Elizabeth: June Short Story

Time to wrap up another month, which means it’s time for another short story as part of my plan to consistently get some words on the page each month.  This month’s brief story grew out of last Friday’s random words and was influenced a bit, in terms of character, by the old English-set mystery books I’ve recently been reading (not that this is a mystery).  The story turned out a bit different from the version that ran through my head on my drive home from work, but then that always seems to happen.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s this month’s story.

Enjoy.

* * *

Nigel vs. the Nephews

“No charades.”  Oh, kill me now.  Nigel Weatherby did his best to ignore the whine of disappointed voices and remained on the couch with his eyes closed against the midday sun, doing an excellent imitation of a boneless mass.

It was just an illusion though.  When he wasn’t draped over the sofa thwarting his nephews, Nigel was a championship swimmer, as well as a black belt and who knows what else.  He merely preferred to conserve energy for when it was absolutely necessary.

Charades in no way qualified as necessary. Continue reading

Michaeline: Imposter

A countess in a cape hiding behind a piece of cardboard that only shows her eye.

Worried about others seeing the faker? Be too fast to take that test, and just do what makes you happy. Trust in the creative process, not the outside censors and judgers. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, some words by David Bowie)

I am a writer who isn’t writing.

Does this make me an imposter? Well, yes. A writer writes.

But on the other hand, is writing a little bit like being a genius? As Lois McMaster Bujold has her character Professor Vorthys say, “All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters.” Having written, I’m a writer.

That’s not a very satisfying answer, though. It smacks of self-justification and resting on my laurels (which are rather small and unpublished). What am I doing in my free time that prevents me from being a writer on a more regular basis?

I’m a YouTube viewer and a ukulele player.

I have to admit, being a YouTube viewer is highly unsatisfying. It’s often very fun in the moment, but I don’t retain much. And it is such a lottery – for every five minutes of information and education, I get at least five minutes of utter pointlessness that looks like it is going somewhere, but winds up nowhere. I like YouTube, and I’m going to keep watching it. But do I want it down there in my obituary: “She watched a lot of YouTube”? No. I do not.

Being a ukulele player, on the other hand, feeds my heart. I’m going to admit to you that on a shallow level, it’s the kind of geeky cool that I’ve always aspired to be. I practice several times a week, and I can see my progression as a player. This week, my call to practice is, “Hey, I’m getting better at that Bb chord!” I like the challenge of getting to a goal – and I can see the goalposts. I can envision Continue reading

Jilly: The Mistress Problem

I’d really, really like to find a different form of address for the gentlewomen in my WIP, especially my heroine.

Lately I’ve been working on a sequence of set piece scenes toward the end of the book. The setting is a fantasy world, historical, before the invention of guns. Horses ‘n swords. Vaguely Tudor-ish, with a few creative liberties taken. The action takes place at the most important event in the city’s calendar. Everyone who’s anyone is present: royalty, aristocracy, military, and a lucky few gentlefolk. All the guests are addressed formally, even (especially!) when they’re hurling deadly insults at one another.

The problem is my heroine, Alexis Doe. She’s 25. Unmarried, but old enough to be a wife and mother. Of no acknowledged family (her name indicates she’s illegitimate), but invited as a guest of the Princess Dowager, scary and powerful grandmother of the Crown Prince. Alexis has no title, but her connections would carry a certain level of cachet and she would be addressed with respect. As far as I can see, she would be called Mistress Doe.

I did a fair amount of reading around, looking for possibilities, and I found a fascinating article describing research done by Dr Amy Erickson at the University of Cambridge (click here to read more about Mistress, Miss, Mrs or Ms: untangling the shifting history of titles).

Apparently both Mrs and Miss are abbreviations of Mistress. Continue reading

Jilly: Powerful Shots of Story

Michaeline’s post yesterday (Story Bites for When You Just Can’t) was exactly what I needed. I’m tantalizingly close to the end of my draft, and I know what I need to do, but this last handful of scenes is driving me bananas.

I’m not the fastest writer, but once I’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen in a scene, I can normally nail a decent draft in a day or two. Right now, each one is taking me a week or more: write, delete, rinse and repeat.

My problem is that all the key players are coming together and the stakes are high. In my head the scenes are great, but capturing that intensity on the page is hard. My lack of progress has been making me very cranky indeed, so I thought I’d take Micki’s advice and see if approaching the problem from a different angle would boost my spirits and improve my productivity.

I already have a playlist and a collage for Alexis, so I decided to try something different and write a haiku for each main character at this critical stage of the story.

I’m no expert on haiku, but what I know is this: they should be three lines long, comprising seventeen syllables in a five-seven-five pattern. And ideally they should provide an insight by juxtaposing two contrasting—or conflicting—ideas.

That sounds like the perfect structure for a brief story shot that aims to capture the essence of the character and their conflict.

I’m pleased to report that Continue reading

Michaeline: Cyber Attacks: Bad News and Good News for Writers

I woke up this morning to news of ransomware attacks on computers in more than 70 countries (The Telegraph (UK) reports 99 countries as of this writing), and my first thought was: BACK UP MY COMPUTER!

Woman from the 1950s with a giant old computer

Update your security and back-up your data. Jean F. Hall would tell you how quick and easy it is today! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about a major back-up of my data for a few months now, but I’ve always come up with an excuse: I don’t want to spend three or four hours babysitting my computer. There must be an easy fix to keep my computer awake, but I didn’t want to spend five minutes looking that up, either. (UPDATE: Yeah, it took less than five minutes to find out how to do that. No excuses now! Your system may be different, so let me just encourage you to find out if you don’t already know.)

But now, thousands of computers across the world have been invaded by this virus that puts all the files into gobbledy-gook, then threatens to delete everything unless the owner pays up. The Guardian (UK) says the ransom is $300 (233 pounds/34,000 yen). I’m worried. This relatively low ransom, and the scattershot targeting of victims suggests Continue reading

Elizabeth: Stroke of Luck

Michaeline talked about the intersections of creativity – all those wonderful and sometimes seemingly random bits and pieces that the Girls in the Basement send up – in her post on Saturday.    I’ll admit brainstorming explanations for one of her ideas, a gardener, who encountered a body buried beneath the forsythia, kept me happily occupied for hours this weekend.

Of course the last thing I need right this minute is a shiny, fun, new idea to distract me from what I am supposed to be working on.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I currently have an over-abundance of random ideas.  It’s not too surprising.  With all that is going on in today’s political climate – intrigue, collusion, unexpected developments, partisanship, protests – there is a seemingly unending source of material (as the late-night television hosts can attest).

I have overflowing notebooks full of ideas for stories.  I collect them the way my mother collected recipes and quilt patterns.  Like her collections, most of my ideas will probably never make it out of the notebook, but half the fun is catching them and daydreaming about their possibilities, even for a short while.

It’s hard to tell which ideas will stick Continue reading

Elizabeth: Book Done Yet?

Before I get to today’s post, I want to give a shout-out to Eight Lady Jeanne, who recently said good-bye to the day job in order to devote all her time to writing, with the intention of publishing a trilogy of paranormal romances early next year.

Yay, Jeanne!

I’ll admit to being envious.  My fondness for shoes, books, and travel (not necessarily in that order), along with a job that has turned into something really great in recent months, pretty much guarantees I won’t be making that kind of life change any time soon.   I’ll definitely be living vicariously through Jeanne though, and cheering when I can finally click “buy” for her books.

Completing a book and finally being able to release it into the wild (aka publishing it), brings me to today’s post.  Do you find yourself fielding the “is your book done yet?” question from friends, family, or well-meaning strangers? Continue reading