Elizabeth: What would you do?

“You pay your money, you take your chance.”

If you’ve followed the (non-political) news lately, you may have seen that the jackpots for two US lottery games had grown to ridiculous sizes.  The Mega Millions jackpot passed into billion-dollar-territory, causing a challenge for the signs that display the value, since they only go up to $999M.  A few days ago, someone from Michigan was the big winner of that jackpot, which was apparently only the third-largest in US history.  At $731M, the recent Powerball jackpot, won by someone in Maryland, pales by comparison.

As the jackpots continued to grow, people lined up to buy tickets for their chance to win, and newscasters did human-interest stories, asking hopeful players what they would do with the winnings.

The answers were familiar:

  • Buy a house
  • Buy a house for all of my family members
  • Get a new car
  • Pay off my student loans
  • Give it all away

I’ll admit, I was a little curious about the young woman whose only thought was to pay off her student loans.  Just how expensive was her education?

I wonder how many of the players really had a concept about just how much money they could potentially win.  Even for those who took the instant cash payout, those early spending plans wouldn’t put a dent in the winnings.

Lotteries are nothing new.  There are signs as far back as the Chinese Han Dynasty that lotteries were used to help finance major government building projects.  In England, the first official lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, and at the end of the US Revolutionary War, various states used lotteries to raise needed funds for public projects.

I’m not a lottery player myself (have you seen the odds?), though my son and I have occasionally brainstormed what we would do if a big jackpot ever came our way.  His theoretical plans have tended to be crowd-funding focused, with thoughts of helping friends and family members pay off loans, get houses or cars, or just plain sharing the winnings.  My theoretical plans tend to focus on putting money aside for future needs first, and then looking at bigger picture options like setting up scholarships or some kind of foundation.  Regardless of the path our daydreaming takes, figuring out what to do with a huge chunk of money hasn’t been as easy as expected.

In real life, figuring out what to do with huge jackpots isn’t as easy as winners might expecte either.  Some don’t have the necessary financial acumen;  some make bad decisions; and some, amazingly, wind up losing it all in short order.

It makes me think that I might just be better off dreaming of winnings but never actually buying tickets.

There have been a few television series over the years– like The Briefcase and The Millionaire— where people are given money and have to decide what to do with it.  Coincidentally, when doing my “fresh start” this year, I came across the draft of a story I wrote years ago about four people who won a big lottery jackpot.  I must have been going through an angsty-phase though, because it didn’t turn out well for any of them.

For fun, I’ve been thinking about what the characters in my current work-in-progress would do if they won a bit jackpot.  It has been interesting to “see” the varied responses and has been a great way to learn more about their beliefs and desires.

So, what would you (or your characters) do with a big jackpot?

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “Celebration of Life Day” (if you’re reading this on the 22nd).  According to the National Day Calendar folks:

“Celebration of Life Day on January 22nd honors the children and grandchildren who bring joy to our lives. The day is a reminder that each child and each life is to be held as a precious gift with the highest respect and dignity.”

With all that’s been going on the world in the past year or more, taking a bit of time to celebrate life seems like a nice thing to do.

I recently finished celebrating our recent political transition of power.  It’s remarkable how comforting it is to feel like there are intelligent, competent adults in the room again.  We may not yet be in “nothing but good times ahead” territory, but now at least we seem to be heading in the correct direction.

Without constantly having  to worry about what horrible thing I’m going to see on the news, I foresee a bit more spare time in my future.  Today, I think I use some of that time to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Fresh Start

Doesn’t this look like a good spot for some writing or maybe a nice nap?

The New York Times had an article the other day about five small chores to do around the house to get it (and yourself) off to a fresh start in the new year.

Some of the five–like unclogging the drains and cleaning out various filters–did not sound too appealing.  Actually, they left me feeling like I’d be more likely to get my year off to a cranky start than a fresh one.  The first suggestion, Deep-clean Your Bed, sounded like a good idea though, so I gave it a whirl this weekend.

“You know that feeling you get when you get into a bed with clean sheets?  This is that feeling times 10.” ~ from the article

I wash the sheets on a fairly regular basis and run the duster under the bed whenever I happen to notice the sun streaming through the window and bouncing off a layer of dust, but I can’t remember the last time I took everything off the bed and washed it–pillows, blankets, decorative shams and all.  Considering how much dust and whatnot was released into the air when I pulled the cover off the box-spring, I was probably long overdue for a deep cleaning.  The article even suggested sprinkling the mattress with baking soda and letting it sit for a while, to absorb any lingering odors, so I dutifully retrieved the canister of baking soda from the kitchen and gave the mattress a dusting.   While I was at it, I figured I might as well give the floor a good sweeping, tackle those cobwebs that had magically appeared in the corners of the room, and polish up the bedframe and night stands.

After about a million and a half loads of laundry and an awkward staggering waltz with the mattress, the bedding was all put back in place, fresh and clean.   When I climbed into bed that night, just as the article had suggested, I experienced the “getting into a bed with clean sheets” feeling times 10.

Yay! Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “Feast of the Donkey Day” (if you’re reading this on the 14th) or “Strawberry Ice Cream Day” (if it’s the 15th).  Who comes up with these things?  Although strawberry ice cream does sound pretty good about now.

I recently finished “Laughing Hysterically Day” after I got cost estimates for doing a “refresh” of my kitchen cupboards and a “replacement” of my living room sofa.  It’s not that I’m not willing to pay for quality and for the value of worker time, but the quotes definitely outside of the realm of that.   Also, I’m pretty sure the kitchen-estimator-guy mocked my “that style is so yesterday” tastes, and who wants that.  I like to think of my tastes as “classic” or “timeless.”

Time for Plan B.

Youtube, here I come.  I may not be able to completely remodel my kitchen that way, but maybe I can at least learn how to repair the drawers (my biggest pain point) and install a couple of sliding shelves in one of the hard-to-get-to cabinets.  I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

In the meantime, I think I’ll take a creativity break and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Love Triangle

Love triangles run rampant in romantic fiction.  Randomly select a Hallmark Channel movie and there’s a good chance you’ll find a heroine who is engaged to or with someone at the beginning of the story and ends up with “our hero” at the end.

The “will they stay together or won’t they” and “will she make the right choice or won’t she” questions provide story conflict, but there is no secret about how things will all turn out.  The only real question is “how long will it take” and “what standard plot device will briefly keep the couple apart before their grand-public-declaration-of-love” at the end.

When done well, stories with a love triangle can be engaging, entertaining, and satisfying.  Done poorly, however, and the happily-ever-after leaves a bit of a “so what” aftertaste.

In the done poorly camp are stories where our heroine is engaged to or in a long-term relationship with Guy #1 who is clearly Mr. Wrong.  I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read/movies I watched where there seemed to be no reason why the heroine would be with Guy #1.  Perhaps the idea is that at the beginning of the story our heroine thinks Guy #1 is all she deserves, but by the end of the story she’s found self-worth, confidence, and knows she deserves better.  Or maybe not.  All I know is that if the heroine is with a Guy #1 who ignores her or patronizes her or takes her for granted (especially if she is in the midst of planning their wedding), and she gets a substantial way through the story before she kicks him to the curb (or god forbid, she considers giving him a second chance near the end of the story), I have real trouble empathizing with her or being particularly interested in her journey.  Besides, making Guy #1 a loser feels like lazy storytelling. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy First Friday of 2021.  I hope your year is off to a good start.  Of course, with the pandemic still raging in various parts of the world and the chaos here in the states, it has been a slightly rockier start than one might have hoped for.

Things have, at least, been fairly quiet on the day job.  Not everyone is back to work yet, and the calendars haven’t filled up with Zoom calls, so I had plenty of uninterrupted working time this week.  That won’t happen next week, so I made sure to take full advantage of it this week to get a lot of tasks taken care of.

Now, I’m looking forward to the weekend.  I have very little planned, other than packing away the remaining holiday decorations and giving the house a good sweeping/dusting, now that the repairmen are all gone for the time being.  It’s amazing how much dust is everywhere after more than a week of industrial fans blowing.  Who could have predicted that?

Whatever else I do (or don’t do), I’m going to make sure to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Action!

With little fanfare and none of the traditional New York Times Square hugging and kissing, the year 2020 finally made its last appearance a few days ago.  And not a moment too soon.  The calendar insists the year contained no more than the standard number of days, but it seemed to have lasted several lifetimes at least.  Although most of us were (safely) stuck at home–washing our hands, sanitizing surfaces, making sure we didn’t run out of the essentials, and mastering the art of Zoom–the year did have its bright spots, including a lot of writing progress and new books by several of the Eight Ladies.

Yay!

The Romance Writers of America organization crashed and burned in spectacular fashion at the beginning of last year, but like the Phoenix, it seems to have risen from the ashes, changed and is, hopefully, better than before.  It’s too soon to tell if the issues that led to the demise have been successfully addressed, but the new leadership does seem to be making an effort, which is an additional 2020 bright spot.

On a lighter side, though I spent most of the year writing-challenged and day-job busy, I did find time to master pandemic sourdough and to attend about a zillion-Zoom calls.  My son and I also added “oil painting” to our accomplishments as we, with help from a Bob Ross video, painted landscapes with happy, happy trees over the holiday.  Neither of us had painted before, but the results were recognizable, and we had a great deal of fun during the process.  It was a good reminder that the journey is as important as the destination and that perfection is not really the goal.

Now that we’re firmly in 2021, a brand-new year with no (or few) mistakes in it yet, it’s time to look ahead at what is possible in the next 360+ days.  Sure, the pandemic is still raging and looking to get worse with the post-holiday-spike before it gets better, but there are several vaccines in play now, which offers real hope leaves me feeling more optimistic about the future.

One of the things in my 2021, thanks to the motivation of Eight Lady Michille, is a focus on getting rid of “stuff.”  For several years now Michelle has been getting rid of one thing a day.  I joined her last year and was fairly successful, though my garage currently has a backlog of things just waiting for one of the local charities to be open for drop offs.  Earlier this week, while waiting for my daily parade of repairmen to finish their tasks, I gave my bookshelves a bit of a going over.  Since I have thousands of books, the results may not be visible to the naked eye, but I did manage to cull out several dozen books, which are now waiting for the library to be open for donations.  Better yet, the remaining books are organized so I can find what I have.  Here’s hoping that will help avoid the “buying something I already have” scenario from cropping up again.

Buoyed by the pleasant feelings following this successful cleanup effort, I’ve chosen Action as my focus word for this year.  I have a tendency to get stuck in the “thinking” stage of projects–writing or otherwise–and never make it to the “doing” stage.  I’m hoping the momentum that I’m starting with now, along with the positive feelings of accomplishment, will keep me moving forward.  I’m not above a little self-bribery if I start to stall.

The second component of my focus for the year is Humor.   If the past year has shown anything it is that humor can make even the bleakest times seem a little better.  So, I plan to make sure that I spend at least some of my 2021 searching out the amusing side of things.  Below is today’s bit of humor.  I don’t know why, but that “Prime” bit at the end just cracked me up.

I hope you are all staying healthy and safe and that your 2021 is off to a good start and trending upward.

Elizabeth: Friday Year-End Writing Sprint

It’s New Years Eve as I write this, so I have a few more hours to post one last writing sprint for the year.  Thanks to all who participated in our recent annual Short Story Challenge and our Friday sprints throughout the year.  I’m always amazed at how we can all take the same words / prompt and come up with such completely different results.

I’m sipping champagne as I write this post–having my own personal New Years Eve celebration.  The neighbors are apparently trying to make things feel more festive by shooting off massive fireworks from their backyard.  I’m hoping the rain kicks in before they manage to light the hillside or themselves on fire.  Mother Nature is also adding her two cents, with a 3.6 earthquake just a few miles away.   This has been the longest year ever.

I’m going to need more champagne.

And maybe some noise canceling headphones.

My house is currently sporting several massive drying-fans, thanks to a minor kitchen flood a few weeks ago.  I feel like I’m living inside of a jet engine.  Chunks of my hardwood floors–that took me forever to install–have been mercilessly cut away to get to the wet and mold beneath.  Ugh.  On the plus side, the insurance company has hired professionals to do the restoration.  Also on the plus side, there is now no more reason for me to put off the kitchen remodel that I’d been thinking about for years.  Fingers crossed on that. Continue reading

Elizabeth: (More) Unfinished Business

Last week I posted the beginning of my Short Story Week offering.  I’d like to say I planned to make it a two-part story, but honesty compels me to admit that I actually just ran out of time last week.  And then, of course, I managed to get myself stuck, unable to decide exactly how my undercover agents were going to get their happily ever after.

Fortunately, after a week’s worth of thought and a fair number of deleted words, I think I finally got it.

Without further ado, here is the complete Short Story Challenge story with, I think, all of the random words included.

Enjoy.

Unfinished Business

“Is this some kind of joke?” Amelia glared across the desk at Mr. Saunders who sat in his tufted velvet ergonomic desk chair like he was royalty, rather than the mid-level bureaucratic puppet she knew he was.

“Mr. Saunders—if that was really his name—steepled his fingers over a protruding belly that would have put Kris Kringle to shame and adopted a benevolent master-of-the-universe expression that invited Amelia to cooperate and comply.

All it did was make her wish she had a blunt instrument handy. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Happy Holidays!

We’ve reached the end of another week in a year that has lasted an infinite number of days already.  Normally we’d be engaging in a rousing round of Writing Sprints right about now, but this is the holiday season, and I’m pretty sure we all deserve some time off for good behavior.

If you have a hankering to try a writing sprint or two, there’s still time to participate in our annual Christmas Short Story Challenge. You can also check out any of our Friday posts for a writing prompt and a set of words, if the Challenge isn’t your cup of tea.

Happy Holidays to all and may 2021 find you happy, healthy, and brimming with stories to tell.