Michaeline: Go Ahead and Bang Some Rocks

A monkey sculpting a bust of a woman

Banging rocks can be a fabulous hobby. Who knows what can come out of it? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Efficiency, productivity, streamlined, maintenance . . . buzzy buzzwords that can keep our butts in the chairs and us writing our hearts out. However, sometimes, The Girls in the Basement (our inner muses) send up something that seems just . . . useless. For almost two years, my mind has been pre-occupied with David Bowie and the ukulele. I’ve written two short stories and worked on a longer piece thanks to the David Bowie obsession, but the uke? It hasn’t paid off – except I love doing it, and it’s brought me a lot of joy and feelings of achievement. As hobbies and obsessions go, you can’t ask for much more than that, really.

However, my upper mind – the Censor in the Attic, perhaps – is terribly concerned that I should be Writing, and not just any old writing, but Great and Wonderful Stories that Will Enchant the Masses (or at least a few Niches). It’s almost a daily battle between the Censor, who wants to direct things, and the Girls, who just want to have fun. Sadly, as is often the case in war, neither side wins on many days.

But this week, I stumbled upon a 2016 Atlantic piece that soothed my censor a little bit. Ed Yong’s “Rock-Smashing Monkeys Unintentionally Make Sharp Tools” really resonated all over for me.

Here’s the basic premise: Continue reading

Michaeline: December is Story Time!

Christmas postcard with Santa Claus and bag of toys in a basket suspended by greenery from an airship, with "Greetings to one and all - Merry Christmas." Color postcard, ca. 1916. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. N39376.

Christmas goes so well with an airship or two! (Image via Missouri History)

Well, another NaNo here and gone for some of us on Eight Ladies. Three thousand words is better than nothing, and I take heart in the fact that December has often been a great month for story for all of us.

Want proof? We have our Christmas week stories! The tradition started Continue reading

Michaeline: A Recipe for a Pantser

A warrior chef made up of kitchen items (her body is a wood stove, and she carries a mixing tub and a warming pan.

A pantser is always prepared to cook up anything her Girls send up from the basement. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

First of all, forget all that mise en place stuff. That’s for planners and for pansies. A pantser goes through all the cupboards, the fridge, and checks the garbage can just in case. The pantser gathers 20 or 30 ingredients, then dumps those on the kitchen table. Then, she sits and thinks for a minute or two to decide what looks good.

You can’t go wrong with baking powder. First thing, in a medium bowl or a ziplock bag, sift in some flour, some salt and a proportionate amount of baking powder. Don’t know the right amount? Just go with it; you’ll learn. Add in some other dry stuff, if you like, like cocoa or sugar. Be adventurous! Matcha? You betcha. Pulverised strawberry? Very merry!

In another bowl, you’ll want the wet stuff. It’s going to react with the dry stuff, so if you have gelatin in the dry stuff, don’t mix in fresh pineapple or kiwifruit. Use something else. Something without enzymes. Eggs are often good in anything. I like eggs. I don’t like separating them, but I like whipping them to a frenzy, and I like them in a lot of things that I’ve consumed. You’d be surprised by what eggs go with – consider adding some eggs. (Unless you’ve got an allergy. But you know that already.)

Now it’s time for the conflict! Continue reading

Michaeline: “Inconceivable”

William Goldman (left) and James Caan in 1976. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“Inconceivable.”

The creator of The Princess Bride is dead. William Goldman, the writer of the 1973 novel and the screenplay of the 1987 movie, died in his sleep at age 87 Friday morning after a battle with pneumonia and colon cancer, according to the Guardian and National Public Radio (US) reports.

I came to The Princess Bride late, and I don’t like the romance – let me just get that out in front. But as a buddy movie, The Princess Bride is full of fun and adventure. Who can forget old tropes transformed into new tropes? The Dread Pirate Roberts, the Spanish swordman bent on revenge, the Gentle Giant, monsters like Rodents Of Unusual Size, the evil King and his henchmen, the wise wizard and his wife with their own deep backstory, and of course, the love interest: Buttercup. The trophy that symbolizes love – the greatest motivator of all.

“Wuv . . . Twu Wuv . . . wiw follow yoooou . . . fowevaaaah!” as Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman says. (YouTube: 11 seconds down memory lane.)

William Goldman was famous for great friendship stories. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was another great. He wrote the screenplay for The Great Waldo Pepper (one of my parents’ favorite movies). And he wrote the screenplay from Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives. Friendship perverted.

So, to mark his passing, let’s add a little of that buddy magic to our writing today. If you are stuck on a NaNo scene, phone a friend. If you are putting butt in the chair for your regularly scheduled WIP engagement, add a playmate to the mix, or bring a bosom companion forward.

Michaeline: Young Romance Conflicts

Issue one from Young Romance, featuring a sister-sister rivalry romance

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I suck at conflict, both in the real world, and trying to foment it in my fictional worlds. What I like is building up a world with all sorts of rules, and finding a character or two to turn loose in it. But the fact of the matter is, if my characters don’t run into conflict pretty darn soon, the whole thing goes ka-flooey. It gets boring for me as a writer.

This coming week, I’m going to be experimenting with some methods to introduce a conflict into my current National Novel Writing Month project, but for now, I’ll explore some more intimate conflicts.

My order from Amazon brought me Young Romance #2, a serial comic from 1947 (you can see the cover of Young Romance #1 over on the right). “Fifty-two pages of real life stories”! And that comes with five comics, one prose story AND the classic Charles Atlas ad about the bully who kicks sand into the face of the skinny weakling, who in seven short frames manages to build his body and become The Hero of the Beach. Let’s take a look at a couple of those conflicts!

“Boy Crazy” pits an orphaned niece against Continue reading

Michaeline: The Fable of the Green Pumpkins

I’ll warn you upfront: this will be a difficult fable if you are expecting me to hand you the moral. I’m not sure what it is, myself, but maybe it’ll give you what you need in your writing journey this month.

Two green jack o'lanterns in the day.

Sometimes, the timing is off. (Eileen Duskova)

That said, let me tell you the fable of the green pumpkins. Pumpkins are not easy to come by in northern Japan. You can get them, but you have to look for them. I usually grow my own, and this year, I planted my pumpkins too late. Even though the frost was very late, the poor pumpkins just ran out of time. When the first frost finally rolled around in the middle of October, I was delighted to find that I had about four good-sized pumpkins, even though they were green. I took the biggest two to the porch, because I figured all pumpkins are black in the dark. It probably wouldn’t matter.

I knew they were early, and that they’d not last for a full week. And in the daylight, they were the wrong color. It was OK, though. I think even orange jack-o’-lanterns look a little sad and gutted in the daylight. What mattered was how they looked at night.

And, on the plus side, Continue reading

Michaeline: Settings in Space

book cover

Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space by Kitmacher, Miller and Pealman, goes on sale on October 30, 2018 (image from Amazon)

I know at least one other Lady has set a story in outer space (Kay Keppler, Zero Gravity Outcasts), so this may be of interest. Friend of the blog, Ron Miller, is coming out with a new book on October 30 about the art of the space station. Time magazine calls Ron “one of the most prolific and celebrated space artists of our time”. His co-authors are Gary Kitmacher (one of the architectural managers for the International Space Station according to the NASA website) and Robert Pearlman (space historian and collector, according to NPR’s Planet Money, in an interesting segment about what astronauts did for life insurance – it doesn’t involve an insurance agent!).

The book, Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space, will cover both real and fictional space stations. The Amazon blurb says the work covers early 19th century ideas of what a space station would be like, so that’s fertile ground for steampunkers, and the book also goes into the future. We’ll also see how people actually live on a space station.

book cover

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach came out in 2010. (Image from Amazon)

If you are planning a space story, and would like even more quirky details, I can recommend Mary Roach’s excellent Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. In all her non-fiction, the woman asks the questions that I never knew I wanted to know. She reports on all sorts of things that leave quite a permanent impression. There’s this bit that I’ll never forget about how scientists determined how long an astronaut could wear an undershirt before it dissolved under the astronaut’s own grime and movement. Roach writes with humor and verve, and always manages to dig out some little-known study that provides the real, gritty details of whatever topic she’s writing about.

Even if you don’t want to write about people in space, it’s worthwhile to think about the setting, architecture and funny little stories that accompany your book. Monty Python’s medieval sketches wouldn’t have been quite as funny if they weren’t anchored in Terry Jones’ scholarship. (Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives is a beautiful book, and a great read, as well.)

Also, just because Halloween is coming up on Wednesday, here’s a link to a Dracula cover on Ron Miller’s website. (-: The image is gorgeous, and you just can’t help smiling at the humor.