An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 8

After Jilly’s recent story installment, 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 Kay suggested two alternative story segments  and I 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.

What a Dream!

“Tea is ready,” Jenny heard Jordy call.  His voice held a touch of impatience, as if that wasn’t the first time he’d called.

She raised herself to a sitting position on the mossy bank edging the river that wended through the back garden, brushing grass and a few stray flower petals from her skirt.  Her brain felt fuzzy and slow as if she’d had one too many down at the Pointing Dog.

“Coming,” she called out as she got to her feet and made her way toward the cottage.  The sunlight reflecting off the surface of the river was dazzling, and the scent of the blooming flowers was sweet, but Jenny was oblivious to both.

She hadn’t planned to fall asleep when she sat down on the river-bank; she just wanted to rest her eyes for moment.  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a full night’s sleep, especially since the twins started teething.  Worrying about things with Jordy hadn’t helped either.

She was exhausted. Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 7

Here’s the seventh episode in the saga of Jordy MacHugh, a Canadian music teacher who inherits a derelict Scottish estate by the sea and decides to build an opera house.

So far, Jordy has acquired twin baby girls of unknown parentage and a housemate, Jenny from Kansas. She arrived in the Highlands as a tourist and has stayed to help Jordy look after the girls. She’s in deep waters now, even if she did reject Jordy’s chivalrous offer of marriage. Then, a mysterious woman appears on Jordy and Jenny’s doorstep. She claims to be the girls’ mother, but she has no documentation except a blurry old photograph. I was hoping Kay might tell us more about her, but instead she asked Who Is Alanis McLeish?

Today Jilly attempts to answer that question.

In keeping with the Friday writing sprint challenge, this installment includes a character who gets caught in a lie, and the words flowers, fumbling, sweet, dazzling, bribery, charming, mirror, calculation, truth, forgiven, identity, growl, nightmare, freckled, alarm and preserve.

The story so far…

“Those girls are mine, I tell you.” The young woman’s face crumpled. “I know what you must think. I meant to—but I can’t look myself in the mirror anymore. I can’t face what I did. Or forgive myself.”

Grave Concerns

The twins are mine. Jordy bit back the words. The woman—Alanis—seemed distressed, and desperate. She was almost certainly in need of professional help, but there was no calculation in her manner. She didn’t strike him as a liar.

He examined the crumpled, blurred, black-and-white photograph she’d given him. Flimsy, freckled with mildew, worn from frequent handling. The image was oddly familiar. He’d seen it before, or something very like it. Where?

He knew that rocking chair. Hell, he’d sat in it, wondering if it was sturdy enough to take his weight. It was, like everything in the Pointing Dog, charming but built to last.

“Don’t go anywhere.” He handed the photograph back to Alanis.

“Hold the fort, love,” he said to Jenny. “I have to make a phone call.”

He ducked into the cottage and closed the door behind him. Grabbed the phone and dialed the Pointing Dog. “Maeve?” He didn’t waste any time on social niceties. “Do you know anything about a woman called Alanis McLeish?”

The sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line told him he was on to something.

“Tell me what you know. The truth, please, however difficult or improbable.” Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 6

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

While Kay would neither confirm nor deny being gobsmacked by the revelations in yesterdays installment, she’s risen to the occasion to address that burning question:  just who is Alanis McLeish?

So, without further ado, here is the next bit of our continuing saga, using the Friday Writing Prompt of: a character who got caught in a lie, and the words flowers, fumbling, sweet, dazzling, bribery, charming, mirror, calculation, truth, forgiven, identity, growl, nightmare, freckled, alarm, preserve.

# # #

Who is Alanis McLeish?

Alarmed, Jenny ran to the cottage through the flower garden. She didn’t notice the blooms’ dazzling display nor their sweet scent. Something had happened, something bad. Fumbling with the gate latch, she charged up the path.

“Jordy?” she said, breathing quickly. “What’s going on?” Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 5

Welcome to another installment of our Eight Lady Serial, that started when Jilly wrote a short story about Jordy MacHugh, a Canadian music teacher who inherits a derelict estate in the Scottish Highlands and decides to build an outdoor opera house by the sea.  In yesterday’s installment, Jilly added some much-needed conflict to the story.

As I re-read the entire saga, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave Jordy and Jenny to their own devices, though they may not appreciate the direction of today’s installment.

Without further ado, read on to find out what happens next. Using the prompts from Friday’s writing sprint – character(s) face a challenge – and including (most of) the random words: equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise, bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump and artist.

The Unexpected

By unspoken agreement, Jenny and Jordy busied themselves with separate pursuits when they returned to their temporary cottage after their aborted picnic along the cliffs.

While nondescript from the front, the area behind the cottage was a wild tangle of riotous blooms and clinging vines.  Paths that seemed to be in danger of being swallowed up by the creeping foliage wended around and about the area and led to an overgrown folly in the back barely visible through the trees from mere paces away.

Jenny wandered the paths aimlessly, deaf to the noise of the bumbling bees, drunk on the abundant nectar and buzzing happily. Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 4

The MacHugh saga continues :-).

For those who are just joining us, we’re in the midst of a serial story that started with Jilly’s short story about Jordy MacHugh, the Canadian music teacher who inherited a derelict estate in the Scottish Highlands and decided to build an outdoor opera house by the sea.

Elizabeth continued the story and raised the stakes by introducing Jenny, a tourist from Kansas, who discovered twin babies in a basket, courtesy of the mysterious MacHugh Blessing Stone.

Maeve, the local seer, pronounced Jordy, Jenny and the twins a family, but as Jenny observed via Kay’s installment, the whole setup screamed Trouble with a capital T.

Read on to find out what happens next. Using the prompts from Friday’s writing sprint, our character(s) face a challenge, and including the words equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise, bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump and artist.

Challenge Accepted

They couldn’t go on this way. Somebody had to make this village of dreamers face reality, and apparently that someone was Jenny.

Sunday service was over, and she emerged from the small stone kirk into the sunlit, postage-stamp sized churchyard. She settled the oversized wicker basket at her feet and chatted politely with the villagers, all twenty of them. They were kind and friendly, but their warm welcome wasn’t for Jenny herself. Not really. Her true value to them was as companion-dash-housemate to the new laird, Jordy MacHugh, and as carer for his adopted twin daughters. Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 3

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

Kay was inspired to add to the story by this set of  Friday writing prompts: a character who faced a challenge, and the words equipment, belly, aimless, baffling, noise. bloke, fuzzy, clever, beekeeper, footwork, glass, dream, corduroy, setup, lump, artist.

Let’s see what’s next for Jenny and Jordy.

# # #

And Now, Twins

Jenny handed the fuzzy bunny to the drowsy baby Elspeth and hoped to high heaven that the twins would fall asleep and dream the dreams of babies, whatever they were.

She was exhausted.

How had she ended up here? It was baffling. One minute she’d been walking along the Scottish cliffs admiring the view, and the next, evidently, she was mothering homeless twins.

Not that she had a clue how to do that.

But somehow Maeve, the village maven, seer, and chief beekeeper, had decided that they’d make a great family with Jordy MacHugh, Canadian ex-pat, budding opera house impresario, and all-round great bloke. Jordy did indeed seem to be a nice guy, not to mention cute, but this setup screamed trouble with a capital T, no matter how much fancy footwork you put into the dance. Continue reading

Jeanne: Don’t Get on That Bus

This week I read a blog post over on Writers in the Storm by Margie Lawson called “10 Not-Absurd Tips for Writing Fiction.” My favorite was, “Honor Your Controlling Premise.”

Or, as an HR person I once worked with on a personnel problem counseled: Don’t Get on That Bus.

After a verrrry slow start, The Demon’s Secret Baby finally seems to be coming along. One of the things that’s made this story take so long to write is that it had so many possibilities. The premise is: A pair of deeply-in-love demons are separated by Satan because they represent a threat to his power. Ten thousand years later he offers them a chance to be together again for a few weeks and she winds up pregnant.

It felt like every scene, every event, every conversation in the book could go a thousand different ways. That’s true of every book, but this one felt more wide-open than others I’ve written.

Here’s an example:

Satan tasks Sam and Lilith with setting up arrangements for peace talks with Heaven. Satan wants to “knock the wings off,” their angelic counterparts, so he wants a venue that rubs Heaven’s face in the fact that Hell has serious influence in the human world these days. Lilith knows the perfect spot: the United Nations Conference Center in New York City.

Unfortunately, securing the use of the U.N. Conference Center for several weeks is a a huge challenge. The Secretary General of the United States doesn’t believe they’re demons and even if he did, he doesn’t think it’s in Earth’s best interests to have a delegation of demons running loose in Manhattan.

I wrote a scene where, in an attempt to persuade him, Sam and Lilith demonstrate demon possession, and another where Sam exhibits his ability to heal with unnatural speed. The Secretary General reluctantly consents to letting them use the campus.

As I was drafting the scene, once he agrees to give them free run of the UNCC campus for a few weeks, he did what I think a real Secretary General would do in those circumstances: he demanded to have a human delegation present at the talks. He felt, quite reasonably, that since Earth is where the battles between Heaven and Hell are waged, humans have a vested interest in the outcome.

While this is logical, it creates a whole new subplot, and that subplot doesn’t belong in a story about two demons who have a One-Night-Stand-With-Consequences. In Margie’s terminology, it doesn’t honor my controlling premise.

The HR guy was warning me that there are some conversations it’s better never to let get started and it’s the same with subplots–if they don’t fit in your story, it’s best not to set foot on hat bus.

Eventually I took a look at the length of the book (already 70K and I still have 26 scenes to write) and realized Margie and HR guy were right. I needed to stay on task and on topic. It still feels weird to me that the U.N. Secretary General would be aware of a cosmic summit that could profoundly affect life on Earth and make no effort to be part of it. I suspect it will strike some readers the same way but if anyone complains I’ll just tell them we can take that bus ride another time.

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 2

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

Welcome to today’s installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

This installment was inspired by a picture from a trip I took to Ireland, though things did take a slightly different turn than I had expected when I started writing.  Still, I’m happy with the results and hope you are too.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a Jilly-inspired short story using these 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.

Finding Home

Jenny stood at the edge of the cliff covered in a sea of undulating wild grasses and watched the waves crash over and around the rocks below.  She knew it probably carried an Arctic chill, but the sunlight glinting off the mesmerizing blue water made her think of warm summer days and soft caressing breezes.

She could feel her heartbeat slow and her breathing deepen.

She felt like she’d finally found home.

Daughter, sister, friend, co-worker; she’d been running so fast and for so long, filling those roles and more, that her current sense of calm confused her at first.  Then she thought of staying here forever; jettisoning all of the commitments weighing her down and starting over again by these beautiful blue waters.

The vision of a brand-new future took her breath away. Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 1

A few years back, one of our Friday writing prompts inspired Jilly to write a short story, which various Eight Ladies added to over a period of several weeks.  It was a great deal of fun to take a story in progress and, using a new set of random words, keep moving the action forward.  At one point we realized we had no conflict, and at another we seemed to have written ourselves into a corner, but creativity prevailed and we managed to reach a satisfying conclusion.

This week we’re revisiting the story–posting a segment every day–and hope you will enjoy watching it unfold again or for the first time.

So, without further ado, here is where it all started:  a Highland-based short story using  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.

Enjoy!

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?” Continue reading

Michaeline: Wolves, Past and Present

A friend of mine recently got pregnant, and told me she’s been having nightmares about wolves eating her baby and making her buy another child. It made me stop and think about wolves, and the power they have over our imaginations . . . largely a power that results from story.

Red Riding Hood comes closer to the Wolf disguised as Grandmother
When wolves were a common neighborhood terror. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t think I’ve ever lived in an area where there were wolves; they were never an actual problem, but still, wolves loom large. They are themselves, but they are also a human-made metaphor for things that worry us greatly.

In “Little Red Riding Hood,” the wolf was a predator who ate little girls, as well as grandmothers. There was a moral to the story: don’t talk to strangers, or if you are sick in bed, don’t forget to lock the door.

The wolf as sexual predator was common in pop culture during the first half of the 20th century. Young women would call a problem male a “wolf.” Whistles at attractive young women were called “wolf whistles.” In cartoons, a male character when catching sight of a pretty girl would transform into a wolf . . . eyes bulging, two fingers in the mouth whistling.

Wolves didn’t have to be sexual predators, though. In “The Three Little Pigs,” the wolf was a force of nature . . . huffing and puffing houses down in an attempt to eat the pigs. In this story, the motive is spelled out: the wolf is hungry. So, it’s almost easy to sympathize with the wolf, but the moral of this story is that there are right ways and wrong ways to get a meal, and sliding down the chimney will land a wolf in hot water, not in front of the dining table.

Continue reading