Typing With Wet Nails: I Can’t Eat My Brother Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is nice and rainy here in New York’s Capitol Region today, which makes Anty very happy. Uncle is home this morning, because he works in the evening today, and that makes me very happy, because he will be home during the day. Uncle did not feel very well on his birthday, so we are doing some of the celebrating this week, instead. that includes a new addition to the family.

Normally, Anty makes me wait until I have talked about her writing before I can talk about anything else, which is usually also her writing (go figure) but, because of Uncle’s birthday, she will make an exception. As a kitty, I like my world to stay The Same, but, this week, it will be Not The Same. On Sunday, this thing appeared on Uncle’s desk:





It would seem I am getting a brother, and this bowl is where he will live. My brother will not be a kitty (at least not this time; the kitty brother will happen later) This time, he will be a fish. I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that he will be family, not food. Uncle still needs to go pick him out from the fish place, so I do not have any pictures of him yet. Anty said I cannot post any pictures of my new brother that involve things like garlic butter, lemon wedges, or side dishes. I am still not sure how I feel about this.

Anty says no more talking until I tell people where they can find her writing on the interweb this week, besides here, so I had better get to that. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, where she talked about the many things to celebrate about romance fiction. I celebrate the romance novels that have cats in them, and have good things  happen to those cats. Drop by Anty’s post and tell her what you celebrate when you think about romance novels. That post is here, and it looks like this:



Next, we move on to Anty’s Goodreads activity.  Anty is on track with her Goodreads challenge for the third week in a row, having read fifty-six of the ninety books she would like to read this year. Go, Anty. If you want to follow Anty’s reading, or see the books that she wrote, Goodreads is a great place to do that. This week, Anty finished reading two books. One is a debut YA novel, and the other one is a standalone historical romance by the author who got Anty into historical romance in the first place. It is also set in the Georgian era, which is Anty’s special area of interest right now. Read her reviews here:



One of Us Is Lying, by Karen M. McManus


As you may have noticed, somebody in this house has found Pixlr. I will not say who. There is extra treat in it for me if I remain quiet. Anty thinks this will make creating teasers for her backlist and upcoming books a lot more interesting. Anty likes to play around with that sort of thing. Consider this your warning. Pictures are coming.

Speaking of which, Anty was finally able to wrestle her deskscape from Wednesday out of Google Photos, so she asked me to share it with you here.


She is now at the end of the first week of having her planner in Dutch, and she likes it a lot. Anty likes knowing what she is going to do, and when she is going to do it, so breaking her days down by hour helps her make better use of her time. I am very pleased that she does schedule my meals and treats. She knows what is important. She has also taken the kneeling chair out of her office, so there is now more room on the hardwood for me, and I can get even closer to her chair, which she is in a lot these days.

There were some big domestic tornadoes this week, but Anty has found that one thing anchors her very well, even when the tornadoes are big ones, and that is writing. Reading, too, but especially writing. Right now, she and Anty Melva are making one last pass on the Chasing Prince Charming manuscript, and then it will be time to send it out on its rounds of editors and agents, to see if anybody might like to take a look. Anty is hard at work on the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, as well as beta reading for another author. She only has a little more work to do on A Heart Most Errant before she needs to decide what she wants to do with that story next. She is still thinking about what she would like to do for her next historical. I think it should be a book with lots of cats in it. Big, fuzzy cats. Swimmy brothers optional.

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


Typing With Wet Claws: Uncle’s Birthday Week Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. I am wearing a sparkly crown today (it is really one of Anty’s bracelets, and it had an accident a little while after this picture was taken (it was not my fault, as Anty and her bracelet were not at home when it happened, but I still count it as payback) because this is a special week. It is Uncle’s birthday week. I do not like having things on my head, but if it is for Uncle, I can do it. I love him and he is my favorite. That is partly because he does not put things on my head, but mostly because he is Uncle.

Even though it is a very special week, Anty is a stickler for the rule that I have to talk about her writing first before I can talk about…well, her writing. This week, as always, she is at Buried Under Romance. This time, she talks about the need for and merits of book therapy. You can find that post here, and it looks like this:


While I do not think Anty mentioned cats in her post, by the image, it looks like a most delicious read. Drop by and see for yourself.

Now it is time to talk about Anty’s activity on Goodreads. As of today, she is on track for the second week in a row. Her Goodreads challenge, this week, looks like this:



Looking good, Anty. Keep at it. You got this. The books Anty read this week were:


Anty got The Reason You’re Alive without even seeing anything other than Mr. Matthew’s name on the front. That should tell you how much Anty likes his books. She also likes Miss Anita’s books so much that she got Comanche Rose along with Comanche Moon, which comes before it, without even knowing anything about the stories. Anty likes to take that kind of risk with her favorite authors. She knows they will deliver, and she hopes to do the same in the books she writes, as well.

This week, Anty also has a post at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Big surprise, it is about historical romance novels. In this particular case, romance novels set in the Victorian era. Several of Anty’s friends asked Anty for recommendations on some good romances set in this era, and she thought other people might like to know which ones Anty likes best, too. There are a lot of other good ones, but Anty wanted to focus on titles that are newer. If you would like more recommendations, of older books in this setting, or books in a different setting,  please leave a note in the comments section and Anty will be right on it. That post is here, and it looks like this:



Normally, this is where Anty would put her video blog, but it has been a crazy week here, with lots of domestic tornadoes, so she did not get time to make one. That is okay, though. She can make another one later in the week, and it gives me more time to talk to you here. I would say we all win on that account. Anty’s trackers are more interesting to Anty than to anybody else, but they do seem to do a better job of keeping her on track of things than the previous system (which was really not much of one at all) so I guess it is a good thing. Playing with markers and paper makes her happy, and it makes me happy, because I can sit near her and stare at her while she does it.

Most of the time, I like to hang out with Anty while she writes. She usually has music on while she is writing, and I like it when she plays the soft music. I also like 80s tunes, which she plays while working on Chasing Prince Charming. I do not like loud music, though. I will run away if she plays loud music. Even when she does not play any music, I like to listen to the sounds she makes while she makes the keyboard go clickety clack, or when she scratches her pen against paper. When she is working with pen and paper, she will sometimes tear out paper and wad it into a ball and throw it at me. I used to play with those paper balls, but I figured out they are not actually alive. Where is the challenge in that? Not much, if you ask me. I am asking for a toy that moves for Christmas. A toy that moves all the time, I mean, not one that only moves on Christmas. That would not be much more fun than paper balls that do not move at all.

But I digress. This whole no video blog thing is throwing me off. Hopefully, Anty will be more on the ball next week. What I meant to say was that usually, I like to hang out with Anty when she writes, because she is very interesting. That all goes out the window when Uncle comes home or gets up in the morning. He is my favorite, so I will pick him every time. Here is a picture of me, right after I heard Uncle’s wake up cough come from the bedroom one morning:


He’s coming out annnnny minute now.


I have even been known to walk away from Anty or Mama petting me if I hear Uncle is on his way. He is my favorite, so I am very excited to celebrate his birthday this week. Anty and Mama are getting him presents and cake, but I think he will like the floofs I leave for him, too. He is very lucky his birthday comes at the same time as my shed.

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



Until next week…

Marrow and Bone

When I was but a wee little princess, my father built me two bookcases. My parents filled them, first with picture books, and friends and family members added to the collection as I grew. I remember sobbing inconsolably when I pieced together that Morte de Arthur meant that King Arthur was actually dying and not living happily ever after with Queen Guinevere. The whole Lancelot thing went over my head at that tender age, and I still have mixed feelings about the whole triangle. Maybe I’ll explore a similar dynamic in some future novel of my own, someday. I did not take the fall of Camelot well, either, despite my father’s attempts to explain how noble and tragic it all was.

Fast forward a few decades, and those very same bookcases now live in my office, and they are stuffed with romance novels. The top case (one stacks on the other) holds my Bertrice Small collection, while the other holds various keepers, and books on writing, some of them (my favorites) specifically on the writing of romance. I have two copies of How to Write a Romance and Get it Published, by Kathryn Falk, the brains behind RT Book Reviews, and they are both tattered. Granted, a lot of the information is obsolete now, with the e-publishing revolution, the advent of independent publishing, and whole subgenres have come and gone since the first edition first hit the stands, but I still treasure those books, and still refer to them, because the most important part of each entry has no expiration date.

The inspiration I get from reading the words of those who have gone before, some of whom are now retired, some now gone to the great library in the sky, some of whom are still with us now, still bringing their A game, book after book, is new every time I dip into that particular well. It’s there, too, when I dive into the books that gave me my love of historical romance; big, epic stories of love that could conquer impossible odds – and always, always did. Always will, as a matter of fact. That’s not a cliché. That’s the foundation of the genre. No matter what else happens, or doesn’t happen, by the end, our two lovers will be together, and happy about it.

That’s the skeleton of the genre. With that in place, we can hang anything on that framework. Once I took my first step into the genre proper, I read love stories that took place in medieval times, the Gilded Age, and everything in between. Heroes and heroines were titled nobility, gentry, dirt-poor, outcasts and pirates, bondservants and performers, and a thousand other variations. Through the pages of books, found in used bookstores, flea markets, libraries, and the then-king of chain bookstores, Waldenbooks, I fell in love a million times over. I knew, not hoped, knew that I had to tell stories of my own, in that same vein.

I can’t say it was a choice. More like I came pre-programmed for romance fiction. I don’t know if my biological mother read romance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. My real mother did, mostly from paper sacks filled with big, thick, glossy historical romances that came with my Aunt Lucy, every time she visited. My job was to take the bag of books to the laundry room, de-bag them, and put them where Mom wanted. I wasn’t allowed to read them, a rule I did not, at the time, think to question, apart from stealing the Small titles, which did not come from Aunt Lucy, but I did study each cover, read the back blurbs, breathe them deep into the very marrow of my bones. Yes. This.

I assigned my own characters to the people on the covers, made up my own stories to go along with them. It didn’t occur to me to write those down, not then, but I would turn them over in my head for days or weeks, paint pictures in my mind, and feel the stories as vibrantly as I did what is generally called real life. When real life got stinky, I went to that story place more, not as an escape -I always had to come back, after all- but as a respite, a place to go and remind myself that things get better after they get worse. That’s what the heroines in the books, both real and imaginary always did. They kept going. They fell down, they got back up. They fell down again, got back up again, and became all the stronger for it. In the end, they got all they ever wanted, and more. They got a hero who loved them exactly the way they were, who always had their backs and knew they could count on the same thing in return. Sometimes, back then, if there was a connected book, it could be the child of the first couple, all grown up, and ready for their own adventure. I loved that kind of thing. Still do. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write one of those, myself, too. If there’s one thing romance fiction teaches us is that, with love, all things are possible.

When I look a little ways down the road, and think about what to write next, after the current WIPs are out in the world, I’m not worried. I have the core of my stories already in my marrow and bones; two imperfect people will find their broken edges fit into a cohesive whole, and the love they share means that nothing life throws at them even stands a chance. I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

Aiming For Real

Welp, RWA Nationals are over for another year, and July is almost in the rear view mirror. The best thing about not going to a writer’s conference is the lack of conference hangover when it’s over. Summer has never been my favorite season, and August counts more as pre-fall than actual summer. Back to school supplies are everywhere, and tomorrow means I get to start on a whole new month in my planner. No, this is not going to be another post where I blabber incessantly about planners. I am considering a separate notebook blog, but that has to get in line behind fiction writing, which is the next thing on my schedule after getting this blog written, so we’re going to traipse off in that direction, with only the vaguest of ideas on a theme for this entry.

Not going to a conference means there is nothing to unpack. I will allow that I did laundry this morning, but that brought with it a chance to finish reading one book on my Kindle and start in on another. I am not going to claim full awakeness at that phase of the morning, or even this one, but I know what’s on my list, and checking off the items on it gives me a sense of satisfaction, so here we go All I have to do is babble my way to the magic seven hundred and then I get to go play with my imaginary friends. I should probably also have some sort of lunch, because bodies (and brains) need nutrition, and it dovetails nicely with Skye’s lunch (she is not eating doves, either whole or tails-only; she is eating her regular fish jelly. She wanted me to make that clear.)

This weekend, our family did a fair dab of decluttering and donating. All that physical clutter comes with mental/emotional clutter, and, when it’s gone, we get some much needed breathing room. I moved a hanging file from the dining room, into my office, and, while I’m still sorting out exactly how I’m going to use it, knowing it’s there gives me a boost. One of these days, I am going to have to sit down with Netflix and a big pile of notes and handouts from conferences gone before and organize them by topic and date, but that day is not today.

Today is giving a final once-over to the first twenty five pages of the second draft of Chasing Prince Charming, and then getting the next segment of Her Last First Kiss‘s second draft ready for critique session with N in the morning. This time, I’m going in with detailed, hand written notes, and bullet points, written in present tense and what I am going to call a rather casual vernacular, and throwing them all on the page. I’m not even thinking, at this point, of making it pretty. If there’s time for that before I can get to bed at a decent hour, then that’s gravy. Not aiming at perfect here; aiming for real.

Real, in this case, means shutting out everything outside of the world of the story, so that it becomes the real world, so that I feel the tremble in Hero’s hand the second before he touches Ruby’s hair for the very first time. It means combing the Internet until I find out what the phase of the moon would have been that particular night, so I know exactly how much of her Hero Ruby could actually see.  (http://www.moonpage.com/ is insanely useful for this sort of thing) It means forgetting about the overhead fan and the construction crew outside my window, and slipping back into an earlier age and the moment when two broken people suspect that their broken edges might actually fit together into a brand new whole. That’s the good stuff.

I might not have a suitcase full of swag, or enough new books that I had to mail them home, but I do have a library haul and a fully stocked Kindle, so that’s almost as good, and no extra expense of dry cleaning special occasion clothing. That’s always a plus. What I do have from the conference I didn’t attend, thanks to all those who shared their experiences on social media, is a renewed sense of purpose. The mere fact that there is a gathering of those who love to do the same thing I love to do, write romance fiction and get it in the hands of readers, makes me want to get that butt in chair and fingers on keyboard and keep on going. It conjures the voice of my high school gym teacher, Ms. Napier :waves to any Suffield High alums who may be reading this: encouraging a class full of girls who would pretty much rather be doing anything but the cross-country run she had us on that day, that we couldn’t quit if we saw the finish line.

With today’s work on Her Last First Kiss, I will be over the halfway point on draft two. That means the finish line will officially be closer than the starting point, and Ruby and her Hero will be closer to Happily Ever After than they are to Once Upon a Time. There will be some achy writing muscles, that’s for sure, but what’s stronger than the ache is the gift of a second wind. Onward.

Typing With Wet Claws: Not at Nationals Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. The weather has been much better for Anty this week. I am not that pleased with all the rain we got, which means I spent more time than I would have liked, hunkered down in a safe place. I am also not that pleased with Anty moving things around in the apartment. She calls it decluttering. I call it unnecessary. I knew where everything was, and now she is moving things. I suppose there is an upside, in that there are now more places for me to hunker. If this is the way the weather is going to go, I think I will need them.

As always, I am not allowed to talk about anything else, until I talk about where to find Anty’s writing on the interweb, other than here. This may not come as a surprise, but Anty is always at Buried Under Romance every Saturday. This week, she talks about fan clubs amongst romance readers. Do you talk books with anyone? Would you like to talk books with Anty? (Seriously, Anty will talk romance novels with pretty much anybody, so your chances are good, just saying. ) That post is here, and it looks like this:


Anty has some umbrage with her Goodreads reading challenge this week. She has been doing rather a lot of reading, but not all of it is actual published books, so, while her reading tracker is filling with a lot of colored squares (she will show you in her video) that does not always carry over into the Goodreads count. It is the weekend, though, and one of the books Anty is currently reading is a novella, so maybe this will be the weekend she gets back on track. We can hope. I say less decluttering and more reading.

One actual published book that Anty finished reading this week fits into her plans for world domination. Okay, historical romance domination. By that, I mean her plan (she will tell you more in her video) to find out what sorts of linked romance novels work best for her. Because she had a serious Poldark hangover, she wanted something set in the eighteenth century, with the same historical flavor. She asked friends on one of her Facebook groups, of people who also love historical romance, and someone suggested Gather the Stars, by Kimberly Cates.  Anty read that book when it first came out, and remembered liking it a lot. She likes everything she has read of Miss Kimberly’s (who is also Ella March Chase, but Anty has not read any of the books written as Miss Ella. Yet.)  Anty’s review of Gather the Stars is here, and it looks like this:


Anty plans to read more of Miss Kimberly’s books soon (and re-read, in several cases.) That plan gave her an idea. Since Anty wanted to make sure she got all the books Miss Kimberley wrote that belong together, she wanted to write that in a special book, so she would not lose the list. Then she added more books that belong together, by other authors. Now she has a special notebook dedicated only to that. She will probably make another book for only books that are not connected to anything else, but she is working on this one for now.

Writing-wise, this has been a good week for Anty. She will tell you more in her video, but I can tell you that, on Monday night, she meant to finish early, but then she hit her stride and did not want to stop. So, she did not stop. Then she noticed that it was three in the morning. and she had to meet Miss N for their critique meeting shortly after seven. She regrets nothing, especially since Miss N gave some very good feedback. Anty took a nice long nap after she got back, and I helped. by napping near her. Cat naps are always better with actual cats napping. Especially when I am the cat. I am very good at napping. I would sleep on the bed with Anty and Uncle (because Uncle is my favorite) if I could jump or climb, but that is okay. I sleep under their bed sometimes. That is good enough.

Anty is a little grumpy that she is not at RWA Nationals this year, but she can still get a few tastes of the experience through social media. She is glad, though, that she did not have to leave me for a whole week. She hates leaving me when she travels, which is not all that often, but I would hate going along even more. I did not see anything about a track for cats at Nationals, which is kind of an oversight, because a lot of writers have cats. The only thing would be getting the cats to the actual conference. We generally like to stay home. Not so for Anty. If she does not get out, among other humans, she gets a little antsy. Okay, more than a little antsy. Anty is an extrovert, which means that she spends her energy when she is alone, and needs to be around other humans to get more energy. Being in a hotel full of humans who love to read and write romance novels, like Anty does, is pretty much extroverted writer Christmas. Anty is not worried, though. Her local RWA chapter meeting is only a couple of weeks away, and she can talk to chapter members who did go, including Kari W. Cole, who won a very special award, the Golden Heart. Congratulations, Miss Kari.

Now it is time for Anty’s video.

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



Until next week…

Not At Nationals (Again)

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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


Planning for Motivation

Today, I have the brain of an unmotivated squirrel. Outside, the weather is wonderfully cool, after a solid week of humid high eighties and even nineties. I am on my third mug of tea, rather than sitting on an ice pack and alternating water with sports drinks. We have off and on rain, which means I get one of my all time favorite sounds, car tires on wet asphalt, outside my office window. My most natural desires at the moment are: A) take a nap, B) scroll mindlessly through Facebook, C) Netflix all day, and D) probably should do something about getting some pages for tomorrow’s critique session, but :points to A, B, and C.: See the problem here?

We’re verging on midday, when I want to be several pages into the day’s work, but I’m writing this blog entry, which is close enough. Once I get going, I’ll want to keep at it.  It’s the getting started today that’s getting me. Today, I started the first full week of spreads in my new daily pages book, this time a dot grid, soft covered Moleskine. The format works well for me, but the visual part of my brain says it still needs more pretties.


Copied from my own Instagram, because I am that unmotivated today.


Right now, I have my Go To Work playlist on the earbuds, and my brain answers each song with a resounding “meh.” This is not an auspicious start to the day. I mean, seriously, nothing. Nada, zip, zilch, empty, dry barren plain, which is not at all the plan. I worked on that plan yesterday afternoon, at my desk, with pencil and ruler and markers and fancy seltzer with pink polka dot straw for added snazz. Planning has become an important part of my Sunday afternoon, and it should be part of getting my brain into work gear, because these books are not going to write their own second drafts, especially when said second drafts veer off into uncharted territory.

Aha. Uncharted. See? I knew that, if I kept with this, I would find the source of the meh. Last week, N pointed out areas where I could crank up the volume on the emotional connection for a certain scene, and I know that I’m not going to be able to go further into what happens next, without feeling like I’ve been dropped off a ship in the middle of the ocean, with naught but the Styrofoam donut shaped floaty of my kindergarten days to keep my head above the proverbial  water.  I don’t like that feeling.

What I do like is knowing what I’m doing, so, after I babble my way to the magic seven hundred and get this posted, I will step away from the computer, grab my pages from last week, with N’s notes, and then mark said pages further, note where I can cut, what needs plumping, etc. Then I take notebook and trusty green pen and sketch out what I’d like to see in this scene if somebody else were writing it.  I have no idea if this is going to end up being another marathon day, or if I will pull it off in spurts, but I do have the rain outside my window, so that’s a point in the day’s favor,

I’ve been writing a lot about planning on this blog, because planning is fun for me, and an instant way to raise my interest. Maybe I can add an E) to the things my squirrel brain would like to do today, which would be aimlessly play with notebooks and things that make marks in notebooks, possibly combined with aforementioned Netflix, but, as fun as that would be, and relaxing, and possibly even good for unsticking some of those cranky gears, it’s not going to get pages written.

This means that, if I’m not motivated (and I’m not, at the time of this writing,) I need to get motivated.  Since I want this draft done and the book in the hands of readers, instead of lingering in my hard drive, that means I’m going to have to keep moving forward. Make a list of the things that need to be fixed, and then fix them. Somewhere along the way, inspiration will show up, and my mood will improve.

Right now, I’m edging out of the meh. I have Skye in my doorway. My toes are tapping, because I’ve hit the Right Said Fred part of my playlist. Soon, it will be time for lunch, when I can indulge myself in a short break for Netflix or Sims, or, even better, a chapter of a historical romance novel, to remind myself what it is I love the best about what I’m doing in this whole writing novels thing.  Then it’s a once-over of pages and the notes I made on the last few pages of my old daily tasks book (because what else am I going to do with pages that would otherwise sit there?) that turned out part doodle, part checklist, part what-mark-does-this-mark-making-thing-make. I’ll take that.



Typing With Wet Claws: Refining Focus Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. There is big news this week, and it is about me. I will get right to it, because it is important. I am in shed. That means I am getting rid of my summer coat, so my winter coat can come in. Fair warning for those readers who are new to this blog: I will get super fuzzy in the winter. I am already super fuzzy all the time, because I am a Maine Coon mix, but, in winter, I get even fuzzier.  Anty has to bribe me with food to let her brush me, because I am a very sensitive kitty, so brushing is not always my favorite thing, but I like food more than I dislike brushing. Anty is smart. She says it is so that I will not eat the fur I shed, but she does not have to worry. If she likes the fur I eat so much, it is not a big problem if I do eat it. She will see it again. That is kind of how cats work. It is also how hairballs work. Hm. I do not like the hairball medicine I will get if I have too many hairballs, so maybe brushing is okay.

The way this blog works, if you are new (and even if you are not) is that I have to talk about where to find Anty’s writing on the interwebs (besides here) every week before I am allowed to talk about other things, which are usually about Anty’s writing anyway. This week, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance. This time, she talks about playing a game called Never Have I Ever. I do not think it would be fair for me to play, since I am a kitty, and have not ever read any books, unless being in the same room when Anty listened to an audiobook counts. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:


Next, we come to Anty’s activity on Goodreads. Right now, her reading challenge looks like this:


I may need to check with Anty to see if this is correct. She may not have updated everything with the hot weather this week, but that is okay. Reading is a very forgiving thing, and books will always still be there. Anty did read a novel about almost-grownups (or very new grownups; it is hard to tell with humans, sometimes) and it is called Lovely, Dark and Deep. No cats in it, but it is set in Maine, which is where Maine Coon cats come from (the breed, I mean, not me, specifically. I was born in Massachusetts.) Her review of that book is here, and it looks like this:


Anty thinks the cover is very pretty.


Other than me being in shed, another sign of autumn coming (it is almost August, after all. Uncle’s birthday is in August, which makes it a very good month.) is that back to school supplies are everywhere. I do not mean only in Anty’s office, which is true (it is always true; Anty is kind of nuts about notebooks) Autumn means that Anty will get her super powers back, but they did not really go away this year. That is kind of new.

Part of that, I think, is that Anty has been taking a critical look at exactly what she wants to do, and set specific goals. Meeting with Miss N every week, to get feedback on Her Last First Kiss (as well as give Miss N feedback on her book) keeps Anty accountable, as does talking over Skype with Anty Melva about their book. Anty does very well with goals and accountability, so those are going to stay. She is still looking for a critique/brainstorming partner and/or writing friend, whose focus is historical romance, so putting that out there. Payment is you get to talk to Anty and possibly get extra pictures of me.

I will let Anty tell you how she is refining focus in her reading, which can help refine the focus in her writing. I think it is interesting how those two things feed each other.


In case you are wondering, her shirt says “Lovers Gonna Love.” I find this very interesting, not only because it is an appropriate shirt for a romance writer, but because “gonna” is probably Anty’s number two pet peeve in general speech. It is not actually a word, but two words, “going to,” mushed together. In case you are wondering, her number one pet peeve in general speech is “just.” It can usually be taken out wit no change to meaning, unless it is used as an adjective, as in “the court’s decision was just.”

Knowing Anty, she is probably going to make a to-be-read list to keep in her planner, and she will probably want to show that list, because she is probably going to make it pretty, or at least interesting, visually. Anty is kind of into this making pretty notebook pages thing, which I guess is for the greater good, if it helps her brain stay more organized and focused. I, personally, like the way the markers smell when she takes the caps off, so I am not going to question her motives. Maybe this desire to make pretty pages will make her want to learn how to draw cats. One cat in particular. I will give you one guess as to which cat that might be. (Hint: it would be me.)

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


Until next week…



On the Stepping Up of Game

Summer has definitely settled upon New York’s Capitol Region, and I’m feeling it. Not my favorite time of year, by any means. There are now two fans in my office: the big ceiling fan, and the small fan I repurposed from another room, and that makes a world of difference. In protest, my office chair has added “amusement park ride” to its job description, as I have somehow unlocked the mechanism that keeps the seat at its optimum level, and am now prone to sudden drops in altitude at unexpected moments. For this one, I am calling in reinforcements, aka Housemate and/or Real Life Romance Hero, who are better at figuring out mechanical things than I am.

This week, I am not slumped in front of a box fan, in full slug mode, because I would honestly rather be writing. Monday was not a marathon, and half of the pages I brought to critique session with N were printed on pink paper instead of white, my reminder that these are notes/outline only,  not what is going in the actual chapter. I will admit to some part of my brain making grabby hands at those pages and vowing I could fix them in only a couple more hours. Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Nice try, brain. I filed the pink pages under “good enough” and actually slept.

There are words a writer doesn’t want to hear in a critique session. Pointing and laughing (unless the pages submitted are comedy, then, in that case, pointing and laughing would be the desired outcome) do not count as words. “It’s okay,” however, do count as words. “It’s okay” is obviously better than “this is utter dreck, and you should give up writing,” but they still aren’t the best case scenario. They are, however, a starting place, and the right critique partner can do a lot with them, as in point the writer in the right direction. More over here, this part was the writer talking to themselves, move this thing where the other thing was, and go deeper in to Character X’s reaction to Character Y, instead of giving readers only a taste. Give Character X some sympathy to Character Y, because they are going to want to lock lips with them in a few pages, and right now, they sound like they don’t like the other person much.

Okay, that gives me some direction. Later today, I will plop my overheated self next to the box fan next to my comfy chair, not in slug mode, but with Big Daddy Precious notebook open in my lap, green Marvy Le Pen pen in hand (because it was the favorite pen of the writer who got me into historical romance in the first place) and, quite possibly, some DVR’d TV shows playing, if I don’t have my earbuds in and my playlist for Her Last First Kiss. I will kind of sort of halfway background watch the show, but my actual brain will be back in 1784, and the story will find its way from brain to page. I’ll transcribe later, fit it in with what I already have, or substitute, if this goes in a different direction. Second drafting can get into uncharted territory on occasion, and this is one of those occasions. Which is fine.

At the same time, I have a voracious appetite for planning and organizing. What other habits can I track? How can I use my planner/my office/my time more efficiently? How can I make my planner spreads prettier? How many new art techniques can I cram into my brain, because, right now, my brain is hungry for this kind of stuff. Famished, the same way it’s been sorting my TBR pile in order of how much I want to read certain types of books. Give me more of this, a grace note of that, pile all of that other thing on the plate, as high as it will go, because this hungry brain needs it.

I am taking this as a good sign, this overall desire to step up my personal game, and follow that hunger. The more I take in, the more I want to put out. This probably falls under my mother’s “the more you do, the more you’ll want to do” maxim, and she would probably not tell me she told me so, but she’d think it, and that would be okay. Right now, I’m not looking at the big picture. Not thinking about where this book is going to go when this draft is done, not thinking about marketing or future books or anything other than this scene, this chapter, applying the notes I got on my good-enough pages, after a decent night’s sleep, and, after that, we look at what work needs to be done on the next section.  Summer is still out there, but it’s not my main focus.

Instead, the focus is on my current assignment. Everything else can go grab a popsicle and a paperback and wait its turn, because that turn will come. Right now, I have two people and one moment of vulnerability that requires my full attention, so that’s where it’s going to go.

Sprints vs. Marathons

It’s Monday once again, but not, this time, a marathon. Nope, done with those, after last week’s events, so if I’m not doing that, then that means I have to do something else. Easy logic. Thankfully, the weather forecast has flipped from its previous brutal high eighties all the time forecast, to a more moderate lower to mid eighties deal. That, I can handle more easily. I’m stocked with sports drinks as well as water, planning smaller, more frequent, lighter meals, there’s a second fan in my office, aimed at my feet, and a new ice pack at the base of my spine. Quite comfy, really, which means there’s only one thing I need to get the second draft of this chapter done, which would be…the first draft of this chapter.

There is one, I should mention, but it’s short, and, now that I know more about Ruby, her Hero, and their story, these scenes are going to require something more. I don’t mind that; it means that the story is real and alive, and it’s going places. That’s all good stuff.  What is not so good is the old  “oh crap, what am I doing, I was supposed to work this all out over the weekend and now it’s Monday” feeling. Which would normally turn into “welp, guess it’s an uber-marathon in that case. Put the previous versio aside, start from scratch, keep pushpushpushpushing no matter what, even if it takes all night.” Which, after last week, no. Not doing that.

Which means new approach needed. Long term solution, better time management, enforcing boundaries, and keeping track of what environmental factors are in place on especially successful/productive days. Looking back at the time, a few weeks ago, when I shot far past my page count, the habit that sticks out to me most is that I took short, frequent breaks. So, this time, sprints instead of a marathon. Marathons are necessary sometimes, and there are days when I don’t want to stop and would happily chug on long into the night, and into the wee hours, but that’s the difference, and it’s an important one.

This past week, I got current on season two of Poldark, and I have a lot of feelings about that. Mostly, impatience, because I want season three to begin now, thankyouverymuch, but also anger at Ross, and the very firm decision that, if things come to that (no spoilers, please) I am firmly on Team Demelza about the thing Ross did at the end of Season Two. There will always be a part of me that will forever blink at the screen in disbelief. but A) Poldark is not a romance novel, B) the story isn’t over yet, and C) while I hated what happened, I loved being surprised.

Though I’m currently reading a YA that has my attention, Poldark gave me a thirst for historical romance with the same flavor. That sort of story that could not possibly take place in any other place or time, or with any other people. It’s not comfortable, and bad things most assuredly do happen to good people, but that’s what makes it interesting. Doesn’t hurt that the story takes place in the same era as Her Last First Kiss, so, in a way, it was pretty darned close to a trip back into HLFK world. I love to drink in the use of light, the subtle differences in clothing, not only between classes, but the more traditional styles and those more fashion-forward. The social interactions, how characters behave differently among their intimates from how they behave to newly met acquaintances, the modes of transportation, the way they use their leisure time, family celebrations both big and small.  That’s what I want to see in a historical romance, both those I read, and those I write.

Which brings me around to the sprints vs. marathons thing.  Rather than have a “must get at least x amount of pages ready,” focus on this scene. Take the time to feel the temperature, not in my room, but the room (or outdoor location) where my characters experience their “now.”  What can they see, hear, smell, feel, taste? How do they move through the space? I connect best when I write longhand, so this translates well to the non=marathon way of tackling a bigger section at once; break it down into smaller bites. Write longhand, away from the desk, break, transcribe and tweak, break, next bit, bit after that, and so on.

Is this going to be a foolproof technique that will work forever and ever and ever? I have no idea, but I don’t expect every book or every day to be exactly the same, so I expect variations. I expect interruptions. I expect some therapeutic housework, to sort out whatever it is on the back burner of my brain, and know that these things have a way of working themselves out. I know where my characters are going, and I know where they came from, and, since we’ve been through the initial draft with each other already, we’re going to figure out this slight detour. Not because pages are due for critique meeting, but because it’s fun.

The writer of commercial fiction, by and large, are in a funny place. We know what readers of our genres want from a story, we know what we, personally want to read in such a story, so writing the story we want to read should be a blast (and often, it is) but then the market has its requirements, and there are production schedules, and and and…. Which is why there are headphones and playlists, and a list of rewards I get for completing, not onebigmonsterthatMUSTBEFINISHED by a certain time ORIANDTHEBOOKWILLBOTHBEDOOMED, but a collection of shorter bursts. In eighteenth century terms, a turn around the garden. (Spoiler: nobody takes any turns around any gardens in this book. Maybe next time.)

Right now, I can cross “blog entry” off my list, and then I get to noodle with my art journal for a few minutes, then take one of those turns about the garden. If that means I end up taking something rougher than I like to critique meeting, that’s fine. Still counts. The same amount of ground gets covered either way.