Typing With Wet Claws: After The Book Swap Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. The weather here in New York’s Capitol Region is crazy. Today, we have rain. Sometimes. Yesterday, we had snow. The day before that, the temperature was seventy degrees. I am very glad that I am an indoor kitty, and do not have to be outside in all of that madness. Being inside also gives me a front row seat (I guess there will only be a back row when I get a kitty brother, and he sits behind me, so for now it is an only row seat) to what Anty is doing, which is one of the reasons she lets me blog for her, once a week.

Since I am not allowed to talk about anything else (which is usually Anty’s writing anyway) I have to talk about where readers can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, other than here. If you are reading this, then you already know how to find here.

First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talks about the difference between a romance novel and a love story. It is a pretty important difference, so if you are not sure, this post may be helpful. It is here, and it looks like this:

BURlovestory

Next, we come to the part of the post where I tell you about Anty’s reading this week. It was a pretty full week on the domestic front, but Anty still did pretty well. The book that she read and reviewed this week, is the book that she hoped would get her back into reading historical romance again, and, guess what, it did. That review is here, and it looks like this:

Since this book is the second in a trilogy (Anty already has, and has read the first one) Anty now has to track down the third one, although it was published a while back, and so is not sold in new bookstores anymore, so she will have some looking to do. She does not mind that kind of looking very much, and it reminds her that there are still four more books by Miss Blythe, beyond that (three are related to each other, one is not related to anything) for her to read in the future. This is very encouraging.

Right now, Anty has read thirteen out of ninety books for the year, which puts her at fourteen percent of the way toward her goal. That means that she is on track, when it comes to the number of books. She still has a way to go in the historical romance department, though, as only three of those books are historical romance. I have faith in Anty, though, because now she has the scent of the genre again, and she has come back from the book swap party that she goes to every year.

Coming back from that party always gives Anty a boost. Not only does she get to see Anty Melva, her co-writer for the contemporary books, but there is a whole room with books for anybody to take,whatever they want. I should mention here that there are many different kinds of books, not only romance. This is a good thing, because the people who go to this party like a wide range of books. It also means that Anty has, if not first pick of the romance novels brought by other people, it is pretty darned close. This year, she only took home a few books, but one of those books, Dragonwyck, by Anya Seton, has Anty excited for a couple of reasons.

I do not know if there are any actual dragons in this book, but probably not. That is good, because dragons are scary. That is, I imagine they would be. I do not know any dragons. Maybe some of them are nice. Anyway, Anty wants to read this book, because it, along with other books by Miss Anya, and similar authors, paved the way for the kinds of historical romances Anty loves the very best. This book was written in 1944, which is, umm, a lot of cats ago. It also takes place in the Hudson Valley, which guess what, is an area we kind of know a few things about, so that should be interesting. I do not know if there are any cats in this book. I guess Anty will find out. If Anty likes this book, she will read other books my Miss Anya. I do not think any of them are related, so that is a plus. Anty is very big on standalone books.

That does not stop her from planning to study some favorite, connected, books, and take notes on that reading process. That is both to learn how to focus on what Anty loves best about historical romance, so she can bring it into her own writing, and to use a super cool notebook with a hipster kitty on it. Anty already shared a picture of this book, but I am sharing it again, because it has a kitty on the front.

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A stripey kitty, so it will probably remind her how much she loves me and that she should give me more treats whenever she opens it. At least that is the plan.

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

skyebye2018

 

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Of Notebooks and Novels

Today, the temperature may get as high as seventy degrees. The votive candle on my desk is burning low, in a funny shape, because of all the months it spent stashed in a place it shouldn’t be (I’m sure sticking it in one of my art supply boxes made sense at the time, but do not ask me how, now, because I have no earthly idea.) Hipster Kitty is still on my desk, even though I’m still not sure how I want to use him, (this notebook is apparently a boy) and don’t want to put him away quite yet, either. This morning, I finished my current morning pages book, and am down to the final two candidates for its successor. This also reminds me that it is crunch time for my daily planner book, because the month will be ending soon, and I need to set up March, though I am still seeing candidates for the next planner notebook.

There’s a second decision related to starting a new daily planner book, more important than whether I want dot grid paper, kraft paper (but then what about my already planned pastel color scheme for the start of spring?) or admit to myself that I am a Leuctrumm 1917 convert, and that’s what I really want, even though I am trying to be good and use what I already have. Do I want to use my daily planner as the fourth insert in Big Pink, or do I want it to live on my desk? If I want it to live on my desk, then my options are wide open. If I want it to be insert number four, then it needs to fit inside the notebook cover, and will change the weight and heft of Big Pink in general.

“Um, Anna,” some of you may be saying right about now, “this is all very interesting for notebook people, who would totally follow you to a notebook-only blog, by the way, but some of us are writers and/or readers, who are not into notebooks, and could you please talk about writing or reading now? Kthanx.” I hear you, and I can bring this around. Right now, as a matter of fact.

Yesterday, at my weekly breakfast with N, N made me write. Okay, technically, she said she was going to write, which I knew she was going to do, and she took out notebook and pen and started doing exactly that. Well. I can’t resist that sort of thing. I had debated bringing along a variety of notebooks and/or one legal pad, for when this moment came, but it was also one of those mornings when getting out the door was complicated by a fuzzy shadow that thought everything I was doing was A) extremely interesting, and B) might possibly involve cat food. What I had on hand was the current fourth insert of Big Pink, a Moleskine Volant, which has detachable pages, and is, theoretically in Big Pink for exactly that reason, so I can write on the fly and then remove pages to go where they actually go, or transcribe and recycle.

Well, okay then. I put pen to paper and worked on a scene for Her Last First Kiss, making notes of opportunities to go deeper in an early chapter. I ended up having to prep more pages than I thought I would (prepping, in this case, means a bold line of marker or washi tape (this time, it was marker) at the top and bottom of the page. This gets around the blank page problem, because voila, the page is no longer blank.) Is it perfect? No. Is it written? Yes. Do I get to transcribe it today, and take those pages out of the book? Yes, sir or ma’am, I do. Longhand works best for me, and longhand under pressure, with an audience, works even better. Clearly, this insert needs to stay, but is it maybe making the other lined insert, which does not have detachable pages (okay, it has a few, but only in the back) redundant? Maybe so.

The evolution of a notebook system is kind of like the evolution of a writer, especially the writer who is using the notebook system. Trial and error is a big part of the process, and there are going to be times we get halfway through a project, or even make that first mark on the paper, and get the immediate “nope,” or that zing of recognition. That “Yes. This,” that picks us up from uncertainty and carries us until we’ve got our bearings. For the first time, or again; it works well both ways.

Starting new books, and redoing Big Pink feel appropriate for where I am, writing-wise, these days. It’s kind of like the back to school feel of new school supplies, which never gets old, even decades after any sort of connection to any sort of school. The fact that it hits around the same time as spring cleaning, well, that’s kind of one of the big holidays for us organizational types. Organizing writing makes perfect sense. It feels right. I’m excited to reclaim tools and space and energy. I’m excited to be reading historical romance again, and keeping my focus where it belongs. Not on the market (although of course that’s important, for those of us doing the whole writing career thingyboo) or what anybody else is doing, but what I’m doing, and what works best for me. If that involves stationery, all that much better.

The Queen’s Lady, the Hipster Kitty, and Me: A Love Story

Today does not feel like a Monday. My planner says it is, so we’ll go with that and get at least seven hundred words of blabber into this text box, within the next hour, because crossing a task off my to-do list is one of the very best ways to kick off a Monday (or any other day, come to think of it.) Maybe I’m still riding on weekend fumes, because this was a pretty good weekend, especially for my focus on reconnecting with historical romance and growing the blog.

Friday nights are BFF nights, which means Housemate and I grab some sort of dinner, then trawl craft stores for geeking out over art supplies. Watercolor pencils for her (though she has yet to actually use them as watercolors) and anything bujo/art journal related for me. This week, that included picking up a copy of Artful Blogging magazine. Articles on connecting with one’s creative side and particular bloggy “voice,” be that writing or photography, resonated. I actually started petting the magazine while still in the store, so that’s a sign that the issue had to come home. This has a few different levels to it; there’s the drooling over pictures level, the taking in advice I probably already know but have made excuses not to act upon, because acting on such knowledge would be scary level, and the actually applying what I’ve learned to my actual blog level.

Saturday meant sneaking in more craft store trawling in the midst of errands (Housemate has a life goal of owning all the watercolor pencils in the world. I support her in this, because A) I want my friend to be happy, and B) I have permission to use them when she is not using them.) Saturday also meant that I got to take out the magazine and lay it on the table between us at lunch, and natter endlessly over how gorgeous the pictures are, and how I want to get to that level with my own blog, or possibly blogs, as I’ve been thinking of starting a second blog, devoted to all things pen and paper, while this one would be reserved  for writing talk. We will see how things go.

Sunday found me, along with Real Life Romance Hero, and Housemate, at our friend, M.P. Barker‘s annual book swap party. The most important thing about these parties is that the bacon-wrapped figs are mine, mine, mine. Okay, maybe that is not the most important thing, but it is a strong contender for the number two spot. They are stuffed with goat cheese, and are delicious, and I would happily pay whoever makes them, to make me a small batch. A truckload or two would do. For starters. I would say I am digressing here, but these are extremely good bacon wrapped figs. Or maybe they’re dates. I get the two confused sometimes.

Enough of that. The really important thing about this party, every year, is that it gives me a chance to reconnect with my best writing self. M.P., my contemporary co-writer, Melva Michaelian, and I spent many years’ worth of Wednesday nights, gathered around the same dining room table where, yesterday, I scarfed bacon-wrapped figs (or dates) and gabbed with Mona, a reader friend, about our shared love of reading historical romance. What we like, what we don’t, how we had each finished reading (two different) Harlequin Historical romances within the last twenty-four hours, and needed to choose our next reads pretty darned quick. This is where my love of reading and my love of planning come together and make beautiful reading plan babies.

Before the start of the new year, I made a list of books to re-read, and books to finally read, all historical romance. First up from the TFR list is The Queen’s Lady, by Barbara Kyle:

BarbaraKylethequeenslady

 

Tudor era, start of a family saga, plot that unfolds over years instead of months or weeks, and a heroine name to make me sigh with happiness. Honor Larke. Yep, I’m sold. I’m not sure why I haven’t read this before, and I’m intrigued that it was, IIRC, originally published as historical romance, though the spine on this edition classes it as historical fiction. We shall see how this goes.  After that, it’s back to the well, and a small detour from my TBRR list, as I plan to reread the entire O’Malley/Skye’s Legacy series, by Bertrice Small. That’s twelve books, with both series combined, so picking out historical romances to read is not going to be that difficult a task for me in the foreseeable future.

My heart is already going a little pitty-pat at the reading journey ahead of me, and what it’s going to do for my writing, this spring. (Can you believe it’s almost spring already? Has to be, though, as, in the next two weeks, I will be starting both a new morning pages book, and a new daily planner book.) That’s where the Hipster Kitty comes into play:

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See how perfectly he fits with the rest of my “me” stuff? I normally don’t seek out things that are yellow, or books with white pages, but this book has me completely heart-eyes over it. I already know I want to write with black pen, and use yellow highlighter, and, since I want to take notes o n my epic O’Malley re-read, well, this seems like perfect timing. There’s still a chance I might end up using a different book for that, but even if that’s what happens, this is for something special. Maybe it’s for notes on the proposed cyber-revival Melva, M.P. and I talked about, of the weekly critique/nag group meetings that got us all through multiple manuscripts.

The weekend just past was wonderful, filled with re-filling, and re-connection, bringing me to the start of a new week, with the challenge of putting all that good stuff into practice. That’s still a little scary, but scary in the good way. I did get an offer of beta-reading from my reader friend, so I have to give her something to read, don’t I? Thought so. time to make another cup of tea, and slip back in time a few centuries.

Valentine’s Day Rambles (of the writing variety)

So, it’s Valentine’s Day, which means built in blog topic for romance writers. Woo hoo.  On hour, seven hundred words, let’s go. Okay. No big plans for the day, as such. I’m writing, which is worthy of celebration, because my brain is returning from the fog of Martian Death Cold, and it’s time to write some of the rust out of the faucet, so to speak. This also means I get to spend some extra time tucked in a comfy chair (probably my office chair, which is plenty comfy and has great back support) and snuggle under a fuzzy blanket, with a cup of tea (pink skull and crossbones mug today) and the day’s soundtrack is a mixture of my Spotify daily mix and Real Life Romance Hero doing dishes on the other side of my office door. Heck yes, romance heroes wash dishes.

Okay, maybe not medieval knights or nineteenth century English noblemen. Probably not pirates, either, but, y’know, everybody does what they have to do on a pirate ship because there are only so many people to do a lot of different jobs, so maybe pirates, after all. Who can tell? Me, next time I write a pirate book? Maybe so. We will see. The point is, romance heroes do a whole lot of things. Heroines, too. That came out wrong, but I’ll let it stand, because I am in that sort of a mood.

Romance gets a lot of jabs this time of year, often from people who aren’t fans of the genre, often because they haven’t tried any recent romance fiction, or classic romance fiction, or fiction with romantic elements (though, let’s be real, that romance stuff is everywhere, and gets into many different genres, to varying degrees, but I digress.) Think pieces of this sort (of which there often does not seem to be a whole lot of thinking going on) have become commonplace enough that I can look at them, and, meh, another one of those? Okay. Whatever. What I’d really like to see is the excited discovery of a new romance reader – hey, look at all these great stories, where the focus is on the relationship and there’s history and suspense and sex and faith and it’s funny and it rips my heart out and puts it back together, and, seriously, anything can happen to these characters, as long as they end up happy and together, and, y’know what? They do. Every single time. How amazing is that?

Pretty darned, is all I’m saying. Yesterday was my weekly meeting with N, and we talked about reconnecting with what we want for our writing careers, about reconnecting with what makes a story, be it read or written, special. For me, this means a concentrated effort in reconnecting with what I love most about historical romance. If I’m going to go back to the source, the moment I fell in love with the genre, it would be when eleven-year-old me snuck a book from my mother’s nightstand, and cracked it open, by flashlight, under the brass bed in the guest bedroom. It also takes me back to countless used bookstores, where I would crawl around on the floor, inspecting the lower shelves for stories set in the sixteenth century, scanning for keywords that would catch my attention. Any mention of larger than life, or epic, or sprawling, or…:satisfied sigh:

Yeah, that. When I think of historical romance, that’s my happy place. I’m sure there’s something to be said about the role of the floor in all of this. The floor of the guest bedroom, under the big brass bed, the floors of countless bookstores, usually ending up in a tucked away corner, books spread out around me, so I could whittle down the selection to fit within the budget for that trip. To a lesser extent, there are the countless spins I made of the spinner racks in the fiction section of the library closest to my dad’s house when I was in high school, checking for fat paperbacks that meant historical romance, and the distinctive, slim spines that meant traditional Regencies, or gothics. As long as there was history, and there was romance, I was happy.

Am happy, because, decades after that first filched paperback, which now has a place of honor on the bookshelf behind me as I write, the same bookcase which once held the picture books of my preschool days, I still get that thrill. Give me two lovers who have to be together, but can’t, and I am there. If I am the one entrusted to making sure the lovers’ stars un-cross, that’s another level of fun. Frustration, sometimes, because story people can be tricky little badgers, making choices of their own, the second they hit the page. That only means they are real and alive in the sense that it becomes a collaboration between the writer and their imaginary friends. In that way, no romance writer is ever truly alone,  no matter what day it is.

Over the magic seven hundred now, and time to wrap this puppy, which can get tricky when I go on this sort of ramble. As N and I discussed, sometimes it takes a while to write the rust out of the faucet, and putting down anything is better than putting down nothing, especially when putting down anything runs smack into a wall of resistance. Even so, keep at it long enough, and the faucet runs out of rust. That’s a happy ending right there.

TheWriterIsOut

Dialogue With a Hypothetical Bouncer

Last night, I legit finished an art journal. Granted, only the last couple of spreads are worth showing to anybody, because a big chunk of it is lettering practice, Tests of pens and stencils, ideas that did not translate well to the page, layouts for my planner that I may or may not have implemented, more pen tests, and, at last, the lightbulb moment when I finally figured out two important things at once.

First important thing: I finally, finally, finally figured out how to use Distress Inks and blenders to make the kind of backgrounds I’ve slavered over for literally years. Second important thing: this quest took me so danged long that most of my Distress Ink collection was no longer viable. As in dried out, not transmitting color anymore, pining for the fjords. All that stuff meaning those pads got a one way trip to the circular (actually rectangular, if we’re talking my specific office trash receptacle) file. Not exactly what I had planned.

Sure, there are other inks in that line, still available, probably most of the colors I had to toss, as a matter of fact, not to mention some new ones, and even a new oxide formula (don’t know exactly what that does, but if it looks pretty and grungy at the same time, I want it.) Since the mini size of these inkpads are sold in bundles, frequently at stores with pretty nifty coupons on a regular basis, it won’t cost a fortune to build up a decent palette or two. It’s the principle, though. I wanted to use those pads. I picked out those pads, those particular colors. While I can probably get mot of the same colors, they won’t be the same pads. That bugs me.

What I turned out with what I had on hand wasn’t bad. As a matter of fact, it was this:

040218artjournalbowling

This is the only page I’m showing.

That’s three clinging-to-life inkpads, one homemade stencil (dress form) with one commercial stencil (damask pattern) and one commercial stamp (face.) Also ten very inky fingers, and one sense of accomplishment. This particular art journal lives in my traveler’s notebook, Big Pink, so, at some point today, I will need to slide out this insert and put in a brand spanking new one. I haven’t done that yet, but I did, finally, give myself permission to haul out a precious, hoarded item (okay, two of them, but the pens have only been here for a week or so):

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That’s a Moleskine sketchbook, with smooth, thick pages, and the thirty pack of the Stabilo fineliners. Real, grownup artist tools, and the only artist around here is :shifty eyes: me. I have vivid memories of sneaking into my father’s art studio when I was but a wee little princess, and pilfering his art supplies (pro quality is far superior to kiddo quality; I knew this even in preschool) and putting them back where I found them, because I didn’t want to get caught.  Now, the only one here to “catch” me is me.

This is the part of the post where I steer it back toward writing, because the two are so closely related they can’t get married without a papal dispensation. Impostor syndrome is real. I think Mondays are its natural habitat. What do I think I’m doing, sneaking into fictionland, to play around with characters and plots and settings, all willy-nilly, with either willful ignorance or clear disregard (maybe both) of proper practices and/or market trends? Huh? Going to need to see some ID here. RWA membership? Okay, I guess that’s something, but are you published? You are? Could’ve fooled me What books? Cute backlist, honey. Don’t you have some laundry to fold?

Well, hah. Joke’s on you, Hypothetical Bouncer, because I already folded the laundry, and put it way, so no, I do not. I’m here at this desk for the same reason I snuck into my dad’s studio about elebenty billion times. I have to. There’s no way around it. Forget “want.” We’re talking “need” here. It didn’t occur to kiddo me, that my dad was a professional, and I wasn’t, that he had over three decades of experience and education ahead of me. I didn’t care that he’d painted murals and book covers, mainly because I didn’t know that at the time. What I did know was that I loved the feel of the white paper with the black and gray markings in one corner, that he kept in the bottom drawer of the green filing cabinet. I knew I loved the smell of the markers that had not one but two tips, even if I was not supposed to smell them on purpose. I couldn’t draw a realistic face, and even my box houses with triangles for roofs left a lot to be desired, but I loved the pen in my hand and the color on the paper, and, so, I kept at it.

Which brings us to today, Monday, and me at my desk, fingers on keyboard, not one but two projects in front of me; the revise and resubmit on Chasing Prince Charming, and Her Last First Kiss. I’m not that bothered about working on Chasing Prince Charming, because A) I’m doing it along with my co-writer, Melva, and B) I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, so there’s not a lot to which I can compare this project.

Historical romance, though, hoo boy. Whole other animal. If I spin my chair around (and I can, because spinny office chairs are the best office chairs; I will fight dissenters on this one) I will see the bookshelf filled with Bertrice Small historicals, and another bookshelf with historical romance novels I intend to read, once I can get past the darned bouncer in front of that one.  Oh hey there, YA reader girl. Looking for a historical romance, are you? Yeah, I’ve seen your Goodreads. You think you can play with the big girls? Some of the books on this shelf are old enough to go to kindergarten, and you haven’t read them yet. Not going to learn much about current market trends on this shelf. You sure that’s what you want?

Something akin to, “um, yeah actually, I do,” perches on the tip of my tongue, because I do want to read those books, and I don’t like that bouncer’s tone. That’s when I take a closer look at her. She looks kind of familiar. Long, reddish brown hair, black glasses, rose gold hoop earrings, exactly like the ones in my jewelry box. Umm, wait a minute. Wonder if I could distract her with some professional quality art supplies.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

Tales of the Accidental Truck Driver

This morning, I accidentally applied for a job as a truck driver. Real Life Romance Hero and I are both looking for side hustles, and I wanted to show him how a job=seeking app worked, and, thanks to slippery fingers and a sensitive touchscreen, I got two beeps, alerting me to the status of my applications. One of those ads was for a truck driver.

I am not a truck driver. I am not anything driver. I write romance novels, and I write about romance novels (romance in movies and TV is also right up my alley, if anybody needs web content.) I play with pen and paper, a lot, but, when the literal rubber meets the literal road, I am not in the literal driver’s seat. There is good reason for this. Two of them, actually. Left and right eyes. To be completely transparent, it is mostly Lefty’s fault, while Righty picks up most of Lefty’s slack, but gets tired sometimes. This understandably does things to ye olde depth perception, which is kind of important when aiming tons of metal down long stretches of highway at advanced speeds. For those curious about the other accidental job application, that was for a work at home gig, and if those people get in touch with me, I’ll hear them out, but that’s not pertinent to the topic at hand.

The whole truck driver thing is actually kind of funny, because, when I was but a wee little princess, long haul truck driver was on my long list of possible future occupations. My main reason was that I loved going on car trips, watching the scenery change, and imagining stories about all the other people, in all the other cars. Where were they coming from, where were they going, and what were they going to do when they got there? I may also have had a slightly romantic view of the whole concept of “truck stop,” and, as a young teen, I may or may not have had a few characters floating around my head, who spent a good chunk of their time in exactly that sort of vehicle. I may also, in high school, have expanded that into a three=act play, two acts of which got staged readings in English class. For those curious about my grade for that assignment, I got an A+.

Which brings us around to the topic of writing historical romance fiction. I fully accept that today is  domestic tsumani day (any day that starts with accidental job applications is pretty much doomed in that direction) On this kind of day, the whole concept of sitting high above the flow of traffic, music of choice playing as loud as I want it, caffeinated beverage at hand, and, let’s be real, a four-legged companion in the passenger seat -who wouldn’t want to get paid to take car rides with a dog?- is pretty darned appealing. Get in the truck, and just go. Watch the scenery change, imagine who’s going where, what they’ll do when they get there, who knows where they’re going, who’s hopelessly lost, and who is currently arguing with their passenger and/or GPS about whose directions are going to get them where they wanted to go, if that’s where they end up at all.

John DeWarre, the hero of my medieval novella, A Heart Most Errant, is probably the closest I am going to get to the image I had in my early pubescent head about the life of a nkight of the road. That’s because he is one, a knight-errant in fourteenth century England. He doesn’t have a truck, because it is fourteenth century England, and he doesn’t have a dog, but he does have a horse, creatively named Horse. That’s because John is not creative. Not even a little; he’s a soldier, even if he’s not at war, and  has no master. He’ll still carry out his duty anyway, grumbling his way around a post-plague wasteland.

No story if that’s all that happens, though, right? Which is where Aline comes in, talkative, optimistic, and willing to risk it all on a one in a million chance, because, hey, those odds are better than staying where she is when her and John’s worlds collide. The plague wiped out the life she’d known up until that point, so girlfriend seriously does not have anything to lose here.  Once she and John get on the road, they do not lack for adventure, and getting their story out to readers is not going to lack adventure, either.

TheWriterIsOut

Their story is my first road story, but probably not my last. Writing road stories does scratch the itch of mental wanderlust, and, let’s face it, has fewer chances of engine trouble, travel delays, or weigh stations. I have my music of choice playing right this minute, got the four-legged companion covered already, as Skye is my faithful mews, though she will abandon me in a not second, if Real Life Romance Hero becomes available. He is her favorite, and she loves him the most. As for caffeinated beverage, it’s probably about time to make another cup of tea. Spoiler alert: it is always time to make another cup of tea.

This Post is Not About Planners, I Promise

Can you believe it’s almost February? 2018 is moving at the speed of a bullet train, or perhaps the domestic tornadoes that continue to blow through our immediate vicinity. Getting lost in all of those can be easy, because, when a domestic tornado gets out to sea (does that make it a hurricane? I’m a romance writer, not a meteorologist) it does tend to develop an undertow. Easy, as well, to let the writing part of life get pulled under, in the face of all that. I’ve been there before, looking at the mouth of that now, and, y’know what? No.

Last night, after dinner (I do make an awesome baked chicken, thankyouverymuch) I lit the big candle, settled in at my desk, and got out pens, markers and ruler, to set up my planner for the coming week. No, this is not a post about planning, but I will mention that I am excited to test out my idea about how to differentiate the February part of the week from the January part of the week. Yesterday was largely a crash into much needed naps day, rousing myself to make meals before crashing down again, and then one final drag to the desk, because planning. This is still not a post about planning. Seriously, it’s not. This is a post about writing.

Umm, Anna, I hear voices saying, you just spent a whole paragraph talking about planning, while telling us you weren’t talking about planning. This is confusing. Sure is. For me, too, but I’m getting to the writing part of the post, so get cozy, because here we go. Drawing near the end of January also means drawing near the end of the writer’s workshop I’m taking, which means an extra set of morning pages (not always written in the morning; yesterday’s snuck in under the wire at around eleven PM) which are reserved for writing about writing.

Umm, Anna, the voice says again, writing about writing is kind of the whole point of your entire blog. This isn’t anything new. There is a strong suspicion that you are padding this post with unnecessary words, and will get to the magic seven hundred without getting to anything new or interesting. To that voice, I say hush. My blog, my blather, mkay? Great.

My morning pages are, usually, a very random brain dump, there to prime the pump and get things flowing. The extra morning pages are for reflecting on my own personal writing, what I want for my career, how I can get from where I am, to where I want to be. That sort of stuff. It’s rather illuminating, and I highly recommend the process. Tangentially related are explorations of my reading goals and reading habits. Reading historical romance, my chosen genre, is difficult right now, for a few reasons, though I very much want to dive into the genre I love the most. I may be returning some new releases straight back to the library, unread, and dive into some classics and books on my To Finally Read list. Realistic YA, I am inhaling like oxygen.

Will I add that to my own writing repertoire? Who knows? Right now, I’m focused on the work that is in front of me, namely Her Last First Kiss, and Drama King, as well as revising Chasing Prince Charming. There’s A Heart Most Errant waiting for its own revisions, because the book is done, okay, and halfway edited, and, seriously, it is thisclose to being ready to shop around again, or look at indie publishing. I kind of like that idea. There’s the Christmas story I’ve always wanted to write (always wanted, in the general sense; no specific idea as of yet, but stay tuned.) N mentioned, last week, that I might want to consider writing and releasing something short as soon as I can, to give the reward of seeing a new release, and, hopefully, positive reader feedback. I do feel somewhat unicorn-y, as an extroverted writer, but, hey, we are what we are, right?

That’s where this all brought me. I am a writer. Writers write. They have to do it, sometimes, in between and/or around domestic tornadoes, but there is a choice, to make writing a priority. That’s why, today, I am making that choice. Still figuring out how I want to measure things, and I will say that Camp NaNo is on the table for this year, but not a guarantee. I miss Heroes and Heartbreakers. I miss it a lot. The newsletter is still wonderful, but I miss writing my posts, and the search for more paid blogging gigs continues, because I like blogging, and, more universally, I like money. Money allows us to have fun things like pens, notebooks, food, shelter, that kind of thing.

So. Final paragraph for this entry, because my planner says I have specific amounts of time to touch particular projects today, and I’m sticking with that. So what if my wheels feel wobbly? That’s okay. I can do it, wobbly. I can do it, scared. I can do it, tired. I can do it. A bad page is better than a blank page. The more targets we shoot at, the more targets we hit. The more you do, the more you want to do. (Thanks, Mom.) Let’s go, imaginary friends, we have some tales to tell.

 

 

The Big Candle

Since I started hygge-fying my office, lighting a candle has been part of the routine when I open the desk for the day. When I first started, I had a single votive on hand, a tealight, and two mini jar candles. When I blew through those, there was only one option left. The big candle. I do not remember when the big candle came into our home. but my educated guess is that it was part of a holiday gift from somebody’s work. The scent is Autumn Wreath, the maker, Yankee Candle. I’d always thought it was too big for my desk (cue visions of the entire thing going up in flames, taking a bunch of my notebooks and favorite pens with it) but here it is, and now, I find it’s the most natural thing in the world to have it there.

One of the biggest things about having the big candle on my desk was that I didn’t want to waste the wax. In the candle world, this is known as tunneling, when the candle isn’t burned the proper amount of time on its first outing. When that happens, the candle remembers how far it was burned, and that’s how far it will burn throughout its life. This means all the wax isn’t used, and, at the end of that particular candle, there will be a bunch of wax clinging to the sides, either to be carved out with a knife, possibly with the  help of boiling water or a stint in the freezer, or tossed, along with the jar, because it’s too much trouble to get the stuff out, merely to have a plain glass jar, for some undefined purpose. In that case, the jar gets tossed. Maybe the garbage smells a bit better that week, but that’s about the only benefit.

For this particular candle, that meant a three-hour burn. That meant three hours of me at my desk, keeping an eye on the flame, while simultaneously doing my thing (aka manipulating the lives of my imaginary friends.  There may or may not also have been the final two episodes of the US version of Being Human, which may or may not have made me cry, and may or may not have spoiled me for jumping directly into another series. This will probably mean more time for books, both the reading and writing of same, with the big candle along for the ride, in either event.

Even with careful attention (I am going to blame the Being Human finale) I did end up with some tunneling. There’s still a bit of wax around the rim that should have melted, but apparently I didn’t time things correctly, and now I am either stuck with the one thing I didn’t want to have happen, or…or I could turn this around. Fold a strip of tin foil twice, make a sort of tin foil tenty kind of thing, around the mouth of the candle for about half an hour, and boom, back in business.

This is all a very word-pad-y way of saying that, sometimes, writing is hard. Or weird. Or crammed into five minute bites, when what’s really needed is a good solid couple of hours, but there is life and…there is tin foil. All the good stuff is still there. The story, the characters, the world in which they live, those are all still there, only clinging to the jar instead of melting into lushly fragranced …good…smelling…stuff. The fact that I am writing this blog post when the clock ticks down to 5PM should be an indicator that I am quickly running out of English for the day and need to replenish the well.

The default has been bingeing on Being Human, but that’s all done now, and I’m not ready for a new show yet, although the fourth series of the original, UK version is now on request at the library, and will be on its way to me soon. Or I could read. I could build a new house out of my TBR pile, and there are friends’ manuscripts calling. I’ll figure it out, but, either way, I will have one eye on the big candle. We’ll get through this together.

Somewhere Between No and Yes

Lovely grey day here in New York’s capitol region. Lots of clouds, but no rain in the immediate forecast. Laundry is done, candle is lit, tea is made, and I am settled into my office chair, blanket in my lap and pillow I the small of my back. The new pens that came home over the weekend are close at hand, for when I turn off the computer and put pen to paper. Real Life Romance Hero is wrangling domestic tornado tasks, and it’s me, the blog, and my imaginary friends. It’s Monday, the start of a new week.

Right now, the office is quiet. No music yet, but there is the sound of traffic outside, the occasional squeak of door hinges and floorboards as RLRH goes about his business, and miscellaneous kitty sounds from my  office buddy, pictured below.

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Skye O’Malley, the kitty, not the book

I’m writing this entry later in the day than I’d originally planned, and even thought about saving it for tomorrow, when I’d maybe have a more concrete idea of what I wanted to write about than I do today, but carrying two back entries at one time is more than this particular writer is willing to carry, so this is what you get. Later tonight, Melva and I will talk via Skype, to discuss the proposed changes to Chasing Prince Charming, for the resubmission to The Wild Rose Press. I’ll have a better bead, tomorrow, on what we’re doing, but this is Monday, and not writing the Monday post would bother me.

Long ago, in what seems like another life, I submitted my first ever partial manuscript. It was not good. I soon received my first ever rejection letter, which was, in retrospect, good, as rejection letters go. Though the editor did let me know, in a gentle but straightforward fashion, that nothing actually happened in my first three chapters, she did also ask me to send something else. At the time, I skipped right over that send something else part and focused, instead, on the nothing actually happened part. Would thing have been any different if I’d shifted my focus and written something else, instead of believing this was proof positive that no was it for me?

Probably so. There have been more rejections since. My favorite is the first page of my manuscript sent back to me,  in my SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) with the word, “no,” scrawled on it in pencil. I don’t think I have the actual paper anymore, but the memory remains. Also in that category are the small magazines that bought or said they would like to buy my stories and them promptly shut their doors. A once upon a time friend and I used to joke about how I could probably start a side business taking out hits on such publications (this never came to fruition, but did provide some good natured entertainment.) There have been pitch sessions that went down in flames (never pitch after being up  for seventy-two hours straight, and never, never pitch a book that is not actually finished. Seriously. Don’t.)

There have also been sales, one of which I do not remember making, because of the domestic tornadoes that whipped through my life at the time, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that things like that are the exception. The not remembering, not the actual selling of books; new books do come out with great frequency, which is a very good thing for us writer types, and for reader types as well. Somewhere in the middle lies the request to revise and resubmit. It may not be as common as the other two, more definitive outcomes of a submission, but it’s an exciting one.

As soon as I read Melva’s email, that she’d heard back, I was prepared for a thanks but no thanks, and, instead, got a rare opportunity. We got the chance to make a good thing even better, which is its own sort of adventure. Not really the same as that sale I did not remember making, with the manuscript that had vanished and had to be Frankenstein-ed together with hardcopies from my then-critique group (of which Melva was a member) but some of the feelings are similar.

There’s the “eee, this is exciting” feeling. There’s the “egads, this is going to be a lot of work” feeling. There’s the “at least I’m not doing this on my own” feeling, which I will take, any day, over sitting cross-legged on an itchy carpet, surrounded by piles of paper, trying to put the puzzle together. Not entirely by myself, because one panicked message to said critique parnters brought in a flood of aforementioned papers, and, in the end, it all fit together, and became Orphans in the Storm.

Chasing Prince Charming, the story that began because Melva and I were early to breakfast at a conference, and only wanted to kill time, is going to have  its own hero’s journey, as we take it apart and put it back together. Tonight, over Skype, Melva and I will Throw the beach ball around once again, put ideas out there, and see where our imaginary friends want to take things to the next level.  I’m looking forward to the trip.

 

Getting Hygge With It

Yesterday, I found a spot on my desk, where I can light a candle without burning down the house. I also, without fully knowing how, found a piano instrumental channel on Spotify, which fits nicely with the flickering light inside the small jar in the corner of my desk. This may or may not have had something to do with me finally finding out that the aesthetic I’m going for in my office actually has a name: hygge. Depending on which Danes (great or otherwise) one asks, it means “wellbeing,” or “to embrace,” or, possibly, “to think or consider.”  In modern parlance, “cozy” might be the most accessible term.

For my purposes, we’re going to translate it as “comfortable.” Physically comfortable, yes, because when a writer is not physically comfortable, that’s going to be an obstacle to getting any sort of work done, but it’s more than that. I’ve always felt more grounded with things I love around me, so it makes sense that I would focus better when I carry that over to my writing space. Especially on a day like today:

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Actual view from our balcony.

I love snow. Snow is my favorite weather. Snow turns the entire world into a gorgeous, magical playground. I have not, as yet, attempted to get any serious writing done outside, in the snow, but, when I was but a wee little princess, I would stay out in that stuff for literally hours, making up adventures in my head, to the point where my mother would make me come in to have a hot drink and switch to my other snowsuit, because the first one would be soaked through. Snow invigorates me. To quote The Gilmore Girls, it’s my Catnip. My first novel-length fan fiction was set on an arctic planet, solely so that I could have all the snow I ever wanted.

Snow has always meant stories and adventures for me, so maybe that’s part of the current hygge-fication (is that a word?) of my work space. This morning, I rearranged the notebooks on the top of my desk’s hutch, until they felt more harmonious, like they were ready for what I wanted to bring to the metaphorical table. The books I use only occasionally are no longer the closest at hand, but still where I can get to them when I need them. The peacock cup, filled with a hodgepodge of pens I don’t really use all that often, has been demoted to the B team, and now resides on a bookcase, with the rest of my peacock themed collection. Their time will come.

Right now, I want to ground myself in what I am actually doing, what will welcome me to the desk every day. It’s a process, and I’m not going to discount the value of the time spent taking everything out of each cubbyhole, examining it, and putting back in only what has some sort of benefit. I’ve become pen-snobbier (sorry, ballpoints) and more highlighter-savvy (pastel highlighters ftw) and the way I use notebooks has evolved. Behind me, right now, is the blank cardboard binder I set up for Her Last First Kiss use, several months ago, then promptly misplaced.

The system I used to set it up at the time made sense, logically, but it was all theory, and no practice, mainly because I never connected with the way I’d arranged things. It’s probably somebody else’s perfect notebook, but for me? Ehhh, not so much. I’m more of a cannonball off the end of the pier and then splash around until I figure out which way shore is, then plan the best way there sort of gal. Deciding that, because there are four colors of notebook paper, there must then be four sections, of an equal number of pages is not going to work here. If my space doesn’t work, neither will I. It’s like trying to go through the whole day with a hole in a sock, or shoes that don’t fit.

For me, it comes down to the “embracing” part of the equation. This is my writing space. This is me, on a desk. Lots of paper, lots of pens, lots of tiny compartments with hidden treasures. Flickering light that harkens to an earlier time. Lots of layer, lots of detail. Something for all the senses to do. A place to tuck in and spend some serious time. The place I want to go when I want to go home. This is who I am. This is what I do. Welcome.