Can a Magic 8 Ball help you write? Signs point to yes.

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I bought a Magic 8 Ball. For divination? (“You may rely on it.”) For nostalgia? (“Ask again later.”)

Something in me suspects it could be used as a writing-prompt tool (“Reply hazy try again”) but I haven’t quite figured out how. Which makes that actual answer I just got out of the ball a little on-the-nose (“As I see it, yes.” I swear I’m not making these up).

When you’re feeling stuck and not at all creative, don’t pass up opportunities for inspiration that might be staring directly at you. Like a Magic 8 Ball from Target that seems to be on a streak today (“My sources say no”).

Even a sarcastic Magic 8 Ball.

Writing is, at its heart, about making someone you don’t know understand you or understand a world as you see it. Sometimes, though, you don’t really feel that in touch with your perspective yourself. And that’s when it’s OK, or actually good, to get silly. Take a Magic 8 Ball at its word (“Ask again later.” I told you it was sarcastic).

Will this Magic 8 Ball help me finish the novel I’m currently writing? (“You may rely on it.” Sarcastic AND over-confident, just what I like in a plastic fortune-telling toy.) Well, my response to that is who knows.

But I’ll tell you this. It did help me write a blog post (“It is certain.” Slow your float there, buddy), and for that alone, it’s worth the cost of the dubious blue liquid inside.

When in doubt, play. (“Signs point to yes.”)

See? The Magic 8 Ball agrees.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

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On a Tuesday that feels like a Monday

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By Mark Dumont (Flickr: Alpaca) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Snow outside, and right now there’s a strange mix of glowing sun and flat gray clouds. I wonder if it’s going to snow again.

I’ve been slow to the blog today, slow after a night packed full of dreams that disintegrated as soon as I opened my eyes.Where I’ve been I couldn’t say, but it’s left a veil of groggy in its wake. Not sleepy, but the kind of groggy where you feel like you’ve left something unfinished, something you must get back to, but you’ve forgotten the task.

And here we are. I definitely need a cup of tea.

Ah, and there’s the snow. Now outside has a veil of groggy too.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

Aunty Ida’s Twist of F.A.T.E.

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Earlier this week I embarked on Fiction Can Be Fun’s writing prompt challenge. Here’s the story inspired by this image. Check the comments on the prompt post for more stories!

Aunty Ida’s Twist of F.A.T.E.

“It’s just that I try and I try and I can’t seem to make anything come out right,” she said, her broad, round face earnest.

“I see,” said Aunty Ida, clipboard in hand. “Nothing at all?”

“No, nothing,” she said.

“So everything goes awry?”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, completely. And now I feel like I’m fated—”

“No such thing as fate,’ said Ida. “You need to get that idea out of your head. Some things are meant to be and others are not, but no such thing as fate.”

Perla squinted at her. “Huh?” she said.

“Fate isn’t a thing. The future isn’t set. Except for what is.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t follow, because it sounds like you’re saying the same thing in different words.”

“It’s a common problem,” said the strawberry-blonde in the corner, her arms crossed, her head even with the mid-wall wainscoting. “A very common problem.”

“Now now, Dot, don’t get snarky,” said Ida. She returned her attention to Perla. “Isn’t it clear? Might be easier if I show you. Look,” Ida said, disappearing into the cabinet under the long stainless steel bench, one of many in what looked like a lab from a movie. A horror movie, Perla thought. One of those really creepy ones.

Ida re-emerged with a long copper cylinder that morphed from convex to concave, from open at one end to open on the other as she shifted it in air. “This is a Mondretti Cylinder.”

“OK.” Perla wished she’d never picked up the flyer at the farmers market, printed on paper with a border of luridly-colored, overly plump flowers. And yet she couldn’t help herself.

“Problems Sloved with SCIENCE!,” it read.

“Reasonable rates.

Contact Aunty Ida

“Problems sloved,” should have been the clue, but then again she did have problems. Many, many problems.

“This cylinder is essential for F.A.T.E.” Ida nodded enthusiastically her own words, the escaped wisps from her bun agreeing.

“You said, three seconds ago, fate didn’t exist,” said Perla, bending for her purse and finding she couldn’t reach it without toppling the stool. She braced herself to dismount. “So I think I’m going to get going—”

“Not fate, F.A.T.E.”

“Not hearing a difference,” she said. She glanced at Dot, still leaning into the corner. “Do you hear a difference?”

“If you value Mark’s pot roast with all of the trimmings, and I mean all of the trimmings, Dot, you will not answer that question.”

“How many trimmings?” Dot swallowed, her arm barrier loosening.

“All of them. And I suspect he could be persuaded to make a crème brulee for dessert.”

Dot squinted at Ida, her head tilted right. “You don’t like crème brulee.”

Ida’s eyebrow shot up, went down, and went up again. “But you do.”

“Sorry, Perla,” Dot said, raising her hands in surrender, “I’m out.”

“Like you’re leaving?” she said, blood draining from her face.

“Oh no, I wouldn’t leave you alone with Ida.”

“Probably a wise choice,” said Ida. “Anywho, on to the treatment.”

“I haven’t agreed to any treatment.” Perla finally managed to wiggle her way off the stool, and she stood firmly on the squeaky lab floor.

“You will,” said Ida. “Back to it. F.A.T.E.”

“But you said fate didn’t exist.”

“Not that one. This one.” Ida waved her hand over the middle lab bench and a black oozy substance followed her movements, ebbing and flowing, cresting and receding. With a buzz and hum, a hulking machine shuddered across the lab, a row of round orange-yellow lights flickering on in the green metal housing.

“And you’re sure about the pot roast?” said Dot as Ida grabbed the cylinder and headed for the machine, which moved on from the hum to an asthmatic wheeze.

“Completely.” Ida flicked a column of dull steel switches, and a large round screen, bright green concentric circle over dull green concentric circle, threw a green cast on the floor.

“Sorry,” said Dot to Perla, her small nose wrinkling in regret.

“You’d sell me out for a pot roast?”

“You should stay for dinner.”

“She may not be here,” said Ida.

“Excuse me?” Perla slung her purse over her shoulder and the strap rebounded, sliding down her arm. “Not be here?”

Ida spun to look at her. “In a good way,” she said unconvincingly. Twisting off a black cap with curved indentations all around, she slowly, with both hands, guided the cylinder into the green metal machine. “F.A.T.E.,” she said, “is powering up.”

“This doesn’t make sense to me. Nothing you’re saying makes sense to me. Picking up that dumb flyer at the farmers market and calling the number doesn’t make sense to me.” Though she wanted her feet to walk toward the door, Perla couldn’t tear her eyes from the rainbow of light radiating from the top of machine, reflecting on the tiled ceiling.

“That one’s really on you,” said Dot.

“It’s true, Dot has you there.” Ida shrugged. “I told Amelia to proofread it first, blame her.”

“You still distributed them.” Dot wandered closer to the machine.

“I didn’t want to waste the paper. It was fancy. Let’s move on. Your F.AT.E. awaits, Perla.”

“But you said—”

“Oh my, haven’t I told you? It’s an acronym. No wonder you’re so confused.” Ida threw her head back with an echoey honking laugh, and paused to wipe away a tear. “Factual Alternative Temporal Enactor. That’s what this is. It’s powered by that Mondretti Cylinder.”

“But what does it do?”

“Fixes your mistakes. All of them. Any of them. Why rely on destiny when you can have F.A.T.E?” Ida paused a second. “That’s definitely going on a poster. Don’t you think it should be a poster, Dot?”

“Maybe,” she said. “You’re sure about the pot roast?”

“You can page Janine if you don’t believe me.”

“You people are really oddly obsessed with food,” said Perla. “You seriously think this thing can solve my problems?” The F.A.T.E. had stopped wheezing, instead now giving a sputtering cough, two chugs and a whine. Sputtering cough, two chugs and a whine.

“Probably,” said Ida. “Or it could irrevocably damage everything you’ve ever tried to build in your life. What do you have to lose?”

“Everything?” She flung her hands. “Apparently?”

“Eh.” Ida’s left shoulder rose. “Doesn’t sound like much to lose.”

“Ida, that’s not very nice,” said Dot.

“But true,” she said, her sharp eyes on Perla’s round face. “Clearly true. So are you ready? You only have to put your hand there—” she pointed to a roughly hand-shaped glass opening in the metal casing, “and focus on a regret, and off we go.”

“I don’t know,” said Perla. “What do you think?” she asked Dot.

Dot shifted her head to one side then the other, considering. She ended with a shrug. “There’s always pot roast,” she said. “And the possibility of crème brulee.”

“I don’t think so.” Perla pulled the strap of her purse onto her shoulder again and crossed the lab to the door. “This was clearly a mistake.” She grabbed the door handle.

“You said everything turns out wrong, Perla.” Ida’s joviality had melted and her face went still. “How do you know leaving now isn’t another faulty decision in a long string of them?

Perla froze. She didn’t know. She didn’t know at all.

Not giving herself even an extra second to think about it, she thumped across the room and before she could stop herself, she dropped her hand resolutely into the hand outline.

The F.A.T.E. rumbled and shook, and the rainbows shooting from the top bent until Perla herself was nothing more than a rainbow swirl.

And then she was gone.

“Huh,” said Ida. “Wasn’t quite what I expected.” She stared at the air where Perla had been and then turned to Dot. “Dinner?”

***

The sellers packed up the produce they couldn’t offload cheap, dismantling their tents and tables while negotiating their final deals of the day. Perla’s bag heavy with beets and tomatoes and frilly kale, she made sure she hadn’t missed anything good. Heading toward the market exit and back to the street, a stack of flyers with lurid, overly-plump flowers caught her eye.

She picked one up.

Problems sloved with SCIENCE!”  said the flyer. Spotting the typo, Perla laughed to herself. “Nope,” she said, returning the flyer to its stack, “I don’t think so.”

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

Squelches

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Positive: it’s warmer than it’s been in ages. Not so positive: it’s misty and rainy and at 41 degrees, not a pleasant combination for outside.

Remember what I said about temperamental weather?

So yeah.

I made an experimental sort-of peppermint mocha, with a bit of cocoa mix, coffee (natch!) and a candy cane. I can’t decide if it’s a success or a terrible disaster that will make cleaning the mug a problem. That kind of a day.

An in-between day.

It’s definitely a day for curling up an escaping into imaginary worlds, with this one remaining so relentless dreary. Lately it’s either 3 degrees and clear as crystal ice, or above freezing but with a rain that makes it feel like it’s not.

The world kind of feels that way too.

There is so much we can’t control. Like the weather. It will be what it will be, and it doesn’t care whether we like it.

Maybe there’s a lesson in that.

So we take our days as they come, the bright, the gray, the misty, the soggy. The extremely soggy. I can just imagine the squelch of the recently-revealed brown grass today.

You know what? Why don’t we delight in the squelches, and splash in our puddles and accept that today, the air is wet. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

(Yes, hypothetical reader, it is more rain, but why ruin a perfectly good metaphor?!)

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

 

Maybe there’s enough Birnam Wood to go around

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If you missed yesterday’s post, there are two fun writing challenges awaiting you! And now on to today.

Today, a day of warmer temps and a foggy glaze over the world. Sometimes the weather can be far too on the nose. Stop trying so hard, weather. Just be yourself.

Which, come to think of it, here, firmly nestled in the Midwest, a lake the size of a sea completely taking up the direction “east,” “yourself” for weather is pretty darn temperamental. So in that case, carry on.

I can see bluer patches of the white, though, high up in the sky. The fog will burn off.

Eventually.

I wish the same could be said of all fogs. All failures to grasp the obvious. All hidden plots. Which made me think of MacBeth and those tricky trees, marching straight toward MacBeth’s destiny.

Does Birnam Wood advance upon our power-hungry but ill-suited would-be ruler, complete with his very own male Lady MacBeth?

Only time and Grand Juries can tell. But sitting in a quiet mist where you can almost imagine three witches cackling over a bubbling cauldron, a person can’t help but hope.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

Ready for Another Writing Challenge? #WinWriWk

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Well I’m not! But I’ll be doing it anyway, because you know me and a writing challenge. And apparently I’m going to do two.

First things first, as this is more time sensitive, there’s this one from my friends over at Fiction Can Be Fun,  and @debsdespatches. It’s a writing prompt based on a funky image called the Mondretti Cylinder, stories to be posted on your blog this Friday, January 12, 2018 (TWENTY-EIGHTEEN, PEOPLE, it’s nuts), with the link in the comments of the original Fiction Can Be Fun post.

See? Fun. Can’t resist.

On to challenge two. This one is called “Winter Writing Week,” (#WinWriWk) and it comes to us from @FunSizeSuze and  (he’s a really busy guy!) via his blog, A Back of the Envelope Calculation. Here’s the post for details, but the best part, in my opinion, is that we can choose our week, any time from now until the end of February to commit to a writing project or our writing in general. Or, even better, to form a writing habit.

I love an open-ended challenge.

I know what I need to do–I have a novel about 20,000 words from completion–so I’ll find my challenge within that. Check out the post for more ideas, including those suggestions for boosting your writing routine.

So who’s with me? Pens in the air! Ready, set, type!

What’s that, hypothetical reader? Yes, you can put the pen down now. I didn’t really expect you to do this with a pen.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

Writing, Chilled.

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By photo taken by flickr user Jenni Jones (flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m in that odd writing phase where I’m full of ideas but not full of words. Concepts, yes.

Translating those concepts to that blinking cursor — that writer’s nemesis — on the screen, not so much. Maybe it’s the icy landscape, snow falling in the frigid air, that has frozen the well.

Probably not. But when in doubt, blame the weather. Here in Chicago, there’s nearly always weather to blame.

It makes me wish Aunty Ida could intervene, and take the ideas, wholesale and complete, from my head to the page. Easy peasy.

But we writers know there are no shortcuts. Only fingers moving over a passive keyboard, imperfect word by imperfect word, growing and growing until there’s something we can hack into imperfect shape.

So when the words don’t come, we need to use lesser words. Maybe our future selves can set things straight. That’s why editing exists.

And off I go. I have ideas to sculpt into something else entirely.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.