Jilly: History on a Plate

Yorkshire Puddings

What recipes or dishes are entrenched deep in the history of your hometown or family or country? Like it or hate it, food that would transport you to a particular place or time before you could say Beam me up, Scotty?

After our adventures in Highgate Cemetery and at Shakespeare’s Globe, last week Kay and I spent a few days visiting Derbyshire. I wanted our trip to be a uniquely English experience, and I think I succeeded. I knew the pretty stone-built towns, gorgeous countryside and historic houses would be a safe bet, but I hadn’t thought about how much of what we eat is particular to our land and culture.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the judicious use of dialect, slang and cant can add richness and depth to a story world. Now I’m thinking I should pay more attention to my characters’ meals. I’ve given them food that’s appropriate to their time period, but I need to double check whether I missed an opportunity to make their meals local, distinctive or significant in some way.

For example, the Yorkshire Pudding, which Kay sampled for the first time last Sunday at a country pub on the edge of the Chatsworth estate, is history on a plate. Continue reading

Michaeline: Gold Stars

The Stars tarot card with woman pouring water from two pitchers to nurture fertility of the earth.

How do you feel about gold stars? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The Guardian (here) had a story about a Michelin chef with three stars who asked to be removed from the guide, and it got me to thinking about recognition and standards that come with it.

The report focused on the fact that surprise Michelin inspections could happen at any time, two or three times a year. And yes, that would be nerve-wracking – if you were a chef who cared about awards and recognition. If, on the other hand, you only cared about the food leaving your kitchen, it seems to me that the inspections, with their inherent judgements about “Is this good enough? Is this as good as it was?” would lose a lot of their power.

But who can be such a compartmentalized person? I’m sure they exist, and they may or may not be happy. Most of us, though, like a little outside confirmation that we are doing a good thing.

On top of that, art is often made better when an artist gets good feedback. Also, trying to push boundaries so that consumers of art are still amazed or at least entertained can be a good thing. Those consumers might be Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – In the Dark

As I slowly woke up this morning, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and someone off in the distance was mowing their lawn.  I was mentally congratulating myself on waking up before the alarm went off when I happened to notice the emergency flashlight glowing from the other side of the room.  I glanced from it to my blank alarm-clock before finally realizing what that meant:  the power was out.

Instead of waking up early, I was in reality late for work.  Ugh.

With no electricity and thus no internet, my plans to work from home instead of driving into the office were dashed.  As I was trying to remember how to get the automatic garage door open without electricity (so I could get the car out), I got a robo-call from the local power company on my cell phone confirming the outage and estimating that all would be restored in less than 2 hours.  What followed next was about 20 minutes of understanding just how much I rely on having power in the house just to do basic things like have breakfast and get ready for work.

Fortunately the power (but not the internet) was back in about an hour and by the time I get home tonight, everything should be back in working order (fingers crossed on that).  I thought maybe this morning’s outage was Mother Nature’s way of reminding me how lucky I am and to help me empathize with the folks in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and all the other places that have been devastated by recent events; some of whom may not have power for weeks or months, in addition to a multitude of other problems they face.

Since no experience is ever wasted for a writer, I’m sure I can put my own power outage to good use in a story.  I’m thinking it may just provide a great way to jump-start a little Random Word Improv.

Care to join me?

Whether you’re powered down, enjoying the turning of the seasons, relaxing with friends, or just looking for a distraction, a few minutes of Random Word Improv are a great way to have a little fun and get some words on the page.

Ready?

Today’s random words are pretty random.  It’s up to you to find a theme in them.

sincere           adventurous         jump             trouble

lopsided        calculate                retire            whimsical

purple             swanky                   arrest           toes

slippery          stormy                    impolite      explain

For any of you new to Random Word Improv, here’s how we play:

  1. Pick as many words from the list as you want
  2. Write the first line(s) of a story incorporating your words
  3. Post your results in the comments section.

Okay.  Are you ready?  Let’s sprint!

*whistling aimlessly while you are off being creative*

Ah, you’re back.  Kind of fun, right?  Can’t wait to see what you have come up with.

Michille: Body Language, Lying, and Manipulation

https://writerswrite.co.za/10-poses-to-show-character-development-through-body-language/I was noodling around on one of my favorite writing blogs recently and found a post entitled 10 Poses to Show Character Development Through Body Language. The post referenced a TED talk from 2012 by Amy Cuddy about Body Language. Still noodling around the Internet on this topic, I came across this image on bodylanguage.com. These resources reminded me of one of the sessions I attended at an RWA in the past on “Body Language, Lying, and Manipulation” presented by Dr. Cynthia Lea Clark (I remember it because Linda Howard also attended it. She sat next to me and went all fan-girl on her). Continue reading

Elizabeth: September Short Story

It’s been a while, but now that summer is coming to a close and I’m back from vacation, it’s time to get back to my monthly short stories.

The initial kernel of this story was an actual incident from my past.  That, coupled with an article I read not long ago about the Capital Vices, percolated along for a few days and the story below is the result.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide what the past inciting incident was.

Enjoy.

# # #

Taking Care of Business

Madeline Cooper looked around the table in the banquet area of Lucifer’s Landing at the sea of arrogant, vain, greedy suits and couldn’t wait for the results of her carefully laid plans to unfold.  She savored a bite of her lemon tart, the tangy sweetness a nice contrast to the slightly bitter taste of her cappuccino, then stabbed her fork into the hand that persisted in groping her thigh under the table.

“Next time I’ll use the knife,” she murmured to Mr Lucent, owner of the aforementioned hand, as she dropped both it and the fork back into his own lap.  He glowered at her then, his wits scrambled by the vast quantity of alcohol he’d consumed during dinner, apparently decided she was just flirting with him and flashed a lecherous smile instead.

“Tonight’s going to be your lucky night, little lady,” he said with a wink.

You have no idea, she thought. Continue reading

Jilly: Travels With Kay

Postage Stamp Depicting the Globe Theatre, 1614

I’m writing this post a little early, because Kay is visiting us here in London. World news is getting scarier at home and abroad, the weather has turned chilly, and our neighbors (on both sides) are engaged in noisy construction work, but we’re making the most.

So far we’ve enjoyed food, drink, a LOT of book talk and a tour around Highgate Cemetery. The sun shone, which was a bonus, even if it didn’t do much for the brooding, gothic atmosphere.

Kay wrote in her Thursday post: I think travel is good for people. It puts you in different and sometimes complex situations that challenge you to see events, places, and people in new ways. It can stimulate your thinking and creativity. And it’s fun.

I think it’s also good to have guests. It prompts you to go to new places and do different things. Plus, you get to experience the familiar through the eyes of a visitor, and it’s surprising how different their perspective can be. All of this is a great way to boost creativity plus, as Kay says, it’s fun.

Last night we went to see Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre is in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames, just a few hundred yards from the site of the original Globe Theatre. The building is a replica of an Elizabethan playhouse, the result of almost fifty years of fundraising, campaigning and research initiated by Sam Wanamaker, the American actor, director and producer. It’s as faithful a reproduction of the original Globe theatre as is possible, built of oak lathes and staves and white lime wash. It was constructed using traditional methods and even has a thatched roof—the only one allowed anywhere in the city of London. The only concessions to modernity are provisions for emergency signage and fire protection.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, opened 1996

It’s an amazing venue, and I’m embarrassed to say last night was my first visit. Kay and I made a few concessions to 21st century living—we did not join the ‘Groundlings’—the intrepid souls who stood for three hours in the rain in the open space in front of the stage. We were seated, under cover, with rented cushions to soften the benches and blankets to keep us warm (Kay says it was 90 degrees when she left California so the blanket was a welcome addition). Still, it was amazing to experience theatre the way people would have done in Shakespeare’s time.

Continue reading

Michaeline: Healing and Dealing

Black and white film still of a patient in bed (with a Japanese jacket) entwined with his nurse.

Caring for the carer. What’s your favorite healing trope? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, I’m going to start off with the back story. This has been a trying week. Next Monday is a holiday – Respect for the Aged Day, and hooray for old people and hooray for a day off! But this week? About the only way I crawled through this week was by thinking, “I get next Monday off! I can rest then!”

And then yesterday, the North Koreans decided to kick off the “Thank God It’s Friday!” celebrations with a little missile launch. They were kind enough to wait until 7 a.m. this time, and I have to say, almost everyone seems much more organized about the whole thing this time around. I was (ahem) interrupted in my ablutions, but when I finally finished and could see why my phone was beeping, I calmly proceeded to the hallway, and sat down in the darkness to text my loved ones. The all-clear was quicker. The news on TV had better info to offer us than simply, “OMG! Missiles!” As a matter of fact, the commercial channels were airing happy-sappy commercials within the hour (whereas last time, I don’t remember seeing any commercials). Normalization was quickly re-established once the all-clear alert came around.

I had planned to write a stupendous blog post how things are easier the second time around, but the creeping crud that I’ve been fighting off all week has become a bad cough, and my brain is seriously fogged out. So instead, I’m going to ask you for reading recommendations.

I remember reading a lot of Harlequin romances in my junior and senior year in high school, and it was a very common trope for Continue reading