Into The Arms of The Undiscovered

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But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered.

–Ben Gibbard, “Me and Magdalena”

 

Run for your lives, she’s gone artsy. Which means, in this case, that she found a vintage effects photo app (actually, a lot of them) for her phone, has begun referring to herself in the third person, and was curious to see if she could make the usual deskscape look slightly more interesting. Jury is still out on that one, because A) a writer’s desk is always interesting, and B) I have no plans to change my desktop wallpaper any time soon, and C) even though I am writing this blog entry on my trusty pink laptop, I don’t particularly like taking pictures from the lap desk in the living room. Too much light, and now that I have my office looking more like an office and less like the wake of a hurricane, not to mention that the weather, while not autumnal by any stretch of the imagination, is cool enough for me to actually want tea this morning, so that’s what I have. I have also gone back to using first person, so there is that, as well.

Apparently, the vintage app thinks I am always in Instagram, and automatically crops square. Not sure how on board I am with that, but, for today, since I am sticking to my schedule, and actually really excited to get back to ruining Hero and Heroine’s lives (it will be okay in the end, I promise; I write romance, so the endings are always happy) so there is no time for the overthinkings. What there is time for is this blog entry, and then popping appropriate files onto my nifty pink (I do not know how it started, but my electronics are pink now, whenever possible) flash drive, so that I can do the actual work in my office, until/unless I decide it’s coffee house time. Then, the laptop gets to be the star. Unless I decide it’s a paper day, but pink laptop makes me happy, so we will see.

This past weekend can be summed up with “summer is trying to kill me.” Too much time out in the sun, running errands, left me with zero energy, so, once I poured myself into my comfy chair, in front of the fan, and hugged the ice pack of the hour, I basically did two things: I read and I napped. Seriously, I was a reading machine, and now that I’ve found how to track progress for what I’m reading on Goodreads, I have proof. Interestingly enough, I’ve also found that the point where I am most likely to wander off from a book is right before the midpoint. That’s when I’m pedaling my metaphorical bike up the metaphorical hill, get a leg cramp, hop off and call a metaphorical cab. Push a little bit farther, though, and I’m over the hump, and can take my feet off the pedals, stick my legs straight out and yell “wheeeee!” while I coast down the hill, wind in my hair and joy in my veins. This all gets me thinking if the same holds true to some of the partial manuscripts lingering in various drives. Not talking about the miscarried stories; a writer knows what stories are dead and which ones are merely resting.

Backing up a tad to clarify that one could count me as doing three things when not running errands, because, half the time I napped,  I had my earbuds in and there was technically music playing. I can’t say that I was always listening-listening to it, but I was taking it in, because this was some serious well filling. I highly recommend serious well filling. Earworm of the moment is “Me and Magdalena,” by the Monkees, written by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. The mere concept of The Monkees after the passing of Davy Jones was something I didn’t want to think about, for a long time. I fell in love with The Monkees, watching reruns on TV when I was but  wee little princess, bonded with college friends over same (:waves to Heather and Carolin:) and have done more than a few virtual fistpumps when a once upon a time friend wrote about how badass the Monkees actually were, because, dang, they really could make their own music, and fought for it, and won, and, even after Davy’s passing, here they still are. Plus, there was the lyric video right there on my Facebook page when the album first came out, and, reader, I clicked on it.

Oh, my heart. Yes. That. So completely, totally that. Nothing big, and yet, and yet, bam, there was a complete, vivid, image, of that one perfect moment in the narrator’s world. I felt the wind, and the sun (without it draining me, miracle of miracles) and that long drive along the coast, when life is infinite and love rules over all. Yes. I want to do that. I want to make that. I want to be that. I want to put that in my stories and give others that moment.

I also inhaled, among other things, One Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams. Oh my stars. Oh my gravy.Yes. That is historical romance, people. Technically, there may be some wiggle room on the historical aspect, as the 1930s are still within living memory, and my personal definition of historical romance is loosely prior to that, but my review, so I’m going with what feels right. I won’t repeat my Goodreads gushing here, but you can read it on your own:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1741156270?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Both of those things twined around the latest episode of Fear The Walking Dead, which I liked okay before, but am totally on board with now, because they, too, did things I didn’t expect, took me places I didn’t think I was going to go, or wanted to go, but the gasping and the jumping and the “Oh man, I cannot wait to get to HLFK in the morning,” that’s my barometer of getting into something good. Cue Herman’s Hermits.

Okay, far past the magic 700 -do I need to give myself a cap for maximum length?- so I will close with this: both of my current commercial fiction projects are taking me places I didn’t know I was going to go. Ask me a year ago, and I’d have kicked and screamed and laughed at the idea (derisively, not from amusement) AND YET, here I am, and I’m not bashing my head against a brick wall, sobbing about how much I suck, etc. Instead, yeah, make that tea, pop those files on that drive, and let’s take that leap. You with me?

Typing With Wet Claws: Precautionary Cone of Shame Edition

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Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This has been a week full of adventures, as you can see by this week’s picture. Normally, I have to talk about Anty’s writing before I say anything else, but Anty says that, this time, I am allowed to talk about my butt first, because some people might worry when they see I am wearing the cone of shame.

Normally, I am a very good girl, but this morning, Anty saw some red next to my puddle, and asked Uncle to look at my butt while she picked me up (I do not like being picked up, but I loooove Uncle.) Uncle said he did see a very tiny pink spot. Busted. Now they know I was going at my bottom when the humans were not looking. That is why I have the cone of shame on, so that I cannot do that again. Uncle said it was only a very small spot, but Anty is cautious. She had Uncle hold me while she put the cone on me. Then they fed me, because I really love my food, and they wanted to make sure I can do all the normal kitty things with the cone on me. As it turns out, I can. It also helps me gain pathetic points when I give them hungry eyes, so this may actually work in my favor. This may also mean the return of the butt compress, but I am not sure. We will see. If the humans have any doubts, back to the pokey place we go.

Okay, enough of that. Time to talk about Anty’s writing, because we have a lot of ground to cover this week. Anty’s latest Buried Under Romance post is about how to handle a book hangover. If you have read a book that stays with you after you are done, and it is hard to get into a different book afterwards, that is what it is. If it has not happened to you yet, Anty says you need to read more books. I suggest hers. The post is here and looks like this:

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I think feeding kitties also helps book hangovers. I suggest feeding me.

In case the computer is picky and the link does not work, you can read the post here:

http://buriedunderromance.com/2016/08/saturday-discussion-the-sweetest-book-hangover.html

Anty will get to the bottom of what is making the links go all picky later, because she is busy writing right now. She and Anty Melva outlined the rest of the Beach Ball this week, and Anty Melva says they are almost halfway through. That is very exciting. Still no cats in that story, though. I am disappointed in both of them. Anty is also making good progress on Her Last First Kiss, and hopes that there are no more big adventures in this upcoming week, so she can make up for time that last week’s adventures took.

Even before I got busted on the butt thing, it was an exciting week. First, while Anty was getting the house ready for Aunt Mary and Uncle Brian’s visit, Mama came home and asked if Anty had seen the notice from Gas Company on the door. Anty had not. What happened was that, while Gas Company humans were turning on the gas for our new neighbor, Miss S, they found something that needed fixing. They had to turn the gas off so that the right human could come and fix it. That meant that we could not cook for our guests. That was all right, because Anty Mary loves Crave, the burger place very close to our house, so the humans had their lunch there. I stayed home and had fish jelly . I regret nothing. Except getting caught with the butt thing. That, I regret.

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What the humans ate. Things in the basket are birdie wings.

If the link does not work, I will put it here:

http://cravealbany.com/

 

 

Since Anty Mary knows Anty loves pirates, she brought her one. Now Anty has Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean to watch over her writing. I do not know if I have the heart to tell him there are no pirates in Her Last First Kiss. Maybe next book.

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Newest member of Anty’s crew..

 

 

All the humans went to the New York State Museum of Natural History. The link to that is here: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/

Anty’s favorite exhibit was Hudson Valley Ruins, because she loves pictures of abandoned places. They make her think about stories right away, about who might have lived there, and why they left, and what they took and left behind, and other story questions like that. She did not get to see her favorite permanent exhibit, forensic reconstructions of skulls taken from colonial graves, but she will go see it another time. There is also a carousel there, that she likes to ride, but tehre was not time to ride it. Another time, again. It is a very big museum, with a lot of things to see. There is a whole exhibit on birdies that live in this part of the country. I think that would be my favorite exhibit if I were to go there, but that would require leaving the house, and I do not like leaving the house.

For those of you who were wondering about the gas part of this entry, yes, the gas is back on, which means Anty can cook and take hot baths again. A lack of baths makes Anty cranky, and nobody wants that. Especially not me. Anty is the one in charge of when I cant take off the cone of shame. She says its proper name is “Elizabethan collar.” Maybe she  needs to read more Elizabethan romance novels, instead of dressing up her cat in period costume. I think that might help.

Anty is making her need-the-computer noises, 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)

Once More Into the Breach

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Today is an odd day, and not only because it’s Wednesday’s post on Thursday. I woke around seven, which is late for me, felt completely drained, so went back to bed for a few minutes. When I woke again, it was nine forty-five. Well, then, sure sign that this was time for some well-filling. In this case, tea, because A) we have gas again, thanks to Landlady’s talented Handyman and the fine folks at National Grid, and B) it was cool enough to actually savor a cup of Lapsang Souchong and its lovely, lovely caffeine along with my morning pages. I am now one week away from filling this book, which is, for those keeping count, number three, and the first one where I’ve gone to seven days a week. I’ll be keeping that practice for the new book. As with any other exercise, the more I do it, the ehhh, don’t want to say easier, exactly, because when is it, really, but it does become more natural. As my mom often said, the more I do, the more I’ll want to do. Thanks, Mom. You were right.

It’s blog entry time now, because this is the time I have for a blog entry, and keeping the discipline is part of the whole “be better at writing” thing. After I do this, I get to go play with Hero and Heroine. One thing that working on two books at one time has taught me is that Hero and Heroine get jealous of my time. They know when I’m seeing other characters, and they are not entirely pleased with it. Guy and Girl, on the other hand, seem to be fine with the arrangement, though that may have something to do with the fact that they have two writers to bother, rather than only one. I’m all Hero and Heroine have, so it’s only natural that they’re going to want more of me, in more ways than one.

There’s a difference in the feel of a Hero and  Heroine day versus a Girl and Guy day. Writing solo versus in collaboration is one part of it; very different energy when one is co-creating, and the ability to have somebody else take a certain scene certainly isn’t there when one is writing on one’s own. Writing in different time periods is part of it. I am a historical romance writer at heart, and, while Guy and Girl’s story is what I term historical romance adjacent, with Hero and Heroine, it’s full on immersion. The tones of the books are different, and yet there are similarities. They’re both romances, so there’s that, and, in both books, there is a central character who has a parent in need of special care. That’s not something I planned on putting in two different books, but then again, both of these stories found me. I didn’t go looking for them.

That’s something I’ve found, in the time between falling off the metaphorical horse and now. The best stories are going to find me. That’s how it works for this particular writer. I can look around, read a lot, watch a lot of movies and/or TV, listen to a lot of music, wander through parks and museums, play computer games (when I actually have a computer that will run them) and, at some point, it all jumbles together and sorts itself out. When asked if I’m a pantser or plotter, I now say puzzler, because that fits me best.

Back when the writing life went off the rails, I thought that my love of organization and planning was an indicator of how I should get back on track, and, to some degree, that’s true, but trying to adhere too closely to that meant completely shutting off the intuitive part of my process, which turned into obsessions over should and forms and word counts and must, must, must, must, must, etc. Which turned into miscarried manuscripts and frustration and a whole lot of banging my head against a brick wall. Which was not good for anybody, me, the wall, or my imaginary friends, some of which packed up their stuff and left, or at least went on very long vacations.

That’s the magic seven hundred right there, so I technically could stop here, but I like to get at least some sense of completion to a post, so let’s try for that. The best stories find me. That’s how I work. I turn into a magpie and throw a bunch of things onto the table, then stand back and see what sort of order they want to sort themselves into. It has to be them, not me. I can look through lists of period appropriate names, but it’s the characters who tell me what their names are, what they look like, when they lived. Hero, for example; I wanted him to be blond and play the violin. He’s a ginger, and he draws. If I’d been intent on forcing him into my perception of him, we’d still be wrangling about his hair color, and I would have a headache from trying to remember my extremely brief stint in a class on the Suzuki method. I never got past the Kleenex box (standing in for the violin) stage. Since Hero and I can connect on a love of pen and ink, that is probably a good call on his part. Speaking of which, he’s tapping his foot, so off I go.

Coldwater Morning

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This morning, I got up around three-thirty in the morning, because my hair was dirty. Reluctantly, I should add, because it was a long-awaited cool night, and Real Life Romance Hero and I had one of Housemate’s awesome afghans on the bed, a far cry (and a welcome one) from drowning in our own sweat on top of the bare sheets, but there is no fighting the moment dirty hair becomes too much. Not even if it means dunking my head under cold water, which is exactly what happened, and I knew it was coming.

Let me explain. This Friday, while I was getting the apartment in shape for our guests, (visit went awesome, but more on that later) Housemate came home and asked if I had seen the notice from National Grid on the door. I told her I had not. She gave me the basics: in preparing to turn on utilities for the new tenant downstairs (Hi, S! :waves:) they found something that needed attention, and so shut off the gas for the entire  house. Shutting off gas when there is a gas problem is a good thing, because we don’t want any explosions, and, if the gas has to be shut off, August is the time to do it. I would hate to think what would happen if this were to happen in January. No, actually, I do know, as Real Life Romance Hero and I lived through the huge Halloween blizzard of some years back, and it was, in a word, COLD. Not merely uncomfortable cold, but dangerous cold. In comparison, heat being off in August, during the year of the heat dome, eh, not that big.

It does, however, make personal hygiene, shall we say, brisk. There is an impact, as well, on the grocery shopping, because it’s either no-cook, microwave, or takeout/prepared food. Again, August, so not having to cook is a good thing, and the gas people will have to light the pilots on the stove and long-dormant oven, once the gas is back on, so this may give us our oven back. Hopefully, we will see that soon, but in the meantime, we’re doing okay as we are. Minor inconvenience, not a catastrophe, so I’ll take it.

Which brings me back to this morning. This post is up today instead of yesterday, because yesterday was a flop day. We had a wonderful time with our friends, Mary and Brian (Skye will bring everyone up to speed on that on Friday) but all the excitement and preparation left me in need of a good flop. So, I took one. I regret nothing. Sometimes, one needs to put the laptop down, look at the clock, see it’s eleven AM, and go back to bed. Or recliner, in my case, but that’s beside the point. Back to where we started.

This morning, I got up between three and four, stuck my head under cold water, and then went directly to my morning pages, because that’s what I do, first thing, whenever possible. Computer was not on yet; that will come later, so assume that at least Abbie and Ichabod were still snoozing, as was the rest of the house. Except for Skye. Skye was waiting on the other side of my office door, because she knows that, when Anty comes out, Anty will feed her. Skye is smart.

I would love to say I know where I am going with this, but I don’t. It bothers me that I took a photo of a blank computer screen, though that is exactly what the desk looked like when I sat down to write my morning pages. Today, at breakfast with N, we got each other up to speed on our current projects. She’s moving toward her goals, and I am on track to having both Her Last First Kiss and the Beach Ball in at least first draft and ready to pitch at NECRWA for 2017. Today is for transcribing my handwritten scene for the Beach Ball, and sending that on to Melva. Last week, we plotted the second half of the book and discussed possible future projects. I ran my amended outline for the rest of HLFK by N, who gave a thumbs up, and, once this blog entry is posted, am diving into Guy and Girl’s world, with a Hero and Heroine chaser. I’m good with that.

Kind of like being good with cold water for a few days. If cold water for a few days is what it’s going to take for the house not to blow up, I am fine with that. If re-learning how I tell a story is what it takes to write the best books I possibly can, I am fine with that, too. Sometimes, we have to break away from the “everybody knows” and the “shoulds” and muck around for a while in the land of try-and-fail-and-try-again to see what it actually takes to get the job done. Seems to be working pretty well for my characters, so I may be on to something here.

Ever since I started increasing my morning pages to seven times a week, I’ve noticed that I write more during the day. When I write longhand, the story comes quicker. When I write longhand, on pretty paper, even faster. When I make time for reading books that call to me while I’m doing other things, plan when I can sneak in a few minutes, a few pages, to see what the characters are up to, especially in  historical romance, I want to write that sort of book, the one that will whisper to readers (or come after them and drag them back, I’m fine with that, too.)  When I can talk writing with writer friends, and reading with reader friends, wander through a museum and let the past speak to me, that’s when writing feels the most natural. I like that place. I want to stay in that place. If it means dunking my head under cold water at four in the morning, well, okay, though I hope that’s not a requirement for staying in the groove. For now though? For now, it’s fine.

Typing With Wet Claws: They’re Coming Edition

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Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. There is a lot going on this week, so I will talk about Anty’s writing first. Her latest post at Buried Under Romance is about the heat levels in romance novels, and she does not mean the weather. She means how much kissing, and more than kissing, that an author puts in their stories. I, myself, am fixed, and so have no preference in these matters, but, apparently, humans do, and like to discuss them. Anty’s post is here, and it looks like this:

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In case WordPress is being picky again and not letting Anty make links within text, click or cut and paste here:

http://buriedunderromance.com/2016/08/saturday-discussion-too-hot-to-handle.html#disqus_thread

It is also being picky and not letting her reply to comments on that page right now, but she will answer as soon as she can.

The first thing that happened this week was that the cable humans meant to turn off service to somebody who was moving, but they read the wrong number and cut our service instead. That was a mistake. We did not have cable or internet for two and a half days, except when we could get on the city internet, but that was weak. Anty did not mind all that much, because there was city internet, and because that was enough to run Spotify when she wrote. She wrote a lot this week. She and Anty Melva outlined the rest of the Beach Ball (loosely, Anty says, but it still counts) and had a Skype meeting about that. Anty Melva asked if Anty wanted to pitch a workshop they created together to the NECRWA conference (they will go, even if the conference people say no thank you) and Anty said okay. So there is that. Anty also used what she learned from Miss K. A.’s workshop last week, to take care of some things with Her Last First Kiss, which also makes her very happy. With the anticipated return of Anty’s super powers, and firm plans, this should be a very write-y autumn.

One way that I know this will be a very write-y autumn is that Anty is now less than two weeks away from filling her third morning pages book. Here is the current book (the one with the Eiffel Tower) next to the next one (it says “Fearless,” which Anty wants to be in what she is writing these days.) :

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The Fearless book is really half a book, because Anty started writing something else, with the wrong pen, in the first part of the book, and then set it aside. When she started writing her morning pages in the Paris book, she knew she wanted to continue with books by the same maker, PaPaYa! Art, because they look like how her brain feels. Anty says that will make sense to some other writer humans. It does not make sense to me, but then again, I am a kitty. They are pretty, though, and pretty pages help Anty write more. Here is a better look at the Fearless cover by itself, and the pens Anty will use to write in it:

 

 

Those pens are also the pens Anty has in her daily carry bag, so this could get interesting, though, with the number of times she has written her morning pages on the go, this may actually make it more convenient. She has not missed a single day since going to seven days a week, and thinks that may have something to do with writing more, in general. The rotating page designs probably have something to do with her being eager to see what pages she will write on that day, although they do rotate, which means it is the same sequence, so she should know these things. Anyway, these are the designs on which she will write her morning pages this time:

 

 

Another thing that Anty loves, besides writing, is organizing. Anty loves, loves, loves organizing. I, on the other paw, love, love, love things staying the same. You can see where we might have creative differences when it comes to moving things around. Anty is moving things around, because we are having company on Sunday. Anty Mary and Uncle Brian are friends who still live where we used to live, and they are all very excited to see each other. I, again, on the other paw (I am a kitty; I can have up to four paws in this situation. Well, any situation, because I do have four paws, all the time. I walk on them.) am not as into the concept of visitors as Anty  and the other humans.

I already had to deal with the Cable Human this week, so I am not that thrilled about more visitors. Uncle and Anty put me into Mama’s room with the door closed, so that I would not have to deal with the Cable Human, but there is a cable box in Mama’s room, too, and Cable Human had to look at it, as well as the one in the living room. I hid under the bed, but he still saw me. I do not know why. Only my tail stuck out. That was the only thing. He did his job and left quickly, so that was good. Anty Mary and Uncle Brian will stay longer than that, though (partly because Uncle will be feeding them. Also because they are good friends who have not seen each other in a long time.

They also have not seen me in a long time, so I will probably come out and say hello at some point, because they are not strangers. Also, they smell like doggy. His name is Alex. I have never met him, but Anty says he is a Golden Retriever. That is a big doggie. He will not be coming; only the humans. I will send him kitty scents on his humans to tell him hello from me. He can sniff them when they get home. He has smelled me on my humans lots of times, so that will be familiar.

That is about it for this week, as Anty needs to get back to writing and getting the house ready for company, and her office ready for working more efficiently. 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)

The Long and Winding (Writing) Road

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When you force things that aren’t meant to be, you usually wind up in trouble.

–Brenda K. Stone

 

I had a plan for this entry when I opened the window. Actually, I had a couple of them. I bored myself. Which is when I go to my fallback, my collected quotes. The last couple of weeks were pretty good for quote collecting, not from actual books, but people who write them, aka other authors I know on Facebook. Brenda K. Stone is one of my NECRWA chapter sisters, super-traveler, and writer of soon to be unleashed upon the world rock and roll romances. I tried linking her Facebook page, but technology and I are having creative differences, so feel free to cut and paste the below:

https://www.facebook.com/brenda.stone.9404?ref=ts&fref=ts

Well. That, it links. I’ll take it. Brenda and I always end up chatting when we run into each other at meetings or conferences -not nearly enough- and following her globe-trotting gives me some virtual travels, as I go about the everyday. The quote above was actually written about -surprise, surprise- an unexpected twist in some travel plans, but girlfriend rolled with it, and had a fabulous time anyway. Good lesson.

Another good lesson comes from H, she of the nightly Skype chats. Pretentious song lyrics are an endless source of titles for anything; that’s one of her bits of advice, though I should mention that Her Last First Kiss got its name before we began our association. That’s not the lesson I meant, however. It was the lesson I had to blabber through to get to what I wanted to say. That’s how I do it. I’m a talker. Let me ramble long enough, and I will get there. Which, I am very happy to report, is working out pretty darned well this week. I am highly in favor of that and would like to keep going in that direction.

This, however, is not one of those posts where I skip through fields of daisies and toss out handfuls of food pellets to the woodland creatures attracted by my ebullience. Nope. This brings me back to a couple of nights ago, when H and I checked in on how we were both progressing. I told H I was stuck on scene X.

H observed that I had been stuck on scene X for a while. I agreed. She was correct. I knew what had to happen, but I couldn’t get a handle on it, which was when H gently pointed out that maybe that isn’t what happens. Maybe it was time to try something else. Save scene X in a separate file, and write something drastically different. Insert requisite kicking and screaming and grumbling and justification of why scene X had to be scene X. H went with the broken record tactic; write something drastically different. Maybe that would stink, maybe it would be great, or maybe it would remind my writerbrain what I’d intended before I wandered off. Fiiiiiiiiiiiiine. Okay, she was right. Her advice also aligns pretty darned perfectly with my favorite all time writing advice, from K.A. Mitchell:

  1. Open the file
  2. Change your seat.

Changing one’s seat can be metaphorical as well as literal. In this case, I changed POV, and began the scene before where I saw it starting. Big surprise, it clicked. Instead of smashing Character A’s head against the wall to make them do what I had all planned out, (trust me, the boldface and italics are justified in this case) I stuck a toe in the water of Character B’s head, had them literally start walking without even a firm direction, and what do you know, without me even doing anything, there comes Character A (coincidentally doing the thing I tried to make them do,  only about three feet to the left, pretty much, and this time, doing it completely on their own, thankyouverymuch) with a very basic question that puts Character B in a spot, because this is not a situation they can get out of gracefully. Which is, yes, drastically different from the scene I had originally planned, but has the same spirit, only it actually works because I am not trying to force anything, and letting the characters do their things instead of mine.

Not an easy lesson to learn at times, but an important one. Sometimes, the best thing to do is stop, take a step back, look at the big picture, and see if there’s another way into what’s causing the block. Maybe that’s really a brick wall where one has been trying to get in, and the actual door is really three feet to the left. Maybe it’s around the corner. Maybe it’s on the second floor and one needs to climb those twisty stairs first. Maybe that’s not the easiest way in, but it’s one whale of a lot easier than trying to smash my way through the wall by repeatedly banging my head against it.

Much as I would love to be the mythical creature who gets an idea, cracks knuckles, sits down at a blank screen and taps out a perfect first draft, I’m not. I’m me. I’m going to take the scenic route, make a couple of wrong turns, before I find the right one. Maybe, instead of being angry about that, I can appreciate it for the gift that it is. Appreciate each step taken along the long and winding road that leads to HEA, instead of grumbling about it. No two writers’ journeys are going to be the same. We have to find our own ways inside our stories, and around within them, but when we do? The view is incredible.

 

The Enemy of the Good

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The perfect is the enemy of the good.

-Voltaire

 

Right now, I want a nap. Like really, really want a nap. At the same time, there is part of me entirely devoted to “we were without cable/internet for two and a half days, company is coming on Sunday, I have a Skype session with Melva tomorrow, Saturday’s workshop unlocked that part of Her Last First Kiss where I wasn’t sure what I was doing, and now I am, therefore, I cannot sleep and must do all the things. Right now. Preferably at once.”

Which, realistically, is not how things work. Our friends are not coming to see us because our apartment is a showplace (it is not) -we are going to a museum for that- and there is probably, realistically, plenty of time to get most of what I want to get done, done. For somebody as motivated by lists and planning as I am, this should be second nature, and, in some ways, it is. More on that later. Unless I forget. Because I did not outline this post. Winging it, because this is technically Monday’s post, but we did not have any internet on Monday; our service had been shut off by mistake (the subscriber the technician intended to disconnect was another house on our street; lots of moving in and out around this time of year in a college town, so understandable on their part.) Props to Tim from Time Warner Cable, for doing an A plus job, being respectful of scared-of-strangers kitty, and making sure everything worked its very  best before he left.

Okay, not entirely without internet, as one of this city’s perks is municipal internet, but we can only get one bar in our living room, so enough to get the essentials done, but not conducive to mindless web-surfing, falling down a Netflix hole, or other use that doesn’t have a specific purpose. On the plus side, it is enough to text chat on Skype while writing. I have come to know myself well enough to know when I need to blabber to another writer while I work, and when I need to be on my own, earbuds in and head fully in story world. Not a one size fits all approach to every writing session, I have found, and I like that part of the discovery process.

One of the items on my list today was to apply the lessons from K.A. Mitchell’s workshop at CRRWA, to nudge the gelatinous near-the-end part of Her Last First Kiss into shape. There is a particular joy only writers know, of getting our characters to the almost-happy place. Sure, they think they’re happy, but little do they know Everything Is About To Go Down The Crapper And It Is All Their Faults. That’s a fun part to write, even -maybe especially- in romance, because we already know things are going to work out in the end. Hero and Heroine are going to be FINE. They’re going to be better than fine. Because this is a romance, they get to live Happily Ever After (not that it means they’ll never have anything bad ever happen to them again for their entire lives, because how boring would that be? Talk about unrealistic. It means they’ll be together and happy about it, and face whatever comes, together.) so what chance does anything the author throws at them even have in the first place, right? No chance, but we writers have to make “no chance” look like “I have no idea how they’re going to get out of this one” (to the reader, that is; it looks plenty like that to the writer at this stage of the game.)

Which is what had me at my secretary desk, two notebooks open at once (notebook shown is the “official-because-I-say-it-is” notebook for this project (Abbie and Ichabod have nothing to do with this book; they’re just pretty, and they make me happy, so they can stay) and the entries in it are, hm, we shall say well-spaced, because this notebook intimidates me. It looks like this on the outside:

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It’s the big one on the bottom; I am lazy and not scrolling. Also, hello, my legs I did not crop out of the picture. Whatever..

In short, the notebook is pretty and fancy and I did not want to ruin it with my horrible straight-out-of-my-brain writing. Especially when it is of the “I have not idea what I am doing” variety and have trouble reading my own handwriting. This is slightly better when I use better pens, like fountain pens, which I use here, or rollerballs, which I used in the other notebook, to take notes in the workshop. Basically, that part of  my day consisted of me copying things from the workshop notebook (really my all purpose notebook) into the HLFK notebook and expounding upon/applying the points to Hero and Heroine’s story. At a certain stage of the story, in any genre, readers have some expectations, and if those expectations aren’t fulfilled, readers are going to be cranky. I do not want cranky readers. On the other hand, I would take cranky readers over no readers, because my standards in that department are not that high at this stage of getting back on the metaphorical horse.

Which is actually a big help to the writer. This stage of the game is where we do the thing. Okay. We can do the thing. How, exactly, do these particular characters do the thing? That’s what makes this book different from all the others out there, and there are a lot of them out there, but this one  is mine. Well, actually Hero’s and Heroine’s, but I am hoping you get the drift here. Even if you are cranky; if you are cranky, reading a good book could help. Or read one of mine. That would set you apart from the crowd. (cue saxophone version of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” in the background)

 

So, basically, that part of my day consisted of using the pointy part of my fountain pen to stab Hypercritical Gremlins (thankfully, they bleed ink) and rough out exactly how Hero and Heroine would most likely do this particular thing. Find the worst thing that could happen to them, and then make it happen. Well, that’s easy, and provides a healthy dose of schaudenfreud (which I probably misspelled, but refer to Voltaire quote above) -the only way it’s okay to be happy that other people are miserable. I need to run this by N, but I think I am on to something, and the formerly gelatinous part is getting to a nice degree of firmness and providing forward momentum. I am going to call that good.

Typing With Wet Claws: Cat On a Hot Tin Everything Edition

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Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. While Feline Fridays are, obviously, my normal days to blog, it almost feels like filling in for Anty, because this has been a very hot week. Anty does not do heat very well, so this means she has had to scale back some, which she does not like at all. Yesterday was very, very hot, so she took a flop day and concentrated on staying cool. I feel somewhat guilty about not offering her my flop space next to the big wooden thing outside my mama’s bedroom, but only a little, because that space is kitty sized. and Anty is bigger than that. Besides, I know how important it is for her to know that I am cool, so, really, my staying in my flop space was for the best.

Since the deal is that I have to talk about Anty’s writing first, her most recent Buried Under Romance post is here, and it looks like this:

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How far do you dig for your next great read?

Anty is very much looking forward to tomorrow, when she gets to go to her CRRWA meeting. There, she gets to be among others of her kind (by which I mean romance writers) and she will learn some new tricks for making her books even better. Miss K.A. (Mitchell) will talk about putting one’s characters to work. She will put Anty and the other humans to work, too, which Anty likes very much. Anty is also looking forward to seeing Miss N and Anty Sue Ann and her other friends. They will be happy to see her too, and hopefully not only because she brings snacks, but I am sure that is part of it. I am always happy when she feeds me, so I assume that would carry over to others. Anty talks with some of her writer friends on the glowy box pretty much every day, but it is different, being with other writers in person. Anty likes that best of all, especially when they talk about their stories and characters.

While some writers work best when they do not talk about their work, that is not how it goes for Anty. She needs to talk to process her thoughts. When Anty was a people kitten, the worst punishment (or most effective discipline, depending on whom one asks) her mama could give would be that Anty was not allowed to talk to her for a certain number of minutes. For a talker like Anty, that was excruciating, and she did learn that doing the things that earned her the periods of not-talking were usually not worth it.

That carries over to writing, too. Anty tried, for a while, to not-talk about her stories and characters, but what happened was that they did not feel real to her, and it was like moving paper dolls around a cardboard box stage. Anty tried not-talking after talking too much got one of her books (it was the time travel) all jumbled with too many other voices in her head, and she could not get through all those other voices to hear the characters anymore. Some of the too-many voices echoed very, very loudly, and she put the story on the back burner until those voices got quiet. They are not all quiet yet, so it needs to wait a little longer. If talking too much is bad, and not-talking at all is bad, then it means that there is some place in the middle that hits the right note.

For Anty, that means talking to only a few people, and trusting herself to know how much to share, and with whom. That is why, here, she will talk about Hero and Heroine, or Guy and Girl. Their names are still private at this stage. It is the same way that she cannot put her Pinterest boards or Spotify playlists for current projects where others can see them. Those need to stay private until the book is done, and Anty does not have to guard against the wrong things getting inside. She likes to keep her own vision clear. That is one of the reasons she does not especially like fantasy casting her stories. Her story people have their own faces already, and other people trying to tell her that her character looks like some other human vexes her. I do not know if these people do the same things with kitty characters, because Anty does not have any prominent kitty characters in either of her current projects. Hmph. Maybe the next one. If Anty ever writes a Viking story, then she  can have Norwegian Forest Cats. Those are the ancestors of Maine Coon Cats, which is what I am. So, if she needed a kitty model for the cover of that book, she would not have to look very far. Maybe that would make the writing process easier. I am a good mews and want to look out for my Anty’s peace of mind.

 

That is about it for this week, as it is very close to my lunchtime, so I need to stare at Anty (or Uncle, because he does not go out to hunt until later, but probably Anty) until she knows what time it is. I will report on what she learned from the workshop next week Unti then, I remain very truly yours,

 

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Until next week…

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

Right Now

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Right now, I am in the comfy chair, bare feet up on the footrest, an ice pack on my lower spine (for heat regulation, not injury; I’m fine.) My Paris travel mug sweats on the table to my right. It’s almost empty. I’ll need to get up and refill it soon. On my left, a box fan sits in the open window. Ominous gray clouds lurk low over the old brick building across the street. There was a wonderful pub there when we moved in; it’s empty now. Its neighbors, a bodega and a liquor store, remain. I am listening to a new-to-me singer, Levi Kreis, on my phone, because Spotify can be patchy when using the web player on my laptop, and I’m still hypervigilant about memory, so downloading very little to the hard drive. I suspect that the multiple YouTube videos H sent me, of the Danish Royal family (it was all for writing, really it was) may have left their ghosts in my cache, because there is a full GB less of space than there was the day before, and I clean caches daily. I’ll deal with that later.

Right now, I have enough time to focus on this entry, because it is a domestic tornado day. One of these days, I may start naming our domestic tornadoes. If I start here, this one will be “Anton.” Well, maybe not Anton, because the Anton I know in real life is the owner of my favorite coffee house, and, while he does wear a lot of hats (metaphorically and literally) he has nothing to do with today’s tornado. So, maybe not Anton. Maybe I’ll start naming tornadoes some other time, when I am not actually in the middle of one.  Not entirely sure if that is ever going to happen, so maybe it’s more of a juggling act.

Right now, I want to squeeze in as much blog entry as I can before I have to shift back to family mode. What I would like to do is pack up laptop and legal pad, ensconce myself at Anton’s establishment and delve into my eighteenth century world, but that’s not what this afternoon is going to be. Okay. Can’t change that. What I can change is my response. The day is what it is. I like my family, and spending time with them is not a bad thing. We all work together to make a good life for all of us, and, for every tornado, there is going to be a calm (or at least an eye.) So, it’s going to happen. Not a zero sum game. Since I have my purse notebook, all necessary accoutrements in the accompanying pouch, I can take my show on the road. I seriously think this may become my new default notebook:

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All that ink on paper…soooooo calm. Insert happy sigh here.

Margins are perfect for making short lists, and notes on what’s on the rest of the page, where needed. Highlighting dates and headings means I can go immediately to what I want, which I like very much. Seriously considering drawing margins on the pages of other notebooks that do not have them already. Anything at all can go in these all purpose books, and the fact that my newly discovered music crush has some songs that would fit beautifully for Hero in certain situations, should there ever be a Her Last First Kiss musical (hey, I can dream) means that musing on same is perfectly fair game. Anything specific to a particular project, I can copy into the proper book when the time comes, and there’s always transcription to computer file, but I know myself. Longhand is best.

Speaking of longhand, I am locking in these PaPaYa! Art notebooks as my next two morning pages book, since I am now on the second half of the book I am currently using:

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Notebook and a half, actually

The “Fearless” book is really half a book, since it belongs to the “uh, no, I actually don’t want to use this book for that purpose” family. It’s about halfway filled, maybe a little less than that, with ramblings in purple ballpoint, which, while a pen I love (promo pen from Hannah Howell) also one that doesn’t show up well on the surface of these pages. The “Love You to the Moon” book, I have been saving for a special occasion. Today, I decided that right now is special enough.

 

This Saturday, I get to have the great good pleasure of attending my monthly CRRWA meeting, made all the better by a workshop with the luminous K.A. Mitchell, who always puts us to work, which I greatly appreciate. Writer people, if you ever get a chance to take one of her workshops, do. Anyway, a tidbit from her workshop on breaking creative blocks feels appropriate for right now: use the good stuff. Use it now. Beautiful notebook, fun idea, character who won’t shut up; use them now. Don’t wait. There will be more. That’s how creativity works.

Marginally Speaking

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Third time I’ve started this blog entry, and both times, I bored even myself, so I am going directly to my last-resort backup, because then I get to take a reading break. That backup is playing show and tell with a favorite notebook. In this case, it’s a hardcover Case Mate, which appears to be a proprietary Wal Mart brand.

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insert own obligatory “black and white and read all over” joke here.

I have two of these Case Mate notebooks already, one blue, and partially written in, always with blue ballpoint (though that may change) and currently living on the kitchen counter (which will probably change) the other purple, and as yet untouched, as I have vague plans to start some kind of purple notebook family/dynasty (this may be the subject of the next blog entry when summer and its bestie, insomnia, have used my home for yet another non-sleepover) but when I saw this one in the back to school section (the notebooks in the regular office supply section are the same inside, but have neon covers, which does not fit with my aesthetic) I had to have it. The notebook also comes in pink and aqua versions, which may yet happen, but I can’t have every notebook (where would I put them?)

Here’s the best thing about the Case Mate book:

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Only marginally important. Get it? Marginally? I’ll see myself out. No, this is my blog. I’m staying. I’m punchy. Deal with it.

Ivory paper here, which I far prefer to white, but it was the margins that sold me. part of me would like to see the margin on the facing page on the outside instead of inside, but it’s perfect for making notations on what I’ve already written, the perfect place to affix sticky note flags and the like. I don’t currently have any sticky note flags tucked into this book (partly because it does not have a pocket) but I did stock it with the basics; two different colors of square sticky notes, and one of a larger size. Still working on the color scheme; would love to keep it black/white/red/gray or in that neighborhood.

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Top square sticky looks lavender, but it’s light gray. Trust me.

Only semi-hacked, no fancy end papers, but I already feel the calm that comes with moving into a new notebook. I’d started to feel itchy when, every time I had to switch bags, I had to dig for my pen pouch and the one all-purpose notebook that was supposed to come with me from bag to bag, be filled by now (it’s about halfway there)  and possibly grant wishes or something. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but I am going to assume best intent and believe that I was going for efficiency and avoidance of adding anything to the stack of whoops-that-wasn’t-their-purpose-after-all notebooks.

Whatever it was, the fuss of hunting and switching overrode the supposed ease of a one size fits all kind of deal, and so the idea popped into my head, shortly after I brought the new notebook home. My usual summer tote is black and white stripes. I have a black and white chevron case my black rimmed glasses sleep in every night. I have  gorgeous black and white chevron afghan, for when temperatures drop, and my new pen pouch is black and white, so why did I have a notebook with a color photo as my book for that bag?

As soon as I made the switch, I felt a click. This combination looks like it belongs together. It looks intentional. It feels like me, like where I want to be going. Not a magic fix-it to all my problems, not a huge thing, even, but it feels right, and that’s good enough.  It’s listening to that creative impulse and not shushing it with “shoulds” and “you don’t need thats” and “bare minimum and/or status quo is good enough,” because no, no, isn’t. If it were, then it wouldn’t feel right when I made the change. I am learning to listen to my creative brain when it says things like this. “Let’s try something different today,” or “what if we did this instead of that?” Learning to say yes when a writer friend asks if I want to bat around a story, just for fun, because we’ve both talked each other down from ledges this week, and, dangit, we want to touch the joy.

It’s easy to get away from the joy, easy to get lost in the shoulds, but easy, too, if we allow ourselves, to feel the giddy pleasure of cracking open a new notebook and leafing through the empty pages, reading the words that will be written there, imagining which ink, what format – story notes? to do lists? doodles? drafts? all of the above?- and making a conscious decision that yes, my writing has value, and it is worth the investment. It’s worth the investment of the right notebook and pens, that feel right in my hands and right in my spirit, look right to my eyes, and it’s worth the investment of my time, to get away from the rest of the world and follow my imaginary friends as they live their lives, copy it down and then put it in order.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I don’t have to go anywhere, really, since I’m already far past the magic seven hundred, nattering on about a notebook in which I’ve only written one page, and that to test ink, but I know where that took me. That took me into writing mode, into the urge to open the document and poke it with a stick, even if I have only a few minutes before family descends and I need to switch gears. If that’s the outcome, is a new notebook frivolous? Not from where I’m sitting, which is, in this case, on the edge of the eighteenth century, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m needed there.