Real

Another week, another blog entry, and the challenge I’ve set for myseslf today is that I can’t work on Her Last First Kiss, until I post this blog entry. Absolutely no idea what to put here, but tomorrow is breakfast with N, and I want to discuss a couple of things, which means I have to write a couple of things, so I’d better get on with this one.

This morning, I sent in a piece for Heroes and Heartbreakers, about Joanna Shupe’s latest entry in the Knickerbocker Club series, Baron. When I first heard there was going to be a series of historical romances set in New York’s Gilded Age, I literally cheered, and the three stories I have read in that world so far have not let me down. I’m now working on another piece, about the Knickerbockers series as a whole, and looking forward to having that to share soon.

Ten days ago, I noticed a new feature on Sandra Schwab’s illustrator Facebook page (she is also the author of one of my all time favorite gothic romances, Castle of the Wolf. Always count the gargoyles. Always. My desk has two.) – a contest for a free heroine portrait. At first, I thought, “wow, that would be cool,” scrolled past, and then scrolled right back, because we miss one hundred percent of the shots we don’t take. I typed a description of the qualities that make Heroine special to me, and hit send before I could talk myself out of it. (I am very good at talking myself out of things like this.) Back to work, business as usual, looking forward to reading about everyone else’s heroines. I have always been a heroine-centric reader and writer, so of course I want to hear about what other writers are doing with their heroines.

Imagine my surprise, later, when my direct message box pops up, with the notification that I won. :Blink: Did I read that right? :blink: Okay, I did. :blink: Oh good gracious, now I have to talk about her. I have to say her name. Well, technically, I already did, and that gave me some nervous tingles, because it’s not like there’s some super secret character naming cabal, and Hero and Heroine’s names aren’t super weird (I hope) or super boring (I hope) but I’ve been guarding them, because they’re part of this whole book baby, and I want to do right by it. By them. I did the only logical thing. Shut the window and paid very close attention to Doing Something Else. I am also very good at Doing Something Else.

Doing Something Else, in this case, lasted only so long before the part of me that screams “Ronkonkoma,” while running down the metaphorical pier at top speed, to cannonball into the water, kicked into gear. My cannonball, in this case, was to look at the information Sandra needed for the portrait, attach a reference picture I’ve been using when I need to describe Heroine, and hit “send.” There. Done. Now Do Other Things.

Fast forward to a few days later, when my direct message box pops up again, and my breath caught at the image beneath Sandra’s “How’s this?” Oh hey, Heroine, there you are. Her face was perfect, the colors exactly right, she had her pistol, and it was her. I’d know her anywhere. Heroine. I knew exactly the point in the story this would have been, and I actually shivered. I couldn’t wait to share her with everybo….wait a minute. There’s her name. On her picture. If I put this out there, everybody will know. Doom will fall. Doooooooooooooom. Writer people, you may identify with some of this.

I took a moment to regroup. 1) since this manuscript’s ultimate destination is publication, that means that I’m going to have to put Heroine’s name out there sometime. Nobody writes “Hero” and “Heroine” throughout the entire book. People are going to know her name. 2) it’s only her first name, and it’s the name she actually uses, not the name that would be on an official document, and yes, the actually used name is indeed a period appropriate pet form of the formal name, so the history police are going to have to shush on that one. 3) this is overthinking and we are cutting down on the overthinkings.

Toward that end, Ronkonkoma:

 
That’s her. That’s Ruby. Heroine. Part of the prize is the ability to use the image as a teaser, so that’s the next thing, selecting a short passage to go along with the image. That will mean I’ll have a teaser to share here. To show writer friends and readers. To put on the Coming Soon page (which needs some serious updating anyway.) I can’t back out if it’s there. If it’s real. The Ronkonkoma part of me already has plans to commission a Hero portrait (hey, baby steps) because they’re a pair, the two of them, and Heroine has good aim. I do not want to be on her bad side.

So. The picture is there. The next draft is in progress. I know where I’m going, how I’m getting there, and what happens along the way.  This is not only back on the horse, but once around the ring, moving forward. It’s real. Of course, it always was. The fact that the stories and characters who populate them exist in our heads doesn’t mean they aren’t real. This only means that, now, other people know it’s real. Small change, but a big one all the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Post-People Vet Editiom

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It has been a week of changes here, and the humans are still figuring out what some of them mean. If they are not sure, you can only imagine how it is for a kitty, but here is what I  know so far.

  1. Uncle is going to be home all the time for  a little while, while he gets better. This is good because I get to be with him all the time (I like that a lot) and he does not smell as sick as he used to smell. Kitties pick up on these things. Uncle’s regular people vet helped him figure out some of the things that made him feel really really bad, and he is doing a lot better already. It will take a little more time, but not very much, as he is learning how to take care of himself and Anty is making sure that he does.
  2. This also means that Uncle is home during Anty’s writing time. She says she can feel it when people are breathing her air. She loves Uncle and she loves the stories she is writing, and sometimes, it is a lot to juggle, so she is figuring out how to do that, especially when she is getting used to new technology.
    new computer in action

    new computer in action

    Merely because her tablet and new laptop are both pink does not mean they automatically share everything, and some files are still on the old laptop, like her Sims. It is complicated, but she is learning. The fact that the tablet and new computer are very portable is a big help. The fact that she cannot pick up Wi-Fi in the park is not that helpful, but there are ducks.

  3. Grandma’s people vets say that Grandma can go home this week, so my Mama is going back to where we used to live so that she can help Grandma get settled. Anty says she is turning Mama’s room into an art studio. That is fine by me, as long as my food bowl stays in the same place. (Sorry, Mama..) Anty could really use a room for her art, but I think she will miss Mama while she is gone.
  4. There are a lot of outside noises, and they are scary. Uncle says the city is making the street nicer, but all I can tell, because I am an indoor kitty, is that there is a lot of noise all day. Lots of loud machines and the ground shakes sometimes, and they took out all the trees on our street. Uncle says the city will put in new trees, and the birds will come back (I really like to watch birds in the morning) but that changes the light that comes in the living room window when I hang out with Anty and Mama at breakfast time.
  5.  Here is a picture of Anty’s latest library haul, except for the bottom book.
    one of these things is not like the others

    one of these things is not like the others

    That one is on the bottom because the cover curled back on itself during the really humid days last week, and she wants it to be flat. You will note that all of the books, apart from the bottom one, are YA, not historical. Anty would really like to be reading historical, but she says her brain will not go there right now, and that bothers her. She likes these books, but misses historicals. She has had a sneak peek at an upcoming historical by Kate Rothwell, whose books she really likes, so that is one thing. Anty thinks there should be more historical romances set in New York. Maybe she should write some. Well, some more. She already wrote one, My Outcast Heart. It was her first book, and there are kitties in it. I was not born yet, so none of them area based on me. The cover is not on Goodreads, which Anty will need to fix, but it does have one.

  6. Anty has discovered a new site for writers, called The Fearless Writer. They have also discovered Anty, and include some of these blog entries (not mine, so far, but maybe they are waiting for The Fearless Writer’s Cat to start, but then again, I am not exactly fearless) in their newsletter so that more people can find this blog. There are other things in it, too, but none of those people feed me, so I do not have to mention them. Put some treats in my bowl, and we’ll talk.
  7. It seems like there should be a seventh entry, because there are seven days in a week, and I blog once  a week, unless Anty needs my help more often, which she might, because of above reasons. Anty is hoping to get to watch Poldark this weekend, because it is set in the same era as Her Last First Kiss and she would like to soak in some atmosphere. If any of you know of other movie set in the 1780s, please leave them in the comments and I will tell Anty to watch them. That might help her not be so cranky about having to give season two of Game of Thrones back to the library before she has seen all the episodes.

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

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

Until next week...

Until next week…

Typing With Wet Claws: Posting Playdate With Bailey Edition

Hello, all. Skye here for another Feline Friday, and my very first posting playdate. That is where I talk to other pets and find out what it is like for them to live with their writer humans. For my first posting playdate, I am talking with Bailey, who lives with my Anty Sue Ann. Her readers know her as Sue Ann Porter. Bailey inspired me to start blogging in the first place, because of how much he helps Anty Sue Ann, so it was only polite to ask him first.

Bailey is not a cat. Bailey is a dog. That may be why all the questions are numbered one, but that is okay. He looks like this:

Smiling

My friend, Bailey

  1. How did you and your human find each other?
Mom and Dad had just moved into a new house, and decided that the backyard needed a dog. Dad called a dog breeder who specialized in Short-Hair Collies, (also known as Smooth Collies) –which is what I am. She had one puppy left-me! I was 12 weeks old, so Mom and Dad thought maybe I was the runt of the litter. But that’s ok. Dad drove way up by the Canadian Border to get me. I am a Rock Star. Wherever I go, people stop and say, “What a pretty dog!”
He does look comfortable...

He does look comfortable…

  1. What sort of writing does your human do?
My human likes to write Flash Fiction, although if I can tell you a secret, most of the stories are not fiction. But they are entertaining. She also likes to write memoir, stories that really happened. My human also writes a blog at sueannporter.com where she likes to write about Bible stories. Sometimes she also writes about kitchen disasters, life disasters. Never a dull moment in the Porter Household. Of course *I* am the Star of the Show. Mom says so often.
The nose knows. (Anty really likes Bailey's nose)

The nose knows. (Anty really likes Bailey’s nose)

  1. What things does your human use to write? (computers, notebooks, etc)
My human likes to start writing in a notebook. Mom likes to be able to scribble and cross things out. Then she goes onto the computer and inputs it. She also has a computer that is not hooked up to the internet. Mom uses that one when she has some deep writing to dig out; she plays Solitaire in one window and writes in the other window. It has something to do with right brain/left brain.
Bailey is very good with layout, but not the computer kind.

Bailey is very good with layout, but not the computer kind.

  1. How does your human get ready to write, and how do you get their attention back on you?

Well today, when my human started to answer these questions, I grabbed my rawhide bone and mad a lot of noise. My human was forced to pay attention to me then.

Recharging batteries...

Recharging batteries…

  1. What kinds of treats do they give you for being such a good helper?                                          I have little yum-yums that have like 20 calories in them. I used to get bigger treats, but I started gaining doggie pounds. I have to keep my physique in tip-top shape.
He woke up like this

He woke up like this

Thank you Bailey. That is all very interesting. I think you should get treats for being such a good guest. Helping a human write is very hard work for a pet, but it is worth it in the end, because writing makes our humans happy, and we like it when they are happy. It makes them more likely to play with us. Sometimes it gets them more money to buy our food and treats, and that is good, too. I hope you will come and visit here again. This was fun.

My Anty also prefers to start writing in notebooks. That is one of the ways Anty and Anty Sue Ann first became friends. Now they meet at the coffee house to write in their notebooks together, but sometimes, they just talk. Maybe that is because Bailey and I are not there. I stay home because I am a kitty, but the coffee house says dogs can come inside, (sometimes, the owner brings his dog) so, technically, Bailey could.

A canine and a gentleman...

A canine and a gentleman…

Another thing Anty and Anty Sue Ann have in common is how they play a game and write at the same time when they need to figure out something. Anty does not play solitaire, though. She plays Sims 3, which is basically writing, but not with words. I will explain in another post. Anty also likes to have more than one window open, so she can look at pictures or notes as she writes.

Anty wanted me to talk about computer things, too, but unfortunately, we have run out of time and it is now time for my breakfast, so that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

Until next week...

Until next week…

Conference Recap, Part the Second: Saturday

Note to self: take more pictures next year.

view from our room

view from our room

Spring is absolutely on here in the northeast, and perfect atmosphere for day two of NECRWA 2015. Though Friday certainly has its share of workshops, Saturday has always felt like Workshop Day to me, and this year did not disappoint. First, though, allow me to state that conference breakfasts with endless tea are basically Extroverted Morning Person Disneyland. Caffiene! Breakfast food! People who want to talk about what I want to talk about! Free book on my plate! :runs about room, trailing streamers:

breakfast food breakfast food breakfast foooooood

breakfast food breakfast food breakfast foooooood

By this time, the usual suspects had formed an entourage, and most of us ended up at the same table to continue the conversations of the night before, with some new blood injected, business cards handed around and schedules compared. If I’d had a parrot on my shoulder for this weekend, a) that would have been an awesome icebreaker, and b) the first phrase he would have learned would have been “how many seats am I saving?” because traveling to workshops en masse is fun.  I will not mention at which workshop somebody I have hung out with at more than one conference spilled coffee on me, but no staining occured, so all is well in that department.

First workshop of the day was Susan Vaughn‘s presentation on the conflict box, which was a new concept for me, and an intriguing one. Biggest takeaway there was to have hero and heroine’s actions each drive the other’s conflict. :rubs hands together and cackles with glee: I think I can have some fun with that.

I’ve seen Megan Ryder‘s presentation on storyboarding before, and jumped at the chance to see it again. Okay, the use of sticky notes was a big draw. I bought a trifold board for this exact purpose after seeing Megan present this a while back, and was interested to see if there would be any new information this time around. Sillly Anna, of course there was. The mere idea of drawing a permanent chart on the board gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’d rather slap the sticky notes up there willy-nilly and then put them in order as they start to make sense, which, as it turns out, is a perfectly fine way to handle things. Of course I knew that, but it’s always good to have reinforcement. Also, I need to buy more sticky notes, because shapes and colors.

After that, it was time to hear from Jackie Horne, another NECRWA chapter sister, on using the Meyers-Briggs personality typing system to build not only characters, but plot romantic arcs. I love any sort of personality typing, as I’m definitely character-led, so hearing how to use this to enhance the love relationship kept me on the edge of my seat. Breaking down personality types into four different functions, ranked from lead to least got my idea hamster running like crazy on its wheel. How to use each character’s personality to find out what both attracts them to their true love and how their true love drives them crazy? Right up my alley. I’ll be using this a lot.

As the lovely Melva was in high demand and her presence required at another engagement, I was not able to attend Gail Eastwood‘s presentation on author voice, another topic I could talk about endlessly, but, through the magic of networking, my luncheon seatmate happened to be a friend of Gail’s and asked if I’d like her to ask if I could have the notes. Mention angels and one appears – Gail happened by to say hi, we explained things, and she graciously agreed to email me her notes and the handouts. Very much looking forward to those.

All too soon, it was time to go, but, as so often happens, a seed was planted. Melva and I had started talking while waiting for breakfast, and before too long, a novella idea had formed. I haven’t collaborated with another writer in a very long time, but once the ideas started, they kept on coming. Melva and I would both blurt out the same thing at the same time, and that’s how I come to today’s featured picture. My first assignment was to write down all the stuff we’d brainstormed at meals and the car ride back. As the plethora of sticky notes shows, there was quite a bit. Stay tuned for updates.

Now, how long until next year?

Traditional post-conference sundae

Traditional post-conference sundae

Conference Recap, Part the First: Friday

In more ways than one, but we’ll get to that. NECRWA’s annual Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference was this past weekend, and while I’d planned to blog about my experience immediately, life reminded me there is more going on than writing – but it does remind me how much I want it, so that’s all good.

Robin Sparkles, in action

Robin Sparkles, in action

Every conference starts with a road trip. Since my move to NY, this now means two hours with Housemate, en route to MA, where I make the switch to my longtime conference roomie, the lovely Melva Michaelian, who writes on the cozy side of romantic suspense. Two more hours on the road, nattering about works in progress and life in general, and then we get to walk the red carpet (only the literal one, more’s the pity. There was a carpet. It was red. No press, though. It was only a color. :hangs head: We strutted anyway, luggage in tow.)  Technically no traffic jams, and we did not get lost, so this was a successful journey.

Since we had forgotten (whoops) that the workshop with Lauren Dane was actually the master class and had needed to be registered for in advance, Melva and I ensconced ourselves in the bar, where we ran into Laurie Gifford Adams, who writes YA, and is a former chapter sister to both of us. Laurie brought along her critique partner and our new friend, Dorothy Callahan, who writes time travel and paranormal. Melva, Laurie and Dorothy headed off soon after for the first workshop of the afternoon, but I had other plans.

Offices happen anywhere

Offices happen anywhere

One of the reasons I was excited about bringing the new tablet to the conference was exactly this; writing. A scene pounced me, and since writing is kind of the whole point of being a writer, I sat out the workshop and settled into this lovely hot spot to dip into story world for the next hour. I like the office program that came with the tablet, except for one tiny omission. No quotation marks. None. I only found this out when I opened the document. Curious, that. A hotel full of writers is probably the only place where one will hear, “oh, are you writing? Sorry, catch you later,” in a genuinely happy voice. I think I could get used to that.

Bringing Robin Sparkles (yes, I name my electronics, so will be using her name and the word “tablet” interchangeably) to the conference was like bringing a new baby. Lots of coos over how tiny and pink she is, what she can do, how we found each other, etc. Some good advice from more experienced tablet users on life with tablet, and a good deal of trial and error, though I think we did all right for our first time out. The onscreen keyboard is a lot easier to get used to than I thought it would be, but my fingers are still gigantic, and there is probably a stylus in my future. If you hear any salty language from this corner of the world, that’s me trying to get Spotify to load.

But enough about me. There was, indeed, swag. Pens, bookmarks and postcards abounded, as well as some other creative ideas. I love the small book of sticky notes, and the stress cube is sure to get some use. Letter opener is always useful (for contracts, checks, fan mail, etc, right?) I will never say no to lip gloss, purse-size pack of Band-Aids is essential, but the star of the swag for this year? Flash drive. I’d needed one anyway, and bloop, there it is. Mini size, so it fits in my coin pouch. Perfect. Honorable mention to the pen shaped like a paintbrush, front and center below:

The requisite photo of swag

The requisite photo of swag

Just the books:

TBR

TBR

Megan Frampton gave  a wonderful workshop on the changing rules of the romance covenant. I really wish there were recordings of the workshops available, because there was so much information and discussion that I’d love to be able to go over it again. Does anybody else remember when athlete or rock star heroes were verboten? Now they’re hot. Age gaps, in either direction, characters with histories (or without) and persons of color in various subgenres, and more. An hour really wasn’t enough to cover the topic, but “you can’t do that in romance” can usually be rephrased as “depends how you do it.” If stepsibliing romance can be a thing, I think I’m not that far out there with my historicals (which do not contain romances between stepsiblings, fwiw.) Word is that Victorian settings have now overtaken Regency as the most popular era for historicals. I’d be interested to see the figures on that. Non-19th century historicals are still a harder sell (Challenge accepted!) though there was some discussion of medievals being on the rise. :pets Ravenwood:

Keynote speaker at dinner was the fabulous Sabrina Jeffries. I’m always excited when there’s a historical author as one of the speakers, and was doubly so this year. Her tips on writing through the hard times are a huge part of what kept my head above water when caregiving, grieving and settling relatives’ affairs (not the romantic kind, trust me) threatened to engulf everything else. The woman does know a thing or two about this business, and she has a great attitude. Her talk on creativity and how marvelous it is that we can make up stories and people and worlds all from our own imaginations was a lovely boost of encouragement. I had to give back, and let her know, when I bumped into her at breakfast the next morning, that I actually loved her historical set in Siam, lo those many years back. She said she’s looking to reissue it in ebook form, and I told her I hope she does. I’d love to read it again.

Friday evening wrapped with the second annual fireside gabfest in the lobby. Last year, it was me and Jodi Coburn (that’s us from last year, below,) whom I met over a crowded dinner table when we found out we had the same all time favorite historical romance novel. If that’s not an instant bond, I don’t know what is. This year, we were joined by Melva, Laurie and Dorothy.

photo

There was much chatter about what we were all writing and reading. I drooled over Jodi’s story binder (so stealing her spreadsheet idea) and at one point, we all whipped out our mobile devices to share photos of our furbabies. All too soon, it was time to head to our respective beds, because there was still Saturday ahead of us. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Excerpt from Watermark by E. Catherine Tobler

I’m a historical romance gal, always have been, always will be, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to sniff out a great romance nestled in a story of another genre. In this case, urban fantasy. E. Catherine Tobler has a history of beckoning me out of my comfort zone, and her latest, Watermark, the story of Pip, a kelpie sent to the world of humans, is no exception. Pip, in human form, finds there’s more to both human and fae than she first suspects, and there’s the small matter of Finn, a delicious, tattooed baker who is, like much in this entrancing novel, much more than he appears on the surface.
Watermark-Cover

Intrigued? Try this tasty sample..

Who was he to me? The question rested on my tongue. I did not ask it.

We traced our way through the woods as we had come, Finn holding my hand all the while. Fingers were not so curious to me as toes, but now I understood why. Our hooves left twin trails of prints through the long grasses, prints that were slowly erased in our wake. Wouldn’t a horse be captivated by toes? Wouldn’t a…

“Púca,” he said.

“Can you read my mind then?” The idea wasn’t nearly as unsettling as I expected it to be.

“I’ve a gift for that,” Finn said with care, “but you… You were always different for me, aye?”

He said “aye” the way the king had, slanted with an accent I didn’t recognize—yet it made me ache with familiarity. That was a sound from home. And the idea that I had always been different for him made me stop in my tracks.

“It’s like looking at a lake,” he said. “Most people, I see only what they wish me to, or my own reflection. Some let me below the surface.”

“And me?”

Finn gathered my hands into his. “Earth cups water, prevents it from spilling every which way. Water soaks into earth, letting life grow.”

My nose wrinkled again. This, like Berengaria and Conaire, was nearly too private. It was like looking at something I should not see, even if it involved me.

“Water freezes and earth quakes. Water can flood, smothering ground. Likewise ground can suck entire lakes away.”

Finn’s head tipped in a nod, mane shivering. “Aye, they do. Balance, as Conaire spoke of.”

“You said I was always different, Finn.” I stumbled over his name, knowing the way I knew my own pulse that it was not his true name. The queen and king had not even used that name for him, as if they also knew.

“Faeries do not dream,” he said, “but I think I am. I have a memory of a girl who was not a girl. She watched me through the woods. And I was me, but not me. I was a magical thing she wanted to catch.”

I clasped my hands together, but did not remove them from Finn’s hold. Unlike my own story of the lake and the young girl, I could see none of what he spoke of, but sensed something. A memory?

“She looked for a long while, but I could not tell you how long. She came to the woods every day, hopeful. In the beginning her hands were empty. Eventually, she came with treats. Sugar, cheese, apples.”

He fell silent, and I watched him. Could he see it all so clear within his mind? And then—
“I could show you.”

I only nodded once.

Finn’s hands closed hard around mine, and the wood around us vanished. I drew in a breath even while I had no lungs, no form. I was a small ball held together by Finn’s hands. Around us emerged another wood, not the wood of my lake; these woods were his, I understood. The trees were the color of melancholy, and he was the color of sunlight on snow.

He moved through the trees as a creature I could not name. Not a horse, something beyond a horse, something that glowed and beckoned and there. A girl, with hair as of night, and an apple, green like Yule boughs, and only when she learned to sit did he come.

“Did she catch you?” I whispered.

I watched as the unearthly beast bowed his head, lips claiming the apple, brushing the woman’s palm. My own palm knew that touch, wet velvet.

“Oh yes,” Finn said. “She did.”

~*~

Hungry for more? An interview with E. Catherine Tobler is on the way. In the meantime, explore some Fairy Places and find out how you can get a chance to win a copy of Watermark for your very own.