Jilly: Sunday Short Story–Claws and Effect

It’s a treat to be back in discovery mode, trying to get to some traction on a new story. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m getting close.

In an attempt to maintain my creative momentum, here’s a short story based on the prompts from Elizabeth’s Friday writing sprints, in which the main character makes an unfortunate discovery, and including the words collar, gum, confidence, assassination, flawless, pill, cardio, dart, strange, tiny, balance, coat, hollow, bayonet, affair and guidebook.

Claws and Effect

Xavier the Chemist was free. None of us could believe it.

The Agency boys and girls had played strictly by the rules. Permissions, documentation, evidence, charges, their work had been flawless. They’d built a watertight case against Xavier with painstaking care and they didn’t even get their day in court. A sleazy lawyer, a crooked politician, a few million in used notes, and the entire team was suspended without pay pending an official investigation.

Xavier’s PR firm had a field day, deploying a lethal combination of money and influence in a supremely confident no-holds-barred attempt to bayonet the wounded. He owned the front pages, news websites and social media, demanding an apology and nation-bankrupting damages. Questions were asked in the House.

The bastard was untouchable now. And that meant more good people would die.

Like hell they would. If arrest and imprisonment couldn’t keep us safe, it would have to be assassination.

For the Agency, the law was a straitjacket. For us it was more of a guidebook.

Tomorrow Xavier would disappear beyond our reach, escorted on to his private plane or his armored superyacht. Tonight he was within our grasp, sleeping off his exertions after a torrid twenty-four hour affair with an oligarch’s spoiled daughter.

I opened the door of our nondescript trailer and watched Shadow dart outside. The tiny wildcat shifter was my preferred partner and for her this was personal. Some of Xavier’s deadliest concoctions targeted the shifter community.

I adjusted my headset and took my seat in front of the video screen. If we were lucky, my job would be to watch, listen and chew gum until my jaws ached. If not…

Continue reading

Michaeline: Thoughts on Writing a Modern Villain

Wizard of Oz Illustration. Dorothy consoles the Cowardly Lion with Tinman and Scarecrow looking on.

Faking it isn’t a new problem. If you think about it, almost everyone in *The Wizard of Oz* was fronting. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Hugh Laurie discusses his role as a fake space cruise captain on The Graham Norton Show (aired January 24, 2020) while promoting his new TV series, Avenue 5.

He says: “That’s right. I am a fake. The captain is actually not a proper captain. He doesn’t really know anything about space travel and isn’t even American. He has absolutely no qualifications whatsoever.

“Because the premise is that what matters is confidence, is reassurance, is – the façade is what matters rather than the technical competence. And I think that is a pretty telling statement about the world in which we live.

“That fronting things out has become a more valuable gift than actually knowing how things work. And I think that partly accounts for the great anxiety that the world now feels. That we are now bossed by people who have the confidence without . . . or at least with much much less competence than the confidence – you know what I mean.”

“I hear what you’re saying,” Graham Norton says, tugging on his ear.

There’s so much I want to say about this clip, and so little space to do it in. So let me bullet point a few things, and we can discuss it at length in the comments. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to Friday – also known as Day 3 of the prosecution in the president’s impeachment trial.

What fun!

If you had told me months ago that I’d be spending time glued to coverage of the trial in the Senate, I’d have called you crazy (and maybe suggested therapy).

And yet, here I am, spending far too much time with the dial tuned to the news.  I’m sure the Hallmark channel is devastated by my current lack of viewership.  Hopefully their WinterFest will survive without me.  The fate of democracy, however, isn’t quite so secure.

With the trial in recess for the night, it’s time for me to do some work on my To Do list.  First up is giving today’s writing prompt and/or random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Why I Write

In 1946, J.B. Pick and Charles Neil, editors of Gangrel magazine, published an essay by George Orwell called “Why I Write.” Orwell’s essay became famous, and when I first read it, it was a revelation, from his early life that shaped his mind, to his military service and early jobs that focused his point of view. His thoughts and opinions are, shall we say, bracing. So, whenever I want to think about why I spend so much time by myself in a small room, I look to see what other people who do what I do think about it. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Follow-Through

Bowdoin College Athletics, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, Brian Beard – CIP

Early on in my career I spent a year or so as a management consultant.  While the work was varied and interesting and I had some great clients, the constant schmoozing networking and relentless scrambling to nail-down the next big deal was exhausting.

More often than not, keeping existing clients happy and courting prospective clients was done, not in the office, but on the golf-course or over sushi at over-priced restaurants.  I did my part, making it through countless sushi lunches (though I’m definitely not a fan) and through several rounds of golf that are better left forgotten.

Though everyone else in my family – mom included – played golf, I never had until I became a consultant.  But, wanting to be a good team player, I and a few friends dutifully signed up for golf lessons at the local course and gamely did our best to master the basics.

My lack of interest, compounded by a lack of depth-perception and no apparent innate ability meant that “master” was not quite the term to describe the results.  Having an instructor who was about 150 years old, rather than the  romance-novel worthy hottie we’d secretly hoped for, was just one more disappointment. Continue reading

Jeanne: A Tale of Two Stories

Identical Twin Babies in Green BlanketsAbout a year and a half ago, I got an idea for what I planned to be the third book in my Touched by a Demon series. The thought was to write a Faust story–a tale of Megan Swensen, an author who sells her soul to the devil to make the New York Times Bestseller list. The romance would be a second-chance-at-love story. James, a third-year law student and her grad school boyfriend, helped negotiate the terms of the contract under the impression that he was helping her with a literary assignment for school. When he discovered the truth, they broke up. As the book opens, seven years have passed, the contract is coming due and Megan is panicking.

For its demon, the book would feature Lilith, the she-demon who was a player in the first two books, as Megan’s literary agent and Hellish customer service representative. I even had a title–The Demon Wore Stilettos. Continue reading

Jilly: Booksweeps!

Do you know about Booksweeps?

I discovered them last year, when Jeanne included one of her Touched By A Demon books in a paranormal romance sweep. Since then I’ve heard good things about them, so when I saw they were running an Epic Sword & Sorcery Fantasy sweep I knew it was my turn. Here’s the graphic for The Seeds of Power:

A Booksweep is a contest that aims to connect avid readers of a particular subgenre with authors who’d like to reach a wider readership. First prize is usually something like an e-reader plus a free copy of every book in the sweep. Second prize is a free copy of every book.

Authors pay to be included. Readers don’t pay to play. They sign up for the sweep by joining the mailing list of the authors they like the look of out of the selection offered. They don’t have to join every list, but each one they join gives them a better chance of winning. Of course they could immediately unsubscribe from every list they choose, but past experience suggests that many of them don’t—as long as they enjoy the newsletter.

The giveaway I joined is called Epic, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. That’s a nice, broad definition and I think the seventeen books in the bundle offer something for everyone. Some have battles on the cover—weapons and action, red-eyed dragons, mythical creatures and whatnot. Others highlight a central character, often female. Those look like my catnip.

I’ve been reading the blurbs and the Look Inside samples, and I’m especially tempted by Continue reading