Image Prompt 038 Response – The Magic of Dice


I chose the image of the spiral staircase for my prompt this week.  Twenty-minutes of furious writing and a quick copy edit later, I was left with the below.  I hope you enjoy.

The Magic of Dice:

Gemma wasn’t sure where they were going.  Alan and Trish had just said it was a friend’s place.  Gemma wasn’t so sure when they opened the door without knocking.

“So whose place is this?” Gemma whispered as she followed them inside.

“Gary’s,” Alan replied.

“The DM guy?” Gemma asked.  Gary ran Dungeon & Dragons campaigns at the local comic and games shop.  Alan had been trying to talk her into one for ages.

“Yeah,” Alan replied.  “He knows we’re coming,” he added.

“And why are we here?” Gemma asked.

The light was on in what looked like a living room.  There were two closed doors on the right hand wall and she could see what she thought was a kitchen through a doorway at the far end of the room.  To the left of that was a spiral staircase.

She’d never actually seen one in real life, so she peered down when they got closer.

“I need to pick up some dice he ordered for me,” Trish said.

“And he said he had a game to show us that you might like,” Alan added.

“Which kind of game?” Gemma asked.  She liked the board games better than the role playing games.  She just wasn’t that good at being anyone but herself.

“He didn’t say, but he said you’d appreciate the art if nothing else,” Alan replied.

Trish started down the spiral stairs.

“It is a basement?” Gemma asked.  “Or is this a split level kind of deal?”  They lived on a mountain, there were a lot of split level houses.

“Sort of both,” Alan replied as he followed Trish down.

Gemma wasn’t sure how something could be a slip level and a basement.  She held onto the railing as she slowly made her way down the winding wooden steps.  There was black no-slip stuff on each stair, but she still wanted a hand-hold in case she missed a step.

The lower level seemed to be all one big room.  The bit that was under the kitchen held a large table with eight chairs.  There was a sliding glass door in the middle of the wall behind it.  The entire room was lined with shelves holding board games, books, and the occasional figure or sculpture.

It actually took Gemma a minute to see Gary because he was tucked away in a corner at a desk between two shelves.  There were more shelves mounted on the wall over his desk.

“Hey, Gary,” Alan said.

“Hi guys,” Gary replied.  “Just let me finish this,” he added, continuing to type.

Trish was looking at the books on a shelf two down from Gary.  Alan just hung back a little behind Gary.  Gemma figured he was close enough to be noticed but far enough away to not read Gary’s computer screen.

Gemma glanced at the shelves.  She might as well browse while she was here.  Gary was purported to have the best gaming collection in town, possibly in the county.

She didn’t even recognize a single board game on the first shelf.  She wasn’t a complete neophyte, so she’d expected to recognize at least a bit of what was here.

“And, save,” Gary said before swiveling around in his chair.  “Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said.  “I’ve been trying to come up with a good end for that campaign forever.”

“No worries,” Trish said.  “You said the dice came?”

“Right here,” Gary said, getting up and moving to a self on his right.  He grabbed a small box and offered it to her.

“Awesome,” Trish said, holding the box up to the light.  “These will work great.”

“Glad you like them,” Gary said.

“You mentioned a game you wanted to show Gemma,” Alan said.

“Definitely,” Gary said with a laugh.  He walked across the room to a shelf near the table and the glass door.  “Come look at this,” he said.  “I want to know what you think.”

Gemma followed Trish and Alan over to the table as Gary set the box down and pulled off the lid, which he handed to Alan.

Gemma stopped next to Alan to look at the lid.

The background was some kind of generic forest or jungle.  A lot of green and just a hint of tree shapes.  In the middle of all that were three figures.  One in plate armor, one in a dark robe with a full hood that hid their face, and one that looked like it might be a woman in a dress.  None of the art was particularly spectacular.

“So what is it?” Gemma asked.

“I don’t know,” Gary replied.  “That’s why I wanted to show it to you.”

Gemma frowned as she moved to the table.  Why would she have any insight?

Gary had been emptying the box while Gemma looked at the box art.  There were three glass vials with cork stoppers, three squares of what looked like silk in green, black, and red, a yellowed piece of paper Gary was still unfolding, and three metal twenty-sided dice.

“Where did you get it?” Trish asked.

“The shop,” Gary replied.  “Marshal found it in the back and sold it to me for a dollar.”

“Is it even a game?” Gemma asked as she picked up one of the vials.  It felt like real glass.  She touched the black square and was pretty sure it was real silk.

“We weren’t sure,” Gary replied.

“The dice imply game,” Alan said.

Gemma picked up one of the dice.

“They’re heavy.  Probably solid metal,” she said.  Gemma gently rolled the die across the table.  It made a satisfying noise against the wooden table.

The cork popped out of the vial in Gemma’s hand and began filling the room with smoke.

“What?” Gemma managed to ask before the smoke got too thick.  She tried to set the vial down on the table, but it seemed stuck to her hand.

“Guys?” she called, hoping someone was okay.

She heard coughing, and then a strange ringing, and then nothing.

“Guys?” she asked again,

“I’m here,” Alan said.

The smoke began to clear around them.

“And where is here?’ Gemma asked next.

The walls had vanished, and so had the table for that matter.  There was grass beneath her feet, wind moving her hair across her back, and she though she heard an owl.

“I have no idea where here is,” Gary said, still holding the folded paper.

“Well, it’s not your apartment,” Gemma replied.

“Trish?” Alan asked.

There was no answer.

The fog continued to clear.

They were in a forest clearing.  And there was no sign of Trish.


Image Prompt 038 – St. Andrew’s & Spiral Staircase


It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 038-002 2018-03-09 St. Andrews05-03-18 024

Image Prompt 038-001 2018-03-09 Tweetsie Gathering - 08-12-05 002

How my Reading Gets into My Writing


I’ve been reading a very interesting book, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel, about infidelity, fidelity, relationships, and our constructs of love and monogamy.  I’ve found it incredibly thought provoking.

While I have no experience with affairs, I am married, and we’ve been together for a long time.  This book has given me a new lens to think through my own relationship and be thankful about how atypical we are, especially for a pair of high school sweethearts.

One thing that really resonates with me about the book is how multifaceted, complicated, and downright messy it all is.  There are so many layers to any relationship, but a marriage (or any other long-term committed relationship pattern) has even more clinging to it that may not even be visible to those involved.  For many, there are a heap of assumptions that go along with marriage.  Assumptions about roles, rules, and commitments, many of which have never been explicitly stated by either side.  And worse yet, these might not match between partners.

That’s one place that I feel quite lucky.  My husband and I have talked about these things.  We know what we expect of each other and the relationship.  We know what the boundaries are and what the commitments are.  This has allowed us to weather a lot of things that had the potential to pull us apart or damage our relationship.

Outside my own relationship and life experience, I think this book has given me a lot of things to think about as a writer as well.  There are often romantic plots or subplots in my writing.  This has given me more facets of the relationships to plan, think through, and develop as an author.  Yes, affairs are a topic that I could delve into through fiction, but I find myself thinking more about the last section of the book.  In “Part IV: Ever After” Perel has a chapter titled “Monogamy and Its Discontents: Rethinking Marriage.”  This chapter talks about ways that some pairs (or triads, quads, or more) are rethinking what commitment and monogamy mean for them through relationships with different boundaries.

I find the idea of a committed relationship that goes beyond the couple fascinating.  The emotional interplay and the wealth of possibilities within it, is something I’d like to explore intellectually.  And for the record, this doesn’t have to be about sex either.  That’s something Perel addresses early on in the book.  It’s about intimacy.  Intimacy can be physical, yes, but it can also be emotional.  It’s the emotional interplay within a committed relationship that I find most interesting as a writer, regardless of the count of individuals in that relationship.

Reading a book like this leaves me with a lot of food for thought, and that inevitably translates into fodder for my fiction writing.  I find nonfiction to be just as important and inspiring as fiction.  In fact, almost everything I read will somehow find its way into my writing, directly or indirectly.  Whether it’s an idea about a character, a way of thinking, a strange twist, or just a particularly inspiring description of a scene, I’m always learning from what I’m reading.

Have you found inspiration in an unexpected book?  I’d love to hear about where others find their ideas while they’re reading.

Noveling Music


This past November, my NaNoWriMo region had an entire section of our chat platform dedicated to our noveling music.  I got a lot of complements on my favorite Spotify writing playlist, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite tracks and my thoughts on what makes great noveling music.

First, what do I look for in good noveling music?

The most important thing for me, is that there be no lyrics.  Well, English lyrics anyway.  If I’m writing to music with lyrics I can understand, random words from the song end up typed into the middle of a sentence somewhere, so I stick to instrumental tracks.  For the same reason, I avoid instrumental versions of songs I know the words too.  As much as I love 2Cellos, they don’t usually end up on my noveling playlist.

I gravitate toward music with a strong beat and good dynamics when I’m picking out writing music.  An upbeat tempo is also a plus.  Something that’s going to give me a sense of rhythm while I type.  I love classical music of all varieties, but I tend to be pickier with the tempo and tone for my noveling music.  If the song is too subtle and soft, it doesn’t work for me.  If you can’t imagine the song being used as music for a chase scene or a fight scene, odds are good it’s not going to end up on my favorites list.

Now, for some specifics.

My absolute favorite noveling music for the past few years has been Lindsey Stirling (find her on the web and YouTube).  Every instrumental song by her available on Spotify is on my noveling music list.  I also have a lot of music by The Piano Guys on my list.  A mix of classical and rock rhythms characterizes most of those tracks.

There are, of course, plenty of soundtracks on my list as well.  I tend to avoid movies with super iconic music like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings.  I go for things that fit my general noveling music criteria above that come from either newer, less referenced movies, or video games.  I have some tracks from Zootopia for example.  I’m especially fond of Paradox Interactive video game music.  Victoria II, A Game of Dwarves, Europa Universalis III, March of the Eagles, Cities in Motion 2, and Magicka are a few of the games that have tracks on my list.  There’s also a few tracks from more well-known games like Halo, Skyrim, and Mass Effect.  I also use the radio feature on Spotify to listen to the playlist radio, which pulls up similar music I can add, which is how I discovered Taylor Davis and Lara de Wit’s video game music album.  A few of those feature on my list as well.

So that’s a bit of what I listen to while I write.  Do you have any favorite noveling music?  Or a song that really gets you inspired when you need it?

Image Prompt 037 Response – Name Confusion


I selected the image of the statue near the Firth of Tay in Dundee, Scotland for my prompt this week.  I’ve done a twenty-minute sprint and a quick edit.  I hope you enjoy.


Name Confusion:

Bailey sat on the little step at the base of the sculpture by William Longair that looked out over the Tay.  He faced the water, taking comfort in the noise of people walking behind him.  It was a beautiful day, so there were plenty of people out walking beside the firth.  That’s why he’d picked the place.  It was outside and usually had a small crowd within shouting distance at the furthest.  He knew meeting someone he met online was a risky thing under any circumstances, but he was at least doing it in public where he should be safe and in reach of help if needed.

Not that he thought he’s need it.  He hoped Ashley was everything she claimed to be online.  They’d met on a sewing forum and bonded over cosplay they’d both done.  Ashley hadn’t sent any pictures of herself in any of the costumes, but then, Bailey had only sent one and hadn’t told her it was him.  In between talking about sewing tips, maker skills for props, and what not to try to wear to an American Convention, they’d talked about books, movies, and music.  It was amazing how much they had in common.

Bailey glanced around, seeing if anyone was approaching.  Then he glanced at his watch.  Still early.  He’d picked two in the afternoon on a Saturday because he knew the crowd would be here.  He also got off work at one, and he wanted to be early.  He liked to have the lay of the land before meeting people, strangers or not.  Bailey was always early.

At two, Bailey got up and stretched, walking the short distance to the low wall along the water and back to the statue.  He wanted to be close enough to be obvious, so he stuck close to the statue.  He was looking out at the crowd now, just people-watching as he waited.

There was a slender man with ebony skin walking across the space toward the statue.  Bailey smiled to himself as he looked down at his hands.  He’d always wondered what it would be like to see his pale, freckled, white skin against the skin of someone with such a different complexion.  The few boyfriends he’d had where all Scots like himself, so there wasn’t much contrast involved.

When the slender man stopped beside the statue, Bailey looked up again.  He glanced back out at the crowd wondering what was taking Ashley so long.  He didn’t even see any women walking alone.  He glanced at his watch again, then glanced sideways at the slim man on the other side of the statue.  He was looking down at his phone, scrolling through something.  He had great bone structure, his cheek bones looking sharp in the bright afternoon light, and his hands looked strong with long fingers.

Bailey looked down again.  If he found someone’s looks alluring, he tended to stare as he mentally tried costumes out on them.  There were a lot of good ones for that man, but he didn’t want to be caught staring at a stranger.

“Excuse me,” the man said, walking closer to Bailey.  He had a light tenor with a hint of an accent that wasn’t British.

“Yes?” Bailey asked.

“If I’m mistaken, please forgive me, but are you Bailey?”

“Yes,” Bailey said slowly, frowning.  How did this random guy know his name?

“I’m Ashley,” the man said, holding out his hand.  “I wasn’t sure you were who I was meeting.  I was expecting a woman actually.”

Bailey burst out laughing.

“So was I,” he said, taking Ashley’s hand.  His skin looked nice against the rich darkness of Ashley’s.

“I get that a lot,” Ashley said, his hand sliding away from Bailey’s.

“We never really talked about anything that could give us away, I guess,” Bailey said.  “And you don’t run across that many guys who sew.”

“It does seem to be a bit rare here,” Ashley said, slipping his phone into a back pocket.  “It’s nice meeting another man who enjoys the hobby as much as I do.”

“Likewise,” Bailey said with a grin.  He’d come here to meet an online friend so they could maybe be real life friends or work on a project together.  It didn’t matter that Ashley was actually a guy.  Except that Ashley was kind of hot, but Bailey could ignore that.

“We didn’t really discuss what we’d do after we met up,” Ashley said.

“I didn’t really have a plan,” Bailey said.

“Would you mind finding somewhere I can get lunch?” Ashley asked.  “My morning got a little out of hand and I didn’t have time to eat without being later than I was.”

“Sure,” Bailey said.  “Have something in mind?”

“It’s so nice out, why don’t we just swing through the Tesco and then we can find somewhere to sit and talk?”

“Sounds great,” Bailey said.  Part of him wondered if Ashley was as nervous about meeting a stranger from the internet as he was.  The town’s only major grocery store and the outdoors were some of the safest places to be if you were a little unsure of your company.

Image Prompt 037 – Peacock Purse & Dundee Scotland


It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 037-001 2018-02-09 Peacock Purce at Mack and Mack09-03-13

Image Prompt 037-002 2018-02-09 Dundee05-01-21 017

Introspection in Images: Fascinated by Decay 004


I have always been fascinated by the decaying remains of human structures.

That sounds weirder when I say it out loud, but I always knew I was weird.

I love to take pictures of stone buildings being overgrown with ivy, old gravestones, wooden houses being reclaimed by nature.  Old monuments.  Mossy stones set up by ancient people.  It all fascinates me.

My first digital camera probably took more pictures of things like that, than it did people.  I have hundreds of photos from trips around town and around the world of the things humans have built that are now wasting away.

Today, I’ll share a few of them with you.  And I expect in later posts I’ll share some more.

I hope you can see the beauty in them that I do.