Michaeline: Gold Stars

The Stars tarot card with woman pouring water from two pitchers to nurture fertility of the earth.

How do you feel about gold stars? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The Guardian (here) had a story about a Michelin chef with three stars who asked to be removed from the guide, and it got me to thinking about recognition and standards that come with it.

The report focused on the fact that surprise Michelin inspections could happen at any time, two or three times a year. And yes, that would be nerve-wracking – if you were a chef who cared about awards and recognition. If, on the other hand, you only cared about the food leaving your kitchen, it seems to me that the inspections, with their inherent judgements about “Is this good enough? Is this as good as it was?” would lose a lot of their power.

But who can be such a compartmentalized person? I’m sure they exist, and they may or may not be happy. Most of us, though, like a little outside confirmation that we are doing a good thing.

On top of that, art is often made better when an artist gets good feedback. Also, trying to push boundaries so that consumers of art are still amazed or at least entertained can be a good thing. Those consumers might be Continue reading

Michaeline: Healing and Dealing

Black and white film still of a patient in bed (with a Japanese jacket) entwined with his nurse.

Caring for the carer. What’s your favorite healing trope? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, I’m going to start off with the back story. This has been a trying week. Next Monday is a holiday – Respect for the Aged Day, and hooray for old people and hooray for a day off! But this week? About the only way I crawled through this week was by thinking, “I get next Monday off! I can rest then!”

And then yesterday, the North Koreans decided to kick off the “Thank God It’s Friday!” celebrations with a little missile launch. They were kind enough to wait until 7 a.m. this time, and I have to say, almost everyone seems much more organized about the whole thing this time around. I was (ahem) interrupted in my ablutions, but when I finally finished and could see why my phone was beeping, I calmly proceeded to the hallway, and sat down in the darkness to text my loved ones. The all-clear was quicker. The news on TV had better info to offer us than simply, “OMG! Missiles!” As a matter of fact, the commercial channels were airing happy-sappy commercials within the hour (whereas last time, I don’t remember seeing any commercials). Normalization was quickly re-established once the all-clear alert came around.

I had planned to write a stupendous blog post how things are easier the second time around, but the creeping crud that I’ve been fighting off all week has become a bad cough, and my brain is seriously fogged out. So instead, I’m going to ask you for reading recommendations.

I remember reading a lot of Harlequin romances in my junior and senior year in high school, and it was a very common trope for Continue reading

Michaeline: Wishful Beginnings


A muse (Clio) writing in a book.

Write and write and write again. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A story has to go through a lot of revisions before it’s the story you want. Way back when I didn’t keep accurate records about such things, I started a novel about a paranormal plumber, and the first two paragraphs went like this:

Mrs. Copra had sounded very worried when she called about her stopped up toilet, and Jennifer knew, as soon as she stepped into the noxious miasma in the foyer, that it was going to be a tough job. She checked her toolbelt, flipped the switch to warm up the cryo-zapper on her back, and felt in her bandolier to make sure the tranquilizer darts were ready and waiting. She could feel the tension, like stage-fright, building up, so she glanced back out the door at the truck to read her slogan. “We don’t save the world, but we make it a happier place.” She looked over at her partner, Tilly, and nodded. “Let’s go make some happy!”

Tilly’s tense face suddenly relaxed into a zen-like calm. “Aaarrrgh,” she growled like a pirate. “Let’s go happy that motherfucker.”

This gave me, the writer, a lot of information about the story that was supposed to come. My heroine was going to be a kick-ass plumber who knew her business and was a total Ghostbuster type. She was going to have a female buddy, and this was going to be a lot of action and some fun. But I didn’t really know what the conflict was going to be, and the first sentence was awful. Still, as beginnings go, it was promising and fun, so I went on to write my first NaNo about my paranormal plumber.

In 2010, Jennifer became Perz, and Tilly became Perz’s sister, Demi, and the new beginning looked something like this: Continue reading

Michaeline: In Case of Emergency

Well, what a week. Hurricane Harvey is in the news as clean-up efforts continue, while Hurricane Irma is heading to Mar-a-Lago (Fortune.com) and Rush Limbaugh’s home studio (Miami Herald). An earthquake and tsunami in Mexico (The Guardian, UK), plastic in our water (Teach the Earth website, hosted by carleton.edu), and solar flares (space.com). Everyone, I hope you are staying safe, and are in a position to help the less fortune.

The solar flares may cause disruptions in electronics, and I’ve noticed that the internet hasn’t been playing very nice the last few days — I assumed it was just because my location wasn’t very good, but I’m having the same problems at home.

So, just in case I’m late, I’m scheduling this post to go out on time. I’m not sure what to recommend. I’m going to wrap my electronics and my head in aluminum foil, and give the old pen and notebook route a try.

You’ve just got to laugh, haven’t you? Well, wish me luck on my more-serious, on-topic post, and in the meantime, please enjoy the fabulous Weird Al Yankovic with his rendition of Lorde’s “Royals” — titled “Foil” of course. So weird and wonderful!

And hey, if you manage to see a great sunset or (gasp!) the aurora (swpc.noaa.gov), drop us a line in the comments, or post a link to your pictures!

With no further ado, I link you to Mr. Yankovic! (P.S. “Word Crimes” is also terribly funny if you haven’t seen it.)

Michaeline: Wake-up Call with a North Korean Missile

Stylish 1950s matron riding a rocket over a radio station while her male co-host tumbles in her wake.

Crushed by world events? Don’t be! Ride them to writing nirvana! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, it happened on a Tuesday. I hate Tuesdays. I was in that drowsy, half-state between dreaming and wakefulness, when the alert went off at 6:02 a.m. “Earthquake!” I automatically assumed as I fumbled for my phone, but instead, it was something I never imagined I would see.

“Missiles launched. Missiles launched.”

My Japanese is not great, but I could read that. “A missile from North Korea has been launched (something). Please evacuate to a something-strong/OK building or underground.”

It didn’t matter that my Japanese wasn’t perfect. Knowing that a missile (or missiles – Japanese is very vague on the whole singular/plural thing, and you know that I was imagining a whole murder of black missiles flying through the skies), anyway, knowing that a missile had been launched was enough. I called my daughter who lives near her high school, and started texting loved ones before coming to the conclusion that maybe the bathroom would be a safer place than in front of our bedroom window.

I’d managed to make myself decent enough for a quick period to my existence, and then it was all over. By 6:12 a.m., the all-clear alert showed up on my phone, and I re-texted loved ones to let them know we were okay. No fiery death on this particular Tuesday.

I could tell you all the feelings I had, and all the plans I spun in the next 48 hours. Some people shut down when they get scared. I go full-on Robinson Crusoe. I made Continue reading

Michaeline: Did you know about Book Week?

Scheherezade in the House!! (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Want a chance to dress up like Harry Potter? Or Matilda? Or Cordelia Vorkosigan after her infamous shopping trip?

Australia is the place to be!

Today is the last day of Children’s Book Week, and I stumbled upon the whole concept only yesterday on The Guardian website. There, they had several cute pictures of kids dressed up for the Book Week parade. A little research showed me that it was held in Australia, and seems to be a tradition of some years. And adults get into the act, as well! I found a 2017 picture of librarians dressed as handmaids, Harry Potter characters, Hobbit characters, and even a where’s Wally. Are the X-files serialized? Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were there, too! (The Canberra Times)

What a wonderful tradition! Imagine that you are in Australia. It’s nearing the end of winter, and you get the chance to dress up as a favorite character. Who would you choose? You can add any restrictions you feel necessary. Links to that book on Goodreads are welcome!

Me? I think I’m feeling rather Nanny Ogg-ish this year! So many great characters to choose from, though – I’m going to pay more

There is some speculation that these girls might be getting their Shakespeare on. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

attention next year!

For more information about Children’s Book Week, check out the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s website. http://cbca.org.au/cbca-childrens-book-week

Michaeline: Back to School

School really was a lot of fun, and work can be too! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Hurrah! I went back to school for my dayjob Friday – for us in Japan, it’s the new start of second semester after a three-week long period of no classes. But the excitement in the air is very similar to the back-to-school period of my youth in America. It’s fun to have a few new clothes, some new stories to tell friends and of course, get back into a routine.

Routines are tricky things for me. I need them desperately, but if I’m too scheduled, I get tired and cranky. This August period gives me a chance to shake up my routine and figure out new strategies before we settle into the rhythms of autumn in September.

I fell away from an exercise routine this summer. My feet and ankles have been very bad, so I’ve been trying a variety of new exercises and rest periods. During summer vacation itself, I was busy walking around new cities, and then trying to chill my feet to recuperate. My feet still hurt, but overall, I’ve come out stronger because of the random exercises. I think I’m ready to take up a more regular routine of stationary biking and trips to the swimming pool.

Fourth paragraph in, and there’s no direct link to writing! Well, more and more I’m beginning to think that physical exercise is the key to dispelling brain fog. A good dose of exercise (not too much, not too little) helps me get a good night’s sleep, and I’m sure the increased blood flow is reaching my brain. If I can get rid of brain fog, story ideas should come more easily and be expressed on the page or in the computer more efficiently. Right? Right?

Or maybe I’m just waving a magic exercise wand and hoping for the best.

There are other routines I want to shake up this August. Things like re-reading and editing in the afternoon, and waking up a little earlier to get a 20-minute writing session in each morning. I’ll have a little more than ten days to assess whether the new routines are working, or if I need to shake things up in time for an October start.

And an October start is better than no start at all, but right now, I have personal history on my side. August is the time for a fresh start, full of books and learning and new school supplies, and I’d be wise to take advantage of the season.

Let’s shake it up a little these last 12 days!