Writing Toward Home

Writing , Ideas, and Encouragement

Category: Stories (page 1 of 2)

Wordplay Wednesday: Thinking like a Teenager


  Thinking like a Teenager: Creating New Vocabulary

Each new generation of teens creates its own language by inventing new words and phrases or by taking familiar ones and altering them so they mean something totally different. The purpose behind this is two-fold: to have a common language of belonging and also to bedevil their elders. By the time the lexicon is appropriated by adults, the kids have moved on to new terminology. Think of “rad”, “groovy” and “totally.”

The same is also true of society in general. There are many words that were commonly employed in previous generations that now have passed into disuse. I re-read the classic novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this week and found many expressions that were footnoted for this very reason.  Of course, this gave rise to a wordplay idea.


This week we are going to play around with using old archaic words in new ways.  I  employed my enormous  dictionary plus some online surfing to find uncommon and interesting sounding words to use for this exercise.

Below I have made a list of words without their definitions. Guess what?  You get to decide what they mean and how to use them in your writing.

The idea is to choose a word that looks and sounds interesting and come up with a definition. Then use the word in a free-writing exercise for five minutes. At the end of the time, choose another word and keep your piece going for an additional five minutes. 

I will post the definitions for the words next week. If your  curiosity gets the best of you, look them up.

Acersecomic                            nugacity


Fanfaronade                           bindlestiff


Gobemouche                           pyknic


Martlet                                        afreet


Hamartia                                   bannock


Mollitious                                   erf


Shamal                                        bardolatry


I would love to see your definitions and stories.

As always, have fun writing!

Below is my free-writing based on last week’s  post,  “ The Power of a Single Word.” The prompts were all single words that carry a lot of  meaning and power.

I chose the word home.


When I hear the word home  my first thought is of the place of my childhood, which we called “ the little brown house with the red door.” I lived there from the age of 6 months until I was a freshman in high school. It is the reservoir of countless memories: Christmases, birthdays, friends, hide-and-seek and Red Rover, lemonade stands, endless litters of kittens, picnics in the backyard, tire swings, and tree houses and running through the sprinkler.


One of my favorite memories is of decorating for Christmas. Dad, my brother and I would pile on our coats, hats, and gloves and head out into the piney woods behind our house to gather branches. I remember tramping along singing  Christmas carols and laughing at my brother’s antics. Dad would take his saw and cut fresh boughs which he  piled onto our outstretched arms until we could scarcely see. Even now I can smell the pine fragrance and feel the tickle of the needles  and the stickiness of the sap on my gloves.


Once we were home, Dad would climb the ladder and one-by-one accept the branches that we handed to him, stapling each one in place around our large picture window and our red front door. Next came the traditional untangling of the strings of Christmas lights which always produced a few “naughty” words from dad who insisted he had put them up so neatly the year before. My brother and I would cover our mouths with our sticky fingered gloves and exchange amused wide-eyed looks until the lights were ready to hang. Once the large bulb multi-colored lights were in place, we would plug them in and stand in the front yard admiring our work drinking hot chocolate and tea cakes provided by my mother.


Happy Writing this week! I hope you enjoy thinking like a teenager and making your own words.


The Power of A Single Word


This past Sunday  the sermon at church  was about the power of our words.  We were reminded to be careful with our words as they can be forces for good or ill and can bring hurt or healing. The message was based on a passage from Proverbs, but the Bible is filled with references to controlling our tongues and our words.  God speaks most about those things we have the hardest time learning.

The sermon included an interesting fact that my husband and I discussed in the car on the way home. According to the pastor, we humans on average speak 700 times a times a day with a total word count of between 7,000-20,00 words. To me, that sounded like an awful lot of words. I looked it up online and it was correct, with one caveat. Men tend to be at the lower end of the word count and women at the higher end. 


I do not want to get into the debate of whether women speak 13,000 more words per day on average than men. In my household, with a gregarious, extroverted male and an introverted woman wed to one another, I think the statistics might be reversed. I tend to be much more verbose in my writing than in my speech. Still, I thought about all of those words and wonder how much of what we say is really important. That is a post for another day, perhaps.

The pastor went on to talk about how some words possess so much more meaning than others. Sometimes a single word can convey volumes, especially in certain circumstances. That thought led me to consider words that carry a great deal of meaning all by themselves. I decided  this week I would make a list of prompts that are all just one word in length.

I came up with longish list, but decided to confine the prompts to five.  All are words  laden with a variety of meanings and connotations depending on the perspective and experiences of the writer. They may not be easily defined, but they are words about which we all  possess strong memories and ideas.

For your free-writing session today, set your time for 10 minutes,  select one of the words below, and immediately start the timer. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the word. Write whatever your first thoughts and ideas are.


The word may spark a memory, an opinion piece, or fictional scene. Keep your hand moving and continue to write until the timer sounds. If you finish an idea, allow another to flow in and keep writing. When time is up, keep going if you have an idea that has energy. Write until you have a sense of closure with your piece.






Try each of these words this week in a fee-writing session and see where they lead you.

I will post my free-writing for a word on the list next week.

Happy Writing!

As always I would love to hear about your experiences with the writing.


Below is my free-writing from one of last week’s prompts. It is a slightly fictionalized version of a real event.  I edited it only for clarity and spelling from my original free-write.

“ The most frightened I have ever been”  10 minute writing.


When I was about 7 my mom, my grandmother, and I went to my Aunt Eugenia’s house to have lunch. My brother was spending the day with my grandfather because on a previous visit he had practically destroyed my persnickety aunt’s  living room by knocking over her grandfather clock which fell onto a glass bookcase and destroyed many of her beautiful knickknacks. After lunch I quickly grew bored with the chit-chat at the table which would likely last all afternoon. I went outside to escape my aunt’s wary looks, as if I, too, possessed destructive potential ( I did, but that’s another story). I loved Eugenia’s  huge yard because was filled with all kinds of gorgeous flowers. I wandered to the back of the property, where, hidden from view of the house, my cousin Mike had built a tree house. I climbed  the wobbly boards nailed to the tree and enjoyed a spectacular view of their neighborhood. When I heard my mother call, I descended the ladder and was confronted by two enormous, snarling German Shepherds who belonged to the next-door neighbors.


I froze as the dogs advanced, baring their teeth. I screamed in terror and backed up against the tree. At that moment their owner appeared and called them off. I stumbled through the garden crying and yelling for my mother. I fell at least twice skinning a knee and my palms on the rocky path  which ran through the flowerbeds.

I don’t recall anything else about that day, but  from that incident I developed a strong fear of large dogs  that remained for many years.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing!


The Ambivalent Dragon Part 6


In the last Episode, Princess Crowley recited a poem for Freeman, threw away her uncomfortable shoes, and declared her intention to give up being a princess by breaking her crown. 


Here are the last few sentences from last week’s post:


Princess Crowley looked over she shoulder and gave him a sly grin. “ My next poem has a message for you:


No more ‘Majesty’

Crowley is who I will be.

I renounce my crown.


What do you say to that?”


Before Freeman could reply a shower of arrows sailed over their heads.



Freeman dropped his giant pencil and lunged forward. “ Run, Princess!” He grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the hill where the arrows had originated. They ran toward a stand of trees.  “Get down!”  He shoved her toward a tangle of vines and foliage.


She crouched and pushed her snarled hair from her face. “What is going on? And didn’t you hear what I just said? Call me Crowley. I am not a princess anymore.”

“ No time for that, right now.” Freeman stretched his head and peered around a tree. “Those were dwarf arrows.  The two of us traveling together must have drawn their attention.  I have run into them before. They are a fractious lot.” 


 Crowley shuffled closer and peeked over Freeman’s shoulder. “I thought dwarves were cave dwellers and used other kinds of weapons like axes and swords.”

  He gestured toward the hill. “The ones out there are plains dwarves.  They are quite territorial and they use crossbows with deadly accuracy. That volley of arrows was just a warning.”


 She placed a shaking hand on his back . “Now what?  I may be large, but I am not invincible.”

Freeman turned and smiled. “ Princess… uh…I mean, Crowley, I will not let anything happen to you. I may lack skills, but my skin is as tough as armor and my loyalty is even stronger.”

“Thank you, Freeman, but-“

A clamorous shout interrupted her as a swarm of dwarves poured down the hill toward the trees.

Freeman grabbed her elbows and pulled her to the ground. “Stay here!”  He moved toward the field wondering how long he could repel an assault with his meager powers. 


The company of dwarves stopped at the bottom of the hill and launched a second volley of arrows directly at him, which crumpled as they bounced off his chest and belly.  A command went up from the front line of dwarves. “Aim for his eyes and wings!”


Freeman folded his wings against his back and raised a foreleg in front of his eyes.

How long could he keep them at bay? What  if he failed?

The dwarves reloaded their crossbows and took aim. Another command was issued. “Dispatch this inept  dragon and get that giant!”

Freeman raised his head and drew himself to full height.  A kind of fury he had never felt before surged through his body. He had to protect his friend no matter what. “NO!” As he yelled flames exploded from his mouth scorching the grass that lay between him and the angry horde. “ARRGGHH!” More fire burst forth, the flames reaching the front line.


The shocked dwarves froze in their tracks for a few seconds, then dropped their weapons and fled in disarray, scrambling over one another to get away.

Freeman was stunned as he watched the dwarves make a helter-skelter retreat. What had just happened? He had never been able to breathe fire before. He reached his claws up to his mouth which tasted like sulfur.  He sat on his haunches and scratched his head in wonder.

A voice behind him said, “That was incredible! I thought you said you couldn’t breathe fire. You were holding out on me.” Crowley clapped him on the back and squatted beside him. “Very impressive.”


He shook his head. “ I don’t know how that happened. I have never been able to do that before. In Dragon Academy I could only manage to blow bubbles and feathers, which of course made me the laughing-stock of the whole school.”

Crowley looked thoughtful. ” Maybe since you were in danger…?”

Freeman replied, “ Well, I have been in scrapes before and I couldn’t breathe fire in those instances. This time I was so desperate to protect you, I got angrier than I have ever been. The flames just…I don’t know…came.”

Crowley took his claws in her hands. “I think you had the ability all along, you just didn’t need it –“

“Until I needed to protect someone I truly care about.” He shook his head. “I couldn’t let anything happen to you.”

She hugged him. “ I am truly grateful, Freeman. It was a noble act of bravery and friendship.  Now I wonder what other hidden talents you may reveal?”

He laughed. “Me too. For now I want to find my pencil and get a drink of water to get the charcoal taste out of my mouth. How do the other dragons stand that?”

Crowley said, “ I could use a rest after that ordeal. I am sure you could too. It’s getting late.” She indicated the sun sitting low in the sky. “I think we have had enough excitement for today.”

Freeman agreed. “Not far from here is a small village where I have obtained food before. Let’s head there. Tomorrow will likely bring new adventures.”


The Ambivalent Dragon: Part 5

Our saga of Princess Crowley and Freeman the Dragon continues:


They set off again and Princess Crowley began to recite a poem.


“Now, forest is home.

Though I love trees and flowers,

I wish for a friend.”


Freeman nodded, “ Haiku. One of my favorite forms. Nicely done, your majesty. A succinct version of your story. Do you have more?”


She smiled. “ I have created quite a number. It is difficult to recall them all since I could not write them down. That is why I am eager for a pencil. How about if I attempt to come up with one as we walk? Then perhaps, you will favor me with one of your stories.”


“An excellent plan, Princess.” Freeman stopped at the stream’s edge. “ For now I am all for a wash-up and a nice drink of water. My paws are quite sticky…” He bowed low. ”And if you pardon my saying so, your highness, you have blackberry juice on your chin and neck.”


Princess Crowley laughed. “ Of course, I do! I was known around the castle as ‘the princess with the dirty face.’ Drove the Queen to distraction.” She pushed up the sleeves of her gown and thrust her hands into the cool water and gave her face and neck a good scrubbing.


Freeman waded into the water and sat in a small pool . “ Ah, that is nice. “


Princess Crowley sat on the bank, removed her brocade slippers and dangled her feet in the stream. “ You are lucky that you do not have to worry about clothing, Freeman. I would love to take a swim, but then I this gown would be even heavier. If you were not here I would be tempted to skinny-dip.”



Freeman blushed, opened his mouth to reply and then closed it again. He rubbed one paw across his snout and looked away.


“Don’t look so shocked. You should be getting used to the idea that I am not a conventional princess. I wonder if I might find a way to get some clothing more suitable to the outdoors. I would love to just have some comfortable breeches, a tunic, and boots. In fact for now, I am going barefoot. “ She took her slippers and flung them into the stream and watched them float away.



Freeman stepped out of the water. “ Well, perhaps we can find someone in Warrenden who can help with a new wardrobe for you, majesty. I agree that your finery is not the best choice for the outdoors, but I hope you do not regret tossing away your shoes. The terrain gets rough soon.”


“ I spent many days barefoot as a young girl, whenever I could escape my nanny. I’ll be fine.” She removed her crown and snapped it in two. “I’d get rid of this silly thing as well, but I will use it for currency to purchase what I need. “ She tucked the pieces into the sash about her waist. “ Let’s go.” She strode forward.


Freeman scratched his head, picked up his pencil and backpack and followed.


Princess Crowley looked over she shoulder and gave him a sly grin. “ My next poem has a message for you:


No more ‘Majesty’

Crowley is who I will be.

I renounce my crown.


What do you say to that?”


Before Freeman could reply a shower of arrows sailed over their heads.





Come back next week for the next installment!



















The Ambivalent Dragon: Part 4


Our story so far: Freeman, a writerly,  non-fire breathing dragon meets  the poetic Princess Crowley who has been turned into a giant by a disgruntled sorcerer. They decide to travel together to Warrenden where they can obtain enormous pencils  with which to create their literary work. You can read all of the story in previous blog posts.

A thunderous roar rattled the ground, followed by an ear-piercing screech as something flew just overhead causing Princess Crowley and Freeman to fling themselves  into protective crouches. 


“What in the name of …of…of  the King was that?” asked the princess.

Freeman stood and brushed himself off, then extended a paw to help her up. “ That, your majesty, was my  older brother, Fieron, my personal tormentor and dragon without equal. He is everything I am not, a champion flier, brave beyond measure and winner every year of the fire-breathing competition held on Dragon’s Eve.”


“ But I did not see anything go by.” She shielded her eyes and squinted into the distance.”

“Invisibility is another of his many talents. Combined with his speed and other abilities, he is a formidable foe to all who take him on.”  He shrugged and gave a rueful smile. “ And to those who wish to be left alone as well.” He beckoned to her and they resumed their trek by starting  across a large,  fallow field.


“ What is his purpose in harassing you?”

“ He does not like it when I venture out of my cave. I am an embarrassment to dragon-kind, a liability to our reputation, he says. I am supposed to stay hidden away, which I do most of the time.”

They stepped across a narrow stream and headed up a small hill.

The princess said,  “ Ah. I can identify with that. My mother could not wait for me to be gone from the palace. I  was seen as a detriment to my sisters finding suitable husbands.”


Freeman said,”  I venture out when I have new stories to sell and when I need writing supplies. He probably heard about me getting chased by those trolls. That will be another excuse to drive me away from my cave. The only good thing is he likely scared the trolls away.”

“ So where is he now? I mean since he is invisible…”

“ Oh, he’s gone.  Flew over that mountain range. One of the traits I did happen to inherit was the ability to see what is hidden or not visible to others. It is a great trait to possess as a writer. And it helps me avoid Fieron as well. Usually I see him long before he is near, but I was thinking about our journey.  He is no doubt on his way home to report me to my father.”

“Hmm. I, too, am supposed to stay in my place in the forest. I have done so for a while, but I want more from life than just hiding out. I want to see the world and find a purpose.”

“ What about your poetry? “ He stopped and pointed to a large thicket of blackberry bushes laden with plump fruit. “ Let’s stop here and eat.”

The princess sat down and began plucking berries. “ My poetry is only for myself. No one is around to hear it. It is just an amusement to fill my days. I am just playing with words.”


“ Perhaps you should consider sharing your work with others. The world is always in need of poetry and good stories. In Warrenden, such things are highly prized. Perhaps you can find a receptive audience there as I have.”

“ I am not even sure they are any good. What if no one likes them? I am already such a spectacle in this giant body.  I don’t want to be known as the purveyor of paltry poetry as well. “

Freeman clapped his paws. “ Alliteration! I love it. I’ll bet your poems are better than you think. Why don’t you share some with me.”

“OK. But, let’s walk as I recite. I will feel les awkward that way.   ‘

 “Fine. There is a stream ahead where we can wash up and beyond that an abandoned apple orchard and farm. We can find more to eat there.”

They set off again and Princess Crowley began to recite a poem.


The Ambivalent Dragon: Part 3



The Ambivalent Dragon Part 3.  Our story of Freeman the dragon and Princess Crowley continues. You can find Parts One and Two on the blog under Stories.  Summary: Freeman, a peaceable,  story-telling dragon meets Princess Crowley who has been turned into a giant by a disgruntled sorcerer.

dragon-213681_1280Freeman hesitated and then knelt down in front of the Princess and held out his new pencil. “ It would be an honor if you would accept this. I can return to Warrenden for another for myself.” He shrugged.” It is not an easy or pleasant trip, with the trolls and other annoyances, but I will undertake it.”


Princess Crowley shook her head. “No, I don’t want your pencil, although I do appreciate the kind offer. I want to get my own. I am determined to do things for myself. I was sheltered too long in the castle and dependent on servants. Being out here in the forest has made me self-reliant and I like that.”


Freeman nodded. “ I understand and I admire your attitude, your highness. May I suggest that we travel together to Warrenden?” He pointed in the direction they would be traveling.” I know a route that will help avoid most of the unpleasantness. I warn you there could be trouble along the way. I manage to attract it.”



Princess Crowley clapped her hands together. “ I was hoping you would say that. We can help one another with the trolls and other troublesome creatures. Two united are better than on alone.” She smiled. “I can use my size and the reputation of giants as brutish and stupid to my advantage. I scared you didn’t I?”


“Indeed you did, your majesty. Of course, I may not be the best example. I am not the bravest of creatures.” He dropped his head.


“Never mind that. Let’s get started and we can talk more on the way. Are there adequate sources of food and water along the way, or should we carry supplies?” The Princess was already looking out toward the horizon.


Freeman assured her that during the warm months, there were always plenty of wild fruits and nuts along the way. They would pass by lakes and cross a couple of streams that would provide fresh water.


“ Lead the way then,” the Princess told him.They turned and headed back though the forest. “So tell me about this band of trolls that chased you into my forest. I have not seen trolls in my time here. “


Freeman replied, “ They actually do not live nearby. They pursued me quite a way. In my haste I strayed far from my usual path. That is how I ended up in your forest. I have never been in here before.” He used his pencil to push limbs out of the way. “ I avoid thick forests because the tree branches catch in my wings and my tail gets tangled up in the roots and brush. It offers more concealment but it is slow going. I can make faster time in the fields and grasslands, but of course I am easier to spot.”


“And you said you cannot fly?” The princess bent down to untangle Freeman’s tail from some vines.


“ Well, if I am in an open area and I get a running start I can take low, short flights that are more like awkward hops. It is not something to inspire fear into anyone or anything pursuing me. That was what I was trying to do when ended up here. I could hear the trolls laughing as they chased me. “


“But they did not enter the forest, did they?”


“No and I wondered why they stopped.” Freeman looked puzzled until he watched as the Princess straightened to her full height and placed her hands on her hips. “Oh.”


“ Yes. I have not been here long but I have managed to build quite a scary reputation among the more unsavory beings. I have run off my share of goblins, dwarves and thieves. I have not seen any trolls , but I assume word about me has traveled. “ She gave a rueful smile. “ The problem is I also frightened off the woodland creatures as well. I regret that. This forest was home to rabbits, deer and many kinds of birds. No more.”


“The law of unintended consequences,” Freeman said.


“ What is that?” The Princes stopped to remove some pine needles from her shoes.


“ It means that our actions for good in one situation can sometimes cause a bad outcome in another. Your posturing scared away the undesirable creatures, but it also ran off the animals who depend on the forest for life.”


“Oh. Yes, and I am sorry about that. I have always had an outgoing personality – bossy my mother, the queen, would say.   I guess with my size I need to tone down the bravado.”


“ Well, said Freeman, as they emerged from the woods. “ I need to find some.”


Princess Crowley said, “ Perhaps we can help one another, develop the traits we are lacking. What do you say?” She extended her hand toward the dragon.


Freeman put his pencil down and grasped her hand. “ It’s a deal. Now I…”


At that moment a terrifying sound filled the air.




The Ambivalent Dragon Part 2

Last Friday I posted the beginning of my story, The Ambivalent Dragon.  In part 1, Freeman, a storytelling, peaceable dragon with a giant pencil, is being followed through the forest by an angry, giant princess .When she catches up to him she demands his pencil, examines it and gives it back. Then the princess inform Freeman she has 2 questions for him.

On to part 2.


Freeman nodded, but did not speak.



“ One, what are you doing in my forest? And two, where did you get that marvelous pencil?”


Freeman swallowed and spoke in a quiet voice. “ I am sorry to have invaded your private forest, your highness. I was on my way home from obtaining the pencil in the village of Warrenden when I was accosted by a band of trolls eager to fight. I am not the fighting sort, despite my appearance. So I fled into the forest to avoid the battle.


“ I see. So, you are a coward, then?” She folded her arms.


“ No Princess, I am a scholar, not a fighter. I am a writer and book lover who just happened to end up in the body of a dragon. I cannot breathe fire, nor make myself disappear and my flying skills are rudimentary at best. My powers are peace-making, encouragement, and story-writing. My name is Freeman, by the way, at your service.” He bowed low.



“Well, Freeman, I am Princess Crowley. You are definitely a different sort of dragon, that is for certain.”


Freeman hesitated before replying, “ Well, at the risk of being rude, I must say you are a different sort of princess as well. Usually giantesses are, well, not very attractive, if you know what I mean. You, however, are quite lovely.”



“Thank you, Freeman. I am not really a giantess. I am princess trapped in a giant body. I was a normal sized baby and child, but when I reached my 14th birthday I began to grow 2 inches per day. A curse had been placed upon me by a disgruntled sorcerer that my father had dismissed. By the time an anti-curse was found, I was this tall. “


Freeman nodded his large head. “ The curse could not be reversed, then?”


“No. You can imagine that not many princes come seeking the hand of someone my size. And of course living in the castle after that did not work. So I asked my father to grant me some land to live on. “ The princess waved her hand around. “ So this is my castle in the wild.”


“I’m sorry Princess. You must be lonely.”


“ Actually I prefer it now. I was not very good at being a princess before the curse happened. I preferred hanging out with the gardener and learning about plants and flowers rather than going to balls and sipping tea with fine ladies. And my mother expected me to keep my pinafores and lacy socks clean and I didn’t. Therefore, I was always in trouble. The queen blames my  poor behavior for my current predicament.”



“Ah”, replied Freeman. “ That sounds rather familiar. Dragons gradually acquire their skills of fire-breathing and the rest through a combination of maturing and schooling. I was kicked out of Dragon Academy when I was caught using my kindling pile to spell out words rather than lighting it in Flame 101. My father was a former Headmaster so it was quite the scandal. So I found a solitary cave far from home and have been working on my stories ever since.”



Princess Crowley nodded. “After spending so much time out here I have become a nature poet. That is why I asked about the pencil. Using regular-sized pencils has been so frustrating. Even after all this time I cannot judge my own strength and they just break. It’s frustrating. I have tried using tree limbs dipped in ashes but it is a cumbersome process. I would love to have a pencil like that!” She clasped her hands together and sighed.


Freeman said, “ I had the same difficulty when I started writing. I was fortunate to meet a former magician turned craftsman several years ago who makes them for me. In exchange I allow him first access to my stories.”


“ Do you think he would be wiling to make them for me?” asked Princess Crowley.      “ It would solve my problem of having wonderful poems in my head that I cannot get written down properly before they are gone. That is what I was doing when I heard you crashing around. I was angry because your noise made me forget the lovely words I was scratching into the dirt. I am sorry if I frightened you.”


“ My apologies for disturbing your work. I understand your frustration. I am often interrupted by some young warrior looking to prove his mettle by fighting a dragon. I guess every creature pursuing a creative life has annoyances and obstacles to overcome.”



“ I imagine so,” said the princess. “ Especially if one does not fit the role that everyone expects. I am truly neither a giant nor a princess. If I could be anything I would wish to be my old size, but a commoner. Then I could pursue my dreams in anonymity. But, back to my question. Do you think I could get a pencil like that in Warrenden? Would your friend make one for me?”


Come back next week for Part 3! 









Story Generator Writing: The Ambivalent Dragon

Story Generator Writing : The Ambivalent Dragon


On Wednesday I wrote about using a story generator exercise to jump-start your writing by using a word list grid, a six-sided die, and a fill-in-the-blank  story -starter.

Today I am posting my word list and the beginning of my story.  While you can choose words at random for your list, I wanted to write an imaginary  story, so my word choices reflect this.

I am quite happy with what I came up with. Once I got started the story almost wrote itself. It was the most fun I have had in a writing session in a while.  At first I was dismayed that “enormous” came up twice when I rolled, but it worked out quite well.  In a final draft I might change one of the words and substitute a synonym, but for now I left it as it was rolled. The story was becoming really long and it is not finished,  so I am posting Part 1 today.  Real life calls me this afternoon!

I will continue the story next week.

Adjective        Character       Place               Item                Verb                Proper Name

1. proud         troll                 moat               flower             tiptoed            Freeman

2.enormous    princess          forest              sword             ran                  Paris

3. thoughtful  hen                 meadow         book                stumbled        Munro

4.ambivalent  apprentice     village             jug                   shuffled          Brownlow

5. sneaky        crone              marketplace   wand              ambled           Crowley

6. glittering    dragon            desert             pencil              twirled            Larkin

 The prompt is in italics with the words I used from the tossing of the die are underlined. Then I continued the story. Here’s what I came up with.


One day an ambivalent dragon named  Freeman  found himself lost in a forest.  Luckily he had brought his enormous  pencil. As Freeman stumbled along he realized an enormous princess  was following close behind. 

Freeman was a bit frightened by the sight of the enormous princess in this unfamiliar part of the forest. She was at least twice his size and the expression on her face was murderous.  He glanced over his shoulder. Her giant strides were bringing her nearer and nearer to him. The close crowding of the trees against his large wings and long tail made it hard for him to move any faster.  He looked around for a way of escape but the forest was becoming even more dense.

From behind him Freeman heard, “Stop right there, dragon!” The princess’ roar shook the leaves from the trees  and caused Freeman to drop his pencil.


He stopped and leaned over to pick it up wishing he could become invisible. Alas, that was not one of his powers and unfortunately,  neither was breathing fire. His greatest power seemed to be finding himself  in trouble when he really just wanted to be left alone. Whenever anyone saw a dragon they immediately went into fight mode.  For perhaps the thousandth time, Freeman wished he had been born an elf or a pixie. No one tried fighting them.


The princess took three more huge steps and towered over Freeman who pointed his pencil at her because he could think of nothing else to do. He remembered a quote he had read somewhere, “ The pen is mightier than the sword. “ Maybe a pencil was mightier than a giant, angry princess.

Her frown was replaced with a puzzled look and then a smile. She held out her hand for Freeman’s pencil, which he handed over after a moment’s hesitation.  The princess no longer looked as if she wanted to kill him, but she appeared quite strong.

 She  studied the large yellow pencil for a moment and then handed it back.“ I have two questions for you, dragon.”

Freeman nodded, but did not speak.

Come back for Part 2 next week! Until then, Happy Writing!


A Reading Memory

A Reading Memory:  Binge Reading with Aunt Effie




My path as a bibliophile has many stepping-stones along the way including those common to many bookworms: being given books as gifts, weekly trips to the local library, and parents who read to me. My journey does, however, have a few unique twist and turns that brought me to my current state, which is one of a ” To Be Read”  pile that will never get finished and a love of books and bookstores that knows no bounds. Here is one such instance.



When I was growing up I spent a lot of summer days and nights at my grandmother’s house. Due to limited finances my family did not go on many vacation trips, so time at Granny’s was interspersed with Vacation Bible School and day camp to provide me with enough diversion to keep me from driving my mother crazy. I spent my days with my grandmother gardening, cooking and attempting to learn to sew.


Often my summer visits coincided with an appearance from my great-aunt Effie, one of my grandmother’s unmarried sisters. A gravelly, phlegmy cough and a shock of short white hair are the primary images I have when I think of her. To me she was ancient and an enigma: a short, wiry woman with a thin face laced with wrinkles, who dressed in a slouchy sweater and men’s slacks rolled up to the knee. Effie had no home of her own, so she became a circuit riding long-term guest, staying for a month to 6 weeks with each of her siblings in turn.


Effie always arrived with three brown paper grocery sacks:  one containing her clothes and toothbrush, one stuffed with cartons of KOOL cigarettes, and the third filled with paperback books. Her habit was to install herself each morning on the brown, cloth sofa in Granny’s living room, with a carton of cigarettes, a stand ashtray, a glass of Coca-Cola, and her sack of books.


After lighting up a smoke, she would pull a book from the bag, tuck her feet underneath herself, and commence reading while the TV in the corner provided soft background noise. The only other sound in the room was the slapping of cards as my grandfather sat in his recliner smoking Salems and playing endless games of solitaire on his metal TV tray. Effie would finish a book and toss it back into the sack, rummage around and fish out another, light a fresh cigarette and off she would go into another world.


The summer I was eleven I abandoned Granny to her sewing, plopped myself down on the sofa and raised an eyebrow at Effie’s overflowing paper sack. She appraised me for a moment over the top of her glasses , then nudged the bag in my direction.


Effie’s reading tastes were narrow and consisted of two varieties of books: Harlequin romances and murder mysteries, neither of which I had encountered as my reading experiences up to this point had been curated by the elementary school librarian.


My reading tastes were matured and honed on that sofa over the next few summers. I discovered quickly that the romance novels were all the same story, just the names and hair color of the heroines changed from book to book. Those were not for me.


However, the mysteries were a revelation and a glimpse into a world my sheltered background had not permitted. My predilection for mystery fiction developed from Effie’s grocery bag library while binge reading Perry Mason mysteries by Earle Stanley Gardner.


My genre of choice for many years afterward was mysteries of any kind. I read rapidly through Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden as they were the mysteries available at school, though much tamer than the stories I had cut my teeth on. Later as I began buying my own books I discovered Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and many others including my all- time favorite, P.D. James.


As I grew older, my reading choices expanded to include a variety of genres, including fantasy, history, literary fiction, and memoir, but never romance. Some early experiences really do shape us, I suppose. And of course when I visit any bookstore, my feet naturally lead me to the mystery section hoping to discover a new favorite who has a long backlist of books I can look forward to devouring.


What shaped you as a reader?


Colorful Connection Fiction : Sunday on Hemlock Street 1964

Colorful Connection Writing

In Wordplay Wednesday this week, we selected  a color and brainstormed a list of related words and phrases. I chose  gray.


My list was full of words that lent themselves to  an atmospheric piece involving ghosts or sorrow, but I am saving that for another time. Instead I headed in a different direction. I kept getting pulled back to the word great-grandfather.

I ended up crafting a piece of short fiction based loosely on my memories of Poppa, my mother’s grandfather.

 Sunday on Hemlock Street 1964

As soon as they were released from Granny’s Sunday table, the six cousins dashed out the screen door and spilled onto the small front yard. Mark, the oldest at thirteen , carried a  long stout rope, one end of  which he tied around the oak by the side hedge. “ I’ll turn.”

Debbie was eager  to jump. She had been practicing all week at home to try to beat her older cousins. Of course being the next to the youngest meant she would have to wait. Janie and Sally never let her go first.  She flopped in the shade as the Sunday afternoon jump rope contest began.  Joe and Charlie joined her as they all chanted while Janie jumped. “ Cinderella dressed in ‘yella’ went upstairs to kiss her fella…”

  Finally it was her turn. Debbie was getting ready to jump in when she heard Mama calling her from the porch. “ Deb, come on. You need to go say ‘Hello’ to Poppa before he leaves. You can get your turn when you come back.” Mama handed her the plate of food Granny had prepared. “ Take this in and be polite.”

Debbie’s shoulders drooped as she trudged next door to her great grandfather’s house while the lively jump rope rhymes and slap, slap of the rope carried on without her. She stepped onto Poppa’s shadowy front porch and squinted while her eyes adjusted.


Poppa was in his usual spot perched on a weathered ladder back chair next to the card table where his ongoing games of Solitaire were played.   He was leaning on his cane as he peered over the glasses perched on the end of his large, pointed nose.

Debbie eyed the cane and came a few steps closer. “ Hello, Poppa. I brought your lunch.”  She edged toward the table, set the plate down and stepped back.

“ Thank you,  Evelyn, no…Marge… no Janie…no. Aw, hell, what’s your name?”

It was the same conversation every week. Debbie replied. “I’m Debbie. I’m Anne’s daughter.”

That’s right, that’s right.” He nodded and reached out and poked her belly with the tip of his cane. “ Gotcha!” He laughed and his watery blue eyes twinkled. “ Now go find yore Mama.”

Debbie backed away. “ Bye Poppa. See you next week.” She  ran back to Granny’s yard to claim her turn in the rope.

A few minutes later as the children took a break with some lemonade under the mimosa tree, Debbie watched Poppa leave his house and head down Hemlock Street. He was wearing his Sunday best: a starched white shirt, a bow tie, gray pants held up with red suspenders, and his gray fedora. He walked with small but surprisingly quick steps, his cane tapping the sidewalk. 

As he turned the corner at the bottom of the hill Debbie wondered aloud,  “Where does Poppa go every Sunday afternoon?”

Sarah giggled. “ I think he goes to see his girlfriend!

Joe shook his head. “ He’s 90 years old. That’s too old for a girlfriend.”

Janie folded her arms and exchanged knowing glances with Mark. “ It’s not his girlfriend he goes to see. It’s his wife.” She pretended to whisper.  “His second wife.”

Debbie and the others stared at her in disbelief.

Marked shoved Janie’s shoulder. “ You weren’t supposed to tell that.” He glanced at Charlie, the youngest, who was known to be a tattle-tale.

Janie tossed her head. “Oh, why not? “

Sarah frowned “ How’d you find out?”

“Oh I heard Mother and Aunt Liz talking about it.”

Joe asked, “ Why doesn’t Poppa’s wife live with him?”

Janie sat up looking pleased and important to be  the possessor of such interesting information. “ Well, after  Grandmama G. died, Poppa was lonely so he decided to get married again. But  Granny and the Aunties would not let him bring her home because she was a hussy.”

Sarah and Joe gasped and then fell on the ground laughing.

Charlie had been poking a dead caterpillar with a small twig and had not appeared to be paying attention.  Now he looked up. “ What’s a hussy?” Debbie had been wondering the same thing.

Mark frowned and shook his head at Janie. “It’s a woman who wouldn’t make a good wife.”

Joe said, “ But Poppa has his own house and he is Granny’s and the Aunties’ dad. Why can’t he do what he wants?”

“Poppa doesn’t  want to cause trouble and neither should any of you.” Uncle John’s deep voice boomed over and behind them.

They all turned to see their usual jolly uncle frowning down at them. “ You kids should stay out of other folks’ business. Don’t you let me hear any of you talking to Poppa or anyone else about this, or there will be heck to pay. You hear? Now who wants to go for a ride to the Dairy Barn?”

The promise of a rare treat of  ice cream cones pushed Poppa and his secret wife from Debbie’s mind as the cousins  ran to the car all clamoring for a window seat.

Years later Debbie found a picture of her great-grandfather sitting in Granny’s living room surrounded by Christmas packages and family members. He was holding his cane and laughing. She wondered what happened to Poppa’s wife when he no longer made his Sunday walks down Hemlock Street.



Older posts

© 2017 Writing Toward Home

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑