Ramblings of a Fictional Magpie

First off, in case you missed it, my Frank Randall Deserved a Happy Ending post went live on Heroes and Heartbreakers yesterday. Don’t tell Skye I blabbed it before she could share the link. When I first read Outlander, I actually didn’t. I read Cross Stitch, the British version (and original title) because A) it supposedly had more historical content, and B) Claire was “nicer” to Frank. I didn’t know anything about Frank when I went into this, apart from the fact that he was Claire’s original husband, and, really, had no good options when Claire came back from the past, in love with, married to, and pregnant by another man. I’m still not sure how the legalities of a pre-existing marriage would hold when a woman finds herself two centuries in the past, as Husband #1 wouldn’t have been born yet, thus could not have married her, because he didn’t exist, but he did exist, because Claire remembers him, and is wearing his ring at the time.

All of that is largely to get me over the hump of the blank page, because I’ve been staring at it for a while now, and this entry needs to be written, so going with the “throw something at the page and see where we go from there” stage. I think the first love triangle that I was aware of was King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot. Guinevere and Lancelot have some chemistry, and, if it weren’t for one of them being married, I could probably get behind them, but she was married, and to Arthur, and even at, hm, I want to say six, or so, I knew that something about this equation could not turn out well. Camelot came crashing down, both in folklore and the musical, which I watched on TV at the home of family friends. I didn’t entirely understand what was going on (again, six) but I was enthralled. This is probably more proof that I came out of the box, hardwired for historical romance.

I was the kid who, when given Jane and Johnny West figures for Christmas (maybe that same year? That feels about right.) did not fall in love with the mystique and adventure of the American West. Instead, I made them act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. My dad was big on the classics, if nobody guessed that by now. Still, I think that wasn’t entirely what he had in mind. To this day, I’m not sure if Jane and Johnny were meant to be siblings or lovers. No, scratch that. I checked. They’re married. They also apparently had four kids. My parents probably kept that information from me, to forestall requests for the kiddo figures. I also did not know about the homestead, dogs, or friend and enemy figures, to say nothing of articulated horses and a bison. A bison. Seeing as how we have a stuffed bison (cuddly toy variety, not taxidermy variety) on top of our dresser, six year old me cannot complain of a bison-less existence.

This is the part where I stare at the screen, notice I have about two hundred more words to go before I can sign off on this entry, and have no earthly idea how to tie this into anything that will make sense to anybody but me. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe every entry doesn’t have to mean something,  and I can put what’s in my head out there, for readers to take what they will. After this, I have a critique partner’s chapter to look over, and then get something together for my weekly meeting with N. What I would most like to do is snuggle into my comfy chair, with a blanket, some hot beverage (tea or cocoa, not sure which one I would want in this hypothetical circumstance) and finish reading Holding Up the Universeby Jennifer Niven, because I am still emotionally raw from blazing through her first YA novel, All The Bright Places.     What is left of my heart still wants to hang out there, hang onto that voice, and, as I did with my Best of the West figures, pick what I want from the source, and figure out how those elements would work in the world of historical romance.

I think I was hard-wired for that sort of thing, too. Meat Loaf (the singer, not the food) once said that people need to keep one thing in mind when listening to any song composed by his songwriter, Jim Steinman: that everything Steinman writes is from the same story world, and it all fits together. I think Meat called it Wonderland (not the Alice sort, IIRC) but I may be wrong on that one. Still, it stuck with me.

Maybe that’s why I go through periods when I know, without a doubt, I am in full magpie mode. I’m hungry for a certain kind of story, or setting, or character type. When magpie season hits, I have to inhale everything I can about the current fixation, process it, and trust that it’s going to come out again in my own work, in some fashion. At six, I probably did not register Romeo and Juliet’s ultimate fate, and, at more-than-six, I am not going to tell the Bard how to write, but, in a romance novel, the lovers would be alive, together, and happy about it. That’s hardwired, too, and I am fine with that.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

 

 

 

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Typing With Wet Claws: I Did Not Eat My Brother Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am sorry to say that I have to open this week’s post with some sad news. Last Friday afternoon, my fish brother, Tuna Roll, was all done being a fish.  I had nothing to do with it. Uncle came home before Anty, and did not see Tuna Roll at first. I followed Uncle into his office, because he is my favorite, and I love him the most. He looked at the bowl, and then looked at me. “Tell me you didn’t,” he said. I told him I did not. I do not jump or climb, because I am a floor girl. Then Uncle saw what really happened. Tuna roll was a good and pretty fish. He was very blue. He was a good swimmer, and he loved his plant. We will miss him. Anty and Uncle say that I may get another fish brother in a couple of weeks. I will not eat him, either.

Aside from that, this was a decent week for Anty’s writing. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, kicking off a month of spooky romance talk with a look at the books that arguably started it all, the classic gothic romances. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURgoinggothic

Because last week’s episode of Outlander was an odd-numbered episode, Anty got to recap it for Heroes and Heartbreakers. This was a very special episode for Anty, because it was all about Christmas, which is Anty’s favorite holiday, and it had two love stories in it. That post is here, and it looks like this:

Outlanders3e5recap.jpg

Now is the part of the post where I bring you up to date on Anty’s Goodreads reading challenge. Right now, she is one book behind, having read sixty-nine out of ninety books, but the weekend is here, so I fully expect her to get back on track by the next time she checks in on this front. If you would like to follow Anty’s challenge, it is here, and, right now, it looks like this:

GR131017

almost on track…

Anty finished reading one book this week, Southwark, by Jessica Cale. This book is relevant to Anty’s interests, because it is set in one of her favorite periods, the English Restoration, and it is very gritty. Anty loves when historical romance is very gritty. Her review is here, and it looks like this:

GRtyburncale

Anty looks forward to reading more books by Miss Jessica, and is always on the lookout for new books set in the Restoration. If you know of any good ones, please put them in the comments, and I will pass them along.

I can also pass along that, this week, Anty wrote her first scene for Drama King, and sent it in to Anty Melva. Now Anty waits to hear back from Anty Melva. Anty’s scene is really the second scene, since Anty Melva wrote the actual first scene that is in the book, but this is the first scene where the hero and heroine actually talk. I am pleased to note that the hero does consider his poor cat, waiting at home for dinner, when choosing his course of action. That alone means that this book is off to a very good start.

Drama King is not the only book Anty is writing, however, and, this week, at her critique meeting with Miss N, Anty heard those words that make her remember saying bad words in Panera is not polite. Those words are, “when do you think you’ll get back to writing (new chapters on Her Last First Kiss)?” and they come from Miss N. Anty did not actually say the bad words, but she knows that, when Miss N asks that question, it is because Anty has probably done about all the planning (or re-planning) she needs to do for this section of the book.

Overhauling half of an entire book is not something a writer goes into lightly, but, sometimes, it has to be done. This sometimes includes things like writing out calendars by hand for all the time in which the story could take place, and using those calendars to figure out how long things would take, from travel times, to how long it takes to make a new  human, and when the existing humans would be aware that the new human was underway. Because Her Last First Kiss is historical, that means Anty also has to figure out things like what foods are available when, how much moonlight there would be on a particular night, how long a party can last, and what things a human might accidentally leave behind when they have to leave a place in a big hurry.

Thankfully, Anty has most of that in place, so now it is a matter of making sure she really does have all of her metaphorical ducks in a row, and then getting back to business. Once she has everything straight, she can tell the story, without having to stop and check. That is one of the occupational hazards of being a puzzler, like Anty. Some writers are plotters, who decide how the whole story is going to go, and then follow that plan. Others are pantsers, who create as they go, with no plan. Anty is somewhere in the middle. She love to plan, but sometimes, her story people have other ideas, and she will see scenes that are not always in order. That is okay, because Anty loves to organize, so this means she gets to write everything down on index cards and make sure she has no holes in the storyline. Then she can go right through to the end. She likes that part of the process, too.

This is where Tuna Roll’s Thought of the Day would have gone, but, because Tuna Roll was all done being a fish, we will make it Tuna Roll’s Parting Thought:

0825TunaRoll

RIP, Tuna Roll; you will be missed

 

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

 

What Happens To Everybody

I’m not getting philosophical here. That’s literally what I wrote at the top of the page in my notebook this morning, while the laundry spun. We are on day elebenty billion of a heat wave, though it’s almost October, I am wearing a white sundress because we are on day elebenty billion of a heat wave near the end of October, it is laundry day, and, for someone who has used the hashtag #gothlaundry on more than one occasion, one wears what one has on hand. None of this has anything to do with writing, but it does have a lot to do with why I wrote those words on the top of the page.

Original intent was to read, but, if I can’t muster more than a “meh” for the newest book by on of my all time favorite authors, it is obviously time to do something else. I did not bring any lettering stencils with me, so that left writing. Yesterday, N and I spent our critique time talking about direction and the outlining and/or re-outlining we both need to do for our respective WIPs. Outlining for her, mostly re-outlining for me. Change one thing in one chapter, and then whoosh, it affects the rest of the book. Even when has already written that book, or thinks one has written that book. It’s humbling.

Author and historical consultant, M.P. Barker, also a friend and, for many years, invaluable critique partner, calls this the mushroom effect. Pull up one floorboard to fix what one thinks is a minor issue, and whoops, there’s a whole farm of mushrooms underneath. Or something like that; I should probably get her to explain this better, but that’s basically the gist of it. The goal is not to burn down the house (note: M.P. Barker’s husband is a firefighter, so this may verge on an unintended pun) but to fix the floor. So, deal with the mushroom infestation, then get back to fixing the floor.

In this case, a generic character becomes a specific character, and logistics of who can be where and do what, when, call into play not only calendars, but phases of the moon, what Hero might have on his person at a given moment, travel times, what servants do what jobs, and, on the large scale, what happens to everybody.

This means everybody. Everybody. If they got a name, they get a fate. Though Critique Partner Vicki wants me to kill off two characters, there’s no reason for either one of them to die in this story, and, really, letting them live with themselves is the worse fate, anyway. Question is, where do they do that living? What about the servants? Supporting cast? Various relations, whether our hero and heroine are close to them, or not? When hero and heroine go on a sea voyage, who goes with them? As writer buddy H terms them, these are fancy rich people, so when they go somewhere, they are going to bring people with them. Hero’s valet, heroine’s maid, other people to deal with the stuff that has to come along with them, and does the one family member who goes with them get their own servant, or do they share with their relative of the appropriate sex?

This is the part of second drafting where the keen eye of a critique partner catches dropped threads, when questions like “what happened to the teacup?” (Spoiler: nothing of note happens to any teacups in any of my books so far, other than that people drink tea out of them. Presumably, people also wash them, because that would be disgusting if they did not. This is only meant as an example.) This is also the part where the author looks at the page and says something like, “Huh,” because they kind of wandered off after their character set down the teacup. There was a duel or something happening next, (there are no duels in any of my books, either, at least not so far) and the fate of a teacup is not the most pressing issue at that moment, except that it is, or, more accurately, it can be.

Bertrice Small once said that, if you have one thousand readers, nine hundred, ninety-nine of them are not going to catch those dropped threads. She also said to write for the one reader who will, because they will let you know about it. Seeing as she had over sixty titles to her name, and a Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement award, I think she may be onto something. Hence the notebook page, which will get transcribed, printed on green paper (you bet I color code all this stuff) and put in the notebook that I now need to completely overhaul, because I always set these things up wrong the first time.

I don’t mind the tearing-down-to-the-studs part of a book. Actually, it’s one of my favorites. The grunt work is done, and now I get to fine tune things. Sometimes, a lot of things. Sometimes, that does require tearing down a load-bearing wall, to keep with the renovation theme, but I’m okay with that. By this point, I know the characters better, and, when asked which servants are going along with our hero and heroine, it’s not all that hard to think about who would want to go and who would want to stay, who would have run off, and who says forget the whole thing, I’m marrying this other servant and opening a shop of our own.

There are still moments, though, where it all feels like a LOT, and the idea of a blanket fort (in this weather, one with central air conditioning would be a must) holds great appeal. Greater, though, is the appeal of getting it all on paper -has to be paper for me- and getting it all out where I can see it, because that makes the excitement greater than the fear.

TheWriterIsOut

But I Don’t Feel Like Writing

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say most of us have been at this point at one time or another. If you’re a writer who has never been there, wait. It’s coming. Consider it an occupational hazard. My desktop is an autumn theme, because I need the reminder of what season we’re really in, even though the weather report says we’ll be hovering around ninety degrees for most of the week. This is not my favorite weather, or my family’s favorite weather. Possible exception for Tuna Roll, since he is a tropical fish, but that’s one for, three against. We are not, however, in charge of the weather.

There’s the matter of current events, there’s anxiety, there’s the matter of not wanting to blabber my way through one more topic-less blog post and shake the generic you-can-do=it pompoms, at myself or anyone else, so I’m going with where I am right now, which is wishing Monday came with a snooze button. There’s the doubt over the Outlander recap I sent off last night. Did I forget something important? Did I get someone’s name wrong? Did I miss some essential Easter egg those who have read this far in the books will be buzzing about today, because I am farther in the TV series than the books, and, if I am farther in the TV series than the books, what am I doing writing about it, anyway? Ironically, the next thing on my list is to write another piece about Outlander. Funny how these things work.

I like lists. They give structure. I like to know where I’m going, and lists can serve as a roadmap for the day, especially on days like this one. I will now date myself and reference the Vicki Lawrence sitcom, Mama’s Family.  In one episode, Thelma, the Mama of the title, applies for a part-time job. The interviewer asks her if she knows how to answer the phone. Thelma, in a deadpan voice, says no.  When it rings at home, she runs around in circles, screaming “What’ll I do? What’ll I do?” Of course she knows how to answer the phone, which translates, in this case, to of course I know how to write, because I do. See? I’m doing it right now.

As I am going for that two hour block of the most important tasks first, that’s what has to get done, even when I don’t feel like it. That’s true for any job. Work starts at a certain time, and the worker is there, or the worker does not have a job for much longer. Since my goal is production right now, this means butt in chair, do the thing at the top of the list, cross it off, do the nest thing, cross that off, drink water, take breaks, and remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. It only has to be written.

That’s the hard thing. I want it to be perfect. I want to somehow get everything in my brain onto the page, preferably by willing it there, and have it have happened double-digit years ago. Not the most realistic desires there, especially that last one, but those are where I am today. I’m also here, at the desk, with an idea, and moving forward. A million single steps add up to arriving at one’s destination. The worst thing for me, the very, very worst, is not knowing what I’m doing. Tried pantsing, doesn’t work for me. Nor does strict plotting, though I’ve tried that, too. That leaves puzzling, which can be downright irritating for someone who likes to have a clear roadmap, but my imaginary friends are prone to taking the scenic route when I didn’t tell them they could. Ingrates.

Eventually, we’ll work it out. We always do. We kick and we fuss, sometimes them, sometimes me, sometimes all of us, and then, usually when I get up to do something else, bam, there it is.  This often works with writing my nonfiction posts as well. Not all who wander are lost and all that good stuff. It’s too hot today to make tea, so I am doing this without caffeine. The coffee house down the block has, sadly, closed, so I am now in the market for a new other place to write. This makes me grumpy, because I liked that place, but we will dub it “plot twist” and move along. Check this blog entry off the list, and move on to aforementioned Outlander piece, then transcribing handwritten pages for Her Last First Kiss. 

After that, it may be time for more handwritten pages, time to step away from the screen and the temptation of Facebook, the distraction of current events and checking the weather and checking the word counts and checking this and checking that and checking the checking and slip into the story world for a while. Time to write the story as though I were the one reading it (does that sound weird? It sounds like it should sound weird.) and watch the ink swirl onto the paper as my imaginary friends and I head off on the next adventure.

 

Some Things, We Know

One of theses days, I should probably change my desktop wallpaper. Taking bi-weekly (as in two per week, not one every two weeks; they really are new pictures every time) deskscapes allows me to notice things like that. I like this wallpaper, but it’s been up for a while, and if the whole point of taking deskscapes in the first place is to get a shot of where I am working today, but today looks nearly identical to two days ago, that could arguably be defeating the purpose. I like this wallpaper. I like it a lot; wise words in that image, and it fits my aesthetic. I have my open planner on the desk, so the actual date is clear…if one zooms in…okay, and reads Dutch. Housemate did once ask me, in a worried voice, if the big “woe” at the top of my planner page was my mental state. It was not. I write the days of the week in Dutch. Months, too, but they’re pretty close. We’re almost at October, so maybe Abbie and Ichabod can come back for the season. I may need to start scheduling desktop changes. If it’s in the schedule, I’m more likely to do it.

Which is where my initial blabbering turns into actual blogging. Since I’ve been moving my target date for handing A Heart Most Errant over to beta readers, I’ve been looking at exactly what needs to get done, when it can be done, and how much time this is realistically going to take, along with continuing the restructure of the end-of-the-middle part of Her Last First Kiss‘s second draft and the ball for Drama King having landed firmly in my court. Which begs the question, what the heck am I doing?

Well, writing, duh. Obviously. That much is pretty clear. Working on three books at different stages means juggling a lot of balls, and the odd chainsaw thrown into the mix at any given time. So why was this the good decision? I have no answer for that. It happened. That moment when “hey, spiff that old novella and give it another chance at life” idea was not something I’d expected, and I will admit that part of the delay is that  the idea is kind of scary.

The last time I pitched this story was to one of the bigger name agents, who  read snippets of my own work back to me, and told me she would totally read this book for pleasure, but that she couldn’t sell a medieval in this (at the time) current market. My choices were, as she saw them:

  1. Trunk the book and forget it, period. (Not an option.)
  2. Publish independently. (She seemed keenest on this one.)
  3. Hold onto it until the market changes, and medieval are more marketable. (Not even going to try to predict when this would be, but medieval fans are loyal.)

I hadn’t thought too hard about writing medieval romance until the ideas of medieval and post-apocalpytic romance getting together and making book babies came around, even though I’d been reading medieval for years. The idea came when it came.  I did not go looking for it.

Same with my current historical home in the eighteenth century. If I had to pinpoint a moment when that turned into a thing, I would be hard-pressed. I lived the first ten years of my life in a town the British burned to the ground during the American Revolution, so the eighteenth century was literally all around me as a wee little princess, and the big one-oh for me was also the big two-oh=oh for the entire country. As for the British part, our closest neighbors for the first years of my life were Scots immigrants, and my mom’s best friend was a British ex-pat. I sometimes spell certain words with extra u’s, because I was used to that from an early age.

One moment, though? If I had to pick, as in if the life of a loved one were in danger, I would have to say that would be the walk from my dorm to the Marcus Garvey lounge on the Wesleyan campus, during my summer at Center For Creative Youth. Do not ask me what the subject of the day’s class was, because I have no idea, but that’s where those of us on the writing track reported after breakfast. I want to say we’d had something to do with eighteenth century literature, maybe poetry, the day before, and the rhythm of the language was in my head, and characters started talking that way.

First thought: that’s weird that they’re talking that way. Second thought: it’s weirder that this is totally comfortable. I did not immediately begin writing Georgian romance after that. We are not going to discuss the time I tried to write a Regency. Key word is tried. Something clicked, then, or maybe planted itself is a more accurate term, but I remember that feeling, and I recognized it again, this morning. Today was laundry day, which meant laundromat reading time. Which usually means Kindle, but mine was at home, charging, and I had the Kindle app on my phone.  I’d loaded Be Not Afraid, by Alyssa Cole, and, within seconds of reading the first page, bam. There it was.

Yes. This. That instant feeling of not reading a historical romance novel, but actively being in the story, firmly grounded in time and place, inside the skin of a character as real and alive as the people I can reach out and touch. Thankfully, none of the reach out and touch kinds of people were in the laundromat  at that time, but it reminded me why I’m doing this. Writing, that is, not laundry. I know why I do laundry.

It’s that feeling, that instant transportation to another time and another place. That feeling is, and always has been, my happy place, or one of them, and if I can bring that to somebody else, then I will consider it a job well done. I like a lot of historical eras, so I’m not ruling any of them out. I will probably wander like the temporal nomad I am, but setting down and making camp for a while, well, I like that fine. That, I can do.

 

 

I Can Do Anything For Fifteen Minutes

Yesterday, I got home from my weekly critique session with N, and noticed that I was ahead of schedule. We’d started early, because we had to finish early, because N needed to be home when the window guy came to see what he could do about one of the windows in casa N. The actual numbers on the clock didn’t register with me, because N and I focused on the pages in front of us, and, as usual, had a productive meeting. Then Mr. N showed to retrieve N, and drop me home. That’s when I noticed what had felt different all morning. I was ahead of schedule. For someone who loves planning, this is both cause for celebration and mild alarm.

What am I going to do with all this extra time? Granted, the extra time amounted to a whopping thirty minutes, and I would be lying if I said that my use of that time did not include Sims Free Play, and posting a picture of Skye to Instagram. No regrets. I am not going to pretend, either, that I remember exactly where it was that I read an article on the habits of productive people, but what stuck with me was the efficient use of time, so I’m going with that for today’s topic.

I’ve always liked to have things in order. Older family members can attest that I had a love of putting things in boxes from the day I discovered fine motor skills, as well as my leaving folded and scribbled-upon pieces of paper all over the house. When asked about said papers, I always identified them as “books,” and that I was the author. This may have been a sign of things to come.  A once-upon-a-time friend introduced me to Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, and her concept of one-inch picture frames. Pretty much the same thing as the old joke about eating an elephant one bite at a time. In other words, tree, not forest. Focus on one small thing at a time, and the rest can wait their turns.

When, sometime in the recent, unspecified past, I read that article on productive people, I noticed I’m already doing some of the things right, which is encouraging. Regular morning routine? Check. Keeping a paper notebook? Check plus plus plus plus plus, infinity (well, not quite, but I do love my notebooks, and use a lot of them.) Keeping a daily schedule? Check, but there’s more. This article talked not only about keeping an hourly schedule, but breaking those hours into fifteen minute chunks. Hmm.

This is the point where the writer who loves to plan squints at the pages of the dot grid planner spread in front of her. I already have my day broken down into one hour units, and there happen to be four rows of dots in each hour, which corresponds to four fifteen minute units. This is also the point where there is a whispered voiceover from K.A. Mitchell (okay, maybe not whisper in this case) and one of her previous workshops, on writer’s block.  “I can do anything for fifteen minutes,” that voiceover says, and it’s true.

Fifteen minutes fit very nicely into one-inch picture frames, from where I’m sitting, so what if I tried breaking those hours into quarter hours? Hmm. This may be worth a shot. Not that I’m going to micromanage my day into precise fifteen minute blocks, but, on days when getting into the groove needs a little help, or things haven’t quite gelled in the ol’ writerbrain, fifteen minutes is a manageable chunk. Pen on paper or fingers on keys for fifteen minutes, then we can do something else. Sure, I don’t always want to stop at the end of the fifteen minutes, and I don’t have to stop; there’s no law on that.

The other thing that stood out to me about this article was the practice of touching a task once. I stink at this task.  This one is going to take some work, but, again, fifteen minutes for email, and then I am done? That, I can do. This also encompasses the practice of assigning certain tasks to certain times and leaving them the heck alone when it isn’t their turn. This one may also take some practice, but that’s okay. I like structure.

There’s one more habit, as well, that stuck in my mind, which tells me I may remember more about this article than I think I did, and that’s assigning the most important task to an uninterrupted two hour chunk in the morning. For me, this would be the WIPs. Add pages to the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, and move A Heart Most Errant toward being ready for beta readers. I’m waiting on Melva’s pages for the start of Drama King, so my work on that book can go grab a cup of tea and wait until it hears its name called.

Put stuff on the pages. That’s all I need to focus on at a particular time. Not Must Get Career Back In Motion, not eve Write The Whole Book, but right here, right now, do this one thing. As my writer friend, H, says, it’s just riffing. For fifteen minutes? I can do that, easy.

A New Notebook, Some Love Scenes, and an Ex-Mouse

Welp, it’s Monday again. No big surprise. This weekend went by fast. Saturday started out with the discovery that I have had a bonus office buddy for an undetermined amount of time. Said bonus office buddy had shuffled off this mortal coil before I came across what he left behind (aka his earthly remains) while looking for Post It notes to put in my new notebook, for CR-RWA meetings only. My desk is a secretary style desk, with a fold-out writing surface, and cabinet space beneath. Since dear departed bonus office buddy was kind of carpet-colored, it took me a few seconds to process what lay before me. There was no necropsy performed, but from what I can tell, Bob (let’s call him Bob) was on his way out of the lower part of my desk, when his little mousey heart gave out. His exit, both from my desk,  and his corporeal existence, seems to be fairly recent.

He might have been on his way to look for foodstuffs, because I do not keep any in my desk, so going elsewhere really was his best bet, but he’d have been out of luck anyway, since all food is secured. Bob was not our first rodent roommate, that’s all I’m saying. I can at this time, confirm that Skye had nothing to do with Bob’s demise, as there was a carpet between them. Skye’s hatred of my office carpet is strong enough to keep her from de-rodenting my desk, but I do suspect some of her intent stares in my general direction during Bob’s tenure may have been at least partly for him. I prefer not to think about the duration of that tenure. I also prefer not to think about the amount of times I rested my bare feet inside that open cabinet over the last few months. I am going to assume that Bob and I have never touched.

That was how my weekend started. I did get the notebook put together, and I am rather proud of the results. Pictures to follow, because I didn’t have time to set up everything right off the bat, but turning to a fresh page of lined, cream colored paper, with the date stenciled at the top, and posting the cap to a fountain pen, adds a certain gravitas to the taking of notes. Ballpoint on notebook paper doesn’t have the same effect. This month, the topic was love scenes, by the wonderful K. A. Mitchell, which is excellent timing, because the love scenes in both of my current historical manuscripts, Her Last First Kiss, and A Heart Most Errant, are going to need some work, and my contemporary co-author, Melva, and I haven’t even talked about the love scenes for Drama King. 

Though we had a Skype session slated for Sunday afternoon, the connection (computer, not personal) was wonky, and we had to reschedule the meeting. Didn’t help that anxiety was rampaging through my brain like a herd of water buffalo, and there was still the Outlander recap to do at the end of the night. No spoliers if you haven’t yet watched, but suffice it to say season three is off to an excellent start.

Which brings us back to Monday, and the fact that I have blabbered my way through most of this entry without a firm topic, so I will keep on blabbering until at least that magic seven hundredth word. This weekend had a few surprises. I brought a new writer friend (who is both a new friend and a new writer; hi, Erin :waves:) with me to her very first RWA meeting, where I met another new friend (hi, Terry :waves again:) who also writes historical, and makes a mean Butterfingers cookie. My beloved pink laptop may require either a system restore or trip to the computer doctor, which was not a snag I had anticipated, but will be worth the effort if it gets her back in fighting trim. Now that I have been introduced to the wonders of Skype (and of video blogging; I have not forgotten that) I don’t want to go back, and not going back means, well, going forward.

Going forward sometimes means going into the unknown. I’d say ask Bob, but Bob’s not answering anything right now. Sometimes, reaching into the recesses of one’s desk for a Post-It means finding an ex-mouse first. Not expected, not pleasant, but better to know about those things as soon as possible rather than waiting for the what’s-that-smell stage of the game. One disposes of the ex-mouse, obtains the Post-Its, and proceeds to the meeting and keeps on going.

Today, I am tucking in with some of the changes I need for this next section of Her Last First Kiss, figuring out how the puzzle pieces fit together. Thanks to K.A. Mitchell’s expertise, I have the seeds of this book’s first love scene on the pages of that new notebook. There’s a while yet before I can get there; one house party that now needs to be a specific event, in a specific place, with specific people, rather than what it had been before, but I know where I’m going. I’ll take that.

September Song, aka Pressure

This post has nothing to do with music. Okay, I do have a playlist on Spotify, titled A Working Day, that I do sometimes play to get myself in the key pounding mood, but we’re not talking about that. Well, not totally about that. If the first of September is when my own personal autumn begins, and the return of superpowers is expected, then Labor Day is the real stake in the ground. The calendar date of the official change of seasons never registered with me much. When I was but a wee little princess, the distinction was easy. In summer, I was not in school. In fall, I was. Do not try telling me that most of September is actually summer, because I am not buying that, not even with a coupon.

Right now, I am sitting at my desk, planner open in front of me, my second dose of Lapsang Souchong about two thirds drained from my pink skull and crossbones mug. I have taken my deskscape for the day, edited it, morning pages are written, and now it’s time to assign the day’s tasks. That’s some pressure. It’s September. I’m drinking hot tea. I am wearing a sweater.  Tomorrow is critique meeting. I have only nine more days to get A Heart Most Errant ready for beta readers. That’s a lot of pressure. : screams, runs in circles, arms flailing:

Apart from the critique session, those deadlines are self-imposed. Even with the critique session, that’s a mutually agreed upon date, and either N or I have the ability to move it when life so requires, which it may. We will see. This is the part of Her Last First Kiss where writing the first draft showed me that some things need to work differently in the second draft, and that always brings up a lot of concerns. Can I do this part of the story justice? Am I up to this? Do I need to write through splayed fingers, horror-movie-watching style (extremely difficult with either pen and paper or keyboard, possibly do-able with speech to text) because this part of the book hurts, both for Ruby and her Hero.  I know things will turn out all right. I already wrote the story.  This should not affect me this way.

Aha. Should. My old enemy, we meet again. Should has dragged me into a lot of trouble before, and I am not giving up my Labor Day for that kind of folderol. I should have had these pages already written. I should breeze through this with nary a care, because that’s what real writers do. I should sit down at the keyboard and bang out x thousand words in a session. I should write this or that or the other thing. I should, I should, I should…STOP.  Yeah, we’re not should-ing over here. Not today. Not when leaves are starting to turn, and I have pretty notebooks and fountain pens that need ink, and a faithful mews curled in my doorway, engaged in some pretty serious fur maintenance.

Not in September, the month I’ve been waiting for all summer, the month I wait for every summer. One would think that, since I know I get me-er in September, there wouldn’t be this feeling of pressure, but here it is, and the question becomes, what am I going to do with it? One of the things I like about breaking my day down by hour (that’s what the numbers and lines in my planner are) is that it lets me see that I really do have plenty of time.

Normally, when I set up my daily pages, I color code the hours, from light gray to dark gray, the one shot of color at noon and six, meal times. I like the rhythm of that, knowing that the darkening or lightening of the gray means the day is progressing. This morning, I was distracted, and colored in all the numbers in the color of the day. This tells my brain that everything is of the same importance, which may be sending a “do it all right the heck now” signal, which also tells me I don’t want to do that again.

What I do want to do is get this blog entry written, posted and publicized, and then take a step back from this section of Her Last First Kiss and make a plan for exactly what form the changing scenes need to take. Right now, my heart aches for Ruby and her Hero, now that they both know how they feel, and how impossible being together is, because of things. Hero aches because he really does believe there has to be a way to make this happen, and Ruby aches, because, deep in her pragmatic heart, she’s convinced that’s not how life works for people like her. She’s wrong, of course, because this is a romance novel, but, for where she is in the story, her only choice is to put up that emotional armor and soldier on, the only way she knows how. I will say this for her: she has a unique work ethic.

This is going to require some research for me, since I have hit on one of the “eh, I’ll figure that out later” things, and, well, it’s later. It’s September. Labor Day. Crunch time. We are past the point of no return on this draft, and I want to do this right. For both of them. For the readers (to which I am tempted to also add “both of them,” but that’s another matter.) For me, because I want the happy ending, too. There’s no feeling for writers that comes even close to typing The End on a final draft. Getting towards The End for a second draft is an important step in that journey, and every step in that direction counts.

So, today, I have my planner open, my A Working Day playlist on Spotify, and a third cup of tea in my immediate future (not Lapsang, though, because I know my limits; good ol’ Typhoo to the rescue) and then it’s time to head back to the eighteenth century.

Typing With Wet Claws: Hello, September Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Today is September first, not yet autumn by the calendar, but it is autumn for Anty, so that is what counts. Anty is very happy today, because she gets to start not one but two notebooks, and she and Anty Melva had their first session on writing a brand new book, but more about that later.

As always, before I can talk about anything else, which is usually Anty’s writing anyway, I have to talk about where you can find her writing on the interwebs, besides here. She is at Buried Under Romance every Saturday, and would love to see you there. Last week, she talked about the power of romance novel heroines. One of the reasons Anty started reading romance in the first place is because romance is the genre where the woman always wins. That post is here, and it looks like this:

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Because the old month is now over, the people at Heroes and Heartbreakers get a chance to say what their favorite reads of August were. Anty had to think really hard about this one, because she read a lot of good books this month, and had to limit herself to books that are already published. I do not know how hard or easy it was for any of the other bloggers, but Anty does have a few more books to add to her own TBR list now. That post is here, and it looks like  this:

HandHbestofAug

Now, because it is the start of a brand new month, it is time to see how Anty is doing on two challenges. First, we will look at how she did at Goodreads. So far, Anty is on track for the fourth week in a row. She has read fifty-nine books out of her goal of ninety. Go, Anty. Read those books. Keep going. You got this. This week, she left a review for North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen. She liked that book very much, and has started trying to draw compass roses in her notebooks. There may be a learning curve to that. Her review is here, and it looks like this:

GRnorthofbeautifulChen

Now we look at how Anty is doing on her goal of reading mostly historical romances. The one book she finished this week (to be fair, she had a big week) was YA, and it had a romance in it, but it was not historical, but we need to look at the overall picture.

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So far, Anty has read 59 books, according to Goodreads, and 29 of those have been historical romance. Figuring in for the romantic historical fiction (Beatriz Williams, I am looking at you) that is about a 50/50 on that score, but then we have to also figure in the historical romance novel Anty beta read, that will not be out until next week, and that gives historical romance a slight edge. Go, Anty. You are meeting those goals.

Because Anty insists, here are pictures of the inside and outside of her new morning pages book. The pages in this book are mostly the same, but she is going to use different colors of ink to differentiate the pages, so she will not get un-comfy with pages being all the same. She has a thing about that.

 

Okay, I think those are all of that kind of update. Now it is time for book talk, and by that, I mean Anty’s books. This week, Anty Melva sent Chasing Prince Charming off to Carina Press, to see if maybe they would like to publish it. The answer to that one might take a few months, so it is a good thing that Anty and Anty Melva are now officially working on Drama King. They had their first Skype session this morning, and Anty has several notebook pages filled with scribbles about things she needs to get done in time for next week’s meeting, so that they can get started with the actual writing of this book. Anty is pretty sure that the writing will go faster this time, because now she and Anty Melva know how they write books together. She also knows that they need to do a better job of keeping track of the parts of the book while they are writing it, so nobody (especially not Anty) has to go digging around in the hard drive for that scene where that person did the thing and the other person found out about it.

Because Anty had to go to the people vet earlier this week (she is okay) she has moved her goal for finishing her once-over of A Heart Most Errant to two weeks from today, September fourteenth. That is a nice round number, a fortnight. That is an English word for two weeks. Anty likes English words. That is probably because she writes in English, but a lot of her stories also take place in England, so there is that, too. There is also laundry to do (Anty will do the laundry, not me; my tongue would get tired really fast) I had better wrap things up, so that means it is time for Tuna Roll’s Thought of the Day. Take it away, Tuna Roll.

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If you have to live with your natural predator, but they don’t climb, you’re still ahead of the game. –Tuna Roll

 

Thank you, Tuna Roll…I think. That is about it for this week, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: My Brother Has Fins Edition

Hi, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty has a lot on her mind this week, so we had better get down to business. She is going hardcore on the whole talk about her writing thing before I get to talk this week. It’s best to go with her on this one.

First off, Anty is at Buried Under Romance every Saturday, so stop by and see her there. This week, she will be talking about the power of romance heroines. Last week, she talked about the power of romance heroes. That post is here, and it looks like this:

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Anty has some exciting things in the works over at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Look for her post on how to tell whether that nineteenth century romance novel you are reading is Regency or Victorian, coming soon. I would put the link here, but it is not up yet. Anty will also be recapping half of the episodes of Outlander this season, alternating with Elizabeth Poteet. Anty considers herself in most excellent company.

On the reading front, Anty is doing pretty well. She has had to add a flap onto her reading tracker in her not-a-bullet-journal, because she already filled all the slots for her August reading tracker, but it is still August, and she still keeps reading books. That is one of Anty’s super powers that comes back in the fall. Stress allows her to read really, really fast.

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Goodreads says Anty is on track with her reading challenge, but she may actually be ahead. One of the books she read this week, Heir to the Sea, by Danelle Harmon, Anty cannot put that on her Goodreads challenge, even though she likes it very, very much (it is actually one of her favorites of Miss Danelle’s, and Anty really, really likes all of Miss Danelle’s books.) because it will not be published for another week or so. Anty read this book as a beta (not betta) reader. She will put up her review once the book is published. In short, she loved it.

Anty also loves me, which is why she lets me talk on her blog every week. Also because I am cute, and pictures of cute kitties always get attention. I am much cuter than my ne brother, Tuna Roll. For those who want to know how I am adapting to not being the only pet anymore, thank you for your interest. I am mostly unphased by this new addition. This may be because Tuna Roll lives in a bowl on Uncle’s desk, and I cannot see him from my vantage point on the floor. I basically have no opinion, as his presence does not affect me all that much. Let me rephrase that. Tuna Roll makes Uncle happy, and since Uncle is my favorite, and I love him the most most most, then I love Tuna Roll by association. We have a deal. I do not try to eat him, and he does not try to eat me. So far, so good.

Back to Anty’s writing for a minute. This week, Anty and Anty Melva are going to have a different topic when they have their Skype session. This time, they are not going to talk about Chasing Prince Charming (spoiler alert; they caught him, or their heroine did) but they will be talking about their second book together, Drama King. There is a cat in this book, and even he gets a happily ever after, so this may be my favorite book of either of theirs, by that alone. It is nice to see my kind represented in romance fiction.

Anty also worked on an important scent in the second draft of Her Last First Kiss. This part of the book is perhaps the biggest deviation from the first draft, but Anty thinks it is a good change, because things get messier. This is the part of the book where the two humans know that they are in love with each other, but they are also convinced that they can never, ever be together, no way, no how. That is what Anty calls angst. Anty loves angst. Characters can never be completely happy until the very end. Anty says not to worry; this is  a romance novel, so that happy ending is guaranteed.

If you hear a clock ticking around here, that is because Anty has not one, but two beta (not betta) readers lined up for A Heart Most Errant, once she is done giving it a once over. The avoid-y part of Anty mumbled something about “a couple of weeks,” but then it got steamrolled by the part of Anty that makes her own planner from scratch. That part said “great, two weeks it is.” The avoid-y part is now hiding under a blanket fort, clutching a stuffed animal and rocking back and forth while making whimpery sounds. The planner-from-scratch part is ignoring the avoid-y part and breaking down the manuscript into chunks, then going over each chunk once, and only once. The planner-from-scratch part would like to get this ball rolling. I like rolling balls. They are fun to watch. Sometimes, I bat them with my paws. Sometimes.

Since today’s schedule is all upside down, we are still on a break from video blogs. Instead, I will introduce a new feature. I call that new feature Tuna Roll’s Thought of the Day.  Take it away, Tuna Roll.

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Eat more chicken. Or beef. Or pork. Or anything that is not fish. Especially not me. Tuna Roll

 

 

 

Thank you, Tuna Roll. That is about it for this week, so, until next time, I remain very truly yours,

skyebyenew

see you next week