The Sims, Romance Writing, and Stream of Consciousness

Very quick stream of consciousness post today, since I am most assuredly in the zone for working on Queen of Hearts today. If all goes right, I can have a rough version of the next scene for my weekly conference with Melva. We agreed that this book is going to go a lot quicker than Drama King did, and I want to make sure it does.

Fourth of July was pretty quiet around here. As in I did a lot of napping, and I regret nothing. We cannot see the fireworks from this apartment, but we certainly heard them. This year, hearing them was enough, as I had my eyeballs pinned to my current Sims 4 save. I’m giving the Legacy Challenge a shot. Not doing any scoring whatsoever, as I am not in this for the math, but the basic idea is to start with a single Sim, on a big, empty lot, with very little money, and then use them to build a dynasty that lasts ten generations. I am on the fourth generation now, and having a lot of fun with it.

Fiona and Osvaldo, generation four

There are lots of variations on this legacy. I decided from the start that I wanted this to be a matriarchy, as in everything goes through the maternal line, aka firstborn girl inherits. If there are no girls in a generation, then the firstborn male may hold the spot for his firstborn daughter. Pictured above are my current generation, the lovely Fiona and her (townie) husband, Osvaldo. They currently have one daughter, Alexa who is child age, and fingers crossed she makes it through, because Osvaldo has the “hates children” trait, but he was frequently the one to autonomsously tend Alexa when she was a baby, so maybe he’s a masochist? Anyway, Fiona is going to university for her art degree, so Osvaldo can stay home to tend Alexa and their vast garden.

What does all of this have to do with writing? On the surface, not much. A little deeper, quite a bit. Generational sagas have always been my favorite sort of linked stories/series, especially in historical romance, where we can see the legacy of love build from the first two progenitors, and see how the family progresses thrugh years, decades, even centuries. Follow one family from medieval times to the turn of the 20th century? Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. With a gauranteed happily ever after for each individual couple in every story, the sort of HEA that only gets HEA-ier as the young lovers become parents, then in-laws, then grandparents.

This does bring in the issue of character death, since our medieval progenitors are not going to be alive in the Belle Epoque. I’m actually okay with that, as my taste in historical romance hews more to the dramatic than rom-com. In a more lighthearted series, death of a main character (after many years) would seem out of place to a lot of readers, and many lighthearted series tend to focus on one generation at a time, so maybe it doesn’t come up all that much? I have seen the demise of older heroes and heroines done well, and done poorly, but it’s part of life, and those generationgs outside of the current characters’ living memory can take on a legendary tone, so that is actually a plus in my book.

Ah. Aha. Wait. I found a connection. Heather, the heroine of Queen of Hearts, lives in the shadow of her mother’s reputation. Jessica Stewart was a legendary author of epic historical romance, and Heather now has the responsibility of running the publishing house her mother started. Heather is not a writer, but she’s passionate about the historical romance genre, its books, its writers, its readers, its, well, history. She’s trying to figure out where she fits into all of that, while raising a precocious six-year-old on her own, and very gingerly sticking her toe in the dating waters after a painful divorce. For those who love a genuinely good hero, have no fear, her best friend, Rob very much fits the bill. He’s very different from Dominic from Chasing Prince Charming, or Jack from Drama King, which is exactly how I want it to be. The historical heroes, as well, are a whole other story, pun intended.

Okay back to writing I go. Cover me, I’m going in.

Typing With Wet Paws: Dog, I Mean, Cat Days of Summer Edition

Tails up, Storm Troopers! I’m Storm, you’re awesome, and this is Typing With Wet Paws. Pretty quiet week this week, but not a boring one. On Monday, Aunt Anna and Aunt Melva hashed out the basics of the outline for Queen of Hearts, and they are also shooting some questions back and forth. Co-written book number three is officially ON. Secondary characters are getting names (or telling them to the aunts, as it often works) and while there may not be a cat in this book (though the one from Drama King might make a cameo; no promises) ther is probably going to be a d-o-g. I don’t know how I feel about dogs. I haven’t met any that I remember, unless it was when I was really little. My first mom said I came from a house with “a lot of cats,” but she didn’t say anything about dogs.

greatest hits picture of me, because quiet week and all that.

Anyway, there’s prep for July historical writing, and that includes moving the office area in the bedroom from where it is right now to the other side of the bedroom (the bedroom is pretty big) so that Aunt Anna can get near the window, and have more desk room, since Uncle Rheuben claimed the new desk they got recently. I am all for this, because if there is a desk near that window, then I can use athat desk to get into that window. I love sitting in windows.

Wait. I may have misspoken about the dog thing. We have a neighbor who has a puppy who is almost a grownup, but still has a lot of wiggle in her. We haven’t met in person, but I know her when I see/smell her from through the window screen. Her humans walk her in front of our building a lot. She seems okay, but I’ve got my eye on her. The other dogs around, I only have my ears on, because I have only heard them. Also smelled. There are two other units inour building, and the people who live there come on the weekends mostly. When they come, they bring their dogs. I have not met them, but it’s more than one dog in each apartment, I think. They bark a lot when my humans go into the hall and stairway. We’ve been here almost a year now, and still it’s a big surprise every time. Go figure.

So. Aunt Anna. She’s not sure what she’s doing for the Historical Romance Readathon, exactly, but she knows she wants to do something with it. Here’s the bingo card:

The thing that Aunt Anna has about this is that iit does look fun, but she’d already decided that she wants to A) finish the half-read books she’d had languishing on her Kindle forever, and B) devour some of the old school stuff on Kindle Unlimited that she’s always wanted to read. First up is the entire Marsha Canham canon. Maybe she can make that work for the readathon anyway. If you want more information on the readathon, check the link above, and also on Laceybooklovers and RemarkablyLisa. Aunt Anna will probably talk more about this on Anna Log later, but for now, the plans are nebulous. Still counts as a plan, though, which makes her happy.

I, of course, will be closely supervising, as always.

Headbonks!

Lap (Desk) Dancing

At some point in this week, I am going to ask myself why I thought having two books, in two different subgenres, in the editing/revising stage at the same time. A Heart Most Errant is my first stab at medieval romance, (and post-apocalyptic medieval romance, at that) and my first foray into the world of indie publishing. Drama King is my and Melva Michaelian’s second collaborative contemporary romance, this time where the Polyanna of Publishing falls for a grumpy British actor. This is also the week where Melva and I are swapping character profiles, because it’s time to lay the foundation for Queen of Hearts, book number three in our Love By The Book series.

But Anna, I hear some of you asking – what about the title of this post? Ah, that one. Taking another step back into re-Anna-fication, I now have a lap desk once again. My prior one did not survive our vagabond year, and I can’t get rid of it, because Storm has upcycled it to a cat bed. This means that, along with my Alphasmart and carefully curated notebooks, I am now mobile again. With the current weather, that means within our apartment. Comfy chairs are not yet installed, but I can use the office chair in Housemate’s room when Housemate is at work, unless Storm gets to it first. Storm loves that chair. Bed is good, too, or a blanket pile on the floor, with my back against the wall. I got a taste for that a while back, and it still works.

This is a vertical weekly discbound planner. The discs are lavender metal, and the only semi decorative stickers say "write," "edit" or "revise."
Catchall planner for this week

Normally, my Sundays have a special time set aside for setting up my planner spreads for the week ahead. This time, oh boy did I need it. Normally, I do a degree of decorative planning, but this week, it’s mostly functional, with what I’m writing, editing, or revising that day. Blank spaces are where I needed to check with family members about their schedules before I could assign my own time, but they will fill soon.

I’m actually excited about this. Getting to this point in two books at once, about to dive into another, coming back to a beloved genre (and a new to me time frame) and a new avenue of publishing is a place where I wanted to be for a very long time, and now that I’m here, it feels like I should sew a new patch onto my sash. If I were still in Girl Scouts, that is. Maybe there are Romance Writer Scouts? Does RWA count for that? Maybe take myself to the Panera that is basically down the street from us (with or without lap desk) and celebrate with a hot drink and freshly toasted bagel.

Anxiety levels are surprisingly low regarding all of this. Call it the Bird By Bird effect. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and while “fix all the books”: is scary, but “edit/revise X pages per day” and the like makes it a lot more manageable. There will, in time, probably be a more dedicated writing planner or tracker that naturally emerges from all of this, but for right now, I know what I am doing on each given day, and when that is done, time to do something that is fun and fills the creative well, aka read, play Sims, etc.

Some of this seems like very normal stuff that goes without saying, but getting to actually put this into practice is an absolute delight. Remind me of that when I am banging my head on the monitor because one of the fixes I need to take care of is trickier than I expected. There’s no planning for those. They are all part of the process.

It feels good to be at this stage, and the ability to flit among different methods and locations — computer, Aplhasmart, notebook, desk, bed, floor, etc– goes a long way toward taking individual elephant bites one at a time. In short, cover me; I’m going in.

Typing With Wet Paws: I Feel a Draft Edition

Tails up, Storm Troopers! I’m Storm, you’re awesome, and this is Typing With Wet Paws. The draft I am talking about here is not coming through any doors or windows (our building is very well insulated, which is very much appreciated) but drafts coming from Aunt Anna. By this I mean of the booik variety, of course.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com
(not Aunt Anna)

Drama King

As you may have read in Aunt Anna’s blog, Drama King is now officially a draft. Aunt Anna is a little dazed over that because, well, 2020 was horrible. Now it’s time for the editing phase, which Aunt Anna actually likes. Strange, I know. It also means time for a new notebook setup for laying the groundwork for Queen of Hearts. Oh what hardship. (I am being sarcastic here.) There will probably be new pens and highlighters, too, or, more likely, appropriating some that Aunt Anna already has. One of the really fun things Aunt Anna is looking forward to is getting together things that remind her of the character she will be writing for Queen of Hearts, which, this time, will be the heroine. She really loves the heroes Aunt Melva writes, so this is going to be fun.

It also serves as a nice balance to the much more technical work of the editing process, filing in holes, smoothing out transitions, making sure that the best character (a cat!) has enough scenes and all that kind of stuff.

A Heart Most Errant is now in the hands of an actual editor, and in about two weeks, it will be back in Aunt Aunna’s hands. That means she will have some more tinkering to do, but there will also be formatting and cover art, which sounds an awful lot like…a real book. The kind that can be sold directly to readers, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This means that she needs to start thinking, now, about connected books, which is not normally a thing she does, but the market is what the market is. Trying new stuff is fun, and the idea of writing more books in that setting means that A) she has a really good excuse to read more medieval romances, and B) get back on track with The Walking Dead, because the whole concept of this story world is “post-apocalyptic medieval.” It takes place after the Bubonic Plague whomped out basically half of Europe. This is either incredibly good timing for this sort of story or incredibly bad timing. Aunt Anna figures it will all work out in the end, and she’s happy to be writing historical romance, period, so on with the show.

Reading

First, the good stuff. (well, Aunt Anna says all reading is the good stuff) Aunt Anna is currently one book ahead of her Goodreads Reading Challenge, with six books read out of her goal of ninety. That puts her at seven percent of the way home.

The thing that gives her pause (as opposed to paws; I provide the paws around here) is that all six of those books are YA (or NA) – two romances and four scary books. With all of them, she has, at one point or another, or multiple points throughout, wondered how that sort of thing would work in a historical romance. Maybe this counts as some sort of research? This can be mildly concerning when one remembers this was also the week of…

Historical Romance Readathon

Yeeeeaaaah. Aunt Anna did not do great here. Not going to hold it against her, though, because A) this has been a rough week with raging insomnia, and B) that kind of led into feeling pressure-y about hewing to her readathon plan, so she is going to call this a deferred readathon and still do it this week, although albeit unofficially. That’s how she rolls.

All is not lost, though, because Aunt Anna acquired a super neat thing this week: a weighted blanket. That means that it’s a blanket, filled with lots and lots and lots of tiny glass beads. The weight is often very good for people who have anxiety (which Aunt Anna does) and make it easier for them to sleep. This one, I am happy to report, works. I even tried it myself.

Hooman tested, kitty approved

Also, Aunt Anna has another anthology ready for weekend reading, Regency in Color (vol 1!) which has a story from Jessica Cale, who is one of Aunt Anna’s favorite historical romance authors. This bodes extremely well. She can confirm that reading historical romance under a weighted blanket, with a hot cup of cinnamon tea, and a beautiful, purring calico girl makes for a super duper cozy time. Aunt Anna is very much into this sort of thing. Possibly with extra pillows and a scented candle set well away from any place aforementioned calico girl can get to it. I am never ever ever left unsupervised around candles.

Okay, I think that’s about it. That weighted blanket is super snuggly, and I have a lot of napping to do, if I am going to be any sort of purr-sonal assitant. What’s on tap for your weekend?

Headbonks!

End of Book Daze

2020 has been a ride, for sure and for certain, and perhaps the wildest thing of all is that, right now, I am furiously scrawling ink and pounding keys on my very last scene for the hero’s POV on Drama King. Yikes. This feels surreal, and about dang time. Wow. It’s not going to be the final scene of the book, as that honor goes to my amazing writing partner, Melva Michaelian, who I know is going to knock it out of the park and give me all of the feels.

The end of a book is a weird place to be. For the reader of a romance novel, there may be some sniffles, maybe a heart clutch, some laughs, depending on the sort of book, and/or situation, and, at the end of it all, is the tried and true, happily ever after. We know this couple is going to be together for the rest of their lives and they are very much okay with that. For the writer, there is all of that too, but a whole lot more.

Self-doubt is part of it for sure. Did we forget something? Are there dangling plot threads? How can we make this scene unique to these two lovers, to bring their individual arcs and their arc as a couple when this is literally the defining thing that makes a romance that makes a romance a romance. Okay, one of two. (1) the love story is the central focus, and 2) there is an emotionally satisfying and uplifting ending.)

Originally, I’d had the outline for the blog post I wanted to write here, spotlighting one of my planners for the coming year. That will still happen, but I have to get out of the fog first. Then I have some thoughts on the Bridgerton series on Netflix. I haven’t seen the series yet, and I didn’t originally plan to, but I don’t feel I can join the conversation without watching at least the first episode, to experience it for myself. I have not read the Bridgerton books proper, but I have read the four prequels about the previous generation, which was…okay. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, but those don’t have anything to do with the series, which I definitely want to watch while alone, and take pen and paper notes, because this could be a Thing. A good Thing. I hope. See self doubt above.

The end of one book always means, at least for me, the start of a new book. This time, it’s a return to Her Last First Kiss, which was put on pause, due to things like bedbugs, homelessness, shingles, anxiety, depression, and helping to clear out my bestie’s childhood home when her mom moved to a super nice apartment. We also ended up moving into a super nice apartment, which is my favorite place I have ever lived, so that’s pretty swell.

Melva and I had decided we wanted to wrap Drama King before the end of the year, because we both need a win, individually, and as a team, and it looks like that is actually going to happen. Huzzah. There are emails and DMs flying back and forth, and a good deal of my initial composition takes place from the safety of a blanket burrito, with spiral notebook and felt tip pen (and feline assistant providing soundtrack and extra warmth.) I have growled at family members to get out of my air space (yes, exact words) so that I can get the darned thing finished.

Today, that’s exactly what happened. Housemate conveyed Real Life Romance Hero to his place of employment, and promised to stay away until it was time to convey him back home again. There may or may not be prepared food coming with them. If not, RLRH will be cooking. I will not be cooking, because I know myself, and I will be, by that time, a wrong out washcloth, sad that I wrote my last scene for this book, and triumphant that I wrote my last scene for this book, I won’t say that I will miss Jack and Kelly, because Melva and I will be spending a lot of time with them as we edit and get them through the end of draft two.

It’s also time to look ahead to laying the framework for the next Love By the Book story, Queen of Hearts, with my first shot at writing the heroine of our couple. Heather is the sister of Dominic, the hero of Chasing Prince Charming, and I look forward to helping to guide her to her own happily ever after.

Love By The Book, #1

Once this scene is off to Melva, it’s time to turn my attention (after a nap!) to setting my writing goals for 2021. I’m treading a line between ambitious and realistic, and will probably end up somewhere in the middle, with a few stumbles along the way. It’s times like this when I remember my high school gym teacher, Ms. Napier. We weren’t close. I was probably a bane of her existence, as I loathed physical education as much as she loved it, and she loved it as much as I love writing romance. Even so, it’s her voice that comes into my head at this stage of the game, as it were. I can see the finish line. I can’t quit if I can see the finish line.

Where’s your finish line for 2020?

Writing While Packing, and other stories

Yesterday, I emptied the kitchen cabinets of all foodstuffs we do not intend on A) eating in the next week, or B) taking with us to the new place. Today, we view our first potential apartment. Yesterday, Housemate and I drove past it. It’s a gorgeous neighborhood, as Mr. N requested, close to Panera, where I meet with N every Tuesday. It’s near my beloved park, that I have missed over the past year, and on the same street where my delightful acquaintance, D, lives. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a step in the right direction.

That means that, on days like this, when both Real Life Romance Hero and Housemate are at their places of employment, I get to go into full Domestic Warrior Queen mode, which, when combined with Planner Woman mode, is both satisfying and effective. This does not mean that there is no writing going on, because A) this whole “eat the elephant one bite at a time” thing applies to both writing and packing, and B) both processes go a lot faster and more smoothly when I am listening to my story playlists, with songs that keep my story hamster happily running on her wheel, no matter what my physical body might be doing.

I am not sure, yet, what the electronics situation will be when we blow this popsicle stand. A lot of that will depend on when we turn in our router, and our move-in date for our next place, whatever its location. Laptop (in need of repair) set up desktop if we are going to be in a hotel for half a month. Third option, tablet, AlphaSmart, and good old notebooks. Who are we kidding, the notebooks are coming anyway.

One thing that is markedly easier in this move (besides mental health) is that packing books is a heck of a lot easier. With the exception of a few volumes for RLRH, all of the books in our current abode are electronic. They all fit in my (and Housemate’s) purse. The others are all still in storage, and will be unpacked in the new apartment. There are times when I want to pet my physical books, pop in and revisit favorite books, authors, and characters. The ability to do that whenever I want is a big perk of the upcoming change of address. Putting my all-time favorite historical romance novels in the bookshelves my father made for toddler me will be a big indicator that we have indeed landed.

Writing, during this move, is a vert different experience than with the last one. This time, it’s not just the idea of writing, but the actual act of it. I want to get my time at the keyboard or with pen and pencil. My plotting board (big cardboard tri-fold) was a victim of the infestation, but that only means I get to pick up a new one once we are settled, or, more likely, more than one> Melva and I are agreed we are beginning the home stretch of Drama King, and it’s time to start sketching out Queen of Hearts. After that, we want to work on a collection of Christmas novellas, outside of the Love By The Book (LBTB) world.

For my solo historicals, I am chomping at the bit to get to the end of the second draft for Her Last First Kiss, and to hop back on my discovery draft of Plunder. As to finding homes for My Outcast Heart, Orphans in the Storm, and A Heart Most Errant, that will be put on pause until the moving dust has settled, but that’s still happening. The waiting room in my head is getting crowded, with all those characters demanding I tell their stories. I’d tell them to take a seat and wait, but this isn’t my first rodeo, so figuring out the best way to get those stories told is a necessity.

They (ah, the mysterious they) say that necessity is the mother of invention, and, as I go about packing our home and my writing (and art/planning) I have to agree with them. Whether it’s a place to put this oddly shaped thing, do we really need this or that, or it’s better to junk XYZ and get a new one when we have settled, the best thing to do is make a decision and move forward.

So that’s where we are right now. Putting stuff in boxes and bags, then storage unit or set aside for the truck, looking at apartments, and planning on what gets written when. All in all, it’s pretty good deal. Maybe the bedbugs did us a favor after all.

Springing Forward

Quick drive-by post for today, because A) I’m writing, and B) missing two posts in one week bothers me, and getting a post up, no matter how slapdash, will eliminate B, and allow me to focus on A.

Yesterday, N and I had our weekly meeting, talking over our plans for the coming season, frustrations with the same old things that keep us back, and the requisite geeking out over paper and pens. I made her pet the Rhodia dot grid pages I had cut down for use in my new writing planner (they are insanely smooth, and take fountain pen beautifully) and we threw around some ideas for what cardstock to use to make new dividers, while lamenting that there were no non-month-bearing extra dividers included with the planner kit. I would have used the heck out of those.

This morning, Melva and I talked so long over Skype, that my phone’s battery drained. I don’t blame it. We had a lot of excited babble about how we may actually already be at the midpoint for

This morning, Melva and I talked so long on our weekly Skype chat, that my phone’s battery drained. I don’t blame it. According to Melva’s count (she is the Keeper Of Records in this regard) we may already be at the halfway point in the first draft of Drama King, even if we’re not entirely sure how that happened. Okay, we know how that happened: we wrote it. That’s not what I’m talking about. Part of our writing-together process (a big part) is excited babble and saying the same thing at the same time. One of us is known for going unintentionally blue, and then realizing it a beat later, which happens frequently, and one of us did make the other one laugh so hard today, that said other one dropped out of frame for long enough for the first one to now have bragging rights, but there is a sobering thought here.

Working out the next few scenes for Drama King, meant tying a few aspects into the idea soup for the next book, which we are tentatively calling Queen of Hearts, which lead into a discussion on something we hadn’t intentionally given Jack (Drama Kings hero) and Heather (heroine of Queen of Hearts, and sister to Dominic from Chasing Prince Charming) Jack and Heather have not met yet, but they will, and it’s very easy, very natural, to envision all three of our couples from this proposed series, maybe with some supporting characters tagging along, gathered around one big dinner table, no agenda, lots of good food (Jack, our actor-turned line cook-turned actor again would insist upon it) a toddler or two on somebody’s lap, maybe a kids’ table off in the corner. It would be loud and it would be messy, and I like the idea of it, very, very much. I would say something here about a historical equivalent for my historical characters, but, since I write in different eras, that would probably involve time travel, and the less said about em and time travel, the better.

For longtime readers who know what I’m talking about, I do fully intend to write Angus and Summer’s story in full, one day. They’d come after me and take me down, if I didn’t, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s not going to be exactly the way I envisioned it, mumblecough years ago. Which is perfectly okay. The only constant is change, they say, and this very well may prove to be true. Angus and Summer will go down  in my Future Projects section, along with scouting markets for A Heart Most Errant (if all of my historical characters were in one room, I am pretty sure Aline would still be doing most of the talking) and brainstorming ideas for this year’s submission to Z Publishing’s anthology.

Speaking of which, I have some outlining to do. See you next time.