Michaeline: Treat Myself with The Assassins of Thasalon

It has been a hard week of gardening, muscle recovery from gardening, and dentistry, and I haven’t opened my computer for days. So, it’s quite a treat to find that Lois McMaster Bujold’s new ebook, The Assassins of Thasalon, came out May 10th! Believe it or not, it’s book 10 of the delightful Penric and Desdemona series, about the life of a young man who contracts a demon — a demon with the accumulated memory and personalities of 11 women, a mare and a lioness.

A rope breaks and a person in black plunges one story to a tiled stone floor, where an older man is looking up at the person.
The Assassins of Thasalon is the 10th Penric and Desdemona story from Lois McMaster Bujold. Image via Goodreads Blog; the cover art is by Ron Miller.

Lois’s work has touched my life in so many ways, and shaped my thinking. It’s a rare week that goes by that I don’t think of a quote from her collected canon to describe something going on in life or politics.

The other Penrics are novellas, while this one’s word count launches it into the book arena. Most of Lois’s stories can be read as stand-alones, and since this takes place two years (in book time) after “The Physicians of Vilnoc”, I think it’s safe to say you don’t need to read all nine to enjoy the tenth . . . however, you may want to!

So, off I go for an afternoon and evening of good reading! See you next Saturday!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Buttermilk Biscuit Day” (if you’re reading this on May 14th). It’s also “National Chicken Dance Day” which makes a certain amount of sense.  Chicken and Biscuits do go together fairly well.

Here in the States we’re unexpectedly celebrating “No More Masks if You’re Vaccinated Day.”  I’ve gotten so used to wearing a mask that I think it’s going to take me a while to feel comfortable going without one.  It will be nice to see faces again though.  

Probably.

For now I’m going to continue working on my “Stay Away from the Computer Day” on my Friday off.  You wouldn’t think that would be so hard, but I’ve yet to master it.  I’ll also be doing a little gardening–removing a few plants that have lost the will to live and replacing them with some other with a more positive outlook.  

Whether I manage to stay away from the computer or not, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Finally Getting There!

Phoebe 2 cover smallI’ve been in a flurry of literary activity lately, finishing up my endless trilogy (the Phoebe novels) and contemplating whether my first three books can be resuscitated. (They can! Or at least, one can, for sure.) This effort then requires time spent scheduling editors, formatters, and cover designers. Sometimes I have trouble keeping it all straight—is this the book that’s going to formatting, or going to the editor? What’s due from the cover designer? But the good part is that I think that I’m finally in the home stretch for many of these projects. Not only with my newer work, but also my older work.

I’ve complained so often about the problems I’ve had with the Phoebe trilogy that you all are probably happier than I am that I’m finally finishing them up. (There are way too many links to post back to. Seriously, you don’t want to revisit any of that.) But now that I’m finally getting past my logjam with them, I thought I’d show you the new cover for Phoebe 2. What can I say? I love the cheerleaders. (Editors note: I admit I was a high school cheerleader, but I deny all insinuations that this novel is autobiographical.)

What about you? How are things going on your side?

Elizabeth: Exercising Creativity

After more than a year of pandemic concerns, political upheaval, and social unrest, my creative brain can best be described as “in deep hibernation.”  Rather than getting words on the page, I’ve been hiding out in old favorite comfort reads and watching rebroadcasts of game shows from the 1970s and 1980s.

Calming, perhaps, but probably not a good long-term strategy.

Now that I’ve been successfully vaccinated and can leave the safety of my living room (theoretically), I’ve begun to try to get back to something approaching normality.  As I mentioned the other day, one of my first changes has been to acquire (second-hand) an elliptical machine like I used to work out on at my office gym.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that I pretty much hate working out (even after years of doing it), but after more than a year with only virtual workout classes available, I have definitely missed the benefits of working out.  Fortunately, the workout equipment shortage from the early days of the pandemic has subsequently turned into burgeoning supply of slightly used exercise equipment.

Thus, I was able to purchase just what I wanted and at a pretty good price.

I’m now three weeks into my new routine, adding another minute to my workout time each day.  After a few days I noticed that, in addition to some newly sore muscles, my brain seemed to be a little clearer and I actually had a creative thought or two.  According to the recent New York Times article Can Exercise Make You More Creative?, that’s not unusual.  Apparently, “active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary.

Who knew? Continue reading

Michaeline: When Stakes Just Aren’t Important

One of the things we’re taught as studious craft writers is that the stakes are important. Stakes, well-defined at the outset and referred to as needed during the course of story, can keep the reader reading, eager to see if (or more likely, in the romance genre, how) our characters get their hearts’ desires.

But this week, I binge-watched season one of BBC’s Ghosts, and now I’m wondering if high stakes are actually a distraction from a cozy story.

Alison (white woman) and Mike (Black man) sit on the floor during a DIY tea break, while ghosts come out the wall. GHOSTS is emblazoned on the wall.
Promotional image of BBC’s 2019 comedy, Ghosts, via BBC Media Centre.
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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Tourism Day” (if you’re reading this on May 7th). Possibly not the best of days to celebrate right now, considering we’re still not clear of the pandemic; perhaps “National Dreaming of Tourism Day” would be more appropriate.  If you’re feeling a little wacky, it’s also “National No Pants Day.”  Feel free to interpret that one however you want.

On the more serious side, it’s “National Provider Appreciation Day,” celebrating all those who help working parents.

Childcare workers are celebrated on this day, including teachers, nannies, and caregivers, all of who are essential workers in helping working parents continue to provide for their families. The day focuses on building awareness of the holiday, thanking childcare workers, and showcasing their contributions to their communities. From a simple thank you and gifts to social media posts and hashtags, this holiday is deserving of our attention.”

I’ll be busy celebrating “Finally Taking Care of Some Tasks I’ve Been Ignoring Too Long Day.”  Fortunately, the number of tasks I need to take care of is shorter than that sentence!  I’m hoping to get an early start on the day so I can do what needs to be done and then relax for the rest of the day, but that’s probably pretty unlikely. 

Whatever I do, and whenever I do it, I’ll be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Writing Prompts for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day right around the corner and a dearth of creative juices flowing right now, I stumbled on a post with writing prompts that celebrate moms. The point of the post is prompting one to write something nice to send to their mother. Of course, my brain went down the path of story ideas.

The first prompt is “Remember that time we went on that trip… Write about a recent trip or holiday you went on with your mother.” My writer brain takes a trip with a mother who drops her by the side of the road and leaves her. Or leaves her by killing herself a la The Queen’s Gambit.

Another is: “I always wanted to tell you… What is the one thing you always wanted to tell your mom?” How about: When you had that affair and dad took me away, did you know what an abusive son of a bitch he was?

“My mom’s favorite story about me is… when I was…” This could be a way to tell backstory to another character. The character’s mom tells a hugely embarrassing story, or maybe one that gives insight into the character’s current situation/goal.

Check out the prompts and see if you can come up with a twist that makes a better story.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers.

Elizabeth: Flourishing

My climbing roses are definitely flourishing

In her last post, Michille wrote about languishing, that “somewhat joyless and aimless feeling” that that last year or so has engendered.  When I saw a story the New York Times today about flourishing, how to turn that languishing feeling around, I couldn’t help but click and read more for some hints on how to improve my own mood and creativity.

Like any other attempt at change, the first step to get from languishing to flourishing is to figure out exactly how you’re currently feeling.  Sounds easy, but sometimes that line between tired, sick, depressed, purposeless, or something else all together can be hard to define.  Fortunately, the article had a link to a 10-question quiz to help you figure out where you stand.  Although finding out you have a higher or lower score than the general public might not be particularly helpful, the the questions asked could provide a good starting point for changes you might want to consider making in order to get from languishing to flourishing. Continue reading

Michaeline: Making the Reader Do the Heavy Lifting

This post has only a nugget of truth in it, and I will be asking you, the reader, to do the heavy lifting of separating fact from fiction from pure flights of fancy.

The truth is this: Grey @RayPilley hired one of those write-my-essay groups to write a 1500-word romantic encounter. Grey provided art of two male characters, names of the two men and the basic scenario: “two characters confessing their feelings of love for each other at a fancy dinner party”.

Dinner Party by Jules-Alexander Grun showing hundreds of people in a grand hall with a mezzanine also full of tables and people.
“Love was seated several kilometers away from Hero, much to their mutual chagrin. How could professions of love take place over the distance of the Grand Hall?” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll provide a link at the end that should get you through THAT wonderful story of connection between two strangers on the internet – one trying to make a buck, the other looking for easy entertainment and a few laughs.

But let’s call the ghostwriter Hub (they/them). Hub provided a story full of stilted sentences, bad spelling and no stakes. Oh, and some pronoun confusion; Hub seems to have lifted half the essay from a hetero scenario and forgot they were writing about anime boys. Dear Reader, if you are feeling bad about your writing these days, I encourage you to follow that Twitter trail Grey laid out. The first two-thirds are so bad in so many areas that

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “Hairstyle Appreciation Day” (if you’re reading this on April 30th).  Considering how many folks have spent the past pandemic-year without access to a barber or salon, “Crazy Hairstyle Day” might be more appropriate.  If you’d prefer something a little more challenging, it’s also “National Honesty Day.” 

I’m guessing any number of people might find that to be a real challenge to celebrate successfully.

The author of The Book of Lies, M. Hirsh Goldberg, created National Honesty Day in the early 1990s. The former press secretary to a Maryland governor selected the last day of April in contrast to all the foolishness the first of the month brings.

The day is often used as a campaign for prevention against the most deceitful lies in history. Occasionally, the day also urges politicians to stay away from lies and tell the truth.

Personally, I’ll be celebrating “I Finally Bought an Elliptical Machine Day.”  Working remotely has been great in terms of a 30-second commute to work and not having to dress up (or wear shoes), but I’ve really missed working out at the gym (something I never thought I would say).  Walks at the park and Zoom workout sessions just didn’t fill the void.  I found just the model of elliptical that I used at the gym, on sale at a great price from someone who was downsizing, so I snapped it up.  After a more than a year away, it’s a bit more challenging than I remember, but I’m determined to get back to my pre-pandemic routine (and hopefully my pre-pandemic shape).  I’ve been increasing my workout time by a minute each day.  As a plus, I also got a good workout cleaning the garage to make room to set it up. 

Double win!

I’ll be adding another minute to my workout this afternoon and possibly seeing if there is anything else I can get rid of in the garage, then it will be time to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading