Michaeline: Welcome to Riverdale

Puff pastry with a layer of cream, more pastry, more cream, more pastry . . . more better! Strawberry on top.

The many layers of a Japanese mille feuille (by Miya, via Wikimedia Commons)

Over the holidays, I binge-watched Riverdale, which is a live action reboot of the 75-plus-years-old Archie comics, and I loved it. I always love a good soap opera, because they are layered like a mille feuille, but Riverdale? Riverdale has layers in five dimensions.

First, artistically speaking, I was struck by the Twin Peaks vibe from the first shot. We open on the tragic drowning death of campus hero, Jason Blossom. In some ways, it feels like a prologue, but it is exactly where the season’s story starts. We’re given a gorgeous backdrop of river and mountains, somewhere near the Canadian border, and the stunning contrasts of all that summer green, and the Blossom twins’ pale skin and red hair. (Tone alert: Riverdale has Twin Peaks’ striking look, but there’s 50 percent less mumbo jumbo. The story references Twin Peaks as an influence, but it’s got better pacing, in my opinion.)

When I headed back to the DVD menu to click for my next hit, the episode names reminded me of old movies and short stories. Stuff like “Heart of Darkness” and “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” I bet a reading/watching program of these references would provide quite an education in how to set up murderous fictional situations. But even if you’ve never read or seen most of these classics (and I haven’t), you’ve heard of them. They are in a million pop references, and you get it. It’s a little touch that re-inforces what you know about this series: it’s a pop rendition of some of the best of the twentieth century. That cult-hit vibe makes it even more cool and mysterious.

The next thing you notice is the stars. I’ll circle back to the younger stars in a paragraph or two, but the older stars? If you are a woman of a certain age, Archie’s dad (played by Luke Perry ((!))) and his mom (Molly Fucking Ringwold! THE red-headed sweetheart of my generation!) will provide all sorts of other feelings and memories. They don’t particularly Continue reading

Michaeline: Short and sweet

SparkNotes.

My friend texted me and asked if I’d heard of them? “Aren’t they like Cliff Notes?” You remember, the condensed versions of the Great Books we were made to read in high school? The ones with summaries and arguments, and were always considered just a bit like the cheater’s way out?

She told me to check out their Twitter feed.

And the first thing I saw was this:

It turns out the SparkNotes people are witty, concise and economical with 280 characters, just like a good summarizer should be.

Oh, boy, I’m excited by the possibilities! Not only are they hip and funny, but there are all sorts of applications for the modern writer. Continue reading

Michaeline: A Recipe for a Pantser

A warrior chef made up of kitchen items (her body is a wood stove, and she carries a mixing tub and a warming pan.

A pantser is always prepared to cook up anything her Girls send up from the basement. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

First of all, forget all that mise en place stuff. That’s for planners and for pansies. A pantser goes through all the cupboards, the fridge, and checks the garbage can just in case. The pantser gathers 20 or 30 ingredients, then dumps those on the kitchen table. Then, she sits and thinks for a minute or two to decide what looks good.

You can’t go wrong with baking powder. First thing, in a medium bowl or a ziplock bag, sift in some flour, some salt and a proportionate amount of baking powder. Don’t know the right amount? Just go with it; you’ll learn. Add in some other dry stuff, if you like, like cocoa or sugar. Be adventurous! Matcha? You betcha. Pulverised strawberry? Very merry!

In another bowl, you’ll want the wet stuff. It’s going to react with the dry stuff, so if you have gelatin in the dry stuff, don’t mix in fresh pineapple or kiwifruit. Use something else. Something without enzymes. Eggs are often good in anything. I like eggs. I don’t like separating them, but I like whipping them to a frenzy, and I like them in a lot of things that I’ve consumed. You’d be surprised by what eggs go with – consider adding some eggs. (Unless you’ve got an allergy. But you know that already.)

Now it’s time for the conflict! Continue reading

Justine: Recipe Week at Eight Ladies

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 1.47.13 PM

Image (c) Shutterstock.

This week, in honor of US Thanksgiving, some of the Eight Ladies will be sharing their favorite recipes…and not just food recipes, either (although there will likely be plenty of that…see below!). Be sure to check in each day to see what sort of goodies we’re revealing!

I started thinking about recipes for the kind of books I like while discussing with Jilly some of my favorite romances. My recipe for a good romance includes competent women and men who DO things for them, plus a dash of community.

In the era of women’s rights and #metoo, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to writing (and reading) romance. Not that I have anything against competent women who can do for themselves, who know their potential, and who go for what they want. In fact, I AM one of those women, trying to make a career out of writing while raising two kids, taking care of two pets, and managing a household with a husband who travels…a lot.

It means I DO a lot…from helping with homework to shuttling kids around to fixing leaky toilets and installing ceiling fans. And most of the time, when something’s gotta give, it’s me and my work. Sometimes, though, I just want another person to do the shuttling/fixing/installing for me, without me having to write a check.

That’s where my heroes come in…both the ones I read and the ones I write.

Without a doubt, I admire heroines that are self-sufficient, capable women. And I like it when their heroes understand, accept, and especially celebrate that. But in my mind, what better way to show your love for a lady than Continue reading

Michaeline: “Inconceivable”

William Goldman (left) and James Caan in 1976. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“Inconceivable.”

The creator of The Princess Bride is dead. William Goldman, the writer of the 1973 novel and the screenplay of the 1987 movie, died in his sleep at age 87 Friday morning after a battle with pneumonia and colon cancer, according to the Guardian and National Public Radio (US) reports.

I came to The Princess Bride late, and I don’t like the romance – let me just get that out in front. But as a buddy movie, The Princess Bride is full of fun and adventure. Who can forget old tropes transformed into new tropes? The Dread Pirate Roberts, the Spanish swordman bent on revenge, the Gentle Giant, monsters like Rodents Of Unusual Size, the evil King and his henchmen, the wise wizard and his wife with their own deep backstory, and of course, the love interest: Buttercup. The trophy that symbolizes love – the greatest motivator of all.

“Wuv . . . Twu Wuv . . . wiw follow yoooou . . . fowevaaaah!” as Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman says. (YouTube: 11 seconds down memory lane.)

William Goldman was famous for great friendship stories. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was another great. He wrote the screenplay for The Great Waldo Pepper (one of my parents’ favorite movies). And he wrote the screenplay from Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives. Friendship perverted.

So, to mark his passing, let’s add a little of that buddy magic to our writing today. If you are stuck on a NaNo scene, phone a friend. If you are putting butt in the chair for your regularly scheduled WIP engagement, add a playmate to the mix, or bring a bosom companion forward.

Jilly: Books That Put The World To Rights

When you’re feeling down, do you use fiction to restore your emotional equilibrium? I know I do.

Many of my friends, on both sides of the pond and on differing sides of the political divide, are feeling angry and/or depressed at the state of our world right now. They’re responding in a variety of ways, but the one thing they have in common is that almost all of them are finding their balance by losing themselves for an hour or two in a well-chosen and usually much-loved book.

Some people find catharsis in a story where the good guys smite the baddies and justice prevails. Sometimes I want smiting. Usually I prefer something gentler, upbeat, a fun story in a world where smarts, humor, kindness and generosity triumph.

Austen, Heyer, Pratchett and Crusie are bankers for me, but we’ve talked about them at length here, so chances are you already know whether they do it for you.

With that in mind, I’d like to share three recently-discovered favorites, in the hope that you might find them as restorative as I do.

The Kingpin of Camelot—Cassandra Gannon
A light, twisted and entertaining mash-up of well-known fairytale characters in an alternative Camelot where people are born Good or Bad. Good Folk (who are not all good) are privileged, while Bad Folk (who are not all bad) form the underclass. Following the untimely death of King Arthur, his evil regent The Scarecrow seeks to marry Queen Guinevere and claim the throne for himself. Gwen, who is Good, needs to protect her daughter, which she does by marrying Midas, the biggest, smartest, Baddest gangster in Camelot. This story has contracts, magic, humor, snark, battles, a child who is the antithesis of a plot moppet, a heroine with sweaty stable boy fantasies, a world put to rights and a fabulous Happy Ever After.

Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox—Forthright
Tsumiko, a teacher at St Midori’s School of the Heavenly Lights, unexpectedly inherits a fabulous estate, a huge fortune, and a butler. Argent is a fox in human form, a powerful trickster who is magically bound to obey Tsumiko. Argent needs Tsumiko for his own survival, but he resents and possibly hates her for it (he’s tricky, so you can’t be sure exactly what he hates). Tsumiko is the first of Argent’s owners to reject the idea that one person should be able to own another. With implacable determination she sets out to free him, uses her new-found wealth and power to build a caring and diverse community, finds a purpose in life and earns lasting love. This book is as delicious as a cup of top notch hot chocolate on a cold day. It hits all my pleasure buttons and I’m eagerly anticipating the second book in the Amaranthine Saga, Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal, which goes on sale in a week or so. Continue reading

Nancy: The Power of Women’s Stories

A few weeks ago, I had one of those strange juxtapositions that sometimes happens in life. While many in the US and across the world were riveted to the broadcast of US Senate testimony, I was immersed in a deep-dive workshop with writing mentor Jennie Nash. While I was submersed in discussions about the value of women’s narratives, pundits were debating whether one woman’s narrative should have any impact on a lifetime appointment to the US Supreme Court. And while my friends and I were celebrating the many opportunities for women to publish their stories in this day and age, one woman was painstakingly recounting her own personal story in the public square. A story that was ultimately whitewashed and dismissed by an all-male panel of senators.

For many of us, it was one hell of an emotional week. Continue reading