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.


* * *

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.

His devious little sister may have tricked him into dragging his hung-over self out of bed this morning and agreeing to watch his nephews for a few hours, but he never said he’d play with them.  Certainly not charades.

“But Uncle Nigel,” a discordant cacophony of childish voices wailed.  “You promised.”

He didn’t bother answering, but his nephews continued on undeterred.  They were a persistent lot; he’d give them that.

“You said if we played quietly for an hour so you could ‘rest your poor, aching head’, that we could choose what to do next.”

The little blighters had him there.

He yawned, stretched, uncoiled himself from the sofa and ambled to the bar in the corner of the family room, casually stepping over an abandoned train set and narrowly avoiding impaling his foot on a piece of track.  He grabbed a bottle of soda water and popped the top.   He’d have preferred a whiskey, hair of the dog as it were, but even he considered one o’clock in the afternoon too early for that.  Barely.

“Mummy said not to touch that,” one of the tykes said.  Dustin, maybe.  Or was that Daniel?  God knows what his sister and her husband were thinking when they decided to give all of the little darlings names starting with D.  As if a last name like Dugenheimer wasn’t enough to live with.

“Yes, well, Mummy isn’t here,” Nigel said, glancing out the window in time to see the McKenzie twins pass by on their way down to the lake, their lush curves barely constrained by the skimpiest of bikinis that seemed to defy basic laws of gravity.

He’d never had twins before though if everything went as planned, he’d be checking that item of his bucket list later this evening.  But first he had to make it through, he checked his watch, two more hours before his sister returned from whatever it was she was doing in town and set him free.

There was a sigh from somewhere near his left elbow.  “He’s thinking about girls again,” said David.  Or maybe that was Derek.  Seriously, the whole freckle-faced, tow-headed brood needed name tags.

“Can we take out Nessie?” one of the boys asked, tugging on Nigel’s shirt.

Nigel turned toward the voice. “Who’s Nessie?

The whole lot burst out laughing.  “Nessie’s not a who; it’s our canoe,” they said.

“We named it after the Loch Ness monster, because it’s green,” one of them added.

The smallest nephew tugged on Nigel’s sleeve.   “Can we go fishing?”

“Mummy said we can’t leave the house,” Dustin/Daniel reminded him.  “I think we should light a campfire and make s’mores.”

“We can’t have a campfire in this heat, you dummy,” David/Derek said, looking at his brother like he was some kind of idiot.  “This is ice cream weather.”  The boys began to argue.

Nigel shook his head and thought evil thoughts about his little sister.  “No.  No canoeing or fishing or ice cream.  Definitely no campfire.”

The brothers continued to bicker back and forth about what they wanted to do while Nigel willed the hands on his watch to spring forward.  How could it only have been six minutes since he last checked?

At this rate he’d be a raving lunatic before his sister ever returned.    As he reached to slide open the window to let in what little bit of breeze there was outside,  a young blond woman in an oversized sun hat, carrying a brightly coloured beach towel, a pair of deflated floaties, a picnic basket, and a sand bucket and shovel approached, followed by a number of little girls of assorted heights and ages.    Ah, the nanny from the next cabin; Inga.

“Having a little trouble there,” she asked in response to the voices spilling out via the open window.

“Trouble?  Heaven’s no.  Just having a relaxing afternoon at home.”

“I can hear that,” she said with a smile.

He couldn’t help but smile back.  “Well, maybe a little trouble,” he admitted.  “I’m afraid the boys aren’t allowed out today – something about an incident involving a snake and the mailman.  We’re having a little trouble agreeing on what to do this afternoon.”

“We wanted to play charades,” one of the boys said, “but Uncle said no.”

“Charades does sound like fun,” Inga said.  At Nigel’s glare she added, “but do you know what would be even more fun?  Building a blanket fort.”

Judging by how fast the boys raced off to gather up blankets, pillows, and whatever else one needed to build a fort, they were all in favour of the idea.

“Can we play too,” one of the girls asked.

Nigel opened the nearby siding door and waved them in.  “Sure, the more the merrier.”

Before long, the entire family room was a sea of cushions, sleeping bags, and more, with not a nephew (or girl) in sight, though there were several suspicious lumps here and there.  The place was a mess – served his sister right – but outside of sporadic giggling, peace and quiet had been restored.

“You’re a lifesaver,” Nigel said as he turned toward Inga.  “How can I ever repay you?”

She smiled and gave him a look he had no trouble understanding.  “Hmm.  Perhaps you could help me cross something off my bucket list later on.”

* * *

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Here Comes the Sun

At a recent checkup, my doctor asked whether I spend much time in the sun.  I laughed, flashed a blindingly-pale arm, and said “I’m really more of an ‘indoors with a book’ type.”  However, during this time of year, with its sunny skies and extended hours of daylight, even I venture outside from time to time.

We’ve been having a bit of a heat-wave the last week or so – not like Arizona melt-the-pavement hot, but hot nonetheless – so my outside time is currently limited to dinner on the back deck once the cooling breezes have kicked in but before the bugs and wildlife have started roaming around.  In the lake that I can see outside my office window at work, there have been little groups of boaters (kayakers, maybe?) all week, as well as a gondolier who appears in late afternoon.  They’re too far away for me to tell for sure, but I’m betting they’re all having a good time.

Regardless of whether you prefer to spend your summer days inside or out, taking a few minutes for a little Random Word Improv is a great way to have a little fun and get some words on the page.  So, whether you’re relaxing with a frosty beverage, slaving away in a temperature-controlled office, dreaming of a tropical getaway, or just looking for a little distraction, find a comfortable spot, kick off your shoes, and let’s get ready to write.

Are you with me?

Today’s random words are summer themed, but don’t let that constrain you.  Bonus points if you manage to include the Loch Ness monster in your sprint (I’ve been in a Scotland frame of mind recently):

             sun                    sand                      cabin                     canoe

             heat                   melt                      ice cream            floaties

             bikini                raft                        breeze                  freckled

             hat                     campfire              lake                       towel

For any of you new to Random Word Improv, here’s how we play:

  1. Pick as many words from the list as you want
  2. Write the first line(s) of a story incorporating your words
  3. Post your results in the comments section.

Okay.  Are you ready?  Let’s sprint!

*whistling aimlessly while you are off being creative*

Elizabeth: Writer’s Bucket List

A while back Kay posted about a Writer’s Police Academy  that is being held this August at the International Public Safety Training Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The conference – which includes sessions on police procedures and the opportunity for some shooting range practice – sounded like just what I needed to give my mystery-story-in-process a shot of realism.  Had I perfected the ability to be in two places at one time, I’d have signed up in a New York minute.

Though the timing didn’t work out, the Academy got me thinking about what other things I’d put on my list of Things To Do, in an effort to infuse my stories with a little extra realism.  In no particular order, here are a few things I came up with:

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Disability Depictions

Looking for your weekly dose of Writing Sprints?  Head on over to our Wednesday post for this week’s words and resulting stories.  There’s still plenty of time to play along.

As Michille mentioned in her post yesterday, the annual RWA conference is fast approaching.   In going through the proposed schedule of workshops this afternoon I was amused to see that the session about “Optimizing Writers Conferences” is being offered on Friday afternoon – more than half-way through the conference.  Somehow that seems less than optimal.

Every year the conference seems to have several sessions focused on a particular theme or topic.  At the first conference I went to it was “self-publishing” (that was quite a while ago).  Other years have addressed forensics, the military, and crime-scene processing.    The last conference I was at had a number of sessions talking about how to increase diversity in writing – both from the stand point of diverse characterizations and attracting diverse writers – a topic that is still being talked about and worked on in the writing community.

There appear to be several new topics on the schedule this year and one workshop that caught my eye was “Creating Authentic Characters with Disabilities.” Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Wednesday Edition

I know what you’re thinking.  Today’s not Friday.  But don’t you wish it was?

I certainly do.

Though we usually do our Writing Sprints on Friday, I thought it might be fun to switch things up a little this week and maybe get a few folks to play along who don’t have time on Fridays.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)  Hopefully you’ll be able to carve out 15 minutes or so to see what you can do with today’s words.

I’m buoyed by the success of last Friday’s Writing Sprints, where I actually (thanks to some nudging by Eight Lady Michaeline) managed to post a story, so I’m eager to try again while the Girls in the Basement seem to be in the writing frame of mind.  There’s nothing like a little Random Word Improv to flex your creativity and get some words on the page.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – with Best Friends

We are definitely in strange times these days.  Point in case – when I arrived at work today, I told my boss “sorry I’m a little late, I was watching television” and my comment was not met with a frown.  Instead she said, “me too,” and we launched into a spirited discussion.  If you’d have told me a year ago that I would spend the morning watching congressional hearings on CNN, I’d have said you were crazy.  Obviously, the times have changed.

As I writer, I can’t help but think current events have far surpassed the limits of my own imagination.  I’ve also been interested by how often I’ve heard comments like “framing the narrative” and “piecing together the story” in political coverage.  I guess storytelling really is everywhere.

Since I’ve had enough politics for the day, it’s time to focus on something else.  Fortunately, my news feed tells me that it’s “Best Friends Day.”  That sounds like something good to celebrate, since where would be without best friends.  It also sounds like the perfect topic for a little Random Word Improv, since almost everyone is likely to have a best friend story or two in their history.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Hidden in Plain Sight

I’m currently working my way through draft 457,338 of my Regency romance.  Yes, I did say I was going to draw a line under it and move on a few months back, but I had some Ideas recently, so it’s an active manuscript once again.  The story’s hero was a spy during the wars and, though the fighting is over and Napoleon is safely tucked away on St. Helena, there is one last mission that must be completed.  Cue clandestine messages, secrets, and mysteries to be unraveled.

John Nagy’s Invisible Ink (spy-craft of the American Revolution) and Sue Wilkes’ Regency Spies have given me some good ideas about how to pass secret messages, hide information, and generally do things right under peoples’ noses without anyone being the wiser, but I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ways to do so.  I’m especially on the alert for ways that women could be involved in the process.

Naturally, I couldn’t pass up this article without a closer look Continue reading