Typing With Wet Claws: Challenge Completed Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. We are now into the second week of December, here in New York’s capitol region (well, and everywhere else, but that is where we live, for those readers who are new) and it already feels like winter. The humans do not have the decorations up yet, although there are discussions about when Anty and Mama will put up the light on the living room arches, and when Uncle will be available to help with the tree. It will not be long.

Since the rule is that I am not allowed to talk about anything else on this blog, before I talk about where to find Anty’s writing on the interweb (besides here) I had better get to that right away. First, as always, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talked about holiday romance anthologies. That is very timely, because it is the holiday season, and because one of those anthologies is next in her historical romance reading list. We have had a talk about boosting those historical romance numbers, but more on that later. Anty’s post is here, and it looks like this:

BUTanthologyseason

extra points for the kitty picture

This is the last time I will report on Anty’s 2017 Goodreads reading challenge, because she has completed it, and ahead of schedule. She has, as of today, read ninety-one out of ninety books for this year, and, by the size of her TBR list, she is not stopping there. This is a good thing, because story in means story out. She is still thinking about what her reading goal will be for 2018, but she gets an A+++ for 2017’s reading. Here are the books Anty read and reviewed this week. Two of them get a spot on her all-time favorites shelf That is pretty good for a single week’s reading.

 

 

That was a very good reading week for Anty, and she finishes the reading challenge at seven books ahead of schedule. She even had to make extra space in her reading log to hold the titles of subsequent books, because she already filled her space for December. Anty finds that reading the kinds of books with which she connects this strongly not only entertains and engages her as a reader, but makes her want to write even more. She says that reading this much gets her idea hamster running. That is a metaphorical hamster, not a real one. I checked. There is no real hamster. This disappoints me.

What also disappoints me is, that, since Landlord installed the brand new boiler (we are nice and toasty now) the humans think they do not need the space heater in the living room anymore. I show them the error of their ways by sitting in front of it, even though it is not turned on, or even plugged in at all, and give them baleful looks. They’re the ones (okay it was Landlord) who brought the space heater in here. I can see it. It’s warm. I love it. They should turn it on.

Yesterday, Anty did. She says it is because I am too cute to resist. (This is true.) She plugged in the heater and turned it on, but I did not notice, because I was too intent on watching what Uncle was doing at the other end of the apartment. Uncle is my favorite, and I love him the most. Anty and Mama tried to get me to notice that the space heater was on, but I was focused on Uncle. Then, after Anty and Mama went on an errand, and Uncle came into the living room (Anty asked him to spend time with me in the living room, so the heater could stay on, because it is not safe to run it without humans in the room) I did notice it. Okay, I first noticed Uncle, because he is my favorite and I love him the most. I love space heater second after Uncle, so, when Uncle moved his chair next to the space heater, I definitely noticed that, and the three of us had a fine time.

It is kind of like that with Anty and writing right now. With reading, yes, because she is reading very, very fast, and very, very much, but also because those books she is reading, the ones that make a deep connection with some aspect of the book, remind her not only what she wants to do, but what she can do, and how naturally it can come. All the times she, or others, try to get her interested in something, or a certain way of approaching work, but it doesn’t connect, and then, bam, it does. There’s the star crossed lovers who make it work trop that Anty loves. There’s the use of a historical period not often used in romance these days. There’s the use of a piece of fiction literally hundreds of years old, reinterpreted for a modern audience. There’s distinct voice. There’s grief, laid out in its beauty as well as in its pain. All of that makes Anty want to snuggle close to everything that is the consumption and creation of fiction, and add to the narrative. For a writer, that is pretty much the whole point.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

Advertisements

Ninety

My primary reading goal for 2017 was to ready ninety books by the end of the year. Yesterday evening, while waiting for my doctor appointment, I finished reading book number ninety. Bonus points for book number ninety being a historical romance, as my secondary goal was to have at least half of my reading this year classified as historical romance. I will probably come close to that, and then carry that goal over to next year.

I am a firm believer in story in, story out, and I like a good challenge. Last year, I had set my goal at eighty books. Do not ask me how I came up with that number. I blew past it, by a wide margin, which led to me raising the reading bar for 2017. Hitting that mark, three weeks ahead of schedule, does give reading bragging rights, and I will admit that, when I took my Kindle out of my purse, I had a sense that picking the right book to be number ninety would be important. I wanted to finish the challenge on a historical romance, which I did, and I wanted to get started on reading Christmas romance, which I also did. Handy, that, when they both come in the same package.

I also wanted to read more in historical periods that especially appeal to me. A Secret Christmas, by Lauren Royal, fit that bill, because it’s set during the English Commonwealth/Lord Protectorate, aka the time when England had no king because Oliver Cromwell had other ideas (which did not turn out all that great, spoiler alert.) Said other ideas included stomping out frivolous things like sports, music, theater, and Christmas. Definitely not a setting one sees for a Christmas story all that often, and it works quite well in this novella. This is listed as number eight in Lauren Royal’s Chase family series, but is actually the prequel, the story of the parents of the “first” generation, so I’m counting it as the start. For readers who prefer the bedroom (or in this case, other room) door closed, a sweet/clean/kisses only version is available under the title, The Cavalier’s Christmas Bridewritten with co-author Devon Royal.

Which is another thing. I’ve wanted to find more historical romance that is not a subsequent book in a long line of related stories, and, if I can’t find a true standalone (of which I think there are not nearly enough, but that’s another story, pun intended) the a first book, or prequel, will do quite nicely. The mother-daughter team is now working on an even earlier branch of the fictional family tree, that will take place during the Renaissance era, and that has me excited.

When I first began reading historical romance, which is also when I first knew I would be writing it as well, or, more appropriately, when I knew that “historical romance” was the name that fit the kind of story I’d always loved, the field was wide open as to exactly when the happily-ever-after would take place. Authors would pour details of daily life in their chosen period onto the page, the everyday things as well as the big things like wars and coronations and oh, hey, look, there’s another whole continent over there. I loved that stuff, and I still do.

Last night, as I read, the story framed by an introduction, and an author’s note about the real history behind the customs, that spark flickered. What I wanted to do was go home and flip through the new issue of RT Book Reviews, which will always be Romantic Times to me, but the paper version of the magazine doesn’t exist anymore. There are still back issues, though, and the website has lots of resources, and maybe I can bring some of what I loved about the magazine here. We’ll see.

This year, I read ninety books, and I have no intention of not-reading for the rest of the year, so we have some time to watch that number grow. Reading books fills the creative well, essential for those of us who are, ourselves, writing. I am still experimenting with what writing trackers work best to keep me motivated, but one of the best motivations is that, in writing my own books, I get to “read” the story as I go. There is , of course, the re-reading of what’s already written, but it’s more than that. It’s having the characters meander around inside my head when I’m doing other things. Normal, everyday, not necessarily related to writing, or fiction in any way sorts of things, and bam. There they are, my imaginary friends, ready to let me follow them around for a while, and take notes as we go.

I haven’t written ninety books…yet. There’s a new year ahead, and anything is possible.

Taking The Long Way Home

According to Goodreads, I am ninety-eight percent of the way to my goal of reading ninety books in 2017. Since it is the fourth of December, with a bunch more days left in the month, and only two more books needed to reach my goal, I think it’s safe to say I am probably going to make it.

What interests me about tracking my reading this year is that I have been reading a lot more YA than I had expected. The last historical romance novel I read was To Love Againby Bertrice Small, a reread, and it most certainly did hold up from my first reading. I’ve read seven books since then, all YA, Between that reread and the last historical romance prior, Tyburn, by Jessica Cale, I read nine books, again all YA. This past weekend, though I have two historical romances in my currently reading shelf, and am eager to read two more historicals, written by a writer friend, and had happily scooped four historical romances (three novels, one Christmas anthology) from the shelves on my last library run, Friday saw me without any YA reads, which meant another trip to the library for another armload. I’ve read two of those books since then.

This definitely bears some examination, especially since my secondary reading goal for this calendar year was to have at least fifty percent of my reading consist of historical romance novels. Am I going to make that one? Maybe. If not, I’ll be close. Does almost count in reading goals, like it does in horseshoes and hand grenades? We’ll find out at the end of the year, I imagine.

The first question that springs to mind is whether I still want to read historical romance, period. The answer to that is easy, and immediate. Yes. Absolutely yes. Oh so very much, yes. The fire that lit in my gut, oh so many years ago, under the brass bed in the guest bedroom, with a paperback pilfered from my mom’s nightstand is an eternal flame. Historical romance is what I love to write the most, and it’s what I love to read the most, so why this big shift in reading this year?

When I look at the assortment of books that I have read over the course of the year, what stands out to me are the common themes. Let’s take genre out of the picture. Several of the YA novels I’ve read and loved have romance in them, even if it’s not the central issue, and/or does not have an optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had the right ending for their individual stories. Some of the stories that resonated the most with me have been unambiguous tragedies. What is common, across the board, though, is what I am going to call grit.

Life in these books isn’t always pretty. In fact, it’s pretty darned rough. The body count is high; siblings, parents, first loves, and yet, our heroes and/or heroines keep going. I like that about a viewpoint character. They’re Weebles. They wobble, but they don’t fall down. If they do, they get back up again and keep going.

To Love Again is set in the age of Roman Britain, and our heroine does some traveling. Not only that, but she has to make the difficult choice between the life she once led, and the new normal, and there are convincing reasons for both choices. Even though I’d read the book before, I didn’t remember what her choice actually was, and I kept turning pages to find out what path she would actually choose. In Tyburn,  set in Restoration England, our heroine is a sex worker. Not the fake kind. The hero moonlights as a highwayman, because he’s not getting paid in his regular job as a tutor, which he took when funding fell through for his continued medical education. There’s one scene, early on, where both are doing their jobs on opposite sides of a shared wall, before they’ve met each other, and knowing who they were, knowing that they were that close gave me physical chills.

That’s what I want in my historical romances,. I want those chills. I want the chance to visit multiple times and places, where life isn’t always fair and relationships are, if not everything, a pretty darned big slice of the pie. I want the chance to read one story, complete in itself, focused on the protagonists of this particular story. All of those things can happen in historical romance.  This may be a signal that I want to look back to the times when I could find those things, in historical romance, on a regular basis. I’m a big believer of story in, story out. Taking in the kind of story I want to put out is usually a good idea.

Does this mean I want to write YA as well as historical romance? I don’t know. Maybe, if the right characters and story make themselves known, it could be fun. Half the time I read YA, my brain starts a side trail about how the story would play out if it were in a historical romance, what could be translated, what could carry over. I can’t turn this stuff off, and I don’t want to, if that were a possibility. I won’t lie; sometimes, it does make me feel a little unicorn-y. When the market says one thing, and my brain pulls, strongly, in a different direction, there can be some frustration there.

The best thing I find, when that frustration hits, is to focus on the love. Not only the romantic relationships in stories of any genre, but the reasons I love historical romance as much as I do. Forget anybody and anything else. Remember the magic that happened when history and romance collided. In the end, it’s all about the love.

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: The Heat is (Back) On Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Yesterday was not my favorite day, but it ended well. I do not know entirely what went on between the first doorbell and the heat going back on, because I was under the bed for most of it, but I will get to that later. The important thing is that the heat is back on in the apartment, and it is very nice. I do not know how I am going to break it to the space heater that I love the regular radiators now that they work again, but maybe we can still be cuddle buddies, unless the humans do not use it any more, and give it back to Landlord.

Anyway, before I can get into any more details about that adventure, I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, apart from here. If you are reading this blog, then you already know Anty writes here. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, talking about a subject near to my heart (and stomach): food. Even though fictional food is not “real,” that does not mean we cannot partake in it. That post is here and it looks like this:

BURfictionalfood

Even though we had a very big week in the domestic tornado department, Anty was not a slacker this time, when it came to reading. As of today, which is the first of December, she is ninety-six percent of the way to her goal of reading ninety books in this calendar year. She has read eighty-six books out of that ninety, and is currently four books ahead of schedule. Go, Anty, go. She finished reading, and reviewed, three books this week, and here they are:

 

 

 

Because this is the first of the month, this is also where we do a tally of how many historical romance novels Anty has read this month. Anty thinks I cannot see her, when she hides behind her splayed fingers, but I can. Anty has been on a YA binge for quite some time now, and needs to tuck in with some historical romance novels, if she wants to bring those numbers up to an acceptable level.

hr-challenge-2016-badge

Anty’s goal was to read at least 50% historical romances this year. With thirty-nine out of eighty-six books counting as historical romance. she is close. If I count historical fiction with romantic elements, that number goes up to forty-three out of ninety, which is almost there. Almost all of the YA books Anty has read so far are either romances, or have romantic elements, but they are not historical. She does usually ask herself how something in the YA books would work in a historical romance, so she is getting historical romance inspiration, but I cannot count YA books as historical romance novels, because they are not historical, even if they are romances.

Okay, I think that is everything on that list so far. Anty also wants me to mention that, yesterday, in the midst of all the commotion, she still managed to set up the first week in her new planner. Anty loves working with her planner things. Here is what her weekly spread looks like, before she puts any information in it:

PlannerWeekly011217

Anty almost went with a more Christmassy color palette, but would have had to mix marker brands, and that is a no.

Yesterday morning, Anty was not even done getting ready for the day when the doorbell rang. For new readers, our house is very old, and the doorbell is very loud. It makes the whole house vibrate. I ran under one of the beds, while Anty went downstairs to see who it was. This was a good visitor, because it was Landlord. He wanted to let Anty and Uncle know that the workers were here, to put in the new boiler. He also needed Anty to unlock the back door, so that the workers could come upstairs and do some of the work.

Well. I did not like this at all. Not only were there multiple strange humans in my home (and some of them were very tall) but they had to open the radiators. This meant taking the radiator covers off, which meant taking off things like the window seat and all the decorations on the radiator covers in the dining room and Uncle’s office. This also meant that furniture like Mama’s chair had to be moved into the middle of the living room. My house does not look like my house right now, and I am not okay with that. I am sticking close to Anty and Uncle until they put things back the way they belong.

Anty says this might be a good chance to move some of the furniture around even more. I think the cold may have gotten to her. We kitties like things to be The Same. Moved-around furniture and changed decorations are not The Same. Anty says that sometimes, new ways of doing things are better. I am not too sure of that. Granted, the new boiler is nice, but did they have to move the furniture? Next thing you know, they’ll be talking about different furniture, and then who knows what else? There is a lot to be said for consistency and tradition.

Since it is now December, and the new boiler is installed, Anty will probably be putting up the Christmas decorations soon. I will not mind that too much, because I like to look at the lights, and the shiny ornaments. I do not touch them, because I am a floor girl, and I am also well behaved. Also modest. I am not sure exactly what the living room will look like when the humans are done with it, but it will, no matter what, turn into a cozy spot for Anty to bump that historical romance number as she reads in her comfy chair. See what I did there, tying back in to the reading thing? Maybe some of the Christmas romance anthologies and novellas will inspire Anty to read more in that genre.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

Peace, Quiet, and Historical Romance

Wintry winds blow outside my office window. Skye kitty waits in the office doorway, where she can see me, smell the Thanksgiving leftovers warming in the oven, and see Real Life Romance Hero, also the love of her life, as soon as he emerges from behind closed doors. The space heaters in bathroom and living room take turns, and it has become second nature, by now, to put on handwarmers, an extra sweater, and flip up the hood on my sweatshirt.  The Irish fisherman blanket is a cozy weight in my lap. My new, blank, berry colored Leuchttrum 1917 notebook, aka my planner-to-be for the winter months, waits for me to finish my writing tasks for the day, because starting the new planner is the carrot on today’s stick.

Last night, Real Life Romance Hero and I spent a few hours in the familiar territory of the emergency room. I got the better end of the deal, as I got to read, while he got poked with needles and otherwise examined by the medical staff. All should be well, though I feel a close kinship with the walkers of The Walking Dead. This may necessitate a third cup of tea. I already hear H’s voice in my ear, whispering “coffee,” but we will see about that.

The small, blue, Eiffel Tower book in today’s picture is my new morning pages book. The pages inside are pretty, though it’s the same image all the way through, but I can rotate pen colors, and that will do. I can always count on Punch Studio for gorgeous paper that makes me eager to open the cover and get to work. This book is smaller than the last few, and I am fine with that, which surprises me, but not going to complain on that front. Two pages, as close to first thing in the morning as I can get them, every day, no exceptions.

This includes zombie mornings after ER visits. Butt in chair, notebook open, select pen. Click pen (because I am using clicky pens this time around) a couple of times, to get into the zone, and then get at it. By the time I reach the end of the second page, part of me wants to keep going, even if I’ve been seriously reaching for something to write. Well, fine, I can write about that, and, in morning pages, I frequently do.

Fiction is different. Fiction is creating a world and the people who live in it, and making their lives interesting enough for people we’ve never met to want to spend time in those worlds, with those people. Maybe these people I’ve never met will want to spend time in these worlds, with these people, while also spending time in the visitor chair (or patient bed) in the ER, in line at the DMV, on a five hour flight to the other side of the country, or twenty-four hour flight to the other side of the world. Maybe in the stands at their kid’s swim practice, in the car waiting to pick up a loved one, maybe in an upstairs bathroom because it’s the only place family members won’t follow, for five minutes of peace, quiet and historical romance.

The book I finished reading last night wasn’t historical romance, but I did have a historical romance in my bag. I wasn’t ready to read something else, though. Instead, I took out my traveler’s notebook, flipped to the brain dump section, now marked with a strip of washi tape between one entry and the next, and I wrote. It was brain dump, not salable fiction, but what it did give me was the emotional immediacy that my characters need.

I’ve often said that people in a historical romance (or any historical fiction) don’t know they’re in a historical. They think they’re in a contemporary. They storyline isn’t the plot to them; it’s their life. Stuff happens, and they choose how they react to it (apart from the times when they react on instinct. Hero of Her Last First Kiss, I am looking at you) and they get through it somehow. The only exception is the characters who don’t get through it, but I write romance, so my hero and heroine find some way to make it through, and to make it through together. There may be collateral damages, because I, personally, find the HEA works best for me when it’s even slightly bittersweet, but the lovers are always going to come out on top in the end. Other than that, I can go nuts.

Today is a quiet day, apart from the wind and the work crew doing sidewalk work out in front of the house (other end of the apartment from my office, so I don’t hear them when I’m back here) and, when combined with zombie-tiredness and a brain at once hungry for and full of story, well, that’s when it comes in handy to be both reader and writer, snuggled in a sweater and blanket cocoon.

 

A Tale of Two Covers (and maybe a bit more)

Still waiting on the new boiler, which marks the start of our second week with what I am going to call accurate period heating. Toss on the heavy sweatshirt, bring the Irish fisherman blanket to the office chair, on with the hand warmers, and away we go. This week, I am excited about Friday, even though Friday is at the other end of the work week, because Friday means December first, and, because there are not enough pages left for an entire other month in my current planner, that means I get to start a brand new one. Purists might be miffed that the new planner doesn’t start in January, but I like having the end of one year up against the start of another.

This means that I also get to embark on the journey of setting up that new planner, since I now make my own, in blank (or dot grid) notebooks. Back in September, I wanted to start my autumn planner in an orange Exceed notebook. Orange is a great color for autumn, with Halloween and Thanksgiving, plus it makes me think of the House of Orange, so there is a Dutch connection, and also a tie to the orangerie scene in Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose (one of my favorite scenes, period) but there was only one flaw in this plan; it took me too long to find an orange book, so I started my autumn planner in a black one (always classic) and now, orange does not strike me as particularly wintry.

Okay, then. Being a collector of notebooks, armed with the tip from a Facebook group of like-minded individuals, I sniffed out discounted Leuchtturm notebooks at a local outlet. and snagged a lovely berry model. Only catch there is that the pages are blank, not dotted, but no worries; there’s a guide sheet with lines on one side and a grid on the other. Berry strikes me as much more wintry, there are more pages, already numbered, and there are perforated pages in the back.

For those readers disappointed that this post is about notebook covers and not romance novel covers, I’m getting there. Saturday night, I finished the YA novel I’d been reading, and needed to pick another book to bring with me to the laundromat this morning. I was in the mood for a historical romance novel, a paperback, and spent some time staring down my TBR shelf. before I ultimately tossed Beauty Like the Night, also by Joanna Bourne, into my bag, because A) I am halfway through it already, and B) it already occupied the lime green cover I’d picked u pat a UBS double-digit years ago, when I had a different aesthetic.

These days, I prefer darker, richer colors, though the types of books I prefer to have within those covers have mostly remained the same. Historical romance is still my favorite, still preferably with generous portions of both (hence the love of Joanna Bourne, among others) though I also now co-write contemporary romance with Melva Michaelian, and realistic YA is a close second to historical romance in my reading preferences, the cover still does matter.

This holds true for both books and notebooks. I’m a visual person, and then there’s also the harder to qualify feel of a book or notebook. Not the physical sensation of holding it in my hands (though that also factors) but the mood, the impression, the essence. That’s why I can’t do an orange cover in December, but will  be happy to call it into service when September rolls around once more. The bright side is that now I get more time to prepare it, so it will be at its full autumn-ness, and I can throw myself into winterizing the beautifully berry colored planner I have now.

As for the lime green paperback cover, I’m more conflicted over that. I’m not ashamed of reading romance novels in public. Proud romance reader and writer, here, and longtime collector of covers by the incomparable Elaine Duillo. I like using a cover for some paperbacks, not only to keep the cover art private, but to protect the truly gorgeous covers from any accidental spillage, droppage, or what-have-you-age. Lime green, though? Not my thing anymore, and it feels odd to take a lime green paperback shaped thing out of my smoky grey tote, especially when the pages inside that lime green cover are nuanced with history, danger and emotion, deftly woven together like a tapestry of old, not something that puts me in mind of toucans and pink lemonade.

This probably means that I am soon to be on the hunt for a book cover more fitting for the books I am likely to toss in my tote on a given day. I know, I know, my Kindle has a lovely purple cover, but there are times I want an e-book, and times I want a paper book, and, well, lime green isn’t doing it anymore. Granted, I’m not sure where to look for this sort of thing, and I now live triple digit miles away from the store where I first snagged the lime green cover. We’ll see what happens on that front, and I will most likely blabber about it here.

For those who are curious about this sort of thing, yes, whether/how well the book cover (or book cover cover?) coordinates with my planner is going to factor into my ultimate decision. While it’s true that the cover does not dictate the contents of books written, or books read, it’s still the first impression, and there’s still that indefinable something that gives a hint about what’s inside. Hopefully, good stories on both fronts.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Thanksgiving Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. We are now less than a week away from Thanksgiving, which means less than a week until the whole house smells like birdie. Unless, that is, the humans decide to go out for Thanksgiving dinner. Then the house will still smell like house. Maybe it will smell like the big candle in the dining room, if Anty lights it, but she will not light it unless humans are going to be home, so maybe not. They are still deciding on that one, but I will still get my turkey flavored cat food, so I win either way. Still, I would not mind the birdie aroma. The next thing that will happen after Thanksgiving is that the humans will put up the Christmas tree. I love watching the Christmas tree, but I do not attack it, because it is up high, and I am a floor girl. I can dream, though.
Since the deal is that I cannot talk about anything else before I tell everybody where to find Anty’s writing on the interweb, besides here, I had best get to that.

This week, as usual, Anty was at Buried Under Romance. This time, she talked about the importance of location in romance fiction. She does not mean where she left the book she is reading (for Anty, that usually means her purse, her nightstand, or the table next to her comfy chair) but where the story takes place. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURlocationlocationlocation

This is also a slightly sad post, because this is the very last post Anty will have at Heroes and Heartbreakers, as that blog is going to Rainbow Bridge. Anty has loved her time blogging for Heroes and Heartbreakers, and will miss posting there. She is glad, though, that her last post was a recap of a very good episode of Outlander. That post is here, and it looks like this:

HandHOutlander

Please forgive the creative cropping on some of these pictures. I have special paws, and Anty adjusted the display of her monitor, to be easier on her eyes. The actual posts have whole pictures, I promise.

Now is the part of the post where I check in on Anty’s Goodreads challenge. So far, Anty has read eighty-three out of ninety books, which puts her five books ahead of schedule, and ninety-two percent to her goal. Good job, Anty. Keep going. You are almost there. Only seven more books to go, and then the rest is gravy. I really like gravy. Here are the books Anty reviewed this week:

and

I think that is about it for Anty’s writing on the Interweb this week, apart from her entries on #1linewed on Twitter, but I do not have those with me right now, so I will have to think about adding them next time, or at least putting a link to Anty’s Twitter account. Apparently, that’s it right there. Maybe I am ahead of the game, too. I would not be surprised.

Anty says there is a lot to be thankful for this year, and she is not only talking about the fact that she gets to move into two new notebooks at basically the same time. Combine that with a major holiday, and that is pretty hard to beat, for Anty, but it is still not the best thing. Anty is sad that Heroes and Heartbreakers is going to Rainbow Bridge, but is looking for other places she might be able to write web content. As her mews, I will be sure to mention when there is news on that front.

That is not the best thing. I mean, me being Anty’s mews is a very good thing (she would have to write all of her own blogs, if I were not, and, let’s face it, sometimes, she does have to stretch for ideas now and again) but that is not the best-best thing about this year. Anty is very happy about teaching her workshop, Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys. at Charter Oak Romance Writers, in March. As a kitty, I am all for anything to do with sandboxes, but that is still not the best thing.

What Anty is most thankful for this year, is the renewed love of writing. She and Anty Melva have finished one book together, and started another. Anty is now reworking the second half of Her Last First Kiss, and has A Heart Most Errant almost ready for beta readers. If she plays her cards right, she might have three new books finished in this coming year. Writing is not always easy every day, but reading all of those books (go, Anty!) and actively looking for author voices, storylines, and character types that she loves the very, very best, helps Anty to find all of those things within her own imagination and put them into her own work.

This week, Anty and Miss N spent their meeting time, setting goals for the new year to come (New Year’s is after Christmas, so it is not that far away) and agreeing that part of their meetings for the foreseeable future will include bringing pen and paper and actually writing. Afterwards, they will have some time to discuss what they wrote. Anty does very well with someone sitting right there, expecting her to write, so she suspects this will help her become more productive, which goes a long way to getting new books out there.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Anty Smells Like Vet Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is cold here, in New York’s Capitol Region, but that is okay. One, because I am fuzzy, and two, because I get to stay inside, where the heaters are. I also sometimes curl into a ball in the exact middle of the hallway floor, because that is directly under the ceiling light, and exactly halfway between the heat from Uncle and Anty’s bedroom, and the heat from the bathroom. The heat from the kitchen and dining room reach me there, too.  I am a very smart (and warm) kitty,  The humans are not as impressed with my choice of resting spot. Not my fault I got there first.

It is also not my fault Anty started out the week smelling like vet. People vet, that is, not vet-vet. I did not have to go anywhere. Anty, however, had to get a shot, but on the bright side, she did not have to wear the cone of shame, and she did get to spend some time in the waiting room, reading. She also got to read for a while in the pharmacy, and she got home early enough that my treat schedule was not at all interrupted. She does not smell like vet now, which is also a plus. Now, she smells like laundromat. I do not go to the laundromat, either, unless you want to count shed fur on pretty much all of the clothing Anty washes.

Before I am allowed to talk about anything else, I have to talk about where people can read Anty’s writing on the interwebs. Besides here, that is. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This time, she talked about road romances, which are not actually about roads. They are about humans who travel together. This is also the entry where Anty accidentally wrote two introductory paragraphs and did not notice until today. Oops. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURontheroadagain

Now is the part of the post where I bring you up to date on Anty’s Goodreads challenge. Anty is currently kicking um, behind, and taking names on this one, because, as of today, she is four books ahead of schedule, with eighty-one books read out of ninety, which puts her at ninety percent done, and it is not yet the middle of November. I am impressed.

This week’s reading balances last week, when Anty read a lot of YA books. This week, she reviewed one historical romance novel, but it was by Bertrice Small, the author who got Anty into historical romance (both reading and writing) in the first place, and it is a standalone book, and set in Roman Britain. Those are all things that make Anty want to pay close attention and take her time reading. That review is here, and it looks like this:

GRsmalltoloveagain

Amty will probably re-read more books by Lady Small, as many of her readers call her, especially those that did not get as much publicity as some of her better-known works, and Anty has read only once before. Anty likes to study this kind of thing, and see what she can glean from it, to bring into her own work. Anty actually does that with a lot of things, but when it comes to historical romance novels, she takes that to a higher level.

Many things about writing, and the historical romance genre, have changed since Lady Small was a new author, and some things have stayed the same. Anty says publishing is always in flux (that means changing) and so it pays to keep an eye out for what is going on in the current market. That is true, and wise advice. Anty also likes to keep in touch with things that remind her why she started writing, and started writing historical romance, also. She likes to keep a balance between the past and present, so she will have the best resources, going forward.

Now that days are shorter and colder, that means Anty can have more reading time (especially since the site that lets her play computer games is giving her guff) and also more writing itme. Anty is very glad both of those things can be done in a comfy chair, with a blanket in her lap and a cup of tea at hand. She forgot to mention a kitty at her feet, so I will put that part in, for her. I help by slow blinking at her and sending her love beams. I am also close by, in case she wants to take a break from reading and writing and feed a cat instead. Lucky for her, I am one. I am also there to remind her that she needs to step up her historical romance reading game, because the end of the year is approaching, and she would like that total to be at least fifty percent.

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

 

skyebyenew

see you next week

Christmas Story Questions

When I was about four or five, I sat in the dining room of our two story Colonial house in Bedford, NY, with my parents and grandfather (Dad’s dad.) I was across from my grandfather, my mother at one end of the table, and my father at the other. I don’t remember the exact subject of adult conversation, but what I do remember is the knowledge hitting me that Christmas came every year, and I could count years from Christmas to Christmas. I don’t remember the exact time of year, though I want to say it was fall, which would fit. Christmas would not have been that far off, so my parents would have wanted to make plans. My grandfather would have returned to his home in Puebla, Mexico, long before then, so maybe they wanted to let him know what would be going on, even if he couldn’t be there.

Christmas Is still my favorite holiday. I will happily read Christmas romances at any time of year. I have been known to watch Christmas episodes of TV shows I do not otherwise watch, because Christmas. If there is a marathon of Christmas episodes, especially those from the 1970s, I am there. When I worked in a bookstore (for a brief span of time, two of them at once) I kept a special shelf for the Christmas anthologies that came out every year, so that customers could find the seasonal reads quickly, and took advantage of my employee discount to bring a good number of them home.

Now that we have the interweb, and e-books, I get alerts to new Christmas romances from favorite authors and new authors, often linked to ongoing story worlds. It’s not possible for me to be intimately familiar with all of those worlds, but put the word, “Christmas,” in the title or blurb, and I am at least going to take a look. For me, Christmas novellas are an important part of the holiday season. Double points if I can read said stories by the lights of the Christmas tree, cup of seasonally appropriate beverage (tea, cocoa, eggnog, cider) at hand. Triple points if there can be Christmas cookies or gingerbread involved.

I have never written a Christmas story. I don’t know why. Scratch that. I have never written a Christmas story for commercial fiction. I have written holiday themed fanworks, under other names, and I loved those. The chance to combine my favorite holidays, and favorite characters makes writing, which is already pretty good, even more fun, and it brings its own set of challenges as well.

The first thing that comes to mind is that several of the Christmas novellas I see these days are tied into established story worlds, complete with a handful of previous heroes and heroines, to show up for the holiday gathering, usually with adorable progeny in tow. Right now, I don’t have a continuing story world, apart from the eighteenth century as a whole, so An X Family Christmas is not happening until there is an X family. Same with Y Club Christmas, League of Z Chrismtas, and so on, which does not rule out the prospect of a Christmas story altogether, by any means.

Many of the stories in the countless anthologies I’ve gobbled are true standalones, two lovers, one ending, no sequels, prequels, or spinoffs, complete unto themselves. The historical era doesn’t matter much. Christmas is the great equalizer. Give me the customs of the time, toss in two people with emotional baggage, and crank said baggage up to eleven, because Christmas is also the great magnifier. All the tensions, hopes, regrets, possibilities for reconciliation, strangers who become friends, and possibly more; I love all that stuff.

Writing a Christmas-themed historical romance makes sense. I love Christmas. I love historical romance. I love writing. So why have I not written one of my own? No idea. Seriously, none. Maybe it’s time to fix that. Not for this year, because we’re nearly a third of the way through November, but that only means plenty of time to think about what sort of Christmas story I want to tell. Being a temporal nomad, without an established story world, the field is wide open. Medieval? Tudor? Restoration? Eighteenth century, on either side of the pond? Maybe skip ahead to the turn of the twentieth century once again? In Never Too Late, Amelia receives the journal in which she begins her tale as a Christmas present, and starts writing in it on New Year’s Day, so that’s kind of close.

This is the part of the post where I hear my dad’s voice saying that close only counts in something I can’t remember and horseshoes. In short, not technically a Christmas story, so I have some thinking to do. Good news is that I have plenty of time in which to do it, if I want to have my story ready for next year. Right now, I know nothing about it. I kind of like that. It’s a voyage of discovery, a reason to re-read some classic Christmas romances and look into some new ones, pick what I love best from Christmas stories that have gone before and see what I want to bring to the table.

Part of that process is picking the brains of others who love what I love. What kinds of Christmas romances do you like best? Any particular time period or trope or character type that will immediately get at least a second look? Have a favorite Christmas romance you’ve read, or perhaps written? Bring it on.