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Wait . . . I Wrote This? Revisiting a Partial Manuscript Eight Years Later

Monday, May 3, 2021

Some of you may recall Stephen Brightwell from Follow the Heart and An Honest Heart and rightly suspected that he was to get his own book. That was, until my publisher decided to stop publishing fiction. But before they came to that decision, I’d started writing The Heart that Waits—what was supposed to be the third book in the Great Exhibition series. That all happened during a really difficult time in my life, and I’d put it far, far out of my mind.

While cleaning out my office for a major reorganization this weekend, I came across a printout of the eight-and-a-half chapters I’d written, along with some handwritten notes on the characters and story idea(s) for it.

Stephen Brightwell, Lord Thynne, & Mrs. Mercy Timperleigh
(character templates: Daniel Craig and Rosamund Pike)

All I really remember about it when I gladly put it aside to focus on getting back into working full-time after several years of “writing full-time” (a.k.a., mostly unemployed with sporadic, increasingly infrequent freelance editing projects to try to make ends meet) was that I’d hated every single word of it that I’d been forced to write by the contract I’d signed and partial advance I’d accepted—and already spent on rent and food—and that it would never have been an acceptable story/manuscript if I had made myself finish it.

But now, eight years later, once I started reading it I couldn’t stop. It was strange going back and re-reading something I have almost no memory of writing. And it brought up lots of … feels. I remembered (vaguely) my main characters—there are several; and as I did with the other two books in this series, there are two romance storylines—and I remembered (vaguely) where each of the two main storylines were going. I mean, it is a romance novel, after all. But I did not remember the specific scenes or the dialogue or the minor characters, or the fact that I featured name-drops of a couple of previous-book characters (Nora from FtH and Caddy and Neal from AHH).

Pippa/Sophie (hadn’t settled on a name) & Ben, the couple for the secondary romance storyline
(character templates: Sarah Bolger and Colin O’Donoghue)

It’s one thing that I was able to read it and enjoy it. It’s another that I picked up a pen and made a couple of corrections and changes as I read.

The Two Big Questions
Will I ever go back and complete this story?

I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about that time period recently—along with ideas for additional Royal Navy/Regency–set stories. But the creative flow/urge just isn’t there when I sit down to try to write. But, maybe if I go back and start by rewriting something I’ve already written it might help . . .? insert shrug emoji here 😉 I’m up for trying it.

Then, if I do complete it, would I ever publish it?

Again, I don’t know. I might, if I decide I like it and it completes the trilogy the way it was supposed to. But I’d have to work with my agent to ensure that I actually have the right to do so, since it was originally under contract to a publisher that’s no longer publishing fiction but still has the rights to the first two in the series.

April 2021 Scribbler Subscription Unboxing

Friday, April 30, 2021

As mentioned last week, there are two monthly subscription boxes that I’ve stuck with after trying out a multitude of different ones over the past year. Last week, I featured my planner box. This week, it’s my writing kit from Scribbler. Without the option of having a writing group to get together with monthly, this may be the next best thing!

April 2021 The Planner Society Kit Unboxing

Friday, April 23, 2021

During lockdown, I’ve become something of an online shopping/subscription box addict. I’ve tried multiple types of subscription boxes over the past year — from food to makeup/nail art to “variety of mostly stuff I ended up having no use for” (or however you would describe boxes like Fab, Fit, Fun that tend to focus more on “aesthetic” than “useful”; or maybe I’m just not their target audience).

I’ve settled on two subscription kits that, for the most part, hit the sweet spots for me between “I just want to get boxes of stuff in the mail to open” and “hey, I’ll actually use that!”

Here’s a video of me unboxing the first of my two subscription boxes for April — The Planner Society Kit sub box, which is their big box. This one works for me because during this time while I’ve struggled to find my way back to creative writing, I’ve kept my creativity toned up and healthy by creative planner design/journal keeping. So anything to keep myself doing something creative on paper helps!

Next week, I’ll post the unboxing of my other subscription box!

The lifelong legacy of Beverly Cleary, children’s author

Saturday, March 27, 2021

I recently reread the Ramona books (for the first time as an adult), and I’d forgotten what an impact this author had on my life as a young reader that set me up for a lifelong love. what a legacy!

Beverly Cleary, the celebrated children’s author whose memories of her Oregon childhood were shared with millions through the likes of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins, has died. She was 104.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/mar/26/beverly-cleary-dead-104-childrens-author-ramona-henry-huggins

2021 Reading Goal and Monthly Challenges | #amreading

Monday, January 18, 2021

After feeling like I lost most of 2020 due to . . . well, not keeping track of things well, and after bingeing a bunch of videos on YouTube watching people set up or flip through their reading journals, I decided that I wanted to keep a paper reading journal this year, in addition to logging my reading stats in Goodreads. But once I got into Goodreads and noticed I had ten years’ worth of reading tracked, I couldn’t just ignore that and start with 2021. I dug up an old, hard-cover, full-size journal I’d picked up a couple of decades ago and started filling it in. It’s taken me a couple of weeks, but I’ve finally finished all of the archiving of 2011–2020 and gotten my tracking pages for 2021 set up. Here’s video walkthrough!

In creating this book, I learned a lot about my reading habits, not least of which is that I’ve started consuming a lot more books via audio than I used to. But my biggest takeaway is that I’ve read a lot more in years when I set specific, categoric reading challenges and goals for myself. Since I really need the stress relief this year that escaping into a book gives me, I’m setting a few specific goals and challenges for myself in 2021.

My first challenge is the number. I challenge myself to finish three titles each month, or 36 books in 2021. Since I’m currently in the midst of three books right now in mid-January, this shouldn’t be a problem!

I’m also going to do another A to Z challenge this year — try to read a book by authors with names running the alphabet (X is optional, as always!).

And I’ve also set category challenges for myself for each month. The idea is to pick two or three from the categories in addition to re-reading a “lifetime favorite” each month. I’ll list the monthly challenges below.

What’s your plan for reading in 2021? Do you keep a reading journal? Are you on Goodreads? Are you participating in any group challenges?
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My Monthly Reading Challenges for 2021

January
Long read (more than 500 pp)
Short read (less than 120 pp)
Backlist title by an author I like
Goodreads winner from 2020 (any genre)
Acquired in 2020 but not yet read
Historical Era: Medieval (937 – 1484)
Nonfiction: Biography
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

February
Recommended/review posted by a friend
Published in the 1970s
Adapted for screen
Non-romance with strong themes of platonic love
Historical Era: Dark Ages (402-937)
Nonfiction: Travel
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

March
Genre I don’t usually read
Cover design incorporating purple (favorite color)
Children’s Classic
Book purchased used
POC/Indigenous author
Historical fiction in an era/setting I’m unfamiliar with
Historical Era: Gilded Age (1880s -1890s)
Nonfiction: Self-help or psychology/sociology
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

April
YA Fiction
Last book in a series
Published in the 1980s
Award winner
Autistic main character
Classic literature
Historical Era: WWII/Boomer (late 1930s–early 1960s)
Nonfiction: Essay collection
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

May
Classic I’ve never read (Rory Gilmore Challenge?)
Historical romance (not U.K., not 19th Century)
Nurse Main Character
British crime/mystery
Fan Fiction
Book from “Sounds Interesting” Goodreads List
Historical Era: Industrial Revolution (1850s – 1870s)
Nonfiction: Professional Development (CPTM certification studying)
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

June
Suspense/Thriller
2021 bestseller
Coauthored (not an anthology)
Published in the 1990s
Romance
Humor
Historical Era: Stuart – Early Georgian England (1600s – early 1700s)
Nonfiction: Science-related
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

July
Set in Tennessee
From DNF list
One-word title
Fairy tale retelling
Christmas theme/setting
Contemporary fiction (not romance)
Historical Era: US Revolutionary Era (1760s-1790s)
Nonfiction: History/biography
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

August
Celebrity author
First read in high school
Set at a school/teacher main character
Indigenous culture
Published in the 2000s
Historical Era: Tudor Era (1485 – 1603)
Nonfiction: Hobby, art, writing, etc.
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

September
Set in a country I want to visit (not UK)
Local author
Time Travel
Fiction based on real person/event
Historical Era: Ancient Ireland, Wales, or Scotland
Nonfiction: Food (book, not cookbook)
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

October
Book with the color orange in the cover design
Supernatural or paranormal
Science fiction/Star Wars/Other Media tie-in
Set in autumn
Published in 2010s
Historical Era: Witches/witch trials
Nonfiction: Halloween/other unusual holidays or observances
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

November
Book with autumn scene in cover design
Recommended to me by Amazon
Own but have not read
First book in a series
Outside my normal genre
Historical Era: Arthurian/Fantasy/Supernatural Historical
Nonfiction: Mental Health
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

December
Christmas setting/theme
Long-term TBR
Bestseller from 2021
Shortest (page length) from TBR
Backlist title (never read) from a favorite author
Fantasy
Romance published in 2021
Historical Era: Pirates and/or Royal Navy
Nonfiction: collection of historic figure’s letters
Unused category from previous month
Not optional: Lifetime Favorite reread

December Challenge Day 6 (12 Minutes per Day) | #amwriting

Monday, December 7, 2020

She’d started drawing them as soon as she’d been able to hold a crayon. Rudimentary at first, then with more and more detail. By third grade, her skill at drawing the scenes in her head had her school talking to the foster agency about getting her into specialized classes or art lessons. But the foster agency was too overwhelmed to be able to pay that much attention to one little orphan girl.

It hadn’t been until college, when she’d taken a class on Industrial Revolution–era art in advertising and journalism that she’d realized what she’d been drawing her entire life: London in the 1850s.

Sometimes street scenes. Sometimes images from newspaper articles. Sometimes near identical advertisements for products she thought she’d made up.

But more often than any of those had been scenes from the most magnificent event of the mid-nineteenth century. The Great Exhibition.

Thinking she’d created an impossibly large and grandiose museum that could never have existed back when women wore long, bell-shaped dresses, as soon as she’d seen the first image from…

November Challenge Day 28 | #nanowrimo

Saturday, November 28, 2020

When he returned from the kitchen with the mugs of hot tea, he found her stretched out on the chaise end of the sectional sofa. She was wrapped in the blanket like a burrito, her pink-socked feet sticking out of the bottom like penguin flippers. He set the mugs on the coffee table and carefully sat down on the sofa beside her. She appeared to be sound asleep. Ever so gently, he stroked her hair back from her forehead, the skin of which was still cool from her misadventure outside in the snow.

November Challenge Day 25 | #nanowrimo

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

2. Every year at the stroke of midnight on November June 30, something important happens.

A watched watch watches the watcher.

And mocks her.

June 30 had finally come again. Eighteen hours until midnight. Seventeen and a half. At least work would be a distraction for the next several hours. She’d thought, dreamed, prepared for this day for twelve months. It had to work this time. She was certain she knew exactly how to make it work.

Meetings and projects and a client lunch helped five o’clock come sooner. At home, the preparation began. Off came the outward trappings of the advertising agency account executive. Away went the traces of makeup and modern artifice. The next few hours were dedicated to preparation. Layer by layer, piece by piece, pin by pin, she became herself—her real self. With chemise, drawers, corset, petticoats stockings, garters, shoes, she built her new foundation.

Mindful of the time, she sat at her desk and took up pen and stationery. There were so few people to say goodbye to. Fewer than last time she did this—in vain, as it turned out.

At eleven o’clock, anticipation zinging through her veins, she made the final steps of her preparation. Hair, dress, gloves, hat. Reticule full of antique jewelry. Nothing on her person made with modern materials. No contemporary money. No modern bobby pins or even hair spray. Nothing that might make things go wrong again.

She’d only been promised five chances. Tonight would be the final time. She needed to have gotten it right.

Fifteen minutes. Ten.

She gathered up her reticule, hat, shawl and went outside to wait.

Seven minutes. Four.

Three.

Two.

One.

As it had four times before, right at the very spot she’d initially made her wish on the stroke of midnight, the sky over her small back garden shimmered and then coalesced into a shimmering mist before her.

This was it.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped into the mystical fog.

November Challenge Day 22 | #nanowrimo

Sunday, November 22, 2020

4. Rewrite these characters into a fairytale.

Royal Navy Beauty & the Beast Retelling
When the Peace of Amiens goes into effect (1802), the admiral sends his young-adult daughters from Portugal back to family living in England aboard their Captain-brother’s ship. While at sea, a freak accident starts a fire in which the First Lieutenant, the son of an aristocratic family, is badly burned. Having spent a couple of years working as a nurse, the younger of the sisters cares for him while he’s out of his mind with pain and fever, developing strong feelings for him as they sail back toward England. Once the ship docks, they are parted—he to his family who can afford the best doctors, she to her family in the country.
 
A few years later, she still thinks about him occasionally—no more than once or twice a day. Upon her sister’s marriage, she moves to Portsmouth to live with her brother’s family and volunteer as a nurse at a convalescent home for sailors too gravely injured to return to sea. The hospice is a large estate outside Portsmouth owned by an aristocratic recluse. Upon her arrival, she is warned not to enter a certain part of the meandering, slightly renovated, medieval-era castle. Curiosity gets the best of her and she “wanders” through the forbidden door—where she finds her very own darling Beast, now scarred and scraggly, sullen, irascible . . . and scared to show his half-burned face to the world.

November Challenge Day 18 | #nanowrimo

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Writing Prompts

1. His or her high school cafeteria—but one thing is very different

2. Every year at the stroke of midnight on November 30, something important happens.

3. A character can not tell the truth, even when they want to.

4. Rewrite these characters into a fairytale.

5. There’s a legend of a buried treasure in Gossettville, and a scavenger hunt to find it every fall. H/Hn get teamed up to work together to “find it” (i.e., win the game).

6. Mac wakes up to find an animal in her apartment. What is it, what is here immediate reaction, and what does she do about/with it?

7. Mac daydreams about her dream job. What is the job and how does she feel about it?

8. Kars discovers he has supernatural powers and could heal his mother—but all magic comes with a(n equal and opposite) price. What is the price? What does he choose to do?

9. What is each character’s worst fear? Make them face it (or some version of it).

10. Each character has the worst day ever. Then they have dinner together. What happens at dinner?

11. Ripped from the headlines—use a headline as a prompt.

12. Drop a bomb—an unexpected kiss, arrival,departure, fight, etc.

13. A character from one of my character’s favorite TV show or movie suddenly shows up. What happens?

14. Character has his/her first-ever panic or anxiety attack. Why? How does he/she handle it?

15. Characters have to participate in an icebreaker game in a social setting. What game is it? What do they share about themselves? What do they learn about each other—not just through what is shared verbally.

16. Characters have to empty their school bags/pockets in front of each other. What’s there? How do they react to each other’s stuff and to the other seeing their stuff?

17. Mac secretly observes Kars dining at a restaurant. What does she learn about him?

18. Mac and Kars share their personal romantic histories with each other.

19. What regular habit/quirk does each do that annoys the other? How does each handle it?

20. Create three strong supporting characters for each lead.

21. Determine/create an antagonist for each main character.

22. Character has an epiphany (doesn’t need to be life changing). What is it and what does it change?

23. Create a Top 10 favorites list for each character.

24. A planned event is highly anticipated, but everything that can go wrong does.

25. Twenty questions—each must ask the other, each must answer honestly.

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