Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #173

Today we have our own Jace Daniel Albao choosing the words for today’s challenge. His novel Under Angels is now available on Amazon, with its adapted screenplay currently being shopped. It’s a supernatural thriller; think Jacob’s Ladder meets Fight Club meets A Beautiful Mind. The Crow with anagrams instead of kung fu! Get it for Kindle here!

BET YOU CAN’T do this writing prompt. Take the 10 random words below and, in the comments, crush writer’s block by creating a cohesive, creative short story tying all of them together! And remember: after (if) you finish, highlight your words and click the bold button to make them stand out and help you determine if you forgot any words. (If you’ve missed previous writing prompts, we BET YOU CAN’T do those, either.)

  1. Sinister
  2. Intelligence
  3. Message
  4. Purgatory
  5. Balance
  6. Ghost
  7. Tragedy
  8. Grudge
  9. Art
  10. Love

NOTE: Don’t copy and paste from MS Word. Use a program like notepad that removes formatting or just type in the comment field itself. Also, finish your submission, THEN bold the words. Thanks. (And don’t forget to tweet this and share it with your friends.)

Resources you should check out:
Thesis: Best Damn Theme on the Web
Collective Ink Well: Personalize Your Thesis Theme
Third Tribe Marketing: Marketing done the right way
Story Structure Demystified: Best damn writing book out there


221 Comments on “Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #173”

  1. (:Smiley Extrodinare :) says:

    Purgatory of the ghost of love and the art of grudging tragedy balance themselves on the intelligence that the sinister, corrupted ways of love will evaporate…and the message will finally become clear.

  2. Jeanette R. says:

    “Oh for the love of God will someone answer that door!”  

    Penny was careful not to drop the nail polish balanced on her left thigh.  She sat with her right leg propped up on her coffee table, fanning her nails with her phone bill. She noticed on the back of the bill a drawing her niece has made of what appeared to be a monkey with a party hat.  

    The doorbell filled the house with the sounds of the Tetris theme music.  It sounded like a good idea to customize the ring at the time, but Penny regretted it shortly after.  Every time her two cats would hear it, they would meow in unison. Penny had gone so far as to put a wooden sign on the door that read “Please DO NOT ring the bell.”  People thought it was a joke and would proceed to ring it more than once.

    “Ok, I get the message.  I’ll answer it myself.” Penny carefully walked towards the door on her heels, not to ruin her pedicure.  Her two Persian cats sat in the foyer, with their heads tilted, staring at the door.

    “Who’s out there? The ghost of Christmas past?”  Penny peered into the peephole and saw blackness.  

    “Ok, wise ass.  Take your finger off the peephole and reveal yourself.”  

    Penny admired her hot pink toes. She peered again into the peephole and saw nothing but blackness. She wondered if the kids next door had put gum inside the hole again.  They were notorious for playing sinister pranks on her. The neighbors were always extremely apologetic, but Penny never held a grudge.  She was thankful that the kids treated her like she was normal, unlike their parents who would always accompany their waves with pathetic looks of sympathy.

    She heard someone clear his throat.  “Mrs. Swanson, please open the door.”  Penny could feel the blood drain from her face.  Her hands began to shake as she grabbed for the doorknob.  The gentlemen stood with his feet shoulder width apart. He wore a perfectly tailored navy blue suit with aviator glasses.  Penny stumbled back and tripped over one of her cats. She landed on her tailbone and cried out in pain.

    The man rushed inside and put down a cardboard cylinder before crouching down next to her. “Mrs. Swanson, my name is Bernard Tinsel and I’m with the Central Intelligence Agency. I’m not here because of a tragedy. Please calm down.”  

    Penny stared into the stranger’s eyes and tried to gauge his level of sincerity.  

    “I was recently stationed in Baghdad with your husband and he asked me to deliver this to you.”  

    The man opened up the cylinder and produced a painting of Penny and her husband from a photograph that was taken on their honeymoon.  It was the two of them on a beach in Punta Cana. She had told her husband awhile back that she wanted to blow the photo up and hang it as art in their bedroom.  

    Penny stared into her husband’s eyes and allowed the tears to fall.  “Jesus Christ, next time you deliver something don’t be so creepy.”

    The man produced a tissue from his pocket. “I apologize.  I always cover the peephole cause a lot of times people won’t ever open the door.  I’m happy for once to deliver some good news.”  The man excused himself and Penny closed the door behind him. Her tailbone burned with pain and caused her to limp.  She noticed her pedicure was ruined from the fall.

    Penny rolled out the painting on her coffee table and used coasters to avoid it from curling up. She remembered that day on the beach. It was the quiet before the storm.  Shortly after her life had been put on hold, an agonizing purgatory.

  3. Shane Arthur says:

    “Hey Billy! My intelligence ain’t tellin’ me much on account of dat sinister Pledge Master Arthur done blindfolded me. And my ducK-taped legs and hands ain’t helpin my balance much on account of they’s ducK-taped. I thunk they shaved our heads while we was administerin’ CPR to them goats too. I bet we look like two Casper da fugly ghosts.”

    “Bobby, I believes Kojak would man-love us right ‘bout now. Them fraternity brothers keep sayin’ we’s goin’ through grudge-love dis week, kind of like a, ‘I’m huggin’ ya, but I’m beatin’ ya on your back all manly like at the same time,’ type of way. They say our tragedy is they art.

    “Billy, I believes dat’s da same message Lucifer done gives people in Purgatory.”

    “Quiet Bobby! They’s comin’ back and if they hears us, they might throw us in the pit again, spray us with water while da strobe light flashes, and play dat damned Macarena song on repeat at full blast.”

    “Billy, I think dat song is neato Nicorino, ahai, ahai!”

  4. The sinister intelligence I received from my phone’s text message purgatory changed the balance of power in the war torn nation. The “Ghost“, as the populace called him, had died. The result of a “tragedy” planned months before. The grudge and hate held against him was that of art. The countries next step, rebuild love for one another.

  5. Anne Wayman says:

    The ghost seemed sinister at first, and then showed surprising intelligence. Its message was of balance, not purgatory, art, not tragedy, love not grudge. A real bodhisattva.

  6. margaret says:

    “In Purgatory there is no glory”, proclaimed the minister with a smirk quite sinister.
    My intelligence told me that his message and story, was full of bullshit without real glory!
    Indoctrination of children is a tragedy great…..especially when laced with fear and  hate!

    It’s an art to balance teaching myth and truth, without religious ghost stories to frighten our youth.
    I hold no grudge with those that taught me, but threats of hell could not have bought me!

    Spirituality to me is nature, love  and people…..and for that I don’t need any damn steeple!

    Note: Don’t mean to offend anybody…just had 12 years of Catholic school! 😛

  7. Alison West says:

    The night has a sinister look to it. The rain falling quietly in the puddles, the only little pitter patter of sound. He insults her intelligence and his message is lost among the raindrops. She wonders if she’ll meet him again in purgatory; it seems logical for all the animals he’s killed. The balance is lost. So many that were once abundant are now just ghosts. “A tragedy,” she thinks. “Mother Earth cannot hold a grudge, even after all we’ve done to her.” He insults her again, so she turns her head to the window, looking out at the barren landscape. The rain keeps falling and all she sees is art. She refuses to believe that this is it. She refuses to believe she’ll never find love.

    • Frank Ruiz says:

      Wow, this was awesome!  A domestic fight between Mother Earth and Father Capitalism.  I wish our parents could get along!

    • @Alison: “He insults her intelligence and his message is lost among the raindrops.” I like the visual I get from this line. I see something like a music video clip of a man yelling at a woman who is staring off into the distance while it rains. It’s a real nice visualization. I don’t know if that’s what you were going for, but if it was, it sure worked.

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Alison. This piece reminds of  Jewel’s song “Foolish Games.”  You were able to capture her sadness so well. Nicely done.

    • jaced says:

      Very nice. Love the staccato!

    • Alison, this piece is deep. I read it, saw the comments and went back to enjoy it twice more.
      After the third time, I finally see the sense of hope – the optimism of Mother Earth, who sees only art and keeps a candle lit for love.
      Men are such lizards.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Alison: Great submission. Such deep emotion on display. Thanks.

  8. Frank Ruiz says:

    You ever miss the ghost of someone so bad they haunt your thoughts more than the warm-blooded folks you’re surrounded with?  That’s how I felt about this guy.

    The dude was so cool, and every night out with him was an adventure.  Spending time with him reminded me that sometimes in life, anything can happen, and that realization thrilled me to no end.  He was an artist in the skill of living life to the fullest, and he showered everyone he encountered with more love than they could contain.

    Now that he’s gone, life feels like that movie “Groundhog Day”: an endless cycle of boredom; the very definition of stasis.  A purgatory where you know everything you’re going to do from the time you get up until the time you go to bed.  You know it all beforehand because none of it ever changes, and it’s all as bland as wet bread.

    I wish I appreciated him more, or realized that he wouldn’t always be here.  He slipped away so subtly that I barely noticed until he was gone forever.

    Looking back, I should have seen the writing on the wall, but I was blind to the message.  I thought I was so smart by doing all the things I was supposed to do, instead of the things that felt right.  I wish the two were the same, because the intelligence of the mind doesn’t leave me as fulfilled as the intelligence of the heart.

    I don’t blame him for leaving, as the time I had for him kept getting cut down; replaced by projects and chores that seemed so important at the time, but now only help line the cage that keeps me in my daily routine.

    If he ever came back, I’d let him know I held no grudges, and that the tragedy of us growing apart is one I wish never happened.  I’d tell him that my relationships were much easier to balance before all this meaningless busywork I ended up with took over so many of my waking hours, and I’d give it all up to have him back with me.

    The sinister truth of it all, though, is that he does come back to me every day, and I strangle him to death each morning that I put on that suit and tie.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Frank: Outstanding end-twist! Stands up and claps!

    • Alison West says:

      Love the twist at the end! Didn’t see it coming and it felt just right.

    • @Frank: Whoa… The ghost is…? Nice! I really like how you opened this piece up: “You ever miss the ghost of someone so bad they haunt your thoughts more than the warm-blooded folks you’re surrounded with?  That’s how I felt about this guy.” I know that feeling. I’ve been having a lot of dreams lately about my grandpa. He passed away nearly five years ago now and yet, he still lives vividly in my dreams. Creepy, yet cool.

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Frank. The last line slapped me in the face with no apologies…and I liked it!

      I think you have a chance every Monday and Thursday to let him come out and play around a bit in your mind.  They can have you in physical form but they can never take your spirit!

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Thanks, everyone!
        @Shane and @Alison: I love stories with twists at the end, because they’re structured like jokes with “punchlines” at the end.
        @Matt: That’s awesome that it reminded you of how you’re seeing your Grandfather in your dreams these days.  The dreamworld is so mysterious, and it would be nice if our loved ones could still communicate with us there.
        @Jeanette: So true, and my spirit has been alive and kicking thanks to the CCC ever since you let me know about it!  Thanks so much!

    • Frank, this is amazing. Man, I feel so strongly for this hapless drone. I mean, that was visceral!
      I strangle him to death each morning that I put on that suit and tie.

      • Shane Arthur says:

        @Mitch: Frank’s going to get some webspace (at a place like MidPhase.com) purchase a theme (like Thesis at diythemes.com) and start putting his stories up. Frank, isn’t that correct? 🙂

    • Brilliant.  Nicely done.

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Thanks, Mitch and Eric!
        Shane, you’ve given me all the tools… I just have to take my lazy ass and use them!  Looking forward to when I finally do!

  9. Under the sinister sunlight in the American southwest, a man scoured the desert ruins in hoping of finding something, anything, which would give proof of them being there. He had heard the natives believed in an intelligence not of this world. If they hadn’t come from here, where, then, were they from? What message were they trying to leave behind? Why did they choose to come here, to this purgatory on Earth? One didn’t have to go far to find a true paradise. Maybe they were searching for some balance. Perhaps they wanted to show the natives they could live here as well. All that was left here now were the remains of the natives and the influence of these ghost-people who were not people. If only he could find something covered by time which would trace back to them. But that is the greatest tragedy of all. Time was his enemy. She covered and decayed what previous generations have left for us. It was as if time held a grudge against him for living only in the present, for she lived in the past and future as well. But as an archeologist, he had learned to see through time how these people had themselves lived in their own present. It had become somewhat of an art for him. It taught him many things. What this and that finding were used for. What that drawing signified. Even why they used certain pottery more than others. However, his greatest lesson through time is this: If anything should survive generation to generation, it will be enduring love. Technology and religion get lost in time, but love of family and friends is timeless.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Matt: I likey! Well done and great message. When I look into my kids’ eyes, I think the same way.

      On a related note, if you have not read the book Fingerprints of The Gods, read it! It will blow your mind.

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Matt.  I loved where you took this piece.  Love is the basis for everything we do in life and having the archeologist ‘uncover’ this is beautiful. I love how you opened the piece and built upon it with each sentence.  Well done!

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Matt, great work and great message!
        This piece reminds me of this show “Ancient Aliens” on the History channel that I used to be addicted to.  The theories are definitely interesting, but some people are offended by them, as the implication of it is that ancient peoples couldn’t have been the ones to leave us with the wonders of the ancient world that they left behind.
        As you said, the greatest world wonder is love!

        • @Frank: It actually is partly inspired by “Ancient Aliens.” My father watches way too much of that show and keeps insisting that aliens put us here on this planet. I’ve been getting into a lot of arguments/debates with him over this. “Dad, we have far too many vestigial organs to have been placed here by aliens… If aliens did put us here, then why are our insides so much like that of pigs?…” and other stuff along those lines.

          • Frank Ruiz says:

            That’s the things about our connection-prone imaginations that give “Ancient Aliens,” religion, etc., such a hook: since we weren’t there, we can imagine the stories told to us about what happened making sense.  It’s almost like the story-telling powers in our own minds can blind us from skepticism, sometimes.

      • @Jeanette: I don’t know how I got there myself. I pictured someone like Indiana Jones lurking through Hopi/Navajo ruins in the beginning of the story and somehow I ended up with “Love conquers all.” I’ve been trying to stick to a weird method of writing these prompts which involves doing the words in order. It’s a strange habit, I know, but it takes you places you never thought you’d go.

    • jaced says:

      I want to see this Western!

      • @Jaced: I do too! I need to find a theater playing Cowboys and Aliens. It looks pretty awesome. Plus it has Harrison Ford. A western co-starring the man who played Han Solo and Indiana Jones. What more can you ask for?

    • Matt, I really enjoyed the perspective shifts. Seeing time as an enemy; viewing a distant present.
      Cool stuff. Of course, the best part was the one thing that eluded all the shifts: love of family and friends.

  10. Rebecca says:

    This is from my YA novel The Haunting of Jane Alexander that’s in progress. I have 48,000 more words to go!

    Jane didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream. She sat down on the mountain and held her head in her hands; Jane began to rock back and forth. It’s as if I’m in a horrible nightmare and can’t wake up. Is this purgatory? I thought death would be easy. I’d thought I’d be free. But I feel just as trapped as I did before. Why?

    Lazzarro could sense the intelligence in Jane but she still wasn’t getting the message. Her suicide was a tragedy that could have been avoided. Most people didn’t understand the art of living.

    “Jane, there’s no reason to be sinister. There’s no reason to hold a grudge against the living. Love, Jane. Where is the love?” said Lazzarro.

    “Love! Love! Where was the love for me, for my life? I’m glad I’m a ghost. The people who hurt me won’t know what the hell hit them. I want their lives to be thrown off balance that they feel as if they’re going insane,” shouted Jane.

  11. Little bit of a tragic one today:

    Love Purgatory

    The art of tragedy
    when love enters purgatory
    and sinister intelligence
    is beset by grudge

    The message of romance
    now a lingering ghost
    lives hang in balance
    from past mistakes

  12. jaced says:

    That is vibe right there.

  13. I am not a rat! I was a vole. I simply fall into the sewer when Raptor guy, who had imprisoned me, bonked the less than rugged cage against the taxi. The cab lane is bustling with activity and I feared for my continued existence. I gyrated my plump body through the grate, where the disagreeable odor nearly gases me. For a moment, I lie in neglect, letting the city rinse its filthy effluence through my fur. I am alive! Then I died.

    Truthfully, it was a tragedy – I was never a rodent. Death overtook me during the curtain call of its dark opera. I bore it no grudge; indeed, I found a new respect for its stunning, melodrama. The message, delivered in sinister minor chords and basso profundo, was a work of art.

    An Under Angel from Purgatory checked the balance sheet of my life. Found me wanting, as they say. A useless jumble of mixed metaphors, angry allegories and spineless spirituality defined my intelligence. An equally inept tapestry of selfish sex, faithless friendships and wrecked relationships characterized love. I was not given a second chance.

    Sadly, life’s anagrams helped entrap men on some ghostly, ethereal savanna –
    a permanent gray landmass of ethyl gloominess separates heaven and hell.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Hi Everyone!

    Thank you for the encouragement. The Haunting of Jane Alexander is my first YA novel; I have over 2,000 words written. Today’s CCC fit perfectly with the scene I was writing. I have a ‘rough’ outline for the book because I’m still developing it. I’m type (no pun) of writer who likes to write the beginning and or end first and then go back and ‘fill in’ the middle. This could change as I grow as a writer.

    Thanks to the CCC, I’m developing two more YA novels in addition to a fiction historical/ghost story I started a while back called The Homecoming. My mom’s anxious for me to finish that one. Stay tuned!

  15. Shane Arthur says:

    programming note:
    When I get some bleepin’ time, I’m going to create a “CCC Community Books” page to showcase all the CCC regulars that write and publish books (Aaron Pogue, Sean Platt, David Wright, Jaced, Kenn Crawford and counting) Can’t wait.

  16. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … Lol! They’ll be in for a ‘wild’ ride.
    BTW: I love the imagery of your story. Talk about depth. Wow!

  17. Rebecca says:

    @ Jeanette … Great story! I too wondered who was at the door; I liked the build up. I could ‘feel’ Penny’s emotion. I also appreciate the visuals of the story.

  18. Rebecca says:

    @ Shane … Billy and Bobby are something else. I could see them on MTV or a webisode … Coming Soon! The Adventures of Billy and Bobby. Lol!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Rebecca: I’m going to put these into a book when I feel I have enough of them to justify doing so. I can’t wait. I don’t care if I sell just one book. Published FTW! (for the win)

  19. Rebecca says:

    @ Alison … I love the imagery of your story. In my mind, I saw Mother Earth “looking out at the barren landscape.”
    @ Matt … Your story made me want to ‘speed up’ my move back to the “American Southwest.” Arizona has been calling me since I left in July 2010. Sigh … Great job!

  20. Rebecca says:

    @ Shane … I know Billy and Bobby will be a hit 🙂

  21. Rebecca says:

    @ Jaced … Thanks! I’m having fun with my cast of characters. Jane’s a trip.
    BTW: I checked out your book on Amazon.com. I’ve been looking for a good ‘fiction’ book to read. Will it be available in paperback or as a PDF download? I like to the ‘old school’ way. Lol! Did you do the illustration on the cover? It would make a great tattoo.

  22. Jen says:

    Dammit. She saw me.
    I had been avoiding the yearly review overtures of my sinister manager all week. First, she left a pink “please return my call” message on my desk, centered it precisely on my desk mat, as if she’d brought with her a T-square and a team of engineers. Its ludicrous precision taunted my towering piles of paperwork that teetered precariously on the pressboard mess that passed, and not very well, for a desk.
    I quickly covered the request with a paper cup from the cafe, overflowing with artfully brewed beans I could ill afford. That was days ago. I had taken to emailing my colleagues who’s cubicles sat near the restrooms; I needed intelligence from them about her whereabouts. I didn’t want to get caught in the open-spaced purgatory between my desk and the toilets and find myself in her crosshairs.
    In this I could hold a grudge: her insistence on this yearly jumping through hoops seriously interfered with potty talk with Annie from accounting. Trying to avoid her kept me from frequent and unnecessary trips to the lounge for a refill of coffee I would not drink. Not that hideous brew. I’d sell my soul before I stopped buying the expensive stuff. Not that it would be any great tragedy.
    I knew I couldn’t avoid her forever. Today, she must have sensed weakness or maybe she was just straight up tired of my nonsense. I could practically feel her vaguely sweaty presence everywhere, like a ghost hovering over my every inefficient move. I knew she’d catch me today. I didn’t time it right, didn’t balance my need to, for once, really need the toilet with her persistence in having this little come to Jesus meeting. She came out ahead.
    As I rounded the corner on the way back from the bathroom, with nary a thought of her overlined and overfilled pink lips, I almost didn’t flinch when I saw her, when I heard her. She said, “Well, hi, Love. Shall we?” What could I do? I followed like a bad dog into her office.

  23. Rebecca says:

    @ Jaced … Fantastic! I was under the impression I needed a Kindle, Nook, etc. I still prefer paper (prefer recycled) because I like to make notes in the margin and hi-light. But that’s just me 🙂

  24. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … Thanks for letting me know I can make notes on Kindle for PC. I downloaded it yesterday and will test it over the weekend. And …. I too enjoyed Hex. Lol!

    • Cool! I already have 18 books on there. If you find out how to archive them, can you let me know? It’s getting crowded…

      • TuxGirl says:

        just remove them from the device they’re on, and they will be in the archives. the archives are just the list of all K books you’ve bought from amazon that aren’t currently on that prticular device.
        oh, and when you highlight or take notes, go to kindle.amazon.com and you can see your highlights an retrieve your notes there! 🙂

        • Thanks, TuxGirl! The word “Delete” is used on Kindle for PC and that doesn’t engender any trust that I can get it back. LOL
          Now that you’ve made it clear, I’ll start clearing the way for more books.

          • TuxGirl says:

            no worries. as long as you bought from amazon, it’s actually pretty hard to get it off your account (and it involves confirming). If you are really paranoid, you can always copy the file to a different directory, then delete, then find the book in your archives before deleting from the copy. That’s really not necessary, though. 🙂

          • Hi TuxGirl,
            I tried it on my Kindle for PC. One of the freebies that came pre-loaded.
            It didn’t go into the archive – which is still at 0.
            So now, I don’t know which of these statements is true:
            1. Delete does not archive when used on Kindle for PC
            2. Pre-loaded content is not the same as “bought from Amazon”
            So, I’m a bit leery of continuing to test by deleting a purchase. What’s your thoughts about all this? One way I avoid the over-crowding is to close the application without closing the current book. When I re-open it, the book loads right where I left off.

          • TuxGirl says:

            pre-loaded content is only on the kindle apps, not on the kindle devices, and it’s not part of your archives.
            to see what amazon has in your archives, go to kindle.amazon.com. all your books aside from the pre-loaded content should be listed there. anything listed there can be re-downloaded as many times you want to whatever kindle devices you own, as long as you stay within the simultaneous device licenses. (Default simultaneous licenses is 6. if it’s anything else, it will be listed on the book’s product page). So, you can delete and re-download an infinite number of devices, so long as the book is not on more than 6 (or whatever) devices at the same time. 🙂

          • Thank you! I think I have it straight, now. 🙂

  25. koko says:

    I was in third grade, after school, playing an April Fool’s joke on my (nun) teacher. I don’t know where I got the sinister idea to place a whiskey bottle filled with some tea in her desk drawer, along with a shot glass that had lipstick on it. It would have been a tragedy to get caught! I climbed up to balance myself on a chair in the coat closet when I thought someone was coming. Would I go to purgatory or straight to hell for this? The next day, I watched her closely when she opened her drawer. I imagined the work of art she saw in there. She slammed the drawer shut and looked straight at me. Later when we were all in church, she found the cigar I planted in her coat pocket. Again, she looked straight at me. I think I turned white as a ghost. I got the message. How did she know? I thought I with my advanced intelligence, I really pulled this off. I hoped she wouldn’t hold a grudge, or confront me, because I couldn’t lie! it was just fun. I think I actually felt love for her. I never thought of giving this kind of attention to other teachers. She was special.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Koko: Wonderful, wonderful submission. Welcome to the fun. What did you think of the process?

      Everyone welcome Koko to the CCC. Let me know if you have a website. I’ll add it to your name on the CCC Community Links page.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Shane-this has been a crazy few weeks.-the death of my sister-in-law, me flying to San Francisco to cheer on my teammates that are doing both the San Francisco AND San Diego, 3-Day, 60 Mile walk for breast cancer. Not to mention all the technical problems.
        I know this is waaaay late, but maybe you can get it to Koko.
        @Koko-A late welcome to the CCC!

        There is no sinister plot – unless you write one. There is no intelligence in another world – unless you fly us there. Our message is the words are your patriots of imagination.

        You can create a purgatory of pestilence or a balance between right and wrong. The words are but the ghost of creative tragedy waiting to be formed.

        At CCC, there is no grudge against any form because we know the art of words is the love we all seek.


    • Welcome, Koko! What a wicked submission. A cigar, of all things. LOL
      This was priceless, especially the way you show the nun’s reactions.
      See you on tomorrow’s challenge!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Koko. This was really cute.  I love how the kid taunted her with ‘sinful’ pleasures 😉

  26. Hana Frank says:

    Hi again CCCers

    I haven’t been able to get in ten words with each prompt. Most of the time I HAVE been beaten. But I love the way a list of random words unblocks you. A prompt doesn’t only stretch you to think outside the box, it also cuts off the voice of the inner critic. I’m so rapt when I’ve been able to use all 10 words, I don’t care that what I’ve produced won’t win a literary prize. This is a fantastic site !

    My friend lives in a private purgatory out in the suburbs. Her house is filled with ghosts who come to her in dreams, who whisper in her ear during waking hours. They stare at us from old photos on the wall. The tragedy is seven years old, but Annie is still frozen in one tiny bubble of time.
    Today I say the usual words that people say to those trapped by grief. I try the voice of reason and intelligence. She must know her family wouldn’t grudge her finding happiness again. Maybe it’s time to move to a new house, start getting out again.  Maybe she would find find peace, find balance in meditation or yoga.
    I show her the flyer I’ve brought about a local art course. I remind her of our student days. The hours she spent painting and sketching. We’re sitting in her kitchen amongst the clutter of unwashed dishes and dirty glasses. The art leaflet sits on the bench ignored, like some-thing that is sinister or alien to her.
    She tells me about her fear that one day she’ll forget the voices of her children and husband. Some-one once told her that the voices of the dead fade and disappear with time. Eventually you forget how a loved one sounded.
    She’s kept the last phone message Michael left. The one he made before he took the kids shopping that day. She’d been kept late at work and they’d gone without her. She tells me she still plays the message sometimes. She closes her eyes and hugs the sound of him against her. There are copies of his voice on a CD, a USB port, on her sister’s computer. As though forgetting his voice would be a final terrible betrayal.
    In the door-way I hug Annie’s thin body close. When I turn and wave to her at the garden gate, she smiles the same ghostly smile before closing the door.

    • Hanna, I’m glad you got this one in – it’s hauntingly beautiful. It’s a subtle reminder of just how hard it is to let go. I love how you use the art course as a symbol for new beginning.
      If we all remember that, in life, those who love us would not want to see us suffer, so must it be beyond our realm.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Hana: That was excellent! Well done indeed.

    • jaced says:

      Thought-provoking, Hana! It made me think of this recent talk by Adam Ostrow via TED.

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Hana Frank. This was awesome! Even if you didn’t use all ten words, I would have loved to read this. My favorite lines : “There are copies of his voice on a CD, a USB port, on her sister’s computer. As though forgetting his voice would be a final terrible betrayal.”

  27. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … I still prefer holding a book to Kindle; it feels unnatural for me. Lol! Check out how do I archive books I have on Kindle and the Amazon forum to archive books.

    • Thanks Rebecca! I saw TuxGirl’s reply, as well.
      I mostly prefer books, but I am slowly warming up to my Kindle on PC. Perhaps because I’m already at the laptop for hours, the transition isn’t as stark for me.

  28. Sara Robin says:

    Intelligence Suggests

    a ghostwritten script
    falls from your lips
    transparent in its perfection,
    flawless falsification.
    an artful tale of tragedy and loss
    an elusive prize, obtained at what cost?
    the most sinister sin
    one can imagine
    lives hang in the balance
    and grudge trumps love
    as the message is
    handed down from above
    between a heavenly dream of peace
    and the hot war of hell
    purgatory is here,
    so says our intel.

    • Sara, this poem has me thinking! You pack a lot of symbolism in here.
      At first, I was thinking “flawless falsification” of a ghostwritten script implied someone taking credit for another’s writing. But, when I got to the end, I thought “so says our intel” meant religious teachings.
      So I went back, and the first two lines sound like a rebuke for prayers muttered as a matter of habit in a time of need. Of course, this totally leaves me wondering about the artful tale and prize.
      How off-base am I? LOL
      Any way you meant it, it’s beautifully written.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Sara: And you can do poetry too! Loved it. You’re quite a writer!

    • jaced says:

      That’s music right there! Nicely done!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Sara Robin.  This is quite powerful.  Awesome job!

  29. Sara Robin says:

    I am happy to hear it sparked such varied thoughts! And honored that you found a “plotline” that could be applied to other topics, from art to spirituality.

    It was written as a(nother) reflection on the politics of war.  Talk about the power of language: the phrase “Our intelligence suggests…” launches military action.  (With the “intelligence” sometimes proving true, sometimes doctored.)

    I recently saw The Tillman Story which is currently airing on Showtime (highly recommended, powerful documentary about NFL football hero’s death by friendly fire in Afghanistan, and his family’s brave battle to expose the subsequent cover-up).

    I hope I don’t end up sounding one-note on this site.  I generally avoid talking politics in real life, as I get so fired up!  I should probably assign myself to another genre for the next prompt!

    Thanks again for the alternate interpretations, Mitch!


    • Sara, it’s cool to be you, here! I understand about avoiding political discussions. But writing your thoughts in a creative endeavor is almost like being granted immunity from invective. Books are like television shows – if someone doesn’t like the message, close the book.
      I, for one,  want to hear everything people here have to say on ANY subject.
      Rock on!

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Sara, Mitch is right about all views getting the respect they deserve when shared here.  I’ve always been surprised at how my inner musings have been respectfully accepted here, and I know all of yours will be as well, especially when conveyed with such poetic excellence!

        • KathleenL says:

          Sarah – yes it does seem you can do poetry too!
          I loved the “ghostwriting … flawless falsification…” while “… and grudge trumps love …” brought great images to my mind as well.

  30. jaced says:

    Great job, everyone! It was a blast to watch what you all crafted up using these simple ten words. From humor to horror to comedy to poetry, it was all there! Thanks!

    I did a little something with these words on my own in my novel Under Angels, which you can check out for your Kindle here. Also, if you’d like to keep up with the Under Angels project as unfolds, hop on over to the Under Angels Facebook page and join us. If you sell your soul now, your Facebook profile pic will be featured on the Under Angels website.

    To life and art,

    • Jace, your novel was awesome. What do you plan for an encore, besides the blockbuster movie? 🙂

      • jaced says:

        Thanks Mitch!
        Along with the adaptation of UA, I’ve also finished the first draft of my next script. (I’d been outlining it for a few months.) It’s a comedy, thematically different from the dark world of UA. Lots of fun to write. It’s not a joke movie, more a situational comedy that celebrates the human experience, exploring our differences and similarities. I suppose if Little Miss Sunshine could be called a comedy, then this would fall in the same zone.
        Now on Draft 2. I’ll keep you posted on that!

  31. TuxGirl says:

    Finally made it back here. My 2-year-old makes it hard to get any writing done!
    I fought the urge to scratch the back of my neck. Instead, I focused on breathing as I moved slowly, deliberately toward the exit. I needed to get out. I couldn’t cause another tragedy. I couldn’t handle it.
    I wasn’t always this way. I can remember a time before the change. A time when an itch was just an itch, not a warning, a message that I was on the verge of losing control. In those days, I had aspirations. I loved art, especially music. I could sit for hours listening to the creations of the classical masters, then sit at my piano trying desperately to recreate their works.
    It was not to be. The universe held a grudge against me. After the change, I became no more than a shadow of my former self; a sinister ghost. A minor annoyance was enough to throw me off balance, setting off a chain reaction that could prove fatal to anyone who happened to stand too close. Whatever intelligence I had was gone during the change, succumbing to the animal impulses that raged through me.
    And now… I am stuck here, in the purgatory of my mind. I can still see the faces of those I’ve hurt. I can’t redeem myself. I can’t even die.

    • Bravo, TuxGirl! 2-year-olds are designed to give your ideas time to simmer.
      This one came out well-done!
      The last two sentences are smoking hot!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @TuxGirl.  Wow!  You gave us so much in just a few sentences.  I want to know more about this person.  What is the cause of the itch?  What are the ‘animal impulses” that rage within?  I read this a few times to decipher the story.  Great job

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Tux: That was outstanding. More!

      • KathleenL says:

        TuxGirl -Welcome back from the mommy-dum… it has not dulled your abilities to … as Jeanette noted … draw a reader right in… quickly… leaving us want to know more… more… more… Hope there is a continuation.

  32. KathleenL says:

    Dateline – Prague, Oklahoma
    The sinister ways of it all, still baffle the masses.
    It does not take much intelligence to understand the inferno of reaction from family and strangers alike. It is no wonder the local Police Department are planning on bringing in extra officers for the week of the trial.
    “I have been chastised for not seeking the death penalty in my eight years, but, as I have explained, the death penalty needs to be reserved for an egregious crime,” I remember him saying to me. Guess the D.A. intends to send a message, to criminals and constituents alike.
    The murder of Ethan Kline is just that.
    The tragedy does not stop there. There is a surviving kidnapped and raped girl too.
    “I pray he goes to purgatory when this is all over … because his kidnapping, raping and murderous ways, oh and let’s not forget his incestuous production of twin daughters, have left many of us – survivor, family and appalled humans alike — in limbo as the balance of the justice scales teeter precariously while the defense team strategizes and files a motion for continuance.”
    Granted. Postponed another 6 months.
    “No. I shall not hold a grudge. They are doing their job. There is an art to defending criminals. Although we do not, they find value in his life. It’s their job. I have seen them in action. They are trying to spare this fool’s life. Because…and I say this we a tremendous sense of pride… because there is a surviving witness. He underestimated our gal. And the love she feels for my son will make an equalizer afoot. She is a 5 foot 3 inch gal who is now bigger than the 6 foot 2 inch Orange clad blob who has 6x and inmate stamped across the shoulders of his stylish outfit. Now there, there will be a balancing of the justice scales with her and the D.A. who is standing strong and standing up for my baby.” 

    There was not even a ghost of civility in her comment; this did not surprise the reporter.

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @KathleenL.  I think this is the first time you’ve mentioned your son’s name.  I hope you don’t mind but I researched the case.  This is such a tragic story.  I’m so glad that writing has allowed an outlet for you.  I look forward to the story when you write that justice has been served.  Be well.

      • KathleenL says:

        Jeanete — Nope … Feel Free to look my beauty up. You will need to look under “Ethan” “Murder” “Oklahoma”  you will find him under “Ethan Kline and/or Ethan Walton”  it is the same beauty (Stalking by the biological caused all of my kids to go by my maiden name, but that’s a chapter still to be written for the reading).

        But I will admonish… it’s not pretty. I don’t mind. I love my boy and his gal. I am a proud mom…
        But here is a bit more about my Lovie:
        Counting the Days; Like All Mothers Do
        14 days
        My body began telling me you were with me
        120 days
        My body told everyone whose eyes fell upon us you were with me
        5 months
        My first pictures of you, via ultrasound
        9 months
        You joined us all on the outside
        30 days
        You were sleeping through the night
        120 days
        Teething began
        6 months
        Crawling began
        9 and 1/2 months
        The pride shown on your face, pulling yourself up to a standing position
        10 months
        The walking has started
        The words began too
        5 years 3 months
        5 years 8 months
        Your first crush — Sarah
        10 years 4 months
        You stood up for momma and your sisters
        12 years 9 months
        We welcomed someone new into our lives
        16 years
        Your first broken heart
        18 years
        Struggling for your independence
        18 years 10 months
        You asked permission to bring her home
        19 years, to the date
        You graduated from high school
        19 years 10 days
        You brought your girl home to meet us
        19 years 110 days
        Someone took you from us, from me
        60 days
        It is still so difficult, I am numb
        I hate my new reality
        5 months
        Another postponed preliminary hearing, this time it was Mother Nature
        7 months 14 days
        I pray the preliminary hearing comes to pass this time
        I miss you with every fiber of my being, Lovie
        1 year 4 days
        Trial is scheduled to proceed
        11 months 15 days
        Defense is not ready to go to work, postponed, again, another six month wait
        364 days
        I don’t know how to make it through tomorrow. Your sister is already stressing so much.
        God grant me the strength I need for this.

        • Sara Robin says:

          KathleenL — I am shocked and saddened to learn about this terrible tragedy your family has suffered.  You, and Ethan’s girlfriend, are incredible heroines.  I cannot fathom the bravery required to soldier on and continue your fight for justice, waiting unwavering as long as the system requires to deliver it, with such dignity.

          • Frank Ruiz says:


            Sara’s words and feelings are ones that I share for you and your situation as well.  Your struggle to see justice served is one that takes immense bravery, and it’s an inspiration to us all.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Kathleen: An unmoveable mountain wrote this piece. The man in orange doesn’t stand a chance.

  33. KathleenL says:

    Sara and Frank…
    Thank you. Oh how I do not think of myself as brave as yah’ll describe.
    Ethan and our girl… they have suffered so much more than I. She is my-new-face-of-brave.
    It is an ugly 1-year to date… tomorrow that my son’s world came to an end; that my not-quite-daughter-in-law’s world was changes… forever, in a multitude of ways, with the 9th of Sept. being the most life altering day of my life. Brave. Me. No. Scared to death I will implode. That I will die of Grief. That I too shall become a casualty of this murderer’s wake. That I will not be able to put my grief aside and help my 18- and 15-year-old daughters through this. 

    But… I will take yah’ll’s words of encouragement and hold tight to them like a piece of driftwood on high seas As I do my best to be able to be the person you see.  After all… it is my goal.

  34. Evelyn says:

    So I’ve not submitted on here in probably a year, life got crazy, but I stumbled back today and saw this one and took a few minutes to write a little poetry.
    The loss of the LOVE of ART
    a message, a warning…
    The loss of the ART of LOVE?
    a tragedy beyond tragedies…
    Love has become a ghost
    thinly veiled, walking a tight-rope
    wandering the dregs of society.
    begrudging the beings who wreak such
    the beings who wreak such
    in the name of god
    in the name of peace
    in the name of love.
    This. The work of intelligent design?!?
    SINISTER!! Is what it is…
    The delicate balance of life
    disrupted by the ART of HATE.

  35. Kelly says:


    I’m sitting under a wax plant in the doctor’s office. Dang thing is so huge it’s like there’s a ghost shading my face. I glare up at it. If there is a ghost I want him to know I know.

    At this moment, I’d rather be anywhere else.

    Sitting in a waiting room is purgatory under the best of circumstances, but today, it’s Hell.

    Do you know what it’s like to wait and wait for an axe to fall, plan the tragedy from curtains-up to footlights-fade, and then when the moment comes, you find you aren’t ready at all?

    My boyfriend and I have been doing that since I first started having trouble last year. I’d get colds and I couldn’t get over them. I’d try to eat and find I couldn’t bear to. Day after day. My face… can we not talk about my face? Every man at the bar would stop and stare, back in the day. They’d probably stare now, too, but I avoid the bar scene while looking like this. Something sinister was taking hold of me and neither of us wanted to admit it. We had enough intelligence to suspect what it was, but for the love of all that is joyful, we didn’t want to face it squarely.

    We went to art museums and show openings. We spent late nights drinking with friends. We went with a bunch of friends and did the Grand Tour of Europe… well, the budget version of the Grand Tour, ha ha. We never said No to anyone or anything. Everything was as usual, but intensified. Balance went out the window in the last year, trying to cram in all the things we’d always wanted to do while I had a death sentence over my head.

    Yeah. That’s me. The skinny guy under the wax plant, the one you don’t want to look at because of the lesions all over my face. The cure is worse than the disease, we heard, so I wasn’t gonna come here at all.

    But last month we came back from Italy early. My boyfriend was tired of our semi-Grand Tour. Said he wanted to go home and rest.

    I came back from the fish market a week or two later and he was pacing the kitchen, listening to his voicemail messages.

    “I’ll make dinner,” he said. That was usually my thing. “Why don’t you to go the park with Ben—he’s home early from work, I heard him clomping around upstairs—pick up some wine on the way back—everybody will be here about seven?”

    “Well, okay. You’ll do the fish the way I like it?” He knew I could be very picky these days.

    “Of course I will. Just the way you like it. Enjoy the park, Aaron,” he said indulgently, giving me a kiss on the cheek as I left.

    Ben and I were a little late getting back with the wine. What goes with fish? That always drives me crazy. But we needn’t have worried. Joan and Steve and a few other friends were standing around outside the apartment building. Next to an ambulance, just closing its doors.


    So now as summer turns to fall, I’m here at the doctor’s office. I decided I’m gonna get the cocktail, no matter how little it resembles my favorite gimlets, and get cured. “Cause I’m carrying a grudge against my boyfriend now.

    We were just supposed to enjoy my time and let me fade out, like the footlights at the end of an off-off-Broadway show. That was the deal.

    But when the doc left him a voicemail saying that he needed to start treatment right away because he had full-blown, asymptomatic AIDS, he chickened out. Stuck his head in our danged oven, turned the danged gas on, and chickened out on his danged life, while I was out for air.

    And now? Plot twist in our tragedy.

    I’m gonna live just to spite him.

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