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!

Get Lost with Me in the Twilight Zone

Hello, folks! Can you believe we’ve reached the end of the year? It came so quickly!

(And yet, so much has happened that January feels like three years ago. Quite the conundrum…)

To close out this very long year—which feels like a continuation of 2020—I’m going to try something a little ambitious in an effort to continue to push myself to return to that prolific writer I once was in 2015–2017.

And hopefully I won’t talk myself out of it…or burn myself out…

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know I absolutely LOVE The Twilight Zone. And no, I’m not talking about Jordan Peele’s short-lived reboot, but the original series from the 1960s. And I don’t want to hear that I’m too young to know anything about The Twilight Zone. Sure, my mom may have been a little tot when the series first aired, but I promise you I have seen every single Twilight Zone episode there is at least twice.

Here are just a few Twilight Zone-inspired stories I already have published on the blog:

Some of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes include:

From The Twilight Zone episode, “When the Sky Was Opened”
  • Time Enough at Last
  • Perchance to Dream
  • When the Sky Was Opened
  • The Hitchhiker
  • The Last Flight
  • Mirror Image
  • The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street
  • Long Live Walter Jameson
  • A Stop at Willoughby
  • The Howling Man
  • Nick of Time
  • Back There
  • The Odyssey of Flight 33
  • Shadow Play
  • Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up
  • The Arrival
  • The Mirror
  • The Grave
  • It’s a Good Life
  • The Midnight Sun
  • Still Valley
  • In His Image
  • The Thirty-Fathom Grave
  • Death Ship
  • Passage on the Lady Anne
  • Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
  • Living Doll
  • Night Call
  • Spur of the Moment
  • Queen of the Nile
  • I Am the Night, Color Me Black
  • Stopover in a Quiet Town
  • Garrity and the Graves
  • Come Wonder with Me
  • The Fear

The Syfy channel has definitely spoiled me in that every New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I am glued in front of the TV watching the annual Twilight Zone marathon! This year will be no different, but I’m going to take it a step further…

While I am watching The Twilight Zone episodes, I will be writing them as well. Yep, to ring in the new year, I’m going to have a Twilight Zone marathon of my own right here on the blog.

As you may have seen, since returning to the blogging world, I’ve been challenging myself to write at least 100 words a day (check out the A Drabble a Day tab)—or if not 100, at least something (see Morning Inspiration). This will be similar, except instead of a drabble (100-word story) a day, you’ll get a drabble every hour for one day only!

Whew! Can I do it? It sounds easy enough, but creating a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end in 100 words is actually quite challenging! Maybe I’ll give myself some wiggle room—100 words, more or less, depending on where the story takes me. Thankfully, I’ll have an endless stream of inspiration coming from my television set. Add to that the fact that we’ve been living in the twilight zone for the last 2 years, I think I’m covered as far as ideas go!

So, starting at midnight EST on December 31, I’ll be giving you a marathon of Twilight Zone-inspired 100-word (more or less) stories every hour, on the hour, taking you all the way up to midnight January 1, 2022! Twenty-five stories in all! Some based on my favorite Twilight Zone episodes; others, creations of my own.

A massive conquering, but with your support, I think I can do it! See you New Year’s Eve!

 from The Twilight Zone episode “The Hitch Hiker”

Are you a fan of The Twilight Zone? Let me know in the comments below. Maybe I’ll feature one of your favorite episodes in a story.

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction: Week of January 1

Happy New Year! Do you aspire to write more flash fiction in 2018?  Want to explore how quickly an idea sparks after looking at a picture, a word, a phrase–how quickly you can develop that idea into a complete story?

Well, do I have the perfect challenge for you! And it’ll only take a minute of your time!

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a complete micro-fiction piece in, you guessed it, one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided! Of course, you can come back to edit for grammar & spelling, but the story itself must be written in a minute.

Most of us spent the last minute of 2017 counting down as the clock ticked to 12:00AM, January 1, 2018. It made me think– What else do we count down for? Rocket launches! So while 2017 might have been a down year for some of us, let’s be lifted up by this week’s prompt…

Blast off!

Now it’s time for the rules. I don’t have many, because we all know rules are no fun, but here are the basic logistics for each challenge:

  • Write your story in one minute. (Use a stop watch to keep yourself honest. 😉 )
  • Post it to your blog and tag it #1MinFiction.
  • Link it back to this prompt post.

I’m partnering with Marquessa at Simply Marquessa to bring you #1MinFiction and her challenge, #LyricalFictionFriday. Be sure to stop by her blog this Friday for more fun prompts (and to build an awesome playlist too! 😉 )

And that’s it! Let’s get writing, shall we? And…

Ready . . .

Set . . .

Write!

Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans: First Date

Rita gathers her thick mane of hair to the top of her head, analyzes her profile in the mirror from the left and then the right. Deciding against an updo, she lets it fall back down to her shoulders, the corkscrew curls bouncing into place. Only the cluster of springs at her temples and along her edges remain resilient, trying too hard to imitate bangs but appearing like an 80’s mullet gone bad instead. No amount of curl control gel will tame them, so she lets them spread out wildly across her forehead.

It looks cute—in a chic throwback rock sort of way. She hates cute, hasn’t been cute since her first training bra. But cute beats sexy, and the last thing she needs to be right now is sexy. Sexy always leads to her panties being tossed in a corner somewhere, her knees being separated for a temporary houseguest, and since her New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to be celibate, sexy is no longer an option.

She can literally feel herself drying up between the legs as she thinks about it. It was only a month ago that she gave up smoking weed, but this, this is much harder, because she’s getting ready to go on a date with Hank, and Hank has touched places, kissed and licked parts of her body most men don’t get to see on the first date.

And it’s not only the date with Hank that’s got her anxious. What if it goes bad? She doesn’t want to fixate on whether or not he could be the one. She’s not even sure if she wants that now with so much change happening in her life. She isn’t the same person she was a week ago when she slept with him an hour after meeting him. If that’s what he’s hoping to get tonight, she hates to disappoint him, because she likes him, a lot, definitely more than just a one-night-stand.

She’s not a slut. She knows how it looks, with the way things started with Hank. But she doesn’t sleep around; it’s always with the same guy over and over again, until he grows tired of her. True, it’s usually some random guy she met at the bar, or online, or, when she’s really feeling low, Jerome. The affairs never last long, but they quell her of her temporary loneliness, and however brief, she can hide her pain underneath the pleasure she feels when that man, whoever he may be—a bar hopper, a Tender suitor, a weed dealer, a Home Depot employee— clings to her, pushes deep inside her, breathes heavy on her tongue.

She likes to be filled, wanted, needed, useful for something, even if it’s just a quick nut. Sex does that for her. It gives her a purpose, a release, an escape. She doesn’t know what she is without it.

Actually, she does know. Alone—that’s what she is—and she has a vague memory of a sad, stupid girl who quit medical school because some idiot broke her heart, left her in the dust his rear tires kicked up after he dropped off her clothes and $300 for an abortion.

It terrifies her that she could still be that girl.

But just as she’s about to give up on her vow of celibacy before the New Year even starts, she is reminded of something Reverend Murphy said to her—that she has so much God-given potential bottled up inside her. Taped to the upper left corner of her mirror is a list of scriptures he gave her to read, to guide her through the beginning steps of salvation. She’s read a few of them. Jeremiah 29:11 —God has plans you. Romans 12:1-2 — Renew your mind. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 — Your body is a temple for God. She’s heard Renee say that once. She thinks she’ll call her about it after her date with Hank. And she knows Tash has been through it—the struggle to be as perfect as you can yet still falling short. But she recovered. She got back up. She and Mitchell are happy, and married, and Rita would like to think their love is even stronger.

Even though they fell.

She checks the time. If she wants to meet Hank at the arcade by seven, she should be leaving now. He says he has a ride—a relief for her—it’ll be less tempting not having him in her car. It feels kind of childish, that he’s chosen video games as their first date over dinner, or a movie, reminds her again that he’s not yet old enough to drink, which might not be a bad thing since she’s given that up too.

Will this date end in something serious, or fizzle out like all the others? Rita can hope, but whether it’s Hank or any other man, she knows before she can consider a relationship, she has to discover her new self first, figure out who she is in Christ, which Reverend Murphy calls the most meaningful pursuit in life.

Tash is doing it, and Mitchell. Renee’s the best at it, and maybe one day she’ll get Bryan there as well. And Antonio, even Antonio is trying. Rita must try too. Fellowship, Reverend Murphy says, it’s the best thing any new Christian can have, Rita’s got that in her amazing group of friends who drive her crazy and inspire her all at the same time.

If things go south with Hank, she knows she can count on their support, that they will help her to get back on her feet and back on track in the direction she needs to be.

—Nortina


The final chapters of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

——
Previous: Bedtime Story
Next: After the Wedding (Epilogue)

#LyricalFictionFriday: Hoedown

When I told Janay I wanted to try something different, I was thinking nerd-ish, maybe religious. Hell, I’d even go with corporate; there were plenty of fine-looking brothers working well-salaried office jobs.

Anything was better than the fake-ass wannabe rapper, not a cent to his name, grills on his teeth cost more than his rent, more Jordan’s in his closet that dollar bills in his wallet, burnt lips from all the cigars he smokes, lying-ass, cheating-ass, baby mama drama having-ass scumbag I was used to with JT.

But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine she’d take me to a New Year’s Eve, Farmers Only dot com, cowboy hoedown. It’s criminal to have this much denim in one room, unless it’s being burned. The sea of leather boots scuffing the floor makes it hotter than a black church on Christmas, and the height of their heels make my wedges look like pre-school training wheels for sluts.

I feel out of place, and extremely overdressed. My off-the-shoulder minidress barely covers the butterfly tattoo on the back of my upper thigh, and it’s no secret that the dress isn’t the only little black thing in the room—all blue, green, and steel grey eyes on me.

“What the hell is this?” I whisper out the side of my mouth to Janay as a cowboy in a fringe vest brushes by, says in a husky voice with beer-soaked breath, “Ma’dam.”

“Something different.” Janay winks at me. I hate her.

“Just because they’re a different color doesn’t mean they’re not still dicks.” I look over my shoulder and lock eyes with another leaning up against the wall by the door we’d just entered. Had he always been standing there? He spits into a can by his feet, sucks on his teeth, though it looks like he’s sneering at me, his bushy eyebrows furrowed. I bet his is the black pickup parked right outside the door, with the Confederate flag displayed on the front bumper.

I have to remind Janay how many we’ve seen flying over the two-lane highway on our drive out here to Middle of Nowhere, USA. Half-shaved dying pine trees on every side of us. There’s not another building for at least five miles back the way we came. If anything happened to us—I eye the holster on his hip, too small for a gun, but make not a pocket knife—who would come looking?

“You said it yourself. You’re sick of the candy-coated misery.”

Ok, so I break out sometimes when I eat chocolate, but do lactose-intolerant people give up ice cream just because it makes them a little gassy? Hell no! And I’m not that stupid either.

“Howdy, ladies.” For all the stomping of the dancers to the banjo and harmonica bluegrass music played onstage, I don’t hear him approach from behind. Not doorman; he’s disappeared. Maybe he’s had enough of the party already. I sure have.

This one tilts his hat to us. His long nose, dips over his thin lips, curled in a smile, barely visible through the five-o’clock shadow of a beard slowly growing in that covers the entire bottom half of his face. He opens his palm to the ceiling. “Care to dance?”

Why? So he can slide his hand down my back, cop a feel to see if our butts really are bigger? So he can get a taste of forbidden fruit, come back to the lodge and tell the boys about his wild night of jungle fever? So he can confirm just how animalistic we are in bed?

“No thanks,” I say, but Janay pushes me so hard I nearly knock myself out on the zippers stretching down the shoulder of his jacket.

“Don’t be so pretentious. It’s New Year’s! Have fun!”

The spurs on his boots spin as he kicks up his feet, marches me down to the front of the stage. The crowd parts for us like the Red Sea. My skin burns under their stares, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Thumbs hooked behind his belt buckle, feet squared, knees raised to elbows in an awkward sideways lunge shuffle. He doesn’t even notice that I’m not dancing with him, and just as quietly as he snuck up on me, I slip between the bodies clad in hip-hugging jeans and bolt for the door.

It’s just my luck that Mr. Confederate is resting his elbows on the hood of his truck when I come crashing into him. He catches me in his arms, holds me firmly against his hip. “Where you going, little lady?” he says, and swiftly pulls me up for a ride.

His muffler is too loud for anyone to hear my screams, so I don’t bother. I wonder, has Janay noticed yet that I’m missing, or has she found herself a cowboy to dance with too? I tug on the seat belt and click it across my lap, fixate on the toothpick in his ear as he backs out of the dirt driveway and pulls out onto the road, hitting every bump on the highway as we cruise deeper into the country.

—Nortina


Hmmm, sounds like the beginning of a longer story… Written for  #LyricalFictionFriday, a challenge that uses song lyrics as prompts. Today’s prompt is: He looks like a cool drink of water but he’s candy-coated misery…

Where Are the Good Books? Reading into 2016

New Year’s Eve, 2014. As the ball slowly descended onto Time Square, counting down the seconds to midnight, I recited my list of resolutions I wanted to accomplish in 2015: Lose weight, eat healthier, make better choices in boyfriends, write a novel, read at least 100 books.

Confetti flies around the ball and countdown clock in Times Square on New Year's Eve in New York January 1, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY ANNIVERSARY) - RTR4JSGR
Confetti flies around the ball and countdown clock in Times Square on New Year’s Eve in New York January 1, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES – Tags: SOCIETY ANNIVERSARY) – RTR4JSGR

365 days later. Did I meet any of my goals? Well, I lost a few pounds…and gained several more. I ate healthy…sporadically…for a few weeks. I don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve started on my novel (two, actually), and while I haven’t posted any updates on said novels for several weeks now, I am still fervently writing. As for the 100 books? Um, no. Not even close.

I might have read five—count ’em, 5—books in their entirety this year. Three I’ve posted reviews on (Fifty Shades of Grey, Mrs. Poe, and White Oleander). Between the other two, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, I enjoyed the latter more. The Deep End of the Ocean is an amazing story of family drama, love, pain, suspense, mystery, self-discovery and coming-of-age, and much more. Out of the five—count ’em, 5—books I’ve read this year, The Deep End of the Ocean is the one I recommend you all to read if you haven’t already (White Oleander comes in a close second). Gone Girl was good, but I didn’t much care for the second half of the novel. It got predictable, and for lack of a better word, cheesy. And I just hated that god-awful ending. Talk about anticlimactic!

Gone-Girl_Rosamund-Pike

So why is it that I’ve only read five—count ’em, 5—books in 2015? Well, it has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve just been a picky reader this year. I’ve picked up (insert downloaded) many books this year, but by chapter six, I lose interest, and in some cases, even sooner than that. Either the books were complete snooze fests—pages and pages of boring and useless descriptions that did nothing to propel the plot—or they had no plot at all—complete chapters with nothing but dialogue, short paragraphs of summary and more unnecessary dialogue, flat characters, cringe-worthy repetition, a wandering narrator…

This Christmas, I spent nearly two hours on Amazon.com looking for a good book to have sent to my mom’s kindle on Christmas Day. After reading countless previews and finding nothing that piqued my interest, I finally settled on James Patterson’s latest Alex Cross novel. Couldn’t go wrong with that, right? I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t reading James Patterson and his iconic character, Alex Cross. However, the whole point of spending my entire lunch hour and more surfing Amazon was to find a great book and a new author she’d get hooked on and read for years to come, like James Paterson.

51TCoOGHAiL__SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

The problem I have with Amazon is that it has so many books that just aren’t good. I would find a book with a four or five star average rating, but after reading the preview, I’d wonder, how on earth did this even get published? Often I find myself reading the negative reviews first. Unless it’s a controversial author, the negative reviews are usually the most honest and less bias. If they don’t sound too bad, then maybe I’ll consider making the purchase. For some books, however, I don’t even get past the back cover for the very confusing synopsis. If the synopsis is that bad, the book has to be horrible!

Most of the novels I’ve purchased from Amazon lately are in desperate need for an editor. I don’t mean to say that they are poorly written. On the contrary, many authors are excellent wordsmiths. Unfortunately, 300 pages of pretty words do not always make a good story, and that is the problem I’ve been consistently running into.

Maybe in 2016 I’ll have better luck finding good books to read. I won’t aim quite so high, though. My resolution is to read (cover to cover) six books next year—that’s one more than this year. Hopefully, I’ll far exceed my expectations.

stack_of_books

Did you struggle to find a good book to read this year? What novels do you recommend I read to get out of this funk? If you’re an author, post in the comments a link to your novel! I’ll add that to my list of books to read in 2016. I can’t promise a review, though. I’m too much of a procrastinator for that. 😉

Fickle Teenage Love

Meet me at midnight under the giant Hershey’s Kiss.

Rachel pressed her phone against her chest. This was it. As the bells rang, and the confetti flew, and the star atop the decommissioned water tower descended upon the town of roughly 1,000, Rachel would receive her first kiss. At 12:01, her year of love and happiness, conjured by the pressing together of lips with the boy of her dreams, would begin.

Rachel’s father leaned back and popped the tin lid on the bottle of sparkling cider. “Let’s stay in this year.”

“I agree. I’m tired of the waterworks,” her mother add. “That tower still leaks, and Rachel’s always crying because some boy didn’t meet her like he promised he would.”

Her father looked up. “Who is it this time?”

“Bryan.”

“That emo kid? Heavens no! You are staying in this house,” her mother commanded.

“God! You’re ruining my life!” Rachel screamed then stomped up the stairs, two at a time.

“And now the waterworks.” Her mother rolled her neck. “Open a bottle of wine, would ya, sweetie?”

word count: 175

—Nortina


photo-20151228061913907Written in response to this week’s photo prompt for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers–a weekly challenge where you write a story in 75-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Also written for Days 28-29 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans.