Typing With Wet Claws: Ancient Art of Ti-ming Edition

Hello all, Skye here, for another Feline Friday. This week has gone by very fast, and a lot of interesting things happened. I will tell you about some of them. On Saturday, Anty spent most of the day getting ready for our company on Sunday. I have never seen her haul an entire bookcase through the apartment before, but, on Saturday, she did. The bookcase did not put up much of a fight. I think it knew Anty meant business. She put the bookcase in her office (which I still do not go into, if you are keeping track of these things) and then took a bunch of books from a cardboard bookcase (like they have in stores; Anty used to work in a bookstore, and they let her take some of the cardboard bookcases home so she could store her books in them) and spent some time arranging the books in it. There are still some spaces, which she will fill with books from the storage unit, when she can go back to where we used to live and retrieve them. Playing with her books makes Anty very happy. So does reading them, which she is doing when she has time.

She does not have a lot of time. Besides blogging here (I help her out by taking Fridays for her) Anty also writes a weekly discussion post for Buried Under Romance and writes about romance novels and tells people who kissed on TV (the start of the new season will be busy for her, I think. Lots of TV people kiss when new seasons start) at Heroes and Heartbreakers, and she sold her second article to XOJane.com. That is like a magazine on the computer. It is the same place where she wrote her article about clearing out her papa’s house. This article will be about what it was like to take care of three grownup humans when they were all very sick at the same time. This happened before me, as I was not even born yet, so I cannot make any comments. The family kitty at the time was Olivia, who went to Rainbow Bridge. I came home three days later, because the family needed a kitty really really badly, and I needed a forever home. I think it is working out well.

Telling people things that really happened is not Anty’s main focus, though. What she loves the most is making up stories. Right now, she is working on two books, one by herself and one with my Anty Melva. She has not had a chance to do much on the book she is writing by herself this week, which does make her cranky, but she is happy because Anty Melva put together the chapters on the book they are writing together, and they are ahead of schedule. Anty figures she will do better on the other book soon and is trying not to stress about it.

This is what Cranky Anty looks like. It is fearsome.

This is what Cranky Anty looks like, in case you have forgotten. I never will.

Another thing that is taking some time this week is that Uncle needs to see some more people vets. Anty has to go with him. I assume she has to help get him in the carrier and make sure he does not bite. I do not think he will need a cone of shame, but one never knows. Anty is glad to be there for him, and she is also glad that the pharmacy where she gets his pills sells gummi bears. That may be one of the reasons she goes. If she has gummi bears, she is less cranky. If she looks like the picture above when you see her, please give her gummi bears and do not make any sudden movements. Playing Snow Patrol should also work. Or Tired Pony.  Basically, anything with Gary Lightbody in it. “This Isn’t Everything You Are” is Anty’s favorite song of ever, so that should work best.

Anty loves the video, too, and is only slightly freaked out that this video was released when she was first working on her time travel with a ballroom dancer heroine. That book has to rest for a while, because Anty got far too confused writing it and went down too many dead ends to keep on going the way it was. She still loves that story and especially those characters, but it was not the right time for that book to happen. Something was not right, though she does not know what the root of that could be. Too many other humans put in their ideas (she is still trying to figure out why one human could not understand why there were historical parts in a time travel. Even I know what time travel means, and I am a kitty.) so that Anty could not get to hers anymore. That was sad, but it is not over yet; the learning process is still underway.

One of the things Anty loves about the video for her favorite song is, besides the dancing, that there are a lot of different stories going on at one time. The three verses are each their own story, but each pair of dancers shown have their own stories, too. She likes the grittiness and the sadness mixed with the encouragement to hang in there, all things that are true in her book as well. Finding out what she likes, specifically, about things she likes, in general, and why she likes them, is very interesting to Anty, and helps her figure out how to tell her own stories, better. If you think it would be fun, watch the video and then leave a comment about what stands out about it to you. Anty would love to know.

It is about time to get Uncle ready for the people vet (Anty may try putting some bacon in the carrier to see if he will go in on his own) 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…

PS – “the ancient art of ti-ming” phrase is from  a very funny human named Steve Martin. Anty did not make it up, but she did remember it.

Back to Old School Season

Last night, the power went out. Twice. The night was sweltering hot, the rest of the family had sequestered themselves in their rooms, hot and cranky, leaving only me out in the living room. My plan was to watch Ink Master (which I am not sure even recorded, but there’s always On Demand, right?) and write, but BAM, the big dark. The box fan went out. College kids (we live in what’s termed the student ghetto, as our neighborhood hosts multiple institutions of higher learning) whooped and hollered, and one fine citizen decided that was the perfect time to shoot off fireworks. Really? Why do you have fireworks in September, sir or madam? Waiting for exactly this sort of event? Can’t make this stuff up, and, being a writer, that’s kind of my job.

So, anyway, there I am, in the dark, faced with a giant shift in plans for the evening. I don’t have tattoos myself (and can’t, medically, as I have eczema, which does not play nicely with tattoo ink) but I find the art form fascinating, so tattoo shows are must-see television for me. Ink Master is my favorite. This season is masters vs. apprentices, which I think is an interesting concept, especially how each pair handles the competition. For my money, if I were the master and my apprentice surpassed me, I would consider that proof I had done my job well. The student should surpass the teacher, IMO, at some point. That’s how we improve.

Which is where we’re going with this, today. After batting around some email conversations with writer friends, I dragged the window seat cushion onto the floor, filled my travel mug with ice water and settled in beneath the living room window, to hug an ice pack and have a good think. I would have written this out if there had been any light to speak of, but there wasn’t, so I’ll get it down here.

The office overhaul has brought a few different things to mind, notably my reading habits of late. While I do have that lovely TBR shelf above, where my brain and heart keep going is over two shelves, to the recently unearthed classics in their new case. Valerie Sherwood, Laurie McBain, Anita Mills, Barbara Hazard…I have  missed those gals and the stories they told. Not all of them would appeal to the modern reader, but they have stuck with me over the years, and in some cases, decades. The question is, why? What grabs me that strongly, for that long? Good questions, and there’s only one way to find the answers. Study the masters. I’d say mistresses, as, with the exception of Jennifer Wilde (who was Tom E. Huff in his private life) these books were written mostly by women (though Laurie McBain relied on her father’s input, and Valerie Sherwood thanked her husband, Eddie, for his role) I’m reluctant to use the term “mistress” in this context. Whole different profession there.

There hasn’t been a lot of reading time lately, but, once I started my reread of Call Back the Dream, I noticed I was approaching a few things differently. Right before the lights went out, I’d sneak-read a chapter in the bathroom. Haven’t done that in ages, but I used to do that all the time, when I couldn’t wait to dive back into the world of long-ago lovers. There was what we’d call head hopping today (I’m not going to go into putting modern standards of writing onto writers who worked when conventions were different, as that was how things were done then, so shushies) but the details…wow. I felt like I was seated at that table in the vicarage, having dinner with the heroine’s family. Each sibling, both parents and even their lone servant were distinctly painted characters, and no, they do not all get their own book. Sometimes, supporting characters are just supporting characters, and that’s okay.

I’ve read this book before, and will read it again. There’s the delicious sense of anticipation, because I know what Camille is going to find in a certain spot by the stream, but she doesn’t know that, and neither she nor Alexander have any idea what that spot is going to mean to them, or how long it’s going to take before they can claim the HEA that they might have had that much sooner if a few things had been even the slightest bit different.

Different. That’s the word. I love the historical romance genre; that’s what I live and breathe, what I’ve read and written since I was but a wee princess myself. I love that there is something for everyone, and I love that I do have these books from the era of my reading career that fires my blood, in which I see myself and the stories I have to tell. That’s in both senses of the word; one, that I possess them, and two, that I need to release them into the wild. I want the bigger stories. I want the variety of historical settings and eras, and people who think, act, speak, believe and comport themselves as people of their time. Not so much textbook-strict accuracy but versimiilitude. Could it have happened? If so, bring it on. Even so, I’m not writing a textbook, and I’m not writing fictionalized biographies. I’m writing historical romance. The love story has to be as important as the world in which it takes place, and it has to be done in such a way that it could not have happened at any other place or time.

The best way for me to learn how to do this is to see how it’s been done, and them replicate it, in my own voice. Which means I’ll be reading through these keepers, balancing the classic romances with newer editions and learning from both, to make something entirely new. Teacher may be a strict one in this class I’m making for myself, but at least I’ll know attendance will be one hundred percent.

Post Labor Day Rambles and Georgian Unciorn Chow

Monday’s post on Tuesday does not count as late if Monday was a holiday. Not sure if a holiday counts as such if it’s as disgustingly hot as this one was, but I got to spend Sunday with my good friend, Mary W, and her hubby :waves hi: so that definitely gets holiday points.

In preparation for the visit (and because it had long since fallen into ‘high time’ territory) I hauled a mostly unused bookcase into my office and busted my special keepers out of the storage box where they’d been since the big move and got them out on display.

Shelfie!

Shelfie!

Getting these old favorites out of mothballs and out where they can see them gave me a jolt of energy. This is why I read and write romance. If some of these books look well-read, it’s because they are, studied as much as read for pleasure. Those Valerie Sherwood books? Saved my bum in a pre-Revolutionary history final in college, where I needed to detail the contributions of three ethnic groups other than the English, that were essential to the survival of the colonies on an economic level. First two that came to mind were easy; indigenous and African, one group here already, and the other not here by choice, but both contributed much. Then my mind skidded to a halt. Sure, I’d studied, but could I remember any of that? Nope, what my brain wanted to  hang onto was that scene in Bold Breathless Love, where the heroine escapes her abusive husband by ice boat on the Hudson Riv…waaaaait a minute. Creepy abusive husband dude was Dutch, and so was the ice boat, and ice skating, and those were pretty darned useful, because otherwise, there is zero river commerce during the winter months, and then how are we going to get goods from producer to consumer, hm? Ice, ice, baby. Bonus points for those who know the legal name of the gentleman who popularized that phrase is Robert Van Winkle.

There’s a lot to be said for getting in touch with one’s bookish roots, and it’s a practice I highly recommend. Though I haven’t been reading a lot of current historical romances lately, merely seeing these books on shelves made my reader heart go pitter-pat. I want to reread that one and that one and that one, and ooh, that one. The array of settings and eras here dazzled me then, and it still does. 19th century Russia? English Civil War and Restoration? Georgian England? Colonial America? Yes, yes, yes and yes. This is a shelf full of unicorn chow, and I couldn’t be happier to have it out in the open again.

The book I’m holding in today’s picture is Call Back the Dream, by Barbara Hazard. It’s the first book I ever wrote a fan letter after reading, and I still remember being gobsmacked when Ms. Hazard actually sent back a personal reply. Not light reading, by any stretch of the imagination, and those brave enough to crack that gorgeous Elaine Duillo cover are going to need Kleenex and possibly counseling, because man oh man, the emotions here, and they are directly dependent on the historical world in which Camille and Alexander, the lovers depicted in said illustration live.

No rubbing of elbows with the movers and shakers of the time, but two star crossed lovers from different classes that society has decreed do not mix. Camille is the daughter of a vicar, Alexander the son of an earl, and those readers with some familiarity with the way things worked in the middle of the eighteenth century know this is not going to be an easy road. It’s not, and that’s what makes it a darned good story. Marrying other people? Well, duh. Secrets and lies? Um, yeah. Matters Need to Be Dealt With because those crazy kids and their radical ideas do not jibe with the Way Things Are Done. There’s breeding to consider, in both senses of the world, and the road to happily ever after takes Camille and Alexander fifteen freaking years to traverse. Yeah, baby.

Make no mistake, they make it to their mountaintop, but there are Ramifications, which Ms. Hazard further explores in the sequel, The Heart Remembers, which puts Camille and Alexander’s natural son, Jack, in the spotlight, after he finds out the way his family tree is really rooted, and he does not take it well. I’ll be rereading that one after I reread Call Back the Dream. I did write Ms. Hazard back and ask if there was going to  be a third book, to bring certain events full circle, and, though she allowed I was right about certain things, wasn’t sure if the book would be written. To my knowledge, it has not, and, believe Ms. Hazard is not currently writing, unless it is under a pseudonym. If so, I want to know what it is, because I will read those books.

These books get unicorn chow points because, double-digit years after first reading them, I remember, vividly, specific scenes. Camille’s first appearance, doing laundry on a hot and humid day, the books (Pamela, by Samuel Richardson) Alexander left for Camille to read in secret, The Fire. Those who have read this book know what I mean, and those who haven’t, you’re in for a treat.

That’s the kind of book I want to produce, so that’s the kind of book I need to make sure I’m taking in, as often as possible. Reading these books reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing, and makes me want to do everything I can to earn my own books a space on that shelf. Ms. Hazard, wherever you are, I’m leaving a light on for you and setting a place at the table.

As the Unicorn Rambles

All right, my liebchens, it’s Wednesday, I’ve already done #1lineWed on Twitter, I have a chat with my fabulous critique partner, Vicki, at two, writing must be done, articles pitched, so you’re getting this ramble because that’s how I roll.

Thanks to friend and reader Mary W, I got the idea to talk about some of the books I’ve read, recently or otherwise, that do suit my tastes. Much more fun to enthuse over something I love than whine about trying to find more of it. Here’s the thing about that; some of the time, it finds us, so all that looking can, in those cases, be the same as smashing our heads against a brick wall in hopes of getting through it, when, if we’d kept on walking a few more paces, we could have found the door, garden gate, etc.

This was going to be a video post, but the cold sore that showed up overnight is not terribly photogenic, so you’re getting this instead. All righty, disclaimer aside, let’s jump into this.

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Yeah, yeah, big surprise, but hey, reissue cover, for variety’s sake

Skye O’Malley, by Bertrice Small
(the book, not the kitty)

This is my all time favorite historical romance novel, big, bodacious, sprawling over years and continents, with one kickass heroine who doesn’t let boys boss her around. Doesn’t let Queen Elizabeth I boss her around either, for that matter.  An instance of amnesia actually working in fiction, lots of grit and adventure, from sixteenth century Ireland, England, Algiers and the high seas, to the political machinations of a woman making her way in a man’s world on her own terms, this gets my story blood pumping.

As for romance, Skye has more than one love in this book, and I am okay with that. Niall, her first love, and the hero of the book, is my favorite, and that final scene where the two of them and their friends literally do ride off into the sunset, well, that’s my all time favorite romance novel ending, ever. Yes, I can recite it from memory.  Much bigger in scope than is currently in vogue, and I miss that scope, this takes Skye from her birth to her HEA (for this book; eleven others follow, chronicling Skye’s family’s adventures) and set the bar or the larger than life heroines I prefer.

For those keeping track of that sort of thing, yes, this is a sexy book, but please don’t think that’s the whole point.  The character shine here, as people of their time, and if you don’t want to stand up and give Skye, Niall and company a fistpump at the end, well, I don’t know if we can be friends. (Okay, we probably can, but I would hold it against you. I am bribable with gummi bears, though, so you may still have a shot.)

Sword Dancer, by Jennifer Roberson

Oh good gravy, this book. I resisted reading it for ages (E, how long did I avoid this one?) because I’m not into a lot of fantasy, but, trust me, this really really is a romance.  Famed warrior Tiger can be matched by no man, but (fantasy readers, you know where I’m going here) that’s kind of moot because Del is no man. From the first time the two meet, in a desert cantina, the chemistry crackles between this Southron (sic) alpha male and Northron (sic) woman who is so very much his equal and opposite that following them through seven (so far) very thick books is not nearly enough. I also know the last line of this seies by heart. It was everything I …er, he dreamed when he slept at night, among the salset. :happy sigh:

My copies are in storage, but I have written about the series for Heroes and Heartbreakers, here.  Yes, there’s magic in this book, and it’s told in first person, from Tiger’s POV, but this gal found it very easy to slip inside his head. Tiger thinks he’s tough, and he is; he earns a living with his sword, fending off challengers, but the challenge he didn’t expect was to find a woman who can do what he does…and more. Del needs Tiger’s help to find and free her enslaved brother, This relationship has a lot going against it. They’re literally from two different worlds, and each gets a chance to see exactly what the other has had to overcome in their hometowns, not to mention some huge challenges destiny throws their way. I won’t give away their secrets here, but if you want a ride or die couple in your romantic fiction, Tiger and Del are it.  This really does read like a powerful historical romance set in a place we don’t know yet, so if you’re hesitant about fantasy, this is  good place to start. Ms. Roberson has also written some excellent historical romances, so, y’know, precedent has been set.

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Not historical romance, this one, but, well, kind of, sort of, in its way. Set in the 1980s, we could call this a period piece, because the fabric of the time is essential to the romance and shapes it in a way that one would collapse without the other.  It’s standalone, too, which is one thing I sorely miss in today’s market (though I find more standalones in YA than historical romance; what’s with that?) and absolutely everything revolves around the love story.

Eleanor and Park, high school students, meet on a school bus. Eleanor is hard to overlook. She’s fat. She has big, curly, red hair. She dresses funny. Park doesn’t want the trouble, but when he sees how badly she’s getting picked on, he reluctantly lets her share his seat. Then he notices she’s reading his comic book over his shoulder. He holds the book open wider so she can see. Swoon, right? He gives her the book, and other books, makes her mix tapes, becomes the one pure and true and good thing in her life. Eleanor needs that, as her home life is a crazy free fall of chaos with her abusive stepfather and her gaggle of siblings who look to her more than their parents for stability. Park’s family has romance cred already, as his dad loved his mother enough to go back to Korea for her, and he knows what love looks, feels, and sounds like.  He knows he’s found it with Eleanor, and he’s willing to fight for her, literally and figuratively.

The course of teen love never does run smooth, even though both know this is the real thing, and both must make a heartrending choice when Eleanor’s home life escalates. I do count this as a happy ending, and I like to think I do know what those mysterious three words in the book’s ending are. I will fight those who disagree, because, yeah, that is the hill I want to die on when discussing this book. I’ve written about Park and my other favorite YA book boyfriends for Heroes and Heartbreakers here.

That’s all the time I have for today, so I shall leave you here and scarper off to Georgian England for a while. What books can get you squealing like an excited fangirl/boy? Can you tell anything these three books or their characters have in common? Know a good cold sore remedy? Drop a line in the comments and let me know.