Ninety

My primary reading goal for 2017 was to ready ninety books by the end of the year. Yesterday evening, while waiting for my doctor appointment, I finished reading book number ninety. Bonus points for book number ninety being a historical romance, as my secondary goal was to have at least half of my reading this year classified as historical romance. I will probably come close to that, and then carry that goal over to next year.

I am a firm believer in story in, story out, and I like a good challenge. Last year, I had set my goal at eighty books. Do not ask me how I came up with that number. I blew past it, by a wide margin, which led to me raising the reading bar for 2017. Hitting that mark, three weeks ahead of schedule, does give reading bragging rights, and I will admit that, when I took my Kindle out of my purse, I had a sense that picking the right book to be number ninety would be important. I wanted to finish the challenge on a historical romance, which I did, and I wanted to get started on reading Christmas romance, which I also did. Handy, that, when they both come in the same package.

I also wanted to read more in historical periods that especially appeal to me. A Secret Christmas, by Lauren Royal, fit that bill, because it’s set during the English Commonwealth/Lord Protectorate, aka the time when England had no king because Oliver Cromwell had other ideas (which did not turn out all that great, spoiler alert.) Said other ideas included stomping out frivolous things like sports, music, theater, and Christmas. Definitely not a setting one sees for a Christmas story all that often, and it works quite well in this novella. This is listed as number eight in Lauren Royal’s Chase family series, but is actually the prequel, the story of the parents of the “first” generation, so I’m counting it as the start. For readers who prefer the bedroom (or in this case, other room) door closed, a sweet/clean/kisses only version is available under the title, The Cavalier’s Christmas Bridewritten with co-author Devon Royal.

Which is another thing. I’ve wanted to find more historical romance that is not a subsequent book in a long line of related stories, and, if I can’t find a true standalone (of which I think there are not nearly enough, but that’s another story, pun intended) the a first book, or prequel, will do quite nicely. The mother-daughter team is now working on an even earlier branch of the fictional family tree, that will take place during the Renaissance era, and that has me excited.

When I first began reading historical romance, which is also when I first knew I would be writing it as well, or, more appropriately, when I knew that “historical romance” was the name that fit the kind of story I’d always loved, the field was wide open as to exactly when the happily-ever-after would take place. Authors would pour details of daily life in their chosen period onto the page, the everyday things as well as the big things like wars and coronations and oh, hey, look, there’s another whole continent over there. I loved that stuff, and I still do.

Last night, as I read, the story framed by an introduction, and an author’s note about the real history behind the customs, that spark flickered. What I wanted to do was go home and flip through the new issue of RT Book Reviews, which will always be Romantic Times to me, but the paper version of the magazine doesn’t exist anymore. There are still back issues, though, and the website has lots of resources, and maybe I can bring some of what I loved about the magazine here. We’ll see.

This year, I read ninety books, and I have no intention of not-reading for the rest of the year, so we have some time to watch that number grow. Reading books fills the creative well, essential for those of us who are, ourselves, writing. I am still experimenting with what writing trackers work best to keep me motivated, but one of the best motivations is that, in writing my own books, I get to “read” the story as I go. There is , of course, the re-reading of what’s already written, but it’s more than that. It’s having the characters meander around inside my head when I’m doing other things. Normal, everyday, not necessarily related to writing, or fiction in any way sorts of things, and bam. There they are, my imaginary friends, ready to let me follow them around for a while, and take notes as we go.

I haven’t written ninety books…yet. There’s a new year ahead, and anything is possible.

Advertisements

Typing With Wet Claws: The Heat is (Back) On Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Yesterday was not my favorite day, but it ended well. I do not know entirely what went on between the first doorbell and the heat going back on, because I was under the bed for most of it, but I will get to that later. The important thing is that the heat is back on in the apartment, and it is very nice. I do not know how I am going to break it to the space heater that I love the regular radiators now that they work again, but maybe we can still be cuddle buddies, unless the humans do not use it any more, and give it back to Landlord.

Anyway, before I can get into any more details about that adventure, I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, apart from here. If you are reading this blog, then you already know Anty writes here. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, talking about a subject near to my heart (and stomach): food. Even though fictional food is not “real,” that does not mean we cannot partake in it. That post is here and it looks like this:

BURfictionalfood

Even though we had a very big week in the domestic tornado department, Anty was not a slacker this time, when it came to reading. As of today, which is the first of December, she is ninety-six percent of the way to her goal of reading ninety books in this calendar year. She has read eighty-six books out of that ninety, and is currently four books ahead of schedule. Go, Anty, go. She finished reading, and reviewed, three books this week, and here they are:

 

 

 

Because this is the first of the month, this is also where we do a tally of how many historical romance novels Anty has read this month. Anty thinks I cannot see her, when she hides behind her splayed fingers, but I can. Anty has been on a YA binge for quite some time now, and needs to tuck in with some historical romance novels, if she wants to bring those numbers up to an acceptable level.

hr-challenge-2016-badge

Anty’s goal was to read at least 50% historical romances this year. With thirty-nine out of eighty-six books counting as historical romance. she is close. If I count historical fiction with romantic elements, that number goes up to forty-three out of ninety, which is almost there. Almost all of the YA books Anty has read so far are either romances, or have romantic elements, but they are not historical. She does usually ask herself how something in the YA books would work in a historical romance, so she is getting historical romance inspiration, but I cannot count YA books as historical romance novels, because they are not historical, even if they are romances.

Okay, I think that is everything on that list so far. Anty also wants me to mention that, yesterday, in the midst of all the commotion, she still managed to set up the first week in her new planner. Anty loves working with her planner things. Here is what her weekly spread looks like, before she puts any information in it:

PlannerWeekly011217

Anty almost went with a more Christmassy color palette, but would have had to mix marker brands, and that is a no.

Yesterday morning, Anty was not even done getting ready for the day when the doorbell rang. For new readers, our house is very old, and the doorbell is very loud. It makes the whole house vibrate. I ran under one of the beds, while Anty went downstairs to see who it was. This was a good visitor, because it was Landlord. He wanted to let Anty and Uncle know that the workers were here, to put in the new boiler. He also needed Anty to unlock the back door, so that the workers could come upstairs and do some of the work.

Well. I did not like this at all. Not only were there multiple strange humans in my home (and some of them were very tall) but they had to open the radiators. This meant taking the radiator covers off, which meant taking off things like the window seat and all the decorations on the radiator covers in the dining room and Uncle’s office. This also meant that furniture like Mama’s chair had to be moved into the middle of the living room. My house does not look like my house right now, and I am not okay with that. I am sticking close to Anty and Uncle until they put things back the way they belong.

Anty says this might be a good chance to move some of the furniture around even more. I think the cold may have gotten to her. We kitties like things to be The Same. Moved-around furniture and changed decorations are not The Same. Anty says that sometimes, new ways of doing things are better. I am not too sure of that. Granted, the new boiler is nice, but did they have to move the furniture? Next thing you know, they’ll be talking about different furniture, and then who knows what else? There is a lot to be said for consistency and tradition.

Since it is now December, and the new boiler is installed, Anty will probably be putting up the Christmas decorations soon. I will not mind that too much, because I like to look at the lights, and the shiny ornaments. I do not touch them, because I am a floor girl, and I am also well behaved. Also modest. I am not sure exactly what the living room will look like when the humans are done with it, but it will, no matter what, turn into a cozy spot for Anty to bump that historical romance number as she reads in her comfy chair. See what I did there, tying back in to the reading thing? Maybe some of the Christmas romance anthologies and novellas will inspire Anty to read more in that genre.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

Peace, Quiet, and Historical Romance

Wintry winds blow outside my office window. Skye kitty waits in the office doorway, where she can see me, smell the Thanksgiving leftovers warming in the oven, and see Real Life Romance Hero, also the love of her life, as soon as he emerges from behind closed doors. The space heaters in bathroom and living room take turns, and it has become second nature, by now, to put on handwarmers, an extra sweater, and flip up the hood on my sweatshirt.  The Irish fisherman blanket is a cozy weight in my lap. My new, blank, berry colored Leuchttrum 1917 notebook, aka my planner-to-be for the winter months, waits for me to finish my writing tasks for the day, because starting the new planner is the carrot on today’s stick.

Last night, Real Life Romance Hero and I spent a few hours in the familiar territory of the emergency room. I got the better end of the deal, as I got to read, while he got poked with needles and otherwise examined by the medical staff. All should be well, though I feel a close kinship with the walkers of The Walking Dead. This may necessitate a third cup of tea. I already hear H’s voice in my ear, whispering “coffee,” but we will see about that.

The small, blue, Eiffel Tower book in today’s picture is my new morning pages book. The pages inside are pretty, though it’s the same image all the way through, but I can rotate pen colors, and that will do. I can always count on Punch Studio for gorgeous paper that makes me eager to open the cover and get to work. This book is smaller than the last few, and I am fine with that, which surprises me, but not going to complain on that front. Two pages, as close to first thing in the morning as I can get them, every day, no exceptions.

This includes zombie mornings after ER visits. Butt in chair, notebook open, select pen. Click pen (because I am using clicky pens this time around) a couple of times, to get into the zone, and then get at it. By the time I reach the end of the second page, part of me wants to keep going, even if I’ve been seriously reaching for something to write. Well, fine, I can write about that, and, in morning pages, I frequently do.

Fiction is different. Fiction is creating a world and the people who live in it, and making their lives interesting enough for people we’ve never met to want to spend time in those worlds, with those people. Maybe these people I’ve never met will want to spend time in these worlds, with these people, while also spending time in the visitor chair (or patient bed) in the ER, in line at the DMV, on a five hour flight to the other side of the country, or twenty-four hour flight to the other side of the world. Maybe in the stands at their kid’s swim practice, in the car waiting to pick up a loved one, maybe in an upstairs bathroom because it’s the only place family members won’t follow, for five minutes of peace, quiet and historical romance.

The book I finished reading last night wasn’t historical romance, but I did have a historical romance in my bag. I wasn’t ready to read something else, though. Instead, I took out my traveler’s notebook, flipped to the brain dump section, now marked with a strip of washi tape between one entry and the next, and I wrote. It was brain dump, not salable fiction, but what it did give me was the emotional immediacy that my characters need.

I’ve often said that people in a historical romance (or any historical fiction) don’t know they’re in a historical. They think they’re in a contemporary. They storyline isn’t the plot to them; it’s their life. Stuff happens, and they choose how they react to it (apart from the times when they react on instinct. Hero of Her Last First Kiss, I am looking at you) and they get through it somehow. The only exception is the characters who don’t get through it, but I write romance, so my hero and heroine find some way to make it through, and to make it through together. There may be collateral damages, because I, personally, find the HEA works best for me when it’s even slightly bittersweet, but the lovers are always going to come out on top in the end. Other than that, I can go nuts.

Today is a quiet day, apart from the wind and the work crew doing sidewalk work out in front of the house (other end of the apartment from my office, so I don’t hear them when I’m back here) and, when combined with zombie-tiredness and a brain at once hungry for and full of story, well, that’s when it comes in handy to be both reader and writer, snuggled in a sweater and blanket cocoon.

 

A Tale of Two Covers (and maybe a bit more)

Still waiting on the new boiler, which marks the start of our second week with what I am going to call accurate period heating. Toss on the heavy sweatshirt, bring the Irish fisherman blanket to the office chair, on with the hand warmers, and away we go. This week, I am excited about Friday, even though Friday is at the other end of the work week, because Friday means December first, and, because there are not enough pages left for an entire other month in my current planner, that means I get to start a brand new one. Purists might be miffed that the new planner doesn’t start in January, but I like having the end of one year up against the start of another.

This means that I also get to embark on the journey of setting up that new planner, since I now make my own, in blank (or dot grid) notebooks. Back in September, I wanted to start my autumn planner in an orange Exceed notebook. Orange is a great color for autumn, with Halloween and Thanksgiving, plus it makes me think of the House of Orange, so there is a Dutch connection, and also a tie to the orangerie scene in Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose (one of my favorite scenes, period) but there was only one flaw in this plan; it took me too long to find an orange book, so I started my autumn planner in a black one (always classic) and now, orange does not strike me as particularly wintry.

Okay, then. Being a collector of notebooks, armed with the tip from a Facebook group of like-minded individuals, I sniffed out discounted Leuchtturm notebooks at a local outlet. and snagged a lovely berry model. Only catch there is that the pages are blank, not dotted, but no worries; there’s a guide sheet with lines on one side and a grid on the other. Berry strikes me as much more wintry, there are more pages, already numbered, and there are perforated pages in the back.

For those readers disappointed that this post is about notebook covers and not romance novel covers, I’m getting there. Saturday night, I finished the YA novel I’d been reading, and needed to pick another book to bring with me to the laundromat this morning. I was in the mood for a historical romance novel, a paperback, and spent some time staring down my TBR shelf. before I ultimately tossed Beauty Like the Night, also by Joanna Bourne, into my bag, because A) I am halfway through it already, and B) it already occupied the lime green cover I’d picked u pat a UBS double-digit years ago, when I had a different aesthetic.

These days, I prefer darker, richer colors, though the types of books I prefer to have within those covers have mostly remained the same. Historical romance is still my favorite, still preferably with generous portions of both (hence the love of Joanna Bourne, among others) though I also now co-write contemporary romance with Melva Michaelian, and realistic YA is a close second to historical romance in my reading preferences, the cover still does matter.

This holds true for both books and notebooks. I’m a visual person, and then there’s also the harder to qualify feel of a book or notebook. Not the physical sensation of holding it in my hands (though that also factors) but the mood, the impression, the essence. That’s why I can’t do an orange cover in December, but will  be happy to call it into service when September rolls around once more. The bright side is that now I get more time to prepare it, so it will be at its full autumn-ness, and I can throw myself into winterizing the beautifully berry colored planner I have now.

As for the lime green paperback cover, I’m more conflicted over that. I’m not ashamed of reading romance novels in public. Proud romance reader and writer, here, and longtime collector of covers by the incomparable Elaine Duillo. I like using a cover for some paperbacks, not only to keep the cover art private, but to protect the truly gorgeous covers from any accidental spillage, droppage, or what-have-you-age. Lime green, though? Not my thing anymore, and it feels odd to take a lime green paperback shaped thing out of my smoky grey tote, especially when the pages inside that lime green cover are nuanced with history, danger and emotion, deftly woven together like a tapestry of old, not something that puts me in mind of toucans and pink lemonade.

This probably means that I am soon to be on the hunt for a book cover more fitting for the books I am likely to toss in my tote on a given day. I know, I know, my Kindle has a lovely purple cover, but there are times I want an e-book, and times I want a paper book, and, well, lime green isn’t doing it anymore. Granted, I’m not sure where to look for this sort of thing, and I now live triple digit miles away from the store where I first snagged the lime green cover. We’ll see what happens on that front, and I will most likely blabber about it here.

For those who are curious about this sort of thing, yes, whether/how well the book cover (or book cover cover?) coordinates with my planner is going to factor into my ultimate decision. While it’s true that the cover does not dictate the contents of books written, or books read, it’s still the first impression, and there’s still that indefinable something that gives a hint about what’s inside. Hopefully, good stories on both fronts.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Post-Thanksgiving Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This week, we have a very special blog entry, mostly because I get to talk more, mostly because Anty was a slacker. Um, I mean that Anty was very busy, getting ready for Thanksgiving, doing a big chunk of the cooking (I was most interested in the birdie part, so I did not keep track of who else made what else, but Anty did the birdie.) Anty also had to devote some time to the domestic tornado that blew through the apartment when the boiler went out. If you do not live in New York’s Capitol Region, in late November, I will tell you one thing: it is cold. Thankfully, Landlord brought over a big space heater (which I like very much) and we already had a small one for the bathroom. Anty has liberated it for her office when she and I are the only ones home. She calls it a necessary measure to boost creativity.

Actually, creativity has been pretty good, and I will talk more about that after I fulfill my part of the bargain and talk about where, besides here, you can find Anty’s writing on the Interwebs this week. Because this is a special week, it is a very short list: her regular gig at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, Anty talks about family arguments in romance fiction. We did not have any in real life yesterday, which counts as a win, but in fiction, family arguments can provide some excellent entertainment.  That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURarguments

 

I know I said that Anty was a slacker this week, but to her credit, she has been trying to get some reading time. That means there are no new reviews on Goodreads this week, but she is still three books ahead of schedule, having read eighty-three out of ninety books for this year. This means she is ninety-two percent of the way to her goal. I think that, with all the commotion of this week, and her pad of that unexpected YA binge, she is still doing pretty well on this front. She will be taking a book with her to the laundromat later today, so it should not be long before she does have a new review posted.

231117Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was one of the quieter holidays. That is not a picture of absolutely everything the humans ate, but they had to get Uncle to work in the evening, so there were some time constraints. I had special salmon cat food, because somebody forgot to get me turkey flavored cat food. Since the humans were also non-traditional and had baked chicken tenders (I do not know how tender they actually were, because I am a kitty, and only eat kitty food) instead of a big turkey, I am okay with that.

The other thing Anty has been doing this week is writing. She has been doing a lot of that. On Wednesday, she sent in her most recent scene for Drama King, to Anty Melva, and it may be her best scene yet for this book. Okay, it is only the second scene she has written for this book, but there is a kitty in this scene, and the kitty gets petted and fed, so that automatically makes it good. We will see how the rest of the book goes, but Anty and Anty Melva have already promised only good things will happen to this kitty, so I am not too worried.

Anty is not too worried, either. Landlord says the new boiler will be installed on Monday, which will make the apartment much warmer. I, of course, am fine, due to my built in fur coat. Let’s face it, I am a Maine Coon mix. I was born for this kind of weather. The humans have been wearing a lot of sweaters, and drinking lots of tea. Except for Uncle, who does not like most hot beverages.

Now that Thanksgiving is past, Anty’s holiday attentions turn to Christmas, which is her favorite. I do not like all the commotion involved in putting up the Christmas decorations, but I do like the sparkly lights and the tree when it is finally up and lit, so I will hide under one of the beds during the commotion. Unless I want to supervise, in which case, I will do so from a safe distance. Once the lights around the doorways and on the tree are lit, then I will spend a lot of time looking at them. Anty will probably spend more time reading beneath those Christmas lights, because they help her feel cozy. The new boiler will probably help toward that as well, and then there will be hot cocoa and eggnog. I have never had either, because they are people drinks, and I am a kitty, but humans seem to like them at this time of year.

Anty also brought home a Christmas anthology from her last trip to the library, so the season of reading Christmas stories has begun. Not the season of writing Christmas stories, because Anty has not written a Christmas book yet, but she may need to start thinking about one for next year, because it is her favorite holiday, and people do like reading Christmas stories. I think she should put a kitty in her Christmas story. Did I mention that I am, technically, a Christmas kitty, since Mama and Anty brought me home from the shelter right before Christmas, on our first year together? That was also my first year anywhere, because I was still a baby when we all found each other.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

What Writers Do When the Lights Go Out

By my best estimate, my hair is, at present, about thirty percent dry shampoo. I am sitting in my office, under my Irish fisherman blanket, knitted fingerless gloves on my hands, and the hooded sweatshirt I have been wearing since Sunday is starting to develop its own personality. Thankfully, our landlord is now in the basement, with a contractor, (well, probably not now-now, but he was when I started writing this post) and there will soon be a new boiler to replace the old one, which may have fond memories of the Kennedy administration. We’re not sure of its exact age, but the technician who was here yesterday is sure that the old boiler has given up the ghost.

We have learned, the hard way, that the space heater in the living room and the space heater in the bathroom cannot both be turned on at the same time, or  the vast majority of the apartment will be plunged into darkness. This will require somebody (aka me) to traverse the nearly-spiral back stairs, descend to the dirt floor basement and contort their (aka my) body around the possibly stored, possibly abandoned items (Landlord needs to speak with other tenants and find answer to this) directly in front of the fuse box, so that they (aka I) can play the fun game of find the right switch, and restore power to the apartment as a whole.

All of the above, I should mention, must be carried out by the light of the flashlight app on the phone of the person (aka me) sent to accomplish this task, and that our building has fond memories of the Harrison administration, aka was built in the late nineteenth century, aka is very old. These are not stairs anyone (aka I) wants to be descending roughly around midnight, but there are times when it must be done. There are perishables in the refrigerator, Skye is the only one of us with decent night vision, but she is also a cat, therefore too short to reach the fuse box, let alone operate it, and, as an apartment-dwelling kitty, for all but the first ten months of her life (six wild, four in a shelter) has no idea what stairs even are, much less how to traverse them in two directions.

This means it’s all up to me, which also applies to writing. (You knew I was going to tie this in somehow, didn’t you?) Yesterday, N and I sat at our usual table at Panera, for our weekly meeting, and, this time, instead of planning or critiquing, we wrote. Notebooks open, mouths shut, pens out, timer set, go. At first, I stared at the blank page (I am not great with blank pages) but N was there, her pen was moving, and so my pen had better get moving, too. I did not have the notes I thought I had, and I was fuzzy at best about how I wanted to rework this scene, but, the same way as my path to the basement became clear as soon as the lights went out at home, my path for the next twenty minutes was also clear. Write. Write fiction. Write this book. If I didn’t know what, exactly to write for the scene, then I could write something about it, which is what I did.

When the timer on my phone sounded, it was time for N and I to touch base with how we did. Not exchange pages, not read, not critique, but how did it go, how did we feel? I had a respectable amount of green ink on ivory paper, though much of it felt blobbish and tell-y and not the perfect polished prose I wanted it to be. All of which I conveyed to N, who asked her usual insightful questions, and assured me that, yes, I do have this. I know what I’m doing. All I have to do is keep doing it.

Right now, I am at my desk, rain falling outside my window. I am almost at the end of this blog entry, and almost at the end of this cup of tea. This will require me to get up and make another, likely to linger around the stove while the kettle boils, and then get back to the current scene in Drama King, because I’ve given myself (and co-writer, Melva) a deadline of today. It’s not ready yet. It’s a mess and a jumble, partly because this is a first draft, and partly because I transcribed it on my laptop, which really needs to be serviced, because the screen goes dark if it’s not tilted at a precise angle, which requires me to tilt the entire laptop so that I can both see and type at the same time.

The desktop is much easier, though also at the other end of the house from the space heater. There is the mitigating factor that my office is directly off the kitchen, so I am mere steps away from the stove, and thus teakettle, and the combination of hooded sweatshirt, blanket, and hand warmers is pretty darned toasty on its own. I kind of like it, actually. Gives a serious “I’m getting stuff done” vibe that might not be there if things were more comfortable. Reminds me how much I want this, and how close the goal actually is. Not that bad, when I look at it that way.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I don’t ‘know if any progress will be made on the boiler because of the holiday. Our family is having a subdued feast, because Real Life Romance Hero must provide quality customer service for early bird shoppers in the evening. That means extra time on my own, to bundle myself in blanket and hand warmers, and play with my imaginary friends. I’m looking forward to that.

Breeding Unicorns and Other Things

Welp, it’s a Monday. I have the big mug out, second dose of Lapsang Souchong tea to fuel me, because I’m going to need it. Right now, I am in my office chair, under the Irish fisherman blanket Housemate knitted for me and Real Life Romance Hero. I am wearing an oversized sweatshirt, hood up over my sleep braids, flannel pajama pants, and thick socks. Tomorrow, N and I are shifting the focus of our weekly meetings from planning/critique, to actual live writing. I may or may not still have a free birthday pastry on my Panera card, and, although I am cutting back on sugar, there may still be a cherry Danish with my name on it.

Last night, I watched Outlander with Housemate, in the living room, at the same time, something I haven’t done since I started recapping the show for Heroes and Heartbreakers. It’s a different experience, not only knowing that I did not have to recap (would not have been recapping that episode anyway, as it was an even numbered episode) but knowing that I would not be recapping next week. Oh. Right. That happened. Watching as a fan is a different matter than watching to recap for a website post. No need to count scenes where the OTP are together (zero, for this episode; some habits are hard to break) or write down memorable quotes (Nothing on that front, but the final stitch on a sailor’s shroud going through their nose, and that it needs to be performed by a friend, that, I remember.) No need to chart the course of the ship (as in relationship, not the actual sailing ships, but those, too) although Claire has a plan to warn Jamie, and Fergus chooses an interesting time to man up, but we will see how things go.

I also didn’t  watch as closely as I would for a recap, though I will be interested to see if I’ve trained myself to do that when next week rolls around. Some habits are hard to break, and, as I look for more freelance gigs, this may be a skill that comes in handy. One never can tell. I am not ruling out a re-watch, possibly on a smaller screen and/or closer to my face. This may mean moving the comfy chair closer to the TV, as well as a trip to the optometrist, but rearranging furniture counts as a creative pursuit, right? I’m going to say it does.

That’s not for today, though. Today is for working on Drama King and getting ready to work on Her Last First Kiss tomorrow. N and I have already extended our meeting time so that we can allow for more writing time. Having another person across from us, doing the same thing, expecting there to be more story than there was when we took our seats and opened our notebooks, is a powerful motivator. No distractions, no quick checks on Facebook or other social media, no looking something up on the internet real quick, only pen to paper, and the knowledge that we get to talk about what we’ve written, immediately when we’re done writing it.

This reminds me of a writing group I attended, for many years, with M.P. Barker, and Melva Michaelian, where we came to the group with paper and pen (no electronics) and wrote to prompts (or not; going rogue was allowed, as long as we wrote) for a set amount of time. I want to say it was about fifteen or twenty minutes at a stretch, and we would have two such sessions, with a break to chat and snack in between. I liked that dynamic, both the actual writing, and the knowing that, while I put pen to paper, the others were doing the same thing.

Even on evenings when getting into my groove took longer than I’d like, I eventually did, because there was that energy of other writers doing their thing, of being surrounded by others of my kind. I was, to my knowledge, the only writer in the group with an eye on a career writing historical romance. I have a talent for being a unicorn in these kinds of groups, the only X in the bunch, whatever X might be for that particular bunch.

I do get semi-unicorn points for my meetings with N, as she is writing contemporary romance, and I am writing historical, but it’s still romance, and N does have some historical projects in the pipeline, so only semi-unicorn. Half unicorn? Unicorn/horse hybrid? Is there a name for that? Halficorn? Theoretically, can unicorns and horses breed? This is not a question that I spend a lot of time pondering, but it does arise now and again. I don’t think I’m the only one to have this question, in the entire time of human existence.

Today will probably be a day for filling the big mug yet again, as I put on the big girl panties (flannel today, because we are now in late November) and move the Drama King scene from notebook to screen, then get my notes ready for tomorrow morning, so I have a roadmap for the new scene. Today feels, to a small extent, the way I felt riding home from that long-ago writing group. There’s that same flutter in my stomach, that yes, that this buzzing around me, the story people as real and alive as the person next to me, hands on the steering wheel, bright as the headlights that cut through the dark, as we talked about where our respective stories were going, what we’d written that night, what we planned to do with that during the week to come.

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Thanksgiving Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. We are now less than a week away from Thanksgiving, which means less than a week until the whole house smells like birdie. Unless, that is, the humans decide to go out for Thanksgiving dinner. Then the house will still smell like house. Maybe it will smell like the big candle in the dining room, if Anty lights it, but she will not light it unless humans are going to be home, so maybe not. They are still deciding on that one, but I will still get my turkey flavored cat food, so I win either way. Still, I would not mind the birdie aroma. The next thing that will happen after Thanksgiving is that the humans will put up the Christmas tree. I love watching the Christmas tree, but I do not attack it, because it is up high, and I am a floor girl. I can dream, though.
Since the deal is that I cannot talk about anything else before I tell everybody where to find Anty’s writing on the interweb, besides here, I had best get to that.

This week, as usual, Anty was at Buried Under Romance. This time, she talked about the importance of location in romance fiction. She does not mean where she left the book she is reading (for Anty, that usually means her purse, her nightstand, or the table next to her comfy chair) but where the story takes place. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURlocationlocationlocation

This is also a slightly sad post, because this is the very last post Anty will have at Heroes and Heartbreakers, as that blog is going to Rainbow Bridge. Anty has loved her time blogging for Heroes and Heartbreakers, and will miss posting there. She is glad, though, that her last post was a recap of a very good episode of Outlander. That post is here, and it looks like this:

HandHOutlander

Please forgive the creative cropping on some of these pictures. I have special paws, and Anty adjusted the display of her monitor, to be easier on her eyes. The actual posts have whole pictures, I promise.

Now is the part of the post where I check in on Anty’s Goodreads challenge. So far, Anty has read eighty-three out of ninety books, which puts her five books ahead of schedule, and ninety-two percent to her goal. Good job, Anty. Keep going. You are almost there. Only seven more books to go, and then the rest is gravy. I really like gravy. Here are the books Anty reviewed this week:

and

I think that is about it for Anty’s writing on the Interweb this week, apart from her entries on #1linewed on Twitter, but I do not have those with me right now, so I will have to think about adding them next time, or at least putting a link to Anty’s Twitter account. Apparently, that’s it right there. Maybe I am ahead of the game, too. I would not be surprised.

Anty says there is a lot to be thankful for this year, and she is not only talking about the fact that she gets to move into two new notebooks at basically the same time. Combine that with a major holiday, and that is pretty hard to beat, for Anty, but it is still not the best thing. Anty is sad that Heroes and Heartbreakers is going to Rainbow Bridge, but is looking for other places she might be able to write web content. As her mews, I will be sure to mention when there is news on that front.

That is not the best thing. I mean, me being Anty’s mews is a very good thing (she would have to write all of her own blogs, if I were not, and, let’s face it, sometimes, she does have to stretch for ideas now and again) but that is not the best-best thing about this year. Anty is very happy about teaching her workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys. at Charter Oak Romance Writers, in March. As a kitty, I am all for anything to do with sandboxes, but that is still not the best thing.

What Anty is most thankful for this year, is the renewed love of writing. She and Anty Melva have finished one book together, and started another. Anty is now reworking the second half of Her Last First Kiss, and has A Heart Most Errant almost ready for beta readers. If she plays her cards right, she might have three new books finished in this coming year. Writing is not always easy every day, but reading all of those books (go, Anty!) and actively looking for author voices, storylines, and character types that she loves the very, very best, helps Anty to find all of those things within her own imagination and put them into her own work.

This week, Anty and Miss N spent their meeting time, setting goals for the new year to come (New Year’s is after Christmas, so it is not that far away) and agreeing that part of their meetings for the foreseeable future will include bringing pen and paper and actually writing. Afterwards, they will have some time to discuss what they wrote. Anty does very well with someone sitting right there, expecting her to write, so she suspects this will help her become more productive, which goes a long way to getting new books out there.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

The Unblank Page

There are ten days left in my current morning pages notebook, and I do not know what notebook I will use as its successor. Having notebooks is not the problem. I have notebooks. I have a lot of notebooks. Some might say I have too many notebooks. Some would be wrong. There is no such thing as too many notebooks. There is, however, such a thing as not having the right notebook, and for those, like me, who take notebooks seriously, this can become an issue.

I am also moving into a new planner at the end of the month, and I have that book on hand already. Morning pages are different. Those are for whatever is on my brain first thing when I wake, and, for those, I prefer for some design element to already be in place. If there are multiple designs that repeat through the book, that’s ideal. I got the same effect by rotating through different colors of ink for each entry, so I’d be fine with doing that again, as long as there is something on the page already.

I have tried, in the past, taking plain lined pages and adding stamped images or fancy washi tape to give some interest, but it’s not the same. I want to come to a page that’s move-in ready. This is going to involve some research, which will mostly consist of combing the shelves at local chain stores, flipping through notebooks and journals on display. There are a few factors at play here. The format of the book, size, cover material and design, whether or not there is a bookmark, the design and texture of the pages, and what sort of pen, what color of ink I will use on these pages, all come into consideration.

This may sound touchy-feely, or special-snowflake-y, to some, but every writer is different. I can only speak for myself. When the right notebook and I find each other, I’ll know it, and that’s going to have to happen within the next ten days, because that’s when this notebook will be full. I kind of like having that kind of a deadline.

Deadlines are great. Deadlines mean there is a limit to how much thinking, how much preparation can be done, because there is an ultimate destination. A post has to go live, there are no more pages in the book, the story is told. I love writing endings, and, since I write romance, that means I get to write happy endings. No matter what went before, the hero and heroine are going to be together at the end of the story, and they’re going to be happy about that. Anything up until then? Fair game.

My favorite endings aren’t sunshine and rainbows all around; there’s an element of the bittersweet to them as well, which only heightens the HEA for the lovers. They may have made important sacrifices along the way, lost people important to them, but they’re still breathing, and they have each other, and that’s a good place to start the rest of their lives. If we don’t see these characters again in related books (and I would love to see more true standalone romances) that’s all right. we know they’re going to be fine. I love sending a pair of lovers off into the sunset that way. After all they’ve been through in the course of a book, they’ve earned some time alone, and there are more lovers to meet. more adventures to be had.

It’s not that different from coming to the end of a notebook. I don’t normally write-write (as in writing fiction) in my morning pages, but I have used those pages to work story problems out, on occasion. So far, I haven’t had a manuscript and morning pages book start and end at the same time, but that could be a goal for 2019. Not saying that it is, but not ruling t out, either. I’ve done a lot of thinking, recently, about why it is I prefer a predesigned page for my morning pages, and why it matters what notebook I choose when I pick out a dedicated notebook (and/or pretty legal pad) for a new project.

What it comes down to, for me, is the unblank page. Pablo Picasso said that all creation begins with destruction. The first mark or dab of paint on a blank canvas destroys the blankness of that canvas. I’m not a Picasso devotee, but have to hand him this one. It’s not only different colors and shapes on a physical page, but coming to the day’s writing with a sense of what will be on the page, be it paper or screen.

Having designs on the page when I pick up my pen for morning pages reminds me why I’m there. Not that I can’t figure it out without pretty pages, but they do make the experience richer. Maybe that has something to do with the kinds of stories I like to write, as well as read. I want the details. I want the information. I want to know what the room looks like and smells like and what the weather is, and if my people are comfortable or not, if they’re tired, hungry, impatient, if the room is too hot or too cold, who else might be around, that kind of thing.

With morning pages, and with writing, the hardest part is putting that first mark on the page. After that, it does get easier. Sometimes, pages are filled quickly, sometimes it takes a while longer, and I am fine with that. Fill one page, then another, and then, before I know it, the book is almost done. Not that hard when one looks at it that way.

Every New Beginning

Several years ago, I came across a website called Heroes and Heartbreakers, filled with posts on romance in books and television, and I instantly fell in love, liked, followed, friended, the whole deal, because I’d been looking for a romance community with which to celebrate my favorite genre. When I saw a tweet that they were looking for bloggers, my heart quickened, and I stuck out some feelers, wrote a sample post, waited for the reply, and then chair danced at the invitation to keep blogging for them.

Over the last few years, I got to recap shippy goings-on for favorite TV shows like How I Met Your Mother, Sleepy Hollow, Bones, The Big Bang Theory, and Outlander. I got to gush about romance novels that resonated with me, get advance peeks at exciting new books before they hit the shelves, and pick the best of the best books in times, tropes, and places I love. I got to read the work of other romance bloggers, engage in dialogue with other fans of the genre, and it even led to my first time co-presenting a workshop on blogging at last year’s NECRWA conference.

Late last week, I got the news that Heroes and Heartbreakers will be closing its website at the end of the year. The newsletter will remain, and I look forward to reading the new issues. Still, I’m going to miss the website. Thanks to Heroes and Heartbreakers, I’ve done a lot of reading, and watched a lot of romantic television, learned about writing to deadline, brainstorming, and getting straight to the  heart of the matter.

Sharing what I love about reading and writing romance fiction, on any platform, is part of the fun, and I am thankful for that. Any time I get together with romance-reading friends, there is going to be a part of the conversation when we touch on favorite authors, the books we love, the books we’d like to see. I’m planning on incorporating more of that on this blog, because the more I talk about romance fiction, the more of it I want to write.

Romance has been my genre home. long before I pilfered my first historical romance novel from my mother’s night table. I hardcore shipped characters in my favorite cartoons, among Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies, and no fairy tale was ever complete without a happily ever after, no matter how dark things got along the way.

I still remember reading The Kadin under the bed in the guest bedroom, the first time I got my hands on a magazine that was, at the time, called Romantic Times, the first time I walked the romance aisles of a used bookstore, no adult with me, because I was eighteen, and thus, I was the adult. I remember my consternation when I found that there were no traditional Tudors or traditional Edwardians to go along with the traditional Regencies. I remember the college friend who literally chased me across campus, to physically put Lovesong, by Valerie Sherwood, into my hand and announce that she had delivered my newest favorite book. I remember shielding myself from a chill wind at a pay phone (dating myself, but it was a good memory, so I don’t mind) so I could call a local indie bookstore and ask if they had a copy of Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, because the combination of a compelling love story with a faith based theme was new and exciting, and I wanted to reserve my copy. They did, and I did, and it remains one of my favorites to this day.

Romance has changed a lot since I nabbed that book from my mom’s nightstand, and it hasn’t. I find that fascinating. Cover aesthetics go through cycles. Subgenres fall in and out of favor. Authors reinvent themselves, retire, or manage to deliver the goods again and again, over years and even decades. I love the history of romance fiction as much as I love reading and writing historical romance itself, so talking about that here is a natural outgrowth. I look forward to sharing more about why I love what I love, and how it fits into my own work.

It’s late in the day, and that’s the magic seven hundred, so I’m going to leave this entry here, and go make some tea. I am proud and happy to be a romance writer and reader, and I will always be thankful for Heroes and Heartbreakers enriching my experience as both.