Sudden Shifts – Would You Like Ice With That?

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for today is Sudden Shifts.

You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hale starts descending from the sky. Write a post about what happens next.
If you need visual inspiration, this happened last week in Russia:

The first time I ever saw hail I thought pumpkin seeds were launching themselves out of the ground. Hail bounces when it hits, and it was the size and shape of pumpkin seeds. Never having seen this icy form of precipitation before, pumpkin seeds were my closest visual reference. Why they were popping out of our neighbor’s lawn was beyond me. But bits of ice falling from the sky and bouncing several inches from the grass didn’t seem any more logical at the time. It wasn’t even cold out! Context is important.

Changing from a lovely, sun-shiny day at the beach to clouds, rain, and hail can be jarring to say the least. Swimwear offers little protection against the sting of ice balls at terminal velocity. When this kind of change happens in the span of a few seconds you might scratch your head and wonder if the earth is coming to an end. If not the earth, then surely your sunny day at the beach is doomed and you better grab your watermelon and towel and take shelter stat.

That’s when you get out your cell phone or video camera and record this little atmospheric surprise party because you’re still not entirely sure you aren’t imagining this. Maybe you fell asleep on your beach towel after you ate that second slice of pepperoni pizza and your un-quenchable thirst is driving some strange dreams. So even with all the witnesses, you want evidence. Because, really? Hail. Wasn’t it sunny just a minute ago?

Change can be like that – one minute it’s sunshine and watermelon, the next, the world is flinging ice pellets at your head. The trick is to escape serious injury and get through it. Maybe you gather evidence. Maybe you now have fresh ice for your Diet Coke. Enjoy.


Pink Fluffy Walls, From the Top

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 19, 2014 is From the Top. It beckons:

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. It almost sounds like fun, but these odd, temporary structures were built to facilitate repairs on our building. The crew can work on the outside while residents remain living inside.

I’m not sure how much I feel like writing about our cotton candy walls, but I’m hoping we can look back on this someday and say, “whew, we made it through!” There’s a lot of tragedy in the world right now. Our stuff seems pretty minor. But it’s our stuff.

These repairs are needed to fix faulty construction and the resulting conditions. Previous attempts did virtually nothing. Now that our buildings have practically turned into oatmeal, this is what’s necessary to really truly make our buildings sound. Put simply, the outside 25% of our home is being demolished and rebuilt. Some neighbors have not taken well to the repairs. They add angry, sometimes even comical, notes to public message boards.

It has been a long, drawn-out process. This mess shouldn’t ‘t happen in modern days of county building inspectors. But it did.

When the temporary “security walls” went up in early April, folks asked us how long it would take. The standard notification put the rough estimate at 2-5 weeks. I said I wouldn’t be surprised if it took two months.

And here we are. It has been over three and a half months. We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. The smell of freshly sawn wood has subsided, but it’s still pretty strange.

There’s near total darkness in our living room no matter what time of day. Is it 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning? We check a clock and turn on lamps.

Our “walls” are made of 2x4s, clear plastic sheeting, and pink household insulation. These walls have become like a fourth resident – a guest who has overstayed a visit.

Repairs are getting done. That’s good!

And an unexpected bright spot in all of this is the workers. They sometimes sing and yell in Spanish or even play music. If I’m home I can hear them as if they’re in the same room. They kind of are in the same room. It’s quite surreal and usually makes me smile amid the chaos.

A recent Daily Prompt, suggested we name our favorite procrastination destination. I have a recent new one. I started watching, Under the Dome.

Under the Dome is a TV miniseries based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. I’m not normally much of a Stephen King fan. I don’t normally watch much television.

It was the middle of the night. I was awake and too tired to do much else, so I thought I might stream some Firefly on Amazon. That’s when I saw the gleaming bubble on the artwork for Under the Dome.

I got hooked. King is certainly good at that.

I watched a little during the day, and my daughter saw a bit of it. “What’s that, Mom?” I wondered if it was age appropriate for her, but I let her watch some.

She thought it was creepy. She’s right. Then, a couple of days later she wanted to watch more. So did I.

We had just watched another episode when I looked up at our pink, fluffy walls and said, “I kind of feel like we’re living under a dome with these walls.”

My daughter replied, “Yeah, I was just thinking that same thing!”

At least the dome let’s the light in. And well, we’re not trapped inside to the point that we can’t get out, so that’s good. Really good even.

But there is a strange fluffy presence looming over us from floor to ceiling. Much like the residents of Chester’s Mill, we don’t know when this barrier will go away. We are still living behind fluffy, pink walls. It’s a process and maybe a strange little adventure.

Now? Later! — Not Just Candy from the 70s.

The prompt for July 14 was: Now? Later! It asks:

We all procrastinate. Website, magazine, knitting project, TV show, something else — what’s your favorite procrastination destination?

In a way, everything I do feels like a form of procrastination. If I’m doing the laundry, it means I’m not doing something else like cleaning the sink in the bathroom. So I’m thinking there’s a very fine line between procrastination and prioritization.

There is, perhaps, a two stage litmus tests for this difference. First, does the object of my attention actually need to get done? And second, does it need to get done now?

If I’m doing something that needs to get done, then it’s probably more an issue of prioritization. Laundry needs to get done. But if I should really be doing something else at this very moment, then it also becomes a form of procrastination. Doing the laundry but there are dishes I should get done before I make my daughter’s lunch which needs to happen now. So basically I procrastinate all the time and call it prioritization. I seem to get more stuff done this way.

Pretty much any time I’m writing, I’m procrastinating on some level, because there’s always something else that needs to get done. That’s both procrastination and prioritization. If I make writing a priority, then am I still procrastinating?

Maybe procrastination becomes a matter of degrees. How badly am I procrastinating? Laundry is a sort of single-level procrastination. It needs to get done, but probably not five minutes before we’re supposed to leave the house.

Then there’s double level procrastination. That’s stuff that I don’t need to do, and I definitely don’t need to be doing it now. Because all it does is steal time from all the other things that need to get done.

For me, the two things that I name as my biggest vices are Carcassonne and Candy Crush (it’s not just candy from the 70s). Neither one of these needs to get done, but they happen. Oh, I try to multitask to minimize the amount of precious time it’s sucking from my life. Play a little Candy Crush in the bathroom anybody? (Sorry if that’s too much information.) Bathroom time needs to happen. Why not multitask? Sometimes my brain really does need a break from all the “must do” things and Carcassonne and Candy Crush offer that in a colorful, satisfying, calorie-free way. I can’t do laundry or dishes in the bathroom. I might as well play a game. So wait, isn’t that a form of single level procrastination? It doesn’t really need to get done, but if I’m going to do it, that’s a good time. It all seems logical to me until the family yells, “hay, are you playing Carcassonne in there?”

Not a “Seat Guru”

Seat Guru, today’s Daily Prompt, asks:

You get to plan a dinner party for 4-8 of your favorite writers/artists/musicians/other notable figures, whether dead or alive. Who do you seat next to whom in order to inspire the most fun evening?

Planning where people sit at a dinner party would be like a special kind of torture to me. I can’t help but shake my head at this type of contrived social stuff. I prefer a gathering that lets guests sit where they like. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails then meander to the table.

I understand why people might assign seating. For example, somebody’s Aunt Gloria and Cousin Martin argue which makes everybody miserable. Don’t let them sit next to each other. Fine. I figure those people will probably avoid sitting next to each other anyway, and if they don’t we’ll adjust as needed if there’s a problem. I don’t mind sitting next to anybody in my family. And I like sitting next to new people.

On the other end of that social spectrum, there are times you might want to seat folks next to each other because you’re sure this will be a good thing. Perhaps there’s a gathering of dignitaries whom you’re convinced will facilitate peaceful agreements if you give them talk time at a relaxed dinner party flowing with their favorite single malt. Go for it. You want to hook up Tim and Juanita because you’re sure they will really like each other. OK.

If I was having a high-level important dinner party, I might consider hiring somebody who loves to do that planning kind of thing. There are people like that. Maybe I’d ask a friend for advice.

What I’d really like is to have a buffet so people could sit and eat what they like and occasionally return for seconds thus allowing guests to shuffle seats so that they can talk to a variety of people. That sounds like fun! I want to talk to everybody and let them do the same. For that matter, since I’d want to have a variety of excellent food too, a good buffet seems like the way to go. People can eat what they like while sitting where they like.

So let’s say I’m having a dinner party, and we’ve established that I’m not going to stress over who sits where. I’d probably want to invite John and Hank Green and their wives. I’ve enjoyed vlogbrothers videos for years. John is a writer, and Hank, a musician. I love John Green’s writing. He seems like he’d be very cool to talk with at a party. I first saw vlogbrothers videos when Harry Potter Deathly Hallows was being released, and Hank sang “Accio Harry Potter.” It was great! I felt like there were like-minded people in the world! Other than Hank, I’m not really in awe of having musicians as dinner guests, so I’m probably not going to invite more unless they’re there purely for entertainment, they also do something else, or they happen to be somebody’s spouse. Don’t get me wrong, I love music. I love musicians.

I’d invite Samuel Clemons — he was great on Star Trek TNG! (Yes, I know he wasn’t really on ST:TNG.) But he really seems like he’d be a good conversationalist at a party.

Joanne (J.K.) Rowling and her husband. I’m a pretty big Harry Potter fan (see above), and she seems like a sharp lady. I’d probably ooze with fangeekness and embarrass myself, but I would not care.

Maybe John Scalzi and his wife because I’ve enjoyed his blog for decades (not actually decades, more like decade plus) and his books too. And I’ve maybe already had dinner with them before a long long time ago, but that’s another story. So then perhaps I shouldn’t invite them, but that would probably be wrong because I think it would be fun.

I’m at nine people and not yet done with my list. That was fast.

I’d like to invite Ray Bradbury. I’d question him on how not driving works for him because D doesn’t drive either. I’d like tips on making that work well. Also his were some of the few science fiction books on my high school reading lists, so I got to read him and get school credit. What’s not to like?

Do I have to count spouses in the 4-8 people limit? I mean, can it be 4-8 notable people and the rest are an unspecified number of other invitees? ‘Cause, if so, I’d invite spouses, and I’d like to invite friends and family who would enjoy this little shindig too.

If I’m strictly limited to inviting only 4-8 people total, then I guess I’d have to drop Scalzi and his wife because I’ve not met the other people before.

Hold on. Kurt Vonnegut. I forgot about Kurt Vonnegut. I’d like to include him. Would it be rude to drop some of the spouses?

I remember being a young teen or tween and catching the movie Slaughterhouse-Five on late-night TV. I was supposed to be asleep and every ten minutes or so I’d tell myself I’d watch for only ten minutes more, but I watched the entire movie. More recently, I read Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness and more. I love that he can admire Jesus without being Christian. I wish everybody could appreciate the teachings of wise people without having to take sides on religion. I love Vonnegut’s take on kindness and forgiveness. I think more of both would go a long way toward making the world a better place. There seems to be too much eye-for-an-eye mentality, today, and, well, ever.

Wait! I just remembered another one to invite … And, what, I only invited one woman? That can’t be right.

This is not easy.

Brought to You By the Letter “S:” Can’t Stand Me

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt is: Can’t Stand Me

What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?

I am behind on these Daily Prompt blog posts. My links to pingback the Daily Prompt site had a “https:” at the beginning instead of “http:.” Oops. How’d that “s” get there? So pingbacks weren’t working to add my blog entries to the list of prompt-inspired blog posts. One pesky little letter.

As for what I find more unbearable: watching a video of myself or listening to a recording of my voice? Letter “s” trumps again! I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice whether a sound-only recording or video with sound. I do not sound like I think I sound. I sound like a little kid.

Sometimes I leave voicemail for D at home, and if he doesn’t listen to it before I do, then I end up hearing my own voice. It is a little bit like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. OK, not that bad, but weird nonetheless.

Frame of Mind: Cubic

The Daily Prompt for today, July 9, 2014 is Frame of Mind:

If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?

I think I’d need a good sized canvas with gallery-wrapped edges – the kind where you don’t necessarily need a frame and the painting itself is about two inches thick. Maybe it’s even a cube. I am a bit square, and I cram a lot into my schedule. So right now, I could use the extra space. Hmm, does that mean I’m spacey?

I like color and contrast, so I’d hope my mind would come out that way. Parts might be colorful interspersed with simple shades of black, white, and grays. I’m happy and kind of stressed too. I’m afraid there would be sections that would start out making lots of sense – perhaps like the dinner with zucchini that’s on my mind or the craft soap we’re making in the kitchen — but then it’s going to change because there are words and letters popping in. There will probably be some weird parts I can’t quite figure out. Happy parts that look like laughter and love. And I’ll probably have one section that looks like a little pool of goo — that’s me when I’m tired.

Most people, I find, have some unexpected surprises lurking inside. Maybe I will too.

Vital Fluids, Photo Flash

I’m very excited, not only, to have recently finished a story and entered it in Enchanted Spark’s Photo Flash contest. I also won! Yay! These are generally fun short stories prompted by, or based on, a photo and are under 1,000 words. In the case of Vital Fluids, it was also inspired by the lack of air conditioning in my car.

Click here to read Vital Fluids.

Visit the rest of the beautiful website too. There are some really helpful tips for writers of fiction and super nice people. They have recipes, book reviews, and other fun and excellent short stories too!

Rustic Picnic, Reviving Bricks

The Daily Post’s daily prompt for July 8 is, Revivng Bricks:

You just inherited a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside. Assuming money is no issue, what do you do with it?

My schedule is fairly packed today, so my response will be short. I’ll fill out my ten-minutes of writing and be out.

With a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside, I would first get out my camera gear and tripod so that I may take extensive photos of the decaying building. The picture I’ve already formed in my head is full if texture – crumbling paint, splintered wood, patina on door knobs and sheet metal. I’d try to go at dawn and dusk to allow dreamy light to permeate interesting nooks and crannies. Capture the long stretch of light through dusty, curtainless windows.

I believe I’d pack a picnic lunch and large blanket or towel so I could relax nearby.

If the building is bad enough one my see it fall at any moment. I’ll set up my tripod and ready my camera before I eat.

If the building was somewhat more stable, I’ll see about what, if anything, could be salvaged. Could the mansion be repaired and renovated? At the very least is there an old wooden table standing strong in the vast kitchen? A little care and wood oil might reveal something stunning.

My home is being repaired now so repairs can and do happen on troubled structures. I would need to weigh the options.

In the case of abandoned buildings, I’ve heard they can stand for years. It is only when the roof goes very bad or collapses that inside rapidly falls to rot. Water returns all to dirt and soil.

In Your Face, Roaring Laughter

The Daily Prompt from the Daily Post for July 7, 2014 is Roaring Laughter:

What was the last thing that gave you a real, authentic, tearful, hearty belly laugh? Why was it so funny?

The last time I had a real, authentic, tearful, hearty belly laugh? That’s easy! It was Friday, July 4th. My daughter and I were invited to a friend’s house to try out some new games. We like games and we like our friends, so it’s already a good start.

One of the games they had was the Electronic Catch Phrase Decades Game. You can select from five decades — 1970s through 2010s. The liquid crystal display gives a set of “catch phrases” from that decade. These include expressions, songs, bands, famous people, etc. One person holds the machine and she or he gives clues so that the others can guess the “catch phrase.”

It was fun for the kids. They know the most recent decade or two. I discovered I’ve been living under a rock for the past thirty years.

I scored well for the 70s and 80s, but start to get pretty foggy around the 90s. I didn’t recognize many of the items from 2000s and 2010s at all. Forget about guessing! I can’t even provide clues. If they had catch phrases that focused on science fiction instead of pop culture from the 90s, 00s, and 10s, I may have faired a bit better.

So 70s and 80s I can manage! There were many belly laughs. I am totally uncoordinated when under timed pressure and playing guessing games.

One “catch phrase” was “In Your Face.” So I literally “got in” the other mom’s face. Inches away, I made some kind of grunting noise because I couldn’t think of any words. The other mom had no idea what to make of it. I think she thought I was just nuts. So then I came up with better clues and she worked it out. Then we laughed even harder because yeah.

I about died laughing when the other mom gave clues for me to guess “Berry White.” She imitated him excellently. “Can’t get enough of your love, baby.” It was as if he was being channelled right through a forty-something mom. I was laughing so hard I almost couldn’t say “Berry White.”

The kids lost interest in the 70s and 80s and were jumping on the trampoline by then.

Good times.

The Simplest Writing Advice


I very much like this post from Fiction All Day. In fact, I think I’ll use this opportunity to try to “reblog.” This is my first attempt at reblogging, so apologies in advance if I somehow manage to break WordPress.

Originally posted on Fiction All Day:

Writers are an incredibly insecure group of people.  It’s true.  I’m even insecure about writing about our insecurities - what if people get upset about it?  (If you did, sorry).  But the fact is that we are very insecure, and an extension of that fact is that it isn’t an insult. In many way it actually makes a lot of sense. Fiction is hard to judge (people are entitled to their own opinion, unless, of course, it’s just plain wrong), it’s often difficult for writers to tell if they’re getting better, and each piece of writing takes so long to finish and is so time consuming that it’s not easy to finish it on faith alone.  And while each book you write might make you a better writer, it might take two or three (read: a ton) of them for your improvement to be noticeable.  Because of all this, confidence is something that…

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