Of Notebooks and Novels

Today, the temperature may get as high as seventy degrees. The votive candle on my desk is burning low, in a funny shape, because of all the months it spent stashed in a place it shouldn’t be (I’m sure sticking it in one of my art supply boxes made sense at the time, but do not ask me how, now, because I have no earthly idea.) Hipster Kitty is still on my desk, even though I’m still not sure how I want to use him, (this notebook is apparently a boy) and don’t want to put him away quite yet, either. This morning, I finished my current morning pages book, and am down to the final two candidates for its successor. This also reminds me that it is crunch time for my daily planner book, because the month will be ending soon, and I need to set up March, though I am still seeing candidates for the next planner notebook.

There’s a second decision related to starting a new daily planner book, more important than whether I want dot grid paper, kraft paper (but then what about my already planned pastel color scheme for the start of spring?) or admit to myself that I am a Leuctrumm 1917 convert, and that’s what I really want, even though I am trying to be good and use what I already have. Do I want to use my daily planner as the fourth insert in Big Pink, or do I want it to live on my desk? If I want it to live on my desk, then my options are wide open. If I want it to be insert number four, then it needs to fit inside the notebook cover, and will change the weight and heft of Big Pink in general.

“Um, Anna,” some of you may be saying right about now, “this is all very interesting for notebook people, who would totally follow you to a notebook-only blog, by the way, but some of us are writers and/or readers, who are not into notebooks, and could you please talk about writing or reading now? Kthanx.” I hear you, and I can bring this around. Right now, as a matter of fact.

Yesterday, at my weekly breakfast with N, N made me write. Okay, technically, she said she was going to write, which I knew she was going to do, and she took out notebook and pen and started doing exactly that. Well. I can’t resist that sort of thing. I had debated bringing along a variety of notebooks and/or one legal pad, for when this moment came, but it was also one of those mornings when getting out the door was complicated by a fuzzy shadow that thought everything I was doing was A) extremely interesting, and B) might possibly involve cat food. What I had on hand was the current fourth insert of Big Pink, a Moleskine Volant, which has detachable pages, and is, theoretically in Big Pink for exactly that reason, so I can write on the fly and then remove pages to go where they actually go, or transcribe and recycle.

Well, okay then. I put pen to paper and worked on a scene for Her Last First Kiss, making notes of opportunities to go deeper in an early chapter. I ended up having to prep more pages than I thought I would (prepping, in this case, means a bold line of marker or washi tape (this time, it was marker) at the top and bottom of the page. This gets around the blank page problem, because voila, the page is no longer blank.) Is it perfect? No. Is it written? Yes. Do I get to transcribe it today, and take those pages out of the book? Yes, sir or ma’am, I do. Longhand works best for me, and longhand under pressure, with an audience, works even better. Clearly, this insert needs to stay, but is it maybe making the other lined insert, which does not have detachable pages (okay, it has a few, but only in the back) redundant? Maybe so.

The evolution of a notebook system is kind of like the evolution of a writer, especially the writer who is using the notebook system. Trial and error is a big part of the process, and there are going to be times we get halfway through a project, or even make that first mark on the paper, and get the immediate “nope,” or that zing of recognition. That “Yes. This,” that picks us up from uncertainty and carries us until we’ve got our bearings. For the first time, or again; it works well both ways.

Starting new books, and redoing Big Pink feel appropriate for where I am, writing-wise, these days. It’s kind of like the back to school feel of new school supplies, which never gets old, even decades after any sort of connection to any sort of school. The fact that it hits around the same time as spring cleaning, well, that’s kind of one of the big holidays for us organizational types. Organizing writing makes perfect sense. It feels right. I’m excited to reclaim tools and space and energy. I’m excited to be reading historical romance again, and keeping my focus where it belongs. Not on the market (although of course that’s important, for those of us doing the whole writing career thingyboo) or what anybody else is doing, but what I’m doing, and what works best for me. If that involves stationery, all that much better.

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The Queen’s Lady, the Hipster Kitty, and Me: A Love Story

Today does not feel like a Monday. My planner says it is, so we’ll go with that and get at least seven hundred words of blabber into this text box, within the next hour, because crossing a task off my to-do list is one of the very best ways to kick off a Monday (or any other day, come to think of it.) Maybe I’m still riding on weekend fumes, because this was a pretty good weekend, especially for my focus on reconnecting with historical romance and growing the blog.

Friday nights are BFF nights, which means Housemate and I grab some sort of dinner, then trawl craft stores for geeking out over art supplies. Watercolor pencils for her (though she has yet to actually use them as watercolors) and anything bujo/art journal related for me. This week, that included picking up a copy of Artful Blogging magazine. Articles on connecting with one’s creative side and particular bloggy “voice,” be that writing or photography, resonated. I actually started petting the magazine while still in the store, so that’s a sign that the issue had to come home. This has a few different levels to it; there’s the drooling over pictures level, the taking in advice I probably already know but have made excuses not to act upon, because acting on such knowledge would be scary level, and the actually applying what I’ve learned to my actual blog level.

Saturday meant sneaking in more craft store trawling in the midst of errands (Housemate has a life goal of owning all the watercolor pencils in the world. I support her in this, because A) I want my friend to be happy, and B) I have permission to use them when she is not using them.) Saturday also meant that I got to take out the magazine and lay it on the table between us at lunch, and natter endlessly over how gorgeous the pictures are, and how I want to get to that level with my own blog, or possibly blogs, as I’ve been thinking of starting a second blog, devoted to all things pen and paper, while this one would be reserved  for writing talk. We will see how things go.

Sunday found me, along with Real Life Romance Hero, and Housemate, at our friend, M.P. Barker‘s annual book swap party. The most important thing about these parties is that the bacon-wrapped figs are mine, mine, mine. Okay, maybe that is not the most important thing, but it is a strong contender for the number two spot. They are stuffed with goat cheese, and are delicious, and I would happily pay whoever makes them, to make me a small batch. A truckload or two would do. For starters. I would say I am digressing here, but these are extremely good bacon wrapped figs. Or maybe they’re dates. I get the two confused sometimes.

Enough of that. The really important thing about this party, every year, is that it gives me a chance to reconnect with my best writing self. M.P., my contemporary co-writer, Melva Michaelian, and I spent many years’ worth of Wednesday nights, gathered around the same dining room table where, yesterday, I scarfed bacon-wrapped figs (or dates) and gabbed with Mona, a reader friend, about our shared love of reading historical romance. What we like, what we don’t, how we had each finished reading (two different) Harlequin Historical romances within the last twenty-four hours, and needed to choose our next reads pretty darned quick. This is where my love of reading and my love of planning come together and make beautiful reading plan babies.

Before the start of the new year, I made a list of books to re-read, and books to finally read, all historical romance. First up from the TFR list is The Queen’s Lady, by Barbara Kyle:

BarbaraKylethequeenslady

 

Tudor era, start of a family saga, plot that unfolds over years instead of months or weeks, and a heroine name to make me sigh with happiness. Honor Larke. Yep, I’m sold. I’m not sure why I haven’t read this before, and I’m intrigued that it was, IIRC, originally published as historical romance, though the spine on this edition classes it as historical fiction. We shall see how this goes.  After that, it’s back to the well, and a small detour from my TBRR list, as I plan to reread the entire O’Malley/Skye’s Legacy series, by Bertrice Small. That’s twelve books, with both series combined, so picking out historical romances to read is not going to be that difficult a task for me in the foreseeable future.

My heart is already going a little pitty-pat at the reading journey ahead of me, and what it’s going to do for my writing, this spring. (Can you believe it’s almost spring already? Has to be, though, as, in the next two weeks, I will be starting both a new morning pages book, and a new daily planner book.) That’s where the Hipster Kitty comes into play:

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See how perfectly he fits with the rest of my “me” stuff? I normally don’t seek out things that are yellow, or books with white pages, but this book has me completely heart-eyes over it. I already know I want to write with black pen, and use yellow highlighter, and, since I want to take notes o n my epic O’Malley re-read, well, this seems like perfect timing. There’s still a chance I might end up using a different book for that, but even if that’s what happens, this is for something special. Maybe it’s for notes on the proposed cyber-revival Melva, M.P. and I talked about, of the weekly critique/nag group meetings that got us all through multiple manuscripts.

The weekend just past was wonderful, filled with re-filling, and re-connection, bringing me to the start of a new week, with the challenge of putting all that good stuff into practice. That’s still a little scary, but scary in the good way. I did get an offer of beta-reading from my reader friend, so I have to give her something to read, don’t I? Thought so. time to make another cup of tea, and slip back in time a few centuries.

Valentine’s Day Rambles (of the writing variety)

So, it’s Valentine’s Day, which means built in blog topic for romance writers. Woo hoo.  On hour, seven hundred words, let’s go. Okay. No big plans for the day, as such. I’m writing, which is worthy of celebration, because my brain is returning from the fog of Martian Death Cold, and it’s time to write some of the rust out of the faucet, so to speak. This also means I get to spend some extra time tucked in a comfy chair (probably my office chair, which is plenty comfy and has great back support) and snuggle under a fuzzy blanket, with a cup of tea (pink skull and crossbones mug today) and the day’s soundtrack is a mixture of my Spotify daily mix and Real Life Romance Hero doing dishes on the other side of my office door. Heck yes, romance heroes wash dishes.

Okay, maybe not medieval knights or nineteenth century English noblemen. Probably not pirates, either, but, y’know, everybody does what they have to do on a pirate ship because there are only so many people to do a lot of different jobs, so maybe pirates, after all. Who can tell? Me, next time I write a pirate book? Maybe so. We will see. The point is, romance heroes do a whole lot of things. Heroines, too. That came out wrong, but I’ll let it stand, because I am in that sort of a mood.

Romance gets a lot of jabs this time of year, often from people who aren’t fans of the genre, often because they haven’t tried any recent romance fiction, or classic romance fiction, or fiction with romantic elements (though, let’s be real, that romance stuff is everywhere, and gets into many different genres, to varying degrees, but I digress.) Think pieces of this sort (of which there often does not seem to be a whole lot of thinking going on) have become commonplace enough that I can look at them, and, meh, another one of those? Okay. Whatever. What I’d really like to see is the excited discovery of a new romance reader – hey, look at all these great stories, where the focus is on the relationship and there’s history and suspense and sex and faith and it’s funny and it rips my heart out and puts it back together, and, seriously, anything can happen to these characters, as long as they end up happy and together, and, y’know what? They do. Every single time. How amazing is that?

Pretty darned, is all I’m saying. Yesterday was my weekly meeting with N, and we talked about reconnecting with what we want for our writing careers, about reconnecting with what makes a story, be it read or written, special. For me, this means a concentrated effort in reconnecting with what I love most about historical romance. If I’m going to go back to the source, the moment I fell in love with the genre, it would be when eleven-year-old me snuck a book from my mother’s nightstand, and cracked it open, by flashlight, under the brass bed in the guest bedroom. It also takes me back to countless used bookstores, where I would crawl around on the floor, inspecting the lower shelves for stories set in the sixteenth century, scanning for keywords that would catch my attention. Any mention of larger than life, or epic, or sprawling, or…:satisfied sigh:

Yeah, that. When I think of historical romance, that’s my happy place. I’m sure there’s something to be said about the role of the floor in all of this. The floor of the guest bedroom, under the big brass bed, the floors of countless bookstores, usually ending up in a tucked away corner, books spread out around me, so I could whittle down the selection to fit within the budget for that trip. To a lesser extent, there are the countless spins I made of the spinner racks in the fiction section of the library closest to my dad’s house when I was in high school, checking for fat paperbacks that meant historical romance, and the distinctive, slim spines that meant traditional Regencies, or gothics. As long as there was history, and there was romance, I was happy.

Am happy, because, decades after that first filched paperback, which now has a place of honor on the bookshelf behind me as I write, the same bookcase which once held the picture books of my preschool days, I still get that thrill. Give me two lovers who have to be together, but can’t, and I am there. If I am the one entrusted to making sure the lovers’ stars un-cross, that’s another level of fun. Frustration, sometimes, because story people can be tricky little badgers, making choices of their own, the second they hit the page. That only means they are real and alive in the sense that it becomes a collaboration between the writer and their imaginary friends. In that way, no romance writer is ever truly alone,  no matter what day it is.

Over the magic seven hundred now, and time to wrap this puppy, which can get tricky when I go on this sort of ramble. As N and I discussed, sometimes it takes a while to write the rust out of the faucet, and putting down anything is better than putting down nothing, especially when putting down anything runs smack into a wall of resistance. Even so, keep at it long enough, and the faucet runs out of rust. That’s a happy ending right there.

TheWriterIsOut

Blabbity Blab, Theory and Practice

Helpful hint: going out to do laundry and run errands in the freezing rain does not hasten Martian Death Cold out the door any more quickly. Even so, I think I’m going to live. Right now, I’m at my desk, the too-bright sun that comes after yesterday’s lovely greyness, poking through the slats in the blinds. Wind is whipping the branches outside. The big candle is pretty well burned down, which means it is probably time for a new big candle, or at least a nice votive or tealight. My mug is empty now, and I am debating whether it is time to put the kettle on for more tea, or to grab my water bottle.

In short, it’s a winter Monday. Outside my closed office door, there are cat and Real Life Romance Hero. On today’s schedule: this blog entry, then work on the second batch of edits/rewrites for Chasing Prince Charming. I have my weekly Skype conference with Melva tonight, and breakfast with N tomorrow, so I need to get some Her Last First Kiss in there somewhere. The temptation to burrow into a blanket nest and binge watch the remaining episodes of Les Revenants (creepy French drama, on Netflix, which I deeply love, and will probably gush about in more detail at a later date) is strong, though not as strong as the biggest lesson I took away from this past weekend’s CR-RWA meeting; treat writing like a business.

That means that writing time is writing time, and nothing else happens during that time. New rule for this week: blog entries get one hour of my writing time, maximum. This may result, at least in the near future, to an increase in free form rambling, but that kind of stuff tends to sort itself out in time, with the right amount of practice.

My original plan was to have a defined topic for this blog entry, but I got to sleep at the lovely hour of four in the morning, because Martian Death Cold does not respect circadian rhythms, and I am burning too-bright daylight here.  I am looking forward to seeing what Melva has don e on this next chunk of Chasing Prince Charming, and what notes she’s made on my segments, so I can do my share in making a good thing even better. I actually like rewriting. Sometimes, I like rewriting more than writing. There’s less pressure, and I’m not as concerned about making everything perfect, as I am when creating a first draft.

That seems somewhat backward, as the whole point of revising/rewriting is to make the writing better, but go figure. Writers are weird. Granted, we are at the part of the book where there are not a lot of changes to make, and we are likely approaching the section that is going to need the most work. Stay tuned for that one, because there will probably be much to say on that matter.  There may or may not be muffled sobbing at some point, but we have our sights set on the end of March to get the whole thing spiffed and back to the lovely people at The Wild Rose Press, and we’ll see how that goes.

For today, I have fewer than two hundred words to get to my magic seven hundred, which, thanks to some scheduling math, figured out in the margins of my notes from Saturday’s CRRWA meeting, now means at least seven hundred words in sixty minutes, tops. This is where preparation would come in super handy, So would another bag of sugar free cherry cough drops, because I recently squeezed said bag, and the cough drop count has gone down to three. I am good on tissues, though, which may come in handy if I hit on any especially emotional parts of the manuscript this afternoon. I would give it fairly high odds, because I know this story, I know Melva, and I know me. It’s pretty much a sure thing, and I am more than okay with that.

Almost to the magic seven hundred. I want to promise that Wednesday’s post will be more structured (unless anybody actually looks forward to my free-form rambles, in which case, today is your day. Break out the bubbly.) Blabbity blab, theory and practice, hey, look, there we go, enough words now. Time to open the file and see what wonders may be wrought.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

 

White Space

This is the view from our balcony this morning:

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I don’t know what it is about this season that snow days and sick days tend to fall on the same day, but, as the sugarless cherry cough drops on my desk indicate, that’s what we’ve got. Domestic tornadoes are not gone, but are slowing, and coming farther apart, which does leave more wiggle room, and time, for that writing thing I have heard I do.

On Monday’s Skype session with Melva, we went over our plan to revise and resubmit Chasing Prince Charming. If things go according to plan, which they should, we should be done by the end of March. That seems both very soon and very far away. We also decided that we were having too much fun with Drama King to truly put it aside while we work on the revisions, so we will continue, albeit at a more relaxed pace, until the revisions are done.

At my Tuesday breakfast with N, we both set goals for getting our current (solo) projects in gear. For her, it’s mapping out exactly what’s needed to tie up all loose ends in her contemporary romance, and, for me, it’s getting back to serious work on Her Last First Kiss. We talked, a lot, about what it takes to bring a story from okay to special. It’s not only words on a page, though that is obviously important, but the life in the characters, so that readers care about their story, what happens to them, if they’ll get what they want. Even though we’re both writing romance, which means that yes, our lovers will absolutely end up together at the end, and be happy about it, the very best books have that moment of “oh crap, maybe they can’t.” Getting them from that point to “heck, yes, they did,” that’s the best part. That’s the goal.

With all of the above, March is going to be full, with not only a lot of writing, but my online workshop with Charter Oak Romance Writers, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys, but Eryka Peskin’s free workshop, 31 Days and 32 Ways to Jump-start Your LifeLi’l blurb on that one, in Eryka’s own words, here:

Find out how transforming your relationship with your health, money, activism, spirituality, love, mindset and more can jumpstart your LIFE and change the world. For more info and to sign up, go to http://eepurl.com/bAQ0jf

It starts March 1st, so make sure you sign up right away!

I’m not sure yet, if the NECRWA conference is going to be possible this year, but I am (mostly) okay with that, because there’s no way to sell a book that isn’t written, and very few first drafts are ready to make the cut. This may require figuring out other ways to see my conference people, which is not a bad thing.

That’s all the future, though, and, since the snowstorm and cold have teamed up to nix plans for the afternoon and evening, what I have for the present is a large supply of tea, warm, fuzzy blankets, and a fully stocked Kindle, along with a TBR shelf that mocks me, from its space behind my office chair. Since I know me, there will also be a notebook or legal pad, and a handful of pens. The only big question I have today, is “what?”

Sick snow days are perfect fro TV/Netflix bingeing, but my search for something braimless I could background watch, and possibly nap through, led me to Les Revenants, a French drama that is, you guessed it, in French. Also, not dubbed. I do not speak French. I can pick out a few words, but that’s it. Thankfully, there are English subtitles, but that means actually looking at the screen.

Okay, there’s reading, then, and I do not lack for books, nor, specifically, historical romance books, but I want a particular sort, and I don’t feel like sifting through the TBR shelf or doing internet research. This may mean that a chunk of the day is spent curled under one of aforementioned fuzzy blankets, with aforementioned cup of tea, pen and paper within reach, and staring at Skye, the living room in general, or the insides of my eyelids. I call this white space.

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is nothing. Not exactly nothing, obviously, because blanket and tea and kitty who loves playing computer games, but the hitting pause on the plan to get from here to there, and letting the brain settle. Letting it sift through all the stuff that is rolling around in there, pushed out of the way by things like trash day and rescheduling doctor appointments and crunching numbers, and what and how much to make for dinner, depending on who’s going to be home and/or awake.

White space is quiet. It’s still. It’s snow falling outside, and the voices in my head (aka characters, aka story people, aka imaginary friends, aka fill in your own term here) wandering about at will. Sometimes this focuses on the current project, but usually not. It’s touching the past and the future at once, and it may result in a few notes, or a few pages, or a few dozen pages, but that’s not a requirement. white space usually comes to a natural end, stuff sorted out, and ready (perhaps after a nap, or reading a few chapters, or watching an episode or two of subtitled TV) to take on the next adventure. Not a bad journey to take from the depths of a comfy chair.

 

Dialogue With a Hypothetical Bouncer

Last night, I legit finished an art journal. Granted, only the last couple of spreads are worth showing to anybody, because a big chunk of it is lettering practice, Tests of pens and stencils, ideas that did not translate well to the page, layouts for my planner that I may or may not have implemented, more pen tests, and, at last, the lightbulb moment when I finally figured out two important things at once.

First important thing: I finally, finally, finally figured out how to use Distress Inks and blenders to make the kind of backgrounds I’ve slavered over for literally years. Second important thing: this quest took me so danged long that most of my Distress Ink collection was no longer viable. As in dried out, not transmitting color anymore, pining for the fjords. All that stuff meaning those pads got a one way trip to the circular (actually rectangular, if we’re talking my specific office trash receptacle) file. Not exactly what I had planned.

Sure, there are other inks in that line, still available, probably most of the colors I had to toss, as a matter of fact, not to mention some new ones, and even a new oxide formula (don’t know exactly what that does, but if it looks pretty and grungy at the same time, I want it.) Since the mini size of these inkpads are sold in bundles, frequently at stores with pretty nifty coupons on a regular basis, it won’t cost a fortune to build up a decent palette or two. It’s the principle, though. I wanted to use those pads. I picked out those pads, those particular colors. While I can probably get mot of the same colors, they won’t be the same pads. That bugs me.

What I turned out with what I had on hand wasn’t bad. As a matter of fact, it was this:

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This is the only page I’m showing.

That’s three clinging-to-life inkpads, one homemade stencil (dress form) with one commercial stencil (damask pattern) and one commercial stamp (face.) Also ten very inky fingers, and one sense of accomplishment. This particular art journal lives in my traveler’s notebook, Big Pink, so, at some point today, I will need to slide out this insert and put in a brand spanking new one. I haven’t done that yet, but I did, finally, give myself permission to haul out a precious, hoarded item (okay, two of them, but the pens have only been here for a week or so):

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That’s a Moleskine sketchbook, with smooth, thick pages, and the thirty pack of the Stabilo fineliners. Real, grownup artist tools, and the only artist around here is :shifty eyes: me. I have vivid memories of sneaking into my father’s art studio when I was but a wee little princess, and pilfering his art supplies (pro quality is far superior to kiddo quality; I knew this even in preschool) and putting them back where I found them, because I didn’t want to get caught.  Now, the only one here to “catch” me is me.

This is the part of the post where I steer it back toward writing, because the two are so closely related they can’t get married without a papal dispensation. Impostor syndrome is real. I think Mondays are its natural habitat. What do I think I’m doing, sneaking into fictionland, to play around with characters and plots and settings, all willy-nilly, with either willful ignorance or clear disregard (maybe both) of proper practices and/or market trends? Huh? Going to need to see some ID here. RWA membership? Okay, I guess that’s something, but are you published? You are? Could’ve fooled me What books? Cute backlist, honey. Don’t you have some laundry to fold?

Well, hah. Joke’s on you, Hypothetical Bouncer, because I already folded the laundry, and put it way, so no, I do not. I’m here at this desk for the same reason I snuck into my dad’s studio about elebenty billion times. I have to. There’s no way around it. Forget “want.” We’re talking “need” here. It didn’t occur to kiddo me, that my dad was a professional, and I wasn’t, that he had over three decades of experience and education ahead of me. I didn’t care that he’d painted murals and book covers, mainly because I didn’t know that at the time. What I did know was that I loved the feel of the white paper with the black and gray markings in one corner, that he kept in the bottom drawer of the green filing cabinet. I knew I loved the smell of the markers that had not one but two tips, even if I was not supposed to smell them on purpose. I couldn’t draw a realistic face, and even my box houses with triangles for roofs left a lot to be desired, but I loved the pen in my hand and the color on the paper, and, so, I kept at it.

Which brings us to today, Monday, and me at my desk, fingers on keyboard, not one but two projects in front of me; the revise and resubmit on Chasing Prince Charming, and Her Last First Kiss. I’m not that bothered about working on Chasing Prince Charming, because A) I’m doing it along with my co-writer, Melva, and B) I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, so there’s not a lot to which I can compare this project.

Historical romance, though, hoo boy. Whole other animal. If I spin my chair around (and I can, because spinny office chairs are the best office chairs; I will fight dissenters on this one) I will see the bookshelf filled with Bertrice Small historicals, and another bookshelf with historical romance novels I intend to read, once I can get past the darned bouncer in front of that one.  Oh hey there, YA reader girl. Looking for a historical romance, are you? Yeah, I’ve seen your Goodreads. You think you can play with the big girls? Some of the books on this shelf are old enough to go to kindergarten, and you haven’t read them yet. Not going to learn much about current market trends on this shelf. You sure that’s what you want?

Something akin to, “um, yeah actually, I do,” perches on the tip of my tongue, because I do want to read those books, and I don’t like that bouncer’s tone. That’s when I take a closer look at her. She looks kind of familiar. Long, reddish brown hair, black glasses, rose gold hoop earrings, exactly like the ones in my jewelry box. Umm, wait a minute. Wonder if I could distract her with some professional quality art supplies.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

Tales of the Accidental Truck Driver

This morning, I accidentally applied for a job as a truck driver. Real Life Romance Hero and I are both looking for side hustles, and I wanted to show him how a job=seeking app worked, and, thanks to slippery fingers and a sensitive touchscreen, I got two beeps, alerting me to the status of my applications. One of those ads was for a truck driver.

I am not a truck driver. I am not anything driver. I write romance novels, and I write about romance novels (romance in movies and TV is also right up my alley, if anybody needs web content.) I play with pen and paper, a lot, but, when the literal rubber meets the literal road, I am not in the literal driver’s seat. There is good reason for this. Two of them, actually. Left and right eyes. To be completely transparent, it is mostly Lefty’s fault, while Righty picks up most of Lefty’s slack, but gets tired sometimes. This understandably does things to ye olde depth perception, which is kind of important when aiming tons of metal down long stretches of highway at advanced speeds. For those curious about the other accidental job application, that was for a work at home gig, and if those people get in touch with me, I’ll hear them out, but that’s not pertinent to the topic at hand.

The whole truck driver thing is actually kind of funny, because, when I was but a wee little princess, long haul truck driver was on my long list of possible future occupations. My main reason was that I loved going on car trips, watching the scenery change, and imagining stories about all the other people, in all the other cars. Where were they coming from, where were they going, and what were they going to do when they got there? I may also have had a slightly romantic view of the whole concept of “truck stop,” and, as a young teen, I may or may not have had a few characters floating around my head, who spent a good chunk of their time in exactly that sort of vehicle. I may also, in high school, have expanded that into a three=act play, two acts of which got staged readings in English class. For those curious about my grade for that assignment, I got an A+.

Which brings us around to the topic of writing historical romance fiction. I fully accept that today is  domestic tsumani day (any day that starts with accidental job applications is pretty much doomed in that direction) On this kind of day, the whole concept of sitting high above the flow of traffic, music of choice playing as loud as I want it, caffeinated beverage at hand, and, let’s be real, a four-legged companion in the passenger seat -who wouldn’t want to get paid to take car rides with a dog?- is pretty darned appealing. Get in the truck, and just go. Watch the scenery change, imagine who’s going where, what they’ll do when they get there, who knows where they’re going, who’s hopelessly lost, and who is currently arguing with their passenger and/or GPS about whose directions are going to get them where they wanted to go, if that’s where they end up at all.

John DeWarre, the hero of my medieval novella, A Heart Most Errant, is probably the closest I am going to get to the image I had in my early pubescent head about the life of a nkight of the road. That’s because he is one, a knight-errant in fourteenth century England. He doesn’t have a truck, because it is fourteenth century England, and he doesn’t have a dog, but he does have a horse, creatively named Horse. That’s because John is not creative. Not even a little; he’s a soldier, even if he’s not at war, and  has no master. He’ll still carry out his duty anyway, grumbling his way around a post-plague wasteland.

No story if that’s all that happens, though, right? Which is where Aline comes in, talkative, optimistic, and willing to risk it all on a one in a million chance, because, hey, those odds are better than staying where she is when her and John’s worlds collide. The plague wiped out the life she’d known up until that point, so girlfriend seriously does not have anything to lose here.  Once she and John get on the road, they do not lack for adventure, and getting their story out to readers is not going to lack adventure, either.

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Their story is my first road story, but probably not my last. Writing road stories does scratch the itch of mental wanderlust, and, let’s face it, has fewer chances of engine trouble, travel delays, or weigh stations. I have my music of choice playing right this minute, got the four-legged companion covered already, as Skye is my faithful mews, though she will abandon me in a not second, if Real Life Romance Hero becomes available. He is her favorite, and she loves him the most. As for caffeinated beverage, it’s probably about time to make another cup of tea. Spoiler alert: it is always time to make another cup of tea.

This Post is Not About Planners, I Promise

Can you believe it’s almost February? 2018 is moving at the speed of a bullet train, or perhaps the domestic tornadoes that continue to blow through our immediate vicinity. Getting lost in all of those can be easy, because, when a domestic tornado gets out to sea (does that make it a hurricane? I’m a romance writer, not a meteorologist) it does tend to develop an undertow. Easy, as well, to let the writing part of life get pulled under, in the face of all that. I’ve been there before, looking at the mouth of that now, and, y’know what? No.

Last night, after dinner (I do make an awesome baked chicken, thankyouverymuch) I lit the big candle, settled in at my desk, and got out pens, markers and ruler, to set up my planner for the coming week. No, this is not a post about planning, but I will mention that I am excited to test out my idea about how to differentiate the February part of the week from the January part of the week. Yesterday was largely a crash into much needed naps day, rousing myself to make meals before crashing down again, and then one final drag to the desk, because planning. This is still not a post about planning. Seriously, it’s not. This is a post about writing.

Umm, Anna, I hear voices saying, you just spent a whole paragraph talking about planning, while telling us you weren’t talking about planning. This is confusing. Sure is. For me, too, but I’m getting to the writing part of the post, so get cozy, because here we go. Drawing near the end of January also means drawing near the end of the writer’s workshop I’m taking, which means an extra set of morning pages (not always written in the morning; yesterday’s snuck in under the wire at around eleven PM) which are reserved for writing about writing.

Umm, Anna, the voice says again, writing about writing is kind of the whole point of your entire blog. This isn’t anything new. There is a strong suspicion that you are padding this post with unnecessary words, and will get to the magic seven hundred without getting to anything new or interesting. To that voice, I say hush. My blog, my blather, mkay? Great.

My morning pages are, usually, a very random brain dump, there to prime the pump and get things flowing. The extra morning pages are for reflecting on my own personal writing, what I want for my career, how I can get from where I am, to where I want to be. That sort of stuff. It’s rather illuminating, and I highly recommend the process. Tangentially related are explorations of my reading goals and reading habits. Reading historical romance, my chosen genre, is difficult right now, for a few reasons, though I very much want to dive into the genre I love the most. I may be returning some new releases straight back to the library, unread, and dive into some classics and books on my To Finally Read list. Realistic YA, I am inhaling like oxygen.

Will I add that to my own writing repertoire? Who knows? Right now, I’m focused on the work that is in front of me, namely Her Last First Kiss, and Drama King, as well as revising Chasing Prince Charming. There’s A Heart Most Errant waiting for its own revisions, because the book is done, okay, and halfway edited, and, seriously, it is thisclose to being ready to shop around again, or look at indie publishing. I kind of like that idea. There’s the Christmas story I’ve always wanted to write (always wanted, in the general sense; no specific idea as of yet, but stay tuned.) N mentioned, last week, that I might want to consider writing and releasing something short as soon as I can, to give the reward of seeing a new release, and, hopefully, positive reader feedback. I do feel somewhat unicorn-y, as an extroverted writer, but, hey, we are what we are, right?

That’s where this all brought me. I am a writer. Writers write. They have to do it, sometimes, in between and/or around domestic tornadoes, but there is a choice, to make writing a priority. That’s why, today, I am making that choice. Still figuring out how I want to measure things, and I will say that Camp NaNo is on the table for this year, but not a guarantee. I miss Heroes and Heartbreakers. I miss it a lot. The newsletter is still wonderful, but I miss writing my posts, and the search for more paid blogging gigs continues, because I like blogging, and, more universally, I like money. Money allows us to have fun things like pens, notebooks, food, shelter, that kind of thing.

So. Final paragraph for this entry, because my planner says I have specific amounts of time to touch particular projects today, and I’m sticking with that. So what if my wheels feel wobbly? That’s okay. I can do it, wobbly. I can do it, scared. I can do it, tired. I can do it. A bad page is better than a blank page. The more targets we shoot at, the more targets we hit. The more you do, the more you want to do. (Thanks, Mom.) Let’s go, imaginary friends, we have some tales to tell.

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: End Of January Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is the last Friday of January, which means the end of the first month of the year is almost over. Anty is getting ready by finalizing her planner color scheme (I am fairly certain this will mean pinks and reds, because Anty is a traditionalist when it comes to this sort of thing, but she will add her own edge to it, because she is still Anty.) That is important, because she uses her planner, and her big pink book (her planner is pink, too, but a different kind of pink) to plan out the writing and reading she will do in the months to come.

Before I am allowed to talk about anything else, (like the fact that I definitely need more glowy box time, that is for catching the glowy box mousie, as well as blogging) I have to tell readers where they can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week. Besides here, of course, because you are already here, so you do not need directions. As always, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talks about the first time the humans in the books have, um, grownup private time. I, personally, am fixed, so I do not think about that kind of thing a lot, but I gather it can be important in romance novels. That post is here, and it looks like this:

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Saturday Discussion: Feels Like the First Time

Now is the part of the post where I show you how Anty is doing on her Goodreads reading challenge. She is one book behind again, but it is the weekend, and she is near the end of one of the books she is reading now. That should all even out before too long. Anty has gone over her goals for the last two years, so I have faith in her. If you want to follow Anty’s reading challenge, you can do that here:

 

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Reading Challenge 2018

 

Right now, Anty is only at 20% historical romance, but it is still January, and she can read YA books really, really fast, and they are comfort reads. It has been kind of a crazy week. She is still planning on trying one book she’s always been meaning to read, and one reread every month, and both of those lists are comprised of historical romance. February will mean two books from the always wanted to read list, because sbe did not read any of those in January. I should probably say she has not read any of them yet, because we still have a few days of January left. You can do it, Anty. Read those books.

The books Anty read and reviewed this week are:

 

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The Year We Fell Apart, by Emily Martin

 

 

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Backlash, by Sarah Darer Littman

Anty should be home for a good chunk of the weekend, so she will have time to read more books, and, more importantly, give me her small glowy box so that I can play my game. The mousie game is my favorite, but I also like one with a laser pointer, and there is a movie where I can watch a squirrel through a window. I do not try to hunt that squirrel, but it is very exciting to watch him. If I am very lucky, all the humans will be home when I play, so they can all see what a good hunter I am. Those computer mousies do not stand a chance when I am on the job.

This would probably be a good place to segue (that is a fancy human word that means to do a different thing) into Anty’s writing. Empty notebooks really don’t stand a chance when Anty is on the job, either. She has a lot of notebooks. Thanks to a human named Mark Twain, who lived a very long time ago (like about a million cats ago, that is how long) writers cannot send handwritten pages to publishers (probably not to agents, either, but do not quote me on that) so Anty does, at some point, need to transcribe her handwritten pages into the glowy box, so that they can become files. This is especially important with e-books, because that is how readers read them.

Writing with pen and paper comes a lot more easily to Anty than writing new pages on the computer, even though, at first glance, writing on the computer seems more efficient. The pages would already be in the file if she wrote new pages on the computer, and she could skip the step of transcribing. She understands that, and, in theory, it does have its merits. For some writers, like Anty’s friend, Miss Vicki, writing on the computer is the only way to go. Miss Vicki does not understand Anty’s thing for paper and pen, especially when it comes to pretty paper. They have very different aesthetics, anyway, so take that into consideration.

For Anty, there is a connection that comes with the act of writing on actual paper, and watching the cursive come out the tip of her pen. Every once in a while, I have to remind her of this, especially when she gets back to writing after a domestic tornado has held her back. She thinks it will be faster, but then she forgets about the staring at the screen part, until she notices that she has been staring at the screen, or that she is on Facebook instead of actually writing. I may only be a kitty, but I do not think anybody has made a successful career in commercial fiction by reading conversations on Facebook.

That means, usually, that when Anty gets to the staring at the screen phase, it is time to shut down the computer (or give it to me, so I can catch mousies) and take out paper and pen. Anty is particularly fond of pretty legal pads, that have designs already on them. That way, the page is already not blank, and, sometimes, the pictures suggest things that might work for the particular scene. Sometimes, Anty has to do what she calls a brain dump, and write about things that are on her mind, that may be getting in the way of the story. Once she fills a few pages with that, she is usually in a better place to get on with the business of writing fiction.

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

skyebye2018

 

The Big Candle

Since I started hygge-fying my office, lighting a candle has been part of the routine when I open the desk for the day. When I first started, I had a single votive on hand, a tealight, and two mini jar candles. When I blew through those, there was only one option left. The big candle. I do not remember when the big candle came into our home. but my educated guess is that it was part of a holiday gift from somebody’s work. The scent is Autumn Wreath, the maker, Yankee Candle. I’d always thought it was too big for my desk (cue visions of the entire thing going up in flames, taking a bunch of my notebooks and favorite pens with it) but here it is, and now, I find it’s the most natural thing in the world to have it there.

One of the biggest things about having the big candle on my desk was that I didn’t want to waste the wax. In the candle world, this is known as tunneling, when the candle isn’t burned the proper amount of time on its first outing. When that happens, the candle remembers how far it was burned, and that’s how far it will burn throughout its life. This means all the wax isn’t used, and, at the end of that particular candle, there will be a bunch of wax clinging to the sides, either to be carved out with a knife, possibly with the  help of boiling water or a stint in the freezer, or tossed, along with the jar, because it’s too much trouble to get the stuff out, merely to have a plain glass jar, for some undefined purpose. In that case, the jar gets tossed. Maybe the garbage smells a bit better that week, but that’s about the only benefit.

For this particular candle, that meant a three-hour burn. That meant three hours of me at my desk, keeping an eye on the flame, while simultaneously doing my thing (aka manipulating the lives of my imaginary friends.  There may or may not also have been the final two episodes of the US version of Being Human, which may or may not have made me cry, and may or may not have spoiled me for jumping directly into another series. This will probably mean more time for books, both the reading and writing of same, with the big candle along for the ride, in either event.

Even with careful attention (I am going to blame the Being Human finale) I did end up with some tunneling. There’s still a bit of wax around the rim that should have melted, but apparently I didn’t time things correctly, and now I am either stuck with the one thing I didn’t want to have happen, or…or I could turn this around. Fold a strip of tin foil twice, make a sort of tin foil tenty kind of thing, around the mouth of the candle for about half an hour, and boom, back in business.

This is all a very word-pad-y way of saying that, sometimes, writing is hard. Or weird. Or crammed into five minute bites, when what’s really needed is a good solid couple of hours, but there is life and…there is tin foil. All the good stuff is still there. The story, the characters, the world in which they live, those are all still there, only clinging to the jar instead of melting into lushly fragranced …good…smelling…stuff. The fact that I am writing this blog post when the clock ticks down to 5PM should be an indicator that I am quickly running out of English for the day and need to replenish the well.

The default has been bingeing on Being Human, but that’s all done now, and I’m not ready for a new show yet, although the fourth series of the original, UK version is now on request at the library, and will be on its way to me soon. Or I could read. I could build a new house out of my TBR pile, and there are friends’ manuscripts calling. I’ll figure it out, but, either way, I will have one eye on the big candle. We’ll get through this together.