Sticky Scenes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The (Quasi) Bujo and Me (Sort of)

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

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

BujoCover

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Recalibration Edition

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

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

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

BURbreakingfictionalcharacters

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

GRreadingchallenge051917

This week, Anty read:

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

and

Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills (historical romance)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Planting the Seeds Anyway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapping the Wilderness

Technically, I am dressed. Technically, I am wearing makeup. Technically, I have a new daily pages notebook, but I think this one is actually for some other purpose. My brain works like that, so I am not surprised.

Last night, I finished reading Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills, a historical romance set in England, New York, and Canada, during the French and Indian War. Technically, I have my third book hangover in the last few weeks. This is not entirely a bad thing, but it does leave me with the “crap, what do I read now?” part of the book hangover, that makes finding a new book, which I may very well love as much or even more than the book that haunts my storybrain, all that much harder. This is where making a reading list can come in handy, and, knowing me, I really should have one of those. At present, I do not.

This surprises me. I do extremely well with lists, and, since I do have a goal of reading more historical romance, especially eighteenth century historical romance, and specifically the kind of historical romance that does give me a book hangover, from characterization, author voice, etc, having a list would be a huge help, but I don’t have one right now. Part of me still wants to go on instinct/intuition on this one, or maybe I haven’t found the right organizational system yet. I don’t know if I can say that’s anything like falling in love with a gorgeous notebook, deciding it will be the perfect thing to succeed my current morning pages book, getting it home at last, and then my brain won’t quit going back to the two other notebooks I also looked at on that same trip.

The other notebooks had alternating designs on their page spreads, whether two or four variations, and this one (pictured above) has the same pages throughout. Gorgeous, but I’m exactly two weeks away from finishing the notebook I’ve been decorating myself, as it came with plain lined pages. I’ve found I do like the process of customizing the pages, but, if I put decorative tape on the same part of every page, then that adds bulk to that part of the page only, and the middles of the pages sort of cave in. That feels weird when I handle the book, and I don’t need that in my morning pages. Good experiment, glad I did it, but it doesn’t provide the same experience I want in this practice.

What I want in a morning pages book, is a book I can open, see the images already there, and pour out whatever has bubbled to the surface of my brain between waking and caffeine. Such books are out there, even though they may be buried in a sea of books with plain lined pages, and, thankfully, the hunt is part of the fun. It’s sort of like that when I have a focus for my reading, as I do now. That focus for reading is very similar to the focus for writing. Where there is focus, there is organization, and where there is organization, there is, oddly enough, liberty. When I know where the boundaries lie, I can go nuts within those boundaries.

This is one of the reasons I’m excited to greet a new week of writing historical romance. All I have to do is set my story before living memory (anybody here born before 1784? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? No? Nobody? Going once, going twice…okay, cool. Before living memory, I’ve got.) and ensure that it has an optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending (aka Happily Ever After, or HEA, which, :consults outline and double checks against first draft: Yep, got that, too.) and I am good. I can do anything. An-y-thing.

Pretty exciting, that, and it definitely applies to Her Last First Kiss. This is one of those books that found me, while I was wandering about the metaphorical woods at night, oven mitts on my hands and buckets on my feet, in search of something that could be quickly written and marketable. Yeah, that’s not how things turned out. I wanted Hero to be somebody else entirely, but, thankfully, he didn’t listen to me, and now I have Hero. Heroine, too, looked at my plans for her, snort-laughed, and marched off in her own direction. The two of them found their own way to meet, and, by this time, I have learned that when the characters start mapping their own way through the wilderness, the most logical thing for me to do is to follow them.

Which leads me to today. The scene I’ll be writing was not in the original outline, and it was not in the original draft, but it roared to the surface during last week’s critique session, and has been poking me all through the weekend, when my brain was required for other things. Silly brain. don’t you know by now that the characters are going to make themselves known when and where they will? Today, instead of mucking my way through my imaginary friends sitting around a table and talking, I get to feel Hero’s throat go dry when Heroine shows up at the worst possible place, at the worst possible time, feel the mad flutter of her pulse, because this isn’t any easier for her than it is for him. At this point, it’s nononononononono, they do not want to be around each other, because if they felt the things they might be feeling, this is going to cause big trouble, not only for them, but for a mutual friend caught in the middle, who has no idea they are in the middle, and…:happy sigh: Yeah, I live for this stuff.

Reading the sort of historical romance that I like to write is helpful, even if not always easy, but story in, story out, is usually a good way to go. At some point, after I have my pages for the day written (or on a break in the middle) I’ll pet the spines of my TBR shelf and the still-boxed books from my friend’s visit, and something will come to the fore. If I show up, the books will, too. That’s my story. Pun intended.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Come From Away Edition

 

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

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

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

HandHTBBTSheldonProposes

 

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

BURretelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In The Wee, Small Hours of the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Space and Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

booksfromMary

I have no idea how that frame got into the picture

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

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Typing With Wet Claws: Rainy and Well-Lit Edition

 

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Today, the weather is cool and rainy, which is Anty’s very favorite kind of weather for this time of year, so that makes her very happy. Our landlord, Mr. Dave, came by yesterday morning, and changed the light fixture in Anty’s office, which is to say that the light now works (he is very, very tall and did not need a ladder. That is impressive.) Anty says that having an overhead light is like having a whole new office. Maybe now she will see how ugly the carpet is and want to get rid of it. A kitty can hope.

There is more to say about Mr. Dave’s visit (hint: it will involve me being put in my room for a while, but more on that later) but, as always, first, I have to talk about where Anty went on the interwebs this week. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talked about having a book hangover (she had two of them.) That post is here and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURgrumpycathangover

That brings us to Anty’s reading for this week, and, because it is the first Feline Friday of the month, we get to check in on her historical romance reading challenge. In that, Anty did not do that great. She read three books this past week, which brought her to only three books behind her goal for the Goodreads challenge (go, Anty!) but none of them were historical romance. (Anty, I am disappointed. Go read a historical romance right now. Preferably with cats in it.) She read two YA novels and a nonfiction book:

I should note that I did not spell Miss Moira’s name exactly correctly, but it is very difficult to hit the right keys to make special letters when one has paws (and special paws, at that) instead of hands.  Anty is still thinking about her review of Even In Paradise, because it is inspired by one of her favorite books/favorite miniseries, Brideshead Revisited. That story is kind of historical, because it takes place long before Anty was born, and there is a love story in it (maybe two, depending on perspective) but it is not a romance, so there is no HEA. It is actually pretty sad, but the good kind of sad, the kind Anty likes, the same way she likes cool, rainy days. Please put a sticky note on that, because I am going to come back to it later, but if you want to keep up with Anty’s Goodreads challenge, it is here. Right now, it looks like this:

GRReadingchallengemay17

Even though Anty did not read any historical romances this week, reading more historical romance is still one of her goals, and I am keeping track of the historical romances she reads throughout the year.

hr-challenge-2016-badge

So far, this year, Anty has read twenty-seven books. Fifteen of those have been historical romance. That is preggy good, but I think she can do better. If I count The Wicked City, by Beatriz Williams, that makes sixteen historical romances, but only half of that book is historical. The other part takes place in the 1990s, which, while before my living memory, does not qualify as historical. This is one of the pitfalls of not letting cats be in charge of important things. Still, Anty is still at more than fifty percent historical romance for her reading this year, so we are going to call that good, but she still needs to get in a few more historicals, because she is riding the line here.  She may want to consider re-reading some old favorites, to establish a firmer foundation.

Writing has gone well this week. Anty wrote a new part of Her Last First Kiss for her critique session with Miss N, which worked very well. Both the scene and the session, actually. Even though this will be a very busy weekend, she will have part of her brain working out how the next scene is going to go, because she thinks she can put out more this coming week than she has been. I believe in Anty. She can do it. She has also been working with Anty Melva, to make Chasing Prints Charming even better, so that it will be the best it can be when some lucky publisher would like to see more.

Anty has also started looking down the road and scouting out how she might best like to approach making a story world that she would use for three to five books. This is a very new thing to her, so she is probably going to make some mistakes along the way. She is also going to find a few things that will work. One thing she did this week was to start a private Pinterest board that has pictures of characters she thinks she might like to have live in that story world. Then she looked at it for a long time, until the pictures started to make connections in her brain. This may not make sense to people who are not writers, but people who are writers probably understand this very well. This coming week, one of her jobs is to list motifs or elements she might like to have in that world. Then she will probably throw those things into a Scapple document and see what connections form all on their own. I will be watching from the hardwood before the carpet starts.

Not tomorrow, though, because Mr. Dave is coming back, with Mr. John, who fixes things. They are going to take out our refrigerator and put in a brand new one. I expect there will be a lot of loud bangy noises. I do not like loud bangy noises. Uncle will be there, though, so it will not be too bad, but I will require extra treats because I will have to be a brave girl, even though I will be scared (also under the bed, full disclosure.) Kind of like Anty feels, trying out this new thing. I think we will both be okay, but it might not hurt if Anty had some treats of her own. I recommend gummi bears.

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

skyebanner01

skyebye

 

Missed (Fictional) Connections

I am a planner. I need to know where I am going, and how to get there, or I will spend an inordinate amount of time circling the metaphorical roundabout, looking for the on-ramp, until I run out of gas and abandon the car entirely and head off on foot. From there, I will probably wander the moors, my lantern held aloft in the whipping wind. In the distance, a wolf howls. In short, this never leads to anything good.

Especially not in the whole area of a sustainable writing career. Which means time to plan. Conventional wisdom, right now, at least as it applies to historical romance, is that the best chances of success (as in financial/sales/building reader loyalty) are with connected books; at least three books in the same story world, preferably five. The most marketable setting right now seems to be Regency England (not my cup of tea) followed by Victorian England (same; I suspect I was born without the nineteenth century gene) and :drumroll please: Georgian England. Georgian England, I can do.  Since I’ve already set my focus, for the time being, on eighteenth century romance, this gives me a place to start, and a foundation on which I can build.

My natural bent, and still my preference, after all these years, is still my first love, the standalone romance. One pair of lovers, one story, one HEA, wave them off into the sunset and then on to something else entirely. Basically, “Well, medieval France was nice :dust palms: I’m thinking…:drums fingers: Gilded Age New York next, and maybe pirates after that. Who’s with me?” That last bit might be best read in David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor voice. Go back and read it in that voice if you’d like. I’ll wait.

I also have a strong preference for selling books over not selling books, so this means it is an opportunity to learn new skills. Last night, I sat in my uncharacteristically quiet office, the window open, no music playing, only the sound of the rain on the street outside, and looked over some options. While I browsed blog archives by other, more successful, historical romance writers, I also poked around my private Pinterest boards regarding projects currently on the back burner. I opened the board I’d kept for my Regency crash-and-burn, and de-Regencied the whole thing in one go. Wiped out every single pin that pegged this story as taking place in that particular era, no exceptions, and, immediately, I felt…relief. Now, what about reimagining this story as a Georgian? Possibilities there. I think it could work. I’d have to move some things around, but the hero and heroine wouldn’t have too drastic changes, and their love story stays the same.

Which got me to thinking about other orphaned manuscripts, set aside at various stages. Would it be possible to take the most viable of those orphans and stick them in the same story world? Now that I’ve accidentally found out how to include pictures in Scapple, I can throw my various people on the same page, along with a bunch of things that inspire me in a more general sense, and start making connections.

This is new for me. Melva Michaelean and I have planned out two more books in the same world as Chasing Prints Charming, but this is the first time I’ll have taken on something like this on my own. It’s an adjustment, and a challenge. Can I make things work together? How are the characters going to fit together, when they’ve been in their own corners up until now? The only answer I have at present is that I will soon find out, and that I will likely surprise myself on more than one level. Thinking in terms of “and,” not “or” is a big help here. I can still write my standalone stories, and I am fully aware that those may be a tougher sell, or present a smaller return than linked books. I am fine with that. It’s a good balance.

The next step here is creating that world. Part of me thinks this could be fun and the other part already has a headache.  To bring this back full circle, I am a planner. I want to know what I’m doing while I figure out what I’m doing, and, at the same time, I want some of the connections to make themselves. That’s probably part of the whole flinging everybody on the same electronic whiteboard process. I already know I’m going to have more than one artistically inclined character, and probably more than one of the gents will wear or have worn regimentals at one time, but those are places where connections can start to form. Where they go from there, remains to be seen.

Last night, while poking around my desk, I found the bunch of index cards, pictured above, with chapter headings written on the top line of each card. I have no idea what project these were meant for, but rather fortuitous that they surfaced when they did. Maybe it’s a sign. What do you think?

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