Happy Halloween!

It’s Trick or Treat Day!

I promise, no tricks, but I do have a treat for you, today! I wrote a saucy little ghost story for a contest, but missed the deadline, so thought I’d share it with you all, today. The contest rules stated that stories must be between 1,200 and 1,500 words and, to make it just a bit more challenging, it had to include the following 10 words:  Shadow, Children, Fog, Mirror, Revenge, Black, Hidden, Sleep, Eye, Never.

I think you’ll agree, I’ve met the challenge. 🙂

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Hungry Spirits 

The high-pitched squeal of the food trolley’s wheels ground on Nadine’s nerves.

            “Enough to wake the dead,” she thought. “Maybe it’ll wake George and he can figure out a way to make ends meet, so I don’t have to work here.”

            She smirked to herself, knowing that was just wishful thinking. The dead did not rise once laid to rest.

            After twenty-five years of marriage, Nadine was a widow, forced into a menial job to pay the bills. She reflected on the past year, spent rambling around an empty house in the heart of the city, alone and unhappy. Her three girls were all out on their own and her friends, in an effort to be helpful, kept dragging her out to bars and yoga class. Nadine shook her head to eliminate the depressing memories and returned her focus to her job.

            The hotel hallway was shadowed and deserted at that time of night.

            “Who eats ham and eggs at three in the morning?” she wondered.

            With a sigh, she shrugged. It wasn’t up to her to question the appetites of their guests.

            Nadine had heard stories about this place, long before she started work last week, but they didn’t scare her. In her opinion, they were just tales by people with overactive imaginations. The hotel was old, built over a hundred years ago. Of course there would have been guests who passed away in these rooms, but she did not believe their spirits still roamed the halls.

            In one story, two children had drowned when their mother left them alone in the tub. In another, a man caught his wife with another man and got his revenge by stabbing the adulteress seven times. A different tale was about a burglar, who was caught, red-handed, looking for hidden treasures and was shot for his effort.

            The most interesting deaths she’d heard about, though, was the report of the obese man who overindulged one night. After his fifth room service order, the server arrived at his door and found him on the bed, so round he was unable to move. He motioned her closer, clutching his chest. She hurried to the bed to call for assistance. She reached for the phone but, as the man took his last breath, he grabbed her arm. She screamed and tried to pull away but his death grip was too tight. She was so frightened by the experience that she, too, died of a heart attack.

            Nadine shivered. She never wanted to come upon a situation like that! Sometimes she wished people would just keep their horrible stories to themselves.

            She passed an ornate mirror with a gilded frame. Movement caught her eye – a shadow of . . . something black and shapeless. A moment later, the shadow was gone, making her wonder if she’d seen it at all. Maybe there was something to those stories, after all, she thought.

            When she reached room 536, she paused and listened for signs that the room’s occupant was still awake. She heard moaning, as though the occupant was in the thralls of ecstasy, but that was soon shattered by a blood-curdling scream.

            Nadine’s hand trembled as she raised a fist to knock at the door. All sounds from the room ceased.

            “H-h-hello?” she began. “This is room service.”

            When she received no response, she knocked louder.

            “Room service!” she repeated.

            She heard a deep voice grumbling from inside and caught a few expletives, as well, making her cringe. She hated the ‘F’ word. Heavy footsteps thumped their way to the door, which swung open with an audible swoosh. A man stood before her, wearing only boxers. His curly brown hair was mussed and his eyes were bleary as if he had just awakened from a deep sleep. Despite being in her mid-forties, Nadine’s heart skipped a beat as she drank in the definition on his well-muscled chest.

            “I didn’t order room service,” he said, drawing her attention to his face.

            The dark shadow of stubble lined his dimpled chin and upper lip. His eyes were azure, a color she’d always found very attractive. She took a deep breath, calming the heat that was rising to her cheeks. In an effort to mask her naughty thoughts, Nadine double-checked the food order receipt to make sure she had the correct room number. She glanced at the gold numbers on the door and nodded. Then, she held it up for him to see.

            “The order came from this room,” she said. “Are you sure your roommate didn’t order something?”

            “There’s no one else in here,” he replied, his brow furrowing.

            A slow flirty smile curled her lips at the thought that he was alone. Could he ever be interested in an older woman? She’d read stories in smutty magazines when she was younger about the passion that sometimes flared between guests and hotel staff. Were any of them based on true experiences?

            Suddenly she realized that an awkward pause had grown between them. He tilted his head, studying her, while her mind was running off on an adventure. Nadine cleared her throat in embarrassment.

            “Uh . . . could someone be playing a joke on you, sir?”

            “Highly unlikely. I don’t know anyone in the city. I’m here on vacation. Alone,” he stressed.

            “It will be charged to your room anyway,” Nadine said, wondering if she should offer herself as a tour guide. “You might as well eat it.”

            She made a move to push the trolley into his room, but he put his hands out to stop it from passing the threshold.

            “I was fast asleep,” the man said. “I’m not hungry.”

            “I-I heard noises,” Nadine said. “Coming from your room. If you were sleeping . . . what I heard, didn’t sound like you were sleeping. There . . . was a . . . scream. Was the TV on?”

            “No,” the man said, looking at her as if she’d lost her mind.

            Nadine felt rather foolish, standing there in the hall talking to an almost-naked man, arguing about sounds she was sure she’d heard coming from his room. She frowned, then put on a cheery face. Confident that she was still in the prime of her life and had maintained herself fairly well, Nadine opened her mouth to say something saucy, but shut it quickly.

            A chill ran down her spine as a thick fog rose up behind the man.

            It swirled out around them, surrounding the food cart, then coalesced into an indistinct form, bulbous at the top and rounder in the middle, like a huge translucent snowman. A slithering froth reached towards the tray, rattling the silver cover, which then jumped off the plate. Bit by bit, the food began to disappear, beginning with the bacon. They heard loud crunches as each piece was decimated, but saw no definite form of the being that was eating it. Each of the three over-easy eggs was slurped into a void in the mist – first the soft white, then the gooey yolk. Chunks disappeared from the buttered toast. The coffee carafe tilted, pouring hot java into a cup, which rose to the void and was sucked into nothingness. The process was repeated until the carafe was empty and plunked down on the trolley.

            Nadine huddled closer to the man who stood, frozen in place, slack-jawed.

            When every crumb and drop of coffee had been devoured, the cover slammed back onto the tray, the mist retreated back into the room and a loud sigh of contentment emanated from inside.

            After several minutes of dead silence, the man said, “I think I’m going to want another room.”

            Nadine was first to recover from the shock of seeing a spirit, her libido over-riding her fear. Fluttering her eyelashes and, in her most seductive voice, she said, “I have a spare room.”

 Have fun, this Halloween, and stay safe!

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Crafty Wednesday – last of the Sketch Challenges

Hi, Everyone!

I thought I’d finish off the month with the last of the sketch challenge cards I made back in September for my Creative Gathering. It will be a quick and simple post. If anyone wants me to go into more detail about sizes and brand names, etc, let me know. I can always email you the details.

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Let’s start with this sketch with the flags. Cards like these are great for using up all those little scraps of paper you have tucked away with the idea of using them in just such a project. On the right is the example card that uses the flag elements. You’ll notice, there is a ribbon on the left side of this portrait-oriented card with a circular element, a button, and a sentiment.

 

 

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Above is the card I made for this challenge. I left the background red and just added the strips of Christmas-themed paper, cutting the ends into a ‘V’ to resemble a flag or banner. I added the ribbon, flower, & button elements as well as the stamp/embossed sentiment, carefully cutting around the letters before adding it to the card.

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The next, and last challenge, consisted of a block of patterned paper over the base card, a label-type element and four rectangles, along with flowers, a sentiment, and a little bling.

 

 

 

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My interpretation of the challenge involved a few snowflakes as well as flowers. To be honest, I think there’s too much going on with this card. I find it much too busy. I may try another one like this to see what I can do to tone down the many different patterns. I think that’s why I made the label white, so the rectangular bits would show up better.

What do YOU think?

Sharing friends with my friends

I thought, today, instead of an author interview, I would share the sites of some of my blogging friends:

For all of you who might be thinking of taking the challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), wantoncreation has some advice for you.

If you prefer a site where you can read an interesting story, Diane Dickson has written many short stories and serials, so pop over here. Soon she will be offering one of her novels for free, too!

C.B. Wentworth has a lovely variety of posts; lovely poetry, gorgeous photography, fantastic travel tales, and her beautiful knitted creations. You can find her latest poetry and photo of a Roman bridge here.

On the site, Speculating Canada, Derek Newman-Stille discusses Canadian speculative fiction, interviews writers of the genre and writes reviews. Considering the month, I recommend you head over there and read his list of ‘Canadian Must-reads-For-Halloween‘.

I enjoy reading what Elizabeth Creith has to say on her website. She discusses her writing and gives pointers to upcoming authors. For example, in her latest post, she discusses writing style.

If you want to read a charming Halloween-themed story, pop over to roughwighting and immerse yourself in ‘Witchy Woman’.

Jenny Keller Ford is a lovely woman who is working hard to get her first YA novel published. In the meantime, she has had several short stories published in anthologies put out by J. Taylor Publishers. She interviews other writers, like Terri Rochenski in her latest guest post ‘Balancing Family With Writing, and she reviews books as well as giving tips on writing.

Another writerly blogger is Jennifer M. Eaton. She’s been advising her readers with ‘… Simple Rules To Writing The Best Novel Ever‘, based on the article, ‘Hunting Down the Pleonasm’ by Allen Guthrie. She also has been providing us with book reviews and author interviews. She began the multi-author story ‘Write A Story With Me’, which has a new episode each Monday.

I think that’s enough sharing, for today, although there are many more exciting bloggers out there, writing wonderful blog posts, which I hope to share another time. I hope you will take the time, on this leisurely Sunday, to peruse the links provided.

Happy Sunday, Everyone! 🙂

Crafty Wednesday – Something new

Hi, Everyone!

I’m very excited to tell you all about last Sunday when a friend and I took a class in silk painting, specifically for turning into cards. Our instructor was Wendy Lee. She is an expert in the art of silk painting. Her website is here, if you’d like to check out some of her beautiful designs.

The materials needed for a project like this:

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– Sheer silk material (05 or 10 gauge)
– an embroidery hoop or frame to keep the silk taut

DCIM100SPORT– a pencil or marker like the one above that will completely disappear after 24 hours or so
– cheap brushes for watercolors with rounded tips, not flat
Dye-Na-Flow silk watercolor dyes

DCIM100SPORT– Water-based Resist (I used one by Jacquard. They come in a variety of colors including clear)
– small squeeze bottle with fine-tipped nozzle
– a card base with a window approximately 3-4″ (I used my Cuttlebug & die-cutters to create the windows)
– a container of clean water for rinsing your paintbrushes
– coarse salt (like for pickling)
– a glue runner for attaching your silk picture to the card
– card stock cut 1/8″ smaller than the front of your card to cover the back of your silk painting and provide stiffness.
– a palette, ice cube tray or small containers to hold a small amount of dye and for mixing colors
– a simple sketch that will fit the card’s window
– whatever you’d like to use for embellishing the card, if desired, such as stamps, contrasting paper or card stock, stickers, etc.

Let’s get started.

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1. Trace your sketch onto the silk using either a pencil or the disappearing-ink pen

 

 
2. Place your silk in the embroidery hoop or attach to a frame so that it is held taut.

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3. Using the squirt bottle with fine nozzle, trace the design with the Resist. This will be the outline for your design, as the dyes will not seep past it. Let it dry completely. Either let it air-dry or use a hair dryer on a low speed so that it will not push the resist where you don’t want it to go. The resist is dry when the glossy appearance is dulled and it is no longer sticky to the touch.

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4. Paint as desired. If you want a more crisp and precise outline, you may use a permanent marker on the resist lines once it’s dry.

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5. While dye is still wet on your silk, sprinkle a little salt and it will create an intricate pattern, similar to the Northern Lights. The salt draws the color to it and creates a streaky appearance. You can see it more clearly in the other projects I did on Sunday:

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6. Allow the dyes to dry completely, usually within a couple hours or you can leave it to dry overnight, just to be sure.

7. Once dry, brush off the salt crystals. Do not re-use as they will absorb the color they were on and transfer it to a new project with, perhaps, unacceptable results.

8. In order to permanently set the color, iron it (without the steam option) for several minutes. You might want to place a clean scrap of material over the painting so the resist does not melt onto your iron.

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Completing the card

While my penguin family dries, I thought I would finish off my penguin couple to show you how to attach the silk to the card.

1. Trim the excess silk, so it will not overhang the edges of your card.

2. Run your glue runner (It doesn’t have to be a huge one, like I’m using. Cheap ones can be found at any Dollare Store) around the back edges of your window.

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3. Place your painting so that it is positioned the way you want it to be within the window. Once it is in the desired position and taut, run the glue runner along the outer edges of the silk so they will attach to the card, holding the painting securely.

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4. Attach the extra card stock with your glue runner, so the silk is completely covered, adding a finished look to the inside of your card.

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Embellishing

I decided to add some color and texture to the front of the card, so I cut a piece of pale blue card stock that was a bit smaller than the card front. I used the Cuttlebug to cut out the same sized scalloped oval. It took a bit of fiddling, once the oval was cut out, to make sure the outer edges of the card stock were evenly spaced and that the oval scallops lined up perfectly. It probably would have worked better if I had cut out both the card and the blue card stock at the same time but, unfortunately, I didn’t think that far ahead! I then placed the blue card stock into my Dots embossing folder and ran it through the Cuttlebug.

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In order to give some contrast, I used a sponge dauber and Close To My Heart‘s Pacifica ink to sponge around the edges of both the base card and the blue card stock. 

In order to secure the blue onto the card, I only used the glue runner along the top half of the oval and the top back edges of the blue card stock. Carefully lining up the unglued portions I pressed the tops together. Then I glued the bottom parts and pressed firmly.

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I stamped the images (CTMH‘s Frosted) of a snowflake and a sentiment using Versa Mark. I sprinkled on black embossing powder and set it with my heat tool. 

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I carefully cut around the images and attached them to the card using 3-D sticky squares.

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Here’s the final result (sorry it’s a bit blurry):

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It’s always fun to learn something new. What is something new that YOU learned lately?

Friday Review – Morven and the Horse Clan by Luanne Armstrong

Hot off the presses! Luanne Armstrong just launched Morven & the Horse Clan this past week in British Columbia. I was fortunate to get an advance review copy and finished reading it a week ago. I loved reading Jean Aul’s books (Clan of the Cave Bear series) as an adult and I’m sure if Luanne’s book had been available when I was a teen, it would have hooked me into reading this kind of historical novel long before I’d heard of those other books. Doesn’t it have a beautiful cover? I love Relish New Brand Experience. They were responsible for both my book covers and I greatly appreciate Great Plains Publications for using the company, as their design work is exceptional. Okay, on with the review!

If ever a teenager felt like she didn’t belong, Morven would be it. Living in 3500 BC on the steppes of Kazakhstan, she has always felt as different as she looked from the others of her nomadic tribe. She could relate better with the animals in her world than the people. When she befriends a herd of wild horses, and one, in particular, she finally has a purpose and a role more important to her people than anyone thought possible. When Morven trains the black horse to be ridden, her people begin to see the horses as more than meat, but as a means to ease the burdens of traveling to where the food, and especially the water, was more plentiful. However, when she shares her knowledge with another clan, one young man sees more advantages than simply carrying people and things from place to place. He sees the horse as a means to conquer.

Despite the ancient time in which this story is set, I think modern teens could easily relate to Morven, as both her moodiness and reluctance to participate in her clan’s activities are similar symptoms to what a lot of teens experience, these days. I found the voice of Morven to be a little simplistic, on occasion, but I considered it a part of the story’s setting, since the language would not have been sophisticated at that time.

I think Luanne provides the reader with a wonderful glimpse into the customs and lifestyles of the nomadic tribes living on the steppes during this early point in their history. She does not ramble or expound into complex explanations of how things were done back then, like in the adult stories equivalent to this. She does give simple explanations of how things were done and why the people did things a particular way when it was necessary. As a result, I think it could be used as an excellent resource for teaching, as well as an enjoyable jaunt through history.

The set-up of the book also had a little treat for the reader. On the centre of each right-hand page was a silhouette of a horse in various stages of running so that, if you flip through the pages quickly, it creates a ‘movie’ of a galloping horse, like the flipbooks we all enjoyed as a kid. I hope you will pick up a copy of Morven and the Horse Clan, so you can enjoy a taste of our pre-history.

*****

From the Back Cover

In 3500 BC, a killing drought forces Morven and her tribe to roam the steppes of Kazakhstan, struggling to survive. Fiercely independent and never quite feeling she belongs, Morven feels a greater kinship to animals than her own people. Despite ridicule, she befriends a herd of wild horses. She learns to ride and shows her clan the horses are not just a food source, but they can also help them survive. But it is not just Morven ’s people who are changed by knowledge. A brash young man from another tribe also learns from Morven. His goals, however, are not just to survive, but to conquer. Morven must learn to accept responsibility for the terrible changes she set in motion, and become a leader amongst her people, or they will die.

About the Author

Luanne Armstrong is the author of poetry, novels, non-fiction, and children ’s books. Her previous children ’s books have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Chocolate Lily award, the Red Cedar award, the Canadian Library Association ’ s Book of the Year and the Silver Birch Award. Luanne teaches Creative Writing online for the university of British Columbia and lives on her farm in BC.

Crafty Wednesday – 3rd Sketch Challenge

Good morning!

Let’s see what the 3rd sketch looks like, shall we? For those who have seen my last two sketch challenges, you will recall that our computer with Photoshop on it is no longer functioning, so the sketch was taken with my MAC’s Photobooth creating a picture that is a mirror image to the original.

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With this challenge, there is a scalloped trim along the left-hand side of this portrait-oriented card. Beside it is an accent piece with rounded corners. A ribbon is wrapped around the top part of the card, behind the image and sentiment. In the bottom right-hand corner are buttons or round embellishments.

Now that you’ve seen the example, here are my interpretations of the challenge:

 

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I used a pre-cut red card base, 5″ x 7″, to which I added a plain green background paper cut 4-3/4″ x 6-3/4″, allowing for 1/8″ of the red base to show around it. The blue scalloped strip was cut out using a snowflake edging punch (Martha Stewart brand). In order for the snowflakes to stand out, I added a piece of white card stock behind it and trimmed around the snowflakes’ outer edges. Personally, I think I prefer the darker blue for the snowflake strip. What about you?

I cut a contrasting piece that was 2″ x 5-1/2″ & 2″ x 6″, respectively, and used a curved corner punch to round out the 2 right-hand corners. I then attached both the snowflake and contrasting strips with Sookwang double-sided tape. For the card on the right, I cut the 1/2″ ribbon to stretch the entire width of the solid green background and include a bow (about twice the width, depending on how big you want the bow to be). For the second card, I made a bow about the same size as the other card but only cut a piece of ribbon to show out the side of the sentiment piece. I attached the ribbon with Sookwang and the bow with Zots sticky dots.

Next, I stamped out the sentiment (Close To My Heart‘s Frosted, Workshop on the Go) on white card stock using my Versa Mark sticky pad. I sprinkled on green embossing powder, shaking off the extra, then heating until set. I stamped the holly pattern (CTMH‘s Yuletide Greetings) with black ink and painted it with my shiny paint. I think it would have looked better if I’d used my black embossing powder, instead, so the outline showed up better. I trimmed the sentiment with a paper cutter and cut out the holly with sharp scissors.

I cut out a piece of red card stock of similar colour to the base card (3″ h x 3-3/4″ w & 3-1/2″ w x 3-3/4″ h, respectively). The contrasting holly paper was cut 1/8″ smaller on all sides to allow the red to show behind it. I then added the sentiment and stamped/painted holly bit, using a glue runner for the paper/card stock and glue dots for the holly. This whole rectangle was attached to the card over the ribbon using 3-D double-sided sticky squares. The final touch was adding the buttons with glue dots, white on the left-hand card, green on the right.

And that’s it for another week. Hope I’ve inspired you to start thinking Christmas, which is only 70 days away. Chanukah is only 44 days away! What other winter celebrations do you take part in? Maybe I can come up with cards for those celebrations, too. 🙂

Sunday Interview – actually, more of a guest post

Christy Birmingham

 

Welcome, Everyone!

Many of you may know Christy, follow her blog, or remember my previous interview of her. Today, she will be taking over my blog to talk about poetry. I have, on occasion, written a poem or two, but only when divine inspiration strikes. Maybe you and I can learn how to be more poetically inspired after reading this post.

Please welcome Christy Birmingham from Poetic Parfait!

 


3 Ways to Get Inspiration for Writing Poetry


Ah yes, poetry. I love to write it. Do you? If so, you may find that while the craving is there, you sometimes run out of ideas for new poems. Here are three tips for how to get inspiration to write poetry.

Connect with Nature

This technique for gaining inspiration is my favorite one. Try heading outside to a trail, park or local gardening store. Take time to breathe in the fresh air of the trees, bushes and flowers. Take time to appreciate your natural surroundings.

I often smile as I head outside for a walk, whether it is a sunny day or not. I gain an appreciation for what the earth around me has to offer me. For free. Pay attention to your senses. Listen to the birds, smell the rose at your left side and notice the way the way the trimmed hedge curves.

Upon returning to your workspace, write about what invoked your senses. What caught your eye? Was there a cyclist that intrigued you? If so, perhaps he or she is the next subject of a poem. Well, what are you waiting for? Start typing!

Enjoy Break Time

An addition reason why the nature method works for inspiration is that it encourages you to take a break from your work area. You change up your surroundings, by heading outdoors rather than staying cooped up in the office. You need breaks, even from your favorite writing desk or the couch where you wrote that brilliant Haiku two weeks ago (note to self: write a Haiku later).

When you change your surroundings, your brain forces itself to understand your new environment. It could be your friend’s house, church or a short walk on the local trail. Mix up the routine for your brain and it will thank you. Your brain also has time to relax from the strain of trying to be creative! You return refreshed to your work area and find that you write that new Haiku quickly. Perhaps your mind and body simply needed a well-deserved rest.

The break need not be a long one as you likely have a busy schedule. Even 10 minutes works well. Breaks are beneficial. Now why do I suddenly want a Kit Kat bar?

Browse Online Networks

You likely belong to at least one social media network. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or another one of the many platforms available, it’s a potential source of inspiration for your poetry writing. Here, let’s investigate this method together. Log onto Facebook, for example, and look at your network feed. There, you will see photos, artwork, quotes and status updates that your friends have recently posted.

Those posts are gems for writers. Take that post that contains a quote and use it as a poetry prompt. Gain your inspiration from the words of Shakespeare, Keats or whoever happens to show up on your network feed that day.

Photos and artwork also make for terrific prompts. Enlarge the photo on your computer screen and free write onto paper as you look at the screen. Revise the free write or simply enjoy it, as is, for the burst of inspiration it contains!

The style of poetry that you write is not relevant here. What is crucial is getting your creative thoughts flowing. Whether you head out into nature, enjoy a break, or check in on your social networking buddies, I hope your inspiration flows and your words lap the poetic shores for many days to come.

*****

Cover of Pathways to Illumination Book

Christy Birmingham is a poet, author and freelance writer in British Columbia, Canada. Her debut poetry collection Pathways to Illumination is available exclusively at Redmund Productions. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter too. If you haven’t been by her blog, yet, check it out here. She recently posted a review of Pathways to Illumination – 5-stars!

Congratulations, Christy, & thanks for sharing your poetic insight! 🙂

Friday Review – no, not a book today, but a play!

Happy Friday, Everyone!

This is primarily a post for Winnipeggers or anyone who will be in ‘The ‘Peg’ this weekend. There are only 4 more performances of The Miser of Middlegate, produced by Theatre Projects Manitoba. The play was written by Carolyn Gray, the Writers’ Guild’s very own Executive Director, and directed by Krista Jackson. A friend and I went to see it on Tuesday evening and the cast performed to an almost sold-out crowd, so I suggest, if you plan to see it this weekend, order your tickets ahead of time. To do so, click the link attached to the play’s title. It will get you to the site.

The play’s description is as follows:

“Dark days have come for Winchell, our modern day miser. He is faced with the most dynamic situation of his life: he must woo his wife back so he won’t have to pay her out in divorce court, and cure his recently engaged daughter Emily of the matrimonial urge, so he won’t have to pay for a wedding – ever!

Set in modern day Winnipeg, Gray’s inspired version of Molière’s classic satire is part sex farce and part screwball comedy. Exploring family, love and money, The Miser of Middlegate sharply critiques our culture obsessed with acquisition and never loses its sense of humour.

A cheeky and irreverent romp into the lives of one entrepreneurial Winnipeg family.”

It has had rave reviews and I can safely say, they weren’t wrong, for once! I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of the show. Married to a bit of a miser, myself, I could appreciate how the wife (played by Maria Stephenson Kerr) felt having to pinch pennies through decades of marriage. Carolyn does exaggerate the compulsions that drive them all, but that is where the outrageous humour comes in. Winnipeggers are well-known for their thrift, so the play is a bit of a poke at all of us and we can see ourselves reflected in the delightfully irreverent characters.

Here’s a preview I found on YouTube, just to give you a taste of what you can expect:

In addition, whether Carolyn scripted it or not, I think ‘Richard’ was the most colourful of the characters. Played by Ryan James Miller, his performance as the family butler was definitely over the top at times, but he looked fabulous in heels! (A little inside joke!) The ‘Waiter’, (Andrew Cecon) portrayed the lothario quite convincingly. While ‘Emily’ (Shannon Guile) was a little whiny at times, she was convincing as the poor little rich girl trapped under the thumb of her penny-pinching father, played by Nicholas Rice. I’m only glad my husband isn’t nearly as Scrooge-like as WInchell! 🙂 

I also found the stage direction fascinating. It always amazes me how sets are changed and this time was no exception. The butler and waiter were recruited to move the furniture about between scenes and sections of the set walls opened up to conceal them. What made these set changes more interesting was the manner in which they were done, with little flourishes and an occasional little dance by Richard. All in all, it was a very enjoyable show. Now, I want to go out and buy the script to see how it’s done from start to finish. Thanks, Carolyn and your crew for a wonderful evening! 🙂

Crafty Wednesday – 2nd sketch challenge

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

Oops! Is it still Wednesday somewhere in the world? No? Sorry about that! I was off and running from the moment I finished my cup of coffee in the morning, yesterday, until I got home. Even though I had prepared this post earlier in the week, I completely forgot to post it. First, I had some shopping to do for this weekend’s family Thanksgiving gatherings – birthday presents & ingredients for the food I’ll be bringing to the events on each side of my family. I got home, had enough time to put things away, then I drove to a writing friend’s home for lunch. She gathered stories for a book she had published called Through the Windows of a Train: A Canadian Railway Anthology. After visiting with her for a good part of the afternoon, I was off and running, again. Home to make dinner & spend a few moments with hubby before I was off to do a reading at McNally Robinson Booksellers for the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. You can find a picture of me reading here. By the time I got home, I was too tired to realize I hadn’t posted this, yet. (Okay, take a breath!)

On with the cards! Today, I will continue with the sketch challenges from my Creative Gathering. Remember, that the actual sketch challenge was a photo taken by my laptop’s Photo Booth program so they are: 1. mirror images of what they should be and 2. aren’t very clear because the flash washed them out a bit.

Photo 12

DCIM100SPORT

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the design on the left consists of two blocks of patterned paper separated by a ribbon, or scalloped strip. The original called for circles across the centre of the landscape-oriented card, along with some kind of embellishment and a sentiment. On the right are the two examples they set out for us. It looks like anything goes, so here are my attempts at fulfilling the challenge:

Deck the Halls1

For the first one, I took the original sketch to heart and added the circles, but only 3 instead of 4 and I made them Christmas ornaments. I began with paper from Bo Bunny‘s 6 x 6″ pad called the ‘Rejoice Collection’. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the detail on the red patterned paper and placed it upside down!

Instead of a scalloped edge on the plain green center strip, I used my holly edging punch, in keeping with the theme of the card. I then ran my Sew Easy puncher down the opposite edge and ran red embroidery thread though the holes it created. The centre embellishment and the sentiment were both from a stamp set by Close To My Heart called ‘Yuletide Greetings’, to which I added colour with my shiny paints. The ornament designs were from Hero Arts‘ ‘Poly Clear’ Christmas set. I stamped the ornament designs with a Versa Mark sticky pad and sprinkled on green, red & black embossing powders. I then used my heat tool to set the designs.

Gingerbread man1

For the second card, I dispensed with the circles, although I suppose, technically, the shiny dots on the ribbon could serve the same purpose. I used up the rest of the paper from the first card and, this time, I scalloped the edge of holly-patterned paper instead of using my holly punch. I used the Sew Easy device again and wove white embroidery cotton through the holes. I placed a strip of white card stock behind the strip so it would stand out better and fill in any gaps between the striped and patterned papers. For the Gingerbread Man I used one of the stamps in a set called ‘Gingerbread Cookies’ from the Canadian-owned Local King Rubber Stamp company. I first used Versa Mark and then black embossing powder on beige paper and cut him out. I put black jewels for his buttons and eyes, although they don’t really show up in the photo.

Again, although both cards have similarities, they can easily be changed to look very different. 🙂

Well, that concludes my post for today. Now I’m off to finish making cards for those with birthdays in October & November, so I can hand them out at the gatherings this weekend. For all my Canadian friends, I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving! 🙂

Friday Review – The Fault In Our Stars – and the memories it dredged up

I know I’m a little behind the times with reading and reviewing this book. I’d put off reading it because I was afraid that, given the subject matter, I’d never get through it, having lost many friends and family to the dreaded ‘C’. On a whim, when I saw it on the bookstore shelf and after reading so many wonderful things about it, I bought it. As I read the story, I was reminded of my time with a good friend with the same name as me, who I met about 6 years after her battle with breast cancer.

We were introduced when my son became a school chum of her daughter. She and her husband wouldn’t let the two teens be alone together until they had vetted us. When we finally met, we immediately hit it off. She and I had so many things in common besides our names. We had two kids, our eldest being girls and our youngest were boys. We were married in churches with the same name, although the churches were in different cities. We both worked as educational assistants, but in different school divisions. We both took care of other people’s kids when ours were little so we could stay at home instead of going out into the work place, leaving our children in someone else’s care. We both enjoyed a competitive game of Canasta when we were with our Hubbies and Cribbage when it was just the two of us. It was as though we’d been friends for decades.

We’d only known each other a couple of years when she began to experience back pain. Having had chronic back pain for years, I thought I understood what she was going through and tried to help ease her pain with the usual methods, but nothing seemed to help. Finally, after seeing her doctor several times, he discovered that her cancer had metastasized into her bones. It was hard not to burst into tears when she told me the cancer was back – and in her bones. I knew the prognosis was not good. It seemed a shame that I would lose such a close friend, even though we had not known each other very long. Fortunately, I was only working on a part time basis, so I was able to drive her to her chemo appointments. We’d play cribbage and laugh while other patients sat stoically in their chairs reading or watching TV . . . alone.

For me, 2005 was a particularly tough year right from the start. On New Year’s Day, our 5-year old kitty was experiencing such excruciating pain expressed with the most mournful sounds an animal could ever utter. We rushed him halfway across town to the nearest veterinary clinic that was open that day and was told he had a blockage caused by urinary crystals. We had two choices; put him through a surgery to widen his urethra or put him down. My daughter was so distraught, we didn’t have the heart to put him down so paid for the expensive surgery. While he didn’t have cancer, it was just the start of things to come.

My mom, for about a year or so, had literally been withering away because her vocal folds, which had taken massive doses of radiation in 1979 because of throat cancer, were failing to close when she ate or drank anything. She aspirated a bit of everything she tried to ingest and eventually gave up the battle, passing away in mid-February. Late in August, my father-in-law was rushed to the hospital because his lungs were filled with fluid. He’d had emphysema for years because of heavy smoking and his lungs could no longer function. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctors gave him only a few months to live. He died the first week of September. Shortly after his funeral, I was asked to take over for a co-worker, with whom I’d worked for many years, because she was not feeling well. She was rushed to hospital for tests, but died in October before the final results came back. She had been riddled with cancer.

During that whole time, I was still helping Sue through her illness, taking her to chemo and taking her to her appointments. Her treatments ended about the time my co-worker died, which was a good thing, because I ended up working that position until Christmas when they finally found a full-time replacement. Just before Christmas, Sue was rushed into ICU because of fluid in her lungs. She developed pneumonia and died New Year’s Eve. We were able to spend a few hours with her before the end, but her death marked the end of one heck of a year.

Now you know why I hesitated to read The Fault In Our Stars.

Although it did bring all the memories flooding back, I am not sorry I read the book. Despite the grim subject matter, John Green managed to suck me into the lives of his two main characters, Hazel & Augustus. I could not stand to put the book down, because I was so quickly invested in the lives of those teenagers. I couldn’t wait to get back to the story to see how they dealt with their cancers.

John Green ran me through the gambit of emotions. I laughed, I cried, I was touched and I was angered. It was such a wonderful portrayal of people, not just the teens who were forced to face death not knowing just how much time they had left, but also those who loved them. I empathized with them all. A lot of Hazel’s feelings and observations were similar to things that I’d seen Sue suffer. Augustus reminded me of a boy from the local high school, a football player, for whom we created a fundraiser to help his mom cope with her finances when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He’d been a vibrant young man until then, just as Augustus had been playing basketball. The parents of the teens each dealt with their children’s conditions in different ways. I could feel their pain and understand why they did what they did for their children.

For those of you who haven’t read The Fault In Our Stars, I highly recommend it. John Green dealt with a difficult subject with humour and grace, just like his characters.

Oh, and one other thing, if you ever have a friend who is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, please do not feel intimidated and ignore them during their final days. They need your support at a time like that more than ever. It’s tough, I know, but I watched many people in the Cancer Care Unit who had no one with them. It’s a scary time. Although Sue shared her fears and we shared tears, that’s to be expected. The main thing was, we focused on her getting well, even though we both knew the end was closer than we wanted. As with everything in life, no one can be certain of the ‘when’, so make the most of the days you have with them.

I think that is the main point to Green’s book. By the way, while looking for a book cover image, I discovered that they will be making it into a movie, so here’s the link to John Green’s book page so you can check out a behind-the-scenes video: http://johngreenbooks.com/on-the-tfios-movie-set/

Enjoy! 🙂