Jilly: Life, But Not As We Know It

Yesterday Michaeline reported that Hokkaido is no longer in a state of emergency, so she and her family are free to socialize and celebrate the spring equinox. Yay, Hokkaido!

In my corner of London things are…strange. In true British fashion we’re not ordered to stay home, just strongly requested to do so. Pubs, clubs and bars are closed, ditto theaters and cinemas. Public transport is running a reduced service, and consumer stockpiling has stripped the supermarket shelves. We’ve been strongly requested not to panic buy food and toiletries, but so far that request has been more honored in the breach than the observance.

So far I don’t know anyone who’s had the illness, but I know lots of people who’re suffering the financial consequences of avoiding it. Friends who’ve lost their jobs or fear they may be about to; business owners who’ve lost everything almost overnight; pensioners who’ve seen their retirement savings devastated. The government is undertaking a massive program of financial intervention, and we have to hope that will mitigate the effects for the worst-hit people. Continue reading

Jilly: Mind Candy–The Witterlist

Sadly it looks as though things are going to get worse before they get better in the world at large, and chances are many people will be spending more time at home over the coming weeks and months.

If that means you’re likely to spend quality time with Netflix, or if you’re just interested in hearing an intelligent, enthusiastic analysis of what makes a story work (or not), you might enjoy BBC Radio 5 Live’s The Witterlist.

5 Live is primarily a news and sport radio station, but every Friday afternoon movie reviewer Mark Kermode joins host Simon Mayo to discuss the week’s new releases. I rarely go to the cinema and I don’t often stream movies, but I love The Witterlist because Mark Kermode is such fun to listen to. He’s honest without being sarcastic, or jaded, or blasé. He clearly loves not just movies, but story, and the insights he offers make me smile, they make me care, and then they make me think.

Here’s an example from last month: the most recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. I don’t often enjoy movie adaptations of classic books, and Emma is probably my least favorite Austen—the heroine is so entitled she makes me grit my teeth till my jaw hurts—but Mark Kermode makes me want to watch this film. He makes me want to go back and read the book, which I haven’t done in years. Here’s a quote:

Emma the source text is like a Beatles’ song. You can play it in a number of ways. You can play it fast, you can play it slow, you can play it upbeat, you can play it swing, you can pay it skiffle, you can play it rock, but it’s still the same song. You can emphasize different melodies and countermelodies because the thing itself is so sturdily constructed.

The whole Emma review is around nine minutes long. You can find it here.

The Witterlist home page, with a list of reviews and all kinds of other fun, interesting links is here.

I hope you enjoy it.

Stay warm and safe, and here’s hoping things improve soon.

Do you have any mind candy recommendations to keep folks engaged and uplifted while we wrestle with real life? All suggestions gratefully received 🙂 .

Michaeline: Digital Ideas Poughkeepsie

Poughkeepsie Female Academy, 1877

Poughkeepsie: Where the ideas come from. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The last month has been an extremely creative time for me, but the general unsettled zeitgeist means I feel like I should be doing things other than writing. So, I decided to share some of my ideas that are going to waste. Feel free to execute them as you like, or add your own fun story ideas for people to pick up and share. Just make sure you have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a conflict. Or, provide half of the equation, and let people in the comments fill in the rest. You can add frills like the inciting incident, the time and setting, cool ideas and supporting characters.

*When asked where his ideas came from, Harlan Ellison said he would reply, “I get my stories from an idea service in Poughkeepsie, New York . . . $25 a week and they send me a fresh six-pack of new ideas fifty-two times a year.” – Shatterday: Stories, by Harlan Ellison

STORY IDEA #1: Amelia Hamsterkaufe, Miss North Carolina 1972, is now a suburban widow at a party in 1980 for her best friend (and runner-up) Betsy Hill’s birthday. Betsy breaks the news that she’s going to divorce her husband, Rex, and marry a scandal-ridden senator that she’s loved for the last ten years. Amelia absorbs the news under the moonlight on the patio, when she’s interrupted by Rex, who she has had a secret crush on since 1971. They begin to bicker about Betsy’s decision to divorce Rex, when a passing asteroid falls in the pool, and sends them both back to 1972 with their knowledge of the future, and a chance to change everything.

STORY IDEA #2: Continue reading

Jilly: The Big Step

It’s been months since I worked on a new story. I’d almost forgotten how it feels 😉

I had a solid draft of The Seeds of Power finished by summer last year. Then I spent the rest of 2019 dealing with edits, more edits, proofreading, formatting, and uploading the book. Not to mention setting up author accounts, claiming author pages, writing blurbs, bios, and all kinds of other indie publishing stuff.

It was interesting and oddly enjoyable, rather like my desk job back in the day. I was pleased with the final result, but it’s only now I’ve started working on the next Elan Intrigues story that I realize how much I’ve missed writing.

I’ve started a novella that links The Seeds of Power with the next full Elan Intrigues book. The point of view character is Prince Daire. He was the most important secondary character in The Seeds of Power, but he didn’t have a point of view in that book, so the reader never got an insight into his head.

Even though I had a pretty good understanding of Daire, it’s taken me most of the last month to find his voice. Now, finally, I’m getting there. Here’s the key to Daire: his family motto is The Price of Privilege is Duty, but his personal mantra is Whatever Happens, Smile.

It’s early days, and it’s only a novella, but I can’t overstate the thrill I get from feeling that I finally got inside Daire’s head. He’s a fictional character, but suddenly he’s become real to me. I care what happens to him. I’m excited to tell his story. I want to solve his problems. Don’t tell my husband, but I kind of love him 😉

I know it won’t last, but right now I want to write the next scene, and the one after that. I go to bed thinking about the story and wake up raring to write. It’s wonderful.

I said at the beginning of the year that my watchword for 2020 would be WALTZ, symbolizing my efforts to balance writing, publishing, and marketing. I realized this week that a waltz may comprise three steps, but they don’t have to be equally weighted. You can take one big, swooping creative step and then balance it with two smaller, stabilizing ones. I think that may be my kind of waltz.

It’s been a good week here in London. What gives you that excited, buzzy feeling?

Michille: Write Your Novel in a Year

TypewriterAs so many people say, or in this case after I googled ‘write your novel in a year’, so many web pages say it. I’ve discussed Writers Write and Anthony Ehlers series called Write Your Novel in a Year. The blog very kindly consolidated all 52 posts here. I have Chuck Wendig’s infographicon my bulletin board (if you don’t like foul language, skip this one). And I’ve tried the NaNo method (although I knew I wouldn’t write an entire novel in a month). I don’t read these because I think any one of them will be the magic bullet, but I do regularly find motivation to keep writing. Here are some of the new ones I found: Continue reading

Jilly: Sunday Short Story–Early Resolution

It’s been an…interesting…start to 2020. I spent most of my time this week on a couple of real life challenges, with periodic breaks to catch up with RWA’s implosion. All of which left me feeling grumpy and sad, with zero new words on the page.

So in an attempt to cheer up my Girls and gain a bit of creative momentum, here’s a 500-word story inspired by Elizabeth’s Friday Writing Sprints, in which a character makes an unusual resolution, and featuring the prompt words courage, anchovies, beard, canvas, heaven, honest, hideaway, diva, guru, harlot, fool, garden, pearl, crimson, blossom and smile.

Here goes!

Early Resolution

It must have been the anchovies.

The last Katie could remember, she’d been in a blossom-festooned canvas marquee in a walled garden in a smart part of London. Crimson-robed staff had served exquisite bite-sized nibbles as the Guru spoke passionately of courage, and love, and the path to heaven.

She’d felt a little light-headed. One of the assistants had helped her outside into the fresh air. And now here she was in some mystery hideaway, sprawled on a gold upholstered sofa wearing nothing but a crimson thong and her faux pearl earrings.

At least now she knew what had happened to her sister. Lucy was a gullible idealist, but she was an honest fool, unlike these charlatans.

Were there hidden cameras in this place? Scanners? It seemed all too likely. Katie raked her hands through her hair and dragged them over her face, running her fingers carefully over her earrings. So far, so good.

Voices outside, low but getting louder. Male. At least two.

Decision time.

Continue reading

Jeanne: Hidden Factories

industrial buildingsRecently, we had a conversation on one of my author loops on applying Six Sigma/Lean Manufacturing techniques to writing. Apparently some guru will soon be teaching a class on using Kanban boards to increase author efficiency.

One of the Six Sigma terms I remember from my training back when I worked in the manufacturing sector was “hidden factories”—process steps that take time and resources but don’t add value as defined by the customer. For example, let’s say you have a coffee shop that puts a little paper doily on each saucer before placing the baked good on the plate. If the customer (not the waiter, not the baker, not the store owner) doesn’t perceive that doily as adding value to his bearclaw, that step is a hidden factory.

So how would the concept of hidden factories apply to writing? I’m just riffing but here are some things that authors put a lot of time into that don’t necessarily improve the quality of the book from the readers’ perspective:

  1. In depth research into careers/jobs held by characters.

This is definitely one of the reasons why it takes me so long to write a book. In The Demon’s in the Details, the protagonist was a painter. Since I’m not even a tiny bit artistic, or even crafty, I had no clue how artists view the world. She was, specifically, a muralist, and I didn’t know how artists go about painting murals. Continue reading