Jeanne: The True Heart of the Golden Heart®

dragonfly-3469873_640Elizabeth’s post last week on the future of the Golden Heart® got me to thinking about my own experiences with this RWA tradition.

As you may know, I was a finalist in 2015 for The Demon Always Wins, my debut paranormal which will be released on September 1st on Amazon. It was a thrill to final, and an even bigger thrill in July, when the book went on to win its category. But the greatest win I received from the contest wasn’t delivered until the next February.

In January, 2016, after a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with invasive ductile breast cancer. I was very fortunate because the mammogram and follow up ultrasound caught it very early–I think my tumor was 4 millimeters–about the size of the tip of your pinky finger. In March I had a lumpectomy and did a course of radiation and I’m happy to report that I’ve seen no recurrence.

But in between that January diagnosis and my March surgery, something pretty amazing happened. One Saturday morning in February, I did a quick check of my email before heading out to go hiking at a nearby nature preserve, as I usually do on Saturdays. To my surprise, in my inbox was a $5 Amazon gift card from on one of the Dragonflies, as my Golden Heart® class had chosen to name themselves. I was a little befuddled, but I had to meet a friend at the preserve, so I decided I’d figure out what was going on when I got home.

When I returned, around 10 a.m., there were two more gift cards in my inbox, also from Dragonflies. All day long, my inbox pinged with new arrivals as my Dragonfly sisters used their wings to carry me aloft. When I reached out to thank them and ask what they were doing, they said they wanted me to feel like I was getting little hugs all day long.

I truly did.

By the end of the day, I had amassed around 40 gift cards in varying amounts, totaling almost $300. In my mind, that money is earmarked for buying, at a minimum, every Dragonfly debut novel, so that I can read it and leave a review and, in some small measure, pay them back for their support during what could have been a lonely and frightening time.

So, RWA® Board if you’re listening, that’s what the Golden Heart® is really about. To my mind, we shouldn’t be looking for ways to dismantle it. We should be looking for ways to spread this kind of sisterhood and camaraderie throughout the organization.

Michaeline: You Can Rent a Man in Japan

A handsome samurai leaning on his sword in a Japanese ukiyoe wood cut print

Help wanted? Have sword; will travel! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

まじ!You can rent a Japanese middle-aged man in Japan for about 1000 yen (approx. $9 as of this writing) an hour. Now, if that isn’t a seed idea for a romantic story, I don’t know what is.

Tofugu talks about their experiences in renting two older gentlemen here, and Kaeru Parcels gets down to the nitty gritty of how to rent a guy in Japan.

There are ground rules. No sex stuff. You often pay for transportation and any expenses (food, drink, entry fees to museums, etc.) for your gentleman. No touching. And no trying to sell your gentleman anything. If you violate the rules three times, you go on a blacklist.

What do people do with their older gentlemen? Well, one lady didn’t have friends who enjoyed spicy foods, so she rented a guy to go to restaurants with her. Some people just wanted someone to talk to. And others did the sit-com thing, where they hired an old guy to play a role. For example, one guy was a sarcastic guest at a party.

In another case, one woman hired an old guy to play her ex- to make her current boyfriend jealous and propose. It’s a little hard to parse the Tofugu article, but the way I read it, she and the old guy found a spark, and are now happy together. (But it could be read as a happy ending for the girl and her boyfriend after a confession – either way, good story material.)

Rent-a-guy is a pretty common trope in romance fiction, and I think it’s a fun one. It can be very transactional, where Our Heroine rents an actor to play the boyfriend, or Our Hero needs to rent an actress. Or, it can be a matter of Continue reading

Nancy: Because It’s Summer, That’s Why

Two weeks ago, I wrote post #1 about endings, because I was nearing the end of my Women’s Fiction WIP (Take the Money and Run, for those of you keeping score at home). I promised that after last week’s accountability post, I’d be back this week to share endings part 2, complete with an analysis of some of my favorite endings. Yeah, I’m not going to do that. At least not this week.

The truth is, my obsession with endings has temporarily abated. I typed THE END on the first draft of that WIP a week and a half ago and have delved headlong into the prep work for my next Victorian Romance novel. In a few weeks, I’ll be circling back to revise the opening scene (yet again!) of the WF story to make sure it resonates with the ending, so maybe we’ll talk endings part 2 then.

In the meantime, let’s talk about some fabulous summer pastimes: lounging on the beach, sipping frozen cocktails, reading great books, and engaging in library porn. Continue reading

Michaeline: Part 3: Weddings Interruptus

I think that I have never read
A story as thrilling as a Reddit thread

Or in the words of the old cliché, truth is stranger than fiction. Over the past two weeks, I’ve talked about how a wedding can drive the action in a story for better or worse. Love, money, the desire to have one’s own way (a form of power) – and sometimes even elephants are included in the wedding, so it’s a ripe ground for conflict and trouble.

A young lady from the mid-1800s embraces a judge in a courthouse; at the foot of his bench, two lovers embrace, and there's a guitar on the floor, bedecked with ribbons.

Nothing like a courthouse wedding! Now with added flamenco guitar. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, let’s say that you are ready to write your own story. Of course, personal experience is the best source for good, truthful fiction. But sometimes you don’t have those sources. My husband and I were married in a town hall in early June to get my visa set up properly, then we had three different ceremonies/receptions in August. I don’t remember any particular drama, although I may have been oblivious at the time, and skillful at blocking the bad stuff out later. My sister’s wedding also went well. The only thing I remember is controlling my portions of delicious, delicious American food in order to fit into the dress she’d ordered for me. Otherwise, it was lovely colors, lovely flowers, and a very lovely bride. Great for a real-life wedding! But not very good fiction fodder.

However, the internet is full of wedding stories. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the term “Bridezilla” rose in popularity at the same time the Internet was growing quickly. First-person, third-person, tight and omniscient, all sorts of true-life stories were put on the internet to blow off some stress and gain a little cyber fame. Reddit, the site devoted to citizen journalism in all its amateur glory, is a gold mine.

So, here are a few ways from Reddit that weddings could be disrupted fictionally. (I take no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of Reddit’s reporting, or my reporting here. The point is to fictionalize for entertainment purposes.)

One fun way to distract during a wedding is through sounds. Have an ice cream truck drive by at the height of the ceremony. Maybe the bride (or groom) realizes they’d Continue reading

Jilly: Did You Watch the Royal Wedding? Why?

I’m writing this post on Saturday morning. I plan to be finished around 11.30am UK time. Then I’ll grab a cup of coffee, fire up the BBC’s live streaming and watch Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry and become Duchess of Sussex.

According to the BBC television commentators, the global audience for Harry and Meghan’s happy day may be more than a billion people.

A billion? Why? Continue reading

Michaeline: May 5th is Children’s Day in Japan!

Five carp banners on a pole in 1900 in Japan.

Carp streamers signify the hope that we can overcome the daily obstacles and become strong swimmers in our own lives. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

May 5th is traditionally Boy’s Day in Japan (Girl’s Day comes earlier on March 3), but became Children’s Day in 1948. It’s the last in the series of fixed holidays known as Golden Week, and what it means to me, in purely practical terms, is that I had a three-day holiday last weekend, got two days of day job in, and now I’m enjoying a four-day weekend. I am rested, I am recuperated, and I am stuffed to the gills with good story after a binge of: Jane the Virgin (5 episodes), Parks and Recreation (season 6, seven episodes), An American in Paris (Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in 1951) and the first disk from the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (I’m up to Darcy’s lousy first proposal).

I should be ready to do some writing. But I’m still floating around in a river of swirling ideas – grasping water and watching it dribble out of my hands. I’ve got enough ideas for a year; what I need is some containers – something to scoop out the water and give it a shape. Something to show off the ideas and mold them into something interesting. I need a good collection of bottles and colored flasks – I am writing fantasy, after all, so it’s not very good if I stick my water into a clear container. I need to preserve a little mystery, and boost my writing with some extra-special artificial enhancements.

Or not. Looking for pretty metaphorical bottles is going to take more time than the writing.

It’s Children’s Day, and I start remembering what my dreams were as a kid. I remember the first story I got praise for – I was in second-grade, and my beloved Miss Byleen said I did a good job on putting a caption to a beach scene. I spent two years in Panama as a pre-schooler, and I guess Continue reading

Michaeline: Inspiration from the Stars

An astrological description of a shapely youth (with a maiden behind him) explaining the connections of body parts with astrological signs. Very beautiful.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Believer or non-believer, I think it’s hard to disagree that psychics, astrologers and other people who deal in futures and “shoulds” must be good storytellers. They have to have pithy details that draw people in, and it’s very much to their advantage to be plausibly vague. By that, I mean they present advice that can be interpreted in completely opposite ways – but must never stray into an obvious black and white zone where the consumer of advice says, “That’s ridiculous! You can’t have it both ways!” A fortuneteller lets the listener do the heavy lifting and create a story that suits the listener.

So, let me link you to Teen Vogue’s new horoscopes for the month! (If you come to this blog late, you might try googling “teen vogue monthly lovescopes May 2018” and see if you get a link.) For the first time in weeks, I felt the vague tickle of story while looking at these predictions. “(G)et ready for a deep dive into your heart’s inner workings, astro babes,” the article warns us. It promises us rainbows and shadows, just like a good astrologer (and storyteller) should.

Each sign starts with a “Love Letter” – a pithy statement for the month that promises a good love strategy. Good ol’ Taurus, the first batter up this month: “When I’m willing to Continue reading