Manhattan Special, and Lessons from Sience (sic)

Not going to lie, today is not my favorite day. We are now ten days from  moving out of this apartment, and we are still not one hundred percent firm on where we will be landing. Today’s packing focus is stuff that is, pardon the pun, extremely close to home. The TBR books go in boxes, naturally, and I actually want a bit of distance from this particular shelf, so that the anticipation can grow again. This is also the day that I pack my notebooks, and the art and writing magazines, and that is the part that’s bugging me the most.

Breaking down the stuff that I love and putting it away, to be replaced by empty space is not fun. I would rather be writing. I’m glad that I’m doing Camp NaNo this year, and I’m glad that I’m measuring my progress in handwritten pages. Coming to pen and paper at the end of the day is a happy place. It’s a place where I don’t feel the pressure of perfectionism weighing on me. All I’m doing is telling a story, and I love that.

Do I want this story to eventually see publication? Of course I do. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I write. I have a white board in my office, and, right now, it has “do what you know” written on it. If the packing gets overwhelming, what do I know needs to be done? Is all I can do right now, put things that go together, together? Can do. Art magazines go with art magazines. Filled notebooks in one stack, blank ones in another, active notebooks in another, still. Bit by bit, it  all comes together.

That can be difficult to see, when drowning in a sea of cardboard, packing tape that is apparently self-shredding (seriously, if anyone ever invented shred-proof packing tape, they would be a millionaire.) There are times I am convinced our stuff is breeding while we sleep. This may be true of the printer paper, which is now officially serving no purpose, as we packed the printer last night.

Where I wanted to be, short term, right now, was handing in the revised manuscript of Chasing Prince Charming (to be fair, we’re almost there, and my co-writer also needs to hit pause for a couple of weeks) and forging ahead on Drama King, while bringing the second draft of Her Last First Kiss to fruition. That will still happen, only not on my schedule. I am not looking beyond each individual day’s writing for A Moment Past Midnight, though I do have to admit I am falling in love with the guy who does not get the girl, and very much look forward to finding the love of his life in another story.  I don’t normally think in linked stories, but at least one more, maybe two more stories, were part of the plan for AMPM from the outset, so we will see where this goes.

Where I wanted to be, long term, was farther along in my career. Print books. Glossy covers. Matte covers, for that matter. Actual, physical books to sign. Again, that cans still happen, and, with consistent work, it will, but, right now, it’s all cardboard and packing tape and Sharpie fumes, and the occasional emotional time bomb as I rip into the odd couple of boxes that never got unpacked from the last move.

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vintage notebook – score!

My handwriting identifies this notebook as dedicated to “sience” (sic.) It was only missing a few pages, and the rest are blank. Considering my grades in science classes over the years, this does not surprise me. Ironically, spelling was always one of my better subjects.  This is probably going in the box of unused notebooks, because I A) want to keep my box of active notebooks light, and B) the pages are regular white, with blue lines, and I don’t normally use that type of paper.

Still, there’s a connection. By the single doodle I found inside, I suspect I was ten when I took “sience.” Our family, then my dad, my mom, two dogs, one hamster, and me, moved that year, as well. I wasn’t too thrilled about that move, either, and remember an impassioned plea to be allowed to live on my best friend’s couch (spoiler alert: it did not work. Even though friend was fine with it, none of the parents were on board) the move still happened.

Today is gray and rainy, which is good writing weather. Is it good packing weather? That depends on how fond one is of the scent of damp cardboard, but I think we’ll manage. When I get into the packing groove, there’s a phase when I hit autopilot, the question of what goes where answers itself, and the people who live in my head (aka characters) get downright chatty. That part, I like. It’s not so much “writing” as it is “story,” and it builds a foundation I can build on when the dust (literal and figurative) settles.

In the meantime, these boxes aren’t going to pack themselves, and I’ve got some NaNo pages to write tonight. Totally pantsing this one, which is an adventure, but that’s for another post.

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Like a Tornado Hit a Ghost Town

Imagine that a tornado hit a ghost town. Now, imagine that the ghost town was comprised entirely of books, pens, and paper. That is basically what my office looks like at the moment. Our dining room is now Box Town, inhabited by our dining room table, the DVD cabinet, and a whole bunch of boxes. All of said boxes are, or were (i.e., items slated for donation) mine. Apart from the boxes of stuff to donate, and what I haven’t been through yet, the boxes are neatly stacked, and labeled and sealed. The labels state what’s inside the box, and, in case the label is somehow separated from the box in the process, there is an identical label inside the box, as well. The label also says what room the box came from, which is usually, but not always, also its destination in the new apartment.

We are still in the process of securing said new apartment, so stay tuned for updates as they come. Right now, what we have is packing. A lot of packing. Mostly mine, because A) I am the one who works at home every day, so I am the one physically in the building the most, to be able to put stuff in boxes, and B) I am awesome at organizing. Also, C) I am bossy , um, I mean, I have strong leadership skills.

This is why my involvement in packing Real Life Romance Hero’s and Housemate’s things will consist of pointing them towards boxes, tape, and Sharpies. Default answer to “where does X go?” is “storage.” Regardless of where we’re going, we are blowing this popsicle stand on the fifteenth, and, if we’re going to get there in decent shape, we have to work like a well oiled machine.

 

This whole moving business reminds me of writing,. not that oddly enough. Here are a few things I’ve learned thus far:

  • Putting away favorite things is hard. This one feels obvious, but needs stating anyway. Yesterday, I bit the bullet and boxed my favorite-favorite books. While moving while anxious is a whole new level of stress anyway, knowing that I won’t have my books in their shelves for the next two weeks, when I am going to be stressed the heck out cranks things up a level. Ditto for packing my art supplies. Putting favorite things away sucks, but it’s also a full commitment to closing this chapter and starting another.  One the books are in boxes, there is no going back.

 

  • More, lighter boxes. This goes with the above lesson. Books are heavy. Paper is heavy. Lugging unliftable boxes is not good for anybody’s back. The new protocol is thus: pack box halfway full of books/paper, then fill the space with lighter, softer things, like fuzzy throws/pillows, or stuffed animals, heavy sweaters, etc. Balance the heavy stuff with lighter, warmer stuff. Works in writing as well as in moving.

 

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be a lot of small stuff. The big stuff is more important. Put the small stuff together, pick one time to deal with it as a whole, and pack it or toss it as needed. Small things can fit inside big things, so they don’t get lost.

 

  • Pack your own area. This refers to my point above. Nobody knows how to pack your things like you do. Does it matter to how Housemate is packing her personal items? No, because they are not mine. The method that works for her may not make sense to me, and vice versa. In short, head down, and eyes on my own paper.

 

  • You need more tape. Doesn’t matter how much tape you have, or think you’ll need. You need more. Those box bottoms need to be secure, unless watching collectible, out of print books cascade down one or more staircases like a paginated waterfall is your idea of fun. If so, then feel free to fold flaps under and leave it like that. For the rest of us, we need more tape, or the bottom will fall out and spill everything. Also, packing tape is going to shred. That is a fact of life. Folding over the end of the strip (I like a forty-five degree angle, to make a triangular pull tab) is, however, a valid workaround.

 

  • You’re done when you’re done. As tempting as it may be to leave piles of junk in one’s wake, that’s not going to fly in moving, or in writing. Everything has to go somewhere, even if that “somewhere” is the trash. Keep, sell, donate, trash; it doesn’t have to go home, but it can’t stay here. Okay, when moving, technically, the stuff is going home, but work with me here. In writing, the story question has to be answered. For romance, this means the lovers need to end up together, and happy about it.  If either one of those isn’t in place by the end of the manuscript, that means the job isn’t done.

 

  • The job will, at one point, be done. There’s nothing for a writer like typing those two magic words, the end. With moving, that translates to bringing those boxes to the new place, wherever that may be, and slicking through the tape, opening the cardboard flaps, and putting everything where it belongs, once again. There’s the moment of saying “okay, that’s everything,” flopping down on the nearest piece of soft furniture, and realizing that one is home now. A different home, to be sure, and, maybe, there will be another move in the future, but moved-in is its own special  satisfaction. It’s also a darned good motivator when surrounded by boxes and dust, one eye on the ticking clock. Every step is one step closer to done.

With that in mind, I think I can handle the ghost town phase.

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Typing With Wet Claws: I Know What Boxes Mean Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This week is a little bit different than other weeks, and here is a reason why.

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I know what this means…

Anty, Uncle, Mama, and I will be moving out of this apartment and into another one. The humans are still working on which one, so I will bring updates when there is news on that front, but, until then, some things are going to be a little bit different until the dust settles. Do not worry; if any of it settles on my fur, I can lick it off. I have a spiky tongue, so it will be pretty easy.

The packing however, according to Anty, is not. Putting books in boxes is probably the easiest, and the hardest, part of packing. On the one paw, books and boxes are very close to the same shape, so they are probably the easiest thing to pack. On the other paw, books are one of Anty’s favorite things, so it is not fun putting them away, and not having them out there. On the other other paw (I am allowed four, because I have four) it is a necessary part of the moving process. The other alternative is to walk away and throw a match over one shoulder. That is called arson, and it is wrong. Do not do arson. On the other other other paw, sorting the books before putting them in boxes is kind of fun, and the ones Anty will not take with her, can go to little free libraries, which are boxes where humans can take or leave books, at no cost. That is nice.

Moving is not nice. Especially not for kitties. We do not like moving. We like to stay in one place, and have things be The Same. I was born wild, then I got hurt and rescued at the same time. Then I moved to the vet (okay, the rescue people moved me) and then to the shelter (rescue people again) and then Mama and Anty found me and I moved to Mama’s old apartment. Then we all moved to this apartment, and all started living together. That is how I fell in love with Uncle. He Is my favorite, and I love him the most.

Anty is okay, too, though. I am sending love beams and supervising while she packs everything from her office, except for the carpet. Anty is not bringing the carpet. That stays here. That means I win.  Anty is starting at the back of the house and moving forward. Uncle and Mama are on their own for their special areas. I was kind of worried about what that means for my areas, because I do not have thumbs, and am too fuzzy to use packing tape safely. It is okay, though. The humans will take care of my area.

In exchange, I have to keep readers apprised of a few things, including where to find Anty’s writing on the intrwebs, except for here, which is where you already are.. First, as always, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, with part three of her series on heroines in romance fiction. What happens when heroines band together? Read the post, find out, and leave your own comment. That post is here, and it looks like this:

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Normally, this would be the part of the post where I tell you about Anty’s Goodreads challenge, but, for the next couple of weeks, that is going on hiatus, as is Anty’s Skye-athalon (the books, not the kitty; she is not packing me, although I will have to go in the carrier on the day we move.) She will pick those up again when we are settled and the books are out of their boxes. Until then, she has her Kindle, so she will not lack for books to read. That is a good thing. Once we are settled, she is going to crash for a week, and she can read more then.

Camp NaNo is still a go, surprisingly enough, because Anty does need an outlet in all this craziness, and writing a couple of pages of first draft is something she can do in little bits of time, pretty much anywhere. While she is packing notebooks, she will pick the notebook for her Camp NaNo story. Then, starting on Sunday, she will write in it. Right now, Anty intends to keep up with the blog posts, but if things get erratic for a while, it is because we are moving, and will settle down again, once we are in place.

When that happens, Anty will be ready to get back to the big work of getting her novels already in progress to their next phases. I, of course, will be providing support and encouragement throughout the entire process, and I will get a new sign-off picture once we are in the new place. Walking down the same hall, to my current room, once the new people are in this apartment would probably not go over well, although I am cute and fuzzy, so who knows? I am an indoor kitty, though, so I will stay in our new place, hence the required new picture. I hope it will be taken on a good tail day.

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

skyebyenew

 

 

Domestic Monsoon Season

This is a tough post to write. It’s also personal, but this is a blog about the writing life, and domestic tornadoes are part of that life. This time, it’s more of a domestic monsoon, which may disrupt the posting schedule for a few weeks. In  two words, we’re moving. This came upon us quickly, so the next couple of weeks are going to be mostly devoted to throwing things in boxes and scouting out new digs. Still a few bugs to figure out the whole process, but, on the other side, there will be a new normal, and I’m actually looking forward to that.

The details, for this blog, aren’t important, but if posting goes a wee bit wonky for a while, that’s why. For me, writing is my happy place, so, even though we are dealing with more than a few question marks (everybody is fine, and we are all together) there’s a surge of MOAR WRITING within my story brain. This seems counterproductive, when there is a lot of adult-ing to be done, but the surge is loud, and insistent, and it won’t turn off, so I’m going with it.

Camp NaNo is still a go (cabins should be assigned soon, yes?) and, since my goal is set in pages, not words (is this a thing with regular NaNo as well? Because that would be amazing.) I can pop a notebook in my bag, even a slender, cahier style book, and be good to go, literally any time or anywhere.  Transcription can happen when the dust settles, and N, at our weekly breakfast, said she thinks I should have an idea for the second book in this village world thing ready to go, in case I get all the way through a half draft of the first one. I appreciate the vote of confidence.  Maybe the cahiers will be one of these beauties:

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Packing the office is kind of a love/hate thing for me. I hate to tear apart my Hobbit hole, but it also gives me a chance to examine, reassess, and make decisions. What’s most important to my writing life? What can carry on to the next phase, and what gets passed along to somebody else? What gets tossed? What needs to go into storage for use another day? What, for that matter, could turn a profit, large or small? Interesting questions, all. I like interesting questions.

Interesting questions usually have equally interesting answers, and, when the monsoon has passed, there will be the clam after the storm, and then, new things will bloom. In June, I will be presenting a workshop, topic to be announced, at Charter Oak Romance Writers. Skye or I will add details as they are finalized, but those in the CT/Western MA area are welcome to save the date for June 2nd.

Appropriately enough, one of the potential topics is a workshop I created, with my contemporary co-writer, Melva Michaelian, called Save the Author, Save the Book. This workshop was born when Melva and I arrived early for a conference workshop, that we hadn’t realized was cancelled. We joked about making our own workshop, and, as we were both dealing with domestic monsoons then, as well, we found our topic easily. Consider it self care for writers, or how to write through stressful times.

There’s nothing like a domestic monsoon to put things in perspective. Novel work may be tricky when juggling metaphorical chain saws in daily life, but getting a few pages of rough-rough draft of a novella in longhand? Totally do-able. Hey, it means new notebook, picking out a pen, and the excitement of beginning a new story. The big projects will still be there when the monsoon has abated, and, perhaps, be even better for the time to marinate.

For some writers, domestic monsoon season is a time for writing, in general, to marinate, and I love that more than one writer friend has reminded me that there is that option, but the desire to write, and to write up to The End, has only intensified since the monsoon began. Is that the way things are “supposed to” go? I have no idea. When domestic monsoon season hits, that’s when a special flavor of Get It Done mode kicks in, so maybe it’s not that unusual that it would carry over into writing, in general.

TLDR: (too long, didn’t read) Deskscapes are going to look different for a while, but writing and blogging and stationery geekery endure.

TheWriterIsOut

Writer’s Bug-out Bag

This morning, I hauled a much-needed load of laundry to our regular laundromat, to find the custodian hard at work, mopping the floors, two people happily chatting in the seating area, and both change machines out of quarters. Well. Although a gentleman I do not personally know offered to take my single dollar bills “to the store” to exchange for quarters, I declined the offer, and, instead, took a few blocks’ stroll to the other laundromat.

Plusses of other laundromat: it is pink, it has an attendant, and more machines, so no waiting. Minuses of the other laundromat: it is a few blocks away, and there is always news or talk shows on the TV, but I have headphones, and an ability to tune out unwanted noises when I want to write. Laundry time makes for good writing time, but, while I am happy to haul Big Pink and my fifty-nine pen case basically across the street while simultaneously juggling a basket full of laundry, the same does not hold when I need to cross the street twice, then take a four block stroll, carrying those same items.

Recently, Real Life Romance Hero received a complimentary small, zippered bag, from an organization to which he belongs. Because he is a man of fine taste and high intelligence, he offered the bag to me first. It should be about the size of Big Pink. Did I want it? Um, yes. Smart man.

While Big Pink does indeed fit in this bag, the pen case would not, buuuut, what if I could bring my absolute essentials with me, have them live in one bag, and so all I would have to do when headed on a laundry excursion of any distance (or park, or coffee house, etc) was grab it and go? Intriguing. Combine that with the required weekly trip to Michael’s, and we have:

 

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the essentials

The purple cover is for my Kindle (pop over three hundred books in my bag when I leave the house? Don’t mind if I do.) and the red cover is a 5×8 Piccadilly Essential. Moleskine, Leuchtrumm, or other books would also work, but I wanted to finish filling this one. The gold pen case (looked rose gold in the store, which is why I picked it over the pink one, but live and learn and always look in natural light) has an elastic that goes over the book, useful since the Piccadilly’s elastic went the way of the dodo some time back.

 

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Innards

 

The paper is ivory (much, much better for my tired eyes than white) and lined, and the pen case is perfectly sized for six Stabilo fineliners, and one Frixion highlighter.

Because I prefer a visual break between brain dump sessions, or between subjects/scenes/insert own unit of demarcation here, I stuffed a small book of washi tape strips and stickers into the back pocket. The facing page has sticky notes, because a book is not truly mine until it has sticky notes sticking out of it. Slip pen case around book, toss in bag, good to go.

 

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extras

The endpapers are my own addition; the book comes with plain ivory, but I couldn’t let that stand. This does not by any means take the place of Big Pink, but, if I am going to be hauling laundry for multiple blocks, or, hopefully seldom, going to the ER, especially in the wee hours, or other spontaneous trips where I want to have writing materials at hand that not only serve the function of something to write on, and something to write with, but feel like me, I’m good with this setup.

Having particular tools at hand isn’t essential, but it doesn’t hurt, either. It’s rather satisfying. If the longhand would transcribe itself, that would be even more convenient, but I am not complaining. The red book is almost full, after several attempts at prior purposes – another format of a commonplace book, my first attempt at making my own planner (it did not go well) and notes for posts for another site. This means that I get to pick out a new book to take its place when I’ve filled the last page…or maybe a not-so-new book.

I like the idea of taking those notebooks that were started, then abandoned, either excising the old, written-on pages, covering them, or merely taping them together in one big block, and giving the book new life. Perhaps it’s all part of the creative process, trying, falling, getting up again. Finding what works. Finding what doesn’t. Right now, this does, so I’m making note.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Mostly Through March Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty and I would like to say hello to our new readers. If you are new, you may not know that I, Skye, who am a kitty, blog for my Anty on Fridays. This is partly to help her out and partly because I take my duties as a mews very seriously. That means that I have to make sure she is doing what she needs to be doing, to get books written, so that she can share them with readers.

First of all, before I am allowed to talk about anything else (though let’s be real, it is mostly Anty’s writing  that I talk about, anyway) I have to tell readers where to find Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week, other than here. If you are reading this, you are already here, and do not need directions. As always, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday (that is the day after I blog, if you need a temporal landmark.) This week, she talked about experienced heroines. That post is here, and it looks like this:

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There is no frame around that picture, because I forgot. Also, I have special paws, and it is not always easy to hit the right keys. Pretend the frame is there, and that is almost the same thing.

Next comes the part where I bring readers up to date on Anty’s Goodreads challenge. Anty’s goal is to read ninety books by the end of the year, and have at least half of those be historical romance. Historical fiction with strong romantic elements also counts. As of this morning, Anty has read nineteen out of ninety books, which puts her at twenty-one percent of the way to her goal, and one book behind schedule. It is the weekend, though, so there is time to get back on track. I will also point out that, out of the top row of Anty’s read books, four out of the five are historical romance, so good job on that.

The book Anty read and reviewed this week, is this one:

 

Anty liked this book very much, and will start on its companion book, Lady ni White, very soon. Probably later tonight, actually. Once Anty is done with her Skye-athalon (he books, not the kitty) she will then embark on a Denise Domning binge. I think I will call that “Domning-nation,” because I like coming up with names for things. It is part of my job as a mews. Unless that is already the name of Miss Denise’s fan club. Then, I would have to think of something else.

Another part of being a mews is to make sure Anty lays the proper groundwork for upcoming projects. As she will be participating in this year’s April Camp NaNo session, she has about a week to get things ready for that. In case anybody was wondering what Anty’s brainstorms about creating a whole village look like, they look pretty much like this:

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Note: work in progress

 

Anty has added a few other things to the page since this picture was taken, including shading in the letters in the word, “village,” because shading letters is a very good way for Anty to procrastinate and still say that she is actually working. We will see how that goes. So far, she has figured out there is a road to the village (always helpful, for trade and expanding the gene pool, among other things) and some houses (I am highly in favor of living inside) and some natural things, like trees and water and maybe some mountains. She is not sure about the mountains yet.

That is okay, because this is not a story about mountains. Anty has not said, yet, if there are any cats in this book, but it does take place in a village where a lot of people work in grain fields, which means grain gets stored somewhere, which means mice and rats want to eat the grain, which means the humans do not want the mice and rats to eat the grain, so that means cats. If Anty needs a mice-catching consultant, I am ready to fill that role. I think that she might, because a new mousie game was on the glowy box today, and I tried it, and I did So Good that I got head scritches. I know whereof I speak.

In other news, I think one of the reasons Anty only finished one book this week (besides that it is a big book, over five hundred pages, but Anty considers that a good thing) is that Anty discovered a storytelling game on her phone, called Choices: Stories You Play, and she has been playing that kind of a lot. It is a fun game, and many of the stories are romances, or have romances (or chances for romance) in the, but they do not count toward her reading challenge.

That is kind of unfortunate, because Anty likes them a lot, but they also do another thing. They help her with plotting this new story, because, at several points in the game stories, there is a choice that the point of view character must make, and that will change certain things about the story. Sometimes, it is big, like which human the character would like to have as their mate, or it is sometimes something seemingly small, like what clothes to wear, but or where to sit, but they do turn out to be important later. in fight scenes, there are choices to dodge, or attack, or hide (I would probably always pick hide, because I am super good at hiding. Lie super, super good, as long as I remember to tuck in my tail.) These choices remind Anty that, when she is not sure what a character should do next, think of three possible things they could do, and then pick one. Maybe she will change it later, but, for a rough draft, what is important is to keep moving forward. In that, it is like when I lead her to my dish. Keep moving toward the goal, and good things await at the end.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

210318typepad

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

TheWriterIsOut

Fifty-Nine

That’s how many pens I now carry with me on a daily basis. Fifty-nine pens. No, you may not borrow one. I probably need to keep a couple of decoy pens on hand for when the question inevitably arises. It always does. Real Life Romance Hero knows to come to me first when it comes to office supplies, before heading to Staples or Office Max. He knows well enough not to ask, “do you have an X?” but “do you have a spare X?” Smart man. For those wondering if this is a post about pens, the answer is: partly.

To give some context, this is the latest addition to my daily carry:

01pencasecover

 

The first time I saw it, I thought it was a planner. Easy mistake. It was in with a bunch of planners, the only pen case of its kind in the entire display. It even had a bunch of assorted gel pens already inside, in case the rows of pink elastic loops inside were not indicator enough. Three compartments. Ten loops on each side of each compartment. I did some quick math. If I played my cards right, I could carry sixty pens with me, every single day. Um, yes, please. Sixty pens, literally wrapped in motivational soundbytes? Double yes, please. Triple yes, please, because it coordinates with Big Pink.

Immediately, my mind swam. Sixty pens, yes, but what sixty pens? That’s the important question. Pencils? No, not in here. I love the pale pink interior too much. Pencil smudges would be a distraction. Pens, then. Also highlighters. Ooh. I have that set of pastel highlighters that has been, so far, hiding in a pouch, along with some fineliners. The workhorse pens, the ones I reach for the most, those could go in there, too, but what about the rest of the spaces?

01pencaseworkhorse

There were a lot of attempts at filling those slots before I finally figured out that the highlighters were more substantial than regular pens, and an empty loop is not going to be the end of the world. Originally, the highlighters and workhorse pens were going to be on the side where the Stabilo fineliners (yellow barrels and colorful caps) now sit, because it took me a while to decide what had to go where.

Not what I wanted to go where; there’s a difference. My initial idea was that all twenty slots in the first compartment would be for workhorse pens/highlighters, the second for a set of markers, and the third would be my special pens that people who are not me better not even think about borrowing. The problem there was that I do not have twenty workhorse pens/highlighters. I’m not using bright highlighters right now, and I very rarely use ballpoints. (Purple Hannah Howell promo9tional pen, excepted) and I like to have pens next to each other look like they belong together.

The markers were the easy part. I had twenty Crayola Supertips, and twenty spaces in each compartment. Bam. Not too difficult at all.

01pencasecrayola

(Mostly) rainbow order, like with like, as my mother would say (that phrase drove me bonkers when I was a kiddo, but I now see its use) and everything where I need it. This is a color coder’s dream. Never mind that I had to move everything over into the third compartment a few minutes later.

Part of that was because A) I didn’t want to carry twenty of my favorite pens around where anything could happen to them, and B) I counted my Stabilo fineliners, sitting next to my desk, in their original packaging, which I love, but rarely use (the pens, not the packaging, though that, too.) There are thirty of them. Hm. If I moved a few things around, I could have thirty spaces available, and then I could have them with me, literally all the time.  Cue image of me shuffling pens around (also of dropping package of fineliners between chair and wall, then crawling around, searching for them, and counting to make sure they’re all there) and then slipping thirty pens into thirty slots.

01pencasestabilo

“Um, Anna,” I hear some of you saying, “this post is literally all about pens. Or pen cases. Kind of a niche. That stationery blog might be something to think about, mkay?” I hear you, and I get it. Thing is, getting these pens in order, while simultaneously gearing up for Camp NaNo helped me notice that organizing writing implements and organizing writing have more than a few things in common.

What’s most important to me? What do I want to carry with me on a daily basis? Does it all flow together in a way that feels comfortable to navigate? Does what I want to fit in this space, actually fit in this space? Exactly what do I need to accomplish what I want to accomplish? Do I know how I want to use what I already have? Do I need anything that I do not currently have, and, if so, how and when do I intend to obtain it?

This case is for pens, and pens only (I count markers as pens.) I also love pencils, but those go in pencil cases, not a pen case. I also love sticky notes, but there’s no place for sticky notes in this case. No place for gummi bears, either,  no matter how much I love them, so stuffing them in there would make no sense (and result in gross pen case and potentially inedible gummi bears; nobody wants that.) Maybe this is merely an excuse for me to play with  art/office supplies, but maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s all part of getting closer to being the writer I want to be.

Typing With Wet Claws: Pre-Skye-athalon Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the wind is blowing, and I am cute. Anty’s online workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys, is winding to a close, although Anty could probably keep on going. She loves this sort of thing, and hopes to be able to offer the workshop again, soon. Next time, she will probably present it over a longer period of time, because two weeks goes a lot faster than one would think it might. Anty likes teaching these workshops, because it is fun to see ideas develop and learn more about what other people find inspiring. Personally, I like sunbeams, birdie sounds, and treats. Also Uncle. He is my favorite, and I love him the most.

One of the rules of this blog is that I am not allowed to talk about anything else (which is usually Anty’s writing, anyway) until I have brought readers up to date on where they can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, besides here. People who are already here, do not need to know how to get here, because they are already here.

As usual, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This time, she talked about virgin heroines. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURvirginheroines

Now is when I bring readers up to date on Anty’s Goodreads reading challenge.  As of today, Anty has read eighteen out of ninety books this year, which brings her to twenty percent of the way to her goal. Seven of those books are historical romance, historical fiction with romantic elements, or time travel romance, with action in the historical timeline.  Anty has started a historical fiction board at Goodreads. I will put a link in another post, when Anty has had a chance to put more books on that shelf.

The book Anty read and reviewed this week, is The Queen’s Lady, by Barbara Kyle. This was Anty’s first book by Miss Barbara, but it will not be her last. Miss Barbara’s Thornleigh saga is part of Anty’s so-called short list of twenty-seven books to read in the near future. This is not a historical romance, but historical fiction with romantic elements, but it is does have a strong heroine at the center of the story, and the action moves from England to Germany and other places, and it is based in the history of the time, which is one thing Anty very much likes in her historical romance and fiction. That review is here, and it looks like this:

GRKylethequeenslady

Now that Anty is done with this book, she is now free to start what she wanted to call her O’Malley-a-thon. I am renaming it the Skye-athalon, for obvious reasons. Anty picked out my name, because the first book in that series, Skye O’Malley, is her favorite historical romance. It also starts a series that is really two series, that are really one series. It is kind of complicated for a kitty to explain, but the books are by Bertrice Small who is also the first historical romance author Anty ever read. Anty does not have inside information on these books, but they are favorites of hers, and taking notes on her rereads of them will help her get a better handle on what she likes in a historical romance, and how she can bring her own work to the next level. When she is done with her Skye-athalon, then she will do the same thing with other books, by other writers.

I do not know how much of that Anty will want to share here, but, knowing Anty, she will say at least something. Anty will use her Hipster Kitty notebook to take her notes, and I will use its picture to indicate where updates on the Skye-athalon will be.

1902hipsterkitty

I think this is possibly the best notebook Anty has ever had, because it has a kitty on it, and because that kitty is stripey, like me, so it will remind her of me, and that I need treats and pets and for her to sing me my special song. If that doesn’t work, I will sit directly behind her and chirp until she turns around and looks at me. I could do that all night. Sometimes, I do.

Today, I need to be especially attentive to my mews duties, as Anty has a lot of writing to do. She did some outlining of A Moment Past Midnight, her Camp NaNo project. I will be keeping tabs on how Anty is doing, and report on that each week during Camp. Anty also gets to write her Buried Under Romance post, and then post to her workshop, because it is almost over. She may need some extra slow blinks to deal with that last one. Thankfully, I am the kitty for that job.

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

skyebye2018

 

A Moment Past Midnight (probably)

Yesterday, I had my weekly breakfast with N, at our local Panera. Coffee for her, tea for me, each with our breakfast item of choice. Asiago cheese bagel, with butter, for me, this week, and I have learned that holding the foil cover of the butter packets against the side of the paper cup that holds my tea melts the near-frozen butter much better than tromping over to the microwave beneath the coffee urns. This is not a post about Panera, I promise. (Unless they’d like to make me a spokesperson, in which case I am listening, and being paid in bagels is a viable option.)

The first part of our time together is always for getting current on the other’s life over the past week; domestic tornado management, how real life romance heroes and feline companions are doing, etc. There’s a transition period of geeking out over pens and notebooks, especially if one or both of us have acquired a new toy since we saw each other last. There is the obligatory petting of notebooks, trying out of any new pens, highlighters, or other mark-making implements, and then the talk turns to writing.

Though we both write in different genres -contemporary romance and paranormal YA, as well as general fiction for her; historical and contemporary romance for me- we’re both juggling multiple projects, and both want to increase our productivity this year. We know how to write books. What we need to do is write more books, closer together. This is one of the reasons I’m doing Camp NaNo this April. The other reason is that I accidentally signed myself up for this. The other-other reason is that I need a win, and, since I can set my own goal, I should have a fighting chance.

Yesterday, I gave N the bare bones of my idea for my Camp NaNo project, which I am calling A Moment Past Midnight. I did debate calling it Untitled Hogmanay Story, but that is probably one of the least romantic working titles for a historical romance, ever, at least that I, personally, have almost used. Nobody has any names yet; I am still in the phase of calling them Hero, Heroine, Heroine’s Parent, That Guy, etc. I’ve done some cursory looking around at various name resources, but no names have stuck yet. I fully expect that at least the principal players will tell me what their names are, before I start actually writing. Since this will start on April first, they get one day to tell me they’re joking, and provide actual names, or I’m picking for them. Nobody has faces yet, either, but that’s not important at this stage of the game. I have other projects that need my attention, so I can’t spend too long on one thing. When I do that, I get too far into my own head, and there comes a point when the weeds choke the flowers out of the garden, so to speak. I’m done with that.

Today, I woke to this:

Snowscape140318

Don’t ask me how long I stood there, head under the blinds, staring out at All That Whtie, but that is a lot of snow. The snow on the actual power lines did give me some pause, but where my eye went, naturally, was all the fluffy white stuff on the bare tree branches, the railing of the balcony on the house next door, the roof of the building across the street. There is every possibility that there will be shoveling today, but this looks like the soft, floofy kind of snow, so it should be possible to move it without back injury, and, besides, this stuff is flat out gorgeous.

I can’t look at a snowfall like this without thinking of that snowy night Real Life Romance Hero and I bailed on our plans, and I navigated unfamiliar, hilly territory in stiletto heels, while a whole world put itself together inside my head. I don’t know if  this new story will have any snow in it, because I’ll have to dig around and see what the weather actually was like in the general area where I put my fictional village, in the year when the story takes place (once I figure out what year that is) before I deal with any weather related ramifications, but that will come, in time.

The world of Her Last First Kiss is sliding into early spring at present, and I’ve skipped ahead a bit to when spring is in full flower. That’s a bit different inside my head than what’s outside my window, but I’m not complaining. My mind compartmentalizes that kind of thing fairly easily. For these people, it’s spring, and Ruby’s hero does blow into her life on a cold March wind, so rather timely on that one.

The calendar says really real world spring is right around the corner, so I’m going to bask in this snow while I can. Maybe, if I meet my writing goals for the day, I can byndle myself in knitted layers and waterproof boots and go out to tromp through the white stuff. The park near our house is beyond gorgeous with this kind of snowfall, so it may happen. Even if it doesn’t, I want to harness the feeling of that night with stilettoes in the snow, that feeling that anything is possible, and the rules of how things “ought” to be are, for the time being, suspended. That’s where some of the best stuff comes from, after all.