Friday, March 29th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Structured Poetry – The Tanka

It’s been a while since we’ve done a prompt dedicated completely to poetry, so I thought we’d start there this morning.

Writing poetry the tanka way dates back nearly 1,200 years. The subject matter usually deals with nature and the seasons, or very strong emotions. It’s highly structured.

I like all kinds of poetry, but the structured kind holds a certain appeal to me because it’s often like fitting a puzzle together — and I really like puzzles. The “pieces” are the rules of the poem, usually a syllable count, but sometimes there can be others.

For example, the tanka is much like a haiku (I’ve a prompt about haiku, too) in that it requires a certain number of syllables and lines. But to be true to itself, the tanka must also use a simile, a metaphor and a personification.

Some definitions*:

simile: a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses)
metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money)
personification: attribution of personal qualities; especially : representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form

Merriam-Webster didn’t provide an example of personification, so here’s one from Toni Morrison in her book Love: A Novel:

“Pimento eyes bulged in their olive sockets. Lying on a ring of onion, a tomato slice exposed its seedy smile . . ..”

The other rules of the tanka are:

  1. It must contain five lines
  2. The first line contains 5 syllables.
  3. The second line contains 7 syllables.
  4. The third line contains 5 syllables.
  5. The fouth line contains 7 syllables.
  6. The fifth and final line contains 7 syllables.

Here’s my first try:

Waves crash like boulders…
“All hands on deck,” Captain cried.
“We’re lost,” the mate sobbed.
Fierce wind shears the mast in twain–
We are stone, sinking to death

It needs work, but it’s a start.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Write a tanka!

Suggestions: Think of your idea first and write the simile, metaphor and personifications without worrying about the syllable count. Once you’ve laid this groundwork, massage your passages to fit the structure. This could mean swapping out words or even adjusting the lines in the poem to fit the pieces.

Good Luck!

* All definitions are from Merriam-Webster on line dictionary.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Cover Reveal: T. J. Wooldridge’s The Kelpie & A Scavenger Hunt for Prizes

Fellow BroadUniverse Member T. J. Wooldridge’s The Kelpie is being published by Spencer Hill Press in December. Cover art is complete, and revealed here.

In celebration of publication, hosting a scavenger hunt where you can win Kelpie related jewelry and artwork.

Information is below. Good luck!

Cover Art for The Kelpie by T.J. WooldridgeThe Story:

I can’t honestly say I was joking when I suggested to my best friend, Joe – Prince Joseph, eldest son of England’s Crown Prince – that we could probably find something the police had missed in regards to the missing children. After all, eleven and twelve year olds like us did that all the time on the telly and in the books we read…

When Heather and Joe decide to be Sleuthy MacSleuths on the property abutting the castle Heather’s family lives in, neither expect to discover the real reason children were going missing:

A Kelpie. A child-eating faerie horse had moved into the loch “next door.”

The two barely escape with their lives, but they aren’t safe. Caught in a storm of faerie power, Heather, Joe, and Heather’s whole family are pulled into a maze of talking cats, ghostly secrets, and powerful magick.

With another child taken, time is running out to make things right.


Scavenger Hunt for Prizes!

To go along with sharing the simply gorgeous cover, author T.J. Wooldridge has enlisted several of her friends who have helped her in the journey of writing this novel to put together a special treat for you!

Each day of the week, search for individual components of the cover–with a bonus piece of art on Wednesday–at these blogs. Collect the right words per the instructions, and unscramble the line of poetry to be entered to win one of three prizes!

Prize 1
A handmade fused glass kelpie necklace from Stained Glass Creations and Beyond.

Prize 2
A handmade necklace from Art by Stefanie of Vic Caswell’s rendering of the kelpie from the cover!

Prize 3
An 11×16 poster of the cover of the Kelpie signed by T. J. Wooldridge and artist Vic Caswell
5×7 cards of all the cover aspects featured in the Scavenger Hunt

So, how do you take part in the Scavenger Hunt? Here are the details:
Collect the words from the novel excerpts and put together a poetic phrase.

Monday 3/25

Visit the Faery Castle at Kate Kaynak’s blog:
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 10th word

Tuesday 3/26

Hop over to Scotland at Stained Glass Creations and Beyond:
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 12th word

Check out an artist rendition of Heather MacArthur’s family tartan with Aimee Weinstein at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, first word

Wednesday 3/27

Bonus Art!
Meet Heather’s dad, Michael MacArthur, at Valerie Hadden’s blog:
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 12th word

Thursday 3/28

Cast your eyes upon the kelpie, itself, with Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: 2nd sentence, 2nd word

And feel the snark of Monkey, the fey cat with Justine Graykin at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 3rd word

Friday 3/29:

Meet Heather’s best friend, Prince Joseph at, who’s hanging out with author Darby Karchut at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 17th word

And finally meet Heather, herself, who’s hanging out with one of Trisha’s editors, Laura Ownbey at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, first word

Collect all the words and put them together in a poetic sentence, and enter them into the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of the three prizes:

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Deep Cuts Anthology Free at Amazon

Cover of Deep Cuts Anthology which Includes the story, Lucky Clover by Kelly A. Harmon If you’re interested in reading my latest story, “Lucky Clover,” in the new anthology, Deep Cuts: Mayhem, Menace, & Misery, you might want to grab it today or tomorrow at Amazon.

The publishers are offering it FREE for the next two days (March 26 and 27) – so get it now.

Deep Cuts also includes stories by Nancy Holder (of Buffy fame, and a five-time Bram Stoker Award™ winner), Mehitobel Wilson (nominated for a Bram Stoker Award™ and awarded Honorable Mention in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Anthology five years in a row!) and Yvonne Navarro (also a winner of the Bram Stoker Award™).

Here’s the link: Deep Cuts Anthology at

You don’t need to own a kindle to read the book, as Amazon has a free viewer you can use on your computer.

Please spread the word!

(And if you do read the antho, please leave a review somewhere. Reviews are golden!)

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Writing Prompt: Real Estate Blues

Business woman holding a contract in her hand. She looks upset.It’s that time of year: I’m getting bombarded by realtor mail.

It seems like that once the crocuses start to pop up in this neck of the woods, the realtors are out like vultures, looking for new prospects. I’m not in the market for a new house. I’m not interested in selling my current one.

Dear Realtors: please leave me alone.

Nonetheless, the topic is interesting for a writing prompt.

True Story: In the spring, when I was about two, my parents moved into a new house. Only a few days after the moving truck departed and they were busy with ripping up carpet and applying fresh paint to all the rooms, a knock sounded at the front door. My Mom opened it to find a young man, fresh on leave from the army. He’d come home to see his parents, but his key wouldn’t work in the door.

Imagine his surprise to learn that his parents had moved out, leaving him no forwarding address! (I’ve always wondered what happened to this young man.)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about the serviceman who comes home for a visit, but finds his family packed up and moved away.
  • Imagine this: a man is selling his house. He’s approached by an old woman soon after he puts it on the market. She doesn’t want to buy the house. She explains that she’s a former owner of the home tells him about something really horrific that happened there once. Write that story.
  • Page through the real estate section of your local newspaper (or find one on line for some place abroad). Choose a home, castle, houseboat, etc. that catches your eye. Write a story about it.
    • If you want to write poetry, write a poem about the feelings the image evokes.

  • If you journal or are writing your memoirs, write a story about a place where you’ve lived. Take care in providing rich detail (without resorting to purple prose!) and how you feel about the place. Was it good or bad? Do you have happy memories or sad? Involve all five senses when telling the story

Good luck!

Image © John Hix | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Beware the Ides of March

Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 BC. He’d been warned by a soothsayer, but apparently failed to take precautions.

Worse, he was stabbed in the back by his good friend Marcus Brutus.

Shakespeare’s responsible for gifting us with memorable lines from his Tragedy of Julius Caesar, such as those for the soothsayer (Beware the Ides of March!) and Caesar’s famous last line, “Et tu, Brute?” (And you, Brutus?)

Brutus takes backstabbing your friend to a whole new level. He stepped up to the plate “for the good of Rome,” once it was agreed that Caesar was getting too big for his britches. He’d compared himself with Alexander the Great and grabbed as much power as he could.

These days, our friends and family would hold an intervention.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • This works for novelists, poets and memoir writers: write a scene where one character back-stabs another. Bonus points if you can work in Caesar’s famous line (“Et tu, Brute?”) without is sounding cheesy. If you’re a poet, write about betrayal. If you’re writing memoir, journaling or even family history, now’s the time to tell about the family fued: who stabbed whom in the back and why?
  • Write a scene with “Beware the…” as the jumping off point.
  • If Julius’ tragedy doesn’t float your boat, choose any one of Shakespeare’s hundreds of quotes and use them as a jump start. ENotes has them all listed by play. Pick one at random.
    If you’re feeling lazy, here are just a few:

    • Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow… (MacBeth)
    • Give me my robe, put on my crown… (Antony and Cleopatra)
    • And thus I clothe my naked villany (Richard III)
    • The world’s mine oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
    • I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you (The Merchant of Venice)

Good Luck!

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Give Your Characters More Than One Goal

ListI’m sitting here looking at at a giant list of “2013 Fun Goals” that the Husband of Awesome™ and I put together a few weeks ago.

This isn’t something we normally do, but I thought it might be fun. We wrote them down on easel-sized paper in different colored markers and posted it on the wall. The list includes things that require us to get out of the house (hike, fish, attend a minor-league baseball game) and things that we can stay home and do (make homemade ice cream, tie-dye t-shirts).

And as we come up with ideas for things we want to do this year, we’ll add them to the list.

The characters in your stories should have these kind of goals, too. It makes them more like real people, and it provides a way to include more drama in your novels by creating subplots out of these desires. This ‘minor’ activity might even provide the hook or inciting incident you need to begin your story.

For instance, suppose you write mysteries. Your detective is spending a Saturday morning at the gym, taking a yoga class for the first time, deciding whether or not it’s the kind of thing she might like. Halfway through the class, a scream erupts from the women’s locker room. Someone found a dead body–and now your story is off and running.

These goals can also provide some comic (or not so comic, if you wish) “relief” from the intensity of a dramatic novel. Perhaps your character just wants to get away for the weekend…and each time he makes plans to do so–or even starts out on the trip–the main plot interrupts (ramping up the drama again!) until he tries again.

(This kind of sub plot will need to be resolved before the end of the book.)

Here’s Your Prompt:
Create a list of five or eight activities or goals your character might want to accomplish (which are unrelated to the main plot). Jot down why your character is interested in these items–you can’t just wing it. There’s got to be a compelling reason–a back story–behind the idea, even if it’s simply “because I’ve never done it before.” Just make certain that kind of reasoning rings true for your character.

(Someone who is afraid of heights will probably not have bungee jumping on his list unless there’s a very good reason for it.)

Choose one goal, two at the most, which could compliment the plot. Brainstorm some ways your character could accomplish the goal.

Finally, write the scene. What might happen that could affect the main plot — positively or negatively — during this scene? Could it lead to another clue in a murder mystery? Could your character break a leg and not be able to be a bridesmaid for her best friend in a romance? Does it simply provide relief from a very intense plot?

Good luck!

Photo: © Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Free Read from Me for Read an e-Book Week

Read an e-book Week 2013It’s Read an e-book week!

You can get the details at the Read an Ebook Week web site if you’re interested, but the general idea is to get people who’ve never read an ebook to give one a try. Lots of people are giving away free reads, myself included.

Head on over to Smashwords to get my story, “The Dragon’s Clause, in any format you like. The coupon code is: NV79A.

Click here to get The Dragon’s Clause at Smashwords.

If you’ve never used Smashwords, you have to click on the “buy” link to load the book in your cart. Then, you’ll be able to enter the coupon and see the price zeroed out.

The coupon expires at the end of the week.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Writing Prompt: A Photo

Sand Sculpture on a Beach of a Sailor in a Boat Taking on Water

How to use a picture prompt:

Study it.

What do you see? Pay close attention to the background as well as the foreground. What jumps out at you? Write about that, and not the obvious.

On the other hand, if the obvious tells you a story, write that. (These are guidelines, not rules.)

Photo © Micha Fleuren | Dreamstime Stock Photos