Typing With Wet Claws: My Brother Has Fins Edition

Hi, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty has a lot on her mind this week, so we had better get down to business. She is going hardcore on the whole talk about her writing thing before I get to talk this week. It’s best to go with her on this one.

First off, Anty is at Buried Under Romance every Saturday, so stop by and see her there. This week, she will be talking about the power of romance heroines. Last week, she talked about the power of romance heroes. That post is here, and it looks like this:

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Anty has some exciting things in the works over at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Look for her post on how to tell whether that nineteenth century romance novel you are reading is Regency or Victorian, coming soon. I would put the link here, but it is not up yet. Anty will also be recapping half of the episodes of Outlander this season, alternating with Elizabeth Poteet. Anty considers herself in most excellent company.

On the reading front, Anty is doing pretty well. She has had to add a flap onto her reading tracker in her not-a-bullet-journal, because she already filled all the slots for her August reading tracker, but it is still August, and she still keeps reading books. That is one of Anty’s super powers that comes back in the fall. Stress allows her to read really, really fast.

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Goodreads says Anty is on track with her reading challenge, but she may actually be ahead. One of the books she read this week, Heir to the Sea, by Danelle Harmon, Anty cannot put that on her Goodreads challenge, even though she likes it very, very much (it is actually one of her favorites of Miss Danelle’s, and Anty really, really likes all of Miss Danelle’s books.) because it will not be published for another week or so. Anty read this book as a beta (not betta) reader. She will put up her review once the book is published. In short, she loved it.

Anty also loves me, which is why she lets me talk on her blog every week. Also because I am cute, and pictures of cute kitties always get attention. I am much cuter than my ne brother, Tuna Roll. For those who want to know how I am adapting to not being the only pet anymore, thank you for your interest. I am mostly unphased by this new addition. This may be because Tuna Roll lives in a bowl on Uncle’s desk, and I cannot see him from my vantage point on the floor. I basically have no opinion, as his presence does not affect me all that much. Let me rephrase that. Tuna Roll makes Uncle happy, and since Uncle is my favorite, and I love him the most most most, then I love Tuna Roll by association. We have a deal. I do not try to eat him, and he does not try to eat me. So far, so good.

Back to Anty’s writing for a minute. This week, Anty and Anty Melva are going to have a different topic when they have their Skype session. This time, they are not going to talk about Chasing Prince Charming (spoiler alert; they caught him, or their heroine did) but they will be talking about their second book together, Drama King. There is a cat in this book, and even he gets a happily ever after, so this may be my favorite book of either of theirs, by that alone. It is nice to see my kind represented in romance fiction.

Anty also worked on an important scent in the second draft of Her Last First Kiss. This part of the book is perhaps the biggest deviation from the first draft, but Anty thinks it is a good change, because things get messier. This is the part of the book where the two humans know that they are in love with each other, but they are also convinced that they can never, ever be together, no way, no how. That is what Anty calls angst. Anty loves angst. Characters can never be completely happy until the very end. Anty says not to worry; this is  a romance novel, so that happy ending is guaranteed.

If you hear a clock ticking around here, that is because Anty has not one, but two beta (not betta) readers lined up for A Heart Most Errant, once she is done giving it a once over. The avoid-y part of Anty mumbled something about “a couple of weeks,” but then it got steamrolled by the part of Anty that makes her own planner from scratch. That part said “great, two weeks it is.” The avoid-y part is now hiding under a blanket fort, clutching a stuffed animal and rocking back and forth while making whimpery sounds. The planner-from-scratch part is ignoring the avoid-y part and breaking down the manuscript into chunks, then going over each chunk once, and only once. The planner-from-scratch part would like to get this ball rolling. I like rolling balls. They are fun to watch. Sometimes, I bat them with my paws. Sometimes.

Since today’s schedule is all upside down, we are still on a break from video blogs. Instead, I will introduce a new feature. I call that new feature Tuna Roll’s Thought of the Day.  Take it away, Tuna Roll.

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Eat more chicken. Or beef. Or pork. Or anything that is not fish. Especially not me. Tuna Roll

 

 

 

Thank you, Tuna Roll. That is about it for this week, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

 

 

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Betta Reading

Normally, I would save the first fish picture for Skye to share on her blog, but A) we are not sure she even knows we have added to the family, because she has shown absolutely zero interest in her new finny brother, and B) I needed a prompt for today’s post. So, all that said, allow me to introduce Tuna Roll, aka Petit Monsieur:

 

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Hi, I’m Tuna Roll. Nice to meet you.

 

I will state for the record that I lobbied for Julius as the name for our newest family member, but since said family member is also Real Life Romance Hero’s birthday gift this year, Real Life Romance Hero has the honor of naming him. Tuna Roll it is, though Housemate and I refer to him as Petit Monsieur when RLRH isn’t around.

Nearly a solid week of dropping flakes into Tuna Roll’s bowl twice a day has brought a few things to light. First, I’m not sure if they fed him pellets at PetSmart, but it took our li’l guy a couple of tries before he figured out those flaky things the humans drop into his water are edible. I don’t blame him. Big adjustment from living in a tiny cup, next to a bunch of other fish, also in tiny cups, to getting a nice sized bowl, all to himself, with gravel and a plant and everything.

During the process of transitioning Tuna Roll from the cup in which we brought him home (proud grammar nerd here,) we had to float his cup in the prepared bowl, set up days in advance of his arrival. Even while inside his cup, Tuna Roll had his eyes on one thing: the plant. I’m not sure if he ever had a plant before, but with all his swimming around, he always came back to the plant, and, the first thing he did, when settled into the bowl proper, was head straight for that plant. Then he zoomed around the bowl a couple of times. While there’s no way for sure to know what he’s thinking (unless there are any ichthyologists reading this, who want to help me out here) my educated guess is that it was something like “Whee, look at all this room! I live in a palace! Get a load of this, cup dwellers! I am living the good life now.”

I could be wrong, but I saw what I saw. It’s kind of like that with reading, and with writing, but that may be another post, so we will start with reading. My first nibble of the romance genre was The Kadin, by Bertrice Small, and it took a while before I ventured out to other authors, but once I did, whee, look, there’s a whole historical romance genre out there, with gravel and plants and everything. Okay, maybe plants and gravel aren’t as big a deal in romance reading as they are in fish décor, but that first rush of discovery was heady, and, decades after the fact, I am still running on fumes of wandering through a used bookstore in downtown Montpelier, Vermont, slipping my fingers along the spines of rows and rows and rows of historical romance novels.

These books were set in pretty much any period I could imagine, from the ancient world to the early twentieth century, and I’m still kind of drunk on the variety. At the time, one author writing in multiple periods was the norm, and that imprinted on me. I don’t think that’s going to ever leave. Though I’m concentrating on the eighteenth century right now, I’ve written colonial New York, English Civil War/Restoration, sixteenth century Cornwall, and the turn of the twentieth century, and those are only the currently available backlist. In the next couple of weeks, A Heart Most Errant will go off for a beta read, and I’m nervous. It’s been a long time since anybody besides me got to spend any time with John and Aline, #1linewed entries excepted, and that makes it uncharted territory. Will the story still hold? Will the characters make any connections with the reader? Will she gently suggest I consider another line of work? Probably not on that last one, but I’m anxious about this sort of thing. Also about a lot of things, but especially this.

Yesterday, I sent my co-writer, Melva Michaelian, my final notes on the last batch of pages for Chasing Prince Charming.  One more pass for formatting, and then we are done-done with this book, out of the cup and into the bowl. Queries are going out, to be followed by partials, and, hopefully, the full manuscript. I’m less nervous about this, possibly because I have an awesome writing partner willing to hunt down prospects and make contact, but still nervous. After this book is in its final form (until some lucky editor asks for a few tweaks, that is) we get to start the journey all over again, and start work on Drama King. 

It’s been a while since my last fiction release, and there have been significant changes to both author and industry in the years between. Maybe that’s how Tuna Roll felt when we first floated his cup in the bowl he now calls home. This is different, but interesting. He gets gravel and a plant and fish flakes twice a day, and he comes to the front of the bowl whenever he sees a person approach. He wants this. So do I.

Autumn Is Coming

Calendar tells me it’s almost September, and September means my favorite season begins. The calendar says we don’t technically enter into autumn until the 20th or thereabouts, but, for me, it’s sooner than that. Calendar says September first, I say it’s autumn. While it is still domestic tornado season around here, I’m still ready for cooler temperatures, brighter leaves, and earlier evenings. I’m also ready for the new seasons of favorite broadcast/cable TV shows, especially when that leads to more recaps for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

Slightly before this time last year, I bought an academic planner, pictured above, because the images on the cover and pages sang to me. It felt right in my hands. I couldn’t stop flipping through the gorgeous pages, imagining what I’d put on them; critique meetings, RWA meetings, writing goals set and met or migrated, domestic duties, the occasional fun time out with friends, the sometimes boring, sometimes scary necessities of adult life, Even the monthly grids were set out differently from month to month; sometimes horizontal, sometimes vertical, enough variety to keep me interested. Definitely something I wanted to get again for the coming year, plus it replaced my miserable failure at making my own planner out of a blank notebook, and in the middle of the year, too, so extra score on that one.

Then summer rolls around again, the next batch of academic planners hits the stands. Did the same company who made my beloved 2016-17 planner have another version for 2017-18? Why, yes, yes, they did. Fabulous. Pick it from the stand, leaf through the gorgeous pages, allow blood to sing, imagine what I will write on those pages, in what ink, what form of notation I want to use…and then the realization dawns. This planner, too, starts in the summer months. Which are already covered in the planner I am currently using. Cue record player needle scratch. (If this means nothing to you, ask your parents. They will explain.)

Okay. Well, then. We have a pickle here, don’t we? Not an actual pickle. I don’t like pickles. Real Life Romance Hero may have picked me, in part, because, when we are in a situation where my food has a pickle on it, he does not even have to ask. It is his. The same goes for egg rolls. If Real Life Romance Hero is not around, Housemate gets them. If they are both around, then whoever is faster gets the pickle-and/or-egg-roll, though I can’t imagine any dish that comes with both pickle and egg roll, but that’s not the point here. The point here is that, if I got that gorgeous academic planner, I would then have half a year of redundancy. I am not going to juggle redundant planners. I put the gorgeous planner back on the shelf, and resigned myself to waiting for the 2018 planners to come out, and buy something that probably has pages too plain for my liking.

Or…or…I could take this nifty, new, blank dotted grid notebook and make my own, from scratch. I’ve learned a few things about notebooks and bullet journals, and acquired a fair share of watercolor and India ink markers, so, if I go this route, I have a decent chance of my pages looking less like they were designed by drunken preschoolers, using their non-dominant hands. It’s a little daunting, but, hey, it’s domestic tornado season, so slipping one more thing in there might not be that much of a difference.

Melva and I are on our last pass of Chasing Prince Charming‘s final draft, and queries are going out. It’ real. We wrote a book. our “baby” is big enough to go on the school bus, and, hopefully, make friends. That means that, soon, possibly after a short resting period (on the collaborative projects) it will be time to dive into Drama King, and begin the whole adventure over again.

This week, after domestic tornadoes leveled any chance of regular critique meetings for nearly a month, it will be back in the saddle for draft two of Her Last First Kiss, firmly now in the middle-middle, where my job is making the bad things get even worse, lead Ruby and her Hero into the phase of the story, and their lives, where they think all hope is lost, and they’re definitely in love, but with the worst possible person, at the worst possible time, and no good can ever, ever, ever come of it. Not to mention their mutual best friend caught in the middle. I kind of love this book, and part of it is because their lives are horriby, horribly in flux.

Then there’s A Heart Most Errant. This story came about during a time of my life when it felt like the end of the world, so why not revise it during domestic tornado season? I’m looking forward to spending time with John and Aline again. They have the largest age gap I’ve written so far (he’s older) and are very much an odd couple. He’s a grumpy knight with emotional baggage, and she’s a chatty extrovert, who knows her way around a kitchen. There’s an abandoned abbey, friends of the four-legged variety, and, in some ways, it feels like I’ve never left this story. John and Aline have been taking the scenic route the whole time, content with each other’s company (useful in a road story) and now it’s time for me to join the party again. Maybe that’s the “what’s next” for historicals, but does it count if it’s not a new-new project, but one that’s been on hold for a while?

I’m not sure. That’s the slightly scary thing about entering into a new season. I like to know what’s coming. The multiple planners (yes, I cross-reference) might be a clue to that. Even so, there are some parts of a new season, whether calendar, writing, or life in general, that remain uncharted territory. That’s a constant in itself, even if it won’t fit in a neatly bordered box.

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

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

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

 

fishbowl

Vacancy

 

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

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

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

 

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One of Us Is Lying, by Karen M. McManus

 

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

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

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

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

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

skyebyenew

My Planner Speaks Dutch Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pirate Queens and Clan Chiefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Uncle’s Birthday Week Edition

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

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

BURstressreading

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

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

GRchallenge081017

 

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

and

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

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

 

HeroesAndHeartbreakersVictorians

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

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

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

SkyeOMalleyCatlooksforuncle

He’s coming out annnnny minute now.

 

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

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

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Marrow and Bone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air in My Lungs and Blood in My Veins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Welcome, August Edition

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

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

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

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

The books Anty reviewed on Goodreads this week are:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…