Michaeline: Death in the Family

Mourning sampler with a man and woman under a weeping willow tree; other flowers.

Mourning sampler; 1838. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My father-in-law passed away this morning. He had aspirational pneumonia, not coronavirus, or so they think. I’m re-running a piece I wrote at the end of 2016. It’s a bit morbid, a bit hopeful. They say the Covid-19 mortality rate is running around 1 percent; if we each know about 300 people, that means all of us may know one or two people who die from that alone this year. I hope this doesn’t hit too close to home — please practice self-care if you want to continue reading.

https://eightladieswriting.com/2016/11/19/michaeline-the-japanese-coffin-experience/

Stay safe, all, and let your loved ones know you love them.

Kay: New Prize Aims to Recognize Female Writers

Let’s lead with the no-news bad news: women don’t win literary awards. Further, books written about women don’t win any awards, either.

I bet you’re shocked. Shocked!

Despite a couple of recent breakthroughs in 2018 (Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood shared the Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other and The Testaments, respectively; Susan Choi won the National Book Award for fiction for Trust Exercise; the award for nonfiction went to Sarah M. Broom for The Yellow House), women haven’t begun to reach parity with men in the book awards realm. (Evaristo, the first black woman to win the Booker, said in her acceptance speech, “I hope that honor doesn’t last too long.”)

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Michille: Definitions of the Romance Novel

booksThe shake up with RWA and the ethics debacle, or in Elizabeth’s word the implosion, has injected the romance-writing community with some extra energy right now. At least as far as discussions related to the genre. Romance Scholar Digest is having an interesting discussion regarding the definitions of the romance novel. Eric Selinger shared in an email that there’s an ongoing discussion on Twitter about the need for some linkable definition of the romance genre that doesn’t rely on the RWA, which has led to an interest in a compendium (with citations) of definitions that have been offered of the genre by various hands, scholarly and authorial and industrial, etc. I’m not on Twitter so I’m getting my information from a Romance Scholar Digest email thread. Eric is considering putting them up at the IASPR site or in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS), which I would look forward to. The Teach Me Tonight blog has a list of definitions compiled by Laura Vivanco, some of which I’ve included here. Continue reading

Michaeline: The robots are taking our jobs!

Robot carrying grocery bags for a lovely young housewife; a bag has burst all over her stylish car.

Oh, no! Has the robot ruined dinner again? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since the term “robot” was coined in 1920 (popularized by Karel Capek’s play, R.U.R. — Rossum’s Universal Robots), someone’s been worried about robots taking over their jobs. A few years ago, there were some National Public Radio (US) stories about programs that could write news stories. (One here: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/20/406484294/an-npr-reporter-raced-a-machine-to-write-a-news-story-who-won.)

I’ve read a few of these stories – honestly, there are only so many ways to report the weather on 90 percent of the days. Or to report on the stock market. In the vast majority of cases, you can randomly select a template, and plug in the numbers and adjectives for that day, and you have readable information.

Some artificially generated fiction can be strangely moving and seemingly full of thought. That’s because the reader is expected to do some of the work in fiction – she searches her brain for the source of allusions, or makes the connections that make the subtext clear. Is there so much difference between certain types of highly experimental fiction and vague robotic meanderings? As far as satisfaction goes, I think they both can deliver. Not every piece, of course. It’s Sturgeon’s Law that 90 percent of any genre is dreck. I think that goes for non-human writing, as well. Computers, over the short term, generally do better than an infinite number of monkeys plonking away on typewriters.

However, the inputs still matter. Today on Twitter, Janelle Shane shared some of her results from a neural net. Continue reading

Jeanne: Truffles Don’t Feed the Bulldog

Cute white English Bulldog puppy in a classic red velvet and gold crownOn Friday, Elizabeth posted a short story prompt where the main character had to deal with a difficult client, using the following words:

bulldog           undersea       grill                moonbeam

lonesome      chain               ambush           detox

facade            bluntness      miserable       injury

wealthy          audience       entertain        cynical

Everyone is welcome to join in. If you want to participate, you can leave your story in the comments, as Kay did. Here is my attempt:

The maitre d’ at the Undersea Moonbeam Grill looked down at Lady Perpetua Fortheringham-Wythe’s bulldog.

“You can’t bring that animal into the restaurant with you.”

“Of course Hermione will dine with me,” said Lady Perpetua. “She adores your truffles foie gras.” Continue reading

Michille: The Comma

comma_PNG30The comma is my friend. Too friendly. I use too many of them when I write. We all learned in elementary school when to use a comma in the basic sense: in lists, to separate clauses, to enclose parenthetical words/phrases, between adjectives, before quotations, in dates, etc. One of my favorite writer websites if Writers Write and they have a series they call Punctuation for Beginners which goes up on Tuesdays. In general, I like to noodle around on grammar sites for refreshers as it’s been a while since I learned grammar. Yesterday, the post was All About Commas. I learned a little about writing, but mostly I found the humor. Continue reading

Jilly: Sunday Short Story–Claws and Effect

It’s a treat to be back in discovery mode, trying to get to some traction on a new story. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m getting close.

In an attempt to maintain my creative momentum, here’s a short story based on the prompts from Elizabeth’s Friday writing sprints, in which the main character makes an unfortunate discovery, and including the words collar, gum, confidence, assassination, flawless, pill, cardio, dart, strange, tiny, balance, coat, hollow, bayonet, affair and guidebook.

Claws and Effect

Xavier the Chemist was free. None of us could believe it.

The Agency boys and girls had played strictly by the rules. Permissions, documentation, evidence, charges, their work had been flawless. They’d built a watertight case against Xavier with painstaking care and they didn’t even get their day in court. A sleazy lawyer, a crooked politician, a few million in used notes, and the entire team was suspended without pay pending an official investigation.

Xavier’s PR firm had a field day, deploying a lethal combination of money and influence in a supremely confident no-holds-barred attempt to bayonet the wounded. He owned the front pages, news websites and social media, demanding an apology and nation-bankrupting damages. Questions were asked in the House.

The bastard was untouchable now. And that meant more good people would die.

Like hell they would. If arrest and imprisonment couldn’t keep us safe, it would have to be assassination.

For the Agency, the law was a straitjacket. For us it was more of a guidebook.

Tomorrow Xavier would disappear beyond our reach, escorted on to his private plane or his armored superyacht. Tonight he was within our grasp, sleeping off his exertions after a torrid twenty-four hour affair with an oligarch’s spoiled daughter.

I opened the door of our nondescript trailer and watched Shadow dart outside. The tiny wildcat shifter was my preferred partner and for her this was personal. Some of Xavier’s deadliest concoctions targeted the shifter community.

I adjusted my headset and took my seat in front of the video screen. If we were lucky, my job would be to watch, listen and chew gum until my jaws ached. If not…

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