Michaeline: Network of Creativity: Salvador Dali interviewed by Dick Cavett

Michaeline: Network of Creativity: Salvador Dali interviewed by Dick Cavett

This morning, a friend of mine shared a Dick Cavett interview with Salvador Dali, and it’s been something to think about, for sure! In the clip, which aired on Feb. 11, 1971 (11 min), Cavett seems to be completely at sea when confronted by Dali’s accent, niche interests and methodology, but 50 years later, Dali’s ideas have become almost mainstream.

For example, Dali talks about the Fibonacci sequence and how it manifests in various natural objects, such as sunflowers, rhino horns and cauliflower, of all things. Cavett asks Dali about Dali’s arrival at a speech in a car filled with cauliflower (I’d like to think it was the beautiful Romanesco cauliflower, which demonstrates fractals so gorgeously), and doesn’t seem to comprehend Dali’s answer.

A graph showing the Fibonacci numbers in terms of squares that are x by x. x = 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.
The Fibonacci sequence can create an elegant spiral. (Jahobr, Wikimedia)
The Fibonacci sequence as illustrated in nature with aloes, sunflowers and a spiral seashell. (Google screenshot)
It's hard to describe this, but think cauliflower, but instead of the smooth, brain-like flowerets, each floweret is like a spiky Christmas tree.
My mother-in-law has grown this veg for me! It’s a member of the cabbage family, and is known variously as Romanesco broccoli, romanesco cauliflower, chou romanesco. Delicious, but smelly — a cabbage-scented limousine is maybe not what you’d want to ride in on a hot summer day. Still, look at those gorgeous fractals! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

We today may be more familiar with the sequence as part of Elsa’s magic in the “Let It Go” song from the Disney animation, Frozen. The lyrics even mention, “My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.”

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Michaeline: Brainstorm Saturday

Imagination magazine cover, March 1955. A full robot with antennae and flashing lights helps a stylish young housewife in a red jumpsuit with her groceries, but manages to bash the eggs all over her floating maroon trunk (of her car). Lots of "Oh, no! Oh, no, no, no!"
Story seeds! Use your imagination, and pass on the ideas that are right, but not right for you. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve got a really cool video that just provokes all sorts of ideas in my head for stories. So, if you need a little bit of inspiration, grab a pencil and some paper, and try this:

  • Remember the rule is no self-editing. Jot down quick notes about what comes to you – edit your list later.
  • You don’t HAVE to like robots in order to get ideas from the video. You can pretend they are real people, and see what comes to you. (But don’t deny the weirdo SFF ideas, either – they may spark new ideas in your later.
  • Watch this video (“Do You Love Me?” Boston Dynamics, 2:54), and take notes:
4.
  • Aw, go on, watch it one more time and see what comes up.
  • Any ideas that seem kind of cool, but you have no interest in exploring? Share them in the comments below so someone else can run with them! Kind of like the Poughkeepsie Idea Service!

So, I’m going to share some of the ideas that came to me during this video. It really was inspirational. (And if you want to run with them, go ahead! What you do with these seeds is going to be completely different from anything I do with these seeds.)

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Michaeline: The Art of the Blurb

Melissa Blue tweeted this week, “Pro tip: The point of the blurb isn’t to tell you the story, it’s to SELL you the story.” That sentence came to me just as I was already thinking about blurbs, and complicated the matter.

First, a blurb is the short summary of the book used to lure readers into the buying the story. Naturally, a good blurb is very useful to the reader in choosing a story to her tastes, but it is also a good tool for writers.

A Regency man in a caped riding coat stands in front of the mantle of an inn lecturing a demure young girl in sprig muslin with two hat boxes near her.
Via Wikimedia, this is the first edition cover of Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer.

For example, if you get stuck in the writing of your book, write the blurb for the book-in-your-head. Compare it to what you have in your draft, and see if you’ve drifted from the point, or if you are still on target.

This is a case where the blurb tells the story, and I think that’s an important part of blurbiness. A blurb should accurately portray the book, or it is just fooling the reader, right?

That said, it’s a hassle trying to fit 65,000 words into 100 succinct ones, especially if the writer plays with genre or tropes.

This month, I did a comfort re-read of Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin, and it was satisfying and as comforting as I could have wished for. When I looked at the back of the book, though, I was shocked.

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Michaeline: Four Questions for Harper Cross

Author Harper Cross, also known as Eight Lady Nancy Hunter, aka Nancy Yeager, author of the five-story series, Harrow’s Finest Five (Starting with novella “Too Clever by Half” and followed by four full-length Victorian historical romance novels) answered a few questions for me regarding her new book, Baby One Last Time, the first book in her series, The Agents of HEAT (published April 29, 2021).

The lighthearted romantic suspense book is a second-chance romance. Cynthia has been expelled from the secret spy agency, HEAT, and her only chance to redeem herself is by working with her “tall, dark and diabolical” ex, Derek Wilder. Harper calls it “a shot of action & adventure, a dash of snark, and a twist of fun.”

She’s got a lot of fun things to say about the process in her interview, too!

Hot guy in black v-neck t-shirt with bracelet and looking over squarish sunglasses at viewer. Tropical palms, fire/scorched earth imagery.
Baby One Last Time is the latest book from Nancy, writing as Harper Cross. and is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhangers from the Agents of HEAT series. Image from Harper Cross.
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Michaeline: Treat Myself with The Assassins of Thasalon

It has been a hard week of gardening, muscle recovery from gardening, and dentistry, and I haven’t opened my computer for days. So, it’s quite a treat to find that Lois McMaster Bujold’s new ebook, The Assassins of Thasalon, came out May 10th! Believe it or not, it’s book 10 of the delightful Penric and Desdemona series, about the life of a young man who contracts a demon — a demon with the accumulated memory and personalities of 11 women, a mare and a lioness.

A rope breaks and a person in black plunges one story to a tiled stone floor, where an older man is looking up at the person.
The Assassins of Thasalon is the 10th Penric and Desdemona story from Lois McMaster Bujold. Image via Goodreads Blog; the cover art is by Ron Miller.

Lois’s work has touched my life in so many ways, and shaped my thinking. It’s a rare week that goes by that I don’t think of a quote from her collected canon to describe something going on in life or politics.

The other Penrics are novellas, while this one’s word count launches it into the book arena. Most of Lois’s stories can be read as stand-alones, and since this takes place two years (in book time) after “The Physicians of Vilnoc”, I think it’s safe to say you don’t need to read all nine to enjoy the tenth . . . however, you may want to!

So, off I go for an afternoon and evening of good reading! See you next Saturday!

Michaeline: When Stakes Just Aren’t Important

One of the things we’re taught as studious craft writers is that the stakes are important. Stakes, well-defined at the outset and referred to as needed during the course of story, can keep the reader reading, eager to see if (or more likely, in the romance genre, how) our characters get their hearts’ desires.

But this week, I binge-watched season one of BBC’s Ghosts, and now I’m wondering if high stakes are actually a distraction from a cozy story.

Alison (white woman) and Mike (Black man) sit on the floor during a DIY tea break, while ghosts come out the wall. GHOSTS is emblazoned on the wall.
Promotional image of BBC’s 2019 comedy, Ghosts, via BBC Media Centre.
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Michaeline: Making the Reader Do the Heavy Lifting

This post has only a nugget of truth in it, and I will be asking you, the reader, to do the heavy lifting of separating fact from fiction from pure flights of fancy.

The truth is this: Grey @RayPilley hired one of those write-my-essay groups to write a 1500-word romantic encounter. Grey provided art of two male characters, names of the two men and the basic scenario: “two characters confessing their feelings of love for each other at a fancy dinner party”.

Dinner Party by Jules-Alexander Grun showing hundreds of people in a grand hall with a mezzanine also full of tables and people.
“Love was seated several kilometers away from Hero, much to their mutual chagrin. How could professions of love take place over the distance of the Grand Hall?” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll provide a link at the end that should get you through THAT wonderful story of connection between two strangers on the internet – one trying to make a buck, the other looking for easy entertainment and a few laughs.

But let’s call the ghostwriter Hub (they/them). Hub provided a story full of stilted sentences, bad spelling and no stakes. Oh, and some pronoun confusion; Hub seems to have lifted half the essay from a hetero scenario and forgot they were writing about anime boys. Dear Reader, if you are feeling bad about your writing these days, I encourage you to follow that Twitter trail Grey laid out. The first two-thirds are so bad in so many areas that

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Michaeline: Where There’s a Will

Yesterday, April 23, was the death anniversary (and some say the birthday) of William Shakespeare. Of course, he’s remembered for being one of the greatest writers in the English language, but it’s entirely possible that he was buried as a businessman – a local boy who had done well in London and had property to disperse.

Portia, Bassanio, Gratiano and Nerissa in Renaissance clothing.
A scene from The Merchant of Venice — a play by Will that also involves a father and a will. Next on my reading list, as a matter of fact! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The Conversation has a 2016 article describing Shakespeare’s death and funeral as a “non-event” compared to other famous writers who were commoners. And there’s an interesting article by the BBC and the British Council (also 2016, I think) that describes how a four-month scientific analysis of the will from 2015 to 2016 sheds new light on various theories about Shakespeare and his family.

And that was the end of Shakespeare, the man, but only the beginning of Shakespeare, the literary giant. So, in my brain, one thing leads to another. Shakespeare’s will was considered by scholars to be a variety of things: some conjectured a snub of his wife with the bequest of his “second-best bed” to her; some thought it showed a distrust of his second daughter Judith and her new husband (who had just been convicted for unlawfully impregnating

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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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