Jilly: The Pirate’s Parrot–A Shapeshifting Short Story

It’s been a difficult start to the New Year, and I haven’t written or edited anything for the last few weeks, so I thought I’d try to get myself back in the swing by tackling Elizabeth’s writing prompts from last Friday.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It took me a while to get going, and the final result came out quite dark, but at least it got the wheels turning.

The prompts were:

Something floating in the swimming pool

Ripple                          flicker                          shade                           depth

Breeze                          killjoy                          parrot                         shadow

Moonbeam                 symbolic                     acrobat                       daredevil

Headphones               contestant                  cougar                        bludgeon

The Pirate’s Parrot

A persistent breeze shepherded fluffy clouds across the balmy North African night sky. Intermittently—too often—a moonbeam shone through, illuminating the battered body floating face down in Hizir Barbarossa’s white marble swimming pool.

I’d perched, frozen, on Hizir’s beefy shoulder as he’d lounged on his white marble throne while Oruc, his First Mate, fought a contestant for the coveted place at the pirate lord’s right hand. I’d witnessed Oruc humiliate the challenger, bludgeon him to a pulp, and then make him walk the plank along the antique wooden diving board as the assembled thugs cheered and jeered.

Apparently it was symbolic, like Hizir’s decision to adopt the name of a long-dead pirate and decorate his person with brocade coats, antique pistols and dangly ear-rings. There was nothing archaic, however, about his fast-growing empire of people smugglers, slavers, drug-dealers, money-launderers, and online scammers.

Unfortunately for Barbarossa, his sartorial preferences had made him the perfect target for the Powers-that-Be’s super-secret new shifter division. The Boss had figured that an ultra-rare Spix’s Macaw would make the perfect shoulder ornament for the discerning pirate-psychopath, so I’d exchanged my jeans, boots and smart remarks for brilliant blue feathers and a vocabulary of limited depth.

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Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Friday already – how did that happen?  This week seems to have just raced by, but the number of things on my to-do list doesn’t seem to have decreased at all.  I’m pretty sure that two more things were added for every one that I crossed off.

Fortunately I have a little down time now, so I’m going to make some hot cocoa, cuddle up with my favorite quilt, and see if I can make some progress on the mess-in-the-middle of my current manuscript.

Sound like a plan? Continue reading

Michaeline: Gordon Ramsay Crossover Writing Lessons, Part One

Gordon Ramsay with a lamb around his neck and shoulders.

Gordon Ramsay took this little lamb to school. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

WARNING: Profanity. (It involves Gordon Ramsay. What did you fucking expect?)

To a certain extent, art is art is art. Still, I was surprised how applicable some of the lessons Gordon Ramsay taught his restauranteurs were to the art of writing.

Here’s the deal: I’ve avoided Kitchen Nightmares and that kind of reality show because I heard there’s a lot of yelling, and humiliation just isn’t my jam. But I was feeling depressed, spending entirely too much time on YouTube, and the only interesting thing in my recommended feed was a clip from such a show. I’d seen Gordon Ramsay on things like Jimmy Fallon, so I decided three minutes of my time was not too big of a loss.

Dear Readers, three minutes turned into hours and hours of binge-watching over the last couple of weeks. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I’ve seen British Kitchen Nightmares, American Kitchen Nightmares, clips and full episodes, and an assorted chocolate box of Gordon Ramsay all over the modern media. And I regret nothing.

Yes, there’s yelling and sometimes humiliation. But there’s also a combination of mystery Continue reading

Michaeline: Prime Time

Radha and Madhav have an epiphany. Wikipedia says their connections are ones of marriage and mental love. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Radha and Madhav have an epiphany. Wikipedia says their connections are ones of marriage and mental love. Image via Wikimedia Commons

So, this January I’ve been reading a couple of books that touch on the psychological process of priming. Both Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow describe some experiments about priming. The key thing is that certain words can speed our minds’ processing of related items. So if you read speedy words, you are more likely to be able to read “racecar” faster than you read, say, “turtledove.” The experiments they cite suggest that the words we read can affect aspects of our thinking beyond reading, as well.

This is really quite exciting. I mentioned it in a comment earlier, and Kay played with the idea a bit. Could reading words like “cocoa”, “festive”, “fuzzy”, and “fleece” leave one feeling warm and happy, and make one walk with a little bounce in one’s step, a whistle on one’s lips?

Well, if it works, wouldn’t that be great? So, in the name of scientific discovery, Continue reading

Jilly: Short Story – Cinderella’s Big Night

I was too busy celebrating on Friday to join in Elizabeth’s New Year Writing Sprints, so here’s a belated contribution using her prompt words: resolution, bubble, wish, plan, cloud, confetti, sequin, neon, heist, fairy tale, riot, kissing and castle.

Cinderella's Big NightCinderella inched open her dressing-room door and paused seductively on the threshold of the bridal chamber. Her wedding dress had been a demure cloud of white silk and tulle, but there was nothing virginal about her nightgown. If the populace could see their fairy-tale princess now, there’d be a riot.

Her outfit was a scanty mix of midnight-blue satin and lace, with a few strategically placed ribbons and buttons to make life interesting for Prince Charlemagne. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints, now with Pickup Lines!

stopwatch graphicReally? It’s Friday already? That doesn’t seem possible. I’d have guessed Wednesday at the latest, especially considering how many things remain on my “To Do” list for this week. Obviously, I need something to get me into a Friday-state-of mind.

Sounds like a job for Writing Sprints.

But first, let’s stretch our creativity with a few minutes of Pickup Line Improv. Continue reading