Detour

Right now, by body is ensconced in my pillow pile, Irish fisherman afghan, knitted by Housemate, in my lap, notebook and early birthday present (also from Housemate) in front of me. My mind, however, gave me a jaunty salute as soon as I started swatching the pens, and hopped into the wayback machine.

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Do I blame the pens, or thank them?

Since I swatch in color wheel order, the mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain runs through the back of my mind. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet; it’s a pattern that stays the same, no matter what form the colors take. I’m still not entirely sure where brown fits in. Sometimes, I treat it like a dark yellow, sometimes it does its own thing between purple and black, or hangs out with other neutrals. Putting pens in color order sets the story part of my brain on the back burner, where, like the brown pen, it does its own thing. Swatching leads to putting actual English words on the page. Enough of that, and the words start to take on some semblance of content.

Today, working my way through the warm colors, my brain gave me a jaunty salute and trotted off toward the wayback machine. This time, it wasn’t Georgian England it headed toward, but Upper Shad Road, in Pound Ridge, New York, coughty-cough decades ago. Our family only lived there for one year, but my mother and I, sometimes my Aunt Lola, and I, wit or without our two dogs, too many a walk along that road, with the autumn leaves all around us, the air crisp, and only the occasional car zipping its way by us.

Back then, I was too young to take the walk by myself, so there always had to be an adult with me, and, especially if the dogs (one purebred German Shepherd, Schatze, and one beagel-y sort of mix, Spike) were going, no way was I going to turn down the chance to take that walk. My mom trained both dogs to sit quietly behind her, on the side of the road, whenever she said the word, “car,” and they were 100% on that, only standing again when she told them, “okay.”

The route was always the same, from our house, to the end of the road, or, if we were feeling adventurous, around the corner, to see a house under construction, and then on to Scott’s Corners, which had the local grocery store, and a couple of other shops. If it was Aunt Lola with me, then it was a sure deal that I was going to come back with a special treat. The very best of those was when I’d make the return trip with a brand new comic book tucked inside my jacket.

That is, I think I had it tucked inside my jacket. I was too young for a purse, and though my aunt or mom would have had theirs, I remember carrying my own stuff, so if it wasn’t in my jacket, it was in a bag from the store. Either way, the way I carried it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the way that I felt, on those walks.

Spending time outside, in the crisp autumn air, in the glorious riot of reds, oranges and yellows, the browns of trees and grass and dirt, the smell of happy, healthy dogs, the feel of their excitement to exist, period, and spending one on one time with my mom or aunt, were wonderful, of course, and stick with me even now. What stands out even more, though, is the feeling of that new comic, next to my heart, figuratively, if not literally, my mind whirling with the possibilities that lay within those pages., between two glossy covers.

Back then, I was super into Wonder Woman, so most of them were probably that, though I also liked the whole Batman family, and the Christmas/holiday season could not truly begin, before Aunt Lola bought me whatever Christmas edition of one of the Archie comics we could find. This was never outright stated, by either of us, but there are things that an eleven-year-old knows in the marrow of their bones.

There are things, as well, that a grown up writer knows in the marrow of her bones. Things we may not say aloud, or ever discuss with anybody else, but are true as true as true as true. Maybe that’s why they don’t need to be discussed, or put into real English (or Spanish, or Italian; our family was multilingual) words. Still, they are real, and they are true, and they are a constant that the grown writer can touch on, decades later, when long autumn walks involves crossing city streets (and wondering if she would have to teach dogs the word, “bus,” as well as “car.”)

It’s natural, this time of year, to think of the veil between present and past thinning, so maybe that’s why it’s that easy, today, for adult me to touch that particular bit of kiddo me. I am, right now, about the same age Aunt Lola was when we took those walks. Stories still make me feel the same way, all tingly and alive with anticipation, wanting to get home, already, so I can dive into them and experience the story world as vividly as I did the walk to get them, in the first place.

Granted, now, I am the grownup. Now, I am the one writing the stories, as well as the one reading them. These days, it’s historical romance and contemporary YA that make my heart skip its way along the tree-lined road, possibilities whirling around in my head, like leaves kicked up in the wake of passing cars. When I get home, it’s not to parents and hamster, but husband and housemate, two miniature rosebushes, and a stuffed cat that is standing in for the real one we do not have right now (that bit about the stuffed cat is exactly the same, alas.) The feeling, though? Exactly the same.

It’s easy to get distracted by the minutiae of every day life, the mundane stuff like trash and dishes, and adulting, in general. Even so, I am fully convinced that one of the girls in my basement (thank you, Barbara Samuel) is an eleven-year-old girl, her pockets filled with black licorice, and a comic book between jacket and sweater.

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Anna-ticipation

Right now, I am sitting on my pillow pile, lap desk in my lap. Outside, it’s grey and intermittently rainy. There is a package of pens (not the ones pictured) on its way to me, possibly arriving today. My tea mug is empty (again,) and, as soon as I finish this entry, I can get up and make more tea. It may possibly be chai. In the later afternoon, there will be groceries. This may or may not expand my tea choices. It may also expand my pen inventory, but that is a risk I am willing to take.

This past weekend, I attended our monthly CR-RWA meeting, where Jean C. Gordon took us through her Gone in Sixty Minutes synopsis workshop. Now, I have one eye on my notebook, as I go through the Monday stuff, because I want to get back to what I was doing on Saturday afternoon.

I’m not usually excited about writing synopses. Writing a whole book is, somehow, easier than giving a brief summary of what the book is about, and what it means for the two lead characters. Do not ask me why. All I know is that, usually, when I hear the word, “synopsis,” I immediately forget the entire book, stare blankly, and mutter something that sounds vaguely like “ummm….”

This time, however, I’m much closer to “this is super cool, and I can’t wait to hunker down and get to it.”  I even like the idea of writing the synopsis before writing the book, and may have to give that a go at some point.’That may be close to what Melva and I are doing with Chasing Prince Charming right now. I used Her Last First Kiss for the hands-on part of the workshop, as well as reconnected with a once upon a time critique partner, about resuming that relationship, and, now, that it’s time to get back into the serious business of making book (literally) I feel more…grounded may be the best word. I was not expecting that, but I will take it.

That work isn’t for today, though, because Monday is for doing Monday things. Getting ready to Skype with Melva, making a grocery run, transcribing longhand pages. Keeping one eye on the clock, because I know when the mail carrier brings our building’s mail, and there is a very good chance that there may be pens in there. Not that I know exactly what sort of pens they are going to be, because this is from a pen exchange on a Facebook group for pen enthusiasts. I am also getting a bunch of pens ready to send off to my exchange partner, someone whom I know very little about, other than their address and taste in pens. Sometimes, that’s all one needs to know, only enough to take care of the task at hand. If that hand happens to be holding an awesome pen, well, that’s a plus.

As usual, the weekend included some craft store tourism with Housemate. This time, I cracked open the marker paper insert I’d been wanting for a long time, open as soon as I got it home, whipped out some markers and stamps and stencils, and started throwing stuff onto pages that were not the first page (excellent art trick to get over the reluctance to ruin the first page of a new sketchbook/insert.)

Again, this is kind of similar to something Melva and I are doing with our first draft of Drama King, and what a combination of talks with N, Saturday’s workshop, and a few other factors, have me wanting to do with  Her Last First Kiss. Maybe one of the pens in the pen-ding delivery will find its purpose in doing exactly that.

I already know what my reward, at the end of the day, will be. Right now, I have one re-read of a classic historical romance for my before-bed reading, and one brand new contemporary YA, by two authors who always hit the mark, on my phone, to nip into when I have spare moments. Both of those are the kind of read where I find myself thinking about the characters during the day, hoping they don’t do anything interesting without me. They usually don’t, Other people’s characters are usually better behaved than my own, and happy to wait for me before they get back into the action.

Not so with my own imaginary friends. Getting up to stuff is pretty much in their job descriptions. They’ll run off the planned route, on a whim, make decisions and take actions that I did not authorize first. Oftentimes, they come up with better stuff than I do, and maybe this is what they will do, tonight, when I am scanning the shelves for no sugar added applesauce, or cruising the pen aisle for fun things to toss into a package I will mail out later this week.

It’s important to stay in the moment, and do the thing in front of us, but, sometimes, casting a glance at the horizon can be an excellent reminder of where we’re going, and why we want to be there.

Typing With Stuffed Paws: Fine and Private Place Edition

Yo. Sebastian here. It’s Friday again. Domestic tornado-y week for Stately Bowling Manor this week, but those things happen. Writer Chick still got stuff done, though. I’ll get to that. For those who are wondering, my buddy in this week’s picture is a gargoyle. Technically a grotesque, because she doesn’t have some thingamajig that makes a gargoyle a gargoyle, but whatever. She’s guarding the roses, which seem to be growing fine. Only the one flower so far, but lots of branches and leaves. For those keeping track, Tudor is far and away outgrowing Lancaster.

Apparently, I am supposed to tie that kind of thing into whatever Writer Chick is doing this week, but even I know nobody wants to hear about how many times she took out the recycling (it was four, plus hauling two dead air mattresses outside, to the big dumpster) so I will try to keep things pertinent. The operative word here would be “try.”

Okay, so, there’s the Buried Under Romance thing. That’s here. If you’re looking for the featured image, it’s this:

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Writer Chick is progressing through her To Be Read list, and doing okay, all things considered. If you want to follow her reading challenge on Goodreads, that’s here. She still has some record-keeping to do, or maybe that was my job? Whatever, we’ll figure it out. After naptime.

Right now, Writer Chick is focusing on getting more historical romances into her reading rotation, especially standalone novels that fall on the epic scale. That means a lot of going through the archives, and finding older books, some that she missed the first time around, and others that she loved and would love to revisit. Then again, there are a lot of much-anticipated YA novels coming out in the next few months, so this may be a tricky balance. Should be interesting to see how it plays out. She keeps meaning to get audiobooks on Overdrive, so she can listen to books while doing other stuff, but does she remember? Nooooo. She might want to start putting this in that big stripey book she carries around everywhere. I don’t know what she has in it, but it has stripes, so it has to be good, right? Because stripes are the best. I am strongly pro-stripe.

Tomorrow, Writer Chick goes to her local RWA chapter meeting. That’s Romance Writers of America, which means a big room full of Other Writer Chicks and Some Writer Dudes, where they talk about -you guessed it- writing. I’m probably staying home, but there is no rule against bringing felines of the stuffed persuasion into such gatherings, so one never knows. Could be a good photo op. We’ll see what happens.

With domestic tornado-y weeks, the writing time can be a precious commodity. Fortunately, Writer Chick is into that whole pen and paper thing, so she has a secret writing place where nobody can burst in on her. Can you guess what it is? Here is a clue:

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Writer Chick is considering using this as a new author photo, even though the background is the hint as to what room it was where she took this picture. If you need a second hint, all of the furniture in this room is made out of porcelain. It has a door that shuts, there are no windows for distracting views (the foliage is rather splendid this time of year) and, at the moment, it has what is probably Writer Chick’s favorite pine-scented candle of all time.

The downside of this is that the room in question is also the human litterbox, but, as Anty reminds the other humans, there are public litterboxes in the lobby, and they know where the litterbox paper is kept, so there really isn’t a problem here (though there will be, if they press their luck any farther.)

Objectively, this is a pretty good solution to needing some private time/space for writing (or reading; the bathtub is great for that.) One, everybody has to use that room, so getting into it is very rarely questioned. Secondly, privacy. Nobody wants to bust in on people in the litterbox (except for paramedics; they’re allowed) and, in case they do, there is a curtain right there, that can be used to subdivide the room. My best guess is that Writer Chick would not want to be in that room if somebody else needed it for litterboxing, but deadlines are deadlines, if you know what I mean.

For creature comforts, this room is loaded. It’s climate controlled, with a heater and a fan. There is an endless supply of water, both hot and cold. Thirst is no longer a problem. This particular human litterbox is the default location for all of the Skype chats Writer Chick has with her contemporary writing partner (I haven’t decided what I’m going to call her yet. Writer Chick calls her “Melva.”) on Monday nights. Writer Chick is still figuring out the best way to position her phone for the video chats, but trial and error usually sorts that kind of thing out in short order. Or long, if it’s more error than trial.

Clock is ticking for Writer Chick to be out the door (she’ll want to put on things like makeup and go-outside clothes first) and for my sunbeam time, so that’s it for this week. Catch you next time.

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Falling Into Place

The fact that I am writing Monday’s blog on Wednesday should give some indication of how the week has gone, so far. The fact that today’s picture was taken last week, with vague plans to say something about writing by candlelight, and/of my practice of evening pages (same as morning pages, but at night, a brain dump before bed) only confirms that indication.

The fact that I am seated on my pillow pile, in my corner, with the box fan aimed at me, one third of the way into the month of October (and precisely two weeks before my birthday, for that matter) proves that it is now October in New York, and this sort of thing is to be expected. I am, in fact, not surprised, and dressed appropriately to haul a hamper full of stinky textiles down to our building’s laundry room, in leggings, flip flops, and an oversized t-shirt that was not oversized when I bought it, so yay me. Real Life Romance Hero passed by aforementioned laundry room, in a winter coat. He may have second thoughts about that by the time he gets to his destination. I am sure he will have a tale to tell, when day is done.

The fact that I am babbling here speaks to another alteration to my schedule this week, and I will be having my weekly Skype confab with contemporary co-writer, Melva, at two-thirty this afternoon, instead of seven on Monday night. It’s anybody’s guess when the laundry actually gets put away, because there also has to be a recycling run, and quick dash into the grocery store. The rest of the day will probably be scheduled by negotiation, which is par for the course around here, these days.

Um, Anna, some of you may be asking, what does any of that stuff up there have to do with writing? You know, the making up stories thing? You still do that? To that, I say a hearty “oh heck yes.” There is no turning that kind of thing off. Trust me, I’ve tried. It did not go well. To those who are indeed asking that question, hang on, I’m getting there.

I have found, from necessity, that I can, indeed, write by candlelight, sometimes with a fountain pen (extra points when it is a vintage fountain pen) and my quest to reconnect with some of the books and/or authors who inspired me to write historical romance, especially the sort of historical romance that I love best, continues. This morning, I finished reading Enchantress Mine, by Bertrice Small, a standalone historical romance set around the Norman Conquest.

I have a bunch of thoughts and some feelings about this re-read. I’d totally forgotten, for example, the Easter egg of a minor character, that serves as a loose connection to the author’s Glenkirk books. The connection is minor enough that I do still consider this a standalone, which I noted in the notebook I grabbed on my way to the laundry room, because I had found myself in the position of needing a laundry bag notebook.

The last time I did laundry, I filled my previous laundry bag notebook, and, at the same time, emptied the pen I was using in that book, a Pilot Frixion clicky pen, which I mourn, and will replace. Since reading and writing are the only two things I do during laundry time (besides doing laundry, of course) the fact that I finished a book, a notebook, and a pen, on my last two laundry trips has to mean something. Markers of progress, and all that. (Mmmm, marrrrrrkerrrrssss…..)

Speaking of which, the filling of notebooks and emptying of pens leaves me with some pressing pen related issues. Namely, the ten slots in the pen case that I’ve meant to keep as my everyday carry in my computer tote, and the elastic pen case that goes with whatever notebook is going in the laundry bag next. I have dedicated notebooks for both Her Last First Kiss (props to those who have accepted the task of kicking my butt back into gear with this oen; keep doing what you do) and for Drama King and related books. If I have time before the Skype session, I will scribble down the snippet of dialogue for an upcoming Drama King scene, and see what Melva thinks before that bit goes any further.

Co-parenting a novel, as it were, is a different enterprise from going it alone, and both approaches have their plusses and minuses. I’m glad I’m doing both, and I’m glad, even, that both are in a phase of readjusting and reconnecting. Maybe part of that is due to, finally, being in my favorite season (need for box fan aside; you should see the foliage around here) and some encouraging words (you know who you are) or maybe it’s only that I have hit that part of the journey, where things grow and change, and the stories, as it were, are big enough to get themselves dressed in the morning, as it were.

As much as I love planning, some things plan themselves. Finding out, for example, that I can write by candlelight, and that I find it both calming, and has a bit of historical atmosphere, those are pretty darned good things. Knowing that I can smush my schedule around, and fit in the important things -the writing, the reading, the pinpointing why I love what I love- in with the everyday necessities, like laundry and recycling runs, well I’m not going to complain about that, not at all.

That’s all the time I’ve got for blogging today, so time to sign off, slap on some concealer and lip balm, and get my Drama King notebook open to a fresh page.

Intravenous

A few years back, I had several big life changes happening at the same time. A long-time friendship ended, there was a serious illness in the family, and  I’d had to helm an interstate move of three adults and one cat who did not sign off on any of this. Needless to say, all of the above did a serious number on the ability to create. I have multiple Moleskines filled with random ramblings, trying to make sense of everything, but fiction? Not so much.

Those changes also did a number on my ability to sleep, so there were more than a few times that I said to heck with it, slip out of bed, and plop myself in my recliner, in the dark of pre-dawn, underneath a hand-knit blanket, and plug in my earbuds. I’d kick back in the recliner, eyes closed, and let the music play, Skye kitty nearby, to send love beams my way.

The songs on that playlist didn’t pertain to any one particular novel project. It wasn’t the time for that. What it was time for, was to feel. There were a lot of sad songs on that list, loss songs, and songs that were just…big. Meat Loaf.  Mary Chapin Carpenter. Elton John.  Snow Patrol. HIM. Others.

Lying in that chair, under the blanket, one thin wire connecting me to the thing that I needed to have pumped into me, reminded me of sitting with my father during his dialysis sessions. By the time the sun came up, I’d have enough to get up and start doing things. In time, I started writing fiction again.

I remember those mornings, sometimes, when I find myself facing a blank page, or looking askance at my to-do list. On those times, I’ve found that it’s usually time for a creative transfusion. This morning, that included watching Bob’s Burgers, in my pajamas, while eating oatmeal, and then meandering a few feet to the left, to the kitchen/dining room table, and mess around with some of the art supplies that had been sitting in their moving boxes for far too long. watercolor, ink and stencils layered onto the paper, guided by instinct. The language part of my brain went on the back burner, my conscious attention divided between the backlog of TV shows I’d been putting off watching, and the images that composed themselves, as overthinking was the farthest thing from my mind.

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And then…because there always is an “and then,” because that is how stories work, the tips of my ink-stained fingers tingled and itched to get at the keys. This entry wanted out of my head and onto the page, because after that (see previous comment about the inevitable “and thens”of every story) it would be time to rad Melva’s next scene for Drama King, and, after that, I can work on my own, and tomorrow, N and I get back on board with our mutual butt-kicking, for my historical and her contemporary. I am keeping one eye on library notifications, because I have some classic standalone historical romances on their way to me, to help stoke this historical fire. By which I mean get me back into historical mindset, because A) as much fun as co-writing the contemporaries is, I need some historical transfusion, and B) we are now in October, which means full superpowers should be going into effect, and I want to go at this as strongly as I can. There is also C) the fact that love beams do indeed come across the Rainbow Bridge, and writing between cats is, in fact, different than writing with a physical furry shadow.

There’s also the transfusion of last month’s Connecticut Fiction Fest, this past weekend’s Albany Book Festival (as an attendee, not a participant) and enough pages logged already in my reading tracker to put me two weeks ahead of my goal for October, on the first day of the month. Today, I got a transfusion of cartoons at breakfast, and cop shows at lunch, all the cups of tea I couldn’t have while the cold sore was in town, (totally making up for that now) and the agreement of all family members that now would be a good time to decorate our for-now apartment.

We still plan to find a pet friendly place some months from now. We can spend those months living out of boxes and staring at plain beige walls, or we can have some fun and put our stamp on the place. Expect progress pictures, as we go.

Such is the way a new normal begins. Do what you can, when you can. When it’s a struggle to put out, it’s time to take in, as much as it takes, for as long as it takes. Creative transfusions can come from old favorites, or the  most unusual sources. For me, I like to throw it all in there, and see what sticks. Sometimes, the enthusiasm for writing will wane, especially when there are big life changes, even when the desire, or even the need, to write,  hasn’t gone anywhere.

Even as the enthusiasm can ebb, it can also flow. Sometimes, that’s at a trickle, and sometimes, after a big enough or effective enough transfusion, crash in like a tidal wave. Usually, it’s somewhere in between.  I have a list, in my bullet journal, of things that I know make for good transfusions: Spotify playlists, secret Pinterest boards, favorite movies, books, and TV. Taking the time to set up a Sims world exactly the way I want it, then spend long weekend afternoons, playing through generations. Hauling my beloved antique rocker (I don’t know how old it is, but it’s older than me) out of storage, and setting it up in my corner of the living room. It doesn’t recline, but it rocks, and that’ll do.

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Friday Favorites (in Flux)

One week in, and I’m still not sure what I want to do with the new format for Friday posts, while we are between resident felines. Sebastian has taken a more active role in the household, Real Life Romance Hero and I plopping him on the other’s lap, shoulder, book, etc, at random intervals, so Sebastian might find his way into a guest hosting spot of Feline Fridays.

The search for pet-friendly housing will continue, but we will also be taking a breather. New feline units are expected, probably, in spring. Until then, I still have blogs to fill, so I’m going to have to blabber about something. As of right now, Friday Favorites feels about-right-est. We will see.

One of the things I have always liked to do when I am at an in-between place, is to find a romance-friendly used bookstore (the romance friendly part is important) and tuck in for a couple of hours. It’s not a real visit, if I don’t spend at least some time sitting cross-legged on the floor, combing through the bottom shelves, my eyes peeled for classic historical romance and hoping for a rare gothic sighting. There were, until fairly recently, a couple of such stores around here, but both closed last year, and I think that may have been it for UBS locations in NY’s capitol region. Nothing against brick and mortar stores that sell romance novels, and e-books and Amazon are lifesavers for sure, but there is something about the experience of a UBS.

Lately, my reading has polarized into two distinct camps: contemporary YA, and classic historical romance. Big, bug-squasher paperbacks that span years, sometimes decades, and continents, acceptable time periods ranging from the ancient world, to about five minutes before living memory. Those two genres, on the surface, couldn’t seem farther apart, but are they really? I’m thinking not. That thought has settled into place, and will probably be affecting the way I track my reading this coming year (and will probably practice before the new year begins.) What elements about each book drew me to them in the first place? What surprised and/or satisfied me during the reading process? What sticks with me after the book is done? What would I have done differently if I were the one writing the story? Consider it another chance for me to blabber at myself on paper, but the more I blabber to myself on paper, the more I want to write actual fiction, so I think I am heading in the right direction with this idea.

Stats and Buried Under Romance links will come back in October, possibly in a slightly different form. This past week has been largely spent wrangling domestic tornadoes, which do seem to be settling, and Monday marks Serious Return to Work.

This will, of course, require new pens (what doesn’t, am I right?) and possibly the creation of a new tracker or two. I am eminently self-bribe-able when it comes to pen and paper, and my mom was right – the more I do, the more I will want to do. First, though, there must be the kicking and screaming, the watching of streaming TV/movies while playing with art supplies, and watching the email to find out when the sam hill the library is going to let me know the books requested on inter-library loan are available for pickup.

Having the right kind of book, at the right time, is an important thing in general. For a writer? Essential. When I teach my Play in Your Own Sandbox, and Keep All The Toys workshop, we have an exercise I’ve always found to be tremendous fun. Not only asking ourselves what we like, but why we like it. What elements show up again and again. Right now, I find that especially exciting, so that my find its way over to Friday blogs.

There may, as well, be more posts going into more detail on the tools of the trade, aka pens and paper, possibly adventures in computer repair. Since we will soon be getting some furniture out of the local storage unit, there may even be a chance for a few shelfies, with explanations of what it was that earned specific books a spot on the shelf. Sebastian may or may not claim part of the shelf space for his own (such is normal when three cat people are between felines for a few months) but we will see what happens when things are actually in place.

For right now, we have a lot of flux, and I am going to have to call that a good thing. Flux is a time of change, a time to learn new tools, rediscover old passions, and build strengths, both old and new.

TLDR: Friday blogging is going to be a little different, but still fun. Catch you next time.

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Until next time…

 

Number One With a Bullet (Journal)

For a long time, I resisted the term, “bullet journal.” I know one reason is that the word, “journal,” has always squicked me out, and I have no idea why. Ito does, though, but that’s what the thing I had already been doing for years before I found out that it was a thing, is called, so using the commonly accepted term means that I get to find more resources, and other people who share my interest. That’s not the point of this post, though. That’s me, babbling my way through a first paragraph, because a first paragraph means there is something on the page, and it is no longer blank. Boom. Writered.

The above paragraph is also me, not wanting to get up and retrieve the longhand notes I wrote for this entry while doing laundry yesterday, so I am relying on my undercaffeinated memory to get me through. After I’d stuffed a load of wet washing into the dryer, I asked myself what I could talk about, right now, that made me happy. The first thing that came to mind was this stuff:

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My forever loves

In the past, I’ve always set up binders the way I thought they should be formatted. I’d put together pretty papers, scrapbook paper to cover the section dividers, and have sections for story, hero, heroine, villain when needed, and miscellany, and then, the one thing that was uniform across the board. Never. Use. Them. For. Embarrasingly. Long. Periods. Of. Time. Sometimes, forever. Obviously, this approach Does Not Work. For me. It probably works perfectly for somebody else.

For me, instead of a useful tool, I get aesthetically pleasing monuments to failure. I love setting up the notebooks, and looking through them, and thinking of what I could put in there, which actually does a lot for y creative process, but using the books themselves? Not so much.

When I first stumbled upon the traveler’s notebook system, aka a bunch of smaller notebooks inside one unifying cover,, bells rang, angels sang, and the same thing clicked as the thing that clicked when I hid under the brass bed in the guest bedroom, with the copy of The Kadin, that I’d filched from my mother’s nightstand. Yes. This. So what’s the difference?

I’m still trying to figure that out. The main physical difference is that the traveler’s notebook inserts aren’t held in my brings, but by elastic bands, and all I have to do is slip in notebooks that are already made, in whatever format and configuration I want. Now that we are at almost-October, I am looking at setting up next year’s notebooks, which has me thinking about how I can use this with my writing, as well.

For 2018, my writing tracker consisted entirely of one question: did you write? I would tick this box immediately after writing my morning pages. Achievable goals for the win, pun intended. For 2019, I want to go farther, do more. The question is, how? What do I want to track? Okay, that’s two questions, but still, that’s been on my mind. Do I want to track word count, which is the usual thing, or so it seems, or do I want to find some other method that might work better for me? Number of pages per day? Time spent composing and/or editing? Percentage of the way toward my goal, be it word count, page count, chapter count, calendar date? I may start with all of them, and see what sticks.

One of the beauties of the traveler’s notebook system, is that it’s perfect for frustrated perfectionists.  For added flexibility, I prefer using erasable pens and highlighters. I have heard that Frixion also makes erasable markers, but if I fall down that rabbit hole, I may not be heard from again in the foreseeable future.

I’m looking at how I want to track my inspirations, as well, For this past year, I’ve logged pages read, and titles/authors, but, for the year ahead, I think I want to do more. I’m not sure in what sense, but I like the idea of following the bunny trails of things I like, and to see what elements of the books I keep coming back to, time and again. I have some time to figure thig out, try a few different layouts, for both content and aesthetics.

More information is always good, and keeping track of what’s going on, and how it’s going, allows me to notice patterns that I might not have noticed before. When do I do my best writing? When do I need to refill? What refills me the best? The idea of starting some sort of notebook setup for ongoing projects, so that I have everything in one place, gets me excited. As in can’t wait to get to it, excited.

Which is where I like to be, especially when I need a creative kick in the patoot. Does it mean this is a magic shortcut? Not by ay means, but it feels like me, and I will take that, any day of the week.

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Butt in Chair, Pen to Paper

There aren’t a lot of articles out there on how to get back into the swing of writing after the loss of a pet. Personally, I haven’t found any. Hence the left foot right foot approach of putting butt in chair, and pen on paper. I work best in longhand. I always have. Still, there are times when it’s going through the motions. Writers and cats have a special connection, and Skye was, and is, my mews forever. At some point in the next couple of weeks, we will brig her ashes home. When we move, in time, to a pet-friendly apartment, we will add a new cat, or cats, to our family. They will be their own creatures, and I can’t say, before getting to know them, whoever they are, whether or not they will agree to blog for me. I have no earthly idea what Friday’s blog is going to look like, and I am okay with that. Maybe it will take a break for the week. I don’t know yet.

Last night, I had my weekly Skype session with Melva, to talk about Chasing Prince Charming‘s adventures in submission (we racked up a really good “no,” this week, so I count that as good) and where we are going next with its companion book, Drama King.  I have a rough scene to smooth out, as soon as the immediate fam sorts out a domestic tornado, and, after I get Melva’s next scene, I get to rough out the scene that comes after that. Those whom I have tasked with needling me about Her Last First Kiss, you are doing a splendid job. That kind of thing works well with me.

For the first couple of days after Skye passed, I didn’t have any energy to do anything but cry, or stare at the bleak, cat-less future. Losing a pet sucks, no question about it. I found myself scrolling mindlessly through the internet. Cat videos have been extremely calming, and looking through all of Skye’s photos also helps. I have spent more time than I would care to admit, scrolling through ranked lists that pertain to a daytime drama I followed avidly in high school and college, but haven’t watched even one episode, since. The teenagers I remember are the parents now, and there may even be a grandparent or two; I haven’t looked. There are some things I do not need to know, especially when I am emotionally vulnerable.

Other things, though, have risen to the surface. Over the past weekend, I had a lot of time to myself. Housemate made a trip to Camp Grandma, Real Life Romance Hero was at work, and I gave myself assignments with a stack of new art supplies. I put pens in a new pen case. Playing with pens is always a sure soothing method, which, for a writer, is also one that is readily at hand.

I read some. Not a lot. Some, though, and there were, in fact, more reading-related activities. I’d been following the worksheets N and I are using to connect ourselves to the projects it’s high time we get out there, when I heard about Skye. Things had been going pretty darned well, actually, and then, in an instant, BOOM. Life will do that to a person.

Melva, also, recently lost a pet, and, in our weekly chat, we tossed around the idea of our two cats on the other side of Rainbow Bridge, plotting something together. Could happen. Who’s to say? We commiserated, gave each other a little more time, and made plans to move ahead.

Which is why this disjointed entry is up here. Melva and I talked about how we need to take our own advice, on writing when dealing with real life plot twists. Adjust expectations. Do what you can, when you can, and, maybe most importantly, remember why you’re doing it.

Those of us writing for publication would like to see a royalty check, sure, but I’m talking now more about capturing that initial spark, the one that turned “I wish I could do this” into “of course I can do this.”  As is often the case, thoughts became more clear when I sat myself down with pen and paper, and let the whole matter leak out onto the page.

Back when I was but a wee princess of eleven, I stole my mother’s copy of a seminal historical romance novel from her nightstand, and scurried to my hidey-hole under the big brass bed in the guest bedroom. My mom followed the flashlight beam, but too late. In the first few pages, while the heroine was still an even wee-er (more wee?) princess herself, I was sold. I’d found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life.

Big, thick, epic historical romance, that spans miles (sometimes continents) and years (sometimes decades) and drags both hero and heroine through one heck of a lot of trouble, before the triumph of their HEA…that’s my jam. I want to inhale that now, like oxygen. It won’t fill the Skye-shaped hole. I’ll have to heal around that one, and, when new felines come, they won’t fill it either, but make their own places, on their own terms.

There is still grieving. Other cat people understand that. There is also the steady, inexorable need to make story. Writer people get that. Sometimes the two things happen at the same time, and sometimes, they take turns. I am not in control of how they work that out. The only thing I can control is butt in the chair, and pen to paper. It can’t always be gold, but it can always be. That’s good enough.

Typing With Wet Claws: Rainbow Bridge Edition

Anna here. There is no easy way to begin this entry, so I’m going to get right to it. Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling (the kitty, not the book) crossed Rainbow Bridge last week, at Camp Grandma. She was and forever will be, the cat of my heart. Skye came into our lives three days after her predecessor, Olivia Jane Hart-Bowling (picture unavailable at present, but there are many) crossed Rainbow Bridge, herself. I couldn’t last any longer than that, without a baby to hold. Ironically, we adopted the un-hold-able cat, as Skye, ten months at that time, did not like cuddles. She became our near girl, showing her immense love by sitting near us, especially in the toughest of times. Somehow, she always knew, and, without a sound, there would be a fuzzy little bundle of love by the feet of whoever needed her most.

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Teal Life Romance Hero was her favorite, and she loved him the most. Housemate and I were great, of course, but Skye and her Uncle were and are a true OTP for the ages. Skye became my mews right from the start, a strong, solid presence, at a respectable distance, shooting eye-daggers at the hated carpet of my office in our first Albany apartment.

It’s hard to pick out what Skye memories I want to share here -my stats are taking a break this week- because there are a lot, and all of you readers who check in every week to read her updates, and like her photos on Instagram, mean the whole entire world. When we land (there may be another move in our immediate future) in a pet-friendly place, we humans all agree that it will be time for more cats. Hopefully, at least one will be of the blogging persuasion. Feline Fridays are going to be a little rough for a while.

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When we first brought Skye home from the shelter, on a snowy December day, close enough to Christmas to knock “Christmas kitten” off my bucket list, it took her four hours to come out of the carrier. She was a cautious girl, but her moments of bravery stick with me the most. The time, that first week or so, when my job was to studiously ignore the new fuzzball, and let her explore her new digs on her own terms, my whole body jolted with the sensation of warmth, wet, and tugging on my big toe.

I looked down. There was a creamy, black-lipped mouth around my toe, two big green eyes looking back at me. The next few seconds went something like this:

Me: Skye? What are you doing?

Skye: I was hoping you knew.

Me: Baby, that’s a toe.

Skye: :processing So…this…not…okay?

Me: Are you hungry?

Skye: :backs slowly away, until mouth is no longer around toe:

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Skye O’Malley, the kitty, not the book.

 

I have to assume that I did indeed feed her after that, and that, in the right light, my right big toe probably did look enough like a cat nipple that she figured it was worth a shot. That was her way.  Skye brought a lot of things into our lives. She brought slow blinks, happy chitters, ninja skills I do not expect any future cat to exceed, and an unending supply of floofs. She was there to see me through the loss of Olivia, the cat who saw me through the loss of an entire side of my family, and who was there for my first sale, and the unplanned detour into caregiving.

When I first committed to this incarnation of my blog, three blogs per week felt far too much for my anxious, insecure self. Giving Friday posts to Skye suggested itself, and those have been some of my favorite posts to write, because Skye always had something to say. Maybe she still will. I don’t know how the internet connection to Rainbow Bridge works yet. We’ll have to see.

Skye got her name from my favorite historical romance, Skye O’Malley, by Bertrice Small. Even though Skye-the-character was far bolder than Skye-the-kitty, the name still fit, for a beautiful, intelligent heroine, who endured great obstacles, to find true love at last. Suffice it to say that the bar for cat-ness in this family has been set, and set high. Whatever felines join us next, they will have big pawprints to fill.

That’s about it for right now. Skye remains, always, very truly yours,

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Breaking Out the Good Stuff

Stuff is going down today. I can tell because A) I am the one who planned said stuff, and B) I broke out the fancy pen. Full disclosure, said fancy pen was broken out for photographic purposes, as a quick test proved that it’s going to require cleaning and re-inking before I can actually use it. The actual pens used in today’s work will probably be one of my workhorse pens, possibly erasable because I know me, and perfectionism is the big boss to defeat before I can get into reconnecting with the meat of Her Last First Kiss, which is my assignment for the day.

Tomorrow morning, N and I will have our weekly breakfast and go over our homework, aka the pages that will enable us to kick each others’ posteriors into gear on our chosen projects. For double-digit years, I was part of a weekly accountability/critique group, that included my contemporary cohort, Melva Michaelian, and I was the only person who had something to read, every single week. There were more times than I’d care to admit, that my pages for that week were written in a white-hot burst, down to minutes before my ride came to ferry me there. There were times when I wrote pages that didn’t have anything to do with a current project, but they were pages, goshdangit, and that was what mattered.

When I moved from CT, to NY, obviously, that was the end of that. I missed it, and still do. I haven’t found a local group yet, though I’ve tried a couple, and I do have local writer friends, whom I meet with individually. I miss the group dynamic, though, so still working on that one.

Writing is often a solitary pursuit. I am an extrovert, meaning that I gain my energy from being around other people, and spend my energy when alone. Communing with other writers is a great way for me to refill that energy reserve. The internet is a great source for that. I will never, ever turn down a chance to have tea and writerly talk, face to face, with a local writer buddy, and have been known to travel, to see writer friends who are farther away than public transportation can connect.

That better have pages thing, though, I’ve been missing that. Last week, when N and I had our first regular breakfast after we both went to separate RWA events, we admitted we could both use some accountability. Hence the homework. Hence the excited skip of my pulse as I write this, glancing over the top of my monitor, at the real life version of today’s picture, only a few feet away. A new cup of tea, a pen in my hand, and it will be time, once again, to dive headfirst into Georgian England, and Bern and Ruby, and all the reasons they shouldn’t and can’t be together, which are nothing compared to the fact that they must. Are they going to admit that, though? Not without a great deal of difficulty, and that, for me, is where the fun lies.

Since I’ve already written the first draft, I know how things are going to turn out. This is for going deeper, for making the book more itself. Making Bern Bern-ier, Ruby more Ruby-licious. This is going to mean finally breaking down and setting up the printer, because I need reference pictures, and family trees, and cheat sheets, and all of that good stuff. This means ripping apart the binder I made over a year ago, that I set up in a specific arrangement, then never used.

Obviously, that arrangement didn”t work. Difference between theory and practice, and all that. This is time to fly into the mist, albeit with a general idea of what I’m doing, and the boundaries of the previous draft and a half, to bump me back when I drift too far afield. I’m excited (if you haven’t picked up on that by now) and am about half super pumped to get back to this story (a huge thank you to those writer friends who have needled me about this, because it super duper helps) and half running around in circles, arms flailing, but at least they are controlled circles.

My table/desk is not going to look this neat by the end of the day, when it’s time to clear away the writing stuff and set up for dinner with the fam.  I am okay with that. Probably, at some point, but probably not today, I will do battle with the fountain pens that were last packed when I had a different address, and bring them  back into everyday use. That’s another topic, though, for another day.

For right now, it’s time to brew some tea, pick out pens, and make a cover page for the second half of Big Daddy Precious, then start digging.

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