Image Prompt 055 Response – Unexpected Call

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I chose the image of a woman trying on a wedding dress for my twenty-minute sprint this week.

Unexpected Call:

Melody stood smiling into the mirror, her mother behind her taking pictures.  This was it.  This was the dress.  She loved how simple the lines were and the subtle beadwork that added texture without being frilly and over the top.  She turned around, smiling at her mother.

“You look beautiful, sweetie,” her mother said.

“Thanks, Mom.”  Melody was excited to finally be done with the dress shopping portion of wedding planning.  There were only a few details left which meant less things to stress over.

Her mother helped her out of the dress and they filled out all the paperwork for ordering it.  As they walked out of the shop, Melody sent a message to her sister.  They were done earlier than expected, so they’d be able to make it back in time to see her for lunch.

They were half way back when Melody’s phone rang.  She didn’t recognize the number but with all the vendors she’d been working with she answered anyway.

“Hello?”

“Melody Shafer?” a woman asked.

“This is she.”

“You were listed on an emergency contact card for Michael Davidson.”

“Is he okay?” Melody asked, her heart racing at the idea that something might have happened to her fiancé.

“He’s been in an accident,” the woman said.  “He’s stable but hasn’t regained consciousness.  If you could come to the hospital the doctors have some questions.”

“I’ll be there as fast as I can,” Melody said.  “Is there anything you need to know now?”

“Does he have any drug allergies?”

“No, but he’s allergic to latex,” Melody said.  “Please call me back if anything changes.”

“I will, ma’am,” the woman said.

“I’m going to call his family.  Should we just come to the ER?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

Melody hung up.

“Michael was in an accident,” she told her mother.  “We need to go to the hospital.”

“Did they tell you anything?” her mother asked, immediately speeding up.

“He’s stable but unconscious,” Melody said.  “I have to call his parents.”

Melody didn’t even remember what she said when she called Michael’s mother.  His mom was going to call his dad and they’d meet her at the hospital.  It took Melody and her mother another twenty minutes to get there.

“Go on in,” he mother said, pulling right up to the entrance.  “I’ll park and find you.”

Melody hurried inside, glancing around to see where she needed to go.

Michael’s mother was there, hurrying over and hugging Melody tight.

“He’s going to be fine,” his mother said.

Melody burst into tears.  She’d been so scared.

“His dad’s with him,” his mother said, holding her tight.  “It’s just a broken leg.  No head trauma.”

“Can I see him?” Melody asked.  She needed to see that he was alright.

“I’ll ask them to take you back,” his mother said.  “He can only have one visitor at a time, but they’ll just send his father back out.”

“Thank you,” Melody said.  This was just one more thing that showed how wonderful they were.  They’d welcomed her with open arms before she’d even started dating Michael.

His mother found a nurse and Melody was escorted back to the little bay where Michael was lying in a hospital bed.  His eyes were open and he was talking to the nurse.

“Here’s Melody,” Michael’s father said, stepping back from the bed.  “We’ll be in the waiting room,” he said to Melody as he stepped out of the cubicle.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Melody said, taking Michael’s hand.

“I was worried I wasn’t going to be,” Michael said, his hand gripping hers tight.  “It all happened so fast, but there was this moment when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to avoid it.”

“I love you,” Melody said, the tears starting up again.

“I love you too,” he said.  There were tears in his eyes too.  “Stay with me?”

“Always,” Melody said.  They might not be married yet, but she’d always be there for him.

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Image Prompt 054 Response – One Man Funeral

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I did my twenty-minute sprint with both images as my prompt this time around.  It was fun weaving them together.  I hope you enjoy.

Title: One Man Funeral

Ryan walked slowly and carefully as he explored the old cemetery.  He felt that he should be respectful of those laid to rest here, not walk all over their sacred spaces.  Some of the grave markers were quite elaborate.  Things like that were never allowed today.  Funerals were quite elaborate, but even the rich, famous or powerful weren’t allowed to construct memorials where they were interred.

Some funerals were quite small and quiet though.  He held the small container of his mother’s ashes as he walked through the old cemetery.  They used to come here together to enjoy the peaceful quiet the place still had, several thousand years after the last person was buried there.  He paused beside the sun dial pool.  It had been added much later, with metal swan statues at the cardinal points.

“I’m really going to miss you,” Ryan said softly as he gazed at the useless sun dial.  It was overcast.  It was almost always overcast these days.  Ryan was an artist, so he didn’t understand all the science behind it, but there had been wars and there had been natural disasters, and there was some experiment gone horribly wrong that filled the air with particulates and meant that Ryan had never been outside without a mask to filter out what he shouldn’t breath.

His mother had never let any of that stop him from playing outside and exploring old and natural places.  Well, as natural as they could find anyway.  His mother’s modest income didn’t support things like traveling the world to see real nature preserves.  But she’d instilled a love of plants and animals and green spaces in him, which helped him develop his art and get noticed and that led to the opportunities he’d had as an adult to see some of those nature preserves.  He’d sketched all day as he wondered through them.

“I know you wanted me to be able to leave you here somehow,” Ryan said.  He knew his mother was gone, and would never hear him, but it was comforting to talk to her anyway.  “The fee was far more than the insurance would cover, so I thought I’d just bring you here instead.  You can live with me again, like you did the last few years, and then we can come here for walks.”

The fines for illegally scattering someone’s ashes were even steeper than the fees to legally do so.  Ryan knew better than to try.  He’d be caught and that wouldn’t be good for his finances or his career and his mother would want him to take care of himself.

Ryan sat on the edge of the sundial pool and set his mother’s ashes beside him.  He pulled a sketchbook from his bag and gazed back across the cemetery.  He would sketch this, so he would immortalize this moment, this place, and the peacefulness he felt.  His mother wasn’t in pain anymore, and that’s all she’d wanted in the end.  He could paint this scene and put his mother beside the painting so she’d always be here even if he couldn’t scatter her ashes here.

There was a large, elaborately carved stone coffin next to what used to be part of the abbey wall.  Ryan wasn’t entirely sure if the memorial had originally been indoors or out.  It was hard to tell where the buildings used to be except for the walls that remained.  There was a fallen pillar, and the coffin lid shone copper brown in the dim light.  Ryan looked back and forth between the view in front of him and his sketchpad, trying to catch every details.  He had the scene composition done, so he moved on to the details, flipping to a new page to capture the intricate lines of the large stone coffin and the shading of the remains of the wall.  He made notes about colors as he filled page after page with images.

It was starting to get dark when he finally put his sketchbook away and picked up his mother’s ashes again.  “You’d have loved the sunset tonight,” he said, watching as the firey reds and oranges began to spread across the low lying cloud cover, setting the whole world ablaze.  It wasn’t always clear enough to even see the sun, but tonight, Ryan could enjoy the colors and try to imagine what a sunset would have looked like before all the disasters ruined the air.

Ryan got up and threaded his way back to the entrance before it was too dark to see.  He had his mobile with him, so he had a light if he needed one, but he liked the quiet of the twilight moment as he walked away from his mother’s favorite place.  It was solemn, which he thought was very appropriate for the end of a one person funeral.

Image Prompt 053 Response – Mountain Wedding

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I chose the image of the buffet at a wedding at South Mountain for my twenty-minute sprint this week.

Mountain Wedding:

Kelly made sure all the food had been unloaded from the car and everything was properly laid out for after the ceremony.  She was glad her mother had finally stopped trying to talk Kyle and Anna into a big wedding.  Her twin brother was painfully shy and his fiancé was sweet and bubbly and wanted this day to be as wonderful for Kyle as it was for her.  They’d planned a string of small parties with family and friends over the next few months to celebrate with everyone Anna wanted to without overwhelming Kyle.  This was the official ceremony and was limited to family, the best man, and the matron of honor.

It had been a beautiful ceremony.  Short and sweet and just what Kelly would have expected from Anna.  Kyle looked so happy.  He was even putting up with the photographer reasonably well.  Kelly was making sure that everything was ready for the tiny reception as soon as Anna and Kyle got back from taking pictures down by the creek.

“Thank you for all the work you’re doing,” Jacob, Kyle’s best man, said as he joined Kelly at the tables.  “Anything I can do to help?”

“I think we’re good,” Kelly said.

“It means a lot to Kyle that you took up for him with your mom,” Jacob said softly.

“I know,” Kelly said, smiling at him.  She didn’t know Jacob very well because he was Kyle’s friend from grad school and Kelly hadn’t been able to get much time off to visit over the past three years.

“It’s nice to see siblings that care that much,” Jacob said.

Kelly just shrugged.  She and Kyle had been best friends their whole lives.  The only reason she wasn’t standing up with him at the wedding was because he wanted to invite Jacob without it being weird that no other friends could come.  They’d always been close and they always would be, even with Kyle married.  Kelly loved Anna and Kyle assured her that Anna loved her back.

“Kyle said you’re a graphic artist,” Jacob said.

“I am.”

“I know that can mean a lot of different things.  What do you do with it?”

Kelly smiled.  So many people assumed they knew what she did.  “At work I create brochures and fliers for products and events the company is promoting.  For me, I do custom digital artwork for people and experiment with projects of my own.”

“Neat.  What’s your favorite kind of thing to do custom art for?”

“I love nature related work.  Realistic or stylized.  And it can be fun to work on anthropomorphic animals, especially for certain crowds.  They really appreciate what I do.”

“Is it a certain fandom?  Or just a group you know?” Jacob asked.

“The furry community,” Kelly said softy, watching Jacob’s face.  This was usually when people got weirded out.

“Oh, cool.  I’ve heard they have a lot of really great community,” Jacob said.  “I go to some conventions that overlap a little with the furry crowd, so I know a few people.”

Kelly smiled again.  He was breezing through all the places people usually stumbled.  “They are pretty amazing,” she said.  Her brother had found a really great guy to be his other best friend.  “They’ve sort of adopted me even though I’m not into it the same way they are.”

“My friends said that’s one of the things they like about the community.  They take care of their own, and then welcome in anyone who is as accepting as they are.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Kelly agreed.

Anna and Kyle came back, then so the conversation died away.  Kelly kept an eye on things, making sure that Kyle and Anna actually ate something.  She talked with Anna’s best friend Jenny and Anna’s sister Lily.  She exchanged numbers with them and then Lily took her to do the same with her parents.  Kelly was glad that Anna’s family was so eager to get to know her and welcome her into the family along with Kyle.

By the time the food was mostly gone and they were ready to pack up, Kelly was feeling tired but proud.  Her brother was married to the love of his life and the day had gone off wonderfully.  There had been a few hitches but nothing major.  Anna’s parents thanked everyone for coming, and they all clapped and hollered as Kyle and Anna headed for the parking lot.

Everyone pitched in to help clean up and get everything back to the cars, so it didn’t take long.  They got everything into Kelly’s parents’ care but then realized it left no room for Kelly.

“I can drive you back,” Jacob offered.

“Thanks,” Kelly said.  He really was a great guy from what she’d seen today.  It would be nice to have more time to get to know him.  If she was lucky, she could be friends with him too.

The Joy of Readers

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One of the things I love most in all the world is sharing my stories with others.  Whether it’s a fanfic that I’ve posted, a book I’m sharing with a beta reader, or hearing that an actual person I don’t know has read my book.  It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

I may want to spend a good deal of time with a story getting it right, or at least presentable, before I share it with someone, but I do love sharing them.  I learn so much by sharing my stories.  How people react to them and what they notice and where they get excited helps me become a better writer overall.

I don’t think any story I’ve written would ever have been as good if it weren’t for my readers.  I’ve grown a lot over the past several years.  I recently reread Strong Fort Spathí and I could see all the places I’ve learned since then.  All the things my readers have taught me.

I’m making a lot of great progress on the second book in the Swords and Shields series, and almost all of it is thanks to readers.  One in particular, took a metaphorical machete to the draft for me.  Without that ruthless look at what I could cut and what wasn’t doing any narrative work, the book wouldn’t be nearly as good or nearly so well paced in its current form.

I adore all my readers, because I know they’re someone like me.  Someone who loves a good story.  Why else do we read books?  And if I can satisfy someone who is looking for a good story, then I’ve done something right.  I’d love to be able to share my stories with everyone, but I know that’s unrealistic.  I’ll only reach a small number of readers in my little corner of the literary world.  That’s all anyone can really expect unless they are very lucky.  And I’m okay with that.  If I can have that small number of readers, it’ll be enough.

It’s not about book sales or making money or even being well known for me.  It’s really just about sharing my stories with as many readers as I can.

Collective Story Telling

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I’ve talked about my very first role-playing group on the blog before and how important they have been to my writing journey.  I have a group of friends, most of them fellow fiction writers, who I play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) with every other week.  We’ve been playing for a couple years now.  We all met through NaNoWriMo, and the woman who wanted to try out being a DM (that’s a Dungeon Master, who runs the game) mentioned at a write-in that she had trouble finding players.  Most of the write-in attendees were interested, and some of us brought a friend or spouse, so that’s how the original group got started.  It was nine players originally, which was way too large, especially for two or two and a half hour sessions on a weeknight.

She broke us into two groups and we went off in different directions in search of answers to the same mystery.  She brought us all back together for an epic battle at the end on a Saturday afternoon.  Over all it was an incredibly fun game.  She ran another game with a smaller total number of players (max 6) so my husband and I volunteered to step back and not play that one.  Partially because I couldn’t play every week, and I liked the Adventure Guild idea we were talking about for off-weeks better.

Adventure Guild has been very fun.  We’re all taking turns being the DM and we’re developing the world as we go along.  We decided the original characters from the first adventure she ran, would be the founders of the guild and the current guild master was the protégé of our original ranger, which explains why he’s so deadpan as well as why he sometimes just doesn’t care and sends us off into horribly dangerous things.

I’ve taken a bit of a leading role in instigating and planning for Adventure Guild.  I made the original two primary NPCs for the guild (the guild master and a sort of den mother type who runs the tavern part).  I’ve picked out what city it’s in and where we are (we’re very loosely based in the Forgotten Realms universe).  At some point before our next session I’m going to come up with a good name for the guild.

What I like best about role-playing games with friends, and our Adventure Guild campaign in particular, is that it’s a form of collective storytelling.  I get to tell the story of my character.  The DM gets to build a story around the player characters and we all collectively get to build the story that unfolds.  Sometimes players will do what the DM expects, and sometimes not.  When they don’t do what I expect is sometimes the most fun for me as a DM.

This kind of collective storytelling can be very helpful for me as a writer.  I can see where someone else reacts differently to the situation in front of us.  I can put players into a situation similar to one in a book I’m working on and see what happens.  It’s just as fun for me as a player, when I’m trying to really inhabit the character I’ve built and react as he/she/they would react, rather than how I would.

My particular group laughs a lot while we play.  Ridiculous things happen and sometimes it’s just too funny.  We also have a great time being together and enjoying the game together.  It’s something I’ve really come to value over the past couple years.  I missed having a group that got together regularly for some form of gaming or socializing, and this has given me that social space again.

When I don’t have social interaction with someone (work colleagues, friends, even just cashiers while running errands) I can get a little weird and it tends to dry up my ability to write.  Making sure I have that social time is important, for my writing and my mental health.  Being able to incorporate it into my writing by practicing collective storytelling just makes it that much more useful.

I’d love to hear about how others incorporate their social activities into their writing life, whether it’s as directly as I do through role-playing games, or more indirectly.  Where does your energy to create come from?  Is it all internal, or is some of yours external like mine?

Image Prompt 052 Response – Lunch Tray Sledding

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I chose the image of a college students sledding on a lunch tray for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  I have fond memories of that evening, so I wrote about something similar for my scene today.

Lunch Tray Sledding:

“Come on, go for it,” Miles urged, handing the lunch tray to Emily.  They’d smuggled four of them out of the dining hall their first winter on campus.

“I’m not falling off,” Emily declared as she took the tray.  The snow had stopped falling finally, but there was plenty on the ground, and she didn’t want to end up with it soaking through her clothes like Randy and Hana.  Emily positioned the tray at the top of the hill and then stepped carefully onto it, crouching down and using one hand to push off.  She had waterproof gloves, so she left her hand down to act as a sort of rudder and keep her facing forward as she started down the hill.

Miles let out a yell behind her and Emily let out a whoop of her own as she picked up speed, barreling toward Randy and Hana at the bottom.  The two looked up, saw her, and scrambled out of the way, laughing the entire time.

The lunch tray came to a stop at the bottom of the hill and Emily stood up, arms in the air.  “Victory!” she shouted.  She was the first one to make it down the hill still on the tray.  Everyone else had whipped out or fallen off half way.

“Incoming!” Miles yelled as he launched himself down the hill face first with the tray under his chest.

Emily laughed as she grabbed her tray and dodged out of the way, joining Randy and Hana off to the side so they could start back up to the top.

Miles turned as he went down, ending up sideways by the time he reached the bottom.  He also lost the lunch tray at some point, coming to a stop at the bottom on the hill on just his jacket.  He was laughing the whole time.

Emily smiled.  She loved how much fun they all had together.

“Speed record,” Jenn calls, making a running start before jumping, her feet landing on a tray.  She zipped down the hill, somehow managing to stay on her feet.

Emily laughed.  Jenn was such a daredevil.  It helped that even if she took a tumble she wouldn’t be hurt enough to still feel it in the morning.  Emily planned to avoid any bruises tonight.

They spent another thirty minutes taking turns going down the hill.  Emily could barely feel her fingers by the time Randy declared it was time to head for the student union.  They stopped at Miles’ dorm so he could run the trays up to his room.

“Nobody got too cold?” Jenn asked as she held the door to the union open for everyone.

“Nothing a hot chocolate won’t fix,” Emily said.  “We can’t all be superhumanly warm like you.

Jenn smiled and laughed.  “No but I’d make sure you got the warmth you needed if it were ever a problem.”

“I know,” Emily replied.  Jenn was amazing.  She and Hana really looked out for all of them, making sure they were safe and well taken care of.

“Hot chocolates all around,” Randy said, heading for the little convenience store in the union.  It had one of those steamer/latter/hot chocolate machines that turned powder and hot water into steamed milk beverages.  They were pretty good, especially when you were half frozen.

They all filed through the store, grabbing cups and filling them before paying and heading right back out.  They took over one of the many corners with couches and cushions and started shedding outerwear.

“That was great,” Jenn said.  “Does this mean we’re studying tomorrow?”  It was Friday night and they’d all decided to skip their usual study group activities in favor of sledding.

“Or we could just gather our stuff after we’ve thawed out and head to Hana’s for a few hours tonight,” Emily suggested.

“I could go for that,” Randy said.  “Get things out of the way and then sleep in tomorrow.”

“Sounds good,” Miles said.  “We’re all on the way to Hana’s.”

“We are such nerds,” Hana said, laughing.

“Absolutely,” Jenn said, raising her hot chocolate in a toast.  “To being incorrigible nerds who will study no matter what anyone says.”

Emily laughed.  Hearing it from Jenn, with her neon pink and black hair just made it so much funnier.

They all raised their glasses with a happy “cheers” before taking careful sips.  No one wanted a burnt tongue.

“So what else are we getting up to this weekend?” Randy asked.

“I have zero plans,” Jenn said.  “But I do probably need to finish my paper draft before Sunday study group.”

“Definitely complete nerds,” Miles said.  “That’s my plan too.”

They all laughed again.  It was great to have likeminded friends who were as dedicated to school as she was.  Emily loved them all dearly.

Camp NaNoWriMo Success

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April was a very successful writing month.  My goal for Camp NaNoWriMo was 30 minutes a day of work on some writing project, whether it was new words, editing, rewriting, or planning and world building.  I ended up doing a little bit of everything too.  A secondary goal was to at least do five minutes of work every single day, and I accomplished both goals.  My final count for the month was 1415, 515 above my 900-minute goal, and I didn’t miss a single day.

I worked on a variety of projects.  I did a little bit of drafting new ideas, worked on the edits for book two, and came back to some older fanfic stories to try to finish them off.  I decided to repost some of my fanfic since the original site it was posted to went down a couple years ago.  I think it will be good for my emotional wellbeing to see the reviews that come in, or even just see the view counts going up over time.  Writing is primarily about its value to me personally, but sharing it with others and seeing them enjoy my work is a very close second.

I’m proud of myself for keeping to my goals, even on days when it was hard to force that five minutes of work into my schedule or make my brain do it.  I think it’s been a productive month as well.  Instead of waiting to feel ready to write, I’ve just been doing it.  If one project wasn’t working, I moved on to another one, and most of the time I was able to move forward again on the original project when I came back to it.

I’m going to try to keep my streak going (I’m at 35 days now) for May and the rest of the summer if I can manage it.  My Habit Tracking goal requires 20 minutes of work, but I’d like to keep the consistency going even if I’m only getting 5 minutes in.

I’d been so focused on getting book two revised during the first few months of the year that I’d lost sight of the fun parts of writing, like drafting and fanfic, and I think I need to find a balance between the three.  And I definitely need to be reading more.  Reading always helps increase my creative energy and output.  April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session helped me get back to my roots as it were, and hopefully that will help me move into the summer with a better work ethic and more energy to dedicate to my writing.