Sticky Scenes

Last night, I stayed up until 3AM, working on a scene for Her Last First Kiss. This is a second draft, not a first draft, but it’s still discovery, and I think I’m still discovering, especially with one particular scene. This is the same scene where the nameless clerk apparently didn’t come back from break, and sent an actual character in his stead. I am fine with that. What I’m not fine with is when I get into the middle of a scene, where I (think I) know what’s happening, who says what, to whom, who does what, when and where, coasting along, and then…nothing.

All the pertinent players suddenly stand on a blank stage and blink at me. Uh, guys, what’s going on here? They only blink more. They were hoping I knew. I’m the writer, after all. Well, yes, I am, but it’s their story. Especially those two. Hero and Heroine. You know who you are. I ordered sexual tension. Who has the sexual tension? Why are you just standing there? In case you haven’t guessed, I really, really, really hate when this happens. Like super hate. I know this story. I love this story. I have already written this story, which is why we call this a second draft, so why, for the love of pregnant hamsters on roller skates, are we doing the blinking on a blank stage thing?

Not that blank stages are inherently evil. I love A Chorus Line. The stage show, that is, not the movie. The movie breaks the conceit of the show, and, if they’re going to do that, why not tell a completely different story, because that’s basically what we’ve got. For A Chorus Line, that is, not Her Last First Kiss. Even the most lavishly designed set starts as a blank stage, and I do know what the jeweler’s shop looks like, who my people are, and what they need to be doing there.

This time, though, it felt…crowded. Heroine has a lot going on in her head. She’s still mad at Hero, but there he is, alongside Character X, whom she also does not really want to see right now, but she doesn’t get a choice on that. She’s also faced with the fact that, even though Hero is annoying the crap out of her, he does clean up rather well (she’ll want to put a sticky note on that for later) and she wants to get her errands done, go the heck home, and put her feet up with a book of Russian fairy tales and a cup of tea (I would not mind that, myself, actually) but nooooo. We are only a smidge past the 25% mark, so of course it is time to turn the thumbscrews.

Which is why flat and lukewarm is not what we’re going for here. I slapped it on the page anyway. I’ll show it to N tomorrow (Tuesday got pushed to Thursday this week, due to a sinus headache and accompanying drainage; mine, not N’s) and she will help me sift for nuggets. When I can’t write the actual scene, a thing I’ve been teaching myself to do is to write about it. That’s the pen and paper version of talking things out. I can do the talking things out version with N tomorrow, so I know the solution is on its way, and I can start looking at the next scene, which is when the tension that gets planted in this scene (or should be planted in this scene) bursts into full bloom, Hero and Heroine are alone together but for servants who don’t count in this context (and who are more into each other, anyway, so not much of a help at the moment. Thanks, guys. :slow clap:)

I employed my BFF, caffeine, kept butt in chair, and booted Character X out of the scene, in an incredibly unsubtle “I’m going to leave now, bye” exit, that is not quite “pursued by a bear,” but I’m starting to think the bear wouldn’t hurt. Also, Character X would scream like a little girl at the sight of a bear, but we’re in eighteenth century London, so bears are not exactly plentiful, especially not in a fancy rich person jewelry store. This will not go down on record as my smoothest transition ever, and I am counting on N to have suggestions on how to de-obvious Character X’s departure, but, once I got Character X out of the way, Hero and Heroine at least started talking to each other, and we did get incidental physical contact, so I am going to count that as  a mark in the positive column.

 

The (Quasi) Bujo and Me (Sort of)

First off, I don’t technically keep a bullet journal, as per the actual system, and second, the term, “bujo,” is one of those nails on a chalkboard words for me. Third, if we’re getting into a list format, because it’s Monday and why not, what actually inspired me to get the nifty item I’ll be blabbering about today is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, which is not what I have. My cover is by Molly and Rex, and it will probably go through some form of customization, once I can stop petting it, because this thing is soft.

I’ve joked for a long time about needing a notebook notebook, and this isn’t that, not exactly. What it is, is this:

BujoCover

 

I’ve wanted, for a long time, some way to get all my various notebooks that leave the house with me, in one place, so, when I saw this cover, with four elastics inside, that would allow me to do exactly that, I jumped on it. I didn’t know what I was going to fill it with, at first, and what I have at present will probably change, but here’s the tour of the current arrangement:

 

Plain pages come first, for idea mapping, whiteboard or Scapple-style. This notebook is handcrafted, no marks on it, a gift from a friend, and I do not know the kitty on the cover, but kitties make everything better, so I have no complaints. Okay, one. White paper is glare-y, but this was what I had on hand for unlined pages. When this book is filled, I plan to replace it with a Moleskine Volant, because A) ivory paper, and B) perforated pages.

 

Lined pages come next, in a Moleskine cahier. I have a lot of notebooks in this size nd format, (from this maker and others) so I am well prepared for this section. The lined pages are for freewriting/brain dumps, so perforated pages are not needed (though the last…I want to say sixteen…are. These books are for me, to get the rust out of the faucet. Similar to morning pages, but at any time of the day, and more mobile.

 

Third section is a gridded page Moleskine Cahier, for checklists, goals and tracking. I’m still not sure how I’m going to organize this, but having one place to keep lists of movies to watch, art techniques to try, future character names, etc, feels very stable, so we will see how this turns out. As with the lined Cahier, last few pages are perforated, so I can use them to experiment before I do anything irreversible to the permanent pages.

 

Last segment is the Moleskine Volant, with lined pages, that has become my latest all purpose notebook. I still don’t entirely appreciate the feel of the cover, as opposed to the cardboard cover on the Cahier, but where the Volant has it over everything else is that all the pages are detachable. All. Of. Them. What is this madness? Perfect for a notebook-loving writer person who has several things going at once, likes to make notes on the go, and then wants to file them with their appropriate notebooks/files/ephemera. Make the notes, rip them out, put them where they actually belong. Genius.

This setup feels right, and it’s much easier to pick up one book and transfer it into the tote of the day, as well reference from one book to another, than search for the right book or try to remember where I put what. This doesn’t take into account my morning pages, planner, or notebooks for individual projects, but, when I need to get something down when away from home, this seems the most efficient, not to mention sanest, way, to fill that need. Plus, it’s pretty, and if it’s pretty, I’m going to want to look at it.

Still not an actual bullet journal, as there’s no key, none of the system symbols or such, but I know what’s where, I can take it all with me, and I will figure the rest out along the way. I’ll know what I need, and find a way to make that happen. I don’t know if intuitive planning is a thing, but maybe I can make it be. Having all this stuff in one place should save time that would be spent looking for what I need, and I can use that time for playing with my imaginary friends instead.

Now if only there were the same sort of cover for my actual office space….

 

Planting the Seeds Anyway

Paris notebook is still on my desk, as I’m still figuring out what its purpose will be, if it’s not my new morning pages book after all. The pages are pretty, but, apart from quotes about travel sprinkled throughout, all the same design. I think the next morning pages book will be one of two I saw at Barnes and Noble, so if only one of them is there next time I am, that’s the one. There really is no such thing as too many notebooks, and I am okay with that.

This week, I’ve had a few different conversations with writer friends, which have little to nothing to do with each other, except for the topic: all of them mentioned wanting to reconnect with their work, or were dealing with a lack of inspiration. One of these days, I am going to have to search through my completed notebooks, to find the quote from Lin-Manuel Miranda, that always springs to mind here. Possibly also comb through blog archives, because I am super sure I used it as an opening quote on a post in the not too distant past.

To whittle it down, Mr. Miranda was taking questions on Twitter, and one person asked how he deals with writing when there is a deadline, but no inspiration. His advice was to throw stuff down on the page without inspiration and then sift for nuggets afterward. I need to find that quote and make a graphic of it, because A) I find myself referring to it a lot, and B) it’s true.

This isn’t the same as “just do it,” which sounds simplistic. I have had periods in my own writing life, when the only response to that advice is to internally scream (expletives deleted)  and fantasize about punching the slogan-spouter in the throat, (What? Why are you so sensitive? I’m trying to help here.) because, in those instances, the writer flat-out can’t, even though there is nothing in the entire world they would like to do more. It would be like visiting an injured athlete, who is in traction, and telling them to get up and run a few miles. Yeah, not helpful.

Hamilton dude, though, he’s on to something.  We can’t all be perfect all the time. Sometimes, the inspiration isn’t going to be there, or is hard to find, and that’s okay. I could probably build a decent sized tower of the notebooks I filled with some variation of “I can’t write, where did it go, this is hard, etc” but I am not a masochist. That gentle acknowledgement of the issue, combined with the encouragement, makes all the difference, because it doesn’t focus on the problem, but the solution. Put it on the page anyway, and sift for nuggets later. That comes with the conclusion that there will be nuggets to sift. That they’re in there. That the stuff isn’t gone, only under a bunch of stuff that’s been piled on top of it.

None of the friends in question are in that absolutely can’t phase, which is a good thing, but a constant state of  “enh, enh” (universal sound made by beings reaching for something that is…a…ridiculously…small…distance…out…of…reach) is frustrating in its own right. I find it interesting that multiple people are in the same boat at the same time, even if said boats are sailing different oceans, but if I could say only one thing to them all, it would be that.

Okay, not inspired? That’s fine. Put something on the page. Write about not being inspired. Need to connect or reconnect? That’s actually a good place to be, as that means it’s time to dive headfirst into the things we love, the things that fill our tank and give us what we need to get back in the saddle and take a few loops around the ring. If writing is hard, read. If reading is hard, rearrange keeper shelves. If even the thought of looking at words on paper is a giant nope, pick a favorite show and binge watch. Take a walk. Play with a pet. Have a seasonally appropriate beverage. Do something creative that doesn’t involve language at all.

I’m not completely thrilled with this blog post, as a matter of fact, but Melanie Meadors gave an awesome presentation on creating effective web content, and I want to try out her suggested prime posting times, so here I go, tossing stuff down on the page and putting it out there. Maybe something nifty will rise to the surface, and, if not, pfft. It’s one post. I got a million of them. Maybe, though, there’s a seed here that I’m planting, that I don’t even know about (apart from the combination of the Union Jack and Paris-themed notebook and travel mug. I know about my weird aesthetic, and maybe that will grow into something book-worthy some day.) and this is only one step in its journey.

Also, I have a pirate duck on my desk, now. Real Life Romance Hero knows what I like. Pirates and rubber ducks at the same time definitely earns him some husband points, and it makes my desk that much more me-er, which is a very good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Space and Light

This weekend, our landlord brought in a new refrigerator, and replaced the overhead kitchen light fixture that had been out of whack for I’m not going to say how long. The good part about having working overhead lights in both office and kitchen is that now we can see what we’re doing. The bad thing about having working overhead lights in both office and kitchen is that now we can see what we are doing. This means that we can also see what we haven’t been doing, as in stuff we put over here “for now,” or “until we can see what we’re doing.” Well, now we can, annnnd…we need to do stuff. Thanks to some generous applications of joint compound on the mustard-yellow walls we all hate (Real Life Romance Hero doesn’t think they are that bad, but Housemate and I outvote him, plus I can whip out my knowledge of color theory. We have vintage 50s pink laminate countertop and backsplash. I have no idea why the then-owner chose emerald green linoleum, when the walls had been a gorgeous dusty rose. I loved that dusty rose so much that I made vociferous objections when we found the hideous new paint job on the day we arrived with all our worldly goods in tow.

It took four years and change, three different landlords, but the mustard-yellow is going. I vote for white. The joint compound is white already, and it looks all nice and airy and clean, especially right up against the white woodwork (though, if I had my druthers, I would strip the white from every inch of woodwork in the entire apartment and go for a dark wood stain, but I do not own this building, so that is not my call.) We don’t have a date for work to begin on the kitchen painting, but we are fully aware that this will mean a total tear-down of the setup we currently have. I am okay with that. I am also fully prepared to defend the original midcentury cabinets from the taint of a paintbrush. One would expect no less from a historical romance writer, am I right?

This is also a chance to get rid of things that no longer fit with who we are now, as individuals, or as a family. While doing dishes a couple of days ago, Housemate asked me why a trio of mugs are still here. We haven’t touched them in the entire four years we’ve lived in this apartment, and none of us like them. My only answer was “because we packed them when we moved.” Why do we have them though? I know two of them were free, and the other one kind of goes with them, as in it is a solid color that is contained within the color scheme of the other two, but that is not a reason to give them space in our home. That mug tree could, theoretically, bloom with nothing but Union Jack mugs, or black and white mugs. I would be fine with either.

It’s kind of like that with my TBR shelf as well. While I do not recommend scheduling both renovations and a visit from out of state friends-who-are-family on the same weekend, real friends don’t care if there is joint compound on the walls or a laundry basket on the dining room table. If they wanted to see perfectly appointed rooms, they know where the museum is. Real friends are perfectly happy to sit on the floor and eat takeout, because the reason they came is to spend time with their friends.  Everything else is window dressing, or lack of window dressing, as the case may be.

So, back to the TBR shelf. One of the great things about going to writers’ conferences is that they give you lots of free books to take home. One of the not-so-great things about writers’ conferences is that they give you lots of free books to take home. This is especially apparent when one lives in an apartment and has only so much shelf space. There comes a point where something Has To Be Done.  My point was Saturday night.

Aided by the new overhead light in my office, I went through the triple-stacked TBR bookshelf and culled. I was ruthless. Why do I have this book? Am I ever really going to read it? How long has it been on this shelf? Would somebody else appreciate this book more than I could? Book by book, I made my choices. Most books did stay, but I also had a respectable pile to pass along to my friends, which was a good thing. Said friends arrived with a banker’s box full of books tailored to my specific interests. Older historical romances, heavy on the medieval, second copies of some old favorites, so I can make them lending copies. That’s friendship in a box, right there. Looks like this:

booksfromMary

I have no idea how that frame got into the picture

When I took the lid off this box and peered inside, I felt…focused. Yes. This. This is why I write historical romance. This is what’s important. I’m probably going to leave these books in the box for a while, though I do have definite ideas on where most of them are going to go on my bookshelves. For now, I want them as they are. Full of potential. A reminder of why I put my butt in the chair and pen to paper/fingers on keyboard every weekday. I want to look at the spines, pet them, imagine and/or remember (some of the books, I have already read, some, I have not) and remember what it was like to not only first discover the world of historical romance (though, this time, I do not have to hide under the brass bed in the guest bedroom, with a flashlight, because I am big enough to pick out my own reading material.) but also that feeling of “I can totally do this.” That it’s in my blood and success is the only option. It’s a booster shot of confidence, exactly in time for the week N and I have agreed to up our production goals, so we can both reach The End that much faster. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

AnnaSelfieComment

(Not the) Sweetest Hangover

So, it’s Monday. I have a book hangover. My tea went from too-hot-to-drink, to so-cold-I-am-personally-affronted in the time it took me to perform the most basic of morning tasks. Weekend plans did not work out as planned, but there are no snooze buttons on Monday, so I’m here. Proper undergarments under sleep shirt and leggings mean that I am technically dressed. Concealer, lip gloss, and clear mascara/brow gel mean that I am technically wearing makeup. Hair is reasonably presentable, and there will be fragrance, because my brain knows that is the last thing I do before I am prepared to adult for the day. Which, in my case, means writing.

The book hangover comes from this bad boy (er, girl; this book is definitely a girl) I Will Go Barefoot All Summer For You:

BarefootAllSummerCover

My heart hurts because of this book.  That’s what the good ones do. They change us. They take us to a place we’ve never been, and they take us back to places in our lives we’ve been through before.  I think I went through first heartbreak again by reading this book.  Oh, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, sweetie, honey, sugar pie, baby girl. You’ll be okay one day. Someday, Toby Bright will be only a boy. You might not even remember his last name, once some time has gone by, and you’ll know, older and wiser, that he wasn’t all that great to begin with, but, right now, we’re both dying a little.

Right now, we’re both wondering if things wouldn’t have been different if you hadn’t put on the (expletive deleted) shoes, because, when you’re that young, and that deep in calf love (old timey word that means infatuation; it has nothing to do with calves. If you were infatuated with an actual calf, that would be an entirely different sort of book, and I would be writing you an entirely different sort of letter -yes, fine, I am writing a letter to a fictional character; let’s go with that- right now) that’s how things work. You wanted to prove the depth of your love, and that would earn the happily ever after, right then and right there. You almost made it through the whole summer, and I’m proud of you for that, even if the reasoning behind it was, well, adolescent, but so are you.

Not now, though. Your book was written in the early 1970s, set in the 1950s, so if you were born in the 1940s, and it’s 2017 now, well, I’m not going to do the math. I hope you’re happy, though. I hope you found someone, farther down the road, and I hope you were able to keep your aunt’s house and raise your family (or cats; cats would be cool, too. Maybe both.) there. I hope you wrote your books there, or anywhere, really, and I hope your cousin, Rose, knows that playing Robin Hood and other games in the woods with you was actually her walking around inside the very earliest drafts of your stories. I’d like to read some of them. I’d like to see how those seeds sown by your barefoot summer and fantasies of Toby Bright (I’m not all that concerned about where or how he is, if you’re wondering. He turned out to be only a boy, after all, for me.) germinated and changed and grew and blossomed in your own work, later on, with some time and some distance.

As I’m writing this, I am doing a little math. You were born in the 1940s, around Virginia. I was born in the 1960s, in Virginia, and you write, (or will write) and I write, so, y’know…well, apart from the whole you being fictional thing. Some books, we don’t read as much as we recognize, and I recognized this one. Yes. This.

If anyone had asked me, before this copy showed up in my mailbox, if I’d read this book already, I would have said no, but then I got to the part about the bus station and the Mars bar, and I had been there before. Yes, I have been in bus stations (and no, I have not eaten any Mars bars, because I have a tree nut allergy and I would stop breathing) but that wasn’t the thing. The thing was how you drew the line of maturity as being able to keep candy without eating it right away, and that Mars bar sat in your purse for a respectably grownup amount of time (well, the second one did, anyway) and that’s when I knew this was the second time I’d met you.

I’d been a teenager the first time, a little younger than you were in this book, I think, and I had not had my heart broken for the first time yet. I have no idea why it was the bus station scene that made itself part of me, but it roared into my consciousness the first time I took a bus from VT to MA, as a college freshman, and stood in front of a row of vending machines. (I did not get anything chocolate, in case you’re wondering. I don’t even like chocolate that much.) Were I to guess, now, what scene would stick with me most, it would maybe be that first kiss with Toby Bright (I am always going to think of him with first and last names. That’s not changing.) and the way riding home felt like flying, because new feelings bore you along and the door to a whole other part of life had been flung wide open and off its hinges, never to go back again.

I don’t know when it was you found your real happily ever after, and if it was with someone worthy of you, or on your own, but re-reading this book was like that for me, that door-off-the-hinges feeling, so maybe I’m going to stay here for a while. Go barefoot all summer for this book, or at least the next couple of days, because, as soon as Fair Day, And Another Step Begun, shows up in my mailbox, I am screeching on the brakes to whatever else I am doing and diving into that. In case all the characters one writer creates, even if the books do not intersect, all live in the same place (probably the writers’ head; that’s how it works with me) say hi to Ellen for me.

Typing With Wet Claws: Unauthorized Entry Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  First of all, I would like to point out that Anty is really, really, really good at killing earbuds. Actually, before that, I would like to mention that it was awesome having Uncle home extra this week, because he is my favorite, and that meant that he could spend extra time with me. That means that Anty had more time to work in her office, and also to find more writing time at Panera, after her meeting with Miss N.  That was not my favorite day, even if Uncle was home at the time. I will explain about that later.

First, before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about what Anty wrote this week, and where you can find her writing on the interwebs, other than here. Like every week, Anty was at Buried Under Romance, and, this week, she invited readers to talk about the many first times every romance reader will experience. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BUR1stTime

If you are following Anty’s reading challenge on Goodreads, it is here, and she is doing better this week.  She is now only eight books behind, and has a plan on how she will take care of the rest of the deficit. That will involve setting aside time for reading every day, and making sure she does not read too much of the same thing, too close together. She may even toss in some rereads, because those can go a lot faster. The books she read this week are:  Up All Night, by Laura Geringer, et al, (that is a fancy human phrase that means “and others”;) Mischief and Mistletoe, by Mary Jo Putney, et al; and Unfriended, by Rachel Vail.  Click on the links to read the reviews, which, all together, look like this:

 

I am working on my graphic design skills, which is not always easy because I have paws, not hands, and special paws, at that, but I do what I can. Anty has also been doing what she could this week, which involves helping Anty Melva get their two requests for partial manuscripts off to the publishing humans who asked for them. They got the first one off, and now it is time to get the second, larger, one ready to go. That takes some time, and so does getting ready for the next book, especially when she also needs to keep focused on Her Last First Kiss. Anty says she has exactly the same number of hours in a day as people who are very successful in her field (and others) and, as far as she knows, none of them have cats writing one third of their personal (or purr-sonal, I would say, but I do not purr; I never have, as far as any humans know. Do not be concerned, I am a very happy kitty, but I am quiet about it. Only about that, though, because I talk a lot.) blogs. If they can get all of their stuff done, so can she.

Part of that is finding the hidden pockets of time where she can both write and do the things that fill her creative well so that she can write. This past week, that meant that she stayed extra time at Panera, while the new stove was delivered. If you did not read her entry on Wednesday (it is here) the stove looks like this:

STOVE

 

Our landlord, Mr. D, likes to take very good care of us, and he bought us a new stove, which makes all the humans happy. It got delivered on Tuesday, which did not make me happy, because that meant that strange humans had to come into the house, take the old stove away, and then bring in the new one, and make sure it did not kill us all (it is gas.) Uncle stayed home that day, so that he could oversee the whole stove thing, and so that Anty could have some extra writing time after her meeting with Miss N. He put me in Mama’s room, where my things are, so that I would stay safe. He let Anty know when all the strange humans had left, so she could come home and be with us. She asked how I was doing (because she knows what is important) and Uncle said I was super scared, but okay because I stayed in Mama’s room.

I will be put in Mama’s room again in the next week or two, when the strange humans do the whole thing all over again, with the refrigerator. Do not worry, my cat food does not go in the refrigerator, so it will not be affected. I still do not like all the strange humans and bangy sounds and taking appliances that have been here ever since we moved in away, and replacing them with new things (if you do not know many cats, we do not like change very much) but I will be okay. Maybe Anty or Uncle can ask some of the strange humans to take away Anty’s office carpet (but not replace it with anything; I want it to be regular wood floor) so that I can sit reallyreallyreally close to Anty and give her extra inspiration and encouragement. I think that could only help. It is my duty as a mews.

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

skyebanner01skyebye

Write Like a Stove

Not feeling the blogging thing today, and that’s okay.  Writing, yes, but not blogging. I have my daily task list all planned out, but when I come to “write blog,” there’s a blank. Which is fine. White space and all that. Part of the reason I blog is to clear out the gunk from my brain so that I can be primed and ready for the good stuff, which, from my perspective is writing fiction. The same could be said for morning pages, but the difference here is that morning pages are private, and blogging is…not. It’s the opposite of private. It’s splashed onto the screen with the explicit purpose of being read (passive tense, ooh, dangerous) by others. Commercial fiction, which is what I write (subset: romance, sub-subsets: historical romance (on my own) and contemporary romance (with writing partner, Melva)) is also meant for public consumption, and, when we add the extra factor of a reader or readers, that also brings in the knowledge of the potential reader or readers.

I do a lot better when I have a topic planned out ahead of time. This time, I don’t, so what you get instead is the first thing my brain can latch onto, which is…the stove.

 

STOVE

that would be this stove

 

This post is not about cooking. We did get a new stove yesterday, the delivery window starting after I had left the house for critique session with N. Real Life Romance Hero had the day off, and earned extra hero points for supervising the removal of the old stove (which Landlord and I delicately referred to as “vintage.”) and installation of the new one. Since strange people moving appliances around is not an environment especially conducive to writerly  concentration, Real Life Romance Hero and I agreed I would remain at Panera, post-critique-session, and get some work done.

Aha. Here we go. Connection time. One of the things I like about keeping some of the notebooks that I do, is that it makes the spotting of patterns easier. Since one of the patterns I’d noticed of late is that, when I try to cram all the work on Her Last First Kiss into Monday, because Tuesday is critique day, I feel rushed and crowded. Feeling rushed and crowded also makes me feel pressured, and I focus on the number of pages I’m putting out, rather than making the story the best it can possibly be. So, clearly, that is not a good thing to have going on, on a regular basis. N and I both agreed that we wanted to bring more pages to our critique session each week, which means I need to find more time to devote to that book. Where to find that?

As it turns out, right there. Since I needed to stay out of the house while the stove was installed, I had extra time in Panera, bottomless iced tea (my second of the day, as I’d accidentally knocked the first one into the trash; could not have planned that if I tried.) and my writerbrain already riding on N’s comments, as well as the energy of being with another writer in person. I don’t have any blogs due on Tuesdays. Double aha. Since N and I had discussed a new scene needed to break up a big block of Hero scenes, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and that worked out pretty darned well. A week is a lot more comfortable lead time than a day, so this is probably going to become a regular feature. The sooner N and I get to The End of our drafts, the closer our respective imaginary friends are to getting out into the world and into the hands of readers.

Right now, I’m looking at my task list for the day, and feeling that rushed and crowded thing again, and that tells me I need to recalibrate. The same as the stove only has four burners (plus oven and warming tray) my brain has space for front burner tasks and back burner tasks.  Back burner does not mean “never,” and trying to put all the pans on the front burners at the same time is going to result in dishes nobody is going to want to eat. In fact, the results may not even be fit for consumption, but, putting each thing in its proper place and time, well, we can get a banquet out of that.

Which all brings us to over the magic seven hundred, so that’s it for today. I am off to play with my imaginary friends.

 

 

Reconnections

It’s Monday. The conference is over. Easter is past. There are buds on the trees, and a good chance that I may witness some sweet sweet waterfowl loving on my walk through the park tomorrow, en route to or returning from my critique session with N.  My back no longer hurts, and the weather, at least for today, is not trying to kill me. Sometime this week, or possibly next, Landlord will install our new stove and refrigerator. Melva and I have two requests to see partials of Chasing Prints Charming, and are ready for prewriting on Drama King. Today, after this blog entry (presuming we do not get surprise appliance installation) I go back to work on Her Last First Kiss. There are some Heroes and Heartbreakers posts waiting as patiently as they can in my brain,  and, with the scent of soon-coming season finales in the air, there will be more to join them soon.  It’s definitely spring, and definitely time to make sure I have a solid plan on how to get all of this done.

The fact that this new week means I am now ten books behind in my Goodreads challenge does not sit well with me, nor does the fact that I realized, well into the weekend, why I’ve had such a hard time making my way through a historical Christmas anthology, which I’d picked up specifically to take a chunk out of that reading debt. I love Christmas anthologies, and, usually, I can suck those down like ice-cold tea on a hot summer day. (Seriously, I can read Christmas stories any time of year, so writing one would be an interesting new experience, but that’s a someday project, not for today.) This time? Not so much. What started out fun turned into a slog, and I didn’t know why.

 

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Portrait of the blogger as a confused reader.

 

It wasn’t because the writing was bad, because it wasn’t. I liked what I was reading, found at least one new to me author whose work I would like to explore further, and bounced in my seat several times, because a new book by one of the authors I already follow is only a few months away. After a weekend where I carved out time to reconnect with my art journal stuff (and found, in the process, that some of my most-loved resources had expired of old age while I was away; there’s probably a whole other blog in that, so I’ll save that for later) and a heart to heart with a writer friend, over an entirely unrelated topic, the answer came to me. Nineteenth century overload. My last read, Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart, was Victorian. The anthology is (I have one story left to read before I can call it read) all Regency. The book I’d read before that? Regency. Before that? Edwardian. Okay, that’s slightly over the line into the twentieth century, but still, I’m seeing a pattern, so, when I move this anthology into the “read” category, I need to read something else.

Maybe I’ll read a YA next, to cleanse my palate, but, after that, I need to follow my heart, preferably to the eighteenth century, as that’s where Hero and Heroine live, and the commute would be short. Right about now, I could use a short commute. The good thing about going to a conference is that I return all pumped full of I Can Do This. The scary thing about coming back from a conference is that I need to turn that I Can Do This into I Am Doing This. That can be a daunting prospect, because this is the part that nobody else can do for me. When Melva and I work on our joint projects, the work divides itself according to who’s better at what; for us, that works. When I’m working on a solo manuscript, then it’s all me.

I am the way Hero and Heroine get out of my head and onto the page. N is my first reader for Her Last First Kiss, the first chance I get to know if I have put the right words in the right order so that other people can watch the movie that’s playing in my head. To make sure I have what I need to do that, I need to make sure my creative well is filled. Which is where things like playing with paint and ink and paper come into play; I can’t write an artist Hero if I’m not making art myself. Which is one of the reasons I’ve been peeping this undated art journal planner, ever since I saw an ad for it in my favorite art magazine. I do have a planner already, and I use it and I love it, but I want to play with this one, so it may yet happen.

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my two favorite historical romance novels

In the meantime, there is work and there is well-filling. Last week, I asked Facebook readers/writers who love historical romance to tell me what books made them fall in love with the genre. Some of the titles given were books I have known and read and loved, myself, and some were new adventures yet to be read. All of the answers were filled with what I was looking for when I asked that question. The connection, the spark, the recognition of “yes, that’s mine,” the seed that burrows deep into the soil of the writerbrain (or readerbrain, for that matter,) sprouts and blooms and explodes all over like cherry blossom season on steroids. That stuff goes a long way.

Typing With Wet Claws: Back to Business Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is now one week after the start of NECRWA 2017, conference hangover mostly worn off,  but inspiration still in full force. That is how it works with Anty and conferences. Her back is feeling better, which means that she can bend more easily, to feed and pet me, and also sit in her office chair without pain. These are all good things, because going to conferences and being with other people who love to do what she loves to do gives Anty a big burst of wanting to do writing stuff. It has not yet inspired her to get rid of the office carpet, but I think that a workshop on how to make a writer’s office pet-friendly would be an interesting topic for next year’s conference. In the meantime, I have found a way to curl up on the small sliver of hardwood so that only my fuzzy parts are on the (ugh) carpet, and my feet are on the hardwood. That is an okay way to be in Anty’s office with her, but I still want the carpet gone. We will work on that one.

Before I am allowed to talk about anything else, I need to talk about where you can read Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week, apart from here. First, as always, she was at Buried Under Romance this past Saturday, and will be there again tomorrow. Her most recent post asks readers to share what they think makes for a good series. That post can be found here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

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This week, Anty actually finished reading a book. That is progress. Her review of Untie My Heart, by Judith Ivory is here, and it looks like this:

 

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There are sheep and horses in this book, but no cats.

In case you were wondering, finishing that book means that Anty is now only nine books behind in her Goodreads challenge. Still single digits, so go, Anty. If you are interested in following her challenge, it is here, and it currently looks like this:

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We will see how she does in the coming week. Since she will spend part of today planning for next week, I hope she will put some reading time in there, so that she does not get to the end of the day and then find that she is too tired. That happens far too often for her liking, but I have my treat by then, so it does not affect me very much.

Thank you to those who asked if there was a Feline Friday last week. There was, but I made a mistake. I meant to schedule the post to go up on its regular Friday time, but it is very difficult to hit the schedule button on WordPress, when one has paws (special paws, at that) instead of hands, and I posted it on Thursday, by accident. If you did not see it, that is probably why, and I am very sorry. That post is here, and my picture on that post looks like this:

 

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Me, from last week.

Okay, I think that is everything about that.  Time to move on to the meat of the post, which I hope is tuna. I really like tuna. Beef is also good, and I can appreciate turkey in gravy, but I do not get food with gravy very often. I do not think that is the kind of “meat” Anty means, which disappoints me. Did I mention that I really like tuna?

Now that Anty is back from the conference, she has some new perspective on writing and writing related things. First, she and Anty Melva need to get their material together for the two requests to see more of Chasing Prints Charming. When an editor or agent wants to see part (or all) of a manuscript at a pitch session, it is smart for the writer (or writers) to get that out as soon as possible, so that the editor or agent remembers who they are and what they liked about the book, because they will have seen many more writers and many  more books between the time they heard the pitch and the time they get that material. So, Anty and Anty Melva want to get a move on with that.

The other big thing for Anty is reconnecting with Her Last First Kiss. Since she and Anty Melva spent a lot of the conference talking about Chasing Prints Charming, and getting ready for the next book, which they will call Drama King, Anty needs to get her mind back in the eighteenth century so that she can get Hero and Heroine’s story all the way through the second draft. Right now, she is still working out how she is going to manage that balancing act. I do not think it can be easy to be a writer and a half (because Anty Melva is the other half of that partnership) but I am sure that Anty will find a way. Maybe reading more historical romance will help. I think that it might. I will do my duty as a mews and sit very, very close to Anty while she does, for extra inspiration.

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

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Post-Conference Recap, Part One

NECRWA 2017 is but a memory now, and I am already pumped for next year’s adventure. Melva and I arrived late on Friday, so we can’t speak to the hors d’oeuvre hour, but the author signing was tremendous fun, and I did get to speak to Alyssa Cole, buy a copy of An Extraordinary Union, as well as discuss diverse historical romance for a few minutes. Still salty I wasn’t able to make her workshop, but not to worry, she and co-presenter, Amara Royce, whose books are also going on my TBR list, will have the PDF available on their websites. I will be watching those like a waiting room full of hunting falcons watched the squashed hamster Joanna Bourne brought to the vet (don’t worry, hamster was okay, but that’s another story.) There’s so much more history besides only the Regency, that when I find kindred spirits on this, I latch on like a barnacle. Hopefully a productive barnacle, because this conference got me inspired to fill some pages and empty some pens/wear down some leads.

Even though arriving after the foodstuffs meant I didn’t get to attend any of the Friday workshops (though I did get a second shot at hearing Damon Suede on Saturday, and yes, he really is that amazing a presenter) I still got a thrill as soon as I checked in. See that nifty ribbon beneath my nametag? It is official, I have really and truly presented at a regional RWA conference, and there I am in the author directory. That went a long way to make up for not being able to hang out in either the readers’ salon, Hamilton sing-a-long, or even the lobby to gab with conference people. My back insisted on going upstairs to rest after the basket raffle.

Melva dubbed the walk from the elevator to our room “The Blue Mile.” Door at the end of the hallway was not our room, but the stairs. With my back, stairs were not an option. Our room was around the corner from that.  Real Life Romance Hero had suggested I ask the front desk to bring up a banquet chair, in case the desk chair was too soft (it was) so I had a nice, firm chair to park myself for the obligatory swag shot. No, the postcard front and center is not Sleepy Hollow fan art, but goes along with my signed copy of A  Extraordinary Union.  Still super pretty, and I can’t wait to dig into the story.

 

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Swag for days…

One of my favorite parts of any conference is getting to connect with other romance writer friends, especially those, like my Last Call Girls (more on them later) whom I only get to see at the annual conference. It’s big, it’s loud, there is a good deal of shouting across tables, and, even when there aren’t any workshops going on, hanging around the hallways or lobby, in small knots, getting current on who’s writing what (Melva and I do indeed have a draft of the Beach Ball, now known as Chasing Prints Charming (sic)) meet new friends and meld social circles by introducing new friends with those we’ve known for basically forever.

I’d like to say I got a good night’s sleep, but a combination of back pain, end-of-book endorphins, and excitement over the day ahead meant I lay in a very lovely bed, my brain whirling with books and stories and writers and workshops and pitch sessions (I had one scheduled, Melva had two) and what on earth we were going to do for breakfast, since we were on our own for that this year. There was a certain amount of little-kid-on-Christmas-Eve feeling, because I was only one sleep (or in my case, lack of sleep) away from my first time co-presenting on a topic I love, with awesome co-presenters whom I also love. One lack of sleep away from my first pitch in the last few years, for the first complete book I’ve ever co-written. One lack of sleep away from brainstorming the next book with that same co-writer, because that was the most natural step after writing “The End” on the first one. Slight twinges of guilt from Hero and Heroine, but an assurance I’d be back to them, after shaking conference hangover, quieted those in due time.

AnnaSelfieFridayThere’s a lot to be said for the work  our brains do when we have nights where we don’t sleep, and when that brain belongs to a writer who has arrived at a conference, there is a lot of that sort of work. Have I done the right writerly things this past year? I’ve written The End on two manuscripts. I am now seven chapters into the second draft of Her Last First Kiss. Chasing Prints Charming has a complete first draft, and already two requests for partials. There’s a presenter ribbon on my name tag, and, somewhere in that same hotel, there were people who had already decided they were going to choose that workshop over all the others offered at the same time. There’s some responsibility with that, because those other workshops were good ones (and yes, I did make a quick peek in the room where a certain other workshop would be presented, on my way to the bathroom immediately prior to showtime.

Not a lot of conference talk in this entry, I know, but it’s all part of the conference experience. Actual workshop and pitch stuff in our next entry. See you Wednesday.

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