Monday Off the Map

Today is the first Monday in a while that is not going to be my now-traditional marathon of getting a revised Her Last First Kiss chapter ready for a Tuesday morning meeting with N. Not that I’m not going to be spending time with  Ruby and her Hero, because I definitely am. Those guys are my happy place, and I’ll be logging some time on revisions for Chasing Prince Charming (and remembering it’s Prince now, and not Prints.) as well. Domestic tornadoes swept through for both N and me this week, hence the break from routine. I like my routine.

Blogging three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (okay, Friday is Skye day, but it’s still a post) here, with Monday and Wednesday always a shot of my desk for the day, is a part of that. Usually, that means I’m working on my desktop, but not always. I do sometimes miss the pink laptop photos, though I may want to figure out why I have to keep the screen at a funky angle if I want to actually see what I’m writing. If I open the laptop at the normal ninety degree angle, the screen goes blank. I have to nudge it forward a bit, and do some adjusting with my lap desk. That’s why my laptop’s travels have been curtailed as of late. Good thing writing can happen anywhere.

:brief interlude of scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, then trying to remember what I was talking about here, because Mondays are always marathon days and not having one is weird.:

So. Routine. Let’s get back to that. I like routine. I like planning. I like my morning pages, daily tasks, and having a set concept for my blog post pictures means I have to make a new cup of tea, because the old one is empty. More tea is almost always a good thing. Today, one of my variations from the norm will be to dig through the archives for Chasing Prince Charming, back when Melva and I had tagged the then-unnamed WIP with the name of one of the characters, because that’s how we naturally referred to it. Which was probably the story’s cue to take a couple of turs, but that all worked out.

Right now, I am in second draft mode on two different projects, which is a heck of a lot farther along than I was last year, and I am more than okay with that. At the same time, I want to be on to the next phase already. I want to have these drafts done (and probably one more pass after) and making the rounds, no, scrap that, out in the world. That’s where I want them to be. That’s where I want to be. I want to be out there on social media, splashing the “hey, look at my awesome new books” posts with cover reveals and all that other good stuff, all over social media, and that will happen. It won’t, however, happen today, because I am in the middle of that particular journey, not at the end. I’m impatient that way.

As much as I would like for there to be a fast forward button on the whole writing/editing process, there isn’t one. What it takes is butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, pen on paper, day after day after day after day after day, until, uh, wow, okay, looks like we got us a draft there. A first draft, a second draft, a third one, a hey, look, somebody wants to see the whole thing, and, after that, hey, they liked it. They really liked it. Can they please publish it and give us money? Okay. Or, because we are living in the age of indie publishing, there’s the moment of y’know what, I can do this thing myself. Then the moment where we do, learning about formatting and platforms and covers and blog tours and all that other good stuff.

None of that can happen, though, until there is actually a marketable draft, so it’s left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, day after day. Not glamorous, not exciting, but there is a part of me that actually likes the marathon. I like the dedication, the sweeping clean of everything else besides the work at hand, the staying at the keyboard until the Job Is Done, even if that happens in the wee small hours, and I might possibly be mistaken for a Walking Dead extra on my way to meet with N. That’s not going to happen this week, and part of me misses it. Not sure what that says, but, right now, that’s where that section of my brain is camped.

I do have a plan for the day, and a good portion of the out-of-sorts-ness can be calmed by that. Look at the list. Do the thing. Do the next thing. Repeat until done. Not that different after all. What sorts of writing routines are musts for the rest of you?

Typing With Wet Claws: Do The Work Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty is a little loopy this week, because it is summertime, there have been some domestic tornadoes, and she is on the second draft of two different books at the same time, and I have caught her eyeing that postapocalyptic medieval novella again, because she saw a premade cover that reminds her very much of her heroine, and the book is already finished, and sitting there in the hard drive, with the edits halfway done already. I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but Anty is happiest when writing/editing, so I guess we will see.

Anyway, before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about where to find Anty’s writing this week on the interwebs. This week, it is easy, because her weekly post at Buried Under Romance is basically it, unless you count Facebook. This week, her post is about tropes, and she would like to hear all about your favorites. I like stories with cats in them, as long as those cats are still okay at the end of the book. Those are the best.  Her post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

 

BURtrope

Image editing program is still giving Anty guff, so excuse lack of frame.

 

Now comes the part where I have to talk about Anty’s Goodreads challenge. If you would like to follow Anty’s reading progress this year, you can do that here.  This week, Anty is holding steady at two books behind schedule, but she has moved her count up to forty books, as you can see in this week’s image:

BURreadingchallenge062317

Go, Anty, go. Her new addition is a historical romance, The Wild Oneby Danelle Harmon, and her current reads are all historical romances, so I will call that good progress and discipline. Anty does plan to write a review later, as soon as she is current with other things. Those other things being mostly domestic tornado management and writing/editing books.

Some weeks, Anty does not have a lot to say on the interwebs, but that does not mean she is not working. Most writers are usually doing story stuff inside their heads, even when they are not making the clickety-clack sound on the keys, or pen squiggles on some paper.  I am very proud of Anty for getting all those pages done on Monday, and ahead of schedule. That is a good thing, and she certainly plans to do it again.

Earlier today, Anty met on Skype (I was not called upon to provide Skye Pee, but I am always good for that. Did I ever tell you that my previous vet said that he had never seen so much pee come out of one cat at one time, as he did when I hiked my fuzzy butt over the edge of his exam table, and let loose? It was not my fault. He had been feeling around my tummy area, and a kitty’s got to do what a kitty’s got to do. I kind of had a reputation at that vet, but that is all behind me now. Hah. Behind. I see what I did there.) to talk about edits to Chasing Prince Charming. Regular readers will note that they changed the spelling, because they did not want to be thought of as bad spellers, or have to explain that the non-traditional spelling is because the heroine is an author who wants to get back into print. So that happened.

What also happened was that Anty and Anty Melva have to figure out how to edit a whole book that they wrote together, because they have never written together before. Thankfully, it has been a pretty easy process, and most of their notes for this first section have been basically the same. They  have not yet had any major disagreements, which they count as a very good thing. Anty Melva is not too keen on this part of the writing process, but Anty actually loves it.

For Anty, the editing/revision/rewriting process is fun, because the hard work of writing the first draft is already done. The book exists, hurrah. Now it is only a matter of making it better. Sometimes this involves checking things like verb tense, making sure somebody’s outfit does not change in the middle of a scene (this is apparently more likely when there are two writers telling one story) and that kind of thing. I should take a moment to mention that the clothes problem would not be a problem if they wrote about cats. We wear the same fur all the time. Well, apart from shedding, that is. Anty and Uncle and Mama have a theory that all of my fur migrates to my neck before it sheds. Anty thinks that the same thing holds true for fur from other cats. I cannot tell her if that is right or wrong, because it is a cat trade secret.

Hm. It would appear I have digressed. My apologies. The point is, there are a lot of steps involved in getting a book from the writer’s (or writers’) head(s) to the readers, but each one of them is important. Life happens to everybody, even writers (that is why they have things that they can write about, after all) and “write a book” or “resume a career” can seem a very tall order, but “write this scene,” or “edit these pages,” well, that’s doable. Do enough of those, in the right order, on the same story (or stories) and, before you know it, there is a whole book there, where the big fuzzy mess of ideas used to be.

That is about it for now. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

 

Reverse Engineered Writing Goals

So, it’s summer. I’m sitting here at my desk, ice water at hand, and absolutely no idea of what to write for today’s entry. These are my least favorite entries. I like to be prepared.  I like to know, in advance, what I’m going to write, how I’m going to write it, and even about how long it’s going to take. That last one can be fuzzy, from “get it done in time for lunch” to “okay, it’s Monday, let’s cram a week’s worth of writing into one marathon session that ends at 3AM and involves me snapping at family members who get too near my lair,” but I like structure. I like goals. Okay, theme there. I can go with that.

This Monday, I was fully prepared for one of my marathon sessions (which I do not exactly like, as a rule, but, sometimes, a writer does what a writer does, and my thirst for an unbroken record of always having pages to bring to critique session knows no bounds) but that’s not exactly what happened. I have no idea how this whole thing worked, but, by the time 3AM rolled around, I was sound asleep, because A) I had finished at midnight, and B) not only had I gone over my targeted page count, but eh, I’d finished “early,” so why not poke at the next chapter? Which was when I told myself that was a good time to save, print, pack it in and get some sleep.

Critique session went great, and I headed back home, even more pumped to get this second draft done and introduce Ruby and her Hero to the world at large. I also had another goal in mind: how can I do that again, next week? Hence, the reverse engineering.  Instead of looking at the goal (in this case, chapter twelve revised/expanded, and me getting a good night’s sleep) and figuring out how to get there (which, from a certain point of view -which would be crabby, often, when one is still figuring out this whole getting back on the horse thing) maybe try a different tactic. Take a look at a goal already met, and figure out how that happened.

First thing I looked at was, what did I do differently this Monday, that I did not do on all those collapse like a zombie at 3AM Mondays? This wasn’t plopping myself in the chair the second I got up and consistently pounding keys until my brain refused to go any farther. I took a lunch break, as in away from the desk, read for pleasure (another goal that might benefit from reverse engineering) and even took an (extremely brief) nap.

Hm. Breaks, you say? Interesting. When it was time to Skype with an online friend, who does know Mondays are my marathon days, I didn’t try to work while she wanted to share about her current playthrough of her favorite computer game, but the enthusiasm (and seriously pretty screenshots) was a boost that allowed me to go back to the work afterward, with an extra spring in my metaphorical step.

Granted, this is a second draft, but there were still scenes to expand and revise, and I am not going to put a time stamp on how long it took me to research guild signs, or figure out how much Hero could see, hanging out of a carriage window, with a tricorne hat pulled low over his eyes (spoiler: it is hard for a tall ginger dude in a bespoke suit to remain inconspicuous in public, especially when he’s trying to be sneaky) and the scene is one I especially like, because it’s when Hero’s world shifts, which forces him to make a leap, even if he doesn’t realize he’s making that leap until he’s already airborne. Metaphorically airborne, that is.

The chapter that comes next, I’m even more looking forward to, maybe because it means that I am now officially into the middle of the second draft. This past chapter was where Hero hit his point of no return. He can’t squiggle around in midair like a cat and land on his feet, back in his comfortable world, like it’s no big deal, and pick up life where it was before he made the choice he can’t take back. Maybe he and I have something in common on that one. Time will tell.

In the best of all possible worlds, I won’t have to have Monday marathons at all, but domestic tornadoes come through, and the book still needs to get done. Today, my focus is on Chasing Prints Charming, and I know that Ruby and her Hero are going to be doing their thing on the back burner, so they’ll be ready for our next round.

So, what have I learned for that next round?

  1. stay hydrated
  2. sprints, not marathons
  3. take breaks that are actually breaks
  4. know what I’m going to write before I write it, or what the goal of that particular revision will be (i.e. always take a road map)

That’s the hypothesis, anyway. We’ll test that theory next week, and I’ll let you know how it goes. Writer friends, what have you learned about the way you work, by reverse engineering a successful session/chapter/insert own goal here?

 

Title Goes Here

You must do the thing you cannot do.
          – Eleanor Roosevelt

Rain started to fall as soon as I opened the document to start writing this blog entry. I will take that as a sign. It’s been oppressively humid here in New York’s Capitol Region, which is not that great for the creative brain, especially when that brain is going on roughly two hours of sleep. Nevertheless, it is Monday, which usually means a marathon writing session on Her Last First Kiss. Right now, I am dripping in sweat, and having wild fantasies about throwing the workday to the nonexistent wind and collapsing in front of the box fan with a tall glass of ice water and making some headway in rereading Shanna. I am also rethinking my decision to have hot tea with my breakfast, but my new pink skull and crossbones mug was too perfect not to take out on its maiden voyage this morning. I will always love my dearly departed Union Jack mug, but I think it would want me to find love again, and not mourn it forever, drinking out of mugs that are only okay, but don’t stir my heart. There’s a better look at the new baby on my Instagram, here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BVhS7arBVCj/

Absolutely no way I could leave that baby to languish in the cupboard without at least one cup of tea under its belt. I have no regrets. even if I do have an ice pack at the base of my spine. I was not built for summer. I’m fair skinned and light eyed, sun and heat sensitive. This would be perfectly suited for the British Isles, from which my biological ancestors most likely hailed, but somebody did something, and they got a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, voluntarily or otherwise. A couple of centuries later, here I am, but my imaginary friends, by and large, generally lean toward those British Isles, though Ruby, the heroine (aka Heroine) of Her Last First Kiss, is half Russian. Not that she’s ever actually been to Russia, but that’s where one of her parents was born, and where they went back to, after life took a turn they didn’t like.

I didn’t plan for Ruby to be half Russian, but that showed up all on its own, and, as these things are wont to do, did so in the very first line. Well, okay, then. Those kinds of things tell me that the story is real and alive, and has a mind of its own, which generally tells me we are going to work well together. Same thing when Ruby turned up her nose at the harpsichord I tried to give her in the initial draft, and informed me she liked pistols instead. Same thing with Hero refusing to accept my wishes that he be blond and play the violin. He was a ginger, thankyouverymuch (still is, and now I can’t imagine him any other way) and didn’t even want to look at the violin, but took a very keen interest in my pen collection. I let him (metaphorically) play with them, and he took to those pens like a duck to water. To write letters, yes, but mostly to draw with, because he would very happily spend his entire life drawing with pen and ink, but his painting skills were not up to the same standard, which led to his, ah, secondary career. That all spilled out of him while he doodled on scrap paper. I didn’t want to disturb him, so I let him ramble.

I also took notes. A lot of notes. This is the reason I have a lot of notebooks. Also because “notebook” may be my favorite genre, because I can put literally anything in them, but that’s another story for another day. Why was it that Hero never felt more himself than when he had pen and in in hand, but felt so lost with paint and brush that he lost all faith in himself? Of course that meant that, to get to his Happily Ever After, to be the man Ruby needs, the man worthy of her, he has to face that fear and actually paint a portrait. Actually, two, because painting two portraits is the only thing that terrifies him more than painting one.  Sure, he can probably paint the one, because it’ s a debt of honor, but then to do it again? There’s the real test.

Since Ruby and her Hero live in the eighteenth century, they’d have no idea who Eleanor Roosevelt is, but, by the end of the book, they get the drift of her message. Ruby and her Hero, and their entire story, came to me, almost all of a piece, when I was busy bashing my head against a brick wall, trying to come up with another sort of story entirely. Actually, a few of them, all of which now languish in folders in my old laptop, the one with the external keyboard and fuzzy internet connection. These characters, and this story, they found me. This wasn’t the sort of book I was looking to write, but it’s the right one for the writer I am right now, and there isn’t so much a question of “how do I handle X?” but “well, X works like this in this book.”

All of that makes these marathon days, when they come, not something to dread, but to treat as maybe a marathon of a favorite TV show; get comfy, stay hydrated, keep snacks on hand, and settle in for the long haul. That, I can most definitely do.

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Some Weeks Are Like That Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is cool and rainy today, so I am hunkered down for the duration. Rain will not find me here in my hallway, outside Anty and Uncle’s room. The weather is also gray, like me, which may be why Anty finds this kind of weather very beautiful. Technically, the vet says I am a brown tabby, but all cats are gray in the dark. Anty says the old-timey people in her stories knew that phrase, but it was not talking about actual cats. She says the old-timey meaning was only for grownups, and not very nice ones, at that. Anyway, since I am a kitty, I see very well in the dark, so I win.

Where Anty wins (aside from winning Uncle) is that I have to talk about where to find her writing on the interwebs (apart from here, that is) before I can talk about anything else (which is mostly about her writing, most of the time, anyway, so I do not see what the big problem is, but whatever. Anty is the human, and if she understands, that is good enough for me. ) As always, she was at Buried Under Romance, like she is every week. This week, she talked about what makes a summer read. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURSummerisComing

 

For Anty’s Goodreads challenge, she is now two books behind again, and she is not very happy about that, but I am willing to cut her some slack. Uncle did not feel well for a large part of this  week, and there were two days when Anty did not feel that great, herself. Also there were domestic tornadoes. Anty is making progress on her reading, however, and all of her current reads are historical romance, so I am going to call that good, considering extenuating circumstances. Keep on keeping on, Anty. You can still turn this around. Finish reading two books this weekend, and you are back on track.
I will use the same graphic as last week, since she has only read the same books.

GRreadingchallenge060917

only one more book, and it’s forty!

 

Even though Anty did not write a lot on the interwebs this week, she has been busy writing. This week, she finished chapter ten of her second draft of Her Last First Kiss. Both Critique Partner Vicki and Miss N had some very nice things to say about this version of the chapter, which gets Anty all excited to head into the next one.

Anty also had a Skype conference (I still think they should spell that Skye Pee, but whatever) with Anty Melva, her co-writer on Chasing Prints Charming, and they are ready to embark on editing their completed first draft. Anty Melva has written with another writer before, but Anty has only had solo books published so far. There may be some adventures ahead, as they learn what method of editing works best for them. So far, they are going to take the beginning-beginning, each edit it, with special attention on the parts written by the other person. They have one week to get this done, so we will see how that goes.

Now that Anty’s current projects are moving along, it is also time for her to make some noise about the books she has already written. So far, she has made two teasers. One is for one of her books, Queen of the Ocean. It looks like this:

QueenOfTheOceanTeaser

Note the lack of cats, but there is a bright spot. There is a ship in the story (actually more than one) and old-timey ships always had cats on board, to keep the rodent population under control. They are the true heroes of the sea. You’re welcome.

The other teaser is for Orphans in the Storm, her English Civil War historical romance. That one looks like this:

OrphansInTheStormTeaser

There would be cats on that ship, too.

Anty is still working on teasers for her other books, Never Too Late, and My Outcast Heart. After that, well, she’d better write some more books, or her bookshelf page (that is coming soon) will be very short. She has plans to make teasers for Her Last First Kiss, and Chasing Prints Charming, as well as her postapocalyptic medieval romance, Ravenwood (at least the title has birds in it; that is promising. I like birds. They are delicious.) which may get a different name, but we will see.

Making teasers is fun for Anty, because she is a visual thinker anyway.  Thinking is something Anty has been doing rather a lot of lately, most of it about writing and publishing. Also about putting more cats in her books. I am happy to announce that Drama King, the next contemporary she will write with Anty Melva, does have a cat in it.  He is an orange tabby, and he’s seen some things. I have high hopes for him.

For now, though, it is a rainy day, and Anty has laundry to do, which means a solid hour of reading time, while the clothes get clean and dry. She also promised Mama to read her some of chapter ten, because Mama is looking forward to chapter ten. Mama has not read the whole book yet, but she knows the general idea, and wants a little taste. Maybe Anty will consider giving her other readers a little taste in a while, too.  She is looking forward to making a proper introduction of Hero and Heroine to her readers, so readers will be used to Hero and Heroine’s scents when Her Last First Kiss becomes a real book.

That is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

The Art of Being a Tease(r)

This past Saturday,  author Marianne Rice was our guest speaker at our monthly CR-RWA meeting.  The topic? Book teasers. What I knew about them? Zero. Okay, not really zero, but close enough. I knew they were pretty, that I liked seeing them, and the Greek chorus in my head, this time comprised of my dad, a lifelong artist, retired commercial art director; and cover art queen, Elaine Duillo, would not remain quiet. Here’s what they said:

Dad: Advertising is the art of telling people what they want.

Elaine Duillo: A cover’s job is to get the reader to cross the store to pick up that book (paraphrased, from a phone interview that I still fangirl over,  coughety-cough years after the fact.)

It’s not possible to think of those two bits of wisdom, without also thinking of the anecdote that prompted the Duillo quote/paraprahse. I’d been perusing the new releases in the romance section of the Waldenbooks (see, I told you this was ancient history) down the street from where I lived at the time. Two little girls arrived about the same time I did, far too young to be romance readers themselves, as in write their ages in single digits young. Girl A pointed excitedly to one cover. “Ooh, I’ll be her,” she squealed. Girl B pointed to another cover. “I want to be her.” Over and over again, through the selection, picking out their favorites, until their big person summoned them, or they ran off on their own; I don’t remember which.  I wanted to pick out my next reads, so their ultimate destination wasn’t my concern, though I suspect they may well have become romance readers, and I hope that they are.

What I do know is that I was those girls when I was their age, and my Aunt Lucy’s visits always included a big brown paper grocery bag full of historical romance novels, as a gift for my mother. My job was to take the bag to the laundry room and de-bag the books, for Mom to look through later. I was forbidden to read them, as I was too young, but those covers were fair game. I spent a lot longer than I strictly needed on that job, crafting stories in my head, based on the cover images and back blurbs, even if I didn’t know what all of the words about the more, ah, intimate, sides of the story, meant. Fast forward coughty-cough years, and I am not only a romance reader, but a romance writer and blogger. I write romance, and about romance, and, though it’s been a while since my last release, I do still have a backlist and several projects in the works, so this workshop on teasers was more than relevant to my interests.

Because I learn best by doing, I was angry at myself for not having brought my laptop to the workshop, as Marianne Rice gave us the opportunity to create a book teaser on the spot, and I love that kind of thing. Both the nifty playing with graphics, and the chance to make something at the drop of a hat, and showing off one of my book babies wouldn’t hurt, either. I tried. Canva is not compatible with my Android phone, so I seethed, then took out a Post-It and sketched a layout. As soon as I got home, I put the new knowledge to the test, and made my first ever teaser:

QueenOfTheOceanTeaser

Now I want to read this again.

Not bad for a first time at bat, if I do say so myself, and there was a very similar feeling when I hit “save” as the first time I saw the first version of the cover. It’s real, or, in this case, it’s still real. My baby is still pretty, and I still want to pump a fist in the air when I think of Mateo and Frances sailing off into the sunset, for real. Okay, the sun was already down, but give me this one.

Queen of the Ocean gave me the chance to play with one of my favorite tropes, reunited lovers, which works super well for novellas, and dip my toes into the waters of one of my favorite eras, the sixteenth century. No Court intrigues in this one, but I still get a delicious shiver when I think of the opening scene, of Frances at the water’s edge, staring down the only way she saw to escape the grim reality of life among a family of wreckers. She clings to the memories of Mateo, her childhood best friend and first love, spirited away by his seafaring father, out of her life forever…until the same sea that took him from her dumps him at her feet when his ship runs afoul of her family’s plans.

All of that came rushing back when I browsed through images free for commercial and personal use.  Add a small blurb, the title, pop the cover in there, and there we have it. My name was the last thing I added, because it hadn’t crossed my mind to do so before, but it’s mine. I wrote it. I’m proud of this story, and if doing something I’d do for fun anyway (playing with pretty graphics) could get Frances and Mateo into the hands of new readers, well, that’s a win for both counts, from where I’m sitting.

For today, my trip back in time takes me not to sixteenth century Cornwall, with Frances and Mateo, but eighteenth century London, with Hero and Heroine, and Her Last First Kiss, because critique meeting is tomorrow, and if I want N’s feedback, I have to have pages to show her. Even so, making the Queen of the Ocean teaser reminded me that I have this lovely graphic, by the amazing Sandra Schwab (who also wrote my favorite gothic, Castle of the Wolf) still waiting for the right text:

rubyrenderschwabplain

Image by Sandra Schwab

The first time I opened the email with this image in it, my first thought was, “there she is,” and there I was, in the scene where she takes out her pistol and aims it at…well, that would be telling. It would also be writing, or in this case, re-writing, because we’re on draft two of this now, Ruby and her hero and I, and every day’s work brings us one step closer to getting that story in the hands of readers, too.  Seeing a visual representation of that journey, even while it’s still in progress, can provide a much needed creative boost. If it whets some reader appetites along the way, well, we’ll take that, too.

What do you like to see in a book teaser?

TheWriterIsOut

 

From Back Burner to Front

Right now, it is eighty-nine degrees. I am at my desk, having lunch (chicken sandwich, for those keeping track of these things) and food is helping my mood somewhat. There is an overhead fan in my office but I haven’t turned it on yet, because it’s also connected to the light, and I haven’t figured out yet if I want the moving air more than I want the extra heat from the lightbulb. Probably negligible heat, but still a factor.

I don’t do well in heat.  I had heat stroke when I was twenty-two, and, ever since, I’ve had to take precautions when the temperatures soar. Normally, my Mondays are the days to tuck in and make sure everything is ready for critique meeting with N. I love those mornings, enough that, if I need to make Monday a marathon writing/revising day, I will do that. I can always nap on Tuesday afternoon, and there will be enough of a caffeine buzz from the endless cups of tea (hot in cold weather, iced in hot) to carry me through the meeting, and the feeling from a really good critique is enough to put an extra perk in my steps. That’s all normally.  This week isn’t normal.

Early last week, I made note of the weather forecast. Three days in a row, ninety degrees or above? Definitely worthy of notice. Since the weekend, tightly scheduled, overlapped with the first of those days, I knew, even last week, that Monday was not going to be a good day to get a lot of work done. I’d be tired (yep) and stressed (yep) and walking through the park in over-ninety degree temperatures would not be in my best interests. I asked N if we could meet on Thursday, and she agreed. Okay. That’s some breathing room. Not an excuse to slack off, but breathing room, to take into account that I’m going to have the brains of a bowl of butterscotch pudding during the heat of the day for Monday and Tuesday. Much better to use that time for taking in, rather than putting out.

Today, I have Season Two of Poldark. I have my travel mug full of ice water, a fully charged Kindle, and a hardcover book club edition of Shanna, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. There’s a box fan in the living room, next to my comfy chair (and the window seat) and another in the bedroom. Skye will hang with me, wherever I am, and, if I need some white space in my brain, I can play in an art journal, which might play nicely with Poldark or other viewing.  I have my first draft pages and notebook at hand as well, and it’s more likely than not that I will pick them up at some point in all of this, my brain moving things from back burner to front. Not that I’m turning the stove on in this weather. I’m not a masochist.

Yesterday, when I walked home from Panera (after four hours of quality time with a friend I need to see more often) the sun had begun to dip below the horizon, and the temperatures had fallen to a brisk eighty-five degrees. Condensation from my cold drink seeped through the napkin I had wrapped around it. My friend and I walked together as far as the park, where our paths diverged. Her apartment was in one direction, mine in the other, and we each headed home. My path took me along the lake. A female mallard paddled out from the shore, followed by six fuzzy baby ducks. There are few things more peaceful than a bunch of baby ducks paddling after their mama, on a summer night.

I did not get a picture. Mama duck headed back for her hideyhole, and the babies followed. I’m okay with that. Now I know where they like to hang out at that time of day, when the sun goes down and is no longer trying to kill me with its fiery blaze. It’s like that with taking a rest day. Even if I don’t get to Hero and Heroine today (though I suspect I will, even if not at a Marathon Monday level) they’ll be there. I know where they hang out, and they know where to find me. We can’t quit each other, and I am more than okay with that.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Controlled Chaos Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  As you may have noticed from my picture above, Anty’s image editing program is giving her guff, but she does not have time to deal with that guff today, so she will deal with it later. Good thing she has me to take care of the blogging for her on days like this.

Anyway, before I get into any of that, I need to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, besides here. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week, and this week, she talked about what the humans call wedding season. I have never been to a wedding, because I am a kitty, but I gather that they are a big deal for some humans, both in books and in the really real world.  Anty’s post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

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Now it is time to check in on Anty’s Goodreads reading challenge.  Anty is still on track, for the second week in a row. Good job, Anty. Normally, I would encourage her to do better, because A) she only reviewed one book this week, and B) it is not a historical romance, but there are extenuating circumstances. One of the books Anty is currently reading is Shanna, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, and that book is very, very big.  Anty first read it when she was an almost-grownup, so it is a little bit like reading it for the first time, but with remembering some parts of it.

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Anty has read thirty-nine books out of the ninety she has set for herself this year, which is pretty good, and keeps her on schedule. She is also reading The Wild One, by Danelle Harmon, which is also set in the eighteenth century, so she gets points for staying with her additional goal of reading more historical romances set in the era in which she is currently writing.  That book, she has on her Kindle, so it can go with her everywhere, as opposed to Shanna, which, at over six hundred pages, and being hardcover, is not as portable. That is the big downside to re-reading some of the classics in this genre.

The book Anty did review this week is Hello, I Lied, by M. E. Kerr.  It is a YA novel, about a very interesting summer in the life of one almost-grownup human. It also has a reclusive rock star character in it. Anty loves that kind of thing – humans who were once great at what they did, but stopped doing it and now do not want to see anybody- so she was curious to see how that would play out in this book. She kind of wants to reread Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby now. Her review is here, and it looks like this:

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If you know about any other books with reclusive once-great humans in them, especially with historical settings, please let Anty know about them right away, or tell me in the comments, and I will pass the recommendations on to her.

Anty says she is not messing with the banner until she can make the editing thingy stop giving her guff, or until she finds another editing thingy, so I will jump right into the topic at paw. This week, Anty and Anty Melva got some bad news that is really not that bad. One of the humans who wanted to look at Chasing Prints Charming had some very nice things to say about what they read, but ultimately said no thank you to looking at more. That is disappointing, but Anty prefers to look at the very nice things. There are many other humans who look at books that are not yet published, so this is not the end of the road. Anty is very happy to be working with Anty Melva,  and they will talk on Skype later this week. I am still salty that Skype is not short for Skye Pee. I think they have a missed opportunity there.

Most of the time, I work as Anty’s mews, but I am also a nurse when it is needed. Uncle is not feeling that great today, and Anty and Mama may be taking him to the people vet. He will feel better after he goes, but I can only imagine what Anty and Mama have to do to get him to go into the carrier. It takes both of them to get me into my carrier, and Uncle is a lot bigger than I am, plus he has opposable thumbs. No tail, though, so those things might cancel each other out. Maybe if Anty puts a treat inside the carrier, he will go inside to get it, and then she and Mama can close the door.  They usually put the carrier on its end and stuff me in, when it is my turn, but the people carrier is really big, and its doors are on the sides, so I do not think that would work this time.

That is about it for right now, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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Until next week…

Do What You Love

I’m going to thankblame Rose Grey for this one. I first met Rose a few years back, when we ended up at the same table for one of the meals at NECRWA’s annual conference. The entire table clicked, and we became the Last Call Girls, after the time we shut down the dining room at another meal, because we’d been so involved in our conversation that we did not notice that A) the meal was over, and B) we were literally the only people in the room not employed by the hotel. The staff hadn’t wanted to disturb us because they thought we were having an important business meeting, which we totally were. I’m not going to say what kind of business, but that’s the story we’re sticking to on this one.

Anyway, Rose is delightful in person, and I jump on her new blog entries like a starving hyena  would chow down on an unattended plate of Kobe beef.  Besides blogging and providing fascinating dinner conversation, Rose writes contemporary romance, and she does it at a desk that sounds a lot like mine.  Before I read Rose’s  blog entry on writing rituals, I hadn’t thought much about not having my secretary desk all the way open, all the time. That way, I could always be ready, wouldn’t have to set up anything, but then there were those words about adding a sense of ritual to the writing process, and hmm.

If I closed my desk at the end of a session, I’d be free to do other things. Leave the office, go home, as it were even though my office is already in my home. If the desk were closed, then I could open it at the start of the day. This wasn’t possible with the monitor in front of the cubbyholes,. and I do love my cubbyholes. Combine that with my other friend, H, getting used to her contacts and our resulting discussion on being nice to eyes and how it is a good thing for writers, and double hmm.

Because this desk predates my time on this earth, it has developed a few idiosyncracies over the years. One of which is that the chains which had always held the work surface open finally gave their all, about the time we moved back to New York, and, if I wanted to have a work surface, period, I had to find some other way of supporting it. The answer was close at hand; the drawers beneath it. Open one. Boom, support. You’re welcome. I am not proud that it took me until Monday (as in the Monday that is two days ago) to figure out that, if I opened the left drawer instead of the right one, I would have somewhere to put my legs. Hopefully, I will be quicker on the uptake next time.

Having somewhere to put my legs makes both computer work and handwriting a lot easier, which makes the whole process of writing my morning pages that much easier. Since I’m still early pages into my current morning pages book, I boost the writing surface on the facing page with another notebook, so it’s at the same level as the pages with hundreds of others to support them. This morning, as I put said notebooks away, I noticed I had a theme going on, that I had not intended:

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Do we see a theme here?

Okay, okay, I get it. Message received. This does not surprise me. Since today is #1lineWed on Twitter (I love #1lineWed) I had that on my daily task list, and figured that was as good a time as any to pop the pages from my Monday marathon session into the master document, and then search for my lines that fit this week’s theme. Figured as well, that it was probably a good time to make sure the font is uniform (writers are excellent at finding plausible reasons to procrastinate) and so did a select all so that I could do exactly that. Normally, I don’t count words at this stage of the game, because that is a guarantee that my focus will shift to playing a numbers game, sweating over every keystroke, and, if left unchecked, end up in creative paralysis, which totally sucks, and I do not recommend it. This time, however, the count was there, and…well, the actual word I said was, shall we say, colorful, so I won’t use it here, but the result did surprise me. I’m further along than I thought. A lot farther.

So, how did I get there? It wasn’t that long ago that the bulk of my novel-related writing was me  filling an endless stream of Moleskine Cahiers with some variation of “I can’t do this, why can’t I do this?” My writing soundtrack was my Hypercritical Gremlins singing me the song of their people. While I’m not saying the Hypercritical Gremlins will never find their way back to my office closet, they have been quiet in recent days.

The difference, I think, is in forgetting the shoulds, and doing what I love.  If that means reading decades-old books rather than the new, hot thing, okay. If that means futzing around with my desk, if that means taking the time to pick out pretty paper and the right pens to write with on it,  while my imaginary friends perform their own rituals so they’re ready to meet me when I open desk and notebook, I am fine with that.  I can close the desk at the end of the day, tuck my imaginary friends into bed (often with each other, because, hey, romance writer here) and know we’ll both be in the right place when it’s time to open for business once again.

In the meantime, the ducks in the park probably have babies by now.  I could maybe go look for them, once today’s work is done.

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White Space and Cubbyholes

New setup for the desk this week, and I’m not sure what to make of it at the moment. My body, my back, and especially my eyes, are used to the old way, which is also the way that forced me to constantly be hunched over, which carried over to my normal posture, and nope, not having any of that. With the monitor on the tippity top of the desk, this means I can now sit upright and look at the screen head on, which my neck greatly appreciates. My eyes, however, are not convinced that shaking things up is such a great idea, but my brain believes in them and thinks they’ll get used to it in a few days.

Which does not mean the change is very helpful on a Monday, which is get those pages done for critique meeting day. Can’t we keep things the way they’ve always been for one more day, pretty, pretty please? Pretty, pretty no. Things may go back to the way they were if this experiment doesn’t work out, and it is entirely possible (and likely) that the ideal desk configuration lies somewhere in between the two monitor placements. Personal computers did not exist when this desk was created. Then again, neither did I, so we’ve got that in common, desk and I. We’ll get through this together.

One of the things I’ve always loved about this desk, which I have drooled over since I was two years old (and before then, I am fairly certain I drooled on it, but there’s nobody left to confirm that, so take my word on this one) was the cubbyholes. This thing is full of them. Multiple family members have informed me that I have always loved putting things into other things.  This may or may not play into my penchant for organization, which has, of late, roared to life. The decision to move my monitor to the higher shelf comes partly from ergonomics, and partly from a deeper desire – to get at those cubbyholes. I know myself.

Right now, most of them are filled with paper. Sticky notes, my pocket sized planner, notepads from conferences (yes, I need them all) and address labels.  Pause here for a happy sigh. I love having stuff I love around me, and, when it’s organized, that is pure bliss, which has to be good for the creative process. Clutter, which I have also had a lot of, both the mental and physical sort, hampers it.

I don’t remember where I first read about white space, but enough ideas sort themselves out when I’m doing something brainless, that I looked into the idea. At its most basic, it’s mental breathing room.  Visual breathing room helps, too. Now that I have the monitor moved, and I can get at those cubbyholes, there’s no more searching for a piece of notepaper or a sticky note. They’re right there, always in the same place. I don’t have to figure out where they are, because I already know.

Moving the monitor has presented a few other challenges. For one thing, the monitor now takes up a good deal of the space I used to use for storing notebooks in current use. With this placement, they don’t all fit…or do they? Which ones am I actually using, hm?

Ulp.

My gut reaction is to protest that I am using all of them, and there was not a single book on that shelf that did not have a specific purpose, a specific project, and slicing their number like the decimation scene in Karavans, by Jennifer Roberson gives me similar chills, but in a far less entertaining fashion, because these are my babies. Which is fine, but let’s look at them as babies of different ages, maybe.

My daily pages book, yes, and task list book, yes. Butterfly book for personal style related things, okay, that hasn’t had as much use as I would like, but I’m still not ready to put it away, because that’s something fun I can do that’s not related to writing or romance fiction, and that counts as white space. It stays. Black book (it has gray pages inside, super cool) for revisions of my postapocalyptic medieval? That one’s resting, but I don’t want to put it away-away. It stays, too.  Peacock book could use some more love, and it gets it sporadically, but the characters who belong to that book have been occupying my head for the past, hmm, let’s say twenty-five years, so they are probably not leaving, period, and keeping their notebook on hand is probably wise. Overflow book, with its gorgeous gothic cover, for when I still have brain to dump and my morning pages are full, that has to stay.  Pastel retro photo themed book for some just for fun stuff, that has to stay. The others? They can nap. They’re not going away-away, but let’s focus on the awake kids for a while. That feels more efficient, and I feel less guilty.

The only problem with the new bookshelf arrangement was that my daily pages book kept slipping into the infinitesimal gap between end of desk and start of wall. Solution? Park Big Daddy Precious book there, which also happens to be my big notebook for Her Last First Kiss. Handy, that.  Problem solved.

Well, at least that one. My eyes are still in the what the sam hill are you doing to us stage of getting used to things, and my plans to spread out all the work I do on one frantic Monday marathon, over the week, did not pan out as well as I had hoped, but I think I could get used to this.  There’s room to move, and endless cubbyholes to explore.

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