Jilly: Kindle Full of Books

We don’t have a Thanksgiving holiday in the UK, but I’m delighted to join the 8 Ladies celebration. 2020 has been a shocker of a year (and we still have another month to go) yet despite everything we have much to be thankful for. I’ll gladly take this opportunity to pause, reflect, and take a moment to focus on what really matters.

For an engaging take on down to earth blessings, enumerated in joyously upbeat style, here’s a video of Scottish Italian singer Paolo Nutini jamming with vintage British skiffle musicians The Vipers. The song is called A Pencil Full of Lead and it makes me smile every time I watch the video.

The song inspired me to compile a list of my own everyday 2020 lockdown blessings. With apologies to Paolo, here goes 😉

Kindle Full of Books

I’ve got a Kindle full of books with some really great hooks
The characters are brave, they’ve got worlds to save
I’m wholly transported. That’s my leisure time sorted.
With a plot to unravel, who needs to travel?

Then it’s time to write and that’s a delight
Forget about votes, I’ve a book full of notes
I got functioning gray matter and friends for a natter
And time to polish my snappiest patter

My heroines are smart, I got great cover art
My heroes are heroic and all kinds of stoic
The baddies are bad, and often quite mad
They’ll stop at naught tho they rarely get caught
The good guys go through hell but it all turns out well
And nothing’s gonna bring them down

I got soap for my hands and a mask for my face
Groceries delivered as I remain in place
I’ve got airline pyjamas and a jigsaw with llamas
I’m a very happy loafer on my oversized sofa
I’ve got ink for my printer and heating for the winter
And nothing’s gonna bring me down

But best of all (best of all)
I’ve got my loved ones
But best of all (best of all)
I’ve got my loved ones
I’ve got a Happy Ever After
And a life full of laughter
And nothing’s gonna bring me down

It’s not high art, but I had fun writing it. Now I need Michaeline to arrange it for ukulele 😉

So… Paolo’s got a Pencil Full of Lead. I have a Kindle Full of Books. What do you have?

Jeanne: The Room Where It Happens

Michaeline’s post on Saturday about writers’ fantasy getaways to magical places that enable them to whip through their WIPs made me realize, once again, that my version of that fantasy is like the theme from Wizard of Oz: There’s no place like home.

20200829_135905I write best in my writing cave, a 9.5′ x 11′ room that was added onto the back of my 97- year-old house in the 1950’s or 60’s (along with an extra bathroom/laundry room and a ridiculously useless hallway that I’ve converted into a mudroom/cloakroom/ ironing room).

Before Covid-19 entered our lives, I went on occasional junkets to beaches or faraway cities to write, but I seldom (almost never) returned home with any additional words written. Sadly, the one time I actually got a substantial number of words on the page, I wound up throwing said pages away after I decided the book was headed in the wrong direction. 😦

I’ve come to the conclusion that I write best in familiar surroundings. That’s partly 20200829_135916because my kids are grown, I currently have no pets, and my husband is a very low-maintenance kind of guy. But it’s partly because the room is really well-suited to writing. It has space for my ancient desktop computer (if all you use is Word, Excel and Chrome, you don’t really need a state-of-the-art computer), a couple of printers (one black-and-white laser printer and a color multi-function device that scans and makes copies, and a couple of fairly up-to-date laptops that I use when I travel.

The room has counters along both sides, with an assortment of junk drawers and cabinets underneath, and bookshelves along the top of the room, where I keep dictionaries, craft books and approximately 1000 tablets and notebooks because I’m forever finding myself out in the world with time on my hands and nothing to write on.

It also has a couple of windows that look out on my working-class neighborhood. Some of my writing buddies have amazing views from their writing rooms–Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. I suppose after a while I’d become so accustomed to the beauty that I’d stop gawking, but my view is okay. The windows are enough to keep me from being claustrophobic without creating a distraction.

20200829_140123

There are a couple of closets at one end of the room. On the closet doors I tape up things like maps and floor plans that I need to keep track of the “where” of my stories. Right now the left-hand door has floor plans of the United Nations Conference Center in New York City, where much of my work-in-progress, The Demon Wore Stilettos, takes place. The right-hand door has a tourist map of Sedona, AZ, where I plan to set my next project, a rom-com series about a family of five siblings who are suddenly left in charge of their parents’ tour business and each sibling has a different idea about where they’d like to take the business (and a chance at love along the way, of course).

It’s not a particularly pretty room, but it’s homey and very practical. What kind of space do you use when you’re being creative?

Michille: One More Writing Course

Like Elizabeth and her post yesterday about being Creativity Challenged, I find myself very challenged creatively. And although I swore I wouldn’t do another writing course until I got more words on the pages of my current WIP, I just signed up for one. Productivity Hacks for Writers by Jessica Brody on udemy. The tagline for it is: Simple Strategies and Proven Techniques to Be More Productive and Get the Most Out of Every Writing Day. I attended a breakout session at RWA (Atlanta, I think) that was excellent. She is an enthusiastic, endlessly positive, motivational speaker who believes wholeheartedly in her product. In fact, she reminds me of Steven Covey, except with a cheerleader’s energy and pompoms rather than Covey’s slow-paced, methodical delivery. Continue reading

Jilly: Hay Festival Digital–Free Brain Candy

Another Sunday, another silver lining. I wrote a few weeks ago about free lockdown streaming from London’s National Theatre. Now summer’s approaching in the UK and we’re heading into festival season. For the great and the good of the arts scene that means the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, usually just called the Hay Festival. I’d say it’s our most famous literature festival. Apparently in 2001 Bill Clinton described it as “The Woodstock of the Mind.”

Normally the festival would take over the beautiful town of Hay-on-Wye, Wales. This year the event is virtual, and it’s all free. Hay Festival Digital runs until next Sunday, 31 May. The tagline is free live broadcasts and interactive Q&As from the world’s greatest writers and thinkers.

You can register to watch any of the sessions, and if you join live you can chat with fellow audience members and send questions to the presenter, just as you could if you attended the festival in person. If you’re in another time zone and the live stream isn’t convenient for you, the recorded sessions will be available for a further 24 hours.

I watched an interview yesterday morning called Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen, by author and historian Greg Jenner, who also has a fabulous, quirky history podcast called You’re Dead To Me. The discussion was great fun and the technology worked well. I saw people from the US, Nigeria, and a number of European countries as well as the UK, chatting away and having a great time.

I’m definitely planning to catch another session or two. Continue reading

Jeanne: Another Delivery from the Girls in the Attic

In the atticWhen the Eight Ladies were in class at McDaniel College years ago, our instructor, Jenny Crusie, used to talk about the Girls in the Attic. The Girls, she said, were the source of inspiration. What they handed down might be weird and totally not where your conscious mind wanted to go with your manuscript, but you should never disregard them.

(The Girls, by the way, were Jenny’s answer to Stephen King’s Boys in the Basement, who serve a similar purpose.)

Last week I started noodling around with another demon book. I have no idea why. I have one manuscript with 60,000 words written that’s waiting for me to come back and mold it into a readable story. And the next logical book in the demon series isn’t the one I started playing around with.

Clearly, following a straight line is not something I excel at. Continue reading

Jeanne: When the Going Gets Tough

Shell at KiawahMy elementary school gym teacher was fond of saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I have a variation on that maxim: “When the writing gets tough, writers go on retreat.”

So here I am, very near the end of what has been a really long and painful road to The Demon Wore Stilettos, Book 3 of my Touched by a Demon series. What better way to cap this thing off than to hang out on Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina, with three other writers? So that’s where I spent last week.

(Sadly, they weren’t Eight Ladies, but other writing friends I’ve made along the way.)

I was seriously, truly hoping to type “The End” before we left on Sunday, but that didn’t happen. What did happen was: Continue reading

Jeanne: Is That a Light I See at the End of This Tunnel?

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Megan, my secret-guarding novelist

This morning I went looking for the date I started on my current work-in-progress. The oldest document I found was a Scrivener project dated September of 2015 (?!). It says:

So the idea is that this book would contain three couples:

Lilith and Samael

Gabriel and Angela

Human1 and Human2

Each couple would have history that leaves them reluctant to re-engage with one another.

Lilith and Samael are charged with keeping Human1 and 2 from getting back together.

Gabriel and Angela are charged with getting Human1 and 2 back together.

The three stories play out against each other.

This, clearly, is just the kernel of an idea. I was still working on The Demon Always Wins at this point, and hadn’t even started The Demon’s in the Details, but I wanted to get the idea down on (electronic) paper before it got away. Continue reading

Kay: Narrating Family History

The family tree of Cesky Sternberk Castle, Czech Republic (Library of Congress)

Novelists create characters. We give them names and personalities, families, backgrounds, and histories. We give them motivations and core values, often based on what they learned from their families or what’s important to their heritage, so they have reason to make the choices they do in our narratives.

Imagine my surprise when I learned from Ancestry that individual Americans actually know very little about their heritage.

Ancestry commissioned a survey from OnePoll, which canvassed 2,000 people in the United States. They found that many Americans don’t know or are unclear about their family origins.

  • 25 percent don’t know from what countries their families came to the United States
  • 40 percent of Americans polled are not certain from what country their last name originates

Continue reading

Jilly: Short Story–The Naked Truth

I had so much fun playing with Elizabeth’s Friday writing sprint words last week that I decided to do it all over again. So here’s a warm, sunny short story about a character who was featured in a newspaper, using the prompt words bikini, flirtation, blowtorch, confidential, parcel, baptism, excuse, dishonest, lump, warning, needle, heavenly, twisted, mindless, fake and sky.

The Naked Truth

Juliet Indigo left the shelter of her thatched bungalow and strolled down the beach to the water’s edge. It was hard to look nonchalant while wearing nothing but fake tan, but she gave it her best shot.

She’d brought a bikini for this mission, more in hope than expectation. It was hanging in the secure lockers provided at reception, together with her phone, her flip-flops, her toiletries and her travel bag. Undercover Island promised its visitors absolute privacy and enforced that guarantee by stripping them of all their possessions on arrival. Juliet had stalked, starkers, through a scanner before being escorted to her bungalow by an equally naked butler.

She was unclothed, unarmed and entirely incommunicado. The only upside was that Alpha Lima, the agent she’d been sent to meet, would be similarly stripped down. There would be no weapons, no backup, no cameras, no notebooks. No innocuous-looking parcel or fully loaded thumb drive. Just a one-time face-to-face no-witness exchange of super-ultra top-secret confidential information.

For her first solo mission, this was a baptism of fire. With a blowtorch.

A warning prickled the nape of her neck Continue reading

Michaeline: Twitter Games Weekend, Part 2!

A young fortuneteller sees a male shadow with a gun in her crystal ball.

I see . . . I see . . . I see Humphrey Bogart in your future! “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Slumps over.) Image via Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday, we took a look at our influences from the past with the “Who are Your Literary Parents” game. Today, let’s move our past into the future with a new game from Bitter Script Reader, who says: “Good news! Your next pilot’s been ordered to series before you’ve written it.

“The catch: it’s pre-cast with your celebrity crushes when you were 13. So how are you building a show around that?”

I said:
“OMG! They got Robin Williams! OK, it’s going to be a Continue reading