Weekly Writing Challenge #35 – The Beach

Prompt – Craft a short story about the final day of summer.

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Sigh, yet another poorly written book, full of misspellings, grammar errors and jarring viewpoint shifts. Why is it so hard to find a good written book lately? I looked over at my wife on the other end of the couch. She was knitting a scarf, or was it a hat? Meanwhile, she glanced up at the tv occasionally watching yet another one of her daytime soaps. I couldn’t stand those things, that’s why I kept my hearing aids off whenever she turned on the tv.

I glanced out the window and it looked to be a beautiful day. We shouldn’t be sitting here in our retirement age sitting on the couch, reading bad books and watching tv all day long. In that instant, I made a decision.

Turning up my hearing aids, I turned and said to my wife, “Honey, it’s a beautiful day. Why don’t we go take a walk on the beach?”

She arched her eyebrow and looked sidelong at me, “The beach? I’m watching my soaps. Besides, are your knees up for the walk?”

Sighing, “Never mind about my knees, it’s the last day of summer and we haven’t walked the beach once this year. You stream the soaps, so you can pause it and watch after.”

Pursing her lips in thought, she looked at my face for a long moment. “Perhaps we could go for a short walk, it has been a long time.”

We got our shoes on and light weight jackets and drove to the beach. I was right, it was beautiful there with the softly roaring of the waves, the fresh air and feel of sand on our bare feet. We had taken off our shoes after crossing the soft sand to the packed sand near the water’s edge. Slowly we walked along, side by side. We didn’t hold hands as we did many years ago. She was looking at the surf and a guy on a kite surfer in the distance.

Suddenly I stopped. With creaking knees, I stooped down and picked up a perfect starfish. It had to be at least six inches across. My wife had stopped a couple of paces after I did, perhaps sensing I wasn’t next to her any more. I held out my hand and she grasped it to help me back standing. Handing her the starfish, I watched her eyes light up. A smile appeared that bespoke of pure joy. I couldn’t help but grin.

As she examined the starfish, I twisted my head to work out a kink in my neck. I spied a young man sitting on the beach about twenty yards from us. He was writing and occasionally glancing at us. Curious as to what he was writing, I slipped my hand in my wife’s hand and gave her a gentle tug toward the man. As he was sitting on the soft sand, it was slow going. Halfway to him, he stopped writing and looked up at us. I waved my other hand in greeting and kept trudging toward him.

“Hello young man. I’m sorry to bother you, but I felt an overwhelming desire to know what you are writing.”

The young man looked down at his notebook and back up at me. Wordlessly, he handed the notebook to me. He said, “It’s a character sketch. I come down here to the beach and pick out a person or a couple and describe them and imagine what their life is like.”

“Hmmph, I’ve never heard of such a thing. Are you an author?”, I inquired.

He shook his head, “No, I’m an aspiring writer but hope to be published one day.”

I looked down at what he had written. Surprisingly, it had no misspellings. The grammar was almost perfect. He had described my wife and I to the tee. I handed back his notebook to him and looked off into the distance for a minute thinking.

“Young man, you are not an aspiring writer at all.” I declared. With that, his face fell in disappointment. My wife grinned and gave me a small punch in my arm.

I chuckled and said, “You are a writer, a darn good one. Right now you are an aspiring author, but I think one day you will be a great author. Thank you for letting me read a small part of your writings.”

His eyes widened and his mouth opened as in shock. Maybe no one had ever told him that he was talented. I saluted him with two fingers and turned to walk back near the shore. My wife slipped her hand in mine as we walked. We both had smiles on our faces, mine from reading well written words and hers from having a perfect starfish.

“I don’t know why we don’t come to the beach more often. Why is it that we only seem to come on the last day of summer?”, I mused.

My wife laughed, “Because dear, you’ll be on your back for the next week with aching knees or have you forgotten the last five summers?”

I stopped and drew her hands towards my face and gave her a kiss on her knuckles. “I do remember, dear. I’m not going senile yet. I only wish I could come more often just to see you smile.”

She grinned even more broadly, “I do love you Henry, and I know you love me, even if you never say it. Let’s go home, it’s time to get you off your legs and eat supper.”

As we started to exit the beach, I turned and looked back. I wondered if this was the last time I would ever get to go to the beach. At my age, I was slowing down more and more. I treasured this last day of summer at the beach. Peering down at my wife, I knew I had to say something.

“Grace, I love you.”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

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Weekly Progress Report #47

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

I’m going to start with health news first. My frozen shoulder is thawing out nicely. I’ve been doing daily exercises that are painful, but have increased my range of motion tremendously. I still have a constant pain, but it is much less now. At least now I can sit and write without having to take a break every few minutes.

On to writing progress. This part I’m going to ramble a bit, so feel free to skip it. I’ve been reflecting why my writing has deteriorated since I stopped writing at the end of July. Before I stopped, I used to be able to sit and write a story in about twenty minutes. A few minutes of basic editing and I published. The words flowed and generally the stories were well written. Since I started back up, it has been a completely different story.

I’ve struggled to even come up with a story based on my weekly prompt. When I do have a small germ of an idea, I’ll write a paragraph or two and then go completely blank. The stories don’t flow and I’m not real happy with the quality. It takes me about two hours to come up with a semi-decent story. This has been extremely frustrating to me and part of the reason why I haven’t been able to restart the blog properly.

Last night I had an epiphany. It all makes sense now. I went back to my early stories from last year. Reading through them, the quality is not as good as it was this last spring and early summer. Granted, I was starting out and not as well versed in the art of writing. As I looked at more stories, I could see the progression. Steadily, they were getting better and better. Wow, who would have thought that practice makes perfect? Yes, I know, I’ve been preaching that since I started, but somehow I completely forgot.

My writing skills have become rusty and the only cure is to start over and just write. Quantity over quality right now. I need to trust the process. Instead of bemoaning the lost time, I need to remember always to “Suck it up”, “Deal with it” and “No sympathy”. In order to get back to where I was at, it’s going to require daily writings. More than likely the writings will be dreck at first, but as I get more comfortable with putting words to paper so to speak, the old creative juices will come back and also the quality will naturally increase.

One of the the things I’ve told my children and also others is 80% of the key to success is to show up and suit up. In other words, be there on time and ready to work. 15% is determination to be the best you can be and the other 5% is the talent that you bring to your endeavor. I have a talent for writing, but talent alone will not and cannot be all that there is. Without showing up and writing every day and having that will power to write no matter what, I’ll never get to the level that I was at.

Enough rambling for today. My progress this week is being restarted once again. I have another weekly prompt that I will be writing today. Yes, I’m going to be doubling and tripling the weekly prompts until I get caught up. The goal of 52 prompts in one year is still doable, but will take a lot of work.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Writing Challenge #30 – Balloon Heist

Prompt – Write about purple glasses. Black hair. Polka dot shoes.

Photo by Padli Pradana on Pexels.com

“Start from the beginning, what happened?”

“It was the darnedest thing. This guy walks into store. He looked funny.”

“What do you mean, funny?”

“Well, the first thing I noticed is that his shoes made a slapping sound. That’s because he was wearing those big clown shoes.”

“Clown shoes? What color where they?”

“Well, they were red with white polka dots. I They were so big, I couldn’t help but think that they would be hard to walk wearing them.”

“What else did you notice about him? What was he wearing?”

“Look, I’m sure everyone else has already told you what he looked like.”

“Yes, but I want to be sure about all the details, so go ahead and tell me everything about how he looked. Besides that, you were the closest to the guy.”

“Okay, he had on these big purple glasses. You know, the ones you get at a carnival or novelty store. He also had what looked like a wig.”

“Wait? A wig? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it was definitely a wig. I would say it was a Cher wig. You know, black hair that was way too straight and it came down to his knees.”

“Interesting. Go on”

“Well, he was carrying a bunch of balloons.”

“In his right hand or left?”

“Definitely his left hand. Then he stopped in front of me and pulled out a toy gun.”

“Did you know it was a toy gun immediately?”

“Oh yeah, not a doubt. It was bright orange and yellow. He pointed it right at me and pulled the trigger. There was a light pop and a flag came out with the words ‘Bang’ on it.”

“Then what happened?”

“I figured it was a practical joke and I started laughing and looking around to see who had paid this guy to do this silly stunt.”

“When did you know it wasn’t a joke?”

“Well, he pulled out another gun…”

“With his right or left hand?”

“It was his left hand for sure.”

“Wait, wasn’t he carrying balloons with his left hand?”

“Yes, but when he pulled the trigger on the toy gun, he let the balloons go and they floated up to the ceiling. See up there?”

“Yes, I see them. What did he do with the toy gun?”

“Hmm, I don’t know. One moment it was in his hand, the next it disappeared. Anyways, with the other gun, he shot the two Brinks guards that were collecting the days receipts.”

“Was the gunshots loud?”

“No, they were like an airsoft pistol. The guards slapped their necks and then went down. I could see darts sticking out. Are they okay?”

“Yes, they were apparently knocked out by tranquilizer darts.”

“Well, that’s good to know. I was worried about them.”

“They are already awake and the EMT’s are checking them out. So what did he do next?”

“Well, this is what made this whole thing surreal. He put his left finger to his lips like he was telling me to be quiet and then…”

“Which hand did he use?”

“That’s what made it strange, he used his left hand again. I don’t know what happened to the gun. I mean, he could have put it back into his coat. It was a long trench coat. Dark brown, I think.”

“That is strange. Keep going.”

“Well, he picks up a bag of cash from the one guard and then walks out almost in a saunter with his shoes slapping the whole way.”

“What did you do then?”

“Quite frankly, I was frozen in shock. I couldn’t believe all that had happened. Have you guys caught this guy yet?’

“Um, no unfortunately. But we are getting closer each time.”

“Wait? He’s done this before? Why hasn’t there been any news about it?”

“Quite simply, this is the fourth place he’s hit today. I’m sure we’ll get a break pretty soon.”

“Detective! Detective! They spotted him over at the Avenues Mall, looks like he’s hit another place already.”

“Damn it. Um, thank you ma’am. If you can think of anything else, let one of the patrol guys know.”

“Sure, okay. I’m not sure who are the bigger clowns here, that guy or you cops.”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Progress Report #42

Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to go forward. This past month I’ve been focused on editing and revising. It’s become a chore. Yes, it advances me to my goal of being published, but detracts from the main reason I’m writing. Mainly, the joy of writing a story. Sometimes they are received well, other times they fall flat. Regardless, I enjoy writing each and every one of the stories. The more I write, the better the stories and more importantly the better the writing.

I looked back at some of my early writings and I cringe. What was I thinking? Some of them look like a total hack job. This shows me how far I’ve progressed. I’ve still got a ways to go. It is said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. I’m not anywhere close to that number yet. I’ve yet to complete a novel. I’ll work on it in spurts, then something will come up to distract me from it. It takes a bit to get back into writing the novel.

I don’t expect my first novel to do well. Maybe my fourth or fifth. Just like writing short stories, it takes practice to write a novel that I will be proud of. Writing the novel is a major project. Editing my memoir is a major project. I’m not at the level of writing to be able to do both at the same time. I could edit and revise on certain days of the week and write the novel on other days, but it doesn’t quite work that way with me. I need to write on the novel for several days in order to get back up to speed. Once I stop writing, then I have to start the process over again.

I hope to do the final revising of the memoir this week. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t. I’m not going to pressure myself. It will come when it needs to come. Meanwhile, I will post my weekly writing challenge tonight. It’s a hard one in that it could go several ways. I always have a problem with these type of prompts. So many ideas, but only one story. I could write multiple stories on the prompt, but I feel that would get repetitive and negate the purpose of the challenges.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #39

This has been an editing week. I’m really liking ProWritingAid as it points out more things I wouldn’t have even thought to look at. For instance, I have several paragraphs where I start every sentence with “I”. Currently rewriting those paragraphs to make the flow better and not sound repetitive. I’m currently at three (3!) passive sentences, down from originally 56. I’m struggling to rewrite the last three, but I’ll get there.

Speaking of struggling, this weekend is the half-way point of my Weekly Writing Challenge. To me, this one should be special. Stupendous, marvelous and, above all else, astounding. Unlike last week, where I could have gone in a dozen different ways to write the challenge, this one is pretty straightforward. And I’m drawing a complete blank. I can’t visualize anything but a boring story.

I’ve sat down many times in the last couple of days to see if I could come up with something that doesn’t completely suck. Usually, I’ll write a first sentence and the story will come to me. This time, not so much. I’ve written at least a dozen first sentence’s and every time it leaves me stuck. Could this week finally be my doom?

I’ve not written about cancer lately, due to me being cancer free, but I’ve noticed a peculiar thing. Every little ache or pain causes me instantly to think, “Cancer!” It’s almost as if I’ve become paranoid. I went to the dermatologist and had a mole that has been bothering me removed. During chemo, the mole dried out and split and has been flaky ever since. I can’t help but wonder if this is cancer. Friday, I received a call and the tests show it was benign. What a relief!

During my annual physical, I complained about my right arm hurting. The doc thinks it is because I had a rash of boils under my right arm. The scar tissue may have contracted my muscles. To be sure, he had me do x-rays of my arm and shoulder. I finally got to see the results yesterday and contrary to my fear of having bone cancer, it showed my bones are good. Looks like physical therapy is in my future.

It’s going to take a long time for me to get over this irrational fear of cancer whenever I experience anything different. I’m not used to living in fear and I don’t like it.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #38

This week has been all about editing. Not my strongest suit, but something that I need to work on. Slowly I’m getting there, but it seems like I’m slogging through a mud pit. I’ve decided that I need help. I’m going to pull the trigger on buying a year’s worth of premium for ProWritingAid. Of all the editing software I’ve seen, it fits the bill the best.

I’m on day 2 of my stop smoking process. I only get to smoke 19 cigarettes today. Yesterday was the first day I’ve only smoked 1 pack. I’ve been a pack and a half smoker for a while. When I visited with my youngest daughter at their new home, I went over two hours without smoking. When I left and came home, I smoked and I got a buzz. Felt lightheaded. From past experiences, this will happen more this week. Not a good recipe for success with trying to concentrate on editing.

I still need to write my Weekly Writing Challenge story. I will post it early tonight. It’s another vague prompt that could go in a number of different directions. Probably what I need to continue to grow as a writer, but indecision is wracking my brain.

I foresee a tough week ahead. I’ve been through tougher weeks in the past, so I know I’ll be able to get past all the obstacles.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Progress Report #37

It’s been an up and down type of week. Between the doctor visits and doing serious revising and editing for the first time, I’m not sure if my progress was good or not. After this last year with all the appointments I’ve had, I think I’m developing anxiety right before I see a doctor. Inner thoughts run through my head the night before projecting every worst case scenario I can imagine. Considering I’m a writer that comes up with stories, I can think of a considerable amount of bad outcomes. And waiting on test results? Don’t get me started.

Of course, this means my regular writing suffers. Astute readers will have noticed I didn’t post the Weekly Writing Challenge yesterday. The prompt at first glance seemed to be an easy one, but I’ve been having a difficult time with it. I’ve started four different stories and abandoned each of them after only one paragraph. I’ll keep trying today. At the very least, I’ll post a series of one paragraph stories based on the prompt if I can’t find something to settle on. Then again, they are all dreck, so that may not be a good idea. The Bowl of Doom may have finally got the best of me this week. We’ll see.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Weekly Writing Challenge #23 – The Window

Prompt – Outside the window, you see something you can’t believe.

Finally a chance to sit back and relax with a hot cup of coffee. It had been a hectic day at work full of stress. Somehow I muddled through all the requests, demands and outright weirdness that encompasses my work day.

Sitting back on my favorite recliner I faced the fake fireplace with my flat screen TV over it. I picked up the remote and turned on the flames that soothed the savage beast inside me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement outside my window. I turn to look and see nothing amiss. Perhaps, as my wife would put it, I saw the ghost of someone I know. You can only see them out of the corner of your eye supposedly. I usually just smile and nod whenever she talks about ghosts. I don’t believe for one second there are ghosts.

Sipping my coffee, I flick my shoes off and lean back in the recliner putting the foot rest up. Again, I see something out of the corner of my eye. Maybe I should go get my eyes checked? I’ll have to put that down on my mental checklist. I turn slowly toward the window and I have to blink my eyes twice. I can’t believe what I see. A man dressed as a Samurai is standing on the street looking right at me. It’s too early for Halloween.

I put the foot rest down and lean forward in my chair getting ready to stand and the Samurai disappears. Confused I pause where I’m at. Could this be an optical illusion? Or am I going crazy? I slowly lean back keeping my eyes on the window. The Samurai doesn’t reappear and I sigh. Maybe I’m having a brain aneurism and it’s causing me to hallucinate. I start to call for my wife, but take another look at the window.

There! Not a Samurai, but a monkey dressed as an Indian riding what looks like an armadillo. Now I know I’m going crazy as it becomes a veritable parade of the weird and crazy. Pink spotted Giraffes with the face of my mother-in-law. A dancing coffee cup being chased by tiny army men. Not to mention the up side down naked lady riding a lawn mower.

Instead of being alarmed, I start to enjoy kooky parade. For some reason it calms me the more outlandish it gets. I look around the neighborhood, but no one else is around or looking through their windows. Then the parade ends with a black mist that seems to be growing and coming straight toward my window.

I cry out in horror! I try to get up out of my chair, but I’m frozen in place. My legs are kicking and my arms are flailing about to no end. The black mist reaches the window and then oozes through a tiny crack in the corner. I knew I should have fixed that. The black mist grows and seems to be getting solid. I’m frozen in fright.

As the apparition closes on me and everything goes dark, I scream!

My wife turns on the light and grabs my shoulder shaking me. I’m in my bed sitting up.

“Honey”, my wife gently says, “are you having another nightmare?”

Whew, what a relief! It was just a nightmare. Granted the strangest one I have ever had. I close my eyes in relief and start to lay back down in my bed.

A bright light flashes in my eyes. I hear voices indistinctly. The light goes away and I am back in darkness but I can hear the voices becoming clearer.

A man’s voice says, “I’m sorry, but your husband has no brain activity at all. The machines are the only thing keeping him alive. When you are ready, nod and we will shut everything down.”

I scream “NOOOOOOO!”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Progress Report #35

So-so week in writing. I didn’t get much progress done on my book. I did edit Chapter 4. My routine that I rely on was disrupted by a holiday. That tends to throw me off quite a bit not only in writing but also at work.

I did end the week on a positive as I returned to my roots of writing dark fiction in the Weekly Writing Challenge. I think it is one of my best works to date. I had pulled the prompt late on Friday. Usually I pull the prompt on Thursday to give me a couple of days to figure out how I’m going to use it for the story. Friday night, I slept horribly. I kept waking up through the night and then going right back to sleep.

It is rare for me to remember my dreams, but I still vividly remember the dreams I had on Friday night. Possible story lines for the prompt kept going through my head. Every one was discarded for various reasons. Some were tired tropes. Some fizzled out. Others made no sense.

As I sat down on Saturday evening to write the story, my mind was blank. Then I remembered when I was growing up one of my chores was milking the family cow. The winter months when it had snowed were a special time of peace. From there the story unfolded almost magically from my fingertips.

This Friday, I’m going to see my primary physician for my annual physical. He is also going to draw blood to test my PSA and testosterone level. I’m anxiously awaiting the results. Hopefully they are good levels. If so, then I can finish the final coda to my memoir. After that, I plan on being consumed with editing and revision.

The plan is to publish it on Kindle by September. Which means I’m going to also have to learn how to do book blurbs, formatting and coming up with a book cover.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

Ye Olde Six Sentence Story Book Shoppe

I’m amazed, grateful and humbled that I am included as one of the SSS Writers. If you look carefully, I’m on the back row second from the right.

I’ve only been writing six sentence stories for almost four months. Hard to believe it’s been that long. I’ve skipped a few here and there, but for the most part I’ve challenged myself to come up with a story each week.

At first, it was incredibly hard to do a story in only six sentences. As time went on and I practiced, it became easier. Then after reading some other Sixers, I decided to try my hand at doing a series. That upped the difficulty level but became easier as I wrote.

Lastly, I’ve taken on the challenge of inserting my character Harry Gruen into the Six Sentence CafĂ© & Bistro. Yes, a lot of chutzpah to join into an ongoing story that no less than six long time writers have been developing for a long time.

I fully expected to be piled with disdain, scorn and derision, but was welcome with open arms. This was a pleasant surprise. Now to be included into this hallow pantheon of writers is fantastic, though I somehow feel that maybe I was included just to round out the picture.

Regardless, I’m having a lot of fun doing these challenges. I highly encourage writers to give this a try. It has been a journey that I will not soon forget. If I can figure out how to get the image on my sidebar I will. For now, just click the picture above and it will take you to the creator of Book Shoppe and an amusing story of how she got the writers together for the picture.