Sunday, April 30, 2017

Japan Trip: Food Part 1

Now let's get to the stuff that I know my best friend Nali is the most interested in: what I ate while in Japan.

What is it about vacation that has you eating your body weight in yummy (but very healthy!) food?

I eat Japanese food nearly every day in one way or another, so it wasn't that Japanese food was oh-so-exotic to me, but we really ate the spectrum on this trip.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Writing the Same Characters, Years Later

I'm somewhere in Chapter Three of a draft of The New Bride of Banner's Edge, which takes place in the Keegan family/Pearl Georgian England world, but focuses on a character who did not make the cut in Pearl, a lady who becomes Miles Keegan's second wife.

This particular story starts in 1804, when Jane Windham's husband dies by being thrown from his horse. Jane's brother lives near Miles and his family, so she's in the acquaintance circle, but because she didn't make an appearance in Pearl, I feel like I get to create her anew and give her more dimension than the much more amateurish attempt of the Keegans that I wrote back in 2012-2013.

But it brings up a funny thing: because Pearl ended around 1801, 1802, I find myself picking up these characters in May 1804 and trying to get reacquainted with their world and their lives.

So, for example, in macro terms, in 1804, William Pitt The Younger became Prime Minister of the UK again, Napoleon is proclaimed Emperor of the French--convieniently, these two things happened in May, when the Epsom Derby occurred and Jane's husband bumps his head and dies.

Britain is at war with France (as ever in this period) and the coastal towns are prepared for a possible French invasion.

William Wilberforce is still introducing bills in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament to ban the slave trade, as he did all through the 1790s. But there was a gap in action for abolition societies in the 1790s because of the start of the war with France, which is why in Pearl, there isn't any action with any official Abolition or Anti-Slavery societies.

But things were changing in 1804: the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade began its work again and in June 1804, Wilberforce's annual bill on abolishing slavery passed the Commons but was too late in the session to pass the Lords. Still, it was progress and to my not-total surprise, Miles Keegan is shedding some past business ties and associating with abolitionists in London.

His daughters are ten years old now. How have they grown since we last saw them in Pearl?

For that matter, what's Pearl been doing since she found her brother Julius?

Monday, April 17, 2017

2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge: 10 Books Read!

Hey! I finished reading my tenth book of the year last night!

I'm so glad I decided on a 35-book challenge this year; it makes for a gentler reading pace, especially since I'm writing at the moment as well.

Here is my list. Click on the title links if you're curious about my reviews (the one for Silence, I warn you, is basically an essay) What are you guys reading or what have you read?

1. The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.
Nonfiction/history/British. 4 stars.

2. The Viscount Needs a Wife by Jo Beverley. Fiction/Romance/Historical Romance/Regency England. 4 stars.

3. Room by Emma Donoghue. Fiction/Adult/Contemporary/Thriller. 4 stars.

4. Lonely Planet Tokyo by Lonely Planet, Rebecca Milner, Simon Richmond. Nonfiction/Reference/Travel/Japan/Tokyo. 3 stars.

5. Black London: Life Before Emancipation by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina. Nonfiction/History/British/Black British. 3 stars.

6. Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker. 3 stars. Fiction/Historical Fiction/American/19th century/Women

7. The Autumn Throne: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine (Eleanor of Aquitaine #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick. Fiction/Historical Fiction/European/British/French/Fictional Biography. 3 stars.

8. Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight For an Education by Jane Robinson. Nonfiction/History/Women/Feminism. 2 stars.

9. Prudence (Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger. Fiction/Historical/Victorian/Steampunk/Fantasy/Supernatural/India. 2 stars.

10. Silence by Shusaku Endo, translated by William Johnston. Fiction/Historical Fiction/Classics/Japanese Fiction/Translations. 4 stars.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Japan Trip: Hakone

We got on a train headed for the hinterlands.

And by the hinterlands, I mean western Kanagawa Prefecture. We got on a train with wide windows in Tokyo and rode it for about three hours.

Hakone--which I didn't know a thing about before this trip--is a town in the mountains, mostly within the bounds of the Fuji-Izu-Hakone National Park and is famous for its abundant hot springs, its mountains and Lake Ashi (Ashinoko)--plus, there's some historic significance, because in the old days of shogun and samurai, Hakone was a major checkpoint on the road to Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Tokyo Bus Tour: Stops 3 through 6

Senso-ji temple

All right--more Tokyo, guys!

After the Imperial East Garden, we got back on the bus and headed to Asakusa, which--I have since learned--is a district in Taito, Tokyo, and used to be an entertainment district from the Edo period on to about--you guessed it--World War Two.

(Are we sensing a theme here with Japanese history?)

We went to Asakusa to visit Senso-ji, a temple dedicated to the Buddhist boddhivista Kannon (from whom the founder of Canon took inspiration for the name of his company, btw). Senso-ji is also neighbors with a long, narrow road with tiny stalls on either side--souvenir stores, food stores, etc, on a road called Nakamise-dori (Inside Store Road, roughly translated).

Bad picture of one of the gates from inside the bus

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG April

It's April! It should be more spring-like around here, but it's been rainy and kind of cold instead. It's time to get back to whatever it was I was writing before I went to Japan for ten days, which means back to that Regency romance thing I was writing.

That is, I'll get back on that once I'm more fully back on Eastern Standard time. I'm almost there, but a two-day migraine didn't help things, and I'm getting up at weird times because I'm hungry at odd times of the day.

This month's IWSG question is:

Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

In short, no. I've never done the A to Z Challenge and I don't see myself doing it--I've thought of possible themes and I could probably do it if I applied myself to the idea of the A to Z, but after so many days straight of blogging, I would actually get tired of my own blogging voice.

Plus, since I barely have time to visit the many blogs I follow now, I don't think I could read and visit all the blogs during the challenge. After all, I'm not blogging as a business venture and I don't only blog about topics related to whatever I'm writing.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Tokyo Bus Tour: Stops 1 and 2

My favorite day of the Japan trip was the day we took a tour bus through Tokyo.

We were on a bus called a Hato Bus, stopping and looking at various places throughout central Tokyo, and I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement because when in Tokyo, you want to see the sights of Tokyo, yeah?

First stop: Meiji jingu or the Meiji Shrine is a Shinto temple dedicated to the spirits of the Emperor Meiji (he of the Meiji Restoration and a big figure in Japanese history) and his empress Shoken. The shrine was built after Meiji's death in 1912, destroyed by bombing during WWII, and subsequently rebuilt.

The Meiji shrine is in the middle of 170 acres of parkland in one of the busiest parts of Tokyo.

On the path to the shrine: sake drums!
Also, French wine barrels.

Haiku written by the Emperor Meiji

Torii gate leading to the shrine

Our second stop: the East Gardens (Higashi Gyoen) of the Imperial grounds (the kyuden), the east gardens being the only part of the imperial grounds open to the public. The Emperor and Empress of Japan live in the midst of Tokyo, in a huge compound surrounded by a moat. 

The grounds include the Imperial Household Agency, archives, a museum, and other buildings. 

The site of the Imperial palace grounds was, in the Edo period, the site of Edo Castle, home of the shogun (the samurai warlord leader of Japan for centuries). When the Emperor Meiji took on power from the last shogun, he moved the imperial capital from Kyoto to Tokyo and ordered the shogun out of Edo Castle, building a new palace on the site.

 Edo Castle and many of its structures burned in a fire in 1873 and the original imperial palace was built in a different part of the grounds. But then it was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945, so the current imperial palace was built in the 1960s. 

The East Garden, however, contains a huge rock wall around the site that dates from the 1600s! It was there during the shogunate and was part of the Edo Castle structure. 

The moat
The current Emperor of Japan is Akihito. Since at least the Meiji Era, each emperor's reign corresponds to an "era" in Japanese culture. Akihito's father Hirohito's reign is called the Showa period, which was long enough to mean that me, my mother, and my grandmother were all Showa babies. 

A reconstruction of an Edo era gate, where the shogun's men would've met you before you entered Edo Castle.
Part of the East garden.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

About The Trip

I went to Japan on March 16th and came back to New York on March 27th. That was the trip.

I didn't mean to be cryptic about going to Tokyo, but there were some familial circumstances that made it necessary to keep things on the down-low social media wise. But I'm reasonably sure none of the multitude of Japanese relatives read my blog, so I'll be writing a few posts over the next few weeks related to the trip.

The last time I went to Japan, I was ten years old, so Japan--and me--have changed a lot in the intervening two decades.

My family isn't from the Tokyo area, so in the past, at most, my time in Tokyo was limited to overnights before moving on to other parts of Japan, so to spend ten days exploring Tokyo was a real treat.

We went to Japan for a not-very-good reason: my grandmother died in January and we decided to bring her ashes back to Japan to be kept in the Buddhist temple the family belongs to, where my grandpa's ashes are also. But we ended up having a fun time there, too.

A few random-but-salient facts about Tokyo:

-Tokyo is Japan's capital city, but also one of its 47 prefectures, where there are 23 special wards, each administered like its own city, but all of it is part of Tokyo.

-Tokyo and its surrounding areas have a really good, incredibly punctual public transportation system. Unlike New York's, the trains and buses are on time, the stations and platforms and trains are clean (so clean), and the fares are calculated based on distance of travel, so you have to wave your pass thing over the turnstile machine quite often. The trains and buses do not run 24 hours, however.

-I can speak Japanese, but I can't read it. That is, I can read hiragana (but it takes a long time), katakana (which takes longer), and I can read "1st grade kanji," which I couldn't learn and remember when I was 5, never mind now that I'm 31.

-I have no concept of Japanese yen, except that 100 yen is about $1. Hence, the 100 yen shops were my fave places to shop.

-Japan is 13 hours ahead of New York, so, um, the jetlag is real. I slept for 18 hours on Tuesday. I kept wishing for this form of travel instead of a cramped airplane(s) for 15 hours getting there and 14 hours getting back.


Monday, March 27, 2017

I'm baacckkkk

Hey y'all,

I am home, I have been reunited with my computer, and I have a fresh set of new adventures to share with you all!

I feel like someone tied me up like a pretzel and since I jumped time zones, my internal clock is even more way off than usual. So recovery and laundry and unpacking to follow.

"Talk" soon,

Sunflower Michelle

Monday, March 13, 2017

Regency funerals, Cambridge riots, and a travel notice

In more random research...

I'm writing one story and researching/thinking about/percolating another story which actually has something like 30K already written but I've had on hold.

The one I've actually been writing is The New Bride of Banner's Edge. It's ostensibly a Regency romance, so it should be light and fun and frothy, but because this is me and I'm nothing if not a slightly warped soul, the new bride of the title begins the story a widow.

I hope the romance-y bit kicks in at some point.

So last week, I went through a Google search to figure out Georgian and Regency era English funeral and burial customs. I knew embalming began in the U.S. during the Civil War, but were bodies embalmed in 1804? Did they have funeral directors? And what about this idea that women didn't attend funerals?

Granted, this can be skimmed over in the interests of, well, getting to the romance-y bits, but the answers turned out to be: no, embalming wasn't a thing in England, the dead were washed and laid in a shroud in a coffin in a room in their house, and other facts and things I can't quite remember at the moment. Women often didn't attend funerals (because emotions in public=bad), but sometimes they did.

Jane's husband dies in Epsom, but he's buried in Kent, so that means the coffin needs to travel. It'll only take about a day or so of travel though, so I think it'll be okay.

The second thing I've researched recently is women's higher education, specifically in the late nineteenth century in England because I want a character in the Victorian story, Beatrice, to attend university. I'm duly reading a book called Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women To Fight For an Education right now.

There were women's colleges by the 1890s and many of the major universities in Britain granted women full degrees--except Oxford and Cambridge, which admitted women as students into women's colleges like St. Hilda's, Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville College (where Vera Brittain went), Girton, Newnham Hall and others. The female students were allowed to attend lectures at the universities, sit their exams, study full courses, but they weren't allowed to take degrees from Oxford or Cambridge.

I'm still a little shaky on what this means exactly, but basically, I think it means that they didn't get diplomas at the end.

In 1897, Cambridge University voted whether to include the female students at the various Cambridge-satellite women's college as full members of the university--to grant them full degrees and allow them to be part of the governing of the university.

In protest, the male students created an effigy of the typical female undergraduate on a bicycle, hung it outside of a building, and held banners saying things like "No Gowns For Girtonites" and "Varsity For Men."

And there's photographic evidence!

Look at this nonsense!

At any rate, the resolution did not pass and in celebration (no doubt drunken celebration), a crowd of men tore down the effigy, tore it to pieces, decapitated it, and then stuffed it through the locked gates of Newnham College.

Beatrice would be giving an elaborate eyeroll upon hearing this story.

Oh, also: this post will be my last for a while. I'm traveling overseas and won't be back until the end of March. I'll be back in April with news posts galore, I'm sure.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

No Rest For The Wicked by Krystal Jane Ruin: Cover Reveal


I'm thrilled to be part of the cover reveal tour for No Rest For The Wicked by Krystal Jane Ruin, aka Awesome Blog/Writing Buddy. It's her first book!

No Rest for the Wicked
Krystal Jane Ruin
Publication date: May 10th 2017
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal
Since her release from the psychiatric facility and into the smothering guardianship of her aunt, twenty-one-year-old psychic Tatum Torabi has been sneaking away to sell curses and plagues in the underground, a black market known for illegal and supernatural wares. 
Tatum’s unique abilities catch the attention of a hella-creepy trash peddler who offers her a job tracking down people who owe his boss “a favor.” She couldn’t be less interested, but when she refuses, the company forces her compliance by threatening the lives of the only family she has left. 
Because tracking barely scratches the surface of what they really want from her. There’s a reason Tatum is so good at making curses, and they want her to use those skills for a much darker purpose.

Author Bio:
Krystal Jane Ruin is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction living in the Tennessee Valley. She can often be found knee deep in Sudoku and other puzzles, in a Youtube hole, or blogging about books, writing, and random things.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Smashwords Read an Ebook Week

Hey everyone,

From March 5th to March 11th, it is Smashwords' Read an Ebook Week.

A lot of books are on sale throughout the Smashwords site, including my own:

You can get "When Mary Left" for FREE with the coupon code SFREE. 

You can get Pearl for $1.50 (50% off) with the coupon code RAE50.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG March

It's the first Wednesday of March--that means it's IWSG Day!

The IWSG is a large support group of writers and we post every first Wednesday of the month, following the lead of the founder, Alex J. Cavanagh. Our co-hosts for March are IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it ever work out?

First, define "really old." Have I pulled out a story I wrote in college and reworked it? No. Book the First was pretty much the last gasp of anything I was holding onto from college.

But Pearl was basically a completely gutted and reworked version of a novel I wrote, which I'm now picking apart and expanding for other stories, because you don't actually need that crap novel to understand the stories, I think. The story was better from Pearl's POV.

Anything older than, say, the beginning of this blog isn't really worth revisiting. It's not complete; a lot of it is slapdash and I don't think I could really relate to the characters anymore, if indeed those characters were characters and not just my friends placed into a story.

Also, we don't talk about the reams of fanfiction I wrote pre-, during, and post-college.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Widowhood in Georgian England

Ages ago, I wrote a post about British mourning customs . In a slightly related note, for my Regency/Georgian romance story I'm currently tinkering with--The New Bride of Banner's Edge--I needed to know a few salient points on being a widow in those days because early on in the story, Jane Windham is widowed. The story is about her finding a second chance at love with Miles Keegan, Pearl's employer in Pearl and father of the two girls Pearl nannies.

Miles is a widower, but things were different for men.

Feme covert
In the Georgian/Regency era into the mid-19th century or so, when a woman married, anything she'd inherited or owned--money or property--became her husband's. In law terms, a married women didn't exist as her own separate legal entity. It was known as coverture and a married woman was legally called a feme covert--a covered female, under the care of her husband.

If she went into the marriage with a good fortune but no safeguards like a marriage settlement in place, her husband could spend that money the way he saw fit and the wife had no legal recourse. If they separated, he could leave her destitute and she had no rights to their children, property, or money. If she earned any money during the marriage, it was his. She couldn't even deny him conjugal relations.
Baby Princess Victoria (future Queen Victoria) and her mother in mourning, 1819

Marriage Settlements
A lot of aristocratic and upper middle class families hammered out a marriage settlement for their daughters, which outlined how much she brought into the marriage (her dowry), how much of the dowry was set aside for her children to inherit and for the woman to live on if she was widowed (a jointure), and how much pin money (an allowance) she got from her husband.

So really--any girl with a decent fortune who was stupid enough to run away to Scotland to get married quickly (the Vegas of the late eighteenth and early ninteenth century) was truly stupid if the marriage went sour.

Poorer, working class women had it differently, naturally. They often didn't bring anything into a marriage anyway, so they didn't do marriage settlements. If she worked, her earnings belonged to her husband. Her children belonged to her husband. And divorce was practically impossible to get (you needed an Act of Parliament in England), so I suppose many women simply endured if their marriage went bad or their husband was ill, abusive, alcoholic, or a bum.

If a woman went into the marriage with a marriage settlement (Jane absolutely does), legally she's entitled to her dowry and to one-third of her husband's estate to live on. Also, she becomes her very own legal entity once again--a feme sole--and is allowed to own property and keep her own money.

Working class women also became feme sole in widowhood, but their position could be either livable  or precarious. A husband's death could mean ending up in the poor house. Working class men and women, if they lost their spouse and were left with a lot of children, often married fairly quickly because they needed financial stablilty or someone to care for the kids.

Jane's husband is a baronet, which isn't aristocracy but gentry and is one of those inheritable titles. They don't have a son to inherit, so when Jane becomes a widow, she has to move out of her home. In her social circles, she'd be expected to wear black for at least a year. She would be well-off enough to not have to marry soon after and in fact, it would be frowned upon if she married too quickly because, like, what if she happened to be pregnant by her dead husband?

Men, though? They could marry quickly after if they needed to. Who was going to raise the kids if he didn't?

Widows generally had more social freedom than married or single-never-married women. Yes, they were expected to swaddle themselves in black for a year, but they could live comfortable lives if the finances were good. Having been married, they didn't have to be as sheltered as a never-married woman was, so if they were discreet, an affair or travel or a profession wouldn't be completely out of place.

If she married again, everything she had became her new husband's and she became a feme covert again.

Jane Austen's World: Dowagers and Widows in 19th Century England
Historical Hussies--Marriage Laws in Regency England
Status of Women
Heroines in an Era Lacking Women's Rights
Survivors' Guide to Georgian Marriage
Show Me The Money: Marriage Settlements in Regency England

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On Japanese Names

In high school, I was assigned a really fun essay: it was all about your name. Why did my parents name me that? What does your name mean? What's the language of origin? Is it a cultural name?

I duly searched baby name websites for the Japanese half of my real first name, Rei, which is from my grandmother's name Reiko. (The other half of my real first name is a pretty common name, often used for middle names these days) They said that Reiko meant "pleasant child" (-ko, a common suffix in girls' names, means "child").

The kanji for "ko"

So, then, "Rei" must mean "pleasant."

Except when it doesn't.

Japanese names are often written in kanji form; that is, in Chinese characters (though the Japanese read the kanji differently to Chinese people). But because a variety of kanji can be read in a variety of ways, the meaning of a Japanese name--even if it sounds the same--can be different, depending on the kanji that is used.

My grandmother's Reiko, for instance, originally used a character for "Rei" that she didn't like, so she  used a different one. In my full name in Japanese, my character for "rei" isn't my grandmother's--in many families, a kanji character is passed down or used by successive generations. (On my grandfather's side, the kanji "ya" was passed down--Yasujyo, Yachio, Yajuro, Yasuhiko...)

My "rei" does not meant pleasant; it means mountain summit. Here are the different kanji you can use for "rei."  Pieced together, my Japanese name is said the same way as one would say it in English, but the kanji meaning is "tranquil mountain summit" which is, um, well... I guess it's a personality to strive for?

But if you're searching on baby name sites for meanings for Japanese names, just know that the meaning there might only be the most common meaning, based on the most common kanji rendering of the name. Or just some uninformed meaning. Which is completely fine if you're just looking for a quick name to use for a character and you think you might want to go Japanese.

I named a character in Book the First Hikari, which means "light," which fit the character. I named a character in a short story Kimiko, because I wanted her to have a quick English nickname that she's known by while her full name often gets ignored.

If you're writing a story about Japan, with Japanese characters, then I expect a little kanji talk and some kanji research--a common conversation: "Wait, she uses that character for 'Yasu' in 'Yasuko?' Really? I didn't know that could be read like that!"

Popular Japanese Girls and Boys Names: 2015
Behind the Name: Japanese names

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy 8th Birthday, Blog!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear bloogggggiieeee

Happy Birthday to you!

What? I'm allowed to wish my own blog a happy birthday-anniversary-whatever, aren't I?

The Sunflower's Scribbles is 8 years old today.

That's 737 posts total. I have no idea how many words those 737 posts add up to, but I'm going to guess they're fairly substantial at this point.

For past blog birthdays, I've dug through the blog archives, I've posted short stories, I've shared memes and quotes.

This year? Have a recipe!

In the past year or so, my cooking has come along. I've still very much a beginner-type cook--also a fairly lazy cook, in that I don't want to make anything overly complicated.

Turkey Burgers

My mom really, really likes my version of this recipe for turkey burgers.

1 pound of ground turkey
Mushrooms, chopped finely. I usually do a whole thing of mushrooms. Doesn't matter what kind.
One whole bell pepper or several mini bell peppers, chopped finely.
Two to three green onions, chopped.
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 egg
salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste

Put all the ingredients into a bowl.
Mix together.
Form into patties--I can usually get 6 patties out of this recipe.
Oil in a pan.
Once the oil is heated up, patties in the pan.
Leave the patties cook about four to six minutes on that side before flipping it over.
Check that it's cooked; make sure the turkey meat has turned whiteish. Stick a fork in the center. If the juice coming out runs clear, you're good.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Victoria on Masterpiece

From The Radio Times

For the past few Sundays, PBS' Masterpiece (the people who aired Downton Abbey as well as a shit ton of great British dramas) has been airing Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman as the queen and Rufus Sewell as her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne.

Victoria begins on the morning that the 18-year-old Queen Victoria becomes queen. This past Sunday's episode covered Victoria and Albert's wedding.

Like The Crown and Versailles (though, frankly, more The Crown than Versailles, if you get my meaning), the program is a sumptuously shot television show taking place in the mid-nineteenth century. The costumes are gorgeous--and like Downton Abbey, there are scenes of the palace's servants going about their work and lives and what it is like to serve the Queen of England.

But it isn't exactly the Victorian Era as we come to know it later; photography is still brand new and
the men, at least in the palace, are still wearing stockings and knee-breeches as if it were the Regency era. The common people are agitating for wider voting rights. I suppose the 1840s were a transitional time.

Victoria's coronation portrait

But at the center of it all is a merry eighteen-year-old girl who has been brought up in a very sheltered environment. Her father died when she was an infant and her German mother doesn't like the licentiousness of her in-laws.

But Victoria, all four feet and eleven inches of her, is a very determined young monarch, though in need of guidance in the guise of her prime minister Lord Melbourne. But now she's married Albert, her first cousin, and the man that we all know Victoria would wear black for for over sixty years.

Prince Albert in 1840, the year he married Victoria

It's an interesting, dramatic look at a young Victoria and times in which she began her rule. By 1901, when she died and the Victorian era came to an end, the world had changed drastically.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: February

It's IWSG time for February! The IWSG is a group that encourages writers and we post every first Wednesday of the month! Come check us out here.

In January's IWSG post, I laid out some writing goals for 2017. They were:

-Stay the hell off social media. Not forever, mind you, but on it less. I found that it was crowding my brain a bit too much in 2016.
I have not been very successful at this--frankly, there's too many important things going on in the world right now. But I'm learning to temper the crazy with my own brand of crazy.

-Maybe finally move this blog onto another platform? I want a more professional look. Maybe. I'll probably change my mind in about five minutes.

-Finish the Victorian novel and get started on the second draft (finishing the second draft would be nice, too, but let's not push it) I've made a little progress on the novel, but not much because...

-Send "Haunted Lake" to a beta and figure out what to do with it (I'm leaning towards finding a magazine to submit to)
Done. Sent to a beta, revised, and I just sent the edited version to other betas as well. Also, researchng where I can submit this thig.

-Draft and finish "The New Bride of Banner's Edge," which is more Regency romance than historical fiction. I've started the first draft and I think it'll be novella length.
Made progress here--I think I can see the shape of the beginning of the story, at least, and I know which direction I want it to go in.

-Get back into the research I had done for Pearl and draft her brother Julius's story.
Still reading a book that could be helpful here.

-Interspersed with other things as time and attention allow

When I get around to submitting "Haunted Lake," it would be my first time submitting a story to magazines, zines, or websites. What is that process like, writers? Any tips?

And now getting around to the IWSG question:
How has being a writer changed your perspective as a reader?

I was a reader before I tried writing and for the longest time, my reading experience wasn't really affected by my being a writer. I got lost in the story. I went on the ride with the characters. And for the most part, I'm still able to read and go on the journey with the characters.

But I am a heck of a lot more critical about what I read. There's always a part of my brain that is analyzing the plot, word choices, background characters, and dialogue when I'm reading fiction. I also have more respect for the written word; I don't usually review books on my Goodreads as "this is a bad book." Someone worked on that book, they sweated over that book, they did the best they could--even if it didn't work for me in many ways, I can't just flat-out say, "That was a bad book."

I can, however, point to why something I've read doesn't work for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Con Where It Happens: BroadwayCon 2017

Y'all, apparently it's not normal to memorize and regurgitate lyrics to multiple musical theater songs, even ones you haven't heard in a couple of years.

Or as my friend said to me today while we were roaming the Jacob Javits Center, "You didn't even miss a beat on 'Satisfied.' How does that happen?"

2017's BroadwayCon was held at the Javits Center over this weekend and two of my friends and I went today, the last day of the convention, and had a great time.

We went dressed in pink, blue, and yellow as a nod to the Schuyler sisters from Hamilton.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March NYC 2017

Today, two friends and I arrived in Manhattan around noon, walked downtown about ten blocks, and participated in a historic day: the day of the Women's March and the various sister marches all over the world.

1st Avenue and 47th Street

The funniest thing about waiting to get into the plaza: there's a Trump Hotel on that corner!

At one point, a young girl stood at her hotel window and jumped up and down waved at the crowd. At another point, we noticed a guy hanging a sign under his apartment window and leaning out way too far to take pictures.

Guys, don't lean out of high apartment windows, please.

See the Schuyler Sisters signs? Photo credit: Nali

Once on 2nd Avenue, we turned downtown and the pace picked up a bit. Our chants began to fill the air: "My body! My choice!" (For the men in the crowd: "Her body! Her choice!"), "Tell me what democracy looks like!" "This is what democracy looks like!"

We turned onto 42nd Street and walked crosstown. The crowd thickened and slowed the closer we got to Grand Central Terminal. We saw more signs--so many signs and so creative. We were part of this mass of humanity walking through Manhattan, but the energy was really good. There weren't any crazies or rage or anger in the crowd; it was a peaceful, focused crowd.

We walked by the Chrysler Building.

At Grand Central, we looked up and saw people standing outside the terminal and we all did the same chant. It echoed as we walked under the bridge.

We got to 5th Avenue. Fifth Avenue took a good long while. The crowd was thick and there were police barricades on either side, so we were channeled onto the road. We marched closer and closer to the evil castle--Trump Tower--which looms over Fiftth Avenue.

We were stopped at 55th Street and we had to disperse either west or east, but before we left completely, the march got in a cathartic "New York hates you! New York hates you!" and "We are the popular vote!"

I've done a few protest marches, but they were back in college. I've never been in one in my hometown and definitely not in one this large. The fact that it was worldwide is astounding.

I'm seeing a bunch of pictures from all over the country, from friends who attended various marches, and on Twitter, from people posting pictures of their local gatherings.

The best thing? As far as I know, it all went off peacefully. And there was so much diversity in the crowd: plenty of men, lots of kids, different races, ages, languages, abilities, sexual orientations.

Women's March on Washington Goes Worldwide
Women's March Protests, Live Coverage
Women's March--NY Times

Monday, January 16, 2017

The First Snippet of 2017

I finished reading a Regency historical romance today by one of my favorite romance authors, Jo Beverley, who sadly died last year. It's been a while since I've read one, which is funny because that was original genesis of the whole Keegan family saga. (I really liked the book, by the way. It was romantic, gushy, uplifting, although there was a theme of death throughout, which was really poignant considering it's probably Jo Beverley's last book).

Now granted, I realize it's weird to be writing a lot of short stories based around a trunked and ripped apart novel. But one of my projects so far this year is the first draft of a Regency (well, technically, it's Georgian England) historical romance novella and it takes place in the same world with the Keegans. 

And this is my first snippet of 2017: a scene from early on in The New Bride of Banner's Edge.
Yes, guys, I already have a title #win

            Miles Keegan sat at one end of the dining table, addressing himself to his coffee and eggs, his attention divided between his breakfast and the London Times.
            "Good morning." He glanced away from the headlines about Napoleon Bonaparte being elected Emperor of the French to return the greeting to Lady Banston, his hostess. Lord Banston was at the other end of the table, a copy of the paper still unread beside him. He was engrossed reading a long letter instead.
            Lady Banston took a plate and selected her breakfast from the silver-domed dishes on the sideboard. This was a cozy domestic scene, one that they'd shared often, for the Banstons were Miles's neighbors back in their Gloucestershire village and they were happy to have him stay in their London house for a few weeks' time. Their respective children were upstairs having their breakfast while Mayfair woke up outside of Banston House after yet another night of balls, parties, and the theater. Such was the Season.
            "Darling? Whatever is the matter?" Lady Banston asked. Lord Banston was rubbing his temple.
            "This is from Stockton," Banston said, referring to his estate steward. "He regrets to say that he must visit his sister Lady Windham in Kent for a brief time for Sir Calvin Windham has died and he needs to attend the funeral. He wrote to say he's leaving Havers in charge in his absence."
            Lady Windham took a sip of tea. "Sir Calvin is dead? Why, he wasn't that much older than either of you."
            Miles nodded, then turned the page of the newspaper. He wasn't well acquainted with Sir Calvin Windham, having met him briefly a few years ago, but he knew Lady Windham. She visited Stockton nearly every summer, often bringing her daughter Laura with her. The poor woman. Losing a spouse was something all too familiar to Miles.
            "I think I saw him at Tattersall's last week," Banston said. "Stockton doesn't mention the cause of death."
            "And what, pray tell, were you doing at Tattersall's?" Lady Banston asked.
            "Looking at horses, as one does at Tatt's."
            Miles shook his head at the marital exchange. The headlines on this page varied: the battles being waged in India, the war on France, Pitt the Younger becoming Prime Minister again…
            Baronet Dies After Epsom Derby.
            He skimmed the first few lines. "Here it is," he said to his companions. "'Sir Calvin Windham, baronet of Windham Magna, Kent, was thrown with some force from his horse near Epsom on the 17th of May. His head was sorely injured and he died after a day. He is survived by his heir, his cousin Mr. James Windham of Canterbury, his mother the Dowager Lady Windham, and his wife and daughter.'"
            Lady Banston shook her head. "Oh, my goodness. Thrown from a horse. Lady Windham said he was horse-mad."
            "Then I suppose he died doing something he loved," Banston said.
            It wouldn't make anything easier for Lady Windham, however. She was a cheerful woman with a strong constitution and artistic talent, but she had shadows. Of course she did. Didn't they all, somewhere?
            "I'll write to her," Lady Banston said. "I wonder how distant a relation the heir is—well, the new baronet."
            "I ought to write her, too," Miles said. "I know all too well what being the widower is like." His wife Adele died suddenly five years ago. He'd moved on and their daughters grew everyday, but the memories of that time still hit him afresh every so often.

            He pushed his chair back. With that sad note, it was time to start his day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

25 Minutes A Day

For most of last year, I was a distracted mess--after I released "When Mary Left" (now or soon-to-be available over on your friendly neighborhood Kobo, B&N, iBooks, and Smashwords, btw), I tried to go back to the novel and couldn't. I planned a few short stories and only finished one.

Well, I was--and am--determined that this year will not the same. But I wasn't totally sure how I was going to combat Shiny Internet-itis without resorting to turning off the Internet every single time I wanted to write, which impedes valid things like quick Googling and referencing research.

And then the answer came to me via Jess, my friend and copyeditor of my two released works. She wrote a post for Blood Red Pencil: The Pomodoro Technique and Productive Writing Time. Go read it if you have a sec.

The gist is: there's a productive technique called the Pomodoro method, where you set a timer for about twenty-five minutes and then proceed to do your task in single-minded fervor. At the end of the twenty-five minutes, you take a five minute break. After your short break, set the timer again for another twenty-five.

It sounded do-able and it made sense to me---25 minutes of writing or researching or whatever, then five minutes to go do the dishes or take out the garbage or check Facebook.

In the comments to Jess's post, someone mentioned a free Pomodoro app in the App Store, which I duly downloaded and began using.

Well, it's been a week on this method and the two projects I'm alternating between, the Victorian novel and this novella-ish thing called The New Bride of Banner's Edge, are growing slowly but surely. The Victorians are a proper mess of a first draft, but it's progressing; I'm a little above 52,000 words there. The other story is moving into its next "chapter" as well.

For most of the week, I've only managed one Pomodoro--one 25 minute writing session a day, which sounds like so little, but I'm actually seeing progress. I'm excited to do my 25 minutes a day because I know that I'm getting shit done during that time and if I have the time, I'll take a 5 minute break and go for another 25 minutes.

Friday, January 6, 2017


Louis the Sun King. From Impressive Magazine.

I think I mentioned that I watched sesaon 1 of Versailles, a French-produced show (though everything's in English and most of the actors are British), not too long ago. My best friend then watched it and wanted to know if "all those people really died or not."

So here's a quick run-down of Louis XIV and some of the drama on Versailles. Spoilers below!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG: January 2017

It's The Insecure Writer's Support Group time! We post every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out at the link above and on Facebook!

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions. I think they're made to be broken and cause disappointment. But I have definite steps to world domination I want to achieve this year:

-Stay the hell off social media. Not forever, mind you, but on it less. I found that it was crowding my brain a bit too much in 2016.
-Maybe finally move this blog onto another platform? I want a more professional look. Maybe. I'll probably change my mind in about five minutes.
-Finish the Victorian novel and get started on the second draft (finishing the second draft would be nice, too, but let's not push it)
-Send "Haunted Lake" to a beta and figure out what to do with it (I'm leaning towards finding a magazine to submit to)
-Draft and finish "The New Bride of Banner's Edge," which is more Regency romance than historical fiction. I've started the first draft and I think it'll be novella length.
-Get back into the research I had done for Pearl and draft her brother Julius's story.
-Interspersed with other things as time and attention allow

As for the IWSG January question: 

What writing rule do you wish you'd never heard?

Erm...sometimes all of them?

I've heard and read a lot of ridiculous writing rules over the years, but I can't think of anthing specific as the one absolute one I wish I'd never heard. Once you hear something, you can't un-hear it, but it's fairly easy to tune it out when you're in the thick of writing.

Like, for example, in 2016, I wrote a 150 page long fanfiction--I wasn't worried about much beyond writing witty dialogue, shaping the characters (which was easy when you're directly writing other peoples' personalities down), and making sure it was coherent but fun because I was only sharing it with my two best friends. They've been forced to read my writing for nigh on fifteen years now. And I had a blast writing that one.

The one short story I finished during NaNo 2016, "Haunted Lake" is pretty outside of my usual writing grooves: it's short, it has limited characters, it's set in the present and the eighteenth century, and it's horror. There are ghosts and creepiness. I had a ton of fun writing it.

So I think I need to shed that college writing course skin of "write things that are more literary" and just write whatever the hell excites me.