Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “Celebration of Life Day” (if you’re reading this on the 22nd).  According to the National Day Calendar folks:

“Celebration of Life Day on January 22nd honors the children and grandchildren who bring joy to our lives. The day is a reminder that each child and each life is to be held as a precious gift with the highest respect and dignity.”

With all that’s been going on the world in the past year or more, taking a bit of time to celebrate life seems like a nice thing to do.

I recently finished celebrating our recent political transition of power.  It’s remarkable how comforting it is to feel like there are intelligent, competent adults in the room again.  We may not yet be in “nothing but good times ahead” territory, but now at least we seem to be heading in the correct direction.

Without constantly having  to worry about what horrible thing I’m going to see on the news, I foresee a bit more spare time in my future.  Today, I think I use some of that time to 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?

Prompt:   Starting a new project

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

appearance        beehive           color               legend

casino                  animal             drunken        pilot

viper                    blankly            balcony          bedtime

blender               dancing            gallery            bluff

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 Sprint

Happy “Feast of the Donkey Day” (if you’re reading this on the 14th) or “Strawberry Ice Cream Day” (if it’s the 15th).  Who comes up with these things?  Although strawberry ice cream does sound pretty good about now.

I recently finished “Laughing Hysterically Day” after I got cost estimates for doing a “refresh” of my kitchen cupboards and a “replacement” of my living room sofa.  It’s not that I’m not willing to pay for quality and for the value of worker time, but the quotes definitely outside of the realm of that.   Also, I’m pretty sure the kitchen-estimator-guy mocked my “that style is so yesterday” tastes, and who wants that.  I like to think of my tastes as “classic” or “timeless.”

Time for Plan B.

Youtube, here I come.  I may not be able to completely remodel my kitchen that way, but maybe I can at least learn how to repair the drawers (my biggest pain point) and install a couple of sliding shelves in one of the hard-to-get-to cabinets.  I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

In the meantime, I think I’ll take a creativity break and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy First Friday of 2021.  I hope your year is off to a good start.  Of course, with the pandemic still raging in various parts of the world and the chaos here in the states, it has been a slightly rockier start than one might have hoped for.

Things have, at least, been fairly quiet on the day job.  Not everyone is back to work yet, and the calendars haven’t filled up with Zoom calls, so I had plenty of uninterrupted working time this week.  That won’t happen next week, so I made sure to take full advantage of it this week to get a lot of tasks taken care of.

Now, I’m looking forward to the weekend.  I have very little planned, other than packing away the remaining holiday decorations and giving the house a good sweeping/dusting, now that the repairmen are all gone for the time being.  It’s amazing how much dust is everywhere after more than a week of industrial fans blowing.  Who could have predicted that?

Whatever else I do (or don’t do), I’m going to make sure to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Year-End Writing Sprint

It’s New Years Eve as I write this, so I have a few more hours to post one last writing sprint for the year.  Thanks to all who participated in our recent annual Short Story Challenge and our Friday sprints throughout the year.  I’m always amazed at how we can all take the same words / prompt and come up with such completely different results.

I’m sipping champagne as I write this post–having my own personal New Years Eve celebration.  The neighbors are apparently trying to make things feel more festive by shooting off massive fireworks from their backyard.  I’m hoping the rain kicks in before they manage to light the hillside or themselves on fire.  Mother Nature is also adding her two cents, with a 3.6 earthquake just a few miles away.   This has been the longest year ever.

I’m going to need more champagne.

And maybe some noise canceling headphones.

My house is currently sporting several massive drying-fans, thanks to a minor kitchen flood a few weeks ago.  I feel like I’m living inside of a jet engine.  Chunks of my hardwood floors–that took me forever to install–have been mercilessly cut away to get to the wet and mold beneath.  Ugh.  On the plus side, the insurance company has hired professionals to do the restoration.  Also on the plus side, there is now no more reason for me to put off the kitchen remodel that I’d been thinking about for years.  Fingers crossed on that. 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

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Welcome to one of the few remaining Fridays of this year.  I don’t know about you, but I am surely ready to call it a wrap for 2020.

I was happy to see the UK and Canada both approve one of the new Covid vaccines this week and to see the news clips of Margaret Keenan of Coventry getting her jab (and following it up with a nice cup of tea).  We seem to be close to getting on the vaccine train here as well, but that will do little to slow the people who are already infected and it is expected that it will be at least next fall before we are close to fully vaccinated.  Death tolls here in the US have been between 2,000 to 3,000 per day for the past few weeks and that is projected to continue for quite a while.  I shudder to think what January is going to be like.

In a more positive vein, the end of the year means it’s time for holiday celebrations.  Sort of.  For our virtual celebration at the Day Job, my team voted on whether we all wanted to order food delivered (individually) and have a virtual holiday lunch or receive a gift (of our choosing).  I thought a virtual lunch could be fun, but the gift idea won out.  For my gift, I chose a $50 donation to Heifer International toward the purchase of a goat.  Seemed like a good idea.  I’m sure the recipient is more likely to need the goat than I am to need some random gift.  Plus, there is nothing to wrap, although I did see an amusing video just the other day on “how to wrap a goat.”

Now that that is all settled, I think I’ll pour a delightful warm beverage, cuddle up here on the couch in my fuzzy robe, and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday and congratulations for making it through another week.  Mine has been a very short work week, since Monday and Friday were both days off.  I’d like to say I took that free time to knock a bunch of unfinished tasks off the ToDo list, but that would definitely be a work of fiction.

I did do a little bit of clearing out in the garage, but my efforts were stymied a bit when I got to the local charity drop off with my bags full of items to donate and found that they had instituted a 2-bag limit.  Ah well, at least I got rid of few things, so that’s progress.

With my clearing-out efforts stalled, I moved on to the holiday decorating portion of my time-off program.  This whole year has been crazy and challenging and not a little scary, but having a big tree next to the fireplace, covered in colorful lights and shiny garland provides the promise of just a bit or normalcy.  The pillows and afghans on the couch have made their annual transition from blue/white to red/green, the holiday flannel bedding is in place, and there is a Merry & Bright welcome mat outside the door (not that anyone will be actually using it).  Sometimes it’s the little things that brighten up the day.

The tree might have an angel perched on the top, but there are no ornaments yet.  The Hanging of the Ornaments is something my son and I have traditionally done together since he was a toddler.  This year it may be an odd socially-distant-ornament-hanging-dance, but we’ll do our best. Right now I’ll just enjoy the sparkly lights and pretend those dummy boxes under the tree are filled with wonderful, magical gifts.

In between my gift fantasies and possibly an afternoon nap, I plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday and, for those who celebrated it, Happy Thanksgiving.  As I’m writing this, the cooking is finished, dinner has been eaten, and the dishwasher is running.

It was not quite a typical Thanksgiving day but there were dog walks in the park and socially distant family cooking in the kitchen, all wrapped up with a delicious apple-pecan-streusel pie. As a bonus, there are plenty of left overs, so I won’t need to cook for days. 

Though we were unable to be together in person, my siblings and I holiday Zoom call.  I’m guessing many other families did too.  Not quite the same as sitting around the same table for a meal, but a nice alternative.

Now, rather than sneak into the kitchen for “just one more” bite of apple pie, I think I’ll give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

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.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Jilly: What Codename Would You Choose?

Anyone who ever read a thriller or watched a movie/TV series involving US politicians knows the United States secret service uses codenames for presidents, first ladies, prominent persons and important locations. Originally the names were for security, but today they’re used for brevity, clarity, and tradition, and are often public knowledge.

I discovered this week that people who require a codename get to choose one for themselves, selecting from a list of “good” words maintained by the White House Communications Agency. Many choose a name that resonates with them personally. So, for example, we are told Kamala Harris settled on PIONEER.

I’d pretty much reached max election-coverage fatigue, but this thought-provoking snippet perked me right up. So much baggage for one word to carry!

How would you choose a codename for yourself?

I spent an hour or two playing with the question. Do you pick a word that epitomizes the way you define yourself, or one that reflects the way you want others to see you? The options may be similar or wildly different, depending on (to borrow a concept from writing guru Michael Hauge) how closely your public identity matches your private essence. And do you choose a word that describes who you are, or who you aspire to be?

In the end I used the simple brainstorming technique I use for book titles and the like. I wrote every word I could think of in my notebook, then picked the one that instinctively felt right. For myself I’d like INDIE.

Some definitions of “independent”: free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority; thinking or acting for oneself; not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.

Yes! I’ll take that.

I also think choosing a codeword would be a great way to develop a deeper understanding of a fictional character. I found a list of some famous ones (Liberty, Eagle, Falcon, Condor, Baroness, Duchess)—but they feel to me like a vehicle for the author to tell the reader what kind of character or story to expect. That’s like letting the Secret Service choose for you 😉 .

I took the test for my Elan Intrigues character Prince Daire of Caldermor, because I’ve just written a couple of novellas from his POV and I feel I know him fairly well. Plus I’m about to knuckle down to work on The Seeds of Destiny, a new novel that wraps up his story arc.

As the author, my codename for Daire would be LODESTONE. It’s a Middle English word for a stone that’s naturally magnetic or a person that’s the focus of attention or attraction. It’s uncommon. Something that leads or sets a course, and that brings healing and balance.

He’d never choose that for himself though. I think he’d pick HEIR, even after he becomes Crown Prince, because his whole life is defined by heredity. He inherits property and rank (a throne), physical characteristics (excess vitality, which enables him to make magical elan pulses but drastically curtails his life expectancy), a whole library of rules (the Edevald Family Statutes) and a secret pact with the ancient guardians of Caldermor (the Legacy).

Now I need to find a codename for Annis, the mountain-dwelling healer heroine of the new book.

How about you? What codename would you choose for yourself? Or for a favorite fictional character?