Photo Prompt Friday 7.19.19

A hand with light colored polish lays in a bath of milky water.

I’m normally not a huge fan of people in my photo prompt images, but this one is a little creepy. And I like it! I suppose this person might be just relaxing in the tub, getting ready for a night on the town or winding down after a long week at work. It could be one of those options. There’s no blood….yet.

Clearly, my brain is already figuring out the murder plot with this image. Who is the victim? Why are they taking a bath? How were they murdered and why? Is their hand dangling in the water because they’ve just been strangled? Or is the killer waiting with a big, shiny knife right behind them, just waiting for them to shut their eyes? So many murderish options, so little time!

If you happen to use this prompt, let me know in the comments! I’d love to see what other minds come up with on this image. Happy Friday!

Photo Prompt Friday #1

I love how the right image can spark a whole set of questions that can eventually lead to a story. I tend to be pretty place/setting oriented in my writing (hello, Strengthfinders #1 Context) so sometimes having that visual in front of me as I brainstorm and write can make all the difference.

The challenge is finding that image. Since I write mysteries, sometimes with a little fantasy or horror thrown in, many of the visual writing prompts that I find just don’t quite cut it. Cutesy images don’t get me where I want to be most days. The image has to have just enough of something in it to spark the “what’s happening” without having too much in it that it stifles my own creative process.

So, once a week, I’m going to try posting a visual image that I’ve found or taken that prompts some story ideas for me. Maybe they’ll be helpful for you too. If so, be sure to leave a comment or link about your story!

Happy Writing!

Weathered red barn with weeds growing around it, in front of a line of trees in the distance.

On the surface, this image looks pleasant: sunny day, blue skies, lots of green growing. It’s a happy little barn, right? Or is it? (You know my first thought is having to walk through all those weeds were 3 million snakes are hiding, waiting to scare me.) What’s in that barn? What rusted out old tools are just waiting to become murder weapons? What bodies are hidden or not so hidden when the character walks through the front door? And those woods! What’s lurking back there? (Bigfoot, the answer is always bigfoot.)

Not gonna lie, barns fascinate me as a mystery writer. They are so incredibly murder-y. Or at the least the ones I spend time in are (sorry family members with barns). Hammers and pitchforks line the walls and wild, mean animals lie in wait. Barns and farms in general are places where accidents and blood and really disgusting things happen. The best ones are full of generations of stuff that someone needed once but has been left to collect dust and cobwebs, with the occasional secret item is tucked away. They are full of family drama and hardship and sometimes disappointed dreams. And they are always full of death….

25 Artist's Date Ideas for Writers

Paint in different colors on a palette

I was this many years old when I learned about artist’s dates (how did I miss these?) If you’re like me and haven’t heard of this idea, artist’s dates are once-weekly, solo expeditions meant to get the creative juices flowing and the imagination sparked. The idea comes from Julia Cameron and as she puts it, artist’s dates should involve some mischief, whimsy, and fun. I love that the idea is to get out of your home/office and do something as well as that doing it solo gives you the space to think and be inspired without having to worry about someone else.

My tank has been running on empty for a while now so when another coach suggested the idea, I jumped on it. For many creatives, input of the world around us is such an important part of being creative. We need that input to keep the creative tank full and the motor running on our projects.

My first two artist’s dates have involved taking myself out for a little treat at a cafe (with lots of people watching) and going on a long bike ride at a local park. Both did wonders. I came home from each with a fuller tank. My word count has gone up and the number of ideas that have been swirling around in my brain is waaaay up.

Here’s a list of 25 ideas for artist’s dates for writers.

  1. Wander around a graveyard (seriously, did anyone think this wasn’t going to be my #1?)

  2. Visit a local museum.

  3. Take a walk through a new neighborhood.

  4. Snap photographs around your neighborhood.

  5. Take an art class.

  6. Visit a tourist destination near you or take a day trip to one.

  7. Find a bookstore and browse the shelves. Try to leave with only one book (kidding! Who does that?")

  8. Go to a restaurant and have lunch or dinner and journal about what you see, hear, smell, etc.

  9. Try an exercise class that is different than one you normally do.

  10. Take a bike ride down a new path or trail.

  11. Pick a spot in a natural setting and paint it in a notebook or on a canvas.

  12. Watch the sun rise or set.

  13. Go for a hike.

  14. Take a drive. See if you can get lost or pick a new destination.

  15. Visit a local farmers’ market or flea market or flower market. Buy something that sparks your interest and use it in a story.

  16. Make sandcastles at the beach.

  17. Visit a botanical garden and pick a scent that reminds you of a character.

  18. Create a scavenger hunt of 15 things you need to find. Then, go out and find them.

  19. Head to an art gallery or museum to see the latest exhibit.

  20. Find a park bench and people watch for an hour.

  21. Rent a kayak and take it for a spin on a nearby waterway.

  22. Buy a train ticket and watch the scenery go by.

  23. Take yourself to the movies.

  24. Lay in a field and watch the clouds.

  25. Take a walk and listen to music that you wouldn’t normally choose.

Whatever you choose, artist’s dates should be fun. They should get you out of the daily routine, help you see the world a bit differently, and give you a break to let your mind wander and fill up on new things. What are your favorite ways to spend an artist’s date?

Eastmanville Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery (Coopersville, Michigan)

Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery with a list of those buried in the cemetery.

Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery with a list of those buried in the cemetery.

We’re always sniffing out the path to cemeteries!

We’re always sniffing out the path to cemeteries!

Last month, Mira and I celebrated her 12th (!!!) rescue day by visiting a cemetery. Well, not really. We have many really great parks in the area and one of our favorites, particularly for snowshoeing, has a cemetery on the grounds. There wasn’t enough snow this time around for snowshoeing, but we had a lovely hike around the Eastmanville Farm park anyway.

The Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery contains the burial spots for over fifty individuals. They died while the park was being operated as a poor farm. In the years that followed the US Civil War in the 1860s, poor farms sprang up across the US as a way to provide a form of social services to poor, infirm, or elderly individuals in communities.

The Eastmanville site originally began as a farm and then a “Midway” house for people traveling from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven. In 1866, it was sold to Ottawa County and became a poor farm where individuals could go to be cared for in exchange for working at the farm. The stories of the residents tell a varied tale. Some were indigent. Others came to be cared for as they aged. On average, forty people lived at the farm at any given time, with numbers swelling during the winters and during the Great Depression.

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Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery detailing restoration efforts.

Sign at the Poor Farm Memorial Cemetery detailing restoration efforts.

By the time Ottawa County turned the site into a park, the site had undergone a number of changes, including operating as a nursing home, and the cemetery had fallen into disrepair. Volunteers and the parks department researched and restored the site, including placing small markers at the burials that were found. Several signs detail the efforts and restoration.

Four of the original gravestones remain in the cemetery.

Original gravestone for Robert C. Dick (1821-1913)

Original gravestone for Robert C. Dick (1821-1913)

Eastmanville Farm park signs show the way to the cemetery.

Eastmanville Farm park signs show the way to the cemetery.

The park is located at 7851 Leonard Road, Coopersville, MI 49404. Once at the park, there are two parking areas: one in front of the barn area and another larger area off to the left. The cemetery is located north of the parking lots, along the left (west) side of the park. The trails in the park are mainly gravel and natural grass surface, although some of the trails are used by equestrians during the summer months and can get a bit sandy. Signs will point you back to the cemetery and outline the other trails in the park.

For more information on the cemetery and the history of the Eastmanville Farm park, visit the following:

No Person Left Behind

Forgotten Cemetery Gets Recognition

150th Anniversary of ‘Poor Farm’

Input to Output

Wyuka Cemetery, Lincoln, NE

I’m in the middle of taking a Strengths course, which is fabulous, with Becca Syme, but it reminded me that this blog has been neglected and forgotten. For all the input, there’s got to be some output ;) In other words, all the information that is crammed in my brain about cemeteries doesn’t do all that much good if it’s just sitting there. Sharing, in various forms, is a good thing and this blog can be part of that.

I find cemeteries fascinating places. They always inspire a thousand questions and stories in my mind. Sometimes, the answers are out there; sometimes not. Either way, interesting!

My goal is to get back at “touring” a cemetery at least once a month. When time allows, I’ll dig a little deeper into a particular story, symbol, or gravestone or whatever else pops up. When it doesn’t, we’ll still have all the fun cemetery questions to ponder. And, as happens in other spaces, there will be the occasional dog post, writing post (Did you hear that Crime Travel is coming?), and whatever else spikes our interest here in the Mitten.