Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday or, according to my Calendar of Days, happy Cheeseburger Day.  Yesterday was National Monty Cristo Day–one of my favorite sandwiches.  Had I only known, I’d have rustled one up, though my BLT made with applewood smoked bacon and heirloom tomatoes was an excellent substitute.

I often wonder where all of the “National Day of . . .” ideas come from and why some days seem to be overflowing with things to celebrate while others have very little.  Friday also appears to be Hug Your Boss Day, which is hardly likely to be popular in the midst of the pandemic.  Saturday is the popular Talk Like A Pirate Day.  The local doughnut shop normally offers a free doughnut to anyone who orders in pirate-speak that day, but I’m guessing not this year when it has been such a challenge to just stay in business.

My week has been full of meetings–I’ve got to stop giving people my phone number/email address–and virtual conferences.  The most recent conference was so tedious I had to keep getting up and jogging in place to avoid dozing off.  Fortunately I did not have my camera turned on for that.  It’s amazing how many conference sessions and meetings could be much more effectively replaced with a good PowerPoint deck or a brief email.  Ah well, at least I only had to attend the conference, not organize it.

It is now evening here and I’m currently typing this post from my living room where I can see a family of raccoons out on my back deck.  There is a water bowl out there that had been the cat’s and the raccoons are alternately drinking from it and standing in it; knocking each other out of the way and acting like they are auditioning for a TV wrestling show.  They look like happy, fluffy bandits and when I make meowing sounds, they come up to the door and look in quizzically.  Very cute.  Judging from all of the thumping I hear late at night, they appear to be living under my back deck, as is a family of possums.  It’s a regular wild-animal kingdom around here.

I’m looking forward to a Zoom-free weekend with, fingers crossed, clear air and blue skies.  I have nothing planned other than kicking things off with today’s writing prompt and random words.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character is planning a surprise party?

Feel free to interpret the “What” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

energy              daughter        fetish            believe

prefab              bronze             box              gargoyle

harmony          drunken          terrific          affordable

rival                  ocean              hat                warrior

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Elizabeth: Dreaming of Stories

A few days ago I woke up with a story in my head.  Well, the idea for one at least.

That may not seem like a very surprising thing–especially for a writer–but for me, it felt like a major victory.

As may have been evident from my inability to even generate anything that I’d be willing to post on our Friday Writing Sprints, I have been in a bit of a creativity dead zone.  Well, maybe more of a creativity black-hole or maybe a giant creativity void.  Whatever it was, it seriously impacted my storytelling abilities.

I blame the pandemic.

And work.

But then Sunday morning, somewhere between asleep and awake, the remainder of a dream fluttered around in my head.  I discarded the actual person who had featured in the dream and thought up a new character to fill the role.  Then I thought of a hook that could turn the dream snippet into a real story.

Then I started to think I might really have something. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Did anyone happen to see four horsemen head past this way?  Just wondering since, as Kay mentioned yesterday, the skies here in beautiful California have taken on quite the Apocalyptic coloring.

At least it’s not blisteringly hot to boot.  A quick check of my thermometer shows that there has been a twenty degree temperature drop in the past two days.  If this was a competition though, beautiful Colorado would be the winner.  They had both record heat and then record snow, all within 48 hours.  That’s just crazy!

Nature is either going through a cranky phase or trying to get our attention.  I hope things calm down soon.  Nothing like breathing smokey air for a while to make you appreciate clear fresh skies.  Fortunately, other than air you can see and a fine dusting of ash all over the yard, everyone is fine here.  I can’t imagine how horrible it has been for those in the path of the flames.

Fortunately I was able to plant the flowering shrubs, which had been languishing in my kitchen sink, into the backyard the other day during a very brief patch of clear.  I didn’t do the best of jobs, but the plants are still alive, so I’m going to call it a win.  As long as the assorted wildlife that have been digging holes in my lawn and tunneling under my fence leave the plants alone, I’ll be able look forward to some pretty flowers in a few months.

With nothing left to plant (thank goodness) and no plans to actually leave the house for the next few days, I’ll have plenty of time to tackle some of those projects I’ve been meaning to get to for, well, quite some time.  The mending pile has been giving me the evil eye for weeks, so maybe I’ll start there.  Before wading into that delightful task, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character is planning an escape?

Feel free to interpret the “What” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

phantom           clean              annual           damage

buffer               diamond        exchange       escape

cannon             passenger       seed               harmony

trust                 grey                sweat              lottery

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Elizabeth: I’m Listening

On my evening walk today, I started listening to a new audiobook that finally appeared in my queue from the local library.  I’m not a great fan of audiobooks, but since they are often more readily available at the library than eBooks are, I’ve started to increase my listening.  It’s also much easier to listen to a book while walking than to attempt to read one.

Safer too.

Today’s book is the first book I’ve listened to that is narrated by a female.  My 40-minute walk got me somewhere in the midst of chapter 2 and I’m not completely certain whether we will make it to the end together or not, both because of the narrator’s voice and because everything so far has felt very prologue-ish.

Not that I don’t love a good prologue, but when even I start thinking “when is this story going to start?” there may be a problem.  The book was highly recommended, so I’m soldiering on, but I may wind up switching to the eBook version to finish the story.

We’ll see. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Well, another week is just about in the books and we’re getting ready here for a long-weekend and Labor Day.  Technically the holiday is a time to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States, but many view it instead as a celebration marking the end of summer.

Frankly, I’m just hoping it won’t be some kind of pandemic super-spreader event.

Fingers crossed on that.

I still haven’t managed to take my planned drive to the beach, what with the unhealthy smokey air still prevailing.  Perhaps in another week or two it will be okay plan an excursion.  I’ve still been going on my nightly walks, despite the less than optimal air quality, though working in the garden has been quite curtailed.  I did manage to clear a small patch of weeds the other day and plant a small flowering plant that had been living in my kitchen sink for a week or two.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to clear another patch of weeds and plant the companion flowering plant this weekend.  It will be nice to have use of my kitchen sink again.

Hardly an exciting holiday plan, but at least it will keep me out of trouble and make the backyard a little prettier in the process.  After that, I’ve nothing else definite on the agenda other than giving today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Alone Together

Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort During the Time of COVID-19 by [Jennifer Haupt, Faith Adiele, Kwame Alexander, Jenna Blum, Andre Dubus III, W. Ralph Eubanks, Jamie Ford, Nikki Giovanni, Pam Houston, Major Jackson, Jean Kwok, Devi S. Laskar, Caroline Leavitt, Ada Limón, Dani Shapiro, David Sheff, Luis Alberto Urrea, Steve Yarbrough, Lidia Yuknavitch]As “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day,” for months that the pandemic has made feel like years, it can be difficult to find bright spots, let alone the light at the end of the tunnel.  One such bright spot appeared yesterday as I was spending a few masked, socially distant moments at a local independent bookstore.

The joy!

There, among shelves filled with so many political tell-all books it seemed as if everyone in the world had written one, I found Alone Together, edited by Jennifer Hauput.  The book, subtitled Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of Covid-19, is a collection of essays, poems, and interviews that “serves as a lifeline for negotiating how to connect and thrive during a time of isolation.”

The cover and the concept caught my attention, but it was the fact that all proceeds from the book will be donated to the Book Industry Charitable Fund, a nonprofit organization that coordinates charitable programs to strengthen the bookselling community, that convinced me to make the purchase. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy “last Friday in August.”  Can that really be possible?  I guess so, since during my last visit to the Big Box Store I saw that they (optimistically) had Halloween costumes out; I’m sure it will be Christmas decorations by next week.

Here the weather has been alternating between “I’m melting” and “where’s my sweater?”  Today there’s a slight chill in the air, suggesting that Fall is not that far off, but temperatures are due to spike in the next few days, suggesting that Nature is still busy playing with the thermostat.

I’m off work for a few days, so I’m hoping the weather is just right for working out in the yard.  I have several plants that need to get out of my kitchen sink and go into the ground, not to mention a few bushes and shrubs that have experienced recent growth spurts lately and need to be given a good trim.  If all that doesn’t work out, I have a giant ToBeRead pile to keep me occupied, as well as a ToDo list that it’s highly unlikely I’ll even look at.

Regardless of what I wind up doing (or not doing), I’m going to make sure I give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Plot Tangles

Welcome to (unofficial) Plot week here at Eight Ladies Writing.  Jilly started things off on Sunday talking about plot preferences (I’m fond of an external mystery plot) and then Jeanne continued on Tuesday with plot peeves (the big-misunderstanding is my peeve).  Today we’re talking about what I think of, for lack of a better term, as plot tangles–cases where the author throws in everything including the kitchen sink.

A few weeks back I was talking with a Random-Guy-on-the-Internet about a book we had both read multiple times and enjoyed.  He had just finished a re-read of the book two days before and wanted to share some thoughts on the story.

Right off the bat a problem became obvious when he said “I can’t believe so-and-so was the murderer” (the story was a mystery).  The problem?  So-and-so was not the murderer.  A quick rifling through the book ensued and the correct culprit was identified, but the question remained:  How could someone forget who the murderer was in a book that they had just read?

The book was popular.

The book was interesting (after all, we’d both read it more than once).

The writing was strong.

So, what was the issue? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday or, what feels like, the end of week 3,434 of 2020.  This year seems to have been going on forever.

And if a heatwave, politics, and a pandemic aren’t enough to deal with, my state has burst into flame, thanks in part to lightning storms earlier in the week.  Surely we must be reaching the end of the biblical plagues by now, aren’t we?

The air has a distinct campfire smell (with out the associated fun of s’mores) and my backyard has a dusting of ash from the fires which are, thankfully, fairly far from me.  I do worry about all of those in the path of the flames, as well as all those doing their best to keep the fires contained.  What a mess.

As often happens during fire season, especially in recent years, this is a time for folks to look around the house and mentally figure out “what to save in a fire” as well as to pack that emergency bag for “just in case evacuations.”  Being earthquake country we should already be prepared, but it’s always a good idea to update things.

I’m currently off work for a few days, though the plans to take photographs at the beach have been abandoned, since breathing outside is not a healthy option right now.  Instead, I think I’ll just putter around the house, read a little, and update the earthquake kit.

Before I check on the status of the emergency food rations that are probably 20 years old, I’m going to give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Woman Behind the Name

A week or so ago, the Women’s Prize for Fiction and prize sponsor Baileys launched the Reclaim Her Name campaign to mark the 25th anniversary of the award.  As part of the campaign, twenty-five works, written by women but initially published under male pseudonyms, were re-released under the writer’s real names.

One of the works in the set is Middlemarch, by Mary Ann Evans, who adopted the pen name of George Eliot in the mid-19th century, in order to ensure her works were taken seriously.  Evans is quoted as having said she was

“resolute in preserving my incognito, having observed that a nom de plume secures all the advantages without the disagreeables of reputation”

Her partner George Lewes added that

“the object of anonymity was to get the book judged on its own merits, and not prejudged as the work of a woman, or of a particular woman”.

The books in the Reclaim Her Name collection are available to download as ebooks for free (in case you are looking for something to add to your reading list).

According to the Guardian article discussing the collection, the promotion was intended celebrate some amazing women of the past who have never quite had their due as women. Continue reading