Peace, Quiet, and Historical Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Thanksgiving Edition

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

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

BURlocationlocationlocation

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

HandHOutlander

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

Typing With Wet Claws: Almost Halloween Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Anty would like to thank all those who wished her a happy birthday this week, because she did have one. For part of it, she got to sit in her comfy chair, drank tea, and read, while I slept under her footrest. There was rain that day, which Anty also very much liked. Uncle ordered in Chinese food for a special birthday lunch (I had cat food, because I am a cat, and that is what cats eat) and then Anty watched Netflix with a friend over Skype (still has nothing to do with Skye pee; I am not going to get over that anytime soon.) Very nice day, all things considered.

The next holiday that is coming up is Halloween, and Anty likes that one, too. I will talk more about that after I bring everyone up to date on where they can find Anty’s writing on the interweb this week (besides here.) First, as always, Anty was at Buried Under Romance on Saturday. This week, she talked about ghosts in romance. That post is here, and it looks like this:

BURghostromance

Now we come to the part of the post where I tell you about Anty’s Goodreads challenge.

GR2710readubgcgakkebge

As of today, Anty is two books ahead of her goal. She has read seventy-five out of ninety books. All of the books she read this week are YA. Some of them have love stories in them, but not all of them would qualify as romance. Right now, Anty is finding a lot of intense emotion in these books, and would like to figure out how she can get some of that into historical romance. It is a field of study for her at present, and, as we can see from her reading activity, she does not mind the homework. I think these books could use a few more cats in them, but I do get to sleep near Anty’s reading chair no matter what she is reading, so I will not complain. The books Anty read this week are:

GReverythingeverything

Everything Everything, By Nicola Yoon

GRmorehappythannot

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera

GRturtlesallthewaydown

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green

 

Anty hopes to get more reading done over the weekend, and, because it is my duty as a mews to remind her of her historical romance challenge, she might want to get some of that in the rotation, because the first Friday of the new month is not that far off, and I will be tallying the percentage of historical romances she has read then. I strongly suspect this current YA tear will be followed by a historical romance tear, but who can tell when one will give way to the other?

Now that birthday festivities are (mostly) over, Anty looks forward to some decent writing time in the coming week. She is probably not going to official participate in NaNo WriMo this year, but she may sneak into a write-in or two. Sometimes, Anty needs a booster dose of people, and sometimes, she especially needs to be around writer people. I am not entirely sure how that works (because I am a kitty) but I have learned that Anty needs what Anty needs. Now that her favorite coffee house is open again, she will probably be going there more often, sometimes with notebooks, and sometimes with her laptop, if she can figure out why the whole thing has to be tilted at a certain angle, to keep the screen from going black.  Anty and Miss N have talked some about how they can increase productivity in writing for the rest of the year, not only in November (Miss N is not doing NaNo, either) so Anty will probably say more about that later.

For now, we shift our attention to the next holiday on the calendar, which is Halloween. Anty likes Halloween, because that means that there are a lot more things in stores, with skulls on them. Anty collects skull things. She wears a skeleton hand ring every day, and one of her water bottles is kind of like a mason jar, but shaped like a skull. It is also red, which most skulls are not. Anty does not have any real skulls (apart from the ones the rest of the family is currently using at this time) but she does have a lot of skull-shaped things. Human skulls only, not kitty skulls. That is an important clarification.

Anty is not sure when the skull thing actually started. Maybe it has something to do with pirates, because some of them had skulls, or whole skeletons, on their flags. So far, Anty has only written one story with a pirate in it (that would be Queen of the Ocean) but it will probably not be the last one, because she has been interested in pirates for a very long time.  I am not sure how that one started, either, but she does remember watching a cartoon version of Treasure Island when she was maybe four or five, so that may have something to do with it. The day after Halloween means that things with skulls on them often go on sale, so Anty likes that day, too. Mama has said that Anty likes to go to post-Halloween sales to pick up stuff to use and wear all year round, and she is not wrong.

I should probably mention here that Anty once won a prize for wearing an imaginative Halloween costume to work, when she was actually wearing her regular clothes. Anty did not correct the person, because the prize was free chocolate, and Anty is not stupid. She is not that into chocolate these days (though she will probably want one fun-sized Snickers sometime in the next week) so gummi bears would be a better choice to reward her for creative dressing. Or maybe books. Anty always likes books.

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

skyebyenew

see you next week

 

 

Ramblings of a Fictional Magpie

First off, in case you missed it, my Frank Randall Deserved a Happy Ending post went live on Heroes and Heartbreakers yesterday. Don’t tell Skye I blabbed it before she could share the link. When I first read Outlander, I actually didn’t. I read Cross Stitch, the British version (and original title) because A) it supposedly had more historical content, and B) Claire was “nicer” to Frank. I didn’t know anything about Frank when I went into this, apart from the fact that he was Claire’s original husband, and, really, had no good options when Claire came back from the past, in love with, married to, and pregnant by another man. I’m still not sure how the legalities of a pre-existing marriage would hold when a woman finds herself two centuries in the past, as Husband #1 wouldn’t have been born yet, thus could not have married her, because he didn’t exist, but he did exist, because Claire remembers him, and is wearing his ring at the time.

All of that is largely to get me over the hump of the blank page, because I’ve been staring at it for a while now, and this entry needs to be written, so going with the “throw something at the page and see where we go from there” stage. I think the first love triangle that I was aware of was King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot. Guinevere and Lancelot have some chemistry, and, if it weren’t for one of them being married, I could probably get behind them, but she was married, and to Arthur, and even at, hm, I want to say six, or so, I knew that something about this equation could not turn out well. Camelot came crashing down, both in folklore and the musical, which I watched on TV at the home of family friends. I didn’t entirely understand what was going on (again, six) but I was enthralled. This is probably more proof that I came out of the box, hardwired for historical romance.

I was the kid who, when given Jane and Johnny West figures for Christmas (maybe that same year? That feels about right.) did not fall in love with the mystique and adventure of the American West. Instead, I made them act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. My dad was big on the classics, if nobody guessed that by now. Still, I think that wasn’t entirely what he had in mind. To this day, I’m not sure if Jane and Johnny were meant to be siblings or lovers. No, scratch that. I checked. They’re married. They also apparently had four kids. My parents probably kept that information from me, to forestall requests for the kiddo figures. I also did not know about the homestead, dogs, or friend and enemy figures, to say nothing of articulated horses and a bison. A bison. Seeing as how we have a stuffed bison (cuddly toy variety, not taxidermy variety) on top of our dresser, six year old me cannot complain of a bison-less existence.

This is the part where I stare at the screen, notice I have about two hundred more words to go before I can sign off on this entry, and have no earthly idea how to tie this into anything that will make sense to anybody but me. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe every entry doesn’t have to mean something,  and I can put what’s in my head out there, for readers to take what they will. After this, I have a critique partner’s chapter to look over, and then get something together for my weekly meeting with N. What I would most like to do is snuggle into my comfy chair, with a blanket, some hot beverage (tea or cocoa, not sure which one I would want in this hypothetical circumstance) and finish reading Holding Up the Universeby Jennifer Niven, because I am still emotionally raw from blazing through her first YA novel, All The Bright Places.     What is left of my heart still wants to hang out there, hang onto that voice, and, as I did with my Best of the West figures, pick what I want from the source, and figure out how those elements would work in the world of historical romance.

I think I was hard-wired for that sort of thing, too. Meat Loaf (the singer, not the food) once said that people need to keep one thing in mind when listening to any song composed by his songwriter, Jim Steinman: that everything Steinman writes is from the same story world, and it all fits together. I think Meat called it Wonderland (not the Alice sort, IIRC) but I may be wrong on that one. Still, it stuck with me.

Maybe that’s why I go through periods when I know, without a doubt, I am in full magpie mode. I’m hungry for a certain kind of story, or setting, or character type. When magpie season hits, I have to inhale everything I can about the current fixation, process it, and trust that it’s going to come out again in my own work, in some fashion. At six, I probably did not register Romeo and Juliet’s ultimate fate, and, at more-than-six, I am not going to tell the Bard how to write, but, in a romance novel, the lovers would be alive, together, and happy about it. That’s hardwired, too, and I am fine with that.

TheWriterIsOut

 

 

 

 

 

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,

skyebanner01

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.

Fair Day, and Another Blog Begun

Right now, I have a deep, burning, urgent need to read Fair Day and Another Step Begun, and I Would Go Barefoot All Summer For You, two long-out-of-print YA novels by Katie Letcher Lyle. This is not want. This is need, like these books are a part of my writer self that I did not know were missing, until something, likely falling down a YA rabbit hole on Goodreads, jogged my memory. I’d read Fair Day when I was in junior high, and fell wildly in love with the exquisite use of language, how a story set in then-contemporary 1970s America could have the feel of a time and place long ago and faraway. I did not read Barefoot, and I think I may, at the time, have scoffed at the title, but that only means I was not ready for that book then. I am, now.

Both books have their roots in medieval ballads, Fair Day a direct contemporary (for 1970s) retelling of the centuries-old ballad, Child Waters. I don’t know how these books came back to my attention, but, right now, it hurts that I don’t have them, which is a clear signal that there is something in them that I need. Neither book is in the library system, though two nonfiction books on plants by the same author are. Not quite the same, so the search continues. Ebay or Amazon it is, unless I strike gold at the local UBS, which is probably a longshot, but still going to try.

My memories of Fair Day are hazy, but I remember, while reading that book in the second floor study hall (if I remember physically where I was at the time I read something, it’s a sure sign it has become part of my idea soup) how it felt both modern and ancient at the same time, in a sort of world set apart. I love that kind of thing. Give me a pop singer backed by a symphony orchestra, or modern music played as though it were from centuries before, and I am going to play it until somebody’s ears bleed. This is one reason why my family knows that it is a good idea to keep me well supplied with backup earbuds at all times. There is no such thing as playing a song on repeat too many times if it has something to say to my storybrain.

It’s the same with books. If there is something about a book that gives me that “Yes. That.” feeling, then I have to have it, hold it, touch it, smell it, stare at the covers, flip through the pages, until it becomes a part of me. Once it’s in, it doesn’t come out. Well, it does, as something from it will find its way into a story or character or idea, and it will be reproduced, but the original inspiration stays put, ready for me to draw from it again, as needed, in near or far future.

GRfairday

Why this/these book(s) now? I don’t know, but I have learned not to question it. Sure, the cover does have a vague sort of historical romancey feel, if one looks in the right light. I don’t remember if Ellen and her child’s father end up together, and I don’t want to know until I (re)read, so I don’t know if this a romance. I don’t want to know. The heroine in the foreground, the man on horseback in the distance, the dirt road between them, her long, loose hair, her oversized coat, the bare trees reaching to the cloudy sky, the lyrical title, the memory of how the school library was often my sanctuary when life got rough. I remember the bite of cold air on my skin. I remember falling down and getting  up and going onward, onward, onward, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

I did not read Barefoot, but, when I read “Toby Bright is coming,” said Aunt Rose, my storybrain quickened. Yes. That. Shut up and take my money. I need this book. Don’t need to know another thing about it, and, in fact, don’t want to know. Given that the heroine is thirteen, I don’t think this is a romance. I think it’s what those old-timey people in centuries past would call “calf love,” and I am fine with that.

Maybe I’m entering the magpie stage for whatever comes next, acquiring bricks for a house I have yet to design, much less build. As of this week, I am six chapters and change into the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, and there’s a new Melva chapter from the Beach Ball sitting in my in-box, which means I need to send her one back. There needs to be a What Next putting itself together on the back burner, because I am going to come to The End on both of these projects, and I do not want to blink into the abyss.

So, yes, medieval ballads. Check. Soak in the exquisite marriage of language and emotion until I am drunk on it. Check. Emotional afterglow that is still with me I’m not going to say how many decades later. Yes. This. This is what I want to take in. This is what I want to put out. Titles that feel like music. Lyrical prose. Characters who let me feel each beat of their heart as though it were my own. I want to read that. I want to write that.

For now, I can stare at the covers and pick apart the design elements, maybe mess around with paint and ink on paper of my own, to see what comes about, either to come up with something similar, or figure out how the original artist did it. Note what music feels the rightest while I do, and see what imaginary friends poke through the fog in the process. The journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with a single step. Maybe this is one of those. Only one way to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Typing With Wet Claws: Christmas Eve Eve Edition

Hello, all. Skye here, for another Feline Friday. Today is Christmas Eve Eve, the day before the day before Anty’s favorite day of the year. it is also the birthday of a fictional character that has lived in her head a really, really long time and probably wants to get into a book at some point. Anty thinks about things like this a lot. Today, Uncle is helping me hold still for my picture because I kept moving around when Anty tried to get the picture. I did not mind much, because that meant I got Uncle scritches. He gives the very best ones, because he is my Uncle.

Before I talk about anything else, like the fact that I peed on my catnip mouse -I did not actually pee on the mouse, but it did sustain collateral damage. I will talk about that later.- I have to talk about what Anty wrote this week, because that is our deal. As always, Anty has her Saturday Discussion post at Buried Under Romance. This week, her topic was the big books, the ones that don’t have to go on a coffee table because they could be the coffee table, they are that thick. Unless they are e-books, then they are a file, and I do not know of any coffee tables that are files. Except fot the ones in the Sims games, because those whole worlds are files. I think. Anyway, Anty’s post is here, and it looks like this:

 

burbigbooks

Anty likes big books and she cannot lie…

Speaking of big books, Anty read a couple more this week, and then wrote about them on Goodreads. One of those books was The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. It is a YA book, and the sequel to Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, which is one of Anty’s all time favorite YA books, and one of her favorite Christmas books, which means she was very happy to learn that this book existed, and even happier to read it. Her review can be found here, and it looks like this:

12daysdashlily

 

 

Anty also read Dark Champion, by Jo Beverley, which is a medieval historical romance. Jo Beverley only wrote four medieval novels. Most of her other books are Georgian, which Anty loves, and Regency, which is very popular, so having these medieval is a real treat for Anty. You can read her review here, and it looks like this:

darkchampionbeverley

Anty has also been working on her own books, of course, but I am not allowed to post parts of those here. That is for after they are done and published. Then that would be called “excerpts.” Writers like when people (and kitties, I assume) share excerpts of their work. Maybe I can do that with the books Anty already has out, in the new year.

Right now, it is still the old year, and Anty is getting ready to celebrate all that comes along with that, for humans and kitties alike. This is the part where I can talk about whatever I want. I will start with the catnip mouse part. Regular readers will know that I have special paws, so I do not climb or jump (I am okay, though, and I can walk and run and play perfectly fine.) I do not like to use a litterbox, because I do not like the sides, so I picked a special spot on the floor to do my liquid stuff, and that is the only place I do it. Ever. I am very consistent about that.

Because the house we live in was built a very, very long time ago, (if Anty wrote a book set in the year our house was built, it would count as a historical) the floors slant, and, sometimes, when I make my liquid stuff, it flows in a downward direction. That is what happened this time, and, this time, the catnip mousie Anty got me got caught in the flow. This was not a big deal to me, because I do not care about catnip, and I do not care about toys that do not move. If a toy is moving, the it is fun to catch it. If it is not, then meh. Where’s the challenge in hunting prey that is already dead? That is why Anty and Uncle are talking about getting me toys that move on their own, or with help from my humans. I will be interested to see what sorts of toys those are. I suppose I will find out on Christmas morning.

This is the part where I relate something in my week to the business of writing. That is one of the duties of a good mews, and I want to be a very good mews. What stands out to me most is the part about prey. Sometimes, a writer will have an idea that will only go so far. After it stops moving, and it will not start moving again, it might then be time for the writer to find something that is still alive and work on that. If a fictional character, for example, is still hanging around the writer’s head after double digit years have passed, that might be a good place to start. Right now, Anty has plenty that is moving on its own, but if she gets stuck after that, she will know where to look.

Anty says it is time to wrap things up because she needs the computer now, so I guess that is about it for this week. Whatever holiday you are celebrating (or have celebrated) this season, I hope that it is (or was) a good one. I will share all about ours next week. Until next week, happy holidays, and I remain very truly yours,

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

skyebye