Of Human Vagabondage

Week two of Vagabond 2019 is going well, all things considered. Still enjoying motel living -not sarcastically; this place is nice, and it’s actually a relief to have a breather while we search for the next location of Stately Bowling Manor. Real Life Romance Hero and Housemate are off to their jobs, and I am back at mine.

I haven’t been getting a lot of reading or viewing done, though that should be picking up in the next few days. I am three or four episodes into season nine of The Walking Dead, and will likely binge So You Think You Can Dance when I am through. One show at a time seems to be what makes the most sense viewing-wise, right now. When I am through with that, I will probably be on the hunt for a great historical drama, so if you have recommendations, leave them in the comments. I have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

I also have Kindle Unlimited, which makes the fact that I am only partway through two KU books in the last two months, and I am not okay with that. I am starting an experiment where I schedule reading time, and, hopefully, that will get me back on track on that front. Planning has been a big help with all of the things that have to be done on our route to the next apartment. I have also drawn Housemate over to the planner side, and I am a proud planner mum, watching her find her own system and style, while refining my own.

Which brings us to writing. When we were packing and hauling stuff to storage, my original plan was to put my writing notebooks in storage, and write everything in one composition book, then transcribe when we land. That lasted as long as the ride to the storage unit. I couldn’t do it. They stay with me, because longhand first is how I work best, and I am, as I go, finding what each individual binder needs, and what gets me to where I want to be – The End of each individual draft. I do have my desktop set up in our room, and I like that bit of home, that space that is all mine. I also like that the hours when the rest of my family is out of the room are my one shot at getting any work done without interruption, short of parking myself in the lobby and getting in some longhand time.

Yesterday was laundry and errands, but today is blocked off as a writing day. I find that exciting.

Talk to you soon!
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Typing With Wet Hooves: Pre-Release Weekend Edition

Hi, everybody. Bo Bison here, subbing for my good buddy, Sebastian, once again. As the fight against the fleas continues, Sebastian is due for a thorough vacuuming, so I, who am flea-free, will be filling in until he is cleared to resume his usual duties. Didn’t want anyone to think I was horning in on him, heh, heh.

Only three more days now…

Okay, the big news about all things Anna is that this is the last weekend before Chasing Prince Charming, the first book in the Love By The Book series, written with Melva Michaelian, through The Wild Rose Press, will be released. That’s very exciting news, and there is a lot to do in preparation for that. If you have already subscribed to the new melvaandanna.com site, then you can watch the countdown to the big day.

The big day also includes an author visit to Buried Under Romance, and wouldn’t you know, Anna is the one who gets to be in charge of that one, so she and Melva have some fancy footwork to do. Thankfully, they’re pretty good at that sort of thing, and whatever form it takes, it’s bound to be a good time.

Speaking of Buried Under Romance, click that caption in the picture above, if you want to read about some of Anna’s picks for what iconic historical romance families might be in line to catch the Bridgerton bouquet, if the upcoming Netflix series is a success. There’s a new topic every Saturday, so if you would like to join the discussion, or just listen to Anna ramble, please consider subscribing there as well, and suggestions for topics are always welcome. Who knows, you might see your idea as topic of the week.

Moving on to Goodreads, Anna is holding steady at six books ahead of schedule, with sixty-three books read out of her goal of ninety=five, putting her at sixty-six percent of the way toward her goal. Not too shabby, considering it’s been a domestic tornado-y week. That kind of week is exactly why being a few books ahead of schedule can be a good thing. With Kindle Unlimited, and Overdrive, and that nifty trick Lisa at Buried Under Romance showed Anna, to turn any book into an audio book, if it has text to speech capability, I think Anna will be pulling even further ahead.

What follows One Book July?

On the planning front, now that One Book July, which Anna actually liked a lot more than she thought she would, is over, what comes next? Apparently, there is also an All The Books August, where the goal is to use all of one’s planners/notebooks, which is an idea Anna loves, but seeing as how we’re almost half of the way through August already, Maybe she can make Some of the Books September be a thing. In the meantime, here is a sneak peek at the traveler’s notebook Anna plans to move into for the fall season, at the start of September:

Pen + Gear personal size traveler’s notebook

While Anna is all about the blush pink for spring and summer, autumn requires richer hues, so be prepared for a tour of her autumn lineup, coming to a blog post near you, in the very near future. Anna is also well on her way to moving into a project notebook for Her Last First Kiss, which she will actually use. Normally, her story binder setup goes something like:

  1. acquire three ring binder
  2. make sections for hero, heroine, villain, plot, and misc
  3. invest strongly in an aesthetic that is admittedly cohesive
  4. never touch that binder again

Could it be that story notebook peace can be found in a six ring binder? Keep eyes peeled, to find out. On that note, I am going to head on out, because it’s lunchtime, and I have a hankering for some buffalo wings. Don’t worry, they are not made with real buffalo. Actually, we buffaloes are vegetarians, so I’m mostly there for the carrots and celery.

I Will Call Her “Spinebreaker”

Greatest hits picture for today’s header because we are burning daylight, this is Monday’s and Wednesday’s post, and there are a few things to cover. We are now less than one week away from the release of Chasing Prince Charming, my first contemporary romance, my first book written with longtime friend and critique partner, Melva Michaelian. We can’t say “someday” anymore. We can’t say “next year,” or “hopefuly” or even count the months or weeks, because that baby will be here Monday. Eep.

Houston, we have a website!

melvaandanna.com

In addition to the book baby, we are also proud to announce a website baby. Early days yet at melvaandanna.com, but we now have a website. Hop on by, follow us if you are so inclined, and watch us grow. Let us know what kind of content you’d like to see on an author website. Since the webmistress is me, there may be (aka will be) a learning curve, but this is the place where news about future books we write together, and the workshops we teach, in person or online, as well as other hopefully fun stuff in the very near future.

Melva and I are closing in on the home stretch of Drama King, the second book in the Love By The Book series, and I have, as of Monday, started an official notebook section for the third book, Queen of Hearts, so that will be next up for this partnership. After that? We’ve got a few ideas.

August Planner Post

One Book July is now past, and time is coming soon to start setting up my everyday carry (EDC) planners/notebooks/binders for autumn, which has a completely different vibe than spring and summer. This is where Spinebreaker comes into play.

When I first started this whole planner thing, I was pretty dedicated to the cahier size and pooh-pooh’d everything else, but then I started watching planner videos and joined FB groups and a ;whole new world opened. I did not have to be locked into One True Planner, forever and ever, eternity and beyond. That took some getting used to, the same as thinking I could only write one genre, or one way, yappity yap and all that.

Now? Well, now, I’m all about exploring. I had seen mentions of the B6 size in multiple groups, and in multiple videos, and then there was one, right where I get my groceries, in blush pink, and under eight dollars. Yeah. So, that happened. Meet Spinebreaker:

Hi, Spinebreaker!

Why Spinebreaker? I’m glad you asked. I don’t remember if it was in a Facebook group or a YouTube video where I first encountered this, but what I do remember is that the narrator, an artist, knew, in art school, who was going to do well in the class. On the first day, the professor passed out bound, blank sketchbooks. The nice kind. The narrator recounted how they stared at the perfect untouched purity of the sketchbook and how afraid they were that they were going to ruin it with their imperfect art. Other students immediately picked up the books, broke the spines, opened the book to several different pages, wrote their names in the front, and put marks on pages, be they first, last, or random, while the narrator was still staring at the blank perfection and dreading being the source of its ruin.

This resonated with me, a lot. I am very guilty of staring at pages, paper or electronic, fixed on the blankness and the preciousness of the unblemished page…but, as Pable Picasso said, all creation begins with destruction (of the blank page or canvas.) I am not a Picasso fan, myself, but “Picasso in a Café,” a song by one of my favorite composers, Brian Lowdermilk, is a favorite of mine (gentle readers who prefer not to hear strong language, take my word for it; otherwise, click the link) especially since I followed a series of videos he make, chronicling some big changes in his life and creativity, after a creative disappointment. He and his wife, Anna Levinger, who contributed the portion of the song with the strong language, took a gap year and traveled, exploring the world, as well as creativity, etc.

No gap years here, but learning to create again after a big shift, that I know. I know the feeling of the wandering in the wilderness, and the combination of strangeness and coming home, to come out of it in a different place than one went in; new genres, not instead of, but along with, expanding the sizes and purposes of binders and notebook covers I use. Mushing all of that with the story I wish I had written down so that I could attribute it properly, I like the idea of being a spinebreaker. That’s why, earlier this week, I made myself slip some inexpensive inserts into that pristine new B6 cover, and start swatching watercolors on the first few pages. There. Not blank anymore. Does that make it easier? For me, actually, yes.

Those blank pages are powerful. Sometimes, too much so. That’s why melvaandanna.com (all one word, all lowercase, tell your friends) is up in its tiny, imperfect, baby steps glory. We don’t serve the website. It serves us. That perspective may not be true for everybody, for us, this is just right.

Typing With Stuffed Paws: This Time, It’s Hooves Edition

Hi, everybody! My name is Bo Bison. You may have seen me in the corner of some of Anna’s deskscapes. That’s because I live on her desk. This week, I’m filling in for my good buddy, Sebastian. Sebastian is on a top-secret mission in the master bedroom, making sure Real Life Romance Hero gets some much-needed rest, so I’m filling in for today. Let’s get to it.

First, a little bit of housekeeping. There have been a few change around Stately Bowling Manor. The census shows a marked decrease in the flea population, but things are not flea-free quite yet. In unrelated news, Housemate has taken on a different work schedule, which means, that because Anna’s office is in the great room, which is also where Housemate does her stuff, there may be a change in the blogging schedule. Anna is looking at maybe Sunday/Tuesday/Friday, instead of Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but we will see the difference when theory becomes practice,

Speaking of which, let’s get right to that. Take a look at this badge of honor:

Plunder = Camp NaNo Win!

Even with a week off for real life related reasons, Anna still made it through fifty pages of Plunder, and shows no signs of slowing down. You know that feeling when you have to keep reading so you can find out what happened? That is where Anna is at this phase of the discovery draft, only with writing instead of reading. There will be regular updates here.

Moving along, Anna was at Buried Under Romance, as usual, this past Saturday night. Why does Anna think romance books may be some of the real-est “real books” of all? Click the caption below to find out, and leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Next, we come to Anna’s Goodreads Challenge. Currently, she is at sixty-six percent of her way to the goal of reading ninety-five books this year, with sixty-three books read. She will admit to a bit of a book hangover for When We Believed in Mermaids, by Barbara O’Neal, the newest addition to her favorites shelf. This book has a lifelong sist-mance, childhood traumas, adult healings, and a cuddly flamenco singer who makes one very level-headed ER doctor believe in love.

For those who have been asking if Chasing Prince Charming will be available in paperback, the answer is yes! It’s also eligible for Prime, so place those preorders, no matter your favored format. It’s now less than two weeks until release day, August twelfth. Both Anna and Melva are very excited to have Meg and Dominic meet all of you.

Before I sign off, I have one more achievement upon which to report. That is, that One Book July, the planner challenge to use only one planner in the month of July is now over. Anna considers it a worthwhile experiment, and plans to tell you all about it, and her plans for the turnover of summer planners to autumnal ones on her next blog. There will be glitter, color theory, and the making of inserts from scratch.

Welp, that looks like everything that wax on my list. Until we meet again, I wish you the happiest of days, the best of friends, and a TBR pile that never runs out. That’s how this buffalo roams.

June Planner Post

Monday’s post on Tuesday once again, so that says a lot about how the weekend went. The start of a new month means setting up new planner sections, and, this month, I am trying something different. The last month, even last week, have put a few more things on my plate, so I am going down to one weekly planner instead of two. I wasn’t feeling the setup in my white Webster’s Pages ring bound personal planner, though I still love the binder, so I will probably be repurposing said binder as a different sort of notebook.

Okay, June, let’s do this.

I am surprised that I have not named my Heidi Swapp ring bound planner, but maybe that will come as we get to know each other better over the summer. While I had originally planned for this to be only my writing planner, juggling two ring bound planners was getting to be too much, so I am streamlining. We will see how long that lasts, but, for now, everything is going in here.

The current setup…I think

During several of the slumberless parties my brain has thrown over the past month or so (aka insomnia) I have watched a lot of planner videos on You Tube, and discovered that I strongly prefer a vertical weekly layout over horizontal. Guess what every planner I own has for weekly layouts. Horizontal. Do-not-want-al. Good thing, then, that this particular planner can kind of fake it, with the horizontal boxes broken into two parts, blank and grid.

The grid part is clicking immediately. The blank part, eh, not so much, but it’s a good place to put stickers and possibly work on some sketching/visual art stuff. Maybe. I am looking at some printable horizontal layouts for next year, because I can’t bring myself to entirely throw out a whole half year’s worth of pages, but I allow that I may crack.

Right now, my days are pretty full, and I like it that way. Melva and I are going over the last-last-last-last galley copy, with the knowledge that this is it, no changing anything once we go to print, it is there forever, and pause here for us both to run around our respective homes, screaming, arms flailing, before we sit our butts down in our chairs and look over it One Last Time. We have been discussing series names (eep) and What Comes Next, such as the choosing and obtaining of swag, getting our joint site up and running, planning publicity and get Drama King to The End, so we can turn that in and start on Queen of Hearts.

There are also two historical romances whose rights are once again my own, plus a post-apocalyptic medieval novella, who all need homes, and as soon as Her Last First Kiss gets to the end of draft two, that’s another story that needs to go find its way in the world. There is a pirate trilogy hot on its heels, with other ideas, old and new, waiting in the wings.

In the midst of all of that, and the domestic tornadoes of everyday life, I am excited to be a part of rebooting Buried Under Romance to its 2.0 version. This makes it even more important to get my ah, stuff together, and I am hoping that I will fumble my way towards efficiency. I expect a lot of trial and error. My traveler’s notebooks are back in use, the purpose constantly evolving, so check back in July to see what’s up with those.

That’s going to be about it for this post, because my fingers are itching (literally; we are buying a flea bomb later today, even though we live in a no-pet building. Pest control will be here tomorrow; they are used to the writer lady who meets them at the door so she can get back to the keyboard ASAP.) to get back to my imaginary friends, and that galley has a deadline.

Typing With Stuffed Paws: Week of Little to No Energy Edition

Greetings, foolish mortals. Sebastian Thunderpaws Hart-Bowling, coming at you with all of the stuff from the week that was. It’s a rainy Friday here in New York’s Capitol Region. We’re starting a new month here (fine, everybody is; that’s how calendar months work) and wrapping up what Writer Chick probably won’t object to me calling the Week Of No Energy, because that is pretty accurate. Note the lack of battery power on the Kindle in this week’s picture. Writer Chick did not intend for that to tie in with anything, but here we are.

Even so, there’s stuff to bring you (otherwise, I would nap through this post, because this is perfect napping weather. As usual, Saturday found Writer Chick at Buried Under Romance, asking for input on the best points of entry for some popular historical romance writers that Writer Chick hasn’t gotten around to reading yet, for some reason. Follow the link to read for yourself. It’s never too late to weigh in on important questions like this.

Since this was a week of little to no energy, there was not as much writing or reading going on over here, but Writer Chick still pressed forward. Z Publishing will be including “The Fox and The Lily,” an amuse bouche of historical fiction with strong romantic elements. It’s also nudged her into fleshing out the whole of Cornelis and Lydia’s story to novel length, with two companion stories. Writer Chick does like her generational sagas, At least that takes care of the question what Writer Chick is doing next when it comes to historical romance. Probably. She has been sketching out some stuff in longhand, and of course this will give her a reason to set up a new notebook, to capture all the idea soup for this venture.

Speaking of which, the new month occurs at a convenient time, as Writer Chick finished her last morning pages book, and started in on a new one. This new one is by Punch Studio, which she loves for the pretty page factor, her pens are all ready to go. Writer Chick is big on pretty paper things, so that’s one point for things to look forward to in the mornings, I guess. I mean, besides caffeine and the company of a handsome stuffed orange boy.

Morning pages and accompanying pens

Speaking of orangeness, we now move on to her newly cobbled together blogging notebook. Writer Chick originally got this orange notebook as her daily planner, which was really fun, but took a lot of time, and then she  moved, so that kind of fell by the wayside, but she still wanted to use the book, and she can’t countenance getting a new Exceed notebook before she has used the old Exceed notebook. Since she likes writing longhand first in pretty much everything, this book is now her blogging notebook, where she can put down ideas as they come throughout the week, and hopefully cut down on the number of times she stares at the computer screen, makes that “ummmmm” sound, and then babbles until she’s hit 700 words.

Not only a blogging notebook, but a blogging folio

The week of little to no energy was also a perfect opportunity to cut some fat from the notebook habit. I know, I was shocked, too. For a lot of the last year, Writer Chick also did some brain dumping at night, aka evening pages at the end of the day as well as the morning pages at the start of it. That setup all went into a big folio, with its own pens, and, this week, she got to a point of “nah.”  Evening brain dumps can still happen when needed, but they don’t get their own book anymore, and now the folio is all about blog stuff, which makes Writer Chick more excited than tired. This will also come in handy, as Writer Chick and Other Writer Chick get all their metaphorical ducks in a row and set up their own website for their co-written work. Of course there is going to be some sort of blog going on there, so having one central place to put all of that stuff makes a lot of sense. Expect her to blather more about that later, possibly when she has this one full and it’s time to set up a new one.

Since this was the week of little to no energy, Writer Chick did not take things lying down. Well, she did spend some time lying down, but that was still kind of para-writing, as she did some longhand stuff, and listened to a lot of Book Tube videos. Note that I said “listened to” and not “watched.” Sometimes, she watched, but most of the time, it was listening, which did give her some ideas that she will probably blabber about in the future, but she will probably want to write them out in longhand in her orange book first. She had expected to spend some of that low-energy time reading, but most of that was what Dude calls “lying next to a good book.” That still kind of counts, especially if one  considers staring wistfully at the cover partial credit. Writer Chick plans to get some more of that reading done over the weekend, and there may or may not (I can’t read the orange book when Writer Chick is writing in it) some blathering on that very subject at Buried Under Romance for tomorrow’s post.

Until then, Writer Chick is taking advantage of this lovely grey day to break out paper and pen, make some tea, and keep a couple of books within arm’s reach. If she does decide to grab a nap, well, I will be ready.

Peace Out,

If I List Them, Will They Come?

I’ve been thinking a lot about reading goals. This may be, in part (large part) due to the fact that I have a new printable reading tracker, which means I do not have to draw a rough facsimile of a bookshelf in my big writing planner. The rest of the parts are my mounding TBR list, my mounding reader guilt, and the happily increasing amount of friends’ books I would like to read, even though the number of hours in the day does not change. Still twenty-four, for those who are curious. Planning is part of my process, in reading as well as writing, and it generally takes me to the place I meant to go, even if I had left the metaphorical house on an aimless ramble.

Those rambles do tend to have a purpose, which fits into my being firmly in the puzzler camp when it comes to plotter vs pantser. I can’t pick one. It’s both. Jump in, splash around, and the way will become clear. This is why, when I go to the library, with a notion to find some nonfiction, I do not go to the computer (I will always want to type “card catalog” in this circumstance) or even pay that much attention to the Dewey Decimal system. Nope, I’ll wander the stacks, peep at the books on the end of the nearest shelf, see how close to or far from the topic I want -let’s say writing- and proceed accordingly. Languages? Oh good, English is a language. I write in English. Dum de dum dum dum, poetry, getting closer, oh look, plays, annnnd here we are.

My big writing goal, right now, is to read more romance, specifically historical romance. I have a good balance of historical romance, contemporary YA, and graphic novels, waiting on my TBR shelf (in this apartment, it really is only one shelf, and the vast majority of that from the library system) and I really do want to read every single book I have borrowed, and more hot on their tails, so time to put on the big girl panties, pour a seasonally appropriate beverage, and get down to business.

I don’t want to be one of those writers who doesn’t or can’t read in the genre they’re writing, while they’re writing it, and, before, that had not been the case. If that’s changed, I suppose I will adapt, but I would prefer not to have to make that adjustment. I also don’t want to be the person who buys and/or borrows books, and then doesn’t read them, the size of the TBR piles (plural) topped only by the crushing reader guilt. Maybe that would squash everything to the same base level, in order to begin all over again? I don’t know. Maybe that’s how it works, or maybe it isn’t.

As often happens with other things in my life, what usually puts things in perspective is to make lists, and so that is what I am doing. A lot of lists, as a matter of fact, and I am very sure I am not done with said list-making. What kinds of historical romances do I like the most? What are the books that have worked the best for me? Why? What books haven’t? What are keywords that will ensure I pick up a historical romance, knowing nothing else about the book, and, the flip side, what keywords will ensure that I put that book right back where I found it, because one reader’s “meh” is another’s “woohoo!” (Sims players, I know what I said.)  Lists of questions, as well, like “how can I find books I am not currently finding?”

That’s a big one. I am fairly certain I am at least part unicorn, because I tend to have a good deal of what I will term niche loves. While I love historical romance as a whole, I get especially excited to see books set anywhere between the end of the Wars of the Roses and the end of the American Revolution. Medievals get a close second, and an honorable mention goes to the Edwardian era, on either side of the Atlantic. My ears will always perk at the mention of Australia (Candace Proctor, I have left a light on for you) or heroine disguised as male, no matter the historical period. Show me the words, “epic,” or “saga,” in the blurb, and I most definitely want to read further. I love me some angst, fairy tale retellings are wonderful, houses/locales that are almost characters in their own rights, alpha heroines are the best, and my favorite sort of series is generational. I am sure this will all end up in some sort of chart in the near future, and I will probably share it here, when it does.

Listing books I want to read, or to re-read, or to finally read, is the fun part. Narrowing it down to what I want to read right now is tougher, and toughest of all is finding the times when I can read the books I want to read, the way I want to read them. Again, same amount of numbers in the day no matter what I read, and the thought of reading fewer books of any type, to make room for another sort of book, again, no matter the type, pains me. Even so, it comes down to the whole “how bad do you want it?” question. In this case, quite a lot.

That means it’s worth the effort, and time to do thing X can be found by not doing thing Y. I already watch a lot less TV than I used to, especially when I was recapping. In fact, I don’t even know how to turn on our TV. I do have Netflix and Hulu, and do have to-watch lists for both, but it’s time to get back into the reading habit. Time to reclaim the pleasure and ritual of reading historical romance, ensuring that I block out the time I need to sink into the immersive world that I love the very best. Talking about something is always a huge incentive for me to actually do that thing, so I will probably be talking more about reading historical romance here. Hm. I’d probably better start making some lists.

It’s Monday, And I Don’t Know Where My Hero’s Bathroom Is

Welp, it’s a cloudy Monday, and I am well past the time I had set aside for blogging, so let’s jump in and blabber our way to the magic seven hundred and then call it good enough, because I have a scene from Melva to read for Drama King, which may require me to draw a floor plan of one of the locations in our small shared world. I do have a couple of pictures on Pinterest, that may be of help here, and I am strongly considering building said locale in Sims 4, but Sims 4 does not have indoor ladders (or outdoor, except for the pool variety) and it really needs a ladder, because the ladder will be important, so there’s that. In short, I am procrastinatin.

I cannot, however, procrastinate everything, especially when Sebastian dropped the (hair)ball on the weekend post (also, there were domestic tornadoes; we are in the cleanup phase now) and the first few attempts at this blog entry were veering too far into the realm of planning. That is not entirely unexpected, as I spent a good chunk of the weekend, when I was not wrangling aforementioned domestic tornadoes, carrying around Li’l Pink, the traveler’s notebook I acquired over a year ago, with inserts I acquired up to six years ago, but not writing in her.

Very long story, made very short, the pretty pastel inserts I had thought were pocket size, were actually passport size the whole darned time, which is why they never lined up with the pocket sized hardcover notebooks, which, in turn, never sat right, because they had to be on the part of the elastic where the knot is, therefore not able to sit flat. Ahem. I found this out when I decided, what the heck, I’d toss in the passport sized junk journal insertI had ordered by mistake, and what ho, it’s the same size as the others. The cover clashed with the pastel inserts, but, as it turns out, tracing paper will double for vellum, in a pinch, and literally nobody on the entire planet, who is not you, is losing any sleep over this, Anna.

Okay, fine, that is not wrong, but nattering about the inserts it took me six years to figure out what size they were did get me to about the halfway mark for a full blog entry. Once the blog entry is done, I get to turn my attention to Drama King stuff. Tomorrow should be for Her Last First Kiss. Also for hauling an old air mattress to the dumpster, but nobody wants to read a blog about that. I certainly wouldn’t want to write it. I’ll stick to writing romance novels, thanks.

Sometimes, though, writing romance novels involves things one doesn’t think it would. Like the location of bathrooms, which may, in fact, drive me to Sims 4 (for research, I tell you, purely for research) When I was but a nubile ingenue (aka high school) my drama teacher told a group of aspiring thespians that we always had to know what was on the fourth wall. That is not the audience out there, it is the wall with the TV and the china cabinet and the squeaky door to the kitchen, that always swings the wrong way. It’s the front porch, or the balcony, or, well, you get the picture. Point is, it’s fixed, it doesn’t change (in realistic works) and it affects what the actors do in relation to their environment. If it’s a plate glass window, the play is set in the middle of a Minnesota winter, and a baseball sails through that window in the middle of act two, that’s an act and a half of the actors needing to convey to the audience that they are now cold, possibly dangerously so, instead of comfortable.

When we’re talking novel writing, replace “actor” with “writer,” though the character who lives in this locale is an actor, so maybe don’t. Follow your heart. No, not right now. Get back here. I’m almost done. Having all scene partners agree on what is on that fourth wall is usually a pretty good idea, because doing otherwise can lead to chaos (or some awesome improv; I’ve seen it go both ways.) This also comes into play in writing partnerships. Since Melva and I are often eerily on the same page, pun intended, I do not foresee any huge differences, and questions of “where’s thing X?” usually get met with “well, I thought it was over in place Y,” which gets met with, “oh good, that’s where I had it.” I expect that will still be the case.

And yet (there is always an “and yet”) this should not be a big deal. Our hero’s apartment is a studio, with a loft, so there is only a limited amount of places a bathroom can be, and, thanks to my experiences with my dad’s house, I know enough about where pipes go to figure out that such things narrow the options even more, so there is not a logical reason to be putting something this easy off, Anna.

Yeah, but we’re over the halfway mark, and the hero and heroine are getting ready for :drops voice to whisper: the scene.

The scene?

You know. The hero/heroine scene.

This is a romance novel. Most of the scenes are hero/heroine scenes.

Yeah, but….

If you figure out where the bathroom is, you don’t have to carry the air mattress to the dumpster.

Ever?

Today.

Eh, good enough. I’ll get the graph paper.

What Do Planner Pages and Fiction Genres Have in Common?

Still not the actual planner post, but getting closer, and, seeing as how we are over the midway point of the month, I may let this suffice and move on along because the start of yet another new month will be here before I know it.

The fact that Wednesday’s post is the first of the week should tell you all how Monday went. Nuff said about that. Let’s move on to better stuff, and by that, I mean planners and how they relate to the writing life. Last night was a big one at Stately Bowling Manor, because I learned two very important things that have me chittering like a cat at a bird sanctuary. Thing One is that the printer is now up and running, and Thing Two is that I finally figured out the exact difference between A6 and half-letter size. For the non-planner-obsessed, this sounds like Charlie Brown Adult speech. For those more planner-obsessed than myself, this may elicit a heartfelt “duh.”

If standard letter size paper is one sheet of the stuff one puts into the printer, then it follows that half-letter is half of that (folded short end to short end, specifically) and fits quite nicely into the mini binders sold at many chain office supply and/or megastores. A5 paper is the kind commonly sold for ring bound planners. Half letter paper is generally, in my experience, sold three-hole-punched, while A5 comes most commonly punched with six holes (I have seen some punched with four holes, but very seldom, and have not actually used any of those…yet.) The two are pretty darned close in size, which leads to the impression that they are interchangeable. The embarrassingly large amount of paper in my scrap file will attest. That paper will get repurposed, because I don’t like waste, but let’s move on with this bit o’ blabber.

In a reveal that surprises no-one, I love all things planner-related, and am not (yet) independently wealthy. Also, I have what we will call strong preferences. This would intimate that making my own inserts and fillers might be a good way to both save money and expand creativity. This also is where that scrap paper comes into play, or should i say existence. After longer than I would be proud to admit, of assuming that A) A5 and half letter are totally the same size, and B) the firm conviction that I have so been punching the paper according to the manufacturer’s instructions, I also took into account C) depth perception is part of my visual impairment. Maybe I might want to actually check out the dimensions the way it makes sense to me? What could it hurt?

So, going on the pro tip on how to tell black from navy blue (hold the color in question next to something that you 100$ know is black) I took a manufactured A5 page and a manufactured half letter page, each obviously different colors, put the one I suspected was smaller (spoiler: it’s A5) in front, and tapped them on a level surface (kitchen table.) Lo and behold, there it was, a bright white strip of paper above the colored A5 sheet. Mark the difference, remove the excess, punch holes, and…wait for it…boom, they line up with the manufactured A5 paper holes. This then segued into a frenzy of paper cutting and punching, culminating in me sitting back, contented as a cat in cream, looking at my handiwork.

Goodbye, pricey inserts in two different sizes. Hello, making whatever the heck I want, whenever the heck I want it. I’m off-leash at last, no fences, baby, woo. Except for the one teeny, small, infinitesimal complication that I do not have the first idea of how to create my own insert or filler, on the computer, which does throw a bit of a spanner in the works. Not a biggie, as I will figure it out, through a process of trial and error, and picking the hive mind of the interwebs. . There have to be templates out there somewhere, and where there’s templates, there’s historicals…er, tutorials. Total typo there, but I’m going to let it stand, because I am headed in that direction anyway.

But Anna, I hear those of you who live in my head asking, what does all of this have to do with writing commercial fiction? I am glad you asked that, people who live in my head, because that is an excellent question, and one I have been asking myself, until the answer naturally surfaced. Paper size is a lot like genre, in a sense. Sure, A5 and half letter may look the same to the casual viewer, and how big a difference can it be, anyway? As a quick inspection proves, quite a bit. One thing can’t fit in a container made for the other, but when we know what size is what and where all the holes are supposed to be (get your minds out of the gutter) the whole thing goes rather smoothly, and the creative mind can flood with ideas of fun things to do in all those lovely different sizes.

Some spreads that are perfect for A5 would never work in a half letter, or vice versa. Add in personal size, which is a heck of a lot smaller, but still fun and useful, and we’re talking a whole different story. Pun intentional. THat’s only talking ringbound. If we add traveler’s notebooks into the mix (strings rather than rings) we have whole new options, and whole new requirements. Do I love notebooks in general? Yes, with a wild, burning passion. Is there one objectively best format or size? Well, best for what? I’d need to ask some questions here. It’s the same for romance fiction. I would assume every other genre as well, or there wouldn’t be a need for both high and low fantasy (to say nothing of urban) cozy vs hard-boiled mysteries, hard vs soft SFscience fiction (if I’m using a wrong term for  different types of a single a genre, please let me know) and so forth.

A composition size planner is not going to fit in a tiny evening bag, and a bound notebook is not going to allow me to move pages around with ease. Genre is kind of like that. A light, humorous romance is not going to make me weep from angst leading to the HEA, while an epic historical is not going to be the best choice for a quick read that will give a case of the giggles. To paraphrase the late, great Eugenia Price, not all writers are going to please all readers. That’s why there are so many of us. I am more than okay with that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to a chain office supply store to buy printer ink. I have a feeling I’m going to need it.


Ten Random Things About Me and My Writing

The original plan for this past weekend was to have the apartment to myself, focus on the work that got pushed to the side by various domestic tornadoes, and greet Monday morning refreshed and current. Pause for hysterical laughter. The good thing is that I am up bright and early (or still up; not splitting hairs here) and ready to tackle Monday’s blog entry on Monday. Since coming up with a thoughtful, original blog idea is not up to my brain function at this level of caffeine, we get the wholly unoriginal Ten Random Things About Me (And My Writing.)

Thing the first: I am a big ol’ morning person. Make that extroverted morning person. This does point toward the ideal time to blog and tackle social media. Unless I only fell asleep in the wee small hours, I am up and ready to socialize at indecently early hours. I live with two non-morning-people, so imagine breakfast scenes at my place as you will.

Thing the second: I am currently watching exactly nothing on TV. I am at least one season behind on The Walking Dead, and will be going on a gigantic This Is Us binge when we get Hulu, but, right now, I don’t even know how to turn on our TV. This is odd. I do watch a bunch of YouTube, and I do a lot of scrolling through Netflix, but actually watching something? Ehh, maybe later. I do plan on watching the last season of A Series of Unfortunate Events at some point. I’m not sure what the cure to this viewing ennui might be. I figure it will show up when and where I expect it least.

Thing the third: I am not so slightly planner/notebook obsessed. Longhand over composing on computer, all day, every day, so this does tie in with writing, and I don’t acquire notebooks, etc, I don’t plan on using, but mention of pens and/or paper is a sure way to get my attention. Sifting through my planner/notebook stuff is also a surefire way to unstick the thought/writing process.If I post a lot about planners or notebooks, that means I am working something out, and there will be much writing of fiction thereafter.

Thing the fourth: My most recent purchase (actually currently pending) is a blush pink A5 Carpe Diem binder, gently used. Yes, I do have plans for it, and yes, they do involve writing.

Thing the fifth: My favorite colors are black, blush pink, and blackened reds. Blush pink and blackened reds can be considered opposite ends of the red spectrum, so black and red, for purists. Extend black into grays/greys, if we’re talking different values of color.

Thing the sixth: Romance has always been my genre, long before I was old enough to understand what it was. I credit Andrew Lang’s “color” series of fairy tale books. Many, many journeys to happily ever after, always in a “way back when” setting. I think I was hardwired for this stuff, right out of the gate.

Thing the seventh: Pretty much the same for history, thus historical romance. Writing contemporary took a little longer, and please direct thankblame to Melva Michaelian.  I would not be doing this without her.

Thing the eighth: The current writing process, when it comes to solo work (aka historical romance) is something akin to racing down the dock, cannonballing into the water, swimming around the whole darned lake, swimming back to the dock, crafting a meticulous map of said lake, and then diving back in, but this time with a sense of direction. For co-written works (at present, contemporaries with Melva) it works pretty much the same, but I tag my co-writer between dips in the lake; then it’s her turn. Insert shoving of metaphorical beach balls (fun fact: “the beach ball” was our code name for what would ultimately become Chasing Prince Charming,before it had a name.)

Thing the ninth: There is a manuscript that I will refer to only as The Time Travel (partly because it had several different titles, and partly because there is a chance that, if it hears its name, it might think I’m calling it) that worked me over rather thoroughly, mumblecough years ago. I still love the hero and heroine, and she, in particular, is probably going to come after me and finish the job if I don’t return to their story, but probably as a straight historical romance, rather than a time travel. Probably. We’ll see. Current projects first.

Thing the tenth: There will always be a part of me who is still that girl who set up TV trays and an electronic typewriter in her father’s living room, soundtrack to Camelot on the record player (yes, that long ago) and danced (ahem, wrote) like nobody was watching. She has an open invitation to drop by my writing sessions, any time.