Typing With Wet Claws: Do The Work Edition

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

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

 

BURtrope

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…

 

Title Goes Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Do What You Love

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

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

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

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

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

DoWhatYouLoveNotebooks

Do we see a theme here?

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

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

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

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

TheWriterIsOut

 

White Space and Cubbyholes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ulp.

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

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

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

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

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Processing

 Use the process.
-Lin-Manuel Miranda

Today is Memorial Day. It’s also May 29th, the birthday of Erma Pesci Carrasco, and Princess Marlena of Carousel. That would be my mom, and one of the two German Shepherds my dad and I got the year I started college. Marlena decided pretty early on that she wanted to be my dog, even though it was my dad’s name on the official paperwork. The other dog, CJ, who came a few months later, while I was in school, followed her lead. I have no idea how that worked, other than that CJ absolutely adored Marlena, and if I was Marlena’s choice, well, then, that settled the matter. No further questions needed; it merely was.

I’ve been thinking about that “merely was” part lately, and not specifically about the dogs, though they were the illustration that came most readily to mind. They could both jump higher than the six foot fence of their enclosure, but both chose not to; they were fine where they were. The UPS guy did not understand this last part. To this day, I have a vivid memory of the blast of the delivery van horn that summoned me from the shower. As soon as I stuck my towel-turbaned head out of the guest room window, the driver shouted, “UPS,” threw the package onto the front lawn, and sped out of the driveway.

This puzzled me at first, until I went to my dad’s room and looked out of his window, that looked over the enclosure. Two purebred German Shepherds, jumping higher than (but not over, never over) the six foot fence, barking their fool heads off, tails wagging in doggy excitement; okay, I can see where that might be a concern for a UPS driver who did not know these were two gigantic marshmallow puppies, who had a whole  call and response routine perfected before they could have breakfast or dinner. It went like this:

Human:  :holds food bowl at human chest level:  What’s in the bowl?
Dog: :jumps up to see contents of bowl:
Human: Where do you want it?
Dog:  :runs into doghouse, pokes head out:
Human: Are you sure?
Dog: :repeats above:
Human: Are you really sure?
Dog:  :repeats above:
Human: Are you black dog sure?
Dog: :repeats above:
Human: Okay, then. :gives food:

Annnd scene. :takes bow:  The routine always went the same way: Marlena first, because she was the dominant dog, then CJ. The human in almost every case was me, as my dad did not take part in this particular routine. Maybe it was Real Life Romance Hero a time or two, as he came into all of our lives around this time. Possibly BFF in an extenuating circumstance, but the important thing is, no matter how many times I went away, every time I came back, they knew the whole routine. I’m pretty sure that CJ was, at least in part, merely emulating Marlena, because CJ was, how shall we put this, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She came to our family because, although an utterly gorgeous pure black German Shepherd, she failed the puppy IQ test that would have allowed her to go pro. I’m serious. She once failed to notice a cooked chicken breast that had landed on her foot, until Marlena clued her in on that one. Marlena, on the other hand, was some kind of dog genius, so they balanced.

So, that’s where my brain is on this Memorial Day. I could say it’s gone to the dogs, and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Not that I’m thinking about dogs, specifically, but the fact that it’s Monday. The fact that Marlena and my Mom, who never met, have the same birthday. The fact that I have adopted the same pen as the author, and family friend, who got me into historical romance in the first place, always favored. Last week, at this time, when I sat down at my desk, dreading, as I would be now, shoving a whole week’s worth of work into one Monday (working on fixing that) I uncapped that green Marvy Le Pen, and wrote out what I thought she would tell me, if I could blabber to her over a cup of tea, about exactly that issue. I’d like to think I got it right.

There’s a purple ballpoint I’ve been eyeing , that reminds me of exchanges with a once upon a time friend. I don’t know that I’m ready for that imaginary conversation right now. Where once there were up to fifty page snail mail letters, eagerly anticipated,  now there is silence, paths diverged. I’m not spending a lot of time staring at the fork in the road, because it is Monday, and I do have several days of writing to cram into one, because tomorrow is Tuesday and N, and I am going to have pages, because I am black dog sure.

N does not have a pen assigned to her, or our weekly sessions yet, but they taste like tea (iced from May to September, hot from September to May, weather permitting) and French toast bagels, and I always come away from the sessions energized, because I’ve connected my characters and a reader/writer. It’s not just me and a page or screen anymore; now it’s a group of us. That’s part of the process, and it keeps me moving forward, so, once this blog is posted, it’s a short break, more tea, and then rework some of last week’s pages, before I catch the rhythm and forge on ahead.

Maybe I’ll end up awake into the wee hours again this week, and stumble home from my meeting with N like some over-caffeinated zombie, but even if the pages I bring her are a muddle, they’ll be my muddle, and they’ll make more sense after our talk. My brain generally needs to circle the airport a time or two before it lands, and rushing things doesn’t make the whole process any easier; quite the opposite. Better to trust that I’ve done this before, so of course I can do it again. This is how it works; relax and enjoy the scenery along the way. I’ll still get there. Left foot, right foot, that sort of thing. If, along the way, Hero’s hip happens to bump against Heroine’s as they take a totally platonic walk, and she happens to get a whiff of soap that does not smell like that on Other Guy, well, I’ll take that, too.

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….

 

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,

skyebanner01skyebyefancy

 

 

 

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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