Elizabeth: Creativity Challenged

In our new viral-normal, it can sometimes be challenging to give free reign to creativity.  I have found myself with much more free time in recent months (thanks to no work commute), but have little to show for it in terms of words on the page (though I did make 2 dozen face-masks and a quilt).

In her Getting Unstuck post last week, Kay gave some great suggestions for how to keep your story going when you’ve hit a wall, but what if the problem is not that you’ve reached a sticking point in your story, but that you’re stuck in reality.

Conveniently, I ran across a couple of posts in my news feed, as well as a list from work, that may be helpful.

First is a post from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University entitled Why You Can’t Concentrate Right Now. In a nutshell (you can read the article for the details) concentration can be challenging for folks right now because our brains are busy keeping an eye out for threats and maintaining a level of hyper alertness. If your brain is busy managing the Bodily Intruder Alert Command Center, it makes sense that there may be little bandwidth left over for creative pursuits.  So, I take that to mean that my lack of creativity is not because I’m lazy or that I’m too busy perfecting my pastry-making skills, but because my brain is busy making contingency plans to address potential death and economic collapse.

Makes sense to me. Continue reading

Jeanne: If It Doesn’t Bring You Joy

USA - 2019 Primetime Emmy Creative Arts Awards - Los AngelesAfter twelve weeks of being cooped up in my house, I’ve been giving some thought to doing a Marie Kondo on my life: clearing out the things that don’t bring me joy. Although my house could probably use some de-cluttering (especially the basement and the kitchen junk drawers), I’ve been focusing more on streamlining my emotional life, asking myself what I want from this last quarter of my time on Earth and what is getting in the way of my achieving that.

So what do I want? Well, in no particular order:

  • I want to return to Europe another time or two. I’d like to see something of Spain and Italy, for sure, but those trips are on hold at least until there’s a vaccine that makes air travel safe again.
  • I want to tell more stories.
  • I want to continue learning to write better.
  • I want to learn more about local flora and fauna.
  • I want spend more time hiking, preferably with a canine buddy.
  • I want to read a bunch of books I never seem to have time for.
  • I want to see more movies (versus TV shows).
  • I want to see friends again. (I suspect that shortfall may be at the root of my malaise but there’s not much to be done about it for now.)

What would I like to do less of?

  • I’d like to cook less.
  • I’d like to spend less time doing book marketing related activities.
  • I’d like to spend less time on life administration–sending in claim forms and arguing with my insurance company about whether I need to do a telehealth well-visit. (Yes, I get that Medicare pays you to make me waste an hour chatting with someone about my perfectly fine health but I don’t want to.)

More than anything, I’d like to spend less time “channel surfing” available activities. When I do get some free time, I spend so much time dithering, trying to choose what to do next, that it all goes to waste.

Maybe if I’m clearer about which activities will leave me feeling satisfied instead of frustrated I can make better use of my time.

What about you? What brings you joy? And what would you like to do less of?

Elizabeth: Choosing a Path

Once upon a time, half-a-dozen years ago (give or take), writing moved up to the top of my To Do list.   I had just made it through some major life changes and decided it was time to focus more on “want to” and less on “should.”

Though I had been writing all my life, in one form or another, I thought getting some solid foundational knowledge would be a good idea, so I headed off to grad school and studied craft-first from the literature perspective (where they mocked genre fiction) and then from the more helpful romance-writing perspective (where there was no mocking).

With that knowledge under my belt and the 8Lady network in place, I joined the Romance Writers of America and began seriously working on book #1, a Regency Romance.  Publication was a far off-crap shoot of a goal, but after attending my first RWA conference I had what felt like a more achievable goal in my sights:  finish the book and submit it to the RWA Golden Heart contest.   Finaling (or winning) would have been the icing on the cake, but finishing the book and submitting it seemed a more realistic goal since, what happened after submission would be pretty much outside of my control.

I wrote and attended conferences and worked on my craft.  In due course, I finished that first book and submitted it, along with a second book, and later a third.  None of the entries made it to the final round, but the the scores they received convinced me that I wasn’t completely wasting my time.  (I found it interesting that, for all three books, the judges either really liked them or really hated them; there were no “middle” scores.)  There were also some other local contest finals along the way, several with agent requests for a “full” or a “partial,” but nothing quite clicked.

Then an unfortunate thing happened. Continue reading

Kay: Wild Hair (That’s Entertainment!)

My friend Eileen

Shetland pony

How long have we been social distancing now? It feels like forever, right? Most of us haven’t been out to a hairdresser—or really, anywhere else—in all that time. And let’s face it: we aren’t really looking our best these days.

A friend emailed me that it’s been so long since she last had a haircut, she looks like a Shetland pony. I thought that was ridiculous, but then she sent me pictures of herself and a Shetland pony. And holy cow, she was right. She looks just like a Shetland pony!

Me

Weird chicken

This made me wonder what I look like. It turns out, I look like a weird chicken.

I asked the other Ladies what they were doing about their hair in these stay-at-home times, and what they were looking like these days. As you might expect, some of the Ladies are cutting their own hair, or are letting it grow long. Some are dying it for the first time, or missing a coloring treatment.

Elizabeth

Highland cow

Elizabeth has fairly long hair, so missing a trim, if she were so inclined, might not be so noticeable. In answer to the question of how long the stay-at-home has been going on, she says, “two hair cuts’ worth.” And she’s taking the current state of affairs as an indication that it’s time to let nature take its course, hair-wise.

She says it would appear that “Scottish Highland cow” best describes her “out-for-a-walk, shelter-in-place” hair. Looking good, Ladies!

Jeanne

Dandelion

Some of the Ladies think that their hair most closely resembles plant life. Jeanne thinks she’s looking most like a dandelion.

 

 

 

Jilly

Haystack

Jilly reports that she’s been cutting (and thinning) her own hair, too—at least two hair cuts’ worth. She says that the term most often used to describe it at her house is “haystack.”

(For the curious, the photo of that beautiful haystack was taken in County Clare, Ireland.)

 

Goldendoodle

Michaeline lets go

Michaeline’s hair is long enough that she can adapt two styles to her hair. When she lets it go, she looks like a mini Goldendoodle. (photo: picuki.com/tag/banglecats)

 

 

 

Michaeline sleek

Araripe Manakin

When Michaeline’s hair is pulled back, though, then it’s a bird of a different feather! (This photo of the rare Brazilian bird Araripe Manakin was shot by Rick Elis Simpson via Wikimedia Commons.)

 
 
 

Justine

Lion

Finally, Justine thought she’d try something new, coloring her hair a beautiful purplish-red just in the front. And then she brushed it out, and her husband said “Oh my God” when he saw it. (She says she NEVER brushes out her hair, and she has to thin it to keep it manageable. I wish!)

What does she look like? A lion, of course.

Younger son

Golden Lion Tamarin

Her younger son wanted to get in on the act, so we’re adding him in. He, too, went for a little color in front and a little shorter in the back. I thought that beautiful color most resembled a golden lion tamarin.

And that’s what we’re looking like these days, over at Eight Ladies Writing! How are you all holding up out there in the hair department?

Elizabeth: Doing Things, Making Stuff

These past few months have been interesting, to say the least.  What started out as a minor adjustment (working from home instead of the office) turned into an anxiety-inducing pandemic (masks, social distancing, stay-at-home orders), and now feels like a weird kind of new normal.

In the beginning–ignoring the worry part–it wasn’t too bad.  No more commuting.  I could work in my pajamas all day and no one would know (not that I did).  And suddenly my neighborhood actually seemed to be populated with people (keeping their distance, of course).  Sure, I had to cut my own hair periodically and Amazon 2-day shipping turned into 2-week shipping for the items that were actually in stock, but the local bakery and Chinese restaurant remained open for takeaway orders, so I could continue to get treats while feeling good about helping a small business stay in business. Continue reading

Kay: Whatcha Watchin’?

Book 1 in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, soon to be a Netflix original!

These days we’re probably all reading a lot and watching a lot of TV. I know I am. In TV land, I’m doing a slow binge on the Miss Fisher mysteries, an all-too-brief series from Australia. The gentle—very gentle—crimes, plus the slow-burn romance between Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson, the police detective, are perfect for my mood. Plus, the clothes! And the sets! You would not believe.

I’m about halfway through this series now, so I’ll soon be looking for something else. Television seems to lend itself to mysteries, probably because so many TV serials are based on crime novelists who never seem to run out of ways to kill off a character or two. I admire most of the productions in the UK/Australia/New Zealand/Canada pantheon, so I’m looking for suggestions. I’ve run through the Brokenwood Mysteries, Shetland, Vera, Endeavor, Midsommer Murders, and Foyles War. I like Bosch, too, and I loved Justified, but on the whole, American detective shows don’t do it for me. And I don’t like anything too grim these days. Let me know what to watch!

Continue reading

Kay: Hanging in There

Breakfast food! Photo from sallysbakingaddiction.com. This woman knows her way around cake.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, some much more so than others. I’m one of the lucky ones. No one I know has died or even is sick. I’m retired, and I’m naturally a homebody. I’m making good progress on my WIP. For me personally, life isn’t that much different than it was before the stay-at-home order, although standing in line to go to the supermarket is not something I thought I’d ever see.

Of course, I’m extremely worried for our health care workers and first responders, and I’m heartbroken for all the lives cut short. I’m concerned for all the kids with lousy or no wifi and I hope that their educational opportunities will not be short-circuited. There are so many things to worry about in a pandemic.

But while I’m largely doing okay, many of my friends are very stressed. And then this morning, I woke up with a free-floating anxiety. I felt paralyzed. And I hate that feeling.

There’s a lot we can’t control in a pandemic, but some things do lie within our control. And one of those things is how we face our fears. This morning, I was kind to myself: I turned on the fireplace, put on some Mozart, and ate chocolate cake for breakfast while I read my current murder mystery. All things I love to do, except usually I try to resist chocolate cake for breakfast. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Nothing’s Ever Wasted

A random pile of fabric scraps that I was able to turn into something useful

Well, okay, technically that’s not true.  Lot’s of things are wasted.  But sometimes those things we think we should just throw away can actually come in pretty handy.

As I’m sure you are aware, one recent suggestion in the ongoing battle against the current health pandemic is to wear cloth masks when you need to be out and about around other people.  Masks are, however, in short supply.  Hospitals and medical systems have spent the last weeks (maybe longer) trying to find enough of them to keep their doctors and nurses safe as they treat their patients.

Fortunately, as a member of the general public, we don’t really need a professional high-grade mask for those infrequent trips to the grocery or drug store.

Cue the home-made mask bonanza. Continue reading

Kay: That’s [Art] Entertainment!

Remember this painting at the top? The scene has been reimaged at home

Jilly wrote a silver linings post on Saturday, and we were all so cheered up by it, we decided to do more. We all could use a little extra shot of happiness, right? A splash of fun? A drop of joy? Or at least, comfort. Not bad news.

So I’m pitching in today with this entertainment post, links to three things I enjoyed last week, coming to you from the art world. First off, maybe you think you can’t make art. You’d be so wrong! The Getty Museum of Los Angeles asked people to post photos of themselves recreating their favorite works of art based on objects they had at home. What they did was amazing and hilarious. Check out the results.

Think you can’t learn how to paint from a video? Donna Fenstermaker teaches painting here in northern California, and she’s posting short tutorials for her students. I love this one about how to look at color. Even if you’re not inspired to move color patches around, her voice is pretty soothing.

Finally, 20 Dutch musicians from the Rotterdam Philharmonic stayed home and played together the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. That just never gets old.

Have a good week, everyone!

 

Jilly: Silver Linings

So how was your week?

According to the news briefings, London is the coronavirus hotspot of the UK, but so far, touch wood, we’ve been fine chez Jilly. We’re doing as instructed, staying quietly home, washing our hands, waving to the neighbors from a safe distance, watching the news, and checking up on friends and family. I’ve been having lovely long chats with friends I normally only catch up with at Christmas.

I didn’t do any new writing, but I did put together a brief for Daire’s novella, now officially called The Seeds of Exile. I had a good discussion with my cover designers about the stock photo I found for Daire, crown prince and ruler of Caldermor. The guy’s expression and pose are perfect. Unfortunately, his clothes aren’t. He’s a cool urban dude and I need a fantasy prince. I had some ideas about how he could be transformed, and I was thrilled when Deranged Doctor Design said they can make him work. Those people are a breath of fresh air, somehow managing to work with their usual upbeat professionalism even though their patch of Eastern Europe is under martial law and they’re expecting to go to full corona-lockdown soon. I really admire their attitude. Continue reading