Rainy Afternoon Rambles

Raining off and on over here, as best I can tell. Today was the day when my new sleep medication figured out what it was supposed to do, so let’s say I am very well rested today. I hear birdsong and the sound of wheels on wet pavement, and a quick look outside tells me it has indeed rained. It’s been a hot while since I blogged. That happens sometimes. The best way to get back into it is to jump in there and start blabbering, so here we are.

Okay. First of all, I am still not ready for Kate and Toy’s split on This is Us. They are one of my ships. These things take time Shoot, it took me what, a couple of years to watch the Highlander TV series finale. Either the right time will roll around or it won’t. Either way, there is always fanfic if it turns out that’s what I need. I do plan to watch the rest of the farewell season, but don’t necessarily need a front row seat for everything. Has anybody else had an experience like that with a beloved series, book or TV?

Second, I am pretty much listening to “Don’t Tell Anyone,” by Semler, on repeat:

“I want to know your story like I wrote the page” — them’s powerful words for a writer. Also “Don’t tell them that I swore this wouldn’t be my life.” Also, the tune is as catchy as a cold at a daycare center. I mean that in the very best way.

Wait, wait, wait, did I just hear thunder? Because I think I just heard thunder. Thunderstorms are my number one favorite spring/summer weather. I am absolutely here for it if so.

So Wondrous Free
Maryhelen Clague

Oh man oh man oh man, this book. This hit me in the feels and my history loving heart. I was but a wee princess in Westchester County, NY during the Bicentennial, so a historical romance set in that era and place is one thousand percent going to catch my attention. Also, it was part of the giant birthday haul from my friend, Mary, who knows me and my historical romance reading tastes. For those who only know the modern flavor of historical romance, I might shelve this in historical fiction with romantic elements, and it works very well that way too. I don’t recall any on page snugglies, but our heroine, Nabby, must choose between two dashing men, one Patriot, one Loyalist, during a freaking revolution. More of that, please. I want to make there be more of that.

A young adult female Sim, with long blue hair and tattoos, stands in front of a white wall and wooden door, pointing to something out o frame.

Then there’s Sims. Sims, for me, is the current-day equivalent of my first-grade teacher noting that my schoolwork was MUCH better if I brought dolls to play with during free play time. I never thought I would get as into it as I am, not only playing the game, but creating my own Sims, with tons of custom content, mods, and even learning how to make my own custom content. Not sure how that is going to turn out, but I am looking forward to finding out. It seems to be doing well for my writing, so a-Simming I will go. Picture editing is next, because I love taking screenshots. Does anybody have any experiences with Lightroom? I’ve been curious. I’m already down the ReShade rabbit hole. May as well go all in on the visuals, though the next step does seem to mean ponying up for photo editing software. I’d use it, though, soooo….we shall see.

One more thing. There is now a window open, and there is fresh air coming through that window onto my skin as I sit here in a white t-shirt stolen from Real Life Romance Hero’s stash. Yep. It’s spring.

Anna

The Monkee Lestat

Earlier this week, I found out, on the same day, of the passing of two big influences on my creativity. I found out about Anne Rice first, during my morning Facebook browse, and then, a little later, Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. Both of those hit me, but in different ways.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I first discovered Anne Rice when I stumbled upon Interview With the Vampire, movie version, maybe a half hour in, on a random FB browse. I sat there rapt until the end, immediately sought out the book, then The Vampire Lestat, and hunted down more information on Anne Rice, who had created them. Of course Interview was about grief, and man oh man did she nail it. Not so much the vampire part, surprisingly, but her historical atmosphere so real that it dripped with the Old New Orleans feel. I was actually more of a Louis gal than a Lestat one, but that’s okay. What stuck with me most wasn’t the actual vampires, but the feelings that came along with it. I don’t remember when I wandered away from the franchise. Maybe before Egypt came fully into play, and maybe I will one day go back and read it all.

What I absolutely had to know was the author’s relationship with the Lestat character. I remember reading in some nonficiton book or article or even paper (yes, I tracked down an academic paper) where the author knew the exact moment Lestast left her, and I could see it, feel it, along with her. I also remember reading at a later date of the moment when Lestat came back, and I felt that, too. It’s a special relationship between author and character.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

And then (hey hey) there’s the Monkees. We were born the same year (me and the group, that is; the original people were young adults.) All I knew at the time I discovered them in the early 70’s, when their TV show was in reruns, was they were silly and funny and I liked their music. I wasn’t sure where their parents were until I figured out they were adults and performing was their job. Oh, like The Partridge Family, but adults. Okay. Once again (or really before, since I found The Monkees before Lestat and company) I was more of a Davy gal than a Mike one, but I can say that Michael Nesmith was an amazing songwriter, and I have fond memories of watching his special, “Television Parts” which only addressed Monkee-dom with “I was a Monkee. This is my hat,” and then on with the show. I can respect that.

When the Monkees reunion in the 80s happened, I was in ult, and while disappointed that Mike wasn’t going to be part of it, I also understood. As a newly minted adult myself, he wanted to do other things. Cool. I still love Pool It, the Micky/Davy/Peter comeback album. They still had it. The earlier losses of Davy Jones and Peter Tork also hit me. I appreciate all of their work and am thankful for the legacies they left. I watched a clip from one of their last performances, attached to an official statement from Micky Dolenz, possibly their last time performing “Me and Magdalena,” which I adore, from their first release after Davy’s passing.

Maybe it was even the last time Mike and Micky performed it. This was advertised as The Monkees Farewell Tour, the Micky and Mike show. Micky described Mike as “frail” near the end, and yes, I saw it. I also saw what Micky said about Mike insisting on doing the tour, no matter what anyone else said. Micky carried more of the load than usual there, but Mike gave it all he could, and it showed. I can one thousand percent respect that.

There’s definitely part of both of their works in the writing I have done and am doing and will do. Just remembering for right now, thankful for what they gave us in more ways than they knew.

What celebrity’s work would you like to celebrate this week?

Plot Bunnies in the Attic

First of all, Storm is on heat lockdown (we do plan on getting her spayed) and thus was not allowed to use the computer unsupervised. She kept attempting to log onto Cat Tinder, and we could not have that. Seriously. I found her profile picture.

single black, white, and orange female….

Beyond that, things are going pretty well over here. I was a bit under the weather over the weekend, but feeling much better now, and excited over the holiday season proper being right around the corner. For those of us who are stationery aficionados, that means new planner season is coming. For those of us who write fiction, it’s time to look ahead at the coming writing year. For those of us who are both, that means time to work on a writing planner.

One of those sections is creating a “stuck list,” aka books, movies, TV, other media that usually gets my idea hamster on the wheel and running like they think they are Wilma Rudolph or Usain Bolt.

For me, the book section includes romance and non-romance books. One of the non-romances, that I come back to time and again, is Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. As a romance writer, that does give me a moment of pause. Trigger warning: incest, child abuse.

43448. sx318 sy475
Dollenganger #1

Though there is an intimate relationship between teen protagonists Cathy and Chris, who are full siblings, under extremely extenuating circumstances, this isn’t a romance. It’s a tragedy. I’ve classified it as horror, of the psychological sort, and it is that, but as I wandered down my most recent FITA rabbit hole (it happens every once in a while) I found myself thinking, as I usually do when I revisit good ol’ Foxworth Hall (sarcasm mode on for that house name) “how would this work as a historical romance?”

Not, I should note, that I would ever want to have a hero and heroine who are full, half, step, foster, etc siblings. Not my thing. The big old house with centuries of heritage behind it, though? Oh yes. The family secrets? Yep. The family dysfunction? Well, of course. The creepy-deepy atmosphere? Um, have you met me? You know this is all Anna-nip when it comes to inspiration. I do have to admit that I had some degree of shock when I saw the Lifetime TV movie adaptation of the first book (there are five in all, number five being a prequel; when I reread, I read FITA, then the prequel, then FITA again, as the prequel is the origin story of the villainess) and very seldom pay any attention to the books in between. That’s just me, though.

My other listening obsession is podcasts on romance writing/reading, of which there are delightfully a lot. Though I don’t recall the specific episode where I heard author Sarah MacLean say that she also always thinks “how would this work as a historical romance?” my brain did catch on that. Fellow author Corinna Lawson once told me, after I’d given one of my very first workshops on what is now Play in Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys, that I tend to “take fantasy inspiration and file off all the fantasy.” She’s not wrong, as I first got my start writing Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfic that read like historical romance with blinky things. I think the same thing might well apply to horror.

I did mention above that I have always classed FITA into horror, and with the discovery of some analyses of the Andrews books (only the actual V. C Andrews, thanks. Not the ghostwriter.) that it also fits into gothic drama, and since most of her stories take place in the south, Southern Gothic elements abound. I love that stuff. I gobble the classic gothic romances of the late sixties/early seventies when I can find them, and some authors who are on my top tier historical romance list, like Valerie Sherwood and Aola Vandergriff, also wrote in this gothic genre. Hmmmm. Hmmm. Hmmmmm.

Romance, though, particularly historical (the tone of my contemporaries with Melva Michaelian are decidedly different and equally natural) with HEAs and dating outside of the family line. Right now, I am at the phase of noting things on my stuck list and leaving them to marinate, to ponder in days to come. Maybe this will come in handy when I revise Orphans in the Storm, which may be on tap for 2022. Maybe not, but it’s always fun to examine something that gets the idea hamster on the move, and that’s a worthwhile end in its own right.

What surprising items might you put on your stuck list?

Survival Drama Binge Babble

Right now, I am sitting at my laptop with wet hair, because, somehow, in the midst of all the Monday stuff, I am coloring my hair. I don’t remember the last time. I am listening to summaries of horror movies I will never watch, on YouTube, because A) I work better when hearing human voices, ;and B) it’s pretty good at getting my brain in storytelling mode, without the risk that any of it would naturally seep into my own work. Hm. Maybe that’s why I read as my contemporary YA as I do. Hm. I’m going to put a sticky note on that.

Okay, the historicals do get kind of dark. I will admit that. It’s part of my charm. It may also be one of the reasons I have been bingeing on survival dramas on various streaming services. Bonus points if the show is not American. Subtitles are fine, as I would rather listen to the original language and read the English translation than listen to dubbed dialogue. Then again, there are some dubs that are right up there with the original language.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Currently, the show of choice is season two of Into the Night, a Belgian show where a solar event has ended most life on earth, but for a few plucky survivors (seriously, I am 100% there for a small band of plucky survivors in the midst of a disaster) who were on a hijacked airplane when it all went down. The title comes from the fact that our survivors have to fly during the sunlight hours, always away from the sun (aka into the night) so they can touch down in darkness and scramble to get any fuel they need for themselves and their plane. Sometimes they pick up stragglers along the way. Sometimes those stragglers are Not Nice People.

Case in point: touching down in an airport in Scotland to get more fuel. They have more fuel. Yay. They also have three British soldiers, some of whom can do Plane Stuff. Yay. They can come with. This will take some of the workload off Original Pilot (who only has one working hand) and Substitute Co-Pilot, who used to fly helicopters for the French military, but is new to the plane thing. Once in the air, though, one of our Plucky Survivors learns that New British Soldiers are actually war criminals, recalled for a court martial for Very Bad Crimes. Oh noes. What to do, what to do? Also, if we have a standard for them, what does that mean for Turkish Man who has a shady professional past, but is also bonding big tie with Ill Russian Boy, and IRB’s lovely young mum? Thankfully for IRB, there is a nurse on board, a home health worker who lost her own patient early on in the adventure.

When the first season ended, our Plucky Survivors have found an underground military bunker, where they can hunker. Yay. Only, they are not alone. Uh oh. A politician and soldiers are also hunkering there, but they seem friendly. Yay? Then Bad Things happen, including a fire that wipes out most of their food supply. Oh noes. Suffice it to say that I am not bored. The cast is diverse, not only from country of origin, by walk of life. Every episode, we get a glimpse at somebody’s life Before. I love that stuff, because it’s new information and gives new insight to the choices the character makes now in the worst nightmare scenario.

This is all probably going into the idea soup for my second medieval historical romance, which takes place in the wake of the plague. Other ingredients for idea soup will include medieval romances, because romance. Still backburner at this point, but it’s all part of the process.

Where am I taking this all? I write about survivors. Well, obviously, as otherwise they would be zombies, ghosts, or necrophiliacs. That Thing, though, that people hang on to in the midst of the worst, that Thing that keeps them going; I love finding out what that is for a character. For two characters. Discover the way their Things can work together, make something good even when good things are not the thickest things on the ground.

That’s where the start of this week finds me. How are you doing?

Better Writing Through Computer Games?

Wednesday’s post is here on Thursday this week, because A) I came down with a rotten winter bug, last week’s “cold” actually the first stage of ick, and B ) Real Life Romance Hero’s laptop, less than a year old, abruptly stopped working, so we have had to share the single desktop. Not a lot of writing done this week, which is understandable because all power to shield, and better living through pharmaceuticals. One of the first things I want to do when I am climbing out of this stuff, is play Sims. Right now, that means Sims 4, and by playing, I mean largely refining my custom content to a fare-thee-well.

How does that relate to writing? Glad you asked (because somebody is probably asking. If not, you get my input anyway.) There’s no “right” way to play a life simulation game, and the methods of playing such are infinite, the same as telling a story, which is basically what I like to do with my games. It’s all storytelling. There are times when I blithely ignore what the game wants, er, suggests I do, and wander off the path to do my own thing, focusing on the aesthetics and letting my story brain take the wheel.

Everybody starts with the same basic stuff: the base game. It looks like this:

Now here’s one of my recent screenshots:

what I’m doing now

What’s the difference? Well, a boatload of custom content, for one. I think the only things in this picture that aren’t custom are the archway, the window, and the washing machine that’s almost in frame. Jacqueline, a Sim I have made in Sims 2, 3, and 4 versions, (yes, she is kind of probably going to show up as a heroine in a future novel, but she will have a different name, and will likely be historical) has custom skin, eyes, hair, makeup, eyebrows, and I spent longer than I would care to admit tweaking her facial features with not only the in-game options but custom presets. This picture is her taking a selfie, which she can do with her smartphone, a game feature, further tweaked by an in-game filter option, and ReShade, which adds post-processing to create some serious mood. Or vintage mood, or bright, cartoony mood, or, or, or, or…yeah.

Right now, my current neighborhood is all British New Build houses made by other players, which I download and decorate down to the tiniest bits of clutter, to best reflect the residents. It’s all character and worldbuilding, and I love it. Next float in this parade is to take one of my screenshots and edit it further in a photo editing program, maybe add some design elements and/or text. Now that I have a ne printer, this might turn into stickers that I can put into my planners and notebooks, etc. There aren’t a lot of words involved in creating Sims and their environments, but here’s one thing that does happen when I spend a good chunk of time playing around with this: I want to write more fiction.

I didn’t expect it to be like that, but maybe it’s not such a surprising thing. As above, it’s character building and worldbuilding. Sims have their own wants, which I can fulfill or not, and deal with the consequences. I can override all of that and make whatever I want happen, within reason. Sometimes without it; Sims actually have things called “whims” that affect their moods, which affects how likely they are to do what the player wants them to do. This isn’t entirely unlike how it goes with writing. There’s also the times when things will just…stop, due to a glitch. Possibly a bad piece of custom content that doesn’t belong in this version of the game, or got shafted due to incompatibility with a patch, or I forgot to tdownload a mesh, or any one of a few dozen things. Maybe my aesthetic has changed, and so the custom content or even dfaults that I ha been playing with for years aren’t going to work anymore.

That means diving deep into my files and ripping out what doesn’t fit with my current methods/desires and replacing it with stuff that does. Trying new things, rising perhaps to a few challenges, or knocking it down and starting from scratch, though I am setting myself the goal of sticking with a single save for a certain number of generations, which is not unlike oh, say, finishing a book.

Right now, Melva and I are focusing on finishing Drama King, and I am loving that. Still, I have my notebook for Her Last First Kiss set up and that’s probably going to be next, because I miss historical romance like I would miss my own right arm. The only way to stop missing that is to get back to it, and, like searching for Sims content, this is going to mean reading a lot and poking around and seeing what I love, love, love, now, and if that means changing a few things that I have already done, so that I absolutely cannot wait to get to that keyboard and get to Bern and Ruby’s HEA, breathless, worn out, but still with enough energy to pump my fist in the air because we did it, fates be danged.

Not at all a bad way to wind up one year and start another, the way I see it.

Rainy Days and Mondays

When I was but a wee princess, back in the days when I only needed one digit to state my age, and, I believe, in the grade that comes after K, my parents (or perhaps the NY educational system) put me into one of those newfangled open classrooms. Basically a mishmash of traditional education with a dash of Montessori is a decent description, and we kiddos were often allowed to pick our own activities for part of the day (as long as work was done.) This allowed the teacher (whom I saw as Grown Up, but was likely in her midtwenties at best) to observe young humans in their natural state (um, that came out wrong. I did not mean naked.) and note what activities and/or behaviors affected their traditional learning, for good or for ill.

Surprising nobody, I did better when I spent time in the book corner (spot the baby writer for one hundred, Alex) and the art area (artist’s kid, no-brainer) but where I showed the most marked improvement in my worksheets and cuisinaire rods learning was on the days when we were allowed to bring our own toys, and I pretty much always brought fashion dolls. I won’t mention the brand, but my preferred dolls stood eleven and one half inches tall (when my friend, V and I did not remove their legs to make them stand in for kid dolls, usually their own kids, or kid-selves. Yes, we knew how to get legs off and on safely. That’s not at all creepy. We could do heads, too.) could swap clothes like nobody’s business, and took on more roles in one afternoon than Meryl Streep in a good year.

Once again, Spot The Baby Writer gets another point. Unfortunately, subsequent classrooms did not hew to this model, and my plastic repertory company was relegated to my room at home, and occasional play dates. I did try collecting as an adult, but not being made of money, or having limitless space, and needing to do adult things, as well as discovering actual writing, that chapter, alas, needed to close. Merely having the items in question wasn’t the same as actually having hands on and acting out the stories in my head with reasonable facsimilies of human beings.

But then — because there is always a But Then- I discovered a few things. Fandom, especially fanfic (ah, so that’s what I had been doing all by myself with Wonder Woman, The Bay City Rollers, and reruns of Family Affair, all along. Not at the same time, mind you.) Finding the plot holes (did you know that the fate of the father in The Partridge Family was never addressed? He doesn’t even get a first name or cause of death. It’s established that he’s dead, but that’s it. When? How? Were he and Shirley happy? Was he musical, too? Did they want a big family from the get go, or did it just kind of happen, because Shirley and Whatshisname loved each other very very much? Come to think of it, what did Mr. Partridge do, to be able to afford that big house and still allow Shirley to be a stay at home mom to five? I still want to know these things.)

Fanfiction was a huge discovery, though I never wrote for any of the above fandoms. I did hunt down licensed Partridge Family novels and comics in used bookstores and flea markets, and Wonder Woman does count as my first fandom, as I collected anything I could about the comic and TV series, and blew through two of the fashion dolls. Yep, I fanned that hard. The first fandom in which I wrote was Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even then I had to do it my way, creating an original love interst for a canon character, and I never budged from that. They are canon to me. They were also some of, if not the very first characters I made when I ventured into my next discovery: The Sims.

Sim versions of a (non-Trek) OTP

Since I am getting chatty on this one, I will stop here for now and pick up again on Wednesday. Need to get some novel work under my belt before I can play (and by play, I mean my current save of the Sims 2 adapted to Sims 3, which is far more fun that should be allowed, but more on that later.)

Only one month now until I present my workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys, at Capitol Region Romance Writers. If you’ve heard me talk, before, about From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction or On Beyond Fanfic, the cores of the workshops are the same. The execution, though, is constantly evolving. I love that.

This morning, I opened the file for the workshop, to nab my bio and a blurb to send to CR-RWA’s esteemed webmistress, and next thing I knew, it was a couple of hours later, and I had accidentally edited some of the chapters, and slid, when I wasn’t looking, into “could I make this into an ebook?” mode. I think I probably could, possibly with a PDF version of t he exercises. This is partly for the workshop’s participants, and partly for my own use. Probably my own use first. After that, then we’ll see. Could be a cool Patreon perk, could be an indiepub, could be a couple of other things. That’s not what’s important right now.

Right now, what’s important is the accepting and embracing of what I love, and seeing how I can take what inspires me and make it my own. There are some tropes I am always going to jump on like a starving hyena with an unattended hot dog stand. Heroines disguised as male, especially if there are seafaring adventures to be had, yep, I’ll take that. second chance at love with the same couple, especially if there has been a decent length of their intermission. Mention of Bedlam Asylum or Newgate Prison. Tudor, Stuart, Commonwealth, early Georgian, skip up to the Belle Epoque/Gilded Age era, I am in my happy place. One or both lovers with a creative talent or profession will guarantee a second look on my part, and those are all things I either have or would love to include in my own writing. Angst. I love angst. Give me all the angst, as long as there is an HEA at the end of it all.

Grit in my settings, I want that, too. Also in the people. Life isn’t easy, and a love story where the hero and heroine have to fight more than their feelings, that adds a whole other dimension for me. That’s one of the reasons I’m keeping track these days of my media habits, of specific traits of the books, TV, podcasts,. etc, I consume, of what I love and why I love it. Will that be ready to share in some form by the time of the workshop? I am not sure, but I think it could be fun.

There is a quick and dirty version of this in the workshop in its current incarnation, so the idea is not totally unrepresented. Thing is, I’m feeling the itch. I want to know why it is that I’m bingeing the Council of Geeks podcast reviewing Cowboy Bebop. I have not (yet) seen the anime, so I have no idea what the host is talking about, but I fell in love with his analyzing style on the Council of Geeks YouTube channel. Do not ask me how I found the channel, since it largely talks about fandoms of which I am not a part, but I feel welcome, and that goes a long way. It’s the excitement and unabashed delight in a story, yet still able to discuss what could have been better yet, or what could have been different.

I want to do that for the romances I write, make them accessible both for those who already love the genre and those who may be new to it, or even merely curious. Fans of SF/F franchises have an enthusiasm I would love to harness that enthusiasm and do some high powered cheerleading for all the things I love most about romance. Maybe that starts with my own stuff.

The Myriad Inspirations of a Snowbound Magpie

Monday’s post on Wednesday means it already comes with a story behind it. Throw in a snowstorm, some happy mail, The Oven That Would Not Cook, and a bunny trail into the world of tabletop gaming, and here we are.

Monday afternoon, Housemate and I headed to the big storage unit, to retrieve some desired office supplies, aka my favorite fineliners and my washi tape collection, version 1.0. Housemate had her own interest in this, as, over the weekend, I lured her over to the dark side of becoming a planner person. Of course this means she needs washi. The trip was a washout, though, as the boxes I needed weren’t immediately accessible, so this is going to be a job for an uncommitted Saturday morning. Library trip that was meant to make up for the storage unit fail, was similarly unsuccessful, but there was a good sized box of happy mail waiting for me, when I got home.

C, a friend I met through an online group for stationery aficionados, is from Louisiana and sent me a box of Mardi Gras, to help survive the polar vortex. That is quality friendship, right there. Housemate and Real Life Romance Hero are helping me pick out items to include in a box of Upstate New York, to send her in return. This box brought a lot of memories, all of them good. I have never been to New Orleans, or experienced Mardi Gras, (apart from something we will call The Mardi Gras Coin Incident, wherein a certain retail management team may have wanted to rethink their kids’ program for this particular holiday) in the really real world, but, back in the days of the first fandom I ever dove into, well, a few key characters certainly did.

Among the beads and the coins, and the mask and fleur de lis ornaments (you know what they say, being given three items on a certain theme means one collects them now. Guess this means I now collect masks and fleur de lis, and I am okay with that) and special Cajun flavored potato chips (they were delicious) was this fine fellow.

say hello to my little friend

His name is Iko (full name Iko Iko, naturally) and, while my original plan was for him to reside on my desk, RLRH had other ideas. Iko now resides in our room. This does not surprise me, and it does give a measure of job security, not only to Sebastian, but to Bo Bison, who lives on top of the printer, and the as yet unnamed Christmas bear who is sitting unobtrusively in the corner of the keyboard shelf, not imposing on anyone.

This is also the week where I finally carved out time (thanks, insomnia) to watch The Swimmer, which I have been wanting to see ever since a friend mentioned it, months ago. It was surreal and gorgeous and tragic and I want to dissect it. Last night was also when I could no longer resist H’s persuasion (aka relentless spamming of lore and links, not at all a complaint) and fell down a rabbit hole. That rabbit hole, aka the Critical Role webseries, in which a group of professional voice actors improv their way through a tabletop roleplaying game, may or may not be swallowing me whole, even though I have not yet seen my first full episode. Yet. I have, however, scoured the web for blush pink dice that still have some badassery about them, and whether there might be any places for a curious beginner to suss out things in person. I may or may not have bookmarked a few sites to learn more about the character creation process, because that is germane to the work we writers do on a daily basis, so I’d still be working, right?

This has also been the week when my grumbling about how my daily agenda traveler’s notebook insert will only last me one more month, and I will need to purchase another (but where?) unless I want to use the format of the one I currently have as a template and make my own, because that is totally allowable, and there are no gatekeepers on this sort of thing. Worst case scenario all I do is save myself a few pennies, by using what I have on hand. Best case, well, there’s no ceiling, now, is there?

All of this, combined with my pre-bed devourings of historical romance, once again, leads to one inevitable conclusion. I am, once again, in the magpie stage, grabbing shiny things to toss into my hoard, while moving along with getting Chasing Prince Charming through the next round of edits, second drafting Her Last First Kiss, and first drafting Drama King. This is not the time I would have picked for the magpie stage to hit, but, then again, that’s not how it works. I don’t get to pick. Maybe others do, but, if I had the chance to pick that option, I’d have to turn it down. I like the surprise of “oh, it’s happening,” that pops in at random intervals.

This time, I have learned. Last night, while Skyping with H, and pulling the trigger on my first Critical Role episode, I hit pause. I had to grab a notebook and mechanical pencil, because we magpies need a safe space to stash our shinines. (Accidental alliteration thrown in for no extra fee) Other things tumbled in, the laundry room reading session where I ignored a Kindle full of TBRs, to reread one of my own old documents, the latest feedback on the current HLFK chapter, and the signpoints up ahead that Melva and I need to hit for Drama King where it needs to be, when those two crazy kids finally figure out that they’re perfect for each other.

Sometimes, it does feel like juggling a lot of chainsaws at one time, but this kind of thing is an occupational hazard. What unexpected sources of inspiration are seeking you out this week?


Return of the Video Blog?

The fact that the first blog of the week is up on Wednesday should be some indicator of how the week is going over here. That picture up there? :points to featured image: Also an indicator, because the picture I did take of my workspace for the day (lan desk, on top of the air mattress, Big Pink, blush planner, and Typhoo tea in my A mug) is not showing in Google Photos. I am going to guess that not getting any sleep until six in the morning has something to do with this fact. I also suspect that said sleep only lasting three hours has something else to do with the issues at hand.

Suffice it to say I am more than a bit pushy, which may actually be a good way o go into a writing day. So far, I’ve busted open some scented pens and made some longhand notes on Drama King. Melva and I agreed to take two weeks off (this being the second) before we came back to Drama King, but Jack is a hard hero to shut up, especially when he’s been waiting totally not at all patiently, for attention.

Right now, what I want most is a nap, That will probably happen, at some point, but it’s the start of a new month, the home stretch of summer, time to fill the well and gather speed for the surge of my super powers that return in autumn. It’s off and on raining, though ambient rain sounds on my computer means rain all the time. I like rain. Rain makes me think, and thinking is good when it comes time to do actual writing. Which is big surprise, now. First order of business, blog entry (I’ll make up Monday’s entry, later.) No time to overthink that kind of thing today, so I will go with what’s been on my mind.

For the last couple of nights, I’ve meant to navigate to Netflix or Hulu, but found myself, instead, on YouTube, watching book related videos, mostly reviews or recommendations. I’d first stumbled upon these videos when I was flat out too tired to read, but still wanted to be around historical romance,  and started gobbling them like popcorn. Get me talking about the historical romances I love, and we are going to be there a while. Some of the posts are focused on what the reader doesn’t like, and, for the most part, it’s done without malice, that X didn’t work for that individual, why, and that others’ experience may be different. Also, for the most part, the historical romances touched upon are A) of recent publication, and B) the words, “fluff,” or “fluffy” get tossed around a lot, and I love how much these readers love what they love.

That’s how I feel about a lot of older, or lesser known, or gritty, or angsty, etc, historical romance, and I do miss blabbering about books I love at Heroes and Heartbreakers, so maybe this is a good time to start doing that for myself? Maybe it is. Still thinking about that one, because video blogs take time, and writing new fiction does have to come first. Even though my current pleasure reading has skewed heavily, lately, to realistic YA, my home is still historical romance, and I’m hungry for more time with it.

There are logistics to that. The Hypercritical Gremlins (it’s harder for them to get to the apartment, because we live in a secure building and there’s no way I’m buzzing them up from the entryway) needle that nobody wants to hear me blabber about books, even though I literally did that for monies for several years, so there, Hypercritical Gremlins. You guys can shush. It might, at times, be a distraction, but then again, time spent examining what I love and why I love it, is a great way to stay in touch with the reasons I do this whole fiction writing thing, in the first place.

Yesterday, I sat in a Dunkin Donuts with SueAnn Porter, over beverages and bagels, and had a marvelous discussion about works in progress, and the importance of historical fiction/romance, and…:happy sigh.: Yeah. That. There is nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing, like sinking into another time and place, where two people have to be together, but can’t…until they find a way to make it work. I live for that stuff. Fluff is often a hard sell for me (though there is some great fluff out there, for sure) but when a love story  can hit me hard in the gut, make me cry, and then pull through with the happily ever after, after all (happily ever after all?) there really is nothing better. That’s what I want to provide for my readers.

Maybe this is an additional way to do that. Maybe it’s not. What I do know is that blabbering about things I love is fun, so odds are that I am probably going to give it a shot in the not too distant future. My retreat with Skye is coming up in under two weeks, so I will have laptop, cat, and all the time in the world. Might have to give it a go. What kinds of books would you like to hear/see me blabber about? Drop suggestions in the comments, and I may give it a go.

 

Why Did It Have to Be Selkies?

When I was but a wee princess, my parents, or some well meaning family friend, gave me a book of folk tales of the British Isles. I. Loved. That. Book. I still have it, though it’s in storage right now, so I can’t refer to it, but, when I needed to pick a project to work on for July’s Camp NaNo, I landed on selkies.

Not literally. They probably wouldn’t like that very much, but, once the idea was there, it put down roots, so okay. At first, it was mermaids. There I was, on retreat with Skye, and I had my Jane Davenport Whimsical Girls book out, turned to a page with two female figures. I surveyed my color choices. The faces looked similar, so maybe two versions of the same woman? Realistic and fantasy, maybe? Human and mermaid? Ooh. What if they were half sisters?

I whipped out the appropriate medium, and let my brain do its own thing while I swooped color across the page. By itself, the story formed. It’s a historical romance, first and foremost, (not between the sisters) with some familial conflict, and it doesn’t feel so much “paranormal” as one side of the family happens to be selkies. I was thinking mermaids at first, but there is the mermaid problem, Namely, how to put this gracefully, have intimate mermaid/human relations. This would be essential, so a quick bit of searching on aforementioned folklore of the British Isles was in order.

Which brings me to the selkie problem. Not the same as the mermaid problem, because selkies seem to have it easier in the human relations department. Shed seal skin, have human form. Sorted. Selkies, in many stories, become involved with humans, reproduce, and sometimes go back to the sea. Whether or not they can take their special friend with them varies, and I’m good with that. Works out rather well for what my story people want to do, and gave me a moment of clarity on why sting named one of his albums Soul Cages.

What, exactly, you might ask, is the selkie problem? For this gal, it’s names. Naming a character is an important part of the process, and, frequently, for me, it’s more a matter of them telling me what their names are. They won’t answer to anything else. I still have an outline draft with a hero who didn’t even know his own name until the very last chapter. (I am definitely going back to that one, someday,.) What the heck does one name a selkie? What do selkies, or, in a more broader scope, mythical/legendary creatures call themselves?

Thankfully, I neglected to officially sign up for July’s Camp NaNo, so I am doing it unofficially, with my goal to figure out this whole story, and what the heck I am doing even thinking about it, because I am not a paranormal writer, and the last time I ventured into that realm, my life fell apart, and I ended up ugly crying during a critique group (that had only positive comments, by the way) in the middle of a coffee house. The ugly crying incident had nothing to do with  me moving to a different state, but it does give me a sense of security that I never have to face that barista again.

This is the part of the process where I start writing down what I know about the story, telling it to myself. Kind of folktale-y, definitely historical romance, flying into the mist sort of thing. At the same time, Melva and I are thisclose to getting Chasing Prince Charming back to the editor who invited us to revise and resubmit, then will turn our attention back to Drama King. On my own, N is not letting me squiggle out of getting back in the saddle for Her Last First Kiss  so there is no lack of things to do. So, why toss another project into the mix? \

Good question. The best answer I have at this moment is “because I can.” Consider it the writing equivalent of physical/occupational therapy. I’m glad I did my May Camp Nano the way I did, and it is still simmering, goal met, so I can figure out exactly how my couple solves their problem. What is it that makes my heroine know what she has to do? I don’t know that yet, but it will come, and likely when I am slipping into a sealskin and taking it out for a spin.

In the meantime, hit me with selkie names. I’ll take anything.

020418deskscape2