Off-ish

deskscape200217

Yesterday, I went to a New Year’s party. A bit later than the usual New Year’s party, yes, but these things happen in life. The dynamic was different than most years, but the company was still good, there were bacon wrapped figs (or maybe they were dates; it does not matter, as they are gone now, and they were delicious) and there were books to swap, which absolutely did happen. I not only came home with an armful of Patrick O’Brien books for Real Life Romance Hero, but a couple of big, thick, emotional historical romance novels, as well as two containers of leftovers, a lovely gift from our hostess, the lovely and talented M.P. Barker, and my brain, or perhaps my body (possibly a collaboration between the two) not entirely sure this was not an actual holiday. I was doing holiday things, after all, and went to a holiday place, where I saw holiday people and ate holiday food. Ergo, holiday.

The calendar is not giving me clear signals in either direction. The block for today says President’s Day, but it also says Monday, and I did haul my tired bones to the laundromat, where I gobbled nearly a third of a Barbara Samuel Georgian historical romance I have been wanting for literally years. We will not go into the brain fog that required me to fashion an impromptu scooping system out of the detergent box I got from the vending machine, so I could scoop the skin destroying remains of detergent a previous patron had left behind in the place where my hypoallergenic detergent goes. That brain fog, though, did give me a clear direction. I emailed N and asked if we could move tomorrow’s crit session to another day this week. N was amenable, and we picked a date.

Then, I took a nap. Hung out with Real Life Romance Hero, who also needs some downtime today. Had lunch delivered, consumed same with the two of us standing at the kitchen counter. Watched one of the food shows on the DVR. Figured I may as well mosey on into the office and get the blog post written, so I could say I did something today. Well, there was laundry, but I mean writing things. There’s a difference.

Though the honor of spending time in M.P Barker’s lovely home now means that it is a holiday, time to stuff myself with food, talk to people I don’t get to see every day, and go home with at least one book I did not possess before, there were many years when being in that house meant that it was Wednesday night, and that meant nag group, which meant I had better have pages ready. Though they weren’t always for the WIP of the moment, there were always some pages to bring, and I greatly appreciate the input I received from the others around that table.

Though I have my Tuesday mornings with N and email check ins with Critique Partner Vicki, I do not have a new version of nag group in my current location, a question I answered a few times yesterday. I will admit to some nostalgia, and I did float the idea of resurrecting some virtual form of those gatherings via modern technology, so we will see where that takes us. I had the chance to chat with some old friends, who are on different writing paths, and meet new people, two of whom asked where they could find my blog. I handed out a couple of cards, and do hope they’ll drop by. :waves hi, in case they are reading this right now:

When the sun set, Housemate and I headed for home (and The Walking Dead, because we have our priorities.) My brain drifted (no worries, I was in the passenger seat) from story ideas, to memories of writing groups past, to current WIPs and the upcoming NECRWA conference, my very first shot at co-presenting a conference workshop. By the time I got home, I had enough energy to watch The Walking Dead and pour myself into bed immediately afterward. I fully intended to push through and do all the stuff I planned on for a regular Monday, but this isn’t a regular Monday, and the week that went before is certainly anything but regular, so maybe a break from routine might not be the worst thing I could do.

Still, I’m  here, writing this, because, dangit, Monday is blog day, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t post something. So, this is here. Not really on, not really off, more like that comfortably aimless in between that I usually associate with the tucked-between week. Not that I’m thinking I’m going to get a whole week of that, because tomorrow is indeed a regular Tuesday, and there are chapters to write, that last Golden Heart entry to judge, pages to print, and laundry to put away, but, for today, I’ll take a moment or three, refill the well, so I have something to draw from tomorrow. Tomorrow, it’s on.

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Did Not See That Coming Edition

twwc170217

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This week, Anty was very crafty with her picture taking. She sat on the floor, in the doorway of my room, while I ate, waited for me to finish, and then she took my picture. I was not prepared for that, but it did give room for me to play with adding graphics, so that is a good thing, even if I did not expect it. This week had some unexpected things in it, but before I can get to that, I have to talk about Anty’s writing first, so I will get to that right away.

As usual, Anty was on Buried Under Romance this week, and this time, she talked about the changing definition of Happily Ever After. Does that mean that the humans never have any problems because they are in love, or does the fact that they are together enough? Does it mean something else? What about Happy For Now? Anty’s post on that subject is here, and it looks like this:

bur170217

Anty was also very excited to read her first Juliana Gray historical romance, because Miss Juliana is also Miss Beatriz. That’s Beatriz Williams, whose historical women’s fiction Anty loves, so she could not wait to see what the same author could do with an actual historical romance. She was not disappointed. You can read her review here, and it looks like this:

aladyneverliesreview

Now we get to the unexpected part of our post, but, since I already said in the title that things were unexpected, you probably expected that. This proves you are smart. I will start with the Anty part. If you read Wednesday’s post, then you know Anty did not expect to twist her ankle inside Panera, when she’d taken pains (see what I did there?) to avoid injury on her way to the place, but that is what happened. Thankfully, it was not a bad twist, and Anty did not even need the wrap on the second day, so it was not a big adjustment, but she is glad that writing involves sitting, and that her office chair is very comfortable. It is cat approved, by its previous owner, but not this cat. I still hate Anty’s office carpet and am trying to guilt her into having it taken out.

The other unexpected thing happened yesterday. Uncle got a phone call to come in to work ahead of his shift, along with everybody else. He was not expecting that, but he did suspect what it might be, and he was right. The company Uncle worked for closed down many of their locations in our region, and Uncle’s workplace was one of them. Nobody had expected that, but that is what happened. Uncle and Anty are not worried, because Uncle is smart and very good at what he does, and he has a plan.

Having a plan helps a lot when the unexpected occurs, which, Anty believes, one should expect. Emergencies and accidents very rarely give advance notice. That is why there is a backup bag of treats in the pantry, and I do know about the kitty laxatives they said we were all done with. Even though we all hope I will not need them again, in case I do, they are there. I should hope I would get one of those emergency treats afterward. But I digress.

Anty likes plans. She likes them a lot. Plans help her stay on track when the unexpected occurs. Get up in the morning, write morning pages, make task list for the day, do the things on the list. That stays the same no matter what happens. It is like an anchor that keeps a ship in place. Sticking to her plan yesterday helped Anty stay calm and trust that things are going to be okay even with Uncle’s big news. When it was time to work on Her Last First Kiss, Anty opened her notebook, got out her pencil, and figured out what the scene needed to make it better.

Plans also help Anty with her goals. Anty loves her sessions with Miss N and Anty Melva, and would like to make faster progress with each draft of these books. That means she needs to find a way of tracking what she is already doing and focusing on the things that will help her do it best. For some writers, setting a word count is very helpful. For Anty, not so much, but if she keeps track of different things about each session, then she can see the patterns emerge. What time of day is best for her (hint: that is morning, even if there are other humans around, so this may require leaving the house on some mornings) and worst (after 2PM, she gets sluggish, and do not ask her for anything between 9-10 PM unless you like to be snarled at; I,personally, do not.)

One thing that has worked for Anty in the past is setting a page count goal. She does not know how this came to be (much like how her electronics came to be pink whenever possible) but she and Miss N generally exchange six pages at a time each week. Anty finds that a comfortable amount to exchange, but she would like to step things up a bit. Maybe not shove a whole pile at Miss N at once, but we are past the initial draft here, and Anty’s story people are eager to meet their readers. It is her job to facilitate that meeting.

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

skyebye

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

 

 

What if I Fall?

deskscape150217

This week, N and Mr. N picked me up for the weekly critique session, so I wouldn’t have to tromp through the arctic tundra of the park, and risk bodily harm in the ice and snow. Good people, those Ns, but what actually happens? I twist my ankle on my way from microwave (occupational hazard of extroversion; food goes cold while blabbering, and needs to be reheated) to seat. I do not remember exactly what happened, but apparently, I was airborne for a second there.

I do remember my bagel getting some serious air and landing, thankfully, on the table, so no bagels were harmed, but my ankle is another story. My favorite Panera worker rushed over to make sure I was okay and had not hit my face on the table. I had not. I remembered enough to remove my boot in case of swelling (I saw none at the time, Housemate said there was some, when she got home that afternoon) and ask Panera Worker for an ice pack. Panera worker dashed into the back and returned with an impressive bag of ice, and the admission that they live with a nurse, so they know how to make these things. I propped my foot on an empty chair, plopped the ice bag atop it, and returned to bagel preparation. This particular ankle has been noodley since I was but a wee little princess, so this honestly was no big deal for me. Had worse, had wrap for ankle at home, had crutches if needed, I’m there, N is there, we have pages, let’s do this.

Since N and I have been doing this critique thing with each other for a while now, it’s no surprise that we’ve picked up on patterns in each other’s work. The word, “more,” comes up a lot. In Her Last First Kiss, Hero is an artist, and N and Mr. N are both artists, and one of Hero’s preferred mediums is one of Mr. N’s preferred mediums -I did not plan that, it happened that way, as such things sometimes do- so this is an extremely useful connection. In this scene, Hero is one gobsmacked fellow, unprepared for encountering Heroine for the first time, especially in the place and context, and he’s knocked off his axis by the experience.

N marked this passage as one of my “more” places. Hero needed to see more. Sure, it’s nice that Heroine has symmetrical features, but it’s more than that. Her hair isn’t  only “brown,” but sienna and umber and the color a perfect cup of tea is before the milk goes in, and he doesn’t have all his paints with him, but he’s in London, so he’ll have to go buy them and he doesn’t have a painting room here yet and uh, what did the other people in the room just ask him? He wasn’t really listening. Oh crud, she looks impatient. How long was he off in art world? Stuff like that.

This is good. This is stuff I need to know, to bring Hero and Heroine’s story and their world to life on the page. It’s also scary. That lush detail stuff is what I love in historical romance. 1784 people are not 2017 people. They have a whole different frame of reference. Hero is always going to see in terms of lines first and then colors. Heroine is always going to want to make order out of chaos (and Hero is pretty much a whole lot of tall, ginger, misunderstood chaos on two legs) so that’s always going to affect the choices they make, and the windows through which they observe, and participate in, their world. This is why I go for emotionally complex historical romance over, say, funny contemporary (which is a whole other skill set.)

At the same time, it requires silencing (or at least muting) years of “whittle it down” and “make it simple” and “fast, fast, fast” and other commonly heard pieces of writing advice, some of which are not as well suited for this kind of story. There is no writing cabal that has hard and fast compulsories on this kind of things. To put it in terms Hero can understand, I get to color with all the crayons in the box. The good thing about that is that the combinations are endless; I can dive in, go nuts, put hot pink next to red-orange and scribble gray on top of the whole thing. I can work it so that the difference between blue-green and green-blue makes total sense, throw a neon in with a pastel if that’s what the particular picture needs.

The scary thing about that is also that I can go nuts. More combinations means more combinations that could go wrong, and what if “they” don’t like it? Oh, but, what if they do? Ships in harbors and all that rot. I’d rather take the chance than be safe. As Critique Partner Vicki once said, “intentionally go too far.” It’s easier to take out than to put in, very much so. So that’s what I’m doing now. Making notes on where I can do that whole “more” thing, and then moving along as though I had already made those changes. I’ll get those on the next pass. My goal is to get this book out in the world, on an editor/publisher’s desk, or on the road to indie release, before December.

Am I going to fall somewhere on that road? Yes. That’s not what matters. What matters is that I get back up, ice that twisted extremity, and dive in as deeply into the characters and their world as I possibly can. Kind of appropriate that my ankle twisted before the critique session began, in that regard. By the time Mr. N came to collect us, I was ready to see if I could put weight on my ankle (I could) and Panera Worker came back by our table with a big smile and a free pastry ring, to make the day better. I’m pretty sure not all rewards of keeping on keeping on in this writing game come with cream cheese and cherry filling, but, sometimes, they do.

pastry-ring

Perspective

deskscape130217

Yesterday, it snowed. A lot. I don’t have any numbers to track the exact measurements, but this is what the view from my stoop looked like around four in the afternoon:

snowydayinalbany

Today, I am stuffing a ten pound cat into a two pound bag, timewise. Sunday afternoons are often used for errands that couldn’t get done when there were other engagements on Saturday, which is the case this week, since I had my CRRWA meeting. No regrets on that one, as I got to see friends, meet new people, and learn how to use social media more effectively (you are forewarned.) I also love snow, and no, I did not at all mind shoveling in front of our house, because that’s the grownup version of playing in the snow. It did, however, also mean that the emergency load of laundry I had planned on doing Sunday turned into the two emergency loads I’m doing today, which collide with the hunker down and whip chapter four into shape session I had originally planned for today. Something is going to feel the bite, because I have not yet figured out how to stop or expand time, and if that ends up being writing work, that, as well as the weather, may affect my plans for tomorrow morning.

That would not make me happy, as I love my Tuesday morning critique sessions, especially since we set a time limit on chitchat so that we can get down to the business of getting these books done. Life happens, however, and there are times when the sane thing to do is go to Plan B. Move the critique session to another morning, so we can have time to give our work some actual brain, instead of keeping one eye on the clock, which is prone to attracting Hypercritical Gremlins (mine have been largely silent lately, so I do not want to show up on their radar.) Postponing could also give me the chance to get some sleep (did not last night) because sleep is also essential for braining. Right now, I don’t know.

What I do know is that the time between laundromat trips is for getting this blog written and posted, for charging my phone, because I’m going to need it, and for getting all the handwritten notes for various projects in one place, so that they will be there when I get back from Laundromat 2.0. Right now, I feel crowded and overwhelmed, which I have lately learned is a signal that I need to step back,. reassess and then prioritize. Since lack of laundry would mean naked family, and this is winter in northern NY, nakedness is not a highly desirable option. Since lack of writing would mean lack of new book, that is not a highly desirable option, either.

Laundromat waiting time is good for reading (works toward my goal of reading more historical romance novels) and making notes in longhand (works toward progress on writing projects) so it is possible to do something while laundry is doing its thing. This is not the day I had hoped to have, but it is not the end of the world, either. I can do something. Maybe not everything, but something.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody ever spat out a four hundred page piece of popular fiction, that was both critically acclaimed and a fan favorite, plus provided the writer with a living wage, over the course of one morning, with no effort whatsoever, so that is not a realistic expectation. What is realistic is taking stock of what I’ve got on a particular day and doing what I can with it, to the best of my ability. Today, that means get this blog entry up, do laundry load #2, come back, work on as much of chapter four as I can, and, if it’s going to make me miserable and cranky and snappy and anxious, I have the option of giving myself, and my critique partner, more time.

On the one hand, posts like these are not always the kind I intend to write. On the other, sometimes, they happen. This is one of those. When I first moved Typing With Wet Nails to this new platform, it was with the intention of talking through the whole process, good, bad and ugly. Today, I feel rushed and crowded. Saturday, an idea pounced me before I could head off to my CRRWA meeting, so I scribbled down the bare bones. Later that night, I scribbled down a bit of muscle and connective tissue. At some other point, I will put those together in a file and very likely start a future ideas notebook, but, for now, my focus has to remain on what’s currently on my plate; Her Last First Kiss, the Beach Ball, and blog posts, here and elsewhere. Those are the essentials, even on double laundromat days.

Typing With Wet Claws: Cinematic Appreciation Edition

skyeomalleycat100217

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Yesterday, we had a lot of snow. I mean, a lot. One of Anty’s friends said he had fourteen inches at his house. Another friend said she had eighteen inches where she was, and that, at that time, the snow was not done snowing. It is done snowing for now, but we may get more tonight (or maybe some rain) and then more again on Sunday. I guess it really is winter now. Good thing I am a Maine Coon cat, descended from Norwegian Forest Cats, who were built for this kind of weather. Also, good that I live indoors, in an apartment with walls and a ceiling and heaters in every room, with humans who feed me every day, and care that I am happy. I even have my own blog. How many cats can say that? Only the ones with blogs, I would imagine.

But enough about me (just kidding, there can never be enough about me) before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about Anty’s writing, because that is the price I pay…um, I mean the privilege I enjoy. Yes. That is what I meant. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this past week, talking about those times when a reader considers bailing out of an ongoing series. Anty had that thought herself this week, because she read a book where Very Bad Things happen to kitties (she would not tell me what they were, and I am not going to ask) and she almost stopped reading that author because of it. She is not going to say it here, because everybody’s reading experience is different, and she understands why that author put those things in the book, so the post talks about the principle of such reading dilemmas. It is  here, and it looks like this:

burdoserieshaveofframps

Next, Anty read another book after that one, to make her not think about how the Very Bad Things made her feel, and she liked that book very much. That one is Duke of Pleasure, by Elizabeth Hoyt, and she wrote about it on Goodreads. That review is here, and it looks like this:

grdukeofpleasurereview

For those of you who are keeping track of these sorts of things, Anty is on track for her goal of reading 90 books in 2017, and she has another goal, to help her read more historical romances this year. That is the Historical Romance Reading Challenge, at the I Heart Romance & YA blog. That challenge is here, if you are interested in participating, and the badge, which Anty will figure out how to put where it can be seen all the time later, looks like this :

hr-challenge-2016-badge

Anty is going for Queen level, which means she needs to read at least fifty historical romance novels this year, including one from each of the following categories (note: romances with cats is not one of the categories, which I find misleading, because it has “cat” right there in the name, but whatever) : medieval, Regency, Victorian, western, pirate, historical romance with a diverse main character, and time travel. Anty has read nine historical romances so far, and can already cross off Regency, Victorian, western, and historical romance with a diverse main character. Anty is already thinking of making her own challenge next year, with more challenging categories. She would add more historical periods, and maybe some plot elements or character types. I will be updating everyone at least once a month on how Anty is doing on this challenge.

We are still in negotiations as to how much I am allowed to share about Anty’s works in progress, so more on that later, but since we have hit the me portion of this entry,. I will go right to that. This week, Anty did something amazing. She found some movies on YouTube, that are made especially for kitties. it is about time. My favorite, so far, is called Koi in Their Winter Tank. It is full of action, which I like, because I am a sight girl. It also has some mystery to it; where does the orange fishie go when he swims off the screen? I know what you are thinking, and you are wrong (do not worry, I was, too) he is not behind the computer. I checked. If the movie is on a tablet or phone on the floor, he is not next to it, either. I checked that, too. Must be some amazing special effects. It is here, and it looks like this (screenshot, because Anty is making wrap-it-up noises and I will learn how to embed video later):

koiintheirwintertank.png

 

This  movie is great. I shift my paws and boop the screen with my face e every time I see it. Anty has shown me other movies, but I like this one the best. She has shown me movies of other animals, like birds and mice (there were real  mice in my old apartment, and they were not pets. I will allow you to fill in the details on that one)   Those movies had sound, though, and I prefer the silent films. When there is sound, I get too confused, looking for the animal that is making the sounds, and do not watch the screen. Maybe if Anty can make the mouse and bird movies silent, then I might watch those, too. Anty says that, later, she will show me movies with kitties in them, and see how I like those. I liked kitty halftime at last year’s Puppy Bowl, so Anty thinks I might like movies of kitties, too. It is always affirming to see people like oneself in movies. Representation is important.

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

skyebye

 

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

 

Past Present Future

deskscape08feb17

I had plans for this blog entry, took pictures of some of the tools of the trade I use every day, a clever trick I adapted from a notebook blog (which blog, though, I neglected to write down; ironic, that) and give a behind the scenes peek, as it were. What actually happened is that I somehow launched said pictures into space (okay, they are trapped in my draft folder) and it’s blog time, (also that I used the deskscape with a bunch of my paper things already, when I thought it would save the time of taking a new one) but the current desktop wallpaper is one of my very, very favorites (not quite Abbie and Ichabod level, but close) so let’s go with that for today’s theme.

Last week, after I’d finished my critique session with N, I got a text from Housemate, asking me what I was doing. Odd, that, because she should have been at work, and her work directly involves customer service, so sending “what are you doing” texts to household members during work hours is not exactly encouraged. Long story short, mental health day, and did I want to go out and do something? Since A) snow is my very, very favorite weather, and B) this is what it looked like outside at the time:

surprisesnowday310117

I took her up on her invitation. Remember the scene in Gilmore Girls, where Lorelai says snow is like catnip to her? Yeah. Same. Show me the white stuff, and I immediately have all the energy. am in a good mood and want to go do stuff. Preferably stuff that involves me going outside for at least a little while. We do not have snow today. We had some lovely gray clouds, and may get a snowstorm tomorrow, but I see sunshine outside my office window right now. I don’t like sunshine. I’ll consider this a lull between yesterday’s snow/rain and tomorrow’s snow.

Yesterday, I had another critique session with N, and came home energized, as usual. I made notes in my big daddy precious notebook

20151106_093133

Paperblanks silver filigree journal, Maya Blue Grande

this time, with my nifty trick of drawing a line at top and bottom of each page -so the page isn’t blank anymore- in copper metallic marker -so it’s fancy; I love fancy- and then on to the next task on the list, bouncing the Beach Ball around, very much outside my comfort zone. I did have my doubts, and no, the scene was not perfect, but I sent it off to Melva; she’s my partner on this one, so she’s the other half of the writing of this book, and she can point out what needs spiffing. This was one of those feel the fear and do it anyway moments. I am learning to embrace those moments and steer into the skid.

Earlier this week, Rhonda Lane, one of my co-presenters for “Blogging Isn’t Dead,” and the brave volunteer to put together our Powerpoint presentation (I have never done Powerpoint, so this will be another new adventure) asked if I would like to feature one of my books in my part of the …um…intro…thingy…where…they…tell people who we are, or something like that. My first inclination was to say no, my books are too old, but then I pulled up my big girl panties and sent the cover and information for Orphans in the Storm. I love that book. I’m proud of that book. That was the best book I could write at the time, when life was in chaos, and would continue to be for several years afterward, and I still love Simon and Jonnet, and am honored to have been the one to help them along the road to their happily ever after. It also has my favorite cover of any of my books. I mean, look at this gorgeousness:

 

orphansinthestorm

Cover art by Kathleen Underwood

 

Could I write a better book now, :coughtycough: years later? I certainly hope so. I’ve had a whole world more of life experience, some good, some bad, and I’ve written more, read more, taken in more information and influence and and and and…you get the picture. Do I plan on rewriting Simon and Jonnet’s story? Right now, no. They’re fine where they are. They’re happy. They’re good. That’s the beauty of writing a standalone novel; the happily ever really is exactly that. They’re together, they’re happy, they have an estate to manage, probably a gaggle of mini-thems by now, they have friends and family, and they’re better for what they’ve been through, even if they didn’t think that’s how things would turn out at the time they were actually going through it.

Would I like to revisit the seventeenth century at some point in the future? Absolutely. Right now, though, my focus is on the century that comes after that. I’m writing Hero and Heroine’s story, and there’s a seventeenth century tie to Guy and Girl’s story (not time travel; that’s a whole other kettle of fish) and I’m slowly gathering things I might like to play with for the next phase of the journey. That’ll get me where I need to go.

And (Not Or)

prettypapers010217

It’s happening again. Monday, that is. It really shouldn’t feel like a surprise, as Mondays happen every week. That’s how it goes: Saturday, Sunday, Monday. It’s kind of a thing. I’m writing this blog entry because that is the top thing on my task list for today, and the plan is to get the things I know I can get done, done first, so that I have the bulk of  my time to work on the stuff that’s going to need more attention. In this case, the writing of actual fiction. Today, I need to get the second draft of the scene in Her Last First Kiss, where Hero and Heroine meet for the first time, ready for my meeting with N tomorrow morning.

Over the weekend, I’d had a plan to get current on my rest (sleep has not been that great recently) and relax by reading (did some of that) playing Sims (did some of that) and organizing: making the part of my office that doesn’t show in my deskscapes look less like the wake of a tornado and more like a working office, sync all my paper calendars/planners so that they all have the same information, and leave room for tracking my writing output (I kind of did some of that. At least all my RWA chapter meetings are now listed on my office calendar.) All of those partial things were on Saturday. Sunday, however, turned into a family day. I am not complaining. I love my family; they are weird and have a lot of variables, and, at one point, we all ended up eating honey barbecue boneless wings in the living room (no, that is not correct, as Housemate was in her room, decompressing from her own weekend) and anything that ends in honey barbecue boneless wings can’t be all that bad, really. So, no, not complaining, but….

There’s always a but. The part of me that is forever an eight-year-old boy now snickers because but sounds like butt, and he is not wrong. Only one t, though (mmm, tea….) and here’s the thing: those buts can change everything. (One t, inner eight-year-old boy. One t.) Because I love to plan, and I get antsy if I don’t know what’s coming next, and because I am making progress in not one, but two novels, with a goal of being able to pitch either or both at the NECRWA conference this year, I need to know what’s going to happen after those books are done. With Beach Ball, it’s easy; Melva and I have already sketched out two more collaborative stories, and we look forward to writing those.

When it comes to straight-on historical romance, though, I am on my own. Since I’ve already talked about choosing a focus for this phase of the game, here and here, that gives me a general direction :salute: of where that “what’s next” is going to go. As my Aunt S often said, writing is a business, and, in the current market, linked books are the big sellers. Okay, then, I would like to be a big seller. I get the logic behind this, and I like a challenge. Trouble is, that my brain does not  naturally think in series format (unless we’re talking multigenerational, but that’s a whole other story, pun intended, and we will deal with that later.) Hello, my name is Anna, and I am a unicorn; that rare romance writer/reader who honestly does prefer standalone stories. That’s how my brain works, so consciously building a linked story world is a challenge.

How do I face challenges? With organization. My plan for part of the weekend was to boot Scapple and slap down a bunch of things I love about eighteenth century romance; character types, locations, different eras within the era, names, tropes, etc, then see what connections my brain wanted to make. Not hard and fast, mind you, only something to get the wheels started turning. I have become a big proponent of “this book, now” – as in get this current draft done, and then we can think about what comes next, because I really do have to know what comes next, the same as I really do have to have pretty paper. That’s not  bad thing, to know what tools one needs to do the job, and I will still make time later in the week to get that particular ball rolling in that particular direction.

I’m grumbly that I didn’t get to do that when I wanted to do it, but that doesn’t mean I missed my chance forever :flings overly dramatic arm over brow and swoons on fainting couch: As I learned when I took the leap of playing with the Beach Ball with Melva, new things don’t mean I can’t do the other thing. Co-writing a modern day (but historical-adjacent) story doesn’t mean I can’t write historicals anymore, and planning out a linked story world doesn’t mean I have to bury my beloved standalones in the cold, cold ground and wander the moors forever mourning my one true passion. It’s and, not or. I can do more than one thing without cancelling out that original thing.

How to wrangle it all into submission (pun unintended, but I will let it stand) – that’s another matter, and I’ll figure it out along the way. For now, time to make some tea and hunker down in century eighteen for the day.

Typing With Wet Claws: Conference is Coming Edition

skye101216

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  This week, you get a greatest hits picture of me, because  Anty’s mail server loves the picture she took of me this morning so much that it does not want to send it to her desktop and wants to keep it all to itself. We are now in the second month of 2017, which is probably my birthday month. When Anty and Mama found me at the shelter, the vet said I was about ten months old, which means, since that was December, I must have been born in February. Maybe I am even a Valentine baby. Anty thinks that would be fitting, and, since part of her job as a writer of historical romance, is figuring out what could have happened in the past, we are going to go with that. More on that later, because, first, I have to talk about Anty’s writing and where you can find it.

First, as always, Anty has her Saturday Discussion post on Buried Under Romance. This week, she talked about books that become movies, in reality, or in readers’ minds. That post is here, and it looks like this:

 

BUR01feb17.png

maybe Anty should put the funny pictures at the top of the post?

The next two links are kind of sneaky, because they are not whole posts, but posts where Anty helped at Heroes and Heartbreakers. First, like every month, Anty got to say what her favorite book of the month is, and, this month, it was a book she already wrote about on that site, which she liked very much. That post has recommendations from other H&H bloggers, too, so it is possible, in theory, to get a whole TBR list from one post alone. That post is here, and it looks like this:

hanhbestreads

The other link is really the sneaky one, as Anty did not write the quiz, (Anty loves taking this kind of quiz) one of the potential results comes from a post she wrote, about a hero she liked very, very much. So, though Anty is not in that post, one of her favorite characters is, so she thought I might like to include it in my post anyway. She was right. That post is here, and it looks like this:

 

handhbookboyfriend

 

Now that it is February, that means April is only a little bit away, and that means it is almost time for the NECRWA conference. Anty loves going to that conference every year. Sometimes, people tell her how much they like my blog. My blog. Let us spend a moment on that, if we may. As Anty once said, when a fellow writer asked her how she comes up with new ideas for her blog every week, the key is to get a cat to write one third of the blog posts. I do not know if that will be part of her “Blogging Isn’t Dead” workshop, which she will be co-presenting with Corinna Lawson and Rhonda Lane, but I would not be surprised if the topic came up at some point.

The approach of conference time means that Anty has some work to do, not only to get together with Miss Corinna and Miss Rhonda, to talk about what they are going to say (and who is going to say what, specifically) or connect with people she definitely wants to talk to that weekend (Anty is an extrovert, so basically everybody) or what she is going to wear, but really important stuff. I know what you are thinking, and we can cross the most important item off that list right now. Uncle will feed and play with me while Anty is away. Conference weekend means Uncle and Skye weekend, so it is a holiday for me, too.

The really important thing Anty wants to focus on this year is her own books. Since she has a first draft done of Her Last First Kiss, and she and Anty Melva are working steadily toward the end of the first draft of the Beach Ball, it is time once again for Anty to look at pitch sessions, and what she is going to say to any agents or editors she might meet at any part of the conference. Anty has never gone to a conference with a book and a half in the hopper (book and two halves, if she wants to count her post-apocalyptic medieval, which really only needs half a revision to be ready for indie or traditional publishing. Probably indie, though, because it is post-apocalyptic medieval, and those aren’t exactly thick on the ground these days. Or any days. Anty still loves the story, though.)

It’s been a while since Anty has had a pitch session, and, as much as she loves them (Anty thinks eight minutes of a publishing professional’s undivided attention is right up there with amusement parks, romance-only bookstores, and bottomless cups of Lapsang Souchong tea; let’s be real, if there were an amusement park that had a romance-only bookstore in it and served bottomless cups of Lapsang Souchong tea, we might  never see Anty again.) getting ready for them is the nervous part. Anty has been in sessions where the other person has said “I love your sample, send me the whole thing” right away, and she has been in sessions where the other person has said “I don’t like stories that have Element X in them,” when Anty’s whole story is about Element X. Most sessions fall somewhere in the middle. Anty said I am not allowed to talk about the pitch session she had when she had been awake for three days straight, because that is when she gets into really punchy territory. That can be entertaining at home, not so much in a pitch session.

Since I am running out of room here, I will cut to the chase (please do not chase me; that would be scary) : it is time to hunker down and get stuff as ready as it can be, because one never knows when the other person might want the whole book, right now. It’s a magical time of year. Editors and agents go to these conferences for the specific reason of finding new writers and new books. They want to hear about what writers have to show them (but not in the people litterbox, please) so knowing what a writer wants to say about their books in advance is usually a good idea. This involves planning, and Anty loves planning, so I think she will be okay.

That is about it for this week, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebye

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Declaring My Major

deskscape01feb17

Later start on the blog than I had expected today,  but that’s fine. I wrote two pages of a scene for Girl and Guy, from the Beach Ball, while at the laundromat, did some recon for an upcoming feature at Heroes and Heartbreakers (oh, the odious task of looking for outstanding declarations of love) and took a picture for the original concept of this post, which was going to be about my inability to resist pretty paper. Yes, the paper on which I write does have to be pretty, thankyouverymuch, and I am particular about it. Nothing wrong with having the right tools for the job. That almost works as a transition to the thought that hit me part way through my process of winding down yesterday evening.

We’ll skip the particulars of said winding down, as it happened in a room where the furniture is made of porcelain, but there I was, thinking of something entirely unrelated, and then the thought hit me: I’m focusing on the eighteenth century now. This should not have been a surprise. I wrote about that exact thing the day before yesterday. I jabbered about it at lunch with my BFF. I may or may not have sent thought waves out into the ether, because that seems to be a step in my process (much like my need to circle a scene and smash my head against a brick wall or two until I bust through) but it wasn’t until last night that it sank in that I am declaring a major here.

Back in another life, I majored in early childhood education. The most important thing I learned by studying that discipline is that I am not suited for early childhood education. If I ever master time travel and end up as a seventeen-year-old college freshman again (though, seriously, if I ever master time travel, my own seventeenth year is not where I would be going) I would strongly counsel seventeen-year-old me to go with her gut and major in drama, like I originally wanted to do. Declaring a major means deciding where the majority of  my time and mental energy is going to be allocated. That decides what I study, how much I study it, and what things have to get moved to the side to give my main area of focus some breathing room.

For a writer, that means we are now in the realm of branding. As an advertising executive’s kid, I learned, from an early age, that how a thing is presented has an effect on how that thing is perceived. Writers need to let readers know what kind of story they can expect when they pick up one of our books. What kind of story are we going to tell them? In what kind of world is this story going to take place? For historical romance readers, in what era do these stories happen, and how much is the history going to affect the romance? All important questions, and all part of building a brand.

I am still a temporal nomad at heart (can we call this interdisciplinary studies?)  I love a lot of periods. I have a rough draft of a Golden Age of Piracy romance, which may need to be two books (because I didn’t count on falling in love with my heroine’s parents in that one, and kind of want to play with them for a while) and a post-apocalyptic medieval romance (the Black Plague counts as an apocalypse – fifty percent of Europe taken out in a twenty year span? Totally counts.) and they will get written. I still want to write more seventeenth century, and I will. That dewy-eyed twenty-three-year-old hasn’t given up on the Tudor era, either, and I want to write in the Edwardian era again, but moving forward with a career plan means figuring out what kinds of stories I want to tell for the foreseeable future, and, last night, my brain told me what that was.

This is a good thing. Picking a major means focus. It means that eighteenth century romances get precedence on my TBR shelves. Not that I can’t read books set in other eras (hello, temporal nomad here :waves:) and a good story can be set anywhere, but, right now, seeing how others who have gone before me do what I am doing now becomes extra important. It’s picking a direction in which to travel, especially now that, with two WIPs viable to term, I’m looking at what comes next. I know the time in which these new stories will be set, so that settles that issue, an important one to writers who do love a wide array of settings. Back in another life, it was common for a historical romance author to write one medieval romance, then the next book might be a western, then a pirate story, then Gilded Age New York, then an Elizabethan, then Australian, then American Civil War, then…well, who knows? I would love for that sort of thing to come around again, and I hope that it does, but, for right now, picking a major and going for it is the smart move.

 

 

Eighteenth Century Love

deskscape20jan17

There’s the way we think things are going to go, and then there’s the way they actually do. This is true both in writing and in life, and, when it comes to the writing life, it may be doubly true. Way back when, in another life, I was a dewy-eyed twenty-three-year old, opening her very first response from a publisher, I thought the response was going to be “oh my, what a wonderful book; can we please, please, please publish it? Here’s lots of money, send us another.” It was not. What I got was a professionally worded version of “you’ve got something, kiddo, but literally nothing happens in the pages you sent us. Please send us something else. Also, learn how to plot.” The “literally nothing happens” part hit me pretty hard, and I totally missed the “please send us something else” part.

Well, for a while, that is. The “learn how to plot” part happened through writing a lot of fan fiction, membership in RWA, and reading enough historical romance novels to build a small house, if stacked correctly. I pored over every issue of Romantic Times magazine as soon as I had it in hand, scrutinized which new releases caught my eye, and why; plot, character type, character names, author’s voice, and, the first thing I screened for every time I hit the historical romance section: setting.

Let’s go back to that dewy-eyed twenty-three-year-old for a minute. She was absolutely sure she was going to write oodles of books in her very favorite setting, Tudor England, because her all time favorite historical romance was (and, :cough: a few years down the road :cough: still is Skye O’Malley, (the book, not the kitty) by Bertrice Small. Second place is still held by Lovesong (and its two direct sequels, same hero and same heroine) by Valerie Sherwood.

top2historicalromances

my two favorite historical romance novels:

Neither of these books has an eighteenth century setting. Skye O’Malley is set in Elizabethan era Ireland, England, Algiers and the high seas. Lovesong is set in seventeenth-century Virginia, England, the high seas (see a pattern here?) and the Caribbean. So far, I have written one kind of sort of high seas story, Queen of the Ocean, set in sixteenth-century Cornwall, but it’s more of an on-the-shore story, as my heroine comes from a family of wreckers, and she and her hero don’t  hit the high seas together until the very end. I dipped my toes into the seventeenth century waters with Orphans in the Storm, set at the end of the English Civil War. My very first book, My Outcast Heart, does have an eighteenth century setting, but it’s set on a small farm in Bedford, NY, a far cry from the glitter of the Georgian Court.

Her Last First Kiss gets closer, as it’s at least set (well, mostly) in London. I do a terrible job of staying in one place, setting-wise. In my heart of hearts, I am still a historical nomad, and fully plan to use a variety of settings (I must apologize to the Regency era for attempting to write in it, though. That did not go well for either of us.) but, lately, when I need to come up with a historical idea, my brain goes directly to Century Eighteen. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming, having spent my first ten years in a town steeped in colonial history, which had actually been burned to the ground by the British army during the war; yeah, think that imprinted on me pretty well.

I was an impressionable wee princess at the time of the Bicentennial, and eighteenth-century stuff was everywhere.  My eyes naturally went to a certain look when I watched movies set in “the olden days” – lace and heels on everybody, including the dudes, ornamentation everywhere, powdered wigs (hey, they were hot stuff back in the day) and grand houses. When I was a teen and participated in a young artists’ program at Wesleyan one summer, we had a poetry workshop that had some eighteenth century poetry in the curriculum, and I, to this day, remember walking from dorm to the building where we young writers would meet every weekday, floating on the music of those old-timey words. Yes. That was right. That was how the voices in my head naturally spoke. Doesn’t matter what side of the pond they might be.

Fast forward to now, when Melva and I first started batting around what would eventually become the Beach Ball. It’s a contemporary story, set in the world of historical romance. When we got to the point where we had to pick a historical setting for the book within the book, I had absolutely no hesitation suggesting the eighteenth century. That came as naturally as breathing, and so there it was.

Thinking ahead to what’s next, as I’m working on draft two of HLFK and Melva and I keep bringing the Beach Ball to its conclusion, my brain is pretty darned comfortable in the eighteenth century for the time being. I am okay with that. Why does this period feel like home for now? That’s a good question. I don’t know that there’s any one right answer. I’m hoping that the Hamilton effect will ripple into historical romance, and hang out there for at least a little while (though I haven’t written American Revolution yet, and the one time I tried, I had tried to force certain aspects, and it fizzled, taking part of my spirit down with it.)

In the end, I’m going to go with “it feels right,” and leave it at that. If that’s where the stories are, that’s where the stories are. At least we’ll know where to find each other.