Faster Than A Healthy Walker

free writing exercise

Image courtesy of Pinterest. Click image for source info.

I’ve been writing to prompts and with agendas for so long now, I’d forgotten what it was like sit down and let my personal thoughts and observations dictate my fingers for a few minutes.

When I was in college, I took a basic intro to creative writing class. Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry was the uninspired but honest title in the course-book (Course selection back then was based on a paper catalogue and a room full of tables where you filed index cards according to your choices. Barbaric, I know.).

Our instructor had us free write for ten minutes every day, and once a week, she collected them and read them over. We weren’t graded, per se, but she made notes of ideas or structures of patterns which emerged and caught her interest. Those free-writing exercises unlocked ideas and images and stories which often became seeds from which I grew actual assignments for the course.

And don’t tell my screenwriting or playwrighting professors, but some of those free-writing pages came to life for their courses, too. So this morning, I gave myself ten minutes of not answering emails or hopping up to fetch and carry for my little boy, and I wrote. And it ended up being about running of all the things.

* * *

I came awake to the rush and whine of the recycling truck picking up the 90 gallon container at the end of our driveway–that’s not strictly true, I woke to the rush and whine of the truck and impatient and moving honk! from a driver not willing to wait in traffic for the truck to finish its work.

And then the soreness in my hips and calves burned through. I decided to start a running program yesterday, didn’t I? After more than a year of dedication to sitting on my ass in front of the blogging world, via the screen on my Mac, I asked my body to move.

Stretching I examined a little tug in my back, between my left shoulder and my spine, and a tightness in my hamstrings. Must stretch better–more?–next time.

Next time.

Apparently there’s going to be a next time. I’m mildly surprised. I’ve never liked running. I didn’t particularly like it yesterday. But these tugs, and this soreness feel good in a way. I’m not going to lie, even in my bed, which might be the most comfortable surface on earth, I am uncomfortable. The discomfort brings with it a measure of pride. You can’t tell to look at me, but I pushed myself yesterday.

A nineteen minute mile isn’t exactly impressive, but it’s less than a twenty minute mile, which is what they say you should be able to walk. So I went faster than a healthy walker.

“Maaaaaaaaaaa-maaaaaaaah!” and my son is impatient. No more wallowing in bed and self-analysis. The soreness will simply have to come with me downstairs, to see how it feels about being part of my family.

* * *

Do you ever take ten minutes for yourself and really take note of what’s going on in your mind? in the world around you? Give it a try. You might be surprised what comes of it.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

blueberry muffin recipe

Image courtesy of Pinterest. Click image for source info.

Muffins and I have a complicated relationship. The muffins you find in bakeries? In donut franchises and coffee shops? Those are not muffins by my–admittedly narrow–definition. Those are cake baked in muffin tins. Too sweet, to… cakey.

My Mom always made blueberry muffins from a battered and butter-stained page in the Blueberry Hill Cookbook, and they have set the standard for me.

These muffins are dense, chewy, not too sweet, subtly pumpkin-ey and moderately chippy. They are also reasonably low in fat and have some fiber and protein… so you can justify having them for breakfast!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
based on the Blueberry Hill Cookbook’s Blueberry Muffin recipe
Yields 2 dozen muffins 

3 1/2 c. flour (I use a blend of all-purpose and white whole wheat)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. flax seed meal (optional)
4 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice (or a blend of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, clove, & nutmeg)
4 eggs
1/2 c. canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1 1/2 c. milk (I use 1% with no ill-effects)
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 2 1-dozen muffin tins.

In a large mixing bowl, stir flour through pumpkin pie spice to blend. In a medium bowl blend eggs, pumpkin, and milk until smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring only until fully incorporated. Don’t over mix! Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop batter into greased muffin tins, filling the cups two-thirds full. These are best when not gigantor muffins, so please trust me on this.

Bake for 15 minutes. A tester should come out clean and dry.

Cool in pans for a few minutes. Then turn out onto a rack to cool. These are awesome warm, so dig in!

studio thirty plusIf muffin recipes aren’t your thing, or even if they are, I have a post featured at Studio Thirty Plus today which has nothing to do with baked goods, but which does reference Hoarders and Pteranodons.

Bear On A Bike

Barefoot Books

Image courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Felix is at a curious crossroads as a pre-reader. He loves small chapter books and no longer relies on pictures to bring stories to life. We’re reading more and more complex tales with few to no illustrations, but he still loves to revisit his favorite picture and even board books, especially those favorites to which he knows the words.

Bear on a Bike, by Stella Blackstone, is one such favorite board book. He will pull it from the shelf and recite along with me–and we’re still finding clever details in Debbie Harter’s whimsical illustrations.

Bear is a featured character in a whole line of board books (the six titles in the gift set are available separately as well, and are available in paperback) which explore different early development topics–community, home, shapes, travel (Bear On A Bike), occupations, weather, family, and birthdays!

In this book, Bear travels by different methods to wonderful places.

barefoot books

Image courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Accompanied by his friend, whose refrain, “Where are you going, Bear? Please wait for me!” Felix always “reads” with me.

Barefoot Books

Image courtesy of Barefoot Books

I admit it: I’m going to be a little sad when he finally says goodbye to these charming books.

I am not being compensated for this review. The opinions are entirely my own, but I am a Barefoot Books Ambassador, and all links on this page will bring you to my affiliate marketplace, sales from which do earn me a commission.

Six Autumnal Words

apple picking

Image courtesy of Pinterest. Click image for source info.

Corn maze.

Apple pie.

Swamp maples.

1242 High Street

This is from the opening paragraphs of a new story, coming to your e-reader later this month!

I clutched the newspaper listing against the steering wheel as I drove.

Crisp air and cicada song drifted in through the windows of my Honda. The Victorian residences of High Street gave way to larger estates, secluded from view by hedgerows and crumbling walls. The occasional turret or whimsical cupola was visible between the trees.

A placard announced the correct number. The patinated bronze numbers glinted dully in the sun.

The stone and iron gateway marking the entry wore its lichen with a sort of bitter dignity. Thick stands of pine and bony birches flanked the stone and dust driveway–flying buttresses of greenery.

When the house came into view, I brought the car to a crawl. A vine-choked gothic revival mansion rose up out of a rocky outcropping in the landscape, deeply shadowed by ancient oak and ash trees. Sunlight dappled the lawn and gilded the statuary in the formal gardens. I could just see the shining tips of marble wings off to my right.

The Honda’s tires crunched over fallen catalpa pods as I came to a slow stop under the porte-cochere. Their funk mingled with the scent of rotting oak leaves and wet fir needles on the air.

Good writing plants the reader’s feet into your story.

Good writing is also concise.

So when you’re trying to decide where to spend your words – where to use the most imagery and details and senses – I say setting is where it’s at.

What do you see? What does the air feel like? Smell like? What are you stepping on? Who else is there with your character or you? Time? Weather?

In 200 words.

The Wedding Table

Wednesday, Late Afternoon: Re-conjured

The earthy funk of a toddler fresh from sleep. Sweet childhood sweat, waft of wet diaper, stale breath, the last whiff of baby hairline.

Chipotle hot sauce, garlic, onions, chicken, oil, hot cast iron.

Rain and early falling leaves, thrumming on glass. The fading sky: autumnal, drab.

The rhythmic whine of the dishwasher: swom… swom… swom… swom…

Fingers flutter, hovering over the keyboard. My too long hair, falling into my field of vision.

The dog’s too long nails, milling underfoot: clackclackclack

Moist heat from the stove, sheen of sweat above my lip.

Small, grimy, perfect hands around my waist.

Writing short posts is an excellent way to flex your word choice muscles. Which word is the most clear? Poignant? Direct?

This week I want you to conjure something. An object, a person, a feeling, a color, a season- whatever you like.

This is an edit of a post from the end of last summer.

The Story Tree

Image courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Felix loves stories. This we know.

We recently acquired a copy of The Story Tree, retold by Hugh Lupton and illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Based on traditional stories from around the world–some more familiar than others, this book is written to be read aloud.

The rhythm and pacing of these stories is musical, using words and phrases like verses and refrains. Sophie Fatus’s illustrations are charming and whimsical.

The seven stories in this collection focus on problem solving, ingenuity, and the importance of friends and family. The Blue Coat tells the story of a frugal and loving mother’s reuse of her son’s favorite coat. The The Sweetest Song is a playful tale of using your head in the face of certain danger in the form of a hungry wolf with an ear for a tune.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a familiar favorite.

Image courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Felix loves the hapless rooster’s cry for help in Little Lord Feather Frock, and that he gets the help he needs from his friends.

Included with the book is a story CD, narrated by author Hugh Lupton, which Felix loves to listen to on car trips. Our Barefoot Books library is fairly extensive because Mama is an ambassador, but this one has risen to the top of the frequently read pile.

I am not being compensated for this review. The opinions are entirely my own, but I am a Barefoot Books Ambassador, and all links on this page will bring you to my affiliate marketplace, sales from which do earn me a commission.

Six Wedding Words

There cannot be enough Armenian dancing.

Let Them Think What They Will

Val caught her heel between the flagstones in the empty plaza. Her ankle twisted. When her knee struck the ground, her leather folio tumbled, the artist renderings and spec sheets fluttering out as it opened—she was helpless to stop it. The pain was stunning. Her hip struck the stone; her nerves sang in agony.

Running steps behind her forced her to push herself up, to look behind her.

The man who dropped to his knees next to her spoke quietly with a touch of an accent.

“Are you alright?”

Val blinked and shook her head. To speak would have been to unleash the tears balancing on her lashes.

He took her hands, pulling her up to sitting. She winced, breath hissing between her lips. He turned her palms up, running his thumbs over the heels of her hands, dusting the debris from her skin. His eyes were amber, his lashes impossibly long, his features severe.

Setting her hands down again, he stood. He bent to retrieve her things, gathering them with a practiced shuffle-tap and placing them inside the leather folio before offering to help her up.

Val took the offered arm and stood, smoothing her skirt as she did. She wobbled slightly and swore roundly. Her now broken Fendi pump had cost her as much as a full month’s split of the rent. She’d been enchanted by the impossible stiletto heel and the bow, not to mention that they were named for her—d’Orsay. A good luck charm for this, the meeting that would decide her future with the firm.

Some luck, she thought darkly. Her skirt was damp from the stones, her hair loosened from its pins by the fall and the misty air.

“This is remarkable,” the man said, touching his fingertip to the asymmetrical curves on the rendering. “Almost as if the artist was inside my imagination.”

“It’s… for a client,” Val stammered. She stuck out a hand. “Valentine Dorsay, Foxe and Dean Associates.”

“Valentine,” he repeated, taking her hand and squeezing gently. “Aubrey Finch.”

Val swallowed.

“Aubrey Finch?” she asked.

“We can’t have met. I’d remember.”

Val held back the urge to smooth the slight crease between his eyes as he struggled to place her. “This,” she said, picking up the rendering of the staircase, spiraling whimsically through fourteen feet of space, “is for your house.”

“For my—“ Realization dawned; his smile was radiant. “Foxe and Dean. Of course.”

“We’re both going to be late,” he said, checking his watch. “Shall we?”

He offered her his arm; the gesture should have seemed old-fashioned. Val put her hand on his arm and promptly stumbled on her broken heel.

Aubrey held her steady, but his gaze traveled down her leg, past her skinned knee to the offending shoe. He gestured towards the nearby row of wrought iron benches. Val hobbled with him, sitting gingerly.

Aubrey leaned down and began untying his shoes. Val watched him untie them both, then remove the left one, along with his sock. He tucked the sock inside the toe of the shoe before moving on the right one.

“What are you doing?” Val asked.

He smiled up at her. His warm, luxurious eyes, compelling in such an austere face, sparkled merrily.

“You can’t walk in those shoes, so we’ll both go in to this meeting barefoot and let them think what they will.”

Images courtesy of Pinterest. Click either image for source info.

This week, we want you to be inspired by pictures. Write a piece – fiction or creative non-fiction – based on your reaction to either of these photos. Or both.