Holiday Adventures

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I had every intention of doing a year in review post and looking back and how my habit tracking went, how much writing I’ve gotten accomplished, and what I have planned for the new year.  And then my holiday trip got a bit complicated, so the time to work on this post was devoted to other things.

My family lives about three hours away (in two directions, but we meet up at my sister’s place since my parents are only about an hour from her).  My partner’s family lives a little less than two hours further south from my sister’s.  So we visit both of them during the holiday season.  This year we also have a pair of friends getting married (tomorrow), so we had to be back home by Thursday night since my partner is the best man and thus has to be at the rehearsal today.

We had this all planned out.  One day of travel, two days at my sisters, one day of travel, two days at his parents, and then a day to travel home.  We were going to be relaxed and not stress the timing on travel days to make sure we didn’t exhaust ourselves.

And then our car wouldn’t start the day we were supposed to leave my sisters on Monday.  My brother-in-law changed our alternator and helped make sure we had a good battery.  Still wouldn’t start.  So we spent another night at my sister’s.  Thankfully she has extra guest rooms since brother-in-law’s parents had arrived that day.

The next day my partner’s parents drove up to get us and we had our car towed to their mechanic eighty-four miles south.  Thankfully we have the free 100 miles of towing package with AAA.  We had Christmas with them and then went for Christmas dinner at his aunt and uncles to see one grandmother and stopped to see the other on the way home.  We tried to relax and not worry about the car with some success.

The starter was bad on the car, which had likely fried both the battery and the alternator, so at least the work my BIL did saved us some money on repairs.  We got the car back and everything loaded into it at about 4:30pm.  We had a five-hour trip to get home, plus stopping at my sister’s on the way past to pick up the larger Christmas presents we hadn’t wanted to haul back and forth with us.

We made it home Thursday as planned, but considerably later in the day than originally anticipated.  This was thanks in large part to all our family who helped out and made sure we could get where we needed to be and had the funds for all the repairs and I couldn’t be more grateful to all of them.

I hope your holidays were as filled with family and love and support, and much less with car trouble and travel delays.  Here’s to families and getting to spend quality time with them at the holidays.  I’ll see you all in the new year.

Image Prompt 059 Response – 3 a.m.

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I chose the picture of my apartment in grad school for this week’s writing prompt.  The usual twenty-minute sprint plus some copy editing.  I hope you enjoy.

3 a.m.

Kelly started awake, sitting up in her bed, heart pounding.  She looked around, wondering what had woken her up.  She jumped again when someone pounded on her apartment door.

Grabbing her robe from the chair beside the bed, she slid out from under the covers and pulled it on, shivering as she crossed the room in her bare feet.  It was winter and her electric baseboards just couldn’t keep up with how cold it got here.

She crept to the door, managing not to jump when someone pounded on it again.

She paused beside it, not sure if she should push the curtain aside to look out or just ignore them.

The pounding came again, a little quieter this time.

“Come on,” she heard a muffled voice say.  “You have to be home.”

Kelly reached up and pushed the curtain aside a little, keeping herself a bit back and to the side so she wouldn’t be clearly visible from outside.

There was just enough light from the streetlight at the corner for her to make out Mark’s features.  She hadn’t seen him in six months.  Not since she moved out of the house she’d shared with him, his sister, and their cousin.  She flipped on the light and reached to unlock the door.

“What the hell?” Kelly asked as she opened the door.

Mark had one hand braced on the doorframe and the other was raised like he was going to bang on the door again.

“You’ve got to let me in and close the door,” Mark said quickly, glancing over his shoulder.  “I promise I’ll explain.”

“Come in,” Kelly said, stepping back.  She watched behind Mark too.  He wasn’t the nervous type.

“Thank you,” Mark said, hurrying past her.

She closed the door, flipping the bolt out of habit.  “So what’s going on?” Kelly asked, glancing at her microwave.  “It’s three in the morning.”

“I think Melody’s dead, and Veronica tried to kill me.”

“What?” Kelly said, taking a step back and bumping into the door.

“I don’t know for sure about Melody,” Mark said quickly.  “She could have gone home to see our parents, but her room was a mess and there was all this sticky stuff splattered everywhere and I think it might have been blood.”

“Did you call the police?” Kelly asked.  When you couldn’t find your sibling and though there was blood in their room, you called the police.

“No, I ran,” Mark said.  “I got home late and I just poked my head in to see if she was there, and I didn’t even have time to decide what I though the sticky stuff was before Veronica showed up.  She was crazy.  She kept trying to grab me and she was talking nonsense, so I ran back out to my car.  She ran after the damned car.  I’ve never seen her run when she wasn’t being chased.”

“Okay, slow down,” Kelly said, taking a deep breath.  “You need to explain everything in order and you need to include all the details.  Why don’t you sit down?”  Kelly pulled the chair over from her table, putting it facing her desk and then sat in her desk chair.

Mark sat down, taking a few deep breaths.  He was still in his work clothes, black slacks and a polo with the restaurant logo on the breast.

“Start at the beginning, and go slowly,” Kelly urged him.  Then she sat back and listened.

Mark told her about getting out late because of a huge party in the private room.  He hadn’t even turned on the lights coming through the house, but he’s gone to check on his sister.  She was usually still up at two in the morning.  He’d noticed how much of a wreck her room was and turned on the light.  It looked like someone had torn through the place looking for something and maybe had a brawl while they were at it.  And there were drops and splatters of something dark reddish brown that were tacky when he touched one.

That’s when Veronica had shown up.  She’d yelled at him for being in Melody’s room.  He’d said Melody didn’t mind, and asked what happened.  Veronica wouldn’t answer any of his questions.  She kept saying that Melody had stolen from her and Veronica hadn’t meant to do anything, just get it back, but then Melody opened it and she tried to grab it and it was everywhere now.  Mark had tried to back away but Veronica grabbed him, her grip tight on his wrist.  He held it up to show her the red mark that said he’d have a bruise by morning.

“And her eyes seemed to glow in the dark,” Mark said.  “I was freaked out, so I ran.”

Kelly sighed.  “Mark, I think I know what happened, or at least part of it.”

“What?” Mark asked, looking so eager for an answer.

“Veronica got infected, and they gave her a supply of blood in case the craving hit when she was home.  It’s pretty typical.  My guess is Melody took her supply.  I have no idea why.  The blood you saw all over the room was from the supply that Melody opened and Veronica fought to get back.”

“Infected?  You think Veronica’s a vampire?” Mark asked, his eyes getting really big.

“It would explain how she could hold you so tight it’s going to bruise, and her chasing after you.”

“Am I safe here?  Have I put you in danger?”

“Vampires are only dangerous if they aren’t getting proper meals,” Kelly explained.  “I’m majoring is Preternatural Biology, remember?”

“But what about Melody?” Mark asked.

“Did you call her yet?” Kelly asked.

“Shit, I was too freaked to even think to,” he said, pulling out his phone.

Kelly sighed.  This was probably some weird family dispute or Melody freaking out about Veronica getting infected.  Hopefully she would answer and then Mark could go home and Kelly could get back to sleep.

Image Prompt 059 – Grad School Apartment & Stonehenge

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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.

2019-12-13 Image Prompt 059-01 Apartment 07-03-29 004

2019-12-13 Image Prompt 059-02 Day One 05-05-09 012

NaNoWriMo 2019: November In Review

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It was a very crazy November this year, which I’ve already talked about a little, so in today’s reflection on NaNoWriMo 2019, I’m going to focus more on my story, and the experiment with plotting, and how I feel that went.

I went into November with an outline.  This has never happened before.  I’m that writer in the region who is famous for picking out their idea on Halloween, or starting over three times when the story isn’t working.  In light of that, I think I did pretty well with trying to follow my outline.

I originally outlined two interacting main plots, but then abandoned one when I couldn’t think of anything interesting to do with setbacks.  So it turned into a fairly straightforward friends-to-lovers kind of romance.  I even wrote most of the major beats that were in the outline.  I’m not at all sure it works as a whole story though, and I randomly introduced a potential antagonistic ex in a sprint, so I’ve been playing around with that as a way to extend the book and be the problem my couple is dealing with.  And maybe that will lead to the outing of my dragon (as a dragon) and that will be the big problem climax issue they have to deal with.

I should probably read what I have before I make those decisions.

I did some other prep in addition to my outline, mostly in the form of free-writing about the idea, characters, and potential plot.  The character development went quite well.  I knew them both fairly well before I started writing, and that always makes things easier.  I definitely want to continue doing that part of the planning process moving forward.

The outline I feel a little more ambivalent about.  It might have helped if I consulted it more often (or at all in the second half of the month).  The whole point of writing down the outline was so I had a guide.  I think maybe I just need to make sure it’s digital next time.  I’m not great about consulting paper notes for my story anymore.  I do almost everything on my computer these days.

Having the outline digital would also let me make adjustments as I go, so if I take off on a tangent I can decide if that changes all the things after, or if it’s just a new side-plot.  I have no idea if that would actually help, but I like the idea of the outline being more malleable and changeable if I need it to be.

I think the experiment was enough of a success that I should keep trying out ways to be a planner.  I expect I wrote far fewer scenes that are completely unnecessary this year compared to past Novembers.  There are definitely scenes I need to cut though, and scenes to shorten, rearrange, or expand.  I’m never going to get it so close to right on the first pass that I don’t need to do all those editing tasks.  But maybe, just maybe, this book will require less rewriting and revision than book 2, which has been through quite a lot over the years.  That will be back on my to-do list in January when I have time again.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year, how was it?  Did you try anything new?  Or was it NaNo as usual for you?

NaNoWriMo: The End is Nigh

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Only one and a quarter days left for NaNoWriMo 2019.  It’s been a crazy year.

So crazy that this is posting more than 9 hours later than planned.

Some of that crazy was precipitated by my trip to Dubai (which I talked about last week).  Being out of the country for several days in the beginning of November seems to have seriously thrown off my usual rhythm of NaNoWriMo preparation and execution of responsibilities.

I did successfully win on Wednesday, November 27, 2019, and I’ve kept writing.  As of this post, I have 54,644 words.  I’m hoping to maybe get to one potential “The End” for this story before the end of the day tomorrow.  We’ll see how that goes and if I decide that’s actually the end.

Many things have gone amazingly well this November and many things have felt like they’ve gone horribly wrong (which is probably my mind exaggerating things).  My experiment with plotting may have been half successful.  I plotted with two main story lines interacting.  I ended up writing one of them.  Not sure if I’ll go back and add the other in again, or if it’s just going to become a subplot.  I think I mostly followed the outline for the romance plot as far as things that happened, but not what the major beats were supposed to be.  It’s all good, I’ll fix it in post.  8-D

I’m going to leave it at that for today, because it’s still November and there’s still noveling to be done.  More next week on how November went and how the story turned out.

For anyone still writing, keep going, you’ve got this.

Dubai: Because You Don’t Say No to a Free Trip Even When It’s in November

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Every year since we started using the current course evaluation software, my office has sent me to the conference held by the software company.  It’s been pretty awesome and I’ve learned a ton at each conference, so I’m really happy that they plan to keep sending me every year.

Every year at the conference (the one I go to is the “global” one) they give away trips to the other conference locations (London, Australia, and Dubai), and an emersion trip to their offices in Montreal (with Jazz Festival concert tickets).  I won the Montreal emersion experience.  And then my coworker won the trip to Dubai.  And we realized she had another conference the first week of November, and summer is a horrible time for me to be away from the office.  So they let us trade trips.  So I got an all-expenses paid trip to Dubai for a two-day conference.

I literally left from my write-in, spent more than 20 hours on airplanes and in airports, and arrived in Dubai.  (This is how dedicated to NaNoWriMo I am.  I was not missing my very first write-in even for international travel!)

The conference was amazing and they took us out-of-towners to some truly wonderful restaurants in the evenings.  I got to hold a live falcon.  It was a pretty amazing two days.

Then the five, four, and three hours of sleep I’d gotten over three days caught up with me and I got confused about my flight time.  I arrived at the airport at 7:40am thinking I was catching a 10:30am flight.  It was an 8:30am flight.  Needless to say, this did not go well for me.  But the software company quickly booked me a room at the conference hotel for the night and my mother was able to help me cover the cost of the plane ticket change temporarily.  I had a new flight home the following day within an hour and was able to go back to the hotel, check in again, and then go exploring with my bonus day.

I decided to go to the Burj Khalifa first.  Based on advice another conference goer had been given, I bought my ticket online in advance and hopped on the metro to get there.  The views were amazing, and I finally found some journals in the gift shop there (okay the second or third gift shop…It felt a little like a Disney ride cue that ended in the gift shop).

By the time I’d seen everything there was to see there, found some lunch at the mall below it (which is epically huge), and spent a little time hunting for souvenirs, it was late afternoon.  I went back to the hotel for a nap, planning to get up after a couple hours and go check out the Gold Souk and maybe the Textile Souk as well.  I slept like the dead and still woke exhausted, so I opted for a trip down the block to a little grocery and convenience store (called Zoom), where I picked up dinner and breakfast.  Then back to the hotel to repack and try to get a decent night’s sleep so I could actually make my 8:30am flight.

It was 23 and a half hours on planes and in airports to get home.

Overall, the trip was totally worth it.  Even with three days of absolutely no word count added to my NaNoWriMo project, hundreds of dollars to get a new flight, and the disaster of missing my flight in the first place.  If I ever get this kind of chance again, I’ll be sure to give myself more leeway in my travel times (or ask for a whole extra day!) and I’ll be triple checking my flight times for the rest of my life.  But it was one of those once in a lifetime kind of things, so I’m really glad I went and I’m excited to use my experiences there in my fiction in the future.

Enjoy some of my favorite photos from the trip.  Yes, there are a lot of them, but this is less than a tenth of the photos I took, so…

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Image Prompt 058 Response – Welsh Dragon Tour

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I chose the image of the field viewed from inside a ruined castle in Wales for my twenty-minute prompt this week.  It was going well, so I ended up writing for more like 30 minutes on this one.

Welsh Dragon Tour:

Kyle crouched against the crumbling stone castle wall, the weathered surface rough through his t-shirt.  He had not just seen that, had he?  He lifted his head just a little, craning his neck so he could see over the wall while hopefully not being noticed.

There was a little grove of trees just below the wall, and then several green fields of sheep on either side of the stream.  Beyond that there were more trees and the farm buildings and then the rolling hills, or maybe small mountains.  He saw the mountains first, then the farm buildings, then the fields as he slowly inched upward out of his crouch.

It was still there.

There was a dragon in the field.

It was eating sheep.

The river seemed to be turning to steam, leaving a hazy cloud of water vapor around the dragon.  It didn’t seem to care, but Kyle figured if it was causing the river to turn to steam by standing in it, then it didn’t mind heat or humidity.

Kyle wasn’t sure how big the dragon was, since he was so far away, but it was eating the sheep whole, so it’s head had to be at least three times the size of a sheep.  It had a long sinuous neck, letting it turn to look a full 360 degrees around itself.  Its legs were short, so its belly almost touched the ground, but they were thick and strong looking.  It turned, facing away from the castle to get more sheep, so Kyle chanced grabbing his phone to take a picture.  No one was going to believe this even with a picture, but he wanted to remember, or leave some evidence behind if it ate him.

He snapped a few quick shots and then zoomed in to get the best image he could of the full dragon up close.  Its big leather bat-like wings were spread out wide, and seemed to be glistening slightly, like they were wet maybe.  Its tail was long and shifted back and forth as it moved, like it was using it as a counter-weight or something.  The end looked like it was a ball with spikes.  As if the giant jaws weren’t scary enough, Kyle was pretty sure one hit from that tail would kill just about anyone.

Kyle crouched back down again.  He looked over at the other people on his tour.  One of the guides, Melody, was holding Rachel, the French girl, who was still crying.  The other guide had gone down the other side of the ruins to see if it looked safe to get to their bus.  Ryan, the Kiwi, and Ellen, the Canadian were hugging each other.

“What did you see?” Ryan asked.

“It’s eating sheep,” Kyle said.  “It’s still there and it’s eating sheep.”

“What do we do?” Ellen asked.

“Gary called 999,” Melody said.  “If it looks like it’s safe for us to leave, we’ll leave.”

“The bus would be visible from the field if we drove off, wouldn’t it?” Ryan asked.

“Probably,” Kyle said, peaking up again.  “Yeah, definitely.”

“I’m sure the emergency response folks will let Gary know what they want us to do,” Melody said.

“Are we safe here?” Ellen asked.

“As long as it’s down there eating sheep, probably,” Melody replied.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t run out of sheep then,” Ryan said.

Kyle whole-heartedly agreed.  He peaked back up, doing a quick count.  There were at least a few dozen sheep left in the closest field.  Maybe ten in the two further out where the dragon had been eating.  It didn’t seem to be eating anymore.  Kyle hoped it didn’t get full either.  But maybe if it wasn’t hungry it wouldn’t be a danger to them?  They were probably small and insignificant to it.

Gary came back, moving in a crouch along the wall.  He came to a stop next to Kyle.

“Alright, there’s a back way out we can take that should keep the bus from being visible from the fields,” he said.  “They’re sending people to check out what’s going on and figure out how to keep everyone safe, but right now, they just want us to be away from here.  Pretty sure they only believed me because the farmer down there had already called in a pissed off panic because he’s losing sheep.”

“We can get to the bus without being seen?” Melody asked.

“There’s a short stretch were we might be visible, but I figure if we run it in pairs we’ll be fine.”

“It’s looking the other way right now anyway,” Kyle said, peaking up again.  “We should go before it turns around.”

“Agreed,” Gary said.  “Let’s go.”

Kyle followed Gary.  They stayed in crouched until the walls got high enough to run a little more upright.  When they got to the entrance, where they’d have to run across the gap to the bus, Gary stopped.

“Melody, take Rachel across first.  Be ready to start the bus and drive off as soon as the rest of us are on.”

“Understood,” Melody said, getting a good grip on Rachel’s hand.  “Ready?” she asked.

“Yes,” Rachel said, not sounding confident at all as she held onto Melody’s hand.

They ran across the space and up into the bus.

“Who’s next?” Gary asked, looking at the rest of them.

“You two go,” Kyle said.  He was on the track team, so if anyone had to run faster, then he should be the one.

“You sure?” Ryan asked.

“I’m fast, I’ve got this,” Kyle assured him.

“Okay,” Ellen said, grabbing Ryan’s hand.  “Let’s go.”

Ryan nodded and they ran the whole way and right up the steps onto the bus.  Kyle could see them move down a few seats and then disappear, probably crouched in the foot space rather than actually sitting.

“Ready?” Gary asked.

“Ready,” Kyle said.

Gary started off and Kyle kept close behind him.  They were half way across when he noticed movement in his peripheral vision.

“Oh, crap,” Kyle said as the giant, clawed, four-toed foot came at him.

Kyle tried to speed up, but he just wasn’t fast enough.  That foot wrapped around him, pinning his right arm to his side as he was lifted off the ground.

“Go!” Kyle shouted as Gary looked back.

Gary made it onto the bus and the door closed behind him.

Kyle’s stomach lurched every time he was jerked higher, the heavy beats of the dragon’s wings taking them upward.  He watched the bus drive off without him as the castle came into view below them.  This was not the kind of Welsh Dragon he was expecting when he booked this tour.