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

Michaeline: David Bowie and the Borrowers

1974 David Bowie playing guitar with his hair in that fuzzy mullet.

A screwed-down hairdo, like some cat from Japan. (Image via Wikimedia Commons. 1974 AVRO’s TopPop. Licentie afbeeldingen Beeld en Geluid Wiki)

David Bowie has been part of the world-wide cultural conversation ever since the early 70s, and even though he’s been gone for more than 15 months, he’s certainly not forgotten.

He was a man who did a lot of things well. Music was his mainstay, but he also made his mark on fashion, art, video and how we think about people who are a little different. For me, his genius lay in how he would notice how various concepts – often originating from other people – bumped together, and then he would artificially reinforce the congruence, strengthen the bond until the music (or video or other new concept) held together and made something new and fresh. He was a packrat of ideas, he acknowledged his influences, and somehow he knew just how to retrieve the right bit at the right time. What a mental filing system the man must have had . . . .

He borrowed. And people borrowed from him. And so the circle goes round.

This April, two huge ripples in pop culture took place that reminded me of David Bowie.

Japanese guys in wigs with swords, duelling. Bowie is said to have been inspired by Japanese wigs like these for his early-70s hairdo.

Some cat from Japan. (Utagawa, via Wikimedia Commons)

First, there was the lipstick-smearing thing on the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that first aired on April 4, and was pulled on April 5 for being tone-deaf. I don’t know; someone certainly had their head stuck firmly up in the early 70s, and I wonder if the ad was simply Too Early. People are mad and unhappy in 2017, and still have a lot to say about the injustices happening.

I’m sure most of our Ladies remember when we all wanted to buy the world a Coke. (Dailymotion clip of the commerical) That peace-loving anthem came out in Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Sleepy Edition

Fridays are normally a day off work for me (or at least that has been the case for the past few months), but this week Friday means a pre-dawn wake-up call and a high-profile morning meeting with local corporate executives.  It’s all part of a really great project I’m working on, but dragging myself out of a warm, comfy bed will be a real challenge.  If everyone has a super-power, then sleeping is definitely mine.

The promise of a Starbucks “Unicorn Frappuccino®” after the meeting might be just the extra motivation I need to get up and out the door on time.  When I was getting coffee this afternoon, the woman next to me had one of the Unicorn Frappuccinos®.  I asked her what it tasted like and her (whimsical) answer was:  “hopes and dreams with a sprinkling of sunlight.”  Seriously, who could pass up a beverage with that kind of promise?

Early morning wake-up and delightful beverage notwithstanding, what better way is there to close out another week than with a round of Random Word Improv?

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Blog Steal – 9 Story Openings to Avoid

keepeducating600And for this week’s blog post steal, I’m borrowing from Kristin Nelson and Angie Hodapp. They started a series in June of 2016 about 9 Story Openings to Avoid. The first one is the traditional sittin’ and thinkin’. As opposed to the opening of Julia Quinn’s Brighter Than the Sun which starts with this: “Eleanor Lyndon was minding her own business when Charles Wycombe, Earl of Billington, fell – quite literally – into her life.” Continue reading