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

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

Michaeline: New Penric! and Thoughts on Life-Long Love

A still life with two masks.

The fourth Penric novella by Lois McMaster Bujold is a delightful episode! (Image via Goodreads; cover design by Ron Miller)

So, first the most exciting news I had all week: Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, Mira’s Last Dance came out this week (February 27th and 28th) on all the usual e-outlets! And it was fantastic! If you were left hanging a little bit by Penric’s Mission, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the story picks up from that point, and we get one lovely episode of courtship via political intrigue, escape and a brothel. That Penric is a delightful travelling companion, and I recommend the journey.

I’m not going to spoil you, though – Bujold reports that the novella is 28,000 words, which is perfect for a large pot of tea and an afternoon on the sofa. Spoil yourself.

What I am going to talk about is something that Mira said in the book. She’s the . . . well, the ghost/image of an Adrian courtesan who is part and parcel of the past lives that make up Desdemona. (Desdemona is the demon in Penric’s head.) She has a very clear and pragmatic view of sex and love, and mentions at one point,:

“The darling men used to imagine they’d fallen in love with me all the time. Most of them were actually in love with their own cocks.”

Ah, yes. And thus, genitalia doth betray us all. 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? Continue reading

Michaeline: Fishing for Ideas Amongst Columns of the Lovelorn

2017-02-18-art_lesson_charles_dana_gibson1

Dear M: I’m an up-and-coming illustrator with my choice of three eligible young men, but the older gentlemen of my design firm are queering my pitch. Love or money? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I adore advice columns, and have done so since I was a kid. Advice columns! Little mini-dramas that are so important to the POV character that she or he actually takes time from his or her real life to write to a third party, hoping for some pearls of wisdom.

I found a new column this week – apparently, it’s been around for decades, but thanks to the magic of the Google search, I found it this week. Elle’s Dear E. Jean. It’s full of fabulousness, as one might expect from a fashion magazine. Instead of the downhome rustics of Ann and Abby, we get women who are models, electrical engineers, designers who rose from homeless childhoods . . . it’s just a fascinating cross-section of womanhood, with a few men asking for advice as well.

I like the advice, which seems to always boil down to: be your most fabulous self, and choose the kind of partner that fabulous self needs. Trust in the universe to provide what you need, as long as you put in the effort.

Some of these columns are begging to be expanded into romance stories; others provide Continue reading

Michaeline: Sex Scenes I Didn’t Have to Write

Woman in 17th century dress, entertaining female friends from her curtained bed.

“Y’all are fine right now, but as soon as my honey gets here, we’re a-shuttin’ this curtain and gettin’ through four sets of corsets.” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, a lot of us had a lot to say about sex scene (Kay, me, Nancy on 8LW), and I had a major breakthrough. In romance, the sex is often supposed to show the POV character going in for orgasms or fun or comfort . . . and coming out with orgasms, fun, comfort AND True Love.

That explained a lot about the sex scenes that I haven’t written in the past.

Last year, I wrote a romantic short story where I quite firmly closed the bedroom door on the readers. There really was no point. As far as I was concerned, the pair had shown their Natural Compatibility through fighting to defeat the villain. They were on the same wavelength, and they gained mutual respect for each other through the fight scene. So, when they headed off for post-battle sex, there was really no point in showing that, I thought. (-: Pardon the pun, but it would have been anti-climactic. The sex was a reward for a job well done, and I left it to the readers’ imaginations to envision their own very satisfying happy ending.

In a different short story, my characters were having really great sex. And again, I Continue reading

Michaeline: A Different Kind of Sex Scene

Androgynous image with curly hair on head and curly hair on chest.

Does it matter if the lover is a boy or a girl? In some details, yes. But a lot of technique is transferable. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

We’ve been talking about sex scenes this week on Eight Ladies (Kay’s post on February 2), and my book rec for the month is Charmed and Dangerous, a collection of short gay fantasy stories written by women and edited by Jordan Castillo Price. The ten stories are well-written, exciting and full of creative ideas that take paranormal romance and urban fantasy to interesting places. Goodreads link.

The sex scenes have a different dynamic than any of the straight romance I’ve read. Women have this idea that men are ready for action at any minute. I’m not sure if that is acute observation or just urban legend, but there it is. In a straight scene in a straight romance, often the woman is worrying about something: her reputation, her own feelings for this guy, the meaning of the sex, and so on and so forth.

Generally in the scenes in this book, sex is sex. It doesn’t have to mean a thing – as long as the two gay men are in a romantic situation with mutual attraction, there doesn’t seem to be a reason (in this fictional world) for them not to have enthusiastic sex-in-the-moment. So, they drop everything to do so, and have a few paragraphs of sweaty, happy sex, which turns out to be deep and meaningful (the most intimate sex ever) because after all, we’re talking about subsets of the romance genre. The characters often go in expecting orgasms, and come out with orgasms and the love of their lives.

The big question is, can this be applied to straight romance scenes? Continue reading