Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another fun-filled week; or if not fun-filled, then at least a problem-free week.

I’m currently quite pleased by the fact that the flu-shot I got in the early fall seems to have worked it’s magic:  I have been illness free while friends and coworkers have spent the last few weeks suffering from various maladies.

Having remained healthy is a good thing because not only am I in the midst of the traditional year-end crush at the day job, but I’m also in the midst of finals.  For some reason (I can’t even blame strong drink) I decided earlier this year that going back to school would be A Good Thing.  Now, with finals at hand, when I’d much prefer to be reading or admiring the sparkly Christmas tree, I’ve just spent the last few hours studying away like a good little student.  Something I’ll do again tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.

What was I thinking?

Fortunately, in less than a week exams will be over and I can find something fun to do until it’s time to start the whole cycle over again.  As a reward for good behavior, I think I’ll take a break and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday; hope you’re having a great day, whether you’re recovering from Thanksgiving, searching for the perfect Black Friday deal, or just relaxing.

I’ve been off work all week and have spent most of that time relaxing.  That’s worked out so well that I’ll be sticking to the plan for the remainder of the week.

Should I feel a burst of productivity, I may just 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. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

This definitely hasn’t been a typical week and it certainly hasn’t gone quite as planned.

It started out with a funeral for our CEO who died unexpectedly last week.  Funerals are nowhere on my list of “favorite things” and events, attended by 3,000 people and lasting for hours are even further off the list.  It was a lovely ceremony, but being surrounded by grief can be challenging and, for an introvert like me, exhausting.

The rest of the week has been a crush of trying to get a wide range of projects wrapped up both before the end of the year and before folks head off for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.  The capper on the week was when Microsoft Office pushed a software update out that broke my database program, just as I was in the midst of a big deliverable.

Doesn’t it just figure?

Well, the software will either be fixed or the deliverable will be missed; at this point it is all out of my control.  Instead of worrying, I think I’ll direct my efforts in a more creative direction and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

I’ve been off this week at a sustainability / climate change conference.  It was equal parts “we can do this” optimism and “we’re all going to die” terror.

Good times.

There was also a plenary session by Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action.  It was fascinating to hear how she saw an issue, decided to do something about it, and started a major movement.  If you’re not familiar with Moms Demand Action, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving for gun violence, you can Google them.  They are doing great work which, based on today’s news, is needed more than ever.

After spending days learning, worrying, networking, and eating some really tasty food, I’m now trying to take care of all of the outstanding tasks that are littering my desk and inbox.

More good times.

Somewhere along the line I also need need to carve out some writing time so I can get today’s words on the page.  I think I’ll give the writing prompt and random words below a try and see where that takes me.

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 today’s random words and writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character joins a new club?

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

blight        bane          sparkle     blossoming

darkness   silence       scheme     cupcakes

ruin           promise     spirit        nature

fun            life             terror        shiny

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!

Jilly: Picking Your Brains

Is anyone up for a spot of title brainstorming? I’d appreciate some help.

I’m planning to publish my first book, The Seeds of Power, before the end of the year (much more to follow on that subject soon). All being well the sequel, The Light of Calder, will follow in 2020.

Told you that to tell you this: I want to write a short story (which may grow into a novella) that sits between The Seeds of Powerand The Light of Calder. I know the bare bones of the story. I can visualize the cover. But I can’t find a good title, and it’s driving me crazy.

The books are fantasy adventure romance in a swords-n-sorcery setting vaguely similar to Tudor-era northern England or Scottish borders. The most important commodity in this world is elan, an imaginary medicine created by concentrating life energy into specially grown beans. The mysterious transformation process changes the beans from everyday foodstuff into hard-shelled, fragrant, shiny golden nuggets known as pulses. A pulse of elan can be grated and boiled into a tonic for internal use, or added to a poultice for external application. However it’s used, elan boosts the body’s own natural healing powers and gives near-miraculous results, which makes it more valuable than gold. The only people who know how to make elan are the Edevald family, rulers of wealthy, powerful Caldermor.

The Seeds of Poweris about Christal, a strong-minded princess who’s determined not to marry (she has excellent reasons) and who justifies her single status by becoming an expert cultivator of rare plants. Her plan works fine until Prince Daire Edevald unexpectedly proposes marriage because he needs her to fix a problem with his secret elan beans.

The Light of Calder is Daire’s story, about his attempts to lift the Edevald curse. The men of his family burn brightly but do not live long. Common gossip says the Edevalds made a deal with the gods, and their short life span is the price they paid to gain the secret of elan. The Light of Calder is a priceless jewel, the Edevald family’s greatest heirloom, and so much more than merely the centerpiece of the Calderran royal regalia.

My plan is for the Story in the Middle to show the problem with the secret bean plants and explain how the solution Christal offers motivates Daire to seek out someone who can help him solve the mystery of the Edevald curse.

The title for the new story should be The Something of Something.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Today is one of the days at work that I look forward to every year–the annual Holiday Lunch.  It is an early Thanksgiving, with turkey and all the trimmings, put on by management as a way of saying ‘thanks for all of your hard work’.  It’s also a chance to get together with other folks in the company, over brimming plates of food, to mingle and maybe even enjoy a piece of pie (or two).

My co-workers tend to roll their eyes at my fondness for the event.  To them it is apparently on the same level as saying I like cafeteria food or maybe airplane meals.  I’m pretty sure they’re planning to order lunch from a local BBQ place instead.

Well, their loss is my (leftover) gain.  The food may not reach the Michelin star level or taste like Grandma’s home cooking, but it’s abundant and provided by a really good local restaurant, whose cornbread stuffing is amazing.

It’s kind of fun to be served by executives too.  What I actually like though is the idea behind the event.  We’re all so busy with our day to day tasks that it’s easy to forget we’re all part of the same company.  It’s nice to have a brief break to pause, look up, and reconnect.

Of course a downside of the lunch is the almost overwhelming desire for a nap once it’s all done.  I’m guessing napping wouldn’t go over very well in my afternoon staff meeting.

I better make sure to have coffee with my pie.

Once my fun-filled workday is over, it will be time to refocus and get today’s NaNo words on the page.  My goal for the month is ’30 short stories in 30 days’.  I think I’ll see what I can come up with today, using the writing prompt and random words below as a starting point.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Jilly: Victorian Tales of Terror

It’s that scary time of year.

The nights are getting shorter, darker and colder, at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. We just passed Halloween (previously the Celtic festival of Samhain), when the barrier between our world and the realm of ghosts and spirits melts away and supernatural types return from the grave to threaten our orderly existence.

In other words, ‘tis the season for ghost stories and terrible tales.

We dipped a toe into the icy water here recently with our tag-team Scottish flash fiction adventure featuring the restless ghosts of tragic Alanis McLeish and her twin baby daughters (go here for Kay’s fabulous final instalment and links to the rest of the tale).

That tempted me to re-read Jenny Crusie’s Maybe This Time, her smart, scary homage to Henry James’s influential 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, complete with isolated, crumbling gothic setting; orphaned children; sinister housekeeper; and murderous ghosts. Thank heavens for the Crusie-heroine-turned-temporary-governess.

Maybe This Time whetted my appetite for Victorian horror. Click here for an interesting feature in Atlas Obscura explaining why the Victorian era was such a boom time for scary stories. It seems to be linked to the rise of the periodical press which fuelled a demand for genre fiction, combined with a period of rapid technological advancement in which things which had previously seemed impossible suddenly became real and normal.

Then yesterday, with uncanny serendipity, I found Victorian Tales of Terror, a recently republished anthology of carefully curated period fiction edited by Hugh Lamb. There are sixteen spine-chilling stories by famous (Dickens, de Maupassant) and little-known authors, male and female, English, European and American.

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