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.

Elizabeth: Unfinished Business

One of my early attempts for our 2018 short story challenge included a pair of spies working undercover who had been trapped into getting married, so as not to blow their cover.  Unfortunately, the bride just could not seem to keep the look of loathing off of her face during the ceremony, which made me think it was going to take more than a short story for me to get them to any semblance of a happy ending.

I swapped out the troublesome spies for a more amenable couple and wrote A Change of Plans instead, but I didn’t completely forget about the spies.  When I saw this year’s words, I thought maybe it was time to give the two of them another chance, after all, they’ve had two years to get to know each other and work out their differences.

Surely they’re ready for their own happily ever afterby now, right?

Let’s see how it goes, shall we?

 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: 7th Annual Christmas Week Short Story Challenge!

© Eldridge Photography

Long-time readers of the blog may recall that around this time of year we tend to take a break from talking about writers and writing and do a little storytelling instead.  It’s like a multi-week version of our regular Friday Writing Sprints.

We’re kicking off this year’s Christmas Week Short Story Challenge today and several of the Eight Ladies will be posting their stories during the next few weeks.  All of you blog-readers are welcome to participate as well.  You can post your own story (or a link to your story) in the comments below on this post or on any of the upcoming Short Story posts.

The rules of the Challenge are simple – write a short story based on the specified theme and include at least three of the random words on the list; extra points for including more than three words and extra points with sparkles for Holiday references.

Theme:  . . . and they all lived happily ever after

As always, feel free to interpret the “Theme” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) if your story-muse takes you in a different direction.

bucket          actress                 escape            feast

blaze             determined        bubble            moan

royalty          leather                color               warning

puppet          freezing              amethyst        luminous

Whatever length story you want to write – that’s exactly the length we’re looking for.

While you wait for this year’s stories, feel free to get in the mood by checking out some of our previous entries:

Even better, try your hand at today’s words and post your results in the comments for all to enjoy.

Let the challenge begin!

Elizabeth: Other Thoughts on Gifts

Smiling Christmas snowflake ornament on the tree
© Eldridge Photography

According to the calendar, Christmas is just a little over a week away.  It seems hard to believe that could be true, on the other hand, this year seems like it has lasted just short of forever, so I’m pretty sure time is no longer running in a straight line.

Here in the Writing Castle, the lights on the tree are sparkling and I haven’t managed to kill the poinsettia plants yet, so I’m all set for whenever Christmas decides to appear, though I should probably bake some cookies, just in case.

I was listening to the car radio as I drove to the grocery store yesterday and the expert (of some sort) who was talking said this year will be especially hard for those who have been struggling to make ends meet all year and said that it would not be uncommon for those who are struggling to overspend for the holidays thinking, “I’m already in such a hole, what’s a little more debt?”  It reminded me of my first job, working at a department store.  I loved working there, except for during the holidays–when overspending was definitely on display.

The second expert on the radio yesterday–I think she was a psychologist–was from the “experiences not things” camp, which is the one I’ve been in for the past few years.  I remember when I was a kid, my grandparent’s idea of Christmas was a potted plant and a box of Sees Candy.  At the time I thought “how can they not have a tree and decorations and presents?” and was sure that I would never be like that.  I haven’t given up on the tree and decorations, but I’m starting to understand their holiday streamlining a little better, especially as I look around at a houseful of stuff. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to one of the few remaining Fridays of this year.  I don’t know about you, but I am surely ready to call it a wrap for 2020.

I was happy to see the UK and Canada both approve one of the new Covid vaccines this week and to see the news clips of Margaret Keenan of Coventry getting her jab (and following it up with a nice cup of tea).  We seem to be close to getting on the vaccine train here as well, but that will do little to slow the people who are already infected and it is expected that it will be at least next fall before we are close to fully vaccinated.  Death tolls here in the US have been between 2,000 to 3,000 per day for the past few weeks and that is projected to continue for quite a while.  I shudder to think what January is going to be like.

In a more positive vein, the end of the year means it’s time for holiday celebrations.  Sort of.  For our virtual celebration at the Day Job, my team voted on whether we all wanted to order food delivered (individually) and have a virtual holiday lunch or receive a gift (of our choosing).  I thought a virtual lunch could be fun, but the gift idea won out.  For my gift, I chose a $50 donation to Heifer International toward the purchase of a goat.  Seemed like a good idea.  I’m sure the recipient is more likely to need the goat than I am to need some random gift.  Plus, there is nothing to wrap, although I did see an amusing video just the other day on “how to wrap a goat.”

Now that that is all settled, I think I’ll pour a delightful warm beverage, cuddle up here on the couch in my fuzzy robe, and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday and congratulations for making it through another week.  Mine has been a very short work week, since Monday and Friday were both days off.  I’d like to say I took that free time to knock a bunch of unfinished tasks off the ToDo list, but that would definitely be a work of fiction.

I did do a little bit of clearing out in the garage, but my efforts were stymied a bit when I got to the local charity drop off with my bags full of items to donate and found that they had instituted a 2-bag limit.  Ah well, at least I got rid of few things, so that’s progress.

With my clearing-out efforts stalled, I moved on to the holiday decorating portion of my time-off program.  This whole year has been crazy and challenging and not a little scary, but having a big tree next to the fireplace, covered in colorful lights and shiny garland provides the promise of just a bit or normalcy.  The pillows and afghans on the couch have made their annual transition from blue/white to red/green, the holiday flannel bedding is in place, and there is a Merry & Bright welcome mat outside the door (not that anyone will be actually using it).  Sometimes it’s the little things that brighten up the day.

The tree might have an angel perched on the top, but there are no ornaments yet.  The Hanging of the Ornaments is something my son and I have traditionally done together since he was a toddler.  This year it may be an odd socially-distant-ornament-hanging-dance, but we’ll do our best. Right now I’ll just enjoy the sparkly lights and pretend those dummy boxes under the tree are filled with wonderful, magical gifts.

In between my gift fantasies and possibly an afternoon nap, I plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Letting Go

It’s December here in the socially-distant writing castle, time both for boxes of Christmas decorations to go up and boxes of other stuff to go out.  That last part of the tradition started years ago when my son was little, when cleaning out the closet and toy box was a necessity if “Santa” was going to bring any new toys. Though the days of a big influx of toys at Christmastime have passed, my holiday traditions still include doing a bit of a clear-out as I do my holiday decorating.

Since my cupboards had already experienced covid-cleaning earlier this year, my holiday clear-out happened in the library–definitely not a normal action for me.  I still have books on my shelves that I read in high-school, and even some that I collected back in grade-school.  And I’m still annoyed about those boxes of books my dad “accidentally” took to the charity shop while I was off in college.  However, for whatever reason, I looked at my shelves full of books the other day (and the surrounding floor area too, for that matter) and thought, it’s time for some of you to go.

I’m pretty sure that’s one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

First into the charity box was a big stack of Phyllis Whitney books, some of the first books I acquired back when I joined the monthly Doubleday Book Club with some of my earliest earnings.  I remembered loving the stories back when I initially read them but that was . . . . many years ago.  I haven’t opened them since and, when I read the cover blurbs and plot synopses, I neither remembered the stories nor had any interest in reading them again.  Perfect candidates to be rehomed to someone else.  M. M. Kaye, on the other hand, retained her position on the shelves, even Death in Berlin (which still freaks me out a bit), because the stories have remained fresh in my mind.  Elizabeth Cadell retained her spot for the same reason. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday and, for those who celebrated it, Happy Thanksgiving.  As I’m writing this, the cooking is finished, dinner has been eaten, and the dishwasher is running.

It was not quite a typical Thanksgiving day but there were dog walks in the park and socially distant family cooking in the kitchen, all wrapped up with a delicious apple-pecan-streusel pie. As a bonus, there are plenty of left overs, so I won’t need to cook for days. 

Though we were unable to be together in person, my siblings and I holiday Zoom call.  I’m guessing many other families did too.  Not quite the same as sitting around the same table for a meal, but a nice alternative.

Now, rather than sneak into the kitchen for “just one more” bite of apple pie, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth:  Something to Laugh About

Elizabeth: Something to Laugh About

I’m convinced that the speed at which each year passes by increases the older I get.  It seems like I’ve barely finished taking a chainsaw to the Christmas tree and vacuuming up all of the scattered pine needles when it’s time to pull out the sandals and sunscreen.  Then, just when I think I’ve finally found shorts that fit, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back on the menu and it’s time to pull out the fuzzy sweaters and make a big pot of stew.

This year has been the exception to the rule.

By my estimation it has lasted just a few days short of forever.  The conference I attended in Phoenix in February–where the weather was unseasonably cold and we all shivered our way through the outdoor meals–seems like it happened years ago.  Had I known what was looming on the horizon just a few short weeks later, I’d have added a few extra days to the trip and enjoyed the amenities of the resort hotel just a little more thoroughly.

Like many other folks, I’ve spent these last 8+ months mainly within the confines of my own four walls, sheltering in place and trying not to turn into some kind of personal super-spreader.  Replacing my previous hour-long commute with a twenty step walk from the bedroom to the computer has been a joy (and a money saver).  Attending meetings (audio only) in pajamas has been a delight.  And, if I’m honest, not having to listen to my co-worker who has a tendency to talk to herself while she works has been a bit of a relief.

It has been a bit lonely though.

I may be an introvert, but it turns out even introverts need actual human contact on occasion, and I’m not sure trips to the grocery store actually count for that.  Fortunately, Zoom and FaceTime have stepped up to be major pandemic players here in the shelter-zone.  I have been able to attend virtual conferences, seminars, webinars, and even a virtual wine-tasting event (they sent actual wine and snacks for that).  During those hours when I previously would have been commuting, I’ve learned all kinds of new things relevant to my day job and explored outside interests that I never seem to have had time for before.  I’ve seen the flowers bloom in the back yard and have been fascinated by the hummingbird who seems to have a real fondness for the potted plants outside my window.  On the family front, there are weekly FaceTime calls so we can pretend we’re talking together in the same room, and rare socially-distant visits with takeout meals.  It’s not ideal, but I’m lucky and I know it.

One thing that has really made these past months just a little less challenging has been humor.  Author Julia London posts #BadJokeTuesdays on her Facebook page.  Things like:

I always wanted to be a Gregorian Monk, but I never had the chants.

or

I hired a handyman and gave him a list. When I got home, only #1, 3, & 5 were done. Turns out, he only does odd jobs!

Groan worthy, perhaps.  But they to make me smile and gives me a reason to look forward to Tuesdays.

I have occasionally found humor unusual places, like yesterday’s National Park Service Facebook page, which had these two images:

Gladys warned Beatrice to be careful near the edge, but she also had been eyeing Beatrice’s new shawl ever since they arrived at the park.

Shouldn’t have been waving

I’m not sure why, but that “Gladys” image cracks me up still.  Obviously whoever is doing the posting on that page these days has a good sense of humor.  And after months of pandemic and politics and turmoil, I think humor may be just the medicine I need.

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy 20th day of NaNoWriMo or, as others call it, Friday!

I hope your week has been a good one or, failing that, at least not a bad one.  Mine was a 4-day work week, to be followed with a 3-day weekend, so that’s good.  However, the refrigerator sprang a leak the other day, and I didn’t discover the fact for a few days, so that’s not so good.  

Who would have guessed something as simple as water could cause so much trouble.  Looks like that kitchen remodel of mine that I’ve been thinking about and putting off for years is about to become a reality.  If nothing else there is a new floor in the works since water+wood is not a good combination, especially when the wood is particle board, which soaks up water like a sponge.

I love the freedom of having my own house but . . . sometimes . . . it’s not as delightful as one would like.  Ah well, now I have an excuse to browse through all of those kitchen remodeling magazines I’ve accumulated over the years and a reason to drop by the local home improvement center to look at options–in a socially distant way, of course.  

Between browsing magazines for ideas and waiting for the insurance agent to call back about my claim, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading