Typing With Wet Claws: Controlled Chaos Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  As you may have noticed from my picture above, Anty’s image editing program is giving her guff, but she does not have time to deal with that guff today, so she will deal with it later. Good thing she has me to take care of the blogging for her on days like this.

Anyway, before I get into any of that, I need to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, besides here. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week, and this week, she talked about what the humans call wedding season. I have never been to a wedding, because I am a kitty, but I gather that they are a big deal for some humans, both in books and in the really real world.  Anty’s post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURweddingseason

Now it is time to check in on Anty’s Goodreads reading challenge.  Anty is still on track, for the second week in a row. Good job, Anty. Normally, I would encourage her to do better, because A) she only reviewed one book this week, and B) it is not a historical romance, but there are extenuating circumstances. One of the books Anty is currently reading is Shanna, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, and that book is very, very big.  Anty first read it when she was an almost-grownup, so it is a little bit like reading it for the first time, but with remembering some parts of it.

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Anty has read thirty-nine books out of the ninety she has set for herself this year, which is pretty good, and keeps her on schedule. She is also reading The Wild One, by Danelle Harmon, which is also set in the eighteenth century, so she gets points for staying with her additional goal of reading more historical romances set in the era in which she is currently writing.  That book, she has on her Kindle, so it can go with her everywhere, as opposed to Shanna, which, at over six hundred pages, and being hardcover, is not as portable. That is the big downside to re-reading some of the classics in this genre.

The book Anty did review this week is Hello, I Lied, by M. E. Kerr.  It is a YA novel, about a very interesting summer in the life of one almost-grownup human. It also has a reclusive rock star character in it. Anty loves that kind of thing – humans who were once great at what they did, but stopped doing it and now do not want to see anybody- so she was curious to see how that would play out in this book. She kind of wants to reread Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby now. Her review is here, and it looks like this:

GRHelloILied

If you know about any other books with reclusive once-great humans in them, especially with historical settings, please let Anty know about them right away, or tell me in the comments, and I will pass the recommendations on to her.

Anty says she is not messing with the banner until she can make the editing thingy stop giving her guff, or until she finds another editing thingy, so I will jump right into the topic at paw. This week, Anty and Anty Melva got some bad news that is really not that bad. One of the humans who wanted to look at Chasing Prints Charming had some very nice things to say about what they read, but ultimately said no thank you to looking at more. That is disappointing, but Anty prefers to look at the very nice things. There are many other humans who look at books that are not yet published, so this is not the end of the road. Anty is very happy to be working with Anty Melva,  and they will talk on Skype later this week. I am still salty that Skype is not short for Skye Pee. I think they have a missed opportunity there.

Most of the time, I work as Anty’s mews, but I am also a nurse when it is needed. Uncle is not feeling that great today, and Anty and Mama may be taking him to the people vet. He will feel better after he goes, but I can only imagine what Anty and Mama have to do to get him to go into the carrier. It takes both of them to get me into my carrier, and Uncle is a lot bigger than I am, plus he has opposable thumbs. No tail, though, so those things might cancel each other out. Maybe if Anty puts a treat inside the carrier, he will go inside to get it, and then she and Mama can close the door.  They usually put the carrier on its end and stuff me in, when it is my turn, but the people carrier is really big, and its doors are on the sides, so I do not think that would work this time.

That is about it for right now, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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Until next week…

Do What You Love

I’m going to thankblame Rose Grey for this one. I first met Rose a few years back, when we ended up at the same table for one of the meals at NECRWA’s annual conference. The entire table clicked, and we became the Last Call Girls, after the time we shut down the dining room at another meal, because we’d been so involved in our conversation that we did not notice that A) the meal was over, and B) we were literally the only people in the room not employed by the hotel. The staff hadn’t wanted to disturb us because they thought we were having an important business meeting, which we totally were. I’m not going to say what kind of business, but that’s the story we’re sticking to on this one.

Anyway, Rose is delightful in person, and I jump on her new blog entries like a starving hyena  would chow down on an unattended plate of Kobe beef.  Besides blogging and providing fascinating dinner conversation, Rose writes contemporary romance, and she does it at a desk that sounds a lot like mine.  Before I read Rose’s  blog entry on writing rituals, I hadn’t thought much about not having my secretary desk all the way open, all the time. That way, I could always be ready, wouldn’t have to set up anything, but then there were those words about adding a sense of ritual to the writing process, and hmm.

If I closed my desk at the end of a session, I’d be free to do other things. Leave the office, go home, as it were even though my office is already in my home. If the desk were closed, then I could open it at the start of the day. This wasn’t possible with the monitor in front of the cubbyholes,. and I do love my cubbyholes. Combine that with my other friend, H, getting used to her contacts and our resulting discussion on being nice to eyes and how it is a good thing for writers, and double hmm.

Because this desk predates my time on this earth, it has developed a few idiosyncracies over the years. One of which is that the chains which had always held the work surface open finally gave their all, about the time we moved back to New York, and, if I wanted to have a work surface, period, I had to find some other way of supporting it. The answer was close at hand; the drawers beneath it. Open one. Boom, support. You’re welcome. I am not proud that it took me until Monday (as in the Monday that is two days ago) to figure out that, if I opened the left drawer instead of the right one, I would have somewhere to put my legs. Hopefully, I will be quicker on the uptake next time.

Having somewhere to put my legs makes both computer work and handwriting a lot easier, which makes the whole process of writing my morning pages that much easier. Since I’m still early pages into my current morning pages book, I boost the writing surface on the facing page with another notebook, so it’s at the same level as the pages with hundreds of others to support them. This morning, as I put said notebooks away, I noticed I had a theme going on, that I had not intended:

DoWhatYouLoveNotebooks

Do we see a theme here?

Okay, okay, I get it. Message received. This does not surprise me. Since today is #1lineWed on Twitter (I love #1lineWed) I had that on my daily task list, and figured that was as good a time as any to pop the pages from my Monday marathon session into the master document, and then search for my lines that fit this week’s theme. Figured as well, that it was probably a good time to make sure the font is uniform (writers are excellent at finding plausible reasons to procrastinate) and so did a select all so that I could do exactly that. Normally, I don’t count words at this stage of the game, because that is a guarantee that my focus will shift to playing a numbers game, sweating over every keystroke, and, if left unchecked, end up in creative paralysis, which totally sucks, and I do not recommend it. This time, however, the count was there, and…well, the actual word I said was, shall we say, colorful, so I won’t use it here, but the result did surprise me. I’m further along than I thought. A lot farther.

So, how did I get there? It wasn’t that long ago that the bulk of my novel-related writing was me  filling an endless stream of Moleskine Cahiers with some variation of “I can’t do this, why can’t I do this?” My writing soundtrack was my Hypercritical Gremlins singing me the song of their people. While I’m not saying the Hypercritical Gremlins will never find their way back to my office closet, they have been quiet in recent days.

The difference, I think, is in forgetting the shoulds, and doing what I love.  If that means reading decades-old books rather than the new, hot thing, okay. If that means futzing around with my desk, if that means taking the time to pick out pretty paper and the right pens to write with on it,  while my imaginary friends perform their own rituals so they’re ready to meet me when I open desk and notebook, I am fine with that.  I can close the desk at the end of the day, tuck my imaginary friends into bed (often with each other, because, hey, romance writer here) and know we’ll both be in the right place when it’s time to open for business once again.

In the meantime, the ducks in the park probably have babies by now.  I could maybe go look for them, once today’s work is done.

TheWriterIsOut

 

White Space and Cubbyholes

New setup for the desk this week, and I’m not sure what to make of it at the moment. My body, my back, and especially my eyes, are used to the old way, which is also the way that forced me to constantly be hunched over, which carried over to my normal posture, and nope, not having any of that. With the monitor on the tippity top of the desk, this means I can now sit upright and look at the screen head on, which my neck greatly appreciates. My eyes, however, are not convinced that shaking things up is such a great idea, but my brain believes in them and thinks they’ll get used to it in a few days.

Which does not mean the change is very helpful on a Monday, which is get those pages done for critique meeting day. Can’t we keep things the way they’ve always been for one more day, pretty, pretty please? Pretty, pretty no. Things may go back to the way they were if this experiment doesn’t work out, and it is entirely possible (and likely) that the ideal desk configuration lies somewhere in between the two monitor placements. Personal computers did not exist when this desk was created. Then again, neither did I, so we’ve got that in common, desk and I. We’ll get through this together.

One of the things I’ve always loved about this desk, which I have drooled over since I was two years old (and before then, I am fairly certain I drooled on it, but there’s nobody left to confirm that, so take my word on this one) was the cubbyholes. This thing is full of them. Multiple family members have informed me that I have always loved putting things into other things.  This may or may not play into my penchant for organization, which has, of late, roared to life. The decision to move my monitor to the higher shelf comes partly from ergonomics, and partly from a deeper desire – to get at those cubbyholes. I know myself.

Right now, most of them are filled with paper. Sticky notes, my pocket sized planner, notepads from conferences (yes, I need them all) and address labels.  Pause here for a happy sigh. I love having stuff I love around me, and, when it’s organized, that is pure bliss, which has to be good for the creative process. Clutter, which I have also had a lot of, both the mental and physical sort, hampers it.

I don’t remember where I first read about white space, but enough ideas sort themselves out when I’m doing something brainless, that I looked into the idea. At its most basic, it’s mental breathing room.  Visual breathing room helps, too. Now that I have the monitor moved, and I can get at those cubbyholes, there’s no more searching for a piece of notepaper or a sticky note. They’re right there, always in the same place. I don’t have to figure out where they are, because I already know.

Moving the monitor has presented a few other challenges. For one thing, the monitor now takes up a good deal of the space I used to use for storing notebooks in current use. With this placement, they don’t all fit…or do they? Which ones am I actually using, hm?

Ulp.

My gut reaction is to protest that I am using all of them, and there was not a single book on that shelf that did not have a specific purpose, a specific project, and slicing their number like the decimation scene in Karavans, by Jennifer Roberson gives me similar chills, but in a far less entertaining fashion, because these are my babies. Which is fine, but let’s look at them as babies of different ages, maybe.

My daily pages book, yes, and task list book, yes. Butterfly book for personal style related things, okay, that hasn’t had as much use as I would like, but I’m still not ready to put it away, because that’s something fun I can do that’s not related to writing or romance fiction, and that counts as white space. It stays. Black book (it has gray pages inside, super cool) for revisions of my postapocalyptic medieval? That one’s resting, but I don’t want to put it away-away. It stays, too.  Peacock book could use some more love, and it gets it sporadically, but the characters who belong to that book have been occupying my head for the past, hmm, let’s say twenty-five years, so they are probably not leaving, period, and keeping their notebook on hand is probably wise. Overflow book, with its gorgeous gothic cover, for when I still have brain to dump and my morning pages are full, that has to stay.  Pastel retro photo themed book for some just for fun stuff, that has to stay. The others? They can nap. They’re not going away-away, but let’s focus on the awake kids for a while. That feels more efficient, and I feel less guilty.

The only problem with the new bookshelf arrangement was that my daily pages book kept slipping into the infinitesimal gap between end of desk and start of wall. Solution? Park Big Daddy Precious book there, which also happens to be my big notebook for Her Last First Kiss. Handy, that.  Problem solved.

Well, at least that one. My eyes are still in the what the sam hill are you doing to us stage of getting used to things, and my plans to spread out all the work I do on one frantic Monday marathon, over the week, did not pan out as well as I had hoped, but I think I could get used to this.  There’s room to move, and endless cubbyholes to explore.

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Processing

 Use the process.
-Lin-Manuel Miranda

Today is Memorial Day. It’s also May 29th, the birthday of Erma Pesci Carrasco, and Princess Marlena of Carousel. That would be my mom, and one of the two German Shepherds my dad and I got the year I started college. Marlena decided pretty early on that she wanted to be my dog, even though it was my dad’s name on the official paperwork. The other dog, CJ, who came a few months later, while I was in school, followed her lead. I have no idea how that worked, other than that CJ absolutely adored Marlena, and if I was Marlena’s choice, well, then, that settled the matter. No further questions needed; it merely was.

I’ve been thinking about that “merely was” part lately, and not specifically about the dogs, though they were the illustration that came most readily to mind. They could both jump higher than the six foot fence of their enclosure, but both chose not to; they were fine where they were. The UPS guy did not understand this last part. To this day, I have a vivid memory of the blast of the delivery van horn that summoned me from the shower. As soon as I stuck my towel-turbaned head out of the guest room window, the driver shouted, “UPS,” threw the package onto the front lawn, and sped out of the driveway.

This puzzled me at first, until I went to my dad’s room and looked out of his window, that looked over the enclosure. Two purebred German Shepherds, jumping higher than (but not over, never over) the six foot fence, barking their fool heads off, tails wagging in doggy excitement; okay, I can see where that might be a concern for a UPS driver who did not know these were two gigantic marshmallow puppies, who had a whole  call and response routine perfected before they could have breakfast or dinner. It went like this:

Human:  :holds food bowl at human chest level:  What’s in the bowl?
Dog: :jumps up to see contents of bowl:
Human: Where do you want it?
Dog:  :runs into doghouse, pokes head out:
Human: Are you sure?
Dog: :repeats above:
Human: Are you really sure?
Dog:  :repeats above:
Human: Are you black dog sure?
Dog: :repeats above:
Human: Okay, then. :gives food:

Annnd scene. :takes bow:  The routine always went the same way: Marlena first, because she was the dominant dog, then CJ. The human in almost every case was me, as my dad did not take part in this particular routine. Maybe it was Real Life Romance Hero a time or two, as he came into all of our lives around this time. Possibly BFF in an extenuating circumstance, but the important thing is, no matter how many times I went away, every time I came back, they knew the whole routine. I’m pretty sure that CJ was, at least in part, merely emulating Marlena, because CJ was, how shall we put this, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She came to our family because, although an utterly gorgeous pure black German Shepherd, she failed the puppy IQ test that would have allowed her to go pro. I’m serious. She once failed to notice a cooked chicken breast that had landed on her foot, until Marlena clued her in on that one. Marlena, on the other hand, was some kind of dog genius, so they balanced.

So, that’s where my brain is on this Memorial Day. I could say it’s gone to the dogs, and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Not that I’m thinking about dogs, specifically, but the fact that it’s Monday. The fact that Marlena and my Mom, who never met, have the same birthday. The fact that I have adopted the same pen as the author, and family friend, who got me into historical romance in the first place, always favored. Last week, at this time, when I sat down at my desk, dreading, as I would be now, shoving a whole week’s worth of work into one Monday (working on fixing that) I uncapped that green Marvy Le Pen, and wrote out what I thought she would tell me, if I could blabber to her over a cup of tea, about exactly that issue. I’d like to think I got it right.

There’s a purple ballpoint I’ve been eyeing , that reminds me of exchanges with a once upon a time friend. I don’t know that I’m ready for that imaginary conversation right now. Where once there were up to fifty page snail mail letters, eagerly anticipated,  now there is silence, paths diverged. I’m not spending a lot of time staring at the fork in the road, because it is Monday, and I do have several days of writing to cram into one, because tomorrow is Tuesday and N, and I am going to have pages, because I am black dog sure.

N does not have a pen assigned to her, or our weekly sessions yet, but they taste like tea (iced from May to September, hot from September to May, weather permitting) and French toast bagels, and I always come away from the sessions energized, because I’ve connected my characters and a reader/writer. It’s not just me and a page or screen anymore; now it’s a group of us. That’s part of the process, and it keeps me moving forward, so, once this blog is posted, it’s a short break, more tea, and then rework some of last week’s pages, before I catch the rhythm and forge on ahead.

Maybe I’ll end up awake into the wee hours again this week, and stumble home from my meeting with N like some over-caffeinated zombie, but even if the pages I bring her are a muddle, they’ll be my muddle, and they’ll make more sense after our talk. My brain generally needs to circle the airport a time or two before it lands, and rushing things doesn’t make the whole process any easier; quite the opposite. Better to trust that I’ve done this before, so of course I can do it again. This is how it works; relax and enjoy the scenery along the way. I’ll still get there. Left foot, right foot, that sort of thing. If, along the way, Hero’s hip happens to bump against Heroine’s as they take a totally platonic walk, and she happens to get a whiff of soap that does not smell like that on Other Guy, well, I’ll take that, too.

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.

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(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,

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