Michaeline: A First Kiss Fortune Teller

a paper fortune teller with eight outcomes for a first kiss: in a car, dance floor, under a desk, under the stars, sofa, under a tree, on a boat, in a library

First kiss fortune teller, created by E.M. Duskova for Eight Ladies Writing.

1. What is this?
2. The Questions to Ask and how to play.
3. Printing and folding instructions.

Feel free to skip to the section you want right now. You can read this in any order.

What is this?

Some of you may remember this paper sculpture game from elementary school. When we did it, we wrote the name of four boys on the outside (see the big red hearts), then numbers on the inside, and sometimes more boys on the inner triangle, or sometimes fortunes. We called it a fortune-teller, but you may have more luck googling it if you look for “cootie catcher”.

I made this particular version for Eight Ladies Writing, and it’s supposed to help you pick a lane for a plot point – where is the first kiss in your romance story? Once you know your main character’s name and the setting, a lot of things grow organically from those starting points. You can use the ideas here, or make up your own. I think a hand-written fortune teller is the most charming way to go, and allows for custom options, but a printed version occupies my stupid thinking brain and lets the Girls in the Basement go to work on their own. Be prepared to write after making one! Who knows what those Girls come up with while sifting through multiple possibilities.

How to play and Questions to Ask

First, make, cut out and fold your fortune teller. (See section three if you don’t know.)

This game works well with a partner, but you can do it yourself, especially if you are spatially challenged and forget which outcome is connected with which number.

Picture of a prepared fortune teller

A finished fortuneteller looks like this. Picture by E.M. Duskova

Put your forefingers and thumbs in the cups of the fortune teller. Bring all the points of the cups together. Spread your forefingers and thumbs to open the fortune teller. This is Move 1. Pinch your forefingers and thumbs together to close again, then twist your wrists outward to open the fortune teller in the opposite direction. This is Move 2. Repeat as necessary.

Question One: What is your main character’s first name? The main character is the one who drives the story, and choosing the main character is the first step to molding your story; bestowing a name on your character also shapes that character in all sorts of practical and mysterious ways, so getting these two items sorted out is an important step in moving your story forward. Spell the character’s name, while opening and closing the fortune teller (one move per letter). End on the last open position so you can see the numbers inside.

Question Two: How many kisses do you want? “You” being the main character, of course. Is your character starved for love? Do they only want one kiss? Or do you want to modify the “1” to “0” because you’ve got an enemies to lover trope going on? Sorry, you can’t do that – it would make it impossible to play the game. But it’s important to know. (Modify the question, instead. How many slammed doors do you want? Or something relevant to your main character.) Counting the numbers slowly, open and close the fortune teller (again, one move per number). End on the last open position again.

Question Three: By this time, you know a little bit about your MC and the love interest, so I’ll let you decide on your own numerical (1 through 8, or possibly 1 million through 8 million) question. “How many fucks do they give?” was my first thought, but you can definitely change it to something more family friendly. “How many aunties does MC have?” is a favorite trope of mine. I like a lot of community in a romance.

After you decide the number, gently peek under the flap and see what you get.

For example, I like Mike. 1-2-3-4. How many kisses does he want? Oooh, about 7. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. How many ex-girlfriends does he have? Let’s say 5! Open Sesame, Mike and Angie have their first kiss on a boat, and wow! How did they get on a boat? Whose boat is it? How the heck are they getting off Mr. Dangerbridge’s fifth luxury yacht in as many years without alerting the Dobermans? (The Dobermans are the caretaking couple.)

How to Print and Fold

How to print: I think all you need to do is copy the image to a document, pull it out to enlarge as big as you can (I recommend A4 paper for adult fingers), and print. Take care that you don’t accidentally skew the ratios and wind up with a rectangle. Or, if you are going the Etsy-Betsy hand-drawn version, make a square piece of paper, fold and then fill out the squares and triangles as above, with as many modifications as you’d like.

How to fold a fortune teller

How to fold a fortune teller by user MichaelPhilip via Wikimedia Commons. You may want to use the video for that last transition between 2-D paper and a 3-D salt cellar.

How to fold: White side up. Fold into a triangle, then fold again. Open up, and with the white side still up, fold the corners of the square into the center along the lines. Flip. Again, fold the corners into the center, hiding the ultimate outcomes. Hello, numbers! Fold into a rectangle (numbers to the inside), then open and fold into another rectangle. This will give your creases between the heart squares. Hearts side up, gently work your fingers under the hearts, and push it together to get your 3-D fortune teller.

Ugh, you know what? A video is worth more than 170 words, that’s for sure. Here’s one that teaches you how to fold and play a fortune teller. Let me know if it doesn’t play in your country.

How about you? What possibilities do you have in mind for your first kisses in your WIP? Feel free to share even if they are a done deal – kisses are great, and the first one is very special!

Michaeline: Sestina Fever!

I like short projects, but I also have a creative tendency to complicate them and turn them into puzzles that sometimes can only be tied to the original project parameters by very tenuous links.

For example, I’m the October Birthday Tixie for my reading list, and the job is relatively simple: look at a spreadsheet, then send birthday greetings to list members who have signed up for it on or near the day they’ve indicated (we’re a world-wide group, so we can have real or fictional time lag problems that graciously forgiven).

Image via Wikimedia Commons

But, it’s a creative group, and there are such fun things done with the idea! My most memorable birthday greeting involved a trek through the wild roses of Barrayar, and I believe there was Ma Kosti cake involved. (If you don’t know Ma Kosti, all you need to know is that her “little chocolate thingies” have the density of plutonium, and grown-ass warriors have been known to divert their plans in order to experience a Ma Kosti luncheon. Chef and food business entrepreneur extraordinaire.) I have the Head Birthday Tixie to thank for that!

My method is to choose a theme (cakes, or treasures, or fictional animals that need scientific names), write down on cards about 14 or 15 possible ideas (I have 13 people on my list), and then choose a card at random to spice up the greetings, and tie it into the Authorial Canon that my reading list enjoys.

This month, I decided to do different forms of poetry, and boy . . . I face each birthday with a combination of terror and thrill. Will the muse pull through? She’s done a decent job so far, although the scansion may be off and the syllable-counting not quite as precise as one would like.

So, the first trick was finding 13 different poetry forms; I got nervous as the first hits on Google were “the five different poetry forms” – but as I scrolled down the page, I saw “10 Poetry Forms You Must Know” and finally found one with 22, I think it was. Good enough! I started my cards – haiku, limericks, tanka, sonnet, etc.

Then it was time to write the first poem for October 1, and to my dismay, I got sestina. My first try, I have only an hour or so, and I’ve got to come up with a sestina!

A sestina is a complicated form – six stanzas of six lines each, in theory, and you must re-use the ending lines in a complicated rotation. I’ll send you here for the abcdef version (tl;dr: faebdc being stanza two, and cfdabe ((I think)) being stanza three – oh, and these aren’t rhyming words, but whole words that are repeated), but it’ll be easier to see how it works in a real poem. I was so lucky to find a four-stanza sestina, so I used that as my model. Elizabeth Bishop, “A Miracle for Breakfast,” October 1972. 

I can’t believe how much I like this form! I like repetition anyway, and word puzzles make me happy. There’s a circular logic in using the words over and over again, and a sort of hypnotic groove can be achieved – not totally predictable because the logic of the scheme is a bit much for the normal resting brain, but the same words come back with a reassuring frequency that makes one believe there is a Plan in the Universe.

So, indulge me. For today’s post, I’m going to take six words from Elizabeth’s writing sprint yesterday, and try to mold them into a poem. I think it’s a really good exercise for prose writers who want to write shorter, more effectively, and create an atmosphere and a state of mind in their reader. I can easily see the line breaks being taken out, and a few stanzas of a sestina (looking like paragraphs) conveying an obsessive mindset of a character in trouble. Or perhaps in love!

OK, here we go! (Oh, this turned out a bit weirder than I thought it might. Still, reminds me of current politics, so I’m going to put it out there. I don’t want to discuss current politics, but I’d be happy to talk about feelings of empowerment or feelings of helplessness in today’s atmosphere.) Four stanzas, and while I’ve largely ignored scansion because I suck at it, I’ve followed an 8-8-8-8-8-10 syllable scheme (I think). *Trigger warning for baby poop and farts.

You know, you can ask a baby
About the certainty of freewill.
On their face will spread confusion.
If they feel strongly, aroma
Emits like a musky siren
From the leakproof diapers of the future.

Their pre-verbal face says, “Future?
“What is future? I’m a baby.
“I’m in the present, a siren
“Call of now. There is no free will
“For me.” The diaper’s aroma
Brooks no protestation of confusion.

Now you are cast in confusion.
“I’ve always thought that the future
“Was like a wafting aroma.
“Even the fart of a baby
“Could send it spiraling. Free will
“Guides the future like a warning siren.”

The baby wails like a siren.
There can be no confusion.
The adults use tools like free will,
But can’t be sure that the future
Will bend to their craft. Oh, Baby.
We wander blindly in the aroma.

Michaeline: A Writing Staycation

“My goodness, this might actually be pretty decent!” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been on Twitter an awful lot since I’ve gotten my new phone; I set up an alt account called “fooling around on my phone” and instead of trying to be on-brand and promote my writing (at this point, my only public writing are these blog posts and some earnest advice on obscure Reddit subs), I lurk on other writers’ threads and enjoy some weird bots that tweet famous authors’ works. (When Gilgamesh, Sappho and Vonnegut line up on my screen, I get some pretty amazing reading.)

I should probably quit spending so much time on the internet, but I have to admit that Twitter is quite inspirational. I’ve almost put down the phone and started writing MANY times; I have screenshotted some amazing ideas to use later.

This weekend, I’m finally taking action. At least two people have shown up on my Twitter feed saying, “Going off-line. Writing retreat. See you Monday!”

So, I’m inspired. I won’t go off-line (ha! As of this writing, I’ve already scrolled through about 50 tweets, watched three YouTube videos and texted my mother, despite my best intentions). But it’s a beautiful weekend to have a writing retreat at home! Here’s how I’m doing it. Continue reading

Michaeline: Making the Best of a Dystopian Timeline









(Images via Wikimedia Commons)

In preparation for Margaret Atwood’s new book, The Testaments (officially released Sept. 10, 2019), I re-read two classic dystopian novels. I finished George Orwell’s 1984 on Sunday, and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale on Tuesday, then read right through The Testaments (the sequel to THT) on Wednesday.

That’s a whole lot of dystopia, folks. Fortunately, I survived the experience unbowed.

Orwell’s 1984 is THE fright novel about totalitarian systems. His vision is broad and deep, and his prose (generally) is economical and delivers its truth bombs with great precision. This is the book that gave us doublespeak, Big Brother and a clear way of talking about the rise of totalitarianism – in fact, he infodumps two chapters of a pretend totalitarian how-to manual in the last third, and it’s still a page turner. It’s not recommended for folks who need a happily-ever-after – Orwell’s book is bleak, and the only happy ending is death, and the government is stingy with even that. Continue reading

Michaeline: Autumn is Calling

Two young women gathering grapes in a Grecian setting

Not quite summer, not quite fall — something delicious in between. (Image via Wikimedia)

Autumn is coming in! I know, I know, equinox, blah-blah-blah. But modern people tend to jump the gun a little – perhaps we’re more attuned to the marketing cycle than we are to the actual season, but that’s OK. A lot of us are sick of summer, anyway.

How do I know it’s autumn? Well, I suspected it last night when Randy Rainbow sang to me of pumpkin spice on YouTube. That’s the first whiff of autumn these days – the cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg get re-branded as pumpkin spice, and jazz up any number of delicious, non-pumpkiny things – the real pumpkin being saved for Thanksgiving, I think.

This morning confirmed things. Nearly the first tweet I read said: “WE ALL HARD AGREE THAT HALLOWEEN SEASON BEGINS SEPTEMBER 1, RIGHT?” Lisa Marie Basile, you are ahead of time, I thought. And then I remembered . . . thirty days hath September, and that means August has 31. We were at the end of summer.

At the time, there were 2,080 tweets in the past hour for Halloween costumes, and 910 tweets for hashtag Halloween. I’d say Halloween season has begun.

This summer has been such a bubble of confined space for me. I’ve been getting by, concentrating only on the stuff right in front of my face, and barely paying any attention to the passage of time. When I managed to get enough water, I felt I’d accomplished enough for the day. When your focus is so tight on the next five minutes, there’s also a strange feeling that time will go on forever.

Autumn is a lovely season, but there’s that bittersweet haze of “ending” that hangs over it. Winter is coming, and so are the short days and long winter’s naps. But, it’s good reading weather, and good writing weather.

The thing is, I’m still behind. People serious about publishing are already knees-deep into their Valentine’s Day offerings, and already starting to think about summer stories. So, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I linger in summer for just a few more weeks. Either way you look at it, I’ll get caught up to the seasons, or the seasons will get caught up with me. Time goes on, and there’s writing that needs doing.

Michaeline: Good Omens is the Apocalyptic Fiction for Our Times

Michael Sheen (Aziraphale) and David Tennant (Crowley) in 2019’s Good Omens TV series. (Image via IMDb)

For once, I was on the cutting edge of things. My husband subscribed to Amazon Prime in March to easily send stuff to our daughter who went away to college, and at about the same time, I found out that Good Omens was coming.

Good Omens was originally a lovely book written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the impending End Times. It was published in 1990, and was full of clever little international references – Elvis as a fry chef, our changing diet, and of course, the Apocalypse.

Anyone who has read the brochures left by the Jehovah’s Witnesses knows something about the coming apocalypse and all the assorted cavalry and plagues and trumpets. I remember visiting the County Fair in the late 70s, and seeing great big bulletin boards filled with a timeline for the Second Coming of Christ, and was quite upset about the whole thing until someone talked some sense into me. End of the World? Why, I’d hardly gotten started with it at that point. Someone told me that no one really knows when the end is coming, and also that I needed to be less impressed with big bulletin boards and scary predictions.

From 1985 to 2001, according to Wikipedia, we’ve seen someone predicting the end of the world for each and every year – sometimes multiple predictions. The pace slowed down after that, but nearly every other year, there’s been someone saying the world is going to end. I remember particularly the Y2K bug, and the end of the Mayan calendar.

The Y2K bug was particularly worrying. We had just gotten internet in 1999, and that was one of the first things I saw online. I planted extra pumpkins and worried excessively, but the internet scareth, and the internet comforteth in equal measures. Someone talked me down, and on the plus side, we had some gorgeous jack o’lanterns that year, and we didn’t have to eat a single one.

So, you’d think we’d be over the apocalypse in 2019; so many prophets crying wolf. But . . . have you seen the news over the past three years? Continue reading