Michaeline: Writing to a Cover

A beautiful young woman is given advice from a cowled old woman as a volcano spouts a tangle of green, weird bodies. 1930s.

Margaret Brundage’s covers from Weird Tales almost always featured women. Here’s one cover that might pass the Bechdel test. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Take this with a grain of salt, but let me tell you a story about covers. In the science fiction and fantasy genre, the publishers seem to be quite generous with extra pages to tell the story behind the story – perhaps it’s a factor of being a geek. We want to see how the sausage is made. So, in many SFF novels, the author gets a few pages to talk about process, or memories about the publishing world, or other things.

In one of these books, an author talked about the Golden Age of SFF magazines, and mentioned that not only did publishers find cover artists to illustrate stories, but sometimes they would commission a work from an artist, and find a writer to narrate the art.

I think a lot of us can relate – all of us here at Eight Ladies have used the collage method for deepening a story and finding more connections. I have tons of storage dedicated to image files that help me understand what I’m “seeing” in my story.

But this is one step further – writing to a picture.

There’s an interesting anecdote on Wikipedia (here) about the pulp fiction artist, Margaret Brundage. Her covers were Continue reading

Michaeline: Dear Freddy

A dandy from 1815 in a smart coat and pair of trousers kneels before a fashionable young lady, kissing her hand. Proposal.

And at the end of a cotillion, all of the couples are sorted. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments, and I like mine tall and a little bit goofy. I’m re-reading Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion today, and Freddy Standen checks off both boxes.

Georgette Heyer is a writer’s writer, and one of the very cool meta-things I noticed the read-through is that so many of the characters come in pairs. In the first chapters, Freddy Standen is meant to be an idiot – a well-dressed fop who hasn’t two wits to rub together. In a complicated plot, he’s set up against his four cousins as competitors for our heroine’s hand in marriage. An evil uncle has made it part of his will that his fortune will go to Kitty Charing if, and only if, she marries one of his nephews. Otherwise, she’ll be destitute, and the fortune will go to Continue reading

Michaeline: The Conspiracy We Need NOW

A young girl from the early 1800s carries a big fancy sword over her shoulder.

Girls keep finding these swords. What are they going to do with them? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

What am I talking about? I’m talking about girls finding swords by lakes. If you’ve been on social media at all in the past 48 hours, you’ve probably heard about the little girl in Sweden (named Saga! Her name is Saga! How perfect is that?) who found a rusty old pre-Viking sword while playing near a lake.

If you haven’t heard about it, you need to check out this article in English from Sweden, or this Bustle article. The Bustle article also reminded me that this isn’t the first time this century we’ve heard about a “lady of the lake”. LAST summer, there was a little girl in Cornwall named Matilda who also found a sword in the pond that, according to local legend, had yielded up Excalibur, the sword King Arthur borrowed from the Lady of the Lake, and which eventually spawned one of the funniest Monty Python skits (3:16) of the 20th century. Matilda’s father said he thought the sword must be a movie prop that isn’t very old, but still, it remains. In September of 2017, a seven-year-old girl finds a sword in the lake. Sometime in the summer of 2018, an eight-year-old girl finds a sword in the lake, and this time, it’s a historical sword.

Do you see the pattern forming? I predict that in the spring of 2019, a nine-year-old girl is going to find a sword, probably somewhere in Germany, and this time, she’s going to save the entire world with it! The Ladies of the Lakes are collectively fed up with all our nonsense, and they are ready to get things fixed. No sense in waking up good ol’ Arthur. He borked it last time with Modred and Guinivere, so it’s time to put someone sensible in charge.

This, my friends, is the conspiracy we need now. The secret society of ladies of the lake could bail us all out! Sure, it’s no basis for a rational system of government, but we’re dealing with an awfully low bar these days.

Michaeline: Poughkeepsie Files #1, “In the Pines”

Japanese print of pines in the fog, barely depicted, and it's on a folding screen, so it's very segmented. Evokes the subconscious.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Where do story ideas come from? It’s a common question, but that doesn’t make it any easier to answer. One science fiction writer glibly answered a fan with “I get them mail-order from Poughkeepsie” (or so the story goes), and that’s where Continue reading

Michaeline: A Question of Conformity

Old French print of a person dressed perfectly as female Mmme Beaumont on half of the body, and male Chevalier D'Eon on the other half. It's the juxtaposition that doesn't conform.

“So, you want me to conform? All right! I’ll conform! I’ll conform in a way you’ve never seen before! I’ll be the best damn conformer you’ve ever seen.” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Kay’s post this week has me thinking about The Right Thing To Do. She’s written a three-volume story about (amongst other things) the heroine resisting marriage, resisting marriage, and then finally succumbing to what is still a social ideal in our culture: the state of matrimony. In other words, conformity.

But from what Kay’s told us, her heroine is not going to conform in a completely socially approved way: wedding in Vegas with costumes and glitter. For Kay, the point isn’t the wedding. She’d like to skip writing about it and let the reader imagine the wedding.

But her beta readers are pressing her to conform. I, myself, talked about how a wedding is a very traditional ending to a series – a big set piece of glitz and love that rewards the reader with a big piece of wedding cake for putting up with all the trials and tribulations. So, Kay’s in a bit of a bind; in her gut, she wants the clean ending – a light smear of frosting. But many of us are pushing for flowers of marzipan and silver dragees. And Kay, at one point, said very simply and with great eloquence, “Crap.” Continue reading

Michaeline: Wise Old Characters

Elderly African American Couple from 1899 or 1900 on their front porch. She's strong and has her arm on his shoulder.

Is there a dearth of wise old characters in fiction? What are we doing to fix that? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Whoo-hoo! Three-day weekend here in Japan courtesy of “Respect for the Aged Day” on Monday. It got me to thinking about the old, wise characters in fiction. Currently, my favorite senior citizen is Nana Strong from Jeanne Oates Estridge’s new book, The Demon Always Wins.

Nana is feisty without being senile, is frail of body but strong in her beliefs, and offers a very real sort of “best friend” – not an all-knowing one, but one who knows a lot, and gives it to Dara Strong straight.

Other than that, though? Who are my favorite old folks in literature? It took me a little bit of thinking.

Werewolves? Nah, not a long-lived race, the werewolves. Vampires? Not what you’d call role-models, particularly. I am fond of MaryJanice Davidson’s young Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, but she’s not old.

So, I did what any 21st century philosopher would do, Continue reading