Bad Weather Photography

I wanted to take a photo of these dark clouds because they looked very dramatic. It wasn't until after I made the shot that I realized there is a small funnel cloud just to the right of center.

I wanted to take a photo of these dark clouds because they looked very dramatic. It wasn’t until after I made the shot that I realized there is a small funnel cloud just to the right of center.

It’s been a tremendously busy spring for me, both at work and for my freelance writing, among other things. In May I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in West Friendship, Maryland. I crochet, do a bit of weaving, and am learning to knit. Buying yarn becomes an obsession, as anyone will tell you! In any case, while at the festival I picked up a postcard for the Maine Astronomy Retreat and we’re going. I have a new Sony alpha 7 mirrorless DSLR and I can’t wait to try it out on astrophotography.

So, right after I signed up for the astronomy retreat, guess what? I was contacted to write an article about Carl Sagan for the forthcoming Salem Press Critical Survey of American Literature. Talk about synchronicity! And I also have a batch of technology articles to write for ABC-Clio’s Technical Innovation in American History: An Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, including ones on electricity/electronics topics and Yerkes Observatory. Yay! And yes, I’m nerding out. Time to put my high-school vocational electronics knowledge to work.

I have other writing projects in the queue as well, including a short story that will appear in an upcoming anthology of tales about black dog stories, three other short stories in progress, my novel, and a nonfiction book project. Whew. No wonder I have insomnia.

Water running down the car windshield made some interesting patterns.

Water running down the car windshield made some interesting patterns.

If my life has been a whirlwind, it’s no wonder that I managed to capture a photo of what appears to be a funnel cloud. Last week I was on my way to my music lesson (ukulele and recorder) when I stopped for coffee and a snack. It was hot and sunny when I went into the store, but as soon as I was back outside it clouded over and I could feel the temperature dropping. I turned around and saw these fantastic clouds, so I tried to capture them with my phone camera (yes, I should have taken the new Sony with me!). Looks like a small funnel cloud tried to form, but fortunately it wisped away into nothing.

I drove over to the music academy before the rain started and sat with my coffee. The pelting rain made some interesting patterns on the car windshield, so I tried to capture that, too. It’s not a terrific photo, but I like the moodiness and it’s good for inspiration. Bad weather can be a photographic gem; it just means that I need to be out and about more often. And yes, there was a rainbow:

Rainbow over Columbia, Maryland.

Rainbow over Columbia, Maryland.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 134

Look, it's five o'clock. It must be quitting time.

Look, it’s five o’clock. It must be time for a hearty Norn ale.

This week’s Thursday Writing Prompt is about transportation. As we enter summer in the Northern Hemisphere many people will be traveling for vacation or thinking about traveling. How will they get from point A to point B? How much is it going to cost? How long will it take?

And the worst bit — if they’re taking any form of public transportation, who are they going to end up sitting next to for long stretches of time?

Your task this week is to make up a protagonist who is traveling for business. Since the company is paying the fare, there’s little choice but to take public transportation — and economy class, at that! Now, be mean to your protagonist and make up a really awful seatmate or two, and describe the trip in 500 words or less.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 133

A quilled Mardi Gras mask that I made as a contest entry. The mask is made from coils of paper that were shaped over a plastic form.

A quilled Mardi Gras mask that I made as a contest entry. The mask is made from coils of paper that were shaped over a plastic form.

Earlier this year I made a quilled Mardi Gras mask as a contest entry for the Little Circles February quilling contest. In case you’ve never heard of it, quilling is made from rolled strips of paper that are shaped and glued into place. While I didn’t win the contest, I was pleased enough with how my project turned out that I put it in a white shadow frame and am currently looking for suitable wall space. Translation: it’s sitting on the floor of my office because I haven’t figured out where I want to hang it up yet.

What’s this got to do with writing prompts, you ask? This week’s Thursday Writing Prompt is about masks. Ha! I bet you didn’t see that coming!

Here’s the scenario: you find a mask that has the power to give you a skill or ability. You don’t turn into a superhero; instead, the ability is something that you’ve always wanted but were unable to accomplish or were afraid to try. For example, I don’t swim particularly well and I’m afraid to dive, so perhaps my mask would give me the power to do an awesome somersault dive worthy of an Olympic medal. Or perhaps it would give me the ability to sing opera arias. In front of an audience.

Pick your own poison — name one of those things you want to do but are afraid to try, or simply can’t do. Now your mask gives you that ability. Put on the mask, do the task, then sit down at the keyboard and write about your experience. Was the mask truly magical, or by giving you anonymity did it just allow you to give yourself permission to fail? By removing the fear of failure, did you relax enough to actually succeed?

You can spin this into your fiction by writing the story about one of your characters, too. To do this you’ll have to give some thought to what motivates your characters and what scares them. That actually might be easier than figuring out what motivates or scares you, but then, just how much of yourself is in your characters? Try on the mask, and get writing.

Thursday Writing Post No. 132

The Atlantic Ocean, at Outer Banks, North Carolina.

The Atlantic Ocean, at Outer Banks, North Carolina.

A day late and a dollar or two short, this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt focuses on the ocean. Why? Because it’s been raining for the better part of two or three weeks here (I’ve lost track), so learning how to deal with large quantities of water might be a good idea.

But seriously, the sea has played a very large role in human history. I’ve written 13 articles that will be published in an encyclopedia on the sea, including one on the Flying Dutchman legend. Almost everyone’s heard of the story, but no one knows exactly where or when it originated, although it seems to have been first mentioned in print in the late 1700s.

There are several variations of the story, but the legend basically involves a captain who is fated to sail for eternity. Your task is to do a little research and familiarize yourself with the legend, and then write a short story version of your own.