Michaeline: Obon and Japanese Ghosts

balloon flower, phlox, China asters, yellow lilies in two celadon vases

Here are the offerings for our home altar, all from our family’s gardens. (E.M. Duskova)

I’m writing a ghost story today in honor of Obon. Obon holidays usually take place in our area in the middle of August during the hottest part of the year. It’s believed that ancestors come home for a visit on Day 1, stay on Day 2, and return to the other realms on Day 3. People clean the graves in preparation, and get offerings of flowers, snacks and drinks ready for the home altars.

Usually, it’s a great time to catch up with families. Even though people are supposed to stay home during this time of Corona, we’ve had family over – opened the windows, disinfected the table and hoped for the best.

A small family altar with offerings of fruit jelly, Bireley's soda, water, and snacks. Candles, singing bowl.

This is the small altar for our family at the local temple. We brought offerings of flowers, fruit jelly, water, Bireley’s Orange Soda, and some cookies. The temple provides the candles and the incense. (E.M. Duskova)

Traditionally, ghost stories have been a popular part of the Obon season – it seems natural with the ghosts of the relatives coming home, but also the delicious chill you get down your back when someone tells a really spooky story is said to be a good way to beat the heat.

My husband has absolutely no use for ghost stories, and even dislikes dolls that look like they could rise up in the middle of the night and strangle an unwitting homeowner. So, we don’t tell ghost stories to each other. But still, ghost stories abound.

Here are some thrilling Japanese ghost stories as told by foreigners on the Gaijin Pot blog. https://blog.gaijinpot.com/true-japan-ghost-stories-from-gaijinpot-readers/ The story of the baseball boys (almost all boys in baseball club in Japan get a buzz cut) was very touching, but the last story from Nana about her hotel in Minami Senju was perfect – a fun ghost story that sent those refreshing chills down my spine, but didn’t creep me out. Which story was your favorite?

And for more about Obon, Continue reading

Elizabeth: Story Nugget – “A Recipe for Disaster”

A couple of weeks ago I posted the beginnings of a short story about Daffodil and her brother Mortimer, who were in the midst of week two of quarantine.  Kay added a bit more to the story in the comments and then I added a bit more last week.

I’ve grown rather fond of Daffodil and Mortimer, so when I took a look at Friday’s story prompt and random words, I thought I’d continue their story a little more.  You can read (or re-read) the beginning of the story, What Could Possibly Go Wrongin this post and part two, A Stranger Comes to Town in this post.

Anyway, without further ado, here is another bit of story featuring bread making and including (most of) the words pretend, monochrome, glow, copper, uprising, chemical, blood, victory, scheme, headstrong, fatality, hollow, debris, vision, burning, and pragmatic

# # #

A Recipe for a Disaster

Daffodil Masters McWhorter blew an errant curl of auburn hair out of her eyes for the millionth time and eyed the charred lump on the countertop that was supposed to be olive walnut bread.

Frankly, it looked more like an over-sized hockey puck, and the debris-filled kitchen looked more like the scene of a recent disaster.

Which, of course, it was. Continue reading

Jeanne: Another Cover Story

originalsin-estridge-ebooksmallOn Sunday, Jilly shared the cover of her new novella, The Seeds of Exile. It’s spectacularly alluring and I think it will perform well for her. (Hope so!)

I, also have a new cover to share, along with a snippet from the short story it fronts.

If you’ve read any of my Touched by a Demon books, you’re familiar with Lilith, the she-demon who serves as one of Satan’s primary agents on Earth. Although Lilith excels at fieldwork, she ends each story headed for the maggot pit because she’s also Satan’s primary whipping girl when things don’t go as planned.

“Original Sin” is Lilith’s origin story and I’ll be giving it away as a freebie to anyone who signs up for my newsletter. It won’t be on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or any other vendor site–only as a reward for joining my subscriber list. (And to everyone who’s already a subscriber, of course.)

The cover was created by Paper and Sage, who also did my other covers. I love that this one echoes those, but it’s enough different to signal that this is something…different. A short story, rather than a full-length novel.

Here’s the tagline and blurb for the story:

In the beginning, God created Adam and…Lilith?

Meet the founding member of the First Wives Club. Before Adam met Eve, he was married to Lilith. Created at the same time and from the same dust as her husband,  Lilith views herself as Adam’s equal.

What if the original sin wasn’t curiosity?

Here’s the first scene (lightly edited in keeping with Eight Ladies’ PG rating): Continue reading

Elizabeth: Story Nugget – “The Pampered Playboy”

Although Friday was several days ago, our recent random words and story prompt were still on my mind today, so I decided to give them another try.  Kay turned them into a story featuring two great PR ladies on Friday and Jeanne followed up with a happy-ending story featuring Hermione the bulldog yesterday, so the bar was set quite high.  

Hopefully I’ve been able to do the prompt and words justice today.

So, without further ado, here is my short story based on the prompts from Friday writing sprints, in which the main character has to deal with a difficult client, including the words: moonbeam, undersea, bulldog, entertain , lonesome, miserable, facade, ambush, bluntness, cynical, wealthy, detox, grill , chain, audience, injury

# # #

The Pampered Playboy

A lone moonbeam traced a path across the surface of the infinity pool while the glowing undersea grotto in the corner added eerie splashes of color.

Melodie “Bulldog” Henderson surveyed the area with an eagle eye as if she was searching for enemy combatants, then made a few notes on the clipboard she held in one hand before issuing a series of low-voiced orders into the cell phone in her other.

Despite her playboy client’s conflicting orders and continually changing plans, security for tonight’s entertainment would go off without a hitch under Melodie’s management.  

Or else. Continue reading

Jeanne: Truffles Don’t Feed the Bulldog

Cute white English Bulldog puppy in a classic red velvet and gold crownOn Friday, Elizabeth posted a short story prompt where the main character had to deal with a difficult client, using the following words:

bulldog           undersea       grill                moonbeam

lonesome      chain               ambush           detox

facade            bluntness      miserable       injury

wealthy          audience       entertain        cynical

Everyone is welcome to join in. If you want to participate, you can leave your story in the comments, as Kay did. Here is my attempt:

The maitre d’ at the Undersea Moonbeam Grill looked down at Lady Perpetua Fortheringham-Wythe’s bulldog.

“You can’t bring that animal into the restaurant with you.”

“Of course Hermione will dine with me,” said Lady Perpetua. “She adores your truffles foie gras.” Continue reading

Elizabeth: Story Nugget – “Wasn’t Expecting That”

As I mentioned in last week’s post, follow-through is my touch phrase for the year.  Thus far it hasn’t resulted in anything earth shattering (probably a good thing), but there have been a consistent string of small victories.

For today, follow-through means (a few days late) actually giving this past Friday’s random words and story prompt a try.  On Friday, Kay left me wondering just what the job requirements might be for a “International Cupcake Assassin” in her fun entry The Apprenticeship Program and on Sunday Jilly put her spin own on things with Claws and Effect – both tough acts to follow.

Although my goal was only to successfully complete the writing sprint, I hope I’ve managed to provide a bit of entertainment too.

So, without further ado, here is my short story based on the prompts from 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.

# # #

Wasn’t Expecting That

Evelyn “Eeyore” Edwards climbed narrow wooden staircase, turned the ornate metal key in the equally ornate old metal lock of the attic door, and felt her confidence falter as she caught her first glimpse of just what awaited her ahead. Continue reading

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

Jilly: Sunday Short Story–Early Resolution

It’s been an…interesting…start to 2020. I spent most of my time this week on a couple of real life challenges, with periodic breaks to catch up with RWA’s implosion. All of which left me feeling grumpy and sad, with zero new words on the page.

So in an attempt to cheer up my Girls and gain a bit of creative momentum, here’s a 500-word story inspired by Elizabeth’s Friday Writing Sprints, in which a character makes an unusual resolution, and featuring the prompt words courage, anchovies, beard, canvas, heaven, honest, hideaway, diva, guru, harlot, fool, garden, pearl, crimson, blossom and smile.

Here goes!

Early Resolution

It must have been the anchovies.

The last Katie could remember, she’d been in a blossom-festooned canvas marquee in a walled garden in a smart part of London. Crimson-robed staff had served exquisite bite-sized nibbles as the Guru spoke passionately of courage, and love, and the path to heaven.

She’d felt a little light-headed. One of the assistants had helped her outside into the fresh air. And now here she was in some mystery hideaway, sprawled on a gold upholstered sofa wearing nothing but a crimson thong and her faux pearl earrings.

At least now she knew what had happened to her sister. Lucy was a gullible idealist, but she was an honest fool, unlike these charlatans.

Were there hidden cameras in this place? Scanners? It seemed all too likely. Katie raked her hands through her hair and dragged them over her face, running her fingers carefully over her earrings. So far, so good.

Voices outside, low but getting louder. Male. At least two.

Decision time.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Gift of Joy

We’re coming to the end of our annual Christmas Week Short Story Challenge here on the blog.  As always, the wide range of stories that resulted from a single writing prompt and set of words has amazed me.  My own story went in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting when my son and I were watching Hallmark holiday movies and brainstorming ideas (possibly while drinking mimosas), but sometimes you just have to follow where the story leads.

I hope you enjoy it.

# # #

The Gift of Joy

Maggie stood in the doorway to what her husband Peter laughingly called his study and felt the bittersweet memories wash over her.   It had been two years since she’d gotten the call that had changed everything but sometimes, in moments like these, the pain felt as fresh and sharp as if it had just happened.

Deep breath in.  Deep breath out.

In hindsight, accepting one of the New Year’s Eve house-party invitations she’d received from her well-meaning friends might have been smarter than spending the day clearing out what she’d privately always thought of as the apartment’s junk drawer, but she’d put off the task far too long already. Continue reading

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