Typing With Wet Claws: Conference 2017 Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This week there is some degree of time travel going on with this blog. Because today is the first day of the conference, and Anty will be leaving the apartment very early so that she can meet Anty Melva in MA and then go to the conference together, and Anty has several writing things that need attention before then (also packing, because she, as of this writing, had not done that yet) this post is actually coming to you from…get ready for this…yesterday. Whoa. I know. I am not sure how Anty managed that, but anybody who can get a cat to blog for her, and manipulate time, has to be pretty smart.

First, as usual, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week, and not as usual, she invited readers to play a game with her, instead of a regular post. Because there were some issues with the interwebs, not everybody got to see it or have a chance to play, but because Miss Ezrah is a warrior queen webmistress, now you can. It is here, and the link on the main page looks like this:


Since this is conference week, I am going to give Anty some grace and not mention that she is now even behinder in the Goodreads reading challenge.  Okay, not how much behinder, but still. Anty. Read books. Between ouchy back and post-conference exhaustion, I think she may have some time to read when she gets back from the conference. I would give her partial credit for bingeing on the whole season of Thirteen Reasons Why, but that was the TV show, not the book, so it does not count. Anty, I love you, but you need to step up the reading game. Big time.

Sometimes, when Anty is watching TV, she is actually working. That happened this week, when she got to write a timeline of the Rick and Michonne romance in The Walking Dead. I like Rick and Michonne. She likes cat statues, so I think she would like real kitties, too. Rick got her a new cat statue when she did not have her old one anymore. Maybe he would also like real kitties. That post is here, and it looks like this:


Anty likes writing this kind of timeline post, and that is a good thing, because, when she comes back from the conference, she gets to write another one, about humans on a different show. That is pretty exciting.  She also has the okay to write another post, about the books of an author she likes very, very much, and needs to finish reading one more book, so that she will have read all the books that author wrote under that name. :clears throat: Anty, do the right thing.

Well, writing has to come first, because Anty cannot sell or publish books that she has not written. That is kind of important. She has been up late at the computer the last few nights, and her back has some things to say about that, but the Beach Ball is bouncing its way to the finish line, which makes both Anty and Anty Melva very happy. Hopefully, it will make some lucky editor and/or agent very happy, as well.

With all the writing Anty has been doing, and Uncle learning, the hard way, that he was wrong about the expiration date on those sausages (he will be okay, do not worry.) things have been a little crazy around here. Landlord came by a couple of days ago, and replaced lightbulbs in almost all of the overhead fixtures. Guess which bulbs did not get replaced. If you guessed Anty’s office, you were right. Uncle and Mama both claim they did not know Anty needed new lightbulbs, but here is a clue: at nighttime, it is dark. This is okay for me, because I am a kitty, and I have built-in night vision goggles (they are pretty cool) but Anty has a bedside lamp on the desk of her hutch, which is okay for only the computer screen and desk surface, but those are not the only things Anty uses in her office. Landlord or Handyman will take care of that fixture when one of them comes over to put in the new kitchen light. I suspect Anty may want to clean things once those lights get installed. Maybe she will finally see how ugly the carpet is and want to get rid of it. A cat can dream.

Because it is conference week, Anty has something special for everybody who comes to her workshop, or is interested in blogging, but attending a different workshop (like Miss Alyssa’s) or cannot attend the conference. Miss Rhonda has made a PDF of the Power Point presentation they and Miss Corrina will use. Click on the link below, and it can be yours. You can even read it at home in your pajamas, if you are into that kind of thing.


That is about it for this week. If you are going to the conference, feel free to say hi to Anty when you see her. If you are reading this blog, then it is no big surprise that Anty loves to talk about writing and romance novels. Also notebooks and pens and tea and gummi bears and TV shows and makeup and um, yeah. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,





Typing With Wet Claws: A Little Help From My Friends Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. There is a lot going on this week, so I will tell you about Anty’s writing first, right off the bat (nothing happened with bats, but it is October, after all, so I thought that was appropriate) before we do anything else.

Anty’s post on Buried Under Romance is all about identity issues this week. It is here:

http://www.buriedunderromance.com/2016/10/saturday-discussion-disguise-mistaken-identity-and-amnesia-oh-my.html and it looks like this:


The crop tool in Paint was not made for those of us with paws instead of hands.


Anty is always happy to talk about books that she liked, and, this week, a post she wrote once upon a time, about one of those books, Watermark, by E. Catherine Tobler, got a mention on Alexis A. Hunter’s website to kick off Octoblerfest. The giveaway for that book is over now, but if you like speculative fiction, often with a romantic element, you might want to keep an eye on that website, for a chance at other books. The post where Anty’s post is linked is here https://alexisahunter.com/2016/10/01/octoblerfest-giveaway-1-watermark/. Maybe you will win the next giveaway.

I would also like to say thank you to one of my readers, Mr. Glen, who asked Anty if there had been a Feline Friday post last week. Anty assured him there was, and that I would never let my readers down. I take my duties as a mews very seriously. Thank you, Mr. Glen. In case you did miss that post, it is here: https://annacbowling.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/typing-with-wet-claws-mythical-vuvuzela-edition/ and it looks like this:


A picture of this blog, on this blog; how meta is that?

For those who do not know, Mr. Glen is mystery author Glen Ebisch. I do not know if any of his books have cats in them, but they do have mystery and romance and you can find out more about them here: http://www.glenebisch.com/.

Okay, I think that is all of the housekeeping for this week. Well, apart from picking up my sheds, that is. I am shedding a lot of fur right now, to get ready for my super-floofy winter coat, which means our floors look like an old west ghost town. This has not prompted Anty to start thinking of western romance ideas, but one never knows. Right now, Anty is focused on Her Last First Kiss, and the Beach Ball. Also her posts for Heroes and Heartbreakers, but her novel-writing plate is full right now, and any other ideas are going to have to take a number and wait.

Last night, Anty and Anty Melva spent three times the amount of time they had set aside for their talk on Skype (I am still disappointed Skype has nothing to do with Skye pee, because I am really good at, well, you know. My once upon a time vet said he never saw so much you know what come out of one cat at one time, in his whole career. That has to be worth something.) because they decided to outline all of the scenes to take them to the end of the Beach Ball, and that is exactly what they did. They both threw their arms up in the air and shouted when they got to the end of the outline. That was loud. I am happy they are happy, though. A happy writer human makes the job of a mews that  much easier.

Now that the smoke alarms are fixed, and the new people litterbox has been installed, it is much quieter around here. Apart from when Anty plays music without her headphones, that is. I do not mind when she plays soft music. Usually, I will curl into a ball and go to sleep when she plays soft music. If she plays loud music, I will wake up and give her a look that says I am Not Happy. She will usually apologize, but she is the human, after all, and the music is part of the way she works, so if it is too loud, I will go hide under the bed until the loud part is over. There are not too many loud parts, but only every once in a while.

Now that Anty has leveled up on both books, my job is a little bit different. It is easier for her to figure out how much work should be done on a given day, when she knows exactly where she is going and how she is going to get there. When that happens, she is excited to get to work each day, and sometimes gets a little grumbly when it is time to stop. She likes to work on one scene at a time, and figures that she’ll know the details she needs to know when she needs to know them. If she has to think too hard about a thing, then it is probably not the right thing. The best stories are the ones that talk to her. It is not exactly the stories writing themselves, but it does not hurt when they carry their share of the load.

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

i1035 FW1.1

Until next week…

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

Influences of Late

The last couple of days, I’ve been bingeing. Monday, I stumbled across Grace Burrowes’s FAQ section, which led to glomming on her blog, a couple of years’ worth of entries, full disclosure.  I haven’t read any of her novels -yet- but I know I have some in my TBR bookshelf, some waiting in my Kindle, and they take up a significant amount of the B shelf in the romance section at my local library branch. I started with the About Writing section of the FAQ page, and fell immediately in love, which may be a good indicator it’s time to dive into the actual books. Thankfully, there’s a suggested reading order on the author’s website, because there are a heck of a lot of t hem.

Tuesday, I investigated the Bad Girlz Write blog, whose members include the fabulous Jeannette Grey, a CRRWA chapter sister, and Heather McGovern, whose workshop on the big black moment I have  heard-but-not-actually-seen, because the day she presented at CRRWA was also the day my former pair of spectacles died, and my valiant attempt to hold them together with electrical tape and a binder clip A) did not work, and B) hurt, because electrical tape, when folded, has sharp, pointy corners, as well as C) made me dizzy and gave me a headache. I took notes anyway, but will not vouch for the legibility of same. Here, as well, I hit the back button to read blog entry after blog entry about wandering and, heck, the entire section on writer life in one go. There may or may not have been actual tears in either of the above.

There sure as anything have been a lot of tears in my other binge, Parenthood. Not the life state. The TV show. Yes, I do live under a rock, and no, I do not know how I somehow managed to never ever see a single episode of this until Netflix, but I needed a show to binge and Netflix said I might like it, because Netflix knows me, and yessssssssssss. Oh so very much yes. Only a few episodes into the first season, I had to check to make sure my OTPs (from the adult generation, that is; everybody shush on the teens, because I want to experience it myself) were going to be endgame (they were) before I could allow myself to get as deeply attached as I am wont to do in these situations.

All three of these binges brought that same reaction in my writerheart: YES. This. This is what I want to do. This is what I’m shooting for when I write. This connection. This emotional impact. This need to stop everything I’m doing and check to see if Crosby and Jasmine are going to be all right, because if they aren’t, there is no good left in the world. Also Joel and Julia. I already know a couple of things about the finale, and I am fine knowing them, but the rest, I want to discover as I go. I want to take all of this in and use it as food to fuel my own work. The tightly-knit family, made of people who aren’t perfect, who do get mad and lose their tempers and yell at little kids and shove their elders and say horrible things and lose every last shred of hope, and yet don’t give up because that’s not what they do; I love that stuff.

In the midst of all this, I noticed one interesting thing. The more I binged, the fainter and farther away the voices -and influences- of the Hypercritical Gremlins became.  Maybe Ms. Burrowes, the Bad Girlz and the Bravermans  are taking turns helping to barricade the Gremlins’ closet. Shutting out the “shoulds” is one thing, and a good thing, but there has to be something to move  into the old “should” place, or they’re only going to come back, with more “shoulds” and more Gremlins, and that only leads to paralysis and anxiety and literally ugly crying in the middle of a critique group (yes, that actually happened, and yes, in public, and yes, to me) and miscarried manuscripts and…you get the picture. But replace the “shoulds” and the forcing and the gnashing of teeth with the things that elicit that YES in every fiber of my writerheart? That brings back the joy, lifts the weight and, well, of course I can do this; it’s as natural as breathing, and I’ve been doing that for a few decades now, right? Right.

What could go wrong? Well, plenty. That’s part of life, but the encouraging part, thanks to reading accounts of others navigating the often treacherous writing waters, is that I’m not alone. I’ve done this before. I’ll do it again, and I have no shortage of fuel for the journey.


Call and Answer

Today almost ended up being a video blog, but I know myself, and that’s going to have to wait for later. What’s on my mind today is -are?- a bunch of things. There’s no time tomorrow, the last day before the conference, to sneak in an entry, and so it needs to be today. I have one ear open for the doorbell (as if anyone can miss a big ol’ prewar doorbell that vibrates the walls and scares the stuffing out of the cat…and the me, because yikes, that thing is loud. Effective, though.) because I’m waiting for a delivery for something Real Life Romance Hero ordered and the rest of my head is…not scattered, exactly. Lets call it multitasking.

We’ll jump right to something from my morning pages (in italics):

That’s where I feel I am now, coming back home in a different season of my life . A lot of things are changing. Some people who were always there, are now elsewhere. New people have moved into some of the vacant houses. At some point, this will be the way it’s always been.

Last night, I chatted with a writer friend, about a scene in her WIP, the emotions so finely honed that it viscerally shook me, made me first think A) well, crap, I can’t top that, and then B) I want to do that. Not top her work, because it’s not a contest. What I do want is to create my own version of that. Get that kind of response. Be that deeply involved with the characters and emotions and elicit the vivid sensory images. That kind of thing.

Her scene affected me so much that, a good night’s sleep, walk through the park, daily pages and half a blog entry later, part of me is still back there, not yet ready to leave it. Wanting to draw some of that in and make it my own and put it back out, mingled with my people and my era and their story and and and and…yeah. Writers, you know what I mean. Readers-who-do-not-write, it’s too late for us; save  yourselves.

It’s not the only thing that  has me under the influence, either. There’s a new picture in my inspiration folder, that I’m still not sure why I like it as much as I do, but I keep coming back to it, so there is something in there, even if I don’t know, at this point, what it is. I don’t have to know; figuring that out is part of the journey. There will be time spent staring at it, thinking about it, isolating different parts so that I can see them from different perspectives, trying on and discarding lyrics and quotes and looking at and looking away and thinking and feeling and not-thinking and not-feeling and putting it on the back burner until it tells me.

That’s all part of this homecoming process, knowing that, sometimes, the story tells me, rather than the other way around. It’s the difference between pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and pushingpushingpushingpushing on a door, and reading the sign that says “pull.” Then pulling, et voila, open door. Funny how that works.

I keep coming back to this idea of homecoming, this place that is familiar-but-not. Keep coming back to the magpie stage, gathering this and that and incorporating it into what I already know. Into what I don’t yet know. It’s…not weird. Not strange. Not familiar, either, but familiar all the same. It’s part of the process. Knowing that not-knowing what I’m doing is exactly what I need to be doing, and knowing that it’s going to be different every time. Knowing that that difference is always going to be a constant. Knowing that, even though I may shy at this jump, I’ve taken it before, and  I can certainly take it again. Knowing that another lap of the place is what I need to build up the speed for that jump. Knowing that my metaphors are going to muddle. Knowing that they are going to mingle, along with pictures I don’t know why I like, songs that grab me from the first note, the scent that grabs the reins of my attention and pulls hard while I’m doing something completely unrelated, and, without my conscious effort, there I am, fully absorbed in the world of the story. Inside the characters’ skins, living their story with them. That’s home.





Typing With Wet Claws: Post-People Vet Editiom

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It has been a week of changes here, and the humans are still figuring out what some of them mean. If they are not sure, you can only imagine how it is for a kitty, but here is what I  know so far.

  1. Uncle is going to be home all the time for  a little while, while he gets better. This is good because I get to be with him all the time (I like that a lot) and he does not smell as sick as he used to smell. Kitties pick up on these things. Uncle’s regular people vet helped him figure out some of the things that made him feel really really bad, and he is doing a lot better already. It will take a little more time, but not very much, as he is learning how to take care of himself and Anty is making sure that he does.
  2. This also means that Uncle is home during Anty’s writing time. She says she can feel it when people are breathing her air. She loves Uncle and she loves the stories she is writing, and sometimes, it is a lot to juggle, so she is figuring out how to do that, especially when she is getting used to new technology.
    new computer in action

    new computer in action

    Merely because her tablet and new laptop are both pink does not mean they automatically share everything, and some files are still on the old laptop, like her Sims. It is complicated, but she is learning. The fact that the tablet and new computer are very portable is a big help. The fact that she cannot pick up Wi-Fi in the park is not that helpful, but there are ducks.

  3. Grandma’s people vets say that Grandma can go home this week, so my Mama is going back to where we used to live so that she can help Grandma get settled. Anty says she is turning Mama’s room into an art studio. That is fine by me, as long as my food bowl stays in the same place. (Sorry, Mama..) Anty could really use a room for her art, but I think she will miss Mama while she is gone.
  4. There are a lot of outside noises, and they are scary. Uncle says the city is making the street nicer, but all I can tell, because I am an indoor kitty, is that there is a lot of noise all day. Lots of loud machines and the ground shakes sometimes, and they took out all the trees on our street. Uncle says the city will put in new trees, and the birds will come back (I really like to watch birds in the morning) but that changes the light that comes in the living room window when I hang out with Anty and Mama at breakfast time.
  5.  Here is a picture of Anty’s latest library haul, except for the bottom book.
    one of these things is not like the others

    one of these things is not like the others

    That one is on the bottom because the cover curled back on itself during the really humid days last week, and she wants it to be flat. You will note that all of the books, apart from the bottom one, are YA, not historical. Anty would really like to be reading historical, but she says her brain will not go there right now, and that bothers her. She likes these books, but misses historicals. She has had a sneak peek at an upcoming historical by Kate Rothwell, whose books she really likes, so that is one thing. Anty thinks there should be more historical romances set in New York. Maybe she should write some. Well, some more. She already wrote one, My Outcast Heart. It was her first book, and there are kitties in it. I was not born yet, so none of them area based on me. The cover is not on Goodreads, which Anty will need to fix, but it does have one.

  6. Anty has discovered a new site for writers, called The Fearless Writer. They have also discovered Anty, and include some of these blog entries (not mine, so far, but maybe they are waiting for The Fearless Writer’s Cat to start, but then again, I am not exactly fearless) in their newsletter so that more people can find this blog. There are other things in it, too, but none of those people feed me, so I do not have to mention them. Put some treats in my bowl, and we’ll talk.
  7. It seems like there should be a seventh entry, because there are seven days in a week, and I blog once  a week, unless Anty needs my help more often, which she might, because of above reasons. Anty is hoping to get to watch Poldark this weekend, because it is set in the same era as Her Last First Kiss and she would like to soak in some atmosphere. If any of you know of other movie set in the 1780s, please leave them in the comments and I will tell Anty to watch them. That might help her not be so cranky about having to give season two of Game of Thrones back to the library before she has seen all the episodes.

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

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

Until next week...

Until next week…

Typing With Wet Claws: Posting Playdate With Bailey Edition

Hello, all. Skye here for another Feline Friday, and my very first posting playdate. That is where I talk to other pets and find out what it is like for them to live with their writer humans. For my first posting playdate, I am talking with Bailey, who lives with my Anty Sue Ann. Her readers know her as Sue Ann Porter. Bailey inspired me to start blogging in the first place, because of how much he helps Anty Sue Ann, so it was only polite to ask him first.

Bailey is not a cat. Bailey is a dog. That may be why all the questions are numbered one, but that is okay. He looks like this:


My friend, Bailey

  1. How did you and your human find each other?
Mom and Dad had just moved into a new house, and decided that the backyard needed a dog. Dad called a dog breeder who specialized in Short-Hair Collies, (also known as Smooth Collies) –which is what I am. She had one puppy left-me! I was 12 weeks old, so Mom and Dad thought maybe I was the runt of the litter. But that’s ok. Dad drove way up by the Canadian Border to get me. I am a Rock Star. Wherever I go, people stop and say, “What a pretty dog!”
He does look comfortable...

He does look comfortable…

  1. What sort of writing does your human do?
My human likes to write Flash Fiction, although if I can tell you a secret, most of the stories are not fiction. But they are entertaining. She also likes to write memoir, stories that really happened. My human also writes a blog at sueannporter.com where she likes to write about Bible stories. Sometimes she also writes about kitchen disasters, life disasters. Never a dull moment in the Porter Household. Of course *I* am the Star of the Show. Mom says so often.
The nose knows. (Anty really likes Bailey's nose)

The nose knows. (Anty really likes Bailey’s nose)

  1. What things does your human use to write? (computers, notebooks, etc)
My human likes to start writing in a notebook. Mom likes to be able to scribble and cross things out. Then she goes onto the computer and inputs it. She also has a computer that is not hooked up to the internet. Mom uses that one when she has some deep writing to dig out; she plays Solitaire in one window and writes in the other window. It has something to do with right brain/left brain.
Bailey is very good with layout, but not the computer kind.

Bailey is very good with layout, but not the computer kind.

  1. How does your human get ready to write, and how do you get their attention back on you?

Well today, when my human started to answer these questions, I grabbed my rawhide bone and mad a lot of noise. My human was forced to pay attention to me then.

Recharging batteries...

Recharging batteries…

  1. What kinds of treats do they give you for being such a good helper?                                          I have little yum-yums that have like 20 calories in them. I used to get bigger treats, but I started gaining doggie pounds. I have to keep my physique in tip-top shape.
He woke up like this

He woke up like this

Thank you Bailey. That is all very interesting. I think you should get treats for being such a good guest. Helping a human write is very hard work for a pet, but it is worth it in the end, because writing makes our humans happy, and we like it when they are happy. It makes them more likely to play with us. Sometimes it gets them more money to buy our food and treats, and that is good, too. I hope you will come and visit here again. This was fun.

My Anty also prefers to start writing in notebooks. That is one of the ways Anty and Anty Sue Ann first became friends. Now they meet at the coffee house to write in their notebooks together, but sometimes, they just talk. Maybe that is because Bailey and I are not there. I stay home because I am a kitty, but the coffee house says dogs can come inside, (sometimes, the owner brings his dog) so, technically, Bailey could.

A canine and a gentleman...

A canine and a gentleman…

Another thing Anty and Anty Sue Ann have in common is how they play a game and write at the same time when they need to figure out something. Anty does not play solitaire, though. She plays Sims 3, which is basically writing, but not with words. I will explain in another post. Anty also likes to have more than one window open, so she can look at pictures or notes as she writes.

Anty wanted me to talk about computer things, too, but unfortunately, we have run out of time and it is now time for my breakfast, so that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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

Until next week...

Until next week…

Conference Recap, Part the First: Friday

In more ways than one, but we’ll get to that. NECRWA’s annual Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference was this past weekend, and while I’d planned to blog about my experience immediately, life reminded me there is more going on than writing – but it does remind me how much I want it, so that’s all good.

Robin Sparkles, in action

Robin Sparkles, in action

Every conference starts with a road trip. Since my move to NY, this now means two hours with Housemate, en route to MA, where I make the switch to my longtime conference roomie, the lovely Melva Michaelian, who writes on the cozy side of romantic suspense. Two more hours on the road, nattering about works in progress and life in general, and then we get to walk the red carpet (only the literal one, more’s the pity. There was a carpet. It was red. No press, though. It was only a color. :hangs head: We strutted anyway, luggage in tow.)  Technically no traffic jams, and we did not get lost, so this was a successful journey.

Since we had forgotten (whoops) that the workshop with Lauren Dane was actually the master class and had needed to be registered for in advance, Melva and I ensconced ourselves in the bar, where we ran into Laurie Gifford Adams, who writes YA, and is a former chapter sister to both of us. Laurie brought along her critique partner and our new friend, Dorothy Callahan, who writes time travel and paranormal. Melva, Laurie and Dorothy headed off soon after for the first workshop of the afternoon, but I had other plans.

Offices happen anywhere

Offices happen anywhere

One of the reasons I was excited about bringing the new tablet to the conference was exactly this; writing. A scene pounced me, and since writing is kind of the whole point of being a writer, I sat out the workshop and settled into this lovely hot spot to dip into story world for the next hour. I like the office program that came with the tablet, except for one tiny omission. No quotation marks. None. I only found this out when I opened the document. Curious, that. A hotel full of writers is probably the only place where one will hear, “oh, are you writing? Sorry, catch you later,” in a genuinely happy voice. I think I could get used to that.

Bringing Robin Sparkles (yes, I name my electronics, so will be using her name and the word “tablet” interchangeably) to the conference was like bringing a new baby. Lots of coos over how tiny and pink she is, what she can do, how we found each other, etc. Some good advice from more experienced tablet users on life with tablet, and a good deal of trial and error, though I think we did all right for our first time out. The onscreen keyboard is a lot easier to get used to than I thought it would be, but my fingers are still gigantic, and there is probably a stylus in my future. If you hear any salty language from this corner of the world, that’s me trying to get Spotify to load.

But enough about me. There was, indeed, swag. Pens, bookmarks and postcards abounded, as well as some other creative ideas. I love the small book of sticky notes, and the stress cube is sure to get some use. Letter opener is always useful (for contracts, checks, fan mail, etc, right?) I will never say no to lip gloss, purse-size pack of Band-Aids is essential, but the star of the swag for this year? Flash drive. I’d needed one anyway, and bloop, there it is. Mini size, so it fits in my coin pouch. Perfect. Honorable mention to the pen shaped like a paintbrush, front and center below:

The requisite photo of swag

The requisite photo of swag

Just the books:



Megan Frampton gave  a wonderful workshop on the changing rules of the romance covenant. I really wish there were recordings of the workshops available, because there was so much information and discussion that I’d love to be able to go over it again. Does anybody else remember when athlete or rock star heroes were verboten? Now they’re hot. Age gaps, in either direction, characters with histories (or without) and persons of color in various subgenres, and more. An hour really wasn’t enough to cover the topic, but “you can’t do that in romance” can usually be rephrased as “depends how you do it.” If stepsibliing romance can be a thing, I think I’m not that far out there with my historicals (which do not contain romances between stepsiblings, fwiw.) Word is that Victorian settings have now overtaken Regency as the most popular era for historicals. I’d be interested to see the figures on that. Non-19th century historicals are still a harder sell (Challenge accepted!) though there was some discussion of medievals being on the rise. :pets Ravenwood:

Keynote speaker at dinner was the fabulous Sabrina Jeffries. I’m always excited when there’s a historical author as one of the speakers, and was doubly so this year. Her tips on writing through the hard times are a huge part of what kept my head above water when caregiving, grieving and settling relatives’ affairs (not the romantic kind, trust me) threatened to engulf everything else. The woman does know a thing or two about this business, and she has a great attitude. Her talk on creativity and how marvelous it is that we can make up stories and people and worlds all from our own imaginations was a lovely boost of encouragement. I had to give back, and let her know, when I bumped into her at breakfast the next morning, that I actually loved her historical set in Siam, lo those many years back. She said she’s looking to reissue it in ebook form, and I told her I hope she does. I’d love to read it again.

Friday evening wrapped with the second annual fireside gabfest in the lobby. Last year, it was me and Jodi Coburn (that’s us from last year, below,) whom I met over a crowded dinner table when we found out we had the same all time favorite historical romance novel. If that’s not an instant bond, I don’t know what is. This year, we were joined by Melva, Laurie and Dorothy.


There was much chatter about what we were all writing and reading. I drooled over Jodi’s story binder (so stealing her spreadsheet idea) and at one point, we all whipped out our mobile devices to share photos of our furbabies. All too soon, it was time to head to our respective beds, because there was still Saturday ahead of us. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Five Quick Questions With E. Catherine Tobler

I said I wasn’t done with E. Catherine Tobler‘s Watermark, and the madness continues as E. joins us for a quick chat about her latest release and more…

1) How did Watermark come to be?

I wanted to set a story somewhat local to me and loved the idea of the Rocky Mountains. What could I do in a small mountain town, I wondered. I began to look at my favorite mountain towns, and then came across mountain lakes, of which Colorado has many. They’re all so beautiful on the surface, but what might lurk beneath? This turned my mind to Loch Ness, and thus to water monsters. This led me to kelpies, and that’s when Pip was discovered. But why would a kelpie be in a Colorado mountain lake? This was the mystery to solve.

2) Pip and Finn’s story will leave readers hungry for more…and flat out hungry. What role does food play in this story?

Food plays an important role in Watermark. There is a long-standing legend that bread is protection against fairies, but I twisted that a little in this book, saying that bread is actually what helps anchor fairies in the human world. Naturally, this meant that one of our fae needed to be a baker! Food also plays a part in rituals for our fairies, as they can entice their own kind with it. There is also the notion that if a human eats fairy food, they’ll be trapped in the fairy world, losing their interest in anything but that world. Food is both attractive and repellent over the course of the book, as fairies themselves are.

3) How would you describe urban fantasy to those who have yet to dip their toes in the water of this genre?

Urban fantasy is often defined by the “urban” part, in that it takes place in a city, and that city becomes as much a character as the walking and talking characters are. I wanted my cities to be worlds, the human world and the fairy world, both at odds with each other, but each containing something the other needed. My actual city is fictional; Peak, Colorado was, however, absolutely based on Estes Park, Colorado, that beautiful small mountain town that exists quite well outside tourist seasons, and probably has an entirely secret life no one knows about.

4) Appearances aren’t everything, and in this story, there’s a lot beneath most every surface. What one tip would you give writers interested in going deeper with their characters?

To definitely remember that surface largely doesn’t matter. Certainly our first impressions of characters will be tied to what we see, but that doesn’t have to be physical appearance. “She was beautiful” are the three words I am most tired of seeing when a writer launches into a description of their female characters. You can show that beauty in another way; what is beautiful about her beyond her looks, too. “Her fingers were as a tangle of yarn over the markings when she studied star charts.” That’s beauty without saying it’s beauty.

5) What’s next?

All the things! This fall, I am starting a new book, because apparently that’s what I do in the fall (just about the time of Nanowrimo, hmm). I have new stories out, too: readers can find “Pithing Needle” in the October issue of Clarkesworld, and “Honey in the Lion” in Betwix #5 . And I’m still dreaming all the Egypt dreams, too.


Want a chance at winning a copy of your very own? There’s still time.

Excerpt from Watermark by E. Catherine Tobler

I’m a historical romance gal, always have been, always will be, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to sniff out a great romance nestled in a story of another genre. In this case, urban fantasy. E. Catherine Tobler has a history of beckoning me out of my comfort zone, and her latest, Watermark, the story of Pip, a kelpie sent to the world of humans, is no exception. Pip, in human form, finds there’s more to both human and fae than she first suspects, and there’s the small matter of Finn, a delicious, tattooed baker who is, like much in this entrancing novel, much more than he appears on the surface.

Intrigued? Try this tasty sample..

Who was he to me? The question rested on my tongue. I did not ask it.

We traced our way through the woods as we had come, Finn holding my hand all the while. Fingers were not so curious to me as toes, but now I understood why. Our hooves left twin trails of prints through the long grasses, prints that were slowly erased in our wake. Wouldn’t a horse be captivated by toes? Wouldn’t a…

“Púca,” he said.

“Can you read my mind then?” The idea wasn’t nearly as unsettling as I expected it to be.

“I’ve a gift for that,” Finn said with care, “but you… You were always different for me, aye?”

He said “aye” the way the king had, slanted with an accent I didn’t recognize—yet it made me ache with familiarity. That was a sound from home. And the idea that I had always been different for him made me stop in my tracks.

“It’s like looking at a lake,” he said. “Most people, I see only what they wish me to, or my own reflection. Some let me below the surface.”

“And me?”

Finn gathered my hands into his. “Earth cups water, prevents it from spilling every which way. Water soaks into earth, letting life grow.”

My nose wrinkled again. This, like Berengaria and Conaire, was nearly too private. It was like looking at something I should not see, even if it involved me.

“Water freezes and earth quakes. Water can flood, smothering ground. Likewise ground can suck entire lakes away.”

Finn’s head tipped in a nod, mane shivering. “Aye, they do. Balance, as Conaire spoke of.”

“You said I was always different, Finn.” I stumbled over his name, knowing the way I knew my own pulse that it was not his true name. The queen and king had not even used that name for him, as if they also knew.

“Faeries do not dream,” he said, “but I think I am. I have a memory of a girl who was not a girl. She watched me through the woods. And I was me, but not me. I was a magical thing she wanted to catch.”

I clasped my hands together, but did not remove them from Finn’s hold. Unlike my own story of the lake and the young girl, I could see none of what he spoke of, but sensed something. A memory?

“She looked for a long while, but I could not tell you how long. She came to the woods every day, hopeful. In the beginning her hands were empty. Eventually, she came with treats. Sugar, cheese, apples.”

He fell silent, and I watched him. Could he see it all so clear within his mind? And then—
“I could show you.”

I only nodded once.

Finn’s hands closed hard around mine, and the wood around us vanished. I drew in a breath even while I had no lungs, no form. I was a small ball held together by Finn’s hands. Around us emerged another wood, not the wood of my lake; these woods were his, I understood. The trees were the color of melancholy, and he was the color of sunlight on snow.

He moved through the trees as a creature I could not name. Not a horse, something beyond a horse, something that glowed and beckoned and there. A girl, with hair as of night, and an apple, green like Yule boughs, and only when she learned to sit did he come.

“Did she catch you?” I whispered.

I watched as the unearthly beast bowed his head, lips claiming the apple, brushing the woman’s palm. My own palm knew that touch, wet velvet.

“Oh yes,” Finn said. “She did.”


Hungry for more? An interview with E. Catherine Tobler is on the way. In the meantime, explore some Fairy Places and find out how you can get a chance to win a copy of Watermark for your very own.

Ten Questions With E. Catherine Tobler

 ecatherinetobler10 Questions With E. Catherine Tobler

 I first met E. Catherine Tobler in another life, or so it seems. We bonded,via paper letters, in a prior century, over a love of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Highlander, historical romance, and writing. Both at the time aspiring novelists, we encouraged, supported, and critiqued each other, and if we haven’t scared each other off by now, we probably aren’t going to, which is a good thing, because I love her work, especially today’s new release, Rings of Anubis, which Kirkus reviews dubs “deliciously fun.” 

Rings of Anubis combines several great tastes that taste great together: history, romance, intrigue, fantasy, adventure, steampunk, mythology, faith, addiction, recovery, a wounded hero and determined heroine with a past of her own. I am delighted and honored to have read this in manuscript form, and now the rest of the world gets to come along for the ride because this fantastic tale is now available in a bookstore near you. Pull up a comfy chair, pour your beverage of choice and let’s play a round of Ten Questions with the author who made this amazing tale possible. 

  • When did you first know you were a writer?

There was no moment on the mountaintop where sunlight broke rainbow-bright through clouds and I was spinning about, saying “Yeeees.” I can remember experimenting with short fiction for the first time in high school (though I wrote a novelette in middle school–“The Metal Zone,” which involved my bestie getting sucked into The Metal Zone, aka The Twilight Zone, where she met a hot guy, ha!)

But, in high school, I was behind in my history class, and got assigned a story for extra credit, which I dearly needed. I wrote a short story that completely freaked the teacher out and I appreciated that reaction to something I’d created. I sent one of my early attempts to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy, and that entire process–printing the manuscript, mailing it, waiting for a reply–certainly had me feeling like something of a writer.



  • How did Rings of Anubis first come to be?

In the beginning, it started as a highly misguided distant future piece, wherein Eleanor and Virgil traveled from a Blade Runner-like world to ancient Egypt. Balancing the distant future with the distant past ended up being something I was not a) skilled at or b) just not ready for. I examined the parts I really loved and wanted to keep and then looked at how I could make them work; turns out, the late 19th century was a perfect fit, given technologies I wanted to play with, archaeological discoveries that had and had not happened, and well, airships. I wanted things that fly.

  • What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

For me, “write every day” was disastrous advice. It’s not how my creative brain is wired; I have a brain that fills itself up, explodes on the page, and then needs refilling before it’s ready to explode again. Writing just doesn’t happen every day if I’m refilling–through research, brainstorming, artwork. Once I stopped trying to hit X pages or words a day, I was a much happier and productive writer.

I think the best advice is still out there and will contain the phrase “eat gelato.”

  • Why are romance and speculative fiction two great tastes that taste great together?

Who doesn’t love a mash up? It’s fun to take two seemingly unrelated things and press them together until you have something entirely new.

  • How would you define steampunk to someone who has never heard of the term?

Is there such a person left in the world? (There’s a story in that.) We should meet and have a fantastic tea! Simply put, steampunk is a genre within SFF that features steam-powered machinery. Think H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Jules Verne. Wild, Wild West, Metropolis.

  • Let’s talk about Virgil and Eleanor for a moment, a couple that is very dear to me. What makes them perfect for each other, and what’s the biggest obstacle standing in their way?

I’d say Eleanor and Virgil are very much not perfect for each other. They’re both stubborn and independent and selfish. They discover they’re each the means to an end–but also something more in the long run; Eleanor is exploring something her father has asked her to leave behind while Virgil is trying to unravel the puzzle of his late wife. I’d say the biggest obstacle is the pyramids at Giza (one of which they get to climb), but it’s probably Anubis, who embodies the unknown, trust, and the need to be exactly who (or what) they are.

  • Then there’s Cleo and Auberon. Will we be seeing more of this fascinating secondary couple’s love story?

As you know, Bob, I have written another book set in this universe, which involves Cleo and Auberon. It goes into Cleo’s history, she of the mechanical arms, and pushes Eleanor and Virgil against some boundaries they first discovered in Rings of Anubis. Like RoA, the book moves in a couple of different directions at once, and this time includes a correspondence between Cleo and Auberon, helping to tell the past and future of their relationship.

  • Though Rings of Anubis is your first published novel, (or novels, for those who read the e-release as Gold & Glass and Silver & Steam) you’ve also written short stories and novellas, and been nominated for a Sturgeon Award. What are some similarities and differences in writing short and long fiction?

Obviously a bigger canvas gives you more space to expand characters and plots; sometimes you want that, sometimes you don’t, so learning how to tell how much room your story wants is an important trick in any writer’s bag. I’ve seen countless stories in Shimmer submissions where a writer tries to pack a novel into a two-thousand word short. Some stories need to breathe; others like being tied up like a guest star in Fifty Shades.

  • What is the most important thing you’ve learned about your own writing from editing Shimmer magazine?


Whatever story you’re telling, it starts on page one. No matter how long the work, a good deal of the overall story is right on page one. Page one needs to pull your reader in, needs to anchor them in the adventure you’re about to take them on. Start at the beginning, don’t introduce your people or conflict on page thirty (or page three for a shorter work).

  • Finally, what can readers look forward to next? Is that some faery sparkle I see in the distance?

September will indeed bring Watermark from Masque Books, a story set in the fictional Colorado town Peak. We meet young fairy Pip, who has been expelled from her homeland for Reasons She Can’t Quite Remember. (Funny, me writing an amnesia story, as it’s a trope I don’t tend to enjoy!)

Short fiction on the horizon includes my first story in Lightspeed Magazine, “A Box, a Pocket, a Spaceman.” A novella set in my traveling circus universe will be out next summer…but I’m not sure if I can say where yet! Suspense!

Thanks, E, and do drop in again in September to talk Watermark. Fans of inventive urban fantasy with romance, baked goods, and a touch of faery magic won’t want to miss this one. How about you, dear readers? Do you like a thread of fantasy mixed with your romance? What’s your favorite flavor?