Hey Hey It’s A Monday

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New office chair (thank you, Ursula) is in place, it is super comfortable, and my back has already sent out hand-written thank you notes to my brain, which my brain greatly appreciates. I am having a weird hair day. Not a bad one, merely a weird one, which is why there are messy buns and beak clips. I am wearing both an infinity scarf and sandals, a sure sign that it is September in New York. I have learned, only about five minutes ago, and a day after I used a wrench to open a particularly sticky bottle of seltzer, that what I thought was a mini-mousepad is actually a bottle opener grippy thing.

I  have had said grippy thing since the NECRWA conference this past spring, and it took me that long to figure it out. If I hadn’t noticed that the surface of the supposed min-mousepad, which should have been smooth (which is kind of the whole point) was textured and kind of rubbery-pebbly, but in a grid-ish sort of fashion rather than actual pebbles, I probably still wouldn’t know, and would keep toting the darned thing around, rather than tossing it in the kitchen drawer where I now know it belongs. This also means that mini-mousepad goes on my list of desired (preferably pink) computer accessories.

This was not my only d’oh-worthy discovery of the afternoon. The notebook in which I made notes that I had planned to transcribe today? Left it at home. Okay. Slightly different focus to today’s session, then. When packing my tote, my brain was too busy with the “is it time to put away the summer tote for the season” debate to notice that I had not actually brought the notebook that was the whole point of going out, but I can do what’s on the index cards for now and fill in the rest when notebook and I are in the same place. I will admit to a small voice in the back of my head, whispering that it’s a sign I should instead use the time to watch Friday Night Lights, but I am not listening to that voice during writing time. Writing time is writing time, and much as I love spending time with Coach Taylor and the gang (mostly Tim; came for Jason Street, aka Future Mr. Amber Holt, stayed for Tim Riggins, still don’t care about football, but love the passion for the game) they are not going to get this book written. That’s my job. I show up, Hero and Heroine show up, too, and we all hit the field…er, page, which is when the magic happens.

I like knowing where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, and who’s going with me. I’ve tried pantsing, but as a person who has actually sustained physical injury from putting on pants, that is not a tactic that works well for me. There is a component of flying into the mist when following the original idea -the best characters and/or stories are the ones that find me- but when I know where the journey of a particular book is going, I want to know how we’re going to get there, what the stops are along the way, and leave enough room for some fun surprises.

Learning to ask for what I need is a new thing for me, and that includes asking myself…and listening. That’s scary. What do I need right now? Do I need to touch paper? Step away from the keyboard, touch some paper. Maybe my version of black on white that I need right now is actually purple on pattern. Am I not physically comfortable right now? If I am, how so? Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Do I not have what I need to know what happens in this scene? If so, I can go get it. Maybe that means popping online, to check a bit of information. Maybe it means I need to talk about it to a write friend, online or face to face. Maybe the missing bit is at the bottom of a cup of tea or at the end of a movie or TV episode that has the right feel, or that actor who does that thing in that scene. Maybe it’s in the middle of the bridge of that song I can’t get out of my head, or somewhere in the book my brain keeps going back to when I don’t yank its leash.

I’m at the end of my blog time for today, so I’m going to take some inspiration from Skye’s weekly signoff and say that’s about it for this entry. Sometimes, what I need is a good pointless babble, which, in reflection, makes it not that pointless after all. There is an inherent order into unexpected side trips, as long as they get me back on the main road, and I am going to call that good enough.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Finally Fall Edition

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Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am feeling much better this week, and so is Anty. For me, it is because the gross, disgusting stuff Anty smeared on my nose (so that I would lick it off) worked. Stuff came out of both ends of me, and that was not fun, but I did not have to go to the pokey place after all, because I got rid of the big hairball that was in my tummy. The humans gave me my special gushy food after my tummy settled, because I am a good girl. That part, I liked.

The part Anty likes is that it is now officially fall. That means her super powers have come back. It also means that she has book brain more often, but that is an occupational hazard. She does not mind that so much, because it is easier to write. I can tell that is true, because, this week, we have two posts I need to tell you about before we can do anything else. First, there is Anty’s weekly discussion post at Buried Under Romance. She forgot to share the link again, but that does not stop readers from finding it, and she has me to share it with all of you. This week, she talks about the different formats in which humans can read their stories. Which one do you like best? Her post is here:

http://buriedunderromance.com/2016/09/saturday-discussion-whats-your-favorite-format.html and it looks like this:

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Then, because fall means new TV shows it also means that Anty will be recapping some of them that have special kissy moments, for Heroes and Heartbreakers. Anty had a little bit of book brain when she recapped the premiere of This Is Us, but I think she did okay, all things considered. No cats in this show, as far as I can tell, but Anty lilked it anyway. That post is here:

http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2016/09/happy-birthday-this-is-us-season-1-episode-1-heart-to-heart and it looks like this:

 

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Now that it is officially fall, Anty is very happy to have a whole new season full of shows to recap, and to be working on two books that she loves, the beach ball, with Anty Melva, and Her Last Fist Kiss, on her own, at the same time. She and Anty Melva are proposing a workshop for the NECRWA conference, on writing through the tough parts of life, so she is looking forward to finding out about that. If they do not present at the conference, then that is still okay, and they can look at presenting to local RWA chapters.

Anty is also very happy that there will be a new addition to the office this weekend. Thanks to a very kind CRRWA chapter sister, Anty can retire the camp chair back to the balcony and put a new-to-her office chair in there, instead. Back support is apparently important to humans. Mama is also making Anty step up her game on the desktop front, and by helping, I mean checking the numbers and making sure the computer Anty buys is strong enough to do everything Anty wants it to do. Writing is the main focus, of course, but we will all be a lot happier when Anty can play Sims again. Trust me, a Sim-less Anty is not something anybody wants to see.

Fall also means that Anty can bake more often. Usually, this means cookies, which I do not eat, because I am a kitty, but it also can mean macaroni and cheese, which I also do not eat (same reason.) Her macaroni and cheese looks like this:

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Hungry yet?

Anty found the original recipe in a magazine for humans who like making food, but she made some changes, and Uncle says she made enough changes that it counts as her own recipe now. She keeps that recipe in her head. That would make one of her antys proud, because that particular anty  was an amazing cook, but never wrote down a single recipe, or used any measurements; she just knew. Uncle says that might be because that particular  anty used to be a professional chef, and she spent enough time with her tools and ingredients, that she didn’t have to measure or write anything down, because she knew what she was doing, that well. I think that is pretty impressive, and I also think that it carries over into writing.

I do not mean that writers require macaroni and cheese before they can write (but then again, I do not think it could hurt, either.) I mean that, when one does something long enough, and does it a whole lot of times, it isn’t always necessary to stop and check to make sure every single step is exactly the way it ought to be. Like Anty’s anty knew how heavy a teaspoon of salt felt in her hand, for example, and Anty knows that she needs one sleeve of graham crackers to pulverize for her macaroni and cheese topping, she also knows what she needs to make a romance novel.

It may have taken  a while to get to that point, but it is a big relief for Anty to know she doesn’t have to stop and check that there are this many words and how characters need to be this or that. When she makes macaroni and cheese, she gets out the things she will need, puts them in the right place, turns on the right kind of music, and then…she knows. Getting to this phase of writing again feels like that. Here are the characters, and what happens to them, and the outline is how it happens, and here’s the notebook and here’s the pen and here’s the keyboard, and she knows. It is kind of scary to be at that point, but, if Anty concentrates on what she has to do right now, and doesn’t try to fix everything all at once, every step leads to the final product.

Right now, I would like her steps to lead to my food bowl, so that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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Until next week…

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

 

Book Brain

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“Your hero and heroine should be different people at the beginning and the ending of a book. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

— Rebecca Zanetti

 

Right now, half of me would like to retire to my comfy chair and split my time between binge watching Friday Night Lights and making a dent in my huge TBR mountain. The other half wants to dive back into Her Last First Kiss and rip Hero and Heroine’s lives to shreds before they get their happily ever after at last. The power balance fluctuates, but here’s a short list of things I have done because my head was in the book, rather than non-book tasks at hand:

  • smacked head into faucet because I forgot I was washing my hair when an idea hit
  • eviscerated rather than pierced three bratwurst while cooking
  • had three water bottles going at one time because I forgot where I put them
  • put one (full) water bottle in the cat food section of the pantry and left it there
  • missed my “exit” on the walk home from breakfast with N
  • sent the same EARC to my Kindle ten times, possibly more, but that’s where I stopped counting
  • asked for a login name reminder for a site I visit frequently, because I couldn’t remember what I’d used. It was my name.

Yeah, this is boring me now, and I don’t have time to start a whole new blog entry from scratch, so we’re going forward from here. Point is, I have book brain, and I like it. This book is real. It’s happening. That’s a good thing.

Yesterday, at my weekly breakfast with N, I’d brought Big Daddy Precious and a mess of index cards and sticky notes, to take her through this draft’s bones. I know I’m on the right track because the chapters sorted themselves out, and I have numbers and color codes, and getting to the page is something I look forward to, rather than dread. I don’t have to ask myself if I can do this book thing, because I am doing it, and if I show up, Hero and Heroine show up, too. Pretty sweet deal. Here’s what it looked like by the time I packed up to go home, about halfway through the whole story.

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See all those sticky notes? There’s a color coding system, but that’s another story. I read the pages through to N, and she stopped me at a certain point. Heroine can’t do Thing A. Huh, wuh? My story, N. I’m the one who gets to say about what goes on in it, but no, N was right. See, Heroine would normally do Thing A, like she did all the other times, because she honestly believed there was no other option, but she’s different by this part of the story, so different that she can’t do Thing A anymore, because Thing A would be wrong now. She’s had a pretty big paradigm shift, so yes, N was right. Now that Heroine has gone through an irreversible change, she’s going to take a different tactic. She’s not going to do Thing A. She’s going to, for the first time in her life, do Thing B, which scares the crap out of her, but it’s her chance to do something right. Hence the flurry of sticky notes and pencil scribblings in the margin, a zig where there was once a zag, and darned if I don’t now love the scene I used to like. For a writer, there is no jolt of energy quite like that.

As fine a gentleman as Mr. N is,  I have to admit that my reaction to his joining us, to spirit N away at the end of our time together, was, “already?” Noooo, I want to keep going. Forbidding a friend to go adventuring with her own real life romance hero is something this romance writer cannot do, so they departed. I applied pencil to paper a while longer, and headed back home, foggy about my route, because I had Hero and Heroine on the brain. My body traversed, more or less, the distance between Panera and home, with detour through the park’s garden. Where I really wanted to be was back in the book, figuring out how much Heroine doing Thing B  instead of Thing A would butterfly effect the rest of the book, so there was some degree of wandering involved.

When I got home, I crashed into an impromptu nap, and when I woke, I was hungry for both food and story. I needed to take in story, in book form, in TV form, in music or wherever else I could find it. Writing eats that kind of stuff, and I came out of that nap in starving hyena mode. It’s a good feeling, after years of dragging myself along by my fingernails. Maybe there is some sort of formula, if I look through the stacks of notebooks I’ve filled about the whole process of getting back up on the horse. I’m still not sure when one can declare oneself officially back on, if there is such a thing? Completion of an initial draft? Final draft? Submission? Sale and/or self-pub? Certain types or numbers of reviews? Distribution through certain outlets? Something else? I’m not going to stress about that, but stay in the moment, fill those pages with sticky notes and pencil scribbles and go scene by scene. Right now is right now, and that’s where my time and attention has to go. If that means a few water bottles in the pantry, duplicate ebooks and opening multiple cans of cat food at one time, I am okay with that.

Theory and Practice

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The cookie, for those who are wondering, is coconut chocolate chip. I wasn’t going to get a cookie today, but I had a deal with myself that, if there was anything with coconut in it, I could make an exception. I wasn’t going to wear my long beige skirt yet again, but it’s comfortable, I strongly dislike wearing pants, and always have. I think it’s in my blood. Anyway, the point I’m getting to, besides the fact that I did have a topic in mind for today’s post, over the weekend, but cannot, for the life of me, remember it now, is that things change. That’s a given.

Since I like to plan and organize, earlier in the week, I made lists of things I need to get my office at its peak functionality. Big things like replacing the ancient desktop that is out for blood (specifically mine) and refuses to recognize the internet, medium things like deciding whether it’s better to find a way to get the super awesome office chair out of the storage unit 200 miles away but will not fit in the back seat of Housemate’s car, down here, or drop a few bucks at a local retailer to get an okay chair, because the makeshift camp-chair-with-smushed-pillow no longer works, to smaller things like a wireless mouse. I have never had a wireless mouse. Besides my intrinsic distrust of technology (apart from technology that will let me play The Sims) I’ve always had a thing about wireless whatever.

Never saw the point. The electronics dude at the retailer I visited when my mini mouse died advised me away from a wireless mouse for a couple of reasons, battery life included. Valid points, and I appreciate his expertise, but I don’t like hauling around a big, corded mouse when I’m on the go. Big, corded mouse is also gray, and having a big glop of gray wires is not my favorite part of taking laptop pictures. Hence, need for pink mini mouse, no tail (Does that make it a hamster?)

My original plan for today was to get all the handwritten notes I made for Her Last First Kiss from last week, transcribed, so I could send them to N, in anticipation of our breakfast tomorrow. That’s not what happened, or it hasn’t happened yet. I had some time sensitive tasks to clear off my desk. I critiqued the chapter a writer friend had sent me, looked over a pitch for a workshop Melva and I would like to try out at a regional conference this year, and wrangled a couple of other tasks. Researched for an upcoming H&H post, and took care of some domestic issues before they became tornadoes. Much easier to think and write when the environment is not in chaos. While doing all of the above, I also  reminded myself that the transcription didn’t have to happen today.

It will happen. That’s how books get written, at least my books, and, as it so happens, those are the only ones I can control, so works out well that way. I’ve already told N I’m going to bring the notebook and scene cards with me, so we can talk about them. Some things are, very likely, going to change. We’re going to spread the cards out on top of the table between us, move some around, combine a few, maybe throw out a card or two. What’s going to go in that document after we talk isn’t going to be exactly, word for word, what I have there now. Pretty close, I’m sure, but I will have picked up threads I didn’t know I’d dropped, ensured that everything planted in the beginning is harvested in the end, and then…then I go forward. This phase of creating the book will be over, and it will be time to print things out, go scene by scene, and Get This Done.

That’s both scary and exciting. There have been more manuscripts I can count that didn’t make it this far. I miss some of them. Others weren’t meant to be, but all were started with the best of intentions. This one…this is one of the books that found me, instead of the other way around , and  it talks back. I wanted Hero to be blond and a musician. He told me, pretty soon into our venture, that he was ginger and an artist. Pen and ink, thank you, though he’s done other things to get by, but that’s his natural bent. Heroine, too, wouldn’t get in line, and, now, I’m glad that she didn’t, because I like her the way she is, rather than the way I’d originally wanted her to be.

Not that different from looking at the schedule made at the start of the day, before the day actually started day-ing, but there’s something to be said for rolling with the punches and taking things as they come. It all gets done, not always in the order I’d intended, but what I’ve got is what feels right, and I am okay with that.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Hairballs and Index Cards Edition

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Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am not feeling that great this week, which is why Anty started off this morning by chasing me around the dark apartment with a spoonful of hairball remedy. I tried to hide in Uncle’s office, but she caught me and tilted the spoon near my nose, which is where she is supposed to put the icky gross disgusting stuff. The other humans call it hairball remedy, and the packaging says cats love it. Well, I do not. I have been a pukey girl, and, because I am shedding like a boss, the humans are pretty sure it is because I have a hairball that needs some help getting out of me. At this point, I really do not care which end, but we all hope we can take care of this ourselves and not need to go to the pokey place (aka the vet.)

I am still happy to play with my people and follow them around, and I am drinking my water, which is good, so I will go ahead with this blog entry. Anty says doing normal things helps. This week, Anty’s post at Buried Under Romance is about the other kind of book hangover, and by that, she means the kind that is not fun. That post is here:

http://buriedunderromance.com/2016/09/saturday-discussion-the-other-book-hangover.html

and it looks like this:

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Anty has also been hard at work this week, on Her Last First Kiss.  Right now, she is making sure she does not have any holes in the story, and, to do that, she needs to touch paper. That means that working on the computer alone is not going to allow her to connect with the mechanics of this phase of the writing. This week, she took a pack of index cards and opened her document. Then she wrote the title of every scene (some of them, she can now see, are actually chapters) on one side of the index card, and then, on some of  them, she put a few notes about what happens on that scene.

Next, she took out her Big Daddy Precious notebook that is only for this story, and started writing down (she is not done yet, because she has been taking care of me) the title of each card, and then what she can remember about the scene, only from memory. Sometimes, that does not match what is in the file, but that is okay. This is why they call them drafts. When Anty does this, she can see where she is repeating herself, and where she might need additional material. She makes notes on the backs of the cards (or maybe it is the front; kitties are not known for their understanding of office supplies) and uses highlighters in the notebook to let her know what is a Hero scene and what is a Heroine scene. That makes her desk look like this:

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please note use of filter

 

Anty gets a little nervous at the prospect of putting things that are not perfect down in a special notebook, but that is what the notebook is there for, in the first place. It is okay to learn, and to make mistakes while doing so. Anty’s plan is to go through the whole book this way and then show the result to Miss N, and maybe Critique Partner Vicki, to get some feedback. Then it will be time to flesh out what needs fleshing out, and putting everything together. It will probably also be time for Uncle to make Anty some more coconut pancakes, because Anty loves coconut pancakes. I have never had coconut pancakes, because I am a kitty, but I bet if I gave Anty my big beggy eyes, she might give me some. She is still figuring out what foods are best for me when I don’t feel so good, but she has not tried giving me coconut pancakes yet. They might help. Maybe. When I am sick, I like food with gravy on it. Maple syrup is a kind of gravy, isn’t it?

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Yep, right on top of the special notebook. Anty has priorities.

 

The other thing that is going on over here is that the batteries on the smoke detectors are all dying at the same time. They are very considerate and make a chirping sound to let the humans know it is time to change the batteries. The annoying thing is that they are very, very high on the ceilings and chirp so much that it sounds like a bird sanctuary in here. It is not a bird sanctuary, though. I checked. No actual birds, except the ones outside, and I am an indoor girl. Unless I have to go to the vet, and then I will go outside in my carrier, but I will not be able to get any birds. Unless there are birds at the vet. Hm. I may have to think about this. Maybe there is an upside to everything.

That is about it for this week. There has been some talk about giving me another dose of the hairball remedy, because Anty is not sure if she actually got it into me, since it was dark this morning. The humans say the remedy will help me feel better, but they have not tasted it, so easy for them to say. I’d better find a better hiding place. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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Until next week…

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

Run to the Distant Shores

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You can write about anything which has been vivid enough to cause you to comment upon it.

–Dorothea Brande

 

Yesterday morning, I got ready for my weekly breakfast with N early, for the express purpose of squeezing in the Parenthood series finale before any other humans were about. That was a wise decision.  After six years of family drama, crammed, for me, the binge watcher who came late to the party, into a couple of months, the story of the Bravermans was done. Time for viewers, as well as characters, to leave the baseball diamond and head to their respective homes. The elder Zeek has quit this mortal coil, Zeek the younger has been born. Camille finally got to see the French B&B, though on her own, dangit. Max is grown. Joel and Julia are back together, eventually parents to four kids, the same number as Zeek, Sr. and Camille had. Crosby saves the Luncheonette, with Jasmine’s support, and allows big brother Adam to leave the business they built together, to pursue his own late-found passion for teaching. Sarah and Hank successfully blend their families. Amber makes the hard decision to raise baby Zeek on her own, because ex-fiancé, Ryan, needs to get himself clean before he can be anybody’s anything, and, in the flash-forward, he does. He arrives at a family function with toddler Zeek, greets Amber and her husband with affection, and everybody seems perfectly fine. It’s that flash-forward that made me cue up the pilot episode of Friday Night Lights, even though I care precisely nothing for football, because Amber eventually marries Jason Street from that show, so it’s part of the same story, so of course I’m there.

None of those names or references are going to mean much of anything to anyone who hasn’t seen Parenthood, but that’s fine, because we’re not talking about that specific TV show here, exactly. There is going to be a certain amount of blabber, because this is my blog and that’s what I do. Because this show has firmly found a spot among my favorites, and its finale is what sparked this post, there’s going to be some direct reference, but what sticks with me most, and where I want to keep my emphasis, is on the feelings. No matter what I’m reading or viewing, it’s the way the characters and story make me feel that takes precedence, which is probably a good thing for a romance writer.

About four episodes or so into season one, I had to frantically check the internet for assurance that Crosby and Jasmine would, despite any obstacles, reach their HEA, before I could proceed any further. If they weren’t endgame, I was out of there, but, fortunately (for me and for their two more subsequent children) they were. Ditto when the first fissures formed in Joel and Julia’s marriage. They couldn’t lose everything over miscommunication. I still wasn’t over their first adoption falling through (Julia sobbing in the hospital room when the birth mother changed her mind broke me, which is exactly what a scene like that is meant to do, so props to writers and to actor Erika Christiansen for selling it the way she did.) I wanted both Peet and Ed to step on a fleet of Legos, and, when that kiss on the ice rink happened, signaling that Joel and Julia had picked love over all, yes, I did pump both fists in the air and scream. There are perks to watching Netflix when one is home alone. That is one of them. Then again, when their kids get an eyeful of that kiss, proving that Mom and Dad are back together, and everything is okay.

A show based on ripping the viewer’s heart out and putting it back together, mended with gold, as the Japanese tradition, to make a broken vessel all the more beautiful in the healing, well, that’s exactly what I’m shooting for, in romance novel form. This does of course mean there will be more in depth studying of the story arcs, paying close attention to what Jason Katims and company did, and how they did it, to effect emotions so strongly that I would have to pause and check before proceeding. Time to go on the journey again, this time knowing how everything is going to turn out, and see where the threads weave in and out of each other along the way.

I liked that it wasn’t perfect-perfect. Zeek Senior is dead, which does color everything, but it’s also the logical end to the story, so I’m fine with that. Ray Romano did an amazing job as Hank, and I do ship him and Sarah, but what if she’d been able to make things work with much younger ex-fiancé, Mark? Jason Ritter also did an amazing job, and, though we don’t see Mark’s eventual wife, or even learn her name, the actor conveys that Mark did find happiness again. Little bit of a knife twist that Mark’s wife is due to give birth to their first child a couple weeks after Sarah’s first grandchild is due, but that’s life, isn’t it?

We don’t always get it right on the first try, and bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, very bad things, and sometimes, those bad things travel in packs, but love (in all its forms) is stronger. Not all that different from the structure of the romance novel there, is it? We see plenty of romance in Parenthood, both successful and otherwise; not only the hearts and flowers, but the heartbreak, and the black moments, and all that comes after. A once up on a time friend once said that all of my stories are about moving on after a loss, and there is some truth to that. What other alternative is there? Feel the pain and the anger and the grief, let them do their jobs, and know that there will be something else on the other side.

At the end of a good story, the characters aren’t the same as they were on page one (or in the pilot, and they can’t be. They’ve been through the fire, lost some things, gained others, and, in a romance, they come through it together. I can’t think of a story I would like to tell more than that one, time and time again.

 

Sweetest Workshop Hangover

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Happy Monday, all. It’s a lovely seventysomething here in New York’s Capitol Region, and I am in my comfy chair, laptop in my lap (lap desk needs replacing, as the cushion has deflated, the handle is hanging loose, and the coating on the surface of the desk is cracked and peeling; this desk has served me well) and actually have a topic. This all bodes well, so let’s see how it goes.

I spent my Saturday here:
http://cr-rwa.org/2016/09/before-you-hit-send-workshop-with-angela-james-is-this-saturday/

and can very highly recommend Angela James’s workshop, which, oddly enough, I am probably not going to talk about much here, even though that was kind of my entire point. I have masses of notes and some hefty handouts on self-editing, to go over and put into heavy use when I get to the self-editing stage. Right now, I am focused on writing and co-writing these two WIPs, and all the rest comes after I type/co-type The End. What I’m blabbering about instead, is the experience. Also the stuff, because I am all about pens and paper, and hey, they outright give them to you at these things, even if you bring your own.

I love conferences and workshops, because I love writing romance, and I love people, and being in a hotel or part of a hotel, filled with other people who also love writing romance, and are there for the same reason I am, to improve our craft and advance our careers, is about as good as it gets. This was probably the least prepared I have ever been for an actual RWA event, and, surprisingly, I was fine with that. Presenter was Angela James, who is pretty high up the ladder at Carina Press, so she presumably knows her stuff when it comes to editing (she does.) I knew I was riding in with N, conveyed by her lovely husband, Mr. N, and had plans to meet up with Sue Ann Porter, and several of my CRRWA chapter sisters and brothers (yep, we got dudes.) Potential to meet new friends, and did find the lovely surprise of meeting with one of my Last Call Girls, M, (don’t have permission to use her name yet, which, in retrospect,  I probably should have secured beforehand, but then again, maybe I can make being an initial on my blog can become some kind of thing. Yeah. We’ll go with that one. Some pictures of me hanging out with beautiful blondes. That’s Sue Ann Porter in the pink, and the lovely Miss M in the snazzy specs.

 

Most important thing I learned about taking all day workshops came at the registration desk, when I realized there was only one place to put my name tag. Clip on name tags and V-necked shirts provide a unique challenge. I will remember this for next time and bring an actual jacket with me, for name tag purposes, and in case the venue’s air conditioning is set to Polar Bear. I appreciate that it was ninety-three degrees outside and so humid that I am fairly certain I saw air fish. We will not discuss the weather on Saturday night, but I am extremely thankful for the cooler weather that came after.

One of the best parts of any conference or workshop is getting a good group at one’s table at meals, and this was no exception. Me, Sue Ann, M, and N, one tiny table in this room:

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Snazzy, huh?

When we got back from stuffing ourselves with the bounty of a respectable sandwich bar and dessert buffet, we found a nice surprise waiting at our seats.

 

Carina Press brochure, some fun reading-themed stickers, Carina Press pen, and vintage Harlequin cover themed notepads. Do they know me or what? There were different titles for the notepads, but The Widow Gay seemed to be the hot property of the day. I am highly in favor of book covers on notebooks. Heck, I am highly in favor of notebooks, period. The notebook I brought, and filled nineteen of its pages, I’ve had for a while. The pages are horizontally striped, one line blue, the next white, so a lot easier for my eyes to focus on and find where I am when I look away and then back. I used the same gel pens I keep on  hand for my commonplace notebook, and found that rotating through the colors, one per subject, should make finding pertinent sections easier when I go back to study them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, all well and good, and you’ve  hit your precious magic seven hundreds, Miss Talky Talk Writer Person, but what did you learn? Well, several things. Writer things. A good, comprehensive review of the basics of self editing, which I will definitely put into play once these two books are done, because I’m looking forward to that phase. For right now, what’s most important is to get from Once Upon a Time, to Happily Ever After. What I got from this workshop the most is that I am on the right track. If I’m not all the way back on the horse (how on earth do we measure that, anyway?) I’ve got at least one foot in the stirrup. I’ll take that, and gladly.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Falling Into Place Edition

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Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I did not want my picture taken today, because I was more interested in watching Uncle get ready for work than in taking pictures, so Anty has to use a picture from a different day. I am a kitty, after all. It is in my job description to be mercurial, but I am normally a very good girl.

To show what a good girl I am, I will start by talking about Anty’s writing this week. Her post at Buried Under Romance talks about some ways we learn things about our own reading habits. Anty has found that tracking not only what she is reading, but how far along in that reading she is, helps her see patterns in the way she reads. Her post looks like this:

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and you can find it here:
http://buriedunderromance.com/2016/09/saturday-discussion-what-have-we-learned-about-reading.html

Anty is also working on some posts for Heroes and Heartbreakers, which I will tell you more about when they are live, and also on Her Last First Kiss. That one had some excitement this week. At first, Anty thought she had lost outlines for a couple of new scenes, so she looked everywhere for them. One of them she found, exactly where it was supposed to be, and she is still not sure how she missed it, so that is good. The other one, she needs to reconstruct, but it will not be that hard. She has had it in her head for a long time, so getting it into place is pretty easy. That is a good feeling. Moving Hero and Heroine along the road to their Happily Ever After makes Anty very happy, even if Hero and Heroine are not, at this stage of the story. It is all right, though. Anty writes romance, and that means all will be well in the end. Until then, though. she makes no promises, and may be known to let out an evil cackle or two. At one point, Miss N told Anty that Anty needs to give Hero and Heroine some small successes at this stage of the game, because, otherwise, that part of the book will be very depressing. Anty sees no problem with that, but she also sees Miss N’s point. Small successes, it is. Very small.

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Vintage photo of Grumpy Anty, torturing her characters. I tried to make it smaller, but I could not. That is the downside to having paws instead of hands. My apologies.

 

Even though there are still a few hot days to come, Anty has a surprise for Saturday; it cannot get her with its sun and  heat, because she will be in an air conditioned hotel all day, at a workshop for writers. You can read more about that here:

http://cr-rwa.org/2016/09/before-you-hit-send-workshop-with-angela-james-is-this-saturday/

Anty loves going to workshops for writers, because it lets her combine her love of writing with her love of being around people, especially people who love the same thing she does. Those two things are great on their own (and Anty loves being around people, in general; social interaction gives her energy that she can then spend on writing) but when they are put together, it is like catnip for her. Or so I am told. I do not care about catnip. I have heard that is unusual for a kitty, but, then again, I am an unusual kitty. I am also in full shed, which means I leave gifts of my summer coat fur basically everywhere. Anty calls running the Swiffer, while I am in shed, “the tumbleweed harvest.” I cannot say she is wrong. I shed a lot of fur, but do not worry. I will grow a very thick winter coat. Two of them, actually, because I am a Maine Coon. Having a built in two layer coat comes in handy on these New York winters, but it is not the most fun for humans who have to keep the floors tumbleweed-free.

That did not have much to do about Anty’s writing, except for the part where I mention she likes to use mundane activities such as tumbleweed harvesting to work out story things in her head. Most humans like spring cleaning, but, for Anty, it is fall cleaning that she likes, getting the house ready for cool days and long nights. She is actually excited that Mama will be bringing  home some of the good cleaning supplies, because she has plans for them. Some of these plans, I am told, involve putting me in a different room so that I cannot get things on my paws that are not good for kitties. I do not like being away from her -part of being a mews means following my Anty around as much as possible (or until Uncle comes home, and then I switch to him, because he is my favorite)- but I do appreciate her looking out for my welfare. The vet is nice, as vets go, but that does not mean I want to see her any  more than is strictly necessary. I prefer to stay at home. That is my happy place.

For Anty, the whole fall season is her happy place. Her super powers come back, she can be outside more, pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere, the same with apple cider, she can wear comfy sweaters and jackets, it is more comfortable to sleep at night, and things feel, in general, right. It is also the time of her birthday in October, and then Haloween, and then Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving is the start of Christmas season, and, well, that is a whole other thing in itself. We will see how this one goes. Anty wants to start planning now. Anty says it is never too soon to plan.

It is also never too soon for Anty to get back to work on Her Last First Kiss, so that is about it for this week. Anty would like to wish a happy 50th anniversary to all Star Trek fans; live long and prosper. She may write about that later on, but I am not throwing away my shot. (Yes, Anty is still listening to Hamilton a lot. Maybe it is time for an all-cat production. We could call it Catmilton. I’ll see myself out.) Until next week, I remain very truly yours,

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Until next week…

 

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

Head in the Curtains and Heart Like the Fourth of July

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Title cribbed from “Carry On” by Fun., (not a typo; the period is part of their name) because H has drilled it into me that, if I can’t come up with a blog title easily, the title is a line from whatever song I am listening to at the moment. No overthinkings. Writings, instead, thankyouplease. Official video here, because it is awesome:

I’ve started this blog three different times already, with three different approaches, and nearly fell asleep from boredom, so I am going to wing it. Seriously no idea where I am going with this, except maybe down for a nap, after I get the notes for the Her Last First Kiss scenes I mentioned yesterday, because they really do seem to have vanished. Either that, or I saved them somewhere I shouldn’t have, and I will find them after the book is done, possibly even published. That’s how it works sometimes.

Summer is hanging on here. Two more hot days, and then temperatures will start to go down. My brain is doing its drifty-offy thing that it does when I have had too much summer, because I really and truly have. Real Life Romance Hero suggested taking the next couple of days as flop days, let the heat pass, and then the superpowers will return in full force, and I can more than make up for the lack. Which is all well and good, except for the fact that I am me. I’m stubborn. Which is why this blabbery blog is happening today instead of getting pushed off until tomorrow. Still no topic, though, so we’ll see where our final destination lies when I hit the magic seven hundred. Until I hit that, I have to keep talking. Er, typing. :waves hand: You know what I mean.

Yesterday held an unusually good library run. Two Beatriz Williams books, two by Kerrigan Byrne, two issues of The Walking Dead, and All The Feels, by Danika Stone. In that bunch alone, we have: historical fiction (though I have shelved both Williams books I have read under historical romance; will put these two there as well, if they conclude in the same manner. Also, YMMV if early twentieth century settings count as “historical” or not. I say they do, and it’s my blog, so there.) and historical romance, graphic novel (does TWD count as horror? I class it as drama.) and YA.

None of these choices are playing it safe. The Williams books contain dual timelines, and deep period immersion; the first Byrne book I read had the hero and heroine meet as abused children in dire circumstances, re-meeting as adults when the heroine is living a the hero’s widow (spoiler alert: he’s not dead) and The Walking Dead is, well, The Walking Dead. Zombies are a fact of (and metaphor for) life in that universe; bad stuff can and does happen to good people, and the survivors have to keep on going. All The Feels has a teen heroine who enlists the aid of her male BFF, an actor for whom cosplay is life, in a plan that could change the course of her favorite fandom.

The fact that The Walking Dead is my go-to comfort read says something. Getting invested in a hero and heroine very clearly meant for each other and nobody else in 1931, then flash forward to 1938, hero is married to heroine’s former best friend, and there is now a seven year old girl hanging around? Two orphans in the middle of Victorian hell have a fake wedding because they’re the only ones who understand each other, have confusing feelings, are torn tragically apart,  then thrust back together under very non-optimal circumstances? The very real struggles of life when the dead still have a lot of get-up-and-go? Gimme. :makes grabby hands: Yes. Give me that. All of that. Let me seep it in through my skin until it sinks into every pore, breathe it like air, eat it and drink it and make it part of me, and then put it back out into work of my own.

That’s what drives me when I plunk myself down in the too-warm-in-the-heat-of-the-day recliner and pop open the laptop. That’s what makes my blood go skippity-skip when I settle into the camp chair plumped with squished-to-death pillow at the secretary desk I have drooled over since I was a toddler (before then, I probably drooled on it, but nobody wants to hear about that.) and let pen and paper take me back to the eighteenth century. That’s what makes me want to not only tell the story, but tell it right, to shut out the inner editor and cram the Hypercritical Gremlins back in their closet (thankfully, they’ve been quiet, of late) and tell the story. Once it’s all down there, then I can go back and polish things, but, first, it does need to get down there. By any means necessary. Sometimes, it’s messy. Sometimes, it’s not even within spitting distance of easy. Sometimes, it’s not at all what I had expected, but, if I keep my well filled, head down and eyes on my own paper, things tend to work out fine.

TLDR version: carry on.

 

One Guard Had Red Hair, or, File Hide and Go Seek

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Confession time. I still have not reinstalled Spotify on my laptop. This is not because I don’t use it. I do. Rather a lot, actually. That’s part of my maximalist tendency. I want a lot of stimulation, and I want as much of what I love around  me as possible. So, there is usually music playing while I work. Sometimes, I listen-listen, sometimes, I let the feel of the music seep into me and couldn’t tell where one song ends and the other begins. Sometimes, my brain is on autopilot, but silence-silence can often make me edgy. So, music, or, sometimes, ambient sound, is a must, but actually reinstall the music program I use every single day? Eh, there are workarounds.

Note that I did not say terribly convenient workarounds. I’ve had somewhat spotty luck with the web player, which irks me, because that would be easy. Instead, I usually use my phone, which is fine, but, right now, the battery is charging, and phone itself is picky about what chargers it likes and what ones it doesn’t. My tablet is not speaking to anything today, because it’s busy downloading speech to text (or the other way round?) utility that it is only now letting me know it has. Will have to investigate that later, because if there is one thing I can do, it’s talk. Also write, which is like talking on paper. Or pixels. Whichever works at the moment.

One would imagine (for those who are curious, I am listening on the web player, while writing on the laptop. Today’s picture is of my secretary desk, because there is too much light in the living room, where laptop and I currently are. This is what I see when I sit down to write my morning pages, complete with morning pages book.) that it would be easier to download Spotify on the laptop, so it would be there, and I wouldn’t have to go through two other devices and opening another browser, but that is not what is happening today. Today, I am searching files for the pages of Her Last First Kiss scene stuff that I know I wrote at some point on the long weekend, but then promptly put somewhere they should not be, and thus am spending the time looking for them.

This is not the worst I have ever done. Back when life was caregiveapalooza, I lost the manuscript for an entire book,  which I only found out when I got an email from my then-editor, reminding me when they needed the final copy. Ulp. I called in hardcopies from my critique partners, and reconstructed the entire book, save for one scene that had not made it to critique group. That one, I had to build from the ground up. After a fifteen minute panic session, an email to a writer friend, and a moment of silence, I plopped myself back in the desk chair and summoned a memory –any memory– of the missing scene.

Only one thing came to mind. One of the guards had red hair. Okay. I could work with that. I typed it onto the screen. “One of the guards had red hair.” Which meant there was more than one guard, if I needed to make the distinction, and I knew where that book’s hero was going, since I had the scenes before and after it to give me my start and end points. So I threw things onto the screen in a big firry glop, all out of order and mushed around. Then I mushed them into place, amid much grousing and determination, and, eventually,  the scene came together. That book, for those who are curious, was Orphans in the Storm, and the scene, well, some secrets, I am going to keep, but it’s not hard to figure out.

It’s been some time since Jonnet and Simon’s story was the new kid in town, and I’m glad we had each other when we did. Though the books are not in any way related, Hero and Heroine would not be here without those two crazy kids and their supporting cast, because every step in the journey is one step closer to the destination. This morning, while I was going through my files, looking for the now-missing scene stuff for HLFK, so I could show it to N, and couldn’t find it, my first reaction was not panic. Instead, it was “huh, can’t find that right now,” as a matter of course, and my instinct was to take out my all purpose (also called commonplace) notebook and start making a bullet point list of everything I remembered from the missing sections. That, I took to breakfast with N, ran it past her, and, even if I don’t find the original document (I suspect the Scrivener trash file) Plan B, and a rather painless one, at that, is to transfer my bullet point list to a new document and continue on from there.

Train of thought is rapidly derailing here, because I am now counting down the time to when Housemate and I make a library run. Also because I would really rather get back in there and mess with Hero’s and Heroine’s lives, figure out if Place was built to be Place, or if it was something else first, because that is going to affect where Room is, and all that other good stuff. Mostly torturing Hero and Heroine at this point, but it’s okay, because I write romance, and we know everything will turn out all right in the end. Better than all right. Happily ever after. As long as we know the two lovers in a romance novel are going to come out on top, and together, we can handle the author throwing pretty much anything in their way along that journey, so it really isn’t that much of a stretch to see it the same way during the actual writing process. All of which is my big fuzzy way of saying see you all tomorrow; time to go play with my imaginary friends.