Nancy: Creativity Is Hard Work

Me, every writing day. Often, I am pushing the same damn boulder I’ve been pushing for weeks or months.

Last week, I had a conversation with a very creative person in a field other than writing. (Yes, it turns out there are creatives in the world who are not writers! I, too, was surprised.) We were discussing “living the dream.” Which is, apparently, what I, as a full-time writer, am doing. My creative friend, still working the day job, is not. And he had thoughts about that.

Actually, he has dreams of his own, which are wonderful things! He also has some misconceptions about what my day-to-day life of dream-living entails.

For those of you who have not met me IRL, I should explain that I have no poker face. Ergo, I could not hide my shock, dismay, and perhaps even amusement at his idea of my life. And while I have my own dreams of spending my writing days frolicking with unicorns and sliding down rainbows while the Best Story Ever Written magically appears on my computer screen, I’ve only had two, maybe three days tops, when unicorns have appeared. And those might or might not have involved whisky. That is to say, this dream gig is hard. Continue reading

Michaeline: The Parable of the Black Tea

A young lady and gentleman having tea at five-clock.

For a bunch of leaves soaked in hot water, tea provokes a lot of passion, and a lot ideas about “doing it right”. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Green tea, of course, is a fine art in Japan and people study for years to do it right. There are special costumes, special bowls for the tea, and even the tea itself is a special blend, especially powdered for the tea ceremony.

You can enjoy the “way of tea” club in some high schools, and pick up a very esoteric hobby (and possibly a part-time job, as you progress, pick up a teaching license, and start to instruct others in the “way of tea”).

Green tea is green tea; my friend’s friend was doing a ceremony with black tea, and I’d been drinking black tea all my life. My father, in fact, had developed several rituals over the years, which finally settled into putting six teabags (Lipton’s) in boiling water, turning off the heat, and letting the whole thing steep for exactly 20 minutes. Then, the super-tea was diluted with a quart and a half of water, and put in the fridge for the next day’s consumption. (Sorry, Jilly, to describe that so graphically, but that’s how it was.)

Well, we didn’t have to cosplay in frock coats and pelisses for this tea party my friend’s friend was holding, but it was marked by ritual. Water was brought to the correct temperature, pots were rinsed and warmed, and all sorts of rules were observed. And the milk! Oh, so many rules about the milk, now eroded in my mind by contradictory internet arguments about how to serve milk with tea (or tea with milk). This party took place before we got internet, so I couldn’t double check the rules later and preserve them in my memory. All that faffing about did make a good cup of tea, but not a out-of-body-experience-inducing tea. There are only two parts I remember – the water must Continue reading

Michille: A Pill for Writer’s Block

pills istock-168763163Seriously. There’s a pill. I heard an interview with Robert Anthony Siegel on NPR Radio in which he discussed a one-man open-label placebo trial he’d undertaken with John Kelley. Siegel is a writer and Kelley is a psychology professor at Endicott College and the deputy director of Harvard’s Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter, a program devoted to the interdisciplinary study of the placebo effect. The goal was to get rid of Siegel’s writer’s block, and the panic attacks and insomnia that went hand-in-hand with the writer’s block. The interview was a discussion about the research and subsequent article in the Smithsonian Magazine – “Why I Take Fake Pills: Surprising new research shows that placebos still work even when you know they’re not real.” Continue reading

Justine: What to Give Your Book-Loving Mom on Mother’s Day

happy mothers dayDon’t worry! You haven’t missed Mother’s Day…it will be celebrated in the US and 84 other countries on Sunday, May 12th (so you still have time to get a gift or send a card!). Almost every country in the world celebrates Mother’s Day; however, not all on the same day.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 by West Virginian Anna Jarvis, in memory of her mother, who had died a year earlier. Although Jarvis pushed for a national holiday, it was until 1914 that US President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

However, Jarvis would come to resent the holiday… Continue reading

Michaeline: Wasted Time? Or Not?


Lady taking notes in 1920s Manicure advertisement originally so lovely hands

I should take better notes as I go along. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I just had a long, lovely holiday at home, thanks to the Emperor’s Birthday, but you know how when you were a kid, and you spent the whole weekend doing nothing, and then suddenly the Sunday Afternoon Boredom hit? After In Search Of (a TV program devoted to exploring mysteries of history and fiction, like Atlantis or Bigfoot), there was NOTHING to do until Lawrence Welk. And that is a measure of how dull and deadly the afternoon was, when Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music was something to look forward to. (I’m not dissing LW; I’m just saying that the show was no American Bandstand.)

OK, back to this century. What with the internet and DVDs and everything, the blahs didn’t really hit until Friday afternoon, when I realized that I’d WASTED an entire week. This was going to be my chance (one chance in a lifetime, I believe I said in last week’s blog) to try out a new lifestyle. Continue reading

Michaeline: Surfing Through My Mind

A young Hawaiian lady looks at an airplane as an outrigger with four people ride the wave in.

Read this, and then look back here. Do I know how to mix a metaphor, or what? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Since Wednesday, I’ve been trying to shape a metaphor about my writing. At one point, it was looking really good – writing is like surfing. I catch that wave, I ride it out to its thrilling conclusion, and then look around for the next.

Yeah, it’s just like that. But then I extended the metaphor. I don’t write at the same time every day. It’s like I’m out in the juice shack, tending to my dayjob or doing my night chores, and sometimes, I can feel that great wave building off in the distance. I ditch the juice shack, run out, and catch that wave and boom! Best feeling in the world!

Then I chided myself. If only I’d just head out into the ocean every day around tide time. Sure, maybe I wouldn’t catch a wave every day, but I’d be there to catch the little waves, and I’d be able to ride the big ones a little longer because I was prepared.

I don’t like it when I chide myself. The chidden part Continue reading

Nancy: What I Learned from Reading Seven Romances in a Week(ish)

Like some of the other ladies on the blog, this year I was a judge for an RWA contest, the RITA. I was tasked with reading seven published books in different contest categories (read: not competing against each other) and given approximately two months to complete and score them. Easy peasy. I would read one contest book per week, record my scores online, and be done in plenty of time.

Er…Um…Well, you know how it goes. I got behind on writing here, picked up books off my TBR pile there, got distracted by a shiny object across the room, and the next thing I knew, I only had two weeks left to read all seven of my entries. Goal: seven romance books in seven days, with a week of wiggle room. Outcome: seven books in ten days. Deadline, schmedline. I finished with four days to spare.

Because I’ve always read in diverse genres and like to mix it up, I’m not sure I’ve ever read that many books in a row in romance or any other single category. This unusual (for me) approach to reading allowed me to compare and contrast the books as a reader and as a writer. Three of the books were quite good. If I’d been reading them in the wild, I would have stuck with them and probably given up some sleep and, for one or two of them, possibly even some writing time to finish the stories. A fourth was also good and I would have finished it, but it would have taken me a few days and several reading sessions to do so. A fifth was just ‘meh’ for me, and absent the requirement to read it for the contest, I might have wandered away from it if I’d had another book waiting. (And honestly, who doesn’t always have another book or ten waiting?) As for the last two books, oy! They would have been DNFs for me if I’d had a choice.

Following are my top takeaways from going all romance, all the time, for seven books and ten days, starting with the good, moving to the bad, and ending with the ugly. Continue reading