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: Finding inspiration inside your own writing

A samurai smashing up a Japanese interior -- he's stomped on the sliding door, and there's an upturned table with a broken vase a little shogi game pieces all over the floor.

“No, no, a cracked cup and a torn sliding door actually shows the beauty of impermanence!” #Why we can’t have nice things at our tea ceremony. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I was chatting with a friend yesterday, and she was explaining why she wasn’t writing anymore; it was a long tale of interesting diversions (and socially responsible ones!), and she said that one thing that is taking up her creative mojo is introducing Japanese culture to foreigners. She provides a tea ceremony experience that is more than just people sitting on a mat, drinking the traditional bitter tea and having a taste of the beautiful tea sweets. She asks them to think about why the tea ceremony came about.

How much do you know about the Japanese tea ceremony? In many schools of tea philosophy, it’s very ritualized, and kids can join tea ceremony clubs in high school, while adults can study further and become teachers. Everything is prescribed: you fold your napkin this way. You rinse the teapot that way. You admire the tea bowl, take a drink in a certain manner, wipe the rim, then pass it to the next guest for them to admire, drink and wipe.

This ceremony often takes place in a very small, humble hut with a little door that looks like it was made for Little People. Big people must bend over and enter – the official line is that it shows humility and a lack of pride.

But my friend asks people to look beyond that. She gave two examples of why Continue reading

Michaeline: My Favorite Tip of the Year

A Venus Pencil advertisement

Grab your pencil! Let’s write for the love of the game! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My favorite trick of the year is a mind trick. Remember when I made a word puzzle full of happy words to prime my subconscious? If not, I talked about it and the scientific evidence supporting the technique here on Eight Ladies Writing. This is purely anecdotal evidence, but I had a great writing week after I did it (see results here on 8LW), and I meant to do it again. Can you believe it’s been just a smidge over 11 months since we tried this? Well, here’s trial two, just in time to give your new year a little writing boost.

Will it really work? Well, it depends on how you work. Priming experiments haven’t been reliably replicated, but . . . it may work. A Psychology Today blog here explains how priming may be the first step in “canalization”; in other words, the first step in creating a track for your thoughts to flow down. If you can channel your thoughts in the same direction enough times, they will begin to flow in that direction naturally. But like the placebo that works if you think it will work (and there is scientific evidence to prove that it might), it just might work.

Here’s the game: I’ve jumbled up some positive words. Your task is to unjumble them, and then see what happens to your writing. I’ll report back next week with my results. Here we go: Continue reading

Jilly: Christmas and Community

christmas-and-communityJust three weeks of 2016 left!

The first few days of December are always the calm before the storm. I’ve been inching forward with my WIP; wrestling with my synopsis, which needs to be totally rewritten; working on the edit of my first 50 pages; and thinking some more about how to keep my story alive when the holidays are in full swing.

Last Sunday I put together a list of ways to stay in touch your story on a daily basis – quick tricks that could be squeezed into the most packed schedule. Then, on Thursday, Kay tracked down some productivity insights offered by the prolific film and TV writer-producer-director, Joss Whedon. I’m especially grateful for the tip about the importance of rewarding oneself early and often. 🙂

Yesterday, to my surprise, I added another strand to my holiday week WIP survival plan. Continue reading

Jilly: Inspired by Goodman

Inspired by GoodmanIt’s been a trying few days chez Jilly. We just completed week three of our home redecoration program, and while our builders couldn’t be more charming or hard-working, a serious problem outside their control meant they had to switch to twelve-hour days, so they’ve been arriving before 8 a.m. and leaving after 8 p.m. After ten days of not sleeping in our own bed, we’ve had a week without a functioning bathroom, and despite carefully taped plastic sheeting from floor to ceiling, everything – everything – that’s not boxed up and stored away is covered with a layer of fine dust. I have to do a major cleaning job each morning before I can put my contact lenses in.

I’ve been trying to write through the disruption, not with any great degree of success. Finally yesterday, as the team left for a well-earned day off and I sat cursing various abandoned attempts at a half-decent blog post, my husband said “Stuff it. Let’s go to Goodman.”

Four hours later Continue reading

Justine: A Contemporary Regency

One of those contemporary historical romances that stands the test of time.

One of those contemporary historical romances that stands the test of time.

Well, not really. Evelina by Frances Burney was published in 1778, but it’s worth a look for several reasons.

First, it was read by Jane Austen and influenced her, according to various googles. The humor is certainly echoes and sharpened in Austen’s works. And despite being written in the 18th century, it’s much easier to read than the sort of 18th century literature and political writing we were exposed to in school.

Second, the book was designed as a “how to,” as in “how to behave in society.” The humorous (for us) and humiliating (for her) faux pas that Evelina commits are the lessons.

And, it’s free on Kindle. I think writers of historical will love the details and the phrasing of the book, and every writer will enjoy watching how the conflict builds and eventually releases into a happy ending. This is an epistolary novel, and the first few letters may seem tedious, but many readers will find rewards by the time our Evelina is ensconced (or is it entrenched?) in London.

If you are so inclined, try it, and let me know what you think!

Jilly: What Kind of Story Would Suit Your Home Town?

Crooked Spire, Chesterfield (Peter Tarleton via Wikimedia Commons)

Crooked Spire, Chesterfield
(Peter Tarleton via Wikimedia Commons)

Where did you grow up? Would it make a good setting for a story in a particular genre or sub-genre?

I’ve been living in the past this week. The sale of my mother’s house went through a few days after I got back from San Antonio, and I’ve been in Derbyshire packing up, giving away, and disposing of several lifetimes’ worth of accumulated family stuff. It was more than a trip down memory lane. I don’t think my parents (or their parents) can ever have thrown away a document, photograph or memento, and I found all kinds of old black and white and sepia toned pictures on postcard and thick card. I can just about recognize my father’s mother as a young girl, and my father’s father as a handsome, swashbuckling soldier from the First World War, but there are many Continue reading