Saturday, February 17, 2018

February's always been a weird month for me

February's always been a weird month for me.

It's the dead of winter up here in the northeast, with very up and down temperatures and strange weather altogether. During adolescence and up into my early twenties, I used go into an almost-legendary annual February depression. Thinking back on it, I think it was mostly Seasonal Affective problems and hormone issues which collided during the shortest month of the year.

Of course, sometimes depression results in really creative endeavors and ideas--back when I was in college, I kind of ascribed to that weird notion that writers were generally depressive, that creatives were generally depressive--and though I'm fighting off a sore throat/headache/very tired/PMS combo I've had for a few days, I am trying my best to feel creative after a few weeks where all I've wanted to do is read and sleep. #Hibernation

Screenshot of the very first blog post I ever wrote
So, for starters: this blog was born during a February--nine years ago now. How's that for creative? In the spirit of creativity, I've kept the topics I talk about on this thing loose, a chronicle of whatever the heck I'm interested in at the moment.

Can't wait til this downloads to my Kindle!

Valentine's Day just passed and there was some Internet hoopla about the romance genre. I haven't been as diligent with continuing my romance outline in the past couple of weeks. I was exceedingly uninspired in that direction.

I've been reading romance since I was a pre-teen, right? Historicals have been historically more my jam, but I've followed some authors I like--and new-to-me authors--into contemporary romances, too.  I have become a devoted listener to the Smart Bitches podcast, where the authors, books, and topics they discuss resonate with me. My series idea takes in the vibrant and exciting world of Broadway theater, in contemporary New York City.

But I'm the least romantic person on earth. Seriously. I like romantic fiction--romance novels and romantic comedies--but actual real life romance kind of grosses me out. All the stuff that works for me in romantic fiction are things I would find highly suspicious in real life. So, in the last week and a half or so, that niggling doubting voice that every writer knows so well was like, "Why are you trying to write a romance novel?"

"Because I want to. Go away."

"But what is it you actually like about romance? And anyway, aren't you super sleepy? Go hibernate." (This may be worthy of an entirely different post since my own ideas of why I like romantic fiction, why I gravitate towards it, and what I think of its tropes and characters have evolved over the decades.)

I'm feeling inspired again in that direction...because of the Olympics.

So, there's this Canadian ice dancing couple--Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir--who have been ice dancing partners since they were children. They're known for their great skating and passionate programs. They have a program set to the music of Moulin Rouge! and it's fantastic. They've known each other forever and have a tendency to act kind of couple-y, though they say they're platonic friends.

(I know the acting in love is part of the routine. Still, I ship 'em)




I'm not the only one on the romance readers and writers parts of Twitter who watched them and went "Oh yeah I remember them from four years ago...what do you mean they're not in a relationship?!" But anyway, this has caused me to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole of Virtue and Moir and reignited my itch to get back to my romance novel outline.


Ubasute no tsuki by Yoshitoshi
I've also revived a short story I started last year and let lapse--it's one of my darker disturbing short stories. I had a ton of fun writing the creepy "Haunted Lake." When my friend Emily mentioned on Twitter that she wanted to write something revolving around older women, witches, and folk tales, I remember thinking of the (probably apocryphal) legends of Japanese grandmas being taken to the forest during times of hardship--so that their families wouldn't have to feed them. I started a story in that vein late last year and I turned back to it earlier this month 'cause it just fit my mood better.

I like that it fits the hibernating February mood I've been in. Plus, watching that Irish Potato Famine episode of Victoria two weeks ago has given me yet another potential idea for a creepy, somewhat dark short story.

Monday, February 12, 2018

What Does That Say?: A Family Tree Odyssey

On Sunday, February 4th, there was an episode of the show Victoria on PBS--Victoria being the show that fills the Downton Abbey and The Crown-filled holes in my need for British costume dramas--which dealt with the Irish Potato Famine. 

I watched it with extreme interest and a bit of trepidation. Since the show is about the monarch who reigned during the Potato Famine, I wondered how much the show would fictionalize. I've been hearing about the Potato Famine my entire life; it looms large in Irish immigrant families, even though my family didn't leave Ireland during the Famine. 

By the 1840s, the majority of Irish-Catholics were smallholders---tenant farmers. (Catholics weren't allowed to own land in Ireland by the 1840s). They raised livestock and crops for their landlords but most of that grain, meat, and dairy were exported from Ireland to England. 

A huge number of Irish-Catholic tenant farmers relied on the potato as their only source of food. When a blight hit the potato crop in 1845, causing the potato crop to rot, people started starving. I thought Victoria did a good job of portraying the attitude a lot of establishment Protestants had toward the Irish peasants--that they were stupid, intemperate, had too many kids, were lessser than they were--and that the blight was "God's will." In the meantime, while the Famine was in full force and an incredible number of people were dying, being evicted, going into workhoouses, and emigrating, there was still food and livestock leaving Ireland and going to England. 

I think the episode seemed overly sympathetic toward Queen Victoria. She may have been relatively tolerant towards Catholics, but I don't think she gave much of a crap about the Irish. 

1.5 million people died during the Famine years. Another million immigrated. Ireland's current population of 6 million still hasn't recovered to its pre-Famine numbers. 

...All of this brought me around to a question I've periodically had rolling around in my brain when it comes to Irish history and my family. 

What the hell were we doing during the Famine? 

My ancestors didn't start immigrating to the United States until, at the earliest, the 1890s. But County Mayo had a large population drop of 30% during the famine. The vast majority of the poor in Mayo were solely dependent on the potato. 

So I started Googling--I was just trying to find any information on County Mayo during the Famine, in the hopes that maybe I'd find something that might mention the villages my ancestors lived in. I still haven't figured out what we were doing during the Famine, but I did read a few things which indicated that things were not good in those places at the time.

I came across Irish Genealogy, a website set up by the Irish government with Birth, Marriage, and Death records. I found actual birth dates for ancestors! I found causes of death for ancestors! (Lungs are not our strong organ; there's a lot of consumption, pneumonia, bronchitis, and influenza). 

Death record of Winifred Athy, my 3x great grandmother

And then I found this. So background: Margaret Moran is my 2x great grandmother on my grandmother's side. I knew that she'd eventually have eleven children, that she was born and died in Ireland, and that she had died in 1937. Through Ancestry.com, I'd figured out that her birth year was 1866. Well, on Irish Genealogy, I found her marriage record, which had her father's name on it. So using that, I did a search for birth records--only one came up in the correct district with the correct father's name in late 1865. It's her. 

Her mother's named Bridget. Cool. 

But I can't clearly read Bridget's maiden name (The bit circled in yellow below). Does that say Bridget Moran formerly Moran? 

If it does, I found where my family is possibly inbred. 

(There are other Morans in my grandmother's family. So, like, not totally surprised there, but yeah...) 


It's also the only record I found on the site that I'm having trouble making out.

Note: I actually forgot that this will post on the blog's ninth birthday! Happy Birthday, Blog!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG Feb



It's time for IWSG--the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We post our writerly insecurities and release them to the world on the first Wednesday of every month. Check us out here.

This month's question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

I'm in the midst of exploring other genres right now, actually. I have a few ideas for some creepy dark short stories (because I had fun writing "Haunted Lake") and I'm working on the beginnings of a contemporary romance series.

But up until now, I guess I've mostly written somewhere in the historical genre. 

What do I love about the historical genre? I love reading about history in the form of a story--because that's when history comes alive for me. I love learning through the eyes of characters. I like all the nerdy details that come with historicals, even if I'm taking a break from historical fiction for a bit.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

BroadwayCon 2018!

My friends and I went to the last day of BroadwayCon this year, like we did last year. The convention ran from Friday to Sunday, though we only did the Sunday (mostly because that's when the First Look Broadway show previews were).


And this year, it can be considered "research" for my latest writing project!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Freedom of Writing Contemporary

For the longest time, the reasons I couldn't make a contemporary story work were several-fold: I read a lot of historical, I was more engaged with historicals, and I often didn't feel like I fit in to contemporary American life. Also, all of my contemporary stories felt like they all eventually turned into weird Mary Sue-like stories about myself or about people I know. They never stood on their own.

Well, having decided and planned (as in, character profiles, "research," and going to so many Broadway shows in my time) out my new idea of a contemporary romance series of four stories set in and around the Broadway world, I had a load of fun putting together the characters and their premises. And while the first story's outline--which I'm more than halfway through--hasn't neceesarily been easy to figure out, all of that thought, the deletions, the stops and starts now will make it far easier to actually write the complete story when I have the outlines in the best shape they can be.

So, what do I love about having a contemporary cast of characters? I don't have to research them to death. I don't need to think about their dialogue too much (and yes, I have plenty of dialogue in the outline; I love writing dialogue). I don't need to think about if their actions feel "historically accurate." I don't have to do a ton of historical research to build a character who might be a former slave, poor person, aristocrat, suffragette. I don't need to read 800-page tomes on the sugar trade or on the decline of the British aristocracy. I just need to build these characters until I can picture them doing whatever it is they do--whether it's acting, singing, wardrobe work, or not related to show biz at all--in New York City.

via GIPHY

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Character Relationships

One of the vital elements for me to develop characters and develop conflict in a story are the relationships between the characters. Romance is all about the relationships between people--and character relationships seem to be the common thread between the stuff I like to read.

Usually, an author has more than one character to play with. There are protagonists, antagonists, secondary characters, and walk-on characters. As they interact throughout the story in various ways, their interactions form scenes, sequences, chapters, conflict and resolution--particularly in romance, which is all about how the main characters interact, process each other, come together and fall away, then finally come together for that Happily Ever After.

I'm hoping I can write a romantic relationship effectively, but I know that reading a lot of romance since my teens means that I can identify a healthy relationship from a not-so-good one. Whether romantic or platonic, soul mates or the way deeper bond of best friends, a healthy relationship consists of back-and-forth communication, giving, honesty, support, understanding, and some shared interests and a shared sense of humor. Attraction helps, too.

Some of the relationships I've written in past stories are: a father and his daughters (as seen in Pearl, through the nanny's eyes) or best friends turned to lovers turned to co-parents (in my one paranormal, which will remain unpublished), best friends or sisters (in more stories than I can name or finish) or a boyfriend and girlfriend with friction between them ("Haunted Lake"). "When Mary Left" was a short story about a variety of relationships, none of them what we would term "healthy"-- there's the thread between Mary and her ex-lover, Mary and her resentment of the child she's carrying, Mary and her feelings of obligation to the people she's staying with, Mary and her apparent rejection by her family.

People act differently with people depending on the relationship. There are different dynamics at play--maybe people are friends because of proximity or through one particular interest or they're enemies because of a very twisted event. Maybe they're obligated to each other or one's crushing on the other. Maybe one has power over the other character. Maybe one character is manipulative and the other can't break away; maybe that's their conflict. Or maybe breaking away from the manipulation is part of the story's plot.

You have to keep backstory in mind, to some degree--how was one person raised as opposed to the other? What is their relationship? How did they meet? Are they close or not so much or do they hate each other? Why are they interacting with each other? How often have they met? Is one a social butterfly and the other not? What happens when their personalities collide?

In my current outline, one character is a warm, happy, confident person--because she was brought up by loving parents and she's naturally even-keeled while her counterpart is moodier, with a much bigger ego, and is awkward around people--because he was sent to boarding school at an early age and his parents divorced and he's not close to either of his parents because he's a movie star and he's been away from home a lot. Their relationship is sort of opposites attract, I guess, but not entirely.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Very Basics of the New Project

Okay. I have a rather unabashed reading habit when it comes to devouring romance novels. Y'all have seen me blog on the topic plenty of times. You've seen romance on my Goodreads reading challenge year after year, particularly historical romance. You may even know that once upon a time, I tried to write romances--first with the original idea of the Keegan series, then again last year with another incarnation of the same story world.

The slowness and lack of progress with that last project convinced me to put away that story world for good. Also, it convinced me that--at least temporarily--historicals aren't cutting it for my creative bug right now.

I picked up my first romance novel when I was about 11 or 12. It's debatable whether it was the Old Skool romance The Taming by Aleen Malcolm, a Harlequin book about a female football coach with MS who falls for the small town's hot basketball coach, or this one book in a Reader's Digest volume about a girl named Claire and a boy named Roan who were like neighbors or something, but he was from the wrong side of the tracks and I think his father tried to assault Claire when she was a kid, but then I don't remember what happened.

Over the years, I've gone through times when I've read more romance or less romance, when I've grown sick of the samey-samey type of romance (which occurs a lot when one tends to read in the same romance subgenre), when I've denigrated the writing style and the weirdo plots, and thought I should be writing something More Important or More Literary.

(I am, after all, still a Recovering Writing Major. Shedding that takes time).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Misfortune of Vision by Christy Nicholas

Misfortune of Vision by Christy Nicholas,
Book #4 in The Druid’s Brooch Series
Historical fantasy set in 12th century Ireland
~ Prophecy can be dangerous ~

In 12th century Ireland, Orlagh has been Seer to her king for forty years. He doesn’t want to hear her prophecies of war and destruction, and dismisses her efforts to warn him. Therefore, she is determined to fulfill her own quest: to find a worthy heir for her magical brooch.

In the course of events, she must pass judgment on a thief, escape a Norman war camp, and battle wits with a Fae lord. She receives some prophecy of her own and enlists the help of a grizzled old warrior, who happens to be a long–time friend.

Excerpt:


January 24, 1177 AD
Dún Dá Leathghlas (Downpatrick), Ulster, Ireland


“Clodagh, do pay attention. Someday your woolgathering will get you in trouble. What happens if you forget you’re making a tincture? Some of these herbs will burn and turn to poison if you aren’t careful.”
The girl hung her head. “Yes, mistress.”
“And don’t ‘yes, mistress’ me so meekly! I won’t bite your head off child. But if you’re meek, the world will treat you like a slave. You must be strong to survive. Have you learned nothing from me?”
“Yes, mistress.”
Orlagh sighed. She despaired of ever making something of this sweet child. Ever since that incident at the market, she’d watched the girl closely, but nothing else happened. Perhaps it had been an isolated incident.
With a growl, she measured more celandine into the concoction she was making. A little more hemp nettle? Not too much. It was poisonous in great quantities. Just a little helped soothe the stomach. Speaking of soothing the stomach, she needed another drink. She took a long swig on her meadskin.
“Go on, then. Clean those bowls and then pull down the herbs. Check each one for mildew. You know the signs to look for, yes?”
“Yes, m—”
“Call me mistress again in that tiny voice and you’ll feel my hand, child.”
“Yes… Orlagh.”
“That’s better. Now go, do your work. Ask if you have questions.”
With Clodagh appropriately occupied, Orlagh turned to her tincture.
The tincture was an excuse. She could make this compound in her sleep if she must. What she needed was quiet time to concentrate. She’d had a troubling dream the night before, and many years of prophecy had taught her not to ignore her dreams.
It had been chaotic and confusing. There was fighting, but not with Gaelic soldiers. Could they have been Normans? She had a flash of short hair and odd helmets. Not the Ostmen, then. Their hair and beards were longer and wilder than the Gaels. No, it must be the Normans. Unless there was a yet unknown threat.
But the Norman army was only in the southeast of Ireland. They had never ventured north of Dublin, and that was far to the south. Never say never, she reminded herself. There was always a first time, and for something disastrous, that first time always came when you could deal with it least.
Normans, then. Normans coming north for the tuath of Ulaidh.
Ulaidh had been her home for most of her life. Her Dunn Sléibhe grandfather was born here. Her other grandfather, Maelan, had left his good position to search for her, so many years ago. He’d been a warrior for his chief in Ceann Coradh, far to the southwest. She still missed him. He’d died just a few years after that adventure.
Well, she assumed he’d died. One day, he had simply disappeared. All the Chief’s men had been unable to find him. She even searched herself, both physically and with her Vision, but found no trace of him at all. Ah, foolish youth. But now she’d settled in the north and had grown her roots.
Were those roots to be severed? Her dreams suggested it. There was to be blood and death, and a catastrophic shift in the land. Try as she might, she couldn’t pick more details out of the Vision. Things were too murky, as she was part of the events.
Her head ached. Using her talent always made it hurt. The pounding made further concentration impossible. Suddenly the warm, cozy herbarium felt stifling. She needed to be outside.
Abruptly she left, letting her bowl clatter to the floor. The noise distracted Clodagh, and she dropped the herb rack she had been carefully lowering from the ceiling. This disturbed Bainne the cat, who hissed and attacked the closest cluster of lavender. Orlagh closed her eyes and prayed for patience of fools. Then she exited and breathed in the harsh winter air.

Links:




Author Bio:


Christy Nicholas


Celtic Fairies, Fables, and Folklore! Bestselling author (top #100 Amazon Canada, #1 in Paranormal Fantasy, Amazon Canada) Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, is an author, artist and accountant. After she failed to become an airline pilot, she quit her ceaseless pursuit of careers that begin with 'A', and decided to concentrate on her writing. Since she has Project Completion Disorder, she is one of the few authors with NO unfinished novels. 

Christy has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. 

She wants to expose the incredible beauty in this world, hidden beneath the everyday grime of familiarity and habit, and share it with others. She uses characters out of time and places infused with magic and myth. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: January 2018 and Flaming Crimes blogfest!


Welcome to the first IWSG posting day of 2018! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a large network of writers--we post our insecurities to the world every first Wednesday of month. 

This month's question: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

So, a fair portion of my life is scheduled to the nth--work, mainly. I'm outlining a new series idea--I'm still on the first story outline, though I have characters and stories mapped out for the other three stories--and I plan on getting all four outlines finished before writing any of the books. 

Because before you can schedule writing or publishing, you have to be sure your ideas actually work. And my longer story ideas tend to fall into mid-drafting meltdown, so we're taking care of the underlying structure first. Without a foundation, there can be no building. Without a decently worked-out plan for a story, there's no way my brain can spin out full-on book-size tales.


Also today, I'm part of Chrys Fey's Flaming Crimes blogfest:


Prompt: What is something ridiculous you would save if there was a fire?


My feet are always, always cold. Always. I have numerous pairs of fuzzy socks as a result, which I pretty much wear indoors all year round. So, I think the most ridiculous thing I'd 
panic-grab in the event of a fire are a pair of fuzzy socks.







Series: Disaster Crimes #4
Page Count: 304 
Digital Price: 4.99 
Print Price: 16.99
Rating: Spicy (PG13) 


BUY LINKS:


BLURB: Beth and Donovan are now happily married, and what Beth wants more than anything is a baby. Her dream of starting a family is put on hold as fires burn dangerously close and Donovan becomes a victim of sabotage.


Donovan escapes what could've been a deadly wreck. Their past enemies have been eliminated, so who is cutting brake lines and leaving bloody messages? He vows to find out, for the sake of the woman he loves and the life they're trying to build.


Amidst a criminal mind game, a fire ignites next to their home. They battle the flames and fight to keep their house safe from the blaze pressing in on all sides, but neither of them expects to confront a psychotic adversary in the middle of the inferno.


Their lives may just go up in flames…





About the Author: Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.


Author Links: