The Power of Prompt Writing

I’m pleased to announce that 4 of my 5 submissions to The Sirens Call eZine were accepted. Look for “Cereal Killer,” “Efficiency,” “Pain Relief,” and “Whole Hearted” in issue 43. ALL of these were the results of prompt writing. So, let’s talk about the value of prompt writing.

First, what is prompt writing? Simply put, it’s writing based on a topic, idea, sentence, situation, etc. Often the prompt comes from an outside source. There are websites and message boards dedicated to giving prompts. You can find books on it. One series I recommend for poets is the 31 Days of Poetry Prompts by Jim Russo. You can find the series on Amazon here.

Prompts can be anything and from anywhere. The other day I found a deck of zombie themed tarot cards at a thrift store and I realized I’ve never really written a zombie story. Here are 78 zombie prompts just waiting to happen. My plan is to pick one a week to share here with the work it inspires.

I also belong to a monthly prompt writing group called Ladies of Horror hosted on the Spreading the Writer’s Word blog by Nina D’Arcangela. Each month Nina sends us a photo and we write a short flash fiction or poem inspired by it. I’ve had many of my LoH stories picked up for other projects and have done some of my best work as a result.

I urge writers of all levels of experience to participate in some prompt writing. It breaks us out of our rut, challenges the creativity muscle and opens new territory. As an example of the power of the prompt, here’s where the four stories headed for Siren’s Call came from:

“Cereal Killer” was from a prompt given by another group I belong to called Fright Club. I’d tell you more about Fright Club… but you know the first rule. The assignment was to write about cereal gone wrong. In my opinion, things are at their most interesting when they are going wrong.

“Efficiency” was from a prompt given to me by Ruschelle Dillon in an interview for Horror Tree. You can read that interview here. She started out with a sentence, “A vampire, a werewolf with a spatula and the Loch Ness monster walk into a bar looking for hookers…” Super fun story to write that would have never happened without Ruschelle’s push.

“Pain Relief” was a prompt from the Borderlands Bootcamp I attended in 2018. The prompt was the first line of a famous horror book written on a slip of paper randomly drawn from a hat. My line was ““You think you know about pain? I know about pain.” from Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. This was personally meaningful for me because I had the honor of meeting Jack a few times, and he had just passed away a few days before the camp. You didn’t have to know Jack well to know he was an amazing writer and person. This story is one of my favorites because of it.

“Whole Hearted” was written for a class I was teaching as an example of flash fiction. It was a prompt I gave myself. As I was explaining what flash was, I stated as long as it had a beginning, middle and end it could be about any topic—even about a girl serving soup to a boy. Of course, if I write about a girl serving soup to a boy it will probably turn sinister somehow, even in just 96 words. And it does.

So that’s my take on prompts. Anyone else like to write from prompts, and where do you typically find them?

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Be Yourself

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Duerrwaechter Pubs New Book Solo

Laura Duerrwaechter Photo courtesy Aaron Cathcart Photography

I’d like to congratulate my friend, Laura Duerrwaechter, for publishing A Kiss on the Nose, her latest book. Part memoir, A Kiss shares stories from Laura’s past life as a pet sitter. Find A Kiss on the Nose on Amazon here.

As if writing a book were not difficult enough, Laura did all the work of layout, editing and formatting by herself. Congratulations on a job well done!

Here’s an interview to discuss her latest accomplishment…

Angela: What made you decide to become a writer?

Laura: Timing was right. Passion was consuming all my leisure time. I was eating and breathing words.  My Uncle Don told me I would be writing when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old.  Well, I’m here to tell ya, that even late bloomers have their place in a garden.  I am predominantly a poet.  I think and speak in couplets and Haiku. Have done that my entire life.  I sense the world vocabularily. (which by the way is a legitimate word).

Of course, your continuing education class: “Write Your Story, Use Your Words” was the leg up over the wall. And thank you, by the way, for continuing your mentorship.

Angela: I’m glad you got something out of the class. That’s what matters. How did you begin your writing career?

Laura: I began with a blog, which led to two more blogs. I blog about my unconventional spiritual connection, my pet sitting career and unrelated free verse (mostly).  I submitted one of the petsitting blogs in a hospital auxiliary newsletter.  That first “publication” received positive reviews. Let’s see, that was 2012?

Angela: You previously published three books of poetry, but your latest book is something completely different. Can you tell me about it and why you chose to do something outside of poetry?

Laura: Poetry flows from my veins. It’s intimate and the most authentic element of my soul. I can pen unrelated words all day long. The collection of shorts is a glimpse into the public side of me. As mentioned above, one of my blogs is dedicated to this topic, although I have included stories about MY pets, as well. In my chap books, I have included images, which is all well and fine. I believe they enhanced the experience. However, I was eager to illustrate.  More about that a little later on.

I love the knowledge that a reader can connect with me by touching my words on a page. They appreciate the effort and the commitment to the process.  I understand that digital accessibility is a must have for some, it’s just not my thing. I want my books to be able decompose and become part of the evolution on this planet. The books should have a shelf life (pun intended) as do I.

Angela: This is illustrated with original, full color art by Hannah Farr. How did you choose Hannah as your illustrator?

Laura: I wanted an illustrator who was established and affordable.  I googled “how to hire an illustrator.” There were many qualified children’s book illustrators. I wasn’t writing a children’s book. I found her on the site “Peopleperhour.com.”  Keyword search: “storyboard.” Hannah popped up with a profile which read “Pet portraiture artist.”  It was kismet!

Angela: You have many stories in this book, all taken from your real life experiences as a pet sitter. What is your favorite?

Laura: Unfair question. Next?

Angela: I don’t believe in “unfair,” but I’ll let you off the hook for now. You published A Kiss on the Nose all by yourself in Word. Can you tell me about that experience?

Laura: I would have to write another book! In short, it was an amazing journey into an unknown universe. There are a couple of reasons behind this foray into the decline of my mental health. Primarily, I realized that I didn’t want to spend my social security on a traditional publishing house.  Secondly, I am a control freak.  When I take on a project -one that I initiate, it’s the opportunity for growth.

I have an old desktop (HP Compaq). I have a newer laptop (Apple MacBook Air). My desktop doesn’t communicate with the laptop. Word is the program I have available to me in my house when I am in my pajamas, typing at 3 in the morning. I joined the KDP community. When it was Createspace, I joined that online forum. A tremendous stream of mostly usable suggestions was helpful. What wasn’t helpful was calling KDP for assistance. You get a technician. I needed advice from the publication and editing spheres. Word is antiquated. Updates are slow. Mostly trial and error PLUS YouTube tutorials. There is a logic to using the program once you understand the steps involved in layout and format.

Angela: I interviewed you after your first book, Bipolarity.  What has changed?

Laura: My attitude.  I have learned patience. My purpose is now clear and I am listening to the universal voices.  I hear Uncle Don saying “Well done!”

Angela: Any hints as to your next project?

Laura: A Kiss on the Nose Vol II will be out this spring.  Also working on another collection of poems.

Angela: Do you feel qualified to offer advice now that you have self-published four books and contributed to one anthology?

Laura: Yes, and it is “Live your dream. No one else can do it for you.”

You can find Laura’s books on Amazon.com. Her blog can be found on “Gotwhiskers.blogspot.com

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New Moon, New Corpse

Today is the new moon—at exactly 2:04:53 CST, if you need specifics. The new moon is a perfect time to begin new projects so let’s create another exquisite corpse.

Submit your line now for the first exquisite corpse of the year. Send me your line via email—angelayurikosmith@gmail.com with EXQUISITE CORPSE in the subject line.

Please add your line and your name as you would like it to appear to the body of the email. Since we begin on a new moon, let’s end on a full one. Deadline is 9 a.m. CST. February 19th, the next full moon. The poem will be posted later the same day.

The names of contributors will be added in order of contribution. I’d also like to include our poem in my next poetry collection, Altars and Oubliettes.

And there will be a prize! I have made a few necklaces that contain real dirt sustainably harvested from Edgar Allan Poe’s original grave site—the perfect lucky charm for horror writers. This will probably be the last Poe necklace I offer as a prize for awhile. I need to keep some as gifts for StokerCon in May.

I’ll pick one line at random and send the creator a necklace in a gift box. Congratulations to Sumiko Saulson for winning last time!

Aaaaand… in case you don’t know, an Exquisite Corpse is a collectively assembled poem. You can read more about them here.

Read past corpse creations…

Exquisite Corpse #1: Collaborative Poem
Exquisite Corpse #2: The Daunting Riddle
Exquisite Corpse #3: Toxicated
Exquisite Corpse #4: Deceptions
Exquisite Corpse #5: Final Chimes
Exquisite Corpse #6: Treading
Exquisite Corpse #7: The Reckoning

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From the Office-Under-the-Stairs

There has been a flurry of activity from my office under the stairs as I prepare for a new year of publishing.

Most of the activity has been setting up a re-launch for Space and Time magazine. Dusting off social media, reworking the website, finding local printers, updating subscriber lists… all that fun publisher stuff. Issue #133 will be on sale March 20.

When I’m not working on Space and Time‘s publishing schedule, I’m working on my own. Altars and Oubliettes is finally ready to be released this April just in time for National Poetry Month. This is the collection of poetry I delayed from last year.

I’ve also recently noticed I have a large collection of short stories piling up.  I’ll be releasing another collection shortly after Altars. This will be my first collection of short stories since Mr. BoneJangles.

And, when I’m not working on my own publishing schedule, I’m working on R. A. Smith’s book which will be released this spring. We have four chapters to re-edit, thanks to computer issues, and then it’s on to the final editor. Bring on the red pen!

This week we will be launching the new Space and Time website, opening up subscriptions and booking ad space. For now, visit the current website here. You can also purchase issues of #132 here.

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From Space & Time #132: Not Yet Woken

Just finished reading “The Ones Who Have Not Yet Woken” by Rahul Kanakia in issue #132 of Space and Time. First off, big kudos to Kanakia for the clever title. The meaning of it seems straightforward until the end.

The character progression was surprising while retaining a natural quality. In the beginning I disliked the protagonist, but as he grew and changed so did my respect for him. An interesting peek at a potential near future, the story has some interesting social observations as well.

A nice twist at the end, I’d love to divulge more but I’d have to give away spoilers. I enjoyed the story and look forward to reading more from this talented author. Nice job to illustrator Alan Beck as well for a lovely image of “Archie.”

You can read “The Ones Who Have Not Yet Woken” by Rahul Kanakia for yourself in the latest issue of Space and Time, available here. The next issue is due out on March 20. Follow on InstagramFacebook and Twitter to stay in touch!

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HWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Graham Masterton

This year the Horror Writers Association announces Graham Masterton as Lifetime Achievement Award winner. He will receive the award at StokerCon™ 2019, held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Masterton has provided many years of dedicated commitment to the horror community and the writing and publishing industry.

“Members on the selection committee have fond memories of Masterton’s books,” reported HWA President, Lisa Morton. “Graham Masterton has influenced many horror writers. We are truly thrilled to bestow him with this award.” HWA offers the Lifetime Achievement Award once a year and employs a hard-working committee for the selection process. Recipients are chosen through stringent criteria. The rules require a unanimous vote from all committee members.

Graham Masterton is highly recognized for his horror novels, but he has also been a prolific writer of thrillers, disaster novels, and historical epics, as well as one of the world’s most influential series of sex instruction books. He became a newspaper reporter at the age of 17 and was appointed editor of Penthouse magazine at only 24. His first horror novel The Manitou was filmed with Tony Curtis playing the lead, and three of his short horror stories were filmed by Tony Scott for The Hunger TV series.

More recently, Graham turned his hand to crime novels with White Bones, set in Ireland, swiftly becoming a bestseller. This has been followed by five more bestselling crime novels featuring Detective Superintendent Katie Maguire. He has also published a grisly 18th century crime novel, Scarlet Widow. Graham’s horror novels were introduced to Poland in 1989 by his late wife Wiescka and he is now one of that country’s most celebrated award-winning authors. A new horror novel Ghost Viruswill be published in French in 2019. He has established an award for short stories written by inmates in Polish prisons, Nagroda Grahama Mastertona “W Więzieniu Pisane”. He is currently working on new horror and crime novels and resides in Surrey, England.

Upon learning of this award, Graham Masterton said, “At the age of 10, I discovered how to give my friends a tingle of fear by writing a short story about a man who was decapitated but walked around singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” out of his severed neck. That’s how my career in horror began. I am gratified that all these years later my tingling has been recognized by the Horror Writers Association.”

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Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference

Attention Literary Horror Addicts, Wicked Women Writers, Masters of the Macabre, and other demented author folk—HorrorAddicts.net has opened an Online Writing Conference in February 2019!

Authors, editors, agents, publishers, readers, writers and you are invited to take part in the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference and learn how to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more free opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write. The conference is open to any genre and general writing topics, not just horror.

Register now on their free forum at http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net . Chat is currently open in the pre-conference area for mingling with your fellow participants.

To participate,  you must register for the Online Writers Conference Forum. It’s free and easy. During the week of the conference, February 24-28 2019, the workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do  is interact—host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many as you want.

Have a workshop idea? Workshop applicants should submit their workshop proposal no later than February 1 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading Horror Addicts Online Conference Query. More details here.

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Ghost in the House?

I keep an open mind about ghosts. As much as I believe in them, I’m pretty skeptical. Not every dust mote caught in the flash is a spirit orb—but some might be.

Independence, where we live, is known for being haunted. Truman’s ghost is reported to regularly walk the streets. A “lady in grey” wanders near the Woodlawn Cemetery on Noland Road. The mistress of Vaile mansion has been seen wandering the grounds and standing in windows. This is the neighborhood we live in. It makes sense we may also have a ghost.

I have been unconvinced. Since we’ve moved here, strange things have happened…but nothing that couldn’t be explained. Every night one of our dogs starts up with this halting, nervous bark as he stares into the kitchen. One night, as he was doing this, a glass shot off the counter to break in the middle of the kitchen. I was still unconvinced. Until the other day.

Everyone who was going to work that day had left. Everyone who was staying was still in bed. It was just after 6 a.m. I grabbed another coffee and then settled into my office to work for a few hours.

I came out around 9 to find our Google Mini playing the creepiest music. It sounded like voices chanting, moans and chaos. I thought I heard a few whale noises in there, but the effect was spooky. I took a few videos before I changed the music, grabbed another coffee and went back into my office. I didn’t see any of the dogs. They were hiding in their kennel.

About 10 minutes later I heard my daughter calling me. I came out to find the little dogs hurling themselves against the dog gate in a panic. They had peed all over the kitchen and were shaking. I played the video for my daughter and they all hid back in the kennel.

We searched the Google history to see who had requested the weird music, and identify it. All it said was “Unknown voice command” at 6:14 a.m., shortly after I would have retired to my office.

Later that day, on a whim, I hung an amulet of the Eye of Horus on the inside of the basement door. Chief’s nightly barking has stopped and we’ve had no more strange incidents for a week. What are your thoughts? I’ve embedded the videos of the music and a screen shot of the command that started it.

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Taking MasterClass with Neil Gaiman!

Today Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass opened up. MasterClass is an online forum where masters like Neil Gaiman, Malcom Gladwell and Dr. Jane Goodall share their knowledge in videos and assignments. I joined MasterClass a few months ago when I found out Gaiman would be teaching one.

I’m only a few lessons in, and it has proved worth it. Listening to Gaiman discuss truth in fiction and honesty as a writer is like getting a double espresso directly injected into the daydream center in my brain. My muse just resigned, unable to compete with Gaiman’s insight and wisdom. With Neil on my side, I don’t think I’ll miss her.

There are a ton of instructors on MasterClass, definitely worth checking out. James Patterson, Usher, Annie Leibovitz, Serena Williams, Christina Aguilera, Hans Zimmer, Gordon Ramsay… all these and more are teaching on MasterClass.

Right now they are having a drive, where if you get an All-Access Pass with this link you get a free month (and I’ll get three). Here’s the link: https://share.masterclass.com/x/9tQphs

Honestly though, getting to take Gaiman’s class is enough for me. I’ll probably take it at least twice more. The first time to just bask and absorb, the second time I’ll take notes and the third time I’ll see what I missed.

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