I just want to get a little writing done. Well, and about a hundred other things. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) Inu no Koku by Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806), translated The Hour of a Dog, a print of a traditional Japanese woman writing on a long scroll and talking to a servant or an apprentice behind her. Digitally enhanced from our own original edition.
Brian Eno News Twitter (not the real Brian Eno, apparently) posts a random artistic strategy* nearly every day, and the one I saw today was: Disciplined self-indulgence. Well, I don’t do “disciplined” very well, but when I make an effort, my self-indulgence is off the charts, so here it goes.
So, first: a bit of news. Hokkaido’s state of emergency ran from February 28 until March 19, which means that as of Friday (a public holiday celebrating the equinox), we are free from government requests to stay inside.
To tell the truth, though, I didn’t feel very much of a difference, because despite my best efforts, I’ve managed to get a sore throat. So, aside from work and a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the three-day weekend, I wasn’t out and about to feel the celebratory mood.
I’d say the crowd at the grocery store was slightly busier than usual, and I saw more Continue reading
Four Corners of Heaven came out March 12. (Image courtesy of Nancy Yeager)
Our own Eight Lady, Nancy Yeager, has a new book out this week! Four Corners of Heaven is part of her Harrow’s Finest Five, a period-romance set in the 1860s and 70s (see below for past posts about her series). I got the chance to read the book in beta, and it was a good read. Botany, women’s empowerment and fizzy romantic feelings!
I took the opportunity to ask Nancy three questions about her book, and here is what she said:
1. What’s your new book about? (Is it a stand-alone?)
I’ll take the easy part of that first. This can be read as a stand-alone book, but it the latest release (5th of an eventual 7) in my Victorian romance series, Harrow’s Finest Five. Regular readers of the blog might recall that the series is about “smart women, sexy men, steamy passion, and the occasional scandal.”
Four Corners is about two scientists pursuing a place in history who learn that love confounds logic every time. When their research unravels and forces them onto opposite sides of a scientific controversy, they’re forced to choose between their careers and their love .I think of it as my geeks-fall-in-love story. My goal, though, wasn’t to make them out as awkward or obtuse, absent-minded scientists. It was explore the way that two people who have single-mindedly, almost ruthlessly, pursued a goal and have their eye on the distant prize might be ill-equipped to handle or even recognize love when they trip right over it. And steamy passion. All the books in the series have some steamy passion!
2. What about the book makes you most proud? Continue reading
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
The first thing I have to say about journaling is that I suck at it. I can write in a little book about the minutiae of my life for a few days, and then I get inexpressibly bored. I’m lousy at conflict: anything I can’t minimize I’m very good at ignoring. Character development? I’m sure there must be some but I develop far too slowly. Plot? Ha! And let’s add in a sad lack of explosions, magical battles and strange creatures (aside from Yuta, the cat, who eats lettuce like a carnivore and likes a ride on the stationery bike) . . . you get a written record that’s far too boring for my tastes.
But while I feel my life isn’t worth the documentation, I admire people who keep a diary, and it seems to me that this coronavirus conflict is going to encourage a lot of people to do so. I might give it a whirl.
Here are a few ideas.
Japanese school children often keep a vacation diary in a special notebook. The top half of the page is a blank square, meant for drawing a picture. But, photos could be pasted there, or movie tickets, or anything. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. The bottom half is lined for the child to write in the details. The teachers often recommend the kid start with the day and date (it can help one keep track of days spent at home, where all the weekdays tend to blur into one another), the weather and temperature, and how the kid is feeling.
The three-line diary is an assignment I’ve given to my English learners. The idea is that anyone can write three sentences a day in English. If worst comes to worst, Continue reading
Poughkeepsie: Where the ideas come from. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
The last month has been an extremely creative time for me, but the general unsettled zeitgeist means I feel like I should be doing things other than writing. So, I decided to share some of my ideas that are going to waste. Feel free to execute them as you like, or add your own fun story ideas for people to pick up and share. Just make sure you have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a conflict. Or, provide half of the equation, and let people in the comments fill in the rest. You can add frills like the inciting incident, the time and setting, cool ideas and supporting characters.
*When asked where his ideas came from, Harlan Ellison said he would reply, “I get my stories from an idea service in Poughkeepsie, New York . . . $25 a week and they send me a fresh six-pack of new ideas fifty-two times a year.” – Shatterday: Stories, by Harlan Ellison
STORY IDEA #1: Amelia Hamsterkaufe, Miss North Carolina 1972, is now a suburban widow at a party in 1980 for her best friend (and runner-up) Betsy Hill’s birthday. Betsy breaks the news that she’s going to divorce her husband, Rex, and marry a scandal-ridden senator that she’s loved for the last ten years. Amelia absorbs the news under the moonlight on the patio, when she’s interrupted by Rex, who she has had a secret crush on since 1971. They begin to bicker about Betsy’s decision to divorce Rex, when a passing asteroid falls in the pool, and sends them both back to 1972 with their knowledge of the future, and a chance to change everything.
STORY IDEA #2: Continue reading
On February 22, my daughter’s plane circled the airport for 30 minutes waiting for the plows to clear the runway. Here’s a shot of the blizzard from my car. The plane arrived safely, and we got home without getting stuck once. (E.M. Duskova)
Well, my dears, last week I was simply overwhelmed by mostly good things – my daughter was arriving from the Tokyo area where she goes to college, and it was my FIL’s birthday and I was determined to bake him a cake before picking up my daughter in the evening. Work had been busy, and we got a blizzard. I really meant to post a picture or something at least, but the time got away from me, as usual, and the blog was the ball I dropped.
What a difference a week makes! I am Continue reading
I have to share this piece of writing with you. It’s a Reddit post about how a foreign resident in China is dealing with food and cooking during the lockdown because of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.
National Public Radio (US) has an article on how the lockdown is affecting the lives of Chinese residents. NPR reports that families in Wenzhou (a coastal city in China) have been told to stay indoors, and only send one person out every two days to pick up groceries.
The Reddit post does so much in a relatively small space. Redditor u/mthmchris explains how he and his partner are restricted to the apartment, and how the constraints in finding ingredients and the luxury of time have contributed to better cooking. There’s a brief reverie about the degeneracy of modern cooking, that he attributes to perhaps lack of time, especially now that he’s been living through a period of deprivation (although, not starvation) for the past few weeks. And then there are the dishes he’s made.
I suppose I’ve always been morbidly curious about “Robinson Crusoe” scenarios. So, it teases my imagination – what would I do if we were locked down on our farm with a COVID-19 outbreak in town? The post moves my sympathy for people who really are in the situation, it educated me, and taught me new things about the human experience. These are the things I would love to see my fiction writing do for people. Continue reading
Oh, no! Has the robot ruined dinner again? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Ever since the term “robot” was coined in 1920 (popularized by Karel Capek’s play, R.U.R. — Rossum’s Universal Robots), someone’s been worried about robots taking over their jobs. A few years ago, there were some National Public Radio (US) stories about programs that could write news stories. (One here: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/20/406484294/an-npr-reporter-raced-a-machine-to-write-a-news-story-who-won.)
I’ve read a few of these stories – honestly, there are only so many ways to report the weather on 90 percent of the days. Or to report on the stock market. In the vast majority of cases, you can randomly select a template, and plug in the numbers and adjectives for that day, and you have readable information.
Some artificially generated fiction can be strangely moving and seemingly full of thought. That’s because the reader is expected to do some of the work in fiction – she searches her brain for the source of allusions, or makes the connections that make the subtext clear. Is there so much difference between certain types of highly experimental fiction and vague robotic meanderings? As far as satisfaction goes, I think they both can deliver. Not every piece, of course. It’s Sturgeon’s Law that 90 percent of any genre is dreck. I think that goes for non-human writing, as well. Computers, over the short term, generally do better than an infinite number of monkeys plonking away on typewriters.
However, the inputs still matter. Today on Twitter, Janelle Shane shared some of her results from a neural net. Continue reading