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: 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

Jeanne: Charlie’s Golden Anniversary

As I was typing out the list of words in Elizabeth’s short story prompt on Friday, the word “bucket” capitalized itself and I immediately knew what I wanted to write about. Anyone who is a fan of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or the movie starring Gene Wilder that was made from it, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, will recognize the characters below (except the new ones I created and even those apples don’t fall far from their respective trees).

Charlie Bucket opened the door of his chocolate factory and shivered. The courtyard was freezing. Overhead, a banner read, “Welcome Back Golden Ticketers!” Beneath the banner stood eight people. He rubbed his hands together. “Thank you all for coming today.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” A smooth-faced woman who looked like she’d been poured into her figure-hugging purple jumpsuit pushed forward, hauling a young girl along with her. The jumpsuit wasn’t the purple of royalty, but an obnoxious shade of puce that made Charlie want to squint, even in the thin winter sunlight.

She extended fingers encrusted with purple gemstones. “Amethyst Darlingstar.”

Charlie peered at her through his bifocals. “I’m sorry. I don’t recall inviting an Amethyst Darlingstar.”

The woman stretched her red lips into a smile, though not one other muscle in her face moved. “You knew me as Violet Beauregarde. I changed my name when I became an actress. Perhaps you’ve seen some of my films?”

Charlie shook his head. “I don’t get out much.” He smiled down at her companion. “Is this your granddaughter?”

The girl, who looked less like a child than an undersized adult, curtseyed. “Lavender Bloom, sir.”

Charlie tried to shake off the sense that he was looking at a grown woman in miniature. “Welcome.” Continue reading

Sara Sartagne: A Fairytale Ending

Sara, a regular reader of Eight Ladies Writing, submitted this story in response to Friday’s prompt

Traditionally performed at Christmas, British pantomime is a popular form of family theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, topical references, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo. It’s a popular family Christmas outing, often on Boxing Day, with storylines based on children’s classic stories and fairy tales – Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, for example. Standard jokes include villains creeping up on the hero and his sidekick who are always looking the wrong way. Audience participation is strongly encouraged – “He’s behind you!”, “Oh yes, he is!” and “Oh no, he isn’t!” are standard responses.

A Fairytale Ending

It was just as the kids in the audience screamed “He’s behind you!!” that Henry threw up.

Tom, as he struggled to mop up the vomit with a handkerchief, now knew for certain that an ice cream feast before the pantomime would indeed, all end badly. Nearby children scooted away as though burned.

As the smell started to roll through the warm, packed theatre, Tom could see the usherettes confer and then split up. One came straight towards him, looking determined and carrying a fire bucket, the other diving out of the door. Henry, like the villain, was washed luminous green. He was trying hard not to cry. Ignoring his new leather jacket, bought to cheer himself up, Tom drew the boy into a hug.

“I’m sorry, Uncle Tom,” Henry whimpered. Tom grinned.

“No sweat. Feeling better?”

Henry nodded, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. An actress glared down with a most un-fairy-like demeanour and Henry looked tearful again. Tom glared with raised eyebrows and to his surprise, the dancing bear came to the edge of the stage and shouldered her out of the way. The fairy stumbled, clutching her fake amethyst tiara and stalked into the wings. Continue reading

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: 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