Michaeline: FKA twigs Inspires Me to Write Gorgeously

You’ve gotta see this! FKA twigs performs on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, and the performance is so layered and wonderful – stay for the dancing at the end.

Everything works for me in this video. You have a stark setting, but one where every component has a use and meaning – the long piano that leads to the pole, the bare stage for three performers with minimal light. You have tone – echoed in the lighting, in her voice, and in the tone of the instruments. You have a gorgeous costume that strips down to reveal not a beautiful butterfly, but rather the chrysalis that was hiding inside. And you have the dancing – ethereal and effortless (but any kid who has done a pull-up on the monkey bars knows how much muscle control must go into that “effortless” look).

All of it serves to reinforce the story: a person has loved, and has just lost (and hasn’t quite accepted it yet, or is gathering strength to try again).

It’s National Novel Writing Month, and even if you aren’t playing along, maybe you can spare a little time to add some layering into your work. If you are doing NaNo, then it’s all good – every experiment is word-count! As writers, we work with words, and can’t depend on fancy camera angles or pretty pictures. But the magic of words does mean we can create setting, tone, costumes and anything in the realm of our imaginations. So, take a risk when writing today – let your writing take on a tinge of poetry, or the color of the characters’ feelings.

Have fun!

Michaeline: Debate: How hot is summer romance?

1908 girl in a skirted bathing costume having fun on a dock while two admiring boys splash in the water below.

“Oh, how we would laugh at anything!” — kd lang, “Summerfling” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, dear readers, do you like a romance set in the summer? There’s no denying that there’s nothing better than lolling on the sofa during a heatwave with a cold drink and an engrossing romance (unless it’s lolling on the sofa during a winter storm with a hot drink and an engrossing romance). But have you set your romances in the summer? Or do you have any favorites that involve sun and heat?

Here in northern Japan, we’ve been enduring 35C (95F) temps for more than a week, and Hokkaido is not used to this. We don’t have an air conditioner in our home, and none of my schools have AC, either. We’re on summer break, so when we’re not doing special classes, we’re in a government high-rise, and the summer code-word ever since 2005 has been “cool biz” – it’s an effort to conserve energy which includes shirt-sleeved business shirts, and also keeping the air conditioning on the edge of comfort – I’d guess about 27 to 28 C. (That’s 80 to 82F for the Americans playing the sympathy game at home.) The campaign got a boost after the energy crisis after the 3/11 earthquake, and was lengthened from May to October.

So, I can say for sure that in REALIA, the heat sucks. How about in Romancelandia?

Heatwave + Romance CONS.

It’s too darn hot, and Cole Porter recognized this way back in 1948. (YouTube clip from Kiss Me, Kate 10:55)

I’m pretty sure “Sweet summer sweat” is a fantasy trope. (“Hotel California” Eagles Live 6:48) Stuff STINKS during summer heat, and places stink, and people stink.

When the temperature rise, tempers get short. People get into stupid arguments, and it’s such an effort to be polite. It’s even more of an effort to apologize. If there’s a crowd of cranky people, it can easily turn into a riot.

Lack of appetite. For everything. Ugh.

Heatwave + Romance PROS Continue reading

Justine: Travel Inspiration

I’m currently jaunting about Barcelona on our annual family vacation and whenever I travel, I try to use the places I visit as inspiration for my stories. Today, we visited the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Basilica of the Sacred Family), which has been under construction since 1882 (and still not completed). While it’s breathtakingly beautiful, it’s a bit hard for me to imagine using in any of my books, given they take place in the early 1800s. Continue reading

Michaeline: Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Ships and Bicycles, Too

A history of transportation from reindeer through trains to the motorcar.

People may remain fundamentally the same, but as their technology changes, so does the form of their stories. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s an old writing adage that says every story is either about someone coming to town (the mysterious stranger!) or someone leaving town (a quest! a quest!). But sometimes, the story isn’t about the arrival or the departure, but the journey itself.

Summer is the perfect time to write a travel story! You could set your story on a plane, a train or an automobile. Being trapped in a small space for a period of time promotes a sense of desperation . . . but by virtue of being in a MOVING space, you know the story is going to end with a release (let’s hope, though, that release isn’t a fiery crash! Although, it’s summer! It certainly could be. Disaster stories are popular. Look at the Titanic, or books about people who survived a plane crash in the Andes.)

Let’s take a quick look at five common modes of transportation, and what they could bring to your story.

First, the plane. You’ve got planes of all shapes and sizes to choose from, and more than 100 years of aviation. But they all fly above the common worries and fears of ground-bound folks. They get there fast, and there really is no escape (except by parachute, death or magic) until the plane lands.

The Dream Bible says to dream of airplanes is to dream about Continue reading

Michaeline: Reiwa is Coming (A New Era in Japan)

This Wednesday, on May 1, Japan will see the old emperor abdicate in favor of his son, ushering in a new era called Reiwa.

令和

“It’s a new era” is more than a turn of phrase. The Japanese use the Gregorian calendar (we’re currently in 2019 as I write this), but they also have their own method of counting the years. Right now, we’re in the Heisei Era, and my first visit to Japan coincided with the change from Showa to Heisei.

Emperor and Empress dressed in traditional wedding clothes 1959

The future Emperor Akihito with his bride, the future Empress Michiko, dressed in traditionally for their wedding in 1959. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The old emperor didn’t abdicate on January 7, 1989; he died. The nation was in mourning, and the New Year’s festivities were muted. I didn’t understand everything that was going on, but Continue reading

Michaeline: Shibuya Ramblings

Cherry blossoms illuminated in the dark by the digital billboards

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the crossing at Shibuya during sakura season must have enough to power 10,000 novels. (Picture by E.M. Duskova)

It’s easy to see why Shibuya is so popular with the tourists: it triggers a thousand stories, all in a compact space. The station at Shibuya has been known for decades as the place where loyal dog Hachiko waited faithfully for his master to come home from the university everyday . . . even after the master passed away. The exit where the dog waited is memorialized with a statue of the dog, and has become a meeting place for all sorts of people. “Meet me at the Hachiko Exit. I’ll be wearing red.”

Hachiko waits for his master, while a boy waits for . . . well, there’s another story to be told in Shibuya, under the cherry blossoms. (Picture by E.M. Duskova)

People being there attracts more people who want to see what the big deal is about. There are cute shops, and fancy shops. The street food is fun – right now, it trends towards tapioca pearl drinks and Korean cheese dogs (food onna stick! One of my favorites). And the scramble, where the traffic stops and all the pedestrian lights go green at once has to be a powerful metaphor for . . . something. I watched half a dozen people cross with selfie sticks, recording their journey with a flood of humanity, crossing the road to get to the other side.

You’ll see the cherry blossoms are beautiful right now. They’ll be here, and then they’ll be gone with the breath of the first spring wind, but in the meantime, they are gorgeous and live their short lives to the fullest. Against the digital background, they float just as beautifully as they would have in front of a row of wooden shops. Very now-ie, but also with strong roots to the past.

Jeanne: What’s in a Name?

Recently, a friend in my RWA chapter did an advance read of The Demon’s in the Details, Book 2 in my Touched by a Demon series, which came out last Tuesday on Amazon.

demon's in the details ebook coverShe did a terrific job of catching little errors my copy editor and proofreader missed, but in one case, she brought my attention to a problem that I didn’t think was a problem. She pointed out that in the first scene, my protagonist thinks of her father and stepmother as her father and stepmother, but later she becomes less formal, thinking/referring to them as “Dad” and “stepmom.”

There is, she pointed out, a best practice in fiction writing of choosing a single name for each character and always using that name to reference the character.

As a general rule, I completely agree with her. When you have a character that is sometimes called, “Charles,” sometimes “Charlie,” sometimes “Chuck” and occasionally “Binky,” the reader has to stop each time and figure out who this is. While there may be valid reasons for switching names–maybe every other character thinks of him differently, or your POV character thinks of him by different names depending on the current state of their relationship–it’s extra work for the reader. And, in general, we want to make reading our books as easy as possible.

But in this case, I felt differently, for two reasons: Continue reading