Survival Drama Binge Babble

Right now, I am sitting at my laptop with wet hair, because, somehow, in the midst of all the Monday stuff, I am coloring my hair. I don’t remember the last time. I am listening to summaries of horror movies I will never watch, on YouTube, because A) I work better when hearing human voices, ;and B) it’s pretty good at getting my brain in storytelling mode, without the risk that any of it would naturally seep into my own work. Hm. Maybe that’s why I read as my contemporary YA as I do. Hm. I’m going to put a sticky note on that.

Okay, the historicals do get kind of dark. I will admit that. It’s part of my charm. It may also be one of the reasons I have been bingeing on survival dramas on various streaming services. Bonus points if the show is not American. Subtitles are fine, as I would rather listen to the original language and read the English translation than listen to dubbed dialogue. Then again, there are some dubs that are right up there with the original language.

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Currently, the show of choice is season two of Into the Night, a Belgian show where a solar event has ended most life on earth, but for a few plucky survivors (seriously, I am 100% there for a small band of plucky survivors in the midst of a disaster) who were on a hijacked airplane when it all went down. The title comes from the fact that our survivors have to fly during the sunlight hours, always away from the sun (aka into the night) so they can touch down in darkness and scramble to get any fuel they need for themselves and their plane. Sometimes they pick up stragglers along the way. Sometimes those stragglers are Not Nice People.

Case in point: touching down in an airport in Scotland to get more fuel. They have more fuel. Yay. They also have three British soldiers, some of whom can do Plane Stuff. Yay. They can come with. This will take some of the workload off Original Pilot (who only has one working hand) and Substitute Co-Pilot, who used to fly helicopters for the French military, but is new to the plane thing. Once in the air, though, one of our Plucky Survivors learns that New British Soldiers are actually war criminals, recalled for a court martial for Very Bad Crimes. Oh noes. What to do, what to do? Also, if we have a standard for them, what does that mean for Turkish Man who has a shady professional past, but is also bonding big tie with Ill Russian Boy, and IRB’s lovely young mum? Thankfully for IRB, there is a nurse on board, a home health worker who lost her own patient early on in the adventure.

When the first season ended, our Plucky Survivors have found an underground military bunker, where they can hunker. Yay. Only, they are not alone. Uh oh. A politician and soldiers are also hunkering there, but they seem friendly. Yay? Then Bad Things happen, including a fire that wipes out most of their food supply. Oh noes. Suffice it to say that I am not bored. The cast is diverse, not only from country of origin, by walk of life. Every episode, we get a glimpse at somebody’s life Before. I love that stuff, because it’s new information and gives new insight to the choices the character makes now in the worst nightmare scenario.

This is all probably going into the idea soup for my second medieval historical romance, which takes place in the wake of the plague. Other ingredients for idea soup will include medieval romances, because romance. Still backburner at this point, but it’s all part of the process.

Where am I taking this all? I write about survivors. Well, obviously, as otherwise they would be zombies, ghosts, or necrophiliacs. That Thing, though, that people hang on to in the midst of the worst, that Thing that keeps them going; I love finding out what that is for a character. For two characters. Discover the way their Things can work together, make something good even when good things are not the thickest things on the ground.

That’s where the start of this week finds me. How are you doing?

Survival Dramas, Historical Romance, and Stationery Love

After a long time of not watching TV (streaming, on devices; we haven’t taken our TV out of storage and don’t miss it) I finally came back to it, when Netflix added Season Ten of The Walking Dead. I binged that very quickly, immersed in the lives of characters such as domestic abuse survivor turned badass at large Carol, can-he-be-redeemed ex (and future?) villain Negan, and waaaay beyond fixing Alpha. Carol/Ezekiel, or Carol/Daryl? (I prefer one, but the other is good, too.) Michonne scarpered off in search of vanished husband, Rick, leaving their children, Judith and RJ in good hands, and into the future of the franchise.

When I got to the end of the season (and will be watching the season premiere as soon as I do the AMC+ thing this weekend) I still needed more. Which led me to the spinoff series, Fear the Walking Dead. When I first tried to connect to that series, I couldn’t quite grasp it. There is also the time I fretted over being too far away to read the English subtitles during a scene in a Mexican church, before remembering that I speak Spanish and could just listen instead of straining my eyeballs.

This time, though, was different. Well, there was the matter of a reboot a few seasons in, trading in the original protagonists for some new arrivals and even some crossovers from the original series This time, I got it. I cried when one of my favorite couples came to the “death do us part” part, annnd un-death, requring the surviving spouse to put down their zombified beloved. That hurt, in the very best way. There’s also a horrible villain, succeeded by their mini-me, who was, somehow, even worse. At the season’s end, there are literally nuclear warheads coming down. How could the apocalypse get even worse? Well, yeah, nuclear warheads would do.

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How does that connect with historical romance? This connection was easy. All that stuff I mentioned above? Put it in historical context. Yesssss. It’s also an essential part of my work on the first round of edits for A Heart Most Errant (finally!) Since the whole concept of this story world is “postapocalyptic medieval,” then it only makes sense to immerse myself in that world.

When I got to the end of the most recent season of FTWD, I searched for other survival dramas. Other shows mean other perspectives,. I binged The Society in pretty much one day, and while I am still salty that season two was cancelled, that doesn’t stop me from figuring out my own end to the story. Not proper fanfic, but maybe fan synopsis. I saw the first two episodes of The Beyond, which has two seasons and a similar premise, but had to take a break because episode three opened with zoo animals, and it’s their wellbeing that pokes my anxiety. Gord, the farmboy, would-be soldier and moral center may get filed away to marinate for character inspiration someday. I’ll talk about other survival shows and inspiration gleaned from them later.

This brings us to the stationery part. Picking the right stationery for a project isn’t wasting time or procrastinating. It’s part of the process, at least for me. Part of that is getting into the groove of the feeling of the piece. Looking through my stash, it’s a symphony of colors and formats and giving the front of my brain something to do while the back burners work their magic and unravel tangled beneath the surface threads.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For getting the historical romance work things out book ready, it means fountain pens. They feel right. There’s a process of filling fountain pens, getting the ink going, and somewhere in it all, the focus shifts. Don’t ask me to explain it more than that. Not that I can’t do anything without it, but it does make it a heck of a lot easier, and more fun. Also, a local writer friend has a ritual of filling three fountain pens before she coposes longhand. When all three are empty, it’s time to transcribe. I might like to give that a whirl.

What out of the box techniques would you like to try?

recommendations of survival drramas also very much welcome

Kicking B*utt at Making Names?

This morning, I found an important truth about my writing process. I would rather name a dozen historical characters than one contemporary one. Please remind me of that when it is time to name the heroine from A Heart Most Wanton, which will probably come sooner than I expect, because the way I am scheduling writing times now seems to be working.

Anyway, Melva and I are working on a contemporary collection with three stories. One hers, one mine, one ours. We have the ours one all worked out, and I can’t wait to see what her story will hold, which leaves only mine. Since I have met me, I know this has to have some sort of historical connection, or it is not at all happening. Do I know what that connection is? Ehhh, maybe? Kind of? Possibly? Whyever would I know something like that? Oh look, a kitty.

Make of that distraction what you will. As of this writing, my contemporary character naming process is not all that different from my historical naming process. Since all of my reference books are still in storage :weeps softly: that means I head to the interwebs. Figure out what year the character would have been born, find a list of most popular baby names from that year for their country of origin, and then open a random number generator. Generate a few numbers, write down the names that correspond to the numbers. Re-roll if needed, if you’ve hit a name that is on your automatic “no” list, or if it won’t fit this particular character or story. I personally don’t like to have hero and heroine’s names to start with the same initial, so whichever one of them comes first, that initial is out.

Melva’s and my collaborative process is a lot different. We throw names at each other and see what sticks. Seems to be working all right so far. With Chasing Prince Charming, our base for Meg’s name was that we wanted a one-syllable name. Since we had a heroine with a one-syllable name, we wanted to contrast that with a multi-syllable name for the hero, which is how we found Dominic.

Doing it on my own is…different. The vast majority of my contemporary romance reading is YA instead of adult, so I’m not finding adult names much in the contemporaries I read. For me, naming a character is important; grabbing popular names at random and slapping them down is not going to work for me. As a matter of fact, my list of “no” names for historicals (and probably carry them over to contemporary as well) are very popular in the genre…but they don’t work for me. It is what it is. So, what does work?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

That’s a very good question. The name has to fit the character. That’s essential. Some characters do come with a name already, sit themselves down in a chair across from me, and introduce themselves. I am one hundred percent fine with that. I encourage it. I encourage it even when it involves a character telling me he doesn’t know what his name is, meaning the one given at birth. He has a thing that he’s called, sure, but it’s not his name. There is a difference. Yes, that has happened, and that’s one of the historicals I look forward to writing. Historical characters are pretty good about this sort of thing. I know where they come from, when they were born, which gives me a clear direction as to where to look for their names. Sometimes I will have to read through the entire section of possible/probable names until I find one that hits. Sometimes none of the contemporary to them (remember, historical characters don’t know they’re in a historical; they think they’re in a contemporary) and I go back an era or even more, to find a “traditional” name that may feel out of place for their time, but could well be a family name. the

With contemporary characters, of course I have an even longer span of history to work with, so it should be theoretically easier. Names I hear around me in everyday life. Names of friends, or their offspring, or even, for younger characters, their offspring’s offspring. Even so, I usually end up at “uhhhhh…..” as a starting point. Knowing the name helps me see the character in a visual sense. I don’t usually fantasy cast (and don’t get me started on the whole new barrel of worms that would be naming fantasy characters, so hats off to fantasy authors that do that every day) but I do have an image in my head. Height, frame, complexion, hair, eyes, facial features, manner of dress, etc.

Sometimes the image comes first, and the character makes me figure out their name, a la Rumplestilskin. None of my characters to date have actually been named Rumplestilskin. This is probably a good thing. Beyond the actual name, how do they feel about the name? Is that a name they like to hear? Do they feel that it fits them? Would they rather be called something else? If so, what? It’s not as simple as slapping a “hi, my name is X” (none of my characters to date have actually been named X yet, either.) on their shirt and calling it good enough.

Today is Housemate’s birthday, so it’s going to be a day of cavorting with some of her favorite activities. In the back of my mind, though, I am gestating the heroine for the “mine” story in the upcoming collection. Well, the proposal for it. Something to bring to the table when we confer. Anything can happen from there. What we call it, well, we’ll find that out.

A Tale of Two Manuscripts

First draft of Drama King is done. Complete. Finished. Melva and I agreed during our video chat on Monday, and then I promptly crashed. Monday was also the day that A Heart Most Errant is now safely in the hands of an independent editor. Over the next two weeks, there will be editing, formatting, cover design, and then my baby will come back to me and it will be time to think about the next steps.

Storm says nap time is now required.

For Drama King, that will mean going over the whole thing in fifty page chunks, filling in some places that need plumping, tying up loose ends, working on a lot of transitions, but we did it. We. Did. It. Once we send that to our editor at The Wild Rose Press, who holds right of first refusal (or acceptance!) and we see how that goes. We are also laying the groundwork for the third Love By The Book book, Queen of Hearts. After that, we do know what comes next, and we are feeling pretty good about that. Add to that the fact that we are reviving our website, including some upcoming workshops. Super fun.

With A Heart Most Errant, having book one off in the hands of an editor, that means that it’s time to think about book two…which I never thought about before. I normally think in terms of standalones for historicals, but the market at present is heavily geared toward series, so now I get to do a new thing. That’s both exciting and scary, and also gives me a really good reason to reread some favorite medieval romances (and discover new ones) and honestly say that I’m doing market research.

Speaking of standalones, Her Last First Kiss is going to require some surgery, because when things flat out won’t move past a certain point, that means somebody is trying to drive the story in the wrong direction. (Me. That person would be me.) It’s not a big thing, but if it’s derailed a story I love for this long, them maybe it probably is. Le sigh. But one story at a time, which is why this is not titled A Tale of Three Manuscripts. That, I am sure, will come soon enough. Which is okay. It feels good to be moving.

Today also sees me in the middle of the Historical Romance Readathon week, with my nose in two anthologies, and, hopefully, I will be able to finish them both. Not that I don’t like either of them, because I like both, but because it’s been an annoyingly insomniac week. I have a new weighted blanket that should help a lot. It’s also super cozy for reading, with a bunch of pillows and a cup of cinnamon tea.

Feels pretty good, after this past year, to report favorably on two projects in the same post. Maybe a deep dive into reading some historical romance will help with the whole coming up with new medieval stories thingamabobble, and see how other authors of historical romance decide on how to pick the next connected project.

Comments, concerns, tips, all happily accepted in the comments below. Comments int he comments…yeah, definitely reading time.

Summer of Love Standout Standalones

Many thanks to all who responded to my last post on a blogging deep dive on some favorite romance series. I had so much fun with that post and the feedback, that my first thought was, “why stop there?” So, I won’t. My first and fiercest love in historical romance (or any fiction) is the standalone. One story, one book, that’s all she/he/they wrote. There’s something special about closing the cover on a book that doesn’t have companion volumes, and letting my own mind fill in the happily ever after, waving our lovers off into the sunset and on with the rest of their lives. Once upon a time, that was the norm. Right now, series drive the market. What will come next? Who knows? What doesn’t change, however, is the power of a great story, . If it’s full and complete in itself, well, for me, all the better, so I want to take you on a tour of some of my very favorites. Since standalone books are naturally shorter than entire series, I am sharing five examples instead of only three, for your consideration. Once again, in no particular order:

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The Wind and the Sea, Marsha Canham

Nobody, but nobody swashes the buckle like Marsha Canham, and I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw this cover in person, and knew I had to have this book. I will always look at a pirate story, and if it’s a female pirate, that book Is on my shelf of its own free will. Add in a Barbary Coast (North Africa) setting, the US Navy (set in 1806) and the big, thick doorstopper size I prefer for books of this nature, this is an adventure for the ages. Canham has other seafaring stories (among others) both series and standalones, but for this particular project, this gets the nod.

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A Woman of Passion, Virginia Henley

Far and away my favorite Henley standalone (though there are a couple I still need to read, so favorite standalone presumptive?) Straddling the line between historical romance and historical fiction, the heroine, Bess, is based on the historical figure, Elizabeth Hardwick. No, she’s not the “Elizabeth” in the Elizabethan era, in which this is set (Elizabeth Tudor, AKA HRH Elizabeth I, is) but man oh man does she have a life. Or should that be men, oh men, because Bess doesn’t marry just once but four times. But is it still a romance? There have been discussions, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves…or read along with me and let’s talk it out.

Can’t get enough of Tudor-era romance? I know I can’t (remember when that used to be a thing? Who wants to help bring that back?) Love shipwreck stories? How about love on a deserted island? No, not Gilligan’s. This is the tale of Lily Christian, who grew up on such an island after a shipwreck stranded her small family, and Valentine Whitelaw (one of my favorite romance hero names ever) the courtier tasked with bringing her home. Lily is smart, strong, resilient and resourceful, Valentine is a man of his time, and there is intrigue aplenty, unmaskign the true reason behind the accident that changed Lily’s life forever. This also has one of my top three romance endings ever.

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Broken Wing, Judith James

Those with small children may want to occupy the kiddos in another room for this one because hecking fluff, doe James ever go there. Where exactly is “there?” Oh sweet summer child. Let me tell you about this book. Gabriel St. Croix is the last person who would consider himself a hero. He has lived and worked (yep, doing exactly what you think, his clients not restricted to one gender) most of his life in a brothel. He’s thisclose to finally being free of that living hell, when a young boy arrives to become his replacement, and, well, Gabriel can’t let that happen. If he stays on, will the boy remain untouched? Yes. Okay, then. That’s not all, though. His reason for staying is about to be ripped away from him, as Sarah Munroe, the boy’s sister, has finally found him, and will be taking him home. Not only that, but Gabriel can come, too. Culture shock? To say the least. Sarah is unconventional herself, and when these two wounded souls meet, the click together to form an incredible romance. Yes, there is an HEA.

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Tapestry, Karen Ranney

Laura cannot imagine ever not loving Alex, not from since she was a little girl, and certainly not after he returns home from the war so scarred that he shuts himself away and wears a leather mask to shield himself and his scars, both physical and mental/emotional, from the rest of the world. But Laura isn’t the rest of the world. She is a take charge heroine who is not going to let a little thing like that stop her from rescuing Alex from himself. If that means putting aside her identity as a daughter of the nobility to sign on as the new housekeeper so she can get close to him, well that’s what she’s going to do. Her job isn’t easy, either, and this is an extremely emotional read…which is one of the reasons it’s on this list. I am sorry to say that the author, Karen Ranney, passed away recently, so a reread of this feels both timely and bittersweet.

So there you have it, five standout standalone historical romance novels that I would love to deep dive into with all of you. Which one catches your fancy? Drop suggestions in the comments, or message me at annacbowling@gmail.com or come join the Lion and Thistle group on Facebook, and tell me your favorites.

Anna

Typing With Wet Paws: Summer’s On Edition

Tails up, Storm Troopers! I’m Storm, you’re awesome, and this is Typing With Wet Paws. Even though the calendar says summer does not officially start until later in the month (I am only two, so I don’t know a lot about calendars) for Aunt Anna and the other humans in my family, this counts as summer. It is Aunt Anna’s least favorite season, but our basecamp, as Aunt Anna calls it, has air conditioning, so the summer really doesn’t bother her or Uncle Rheuben at all. They have also found that they share a desk really, really well. If I am feeling especially sproingy, we can all three share the same workspace. That’s what I call efficient use of space.

Even though summer is usually Aunt Anna’s worst time when it comes to productivity, she had a super good writing day yesterday. It all started with hauling herself over to the computer with the promise that if she could write some notes on the stinkybad movie in Drama King, and then send it to Aunt Melva, then she could play Sims. Aunt Anna is super easy to bribe with Sims, especially since she had to reinstall stuff when the latest patch broke pretty much everything (whoops) and she had to start fresh. Surprisingly, she did not mind that at all.

Aunt Anna says making this stuff helps her think

Starting from scratch was actually kind of fun, and she got to use one of the premade families to test out some new gameplay features, fiddle with custom content, and maybe a mod or two. If you think that sounds kind of like writing fan fiction, you are not wrong. Aunt Anna sees that, too. As a matter of fact, Aunt Anna had Sims stuff open in the background while she read a lot of Wikipedia articles about movies (stinkybad or otherwise) to know what kind of information goes into such a thing, laughed a lot while using name generators to get over herself already, slap down a placeholder and move forward, and refresh herself on the recipe for a romantic comedy movie, plus all the ways one could go wrong.

In the middle of doing all that, she also had Scapple open. It is kind of like a whiteboard on the computer. If you don’t know what Scapple is, click here to read about it on Ginny Frost‘s Apps For Writers blog. (Miss Ginny also writes contemporary romance for The Wild Rose Press, so check out her books while you’re over there.) While Aunt Anna had the seeds of a scene on her mind, she might as well get a few things down where she would be able to easily access them.

That’s when something clicked open, and a whole bunch of stuff came out of her head and onto the screen. It’s kind of messy, mixing tenses and Aunt Melva (who has a PhD in English) may have a headache from switching from script form (many of Aunt Anna’s first-first drafts of dialogue are in script form when they fall out of her head) to dialogue and narration but then again she knows how Aunt Anna works and still wants to write books with her anyway, so there’s that.

That stuff is now in Aunt Melva’s hands, so Aunt Anna is now turning her hand to writing a faux Wikipedia article for a different fictional movie, and getting ready to do the same thing with Her Last First Kiss, but there won’t be any movie stuff in there, because there were no movies in 1784. Probably no YouTube mouse videos, either. It was the dark ages.

Speaking of mice, Aunt Anna and Aunt Linda got me some! Uncle Rheuben stayed behind to give me pets while the other humans went for groceries, and they found themselves in the cat toy section. Ever since my red dot died, I have taken to going to the corner near the door and giving big kitty eyes, to indicate that I really need a new red dot. Well, the store didn’t have any (the nerve!) but they did have a package of three catnip mice. Aunt Anna figured they’d see how I liked them, so she threw me one as soon as she got back, and I LOVE IT. I call them all “Prey.” When I bring Prey to a human, the human is to throw Prey, which I will then chase and CATCH, and then I have no idea what comes next, but a nap comes after that, and the whole thing starts over again.

Before I fur-get (hah, see what I did there?) Aunt Anna was at Buried Under Romance this past Saturday, with a topic that comes to a lot of readers’ minds this time of year (or so I have heard. Again, I’m two.) and that’s weddings. Are they really needed in cotemporary romance? If that is a topic that interests you, read about it here, and pull up a chair in the comments to chime in with your opinion. Aunt Anna already talks to herself enough. Trust me on this one. Part two will be about historical romance, and probably will go up Saturday but might be Sunday because she just got done being sick and is running a little behind.

Okay, I think that’s it for now. No Goodreads update, because mostly Aunt Anna read a little bit of stuff and fell asleep and then her loans expired, so she is starting new books now. Maybe I will start telling you when she starts reading a book and then what happened to it. First, though, this Prey isn’t going to chase itself.

Headbonks!

Only one month now until I present my workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys, at Capitol Region Romance Writers. If you’ve heard me talk, before, about From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction or On Beyond Fanfic, the cores of the workshops are the same. The execution, though, is constantly evolving. I love that.

This morning, I opened the file for the workshop, to nab my bio and a blurb to send to CR-RWA’s esteemed webmistress, and next thing I knew, it was a couple of hours later, and I had accidentally edited some of the chapters, and slid, when I wasn’t looking, into “could I make this into an ebook?” mode. I think I probably could, possibly with a PDF version of t he exercises. This is partly for the workshop’s participants, and partly for my own use. Probably my own use first. After that, then we’ll see. Could be a cool Patreon perk, could be an indiepub, could be a couple of other things. That’s not what’s important right now.

Right now, what’s important is the accepting and embracing of what I love, and seeing how I can take what inspires me and make it my own. There are some tropes I am always going to jump on like a starving hyena with an unattended hot dog stand. Heroines disguised as male, especially if there are seafaring adventures to be had, yep, I’ll take that. second chance at love with the same couple, especially if there has been a decent length of their intermission. Mention of Bedlam Asylum or Newgate Prison. Tudor, Stuart, Commonwealth, early Georgian, skip up to the Belle Epoque/Gilded Age era, I am in my happy place. One or both lovers with a creative talent or profession will guarantee a second look on my part, and those are all things I either have or would love to include in my own writing. Angst. I love angst. Give me all the angst, as long as there is an HEA at the end of it all.

Grit in my settings, I want that, too. Also in the people. Life isn’t easy, and a love story where the hero and heroine have to fight more than their feelings, that adds a whole other dimension for me. That’s one of the reasons I’m keeping track these days of my media habits, of specific traits of the books, TV, podcasts,. etc, I consume, of what I love and why I love it. Will that be ready to share in some form by the time of the workshop? I am not sure, but I think it could be fun.

There is a quick and dirty version of this in the workshop in its current incarnation, so the idea is not totally unrepresented. Thing is, I’m feeling the itch. I want to know why it is that I’m bingeing the Council of Geeks podcast reviewing Cowboy Bebop. I have not (yet) seen the anime, so I have no idea what the host is talking about, but I fell in love with his analyzing style on the Council of Geeks YouTube channel. Do not ask me how I found the channel, since it largely talks about fandoms of which I am not a part, but I feel welcome, and that goes a long way. It’s the excitement and unabashed delight in a story, yet still able to discuss what could have been better yet, or what could have been different.

I want to do that for the romances I write, make them accessible both for those who already love the genre and those who may be new to it, or even merely curious. Fans of SF/F franchises have an enthusiasm I would love to harness that enthusiasm and do some high powered cheerleading for all the things I love most about romance. Maybe that starts with my own stuff.

Let’s Call It Market Research

Only me today, but Storm insisted on being in the picture. Such is life with a beautiful calico girl. She has a thing for the Happy Planner paper. If it’s open, she must sit on it. Must. Even, and perhaps especially when I am opening the planner or notebooks to do Important Writer Things.

Very important Writer Things in this case, mean taking a look into the future, and making a road map to get me from where I am, to where I want to be. Real Life Romance Hero is on the new apartment case. As much as I love the perks of motel life (and there are some, housekeeping most of all) we are all more than ready to put down roots and settle into a real home once more. That will bring regular writing with it (yes, yes, I know, that can happen any time, any place, but it’s a heck of a lot easier when some of the basic things are more reliably covered) and I would like to have an idea of how that will look.

Which is what brought me to the open notebook that Storm claimed for her own. Okay, any paper is hers, but this paper is a clear favorite, above all. The notebooks I had open today were two dedicated solely to writing life stuff. One, not pictured, is for mapping out the current historical and contemporary projects, and a place to record potential future stuff, because the day will come, probably sooner than I think, when I’m going to have to start a new document and begin writing a new book.

In today’s market, that is more likely new books, plural. Series sell. They’re not how I naturally think for my solo work, but I’ve hit a vein of “yeah, but what if I tried it anyway?” and riff on some stuff that might be interesting to try at some unspecified time in the future. There’s a freedom in that kind of thing. No commitments as of yet, current work is still on track, and these particular pages are a place to ask myself what might be fun, how I might like to stretch, or if, maybe, it’s time to let ideas that have been in my head for years or even decades (yikes!) out for a meander.

This dovetails rather nicely with my determination to come from behind on my Goodreads challenge, targeting historical romance novellas (bonus if they are Christmas related) via Kindle Unlimited (because economical measures are win) means that I get to see stories I might not have found if I didn’t have this particular goal. Time travels for instance. Not a lot on the brick and mortar shelves (at least where romance fiction is concerned, but checking on the e-book front? Alive and well, from what I can see. Not saying if this means there is life in my own personal time travel (firmly on the back burner, until I figure out how many ten pound cats I was trying to fit into that particular two pound bag.) but definitely food for thought.

I found myself wanting to make note of this book and that, scribble down names of authors who look like they might have something I’d like. I’m seeing a lot of variety there, medieval, Vikings, pirates, Highlanders, ancient world, etc, along with nineteenth century stories, looser interpretations of the series concept, including shared worlds, and…I like it. This bears some study, and some recording of the study, so expect to see some of that here in the coming weeks and months.

This exploration excites me. It’s what I’ve always loved, and it’s something new. There’s an energy there. What if, instead of thinking about perfectly polished prose and getting everything “right,” I looked at what would be fun? What would I like to do a whole lot of, and train myself to write (to completion) faster? I look forward to finding out.

See you next time!

It Only Has To Be Written

Old school workspace picture for today, because A) it’s hot and muggy, and B) I am too lazy to get up and retrieve my phone from the bedroom, also C) I have no idea if it will actually take a charge, and I would rather live in blissful ignorance on this matter, for a while longer. Technology, often, is not my friend, which is a funny thing to say when typing this blog entry on a new-to–me Mac, but this blog is a place for honesty, so that’s what you get.

Right off the bat, the fact that Monday’s blog is appearing on Tuesday is probably an indication of how this week is going, but I figure I can deal. The week will end in my second off the grid retreat, including some up close and purr-sonal time with my fuzzy mews, lunch with co-writer, Melva, to talk about the next steps for Drama King, our sophomore effort, and, possibly most importantly, uninterrupted reading and/or writing time.

Yes, I am bringing the Mac. No, he does not have a name yet (yes, my electronics have genders, and yes, I am sure) but he is a boy. I do have a favorite contender for the name, but still keeping it quiet for a while. There will most likely, in the not too distant future, skins, and a case, and at the very least, a pretty keyboard cover. I want to bring this laptop into my family the right way. Still looking at options, so updates and pictures when things are settled.

Settled is a funny word to use right about now, as not a lot in several areas of life is actually settled. We are still crunching numbers about Forever Apartment, and my office, right now, is a leaky air mattress on the living room floor, as the folding chair and tv tray arrangement meant either happy eyeballs and grouchy back, or grouchy eyeballs and happy back. Since writers generally fare better with as few grumpy body parts as possible, a decent laptop, air mattress, and armrest pillow, seem to be the best solution for the time being. I am hoping that the end of this week will not include a casualty report for the miniature rose plants, but not ruling it out. This is my first time with roses, so some casualties are to be expected.

This would normally be a good place to say “it’s like that with writing,” only this isn’t my first time with writing. Not every project is going to pan out. That’s truth. Unpleasant, but truth. Yet, at the same time, the rest of the month will see two anthology submissions published, so there’s that to anticipate, I am going on retreat, which nets me not only time alone with my mews, but an environment free of distraction, and this morning brought a gracious invitation to speak again at the first RWA chapter I ever joined, which felt very much like an affirmation. They asked me back. I’m doing something right.

One month from now, I will be packing to go to Connecticut Fiction Fest, which deposits me in a hotel full of other writers, both romance and otherwise, for three days of full immersion networking, workshops, one of which I am co=presenting, and Chasing Prince Charming will hopefully get some love from the critique appointment Melva made. The manuscript is once again making he rounds of editors and agents, so we will see what transpires with the new and improved version, as we move on to Drama King.

This week, my library haul found a new home, in the top shelf of the rolling cart in the kitchen, and I noticed that, for the first time in a while, my historical romance titles outnumber the YAs. It’s tight, but historical romance is winning, and that, also, is encouraging. One thing I never thought would happen would be that I’d feel resistance to reading my favorite genre, but life is funny like that. Depression is part of it, the losing interest in things one normally likes, and there are times when a book looks so…big…that even the thought of embarking on that many pages makes me tired. Yes, I know, some YAs have more pages than some historical romances, but right now, I’m finding most historicals are part of series, and the mere thought of having to read three, four, five, or more books, before I can get to the new one that’s caught my eye (yes, I do have to read series in order; I’ve tried otherwise, and I don’t like it) is likely to go into the “too much trouble” file, and I’m probably missing out on some really good reads. At least for now. YAs, at least the ones I’ve been reading, are more likely to be standalone, and, at present, a story that’s complete in itself if what works for me.

So, why did the scale tip on this week’s library run? I can’t say There will probably  be another post on this, later, and maybe a book haul video, so I can share my choices with you. Maybe there’s a pattern I’m not seeing. I know that writing goes better when I’m doing certain things, and one of those is reading books that have me sorry to put them down, and eager to open them at the next opportunity.

For now, though, it’s writing time. Outside my window, there is a delicious thunderstorm, and my reward for writing-anything; it doesn’t have to be perfect, or even usable, it only has to be written- is putting my Sims games on the Mac, followed by, quite possibly a cup of tea, and a good book. Thankfully, I am bribable that way.

 

It Takes a Village, or, Anna, Creator of Worlds

World-buildimg and I have a complicated relationship. For one thing, I write historical romance,. and the first genres that come to mind when many think of world-building are science fiction and/or fantasy, where one very well may have to build a literal world (or multiple worlds) from scratch, complete with alien species, advanced technology, and/or magic systems that require careful recordkeeping, with checks and balances, governmental structures, possibly changing the laws of physics, and…eep. That all sounds like a lot.

My story people live in the really real world, albeit a long time ago, but I don’t have actual historical figures (apart from a couple of brief cameos by Charles II, in Orphans in the Storm.) in on the action, an the focus is on the romance, so I often feel like I’m in the wrong room when I look at world-building resources that are created for SF/F authors. They’d probably feel equally out of place when it comes to resources geared toward romance authors (who do not write SF/F or paranormal romance) but that’s beside the point. All genres require world-building, even contemporary, which I co-write with Melva Michealian.

Right now, I’m getting my ducks in a row to create a small village, in the North of England, sometime in the eighteenth century, probably corresponding to the American Revolution, but that’s not a huge part of it, and this is not a story about the American Revolution, so, no, it is not like Hamilton, so back off with all the pressure, okay? (Oh, wait, I’m the one with the pressure. Still, back off, me.) In my workshop, Play in Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys, there’s one segment called “Everybody Has to be Somewhere.”  Theoretically, that’s the part about world-building, for which I feel at once both optimistic (of course I’ve got this) and completely unqualified (please don’t ask me about magic systems, and I don’t know anything about aliens, nor have I memorized all of the Scottish clan names) but I had the world-building thing on my mind, because, well, everybody does have to be somewhere. “Hogmanay” is not a setting in itself; I have to do more.

The other thing that pushes me into slightly uncomfortable territory is that, this time, I know I’m purposely creating a story world that I will be using for more than one story. I love standalone stories the best, and they are my favorites to read and to write, but series, or at least linked books, sell better, and that feeds into the “commercial” part of “commercial fiction,” and of course the gentleman in A Moment Past Midnight (abbreviated AMPM) the heroine does not pick, is going to go :makes vague gesture: way the heck over there and find the love of his life (who is not at all like the heroine of AMPM) in another story, maybe for the second Camp NaNo of the year. Possibly. We’ll see. That’s the plan. (No, I have not figured out where, as of yet. One story at a time, okay?)

So. I need a village. I need a small village, for that small town feel (but in 18th century England) which means that the village has to be based around something. It needs an economy. Why do people live there? What are its resources? North of England is all well and good for a start, but where in the North? Coast? Inland? Mountains? Forests? What’s the water source? My story people need the same things we all do: food, water, shelter, companionship, but how do they get them? It’s winter, so it’s cold, so how do they stay warm? What do they eat? why did the heroine’s husband, a healthy, able-bodied man, leave the village, and why did heroine’s (second) betrothed, also a healthy, able-bodied man, of the same age, stay? What do the villagers need, that they don’t have, and where and how do they get it?

This doesn’t strike me as much as world-building, but as answering questions. I have a lot of questions. The village isn’t a place as much as it is the people who live there. How many of them there might be is certainly one of the considerations, but it’s the individuals that come to me the strongest. I have my leads, but who else might live there?  What are the necessary jobs, and who does them?  Right now, I know that, since it’s a small community, some of the people are better identified by bynames, rather than the names their parents wrote in the parish register.  Asking after Mary Jones, for example, might have a follow-up question of which Mary Jones one wants.  Did one mean Molly Cook, who works in the manor house kitchen, or Big Mamie, who’s taller than all the men in her family, or maybe Mary Smart, who can add any numbers in her head, without chalk or slate. Then there’s Old Mary, Baby Mary, etc.

Once I had that settled, that was when the as-yet-unnamed village clicked, and became “real.” That’s when the real work begins, and where I get to pull out the notebook that will help me make sense out of it all.

210318typepad

I’ve had this pad for a few years now, and no idea what to do with it. It’s typewriter shaped, I obviously need it, but for what purpose? Today, it goes toward world-building. Write down stuff that occurs to me about the village, its inhabitants, its history, and possible future. Things are still nebulous at this point. There will be at least one poorly drawn map, with lots of erasures and revisions, and then…then it will welcome me home.

TheWriterIsOut