Michaeline: For the Love of Barbara Allen

Pretty young lady with a check or plaid dress.

An autumn version of Barbara Allen/Barbara Allan. (via Wikimedia Commons)

There are a lot of different variations of the old Scottish/English/Appalachian song about Barbara Allen, but I was first exposed to the lyrics through a Bugs Bunny cartoon. (0:14) Porky Pig was dressed Friar Tuck, and strolled around singing about the merry month of May.

It was a great tune, and memorable lyrics. “A young man on his deathbed lay, for love of Barbara Allen.” (“Robin Hood Daffy,” 1958.) 

Later in high school or college, we sang a different version in choir. The lyrics could be sung to Porky’s melody, though, so I’d switch between the two in the shower, depending on if I wanted to be light and lovely, or dark and mournful. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Happy Friday.  It is Friday, isn’t it?

To be honest, I’ve had my days mixed up all week, though that isn’t really such an unusual occurrence these days.  The only day I’m completely sure of is Wednesday, since that’s when the garbage trucks rumble through the neighborhood, grinding and clanking (and obsessionally thumping).

I don’t know about you, but my weeks at home have been filled with more seminars, webinars, phone calls, and Zoom meetings than I would have though possible.  Almost every email I get is either someone offering to teach me something or sell me something.  Ah well, at least it is proof that there are actually people out there somewhere.  As a plus, I’ve learned all kinds of new things–all of it for free!

In our work meetings, very few coworkers have been bold enough to turn on their cameras so we can see them when they talk.  Almost two months with no haircuts or coloring, plus no visits to the gym coupled with “working in comfortable clothes” has left many unwilling to make themselves visible once again.  I’m planning to brave the camera in my morning staff meeting, even if it means I will have to change out of pajamas and wear real clothes.  We’ll see how that goes.

Once my work day is done and I’ve gotten over the trauma of turning on the camera, I think I’ll reward myself with and adult beverage and then give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me (in either or both)? Continue reading

Michille: Character Actions

Reading Week Lessons LearnedOne of my favorite writer blogs is Writers Write. Most of what they write about is creative, but they also discuss business writing, and blogging and social media. A recent topic was a fun one for me – 60 Things for Your Characters To DO When They Talk or Think. What things can characters be doing while talking? What actions will reveal character more thoroughly?

When I read the list, I mixed up a few which ended up giving me amusing images, like bathing a cat (I mixed up giving a dog a bath and cuddling a cat) and watering a child (mixed up watering houseplants with watching a child play). Of course, giving a cat a bath could create some hilarity in a story. Some of them seem a little too much like sittin’-and-thinkin’ activities, like knitting, hiking alone, or waiting in the doctor’s office. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Musing on Story

Now that we’ve been “sheltering at home”  for almost two months now, things are starting to settle into something that may not be normal, but is a little more organized.  The first few weeks at home were a bit of a free-for-all: figuring out how to work remotely; being reassigned to help on critical projects; wondering about who was going to get sick and when; being unusually concerned about the status of the grocery store shelves.

Between trying to keep my normal work tasks on track during the days and my special project tasks on track nights and weekends, there wasn’t a lot of spare time for reading or creativity for the first month or so.  Things eventually settled down, as they generally do, and, with a bit of organization, time for non-work pursuits became available.

Sadly, my creative mind did not seem to become available at the same time.  Fortunately, I had many other things to do while the Girls in the Basement binged-watched the news and hogged all the hand-sanitizer.

First, it was mask making (convenient, since they’re now mandatory here).  Then, it was making a quilt out of the scraps of material left over after said mask making.  Jigsaw puzzling would have come next, but apparently everyone sheltering at home discovered the joys of jigsaw puzzles all at once, so there were no new puzzles to be had.  I tried an online puzzle, but it just wasn’t the same thing. Continue reading

Jeanne: Six Sigma for Fiction: The Action Workout

Depositphotos_27159627_l-2015This is the last of my posts on adapting manufacturing quality improvement techniques for fiction writing (unless I randomly remember another one at some point and see a connection).

The Action Workout was a group collaboration technique. The way it works is, you get a bunch of people into a room to review a process with an end goal of slimming the process down to its essentials, removing both unnecessary cost and opportunities for mistakes.

How, you ask, can this possibly be adapted for fiction writing? Hang with me and I’ll explain.

In the Action Workout as taught by a couple of women who ran the IT Help Desk at the manufacturer where I worked, the goal was to break the process into each of its discrete steps, identifying the steps that provided something of value to the customer. If a step didn’t add customer value, you looked for ways to remove it.

Let’s use a coffee shop as an example. What are the steps to serving a customer? 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?

Jilly: Getting Away From It All

It’s a holiday weekend here. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and we’re in limbo, waiting for the corona-crisis to be resolved or at least assimilated into our post-pandemic daily lives. Wherever you are, I hope you’re safe and well.

Usually around now people in the UK get the first inkling that summer is around the corner. That promises vacation, relaxation, maybe a change of scenery, perhaps a beach read or two. Except this year relaxation is not an option, and the scenery is depressingly familiar. Mr. W and I had tickets to visit San Francisco at the end of July for RWA Nationals. We expected to meet up with California-based friends and to enjoy a civilized meander down the coast with Kay. Clearly none of that will happen. We’ll be lucky if we’re allowed to hop on a train and visit friends and family outside London.

Many of my friends have reported increased cabin fever lately, and I wonder if at least some of it is down to the loss of that holiday promise, the anticipation of a treat or just the idea, the possibility of something new. Chez Jilly we’d have shared days and weeks’ worth of fun planning our road trip, investigating possibilities online, talking to Kay about places to stay, discussing landmarks to visit, imagining food and wine we might sample. Planning a vacay is like a free holiday-before-the-holiday, with only the good bits—no budget constraints, no sunburn, and no jet lag. I think being robbed of that fantasy is almost as bad as missing out on the trip itself. Continue reading