Kay: How Romance Novels Can Reinvent Religion

From the Hot & Bothered podcast site

The first time I heard a feminist definition of a romance novel (female author writes a book celebrating values of love, compassion, community, and friendship, with a female protagonist who fights for what she wants and gets it), I was hooked. Those books were for me.

Can romance novels create a new feminist dynamic? I don’t know. But women and men read romances for the hope they offer, the comfort they give, and the values they aspire to. That’s good enough for me. And if they help create a new feminist dynamic, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

But there’s more! I recently read an article by Kimberly Winston in the Washington Post that suggests that religion can be reinvented through romance novels—that because of the themes and values romance novels showcase, they can be considered sacred texts. Holy bodice ripper, Batman! Continue reading

Justine: Mood Music Playlists for Writing Sad Scenes

working to musicI know several of the Eight Ladies (myself included) have used music playlists for writing, either because it “goes” with the book they’re writing or, like with me, there’s a certain Mozart playlist that generates a Pavlovian response within me to write. When I hear the music, my inner storyteller kicks in.

This is all well and good except the music I listen to is pretty upbeat (for Mozart, anyway) and I was having a hard time getting into the right mood to write some really dark, painful, sad scenes (not my typical mojo).

So I pulled up Google and searched “saddest classical music” and the first hit that came up was Continue reading

Justine: My Decision to Go Indie

jackrusselIn my long-ago, faraway dreams (reality check: when I started writing in earnest 5 years ago), I had always intended to be traditionally published. In fact, if you looked at my goal wall displayed prominently in my office, the goal right smack in the middle (after writing a good book and before being a bestselling author) was “traditional publication” with logos of some of the big publishing houses. I was always so certain of it…publication, that is, even knowing much of that decision was out of my hands.

Over time, I became a lot less certain. Things started happening…fellow Eight Lady Jeanne won the Golden Heart (which used to be carte blanche in terms of getting an agent/editor), but no one picked her up (she has since decided to go indie. Yay Jeanne!). Last September, I went on a writer’s cruise and the editor expounded on the genres that she couldn’t buy…historicals being one of them. I was unnerved by that, but didn’t let it deter me. Continue reading

Nancy: Damn Fine Story Advice: Story Stakes

If you hang out with writers long enough, observe them in their natural habitat, and learn what keeps them up at night, at some point you’re bound to hear a discussion about what writers like/are able/can bring themselves to read when they’re deeply immersed in their own stories. Books inside their writing genre? Outside the genre? No books at all during certain stages o the process?

These days, I’m rarely ‘not writing’ (not to be confused with procrastinating – that I do aplenty!), so a writing-driven reading moratorium won’t work for me. But I tend to read like I write: a little bit of everything and more than story at a time. Lately, I’ve been drawn to non-fiction. Per usual, I’m geeking out on science-for-non-scientists books. But this weekend I put down Stephen Hawking and picked up some Chuck Wendig (with no segue, rhyme, or reason because my mind is a mysterious, scary, mess of a place).

If you’re not familiar with Wendig, you really must check out his blog, where he generously doles out  amazing advice, life observations, movie reviews, and the occasional recipe (although I am not going to try this one). For a more distilled collection of his story-specific guidance, I highly recommend Damn Fine StoryIt made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me…Okay, what it actually did was make me think, but don’t let that scare you away from it – it’s thinking in a fun way! As with all writing advice, he implores his readers to take what they need and leave the rest for another time, place, or writer. And this weekend, what I needed was a deep, thorough look at story stakes. 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

Elizabeth: Just a Reminder

While searching for a writing-inspiration photo on my computer earlier today I came  across this quote from Anne Lamott.  I figured we could probably all use the reminder; I know I certainly can.  These days I alternate between procrastination and deleting more words than I write.

So go put some words on the page.

Even if they are crap.

You can buff and polish them later.

Michaeline: A New Beginning!

A girl holding a page, next to blooming daffodils

“With a leaf from an old English book, a jonquil will serve as a pen — ” (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, it’s another new beginning to a school year here in Japan. I just love a fresh start! There’s new years (of all sorts – Western, Chinese, Persian, fiscal, Ethiopian!), and I also enjoy the feeling of new beginnings that settle in during August, when my childhood school began. I’m spoilt for choice!

But a spring new year? Lovely! The grass here is just starting to turn green, and the daffodils are pushing through the sod. The whole world is ready to begin again, and while I know there will be setbacks (snow predicted for tonight, for example), I’ve got a whole season to grow.

Things do look a bit gloomy this year. My schools all have new curriculums, so time I could have spent daydreaming about stories must now be devoted to daydreaming about lesson plans. Also . . . world war looms. Trump just ordered missile strikes on Damascus, my morning news feed tells me. It kind of sucks all the story-telling soul out of me.

But on the other hand . . . when life goes to shit, isn’t that the best time to try and escape the drudgery and enter a world of fiction? I can’t really control what’s going on in my place of employment, and certainly I can’t do anything about North Korea. But, my story is mine. I can shape it as I like.

It’s a new beginning. Write. Write some more. Finish. Show people. Repeat. It’s not a bad plan, really.