Want vs Need

I had wanted, no, needed, this past weekend to be one of relaxing and well-filling. That was not what happened. Right now, my mind is scrambled, I have one eye on the clock, because, maybe, if I can get all my morning stuff done by noon (it is almost eleven-thirty now) then maybe I have a shot of getting this day back on track, even though what I want to do most at the moment is unplug from everything, go eat an entire pizza and dig into my towering historical romance TBR pile. Also maybe go to the park and look for baby waterfowl, because we are getting to that time of year. Baby waterfowl make pretty much anything more manageable. Do not ask me how; they probably don’t know, either.

Today, I am in the chair out of sheer stubbornness, and the fact that routine is a big help when things get domestic tornado-y. Butt in chair, check daily task list, put in earphones, select “Go To Work” playlist, and forward we go. Real Life Romance Hero is now chasing down Option C for our lunch date, as Options A and B fell through. There will be food and there will be RLRH, but that, at this point, is all I know.

After that, and after any more work needed on this blog post, if I’m not done by then, it is Her Last First Kiss time, which means rereading the chapter I brought to last critique session, which turned out to be me stuffing a ten pound cat into a two pound bag (that never ends well for anybody) and really needs to be two different scenes, one taking place before the last couple of scenes…arrgh. I’d planned to use the weekend to immerse myself in historical romance, but this weekend turned out to be one of those areas where theory and practice turned out to be two different things. I don’t like when things like that happen, but I dislike not-writing even more, and I dislike postponing critique session, so  my only option is to get the danged pages written. Which means I have to get in the mood. I’m not sure I’m going to get the chance to tuck in with a seasonally appropriate beverage and a few chapters of historical romance, because it’s Monday now, and Monday is back to work.

Last night, I gave Melva the thumbs up on our partial manuscript for Chasing Prints Charming, so today or tomorrow, she will send that on out. That will mean we have our first co-written story under consideration with two distinct entities. That’s a little scary.  It’s been a while. If I were listening to another writer tell me this same thing, I would make a game show buzzer sort of noise and tell them the fact that it’s been a while means it’s high time, and yay, them. That’s not the way I always talk to myself, though that may be a useful skill to acquire.

Only two hundred-ish words to get through this entry, and then I can talk to RLRH about lunch. After that, ready or not, it’s back to 1784, and splashing about in the shallows of a scene that is not in the first draft, but clearly needs to be (this is what second drafts are for, after all.) It’s not going to be perfect. This bothers me, but imperfect pages are a necessary evil. Comparing draft pages to pages in a published book, that has been through multiple editors, packaged, promoted, etc, is an exercise in futility. They can’t be the same, and they shouldn’t be. Where’s the fun in that?

Today, I am tackling this scene because I need to tackle this scene. Heroine needs me. She’s going to be ticked if I don’t spend the time with her today, and she’s not going to move forward if we don’t have this scene, which would mean a lot of her getting all grumbly and glaring at me and nobody is going to have any fun with any of that. I could put things off, but I think that would only make both of us grumblier. Time to put on our big girl panties and wade on into this sucker.

Lately, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to connect with what it is I love most about historical romance, and the historical romance authors who helped me fall in love with the genre. Those are the books and the authors who got my pulse pumping, and had me, on more occasions than I could count, sitting on the floor of a bookstore, either new or used, with a pile of books that I absolutely had to have, but could only take home a limited number. That meant I had to make some decisions. More often than not, those decisions weren’t based on which book was next in whatever series (as most of them were standalones, still my favorite format, and that is a whole other subject) but a gut reaction. Which ones did I need?

Sure, I wanted all of them, but which ones did I need? Which ones would hurt if I put them back on the shelves? Which stories could I not live without until the next time I could come back and comb through the treasure trove on the shelves? In a used bookstore, which books did I not want to take a chance on not being there the next time? Those were (and are) the ones that came home.

On days like this, that’s where I want to get back to; that need. What does Heroine’s scene need to be? What is she going to come out of the book and punch me if I leave out? For those who have not seen the gorgeous image by Sandra Schwab, this is Heroine:

rubyrenderschwabplain

image by Sandra Schwab

She’d do it, too. I love Heroine (Ruby; her name is Ruby, but I still want to call her Heroine when I write about her here) more than I thought I could ever love another heroine again, so I owe it to her to make sure she gets everything she needs. Which means, today, this scene. If I blow off this scene because I’m tired or cranky, I’m going to regret it, and it’s going to follow me into the supposed relaxing I’d be doing instead, which would only make me crankier and less restful. Time to bust open Scapple, throw down the essentials, and start making connections.

Typing With Wet Claws: Hangover Cure Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This has been an interesting week around here, but more on that later. Anty finds it ironic that her picture of me this week is of me asleep, since Anty did not get a lot of sleep herself, but not to worry. I can more than make up for the sleep she does not get.

Before we get to anything else,  I have to talk about what Anty has done on the interwebs this week. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, though she forgot to send out word that she was there. It was that kind of weekend. Oops. Anyway, this week, she talks about libraries. That post is here and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURlibrarybaby

Even though Anty did not get a lot of sleep this week, she used some of that not-sleeping time to get some reading done (finally.) She read so many books, in fact, that I had to put them all in one picture. Links to Anty’s reviews of the books she read this week are below. Click on the link to read the review, or check on her Goodreads reading challenge progress here. So far, she has read twenty-four out of ninety books, and is only four books behind. Keep going, Anty. I believe in you. These are the books she read:

All together, they look like this:

GR4reviews

Not too shabby there, Anty. If we break that down, that is two YA books, one nonfiction, and one historical romance. After Anty read Fair Day, and Another Step Begun, she wanted to read a medieval romance that was based on medieval legend, and she pretty much did, with Agnes Moor’s Wild Night. A tournament like the one in the story actually happened. Anty was very happy to find that out in the author’s note, even though it is fact instead of legend. Anty says that is close enough. The author is Miss Alyssa, whose workshop Anty did not get to see. Anty is still salty about that, but she does have another of Miss Alyssa’s books on her TBR shelf, so that helps a little bit. She is still looking for some (preferably older) medieval with that ballad/legend feel, so if you know of any (or have written some) let me know in the comments, and I will tell her.

This has been a very interesting week around here. Normally, Anty on a double book hangover would be enough to deal with, but Uncle has another new job. He is very happy about that, which makes Anty happy, even if she still could use another nap or ten. This week, Anty stayed up very late on Monday night so that she could have Her Last First Kiss pages ready for Miss N on Tuesday. This particular time, that meant writing parts of two different scenes.

When Anty started the second scene, she had a feeling things weren’t exactly right, but she wanted to get the right amount of pages written, so she kept on going. By the time she got to a stopping point, she was very sure she had written the wrong scene. She did not mean that the scene did not belong in the story, but that it needed a scene that came before another scene (or between some other scenes) because this one felt like shoving a ten pound cat into a two pound bag.  Miss N agreed, which meant Anty’s next job was to go home and figure out what that scene needed to be.

Not too long ago, this would have made Anty very anxious, and think that maybe she is  a bad writer, because a real writer, or a good one, would not have made that kind of mistake. That is not how she feels now. Now, she knows that is a part of the process, and it is okay to go back and fix things. Second drafts, like first drafts, do not have to be perfect; they only have to be written. As soon as she and Miss N started talking about what could happen in the missing scene, Anty got excited about writing that one. Having that scene will make this current one, in its new form, much easier, because it will have room to breathe. It will also mean Anty has some moving around of things in both Scrivener and Google Docs (she is not sure yet which one is easier to use at this stage of the game, so she often writes in one and then copies to the other) but, that, too, is part of the process. That is how she can keep moving forward.

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

skyebanner01

skyebye

 

Book Hangover, Part Two

It happened again. Book hangover, I mean, the second one in one week, and it’s leaving me itchy. The first book hangover of the week, I covered here.  As I’d hoped, Fair Day, and Another Step Begun, arrived on my doorstep in short order, and I tore into the packaging, eager to get my next hit. My fingers tingled at the firm feel of the book inside the envelope, because this was a nice, sturdy hardcover, ready to withstand the many re-readings I’d already planned for it, starting with this one. I tore open the envelope.

Surprise: there is more than one cover. Blink. Blink.

 

FairDay2Covers

Yep. Two covers.

Cover with the red text is the one I had borrowed from that long-ago library. Cover with white text is the cover I now own. Yes, I do have plans to acquire the red text cover, and no, I am not giving up the copy I actually have (though I may lend it) because it is my copy, a gift from a dear friend, and one will pry that copy out of my cold, dead hand. Skye will link to my Goodreads review on Friday, so I’ll focus more on the book hangover side of things here.

This book. Oh man, this book. I’d remembered it as being written in first person, which was not the case -it’s third- and we don’t get to see Ellen fall in love with John Waters,  (Not the filmmaker. Seriously, not the filmmaker.) but that’s okay, because it’s a fable. Things happen in a fable, and we don’t need to know why; they merely are. That fits this book, because it, too, is a fable.

I’ve always loved stories that meld the now with the long-ago, so a then-contemporary (1970s) retelling of an old ballad from the British Isles, in this case, Childe Waters,  is right up my alley. Yes, I have read the ballad, and some variants, and  yes, this does make me want to seek out some more. I’ve loved this kind of tale since I was but a wee little princess. Maybe it’s in my blood. This feels like a medieval story, because, despite the then-modern setting, complete with hippie commune (and, truth be told, I would like to visit Fair Day in the really real world if that were possible, and I may or may not have a mental note to name a fictional stately home of my own -at least two centuries before the 1970s, thanks- Fair Day, or maybe there may be a Fairday family in my fictional future) the language, lyrical and dreamy, feels like it’s reaching through the mists of time, from another age, and I fell into the world of the book without question.

Childe Waters (alternately called Lord John, as, Ellen is sometimes called Margaret for reasons that probably make perfect sense to old timey British Isles people) is not all that great to Ellen in the original ballad. In fact, he’s basically a jerk. John Waters, in this book, behaves as one might imagine a man in his early twenties, in the 1970s, might react when he learns that he has fathered a child on a sixteen year old girl. I would have liked to have seen more about how John’s other girlfriend at Fair Day affected John. He doesn’t recognize Ellen at first, when she arrives, and not because of her pregnancy or disguise. Is the other woman controlling him in some way?

I have other questions. What’s the deal with Ellen having to pass through water to get to John? Medieval symbolism has something to do with it, I am sure, and I have absolutely no doubt, that at some point in the not too distant future, I am going to fall down a rabbit hole of Child Ballads and folk tales, and see where all that leads me. Something something rural south something something old traditions something something, Ellen’s question over how mountain people are the last to be civilized, and how she doesn’t know if that makes them stronger or something else entirely. Ellen’s love of horticulture and the land is part of her, and her surety, of knowing what she knows, is unshakeable.

This is a book that is going to require more study, more re-reading, more looking into and comparing and digging, and, once I have forced reader and/or writer friends to read it as well, discussion. I wish Aunt S were still with us, because I would want her input on this, her perspective. I want to track down Katie Letcher Lyle (yes, I know where her blog is, but I also need this time to be that incoherent teenage fangirl, and grown up writer on the scent of something beneath/behind/beyond the surface of the story) and buy her tea and pick her brain and talk.

Reading this book took me back to when I was that young teenager, in study hall of the second floor of McAllister Middle School. If I know where I was when I read a book, especially when I read certain individual scenes, then I know that the book in question has become a part of me, and maybe the resulting book hangover is some sort of process of recalibrating when the book and I have been reunited. A few days of fuzziness, of marination and regaining balance, and, then, it’s time to read something else. Not-reading something else is how reading slumps get started, and I don’t want one of those.

Which means it’s time to pick up something else. The first thing that came to mind is a pair of medieval romances, A Love So Bold, which I have read, and loved, and its sequel, A Banner Red and Gold, which I have not. Both are in storage. Both are out of print. The author wrote, as far as I know, only those two books. It’s not happening today. I accept that. At some point, I will stagger through the mist, and my hand will take a book from a shelf, or I’ll click on a selection from my Kindle library, and I’ll read. Maybe there will be a notice from the library that requested materials have arrived, and I will turn to one of those, because library materials come complete with ticking clocks.

In the meantime, I have writing of my own to do, and the components of the book hangover will simmer on the back burner. Maybe they will send out whiffs of why these two books have stuck with me, and what makes it different to have two book hangovers back to back. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will take another book hangover, or two or three or ten, to work things out. That sort of thing can’t be forced, so onward I go.

 

(Not the) Sweetest Hangover

So, it’s Monday. I have a book hangover. My tea went from too-hot-to-drink, to so-cold-I-am-personally-affronted in the time it took me to perform the most basic of morning tasks. Weekend plans did not work out as planned, but there are no snooze buttons on Monday, so I’m here. Proper undergarments under sleep shirt and leggings mean that I am technically dressed. Concealer, lip gloss, and clear mascara/brow gel mean that I am technically wearing makeup. Hair is reasonably presentable, and there will be fragrance, because my brain knows that is the last thing I do before I am prepared to adult for the day. Which, in my case, means writing.

The book hangover comes from this bad boy (er, girl; this book is definitely a girl) I Will Go Barefoot All Summer For You:

BarefootAllSummerCover

My heart hurts because of this book.  That’s what the good ones do. They change us. They take us to a place we’ve never been, and they take us back to places in our lives we’ve been through before.  I think I went through first heartbreak again by reading this book.  Oh, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, sweetie, honey, sugar pie, baby girl. You’ll be okay one day. Someday, Toby Bright will be only a boy. You might not even remember his last name, once some time has gone by, and you’ll know, older and wiser, that he wasn’t all that great to begin with, but, right now, we’re both dying a little.

Right now, we’re both wondering if things wouldn’t have been different if you hadn’t put on the (expletive deleted) shoes, because, when you’re that young, and that deep in calf love (old timey word that means infatuation; it has nothing to do with calves. If you were infatuated with an actual calf, that would be an entirely different sort of book, and I would be writing you an entirely different sort of letter -yes, fine, I am writing a letter to a fictional character; let’s go with that- right now) that’s how things work. You wanted to prove the depth of your love, and that would earn the happily ever after, right then and right there. You almost made it through the whole summer, and I’m proud of you for that, even if the reasoning behind it was, well, adolescent, but so are you.

Not now, though. Your book was written in the early 1970s, set in the 1950s, so if you were born in the 1940s, and it’s 2017 now, well, I’m not going to do the math. I hope you’re happy, though. I hope you found someone, farther down the road, and I hope you were able to keep your aunt’s house and raise your family (or cats; cats would be cool, too. Maybe both.) there. I hope you wrote your books there, or anywhere, really, and I hope your cousin, Rose, knows that playing Robin Hood and other games in the woods with you was actually her walking around inside the very earliest drafts of your stories. I’d like to read some of them. I’d like to see how those seeds sown by your barefoot summer and fantasies of Toby Bright (I’m not all that concerned about where or how he is, if you’re wondering. He turned out to be only a boy, after all, for me.) germinated and changed and grew and blossomed in your own work, later on, with some time and some distance.

As I’m writing this, I am doing a little math. You were born in the 1940s, around Virginia. I was born in the 1960s, in Virginia, and you write, (or will write) and I write, so, y’know…well, apart from the whole you being fictional thing. Some books, we don’t read as much as we recognize, and I recognized this one. Yes. This.

If anyone had asked me, before this copy showed up in my mailbox, if I’d read this book already, I would have said no, but then I got to the part about the bus station and the Mars bar, and I had been there before. Yes, I have been in bus stations (and no, I have not eaten any Mars bars, because I have a tree nut allergy and I would stop breathing) but that wasn’t the thing. The thing was how you drew the line of maturity as being able to keep candy without eating it right away, and that Mars bar sat in your purse for a respectably grownup amount of time (well, the second one did, anyway) and that’s when I knew this was the second time I’d met you.

I’d been a teenager the first time, a little younger than you were in this book, I think, and I had not had my heart broken for the first time yet. I have no idea why it was the bus station scene that made itself part of me, but it roared into my consciousness the first time I took a bus from VT to MA, as a college freshman, and stood in front of a row of vending machines. (I did not get anything chocolate, in case you’re wondering. I don’t even like chocolate that much.) Were I to guess, now, what scene would stick with me most, it would maybe be that first kiss with Toby Bright (I am always going to think of him with first and last names. That’s not changing.) and the way riding home felt like flying, because new feelings bore you along and the door to a whole other part of life had been flung wide open and off its hinges, never to go back again.

I don’t know when it was you found your real happily ever after, and if it was with someone worthy of you, or on your own, but re-reading this book was like that for me, that door-off-the-hinges feeling, so maybe I’m going to stay here for a while. Go barefoot all summer for this book, or at least the next couple of days, because, as soon as Fair Day, And Another Step Begun, shows up in my mailbox, I am screeching on the brakes to whatever else I am doing and diving into that. In case all the characters one writer creates, even if the books do not intersect, all live in the same place (probably the writers’ head; that’s how it works with me) say hi to Ellen for me.

Typing With Wet Claws: Unauthorized Entry Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  First of all, I would like to point out that Anty is really, really, really good at killing earbuds. Actually, before that, I would like to mention that it was awesome having Uncle home extra this week, because he is my favorite, and that meant that he could spend extra time with me. That means that Anty had more time to work in her office, and also to find more writing time at Panera, after her meeting with Miss N.  That was not my favorite day, even if Uncle was home at the time. I will explain about that later.

First, before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about what Anty wrote this week, and where you can find her writing on the interwebs, other than here. Like every week, Anty was at Buried Under Romance, and, this week, she invited readers to talk about the many first times every romance reader will experience. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BUR1stTime

If you are following Anty’s reading challenge on Goodreads, it is here, and she is doing better this week.  She is now only eight books behind, and has a plan on how she will take care of the rest of the deficit. That will involve setting aside time for reading every day, and making sure she does not read too much of the same thing, too close together. She may even toss in some rereads, because those can go a lot faster. The books she read this week are:  Up All Night, by Laura Geringer, et al, (that is a fancy human phrase that means “and others”;) Mischief and Mistletoe, by Mary Jo Putney, et al; and Unfriended, by Rachel Vail.  Click on the links to read the reviews, which, all together, look like this:

 

I am working on my graphic design skills, which is not always easy because I have paws, not hands, and special paws, at that, but I do what I can. Anty has also been doing what she could this week, which involves helping Anty Melva get their two requests for partial manuscripts off to the publishing humans who asked for them. They got the first one off, and now it is time to get the second, larger, one ready to go. That takes some time, and so does getting ready for the next book, especially when she also needs to keep focused on Her Last First Kiss. Anty says she has exactly the same number of hours in a day as people who are very successful in her field (and others) and, as far as she knows, none of them have cats writing one third of their personal (or purr-sonal, I would say, but I do not purr; I never have, as far as any humans know. Do not be concerned, I am a very happy kitty, but I am quiet about it. Only about that, though, because I talk a lot.) blogs. If they can get all of their stuff done, so can she.

Part of that is finding the hidden pockets of time where she can both write and do the things that fill her creative well so that she can write. This past week, that meant that she stayed extra time at Panera, while the new stove was delivered. If you did not read her entry on Wednesday (it is here) the stove looks like this:

STOVE

 

Our landlord, Mr. D, likes to take very good care of us, and he bought us a new stove, which makes all the humans happy. It got delivered on Tuesday, which did not make me happy, because that meant that strange humans had to come into the house, take the old stove away, and then bring in the new one, and make sure it did not kill us all (it is gas.) Uncle stayed home that day, so that he could oversee the whole stove thing, and so that Anty could have some extra writing time after her meeting with Miss N. He put me in Mama’s room, where my things are, so that I would stay safe. He let Anty know when all the strange humans had left, so she could come home and be with us. She asked how I was doing (because she knows what is important) and Uncle said I was super scared, but okay because I stayed in Mama’s room.

I will be put in Mama’s room again in the next week or two, when the strange humans do the whole thing all over again, with the refrigerator. Do not worry, my cat food does not go in the refrigerator, so it will not be affected. I still do not like all the strange humans and bangy sounds and taking appliances that have been here ever since we moved in away, and replacing them with new things (if you do not know many cats, we do not like change very much) but I will be okay. Maybe Anty or Uncle can ask some of the strange humans to take away Anty’s office carpet (but not replace it with anything; I want it to be regular wood floor) so that I can sit reallyreallyreally close to Anty and give her extra inspiration and encouragement. I think that could only help. It is my duty as a mews.

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

skyebanner01skyebye

Write Like a Stove

Not feeling the blogging thing today, and that’s okay.  Writing, yes, but not blogging. I have my daily task list all planned out, but when I come to “write blog,” there’s a blank. Which is fine. White space and all that. Part of the reason I blog is to clear out the gunk from my brain so that I can be primed and ready for the good stuff, which, from my perspective is writing fiction. The same could be said for morning pages, but the difference here is that morning pages are private, and blogging is…not. It’s the opposite of private. It’s splashed onto the screen with the explicit purpose of being read (passive tense, ooh, dangerous) by others. Commercial fiction, which is what I write (subset: romance, sub-subsets: historical romance (on my own) and contemporary romance (with writing partner, Melva)) is also meant for public consumption, and, when we add the extra factor of a reader or readers, that also brings in the knowledge of the potential reader or readers.

I do a lot better when I have a topic planned out ahead of time. This time, I don’t, so what you get instead is the first thing my brain can latch onto, which is…the stove.

 

STOVE

that would be this stove

 

This post is not about cooking. We did get a new stove yesterday, the delivery window starting after I had left the house for critique session with N. Real Life Romance Hero had the day off, and earned extra hero points for supervising the removal of the old stove (which Landlord and I delicately referred to as “vintage.”) and installation of the new one. Since strange people moving appliances around is not an environment especially conducive to writerly  concentration, Real Life Romance Hero and I agreed I would remain at Panera, post-critique-session, and get some work done.

Aha. Here we go. Connection time. One of the things I like about keeping some of the notebooks that I do, is that it makes the spotting of patterns easier. Since one of the patterns I’d noticed of late is that, when I try to cram all the work on Her Last First Kiss into Monday, because Tuesday is critique day, I feel rushed and crowded. Feeling rushed and crowded also makes me feel pressured, and I focus on the number of pages I’m putting out, rather than making the story the best it can possibly be. So, clearly, that is not a good thing to have going on, on a regular basis. N and I both agreed that we wanted to bring more pages to our critique session each week, which means I need to find more time to devote to that book. Where to find that?

As it turns out, right there. Since I needed to stay out of the house while the stove was installed, I had extra time in Panera, bottomless iced tea (my second of the day, as I’d accidentally knocked the first one into the trash; could not have planned that if I tried.) and my writerbrain already riding on N’s comments, as well as the energy of being with another writer in person. I don’t have any blogs due on Tuesdays. Double aha. Since N and I had discussed a new scene needed to break up a big block of Hero scenes, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and that worked out pretty darned well. A week is a lot more comfortable lead time than a day, so this is probably going to become a regular feature. The sooner N and I get to The End of our drafts, the closer our respective imaginary friends are to getting out into the world and into the hands of readers.

Right now, I’m looking at my task list for the day, and feeling that rushed and crowded thing again, and that tells me I need to recalibrate. The same as the stove only has four burners (plus oven and warming tray) my brain has space for front burner tasks and back burner tasks.  Back burner does not mean “never,” and trying to put all the pans on the front burners at the same time is going to result in dishes nobody is going to want to eat. In fact, the results may not even be fit for consumption, but, putting each thing in its proper place and time, well, we can get a banquet out of that.

Which all brings us to over the magic seven hundred, so that’s it for today. I am off to play with my imaginary friends.

 

 

Reconnections

It’s Monday. The conference is over. Easter is past. There are buds on the trees, and a good chance that I may witness some sweet sweet waterfowl loving on my walk through the park tomorrow, en route to or returning from my critique session with N.  My back no longer hurts, and the weather, at least for today, is not trying to kill me. Sometime this week, or possibly next, Landlord will install our new stove and refrigerator. Melva and I have two requests to see partials of Chasing Prints Charming, and are ready for prewriting on Drama King. Today, after this blog entry (presuming we do not get surprise appliance installation) I go back to work on Her Last First Kiss. There are some Heroes and Heartbreakers posts waiting as patiently as they can in my brain,  and, with the scent of soon-coming season finales in the air, there will be more to join them soon.  It’s definitely spring, and definitely time to make sure I have a solid plan on how to get all of this done.

The fact that this new week means I am now ten books behind in my Goodreads challenge does not sit well with me, nor does the fact that I realized, well into the weekend, why I’ve had such a hard time making my way through a historical Christmas anthology, which I’d picked up specifically to take a chunk out of that reading debt. I love Christmas anthologies, and, usually, I can suck those down like ice-cold tea on a hot summer day. (Seriously, I can read Christmas stories any time of year, so writing one would be an interesting new experience, but that’s a someday project, not for today.) This time? Not so much. What started out fun turned into a slog, and I didn’t know why.

 

Annaselfiewhatamidoing.jpg

Portrait of the blogger as a confused reader.

 

It wasn’t because the writing was bad, because it wasn’t. I liked what I was reading, found at least one new to me author whose work I would like to explore further, and bounced in my seat several times, because a new book by one of the authors I already follow is only a few months away. After a weekend where I carved out time to reconnect with my art journal stuff (and found, in the process, that some of my most-loved resources had expired of old age while I was away; there’s probably a whole other blog in that, so I’ll save that for later) and a heart to heart with a writer friend, over an entirely unrelated topic, the answer came to me. Nineteenth century overload. My last read, Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart, was Victorian. The anthology is (I have one story left to read before I can call it read) all Regency. The book I’d read before that? Regency. Before that? Edwardian. Okay, that’s slightly over the line into the twentieth century, but still, I’m seeing a pattern, so, when I move this anthology into the “read” category, I need to read something else.

Maybe I’ll read a YA next, to cleanse my palate, but, after that, I need to follow my heart, preferably to the eighteenth century, as that’s where Hero and Heroine live, and the commute would be short. Right about now, I could use a short commute. The good thing about going to a conference is that I return all pumped full of I Can Do This. The scary thing about coming back from a conference is that I need to turn that I Can Do This into I Am Doing This. That can be a daunting prospect, because this is the part that nobody else can do for me. When Melva and I work on our joint projects, the work divides itself according to who’s better at what; for us, that works. When I’m working on a solo manuscript, then it’s all me.

I am the way Hero and Heroine get out of my head and onto the page. N is my first reader for Her Last First Kiss, the first chance I get to know if I have put the right words in the right order so that other people can watch the movie that’s playing in my head. To make sure I have what I need to do that, I need to make sure my creative well is filled. Which is where things like playing with paint and ink and paper come into play; I can’t write an artist Hero if I’m not making art myself. Which is one of the reasons I’ve been peeping this undated art journal planner, ever since I saw an ad for it in my favorite art magazine. I do have a planner already, and I use it and I love it, but I want to play with this one, so it may yet happen.

top2historicalromances

my two favorite historical romance novels

In the meantime, there is work and there is well-filling. Last week, I asked Facebook readers/writers who love historical romance to tell me what books made them fall in love with the genre. Some of the titles given were books I have known and read and loved, myself, and some were new adventures yet to be read. All of the answers were filled with what I was looking for when I asked that question. The connection, the spark, the recognition of “yes, that’s mine,” the seed that burrows deep into the soil of the writerbrain (or readerbrain, for that matter,) sprouts and blooms and explodes all over like cherry blossom season on steroids. That stuff goes a long way.

Typing With Wet Claws: Back to Business Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is now one week after the start of NECRWA 2017, conference hangover mostly worn off,  but inspiration still in full force. That is how it works with Anty and conferences. Her back is feeling better, which means that she can bend more easily, to feed and pet me, and also sit in her office chair without pain. These are all good things, because going to conferences and being with other people who love to do what she loves to do gives Anty a big burst of wanting to do writing stuff. It has not yet inspired her to get rid of the office carpet, but I think that a workshop on how to make a writer’s office pet-friendly would be an interesting topic for next year’s conference. In the meantime, I have found a way to curl up on the small sliver of hardwood so that only my fuzzy parts are on the (ugh) carpet, and my feet are on the hardwood. That is an okay way to be in Anty’s office with her, but I still want the carpet gone. We will work on that one.

Before I am allowed to talk about anything else, I need to talk about where you can read Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week, apart from here. First, as always, she was at Buried Under Romance this past Saturday, and will be there again tomorrow. Her most recent post asks readers to share what they think makes for a good series. That post can be found here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

grgoodseries

 

This week, Anty actually finished reading a book. That is progress. Her review of Untie My Heart, by Judith Ivory is here, and it looks like this:

 

GRuntiemyheart

There are sheep and horses in this book, but no cats.

In case you were wondering, finishing that book means that Anty is now only nine books behind in her Goodreads challenge. Still single digits, so go, Anty. If you are interested in following her challenge, it is here, and it currently looks like this:

GRreadingchallenge041417

We will see how she does in the coming week. Since she will spend part of today planning for next week, I hope she will put some reading time in there, so that she does not get to the end of the day and then find that she is too tired. That happens far too often for her liking, but I have my treat by then, so it does not affect me very much.

Thank you to those who asked if there was a Feline Friday last week. There was, but I made a mistake. I meant to schedule the post to go up on its regular Friday time, but it is very difficult to hit the schedule button on WordPress, when one has paws (special paws, at that) instead of hands, and I posted it on Thursday, by accident. If you did not see it, that is probably why, and I am very sorry. That post is here, and my picture on that post looks like this:

 

SkyeOMalleyCat040717

Me, from last week.

Okay, I think that is everything about that.  Time to move on to the meat of the post, which I hope is tuna. I really like tuna. Beef is also good, and I can appreciate turkey in gravy, but I do not get food with gravy very often. I do not think that is the kind of “meat” Anty means, which disappoints me. Did I mention that I really like tuna?

Now that Anty is back from the conference, she has some new perspective on writing and writing related things. First, she and Anty Melva need to get their material together for the two requests to see more of Chasing Prints Charming. When an editor or agent wants to see part (or all) of a manuscript at a pitch session, it is smart for the writer (or writers) to get that out as soon as possible, so that the editor or agent remembers who they are and what they liked about the book, because they will have seen many more writers and many  more books between the time they heard the pitch and the time they get that material. So, Anty and Anty Melva want to get a move on with that.

The other big thing for Anty is reconnecting with Her Last First Kiss. Since she and Anty Melva spent a lot of the conference talking about Chasing Prints Charming, and getting ready for the next book, which they will call Drama King, Anty needs to get her mind back in the eighteenth century so that she can get Hero and Heroine’s story all the way through the second draft. Right now, she is still working out how she is going to manage that balancing act. I do not think it can be easy to be a writer and a half (because Anty Melva is the other half of that partnership) but I am sure that Anty will find a way. Maybe reading more historical romance will help. I think that it might. I will do my duty as a mews and sit very, very close to Anty while she does, for extra inspiration.

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

skyebanner01skyebye

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Conference Recap, Part Two

Conference hangover is a thing, and it comes in stages. Today’s stage, after an involuntary two-hour nap, is the second half of the recap, which brings us to Saturday, when things actually happened.  Not breakfast, however, as we were on our own for that meal, usually my favorite of the conference, and Melva and I, despite our best attempts, found nothing around the hotel, so settled for Starbucks. There’s a picture of that, but my computer won’t let me post it, so we will move on to the big stuff, like my first conference workshop as a co-presenter.


I did not manage to get a photo of this workshop’s mastermind, Corrina Lawson, because she is a ninja, but I am sure there was a photo of the three of us taken at some time.  For now, moiself and the fabulous Rhonda Lane. I think this was the most picture-filled conference yet, which I take as a challenge for next year. Speaking of which, I take you now to the room where it happened:

 

Actually, the room where two things happened, because my first and last workshops of the day both took place in the same room. Corrina, Rhonda and I had a decent turnout, alert and attentive women (no dudes in this workshop, at least not this time) who had specific questions about blogging, and made the whole experience fun for presenters and attendees alike. Fingers crossed that the pitch to NJRWA is successful, because I would love to do this again. The fifty-minute hour was over all too soon, and we capped it by giving away an analog blogging starter kit. Here’s what one lucky person took home:

GivawayLoot

If you missed out on the workshop, or are curious about what actually went down in that magical hour, we have a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation, which you can download here: BloggingIsntDeadHandout

The other thing that happened in that room was that Damon Suede presented a compressed version of his workshop on character building. This was a surprise addition, as the presenter who had been scheduled to be in that room for the last workshop, had a flight delay, and Damon graciously stepped in. Despite back pain, I made tracks the second the previous workshop, across the hall finished, because there was no way I was missing this one. No regrets. The room was packed to capacity, and well worth it. If you ever get a chance to hear Damon talk about anything writing related, grab it.  We learned the difference between activity and action, and I love the idea of a defining verb for each lead character, preferably verbs in opposition to each other, because friction is what makes, ah, things, feel good.

In between our workshop and Damon’s , there was a lot of learning -from neurophysics to the art of the novella, to the ins and outs of writing with a partner…which I had to leave early (still salty about that, too) because it was pitch time. The newly-named Chasing Prints Charming had three pitch sessions, one from me, and two from co-author, Melva Michaelian. Swing and a miss from me (hint: when pitching your romance novel, do not choke and make the hero a footnote) but two hits from Melva; both of her pitches resulted in requests to see more.

While I did have the obligatory “what’s wrong with meeeeeeeeee?” whinge, the answer is: nothing. Though this pitch got a pass, the person to whom I’d pitched said they’d totally read it for pleasure (I have heard this before, on another pitch, but that’s another story, both literally and figuratively) and the no was based on that particular person placing that particular book. Discussion of how my pitch session went had to wait until after lunch, as the person who had passed on the pitch ended up sitting directly behing me for that meal. Not every work fits with every editor or agent, but two others nibbled, so Melva and I are still calling it good. Time to get the requested material in shape and send it on its way.

As for that lunch, Zoe York, our luncheon speaker, put the text of her speech on her website, so those who want to relive the magic, or those who weren’t able to attend, can get a small taste. Zoe talked about some of the cold, hard facts of the publishing business, and the importance of writing the books we want to read, and how this is not a business for the faint of heart. Like, you know, people who had their pitches turned down and then sat in front of the person who did the turning down. By now, I’m more amused by this particular turn, and, who knows, Melva and I might put it in a future book. As Chasing Prints Charming was born at a prior incarnation of this conference, we also began our pre-writing on Drama King, our next collaboration.

The big event, for me, besides our workshop, and Damon Suede’s workshop, was being in the same room with Joanna Bourne. Not only being in the same room, but hearing her keynote dinner speech, which would cap off the whole experience. Though there were still some breakout sessions after dinner, Melva and I had miles to go before we slept, so this was our grand finale. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Joanna Bourne writes amazing historical romance, set in the French Revolution, with all the deep emotion and dark places of the heart, and all that other stuff I absolutely love to find in a historical romance. Did she talk about writing outside of the drawing room? Finding the emotional center? How she encapsulated the entire French Revolution, from both sides, with two people surveying a trashed greenhouse? Nope. Squashed hamster, a vet’s waiting room full of falcons (no worries, hamster was fine) and the difference between greatest adventure and “being well traveled in Concord.” For those, like me, who still wanted to hunt down some words on writing from one of the grand mistresses, there is this tidbit, found on her website’s blog.

After dinner, it was pictures and hugs and cheek kisses and promises to email, gathering tote bags and turning in neck wallets, and stepping back into the ordinary world. As much as conference hangover is a real thing, so is the inspiration that travels home with us and spurs us on as we sit back at our desks, open a notebook and boot the computer. This week, it’s back to work on Charming Prints Charming, back to work on Her Last First Kiss, back to whittling down my Goodreads challenge debt, and all the rest that comes with the time in between conferences. I had a great weekend with my tribe; now time to do the work once again.

Post-Conference Recap, Part One

NECRWA 2017 is but a memory now, and I am already pumped for next year’s adventure. Melva and I arrived late on Friday, so we can’t speak to the hors d’oeuvre hour, but the author signing was tremendous fun, and I did get to speak to Alyssa Cole, buy a copy of An Extraordinary Union, as well as discuss diverse historical romance for a few minutes. Still salty I wasn’t able to make her workshop, but not to worry, she and co-presenter, Amara Royce, whose books are also going on my TBR list, will have the PDF available on their websites. I will be watching those like a waiting room full of hunting falcons watched the squashed hamster Joanna Bourne brought to the vet (don’t worry, hamster was okay, but that’s another story.) There’s so much more history besides only the Regency, that when I find kindred spirits on this, I latch on like a barnacle. Hopefully a productive barnacle, because this conference got me inspired to fill some pages and empty some pens/wear down some leads.

Even though arriving after the foodstuffs meant I didn’t get to attend any of the Friday workshops (though I did get a second shot at hearing Damon Suede on Saturday, and yes, he really is that amazing a presenter) I still got a thrill as soon as I checked in. See that nifty ribbon beneath my nametag? It is official, I have really and truly presented at a regional RWA conference, and there I am in the author directory. That went a long way to make up for not being able to hang out in either the readers’ salon, Hamilton sing-a-long, or even the lobby to gab with conference people. My back insisted on going upstairs to rest after the basket raffle.

Melva dubbed the walk from the elevator to our room “The Blue Mile.” Door at the end of the hallway was not our room, but the stairs. With my back, stairs were not an option. Our room was around the corner from that.  Real Life Romance Hero had suggested I ask the front desk to bring up a banquet chair, in case the desk chair was too soft (it was) so I had a nice, firm chair to park myself for the obligatory swag shot. No, the postcard front and center is not Sleepy Hollow fan art, but goes along with my signed copy of A  Extraordinary Union.  Still super pretty, and I can’t wait to dig into the story.

 

Swag2017

Swag for days…

One of my favorite parts of any conference is getting to connect with other romance writer friends, especially those, like my Last Call Girls (more on them later) whom I only get to see at the annual conference. It’s big, it’s loud, there is a good deal of shouting across tables, and, even when there aren’t any workshops going on, hanging around the hallways or lobby, in small knots, getting current on who’s writing what (Melva and I do indeed have a draft of the Beach Ball, now known as Chasing Prints Charming (sic)) meet new friends and meld social circles by introducing new friends with those we’ve known for basically forever.

I’d like to say I got a good night’s sleep, but a combination of back pain, end-of-book endorphins, and excitement over the day ahead meant I lay in a very lovely bed, my brain whirling with books and stories and writers and workshops and pitch sessions (I had one scheduled, Melva had two) and what on earth we were going to do for breakfast, since we were on our own for that this year. There was a certain amount of little-kid-on-Christmas-Eve feeling, because I was only one sleep (or in my case, lack of sleep) away from my first time co-presenting on a topic I love, with awesome co-presenters whom I also love. One lack of sleep away from my first pitch in the last few years, for the first complete book I’ve ever co-written. One lack of sleep away from brainstorming the next book with that same co-writer, because that was the most natural step after writing “The End” on the first one. Slight twinges of guilt from Hero and Heroine, but an assurance I’d be back to them, after shaking conference hangover, quieted those in due time.

AnnaSelfieFridayThere’s a lot to be said for the work  our brains do when we have nights where we don’t sleep, and when that brain belongs to a writer who has arrived at a conference, there is a lot of that sort of work. Have I done the right writerly things this past year? I’ve written The End on two manuscripts. I am now seven chapters into the second draft of Her Last First Kiss. Chasing Prints Charming has a complete first draft, and already two requests for partials. There’s a presenter ribbon on my name tag, and, somewhere in that same hotel, there were people who had already decided they were going to choose that workshop over all the others offered at the same time. There’s some responsibility with that, because those other workshops were good ones (and yes, I did make a quick peek in the room where a certain other workshop would be presented, on my way to the bathroom immediately prior to showtime.

Not a lot of conference talk in this entry, I know, but it’s all part of the conference experience. Actual workshop and pitch stuff in our next entry. See you Wednesday.

AnnaSelfieComment