Writing Prompt Number 4

Quotation:

The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people – Lucille S Harper

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Pursuits and Distractions

Image from Unsplash, taken by Oli Bekh

Fiona watched Martin stride into the White Hart with another bag of books. “We sell books here,” she said. “We have books on Tarot, Wicca, Meditation and a whole lot of the spiritual side of things.” She looked at the bulging bags. “We don’t usually store books on flower arranging.”

Martin turned haggard eyes to her. “I’m desperate,” he said. “Do you have any idea what it’s like living with someone who’s trying to write a book? It’s hell.”

Mrs Tuesday wandered up, grinning. “What have you got today?”

“Crochet!” Martin announced. “There is a crochet thing called Amigurumi.” He pulled out a handmade rabbit. “She’ll have to fall for this.”

“Didn’t you get that yesterday?” Fiona asked.

“That was origami,” Martin said with a shudder. “She took the book and paper down to her domain and now the court is infested with flying paper cranes. They’ve started attacking the cats that get in and have built nests in the library.”

Fiona was sympathetic. Martin’s wife may be the ruler of all the vampires, werewolves and assorted non-normals, but Lady Freydis had her own way of exerting authority. She operated mainly through fear, apprehension and chaos and it was once again echoing through the faery realm and spilling over to the shop. “The back room is full of books,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Mrs Tuesday nodded. “You can’t move back there.”

“Ian has been encouraging her to make cards with Jeanette,” Fiona said. “And Jeanette told him what she thought of that idea.” She moved off to help a couple who were deliberating over some Tarot cards.

“I can see his point,” Martin said. “Ian’s the head of the werewolf pack. He’s got his hands full. He doesn’t need the distraction of my wife being, well, her.”

“Jeanette’s the wife of the head of the werewolf pack, with all that goes with it, and runs a gardening business with two young kids,” Mrs Tuesday said tartly. “She has more than her hands full. Fortunately Lady Freydis agrees with me.”

“She needs a hobby, or at least a short term distraction,” Martin said. “She’s bored, and we know how much trouble that causes.”

Lady Freydis strolled in, also carrying bags full of books. She side stepped the shoppers and slipped behind the counter. “I’m determined to encourage Callum by using my time fruitfully.” She ignored Mrs Tuesday’s snort of disbelief.

“That would be an interesting change,” Martin said. “But look!” He held out the crocheted rabbit like a talisman. “Wouldn’t you like more of these?”

Lady Freydis looked at it thoughtfully. “It has a certain charm, but it isn’t pink,” she said. “I suppose I could ask the brownies for some.”

“But it’s creative,” Martin said desperately.

“There are books about everything,” Lady Freydis sighed. “So many lovely books telling you how to do things. So I bought some books on how to write books.” She disappeared into the back room and returned without the bags and tying her apron. “I’ll start reading them as soon as I’ve finished my shift.”

You can find the full story from the beginning here Back at the White Hart

Practising Writing

I’ve started posting writing prompts again. It was mentioned to me in quick succession from a few sources and I thought that I would have a play. At time of typing, I have writing prompts cued up for Tuesdays up to the end of February 2024. I set the word count at 500 words (I went over by fifty on my last response here), tried to pick out a good range of pictures and quotes and hoped for the best.

My goal was to work on my writing, like a gym. It can be tricky to keep the word count low, at least for me. My characters start talking and they get carried away. I was hoping to reference the crew at The White Hart, the former pub and now shop and cafe which is staffed by a very miscellaneous group of elfen, werewolves and boggarts with the occasional normal thrown into the mix (you can find more about the world of The White Hart here and some previous short stories here). The idea wasn’t to worry about background or characters but to write a complete, self contained scene that was at least a little interesting to read.

Writing that small scene can be unexpectedly hard.

The first consideration is to make that scene readable to those who haven’t read the three novels and associated short stories. Making that not only readable but perhaps interesting while trying to avoid irritating a regular reader is tricky and something that I’m working on. That’s one of the reasons I’m calling it a writing gym. I can’t just dump any old stuff. I have to carefully consider who could be reading this.

The second consideration is word count. I’m clear that the 500 word limit is a suggestion and not set in stone, but it’s very useful. I find myself carefully picking over the words when I inevitably run over. This is incredibly good gym work as I have to consider the value of every word. I’m choosing between adding information or rounding out description and it’s forcing me to look closer at my writing. This has to be useful when it comes to my other work.

As for making it entertaing, well, that’s something that’s always a work in progress. The brutal truth is that the more you write, the better you get. The short stories that I’m putting in after the prompt are my way of putting in time and effort to make my writing better. I’m playing fair and not looking ahead to the next prompt too early, which is I suppose the equivalent of training with the right weights. I’m taking it seriously, although I hope that the stories are fun.

So thank you for reading. I hope that I can make it worthwhile coming back again. I’d love to hear what you think so please feel free to drop a comment. And please enjoy the chance to play the writing prompts, as long as you find it fun.

Writing Prompt Number 3

Image from Unsplash, taken by Oli Bekh

Quotation:

A technical objection is the first refuge of a scoundrel – Heyward Brown

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Artiste in Action

“I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this,” Martin said, striding into the White Hart. “I’m going to lose my mind.”

Mrs Tuesday raised an eyebrow. “We don’t want an insane vampire running around.” She handed over an Americano. “What’s your wife done this time?”

“Callum got placed in an art show,” Martin grumbled. “I told Lady Freydis that it reflected well on her, but she’s insistent that she learns to ‘do art’ better.”

Mrs Tuesday frowned. Martin usually handled his marriage to the erratic and absolute ruler of York’s non-normal community with devoted ease. Seeing him so rattled was worrying. “What sort of art?” Mrs Tuesday asked.

Martin looked hunted. “She’s been reading books, and you know what she’s like when she reads books.”

Mrs Tuesday tapped her fingers on the counter. The shop was quiet but it was early yet with only a couple of werewolves checking out the dog treats. “Lady Freydis is late,” Mrs Tuesday said. “And that’s worrying.”

Martin shook his head. “She’s obsessed with being a barista. The most powerful creature in York and she makes coffees.”

“Maybe she needs some books about coffee,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“She’s read all of them,” Martin said wearily. “Believe me, I’ve checked.”

Lady Freydis swept in, unhampered by her armfuls of bags. “Martin, darling, could you fetch the rest from the taxi?” She disappeared into the back room. Martin briefly cast his eyes up to heaven before striding out to the taxi. Mrs Tuesday grinned as he stalked back in with another armful of bags.

“I’ll leave these here while I fetch the rest,” Martin bit out, dumping the bags next to the till and turning back to the door.

Lady Freydis wandered out, tying on her apron. “I thought that I should show support for Callum’s efforts,” she said airily. “And I’ve often been told that I have an artistic side.”

“The brownies always comment about your artistic displays around the coffee machine,” Mrs Tuesday said. The shop’s cleaners grumbled about the dried grasses and ribbons being in the way but it was a comment.

“I am very artistic with coffee,” Lady Freydis agreed. “But I should support Callum.”

Mrs Tuesday picked her words. “You’re a good prince to have such care of your people,” she said. “But perhaps you should encourage Callum rather than outshine him. You could sponsor a display of his work as support while concentrating on your skills with coffee.”

Lady Freydis shoulders slumped as she looked at the supplies. “I read the books to understand Callum,” she said. “And they are so pretty. But it isn’t coffee.” She ran a tender hand over her coffee machine. “Why are there no more books about coffee?” she asked plaintively. “I wouldn’t have to buy art supplies if there were more books about coffee.”

Martin strode in with another armful of bags. “Maybe you can make pictures with coffee,” he suggested, dumping them next to the collapsing heap near the till.

“Maybe you should write a book about coffee,” Mrs Tuesday suggested, ignoring the sudden look of horror on Martin’s face. “After all, you know all about the stuff.”

Lady Freydis took a deep breath and smiled happily. “That’s a perfect idea!” she said. “I’ll start at once.” She hesitated. “Well, after I’ve made all the coffees.”

You can find the full story from the beginning here Back at the White Hart

A Gift for Giving

I was lucky enough to have a small piece of writing published on the #HazardousToYourSanity blog which was a tiny piece of fiction about gift giving and you can find it here, if you’re interested. It’s about a gift that, while given in love, is quite different from the sort of thing that the reciever enjoys. I didn’t want anyone to think that the story was modelled on my darling husband who gives great gifts. It’s loosely modelled on my parents when I was young.

My late mother would bend heaven and earth to get the perfect present. She would watch carefully for clues, scour the charity shops and haunt the bargain stores and markets. She didn’t have much money but she would stretch it to get the best possible gift, suited the individual even if she couldn’t understand it herself. She was dedicated. She never forgot birthdays, anniversaries or important dates and even now I am trained on a subliminal level to make sure that a card and gift arrives to anyone who moves house, changes jobs, has a child or anything Hallmark. I can feel her shade at my shoulder, tutting if I forget.

My late father failed at gifts. He was generous to a fault but he had a sort of ‘gift-blindness’ that amused me but drove my late mother scatty. They got married on the 9th March and my late mother’s birthday was the 6th September. Every year, without fail, my father would get gifts for my mother on the 6th March and the 9th September. The arguments that followed were epic and prolongued. Added to which, my mother loathed anything pink and frilly. The last gift my father gave her before an incredibly hard fought divorce was a bright pink and frilly dressing gown. It didn’t help.

The ‘gift-blindness’ wasn’t anything malicious. After the divorce, I was grateful if my father remembered my birthday in the correct month. And the gifts were incredibly well meant – my father had a heart the size of Cheshire – but were random. My uncle was even worse. I once got a knock-off Crazy Frog key ring with sound effects. If you can remember Crazy Frog, you can imagine how incredibly tacky a knock-off of that was. My uncle thought it was a brilliant joke, spent a fortune on me in other ways, unexpectedly and unasked covered a load of wedding expenses and was a warm hearted, generous guy with a skewed idea of gifts.

My take is that no matter what the gift is, you smile when you accept it, find something nice to say about it and take the love that comes with it. We all know that some gifts come with malice. But in my experience, most gifts, no matter how crazy, come wrapped in layers and layers of love and that is worth cherishing.

Writing Prompt Number 2

Quotation:

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.Abraham Lincoln

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

The Most Important Meal of the Day

“Why can’t I pour coffee on this muesli thing?” Lady Freydis asked plaintively. “I like coffee.”

“You’re supposed to put milk on muesli,” Jasmine said helpfully. “That’s what it says on the packet.”

“I’ve known some people put vodka on muesli,” Mrs Tuesday said as she bustled around setting up the grill. “But that’s not something I fancy.”

“I’m sure you’ve driven a few people to have vodka for breakfast,” Fiona said. She took a deep breath. As part owner of a magical supply shop at the edge of York, she had to navigate between keeping things discreet for the visiting tourists and allowing her very miscellaneous staff to blow off steam. The hour before opening, as Mrs Tuesday and Lady Freydis set up the café and Jasmine helped Fiona set up the shop, was usually chaotic. Coffee on muesli, however, was new. “Why are you eating that stuff anyway?” Fiona asked as she carried a large box of palo santo incense over to the display unit. “Don’t you usually eat sugar with a light dusting of frozen blueberries?”

“It’s supposed to be healthy,” Lady Freydis said.

Fiona paused to look at her. “You’re an immortal elfen,” she said. “Why are you worrying about being healthy?”

“I don’t want to live forever with bad health,” Lady Freydis said primly.

“You could have a milky coffee on it,” Jasmine said helpfully as she carried a large box of books over to the shelves. “That’s a mix of both.”

Lady Freydis looked at the young werewolf thoughtfully. “You mean like a latte?” she asked. She put down the bowl on the counter and pushed it away from her. “What did you have for breakfast?”

“Bacon, sausage, fried egg and tomato,” Jasmine said happily. “I like to start the day with something inside me.”

“Only a werewolf could eat that every morning and stay so slim,” Lady Freydis said.

“Sometimes I have baked beans as well,” Jasmine said as she energetically shelved the books. “By the way, Fiona, we’re almost out of the Green Witch Journal.”

“Before you ask, I had a slice of toast,” Mrs Tuesday said, whisking the bowl out of Lady Freydis’ reach and substituting with a bowl of spray cream, frozen blueberries and sugar. “And I’m glad you all had plenty of fuel, because that coach party that booked at the last minute is early.” She nodded through the large front windows. Two large coaches were pulling up.

Fiona hurried across the floor to open the door. The coaches weren’t due for another two hours when more staff would be around to deal with 150 eager customers. She hoped that her small bowl of cereal would be enough to keep her going. At least she hadn’t poured coffee on it.

You can find the full story from the beginning here Back at the White Hart

Book Review: Unwritten by Elisabeth Bell. Book 1 of the Unreal Series

I have said before that I’m not keen on books written in the first person and the present tense. I’m even less keen on books written about an author writing a book – especially when the main plot is the author writing a book. I feel that there’s a real danger that it can get self-indulgent. This is a book written in the first person, present tense, about an author writing a book and I loved it.

The book is about Lily, a nurse, who started writing a book many years ago and then forgot about her work. When she is waylaid by a character from the story she had forgotten, it comes as something of a surprise and she needs a lot of convincing before she can take it seriously. It’s fun, complicated and well written and, as a nurse, Lily immediately books tests for brain injuries as she cannot believe that she has just had an encounter with an imaginary person.

This isn’t an adventure story. Without giving too much away, while there are exciting and action packed encounters with the characters from Lily’s book, at the heart this is a light and fun romance. Lily starts falling for Jake, a gorgeous businessman who is intrigued when as he sees her dealing with his uncle’s IV and preparation for surgery. The romance is lovely and sweet and very wholesome. There is nothing explicit in the story. The two main characters are honest and genuine with each other, which makes a refreshing change, and are generally nice people. As I settled into the book, I felt that it was very much a cozy read.

There is a slight drawback to this book. There is a sense that it’s written for writers, particularly romance writers. The chapter headings include The Info Dump, The Miscommunication Trope and The Falling in Love Montage. The writing is excellent, but there is a lot that is driven by the inside joke of this is a writer writing about a writer who is writing and it’s one of the problems that can come up in stories about writers.

I think this is a fun, cozy read even if you’re not a writer, but it’s only fair to let you know that it’s helpful if you know about the idea of Third Act Conflict, the name of one of the chapters and something that can be used when you construct a framework for a novel.

I very much enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to the planned next book. It may not have entirely won me over to ‘first person, present tense, writing about writing’ but it was a sweet, wholesome, enjoyable read and I am happy to recommend it.  

Stretching the Writing Muscles

I’ve been thinking about writing prompts again. I’ve done them before and had a lot of fun with them, but I felt that they were getting in the way so I stopped. They’ve always had a place in my heart, though, and I feel that it’s good for me. I look at a situation and a have a think and I have to be careful, disciplined and controlled in my writing. This is a good thing and I have always likened it to going to the gym. It’s a way of pushing ideas around and building up the writing muscles.

Unfortunately I’m the sort of person who, if I decide to go left, promise myself that I’ll go left and plan to go left, will inevitably turn right. I’m not being awkward. I’m just being me. So while I’m making a plan, who knows how it will turn out. I don’t stress about it any more.

The plan (and please let me stick to it) is that I will post a prompt every Tuesday and then post my response to that post on the Monday. Anyone who wants to join in with the fun is incredibly welcome. The rules are here, but the chances of me checking that you stick to the rules are very low indeed. In general, write something that is inspired loosely by the picture, the quotation or a combination, in more than twenty words but less than five hundred words and have fun. And write something that you wouldn’t be ashamed to be caught reading on the bus. When you consider the sort of things people read on the bus, you’ve got some latitude.

Writing and journalling can be incredibly good for your mental health. They are certainly good for mine. If I get two thousand words written then I have enough of a boost to spring clean the kitchen. Over the next few months I’m going to be exploring ways to write more and more and the writing gym is part of that.

I hope that you will feel able to use the prompts in a way that benefits you. You may not want to share, or you may want to write a novel instead of the 500 words, or you may want to play with the ideas for a while in private before sharing and that’s okay. If you do feel able to share, I would really love to see what the wonderful things that you create.

And I hope that, whatever else happens, you can have fun.