Friday, January 29th, 2016

Writing Prompt – What’s In The Box?

Vintage MatchBox with the Cover Faded and PeelingThe blizzard dropped a lot of snow on us, and we were digging out for days. As a consequence we hadn’t had mail delivery for nearly a week. But I finally got something in my mailbox yesterday.

There was the usual accumulation of junk newspapers and circulars, but there were also two padded envelopes and a larger box.

“What’s in the box?” asked the Husband of Awesome™.

And I couldn’t remember what I might have ordered.

That’s what happens when a blizzard comes along and all you do is dig out for a week. Brain white-out. Snow blind. You forget about the things you ordered. Or the stuff you didn’t order, but you knew was coming. Or that you’re awesome enough that someone sent you a surprise. (It could happen.) 😉

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Imagine you’ve just received something in the mail. What’s inside?
  • Imagine it’s spring! You’re digging in your garden, and the shovel hits something hard. You realize you’ve struck a tiny wooden chest. What’s inside?
  • A woman packs a lunch for her (you choose) loving/cheating/scandalous/insane/generous/abusive/virile husband. What did she pack? What happens when he finds it?
  • A man pick’s up his spouse’s/sister’s/niece’s purse and it accidentally empties onto the floor. What’s inside? What happens when he’s caught handling that object?
  • Because it’s cold outside, you order dinner and have it delivered. It arrives, you pay the delivery service and they leave. And then you open the box. It’s not what you ordered. It’s not even dinner. What’s inside? And, what are you going to do with it?

Good luck!

(Oh, and in the box? The Christmas-gift yarn I’d ordered to knit a cardigan–my first try at sweater making. Wish me luck!)

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Fairy Tale Interview over at eSpec Books

Brown leather textured background wiith the words Gaslight and Grimm, Steampunk Faerie TaleseSpec Books has posted an interview with me about my favorite fairy tales. It’s to promote the new “Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Fairie Tales” anthology coming out in the next few weeks.

Here’s the link, if you’re interested in reading the interview:

I’ve read some excepts, and I think it’s going to be fabulous.

Every story in the book is going to be illustrated in a “woodcut” style to mimic old-fashioned fairy tales books. Danny Birt is the artist.

Here’s the rough outline of a clockwork bird which will illustrate my re-telling of Hansel and Gretel (called, All for Beauty and Youth).

Clockwork Bird drawing (rough sketch) by Baltimore Artist Danny Birt.

The anthology is being funded by Kickstarter, but it’s already a done deal. So, if you’d like to get involved with a winning project–to be delivered soon–you should check it out here: (Only six days to go!)

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Writing Prompt – The Big Snow is Coming

Grace, a solid-white German Shephard, stands in the snow.

This is Grace. She loves the snow.

Winter storm Jonas is coming tonight.  I’m one of those lucky people whose area is likely to received more than a foot — quite possibly two feet — of snow, if the forecasters are correct.

I’m looking forward to sitting by the fire, sipping martinis, and plotting out my next novel.  I’ve also got a “snow to-do list” to tackle:

  1.  Build my first snowman of 2016
  2. Try out my new snow shoes
  3. Bean the Husband of Awesome™ with a snowball before he gets me
  4. Get in some snowy-wildlife photography
  5. Build an igloo

Okay, that last item on the list is pure dreamery. It’s possible—my siblings and I built a HUGE one when we were kids. But there were three of us, and I don’t think I can scrounge up that many willing folks in the neighborhood to lend me a hand this weekend.

Still, I can hope. That long-ago igloo takes up a lot of real estate in my fond memories.

Grace, a solid-white German Shephard, stands in the snow.Here’s Your Prompt:

  • The obligatory easy prompt: write an essay — My Favorite Snow Memories, My Least Favorite Snow Memories, etc.
  • Write about a snow-related accident: avalanche, skiing accident, fifty-car pile up on the highway–even getting lost in the snow. Write how the snow makes things worse. Is there a way the snow ameliorates the problem? Can you use this sketch in your current WIP? Or write a short story based on it? How about a poem?
  • Will you be in the snowfall area today? If you can, find a protected area where you will be out of harm’s way. Watch and listen to the snow fall. How does it sound? What other things do you hear, or not hear? What do you observe about how snowfall changes nature? Write your observations and your feelings.
  • Will you be alone and isolated this weekend? (If not, can you pretend?) During your isolation, write your Personal Manifesto for 2016. If you’re not feeling that ambitious, take the time to jot down goals and aspirations for the year. (It’s proven that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them!)
  • Good luck!

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Writing Prompt – Prohibition

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as Prohibition agents pour illegal liquor into a sewer in 1921.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches as Prohibition agents pour illegal liquor into a sewer in 1921. ~ Photo from

On January 15, 1920 the “Dry Law” went into effect in the United States. It was the 18th amendment to the Constitution and banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.

The law was intended to reduce the crime rate. But there were several loopholes. For instance, manufacture and sale of alcohol were prohibited, but drinking was not. A person could obtain a prescription from his doctor which allowed him to get and drink alcohol. Alcohol could also be consumed in church for religious reasons.

The law brought about the “unintended consequences” of the rise of bootleggers and gangs. These gangs hired “rumrunners” to buy rum in the Caribbean and bring it back to the US. Or, they brought in whiskey from Canada. Al Capone created the largest bootlegging operation in the US.

Thirteen years later, the law was repealed, and cities all over the US erupted into riotous, joyful, celebration.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about a time when you were prohibited from doing something. Had you always been able to do this, but were suddenly stopped? Or, did you want to try something for the first time, but a parent–or employer–told you no. What happened?
  • Drinking in the US is prohibited until age 21. Write about your first time having a drink. Did you over do it?
  • Write about a time you prohibited yourself from doing something. Why did you do this? Did the prohibition work for you? Why or why not?
  • Write about the last time you were tanked, inebriated, foxed, sloshed, intoxicated, under the influence, or blind drunk.
  • Have you ever been forced to throw something away–like when prohibition agents poured beer into the streets to get rid of it? Write a poem about your feelings on the matter. Did your feelings change over time? How do you feel now? Have you ever forced someone else to discard anything? Why, or why not?
  • Write about the time you were the lone, stone-cold-sober person surrounded by drunks. Why were you there? How did you feel?

Have fun!

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Writing Prompt – New Beginnings

Colored PencilsIt’s still early enough in the new year to be thinking about new beginnings. I don’t know if its my innate love (obsession?) for office supplies, but new beginnings make me think of sharpened pencils and blank spiral notebooks. Or, blank, pristine papers waiting for me to desecrate them with words.

I try to do my organizing in December:

  • clearing off the desk to start the year fresh
  • reviewing all the notebooks page by page:
    • making to do lists for things which never got done
    • copying ideas into my Ideas Folder (adding as much detail as possible, so I’m not left with cryptic phrases later)
    • Adding phone numbers and addresses to my Contacts
    • etc.
  • Organizing the to-do lists
  • Creating a “master plan” of what I want to accomplish for the year
  • Scheduling the time on the calendar now, so I can’t complain about not having time for it later.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  1. Write the “new year” scene of the main character in your book. Or, write the “new year” scene of a brand new character you intend to use in a story. How does the new year affect him or her? Does he buy fresh stationery? Does she regret the passing of another year and nothing to show for it? Does your character have some annoying (or meaningful, silly, prolonged, secret) ritual he must accomplish before the new year starts?
  2. Write your own new year scene. How does the new year affect you? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Are you wondering how you’ll make this year better than last? Are you chomping at the bit for a fresh start?
  3. Write a poem: Ode to the New Year, or, Good Riddance to the Past.


Friday, January 1st, 2016

Writing Prompt: What Would You Give Yourself?

Pile of wrapped gifts.Happy New Year!

It’s been a while since I’ve added any writing prompts to these pages, and I hope to get back to doing them weekly as I’ve done in year’s past. I hope today’s is as thought-provoking for you as it was for me.

Since it’s the holiday season, my mind has been on gifts lately: what should I purchase for whom? I’m still in that frame of mind, since I still have celebrating to do. Most of my gifts have been purchased, wrapped and given, but there are one or two more items that I still need to attend to.

When I was driving to work the other day — in silence, as I’ve been trying to do lately (more on that later, I think) — a thought popped into my head: If you could gift yourself anything, what would it be?

And there’s your prompt: if you could gift yourself anything, what would it be? Why that? Here’s the catch: you can’t answer with something obvious: a new car, more money, a different job. What’s your true heart’s desire? What would it take to realize it? What steps could you take today to make it reality?