Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy 20th day of NaNoWriMo or, as others call it, Friday!

I hope your week has been a good one or, failing that, at least not a bad one.  Mine was a 4-day work week, to be followed with a 3-day weekend, so that’s good.  However, the refrigerator sprang a leak the other day, and I didn’t discover the fact for a few days, so that’s not so good.  

Who would have guessed something as simple as water could cause so much trouble.  Looks like that kitchen remodel of mine that I’ve been thinking about and putting off for years is about to become a reality.  If nothing else there is a new floor in the works since water+wood is not a good combination, especially when the wood is particle board, which soaks up water like a sponge.

I love the freedom of having my own house but . . . sometimes . . . it’s not as delightful as one would like.  Ah well, now I have an excuse to browse through all of those kitchen remodeling magazines I’ve accumulated over the years and a reason to drop by the local home improvement center to look at options–in a socially distant way, of course.  

Between browsing magazines for ideas and waiting for the insurance agent to call back about my claim, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Michaeline: Pet Inspiration for NaNo and Other Writing

I’m writing short stories for National Novel Writing Month, and here’s the elevator pitch for my work in progress:

Tabby Kate, caterwauler at the Brawler’s Grate, is on the run from her boss and former lover, Tuxedo Jones. Stowing away on Captain Alphabet Greebo’s ship seems like an easy solution for getting off the planet without getting noticed, but this stickler for the rules notices right away that he’s got trouble on his hands.

–Weird and Wonderful Stories for Every Holiday (WIP)

It’s about cats in space.

Tom cat looking in the window with his tabby lady cat friend. Both cats have ears perked forward and interested whiskers. Tabby is ready to run, though.

The Dynamic Duo: Captain Alphabet Greebo and Tabby Kate. Unlike their fictional counterparts, they don’t fight crime: they commit it. (E.M. Duskova)

 

Now, let me backtrack a little bit. We have two housecats and two dogs who have been featured on these screens before. But staying home this summer, I came to realize we’ve got at least seven outdoor cats. One mostly stays in the barn, and I rarely see him (a Tuxedo boy who is white and black), but the others hang around our house and the house next door, waiting

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday!

Hope you all have had a good week.  Things here have been hectic, but now that the election results are in, it is at least safe to turn on the television again.

What it isn’t particularly safe to do is to go out in public and hang around other people.  I don’t know about where you are, but it looks like most places are in the midst of a “weather is cooling down, Covid is gearing up” scenario.  My area is increasing closures again in an attempt to stop the rise in cases before they get out of control.  It’s looking like it will be a very socially-distant Thanksgiving this month.

I wasn’t planning on going to a sit-down restaurant or heading to the local bowling alley any time soon, so the impact of the new closures is minimal.  As long as I can get to the grocery story every week or so, I’ll be fine.  We’re supposed to be seeing a bit of rain today/tomorrow, so that is extra incentive to remain safely at home.  Fortunately, I have plenty to keep me busy, even though I will be off work for the day.

My version of NaNo is starting this Sunday, so I think I’ll warm up by giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Michaeline: NaNoWriMo Weekend #1 (2020)

The cover from a pulp magazine featuring a lady fortuneteller, a pale smoky vision in distress, and a young man looking seriously and dreamily up as if thinking his own thoughts. TEXT: UNCANNY, SPOOKY, CREEPY, TALES. March Ghost Stories. The MAN with the FOUR ARMS. The PSYCHIC DETECTIVE. MUMMY NUMBER 249.
My Project Cover, via Wikimedia Commons. If I run out of ideas, “The Man with the Four Arms” could be the next story I write. 25 cents!

It’s a very weird NaNovember weekend if you are an American citizen or care about one. I feel like the race could be decided at any minute . . . but I also feel that we won’t really hear any significant news until Monday.

I’m going to go with that last feeling – it allows me to get some writing done for more than 15 minutes at a time. At any rate, being cautiously optimistic is doing wonders for my motivation, while the tension is producing some deliciously weird effects in my writing.

As I mentioned in the post title, it’s the first weekend of National Novel Writing Month, which has become a bit of a misnomer. The game started in 1999 with freelancer Chris Baty and a few of his friends who decided they’d like to try and write A Great American Novel, or at least a novel, in 30 days. By 2000, the game was international, according to Wikipedia, with 140 participants.

The website also started in 2000. I’m a nine-time player (including this year) and one-time winner, although “winner” is also misleading. Finishing a story makes you a winner in my book. I am also a multi-time “cheater” – the basic rules Baty set out was that the novel must be new, must not be co-authored, and has to be submitted in time to verify the 50,000 word count.

Sometimes I followed those rules; other times I tried working on second drafts as a “NaNo Rebel” (officially recognized on the website, too, as a rebel). I do have to admit, I never won (and never even completed a story) the times I tried working on a second draft. Only with fresh, new material did I complete a new story . . . usually coming in at around 40,000 words and with a fairly good through-line for my plot.

This year, though, NaNo has gotten very casual with the rules, and I fully approve! Your “novel” has been rebranded as a

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of a week that feels like it has lasted for an eternity.  I haven’t watched the news or even turned on the television set since the election started here in US.  The brief results I heard from friends or via Facebook posts I didn’t scroll past fast enough left me feeling heartsick about my country.

The ongoing pandemic, which is surging ever onward and upward, isn’t our only sickness.  Racism.  Hatred.  Greed.  Ignorance.  Gaslighting.  A me-first attitude (and screw everyone else).  The country has those diseases too, and there isn’t a vaccine, let alone a cure, on the horizon.  I knew those things all existed, but I thought they were in ever shrinking pockets of people, and on the way to extinction, rather than flourishing and growing.  The tunnel vision of privilege combined with wishful thinking.

I spend the time in my day job working on issues of equity, diversity, sustainability, and inclusion.  Looking at the way my fellow citizens have voted on the issues and people put in front of them during this election, I feel like I’ve been working on a completely different planet.  Thus, I’ve skipped watching the news and tried to remind myself that the arc of the universe does tend toward justice; that there are good people out there doing good things; and that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

NaNo started on Sunday, but I just haven’t been able to face putting words on the page.  Instead, I’ve read my way through Golden Age mysteries like they were going out of style, watched amusing animal videos, and crocheted one blanket and started on another. 

My 30-days-of-NaNo will start on the 10th.  In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to focus for just a little bit and give give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Michaeline: A Zoom Ghost Story

Girl in a painting, underlit by a golden glow
Kate was on the sofa, in a Zoom meeting with her boyfriend. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)


Katie had snuggled into her afghan on the sofa, her gray and black Tabby nestled under her knees, and her laptop perched on them. Pete was on Zoom and it was Halloween – exactly one year after the terrifying events of 2019.

“Babe, it kills me that you’re there alone,” Pete said.

Kate pulled the afghan a little closer to her neck, and Tabby mewed in protest. “Don’t you dare come over. You’ve got chemo on Tuesday.”

“But if you’ve got no symptoms . . . you’ve been so careful.”

“Pete, stop it. Sky tested positive five days ago.” And she wasn’t going to tell Pete about the fever that had sent her to the sofa. He didn’t need that as well.

“Jesus, Sky too? I thought it was only Jessie. This fucking year, I swear . . . .”

There was nothing Kate could say to that; fortunately, Zoom let her nod along in sympathy. It had been a roller coaster of a year – her high school boyfriend, Jake, had turned out to be a cult leader and raised seven demons of hell last Hallow’s Eve. She’d had to drop a hay bale on him to save the tri-city area, and in her grief and guilt, she’d hooked up with Pete at Christmas and was in love by New Year’s Day. Pete was diagnosed with cancer on Valentine’s Day (Friday, 5 p.m. – all the bad news in 2020 had dropped on Friday at 5 p.m.), and her mother died from complications of eye surgery . . . shot in the eye by a rubber bullet on the third of July, dead on September fourth.

Tabby crawled out from under the afghan and curled herself around Kate’s neck.

Pete said, “Hey, Tabby, Tabby!” Tabby looked at him, ears forward. She liked Pete almost as much as Kate did.

The Zoom crackled and spit, and Tabby launched herself off Kate, and cowered under the side table across the room. “Hey, Pete, your camera is off. Pete?”

No answer. Which was par for the course. With her connection, she lost her Zoom companions at least three times a week. The static, like an old-fashioned television on an empty station, was new, though.

“Katie, Katie, Katie.” A horrible sound, a man’s voice was heard through the hisses on the screen, vaguely reminiscent of somebody calling a cat. Only Jake had called her Katie.

“Pete, is that you? What’s going on?”

“Not Pete, Katie.” There was a long pause, and Katie felt chills going up her spine and down her upper arms in marching rows of goosebumps. “Pete.” This was almost spit out, like the person behind the Zoom camera had bitten into the pit of a cherry. Another long pause, and Kate sought to organize her scrambling thoughts, but they eluded her. They ran for all the corners of her mind, leaving nothing but a blank space and this snowy screen. “Why, Kate? Why me? Not . . . .” Kate was frozen. “ . . . you?”

Ideas suddenly flooded into her head. She frantically hit the trackpad, trying to close the window, stop the program. She pressed on the power button once, twice, three times, and the third time for a long 15 seconds. Silence from the screen for this minute, but as soon as her finger released the power button, an evil laugh issued through the hissing fog of the computer.

She slammed the laptop shut, and instinct prompted her to roll off the sofa, crawl under the coffee table, and her butt caught on it, so she crawled across the floor, bringing the table along with her. Part of her mind wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it, but the other part was wrapped up in fear.

The ceiling fan dropped, glancing off the coffee table, and knocking the laptop off the sofa. It flew open, still a screen with her desktop, and a Zoom app of black and white static fuzz. “I missed you, Katie.” Another long 15 seconds of static. “Come with me.”

“No!” Kate screamed. She tried to back away from the damned computer, when the oddest thing happened. A new person had been invited to the Zoom. It . . . it looked like her mother’s Zoom name. She crawled toward the laptop.

Little chunks of plaster rained down upon her, but the ceiling fan had brought down most of it when it fell. She allowed the new person to join the call. It couldn’t be her mother . . . it must be whoever bought her mom’s old desktop.

Two windows of static, but the one with her mom’s name was pink, and less hissy. It sounded almost as though someone was playing a theremin, or an electric harp with only three high strings. Whoo-whee-woooooo. “Kate.” It was her mother, she knew it. “I’m here.”

“Noooooooooooooooo.” It had to be Jake. Kate began mumbling the spell her friend had taught her that Hallow’s Eve. “I won’t stand for you running around. I won’t stand for you putting me down. I am mine. I am mine. I am mine.” The hissing of static became more quiet, and then winked out . . . exactly like the old tube TV her mom had owned, not at all like the digital Zoom window. Pete’s dear face showed on the screen again.

“Kate, darling. What happened?”

“I . . . I’m not sure.” She could see her face on the screen, weirdly reversed as it always was on a Zoom call, but now covered with plaster dust. She wasn’t ready to throw the coffee table off her back yet.

“Kate, who are you talking to on the other screen?”

Kate looked at the pink screen, now pulsating with burgundy and returning to a warm, comforting color. She could barely hear the strains of the three notes. “Love you, Kate.” It was a low whisper, and another long pause, as if gathering the energy to say a few more words. “I’ll take care of him.”

And just like that, Zoom chimed and informed her that LindaT&J had left the call.

“Kate, are you OK? Dammit, I will come over.”

“No, it’s OK, Pete. I think it’s done. Stay on the Zoom with me for a little longer? It’s almost midnight?”

“Sure, Kate-my-dear. I’ll stay on all night.” Tabby picked her delicate way through the wreckage of the ceiling fan, and unerringly pointed her butt at the screen. Pete laughed and Kate giggled and pulled the cat under the coffee table. It was going to be all right. Somehow, everything was going to be all right.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Final Friday of October. As I took my post-work-day walk this evening I could see that the church across the highway was busily setting up the parking lot for Saturday’s socially-distant Halloween trunk-or-treat event.  I’m not sure how it will all work, but colorful temporary structures and lots of sparkly lights will be involved.

And candy, I’d guess.

Here at the Writing Cave, all will be quiet.  I’m not sure whether there will be any children out trick-or-treating (local health guidelines say “don’t to it”), but since I have no candy to hand out and the set of twinkly lights I got the other day were defective, I will most likely turn off the porchlight and curl up with a good book.  

Before that, however, I have to participate in an early morning Zoom call, make it through another day of work, and 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.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your character has to choose between a trick and a treat?

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

brilliant          pocket             channel           background

ankle               belongings      hack                 entertain

elevator          spike                sweet               attempt

apology           goat                  groan               neurotic

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!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another week.   The days are getting noticeably shorter, which makes my after-work walks a bit of a challenge.  At this rate, I’ll be taking my walks at lunch time.  On the plus side, at least I won’t have to worry about melting in the heat.

Shorter days also mean that November and NaNoWriMo are both on the horizon.  Looks like I have about a week to gather the Fall decorations from the garage and outline the story I’ll be working on for the month.  I’m cautiously optimistic about the success of both activities, though there is a definite chance I might be distracted or sidelined by one of the books in my TBR pile.  Especially one of the mysteries.  I don’t know about you, but I have the devil’s own time putting one of those down once started.

Providing I manage to log off work at a reasonable time and avoid the lure of the TBR pile, I plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Hi there and Happy Friday.  I was under the impression that we had moved on to cooler weather a week or so ago.  I even wore a shirt with long sleeves one day (okay, technically they were rolled up), but summer is apparently making one more curtain call.  Either that or Mother Nature is having hot flashes.

Whatever the explanation, I am currently stuck with both warm-weather and cool-weather clothes competing for space in the bedroom.  I started the annual transition last week from one season’s clothes to the next, including the traditional “I can’t remember when I wore this last, so it’s going in the charity pile” activity, but that is on hold while I wait for the weather to pick a lane and stick to it.

On the plus side, at least the skies are no longer smoky, thanks to the containment of various fires and some mysterious off-shore wind patterns.  Let’s hope that’s the end of fire season and it’s “nothing but good times” ahead.

I’m glad I procrastinated about putting the portable fan back in the attic last weekend, since it is definitely still necessary.  Of all the things I’ve purchased in my lifetime, that fan is something (along with the Cuisinart) that I’ve assuredly gotten my money’s worth out of.  It’s a FisherPrice fan I bought for the baby’s room almost three decades ago and it is still working like a trouper.  I guess some things really are made to last.

While I wait for the weather to sort itself out I’ll probably be spending some quality “staring off into space” time, but I also plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to the end of another week.  Mine didn’t get off to the best of starts, but it is ending on a much better note, and not just because my internet is up and running again.

The weather has taken a turn for the fall-ish today–cool enough for me to pull out my favorite light-weight flannel shirt.  True, I’m still barefoot, but I’m cozy and not in danger of melting into a puddle of sweat, so that is a good thing. 

The leaves are preparing for their final descent and during my evening walk, the lawn of my nearby park was sporting drifts of crimson and gold even though the landscaping crew had been by earlier in the day to rake and mow.  My flowers, however, are convinced we’re still in the midst of summer and are busily blooming away.  As I work, I can see a pot of colorful flowers that are very popular with bees and hummingbirds alike.

The only thing on my agenda today–other than work and some quality “staring off into space” time–is to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

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