Categories
creative writing women writing

Formula (writing) is for babies


One of the main causes of writer’s block is the overabundance of writing advice. The checklists, sorry to say, were created to raise the SEO of the sites that are posting them. Every day, I scroll through my Reader and I can see that the pressure to conform to “structures” is sapping the mojo of my blogging colleagues.

Foil packaging for Japanese rice snacks
Foil packaging for Japanese rice snacks

The problem is pervasive, because even large film studios, after using these magical checklists to spit out treatments for films, have to pirate their own releases in order to generate interest.

There exists deep learning technology so finely tuned that it can render writing samples resembling something that a human being would create. This AI tech is open source and anyone can request to be placed on a waitlist to test it. It was inadvertently trained by writers online who write to these checklists.

A friend wants to hang out

One consequence that writers are overlooking is the long-term viability of writing as a career. I will not be shocked if next year, a New York Times bestselling novel is written by AI and an eight-year-old on an iPad. Large news publishing companies are already making huge profits using this technology and a skeleton staff of freelance journalists. Sooner or later, the algorithm will supplant us.

Foil packaging for Japanese rice snacks
Black paper swirls

Or, we could tell original stories and support fellow writers as they do the same.

I cannot repeat this often enough. The film version of Blanka Lipinska’s Polish-language novel, 365 Days, has 2 stars on IMDB and yet, she is raking in the $$$ and is now besties with Oprah. When someone starts talking to me about my work as if I’ve done something offensive, I point in her direction and say, “Have you … seen … this display?” (Thanks for that, Blanka).

A new hairdo

Right now, you could be sitting on an idea for a viral micro series. You might have a beautiful concept for a live, improvised audio play on Clubhouse when it finally comes out of beta. But you might not develop your ideas because lists say not to create as you like.

You are a human being, you are on planet Earth, and you have a story to tell. Are you going to wait until you are perfect, or are you going to write?

Categories
about me art creative writing fiction opinion women writing

Sunday, at the (home) office


On Saturday afternoon, I was waiting to take down an art exhibition and while I was waiting in the car, I decided to pull an Oracle card. I bought them because they’ve got a matte velvety finish and the gold inlay looks pretty. I could not for the life of me understand what it was trying to say.

Threads of Fate Oracle Cards "Patience"
“Patience” from the Threads of Fate Oracle cards

Hello everyone. Are you enjoying your Sunday? I have been at my “home” office all day. I am chuckling at the moment, because when I was searching my phone’s image library, I noticed that photo from yesterday and suddenly, my entire Sunday makes sense. This, for once, is not a rant.

I’ve had the most insane day. I had a vague project deadline circa now: Thirty episodes for a Japanese/English animated series. Sounds fun, right? Except, the criteria changed three hours before I submitted the scripts for TEN episodes.

There is a budget issue. “Smaller budget: remove characters.” So I asked three friends to help me out of a jam. Halfway through, when I presented a snippet of the draft, the graphic artist/animator demanded I write the script for the trailer first.

Now, the reason his company hired me was that the project team was led by a talented graphic designer and animator who was not a writer. Because I understood that, I explained to him that the writing process is not linear. One never starts with the summary. It appears that way because that’s how a story is presented to us. But you can start in the middle and work your way backwards or forwards. You know what I’m talking about, right? You’re all writers.

Colors of love by Thomas Bergersen

And of course, I might be the most non-linear writer of them all. I was giggling because he probably thought I was being unreasonable.

I say, “Should we have notes on the first ten episodes and then write the trailer script, which will happen very fast because we will know what the story is all about?” Doesn’t budge.

That’s how four of us were at one point editing the same sentence at the same time. I would like to give a special big up to Google Docs for facilitating that. When we were all finally done tweaking the scripts, the graphic artist texted, “I’ll take a look in two hours because I am going out.”

What?! It’s 7 past 22 o’clock (two hours later) and he wants to have a meeting at 23 o’clock. I, on the other hand, will be going to bed.

Categories
about me art writing

That went well…

Hello everyone, I went and did another thing. Sabiscuit’s Catalog is now Saint Joan, a creative studio which will be work and/or play. It is evolving. Welcome, in every language.

Saint Joan Creative Studio by Lily Nicole
Saint Joan : Creative Studio

But, to be clear, I have done several things. One was to set my blog to private after WordPress said they were going to publish posts from other bloggers here. It was going to be a matter of time before some antisocial idiot ended up next to my art work.

Signed, sealed, delivered ….

During the break, I was writing a lot of scenes for my upcoming creative project. While doing some research on a character, I went so far down the digital rabbit hole, that when I shook myself awake, it was a brand new year.

Don’t get me started on what has happened already. I left you alone for three months and you bring dogecoin back? Not to mention, amid the mayhem on Wall Street, Demi Moore managed to break the Internet. This tells you that star power is real. Because, let’s be honest, how many of you wear $600 Fendi tights?

Saint Joan  Creative Studio by Lily Nicole
Creative Studio – I love books and retro stuff

Miraculously, after eight frustrating months, WordPress has finally allowed me to upgrade to my own domain. I am grateful for the buffer of time. This domain, saintjoan.studio, is named for the Congregation of St. Joan, an orthodox religion I created for my first novel, The Quarter Percent. It was referenced only once in the final chapter. However, a breakaway sect called St. Joan’s Parish is featured in the next novel. Special thanks go to Draculauren for interviewing me about both projects last year. It was a fun experience.

After brainstorming ideas, I thought the church needed a governing body that behaved like it was running a global sportswear brand. When I thought of the outrage this concept would induce, I decided to bring the Blessed Lady into this timeline.

How are you all doing? Please let me know.

Categories
art creative writing fiction opinion poem poetry women writing

Ascension / Bring me higher

Image with handwritten runic script overlay. Page from Tokyo Fashion Edge Volume 35, 2019.
Garnet – Love
Runic transcription of poem - Ascension/Bring me higher
Runic transcription
Runic script of poem on magazine page. Image from Tokyo Fashion Edge.
Bring me higher – Runic transcription
Ascension - English
Ascension / Bring me higher
Image with handwritten runic script overlay. Page from Tokyo Fashion Edge Volume 35, 2019.
Runic transcription – Opening stanzas
Image with handwritten English cursive script overlay. Page from Tokyo Fashion Edge Volume 35, 2019.
Citrine – Abundance
Image with handwritten English script overlay. Page from Tokyo Fashion Edge Volume 35, 2019.
Quartz – Purity


Presented with love and gratitude. Poem “Ascension/Bring me higher” was written by me. Big ups to my homey, the 9th century poet, Cynewulf. My poem is inspired by his awesome work, Christ II. Images are from Tokyo Fashion Edge Magazine Volume 35, September 2019, with an overlay of handwritten runic and English scripts in watercolour. Have a healing week ahead.

Categories
poem poetry writing

Dominae Sol serenat omnia

aikyo to aikyo 2019 postcard of oil on canvas painting by Anna Ishii
あいきょうとあいきょう

Dominae Sol serenat omnia

Dominae Sol serenat omnia - Latin poem based on the Mediaeval Latin verses in the Codex Buranus.

Based on Mediaeval Latin verses in the Codex Buranus. Below, you will see the English translation.

The Sun is my Empress, She shines over everything

I was tempted to put the full text here. However, I remembered that Chrome’s translation software would chew it up. I hope the two images render without any issues. If there are any, let me know. The raw text is available, so please contact me if you would like to have it.

Image: Postcard I received recently of Anna Ishii’s 2019 work, “Charming and mesmerising” – 193 cm x 193 cm oil on canvas.

Categories
art creative writing fiction writing

Accession

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was writing a coronation scene for a new novel. The story is set in 2033, and unfolds in the same universe as The Quarter Percent. We follow events from three perspectives. One belongs to Sebastian, who happens to be a nephew of Cordial’s.

Whereas it hath pleased our Most Blessed Lady to recall to us Her glorious memory in the noble crown which is solely and rightfully come to the High Prince Carroll Patrice Saints Maud et Agnes:

Still drafting, but I know how the story ends. In the very last scene, after a bombshell revelation the previous evening, a hush falls over the nation on Coronation Day. The new monarch is Sebastian’s bestie, 35-year-old Carroll. In this draft of the story, Carroll’s father is still alive, so the proclamation of accession has to take place at the coronation.

Proclamation of accession (fiction).

By this point in the story, we have eavesdropped on meetings and know that the coronation will be stripped of pomp and pageantry. Sebastian has been asked to whittle down the government’s expenditure on the ceremony to mere shillings. The ceremony is a reckoning with the public which, after a display of hubris, has completely lost face. Nonetheless, the ordeal has been humiliating for Carroll.

Bless and sanctify thy servant Carroll, Inheritor of this realm, who we anoint and consecrate King. Imbue him with the wisdom of the Mighty Reformer Jonas, as we, with one voice, proclaim him King, Servant and Steward, with hearty and weighty affection.

The proclamation text is based on EIIR’s 1952 accession and 1953 coronation. (Read a short story inspired by the latter). As mentioned in that earlier post, Google was reading over my shoulder and recommended gospel music to me on YouTube. I made some artwork to display the text that was misunderstood. I hope you like it.

Note: This post was originally intended for publication on this date, 09/20, but I moved it up a week. I moved it back here to make way for a different post. Thank you for your attention, as always. Header image: Izrael Poznanski Palace in Lodz, Poland, by Jacques Bopp, via Unsplash. Concept art: “Accession proclamation for King Carroll”, Posca watercolour pens, and Pilot Juice metallic ink on matte/glossy magazine paper.

Categories
opinion science fiction women writing

A nutty idea

There is a torrential downpour forecast for this week. I came home during a lull, grabbed my tablet and both of my phones and thought, “I’m going to the office/coffee shop to take advantage of the quiet time to write a scene for my upcoming novel.” Why, oh why, did I check my email before going outside?

Image: Alexandru Zdrobău via Unsplash.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I live in the same universe as the author who wrote bestselling fan-fiction about a woman who was kidnapped and assaulted by a dude for 365 days. Therefore, I will write whatever I like. Please do not misunderstand this post. I am not griping about feedback from a man who tried to say I was “nutty” for using research and my fertile imagination to write a fictional story.

As I have said before, people like what they like. And when they don’t, here come the excuses. It’s like when a guy meets a girl and she has a perfect oval face, hair that is soft and silky, and skin like nectar. She is kind, polite, chews with her mouth closed, and speaks five languages. Except … she has a 32A chest and he can’t feel it for her, he whines to his friends over a beer, because his eyes cannot focus on a woman who does not have a 36 GG chest. And if that woman has to go to Seoul or Bangkok and have them stitched into her body for his viewing pleasure, so be it. “You’re giving me a real athletic vibe,” he later says to the girl over spaghetti. “Are you into sports? You should be a sports model.” The girl feels bad.

Image: Timur Romanov via Unsplash.

In July, I was worried that people would find my story bland, given the current year we live in. However, this afternoon, I read a message explaining to me that the story for The Quarter Percent was quote, A NUTTY IDEA THAT WORKED OUT WELL IN YOUR MIND, unquote. Get it? This person accurately described my process for writing every fictional story that I’ve ever published on this blog.

People enjoy reading about themselves. So, I guess he felt left out? One of the women in my novel is an engineer who does engineering things, while being partially clothed. A real woman doing a postdoctoral fellowship in engineering read it and sent me an email to say she enjoyed the story. And to be fair, if I read a book by an author who was using their work to attack a protected class or group, I would shred it and mail it to the publisher.

Women writers hear the darnedest things.

But I tell you all of that because I want to say that the story for the sequel to my first novel is over-the-top, dystopian, unconventional, irreverent, and chaotic. In fact, my process is that if scenes feel NORMAL they are immediately scrapped. Or I rewrite until things get CRAZY. If someone reads that novel and doesn’t think it’s crazy, I will be very upset.

After a busy month of literally no weekends, I finally have a four-day weekend coming up. I will be spending most of it writing. Some day, in the future, you will meet Mimi, a public health nurse who has lost her sense of humour given the situation unfolding in her country. Compared to her, Rue of Vale is going to look like a Sunday school teacher.

Good talk.

Categories
poem poetry writing

Beatitudes

Go out in the morning,
into the tabernacles and the courts.
Blessed are the souls that receive you;
they will be comforted.
Do not faint from toil; find rest
in mine house. Sleep, and see
a mystery in the early moments,
before the trumpets will sound.
Continue to the city, touching
all who praise thee for thy works.
Blessed are the faithful that rejoice
in thy labour; they will obtain
gladness even until the latter rain.

I will not age
nor show how frail I am,
nor let the flower of my glory fall away.
Yea, I will bless them that sow in joy
and wait to taste the bounteous supper.
Mine riches shall I heap upon their heads.

Therefore, feel not disquiet,
but hope. Walk in righteousness,
and be worthy. Weep not for days,
but return to me. And measure not
my devotion in a handsbreadth;
surely, it will endure
forever.

🌺

Thank you, everyone, for your encouraging words on my last post. This poem is based on Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem). English text: King James Bible. Original image: Nghia Do Thanh. Musical inspiration: Junkie XL’s Brothers in arms.

Categories
about me creative writing opinion writing

Better is one day

Better is one day, from Hymn by Sarah Brightman

Therapy is working. I had to complain to my therapist about this because, for two weeks, I have been staring at a wall of text that usually my brain would gather up and frappé into a poem.

However, my therapist and I have worked out my underlying issues. The stuff that was causing me to be codependent, passive-aggressive, resentful, angry, and vindictive had helped me to write poetry. There is no better way to cloak my hostility or deny my own needs. Now, the magic is gone. Nice job, doctor. 

I am able to confidently state my needs, and sometimes that involves screaming to the world that I’m not okay. This always happens when I am in traffic on Sundays, but I think that’s true for everyone. Anyway, she says I need to ping my brain with music. I say that it is a meditative process that only works for writing prose fiction. We also talk about feeling sad about the tragic passing of someone we all know.

After that conversation, I swear to Jesus, I went to YouTube and I see Sarah Brightman posed like the Columbia Torch Lady. I had no idea that she released an album in 2018. I listened out of curiosity, and realised that YouTube did not suggest this to me before because I avoid songs that praise the Lord Almighty, in English. I made a face at first, but it stuck and I had to play it again. The song is based on A German Requiem by Brahms. It sounds uplifting, cheerful, and transporting.

How did this happen? Google’s neural networks are getting better at listening to my private chats (!) and/or analysing my emails. I strongly suspect the latter because yesterday, I emailed myself the ecclesiastical portion of a coronation scene that I am writing. It’s for a new novel, but the machine believes that I’m Catholic or something. Oops.

I love the song. And I still can’t write poetry.

Categories
about me art opinion People women writing

Back on the Ferris wheel

My novel has been released into the wild, and I should be celebrating, but I am back on the Ferris wheel. I finally understand why some writers don’t even try. The book promotion game is not necessarily about self-confidence, diligence, originality, or skill. What happened?

THE QUARTER PERCENT is on Amazon.
FREE downloads through Friday, August 7.
Click that link and find out what the fuss is all about.

Playing with stickers on paper. Cucumber.

Friday, July 31, 06:20. I am on an influencer’s website binge-reading suggested articles. In twelve hours, it will dawn on me that this is an elaborate scheme to drive up page views and create demand for her services.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Onion.

Only an hour after expressing my confusion with her process, I see two blog posts demonstrating the effectiveness of promoting free books for a limited time. They presented statistics, and graphs, as well as screen captures. My plan should work fine, but the influencer insists that people will never download a free copy of a book unless it has at least ONE five-star review on Amazon.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Pink.

Keep calm, I get it: readers want to know what to expect, and they want to hear it from another reader. I completely agree. This is why I’m doing the promotion in the first place.

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Orange slice lip.

The influencer now advises me to get on social media and spend literally hundreds of hours tweeting and emailing strangers to ask them to read and review a free copy of my book. This contradicts her assertion that people won’t download my book unless it has reviews already.

Screen capture from my publisher’s desktop monitor. Click the image to grab a free copy from Amazon.

I go back to the first message I sent her. Sure enough, in my pitch, there is a longer description and a link to the trailer. There is also an invitation to download a free copy when the promotion starts. It takes me a full day to realise that “books with five-star reviews on Amazon” was code for “don’t wanna read it.”

Stickers on paper. Making faces: Cucumber eyes.

Her next suggestion is that I pay almost US$900 to an elite online book club in exchange for a single honest review by a team, on their website, a process that could take seven weeks.

I need to get off this Ferris wheel. I am told that I can’t promote my book without reviews, and that I won’t get reviews if I don’t promote my book. I stop reading, and in a panic, compose an email to my publisher.

🌺🧡💚❤️🌺

Paperback format available soon. Big ups to my publisher, StelaEVF, for making this possible. Thank you, everyone, for your support.

Categories
about me fiction women writing

Motion picture, baby

The Quarter Percent by Lily Nicole is available on Amazon. Trailer created by Ateeb Khan.

The Quarter Percent - novel by Lily Nicole
Cover art by Emanuel Malu.

Blurb B
It is summer, 2030. Truth is the weapon, and profit is the territory. Behind the screens, Marvin Stone is a wealthy recluse who uses powerful, cutting-edge technology to rewrite the rules of the game. As the rules change, Augustine Santa Clara, a former social media star, struggles to adjust. On the Continent, the popular and charismatic King Cordial of Vale works covertly to undermine his rivals. His youngest daughter, Costmary, is in his cross-hairs. Rue, his older daughter, takes on an exciting new challenge. Gala is the King’s firstborn. When she is named Princess Regent, she forges new ties and unveils her master plan.

Categories
about me art opinion writing

Cara de la Reina

The mural "Cara de la Reina" is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.
The mural “Cara de la Reina” is featured in my novel, The Quarter Percent. This graffiti style illustration was created for me by Emanuel Malu at Saita Studio.

As I have discussed before, my amazing book promotion campaign fell flat because everyone I approached wanted me to be a popular author before agreeing to help me promote my book. Gah!

Over the weekend, I decided to beta test the promotion of a promotional copy of my novel, The Quarter Percent. After receiving a copy formatted for Kindle from the book designer, I wanted to see how a free PDF copy would be received by an influencer who has a large audience of avid e-book readers. This person’s audience only wants fiction books that are FREE or which cost $0.99. Perfect for a beta test? Or so I thought.

After three days of discussions, I was floored when this influencer insisted, today, that the book be published to Amazon first. He also asked me, “But how will you benefit from people reading it?” I am confused. Isn’t the point of publishing a novel to have people read it?

In other words, his audience is not interested in books that are cheap or free. They want popular releases for free or at a super discount. Yet, the advice I have received is to give away promotional copies of my novel to generate buzz. That makes no sense, you say? Large film studios deal with this nonsense, too. That is why they leak promotional copies of new releases to torrent sites.

My confusion arises from the fact that official publication on Amazon defeats the purpose of beta testing the novel with readers in different locations, and watching how they respond to it. I need this information so I can know how and where to promote the story. What I don’t want is readers who are not the intended audience to write reviews on the Amazon page complaining that the novel has words and that the themes are ‘difficult’.

I used to joke that I am an alien from outer space. But I am beginning to believe that either I stepped into a wormhole and this is the underverse, or the inhabitants of this planet are insane.

Categories
art fiction women writing

A tale in the crypt

Gala meets Velour’s First Minister

Jennifer Horn has done a fantastic job again creating this storyboard for a key scene for my novel, The Quarter Percent.

In the first scene of the final chapter, Gala and the First Minister of Velour are in the crypt of Ruby Palace. On screen is a replay of the ‘fall of the house of Moss’. At a prestigious awards ceremony, in front of the crowned heads of the Continent, Mrs. Moss spills the dirt on the Continent’s aristocrats. Gala explains that it is her system of interpersonal sabotage.

Morse coded message I created online

In the epilogue, one of the characters receives an invitation card on his breakfast tray. The card is written in Morse. He presses it to the screen of his tablet to translate the message.

(^ω^)


Have a happy week ahead, everyone.

Categories
creative writing writing

I went and did a thing

Greetings, everyone. Since my amazing book promotion idea got twisted in the game, I had a few other ideas. One person who helped me is Australian illustrator, Jennifer Horn. She created these storyboards for some key scenes in my novel, which I am calling The Quarter Percent. I asked for rough sketches because I’m redrafting at the moment. Here are three of the key scenes.


Rue and Karl – Illustration by Jennifer Horn

Rue and Karl are now friends after their bitter divorce ten years earlier. Karl reminds Rue that he has custody of their frozen embryos from the divorce. They are about to be destroyed. Karl proposes that they start a family instead. Rue agrees, on condition that they ask three gestational carriers to carry the babies at the same time. She also decides to publicise the news of the surrogacy to stir up controversy, which will drum up business for her luxury yacht building company. That decision will backfire because…

Costmary and Karen – Illustration by Jennifer Horn

Costmary’s private dispute with her father, Cordial, has leaked to the press. Social media is Team Costmary. The public takes her sister, the thrice-divorced Rue, to task for promoting a ‘happy families’ image in light of her sister’s hardship. Costmary is having crisis talks with her publicist and friend, Karen. Earlier that day, Cordial had filed a vaguely worded writ against his subjects. Reading between the lines, journalists guessed correctly that the writ was meant for Costmary. To make matters worse, he served her with a €45 billion lawsuit. It represents the stock value of her vegan brand, Costmary’s Farm. Her father’s latest salvo has come as a shock.

Cordial and Marvin – Illustration by Jennifer Horn

Rue and Costmary’s father, Cordial, is distracted at the moment. Three weeks before the closing deadline of a multinational trade deal, he is having a video chat with the reclusive Marvin Stone, CEO of Marvin Stone Technologies, LLC. Marvin has launched a brand new, super exclusive insurance policy that only a quarter of the one percent can afford. Marvin invited twenty-three individuals to sign up for the policy. Cordial is angry because he was not on the list. But Marvin excluded him on purpose. It seems the strategy was effective.

+ – <

You can find Jennifer Horn on Instagram @Eskyjen and view her Facebook Art Page here. She has been kind, encouraging and a lovely person to collaborate with. As always, thank you for your support. Have a productive week ahead.

Categories
about me news opinion writing

Notes 7/3

Coffee with milk in a dark mug
Image by Nicholas Ng via Unsplash

A few days ago, a post from one of our blogging colleagues, supporting peaceful protest, vapourised just as I posted a response to it. The suppression of speech and shredding of proprietary content is only the beginning of the issues plaguing social media platforms. As Upper Echelon Gamers puts it, “Companies do not care about you.”

Many social media users complain about content banned for “reasons” including nebulous and somewhat petty rules violations. Meanwhile, the most vile content continues to be added to those same platforms seemingly without resistance. I once saw a post with an offensive word spelled out on Scrabble tiles. The justification for posting it was wordy. He knew exactly what he was doing and who would be reading. Another subscriber from a different country threatened, from the comfort of his bedsit, to get me ‘deported’ even though I am a long term resident of a country he has never even visited.

I believe that a platform like WordPress has the resources to hire staff to manually review posts flagged by an algorithm, and warn users about community policy violations. It is lazy to smoke every post that uses the flagged keyword or hashtag of the day. If you have a blog, keyword lists are not enough. People who use speech to denigrate others know how to evade the censors.

Brown paper in envelopes with fountain pen
Image by Ankhesenamunn via Unsplash

I once had a subscriber suggest here, on this blog, that “the races” should shove off to a remote part of the world so she wouldn’t have to live in harmony with us. A mutual write-off won’t make the world a better place. I’ve tried to initiate discussions on the problematic phrasing, virtue signalling and outright opportunism that occurs in times like these. Invariably, my remarks bring out a defensive response. I think the best approach is to keep using our blogs to challenge retrogressive ideas in a non-confrontational way: Art, fiction, reflections, photography, poetry, music and film. The resistance is here on WordPress.

That’s why I’m always beating the drum of engagement. As wonky as it is, this platform enables us to see more of the world. Of course it is risky to reach out and start conversations with people we have never met face-to-face. Sure, it can be a painful undertaking. And yes, it might be a terrible idea but in the exchange, I feel that getting noticed disrupts the status quo of toxic ideologies.

This leaves me with a most important question. How do we get closer to those individuals, to influence them away from divisive and destructive ideas, when the voices of the well-intentioned continue to be suppressed?

(^ν^)


Post script: As a side note, it has been five days since my attempts to upgrade this account have been thwarted. Yet, on Dashboard, I see a notice encouraging me to buy a unique domain. That is a machine talking. Not a single peep has been heard from the mysterious Help Desk humans. As far as I am concerned, they have left town.