Image Prompt #035 – Mother’s House


I selected the image of the house on King Street in Boone, NC for my image prompt piece this week.  I did a twenty-minute sprint and then a brief edit for typos, spelling, and grammar.  I hope you enjoy it.


Mother’s House:

Kayla stood on the sidewalk looking up at the old house.  The stone steps that lead up from the sidewalk, that dated back to the 18th century, were worn but perfectly intact.  The concrete steps the family had added over the years were cracked and crumbling.  The walk up looked intimidating.

It was late fall, which didn’t help the place look any less like the haunted house the locals supposed it to be.  The large bushes beside the stairs were just a tangle of sticks and twigs, and only a few stubborn orange leaves clung to the trees higher up the hill.

Kalya began to climb.

She’d gotten a call from her mother’s priestess.  She hadn’t been coming to coven meetings or rituals.  No one had seen her for three weeks.  There were still lights turning on and off in the house, but no one answered the door when the priestess went by to check on Kayla’s mother.

Kayla stepped carefully on the concrete steps, keeping to the right edge, where they were more solid.  The path at the top of the stairs was mostly dirt now, with a few bits of grass trying to encroach.  When Kayla and her sisters were still at home, they’d laid out new gravel every couple years to keep the path safe and clean and free of weeds.

There were more concrete steps closer to the house.  These were in better repair, but from that close, Kayla could see that the house wasn’t in the best shape.  The once blue paint was gray and peeling.  The green shingles looked a little worse for wear.  It all looked clean enough though.  That was a good sign.  Her mother wasn’t the type to redo things until they needed it, but she did like keeping things tidy.

Kayla walked another mostly dirt path to the house itself, taking the two steps onto the porch quickly.  It was a habit from her teen years when going up them quickly and at just the right angle meant that they didn’t creek and give her away when she was sneaking in late.

Glancing to the left, Kayla spotted her mother’s old blue pickup truck.  This didn’t mean her mother was home.  Generally, she preferred to walk as much as possible.

Kayla reached up and knocked on the front door three times.  She waited and then range the bell once.

There was no response from within, no stirring or sound, so Kayla did it again.

Only after knocking and ringing the bell a third time did Kayla pull out her keys.  When she and her sisters moved out, they’d agreed that they weren’t allowed to just barge in.  They had to knock and ring three times before they could.  Her key still slid into the lock and turned like normal.

The front door swung inward, revealing the dimly lit entry hall.

Everything still looked as tidy as her mother preferred to keep things.

“Mom?” Kayla called out.  “You home?”  Kayla checked the living room, dining room, and kitchen first.  “Mom?” she called again as she headed to the stairs.  “You didn’t answer so I let myself in.”

Upstairs was similar to downstairs.  Everything appeared in place except for Kayla as she moved down the hall.  When she reached her mother’s room the door was closed.  That wasn’t typical unless her mother was asleep.

Kayla knocked gently on the door.  “Mom?  You in there?”  Still no response.  “Mom, if you’re in there, let me know.  Otherwise I’m coming in to check,” Kayla announced through the door.  Her mother was starting to worry her.

“I’m coming in,” Kayla called far louder than strictly necessary.

Opening the door to her mother’s room, Kayla didn’t immediately step inside.  There was a lamp on at the bedside table, and she could hear water running.

“Mom?” Kayla called again.  “It’s Kayla.”  She slowly moved toward the bathroom, terrified that she would find her mother laid out on the floor with a head injury.

What she found, was an empty bathroom with the faucet running.

Kayla reached out and turned off the water, plunging the house to an eerie silence.


30 Days of NaNoWriMo


So, NaNoWriMo is officially over.  For about ten hours as of this posting.  It’s been an amazing, exhausting month.  My goal at the beginning was to write more words than my longest NaNo novel, which was 112,958 words.  That meant writing 3,766 words a day.  Some days I wrote more, some days I wrote less.  On Day 29, I ended with 5,809 words left to reach my goal of writing 112,959 words in a single month.

For perspective, that first record was set when I did not have a full-time job.  This year I have a full-time job.  I have a commute too, but at least it’s on a bus so I can spend most of it typing.  I was writing almost up to the wire last night.  I crossed the 112,000 mark at about 11:40pm.  I have twenty mintues to write 959 words.  Doable.  I often do 800-900 words in a fifteen-minute sprint.  I wasn’t too worried about it.

I also had a lot of great energy going on.  We’d gathered at a great place with good music, $2 tacos after 10pm, and a wonderful group of WriMos who cheered me on as I rushed to get my last few words in before midnight.

And my final stats ended up being:

Total words for the month: 112,693 words

Average words per day: 3,765 words

Most words written in a single day was on November 16: 7,538 words

I’m pretty proud of that.  Not only did I beat my record this month, but I did it without having to sacrifices as much as I have in some past years.  I watched two movies and a twelve-episode season of an anime with my husband.  We played a session of our Arkham Horror Living Card Game campaign.  I’m really proud of that.  I didn’t totally neglect my husband, who often referred to himself as a NaNo Widower in past years.

It’s also been an amazing year.  I’ve met so many new WriMos, which is one of the best parts about NaNoWriMo.  I love meeting other writers and getting to know them and the things they write.  We’ve got three write-ins and counting that will continue in the off-season (that’s December-October).  I’m super excited about that.

So that’s the brief version of my NaNo adventure this month.  I’ll probably do a more complete reflection in a few weeks after my usual second Friday Image Prompt and the response the following week.  If you want to check out a little about my characters for this NaNo project, they started life as one of those Image Prompts.  #0XX to be exact.  You can find the full text of that scene here.  I’ve expanded it a lot since then and there are a a bunch of new characters and much more interesting things happening around campus than I’d originally intended, which is always fun.

To close this out, I just want to talk a little bit about how much of an impact NaNoWriMo has had on my life.  A very good friend of mine that I met when her husband and I were in grad school together first introduced me to NaNoWriMo when we were writing fanfiction together in the same universe.  It was a ton of fun.  That first year was when I wrote my top word count novel (until this year).  And I wasn’t even done with the story.  The full fanfic ended up being over 205k.  It was pretty epic.  She really encouraged me to write and to stretch my skills and branch into my original stories.

I continued NaNoWriMo even when she had to take a break from it while getting her PhD.  I met new friends that have lasted through all eight years I’ve been doing this.  I went to events hosted by MLs (municipal liaisons) who encouraged me and cheered me on.  I met two of my best friends ever, who are now my co-MLs.  I also met people who had taken that plunge and self-published.  They talked to me about the process, and encouraged me to think about it when I talked about my own stories and how I was concerned that they’d never fit into a standard genre definition.

Without NaNoWriMo, I might never have put out my first book.  And my second book would never have made it through edits.  Right now three amazing WriMo friends are looking through the draft, and I’m trusting one of them to cover it in slash marks and feedback and places I can cut or tighten or make adjustments.  She’s already suggested I kill of a character, and I’m seriously thinking about it.  None of that would ever have been possible for me without the amazing and supportive NaNoWriMo community I’ve found in Raleigh.  It’s a wonderful place to be a writer and I never want to leave.  I want to stay here and keep this little writing community going for years and years.

If you were on this amazing NaNoWriMo journey with me, how was your November?  Did you hit your 50k?  Did you make any other personal goals during the month?  I’d love to share NaNo stories with anyone out there who’s been following along on my journey.

Image Prompt 034 Response – Dancing Blue Light


So I’m a week late getting this posted.  NaNoWriMo does tend to eat the rest of my life in November.  I chose to do the image of the arch and gate from St. Paul’s in Dundee, Scotland as my image prompt for this twenty-minute sprint.  I hope you enjoy it.

Dancing Blue Light

Amber walked past the Episcopal church every day on her way home.  She liked the architecture.  The spires, the arches, and the stonework.  There was an arched entryway in the wall off to one side with a gate.  There were stairs leading up on the other side of the gate and Amber always wondered where they led.  In the dim light of autumn evenings, it all looked mysterious and intriguing.  On cold winter nights when it was already dark as she walked home, she could barely make out the stairs on the other side of the gate.  There were no lights on that side of the church, and the wall the arch was set into blocked the light from the street lamps.

It was early December when she first saw the light on the stairs.  It was a blue-tinged light that seemed to flicker and shift as she gazed through the arch, trying to get a better view around the bars in the gate.  She couldn’t figure out where the light was or what was making it.  When her fingers started to get stiff from the cold, she headed home.

Every day for the rest of the week, she stopped to try to see what the light was.  It never seemed to be in the same place twice, but she could never quite figure out where it was coming from.  It wasn’t stable enough to be a lightbulb.  It was too blue to be a flame.  It fascinated her.

On Friday night, when she stopped to see where the blue light was, she noticed that the gate wasn’t latched.  Amber chewed on her lip as she tried to decide whether she should go in.  It was a church, so she figured as long as she wasn’t hurting anything, they weren’t likely to press charges for trespassing.

Amber carefully slipped through the gate, making sure it didn’t latch behind her in case that would lock her in.  She walked carefully up the stairs by the strange blue light.  The stairs took a circuitous path, going up, then right, then left, then left again.  The light’s source still wasn’t visible, but now seemed to be coming from everywhere.  Her shadow was cast in several different directions and she still couldn’t find a source for the light.

The stairs continued up along the edge of the building and became narrower and steeper the further she climbed.  When she reached the corner of the church building, the stairs leveled off and as she rounded the bend to find a straight path along the side of the building.  It wasn’t at the same level as any of the floors and seemed to bisect some of the windows.  She’d never seen it before when she was approaching the church from the back.

The blue light was still there, but when Amber looked back, the stairs behind her were hidden in darkness.  She almost couldn’t make them out.  Was the light moving?

Amber turned back to the path in front of her and kept walking.  She had to know what the light was and where it came from.

Three steps down the back of the building, Amber’s foot slipped.  The path before her tilted, and she grabbed for the stone wall on her left, but missed and fell on her butt.  The path continued to tilt and Amber began to slide.  She tried to grab at the wall on her left or the side of the building on her right, but she couldn’t get a grip on anything.

Ambers stomach lurched when the path leveled out.  She only slid a few more feet.  She gasped for breath, her heart racing as she carefully stood up, clinging to the wall on her left to make sure she wouldn’t go anywhere.

What she saw over the wall didn’t look like Dundee.  In Dundee there were other buildings behind St. Paul’s.  Amber was looking at rolling hills with the occasional tree.  There were little bobbing blue lights scattered around the area.  They flickered and moved like the light she’d been seeing each night.

Amber looked back the way she’d slid and found nothing there.  She was at the corner of the path.  There were stairs leading down.  But there was no building on her right.  No St. Paul’s.  She was standing on a stone pathway with a waist-high stonewall on either side that appeared to be floating in midair.

There were more rolling hills, more densely covered in trees, on that side of her.

“This can’t be good,” Amber murmured to herself.

“Good, good,” a voice whispered behind her.

Amber turned, but there was no one there.

“Hello?” Amber called.

“Hello, hello,” came the reply.

“Is there anyone here?” Amber asked, her voice quivering slightly.

“Here, here,” the voice called.

NaNoWriMo Day Ten


So we’re more than a week into this and I’m actually doing pretty well.  I haven’t quite been staying on track with my personal NaNoWriMo word count goal of 3,766 a day, but I always write more on weekends, so I expect to have caught up to that before the end of the day Sunday. I’ve been attending and hosting plenty of write-ins and my region’s on-line chat is almost always active, which is awesome.

In NaNoRDU, we have a tradition of posting tweets of the interesting things overheard at write-ins, either said by us or by random strangers.  I just wanted to share a couple fun ones we’ve had so far this year.  They can be pretty hilarious.

2017-11-10 NaNoRDU tweets

We get up to some fun shenanigans at write-ins, and I’ve been enjoying them so far this year.  Looking forward to tonight’s.

So here’s the rundown of my writing stats so far this year.

Most productive day was November 11 with 5,036 words.

Average words per day at the end of November 9 was 3,615.

Total words at end of day on November 9 was 32,543.

Looking good so far this year.

Keep those words coming, all your WriMos out there.

NaNoWriMo Day Three


So it’s NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month), so I’ll be focusing on a fiction project this month.  I’m writing a story that takes place in the same world as Strong Fort Spathí, but focuses on different characters and locations.  This one is set at Black Ashe, the Wiccan University in Fort Madison IA (or at least my fictional version of it).

I’m excited about the characters and the idea and the story.  As of going to bed on the second, I have 7,556 words written so far.  Blog posts are going to be fairly short this month, and mostly center around my NaNoWriMo project, but I’ll still be posting the traditional 2nd Friday image prompt, and I’ll still post a response to that on the 3rd Friday.  (Because words are words, so I get to count my response sprint as NaNoWriMo word count.)

Good luck to anyone else out there doing this crazy challenge.  My personal goal is to beat my all time high word count in NaNo, which means writing at least 112,959 words this November, which is 3,766 words a day.  I’m on track so far.

Let’s do this!

Growing as a Writer


I’ve been reading through some of my older pieces lately, and it’s got me thinking about how I’ve grown as a writer and how writers grow into their craft in general.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that practice has played a huge role in my own growth process.  I’ve been writing down my stories since the sixth grade.  Some of those early ones are pretty atrocious, let me tell you.  I got a bit more serious in high school, taking creative writing as an elective and actually showing some of my outside work to my teacher.  She was very impressed.  For a high school student, I was probably doing pretty well but I still look back at drafts from those days and cringe.

I continued to take my development as a writer more seriously in college, taking writing courses alongside my literature classes and trying to get insight for both.  My work improved a lot over those years.  The piece I’m rereading now actually dates from after I was out of graduate school, and the beginning of that piece makes me cringe too.  I haven’t taken any formal classes since then, but I can see the improvement as I read through this piece, and I can see it in other drafts that where written after this one.  I’m still improving.

So where does the improvement come from?  What’s letting me get better outside a normal learning environment?


For writers, practice is the key to improvement.  Almost any author you ask will give advice that sounds a bit like “just keep writing” and there’s a reason for that.  If you keep writing and keep writing, and maybe even try some revision every so often and still just keep on writing, you’re likely to get betted.

Reading helps too, don’t get me wrong.  Without good examples, it’s hard to write well, but practicing your craft is also very important.

It’s also helpful to remember that everyone starts out awful.  Keep practicing and you’ll get better.

Image Prompt 032 Response: Fairy Wall


I chose the North Carolina photo for my prompt this week.  I know I took this picture on a trip up to Chimney Rock, but I can’t tell you for sure where it is.

Fairy Wall:

Cary poked his head around the side of the building to see what was in the back.  The little half-shed that probably sheltered the water pump made sense.  The story-and-a-half high wall with the upside down arch made him stop and stare.

“Cary, don’t go too far,” his sister called.  She was supposed to be keeping up with him this week.  They were on a road trip through North Carolina with their aunt and two older cousins.  Cary, the youngest by three years, wasn’t as thrilled about this as everyone else.  He had to sit in the very back of the minivan with no leg room and not much air conditioning.

“I’m just going to look at the backyard,” Cary called back.  If she knew he was just behind the building she shouldn’t come looking for him.

Cary walked carefully around all the spare lumber that was littering the yard.  The building was a tiny little general store type thing.  His oldest cousin had seen the sign and asked to stop.  They’d used the rest rooms and loaded up on drinks and snacks for the rest of the day.  His aunt had wanted to stretch a bit, so she told them to be back at the car in fifteen minutes.

Once he was past what looked like an abandoned barn door, Cary was able to walk normally again.  He was past all the dangerous rusty nails in the old wood and could hurry over to the tiny cinderblock shed and the wall.

The wall was made of natural stones.  Each one a different size and shape.  It didn’t even look like there was any grout.  They just fit together so well that they stayed exactly where they needed to be.

Cary ran is fingers over one of the stones.  It was rough and cool and felt exactly as he’d expected.  It wasn’t covered by moss or damp or anything.  It was just a stone, but Cary wondered how long it had been there.  Who had set it there.  Who had decided that the wall needed to be built?

He looked up and as far as he could tell, it wasn’t part of a wall.  It had always been this height.  The top was smooth and capped by flat stones.  It wasn’t a ruin exactly; it just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Cary edged closer to the well-house, trying to see through the gap made by the upside down arch.  There was a tree growing just on the other side.  Its branches reached out through the arch, but they didn’t go any further left or right than the width of the arch.

A glance at his watch let him know he still have ten minutes before he had to be back at the car.  He pressed on the roof of the well-house to make sure it was sturdy, and then hefted his foot up there so he could push himself up onto the wall where the bottom of the arch was.

Cary clambered up onto the wall, kneeling carefully on the slightly uneven stones.  They’d been worn away a bit and weren’t as smooth and flat as he guessed they were when the wall was first made.

When Cary looked up, his mouth fell open.  His eyes were so wide he could feel them stretching at the corners as he let his eyes rove over the scene before him.

It was like a tiny metropolis out of some fantasy novel.  There were little stone buildings and tiny cobbled streets.  There were tiny parks and something that looked a little like a clock tower that had no clock.  There was something sort of like a church, but there was a symbol he couldn’t quick make out instead of a cross at the top of the steeple tower.

At first, all he saw were the buildings, the streets, and the layout of the place.  It was just so much.  It would have taken ages and ages for someone to build something like this.  Just one of the little stone buildings would have been so complicated and taken so much work and attention to details.

It wasn’t until he’d already slipped off the wall, stepped past the tree, and knelt down beside the nearest building that he realized there were things moving in the tiny city.  And not just animals or bugs or something either.  There were people.  Tiny, perfectly-sized, scaled-to-the-buildings people.

Cary pinched the back of his hand.  This couldn’t be real.  He couldn’t actually be seeing this.

For a second, he thought he heard his sister calling his name, but then one of the little people looked up.

Cary held very still as she gazed up at him.

When she started yelling, he sat back on his heels, startled by the noise.  It sounded like words, but not in a language he knew.

He watched as more and more of the tiny people flooded through the streets toward him.