Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

I can’t beleive I almost forgot it was Friday.  Pretty ironic since all day Wednesday I thought it actually was Friday.

I blame it on the pandemic.

To be fair, I’m in the midst of a few days off from work, so it’s not as surprising as one might think that I can’t keep track of the days.

As always, I’ve had big plans for taking care of ALL OF THE THINGS during my time away from the day job but, alas, that hasn’t quite happened.  Somehow, working remotely and still keeping my social distance means it is very easy for work issues to find me, even when I’m “off”.  Plus, there was that long nap I took this afternoon—I’m sure I’d have accomplished tons of things if I had only stayed awake.

I did at least organize my TBR pile and found my next new read, as well as a few books that I didn’t even remember I had, so that’s something.  Whether I accomplish anything else today is debateable, but I do at least plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character is planning a virtual vacation?

Feel free to interpret the “What” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

propeller         noise                loyal               advertisement

hunter              hideaway       application    raspberry

spirits               thunder           flutter             mission

diplomacy       adventure       frogs               challenge

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday or, according to my Calendar of Days, happy Cheeseburger Day.  Yesterday was National Monty Cristo Day–one of my favorite sandwiches.  Had I only known, I’d have rustled one up, though my BLT made with applewood smoked bacon and heirloom tomatoes was an excellent substitute.

I often wonder where all of the “National Day of . . .” ideas come from and why some days seem to be overflowing with things to celebrate while others have very little.  Friday also appears to be Hug Your Boss Day, which is hardly likely to be popular in the midst of the pandemic.  Saturday is the popular Talk Like A Pirate Day.  The local doughnut shop normally offers a free doughnut to anyone who orders in pirate-speak that day, but I’m guessing not this year when it has been such a challenge to just stay in business.

My week has been full of meetings–I’ve got to stop giving people my phone number/email address–and virtual conferences.  The most recent conference was so tedious I had to keep getting up and jogging in place to avoid dozing off.  Fortunately I did not have my camera turned on for that.  It’s amazing how many conference sessions and meetings could be much more effectively replaced with a good PowerPoint deck or a brief email.  Ah well, at least I only had to attend the conference, not organize it. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Did anyone happen to see four horsemen head past this way?  Just wondering since, as Kay mentioned yesterday, the skies here in beautiful California have taken on quite the Apocalyptic coloring.

At least it’s not blisteringly hot to boot.  A quick check of my thermometer shows that there has been a twenty degree temperature drop in the past two days.  If this was a competition though, beautiful Colorado would be the winner.  They had both record heat and then record snow, all within 48 hours.  That’s just crazy!

Nature is either going through a cranky phase or trying to get our attention.  I hope things calm down soon.  Nothing like breathing smokey air for a while to make you appreciate clear fresh skies.  Fortunately, other than air you can see and a fine dusting of ash all over the yard, everyone is fine here.  I can’t imagine how horrible it has been for those in the path of the flames.

Fortunately I was able to plant the flowering shrubs, which had been languishing in my kitchen sink, into the backyard the other day during a very brief patch of clear.  I didn’t do the best of jobs, but the plants are still alive, so I’m going to call it a win.  As long as the assorted wildlife that have been digging holes in my lawn and tunneling under my fence leave the plants alone, I’ll be able look forward to some pretty flowers in a few months.

With nothing left to plant (thank goodness) and no plans to actually leave the house for the next few days, I’ll have plenty of time to tackle some of those projects I’ve been meaning to get to for, well, quite some time.  The mending pile has been giving me the evil eye for weeks, so maybe I’ll start there.  Before wading into that delightful task, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character is planning an escape?

Feel free to interpret the “What” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

phantom           clean              annual           damage

buffer               diamond        exchange       escape

cannon             passenger       seed               harmony

trust                 grey                sweat              lottery

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Well, another week is just about in the books and we’re getting ready here for a long-weekend and Labor Day.  Technically the holiday is a time to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States, but many view it instead as a celebration marking the end of summer.

Frankly, I’m just hoping it won’t be some kind of pandemic super-spreader event.

Fingers crossed on that.

I still haven’t managed to take my planned drive to the beach, what with the unhealthy smokey air still prevailing.  Perhaps in another week or two it will be okay plan an excursion.  I’ve still been going on my nightly walks, despite the less than optimal air quality, though working in the garden has been quite curtailed.  I did manage to clear a small patch of weeds the other day and plant a small flowering plant that had been living in my kitchen sink for a week or two.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to clear another patch of weeds and plant the companion flowering plant this weekend.  It will be nice to have use of my kitchen sink again.

Hardly an exciting holiday plan, but at least it will keep me out of trouble and make the backyard a little prettier in the process.  After that, I’ve nothing else definite on the agenda other than giving today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy “last Friday in August.”  Can that really be possible?  I guess so, since during my last visit to the Big Box Store I saw that they (optimistically) had Halloween costumes out; I’m sure it will be Christmas decorations by next week.

Here the weather has been alternating between “I’m melting” and “where’s my sweater?”  Today there’s a slight chill in the air, suggesting that Fall is not that far off, but temperatures are due to spike in the next few days, suggesting that Nature is still busy playing with the thermostat.

I’m off work for a few days, so I’m hoping the weather is just right for working out in the yard.  I have several plants that need to get out of my kitchen sink and go into the ground, not to mention a few bushes and shrubs that have experienced recent growth spurts lately and need to be given a good trim.  If all that doesn’t work out, I have a giant ToBeRead pile to keep me occupied, as well as a ToDo list that it’s highly unlikely I’ll even look at.

Regardless of what I wind up doing (or not doing), I’m going to make sure I give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday or, what feels like, the end of week 3,434 of 2020.  This year seems to have been going on forever.

And if a heatwave, politics, and a pandemic aren’t enough to deal with, my state has burst into flame, thanks in part to lightning storms earlier in the week.  Surely we must be reaching the end of the biblical plagues by now, aren’t we?

The air has a distinct campfire smell (with out the associated fun of s’mores) and my backyard has a dusting of ash from the fires which are, thankfully, fairly far from me.  I do worry about all of those in the path of the flames, as well as all those doing their best to keep the fires contained.  What a mess.

As often happens during fire season, especially in recent years, this is a time for folks to look around the house and mentally figure out “what to save in a fire” as well as to pack that emergency bag for “just in case evacuations.”  Being earthquake country we should already be prepared, but it’s always a good idea to update things.

I’m currently off work for a few days, though the plans to take photographs at the beach have been abandoned, since breathing outside is not a healthy option right now.  Instead, I think I’ll just putter around the house, read a little, and update the earthquake kit.

Before I check on the status of the emergency food rations that are probably 20 years old, I’m going to give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Jilly: Bake, Write, Repeat

Which of your newly acquired corona-shelter-lockdown skills is proving most useful?

I know I’m not the only one working on my baking craft. I’ve been cheering Elizabeth’s sourdough progress and applauding Kay’s inspired ingredient substitutions.

Not sure I’ve heard anyone else say that the experience has also been good for their writing, though. Michille said she’s a procrasti-baker. Weirdly, my adventures in bread-making have provided me with both food for thought and a handy writing routine.

Creative inspiration
As you know, I write fantasy romance in a historical setting. My fictional world is similar to northern England or Scotland, broadly late Medieval or early Tudor period. Of course I knew bread was the main carbohydrate in my characters’ diet—they had no potatoes or rice to bulk out their meals. I hadn’t thought enough about how the quality of flour and the kind of bread would vary according to a person’s social standing (apparently in the real world at that time there were at least seven different kinds). Or to wonder whether a character would have their own bread oven, or would take proven dough to a communal bread oven and pay to have it baked, or would buy it ready to eat from a bakehouse. To think about where and how they would acquire flour. How they’d find the time to hand-bake on an almost continuous basis. What they might flavor their dough with. And so on.

It’s not that I expect to use all those details in my books. Maybe a snippet will come in useful, here and there. But it’s a very practical way to immerse myself in my story world and connect with the rhythm of my characters’ lives. And it gives me something to think about while I’m kneading away 🙂 .

A writing routine
Making bread by hand isn’t something you can rush. At my kitchen temperature, a simple loaf needs to sit quietly under a damp tea towel for around two hours—an hour after first kneading, and another hour after it’s been knocked back and shaped. That rhythm works wonderfully well as long-ish writing sprints. Bash the dough, leave it to rise, set a timer, write for an hour. Knock the dough back and shape the loaf, leave it to prove, set a timer, write for an hour. If things are going really well, write for another 35 minutes while the loaf bakes.

Or even better-make sourdough. Mix the ingredients with the starter, set a timer, write for an hour. Add salt, write for another half-hour to an hour. Then turn the dough every half an hour for four hours. Write for eight half-hour sprints between turns. Shape the loaf. Write for another half hour. Then put the loaf in a proving basket and leave it in the fridge overnight. I get at least six hours’ worth of writing time, complete with timed breaks to get up and walk around. And fresh baked sourdough for breakfast.

I feel absurdly pleased to think I’ve inadvertently acquired a small lasting corona-benefit to offset all those missed birthdays, canceled holidays, and absent friends.

How about you? Have you discovered any corona-compensations, large or small?

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another week.  I don’t know about where you are, but here we are in the midst of a bit of a warm-up.  It’s not burst-into-flame-Arizona-hot, but some nearby areas are expected to top 100 degrees (F) in the next day or two, which is far hotter than I’d prefer.

Fortunately, there is currently a nice off-shore breeze blowing through my backyard and the dependable Fischer-Price fan (a hold-over from the toddler years) is steadfastly circulating the air in my writing corner.

I got to leave the house for a brief grocery shopping trip this afternoon.  Everyone was wearing masks, keeping their distance, and the worker that I needed help from went above and beyond to be helpful.  All of which restored my faith in humanity, which lasted right up until I caught a glimpse of the evening news a few hours later.

Ah well.  At least I know goodness exists.  Even if it is sometimes hard to find.

Later in the afternoon Friday, as I and my coworkers wrap up our work week, we’ll be having a “virtual coffee break”.  It’s a chance for us to get together.  Separately.   Not quite the same as a team lunch or getting to chat face-to-face in the hallway on our way to and fro, but it’s what we have for now, so we’re going to make the best of it.  Some may turn the event into a “virtual happy hour” but whatever happens, I’m hoping it will be a nice way to connect and end the week.

Before that, I’m going to give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy First Friday in August, the approximate midpoint of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s also International Beer Day and National Raspberries and Cream Day.

Take your pick.

Here in the land of Covid, it’s one in a long string of “Put on Your Mask” and “Keep Your Distance” days.  Fortunately, all is well in my little stay-at-home bubble.  The weather is neither too hot nor too cold, the flowers are blooming, the wind has stopped trying to re-arrange my patio furniture, and the crickets are in the midst of their nightly musical performance.  Plus, I made it almost all day without watching the news – crucial for a sense of well-being.

My sourdough starter is ready and waiting for my latest attempt at making a loaf a bread that does not need power-tools to cut through.  While I wait for the dough to rest or rise or whatever it does while my back is turned, I plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy “last Friday in July” or, as I think of it, Day 132 of Shelter-In-Place.

It’s all how you look at it.

Today marked my first attempt to convert the sourdough starter that I have been carefully tending (Batch #2) into actual bread.

I don’t think I’ll be giving the Boudin Sourdough Bread Company a run for their money any time soon, and I may never clean up all the flour in the kitchen, but it went better than it could have.  At least there were no fire extinguishers involved.  Always a good thing when baking (don’t get me started on the sticky-bun-caramel-sauce-on-the-heating-element incident).

On the plus side, today’s end result looked roughly like a round of sourdough bread and tasted pretty good.  On the not-so-plus side, I practically needed a chainsaw to cut through the crust.  I settled for splitting the loaf in half like a wayward coconut and scooping out the softer insides.  I guess you could say my sourdough bread, like my current novel, remains a work-in-progress.

I’ll give it a few days and then try again.  By then my kitchen scale will have arrived so I’ll have a better chance of putting in the right amount of each ingredient in my batter.  I may have cleaned up all of the flour from the kitchen counters by then too.

In the meantime, I’m going to step away from the kitchen and give today’s writing prompt and random words at shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading