Jilly: Secret Sauce

It’s a holiday weekend here in London. Spring is in the air. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the city is full of flowers, and my husband just offered to take me out to dinner. Nothing but good times ahead 😉 .

I was planning a Good Book Squee, but that will have to wait until next week. All of a sudden, my head is full of lobster cocktail, shrimp tempura, steak, cheesecake, great conversations and lots of laughter. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

We’ve been going regularly to Goodman Mayfair since it opened in 2008. It’s been my favorite restaurant for almost nine years now and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. Every time I go, I’m blown away by the excellence of their offering, and I always think about what it takes to keep their customers coming back for more, year after year.

A superb steakhouse has a lot in common with an outstanding piece of genre fiction. Continue reading

Michaeline: Love Narratives in Six Minutes or Less

Whirl around as love makes you dizzy! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I fell off the “No YouTube” wagon hard this morning, but my shame is your game! I found two great videos that capture that thrilling, fizzy bit of fictional love, all condensed down into a short dose that you can watch while you have a nice cup of soothing beverage.

You may remember the anime clip of “Helpless” from Hamilton that I introduced last fall. (Sadly, the user has closed their YouTube account, and I can’t find it anymore.) However, I found a whole slew of other versions this morning. Artists *love* Hamilton, and a lot of them are doing animatics (which are either primitive animation or elaborate moving story boards, depending on your point of view and the clip in question) that allow people to draw and share their own visions of the popular musical. Here’s a new one from Szin on YouTube (4:09). Lots of blushing and twirling around as Alexander courts Eliza and wins her hand.

If you prefer your fictional romance with a little more live action, here’s a wonderful skit that Anne Hathaway and James Corden performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden (April 20, 2017; 5:28). If there’s any irony, you have to dig it out yourself. What they do here is distill the typical rom com film down to the key plot points, and they’ve chosen to sing little snippets of songs that perfectly reinforce each turn and twist. It’s all there: establishing shot of heroine alone, the cute meet, the big fall, the major problem, the dark night, the flight from love, and the chase that ends in reconciliation. Lots of lingering looks and more twirling around. (-: For me, it’s not a romance unless it puts my head into a whirl.

One think I really love about James Corden is that he’s not ashamed to be an old softie. He gladly embraces the happiness and the little pains, and encourages the rest of us to not be so hard and condescending.

I hope you enjoy the videos. May Day is around the corner, and in that certain temperate zone in the northern hemisphere, that means romance is in the air – the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the May Poles (at least symbolically) are popping up. Let your heart turn light with a little spring fancy this week. I certainly intend to!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Traveler Edition

So many desserts, so little time.

Can you believe I almost forgot it was time for our Friday Writing Sprints?  In my defense, I was traveling this week which has my schedule all out of whack.   There’s nothing like getting up at oh-my-gosh-o’clock in the morning to catch an early flight and then spending hours and hours in a conference room to leave you a little disoriented.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Fortunately, along with crowded planes and hours of meetings, my trip also included a nice hotel and several hours of downtime while I waited for the rest of the attendees to arrive.

It also featured afternoon tea.

I have a definite fondness for afternoon tea – scones, little sandwiches,  decorative desserts – what’s not to like.  To be fair, the desserts, with the exception of the tiny crème brûlée that is hiding in the back by the macaroon in the photo above, had better looks than taste, but the scones and sandwiches and ambiance more than made up for it.

Now that I’m back home, back on schedule, and full of enough tea to float an armada it’s time to turn my attention to getting some words on the page.  Sounds like a round of Random Word Improv is in order.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: A Pill to Get Rid of Writer’s Block

pills istock-168763163Seriously. There’s a pill. I heard an interview with Robert Anthony Siegel on NPR Radio in which he discussed a one-man open-label placebo trial he’d undertaken with John Kelley. Siegel is a writer and Kelley is a psychology professor at Endicott College and the deputy director of Harvard’s Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter, a program devoted to the interdisciplinary study of the placebo effect. The goal was to get rid of Siegel’s writer’s block, and the panic attacks and insomnia that went hand-in-hand with the writer’s block. The interview was a discussion about the research and subsequent article in the Smithsonian Magazine – “Why I Take Fake Pills: Surprising new research shows that placebos still work even when you know they’re not real.Continue reading

Elizabeth: April Short Story

Has it been another month already?  Seems like the year just started and it’s already a third of the way done.  Where’s that ‘slow down’ lever?”

This month’s short story was inspired by a recent parade I attended.  I was trying to keep an eye on my son (who was playing in the parade) and I kept losing him as the band members marched and moved in various patterns.  I couldn’t help but think how (theoretically) easy it would be for someone to slip out of formation, commit a crime, and return to his position with no one being the wiser.  One idea led to another, and the result is the short story below.

Enjoy. Continue reading

Nancy: Who Did It Better? Books Turned Into TV Phenomena

Have you ever seen the columns in entertainment magazines where they show two celebrities caught at different events wearing (gasp!) the same outfit? The column writer typically opines about who wore it better and why. A quick google search showed that these columns do, in fact, exist in the digital world, opening up the floor for everyone with a keyboard and an opinion to weigh in on the matter.

We humans love our comparisons. Remember compare and contrast writing exercises in elementary school? Comparative Literature?  Ever been given the advice to pitch your book by comparing it others already out in the marketplace?

Recently, I recalled a high school lit project that required us to pick a topic from a list of maybe 10, develop a thesis around it, and use the books we’d read by that point in the course to support it. I chose to write about whether classic books or movies made from classic books were better. (Spoiler alert: It was a literature class. This one came with a built-in answer, especially if you liked getting A’s as much as I did.) So, yes, using two classics, A Tale of Two Cities and Wuthering Heights – both books I loved in high school, by the way – I came to the astonishing conclusion that the books did a better job of presenting themes, metaphors, and character studies. Continue reading

Jilly: I’d Love to Read His Story

In her post last Saturday, Michaeline talked about subplots and secondary characters. We chatted in the comments about the movie version of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, and Michaeline said she wished the whole story could have been about the master swordsman sidekick, Inigo Montoya.

Which got me wondering: which secondary character(s) would you like to see in a starring role?

In this era of series, especially in romance, many (most?) significant secondary characters are written and signaled as sequel bait. Usually I’m excited about that. I love the promise of more stories in a world I’m enjoying, and if I’m already invested in the characters, there’s a delicious frisson of anticipation whenever they do something that could come back to bite them later.

Sometimes the author dangles the treat but keeps the reader waiting through multiple books. Maybe even through an entire series, like Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green books, where it was always clear that the resolution of Lyon and Olivia’s romance arc would wrap up the series. That’s OK. I’m comfortable with deferred gratification. I know the story will come, eventually. If I care enough, all I have to do is stick with the author and series until it arrives.

Here, I’m thinking more about the cast of supporting players who people a fictional world but who are not set up to step into the limelight in due course. Take Christopher and Barabas, two characters from Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. Ilona put up a blog post a few days ago in response to a reader’s question about whether she would ever write their romance. Click here to read the post in full. In short, Ilona said the decision would not be a question of popularity, but one of inspiration.

If I had my way, I’d beg the story gods to Continue reading