMISM OR PERSONIFICATION

 MEMORY

Memory treads through our subconscious like a sleuth ransacking a forsaken garret for cues to give meaning to our being.  Its flashlight beam darts over the terrain of our experience, highlighting nooks of reminiscences, sacks of souvenirs, crannies of keepsakes.  Back-tracking, it hovers over discarded passions, abandoned romances, neglected talents.  Turning them over, it reveals the rotted undersides of old hopes and dreams.  Picking from among relics of remembrances, it selects trophies to enhance our present possibilities.

Moving on, Memory leaves cobwebs of forgotten fancies dangling among shards of cherished reflections from our youth.  Emotional ticks of our younger days, caught like moths in a spider’s snare, are gathered into Memory’s field-kit for further examination.  Stealthily slipping through cracks in locked trunks of our heritage, the arm of Memory reaches into depths of racial, ethnic, tribal and clannish lore, drawing forth superstition, prejudice, hidebound intolerance and irrational fear.  These Memory holds up to the light of a harsh reality, revealing stains on the fabric of our soul which may now be washed away.

 

4: SENSORY PERCEPTION & DETAIL

SOFT: fat stomach, fluffy kitten, down quilt, whisper, tickle of whiskers, paw pads, bread dough, pillow

SCRATCHY: pin cushion, cat’s claws, kitten’s tongue-licks, snoring, old phonograph record, sharp pebbles

ROUND: bowl, swirling galaxies, full moon, balls of yarn, circling birds, round-dance

 

 NAP-TIME

Soft round stomach of old woman offers cushy pillow for fluffy kitten to lie upon while napping.  Bowl of bread dough, kneaded and rising in warm kitchen waft tickles of tasty memory into snoring noses.  Tiny claws poke through quilted bathrobe, pin-cushioning wrinkled skin. Swirling purrs whisper a dreamland serenade: balls of yarn chased around a full moon amidst galaxies of circling birds.  Raspy croak of old phonograph re-plays a long-gone round-dance.  Muffled cry falls like sharp pebbles on a beach.  Suddenly a scratchy pink tongue licks a tear-salted cheek and both dreamers wake.

Posted in cats, FRIENDSHIP, Personal, reflections, Season's Turnings, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Practice | Leave a comment

A WRITING COMMUNITY

I Wrote a Book in 100 Days!

Can you believe it?  A whole entire complete novel!  In just One-Hundred Days!   That’s about three months… started in mid-October 2017 and ended in late January 2018.  I wrote a total of 92,465 words.

I must confess I had conceived the story and plot many years ago in another on-line class.  I had even written the beginning chapters and sketched in much of the story line over the years.  But this tale, titled “A Roaring Deep Within”, simply languished among many other “starter stories” in my files, never quite taking flight in my imagination.

Then I came across this website online:   TheWritePractice.com/WriteABook

The 100-Day Book course divided participants into small groups so that we followed each other’s progress and exchanged feedback.  The leaders posted writing tips daily by email, and there were webinars as well as written resources we could draw on for help and inspiration.  I found there a “writer’s community” that was available night and day that gave me support and motivation to keep going when my energy dragged, or when I felt discouraged at a tough point in my writing.

The feedback from others was critical for me, and I eagerly read whatever critique was given me, as well as what others were getting.  Learning to give feedback on other’s writing helped me view my own more honestly as well.  It helped me grow more confident in my writing and less affected by that nasty little “Inner Critic” who typically spreads self-doubt all over my pages.

When I enrolled, I imagined that I would simply flesh-out what I’d already written, and therefore it did not seem like such a daunting challenge as it would be were I starting a brand-new story from scratch.  But soon after posting the opening segment, my tale began to demand changes.

I changed the narrative from present tense to past tense, shifted the sequence of several key plot-points, and told the tale from the point-of-view of my protagonist looking back at her life.

Soon I found the story kind of writing itself… new characters appeared, new relationships between characters developed, my characters made choices and took actions seemingly on their own without any conscious decision or planning on my part!  I became more intimately acquainted with my main characters.

I sat down to my keyboard on my days off from work eager to see what they would do next.  The story grew week by week, until the 100 days were nearly over.   Feeling a bit panicked at this point, because I still had not decided how I wanted it to end, I simply sat back and let my main character bring her story to a conclusion. I pulled together a surprisingly satisfactory ending and could honestly say that I had written a whole book in those three months.

Of course, this is not the final draft, but only the first full manuscript.  Next comes editing and smoothing over rough spots and re-working much of the dialogue and narrative.  But again, The Write Practice.com offers an on-going Writer’s Workshop that also asks members to post some writing once a week, giving and receiving that ever important feedback and encouragement.

Writing is ultimately a singular effort that must be tended by the writer alone.  But having a community of others who are also toiling at their own writing helps me feel not so alone.

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MY MUSE HAS AWAKENED ONCE AGAIN

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At last, I found a reprieve from the tyranny of Facebook and the daily horror show of the Trump administration.  In mid-October I enrolled with an online writing program, “The Write Practice”, to take their “100 Day Book Challenge” with the goal of finishing the entire draft of a book between October 15, 2017 and January 23, 2018.   I chose to re-work my long-neglected manuscript of “A Roaring Deep Within” and I succeeded in bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion with 92,465 words… and right on schedule!  I have to say, with no apologies, that I am proud of this successful effort!

The challenge to post at least 3500 words every Friday kept me focused, and my story soon took flight as my characters made surprising choices and performed unanticipated actions. Events turned in new directions without my being aware of planning them.  It became a delightful magical ride that I eagerly embarked upon each Monday and Tuesday… my regular days off work.  I learned new tricks to just write without stopping to edit or even to think very much about what I would write next.  I just sat down at my keyboard and let the story write itself.

Now, with this draft finished, I will begin the process of editing and re-working the story for publication.  This, too, I will do with the support of an on-going writing forum at the same online venue.  New material is to be submitted every Friday.  We give feedback to other writers and get some from them.

The story I have written is a fantastical tale based on legends of the Amazons of ancient Anatolia__ women of power who fought to protect their land from encroaching patriarchal takeover around the third millennium BC.  It is something of a “Wonder-Woman” saga and a “coming of age” tale of one young woman’s struggles as she grows into her destiny to become the High Priestess of her tribe.

It is difficult for me to talk about the fiction I write.  A story has so many nuances and implications, impossible to explain without reading it.   Plot points and thematic turns in a tale cannot easily be described out of context.  It becomes futile to attempt an explanation in a few brief sentences.   At the least, it is awkward to explain dramatic themes with the words of common discourse.  Help! I need a publicist!

But I celebrate that I am again riding the merry-go-round of an author of fantasy fiction!  I feel liberated from the shackles of a daily news cycle that is running off its rails.  I still check the news, but I try not to get caught up in these bizarre world events over which I have no control and about which I cannot fathom meaning nor perceive solutions.  In my stories things can get crazy, but it is always possible for me to steer them to a satisfactory resolution in the end.

I have retreated into my fantasy world once again, and I am happy about that!  I come alive in story.

Here is a passage from a book by my favorite author, Terry Pratchett:  In “Lords and Ladies” the wicked fairies’ breakthrough the barrier between worlds and infest the lives of folks in Discworld.  The good witches come to the rescue, led by Granny Weatherwax.  At the final climax of the story, Granny, (who is a confirmed virginal spinster), is standing alone to face the wildly enraged Unicorn:

“She couldn’t hear the ghostly thoughts of all the other Esme Weatherwaxes anymore.  Perhaps some lived in a world ruled by elves.  Or had died long ago. Or were living what they thought were happy lives… she felt a tiny regret that she’d never be able to meet them… Everything you did meant that a million copies of you did something else… on a million hillsides the girl ran, on a million bridges the girl chose, on a million paths the woman stood… all different, all one.  All she could do for all of them was be herself, here and now, as hard as she could.  She stuck out a hand… “

The Unicorn hits an invisible wall… Granny pulls a long gray hair from her bun and makes a loop that she throws over the wild creature’s neck… she leads the Unicorn to the blacksmith to be shod with silver shoes and nails (for the creatures of faery are tortured by the touch of iron.)  Then she leads it out and sets it free.  It cannot be ensorcelled by the Wicked Fairy Queen again.

This is the power of story.

I have been re-reading my published novel, “The Raven Watched”, in preparation to begin writing the sequel.  At last I begin to see where that story will go next, and I am excited to start working on it.  Even more exhilarating, is finding that my writing in that book is profound!  The story sings!  I can feel the words deep in my soul and I can claim it as coming from within me.  It seems purely magical that, four years after its publication, I can pick up my own writing and not feel apologetic or critical of it at all.  I can dare say, “This is really a delightful book!”, and not flinch with embarrassed modesty.

So, in connection to Granny Weatherwax’s musings, I can wonder:  How is it that, in my imagination, I find such quiet ecstasy… far from the world in which I actually live.  Where, in what past incarnation have I experienced such leisure, for it feels as if I were native to such a contemplative, peaceful, magical world… or is there another “me” somewhere so blessed… and I, here, able to tap into her energy when the stars are aligned for such a connection?  I long to afford such leisure daily, for I feel I will never be able to learn and think and write all that is in me!   So, I daydream… and write the pictures in my mind…

… and my cat, Obie, sprawls in just such luxurious leisure across my desk as I type.  What stories occupy his dreams, I wonder?

Posted in Fairies, Personal, Reading, reflections, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Practice | 2 Comments

THE EMPTY MIND

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THE EMPTY MIND

January 2, 2018

The empty mind floats in space

passing ideas, images, reflections, insights, inspirations,

hopes and dreams, fears and nightmares…

A New Year opens…

an empty book without story, without plot, without theme or characters…

waiting to be filled page by page, day by day…

The crabbed hand begins to write,

drawing thoughts from Time and Space…

making sense of a senseless world…

But the passion is gone flat…

the heart doesn’t hear it…

the spirit flounders…

the words won’t come

And the cat comes and sits on the page!

Oh well.  Enough pondering, ruminating, and cogitating for today… tomorrow the words may flow again.

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