Typing With Stuffed Paws: Recalibration Edition

Greetings, foolish mortals. Sebastian Thunderpaws Hart-Bowling, coming at you with all the stuff from the week that was. Last week, Writer Chick was down with a super disgusting cold. I don’t even want to talk about it. Suffice it to say that we are going to need more Febreze, and double dose me, while you’re at it, mkay? For those wondering where I was last week, when the Writer Chick is away, the handsome orange stuffed boy will play.

Astute readers will notice that Writer Chick did not post on Wednesday this week, and I can tell you why. She was asleep. Yep. This has been a stinky week for insomnia, so the other humans were under strict instructions that, if she slept, leave her be. Which means no Wednesday blog, this week. Writer Chick will probably toss in a bonus addition somewhere, because, as of next week, she and Other Writer Chick will be one step closer to Chasing Prince Charming getting real life book status. In this case, it means their very first review blurb is on its way, this one from M.P. Barker, a longtime friend, critique partner, and writer of awesome YA historical fiction. Other real life authors are lined up to say more (hopefully) nice things about this book in public, which has Writer Chick and Other Writer Chick pretty excited.

Because last week was sick week, and this week was insomnia week, this is going to be somewhat of a different entry. One constant is that Writer Chick was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, talking about the romance of audiobooks. Hit the caption if you want to see what she thought about that.

Now on to where the updates on Writer Chick’s Goodreads challenge would normally go. From that disclaimer, you can probably guess why it is different. Writer Chick did not read anything this week. Well, that isn’t exactly true. She started a whole bunch of stuff, got a few pages into it and then wandered off. She also is technically listening to an audiobook, but, as things would turn out, she keeps falling asleep while listening to it, though very much interested in the story, so she will probably get the ebook and make sure she gets the whole deal that way.

This may give you some insight on why this is recalibration week. Writer Chick and Other Writer Chick have been doing a lot of work on getting information for the upcoming release of Chasing Prince Charming. There is a bunch of stuff to do, some of which includes smushing a four hundred page book, written by two people, into a tweet, a back cover blurb, and other scarily small bunches of words. Writer Chick likes the challenge, though, and Other Writer Chick is handling the techy stuff (Other Writer Chick Spawn is apparently techy by trade, so Other Writer Chick has an ace in the hole on that front.)

While Other Writer Chick and her Spawn (OWC Spawn, for future reference) are in charge of the tech stuff, that doesn’t mean Writer Chick gets to sit back and eat bon bons. First of all, she is not sure exactly what bon bons are, and requests clarification before she puts them in her mouth. As they get closer to release, that means that talking to people and asking them to say nice things about the book comes into play, also finding places to wave the cover around (when they get it; that is coming soon) and ask people to let them blab about why people should buy this book. That stuff is much more up Writer Chick’s alley, and she is very much looking forward to that.

There has been other stuff going on around here, too. Though Writer Chick has not been having a lot of reading success, she has been watching some art tutorials, which leads to some very disturbing doodles.

Yeah, I don’t know about the lightbulb skull, either…

Writer Chick has also asked me to bring back updates on the Wars of the Roses, because they are back on, as of this week. While Writer Chick was down with her sinus infection, and up all night, both Tudor and Lancaster have put forth a single bud apiece. Lancaster is winning. His bulb is bigger, and it started to open first. There are now bits of red visible between the leaves of each bud, and the leaves are intermingling. Writer Chick will probably be repotting these guys fairly soon, but so far, so good.

Hey, there, Lancaster, ol’ bud…

Sunbeam is shifting from them to my favorite nap spot, so going to call it for this week. Peace out.

Every New Beginning

Several years ago, I came across a website called Heroes and Heartbreakers, filled with posts on romance in books and television, and I instantly fell in love, liked, followed, friended, the whole deal, because I’d been looking for a romance community with which to celebrate my favorite genre. When I saw a tweet that they were looking for bloggers, my heart quickened, and I stuck out some feelers, wrote a sample post, waited for the reply, and then chair danced at the invitation to keep blogging for them.

Over the last few years, I got to recap shippy goings-on for favorite TV shows like How I Met Your Mother, Sleepy Hollow, Bones, The Big Bang Theory, and Outlander. I got to gush about romance novels that resonated with me, get advance peeks at exciting new books before they hit the shelves, and pick the best of the best books in times, tropes, and places I love. I got to read the work of other romance bloggers, engage in dialogue with other fans of the genre, and it even led to my first time co-presenting a workshop on blogging at last year’s NECRWA conference.

Late last week, I got the news that Heroes and Heartbreakers will be closing its website at the end of the year. The newsletter will remain, and I look forward to reading the new issues. Still, I’m going to miss the website. Thanks to Heroes and Heartbreakers, I’ve done a lot of reading, and watched a lot of romantic television, learned about writing to deadline, brainstorming, and getting straight to the  heart of the matter.

Sharing what I love about reading and writing romance fiction, on any platform, is part of the fun, and I am thankful for that. Any time I get together with romance-reading friends, there is going to be a part of the conversation when we touch on favorite authors, the books we love, the books we’d like to see. I’m planning on incorporating more of that on this blog, because the more I talk about romance fiction, the more of it I want to write.

Romance has been my genre home. long before I pilfered my first historical romance novel from my mother’s night table. I hardcore shipped characters in my favorite cartoons, among Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies, and no fairy tale was ever complete without a happily ever after, no matter how dark things got along the way.

I still remember reading The Kadin under the bed in the guest bedroom, the first time I got my hands on a magazine that was, at the time, called Romantic Times, the first time I walked the romance aisles of a used bookstore, no adult with me, because I was eighteen, and thus, I was the adult. I remember my consternation when I found that there were no traditional Tudors or traditional Edwardians to go along with the traditional Regencies. I remember the college friend who literally chased me across campus, to physically put Lovesong, by Valerie Sherwood, into my hand and announce that she had delivered my newest favorite book. I remember shielding myself from a chill wind at a pay phone (dating myself, but it was a good memory, so I don’t mind) so I could call a local indie bookstore and ask if they had a copy of Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, because the combination of a compelling love story with a faith based theme was new and exciting, and I wanted to reserve my copy. They did, and I did, and it remains one of my favorites to this day.

Romance has changed a lot since I nabbed that book from my mom’s nightstand, and it hasn’t. I find that fascinating. Cover aesthetics go through cycles. Subgenres fall in and out of favor. Authors reinvent themselves, retire, or manage to deliver the goods again and again, over years and even decades. I love the history of romance fiction as much as I love reading and writing historical romance itself, so talking about that here is a natural outgrowth. I look forward to sharing more about why I love what I love, and how it fits into my own work.

It’s late in the day, and that’s the magic seven hundred, so I’m going to leave this entry here, and go make some tea. I am proud and happy to be a romance writer and reader, and I will always be thankful for Heroes and Heartbreakers enriching my experience as both.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Brain

 

“Your hero and heroine should be different people at the beginning and the ending of a book. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

— Rebecca Zanetti

 

Right now, half of me would like to retire to my comfy chair and split my time between binge watching Friday Night Lights and making a dent in my huge TBR mountain. The other half wants to dive back into Her Last First Kiss and rip Hero and Heroine’s lives to shreds before they get their happily ever after at last. The power balance fluctuates, but here’s a short list of things I have done because my head was in the book, rather than non-book tasks at hand:

  • smacked head into faucet because I forgot I was washing my hair when an idea hit
  • eviscerated rather than pierced three bratwurst while cooking
  • had three water bottles going at one time because I forgot where I put them
  • put one (full) water bottle in the cat food section of the pantry and left it there
  • missed my “exit” on the walk home from breakfast with N
  • sent the same EARC to my Kindle ten times, possibly more, but that’s where I stopped counting
  • asked for a login name reminder for a site I visit frequently, because I couldn’t remember what I’d used. It was my name.

Yeah, this is boring me now, and I don’t have time to start a whole new blog entry from scratch, so we’re going forward from here. Point is, I have book brain, and I like it. This book is real. It’s happening. That’s a good thing.

Yesterday, at my weekly breakfast with N, I’d brought Big Daddy Precious and a mess of index cards and sticky notes, to take her through this draft’s bones. I know I’m on the right track because the chapters sorted themselves out, and I have numbers and color codes, and getting to the page is something I look forward to, rather than dread. I don’t have to ask myself if I can do this book thing, because I am doing it, and if I show up, Hero and Heroine show up, too. Pretty sweet deal. Here’s what it looked like by the time I packed up to go home, about halfway through the whole story.

hlfknotebook200916

 

See all those sticky notes? There’s a color coding system, but that’s another story. I read the pages through to N, and she stopped me at a certain point. Heroine can’t do Thing A. Huh, wuh? My story, N. I’m the one who gets to say about what goes on in it, but no, N was right. See, Heroine would normally do Thing A, like she did all the other times, because she honestly believed there was no other option, but she’s different by this part of the story, so different that she can’t do Thing A anymore, because Thing A would be wrong now. She’s had a pretty big paradigm shift, so yes, N was right. Now that Heroine has gone through an irreversible change, she’s going to take a different tactic. She’s not going to do Thing A. She’s going to, for the first time in her life, do Thing B, which scares the crap out of her, but it’s her chance to do something right. Hence the flurry of sticky notes and pencil scribblings in the margin, a zig where there was once a zag, and darned if I don’t now love the scene I used to like. For a writer, there is no jolt of energy quite like that.

As fine a gentleman as Mr. N is,  I have to admit that my reaction to his joining us, to spirit N away at the end of our time together, was, “already?” Noooo, I want to keep going. Forbidding a friend to go adventuring with her own real life romance hero is something this romance writer cannot do, so they departed. I applied pencil to paper a while longer, and headed back home, foggy about my route, because I had Hero and Heroine on the brain. My body traversed, more or less, the distance between Panera and home, with detour through the park’s garden. Where I really wanted to be was back in the book, figuring out how much Heroine doing Thing B  instead of Thing A would butterfly effect the rest of the book, so there was some degree of wandering involved.

When I got home, I crashed into an impromptu nap, and when I woke, I was hungry for both food and story. I needed to take in story, in book form, in TV form, in music or wherever else I could find it. Writing eats that kind of stuff, and I came out of that nap in starving hyena mode. It’s a good feeling, after years of dragging myself along by my fingernails. Maybe there is some sort of formula, if I look through the stacks of notebooks I’ve filled about the whole process of getting back up on the horse. I’m still not sure when one can declare oneself officially back on, if there is such a thing? Completion of an initial draft? Final draft? Submission? Sale and/or self-pub? Certain types or numbers of reviews? Distribution through certain outlets? Something else? I’m not going to stress about that, but stay in the moment, fill those pages with sticky notes and pencil scribbles and go scene by scene. Right now is right now, and that’s where my time and attention has to go. If that means a few water bottles in the pantry, duplicate ebooks and opening multiple cans of cat food at one time, I am okay with that.

The Enemy of the Good

 

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

-Voltaire

 

Right now, I want a nap. Like really, really want a nap. At the same time, there is part of me entirely devoted to “we were without cable/internet for two and a half days, company is coming on Sunday, I have a Skype session with Melva tomorrow, Saturday’s workshop unlocked that part of Her Last First Kiss where I wasn’t sure what I was doing, and now I am, therefore, I cannot sleep and must do all the things. Right now. Preferably at once.”

Which, realistically, is not how things work. Our friends are not coming to see us because our apartment is a showplace (it is not) -we are going to a museum for that- and there is probably, realistically, plenty of time to get most of what I want to get done, done. For somebody as motivated by lists and planning as I am, this should be second nature, and, in some ways, it is. More on that later. Unless I forget. Because I did not outline this post. Winging it, because this is technically Monday’s post, but we did not have any internet on Monday; our service had been shut off by mistake (the subscriber the technician intended to disconnect was another house on our street; lots of moving in and out around this time of year in a college town, so understandable on their part.) Props to Tim from Time Warner Cable, for doing an A plus job, being respectful of scared-of-strangers kitty, and making sure everything worked its very  best before he left.

Okay, not entirely without internet, as one of this city’s perks is municipal internet, but we can only get one bar in our living room, so enough to get the essentials done, but not conducive to mindless web-surfing, falling down a Netflix hole, or other use that doesn’t have a specific purpose. On the plus side, it is enough to text chat on Skype while writing. I have come to know myself well enough to know when I need to blabber to another writer while I work, and when I need to be on my own, earbuds in and head fully in story world. Not a one size fits all approach to every writing session, I have found, and I like that part of the discovery process.

One of the items on my list today was to apply the lessons from K.A. Mitchell’s workshop at CRRWA, to nudge the gelatinous near-the-end part of Her Last First Kiss into shape. There is a particular joy only writers know, of getting our characters to the almost-happy place. Sure, they think they’re happy, but little do they know Everything Is About To Go Down The Crapper And It Is All Their Faults. That’s a fun part to write, even -maybe especially- in romance, because we already know things are going to work out in the end. Hero and Heroine are going to be FINE. They’re going to be better than fine. Because this is a romance, they get to live Happily Ever After (not that it means they’ll never have anything bad ever happen to them again for their entire lives, because how boring would that be? Talk about unrealistic. It means they’ll be together and happy about it, and face whatever comes, together.) so what chance does anything the author throws at them even have in the first place, right? No chance, but we writers have to make “no chance” look like “I have no idea how they’re going to get out of this one” (to the reader, that is; it looks plenty like that to the writer at this stage of the game.)

Which is what had me at my secretary desk, two notebooks open at once (notebook shown is the “official-because-I-say-it-is” notebook for this project (Abbie and Ichabod have nothing to do with this book; they’re just pretty, and they make me happy, so they can stay) and the entries in it are, hm, we shall say well-spaced, because this notebook intimidates me. It looks like this on the outside:

20160113_104226_resized

It’s the big one on the bottom; I am lazy and not scrolling. Also, hello, my legs I did not crop out of the picture. Whatever..

In short, the notebook is pretty and fancy and I did not want to ruin it with my horrible straight-out-of-my-brain writing. Especially when it is of the “I have not idea what I am doing” variety and have trouble reading my own handwriting. This is slightly better when I use better pens, like fountain pens, which I use here, or rollerballs, which I used in the other notebook, to take notes in the workshop. Basically, that part of  my day consisted of me copying things from the workshop notebook (really my all purpose notebook) into the HLFK notebook and expounding upon/applying the points to Hero and Heroine’s story. At a certain stage of the story, in any genre, readers have some expectations, and if those expectations aren’t fulfilled, readers are going to be cranky. I do not want cranky readers. On the other hand, I would take cranky readers over no readers, because my standards in that department are not that high at this stage of getting back on the metaphorical horse.

Which is actually a big help to the writer. This stage of the game is where we do the thing. Okay. We can do the thing. How, exactly, do these particular characters do the thing? That’s what makes this book different from all the others out there, and there are a lot of them out there, but this one  is mine. Well, actually Hero’s and Heroine’s, but I am hoping you get the drift here. Even if you are cranky; if you are cranky, reading a good book could help. Or read one of mine. That would set you apart from the crowd. (cue saxophone version of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” in the background)

 

So, basically, that part of my day consisted of using the pointy part of my fountain pen to stab Hypercritical Gremlins (thankfully, they bleed ink) and rough out exactly how Hero and Heroine would most likely do this particular thing. Find the worst thing that could happen to them, and then make it happen. Well, that’s easy, and provides a healthy dose of schaudenfreud (which I probably misspelled, but refer to Voltaire quote above) -the only way it’s okay to be happy that other people are miserable. I need to run this by N, but I think I am on to something, and the formerly gelatinous part is getting to a nice degree of firmness and providing forward momentum. I am going to call that good.

Mental Health Day

This may be the only thing I write all day. Then again, maybe it’s not. I’m not sure, at this point, where the figurative road will take me today, but I knew, when I woke at two and four and five and six, that this was a day I needed to recharge. The weekend had its share of domestic tornadoes, the weather was hot, and, at the time I got up (well, some of the times,) I fully expected temperatures in the high eighties, and blazing sunlight, neither of which are conducive to me at my best. When I come up short with topics for my morning pages, I write about what my ideal plan would be for that particular day, if I could do anything-anything. Anything-anything means I am not bound by mundane concerns like weather, transportation, money, desired companions being alive or non-fictional, that sort of thing. Today, my plan did not take up a lot of space on the page: stay home and red books. Maybe nap. So I did. Or, rather, I am.

The weather we actually got is a little different than what I expected. Current temperature as of this writing is still eighty-six, but we have a light rain, which means cloud cover, so sun is not an issue. It doesn’t feel that hot. The house is quiet. Real Life Romance Hero and Housemate are both off at work, and I could be. (Am, because I’m writing this? Am, because filling the well is part of the process? Am, because the Skype conference I had with Melva yesterday about Beach Ball is still fresh in my mind, and the wheels are turning, even if that’s not my main concern for the day?) There is still a lot of day left in front of me, still time before Housemate returns home, yet more time before RLRH returns home, and Skye is, as always, respectful of my clickety-clack on the glowy box.

Last night, everybody was home. Last night, the weather was sticky hot and icky humid. Last night, I had one shot at a Skype conference with Melva before she headed off for a family vacation, where she will, no doubt, recline on sparkling white beaches with Mr. Melva, for more than a week. The only private place to have said conference would be in my office, which would, if the door were closed, qualify as an oven. Housemate kindly clambered atop the kitchen stool and activated the ceiling fan, and, once it had been going for a while, made the room rather…inhabitable. This is kind of a new thing. I could get used to that. Melva and I made plans for the next few scenes of the Beach Ball, and I spent the rest of the evening chatting with another writer friend, and poking another project with a figurative stick. I would have stayed longer, and likely picked up a second wind, but I was about to go facedown on the keyboard, and did not have the mental faculties to read, let alone write. Hence, today.

I still count today as a productive day. I have napped (not intentionally; it kind of happened, but I figure I needed it) and opening my laptop to write this entry is the first time I’ve touched the machine (apart from carrying it from office to living room – nearly a year into owning this lovely pink piece of technology, and I am still amazed at how light she is) all day. Apart from checking a couple of things on my phone, I’ve been unplugged. Stuck my nose in a book, a paper one, read purely for pleasure, no writing about it needed. I haven’t played any music or gone anywhere near Netflix or YouTube or any of that.

Instead, I’ve read. I’ve spent time with RLRH. Took time to have lunch and do nothing but have lunch while having lunch. Played with Skye. Napped. Considered what only-for-pleasure book I will read next, after I have finished this one (and I may finish it during this calendar day, too, or maybe tomorrow) and when I might want to visit the library next, and harvest a fresh crop. Rolled my current writing projects around in my head, in the background this time, instead of the foreground, made a few mental notes that will translate to paper notes in a bit. For now, I want them to marinate.

I am surprised that I don’t feel guilty. There are no Hypercritical Gremlin voices calling me a slacker, while they jump up and down and turn a redder shade of purple, their fuzz standing out on end (it does that when they are ruffled; the are usually ruffled) and clench their fists. Instead, I feel…peaceful. Beyond the box fan in the window, I hear light rain, and car tires on pavement, one of my top three favorite sounds of ever. The fan blows cool air over my bare legs. I am debating getting up to refill my travel mug with cold seltzer. Maybe once I post. Maybe after I read another chapter. Maybe after another nap. Maybe if I nip into this document, for only a moment, to jot one thing down.

 

Flop Day and Morning Page Rambles

Today is a flop day. The temperature, at last consult, was ninety-three degrees. The sun is bright. I am fair, and sun-and-heat-sensitive. This means stay the heck inside, wear light, loose clothing, stay hydrated, and plop self in front of box fan for the duration. Since I am a writer, this is not that difficult a task. I have reading to do for various upcoming Heroes and Heartbreakers posts, and two ongoing WIPs. Well, official ones. I have back burners. Lots to keep me out of trouble, and in range of cool, moving air. Real Life Romance Hero is at hand, and, later in the afternoon, the whole household (minus Skye, who stays home, because she is a kitty) will decamp to an air-conditioned car and air-conditioned venue for an extra dose of cooling.

Mornings are the easiest parts of flop days, as it’s not as hot yet as it’s going to be, and I’m a morning person anyway. My morning beverage is cold instead of hot on these days, and comes with me when I write my morning pages. In two more weeks, I’m going to have filled my current morning book, and will need to choose another one. This may or may not be from my current stock. A peek, first, at previous and current notebooks:

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Book with the river scene is my previous book; book with burgundy damask flap is current.

 

The Eiffel Tower theme was not intentional, so not strictly necessary for the new book to continue that tradition, but both do have a rotation of designs on the interior pages, and that is a requirement. That’s where the indecision comes into play. I do very strongly prefer writing on beautiful pages, and having rotating designs on each two page spread reinforces that I am writing two pages and two pages only for this purpose. I could have sworn I had a third Paris-themed book (not the one in today’s featured picture, though that is the new baby; those pages are plain lined ivory, and the only thing I know is that I will be writing on them with red and turquoise Pilot Varsity pens, no clue as to content) at hand, with a black/white/red color scheme, that would be the natural successor, but the book in the crate where I thought it was has plain lined pages, not rotating designs that I remembered. Either I filed it in the wrong crate, or I was engaging in some wishful thinking. Bottom line here is, I need to pick a new morning pages book. I do have two books with rotating designs, as shown below:

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Candidates one and two from current stock

 

I did take pictures of the covers, but it refused to load, and I am not taking pictures of every design in both books, so use your imagination. Assume the art style remains consistent within each book and on its covers. The larger book is Paris-themed, but I’m not sure it’s clicking with me at this precise moment. Neither book has lined pages; some are unlined, and some have grids. The larger book has some pages where the design takes up the entire page, and I’m not sure where I’d even write on those pages. Designs in the smaller book take up part of the page, so that would cut into the writing space, and that’s more thinking than I want to do first thing in the morning, unless it’s one of those days where I get to start off by having breakfast with my imaginary friends. Neither book is out of the running, because A) I have them, and B) I do want to use them one day, but I’m not sure if they belong to this purpose.

There is one other contender currently on hand, and I already know what pen I would use to write in it (turquoise Pilot Varsity, as shown.) :

 

Absolutely gorgeous, though the spread is the same on all pages. Could get monotonous after  while, but I could possibly alternate with the sepia Pilot Plumix (once I fix the jammed-too-far-into itself cartridge; last week was not good for refilling fountain pens.)for the sake of variety. Still thinking on that one, and I do  have some time. I’d prefer to use something already on hand, but there are some lovely books out there, so the field is still open. Maybe I’ll even find I didn’t imagine the black, white and red Paris book.

When the time comes, the book will be there. This time around, I’m going to increase my days to seven rather than six. I’ve found I miss doing daily pages on Sundays, and have toyed with having a special Sunday book (which would press another book into service, so maybe not an entirely bad idea there) but keeping everything one place seems the more efficient option. Who knows? I’ll know when it’s time. That’s part of this whole finding my way part of the journey, and if it’s paved with more notebooks, all the better.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Office Development Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It has been an interesting week to be a writer’s cat around here. Uncle has been around more in the mornings (he goes out to hunt more in the afternoons and evenings instead) so Anty has been trying different places where she can do her writing. Yesterday, she talked about making a temporary office in the park. In case you were wondering how she picked the right picnic table to use as her desk (besides the fact that it has a really good view of the ducks and geese) here is why:

obviously for lady writers

obviously for lady writers

That was very helpful of whichever human wrote on the picnic table, but I am sure it is all right if men sit there, too. It did not say anything about kitties, but most of us stay home, and wild kitties go wherever they want, so signs really would not do any good.

I think there is still Olivia hair in the keyboard...

I think there is still Olivia hair in the keyboard…

Another place Anty has been writing this week has been in her office. The computer in there is older than me (I am not very old, but still, that says something. Anty used to have Olivia on her lap when this computer was  new. Olivia was the kitty before me.) and does not connect to the internet, so when Anty is on that computer, all she can do is write. The speakers do not work, either, and Anty likes to have music when she writes. She takes Robin Sparkles (that is her tablet, if you are new here) in there with her when she wants music or needs to check her email. The secretary desk in there is not the best for a desktop computer, because it was designed for handwriting. Anty loves to write by hand, so this is a good thing for her. She has put the notebooks that apply to her current projects on top of the desk, to make their own bookshelf. She will write in longhand first, and then transcribe, whether that be on the desktop or laptop. Not so much on the tablet, since she has to use the onscreen keyboard there. The bookshelf looks like this:

Anty's bookshelf of works in progress

Anty’s bookshelf of works in progress

I will try to get a picture later. Do not be afraid of the gothy cover; that one is Anty’s bloodletting (what she calls freewriting) notebook and what is in it cannot hurt anybody. There are gummi bears in the giant cupcake. She can have one (gummi bear, not giant cupcake) when she meets her goal. There are two story notebooks, one for Her Last First Kiss, (The big one in the back lives on the shelf; the pink and blue small ones go in her purse, and the black one is her planner.)

These are all for HLFK, but the big one in the back is for the office

and then the other one, which she is working on with my Anty Melva, does not have a title yet, but the notebook pages look like this on the inside:

not a Disney book, I promise

and on the outside:

Not a Disney book, we promise

Not a Disney book, we promise

It is the book with the scary woman on the front.  (the red one is her all purpose book and lives in her bag, not her office) Anty liked this book because she says it reminds her of the attitude of a character in the book she is writing with Anty Melva. I will take her word on that. Anty and Anty Melva are still thinking of what they will call that story. I will let you know as soon as they say it is okay for me to share.

Anty says I cannot take pictures of her bookcases or the stuff on the floor, because she is still figuring out where things go. I am still not sure if I want to come into the office, because it has carpet on the floor, and the carpet is rather me-colored. This is good for shedding, but not as good for kitties who do not want to be unexpectedly stepped upon. Not that Anty would do that intentionally, but one never knows. Anty says she is going to try and pick up a different chair next week, which may make her more comfortable for working on the computer. She likes the chair she has now, but it is the wrong height for this type of desk. Back pain is not conducive to good writing, unless one is writing about back pain, which Anty is not. She is writing romance novels. Also about romance novels.

She is very busy getting ready to recap Outlander this Saturday. She says I am too young to know about the scene that will be in that episode, so I have no idea. Maybe it is about people voting or doing taxes or something like that. Sounds boring. What is not boring is Pinterest. Anty loves Pinterest. It is like a bulletin board for her stories and other interests, that she can take with her anywhere. This is good because she has not figured out how to fix the vintage bulletin board that used to be above the desk. The wire that held it broke, so it is now kind of behind the desk, and she needs to update the pictures and things on it anyway. Unless she gets fed up and puts it aside and uses Post-its instead. She does not know yet.

Anyway, she has two new Pinterest boards. This one is about rubber duckies, and this one is about skulls. Anty really likes both rubber ducks and skulls. She will put up boards for other motifs she likes, like snowflakes and fleur de lis, later. You can see all of Anty’s boards (except for the private ones) here. I notice she does not have any boards about Maine Coon Cats. I may have to fix that for her, now that I have my own computer (she still thinks it is her tablet. Humans are cute when they think things like that.) but first I would need to get it away from her. That is not an easy job.

Anty needs the keyboard back now, because she still has to format her Buried Under Romance post for tomorrow. It promises to be quite an adventure, so I had better nap in my sunbeam to rest. Until next week, I remain Very Truly Yours,

Until next week...

Until next week…

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)

Office Hours, aka Day Camp of the Mind

On my own, I found my place outside the lines.
–Kathleen Bittner Roth

Sometimes, a writer has to bust out. This morning, I escaped the loving bosom of my family and headed for the park, to set up a temporary office on the picnic table beside the lake. I’ve learned that I need to know what I’m doing, and that writing things down means I can put the giant jumble of ideas in my head in some sense of order and then prioritize. This all made sense out in the open air, looking at ducks between bullet points, but now that I am inside and should be able to focus, my brain wants to wander.

got all my ducks in a row...

getting my ducks in a row…

One of the reasons I’m here right now is that I am committed to blogging three times a week, and if I put off posting until the weekend (after Skye’s post tomorrow) I will be fried. That’s not going to do anybody any good, so I will probably talk all around Robin Hood’s barn, as a high school English teacher used to say (ignoring the fact that Robin Hood did not have a barn; he was an outlaw who lived in the woods, ahem. Maybe he had a barn back at Locksley, but he’s over that now, and it wouldn’t have been one of his priorities, anyway. Now, where was I?) before I get to the point, if indeed there is one. Until then, there are waterfowl. My trip to the park yesterday netted me a peek at the first babies of the season. The Canada geese have spawned, three fuzzy yellow bebehs. The parents wasted no time in letting me know that picture time was over as soon as I got this shot.

Goslings!

Goslings!

I hadn’t expected to make such a connection, but as I settled in at the picnic table, with notebook and pen (after finding out that the sun made it impossible to see much on my tablet screen) it hit me why I liked working from the park in the morning as much as I do. It reminds me of day camp. Odd connection to make, but there it was. Maybe it was the travel mug full of Diet Coke talking, or maybe it was the chance to be seated on weathered wood, under the shelter of shady branches, immersed, as I often was during those long-ago day camp summers. I hated sports, largely because I was A) sun sensitive (still am) and B) nearsighted (still am) and I never fit in with most of the other kids. There was Them and there was me, and no matter how much I wanted to join in, I could never quite make the edges of the puzzle come together. Either I’d hang with the counselors (I was always more comfortable with adults, even as a kid) or I’d stay by myself.

If I couldn’t fit in with my real life peers (though, really, were they?) then I would create them in my head. I didn’t know that was writing, then, and I was surprised and perplexed to learn that not everybody did it. I loved Barbie dolls because they were, to me, tiny actors who never objected to my choice of costumes, roles or situations. Finally, a way to give faces and bodies to the voices in my head. I still remember my parents’ befuddlement when the first thing I did with my Jane and Johnny West action figures (12 inch, fully articulated cowgirl and cowboy) was make them reenact the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. (Signs your kindergartener will grow up to be a historical romance writer for one hundred, Alex.)

I didn’t bring dolls to day camp; I knew enough to do that, but when our counselors took us to the outdoor sunken basketball court and explained their variation on Red Rover, involving an orgre who lived beneath the blacktop and could come out of the storm drain, I soaked that like a sponge and created a princess who wanted to escape the ogre’s clutches, and what was supposed to be normal kids-running-around stuff became a mix of Nordic myth, various fairytales (not the sanitized Brothers Grimm version, not this girl) and probably some mix of whatever cartoon had held my interest at the time. When it came time to head to the pool for swimming, there were mermaids or a trip to Atlantis. A good deal of the time, I didn’t notice when the other kids didn’t want to play because I had friends who lived in my stories. Best of all were the times when I’d find a kindred soul and could entice them to play along.

It’s somewhat like that now, when I head to the park. The characters in my WIPs tag along, and, if I’m meeting reistance in a scene or a concept, it’s usually that I’m trying to force the characters to do something they wouldn’t. While we take a loop around the lake, in search of waterfowl, sipping a cold drink from our travel mug, or set up shop at the picnic table, the restraints fall away. The walls come down, as it were. I’m not sure if this is because the great outdoors is a good equalizer, and more familiar to my historical people than a recliner or ergonomic chair and blinking cursor on a blank screen, but I can’t discount it.

Even in those day camp years, my default story setting was the long ago and usually far away. I can’t explain it, other than the fact that I’m hardwired for historicals. The British Isles thing, I can maybe explain; our closest neighbors when I was little were a lovely Scottish couple, and my mom’s best friend was a British expat.  I soaked in the accents and the mannerisms, the folk tales and other bits that I’m sure I didn’t even realize, and they became part of me, part of the worlds I created when the physical one didn’t fit. Some things, I am happy to report, never change.

'ello, ducks...

‘ello, ducks…

Electronic Ragnarok

The robot uprising has begun, at least in my house. It started some months back, with the old printer stubbornly insisting it had a paper jam, though taking the back off and inspecting the are in question reveals that it absolutely does not. Barring some miniscule scrap stuck deep in the gears, we’re stumped. Still, the darned thing insists it’s jammed, and more puzzlingly, Will Not Turn Off, so yanking the plug is the only solution. There is a lovely new printer standing by, which is not compatible with the extant coputers, but a solution to that is on the way in the near future, so we manage.

There is, of course, a sizeable graveyard of headphones and earbuds who gave their lives for good cause, and the debate over “let’s buy a bunch of the inexpensive ones so we have new ones when the old ones die” versus “if we spend the same amount of money on one pair of good ones, they won’t die all the time and won’t need to be replaced” can go on long enough that one party may consider reading the entire text of the Outlander saga merely to keep the filibuster going long enough for another party to consult pricing information to bolster the argument. My mp3 player is not, after all, compatible wiht my music streatming system of choice, and my laptop has decided that it and audiobooks are no longer on speaking terms. Neccessary losses, those, and while some, particularly the purple earbuds with the skulls on them, are missed, we know these things are going to happen.

I don’t remember how long ago it was that Real Life Romance Hero’s ancient desktop finally gave up the ghost, but it wasn’t pretty. We slid in the lovely silver laptop a friend had passed on to us shortly before our move. Of a slightly earlier vintage than the laptops Housemate and I use (those two being identical twins) that machine served him well, until last week, when, by his reports, it took thirty minutes to accomplish what the other computers could accomplish in two. This is not what we want. Set that machine aside, confer with Housemate to create a tmeshare arrangement on her computer, and then…

Then the power cord on her computer stops working. When I say stops working, I mean that even though we can darned well see it plugged in, the footer on the screen says the laptop is not plugged in to any power source and helpfully informs us how much battery power is left.

This, too, we can solve with some creativity. Since Housemate’s computer and mine are identical twins, let’s swap out the cord and see if that works. Success. Enter a couple of days of swapping one cord bewteen two computers used among three users. Takes some doing, but with scheduling and compromise, it works, until the next plot twist, which is that cord going from “the cord that works” to “the cord that usually works.”  A household where Real LIfe Romance Hero is deprived of YouTube, Housemate is cut off from  hidden object games is not a happy one, and, being a writer, computer access is kind of a big deal for me.

So, solutions become a priority. Housemate ordered replacement cords, plural, online, and a new-to-us desktop will make its way in our general direction, after a hiccup of its own, so relief is on the way. Housemate and I will head out later today (after tea, oh so much tea) to see if we can find replacement cords and/or batteries in stock at Big Box Electronic Store, but since the  twin laptops are older models, hopes are not too high. We may bite the bullet and price tablets. Real Life Romance Hero has a cookie theory about his laptop that does not involve chocolate chips (though baking might be good therapy right about now) and will be taking his laptop in for a diagnostic, because fixing beats replacing in such situations if his theory holds true.

Worst comes to worst, we live within walking distance of two public libraries, so there’s backup, and new cords should be here on the first of the month. It’s a good thing I love notebooks. The revolutionaries are recruiting, though. The refrigerator has started making some ominous noises…

Typing With Wet Claws: Creative Thinking Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Big week at our house, as usual, so that is no big surprise. Anty is very happy that she will be going to three RWA chapter meetings this week. Three. She has never been to that many in one week before. She went to Saratoga Romance Writers on Tuesday (you can read about that here, in case you are new or missed it.) Tomorrow is her day to go to Capitol Region Romance Writers (they are the closest to us) and on Sunday, she goes all the way back to where we used to live (the area, not the house) to go to a meeting of New England Romance Writers. She is gone all day when she goes to that one, but happy when she comes home.

Being around other writers, especially other romance writers, is very good for Anty. She comes home from those meetings all excited and wanting to write more.Sometimes, she comes back with more books. Sometimes, she comes home with snacks. That is people snacks, unfortunately, and not kitty snacks, though that is okay, because I only eat the food Mama, Anty and Uncle give me, and they never miss, so I am fine. This week, Anty came home with flowers. In case you missed them, they looked -and still look- like this.

They're baaaaack.

They’re baaaaack.

Anty getting the flowers was a good thing, because she likes flowers, and she, Uncle and Mama had wanted flowers for the front window (the one I watch birdies through) for a while now. She was happy to get these, and thinks they are very beautiful. There is only one problem, though. They make her head explode. That is very frightening for a kitty. When her head explodes, I run out of the room, because the sound is very loud. Then I come right back, because I am brave and curious. Then her head explodes again. I am exhausted from all the running. That is probably why Anty moved the flowers from the front window and into her office, where she can close the door.

There is only one problem with that. If the sneezy flowers are in the office, she can’t be, and she needs to rearrange the office because a new destktop computer is coming home in a couple of weeks (it is not new-new but it is new to Anty, so that still counts.) This means the flowers have to go, but where? At first, Uncle had a good suggestion. Anty could bring them to a friend who had to stay at the people vet for a while. Anty agreed that was a good idea, and she took the sneezy flowers all the way to the people vet, only to find that their friend’s room was…empty. A nice nurse assured Anty everything was okay and that the people vet said their friend was better and had gone home only a few minutes before. Anty took the sneezy flowers back home and told Uncle they had to think of another place.

Then Uncle had another good idea. He could take the sneezy flowers to the prayer chapel near his work. I should mention that Uncle is Catholic,which does not have anything to do with cats (I know, I was disappointed to find that out, too; it has c-a-t right in the name. That is rather misleading.) even though all the Catholic people I know personally like cats a lot. But some do not. Anyway, Anty was happy to hear the flowers could have a home in the chapel, and went off to write, When she got home, surprise – flowers. She waited for Uncle to come home and asked him why they were still there. He said he’d forgotten it was Lent, and there cannot be any decorations at that chapel during Lent. So much for that.

Anty does not want to throw out these flowers because they are not cut, but are in soil, so they are alive. She says she might take them to her CRRWA meeting tomorrow and give them to somebody there. I hope they are not allergic to flowers, too. Maybe next time, she should get catnip.

Speaking of catnip, since notebooks are like catnip to Anty, she wanted me to share her newest acquisition, her very first 5×8 hardcover Moleskine. Can you believe she went this long without one?

I think the discount helped...

I think the discount helped…

Anty has been very busy this week, not only with meetings, blog posts, and stories, but with her brand newest thing. Today is her day to talk at 31 Days and 31 Ways to Jumpstart Your Life. She is excited to talk about how being creative helps make life better. Tomorrow is the day she posts at Buried Under Romance. If you have never read her posts there, here is last week’s post, about finding new books. Here is the picture she took for this week’s post. What do you think she will talk about there?

what could this mean?

what could this mean?

Anty says this is getting long and she needs the computer back, so that is about it for this week.

Until next week...

Until next week…

Until then, I remain very truly yours,

Skye O’Malley Hart-Bowling
(the kitty, not the book)