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July Challenge: Put Your Thinking Caps On! | #amwriting #challenge

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hi! Long time, no see!

In going through and updating all of the goals, milestones, and Master Plans I set for myself at the beginning of the year, I remembered that one of the major pieces I’ve let fall to the wayside is this blog. Well, consider it revived!

And I’m tying it into another Master Plan for the year, which is to start writing again. With that in mind, I came up with a challenge for myself—and I hope you’ll play along, too!

July Challenge

I’ve already set up a three-ring binder with some notebook paper and a couple of sections. One is for another writing project, which I posted about on Instagram (and I’ll explain more about that here later). But as I was staring at the blank first section of the binder, I suddenly had an idea—not just to get myself thinking creatively again (priming the pump for writing) but also to have something to blog about this month:
An Idea per Day | KayeDacus.com

An Idea per Day!

As you might be able to see in the Post-it Note in the photo, my idea for getting back into both blogging and writing is to challenge myself to come up with one new fiction-related idea each day. Ideas can range from full-on story ideas to:

  • Characters
  • Scenes
  • Settings
  • Conflicts
  • Dialogue exchanges
  • Relationships

And so on.

I’m doing this handwritten in a binder on notebook paper because that’s how I got started writing. And, as Julia Cameron puts it:

When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves. We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection–to ourselves and our deepest thoughts– when we actually put pen to page (para. 3).

I’m also going to do it at night during the time I’ve set aside to “wind down for the night”—a time to relax and clear my mind before I actually go to bed. For many, many years, the hours between “activity” and “sleep” were my most prolific creatively. It’s the time of day when my internal editor/left-brain critic is tired and ready to go to sleep after working all day but my creative right-brain is ready to get out and play. Of course, that’s if the idea doesn’t come to me randomly some time throughout the day. If it does, I’ll jot down a note to myself wherever I am (a Post-it, on my phone) and then rewrite it into the notebook before bed.

And I’ll be sharing some of them here, too! So . . .

Who’s Ready for a Challenge?
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Works Cited:

Cameron, Julia. “Morning Pages: Why by Hand?” Julia Cameron Live, 4 Oct. 2012, juliacameronlive.com/2012/10/04/morning-pages-why-by-hand/.

Writing Fiction: Going Outside the Box for Story Inspiration

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Last week, I posted about how I was using book blurbs to spark my own story ideas (and, as the ideas I posted hopefully show, I have definitely not been merely copying those ideas!). I’ve done a few more of those, but after a while, the ideas (like the book blurbs) just got repetitive. (And as someone who has worked as a blurb writer in the past, I will say that the blurbs, even the best written ones, are not necessarily indicative of the quality of the story between the covers—and there is quite a bit of a formula that goes into writing them, which is why they all sound familiar.)

This week, I’m trying to think outside of my normal “idea-generating box” (romantic films, books, stories, etc.) to see if there are other places where I might find story inspiration.

And one of the places (that I’ve never used, personally, though a lot of romance authors do) is looking at fairy/folktales. I started with a list of the usual suspects (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty & the Beast, Rapunzel, Snow White, etc.). But then I remembered a book I’ve had my entire life (published in 1970, it’s actually older than I am, slightly).

The two stories, which start the book off, that I would consider the most well-known/usual suspects are “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Princess and the Pea.” It also includes (in simplified versions for young children):

And now, by looking for the originals of all of those stories online, I have more rich resources to peruse for story seeds during my writing time this week!
Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales: First Series, by Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales: Second Series, by Hans Christian Andersen

Grimms’ Fairy Tales, by The Brothers Grimm

Fairytalez.com

Because I could go on doing this “searching for story seeds” forever, I’m putting myself on a timeline. Starting next week (Sunday), I will stop looking for story ideas and start on the “cultivating seedlings” part of the writing process, by going back through the ideas I’ve written down and starting to flesh out the ideas into characters (with names!) and plots.

But for this week . . .
What is one of your favorite fairy/folktales that you feel needs a romance retelling set in Portsmouth, England, in 1802–1803, featuring a hero connected to the Royal Navy?

Fiction Writing: Finding Seeds to Grow Ideas

Thursday, March 7, 2019

About a week ago, I posted on my Facebook Page about a new series idea that was percolating in my imagination. Since I’ve never really recorded my process of coming up with story ideas (mostly because it’s been a different process each time), I thought I’d record this journey as I take it. [For lack of an official series title, I’m just calling it the Peace of Amiens series.]

Finding Story Seeds
It seems counter-intuitive and like a really bad idea to look to other authors’ books for story inspiration, but that’s exactly what I decided to do. I got on Goodreads and clicked on my Historical Romance list, sorting it by highest average rating. I’m currently going through the list during my writing time each evening, reading the book description and seeing if it sparks a story idea for me.

Here are some examples (with a link to the story that inspired it) of what I came up with—some are more fleshed out than others! I also don’t have names for these characters yet…

Idea 1

  • Having suffered severe burns over half his face during battle, he is far from home (Gibraltar) when the Peace of Amiens begins.
  • She’s an admiral’s daughter sailing back to England with her sister on her brother-in-law’s (Captain) ship.
  • Inspiration from: A Kiss of Lies by Bronwyn Evans.

Idea 2

  • Her fiance goes off to war but promises to write. Through “his” letters, she gets to know him in an entirely new way—she’d been trying to come up with a good reason to cry off the engagement, realizing she wasn’t in love with him, before he left. But after three years of letters, she is so irrevocably in love, she’s not sure how she can live from one letter to the next.
  • Plot Option 1: Original Fiance Dies
    The fiance’s friend, who was actually writing the letters, finds her to offer his sympathies (and the “fiance’s last letter”?). As they spend time in the same social circles, she slowly comes to realize he’s the one who was writing the letters when she figures out she didn’t know the man whom all of his friends/fellow officers talk about—but feels like she knows his friend intimately.
  • Plot Option 2: Fiance Comes Back
    Similar to Option 1, but she figures out the fiance wasn’t the one writing the letters from his behavior now that he’s back and the only interest he shows is in her father’s money/social standing.
  • Inspiration from: Till Next We Meet by Karen Ranney
  • Also inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac (obviously)

Idea 3

  • As headmistress of a girls’ finishing school, she knows better than to allow even the slightest hint of dalliance with a man.
  • When a bored naval captain turned out on land during the Peace sets his sights on her, will he be able to crack through her shell of self- and professional-preservation and make her fall in love with him?
  • Inspiration from: Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Idea 4

  • After losing the first ship he commanded (and on his first mission!) to the French at the Chesapeake Bay in 1781, then being a prisoner of war until it officially ended in 1783, then facing a court martial for losing his ship (and being acquitted but discharged from the Royal Navy), he swore he’d never set foot on a ship again.
  • In 1793, with the outbreak of the French Revolution, the Admiralty came calling; but he refused the commission they offered. Then they offered him a letter of marque and a ship/crew—and the chance to revenge himself time and time again on the French as a privateer. How could he refuse that offer?
  • By Amiens in 1802, he is one of the most notorious—and wealthiest—British privateers. Now in his mid-forties, he’s been thinking about retiring for a few years now, so the Peace came at just the right time.
  • Back on dry land, when he hears a rumor that an earl is looking for someone to marry the earl’s only daughter in order to give the earl a grandson/heir, at first, the former privateer isn’t interested. But then he meets her and realized she could be the greatest prize he’s ever captured.
  • Will he have more trouble convincing her or her father that he’s the right man for the “job”?
  • Inspiration from: Crimson Rapture by Jennifer Horsman

If you read the book summaries at the links provided, you’ll see that while there’s one or two threads of similarity, I really did just take “seeds” from these book blurbs in order to allow my imagination to germinate my own story ideas. (Yes, I’ve also been thinking that it’s just about time to get my garden seeds started, too.)

Fun Friday: Social Media Wrap-Up for February

Friday, March 1, 2019

Happy March, everyone! Just in case you don’t follow me on my other social media sites, here’s some of what’s been happening in my world recently.

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Have a fantastic weekend!

Old Story Ideas: A Love to Remember | #amwriting #amwritingromance

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Unlike the other story ideas I’ve shared so far, this one was one I purposely came up with and wrote as part of a book proposal in 2010, when I was looking at trying to sell another contemporary trilogy after The Matchmakers.

I do have three- to five-page synopses written for each of these stories, but the first one was my favorite. Here’s part of it (I omitted the ending, just in case I do ever decide to go back and write this):

A Love to Remember [2010]

What happens when two people who have determined never to marry fall in love with each other?

At forty-seven years old, Karl Siebold has spent the last twenty-five years of his life determined to report the news with no prejudice, no bias, no agenda. This focused determination led him up through the ranks, first as a sportscaster then investigative reporter at local stations in his native Chicago, then quickly on to larger stations in New York. He quickly moved on to cable news, where he made a name for himself nationally from his impassioned coverage of the September 11 attacks.

Two years ago, he achieved his dream—a one-hour evening program of his own. Just when his show started hitting #1 in its time-slot every night, Karl was in a massive car accident that left him in the hospital in a coma for almost six months with a traumatic brain injury. Miraculously, he recovered, though with his vision irreparably damaged. He can see well enough to function in his daily life: reading, writing, watching TV/movies, using the computer. But he couldn’t read a teleprompter, and his short-term memory was damaged to the point where he couldn’t remember the stories he’d written himself well enough to present them on air without the aid of a teleprompter (which he couldn’t read)—and he couldn’t just read them off paper. So, even though the network was eager to make accommodations for him (and he had been in a company car/working when the accident happened, so they bent over backwards to cover everything financially and keep him employed to avoid a high-profile lawsuit), he found himself unable to do the job that had consumed him for his entire adult life. And once he left his job, he also found himself unwilling to stay in New York City any longer. So he sold his million-dollar condo and moved to the small farm in Tennessee left to him by a great uncle, to do what he’d always dreamed of: writing historical nonfiction books. However, since he can’t drive, and there is no such thing as public transportation in the small town, he needs to hire a personal assistant/secretary.

After the Nashville-based music executive for whom she’s worked as a personal assistant for the past fifteen years goes to prison for embezzlement, sexual harassment/assault, and running his record label into the ground (leaving more than fifty people unemployed and with no benefits/retirement), forty-four-year-old Edith “Edie” Maclaren is desperate for a job—because the freelance writing she’s been doing (travel magazines, ghostwriting for her boss and several of their recording artists, historical society journals, and short stories and poetry) doesn’t bring in enough money to support her. Then her brother mentions that someone who’s recently retired to their hometown of Hearts Cove, Tennessee, and wants to become a writer is looking for an assistant; Edie jumps at the chance and has her brother pass along her resume, expecting an older, retired man who’s writing his memoirs.

Karl is expecting to meet an “Eddie” Maclaren—a man. But when a tall, striking-looking woman walks into the diner, where he usually spends his afternoons, he’s surprised . . . and a bit intrigued.

Edie can’t believe her eyes. It’s Karl Siebold, the cable news anchor she used to watch every night for years (and always harbored a crush on).

The interview goes well, especially once Karl learns Edie has quite a bit of experience ghostwriting. He offers her the guesthouse on his farm as part of her compensation package. He has a housekeeper/cook who comes in every day, so Edie will be able to focus only on helping him with tasks related to writing and research. But Karl isn’t one who wants to stay put. He’ll be traveling regularly, and Edie will be going with him—first and foremost to New York to visit with the agents and publishers who want a book about his recovery from the injury, and then to make the rounds of all the talk shows.

Karl begins to rely heavily upon Edie as he starts to make more and more public appearances. Edie has talked to several therapists and learned techniques to work with Karl on his short-term memory—and as long as she’s within sight when he’s doing the interviews, all he has to do is look her direction and he seems to remember more and better each time.

Because Karl is still somewhat of a celebrity, pictures of Karl and Edie start surfacing online and in tabloids/celebrity magazines with rumors of a romance for one of America’s most eligible bachelors. As soon as that happens, the talk-show hosts start asking him about Edie—who she is, if she’s his girlfriend. Frustrated at not wanting to reveal his memory problems and his need for someone to drive him around, or help him remember simple things, Karl informs the interviewer that he decided long ago that he would never marry and that Edie is just his personal secretary.

While Edie never figured to marry either, she’s started genuinely falling for Karl—started to come to think of their relationship not just as boss/employee, but as a life-long companionship. So when she hears Karl’s statement, she’s very hurt and starts pulling away from him.

Once Karl has signed his book contract, when they meet with the senior editor, it’s Edie who does most of the talking about the book, since she is ghostwriting it for Karl. Before they leave New York, the editor—a single man in his forties—asks Edie to come back in to the office for a private meeting. He offers her a job as an editor, including all expenses to move to Manhattan.

Edie doesn’t want to leave her life with Karl, but believing he’ll never feel the same way about her, she agrees to take the job, on the condition that she doesn’t start until Karl’s book is finished in about three or four months. . . .

Character Casting


“Edie” and “Karl” (stock photos from a site that has disappeared since I pulled these images in 2010)—just imagine them aged up about 10 or so years, because I had to increase their ages when posting this, since Karl needed to be old enough to have covered 9/11. In 2010, being in his late 30s would have been old enough!

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?

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