Let’s Call It Market Research

Only me today, but Storm insisted on being in the picture. Such is life with a beautiful calico girl. She has a thing for the Happy Planner paper. If it’s open, she must sit on it. Must. Even, and perhaps especially when I am opening the planner or notebooks to do Important Writer Things.

Very important Writer Things in this case, mean taking a look into the future, and making a road map to get me from where I am, to where I want to be. Real Life Romance Hero is on the new apartment case. As much as I love the perks of motel life (and there are some, housekeeping most of all) we are all more than ready to put down roots and settle into a real home once more. That will bring regular writing with it (yes, yes, I know, that can happen any time, any place, but it’s a heck of a lot easier when some of the basic things are more reliably covered) and I would like to have an idea of how that will look.

Which is what brought me to the open notebook that Storm claimed for her own. Okay, any paper is hers, but this paper is a clear favorite, above all. The notebooks I had open today were two dedicated solely to writing life stuff. One, not pictured, is for mapping out the current historical and contemporary projects, and a place to record potential future stuff, because the day will come, probably sooner than I think, when I’m going to have to start a new document and begin writing a new book.

In today’s market, that is more likely new books, plural. Series sell. They’re not how I naturally think for my solo work, but I’ve hit a vein of “yeah, but what if I tried it anyway?” and riff on some stuff that might be interesting to try at some unspecified time in the future. There’s a freedom in that kind of thing. No commitments as of yet, current work is still on track, and these particular pages are a place to ask myself what might be fun, how I might like to stretch, or if, maybe, it’s time to let ideas that have been in my head for years or even decades (yikes!) out for a meander.

This dovetails rather nicely with my determination to come from behind on my Goodreads challenge, targeting historical romance novellas (bonus if they are Christmas related) via Kindle Unlimited (because economical measures are win) means that I get to see stories I might not have found if I didn’t have this particular goal. Time travels for instance. Not a lot on the brick and mortar shelves (at least where romance fiction is concerned, but checking on the e-book front? Alive and well, from what I can see. Not saying if this means there is life in my own personal time travel (firmly on the back burner, until I figure out how many ten pound cats I was trying to fit into that particular two pound bag.) but definitely food for thought.

I found myself wanting to make note of this book and that, scribble down names of authors who look like they might have something I’d like. I’m seeing a lot of variety there, medieval, Vikings, pirates, Highlanders, ancient world, etc, along with nineteenth century stories, looser interpretations of the series concept, including shared worlds, and…I like it. This bears some study, and some recording of the study, so expect to see some of that here in the coming weeks and months.

This exploration excites me. It’s what I’ve always loved, and it’s something new. There’s an energy there. What if, instead of thinking about perfectly polished prose and getting everything “right,” I looked at what would be fun? What would I like to do a whole lot of, and train myself to write (to completion) faster? I look forward to finding out.

See you next time!


Why Did It Have to Be Selkies?

When I was but a wee princess, my parents, or some well meaning family friend, gave me a book of folk tales of the British Isles. I. Loved. That. Book. I still have it, though it’s in storage right now, so I can’t refer to it, but, when I needed to pick a project to work on for July’s Camp NaNo, I landed on selkies.

Not literally. They probably wouldn’t like that very much, but, once the idea was there, it put down roots, so okay. At first, it was mermaids. There I was, on retreat with Skye, and I had my Jane Davenport Whimsical Girls book out, turned to a page with two female figures. I surveyed my color choices. The faces looked similar, so maybe two versions of the same woman? Realistic and fantasy, maybe? Human and mermaid? Ooh. What if they were half sisters?

I whipped out the appropriate medium, and let my brain do its own thing while I swooped color across the page. By itself, the story formed. It’s a historical romance, first and foremost, (not between the sisters) with some familial conflict, and it doesn’t feel so much “paranormal” as one side of the family happens to be selkies. I was thinking mermaids at first, but there is the mermaid problem, Namely, how to put this gracefully, have intimate mermaid/human relations. This would be essential, so a quick bit of searching on aforementioned folklore of the British Isles was in order.

Which brings me to the selkie problem. Not the same as the mermaid problem, because selkies seem to have it easier in the human relations department. Shed seal skin, have human form. Sorted. Selkies, in many stories, become involved with humans, reproduce, and sometimes go back to the sea. Whether or not they can take their special friend with them varies, and I’m good with that. Works out rather well for what my story people want to do, and gave me a moment of clarity on why sting named one of his albums Soul Cages.

What, exactly, you might ask, is the selkie problem? For this gal, it’s names. Naming a character is an important part of the process, and, frequently, for me, it’s more a matter of them telling me what their names are. They won’t answer to anything else. I still have an outline draft with a hero who didn’t even know his own name until the very last chapter. (I am definitely going back to that one, someday,.) What the heck does one name a selkie? What do selkies, or, in a more broader scope, mythical/legendary creatures call themselves?

Thankfully, I neglected to officially sign up for July’s Camp NaNo, so I am doing it unofficially, with my goal to figure out this whole story, and what the heck I am doing even thinking about it, because I am not a paranormal writer, and the last time I ventured into that realm, my life fell apart, and I ended up ugly crying during a critique group (that had only positive comments, by the way) in the middle of a coffee house. The ugly crying incident had nothing to do with  me moving to a different state, but it does give me a sense of security that I never have to face that barista again.

This is the part of the process where I start writing down what I know about the story, telling it to myself. Kind of folktale-y, definitely historical romance, flying into the mist sort of thing. At the same time, Melva and I are thisclose to getting Chasing Prince Charming back to the editor who invited us to revise and resubmit, then will turn our attention back to Drama King. On my own, N is not letting me squiggle out of getting back in the saddle for Her Last First Kiss  so there is no lack of things to do. So, why toss another project into the mix? \

Good question. The best answer I have at this moment is “because I can.” Consider it the writing equivalent of physical/occupational therapy. I’m glad I did my May Camp Nano the way I did, and it is still simmering, goal met, so I can figure out exactly how my couple solves their problem. What is it that makes my heroine know what she has to do? I don’t know that yet, but it will come, and likely when I am slipping into a sealskin and taking it out for a spin.

In the meantime, hit me with selkie names. I’ll take anything.


A Moment Past Midnight (probably)

Yesterday, I had my weekly breakfast with N, at our local Panera. Coffee for her, tea for me, each with our breakfast item of choice. Asiago cheese bagel, with butter, for me, this week, and I have learned that holding the foil cover of the butter packets against the side of the paper cup that holds my tea melts the near-frozen butter much better than tromping over to the microwave beneath the coffee urns. This is not a post about Panera, I promise. (Unless they’d like to make me a spokesperson, in which case I am listening, and being paid in bagels is a viable option.)

The first part of our time together is always for getting current on the other’s life over the past week; domestic tornado management, how real life romance heroes and feline companions are doing, etc. There’s a transition period of geeking out over pens and notebooks, especially if one or both of us have acquired a new toy since we saw each other last. There is the obligatory petting of notebooks, trying out of any new pens, highlighters, or other mark-making implements, and then the talk turns to writing.

Though we both write in different genres -contemporary romance and paranormal YA, as well as general fiction for her; historical and contemporary romance for me- we’re both juggling multiple projects, and both want to increase our productivity this year. We know how to write books. What we need to do is write more books, closer together. This is one of the reasons I’m doing Camp NaNo this April. The other reason is that I accidentally signed myself up for this. The other-other reason is that I need a win, and, since I can set my own goal, I should have a fighting chance.

Yesterday, I gave N the bare bones of my idea for my Camp NaNo project, which I am calling A Moment Past Midnight. I did debate calling it Untitled Hogmanay Story, but that is probably one of the least romantic working titles for a historical romance, ever, at least that I, personally, have almost used. Nobody has any names yet; I am still in the phase of calling them Hero, Heroine, Heroine’s Parent, That Guy, etc. I’ve done some cursory looking around at various name resources, but no names have stuck yet. I fully expect that at least the principal players will tell me what their names are, before I start actually writing. Since this will start on April first, they get one day to tell me they’re joking, and provide actual names, or I’m picking for them. Nobody has faces yet, either, but that’s not important at this stage of the game. I have other projects that need my attention, so I can’t spend too long on one thing. When I do that, I get too far into my own head, and there comes a point when the weeds choke the flowers out of the garden, so to speak. I’m done with that.

Today, I woke to this:


Don’t ask me how long I stood there, head under the blinds, staring out at All That Whtie, but that is a lot of snow. The snow on the actual power lines did give me some pause, but where my eye went, naturally, was all the fluffy white stuff on the bare tree branches, the railing of the balcony on the house next door, the roof of the building across the street. There is every possibility that there will be shoveling today, but this looks like the soft, floofy kind of snow, so it should be possible to move it without back injury, and, besides, this stuff is flat out gorgeous.

I can’t look at a snowfall like this without thinking of that snowy night Real Life Romance Hero and I bailed on our plans, and I navigated unfamiliar, hilly territory in stiletto heels, while a whole world put itself together inside my head. I don’t know if  this new story will have any snow in it, because I’ll have to dig around and see what the weather actually was like in the general area where I put my fictional village, in the year when the story takes place (once I figure out what year that is) before I deal with any weather related ramifications, but that will come, in time.

The world of Her Last First Kiss is sliding into early spring at present, and I’ve skipped ahead a bit to when spring is in full flower. That’s a bit different inside my head than what’s outside my window, but I’m not complaining. My mind compartmentalizes that kind of thing fairly easily. For these people, it’s spring, and Ruby’s hero does blow into her life on a cold March wind, so rather timely on that one.

The calendar says really real world spring is right around the corner, so I’m going to bask in this snow while I can. Maybe, if I meet my writing goals for the day, I can byndle myself in knitted layers and waterproof boots and go out to tromp through the white stuff. The park near our house is beyond gorgeous with this kind of snowfall, so it may happen. Even if it doesn’t, I want to harness the feeling of that night with stilettoes in the snow, that feeling that anything is possible, and the rules of how things “ought” to be are, for the time being, suspended. That’s where some of the best stuff comes from, after all.

Middle of the Week, End of the Day

Middle of the week, and, once again, I am making this blog entry at the end of the day instead of the beginning of it. This bothers me, but, if I’m staying with the common threads theme, so the later posting time gets reframed as in keeping with the theme.

Yesterday was critique meeting day, with N, who also attended the workshop where we had to find common threads in our favorite viewing matter. Naturally, we had to compare lists. They were different, no choices in common, though we were more or less familiar with each other’s choices, or could fill in the blanks enough to get the gist of what appealed to the individual.

What we both agreed on, though, was that we would have liked to have made longer lists. The more examples, the easier it is to spot a pattern, but five was a good number when discussing in small groups. We also discussed the criteria for giving something favorite status. Does it have to be something watched multiple times, or can we count the moment when, during a first viewing, that we know a moment on the screen (or page) has crossed the border from something we watch or read, to something that is a part of us. Sometimes, a moment is all it takes.

Two characters who wouldn’t appear to be potential romantic partners at first lock eyes in the right circumstances, maybe brush hands in the briefest of touches, and that’s it. Boom. Never saw it coming, but, now, we will go down with this ship. A car drives around a bend in the road, we see the first view of the stately manor house, and now a part of our heart will always live there, no matter what else happens, in the story, or in life. Scenes stick in our mind. Sometimes, they hang out there for a long time, waiting for other pieces of the puzzle, to join them and become something new.

Both N and I discussed keeping longer lists of these films and TV that catch our interest on that level, and how I expand the concept in my Play In Your Own Sandbox, Keep All the Toys workshop, to include not only visual media, but books, music, and other miscellaneous media – computer games, graphic novels, etc. On the surface, they may not seem like they have much in common, but get them all in one place, and start looking for the common threads, and, surprise, there they are. Later that same day, I chatted with another friend, H, who mentioned a new option in a favorite game. It now has an arctic survival factor. Sold. I don’t need to hear any more than that. The first novel-length fanfic I ever wrote was set on an arctic world, for the mere reason that I love snow. If I have to create an alien world, there is going to be snow on it. Everywhere on it.

I love the idea of core story, not that it’s a formula, or one author doing the same thing time and again, but that readers know what they’re getting from a particular author. Hopefully, it’s the stuff that the author loves, and, ideally, at the spin-around-in-a-field-of-daisies level. Readers can tell. Trust me on that. For me, that basically breaks down to include (but not limited to) the following:

  • full immersion historical atmosphere – this is far past long dresses on the female characters. I’m talking the era as almost a character in itself, where characters think and act like people of their time. I want to be steeped in the period, feel it in my blood, and, for the space of the story, live in that world instead of our own. I have my favorite eras, but as long as we get full immersion, I can go pretty much anywhere/when.
  • star-crossed lovers who make it work – this is my catnip. If I could only write one kind of story for the rest of my life, this would be it. Give me two lovers who belong together, but have the entire world against them (or so it seems) only to find out that the world is no match for true love. I am perfectly fine if this takes years, or, in the case of sagas, decades. Hard-earned happily ever afters are my favorites.
  • house as character – do not get me started on this one. Usually a stately English home, but there are a few on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Double points if this is in a generational saga, and we get to see the house change with the different generations of occupants. Triple points if house falls out of family’s possession, and then back in after some time away. If I ever (who are we kidding, when) I get to write a family saga, there is going to be at least one of these in there.
  • survivor characters – I like my people to go through some stuff. Their emotional baggage, more times than not, comes in coordinated ensembles and may, in fact, need a luggage cart, or small pack animal, to carry it through the whole book. Hauling around all that baggage does develop some emotional muscles.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, though that may be something to consider as I study the idea of core story. Always good to know what tools are in one’s toolbox. What’s in yours?


I Will Go Down With These (Fictional) Ships (Paranormal Edition)

Time to blab about some of my favorite OTPS. That’s One True Pairing, for those not versed in the intricacies of fan fiction, and/or shipping.  This has nothing to do with transporting goods by water, but is fanspeak, derived from ‘relationship.’ In honor of Thursday apparently being National Matchmaker’s Day, The Happy Ever After blog asks select author who some of their fanfic couples are, which I find very interesting reading all on its own. Since I need a topic for today’s entry, I am going to hop on this particular wagon and blabber about such matters here.  Links go to my OTPs Pinterest page, for those meeting these couples for the first time.

My first ship that I remember having was Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, from the Wonder Woman TV show. I even subscribed to a fan club newsletter. We moved after I received the first issue, and the second (and subsequent) were never forwarded. Still salty about that. I remember that having to choose between an 8×10 glossy of either Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor or Diana Prince and Steve Trevor was agony for my ten year old self. I finally settled on the Wonder Woman option, but still am not sure if I made the right choice. I was always waiting for Steve to figure out Diana and Wonder Woman were the same person, or for her to make the revelation, but never could figure out how the HEA I wanted, even then, would work out, because Amazon, super hero, mortal, dude, all that sort of stuff. I’m still not sure how I would work something like that out in any of my own writing, but I did love that the heroine had two identities, and she was the strong one, and that the hero admired her for that. No, I have not yet seen the new movie version. I know what happens to Steve.  We’ll see if the sequel changes that.

I’m not sure if it’s me, if it’s the shows I watch/have watched, the whole romance writer thing, or what, but I have had a record of falling hard for TV couples that, well, don’t get the same treatment on TV that they would in a romance novel. I came to  Highlander (TV show, not movies) fandom late, as in  after the thing that already happened in season two, maybe even in season three. Whenever it was that the grieving Duncan first met his would-be second canon love interest of the series, Anne, an emergency room doctor, and I wanted to ship them. I really, really did, but it never quite took. Neither did Anne, even after Duncan basically built her a house with his own two Immortal hands, and I thought he deserved better. Which is when I finally, and do not ask me how, stumbled on the first season, and his original love interest, Tessa, a French sculptor, who owned her own blowtorch,  and the chemistry floored me. Duncan and Tessa forever, and I do mean  forever. Any detractors can shush about her being dead. It’s a fantasy show. Anything can happen. There was Fake Tessa, Alternate Universe Tessa (and even that ended badly, but I can accept the tragedy as long as it’s only alternate) so the next logical thing is somewhere, somehow, Real Tessa. Again, fantasy. Dead doesn’t count. They could figure something out.  My one and only attempt at a Regency may or may not have been inspired by their dynamic, no paranormal elements involved. I may resurrect the core of it as a Georgian. We will see.

Most recent members of this club are Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills from the dearly departed Sleepy Hollow. These two. Seriously, these two. Eighteenth century visionary and twenty first century cop may not be the most traditional couple, and sure, there was the complication of his being still technically married (even though his wife lived 200+ years in the past, buried him alive, and didn’t tell him that A) she was a witch, B) she was pregnant) that gave their explosive chemistry a wee bit of a challenge (until Ichabod had to kill wifey to save Abbie’s life.) When Abbie had to venture into Ichabod’s time to right a great wrong, and he met her there, not knowing he’d already met her in the future, oh my word, oh my word, do you know what this does to a historical romance writer? Then the show bungled the whole deal, Abbie got killed off, and all we shippers got was Ichabod placing a single kiss  on Abbie’s ghost’s hand. Her hand. Her ghost’s hand. Yeah, not good enough. I quit watching the show after that. In my mind, they beat all the monsters, and their reward is that they get to be happy. I don’t really need specifics.

Maybe falling in love with fictional couples is par for the course when one is a romance fan, and especially when one is a romance writer, which means one is actually both. As for falling for the couples that get shafted on their HEA, I’m still not sure what that says, but I do know that the urge to barrel into the story, announcing that it’s okay, because I am a romance writer, is not something I can shut off. Every couple on my OTP Pinterest board, whether canon gave them their HEA or not, has at least one part of their dynamic that goes into the idea soup, combines with something from some other couple, a bit from this book, that song, some bit of historical tid, a what-if from current events or daily life, the cover design of a new notebook, or a whiff of scent, and then, when I’m not looking, new characters are born, with new love stories they want me to tell. Who am I to argue with that?




Typing With Wet Claws: Planapalooza Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is a gray and sometimes rainy day here in New York’s Capitol Region, which is the best kind of summer weather for Anty.  There are still a few domestic tornadoes to wrangle, but Anty is making use of planning and organization to take care of most of them. I will get to that later.

First, as always, before I can talk about anything else (which is usually related to Anty’s writing, anyway) I need to talk about where you can find her writing on the interweb, besides here.  As always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week. This time, she talked about author websites. Do you like to visit author websites? Have a favorite? Have different expectations for websites from veteran and debut authors? That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:



Buried Under Romance


This week, Anty was very excited when one of her favorite bloggers, Rose Grey, blogged about her. Well, one of her blog entries, but that is basically the same thing. Some readers may remember that Anty blogged about one of Miss Rose’s entries, about writing rituals, a few weeks ago, which made Miss Rose very happy. Anty’s post on that is here.  Imagine Anty’s surprise when she got a private message from Miss Rose, telling Anty that Miss Rose had returned the favor. Miss Rose mentioned Anty’s post on brush pens and planning. That post is here, and it looks like this:



Rose Grey Books


Now it is time to look at Anty’s Goodreads Challenge. If you would like to follow that, you can do so here. Anty said some grownup-only words when she saw that, although she had read another book this week, she was now three books behind schedule. Anty does not consider this acceptable. At first, she thought she could cram in a few rereads and get back on track before this post, but that was not realistic, so she turned to her planner. She does not have the tracking system ironed out yet, but here is what she came up with for a manageable reading plan:

  • She wants to read more books. (this is too vague, so she made it more specific.)
  • She wants to read two books per week. 
  • Assume that each book has an average of 350 pages. 
  • Each week has 7 days.
  • 700 pages, divided by 7 days, means Anty needs to read 100 pages per day. 
  • This can be broken down into 4 sessions of 25 pages each. 

That feels a lot more specific than “read more books,” and Anty can zip through twenty-five pages, easy. She plans to record this for a month and see how the plan works. If it works well, she will continue it for two more months. If that works, then it becomes part of the regular routine.  So far, it seems to be working pretty well, but she only devised that plan yesterday, so it needs more time before anyone can make that call.

Anty’s review of the book she did read, The Shattered Rose, by Jo Beverley, is here, and it looks like this:



The Shattered Rose, by Jo Beverley


This week, we have a special request. Anty Sue Ann, who readers might know as blogger/author, Sue Ann Porter, read Anty’s post on brush tip markers, and asked what the tips of those markers looked like. I am not purr-sonally  allowed to touch Anty’s art or planning supplies, but I can share a picture.  The tip of a brush marker looks like a pointy paintbrush, as you can see here:


Tombow Brush Markers


Okay, I think that is it for updates. This has been a week of domestic tornadoes, for Anty and also for those around her. Both Anty Melva and Miss N had changes in their schedule this past week, which means that there needed to be changes to the regular schedule, because regularly scheduled meetings would not work. They are still figuring that out. This coming week has a holiday in it (I do not like Fourth of July at night; it is too loud, but Anty and Uncle like to watch the fireworks from the balcony. I hide until it is over. Fireworks cannot find me, if I am under the bed.)

To figure out the best time to plan the times to meet again, after disruption in the routine, Anty needs to look, not only at her calendar, as well as Miss N’s, and Anty Melva’s, but at the time it will take to deal with domestic tornadoes, and time to rest and refill the creative well. As usual for Anty, this will mean getting out pen and paper and putting all the information where she can see it in one place. Then, she will be able to make good decisions about how to best use her time.

Even when life gets interesting, writing is still Anty’s happy place, and that makes it very easy to focus. Her goal is to get both Her Last First Kiss and Chasing Prince Charming into the hands of readers, whether that mean traditional or independent publishing. She is still looking at what needs to be done with the book that is currently called Ravenwood (that is her postapocalyptic medieval romance novella) to get it ready to find its way to readers, so that is going to mean more work, but that is the kind of work she does not mind one bit.

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



Until next week…

Typing With Wet Claws: Hello Summer Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. It is not technically summer yet, because the calendar says the official start date is a little while from now, but Anty says that it is close enough, because it is now June, we are past Memorial Day, and, well, it feels like summer. Hopefully without the heat sickness this year, because Anty has Stuff To Do this summer. There is petting me, feeding me, paying attention to me, and also that writing thing. Purr-sonally (even though I do not actually purr) I think she would have a much better time of that writing thing if she got rid of her office carpet so that her mews could be closer at all times. When I say writing times, I mean snack time, feeding time, petting time, okay, and story time, too.

Since the deal is that I can talk about whatever I want after I tell readers where they can find Anty’s writing on the interwebs (besides here) this week, I had better get to that. First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance this week. This time, she talked about the different ways book lovers can organize their treasure troves (by which I mean books.) That post is here, and its link on the main page looks like this:


Anty also had a post on Heroes and Heartbreakers this week, and this time, it was about tracking the relationship of New Girl‘s Nick and Jess, one of her favorite sitcom couples. That post is here, and it looks like this:


She also participated in the H&H Bloggers’  best reads of May.  If you would like to know what Anty’s favorite read of the month was (and have not already guessed from reading her blog, or Goodreads) or are curious about what the other H&H bloggers liked best, you can read about that here.

Now, speaking of reading, and because it is the first Friday of the month, we get to check in on not one, but two reading challenges Anty is doing. First, let’s look at the regular Goodreads challenge. Right now, Anty’s challenge looks like this:


Anty remains on track this week, which makes me very proud of her. Keep it up, Anty. I believe in you.  Now we will check in on the historical romance reading challenge.


Anty read one historical romance novel this week, A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, by Meredith Duran. Her review of that book is here. If that seems a little light for her goal of reading more historical romances, we need to look at the big picture. Since the beginning of the year, Anty has read thirty-seven books. Nineteen of those are historical romances, which puts her over the fifty percent mark, so I am going to give her a passing grade on this, but she can still make more of an effort to read more historicals. Keep going, Anty. You are getting there.

Now it is time to talk about the writing that Anty is currently doing. Anty took this picture by accident one day, while taking her deskscape image, and kind of liked it, so she made it into a banner, but did not know what to use it for, so I will use it to mark where I talk about her everyday writing. I am not sure if it needs words on it or not, but I think it is a decent banner, anyway.


Cat-ption coming soon…maybe.

This week sees Anty entering the double-digit numbered chapters of her second draft for Her Last First Kiss.  She is still learning new things about this book as she goes, mostly how to get more inside the characters’ heads, because that is where the interesting stuff happens. Some of that interesting stuff has involved old-timey underwear, because that is going to come into play in that chapter.

Not only does this mean that Anty has to look for pictures and descriptions of old-timey underwear, but explain it to both Miss N and Critique Partner Vicki, who are not familiar with the underwear of this era, how said old-timey underwear works. This resulted in some interesting discussions, usually including a reminder that people in 1783 would think the underwear people wear in 2017 is as weird as 2017 people find the underwear of 1783. My underwear is built-in fluff, because I am a Maine Coon, and that means I have a double coat. It is a little different for Anty’s imaginary friends.

The chapter Anty is working on right now is one where Hero and Heroine cross one of the points of no return, where they cannot go back to the way things were before, and that is going to make things awkward, because they still have to live under the same roof. I know what you are thinking because of the underwear mention, and you are wrong. It is not that. It is also the point where Anty said some very interesting words when scenes move themselves around. She can’t keep a scene with Hero and Character X in this chapter, because A) it already happened in a previous chapter and B) Character X left in the previous chapter, so now it’s Hero and Heroine thrust alone together when they would really like to go in opposite directions, but then there would be no story.

Some of Anty’s critique partners have said that Anty likes the rewriting that happens in a second draft more than she likes the initial writing in a first draft, and they may not be wrong on this one. By the second draft, Anty knows the characters better, and, sometimes, they have a few things to tell her, that she did not know the first time. That happened with Anty’s writing on Her Last First Kiss this week, and she kind of likes that. She says it means that the story is real and alive. I think being a live is pretty good, so go, Anty. Keep moving in that direction. Also the direction of my food bowl.

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



Until next week…

Missed (Fictional) Connections

I am a planner. I need to know where I am going, and how to get there, or I will spend an inordinate amount of time circling the metaphorical roundabout, looking for the on-ramp, until I run out of gas and abandon the car entirely and head off on foot. From there, I will probably wander the moors, my lantern held aloft in the whipping wind. In the distance, a wolf howls. In short, this never leads to anything good.

Especially not in the whole area of a sustainable writing career. Which means time to plan. Conventional wisdom, right now, at least as it applies to historical romance, is that the best chances of success (as in financial/sales/building reader loyalty) are with connected books; at least three books in the same story world, preferably five. The most marketable setting right now seems to be Regency England (not my cup of tea) followed by Victorian England (same; I suspect I was born without the nineteenth century gene) and :drumroll please: Georgian England. Georgian England, I can do.  Since I’ve already set my focus, for the time being, on eighteenth century romance, this gives me a place to start, and a foundation on which I can build.

My natural bent, and still my preference, after all these years, is still my first love, the standalone romance. One pair of lovers, one story, one HEA, wave them off into the sunset and then on to something else entirely. Basically, “Well, medieval France was nice :dust palms: I’m thinking…:drums fingers: Gilded Age New York next, and maybe pirates after that. Who’s with me?” That last bit might be best read in David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor voice. Go back and read it in that voice if you’d like. I’ll wait.

I also have a strong preference for selling books over not selling books, so this means it is an opportunity to learn new skills. Last night, I sat in my uncharacteristically quiet office, the window open, no music playing, only the sound of the rain on the street outside, and looked over some options. While I browsed blog archives by other, more successful, historical romance writers, I also poked around my private Pinterest boards regarding projects currently on the back burner. I opened the board I’d kept for my Regency crash-and-burn, and de-Regencied the whole thing in one go. Wiped out every single pin that pegged this story as taking place in that particular era, no exceptions, and, immediately, I felt…relief. Now, what about reimagining this story as a Georgian? Possibilities there. I think it could work. I’d have to move some things around, but the hero and heroine wouldn’t have too drastic changes, and their love story stays the same.

Which got me to thinking about other orphaned manuscripts, set aside at various stages. Would it be possible to take the most viable of those orphans and stick them in the same story world? Now that I’ve accidentally found out how to include pictures in Scapple, I can throw my various people on the same page, along with a bunch of things that inspire me in a more general sense, and start making connections.

This is new for me. Melva Michaelean and I have planned out two more books in the same world as Chasing Prints Charming, but this is the first time I’ll have taken on something like this on my own. It’s an adjustment, and a challenge. Can I make things work together? How are the characters going to fit together, when they’ve been in their own corners up until now? The only answer I have at present is that I will soon find out, and that I will likely surprise myself on more than one level. Thinking in terms of “and,” not “or” is a big help here. I can still write my standalone stories, and I am fully aware that those may be a tougher sell, or present a smaller return than linked books. I am fine with that. It’s a good balance.

The next step here is creating that world. Part of me thinks this could be fun and the other part already has a headache.  To bring this back full circle, I am a planner. I want to know what I’m doing while I figure out what I’m doing, and, at the same time, I want some of the connections to make themselves. That’s probably part of the whole flinging everybody on the same electronic whiteboard process. I already know I’m going to have more than one artistically inclined character, and probably more than one of the gents will wear or have worn regimentals at one time, but those are places where connections can start to form. Where they go from there, remains to be seen.

Last night, while poking around my desk, I found the bunch of index cards, pictured above, with chapter headings written on the top line of each card. I have no idea what project these were meant for, but rather fortuitous that they surfaced when they did. Maybe it’s a sign. What do you think?


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.



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.


Typing With Wet Claws: Scary Stories Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Here I am, practicing my begging face. Are my eyes big enough? I am next to the refrigerator, so that Anty will know I want food. My food is not in the refrigerator; that is where they keep people food. My food is in the pantry, but I figured Anty was smart enough to make the connection. Today is also the day before young humans put on costumes and go begging for treats. I beg for treats every day (and I get them) so I feel sorry they only get to do it once a year.

I was not born yet when this happened, but I have an interesting Halloween story to tell about Anty. This happened back when Olivia was our family’s kitty, and Anty worked in a place called the mall. The store where Anty worked sold accessories, which was very fun for Anty. They also said that workers could wear costumes for Halloween if they wanted. Anty thought that sounded fun, but she was also very busy that year and did not have time to put a costume together.

That is not the end of the story, though. While Anty was at work, people from the mall gave her a prize for wearing an especially imaginative costume. Anty was very confused about this, because she was wearing her regular clothes. Well, regular for Anty, that is. She had on a long patchwork skirt, suede boots with zippers, a pirate shirt and a black vest. She also had a Star Trek: The Next Generation style communicator pin that she wore as regular jewelry. The mall people said that they loved Anty’s costume as a member of a Star Trek landing party in disguise. Anty figures it was very creative of them to come to that conclusion, and maybe she had subconsciously worked in that direction, so she thanked them and accepted the prize.

She also went back to sorting through the pretty toy coins the mall people gave her to hand out to trick or treaters (they could not give out eating things because of rules) because those were not toy coins at all. Anty did not know how the mall people got those coins, because those coins were from a big big party called Mardi Gras in Louisiana, and the mall was in Connecticut. What Anty did know was that some of those coins could make parents of the trick or treaters angry, because some of those coins advertised places and activities that are not okay for young humans. Places where only grownups can go, to get drinks that are only for grownups, and places where grownups can watch other grownups, um, I will say dance. I do not mean ballroom or ballet, if you catch my drift. Anty took those kinds of coins out of the basket and did not give them out.

Those are really the only two Halloween stories I know, but I know a lot about being scared. Anty likes TV shows like The Walking Dead and Sleepy Hollow. Those are only pretend scary. I will tell you what is really scary. Research is really scary, at least according to Anty. Her first book, My Outcast Heart, was set in the town where Anty was a people kitten. Her hero was a hermit and her heroine was a subsistence farmer. That meant that the expected income for that job was food. That sounds like a very good job to me. I like food.

For this book, Her Last First Kiss, Anty is not on such familiar ground. That means she has a lot of research to do. Her previous books have had what some might call outliers as main characters. That does not mean they were very good at not telling the truth. That means that they were not a part of mainstream society. The heroine of Never Too Late started out as part of society, but she left, so she falls into that category, too. Anty says I do not need to know what a mistress is, but she needs to know how one got paid and how much and how much it would cost to keep somebody in a special hospital in 1784, and what her boy story people would have studied at Oxford and how far it is from Point A to Point B..and C and D and E, and how long did it take to get a special license to get married and other things as well. I am pretty sure I heard the exact moment her brain broke yesterday. That was a very scary moment for a kitty, because Anty was the only human at home, and I still needed food. I think she is better today, but she has a big binder out and is muttering something about something about maps. She is irritated with the Romans for putting London all the way at the bottom of the country, because that does not leave her a lot of room for characters to — Anty says I should not be talking about things like that before she has them firm in her mind.

One thing Anty has learned from all the books she has started to write but did not make it all the way is that she needs to have the foundation in place, and research is part of that. When she wants to know what her people could do in that time, she can look at what people actually did in that time. Anty is writing a romance novel, not a textbook, but she also needs to know what her people’s world was like and what they could do. If she does not know what her people could do, then she gets overthinky and that scares even Uncle, so she has to find these things out.

Anty needs the computer back, so that is about it for this week. Until next time, I remain very truly yours,

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

Until next week...

Until next week…