Michaeline: PSA: For Your Eyes Only

A Japanese woman writing on a scroll of paper.

Glasses: another tool of the craft? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Just a quick public service announcement: if your vision is blurry and you are finding it hard to read, make an appointment with the eye doctor.

I’ve been struggling for about five years with aging eyes. Oh, sure, I could still read stuff, if I slid my glasses way down my nose and put the screen about 10 cm from my eyeballs. I could read until my hand fell asleep that way. It was a workable solution.

But Thursday, I finally went in and got reading glasses. It took them a half an hour to put together a reasonable package of frames and lenses, and as a result, yesterday I could read about half of Pratchett’s Hogfather on yellowing paperback pages. I also found my computer work to go a little more smoothly. I still slide my glasses down my nose to look at the cell phone, but I think that’s mostly pernicious habit.

My point is, it’s an easy fix. Why didn’t I do it? Some horrible combination of vanity, plus a dread of hassle and spending money, I suppose.

Still, it’s done, and I’m very glad. Dare I hope it translates into more and better writing? Who knows? One does have to fill the well of creativity, and I find reading to be the best way to fill it.

Here’s an article from Reader’s Digest that will confirm your suspicions: https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/need-reading-glasses/

And here are some ideas from the American Association of Ophthalmology to help you decide what you need. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/tips-choosing-right-reading-glasses

And here, amidst the myth-busting, Harvard Health Publishing shares some ideas for keeping your eyesight in tip-top condition. Eat your veggies, take breaks every hour, and make a conscious effort to blink. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/safeguarding-your-sight

Michaeline: Blog Recs, Or Toot Your Own Blog

A 14th century lady in a long gown who is pressing an organ key, and tooting a small horn towards her audience.

After you spend a whole morning at the keyboard, take a little time to toot your own horn. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week at Thanksgiving, I met a fellow writer who asked to see our blog here. I spent three days thinking it over subconsciously, and five minutes giving it some good old higher-executive thought.

It wasn’t easy. We’ve been here since 2013, and there’s been a lot of material we’ve covered. I think our main mission is covering the writing life as beginners, and most of our posts are self-reflections, and reflections of other writers’ thoughts that we’ve found helpful. But we’re more than that – we’ve also had great guest posts and interviews on the blog.

But I think the thing that I’m most proud of is when we display our story skills. The Friday Writing Sprints are a great chance to entertain ourselves and our friends. And then there are the times when we post excerpts or short original stories here on the blog.

My friend texted me, and said, basically, “Hey, I’d really like to see your blog.” So I sent her a link to the beginning of Christmas Week 2016, when we write short stories and share them. You can see it here, starting with Kay’s fairy tale: https://eightladieswriting.com/2016/12/22/kay-resetting-creativity/

How about you? Where would you send people who wanted to take a look at our blog? And, if you have a blog, where would you recommend people get their first taste of it?

Michaeline: Happy Thanksgiving!

Hearty Thanksgiving Greeting 19th century girl in a dress and apron, harvesting very large pumpkins.

Thanksgiving — and writing time — can be whenever you say it is. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, today I’m at a community center about an hour away from my home, helping to prepare (and then eat!) a Thanksgiving feast. I’m not the boss; my friend M is in charge of that, and has everything totally organized, from laminated stuffing recipes to the table design chart.

In Japan, Thankgiving Day (US) and Labor Thanksgiving Day are nearly the same time, but they don’t often coincide — and even if we are lucky enough to have them fall on the same day, we have to work on Friday. So, a big Thanksgiving feast is in the cards, but a recovery day is not.

Even when everything is perfect, it’s not. So, we are doing it on a Saturday, near the holiday. About 60 or 60 people come — there are old folks chatting at the tables and little kids crawling around under the tables. . It’s a great chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a whole year, and they always have news I haven’t heard. This year, we’ve had four marriages in our group. One year, it was the Year of the Babies, with four babes in arms, passed around so parents could partake of the turkey.

Let me just bludgeon you over the head with a moral for a minute: even when things are perfect, they often are not. Writing is a lot like that, isn’t it? We have grand expectations about how it SHOULD go, but sometimes my best writing takes place when I had no expectations at all.

Like a good feast, writing takes planning. You’ve got to have writing materials, and it helps a lot to have a period of time set aside.

But like a good feast, it doesn’t have to take place at the optimum time — whatever that fantasy describes. It can take place three days early or two days late. It’s still good.

I’m wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are on the time-space continuum or what you celebrate. There’s a good chance that the time is now.

Michaeline: Writing Blahs, Writing Blocks

A magician pulling a rabbit, cards, flowers, fish and pigeons out of a top hat.

How do you get in the mood to pull a story out of your hat? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Recently I stumbled upon an article about writing blocks that made perfect sense: the reason why we put off writing and other things is because we aren’t in the mood for them. (It’s in the Atlantic online, and called “The Procrastination Doom Loop — and How to Break It”. Link below.)

Now, I’ve read a lot of articles and books about procrastination that try to dig out the underlying reasons. They say we fear failure. Or we fear success. Or maybe we fear something else.

But being a shallow person, none of that deep stuff resonated. No, what really hit me in the gut was the shallow reason: I put things off because “I don’t wanna.” I’m waiting until I’m in the mood.

And I have to admit, when I’m in the mood for writing and it’s going well, it’s better than anything. I really love it.

But writing when I’m not in the mood? Everything drags, and I feel like I’d be better off doing almost anything else.

So, this is all fine and good, but the problem is, the article didn’t mention a thing about how to get into a good mood for writing. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing with The Fool and The Magician

A court fool; a cat has dragged down his tights, and you can see the bottom of his buttocks.

The Fool (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A bright, handsome magician at his table, ready for transformation.

The Magician (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first major rule of writing with tarot cards is: don’t believe everything that comes up will come to pass.

So silly really, and I must lead with the disclaimer that I don’t really believe in fortune-telling methods to predict the future. I do think these methods help us clarify our own thoughts about a situation, but nothing predicts the future.

So, when I gave my daughter a pack of cards and she wanted to read for me, it was extremely foolish to ask, “How will my current story affect my future?” Honestly, this sort of question really does nothing for a person – if the answer is positive, one can start to coast and not do the necessary work. If it is negative, well, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I have to say, the tarot is often not very kind about my writing aspirations.

But no. I thought, “This time, the tarot will love me. This time, it will tell me how good it’s going to be.” Really, anyone who has any acquaintance with Lady Luck knows how stupid that is.

New pack of cards; first reading. Never cleansed – but should that make a difference? I don’t think it should! My daughter spread the cards on the floor and mixed them around with both hands, then gathered them up and asked me to cut the cards. I did.

I don’t remember the exact details. I should have Continue reading

Michaeline: NaNo Special: Chapter Transitions

People who read Lois McMaster Bujold’s new novella, “The Prisoner of Limnos” in the first 24 hours of release got  bit of a shock when Lois announced on her blog that the early edition had somehow dropped the last lines of several chapters. (Links at the end; WordPress isn’t in a sharing mood today.)

As students of writing, we’re taught that these last lines are of extreme importance. Story, by Robert McKee, talks about how a scene can change the whole situation from a plus to a minus, or vice versa – and sometimes, it’s that last line in a scene or chapter that gives the final twist. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King also places importance on the final words of any scene. Compared to painters, we writers have it a little bit easier – we can put on as many finishing touches as we like, and all of them can be take-backs or do-overs with a simple application of the delete key or strike-out. In the editing stage, we decide, and the reader never has to know the anguish we put into those decisions to keep or to leave.

Given the importance of the endings, what’s shocking to me is that as an early reader of “The Prisoner of Limnos”, I only noticed one chopped-off ending. If endings are so important, what was going on here? I had had a great experience with the book as-is; had I missed an even greater book because the ending lines had been dropped?

Well, I’m happy to report my second reading was as rewarding as the first, even though I had to stop (!) and think (!) instead of ride the wave of story. From now on, we’re heading into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t read the Penric novellas, I highly recommend that you do, and come back. They are all fixed now, and you can update the old ones. (See second link below.)

In general, Lois’s last lines add Continue reading

Michaeline: Questions about Covers with Lois McMaster Bujold

 

e novella cover; Greek monastery, stormy sea and a ship

“The Prisoner of Limnos” came out October 27, 2017! The electrons are still piping hot! (Image by Ron Miller, courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, “The Prisoner of Limnos”, came out just Friday, and we’re very pleased to bring you our interview with her about covers – a subject near and dear to our hearts, because every good book is in the need of a cover, eventually.

EMD: For the early Penric covers, I know you asked for fan input about the public domain pictures you used, and I believe you mentioned that your agency helped you with the typography. Before that, did you have much input in the covers of your traditionally published books? What was the most useful piece of advice you got when you were choosing your own covers for the e-publications? What kind of parameters did you use for choosing the public domain pictures? And can you share any websites you found helpful in your search for a cover?

LMB: My input on my traditional-publisher artwork has varied over the years, from none to intense. There seems to be no discernible relationship between the amount of my involvement and the results. I’ve had great covers with no involvement, disappointing covers with lots, and the other way around, apparently at random.

I don’t recall I had much advice when I embarked on doing e-covers years ago with The Spirit Ring. (That would have been back in late 2010.) My helper putting them together could at the time only work with one image, cropping but no photoshopping, so options were limited. I wanted to choose historical paintings for the fantasies, because not only could I see what I was getting, but they were already at a high level of artistic accomplishment. Bad photoshopping/image collage is much worse than none, amateurish and off-putting, and any hint of photography was very wrong for the fantasy mood. As we’ve worked together over the years, my e-wrangler and I have both grown better at sorting through the challenges.

The websites I found useful might Continue reading