Michaeline: Network of Creativity: Salvador Dali interviewed by Dick Cavett

Michaeline: Network of Creativity: Salvador Dali interviewed by Dick Cavett

This morning, a friend of mine shared a Dick Cavett interview with Salvador Dali, and it’s been something to think about, for sure! In the clip, which aired on Feb. 11, 1971 (11 min), Cavett seems to be completely at sea when confronted by Dali’s accent, niche interests and methodology, but 50 years later, Dali’s ideas have become almost mainstream.

For example, Dali talks about the Fibonacci sequence and how it manifests in various natural objects, such as sunflowers, rhino horns and cauliflower, of all things. Cavett asks Dali about Dali’s arrival at a speech in a car filled with cauliflower (I’d like to think it was the beautiful Romanesco cauliflower, which demonstrates fractals so gorgeously), and doesn’t seem to comprehend Dali’s answer.

A graph showing the Fibonacci numbers in terms of squares that are x by x. x = 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.
The Fibonacci sequence can create an elegant spiral. (Jahobr, Wikimedia)
The Fibonacci sequence as illustrated in nature with aloes, sunflowers and a spiral seashell. (Google screenshot)
It's hard to describe this, but think cauliflower, but instead of the smooth, brain-like flowerets, each floweret is like a spiky Christmas tree.
My mother-in-law has grown this veg for me! It’s a member of the cabbage family, and is known variously as Romanesco broccoli, romanesco cauliflower, chou romanesco. Delicious, but smelly — a cabbage-scented limousine is maybe not what you’d want to ride in on a hot summer day. Still, look at those gorgeous fractals! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

We today may be more familiar with the sequence as part of Elsa’s magic in the “Let It Go” song from the Disney animation, Frozen. The lyrics even mention, “My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.”

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Corn on the Cob Day” (if you’re reading this on June 11th).  Judging from the number of people loading up their grocery carts with ears of corn the last time I was at the grocery story, many people are planning to celebrate, and not just for one day.  It’s also “German Chocolate Cake Day”–in case you’re not a corn fan.  

Fun fact:  German Chocolate Cake is not German at all, but rather named after the American Baker’s Company German Sweet Chocolate, which in turn was named in honor of Sam German.  Personally, I think of German Chocolate Cake as more of a fall/winter dessert, so I may substitute a more seasonally appropriate choice like strawberry pie.

On a non-food related note, it’s also the “National Making Life Beautiful” day.  

“National Making Life Beautiful Day on June 11th dedicates a celebration to those who make life beautiful. Whether you’re creating beauty by building relationships or helping others achieve personal success, your actions create a ripple effect, making life beautiful not just for yourself, but for those around you, too..”

For me, today will be “Family Day” as I get the chance to see some family members in person for the first time in quite a while.  The visiting will be good, though the fact that we’ll be at a funeral will not. Fortunately, the life we’ll be celebrating was a long, well-lived one, so there’s that.  The biggest concern at this very moment is whether any of my “going to a funeral” clothes still fit; I’m pretty sure black yoga pants won’t quite cut it.  My Friday will also include spending some time on the elliptical machine  (increasing the time from 35 to 40 minutes), and giving 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:   Nothing to Wear

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

bulge               hideous           cram              fashion

surreal             grinder            fumbling       flamethrower

affordable       endless            power            gloomy

absurdity         brilliant            crafty            fiendish

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 writing prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Kay: Writing to a Standstill

from Double Debt Single Woman

I have several manuscripts—all my early ones—sitting on my hard drive. Some time ago, I decided I should revise them into acceptable shape and put them out there.

Well, that’s easier said than done. The first one, which had had two heavy edits over the years, went great. It’s my first book, and in working on it again, I remembered how much fun I’d had with it all those years ago when I’d started it, how my spirits lifted every day when I sat down to it and I thought, I can do this. One light edit later, I finished it, and I’m happy with it. The cover’s done, and with luck, I’ll get it published in the next few weeks.

However, the second book is, as we say, another story altogether. When I wrote it all those years ago, my critique partner said several times that my hero wasn’t heroic enough, so I put it aside until I understood what she meant. Now I do. And I realized in shock that not only is my hero not heroic enough, he’s a jerk of the first water. How did that happen? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Writers Read

My writing has been derailed recently (and this post delayed).  I blame Stephen King and his writing advice for that.

“Read, read, read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” ~ Stephen King

I don’t know about you, but when I find a series that I enjoy reading, stopping after just one book and going back to working on what I’m supposed to be working on is rather like eating just one potato chip and walking away from the rest.

Who does that?

Advice for how to be a good writer typically stresses the importance of reading.  Besides being entertaining, reading lets us enjoy new styles and different worlds, which can spur our creativity and challenge us to stretch our writing wings. In the past weeks (or months) I’ve definitely been excelling at this aspect of being a writer. 😊

In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway talks about the importance reading, focusing on the benefits of learning to read as a writer –concentrating on the craft and the techniques and choices of the author.  Deconstructing a story can be very helpful in understanding how the various pieces all work together to create an interesting, engaging tale or, conversely, where things break down and cause you to lose interest and wander away.

Regardless of why you read – whether to study the craft as a writer or for the sheer pleasure as a reader – reading can help you grow as a writer while expanding your horizons and entertaining your mind.

One way to combine reading with helping other writers is to volunteer as a judge for one of the many writing contests sponsored by RWA chapters and other groups.

I got a notice in my newsfeed today about the Virginia Romance Writers and their Medallion Awards.  Virginia Romance Writers, chapter #19 of Romance Writers of America® is an organization for writers of all levels, from unpublished writers working on their first manuscripts to award-winning, bestselling published authors. In their recent post, in addition to lauding their winners, they also put out a call for judges:

Also, we’re always interested in finding new judges. This contest is different from many in that it’s judged by READERS. If you’re interested in learning more, hop over to http://virginiaromancewriters.com/.

This is hardly the only organization looking for contest judges.  So, next time you’re looking for something new to read, consider reaching out to one of the many writing organizations that sponsors contests and see if they are looking for judges.

Who knows, you just might wind up “discovering” the next great story.

For those who have judged writing contests before, have you found the process to be beneficial to you in any way as a writer?

Michaeline: Brainstorm Saturday

Imagination magazine cover, March 1955. A full robot with antennae and flashing lights helps a stylish young housewife in a red jumpsuit with her groceries, but manages to bash the eggs all over her floating maroon trunk (of her car). Lots of "Oh, no! Oh, no, no, no!"
Story seeds! Use your imagination, and pass on the ideas that are right, but not right for you. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve got a really cool video that just provokes all sorts of ideas in my head for stories. So, if you need a little bit of inspiration, grab a pencil and some paper, and try this:

  • Remember the rule is no self-editing. Jot down quick notes about what comes to you – edit your list later.
  • You don’t HAVE to like robots in order to get ideas from the video. You can pretend they are real people, and see what comes to you. (But don’t deny the weirdo SFF ideas, either – they may spark new ideas in your later.
  • Watch this video (“Do You Love Me?” Boston Dynamics, 2:54), and take notes:
4.
  • Aw, go on, watch it one more time and see what comes up.
  • Any ideas that seem kind of cool, but you have no interest in exploring? Share them in the comments below so someone else can run with them! Kind of like the Poughkeepsie Idea Service!

So, I’m going to share some of the ideas that came to me during this video. It really was inspirational. (And if you want to run with them, go ahead! What you do with these seeds is going to be completely different from anything I do with these seeds.)

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Donut Day” (if you’re reading this on June 4th)–definitely one of my favorite days.  I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be doing in the morning.   If you’re not a fan of donuts (crazy, but possible), it’s also “National Cheese Day” and “National Cognac Day”, so there are definitely options.

On a more serious note, it’s also the “National Gun Violence Awareness Day” along with “Wear Orange Weekend.”

“The effect of gun violence on our communities is pervasive, long lasting, and impacts everyone uniquely. Wear Orange is an opportunity to demonstrate our collective power as members of the gun violence prevention movement, bringing together a broad spectrum of organizations, brands, and influencers working in different ways to curb gun violence.”

For me today will be a regular work day–a bit of a change after several weeks of taking Fridays off.  I’m hoping to be able to fit in a visit to my favorite donut shop before work–to help them stay in business, of course.  Whether or not that plan turns out, I’ll definitely be increasing the resistance setting my elliptical machine another notch (I’m at 6 out of 10) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Stacey Abrams for President

This is a re-blog in honor of Elizabeth’s post from yesterday: Spotlighting Stacey Abrams. The original was posted March 12, 2020. I was ahead of my time. But still think she’d make a good president. I’d vote for her.

Or maybe Why a Romance Writer Would Make a Good President is a better title for this post. I started thinking about this because, at the moment, all the front runners in either party are white men in the 70s. That really doesn’t work for me. What would work? Definitely someone younger. Also someone who doesn’t have to ‘court’ the minority vote because they’re already in the minority, which, in my opinion, would make that someone in a better position to consider policy implications for ALL Americans, not just the ones that look like they do. I’m using Stacey Abrams, who has published romance novels with African-American characters under the pen name Selena Montgomery, as an example, but I think romance writers, in general, have the characteristics needed to be a great president.

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Elizabeth: Spotlighting Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams, American politician, lawyer, and voting rights activist, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, has popped up in my news feed several times lately, and not because of politics.

In May, she released While Justice Sleeps, a “gripping thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court—where a young law clerk finds herself embroiled in a shocking mystery plotted by one of the most preeminent judges in America.”

The book, which became an instant #1 New York Times best seller has drawn a lot of praise, including:

“Stacey Abrams delivers a taut, twisty thriller, drawing the reader into the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court along the strands of a complex web of politics, raw ambition and deadly deception.”—Nora Roberts

There is an interview with her in the New York Times where she answers a variety of questions including “what books are on your night stand”,  “what is your favorite book no one has heard of”, and “which books got you hooked on romance.”

That last question may seem odd, for someone who just released a “gripping thriller,” but before she ran for governor of Georgia and before she became a Democratic power broker Stacey Abrams wrote romance novels under the name Selena Montgomery.

As noted in this NPR article three of those early novels will be re-released in 2022 by the publisher Berkely, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

“As my first novels, they remain incredibly special to me,” said Abrams in a statement. “The characters and their adventures are what I’d wished to read as a young Black woman — stories that showcase women of color as nuanced, determined, and exciting.”

The novels–which are romantic suspense–all feature a diverse cast of characters who work for an espionage organization in the U.S. government  Abrams also has five other novels under the Montgomery pen name which have been regularly reissued.

Just in case anyone needed some additions to their TBR pile.

Michaeline: The Art of the Blurb

Melissa Blue tweeted this week, “Pro tip: The point of the blurb isn’t to tell you the story, it’s to SELL you the story.” That sentence came to me just as I was already thinking about blurbs, and complicated the matter.

First, a blurb is the short summary of the book used to lure readers into the buying the story. Naturally, a good blurb is very useful to the reader in choosing a story to her tastes, but it is also a good tool for writers.

A Regency man in a caped riding coat stands in front of the mantle of an inn lecturing a demure young girl in sprig muslin with two hat boxes near her.
Via Wikimedia, this is the first edition cover of Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer.

For example, if you get stuck in the writing of your book, write the blurb for the book-in-your-head. Compare it to what you have in your draft, and see if you’ve drifted from the point, or if you are still on target.

This is a case where the blurb tells the story, and I think that’s an important part of blurbiness. A blurb should accurately portray the book, or it is just fooling the reader, right?

That said, it’s a hassle trying to fit 65,000 words into 100 succinct ones, especially if the writer plays with genre or tropes.

This month, I did a comfort re-read of Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin, and it was satisfying and as comforting as I could have wished for. When I looked at the back of the book, though, I was shocked.

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Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Hamburger Day” (if you’re reading this on May 28th)–it’s also “National Road Trip Day” and “National Cooler Day.”  Sounds like the perfect combination for friends getting together for a holiday barbeque (taking appropriate safety precautions, of course). 

On a more serious note, it’s also the “International Day of Action for Women’s Health.”  

May 28 is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, which for over 30 years, women’s rights advocates and allies in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement worldwide have commemorated in diverse ways. Year after year, women, girls, advocates and allies have continued to take action and stand up for sexual and reproductive rights for what they are: an indivisible and inalienable part of our human rights.

I’m guessing people (at least those in the U.S.) will be busy planning what they will be doing for the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend.  With many cities and states opening up and doing away with masks and distancing, there will be a lot more options than there were last year.  Judging from the steady stream of highway traffic I’ve encountered whenever I’ve had to drive anywhere recently, folks are definitely making up for lost time.

For me, it is likely to be a lazy day around the house.  My only definite plan is to leave my work-computer turned off.  I’ve only been moderately successful at that in the past, but I hope springs eternal.  Regardless how that plan turns out, I’ll definitely be adding another minute to my elliptical workout routine (I’m up to 35 minutes) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading