Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life After NaNo, writing and reading and what's next

Funny Pictures - Kitteh Book
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

One goal accomplished - NaNo won. A few days early, yesterday largely spent freaking out about corrupted files, but all verified in the end and I have an assortment of lovely NaNo 2010 winner badges to choose from and slap on this here blog space and/or Facebook.

One of my critique partners asked me what I'm going to do with my mornings now that NaNo is done, and I told her that's a good question. After spending every morning of the past month dragged along behind Slate and Melanie as they blazed along their path to Happily Ever After...at least rough draft edition...facing a new course for the mornings is...odd.

Not that I'm out of stuff to write. :pause for maniacal laughter: I'm polishing one complete ms that has been garnering some interest and calendar will be marked for my local RWA chapter's Book in Six Weeks project (same thing as NaNo, but with two extra weeks) when we set a start date for some time in January or February. This means that in the deep freeze of winter, I will be in Regency era England with star-crossed lovers Anthony and Christine and their tale of PTSD, opium addiction, her class conscious family and Anthony's sister who loves him a little too much and not in the right way. I consider that good company. :cackles:

I'm also seriously behind on a project concieved with Evangeline Holland of Edwardian Promenade, but hope to get back on that one soon. Then there's the need to start splashing around in the idea soup of whatever historical is to come next. This one is going to be messy and may involve surgery on another ms that is on life support. Now taking suggestions for undesirable classes of society and/or paralell societies with which a well bred young woman should not mix.

As I am a big proponent of "nothing in, nothing out" this means that I need to keep up my reading to fuel my writing. NaNo didn't leave a lot of time for reading, so I am now ready to plow through the TBR shelves. Most recent conquest there is The Master and His Muses by Amanda McIntyre. I loved that this book didn't pull any punches about life in the world of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, or the complex emotions involved in relationships that don't work out and how those affect the ones that do. Three stories, three HEAs, so these are romances.

Now that that's read, I'm looking at the following:

The Iron Duke - Meljean Brook
Seven Nights To Forever - Evangeline Collins
To Conquer a Highlander - Mary Wine

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday at the Movies #26 - to be seen for the season

With the advent of Thanksgiving comes my busy season for making Christmas presents. Most of which will be done while getting a chance to see many of the movies and DVDs that have been lingering in my to be viewed list. Some seasonal clasics for me, like About A Boy, Love Actually and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, go without saying, as those are givens. Still, there's room on my list for some new entries.

Reader Aamba reminded me of an Emma Thompson movie I've missed, which looks completly delightful. Stranger Than Fiction has Emma Thompson as a writer whose main character, played by Will Ferrell, has a life of his own and creative differences with his author.

Hm, on second thought, I might have to class this under horror, as I shudder to think what my characters would have to say to me. Eep.

Since Nick Hornby wrote one of my all time favorite comedies, About A Boy, I was delighted to find that there is indeed a British version of Fever Pitch, adapted from his memoir about football obsession. I am aware of the Drew Barrymore/Jimmy Fallon US version but will pass on that one (sorry, Drew. A) Anglophile here, B) Yankee fan on principle and C) Colin Firth) and devote my energies to hunting down this.

Notes On a Scandal has all the ingredients for an Anna-pleaser. Bill Nighy, Dame Judi Dench, and Cate Blanchett all look like they'll provide powerhouse performances. Plus English school setting, twisted unequal relationships and tons of emotion. Yep, odds are good that I'll have been watching this while lovingly crafting gifts for friends and family.

Though I normally don't go for remakes, I've seen the second half of the Jude Law version of Alfie twice now, and that worked very well for me, so now I'm interested in seeing the whole thing. Michael Caine version someday but I'd like Jude's version for Christmas. I am a complete and total sucker for Englishman in New York movies.

Full disclosure: The book was a big DNF for me, and my sister actually phoned me to apologize for sending it, so I did not have high hopes for Bridget Jones' Diary as a movie. Still, after stumbling across it in bits and pieces at times when I was desperately starved for British comedies, I'm deciding to give it one more chance from start to end. The book may not have worked for me and Renee Zellwegger isn't a favorite, but the film does have Hugh Grant and Colin Firth and Christmas, so it goes on the list.

What movies are seasonal favorites in your house? Anything I might want to add to my to be viewed list? Suggestions welcomed with sugar cookies and eggnog hot chocolate.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #27 - Turkey Dance

funny pictures-WORK IT OWN IT WORK IT!!!
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Today means it's only six days until Thanksgiving, so I give today over to our fine (and delicious) feathered friends.

Some turkeys are animated...

Lloyd dances because he is a pet turkey who lives in England and has no worries this time of year. Lloyd can head down to the local with his bunny and chicken friends.

I share this Mexican turkey's opinion of the gentleman with the backpack. Raising one's arms like that to a feathered friend is an aggressive gesture, sir. Of course the turkey didn't want to dance with you. He thought you were challenging him.

I can't find the bird in this clip...oh wait, this is a Turkish dancer.

For those who celebrate, in whatever way you do, Happy Turkey Day. For actual turkeys, RUN!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Confessions of a big meanie

I will confess. I am a mean author. While I do gaurantee HEAs for all my couples, I can't make any promises on what happens to them along the way there. Bad things happen to good people. It's how the characters react to those bad things that make it interesting and an entertaining story. Plus it makes the eventual triumph all the better when it's hard-earned.

In my NaNo book, Nothing Short of Heaven, Slate and Melanie have most recently had to outrun a fire set by the villain who creeps out even me (and I don't creep easily)and are now dealing with some very tough issues. Not their favorite time, for sure, but as a writer, the feeling I get most is delight. Not because I like torturing these people but because I know that when they are on the other side of this, they (and particularly Slate) are going to be so freaking happy that it's all worth it.

The romance genre does require a happy ending, and that's my favorite part. Our hero and heroine have fought all the obstacles in their way, and won. They are on the mountaintop, together at last and for always. It's the struggle up that mountain that is the journey and the part of the story that always has me in a ridiculously good mood when I write it. Since I write historicals, I have a wide range of wars, famines, plagues, natural disasters and shifting political alliances that can throw stumbling blocks in my characters' quests for HEA. Did I mention playing with medical and psychological issues that would be quite different if modern medicine were available?

Not to mention that I love writing complex villains. Said villains do consider themselves the heroes and our heroes the bad guys, so they have their own agendas and have to fight as hard for their desired outcome as my hero and heroine do. Of course since I'm in charge, they don't win, but they can make things interesting.

Readers, what's the meanest thing you've seen an author do to their characters? How did that work for you within the story? Authors, how do you let your inner meanie out? What's the worst thing you could ever do to a character and still give them their HEA?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heading into week three of NaNo

lyric According to my page at the NaNo site, I'm already over the halfway mark and will, if I keep on at my current pace, finish on November 28th. This coming before today's update, so it may be sooner after I do. Needed to get brain going, and wanted to apologize for missing Saturday at the Movies this week. More like Saturday at the Pharmacy this week, but DH is well supplied now and if I can avoid catching his cold, we should be in good shape.

But back to the writing. Nothing Short of Heaven has always seemed like a novella to me, though maybe on the long side. Shooting for 50k-ish feels about right. I like the productivity I've been able to regain while hitting (and usually exceeding) a daily word count. I love spending this time with Slate and Melanie and as for the villain of this piece, well, he's one sick puppy. Doesn't matter if I feel "inspired" when I start pounding keys in the morning - if I show up, they will too, and generally do manage to rein me in if I start flopping about aimlessly. Which is also fine, because aimless flopping can be fixed in the next pass through.

Since I'm polishing one ms, pounding out this rough draft of another, and already know that my winter 2011 Book in Six (or Seven, we're not firm yet) weeks project is going to be from the next outline I have on deck, that means it's time to start thinking ahead to the next historical idea. At the moment, I already know...nothing. I do have some ideas, but those are in the "I'm not sure what era this story should be set in and nobody has names" stage, which intersects with the "is this a new story or is it this other story over here but wearing a different hat?" stage.

I whine now, but things will gel when they need to gel. They always do. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard and some messing about in notebooks on the side and there will be a new couple and their situation to introduce while hunkered inside on snowy days. In the meantime, I have words to make.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Dance Friday #26 - Hug a musician

Funny Pictures
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

I once saw a bumper sticker that read "Hug a musician; we never get to dance" and since I have friends who are musicians, that stuck with me. Anybody who's seen the recent Conan O'Brian promo where Conan cavorts about to absolute silence and then requests confirmation that there will be music added, lest his actions look silly, can agree we owe a lot to those who provide the soundtrack to happy dances everywhere. Plus there's nothing as fun as watching a performer who's really into what they're doing and a committed musician or singer can get a crowd moving through sheer force of energy and charisma.

One of my favorite musical acts to watch as well as listen to is the British act, Right Said Fred. Brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass have energy to spare and some very danceable tunes.

It's probably best I try not to figure out how "Wonderman" was connected to Sonic the Hedgehog, but the choreography sure looks fun.

Though I know absolutely nothing about the German kids' movie, The Wizard, but if this is any indication, it looks like loads of fun.

European stadium anthem, "Stand Up (For the Champions)" always makes me want to get up and move.

This acoustic version is part of the seed that started my NaNo novel, Nothing Short of Heaven. I'm impressed how different the same song can sound with different treatements.

Though the brothers Fairbrass have a sizeable catalogue internationally, US audiences will best know them by this iconic ditty:

What musical acts never fail to get you on your feet? Ever had a favorite song reimagined with a totally different mood? How did that work for you? Drop names and include links.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

On week two of NaNo

This is the first year I've ever done National Novel Writing Month. Probably will not be the last. I've always done well when our local RWA chapter runs its Book in Six Weeks program - always taken the #2 slot for highest page count...except last year when it was #1. I have challenged the gal who normally takes the #1 slot to a race for the crown this year.

I do good under pressure. Scratch that. I do great under pressure. Give me too much to do and an impossible deadline under which to do it, and I will pull it off. Friends and family need only hear mention of a certain outing which included double caregiver duties, people with initials after their names, a Chinese restaurant and playing luggage Tetris in a rental car with its own curfew all while feeling like something worse than poo, to know this is true. If I can do that, I can do my favorite thing - tell emotionally complex stories of love long ago. Easy peasy, right?

My normal NaNo day goes something like this:

*wake to alarm playing the Smurf theme, grumble.
*weigh benefits of beginning day against benefits of remaining next to slumbering DH beneath flannel sheets.
*remember that NaNo does not understand warm sheets and warm spouses and the good seats at Panera fill quickly.
*get out of bed, tend personal needs.
*remember that I am indeed a morning person and become annoyingly chipper.
*survey contents of closet and remind self that everything being too big means I am on track with fitness plan.
*remind self that leaving the house means I can play with makeup and jewelry. Get dressed.
*collect purse and computer and head to Panera
*secure preferred seating area, purchase tea and bagel. Multitask tea preparation and computer setup.
*remind self I do know how to write. Refer to own backlist as proof.
*open file, refer to story notebook if needed. Put *something* on the page.
*pound keys in plodding and meandering fashion. Acknowledge big, hairy mess.
*compulsively check word count. Confidence grows as number gets higher.
*continue pounding keys until time to catch ride. Update word count at NaNo site.
*give screen lingering, wistful look because stopping right now borders on painful. Swear to come back at same level in the morning.
*do other stuff, go home and watch Bones reruns, then fall asleep next to a good book.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Saturday at the Movies #25 - TV Closeup - How I Met Your Mother

How could a romance writer not be drawn in by a sitcom billed as a love story in reverse? I missed the first few episodes the first time around (sitcoms are a hard sell with the DH but he came around, and the show is now referred to as "Mama" in our house. Mention "Mama" when a new episode or rerun is slated to show, and that is the signal to reach for the remote. We have a similar code for Big Bang Theory - "Nerds"- but that's another story.) so I already knew the big surprise...that Robin, the woman main character, Ted, falls for in the pilot, is not his future wife and mother of his future kids (to whom he narrates his tale) but she does become his sometimes roommate and an essential part of his circle of friends.

Random fun fact - there is indeed a whole song attatched to the catchy soundbite that plays over the opening credits.

Ted, when we meet him, is an architecht in his late twenties, and an incurable romantic, confident that his one perfect woman is out there somewhere; he only hasn't met her yet. This series is the story of his search for her. Episodes begin and often end with Ted telling the story to his school age children, sharing his reminiscences and imparting bits of fatherly wisdom along the way. It's worth mentioning that we can count Ted as an unreliable narrator (I'll wait here for those who want to go check their high school English notes) and he will often use code to make things more kid-friendly, though we as the viewers are let in on what's really going on when someone is "eating sandwiches" or "playing the bagpipes." The most horrible word one can call a woman is not "Grinch" but that's Ted for you.

Ted's supporting cast includes college buddies Marshall and Lily, who are already living the life Ted wants for himself. Deeply in love and first engaged, then married, they are the sense of reaon in an unreasonable world. Marshall, an idealistic lawyer, works for Goliath National Bank, a huge and heartless corporation, but stays true to his ideals, and to his Lilypad. Lily herself is a fascinating character, a kindergarten teacher who paints art meant for dogs, has an uncanny knack for implementing complicated plans (and carrying them off) and can always, always smell the poop.

Still navigating the waters of the single life are Barney, Ted's wingman, a suit-wearing, woman-chasing, jargon-spouting libertine with an unconventional (and yet awesome past) who hides a softer side. Though Barney puts on a strong front of debauchery, he loves his friends deeply, and perhaps one of them above all. Barney jockeys for position as Ted's best friend with Marshall, secretly flew cross country to reunite a separated Marshall and Lily, and nurses deeper feelings than he'd care to admit for Robin. I ship Barney/Robin hard, people. If I were still writing fanfiction, they would absoutely be one of my pairings, and my idea hamster is running all night long to find a home for them in a historical someday.

Which brings us to Robin, who is not the mother. Robin Sherbatsky, local news anchor with dreams of something bigger, Canadian to the core (though she is pursuing dual Canadian/US citizenship) former teen idol and committmentphobe. While Robin can enjoy a good thing, what if something better comes along? What if that something better is wearing a totally awesome suit? The results could be legen (wait for it, and we hope you're not lactose intolerant because the next word is)dary.
Even if not, I'm sure this motley crew will get through life in their own special fashion.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Happy Dance Friday News Bulletin

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures
There I was, all set to fire up the desktop once I got to the office and get back to normal Happy Dance Friday posting, but what did my buddy Linda and I see wandering around the road but a beautiful German Shepherd (henceforth referred to as GS)?

Since lunch hour traffic on a busy road is not a good place for puppies, we stopped the car and approached GS. Very good dog, she looked confused and lost, and was very trusting. Linda checked her tags and found a name and phone number. Of course both Linda's and my cell phones had to be out of commission but we were close enough to Linda's house that I could hoof it.

Called the number from the tag and got in touch with GS's dad, who came straightaway to get her. Dear readers, you have never seen a happy dance until you have seen a German Shepherd who was lost and then reunited with her person. I believe GS' response could be best translated as "ZOMG, DADDY, best thing EVAR! I lookeded and lookeded for you and you are HERE!" GS and her dad had a joyful reunion and we all did an inner happy dance on our way back to the rest of the day. Epic win for all, I do believe. Huzzah.