Typing With Wet Claws: Recalibration Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Even if this were not Friday, you would have been hearing from me anyway, because Anty is still recalibrating from the last couple of days. For those of you who are new here (first of all, hello) hot weather makes Anty sick, and we had two very hot days in a row. Those were yesterday and the day before. Those days were not fun. Then we had a big storm last night, and now the weather is better, but Anty still needs some time to get back into fighting trim. That is an old-timey nautical word that means ready for battle. Or, in Anty’s case, writing, because she kind of needs her brain for that.

In case you were wondering, I do not like hot weather either, since I have a built-in, full -length fur coat, but it is okay. I know where to go to be cool. The hallway floor outside Anty and Uncle’s bedroom is the best for this, because there is linoleum on the floor and there are no windows, so it is cooler and darker than anywhere else. This is what got me the nickname, Speedbump.  It is not my fault that the humans who built this house in 1890 put the hallway where the humans would have to go through it to get to the good bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. It is also where the china cabinet and linen cabinet are (actually, they are the same cabinet, china on top and linen on bottom; if you need dishes or towels/sheets, that is where they all are.) As you can imagine, the humans want to be there rather a lot, but I was there first.

Speaking of first, before I talk about anything else, I have to talk about where you can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs, apart from here, which you already know, because you are reading this now. As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, and this time, she talked about a conversation she had with my Mama (Anty gave Mama a lot of books for Mama’s birthday; Mama had a very happy birthday) about things that make readers not want to read about characters anymore. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURbreakingfictionalcharacters

Even though it is hard for Anty to get enough brain, on very hot days, to write, she can still read (especially when parked in front of a fan, with an ice pack) and, this week, she made some progress. Her Goodreads challenge is here, and, this week, it looks like this:

GRreadingchallenge051917

This week, Anty read:

Road to Riverdale, by Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky, Adam Hughes, Marguerite Bennett, Fiona Staples (Illustrations) (graphic novel, YA)

and

Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills (historical romance)

This puts Anty only two books behind her schedule, and now it is the weekend, and temperate weather, so signs point to yes for Anty getting back on track. Anty likes books by Anita Mills very, very much, and there are several that Anty has not yet read, as well as many books by Miss Anita that Anty has already read and would like to read again. Not all of them came with us during the Big Move (by accident) so she still needs to fill in some blanks in her collection. Go for it, Anty. I believe in you. Anty is sad that Miss Anita does not appear to be writing at present, but there has been talk that Miss Anita is now involved in animal rescue, so we cannot be angry at her for that. Rescue is how my family and I found each other, so putting pets and families together is still happily ever after in my book. Pun intended.

Okay, I think that is it for Anty on the interweb this week. This week, she mostly wrote on Her Last First Kiss, and a funny thing happened. Not funny ha-ha, because this is not that kind of a book. Funny as in interesting. Anty’s friend, Critique Partner Vicki, asked Anty if Anty’s secondary characters ever changed on her and did something she did not intend for them to do, which made them a different person than she planned. Anty’s answer to that was yes, because that is what happened this week for her.

Without giving too much away (Anty has talked to me about that) Anty wrote a scene that took place in an old-timey jewelry store (Her Last First Kiss is an old-timey story, so everything in it is old-timey.) The clerk was meant to be only a clerk. All he had to do was take out the thing the humans had come to buy, get the human paying for it to sign for it (handing over actual money on the spot would be too lower-class; this is the old-timey equivalent of running the credit card) and then he could go away because the story did not need him anymore. That is not what happened.

Instead, Mr. Solomon showed up. Anty did not plan him; he came in all on his own. Anty says he is a closer, and a master of the upsell. Miss N says he is also a bit of a philosopher, really smart, and she kind of loves him.  Anty kind of does, too. I think he sounds like a cat person. Unless Anty specifically says he does not, I am going to imagine he has cats.

While the nameless clerk who only had to complete the transaction could fill the role, having Mr. Solomon be an actual person cranks up the stakes. Hero’s best friend has to buy something in this scene, that will get him in big trouble later in the story. Hero’s best friend is also rather easily influenced. Put him in with a really good salesman, from Hero’s POV, and we can see the future train wreck (metaphorical train wreck; this story takes place before trains were invented) play out in Hero’s imagination.

Anty says enough of that from me, so I guess that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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Until next week…

Mapping the Wilderness

Technically, I am dressed. Technically, I am wearing makeup. Technically, I have a new daily pages notebook, but I think this one is actually for some other purpose. My brain works like that, so I am not surprised.

Last night, I finished reading Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills, a historical romance set in England, New York, and Canada, during the French and Indian War. Technically, I have my third book hangover in the last few weeks. This is not entirely a bad thing, but it does leave me with the “crap, what do I read now?” part of the book hangover, that makes finding a new book, which I may very well love as much or even more than the book that haunts my storybrain, all that much harder. This is where making a reading list can come in handy, and, knowing me, I really should have one of those. At present, I do not.

This surprises me. I do extremely well with lists, and, since I do have a goal of reading more historical romance, especially eighteenth century historical romance, and specifically the kind of historical romance that does give me a book hangover, from characterization, author voice, etc, having a list would be a huge help, but I don’t have one right now. Part of me still wants to go on instinct/intuition on this one, or maybe I haven’t found the right organizational system yet. I don’t know if I can say that’s anything like falling in love with a gorgeous notebook, deciding it will be the perfect thing to succeed my current morning pages book, getting it home at last, and then my brain won’t quit going back to the two other notebooks I also looked at on that same trip.

The other notebooks had alternating designs on their page spreads, whether two or four variations, and this one (pictured above) has the same pages throughout. Gorgeous, but I’m exactly two weeks away from finishing the notebook I’ve been decorating myself, as it came with plain lined pages. I’ve found I do like the process of customizing the pages, but, if I put decorative tape on the same part of every page, then that adds bulk to that part of the page only, and the middles of the pages sort of cave in. That feels weird when I handle the book, and I don’t need that in my morning pages. Good experiment, glad I did it, but it doesn’t provide the same experience I want in this practice.

What I want in a morning pages book, is a book I can open, see the images already there, and pour out whatever has bubbled to the surface of my brain between waking and caffeine. Such books are out there, even though they may be buried in a sea of books with plain lined pages, and, thankfully, the hunt is part of the fun. It’s sort of like that when I have a focus for my reading, as I do now. That focus for reading is very similar to the focus for writing. Where there is focus, there is organization, and where there is organization, there is, oddly enough, liberty. When I know where the boundaries lie, I can go nuts within those boundaries.

This is one of the reasons I’m excited to greet a new week of writing historical romance. All I have to do is set my story before living memory (anybody here born before 1784? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? No? Nobody? Going once, going twice…okay, cool. Before living memory, I’ve got.) and ensure that it has an optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending (aka Happily Ever After, or HEA, which, :consults outline and double checks against first draft: Yep, got that, too.) and I am good. I can do anything. An-y-thing.

Pretty exciting, that, and it definitely applies to Her Last First Kiss. This is one of those books that found me, while I was wandering about the metaphorical woods at night, oven mitts on my hands and buckets on my feet, in search of something that could be quickly written and marketable. Yeah, that’s not how things turned out. I wanted Hero to be somebody else entirely, but, thankfully, he didn’t listen to me, and now I have Hero. Heroine, too, looked at my plans for her, snort-laughed, and marched off in her own direction. The two of them found their own way to meet, and, by this time, I have learned that when the characters start mapping their own way through the wilderness, the most logical thing for me to do is to follow them.

Which leads me to today. The scene I’ll be writing was not in the original outline, and it was not in the original draft, but it roared to the surface during last week’s critique session, and has been poking me all through the weekend, when my brain was required for other things. Silly brain. don’t you know by now that the characters are going to make themselves known when and where they will? Today, instead of mucking my way through my imaginary friends sitting around a table and talking, I get to feel Hero’s throat go dry when Heroine shows up at the worst possible place, at the worst possible time, feel the mad flutter of her pulse, because this isn’t any easier for her than it is for him. At this point, it’s nononononononono, they do not want to be around each other, because if they felt the things they might be feeling, this is going to cause big trouble, not only for them, but for a mutual friend caught in the middle, who has no idea they are in the middle, and…:happy sigh: Yeah, I live for this stuff.

Reading the sort of historical romance that I like to write is helpful, even if not always easy, but story in, story out, is usually a good way to go. At some point, after I have my pages for the day written (or on a break in the middle) I’ll pet the spines of my TBR shelf and the still-boxed books from my friend’s visit, and something will come to the fore. If I show up, the books will, too. That’s my story. Pun intended.

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Come From Away Edition

 

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  I kind of met a puppy this week. His name is Aiden, he is a Golden Retriever, and he is my cousin, because his people parents are my Anty Mary and Uncle Brian. They all live back in the old country, but, this Sunday, they came to visit. I should probably say that I did not actually get an introduction, but I smelled him, which, for us fur people, is pretty much the same thing. I am not opposed to meeting another four-legs, but that did not happen this time. What did happen, however, was a good visit for Anty, Uncle and Mama. Anty Mary and Uncle Brian brought their human son, Andrew, who is a new grownup, and his special friend, Miss Leah. They also brought a big box of books for Anty, but more on that later.

As always, the rule here is that I have to talk about where to find Anty’s writing on the interwebs this week (apart from here, of course) before I can talk about anything else.

First, we have some breaking news. Anty’s post about the Shamy doings on last night’s The Big Bang Theory went live at Heroes and Heartbreakers, while I was writing this post. How is that for timely? That post is here, and it looks like this:

HandHTBBTSheldonProposes

 

That is pretty exciting, I think. What is also exciting is that Anty is at Buried Under Romance every Saturday, with a new topic about the romance reading life. This week, she talked about the pros and cons of retellings of classic stories. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURretelling

Speaking of reading, this is the part of the post where I see how Anty did with reading. As of today, Anty is one-third through her Goodreads challenge goal of ninety books this year, and only two books behind schedule. Good job, Anty. Here are the books Anty read this week:

Her reviews for Afterlife With Archie, and Six Earlier Days look like this:

Anty is still thinking about her review for The Whisperer War, but she has reviews for the other two, which I think is pretty good. To read the reviews, please click the links above.  I should mention that bad things happen to two doggies in Afterlife With Archie, so Anty almost did not read that, but she does like to see things that do not normally go together, put together, so she read it anyway. Now she has to hunt down further volumes, because the library does not have them.

While it is true that there are no historical romances finished this week, Anty is currently reading Follow the Heart, by Anita Mills, which is a historical romance set during the French and Indian War. Miss Anita is an author whose work Anty has liked very much in the past, and it is a standalone book, which Anty also likes. Miss Anita had, at one time, planned to write a connected book, where the man the heroine did not marry would find somebody else, and, if Miss Anita ever wants to return to historical romance writing, Anty would like to read that, but, as it stands, this book is by itself.  Anty plans to read many more of Miss Anita’s books. She has already read many, but not all of them. Goodreads gives the publication date of some titles Anty does not remember, as being in the last couple of years, so Anty may have a glimmer of hope.

The box of books Anty Mary brought also brings a similar glimmer of hope. That box is full of mostly older historical romances, the kind with a more epic feel, and use of actual history that Anty likes to put into her own work. Getting through this box will require some study time (that means reading the books that are in that box) but Anty has not taken the books out of the box yet. She wants to concentrate on reading the book she is currently reading, and I think she is doing pretty well on that front. For now, Anty likes to lift the lid on the box, look at the books and pet the spines. Right now, that is enough. Anty likes to delay gratification on things like this, so, for her, waiting is part of the fun.

I am not that great at waiting for things I want, because I am a kitty. Today, I really really really wanted to be near Anty, so, while she was not looking, I walked onto the carpet. I still did not like it, but I like being far away from Anty even less. I let her know I was not happy having my feet on the carpet, so she got up and fed me. I think I may be onto something here. So does Anty. She lay down a few sheets of paper, to make a path from the hardwood floor, across the carpet, to her chair. So far, I have only looked at it. Anty says (Sir) Ginger (she only found out he was a boy, after he learned to answer to Ginger as his name. Oops.) -he was the kitty in our family, before Olivia, who was the kitty before me- liked to walk on paper, so she thought I might like that, too. I might, but I am still figuring out what I think about having paper on the floor. I guess we both have some studying to do. Good thing we can do it together.

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

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Space and Light

This weekend, our landlord brought in a new refrigerator, and replaced the overhead kitchen light fixture that had been out of whack for I’m not going to say how long. The good part about having working overhead lights in both office and kitchen is that now we can see what we’re doing. The bad thing about having working overhead lights in both office and kitchen is that now we can see what we are doing. This means that we can also see what we haven’t been doing, as in stuff we put over here “for now,” or “until we can see what we’re doing.” Well, now we can, annnnd…we need to do stuff. Thanks to some generous applications of joint compound on the mustard-yellow walls we all hate (Real Life Romance Hero doesn’t think they are that bad, but Housemate and I outvote him, plus I can whip out my knowledge of color theory. We have vintage 50s pink laminate countertop and backsplash. I have no idea why the then-owner chose emerald green linoleum, when the walls had been a gorgeous dusty rose. I loved that dusty rose so much that I made vociferous objections when we found the hideous new paint job on the day we arrived with all our worldly goods in tow.

It took four years and change, three different landlords, but the mustard-yellow is going. I vote for white. The joint compound is white already, and it looks all nice and airy and clean, especially right up against the white woodwork (though, if I had my druthers, I would strip the white from every inch of woodwork in the entire apartment and go for a dark wood stain, but I do not own this building, so that is not my call.) We don’t have a date for work to begin on the kitchen painting, but we are fully aware that this will mean a total tear-down of the setup we currently have. I am okay with that. I am also fully prepared to defend the original midcentury cabinets from the taint of a paintbrush. One would expect no less from a historical romance writer, am I right?

This is also a chance to get rid of things that no longer fit with who we are now, as individuals, or as a family. While doing dishes a couple of days ago, Housemate asked me why a trio of mugs are still here. We haven’t touched them in the entire four years we’ve lived in this apartment, and none of us like them. My only answer was “because we packed them when we moved.” Why do we have them though? I know two of them were free, and the other one kind of goes with them, as in it is a solid color that is contained within the color scheme of the other two, but that is not a reason to give them space in our home. That mug tree could, theoretically, bloom with nothing but Union Jack mugs, or black and white mugs. I would be fine with either.

It’s kind of like that with my TBR shelf as well. While I do not recommend scheduling both renovations and a visit from out of state friends-who-are-family on the same weekend, real friends don’t care if there is joint compound on the walls or a laundry basket on the dining room table. If they wanted to see perfectly appointed rooms, they know where the museum is. Real friends are perfectly happy to sit on the floor and eat takeout, because the reason they came is to spend time with their friends.  Everything else is window dressing, or lack of window dressing, as the case may be.

So, back to the TBR shelf. One of the great things about going to writers’ conferences is that they give you lots of free books to take home. One of the not-so-great things about writers’ conferences is that they give you lots of free books to take home. This is especially apparent when one lives in an apartment and has only so much shelf space. There comes a point where something Has To Be Done.  My point was Saturday night.

Aided by the new overhead light in my office, I went through the triple-stacked TBR bookshelf and culled. I was ruthless. Why do I have this book? Am I ever really going to read it? How long has it been on this shelf? Would somebody else appreciate this book more than I could? Book by book, I made my choices. Most books did stay, but I also had a respectable pile to pass along to my friends, which was a good thing. Said friends arrived with a banker’s box full of books tailored to my specific interests. Older historical romances, heavy on the medieval, second copies of some old favorites, so I can make them lending copies. That’s friendship in a box, right there. Looks like this:

booksfromMary

I have no idea how that frame got into the picture

When I took the lid off this box and peered inside, I felt…focused. Yes. This. This is why I write historical romance. This is what’s important. I’m probably going to leave these books in the box for a while, though I do have definite ideas on where most of them are going to go on my bookshelves. For now, I want them as they are. Full of potential. A reminder of why I put my butt in the chair and pen to paper/fingers on keyboard every weekday. I want to look at the spines, pet them, imagine and/or remember (some of the books, I have already read, some, I have not) and remember what it was like to not only first discover the world of historical romance (though, this time, I do not have to hide under the brass bed in the guest bedroom, with a flashlight, because I am big enough to pick out my own reading material.) but also that feeling of “I can totally do this.” That it’s in my blood and success is the only option. It’s a booster shot of confidence, exactly in time for the week N and I have agreed to up our production goals, so we can both reach The End that much faster. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

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Typing With Wet Claws: Rainy and Well-Lit Edition

 

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Today, the weather is cool and rainy, which is Anty’s very favorite kind of weather for this time of year, so that makes her very happy. Our landlord, Mr. Dave, came by yesterday morning, and changed the light fixture in Anty’s office, which is to say that the light now works (he is very, very tall and did not need a ladder. That is impressive.) Anty says that having an overhead light is like having a whole new office. Maybe now she will see how ugly the carpet is and want to get rid of it. A kitty can hope.

There is more to say about Mr. Dave’s visit (hint: it will involve me being put in my room for a while, but more on that later) but, as always, first, I have to talk about where Anty went on the interwebs this week. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talked about having a book hangover (she had two of them.) That post is here and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURgrumpycathangover

That brings us to Anty’s reading for this week, and, because it is the first Feline Friday of the month, we get to check in on her historical romance reading challenge. In that, Anty did not do that great. She read three books this past week, which brought her to only three books behind her goal for the Goodreads challenge (go, Anty!) but none of them were historical romance. (Anty, I am disappointed. Go read a historical romance right now. Preferably with cats in it.) She read two YA novels and a nonfiction book:

I should note that I did not spell Miss Moira’s name exactly correctly, but it is very difficult to hit the right keys to make special letters when one has paws (and special paws, at that) instead of hands.  Anty is still thinking about her review of Even In Paradise, because it is inspired by one of her favorite books/favorite miniseries, Brideshead Revisited. That story is kind of historical, because it takes place long before Anty was born, and there is a love story in it (maybe two, depending on perspective) but it is not a romance, so there is no HEA. It is actually pretty sad, but the good kind of sad, the kind Anty likes, the same way she likes cool, rainy days. Please put a sticky note on that, because I am going to come back to it later, but if you want to keep up with Anty’s Goodreads challenge, it is here. Right now, it looks like this:

GRReadingchallengemay17

Even though Anty did not read any historical romances this week, reading more historical romance is still one of her goals, and I am keeping track of the historical romances she reads throughout the year.

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So far, this year, Anty has read twenty-seven books. Fifteen of those have been historical romance. That is preggy good, but I think she can do better. If I count The Wicked City, by Beatriz Williams, that makes sixteen historical romances, but only half of that book is historical. The other part takes place in the 1990s, which, while before my living memory, does not qualify as historical. This is one of the pitfalls of not letting cats be in charge of important things. Still, Anty is still at more than fifty percent historical romance for her reading this year, so we are going to call that good, but she still needs to get in a few more historicals, because she is riding the line here.  She may want to consider re-reading some old favorites, to establish a firmer foundation.

Writing has gone well this week. Anty wrote a new part of Her Last First Kiss for her critique session with Miss N, which worked very well. Both the scene and the session, actually. Even though this will be a very busy weekend, she will have part of her brain working out how the next scene is going to go, because she thinks she can put out more this coming week than she has been. I believe in Anty. She can do it. She has also been working with Anty Melva, to make Chasing Prints Charming even better, so that it will be the best it can be when some lucky publisher would like to see more.

Anty has also started looking down the road and scouting out how she might best like to approach making a story world that she would use for three to five books. This is a very new thing to her, so she is probably going to make some mistakes along the way. She is also going to find a few things that will work. One thing she did this week was to start a private Pinterest board that has pictures of characters she thinks she might like to have live in that story world. Then she looked at it for a long time, until the pictures started to make connections in her brain. This may not make sense to people who are not writers, but people who are writers probably understand this very well. This coming week, one of her jobs is to list motifs or elements she might like to have in that world. Then she will probably throw those things into a Scapple document and see what connections form all on their own. I will be watching from the hardwood before the carpet starts.

Not tomorrow, though, because Mr. Dave is coming back, with Mr. John, who fixes things. They are going to take out our refrigerator and put in a brand new one. I expect there will be a lot of loud bangy noises. I do not like loud bangy noises. Uncle will be there, though, so it will not be too bad, but I will require extra treats because I will have to be a brave girl, even though I will be scared (also under the bed, full disclosure.) Kind of like Anty feels, trying out this new thing. I think we will both be okay, but it might not hurt if Anty had some treats of her own. I recommend gummi bears.

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

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skyebye

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Hangover Cure Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This has been an interesting week around here, but more on that later. Anty finds it ironic that her picture of me this week is of me asleep, since Anty did not get a lot of sleep herself, but not to worry. I can more than make up for the sleep she does not get.

Before we get to anything else,  I have to talk about what Anty has done on the interwebs this week. As usual, she was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday, though she forgot to send out word that she was there. It was that kind of weekend. Oops. Anyway, this week, she talks about libraries. That post is here and its link on the main page looks like this:

BURlibrarybaby

Even though Anty did not get a lot of sleep this week, she used some of that not-sleeping time to get some reading done (finally.) She read so many books, in fact, that I had to put them all in one picture. Links to Anty’s reviews of the books she read this week are below. Click on the link to read the review, or check on her Goodreads reading challenge progress here. So far, she has read twenty-four out of ninety books, and is only four books behind. Keep going, Anty. I believe in you. These are the books she read:

All together, they look like this:

GR4reviews

Not too shabby there, Anty. If we break that down, that is two YA books, one nonfiction, and one historical romance. After Anty read Fair Day, and Another Step Begun, she wanted to read a medieval romance that was based on medieval legend, and she pretty much did, with Agnes Moor’s Wild Night. A tournament like the one in the story actually happened. Anty was very happy to find that out in the author’s note, even though it is fact instead of legend. Anty says that is close enough. The author is Miss Alyssa, whose workshop Anty did not get to see. Anty is still salty about that, but she does have another of Miss Alyssa’s books on her TBR shelf, so that helps a little bit. She is still looking for some (preferably older) medieval with that ballad/legend feel, so if you know of any (or have written some) let me know in the comments, and I will tell her.

This has been a very interesting week around here. Normally, Anty on a double book hangover would be enough to deal with, but Uncle has another new job. He is very happy about that, which makes Anty happy, even if she still could use another nap or ten. This week, Anty stayed up very late on Monday night so that she could have Her Last First Kiss pages ready for Miss N on Tuesday. This particular time, that meant writing parts of two different scenes.

When Anty started the second scene, she had a feeling things weren’t exactly right, but she wanted to get the right amount of pages written, so she kept on going. By the time she got to a stopping point, she was very sure she had written the wrong scene. She did not mean that the scene did not belong in the story, but that it needed a scene that came before another scene (or between some other scenes) because this one felt like shoving a ten pound cat into a two pound bag.  Miss N agreed, which meant Anty’s next job was to go home and figure out what that scene needed to be.

Not too long ago, this would have made Anty very anxious, and think that maybe she is  a bad writer, because a real writer, or a good one, would not have made that kind of mistake. That is not how she feels now. Now, she knows that is a part of the process, and it is okay to go back and fix things. Second drafts, like first drafts, do not have to be perfect; they only have to be written. As soon as she and Miss N started talking about what could happen in the missing scene, Anty got excited about writing that one. Having that scene will make this current one, in its new form, much easier, because it will have room to breathe. It will also mean Anty has some moving around of things in both Scrivener and Google Docs (she is not sure yet which one is easier to use at this stage of the game, so she often writes in one and then copies to the other) but, that, too, is part of the process. That is how she can keep moving forward.

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

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skyebye

 

Book Hangover, Part Two

It happened again. Book hangover, I mean, the second one in one week, and it’s leaving me itchy. The first book hangover of the week, I covered here.  As I’d hoped, Fair Day, and Another Step Begun, arrived on my doorstep in short order, and I tore into the packaging, eager to get my next hit. My fingers tingled at the firm feel of the book inside the envelope, because this was a nice, sturdy hardcover, ready to withstand the many re-readings I’d already planned for it, starting with this one. I tore open the envelope.

Surprise: there is more than one cover. Blink. Blink.

 

FairDay2Covers

Yep. Two covers.

Cover with the red text is the one I had borrowed from that long-ago library. Cover with white text is the cover I now own. Yes, I do have plans to acquire the red text cover, and no, I am not giving up the copy I actually have (though I may lend it) because it is my copy, a gift from a dear friend, and one will pry that copy out of my cold, dead hand. Skye will link to my Goodreads review on Friday, so I’ll focus more on the book hangover side of things here.

This book. Oh man, this book. I’d remembered it as being written in first person, which was not the case -it’s third- and we don’t get to see Ellen fall in love with John Waters,  (Not the filmmaker. Seriously, not the filmmaker.) but that’s okay, because it’s a fable. Things happen in a fable, and we don’t need to know why; they merely are. That fits this book, because it, too, is a fable.

I’ve always loved stories that meld the now with the long-ago, so a then-contemporary (1970s) retelling of an old ballad from the British Isles, in this case, Childe Waters,  is right up my alley. Yes, I have read the ballad, and some variants, and  yes, this does make me want to seek out some more. I’ve loved this kind of tale since I was but a wee little princess. Maybe it’s in my blood. This feels like a medieval story, because, despite the then-modern setting, complete with hippie commune (and, truth be told, I would like to visit Fair Day in the really real world if that were possible, and I may or may not have a mental note to name a fictional stately home of my own -at least two centuries before the 1970s, thanks- Fair Day, or maybe there may be a Fairday family in my fictional future) the language, lyrical and dreamy, feels like it’s reaching through the mists of time, from another age, and I fell into the world of the book without question.

Childe Waters (alternately called Lord John, as, Ellen is sometimes called Margaret for reasons that probably make perfect sense to old timey British Isles people) is not all that great to Ellen in the original ballad. In fact, he’s basically a jerk. John Waters, in this book, behaves as one might imagine a man in his early twenties, in the 1970s, might react when he learns that he has fathered a child on a sixteen year old girl. I would have liked to have seen more about how John’s other girlfriend at Fair Day affected John. He doesn’t recognize Ellen at first, when she arrives, and not because of her pregnancy or disguise. Is the other woman controlling him in some way?

I have other questions. What’s the deal with Ellen having to pass through water to get to John? Medieval symbolism has something to do with it, I am sure, and I have absolutely no doubt, that at some point in the not too distant future, I am going to fall down a rabbit hole of Child Ballads and folk tales, and see where all that leads me. Something something rural south something something old traditions something something, Ellen’s question over how mountain people are the last to be civilized, and how she doesn’t know if that makes them stronger or something else entirely. Ellen’s love of horticulture and the land is part of her, and her surety, of knowing what she knows, is unshakeable.

This is a book that is going to require more study, more re-reading, more looking into and comparing and digging, and, once I have forced reader and/or writer friends to read it as well, discussion. I wish Aunt S were still with us, because I would want her input on this, her perspective. I want to track down Katie Letcher Lyle (yes, I know where her blog is, but I also need this time to be that incoherent teenage fangirl, and grown up writer on the scent of something beneath/behind/beyond the surface of the story) and buy her tea and pick her brain and talk.

Reading this book took me back to when I was that young teenager, in study hall of the second floor of McAllister Middle School. If I know where I was when I read a book, especially when I read certain individual scenes, then I know that the book in question has become a part of me, and maybe the resulting book hangover is some sort of process of recalibrating when the book and I have been reunited. A few days of fuzziness, of marination and regaining balance, and, then, it’s time to read something else. Not-reading something else is how reading slumps get started, and I don’t want one of those.

Which means it’s time to pick up something else. The first thing that came to mind is a pair of medieval romances, A Love So Bold, which I have read, and loved, and its sequel, A Banner Red and Gold, which I have not. Both are in storage. Both are out of print. The author wrote, as far as I know, only those two books. It’s not happening today. I accept that. At some point, I will stagger through the mist, and my hand will take a book from a shelf, or I’ll click on a selection from my Kindle library, and I’ll read. Maybe there will be a notice from the library that requested materials have arrived, and I will turn to one of those, because library materials come complete with ticking clocks.

In the meantime, I have writing of my own to do, and the components of the book hangover will simmer on the back burner. Maybe they will send out whiffs of why these two books have stuck with me, and what makes it different to have two book hangovers back to back. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it will take another book hangover, or two or three or ten, to work things out. That sort of thing can’t be forced, so onward I go.

 

(Not the) Sweetest Hangover

So, it’s Monday. I have a book hangover. My tea went from too-hot-to-drink, to so-cold-I-am-personally-affronted in the time it took me to perform the most basic of morning tasks. Weekend plans did not work out as planned, but there are no snooze buttons on Monday, so I’m here. Proper undergarments under sleep shirt and leggings mean that I am technically dressed. Concealer, lip gloss, and clear mascara/brow gel mean that I am technically wearing makeup. Hair is reasonably presentable, and there will be fragrance, because my brain knows that is the last thing I do before I am prepared to adult for the day. Which, in my case, means writing.

The book hangover comes from this bad boy (er, girl; this book is definitely a girl) I Will Go Barefoot All Summer For You:

BarefootAllSummerCover

My heart hurts because of this book.  That’s what the good ones do. They change us. They take us to a place we’ve never been, and they take us back to places in our lives we’ve been through before.  I think I went through first heartbreak again by reading this book.  Oh, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, sweetie, honey, sugar pie, baby girl. You’ll be okay one day. Someday, Toby Bright will be only a boy. You might not even remember his last name, once some time has gone by, and you’ll know, older and wiser, that he wasn’t all that great to begin with, but, right now, we’re both dying a little.

Right now, we’re both wondering if things wouldn’t have been different if you hadn’t put on the (expletive deleted) shoes, because, when you’re that young, and that deep in calf love (old timey word that means infatuation; it has nothing to do with calves. If you were infatuated with an actual calf, that would be an entirely different sort of book, and I would be writing you an entirely different sort of letter -yes, fine, I am writing a letter to a fictional character; let’s go with that- right now) that’s how things work. You wanted to prove the depth of your love, and that would earn the happily ever after, right then and right there. You almost made it through the whole summer, and I’m proud of you for that, even if the reasoning behind it was, well, adolescent, but so are you.

Not now, though. Your book was written in the early 1970s, set in the 1950s, so if you were born in the 1940s, and it’s 2017 now, well, I’m not going to do the math. I hope you’re happy, though. I hope you found someone, farther down the road, and I hope you were able to keep your aunt’s house and raise your family (or cats; cats would be cool, too. Maybe both.) there. I hope you wrote your books there, or anywhere, really, and I hope your cousin, Rose, knows that playing Robin Hood and other games in the woods with you was actually her walking around inside the very earliest drafts of your stories. I’d like to read some of them. I’d like to see how those seeds sown by your barefoot summer and fantasies of Toby Bright (I’m not all that concerned about where or how he is, if you’re wondering. He turned out to be only a boy, after all, for me.) germinated and changed and grew and blossomed in your own work, later on, with some time and some distance.

As I’m writing this, I am doing a little math. You were born in the 1940s, around Virginia. I was born in the 1960s, in Virginia, and you write, (or will write) and I write, so, y’know…well, apart from the whole you being fictional thing. Some books, we don’t read as much as we recognize, and I recognized this one. Yes. This.

If anyone had asked me, before this copy showed up in my mailbox, if I’d read this book already, I would have said no, but then I got to the part about the bus station and the Mars bar, and I had been there before. Yes, I have been in bus stations (and no, I have not eaten any Mars bars, because I have a tree nut allergy and I would stop breathing) but that wasn’t the thing. The thing was how you drew the line of maturity as being able to keep candy without eating it right away, and that Mars bar sat in your purse for a respectably grownup amount of time (well, the second one did, anyway) and that’s when I knew this was the second time I’d met you.

I’d been a teenager the first time, a little younger than you were in this book, I think, and I had not had my heart broken for the first time yet. I have no idea why it was the bus station scene that made itself part of me, but it roared into my consciousness the first time I took a bus from VT to MA, as a college freshman, and stood in front of a row of vending machines. (I did not get anything chocolate, in case you’re wondering. I don’t even like chocolate that much.) Were I to guess, now, what scene would stick with me most, it would maybe be that first kiss with Toby Bright (I am always going to think of him with first and last names. That’s not changing.) and the way riding home felt like flying, because new feelings bore you along and the door to a whole other part of life had been flung wide open and off its hinges, never to go back again.

I don’t know when it was you found your real happily ever after, and if it was with someone worthy of you, or on your own, but re-reading this book was like that for me, that door-off-the-hinges feeling, so maybe I’m going to stay here for a while. Go barefoot all summer for this book, or at least the next couple of days, because, as soon as Fair Day, And Another Step Begun, shows up in my mailbox, I am screeching on the brakes to whatever else I am doing and diving into that. In case all the characters one writer creates, even if the books do not intersect, all live in the same place (probably the writers’ head; that’s how it works with me) say hi to Ellen for me.

Typing With Wet Claws: Unauthorized Entry Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday.  First of all, I would like to point out that Anty is really, really, really good at killing earbuds. Actually, before that, I would like to mention that it was awesome having Uncle home extra this week, because he is my favorite, and that meant that he could spend extra time with me. That means that Anty had more time to work in her office, and also to find more writing time at Panera, after her meeting with Miss N.  That was not my favorite day, even if Uncle was home at the time. I will explain about that later.

First, before I can talk about anything else, I have to talk about what Anty wrote this week, and where you can find her writing on the interwebs, other than here. Like every week, Anty was at Buried Under Romance, and, this week, she invited readers to talk about the many first times every romance reader will experience. That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:

BUR1stTime

If you are following Anty’s reading challenge on Goodreads, it is here, and she is doing better this week.  She is now only eight books behind, and has a plan on how she will take care of the rest of the deficit. That will involve setting aside time for reading every day, and making sure she does not read too much of the same thing, too close together. She may even toss in some rereads, because those can go a lot faster. The books she read this week are:  Up All Night, by Laura Geringer, et al, (that is a fancy human phrase that means “and others”;) Mischief and Mistletoe, by Mary Jo Putney, et al; and Unfriended, by Rachel Vail.  Click on the links to read the reviews, which, all together, look like this:

 

I am working on my graphic design skills, which is not always easy because I have paws, not hands, and special paws, at that, but I do what I can. Anty has also been doing what she could this week, which involves helping Anty Melva get their two requests for partial manuscripts off to the publishing humans who asked for them. They got the first one off, and now it is time to get the second, larger, one ready to go. That takes some time, and so does getting ready for the next book, especially when she also needs to keep focused on Her Last First Kiss. Anty says she has exactly the same number of hours in a day as people who are very successful in her field (and others) and, as far as she knows, none of them have cats writing one third of their personal (or purr-sonal, I would say, but I do not purr; I never have, as far as any humans know. Do not be concerned, I am a very happy kitty, but I am quiet about it. Only about that, though, because I talk a lot.) blogs. If they can get all of their stuff done, so can she.

Part of that is finding the hidden pockets of time where she can both write and do the things that fill her creative well so that she can write. This past week, that meant that she stayed extra time at Panera, while the new stove was delivered. If you did not read her entry on Wednesday (it is here) the stove looks like this:

STOVE

 

Our landlord, Mr. D, likes to take very good care of us, and he bought us a new stove, which makes all the humans happy. It got delivered on Tuesday, which did not make me happy, because that meant that strange humans had to come into the house, take the old stove away, and then bring in the new one, and make sure it did not kill us all (it is gas.) Uncle stayed home that day, so that he could oversee the whole stove thing, and so that Anty could have some extra writing time after her meeting with Miss N. He put me in Mama’s room, where my things are, so that I would stay safe. He let Anty know when all the strange humans had left, so she could come home and be with us. She asked how I was doing (because she knows what is important) and Uncle said I was super scared, but okay because I stayed in Mama’s room.

I will be put in Mama’s room again in the next week or two, when the strange humans do the whole thing all over again, with the refrigerator. Do not worry, my cat food does not go in the refrigerator, so it will not be affected. I still do not like all the strange humans and bangy sounds and taking appliances that have been here ever since we moved in away, and replacing them with new things (if you do not know many cats, we do not like change very much) but I will be okay. Maybe Anty or Uncle can ask some of the strange humans to take away Anty’s office carpet (but not replace it with anything; I want it to be regular wood floor) so that I can sit reallyreallyreally close to Anty and give her extra inspiration and encouragement. I think that could only help. It is my duty as a mews.

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

skyebanner01skyebye

Reconnections

It’s Monday. The conference is over. Easter is past. There are buds on the trees, and a good chance that I may witness some sweet sweet waterfowl loving on my walk through the park tomorrow, en route to or returning from my critique session with N.  My back no longer hurts, and the weather, at least for today, is not trying to kill me. Sometime this week, or possibly next, Landlord will install our new stove and refrigerator. Melva and I have two requests to see partials of Chasing Prints Charming, and are ready for prewriting on Drama King. Today, after this blog entry (presuming we do not get surprise appliance installation) I go back to work on Her Last First Kiss. There are some Heroes and Heartbreakers posts waiting as patiently as they can in my brain,  and, with the scent of soon-coming season finales in the air, there will be more to join them soon.  It’s definitely spring, and definitely time to make sure I have a solid plan on how to get all of this done.

The fact that this new week means I am now ten books behind in my Goodreads challenge does not sit well with me, nor does the fact that I realized, well into the weekend, why I’ve had such a hard time making my way through a historical Christmas anthology, which I’d picked up specifically to take a chunk out of that reading debt. I love Christmas anthologies, and, usually, I can suck those down like ice-cold tea on a hot summer day. (Seriously, I can read Christmas stories any time of year, so writing one would be an interesting new experience, but that’s a someday project, not for today.) This time? Not so much. What started out fun turned into a slog, and I didn’t know why.

 

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Portrait of the blogger as a confused reader.

 

It wasn’t because the writing was bad, because it wasn’t. I liked what I was reading, found at least one new to me author whose work I would like to explore further, and bounced in my seat several times, because a new book by one of the authors I already follow is only a few months away. After a weekend where I carved out time to reconnect with my art journal stuff (and found, in the process, that some of my most-loved resources had expired of old age while I was away; there’s probably a whole other blog in that, so I’ll save that for later) and a heart to heart with a writer friend, over an entirely unrelated topic, the answer came to me. Nineteenth century overload. My last read, Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart, was Victorian. The anthology is (I have one story left to read before I can call it read) all Regency. The book I’d read before that? Regency. Before that? Edwardian. Okay, that’s slightly over the line into the twentieth century, but still, I’m seeing a pattern, so, when I move this anthology into the “read” category, I need to read something else.

Maybe I’ll read a YA next, to cleanse my palate, but, after that, I need to follow my heart, preferably to the eighteenth century, as that’s where Hero and Heroine live, and the commute would be short. Right about now, I could use a short commute. The good thing about going to a conference is that I return all pumped full of I Can Do This. The scary thing about coming back from a conference is that I need to turn that I Can Do This into I Am Doing This. That can be a daunting prospect, because this is the part that nobody else can do for me. When Melva and I work on our joint projects, the work divides itself according to who’s better at what; for us, that works. When I’m working on a solo manuscript, then it’s all me.

I am the way Hero and Heroine get out of my head and onto the page. N is my first reader for Her Last First Kiss, the first chance I get to know if I have put the right words in the right order so that other people can watch the movie that’s playing in my head. To make sure I have what I need to do that, I need to make sure my creative well is filled. Which is where things like playing with paint and ink and paper come into play; I can’t write an artist Hero if I’m not making art myself. Which is one of the reasons I’ve been peeping this undated art journal planner, ever since I saw an ad for it in my favorite art magazine. I do have a planner already, and I use it and I love it, but I want to play with this one, so it may yet happen.

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my two favorite historical romance novels

In the meantime, there is work and there is well-filling. Last week, I asked Facebook readers/writers who love historical romance to tell me what books made them fall in love with the genre. Some of the titles given were books I have known and read and loved, myself, and some were new adventures yet to be read. All of the answers were filled with what I was looking for when I asked that question. The connection, the spark, the recognition of “yes, that’s mine,” the seed that burrows deep into the soil of the writerbrain (or readerbrain, for that matter,) sprouts and blooms and explodes all over like cherry blossom season on steroids. That stuff goes a long way.