Michaeline: Olivia, Jack and the Stupid Cupid

A male skater, a woman on a swan-shaped sled, and a small cupid playing the flute beside them.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

It was one of those beautiful February days – the sky was blue and the ice on the rink was rock hard. Olivia took another leisurely turn around the pond, idly wondering if Jack was ready to go inside yet. Jack zoomed past her, a vision of gracefulness in black leggings and a black turtleneck, his black hair in winter spikes and roses in his pale cheeks. At the far end of the pond, just where she could best appreciate his athleticism, he jumped and spun, drew a heart in the ice, then zoomed around again in long, lazy strokes. He was like a Mercedes on ice – he didn’t seem to be putting in any effort, but in two heartbeats, he was behind her, slowing down in a spray of ice crystals, then gently taking her hand.

“Cold, darling?” he said.

“Not yet,” Olivia said. “But maybe we can go in about 15 minutes?”

“All right. Skater’s waltz?” He kissed her nose, and pushed off, pulling her behind him while humming a ridiculously resonant version of “The Blue Danube”. It had been almost an entire year since they met, and Olivia was as crazy about him as she was when he first showed up on her doorstep. Always the showoff, he turned and skated backwards, now holding both her hands, dazzling her with his smile. And that was the reason neither of them saw the snowfairy in her tiny sled drawn by a floppy Shih Tzu, barrelling across the pond and right into their skating path.

Everyone went down in a tumble of arms and legs, with the snowfairy winding up on top, her sled underneath, and her doggy spinning around on the ice like a furry Roomba, barking furiously at the outrage. Continue reading

Michaeline: Timing and Persistence

snow, leafless trees, dawn a'comin'.

Just before sunrise on the Tokachi Plains. (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

Let’s talk a little bit about the pros and cons of the “butt in the seat” method of writing.

But of course, I want to talk about it in a roundabout way so I don’t scare myself.

Two weeks ago, I went to the beach and got some really nice pictures of the jewelry ice. The light was perfect, the clouds cooperated, and I was there at the right place and the right time.*

I love it when that happens, and sometimes it happens with my writing. Writing is a joy, and it’s easy, and damn, it looks good.

It makes the other days feel like a waste of time.

This morning, I got up early (but not early enough) and went Continue reading

Michaeline: Connections, connections

Four hermit crabs under the sea, in different stages of coming out of their shells.

And so, Micki came out of her shell and waved hello to the others. (Via the Internet Archive)

You never know where a new direction is going to come from. Could be north, could be east . . . could be straight up from the ground, or pouring down from the heavens.

In my case, an old friend sent me an email out of the blue regarding a writer’s conference in Japan. I suspected there were a lot of writers in Japan (there certainly are a lot of bloggers!), but I felt like we might all be like hermit crabs, hiding in shells of English Teaching or maybe IT Endeavors. You really can’t tell who is a writer and who isn’t just by sight.

But now, the internet is a miracle for peeling off those shells and saying, “Hey! Here I am!” Some savvy person got a notice for the 2018 Japan Writers Conference into a little newsletter based in Sapporo, and my Sapporo-based friend sent it along to me (the hermit crab by the sea). And then when I went looking . . . wow! The conference has a social media presence! Here’s the tweet about the conference, and there’s a Facebook page, and there could be more. (-: Not in the first two pages of Google hits, but still. Their Social Media Presence Can Be Felt.

Looking at the tweet also provides a lot of information – for example, information about the Twitter accounts of 14 people who liked the tweet. One of them has written about mermaids in Lake Michigan, for goodness sakes! (I’ve got a mermaid seeking revenge in a fictional lake in upstate New York. Writer-soul mate? Maybe. At least, I’ll follow and see what happens.)

I don’t know if I’ll be joining them in Otaru this year, but it’s just exciting to know that there are fellow strivers in the room. I mean, I guessed. Now I know.

What’s your local writing scene like? What do you get when you google “My Area Writers”? Is it all black and white photos of writers dead and gone? Or is there a living presence of scribblers like you? Let me know! I’m so curious.

Michaeline: Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin at a booksigning in 2013

Ursula K. Le Guin (by K. Kendall via Flickr) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Ursula K. Le Guin passed away on January 22, 2018, and through the comment sections of Jenny’s Argh Ink blog, I found Le Guin’s blog, The Bookview Cafe – one that she shared with a lot of writers, mostly women.

The recommended blog post was titled, “Navigation Q1: How do you make something good?” Le Guin started with the very funny (but absolutely practical) advice: “Well, you could start with butter and fresh farm eggs, it’s hard to go wrong from there, unless you are a vegan.” And then she gets serious. Go ahead, take a look if you like. I’ll still be here.

It’s like a little tarot card, this cryptic comment. For me, the butter and fresh farm eggs are real life experiences. (I know – that seems really odd for a writer of fantasy to say. But in order for fantasy to really fly, it needs to be grounded with real-life motives and behaviors. The rest is all caramel sauce or bechamel. Spin that into fairy glass, or stuff it with mushrooms, as you like. Or just make a fried egg in butter, if you don’t like fantasy. A fried egg in butter is one of the most delicious things on earth, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not a vegan.)

If you’ve read the post, then you know how Le Guin spins her metaphor into a textbook souffle – and then gives you permission to ignore those rules if you are making blintzes. That really rang the dinner bell for me. I’m making blintzes, and I should embrace that and make lots and lots of blintzes!

From one egg metaphor to another, I found this page about a book of hers that came out last December from Houghton Mifflin called “No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters”. The table of contents sold me, especially after reading the blog. It’s an old chestnut that, “wow, I’d read her shopping list!” I haven’t read much Le Guin, but her blog posts were very charming. I *would* like to read about her cat, her “crabby old lady” diatribes, and yes, the section titled “The Narrative Gift as a Moral Conundrum” makes me want to search the internet right now and see if it’s on the blog. I’d better wait, though, and get the real book, and take my time.

They call it “dead rock star” effect. It’s sad that it takes a death for me to re-discover what thousands have already known. I might be spending a lot of February, going through Le Guin’s books and other writings. Better late than never, I suppose.

Michaeline: Toyokoro’s Ice Jewel Setting

slabs of ice washed up on a cold beach in Japan

Jewelry Ice on a beach in Toyokoro. Photo by E.M. Duskova

Geoff’s new wife was an Instagrammer, and he had known it before the wedding, so he should have known what he was getting into. In theory, spending their honeymoon in a winter wonderland had sounded like a very good idea – long cold walks, followed by nice warm sheets. In practice, here he was on frozen beach at dawn while Dahlia capered across the black sands in her red parka and her ridiculously large camera. His nose was cold, his fingers were cold, and his ears were about to fall off. Continue reading

Michaeline: Exploring Your Setting

Swans standing on a snowy river bank.

Hungry swans on Tokachi River. (Photo by Michaeline Duskova)

So, this is going to be a “hive mind” sort of a post where I pick your brains. The question is, “What’s the most interesting thing to do in your region during this season?”

For me, it’s the swans on Tokachi River. Every year, they migrate here to enjoy the clement weather (only -24C/-11F last night – I don’t even want to think about the cold they are escaping!). For a few months, they congregate on the river next to the hot springs, splash around, eat the goodies tourists throw to them, and just generally look as picturesque as they possibly can. Being swans, that’s pretty damn picturesque. Continue reading

Michaeline: Fallow

Sheaves of wheat, covered in snow

“January” by Grant Wood, via Wikimedia Commons

Fallow, fallow, wallow, swallow. Swallows of Capistrano, and soon it’ll be spring again.

LOL, forgive me. I’m a bit out of practice. I haven’t written a darn thing since January 30th. I cooked and cleaned for the New Year, and then I took a break. I slept. Oh, lordy, I slept! I went to bed early, I woke up late, I took naps, and even now, I’m looking at the bed in the corner of my spare bedroom and thinking a power nap might help me write a fabulous post for the new year. I recognize the perfect post is an illusion, and keep writing.

When I’ve been up, I’ve been reading. My goodness, having a pair of reading glasses is making a difference! I read two Wiseman books about the group dynamics of teens – teens are the best drama generators in the world, so I figured it might be a helpful dash of fertilizer to my fallow, fallow brain. My conscious mind isn’t doing much with Queen Bees and Masterminds; I think the best thing to do with pop psychology is to read it, and let the subconscious mind sort it all out, and bring out the useful bits in a story. I’m also reading a lot of Captain Awkward’s advice columns, so when the advice collides with a likely character, I’ll be ready to capture the whole thing down with my pen and paper.

I’m not quite ready to get back to work (see above paragraph about the siren song of the bedsheets). Monday is a public holiday, so I think I’m going to sleep some more, and read some more, and then catch up on my internet obligations. By then, I should be raring to go back to my old story, or maybe a new story, and turn my thoughts into readable words, and be able to share them with others.

I feel very naughty and indulgent, but sometimes, it’s a good idea to spoil yourself. Isn’t it? We’ll see, come Tuesday morning!

In the meantime, I hope 2018 is treating you all well, and bringing you many things to think about and wonder about.