Image Prompt 061 – Cat in a Backpack and Water by Ancient Wall

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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 061-002 - Welsh Dragon05-05-07 054

Image Prompt 061-001 - Valentine's Day2009 015

Winter Travels

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I don’t usually do much traveling between the Christmas holidays and spring, but this year my parents needed some help moving my grandmother from her apartment to a room in the main building of her continuing care retirement community.  She’s still in pretty good health for a woman in her 90s, but she doesn’t move around as well as she used to and needs the support of being in the main building and regularly checked on by the nursing staff.

So the husband and I set out from North Carolina to Pennsylvania last Friday and returned home on Monday.  We helped sort through things in my grandmother’s old apartment that wouldn’t fit in her new room, saw my great uncle and his wife, and did what we could to keep Gramma occupied and less morose about the move.  She was disappointed to lose the apartment and the space, but what hit hardest was having to give away her cat.  The pretty ginger tabby was previously owned by one of her friends who passed away, and she’s passed him along to another friend in the community, so at least she’ll be able to go visit him.

It’s always great getting to see family, and I’m glad I could visit to help brighten my grandmother’s weekend.  The long drive was hard though.  I have a lower back issues that pinches my sciatic nerve when I sit.  On a good day, it’s a little achy, uncomfortable, or numb.  On a bad day, it causes sharp shooting pains through my hip and down my leg, sometimes all the way to my heel.  I have physical therapy exercises I’ve been doing daily for almost five years, and some strategies for being in the car with less pain.  It’s only in the last few months that I’ve gotten to the point where I can sit without pain or discomfort for one or two hours instead of for ten or fifteen minutes.  I’ve never been so glad to spend 30-60 minutes a day on exercises before.

This trip lead to my usual habit of taking pictures of various things I find interesting (this is the source of most image prompt pictures).  I thought I’d share a few of the more interesting photos I took during the course of the trip.

From the trip from NC to PA:

Random Objects:

Some from my Great Aunt and Uncle’s place, and some from my grandmother’s (only two of which I ended up taking home with me).

Other interesting images from the trip:

The journey from PA back to NC:

Sewing Flannel Pants

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For my holiday gifts this year for my family, I made everyone flannel pants.  It was fun to pick out just the right fabric and make sure I made the right size for everyone.  I know my mother and my sister will appreciate that they’ll be the right length for once.  It’s hard to find things in the perfect length when you’re petite.

I tried out a free patter from a blogger, which you can find here.  It was very simple to make, even with the added complication of pockets.  I was able to finish a pair in only a few hours once I was able to sit down and devote the time.

I did make one mistake, which is sort of in keeping with home-made gifts from me to my family.  Every since we first got Print Shop and started making our own homemade cards, I’ve almost never managed to give my parents one without a spelling error.  This was accidental at first (as spell check wasn’t a thing in Print Shop), but has since become a family joke, so I always include one on purpose now.  So this year’s goof for the holiday was that I forgot to cut out the one-way fabric correctly for my dad’s Steelers pants.  So one leg has the word going in one direction and the other leg has them in the opposite direction.  Oh well, it was too late to fix it once I cut everything out.

Full disclosure, the only pair that was finished in time for Christmas was my niece’s pair.  I finished the other three over the past two weeks.  I have material cut out to make two pairs for me, and then after that I’m going to make a few pairs for my partner.  I may remake the pattern for his so I can do side seams and easier pickets, but we’ll see.  If I do make a new pattern, I’ll probably post that here.

Here are a few pictures of my creations.

2019 Writing Year in Review

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A lot of writing happened this past year, and a lot of good work toward my writing goals both generally and on specific projects.

I made a Get Your Words Out habit tracking pledge of 240 days for 2019, and missed it by 17.  Considering I’ve gone months without writing in previous years, I think that’s pretty fantastic.  I’ve made the same pledge for 2020, and have confidence I can push through and make it this time.

I spent a good deal of time working on the second book in my series as well.  I spent almost as much time on revisions for that as I did on my November novel draft, which is pretty impressive since I spend most of my free time working on the novel in November.  I also spent almost as much time on book three.  That leaves book 2 very close to ready for final copy-edits and book three ready for a major revision similar to what book 2 has been through.  I’d like to release them fairly close together and if I’m able to really focus on the project during the first few months of the year, I’m confident I can get things much closer to publish ready sometime this year.

I experimented with planning before drafting this year, both with the major revision (basically full rewrite) of book 2 and my attempt during NaNo to have a plan and outline before writing my first draft.  These had varying levels of success.  Book 2 is so much better for it (and all the wonderful feedback I got from beta readers).  The NaNo project is a bit meh at the moment, but it’s also not finished, and I didn’t manage to stay with the outline the entire month.  But the two attempts left me feeling confident enough that planning can work for me that I’m trying to develop an outline for book 3 so it will come out better than book 2 did pre-outline-driven-rewrite.

I worked on 19 different projects over the course of the year (with smaller things like the blog’s image prompt responses counting collectively as a single project).  Most of these were novel drafts of some form or another.  Many were in the same world as Strong Fort Spathí.  I spent over 200 hours on my writing over the course of the year (at least as far as rough tracking goes).  I’m willing to bet that’s more time than I’ve spent on writing in a single year since before I got a full-time job.  I’ll be curious to see if my total will be significantly different for this coming year, especially if I make the 240 days of writing goal.

Overall, I’m proud of the work I’ve done in 2019.  But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to rest on my laurels and not keep working.  My priority goal for 2020 is book 3, so that I can polish up books 2 and 3 and get them published sooner than later.  I’d also like to continue trying out planning and outlining before I write or shortly after I start to see if that improves the quality of my first drafts.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing bits and pieces about both of those goals as the year unfolds.

Do you have any writing goals for 2020 you’d like to share?

Image Prompt 060 Response – Familiar

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I chose the picture of my black cat, Locke, looking out the kitchen window for my story prompt this week.  This is the product of a twenty-minute sprint and a quick copy-edit.

Familiar:

Midnight had her paws up on the kitchen windowsill so she could see outside.  Amanda smiled as she got out of the car and saw her familiar watching for her arrival.  She hurried to grab the bags out of the trunk but walked carefully up the steps.  It had snowed again today and she needed to clear them off again, maybe put down some more salt to keep things from getting slippery.

Amanda unlocked the door and pushed it open.

“Hello my lovely,” she greeted Midnight, who was now sitting on the counter right beside the front door.

Midnight meowed happily, brushing her head against Amanda’s arm since her hands were full.

Amanda chuckled and set her bags down, petting Midnight with one hand as she closed and locked the door.  “All’s well?” she asked.

“No callers or intruders,” Midnight informed her.

“Good,” Amanda replied, stroking Midnight one more time before turning to deal with her bags.  “I’m glad no one bothered you today.”  Some days there would be salesmen, or someone looking to hire Amanda would find out where she lived.  She didn’t like when they came to her home and bothered Midnight while she was gone.

It only took a few moments for Amanda to put away the groceries she’d picked up on the way home, and set her work bag and her little backpack by her desk in the second bedroom.  She came back to settle on the couch and Midnight jumped up to sit beside her.

Amanda stroked Midnight’s soft fur and sighed happily, relaxing into the cushions.  It was good to be home.  She missed Midnight on days she couldn’t take her familiar with her.  Some clients just didn’t understand the bond between a witch and her familiar, so they requested she leave the cat at home, like it was just some kind of pet.  At least this job had only taken a couple days and was close enough she could come home each night.

Sitting here with Midnight beside her again, Amanda could finally relax.  It was stressful on both of them when she was away.  Maybe she’d stop taking jobs that asked her to leave Midnight behind.  She could change her contract, make it state that Midnight was to be allowed to accompany her for all portions of her work instead of having a question asking if Midnight could accompany her.  Work was pretty steady now, unlike when she’d first started out.  She didn’t have to take every job she was offered just to make ends meet.

Amanda looked out the back window, watching snow begin to fall again, the swirls of snowflakes lit by the streetlamps.  The world was hushed and quiet now that night had fallen, the blanket of snow muting any sound there might have been.

“Tomorrow we leave for the next job,” Amanda said softly.

“We’re helping someone ward their home, correct?” Midnight asked.

“Yes,” Amanda replied.  “A very nice family,” she added.  They’d been very gracious about the entire thing.  They’d even asked if they needed to keep their own cat sequestered while she was there.  It was rare for anyone to even think to ask about things like that.  It was much more common for a client to ask her to keep Midnight sequestered or on a leash or something equally ridiculous.  Midnight would be at her side where she belonged.  “I think you’ll like them,” Amanda told Midnight.  “And if you’re feeling frisky, they have a cat you might be able to entice to play.”

“That would be nice,” Midnight replied, nuzzling Amanda’s leg.  “It’s been a while since I had a chance to play with another feline.”

Amanda smiled.  She’d amend her contract.  There was no reason to be so accommodating of those who didn’t understand her bond to her familiar.  If they wanted her services, they’d just have to accept that Midnight came too.

Image Prompt 060 – Cat in the Window and Irish Monastery’s Cemetery

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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 060-001 - Locke November 2008 010

Image Prompt 060-002 - Shamrocker Tour05-04-24 026

Where I am From: 2020 Edition

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Happy New Year to all my readers.

This is my yearly version of the “Where I’m From” poem prompt.  You can find my original prompt here and the versions from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.  If anyone else wants to try their hand at the poem prompt, I’d love to read your results, so feel free to leave a comment.

Where I’m From

I am from a wood-toned TV tray, from a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and plastic storage bins.

I am from the two-bedroom, cave-like, poorly-lit, half-basement, apartment with the bookcase wall and the box-filled office/crafting room.

I am from the deep pink Christmas cactus, the philodendron in the pot with bubbling paint.

I am from steak on Thanksgiving and unruly hair, from Catherine Cameron and Jane Elizabeth and Kenneth Hadyn.

I am from the collecting of postcards and the making of family photo calendars.

From watch where you’re going and don’t read after bed time.

I am from stained glass windows, sacred groves, thuribles, solitary altars, and wooden crosses.  From simple wooden buildings, rich fabrics, and everyone welcome at the table.  From silent nights contemplating the moon, solitary practice, and the universal divine.

I’m from Monroeville and Scotland, Scotcheroos and pumpkin rolls.

From the night it didn’t occur to me to get off the crib mattress on the floor, the crying I did wishing my mother would come, and the fondness my mother always shows when she tells the story.

I am from Shutterfly sites, plastic bins of honeymoon keepsakes, shelves full of books passed down through the family, files upon files on hard drives, and collections on shelves in closets.

From the memories that they invoke, the feelings they bring, and the people they bring to mind.

From stories, pictures, postcards, trinkets, and shared experiences.