Kay: Twas Daybreak (with apologies)

After I learned that Elizabeth had rejected the word “dismemberment” from this year’s randomly generated word list for the holiday story, I was unable to get it out of my mind. Twice I started a new story. One I came close to finishing. And both were about a wife who dismembered her husband and tossed his limbs down the well.

Not exactly the happy holiday ending we were going for.

In despair, I rooted through my past and discovered this holiday poem cribbage from 2014. I hope you’ve forgotten it! It’s an homage, if you can call it that, to Pride and Prejudice and the Bennett family. Dismembering, you’ll be happy to know, plays no part in this story.

Twas daybreak on Christmas, and all through the hall
All the servants were stirring, for tonight was the ball.
The Yule log was laid and the mistletoe hung,
In hopes that Sir Darcy’s fling would be flung.

Miss Lizzie still nestled all snug in her bed,
While nightmares of family danced in her head.
But Mary and Kitty, and Lydia, too,
Argued at breakfast about whom Darcy would woo.

Then out in the parlor there rose such a clatter
Jane sprang from the table to see to the matter.
Maids had dropped glasses, which smashed on the floor
The butler was livid and gave them what-for.

The cook was still worried her sauce wasn’t right
While Pa hit his sauce and got pretty tight.
The daughters decided to primp the whole day
When Mama’s hysterics just drove them away.

Finally—at long last!—the party time neared,
And moonbeams glowed down as the bad weather cleared.
Arriving by carriage the revelers came,
And the butler emerged to call them by name.

Here’s Darcy and Collins,
And Bingley among us!
And Wickham’s dismounting
To give us comeuppance!
To Lucas goes Collins
And Jane’s Bingley’s bride!
But Lizzie dumped Darcy
Because of his pride.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a pain in the heinie
Her ego is huge and her modesty, tiny
Here’s Caroline Bingley, the Gardiners, too
Georgiana is present to beef up the stew.

Mr. Bennet, the host, a right cheerful old squire,
Greeted each guest as he stood by the fire.
“I’m happy to see you, please drink and be jolly!”
So guests then embarked on all kinds of folly.

And then, in a twinkling, the music commenced
And Lizzie sat down, leaving Darcy incensed.
Kitty and Lydia flirted like mad
And Wickham decided to act like a cad.

His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses from way too much sherry.
He spoke of his love, he said, “Come and be mine.”
And Lydia believed him, that smooth-talking swine.

They flew off to Derbyshire, where they could be wed
But Darcy pursued them, his heart full of dread.
He promised his Lizzie he’d bring back the villain
But said not a word about blood he’d be spillin’.

Lizzie stayed up like a ghost the whole night
Till Darcy returned at dawn’s early light.
“They’re married,” he told her, “and all will be well.”
“My hero,” she said. He said, “My precious belle.”

He then took her hand and got down on his knee,
“I was stupid and wrong,” he said. “Please marry me.
I thought I was wise, but it’s you I admire.
So if you can love me, let’s tell your good sire.”

Lizzie said yes with a fervor so fine.
“I love you, I do, please say you’ll be mine.
I’ll marry you now and love you forever
And stand by your side through every endeavor.”

And so our tale ends with a happy e’er after
And hearts full of love and plenty of laughter.
For you, my dear readers, I wish much the same,
But for poor stabs at poetry, I take all the blame.

Happy holidays, everyone! And best wishes from all of us to all of you for a wonderful new year.

Jilly: George and the Dragon

Here’s my contribution to the 2020 8 Ladies Christmas Short Story Challenge. I think I got all the prompt words!

George and the Dragon

The winter sun was low in the sky as Georgina Albion moored her sailboat at Stack Aerie’s small dock and picked her way along the slippery wooden boards, ignoring the freshly painted PRIVATE PROPERTY sign and the new ones that said NO TRESPASSING and VISITORS BY INVITATION ONLY.

She raised her eyes to the scudding clouds, but her thoughts were directed at the reclusive new owner. How can I be be invited, if you never answer your post or open your email?

There was a painted steel circle beside the first step of the narrow stone stair that clung to the vertiginous cliff face, and another at the top. Stylized dragons with razor claws and fiery breath, contained within a red perimeter and crossed by a red diagonal bar. In case that wasn’t clear enough, the message was spelled out below: NO DRAGONS HERE.

George stopped for a moment to trace the image with a fingertip. “If that’s true, your Uncle Basil made a big mistake.”

From the cliff top it was a short walk to the futuristic glass-and-steel dome that perched atop the towering granite sea-stack. She knew from past visits that the bubble’s airy interior was comfortable but sparsely furnished. The temperature was always pleasant, the filtered light clear and bright, and the views out over the stormy ocean and back toward the mainland were breathtaking. The traditional rooms—a kitchen, dining room, office, bedrooms—were below, set within the rock. And far, far, far deeper, under the ocean bed, Bas’s treasure cave lay hidden.

The reinforced glass door was flung open before she could ring the bell. “What now?”

The man who blocked the entrance was tall—six and a half feet of long legs encased in dark jeans, broad shoulders snugly wrapped in black cashmere, chiseled features, and short, dark, spiky hair. The luminous eyes that glowered down at her were a distracting golden green color, with an unmistakable amethyst rim.

George blew out a breath. There was no mistake. Bas had chosen his successor. The rest was up to her.

Continue reading

Michaeline: A New York Happily Every After

Snow queen in a swan sled. An awed little boy in a sleigh behind her is entranced with her beauty and her shimmering crown and fur-trimmed gown that seems to turn into snow. They are going downhill fast through the snow at night.
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Princess McBride was a fairy. Well, actually, she was an actress in a car commercial (“The XVCalibre – it’ll whisk you away like magic!”). A starving actress, practically, who had just had a horrible day on the set. The sleazy director, Jason, was a yeller, the wardrobe mistress and her staff all quit at lunch, and then finally, after they finished, she found that someone had stolen her clothes. Jason sympathized, backed her into a corner and made her promise to have dinner with him, and then kissed her without a mask. He gave her ten bucks for cab fare. It cost fifty to get home, but she was so determined to escape him, she left the set, wearing the costume and the glittering amethyst jewelry of the XVCalibre Car Fairy.

So that’s how, two days before Christmas, she wound up taking the subway home. At least everyone on the train averted their eyes. She was trudging that final block home when she tripped over a man wearing a leather jacket and jeans, sprawled across the sidewalk under the broken streetlight.

“Gosh, are you OK, mister? Sorry!”

Mister was not OK.

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!

Jilly: Christmas in Caterwaul Creek

The holidays are almost upon us. Fancy a quick, cozy, upbeat but gloriously non-saccharine Christmas read?

And this year, when travel and convivial family gatherings are not an option for most people, fancy a story about a multi-day road trip shared by complete strangers, ending in a large, happy, informal celebration?

Why not try Eight Lady Kay’s novella Christmas in Caterwaul Creek?

In general I’m a grinch about the holidays. You couldn’t pay me to watch the Hallmark Channel, but I love Kay’s funny, clever, snowy road trip adventure. I bought it in 2017, but I re-read it this week and spent a happy couple of hours on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate, chuckling to myself.

A mere five days before Christmas, Our Girl Sarah is dumped by her lying asshat of a fiancé, who also happens to be her boss. The man is a slippery slimeball and she’s clearly better off without him, but she’s devastated. So she quits her job and decides to spend Christmas with her sister. Taking an unscheduled trip from San Francisco to upstate New York on the cusp of Christmas is, of course, a logistical nightmare. For Sarah the challenge rapidly escalates from difficult to near-insurmountable courtesy of airline schedules, winter storms, and opportunistic thieves.

Sarah is having none of it. I’ll get there if I have to fly in a damn sleigh to do it. She’s my kind of can-do heroine.

The sleigh isn’t available, but she persuades a friendly Indian cabbie to drive her the three thousand miles across country. Then a grouchy pawnshop owner hitches a ride with them, and their journey becomes a wild adventure as they battle Mother Nature, try to evade gun-toting pursuers, and discover some of the more esoteric delights of the Midwest. Along the way strangers become friends, misunderstandings are aired and resolved, and by the time the taxi reaches snow-bound Caterwaul Creek the unlikely trio has snowballed into a rowdy gaggle.

The Caterwaul Creek Christmas celebrations are a delightfully mixed bag, much like the participants, but all’s well that ends well for everyone involved, and (it being Christmas and all), there’s even a new-born baby. I don’t do plot moppets, but even I have to admit you can’t have a Christmas story without a baby.

If you like the sound of Christmas in Caterwaul Creek, you can read a sample and maybe splurge a dollar and change here.

And if you like it, tell your friends. IMO this lovely little story deserves a wider audience 🙂 .

Nancy: They Shoot Lounge Lizards, Don’t They? A Christmas(ish) Tale Part 2

Happy holidays once again! Last week, I presented part 1 of Cynthia and Derek’s prequel story. If you missed it, you can read it right here. And after today’s entry, you might want to read the story that started it all, They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Christmas(ish) Tale

As a reminder, to meet this year’s story challenge, my heroine received the unexpected Christmas Eve gift of an open bar tab in Vegas. Of the six random words I did not use last week, I used four this week: northern, knuckle, dove, and pure. Happy reading!

They Shoot Lounge Lizards, Don’t They? A Christmas(ish) Tale, Part 1

Shortly before 10 PM, after an excellent dinner and just a couple more shots of very fine whiskey, I walked two blocks to the fake volcano. It seemed absurdly early for the last show in Vegas, but it meant seeing tall, dark, and delectable that much sooner, so I hung on the edges of the crowd and waited for him. The volcano rumbled to life, spewing smoke and fake magma to the delighted oohs, aahs, and flash photography of the crowd. After a few unimpressive minutes—at least, if you’ve seen the real thing—the show was over.

And so was any hope I’d had of catching up with Mr. Right Now. Derek had stood me up. Second guy in one night. A girl could get a complex from less. Continue reading

Jilly: Christmas Story–A Gift Fit for a Queen

Here’s my contribution to our 2019 short story challenge. I think I got all the prompts 🙂

Happy Holidays, all!

A Gift Fit for a Queen

“Careful with those crocks, lad.” Ben Wildridge watched hawk-eyed as his apprentice unpacked straw-filled crates containing the finest bee nectar in the northern borderlands. Maybe in the entire kingdom.

“Yes, master.” Fifteen-year-old Toby rolled his eyes, but he lifted out the earthenware jars with care, cradling each one like a priceless bauble.

Which it was. Ben sold his regular honey in the weekly market, but he saved his mountain nectar for Wintersnight. The fragrant, sticky syrup was like the essence of summer, and the high prices of the midwinter holiday made it worth his while to wait.

When the crates were empty he left Toby to set out their stall and drove the cart into the inn yard. In an hour or two the place would be nose to tail, but it was still early and the bored ostlers were more than happy to spoil Silver.

Ben knew all too well that by noon the press of bodies, the gabble of voices, the smell of woodsmoke and fried food, warm wool and unwashed skin would make him puking sick. For now he could take an hour to show the townspeople he was alive and well, and that he knew how to exchange social niceties like a civilized person, no matter what the gossips said about his aversion to crowds. Then he’d sell his nectar as fast as he could and retreat to his mountain lair.

He strolled round the half empty market, exchanging Wintersnight greetings with families he’d known all his life. He’d almost finished his rounds, a warm venison pasty for Toby in one pocket and a flagon of cordial for himself in the other, when he saw an unfamiliar stall, displaying small rock crystal jars filled with something that caught the light and glowed like amber.

It couldn’t be honey. First, he was the only honey seller in Borderbridge. Second, who ever would put honey in rock crystal? Crystal was expensive, hard to find and even harder to work. And third, surely no honey could be that bright, that clear?

He stood rooted to the cobblestones, slack-jawed and blinking, until a small woman uncapped one of the jars and used a crystal dipper to drizzle the contents over squares of fresh bread on a wooden board. His nostrils flared. His mouth watered. It was an invitation, and a challenge. Continue reading

Michaeline: Christmastide

Three angels, one playing flute, another a lyre and a third a triangle

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first thing you should know about Grandma Hildy is that she loved a bargain. Since she retired, her summer hobby has been thrifting and garage-saling, and her winter hobby has been be-dazzling and a-jazzling up her treasures with rhinestones, feathers, yarn and anything else that suits her fancy. So, I guess in all, that’s about five things you should know about Grandma Hildy.

The first thing you should know about my cousin Skylar is that he can play anything with strings. And that he’s got weird ideas about the “soul” of an instrument. He’s got a collection of seven guitars, five ukuleles, three mandolins and one cello that he plucks rather than use the bow, and they’ve all got names, and he plays them every day without fail. Needless to say, he’s not the person to ask to come catsit for you – way too busy to come to your place, and if one of the cats peed on an instrument, well, you’d never hear the end of it (that is, after he started speaking to you again). (It was two years before he spoke directly to me again.)

Anyway, last Christmas Grandma Hildy outdid herself for Skylar. She picked up a really nice ukulele at an auction, and then proceeded to gild it. She’d also found an outlet that was getting rid of its “fill-the-bag” polished rock cart, so she had about 25 pounds of rose quartz, amethyst, turquoise and tiger’s eye – and more. So, when she felt that gilding the ukulele wasn’t enough, she hot-glued a bunch of her polished rocks to it. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday.  Whether you’re in the midst of holiday celebrations or enjoying the remaining days of 2019, I hope you’ve had a wonderful week.  Mine has been filled with family, good food, and maybe a jigsaw puzzle or two.

Here on the blog, we’re in the midst of our annual Christmas Week Short Story Challenge.  Several of the Eight Ladies have already posted their stories and there are a few more yet to come.  All of you blog-readers are welcome to participate as well (the story prompt and words are included below).  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 prompt 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.

What if:   Your character received an anonymous/mysterious/unexpected gift? Continue reading

Kay: A Christmas Story—The Gift of the Wise Man

A man walks in Minsk, Belarus, November 22, 2008. (Xinhua/AFP Photo published on sina.com)

I hope everyone out there is having a good Boxing Day and happy holiday season. I’m continuing the Ladies’ traditional Christmas story week, using Elizabeth’s random words. It’s a little longer than I usually do, so I hope you bear with me. Here we go:

The Gift of the Wise Man

The pale winter light was fading rapidly from the northern sky as Birdy Dove entered the warm kitchen. She hung her coat on the peg by the door and accepted the unspoken invitation of her brother to join him at the hearth. She sat down with a sigh and stretched out her cold hands to the flame. Continue reading