Category Archives: Daily prompt

Daily Prompt: Twenty-Five

There are 26 letters in the English language, and we need every single one of them. Want proof? Choose a letter and write a blog post without using it. (Feeling really brave? Make it a vowel!)

No way I’m choosing a vowel. My vocabulary is too extensive. See how many of the less used letters I used in that comment? That, I suspect, is the point of this exercise. I know which letter I’m excluding, and it’s probably the one chosen by the bulk of the bloggers responding to this prompt. The problem with this prompt is that it doesn’t spur any thoughts about what to write, other than specious or frivolous comments about the topic. I realize that I’m not using two consonants, so I guess I ought to give the jury something to think about. Did you get it?

I’m at a writing retreat in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and have written many pages for my editor on the novel I’m planning to publish soon. It’s crazy to think I will have a full book ready to send to my typesetter by the end of the month, but this retreat is certainly helping. It’s nice to be saved from the futile exercise of preparing nutritious foods, and to have instead gourmet meals prepared and served.

So I will return to Burlington this afternoon and reunite with my four cats. They will be peeved with me for a day or two, and then very needy. I’m looking forward to it!

Daily Prompt: Study Abroad

If you were asked to spend a year living in a different location, where would you choose and why?

I think probably London, since there are many places in the British isles I would love to visit, either as day trips or with an overnight. I have internet friends on the Isles of Man and Jersey; my cover artist lives on the main island; I would love to take a side trip to Edinburgh, a  city that has intrigued me for years. And this isn’t even touching on the wonders of London itself.

As a reader of classic mysteries and steampunk, I would like to see areas cited in both kinds of work. Of course I realize that many of the sites no longer exist, but I’m sure a certain Baker Street address has been preserved for posterity. And of course there’s the Tate and the British Museum, and Karl Marx’s grave. And don’t forget the new replica of Shakespeare’s theater, the Globe.

I hope the year abroad is paid for. I intend to be an expensive customer.

Daily Prompt: Set it to rights

Think of a time you let something slide, only for it to eat away at you later. Tell us how you’d fix it today.

When I practiced law, there were always things that I let slide because the job I was doing was much like a fireman’s. I was always putting out fires, emergencies that had to take first place in my work. As a result, there wee some cases that I let slide a little too long, and I ran into statutes of limitations issues. Those are limits placed on when a lawsuit can be brought, and are vitally important in personal injury cases.

In one case, the statute date had passed, and I felt a frisson of fear running up my spine. But I had been in negotiations with the adjuster. I called her and told her that I would make one final demand, letting the impression arise that I would file suit, when in fact I was saying that I was in trouble with the limitation. She immediately offered me policy limits, since the cost of an attorney to defend a suit would be much higher than the settlement. I got lucky, but it taught me a big lesson. This all happened before the computer driven time management systems were effective for lawyers.

The upshot of this event was to turn me away from the law as a profession, although I dabbled in it some few times later in life. Much of what I did was tangentially related to the law, but it lacked the arcane and peculiar rules that would trip up an unwary lawyer. I am not proud of what I did, but I made the best of a bad situation, and won something for my client. It has left a sour taste in my mouth ever since it happened, and I’m glad I don’t have to face such challenges again. My new challenges, involving my first novel, are quite enough, thank you.

Daily prompt: Circle of Five

A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with?

I note the prompt asks for the people we would like to spend my time with, which may be completely different than the ones I actually spend the most time with. And then not.

The person I have spent the most time with over the last month is a young man named Alexey who has shown up at my major hangout place, the oft-mentioned Burlington Writers Workshop. Alexey is a refugee from a PhD program in the upper midwest, and has come to the great state of Vermont to explore farming. He writes, when he is not working, a swashbuckling quasi-steampunk novel with heavy philosophical elements. Although there is adventure galore, there is also deep thinking for those who are minded to like that sort of thing. I assisted him when Burlington declared a snow emergency in taking his car to a safe off-street venue. But he has now started working full-time and so our encounters are destined for a much smaller calendar.

My friend Ann is usually high on this list, but she has been in Japan for a few weeks with her husband, visiting their daughter who is an exchange student there. But she is the type of friend that time and distance make no dent in the friendship. They do make a difference though when I need a ride home from a colonoscopy and she does not get home until the next day. Still I am eager to see her return, though I suspect the time difference will limit our reunion at least early on.

There is a group that is the core of the Wednesday night workshop at BWW. I almost have to clump them into a single entity or go over my limit of five before I am even half-finished in naming them all. We have wonderful conversation and discussions in the workshop, and then we go across the street to Citizen Cider to finish off the evening. This ritual is now ingrained in our meeting, and we let the non-regulars tag along. On any given week I may be sitting with a different writer from any prior time. But we are connected by our discussions of each others’ writing, and there is never a dull moment. So this group can be number three on the installment plan.

There is one person who has regularly attended the Wednesday workshop, and will soon be departing. So he gets to count as a full one of the five. Peter Biello has been the heart and soul of BWW since its earliest days. A graduate of an MFA program, he determined to build a more inclusive workshop experience, allowing all writing to have access to our groups. He has been heard to say that it is a workshop for all Vermonters, not just literary types. He has worked for over five years at Vermont Public Radio, and this year has applied for two open positions within the organization. He was, rather surprisingly, turned down from both positions even though he was admirably qualified for both. He has seen the handwriting on the wall at VPR, and has sought and obtained the job at New Hampshire Public Radio that should have been his at VPR. I am not alone in thinking that VPR has much to answer for, as we are losing our founder, heart and soul, to Concord, NH. It is unlikely VPR will re-earn my trust or my support (minimal as it is) for a good long time.

Another member of BWW, Martin has been away for over a month but his return is imminent, for which I am grateful. He will be able to keep me cool through this time of trial and tribulation. He has helped me enormously with my writing, and he is an absolute wizard as a sculptor of found wood. I always tease him that it is unfair to be so talented in two such different arts. On top of that he does acupuncture with something of an art in itself. He is a multi-faceted character with an equally talented wife whose return will also be greeted with joy.

The ones I have not included on this list are my cats, but they are the ones I spend the most time with. They have the advantage of never being compelled to tell any of my foibles to the rest of the world. and they do cuddle extremely well. And to all the others whom I didn’t list by name, most of you are just fine (in small doses).

Daily Prompt: Plead the Fifth

What question do you hate to be asked? Why?

Any question that begins with “I know you’ve been asked this before but….” If the asker knows I’ve been asked it before, s/he should have the wherewithal to find how I answered it before. Is the questioner trying to catch me out with a lie or inconsistency? Or is s/he too lazy to find out what I already said?

I also don’t like “playful” questions about my height. “How’s the weather up there?” may have been vaguely humorous the first time I heard it, but thousands of times later, it has lost any hint of comedy it might once have had. My height is a fact of nature and not one amenable to change, short of lopping off some leg, or shrinking in old age. As neither of these has happened (yet), I don’t understand the need for questions about it. “How tall are you, anyway?” is occasionally acceptable in a new acquaintance, but otherwise smacks of mischief-making.

Luckily, I have outgrown that noxious query, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Answers such as  “alive” were seen as too smart-alecky even when the answer was given in sincerity. All other such queries were only interested in evoking whimsy or humor at my expense anyway, and were not enjoyed.

And there’s nothing like the insincere “How’re ya doing?” Heaven forfend if I reply with honesty. So what’s the purpose? Have we lost the ability to make conversation without using such replacements for real care and concern?

This question has brought out the curmudgeon in me. It has invited me to look at all the ways people can annoy with questions. This is a very negative space to inhabit. and frankly, I’m done.

Daily Prompt: A Plot of Land

You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?

Very simple. The Burlington Writers Workshop, of which I am a member, has a dream of growing up to host writers who need a retreat for periods of up to three months. In the best of all possible worlds, it would be in our own building, where we also would have space for multiple workshops at the same time.

There is a wonderful company called Deltec Homes, and they make wonderful circular houses that are environmentally sound and beautiful to behold. They would build a two story building with three bedrooms and baths on the second floor, as well as a study with space for three desks in some privacy from each other. These would be for our visiting writers.

The first floor would have a kitchen, a library with a large table and chairs that could be used for meetings, an office, a casual sitting area and another largish room also equipped for meetings. The kitchen would be for the use of members but also for any visiting writers. The office would be for the man who created by sheer force of will the BWW, Peter Biello.

Deltec can also connect a building to a garage or another building. There would be two connectors to one story houses, also circular. One would be for the manager of BWW, in this case Peter (and his lovely significant other, Jody, and their dog, Drake), and the other would be for me and my four cats. After all, I am the one receiving the land.

The great benefit of this new building would be our ability to hold more than one workshop at a time. There has been more than one occasion on which a workshop conflicts with the editorial board of either our annual The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop (the 2015 edition launches April 3, and I’m in it!), or the editorial board of our online journal (plug, plug) Mud Season Review. This building would allow such conflicts and any other we might wish to develop. It also gives us the possibility of offering one to three month retreats for authors needing a quiet away time to finish some work. The only thing we would ask in return for offering this fine facility is that they lead at least one workshop, perhaps a week, for the duration of their stay.

So whoever is offering the land, please arrange for it to be in the Burlington area, hopefully with a view of the lake. If not the lake, the mountains.

Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap

What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

I would like to go to Dominus, the parallel earth that is the site of my WIP. It is much like our earth, having been born out of the side of earth ten thousand years ago after a battle between sorcerers and sorceresses. Gaia created it to send the losers away. But Dominus has conscious species that have joined into something we could never get here, a nonaggression and nonviolence pact among its five sentient species. Now that’s something to see.

I’d tell you more but that would give away too much. My designer for the interior of the book has me scheduled for between March 31 and April 15. Then a quick proofreading job and it’s off to publication. So that’s not too long to wait, is it?