Category Archives: Challenges

Slugfest at Midnight

As midnight approaches on the 16th day of National Blog Posting Month, I find I’m at a loss for words. I’m likely to do something wild and unpredictable.

Well, this blog is supposed to be inspired by my camera, and I do have a photo or two in my collection. Let’s see what I can come up with.

(Pause while I pull up my photo app …)

Ahh. Okay. Fortunately, I’ve found something: a portrait in vibrant purples and golds. It shimmers. It moves. It practically jumps off the page! The model reminds me of a graceful Flamenco dancer. Her dress is as soft as a petal.

Unfortunately for you, the model is a slug. A literal slug.

Introducing: Señorita Iris Maria Ariana Slug! (I.M.A. Slug, for short)!

I told you I was likely to do something wild and unpredictable. And I did!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is post #16 of the month-long challenge known as #NaBloPoMo or #NanoPoblano. To follow my blog, please click below where it says “Follow loristory.”

And, to read more of the NanoPoblano posts written by the supportive blogging group “Cheer Peppers,” click the image below.

Cover photo (clock) by JESHOOTS-com @ pixabay.com

Does Anybody Really Know

Last night, I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. reading #NanoPoblano2022 blog posts. At least, my phone said it was 1:30 a.m. But what time was it, really? Had Daylight Saving Time ended yet?

I thought about getting up to check the other clocks in my house, but I was tired, with a sore arm and a mild fever after getting my COVID booster that morning. I just rolled over and went to sleep. When I awoke this morning, my phone said it was 6:30 a.m. Was that really 6:30, or was it 7:30? Or, was it 5:30? I was so confused.

I stumbled into the kitchen. My microwave said it was 7:30. I set it back an hour, still not sure how many hours of sleep I’d actually gotten. (Not that it mattered. I was going back to bed as soon as I let the dog out.)

It was like one of those horrible math questions:

If a NanoPoblano blogger with a 99.8-degree fever stays up reading other NanoPoblano blogger posts until 1:30 a.m. on the night that Daylight Saving Time ends, and then has a dream that she'd taken a train that left the station at point A at 1:30 and arrived at point B at 6:30, and if the clock in the train station says it's 7:30, but her analog watch says it's 12:32 because she forgot to wind it, what time is it in her kitchen, and how many cups of coffee will she need before she can write a blog post of her own?

I need more coffee to figure that one out. Meanwhile, here’s a reblog of a post I wrote way back on Nov. 4, 2017 for NanoPoblano. It’s about Daylight Saving Time. (I think you have to click “Continue” in order to read the entire post … the technical aspects of blogging are also something requiring more coffee.)

Are you affected by Daylight Saving Time? If so, what do you think of it? Should we do away with it?

This is post #6 of the month-long challenge known as #NaBloPoMo or #NanoPoblano. To follow my blog, please click below where it says “Follow loristory.”

And, to read more of the NanoPoblano posts written by the supportive blogging group “Cheer Peppers,” click the image below.

featured photo: mohamed_hassan at pixabay.com

Listen to the Trees

In my Nov. 2 post, Secrets Revealed!, I shared the story of how I came to write a little ditty called “Home Alone.” Today, I’d like to talk about another song I’ve written for my new songwriting club.

Our prompt for this song was “inspiration.” We were supposed to try and write songs having to do with a quote that means something to us. I bent the rules a bit and used the title of one of my photos for inspiration. Here’s the photo, which also can be seen in my Nov. 1 post:

The stillness and vulnerability of the trees, and the way they seemed to be listening to and supporting each other, made me want to write something quiet and reflective to support them, something that would say “I hear you.” I grabbed my guitar and played one of my favorite chords, A-major-seventh (Amaj7). Here’s a photo of an Amaj7 chord that I found online. It’s one of the easier chords to make!

Photo by sweetlouise at pixabay.com

Major chords, or major triads, are often described as happy. The notes are bright and positive-sounding. Minor chords can be described as sad. The second note of the triad (third note of the scale) is dropped by a half-step (one fret on the guitar). For some reason, this brings out sad emotions. But major SEVENTH chords are really different. They add an unexpected fourth note – a half-step below the octave – and the result is a little bit dissonant and melancholy, but at the same time warm, sweet, and hopeful. At least that’s how I hear major seventh chords.

After I played that Amaj7 on the guitar, my hands drifted up the neck a bit and sort of accidentally landed on the strings in places that, when strummed, sounded good to my ear. Turns out it was a chord called Cadd9. (I had to look it up.)

My new song, “Listen to the Trees,” ended up with ten different chords altogether, and it all started with that Amaj7. It has a bossa nova beat which makes me think of the great Brazilian jazz composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, who used a lot of major seventh chords in his own songs.

Here are the lyrics to my song:

LISTEN TO THE TREES

Whispers in the forest, carried on a breeze

hear the quiet chorus of the trees

branches are bending, roots move underground

messages that barely make a sound.

Telling their troubles, each in their own way

helping each other through the day

around them only silence, actions too few –

and the trees, they know this is true.

     Take the time to listen, listen to the trees

     know what they are saying, get down on our knees

     tell them we hear them, do what they need

     and give a word of thanks to the trees.

Inhale the essence of treasures we can lose

be mindful of the things we choose

learn nature’s lessons from branches above

wrap our arms around the ones we love.

I’ll try to record it and post a link, if I can remember how to use Garage Band. That could take me until next November, though!

Have you ever written a song, poem, or story about trees? Post a link in the comments below if you have!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is post #5 of the month-long challenge known as #NaBloPoMo or #NanoPoblano. To follow my blog, please click below where it says “Follow loristory.”

And, to read more of the NanoPoblano posts written by the supportive blogging group “Cheer Peppers,” click the image below.

Featured image at top of post by Gordon Johnson at pixabay.com

Secrets Revealed!

Welcome to Day 2 of NaBloPoMo and NanoPoblano (November’s 30-day blog post challenge).

I have a new camera!

Yes, about two weeks ago, I bought a Nikon Z5. It’s a step up from my Nikon D3200, and it comes with some awesome features like full frame sensor, mirrorless, better sensor, image stabilization, tilting touch screen, and more focus points. Plus, it even has the ability to stack several photos on top of each other.

Secret #1: I don’t really understand any of that, but I’m hoping for some interesting results, eventually!

I also bought a new lens to go with my camera, a 28-75mm zoom.

Secret #2: My old 18-300mm zoom lens was fairly crappy. The more I used it, the more I came to realize that. In low-light situations, or when zooming all the way out (for example, when trying to capture birds in flight), everything was either grainy or out of focus. It was frustrating. My new lens seems to be doing better. It only zooms out to 75mm, but that’s okay, because I think it’s a better quality lens. Eventually, I’ll buy the 28-200mm I have my eye on, but for now I’m just going to focus (pardon the pun) on learning to use what I’ve got.

Here’s one of the first shots I took with the Z5 – a zinnia in my garden. For this shot, zoomed out to 75mm, I got close to the flower and set the f-stop at 2.8, which gives the photo that soft, blurry background known as “bokeh.”

And here’s another one of my first “new camera” photos. I think it’s the first still life I’ve ever attempted.

I set the camera on a tripod and experimented with different lighting, including filtered window light plus a floor lamp. For the background, I went to a fabric store in search of black velvet. The closest they could come to that was brown velveteen, which I settled for, and I’m glad I did … I like how the soft brownish tones go with the toast.

But … Secret #3: I wish I’d gotten more of this photo in focus. I could have done that if I’d taken my time and adjusted the f-stop from 5.6 to a higher number.

By the way, that plate in the picture? I spent $10 on it at an antique store, specifically for this picture, and … Secret #4: I promptly smashed a chunk of it off when I accidentally banged it against the bowl of oranges while arranging the shot. I cobbled the plate back together with clear packing tape, and then … Secret #5: I airbrushed the crack line in the photo using my Lightroom photo editing software. (Okay, now you know all my secrets.)

This still life is based on a song, “Chelsea Morning,” by Joni Mitchell. Do you know it? Click the link and you can watch her singing it live in 1969. I actually just met someone online who had never heard of or listened to Joni’s song, “Blue,” and that made me sad. If you’ve never heard “Blue,” I urge you to listen to it!

But now, back to Chelsea Morning. The song, one of Joni’s earliest recordings, includes the following lyrics, which you’ll hear at 1:38 in the video:

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning
and the first thing that I knew
there was milk and toast and honey
and a bowl of oranges, too.

After all this talk about songs, I think my next post will be about my own attempts to write a new song, which I’ve titled “Home Alone.” And it isn’t the least bit sad!

Learning Curve

It

was

early

in March,

nearly spring,

the season of hope,

and my grandson Elliot

would soon have a birthday —

his first. I couldn’t wait to see him.

I had my ticket. Flight 351. April 24.

 

Then, like a giant evil raptor, the pandemic

swooped in, wrecking havoc across continents.

The world was shocked. Thousands fell ill. Many died.

I cancelled my trip. Elliot would have to wait to see Grandma.

People are saying: “It feels like a sci-fi movie,” and “This is weird.”

Some say, “I’m scared,” or even, “It’s like living in the Twilight Zone.”

I watch the news. It’s real. I learn about mitigation and flattening the curve.

I live alone. The silence is deafening. When this is over, I think I’ll get a puppy.

 

We are in this together. We all buy wipes, wash our hands, stand six feet apart.

We cough into our elbows, sew masks, sing from windows, applaud helpers.

We call our parents, record funny songs, take up new hobbies, practice yoga.

We praise our essential workers. We send them big tips and free pizzas.

Our houses are spotless, our cupboards are bare. We’re okay with that.

We try to embrace love and deny fear. We don’t always succeed.

We check our wipes and toilet paper supplies on a daily basis.

We tell ourselves we’ll get through this. Most of us will.

 

When this is finally over, I will visit family.

There will be laughter, and also tears.

As for the rest of the world, will we

reflect on things? Will we know

what we did right? Appreciate

how we cooperated? Mend?

Will we ask ourselves

“What did we learn?

What

was

it?”


Written for Cheer Peppers as part of a daily writing prompt for the month of April.

20 x 20: A Chart to Inspire You

My friend has come up with a brilliant idea for the year 2020, and I think she should patent it. But since she hasn’t done that yet, I’ve stolen borrowed the concept — and today I’m passing it along to you, free of charge!

I’m calling it a 20 x 20 chart. Here’s how it came about: One day, my friend got to thinking about the year 2020. She liked the fact that it was a “double year.” Double years are rare. Since the year 1 C.E. (A.D.), double years have occurred only 20 times.

Yep, there’s 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, 1010, 1111, 1212, 1313, 1414, 1515, 1616, 1717, 1818, 1919, and 2020. (I admit it, I counted them. Duh.)

She especially liked how 2020 looks in Roman numerals (MMXX). Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and write out the other 19 double-digit years in Roman numerals. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

Anyway, my friend wanted to do something special in honor of the year 2020. She quickly discarded the idea of making one grandiose New Year’s resolution, since resolutions tend to get broken, and once that happens, that’s it for the year. Instead, she decided to do something more ongoing — and something she could actually accomplish. The result is her 20 x 20 spreadsheet, seen below. (Side 2 would have columns 11-20.)

20 x 20 Spreadsheet

At the top of each column, she wrote a mini-goal for herself (20 goals in all). Each goal was something challenging, yet do-able — to be done 20 times during the course of the year. (For example, “Write a letter to a friend.”) As she accomplishes each task, she places a check mark in the appropriate box. By year end, she should have 400 check marks.

I’ve decided to take the 20 x 20 plunge, and you may want to try it as well. If you do, I’d love to hear what challenges you’ve come up with. Here are mine. Remember: My goal is to do each one of these 20 times by December 31.

  1. Send a card to my grandson
  2. Learn to play a new song on guitar
  3. Watch a movie
  4. Read a children’s book
  5. Learn to say “I love you” in a new language
  6. Attend a yoga class
  7. Write a poem
  8. Learn the capital city of an African nation
  9. Write three things I am grateful for
  10.  Contribute food to the local Food Bank
  11. Listen to a classical music piece
  12. Watch a Ted Talk (5 of them in Spanish)
  13. Read an article about an artist whose work hangs in the Louvre
  14. Give up social media for a day
  15. Walk 12 miles (20 km) in a week
  16. Practice piano at least 20 minutes
  17. Try a new type of tea
  18. Read a short story
  19. Visit the gym
  20. Write a blog post

So far I’ve managed to check off 20 boxes — wait, 21, counting this blog post! Only 379 left to go. Hugs to my friend for inspiring me, and hugs to you for reading this. Happy 2020!

Thankful for Peppers

Today I’m going to cheat a bit and write about other people’s posts.

By other people, I mean Cheer Peppers, a.k.a. bloggers participating in the daily November blogging challenge known as NanoPoblano. If you want to indulge in some good reading, and if you’re on Facebook, find the Cheer Peppers group and join it.

Or you can find them in the Cheer Peppers list below. (I hope I haven’t left any out. I borrowed this list from fellow Cheer Pepper Carolyn Owens.)

A.R. at StarvingActivist.com
Barbara at teleportingweena.wordpress.com
Bill at BillFriday.com
Breanna at BooksHooksAndYarn.wordpress.com
Carolyn Owens at InfinityCoaching.net
Cyn at Cynk.wordpress.com
David at TooFullToWrite.com
Dean at DeanKealy.design
Echo at trueecho22.wordpress.com
Gwenlynn at JustALittleBitSweet.com
Hasty at FearingCrazy.wordpress.com
Hope at HopesThoughts.blog
Jessie at BehindTheWillows.com
Jesska at NotThrowingStones.today
Julia at AberrantCrochet.com
Julie at JulieBurton.blog
Kay at SuddenlyTheyAllDied.com
Kim at DrunkOnLifeBlog.com
Lillian at HumanInRecovery.wordpress.com
Liz at CatsAndChocolate.com
Lori at LoriStory.wordpress.com
Matt at TheMatticusKingdom.com
Namy at NamySaysSo.com
Nessa at vanessence.wordpress.com
Nutty at SpokenLikeATrueNut.wordpress.com
Owen at NoTalentForCertainty.com
Paula at TheTemenosJournal.com
Ra at Rarasaur.com
Rebecca at MommyQuits.wordpress.com
Renee at ReneeRobbinsWrites.com
Revis at RevisEdgewater.wordpress.com
Robert at FreshOffThePadPoetry.wordpress.com
Sahara at CreoSomnium.org
Symanntha at FailingAtHaiku.wordpress.com
Quixie at QuixiesMindPalace.wordpress.com

In keeping with the energetic but forgiving spirit of the Cheer Peppers, I’ve been trying to keep up with my daily posts (but not beating myself up if I skip days). I’m also trying to read ALL other Cheer Pepper posts. So far I’ve posted 14/21 days but read all posts for only 3/21 days. I’m batting .667 when it comes to posting, but only .143 for reading.

It’s not that I don’t love reading their posts. I do! It’s just that I run out of time during the week. But I’ll get caught up, I promise! I’m pledging today to read a ton of Cheer Pepper posts over this 4-day weekend.

To prove I’m serious about my pledge, here’s what I’m using to keep track of my progress.

image1

By November 30, I hope to post another photo showing many more check marks in the right hand column.

Cheer Peppers are a thoughtful, funny, kind, and talented bunch, and their work is labor-intensive. Blogging is different from other types of writing, in that blog posts often try to say a lot using a relatively limited number of words.

Good blog posts are attention grabbing, clear, concise, artistic, sometimes amusing, and often deeply personal. It’s difficult to get all of that into a blog post, which is why I’m so thankful I stumbled upon the riches of NanoPoblano. Not only is it good writing practice for me, but it’s introduced me to some amazing people.

Thanks, Cheer Peppers!

nanopoblano2018-notrim

Rejection’s Silver Lining

Today was a very special day. I received not one, not two, but THREE rejections in my email inbox. After the initial sensation of having eaten a truckload of sour grapes, I’ve decided to think of these messages as good omens. Things are bound to get better, since they can’t get much worse.

fox-1278118_1920

To be honest, I wasn’t devastated. I’m getting used to rejection, and besides, the submissions were for low-cost online contests that set me back only $7 for all three entries.

Rejections #1 and #2 were kindly worded and encouraging:

“The road to publication takes many turns, and we hope you will continue your journey. We wish you the best of luck with your writing, and hope to see your work again.”

But Rejection #3 was sort of odd. The subject of the email was:

“Contest Finalists!”

After getting my hopes up, I opened the email only to discover that I was NOT one of the lucky 100 finalists. Yes, that’s right, 100. I think they should have come up with a different designation for the chosen ones, other than “Finalists.” Maybe “Semifinalists”?” “Just above average”? Or how about “Most of the Entrants”? Actually, I have no idea how many people entered, but I hope it wasn’t 101.

Being the humble wannabe writer that I am, I decided to check out a few of the lucky entries.

I clicked on a random entry and found that it had been typed in a weird font that was hard to read. Not only that, but the line spacing was such that the lines were smashed together. It wasn’t possible to read it without getting a headache. I clicked on another random entry.

I was met with the same eye-strain inducing font, and the same migraine-triggering line spacing. It must be the website, not the authors, I deduced. I gave a third piece a try and had the identical experience, but this time I noticed things like exceptionally long sentences, a lack of periods between sentences, and even a subject/verb disagreement. In short, the writing had a certain unproofread flair.

I felt a lot better about not being chosen as a “Finalist” for that contest, since it was clear that I hadn’t understood the rules. It was supposed to be a “first draft” contest, I guess.

I brushed off my rejections and turned my attention to my project for the evening, which was to post something for NanoPoblano (my November blog-a-day obsession). I actually had a halfway decent idea for my post tonight. It wasn’t about my rejections. It was about a movie I’d seen yesterday.

I started to type a title for this blog, changed my mind, and deleted it. Immediately, a message from WordPress popped up on my screen :

YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN ANYTHING YET!

Thanks, WordPress. I needed those words of encouragement, especially today.

Actually, I’m laughing about this whole thing. I’ve developed a thick skin regarding rejection. I know I’m still a novice and have a lot to learn. I still love writing and submitting my work, and I hope I never lose that fire.

So to WordPress, just for tonight, I say this:

YES, I HAVE, AND YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET!

nanopoblano2018-notrim

 

A Pepper and a Carrot Walked into a Bar

I’m excited today because I’ve only got TWO things on my to-do list. One has to do with a pepper. The other has to do with a carrot.

To Do List

  1. Write a blog post for Day 1 of NanoPoblano 2018
  2. Write the final revision of “Mudslide” for Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Today I’ll be able to check off both items on my list with this ONE blog post! And then I can immediately go back to sleeping adding more things to my to-do list.

About NanoPoblano

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to NanoPoblano (a daily blogging challenge that takes place every year in November), and I’ve decided that the key to a good month-long blog challenge is to write about something the READERS care about. I’m really looking forward to doing that.

So, in the comments below, please leave a word or two about what you’d like to read in my November blog posts. I’ll do my best to work all of your suggestions in.

About Mudslide

Mudslide is a story I’ve been working on for Carrot Ranch Literary Community.  It’s a writing challenge designed to torture inspire, educate, and motivate writers.

The Mudslide challenge began with a 297-word story about a mudslide, which then gets pared down — first to 99 words, then 59, and then an unbelievable 9 words, while experimenting with writing techniques such as changing point of view, analyzing important “nuggets,” and interjecting words of emotion.

If you’re interested, you can read those earlier versions by looking at my previous blog posts. Or, you can just read my final challenge below, a 495-word story about a mudslide, cascading all the way to the end of this page.

MUDSLIDE

I sat bolt upright and stared at the bright red numbers on the alarm clock. They stared back at me accusingly, unblinking. Two-fifteen. What had awoken me?

Slowly, it dawned on me. I’d just had that dream again, the one about the mudslide.

I’d had it four nights in a row, ever since moving in with Jake – the man I’d promised to spend the rest of my life with. I knew I should tell my shrink about the dreams, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear what she’d have to say about them – especially if I told her the whole story.

I looked over at Jake, snoring softly beside me. I touched his shoulder; he didn’t move. What – or who – was he dreaming about, I wondered? But I needed to stop thinking like that. Who was I to be jealous? I lay down and tried falling back to sleep, but I was still haunted by images of the mudslide in my dream.

It was strong – a torrent of devastating mud, carrying everything in its path down with it into an infinite abyss. There was no escape.

What did it mean? Was it some kind of a warning? Did I have to start watching my back – again?

I was lying still, but I felt uncontrollably dizzy. Unable to stop my swirling thoughts, I got out of bed, tiptoed from the room, and pulled my phone from my purse. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to try an internet search of dream interpretation.

I’d just Googled the words “mudslide dream” when Jake startled me, coming up behind me without a sound and kissing my neck. I jumped and dropped the phone.

It started buzzing as soon as it hit the floor. I quickly reached to pick it up, but Jake beat me to it. He stared at it a second and then held it out so I could see the screen. Caller ID said “SLIM DUDE.”

The phone continued to buzz in Jake’s hand. Finally, it stopped.

“Who’s ‘Slim Dude’?” Jake asked, not expecting what I said next.

“My husband,” I said, feeling ashamed.

“You have a … HUSBAND?!” Jake said. He’d started out whispering, but his words were choked at the end.

My mouth went dry and I couldn’t answer. Instead, I saw a vision, flashing like a neon sign in my brain. It was my husband’s nickname, the one he’d gotten in prison, the eight letters in SLIM DUDE tattooed on his fingers.

I knew then that SLIM DUDE would never stop calling me, never stop haunting my dreams. SLIM DUDE wouldn’t rest until he’d found a way to worm his way into my head again, scrambling up my happiness, and converting my life into a MUDSLIDE of despair.

And now the worst had happened. Jake knew the truth. I took one last look at him and said goodbye forever to my happy life, giving in to the power of the mudslide.

nanopoblano2018-notrim#NanoPoblano2018
#NaBloPoMo2018
#teamtinypeppers

A Nine-Word Story

What’s the shortest story you’ve ever read?

This week’s challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community was a doozy. I needed to shave my shrinking story, Mudslide, down to 9 words! (It’s already gone from 297 to 99 to 59.) Not only that, but I was required to write an emotion into the story.

A 9-word emotional story? “Nein!” I insisted furiously. But since I don’t speak German, I ignored my outrage and took up the challenge, using the following 9-step program:

  1. I told myself I could do it. (Critical step!)
  2. I made a first draft and thought I was done:

SLIMDUDE’s call had turned Rachel’s life into a MUDSLIDE.

  1. I re-read the rules and smacked myself in the forehead. “You forgot!” I scolded myself. “The challenge was to write two stories, and they each need to include an emotion!”
  2. I then wrote this version (emotion shown in brackets):

SLIMDUDE’s call turned Rachel’s life into a disappointing MUDSLIDE. [disappointed]

       I could see now that, by comparison, my first emotionless version was pretty boring.

  1. I rewrote the sentence using a second emotion:

SLIMDUDE’s call pushed Rachel’s life down a disgusting MUDSLIDE. [disgusted]

       I couldn’t stop there.

  1. I changed it again:

SLIMDUDE’s devastating call swept Rachel away in a MUDSLIDE. [devastated]

  1. I tried making it even more emotional:

SLIMDUDE’s haunting call hurled Rachel down an infinite MUDSLIDE. [terrorized]

  1. Then, just for fun, I rearranged the structure and ended up with:

Rachel was shocked by SLIMDUDE’s call. Welcome to MUDSLIDE! [shocked]

  1. I took 9 minutes to reflect on how many different ways there are to write a 9-word story, and how important emotion is in writing.

I wonder if anyone’s ever written a 9-word novel. Just think of the trees that could have been saved by editing War and Peace down to these 9 words:

“War: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Peace.”

 

2018-ffr-icon-awards29