An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 5

Welcome to another installment of our Eight Lady Serial, that started when Jilly wrote a short story about Jordy MacHugh, a Canadian music teacher who inherits a derelict estate in the Scottish Highlands and decides to build an outdoor opera house by the sea.  In yesterday’s installment, Jilly added some much-needed conflict to the story.

As I re-read the entire saga, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave Jordy and Jenny to their own devices, though they may not appreciate the direction of today’s installment.

Without further ado, read on to find out what happens next. Using the prompts from Friday’s writing sprint – character(s) face a challenge – and including (most of) the random words: equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise, bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump and artist.

The Unexpected

By unspoken agreement, Jenny and Jordy busied themselves with separate pursuits when they returned to their temporary cottage after their aborted picnic along the cliffs.

While nondescript from the front, the area behind the cottage was a wild tangle of riotous blooms and clinging vines.  Paths that seemed to be in danger of being swallowed up by the creeping foliage wended around and about the area and led to an overgrown folly in the back barely visible through the trees from mere paces away.

Jenny wandered the paths aimlessly, deaf to the noise of the bumbling bees, drunk on the abundant nectar and buzzing happily.

It had been a baffling day.  Or week.  Or lifetime if it came right down to it.  She had always felt like an outsider; never one of the popular girls or the smart girls but instead always struggling to fit in and failing.  She was clever and had worked hard, gotten a degree and a good job, but it wasn’t enough.  She had money and things, but what she wanted were dreams.

Dreams of a family and a purpose and, yes, of someone to love and who loved her.  Not for what she could do, but just for herself.

When Jordy had asked her to marry him there on the cliffs by glass-smooth ocean she’d felt her heart soar like the swooping yellow-headed gannets.  But only for an instant.  Then reality kicked in.  He didn’t want to marry her.  He didn’t even know her.  Not really.  He just offered because of the twins and because he apparently couldn’t resist a damsel in distress.

A Canadian ex-pat, budding opera house impresario, and all-around great bloke couldn’t possibly just want her.

Could he?

Jenny made another circuit around the garden.  The real question was, did she want him?  And if she did, what was she going to do about it?

Unlike Jenny, Jordy’s thinking was not fuzzy or uncertain.  As soon as the words “Marry me” had come out of his mouth out there on the cliff, he’d felt their rightness.

He didn’t need Maeve, the village maven, seer, and chief beekeeper to tell him that Jenny was the woman for him; or a Blessing Stone for that matter.  He just knew.

But he also knew that Jenny didn’t believe him; didn’t even seem to believe in herself.  He’d watched her with the twins.  She was wonderful with them.  Making sure they were clean and fed; blowing raspberries on their round little bellies and playing peek-a-boo; making them feel cared for.  But she’d kept them, like she kept him, at a distance; as if theirs was just a temporary connection.

He needed to help her see what was right there in front of her.

His long-dead ancestors, masters of cattle-raiding and border robbery would probably drag her off to the nearest preacher or maybe lock her in a tower, but he had a better idea.

He’d woo her.

Surely he could do that in their remaining three months.

True, he hadn’t had much success with women in the past, but here as the laird, with the opera house, festival, and twins he felt like anything was possible.  Besides, could any woman really resist a man in a kilt?

With a chuckle, Jordy went about setting out the tea things on the little table in the kitchen.  There were freshly baked scones and clotted cream, along with lavender honey butter biscuits, made with honey fresh from Maeve’s hives.  He considered the teapot in its knitted cozy for a moment, then added glasses sparkling with Moira’s best loganberry reserve liqueur to the table instead.  The artist in him appreciated the way the light reflected off the rich ruby liquid, while the hungry man in him appreciated the warm sweet smell of the scones.

He walked over to the door to call out, “tea is ready,” but the words died in his throat as he opened the door.

There on the threshold was a young auburn-haired woman in a soft green corduroy jacket.

“Are you Jordy MacHugh,” she asked, staring up at him with determination.

“Aye,” he answered.  “Can I help you?”

“I’ve come for my babies,” she said.

The words hung in the air.

Returning to the house from the garden, Jenny saw Jordy talking to a woman at the door.

As she watched, his face lost all its color and he sagged against the door-frame.

Concerned, Jenny raced forward, unaware that her life was about to be upended yet again.

# # #

I hope you enjoyed that!

Join us tomorrow for Part 6.

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 4

The MacHugh saga continues :-).

For those who are just joining us, we’re in the midst of a serial story that started with Jilly’s short story about Jordy MacHugh, the Canadian music teacher who inherited a derelict estate in the Scottish Highlands and decided to build an outdoor opera house by the sea.

Elizabeth continued the story and raised the stakes by introducing Jenny, a tourist from Kansas, who discovered twin babies in a basket, courtesy of the mysterious MacHugh Blessing Stone.

Maeve, the local seer, pronounced Jordy, Jenny and the twins a family, but as Jenny observed via Kay’s installment, the whole setup screamed Trouble with a capital T.

Read on to find out what happens next. Using the prompts from Friday’s writing sprint, our character(s) face a challenge, and including the words equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise, bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump and artist.

Challenge Accepted

They couldn’t go on this way. Somebody had to make this village of dreamers face reality, and apparently that someone was Jenny.

Sunday service was over, and she emerged from the small stone kirk into the sunlit, postage-stamp sized churchyard. She settled the oversized wicker basket at her feet and chatted politely with the villagers, all twenty of them. They were kind and friendly, but their warm welcome wasn’t for Jenny herself. Not really. Her true value to them was as companion-dash-housemate to the new laird, Jordy MacHugh, and as carer for his adopted twin daughters. Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 3

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

Kay was inspired to add to the story by this set of  Friday writing prompts: a character who faced a challenge, and the words equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise. bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump, artist.

Let’s see what’s next for Jenny and Jordy.

# # #

And Now, Twins

Jenny handed the fuzzy bunny to the drowsy baby Elspeth and hoped to high heaven that the twins would fall asleep and dream the dreams of babies, whatever they were.

She was exhausted.

How had she ended up here? It was baffling. One minute she’d been walking along the Scottish cliffs admiring the view, and the next, evidently, she was mothering homeless twins.

Not that she had a clue how to do that.

But somehow Maeve, the village maven, seer, and chief beekeeper, had decided that they’d make a great family with Jordy MacHugh, Canadian ex-pat, budding opera house impresario, and all-round great bloke. Jordy did indeed seem to be a nice guy, not to mention cute, but this setup screamed trouble with a capital T, no matter how much fancy footwork you put into the dance. Continue reading

Jeanne: Don’t Get on That Bus

This week I read a blog post over on Writers in the Storm by Margie Lawson called “10 Not-Absurd Tips for Writing Fiction.” My favorite was, “Honor Your Controlling Premise.”

Or, as an HR person I once worked with on a personnel problem counseled: Don’t Get on That Bus.

After a verrrry slow start, The Demon’s Secret Baby finally seems to be coming along. One of the things that’s made this story take so long to write is that it had so many possibilities. The premise is: A pair of deeply-in-love demons are separated by Satan because they represent a threat to his power. Ten thousand years later he offers them a chance to be together again for a few weeks and she winds up pregnant.

It felt like every scene, every event, every conversation in the book could go a thousand different ways. That’s true of every book, but this one felt more wide-open than others I’ve written.

Here’s an example:

Satan tasks Sam and Lilith with setting up arrangements for peace talks with Heaven. Satan wants to “knock the wings off,” their angelic counterparts, so he wants a venue that rubs Heaven’s face in the fact that Hell has serious influence in the human world these days. Lilith knows the perfect spot: the United Nations Conference Center in New York City.

Unfortunately, securing the use of the U.N. Conference Center for several weeks is a a huge challenge. The Secretary General of the United States doesn’t believe they’re demons and even if he did, he doesn’t think it’s in Earth’s best interests to have a delegation of demons running loose in Manhattan.

I wrote a scene where, in an attempt to persuade him, Sam and Lilith demonstrate demon possession, and another where Sam exhibits his ability to heal with unnatural speed. The Secretary General reluctantly consents to letting them use the campus.

As I was drafting the scene, once he agrees to give them free run of the UNCC campus for a few weeks, he did what I think a real Secretary General would do in those circumstances: he demanded to have a human delegation present at the talks. He felt, quite reasonably, that since Earth is where the battles between Heaven and Hell are waged, humans have a vested interest in the outcome.

While this is logical, it creates a whole new subplot, and that subplot doesn’t belong in a story about two demons who have a One-Night-Stand-With-Consequences. In Margie’s terminology, it doesn’t honor my controlling premise.

The HR guy was warning me that there are some conversations it’s better never to let get started and it’s the same with subplots–if they don’t fit in your story, it’s best not to set foot on hat bus.

Eventually I took a look at the length of the book (already 70K and I still have 26 scenes to write) and realized Margie and HR guy were right. I needed to stay on task and on topic. It still feels weird to me that the U.N. Secretary General would be aware of a cosmic summit that could profoundly affect life on Earth and make no effort to be part of it. I suspect it will strike some readers the same way but if anyone complains I’ll just tell them we can take that bus ride another time.

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 2

Okay, technically these cliffs are in Ireland, not Scotland. Just pretend for now.
©Eldridge Photography

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

This installment was inspired by a picture from a trip I took to Ireland, though things did take a slightly different turn than I had expected when I started writing.  Still, I’m happy with the results and hope you are too.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a Jilly-inspired short story using these Friday’s prompts: a character who found something unexpected, incorporating the words basket, symbol, siren, bottle, freewill, baby, future, confusion, absurdly, little, grabbing, aroma, banana, vision, identical and robbery.

I hope you enjoy it.

Finding Home

Jenny stood at the edge of the cliff covered in a sea of undulating wild grasses and watched the waves crash over and around the rocks below.  She knew it probably carried an Arctic chill, but the sunlight glinting off the mesmerizing blue water made her think of warm summer days and soft caressing breezes.

She could feel her heartbeat slow and her breathing deepen.

She felt like she’d finally found home.

Daughter, sister, friend, co-worker; she’d been running so fast and for so long, filling those roles and more, that her current sense of calm confused her at first.  Then she thought of staying here forever; jettisoning all of the commitments weighing her down and starting over again by these beautiful blue waters.

The vision of a brand-new future took her breath away. Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 1

A few years back, one of our Friday writing prompts inspired Jilly to write a short story, which various Eight Ladies added to over a period of several weeks.  It was a great deal of fun to take a story in progress and, using a new set of random words, keep moving the action forward.  At one point we realized we had no conflict, and at another we seemed to have written ourselves into a corner, but creativity prevailed and we managed to reach a satisfying conclusion.

This week we’re revisiting the story–posting a segment every day–and hope you will enjoy watching it unfold again or for the first time.

So, without further ado, here is where it all started:  a Highland-based short story using  a character who found something unexpected, incorporating the words basket, symbol, siren, bottle, freewill, baby, future, confusion, absurdly, little, grabbing, aroma, banana, vision, identical and robbery.

Enjoy!

The Laird’s Legacy

“As you can see, we’re jam-packed…” Moira Douglas gestured to the dining room behind her. The But & Ben was rarely full in high summer, let alone in early October, but tonight every family in the village was there, trying to look casual and hoping Moira’s home cooking and smooth talking would persuade the visiting Canadian where Charlie the Solicitor Advocate’s carefully worded suggestions had failed.

Jordy MacHugh smiled politely. He had to duck his head to get through the doorway but now he stood tall, blocking the entrance. It was an assertive sort of politeness, worthy of his long-dead ancestors, masters of cattle raiding and border robbery. “The Pointing Dog had a kitchen fire. They had to close for the evening, so they sent me over here. They promised you’d feed me.”

Of course they did. There was a lot of him to feed, and while he’d reportedly made fast work of a full Highland breakfast complete with porridge and black pudding, that was eight hours ago. Since then Charlie had walked the incomer all the way round the boundaries of the McHugh property with little more to fuel them than a packet of oatcakes and a flask of coffee.

Right on cue, Jordy’s stomach rumbled. “I’m starving hungry, and it’s a twenty-mile drive to the next village. Can you please squeeze me in somehow?” Continue reading

Michaeline: Wolves, Past and Present

A friend of mine recently got pregnant, and told me she’s been having nightmares about wolves eating her baby and making her buy another child. It made me stop and think about wolves, and the power they have over our imaginations . . . largely a power that results from story.

Red Riding Hood comes closer to the Wolf disguised as Grandmother
When wolves were a common neighborhood terror. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in an area where there were wolves; they were never an actual problem, but still, wolves loom large. They are themselves, but they are also a human-made metaphor for things that worry us greatly.

In “Little Red Riding Hood,” the wolf was a predator who ate little girls, as well as grandmothers. There was a moral to the story: don’t talk to strangers, or if you are sick in bed, don’t forget to lock the door.

The wolf as sexual predator was common in pop culture during the first half of the 20th century. Young women would call a problem male a “wolf.” Whistles at attractive young women were called “wolf whistles.” In cartoons, a male character when catching sight of a pretty girl would transform into a wolf . . . eyes bulging, two fingers in the mouth whistling.

Wolves didn’t have to be sexual predators, though. In “The Three Little Pigs,” the wolf was a force of nature . . . huffing and puffing houses down in an attempt to eat the pigs. In this story, the motive is spelled out: the wolf is hungry. So, it’s almost easy to sympathize with the wolf, but the moral of this story is that there are right ways and wrong ways to get a meal, and sliding down the chimney will land a wolf in hot water, not in front of the dining table.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Welcome to the last Friday in July.  Hard to imagine, isn’t it?  Seems like children just got out of school for summer vacation last week, but some are already going back in the next week or two.

I might have to break down and get a calendar so I can keep track.

Happy “National Cheesecake Day” (if you’re reading this on July 30th).  While a slice of cake won’t slow down time, it will make it pass in a tasty manner.  Frankly, I was rather hoping for National Ice Cream Day, but that was a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe I’ll just celebrate it again anyway, just in case I didn’t do a thorough job of it the first time.

Sounds like a plan, right?  

In the meantime it’s “Not My Day Off After All Day” for me today.  A big meeting has come up that I need to attend so, instead of puttering around the house today I’ll be in front of the computer with my headset on.  At least I’ll be able to enjoy a view of the flowers blooming in the yard while I do that.  Not quite the same as a day off, but it will have to do.

Once my meetings are over, I have some roses that are in desperate need of a trim.  Then I plan to turn my recent lemon-tree harvest into a refreshing pitcher of lemonade and take a shot at today’s writing prompt and random words.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Wednesday Story Short

1801- August-1801-morning

If this is Wednesday, then it must be time to share another story short.

I’ve been weeding through the Regency romance books on my bookshelves–well, maybe overflowing from my bookshelves would be a better description–so when I came across this little short story from a Regency-themed Friday Writing Sprint in my writing notebook, I thought it would be fun to share.

The story includes (most) of the following random words:  diaphanous, curricle, cravat, Viscount, pianoforte, waltz, chaperone, whist, rake, gambling, masquerade, classical, and soiree.

Challenge Accepted

Miss Danby, the Delightful Diaphanous Diane, managed to catch the eye of Baron Norwich not long after she arrived in town for the season. A proposal followed soon thereafter and her father, Lord Danby, breathed a sigh of relief.

The baron wasn’t a rake or a gambler and though his title wasn’t grand or his face much to look at, his mind was sound, and his pockets were deep. The Danby family finances were secure once again – or would be as soon as the couple said, “I do”. Continue reading

Jeanne: Keeping the Past in the Present

Lately I’ve noticed a trend in newspapers, magazines and books to simplify the past tense and past participle of certain irregular verbs.

Examples include: “kneeled” instead of “knelt”; “wreaked” instead of “wrought”, “creeped” instead of “crept”, “seeked” instead of “sought” and “ran” instead of “run” (past participle).

When I first noticed it happening, I assumed it was a result of sloppy proofreading/copyediting, but as it became increasingly pervasive, especially in high-end publications like The New Yorker that don’t generally skimp on those processes, I realized a trend was afoot.

Part of me cringes whenever I run across these verb forms. They just sound wrong to my ears; they make my teeth hurt. If the love of my life kneeled in front of me and to ask me to be his wife, I would have to think twice.

But part of me recognizes this change as a sign that English is a vibrant language, still growing and evolving, and that’s a good thing.

One of the reasons English is so difficult to learn as a second language—or to master as a first—is those irregular verb forms. The only way to know them is to memorize them, making them especially difficult to would-be speakers who arrive on the shores of English as adults. (This is no picnic in other languages, either–I’m looking at you, French.)

“Insure” is another word I’ve noticed going through a grammatical simplification. Historically, to insure something meant to purchase an insurance policy for it; to ensure something was to make certain it would happen. “Ensure” now appears to have fallen by the wayside, subsumed by the more familiar “insure.”

With the rise of texting as a primary written form of communication, I expect to see a lot more changes in the near (i.e. within my lifetime) future, especially moves toward simplified spellings that leave archaic spellings (like “donut” replacing “doughnut”) behind.

Texting seems to be having a similar impact on punctuation. I read an article recently that said punctuation in texts is interpreted as a sign of strong emotion, like anger. I have no idea about this and I will fight to the death for my periods and commas! (Hmm. Maybe they’re right.)

I have the same mixed feelings about the discontinuation of cursive writing in elementary school curricula. Today’s fourth graders have a lot more ground to cover than I did 50 years ago, so it makes sense to remove the least valuable subject from the curriculum. With typed communications replacing the handwritten, cursive writing is certainly the chief candidate for “least useful subject.” At the same time, it pained me to have granddaughter inform me that she couldn’t decipher a hand-written recipe because she “doesn’t know cursive.” Longhand has become akin to a foreign language to today’s youth.

What changes are you seeing in language and communication these days? How do you feel about them?