Elizabeth: Short Story – Finding Home

Okay, technically these cliffs are in Ireland, not Scotland. Just pretend for now.
©Eldridge Photography

I loved Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy using last week’s Writing Sprint prompt words.

Then I came across the picture to the left in an old post in my Facebook feed and I got the germ of an idea for a short story of my own.  As always, it took a slightly different turn than I had expected when I started out, but still I’m pretty happy with it.

Apologies to Jilly for summarily commandeering her characters and setting for my story – it just sort of happened.  🙂

Anyway, without further ado, here is a Jilly-inspired short story using this Friday’s prompts: a character who found something unexpected, incorporating the words basket, symbol, siren, bottle, freewill, baby, future, confusion, absurdly, little, grabbing, aroma, banana, vision, identical and robbery.

I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Jeanne: A Whole Different Kind of Writing

20817926 - vintage wooden door in the old part of jerusalemAwhile back, the preacher at my (teeny-tiny) church approached me about giving a sermon. He was interested, he said, in having different voices represented in the church, more than just white guys.

I declined, explaining that I’m not a speaker, I’m a writer. A couple of months later, though, he approached me again. We’ve been doing a series on the broken heroes depicted in the book of Judges and we were coming to Judges 11, the story of Jephthah. He knows how fascinated I am by the story of Jephthah. (In the early 2000’s, I wrote a book with this story as the underlying theme (though not the story).

The story of Jephthah and his daughter is the saddest story in the Bible. It makes Romeo and Juliet look like the pilot for a sitcom. I’ll spare you the theological analysis, but I thought I’d share my retelling of the story itself.

Jephthah was a great warrior from the land of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. His father had other sons by his legitimate wife and when he died. Jephthah’s brothers said, “You are the son of a whore. We are not sharing Dad’s estate with you.”

So Jephthah left Gilead for the land of Tob, where he gathered a band of ne’er-do-wells and malcontents and they lived off the land as bandits.

And life was good. Continue reading

Justine: Celebrate Your Accomplishments

crossing finish lineIt’s the beginning-ish of October, and the start of a new month is a great time to share accomplishments. I, for one, am celebrating a goal I have never yet achieved in the six years I’ve been writing my book:

I sent my novel to my editor.

To be honest, I don’t think my husband ever thought I’d get there (there were days I was doubtful, too). But I had a flash of inspiration in September (read: I finally figured out how to end the book), and with some determination and focus, I got there. The feeling was euphoric. My mom happened to call a few minutes after I’d hit SEND on that email to my editor, and when I told mom, I started crying. It was an incredibly satisfying moment that had been a long time coming.

What victories are you celebrating, big or small? Did you finish a chapter? Figure out a plot twist? Type “the end” on your manuscript? Publish your first book? Get a contract? Let us know in the comments!

Jilly: Short Story–The Laird’s Legacy

I loved Elizabeth’s short story Hands Off! using last week’s Writing Sprint prompt words.

That excellent tale inspired me to try a Highland-based short story offering a nod to Jeanne’s recent trip to Nova Scotia and using this Friday’s prompts: a character who found something unexpected, incorporating the words basket, symbol, siren, bottle, freewill, baby, future, confusion, absurdly, little, grabbing, aroma, banana, vision, identical and robbery.

Here goes!

The Laird’s Legacy

“As you can see, we’re jam-packed…” Moira Douglas gestured to the dining room behind her. The But & Ben was rarely full in high summer, let alone in early October, but tonight every family in the village was there, trying to look casual and hoping Moira’s home cooking and smooth talking would persuade the visiting Canadian where Charlie the Solicitor Advocate’s carefully worded suggestions had failed.

Jordy MacHugh smiled politely. He had to duck his head to get through the doorway but now he stood tall, blocking the entrance. It was an assertive sort of politeness, worthy of his long-dead ancestors, masters of cattle raiding and border robbery. “The Pointing Dog had a kitchen fire. They had to close for the evening, so they sent me over here. They promised you’d feed me.”

Of course they did. There was a lot of him to feed, and while he’d reportedly made fast work of a full Highland breakfast complete with porridge and black pudding, that was eight hours ago. Since then Charlie had walked the incomer all the way round the boundaries of the McHugh property with little more to fuel them than a packet of oatcakes and a flask of coffee.

Right on cue, Jordy’s stomach rumbled. “I’m starving hungry, and it’s a twenty-mile drive to the next village. Can you please squeeze me in somehow?”

“Well…” Moira drew out the word like a siren call. “There’s a table in the kitchen. You could sit there and chat to me while I cook. The food’s the same.”

His face lit up like the aurora borealis on a clear winter’s night. “That’d be great. Thank you.”

Moira seized the advantage. Continue reading

Michaeline: Sestina Fever!

I like short projects, but I also have a creative tendency to complicate them and turn them into puzzles that sometimes can only be tied to the original project parameters by very tenuous links.

For example, I’m the October Birthday Tixie for my reading list, and the job is relatively simple: look at a spreadsheet, then send birthday greetings to list members who have signed up for it on or near the day they’ve indicated (we’re a world-wide group, so we can have real or fictional time lag problems that graciously forgiven).

Image via Wikimedia Commons

But, it’s a creative group, and there are such fun things done with the idea! My most memorable birthday greeting involved a trek through the wild roses of Barrayar, and I believe there was Ma Kosti cake involved. (If you don’t know Ma Kosti, all you need to know is that her “little chocolate thingies” have the density of plutonium, and grown-ass warriors have been known to divert their plans in order to experience a Ma Kosti luncheon. Chef and food business entrepreneur extraordinaire.) I have the Head Birthday Tixie to thank for that!

My method is to choose a theme (cakes, or treasures, or fictional animals that need scientific names), write down on cards about 14 or 15 possible ideas (I have 13 people on my list), and then choose a card at random to spice up the greetings, and tie it into the Authorial Canon that my reading list enjoys.

This month, I decided to do different forms of poetry, and boy . . . I face each birthday with a combination of terror and thrill. Will the muse pull through? She’s done a decent job so far, although the scansion may be off and the syllable-counting not quite as precise as one would like.

So, the first trick was finding 13 different poetry forms; I got nervous as the first hits on Google were “the five different poetry forms” – but as I scrolled down the page, I saw “10 Poetry Forms You Must Know” and finally found one with 22, I think it was. Good enough! I started my cards – haiku, limericks, tanka, sonnet, etc.

Then it was time to write the first poem for October 1, and to my dismay, I got sestina. My first try, I have only an hour or so, and I’ve got to come up with a sestina!

A sestina is a complicated form – six stanzas of six lines each, in theory, and you must re-use the ending lines in a complicated rotation. I’ll send you here for the abcdef version (tl;dr: faebdc being stanza two, and cfdabe ((I think)) being stanza three – oh, and these aren’t rhyming words, but whole words that are repeated), but it’ll be easier to see how it works in a real poem. I was so lucky to find a four-stanza sestina, so I used that as my model. Elizabeth Bishop, “A Miracle for Breakfast,” October 1972. 

I can’t believe how much I like this form! I like repetition anyway, and word puzzles make me happy. There’s a circular logic in using the words over and over again, and a sort of hypnotic groove can be achieved – not totally predictable because the logic of the scheme is a bit much for the normal resting brain, but the same words come back with a reassuring frequency that makes one believe there is a Plan in the Universe.

So, indulge me. For today’s post, I’m going to take six words from Elizabeth’s writing sprint yesterday, and try to mold them into a poem. I think it’s a really good exercise for prose writers who want to write shorter, more effectively, and create an atmosphere and a state of mind in their reader. I can easily see the line breaks being taken out, and a few stanzas of a sestina (looking like paragraphs) conveying an obsessive mindset of a character in trouble. Or perhaps in love!

OK, here we go! (Oh, this turned out a bit weirder than I thought it might. Still, reminds me of current politics, so I’m going to put it out there. I don’t want to discuss current politics, but I’d be happy to talk about feelings of empowerment or feelings of helplessness in today’s atmosphere.) Four stanzas, and while I’ve largely ignored scansion because I suck at it, I’ve followed an 8-8-8-8-8-10 syllable scheme (I think). *Trigger warning for baby poop and farts.

You know, you can ask a baby
About the certainty of freewill.
On their face will spread confusion.
If they feel strongly, aroma
Emits like a musky siren
From the leakproof diapers of the future.

Their pre-verbal face says, “Future?
“What is future? I’m a baby.
“I’m in the present, a siren
“Call of now. There is no free will
“For me.” The diaper’s aroma
Brooks no protestation of confusion.

Now you are cast in confusion.
“I’ve always thought that the future
“Was like a wafting aroma.
“Even the fart of a baby
“Could send it spiraling. Free will
“Guides the future like a warning siren.”

The baby wails like a siren.
There can be no confusion.
The adults use tools like free will,
But can’t be sure that the future
Will bend to their craft. Oh, Baby.
We wander blindly in the aroma.

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

What a difference a day makes!

Actually, what a difference a few hours made.  This past week, the weather changed overnight from “turn on the fan” into “where’s my sweater?”  The ants still haven’t left the kitchen completely, but at least I don’t worry that I’m going to melt before the day is over.

After reading 8LW Jeanne’s post on Thursday about her recent autumn vacation I wound up spending far too much time this week researching the Canadian Maritimes, Quebec, and various other potential vacation locations and oohing and ahhing over the lovely hotel Le Château Frontenac.  I’m suddenly feeling a need to start a new story series set in that area so I have a pressing reason to visit.  Or perhaps I should set a series in Paris?

Must cogitate.

While my sub-conscious is working on that thorny problem I think I’ll jump-start my creativity by giving today’s story prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Get Ready to NaNo

NaNoIt’s that time of year again, folks. Time to get ready to NaNo. Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” It starts on November 1 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in that timeframe. I’ve done it several times and was actually successful last year. After November and my 50,000 word success, I kept working on the book for a month or so, then life interrupted and I haven’t gotten back to it at all.

I plan to NaNo again this year, but I’m thinking I’m going to edit instead of write. If I force myself to edit a scene a day, I should get back into my story and back into the habit of writing. If, between now and November 1, I have a brainstorm for a new story idea, maybe I’ll write instead. Continue reading