Michaeline: Gold Stars

The Stars tarot card with woman pouring water from two pitchers to nurture fertility of the earth.

How do you feel about gold stars? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The Guardian (here) had a story about a Michelin chef with three stars who asked to be removed from the guide, and it got me to thinking about recognition and standards that come with it.

The report focused on the fact that surprise Michelin inspections could happen at any time, two or three times a year. And yes, that would be nerve-wracking – if you were a chef who cared about awards and recognition. If, on the other hand, you only cared about the food leaving your kitchen, it seems to me that the inspections, with their inherent judgements about “Is this good enough? Is this as good as it was?” would lose a lot of their power.

But who can be such a compartmentalized person? I’m sure they exist, and they may or may not be happy. Most of us, though, like a little outside confirmation that we are doing a good thing.

On top of that, art is often made better when an artist gets good feedback. Also, trying to push boundaries so that consumers of art are still amazed or at least entertained can be a good thing. Those consumers might be Continue reading

Jilly: Travels With Kay

Postage Stamp Depicting the Globe Theatre, 1614

I’m writing this post a little early, because Kay is visiting us here in London. World news is getting scarier at home and abroad, the weather has turned chilly, and our neighbors (on both sides) are engaged in noisy construction work, but we’re making the most.

So far we’ve enjoyed food, drink, a LOT of book talk and a tour around Highgate Cemetery. The sun shone, which was a bonus, even if it didn’t do much for the brooding, gothic atmosphere.

Kay wrote in her Thursday post: I think travel is good for people. It puts you in different and sometimes complex situations that challenge you to see events, places, and people in new ways. It can stimulate your thinking and creativity. And it’s fun.

I think it’s also good to have guests. It prompts you to go to new places and do different things. Plus, you get to experience the familiar through the eyes of a visitor, and it’s surprising how different their perspective can be. All of this is a great way to boost creativity plus, as Kay says, it’s fun.

Last night we went to see Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre is in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames, just a few hundred yards from the site of the original Globe Theatre. The building is a replica of an Elizabethan playhouse, the result of almost fifty years of fundraising, campaigning and research initiated by Sam Wanamaker, the American actor, director and producer. It’s as faithful a reproduction of the original Globe theatre as is possible, built of oak lathes and staves and white lime wash. It was constructed using traditional methods and even has a thatched roof—the only one allowed anywhere in the city of London. The only concessions to modernity are provisions for emergency signage and fire protection.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, opened 1996

It’s an amazing venue, and I’m embarrassed to say last night was my first visit. Kay and I made a few concessions to 21st century living—we did not join the ‘Groundlings’—the intrepid souls who stood for three hours in the rain in the open space in front of the stage. We were seated, under cover, with rented cushions to soften the benches and blankets to keep us warm (Kay says it was 90 degrees when she left California so the blanket was a welcome addition). Still, it was amazing to experience theatre the way people would have done in Shakespeare’s time.

Continue reading

Michaeline: Healing and Dealing

Black and white film still of a patient in bed (with a Japanese jacket) entwined with his nurse.

Caring for the carer. What’s your favorite healing trope? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, I’m going to start off with the back story. This has been a trying week. Next Monday is a holiday – Respect for the Aged Day, and hooray for old people and hooray for a day off! But this week? About the only way I crawled through this week was by thinking, “I get next Monday off! I can rest then!”

And then yesterday, the North Koreans decided to kick off the “Thank God It’s Friday!” celebrations with a little missile launch. They were kind enough to wait until 7 a.m. this time, and I have to say, almost everyone seems much more organized about the whole thing this time around. I was (ahem) interrupted in my ablutions, but when I finally finished and could see why my phone was beeping, I calmly proceeded to the hallway, and sat down in the darkness to text my loved ones. The all-clear was quicker. The news on TV had better info to offer us than simply, “OMG! Missiles!” As a matter of fact, the commercial channels were airing happy-sappy commercials within the hour (whereas last time, I don’t remember seeing any commercials). Normalization was quickly re-established once the all-clear alert came around.

I had planned to write a stupendous blog post how things are easier the second time around, but the creeping crud that I’ve been fighting off all week has become a bad cough, and my brain is seriously fogged out. So instead, I’m going to ask you for reading recommendations.

I remember reading a lot of Harlequin romances in my junior and senior year in high school, and it was a very common trope for Continue reading

Elizabeth: Don’t Postpone Joy

Judging by last evening’s thunder, lightning, and rain storm, summer is over, which means I should be posting my monthly short story today.  The story will have to wait until next week however, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the notebook with the draft story is sitting somewhere on my desk at work, while I am here at home miles and miles away.

Curses!

While perusing Facebook thinking about an alternative topic for today’s post, the quote at the left kind of jumped out at me.  It is attributed to Edie Windsor, a human rights activist, who always urged others not to postpone joy.  Having watched far too much news coverage over the past few weeks about the flooding, earthquakes, and apocalyptic storms battering many parts of the world, seizing joy now rather than waiting until later seems like a pretty good idea.

So whatever your joy is – finishing that book, spending time with friends, finding the perfect lemon-drop martini,  laughing over old movies, or snuggling up with a loved one – go seize some.

I recently grasped a big handful of joy (and crossed an item off the Bucket List) when I spent a week in Scotland.  Today, I’m aiming a bit smaller and cuddling up with a good book, a mug of coffee, and a sleepy cat.

So, how are you seizing joy this week?

Michille: Romance and Natural Disasters

800px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISSWith Harvey mostly a memory leaving a staggeringly colossal disaster area behind it and Irma targeting Florida and another potentially colossal disaster for the U.S., I looked at disasters in romance novels. I read one recently that was set in a flood (freebie from RWA Nationals in a previous year), but I got really annoyed with the author because the hero and heroine kept standing around in floodwater while the rain was pounding down, discussing their history, wondering where his brother was and if her sister stayed at work, sharing scorching kisses and wishing for a bed. I’m not thinking that the folks going through Harvey were standing waist deep in floodwater reminiscing about a high school football game that took place 10 years ago. The memory of that book and the coverage of Harvey led my brain down the path of how an author could set a romance in a natural disaster and do justice to mother nature, the devastation and tragedy, and the romance without minimizing or horrorizing (is that a word?) the tragedy or the reader. As in, people are dying and these two idiots just want to do the horizontal tango. Continue reading

Michaeline: Wake-up Call with a North Korean Missile

Stylish 1950s matron riding a rocket over a radio station while her male co-host tumbles in her wake.

Crushed by world events? Don’t be! Ride them to writing nirvana! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, it happened on a Tuesday. I hate Tuesdays. I was in that drowsy, half-state between dreaming and wakefulness, when the alert went off at 6:02 a.m. “Earthquake!” I automatically assumed as I fumbled for my phone, but instead, it was something I never imagined I would see.

“Missiles launched. Missiles launched.”

My Japanese is not great, but I could read that. “A missile from North Korea has been launched (something). Please evacuate to a something-strong/OK building or underground.”

It didn’t matter that my Japanese wasn’t perfect. Knowing that a missile (or missiles – Japanese is very vague on the whole singular/plural thing, and you know that I was imagining a whole murder of black missiles flying through the skies), anyway, knowing that a missile had been launched was enough. I called my daughter who lives near her high school, and started texting loved ones before coming to the conclusion that maybe the bathroom would be a safer place than in front of our bedroom window.

I’d managed to make myself decent enough for a quick period to my existence, and then it was all over. By 6:12 a.m., the all-clear alert showed up on my phone, and I re-texted loved ones to let them know we were okay. No fiery death on this particular Tuesday.

I could tell you all the feelings I had, and all the plans I spun in the next 48 hours. Some people shut down when they get scared. I go full-on Robinson Crusoe. I made Continue reading

Michille: My Spirit Animal and Creativity

Great_Blue_Heron_LandingMy creativity has been ramping up lately. And it hit me while at RWA why that is. My Spirit Animal has been crossing my path almost daily. I’ve been walking/jogging in a park with nice walking trails near my house and I see a Great Blue Heron nearly every time I’m there. I live on a farm with several water sources nearby so we have herons in our neck of the woods as well. And while at RWA in Orlando, I jogged every morning and saw two every morning. Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, Michille has gone off the rails.” And if someone had seriously uttered the words My Spirit Animal to me before I took a Jungian psychology course for my master’s degree, I would have said the same about them. But that was before . . . Continue reading