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

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Cuddly Puppy Edition

Echo ©Scott Eldridge photography

Today is National Puppy Day.  For those who prefer kittens, your day is October 29th, while human babies get May 2nd.  I love the fact that someone (or many someone(s)) have found something to celebrate for every day.    In addition to being National Puppy Day, today is also apparently National Chip & Dip Day, National Melba Toast Day, and World Meteorological Day.  That’s a lot to fit in a single day 🙂

I think I’ll stick with the puppies.

For those who are curious:

“Puppy Day was established [in 2006] to bring awareness to the world about puppy mills and how to go about adopting.

Sadly, my house is currently devoid of puppies (something the cat totally approves of), so I’ll have to find something else to occupy my time.  Sounds like a little Random Word Improv is in order.

Who’s with me? Continue reading

Michille: Just Have a Conversation

Spoiler Alert – I totally give away the plot, the conflict and the conclusion of two books.

First ImpressionsI recently read two books (actually, I’m struggling to finish the second). Both had the same trope – mistaken identity. But in both cases, it was one person knowing the other didn’t know who they were. Not the mistaken identity of one looking remarkably like the real culprit thing, or the twin thing, or the wrong place/wrong time thing in which part of the book is about the one trying to convince the other of their identity. This was “I know you think I’m one thing but I’m this other thing and I’m just not going to tell you” which leads to the dark moment being about NOT HAVING THE **** CONVERSATION (if I were Chuck Wendig that would be an expletive). I hate that. But here’s the thing – I could tolerate it in the one and in fact purposefully sought out the book for a second read and am still struggling to finish the other (I just can’t not finish a book but I did have to skip the end when they finally HAD THE **** CONVERSATION and then go back to the middle). Continue reading

Elizabeth: Writing Exercises

Spring has sprung, judging for the Golden Heart is completed, and it’s time to pick up the pen (or keyboard) and start writing.  I have a couple of contemporary stories in progress at the moment (short attention span), but have decided to dust off the story I started with at McDaniel instead.  It’s the first story I ever completed and I have some ideas about how to make it better so that, just maybe, it won’t have to spend the rest of its days tucked away in the desk drawer gathering dust.

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at the story, so I need to do a little pre-work to get reacquainted, especially with the characters.  After all, I can hardly hope to make them come alive on the page if I can’t make them come alive in my own mind.  I could just look through all of my notes, but I’d like to get a fresh perspective and (hopefully) pick up some new ideas.

Writing exercises to the rescue!

Luckily for me, the class I attended at a recent RWA Chapter meeting included a few writing exercises that I can use as a starting point.  Though the focus of the class was on writing dialogue, it included several character-related exercises since, in order to write believable dialogue, you need to really know your characters.    The initial exercises in the class focused on describing a character (job, background, personality, family history, experience that impacted his/her life) and then deciding how that description would impact the way the character would talk and what they would (or would not) say.

My favorite exercise from the class (and the one I found the most useful) was the following:

Exercise:

A divorced couple is stuck in a cramped closet together, sitting side by side.  Without using dialog, describe 3 ways they would show:

–              discomfort

–              regret

–              that there might be something between them

Now, using only dialog, show the same things

Not as easy as it sounds, right?

Writing exercises are a fun way to jump-start my creativity.  They also get me thinking about how my characters will act in various situations and how I can subtly show their reactions.  I generally include a writing exercise or two in my daily writing routine to help keep me in a creative frame of mind.  You can find additional character exercises in our posts here, here, and here, if you’re interested.

So, your turn.  What can you come up with for the exercise?  Please share in the comments (I’ll post my answers as well).

Nancy: Spring Cleaning and a Vignette

Danish Christmas Hearts

A few days ago, Michaeline told us about her ambitious plans for spring equinox cleaning and decluttering, both physically and mentally. There does tend to be something about the changing season that makes us crave restored order (or maybe it’s just a Virgo thing).

I tend to keep my physical spaces neat and orderly, but even the most stereotypical Virgo can have a mess somewhere that could benefit from some springtime TLC. Mine happens to be virtual. So while Michaeline focuses on her office and brain spaces, I’m focusing on my computer. One of the virtual folders pinned to my desktop I’ve neglected for quite a while is labeled Vignettes. Turns out, that’s where I’ve saved flash fiction pieces inspired by, among other things, Elizabeth’s Friday writing sprints. I haven’t had the time and writing bandwidth to participate in those lately, so it was fun to see what I’d written in the past.

Some of you might recall I have a plan for a mystery series set in Copenhagen, with protagonist Nicholai Olesen, or Nicky O as I often call him. One of the stories in my neglected Vignettes folder is about Nicky O, and while I’m pretty sure this showed up in the comments section at some point in time, I thought I’d post it here just to remind any Nick fans that he still exists somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain and he really will get his own book(s) one of these days. In this partial scene, Nick and his married lover/police detective Pernilla (who is often angry at him for so many reasons) are looking for clues to help track the killer who tried to frame Nick and…well, you can get caught up on how Nick got himself into this mess in the first place by first reading Parapluie (previously titled Copenhagen Blues) and Lost Hearts in Copenhagen. Then come back here to read Murder Clues (yeah, that title needs work, but hey, free fiction!). I’ll finish the scene and let you in on what Nick and Pernilla find in a second installment next week.

And to kick off our writing week in style, how about sharing a scene/vignette/opening paragraph of something of your own in the comments?

Murder Clues

When I slid into the passenger’s seat of Pernilla’s tiny black Puegot a little after nine that night, she didn’t spare me a glance or a word. Just floored the gas pedal and sent us zooming down the side streets of Vesterbro before I could even click my seatbelt into place. I took her dark mood to mean she’d neither forgiven nor forgotten the sins I’d committed against her over the past 72 hours. Continue reading

Jilly: Fantastic Free Resource–Alli Independent Author Fringe

Alliance of Independent Authors Indie Author Fringe–London Book Fair, March 2017

Big thanks to Kay for alerting me to this great resource: the Alliance of Indpendent Authors (Alli) is holding an online conference this weekend to tie in with the London Book Fair.

By 10am London time today, they will have uploaded 24 hours’ worth of great presentations on topics like understanding the writing process, perfecting your first 50 pages, identifying and eliminating the biggest mistakes most fiction writers make, and all kinds of advice about self-publishing including writing better book descriptions, advertising, and audiobooks.

Best of all, the sessions are archived for you to view at your own convenience, and they’re totally free.

Check out the conference agenda here.

And find the links to the presentations here.

I’ll be catching up on some of the technical ones later today, but I already watched and really enjoyed fantasy author KM Weiland’s one-hour talk: Are You Making These Common Fiction Writing Mistakes?

It’s worth noting that Alli will be hosting a further two conferences this year, to coincide with the major book fairs, so if you find these presentations useful, it might be a good idea to sign up to be notified of future events. I did 😉

Enjoy!

Michaeline: Turn, turn, turn.

Ukiyo-e of samurai and various servants doing housecleaning

A samurai’s home being turned upside down by the annual cleaning. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, the equinox is rapidly approaching, and no matter where you live, the seasons are ready to turn. The southern hemisphere will enjoy the second harvest, and in my little corner of the northern hemisphere, mud season has officially begun! Mud doesn’t sound all that pleasant, but believe me, after a long white winter, the mud is looking very good.

The turn of the seasons is a great time for revitalization. In Japan, spring equinox is a public holiday, so I’ll have an extra day this weekend to declutter and get ready for spring break – the end of the school year, and when I’ll be able to use up all my leftover holidays.

A good turn depends on good balance. If you are overloaded and try to corner the season, there’s a good chance you’ll flip over into the ditch. I’m going to get rid of some of the stuff that’s holding me back, on several levels.

First, let’s start at the purely physical plane. My writing desk is unusable. It’s covered in fabric, unread books, and mystery odds and ends. It’s got to go, and by next Saturday, I want to have a flat level playing area. Continue reading