Monday, December 29, 2008

This week is my favorite week out of the entire year; those seven days tucked snugly between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Past, present and future seem all a bit closer together than usual, and time in general seems to move a little slower. Christmas treats like candy canes and egg nog flavored anything also have the added indulgence of being termed leftovers, though they are considered still current in our family as we extend Christmas as much as we can to the full twelve days. (Starting, not ending, on the 25th.)

We had a quiet, peaceful family Christmas this year, sticking close to home, keeping the traditional Christmas dinner at a local Chinese restaurant (nothing to do with any movies – this came about when one family member forgot to get groceries on Christmas eve many years ago, and we did a frantic flip through the phone book to find a restaurant open on Christmas Day.) My real life romantic hero earned major points by presenting me with a digital camera, and though I swore up and down I would only make a mini Christmas album this year, I’m getting a full sized one together because of the vast array of Chirstmassy stuff that seems to find me. There’s a time when even the most organized of us has to throw her hands in the air and go with the flow.

Which is a useful thing in writing romance. I am a plotter. I am a big plotter. I have been asked to teach a class on my extremely detailed outlines and am in the process of planning such. I have been drafted as keeper of the family calendar, and the hubster and I are relying on planning and organization to get us through the final stages of clearing out my dad’s house so we can get that on the market. Phew. I get misty eyed in the planner section of department stores and my ears perk at the mention of Franklin Covey. I love lists, planners, organizers, color codes, tabs, files, etc and 2009 is the year we end clutter in our family. (pause to climb off color coded soapbox)

Even so, I’m intuitive. I’m known to go through entire half drafts (abovementioned extremely detailed outline) with a hero named Hero and likely secondary characters named That Guy, Tall Chick and Upstairs Maid because they haven’t told me their names yet. They might even live in that place called Way Off Over There, because…again, none of those people who live in my head have told me where they are. This does not dissuade me. The combination of planning and intuition may seem odd at first, but for me, it’s natural and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This week also transitions into the new year, and resolutions, new starts, and my vow to scream and kick wastebaskets (as Diana Gabaldon puts it) to keep my writing time sacred. For today, though, there’s a Psych marathon on TV and I need to change my toenail polish.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The well-connected reader

It's happened again. After reading parts of two Christmas anthologies, having to skip at least one story in each because I have not read the author's previous tales of the Fanfavorite Family, the League of Hottie Heroes, or Studmuffin Siblinghood and know that I would feel lost as a babe in the woods, I turn to a new release by a favorite of my own. What do we find here? After a great opening, getting invested in hero and heroine, and all comfy in the setting and premise, heeeeeeeeeeeeey, those names mentioned in passing look familiar. Uh huh. Thought so. The heroine's brother and sisterinlaw are the deliriously happy Mr and Mrs Previousbook. Put bookmark in place, set book aside, throw small fit.

Calm self with knowledge that previous book is indeed in my possession, then throw second fit because A) it is at home, B) I am not, and C) there is a looming snowstorm that may trap me away from previous book. Ask self why self did not finish reading previous book because one clearly remembers doing happy dance in Barnes and Noble when seeing a whole dump of that title. Remember that previous book did not make it into the hospital bag on one of many ER trips and lots of things got lost in the shuffle during those summer months. Grouse. Kick wastebasket. Peer out window. Snow yet? Not yet. Make mental note to check the area around where hospital bags were assembled.

Look at large selection of books where I currently am and try to reason with self that self wants to read all these too.

Self sticks out tongue and retorts that self wanted to read the book self brought.

Cannot argue with self. Look for other, nonrelated books by author of book and previous book. Yes! Yes! Do happy dance over finding other book by same author that has no sequel, prequel, spinoff or tie-in. Stop in middance. Will this confuse self when self gets home and dives on previous book like book-starved hyena self is? Self does not know. Self reads back cover blurb. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes -- young lovers separated and reunited. Self settles in for good read.

Ooh! Author's note. Self loves author's notes. Self reads author's note. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaitaminit. "Secondary Character, whom readers met in This Book and This Other Book." Self sighs, pencils a tiny "3" in the corner of the cover page and makes mental note to dig out This Book and This Other Book, because self knows self has them around here somewhere. Self can hear author now -- yes, self knows that Secondary Character is a secondary character and will provide a supporting role...but s/he knew those other people, and there's going to be something mentioned, somehow, somewhere, not neccessarily spoilerish, but possibly. Self has learned these things the hard way. ::coughcoughCatherineCoulterSongseriescoughcough::

Self pops honey-lemon cough drop and ponders the situation whilst shutting down for the day, as self is heading for home due to oncoming snowstorm. Self now knows exactly what self is going to read when self gets there.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm calling it printercide.

There I was, attempting to print out a particularly nifty Borders coupon, and boom, printer leaps right off the printer cart and onto the carpet. Still attempting to print, mind you, even as it lay there upside down with its back cover off. I take this as a sign that it's time to install the new printer.

Which will afford me the added benefit of either procrastinating fixing yesterday's scene (which turned out to be a trip to nowhere, even after whacking my head against a brick wall all day) or time to think it through while disconnecting and reconnecting and figuring out what the thingamabob is and where it goes. Ah, the glamorous writing life.

In the end, though, I will have a brand new, straight out of the box printer, which is also a scanner. This will also save me from begging my technologically minded friends for advice in what might be making every single thing I scan on this machine have a bright yellow overlay. Which is also a good thing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In one and a half hours, I will be sitting across a table from my critique group, and they will ask me if I blogged. I do not want to tell them "no," because these are smart, loving women who can seriously hurt me if I fall short (but I love you gals, really I do) and they know blogging is good for me, so here I am. Plus I get a chance to use one of my icons if I do.

Real life still pit bull, me still pork chop a good deal of the time, but through it all, life does go on. Christmas preparations are full steam ahead here, as we do a lot of homemade gifts (hey, when you have artists and knitters in the family this is a very good thing) and the wheels of probatey things move slowly, but they do move. In short, life goes on, and so does blogging. I'm a talker by nature (gee, what a surprise) so it's not normal to be quiet, even in cyberspace.

Writing goes well; I'm looking (finally!) at the second half of the second draft of Endless Summer, and I'm excited to get Angus and Summer into their HEA at very long last. There should soon be more content from me at Purplepens, with an article and reviews in the work. Including some rather optimistic pontificating about the state of the historical romance in the near future (and not just mine, but I do have a new e-book coming out in March, so that fits, too.)

In short, there is lots to say, so the fear of my critique partners is not the only reason to resume this blog. A valid one, but not the only one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

No, I'm not referring to the fact that I have actually posted within a reasonable amount of time. (Ahem) Nor do I intend to make this entry (much) about real life, but the fact that yesterday came with an annoying surprise in a real life matter (other family terms for such things: hiccup, extra step) did provide some good food for thought about reading and writing romance. Characters surprise writers with, well, surprising frequency, packing up their stuff and tromping off to different centuries or subgenre when we're not looking, giving us no chance but to grab a beverage of choice to go and follow along. I'll never forget the original love interest I gave a long-ago fanfiction character...who was only supposed to be a blip on the radar and obligingly die so character could pursue his canon match.

Umm, no, she told me, quite firmly. First of all, her name wasn't what I thought it was, it was something else altogether, and I'd call her that or nothing at all. Furthermore, she didn't have the job I thought she had, she had a different one, she had a large family when I had thought she was an orphan, and she didn't want the secondary character I'd picked out for her. Oh no, she wanted one of the big guys, and for my information, she was going to get him, and that bit about dying? No. She was going to live, get her man, and eventually made off with him (and other family members a writing partner and I came up with) into a romantic historical world with absolutely no ties to the original source that inspired it.

My current WIP people (calling them characters at this point would likely only make them angry and some of them are rather vocal about it) started out in similar fashion, jostling me out of my misconceptions every step of the way. Rather like a small child's teddy bear while the child runs through an airport. Teddy's head bonks against every orange plastic chair in the terminal, getting quite the view, but it will all end with a seat on a ride to somewhere wondrous. Hopefully in first class, but seriously, as long as I get tea, I'm fine with coach. I think. Can we make that plane a train, or better yet a ferry? Kthanx.

LOLcatspeak. Another surprise. This has worked its way into the vocabulary of many of my friends and family. Not sure how it started, but it did, and it's here, and we're okay with it. We have also adopted our pastor's term, "going off on a bunny trail" to denote veering off topic with no discernible departure point, which it looks like I've done here. ::shrug:: Had to save something for next time, didn't I?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Toenails, the will of God, and a pole-dancing bunny

My pastor once mentioned that when a person is feeling out of sorts for no discernable reason, it may be a good time to check and see if they're doing what they were fashioned to do. Opening a clam with a butter knife isn't going to be good for clam or butter knife. Best to let the butter knife shine next to the butter dish and use the appropriate instrument to open the clam (since I don't do seafood and the hubster is out and about, the name of the thing escapes me) and let's all get on with dinner. In more theological circles, one could call this being in the will of God. Not in a dictatorial sense, but using one's natural assets and abilities.

Bringing things down to earth, I have had multiple occasions when I know the reason I can't think straight is because my toenails are the wrong color. (Hey, I'm intuitive. It makes sense to me.) A quick polish change, and I am once again ready to roll. Maybe it's the actual color, or the mindless, repetitive tasks of applying coats of polish that let my brain sort things out in more important matters. The psychologically minded may postulate that the color of my toenails is something I can control when other life issues go haywire (and those, I let God handle) or that I need to nurture my inherent femininity/girliness (trust me, that will never go lacking. Really.) All I know is that OPI loves me for it, and the love is mutual.

Such was this morning. I'm polishing the time travel, excited about writing again, clipping along at a good pace, and doing some surgery on one of my favorite scenes, but brain was a few hours behind body this morning (maybe that's due to our apartment getting fumigated today, so base camp has been made at a friend's house until the fumes are gone tomorrow) and I came to the place of "I cannot deal right now. Brain not here. Must nap in front of TV." Real cat nap in the presence of real cat (who did not quite know what to make of me doing this strange thing) while discovering that I am not missing a single thing by not watching daytime television, and somewhere in there, my brain showed up for work. Still on a bit of time delay, but I am picking out the new polish color so all will be well soon.

What about the pole dancing bunny? Completely unintentional, I promise, but too funny not to share. Bunny came with me to a writers' conference this past spring, and I plopped him down on the hotel room lamp to snap a picture, and got the image you see above. That's a water glass next to the bunny, thankyouverymuch. Le sigh. A good reminder that things are not always what they look like, and that discrepancy can be good for a laugh in hindsight.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I have a cover! Squee! Orphans in the Storm, my spring release from Awe-Struck E-Books, gets all dressed pretty by the talented Kathleen Underwood (whose name I will steal for a heroine one day) and I couldn't be happier.
The images were taken from unrestricted stock images at DeviantArt. Anybody want to guess at how many pictures this picture actually is? I'll share links to the original images soon, as well as an excerpt, but since I'm spending today burning sampler CDs for my backlist (hey, I get to say "my backlist!" ::pumps fist::) and an advance peek at Orphans, I'll give you the short blurb today.

The Hidden Countess:
A black robe brought Jonnet Killey to the Isle of Man and a black robe would take her away to the noble English family she has never known.

The King’s Man:
All Simon Burke wants is to carry out his mission to return Jonnet to her birth mother and secure the funds to help finance Charles Stuart’s return to British soil.

An Adventure in Exile:

A new life awaits Jonnet, with a mother on the brink of madness and a treacherous uncle who will stop at nothing to keep Jonnet’s inheritance to himself. While the end of exile nears, danger mounts. Can Simon and Jonnet depend on their newfound love to sustain them while the storm of treachery rages around them?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fall is undoubtedly here. Ignore the current temperature in the seventies, the temps that may actually creep up a bit more during the next few days. They do not scare me; they will settle soon. This means cool, crisp air (and hopefully put us out of athsma season) I can see color on the tree outside my office window, and that's what counts, so I'm calling it fall. Umm, and Labor Day was a few days ago, so I think that fits.
Another week, and yet more real life curveballs. Nothing involving a hospital, but I am picking up some extra cat-sitting time for three cats in two different places (because friends had to be out of town unexpectedly -- for a good reason, not a traumatic one, but still on short notice), Rheuben is begging boxes (if you're in the Enfield, CT area and have boxes, we want them! Really!) because we are moving in two weeks. ::runs around in circle, pulling at own hair:: and I want to be at the living out of boxes stage so we can be ready when it's time to schlep our worldly goods down the street, which is where new place is. So that we can live out of boxes there, and begin all conversations with "honey, where's the ______?"
The week is before me, though I'm still getting through last week's insanity to figure out what day it is (right now, I'm calling today "the day after Bones went to England" -- because I kindasorta half listened to the Bones season premiere, but don't quiz me on anything) and planning out when I'll be writing (desperately miss the momentum I had during our chapter's Book in Six Weeks program...which I think we are unofficially continuing, but I'm behind on emails) and when I'll be packing, box-begging, or doing any of the other moving related tasks, not to forget the wondrous joy of estate stuff and such. I think I may need to play Sims2 for a while to get a needed dose of silly; also to back up my favorite games in preparation for Apartment Life (ironic, b/c we are moving from an apartment to a small house in real life). Because of course the cable is out and was supposed to be fixed by 5AM; it's after that, and no cable. Harumph. I wanted to get current on my new addiction: Nanny 911. I love watching those women whip families into shape. Do they do all -adult families? If not, I am willing to put a frilly bonnet on at least one of the cats.
Finished reading a book that I'm still deciding if I liked it or not, and need to pick something else, but definetly salivating over the new/upcoming Elizabeth Hoyt, Tracy MacNish and Bertrice Small historicals. Picked up a fair amount of promising inspirationals at the library as well, so will sort through those and see if I get any volunteers for the next read. If you hear any supressed growling and stomping about, it is probably me venting my frustrations over having to miss the one local event I look forward to all year, which kicks off the fall season for me -- a library book sale in the town where my dad's house is. Out of my control that I won't be availiable on that day, but a gal's allowed to fuss over such things, right? I'll bring my own box to the used bookstore next week (if I'm not packing) and pretend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Claire is here because I'm feeling a wee bit lost, regarding the day's schedule. Also because she has quite the look of the historical romance heroine about her. Not only the long blonde hair and delicate features (because heroines come in many shapes and sizes and colors) but that determined look in her eye. She is also bringing Charlie because I refuse to give up on the little Hobbit, same as a good heroine will never give up on her hero, no matter what circumstances may be. We still have a couple seasons left on that show, and if they can have a polar bear, then Charlie can swim. So there.

But that's not why I'm here. With real life getting all changey --and make no mistake, mostly good changes, but some are a bit, shall we say, poignant-- keeping the discipline of writing daily is a must. I have a second draft of the time travel to polish and start querying about, and any day now, edits for the new historical are going to land smack in my in-box. On top of that, I'm researching my darkest historical yet, but I promise the dark is going to pay off with a big triumph. At least for the characters.

At church this week, one delightful gent prayed that I would "sell more books than Harry Potter." I laughed, but I also said "amen." Who wouldn't love sales figures like that, with loyal readers who keep coming back for more? I sure wouldn't turn it down. Which ties into the advice I referenced in my previous post. The best way to be a writer is to write. Every day. Something.

So, as the castaways on Lost have to dig in and do what's needed to survive, there are times we writer types must put on the real life blinders, put posterior in chair and fingers to keys.

Why is Sawyer here? Do I have to answer that? Umm, because he is a reader, of course.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why lawn flamingoes? No reason, beside the fact that my real life romantic hero does not see the ironic appeal of installing them on the front lawn of our soon to be new home. Plus I'm making oodles of icons lately (they are insanely relaxing) and am determined to put them to work. So keep an eye on this blog; there will be art.

There will also be words. Thrashed as I was yesterday from real life stuff the day before, I spent the morning doing business of writing things, rewarded myself with writing a letter to another writer buddy, lining up some promo for this spring's upcoming release, and getting current-ish on email. Phew. I'll have to admit that a good deal of my antsiness went away when I hit the "print" button for the letter. It's a fundamental fact that writers must put fingers to keyboard, or writing instrument (be it by MontBlanc or Crayola) to paper. Daily if at all possible.

This past week, at house church, two new acquaintances found out that I write historical romance novels. The gal next to me responded with an enthusiastic, "Yay, those are my favorites! Where can I buy them?" and the other response was good, too. The second gal approached me after the meeting to ask some general questions about writing. We didn't have much time to get into specifics, but since I had to advise on the fly, the best thing I could say was to put bottom in chair and fingers to keyboard/instrument to paper. Every day. Even if all that gets down is "I don't know what to write." As a former writing group facilitator once said, the important thing is to keep writing. Blathering for a while is fine; things will start to flow eventually. It's a good thing to keep in mind, and I'm glad that telling that to someone else also helped me remember it myself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Only a month, this tme. For me, this year, that's pretty good. Sebastian will now demonstrate my current level of energy, over there in that icon. Currently exhausted from going through my dad's house with the auctioneer, picking the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, with a few quick conferences with the hubster in the next room so we can decide if the whatnot stays or goes. All in all, a good day's work, and another big step to new things.

Speaking of new things, I have not yet seen the new Brideshead Revisited movie, but likely will, even though I admit right now that I am one of those "the miniseries was absolutely perfect and the movie can only be a pale imitation" snobs. Loved the miniseries, loved the book, and if they hadn't actually filmed at Castle Howard, I likely would be giving the movie a pass, because Castle Howard *is* Brideshead, really and truly and Castle Howard is only a psuedonym. There are Flytes in those halls, I tell you. Flytes! Flytes! (Plus, seriously, a brunet Sebastian? Oh nononononono, my dear. Poor dear doomed Sebastian is most definetly a blond and nobody can tell me otherwise.) Still, I probably will go, because I have a deep burning need to watch incredibly rich yet troubled Brits make complete hash of their lives in the years between the wars. Then I will go to the library and get the miniseries and not be seen for a week.

Still haven't seen Atonement, though I'm keeping my eye out for the DVD at Target. We really do need more films with historical settings -- can they really be *that* much more expensive than bajillion dollars spent on special effects for SF/fantasy/horror films? I'm just saying.

Have not yet seen The Golden Age or The Other Bolyen Girl, even though the whole Tudor era is a big favorite with me, because I have a hard time with biopics. I want to see fictional characters in historical settings. I know what happened. I want to know what could have happened to new characters. Picky, aren't I? ::shrug:: That's how I roll.

Also between books, reading-wise. Finished Emily Bryan (aka Diana Groe)'s newest, Pleasuring the Pirate, after Meredith Duran's Duke of Shadows, started to read Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady, and it's not clicking right now, so will go into the "try again later" pile. I have absolutely no shortage of books. Preferably something on the angst level of Duke of Shadows.

Writingwise, I am still busily at work on polishing my time travel and researching a new historical, and new release news is coming soon, huzzah. But for now, Sebastian and I are tired and must loll in the grass.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My friend, Mary, is making me blog again. It's, mm, shall we say, been a while. June was mostly a blur of ambulances and ERs. When you're able to tell the hospital security staff thanks, but you know a better route than the one they just recommended for getting out and back in after hours, you know you're dealing with something. In this case, Rheuben's asthma. For June, we were its chew toy, but that's passed and he, and the family, are doing much better.

Part of the deal is, this is supposed to be a blog about writing historical romance, and none of the above felt very on topic. There was some writing done during that time, and some reading. Those of you who have ongoing reasons to have contact with medical professionals probably know all about the hospital bag; that lovely, handy dandy thing one keeps ready by the door in case it's hospital time again. Special bag only for hospital visits, with important stuff in it, like lists of medications, phone numbers of friends who will gladly come get you at the ER at three AM for the second time in a week and spring for mini burgers at Denny's on the way home. Clean socks (trust me, these are needed,) toothbrush, lotion, books for each family member to read.

For me, the choice is easy; historical romance. While for most of the summer, I've been reading the VC Andrews (ghostwriter only) backlist for study purposes, when I want something to read for me, historical romance is the ticket. Ever since I was eleven years old and devoured the copy of Bertrice Small's The Kadin that I'd purloined from my mother's bedside table, I knew I'd found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life. What's more universal than a love story? In many ways, this rough summer has been a recharge; yes, this is what I love and want to do for the rest of my life.

One might call it research in the rough side of being a romance heroine; the life or death concern for the one man in this whole world that means everything, and the joy in bringing him home. The sharing of odd moments, like both noticing that you/he's stayed in this hospital room before. The "we've been through rough stuff before and we'll get through this" squeeze of the hand when one of you isn't able to speak. How can anyone call such things unrealistic when I've lived them? This seals it; romance is real life. The grit and the angst that naturally find their way into my stories, those are real parts of romance as well. Hopefully we won't have to have a summer like that again, but neither of us would trade it; we've grown, become more us (and more him and more me) and I can honestly say it's made me a better writer as well.

This past weekend, my friend Linda (who has been to many many late night ER trips and subsequent mini burgers) and I reconnected with Mary after family responsibilities had taken time usually given to socializing, and it was like a whole retreat in an afternoon. Cold beverages, kitchen table, talking of life, loss, faith, furbabies (Mary has a new puppy, our family has Skye kitty) and of course, romance novels. Who's reading what, what wouldn't each of us touch with a ten foot pole, what's good that we've missed? What stunk up the place like week old flounder? What's coming out new? Normal and healthy talk, if you ask me. As part of which, came my promise to Mary to blog again.

I'm writing this entry at the end of another day of prepping the final manuscript of Orphans in the Storm, my English Civil War historical romance to Awe-Struck. I wrote this a couple of years ago, and now as I'm putting the final polish on Simon and Jonnet's adventure, revisiting the fabled Isle of Man and Charles II's Dutch court in exile, again, like that afternoon at Mary's, it's like a homecoming. Historical romance is my home, and I ain't moving.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Taking control of the out-of-control

With a muffled "oof" sound, picture one pair of writer's hands (we can tell they're writer's hands because the nails are au naturel, tinged with ink and have trace amounts of cat hair held on with Bath and Bodyworks lotion (today's scent: pineapple.)) grappling over a ledge. More "oofs," and a head of long red hair held by a black scrunchie becomes visible. A mighty heft and the rest of the writer appears. The experienced reader can tell immediately what's been going on.

The writer's spectacles, perched on the end of the nose, bear more finger smudges than they ought, and sit slightly askew. The writer thumbs them back up into their proper position and the reader gives a knowing nod. That's how the smudges get there. The writer dusts herself off, brushing hands on her long denim skirt and adjusts her sandals. She looks around. Almost summer. Huh. So time does pass outside the pages. She reaches down below the ledge and tugs on the rope that lifts a bulky bag. Books, of course. Lots and lots of books. She spills them out onto the ground, casting a furtive look about her.

Not, of course, that she cares much what others might think of her treasure. If they don't want it, more for her. The scent of books long-loved wafts through the air. The viewer catches a whiff. Is that...pre-1995 romances? Arguably the dividing line between styles of historical romance. The reader inches closer, but takes a step back. There be adverbs there, the viewer reminds herself. Alpha jerks, too. Lots of room for them to lurk in all those pages.

Ah, the writer reminds her, but there is room for alpha heroines as well, and all the world to roam. All the time they need to acheive their goals in there as well. Years and years if that's what's needed.

Years? But what about the rest of the series? If the first hero is taking all that time to win his heroine, what about his friends/brothers/cousins? Surely they're not sitting idle.

The writer settles back on her haunches and takes two Diet Cokes out of the bag. She opens one and sets one at a safe distance between herself and the reader. She peers over the rims of her spectacles. There isn't always a series. Sometimes the book ends with only one hero and heroine's story.

But what, the reader asks, scratching her head with one hand and taking the offered beverage with the other, happens to everyone?

They live happily ever after, the writer says, as though that's the most natural thing in the world.

But, the reader asks, we never see them again?

The writer pauses to allow herself an amused chuckle. Anytime, she tells the reader, you want. Their future turns out exactly as you wish it to. That's the happily ever after part. That's what heroes -- and heroines-- do. It used to happen more often.

The reader takes a cautious sip. Do tell.

Oh yes. Sometimes, the writer says, pushing one book toward the reader, the same couple comes back for another adventure.

To help the new hero and heroine, right?

The writer presses her lips together and tilts her head back for a moment before answering. Sometimes, she says, and usually it's their children, but no, not always. Sometimes, she continues, her voice dropping, something bad happens and they have to regain their footing and rekindle their love. But, she's quick to assure the reader, it's always okay.

Happily ever after, the reader repeats on a whisper. She settles on the ground, close to the outside of the spread of books and peruses the covers. That doesn't look like England, she says, pointing to one illustration. Neither does that one, or that one. Oh, that one does, but what's the frilly thing around the hero's neck?

A ruff, the writer says, nudging the book closer to the reader. See how the shape is echoed in the heroine's farthingale? Quite lovely, isn't it?

The reader's eyes narrow for only a moment. That was a passive tense the writer used.

When needed, she answers, it isn't the end of the world. It's like the white crayon in the big box; one doesn't use it all the time, but when needed for the proper effect.

You can do that? The reader's voice has a prickle of doubt and a glimmer of hope.

Yes, the writer answers, I can. There's a whole bag of tricks in here, and it's fun to play with all of them. That, she says, is where the stories come from. Come and stay a while.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Phrases you do not want to hear your handyman say:

  1. That's a very aggressive snake.
  2. He's rattling.
  3. He's only moving this slow because it's not warm enough for him. (from me: that was slow?)

All of those come from yesterday's session with the handyman at my dad's house while getting big icky things out of the garage. Realizing that the snake on the ground, he (she?) of the rattle and fangs *was* the "metal hook" on the hinge of the paint can I had just carried in thirty seconds ago does things for ye olde blood pressure, let me tell you.

In the end, handyman and assistant handyman were able to trap snake and rehome him on a different part of the property, but "our" snake may have relatives in the basement. In either event, going in with nice bright lightbulbs next time.

What does this have to do with romance writing? Not much on the surface but every session of clearing out the house does uncover things. My father was an artist all of his adult life, so when I find some of his neatokeen art supplies (thank you, Dad, for buying the good stuff) it gives me a little creative boost. Similarly, every trip over there means new discoveries, sometimes about the man himself, sometimes about previous generations, parts of my own life I'd only seen from a child or teen's perspective, or the creative process in general. One could call it a form of archeaology. There's always something to mull over or dust off and use in a new and different way.

Which is what writers do anyway, so it sort of counts as a creative endeavor. So does speculating over what I might be "missing" by using this time to work on the house when I had three, count them, three novels in my bag, in the car, all strongly calling my name. What were the characters doing while I was away? Sure, they'll be considerate and sit on idle until I can get back but in a *good* book, characters are people to me, and when I'm not with them, I miss them. We'll be having some special time after dinner tonight. The snake is not invited.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reading (and writing) It Old School, part one

I came of age as a romance reader in the time of the big epic historicals that spanned years and continents and hero and heroine might even have to go through (at least) a spouse each before they were free to have their well earned HEA. I remember once thinking that I especially liked when the heroine had the couple's first child, because that meant we were in for the meat of the story with lots more still to come. It wasn't that uncommon to see the little sproglets grow through the book and have actual bearings on plot and character development. Neither were they automatically being set up for their own books.

These were the days of Small, Woodiwiss, Brandewyne, Busbee, McBain and Sherwood, to name only a few. Single titles rather than series were the norm, though there were exceptions. Jennifer Wilde's character, Marietta Danvers, was the heroine of three books, and not all with the same hero. Valerie Sherwood's Kells and Carolina swashed their buckle from colonial Virginia to the island of Tortuga through three big, thick books, and the same author's Imogene and VanRyker (not related to Kells and Carolina) had two and a half books, the other book and a half devoted to Imogene's presumed-dead-in-infancy daughter and her hero. Rosemary Rogers' Steve and Ginny had them all beat, with a whopping four books to their relationship before their daughter had a turn in the spotlight. Depending on how much one wants to quibble through a saga, Aola Vandergriff's Dan and Tamsen may well be the king and queen of the continuing stooooory, having lead or at least central roles in no less than six books of her Daughters series, following the tempestuous Tamsen and her sisters from late teens to old age and final days. Dan and Tamsen didn't have children, either.

Books of this era could often be termed heroine-centric, which suits me fine. A heroine might be beautiful, corageous and strong (none of those bad things) but by no means perfect in the Mary Sue sense. Shanna, from Kathleen Woodiwiss' novel of the same name, started out as a selfish spoiled brat, but there was room for change, and boy, did she. Plus she got Ruark. No bluebirds doing the hair of these gals, and I think it's high time they had a shot at the center stage once more. At least that's what I'm trying to do, and it's what comes most natural to me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


My all purpose question these days is, "can I put gesso on it?" Usually, the answer is "yes." Seeing as how I only have white gesso right now, this may mean that as soon as I get black gesso I may not be seen again for another long time. Hopefully, though, I'm back. Writing, digital art, regular art, reading about ballroom dancing (the joys of research) and what I promised myself I wouldn't do -- start brewing the idea soup for a new historical before I've finished one of the current projects. Sometimes these things happen, and I really truly am not going to start actual writing on the new project until I finish the first full draft of Endless Summer. Seeing as how the half draft is done, saved and I'm rapidly approaching the midpoint of the first full draft ::ducking floundersmack from Vicki, who will tell me I am working on my second draft and the half draft is the first draft:: that shouldn't be too long. So I am okay with starting the idea soup.

Currently stuck on Blake Lewis' "Meet Me At the End of the World," which may have some influence on the new project. Still on a pretty good run of reading historicals; not every one is a gem, but keeping a steady stream of reading helps keep a steady stream of writing.

Did not see American Idol last night, as our cable was wonky and unless is was "Only make sound every other syllable" night, I don't have that kind of patience. Watched the real life hero tinker with tv and cable box for two hours while attempting to talk to a human being at the cable place and was thankful I had a book with me.

Doing good, feeling good, would say looking good but not yet ready to attempt self portraiture with digicam. Ask me again after shampoo and makeup, but the joy of new fitted tshirts means I can get rid of the schlubby old sizes too big ones that procreate in my tshirt drawer.

Conference coming in a month, huzzah. Time to mingle with other romance writers and beg agents/editors to recognize my genius. Making mini cds with promo stuff on them, so if you hear a voice that sounds like mine saying Very Bad Words, you know I'm trying to print something new.

The point of it all is, I am here, really I am. (edited to add appropriate icon I'd forgotten I made)

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm in an arty phase at the moment, hence the icon base over yonder. Alexandra Vandernoot as Tessa from Highlander, and part of the inspiration for Trista, my heroine in my historical MS, The Wild Rover. Which I have neglected for the past six weeks while working feverishly on the time travel, Endless Summer. Which paid off, as I now have a nifty certificate boasting my being in the four top page counts of all who participated. Sense of accomplisment, I has one. Definetly gives me the impetus to keep on plugging and I'm close to having a workable first draft on that one. I may have to keep up some of the disciplines as a regular matter of course.

As for other matters, I need a really good historical romance read. This said by the woman who could build a small bungalow out of her TBR pile, and a small garage out of her keepers. You readers know what I mean, though. It has to be the right read at the right time. I think my Karen Ranney glom spoiled me. I did break down and rebuy the first of her Highland Lords series, so may delve into that, only it will mean rebuying the rest of the series, four more books, and I'm not in a series mood at the moment. Le sigh. May have to brave the attic and rummage for the other Ranneys I know are in there somewhere. Or I can reread her Tapestry. Yep, that desperate. Or devoted. Or something.

There's a certain sort of extra zing when the right art and the right reading come together to feul the writing. I like the zing. Need the zing. Getting the zing. Also some gummi bears.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nearly a month -- I know, I know, bad blogger. I wish I could say I've been furiously writing the entire time, but that wouldn't be entirely true. I have been making a concerted effort to write more, more tush in chair and fingers on keyboard, and by my page count, that is definetly paying off, but it's more relaxing than furious. I think all my furious is going into my heroines these days; outside of writing, I'll settle for a good nap. I'll save the furious part for everyday inconveniences. In short, me, doing good, family doing good, everyday urghs have ups and downs, but the story does go on.

Plus graphics. Since part of the everyday ugh includes an unusual sleep schedule, and the abode is still a postage stamp, I've found myself with some very artistic evenings. Granted, it's what one would term fan art, but y'know, that's what fires my creative brain, so that's what I'm going with for right now. Last week's project was icons -- don't know if there are enough message boards I go on to use half of the ones I've been making, but it's like calisthenics for the brain. How much can I get into such a little square? Time spent hunting down new techniques and tutorials is not time wasted, but time well spent, if it can get me to think "what if I tried this?" Sometimes it works out, sometimes not so good, but I have become far more familiar with Paint Shop Pro 6 than I thought I would. I do plan to upgrade in the near future, when I acquire the big bad pink monster, but for now, this is good.

With all that, yesterday, I hit on a first in that department. I actually printed out some of my projects for a scrapbook. Love scrapbooks. but face it, nobody wants to see my memories of the last year. (Though I do wonder what the good folks at Somerset Memories would think if I sent in a layout entitled "Three ER visitss in one week!" or "Another Alzheimer Moment." Umm, yeah, probably not.) I don't want to see my memories of last year. Trust me, I will not forget, and by the time I channel them into some poor unfortunate character in another century, they will be far more entertaining than traumatic.

For right now, this is my visual art. Taking the scenes and ideas and characters in my head and making them different, which, after all, is what I do with writing anyway. Only this time, with images. Which make the words want to come out and play.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Boldly Going

Jumping off a cliff can be scary at first, but here I go. Beginning February 1st 2008, I will boldly go into a new frontier -- teaching my first online workshop.

In another age, a young woman perused the ads in an issue of Starlog magazine and wrote a letter to a fanzine editor, taking the first tentative step into what would become over a decade of playing in sandboxes rightly owned by Star Trek, Highlander and other "universes." She took beloved characters off on tangents, twisted time and space and yet knew something was missing. There were zines, sites, conventions, and the still small voice that finally urged her to take the plunge and dive into her real love, historical romance.

It was scary at first, venturing away from established places and characters, but her own ideas had begun to go further and further from what had attracted her in the first place, and she knew it was time to move on.

Along the way, she met many friends, talented writers all, who also wanted to make the same journey. They shared ideas, shared struggles, and cheered each other on. The young woman, more comfortale writing about butter churns or farthingales than transporters or spacesuits, knew she could use many of the techniques she first learned in her new venture. So came the idea of the workshop.

Really, if I can dress up in full Klingon gear in public, I can teach a class from the comfort of my office chair. Or maybe from under it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

How can I ignore this face?

Or the stripety stripes, the creamy underbelly or the single cream toe on a front paw? I'm trying, though, as my current office assistant, Miss Skye, still needs some time to get used to her new environment. She's had a rough life for a young kitty and needs to figure out she's in a good place at last. She's been a survivor, but now she's learning to be a pet.

Survival, I've found, is a very interesting theme for a romance as well. (Nice segue, eh?) As my Christmas reading binge included Jenna Kernan's Winter Woman, a western from Harlequin Historicals, (okay, not a Christmas book , Christmas is not even in it, but there's snow on the cover, so I'm counting it) I found myself thinking of exactly why this book worked as well for me as it did when westerns aren't my usual choice.

First off, snow. They had me right there. I loves me the white stuff. Lived for two years in Vermont, would happily go back, but I don't think I could convince the DH to come, so any returns would have to be of the weekend vacation nature. My first fan novel back when I was fanficcing ST:TNG was set on a planet where it was all winter, all the time. I had a blast.

Then there was the fact that for most of the book, it was all h/h, all the time. Isolated on the frontier, battling dangerous environs, carnivorous critters and tempermental weather with a distinct minimum of secondary characters kept me riveted. I love a good adventure and a tight focus on the main h/h relationship, and this had it in bucketsful.

I really liked the structure of the wilderness adventure leading to civilization, and that the heroine did want to go back to a more structured world. Also liked the compromise that came with the HEA.

Also liked the inclusion of a faith element, done with exactly the right touch; worked very well for me. It was part of the characters, and struggles made sense.

At the (pardon the pun) heart of the matter was that the h/h, once they decided they really did love each other, went all in; they'll give up what' s most important to them because their beloved is even more important than that, and in the end, they get it all. Happy sigh.

Which got me thinking, what other settings can some of these elements be used for? I've enjoyed stories set in the wilds of Australia, Africa, Asia, various islands, even the colonial frontier (physically restraining myself from making notes on one of these until I have finished a current project.) Recommendations, anyone?