Sticky Scenes

Last night, I stayed up until 3AM, working on a scene for Her Last First Kiss. This is a second draft, not a first draft, but it’s still discovery, and I think I’m still discovering, especially with one particular scene. This is the same scene where the nameless clerk apparently didn’t come back from break, and sent an actual character in his stead. I am fine with that. What I’m not fine with is when I get into the middle of a scene, where I (think I) know what’s happening, who says what, to whom, who does what, when and where, coasting along, and then…nothing.

All the pertinent players suddenly stand on a blank stage and blink at me. Uh, guys, what’s going on here? They only blink more. They were hoping I knew. I’m the writer, after all. Well, yes, I am, but it’s their story. Especially those two. Hero and Heroine. You know who you are. I ordered sexual tension. Who has the sexual tension? Why are you just standing there? In case you haven’t guessed, I really, really, really hate when this happens. Like super hate. I know this story. I love this story. I have already written this story, which is why we call this a second draft, so why, for the love of pregnant hamsters on roller skates, are we doing the blinking on a blank stage thing?

Not that blank stages are inherently evil. I love A Chorus Line. The stage show, that is, not the movie. The movie breaks the conceit of the show, and, if they’re going to do that, why not tell a completely different story, because that’s basically what we’ve got. For A Chorus Line, that is, not Her Last First Kiss. Even the most lavishly designed set starts as a blank stage, and I do know what the jeweler’s shop looks like, who my people are, and what they need to be doing there.

This time, though, it felt…crowded. Heroine has a lot going on in her head. She’s still mad at Hero, but there he is, alongside Character X, whom she also does not really want to see right now, but she doesn’t get a choice on that. She’s also faced with the fact that, even though Hero is annoying the crap out of her, he does clean up rather well (she’ll want to put a sticky note on that for later) and she wants to get her errands done, go the heck home, and put her feet up with a book of Russian fairy tales and a cup of tea (I would not mind that, myself, actually) but nooooo. We are only a smidge past the 25% mark, so of course it is time to turn the thumbscrews.

Which is why flat and lukewarm is not what we’re going for here. I slapped it on the page anyway. I’ll show it to N tomorrow (Tuesday got pushed to Thursday this week, due to a sinus headache and accompanying drainage; mine, not N’s) and she will help me sift for nuggets. When I can’t write the actual scene, a thing I’ve been teaching myself to do is to write about it. That’s the pen and paper version of talking things out. I can do the talking things out version with N tomorrow, so I know the solution is on its way, and I can start looking at the next scene, which is when the tension that gets planted in this scene (or should be planted in this scene) bursts into full bloom, Hero and Heroine are alone together but for servants who don’t count in this context (and who are more into each other, anyway, so not much of a help at the moment. Thanks, guys. :slow clap:)

I employed my BFF, caffeine, kept butt in chair, and booted Character X out of the scene, in an incredibly unsubtle “I’m going to leave now, bye” exit, that is not quite “pursued by a bear,” but I’m starting to think the bear wouldn’t hurt. Also, Character X would scream like a little girl at the sight of a bear, but we’re in eighteenth century London, so bears are not exactly plentiful, especially not in a fancy rich person jewelry store. This will not go down on record as my smoothest transition ever, and I am counting on N to have suggestions on how to de-obvious Character X’s departure, but, once I got Character X out of the way, Hero and Heroine at least started talking to each other, and we did get incidental physical contact, so I am going to count that as  a mark in the positive column.

 

The (Quasi) Bujo and Me (Sort of)

First off, I don’t technically keep a bullet journal, as per the actual system, and second, the term, “bujo,” is one of those nails on a chalkboard words for me. Third, if we’re getting into a list format, because it’s Monday and why not, what actually inspired me to get the nifty item I’ll be blabbering about today is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, which is not what I have. My cover is by Molly and Rex, and it will probably go through some form of customization, once I can stop petting it, because this thing is soft.

I’ve joked for a long time about needing a notebook notebook, and this isn’t that, not exactly. What it is, is this:

BujoCover

 

I’ve wanted, for a long time, some way to get all my various notebooks that leave the house with me, in one place, so, when I saw this cover, with four elastics inside, that would allow me to do exactly that, I jumped on it. I didn’t know what I was going to fill it with, at first, and what I have at present will probably change, but here’s the tour of the current arrangement:

 

Plain pages come first, for idea mapping, whiteboard or Scapple-style. This notebook is handcrafted, no marks on it, a gift from a friend, and I do not know the kitty on the cover, but kitties make everything better, so I have no complaints. Okay, one. White paper is glare-y, but this was what I had on hand for unlined pages. When this book is filled, I plan to replace it with a Moleskine Volant, because A) ivory paper, and B) perforated pages.

 

Lined pages come next, in a Moleskine cahier. I have a lot of notebooks in this size nd format, (from this maker and others) so I am well prepared for this section. The lined pages are for freewriting/brain dumps, so perforated pages are not needed (though the last…I want to say sixteen…are. These books are for me, to get the rust out of the faucet. Similar to morning pages, but at any time of the day, and more mobile.

 

Third section is a gridded page Moleskine Cahier, for checklists, goals and tracking. I’m still not sure how I’m going to organize this, but having one place to keep lists of movies to watch, art techniques to try, future character names, etc, feels very stable, so we will see how this turns out. As with the lined Cahier, last few pages are perforated, so I can use them to experiment before I do anything irreversible to the permanent pages.

 

Last segment is the Moleskine Volant, with lined pages, that has become my latest all purpose notebook. I still don’t entirely appreciate the feel of the cover, as opposed to the cardboard cover on the Cahier, but where the Volant has it over everything else is that all the pages are detachable. All. Of. Them. What is this madness? Perfect for a notebook-loving writer person who has several things going at once, likes to make notes on the go, and then wants to file them with their appropriate notebooks/files/ephemera. Make the notes, rip them out, put them where they actually belong. Genius.

This setup feels right, and it’s much easier to pick up one book and transfer it into the tote of the day, as well reference from one book to another, than search for the right book or try to remember where I put what. This doesn’t take into account my morning pages, planner, or notebooks for individual projects, but, when I need to get something down when away from home, this seems the most efficient, not to mention sanest, way, to fill that need. Plus, it’s pretty, and if it’s pretty, I’m going to want to look at it.

Still not an actual bullet journal, as there’s no key, none of the system symbols or such, but I know what’s where, I can take it all with me, and I will figure the rest out along the way. I’ll know what I need, and find a way to make that happen. I don’t know if intuitive planning is a thing, but maybe I can make it be. Having all this stuff in one place should save time that would be spent looking for what I need, and I can use that time for playing with my imaginary friends instead.

Now if only there were the same sort of cover for my actual office space….

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Recalibration Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Even if this were not Friday, you would have been hearing from me anyway, because Anty is still recalibrating from the last couple of days. For those of you who are new here (first of all, hello) hot weather makes Anty sick, and we had two very hot days in a row. Those were yesterday and the day before. Those days were not fun. Then we had a big storm last night, and now the weather is better, but Anty still needs some time to get back into fighting trim. That is an old-timey nautical word that means ready for battle. Or, in Anty’s case, writing, because she kind of needs her brain for that.

In case you were wondering, I do not like hot weather either, since I have a built-in, full -length fur coat, but it is okay. I know where to go to be cool. The hallway floor outside Anty and Uncle’s bedroom is the best for this, because there is linoleum on the floor and there are no windows, so it is cooler and darker than anywhere else. This is what got me the nickname, Speedbump.  It is not my fault that the humans who built this house in 1890 put the hallway where the humans would have to go through it to get to the good bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. It is also where the china cabinet and linen cabinet are (actually, they are the same cabinet, china on top and linen on bottom; if you need dishes or towels/sheets, that is where they all are.) As you can imagine, the humans want to be there rather a lot, but I was there first.

Speaking of first, before I talk about anything else, I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, apart from here, which you already know, because you are reading this now. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, and this time, she talked about a conversation she had with my Mama (Anty gave Mama a lot of books for Mama’s birthday; Mama had a very happy birthday) about things that make readers not want to read about characters anymore. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURbreakingfictionalcharacters

Even though it is hard for Anty to get enough brain, on very hot days, to write, she can still read (especially when parked in front of a fan, with an ice pack) and, this week, she made some progress. Her Goodreads challenge is here, and, this week, it looks like this:

GRreadingchallenge051917

This week, Anty read:

Road to Riverdale, by Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky, Adam Hughes, Marguerite Bennett, Fiona Staples (Illustrations) (graphic novel, YA)

and

Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills (historical romance)

This puts Anty only two books behind her schedule, and now it is the weekend, and temperate weather, so signs point to yes for Anty getting back on track. Anty likes books by Anita Mills very, very much, and there are several that Anty has not yet read, as well as many books by Miss Anita that Anty has already read and would like to read again. Not all of them came with us during the Big Move (by accident) so she still needs to fill in some blanks in her collection. Go for it, Anty. I believe in you. Anty is sad that Miss Anita does not appear to be writing at present, but there has been talk that Miss Anita is now involved in animal rescue, so we cannot be angry at her for that. Rescue is how my family and I found each other, so putting pets and families together is still happily ever after in my book. Pun intended.

Okay, I think that is it for Anty on the interweb this week. This week, she mostly wrote on Her Last First Kiss, and a funny thing happened. Not funny ha-ha, because this is not that kind of a book. Funny as in interesting. Anty’s friend, Critique Partner Vicki, asked Anty if Anty’s secondary characters ever changed on her and did something she did not intend for them to do, which made them a different person than she planned. Anty’s answer to that was yes, because that is what happened this week for her.

Without giving too much away (Anty has talked to me about that) Anty wrote a scene that took place in an old-timey jewelry store (Her Last First Kiss is an old-timey story, so everything in it is old-timey.) The clerk was meant to be only a clerk. All he had to do was take out the thing the humans had come to buy, get the human paying for it to sign for it (handing over actual money on the spot would be too lower-class; this is the old-timey equivalent of running the credit card) and then he could go away because the story did not need him anymore. That is not what happened.

Instead, Mr. Solomon showed up. Anty did not plan him; he came in all on his own. Anty says he is a closer, and a master of the upsell. Miss N says he is also a bit of a philosopher, really smart, and she kind of loves him.  Anty kind of does, too. I think he sounds like a cat person. Unless Anty specifically says he does not, I am going to imagine he has cats.

While the nameless clerk who only had to complete the transaction could fill the role, having Mr. Solomon be an actual person cranks up the stakes. Hero’s best friend has to buy something in this scene, that will get him in big trouble later in the story. Hero’s best friend is also rather easily influenced. Put him in with a really good salesman, from Hero’s POV, and we can see the future train wreck (metaphorical train wreck; this story takes place before trains were invented) play out in Hero’s imagination.

Anty says enough of that from me, so I guess that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Planting the Seeds Anyway

Paris notebook is still on my desk, as I’m still figuring out what its purpose will be, if it’s not my new morning pages book after all. The pages are pretty, but, apart from quotes about travel sprinkled throughout, all the same design. I think the next morning pages book will be one of two I saw at Barnes and Noble, so if only one of them is there next time I am, that’s the one. There really is no such thing as too many notebooks, and I am okay with that.

This week, I’ve had a few different conversations with writer friends, which have little to nothing to do with each other, except for the topic: all of them mentioned wanting to reconnect with their work, or were dealing with a lack of inspiration. One of these days, I am going to have to search through my completed notebooks, to find the quote from Lin-Manuel Miranda, that always springs to mind here. Possibly also comb through blog archives, because I am super sure I used it as an opening quote on a post in the not too distant past.

To whittle it down, Mr. Miranda was taking questions on Twitter, and one person asked how he deals with writing when there is a deadline, but no inspiration. His advice was to throw stuff down on the page without inspiration and then sift for nuggets afterward. I need to find that quote and make a graphic of it, because A) I find myself referring to it a lot, and B) it’s true.

This isn’t the same as “just do it,” which sounds simplistic. I have had periods in my own writing life, when the only response to that advice is to internally scream (expletives deleted)  and fantasize about punching the slogan-spouter in the throat, (What? Why are you so sensitive? I’m trying to help here.) because, in those instances, the writer flat-out can’t, even though there is nothing in the entire world they would like to do more. It would be like visiting an injured athlete, who is in traction, and telling them to get up and run a few miles. Yeah, not helpful.

Hamilton dude, though, he’s on to something.  We can’t all be perfect all the time. Sometimes, the inspiration isn’t going to be there, or is hard to find, and that’s okay. I could probably build a decent sized tower of the notebooks I filled with some variation of “I can’t write, where did it go, this is hard, etc” but I am not a masochist. That gentle acknowledgement of the issue, combined with the encouragement, makes all the difference, because it doesn’t focus on the problem, but the solution. Put it on the page anyway, and sift for nuggets later. That comes with the conclusion that there will be nuggets to sift. That they’re in there. That the stuff isn’t gone, only under a bunch of stuff that’s been piled on top of it.

None of the friends in question are in that absolutely can’t phase, which is a good thing, but a constant state of  “enh, enh” (universal sound made by beings reaching for something that is…a…ridiculously…small…distance…out…of…reach) is frustrating in its own right. I find it interesting that multiple people are in the same boat at the same time, even if said boats are sailing different oceans, but if I could say only one thing to them all, it would be that.

Okay, not inspired? That’s fine. Put something on the page. Write about not being inspired. Need to connect or reconnect? That’s actually a good place to be, as that means it’s time to dive headfirst into the things we love, the things that fill our tank and give us what we need to get back in the saddle and take a few loops around the ring. If writing is hard, read. If reading is hard, rearrange keeper shelves. If even the thought of looking at words on paper is a giant nope, pick a favorite show and binge watch. Take a walk. Play with a pet. Have a seasonally appropriate beverage. Do something creative that doesn’t involve language at all.

I’m not completely thrilled with this blog post, as a matter of fact, but Melanie Meadors gave an awesome presentation on creating effective web content, and I want to try out her suggested prime posting times, so here I go, tossing stuff down on the page and putting it out there. Maybe something nifty will rise to the surface, and, if not, pfft. It’s one post. I got a million of them. Maybe, though, there’s a seed here that I’m planting, that I don’t even know about (apart from the combination of the Union Jack and Paris-themed notebook and travel mug. I know about my weird aesthetic, and maybe that will grow into something book-worthy some day.) and this is only one step in its journey.

Also, I have a pirate duck on my desk, now. Real Life Romance Hero knows what I like. Pirates and rubber ducks at the same time definitely earns him some husband points, and it makes my desk that much more me-er, which is a very good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Come From Away Edition

 

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  I kind of met a puppy this week. His name is Aiden, he is a Golden Retriever, and he is my cousin, because his people parents are my Anty Mary and Uncle Brian. They all live back in the old country, but, this Sunday, they came to visit. I should probably say that I did not actually get an introduction, but I smelled him, which, for us fur people, is pretty much the same thing. I am not opposed to meeting another four-legs, but that did not happen this time. What did happen, however, was a good visit for Anty, Uncle and Mama. Anty Mary and Uncle Brian brought their human son, Andrew, who is a new grownup, and his special friend, Miss Leah. They also brought a big box of books for Anty, but more on that later.

As always, the rule here is that I have to talk about where to find Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week (apart from here, of course) before I can talk about anything else.

First, we have some breaking news. Anty’s post about the Shamy doings on last night’s The Big Bang Theory went live at Heroes and Heartbreakers, while I was writing this post. How is that for timely? That post is here, and it looks like this:

HandHTBBTSheldonProposes

 

That is pretty exciting, I think. What is also exciting is that Anty is at Buried Under Romance every Saturday, with a new topic about the romance reading life. This week, she talked about the pros and cons of retellings of classic stories. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURretelling

Speaking of reading, this is the part of the post where I see how Anty did with reading. As of today, Anty is one-third through her Goodreads challenge goal of ninety books this year, and only two books behind schedule. Good job, Anty. Here are the books Anty read this week:

Her reviews for Afterlife With Archie, and Six Earlier Days look like this:

Anty is still thinking about her review for The Whisperer War, but she has reviews for the other two, which I think is pretty good. To read the reviews, please click the links above.  I should mention that bad things happen to two doggies in Afterlife With Archie, so Anty almost did not read that, but she does like to see things that do not normally go together, put together, so she read it anyway. Now she has to hunt down further volumes, because the library does not have them.

While it is true that there are no historical romances finished this week, Anty is currently reading Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills, which is a historical romance set during the French and Indian War. Miss Anita is an author whose work Anty has liked very much in the past, and it is a standalone book, which Anty also likes. Miss Anita had, at one time, planned to write a connected book, where the man the heroine did not marry would find somebody else, and, if Miss Anita ever wants to return to historical romance writing, Anty would like to read that, but, as it stands, this book is by itself.  Anty plans to read many more of Miss Anita’s books. She has already read many, but not all of them. Goodreads gives the publication date of some titles Anty does not remember, as being in the last couple of years, so Anty may have a glimmer of hope.

The box of books Anty Mary brought also brings a similar glimmer of hope. That box is full of mostly older historical romances, the kind with a more epic feel, and use of actual history that Anty likes to put into her own work. Getting through this box will require some study time (that means reading the books that are in that box) but Anty has not taken the books out of the box yet. She wants to concentrate on reading the book she is currently reading, and I think she is doing pretty well on that front. For now, Anty likes to lift the lid on the box, look at the books and pet the spines. Right now, that is enough. Anty likes to delay gratification on things like this, so, for her, waiting is part of the fun.

I am not that great at waiting for things I want, because I am a kitty. Today, I really really really wanted to be near Anty, so, while she was not looking, I walked onto the carpet. I still did not like it, but I like being far away from Anty even less. I let her know I was not happy having my feet on the carpet, so she got up and fed me. I think I may be onto something here. So does Anty. She lay down a few sheets of paper, to make a path from the hardwood floor, across the carpet, to her chair. So far, I have only looked at it. Anty says (Sir) Ginger (she only found out he was a boy, after he learned to answer to Ginger as his name. Oops.) -he was the kitty in our family, before Olivia, who was the kitty before me- liked to walk on paper, so she thought I might like that, too. I might, but I am still figuring out what I think about having paper on the floor. I guess we both have some studying to do. Good thing we can do it together.

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

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In The Wee, Small Hours of the Morning

This past weekend, we saw the removal of old light fixtures and refrigerator, the installment of new versions, other maintenance on our family abode, and welcomed friends-who-are-family from out of state (with juvenile canine, which was a huge plus) so this, again, was not the most writerly weekend, in terms of productivity. Since the only way to get these books written and on their way to readers, is to actually write/revise/submit/publish them, that means butt in chair and fingers on keyboard.

Normally, I like to write in the morning. I am a morning person. Eyes open, feet on floor, caffeine, breakfast, personal maintenance, and let’s go. This doesn’t always work out, in practice. Our family includes two other adults, and one feline, all who come complete with their own needs, schedules, preferences, and habits. All of us have to occupy the same space, often at the same time, so, often, there needs to be a plan B.

This Monday, I shot N a quick email, asking if we could look at some alternative schedules for the week. We’d agreed, last week, to up our goals to two scenes each for critique, and I was having issues with getting one up to snuff. Could we meet later in the week, maybe? Possibly meet twice, so we’d both have time to get the second scene ready? As it turned out, that was not viable, so we agreed on one scene, regular meeting time.

Ulp. This meant burning some midnight oil. In the critique group I’d attended for double digit years, back in the old country, I was known as the only person who had something to read every single time, no matter what. It wasn’t always on the same WIP, and it wasn’t always top of the line, but it always was. My current critique partnership is smaller, only myself and N, but I want to hold on to that title, so there would be pages, by any means necessary.

In this case, any means necessary meant that my butt remained in the chair until three in the morning. The scene wasn’t complete-complete, but I did get it to the point where I could blend it with the one that came after, and, I hoped, eliminate the need for a filler scene I didn’t want to bumble my way through. This is what happens on a second draft for me; dialogue from Scene C really belongs in Scene B, and it should come from Character Y instead of Character X, so that means Scene D is not going to work anymore, and we, instead, get Scene D.2. The jeweler who didn’t even have a name in the original draft of the scene is nowhere to be found, but that’s because Character Z showed up, doing the nameless jeweler’s job, and I kind of want to see him again.

There’s something different about writing in the wee small hours, when the rest of the two-legs in the house are sound asleep. Skye seems to approve of me burning the midnight oil. No choices needed over which human she wants to shadow, as the others are abed, and I am the only one doing interesting things. If I’m listening to quieter music as I work, I can take out my earbud (desktop earbuds are now singular earbud; will fix that soon) and we can listen together, without waking the house.

When I gave N this week’s pages, I told her most of them were written in the middle of the night. She said I should keep it up, as it seems to be working. Huh wuh? I’d worked on last week’s pages in the wee, small hours as well, which I had forgotten, or at least pushed away from conscious thought. N may be on to something. If the middle of the night is where I can get more writing time, then I want to take it. This may be one of the things I find out while doing the left foot, right foot thing through this whole writing process journey.

Like my mother used to tell me, “the more you do, the more you’ll want to do.” Since I was a kid when she told me that, of course I thought she was full of, um, stuff, and merely wanted a few minutes of peace (which, to be fair, she probably did,) but, as an adult, I am more inclined to believe she is right. The creative muscle, like any other muscle, gets stronger with exercise. The more times I can write, the more I can write, and then I get to jabber about fun things like book releases and cover reveals and all that good stuff.

First, though, comes the less glamorous part. First comes the late nights of squinting at the screen, refilling my travel mug full of ice water, and using the walk to the cat food dish as my chance to figure out what would happen if I moved this dialogue from one scene to another, and turned one of the extras into a supporting player.

Space and Light

This weekend, our landlord brought in a new refrigerator, and replaced the overhead kitchen light fixture that had been out of whack for I’m not going to say how long. The good part about having working overhead lights in both office and kitchen is that now we can see what we’re doing. The bad thing about having working overhead lights in both office and kitchen is that now we can see what we are doing. This means that we can also see what we haven’t been doing, as in stuff we put over here “for now,” or “until we can see what we’re doing.” Well, now we can, annnnd…we need to do stuff. Thanks to some generous applications of joint compound on the mustard-yellow walls we all hate (Real Life Romance Hero doesn’t think they are that bad, but Housemate and I outvote him, plus I can whip out my knowledge of color theory. We have vintage 50s pink laminate countertop and backsplash. I have no idea why the then-owner chose emerald green linoleum, when the walls had been a gorgeous dusty rose. I loved that dusty rose so much that I made vociferous objections when we found the hideous new paint job on the day we arrived with all our worldly goods in tow.

It took four years and change, three different landlords, but the mustard-yellow is going. I vote for white. The joint compound is white already, and it looks all nice and airy and clean, especially right up against the white woodwork (though, if I had my druthers, I would strip the white from every inch of woodwork in the entire apartment and go for a dark wood stain, but I do not own this building, so that is not my call.) We don’t have a date for work to begin on the kitchen painting, but we are fully aware that this will mean a total tear-down of the setup we currently have. I am okay with that. I am also fully prepared to defend the original midcentury cabinets from the taint of a paintbrush. One would expect no less from a historical romance writer, am I right?

This is also a chance to get rid of things that no longer fit with who we are now, as individuals, or as a family. While doing dishes a couple of days ago, Housemate asked me why a trio of mugs are still here. We haven’t touched them in the entire four years we’ve lived in this apartment, and none of us like them. My only answer was “because we packed them when we moved.” Why do we have them though? I know two of them were free, and the other one kind of goes with them, as in it is a solid color that is contained within the color scheme of the other two, but that is not a reason to give them space in our home. That mug tree could, theoretically, bloom with nothing but Union Jack mugs, or black and white mugs. I would be fine with either.

It’s kind of like that with my TBR shelf as well. While I do not recommend scheduling both renovations and a visit from out of state friends-who-are-family on the same weekend, real friends don’t care if there is joint compound on the walls or a laundry basket on the dining room table. If they wanted to see perfectly appointed rooms, they know where the museum is. Real friends are perfectly happy to sit on the floor and eat takeout, because the reason they came is to spend time with their friends.  Everything else is window dressing, or lack of window dressing, as the case may be.

So, back to the TBR shelf. One of the great things about going to writers’ conferences is that they give you lots of free books to take home. One of the not-so-great things about writers’ conferences is that they give you lots of free books to take home. This is especially apparent when one lives in an apartment and has only so much shelf space. There comes a point where something Has To Be Done.  My point was Saturday night.

Aided by the new overhead light in my office, I went through the triple-stacked TBR bookshelf and culled. I was ruthless. Why do I have this book? Am I ever really going to read it? How long has it been on this shelf? Would somebody else appreciate this book more than I could? Book by book, I made my choices. Most books did stay, but I also had a respectable pile to pass along to my friends, which was a good thing. Said friends arrived with a banker’s box full of books tailored to my specific interests. Older historical romances, heavy on the medieval, second copies of some old favorites, so I can make them lending copies. That’s friendship in a box, right there. Looks like this:

booksfromMary

I have no idea how that frame got into the picture

When I took the lid off this box and peered inside, I felt…focused. Yes. This. This is why I write historical romance. This is what’s important. I’m probably going to leave these books in the box for a while, though I do have definite ideas on where most of them are going to go on my bookshelves. For now, I want them as they are. Full of potential. A reminder of why I put my butt in the chair and pen to paper/fingers on keyboard every weekday. I want to look at the spines, pet them, imagine and/or remember (some of the books, I have already read, some, I have not) and remember what it was like to not only first discover the world of historical romance (though, this time, I do not have to hide under the brass bed in the guest bedroom, with a flashlight, because I am big enough to pick out my own reading material.) but also that feeling of “I can totally do this.” That it’s in my blood and success is the only option. It’s a booster shot of confidence, exactly in time for the week N and I have agreed to up our production goals, so we can both reach The End that much faster. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

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Want vs Need

I had wanted, no, needed, this past weekend to be one of relaxing and well-filling. That was not what happened. Right now, my mind is scrambled, I have one eye on the clock, because, maybe, if I can get all my morning stuff done by noon (it is almost eleven-thirty now) then maybe I have a shot of getting this day back on track, even though what I want to do most at the moment is unplug from everything, go eat an entire pizza and dig into my towering historical romance TBR pile. Also maybe go to the park and look for baby waterfowl, because we are getting to that time of year. Baby waterfowl make pretty much anything more manageable. Do not ask me how; they probably don’t know, either.

Today, I am in the chair out of sheer stubbornness, and the fact that routine is a big help when things get domestic tornado-y. Butt in chair, check daily task list, put in earphones, select “Go To Work” playlist, and forward we go. Real Life Romance Hero is now chasing down Option C for our lunch date, as Options A and B fell through. There will be food and there will be RLRH, but that, at this point, is all I know.

After that, and after any more work needed on this blog post, if I’m not done by then, it is Her Last First Kiss time, which means rereading the chapter I brought to last critique session, which turned out to be me stuffing a ten pound cat into a two pound bag (that never ends well for anybody) and really needs to be two different scenes, one taking place before the last couple of scenes…arrgh. I’d planned to use the weekend to immerse myself in historical romance, but this weekend turned out to be one of those areas where theory and practice turned out to be two different things. I don’t like when things like that happen, but I dislike not-writing even more, and I dislike postponing critique session, so  my only option is to get the danged pages written. Which means I have to get in the mood. I’m not sure I’m going to get the chance to tuck in with a seasonally appropriate beverage and a few chapters of historical romance, because it’s Monday now, and Monday is back to work.

Last night, I gave Melva the thumbs up on our partial manuscript for Chasing Prints Charming, so today or tomorrow, she will send that on out. That will mean we have our first co-written story under consideration with two distinct entities. That’s a little scary.  It’s been a while. If I were listening to another writer tell me this same thing, I would make a game show buzzer sort of noise and tell them the fact that it’s been a while means it’s high time, and yay, them. That’s not the way I always talk to myself, though that may be a useful skill to acquire.

Only two hundred-ish words to get through this entry, and then I can talk to RLRH about lunch. After that, ready or not, it’s back to 1784, and splashing about in the shallows of a scene that is not in the first draft, but clearly needs to be (this is what second drafts are for, after all.) It’s not going to be perfect. This bothers me, but imperfect pages are a necessary evil. Comparing draft pages to pages in a published book, that has been through multiple editors, packaged, promoted, etc, is an exercise in futility. They can’t be the same, and they shouldn’t be. Where’s the fun in that?

Today, I am tackling this scene because I need to tackle this scene. Heroine needs me. She’s going to be ticked if I don’t spend the time with her today, and she’s not going to move forward if we don’t have this scene, which would mean a lot of her getting all grumbly and glaring at me and nobody is going to have any fun with any of that. I could put things off, but I think that would only make both of us grumblier. Time to put on our big girl panties and wade on into this sucker.

Lately, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to connect with what it is I love most about historical romance, and the historical romance authors who helped me fall in love with the genre. Those are the books and the authors who got my pulse pumping, and had me, on more occasions than I could count, sitting on the floor of a bookstore, either new or used, with a pile of books that I absolutely had to have, but could only take home a limited number. That meant I had to make some decisions. More often than not, those decisions weren’t based on which book was next in whatever series (as most of them were standalones, still my favorite format, and that is a whole other subject) but a gut reaction. Which ones did I need?

Sure, I wanted all of them, but which ones did I need? Which ones would hurt if I put them back on the shelves? Which stories could I not live without until the next time I could come back and comb through the treasure trove on the shelves? In a used bookstore, which books did I not want to take a chance on not being there the next time? Those were (and are) the ones that came home.

On days like this, that’s where I want to get back to; that need. What does Heroine’s scene need to be? What is she going to come out of the book and punch me if I leave out? For those who have not seen the gorgeous image by Sandra Schwab, this is Heroine:

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image by Sandra Schwab

She’d do it, too. I love Heroine (Ruby; her name is Ruby, but I still want to call her Heroine when I write about her here) more than I thought I could ever love another heroine again, so I owe it to her to make sure she gets everything she needs. Which means, today, this scene. If I blow off this scene because I’m tired or cranky, I’m going to regret it, and it’s going to follow me into the supposed relaxing I’d be doing instead, which would only make me crankier and less restful. Time to bust open Scapple, throw down the essentials, and start making connections.

Typing With Wet Claws: Hangover Cure Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This has been an interesting week around here, but more on that later. Anty finds it ironic that her picture of me this week is of me asleep, since Anty did not get a lot of sleep herself, but not to worry. I can more than make up for the sleep she does not get.

Before we get to anything else,  I have to talk about what Anty has done on the interwebs this week. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, though she forgot to send out word that she was there. It was that kind of weekend. Oops. Anyway, this week, she talks about libraries. That post is here and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURlibrarybaby

Even though Anty did not get a lot of sleep this week, she used some of that not-sleeping time to get some reading done (finally.) She read so many books, in fact, that I had to put them all in one picture. Links to Anty’s reviews of the books she read this week are below. Click on the link to read the review, or check on her Goodreads reading challenge progress here. So far, she has read twenty-four out of ninety books, and is only four books behind. Keep going, Anty. I believe in you. These are the books she read:

All together, they look like this:

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Not too shabby there, Anty. If we break that down, that is two YA books, one nonfiction, and one historical romance. After Anty read Fair Day, and Another Step Begun, she wanted to read a medieval romance that was based on medieval legend, and she pretty much did, with Agnes Moor’s Wild Night. A tournament like the one in the story actually happened. Anty was very happy to find that out in the author’s note, even though it is fact instead of legend. Anty says that is close enough. The author is Miss Alyssa, whose workshop Anty did not get to see. Anty is still salty about that, but she does have another of Miss Alyssa’s books on her TBR shelf, so that helps a little bit. She is still looking for some (preferably older) medieval with that ballad/legend feel, so if you know of any (or have written some) let me know in the comments, and I will tell her.

This has been a very interesting week around here. Normally, Anty on a double book hangover would be enough to deal with, but Uncle has another new job. He is very happy about that, which makes Anty happy, even if she still could use another nap or ten. This week, Anty stayed up very late on Monday night so that she could have Her Last First Kiss pages ready for Miss N on Tuesday. This particular time, that meant writing parts of two different scenes.

When Anty started the second scene, she had a feeling things weren’t exactly right, but she wanted to get the right amount of pages written, so she kept on going. By the time she got to a stopping point, she was very sure she had written the wrong scene. She did not mean that the scene did not belong in the story, but that it needed a scene that came before another scene (or between some other scenes) because this one felt like shoving a ten pound cat into a two pound bag.  Miss N agreed, which meant Anty’s next job was to go home and figure out what that scene needed to be.

Not too long ago, this would have made Anty very anxious, and think that maybe she is  a bad writer, because a real writer, or a good one, would not have made that kind of mistake. That is not how she feels now. Now, she knows that is a part of the process, and it is okay to go back and fix things. Second drafts, like first drafts, do not have to be perfect; they only have to be written. As soon as she and Miss N started talking about what could happen in the missing scene, Anty got excited about writing that one. Having that scene will make this current one, in its new form, much easier, because it will have room to breathe. It will also mean Anty has some moving around of things in both Scrivener and Google Docs (she is not sure yet which one is easier to use at this stage of the game, so she often writes in one and then copies to the other) but, that, too, is part of the process. That is how she can keep moving forward.

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

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skyebye

 

Book Hangover, Part Two

It happened again. Book hangover, I mean, the second one in one week, and it’s leaving me itchy. The first book hangover of the week, I covered here.  As I’d hoped, Fair Day, and Another Step Begun, arrived on my doorstep in short order, and I tore into the packaging, eager to get my next hit. My fingers tingled at the firm feel of the book inside the envelope, because this was a nice, sturdy hardcover, ready to withstand the many re-readings I’d already planned for it, starting with this one. I tore open the envelope.

Surprise: there is more than one cover. Blink. Blink.

 

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Yep. Two covers.

Cover with the red text is the one I had borrowed from that long-ago library. Cover with white text is the cover I now own. Yes, I do have plans to acquire the red text cover, and no, I am not giving up the copy I actually have (though I may lend it) because it is my copy, a gift from a dear friend, and one will pry that copy out of my cold, dead hand. Skye will link to my Goodreads review on Friday, so I’ll focus more on the book hangover side of things here.

This book. Oh man, this book. I’d remembered it as being written in first person, which was not the case -it’s third- and we don’t get to see Ellen fall in love with John Waters,  (Not the filmmaker. Seriously, not the filmmaker.) but that’s okay, because it’s a fable. Things happen in a fable, and we don’t need to know why; they merely are. That fits this book, because it, too, is a fable.

I’ve always loved stories that meld the now with the long-ago, so a then-contemporary (1970s) retelling of an old ballad from the British Isles, in this case, Childe Waters,  is right up my alley. Yes, I have read the ballad, and some variants, and  yes, this does make me want to seek out some more. I’ve loved this kind of tale since I was but a wee little princess. Maybe it’s in my blood. This feels like a medieval story, because, despite the then-modern setting, complete with hippie commune (and, truth be told, I would like to visit Fair Day in the really real world if that were possible, and I may or may not have a mental note to name a fictional stately home of my own -at least two centuries before the 1970s, thanks- Fair Day, or maybe there may be a Fairday family in my fictional future) the language, lyrical and dreamy, feels like it’s reaching through the mists of time, from another age, and I fell into the world of the book without question.

Childe Waters (alternately called Lord John, as, Ellen is sometimes called Margaret for reasons that probably make perfect sense to old timey British Isles people) is not all that great to Ellen in the original ballad. In fact, he’s basically a jerk. John Waters, in this book, behaves as one might imagine a man in his early twenties, in the 1970s, might react when he learns that he has fathered a child on a sixteen year old girl. I would have liked to have seen more about how John’s other girlfriend at Fair Day affected John. He doesn’t recognize Ellen at first, when she arrives, and not because of her pregnancy or disguise. Is the other woman controlling him in some way?

I have other questions. What’s the deal with Ellen having to pass through water to get to John? Medieval symbolism has something to do with it, I am sure, and I have absolutely no doubt, that at some point in the not too distant future, I am going to fall down a rabbit hole of Child Ballads and folk tales, and see where all that leads me. Something something rural south something something old traditions something something, Ellen’s question over how mountain people are the last to be civilized, and how she doesn’t know if that makes them stronger or something else entirely. Ellen’s love of horticulture and the land is part of her, and her surety, of knowing what she knows, is unshakeable.

This is a book that is going to require more study, more re-reading, more looking into and comparing and digging, and, once I have forced reader and/or writer friends to read it as well, discussion. I wish Aunt S were still with us, because I would want her input on this, her perspective. I want to track down Katie Letcher Lyle (yes, I know where her blog is, but I also need this time to be that incoherent teenage fangirl, and grown up writer on the scent of something beneath/behind/beyond the surface of the story) and buy her tea and pick her brain and talk.

Reading this book took me back to when I was that young teenager, in study hall of the second floor of McAllister Middle School. If I know where I was when I read a book, especially when I read certain individual scenes, then I know that the book in question has become a part of me, and maybe the resulting book hangover is some sort of process of recalibrating when the book and I have been reunited. A few days of fuzziness, of marination and regaining balance, and, then, it’s time to read something else. Not-reading something else is how reading slumps get started, and I don’t want one of those.

Which means it’s time to pick up something else. The first thing that came to mind is a pair of medieval romances, A Love So Bold, which I have read, and loved, and its sequel, A Banner Red and Gold, which I have not. Both are in storage. Both are out of print. The author wrote, as far as I know, only those two books. It’s not happening today. I accept that. At some point, I will stagger through the mist, and my hand will take a book from a shelf, or I’ll click on a selection from my Kindle library, and I’ll read. Maybe there will be a notice from the library that requested materials have arrived, and I will turn to one of those, because library materials come complete with ticking clocks.

In the meantime, I have writing of my own to do, and the components of the book hangover will simmer on the back burner. Maybe they will send out whiffs of why these two books have stuck with me, and what makes it different to have two book hangovers back to back. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will take another book hangover, or two or three or ten, to work things out. That sort of thing can’t be forced, so onward I go.