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

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.


Hogmanay, They Said

We’re almost halfway through the month, which means Camp NaNo is only a smidge over two weeks away, and I need some idea of what ,my project is going to be. Since I’d wanted to write a Christmas story for a while now, that seemed like a good idea (insert N’s comment that it doesn’t have to be Christmas) but then there came two shadowy figures who drifted into my office, drew close, and whispered into my ear.

Them: Hogmanay.

Me: What?

Them: Hogmanay. It has to be.

Me: Oh it does, does it? Let’s see what our old friend, Google, has to say about that. Hm. Scots word, referring to the last day of the year. December thirty-first, then, still close enough to Christmas, caps off Christmas week, part of the whole twelve days thing. Okay, New Year’s Eve, I can do. I was going for more of a Christmas Eve kind of vibe, but endings, beginnings, I can work with that. We have to talk about the Scotland thing, though.

Them: ….

Me: Yeah, see, the last time I tried to write a Scottish story, it did not go well. Book down in flames, me creatively paralyzed, lots of crying. I mean, that was before your time, so you probably couldn’t have known about that, unless you had to go through the backburnered characters waiting room, in which case, who knows what you heard, but the whole Scotland thing…yeah, no.

Them: …

Me: I mean, Scotland is great, and all. Essential part of the British Isles. Great Britain. United Kingdom. Tartan. Bagpipes. Shortbread. Kilts. Neighbors. The closest neighbors when w moved into our first house, were Scots. I don’t remember my first impression of them, because I was nine months old, but, from about age four and onward, I remember them as lovely people. Um. Um. Hannah Howell. Now, there’s your gal for Highland stories. Not that all Scots are Highlanders. Far from it. Lowlands. Borders. The colonies. Pamela Clare sent her Scotsmen to the American colonies. She’s mostly doing contemporaries and romantic suspense these days, but I’m sure she’d–

Them: Hogmanay.

Me: :sigh:  You two aren’t going to budge on this one, are you?

Them: :both shake heads: Hogmanay.

Me: Fine. Have it your way. Hogmanay has to be the least romantic name of a holiday, ever, but sure. Hogmanay it is. Let’s see, what are we working with, here? Hm, first footing.  That sounds — oh, don’t look at me like that. I know what first footing is. Hm. I could work with that. Tall, dark-haired male, that’s pretty standard, so no problems there, but what if it was the wrong tall, dark-haired male? Huh. That could have potential. Gifts are involved. That’s pretty Christmassy. This could happen.

Word of warning, though. I am not creating an entire clan this time. That’s kind of ambitious. Says here, they have Hogmanay in northern England, too. Similar concept on the Isle of Man, even. So, theoretically, I could put this in a remote English village. I can give somebody a Scots parent, if we’re being particular about this whole Hogmanay thing. No chance I can turn this into a New Year’s Story, is there?

Them:  Hogmanay.

Me: Can you two say anything other than “Hogmanay?” If either of you answers that with “Hogmanay,” I am deleting your file. Okay, first, I have to create a file, but then I’m putting this entire conversation in it, and then deleting it. Anything else would be great, though. Names, what year it is where you come from. Name of the village; that would be good, too. How you two know each other, because you definitely know each other.

Them:  ….

Me: Why am I not surprised, here? I’m sitting here, in my office chair, candle burning, cherry seltzer at hand, I have an online workshop that needs my attention, and then you two wander in, and the only thing you have to say to me is the name of a holiday that is different from the holiday I actually intended to write about. Not giving me a lot to go on with an attitude like that. New Year’s Eve, basically, gifts, wrong dude at the door. Do I at least get to see your faces?

Them: Hogmanay.

Me: If you mean I actually have to wait until December thirty-first of this year (2018, by the way, in case we’re exchanging what year it is in our respective realities. Throwing that out there as an icebreaker. Feel free to reciprocate at any time.)  that is not going to work. I’m writing historical romance. Faces are going to come into play at some point.

Them: Hogm–

Me: Don’t say it. I get what you’re after. Your story plays out over Hogmanay. Fine. Here’s how this venture of ours is going to work. I’m going to head on over to Camp NaNo and create the project. I will, by choice or happenstance, be put into a cabin with other writers, hopefully of historical romance. You guys get a notebook, maybe a legal pad, and a pen. When the calendar flips over to April, I start writing. You guys have until then to get chatty, or I’m doing my own thing. Got it?

Them:  :both nod:

Me: Okay, then. Glad we had this conversation. You two do your part, I will do mine, and we’ll see what we have at the end of the month.


Whiteout (not the office supply)

This still counts as Wednesday’s entry. I’m writing it on Wednesday, for one thing. Okay, it’s near the end of the day (4:25 by my clock) rather than the beginning, as I’d planned, but there is white stuff falling from the sky outside, at an impressive rate, and the day had to be re-apportioned accordingly. This meant a morning spent at the laundromat, oddly deserted for the morning of a storm, and other domestic matters. It’s all good, though, as we are amply stocked with tea and candles, I have a fluffy blanket on my lap, and a perfectly firm pillow in the small of my back. and a few things on my mind.

Most of them are related to reading and/or writing, specifically historical romance, so I still count this as technically on time and on topic. Though my immediate to=be-read list stood at twenty-seven as of yesterday, it has grown since then. Other books by two of the authors on my shortlist are partly responsible for that growth. Another contributor is my recent viewing of an Australian TV series, Glitch, that made me remember how much I love reading a good Australian historical romance (of which there are far too few available these days, hint, hint, especially Australian writers, hint, hint) and the fact that I am but one chair swivel away from some select Candace Proctor titles in my TBR bookcase. I am currently reading two Tudor-era titles right now, one historical fiction with romantic elements, and one historical romance. The historical fiction has six subsequent books (to date) and the historical romance, one more. Then there’s my upcoming O’Malley binge, and who knows what after that.

Yesterday, at my weekly breakfast with N, I rambled about a vague idea for a holiday historical romance. This is the vaguest of ideas, at present, no historical period attached as of yet, but hey, a blizzard could work in there, sure. I’ve been wanting to write a Christmas story for ages, but this one might actually work better as a New Year’s story (still counts as during the Twelve Days of Christmas, so I may still be on task.) I don’t know who my hero and heroine are. I don’t know what era their story takes place in, but I know it’s a winter holiday; that’s a start. It’s also probably going to be my Camp NaNo story, but I’m not quite ready to declare at the moment. Give me a couple more days of pretending there’s an out.

There isn’t, of course. Getting a story from vague wisp of an idea, to bullet point draft, in a specified period of time, scares the stuffing out of me, so of course that’s what I’m looking forward to doing. Kind of like a twenty-seven item and counting “short’ list for the foreseeable reading future. Right now, I’m listening to songs from a playlist I’ve been studiously ignoring for coughty-cough months now, because a story (or two) is haunting me (not the Christmas/New Year/Camp NaNo story, because that would make sense) and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that.

Write it, of course, because the not-writing has not worked out terribly well. Goes hand in hand, is my educated guess, with the re-examination of favorite books, and books I’ve been wanting to read long enough for said desires to be old enough to vote. Apparently, they did, and the vote was to quit messing around, and get down to business. Maybe it’s the snow. I have fond memories of walking around a town whose name and location I have long since forgotten, with Real Life Romance Hero, after we bailed on the evening’s planned activity.

I was not equipped for tromping through heavy snow that night, in a pair of stiletto heels and knee length skirt, but my coat was warm, and I had RLRH. The night was dark, the falling snow glittered in the streetlights, and, somehow, though the streets we wandered (never too far from the venue from which we bailed, because the other couple we came with was our ride) up and down unfamiliar hills, an idea took shape. That idea eventually became a story that became my first novel length fan fiction, and unleashed a whole lot of writing, and paved the way to my first published novel (no relation to the stilettos in the snow story.) We did eventually return to the venue, and I’m still not sure if the other couple knew we were gone. They asked if we had a good time, we said we did. I vaguely recall diner food after that, and then we went home.

Right now, it’s white outside my office window. A quick check of a weather app says we are due for upwards of twelve inches of snow. I do have stilettoes, and RLRH is home, but we’re staying inside tonight. There will be comfort food, and there will be reading, and there will be writing, and then we will see what the morning brings. My educated guess is that it will bring the shoveling of aforementioned snow. Depending on whether our downstairs neighbors, young men who have a step troupe, are home, I may not have to be the one wielding said shovel. If I am, that’s fine, because shovel time is mull over story stuff time. I could do with some of that.


Today is the first day of my online workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys. I’m excited (Yay, workshop! Yay, new people! Yay, I get to blabber about stuff I love, to a captive audience, and ask them nosy questions! Yay, they will give me money for the privilege of allowing me to blabber and ask nosey questions and look at their work!)) and nervous (who the heck am I to be teaching a workshop? I haven’t done this in a while. What if I forgot how to do this, or I stink, or they hate me? :runs around in circles, screaming:) This is standard operating procedure for the first day of an online workshop for me, but, if I know myself (and I should say that I do) I will soon be riding high on the energy of the other participants, and the whole darned thing will click.

The sticky notes below the monitor are a throwback to my college days, when I didn’t know any better, and blithely pounded out several pages at a time, said notes (probably a often note paper with thumbtacks as sticky notes, back then,) and used said notes as mile markers, or the writer’s equivalent of Burma Shave signs. I have never seen a Burma Shave sign in the wild, but, as the child of mature parents, I became culturally literate in a few things from a prior generation. This is one of them. Signposts may be a better term, or mile markers. Each note has a goal to write toward. When I reach that goal, the note comes down. When all the notes are down, I am done (yay!) and get to play with my new watercolors. I am extremely bribable with art or bujo supplies.

I am also easily bribable with reading time, now that I am back on the scent of historical romance. My current read, The Queen’s Lady, by Barbara Kyle, is set during the time when Henry VIII was dead set on divorcing his first wife, but the Catholic church was not on the same page as Henry. After that, I start my O’Malley-a-thon, all of Bertrice Small’s O’Malley/Skye’s Legacy books (as a fan; I claim no insider knowledge of these books, or how they came to be written) which largely take place in Elizabethan times, and the days, and decades that follow. Have I ever mentioned how generational sagas are my very, very, very favorite sort of historical romance series? I finished my most recent Kindle read, Letter of Love, by Virginia Henley, also Elizabethan, and went looking for my next Kindle selection. I looked at my To Finally Read list, and saw Winter’s Fury, by Denise Domning, which is medieval, searched my library by author, and…waaaaait a minute. My attention fell (okay,  was drawn like an industrial strength magnet) to Lady in Waiting, the first book in her Lady duology, which has a -you guessed it- Elizabethan setting. Well, okay, then. Can’t fight that. Lady books now, Season books after. That is my next seven Kindle reads.

Because Barbara Kyle follows The Queen’s Lady with six more books in her Thornleigh saga, also a generational tale, those are on my list, after I finish with my Small binge. I am chain-bingeing historical romance novels now, which is a big change from whining about how I can’t seem to get into anything. I will take that change, even though doing the numbers is a wee bit on the scary side. Smushing the O’Malleys and their legacy, the Thornleighs, the Ladies and the Seasons into one place, that’s about twenty-seven books I have promised myself I am going to read in the near future. Twenty-seven. Twenty. Seven. When the sam hill am I going to read twenty seven books, when I have a workshop to give (I am actually posting my intro after I post this) and am working on three books, and Camp NaNo is breathing down my neck (why did I ever think that was a good idea?) Not to mention all the YA reads I want to get in there, along with various stuff, like finally getting around to reading Dragonwyck, by Anya Seton, and spring cleaning and domestic tornadoes and and and and and…..

I’m not going to say “breathe” here, because when people tell me to breathe, I want to punch them in the throat. Instead, I’m going to head in the general direction of a sign-off for this post and mention something about how doing what comes naturally works a lot better than trying to cram myself into somebody else’s box (which I am apt to do, far more often than I would like.) U didn’t mean to go on a nearly-thirty-book Tudor binge, but that was the first era a ever truly loved in historical romance, and it never hurts to go back to the source, and revisit a first love every now and again. Sometimes, poking a few embers is all that’s needed to get a fire going.