Elizabeth: Writer’s Bucket List

A while back Kay posted about a Writer’s Police Academy  that is being held this August at the International Public Safety Training Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The conference – which includes sessions on police procedures and the opportunity for some shooting range practice – sounded like just what I needed to give my mystery-story-in-process a shot of realism.  Had I perfected the ability to be in two places at one time, I’d have signed up in a New York minute.

Though the timing didn’t work out, the Academy got me thinking about what other things I’d put on my list of Things To Do, in an effort to infuse my stories with a little extra realism.  In no particular order, here are a few things I came up with:

Ready, Aim, Fire!

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Jilly: The Mistress Problem

I’d really, really like to find a different form of address for the gentlewomen in my WIP, especially my heroine.

Lately I’ve been working on a sequence of set piece scenes toward the end of the book. The setting is a fantasy world, historical, before the invention of guns. Horses ‘n swords. Vaguely Tudor-ish, with a few creative liberties taken. The action takes place at the most important event in the city’s calendar. Everyone who’s anyone is present: royalty, aristocracy, military, and a lucky few gentlefolk. All the guests are addressed formally, even (especially!) when they’re hurling deadly insults at one another.

The problem is my heroine, Alexis Doe. She’s 25. Unmarried, but old enough to be a wife and mother. Of no acknowledged family (her name indicates she’s illegitimate), but invited as a guest of the Princess Dowager, scary and powerful grandmother of the Crown Prince. Alexis has no title, but her connections would carry a certain level of cachet and she would be addressed with respect. As far as I can see, she would be called Mistress Doe.

I did a fair amount of reading around, looking for possibilities, and I found a fascinating article describing research done by Dr Amy Erickson at the University of Cambridge (click here to read more about Mistress, Miss, Mrs or Ms: untangling the shifting history of titles).

Apparently both Mrs and Miss are abbreviations of Mistress. Continue reading

Nancy: How Story Shapes Our Brains

How long did the last fiction book you finished stick with you? What about the romance or mystery or classic you read over and over again as a teen? How about the books your parents read to you before you were old enough to read on your own? Turns out, the fiction we read might just be making us more engaged, empathetic humans according to researchers studying the brain through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We’ve known this for a while now.

In a New York Times article published more than five years ago, Annie Murphy Paul reported: “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated…Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.” Wow, heady stuff, you authors out there.

I’ve been pondering the power of story a lot lately as I’ve realized just how many of my foundational beliefs have their roots in Dr. Seuss stories. Continue reading

Jilly: Relaxed, Entertained, Informed, Inspired

How do you like to spend your evenings?

I’ve always been a morning person. I find that I do my best writing from breakfast time until early afternoon, when I slow down and eventually grind to a halt. Then I’m usually good for business or household challenges until dinnertime. After that I have an hour, maybe two or three, when my brain doesn’t seem to want to work, but is oddly susceptible to ideas and impressions. If I use this downtime well, it can be incredibly useful later.

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Nancy: Remembering the Ladies

memorial dayToday is Memorial Day in the US, a day set aside especially to commemorate soldiers who died in all the wars throughout America’s history. The image that often comes to mind on this day is that of the young men who lost their lives in combat. But not only men have died in our wars. In every conflict since the founding of our country, dating all the way back to the American Revolution, women have  taken up arms in battle and many have lost their lives doing so.

I have always been fascinated by the stories of these women, from the mythological Molly Pitcher loading canons during the Battle of Monmouth to the historically documented instances of women posing as men to become soldiers in multiple conflicts to the plethora of information we have on women who stole behind enemy lines to scout and spy. From the handful of women known to have actively engaged in battle in the 1770’s to the 165,000 women enlisted in the American armed services today, women have risked their lives in battle, even when they were actively banned from combat positions, as war has a nasty tendency to ignore where battle lines are drawn and where the war-front actually begins and ends.

Despite what personal feelings we might have about war and its role in modern-day society (that is a very LONG discussion for another day), the destinies of nations have been forged in wars and history has been written by the victors. Unfortunately, far too often, women and their sacrifices have been written out of that history. The tendency to relegate women to supporting cast roles is so prevalent that historical romances, which many of us read and some of us write, are sometimes called out for writing women who are too modern, read: too strong, adventurous, or independent for their time. My answer to those naysayers is, ‘you don’t know the true stories about women in history’. Today I’d like to share a few reading suggestions to help find those true stories so we can do what Abigail Adams implored her husband to do at the First Continental Congress and ‘remember the ladies’. Continue reading

Nancy: More About Nicky O

Copenhagen: Almost gray enough to be Seattle

Copenhagen: Almost gray enough to be Seattle

For the past few months, when I’ve had time to think about story, I’ve had several current and future projects on my mind. One of them is a mystery set in Copenhagen, with one of my (current) favorite characters, Nicholai Jens Olesen, aka Nicky O (to his American friends). You might remember Nick from a few short stories I’ve shared here on the blog, Copenhagen Blues and Lost Hearts in Copenhagen. But one day soon (or you know, a year or so from now), I’m going to write Nick’s full-length story.

I’m already planning the trip back to Denmark for research. And for visiting my husband’s family and having great food and drinks and hygge, but also, research. Definitely research. I’ll want to find ways to use Copenhagen as more than just backdrop and scene setting. I’ll want to infuse Nick’s entire story with a sense of that unique place. And all this has me thinking about another story my husband and I binge-watched, the American TV series The Killing set in Seattle*, which is an adaptation of a Danish TV series (Forbrydelsen, which roughly translates to ‘Crime’). Continue reading

Nancy: I’m Baa-aack – Joie D’Ecriture, and Alexander Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

Hello friends! After a brief and unexpected hiatus, I’m back at 8LW. Oh, how I’ve missed you! Since it’s been a while, I’m behind on reporting status on my 2016 non-writing, creativity-building exercises. Remember those, from way back in January? They are my 5-step plan to finding zen, inspiration, and joy in writing this year.

So let’s dish about February. The first two exercises on my list – learn new things and make mental connections between what I learn and story – happen pretty automagically. It’s what our writer brains are wired to do. I’m still taking notes, capturing inspiration when it strikes, and looking forward to the time when I can put all that brain work to use in my own stories.

The other things on my list require a little more action on my part. Making social connections and drinking really good wine at least once a month are, believe it or not, harder than they sound when you are myopically focused on something as stressful and all-consuming as my day job currently is. But I knocked those out of the park! The first week of the month, when I returned from my weekly trip out of town, I returned home to find my husband had bought me a bottle of 2012 Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir. (There’s a reason that man is the love of my life.) So the ‘drinking good wine’ part of my plan was easy peasy.

The social connection was much more difficult. I’m spending all day, every day, seven days a week with people at work. Who wants to see more people after that? But I had a plan, remember? Continue reading