Jilly: Seeking Fashion Advice

Anyone else ready for a break from reality? I hope so. I’m in need of some super-glamorous, exceedingly outré wardrobe suggestions.

Alexis, the heroine of my fantasy WIP, accompanies Kierce, the hero, to a very OTT aristocratic celebration. Something as showy as the Oscars, hosted by royalty, but in a horses-and-swords kind of world. Alexis was raised in a monastery; she’s spent her whole life passing as a boy, so it’s challenging enough for her to have to act and dress like a female. To glam up, and preen, and flirt is her idea of a nightmare.

It’s mine, too, which may be why I’m struggling with her wardrobe.

Continue reading

Michaeline: Two Crazy Stories

On the bright side of these bat-shit crazy days, this ancient carving was discovered in a guano-filled cave, and preserved by the crap. So . . . maybe things aren't as bad as they seem. Art survives. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On the bright side of these bat-shit crazy days, this ancient carving was discovered in a guano-filled cave, and preserved by the crap. So . . . maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. Art survives. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, this businessman makes a rep for himself as being bold and brash, but he loses a few more than he wins, and finds himself borrowing from loan sharks. And the guy still can’t cut a break and crawl out of his hole – then the loan sharks start pressuring him to run for president. And it turns out the guy has some TV experience and has down-home appeal, so he wins. On top of everything, it turns out the loan sharks represent a foreign government, and have the propaganda machine available to make the guy look good. So, he’s suddenly president of the free world. And THEN, the loan sharks start pressuring him to bring down the government, loosen ties with allies and generally make a mockery of the entire system.

I told you, crazy story, but I heard it somewhere on the internet. I don’t think it’s a true story, per se. Someone would have stepped forward and said, “Hey, this guy is a puppet of foreign interests!” Right? Right?

Second crazy story. This one is more traditional. Two brothers of a king; somehow the younger brother gets into a position of power and wants the older brother out of the way. Fratricide is such an old story that’s there’s a Latin word for it. The new twist is that the assassins trick a couple of girls into thinking that they are doing a Candid Camera-type joke show for a country that is traditional enemy. They start spraying guys in an airport with bottles of water and filming their reactions. But somehow, the producer switches the bottles of water for bottles of deadly poison that can work through the skin and kill in a matter of hours. Older brother dies, and . . . this story is true, and who knows what happens next? China’s mad, Malaysia’s mad, North Korea’s mad. I’m not seeing a Happily Ever After here for anyone.

And my question here is: how the heck are we, as fiction writers, supposed to compete with the level of batshit crazy that’s floating around in the world? People regularly tell stories (and even believe stories) that would have seemed absolutely absurd five or ten years ago. And they don’t even have to stretch their imaginations very far.

I’ve been feeding myself the news narrative since the presidential debates in 2016, and I have to tell you, it’s riveting and thrilling and really great TV. But it’s not the kind of story I want to tell, and I’m completely demoralized as to whether my imagination is good enough. As writers (at least those of us in the Euro-American system), we’ve been spoiled for a long time by fairly rational government. “Bigger than Life” used to be a thing that fiction did well.

Now? Well, anything can happen, and we are probably on the brink of some big shifts in thought and culture. I feel like a dinosaur, watching the beautiful sunsets that the asteroid has created, and shivering, wondering about the future my stories will have to live in.

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Accentuate the Positive

accentuate_the_positiveI’ve got a box of old ’78 records in the garage that belonged to my mother years ago when she was accordion playing young mom.  As you might guess, there are a number of polka songs in the mix.  There were also a couple of the records that I used to play over and over when I was a kid.

One was Frank Sinatra singing Five Minutes More.

“Give me five minutes more,
only five minutes more
Let me stay, let me stay in your arms
Here am I, begging for
only five minutes more
Only five minutes more of your charms”

The other was Bing Crosby singing Accentuate the Positive.

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

I recently came across the box of records and wound up the old Victrola to give them a listen (yes, I really do still have one).  They were a little scratchier sounding than then used to be, but they were just as much fun as I remembered.  I thought Accentuate the Positive was especially fitting, given all that’s going on in the world these days. Continue reading

Michille: Stages of Intimacy

By Eric Koch / Anefo - Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35672991With the recent spate of posts about sex and intimacy, I was reminded of an RWA session I attended with Linda Howard in which she presented Desmond Morris’s 12 stages of intimacy as a means to build sexual tension in a story. I believe it comes from his Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy, but I can’t confirm that because it is out of print. I would love to get a copy of it.

I have it posted next to my desk on my writing bulletin board. The list is below: Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading

CarpeLibrumIt’s a real challenge to combine being a writer and a news-junkie these days, and it’s especially difficult to carve out time for pleasure reading.  However, as we’ve all heard time and again, reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly (though fortunately not as sticky), so making the time to read is a priority.

Anyway, after attending a book signing a few weeks ago and adding a few more volumes to the TBR pile, I was motivated to get reading before the pile turned into an avalanche.  Fortunately, the current cold, rainy, cuddle-up-with-a-blanket-on-the-couch weather has been perfect for reading.  Cupcakes and napping too, but mostly reading.

So, here’s what I’ve read lately: Continue reading

Nancy: Lessons From the Dreaded Day Job

Why, you might ask, have I taped a scene to my wall? To keep my brain guessing.

Why, you might ask, have I taped a scene to my wall? To keep my brain guessing.

Once upon a time, a very nice girl found herself working in a really stressful industry. Okay, you caught me: I’m talking about me. I haven’t qualified as a ‘girl’ for decades. And very nice…well, that depends upon the day and the situation. But I did work in a really stressful industry (US government proposal management, in case you’re desperately curious). Over the years, I developed some mad skills that I brought to bear on high-pressure, deadline-driven, writing-intensive problems.

A few months ago, I left that industry and promptly forgot (or more likely purged) much hard-earned wisdom about writing and revision. And while I’d always believed honing my fiction writing and storytelling skills only improved my performance on those (non-fiction) projects, I didn’t think much about what lessons from my day job could teach me about writing fiction.

For what feels like eons but has only been several weeks, Continue reading

Jilly: Educated and Entertained

Anyone interested in hearing Eloisa James, Ilona and Gordon Andrews, Alisha Rai, and Sarah MacLean discuss various aspects of romance writing?

I just spent almost three hours online watching a recording of a fascinating, funny and insightful seminar held last week at Duke University. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. My plan was to skim it for the good bits and listen to the rest later, but it turned out to be all killer, no filler. The only bits I skipped were the rest breaks 😉 .

The event was called Gender, Sexuality, Feminism and the Romance Novel, and indeed all those subjects are covered in an intelligent and engaging way, but there was so much more.

Each author talked about their home environment and what led them to become a romance writer. After that, the Q&A session included: Continue reading