Michaeline: Hopepunk and Presolutions Weekend

Welcome to Presolutions Weekend for Chez Duskova. What a wonderful idea to have a weekend and a holiday before the new year arrives officially on Tuesday! I’ll be cooking and cleaning – getting the home lucky and at least a little more comfortable so I can start 2019 with a better slate than 2018. I’ll be studying Japanese so I can be a little more literate next year. Of course, the ukulele must be played (I got the sheet music for Blackstar ★ for Christmas!), because music is going to be a big part of 2019. And, I’m going to write just a little bit – just enough to remind myself that I am a writer.

In addition, I’ll make my formal resolutions on January 1, so this weekend is also about sorting out my brain.

Two space-suited humanoids are enjoying the free air and freshness of a beautiful valley on Earth.

Hopepunk: where characters fight the good fight, and enjoy the fruits of their labors. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On Friday, I was reminded of the importance of “keeping up with the industry” – or at least the news of my genre. I read this great article on Vox by Aja Romano about a trend called “hopepunk”. Apparently, the idea of hope-filled, never-give-up, positive fantasy and science fiction (and a whole slew of other narratives) has been trending since July 2017! Alexandra Rowland sounded the clarion on Tumblr with “(T)he opposite of grimdark is hopepunk. Pass it on.”

Vox’s Romano defines some characteristics of hopepunk, then goes on to tie it into comforting trends like the Japanese kawaii culture, and the Danish hygge/hyggeligt that Nancy Yeager has shared with us on this blog. The article also contrasts the self-made do-it-yourself aesthetic of hopepunk with the “she was born with it” aesthetic of Continue reading

Michaeline: A Christmas Ghost Story

Welcome to this year’s Christmas story challenge! Here’s a somber little number to get us started on one of the longest nights of the year. Check back on Elizabeth’s post outlining the rules through the week! She’s also got a nice list of stories from challenges past. 

Unbeliever

A grizzled ghost from an old magazine looks at a young woman in a bed, possibly.

Stronger than death. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first thing you should know about me is that I was a nuclear physicist. I didn’t believe in woo-woo, and I didn’t believe in goddamn ghosts. I believe in the laws of nature and mathematics. And, yeah, sure, my girlfriend told me about that baffling Hamlet and his “more things in your philosophy” quote. But ghosts aren’t real. I never believed.

The second thing you should know about me is that I was supposed to get married last Christmas to the most beautiful woman on the planet. Kind, smart, super-sexy and she loves me too. But I was hanging lights on our house (our first house) after a freak rainstorm, and the law of gravity ruled against me. What a fiasco. No wedding, no honeymoon, and she still wears my diamond and gets drunk every night while I continue to not exist. Believe me, it’s the last thing I wanted.

And yet, here I am. And it’s been nothing like the woo-woo people led me to expect. No tunnel, no bright lights, no mysterious angels with blazing swords, carving out a stairway to heaven. And, baffling enough, it’s not been anything like my serious atheist colleagues have posited, either. No nothing. I’m just hanging around the house, still grizzly from the three-day razor stubble after my last Thanksgiving, ambivalently sloughing around the house and the estate, alternately angry at my fate and overjoyed to see Jenny’s sweet naked face in the mornings. There was supposed to be nothing after death. Not something. And I’m still having trouble believing it.

And so this is Christmas, one year later. Jenny’s got her wedding dress out – I’d never gotten to see it, and I want to blurt out how wonderful she looks. She’s having trouble with Continue reading

Michaeline: Anti-Procrastination Pep Talk

Baby New Year with sunshine and roses and a midnight clock

Sweet baby New Year also carries a stinging, harsh whip during the final days of the old year. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My procrastinating ways always come back to bite me in the butt in December. I think it’s true for most of the world on the Gregorian calendar, but especially in Japan, there’s a very firm cultural deadline on December 31. By about 8 p.m. that evening, you should have taken care of all your social obligations (including any gift-giving and your New Year’s cards), paid off all your debts, finished your work, prepared a feast for New Year’s snacking, and your house should be clean and tidy so that the Gods of Luck who come to visit on New Year’s Day feel inclined to stick around.

Every year, I fail miserably. However, the panicked weeks (or days, if I’ve had a rough year) of cleaning and finishing stuff up means I do start the new year in a better place. Never the ideal place, but still, noticeably cleaner and noticeably freer of looming projects and deadlines.

I started early on the New Year’s cleaning this year – I think I’ve got two things going for me. First of all, it’s about reached the “I can’t stand living in this pigsty anymore” point. (This does happen frequently throughout the year, but if I lie down for a little while in a dark room, the feeling usually goes away.) Second, I’ve been exercising regularly since the end of October, so I actually have some more energy to tackle the tasks.

I’m often on the edge of despair. “I should be so much further along than I am!” But so far, I’ve been able to pull myself back. “Look, it’s better. Don’t go into a blue funk, because even tiny baby steps are better than hibernating and doing nothing.”

Anyway, things have hit hard this week, so I have gone into a blue funk (just a little bijou, powder-blue funk), and have been self-medicating with the internet. I found two articles of interest. Continue reading

Michaeline: Go Ahead and Bang Some Rocks

A monkey sculpting a bust of a woman

Banging rocks can be a fabulous hobby. Who knows what can come out of it? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Efficiency, productivity, streamlined, maintenance . . . buzzy buzzwords that can keep our butts in the chairs and us writing our hearts out. However, sometimes, The Girls in the Basement (our inner muses) send up something that seems just . . . useless. For almost two years, my mind has been pre-occupied with David Bowie and the ukulele. I’ve written two short stories and worked on a longer piece thanks to the David Bowie obsession, but the uke? It hasn’t paid off – except I love doing it, and it’s brought me a lot of joy and feelings of achievement. As hobbies and obsessions go, you can’t ask for much more than that, really.

However, my upper mind – the Censor in the Attic, perhaps – is terribly concerned that I should be Writing, and not just any old writing, but Great and Wonderful Stories that Will Enchant the Masses (or at least a few Niches). It’s almost a daily battle between the Censor, who wants to direct things, and the Girls, who just want to have fun. Sadly, as is often the case in war, neither side wins on many days.

But this week, I stumbled upon a 2016 Atlantic piece that soothed my censor a little bit. Ed Yong’s “Rock-Smashing Monkeys Unintentionally Make Sharp Tools” really resonated all over for me.

Here’s the basic premise: Continue reading

Michaeline: December is Story Time!

Christmas postcard with Santa Claus and bag of toys in a basket suspended by greenery from an airship, with "Greetings to one and all - Merry Christmas." Color postcard, ca. 1916. Missouri History Museum Photographs and Prints Collections. N39376.

Christmas goes so well with an airship or two! (Image via Missouri History)

Well, another NaNo here and gone for some of us on Eight Ladies. Three thousand words is better than nothing, and I take heart in the fact that December has often been a great month for story for all of us.

Want proof? We have our Christmas week stories! The tradition started Continue reading

Michaeline: A Recipe for a Pantser

A warrior chef made up of kitchen items (her body is a wood stove, and she carries a mixing tub and a warming pan.

A pantser is always prepared to cook up anything her Girls send up from the basement. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

First of all, forget all that mise en place stuff. That’s for planners and for pansies. A pantser goes through all the cupboards, the fridge, and checks the garbage can just in case. The pantser gathers 20 or 30 ingredients, then dumps those on the kitchen table. Then, she sits and thinks for a minute or two to decide what looks good.

You can’t go wrong with baking powder. First thing, in a medium bowl or a ziplock bag, sift in some flour, some salt and a proportionate amount of baking powder. Don’t know the right amount? Just go with it; you’ll learn. Add in some other dry stuff, if you like, like cocoa or sugar. Be adventurous! Matcha? You betcha. Pulverised strawberry? Very merry!

In another bowl, you’ll want the wet stuff. It’s going to react with the dry stuff, so if you have gelatin in the dry stuff, don’t mix in fresh pineapple or kiwifruit. Use something else. Something without enzymes. Eggs are often good in anything. I like eggs. I don’t like separating them, but I like whipping them to a frenzy, and I like them in a lot of things that I’ve consumed. You’d be surprised by what eggs go with – consider adding some eggs. (Unless you’ve got an allergy. But you know that already.)

Now it’s time for the conflict! Continue reading

Michaeline: “Inconceivable”

William Goldman (left) and James Caan in 1976. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“Inconceivable.”

The creator of The Princess Bride is dead. William Goldman, the writer of the 1973 novel and the screenplay of the 1987 movie, died in his sleep at age 87 Friday morning after a battle with pneumonia and colon cancer, according to the Guardian and National Public Radio (US) reports.

I came to The Princess Bride late, and I don’t like the romance – let me just get that out in front. But as a buddy movie, The Princess Bride is full of fun and adventure. Who can forget old tropes transformed into new tropes? The Dread Pirate Roberts, the Spanish swordman bent on revenge, the Gentle Giant, monsters like Rodents Of Unusual Size, the evil King and his henchmen, the wise wizard and his wife with their own deep backstory, and of course, the love interest: Buttercup. The trophy that symbolizes love – the greatest motivator of all.

“Wuv . . . Twu Wuv . . . wiw follow yoooou . . . fowevaaaah!” as Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman says. (YouTube: 11 seconds down memory lane.)

William Goldman was famous for great friendship stories. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was another great. He wrote the screenplay for The Great Waldo Pepper (one of my parents’ favorite movies). And he wrote the screenplay from Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives. Friendship perverted.

So, to mark his passing, let’s add a little of that buddy magic to our writing today. If you are stuck on a NaNo scene, phone a friend. If you are putting butt in the chair for your regularly scheduled WIP engagement, add a playmate to the mix, or bring a bosom companion forward.