Story Cubes Writing Practice: The Exam

My daughter has a set of dice called Story Cubes, which she uses to tell us fanciful stories before bed.  It didn’t take long for me to see the benefit of using these dice to practice my own storytelling skills.  And since this is my blog and I do what I want, I decided to share these little stories with you.

My roll:  House, Teepee, Phone, Beetle, Sheep, Flashlight, Magic wand, Direction/wheel (compass), Tree

THE EXAM

“Oh, for the love of—” Sheep swore, ending the call with a decidedly unsatisfying stab of her hoof at the red image on the phone.  She had been in a snit all morning, and being unable to reach Beetle since dawn had not helped matters.  Only the thought of kicking his shiny carapace into next week seemed to soothe her temper.
She stomped around the house, making a point of ignoring how the gingham curtains and cozy, overstuffed chairs that decorated her cottage normally put her in a better mood.  Sheep was so intent on being annoyed by Beetle’s insufferably lackadaisical attitude about her very real concerns, that it slipped her mind to check in again with Gus at Flying Squirrel Cargo.
Honestly, that insect couldn’t find his thorax with a compass and a flashlight, she silently groused, slamming the phone down on the faux granite counter.  They needed to meet Buffalo at his Teepee by noon, and traffic is always a mess, and all of this was just too much stress for her.  She didn’t need Beetle and his ‘just relax, Sheepie, we got this’ hippie talk grating on her very last nerve all the way past the Heart Tree and back.  Not today.  Today was too important and she was not about to let one annoying insect get in the way of her god given happiness.
“Yo, Sheepie!” came a bright call from her porch.  “We should probably get a move on if you want to hang with Buffalo today.  That dude has no chill, right?  I keep tellin’ him his chakras are whack, but does he listen?  No, he does not.  He just—”
“Let’s go,” Sheep interrupted him as she swept through the cheery red front door and turned smartly to lock it behind her.
“Hey, Sheepie, I was think—”  Beetle began, his antennae spread wide in friendliness.
“I said let’s go.”  Sheep cut him off again, channeling her anger into the biting tone of her words.  “I swear, Beetle, if you make me late again…”
“Nah, nah, Sheepie.  We’ve got all the time in the world, right?  The Universe will provide,” he rubbed his front legs together apologetically, and follow the clearly annoyed Sheep to his Volkswagon.  “Besides, it’s not like the old guy is going to fail you if you’re just a little late, right?”
This was exactly the wrong thing to say to Sheep.  She whirled around and glared at Beetle, hooves on her hips.  In a low voice, she spat, “Get. In. The. Car. Right now, before I do something I’m going to enjoy thoroughly before they lock me away in the Big Barn.”
Cowed, Beetle did as she demanded, silently starting up the little car and pulling out of the driveway.  Once headed in the right direction, however, it didn’t take long for his usual cheerful attitude to creep back.  “So, Sheepie, I was just talking to Gus, and—”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she muttered under her breath.  “I completely forgot to check in with Gus.”  To Beetle, she replied, “Just drive.  I don’t have it in me to chit-chat on the way to my exam.  I swear, if I don’t pass today, I’m holding you personally responsible.  You know how hard I have been working to even get the chance to test with Buffalo.  I really can’t even think about anything else right now.”  Even as the words left her mouth, she knew it wasn’t true.  She had been obsessing about the delivery ever since she was notified that it had shipped two days ago, and her studies had suffered accordingly.  She wasn’t confident in her magic, and she was terrified that Buffalo would see right through her illusions.  And she blamed Beetle, just like she always did.
Beetle  shrugged and decided not to finish his thought.  The Universe will provide, he mused to himself, carefully driving just under the posted speed limit.  It always doesEven when you forget to pay shipping on your new magic wand.

The Change in My Wallet

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 9: What’s in my wallet

Happy Anniversary to me! According to WordPress, I began the TotallyTawn blog five years ago today.  My, how times change! What began as one timid post asking what the hell I was getting myself into blossomed into something so amazing that I still have trouble believing how much my life has evolved.

Of course, many other things have changed in the last five years as well.  That’s what life is, after all.  Change.

Change-22-300x300

I used to lug around a giant totebag purse with a ton of stuff in it: makeup, aspirin, wet-wipes, a book or tablet, a crochet project, wallet, phone, lint, hopes and dreams; You get the picture. Despite being prepared for almost anything, I would go months without actually using any of those items as more than a collection of tiny anchors relentlessly pulling one shoulder lower than the other.

Since then, I’ve learned that it’s easier for me to make a pit stop if I need anything rather than drag it around on the off chance that I might someday need a wet-wipe and the nearest store is more than a block away.  Besides, I can now stash that junk in my car’s glove compartment.

Now I have an adorable orange wristlet wallet with a pink strap from Thirty-One which holds my phone, my credit cards, a picture of my kids, my library card (of course), and a crumpled wad of receipts that I keep forgetting to give to my husband to file.  That’s it.

No cash – I would only spend it unwisely and 99.5% of establishments take plastic anyway, so why bother?  No picture of my husband. Part of the reason I have a photo of my kids is in case anything happened to them and I needed to give the police a picture for the milk carton, so I must not be worried about my husband in quite the same way. In hindsight, I have a ton of pictures of my family (and my cat) on my phone, so there’s really no reason to have that photo in there anyway.

That’s it. There’s really no room for anything else, which is fine with me. No more back pain!  Hurrah for life changes!

Come back later and I’ll tell you about the best trip of my life.  Well, the one I remember anyway.

Tawn’s Best Laid Plans

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 8: Five Current Goals

As you can probably tell, I generally don’t do well with goals. I can stick to a schedule if I really have to, but I’m usually a disorganized mess racing against the clock to finish my work.  I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I’m addicted to the adrenaline rush which, since I haven’t been flying in seven years, I can only get by flirting with death by editorial deadlines.

I’m not a completely lost cause, though.  I’ve recently started using Habitica to “gamify” my habits and goals, Cooksmarts for meal planning, and Google Keep for lists that I want to share with my husband like groceries, household to-do items, and reminders.  So far, the results have been encouraging.  I’ve been able to stick with these tools far longer than I’ve been able to complete a blog post a day, and I’m also able to track my progress objectively.

As for my five current goals, I doubt you are interested in baby steps like “walk 10,000 steps a day,” “floss,” or “take a yoga class.”   In that light, I’m going to zoom out and give you my big ticket items.

Create a Business Plan – I am just now beginning to understand that being an author is a business.  In order for me to be successful, I need to market and sell my books, maintain an author platform, participate in social media, and of course, write. Thankfully, I have the help of my publisher, BigWorldNetwork, in many of those areas, but the responsibility still rests on my shoulders. I need a game plan.

Figure out how to do in-person ebook sales – I will be participating in Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest December 4th – 6th, and it got me thinking about a way to sell ebooks in addition to my paperbacks from my spot in Artist’s Alley. I want to have something tangible that I can autograph. Anyone have any suggestions?

Complete my Cardinal Directions season– I am working with four very talented BigWorldNetwork authors to write this serial novel.  My season is approaching soon, and my goal is to have my twelve episodes written by the end of January.

Write another Toni Drake novel – She’s been talking to me lately. It seems being queen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and she wants to go on another adventure.

Expand into audiobooks – While I’ve done the audiobooks for my own work, I’ve also narrated books for other authors, such as Heart of the Hurricane by May Woodworth. I would like to continue to do this for BigWorldNetwork authors, and also connect with other authors through Amazon’s ACX platform.

Whew!  Just looking at that list is making me a little lightheaded!  Hopefully I’ll recover quickly so I can catch up on my posts.

Speaking of which, the next blog must be sponsored by Capital One because the prompt is “What’s in your wallet?”  I’ll give you a hint: “cash” won’t be on the list.

A Little Mood Music, Please, Maestro

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 7: My 5 Favorite Songs

Happy Monday!

Well, it didn’t take long for me to fall behind on this challenge. Not surprising, since this exercise is meant to help me develop my writing habit more than anything else. However, today is a new day, and a Monday at that!

I love Mondays. I normally accomplish more on that one day of the week than any other day, and today is no exception. With that in mind, I’d like to get right down to the nitty-gritty and share five of my favorite songs with you.

Now, just to be clear, just like almost all of the other challenge posts asking about my favorites, there are simply too many songs that I like for me to choose favorites. I don’t like to limit myself like that. The songs I’ve decided to share with you today are some that help me get my caboose in gear. I hope they also inspire you to make your Monday is as fantastic as mine.

1. Big Time – Peter Gabriel

2. It’s no Good – Depeche Mode

3. In A Gadda Da Vida – Iron Butterfly

4. Bang Bang – Jesse J ft. Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj

5. And finally, Cream  – Prince (Because who doesn’t like a little cream on top?)

Now that I’ve gotten your booty moving, go do something awesome!  And stay tuned for my next post when I share some of my current goals with you.  Toodles!

My Fears

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 6: What am I afraid of?

When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares. There were two scenarios, but both essentially involved being chased by something hideous. Since I dream in color, these nightmares – which I would have every single night for months on end – were as real to me as my waking hours. Sometimes more real, since I can still recall them in great detail while my memories from kindergarten on are generally foggy and riddled with blind spots.

One beautiful summer afternoon a few years after my last recurring nightmare, I overheard my mother and my aunt talking about a book called Wolfen. The tiny portion of storyline that I heard was enough to stoke my overactive imagination into a frenzy, resulting in months of night terrors in which I was convinced that I could see a werewolf slip into my darkened room once the rest of the house was asleep.

As a teenager, I spent the night at my aunt’s house on many occasions. One morning, she told me that my screams had awakened her in the middle of the night. When she checked on me, I was sitting up, eyes open, and even had a conversation with her. I don’t recall any of that incident because I was asleep the entire time.

I have fears – lots of them. Sure, they’ve evolved from childhood nightmares to the more realistic fears of an adult, but that doesn’t make them any less terrifying. For instance, I always take a mental note of what my children are wearing before they leave the house on the very remote chance that something might happen to them on their way to school. I have irrational fears about a traffic accident or something just as mundane taking my husband from me. I fear what losing any of them would do to me almost as much as I fear what I would do to anyone that hurt them.

Sometimes fear holds me back, keeping me from saying or doing things that would offend others or cause them pain. I also struggle to put emotions into my stories because I’m afraid I’ll lose myself in experiencing the burning anger, haunting despair, or primal fear that would give my words life.

Sometimes the fear makes me stronger. It pulls me outside my cozy realm of familiarity and forces me to look it in the eyes, to stare it down and grow from the experience. Only by facing your fears can you overcome them.

At one time, I had been deathly afraid to share my writing with anyone. Those days are far behind me, but still there are times that I feel a cold hand grab hold of my heart and squeeze, all while whispering in my ear that I am not good enough, not real enough, that I will only fail and embarrass myself. Those are the fears that steal my confidence, make me feel like a fraud, and sink their hooks so far into my soul that facing them results in an almost physical pain.

So what makes me most afraid? Loss. Losing my family, my sense of self, control of my emotions, or even a loss of credibility is enough to keep me awake at night. Every day, I battle these fears, thankful that I even feel frightened in the first place, for it seems to me that the only way I can truly get over my fear is to not have anything left to lose.

Tomorrow’s post, my top five songs, will be much more lighthearted than today’s topic, I promise. See you tomorrow!

Pride and Sloth… wait, what?

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 5: My Proudest Moment

What is up with these topics? Each one is harder than the last. I have had so many moments of pride that I’m positive I’ve earned a ticket on the express handbasket to Hell for committing that deadly sin alone. Which is saying a lot, since my middle name is Sloth and I own vacation property in Gluttony.the-7-deadly-sins_o_1724615

However, one particular incident stands apart from the rest because it wasn’t something that I accomplished, at least not directly. It was something my son did.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy really, really close by, my children and I found ourselves waiting for hours to retrieve my husband from a police station. He had be apprehended by the railroad cops – seriously – for doing something more stupid than unlawful, and because people with no criminal past take longer to process, it had been a long day for all of us. My daughter had gotten sick all over herself and my back seat, and my son and I needed to pee so badly that we were seconds from using the nearest squad car as a port-a-potty.

Despite all of this, there was another family in the waiting area that looked like their day had been even worse than ours.  A harried young mother with her bedraggled son who couldn’t have been more than three huddled in the far corner of the station.  She looked positively exhausted, and they had a garbage bag with them with might have contained everything they owned in the world for all we knew.  The child never left his mother’s side, almost melting into her as if it was all he could do to hold back frightened tears.

My son saw them and asked me if I thought they were okay.  I told him I didn’t know, but they looked tired and sad to me.  He nodded absently and then, without another word to me, walked over to the child, spoke softly to him, and placed the McDonald’s toy he had gotten earlier that day in the boy’s hands.   The child’s face lit up, and the mother thanked my son with a grateful smile.  When he returned to my side, I asked him why he did that and he said, “I don’t know.  I just thought I could cheer him up.”

That small gesture proved my worth as a mother.  I might not always get it right, but by instilling compassion in my children, I’m making the world a better place through them.  This was my proudest moment.

Come back tomorrow when I share my deepest fear.  Here’s a hint:  It’s not spiders.  Probably.

there-was-a-spider-i-panicked

A Time to Work

NaBloPoMo 2015Day 4: My Dream Job

I bore easily. It’s how I roll. As much as I would love to be paid to sit on a beach every day, I know I would eventually tire of it. It would take a long, long time for that to happen, but trust me, it would happen. Because of this personality quirk, I have many dream jobs. Most of them involve making the most money for as little work as possible – i.e. the American Dream – but none of them are boring.

Here are my top ten:

1. Lifeguard – In Hawaii.  But I don’t want to rescue anyone.  Too much work.
2. SR-71 Pilot – Those babies are badass. The pilots who fly them are, too. I qualify.  In my own mind, at least.
3. Travel Writer – Visit far away places, sample the local cuisine, and write. Heaven.  Well, as long as I don’t have to eat insects.  That’s not happening.
4. Singer – So far, my only concerts have been in the shower.  My cat has nothing nice to say about my performances. Everyone’s a critic.
5. Spy – I know I would suck at this, but the movie True Lies is to blame for my fantasy that this is even remotely possible.
6. Cat Lady – Not actually “a job,” but my son is convinced it’s my calling.
7. Aerobatic Pilot – I would have to get over my tendency to laugh hysterically during maneuvers, but if I can pull off espionage, I can do anything.
8. Dominatrix – As a mother, I’m used to no one doing anything I tell them to do. Ever.  This would be a lovely change of pace.
9. Grandmother – Forget the mom gig, too much work for too little reward. Grandmas get to do all the fun stuff with kids: get them all twitchy on sugar, keep them up all night, lavish them with noisy, expensive gifts, and then hand them back to their parents for detox. It’s perfect!
10. Empress – I want to be in charge, but elections are lame.  Also, I would rock a tiara.

If you think about it, a writer can be anything they want to be simply by seeing through the eyes of their characters.  In other words, I already have my dream job.  I’m a writer.  Although, Empress Tawn does have a nice ring to it.

Come back tomorrow for Day 5: My Proudest Moment. It should be a good one.  I can’t wait to find out what it is.