Tuesday, December 31, 2013


As we say goodbye to the old year, it’s a great time to reflect on all of the 2013 awesomeness you've achieved.

What creative projects did you begin?

What did you finish?

What activities did you enjoy most?

What are you most proud of?

What did you learn?

Did you participate in NanoWriMo or PiBoIdMo?

And listen, Cupcake —

This is NOT the time of year to reflect on what you didn’t do, finish, or learn.

Toss those thoughts out with the trash.

It’s time to celebrate!

‘Cause you rocked that 2013.

That’s right.


PROMPT: Reflect and React… with a smile.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Guard Your Bliss

Do you want to be more productive in your 2014 creative endeavors?

I know I do.

But if you think that our ambition will mean more late nights getting nose burns at the old grindstone —

Think again.

According to some awesome and (without a doubt) merry researchers, all we need, my friends, is a little bit of happiness!

For example, a 2010 study by James Harter and friends found that folks have a greater number of creative ideas on days when they feel happier. 

Another investigation by Amibile and Kramer confirmed that happiness fuels both greater creativity and productivity.

I know, I know…

Right about now some of you may be thinking, “Well, carp. This isn't helpful at all. I’m too…






(Insert any other adjective here)

to be happy."

Well, I hate to burst your misery bubble, but research also shows that only 10% of your happiness is directly related to your circumstances.




PROMPT: So how will you guard your bliss for a fabulous 2014 of super-charged creativity?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ponder the Possibilities

The last weekend of December is one of my favorites.


Because I’m a complete sucker for the New Year.

It’s so chock-full of sunshiny New Possibilities — the perfect antidote for this cold, dark, and dreary time of the year.

But before I sit down to write resolutions or goals, I spend a couple of days just dreaming.

Here are some of the mind openers I like to use —

If I could create anything, I’d write, paint, sculpt, compose…

If I could go anywhere, I’d go…

If I had a billion dollars, I would…

If I could fully fund any charity, I’d fund…

If I could meet anyone, I’d love to fist bump…

If I could be the BEST at something, I’d choose…

Wouldn’t it be cool if…?

By the way, I believe that last one is a little magical. Once upon a time, I asked that question during a meeting. Two years later, following some wild, crazy, and completely unexpected circumstances, I ended up here —

Yes, my friends, it was cool.

PROMPT: Today’s a great day to use that beautiful, bendable mind’s elbow of yours to start creating a wonderful life.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day

When I was a kid, I assumed this was the day that random fistfights broke out among disappointed gift recipients.


It seemed perfectly logical at the time.

PROMPT: Have you ever experienced a colossal misinterpretation or misunderstanding? Sounds like the start of a great plot to me.

By the way, if you’re out celebrating Boxing Day —

go with the jab and grab.

Works every time.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours —

first-rate pens, a whole lot of plot, primo paints,

plenty of peace, joy, and love…

and a puppy!

Yeah, you know you want one.

PROMPT: Have a glorious day!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas…

And all through the house,

not a PC was whirring —

not even its mouse.

(Sounds like a day off here at the Writing Ranch – WaHOOOoooo!)

PROMPT: Yeah, that old Clement Clarke Moore classic could probably use an update. Write your own today!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Christmas Story

The movie A Christmas Story was adapted from Jean Shepherd’s 1966 novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this holiday classic, it’s a semi-autobiographical tale from Jean’s childhood in Hammond, Indiana… a time when he had one very specific Christmas gift request —

“An official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time!”

No, the movie is not exciting or action-packed.

It’s more of a simple, slice-of-life film 

one that’s chock-full of characters that are easy to relate to.

And I’m not just saying this because I also had a father who worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay.

It’s the kind of tale that makes you think...

Hey, I could write something like that, too.

After all, if you happen to be someone who celebrates Christmas…

I know there’s a Christmas Story inside of you.

PROMPT: Jean Shepherd was fond of saying, “That reminds me of something that happened to me when I was a kid…” Start with that line and go from there. Write about the year of the Christmas blizzard, or the time the dog opened all of the presents, or…

Write on! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

‘Tis the Season

Yes, it is the time of year when you may experience…

Gingerbread jitters

Sugar cookie comas

Relatives from the nut-bearing side of the tree

Office parties for which the boss has decided that home-cooked favorites would be so much nicer than catering. Um… yeah right.

Parking lot roulette

Music recitals that enlighten you to the striking similarities between Away in a Manger and elephants in heat.

Travel by plane, train, automobile, sleigh, subway, and/or camel to visit the third line item above

Three-hour pageants just to witness your child’s 30-second acting debut as a donkey’s rear end.

Fat cells who invite all of their friends, family, and acquaintances to the party on your rear end.


With all of this holiday merriment, it's no surprise that we get a bit stressed by how little time we have to create our art of choice...

That’s when we need a friendly reminder that we’re really here to create 

PROMPT: Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Solstice, Kwanzaa, or Festivus, this is your friendly reminder… And hey, chin up! It’s ALL material, after all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Horse of a Different Color

And now for the news…

I’m pretty sure that when the first calls started coming in, the local PD figured somebody had mixed up a pretty bad batch of moonshine.

But it turns out that there really is a zebra on the loose in eastern Tennessee!

Apparently “Zeek” went AWOL about a month ago from a farm on the outskirts of Cleveland.

He’s been striped… I mean spotted in all sorts of odd places ever since.

Imagine the possibilities…

“Lookie what I found in the cow pasture, Paw! Dadgum, when you told me those big city jackasses dressed funny, I thought you were just joshin’.”

PROMPT: If Zeek had shown up at my house in my horse-crazy tween years, I would have FLIPPED OUT! How would your nine-year-old self have reacted?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Feel Like a Gazillion!

Did you win?

Me neither.

Yeah, I’m talking about that 636-million-dollar Mega Millions jackpot.

And, yes, it tempted even me.

I actually parted with TWO WHOLE DOLLARS for a chance at it.

Because, what the heck — two bucks is a small price to pay for a day of what ifs.

And what ifs do wonders for creative thinking, you know.

What if you had that kind of dough?

Did you know that you could give away $20,000 every single day for the rest of your life, and yet… you wouldn't even touch all the interest you’d be making off the money?

Can you imagine spreading that kind of giddy good fortune every twenty-four hours?

Alternatively, you could rake all the cash into a big pile and dive in à la Scrooge McDuck.

Ah, the possibilities are such delicious fun to ponder, aren't they?

And yes, deep down inside, we all know that money won’t buy happiness.

But hey, we also want to check it out for ourselves…

just to be sure.

PROMPT: What would you do with that kind of cash? What would your story’s main character do? A windfall can make for an interesting plot twist. Is it a big time blessing or crushing curse? YOU get to decide.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I’m pretty sure that one will be arriving any day now.

They always do this time of year.

And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I am not a fruitcake fan.

Neither is my husband…

Or my son.

My daughter, however, is a different story.

The girl loves fruitcake.

And I’m pretty sure this scientifically proves that fruitcake-loving is a recessive gene.

But here’s another thing I’ve noticed about fruitcake lovers —

They’re pretty passionate about that cement-textured fruity goodness.

In fact, I've found that most of them become highly offended by fruitcake criticism.

It’s strange isn't’t it?

I mean, if you think chocolate absolutely, totally stinks, you won’t see me getting my knickers in a twist. No way. I’d be too busy thinking — Great! More for me!

Not so with the fruitcake fancier. Even as I type this, I can sense them rearing up — ready to impale me with comment darts below.

I’m thinking it’s a good bet that the recessive fruitcake-loving gene is somehow linked with the gene for culinary defensiveness.

But I do digress.

At any rate, I am thrilled by my daughter’s fervor for fruitcake. I will be delighted by her delight when I lob that weighty little package her way.

Maybe I’ll even dig up some of the others for her.

You know, the ones I used to make book shelves…

Steady the filing cabinet…

Anchor the tarps on the woodpile…

PROMPT: On what side of the fruitcake gene pool does your main character swim? Painters — wouldn't fruitcake be the perfect still life subject? Think of it, you could work on this masterpiece for years without refrigeration. Poets and musicians — how ‘bout a carol? Get some inspiration from Barbara Rittenhouse and Leigh Anna Reichenbach who wrote this lovely ode to an old familiar tune — 

In the bleak midwinter
Sitting all alone
In a breadbox on the shelf
Fruitcake hard as stone.
No one dares to taste it — 
Or remove the bow
For we know that it was made
Oh so long ago…

Find the rest in the book Santa’s Pants are Falling Down and Other Silly Songs of the Season… sure to bring a smile to your face, even if you’re one of those serious fruitcake fans.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sense and… Matrimony

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.
― Jane Austen

Well, chances were clearly in my favor when I married on this date many years ago.

So, as you spend the day feasting and feting Jane Austen’s 238th birthday, I’ll be off celebrating an anniversary.

PROMPT: Set aside your pride and prejudice, pick a romantic situation, and play “What would Jane Austen do?”

Write on!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Great Day to Be Ginger

According to my zany calendar, today is National Gingerbread House Day.

I’m not sure if we’re supposed to celebrate by making one, eating one, or both.

But my bet is on both.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but as a writer I can’t think of gingerbread without that sassy little Gingerbread Man coming to mind.

To refresh your memory, I’m referring to the fairy tale that first made its “You can’t catch me!” debut in St Nicolas magazine way back in 1875.

The plot is as follows:

A poor childless woman decides to create a kid out of gingerbread.

Alas, she did not have access to Thesaurus.com, so she failed to note that a synonym for “ginger” is dash.

And dash he did — in one ginger snap, he was out of the oven and all over hill and dale.

A huge chase ensues, and then…

SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know what happens to the Gingerbread Man, go back to your life already in progress and read no further!

You have been warned.

Well, the spicy little runaway meets his maker (not his baker) in the toothy maw of a sly old fox.

The moral of the story?

If you’re hell-bent on baking up an offspring, for goodness sake, use something sensible, solid, and steadfast like potato bread.

PROMPT: Yes, there have been many modern retellings of this runaway-food classic, but clearly it never gets stale. Create your own snappy twist today!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

O Little Town of… Bacon?

A quick Google or Bing search and you’re bound to find some interesting ways to celebrate the season.

My favorites are those creative crèches.

I've seen photos of Nativity scenes featuring moose, monkeys, meerkats, and…


Some are chipped out of ice, others are carved out of soap, and some are even fashioned from shotgun shells.

But my favorites are the edibles —

Your butter, s’more, Spam, and…

yes, bacon varieties.

Of course, perusing those pictures made me wonder…

What if Great Aunt Mabel ambled into a church function with one of these doozies?

PROMPT: Write Mabel’s story from her point of view, or perhaps the perspective of one of her “victims.” But hey, if you’re inspired to create one of those crazy crèches today instead, I’m certainly not going to stop you.

Silent Night in Vegemite, anyone?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


“Yeah, I heard you.”

Now scientists have proven something that cat owners have known since… 

Well, since we walked like Egyptians.

Japanese investigators tested 20 housecats to see whether they recognized and responded to their owner’s voices vs. the voices of strangers.

Their results?

Yes, cats do indeed recognize those who wield the mighty can opener in their homes, however…

They choose to ignore them.

Yeah. Some of us have discovered this without a big research grant.

And yet, for some strange reason, authors always fall for felines.

Somehow, they manage to thrive around all that unrequited love…

“I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one.”
—Mark Twain

But clearly, Mark, your cat can resist you. Big time.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Yeah, Ernie, and science says your cat honestly thinks you’re not worth a hill of beans.

“If you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.”
—Aldous Huxley

What Aldous means, I’m sure, is that cats will provide significant psychological trauma so you can skip all the other “compost” most writers rely upon for inspiration.

“My cat does not talk as respectfully to me as I do to her.”

Finally, a little honesty.

And then there’s W.H. Auden, who was apparently too far gone to be helped…

“Cats can be very funny, and have the oddest ways of showing they’re glad to see you. Rudimace always peed in our shoes.”
W.H. Auden

Um, Wystan… I don’t think “glad” is the word you’re looking for.

Well, I couldn't let Auden have the last word, so I did my own investigation regarding this apparently dysfunctional author/cat relationship by interviewing a local resident.

My results?

 “Talk to the paw.”

PROMPT: It’s a great day to tackle the internal dialogue that accompanies the cat cold-shoulder. What are they thinking? Well, not about you, that’s for sure.