Tuesday, April 20, 2021

WEP April Challenge-Freedom Morning

Hello everyone! It's time for WEP's April Challenge! This month's challenge draws inspiration from the wonderful work of art FREEDOM MORNING.

If you'd like to join in with us, click here!

I typically write a work for fiction for these challenges, but this time around, I felt like jotting down some thoughts on freedom and sharing them with everyone. Feel free to let me know what you think and what freedom means for you in your life.

A Perspective on Freedom

What is freedom?

This is a question I think we should all be asking ourselves, and we should also examine why we come up with the particular answers we do.

Freedom calls to us all as human beings. For those who have been enslaved, it may have seemed like an impossible dream. Even so, the call of freedom is a strong one, and no matter how long the odds, human beings are often willing to undertake tremendous risk to make freedom a reality for them.

When I think of freedom, I tend to see it as opportunity. You can make choices for yourself such as what kind of job you do, where you live, and how you spend your time. Outside forces and people may place certain limitations on you, but you can live your life in a way that brings you happiness and satisfaction.

Events in the world have prompted me to shift my perspective on what freedom means. Freedom isn’t only about the big picture. It is also found in the smaller aspects of life that many of us take for granted.

I live in the United States. The land of the free. We pride ourselves on that description. Yet our history of slavery proves that freedom was not always available to everyone living here. And while many would like to wave away that history and pretend the effects of that past cannot still be felt today, they’re wrong.

As I watch current events unfold, I can’t help but think of all the little ways my freedom differs from the freedoms of others.

I am free to get pulled over by the police and not be afraid. I am free to walk through a neighborhood without anyone questioning my right to be there. I am free to go into a store and not be singled out as a potential shoplifter.

Freedom encompasses so many little things I usually take for granted. I can take them for granted, because my skin color allows me to.

Sometimes people need a shift in perspective. We need to challenge ourselves to question our assumptions and listen to others whose lives and experiences differ from ours.

The dawn of freedom for those who were once enslaved was filled with hope and many promises of a better future. More than a century and a half later, some of those promises have yet to be fulfilled.

We must work together to fulfill them.

Word Count: 408


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

WEP February Challenge-The Kiss

Hello everyone! It's time for the first WEP Challenge of 2021! This year our challenges are inspired by pieces of art. We take our inspiration now from Gustav Klimt's THE KISS.

If you'd like to join in on the fun, check it out here!

The Wedding Kiss

The gown glimmered with thousands of crystals. Every movement caught the light of the room in new, spellbinding ways. Twelve layers of white tulle puffed out around Sophia so her petite frame dominated the small room. Her stylist flitted about, making minute adjustments, reminding her of a tiny bird she used to watch through her bedroom window as a child.

Thoughts of childhood flitted through her mind in much the same way. The modest furniture in her bedroom left her with splinters that plagued her for days before she finally managed to pluck them out. Her threadbare blanket kept some of the chill away, but it wasn’t uncommon for her toes to be numb in the mornings. The ancient furnace in their home struggled to keep up during the coldest months. “Be grateful for what we have,” her mother reminded her each time she made a fuss. “Many people have far less.”

Sophia knew that to be true. A neighbor down the road lost a baby to malnutrition one brutal winter. The town’s homeless hid away in nooks and crannies, trying to hide from the enforcers that wouldn’t hesitate to haul them away. Sophia never knew where the enforcers took them, but once someone had been taken away, they were never seen again.

So yes, Sophia had been fortunate. Her parents scraped by well enough to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. It wasn’t easy, and she suspected they each resorted to things they weren’t proud of to make that happen, but she would never dare ask nor judge.

Her hand fluttered to the heart-shaped locket around her neck. She closed her eyes and wrapped herself in the warmth of the image contained within. She hadn’t looked upon it in years, but she remembered it vividly. The faded photo featured her parents not long after their wedding, wrapped in a blanket while her father planted a loving kiss on his bride’s cheek. She longed to look at it again and run her fingers over the rough, creased surface, but she couldn’t. A smattering of her parents co-mingled ashes now rested inside that very locket, and she dare not disturb their rest.

That kiss had been so loving and tender. Now here she was, about to share her own first kiss with her husband-to-be. A soft knock at the door told her it was time. She popped the breath mint into her mouth as she opened the door.

Her escort, some stern guard whose name she didn’t know, linked his arm with hers and guided her into the nave. Sophia could hardly make sense of the vaulted ceilings or the crowd of thousands crammed into the pews or how long the aisle was. She could only focus on putting one foot in front of the other so she wouldn’t stumble in the high heeled shoes, so alien compared the shabby pauper’s shoes she once wore.

The groom finally came into view, his large frame and chiseled features intimidating to anyone who crossed paths with him. Sophia wondered if his taste for violence was satiated by the way he treated his subjects, or did that violence spill into his private life? Did he intend to treat her kindly, or would he punish her harshly for any perceived transgressions? She doubted any tenderness awaited her in their first kiss as husband and wife. Not like she saw in the photo hanging around her neck.

She took her place beside him.

So many people had spoken of how fortunate she was. “Of all the people who could catch the king’s eye! A nobody from such a poor region. She’s about to have a life of luxury she never imagined.”

It was true that she’d never envisioned the kind of luxury the king enjoyed. His palace was larger by far than the village she called home her whole life. The fact that his entourage ever passed through had been unlikely enough. The news of the plotted insurrection reached a royal informant, and the king came to her town to ensure the executions of all involved went off without a hitch. The audience surrounding the gallows was an odd place to find a bride, but Sophia could hardly complain. Against all odds, he caught her eye, and within no time at all, she’d been swept away in the whirlwind of it all. She would be wed to her handsome king soon enough, and her destiny would be guaranteed.

The priest began to speak. Sophia’s heart raced as she listened just closely enough to react when necessary. The words ran together, and the world was brought into sharp relief once the fateful words passed the priest’s lips.

“You may now kiss your bride.”

Sophia took a deep breath and bit down on the mint as her new husband leaned in for his prize. She tried not to think of the thousands in attendance watching this moment, or the millions more that had tuned in to watch from around the world as the liquid in the center of the mint gushed into her mouth. The minty coating did nothing to mitigate the bitter taste of the poison, so when her king parted her lips with his tongue, he must have tasted it immediately.

The despot who relished in the poverty and suffering of his subjects wrenched away and stumbled back as Sophia fell to her knees. Her vision blurred while guards rushed in to assist the king.

Sophia smiled, assured their efforts would be futile. Her system would shut down faster. She’d gotten more of the poison, after all. Still, only a drop or two would do the job. The king would die without an heir and chaos would follow, but that was fine. She’d gotten her revenge on the man who ordered the executions of many she loved, including her parents. She touched the locket tenderly as she rested her head on the stony floor and drifted away.

Word Count: 1,000


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: February 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a some wonderful co-hosts for this month: Louise-Fundy Blue, Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writerly resources!

The optional question for this month is: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

Blogging has definitely helped me find a community of friends I wouldn't have found otherwise. One of those communities of friends is the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's always reassuring to know that my fellow writers have many of the same feelings of insecurity and self-doubt as I do, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that being a part of this group has offered over the years.

Another supportive community I found through blogging is Write...Edit...Publish. Being a part of this group helped me feel more comfortable sharing my writing with others. It's nice to have a place where you can exchange encouraging words and constructive criticism, all with the goal of strengthening our writing and building bonds between our fellow writers.

Has blogging helped you form friendships and/or communities that you wouldn't have found otherwise?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: January 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another great bunch of co-hosts for this month: Ronel Janse van Vurren, J. Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner, Sandra Cox, and Louise-Fundy Blue.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for lots of great resources for writers!

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

That is an excellent question. For me, bad characterization can throw me out of an otherwise good story. I don't need the main character(s) to be perfect. Far from it. A flawed character feels real more real and can be quite engaging. What I do need is a character with a good voice that I can mesh with. I need a character who leaps off the page and brings me along for the ride with them. If their personality is too flat, or if it rubs me the wrong way, I can't always bring myself to read the story, no matter how good the other elements might be.

How does someone write a compelling character that keeps readers turning the page? I wish I knew all the secrets. I try, and sometimes I succeed. Sometimes something is off and I can't quite put my finger on it. I guess the key is to keep writing and to keep trying.

Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: December 2020


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another wonderful cohort of co-hosts for this month: Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre.

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writerly resources!

The optional question for this month is: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Having kids in the house plays a large role in how much writing I get done at any given time. During the summer months, when all of the kids are out of school and home all the time, it's harder to focus on writing. I still manage to carve out times to write, but the opportunities are less abundant.

2020 started out productive for me, but when the schools shut down in March due to Covid, that made things a bit more difficult. I had to switch gears to help keep their learning on track at home, as well as mediate arguments between my restless children. This cut into my writing time as well. Lack of inspiration during this time also didn't help. The upheaval in normal life took its toll in multiple ways. It hasn't been easy recovering from that.

Still, I'm hoping the first half of 2021 will be a productive time for me as a writer.

Are there times of the year when you're a more productive writer?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Insecure Writer's Support Group: November 2020

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and you know what that means! Let's kick off another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled another great group of co-hosts: Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, Tyrean Martinson, Rachna Chhabria, and me!

Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!

The optional question for this month is: Albert Camus once said, "The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself." Flannery O'Connor said, "I write to discover what I know." Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

That is an excellent question, and I love these quotes. I don't know if I feel competent to keep civilization from destroying itself (there's a lot of pressure there in that statement), but I can certainly relate to what Flannery O'Connor is saying here. Writing can certainly be a process of self-discovery. I use it as such all the time.

However, in seeking to answer this question for myself, I can't help but think of how I first started writing. I made my first attempt at writing a novel when I was six years old. It was awful, I think that goes without saying, but I was eager to put words on the page.

My parents were avid readers when I was growing up, and I emulated that. I also lived out in the country, and though I had half-siblings, I spent most of my childhood as the only child in the house. At least I had a gigantic backyard to keep me entertained. I used to stalk about the yard, weaving around trees and pretending I was on a grand adventure. 

The moment I started learning how to write, I began to translate those imaginary adventures onto the page. Maybe it was the fact that I'd already fallen in love with reading. Perhaps I did it to keep myself entertained. Mostly likely, it was a combination of the two, and I've been writing ever since. I grew up as a writer.

So why do I write?

I write to be who I am.

That's my declaration. I wouldn't be me without writing. It's been such a formative part of my life that I can't see myself without it.

Why do you write?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

WEP October Challenge-Grave Mistake


It's time for our October WEP Challenge! The prompt for this month is Grave Mistake!

I didn't get any real inspiration until last minute, so this little story happened all at once. I hope you enjoy it!

Into the Earth


Sweat beaded on Hank’s brow as he plunged the shovel into the earth. His muscles strained as he lifted another mound of dirt from the growing hole and lofted it onto the pile alongside him. The sun beat down on him without mercy as he worked. This was the first week of October, when the weather was supposed to be turning crisp and cool.

“Someone must have left the gates of Hell open,” Hank muttered as he watched the moist dirt yield to his shovel once more. Instead of being a crisp, fall day, it felt more like the height of summer with temperatures nearing 90 degrees. Not the kind of weather he wanted to be digging in, but he needed the money.

Taking odd jobs helped to pay the bills. Hank tried not to think about his growing pile of debt. It threatened to bury him alive.

He shook his head, flinging some of the sweat droplets from his forehead. No, he wouldn’t think about his money problems now. One of the main benefits of hard physical labor was to temporarily forget about life and immerse himself in the moment.

And so, he toiled away, flinging more and more dirt out of the way. Mrs. Morris, the lady who hired him to dig this darned hole, wanted to install a little reflecting pond beside her garden. It was the kind of unnecessary luxury he couldn’t envision ever installing for himself, but to each his own.

He was about three feet down when his shovel struck something hard. The reverberation ran up both of his arms, jarring his entire body.

“Stupid rocks,” he muttered.

Using the tip of shovel to push the dirt away, he planned to dig up and cast aside the problematic obstruction. A smooth white surface greeted him. Dropping the shovel, he leaned down to grasp the rock with both hands and give it a good yank.

His lower back flared with pain as the rock refused to budge at first. Hank gritted his teeth and gave it a second, mightier tug. The earth finally released it, and he found himself face to face with something he’d never imagined.

Two empty eye sockets stared blankly back at him. A slack jaw hung for a moment before crashing to the ground by his feet.

A skull. And this was no animal skull. It was human. No doubt in his mind about that.

Stunned beyond belief, he sunk to his knees and set the skull down beside him. His hands frantically began pushing dirt out of the way, searching to see if there were any more bones to be found. He couldn’t begin to articulate why, but some dark curiosity had seized him.

Sure enough, within minutes he’d found a fleshless hand. The bones were no longer connected by living tissue, but the soil held them in place, making it impossible to ignore what they meant.

Who was this person, and why in the world were they buried here?

Hank was so immersed in his own thoughts, he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching from behind. He didn’t notice anything at all until he heard a slight gasp.

He turned to find Mrs. Morris there, her hands clasped over her mouth.

Of course she was horrified. Who wouldn’t be to find such a thing in their own back yard? The older woman’s eyes grew wide as saucers as she peered down into the hole.

“Mrs. Morris, are you okay? Do you want me to call the police for you?” Hank asked. Surely they would need to report this. It was going to be a pain, but he couldn’t do anything about that.

She shook her head. “I thought I buried him over yonder,” she muttered, pointing toward the other side of the garden. “Just goes to show that the memory fades over time. My mistake.”

Hank stared at her for a long moment, the truth dawning on him slowly.

Too slowly, as it turned out.

Mrs. Morris already had the shovel in hand. When had she even picked it up?

He started to back away, but she was already mid-swing. The metal connected hard with the side of his head, and he crumpled where he stood.

The world stopped making any kind of sense for a time. He couldn’t say how long, but once he was able to form a coherent thought, Mrs. Morris stood in the hole beside him.

No. This was no hole. It was a grave, and it was about to be his, too.

Though Hank’s vision was blurred, he could make out the edges woman’s deranged smile. She leaned in closer, and Hank was overwhelmed by her putrid breath. If he wasn’t so grievously injured, he might have wondered what she could have eaten to make such a horrific stink.

Perhaps it was better that he didn’t know.

“I will say this,” she said. “It sure was kind of you to dig your own grave for me. My back has been acting up something terrible lately. These old bones aren’t as tough as they used to be.”

Bones. Hank thought of that pile of bones he’d unearthed. The ones that were currently resting beneath his injured body. He was going to decompose on top of them until his bones comingled with those of this other man he’d never met.

A few moments passed as Hank drifted in and out of consciousness. He was only vaguely aware of the dirt raining down on him. In some distant part of his brain, he realized with horror that she wasn’t even going to finish him off before burying him.

It won’t be my bills that bury me alive after all, he thought bitterly.

More dirt fell on top of him. It would take her a while to cover him completely. Bad back, and all.

This whole thing was a grave mistake. That morbid joke, a last taste of gallows humor, carried him into the black for the final time.

Word Count: 1000