Middle of the Week, End of the Day

Middle of the week, and, once again, I am making this blog entry at the end of the day instead of the beginning of it. This bothers me, but, if I’m staying with the common threads theme, so the later posting time gets reframed as in keeping with the theme.

Yesterday was critique meeting day, with N, who also attended the workshop where we had to find common threads in our favorite viewing matter. Naturally, we had to compare lists. They were different, no choices in common, though we were more or less familiar with each other’s choices, or could fill in the blanks enough to get the gist of what appealed to the individual.

What we both agreed on, though, was that we would have liked to have made longer lists. The more examples, the easier it is to spot a pattern, but five was a good number when discussing in small groups. We also discussed the criteria for giving something favorite status. Does it have to be something watched multiple times, or can we count the moment when, during a first viewing, that we know a moment on the screen (or page) has crossed the border from something we watch or read, to something that is a part of us. Sometimes, a moment is all it takes.

Two characters who wouldn’t appear to be potential romantic partners at first lock eyes in the right circumstances, maybe brush hands in the briefest of touches, and that’s it. Boom. Never saw it coming, but, now, we will go down with this ship. A car drives around a bend in the road, we see the first view of the stately manor house, and now a part of our heart will always live there, no matter what else happens, in the story, or in life. Scenes stick in our mind. Sometimes, they hang out there for a long time, waiting for other pieces of the puzzle, to join them and become something new.

Both N and I discussed keeping longer lists of these films and TV that catch our interest on that level, and how I expand the concept in my Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys workshop, to include not only visual media, but books, music, and other miscellaneous media – computer games, graphic novels, etc. On the surface, they may not seem like they have much in common, but get them all in one place, and start looking for the common threads, and, surprise, there they are. Later that same day, I chatted with another friend, H, who mentioned a new option in a favorite game. It now has an arctic survival factor. Sold. I don’t need to hear any more than that. The first novel-length fanfic I ever wrote was set on an arctic world, for the mere reason that I love snow. If I have to create an alien world, there is going to be snow on it. Everywhere on it.

I love the idea of core story, not that it’s a formula, or one author doing the same thing time and again, but that readers know what they’re getting from a particular author. Hopefully, it’s the stuff that the author loves, and, ideally, at the spin-around-in-a-field-of-daisies level. Readers can tell. Trust me on that. For me, that basically breaks down to include (but not limited to) the following:

  • full immersion historical atmosphere – this is far past long dresses on the female characters. I’m talking the era as almost a character in itself, where characters think and act like people of their time. I want to be steeped in the period, feel it in my blood, and, for the space of the story, live in that world instead of our own. I have my favorite eras, but as long as we get full immersion, I can go pretty much anywhere/when.
  • star-crossed lovers who make it work – this is my catnip. If I could only write one kind of story for the rest of my life, this would be it. Give me two lovers who belong together, but have the entire world against them (or so it seems) only to find out that the world is no match for true love. I am perfectly fine if this takes years, or, in the case of sagas, decades. Hard-earned happily ever afters are my favorites.
  • house as character – do not get me started on this one. Usually a stately English home, but there are a few on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Double points if this is in a generational saga, and we get to see the house change with the different generations of occupants. Triple points if house falls out of family’s possession, and then back in after some time away. If I ever (who are we kidding, when) I get to write a family saga, there is going to be at least one of these in there.
  • survivor characters – I like my people to go through some stuff. Their emotional baggage, more times than not, comes in coordinated ensembles and may, in fact, need a luggage cart, or small pack animal, to carry it through the whole book. Hauling around all that baggage does develop some emotional muscles.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, though that may be something to consider as I study the idea of core story. Always good to know what tools are in one’s toolbox. What’s in yours?

 

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Common Threads at the End of the Day

It’s a Monday. I had vague plans about a topic for this blog, and then life happened, so here I am, at the end of the day, rather than the beginning of it, the vague idea long gone. I’m not surprised. It was a full weekend, and these things happen. Instead, I’ll go with the first thing that comes to mind, which is a big chunk of how I spent my Saturday.

I look forward to my monthly CR-RWA meetings. A whole afternoon, spent mingling with others of my kind (romance writers) and learning how to advance our careers, write more, write better, etc, meet with friends who do what I do, and meet new people who do what I do. Also, there are snacks. This post isn’t about the snacks.

What this post is about, is part of the workshop we had this month. The lovely and talented Marie Lark spoke about using the movies and TV we love, to pinpoint common themes in our core story, the things we come back to, time after time. Core story has been on my mind a lot lately, and a similar exercise is part of the Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys workshop I’ll be teaching in March, so this workshop had my attention on two different levels. Three, when we broke into small groups, because I love group dynamics.

Our first assignment was to list five of our very, very favorite movies and/or TV shows, the ones we watch multiple times, because we love them that much. My ears pricked, because this sounded like fun, and then I stared at the blank page in front of me, because there is one thing that always comes when I’m asked this kind of question. Throw one of these questions at me, and I immediately feel as though I’ve never met myself. It’s a big question, and “favorite,” to me, means the very top tier. Are we talking about of all time here, or right now, or is there something in the middle of those two qualifiers? I have to sift through the possibilities, weigh them against how they might be received by the small group, by the room, by…I don’t know, them.  Generic them.

What I finally wrote on the page was, in no particular order:

  • Saturday Night Fever
  • How I Met Your Mother (finale excluded)
  • Love Actually
  • The Walking Dead
  • Brideshead Revisited (1981 miniseries)

When instructions came for the next part, I felt, well, naked. The other group members were to look at the works listed and pick out commonalities. The person who wrote the list was not to contribute at this phase. Within my group, I have a slight acquaintance with one person, had met another for the first time at the start of the meeting, and the fourth, for the first time, during the exercise. So, basically, a bunch of strangers are seeing me virtually naked for the purpose of this exercise.

Two things jumped out at the group at first: ensembles, and coming to terms with a dying world. Still thinking on the ensemble part, because, when I write, I’m focused on the hero and heroine, though the supporting cast is important. The second part, though, coming to terms with a dying world, ding, ding, ding. That one, yes. A once upon a time friend once said that all of my stories are about moving on after a loss, and they are not wrong. I live for that stuff. That, and star crossed lovers, who, somehow, make it work.

I’m still looking at this list, letting it roll around in my head, and thinking of what another group member asked, about what didn’t make the list. Remains of the Day, that’s one. Book and movie, both. The first two seasons of Sleepy Hollow. Maybe it’s too soon to add Poldark to the list, because I’ve only seen the first two seasons once, still haven’t watched any of the current season, and I’ve seen more of the Outlander TV series than I’ve read the books, so do I even qualify to add that? There’s the span of the entire Degrassi franchise, all the way back to when Principal Simpson was in junior high. What about shows I love, but haven’t been back to for a while? Mad About You, Cold Case, Remington Steele, Moonlight, Lost, the first season and a half of Highlander?

Picking only five is a small sample. For those curious, an ever-growing Pinterest board of my favorite OTPs (One True Pairing) can be found here. A lot more choices there, and yet they all have something that draws me back to them, even if I stare blankly at the page for a moment when asked to pinpoint what it is. This may require further study.

What common threads do you see?

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Anty’s Birthday Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is now only four more days until Anty’s birthday. Anty really really really loves birthdays. They do not always have to be her own, but when they are, that is even more special. I would say shop early and beat the crowds, but there are only four days left, and stores are pretty crowded on weekends, no matter whose birthday is coming, so leaving a note in the comment section will be fine. Anty does not ask for much, really, but she does insist that there be cake. There does not have to be any candles, but even one would be a plus. Anty likes candles. The big, smelly kind that comes in jars are her favorites, but Uncle does not always like the same smells Anty likes, so she sometimes has to settle for small ones with lids, so she can sniff them when she wants a hit of whatever scent the candle is. This time of year, she likes cinnamon or clove and that kind of thing. The day after Thanksgiving, she switches to pine and/or peppermint. Fireplace smells are good all year, though. Pens and notebooks are good all year, too, as are art supplies. My birthday is probably around Valentine’s Day, according to my first vet. I like cat food, and treat. Plan accordingly.

This has been a full week for Anty, so I had best get those updates out of the way, so I will have room to talk more. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. October is when Anty talks about spooky and/or paranormal romances, and, last week, she talked about time travel romances. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURtimetravel

Even though it was not Anty’s week to recap Outlander, it was time for a new post on Heroes and Heartbreakers. Did you think Frank Randall deserved a better ending than he got on the TV show? Anty did, and you can read about some of her ideas on that in her post. It is here, and it looks like this:

HandHFrankHEA

Now it is time to look at Anty’s Goodreads challenge. So far, Anty has read seventy-two out of the ninety books for her goal this year. This puts her at eighty percent done, and she is on track. Good job, Anty. Keep going. I will not mention that all three of the books that she finished and reviewed this week were YA, not historical romance, but one of the YA books is romance, and the weekend is here, so we will see what happens. The books Anty read and reviewed this week are these:

 

 

GRAllTheBrightPlacesNiven

 

Okay, I think those are all the places where Anty wrote stuff on the interwebs this past week. She has been writing stuff here at home, too. Earlier this week, she sent Anty Melva a scene for Drama King, and Anty Melva sent another one back. That is three scenes so far, total. This book is officially underway. That is a good thing, because the publisher that said they would like to read the whole book of Chasing Prince Charming is now doing exactly that. They will probably get back to Anty Melva and Anty in about a month and a half. That is not very long to wait. Whatever the verdict is, Anty and Anty Melva are excited about making it this far with their first co=written book.

Because it is almost Anty’s birthday, that means a couple of other things are coming up as well. Those things are Halloween and NaNoWriMo. Anty loves skulls and scary things like that all year round (she wears a skeleton hand ring every day) and is excited for The Walking Dead‘s new season. We do not give out candy on Halloween, because A) we live in a neighborhood where most of the people are almost-grownups, and B) there is no antianxiety medication, for humans or kitties, that would counteract our prewar doorbell going off all night long. Still, the day after means that skull themed things will be on deep discount in stores, and that makes Anty very happy.

Anty has a love/hate relationship with NaNoWriMo. The word count thing trips her up, but she likes the camaraderie, and she would like to get farther into this new version of Her Last First Kiss, so she may see about adapting the system to her own use. She will probably not officially sign up, but it can be good, sometimes, to give oneself a push. We will see how this all works out, but suffice it to say that Anty would like to move Ruby and Ruby’s hero to their happily ever after at a quicker pace, now that she has a better handle on this part of the book. She may need a few extra loops around the lake in the park, with her playlist for this particular story on repeat. Possibly with some tea in her travel mug. It can’t hurt, and she can take movies of ducks, to show me when she gets back. I like when she makes movies of ducks and then shows them to me. I am not sure any book about humans can be as interesting as duck movies, but anything is possible.

On behalf of the family, allow me to say thank you to all who left kind words on the loss of Tuna Roll. Our time with him was short, but his legacy will be long. The next fish will have some big fins to fill. I do not know when my next fish brother will arrive, but he will carry on the thought of the day tradition, once he is here.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

If Anything Happens To Me, It Was The Canada Goose

Right now, I am at my desk, planner open in front of me, Pilot G-2 gel pens at the ready. I am running about an hour late, give or take a few minutes, but still roughly on schedule. The sky is clear outside my office window, and part of me wants to shut off the computer and head to the park because A) I want to leaf-peep, B) park people are already setting up for the holiday light show, and C) I want to see if the mallards and Canada geese are still there. I think so, on that last one. I don’t know if they are “our” ducks, or visitors from up north, on a layover as they head for their summer home, but I am pretty sure the geese are ours. If anything happens to me, this guy did it.

1010canadagoose

Big guy in the center of the frame, that is, but do not underestimate his mate, next to him. I am pretty sure she has some skills of her own. They own this end of the pond. Let’s be honest, the whole pond, but this seems to be their favorite spot, possibly because of the benches, which mean humans, which mean food. To be clear, I mean that the humans would bring food for the geese, not become food for the geese, but let us consider this gander, above. I cannot rule that out.

I’ve taken to the habit of making at least one loop of the lake on my afternoon walks during the eek, whenever possible. It’s come to the point now, that, if I don’t make my loop, I miss it. Normally, I would play music on my headphones, but a writer friend suggested I try a podcast or audiobook, for a change. I am now on my second audiobook of the week. The first one was All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven, and I am still not emotionally recovered. Since my friend also suggested that I make the audiobooks for walks only, as an added incentive, and I didn’t want to wait to find out what happened to the two leads in ATBP, I bailed on the audiobook, got the hardcover at the library, and blazed through it.

Still thinking about that book (a love story, but not a romance) and the other Niven title I got at the same time, Holding Up the Universe. That one is a romance, and I’m not sure where History Is All You Left Meby Adam Silvera, which I got at the same time, is going to end up; could go romance, could go not-romance, but there is definitely a love story (or two, maybe three, depending on what one counts) and maybe a bromance. Still too early to call on that one, and I would be perfectly happy taking it with me on my loop around the pond this afternoon, but it’s hardcover, not audiobook, so I may need to take it to a park bench or my favorite coffeehouse instead.

What I’ve noticed about this most recent YA binge is that I am gobbling the love stories in these books, while I give guilty looks to the two historical romances, one on my Kindle, and one in paperback, that still wait, with varying degrees of patience, for me to get back to them. Maybe I’m still not over my last historical romance read, Tyburn, by Jessica Cale. I know I’m still mourning a secondary character who left us far too soon. Books most certainly do have mourning periods, and respecting them is usually a smart move.

Later, tonight, after walk and geese and audiobook and dinner, I will settle into my office chair, and divide the screen into two windows. One window will be Skype, so I can talk to my writer friend, H, and the other window will be Netflix, so that we can watch the last two episodes of The Seven Deadly Sins season one, together. It’s anime, which I never would have picked on my own, and do not quiz me on the magic system, anime tropes, or the like, because what has my attention is (no surprise) the love stories. Renegade knights, sought for crimes they didn’t commit, tortured backstories, and star-crossed lovers who find ways to make it work? Um, yes, please. There is a part of my mind that is filing all of this away and figuring out how to siphon the essence for future historical romance doings.

This Saturday, I will attend my CR-RWA meeting, where Marie Lark will give a workshop on core story, which has been on my mind a lot lately, both for writing fiction and for updating the content of my own workshop that I’ll be giving online in March, through Charter Oak Romance writers.  I don’t think any of this is coincidence.

Where I am right now in my second draft of Her Last First Kiss, I need to get Ruby, my heroine, so wound with anxiety that the air crackles around her, with all the possible things that could go wrong, which is exactly when she throws herself in front of one of them. It’s a romance, so things will turn out fine, but up until then, no guarantees. Maybe I’m doing the writer version of carb-loading for that. This may require more than one loop around the lake, to sort everything out, and possibly a hot beverage in a travel mug.

Cave ansarem. (that’s Beware the Goose in Latin)

TheWriterIsOut

Ramblings of a Fictional Magpie

First off, in case you missed it, my Frank Randall Deserved a Happy Ending post went live on Heroes and Heartbreakers yesterday. Don’t tell Skye I blabbed it before she could share the link. When I first read Outlander, I actually didn’t. I read Cross Stitch, the British version (and original title) because A) it supposedly had more historical content, and B) Claire was “nicer” to Frank. I didn’t know anything about Frank when I went into this, apart from the fact that he was Claire’s original husband, and, really, had no good options when Claire came back from the past, in love with, married to, and pregnant by another man. I’m still not sure how the legalities of a pre-existing marriage would hold when a woman finds herself two centuries in the past, as Husband #1 wouldn’t have been born yet, thus could not have married her, because he didn’t exist, but he did exist, because Claire remembers him, and is wearing his ring at the time.

All of that is largely to get me over the hump of the blank page, because I’ve been staring at it for a while now, and this entry needs to be written, so going with the “throw something at the page and see where we go from there” stage. I think the first love triangle that I was aware of was King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot. Guinevere and Lancelot have some chemistry, and, if it weren’t for one of them being married, I could probably get behind them, but she was married, and to Arthur, and even at, hm, I want to say six, or so, I knew that something about this equation could not turn out well. Camelot came crashing down, both in folklore and the musical, which I watched on TV at the home of family friends. I didn’t entirely understand what was going on (again, six) but I was enthralled. This is probably more proof that I came out of the box, hardwired for historical romance.

I was the kid who, when given Jane and Johnny West figures for Christmas (maybe that same year? That feels about right.) did not fall in love with the mystique and adventure of the American West. Instead, I made them act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. My dad was big on the classics, if nobody guessed that by now. Still, I think that wasn’t entirely what he had in mind. To this day, I’m not sure if Jane and Johnny were meant to be siblings or lovers. No, scratch that. I checked. They’re married. They also apparently had four kids. My parents probably kept that information from me, to forestall requests for the kiddo figures. I also did not know about the homestead, dogs, or friend and enemy figures, to say nothing of articulated horses and a bison. A bison. Seeing as how we have a stuffed bison (cuddly toy variety, not taxidermy variety) on top of our dresser, six year old me cannot complain of a bison-less existence.

This is the part where I stare at the screen, notice I have about two hundred more words to go before I can sign off on this entry, and have no earthly idea how to tie this into anything that will make sense to anybody but me. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe every entry doesn’t have to mean something,  and I can put what’s in my head out there, for readers to take what they will. After this, I have a critique partner’s chapter to look over, and then get something together for my weekly meeting with N. What I would most like to do is snuggle into my comfy chair, with a blanket, some hot beverage (tea or cocoa, not sure which one I would want in this hypothetical circumstance) and finish reading Holding Up the Universeby Jennifer Niven, because I am still emotionally raw from blazing through her first YA novel, All The Bright Places.     What is left of my heart still wants to hang out there, hang onto that voice, and, as I did with my Best of the West figures, pick what I want from the source, and figure out how those elements would work in the world of historical romance.

I think I was hard-wired for that sort of thing, too. Meat Loaf (the singer, not the food) once said that people need to keep one thing in mind when listening to any song composed by his songwriter, Jim Steinman: that everything Steinman writes is from the same story world, and it all fits together. I think Meat called it Wonderland (not the Alice sort, IIRC) but I may be wrong on that one. Still, it stuck with me.

Maybe that’s why I go through periods when I know, without a doubt, I am in full magpie mode. I’m hungry for a certain kind of story, or setting, or character type. When magpie season hits, I have to inhale everything I can about the current fixation, process it, and trust that it’s going to come out again in my own work, in some fashion. At six, I probably did not register Romeo and Juliet’s ultimate fate, and, at more-than-six, I am not going to tell the Bard how to write, but, in a romance novel, the lovers would be alive, together, and happy about it. That’s hardwired, too, and I am fine with that.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: I Did Not Eat My Brother Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am sorry to say that I have to open this week’s post with some sad news. Last Friday afternoon, my fish brother, Tuna Roll, was all done being a fish.  I had nothing to do with it. Uncle came home before Anty, and did not see Tuna Roll at first. I followed Uncle into his office, because he is my favorite, and I love him the most. He looked at the bowl, and then looked at me. “Tell me you didn’t,” he said. I told him I did not. I do not jump or climb, because I am a floor girl. Then Uncle saw what really happened. Tuna roll was a good and pretty fish. He was very blue. He was a good swimmer, and he loved his plant. We will miss him. Anty and Uncle say that I may get another fish brother in a couple of weeks. I will not eat him, either.

Aside from that, this was a decent week for Anty’s writing. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, kicking off a month of spooky romance talk with a look at the books that arguably started it all, the classic gothic romances. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURgoinggothic

Because last week’s episode of Outlander was an odd-numbered episode, Anty got to recap it for Heroes and Heartbreakers. This was a very special episode for Anty, because it was all about Christmas, which is Anty’s favorite holiday, and it had two love stories in it. That post is here, and it looks like this:

Outlanders3e5recap.jpg

Now is the part of the post where I bring you up to date on Anty’s Goodreads reading challenge. Right now, she is one book behind, having read sixty-nine out of ninety books, but the weekend is here, so I fully expect her to get back on track by the next time she checks in on this front. If you would like to follow Anty’s challenge, it is here, and, right now, it looks like this:

GR131017

almost on track…

Anty finished reading one book this week, Southwark, by Jessica Cale. This book is relevant to Anty’s interests, because it is set in one of her favorite periods, the English Restoration, and it is very gritty. Anty loves when historical romance is very gritty. Her review is here, and it looks like this:

GRtyburncale

Anty looks forward to reading more books by Miss Jessica, and is always on the lookout for new books set in the Restoration. If you know of any good ones, please put them in the comments, and I will pass them along.

I can also pass along that, this week, Anty wrote her first scene for Drama King, and sent it in to Anty Melva. Now Anty waits to hear back from Anty Melva. Anty’s scene is really the second scene, since Anty Melva wrote the actual first scene that is in the book, but this is the first scene where the hero and heroine actually talk. I am pleased to note that the hero does consider his poor cat, waiting at home for dinner, when choosing his course of action. That alone means that this book is off to a very good start.

Drama King is not the only book Anty is writing, however, and, this week, at her critique meeting with Miss N, Anty heard those words that make her remember saying bad words in Panera is not polite. Those words are, “when do you think you’ll get back to writing (new chapters on Her Last First Kiss)?” and they come from Miss N. Anty did not actually say the bad words, but she knows that, when Miss N asks that question, it is because Anty has probably done about all the planning (or re-planning) she needs to do for this section of the book.

Overhauling half of an entire book is not something a writer goes into lightly, but, sometimes, it has to be done. This sometimes includes things like writing out calendars by hand for all the time in which the story could take place, and using those calendars to figure out how long things would take, from travel times, to how long it takes to make a new  human, and when the existing humans would be aware that the new human was underway. Because Her Last First Kiss is historical, that means Anty also has to figure out things like what foods are available when, how much moonlight there would be on a particular night, how long a party can last, and what things a human might accidentally leave behind when they have to leave a place in a big hurry.

Thankfully, Anty has most of that in place, so now it is a matter of making sure she really does have all of her metaphorical ducks in a row, and then getting back to business. Once she has everything straight, she can tell the story, without having to stop and check. That is one of the occupational hazards of being a puzzler, like Anty. Some writers are plotters, who decide how the whole story is going to go, and then follow that plan. Others are pantsers, who create as they go, with no plan. Anty is somewhere in the middle. She love to plan, but sometimes, her story people have other ideas, and she will see scenes that are not always in order. That is okay, because Anty loves to organize, so this means she gets to write everything down on index cards and make sure she has no holes in the storyline. Then she can go right through to the end. She likes that part of the process, too.

This is where Tuna Roll’s Thought of the Day would have gone, but, because Tuna Roll was all done being a fish, we will make it Tuna Roll’s Parting Thought:

0825TunaRoll

RIP, Tuna Roll; you will be missed

 

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

 

History, Romance, and Historical Romance

Right now, I’m sitting in my office chair, The Goo Goo Dolls playing in the background, and water bottle at the ready. Skye is curled against the office door, propped open (the door, not Skye) with a blush pink mini milk crate filled with art supplies. I have an ice pack for the finger I burned on the skillet while making sausage for breakfast this morning. My brain is still rather think-y, mostly about writing, the romance genre, and writing in the romance genre.

I’ve known I wanted to write love stories since I was far too young to be reading them, and yes, they do have to end happily. Back when I first jumped on board the historical romance train, things looked different within the genre. Books were books, not series, for the most part, and pretty much the entire sweep of history was fair game, the now-dominant Regency setting mostly in its own sphere, that of the traditional Regency. When I first started reading historicals, I loved the idea of a genre devoted to the specific spirit of a particular time, and distinctly remember asking a bookseller where the Elizabethans were. You know, like the Regencies, but the Elizabethan period, when Queen Elizabeth I ruled England. Or Tudor period as a whole; her dad’s era, or her granddad’s, it’s all good.

I remember the bookseller’s answer as well, after a few rounds of variations of “what on earth are you talking about, strange college student who is super into this historical romance thing?” There weren’t any. Historical romances could be set in any period, and, back then, they were, but these slim books with their distinctive covers only covered one historical period, and a relatively short one at that.

Well, then. Where’s the fun in that? Personally, I think there could be a market for that. Historical romances where the history and the romance are intrinsically intertwined are among my very favorites, and knowing where a reader could find stories in their favorite periods makes a lot of sense, but maybe that’s just me. I spent long hours in that bookshop, pulling spine after spine out of the shelves, for a glance at the cover, then a quick scan of the back blurb, looking for my preferred periods. In the rare case when cover and/or blurb didn’t tell me, the first page of the story usually did.

My favorites back then were anything in the 16th-18th century range, then medieval, then Edwardian, then ancient world, then whatever’s left can all mill about together. Special exception made for historical romances set in Australia. There have  never been enough historical romances set in Australia. Coughty-cough years later, my historical hierarchy has not changed, though the first three shuffle around in order from time to time. I think they have some kind of time share thing going, and I remain firm in my position on Australian historical romances. Tell me a historical romance is set in Australia, and then take my money. I need hear nothing more.

It’s a select group of romance novel elements that fit that designation. If either lead spends time in Newgate or Bedlam, give me that book. Star-crossed lovers who somehow make it work? I want that. No, scratch that. I need it. I want the struggle. I want to see our lovers get thisclose to being happy, have it all wrenched away, and then fight like hell to get it back, and, this time, they win. I’m perfectly fine if that takes multiple years, crosses oceans, or takes place on more than one continent. As long as I have a lump in my throat, my heart hurts a little, and I get to fist pump at the end, because the lovers made it, no matter what stood in their ways. Take that, antagonists, you are no match for true love.

There’s a lot to be said for quieter stories, and I have liked some of them, even loved a few. My first historical romance, My Outcast Heartis a quiet story. My hero is a hermit, and my heroine, a subsistence farmer. Dalby and Tabetha are always going to be special to me, not only because they were my first sale, but because their story could not have come together any other way. I left them happy, healthy, and a wee bit better off than they started the story. Dalby started the story living in a shack in the woods by himself, so the bar was probably low for him to begin with, but still, they ended up together and happy about it, and I don’t think they’d consider their lives small at all. Quiet, yes, but not small. All right, Tabetha’s last name was Small before she married Dalby, but there’s a difference between Small and small.

From there, I took a detour to sixteenth-century Cornwall, and the turn of the twentieth century in England and Italy, before Jonnet and Simon found themselves in the middle of the English Civil War.  Every one of those periods, and the periods I’m writing in right now -the late eighteenth century for Her Last First Kiss on my own, and the modern age for my co-written novels with Melva Michaelian, influence the love stories, so that the stories as they happen couldn’t have happened the same way in any other era.

For me, that’s a lot of the fun. How are these particular lovers going to get what they want, within the world in which they live? How have the lives they’ve led up to the point where they decide this other person is it for them, affected how likely it is they are going to get to be with this person, and what are they going to have to do, or give up, to be with this person? For me, the HEA is all the more satisfying if they have to work hard for it, and take a few knocks along the way. That’s the type of story I hope to bring to my readers, with Her Last First Kiss, A Heart Most Errant, and everything else.

What kinds of historical romances are your very, very favorites?

 

 

 

Of Kings and Teacups

Once upon a time, a young girl stole a book from her mother’s nightstand. She read that book under the big brass bed in the guest bedroom, and knew, within pages, that she had found what she wanted to read and write for the rest of her life. That girl was me, and that book was The Kadin, by Bertrice Small. My mom found me (darned flashlight beam) and took the book back, because I was too young to read that sort of thing. Mind you, I wasn’t even anywhere near the love scenes. What grabbed me, besides the author’s voice, was the cadence of the language, the lavish description, the sense of adventure, and being inside the skin of a heroine the back cover blurb already told me was going to come out on top, no matter what happened to her.

I stole the book back, of course, and the next one, and, by the time the third book by Ms. Small came out, I had my own copy. While I do appreciate my mother’s concern for my young sensibilities (but really, she had no problem with the horror comics I also devoured, but I don’t think she actually knew what was inside them, either) there was one other unarguable truth. This kind of story, this epic love of long ago, this was mine. Maybe I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but I did understand the force of recognition that slammed into me, in those first few pages.

That feeling has become, thankfully, familiar over the years, and yet the thrill of one of those waves as it crashes over me never gets old. This weekend’s episode of Outlander, “Freedom and Whisky,” and the episode that preceded it, “Of Lost Things,” brought a huge wave of the stuff. This also reminds me that Poldark is back in business. Yes, I know, historical fiction, not historical romance, but Ross and Demelza fit the hero and heroine roles admirably, even if Ross dropped several thousand points in our esteem at the end of last season. He may want to start practicing his grovel, because getting on Demelza’s wrong side is never a good idea.

Right about now, I would love to reference an essay/blog post about teacup romances and king-slapping heroines. I want to say it was written by Ilona Andrews, but, as I’m not turning up anything on my search results, perhaps I have remembered wrong. Even so, it’s the essence that matters, not the specifics at this point. The author wrote about what she termed teacup romances, in which characters could move through the story, holding a teacup, and not spill a drop, and contrasted those with another, when a heroine rebuffed the advances of the reigning monarch with a slap. This fascinated another character, who revealed that they’d always wanted to slap a king. Big move there, and definitely not without risk.

Both types definitely have their place, but, for me, it’s going to be king-slapping, every time. I think Janet Leslie (aka Cyra Hafise) from The Kadin would find much in common with Claire and Demelza, and, maybe, if Bertrice Small were to send that manuscript to a publisher today, it might be marketed as historical fiction rather than romance. Still, take out the love story, and the book would crumble. Could any of these stories take place in any other time and place than the ones they do? Hard no, to all three, and I love that. I love the full period immersion. In Outlander, we get three periods: the eighteenth century, 1940s and 1960s, all rendered in loving detail. The past really is a whole other world, and that’s where the stories I write, by myself, take place. Even my co-written contemporary stories have a historical tinge. I’m hardwired for this kind of stuff.

That’s the bedrock. That’s what’s not going to change. That’s the sweep and the surge and the power of historical romance that I love best, and it’s what I want to put into my own work. Taking in what one wants to put out is always a good idea, not only to see what others have already done, but what I would do differently. Watching one of these shows, or reading a book with a similar tone gets my idea hamster running. I take in some of that stuff, I want to make some of that stuff. If a few teacups get broken along the way, well that’s a risk I am willing to take.

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Warm and (Chicken) Tender Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. We have one week of October under our belts. Except for me. I do not wear belts. I do not wear anything. I do have a full length fur coat, but it is built in, which means is it part of me, so I am not wearing it.  This week was not as full as last one, but it was still a good one, and one I have to review in full before I am allowed to talk about anything else.

First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this past Saturday, wrapping her Back to Romance School series of posts, asking what we have learned about romance. I, personally, have learned quite a bit. Mainly that there need to be more cats in these books, but Anty is working on that. Her post is here, and it looks like this:

BURwhathavewelearned

Since it is the first week of the month, that means it is time to look not only at Anty’s reading progress, but at how many of those books were historical romance. Right now, her Goodreads challenge looks like this:

GRreadingchallenge061017

Her goal is to read ninety books before the end of the year, and, so far, she has read sixty-eight, which puts her on track for the second week in a row. Good job, Anty. Keep up the good work. I will sit very very close to you, to provide inspiration. Also body heat. I am very, very fuzzy.

hr-challenge-2016-badge

The next question is, how many of those books were  historical romance? Once again, Anty is on track. Her goal was for at least half of the books she reads this year to be historical romance. So far, out of sixty-eight, thirty-four are historical romance. If we count the historical fiction with romantic elements, that puts her over half, but the jury (comprised entirely of Anty) is still out on that one, so we will say half, to be on the safe side. That is still pretty good. The rest are divided among YA, historical fiction with romantic elements, and some contemporary romance/women’s fiction.

Here are the books Anty reviewed this week, both YA:

GRwindfallsmith

Windfall, by Jennifer E. Smith

GRgenuinefraudlockhart

Genuine Fraud, by E. Lockhart

On the writing front, there is some good news. Earlier this week, Anty Melva sent Anty an email at her writer address, not her personal address. Anty was not sure why Anty Melva was sending her email there, but then she opened it and found out that one of the publishers Anty Melva queried about Chasing Prince Charming liked the query and now would like to read the whole book. That made Anty and Anty Melva very happy, and they hope this publisher will like what they see. In the meantime, their next book, Drama King, will have a cat in it. They should probably mention that in future queries. Editors generally like cats.

Anty now has three writer friends who are looking at Her Last First Kiss, to help her make it the best book she can write, right now. The people looking at it are Miss N, Miss Vicki, and Miss T, who is starting from the beginning. Miss T sent Anty an email with her comments on the second chapter, asking if she was being too critical. Uh oh. That made Anty a little nervous, but she would rather know what needs fixing than not give the book her very best. She opened the file, and guess what? It was not that bad. Miss T also writes historical romance, and they have some of the same tastes, so Anty is very happy to have these sorts of comments. They help her want to make the book even better.

This week was also Anty’s first time making chicken tenders in the oven. I did not get to eat any, because I am a kitty, and chicken tenders are people food, but I do get chicken flavored cat food sometimes, and the kitchen smelled really, really good. I came in to check on how she was doing, because the room was warm and smelled like eggs and birdies, and those are most excellent smells when one is a kitty. This is what the chicken looked like when Anty took it out of the oven:

Tenders

I did not attack that middle tender. Anty cut it in half, to make sure it was cooked all the way through. It was. Anty was not sure at first that she wanted to try making chicken like this, because she had never done it before, but humans tend to get cranky when they have not been fed on time, so she read through the instructions and went on ahead. She had been leery of touching raw chicken, but, as it turns out, she did not have to do that. There are things called tongs that come in handy for things like this. Pick up the chicken with the tongs, put it into some flour, then some eggs, then some breadcrumbs and then the oven. I do not like it when the timer beeps (it is too loud) but the kitchen smelled so good that I did not mind all that much.

It is like that with writing sometimes. A new idea may seem scary at first, and the writer may even be a little squicked out, but, if done right, the new thing could also become a new favorite. Also, chicken is delicious.

Now it is time for Tuna Roll’s Thought of the Day. Take it away, Tuna Roll.

0825TunaRoll

No matter how smooth things look on the surface, there is always something fishy going on. -Tuna Roll

Thank you, Tuna Roll. That is very true.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

Carrots, Sticks, and Nibbles

One thing I have learned about the way I write now, is that I am extremely self-bribeable. Today, the carrot on my stick is a chapter of Genuine Fraud, by E. Lockhart. In the alternate universe where I am in charge of everything, my plan for the day would be to snuggle on the bed with a fuzzy blanket, this book, and an endless supply of hot Lapsang Souchong tea. Throw in some shortbread, and my fully charged Kindle, so that I can gobble Tyburn, by Jessica Cale, after I finish Genuine Fraud. I am not, however, in charge of everything, but I am in charge of getting done what I need to get done today.

Some days, productivity comes on its own, I zip through the to-dos, and, especially now that it’s fall, and days are growing shorter (thankfully; these earlier dusks make me feel alive. I’ve always been that way. Early sunset feels like the world being tucked in for the night, with flannel sheets and handmade quilts.) but other days, not so much. Other days, and this is one of them, I need a carrot on that stick to move forward. One carrot, so I can focus on getting to that treat after I complete one task, instead of looking at the elebenty bajillion that swarm over my head, in chaos and motion. I highly suspect they are breeding, because there always seem to be more, every time I check.

That’s one of the reasons I am notebook-mad. Corral those suckers between their own covers, assign them colors and images, and assure them I’ll give them my full attention when it’s their turn. That seems to be working, so I am going to stick with that. I grabbed Genuine Fraud from the shelf, knowing nothing but that it was the new book by the author of one of my all-time favorite YA novels, We Were Liars. I didn’t want to know anything else, and actually preferred to go into this book completely, 100% blind, because the author’s voice is worth it. I trust the author, know ahead of time I cannot trust the narrator, and I am fine with that. For Tyburn, well, it’s called Tyburn. Sold. I am crazy in love with seventeenth century England, which was a huge motivator in writing my own Orphans in the Storm, though there is very little of that book set in England. Tyburn? Gallows? Yep, I’m there. Darker historical romance with a heroine who is a prostitute at the start of the story, and a tutor hero who has a side hustle as a highwayman? Shut up and take my money.

So. Carrots. One of the downfalls of being in charge of one’s own work is that, sometimes, one does need the additional enh (universal sound made when one cannot…quite…reach a desired object) factor. Some days, that’s write a blog entry, read a chapter. Research an article, read a chapter, do a thing, read a chapter, etc. At the end of the day, the stuff is done, and more chapters have been read, so everybody’s a winner. So far, that is the plan for the day.

What I did not plan for, was an email from my co-writer, Melva Michaelian, letting me know that one of our queries has obtained a nibble. There is a publisher who would like to see the entire manuscript. Cue simultaneous celebration and nerves. What if they don’t like our baby? What if they do? Whoa, whoa, cool your jets, babe. This is a good thing. This is what we want to have happen. The Fraud Police have not (to my knowledge) been dispatched to my current location (if the doorbells rings in the next sixty seconds, I will jump through the roof, fair warning. Eh, if it rings any time, I will jump through the ceiling. It’s a prewar doorbell that buzzes through the walls.)

Not going to lie, it is exciting getting a nibble, that “okay, let’s see what you’ve got. I like what I read so far and want to know more.” Consider it the book version of a test drive. Somebody whose job is to find books people want to read thinks that maybe ours has a chance of being one of those. For someone in the process of getting back on the horse, that’s a nibble on ye olde carrot, and it does serve to add a bit of strength to the pull.

Another email brought comments on one of my chapters, from my newest critique partner, which reminds me I need to get my comments on their chapter back to them, which means better get cranking on the rest of the tasks for the day. Onward.