Michaeline: Chills and Thrills for August

Japanese ghost next to a stone well.

Okiku was just a normal girl, a serving maid, who foiled her lecherous master’s plans — so he threw her down a well. Ever after, her voice could be heard coming from the cold, dank depths of the well . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s hot this August. Not so much in degrees of Fahrenheit but the humidity presses down like a wet blanket. It’s not supposed to be like this in Hokkaido, but there you are. Blame it on global weirding. Nobody this year has said to me, “My, what a typical summer we’re having!” Nobody has the willpower to do much of anything except moan, “Hoooooot,” followed up by an occasional “Huuuuumid.” People can’t even bear the thought of an exclamation point.

On the main island of Japan, though, this kind of weather is a normal year – maybe even a little chilly. They beat the heat in various ways down there – pretty little fans, cotton robes, watermelon and shaved ice, but the tradition that concerns me today is the tradition of ghost stories.

That shiver down your spine? Japanese associate it with cooling pleasure, and it’s amazing how a scary story under the stars can give you the goosebumps.

The kind of story that really gets me is the kind where everything is normal . . . until suddenly it’s not. Continue reading

Elizabeth: R is for Rejection

ComparisonQuote_Blog2If you’re a writer and have ever attempted to get your work published then you probably have more than a passing acquaintance with rejection, in all its guises. As I mentioned in my “What Can You do in 100 Words” post a few weeks back I’m in the process of trying to get a few of my short stories out into the world, so rejection has been on my mind recently.

I heard thriller novelist Steve Berry, who has more than 11 million books in print around the world, speak a few years ago at a conference where he said that he worked for 12 years to produce a novel, accumulating 85 rejections on 5 different manuscripts along the way. That’s a lot of rejections, countered by a lot of perseverance to get to that 86th submission, which resulted in an acceptance. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Read!

I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing (if you haven’t read it yourself, I highly recommend it).  It is part memoir, part writing advice, and completely entertaining.  My copy has dozens of passages marked and one that really resonated with me is a quote Michille listed on her “That One Rule” post a few weeks ago:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:  read a lot and write a lot.”

The “writing” part makes obvious sense – if you’re a writer then you do actually have to write, otherwise you’re just somebody thinking about being a writer.  Reading makes sense too if you think about it.  We all started out as readers and were swept away by great stories and great writing.  Reading lets us enjoy new styles and different worlds, which can spur our creativity and challenge us to stretch our writing wings. Continue reading