Typing With Wet Claws: Do The Work Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty is a little loopy this week, because it is summertime, there have been some domestic tornadoes, and she is on the second draft of two different books at the same time, and I have caught her eyeing that postapocalyptic medieval novella again, because she saw a premade cover that reminds her very much of her heroine, and the book is already finished, and sitting there in the hard drive, with the edits halfway done already. I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but Anty is happiest when writing/editing, so I guess we will see.

Anyway, before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about where to find Anty’s writing this week on the interwebs. This week, it is easy, because her weekly post at Buried Under Romance is basically it, unless you count Facebook. This week, her post is about tropes, and she would like to hear all about your favorites. I like stories with cats in them, as long as those cats are still okay at the end of the book. Those are the best.  Her post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

 

BURtrope

Image editing program is still giving Anty guff, so excuse lack of frame.

 

Now comes the part where I have to talk about Anty’s Goodreads challenge. If you would like to follow Anty’s reading progress this year, you can do that here.  This week, Anty is holding steady at two books behind schedule, but she has moved her count up to forty books, as you can see in this week’s image:

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Go, Anty, go. Her new addition is a historical romance, The Wild Oneby Danelle Harmon, and her current reads are all historical romances, so I will call that good progress and discipline. Anty does plan to write a review later, as soon as she is current with other things. Those other things being mostly domestic tornado management and writing/editing books.

Some weeks, Anty does not have a lot to say on the interwebs, but that does not mean she is not working. Most writers are usually doing story stuff inside their heads, even when they are not making the clickety-clack sound on the keys, or pen squiggles on some paper.  I am very proud of Anty for getting all those pages done on Monday, and ahead of schedule. That is a good thing, and she certainly plans to do it again.

Earlier today, Anty met on Skype (I was not called upon to provide Skye Pee, but I am always good for that. Did I ever tell you that my previous vet said that he had never seen so much pee come out of one cat at one time, as he did when I hiked my fuzzy butt over the edge of his exam table, and let loose? It was not my fault. He had been feeling around my tummy area, and a kitty’s got to do what a kitty’s got to do. I kind of had a reputation at that vet, but that is all behind me now. Hah. Behind. I see what I did there.) to talk about edits to Chasing Prince Charming. Regular readers will note that they changed the spelling, because they did not want to be thought of as bad spellers, or have to explain that the non-traditional spelling is because the heroine is an author who wants to get back into print. So that happened.

What also happened was that Anty and Anty Melva have to figure out how to edit a whole book that they wrote together, because they have never written together before. Thankfully, it has been a pretty easy process, and most of their notes for this first section have been basically the same. They  have not yet had any major disagreements, which they count as a very good thing. Anty Melva is not too keen on this part of the writing process, but Anty actually loves it.

For Anty, the editing/revision/rewriting process is fun, because the hard work of writing the first draft is already done. The book exists, hurrah. Now it is only a matter of making it better. Sometimes this involves checking things like verb tense, making sure somebody’s outfit does not change in the middle of a scene (this is apparently more likely when there are two writers telling one story) and that kind of thing. I should take a moment to mention that the clothes problem would not be a problem if they wrote about cats. We wear the same fur all the time. Well, apart from shedding, that is. Anty and Uncle and Mama have a theory that all of my fur migrates to my neck before it sheds. Anty thinks that the same thing holds true for fur from other cats. I cannot tell her if that is right or wrong, because it is a cat trade secret.

Hm. It would appear I have digressed. My apologies. The point is, there are a lot of steps involved in getting a book from the writer’s (or writers’) head(s) to the readers, but each one of them is important. Life happens to everybody, even writers (that is why they have things that they can write about, after all) and “write a book” or “resume a career” can seem a very tall order, but “write this scene,” or “edit these pages,” well, that’s doable. Do enough of those, in the right order, on the same story (or stories) and, before you know it, there is a whole book there, where the big fuzzy mess of ideas used to be.

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

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

 

Reverse Engineered Writing Goals

So, it’s summer. I’m sitting here at my desk, ice water at hand, and absolutely no idea of what to write for today’s entry. These are my least favorite entries. I like to be prepared.  I like to know, in advance, what I’m going to write, how I’m going to write it, and even about how long it’s going to take. That last one can be fuzzy, from “get it done in time for lunch” to “okay, it’s Monday, let’s cram a week’s worth of writing into one marathon session that ends at 3AM and involves me snapping at family members who get too near my lair,” but I like structure. I like goals. Okay, theme there. I can go with that.

This Monday, I was fully prepared for one of my marathon sessions (which I do not exactly like, as a rule, but, sometimes, a writer does what a writer does, and my thirst for an unbroken record of always having pages to bring to critique session knows no bounds) but that’s not exactly what happened. I have no idea how this whole thing worked, but, by the time 3AM rolled around, I was sound asleep, because A) I had finished at midnight, and B) not only had I gone over my targeted page count, but eh, I’d finished “early,” so why not poke at the next chapter? Which was when I told myself that was a good time to save, print, pack it in and get some sleep.

Critique session went great, and I headed back home, even more pumped to get this second draft done and introduce Ruby and her Hero to the world at large. I also had another goal in mind: how can I do that again, next week? Hence, the reverse engineering.  Instead of looking at the goal (in this case, chapter twelve revised/expanded, and me getting a good night’s sleep) and figuring out how to get there (which, from a certain point of view -which would be crabby, often, when one is still figuring out this whole getting back on the horse thing) maybe try a different tactic. Take a look at a goal already met, and figure out how that happened.

First thing I looked at was, what did I do differently this Monday, that I did not do on all those collapse like a zombie at 3AM Mondays? This wasn’t plopping myself in the chair the second I got up and consistently pounding keys until my brain refused to go any farther. I took a lunch break, as in away from the desk, read for pleasure (another goal that might benefit from reverse engineering) and even took an (extremely brief) nap.

Hm. Breaks, you say? Interesting. When it was time to Skype with an online friend, who does know Mondays are my marathon days, I didn’t try to work while she wanted to share about her current playthrough of her favorite computer game, but the enthusiasm (and seriously pretty screenshots) was a boost that allowed me to go back to the work afterward, with an extra spring in my metaphorical step.

Granted, this is a second draft, but there were still scenes to expand and revise, and I am not going to put a time stamp on how long it took me to research guild signs, or figure out how much Hero could see, hanging out of a carriage window, with a tricorne hat pulled low over his eyes (spoiler: it is hard for a tall ginger dude in a bespoke suit to remain inconspicuous in public, especially when he’s trying to be sneaky) and the scene is one I especially like, because it’s when Hero’s world shifts, which forces him to make a leap, even if he doesn’t realize he’s making that leap until he’s already airborne. Metaphorically airborne, that is.

The chapter that comes next, I’m even more looking forward to, maybe because it means that I am now officially into the middle of the second draft. This past chapter was where Hero hit his point of no return. He can’t squiggle around in midair like a cat and land on his feet, back in his comfortable world, like it’s no big deal, and pick up life where it was before he made the choice he can’t take back. Maybe he and I have something in common on that one. Time will tell.

In the best of all possible worlds, I won’t have to have Monday marathons at all, but domestic tornadoes come through, and the book still needs to get done. Today, my focus is on Chasing Prints Charming, and I know that Ruby and her Hero are going to be doing their thing on the back burner, so they’ll be ready for our next round.

So, what have I learned for that next round?

  1. stay hydrated
  2. sprints, not marathons
  3. take breaks that are actually breaks
  4. know what I’m going to write before I write it, or what the goal of that particular revision will be (i.e. always take a road map)

That’s the hypothesis, anyway. We’ll test that theory next week, and I’ll let you know how it goes. Writer friends, what have you learned about the way you work, by reverse engineering a successful session/chapter/insert own goal here?

 

From Back Burner to Front

Right now, it is eighty-nine degrees. I am at my desk, having lunch (chicken sandwich, for those keeping track of these things) and food is helping my mood somewhat. There is an overhead fan in my office but I haven’t turned it on yet, because it’s also connected to the light, and I haven’t figured out yet if I want the moving air more than I want the extra heat from the lightbulb. Probably negligible heat, but still a factor.

I don’t do well in heat.  I had heat stroke when I was twenty-two, and, ever since, I’ve had to take precautions when the temperatures soar. Normally, my Mondays are the days to tuck in and make sure everything is ready for critique meeting with N. I love those mornings, enough that, if I need to make Monday a marathon writing/revising day, I will do that. I can always nap on Tuesday afternoon, and there will be enough of a caffeine buzz from the endless cups of tea (hot in cold weather, iced in hot) to carry me through the meeting, and the feeling from a really good critique is enough to put an extra perk in my steps. That’s all normally.  This week isn’t normal.

Early last week, I made note of the weather forecast. Three days in a row, ninety degrees or above? Definitely worthy of notice. Since the weekend, tightly scheduled, overlapped with the first of those days, I knew, even last week, that Monday was not going to be a good day to get a lot of work done. I’d be tired (yep) and stressed (yep) and walking through the park in over-ninety degree temperatures would not be in my best interests. I asked N if we could meet on Thursday, and she agreed. Okay. That’s some breathing room. Not an excuse to slack off, but breathing room, to take into account that I’m going to have the brains of a bowl of butterscotch pudding during the heat of the day for Monday and Tuesday. Much better to use that time for taking in, rather than putting out.

Today, I have Season Two of Poldark. I have my travel mug full of ice water, a fully charged Kindle, and a hardcover book club edition of Shanna, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. There’s a box fan in the living room, next to my comfy chair (and the window seat) and another in the bedroom. Skye will hang with me, wherever I am, and, if I need some white space in my brain, I can play in an art journal, which might play nicely with Poldark or other viewing.  I have my first draft pages and notebook at hand as well, and it’s more likely than not that I will pick them up at some point in all of this, my brain moving things from back burner to front. Not that I’m turning the stove on in this weather. I’m not a masochist.

Yesterday, when I walked home from Panera (after four hours of quality time with a friend I need to see more often) the sun had begun to dip below the horizon, and the temperatures had fallen to a brisk eighty-five degrees. Condensation from my cold drink seeped through the napkin I had wrapped around it. My friend and I walked together as far as the park, where our paths diverged. Her apartment was in one direction, mine in the other, and we each headed home. My path took me along the lake. A female mallard paddled out from the shore, followed by six fuzzy baby ducks. There are few things more peaceful than a bunch of baby ducks paddling after their mama, on a summer night.

I did not get a picture. Mama duck headed back for her hideyhole, and the babies followed. I’m okay with that. Now I know where they like to hang out at that time of day, when the sun goes down and is no longer trying to kill me with its fiery blaze. It’s like that with taking a rest day. Even if I don’t get to Hero and Heroine today (though I suspect I will, even if not at a Marathon Monday level) they’ll be there. I know where they hang out, and they know where to find me. We can’t quit each other, and I am more than okay with that.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Controlled Chaos Edition

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

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

BURweddingseason

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

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

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

GRHelloILied

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

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

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

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

skyebanner01

skyebyefancy

Until next week…

Do What You Love

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

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

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

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

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

DoWhatYouLoveNotebooks

Do we see a theme here?

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

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

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

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

TheWriterIsOut

 

White Space and Cubbyholes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ulp.

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

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

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

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

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Processing

 Use the process.
-Lin-Manuel Miranda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sticky Scenes

Last night, I stayed up until 3AM, working on a scene for Her Last First Kiss. This is a second draft, not a first draft, but it’s still discovery, and I think I’m still discovering, especially with one particular scene. This is the same scene where the nameless clerk apparently didn’t come back from break, and sent an actual character in his stead. I am fine with that. What I’m not fine with is when I get into the middle of a scene, where I (think I) know what’s happening, who says what, to whom, who does what, when and where, coasting along, and then…nothing.

All the pertinent players suddenly stand on a blank stage and blink at me. Uh, guys, what’s going on here? They only blink more. They were hoping I knew. I’m the writer, after all. Well, yes, I am, but it’s their story. Especially those two. Hero and Heroine. You know who you are. I ordered sexual tension. Who has the sexual tension? Why are you just standing there? In case you haven’t guessed, I really, really, really hate when this happens. Like super hate. I know this story. I love this story. I have already written this story, which is why we call this a second draft, so why, for the love of pregnant hamsters on roller skates, are we doing the blinking on a blank stage thing?

Not that blank stages are inherently evil. I love A Chorus Line. The stage show, that is, not the movie. The movie breaks the conceit of the show, and, if they’re going to do that, why not tell a completely different story, because that’s basically what we’ve got. For A Chorus Line, that is, not Her Last First Kiss. Even the most lavishly designed set starts as a blank stage, and I do know what the jeweler’s shop looks like, who my people are, and what they need to be doing there.

This time, though, it felt…crowded. Heroine has a lot going on in her head. She’s still mad at Hero, but there he is, alongside Character X, whom she also does not really want to see right now, but she doesn’t get a choice on that. She’s also faced with the fact that, even though Hero is annoying the crap out of her, he does clean up rather well (she’ll want to put a sticky note on that for later) and she wants to get her errands done, go the heck home, and put her feet up with a book of Russian fairy tales and a cup of tea (I would not mind that, myself, actually) but nooooo. We are only a smidge past the 25% mark, so of course it is time to turn the thumbscrews.

Which is why flat and lukewarm is not what we’re going for here. I slapped it on the page anyway. I’ll show it to N tomorrow (Tuesday got pushed to Thursday this week, due to a sinus headache and accompanying drainage; mine, not N’s) and she will help me sift for nuggets. When I can’t write the actual scene, a thing I’ve been teaching myself to do is to write about it. That’s the pen and paper version of talking things out. I can do the talking things out version with N tomorrow, so I know the solution is on its way, and I can start looking at the next scene, which is when the tension that gets planted in this scene (or should be planted in this scene) bursts into full bloom, Hero and Heroine are alone together but for servants who don’t count in this context (and who are more into each other, anyway, so not much of a help at the moment. Thanks, guys. :slow clap:)

I employed my BFF, caffeine, kept butt in chair, and booted Character X out of the scene, in an incredibly unsubtle “I’m going to leave now, bye” exit, that is not quite “pursued by a bear,” but I’m starting to think the bear wouldn’t hurt. Also, Character X would scream like a little girl at the sight of a bear, but we’re in eighteenth century London, so bears are not exactly plentiful, especially not in a fancy rich person jewelry store. This will not go down on record as my smoothest transition ever, and I am counting on N to have suggestions on how to de-obvious Character X’s departure, but, once I got Character X out of the way, Hero and Heroine at least started talking to each other, and we did get incidental physical contact, so I am going to count that as  a mark in the positive column.

 

The (Quasi) Bujo and Me (Sort of)

First off, I don’t technically keep a bullet journal, as per the actual system, and second, the term, “bujo,” is one of those nails on a chalkboard words for me. Third, if we’re getting into a list format, because it’s Monday and why not, what actually inspired me to get the nifty item I’ll be blabbering about today is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, which is not what I have. My cover is by Molly and Rex, and it will probably go through some form of customization, once I can stop petting it, because this thing is soft.

I’ve joked for a long time about needing a notebook notebook, and this isn’t that, not exactly. What it is, is this:

BujoCover

 

I’ve wanted, for a long time, some way to get all my various notebooks that leave the house with me, in one place, so, when I saw this cover, with four elastics inside, that would allow me to do exactly that, I jumped on it. I didn’t know what I was going to fill it with, at first, and what I have at present will probably change, but here’s the tour of the current arrangement:

 

Plain pages come first, for idea mapping, whiteboard or Scapple-style. This notebook is handcrafted, no marks on it, a gift from a friend, and I do not know the kitty on the cover, but kitties make everything better, so I have no complaints. Okay, one. White paper is glare-y, but this was what I had on hand for unlined pages. When this book is filled, I plan to replace it with a Moleskine Volant, because A) ivory paper, and B) perforated pages.

 

Lined pages come next, in a Moleskine cahier. I have a lot of notebooks in this size nd format, (from this maker and others) so I am well prepared for this section. The lined pages are for freewriting/brain dumps, so perforated pages are not needed (though the last…I want to say sixteen…are. These books are for me, to get the rust out of the faucet. Similar to morning pages, but at any time of the day, and more mobile.

 

Third section is a gridded page Moleskine Cahier, for checklists, goals and tracking. I’m still not sure how I’m going to organize this, but having one place to keep lists of movies to watch, art techniques to try, future character names, etc, feels very stable, so we will see how this turns out. As with the lined Cahier, last few pages are perforated, so I can use them to experiment before I do anything irreversible to the permanent pages.

 

Last segment is the Moleskine Volant, with lined pages, that has become my latest all purpose notebook. I still don’t entirely appreciate the feel of the cover, as opposed to the cardboard cover on the Cahier, but where the Volant has it over everything else is that all the pages are detachable. All. Of. Them. What is this madness? Perfect for a notebook-loving writer person who has several things going at once, likes to make notes on the go, and then wants to file them with their appropriate notebooks/files/ephemera. Make the notes, rip them out, put them where they actually belong. Genius.

This setup feels right, and it’s much easier to pick up one book and transfer it into the tote of the day, as well reference from one book to another, than search for the right book or try to remember where I put what. This doesn’t take into account my morning pages, planner, or notebooks for individual projects, but, when I need to get something down when away from home, this seems the most efficient, not to mention sanest, way, to fill that need. Plus, it’s pretty, and if it’s pretty, I’m going to want to look at it.

Still not an actual bullet journal, as there’s no key, none of the system symbols or such, but I know what’s where, I can take it all with me, and I will figure the rest out along the way. I’ll know what I need, and find a way to make that happen. I don’t know if intuitive planning is a thing, but maybe I can make it be. Having all this stuff in one place should save time that would be spent looking for what I need, and I can use that time for playing with my imaginary friends instead.

Now if only there were the same sort of cover for my actual office space….

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Recalibration Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Even if this were not Friday, you would have been hearing from me anyway, because Anty is still recalibrating from the last couple of days. For those of you who are new here (first of all, hello) hot weather makes Anty sick, and we had two very hot days in a row. Those were yesterday and the day before. Those days were not fun. Then we had a big storm last night, and now the weather is better, but Anty still needs some time to get back into fighting trim. That is an old-timey nautical word that means ready for battle. Or, in Anty’s case, writing, because she kind of needs her brain for that.

In case you were wondering, I do not like hot weather either, since I have a built-in, full -length fur coat, but it is okay. I know where to go to be cool. The hallway floor outside Anty and Uncle’s bedroom is the best for this, because there is linoleum on the floor and there are no windows, so it is cooler and darker than anywhere else. This is what got me the nickname, Speedbump.  It is not my fault that the humans who built this house in 1890 put the hallway where the humans would have to go through it to get to the good bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. It is also where the china cabinet and linen cabinet are (actually, they are the same cabinet, china on top and linen on bottom; if you need dishes or towels/sheets, that is where they all are.) As you can imagine, the humans want to be there rather a lot, but I was there first.

Speaking of first, before I talk about anything else, I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, apart from here, which you already know, because you are reading this now. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, and this time, she talked about a conversation she had with my Mama (Anty gave Mama a lot of books for Mama’s birthday; Mama had a very happy birthday) about things that make readers not want to read about characters anymore. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURbreakingfictionalcharacters

Even though it is hard for Anty to get enough brain, on very hot days, to write, she can still read (especially when parked in front of a fan, with an ice pack) and, this week, she made some progress. Her Goodreads challenge is here, and, this week, it looks like this:

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This week, Anty read:

Road to Riverdale, by Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky, Adam Hughes, Marguerite Bennett, Fiona Staples (Illustrations) (graphic novel, YA)

and

Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills (historical romance)

This puts Anty only two books behind her schedule, and now it is the weekend, and temperate weather, so signs point to yes for Anty getting back on track. Anty likes books by Anita Mills very, very much, and there are several that Anty has not yet read, as well as many books by Miss Anita that Anty has already read and would like to read again. Not all of them came with us during the Big Move (by accident) so she still needs to fill in some blanks in her collection. Go for it, Anty. I believe in you. Anty is sad that Miss Anita does not appear to be writing at present, but there has been talk that Miss Anita is now involved in animal rescue, so we cannot be angry at her for that. Rescue is how my family and I found each other, so putting pets and families together is still happily ever after in my book. Pun intended.

Okay, I think that is it for Anty on the interweb this week. This week, she mostly wrote on Her Last First Kiss, and a funny thing happened. Not funny ha-ha, because this is not that kind of a book. Funny as in interesting. Anty’s friend, Critique Partner Vicki, asked Anty if Anty’s secondary characters ever changed on her and did something she did not intend for them to do, which made them a different person than she planned. Anty’s answer to that was yes, because that is what happened this week for her.

Without giving too much away (Anty has talked to me about that) Anty wrote a scene that took place in an old-timey jewelry store (Her Last First Kiss is an old-timey story, so everything in it is old-timey.) The clerk was meant to be only a clerk. All he had to do was take out the thing the humans had come to buy, get the human paying for it to sign for it (handing over actual money on the spot would be too lower-class; this is the old-timey equivalent of running the credit card) and then he could go away because the story did not need him anymore. That is not what happened.

Instead, Mr. Solomon showed up. Anty did not plan him; he came in all on his own. Anty says he is a closer, and a master of the upsell. Miss N says he is also a bit of a philosopher, really smart, and she kind of loves him.  Anty kind of does, too. I think he sounds like a cat person. Unless Anty specifically says he does not, I am going to imagine he has cats.

While the nameless clerk who only had to complete the transaction could fill the role, having Mr. Solomon be an actual person cranks up the stakes. Hero’s best friend has to buy something in this scene, that will get him in big trouble later in the story. Hero’s best friend is also rather easily influenced. Put him in with a really good salesman, from Hero’s POV, and we can see the future train wreck (metaphorical train wreck; this story takes place before trains were invented) play out in Hero’s imagination.

Anty says enough of that from me, so I guess that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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skyebyefancy

Until next week…