Nobody Likes a Naked Panelist

Let me qualify that; there probably are some people who would appreciate nude presenters at a conference, but A) I’m not going to  that kind of conference, and B) most of those who will be attending the workshop I’m co-presenting would prefer said nude presenter to have body parts I do not, if nude presenters were a thing, which, to the best of my knowledge, they are not. Plus there’s the problem of chilly conference rooms, so clothing is indeed in order.

The question, then, is what sort of clothing? This year, for the first time, people will be looking specifically at me for the better part of an hour. Thankfully, I have my lovely and talented co-presenters, each with their unique personal style, to share the vision, as it were, so anybody who shows will not be looking, specifically, only at me. That takes some of the pressure off, but the fact remains that dressing for this particular conference is different from years prior. This year, I am going not only as a writer, not only to network with my peers, not only to sit across a small table from a publishing industry professional and convince them why they might like to give me and my writing partner monies for the adventures of our imaginary friends (and, if the “do you have anything else?” question comes into play, my individual imaginary friends as well) but sitting/standing/walking in front of people who have chosen to learn about blogging, over the other workshops that are being presented at the same time.

So, clothes. In some aspects, men have it easier. In a word, suits. I’m sure there are gentlemen out there (or some dapper ladies) who can school me on the complexities of suit wearing, but, in broadest terms, suit, shirt, tie, shoes, done. Basic equation, which, at eight days before conference time, has me thinking the guys might have things easier in this regard. The clock is ticking, and writing schedule and other obligations mean that shopping is not going to be a much or an option, which means I’m going to have to work out of my closet, which is, to put things bluntly, in flux.

A few years back, I culled most colors out of my closet, because it felt too jumbly, to look in there and have to think of what went with what. I’m visual. I love color theory.  That wasn’t the issue. What bothered me was that those colors didn’t feel like me, so out they went. Immediately, I felt more settled. Calmer. Me-er. What’s left now is mostly black, gray, and white, a little navy, and occasional shots of red or purple. Almost everything goes with almost everything (do not ask me to mix black and navy, because that is not going to happen.) This should make things easier.

It doesn’t always. Neutrals provide a blank canvas for accessories, which are also in flux at the moment. Most days, I wear at least one piece of jewelry with a skull on it, sometimes more. I don’t know where the skull thing started, but A) I like skulls, and B) we all have one; for me, it’s a symbol of humanity.  I also love heels. Housemate is convinced I walk better in heels, and trip more often when wearing flats. She’s not wrong. I once fell down two fights of stairs when the heel of my flats caught on the edge of a tile. This was back in college, and I landed at the feet of two nursing students, which I thought convenient. (I was fine.) I am going to take a wild guess and suspect that I am not going to want to repeat that experience. So, heels. but which heels will depend upon which actual clothing items come with me, and, as of now, I have no idea.

Writing, domestic duties, and other obligations have meant schedule hopscotch this week, which left no time for going through the closet and making a proper, informed selection. While Housemate is happy to decide what she’s going to pack about five minutes before she has to be out the door, that doesn’t work for me. I’m a planner. I want to know in advance, preferably well in advance, and, preferably, have a backup plan, in case something (like a two-staircase tumble) goes wrong with the original. This makes me itchy. It also lets me know what I need to feel confident, which, as it would turn out, is the most essential thing I can wear to a professional gathering.

At some point, something in my head will click, and I’ll know what’s for Friday day, what’s for Friday night, and what I want to be wearing from very early Saturday to very late Saturday/possibly early Sunday. What I need to keep in mind is that I know this stuff. I have two smart, entertaining, stylish women to share the spotlight, and more people are likely to look at the Power Point presentation than what the presenters are wearing. It’s a workshop, not a fashion show. What’s most important is to be confident and comfortable.

Blogging, I can do. Talking, I can do.  Telling stories, I can do. Talking about stories, I can do. Sitting up half the night in the hotel lobby, talking with other writers about what we’re writing, what we’re reading, and the workshops we’ve attended, or, this year, presented, I can definitely do.  At some point, things will click, and I’ll know what to wear, what to pack, and, in the end, what most people will take away from the presentation is the content, not the appearances of those presenting it. Thinking about it, though? That’s all part of the process.


Fair Day, and Another Blog Begun

Right now, I have a deep, burning, urgent need to read Fair Day and Another Step Begun, and I Would Go Barefoot All Summer For You, two long-out-of-print YA novels by Katie Letcher Lyle. This is not want. This is need, like these books are a part of my writer self that I did not know were missing, until something, likely falling down a YA rabbit hole on Goodreads, jogged my memory. I’d read Fair Day when I was in junior high, and fell wildly in love with the exquisite use of language, how a story set in then-contemporary 1970s America could have the feel of a time and place long ago and faraway. I did not read Barefoot, and I think I may, at the time, have scoffed at the title, but that only means I was not ready for that book then. I am, now.

Both books have their roots in medieval ballads, Fair Day a direct contemporary (for 1970s) retelling of the centuries-old ballad, Child Waters. I don’t know how these books came back to my attention, but, right now, it hurts that I don’t have them, which is a clear signal that there is something in them that I need. Neither book is in the library system, though two nonfiction books on plants by the same author are. Not quite the same, so the search continues. Ebay or Amazon it is, unless I strike gold at the local UBS, which is probably a longshot, but still going to try.

My memories of Fair Day are hazy, but I remember, while reading that book in the second floor study hall (if I remember physically where I was at the time I read something, it’s a sure sign it has become part of my idea soup) how it felt both modern and ancient at the same time, in a sort of world set apart. I love that kind of thing. Give me a pop singer backed by a symphony orchestra, or modern music played as though it were from centuries before, and I am going to play it until somebody’s ears bleed. This is one reason why my family knows that it is a good idea to keep me well supplied with backup earbuds at all times. There is no such thing as playing a song on repeat too many times if it has something to say to my storybrain.

It’s the same with books. If there is something about a book that gives me that “Yes. That.” feeling, then I have to have it, hold it, touch it, smell it, stare at the covers, flip through the pages, until it becomes a part of me. Once it’s in, it doesn’t come out. Well, it does, as something from it will find its way into a story or character or idea, and it will be reproduced, but the original inspiration stays put, ready for me to draw from it again, as needed, in near or far future.


Why this/these book(s) now? I don’t know, but I have learned not to question it. Sure, the cover does have a vague sort of historical romancey feel, if one looks in the right light. I don’t remember if Ellen and her child’s father end up together, and I don’t want to know until I (re)read, so I don’t know if this a romance. I don’t want to know. The heroine in the foreground, the man on horseback in the distance, the dirt road between them, her long, loose hair, her oversized coat, the bare trees reaching to the cloudy sky, the lyrical title, the memory of how the school library was often my sanctuary when life got rough. I remember the bite of cold air on my skin. I remember falling down and getting  up and going onward, onward, onward, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

I did not read Barefoot, but, when I read “Toby Bright is coming,” said Aunt Rose, my storybrain quickened. Yes. That. Shut up and take my money. I need this book. Don’t need to know another thing about it, and, in fact, don’t want to know. Given that the heroine is thirteen, I don’t think this is a romance. I think it’s what those old-timey people in centuries past would call “calf love,” and I am fine with that.

Maybe I’m entering the magpie stage for whatever comes next, acquiring bricks for a house I have yet to design, much less build. As of this week, I am six chapters and change into the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, and there’s a new Melva chapter from the Beach Ball sitting in my in-box, which means I need to send her one back. There needs to be a What Next putting itself together on the back burner, because I am going to come to The End on both of these projects, and I do not want to blink into the abyss.

So, yes, medieval ballads. Check. Soak in the exquisite marriage of language and emotion until I am drunk on it. Check. Emotional afterglow that is still with me I’m not going to say how many decades later. Yes. This. This is what I want to take in. This is what I want to put out. Titles that feel like music. Lyrical prose. Characters who let me feel each beat of their heart as though it were my own. I want to read that. I want to write that.

For now, I can stare at the covers and pick apart the design elements, maybe mess around with paint and ink on paper of my own, to see what comes about, either to come up with something similar, or figure out how the original artist did it. Note what music feels the rightest while I do, and see what imaginary friends poke through the fog in the process. The journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with a single step. Maybe this is one of those. Only one way to find out.













































































































































































































































































Typing With Wet Nails: Conference Countdown Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. There is a lot to talk about this week, so we’ll get Anty’s writing stuff out of the way. (Strictly speaking, it is all Anty’s writing stuff, but I mean the places you can read her or about her on the interweb this week.)

First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance last week, talking about cabin and road romances. You can find that post here, and the link on the main page looks like this:


Anty’s Goodreads challenge is here, and, this week, it looks like this.:


As you can see, Anty has read fifteen out of ninety books, putting her five books behind schedule. Anty does not like being behind schedule, so she is working on that. It is not always easy, when she has things she needs to finish writing by certain times, and there is the conference coming in a little over two weeks. Today is the twenty-fourth of March, next week is the thirty-first, and the week after that, it is conference time. (That high pitched panicked sound you hear is Anty screaming and running in circles. Do not worry, though; she will get better.) Even so, she finished reading The Viscount Needs a Wife, by Jo Beverley. Her review of that is here, and it looks like this:


There is one more thing regarding Anty on Goodreads this week, and that is very exciting. Anty SueAnn read one of Anty’s books, and she liked it very much, enough to give it a five star review. Five star reviews make writers very, very, very happy. That goes for all writers, not only Anty, so please leave reviews when you can, for any writer. Anty may or may not be considering recruiting Anty SueAnn to write blurbs for her in the future.That review is here, and it looks like this:


Okay, I think that is it on where you can read Anty or about Anty this week. She has had some interesting comments, from other writers, including those on Anty’s keeper shelves,  to her Ramblings of a Temporal Vagabond posts, which are here and here. Anty is probably (okay, definitely) not done talking about different eras in historical romance, and why broadening that playing field is a good thing, especially because the conference is coming, and she will have more to say after talking to other writers. She hopes that includes Alyssa Cole, who will be co-presenting the workshop Anty cannot attend because she will be co-presenting “Blogging Isn’t Dead” at exactly the same time, but in a different room. If you go to Anty’s workshop, and she says she needs to use the people litterbox, she is really trying to sneak into Miss Alyssa’s workshop, and you should block the doorway so she cannot leave. Until the workshop is over. After that, it is illegal to restrict her movements, so please do not try once the workshop is concluded. Distracting her with stationery or gummi bears would probably work, too.

Anty, Miss Rhonda,. and Miss Corinna have been talking a lot on email, so that they will be ready to give the best workshop they possibly can. I am very happy to confirm that one of the slides does, in fact, include me. I also saw the word, “pets,” on another slide, so I think they have their priorities straight. That will still not make me happy about Anty and my Mama going away overnight (Uncle will stay home with me, although he has to go out and hunt -humans call it “work”- for part of the evening, but he will come home smelling like cheese, so I can look forward to that) but at least I know that the importance of cats in the blogosphere will be represented.

Anty has several things to do to get ready for the conference. She has to get her pitch together for her pitch appointment, for one thing. For the last couple of years, she has not had a pitch session, but this year, she does. She feels a little rusty, but she is also excited because she loves pitching. It is the writer version of auditioning, which was one of her favorite parts of her theater experiences in college. She will have eight minutes with a publishing human, who is paying attention only to her, and already loves the kinds of books Anty loves to write, and wants to buy new ones. Well. Anty may be able to help her out on that one. We will see.

There are other things Anty needs to do before she can head off to the conference, and they are also important. Since the conference is not providing breakfast, Anty’s favorite meal, she needs to find where she is going to find that, and find out who is going to have it with her. If you are reading this and you are going, you are invited.

Anty also has to figure out what she is going to wear to the conference. Most likely, it will be black, because that is her favorite color, and she has a lot of black things already. I am not too concerned with the color. I am a tabby cat, which means my fur is stripey, and, with my creamy undercoat, I can shed on pretty much anything and have my fur show to best advantage. It is a gift. My humans never have to worry about other humans (or pets) knowing they have me, because my fur will be right there.

Because it is this close to conference time, and Anty has more than one thing that has to be written by a certain time, it is also the time of year when Anty loses track of what day it is in the really real world, despite her calendars (yes, plural.) Earlier this week, she had to ask a friend if she was at a place on the right day, because she had forgotten there would be food there, and there was food there, so maybe it was the wrong day? Her friend has people kittens, so she understands losing track of things like this when one’s brain is taken by other matters. As it turns out, Anty was there on the right day, but things like this are going to happen until things are all the way written and the conference is done.

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




Ramblings of a Temporal Vagabond, Part Two

Back when I first started reading (and thinking about writing) historical romance, the world was a larger place. A writer might write a western historical romance in one book, then pirates for the next, then a medieval, then an Australian historical, then Ancient Rome, then Gilded Age New York, and the first question in their head when it came time to start the next book might be what period or setting did they want to spend the next year of their lives immersed in this time. Fast forward to now. It’s not like that anymore, and I am not okay with that.

This is a harder post to write, maybe because it’s two days later, and I’m not in the white-hot rush of reading the posts that spoke strongly to my romance writing heart. Maybe I fell down a rabbit hole of reading the comments on the Smart Bitches post. Maybe my brain is still, at least, in part, churning on the Beach Ball and N’s notes from yesterday’s crit session on Her Last First Kiss, because there’s something there that’s not right (on my part, and she agrees) or maybe I need lunch. Whatever it is, I’m not done ranting on the issue of setting in historical romance. Is this the metaphorical hill I want to die on? Right now, yes.


Okay, I have had lunch, read this post on Romance Novels for Feminists, and come (mostly) to terms with the fact that the workshop I am co-presenting at NECRWA this year is, in fact, opposite the workshop on writing historical romance outside of the Regency. :shifty eyes: Were I the sort to buy into conspiracy theories, I might think there was something going on there. Is it offensive if I use the terms “Regency” and “mafia” in the same sentence, with no other words between them? Sometimes, it feels that way.

Back when RT Book Reviews had a paper issue, which I dearly miss, I would go straight to the historical romance reviews, and note the settings for all new releases that month. Regency, by far, had the most representation, and, more broadly, the nineteenth century, but my attention always went first to the settings that were not in century nineteen, or if they were, had settings that sparked my interest because they were unusual, not in spite of it. Medieval? Golden Age of Piracy? Court of the Sun King? Bring. It. On. I love that stuff. Like crazy, twirl around in fields of daisies love it. Twirl around in fields of daisies until I fall on my back and the sky spins, spins, spins above me and my legs are jelly and my arms tingle and my lungs burn and all’s right with the world.

The big question for me, is: are we, in fact, caught in some sort of single-period whirlpool, forever and ever, no use fighting the current, so crouch down, tall poppies? Hush, child. I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a lost cause for those of us who love other places and times, but cracking the code, that may be a challenge. There’s art and there’s commerce. They intersect somewhere. That’s one of the big reasons I was super excited to see this workshop at NECRWA. If I could have designed any workshop in the whole entire world (apart from the one I am actually co-presenting, that is, and even then, Corinna Lawson originated the concept) that would be the one: how to write historical romance outside the Regency in today’s market. Because “back then” is not “now,” and “now” is a whole different world. Maybe part of it is because I had a lengthy intermission from first four releases, but even then, my preferred periods were outliers, and time hasn’t changed that.

Right now, I’m focusing on the eighteenth century, a wee bit before Regency, yet still close enough that there’s some bleedover (as there is with Victorian, which comes after, but I was, alas, born without the Victorian gene as well.) and I’m happy there.  Still, I know myself. I’m going to get itchy feet. I want to write Restoration again (Orphans in the Storm takes place mostly during the end of the English Civil War, so the last bit is technically Restoration) and Tudor/Elizabethan, and colonial, and Gilded Age and wherever my imaginary friends want to take me.

The workshop would have been lovely. One of the presenters, Alyssa Cole, will be participating in the literacy book signing. I’ll stop by her table, buy one of her books, and hopefully get a discussion going. Missing out on this workshop hurts because the subject is important to me. Cinderella, yes, we need Cinderella. We need Clever Griselda and Lord Eagle Beak and Donkeyskin, too. Even back then, I was drawn to a different sort of fairytale. Maybe that’s a part of they key. We’ll find out, one step at a time.



Rumblings of a Temporal Vagabond, part one

Okay. Deep breath. This is one of those days where I stare down the packed to-do list and charge. This past weekend, I came across a post by Isobel Carr, on Risky Regencies, called “Some Possibly Unpopular Thoughts.” My ears immediately pricked. Might this post be referencing the other post, on Smart Bitches, Trashy books? Oh, yes, it did. Oh, good. After a week stuck in the house with my beloved family, a stomach bug, and back pain, I needed something to latch all my frayed nerves onto, and this has been a bee in my bonnet for some time, so here we go.

I don’t get why, with historical romance, if we’re defining it as “anything before living memory,” which, for the sake of argument, let’s say predates WWII, it can seem a Herculean effort to sell a book set outside of one particular era, in one particular locale: Regency England. Strictly technically speaking, we’re talking 1811-1820, when King George III was unfit to rule, and his son, who would eventually be known as King George IV, ruled in his stead, as Prince Regent. Regency = during the rule of a regent. Easy enough. More broadly, the term, “Regency Era,” can apply to 1795-1837, ending with the ascencion of Queen Victoria, for more of a zeitgeist approach. For the smaller definition, we are talking a span of nine years. For the larger, forty-two years. Bit more breathing room there, even room for a generation or two to pass. All well and good there, but for those of us who write (and read) stories set outside of this era, it can be rough going at times, and yeah, my dander is up on this one right now.

There’s art and there’s commerce. There’s the book of the heart and there’s the book that sells. Right now, Regency is what’s selling. Especially Regency with Dukes. I get the desire for some fantasy in historical romance (not the elves and faeries sort) but there are also the times when my blood carbonates with the need to poke at whether it is that specific historical period and that specific rank of the peerage that seems to have a stranglehold on the market at the moment (and for more than a few preceding moments.) All the why, why, whys mosh around my brainpan, because that’s what I don’t get.

Before my life took a hard turn into caregiving, and a huge shift in the family structure, I had four historical romances published. My Outcast Heart was set in 1720 New York, with a subsistence farmer heroine and a hermit hero. Never Too Late was set in 1900 England and Italy, the heroine fifty years old when she set out to reclaim the love of a lifetime. Queen of the Ocean, set in sixteenth century Cornwall, and had a Spanish hero. Orphans in the Storm was my English Civil War novel, set on the Isle of Man, and the English Court in Exile, in the Netherlands. (Hey, I had royalty in that one. Impoverished, exiled royalty, but royalty. It’s okay. The monarchy got better.) Those were all settings I loved, that came organically with the stories that I wanted to tell, the ones that were real and alive in my head. I still love them all to this day, and those years when writing was all but (and sometimes outright) impossible didn’t change my love for a variety of historical settings . Call me a temporal vagabond.

When the writing came back, and maybe even before, that had not changed. I had to set aside a time travel I dearly loved, and needed to start something new, something smaller in scope, something I knew I could get from point A to point B. Aha. Road story. I could do one of those. Then I read the then-newest issue of the dearly departed RT Book Reviews, which had two articles, one on medieval romances, and one on post-apocalyptic romances, and my writerbrain perked. Aha! Post-apocalyptic medieval! Yes! I can do that! What would seem like an apocalypse for the medieval world? Black Plague? That, I could do, so that’s what I did.

I wrote the story of a disillusioned knight errant and a woman who refused to believe the end of the world was, well, the end of the world, who offered him the one thing he couldn’t refuse (apple seeds; it works in context.) They meet early on, they’re together the whole darned time, and I literally cried when I had to say goodbye to them at the end. Then I tried to sell it. The last agent I pitched to said she loved my voice, quoted some of my own passages back to me, and said she would totally read this story for pleasure, but was not going to ask for the full, because she could not sell a medieval. Cue sad trombone slide.

This agent advised me that my options were to trunk the story for now and hold onto it until the market changes, and medieval come back into fashion, or self/indie publish. She asked what else I had, and I mentioned I was writing a Regency. Great. Send her that when it was finished. Seriously. No question about plot or characters; just send it. I wish I could say that buoyed my spirits, I ran home, finished it, sent it in, and here’s the cover reveal, but that’s not what happened.

What happened was that characters and a story I loved turned into torture, frustration, sobbing to Critique Partner Vicki, who finally smacked me upside the head with a bat’leth of four words: “you hate writing Regency.” But it had to be Regency! That’s what sells! She didn’t budge. I didn’t have Regency in me. Set the story aside, along with the time travel, until the bad juju burns off, set it in another era, and try again.

Her Last First Kiss came complete with its setting, and, when Melva and I needed a historical period for the book within a book for the Beach Ball, I suggested Georgian, because hey, I was there already, and I knew I’d be doing a lot of the historical heavy lifting on this one. Both times, the setting was organic, not even a question. I/we didn’t pick; they picked us.

Done with blog time for today, not done with the topic, so calling this part one. See you Wednesday; let’s chat in the comments. :jaunty wave:

Typing With Wet Claws: Digging Out Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Today, you get a greatest hits picture of me (but with a new frame) because Anty does not feel like getting on the floor to get a good new picture. As some of you know, we live in New York, which got a lot of snow this week. I mean a lot. Like three mes high. Even for someone like Anty, who loves snow, that is more than a bit much. She has an ouchy back from all that shoveling, to clear our sidewalk and help get Mama’s car out of the way when it was on the wrong side of the street. Mama thanked Anty by sharing her stomach bug, which does not look at all fun. Good thing she has me to take care of her.

Before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about Anty’s writing, and, this week, there are a few things to cover, so let’s get to it. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, where she talked about spring fancies. I will give you a hint; she does not mean only thing one likes in spring, but things that one likes in any romance novel. That post is here and it looks like this:


Anty did do some reading this week, and even managed to write a review, of Judith Ivory’s Beast. You can read that review here, and her reading challenge page now looks like this:



This week, I am also able to share where people have been talking about Anty, which is very exciting. First, Anty SueAnn read one of Anty’s books, Never Too Late, which looks like this:


and liked it very much, so she did a very nice thing and wrote a review, which is here. Anty SueAnn is pretty good at this kind of thing, which is no surprise, because she is a writer, too.

The big thing that made Anty very happy this week was from the NECRWA conference, where Anty will be co-presenting “Blogging Isn’t Dead: How To Write Non-Fiction That Can Help Your Career.” It is only a couple of weeks away, now, which means it is very, very close. Imagine Anty’s surprise when she saw an ad for the conference early this week, and it was all about her. That has never happened before. Maybe that is because Anty has never spoken (as in officially; she talks a lot, all the time) at a conference before. That picture is on Facebook here, and it looks like this:


Okay, I think that is everything about where Anty is on the web this week (besides here, that is.) Now I can talk about other things, like the storm. Even though Anty loves snow, this was too much. The night of the big snow, I wanted to be near Anty, but she has that carpet that I hate, so I sat right outside her door and we had a conversation pretty much all night, that went like this:

Me: :Chirple:

Anty: I love you, baby.

Me: :Chirple:

Anty: I know, you don’t like the wind.

Me: :Chirple:

Anty:  I know, big storms are scary for little kitties.

And so on. Anty says I would be closest to her if I would let her pick me up, but I do not like to be picked up. I was born wild, so I missed that whole cuddling class most kittens who are born pets get, so they know cuddling is a good thing. I prefer to be near. Sometimes, really near. If Anty sits on the stool (or really, any of my humans) in the kitchen, I will sneak up and sit on her feet. Usually she does not notice me, so it is a big surprise for both of us when she moves, and a stripey ball of fuzz (that would be me) races out of the room. Then I come right back, because I like to be near her. That is what a good mews does.

Right now, Anty’s back is happiest when she is lying down, so that means I will be near her recliner or her bed today. I am sure she will feel better very soon, but she does not like this “rest” thing. It feels like wasting time, when she would rather be writing. Maybe she can use some of her time to get current on that reading challenge. I think that would be productive, and she can do it from recliner or bed. Either way, I will be there for her, sending out love beams, and, if she feels like feeding a kitty, I will make that easy for her, because I am one, and I am right there.

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




Morning Pages Have Broken

Okay, not actually broken. More like adjusted, but we’ll get to that. Lots of pictures for this entry. You have been warned.

This morning, I headed outside at six in the morning, to shovel the sidewalk in front of our house. This is what I saw:


Good Morning, Albany.

This morning, I filled the last two page spread in my most recent morning pages book. Normally, I like to plan ahead, and have the next book all ready to go, so I don’t lose any momentum. This time, that was not the case. I love the Paris-themed book by Punch Studio, that I’ve been using; so much so that this is the second copy of that book I’ve bought. I did some online searching, and Ebay shows me that there are three other designs in that line: a different Paris-themed book, one themed around Italy, and another around New York City. Insert sound of angels singing here. Perfect. Only problem is, that I wouldn’t be able to get any of them shipped in time to start the new book.

I didn’t want to have any gaps. The longer away from any creative project, the harder it is to come back, and morning pages have been such a big help that I had to do something. All of the books I’ve had so far have rotating designs, so spread A is different from spread B, different from spread C, and so on, repeating after a short sequence. My visual brain likes that, so it’s a must when I look for a new morning pages book. This time, I couldn’t find any in stores, so I had to get creative. I had a deconstructed Studio Oh book that I’d originally intended for Her Last First Kiss notes, but book and notes were not a good fit, so I put it aside. Plain lined pages, but a lovely, slightly mottled ivory color. Add selections from my collection of design tape, et voila:

It’s not Punch Studio or PaPaYa Art, but it will do for now. What’s important is that it feels like the right place for me to start my day (as opposed to, say, shoveling knee-high snow. That is not a fun way to start a morning.) I’ve found that priming the pump with whatever my brain dumps out in the morning is usually effective, and from there, I go to planning. Here’s the current planner setup:


The small book is my eighteen month planner. Technically an academic planner, but I grabbed it because it is gorgeous and it feels like me. That’s where the day to day calendar things go; appointments, deadlines, RWA chapter meetings, etc. The larger book is a gridded page leatherette Markings book. I struggled to find a use for that one for about two years, lots of false starts and different formats, until I tried the design tape trick. Voila. Now it’s my daily tasks book, in bullet point form on one page per day. In two months, I’ve used more pages than I did in the two years previously. Think I’ve found something that works here, so sticking with it.

Which brings me to Big Daddy Precious, the Papberblanks book that holds my HLFK notes. Few false starts there, as well, but, once I figured out the single line of copper marker at top and bottom of each page, the notebook clicked with me. I started out writing in ballpoint in this book, because fancy book needs fancy pen, but it wasn’t until I switched to mechanical pencil (I do a lot of erasing) that it really clicked-clicked. The ability to erase is incredibly therapeutic, and makes it a lot easier to climb into my characters’ skins and look through their eyes. Will definitely be carrying this practice over into other projects.

The fancy twinkle lights are not on the actual page, but are an accurate representation of how it feels to be writing Hero and Heroine’s story. Which is an extremely good way for a writer to feel about the current WIP. I don’t know what it is about the visual connection that does it for me. Maybe it has something to do with being an artist’s kid, and making art, myself. When things in the really real world look similar to what’s in my head, that makes the connection stronger. Not going to complain about that.


If At First You Don’t Succeed…Blabber

Go figure; I plan a blog post with tons of pictures, to blabber about my various notebooks, and that has to be the day all the pictures get stuck in a Gmail queue. This is the same day that my desktop earbuds become my desktop earbud, singular. Slapping a greatest hits deskscape up for now, and we will see if anything changes by the time I get this entry posted. In one ear, I have 80s music, and in the other ear, (short intermission for minor domestic matter) the sounds of puttering Real Life Romance Hero and his fuzzy shadow, Skye. There was also a brief discussion of expiration dates on luncheon components (occupational hazard and/or benefit of having a spouse in the restaurant industry.) The verdict: lunch will not kill us today. That’s reassuring.

One more check of Gmail, annnnd….nope. Le sigh. Okay, winging it instead, because I have pages to get ready for N tomorrow, more pages for Melva soon thereafter, and an arduous stretch of research for an upcoming Heroes and Heartbreakers post. (Okay, not that arduous, as it involves watching key moments from The Walking Dead.) Right now, I’m grumbly, because I had an outline for the post I intended, even a bunch of sticky notes on the wall next to my desk. My first instinct was to take a picture to make up for the pictures that I can’t access until the queue comes through, but that picture would go to the end of the queue, so not exactly an option here. Which is okay. I can refocus.

Plan B is a part of the writing life. It’s going to happen. It happens when we hit “delete” instead of “save,” empty our trash, and then realize what we did. It happens when life intervenes, and we can’t write about XYZ right now, because it’s now either too close to home, or we’re not in that place anymore. Any number of reasons, really. This is the part of the post where I haul out the old Japanese proverb, fall down five times, get up six.

So, what does this mean for today? Since we are now three weeks until I join fellow writer/bloggers,  Corrina Lawson and Rhonda Lane at the Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference, and talk about blogging, I feel like I should have something to say here about what one does when one finds oneself in a situation like this. There’s “feel like” and there’s “actually do.” I like having a plan. In fact, the post I wanted to write was all about my use of notebooks in planning, my solution to getting to the end of my current morning pages book before finding a suitable replacement (the answer: DIY, pictures to follow) and how a notebook, no matter how much I love it when it’s pristine and brand new, isn’t really mine-mine until it’s stuffed full of sticky notes, with notes scribbled in the margins, decorative tape on the pages (that’s a new one, but what has been seen cannot be unseen) and how Picasso really was right that all creation begins with destruction (of the blank page/canvas.)  I can blabber about all of that, but it’s not the same without the pictures. Not that not having pictures stops me, but it does present a challenge.

Which is okay. I can write that post on Wednesday. I have the pictures on the way,  I have the sticky notes on my wall, and I’ve blabbered my way to nearly the magic 700, so I’ve got that going for me. Once I am done here, it is lunch with Real Life Romance Hero, and then I get to go play with my imaginary friends (part of me suspects I should be capitalizing that -Imaginary Friends- since I am using it instead of their names) and also have some tea. The tea is important. By that time, I will probably have given up on my earbud, singular, and opt for closed office door and computer speakers because I need my playlists. This will also result in Skye outside said office door, looking pitiful. Okay, maybe make the speakers and slightly open office door and Real Life Romance Hero will need to deal with the sounds coming from said speakers, because kitty face.

Allrighty, past the magic 700 mark, so time to feed my beloved family and then off to century eighteen. See you Wednesday.

Typing With Wet Claws: Tell Them About It Edition


Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is now less than one month until Anty goes to the Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference, to talk to other humans about blogging. I will not be going, because I am a kitty, and kitties like to stay home, but that does not mean I will be entirely missing from the workshop. That would never happen. After all, I do write one-third of the posts on this blog.

It is Anty’s blog, though, and the rule is that I have to talk about Anty’s writing before I can talk about the important stu…um, what I want to talk about this week. That is the rule, so here we go. As always, Anty has her post at Buried Under Romance. This week, she talks about spring fancies, or those particular elements of romance novels that will make us buy the book without knowing anything else about it. Like, for example, if the book has cats in it. I think cats make any book better, as long as good things happen to those cats. That post is here, and it looks like this:



Anty cringed when I told her it was time for the Goodreads update, because Anty did not do that great on reading this week (I will tell you why later) Now she is five books behind,  in her Goodreads challenge, instead of four. I would be lying if I did not say she did not panic a little, because she did. Anty loves to read, and reading is very important to writers. It allows them to see what others in their field are doing, what is happening outside their preferred genre, and it is fun, so they want to do as much of it as possible. Anty did not finish any new books this week, but she did make progress (she cannot tell how much in Night of Fire, because it is on her Kindle, and that has to charge before she can use it again.)  Anty’s Goodreads challenge page is here, and it looks like this:



One of the reasons Anty  has not had as much time for reading as she would like this week, is because she has been doing a lot of writing. Since she is a writer, that is a very good thing. She has been doing some research for the world of Her Last First Kiss. A lot of things were different in 1784 than they would be for us today. Anty had to research about what colors rooms could be painted (did you know different colors of paint cost different amounts?) She also had to look up things about how perfumes were made. As a kitty, I appreciate the extra effort put into smells. Smells are very important. Anty reminds me of this every time she picks up some of my, um, stuff. The more details Anty can find about the world of her story, the easier it is for her to bring that world to life for the readers. Miss N says she is doing a good job with that, and that makes Anty happy, which makes for more writing, which makes her want to do even more writing.

Anty is still thinking about how she wants to set her goals for writing (she hears a Critique Partner Vicki voice in her head, saying a very big NO when Anty thinks about doing Camp NaNo, because word count and Anty are not friends; page count, however, plays nice,) but one thing she does know is that she absolutely does have to be accountable to somebody else, who will not cut her any slack on that front. It is the same for reading. If she does not have to tell anybody how she is doing, then how she is doing does not matter, and things may not get done. On the other paw, if she knows Miss N is expecting at least six polished pages by 8AM on Tuesday morning (which sometimes gets moved to Wednesday morning) then she will have six polished pages by 8AM Tuesday morning. Actually, that would be more like 8PM on Monday night, because Anty likes having things ready ahead of time. It is the same for reading. If nobody is keeping track of what Anty is reading, then does it really matter? Making this public is a reminder that it is not only Anty, shut off from the rest of the world. That is a very easy feeling for Anty to get, and talking about what she is doing, and leaving it open for comment, by anybody, staves that off.

Writing is a complicated business, and it has a lot of feelings attached to it. For writers like Anty, thinking and talking often happen at the same time (I strongly suspect Miss N and Critique Partner Vicki can back me up on this) so blabbering about the writing process helps Anty figure the whole thing out, and knowing what she is doing helps her do more of it. She does not know everything yet (she is not a kitty, after all) but every day is another step closer to Happily Ever After for Hero and Heroine, for Guy and Girl, and towards the next projects, so Anty can start it all over again.

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



What’s in a Name?

Today’s topic comes courtesy of reader Kady Underwood (and, as Kathleen Underwood, cover artist for Orphans in the Storm.) Talented gal, and great question, first posed in my Lion and Thistle Facebook group, where we talk about all things historical romance. We had some interesting discussion on that one, so I thought I’d share the love and expand on my answers here.

The question:

Those of you who write…do you collect names for your characters? Have you ever liked a name and built a character around it? What comes first…the character or the name?

My (expanded) answer:

Great question. I’ll break that down into the individual questions.

1) Those of you who write…do you collect names for your characters?

Big yes on collecting names. I have been collecting name books since I was very young. I want to say eight, maybe. I remember having to beg my mother for my first one, because it physically hurt, I wanted it that much. Thankfully, she got it for me, and thus the beast was born. The collection has grown a bit since then, not counting websites like Nameberry, or Behind the Name, and shows no signs of stopping. For naming characters in historicals, my go-to reference is Names Through the Ages, by Teresa Norman, whose A World of Baby Names is also useful. I am on my second copy, which is showing as much wear as its predecessor. For modern-day characters, have a look at Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now, by Linda Rozencrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran. Besides having the most names ever (probably) on the cover of a book about names, Rozencrantz and Satran take a different approach, grouping the names by image, rather than origin or meaning.

Names can come from anywhere, and I do keep a mental file of names I like or find interesting, besides my collection of name books (my prized book is a book of British Isles names, published in Ireland.) If I like the name, it goes in the vault, to wait for its time.

2) Have you ever liked a name and built a character around it?

Again, yes. Jonnet, the heroine of Orphans in the Storm, actually gets this twice, because she has two names – one she was given at birth, and the other that she grew up with. Her birth name, I had been holding onto since I was in college, and stumbled across it in a historical romance I found on the shelves of the used bookstore in town. I did not get that book, and still regret it, but knew I would use it for a heroine of my own, one day. One day turned into double digit years. Sometimes, it takes a while for the right character to fit the name, but I think it’s worth the wait. I still have a few names waiting for the right character. 

3)  What comes first…the character or the name?

It depends. Sometimes I put the name out there and see who answers (I don’t see it so much as “creating” a character as us finding each other. ) Sometimes, they walk into my head, name and all, and I have very little to do with it. I even had one character tell me I got her name wrong, she wasn’t going to answer to what I wanted to call her, and if I wanted to write her, I had to use her proper name. She was right. What I wanted to call her wasn’t her name at all, and now, I can’t imagine her being called anything else.

I’ve also had a character who couldn’t tell me his given name, because he didn’t know it. We both found out near the end of the first draft, when his heroine and I both tracked down the relative who could give him the missing pieces of that particular puzzle, so it all worked out in the end.

Naming a character is different every time. Sometimes, the name does come first, and sometimes, it comes last. I’ve written chunks of outline with “Hero” and “Heroine” used as placeholders. That isn’t the case with Her Last First Kiss. I knew Hero and Heroine’s names early on, but am keeping those to myself (and critique partners) when talking about the book for now. I suspect they’ll be more forthcoming once the second draft is done.

When Melva and I first conceived the Beach Ball, the only thing we had to go on for names at first was that she wanted a one syllable name for Girl. I shot out the first few that came to mind, before we hit one we both liked. Since Girl had a one syllable name, Guy needed a longer one; his name has three. Same process; shoot out three syllable names until the right one stuck.

With my focus, for the time being, on eighteenth-century romance, getting together a list of male, female and family names appropriate to the period is probably a good idea, and I would need a new notebook for the purpose…hmmm…..

Thanks for the question, Kady, and thanks for the gorgeous cover on Orphans in the Storm.