Writing Group

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! (A Saturday Rant)

I’m so frustrated! It’s hard to put into words, and you all know how I am, that means a LOT of words will follow.

Everyone I know would probably agree that I’m one their biggest cheerleaders. I’m mostly around writers, and I’m a strong believer of encouraging these other pen monkeys. I want them all to succeed. I try to make them feel like they are worth something.

I spent too many years with a foot on my neck being told subtly and not so subtly that I shouldn’t write, that I wasn’t good enough. That it wasn’t something, I should take seriously. Or that I would never succeed. Those people in my life eroded my confidence, exploited my fears, and generally frakked me up mentally. You can see why I don’t want others to fall victim to this.

So, I made it a practice to encourage other writers. To make them feel welcome among the various groups I’ve been a part of. To show them they are good enough. To make them feel a part of something important. Or more accurately, that they have the right to be a part of it.

I did this to the exclusion of myself.

Now, (actually for months) the writing group I go to is in the process of destroying itself. The group as a whole seems to be less important than Marsha ONE, Marsha TWO, Marsha THREE and so on. (This may sound minor but it is not. The details don’t matter here as I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.)

Each Marsha is so wrapped up in themselves or is busy being snide to each other, they don’t even see the Kristi’s of the group are suffering from the fallout.

I really want to indulge in some constructive selfishness, but I’m the only one in the group not allowed to do so. I’ve learned the hard way, if I, who is expected to stay in my role as cheerleader, express an opinion, I’ll lose friends or at least offend everyone for calling them out. Or I’ll be the final straw that breaks the group. Dammit ONE, TWO, and THREE, cut your shit!

The last time I said how I felt everyone acted like I’d grown horns then screamed it over a global intercom and shook my demon finger in their faces. No one could believe I had feelings other than encouragement for Them.

The other response is denial. It’s quite frustrating when someone tries to convince you your feelings are not legitimate because they refuse to see the problem. Pretending there is no issue doesn’t absolve one from being part of it Marsha.

Hell, I’ve felt like I’ve been on the outside for so long I don’t know what I would do if that changed. I know other people have felt this way, but that only meant they didn’t notice I’ve been going through it. So I keep my mouth shut about me and cheer-lead them. It’s strange to try to convince someone to not listen to those inner doubts when the same fears float around the top of my head.

I’m left with a new dilemma. Say something or stay home. Who am I kidding? I’ll keep going and keep repressing and keep getting angry. Then option two will bubble up, and I’ll have to spend all my time fixing all the Marshas’ hurt feelings at my audacity for having feelings!

Like most rants, this one rambles around and probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to those reading it. However, getting the words out, especially on ‘paper’ helps me more than I can say.


 

Write Anything Wednesday #98

You know the drill, write something. Why? It’s a great day to write and I say why not? Write absolutely anything. Try your hand at flash fiction or write a poem. Make an outline or character sketch. Write a chapter, or as many chapters as you can. Nothing to write about? Try making a list of ideas or free-write.

If you feel stumped grab a timer and do ten minute sprints. The first time you do this might not garner great results but you’ll write more after you get used to it and your muse will shine.

Make Wednesday your weekly no-matter-what writing day. If this isn’t a good day then pick another. The important thing is to simply write.

If you would like a prompt:

  • Write a piece about running in place.
  • John couldn’t believe this was the afterlife…
  • She forgot the most important day of the year.

Happy writing!

Flash Fiction – The Cage

Niall the Handsome spied her through the boards covering the window, though it took a moment for him to notice. In the middle of an otherwise empty room stood a large metal cage on a marble column. It was much too large for a bird but movement inside it caught his eye.

The first thing he observed was some fluffy, womanly cloth, as white as the cage. Was it a nest? As he stared, trying to figure out what he was seeing, the creature inside pressed up against the bars and stared at him. He fell back in shock. A woman? Who could be so evil as to put a human being inside such a prison?

Gold fever may have brought him to this distant castle but life was more precious and he must save her. Besides, Niall was a knight and she was beautiful. Had not she looked at him longingly? The gallant knight always saved the damsel in distress. Duty first, then riches.

He circled the ancient building, searching for an entrance. The back door was unlocked. He entered cautiously. When he encountered no guards or magic traps he boldly rushed to the grand hall he’d seen the girl in.

She stood when she saw him. He was surprised there was enough room but she was small. Good, he thought, her added weight wouldn’t strain his horse when they rode off into the sunset. Plus, he would be able to carry much of the purported gold.

The girl seemed nervous so he checked the room for magic traps as he made his way to her. After what felt like ages he reached her. There was only a metal pin for a lock so opening the door was easy. She must be simple, which suited him perfectly. Smart and beautiful damsels were not the type of lady Niall preferred.  He smiled with the knowledge this would be the best day he’d ever had.

He pulled the door and reached a hand out to her. Her eyebrows knit in fear and she backed away from him. Sympathy welled in him. The poor thing probably thought he was going to hurt her. He smiled reassuringly and leaned further into the cage.

Suddenly she smiled and he felt himself pulled all the way inside with her. The door slammed shut and the pin magically appeared back in its place.

“What is going on?”

She put a finger to her lips and pointed over his shoulder.

“She doesn’t speak but I can hear her thoughts,” a cold voice sounded.

“Free me at once,” the knight tried to demand but his voice quavered when he saw who spoke – the great wizard Zehagan.

“I cannot. She has wanted a pet for so long and it took weeks of work on my part to get you here. She wanted someone stupid enough to believe the rumors of riches but handsome enough to spend the next five years with.”

“What happens in five years?”

The wizard pointed to a pile of well-gnawed bones in a corner. “I’m surprised you didn’t see them when you broke into my home, Niall the Handsome.” Then he laughed and turned to the girl. “Yes my sweet, stupid and handsome. I’ll let you two get to know each other, I have work to do.”

Niall screamed and shook the bars as Zehagan departed. He kept screaming as the girl, who was much stronger than she looked, held him tightly.

 


This came from a picture prompt found by the leader of my writing group. It was a black and white photo of a woman in a cage. I don’t know what color her dress was but I chose to see it as white. She was sitting on seat surrounded by tulle.

While talking about it with my friend I suddenly, and inexplicably thought of my dogs. They sleep in a five foot pen with no top. At bed time one of them, Link, comes into my bedroom and starts the stare down. If you speak to him he runs to the living room. One of us opens the door and he goes right in. He knows when he is ready and his internal clock is spot on.

If the door is not closed within a few minutes he repeats the process. He will keep this up until someone closed and latches that gate. If a dog can wear a relieved expression, this one does. Neither he or his brother can sleep with that door open. They don’t care that it’s open on top, as long a foot and a half of tiny metal rods is closed in front of them.

Thus my story seed was planted. I thought about the girl in the cage being rescued by a brave, handsome knight (for the cheesy factor) but she doesn’t want to be saved. She was perfectly content in her cage. Then I decided her cage protected her from something that could/would eat the knight but I’ve actually done something similar so I dismissed the idea. When I realized she didn’t need protection, but maybe a snack at some point, more words filled in the blanks and I ended with this story.

I know it needs editing. In fact, I planned to polish it up and pare it down to 500 words as soon as I got home from writing group. I even opened the file. Then life. So many distractions occurred (although it only took the first one) I simply forgot to do it. Still, I wanted to post it tonight so this is probably the roughest rough draft I’ve posted in a very long time.


WR

Flash Fiction – The Treasure

That bitch stole my Twinkie! It had to be Serena. His stepsister was the only one who knew it existed. Of course she waited until he went on the road to sell his tools. He’d thought his protections were foolproof.

From the moment Tim walked into his vault he knew something was wrong. It had only taken a moment for his eyes to find the empty pedestal in the center of the room. How had she gotten through all his security measures?

Before confronting the woman, he decided to carefully examine the entire crime scene. His metal men were completely wound and in their proper place. The crank-gun in the corner hadn’t fired. He took two steps to his right and turned to face the security panel. He turned the first gear handle three times clockwise, the second — once counter-clockwise. He toggled the correct switches and gave the first gear one more twist. There was no way Serena could know the correct combination, was there? He stepped off the disguised pressure plate and crossed to the glass covered pedestal. All this he did slowly to avoid setting off his traps.

There were fingerprints on the glass, but he had no way to know if they were his or someone else’s. Not for the first time, Tim wished more old world technology had survived the big war. He’d read battered, aged books that spoke of what life was like in that time. If he could ‘dust’ the prints, he would have proof.

He shook his head, making his dull brown hair fall into his eyes. Proof didn’t matter. His stepsister had magic, he would never be able to take the Twinkie back if she did have it. But why did she take it? Was it to hurt him? Or was it for her own gain? Probably that. Serena knew the snack cake was his most prized possession. It was more important to him than any of the other odds and ends he’d collected over the years.

Maybe he shouldn’t have made it the centerpiece of his vault. He’d foolishly believed that she didn’t know how valuable it was. Would she sell it? Perhaps. Everything she did these days was to gain a profit.

A horrifying thought introduced itself as brushed his hair off his forehead. What if she destroyed it? Suppressing the urge to run he turned away from the crime scene and slowly exited the vault. He closed the door and turned the handle all the way to the left. His patience was tested as he waited for the clicks that would signal the locking mechanism had engaged.

When he judged it safe to move from the door, he ran to the stairwell and rushed down to the level below. Serena’s door was open, a clear sign of danger so he stopped at the entry and knocked politely.

“Who is it?” Her smooth voice sounded, irritating him further.

“Since you and I are the only ones that come up to the top levels, you already know who it is.” He relaxed his jaw when he realized he said it through gritted teeth.

A sultry laugh answered him before she spoke. “Come in dear stepbrother.”

Trusting her obvious good mood meant she didn’t plan to kill him, Tim entered her rooms. She sat on her throne, toying with her long blonde hair. As always when he saw it, he sneered at the seat. Pretentious bitch. He had almost formed the accusation when she reached to the little table next to her and picked up his Twinkie. He almost rushed her for it, but hesitated when he saw the satisfaction in her eyes. Instead he kicked out with his steel toed boots and was almost knocked out of the room when his foot connected with an invisible wall of magic. His stepsister may be an evil sorceress, but she was good at it.

So it was a challenge. He exited the chamber and went back up to his floor. In his workshop he gathered the tools he thought he would need and went back to confront Serena again.

He started with his ax. He knew steel had an effect on the magic wall because it had shimmered when he kicked it. When that tool didn’t work, he switched to his sledgehammer, to no avail. Next came a hammer and chisel. He had a little more success with that, but only enough to make a tiny hole. At that point he shot at the hole with his black-powder revolver, only to cover his goggles and pepper his hair with the thin black dust.

Pondering the progress, or lack thereof, he’d made by that point, he decided to stick with the hammer and chisel. If he could make a big enough hole in the sorceress’ wall, he’d be able to shoot her. Hopefully that would make her magic disperse.

He was so determined, and lost in his work that when he could finally fit his gun through the opening, he never saw Serena leave the throne. Damn. She couldn’t have left her suite, as he was standing at the only entrance and exit. He glanced at the wall next to the doorway. Maybe he could get in that way. Using the sledge-hammer he broke up a large stone. He put the hammer through it and again met the resistance of his stepsister’s magic.

Clearly his efforts were useless. Tim went back upstairs and entered his workshop. He gazed around in frustration. I’m a tool salesman for crying out loud. If anyone could find a way into her rooms it was him. This challenge would not defeat him. He stood for several moments before it came to him. The zeppelin. He was looking in the wrong place. The tool he needed was on the ship.

Excitedly he went to the ladder in the corner and climbed up to the roof. Boarding the floating ship he went straight to the armory. He found what he wanted quickly, packaged carefully in a crate. One should do it. He picked up the bomb and went to load it into his new sling gun.

There was a small jab of concern as he lifted off. Neither the weapon nor its delivery system had been tested. Well today would change that. When he had flown into position he went back to the gun. As he aimed he felt a momentary regret for the impending destruction of his vault. His collection dated back to when he was a small child. Twenty years of memories and adventures were in that room.

None of it mattered when compared to his goal. There was little disquiet about destroying his prize. He brushed the thought aside, the Twinkie had survived the apocalypse, after all. He fired. The bomb was more powerful than he intended it. The explosion blew the top three floors off the tower.

He landed his air ship and made his way quickly through the rubble looking for his stepsister. He found her quickly. She was as messy as he could have hoped. He felt no guilt. She had gone too far this time. She still held his property in her hand, it was only a little smushed.

He pried it out of her cold dead hands. He turned the cake over in his hands, inspecting it, as he walked back to his new home, the zeppelin. Her magic hadn’t saved her, but it had protected his treasure. The plastic wasn’t even torn. Relief washed over him. Thank goodness she hadn’t sold it before he could reclaim it.

He reached the ship, closed the door and went to the navigation seat. Looking out at the ruins of his tower, he mentally made plans to rebuild.

Tim ate the Twinkie. Funny, it wasn’t as good as he thought it would be. It was a good thing Serena never discovered the Ho-Hos in the vault hidden in the cellar.


This is the result of an exercise we did in my writing group a few weeks ago. We each came up with a protagonist, an antagonist, conflict, setting and genre. These were written on index cards, shuffled and passed around. I got:

  • Protagonist: Tim – the traveling tool salesman
  • Antagonist: An evil stepsister sorceress who is evil for her own gain
  • Setting: Post apocalyptic earth
  • Genre: Contemporary steampunk new adult epic thriller (what you’re thinking right now, I thought it too)
  • Conflict: The last Twinkie on earth has been stolen

We decided to write either flash fiction or a short story. This is over 1300 words. I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t do it. Also I wrote some weird stuff on my cards that others in my group got stuck with. Like: Julian who works in the monkey house at the zoo. As soon as I read the genre I got, I stopped feeling bad about what I handed out. I’ve never written steampunk, haven’t even read it. New adult is um…not for me, and I had no idea how to make anything epic dealing with a Twinkie. I did it anyway.

Feel free to critique if you like but I doubt it’s going to change at this point. I’m just happy to have finished. This was never going to see the light of day but that would defeat what I’ve been trying to accomplish by posting rough drafts. Hope you enjoyed it. If you’re in a writing group, I strongly suggest you do an exercise like this, possibly omitting genre.

I know there isn’t much in the way of steampunk but hey, at least Tim has goggles!

Critique Group Update

The group did the second critique today. I don’t know how it went to be honest. There were so many conversations going on that it was hard to differentiate or even hear the things I needed to. It doesn’t help that I have lost most of my hearing in my left ear. Nor was it good that the place we meet at was crowded today. Most of the people who critiqued my work wrote notes for me. I’ll read them in a little while and I’m hoping they were detailed.

I have a dilemma now. I have to decide if continuing to attend this group will work for me. I’m sad at the thought of leaving but I may have to.

On a lighter and better note, I’m getting better at giving critiques. Receiving them was astoundingly easy. I thought I would freak out the first time but I was never uncomfortable and I haven’t gotten my feelings hurt yet. I still think it’s a necessary step for me. Hopefully the good will outweigh the bad. We shall see.

Critique Group Update

I went to the second critique group meeting. It was the first time we actually talked about our work since the first one we went over rules and handed out our stories. It went really well. I was extremely nervous before it started but I got over it much quicker than I thought I would. The critiques I got were helpful. I knew I needed to add description but I didn’t realize that I never indicated the age of my characters in the scene. It’s a silly thing not to notice but this is my nanowrimo rough draft we’re talking about. I was so busy trying to reach my word count goals, I went right past it. Today actually verified a developing opinion of nanowrimo. Concentrating on word count sucks. I would have quality over quantity. Tangent!! Anyway, luckily for me, the others in the group weren’t afraid to tell me about bad punctuation and incorrect word usage. It was also really nice to hear the good things about what I wrote. Sometimes I concentrate on only the bad stuff and forget that there can even be good. Maybe I really am as funny as I think I am 😉

Reading the other writers’ work was interesting. It’s nice to see different styles and other levels of writing. I’m super curious about what happens next in each story. I’m glad I joined this group and I look forward to all that I’m going to learn.

On that note, Ray, if you read this, I want to smack you for not bringing chapter two today.

Critique Group

I attended my first critique group today. It went well. This was the first time the group was meeting so we handed out what we wanted critiqued, in this case a chapter, and then went over expectations. I am pretty excited/terrified about this. I almost didn’t go but I sucked it up and did it. The first rule we talked about was: be nice. Best rule ever! Most of the people in the group are also in the discussion group I go to. This means some very important things:

  1. I am very comfortable. This matters because if I get too nervous in the situation I’ll look for an escape. I’m going to make this my comfort zone.
  2. I’ve been hearing about the other people’s stories for a while now but not read any of them. It will be great to really dive into these amazing worlds.
  3. While I think everyone will be nice about it, no one will be too afraid to tell me if something I wrote is awful. Sometimes it’s easy to get too close to a project and lose objectivity.

There are more benefits of course.

  1. Osmosis. You can’t be around super creative people without having your own creativity stirred.
  2. I might be in a position to truly help other writers. That’s something I think every writer should strive for.
  3. Each of us will only get better.

This won’t be the first time I’ve been critiqued but it will be the first time I’ve done this in a group setting. Wish me luck and I’ll post an update next week on how it goes.

Writing Groups

I went to my writing discussion group today. We meet every Sunday and talk writing. In this group we don’t do critiques. We talk about what we are writing and the craft in general. Everyone bounces ideas off each other. Sometimes we do writing activities together. Mostly it’s like therapy. We each seem to need some contact with other humans who love what we love, or sometimes who feel the same frustration and pain we feel when it comes to writing. Just being around other creative types can inspire. Today I felt a bit lost in my story. I’ve finished a Very rough draft of book one and I’m tiptoeing into the second story. The problem is I have no idea where it’s going. I haven’t been able to truly sit down and plot it out. I have the basics but the first story has evolved so much that what I have for the second is obsolete. This wasn’t so bad if it wasn’t nanowrimo time. So I griped about this to the group and everyone starts pitching ideas and asking questions. I came away with many lovely what-if questions and my mind is on fire with idea explosions.

I think every writer should get involved in some kind of group like this. For some it’s a critique group. For people too terrified to let anyone ready rough drafts, discussion groups work. Some groups work on projects together. Find the type of group that works for you. Writing is such a solitary endeavor that it’s good to have some regular contact with real people. It’s too easy for creative people to become, if not antisocial, then asocial. Going to my group pulls me out into the real world for a short time. In a way it’s like being able to be social and still live in my stories at the same time. For me that’s about as social as I get. I wonder if people in other creative arts ever get together like this.

Nanowrimo update: I didn’t get much written today but I got some planning done. I should have plenty to write tomorrow. I’m almost believe it’s possible to still win this year. Only 17,000 words to go!