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

Michaeline: Story store, now remodelling

Plum blossoms with skyscrapers in the background, against a perfect spring sky

Plum blossoms in Saitama, a suburb of Tokyo. Nothing threatening about these luscious (and heady-scented) beauties! (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

Fans of erotica (OK, fans of porn) have a charming turn of phrase for storing up memories. If they have a particularly good experience, they can say something like, “Well, there’s one for the spank bank.” Why don’t we have a similar great phrase for the process of collecting raw material for stories?

I’m fond of the older phrase, “fodder for the story mill”, but it’s out of date. Fodder is feed for livestock. And the mill? I can ever decide if it’s a little device like a peppermill, or something big and automated like a flour mill. Both mills have that grind-grind-grinding action that is an essential part of digesting experiences before turning them into stories, but otherwise . . . it’s vague. And not nearly as snappy as “spank bank”.

“Smash cache”? Ugh. “Spew fuel”? Double-ugh. “Story store”? Hmmm. Better, but too close to things like “Boaty McBoatface”. (I do have to say, I could learn to love it. “Hey, gals, I’m going shopping at the Story Store today; want me to pick up some Ham and Tease Sandwiches?”

My goodness, I just feel like a Blank Tank today . . . not a creative idea ready for prime time.

You see, I’m in Tokyo again today. It’s the third time in the last two months; I’m sleep-deprived, my ankles hurt from walking, and any creative mojo I woke up with this morning was used up in figuring out the best apartment for my daughter who is headed for university in The Big City next month. Continue reading

Justine: (Is It?) All About the Book Cover, part III – The Reveal!

book cover reveal To Protect.png

The big reveal!

Wow, nearly a month has passed since I posted about my desire to redesign the book cover for my first-in-the-series historical romance, His Lady to Protect. You can view a recap of what I didn’t like about the previous cover (and examples of what I was looking for) here, and a first take at the redesign here.

But this post is about how, with the amazing talents of my designer, Mariah Sinclair, I have a book cover that SPARKS JOY! Continue reading