Typing With Wet Paws: Writer Chick Is Still Not at Nationals Edition

Greetings, Foolish Mortals. Sebastian Thunderpaws Hart-Bowling, coming at you with all the stuff from the week that was. I’m hanging out today with my buddy, Stripey Guy. I am also stripey, and also a guy, but you know me and names. Anyway, the title of this week’s blog entry should tell you the big thing around here. Writer Chick is still not at RWA Nationals, and she is still kind of salty about it. I am attempting to ramp that down a little by recreating some of the atmosphere. Mainly that I block her way to the bathroom, but she does seem to like it when anonymous entities put books on her chairs.

Do I have to do this at every meal?

At least she hasn’t been wearing her name badge from previous conferences, around the house. Yet. It’s important, that “yet.” The weekend is young.

On the domestic front, Writer Chick reports that the grossest thing she has found in her all out war on fleakind, is finding shed flea skins/exoskeletons. Ew. In. One. Of. Her. Notebooks. One of the fancy ones, with special paper. Yeah. It’s personal now.

Writer Chick’s internal reaction

She will not rest until there is total destruction. Of the fleas, that is, not any property, especially property she does not personally own. Everything and everybody who is not a flea is safe. That should be encouraging to those of you who are not fleas. For those of you who are, you are doomed. Consider this formal notice.

With the flea stuff and a couple of other domestic tornadoes, Writer Chick took a breather from Camp NaNo work this week, but, since she is only less than ten pages away from her goal, she’s not that bothered by it. She can make it to goal, easy. She’ll have the house to herself for a chunk of the weekend, so I would not be at all surprised if she used some of that time to hang with her imaginary pirate friends.

No shocker that Writer Chick was over at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, but there is big scandal in Romancelandia, over certain casting decisions in the upcoming Netflix series based on Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series of Regency-era historical romance. There’s kind of two posts in one, this time, because some mysterious person named Lady B (spoiler: it’s Writer Chick) piles on the hyperbole (I’m assuming; I don’t actually read these things; cuts into my naptime.) Hit the link in the caption above if you’d like to read it, and comments are always welcome.

Checking in on the Goodreads challenge, Writer Chick is eight books ahead this week, with sixty-one books read out of ninety-five, and that puts her sixty-four percent of the way to her goal. She has taken advantage of the three month free trial of Kindle Unlimited, and one of the people at Buried Under Romance clued her in on how to turn any e-book into an audiobook. Yeah, that’s a thing, and no, it is not by reading it aloud, herself. Not that she hasn’t tried that, mind you, but it’s a small apartment, and people like to sleep. Note I said people, not Writer Chick. Yeah.

So what is Writer Chick doing? Mostly, she’s writing. That’s a good thing. She is particularly fond of the part of Drama King she and Other Writer Chick are batting around, which lights a fire under her to keep going on the historicals. When not writing, or plotting flea destruction, she is probably doing stuff with her traveler’s notebooks. Spending time with those usually puts her in a good place, so we try to encourage that.

Probably about time for me to slip another book on her chair. Maybe I’ll toss in a pen or some sticky notes. I’m feeling generous.

Peace out,

Not At RWA Nationals (Again)

Welp, it’s that time of year again. July. Middle of summer. The lull between heat waves. It’s also the time for Extroverted Romance Writer Christmas, aka RWA Nationals. Several of my fellow romance writer friends post on social media about shopping for clothes and shoes, asking opinions on makeup or hair, what to pack, who can meet up where, and whether friends who are in the city (I’m in NY state: we have one City and one Island) but not going to the conference, or are going to the public parts of the conference, can meet up for extracurricular activities.

All of that stuff sounds wonderful to me, especially since real life stuff has kept me from the last two NECRWA regional conferences (CT Fiction Fest, this past September, almost a year ago now was a lifesaver) and the fact that this year’s conference is held in my home state of NY does give an extra pinch. It moves around from year to year, often in sunny locations, which are not great for me, as I am heat and sun sensitive, and have had full-on heat stroke in the past, so I have to be extra-careful in choosing summer activities. This could also be a plus, because staying in the conference hotel the whole darned weekend is entirely doable and, for me, the norm.

Spending a weekend, in this case a long weekend, locked in a hotel with a few hundred people who love the books that I love, who love writing the books that I love to write, who know what it’s like to have the voices in our heads translate into words on a page, so we can share the adventures of our imaginary friends, that’s pretty much my idea of the best vacation ever. Not that conferences, for the working writer, are a vacation, because it’s most assuredly work, attending workshops (or giving them) and discussions and networking in hallways, elevators, and hotel rooms, hotel bars, hotel lobbies, and the ever-popular, ever-crowded public hotel rest rooms.

This year, especially, it would have been wonderful to go. Melva and I have a new book, our first together, Chasing Prince Charming, coming out, in less than three weeks. Fewer than three weeks? See, there’s another reason I need to socialize with other writers. They help me do English gooder. I have one historical novella out in the querying process, and two full length historical romances that are getting ready to make the rounds again. A conference is a place where there are tons of other writers who have been in the same or similar positions, and talk stuff out with them. For the extroverted writer, talking things out is absolutely crucial. Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m thinking until I can talk about it. That’s part of the process.

So, what am I doing instead? I wish I could say we are not still fighting the battle of the bugs, but we are. Not at the same intensity as it once was. The few bugs that we see are slow moving and far fewer than earlier generations, so we are hopefully moving in the right direction. There are the normal domestic tornadoes, but manageable ones, and keeping an eye on the aforementioned social media posts from friends who are in attendance, is, in its own way, the next best thing to being there.

What can’t be experienced secondhand, though, is the connections that are only made at conferences. Melva’s and my writing partnership was born at a conference, because breakfast was late. While we waited for the doors to open, we commented to each other what a diverse lot of writers were in attendance. a writer of YA fantasy might be chatting with a writer of m/m contemporary romance, who is sitting next to a writer of erotic historicals, who is rooming with a writer who has been writing category inspirationals for literally decades, who is sitting next to a wide-eyed first-time attendee, who is almost done with the first draft of their first book. They think. How do they find a critique partner and what’s a beta reader, and OMG, that’s Big Name Writer over there.

It’s going around the table, asking what everybody’s favorite book is, answering with your own all time number one, only to be met with a shriek of joy from the total stranger across the table, who of course has to sit next to you now that you have the same favorite book, and, years later, is now a friend. It’s having the opportunity of sitting next to someone who whips out their electronic device to prove that they are actually reading one of your books right the heck now, and you try to be cool because it’s your first time seeing your book on someone else’s device.

It’s going home with an extra suitcase full of swag (Hannah Howell’s iconic purple pens are Pentel RSVP, now one of my favorite ballpoints, for those who hoard her swag pens and wish they came in more colors; they do.) and oh so many books. Some of them were free, right there on plate or chair at every meal, given away during a workshop, or as a door prize, some of them purchased at the literary signing, and personally autographed by an author who is, indeed, a lovely person. There may or may not, depending on one’s luck (I think I once posted about The Year Anna Won Everything, but part of it does happen to Meg, in Chasing Prince Charming) be some sort of gift basket (or other receptacle) to wrangle into the car, or onto some other form of transportation. Some people may be mailing things home.

When I lived in the old country, I Had a post-conference routine. I would lug my bags upstairs, then trot on down the street, to buy myself dinner, with an unsweetened iced tea, and write in my notebook about how I felt about the entire experience (of the conference, not dinner.) Coming back from a conference, I am full of energy, and buzzing, and it’s hard to come back to the everyday routine of living. Now that I’m here, a new ritual will emerge, once I get back in the conference swing. Most of all, a conference, and even writing about a conference, makes me want to write. It reminds me not only that I love to write romance, but why, and shows me ways -there are always ways- in which I might do that even better. Thankfully, when it comes to conferences, there are a lot of them, so if I’m not at this one, maybe next year.

Not At Nationals (Again)

Some days, a writer needs a cat on her desktop. Since my actual cat, Skye, is a floor girl, I will have to make do with having her as my desktop image. It’s that time of year again, meaning that it is time for Romance Writers of America’s annual national conference, and, once again, I am not there. Conferences are like Christmas for the extroverted writer, and the RWA national conference is the great grandmamma of them all for us romancey types, so yes, part of me is going to grumble when I see pictures of friends at the conference, dropping tidbits about workshops and networking and parties and mountains of giveaway swag.  This doesn’t even take into account the issue of conference outfits and/or shoes, or the magic that happens when one winds up at a dinner table with a bunch of complete strangers, not knowing that they are in the presence of soon to be lifelong friends. Last Call Girls, I am looking at you.

So yeah, part of me is peeved. Maybe next year. Whole year to plan/save, and who knows, I might have something new to flog in 2018 (how did next year get to be 2018 already? :sobs softly:) and I’m doing what I can to move in that direction, so no use dwelling on what I’m not experiencing. Right now, I’m working on two books that I absolutely love, I am getting my ducks in order to have some fun new posts on Heroes and Heartbreakers in the near future, and I’m finding new ways to plan and organize so that I don’t fall into the trap of chaos and paralysis that comes from not knowing what to do next. I really, really, really do not like not knowing what to do next, hence all the focus on planning lately. I assume that, at some point, I will taper off, but for now, you get things like random pictures of my daily carry.



Packed to stay home. Yes, this was taken at the laundromat.


If  RWA attendees can post pictures of their week, I can post pictures of mine. Above is my daily carry. From the top, the gray thing is my current favorite bag, because it goes with literally everything. Top hot pink thing is my makeup case. Purple thing is my Kindle. Next row, blush pink still-not-calling-it-a-bullet-journal-because-I-am-stubborn notebook, black pouch full of ballpoints, even though I am pretty much over ballpoints (but they still have ink in them; I cannot waste ink,) black wallet (needs more green things in it, hence motivation to write more) and hot pink bag that actually came with my tablet (not pictured, as it lives in my nightstand) but does not fit my tablet, so it holds my phone when I take said item on the road.

This is an extremely stripped down version of what I used to carry, and I am surprised how much I like it. I once won a “mom purse” contest (it broke out spontaneously on a ferry headed for Long Island, when a bunch of romance writers got antsy) over a mother of five and two grandmothers. I will allow you to imagine the criteria for yourself, but suffice it to say that this is a big change. Will it stick? I hope so, because I like having everything I need, close at hand, easily portable, and not all jumbled together.

Is it an indicator of how the writing life is going? Again, I hope so. The flip side of hating not knowing what I’m doing is…knowing what I’m doing. Organization and planning helps a lot with that, as does talking with writer friends who get me and get the stories I tell, at whatever phase of the journey. Having pretty stuff means I’ll want to look at it more, and, as N and I have discussed at length, there is a connection she and I both get when we turn off the computer and hunker down away from electronics, with pen and paper, and our story people get chatty. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t still feel like I’m fumbling around in the woods, with a bucket on my head and oven mitts on my hands (not feeling the rotten logs on my feet, so I’ve got that going for me) at times, but those times are fewer and farther between. I’m going to call that a good thing.

While I am going to miss the workshops presented at Nationals, it’s the people that would have me most excited. In person time with social media contacts would be fun, and getting to actually meet writers whose work I have admired for, in some cases, decades, would be amazing, but, if I were in attendance this year, I would have one goal that would outrank the others. Since I have never been to Nationals, I have no idea if it is socially acceptable to station oneself in the lobby, holding a large poster board with “Historical Romance BFF/Critique/Brainstorm Partner Wanted: Apply Below,” but I am pretty sure that, with number and variety of people who go to these sorts of things, I would probably get a few takers. Or one. I would take one.  A gal can feel a little unicorn-y from time to time, with this sort of thing, but it’s only a matter of looking, when romance writers congregate in large numbers, before one finds other with the same favorite flavor, no matter what that flavor may be.

So, this year, I’m not there. Too soon to call it on next year, or beyond, but what I can do is keep on eye on social media for vicarious conference hits, and the other eye on my own paper, as I move my current WIPs toward the finish line of their respective drafts. Potential historical romance buddies, you know where to find me; I’ll be here all week.


Typing With Wet Claws: Anty is Under the Bed Edition

Hello, all. Skye here for another Feline Friday. I am not under the bed this week, because Anty is there and she says she is not coming out.  There are a few reasons for this.

First, she is cranky to have missed RWA Nationals for another year, but she still tried to get some of the experience as best she could. Please forgive the video blogs. She was going to make another one today, but there was a problem, which is the second thing. Well, really the third.

View out our living room window. Nothing to do with RWA. The machines are loud.

View out our living room window. Nothing to do with RWA. The machines are loud.

The second thing is that Uncle is waiting for something in the mail that should have been here yesterday and could come tomorrow or could come Monday. Yesterday really would have been best. Anty stresses about things like this, but Uncle assures her all will be fine. Anty thinks that is all very well and good, but she likes to have a Plan B and Plan C in case Plan A does not work out after all.

The third thing is why Anty has not made a video blog for today. Last night, she could not sleep, so she got up to listen to some special music on Spotify that helps her get to sleep. She did not get to sleep, because she did not hear her music. Instead, she got some malware. Malware is a very bad kind of program that gets into computers to do things that are not nice. Anty had to wait until Uncle got up so he could help her with tech support. Uncle is very calm about things like this, where Anty is not, so they balance here.

The human on tech support was not very helpful and wanted a lot of money before they would fix Anty’s computer. Uncle told them that was not going to happen. It took him some time and a lot of passwords, but Uncle was able to  take Anty’s computer back in time so that it would work again. This did mean that Anty will have to reinstall things like Scrivener and Spotify, but she is okay with that, as long as she can have her computer back and write on it. It is very interesting that the Scrivener files stayed even though Scrivener did not. I am impressed. Puzzled, but impressed.

Since Anty is not coming out from under the bed, I will tell her news for her. She had two posts at Heroes and Heartbreakers this week. On Monday, she talked about the new book by Meredith Duran, Luck Be a Lady, which she liked very much. You can read that post here. I do not know where pictures go on this computer now that it can time travel, so I cannot show you a picture of that post right now. Instead, you get another picture of me.

you cannot tell, but I am thinking about that book.

you cannot tell, but I am thinking about that book.

Anty’s other Heroes and Heartbreakers post is about Robin Hood and Maid Marian, a timeless romance. You can read about it here. I still do not know where the pictures go, so you get me again.

I wonder if there were any cats in Sherwood Forest. I think there were.

I wonder if there were any cats in Sherwood Forest. I think there were.

Wait, I think I can find a picture that is kind of appropriate.

Anty talks about the book in the middle in her Robin and Marian post.

Anty talks about the book in the middle in her Robin and Marian post.

My Mama is coming home tomorrow, because Grandma is doing really really well. I do not know if Anty will have to take her computer to the computer vet after all, because Uncle did a good job. He is also making Anty dinner, and he should be able to go out and hunt again this week ahead. I do not know if Anty will know what to do with  a quiet house. She will probably write, once she gets Scrivener installed again, but that will probably be tomorrow. She will come out when she is hungry, or when she wants to check her email.

I think that is about it for now, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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

Until next week...

Until next week…

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go, aka Not at Nationals

It’s that time of year again. RWA Nationals, this year in New York, which made me insanely happy when I first heard of the choice of venue. I’d promised myself as soon as my critique partner told me where this year’s Nationals would be, that I would be in New York for that one. I am, after a fashion. I live in New York, but not in New York City. I’m about two hours away, and I love where I live, but the fact remains that I am not attending Nationals, and I am grouchy about that.

Not that I’m not thankful to have what I have, and be where I am, because I am. I have a new laptop that works beautifully, I’m working on multiple projects that feel right for me, and get a few extra days at home with Real Life Romance Hero thanks to the recommendations of a people vet, to use Skye’s term. Plus I get to hang out with a gorgeous Maine Coon all day. These are not bad things.

Still, for the extroverted romance writer, RWA Nationals is like extroverted romance writer Christmas. A whole hotel, crammed full of people who do what I do and love what I love? Free books and swag everywhere? A chance to see old friends and meet new ones, and literally be surrounded by the romance industry? What’s not to love? I know big conferences can be hard for more introverted types, with all those people and so little quiet space and time, but for me, it’s like putting a duck in water. Paddlepaddlepaddle, I got this. What do you write? And you? And you? And you? What are you reading? Who’s watching Poldark? Here, have a business card. :tries to find business card port on laptop, gives up:

I love getting dressed up; for me, that’s what feels natural and comfortable, so I’m not missing out on that one at all. I’m wearing a long navy eyelet dress today, matching sandals, beachy hair, makeup done, because I am going out somewhere, even if it’s only down the block to my favorite coffee house (it’s hot out, and I do not do heat, humidity, or sun well.) There comes a point in every day when the need to be around people who do not share my address and/or last name becomes as important as food and air. The definition of extroversion I use is that an extrovert gains energy from being around other people and spends it alone. Go be with people to fill my tank, then jump into story world to spend all that energy by myself, writing. That seems to work pretty well for me. Your mileage may vary.

I’ve been attending the New England RWA conference for several years, and love that. My favorite part is Saturday breakfast, because that is extroverted morning person Christmas. Hotel full of people who love to talk about romance writing (and reading) and there’s breakfast food? Only problem there is that 7AM feels late for me (uber-morning person here; I trace this back to a particular late fall morning when I was a preschooler, and my morning person mother showed me why predawn is the best time for those like us to get up. Mist wrapping around the bare-limbed trees as the night faded into dawn burned itself into my memory, and I still remember that switch flipping on as we looked out the kitchen window together. There may have been pancakes.) Add copious amounts of tea to the mix, and I become supercaffieneated extroverted morning person. Scary at times, but also, for me, super super super fun.

Then there’s workshops, which I drink in like a thirsty camel slurps water. Last year, I took a stab at moderating a couple of workshops, which I loved and will probably do again in the future. Volunteering at a conference brings on a whole other level of experience. I’ve helped with breakfast setup (morning people think this is fun, not work, so best to take full advantage when possible) once, which had the added benefit of being able to pick my seat in advance of the meal, by criteria of what book would be on my seat. I have not yet been able to train Real Life Romance Hero to put a newly released historical romance on my seat at every meal, but maybe if I give him a stack, he could try, just for this week? It’s not asking that much.

At this past year’s NECRWA conference, I skipped a workshop to huddle in a corner of the lobby and write an entire scene on my tablet. Considering that I had not yet mastered the touchscreen and was doing this without a stylus (we shall call this time the dark ages) this is an accomplishment. I also had not discovered how to toggle between letters and numbers and thus believed that the office program had no quotation marks (I know, I know, please consider that endearing) but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the atmosphere, all the inspiration in the air, and that it had reached critical mass. That a friendly face could take one look at what was going on, say something akin to “oh, you’re writing. Catch you later,” and that would still count as contact.

I haven’t been to Nationals yet, and it’s not going to be this year. I’m disappointed in that, but I do know that I will be, at the right time, with a new book to shill…er, promote. I meant promote. In the meantime, if you haven’t had enough of my blabber, here’s my first shot at video blogging with the new laptop:

Almost Like Being There

Time for me to add the “Not at RT” tag to my entries, because it’s that time of year again, Romantic Times Book Reviews’ annual conference.  When I first started this post, I began to blog about not being at RWA Nationals, but then remembered that’s in July, so I was missing out on something else entirely.  I am going to take this as a sign that my head is in the books, and thus other things are going to slip out through the cracks.

The conference hangover is still strong from NECRWA, and my tea is from my lovely gift basket, its gorgeous peacock themed box now in its place of honor in my office. I’m working on two historicals at the moment, and some only-for-fun writing that serves no purpose but to make me happy on the side. Today, I have the apartment to myself, and am taking advantage of some excellent advice from the very talented K.A. Mitchell. In her presentation to CRRWA a few months back, she gave two gems: open the file, and change your seat. Maybe not in that particular order, but they work. I’m not stuck today, but got the urge to change my seat anyway, so am now seated at the kitchen counter. I don’t write at the counter much, but it’s a beautifully overcast day, the window that gives me a view of our neighbor’s window is open enough to catch a breeze and I’ll have a front row seat to the rain if we get any. There’s a thirty percent chance.

I’d love to be at RT, but this wasn’t my year. Some other year will be, and it will be the right one. I’m not feeling deprived this year, or that I’m missing out, which is new, but again, still have conference hangover, drinking conference tea, talking to conference friends, and my real life hero and I spent the weekend at the local Tulip Festival, so my people-meter is pleasantly full. Being around big groups of people, especially those who love what I love, energizes me and gives me a boost. That’s two boosts in two weekends, so time to spend some of that energy by writing.

I won’t be at RWA’s national conference, either. This year, Bertrice Small is getting a lifetime achievement award there, and, since she’s the reason I became a romance writer in the first place, if i could only attend one National conference in my life, that would be the one I’d pick. I knew, under my parents’ guest room brass bed, with my flashlight and my stolen-from-Mom’s-nightstand copy of The Kadin, that I’d found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life, so of course I’d love to be there to cheer with all the other fans, and witness a retrospective of a stellar career. I would love to see her son, Tom, accept the award on her behalf, charming, articulate and full of pride and love for his mother. I’d love to hang out with other Small fans and jabber about their favorite books of hers, un-favorite books of hers, and her influence on individual careers and the industry as a whole.

Thanks to the internet, I can peep along and read others’ experiences, see what they see, and if I want to talk favorite books or authors, there’s no end to the opportunities for that, either singly or in groups. For lovers of all forms of historical romance, I’ll slip in a plug for my own Facebook group, The Lion and Thistle. Thanks to all the people who live in my head, there are stories yet to write, to keep me plenty busy while the conference and the rest of life are going on, so that, no, I do not feel deprived at all this year. That’s new, and I think I like it.