Jilly: Seeking Playlist Recommendations

Anybody up for a playlist recommendation or two? I’d truly appreciate it. 😉

It’s only two weeks since I posted my plan for the rest of the year, and I’ve already made a significant change. I sent off Alexis Book 1 to be edited, (yay!), but when I sat down to start work on the prequel, I realized that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell…not yet, anyway.

The prequel is the story of Alexis’s parents, Daire and Annis. It explains how Annis ends up running for her life, carrying little more than her unborn child and the most powerful jewel in the history of Caldermor. But, but, but… that story stems directly from Daire’s failure to secure the hand in marriage of a very different woman. All the characters from the debacle are major players in Alexis’s story, and I’ll need a novella to give away next year when I finally hit ‘publish,’ so I decided to write Kiran and Christal’s story now, and (hopefully) let the momentum carry Daire and me into the prequel.

I know where the novella is set (Darrochar, the kingdom adjoining Caldermor). I know how it ends, and I know the main characters. I’ve made a few pages of notes, but I need a playlist to really get my imagination working.

The story so far:

  • One arranged political marriage;
  • One clever, rich, handsome, spoiled princeling who’s too busy having a good time to stand up to his ambitious, power-mad mother;
  • One elegant, clever princess, determined not to waste her life and talents on a golden loser.
  • One scheming, murderous Princess Dowager (the mother-in-law from hell);
  • One plainspoken, upstanding career soldier turned princely bodyguard-slash-advisor who’s wondering what the hell he’s let himself in for.
  • Fighting (physical and metaphorical), in-fighting, hard truths told, harder lessons learned, risking all, expecting to lose all and (spoiler alert!) somehow the good guys emerge triumphant.

I’ll add to the list as I build up the story, but here’s my first stab at a few tunes: Continue reading

Michaeline: Cosmic Horror and Dread Cthulhu

Polish political poster featuring a Cthulhu in a suit carrying mystical paperwork.

Cthulhu is here. Artists in a lot of different countries have begun to think, “Why choose the Lesser Evil?” (Image via Wikimedia Commons; Wikipedia credits the drawing to Wieksze Zlo, and says it was photographed by Jakub Halun)

Cthulhu is here.

*Warning: here be spoilers. Do yourself a favor and take an hour or two to read the original short story, “Call of Cthulhu”. You may not enjoy it, but at the very least, you’ll be familiar with an important piece of pop currency. NB: I’ve only read the story this week myself, and haven’t read anything in associated universes. So, any opinions I have may be under-funded in the Cthulhu Canonical Knowledge department. Feel free to correct me, argue with me, or spoil me.

Last week, Jennifer Crusie posted a piece about the importance of Cthulhu to her current work-in-progress, and something tapped into my own deep anxiety and sense of cosmic horror.

Cthulhu is here.

Or at least, it’s an active force in popular culture, and it probably always has been. H.P. Lovecraft just identified it and shaped it into a story to wrestle with his own personal problems, and wrote that story in such a way that many people can use the idea to wrestle with their own unreasonable dread.

At the heart of Cthulhu is a conspiracy about something that can’t be Continue reading

Jilly: Tips for Creative Problem Solving

What do you do when you’re chewing on a problem, any problem, and you can’t seem to find your way to an answer?

I’m just back from a routine trip to visit my mum in Derbyshire. The return journey involves a minimum of six hours driving, closer to eight hours this weekend. It almost always results in some brainwave, useful insight about my WIP, or some other problem if Real Life is getting in the way of my writing.

I don’t consciously use my driving time to problem solve—I try to keep my eyes on the road and my wits about me—but somehow when my surface concentration is fully occupied watching the traffic, the deeper levels of my mind feel free to work on knottier problems.

I write sequentially, which means that I use each scene I write to provide the impetus for the next one. The good thing about my process is that the story grows organically. The downside is that when I hit a problem, I grind to a halt and spin my wheels. I can’t move forward until I resolve it.

Over the last few years I’ve tried various tactics to rescue myself when I get stuck. Here are a selection of the ones which work best for me, though your mileage may vary. Continue reading

Jilly: Play to Your Strengths

Think about your favorite authors. What are the hallmarks of their writing? Jenny Crusie writes fabulous, snappy, snarky dialogue. Loretta Chase is the goddess of subtext—she’s brilliant at creating powerful emotional bonds between her heroes and heroines, who hide their feelings behind carefully constructed facades that fracture at the perfect, critical, moment.

What about you? In your writing, or any other aspect of your creativity, or your life in general, do you know what your strengths are? If you’re anything like me, I bet you’d find it far easier to list what you’re not good at, where you need to improve, where others have a skill that far surpasses yours.

Continue reading

Jilly: Brainstorm Ahead

Hope you’re having a lovely summer’s weekend, especially if you’re in the US, celebrating independence from we pesky Brits. Enjoy! 😀

There’s no time to party at Casa Jilly. We’ve now survived three weeks of building repair work, complete with regulation noise and mess. Many of the bathroom fittings are in the garden, looking like postmodern statuary. Everything inside the house is coated in plaster particles, including us. I have to clean the sofa each day before I sit on it.

I’d love to take a few days off until the dust settles (ha!), but there are only three weeks left until I fly to Orlando for RWA National, and I’m already behind schedule. I have to get my draft finished, and I want to spend some time planning how best to use my brainstorming session with Jeanne, Kay, Elizabeth, Kat and Michille.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: June Short Story

Time to wrap up another month, which means it’s time for another short story as part of my plan to consistently get some words on the page each month.  This month’s brief story grew out of last Friday’s random words and was influenced a bit, in terms of character, by the old English-set mystery books I’ve recently been reading (not that this is a mystery).  The story turned out a bit different from the version that ran through my head on my drive home from work, but then that always seems to happen.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s this month’s story.

Enjoy.

* * *

Nigel vs. the Nephews

“No charades.”  Oh, kill me now.  Nigel Weatherby did his best to ignore the whine of disappointed voices and remained on the couch with his eyes closed against the midday sun, doing an excellent imitation of a boneless mass.

It was just an illusion though.  When he wasn’t draped over the sofa thwarting his nephews, Nigel was a championship swimmer, as well as a black belt and who knows what else.  He merely preferred to conserve energy for when it was absolutely necessary.

Charades in no way qualified as necessary. Continue reading

Michaeline: Imposter

A countess in a cape hiding behind a piece of cardboard that only shows her eye.

Worried about others seeing the faker? Be too fast to take that test, and just do what makes you happy. Trust in the creative process, not the outside censors and judgers. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, some words by David Bowie)

I am a writer who isn’t writing.

Does this make me an imposter? Well, yes. A writer writes.

But on the other hand, is writing a little bit like being a genius? As Lois McMaster Bujold has her character Professor Vorthys say, “All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters.” Having written, I’m a writer.

That’s not a very satisfying answer, though. It smacks of self-justification and resting on my laurels (which are rather small and unpublished). What am I doing in my free time that prevents me from being a writer on a more regular basis?

I’m a YouTube viewer and a ukulele player.

I have to admit, being a YouTube viewer is highly unsatisfying. It’s often very fun in the moment, but I don’t retain much. And it is such a lottery – for every five minutes of information and education, I get at least five minutes of utter pointlessness that looks like it is going somewhere, but winds up nowhere. I like YouTube, and I’m going to keep watching it. But do I want it down there in my obituary: “She watched a lot of YouTube”? No. I do not.

Being a ukulele player, on the other hand, feeds my heart. I’m going to admit to you that on a shallow level, it’s the kind of geeky cool that I’ve always aspired to be. I practice several times a week, and I can see my progression as a player. This week, my call to practice is, “Hey, I’m getting better at that Bb chord!” I like the challenge of getting to a goal – and I can see the goalposts. I can envision Continue reading