Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another week.  Mine didn’t get off to the best of starts, but it is ending on a much better note, and not just because my internet is up and running again.

The weather has taken a turn for the fall-ish today–cool enough for me to pull out my favorite light-weight flannel shirt.  True, I’m still barefoot, but I’m cozy and not in danger of melting into a puddle of sweat, so that is a good thing. 

The leaves are preparing for their final descent and during my evening walk, the lawn of my nearby park was sporting drifts of crimson and gold even though the landscaping crew had been by earlier in the day to rake and mow.  My flowers, however, are convinced we’re still in the midst of summer and are busily blooming away.  As I work, I can see a pot of colorful flowers that are very popular with bees and hummingbirds alike.

The only thing on my agenda today–other than work and some quality “staring off into space” time–is to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Me and Nora

Nora Roberts

I’ve been having a tough time with the WIP. I’m doing revisions after an edit letter, and friends, it’s not going well. The book sucks. Why didn’t the editor just say so? I hate it when they’re so polite, like they think you can make it better. No, I cannot make it better, because maybe you didn’t hear me: The whole thing sucks. If I could have made it better, I would have done so long ago.

I should probably just delete the whole thing now and save everyone a ton of misery.

So I went looking for something to cheer me up, and what I found was 10 well-known quotes from Nora Roberts. She’s so bracing. I swear to you, that woman has never thrown herself a pity party in her life. Hearing her speak or reading her advice is like dashing ice water on your face. It makes you blink, but it brings you to your senses. And more good news: her birthday is Saturday, so you have time to get her a card. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Wednesday Motivation

Thanks to an internet outage (6 days!!!) my planned post for this week will have to wait.  There is always time for a little motivation though.  I found this image on my computer and thought it was a good reminder. No matter what project you’re working on, if you’ve done anything then you’re moving closer.

Have a great day!

Jeanne: Outputs, Inputs, Process

The method that is used to design computer systems is described as “outputs, inputs, process.” That is, you first define what you want the computer system to do (outputs). Next you identify the data you have to feed into the system (inputs). It’s only after you complete the definitions of these two items that you think about processes—the steps that will translate inputs into outputs.

Because my career was in I.T., my plotting process looks a lot like that. My first thought is about outputs–how do I want my story to end? What kind of character arc am I looking for?

For example, in my current WIP, I want the story to end with the couple, demons Lilith and Samael, becoming a loving, human family. For this to happen in a believable and satisfying way, Lilith’s character needs to arc away from rebellion and resentment to trust and joy. Sam needs to arc away from workaholism and ambition to being a family man.

Then I think about the inputs that are required to create that kind of story—characters and setting.

In this case, the characters were delivered to me by the ancient Judaic legends contained in the Kabbalah. If you want to read more on my take on the legend of Lilith and Samael, you can download a free short story, “Original Sin,” by signing up for my newsletter on my website.

It’s only after I figure out these two “big picture” items that I turn my mind to the plot–the process of turning my inputs into the outputs I want to see at the end of the story.

That’s still a work in progress.

The backstory is that, 10,000 years ago, Satan decided Hell’s power couple, Lilith and Samael were a threat to his supremacy, so he demanded they split up. As the story opens, trade talks between Heaven and Hell are in the offing and he orders them to collaborate to ensure a good outcome for Hell (e.g. an increase in human misery).

Former human turned she-demon Lilith tries to refuse the mission, but when Satan threatens to take away her immortality, she decides to use the opportunity to sabotage her ex, whose career in Hell has far eclipsed her own.

Even though 10,000 years have passed, Sam has never gotten over Lilith. Figuring that what happens Aboveworld stays Aboveworld, he plans to seduce her back into his bed for the duration of the mission and then abandon her again.

On Earth, Sam leads Hell’s delegation while Lilith handles the administrative details. Her angelic counterpart turns out to be Gibeon, the very angel who predicted the death of her first baby (see aforementioned short story) and told her she’d never have a child that survived infancy. If she does, he will be branded a false prophet, thus ending his career in Heaven.

Then Lilith becomes pregnant, and she must figure out how to keep her child safe from an avenging angel, the lord of the Underworld—and its own father.

Jilly: English Garden Romance

How’s your weekend so far? Are you glued to the news or ready for a respite from reality? If you’re currently self-medicating with The Great British Bake-Off or English property renovation shows, you might consider checking out The Garden Plot, a thoroughly English contemporary romance by debut author Sara Sartagne.

Full disclosure. I’ve known Sara for a very long time. I won’t embarrass either of us by saying how long, but back in the day we attended the same Derbyshire school and shared English classes. I lost touch with her later and had no idea she was writing fiction until we met again online in Mark Dawson’s self-publishing community.

Regular readers of this site will know I’m more likely to read a swords-‘n-sorcery adventure than a charming small town contemporary romance. I read The Garden Plot because it’s Sara’s debut and it’s set in a picturesque Derbyshire village. I’m reviewing it because I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Garden Plot is an engaging, low-stress, opposites attract romance between Sam, a left-leaning garden designer who’s struggling to keep her small business afloat, and widower Jonas, a wealthy, conservative, workaholic property developer who’s on forced sick leave as he recovers from a viral illness. Sam is commissioned by Magda, Jonas’s match-making teenage daughter, to revamp the garden of Jonas’s recently acquired country house and (with luck) revitalize Jonas too. High jinks ensue. Continue reading

Michaeline: Spooky Fun Month!

Holy moly, have you seen the news cycle? I was offline for a few hours, and everything is different. James Hamblin, a doctor who writes for The Atlantic magazine, tweeted this: 

Text: Just to recap, in the past 24 hours we’ve learned: the president had a high-risk exposure; the president has tested positive; the president is symptomatic; the president has received an experimental treatment; the president will spend “several days” at Walter Reed hospital. – Oct 3, 7:01 a.m. (according to my Twitter feed, so I’m not sure if that’s Japan time or Hamblin time). Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy “I hope your internet is up” Friday.  As I write this, painstakingly on my phone, mine is not.

I guess I should be grateful that I have a phone to type on and that the internet did not go out until after my morning meetings, but I’m mostly frustrated at not being able to do all the things I needed to do today.  Life in “the cloud” has its definite drawbacks.

Whether I accomplish anything else 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.


What if: “Your character’s internet connection is down?

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

accountable     hack              harm          greed

desolate           expansion     binge         social

absurd             apology         spider           boast

abattoir            future           afternoon     bankroll

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!

Michille: Bad Character Actions

Michille: Bad Character Actions

I haven’t been reading very much lately, much less writing, because my day job is very demanding right now. But I did read two books in the last couple of weeks that each had one of those headscratcher scenes. Well, one of them had a headscratcher theme.

In the one book, the headscratcher scene has the hero and the heroine trekking across a tropical island trying to get away from the bad guys. They aren’t rushing because they know they have a 12-hour head start on the bad guys. The bad guys do eventually catch up to them, mainly because they stopped at an oasis of a waterfall and pool where, of course, they want to stop and cool off/clean up. But they swam and swam and swam. They hung out in the waterfall. They sat around and admired each other. Then they hear the bad guys coming and hide in a cave behind the waterfall. THEN, after the bad guys go away (still looking for them, mind you) they swim, swim, swim AGAIN.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Meet Cute

It seems we’re in the midst of an unofficial Love-at-First-Sight week here on the blog.  After reading Jeanne and Jilly’s posts earlier today, I started thinking about the “first sight” (meet cute) the characters in my favorite books have of each other.

In the perennial favorite Lord of Scoundrels, Jessica and Dain meet in an antique shop.  They both do their best to keep their cool despite clearly feeling lust-at-first-sight.  Dain experiences such a massive shock to his system that it disorders his thinking so much that he never really recovers–a wonderful start that had me eager to find out what would happen next.

In Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation, Phin meets Sophie, a stranger in town, when he stops by the farmhouse to make sure she and her sister aren’t causing trouble or filming porn.  Neither Phin nor Sophie want to have anything to do with each other, but reading their initial interaction is like watching two magnets trying to keep away from each other.  You just know they’re going to fail at that and wind up together, and that it’s going to be fun to watch. Continue reading

Jeanne: Love at First Sight–a Family Legend

On Sunday, Jilly posed the query: Do you believe in love at first sight? In my family, belief in this occurrence has been passed down since the Civil War.

Stock photo–NOT my great-great-great grandfather

After the war ended, in April of 1865, many of the soldiers walked home. That makes sense: only the cavalry would have had horses, and the trains would have been overloaded (not to mention the great sections of track that were destroyed during the conflict).

According to the family legend, my ancestress and her sister were sitting on their front porch in the spring of 1865 when a soldier walked by their place. My ancestress took one look at him and said, “That’s my man if I never get him.”

Her sister thought that was pure foolishness. “You don’t even know him. Why, for all you know, he could already be married.”

As it turned out, he was married–or at least, he had been. By the time he got home, though, his wife had died. He made his way back to the girl who had fallen for him at first sight and married her.

Is the story true?

My great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Peters, was born on Christmas Eve, 1847, in Scott, Virginia. That would make her seventeen when the war ended. According to the decennial censuses, somewhere between 1860 and 1870, Elizabeth moved from Virginia to Kentucky. And on July 12, 1865, Elizabeth Peters married Nathaniel Thornton Arvin in Estill County, Kentucky.

So, it certainly could be true.

But was it really love?

In a world where approximately 1 out of every 20 men in the country had been killed in the previous four years, just the fact that Nathaniel was alive and healthy enough to stagger home probably made him a prize. Elizabeth and Nathaniel stayed married till they died, to the best of my knowledge, but most couples did back then.

What makes true love more likely, in my opinion, is the fact that the story got passed on to Elizabeth’s daughter, Nancy, who passed it on to her granddaughter, my Aunt Louise, who passed it on to me.

Because true love is the stuff of legends.