A 2022 Sundance Film Festival Discovery

Today a coworker was kind enough to share that this year’s virtual Sundance Film Festival is offering $20 tickets for single films. I decided to browse the website for any movies I might be interested in paying $20 to see. One particular movie caught my eye: Alice, staring Keke Palmer and Common. Here’s the synopsis:

Alice (Keke Palmer) spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller), Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering that the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a disillusioned Black activist named Frank (Common), Alice uncovers the lies that have kept her enslaved and the promise of Black liberation.

Okay, am I crazy or does this sound a lot like my story “Runaway“?? What are the odds that I would write a story with almost the exact same premise of a feature film premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, right?

Let me be clear, when I wrote “Runaway,” I’d never heard of this movie, so let’s not throw around the “P” word. Besides, I was high on caffeine and 10 hours deep into a Twilight Zone blogging (and watching) marathon, so any creator not named Rod Serling was far from my mind at the time of writing.

In any case, time travel is not a novel trope in fiction, nor is time travel to or from the antebellum period, for that matter. One book that immediately comes to mind is Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred (high on the recommendation list, if you haven’t read it already). And “Runaway,” specifically, was inspired by a Twilight Zone episode. So, while I can’t call my idea 100% original, it still fascinates me how I and the movie’s writer and director, Krystin Ver Linden, had the exact same setup for how our stories would begin.

Great minds, huh?

Anyway, I think I may buy tickets for this one. Maybe I’ll get ideas for an extended version of this Twilight Zone “episode.” But more than likely, I’ll just relish in the belief (now proven) that my stories are fully capable of becoming Hollywood feature films.

I just gotta write and publish them faster.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Quiet that Inner Critic

Good morning, Dear Friends, and welcome to another Insecure Writers Support Group Wednesday!

January 5 question: What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Well, this is somewhat of a difficult question to answer, because at times, I don’t feel my “writing career” has started. Sure, I have a few short stories and poems published in literary magazines, and of course I have multiple books’ worth of content on this blog.

But when I think “career,” the first thing that comes to mind is making money, and although the time and effort I put into the maintenance of this blog, from the posts I publish to the look and feel of the page layout, often feels like a second job, currently, the only check I’m getting is from the 9-to-5.

One thing I do regret—as I believe it has, in a way, derailed my progress to publishing that first book and, as a result, stalled my writing career—is being too critical of my work.

You know how the saying goes: You are your biggest critic. Well, as a perfectionist, I’m ten times worse.

I have left so many stories unfinished because I feared the first drafts sounded too elementary, or the plots I’d outlined too unoriginal.

I write, and rewrite, then rewrite the rewrite, then delete everything and start over. (Prime example: there are currently three versions of Love Poetry on my computer hard drive as we speak.)

I’m constantly ripping through the thesaurus because I don’t feel my vocabulary is diverse enough.

I second guess whether I’m showing rather than telling.

I worry about my pacing in some scenes. Is it okay that I have a page that’s 90% dialogue?

I question if I’ve provided enough details in the narration for the reader to visualize the story:

  • How many ways can you say it’s dark outside?
  • Does every detail in the room need to be meticulously sketched out to set the scene? I mean, I’m not a screenwriter here.
  • Can I just say, “She got in her car”? Do I have to write every step? She grabbed her purse, walked out of the front door, descended the porch steps, walked (is there another word for “walked?”) across the yard to the driveway, and got in her car.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that you don’t need a million pretty words to be a great writer. I’ve read books like that, and they were BORING! You also don’t have to be the next great American novelist to produce stories that people will still love and enjoy and want more of. That’s the one downside of taking those university literary courses. They assign you the wordy stuff, the dated stuff. Although classics, not many in today’s Internet age (the era of instant gratification) have the attention span to read them. Well, let me speak for myself, I don’t have the attention span to read them. Not anymore. So why am I trying to write like them?

Writing the drabble, the 100-word story, has helped me to eliminate those inessential words and descriptions that, although great for atmosphere, don’t necessarily move the plot along, so that all I’m left with is a story. Because that’s why we read, right? We want a good story.

On New Year’s Eve, I embarked on an ambitious challenge to write a marathon of Twilight Zone-inspired stories every hour, midnight to midnight. While I wrote some stories that were pure gems (I smile and get giddy every time I read them), there were others that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with. But I had one particular fan (okay, it was my mom) buttering me up the entire time, encouraging me to keep going, saying that she was enjoying the stories more than the actual marathon on TV. It was a great feeling, and I definitely want more of that.

So my goal for this year is to not be so critical. Don’t worry so much about the details. Perfectionism is an enemy of success, and do you really want to deprive your biggest fan?

Hi, mom! 🙂

Nala

At dusk, the Legend sets sail for Bermuda. On my stateroom balcony, I watch below as the ship cuts through waves, the small crests forming shapes reminiscent of the six-inch stuffed polar bear I carried everywhere as a child, until one day at the beach a rip current snatched her out of my hands.

I cried myself violet that day—as I do now, on what was originally an anniversary cruise, until that secretary and her ripped stockings snatched him out of my hands.

In the white foam, I see her little paw reach up and dream for a reunion.


It’s Day 4 of Bloganuary, and the question is: What was your favorite toy as a child?

The real story has a much happier ending. A boy surfing a little further down the beach found her in the water, heard me screaming my head off, and figured she belonged to me. She’s never left my side since.

Yes, Nala was named after Nala from The Lion King. Yes, I’m aware she is not a lion.

Chronicles of a Single Black Christian Female: Episode 2

Pastor says, “No Christian woman should be online dating.” But the only males in church are either married or teenagers.

Granddaddy says, “Do you expect Mr. Right to break into your house?”

Only undesirables, who follow you home and never leave, are available at the bar and club scene.

So I find myself at the Ruby Tuesday, planted in a booth next to the all-you-can-eat salad bar, trying not to look too desperate that I scare away potential suitors, but just lonely enough that a friendly stranger sits down, buys me a drink, and maybe asks for my phone number.


It’s Day 3 of Bloganuary, and the prompt is: Write about the last time you left your comfort zone.

Short answer: I’ve taken myself on a date only twice. Both times were very awkward—people tend to stare at the person eating alone. But that could all be in my head…

Deep down: I first published Episode 1 of Chronicles of a Single Black Christian Female way back in 2018. It was supposed to be the first installment of a new serial story. But Episode 2 never came, until now, because of the long answer: I’m a Christian woman who writes romance fiction, sometimes about Christian people who sometimes have sex, sometimes outside of marriage. Because that’s life, that’s real. And too many protagonists in contemporary Christian fiction (that I’ve read) are “holier than thou” caricatures, and it doesn’t show the truth: that we’ve all fallen short, and that’s okay because there is forgiveness in Christ. And I know some people won’t like that, some will judge me, call me a sinner, that I’m not doing the work of God, blah, blah, blah. And maybe I am and maybe I’m not. And maybe that’s why I hesitate to hit publish for some posts on this topic, and maybe that’s why I go back and edit censor certain love scenes, and maybe that’s why I don’t tell people at church that I’m a writer. And maybe this is a conversation I should be having with God instead of blabbering online.

But at the end of the day, I just hope you can accept my work for what it is, fiction, and me for who I am, human, just out here trying, like everyone else.

Morning Inspiration: Writing Prompt No. 25

This is your Monday morning inspiration! Let your mind be inspired by today’s prompt and awaken your will to write. It doesn’t have to be a complete story. It doesn’t even have to be a complete thought. The challenge is simply to get those creative juices flowing, kickstart a new week of writing, and discover the talented artist within.

This Morning’s Prompt

Queen


My Inspired Story

Radiant queen,
I bow before you,
grovel at your feet.
I'm not worthy
to stand in your presence.

Time for Yours

Now it’s your turn! Use your inspiration from either the word or photo prompt (or both) and write whatever comes to mind! You can even continue my story if it inspires you! Drop it in the comments below or post on your own blog and link it back here. And most importantly, have fun!

Wrap-up of 2021

As we wave goodbye to 2021, I have one request of 2022:

Please be nice to us.

2020 was rough. 2021 literally started with a bang, and not in a good way.

(I’m still holding my breath for what chaos may erupt on Thursday…)

But I remain hopefully for 2022, despite all the doom and gloom, and I attribute that hope to how I ended my 2021…

Returning to writing!

I wish I could pinpoint the exact cause of my loss of inspiration over the last few years. Look, 2020 was a horrible year, for everybody, but truthfully, I started to fall off around mid-way through 2018, which is funny because 2018 was actually a good year for me. I’d just gotten a new job, moved to a new city, started a new relationship. I was feeling myself and finally feeling like a grown woman.

And maybe that’s why… I couldn’t think of any cursed love stories to write, because I was happy. I was in my Taylor Swift cycle.

Then, without revealing too much, 2019 came with a lot of hard decisions that, in hindsight, began a very long period of depression and then denial of said depression. By 2020, I was on the verge of a total meltdown. At some point, toward the end of 2021—when it started to sink in that 30 was quickly approaching and baby fever was coming down hard—I realized I needed to get my stuff together. Because no man would be happy with me if I wasn’t first happy with myself. So I turned to the one thing that’s always brought me peace and solace and picked up the pen again, metaphorically speaking of course.

In that last month and a half of 2021, I published 82 posts, garnered 1,446 views and 341 likes, and embarked on my most ambitious blogging challenge yet: 25 Twilight Zone-inspired stories in 25 hours, midnight to midnight, leading up to the New Year (technically 24, because one of the stories was a short film I reshared).

Though the stats aren’t close to the numbers I had three years ago, I’m hoping this upward trend is a positive sign of more to come for both myself and those of you who follow or choose to follow as the year progresses.

So let’s look at some of your favorite posts since the comeback:

  1. Parting Gift
  2. Get Lost with Me in the Twilight Zone
  3. Would You Like to Hear My Voice?
  4. Morning Inspiration: Writing Prompt No. 17
  5. Morning Inspiration: Writing Prompt No. 24
  6. Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 1 | Hell
  7. Realities of Long Distance
  8. Morning Inspiration: Writing Prompt No. 15
  9. Therapy Session
  10. Morning Inspiration: Writing Prompt No. 2

Going into 2022, I hope to bring you more 100-word stories, more poems (including Black Poetry Writing Month, which according to blog stats, continues to live on despite my absence), longer stories, a new serial story, THAT ONE BOOK(!), your favorite posts as podcast episodes (recently bought a microphone, so that’s cool 😉 ), and last but not least, your Morning Inspiration (but I’m switching that to weekly prompts on Mondays so I can be more consistent with posting).

So are you ready to have a brighter future in 2022? I know I am!

Honeymoon Road Trip

He bought a Confederate battle flag from the Civil War Museum gift shop at Fort Fisher, our first stop on a two-week cross-country road trip. Fourteen states by the end of it—all below the Mason-Dixon line.

He hung it in our RV’s living area window. As cars passed on the highway, looks of anger twisted into confusion.

Black girl, Brown guy. Didn’t make sense.

“It’s a symbol of Southern pride?” he said.

“For some.”

“We’ll make it our own.”

“Like the N word?”

That night he took it down, spread it across the bed, then lay between my legs.


It’s Day 2 of Bloganuary, and the question is: What is a road trip you would love to take?

Short answer? Coast to coast with the hubby, honeymooning in every state. 😉

The Girl in Booth Seven

“Ready to order, hon?”

“Cof—” She coughs into her fist. “Just water.”

“Okay?”

“Cheesy grits. Can you cut up little sausages in it? Fried egg, medium. Oh…I probably can’t have it runny. Hard then. And can you put that in the grits too? Well, I guess I can do that.”

She turns and gazes out the window at the gray sky and wet asphalt of the diner parking lot.

I recognize that look. I had it at 17, as a runaway and seven weeks pregnant.

“I’ll put it all in the bowl. And decaf works.”

She smiles. “Thank you.”


Saw that a few blogging buddies are participating in Bloganuary. I’m not fully committed yet, but I liked today’s prompt: What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 25 | Temptation

I like to cook breakfast at New Year’s. It symbolizes the start of a new day. The breaking away from the nightmares that held me down in sleep.

The last two years have been a nightmare.

He invites himself in a quarter to midnight.

I have the sausage links resting on the stove. The pancake batter is mixed. The grits bubble and pop in the pot on the back burner. I scramble the eggs.

“So much food,” he says.

“I want to enter the new year full.”

“I know a better way,” he whispers seductively.

I taste the grits, add more salt, then throw the entire pot over my shoulder.

He howls and writhes on the floor in agony.

“Not this year, Satan.”


Happy New Year! Eat breakfast. Stomp on the devil (or that toxic ex). Start your New Year positive. I’ll see you soon!

Our final story comes courtesy of “The Howling Man.”

I really hope you enjoyed my Twilight Zone marathon! It’s truly been a pleasure to write. Please tell me which stories were your favorite. I have a few. And if you missed any, you can read them all right here!

Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 24 | I’ll Stop the World for You

“When was the last time you prayed?”

I hesitate. I don’t want to be judged for my real answer. But I also don’t want to lie in church.

“I never have time.” His frown immediately makes me regret it. But it’s true. I work eight to twelve hours a day. By the time I get home, I’m dead tired. I barely have enough energy to cook something. And once I’ve had dinner, it’s time for bed. Time to call it a night and do it all over again the next day.

“God says…”

Internally, I groan. I’m so sick of getting God’s word secondhand from “connected” people, even if it’s my pastor. For once, I’d like to hear God say it Himself.

“Daughter, I’ll stop the world for you.”

“What?”

“That’s what He says.”

“But, but why did you change your voice?”

He tilts his head. “I didn’t.”

“You said it like, like—” The best way I can describe it is like thunder. Like a loud, sudden crack of thunder that comes right after that dreadful stillness that follows a bright flash of lightning.

“God is speaking to you. Listen.”

“But what does it mean?”

“No one can understand the mysteries of God.”

I go home unsatisfied. On the drive, I see the world still moves. Cars zoom by. Trucks honk their horns. When I put my key in my apartment door, I hear my neighbors fighting next door.

How will He stop it? Disable all machines and put us back in the dark ages? Get rid of all the people? The thought of being alone with Him frightens me. I’m really not great company. I’m terribly depressed most days.

When will He stop it? I wonder as I climb into bed and hear the hum of the highway through the window. Maybe there’s something I must do first.

I kick my feet over, get on my knees and clasp my hands in front of me.

This is where I always start and stop. Because I never know what to say, or how to say it. The prayer warriors make it seem so effortless in intercessory prayer. They sit in the sanctuary and on command are babbling in tongues. I can’t even start my own prayer because I’m distracted by them. Is it a true prayer? Is it in a language the someone somewhere understands? Does God move their lips like that? Or are they just making noise to sound holy.

I have to remind myself, there’s no one here to distract me now. That’s when I notice something else is different. It’s quiet. So quiet I can hear my own heart beating in my hears. Then the boom of thunder.

I quickly bow my head. “Father?”


While the original Twilight Zone series covered an array of topics ranging from science fiction, politics, social justice, to the downright creepy, one thing you were almost always guaranteed to get at the end of each episode was a moral. Similar to those fables we used to read in childhood. As we close out this year, let’s take a pause and reflect on what’s most important for us and take that into 2022.

Oh, and this story is a mashup of “Time Enough at Last” (next to “Willoughby,” one of my all-time favorites), “The Mind and the Matter,” and “A Kind of Stopwatch,” but it’s also something totally different and new.