Typing With Wet Nails: I Can’t Eat My Brother Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is nice and rainy here in New York’s Capitol Region today, which makes Anty very happy. Uncle is home this morning, because he works in the evening today, and that makes me very happy, because he will be home during the day. Uncle did not feel very well on his birthday, so we are doing some of the celebrating this week, instead. that includes a new addition to the family.

Normally, Anty makes me wait until I have talked about her writing before I can talk about anything else, which is usually also her writing (go figure) but, because of Uncle’s birthday, she will make an exception. As a kitty, I like my world to stay The Same, but, this week, it will be Not The Same. On Sunday, this thing appeared on Uncle’s desk:

 

fishbowl

Vacancy

 

It would seem I am getting a brother, and this bowl is where he will live. My brother will not be a kitty (at least not this time; the kitty brother will happen later) This time, he will be a fish. I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that he will be family, not food. Uncle still needs to go pick him out from the fish place, so I do not have any pictures of him yet. Anty said I cannot post any pictures of my new brother that involve things like garlic butter, lemon wedges, or side dishes. I am still not sure how I feel about this.

Anty says no more talking until I tell people where they can find her writing on the interweb this week, besides here, so I had better get to that. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, where she talked about the many things to celebrate about romance fiction. I celebrate the romance novels that have cats in them, and have good things  happen to those cats. Drop by Anty’s post and tell her what you celebrate when you think about romance novels. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURcelebrateromance

 

Next, we move on to Anty’s Goodreads activity.  Anty is on track with her Goodreads challenge for the third week in a row, having read fifty-six of the ninety books she would like to read this year. Go, Anty. If you want to follow Anty’s reading, or see the books that she wrote, Goodreads is a great place to do that. This week, Anty finished reading two books. One is a debut YA novel, and the other one is a standalone historical romance by the author who got Anty into historical romance in the first place. It is also set in the Georgian era, which is Anty’s special area of interest right now. Read her reviews here:

 

GRoneofusislying

One of Us Is Lying, by Karen M. McManus

 

As you may have noticed, somebody in this house has found Pixlr. I will not say who. There is extra treat in it for me if I remain quiet. Anty thinks this will make creating teasers for her backlist and upcoming books a lot more interesting. Anty likes to play around with that sort of thing. Consider this your warning. Pictures are coming.

Speaking of which, Anty was finally able to wrestle her deskscape from Wednesday out of Google Photos, so she asked me to share it with you here.

01Dutchplanner

She is now at the end of the first week of having her planner in Dutch, and she likes it a lot. Anty likes knowing what she is going to do, and when she is going to do it, so breaking her days down by hour helps her make better use of her time. I am very pleased that she does schedule my meals and treats. She knows what is important. She has also taken the kneeling chair out of her office, so there is now more room on the hardwood for me, and I can get even closer to her chair, which she is in a lot these days.

There were some big domestic tornadoes this week, but Anty has found that one thing anchors her very well, even when the tornadoes are big ones, and that is writing. Reading, too, but especially writing. Right now, she and Anty Melva are making one last pass on the Chasing Prince Charming manuscript, and then it will be time to send it out on its rounds of editors and agents, to see if anybody might like to take a look. Anty is hard at work on the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, as well as beta reading for another author. She only has a little more work to do on A Heart Most Errant before she needs to decide what she wants to do with that story next. She is still thinking about what she would like to do for her next historical. I think it should be a book with lots of cats in it. Big, fuzzy cats. Swimmy brothers optional.

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

skyebyenew

My Planner Speaks Dutch Now

My planner speaks Dutch now. Days of the week? All in Dutch. Months? Yep, those will be in Dutch for the remainder of the year, as well.  There are a few reasons for this. One is that I’m picking up some of the language anyway, from a friend who is, herself, Dutch. Another is that I’ve had a storyline bopping around in my head for a couple of decades now, with a Dutch hero. If it hasn’t gone away by now, it’s not going to, so my best bet is to steer into that particular skid (at the appropriate time; right now, Her Last First Kiss  is my historical baby.) Another reason is that translating names of the days and months from Dutch, into English, is one more thinky thing for my brain to do every day. Call it mental exercise.  The more I make my brain work, the better it works. The other reason, though? That one tracks with romance appreciation month. It’s the heroes.

Couple things first. This is not the deskscape I took to go along with today’s blog post. That one had a finished page, with a grayscale-plus-one-color color scheme, all numbers neatly stenciled, etc, everything in place.  I composed the shot, tried out a new photo editor, because I’m still finding the ideal tool for that, and checked my Google Photos app on my phone. Yep, picture is there. Great. Check Google Photos on my desktop, and nope. Already done some juggling with my schedule today, so time to get creative. Nab a shot I took to share with a group on Facebook, edit that puppy, and on we go. So, that’s where this comes from, and, even though it’s not what I had planned, it’s good enough.

So, back to those romance heroes. I’m not talking about the oh-isn’t-he-handsome angle on this one, though yes, some of these fictional gents are rather easy on the eyes.  Romance heroes, like romance heroines, come in many different flavors, shapes, sizes, hues, fitness levels, etc. For me, the main pull of the romance genre is the heroines – strong women who don’t let life knock them down, or, if it does, they don’t stay down for long- if there weren’t heroes in these books, then I’d be talking about the power of women’s fiction rather than romance. There is also female/female romance, with which I am not as familiar, so I will leave that to those better versed.

Today, it’s all about the boys. Men, really. Apart from YA romances, of which there are some wonderful examples,  the heroes in romance are men. They can be younger men or older men, richer men or poorer men, fit as a professional athlete, or live with a physical challenge (or both) or anywhere along the spectrum on any of the above and more, but it’s not the physicality of the gents that matters in romance fiction. It’s the heart. Romance heroes do not complete the heroine. Let’s get that out of the way. At least in my books, they don’t. They complement the heroines. Compliment them, yes, because, at least by the end of the book, they have learned how to communicate with the women they love (and hopefully the rest of the people around them, no matter how taciturn they may appear on the first page) and are able to articulate what they admire about their ladyloves, (or the other gent, in m/m romance) but complement them, as in they fit well together. Together, they become greater than the sum of their parts.

Often, the hero is the one who sees a part of the heroine others have overlooked, and, once he’s seen it, he can’t unsee it, no matter how hard he tries. The handsome hero who looks at a supposedly “plain” heroine and doesn’t see the mouse everybody else claims the heroine is, but rather can’t believe nobody else is bowled over by the way she lights the whole world when she smiles, for example, is a popular example of that. Maybe it’s the way the heroine is whip-smart and could teach him a thing or two about math or ancient history, when her family is sure all she has to recommend her is a pretty face or ample bosom. Maybe it’s something else, but that moment when, for whatever reason, the heroine gets stuck under the hero’s skin is one of my favorites, both to read and to write.  He might think he has life all figured out, or have no idea what he’s doing, but once she’s entered his world, nothing is ever going to be the same, and he is more adrift than he’s ever been in his life, because this woman has shaken his foundation.

As with heroines, the heroes have their own arcs. Hero wants something at the beginning of the book, that he either gets, or accepts that he will never get, at the end, and it’s that journey that fascinates me. For both of them, really, both individually and together, but I have an advantage when it comes to the heroines. I am a woman, so I know what it’s like to be a woman, have a woman’s body and woman’s emotions. While I do  have a Hero Consultant in Real Life Romance Hero, he’s only been on this earth the same amount of time as I have, so when I want to dive deeper into how an eighteenth century hero might react to certain situations, I have some research to do.

That’s where the heroes who have gone before come into play. I’ve been reading romance, mostly historical, since I was eleven years old. If we count fairy tales with romantic elements, then for a lot longer than that. Suffice it to say I’ve read a lot of heroes in that time, and each one of them has left his mark on the heroes I write. I like to picture a bunch of them gathered around a table in some old timey tavern, lit by lantern light, trading war stories about the horrible things their authors, myself included, have made them do, and admitting that the reward, the love and support of their heroines, made it all worth the trip. I also imagine them welcoming new heroes, offering advice to the young upstarts. Remembering when they, too, were first drafts, and how much things have changed since then.

Um, Anna, the Dutch thing? Yeah, got away from that a little, but it was a romance novel, Bold, Breathless Love, by Valerie Sherwood, that made me fall in love with all things Dutch. Ruprecht Van Ryker, you are forever my book boyfriend. Some guys make that kind of impression.

Pirate Queens and Clan Chiefs

When I think about the power of romance, the first thing that comes to mind is the bathroom at my dad’s house, when I was a teen and young adult. Those were not easy years, but I knew that, no matter what else was going on, I had an ace in the hole, namely the romance novels I hid in the cabinet under the sink. Only one at a time, and, to the best of my recollection, I only read those books in that bathroom. Usually with the seat of the porcelain throne closed, or seated on the edge of the tub. I read The Spanish Rose, by Shirlee Busbee, and The Outlaw Hearts, by Rebecca Brandewyne. I know there were others, but I remember those two in particular, because they were the first books to live under that sink, and, when I needed a good place to go, there they were, ready to take me back in time and into vibrantly told stories.

Obviously, I did not stay in that bathroom, or that house, forever, and, since there is only so much time one can spend in a bathroom without arousing suspicion, I had to read those books in short, fervent bursts, before stashing them back behind cans of scrubbing bubbles and other accoutrements of bathroom sanitation. I didn’t always want to unlock the door and come out, but, when I did, I carried with me the inspiration of the heroines of the books I loved, their determination to never bow to the obstacles life threw their way, but keep pressing on, knowing the reward would be there, on the other side of their troubles.

My favorite heroines, then and now, are the ones who have been through some stuff. You know the kind. Sold to a first husband literally old enough to be their grandfather, because that was a good step into society for the family. The kinds of heroines who find themselves stranded on the road west with a fully stocked wagon, but no horses, and figure they better get on with getting those horses, even if they do have to take the dude who comes with them. Pirate queens and clan chiefs. Countesses in their own rights. Plucky actresses who work what their mamas gave them, now that the new king is letting women on the stage. Bondservants or enslaved women who may be going through hell, but, hang the consequences, they keep on going. Highwaywomen and pickpockets, grande dames and gamines, even a princess or two. Not the Disney kind, who gets dressed with the help of small woodland creatures, but the badass kind, who woman up and do what has to be done, to take care of those who depend on them.

The princesses I liked, back to when I was but a wee little princess myself, were not the ones who waited in a tower for somebody to get them out (though I did and do like Rapunzel; no matter what else, the gal has a-ma-zing hair.) but take a look at the battle before them and either strap on a sword and ride out with their soldiers, or get themselves up to that high tower and direct the pouring of pitch on the invading forces. I vividly remember reading one Catherine Coulter medieval where the heroine broke a siege on her castle by having her men bring the one sow the castle had left, all the way up to the tower, where the wind could carry her scent to the enemy troops, who had brought a bunch of male boars with them. Said sow was in season, and her scent proved, hmm, shall we say irresistible, to the boy boars. I have never, personally, been in a military encampment suddenly besieged with hormone-crazed creatures with large, curving tusks, but, from that description, I know it’s an experience I don’t want in real life. In romance novels, though? Heck yeah. Bring it on.

Those were the heroines I hung out with in that long-ago bathroom, and, I hope, the ones who hang out with me now in my office, as I write their stories. If they find their way underneath someone else’s bathroom sink one day (apart from propping up a wonky support, but hey, I’ll take that, too. Still counts.) then I will consider the job well done.

I don’t consider reading, especially romance, an escape. I consider it respite. I consider it restoration, renewal, fuel and fortification. I consider it food in my belly and shoes on my feet. In romance novels, things are going to get bad. Of course they are. Fiction eats conflict for breakfast, because that’s the big question; how are the characters going to get out of this predicament? Nevertheless, our heroines persist, and so do the heroes who love them. In romance, the woman always wins, and her beloved wins, too, as does the writer, even if the process of getting the two lovers from once upon a time to happily ever after does sometimes (okay, a lot of times) feel like herding cats. There’s nothing like typing The End, and sitting back in the chair with a satisfied sigh, because it’s HEA for those two now, and, soon, for the reader.

As for the writer, well, it’s different there. The writer may take a break, may devour a whole stack of other writers’ work, but, soon enough, the voices will start again, other invitations to other adventures, other heroines who don’t take no for an answer, and on it goes, once again.

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Uncle’s Birthday Week Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am wearing a sparkly crown today (it is really one of Anty’s bracelets, and it had an accident a little while after this picture was taken (it was not my fault, as Anty and her bracelet were not at home when it happened, but I still count it as payback) because this is a special week. It is Uncle’s birthday week. I do not like having things on my head, but if it is for Uncle, I can do it. I love him and he is my favorite. That is partly because he does not put things on my head, but mostly because he is Uncle.

Even though it is a very special week, Anty is a stickler for the rule that I have to talk about her writing first before I can talk about…well, her writing. This week, as always, she is at Buried Under Romance. This time, she talks about the need for and merits of book therapy. You can find that post here, and it looks like this:

BURstressreading

While I do not think Anty mentioned cats in her post, by the image, it looks like a most delicious read. Drop by and see for yourself.

Now it is time to talk about Anty’s activity on Goodreads. As of today, she is on track for the second week in a row. Her Goodreads challenge, this week, looks like this:

GRchallenge081017

 

Looking good, Anty. Keep at it. You got this. The books Anty read this week were:

and

Anty got The Reason You’re Alive without even seeing anything other than Mr. Matthew’s name on the front. That should tell you how much Anty likes his books. She also likes Miss Anita’s books so much that she got Comanche Rose along with Comanche Moon, which comes before it, without even knowing anything about the stories. Anty likes to take that kind of risk with her favorite authors. She knows they will deliver, and she hopes to do the same in the books she writes, as well.

This week, Anty also has a post at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Big surprise, it is about historical romance novels. In this particular case, romance novels set in the Victorian era. Several of Anty’s friends asked Anty for recommendations on some good romances set in this era, and she thought other people might like to know which ones Anty likes best, too. There are a lot of other good ones, but Anty wanted to focus on titles that are newer. If you would like more recommendations, of older books in this setting, or books in a different setting,  please leave a note in the comments section and Anty will be right on it. That post is here, and it looks like this:

 

HeroesAndHeartbreakersVictorians

Normally, this is where Anty would put her video blog, but it has been a crazy week here, with lots of domestic tornadoes, so she did not get time to make one. That is okay, though. She can make another one later in the week, and it gives me more time to talk to you here. I would say we all win on that account. Anty’s trackers are more interesting to Anty than to anybody else, but they do seem to do a better job of keeping her on track of things than the previous system (which was really not much of one at all) so I guess it is a good thing. Playing with markers and paper makes her happy, and it makes me happy, because I can sit near her and stare at her while she does it.

Most of the time, I like to hang out with Anty while she writes. She usually has music on while she is writing, and I like it when she plays the soft music. I also like 80s tunes, which she plays while working on Chasing Prince Charming. I do not like loud music, though. I will run away if she plays loud music. Even when she does not play any music, I like to listen to the sounds she makes while she makes the keyboard go clickety clack, or when she scratches her pen against paper. When she is working with pen and paper, she will sometimes tear out paper and wad it into a ball and throw it at me. I used to play with those paper balls, but I figured out they are not actually alive. Where is the challenge in that? Not much, if you ask me. I am asking for a toy that moves for Christmas. A toy that moves all the time, I mean, not one that only moves on Christmas. That would not be much more fun than paper balls that do not move at all.

But I digress. This whole no video blog thing is throwing me off. Hopefully, Anty will be more on the ball next week. What I meant to say was that usually, I like to hang out with Anty when she writes, because she is very interesting. That all goes out the window when Uncle comes home or gets up in the morning. He is my favorite, so I will pick him every time. Here is a picture of me, right after I heard Uncle’s wake up cough come from the bedroom one morning:

SkyeOMalleyCatlooksforuncle

He’s coming out annnnny minute now.

 

I have even been known to walk away from Anty or Mama petting me if I hear Uncle is on his way. He is my favorite, so I am very excited to celebrate his birthday this week. Anty and Mama are getting him presents and cake, but I think he will like the floofs I leave for him, too. He is very lucky his birthday comes at the same time as my shed.

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

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Marrow and Bone

When I was but a wee little princess, my father built me two bookcases. My parents filled them, first with picture books, and friends and family members added to the collection as I grew. I remember sobbing inconsolably when I pieced together that Morte de Arthur meant that King Arthur was actually dying and not living happily ever after with Queen Guinevere. The whole Lancelot thing went over my head at that tender age, and I still have mixed feelings about the whole triangle. Maybe I’ll explore a similar dynamic in some future novel of my own, someday. I did not take the fall of Camelot well, either, despite my father’s attempts to explain how noble and tragic it all was.

Fast forward a few decades, and those very same bookcases now live in my office, and they are stuffed with romance novels. The top case (one stacks on the other) holds my Bertrice Small collection, while the other holds various keepers, and books on writing, some of them (my favorites) specifically on the writing of romance. I have two copies of How to Write a Romance and Get it Published, by Kathryn Falk, the brains behind RT Book Reviews, and they are both tattered. Granted, a lot of the information is obsolete now, with the e-publishing revolution, the advent of independent publishing, and whole subgenres have come and gone since the first edition first hit the stands, but I still treasure those books, and still refer to them, because the most important part of each entry has no expiration date.

The inspiration I get from reading the words of those who have gone before, some of whom are now retired, some now gone to the great library in the sky, some of whom are still with us now, still bringing their A game, book after book, is new every time I dip into that particular well. It’s there, too, when I dive into the books that gave me my love of historical romance; big, epic stories of love that could conquer impossible odds – and always, always did. Always will, as a matter of fact. That’s not a cliché. That’s the foundation of the genre. No matter what else happens, or doesn’t happen, by the end, our two lovers will be together, and happy about it.

That’s the skeleton of the genre. With that in place, we can hang anything on that framework. Once I took my first step into the genre proper, I read love stories that took place in medieval times, the Gilded Age, and everything in between. Heroes and heroines were titled nobility, gentry, dirt-poor, outcasts and pirates, bondservants and performers, and a thousand other variations. Through the pages of books, found in used bookstores, flea markets, libraries, and the then-king of chain bookstores, Waldenbooks, I fell in love a million times over. I knew, not hoped, knew that I had to tell stories of my own, in that same vein.

I can’t say it was a choice. More like I came pre-programmed for romance fiction. I don’t know if my biological mother read romance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. My real mother did, mostly from paper sacks filled with big, thick, glossy historical romances that came with my Aunt Lucy, every time she visited. My job was to take the bag of books to the laundry room, de-bag them, and put them where Mom wanted. I wasn’t allowed to read them, a rule I did not, at the time, think to question, apart from stealing the Small titles, which did not come from Aunt Lucy, but I did study each cover, read the back blurbs, breathe them deep into the very marrow of my bones. Yes. This.

I assigned my own characters to the people on the covers, made up my own stories to go along with them. It didn’t occur to me to write those down, not then, but I would turn them over in my head for days or weeks, paint pictures in my mind, and feel the stories as vibrantly as I did what is generally called real life. When real life got stinky, I went to that story place more, not as an escape -I always had to come back, after all- but as a respite, a place to go and remind myself that things get better after they get worse. That’s what the heroines in the books, both real and imaginary always did. They kept going. They fell down, they got back up. They fell down again, got back up again, and became all the stronger for it. In the end, they got all they ever wanted, and more. They got a hero who loved them exactly the way they were, who always had their backs and knew they could count on the same thing in return. Sometimes, back then, if there was a connected book, it could be the child of the first couple, all grown up, and ready for their own adventure. I loved that kind of thing. Still do. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write one of those, myself, too. If there’s one thing romance fiction teaches us is that, with love, all things are possible.

When I look a little ways down the road, and think about what to write next, after the current WIPs are out in the world, I’m not worried. I have the core of my stories already in my marrow and bones; two imperfect people will find their broken edges fit into a cohesive whole, and the love they share means that nothing life throws at them even stands a chance. I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

Air in My Lungs and Blood in My Veins

So, apparently, August is Romance Appreciation Month. I did not know that was a thing. I probably should, because I write romance, and I write about romance, and, when I’m not doing any of those things, I am probably reading romance, but, until now, that has not penetrated my brain. I do follow Read a Romance Month, and eagerly looked forward to the onslaught of essays sharing the love of my favorite genre in all its forms, but it wasn’t until today, when, coincidentally, I needed a blog topic, so good timing.

That book in today’s deskscape is the actual copy of The Kadin, by Bertrice Small, that I stole from my mother’s nightstand and sneak-read under the brass bed in the guest bedroom. Only a few pages into that book, at the tender age of eleven, I knew I had found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life. By the time my mother found her book missing and followed the flashlight beam, I knew squat doodle about the romance genre. I could kick myself now, for not picking up those early copies of a magazine then called Romantic Times, which, soon after, alternated with Rave Reviews, which covered all genres, with a smaller romance section than Romantic Times. but, then again, I was young, my allowance may not have covered the expense, and my parents probably would have had something to say on the matter. Also the whole not knowing romance novels were really a thing, thing,. but I digress. I stole the next Small book from that same nightstand (by now, my mom was on to my larcenous ways) and, by the time Adora came out, I received my own copy as a gift, because everybody involved knew I was going to read it anyway.

It wasn’t until I attended a summer program for young creative people, at Wesleyan University, that I purchashed my first non-Small historical romance. By this time, I knew that romance was indeed a thing, and had a handle on some of the differences. All Harlequin books were romance novels, but not all romance novels were Harlequins, and jokes about not letting Harlequin get me did not sit well, even if they were meant to amuse. Hmm, let’s see, published by one of the biggest publishers on the planet, in the most popular genre of all genre fiction? Yeah, I can see what a horrible fate that would be. At the time, Harlequin meant exclusively contemporary category (how times have changed) so the odds weren’t high that I would have what they wanted, but none of that did anything to quell the absolute assurance that writing historical romance was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Did I know what period? Eh, not really. The historical I started writing at seventeen could best be described as nebulous Tudoresque, and, when I first put fingers to typewriter keys, I wasn’t sure what era I wanted to write, so I remained purposely vague as to the actual setting, a remote estate far, far, far away from anything. The pages from that book now reside in a storage unit where they can’t hurt anybody, and, as I work on the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, I have not only a calendar covering the dates of the story, but researched the phase of the moon for the night when Ruby and her Hero have their titular first kiss, because I needed to know exactly how much of him she’d be able to see (spoiler: not much.) Between the minute my mom busted me under the guest room bed and this morning, when my Kindle saw me through wash and dry cycles at the laundromat, I have read a lot of romance novels. No, I am not going to try to count them.

I have had four of my own published and hope to add to that number in the very near future. When I first knew I wanted to be a writer (or was a writer, depending on how one measures these things) I thought that mystery and hard science fiction were the only options, but I couldn’t connect with either, no matter how hard I tried. Romance, though? That was, and is, air in my lungs and blood in my veins. I am sure there are mystery writers who feel the same way about their genre, and I know there are SF writers who feel the same about theirs. Truly, I hope every writer finds their home and lives in it.

For me, that is romance. One dearly beloved aunt always expected I would grow out of my desire to write romance, which I announced proudly in my early teens. If that hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think it’s going to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Taking two characters, each with their own wounds, baggage, and inner demons, through the trials of life, until they can make a life together, and, together, taking on all comers – that’s my catnip. That’s my jam. That’s air in my lungs and blood in my veins. I can’t not write romance, and believe me, I’ve tried. I tried when I thought my options were limited. I tried when people in my life had strong opinions in other directions. I tried when I thought I couldn’t write, or shouldn’t write, or had lost the right to write, and failed miserably in all such attempts, because the power of love, and the power of romance fiction, really is that strong.

I love that there is a romance appreciation month, because it celebrates the awesome power of romance for the reader and writer alike, and because it gives me a focus for my blog entries over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Welcome, August Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am coming to you from my sunbeam. It is my favorite morning place, so I did not mind too much when Anty wanted to take my picture there. I can pose nicely when I have a good reason. Sunbeams are good reasons. In the cold weather, this also puts me in front of Heater. I love Heater. August is the best month because it is Uncle’s birthday month. Uncle is my favorite, and I love him. Anty is okay, too. She feeds me and pets me and lets me write this blog, as long as I talk about where to find her writing, first. I had better get to it.

As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week, with her Saturday Discussion post. This week, she talked about some of the various means readers use to keep track of books they have read, and books they would like to read. She even shared pictures of some of her own records, so if you are interested in that sort of thing, you can find that post here, and it looks like this:

BURkeeptrack

Now it is time to talk about Anty’s reading. As of this morning, she was on track with her Goodreads challenge, so she was technically current when I started working on this blog. She had to do house things, though (including feeding me, which is a very good cause) and then it rolled over into one book behind. As a cat, I know a few things about rolling over, and will give her credit for being current, but it wouldn’t hurt to read a little faster during the week. So far, Anty has read fifty-two out of the ninety books she wants to read this year. I would say that is pretty decent progress. Go, Anty.

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Since it is the first Friday of the month, it is time for me to report on Anty’s historical romance reading challenge. This week, she finished reading five books, and four of those were historical romance. That is how to do it. (I would fistbump Anty here, but I do not have fists. I have paws. It does not work the same way with paws. I will ask Uncle or Mama to do it for me.) This brings Anty’s total for the year up to twenty-six historical romance novels read. That is pretty good, all things considered. Keep going, Anty.

The books Anty reviewed on Goodreads this week are:

 

 

 

 

As you might guess, Autopsy of America is not a historical romance novel, or even fiction, but pictures of abandoned places across the United States. Anty loves pictures of abandoned places, and when they are artistic, that is even better. Some people think this makes Anty a little strange, but Anty is already strange; she is a writer. She likes Mr. Seph’s photographs very much, and they kind of play into something else she has added to her work this week.

This week, we had many domestic tornadoes. During one of them, Anty needed some distraction. Since writing and reading are her best distractions, she dug out an old manuscript from her archives, one that is set a very long time ago, in England, after the Black Plague wiped out a very big part of Europe. That includes England, because this was a long time before Brexit. It was also a long time before the European Union, but I am a kitty, not a political historian. Anty figured it would not take too much work to get that book ready to send to a potential publisher, so she is working on that as well, now.

She gave it a different name, A Heart Most Errant, instead of Ravenwood, so that it would be a new thing in her brain, and, so far, that seems to work. It is a new thing and at the same time, the same book she already wrote. This time, she is looking at it without overthinking, and it is not the only fish in the pond, as it were. Personally, I think a pond with only three fish in it is not a very good pond. I do not remember how many fish are in my fish movie. I think I need to watch it again to count, but I know there were more than three. Maybe this time, I can catch the orange fish. He is a tricky one. He looks like he is swimming out of the tablet, but he never does.

Huh? Oh, right. Anty’s books. Hmph. Anty likes having a lot of things going on at once, so I do not think she will mind having three projects at different stages at the same time.  This also helps her not fixate on a particular manuscript being The One, and if it does not sell, she has wasted a year and change of her life, and is doomed forever. At least that is what the Hypercritical Gremlins used to try to tell her. They have been very quiet lately.

Now it is time to let Anty talk, although I do not know why that is a big thing. Anty always talks, and this is her blog anyway, but here we go:

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

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

 

Why the Heck Not?

Do not ask me how I found myself, yesterday, editing a long-shelved manuscript, but I did. Do not ask me what it was that prompted me to check the submissions requirements for an e-book publisher I have worked with before, but, again, I did. Do not ask me how my brain said, “Anna, you could totally send that there. Go open the file, poke it with a stick, and send it off.” I do not have an answer for that, either, but, for the time it took for me to make adjustments I’d known I had to make, for years, my brain was entirely focused on the work, not the domestic tornadoes that have whipped through the week so far, not the hot, sticky weather, not the feeling that I should be oh so much farther along this writing road by now, not anything that was not John and Aline and their road trip from Aline’s plague-ravaged fishing village to a city that may or may not exist (she thinks it does, he isn’t so sure) and it was…nice. No stress, only story. Only fun.

This is the story, originally titled Draperwood, then Ravenwood, now A Heart Most Errant (I seem to be going through a lot of titles these days, and I am okay with that.) I wrote during a time of huge life upheaval, and the story that made me cry actual tears when I reached The End, because I had spent so much time with John and Aline, that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but the story was done. They reached their destination, though it wasn’t what either of them had expected, and they were happy. They were both home at last. Me, at the time, not so much, because that was one journey that wasn’t yet over in real life, but them? They were going to be fine.

They still are. That’s one good thing about checking in on characters one has waved off into the sunset some time ago. Even though I honestly have no idea what prompted me to dust this story off, or set a deadline for taking a chance on submission, after some really good rejections and a resting period, when I did open the file, it felt right. There they were, as happy to see me as I was to see them. Maybe they sorted out a few things while I was busy in other centuries, but if that works, hey, I can deal with that.

I first wrote John and Aline’s story when I saw an issue of RT Book Reviews magazine that featured separate articles on both medieval romance and post-apocalyptic romance. I like both of those things. Could they be two great tastes that tasted great together? Even in the whirl of grief, caregiving and other concurrent adventures, I couldn’t wait to find out, so I didn’t. To the people of fourteenth century England, having the Black Plague sweep through multiple times in only a couple of decades had to seem like the end of the world. The unbelievably high body count wouldn’t be the only casualty of the plague, but buildings burned to eliminate contagion, businesses and professions knocked to their knees due to the loss of people who could do those jobs, and travelers or expats, like knight errant John, who returned from their travels to find there was literally nothing left and nowhere to go.

I have always been drawn to stories about survivors, those who lose everything and yet keep on going, so John and Aline’s story is very close to my heart. Maybe the only answer to why toss a third ball into the mix when I am already juggling two other books and it’s domestic tornado season is that it is time. What do I have to lose? As my Aunt S used to tell me, “the worst they can say is no, and then you’ll be exactly where you were before you asked.” So, that’s what I’m doing. I don’t think I need to know precisely why.

Is this story perfect? No. Will it ever be? Again, no. Is it right, though? Yes. Is it true, though? Again, yes. Not true as in there are historical records to prove that people with my characters’ names actually existed and this is what happened to them, because no, there is not; they were born in my head. What I put on the page, though, is an accurate representation of the story they told me, so I’m okay with that. Sometimes “good enough” is enough of a goal. If this publisher says no, there are others, and if they all say no, well, I’ve been curious about the indie process for a while now.

What I do know is that it’s time. Sure, “post-apocalyptic medieval” isn’t a term one hears every day, but everything we know now was once done for the first time. Though I don’t normally think in series, there is one not-a-monk who has been giving me a sly glance from beneath his hood as I edit the sections where he appears, and, if he has a story to tell, I am here to listen.

Aiming For Real

Welp, RWA Nationals are over for another year, and July is almost in the rear view mirror. The best thing about not going to a writer’s conference is the lack of conference hangover when it’s over. Summer has never been my favorite season, and August counts more as pre-fall than actual summer. Back to school supplies are everywhere, and tomorrow means I get to start on a whole new month in my planner. No, this is not going to be another post where I blabber incessantly about planners. I am considering a separate notebook blog, but that has to get in line behind fiction writing, which is the next thing on my schedule after getting this blog written, so we’re going to traipse off in that direction, with only the vaguest of ideas on a theme for this entry.

Not going to a conference means there is nothing to unpack. I will allow that I did laundry this morning, but that brought with it a chance to finish reading one book on my Kindle and start in on another. I am not going to claim full awakeness at that phase of the morning, or even this one, but I know what’s on my list, and checking off the items on it gives me a sense of satisfaction, so here we go All I have to do is babble my way to the magic seven hundred and then I get to go play with my imaginary friends. I should probably also have some sort of lunch, because bodies (and brains) need nutrition, and it dovetails nicely with Skye’s lunch (she is not eating doves, either whole or tails-only; she is eating her regular fish jelly. She wanted me to make that clear.)

This weekend, our family did a fair dab of decluttering and donating. All that physical clutter comes with mental/emotional clutter, and, when it’s gone, we get some much needed breathing room. I moved a hanging file from the dining room, into my office, and, while I’m still sorting out exactly how I’m going to use it, knowing it’s there gives me a boost. One of these days, I am going to have to sit down with Netflix and a big pile of notes and handouts from conferences gone before and organize them by topic and date, but that day is not today.

Today is giving a final once-over to the first twenty five pages of the second draft of Chasing Prince Charming, and then getting the next segment of Her Last First Kiss‘s second draft ready for critique session with N in the morning. This time, I’m going in with detailed, hand written notes, and bullet points, written in present tense and what I am going to call a rather casual vernacular, and throwing them all on the page. I’m not even thinking, at this point, of making it pretty. If there’s time for that before I can get to bed at a decent hour, then that’s gravy. Not aiming at perfect here; aiming for real.

Real, in this case, means shutting out everything outside of the world of the story, so that it becomes the real world, so that I feel the tremble in Hero’s hand the second before he touches Ruby’s hair for the very first time. It means combing the Internet until I find out what the phase of the moon would have been that particular night, so I know exactly how much of her Hero Ruby could actually see.  (http://www.moonpage.com/ is insanely useful for this sort of thing) It means forgetting about the overhead fan and the construction crew outside my window, and slipping back into an earlier age and the moment when two broken people suspect that their broken edges might actually fit together into a brand new whole. That’s the good stuff.

I might not have a suitcase full of swag, or enough new books that I had to mail them home, but I do have a library haul and a fully stocked Kindle, so that’s almost as good, and no extra expense of dry cleaning special occasion clothing. That’s always a plus. What I do have from the conference I didn’t attend, thanks to all those who shared their experiences on social media, is a renewed sense of purpose. The mere fact that there is a gathering of those who love to do the same thing I love to do, write romance fiction and get it in the hands of readers, makes me want to get that butt in chair and fingers on keyboard and keep on going. It conjures the voice of my high school gym teacher, Ms. Napier :waves to any Suffield High alums who may be reading this: encouraging a class full of girls who would pretty much rather be doing anything but the cross-country run she had us on that day, that we couldn’t quit if we saw the finish line.

With today’s work on Her Last First Kiss, I will be over the halfway point on draft two. That means the finish line will officially be closer than the starting point, and Ruby and her Hero will be closer to Happily Ever After than they are to Once Upon a Time. There will be some achy writing muscles, that’s for sure, but what’s stronger than the ache is the gift of a second wind. Onward.

Typing With Wet Claws: Not at Nationals Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. The weather has been much better for Anty this week. I am not that pleased with all the rain we got, which means I spent more time than I would have liked, hunkered down in a safe place. I am also not that pleased with Anty moving things around in the apartment. She calls it decluttering. I call it unnecessary. I knew where everything was, and now she is moving things. I suppose there is an upside, in that there are now more places for me to hunker. If this is the way the weather is going to go, I think I will need them.

As always, I am not allowed to talk about anything else, until I talk about where to find Anty’s writing on the interweb, other than here. This may not come as a surprise, but Anty is always at Buried Under Romance every Saturday. This week, she talks about fan clubs amongst romance readers. Do you talk books with anyone? Would you like to talk books with Anty? (Seriously, Anty will talk romance novels with pretty much anybody, so your chances are good, just saying. ) That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURfanclub

Anty has some umbrage with her Goodreads reading challenge this week. She has been doing rather a lot of reading, but not all of it is actual published books, so, while her reading tracker is filling with a lot of colored squares (she will show you in her video) that does not always carry over into the Goodreads count. It is the weekend, though, and one of the books Anty is currently reading is a novella, so maybe this will be the weekend she gets back on track. We can hope. I say less decluttering and more reading.

One actual published book that Anty finished reading this week fits into her plans for world domination. Okay, historical romance domination. By that, I mean her plan (she will tell you more in her video) to find out what sorts of linked romance novels work best for her. Because she had a serious Poldark hangover, she wanted something set in the eighteenth century, with the same historical flavor. She asked friends on one of her Facebook groups, of people who also love historical romance, and someone suggested Gather the Stars, by Kimberly Cates.  Anty read that book when it first came out, and remembered liking it a lot. She likes everything she has read of Miss Kimberly’s (who is also Ella March Chase, but Anty has not read any of the books written as Miss Ella. Yet.)  Anty’s review of Gather the Stars is here, and it looks like this:

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Anty plans to read more of Miss Kimberly’s books soon (and re-read, in several cases.) That plan gave her an idea. Since Anty wanted to make sure she got all the books Miss Kimberley wrote that belong together, she wanted to write that in a special book, so she would not lose the list. Then she added more books that belong together, by other authors. Now she has a special notebook dedicated only to that. She will probably make another book for only books that are not connected to anything else, but she is working on this one for now.

Writing-wise, this has been a good week for Anty. She will tell you more in her video, but I can tell you that, on Monday night, she meant to finish early, but then she hit her stride and did not want to stop. So, she did not stop. Then she noticed that it was three in the morning. and she had to meet Miss N for their critique meeting shortly after seven. She regrets nothing, especially since Miss N gave some very good feedback. Anty took a nice long nap after she got back, and I helped. by napping near her. Cat naps are always better with actual cats napping. Especially when I am the cat. I am very good at napping. I would sleep on the bed with Anty and Uncle (because Uncle is my favorite) if I could jump or climb, but that is okay. I sleep under their bed sometimes. That is good enough.

Anty is a little grumpy that she is not at RWA Nationals this year, but she can still get a few tastes of the experience through social media. She is glad, though, that she did not have to leave me for a whole week. She hates leaving me when she travels, which is not all that often, but I would hate going along even more. I did not see anything about a track for cats at Nationals, which is kind of an oversight, because a lot of writers have cats. The only thing would be getting the cats to the actual conference. We generally like to stay home. Not so for Anty. If she does not get out, among other humans, she gets a little antsy. Okay, more than a little antsy. Anty is an extrovert, which means that she spends her energy when she is alone, and needs to be around other humans to get more energy. Being in a hotel full of humans who love to read and write romance novels, like Anty does, is pretty much extroverted writer Christmas. Anty is not worried, though. Her local RWA chapter meeting is only a couple of weeks away, and she can talk to chapter members who did go, including Kari W. Cole, who won a very special award, the Golden Heart. Congratulations, Miss Kari.

Now it is time for Anty’s video.

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

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…