Michaeline: The Year of the Tiger Will be a Big Year for Cats

I think I got all the words for this year’s story challenge, including two bonus words that Elizabeth excluded because they didn’t seem very friendly: sharp and fang. Old 2021 was a big year for cats for me — I went from two to 15 in my house, and my husband’s aunt is now keeping house with six (they often come to visit, since she’s next door and lets them out). It’s a little scary to think of a 20-year commitment for all 13 babies, but there’s so much love and happiness in my house now. I was born to be a cat lady!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful 2022, and may your goals achieved increase like my cats! Now, on to the story.


Betty’s 2021 had been one of the worst years she could recall. She lost a good friend, not to COVID, but to overcrowded hospitals that had to tell one more patient to just wait at home a little longer. Turned out that Anne couldn’t wait at home, after all. She’d died before the sun came up.

She’d lost a favorite aunt not to COVID, but to annoying conspiracy theories and right wing propaganda. She still loved Aunt Karen, but the way Betty’s blood pressure kept spiking every time Aunt Karen let loose a careless confidence such as Bill Gates was promoting climate change theories to sell computers to fund biological weapons . . . well, she didn’t talk to Aunt Karen at all these days. Betty just wasn’t fluent in bullshit.

Betty’s work, at least, was steady – even better than before the pandemic. She’d met some wonderful pet owners this last year, and her veterinary practice was satisfying. All in all, 2022 looked like it was going to be a great year. She stretched in her new daisy pajamas, enjoying the warm feeling of being in bed on New Year’s Day with no hangovers, no romantic regrets about the night before, and nothing to do for the rest of the day except feed herself and the cats. Continue reading

Day 10: Botticelli Pizza

Photo courtesy of fearlesshomemaker.com

Welcome the 8LW 25 Days of Stories.  Today we’ve got a “Happily Ever After” story, with pizza.  This “Christmas Week Short Story Challenge” — a holiday version of our Friday Writing Sprints — features (some if not all) of the following words: secret, story, diary, snowflake, diamond, snuggle, forest, catastrophe, plan, buffet, traffic, surprise, signature, memory, flamingo, and whisky.

So here, courtesy of 8L Kay, is today’s story.

Botticelli Pizza

For some insane reason, I decided I wanted to throw my parents a surprise buffet party for their anniversary at Christmas. I’d fretted about it for weeks—the menu diary, the signature cocktail, the tiered cake, the special music, the decorations, the tableware, the linens. I’d just started my catering company, and, I suppose, I wanted to show off.

Showing off—yeah, it’s always smart to try to show off on your first gig, in front of family, in December.

Why had my parents wanted to get married in December? Practically on Christmas Day? Continue reading

Michaeline: Four Questions for Harper Cross

Author Harper Cross, also known as Eight Lady Nancy Hunter, aka Nancy Yeager, author of the five-story series, Harrow’s Finest Five (Starting with novella “Too Clever by Half” and followed by four full-length Victorian historical romance novels) answered a few questions for me regarding her new book, Baby One Last Time, the first book in her series, The Agents of HEAT (published April 29, 2021).

The lighthearted romantic suspense book is a second-chance romance. Cynthia has been expelled from the secret spy agency, HEAT, and her only chance to redeem herself is by working with her “tall, dark and diabolical” ex, Derek Wilder. Harper calls it “a shot of action & adventure, a dash of snark, and a twist of fun.”

She’s got a lot of fun things to say about the process in her interview, too!

Hot guy in black v-neck t-shirt with bracelet and looking over squarish sunglasses at viewer. Tropical palms, fire/scorched earth imagery.
Baby One Last Time is the latest book from Nancy, writing as Harper Cross. and is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers from the Agents of HEAT series. Image from Harper Cross.
Continue reading

Jilly: George and the Dragon

Here’s my contribution to the 2020 8 Ladies Christmas Short Story Challenge. I think I got all the prompt words!

George and the Dragon

The winter sun was low in the sky as Georgina Albion moored her sailboat at Stack Aerie’s small dock and picked her way along the slippery wooden boards, ignoring the freshly painted PRIVATE PROPERTY sign and the new ones that said NO TRESPASSING and VISITORS BY INVITATION ONLY.

She raised her eyes to the scudding clouds, but her thoughts were directed at the reclusive new owner. How can I be be invited, if you never answer your post or open your email?

There was a painted steel circle beside the first step of the narrow stone stair that clung to the vertiginous cliff face, and another at the top. Stylized dragons with razor claws and fiery breath, contained within a red perimeter and crossed by a red diagonal bar. In case that wasn’t clear enough, the message was spelled out below: NO DRAGONS HERE.

George stopped for a moment to trace the image with a fingertip. “If that’s true, your Uncle Basil made a big mistake.”

From the cliff top it was a short walk to the futuristic glass-and-steel dome that perched atop the towering granite sea-stack. She knew from past visits that the bubble’s airy interior was comfortable but sparsely furnished. The temperature was always pleasant, the filtered light clear and bright, and the views out over the stormy ocean and back toward the mainland were breathtaking. The traditional rooms—a kitchen, dining room, office, bedrooms—were below, set within the rock. And far, far, far deeper, under the ocean bed, Bas’s treasure cave lay hidden.

The reinforced glass door was flung open before she could ring the bell. “What now?”

The man who blocked the entrance was tall—six and a half feet of long legs encased in dark jeans, broad shoulders snugly wrapped in black cashmere, chiseled features, and short, dark, spiky hair. The luminous eyes that glowered down at her were a distracting golden green color, with an unmistakable amethyst rim.

George blew out a breath. There was no mistake. Bas had chosen his successor. The rest was up to her.

Continue reading

Kay: A Christmas Story—The Gift of the Wise Man

A man walks in Minsk, Belarus, November 22, 2008. (Xinhua/AFP Photo published on sina.com)

I hope everyone out there is having a good Boxing Day and happy holiday season. I’m continuing the Ladies’ traditional Christmas story week, using Elizabeth’s random words. It’s a little longer than I usually do, so I hope you bear with me. Here we go:

The Gift of the Wise Man

The pale winter light was fading rapidly from the northern sky as Birdy Dove entered the warm kitchen. She hung her coat on the peg by the door and accepted the unspoken invitation of her brother to join him at the hearth. She sat down with a sigh and stretched out her cold hands to the flame. Continue reading

Nancy: Happy Holidays!

Danish Christmas Hearts

From all of us here at 8LW, to all who celebrate the season, Merry Christmas!

Today, I’m spending the day with lots of family, drinking Aquavit, and enjoying a traditional Danish kolde bord, which literally translates to cold table and involves almost every imaginable ingredient to make amazing open faced sandwiches. And beer. Lots of good, dark beer.

I’ll be back next week with my contribution to this year’s Christmas short story challenge. Spoiler: there are flamingoes. And guns. And a hot guy – because of course! That means we’ll hold our January accountability thread on January 8, and we’ll add a discussion of our 2018 goals. In the meantime, if you’ve had your fill of Hallmark holiday movies and have watched all of the classics but still have a hankering for something holiday-themed and fun to watch, I’ll recommend two of our family favorites that aren’t as well known as some of the stories we’ve discussed on the blog: Olive, the Other Reindeer (available on Amazon Prime), and A Wish for Wings That Work (starring Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat! and available on Netflix).

Joy and peace to all, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2017!

Kay: Botticelli Pizza

Photo courtesy of fearlesshomemaker.com

Every year Elizabeth gives the Ladies the words for the holiday writing sprint in advance, and this year the words go up tomorrow, on December 22. As you see, my post runs December 21, and if I wait two weeks to publish my story, I might as well be writing something about Groundhog Day. So apologies all around for jumping the gun. Here’s my story. It’s pretty long—Elizabeth asked for a happy ending, and I had a little trouble getting to it. But I did it, I think, and I used all the words, too. See if you can guess which ones they are.

And if you don’t get to the end of this post, let me say now, happy holidays and best wishes for the new year to all of you and yours!

Botticelli Pizza
For some insane reason, I decided I wanted to throw my parents a surprise buffet party for their anniversary at Christmas. I’d fretted about it for weeks—the menu diary, the signature cocktail, the tiered cake, the special music, the decorations, the tableware, the linens. I’d just started my catering company, and, I suppose, I wanted to show off. Continue reading

Michaeline: Bunny Blavatsky Arrives in New York

So, here’s my rough draft for a little story of how Bunny got to New York City on Christmas Eve, brought to you through the magic of Elizabeth’s random word generator!

1898 train advertisement with a young mother, her husband, children and a family come to meet them in a horse-drawn sleigh. Christmas Greetings is the banner.

Bunny was not quite so comfortable on the train. She could scarcely contain her excitement about moving to the big city. (I found this at The Old Design Shop. http://olddesignshop.com/2012/12/lake-shore-michigan-southern-railway-christmas-ad/)

I don’t recommend arriving in New York for the first time on Christmas Eve. The train is packed with holiday excursionists, the hansom cabs are taken, and there is no room in the inn, no matter how much money you have. And I didn’t have a lot.
And let’s not even talk about the ghosts. Ah, Christmas Eve, when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is very thin, and the holidays wears everyone’s tempers even thinner. All of the love, the heartbreak, the celebration and the sheer life of the living draws them nearer.
I found a warm drugstore, and was sitting at the counter, slowly drinking my cup of hot coffee, wondering how I was to find a place to stay on Christmas Day, when a drugstore-casanova came in. Oh, he was ready to help me find a place to stay! Such a masher. The ghosts of three poor girls clung to him. They looked like immigrant girls who had caught some sort of consumption. The poor dears were in love beyond the grave.
A rush of patrons flooded into the store, and a soprano voice from heaven commanded the masher to “Move on out, Dooley. You should be ashamed to break hearts tonight.”
She was a red-headed goddess, and I could see the traces of stage make-up around her eyes. She extended a hand. “Sarah Kelso. You look fresh off the boat!” Continue reading

Nancy: Tell Me a Christmas Story

Snoopy pursuing his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron.

Snoopy pursuing his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron.

A few weeks ago, Elizabeth mentioned she’d been fighting a winter bug and spending time snuggled up under blankets, tissues close at hand. Somehow, her bug has made its way across the country and infested Chez Hunter. I spent most of Friday night and Saturday under my own blankets with tissues, hot tea, and sympathetic cats close at hand. And if watching TV when sick is a time-tested tradition, it’s an absolute necessity during the holiday TV movie season.

Two of the movies we love to watch during the holidays are Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But those are for healthier, happier, eggnog and rum-fueled times, at least in our house. For my sickbed viewing, I watched made-for-TV movies. You know the ones. There’s usually a girl in trouble or suffering or trying to advance her career, and a boy of some sort causing conflict (or sometimes just trouble) against the backdrop of snow-covered streets, Christmas tree lots, and ubiquitous carolers. (I have never seen actual carolers in real life, but if these TV movies are to be believed, my town is the only town in America without them because they are EVERYWHERE.) Sadly, as I discovered on my multi-hour binge of these holiday rom-coms, there is very little ‘com’ and even less ‘rom’ in many of them.

On Sunday, I had out-of-state family obligations, and while on our long drive, which included the seasonally-required holiday soundtrack, I had fun thinking about the movies that could made from the stories told in so many of my favorite holiday songs. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started as a story and became a song (and then became a claymation TV special), but I think at least a few more modern Christmas songs deserve to be turned into movies.

Elf’s Lament by the Barenaked Ladies. Continue reading

Michaeline: The Hogfather’s Wee Piggies

A rich man sitting on Santa's lap, being denied presents. Next to Santa is a collection box for the poor, and a mouse is putting a large coin in the slot on top.

Pratchett wasn’t the first to tackle the hypocrisy of the winter holidays. This cartoon from Bob Satterfield contains many of the same elements — sitting on Santa’s lap, the rich, the poor, a rat . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I am on record as stating that Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather is not the most accessible of his Discworld novels. But even so, a kinda-hard Pratchett is head and shoulders above a good anything-by-anyone-else. I spent a merry December evening this week giggling on the sofa with his holiday book, and then I spent a few lovely hours thinking about what made me laugh. (A really good book is still with you even when it’s not open.) (What is Hogfather? io9 talks about it here with some spoilers.)

The scenarios I want to examine are the ones set in the Grotto. Our story so far: the Hogfather has disappeared on Hogswatchnight, and Death (and friends) decide to bring him back by re-creating belief in the Hogfather. In other words, Death puts on a jolly red suit, gets behind a sleigh powered by four flying pigs, and performs Christmas miracles in his own inimitable fashion. One of his duties is showing up in an Ankh-Morpork shopping emporium and granting the wishes of the kiddies. Continue reading