Playing with a Prompt


Hi Dear Reading Friend,

Before I do my post for the day, I wanted to let you know that a friend of mine, Catherine Dilts, has her first novel, published by Five Star Publishing, coming out today! If you’re thinking of Christmas presents, here’s a book you can safely guess your mystery-loving friends won’t have read already.  How cool is that?  She’s on a blog tour right now, visiting a lot of author’s sites, so I hope to have an interview with her in January.  If you have any questions you’d like me to ask her about either writing or Stone Cold Dead, please let me know.

The Holiday Gift

What’s inside? Only your imagination knows for sure!


I have read that planning a trip is often more fun than actually going on one.  Perhaps the same is true with regard to writing a book.  I love sitting around thinking about what one of my characters would say or do.  It’s great fun to talk about the general premise of my next work with well-wishing friends.  And planning a book or story is a lot easier than sitting down each day to write, edit, or generally sweat over how come I haven’t made more progress in getting that next book done.

I also have seen in several magazines and books, writing exercises called “prompts.”  These prompts can come in the form of a sentence or a photo, a piece of music or a poem. They are meant to spark questions in your head and allow you to let your imagination run wild.

And what better prompt than a wrapped up holiday gift?  The box could be totally empty, but until you open it, that gift holds all of your imagination.  What opportunity!

So here’s a little holiday gift for you–a detailed writing prompt:

My Story

In the past few days, I’ve purchased a couple of gifts for friends at my local Dillards store.  Unlike the rumors of large crowds and horrendous service at the shopping malls, my experience was terrific.  I suspect that with so many people shopping on-line, the malls will not really ever become the shopping meccas they were in decades long ago gone.

Pup & Package

Who is that gift for? You’re the storyteller, so . . .

Anyway, when I finished shopping I splurged to “dress up” my gifts with professional wrapping, and was shown an elevator down to the lower floor.  There, tucked behind a women’s coat department was the administrative office and gift wrapping counter.

When I brought my purchases to the counter, I have to admit, I expected a so-who-cares attitude from the people there. I mean, they wrap hundreds of gifts this time of year, right?

Wrong! Marie-Anna smiled at me, asked me about who might be receiving my gift, helped me select from 12 different wrapping styles and gave me a time I could come back for my packages. Then presto, change-o! Christmas presents would glisten in the bright holiday lights, and my friends would ooh and ahh over them. And that’s before they even opened the things!

I left the mall in a better holiday spirit then I have had in a while.  And so, of course, that got me to thinking:


  • Who is Marie-Anna?  Is she single, perhaps in search of a good man to snuggle under the mistletoe with? Is she really a Santa’s elf sent to keep people in the holiday mood? Is she secretly a spy sent by the government to slip secret codes into gifts that other spies will deliver to friends this time of year?  Maybe she’s a fantastic actress and will have slipped some nefarious object or poison into that scarf package for Grandpa’s last Christmas. Bwaa-ha-ha-ha-ha!
  • What if Marie-Anna’s main goal in life is to make everybody in the world happier, and her way of doing this is by wrapping pretty presents? What if she steals presents from people shopping and forgetting what they bought, and gives them to poor people around town? What if she’s an innocent dupe being used to wrap up mafia packages to send to enemy-homes for the holidays? Very creepy.
  • Who buys presents to have them wrapped by someone else?  Are they too busy or perhaps totally untalented with wrapping paper and tape?  Could it be a busy executive who has to buy a zillion presents for this office staff?  Maybe he could be a handsome man with nothing but good in his heart, and he’s playing Santa at the office holiday party.  Maybe he’s very lonely, and shy. Maybe the gift-giving allows him to talk to the pretty woman in the gift wrapping department, and maybe throughout the holiday season he has a chance to get to know her. Then the final gift he has wrapped himself because it is for her! Shivers of romantic ooohs are creeping down my spine as I type this!
  • And what about that gift? What’s in the box that’s going to be wrapped?  So many possibilities.

Now it’s your turn.  I haven’t given you anything more than a few images.  Can you run with them and write a story?  It doesn’t have to be a novel, though it could be.  What do you feel at this time of year?  Can you write something and print it up as a special home-made and creative gift for someone you love?  Good luck and keep writing!

Stockings hung by the chimney

Can’t wait to gather the family ’round.

Next week I’m not likely to have a post, as I’m planning to enjoy a visit from my daughter and granddaughter and really want to focus on family right now. Wishing you a wonderful time of year and I’ll talk again with you soon.

The Bah-Humbug Bug

It happens this time just about every year.  The Bah-Humbug bug bites and I feel more than a little Scroogey–know what I mean?

Christmas cards are behind schedule.  There’s that annual holiday note we write that I suspect our friends and families are not quite rushing to their mailboxes to be able to be the first to read.  I’m a writer, and should really enjoy talking all about me, me, me, but somehow this “news” doesn’t feel quite like the gift I envisioned it being.

We bought the tree yesterday.  We’re letting it sit in the living room so the branches can “breathe and fall into place.” I wanted to kiss the guy at the store who said this. Starting the annual search for lights, and “did you leave them in this tangle?” debate leave me feeling about as warm as Denver’s temperature in last week’s Bronco’s game.  Yes. A nice night of procrastination because “NCIS is on” works for me.

And the gifts!  Every year I plan to get these under control early.  I think about them throughout the year. I plan to make the purchases sometime in early November when the first of the barrage of catalogs hits my doorstep. And then, inevitably, I blink and it’s mid-December without the “shopping” done. Instead of shipping in the calm (and less expensive) ground choice, I search the boxes that say “next day delivery–that’ll be more than you can afford, please.” Not quite sure how this happens but am quite certain it’s going to.

Suddenly, I wake one morning and think, “Christmas is just a waste of time!” That’s when I know I have to sit down and rethink this.  And here are some of the things I focus on:

Surfboard Christmas Tree

Move over Charlie Brown! Our tree beats yours for “worst tree” status!

Lights–When we first got together, my husband had not really ever celebrated Christmas.  He was raised a Muslim, and his family was inconsistent in observing their religious holidays.  Our first Christmas, we vacationed in Daytona Beach (neither of us knowing that winter hits Florida as much as anywhere else in the United States).  We got home with our hardly used swimsuits and a styrofoam surf board, which we taped to the wall for our “Christmas Tree.”  It was silly and fun.

But after that, we put up a Christmas tree each year, and for many years I’d wake in the night and find my good guy sitting on the floor in whatever room the tree sat, all the lights out except the tree’s.  The look on his face was of pure innocence and hope, and I’d fall in love with him all over again.

Kids–I still chuckle over the “Dear Santa” letters that are absolute treasures to me.  One year, one of my girls wrote a shopping list for Santa that ran three pages!  Guess she had mom’s and dad’s budget pegged, and knew we were old softies who wanted nothing more than to make her smile.  But this same daughter is the one I’ve seen wrap up her dinner and share it with a homeless person on the street.  She gives to others constantly now and I can’t imagine how she became such a generous spirit.

Music–Okay. Fair warning here.  I love to sing–badly.  It has been decades since I could carry a tune in a bushel basket, as my mom would say, but singing makes me smile.  And yes.  I still love singing along with Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, and The Royal Guardsmen (Snoopy and the Red Barron at Christmas–Classic!).  Kenny G’s Christmas CD is somewhere in my stash (I think my daughter and good guy have hidden it somewhere). One year I even gave holiday CDs to neighbors in the mistaken belief that they love holiday music as much as me. Sticking to edibles from now on.

And gifting!  No, I don’t look forward to “what I got.” I love the last-minute rush where each of us older ones runs to a separate room at 11:00 on Christmas eve, and wraps gifts in our own “creative” ways.  We shout out to each other such loving phrases as “I ran out of tape, got any more?” or “Do we haveta put ribbons on everything?” One Christmas I got a wrapping paper tube filled with wild and wonderful socks.  I laughed and loved them for years to come.

Christmas isn’t such a madhouse any more.  Daughters are grown and gone, but when I wander through the sparklies of the season in my house and smile, Scrooge shrinks within me and I am full of seasonal hope and joy once more.

Here’s hoping you have a great holiday preparation time too.