Michaeline: Writing Blahs, Writing Blocks

A magician pulling a rabbit, cards, flowers, fish and pigeons out of a top hat.

How do you get in the mood to pull a story out of your hat? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Recently I stumbled upon an article about writing blocks that made perfect sense: the reason why we put off writing and other things is because we aren’t in the mood for them. (It’s in the Atlantic online, and called “The Procrastination Doom Loop — and How to Break It”. Link below.)

Now, I’ve read a lot of articles and books about procrastination that try to dig out the underlying reasons. They say we fear failure. Or we fear success. Or maybe we fear something else.

But being a shallow person, none of that deep stuff resonated. No, what really hit me in the gut was the shallow reason: I put things off because “I don’t wanna.” I’m waiting until I’m in the mood.

And I have to admit, when I’m in the mood for writing and it’s going well, it’s better than anything. I really love it.

But writing when I’m not in the mood? Everything drags, and I feel like I’d be better off doing almost anything else.

So, this is all fine and good, but the problem is, the article didn’t mention a thing about how to get into a good mood for writing. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing with The Fool and The Magician

A court fool; a cat has dragged down his tights, and you can see the bottom of his buttocks.

The Fool (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A bright, handsome magician at his table, ready for transformation.

The Magician (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first major rule of writing with tarot cards is: don’t believe everything that comes up will come to pass.

So silly really, and I must lead with the disclaimer that I don’t really believe in fortune-telling methods to predict the future. I do think these methods help us clarify our own thoughts about a situation, but nothing predicts the future.

So, when I gave my daughter a pack of cards and she wanted to read for me, it was extremely foolish to ask, “How will my current story affect my future?” Honestly, this sort of question really does nothing for a person – if the answer is positive, one can start to coast and not do the necessary work. If it is negative, well, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I have to say, the tarot is often not very kind about my writing aspirations.

But no. I thought, “This time, the tarot will love me. This time, it will tell me how good it’s going to be.” Really, anyone who has any acquaintance with Lady Luck knows how stupid that is.

New pack of cards; first reading. Never cleansed – but should that make a difference? I don’t think it should! My daughter spread the cards on the floor and mixed them around with both hands, then gathered them up and asked me to cut the cards. I did.

I don’t remember the exact details. I should have Continue reading

Michaeline: NaNo Special: Chapter Transitions

People who read Lois McMaster Bujold’s new novella, “The Prisoner of Limnos” in the first 24 hours of release got  bit of a shock when Lois announced on her blog that the early edition had somehow dropped the last lines of several chapters. (Links at the end; WordPress isn’t in a sharing mood today.)

As students of writing, we’re taught that these last lines are of extreme importance. Story, by Robert McKee, talks about how a scene can change the whole situation from a plus to a minus, or vice versa – and sometimes, it’s that last line in a scene or chapter that gives the final twist. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King also places importance on the final words of any scene. Compared to painters, we writers have it a little bit easier – we can put on as many finishing touches as we like, and all of them can be take-backs or do-overs with a simple application of the delete key or strike-out. In the editing stage, we decide, and the reader never has to know the anguish we put into those decisions to keep or to leave.

Given the importance of the endings, what’s shocking to me is that as an early reader of “The Prisoner of Limnos”, I only noticed one chopped-off ending. If endings are so important, what was going on here? I had had a great experience with the book as-is; had I missed an even greater book because the ending lines had been dropped?

Well, I’m happy to report my second reading was as rewarding as the first, even though I had to stop (!) and think (!) instead of ride the wave of story. From now on, we’re heading into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t read the Penric novellas, I highly recommend that you do, and come back. They are all fixed now, and you can update the old ones. (See second link below.)

In general, Lois’s last lines add Continue reading

Michaeline: Questions about Covers with Lois McMaster Bujold

 

e novella cover; Greek monastery, stormy sea and a ship

“The Prisoner of Limnos” came out October 27, 2017! The electrons are still piping hot! (Image by Ron Miller, courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella, “The Prisoner of Limnos”, came out just Friday, and we’re very pleased to bring you our interview with her about covers – a subject near and dear to our hearts, because every good book is in the need of a cover, eventually.

EMD: For the early Penric covers, I know you asked for fan input about the public domain pictures you used, and I believe you mentioned that your agency helped you with the typography. Before that, did you have much input in the covers of your traditionally published books? What was the most useful piece of advice you got when you were choosing your own covers for the e-publications? What kind of parameters did you use for choosing the public domain pictures? And can you share any websites you found helpful in your search for a cover?

LMB: My input on my traditional-publisher artwork has varied over the years, from none to intense. There seems to be no discernible relationship between the amount of my involvement and the results. I’ve had great covers with no involvement, disappointing covers with lots, and the other way around, apparently at random.

I don’t recall I had much advice when I embarked on doing e-covers years ago with The Spirit Ring. (That would have been back in late 2010.) My helper putting them together could at the time only work with one image, cropping but no photoshopping, so options were limited. I wanted to choose historical paintings for the fantasies, because not only could I see what I was getting, but they were already at a high level of artistic accomplishment. Bad photoshopping/image collage is much worse than none, amateurish and off-putting, and any hint of photography was very wrong for the fantasy mood. As we’ve worked together over the years, my e-wrangler and I have both grown better at sorting through the challenges.

The websites I found useful might Continue reading

Michaeline: Halloween Inspiration

skeleton of a wild boar anatomical sketch

Raw Head, Bloody Bones and Halloween stories

Every October, I stumble upon this charming little site which is full of American spooky tales, and I have to say, it’s quite inspiring. I’m going to summarize (and maybe embellish a little bit) on one of the stories, and I hope you’ll follow the link and check out the other offerings.

Anyway, there was a conjuring woman out in the Ozarks named Old Betty, and she was one of the best there was. She was a little old woman who helped the neighbors with midwiving and taking off curses and helping the animals, but like a lot of magic workers, she kept herself to herself.

Old Betty had Continue reading

Michaeline: Beetlejuice: Juggling the Ensemble

Betelgeuse in Orion: It takes a lot of stars to make a brilliant constellation. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, NASA Hubble photograph)

I love October! There’s a phrase in Japanese that goes “Reading Autumn” and I grew up reading all sorts of really great stories during the Halloween season. I haven’t had time for reading much lately, but made time to re-watch the 1988 film, Beetlejuice. (IMDb)

I think my Girls in the Basement were prompting me to do it, because afterward, I realized it had a very similar conflict structure to the story I’m working on.

From the beginning, Barbara and Adam Maitland show a lot of spunk, determination and love. There’s a hint of tragedy in the beginning, but all of their life is quickly overtaken by the fact that they wake up in their house after a car accident, and realize they didn’t survive the crash.

These are our main protagonists. In the first few minutes of the film, they fight a little with Barbara’s sister (who wants to sell their beloved house). They win the immediate battle by shutting her out, but lose the war when they die. The sister sells the house to Antagonists #2.

Antagonists #2 have a lot more going on than Barbara and Adam. Team Maitland basically speak and act with one heart and mind, often led by Barbara. But Charles and Delia Deetz? They have different goals entirely. Delia wants to be an important and influential artist. Charles initially just wants to recover his health from a nervous breakdown, but as he begins to feel better, his ambition to connect people to real estate returns. All that Team Deetz has in common is love, and even that is called into question. They support each others goals in the abstract, but are too busy with their own goals to actively help each other out. Delia wants to gut the house and turn it into a showcase, while Charles compromises by staking out one calm and peaceful room, and letting Delia turn the rest of the home into Continue reading

Michaeline: Tsukimi

It’s inspiring still: Golden moon in times gone by. One glimpse, and I’m sunk. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Tsukimi, or the moon-viewing night, was last Thursday, and I almost missed it.

What is it? It’s a ritual that was enjoyed by Japanese aristocrats in the Heian era (approx. the 900s). They’d go out in boats and watch the moon on the water. Or sometimes just sit on their veranda, and catch the reflection of the moon in their teacups, and write very, very short yet poignant poems. (Wikipedia)

This time of year was considered the best time to view the moon, and I have to say, the moon has been just gorgeous as it rose into the night sky this week. Continue reading