Michaeline: Procrastination and Kittens

Mama Tabby is a short-haired farm cat. In this picture, all four of her babies are varying shades of tabby. You can see the cute little face of one, and the pink little feet of another. The other three are buried under Mama, looking for milk.
Mama Tabby, inspiration for Tabby Kate in my current WIP, had kittens in Auntie Milk’s bathroom last night! Hooray! Mother and babies are doing fine, but bewildered. (E.M. Duskova)

I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret: I like to procrastinate. If I don’t have an idea for the Saturday blog that thrills me, I’m perfectly willing to wait and see if something fresh pops up Saturday morning (which is still Friday night in the Americas, so something fresh often does pop up in people’s exuberance for the weekend). Procrastination often serves me well.

But when it doesn’t, it’s awful. A ton of pressure to produce 500 words of crap . . . I could have done that Thursday afternoon and saved myself the pressure!

And then there’s today, when something so wonderful happens that all thoughts of writing and blogging are driven out of my mind.

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Michaeline: Wolf Hall and the Journey with a Well-Known End

Thomas Cromwell sitting at a table covered with a beautiful green fabric. A book is by his side, with writing quill, letters, and broken seals.
Thomas Cromwell, the main character of Wolf Hall, was a practical commoner with a genius for languages and people. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s interesting to think about how stories grab our attention and propel us along through the pages until the end.

When I was a kid, I read mostly fantasy and fairy tales. The point was to find out what happened – although, I often cheated and checked out the last pages of the book to make sure it was a happy, satisfying ending. Even as a very young reader, I wanted a HEA, and I disliked cliffhangers – after all, I was in a small town 90 miles away from a Waldenbooks, so if there was a sequel, I needed to know I could get it soon.

But the romance genre isn’t really about the ending; it’s about the journey. Most romance writers make sure the reader knows who the main couple is, and it’s not in the romance genre unless the writer establishes a relationship that looks like it is going to last.

OK, digression, some romance writers like to play with the genre. I’m thinking of Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion. If you haven’t read it, it’s a masterclass in playfulness. SPOILER: there is a HEA, but it’s not with the delightful, handsome rogue.

I’m reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel this week. It’s about Thomas Cromwell in the time of Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn. It won the 2009 Man Booker Prize, and the language is a bit dense (though very smooth and easy to read). The plot is not a thrill a minute, and the writer stays far away from the romance between Henry and Anne . . . because we all know it’s going to turn out with Anne getting her head chopped off.

So why read it?

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Michaeline: The Pandemic and Your Writing

Well, it’s been a little more than a year of lock-downs and warnings, sickness and death, constriction and austerity as a result of the global pandemic sparked by the COVID-19 virus. Big, big changes. Have you had enough space to see how this is all affecting your writing?

The pandemic bubble is represented by the arc of a rainbow. Inside are two goddesses and two peacocks. A tree completes the arc. Outside under the tree are two little cherubim, pointing at the goddesses.
Inside my pandemic story bubble, the story shrunk to two characters, with possibly another couple on the side. OK, and maybe a pair of peacocks playing minor roles. But compared to my pre-pandemic stories, the cast was limited. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

For me, I’ve seen a shift to smaller casts – people with more localized problems, and only two to four people in a story. You can see this with my Christmas story last year – a crappy boss, a heroine wallowing in loneliness, a mystery man passed out on the pavement, and a touch of Mother. This is

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Michaeline: Behind the Scenes in Poughkeepsie

Harlan Ellison, an SFF writer, at least once said when asked that he got his ideas from Poughkeepsie. “$25 a Week and they send me a fresh six-pack of new ideas fifty-two times a year” (Shatterday: Stories by Harlan Ellison).

Where do you get your ideas?

I’m getting mine from the cats these past few months.

Half-grown long-haired kitten who looks like a Norwegian Forest cat (tabby) sits on a leopard print fleece blanket that's been placed on top of a big pot of soil (if you are curious, it used to be a turmeric plant). Ears forward, whiskers forward, eyes bright and curious. Very regal sitting position.
Princess Charlotte, also known as Charli with a soft ch (シャーリー). Here she lords over the houseplants. (EM Duskova)

Our new cat, Princess Charlotte, looks like a Norwegian Forest cat or a Maine Coon cat. Both breeds are friendly, chatty giants with long fur and athletic ability. Princess Charlotte (or Charli for short) showed up in our barn on February 15.

She holds herself like a princess, but attacks dem fishies like a warrior queen. And Norwegian Forest cats come with their own mythology and legends, so it’s natural

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Michaeline: Welcome to the Equinox!

A gardener from the 17th century carries a potted tree out to the garden. In the background, more gardeners are hoeing and preparing beds and perhaps mazes for the coming summer.
Whether you are in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere, it’s time to change gears and get ready for the coming seasons. Spring! David Teniers the Younger via Wikimedia Commons. Copyright © The National Gallery, London

It’s a season of change, and here winter and spring are still fighting the March battle for dominance. The days are springlike, but the nights are clear and frigid. Tomorrow, we’ll get both snow and rain, if the weather report is right. Blow, winds, blow, and bring in the new.

I’ve had a lousy year so far for . . . well, just about everything. But this week was a good one. I did some spring cleaning, I planted most of the bulbs I should have planted last autumn, and I did some writing. If I read a book tomorrow during the inclement weather, it’ll have been a very good week indeed.

Hope your week is going well, too, and the changing energy recharges your batteries and gives you a nice chance for a reset!

Michaeline: Self-care and the Gentle Art of Computer Backups

Young lady sitting on the back of a chair, watching a very small TV in a high cabinet c. 1933
Spend a night in with the small screen AND back up your computer files at the same time! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

March: In like a lion’s tale, out like a lamb’s whisker . . . or something like that. What a story of woe I have, but it’s a very common one. My computer crashed and burned at the beginning of March. The trackpad had been wonky for months (a whole year?), so I should have known this was coming, but the Lenovo Idea Pad wasn’t even three years old, so I thought I had time.

Ah, time, my old enemy, my dear friend.

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Michaeline: Copyrights of the Future?

This week on my corner of Twitter, there’s been a lot of discussion about copyright, and how long it should last. Someone suggested 30 years after publication! (See below.) The discussion isn’t about a real-world change in laws, as far as I can tell, but a what-if scenarios that may stem from the Dr. Seuss estate pulling some of the Seuss books with racist imagery. As a lot of internet conversations do, the discussion has drifted from the original “problem” to a lot of different ideas about how to do things. Some “solutions” are silly, some are impractical but some have brought up some great tangential points.

In my corner of Twitter, Dr. Seuss wasn’t even mentioned. I’ll get into that later. The reason why it caught my attention is that most writers I know there are extremely concerned about their rights, their old age, and taking care of dependents who may not be able to take care of themselves.

A mid-30s slightly balding writer is seated at a table, writing, in a sparse room while Death as a skeleton aims a spear flagged with "Finis" at his chest. The man is holding up the left hand to ward off Death, but holds onto the quill with his right.
Copyright and royalties can mean a lot to a struggling author facing death. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

In general, writers are also readers, and many readers would like to be writers. So, I would say there’s a significant minority of readers who see both sides of the copyright problem.

In America right now, copyright is for the life of an author plus 70 years. (For all the ifs, ands and buts, visit Copyright.gov. The website is a cornucopia of copyright facts in America.) It’s basically the same in the UK, but I’m sure there are some different details. (British Library) In Japan, it’s the lifetime of the author plus 50 years. (Page 5 of this PDF) The problem for me as a reader

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Michaeline: Meet Cute

A woman walking her bike notices a man who has taken a tumble on his bike. He is upside down, and the wheel is still spinning, maybe. TEXT: ELLIMAN'S UNIVERSAL EMBROCATION 1/1 1/2. i WILL HAVE IT OR WILL HAVE NONE. Prepared by ELLIMAN Sons & Co. Slough ENGLAND For STIFFNESS. ACHES. SPRAINS. BRUISES.
Meet Cute story idea: Nurse Nightingown comes across a terrible bicycle accident in the country. Well, not so terrible. He’s awfully cute, and only has a mild concussion. A little bit of Elliman’s fixes him right up! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Every month has a chance for romance, but there’s something about the shortness and sweetness of February, what with the increasing daylight in the northern hemisphere, and the lengthening of nights in the south, and the abundance of chocolates and roses thanks to Valentine’s Day, that sets a particular mood.

My husband and I celebrate our own meet cute this month – he went to a Valentine’s Day dance with a group of his fellow exchange students, and I popped in quickly after some sort of event (concert? movie? art gallery? I just can’t remember), and saw this guy with a million dollar smile.

Roughly speaking, I think most

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Michaeline: Valentine’s Day Short Story

Two young lovers wrapped in blankets. One set of feet. Fish head imagery, and also a mysterious night with swirling stars and lanterns.
Melusina and Raymund (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It was late winter, and it was the season when Melly’s lake was soft and slushy during the day, and frozen hard during the still-long nights. It was an unpleasant time of year, but one that reminded her that spring would surely come, and she’d be swimming in the green bottoms all day soon. But now, there was nothing to do. She combed her long red hair and sang across the surface. She shut her eyes and let the waxing sun warm her lids and her tail fins, still covered in short winter-white fur dappled with black spots near the tips. Nobody but a complete fool would come out here today.

Her song was interrupted by the crack of ice and a yell for help; she sighed. One should not underestimate the number of fools in the world, she thought, and went to see who had fallen into the ice.

She swam across the lake, under the frozen ice. It was a young man in velvet and furs, and he was floating face down in the cold, cold water. Melly paused and thought of her mother.

“You must sing every day and keep in good practice. Your voice is your weapon, and with it, you will lure strangers to their death. Smash them upon the rocks, or they will surely steal you away from here and kill you,” Priscilla had said.

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Michaeline: February Inspiration

February, the shortest month of the year! The coldest two weeks of the year in my area; I’m sure some of our southern-hemi friends find it the most miserable hot days of the year. So short, yet so packed with inspiration for writing!

A fashionable lady in a befeathered big hat and stole holds a Lippincott's magazine. TEXT: Lippincott's February. The Chaple of Ease
February — a great time for reading and writing. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

First up, Groundhog Day in the US. It’s come and gone, but if the groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, it’s supposed to get scared, run back to its hole, and there will be six more weeks of winter. If it’s cloudy, though, the groundhog will play around, and there will be an early spring.

This reminds us that it’s fun to play with opposites in a story. Does our heroine have a terrible, awful life, and then get hit by a car, only to wake up as Queen of the Vampires (MaryJanice Davidson, Undead and Unwed)? Or does she have a happy, sunny life, suddenly get pelted with unsuitable suitors who make her life miserable, but after six weeks of BS (OK, six months or so), discover that one of the suitors loves her deeply and would rescue her wayward sister for her . . . and she loves him (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice)?

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