The Myriad Inspirations of a Snowbound Magpie

Monday’s post on Wednesday means it already comes with a story behind it. Throw in a snowstorm, some happy mail, The Oven That Would Not Cook, and a bunny trail into the world of tabletop gaming, and here we are.

Monday afternoon, Housemate and I headed to the big storage unit, to retrieve some desired office supplies, aka my favorite fineliners and my washi tape collection, version 1.0. Housemate had her own interest in this, as, over the weekend, I lured her over to the dark side of becoming a planner person. Of course this means she needs washi. The trip was a washout, though, as the boxes I needed weren’t immediately accessible, so this is going to be a job for an uncommitted Saturday morning. Library trip that was meant to make up for the storage unit fail, was similarly unsuccessful, but there was a good sized box of happy mail waiting for me, when I got home.

C, a friend I met through an online group for stationery aficionados, is from Louisiana and sent me a box of Mardi Gras, to help survive the polar vortex. That is quality friendship, right there. Housemate and Real Life Romance Hero are helping me pick out items to include in a box of Upstate New York, to send her in return. This box brought a lot of memories, all of them good. I have never been to New Orleans, or experienced Mardi Gras, (apart from something we will call The Mardi Gras Coin Incident, wherein a certain retail management team may have wanted to rethink their kids’ program for this particular holiday) in the really real world, but, back in the days of the first fandom I ever dove into, well, a few key characters certainly did.

Among the beads and the coins, and the mask and fleur de lis ornaments (you know what they say, being given three items on a certain theme means one collects them now. Guess this means I now collect masks and fleur de lis, and I am okay with that) and special Cajun flavored potato chips (they were delicious) was this fine fellow.

say hello to my little friend

His name is Iko (full name Iko Iko, naturally) and, while my original plan was for him to reside on my desk, RLRH had other ideas. Iko now resides in our room. This does not surprise me, and it does give a measure of job security, not only to Sebastian, but to Bo Bison, who lives on top of the printer, and the as yet unnamed Christmas bear who is sitting unobtrusively in the corner of the keyboard shelf, not imposing on anyone.

This is also the week where I finally carved out time (thanks, insomnia) to watch The Swimmer, which I have been wanting to see ever since a friend mentioned it, months ago. It was surreal and gorgeous and tragic and I want to dissect it. Last night was also when I could no longer resist H’s persuasion (aka relentless spamming of lore and links, not at all a complaint) and fell down a rabbit hole. That rabbit hole, aka the Critical Role webseries, in which a group of professional voice actors improv their way through a tabletop roleplaying game, may or may not be swallowing me whole, even though I have not yet seen my first full episode. Yet. I have, however, scoured the web for blush pink dice that still have some badassery about them, and whether there might be any places for a curious beginner to suss out things in person. I may or may not have bookmarked a few sites to learn more about the character creation process, because that is germane to the work we writers do on a daily basis, so I’d still be working, right?

This has also been the week when my grumbling about how my daily agenda traveler’s notebook insert will only last me one more month, and I will need to purchase another (but where?) unless I want to use the format of the one I currently have as a template and make my own, because that is totally allowable, and there are no gatekeepers on this sort of thing. Worst case scenario all I do is save myself a few pennies, by using what I have on hand. Best case, well, there’s no ceiling, now, is there?

All of this, combined with my pre-bed devourings of historical romance, once again, leads to one inevitable conclusion. I am, once again, in the magpie stage, grabbing shiny things to toss into my hoard, while moving along with getting Chasing Prince Charming through the next round of edits, second drafting Her Last First Kiss, and first drafting Drama King. This is not the time I would have picked for the magpie stage to hit, but, then again, that’s not how it works. I don’t get to pick. Maybe others do, but, if I had the chance to pick that option, I’d have to turn it down. I like the surprise of “oh, it’s happening,” that pops in at random intervals.

This time, I have learned. Last night, while Skyping with H, and pulling the trigger on my first Critical Role episode, I hit pause. I had to grab a notebook and mechanical pencil, because we magpies need a safe space to stash our shinines. (Accidental alliteration thrown in for no extra fee) Other things tumbled in, the laundry room reading session where I ignored a Kindle full of TBRs, to reread one of my own old documents, the latest feedback on the current HLFK chapter, and the signpoints up ahead that Melva and I need to hit for Drama King where it needs to be, when those two crazy kids finally figure out that they’re perfect for each other.

Sometimes, it does feel like juggling a lot of chainsaws at one time, but this kind of thing is an occupational hazard. What unexpected sources of inspiration are seeking you out this week?


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Typing With Wet Claws: Retreat Debriefing Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another very special Feline Friday, straight from Camp Grandma. Today’s entry is special, because Anty is still recovering from said retreat. While Anty had a wonderful time, alone with me, alone time can be draining for some extroverts, like Anty, and she may need a couple days to be her regular self. This means that the real debriefing may take place on Monday, so I am allowed to do some rambling here. I do not have a problem with this.

First of all, Anty has an announcement to make. New York’s Emerging Writers: an anthology of fiction, is now officially published, and ready for purchase. This is the anthology that has Anty’s novel excerpt, “Ravenwood,” in which you can meet John and Aline, the hero and heroine of Anty’s postapocalyptic medieval historical romance, A Heart Most Errant. If you read the excerpt, and would like to see the whole book, consider letting the publisher know. If you would like to get that, and maybe discover new fiction writers, in a variety of genres, from the Empire State, you can purchase your copy here.

As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance, this past Saturday, talking about why favorite books are favorite books. She has been thinking about that a lot, and may talk more about it in the future. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURwhyfavorite

Do you?

Anty did a LOT of reading, during this retreat, and that is probably a whole other post in itself, but here are the basics. Anty read five books while on retreat, and they break down like this:

  • 2 historical romance
  • 2 contemporary category romance
  • 1 contemporary YA (not romance)

Her Goodreads challenge is now twelve books ahead of schedule, with sixty-eight books read out of ninety, putting her seventy-six percent of her way to her goal. That is more than two-thirds of the way done. This does not mean Anty is going to coast for the rest of the year, because she is still on a reading tear. Since she has come back from retreat, she has downloaded three new-to-her e-books, all historical romance. She is going to have to put some more in her Amazon account before she can download more, but there is probably going to be a new notebook to keep track of this sort of thing.

Anty had not read anything by Terri Brisbin for a while, despite having attended several of Miss Terri’s workshops, at various conferences over the last few years. Then she saw a deal on one of Miss Terri’s books that she had started the first time around, then did not get to finish, because life exploded, and she had to give the library back their copy. She got that book for her Kindle, then read it all in one day. As soon as she got off retreat, the first thing she did was to get the next book in that series, and then pick up two more standalones. She also has a couple more books by Miss Terri on her Kindle already, so I sense a theme here. Anty also has some of Miss Terri’s books in paperback, but they are in storage.

Anty also watched four movies. Two, she liked, very much. One, she needs to understand better before she knows if she likes it or not, and the fourth, was not for her, although she had hoped it would work better for her. That is the way it goes, sometimes. Anty needs to go through a few different levels before she can fully asses a work. She will tell you more about that, and about the books she read on retreat, later. After the weekend, she will probably be up to her usual talkative self.

The reason this retreat is taking a little longer to bounce back from is that an airline made some mistakes when Mama tried to buy her and Grandma’s plane tickets. I will not go into specifics, but it ended up that A) Grandma and Mama ended up on separate flights, on separate airlines, and B) Grandma’s airline kind of lost her for a few hours. Maybe stranded is a better word, but, even though Mama’s flight was supposed to arrive a couple of hours after Grandma’s, back in Grandmaland, that is not what happened. What happened was that Grandma’s return flight got delayed and delayed, and she missed a connection, and Mama was already on her plane, so it was kind of scary for Grandma for a while. She eventually got back to Grandmaland, many, many hours after Mama was already there. I am sorry Grandma had to go through all of that, but it did mean more time with Anty, so it was not all bad.

Thanks to Anty, I have a new toy. Anty and Mama could not find a laser pointer before this retreat, so they will bring one next time. The new toy is a very fun toy, and it is called Empty Mint Holder. It is super fun. It can spin, and roll, and slide across the floor like a hockey puck. It even has two doors, and Anty is thinking about putting some of my treats in it next retreat (hm, I wonder if “re-treat” means “to treat again.” I could get on board with that. I love treats.) and see if I can get them out, on my own. I think that might be fun, but for right now, I like watching humans slide it and spin it. Greenball, of course, is a classic, and there is also Yellow Ball. It can do most things Green Ball does, but A) it does not make noise, and B) it bounces.

The best part of retreat, though, was when Anty took a nap, and I snuck close enough to ninja-cuddle her. Once, I even ninja-spooned her and I was the big spoon. That was new, because I had never done that before, and Anty was surprised to find me cuddling her from behind. She gets concerned when she wakes up and can’t see me. This is one of the reasons why, but she did not mind too much. Ninja cuddles mean that I can sneak in some extra love beams and inspiration.

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

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Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling (the kitty, not the book)

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Off The Grid Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another very special Feline Friday, coming to you from Camp Grandma. This is a special post, because it is a special day, and that special day is because Anty is getting ready to come and spend most of the next week with me. Because Camp Grandma does not have interwebs, apart from the remote connection, Anty will be off the grid (and on the floor, with me, because I am a floor girl) and therefore will not be posting on Monday. She has mentioned some vague ideas of writing a post on Monday anyway, and seeing if she can upload it when Anty Melva comes to camp to take Anty to lunch (I will stay in my bunk and have fish jelly, because that is the best lunch ever. Except for peanut butter, and I already know Anty put peanut butter on the grocery list) but Anty said not to make any promises, but she is keeping a retreat diary and will share some of that when she can.

The day that Anty goes back to Right-Now Apartment is also a very special day, because that day is also Uncle’s birthday, aka the best day ever. I do not know what Anty is getting Uncle for a present, but I already know what I am giving him. I think he would like a shed whisker, maybe a claw, or a glop of early fall shed fur. What do you think? Maybe I will give him all three. Anty will take pictures of me, but nothing beats the real thing, amirite? All three it is. Probably. We may have to see what happens on the laser pointer front first. Worst case scenario, the ghost cats have mentioned something about a flashlight that is rumored to be almost as good as a laser pointer, but only at night.

Being off the grid until Uncle’s Birthday will not affect Anty posting on Buried Under Romance on Saturday, because she knows how to travel through time, and already set up that post. I do not know how she does it. Probably something related to planning, because she has been doing a lot of planning lately. Like, a lot, but that is a whole other post. Her most recent Saturday Discussion post is here, and it looks like this:

BURwhyfavorite

Um, no, actually, that is the picture that goes with Anty’s next post for Buried Under Romance, but I will leave it there, because Anty has a very strict schedule for today, and the “help Skye with her blog post” section is a lot smaller than I would normally like, but I do get Anty 24/7, apart from her lunch with Anty Melva, and possibly a walk to the post office (that would be Anty walking to the post office, not me, because I am an inside girl. I spent the first six months of my life outside, because I was born wild. Trust me, it was not that great. Inside only for me from now on, thankyouplease.)

When it comes to Anty’s Goodreads Challenge, this entry will be very brief. Thanks to Anty’s new discovery of Book Tubers, she has been adding a lot of books to her To Be Read lists. As of today, she is ten books ahead of schedule, having read sixty-four out of ninety books, which puts her at seventy-one percent of the way to her goal. Since Anty has a fully charged Kindle, and a whole bag filled only with books, I think it is safe to say that she is going to be reading a lot during this retreat. Sometimes, she does read out loud to me, which I very much appreciate. If there is a kitty in the book she reads aloud, she does do the kitty voice. She has a funny accent, but she does okay.

Another thing Anty does okay, and would like to do okay-er is art. I like watching Anty do arty things, because it is very interesting. Her hands move a lot, she usually has music playing, and, sometimes, her supplies have interesting smells. Some kitties like to help their humans by batting the supplies around, but I do not do that. I sit nearby and observe, because I am a good girl. Anty and I have some of our best talks that way. Often, when I help Anty do arty things, that lets the story part of her brain free-float, and then some of her writing problems work themselves out, on their own. Bloop, all solved. Anty is very much looking forward to that part of the retreat. Maybe I can sneak some peanut butter, if she is absorbed enough in arty things while her rice cake is left unattended.

DylusionsTN

Anty has not made any art here yet. These books and pocket are made by Dyan Reavely

I am not sure if Anty is bringing that particular art book with her (it is very cool, though, and she looks forward to playing with it) because she has a theory that keeping the supplies on hand to a carefully curated minimum will encourage her to use them in more ways, but I figured this post could use another picture, and she had that one hanging around, so that’s what you get.

Anty is also bringing a bunch of movies, that we can watch together. It is very thoughtful of her to have a laptop that plays movies, because Grandma keeps her TV in Big Carpet Room, in which I am not allowed. I like watching TV with my humans, but Big Carpet Room is a no-kitty zone. That is because of what Michelangelo, one of the ghost cats did (back when he was a non-ghost cat) and Grandma has concerns that it will give me ideas. I cannot say exactly what it was, but I strongly believe it has to do with, um, stuff. Grandma has me 100% on my stuff habits, and she is not taking any chances. Grandma’s house, Grandma’s rules, so Anty and I will have movie dates in my room.

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

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Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling (the kitty, not the book)

Typing With Wet Claws: Grandma is a Snitch Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, bringing you yet another Feline Friday, straight from Camp Grandma. Grandma and I are getting along okay, but she is no Uncle, and there is the small matter of her calling the v-e-t on me ( do not worry, I am okay) so I will be glad when Forever Apartment becomes available. More on that later.

Even though I am at camp, I still have to talk about Anty’s writing before I can talk about anything else. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, talking about the surprise shut-down of RT Book Reviews magazine and associated ventures. I have heard that the magazine was very nice to lie on, so I am sure many kitties will miss it. That post is here, and it looks like this:

http://www.buriedunderromance.com/2018/05/saturday-discussion-hail-and-farewell-romantic-times.html

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As you can see, remote blogging has a bit of a learning curve, but a good mews never lets a little thing like distance to get in their way. Next week, Anty will come and visit me when she speaks to Charter Oak Romance Writers. Anty and I are both looking forward to that. Uncle has to work, so he cannot come, but Anty will bring me something that smells like him, which is a good consolation prize. I will probably send her back with some shed fur, and maybe a whisker I am done using. A mews has to do what a mews has to do.

One of those things is to cheer Anty on when she is doing the right thing. Besides submitting two pieces to an anthology that asked her to submit, she has also got some good news: she and Anty Melva will be presenting their workshop, Writing Through The Tears, also known as Save The Writer, Save the Book, at CT Fiction Fest in September. For more information, and maybe to guess the workshops Anty hopes most are not opposite hers, visit the conference site here:

http://www.ctfictionfest.org/workshops.html

Anty has returned to her regular schedule of meetings with fellow writer humans, which feels very good, after that whole moving interruption. The interwebs connection here is much better, so Anty got to have her whole conversation with Anty Melva without weak signals or anything. That was exciting, even if Anty did have to carry on her end of the conversation from the edge of the bathtub.

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That is how Anty has to set up the laptop so that Anty Melva can talk to Anty’s face instead of her, umm, shirt, but writers, like their mewses, do what they must.  Also, Sebastian tells me it is very echoey in the For-Now apartment, so going into a different room is probably the best way to go.

Although I am still working out how to link Anty’s Goodreads challenge in this whole remote business, I can let you know that she is currently 41% of the way to her goal, with 37 out of 90 books read. She may have read more, but I will have Sebastian run the numbers later. Her two most recent reads were both historical romance:

Lady in White , by Denise Domning

And

The Prince of Midnight, by Laura Kinsale

I will have Sebastian add the links later, as those are tricky to do here at camp. It looks like DomningNation is a go, because, now, Anty is reading Winter’s Heat, also by Miss Denise, and she has all of the four books that come after it already on hrr Kindle, plus some other books by Miss Denise, so Anty is all set on that front.

This weekend, Anty and Mama hope to get Anty’s desktop out of storage, so nobody has to listen to Anty’s whining about….umm, I mean Anty will have an easier time doing her work. That will also let Anty play her games again. A gaming Anty is a happy Anty, and it might help her to miss me less if she could make a Sim version of me to keep her Simself company. We will see how that goes. This coming week is for Anty bringing herself up to date on her current projects, and that is much easier on a desktop computer.

In case you were wondering about the whole Grandma being a snitch thing, I should mention that Grandma and I have had a difference of opinion as to where I should do my, um, stuff. Grandma was worried that I was not making stuff at all (I totally was) so she called the local vet, who was my old vet, before we moved, and told her I had not made any stuff since I started camp. I am eating and drinking fine (Grandma gets a A+ on water bowl replenishment) so the vet told Grandma that I am not sick, just in a strange place, and want to be sure I am safe. Anty or Mama will probably find my stuff spot right away, and let Grandma know where I want my stuff spot to be. Mama also rold Grandma to talk to her before any vets (the vet could not see me, anyway, without Mama’s permission) and that I am fine. Not exactly happy, but fine.

Uncle is doing much better after his own stay at the people vet, and, apart from me being at camp, things are pretty good. The humans are moving things into For-Now apartment on an as needed basis, which Sebastian says makes for some interesting arrangements as they figure out what is a need-need and what would be nice.

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Of course, getting me home is the biggest need, but, in the meantime, Sebastian is doing a pretty good job of providing a facsimile of a feline presence. That window is his favorite spot. I remain, even at camp, a floor girl .

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

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling

(The kitty, not the book)

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Not So Tucked-Away Week

Normally, in our family, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is referred to as the tucked-away week. This year, not so much. This year, we have some domestic stuff to wrangle, and our annual gathering with friends, that usually marks the new year, will be happening a bit later; this year, it will be in the middle of February, shortly after Valentine’s Day. For me, that caps the winter holiday season, so that’s ending things in grand style. Until then, it’s a bit of an adventure.

My Christmas historical romance binge continues apace, and my planner now has two full pages, listing historical romance novels to re-read, and to finally read, in the year to come. Writing-wise, big goal is to get at least one book out there in 2018. Finding more freelance blogging work would be fabulous, too, and, once the dust settles, that’s definitely on the agenda. None of that can happen, though, without regular work on the works in progress.

That’s easier said than done sometimes, especially when there are hoops to jump through and processes to follow, and getting a stretch of time when one is both conscious and uninterrupted feels like the true holiday miracle. Note that there was no mention of “inspired” or “in the mood.” Sometimes, the anxiety beast has to run itself into exhaustion, and, when that happens, there isn’t a lot of energy left to get excited about much of anything. Thankfully, though, there is a sort of creative muscle memory, and, if I get a pen in my hand, and some paper in front of me, sooner or later, the two are going to connect. I would say butt in chair and fingers on keyboard, but A) Facebook, B) blinking cursors are easy to stare at for hours on end.

I would be remiss here, if I did not mention the irritation of logging into Netflix for my much-needed Being Human fix, only to find that, sometime in the night, a door had apparently appeared and the whole show walked through it.  Pause here for an audible “humph.” Cue fingers drumming on desktop, and half-hearted watching of a British period comedy that should have caught my interest, but, over halfway in, has not. I may need to brew yet another cup of tea and retreat under a fuzzy blanket with yet another Christmas novella, and, maybe, a new notebook.

Those who know me, know that pens and paper are my natural environment, and, given the same, I will produce something. At the moment, I’m not entirely recalling what the official stance is on the writing of commercial fiction during the tucked-away week. My best educated guess is that it permissible, and possibly encouraged, which I will take as a sign that moving in that direction (possibly after a suitable interval of reading, cat in close proximity, is a good idea, and a likely eventuality.

So far, this year, I have watched precisely one Christmas movie. It was an older Hallmark movie, decently cast, but I have several questions about some of the writing choices. Both my Christmas mainstays, The Holiday, and Love Actually, are readily available, on DVD, as well as streaming. Three, if I count About a Boy, which I do, though, again, I have not watched this year. Okay, four, with the Jude Law version of Alfie. Not technically a Christmas movie as such, but it does have a pivotal plot point at Christmas, so that counts for me. Okay, five, with Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, which very much is a Christmas movie, as well as the first movie I ever saw, so double nostalgia points.

This year,  the tucked-away week does not feel all that tucked away, but I still like to think that the spirit of it remains, even if concentrated in small doses, instead of evenly spread out across a long, lazy week. There are still plenty of Christmas cookies, and holiday leftovers, which are an essential part of the week, and the new month, and new year, start on a Monday, which is an absolute delight for migrating to my new bullet journal/planner. Maybe that’s the best part of the tucked-away week (even when it’s not so much tucked away)  the looking forward and looking back, at the same time. The putting to bed of one year and the fresh start of the next.

At this point, some bloggers would stop writing, pick up their cat, and sing “The Circle of Life,” but I am not one of those bloggers, Skye is not one of those cats (she is a floor girl) and I was kicked out of robe choir in high school, for having a bad voice (teacher’s own words) in front of the whole class (I did not mind terribly, as I got to read -you guessed it, historical romance novels- instead of singing, while everybody else proceeded with business as usual.) Instead, I will put the kettle on the stove, plop a fresh teabag in my cup, and rest in the knowledge that a librarian will have series three of Being Human ready for me in a matter of days, and I can work my way down my movie list, with Christmas movies nudged to the top. Probably.

The tucked-away week probably started as a way to extend my favorite holiday, Christmas, but turned into its own thing, at some point I can’t and don’t want to pinpoint. More than anything else, it’s a time to pause from all the rest of life and focus inward, on family and friends, imaginary friends included, and gear up to start the new year with a fresh perspective. This year, I am more than okay with that.

TheWriterIsOut

Middle of the Week, End of the Day

Middle of the week, and, once again, I am making this blog entry at the end of the day instead of the beginning of it. This bothers me, but, if I’m staying with the common threads theme, so the later posting time gets reframed as in keeping with the theme.

Yesterday was critique meeting day, with N, who also attended the workshop where we had to find common threads in our favorite viewing matter. Naturally, we had to compare lists. They were different, no choices in common, though we were more or less familiar with each other’s choices, or could fill in the blanks enough to get the gist of what appealed to the individual.

What we both agreed on, though, was that we would have liked to have made longer lists. The more examples, the easier it is to spot a pattern, but five was a good number when discussing in small groups. We also discussed the criteria for giving something favorite status. Does it have to be something watched multiple times, or can we count the moment when, during a first viewing, that we know a moment on the screen (or page) has crossed the border from something we watch or read, to something that is a part of us. Sometimes, a moment is all it takes.

Two characters who wouldn’t appear to be potential romantic partners at first lock eyes in the right circumstances, maybe brush hands in the briefest of touches, and that’s it. Boom. Never saw it coming, but, now, we will go down with this ship. A car drives around a bend in the road, we see the first view of the stately manor house, and now a part of our heart will always live there, no matter what else happens, in the story, or in life. Scenes stick in our mind. Sometimes, they hang out there for a long time, waiting for other pieces of the puzzle, to join them and become something new.

Both N and I discussed keeping longer lists of these films and TV that catch our interest on that level, and how I expand the concept in my Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys workshop, to include not only visual media, but books, music, and other miscellaneous media – computer games, graphic novels, etc. On the surface, they may not seem like they have much in common, but get them all in one place, and start looking for the common threads, and, surprise, there they are. Later that same day, I chatted with another friend, H, who mentioned a new option in a favorite game. It now has an arctic survival factor. Sold. I don’t need to hear any more than that. The first novel-length fanfic I ever wrote was set on an arctic world, for the mere reason that I love snow. If I have to create an alien world, there is going to be snow on it. Everywhere on it.

I love the idea of core story, not that it’s a formula, or one author doing the same thing time and again, but that readers know what they’re getting from a particular author. Hopefully, it’s the stuff that the author loves, and, ideally, at the spin-around-in-a-field-of-daisies level. Readers can tell. Trust me on that. For me, that basically breaks down to include (but not limited to) the following:

  • full immersion historical atmosphere – this is far past long dresses on the female characters. I’m talking the era as almost a character in itself, where characters think and act like people of their time. I want to be steeped in the period, feel it in my blood, and, for the space of the story, live in that world instead of our own. I have my favorite eras, but as long as we get full immersion, I can go pretty much anywhere/when.
  • star-crossed lovers who make it work – this is my catnip. If I could only write one kind of story for the rest of my life, this would be it. Give me two lovers who belong together, but have the entire world against them (or so it seems) only to find out that the world is no match for true love. I am perfectly fine if this takes years, or, in the case of sagas, decades. Hard-earned happily ever afters are my favorites.
  • house as character – do not get me started on this one. Usually a stately English home, but there are a few on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Double points if this is in a generational saga, and we get to see the house change with the different generations of occupants. Triple points if house falls out of family’s possession, and then back in after some time away. If I ever (who are we kidding, when) I get to write a family saga, there is going to be at least one of these in there.
  • survivor characters – I like my people to go through some stuff. Their emotional baggage, more times than not, comes in coordinated ensembles and may, in fact, need a luggage cart, or small pack animal, to carry it through the whole book. Hauling around all that baggage does develop some emotional muscles.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, though that may be something to consider as I study the idea of core story. Always good to know what tools are in one’s toolbox. What’s in yours?

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Cheaty Cheaty Cheat Cheat Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I have mostly recovered from the Festival of Explosives (the humans call it Fourth of July) but I do not know if I can say the same things about the humans. Having a weekend, then a Monday, then a holiday, then Wednesday acting like a Monday, followed by Thursday where Tuesday usually goes, has Anty off balance. Some might argue she is already off balance, but I mean more than usual. I will talk more about that in a minute, but first I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week, apart from here. I will give you a hint: it is an unusual week when I get right to that stuff in the first paragraph, but more on that kind of thing later.

First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week, and this time, she talked about how romance novels can be fluffy or gritty or any point in between. This is not, to my disappointment, about the amount of cats found in books. I think she should write about that, one of these days. This is not that. This is about the tone of books. That post can be found here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURwhynothaveboth

Warning: does not contain actual fluff. 

Since this is the start of a whole new month, it is time to check in and see how Anty is doing on the historical romance challenge. Let’s have a look at that, shall we?

GR070717

We are burning daylight here, if we want to get this blog up before Anty has to go out of the house again, so I will not search for the historical romance challenge graphic. Cat’s prerogative.  So far, in 2017, Anty has read almost 44 books (she is within 25 pages of finishing her current read, so I will give it to her) and 21 of those have been historical romance. 22 and 1/3, if we add in historical fiction with romantic elements. I am feeling generous today, because Uncle is home today and that makes me happy. So, basically, 50% of Anty’s reading this year has been historical romance, which is the goal, so well done, Anty. Keep at it. She is still three books behind schedule, soon to be two, because, again, fewer than 25 pages to the end of the book counts. This is acceptable. Toss in a couple of novellas or graphic novels, and boom, back on track. Make it happen.

Here are the books Anty read this past week. Click on the link below the pictures if you want to learn more about them.

 

The book Anty will be finished reading in literally minutes after this entry is posted is Ripe For Seduction, by Isobel Carr.  It is a historical romance, set in Georgian England, which is very relevant to Anty’s interests, and it looks like all the heroes are second, or at least younger, sons, which is also relevant to Anty’s interests, because Hero in Her Last First Kiss is himself a second son, in Georgian England. Anty thought this was the second book in the series, when she got it out of the library, and figured she would be fine, because she had already read the first book, but then she went on Goodreads to add it, and found out she was wrong. It is really the third, and now she has to go get the second, because reading out of order bothers her. As Uncle says, that really frosts her cookies.

Anty has been doing a lot of writing on both Her Last First Kiss and Chasing Prince Charming, so she does need to refill her well at the end of the day. This blog entry is coming later than usual, because Anty had a Skype meeting with Anty Melva, to talk about Chasing Prince Charming, and then had lunch with Anty SueAnn, where they talked about writing and blogging, and, thankfully, pets. Funny story, but Anty SueAnn’s doggie, Bailey, and I are on opposite sides of the smooth vs not smooth floor issue. He prefers carpets to tile/wood/linoleum, whereas I am the exact opposite. Must be a dog thing. I will not pretend I understand, but I accept that is the way he feels.

To be able to talk with Anty Melva, Anty had to do a bit of fancy footwork, to raise her laptop to the right level for video chat. Anty’s laptop works fine, but the screen will go black if opened at a 90 degree angle, so here is what Anty had to do:

LaptopTower

Laptop supported by: makeup case, three novels, binder, and reference book under the writing surface.

Anty noticed that this is the same height as her desktop monitor, so she will be looking into getting an external webcam, so she does not have to do that again. That also means that she can get back to making video blogs again, like this one:

If you would like to know when Anty has a new video blog up, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel here. She hopes to get at least one video blog per week, so please stay tuned.  She did make a very short film starring me, this morning, which you can find on her Instagram. If there is anything you would like to ask Anty, that she can answer in a video blog, please let her know in the comments, or send her an email, using the handy form below:

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

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Typing With Wet Claws: Cinematic Appreciation Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Yesterday, we had a lot of snow. I mean, a lot. One of Anty’s friends said he had fourteen inches at his house. Another friend said she had eighteen inches where she was, and that, at that time, the snow was not done snowing. It is done snowing for now, but we may get more tonight (or maybe some rain) and then more again on Sunday. I guess it really is winter now. Good thing I am a Maine Coon cat, descended from Norwegian Forest Cats, who were built for this kind of weather. Also, good that I live indoors, in an apartment with walls and a ceiling and heaters in every room, with humans who feed me every day, and care that I am happy. I even have my own blog. How many cats can say that? Only the ones with blogs, I would imagine.

But enough about me (just kidding, there can never be enough about me) before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about Anty’s writing, because that is the price I pay…um, I mean the privilege I enjoy. Yes. That is what I meant. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this past week, talking about those times when a reader considers bailing out of an ongoing series. Anty had that thought herself this week, because she read a book where Very Bad Things happen to kitties (she would not tell me what they were, and I am not going to ask) and she almost stopped reading that author because of it. She is not going to say it here, because everybody’s reading experience is different, and she understands why that author put those things in the book, so the post talks about the principle of such reading dilemmas. It is  here, and it looks like this:

burdoserieshaveofframps

Next, Anty read another book after that one, to make her not think about how the Very Bad Things made her feel, and she liked that book very much. That one is Duke of Pleasure, by Elizabeth Hoyt, and she wrote about it on Goodreads. That review is here, and it looks like this:

grdukeofpleasurereview

For those of you who are keeping track of these sorts of things, Anty is on track for her goal of reading 90 books in 2017, and she has another goal, to help her read more historical romances this year. That is the Historical Romance Reading Challenge, at the I Heart Romance & YA blog. That challenge is here, if you are interested in participating, and the badge, which Anty will figure out how to put where it can be seen all the time later, looks like this :

hr-challenge-2016-badge

Anty is going for Queen level, which means she needs to read at least fifty historical romance novels this year, including one from each of the following categories (note: romances with cats is not one of the categories, which I find misleading, because it has “cat” right there in the name, but whatever) : medieval, Regency, Victorian, western, pirate, historical romance with a diverse main character, and time travel. Anty has read nine historical romances so far, and can already cross off Regency, Victorian, western, and historical romance with a diverse main character. Anty is already thinking of making her own challenge next year, with more challenging categories. She would add more historical periods, and maybe some plot elements or character types. I will be updating everyone at least once a month on how Anty is doing on this challenge.

We are still in negotiations as to how much I am allowed to share about Anty’s works in progress, so more on that later, but since we have hit the me portion of this entry,. I will go right to that. This week, Anty did something amazing. She found some movies on YouTube, that are made especially for kitties. it is about time. My favorite, so far, is called Koi in Their Winter Tank. It is full of action, which I like, because I am a sight girl. It also has some mystery to it; where does the orange fishie go when he swims off the screen? I know what you are thinking, and you are wrong (do not worry, I was, too) he is not behind the computer. I checked. If the movie is on a tablet or phone on the floor, he is not next to it, either. I checked that, too. Must be some amazing special effects. It is here, and it looks like this (screenshot, because Anty is making wrap-it-up noises and I will learn how to embed video later):

koiintheirwintertank.png

 

This  movie is great. I shift my paws and boop the screen with my face e every time I see it. Anty has shown me other movies, but I like this one the best. She has shown me movies of other animals, like birds and mice (there were real  mice in my old apartment, and they were not pets. I will allow you to fill in the details on that one)   Those movies had sound, though, and I prefer the silent films. When there is sound, I get too confused, looking for the animal that is making the sounds, and do not watch the screen. Maybe if Anty can make the mouse and bird movies silent, then I might watch those, too. Anty says that, later, she will show me movies with kitties in them, and see how I like those. I liked kitty halftime at last year’s Puppy Bowl, so Anty thinks I might like movies of kitties, too. It is always affirming to see people like oneself in movies. Representation is important.

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

skyebye

 

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

 

Boxing Day Blather

Day after Christmas, and I missed the opportunity to cue “Brick,” by Ben Folds, at exactly six AM, which is kind of a tradition with me, but the world has not ended, so I think that is a good thing. We are now officially in my favorite week of the year, the tucked away week, between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Time for reflecting and refilling -I am currently watching a favorite movie, Music and Lyrics, which fits in nicely with the whole reflecting thing and new beginnings thing, the whole romance thing,  and very  much the whole writing thing in general, as well as the whole picking oneself up and getting back in the game thing.

That’s a lot of things, which makes it a good choice to fill the post-holiday space.  Right now, I am under a comfy blanket, full of delicious chopped steak and cheesy baked potato, hot chocolate and salted caramel chip cookies waiting for me on the other side of this entry. I very strongly prefer to have some idea of what I’m going to write when I begin a blog entry,  but I’d also like to get stronger at the entries where I need to wing it. Those are always going to happen, so I may as well find a way to have fun with them, make them more interesting to write, and, hopefully, to read.

Boxing Day, as we do it, is a day for relaxing, staying out of the demands of everyday life, so that, when it’s time to go back, we’re refreshed and ready to take on the new year. This year, my emphasis is specifically on writing. Which means that I need to take in stories, in whatever forms I can get them -TV, movies, books, music, gameplay- and get that creative well filled. What works for me, and why? What doesn’t, and why doesn’t it? It also means I need to do other creative things that don’t involve writing. Baking cookies works well on this front, as does making art, in whatever form. I’ve noticed that I haven’t been making a lot of art lately, and that needs to change, as it’s an intrinsic piece of the puzzle.

Back when I was ten, my Christmas haul included two books: Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume, and Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I felt insanely rich, getting two books at the same time, and spent what felt like a really long time ensconced in my dad’s yellow armchair, trying to decide which one to read first. That was one hard decision, and it did not occur to me at the time that I could read both at once, alternating chapters, or moving between them at will, but hey, I was ten. What I do remember is that I spent most of the rest of that day reading one, and tore into the other as soon as I was finished. Probably not my first chain-read, and very much not my last, but when I think of Christmas and Boxing Day and books, that’s the image that comes most readily to mind.

I still remember Margaret and Harriet after all these years. Margaret was at the age where she’d started to discover an interest in boys, while Harriet had other concerns. Neither book was a romance, and it would be about a year before I would sneak The Kadin from my mother’s nightstand, so I had not yet discovered the romance genre or imprinted upon it. Still, I gravitated toward fairy tales that were both on the darker side and had love stories that turned out well for both parties. That hasn’t changed, which may be why I am hunkered down in long-sleeved t-shirt and pajama pants, watching a love story, writing about writing love stories, with paperback and Kindle at hand. Kindle, of course, chockablock full of romance novels, the vast majority of which are historical.

Today marks a week of tucking in with love stories, wherever they might lurk. Going over the good parts -in Music and Lyrics, for instance, the scene at the amusement park, where Sophie convinces Alex to go onstage and perform the encore he doesn’t want to perform, because he is a grumpy old badger. She slips into the crowd and goes all fangirl on him, waving her flip phone (does that make it a period piece now?) and swaying to the music, and darned if she doesn’t coax the performance out of him.

That’s a huge part of what the tucked away week is for, this year. I love the romance genre, a place where the only rules -the only ones- are that the love story has to be central, and the ending optimistic; happily ever after, in most cases, or happy for now (possibly for younger protagonists and/or grumpy badgers.) I tend to go for the first version, but even that’s not all rainbows and unicorns. I write historical romance, so we know that stuff is going to be coming for the lovers in my books; wars, natural disasters, state of the art eighteenth century medical technology and all that fun stuff, but the important thing is that the lovers are going to have each other, so they can take on whatever comes their way in the future. They’ll be together, and that’s enough. Which means immersing myself in romance is a pretty darned good way to wrap up the year, as well as start out the new one.

For today, it’s movies, books, hot beverages, baked goods, Christmas lights, and a dedicated mews (with occasional breaks to play bubbles with her, but I’ll let her talk about that in her next blog.) to keep me on track.

Writershead Revisited

“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

My favorite movie of all time is the original 1980 Brideshead Revisited. Okay, technically speaking, it’s a miniseries, as it ran on PBS and clocks in at a whopping twelve hours, but to me, it’s a movie, and so I am counting it as such.

If you’re a purist and insist on theatrical releases, my preferences are thus:

  • Comedy: Love Actually
  • Drama: Remains of the Day
  • Other: Saturday Night Fever
  • Obscure: Lords of Flatbush

People who know me in the really real world, am I forgetting anything? I have not seen the Emma Thompson theatrical version of Brideshead Revisited, nor do I plan to,  because I do not mess with perfection. Sorry, Emma, not even for you. I’ve read the novel by Evelyn Waugh (Hevelyn, for those in doubt about which Evelyn wrote this one) and will correct any who try to call the building known by non-devotees as “Castle Howard.” They are wrong. It’s Brideshead. I know. I’ve lived there, with Charles and Sebastian and Julia, and I have deep emotional scars from the first time I saw the graffiti on Charles’s mural and the empty :sorry, I need a minute: fountain :sniffle: with barbed :I can’t, I seriously can’t: wire. Sebastian drove that car around the bend of the road on that first school break, and BAM, I, as well as Charles fell deeply, irrevocably in love.

It’s the same feeling I had when I stole the then-new copy of The Kadin by Bertrice Small from my mother’s night table and read it under the bed in the guest bedroom during a power outage. I knew then and there that I’d found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life. The same way a lot of my SF/F reading/writing friends fell hard for Star Trek, Ray Bradbury and others, that’s how I fell for historical romance, and that’s what’s been, increasingly strongly, calling me back home.

Today, I took the bulletin board off my office wall. If I haven’t been utilizing it in the three years and change I’ve had this office, that’s not where it belongs. Later, I’ll take the items off it, find them new homes, and figure out the board’s new purpose. There will be one, because I crazy love vintage office supplies. In its place, I put the Union Jack poster above, purchased at a local art store about two years ago. it’s been rolled in brown paper, waiting for “the right time.” Which would be when, exactly? When we could spring for a fancy frame? The right fancy frame? When life calms down? When (fill in the blank?) If there’s one thing loving historical romance and historical fiction has taught me, it’s to seize the moment. So, up it went, with blue tacky stuff holding it to the place where whoever painted the room a lovely moss green had obviously painted around the mirror that Real Life Romance Hero took down for me the day we moved in. Much as I like to work on my selfie game, I don’t want to stare at myself the whole time I’m writing.

Taken in a different room, but it would be pretty much this.

Taken in a different room, but it would be pretty much this.

I also unearthed a pub sign that I honestly don’t remember when I acquired it, and had been waiting for, you guessed it, the right time and perfect place to put it up. Maybe the right kind of hook, whatever, whatever. Baloney. I still has blue sticky stuff, so I slapped some on the back and then affixed the sign to the door. My office may technically now be the King’s Head Pub, and I am fine with that. We even have a pub cat instead of a pub dog, and I am fine with that, too. The two Georgian era prints I kept from my dad’s house and had wanted since I was a wee little princess, do need to wait for command hooks to come home before they can go on the office wall, but when they do, up they go. The right time is now.

This means I'm allowed to have pub food at home, right?

This means I’m allowed to have pub food at home, right?

Doing things like this gets me excited, makes me want to dive headlong into the story world, climb inside the characters’ skins and see through their eyes. Writing longhand with a fountain pen, at least initial notes, is another way I find I can connect. Today, I also added another notebook to my shelf of the usual suspects on top of my desk’s hutch. It’s one of those story ideas I’ve been on and off with for years, and, as the flip side of the bulletin when story ideas and characters and settings and such have been in my head for long enough that they are old enough to vote, drink, marry or join the military without parental approval, they probably aren’t leaving, period. Better for me to get their rooms ready. That feels right.

Today, I met my Ravenwood editing goal a lot earlier in the day (for the day, not the whole project) because I wasn’t focused on word count or verb tense, but telling the story and living in that story’s world. This afternoon, I jump to Georgian England and Her Last First Kiss, and I’m excited about that, too. I don’t consider myself old, ugly or miserable, but dusting off things I love and displaying them proudly in the now, that’s a piece of the puzzle sliding into place. The road to The End, on both of these current projects, and others, has never seemed clearer.