Sunday, September 29, 2019

Getting Here

Long ago, I lived in Texas. Those who were born and raised there were in one class of folks. Those who migrated there as adults got to wear a popular t-shirt proclaiming even though they weren't born there, they got there as soon as they could.

I thought about that shirt (which I never bought or subscribed to its notion) this week when I read an editorial talking about the same subject, but instead of Texas, they were relating it to North Carolina. Now, that's a notion I can get behind. Since moving here 1-1/2 years ago, I've settled in. I have nice neighbors, I've found work I can do from home, I joined a gym, and my new Revolutionary War series has me waking up each morning raring to go.

The first one in the series, A British Heiress in America, basically wrote itself. The second one's taking a bit longer, since my hero took a while to get his act together. But with a name like Hawk, what else could you expect? Here's a snippet from the second book, A British Courtesan in America:

The streets were bustling with people, all busy with their lives. Libby melted into the throng and wandered from one street to the next. Her next hurdle was to find employment. She glanced at the various shops and tried to picture herself working in one of them, but nothing so far captured her fancy. The street noise was deafening and the cobbles uneven, so she shifted her gaze to the street and lurched to a stop as the heel of her expensive brocaded silk shoe wedged between two cobbles. In her haste to explore her new city, she’d forgotten to change out of her favorite pair of shoes, the final gift from Atticus. She leaned over to dislodge the shoe, or take it off. 
Shouts, and then, thundering hooves, finally resonated. Libby glanced up in time to see a horse barreling right at her, but she was unable to move to safety. A scream formed in her throat as her gaze was pinned on the runaway animal. She closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable. What a pity, to die on her first day of freedom. Then, the breath got knocked out of her as hands grabbed her and yanked her out of the way. She landed hard on the cobblestones, with an equally hard body on top of her. She fought for air as the man rolled off her, helping her to a sitting position, while Boston bustled around her. 
When she finally was able to breathe again, she opened her eyes and stared at the person who had saved her life. Dark skin, a shock of black hair that stood straight up from his scalp, broad shoulders, and brown eyes that narrowed as she perused him. If she hadn’t had the wind knocked out of her already, this man’s appearance would have stolen it. She’d never seen anyone remotely resembling him. And he still held onto her hand. 
She put her feet under her and he helped her rise. When she tried to put weight on her left foot, her ankle screamed in pain and she winced. 
“Have you been injured?” The exotic stranger asked in a voice that had a French lilt to it. 
“It’s my ankle. I twisted it, evidently. And lost my shoe.” Libby glanced around, searching for her missing footwear. 
The man scoured the area where she had been and pulled what was left of the shoe from the cobbles. He handed it to her. “Hope you weren’t too fond of them. Mighty fancy footwear for the wild streets of Boston.” 

She stifled the moan, and blinked rapidly, not letting the tears fall. “Thank you, kind sir. Now, if you can direct me to my hotel, I’ll let you get back to work.” She took a step forward, but latched onto the man’s arm for support as she cried out in pain. 
“You aren’t going anywhere in that condition, mon amie. I can take care of you.” He picked her up in his brawny arms and carried her through the streets. 
“I can take care of myself, sir. Please put me down.” She struggled, which made him grip her tighter. 
“Not until I take care of your ankle. The longer it’s left unattended, the greater the swelling.” He glanced down at her and smiled slightly. “It’s the least I can do. That horse escaped from my stables.” 
Libby settled into his arms. “Well, in that case…” She took a moment to study him. “I’m sensing a French accent, but something else, too. What is your nationality?” 

“Oui, half French. The other half is Passamaquoddy Indian.” 

And, when I get a spare morsel of time, I'm already thinking of the third book, tentatively titled A British Spinster in America. All my heroines are transplanted from England to the United States at the very moment in time when the states did become united. The Revolutionary War is a battle I can get behind, unlike the Civil War, in which so many died so a few could continue their plantation way of life. I keep my Civil War leanings to myself, since I am technically a Southerner now. But North Carolina is a good place to grow things. Like my office plant. It was a gift when I moved into my new place, and has taken off, spreading its leaves towards the heavens. What only a year ago was a little philodendron of some kind has grown into a plant worthy of Little Shop of Horrors. I can hear it calling out "Feed Me!" each time I come near with a watering can.

So I guess it's time I bought a shirt. One that says "I may not have been born here, but I got here as soon as I could." North Carolina is feeling like home.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Peace, Love and Rock n' Roll

My new Peace symbol t-shirt arrived in the mail today. I had to retire the old one, since a shirt can only have so many stains on it before it becomes embarrassing, regardless of the message.

While I was in college, a friend of mine carved a huge peace symbol out of a block of iron since he knew how much I liked the sign. I wish I still had it, but it got too costly to lug it around the country with me. So now, I'm on to the new shirt and hope it lasts as long as my previous one did. 

And I couldn't call myself a hippie if I didn't include love in the equation. Since I write romances, I think I've got that one covered. I'm currently shopping my 20th manuscript around and hope it finds a home soon. 

As for rock and roll, I grew up outside of Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My sister and I attended the Who concerts when they still played in small venues, and saw the Rolling Stones on their first American tour. I have to admit to a bit of a hearing loss as a result of these early encounters, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Nowadays I like to work in absolute quiet, but when I need to boogie, I turn to Bruno Mars and his Uptown Funk. 

I  just finished rereading my latest manuscript, which is set during the Revolutionary War. It's made me focus on how our country got its start, how much these early founding fathers and mothers sacrificed to form this country, and I've become intensely patriotic as a result. Here's a snippet of a scene from the as yet unpublished story, entitled A British Heiress In America: 
Daniel let out a slow breath as Pip departed the deck. His natural curiosity about America, and what he was headed into, had forced their conversation to skate very close to the edges of his secret life. He’d taken a lot of guff from his friends when he accepted the job of ferrying supplies to the British forces. His in-laws, who took care of his daughter, Emma, while he was at sea, frowned on his activity even though they understood why he accepted the post. He’d do what he had to in order to make certain his daughter had the best life possible. And her best life possible didn’t include the British taking over the country he’d grown up in and loved. But it also didn’t include having her grow up as an orphan. She’d already lost one parent to the Brits. He’d be damned if they’d get a chance with him. He would guard his secret with his life. He had to, for Emma’s sake.
So, he’d continue his duplicity. He’d carry the missives meant for the British generals from their superiors still in England, as well as those directions going back to America from the British commanding officers. But not before reading what he could, listening to the talk as he picked up the parcel of letters, and passing along the information to his best friend Sam. Samuel Adams.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Having a Becky Day

Lately, I've had my nose to the grindstone to pay for a new stove, to pay attention to a sick family member, and to read some books that I've been putting off reading. Oh, yeah, and then there's the work-in-progress (WIP).

The sick family member is approaching stability, the stove is in and by the end of this week I will have it paid for with my side-hustle job. So, in the middle of this week, I was surprised to find I had a full day with no appropriate articles to write, and nothing on the calendar. So I plopped my butt in my chair and had a Becky kind of day. I got to do exactly what I have been dying to do--get back into my WIP and then read one of my good friend's books.

It was a day to recharge, one which I sorely needed but wasn't even aware I was being dragged down.

So, I got a couple more chapters edited in my WIP, and got deep into my friend's book. I finished reading the book today, but can't say the same about the WIP. That will take a little bit longer. But I think I'll schedule a Becky Day once a week. It puts a different shine on the rest of the week.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Prioritizing or Procrastinating?

My work schedule has shifted over the past few weeks, for a variety of reasons. And just as with anything that you develop a routine for–exercising, dieting, writing, etc.–when your routine gets interrupted, it's hard to get back on track. As most of you know, I have a side-hustle job, which at times pays more than my royalties from all my books. When the stove in my house hid the skids, I needed to find money to buy a new one, or stop cooking. Trust me when I say the "stop cooking" option held some appeal. But since that wasn't feasible, I went shopping over Labor Day for a new stove.

I got a good Labor Day sale price, but I still had to find the money to pay for it. Which meant doubling up on my efforts with my side-hustle for at least a month. So I switched the order in which I put together my day. Instead of working on the WIP first thing, I've been writing my articles first, and then, if I have any creative energy left, I work on my WIP. But a couple things are hanging me up. First, when I had to put down the WIP, I was at a sticky part where I needed to spend time doing some research and then write a fight scene. Second, I started using the book Save The Cat Writes a Novel, so I'm rereading the chapters I've already written to make them better, and make them adhere more closely to the suggestions in this book. And third, I find my brain is only capable of coming up with 1,200 words a day, regardless of whether they are used in the formation of articles or as part of my novel.

So am I prioritizing or procrastinating? Once I accumulate the funds needed to pay for the stove, I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Save The Cat

For years, I've been using Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet from his Save The Cat book to formulate my novels. It's basically for screenwriting, but I've found it quite useful in plotting out the basics of my stories. I can quickly fill in a beat sheet and determine if I have enough of a story line for a complete 70,000 word product. If I'm successful in filling in all the boxes, I'll go forward.

I was in the middle of the second book in my Revolutionary War series when life interrupted my orderly days. I abandoned the project for weeks, and then, when I was finally ready to get back into it, I couldn't get a grasp on what came next. One of my writing buddies suggested I take a look at the next version of Save The Cat. It's designed specifically for novel writing, not screenplays. I bought the book, thinking I'd apply it to the story I had written thus far. I'm probably at 25,000 words, so I've got a lot of material to filter through. 

So, the other day, I brought up the first chapter. Following along with the Novel version of Save The Cat, I got through the setup for the heroine and moved on to the next part of the first act, where the theme must be stated. According to the book, "a character (usually not the hero) will make a statement or pose a question to your hero or heroine that somehow relates to what the person needs to learn by the end of the story." I was already in trouble. 

I already had a secondary character in the scene, so I used him to pose the question to the heroine. Reading through the scene again, I quickly saw how much stronger the scene had become by my additional words, which fleshed out the secondary character and put the heroine on edge with his summation. Now I have to do the same with the hero. 

For all you writers who follow this blog, I highly recommend this craft book. Save The Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody not only saved the cat, but may have saved my book. Thanks, MJ, for the suggestion.