Michaeline: Good Omens is the Apocalyptic Fiction for Our Times

Michael Sheen (Aziraphale) and David Tennant (Crowley) in 2019’s Good Omens TV series. (Image via IMDb)

For once, I was on the cutting edge of things. My husband subscribed to Amazon Prime in March to easily send stuff to our daughter who went away to college, and at about the same time, I found out that Good Omens was coming.

Good Omens was originally a lovely book written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the impending End Times. It was published in 1990, and was full of clever little international references – Elvis as a fry chef, our changing diet, and of course, the Apocalypse.

Anyone who has read the brochures left by the Jehovah’s Witnesses knows something about the coming apocalypse and all the assorted cavalry and plagues and trumpets. I remember visiting the County Fair in the late 70s, and seeing great big bulletin boards filled with a timeline for the Second Coming of Christ, and was quite upset about the whole thing until someone talked some sense into me. End of the World? Why, I’d hardly gotten started with it at that point. Someone told me that no one really knows when the end is coming, and also that I needed to be less impressed with big bulletin boards and scary predictions.

From 1985 to 2001, according to Wikipedia, we’ve seen someone predicting the end of the world for each and every year – sometimes multiple predictions. The pace slowed down after that, but nearly every other year, there’s been someone saying the world is going to end. I remember particularly the Y2K bug, and the end of the Mayan calendar.

The Y2K bug was particularly worrying. We had just gotten internet in 1999, and that was one of the first things I saw online. I planted extra pumpkins and worried excessively, but the internet scareth, and the internet comforteth in equal measures. Someone talked me down, and on the plus side, we had some gorgeous jack o’lanterns that year, and we didn’t have to eat a single one.

So, you’d think we’d be over the apocalypse in 2019; so many prophets crying wolf. But . . . have you seen the news over the past three years? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Another week has come to an end and I’ve spent the last couple of days covered in calamine lotion and surrounded by ice packs.

Apparently, when I was working out in the yard earlier in the week, every biting insect in the state confused me for an all-you-can-eat-buffet.   I am, of course, highly allergic to said biting bugs, so now I look like one of those warning posters from the dermatologists office.

I haven’t itched this much since my son passed along the chicken pox years ago.

Obviously it’s nature’s way of telling me I should hire a gardener.  Or maybe invest in some insect repellent.

Needless to say, I’ve been trying to distract myself.  I’ve listened to the first half of the Hamilton soundtrack half a dozen times (the second half makes me cry and I don’t need that); read two convoluted mystery stories, hoping that having to pay close attention would keep me suitably distracted (it did not); and taken numerous cold showers (brrrr!).

This too shall pass – right?

In the meantime maybe I’ll try distracting myself with some writing – perhaps a story where the insects of the world get what’s coming to them?  Or maybe I’ll just give today’s story prompt and random words a try and see where they lead me.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Read-A-Romance Month

RARM-logo-1-1August is full of Romance. Along with Bookstore Romance Day (Elizabeth’s post), August is also Read-A-Romance Month. What is that? According to an older version of the website it “was conceived and launched in 2013 by freelance writer and romance advocate Bobbi Dumas, after she realized there was no one place where the community celebrated romance all together, at one time, in a concentrated way. The theme this year is The Romance Of Reading, The Magic Of Books, so many of the authors have written books that include magical elements.

There are three pieces to the month, this time around. The calendar has three entries on each day. The first is a guest on the The Romance of Reading Facebook page, the second is a blogger on the Read a Romance Month website and the third is an ongoing project called #100DaysOfGreatBooks. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Bookstore Romance Day

This past Saturday, August 17, was Bookstore Romance Day.  I had no idea there was such a thing but, to be fair, this was its first occurrence.  Though I had no idea about the event, I had in fact signed up a few weeks ago to attend an event on Saturday at a local bookstore that featured a panel of romance writers.

It was purely coincidental.

Honesty compels me to admit that I did not, in fact, attend the event, blowing it off to go see Hamilton instead.  I have no regrets.

Anyway, back to Bookstore Romance Day.

According to creators of the event:

Bookstore Romance Day is a day designed to give independent bookstores an opportunity to celebrate Romance fiction—its books, readers, and writers—and to strengthen the relationships between bookstores and the Romance community.

Judging from my newsfeed on Monday, the day was a definite success.  Bookstores across the country hosted a variety of events including panel discussions, romance book clubs, and author-bookstore matchmaking.

Sponsors of the event included Romance Writers of America, Sourcbooks Casablanca, and Avon and a number of well-known authors participated, including Loretta Chase who was part of an evening romance writer panel at the Harvard Bookstore. Continue reading

Jeanne: Why We Love Casablanca

casablanca-3328692_640Recently, I read an analysis of the romance in the movie Casablanca  “The Wrong Man Gave her the Right Feelings,” by Nancy Graham Holm. The thesis of her article is that, even though Rick and Ilsa’s love is considered to be one of the greatest onscreen romances in history, they don’t really love each other because they don’t really know each other.

As Holm points out, when Rick and Ilsa first meet in Paris, there’s no reason for her not to tell Rick about Victor. She believes her husband to be dead and herself a woman free to form a new commitment. So why wouldn’t she tell Rick that? Victor’s dead, so spilling the beans won’t harm him. She’s not traveling under an alias, so it’s not like she’s trying to keep herself, Victor’s widow, hidden. The real reason, of course, is to give the romance plot a jumping-off point.

(Note #1: This is far from Casablanca’s biggest plot hole. The entire movie is based on the search for missing “letters of transit,” signed by Charles de Gaulle, which would allow the bearer to pass through Nazi territory without being arrested. Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the French resistance and absolutely not a person whose signature would in any way impress a Nazi officer.)

(Note #2: There is no way my editor, Karen Dale Harris, would have ever allowed either of these plot holes to slip by.)

(Note #3: Not that she would have gotten a chance (even if she’d been alive when it was filmed, which she wasn’t) because the second half of the script for Casablanca was written while the first half was being filmed–and the entire filming took place between May 25 and August 3, 1942.)

Holm goes on to say that one of the reasons we don’t notice these flaws in the film is because it’s in black and white. Black and white films are low definition, requiring our brains to work harder and leaving us with less critical capacity.

Despite all these flaws, it’s still a great movie and a moving love story.

What’s your favorite love story?

Jilly: Napoleon’s Novella

A couple of days ago I found a surprising addition to my reading retreat list.

I was planning to write a post about this weekend’s 250th birthday celebration in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, on 15 August, 1769. Visitors to the showpiece event at Waterloo, in Belgium, can enjoy presentations about regiments and armaments, watch combat workouts and equestrian demonstrations, and attend workshops on side-saddle riding, cartridge making, gun and cannon firing, and late 18th-century fashion.

I thought I’d mark the occasion by re-reading some of my favorite Napoleonic-era historical romances, and maybe searching out a few new ones.

Until I discovered that the man himself—ambitious schemer, military genius, serial philanderer and self-proclaimed emperor—wrote a work of romantic fiction, and that his oeuvre is conveniently available for download from the Zon.

Who knew? London’s museums are positively awash with weird and wonderful Napoleonic memorabilia—my fave is this three and a half meter tall white marble Canova statue of a naked Bonaparte as Mars, god of war, installed by the victorious Duke of Wellington in his home at Apsley House—but I don’t recall ever seeing anything about the Corsican’s sideline as a novelist. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Multicultural Stories When Your Background is Monocultural

Colored crayons or beads, lined up.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

All of us Eight Ladies are white ladies.

I think as white writers, it’s difficult for us to understand what it’s like when a largely mono-cultural writer tries to jam in a character from a different culture in order to spice up a book, or attempt to be inclusive.

We can get a tiny taste of it in the Bollywood movie, Bride and Prejudice (2004). I love this movie and have seen it more than once, so I’m not complaining. I’d rec this movie to almost anyone because the writing is fabulous, the cinematography is gorgeous, and if you were moving in society in the 90s and early 2000s, there are universal themes that will resonate with you. (Heck, let’s not be so limited. Being based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, means many of the themes cross cultures and time. Time-tested and highly adaptable.)

However, among the deep characterization and fun interactions, there’s a white guy who reads like he’s a piece of cardboard. He’s a bit whiny and a bit shallow . . . and maybe he’s the white guy a lot of people from India see. He’s somewhat believable, but he’s the only white person in the whole production, and he’s not exactly the hero type.

And when you think about it, that’s really unfortunate because he’s Will Darcy . . . you know, Fitzwilliam-fucking-Darcy. The hero. Continue reading