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.

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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

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

Jeanne: The Queen of Tropes

Gold crown on red pillowDove Ledbetter turned in a slow circle, blinking as she took in her surroundings. Beyond an enormous picture window, the northern lights put on a spectacular Christmas show. Next to it, a huge stone fireplace warmed the huge room despite its cathedral ceiling.

Somehow, and she wasn’t sure exactly how it had happened, she was in a fancy hunting lodge. A moment before, she’d been binge-watching Hallmark Christmas movies and drinking the eggnog laced with rum she’d received the rum from her Secret Santa at the library where she worked.

At home she could indulge in all the romance she liked. At the library, they despised romance novels—the entire collection consisted of a single shelf of tattered Harlequins.

“Can I take your coat, darling?” An extravagantly handsome man in a tuxedo gave her a seductive smile.

She dragged her winter coat, which was missing two buttons and had a sticky spot where she’d spilled eggnog on it, more tightly around her. Continue reading

Nancy: They Shoot Lounge Lizards, Don’t They? Part 1

Two years ago, I returned from a trip to LA shortly before we got our Christmas story prompt and challenge words. One of the words that year was flamingo, and somehow my trip and that word sparked a fun, steamy story I called They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? It was a blast to write that story, and I’ve always intended to revisit that world. So for this year’s challenge, I’m doing a prequel to Flamingos, flashing back to the previous Christmas when Cynthia and Derek met. In Las Vegas, because of course. Since this will be another long short story, I’m breaking it into two parts. I hope you enjoy it and come back next week for part 2!

Regarding the story prompt, our heroine receives an unexpected gift in the form of an open bar tab…you’ll see what I mean. And the challenge words I’ve used in part 1 are: blinking, warm, seed, bittersweet, bauble, invitation, coat, sticky, aversion, and challenge.

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

There had to be a better way to get a date.

I sucked down the last few bittersweet drops of my Jack Daniel’s Black Label—neat, thank you very much—and tapped my phone to consciousness to check the time. My could-be loverboy from LoveStruck was officially fifteen minutes late. That’ll teach me to swipe right on anyone willing to meet for a drink on Christmas Eve in Vegas. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Short Story–What a Dream!

After Jilly’s recent Sunday’s post, I thought that perhaps the ongoing saga of Jordy MacHugh, a Canadian music teacher who inherits a derelict Scottish estate by the sea and decides to build an opera house, had run its course.  With a Blessing Stone, a pair of abandoned twins, Jenny from Kansas, and a ghostly visitor it seemed things might just have gone as far as they were going to go.

But then I saw that Kay had posted two alternative story segments on Friday and got to thinking about a television show that was popular when I was a kid – Dallas – that had an entire season of episodes and then when the next season started basically said, “just kidding; that never happened.”

I was, for lack of a better word, inspired.  So, without further ado, here is a new story installment.  In keeping with the Friday writing sprint challenge, it includes the words flowers, fumbling, sweet, dazzling, bribery, charming, mirror, calculation, truth, forgiven, identity, growl, nightmare, freckled, alarm and preserve. Continue reading