Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Thanksgiving Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. We are now less than a week away from Thanksgiving, which means less than a week until the whole house smells like birdie. Unless, that is, the humans decide to go out for Thanksgiving dinner. Then the house will still smell like house. Maybe it will smell like the big candle in the dining room, if Anty lights it, but she will not light it unless humans are going to be home, so maybe not. They are still deciding on that one, but I will still get my turkey flavored cat food, so I win either way. Still, I would not mind the birdie aroma. The next thing that will happen after Thanksgiving is that the humans will put up the Christmas tree. I love watching the Christmas tree, but I do not attack it, because it is up high, and I am a floor girl. I can dream, though.
Since the deal is that I cannot talk about anything else before I tell everybody where to find Anty’s writing on the interweb, besides here, I had best get to that.

This week, as usual, Anty was at Buried Under Romance. This time, she talked about the importance of location in romance fiction. She does not mean where she left the book she is reading (for Anty, that usually means her purse, her nightstand, or the table next to her comfy chair) but where the story takes place. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURlocationlocationlocation

This is also a slightly sad post, because this is the very last post Anty will have at Heroes and Heartbreakers, as that blog is going to Rainbow Bridge. Anty has loved her time blogging for Heroes and Heartbreakers, and will miss posting there. She is glad, though, that her last post was a recap of a very good episode of Outlander. That post is here, and it looks like this:

HandHOutlander

Please forgive the creative cropping on some of these pictures. I have special paws, and Anty adjusted the display of her monitor, to be easier on her eyes. The actual posts have whole pictures, I promise.

Now is the part of the post where I check in on Anty’s Goodreads challenge. So far, Anty has read eighty-three out of ninety books, which puts her five books ahead of schedule, and ninety-two percent to her goal. Good job, Anty. Keep going. You are almost there. Only seven more books to go, and then the rest is gravy. I really like gravy. Here are the books Anty reviewed this week:

and

I think that is about it for Anty’s writing on the Interweb this week, apart from her entries on #1linewed on Twitter, but I do not have those with me right now, so I will have to think about adding them next time, or at least putting a link to Anty’s Twitter account. Apparently, that’s it right there. Maybe I am ahead of the game, too. I would not be surprised.

Anty says there is a lot to be thankful for this year, and she is not only talking about the fact that she gets to move into two new notebooks at basically the same time. Combine that with a major holiday, and that is pretty hard to beat, for Anty, but it is still not the best thing. Anty is sad that Heroes and Heartbreakers is going to Rainbow Bridge, but is looking for other places she might be able to write web content. As her mews, I will be sure to mention when there is news on that front.

That is not the best thing. I mean, me being Anty’s mews is a very good thing (she would have to write all of her own blogs, if I were not, and, let’s face it, sometimes, she does have to stretch for ideas now and again) but that is not the best-best thing about this year. Anty is very happy about teaching her workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys. at Charter Oak Romance Writers, in March. As a kitty, I am all for anything to do with sandboxes, but that is still not the best thing.

What Anty is most thankful for this year, is the renewed love of writing. She and Anty Melva have finished one book together, and started another. Anty is now reworking the second half of Her Last First Kiss, and has A Heart Most Errant almost ready for beta readers. If she plays her cards right, she might have three new books finished in this coming year. Writing is not always easy every day, but reading all of those books (go, Anty!) and actively looking for author voices, storylines, and character types that she loves the very, very best, helps Anty to find all of those things within her own imagination and put them into her own work.

This week, Anty and Miss N spent their meeting time, setting goals for the new year to come (New Year’s is after Christmas, so it is not that far away) and agreeing that part of their meetings for the foreseeable future will include bringing pen and paper and actually writing. Afterwards, they will have some time to discuss what they wrote. Anty does very well with someone sitting right there, expecting her to write, so she suspects this will help her become more productive, which goes a long way to getting new books out there.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

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The Unblank Page

There are ten days left in my current morning pages notebook, and I do not know what notebook I will use as its successor. Having notebooks is not the problem. I have notebooks. I have a lot of notebooks. Some might say I have too many notebooks. Some would be wrong. There is no such thing as too many notebooks. There is, however, such a thing as not having the right notebook, and for those, like me, who take notebooks seriously, this can become an issue.

I am also moving into a new planner at the end of the month, and I have that book on hand already. Morning pages are different. Those are for whatever is on my brain first thing when I wake, and, for those, I prefer for some design element to already be in place. If there are multiple designs that repeat through the book, that’s ideal. I got the same effect by rotating through different colors of ink for each entry, so I’d be fine with doing that again, as long as there is something on the page already.

I have tried, in the past, taking plain lined pages and adding stamped images or fancy washi tape to give some interest, but it’s not the same. I want to come to a page that’s move-in ready. This is going to involve some research, which will mostly consist of combing the shelves at local chain stores, flipping through notebooks and journals on display. There are a few factors at play here. The format of the book, size, cover material and design, whether or not there is a bookmark, the design and texture of the pages, and what sort of pen, what color of ink I will use on these pages, all come into consideration.

This may sound touchy-feely, or special-snowflake-y, to some, but every writer is different. I can only speak for myself. When the right notebook and I find each other, I’ll know it, and that’s going to have to happen within the next ten days, because that’s when this notebook will be full. I kind of like having that kind of a deadline.

Deadlines are great. Deadlines mean there is a limit to how much thinking, how much preparation can be done, because there is an ultimate destination. A post has to go live, there are no more pages in the book, the story is told. I love writing endings, and, since I write romance, that means I get to write happy endings. No matter what went before, the hero and heroine are going to be together at the end of the story, and they’re going to be happy about that. Anything up until then? Fair game.

My favorite endings aren’t sunshine and rainbows all around; there’s an element of the bittersweet to them as well, which only heightens the HEA for the lovers. They may have made important sacrifices along the way, lost people important to them, but they’re still breathing, and they have each other, and that’s a good place to start the rest of their lives. If we don’t see these characters again in related books (and I would love to see more true standalone romances) that’s all right. we know they’re going to be fine. I love sending a pair of lovers off into the sunset that way. After all they’ve been through in the course of a book, they’ve earned some time alone, and there are more lovers to meet. more adventures to be had.

It’s not that different from coming to the end of a notebook. I don’t normally write-write (as in writing fiction) in my morning pages, but I have used those pages to work story problems out, on occasion. So far, I haven’t had a manuscript and morning pages book start and end at the same time, but that could be a goal for 2019. Not saying that it is, but not ruling t out, either. I’ve done a lot of thinking, recently, about why it is I prefer a predesigned page for my morning pages, and why it matters what notebook I choose when I pick out a dedicated notebook (and/or pretty legal pad) for a new project.

What it comes down to, for me, is the unblank page. Pablo Picasso said that all creation begins with destruction. The first mark or dab of paint on a blank canvas destroys the blankness of that canvas. I’m not a Picasso devotee, but have to hand him this one. It’s not only different colors and shapes on a physical page, but coming to the day’s writing with a sense of what will be on the page, be it paper or screen.

Having designs on the page when I pick up my pen for morning pages reminds me why I’m there. Not that I can’t figure it out without pretty pages, but they do make the experience richer. Maybe that has something to do with the kinds of stories I like to write, as well as read. I want the details. I want the information. I want to know what the room looks like and smells like and what the weather is, and if my people are comfortable or not, if they’re tired, hungry, impatient, if the room is too hot or too cold, who else might be around, that kind of thing.

With morning pages, and with writing, the hardest part is putting that first mark on the page. After that, it does get easier. Sometimes, pages are filled quickly, sometimes it takes a while longer, and I am fine with that. Fill one page, then another, and then, before I know it, the book is almost done. Not that hard when one looks at it that way.

Every New Beginning

Several years ago, I came across a website called Heroes and Heartbreakers, filled with posts on romance in books and television, and I instantly fell in love, liked, followed, friended, the whole deal, because I’d been looking for a romance community with which to celebrate my favorite genre. When I saw a tweet that they were looking for bloggers, my heart quickened, and I stuck out some feelers, wrote a sample post, waited for the reply, and then chair danced at the invitation to keep blogging for them.

Over the last few years, I got to recap shippy goings-on for favorite TV shows like How I Met Your Mother, Sleepy Hollow, Bones, The Big Bang Theory, and Outlander. I got to gush about romance novels that resonated with me, get advance peeks at exciting new books before they hit the shelves, and pick the best of the best books in times, tropes, and places I love. I got to read the work of other romance bloggers, engage in dialogue with other fans of the genre, and it even led to my first time co-presenting a workshop on blogging at last year’s NECRWA conference.

Late last week, I got the news that Heroes and Heartbreakers will be closing its website at the end of the year. The newsletter will remain, and I look forward to reading the new issues. Still, I’m going to miss the website. Thanks to Heroes and Heartbreakers, I’ve done a lot of reading, and watched a lot of romantic television, learned about writing to deadline, brainstorming, and getting straight to the  heart of the matter.

Sharing what I love about reading and writing romance fiction, on any platform, is part of the fun, and I am thankful for that. Any time I get together with romance-reading friends, there is going to be a part of the conversation when we touch on favorite authors, the books we love, the books we’d like to see. I’m planning on incorporating more of that on this blog, because the more I talk about romance fiction, the more of it I want to write.

Romance has been my genre home. long before I pilfered my first historical romance novel from my mother’s night table. I hardcore shipped characters in my favorite cartoons, among Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies, and no fairy tale was ever complete without a happily ever after, no matter how dark things got along the way.

I still remember reading The Kadin under the bed in the guest bedroom, the first time I got my hands on a magazine that was, at the time, called Romantic Times, the first time I walked the romance aisles of a used bookstore, no adult with me, because I was eighteen, and thus, I was the adult. I remember my consternation when I found that there were no traditional Tudors or traditional Edwardians to go along with the traditional Regencies. I remember the college friend who literally chased me across campus, to physically put Lovesong, by Valerie Sherwood, into my hand and announce that she had delivered my newest favorite book. I remember shielding myself from a chill wind at a pay phone (dating myself, but it was a good memory, so I don’t mind) so I could call a local indie bookstore and ask if they had a copy of Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, because the combination of a compelling love story with a faith based theme was new and exciting, and I wanted to reserve my copy. They did, and I did, and it remains one of my favorites to this day.

Romance has changed a lot since I nabbed that book from my mom’s nightstand, and it hasn’t. I find that fascinating. Cover aesthetics go through cycles. Subgenres fall in and out of favor. Authors reinvent themselves, retire, or manage to deliver the goods again and again, over years and even decades. I love the history of romance fiction as much as I love reading and writing historical romance itself, so talking about that here is a natural outgrowth. I look forward to sharing more about why I love what I love, and how it fits into my own work.

It’s late in the day, and that’s the magic seven hundred, so I’m going to leave this entry here, and go make some tea. I am proud and happy to be a romance writer and reader, and I will always be thankful for Heroes and Heartbreakers enriching my experience as both.

 

 

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Anty Smells Like Vet Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is cold here, in New York’s Capitol Region, but that is okay. One, because I am fuzzy, and two, because I get to stay inside, where the heaters are. I also sometimes curl into a ball in the exact middle of the hallway floor, because that is directly under the ceiling light, and exactly halfway between the heat from Uncle and Anty’s bedroom, and the heat from the bathroom. The heat from the kitchen and dining room reach me there, too.  I am a very smart (and warm) kitty,  The humans are not as impressed with my choice of resting spot. Not my fault I got there first.

It is also not my fault Anty started out the week smelling like vet. People vet, that is, not vet-vet. I did not have to go anywhere. Anty, however, had to get a shot, but on the bright side, she did not have to wear the cone of shame, and she did get to spend some time in the waiting room, reading. She also got to read for a while in the pharmacy, and she got home early enough that my treat schedule was not at all interrupted. She does not smell like vet now, which is also a plus. Now, she smells like laundromat. I do not go to the laundromat, either, unless you want to count shed fur on pretty much all of the clothing Anty washes.

Before I am allowed to talk about anything else, I have to talk about where people can read Anty’s writing on the interwebs. Besides here, that is. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This time, she talked about road romances, which are not actually about roads. They are about humans who travel together. This is also the entry where Anty accidentally wrote two introductory paragraphs and did not notice until today. Oops. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURontheroadagain

Now is the part of the post where I bring you up to date on Anty’s Goodreads challenge. Anty is currently kicking um, behind, and taking names on this one, because, as of today, she is four books ahead of schedule, with eighty-one books read out of ninety, which puts her at ninety percent done, and it is not yet the middle of November. I am impressed.

This week’s reading balances last week, when Anty read a lot of YA books. This week, she reviewed one historical romance novel, but it was by Bertrice Small, the author who got Anty into historical romance (both reading and writing) in the first place, and it is a standalone book, and set in Roman Britain. Those are all things that make Anty want to pay close attention and take her time reading. That review is here, and it looks like this:

GRsmalltoloveagain

Amty will probably re-read more books by Lady Small, as many of her readers call her, especially those that did not get as much publicity as some of her better-known works, and Anty has read only once before. Anty likes to study this kind of thing, and see what she can glean from it, to bring into her own work. Anty actually does that with a lot of things, but when it comes to historical romance novels, she takes that to a higher level.

Many things about writing, and the historical romance genre, have changed since Lady Small was a new author, and some things have stayed the same. Anty says publishing is always in flux (that means changing) and so it pays to keep an eye out for what is going on in the current market. That is true, and wise advice. Anty also likes to keep in touch with things that remind her why she started writing, and started writing historical romance, also. She likes to keep a balance between the past and present, so she will have the best resources, going forward.

Now that days are shorter and colder, that means Anty can have more reading time (especially since the site that lets her play computer games is giving her guff) and also more writing itme. Anty is very glad both of those things can be done in a comfy chair, with a blanket in her lap and a cup of tea at hand. She forgot to mention a kitty at her feet, so I will put that part in, for her. I help by slow blinking at her and sending her love beams. I am also close by, in case she wants to take a break from reading and writing and feed a cat instead. Lucky for her, I am one. I am also there to remind her that she needs to step up her historical romance reading game, because the end of the year is approaching, and she would like that total to be at least fifty percent.

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

 

skyebyenew

see you next week

Christmas Story Questions

When I was about four or five, I sat in the dining room of our two story Colonial house in Bedford, NY, with my parents and grandfather (Dad’s dad.) I was across from my grandfather, my mother at one end of the table, and my father at the other. I don’t remember the exact subject of adult conversation, but what I do remember is the knowledge hitting me that Christmas came every year, and I could count years from Christmas to Christmas. I don’t remember the exact time of year, though I want to say it was fall, which would fit. Christmas would not have been that far off, so my parents would have wanted to make plans. My grandfather would have returned to his home in Puebla, Mexico, long before then, so maybe they wanted to let him know what would be going on, even if he couldn’t be there.

Christmas Is still my favorite holiday. I will happily read Christmas romances at any time of year. I have been known to watch Christmas episodes of TV shows I do not otherwise watch, because Christmas. If there is a marathon of Christmas episodes, especially those from the 1970s, I am there. When I worked in a bookstore (for a brief span of time, two of them at once) I kept a special shelf for the Christmas anthologies that came out every year, so that customers could find the seasonal reads quickly, and took advantage of my employee discount to bring a good number of them home.

Now that we have the interweb, and e-books, I get alerts to new Christmas romances from favorite authors and new authors, often linked to ongoing story worlds. It’s not possible for me to be intimately familiar with all of those worlds, but put the word, “Christmas,” in the title or blurb, and I am at least going to take a look. For me, Christmas novellas are an important part of the holiday season. Double points if I can read said stories by the lights of the Christmas tree, cup of seasonally appropriate beverage (tea, cocoa, eggnog, cider) at hand. Triple points if there can be Christmas cookies or gingerbread involved.

I have never written a Christmas story. I don’t know why. Scratch that. I have never written a Christmas story for commercial fiction. I have written holiday themed fanworks, under other names, and I loved those. The chance to combine my favorite holidays, and favorite characters makes writing, which is already pretty good, even more fun, and it brings its own set of challenges as well.

The first thing that comes to mind is that several of the Christmas novellas I see these days are tied into established story worlds, complete with a handful of previous heroes and heroines, to show up for the holiday gathering, usually with adorable progeny in tow. Right now, I don’t have a continuing story world, apart from the eighteenth century as a whole, so An X Family Christmas is not happening until there is an X family. Same with Y Club Christmas, League of Z Chrismtas, and so on, which does not rule out the prospect of a Christmas story altogether, by any means.

Many of the stories in the countless anthologies I’ve gobbled are true standalones, two lovers, one ending, no sequels, prequels, or spinoffs, complete unto themselves. The historical era doesn’t matter much. Christmas is the great equalizer. Give me the customs of the time, toss in two people with emotional baggage, and crank said baggage up to eleven, because Christmas is also the great magnifier. All the tensions, hopes, regrets, possibilities for reconciliation, strangers who become friends, and possibly more; I love all that stuff.

Writing a Christmas-themed historical romance makes sense. I love Christmas. I love historical romance. I love writing. So why have I not written one of my own? No idea. Seriously, none. Maybe it’s time to fix that. Not for this year, because we’re nearly a third of the way through November, but that only means plenty of time to think about what sort of Christmas story I want to tell. Being a temporal nomad, without an established story world, the field is wide open. Medieval? Tudor? Restoration? Eighteenth century, on either side of the pond? Maybe skip ahead to the turn of the twentieth century once again? In Never Too Late, Amelia receives the journal in which she begins her tale as a Christmas present, and starts writing in it on New Year’s Day, so that’s kind of close.

This is the part of the post where I hear my dad’s voice saying that close only counts in something I can’t remember and horseshoes. In short, not technically a Christmas story, so I have some thinking to do. Good news is that I have plenty of time in which to do it, if I want to have my story ready for next year. Right now, I know nothing about it. I kind of like that. It’s a voyage of discovery, a reason to re-read some classic Christmas romances and look into some new ones, pick what I love best from Christmas stories that have gone before and see what I want to bring to the table.

Part of that process is picking the brains of others who love what I love. What kinds of Christmas romances do you like best? Any particular time period or trope or character type that will immediately get at least a second look? Have a favorite Christmas romance you’ve read, or perhaps written? Bring it on.

Gray Day Rambles

As of last night, I have officially read all of Adam Silvera’s novels. On the one hand, this means I’m current. On the other hand, this also means that now I want more, and the next one isn’t out yet. Though Mr. Silvera’s books are contemporary YA, they have a lot of what I look for in historical romance. The focus on character and relationship, the vivid use of setting, distinct character voice, which melds with an author voice that fits the story world and subject matter. I want more of that. Since his next book doesn’t come out until next year, this means I need to read something else.

Thankfully, this is not a problem. I am only half joking when I say I could build a small house out of my TBR books and read my way out. Right now, I am also reading (re-reading) To Love Againby Bertrice Small. Historical romance instead of contemporary YA this time, and the setting is Roman Britain, not modern NYC, but, here again, there is that full immersion in the story world, the clear author voice, and the knowledge that, when I pick up a novel by this author, I know what I am getting. Ms. Small is the author who got me into reading and writing historical romance in the first place, so re-reading one of her books is, in a way, like coming home. That’s a good place to come from, when one’s focus is on creating one’s own fiction.

Right now, I am at my desk, my Starbucks mug all but empty of my second cup of tea for the day. The weather is grey and intermittently rainy, which made for excellent foliage peeping as I walked through the park on my way to and from a doctor appointment this morning. My office assistant is on duty, currently catloafed on the small sliver of hardwood between my office door and the start of the carpet she refuses to cross.

061117SkyeOMalleyCat

My “A Working Day” playlist is playing through my earphones, and the blinds in my window are open enough to let me peer outside and get a glimpse of the beautiful greyness that awaits on the other side of the window. The Canada Geese and their mallard buddies are still in the lake in the park. The weather has been mild enough, this autumn, that they are sticking around, patrolling their waters, and giving some waterfowl-y side-eye to humans who interrupt their routine.

061117CanadaGeese

These are the autumn days I love the very, very best. Now that the days get darker, earlier, there’s an extra pep in my step. Apple cider (cold or hot, along with donuts made from/with same) and pumpkin pie are always welcome, as are steaming mugs of tea, hot apple pie and the requisite melty scoop of vanilla ice cream. This weather is perfect for walks around the lake, stories swirling in my head. Sometimes, these stories are the books that I’ve been reading, and, sometimes, they are my own.

Okay, always, they are my own. Even when reading someone else’s work, the repertory company in my head peers over my shoulder. This one wouldn’t have done that, this other one can’t wait to see a certain character’s choice bite them in the posterior a few chapters down the road, and, more often than not, my own imaginary friends work out some of their drama while I’m caught in the drama of others. Call it subliminal, or back-burner, or free-floating, all I know is that it works. If the worst thing is not knowing what comes next, then the best thing is immersing myself in the things that I love, and knowing that something is going to come out of that.

This morning, it was two walks through the park, with waterfowl, and a stranger’s Husky that had to give me a hand kiss before he would continue with his walk. It was the promise of Lapsang Souchong tea when I reached my destination, vivid word pictures swirling in my head. It was a few isolated drops of drizzle, the true deluge likely held at bay by the fact that I brought my vintage wood-handled umbrella with me, in case the sky did open. The sky did not open, apart from aforementioned drizzle, so the umbrella also remained closed. Better to have an umbrella and not need it, than need it and not have it. There’s also the fact that I like this umbrella. It’s kind of dapper. It’s plain black, but it has a presence, and it has a history, both things I like to have in my fiction.

If we had a fireplace in our apartment, I would stuff some firewood in there, maybe even toss in a pinecone or two, and scootch the antique rocking chair that I have loved as far back as I can remember, up to said fire, blanket in my lap, and pen and notebook in hand. Days like this are meant for stories, both the reading and the writing of them. For those of us who write for publication, that doesn’t mean we only write when the atmosphere is right; we wouldn’t have any books whatsoever if our favorite authors did that. Still, when these days come, they are all the more special for their rarity, a time to open the metaphorical windows of the writer brain and let the room fill, then put all of that on the page.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Hello, November Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. The weather is gray and looks like rain, which makes Anty happy, and happy Anty means happy me, unless Anty is happy because the writing is going so well that she forgets to get up and give me food exactly when I want it, but don’t worry. I will remind her.  There is a lot to share this week, so I had better get to it.

First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, rounding out her paranormal month with a look at vampire romance. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURlovebites

Anty was at Heroes and Heartbreakers twice this week, which I think is pretty good. First, because it was an odd-numbered episode of Outlander, Anty has her recap. It is here, and it looks like this:

HandHOutlandercremedementhe

Because this is a brand new month, Heroes and Heartbreakers rounded up their bloggers’ reads from the last month. Anty and other bloggers have their answers here. I did not take a picture of that, because of technical difficulties, but Anty always likes to see what other people read during the month that has passed, and she is always happy to share her favorite read as well.

Now is the part of the post where I bring everybody up to date on Anty’s reading challenge at Goodreads. Anty gets an A+++ for this week, because she is four books ahead of schedule, having read seventy-nine out of ninety books. Because this is also the start of a new month, it is also when I take a look at how Anty is doing on her goal of reading more historical romance.

As of today, thirty-six of the seventy-nine are historical romance. On this goal, Anty can do better. That is okay, because she is currently reading three historical romances. Anty’s reading tastes often go in waves, so I am sure this will even out by the end of the year. She will need forty-five historical romances to make her goal of reading at least half historical romance this year. All four of the books she read last week were YA, and her reviews are here:

GReverythingeverything

Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon

GRmorehappythannot

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera

GRthesunisalsoastar

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

GRupsideofunrequited

The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli

Anty read all of those books in a couple of days, which is a nice change from taking a long time to read one book. Even though these books were not historical romances, all of them have love stories in them, and three of them count as romance. What Anty likes about these books is the intensity of emotion, and the distinct author voices. These are both things she hopes to bring into her own work, so taking in what she wants to put out sounds like a good approach to me.

Now that we are past Halloween, and into November, the holiday season is in full swing. The humans are discussing plans for Thanksgiving (I will get a small dish of turkey flavored cat food) and Christmas (this may involve additional humans coming into the house; either way, I still get presents, so I will deal.) It is also the time of year when Anty likes to snuggle under a warm blanket, with a hot beverage, while she reads, writes, or has some thinky time. These are the times when I am on mews duty, which I carry out by sitting very, very close, usually in catloaf formation, and sending out slow blinks and love beams. When Anty writes in her office, I lay on the small strip of hardwood floor near the doorway. I can rest my head on the carpet, but not my paws.

I get to see a lot from this position. Anty likes to write in longhand best, which eans she accumulates a lot of paper. Sometimes, she will throw me crumpled pieces of paper. Usually, I look at them, and I am interested until they stop moving. Then I am not interested anymore. It is kind of like that with writing. When Anty keeps going at a steady clip, the writing comes easier. When the story stops moving, then it is not as interesting anymore, and she might start doing something else. If those other things include petting or feeding me, then that is okay, but she really does need to get back to the writing after that.

When the story stops for Anty, it is usually a case of not knowing what happens next. Once she figures out what happens, then she can get back down to business. Sometimes, this can be solved with some research, like when she needs to know if her characters could do a thing in the eighteenth century, or how they would do it, or what they were wearing while doing that particular thing. Other times, it is more the feel of the scene, or a character would not do what she wants them to do. In those times, it is much better to go with what the character wants. She will probably end up doing that in the long run, anyway, so she may as well make it easier on herself.

Yesterday, Anty spent some time making sure that all of her papers and files were in the right places. This involved a lot of paper, but only paper she wanted to keep, so there was nothing for her to crumple for me. That is okay. I know it will come, in time, once she starts going through sticky notes. Sticky notes are my very favorite kind of crumpled paper, apart from the pamphlets that come inside new Moleskine notebooks. Those are the very very best, but there are only so many Moleskines even Anty can start at one time.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

.

 

The November-est Thing

As of this morning, I have three weeks left in my morning pages book. I have about the same amount of time left in my planner. This means that I will have two fresh notebooks for the start of the end of the year. For somebody who loves planning, starting two new notebooks at the same time, especially at the start of a new month is like, well, Christmas, which is not that far away anymore.  Starting a new planner means making new plans, and a new book for morning pages means a whole bunch of new mornings. There’s the whole process of choosing what books/planners to use, which pens, flipping through the as-yet empty pages, and imagining what will eventually fill them.

This is another NaNope year for me, but I do want to use the start of a new month to pick up the writing pace. Okay, and try out a new tracker. A page a day is a book in a year, after all. Probably somewhat quicker than that, as I am second-drafting the last half of one book (okay, re-drafting, but it’s my blog, so I’ll call it what I want) and co-writing a second. So, that’s what, two half-books? Which averages out to one whole book, so still somewhat in that ballpark.

The biggest obstacle, for me, to writing more is not knowing what I’m doing. Having a flexible (because those characters have their own ideas) plan in place goes a long way to counteract that, and having an audience is like catnip.  I live for that stuff. In a once upon a time critique group (which included my contemporary co-writer, Melva Michaelian) I was the only person who had something to read, every single week. It wasn’t always on the current WIP, but there was always something. I am not currently in a group, but I do have three independent critique partners, two of whom I met by turning to the new person next to me at an RWA chapter meeting and introducing myself. Pretty much the same for the other one, though online, and on a fan fiction newsgroup.

Talking things out with writer friends usually does the trick to get stalled trains of thought moving again. Sometimes, for extroverts, (okay, often, for extroverts) thinking and talking happen at the same time. This is especially true, for me, when it comes to writing fiction. Babbling is my usual M.O., and, when I start to flounder in said babbling, the best thing is for the other person to ask me questions. Freewriting is basically babbling on paper, and it has its place, but there is that x factor of the other person, those questions I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, but, as soon as they’re asked, bam, there’s the answer.

November brings a focus on productivity, and also on reflection. The days grow shorter, nights longer. Colorful leaves give way to bare branches that reach to a slate-grey sky, hopefully with a good dose of rain and/or snow, on especially good days. This week, my Goodreads challenge tells me I am four books ahead of schedule, thanks to my recent YA binge. I inhaled last night’s This Is Us, and will probably go back and re-watch, to pick up small details from the dual timelines, and follow the threads that appear in both times and connect to the “now” of the present-day story.

November is at once time to pick up the pace and slow it down. Time to remember why I write, and what I want to bring to my readers. Time to refill the well and empty it out, then fill it again. Hopefully time to figure out the right balance so that the metaphorical bucket doesn’t hit dry earth, but there may be a learning curve on that one.

Suffice it to say that I’m excited at this turn of season. Halloween candy is on clearance, along with all things skull-themed and batty. Christmas displays are going up, and Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I like that, but I’d like to take a pause at Thanksgiving first. That’s possibly the November-est thing there is. Not the actual calendar holiday by itself, though that is a big part of it, but the whole feel of Thanksgiving.

Shorter days mean the world gets tucked in for the night, earlier. Cinnamon and pumpkin scent the air. Thoughts turn to friends and family, and who’s going where, when. Couches become beds for a weekend, odd assortments of chairs crowd around the dining room table, to make sure everybody has a seat. Porch lights go on early, firewood becomes a hot (pun intended) commodity, tea, coffee, and cocoa flow, and warm, comfy blankets come out of their hibernation, so that writerly/readerly types can drape them over our laps and hunker down for some quality time with our imaginary friends.

This part, I don’t want to rush. I love the whole holiday season, which, for me, has always started with my own birthday, one week before Halloween, and goes straight on through to Valentine’s Day. I love it. I want to get the most out of it, and I don’t want to rush it. I want to savor it and cherish it and let it do what it does best. I’m grumpy that Thanksgiving, all too often, gets shoved off to the side, when it’s perfectly situated so that there is one major holiday at the end of October, November, and December, but I am not in charge of retail

What I am in charge of is how and when and where I write. This time of year, my imaginary friends come home for the holidays. They hang out with me all year, of course, or at least that is the plan. Most of them would have no idea what Thanksgiving is, and more than a few of them would probably be convinced that I’m making the whole thing up, but  that’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s keeping in the spirit of the season. No family gathering is complete without a few disagreements, a couple of blow-ups, some misunderstandings, squabbling amongst the ranks, etc, but, in the end, the good times are worth it. At least that’s the plan.

 

The Annual NaNoWriMo Waffle

Right now, I am at my desk, Abbie and Ichabod back on my desktop, because it is almost Halloween. I have an Irish fisherman sweater style blanket in my lap, and am drinking tea out of my new Her Ladyship mug (birthday present from Housemate) and listening to my newest earworm, “This Is How You Walk On,” by Gary Lightbody and Johnny McDaid, on repeat. Here, listen:

When I get earworms like this, it’s usually best to get out of their way (aka play them on repeat for an insanely long period of time) and let them burrow all the way through, because there is something in them, that will be going into a story, somewhere. I’ve had story on the brain lately. Not an entirely unusual thing for a writer, especially of fiction, and, with November a mere couple of days away, it is time for the annual NaNoWriMo waffle around here.

Not that there are actual waffles involved, though I would not turn down any waffles that might come my way, in November or any other month.  To NaNo, or not to NaNo is the big question, and, by this time, I should have it settled, but I don’t. I love the idea of community, and I love the encouragement, but the word count, which is kind of an important part of the whole endeavor, yeah, not so much. I focus on that, and numbers become the goal instead of story. Still, November this year coincides with my goal of increasing production.  Think, think, think. Thinkety-think–think.

Since I normally tend toward overthinking, I am taking a different path. This morning, I updated some trackers in my notebook, and noticed that, once again, I have wandered away from my revised writing tracker. This probably means that I have ruled out another way to track progress. One thing I’ve learned from tracking various habits is that what works best for me is to do what feels natural, and then figure out how I did it afterwards. I don’t know if there is a national month for that. Creative Exploration Month? Is that a thing? Even if it isn’t, the time feels right.

When trying to figure out how/what to track, the question I ask myself first is, “what motivates me?” For writing, the answer is easy: story. Characters. People. When I first slipped a blank sheet of paper into my electronic typewriter (yep, it was that long ago,) in a Vermont dorm room, on an autumn afternoon, I didn’t think about word count. I didn’t think about marketing. I didn’t think about trackers or comparing myself to anybody else. I had too much story on the brain. My only focus was to move my hero and heroine along the timeline of the story. I don’t remember how much I wrote that first day. I do remember taping (this was before I discovered Post-its) a piece of memo paper to the shelf above my desk, with the next milestone I wanted to hit in the next session. All I had to do was write toward that, and everything would be fine.

It’s been a while since then, but this may be one of those times when going with the first, instinctive reaction may be the best. I’m not sorry I paused Her Last First Kiss‘s second draft, to rework some of the events, but November feels right to put away the map and get moving again. Still a little scary, but I think a healthy dose of scariness is a good thing when it comes to writing. It means the writer is trying something new. Stretching. Growing. Adding more tools to the toolbox. If what comes out of it is that I find another method that doesn’t work, well, that’s valuable too.

What I know is this: I have stories. They need to be told. I am the only one who can tell them. Right now, Melva and I have one finished manuscript, our first together, making the rounds, and another in its earliest days of a first draft. I have a second draft of another more than halfway done, with its second half re-plotted to better serve characters and story.

That’s where my attention has to go; the characters and their story. When I can focus on that, slip into their world, and walk around in their skins, writing doesn’t feel like work at all. There’s a time for planning the trip, and a time for hitting the proverbial road. Maybe I’ll NaNo, and maybe I won’t, but, either way, November is going to be time for getting together with my imaginary friends, and getting their stories told.

Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Halloween Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty would like to thank all those who wished her a happy birthday this week, because she did have one. For part of it, she got to sit in her comfy chair, drank tea, and read, while I slept under her footrest. There was rain that day, which Anty also very much liked. Uncle ordered in Chinese food for a special birthday lunch (I had cat food, because I am a cat, and that is what cats eat) and then Anty watched Netflix with a friend over Skype (still has nothing to do with Skye pee; I am not going to get over that anytime soon.) Very nice day, all things considered.

The next holiday that is coming up is Halloween, and Anty likes that one, too. I will talk more about that after I bring everyone up to date on where they can find Anty’s writing on the interweb this week (besides here.) First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talked about ghosts in romance. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURghostromance

Now we come to the part of the post where I tell you about Anty’s Goodreads challenge.

GR2710readubgcgakkebge

As of today, Anty is two books ahead of her goal. She has read seventy-five out of ninety books. All of the books she read this week are YA. Some of them have love stories in them, but not all of them would qualify as romance. Right now, Anty is finding a lot of intense emotion in these books, and would like to figure out how she can get some of that into historical romance. It is a field of study for her at present, and, as we can see from her reading activity, she does not mind the homework. I think these books could use a few more cats in them, but I do get to sleep near Anty’s reading chair no matter what she is reading, so I will not complain. The books Anty read this week are:

GReverythingeverything

Everything Everything, By Nicola Yoon

GRmorehappythannot

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera

GRturtlesallthewaydown

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green

 

Anty hopes to get more reading done over the weekend, and, because it is my duty as a mews to remind her of her historical romance challenge, she might want to get some of that in the rotation, because the first Friday of the new month is not that far off, and I will be tallying the percentage of historical romances she has read then. I strongly suspect this current YA tear will be followed by a historical romance tear, but who can tell when one will give way to the other?

Now that birthday festivities are (mostly) over, Anty looks forward to some decent writing time in the coming week. She is probably not going to official participate in NaNo WriMo this year, but she may sneak into a write-in or two. Sometimes, Anty needs a booster dose of people, and sometimes, she especially needs to be around writer people. I am not entirely sure how that works (because I am a kitty) but I have learned that Anty needs what Anty needs. Now that her favorite coffee house is open again, she will probably be going there more often, sometimes with notebooks, and sometimes with her laptop, if she can figure out why the whole thing has to be tilted at a certain angle, to keep the screen from going black.  Anty and Miss N have talked some about how they can increase productivity in writing for the rest of the year, not only in November (Miss N is not doing NaNo, either) so Anty will probably say more about that later.

For now, we shift our attention to the next holiday on the calendar, which is Halloween. Anty likes Halloween, because that means that there are a lot more things in stores, with skulls on them. Anty collects skull things. She wears a skeleton hand ring every day, and one of her water bottles is kind of like a mason jar, but shaped like a skull. It is also red, which most skulls are not. Anty does not have any real skulls (apart from the ones the rest of the family is currently using at this time) but she does have a lot of skull-shaped things. Human skulls only, not kitty skulls. That is an important clarification.

Anty is not sure when the skull thing actually started. Maybe it has something to do with pirates, because some of them had skulls, or whole skeletons, on their flags. So far, Anty has only written one story with a pirate in it (that would be Queen of the Ocean) but it will probably not be the last one, because she has been interested in pirates for a very long time.  I am not sure how that one started, either, but she does remember watching a cartoon version of Treasure Island when she was maybe four or five, so that may have something to do with it. The day after Halloween means that things with skulls on them often go on sale, so Anty likes that day, too. Mama has said that Anty likes to go to post-Halloween sales to pick up stuff to use and wear all year round, and she is not wrong.

I should probably mention here that Anty once won a prize for wearing an imaginative Halloween costume to work, when she was actually wearing her regular clothes. Anty did not correct the person, because the prize was free chocolate, and Anty is not stupid. She is not that into chocolate these days (though she will probably want one fun-sized Snickers sometime in the next week) so gummi bears would be a better choice to reward her for creative dressing. Or maybe books. Anty always likes books.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week