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Update from BB in Alabama: May 8

Note from Herb: We’re visiting family in Birmingham, AL. The Internet connection at the motel is flaky at best. Bear with us as we try to get these updates out in a timely manner. Thank for your patience.


For my May 7 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours.

YES! I DID IT! Organized some notes (and took down some new ones) to help with my WIP, re-vamped some of the goals. Did some new writing for the WIP.

Every writer needs to be a reader as well. I’ve always known this, always believed this. I’ve also noted that some of my BEST ideas for writing have come while reading. As I am currently writing a fairy-tale type story, I’m also reading old fairy tales I’ve loved forever, new ones that are mock-ups of old tales in modern garb, and some which are just written as a “new” fairy tale. All of that is to explain why PART of my daily “writing” (3 hours) is actually reading: currently a book named GRIM (edited by Christine Johnson) containing short stories from “some of the best voices in young adult literature today.”

Stories Read:


The Key ~ Rachel Hawkins

1st person: Lana, teen & runner whose Momma acts as fortune teller out of their trailer home with some heads-up help from Lana who actually has some real psychic ability. Lana’s crush on Skye comes to a dangerous point when she “sees” him as a . . . Oops! don’t want to give too much away. Definitely a fun and somewhat twisted story, but too little “fantasy” element for me.

Figment ~ Jeri Smith-Ready

1st person from a non-sentient creature’s POV, whose “thoughts” can be heard by the “right” person, left to Eli by his now-deceased father, a former one-hit wonder musician. Interesting novelty to the POV! How could I make that work in my WIP? The “creature” can bring Eli fame AND fortune, if only he’ll respect the “creature’s” abilities. He names the 0creature “Fig” for Figment (of his imagination). Eli’s band becomes a success, but Fig knows Eli should go solo. The band breaks up at . . . There I go again, almost spoiling the story. . . but it’s a good one!

For my May 8 Minimum GOAL: 3 hours

YES! I DID IT! Double-checked that my COMBO file for Twisted Oaks Hollow had everything in it that it needed. Spent some time reading while visiting HA’s sister, Vickie. Wrote some notes on the reading and ideas that came up; will go back to reading to complete the last of my third hour, and hope to stay the full 3 hours in the motel tomorrow morning, working on Twisted Oaks Hollow, while HA visits family again. Will go with him in the afternoon for family time. Today’s reading covered:


The Twelfth Girl ~ Malinda Lo

Creepy, modern interpretation of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. LOVED the forests of silver and gold trees in the original. In this case, the girls are in college together with an elite group living in The Castle. Only 12 at a time, though three,including the sister of the girls’ leader, Haley, have “disappeared.” Liv, a new girl, is invited to take the sister’s place. They go down through Haley’s closet and/or hole in the floor beneath her bed, enter what seems to be a night club at midnight, dance until 3 am., then return to the Castle “dorms.” A dark, unspecified, probably male, character lurks in the shadows. Eventually Liv looks for help to break the “curse” on the girls and . . . that’s enough! WOW! The best match to the original was the night club’s rooms of crystal, silver and gold leaf décor of three rooms. The old story is turned on its head. Would love to write my own version which would be as non-threatening (at the end) and magical as the original was for me.


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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/30/15

The End‑of‑April Last DAILY Prompt (at least for a while- See the last note): Think of three quite different emotions. Imagine which one of your characters might feel all three of those emotions within a fairly short time period. Write a scene which shows the character flipping from one emotion to another, and possibly even back again. Does s/he then come across as a person who has “flipped out,” or one who is displaying expected and rational feelings? Which of those ways would you most like your reader to think of your character? Just have fun with it!

YES! I DID IT! Disgust, Desire, Fear — I’ll take these three. My MC, an early 30‑something male, wakes up at mid‑day from a nightmare and looks around his habitation: it is cluttered and filthy, and it’s all his fault, as he lives alone. He walks outside and takes a short break from his filth, as well as a drag on his last remaining cigarette, and slips psychologically back into a dream‑state, only to see a luscious, though imaginary, woman — with wings! She’s teased him with her presence before. He wants her — too bad she’s doesn’t seem to be real. He dismisses the idea of trying to find a “real” woman like that. In the next moment, a screeching and mewling, as if of a hundred cats, assaults his ears. And the sound all seems to emanate from his upstairs window. In spite of his terror, he runs back into the house, to find the reality: his pathetic and dilapidated apartment is full of cats — some of them hurt or mutilated. And they blame him and begin to attack, wave upon wave.

He moved from disgust with his life style, to desire for a phantom woman, to fear of the cats. I think most readers would believe him to be a rather reprehensible person, but not one who has “flipped out”. Women readers, in particular, might find his life style disgusting and lazy, and might be disgusted at his interest in the “desirable” winged creature, but his fear of the cats would certainly be understandable. I think male readers could more easily imagine themselves in a position such as his, and might feel a trickle of fear (at least FOR him) as the cats attack. They might sympathize to some extent.

OOooo! I liked the idea of combining several emotions, and writing a scene where a character had logical reason to feel one the other without seeming crazy or out of touch with his reality . . . Okay, it’s a given that HIS “reality” is NOT Reality. But the EVENTS themselves seem even crazier than he does.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )


And for my April 30 Minimum GOAL: 1 hour (this should have been a “clear” day, and therefore a 2‑hour goal day, but family circumstances dictated otherwise, sometimes that happens) so — YES! I DID IT! I worked on finding “order” among the events of this very convoluted story I’m writing. Part of that is in re‑doing parts of it, more or less like the Prompt I gave some time ago about creating a SITUATION, and then coming up with COMPLICATIONS within the situation. In fact, I think I’ll do even more of that with the rest of the story as well.

Note from Herb: As many of you know (and some may not) I do not write the blogs. I just post them. Brenda (BB) is the main engine on this enterprise. I have written a few in the past, but this month has been all her.

We’re getting ready to go on vacation, but we will be posting periodically while we’re gone. There isn’t a set schedule at this time or even a set format. We’re open to suggestions. How about a Throw Back Thursday where we republish one of the more popular blogs from the past two years? A weekly or every other weekly book review? Let us know what you’d like to read about.

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/29/15

From Cheryl: Look at the politics of your world. J.K. Rowling: civil rights to executive actions during war time. Hunger Games, more political than romantic. What goes on behind the scene? Abortion? Gun control? Freedom of Religion? Free Speech? Universal Healthcare? AND WHY do they feel this way? Write it down, but don’t reveal it — and watch characters take on new life. So here’s a writing prompt you don’t need ‑‑‑ in fact, should NOT — to share with your “readers.”

YES! I DID IT! Just a few samples of my thoughts on the politics of my world in Twisted Oaks Hollow: I scarcely think about politics in MY life, let alone in the lives of my characters, so how do I do that? These are good ideas, but how to approach them? Roles of women vs. roles of men might be a way to start. Lackley, for instance, has no property rights, but then her father was an over‑seer more than a land owner. He acted as though he owned the land, but in reality, it would have belonged to the Ultimate Leader, whether King, President, or whatever (I won’t say which here) — and how would I portray that in the story? What if Lackley had been a boy? Would he have inherited his father’s title? Could be. So is it time for Lackley, perhaps on her return, to take over for her father? So far, and I am really at the beginning of this look at their world, she seems to have no siblings, so that might be one way to approach it. What would happen to her father’s “legacy,” if he should die? Or abdicate, or whatever? Since Lackley will have a “sort of” happily ever after at the end — but will have learned much getting there — it only seems natural that she would share the burdens of leadership with her “significant other.” But HE will already have decided to . . . . .

I’ll leave it there, though there’s more. That’s just the beginning of my “secret thoughts” on the politics of Lackley’s world.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )


I made a “happy mistake” on April 28’s report, so here’s the update: I wasn’t supposed to start my 3 hour minimum goal days until May 6, where I wrote it supposing my 2 hours was not enough. So, by doing 2 yesterday, YES! I REALLY DID DO IT!

And for my April 29 Minimum GOAL: 1 hour — YES! I DID IT! and made my one hour by thinking through and writing about the politics of my Twisted Oaks Hollow’s politics. As it turns out, it will particularly have impact on the eventual denouement! Yay, Me!

Tomorrow’s report (for April 30) will be the last of the “daily” blogs which we’ve posted through this entire month. Check in then, to see our announcement of our “What Comes Next” plans!

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/25/15

Well over a year ago, Cheryl wrote ” . . . take the risk. Try that story you’re afraid to waste time on. It might be stupid. It might be unoriginal. Or it might be the greatest story EVER.”

So today’s prompt is to take a risk. Go back to an idea that you gave up because it seemed stupid. Or crazy. Or too hard. Or too short. Or involved too much research. Or . . . whatever made you give it up. Give it your promise: “I will write something on this story for . . . ” Now you decide. All the words you can lay down for ten minutes? 15 minutes a day? A month? How much of your time are you willing to give that unborn idea?

YES! I WILL DO IT! I’ve decided to give my time to an idea born out of an old poem which resonated with me. I’m going to give the story (during the 11 days I have before flying to Alabama for 2 weeks) 2 hours on “clear” days, at least 1 hour on days with appointments (several for doctors, a few for prior commitments).

* * * = 16 hours


I am going to give it 3 HOURS EVERY DAY while I’m in Alabama (AND the two days I’m flying to and from). Some days ‑‑‑ many, I hope ‑‑‑ it will have one whole chunk in the morning. (My mornings often start at 5 or 6 am, sometimes even at 3:10 am, very occasionally even earlier. Those mornings will belong to my Poem Story.)

* * *    = 42 hours


When we get home two weeks later, I will take one day to recuperate: sleep, read, whatever I need; then I will give the Poem Story three, hopefully morning, hour chunks of time, barring appointments. (I know there will be at least one dental one ‑‑‑ but I’ll work around such interruptions to get the 3 hours in.) I will continue that three-hour routine until WIFYR in June.

* * * = 75 hours



* * * = 133 hours . . . WOW!


When WIFYR is over I will Market an essay I have all‑but-ready to go. And I’ll re‑evaluate (and hopefully revise) what’s been done from now through WIFYR


That’s my plan. Sorry, this blog can’t say “YES! I DID IT!” until June 19, but I will post updates on how that’s all working out. Just reporting in to YOU is going to keep my nose to the grindstone ‑‑‑ THANKS in advance!


(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )



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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/23/15 from CLW

Using these ten words, write three different scenarios: contemplate, single, wonderment, fight, caution, slip, industry, finalize, juncture, easy.


  1. Meeting a love interest
  2. In a fight with a parent
  3. When you character finds herself in a WWE moment

YES! I DID IT! All scenarios below were written to fit in my current WIP, Thousand Oaks Hollow (as I had to cut these down for length, you may not see all the action implied in the Prompt, not all ten of the words — but I DID get them all in.)


L’Aquellian was cold and wet too, but at least she saw a way out — though it was not a way she wanted to CONTEMPLATE. The Ferryman’s barge was likely to run aground if they didn’t hurry and make up their minds.

“Let’s just get aboard. He’s going downstream, and I can see the break in the clouds even from here, Your Highness,” she said to the third princess.

The royal personage had been fairly game up to this point, but now she just looked terrified. “But there’s nothing to hang onto,” she whined. “What if we hit a wave? This raft (the Ferryman glared with annoyance “raft”) tips and we slide off into the River Sticks?”

“We’ll just have to swim to the other side, and . . . ”

”But I can’t swim,” the Princess wailed.


The two old women rocked back and forth, back and forth, chomping at their gums in time with the full‑body movement.

Lackley didn’t know what to make of them. All she’d done was ask if she might have but a crust of bread, should they have one.

“A crust, a crust . . .” the more grizzled of the two cackled. “Well, sister, have we a crust or not?”

And the two broke into howls, or hilarity, depending on how Lackley might choose to interpret their reaction.

At the next moment, and with no crust or mite of food forthcoming, she looked up as the two huddled together and stared with wide eyes over her left shoulder.

“Ah! Now she comes, NOW she comes,” they screeched.

Lackley’s head all but spun off her neck she turned so swiftly to see what creature came crashing through the tangled oaks behind her. A third? A third old crone?

As Lackley stared at the Old One, she realized they all had the same beak of a nose, though the two — sisters? — one with nose bent to the north, the other with nose bent to the south. And this third? Lackley closed her eyes for the briefest of moments to be sure she was seeing what she thought was: a nose which bent both north and south and the same time!


The huge, grey wolf slavered, teeth bared, as Lackley froze in place. She did not want to be attacked by this beast at this JUNCTURE, after all the INDUSTRY she’d shown in surviving the sisters; a raging river; three witches; the filthy, faithless Ferryman; and a demented and demanding dragon. What more would she have to endure? This lone, grey wolf was nothing to what she’d already accomplished.

And then she heard the howls and the thundering of the many feet of the Pack.

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/22/15

D’ja ever put someone’s blog in a folder somewhere on your computer to savor again? I do that all the time. I keep something from an author I admire, or something well said by a person I may not even know. I’m going back and re‑reading some of these now. Several years ago, Annette Lyon wrote a post headed “What’s the Point?” (Writing on the Wall from Precision Editing Group, Jan. 27, 2010) where she talked about sections in our writing that give meaningless details or discussions which, if deleted, weren’t even missed. That’s definitely still relevant today, and she offered six potential goals for a scene:

  1. Advance the plot
  2. Create or show conflict
  3. Set the setting
  4. Reveal character
  5. Show back story
  6. Lay groundwork for later plot

Today’s Prompt, should you choose to accept it, is to take 5 or 10 pages of your WIP (or new pages of something you’ve just begun). Identify which of the above goals are met in your story. Strengthen that asset in your story if you can. If none of the goals are met, cut the scene (or offending parts) and write a new one. (Warning: don’t overload by cramming too many of these goals, either, into one scene.)

YES! I DID IT! While the scene I chose to analyze did reveal some about the MC and gave a fair idea of setting, there was no back story or immediate conflict so the scene seemed flat. I need more PLOT, more Something Happening. I did one rewrite in first person, which kicked up the character a bit, but the same things were still missing. Back to the drawing board!

This isn’t a bad check, scene by scene, throughout the book. Try it on YOUR WIP and tell us what helped (or didn’t).

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )

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BB’s (possibly stolen) PROMPT for 04/18/15

Still thinking about Rick Walton and thought I’d share some more of his wisdom. When I was taking a beginning picture book workshop from him some years ago, he pointed out some of the problems with the “bad” picture books:

  • They should not be didactic or display a laundry list of “rules” about your subject.
  • They should be from a child’s POV, not from the grandmother’s, or be head‑hopping among various members of, for instance, a family including adults.
  • If you have a “message” give it throughout the story — be subtle!
  • Show, don’t tell, what’s going on in your story.
  • Boring repetition is an interest killer ‑ use repetition for a specific purpose.
  • Characters need to be “real” within the story ‑‑‑ no “cardboard” characters allowed.
  • You get more bang for your buck if you include some level of emotion within your story.
  • Long sentences are boring ‑‑‑ young children have a finite attention span.
  • The MC (a CHILD) should solve the “problem” of the story, not the adults.
  • Turn on your X‑Ray vision and bore a straight light throughout the story without digressions.

Come to think of it, these aren’t half‑bad ideas for writing for OTHER ages too!

Your prompt is to grab a bunch of picture books from home or at a library and put them to the test. Which ones followed the suggestions above, which one didn’t? Which would you love to read over and over to a child?

YES! I DID IT! And my favorite (and I’ve read it to ADULT students over and over, and even to some “kids”. AND I still laugh and enjoy it every time. It’s Why the Banana Split, by (you know!) Rick Walton.

  • We see through words AND illustrations what’s happening, story‑wise.
  • Nothing boring or nonsensically repetitious about it.
  • No long, boring sentences.
  • A little mystery as to what’s going on.
  • The emotional content (and the clever, hilarious reactions of the characters) are spot on.

Hey, this was fun, looking over my old notes and admiring Rick’s wisdom once again. Maybe, for tomorrow, I’ll tell you what else he had to say about the GOOD picture books!

(Feel free to re‑use my prompts, modified to YOUR specifications ‑‑‑ I “stole” them too from Carol Lynch Williams, AnnDeeCanDee, Cheryl, The ABC Writers Guild and others . . . )

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