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Old Story Ideas: Seven Brides for Seven Highland Brothers | #amwriting #amwritingromance

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

In keeping with my February theme of raiding my old writing archives, here’s a partial synopsis for the first of what was supposed to be seven stories (novels, novellas?) inspired by the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, transported to the 14th century Scottish Highlands. From 2013–2014.

This time, I’ve also included the images of the actors cast in the roles of the main characters, as that was a major part of developing the idea!

Seven Brides for Seven Highland Brothers: Sophie and Angus

Sophronia Gilchrist’s father died 12 months ago, and her younger brother is now anxious to get rid of her because the woman he wants to marry refuses to go through with it as long as Sophie is still there. So he puts word out (medieval Scottish Craigslist?) that he has doubled her dowry and will accept all comers. And many do come—mostly fortune seekers—but she manages to run them all off.

When an offer comes in from Sir Angus MacCairain to take her, sight unseen, the brother accepts, given Sir Angus’s standing, wealth, favor with King Robert, and distance from the Borderlands.

When Sophie refuses, he has her starved and beaten (this is new—a tendency that her father kept in check while he was alive, knowing it would be even harder to get rid of her if she showed signs of having to be beaten into submission) until she relents just to get away from him, though she fully expects to face the same, or worse, at the hands of her Highlander betrothed.

On the trip to Wester Ross, the Gilchrist men give Sophie little food and keep her tied to her horse at her brother’s orders, to stop her from running away—which strengthens her resolve to do just that.

When they arrive at Castle Cairain, she is shocked to find not only a large, imposing fortress, but that inside, even though the buildings look in good repair and the keep is being expanded with a new tower being built, it is unkempt, disorganized, and dirty. Though she fought against her mother’s, and then aunt’s, attempts to teach her the household arts, the lessons stuck and she much prefers a clean, organized home over the chaos now surrounding her.

A history of being denied food and/or verbally abused by her father and, more recently, beaten by her brother’s man at arms, Sophie has grown even more stubborn and resolute and determines that she will escape and try to make her own way in the world, possibly even disguised as a man. She’s done it before, and was gone for almost a month before her father/brother found her.

The elderly woman who shows Sophie to her room seems as if she’ll be easy enough to slip past when she offers to stay and help Sophie bathe and change clothes. More than anything, Sophie is hungry, but refuses to say anything, not wanting to show any vulnerability. Plus, she’s accustomed to being starved, so what’s a few more hours without food? She’ll wait until after supper to sneak away—to learn the layout of the castle better and to eat and sneak away some food.

She’s surprised to learn from the old crone that the crone is one of the only women living in the keep—that the men have managed to run the women off, either back to their cottages outside the keep or back to their own families with their children. Not ever having been close with any of the women at home, this doesn’t bother Sophie, but it does explain the unkemptness of the castle. She is worried to learn Angus has a fourteen-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son. She doesn’t know how to deal with children and has never felt called to being a motherly type.

The crone implies that there is some issue with Angus’s son, Alec, but won’t say what, intriguing Sophie before she remembers she’s not going to be around long enough to care.

After being bathed and dressed and having her thick, long blonde hair exclaimed over—before it’s covered with an appropriately modest veil—Sophie follows the crone down to the great hall, where the smell of food nearly makes her pass out.

When the six men gathered by the hearth turn to greet her, she sees the familiar expressions of shock and surprise at her height, but the expected disappointment isn’t there. Meaning none of them is Angus. Sure enough, a few minutes later, another man enters. He looks older than she expected, hardened and scarred from battle, with silver at his temples.

At his uncle’s suggestion, Angus has agreed to marry. He doesn’t need children, and he doesn’t really need a wife. But, as his uncle pointed out, his brothers do. And they need wives with land/money so that they can make their own ways in the world. So when word reached him of a Lowlands heiress whose brother seemed extremely anxious to get rid of her, Angus agreed, knowing it wouldn’t matter what she looked like or how she behaved. He would marry her no matter what, invest her dowry in the expansion of the keep and hiring/training/outfitting more soldiers should King Robert have need of them again, and do his level best to ignore her should she be unpleasant in form or figure.

When he enters the great hall the night of her arrival, he first sees his brothers, gathered at the hearth, smiling at each other with curiously happy expressions. Angus comes fully into the room and stops short upon seeing the woman standing at the other end of the trestle table, if he can truly call her a woman. While the old crone beside her isn’t tall, she is dwarfed by the seeming giantess.

Steeling himself for a very unpleasant evening, given the severity of the expression on his bride-to-be’s face, Angus crosses the room to greet her, realizing as he approaches that she is a full three inches taller than he, at least, and he is no dwarf at six feet tall. He welcomes her and, when she greets him in return, he is pleased to find her soft- and well-spoken.

Introducing Sophie to his brothers, he sees that only Brannan is as tall as this woman, but as each greets her with joviality, her expression begins to ease.

That is, until the food is served. Angus, his brothers, and the soldiers fall upon the food like ravenous wolves. Sophie pushes back from the table a few inches to avoid having food splashed on her only dress (her only other clothes being men’s tunics and braies). While she may have spent her life railing against the “feminine arts,” she is disgusted by the behavior of these men. By the time she has acclimated herself to this display of poor manners (though Angus seems least ill-behaved) and reaches for a dish to serve stew into her own trencher, she discovers that it is all gone—either eaten or spilled out on the table with the rough way the dishes were grabbed and slid/tossed down/across the table. . . .

[And that’s as far as I got!]

Sophronia Gilchrist = Gwendoline Christie
Angus MacCairain = Dougray Scott
Brannan MacCairain = Gerard Butler
Callum MacCairain = Alastair Mackenzie
Dougal MacCairain = Ewan McGregor
Ewan MacCairain = James McAvoy
Fergus MacCairain = Sean Biggerstaff
Gordon MacCairain = Richard Madden

Library Haul for February 2019 | #amreading #library

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I don’t know about you, but when it’s time to check books out from the library, it’s kind of like a Lay’s potato chip thing—I can never “eat” just one. And since I never know for sure exactly what I’m going to feel like reading at any given moment, I always check out multiple options at a time.

These days, this entails hours spent on the part of my local library’s website where all of the digital items are cataloged, as I’m going to be checking out ebooks and/or audiobooks. Not only is it easier to carry around ten library books/audiobooks when they’re digital, but since they return themselves automatically when the due-date arrives, I never have to worry about overdue books anymore!

Since I just returned a bunch of books and checked out another group this weekend, I thought it might be fun to share my haul. And I’d love to see yours, too!

My Library Haul for February 2019

Currently Reading
Mercury Striking
(Scorpius Syndrome #1) by Rebecca Zanetti

      With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynn Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynn is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury…

      Danger has never looked quite so delicious.

The English and Their History by Robert Tombs, audiobook narrated by James Langton

      In The English and their History, the first full-length account to appear in one volume for many decades, Robert Tombs gives us the history of the English people, and of how the stories they have told about themselves have shaped them, from the prehistoric ‘dreamtime’ through to the present day.

      My most recent GR update for The English and Their History:
      February 12, 2019 –
      48.0% “At not quite half-way through (and I do understand there’s about 100pp of back-matter included in the book’s total length), I’m at “Dickensian England, c. 1815 – c. 1850.” So, the first 50% of the book covers the first 1,400 years of English history, and the last 50% covers around 200 years. Sounds balanced. (Wut?)”

Other Checkouts
Library #1:

Library #2:

What do you have checked out from the library right now?

Writing Ghosts from the Past: ‘The Bride’s Spinster Aunt’

Monday, February 11, 2019

This one isn’t quite as old as the one I posted last week, and I do actually remember writing it this time!

Here’s the text:
The Bride’s Spinster Aunt
(A Story Idea by Kaye Dacus | Word file is dated 16 Feb. 2014)

Hi. My name is Jocelyn Bromley. I’m forty-two years old, and I’m what’s affectionately known down here in the South as a Spinster. An Old Maid. A (heaven forbid) Maiden Aunt.

I’m about to do something I thought I never would. I’ll be attending a wedding. No, not just any wedding—I’ve been to dozens of those in my life. I’ll be attending my niece’s wedding.

My niece is getting married. A child of the next generation of my family. Except she’s not a child anymore. She’s old enough to be engaged, old enough to be planning her wedding. And she, like pretty much every bride in the South, will have to plan seating charts around a family member who is the odd-person-out in a culture that trends heavily toward couplehood.

It has to be someone, so why not me? You see, in the South, in large families like mine, there’s a longstanding tradition of the Maiden Aunt (see also: the crazy aunt—though not always a Spinster, every Southern family has one). In the stereotype, the Spinster is the daughter who eschews courtship and forgoes marriage all for the sake of caring for her parents in their old age so that her siblings can go off and get married and produce lots of grandbabies.

Which is all well and good, except that my parents, instead of needing my help, won the lottery (yes, seriously), retired from their Middle America jobs, and are now living the high life in a stunning beach house in Charleston, South Carolina. Although, half the time they’re not even there. Once a month or so, they’re taking off to some exotic locale like Paris or Bora Bora or Rio de Janeiro. (They loved Carnival in Rio so much more than Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Just ask them. They’ll tell you all about it.)

I don’t even have a passport. And, unlike them, I actually speak not just one but two foreign languages: Spanish, which I learned in high school and kept up with for job security, and Romanian—but that’s an obsession confession for another time.

And it’s not that I eschewed or forwent anything, either. I’ve been reading romance novels and dreaming of my Prince Charming since I was old enough to sing along with Snow White and Cinderella. But somehow, that Someday when the Wish the Heart Makes Comes True never came.

Before I start getting maudlin about my life, let’s get back to the point.

My name is Joss Bromley. I’m forty-two years old. And I’m about to become The Bride’s Spinster Aunt.

Not Remembering Your Own Ideas | #amwriting #unboxing

Monday, February 4, 2019

Y’all!!! I’m finally (almost two years after moving) getting around to unboxing all of my old manuscripts and notebooks, which have been sitting in my office closet all this time.


There are lots and lots of notebooks.

Did I mention there are lots of notebooks? (30+ and counting…)

In flipping through these notebooks to see which ones still have usable space in them (20+ blank pages), I found something amazing—the original series idea for what became the Brides of Bonneterre series!!!

I probably wrote this for a grad school assignment, as there are course/workshop notes in the same notebook, so that means it was written some time between June 2004 and June 2006. And I have no memory of writing this! Definitely keeping this notebook out to serve as inspiration/motivation for getting Jenn’s book written this year!

And this, in turn, gave me an idea for my theme for February. Since one of my writing professional development master plans for this year is to re-read as much of my old writing as I can, I thought I’d share some snippets and samples of ideas that never made it past that stage or scenes that got cut from the published stories.

If you’re a writer, do you go back and re-read your old, never-see-the-light-of-day-again writing? As a reader, what author(s) would you love to see share their unpublished work?

Planning for 2019: Weekly Planning

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of what my planner is designed for—planning out my weeks so that I can be productive daily.

In this YouTube video, I walk through setting up my weekly planning spreads (the script I worked from is pasted below the video).

Hi, all! Welcome back to the channel! Today, I’m going to show you how I set up my weekly planning spreads!

A few people have asked me how I set up the computer files, so here’s a quick, sped-up look at the layout and design process. I didn’t show it from the beginning, where I set up all of the tables and modules in Publisher and Excel, because that would have taken hours, even on four-times speed like this is. But this should at least give you an idea of what I do when I’m designing my planner. As I mentioned in a previous video, once I found the snowflake border that I really liked, I went ahead and added it to all January pages because I like consistency and continuity. And, as also mentioned, it drove the color scheme for January. But since this week includes days for next month, I decided to go ahead and introduce the banner art and color for February on those days as well.

I discovered in the design process that having the weekly spread set up in a separate file works better for me—it’s easier to go in and make the date and art and color changes in this file rather than in the one that has all of the quarter, month-at-a-glance calendar, and monthly planning spreads for the whole year. Now, because I only print out the weekly spreads a month or so in advance, in case I decide I want to make changes to a layout or box for that month, I’m only printing eight to ten pages at a time—but I do have all of the quarterly and monthly pages already printed and in the notebook to help with future planning.

Once I’m happy with the way the week-at-a-glance looks, I save it as an image and then insert that into the main Planner document—that’s the file where all the rest of the planner pages live—it makes it easier to turn it into the landscape orientation without messing up the layout of any of the elements. I then do this for each week of the month and print them all out at the same time.

In another separate file, I have my dutch-door notes and to-do list. Because it’s half a page, I can print two weeks on one sheet of paper, so I don’t usually print more than that, since there’s no point in having those just lying around loose. Then it’s time to get planning!

Before I start, I make sure I have all the supplies I need—the correct colored gel pens (here I’m using PaperMate InkJoy in Pink, Light Blue, and Aqua, some store-brand colored pencils in Mediterranean teal, bubbly blue, and—not pictured—berry; and a Pilot Precise V5RT fine-point black gel ink pen—along with a pencil. I have several different sticker books I’ve picked up in various places—from Amazon to Target to JoAnn. And I’m ready to get started.

The first part of the process is adding a little color to the module headers as well as adding in the dates.

I use the colored pencils to color the headers, as anything else just makes a mess of the ink-jet toner. My food blog,, is on hold until at least March. So, I used some stickers to repurpose that three-day block for a priority project I do have going on right now. Then, I used some stickers in the modules for my main blog,, where I’m only posting three days a week right now, as well as for my writing schedule, which is also on hold for the time being.

Then it’s time to decorate my Notes half-page. I outline the text boxes in pen, then colored in around them with pencil. I also included some banners from the stencils as well as some stickers, just to make it fun. Oh, and I added a metallic gold gel ink pen to this, too.

On the back of that dutch-door is my to-do list for the week.

I start by going back to last week’s list to see what I didn’t get done and needs to be moved forward to this week.

I also look at my month-at-a-glance calendar and add anything important from there, as well as any additional Post-it notes I’ve written to myself. I make sure to leave room for more to-dos as the week goes on.

Since my Quarter 1 goal is sticking to a structured daily schedule for the work-day part of the day, that part of my week-at-a-glance is pretty easy to fill out. Here’s where I do bring in the coded colors—such as blue for work and orange for breaks or personal tasks or errands. Sunday is a much less structured day, but with multiple tasks that need to at least be started if not completed, so it gets its own to-do list.

And that’s it. There’s a lot more I need to fill in, but since a lot of that is of a personal nature—or it’s things like blog post ideas that I haven’t figured out yet—I won’t bore you with all those details.

Remember, if you like this content and would enjoy seeing more videos like this, please click that thumbs-up and hit the subscribe button—and don’t forget to ring the bell to make sure you get updates whenever I upload a new video.

See ya later!

Planning for 2019: Quarterly and Monthly Planning

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Now that I’ve covered the overview of my Master Plan for 2019, I want to get into the actual planning part of my planner. In this YouTube video, I walk through planning a quarter and a month (the script I worked from is pasted below the video).

Hey, all, and welcome back to my YouTube channel. Today I want to talk about quarterly and monthly planning.

The Quarterly Plan

Because I worked in a corporate environment for the first decade-and-a-half of my adult life, I got very accustomed to the year being broken down into not just months, but also quarters. And there’s something about being able to plan something that needs to happen within the next three months rather than the next four weeks that makes it feel more attainable. Plus, sometimes there are things that we need two or three months for—like building and breaking habits.

So after my Master Plan spreads, I get to my Quarter 1 planning spread. There are a few things that I know will have to be done each quarter, so I went ahead and put those in on the computer before printing the pages—car maintenance and housekeeping. Yes, there’s a daily housekeeping list, too, but these are the big things, the tasks that only need to be done between one and four times per year rather than every month or every week or every day. Same thing with the car maintenance. And just for kicks, I added a quarterly car loan tracker. It’ll be paid off in July, so it’ll be really exciting to see that number dwindle for Quarter 2 and Quarter 3!

The other two boxes on this page are more for brainstorming/brain dumping. Some of the Things to Do and See are ideas of things I’d like to do, and some are must-dos. And, of course, there’s no way I can afford to eat at all the restaurants listed here in the next two months (since we’re already near the end of January and I haven’t eaten out once yet this month). Again, it’s more of a wish list than a to-do list.

The big piece for quarterly planning is my SMART goal for the quarter (I’ll link to my class on goal setting in the description box below). This is something that ties in with my master plan focus areas and something that can be completed in a three-month span of time. This first quarter, it’s getting myself onto a structured schedule for the work day. More than just “my work hours are 9 to 6, but actually following a plan for blocks of productivity time with scheduled breaks—with a plan for what to do during those scheduled breaks. And in addition to tying it back to several Master Plan categories, I’ve also written out specific action steps for myself to keep it top of mind as I go through the quarter planning my months and weeks—including a weekly review and evaluation of what worked and what didn’t, how I did with the schedule, and making revisions if necessary. All of this with specific results in mind—the main ones being the schedule becoming a habit, my work and overall productivity levels increasing, and my body clock resetting to the specific sleep and wake times.

Month-at-a-Glance Calendar
I like having a month-at-a-glance planner. But as you can see, I don’t write a whole lot on it. Everything on here are personal appointments or activities. I keep everything for work on my work Outlook calendar—and I also put in any appointment that fall during work hours into that calendar as well. I’m very much the kind of person that if I don’t write it down and give myself a visual reminder, I’m likely to miss it. (I also have all of my personal stuff in my personal Gmail calendar as well—for the electronic reminders when I don’t have the planner right in front of me.)

At the end of each month, I sit down at the computer and pull up the events calendar from the local newspaper as well as the Events section of Facebook and look for activities coming up to do the upcoming month. Because I moved to this city only a little more than a year ago, I’m still trying to plug in to the community. And I enjoy knowing what kinds of events and presentations the local museums, historic sites and society, and theater are doing that I might be interested in going to. All of that gets put on this monthly calendar.

Monthly Planning
The last week of the previous month, I also sit down and start filling in my monthly plan spread. For January, because I got really excited (and had a lot of time over Christmas break), I used my blank graph box for a whole bunch of Master Plan ideas for the month—more than I actually have been able to keep up with.

From my Master Plan, I narrow down three habits to build and three milestones—with rewards. Habits are things that I need to be doing daily and need to continue doing once this month ends. Milestones can be things that I can do all month—such as giving up fast food (except coffee shops, of course!)—or specific things I need to get accomplished that month, such as finding a local chiropractor and eye doctor, which I’d been putting off since I moved here. And each milestone comes with a reward, from something small, like buying stickers and decoration for the planner, eating out, or buying a ticket to a production at the theater that I want to see—making the reward commensurate with the milestone.

Then the rest of the spread is going back and looking at my Master Plan and coming up with specific tasks to do during the month. A lot of my Master Plan areas are things that I know I’ll be doing each month, so that’s why they’re printed instead of blank boxes. The only thing that I didn’t do on this page for January was the recap of the previous month, and that’s because I’d stopped using last year’s planner long before December. So I’ll do that at the beginning of February for the first time, since I’ve been using this all month.

Oh, and you may have noticed that I have a color theme for the month. I decided that instead of color-coding each category, which was making me crazy having to either look up the colors or memorize them, I’d go with a color scheme that matched the borders I dropped into the calendar pages before printing. Since my January snowflake border is in shades of blue and aqua, I decided to use those colors. And I really like the way that it’s turned out—which you’ll see more of in another video.

Because that’s how I plan my quarter and month. Next time, I’ll show not only how I plan my week, but how I designed the pages, if I can get the screencast to work!

If you like this content and would like to see more videos like this, please like and subscribe. If you have any questions about my planner or my process (or anything else!), please let me know in the comments! See ya next time.

My SMART Goal Planning course:

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Planning for 2019: The Master Plan

Monday, January 21, 2019

I’ve mentioned, and shown photos from, my 2019 life planner—a “not-a-bullet-journal” planner that’s based off of some of the ideas that I’ve gleaned from the professional BuJo-ers out there (I’ll link to a few below).

One of the most important spreads that I incorporated into the planner this year is a Master Plan spread. In this YouTube video, I walk through the Master Plan pages and explain how I’m using them (transcript—well, the script I worked from—is pasted below the video).

Hi, all, and welcome back to my YouTube channel! Today, I’d love to do a quick run-through of the Master Plan section of my planner.

In 2018, I started out the year with “Goals” – and you know that when I talk about goals, I mean being specific, setting measurable, actionable steps with specific results on a pre-determined timeline. And you also know how that can be both motivating and debilitating once those timeline dates come and go without the anticipated results because the steps haven’t been taken.

This year, in studying several professional bullet-journalers’ blogs and videos, one thing that several of them suggested (I’ll provide a few links in the description box below) creating a Master Plan—and breaking it down into categories—or life areas—that I really want to concentrate on this year. Before I even sat down at the computer to start creating my 2019 planner, I started listing the focus areas for me this year.
I came up with . . .

• Personal
• Social Life
• Professional
• Professional Development
• Reading
• Writing
• Blogging (2 blogs)
• Writing Prof. Development
• Online Courses to Teach
• Social Media
• Volunteering
• Self-Care/Mental Health
• Health
• Activity/Exercise
• Self-Improvement
• Online Classes to Take
• Housekeeping
• Friends & Family
• Travel
• Crafts
• Spiritual

After I’d created/printed the pages, I realized that I needed space for Crafts and Spiritual. So I added what bullet-journalers call a “dutch door”—a half-page that gives more space without completely covering up the pages on either side. I used colored paper simply because I had it in my notebook already. And, yes, many of these categories overlap. Pretty much everything in here (except professional) falls under “personal.” Self-Improvement, volunteering, spiritual, activity/exercise, housekeeping, etc., all cross-pollinate with each other. So it looks like there are a whole lot more things to focus on than are really here—because so many things go onto multiple lists. But it’s nice to be able to explore them from a different angle of focus, and to be able to tie some of them together that I might not have thought of as being complementary before.

Then, even with using colored ink, because black type and black grid lines on white paper still isn’t all that interesting, I decorated with different shaped bullets and washi tape to try to match, or at least coordinate, with the color scheme. I also put washi tape down the bottom 2/3 of each Master Plan page to make this section easier to find when I’m working on planning.

And you can probably tell that this isn’t regular, flimsy 20-pound copy paper. I use at least 28-pound bright white, and prefer 32-pound, in order to stop the printer toner and pen ink from ghosting through to the other side.

How am I using this? Well, I’m referring to it quite often, actually. Not only when doing my quarterly and monthly plans, but I’ve also added a weekly tracker in which I can add an activity from one of five chosen categories that I want to do that week. That means that each week, I’m reviewing these and thinking about what I can be doing in order to incorporate these focus areas into my life.

And there you have it. That’s my master plan for using the Master Plan section of my life planner in 2019. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. If you like this video and would like to see more content like this, please click through to the video on YouTube, like, and subscribe. See you next time!

Here are two bullet journal blogs I follow:
All About Planners
Little Coffee Fox

And here are some #bujo YouTubers:
Boho Berry (I watch her videos the most!)
Amanda Rach Lee
Little Coffee Fox
All About Planners
Kell of a Plan

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If you like what I do here and want to keep this content ad-free,
consider supporting me and my work by buying me a coffee.
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