Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A bit of winter warmth in today's picture, to counteract the freezing wind outside.

Today was a good day for indoor activities, namely preparing pages for my new altered notebook project, and the slightly more involved and yet greatly more aggravating process of...choosing a new read.

Put this in the "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink" category. Christmas anthologies, I'm talking to you. I won't name names; you know who you are. It's not your fault that some of your stories are several installments down the line in series by new to me authors. The average female lifespan is only so long, and I do not have time to stop three pages in, research how many books are in said series, in what order, including other anthology offshoots, hunt them down, read them in order and then proceed with what was supposed to be a quick holiday treat.

I know that for the longtime readers of said authors and series, this is a treat indeed, but, well, I am me, after all, and nobody can read everybody or nothing would ever get done. You guys are excused, but never fear, you're somebody else's best holiday present of the year. Paranormal entries in otherwise straight historical anthologies, you are on a five page probation. It's not you, it's me. Time travel is about as far as I go, but I am not the entire market.

Single title Christmas themed historicals, you are the few, the proud, and you will be read. Hopefully in time for January 6th/Twelfth Night/Three Kings' Day, depending on what one calls it, but I can't make any promises. I will reassess the situation when there is once again snow on the ground.

The rest of you, please be patient. There will be an inspection of the shelves later tonight or in the morning. Historical romances with adventure and deep emotion, front and centre. That is all for tonight.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Simmy icon is appropriate for the first day of the work week - if one can't tell, the Sim is working out. Also in that I am in the middle of an uninstall/reinstall for Sims3, and that's without the exapansion pack that apparently did not make it into Father Christmas' bag this year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love this tucked-away week between Christmas and New Year's Day. It feels cozy for some reason -apart from the wonderful snuggly flannel sheets and comforter the DH supplied at present time- and I was thinking of starting that game over anyway, so it's all good. Though both holiday anthologies I attempted to read over the weekend ended up getting bounced off the carpet for various crimes against this particular reader. Eh, I'm sure each one that didn't work for me is someone's favorite book ever. Personal taste and all that, and I have a lovely big TBR mountain range from which to choose.

The current ms will be recieving me today and I do believe I'm getting closer to that one thing within that story that I'd missed the first time 'round. :rubs hands together in glee: I do love to torture my characters. Also in the writing vein, our RWA chapter will be launching our Book in Six Weeks project again in January and I have my selections (I have to do two - that's my own personal rule and how I work best) all ready to go, so getting into ready position so I can launch right into sprint when we get the starting whistle.

One of the selections is a current ms, and the other is a novella that I will be pantsing more than I have in a long time. I know the personalities and some of the backstory of the hero and heroine - though I have no idea what they look like and so far, their names are Hero and Heroine. They haven't told me who they are yet...or where and when their story is set. I know the situation that brings them together and the emotional places both of them come from, but I have to trust that the rest of it will be there when they and I have our conferences. This should be an interesting ride.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Touchy-feely, pt1

I admit that I am an oral creature when it comes to writing. I need something in my mouth a good deal of the time.

Beverages are usually good. Hot in cold months, cold in hot months. Diet Coke at room temperature year round. Diet Ginger Ale goes in phases. When I go for my Monday morning write-ins, I arrive early so I can get in a cup of tea and a bagel before my colleagues arrive, then treat myself to a hot chocolate. If served by the charming gent with the UK accent, who puts my beverage on a tray and with artistic squiggles of chocolate syrup atop the whipped cream, I feel an extra need to earn this exgtravagance.

A reasonable amount of nibbly things are good as well. I am a gummi bear addict from way back but seldom actually get them. Which is probably good for my figure. With the Christmas season upon us, mini candy canes are good. Altoids are usually within reach and I have been known to get up for the sole purpose of brushing my teeth or a quick swish of mouthwash. Note to self; see if there are any of those funky cinnamon or licorice toothpastes on the next grocery run. Salty thing of choice recently has been Wheat Thins. Lunch usually happens at desk, though I'm equally as likely to be websurfing or Simming as I am writing during that time.

If I spent all my computer time shoving stuff in my mouth, I wouldn't be able to fit in the chair, so frequent applications of lip treatments are the next best thing. Anything that comes in a tube from Bath and Body Works has my immediate attention. I will also put in a plug here for their body lotions, as I always have a small bottle (or dregs of a big one) on my desk for frequent application and smell and taste are linked senses.

All of this comes to mind today because my focus for this week is to go over passages of my time travel ms and make sure I have enough sensory input. The most detailed plot outline won't connect with readers if they can't feel what things are like for the characters. What are Summer's senses going to tell her are the differences between life in 21st century NYC and 16th century Scottish Highlands? What about the Highlands is going to scream HOME to Angus in all caps?

I like to approach my stories in a layered manner. Characaters, what happens to them, and how it feels, both emotionally and sensually. Ahem. That's as in what their senses tell them, though there are bits of the other meaning as well. If I can connect with the way a scene feels, then I can write it. The stimuli that get me to that point can be interesting at times, and family and friends have learned to accept that things like playing the same Sting song all...day...long is par for the course. Which is probably why I have received headphones as a gift more than once.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Currently listening to Sting's new CD, If On A Winter's Night... and my brain, perhaps aided by the cover art, is drawn like a magnet to the woods behind the house where I lived until I was nine. Maybe it's the image of a man and a dog walking in the snowy woods that does it. Maybe it's that, like Sting, I count winter as my favorite season. An unpopular choice, it seems, but there's something beautiful and special about winter and it pains me when someone feels they have to smash that flat.

If I could go back there, and have it still be mine/my family's, I would build a fire in the family room hearth and throw pinecones into the flames, drink hot chocolate and alternate between staring at the flames and staring at the snow falling outside. In the morning, there would be deer tracks and bunny sproings (our family's word for rabbit tracks) and the dogs would want to go romp. I am a snow bunny, unable where I currently live, to indulge in my leanings. Not skating (weak ankles) or skiing (seriously, stand on waxed boards with the goal of sliding down the mountain as fast as possible? No.) but sleds are love, and if I could get my mitts on a snow saucer, there's hours of fun right there. I have even been known, in my misspent single-digit youth, to use a heavy duty garbage bag for this purpose.

From the first time I saw the cover art of this CD in Starbuck's, the image arrested me and seeing the words "Sting" and "winter" in the same sentence, it became a need. Add in that it's largely composed of traditional music of the British Isles, and all I can say is, "mummy's home!" Absolutely gorgeous, and I've had it playing for much of the day.The photos of Sting and company on the booklet inside are gorgeous, too, and make me want to slip into the frame and join them. As I saw So You Think You Can Dance last night, I also renew my wish to be a twentysomething professional dancer, so smush both urges together and I'm right at home working on my current time travel ms.

The two songs that stick with me the most are "The Hounds of Winter" -not new-new but it fits with the rest of the album- and "You Only Cross My Mind In Winter," which could have been designed specifically to make me squee. It's got angst, it's got winter, it's win-win. Sting describes both songs as "ghost stories." I don't do ghosts, but I can do gothic and will get a goofy faraway look if someone mentions Wuthering Heights. I've been listening to these over and over and either they will provide the undefinable something I need for this part of the current ms or they will settle into part of an idea that's in its early stages. (No ghosts there either, but I always have angst.)

This coincides with the stack of Christmas and wintry romances that I have as a special seasonal TBR pile, forbidden until December first, and then time to dive in whole hog. I fully admit that I will be running on candy canes and (nonalcoholic) eggnog for the season. The Christmas monster has been awakened. She has a computer and is not afraid to use it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Case of the Inadvertent Interview?

After Kimberly Loomis left some really good questions in the comments to my post on novella niggles (sounds like a character from some British kid's book, doesn't it?) I thought the answers deserved a post of their own.

I have been giving the matter some serious thought and the novella probably will happen. Though I have been looking at some back burner projects that might fit the bill, right now I think I would rather move forward and try something new. There are vague ideas but nothing concrete yet.

I like the idea of starting something where I can get from "once upon a time" to "happily ever after" in a quicker fashion than the 100k word monsters I normally produce. Which format do I prefer? Normally, novels. Ever since I knew writing novels could be a job, I knew that was the job I wanted. Still, there are times when I want to try something different and a smaller canvas (somebody stop me if I get too far into visual arts references) suits that idea better. Since I think in big, sprawling stories with angst and adventure if at all possible, the novel gives me room to do that. I do think, however, that "Never Too Late" and "Queen of the Ocean" have their share of sprawl, even though they are sold as novel bytes, so that's probably part of my core story.

Forming the novella isn't that different from forming the novel; the characters usually come first, they give me a glimpse of their predicament, often the beginning and the end (not necessarily in that order) and I work from both ends toward the middle. The big difference is that the story has to be more compact and/or concentrated. Less room to wander keeps the focus tight. Which can be a good or bad thing depending on what stage of the game I am in when asked.

How do I go about researching the places into which I put my characters? If it's choosing where the setting should be, I usually observe the characters doing their thing for a while and see what their story will involve, and then the time and place of that presents itself. When I do know the time and place, the research process starts. I've had some really good courses on historical research, but the details that stick with me the most are sensory/intuitive. Since I'm a talker, my favorite research tool is people; find me someone who is an expert in Thing I Need To Know and I will pick their brains. I also love living history museums, even if they aren't in the exact time or place of my story.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thinking about thinking about stuff

I've had the niggle for a while of possibly wanting to work on another novella. Nothing as long as a novel; working on two of those to begin with and more in sight. Novellas, or novel bytes as my titles with Uncial Press are termed, are a nice size, very do-able, and the author can cross that THE END finish line quite a bit sooner. I've published two so far and I think the itch may be returning.

Historical romances are what I love, and that's what I'd be sticking with, but historicals can be tricky to handle in a shorter format. Maybe that's why some anthology entries are connected to well known series? Seeing as how I don't have any series myself at the moment, nor am I yet running with the big dogs, we'll put that aside for later. Besides, I like the unconnected stories best of all, so it would be new people.

Setting, though, would be something to consider. Normally, I start with characters and then find the best setting for them, which I could still probably do. Maybe characters with a history? Hmm, both Queen of the Ocean and Never Too Late have h/hs with a history already, so I could go with that sort of lost love found relationship again. Certainly, in ages past, there were plenty of opportunities for even the truest of lovers to be separated for a time. Alternatively, there could be strangers with a powerful connection, bridenapping, marriage of convenience, possibly a few other scenarios. I don't need to commit to one at the moment, but the wheels will probably start turning soon. Likely something fairly familiar to most readers; in the novella, space is at a premium and I want to keep the focus on the characters.

Historical setting, h/h, HEA, those are the only must haves for me, so everything else is up for grabs.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thirteen Random Thoughts I Have Had Today

  1. It totally stinks that Ryan Kasprzak got cut from Vegas on SYTYCD
  2. Blythe Gifford writes amazing medieval romances.
  3. I hate when Rhapsody crashes.
  4. Finding ten pages I thought I'd lost, hiding in a different file is wonderful.
  5. Every time I watch SYTYCD or Dancing With the Stars, I want to be a twentysomething ballroom dancer
  6. Since I am old enough to be two twentysomething ballroom dancers, I will do it vicariously through my heroine, Summer, in my time travel.
  7. I had a good writing morning and greatly appreciate that.
  8. Really need to make more icons.
  9. The trial download of Photoshop Elements 8 taunts me by not downloading.
  10. Visiting Maria Louisa on Saturday, so lots of romance novel related gab ahead.
  11. Bones tonight.
  12. How long until new Lost?
  13. Not entirely sure what they put in the new diet cherry 7Up to make it antioxidant but it tastes good.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Outside looking in is a good thing...

For those who haven't met her yet, the image here is my favorite Sim model, Jacqueline. I put this poor Sim through about as much angst as I do my characters, and this shot is one of my favorites, as well as appropriate for the day's post.

Normally, when I do a Simmy photoshoot, I'll go through a series of poses that capture the mood and effect I'm after for that project. Sometimes, though, the same old same old won't do and what's needed is a fresh perspective. For this image, I shot a posed Jacqueline through a window - same pose, same set, different perspective. Which, as things turn out, is a very useful thing to remember when writing.

When I've been away from a project for whatever reason, there's always that phase of feeling each other out when I resume work on it. We need to get to know each other again, and the best way to do that is to read what's there, be it a single page or a few hundred of them. The trick is to read as a reader, not a writer. That will come later. It's like meeting the book for coffee (tea in my case; I like the smell of coffee but not the taste) to feel each other out and see how we'll get along as we are now. Since I'm the one writing the book, the good news is that we most likely can do quite well together.

This is the time to see the extant pages for what they are, not what I wanted them to be. What are they now? Is there anything that needs to change in order for me to move forward? How would I look at this if I'd plunked down my hard earned cash for it in the bookstore? In most cases, by the time I've read through, I'm eager to do the work that will take the project from partial to full. That's when the butt in chair, fingers on keyboard part kicks in and writing buddies are called upon to crack their whips and keep me on track. Handing any questionable passages off to said friends for their input also helps keep the wheels turning. That, and my ironclad rule that I can't do any Simmy photoshoots until I've written.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The (Guiding) Light goes out

I haven't watched Guiding Light in years. In college, though, it was a different story, and one of the reasons I loved my nanny job in my freshman year was that it allowed me to watch GL without interruption during my three-year-old charge's nap. His infant sister learned to recognize Josh and Reva when they were on screen. They were my favorite couple on the show and long after I stopped watching, through all the breakups, reconciliations, other spouses, amnesia, kidnappings, misunderstandings and such I gleaned from the world at large, still held out for their happily ever after. Yep, definetly a supercouple in my book. Today is the last episode of GL ever, after several decades of scandal, trauma and over the top weddings. Even though I haven't watched in years, I will miss it, but no matter what happens according to that final script, I'm going to believe Josh and Reva are living happily ever after in the locale of their choice.

Below, perhaps *the* iconic Josh/Reva scene, and below that, a few brain droppings of my own.

Why this scene sticks with me: It's raw, honest, emotional and risky. At this point in the story, Reva and Josh, though they do love each other, have a lot of baggage. Reva has already married and divorced Josh's brother and is now married to his father. Josh has some attitude issues and we have two alpha characters with big chips on their shoulders and things are going to come to a head.

This is definitely something I want to bottle and learn how to use in my own writing, and I would love to see more scenes of this impact in historical romances. Passion doesn't only occur during love scenes, but is at the core of both characters and that depth and intensity of feeling will spill over into everything they do.

Heroes and heroines do make mistakes and bad choices and they will have to live with the consequences, but for my money, that's part of what makes the ride to the HEA that much fun. For a supercouple, ramp that up another notch or two.

Other soap supercouples I have loved:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Newman_and_Nikki_Reed (I didn't actually follow this one by watching the show, but still enjoy the dynamic)

and the classic that started it all:
(though I do maintain heroes do not rape and rapists are not heroes)

There are others, which I will explore later. What couples would you put on your supercouples list?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes, these bottles are all from my own personal collection, and yes, they do have something to do with romance fiction.

Granted, in the periods where I set most of my stories (roughly from the end of the Wars of the Roses to the end of the American Revolution/War for Independence (depending on which side one is on in that one)) nail polish did not exist. I shudder to think what a time traveling heroine would do if she jumped to an earlier era before nail polish remover with a full manicure from her own time. Chips give me the heebie-jeebies like nobody's business.

Okay, fine, but what does that have to do with romance fiction? I'll point you to the caption. A friend has dubbed the container where I keep my polishes as "the shelter" because there are all those lovely things crying out "pick me, pick me" every time I open the lid, but no matter how many of them, no matter how creamy or sparkly or pale or dark or bright or neutral they are, I only have ten toes. I can only wear one at a time. In the rare cases that I do paint my fingernails, we can expand it to two, but usually only one.

This weekend, I attended a library book sale with my friend Maria Louisa (new to the blogosphere, go say hi to her here) and we both came back with more than a couple of volumes each. To be added to the more than a couple of volumes each we both snagged on our UBS run the week before. Which were added to the TBR mountain ranges in both of our homes. You see the problem here.

As part of my mojo restoration project for this fall, I'm making finding time to read a priority. Some authors prefer not to read in-genre while writing, but I'm contrary. Give me gobs of historical romance, preferably big thick bug-squasher books with loads of angst and adventure on the way to happily ever after. The settings and plots and types of characters vary, and I do fully intend to have at least a crack at everything in the TBR, but as with the limited number of toes, there are a limited amount of hours in the day. Limited further still by the time that must be spent writing, doing art, caring for the four legged furry contingent, keeping domestic sanitary conditions bearable, and the like. One could argue that the bookcases are their own shelters. We will save the discussion of ideas to be written and works in progress for another entry, but the spirit is the same. Thankfully, with reading, I can work in higher multiples; a book for my purse, one for the tub, one by the bed, etc. How many do you read at a time?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

About the whole notebook thing:

I have a lot of them. There's the Moleskine family: the cahier I have almost filled and its siblings; the red pocket sized one that is still blank; the pink duo that are a little heftier than the cahiers,also still blank, and finally the faux (or maybe not) that I use for my art notebook. This is in addition to my dedicated blank books for IWKY and the as yet unnamed Mick/Beth historical, Ember and the Endless Summer legal pad clan. Plus my handmade art notebooks. I will not mention my gigantic stash of blank books, altered notebooks, and legal pads of various sizes. Do binders count?

The correct answer to "how many blank books does Anna need, anyway?" is "all of them." Doesn't matter if they look too plain or I don't like the cover images. I have art supplies, and a good coat of gesso and/or a few passes of sandpaper can cover a multitude of ugly stuff.

All these blank books and I do not keep a diary or journal. I tried when I was about eight and recieved a pink book with a tiny lock on it. I remember starting most entries with "dear dairy" (sic) and most of those consisted of something about that week's episode of Donny and Marie. I remember chucking the thing in the back of one of our end tables that had storage space and that was that.

Other attempts came when some teacher decided we had to keep journals in class. Usually the term "creative writing" would be used at some point, and I like the term "creative writing" as much as I do "diary" and "journal" which is to say not at all, and will instinctively respond to any of the above with a pained eyeball roll. Fine words for those who like them, but they don't fit me. Those same teachers who assigned us journal writing would find that I used the time to make lists, but would add another level of challenge to vocabulary assignments by finding a way to use all the assigned words in a short vignette. Which resulted in some pretty interesting storylines, now lost to some end of year locker cleanout.

what, then, do I do with all these books? They don't have much in common, being of multiple sizes, from an oversized ledger to tiny volumes that could serve as picture books for Barbie's endless parade of baby siblings (hah, siblings, my patoot. I'm looking at you, Ken. Or GI Joe.)Bound books, looseleaf, legal pads, Moleskines (a recently discovered tendre) as well as composition books, spiral bound, the aforementioned handmade, and whatever else finds its way into my grubby paws. I write in them.

Every story of mine has its own notebook, and choosing the proper book for the notes to inhabit is a crucial part of the process. Format, colors, customizability, what sort of pen would be appropriate and how much glue, paint or embellishments the pages can take are all important factors. With the exception of the legal pads, none of them recieve only regular writing, and will undergo some form of abuse.

I'm fond of gesso and rubber stamps. Recently, I learned about adding texture by stamping with painted bubble wrap. I have gone through many glue sticks and my Somerset Studio magazines of various flavors have had their influence. Once the book has been prepared, then I can dive in and start filling it.

General impressions are usually the start; a big mess of everything I can think of regarding whatever first inspired the story at hand. From there, things can get more specific, but the whole process is more instinct or intuition than organization. This is not wasting time making things pretty for no reason. this is the way my brain works. I plan for it to keep working. It's how I get out of slumps.

The whole purpose is to keep writing. Bashing my head against a wall, trying to do what I'm "supposed to" do only gives me a headache and dents the wall. Neither of which are good. I call what I do when the stories are slow in coming (or refuse to come altogether) "bloodletting" because all that stuff has to be let out before the actual story can start to move.

It will, though, eventually, and often in a new and different and better direction. My favorite inspirational quote is from Bishop T.D. Jakes: "What you feed, lives. What you starve, dies." Basic stuff, but very true. If I want to be a better writer, I have to write. If I can't write the actual text of my stories, I can write about them. Impressions, questions, what-ifs, rants, even things I know will never, ever make it into the book. That can often geta stuck story moving once more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why is there a picture of a pole-dancing bunny on my blog? A) pure happenstance; B) it's been one of those summers; C) my mojo is in the audience, watching, unaware that I am about to grab it by the collar and drag its sorry behind back to work.

Did you guess D) all of the above? Very good. The bunny is not actually pole-dancing. I was hasty in getting settled in for last year's NECRWA conference and didn't notice where I'd put the bunny until I returned to the room for the night, and well, what else could it look like he was doing? (for the record, Bigfoot Bunny is a boy.)

How does this relate to romance writing? No, I am not now targeting Ellora's Cave or Loose ID. More like option C, with the missing mojo. This is going to happen in life, or rather life will happen. Sometimes this will get in the way of the writing schedule, and that's to be expected.

What, then, does one do when these times happen? Reading always helps, but when one is too exhausted to keep one's eyes open or so brain drained that one only realizes that one has been reading the same two pages for over an hour (no wonder the story feels repetitive) it loses a bit of the appeal. TV? Good, but when one needs to take in stories, and one's spouse thrives on the Food Network and Travel Channel, and there's only one TV in the abode, this also presents a challenge. The MP3 player is one of the best inventions of the modern age for this writer; flopping down in front of a fan and letting playlists for the stories I would write if I had any energy play at least keeps the wheels turning.

Being an extrovert, talking is usually one of my default treatments for anything. When one of my critique partners, Vicki, gave me some tough love (and ouch on my own words coming back to bite me, but she's right) I learned a few things that I think should come standard for writers going through a loss of mojo.

1) Nobody can draw water from an empty well. Coming up with nothing but nothing when hunkered down for a writing session? Read. Read good books, read bad books, read meh books. Read old favorites or new books chosen at random or recommended by a friend/internet buddy. The point here is to read, take in what you would like to put out. But read. A lot. If the old eyelids won't stay open, try audiobooks (of which there should be more romance, I do believe.)

2) Play. Toss around ideas you know you're never going to use. Focus on different aspects of characters you've used before or always wanted to try. Don't worry about putting out anything useful. Fill a notebook with fanfiction if you'd like. The important thing is to A) get in story mode, and B) have fun doing it. If writing feels like a chore, we naturally tend to avoid chores, right? We do not want to avoid writing if we are writers.

3) Do not flog yourself. Again, life will happen, and if you're worried about being able to take up the pen/keyboard once again, I am very certain you absolutely will be able to do that. If you didn't care, you wouldn't care and would be on to some other interest. If, however, the phrase "when I used to write" gives you the cold sweats and your eyes fly open wide with panic (don't ask me how I know this) then odds are you've still got it in you to turn things around.

4) This is normal, you are not alone and it will pass. Go out and play and let your characters know they're welcome to come join you.

5) If you see a pole dancing bunny, maybe it's time for a nap. But first a few pages of a good book.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Summer of Mary Jo Putney, part 2

Almost done with the final book in the Fallen Angels extended series, The Bartered Bride. After that, Loving a Lost Lord, the new book in her next series. As I am given to ah, discussions, of such and visited my friend, Mary, :waves: this past weekend, and we always talk romance books, expect some ponderings on that subject soon. (Sidebar: apparently Eloisa James’ next book is *not* in a series. That alone sticks it on my TBB list.) Still not sure how/if Ms Putney’s first two books, The Bargain and The Rake relate to the Fallen Angels (satellite books?) they will come after Loving a Lost Lord.

Apart from Putney, and partly thanks to, I’m on an exotic settings kick at the moment. Partly from reading and partly because I need to research the British in early 19th century India for my next historical. Most of what I’m finding right now covers the Raj, which is a few decades later than what I need, but I will persevere.

Talking with Mary always brings me right back to the early days of my romance reading life. Historicals were still divided between historical romances and traditional Regencies, the early 19th century seeming almost reserved (in both senses of the word) for the trads, and the big, thick historicals could happen anytime or anywhere. Case in point, Mary asked what period Johanna Lindsey wrote in, and my response was “most of them.” Variety ruled. Favorite Author’s new book might take place on a Carribbean plantation in the middle of the seventeenth century, while her last one was set during the Alaskan gold rush, and the next would be Moorish Spain or the French Revolution or maybe Ancient Rome. (Laura Kinsale, I have not forgotten your tease of wanting to write a Roman book. I promise readers would buy it.) I loved the variety and would love to see a return to that.

So far, I’ve written in 1720 New York, 1900 England and Italy, 16th century Cornwall and 17th century Netherlands and Isle of Man. Current time travel ms is modern day NYC and early 16th century Scottish Highlands. I like to get around. I plan to get around even more. Which begs the question(s): where/when would you like to see a historical romance set if there were absolutely no restrictions (other than the historical designation?) Writers, if you *knew* it would sell, what era would you pick for your next book? Extra points if you can name three different ones. Because I’m nosy like that.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Summer of Putney, Part One

I like for my summer reading to have a theme, and most often that means some sort of schooling myself in the classics of historical romance. This summer’s focus is Mary Jo Putney.

While I do prefer a book that is complete in itself, I had set myself a broader study of collecting and reading the first books in many seminal (no puns, kthanx) historical series. Many of those were not intended as series starters, but the spirit or the market moved, and companion volumes followed. In pure business terms, my goal was to find out what made those founding books successful.

No such survey would be complete without Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels. When I found a copy of Thunder and Roses in the UBS, I snagged it, and there it sat in my study shelf until I heard its call and soon snagged the rest. Also the Bride trilogy, as I count that as connected. The Bargain and The Rake are also in that shelf, with the Silk trilogy, and her return to the straight historical, Loving a Lost Lord, is the tippy top of my TBR mountain…after I finish The Bartered Bride. Phew.

Accordingly, I dub this my Summer of Putney. For the last couple of months, my default “don’t know what to read next” book has been a Putney, going through the Fallen Angels and then the Brides in order. (For those who don’t know me, I must read linked books in chronological order, or mountains will crumble, puppies will die and *your* celebrity crush of the moment will wake up ugly. But really, I do it for the puppies.)

More on that later, but for now, I am insanely delighted to have found this in my vault; Mary Jo Putney's one and only western novella. Extra points for having an Anita Mills title in the same volume. (Anita, if you're out there and ever want to come back to historical romance, you can bunk at my place.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Happy mid-July. This is the month that marks mid-summer in our family, and a good time for changes, but you may have guessed that from the presence of a new post, the new look of the blog and the new title. Or the old title. I'll explain.
A previous blog of mine was titled "Typing With Wet Nails" because I usually was, and my inner polish diva has resurfaced, bringing with her a desire to get back to the basics of how I create. Which spotlights something I've ignored for a while. I like pretty things. Normal for many girls, appropriate for a romance writer, and a part of me that deserves to be indulged. Plus I flat out like the title, so it is back.
The focus will be shifting as well, with less real life talk and more about the romance genre in general, and my contributions and observations in particular. My first exposure to historical romance was reading my mother's copy of The Kadin by Bertrice Small, and found what I would be reading and writing for the rest of my life. Mumblecough years and four e-books later, that love of the romance genre is still strong and getting stronger.
I love alpha heroes and equally alpha heroines, history and romance that depend on each other and a heap of angst on the way to a well deserved happily ever after. The same as I love closing a book with a happy sigh that things ended right, I also love typing "the end" after telling such a tale of my own. Romance is the genre where the woman always wins, and I consider that a very good thing. If I can spend a few hundred pages exploring other times and places, then even better.
As with all changes, it takes a while to get things settled, so please pardon my dust (but it's pretty, sparkly dust) and drop by as you please. Welcome to new readers and welcome back for those who have been checking in. I hope you'll like it here, because I certainly do.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Favorite Ben Folds songs, not neccessarily in order
4)Carrying Cathy
5)Still Fighting It
6)Family of Me
8)Best Imitation of Myself
11)Songs of Love
12)The Luckiest

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thoughtful things on a Monday afternoon.

First, I hope all who celebrate Easter and/or Passover had a lovely and blessed season. Our church had an unusual celebration, gathering for brunch at a local hotel, with only a short meeting, and when we went to pay the bill, were told it had been taken care of already. Whoever our benefactor was, that was a lovely gesture, much appreicated, and it got me thinking (hence Jacqueline's thoughtful pose in today's picture.)

Since I've been known to pull from widely diverse reference sources, I'll start with a paraphrase from Dr. Phil. If what you're doing isn't working, do something else. Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, the definition of stupidity is to perform the same experiment the same way and expect different results. Both gents are quite right and their advice works well when one hits a writing wall.

Next piece of the puzzle: the Ben Folds song, "Carrying Cathy" and the movie Love Actually. I'll have stretches of time when I get strongly focused on one thing that inspires me, and have to examine it from several different angles, to see why it resonates that strongly with me, and what I'm to do with it. Current object: song mentioned above. Particularly this bit:

Woke up sad from this dream I've been having
The last couple nights or so
With her father and brothers we're all at the funeral
Carrying a box through the rain

That image refused to leave my mind, and being the Anglophile that I am, the movie in my head had the men carrying the coffin at shoulder height, in British tradition (which brings in the funeral from Love Actually...and Four Weddings and a Funeral, come to think of it) instead of the American tradition, though Mr Folds is American and one might presume the song is as well. What can I say, I'm hardwired for British historicals.

So why is this random idea monopolizing my brain when I have a contest entry to get in, agents to query, and a schedule to make sure my ms is polished and ready to submit? When I'm also ripping apart a shelved story idea to see if it can be saved, if it's part of another partial idea, and ack, I have to research for the next historical once the time travel sails off to its requested appointment?

Because ::deep breath:: I haven't written for fun in a while, and if one doesn't enjoy one's work, it's going to be harder. I did not remember this before now, why? Hmm. Yes, writing is a job and a career and needs professionalism and dedication, but there needs to be the joy of it as well. Not that writing has been joyless of late, but a bit of a reminder, and sometimes it's in the playing around that the best ideas present themselves. Guess what I'm doing today.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Back from the NEC conference (okay, a week later) and as always, revved to get back to the grind and get another book out. Everyone who saw the gorgeous cover art for Orphans in the Storm loved it. I got to attend a wonderful workshop with Emily Bryan on writing sex, and found Sally MacKenzie (she of Naked noblemen fame) makes a delightful lunch partner. I was able to tell her how much I'd enjoyed her presentation last year on writing linked books and that her entry in the Lords of Desire Anthology was waiting on my nightstand for me at home. ::Happy sigh:: I love conferences. Must attend more.

Good results; my roommate for the conference got a request for her first thirty pages of a novel with romantic elements, I won a free critique of first three chapters and synopsis from Sourcebooks, but the big news is...drumroll...I got a request for the full ms of Endless Summer from Leah Hultenschmidt at Dorchester! ::does cartwheel:: Time to polish and send out.

The not so good result of the trip, though, was driving away with my suitcase still on the hotel curb, but the DH and I went up with our friend, Linda, to retrive it, everything was there, and we stopped at Chili's on the way home, so all's good there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Barney is here in my icon to remind me that the payoff for putting bottom in chair and fingers to keyboard (instead of playing Sims2 all day, which is what part of me wants to do) is success at my ultimate goal.

Another great reminder that the goal is in reach is having a good friend tell me I have to wait to talk to her because she's reading Orphans in the Storm at the moment. Positive feedback is always a good thing. Tell a favorite author what they're doing right and dollars to donuts, there will be an extra bolt of energy when they sit down to do it again. As much fun as writing is, there are times when it's hard or inconvenient or we don't feel like it. Then again, imagine if your doctor or bus driver didn't have to go to work when they didn't feel like it. What if a homemaker didn't feel like wrangling some combination of kids/pets/seniors/housework? Nope, we all have work, and we all have to do it. As a former writing group facilitator of mine used to say, the process can lead to the passion, or as my mother used to say, the more you do, the more you'll want to do. They are both right.

Yet another reminder is the fact that I am in the start of the end of the second draft stage. In a handful of days, I will be at the NEC conference, pitching Endless Summer, possibly to its future home. There's an incentive if there ever was one. Plus the free promo items (I will never have to buy a pen again if I can go to enough conferences, truly.) and free chocolate (source of my "I can only have Lindor truffles if I wrote" rule) not to mention free books at every meal. Even better than that is the fact that I will be among other writers for the better part of a weekend, metric tons of creativity in the air.

Here's the part of my post where I remind myself to add a random Orphans in the Storm fact: the look of Eben, Simon's friend and right hand man, was inspired by British decorator Laurence Llewllyn-Bowen.

Friday, March 20, 2009

::Cartwheel:: It's here! It's here! Orphans in the Storm is finally here!

It seems like a lifetime ago that Jonnet and Simon came into my life, but now that they're ready to mingle with the wide world, it's easy for me to slip back into their world. I've always loved the history of the British Isles, and a project with a collaborator, begun a few years back, gave me an appreciation for Dutch history as well, so it was a natural that an idea would present itself at a time when British and Dutch history intertwined.

Near the end of England's Civil War, times were tough in Charles II's Court in exile in the Netherlands. Loyal British subjects who longed for their king's return and the end of the Protectorate contributed the finances needed to bring their rightful monarch home. Throw in a guilt-riddled hero with a strong sense of duty, a heroine out of her element but determined to prevail, even in the face of serious family dysfunction, and an adventure that sweeps from the Isle of Man to the frosty Netherlands, and Orphans in the Storm was born.

Sound interesting? Go here to read an excerpt.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I meant well today, I really did. See Barney there? I showed up at the puter with every intention of reconstructing the six pages the puter ate at the end of work yesterday (eventually found them and saved them the right way, but I'm whining here)and...poopy. DH and I were both poopy-feeling puppies last night (him more than me, but nobody slept well) and I spent the day waiting for someone to come look at the tub and figure out why the drain doesn't drain (one guess who never showed)and though I noodled with the ms today, it feels flatter than a smushed pancake. Especially deflating as yesterday, I was on fire at the keyboard. Such is life. That's why they make tomorrows, as I say, but today, poopy, poopy, poopy.

Things about which I will whine:
General but manageable poopiness in the physical department.
Feeling like the day was spent applying head to brick wall again and again.
The tub which may or may not be able to drain.
Someone in our family is going to have to go grocery shopping or we will be forced to embark on the breatharian diet.
The really great dialog I banged out yesterday but have no idea where it goes in the current ms.

Things about which I will squee:
I banged out some really great dialog yesterday, and all I have to do is find its right place.
I recovered those six missing pages and can add more tomorrow.
Discovering the DJ function on my mp3 player (I know, fancy name for "shuffle" but I love it.)
The fact that DH may be braving the grocery store at this very moment. (May is the operative word, but I hate grocery shopping, and he is my superhero, so he will save me the chore if he can.)
That I know my hero and heroine well enough that when they're together on the page, things fly.
That my dream editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, will be at the New England conference in March.
That Orphans in the Storm comes out in March, so I'll be attending with a current release.
That the tub may be back in business tomorrow (and if so, I am pulling a Maggie Osborne and sinking up to my neck in bubbles, likely while writing on a pad held above same -- but will not photograph this or use is as my new author picture)
I can watch Lost with the DH tonight and share theories during the commercials.

Hmm, all in all, the squees outweigh the poops, so I'm calling it a good day. How's your poop/squee ratio?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shippy Goodness, part the first

Ever since I decided that embracing my inner fangirl is actually good for the creative process, life has been a lot easier. Give me a couple with chemistry and a story will form around them -- then it, and they, will pick up stakes and tromp off to some other century, leaving me no choice but to follow behind, furiously scribbling notes. Of course they'll pick up other influences, discard a few points of source canon along the way, and when all is said and done, there's something entirely unique and new that comes out of it. Since I tend to blog more when I have a theme to follow, let's go with that.

Today's entry is the newest pairing to tickle my fancy, a bit different from the usual, but that's what makes it interesting. Barney and Robin from How I Met Your Mother. Romance readers will spot a soon-to-be-reformed rake, I do believe. Whether you've had the pleasure of meeting them before or not, here are a few gems I've stumbled across on YouTube. None of them mine, so credit where credit is due.

one to feed my angstbunny:

and for our neighbors to the north, some Sandcastles in the Sand, eh?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ever have one of those days when things don't seem to gel? One where an accurate account of how the day's productivity *felt* might read "smashed head against brick wall until one or the other caved in. Cannot tell difference at this point?" Where the cat gives you the "aren't you forgetting something" look, then sits as patiently as a cat can next to the empty cat food dish? Where you know there's this "writing" thing you're supposed to be able to do, but darned if you can remember how? Umm, yeah. That was mine.

We start out those days with great intentions, don't we? Morning caffiene of choice, settle in front of computer chair, and make great plans for double digit pages...and then before we know it, it's time for the other family members to come home, and darned if we aren't exactly where we started the day, page-count-wise? Easy to get distracted, fed up, mad at ourselves and ready to wonder why we're chasing these imaginary people in our head and trying to persuade them to see things our way.

The issue of "the muse" may come into play at times like these, and I'll say up front that I fired mine years ago. The lazy wench always showed up late, if at all, and usually wanted to lie on the couch and channel surf. Work, for her, was sooooo (insert teenage girl eyeroll here) pedestrian. Which is really what got her fired, but she was right, in a way, with her pedestrian comment, though not in the way she thought.

Let's look at "pedestrian" in the sense of "one who walks" instead of "boring." For one to walk, that's one foot in front of the other, over and over until we reach our goal. When we walk, in the physical sense, there are any number of things that can trip us or make us stumble. Uneven ground or floor, the wrong footwear, weather, distraction, health, of the physical or mental variety, traffic, etc. Think on the places you've walked today, even if only from the bedroom to bathroom. Odds are you've probably stumbled at least once.

Even with a stumble, a skid, even an outright trip and fall, if you're at your computer, I bet one thing happened; you got up. That same foot that placed wrong once did as it should one more time, one more after that, after that, after that and so on.

Same thing goes for writing. Okay, today was not productive for page count. I did, however, fix the borked internet browser, so I once again have a working tool for my communication and research (and downloading of Sims2 content.) I scanned some favorite family photos to send to relatives who haven't seen them yet, and proved that yes, I did install the new printer correctly. I made contacts for our RWA chapter's next semester of online workshops. I cleaned out a good deal of my backlogged email. I did feed the kitty. Hmm, that looks...productive. Not exactly where I'd hoped to be at the end of the day, but y'know, that's what they make tomorrow for. I get another opportunity tomorrow morning, and I'm looking forward to that. As I'm fond of saying to others and need to remind myself, it's not how many times we fall down that matters; it's how many times we rise.