NaNo What, Now?

One benefit of writing I found is that in researching characters and their motivations, you learn a lot about yourself along the way. For instance, I’m the sort of person who puts things off, and who would like things to happen with a wave of a magic wand or the swallowing of a pill.

My weight issues started when I was two year old, and that influences how I see my heroines. I waited as long as I could for a magic weight loss pill, but had to find the next best thing. I’m halfway to my goal, and making adjustments almost every step of the way.

In the same way, I want to wave a magic wand and hold my finished manuscript on my computer. In an effort to make the magic happen sooner, I’ve taken writing classes, on-line seminars, and read every book that I can get ahold of to improve my writing and my speed.

I’ve learned how to get my book e-pulished, how to use the 12 stages of intimacy to increase sexual tension. I learned how to create unforgettable characters and how to be a plot whisperer. None of which gave a clue as to whipping out a book any sooner than when it’s ready.

For a few years, I’ve been hearing about NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The focus and challenge is to write a novel in 30 days, November 1 through 30.

The good thing about doing this in November, for me, is that I have 3 extra days off, Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving Day plus the Friday after. With weekends, that’s a total of 12 days for writing! And of course, I can find some time in the evenings during the week.

The bad thing is the same in November and just about every month. The first Saturday I attend a bird club meeting. The second Saturday, I sometimes go with my husband to a fountain pen collectors’ meeting. As it’s a pretty long drive south, we often head farther south afterward to visit my dad. If we don’t go south, well, we go north to Corona and buy bird seed at Magnolia Bird Farm. Veterans’ Day should be a free and clear writing day, with some breaks for cleaning and gardening. The third Saturday, Romance Writers of America meets somewhat south of here. The fourth Saturday is our monthly gathering of friends to play games at our house. Thanksgiving, of course, will be a day of traveling and not eating anything not lean or green. That Friday should be a day of writing, and the rare fifth Saturday is completely open.

Did I mention evenings? Well, Monday nights I walk dogs at the local humane society. Tuesday I attend a weight loss support group and type up a report of what happened. But Wednesday through Friday should be open. And people wonder why I have trouble returning phone calls or going to visit people. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Last year for the first time, I registered for NaNoWriMo. I made a few friends and hooked up with people I knew from Facebook. At this point, I don’t even remember which book or story I had picked to work on.

Obviously, I failed at NaNo. I rarely made time to log in, completely forgot about it some days, and before I knew it, November was done. Faded away.

I think, however, this missed opportunity triggered my drive to rejoin RWA. I am so glad I did, I draw inspiration, support, and motivation from this wonderful organization. I’ve finished writing one novel, started two more, taken classes as stated above, and submitted a manuscript to a publisher. I’ve also joined Scribophile, and received excellent feedback and critiques on what I posted there. I even became the group leader for a group called Writers Who Love Romance.

I started this blog about my writing evolution and progress. I am honed, excited, and ready to push my next Regency Romance into focus. NaNo, here I come! Starting November 1st, I will write daily and post a word count for the day. I will include my total word count in this blog each week. And at the end of November, I will have at least a rough draft of that novel.

In my weight loss support group. We are told repeatedly that a key to lasting success is having oversight by some other party. As long as you are honest and track what you eat, and share that food diary with someone, you are likely to meet your goals.

NaNoWriMo may be a writer’s key to success. No other source of oversight is available unless you are in a critique group or RWA. NaNo is a way to connect with other writers as well. Hope you’ll join me there if you have the spark!

I only hope I can remember my password.

http://nanowrimo.org/

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Inspiring Inspiration

I got an idea for a story. The idea came to me while I played a game on Facebook. My villager reached the age of 40 without getting a wife, then suddenly lucked out with an 18 year old. Every time I played the game and watched these two characters, I moved into their heads and then I wrote their back story.

I moved on to thinking about this idea in a greater context and as is my preference, as a Regency romance. Would this “older” man be likely to wrap his young bride in “cotton wool” and be fearful of spending nights in her bed? She became short, slender, to his tall and muscular. He became torn between joy at the birth of a child and fear that she would die in childbirth.

Then I felt sorry for the child bride. So I created a sister in law to whom she could turn for advice. Then my MCs had to have full families! The young wife had two older brothers, the husband this sister. They all grew up together on adjoining estates. The sister, now widowed, had married the oldest brother which turned out to be a mistake. The younger brother, younger than she, loved her, but when she married, he became a vicar and vowed that if he couldn’t marry her, he would be celibate even though Church of England didn’t insist on that condition.

Where was I? Oh, yes, so my child bride is about to pop out her second infant. The widowed sister comes to stay at the Priory, the larger of the two estates. The vicar brother has resigned from the church upon inheriting the family estates. He has invited the widow to live there, with her child that was fathered by someone other than the now dead husband.

The Plot Thickens! I’ve nearly lost sight of my May/December romance idea, and gotten deep into the complexities of the disasterous marriage, the blessing of the husband’s early death, and the younger man who has grown up to become a handsome, well-mannered, and wealthy gentleman. And I realize I will be exploring the differences in ages from both the points of view of each couple.

Normally, I don’t bother with outlines. The story grows and I figure out a natural wave pattern for the highs and lows that make the story tension work. But this one was getting complicated! That’s not a bad thing, really. Just hard to keep track of.

I didn’t do an outline of extreme detailed nature, I did more of a stages outline. Stage One is setting the stage, getting to know the characters and their thoughts and plans. Stage Two is an inkling of danger or trouble in the world these people inhabit. Stage Three is a drop to almost the lowest point in the story, when it looks pretty bad for all or most of the characters. Stage Four brings things back up a touch, and in my story it will be a time of confessions. For instance, my young wife will finally have the courage to tell her husband that she hates having him leave her bed after they make love. Stage Five will be the true bottom of the story, it will look hopeless, and it will not appear (if I do it correctly) that things might be turned around. Finally in Stage Six, the villain will be vanquished, the heros will kiss the heroines, and they will live Happily Ever After (HEA).

Oh yes, there is a villain. And again, if I do this correctly, no one will figure out who he is or why he does what he does until the final revelation point. I have a few things to work out about him, but I am ready to rock and roll on this one.

I start with a prolog, because it seems the best way to explain why the sister-in-law has a child that her husband didn’t father. For a Regency, this prolog is pretty darn explicit. But desperate times and all that. It’s key to the whole story and the whole revelation point in the conflicts.

Now, if only I had time to write it. My first Regency bounced to the e-book publisher and back, and now I have a chance to tighten it up, get it to beta readers, and do all the steps I learned about in a recent on-line class I took. It’s very exciting. I have a target date of finishing the writing of it by the first week in November.

I do hope you know what happens in November, if you are a writer. NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month, 30 days to write and to log the progress in at http://nanowrimo.org/ where hundreds of thousands of writers will be doing the same thing. You log in and if you haven’t do so before, create a user name. Then you get daily emails with encouragement and resources and you can also connect with other writers from your area or from anywhere!

There’s also Camp NaNoWriMo, https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in which apparently takes place in June and August, and is somewhat a preparation for November. But I haven’t signed in there yet, so I don’t know that for sure.

Anyway, November will be the month I finish the first novel, and use NaNoWriMo to get the May and December story through the first rough draft. It’s good to have plans!

The Changing Male Ideal

This blog is a bit difficult for me to write as I keep getting sidetracked over delightful images. I certainly hope my keyboard is waterproof. I especially drooled over a clip from Beau Brummel – This Charming Man, staring James Purefoy. Sincere thanks to Kristen Koster for posting that delectable eye candy here: http://www.kristenkoster.com/2011/11/a-primer-on-regency-era-mens-fashion/

I’ve never been a big fan of the Georgian era, the powdered wigs and overly decorated coats just never struck me as masculine. Dangerous Liaisons changed my mind about that, followed by Rob Roy and somewhat by Amadeus. And of course, the ordinary day coats were simpler than the court and fancy dress suits. France, as was her wont, set the styles and dictated what was beautiful. Full-skirted styles for both men and women came into high fashion, made from velvet, silks, and satins. The hues of the fabrics were brilliant and varied.

In addition to this style for clothing, the style for a man’s body was to look as thin and straight as possible. Think Ichobod Crane. According to Eras of Elegance (http://www.erasofelegance.com/history/georgianlife.html) prevailing mode included braid, embroidery, and buttons of gold, silver, or jewels.

Of course a man did not wear his powdered wig all the time. Beneath, his hair was normally about shoulder length, pulled back into a pony tail tied at the back of the neck.

The Regency period took steps closer to the modern business suit. While the coat was still long, the colors became more subdued, espcially as The Beau became more important to fashion. Men became subtle and subdued, and still remain so today in most respects. Evolving from the Country Attire and riding outfits of the late 18th century, and rebelling against the excesses of French fashion, men’s clothing became tight, showing off the masculine form without restricting movement.

Jane Austen’s World (http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/regency-fashion-mens-breeches-pantaloons-and-trousers/) has wonderful information on the differences in station, activity, and the changes over time of the period. The illustrations are wonderful!

Also hair for men now became more natural. No powdering, no wigs, and no queues. Instead short hair, curled if it would, and brushed forward over the forehead. The popular influences were the Romantic poets, notably Byron. As much hair as was available, the gentleman brushed it forward to appear like Cesar, wearing a laurel wreath. Or if long, thick hair could be had, it was brushed carelessly into curls around the face. See Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion for illustrations. (http://www.songsmyth.com/menhair.html)

As to facial hair, sideburns were required. No man would seriously shave his cheeks. According to Jane Austen’s World (http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/mens-hair-styles-at-the-turn-of-the19th-century/), men tried to look like the Greek marble statues being imported to England. No beards or mustaches were depicted on the statues, so few men wore facial hair of any sort.

Shoes, stockings, and gloves were required, though boots were very much in fashion and use in the country and in riding. Cravats deserve their own page, but I have to point out that Beau Brummel is said to have ruined 6 or more freshly laundered and pressed neck clothes each morning before reaching a satisfactory tie. I believe The Beau was a particularly fastidious person, not the norm for the time. And I hope we are past the era of Regency Heros who go through a mountain of linen in emulation of this style. Do read the Neckclothitania, a satirical catalog of the various popular knots. (http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~awoodley/regency/tie.html)

A side note, there are many tropes in Regency romances, and my novel does rely on one. However, I believe I have a fairly interesting twist on it. But when I first discovered this genre and read as many as I could get my hands on, I started seeing these patterns, and thought I would someday write a total satire. The Hero would go riding in Hyde Park very early in the morning, expecting to be alone, but find the park crowded with other heroes doing the same thing. The Heroine would go to Hatchard’s for a book, and find the bookstore impossible to enter because all the other heroines were there.

In general, the Regency period led to improved health, but mostly for the well-to-do. The Georgians did not bath very regularly, and did not wash those expensive velvets. But the increase of cotton linens and an improvement in personal cleanliness led overall to healthier people. Some types of food was expensive, but for the most part one could find plenty to eat if one’s appetite was not too nice. And more than ever before or since, people walked.

Men were expected to be, if they were in the upper circles of society, excellent horsemen, bruising hunters, possibly students of Gentleman Jackson’s boxing academy, and probably involved in wagers regarding their own abilities to ride or walk a set distance in a set time.

I direct you to a page at LikeBooks (http://www.likesbooks.com/regent.html) where, if you scroll down a bit, you will find some words about Beau Brummel. Granted, he did not reign over the fashionable world for very long, but he had a lasting impact that still is seen today. He remains one of the best known figures of the Regency period, and very clearly sums up the Ideal Male of fashion.

The Changing Female Ideal

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I have been above average in weight for most of my life. Therefore, growing up when Twiggy was considered the ideal was painful at the least, and damaging in so many ways. I began thinking this post would be about cosmetics, but then I found that the “look” in the Regency period had as much to do with the changes in women’s lifestyles as with makeup.

If you know the Georgian style, makeup was used freely to provide white skin, red lips, rouged cheeks, and patches. Patches were little fabric beauty marks glued to the corner of the eye or mouth, wherever the woman wanted to draw attention. The makeup used contained harmful chemicals and caused hideous problems and even death to the wearers.

In the Regency, a more “natural” look became the ideal. Women began to walk out of doors, taking the air, and would have a healthy glow to their complexions. The condition of the skin and skin care overtook makeup in importance.

Undergarments decreased in number, and the drapey Grecian style was all the rage. Plump women were favored, because a thin woman appeared poor, sickly, and unable to reproduce. Wealth, health, and fertility were sought in a bride. And men of the time admired a healthy appetite in a girl, as that seemed to hint at good appetites in other things.

According to Hibiscus-Sinesis (http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/cosmetics.htm), skin lotions were a growing industry with manufacturers competing for attention with wild names like Olympian Dew and Bloom of Ninon. A girl did not want to become tan or freckled, but windblown cheeks did not mark her as a dairymaid.

We think nothing of picking up a magazine full of beauty tips and styles as we check out at the grocery store. But not until 1811 were Regency women able to find a publication that told them the looks they should have. The Mirror of the Graces or The English Lady’s Costume, published anonymously by A Lady Of Distinction, promised to follow the rules of nature. But sometimes nature needed a little assistance, and so cosmetics changed and were used sparingly.

The web site also mentioned that dentistry was mostly a matter of extracting painful teeth, so few people in their thirties would have all their teeth unharmed. However, oral cleanliness became easier to achieve with tooth powders and diligence as in general everyone wanted to be cleaner.

Eye makeup is covered in more detail at the Jane Austin Festival Australia web site (http://janeaustenfestival.blogspot.com/2012/01/regency-cosmetics-makeup.html). Egypt opened her ancient beauty secrets, making kohl available to the British Empire. Lamp black (a fine soot) mixed with a little oil could be used to darken brows or eye lashes.

I love the recipe for lip balm posted there:
“An excellent Lip Salve (1)
Take and ounce of Myrrh, as much Litharge in find powder, four ounces of honey, two ounces of bees-wax and six ounces of Oil of Roses; mix them over a low fire.” I suppose the resulting salve was put into a small tin, cooled, and carried around in the woman’s reticule for use throughout the day.

One of my favorite sites, Jane Austen’s World (http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/a-deadly-fashion-beauty-and-cosmetics-1550-1950-a-review/) shows how the Georgian excesses gave way to the Regency natural idea. But notice also the body types of the Regency women. Any book where the heroine is thin and still seen as healthy and desirable by the hero needs to explain why that situation happened. Because it is against the normal cultural ideal.

Hair styles also changed, no one powdered their hair any longer, except the very old and rich. Swept-up hair stated that the woman was no longer a girl, and make the neck visible to male eyes. This page (http://www.intimelyfashion.com/category/articles/hairstyles/) gives a simple Regency do, and Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion (http://www.songsmyth.com/hairstyles.html) demonstrates the inspiration from Greek “marbles” or statues. You also will find hints about how to wear short hair and a reminder that many women were growing their hair long after decades of wearing it short under wigs.

Two Nerdy History Girls (http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2012/03/bootylicious-or-myth-of-regency-sylph.html) point to a real-life beauty, not the idealized fictional women that darling Jane created. Emma, Lady Hamilton, who had “high breasts and well-rounded thighs and bottom.” The sylph of popular fiction would have been considered sickly, maybe consumptive, and not attractive to anyone unless she had a fortune and he was desperate.

Sadly, the authors of this blog have no say over the covers of their books, and next to their documented information about beauty, one finds slinky women in Regency garb. To me, this says more about the state of the world for women than anything else. Skinny sells, plump disgusts, and no one can buck the trend very successfully.

I was in my 40s before I met a man who loves me and finds me attractive because my mind runs along the same silly paths that his does. I know I am blessed to find my happily ever after, and with the pressure being off me to conform to modern body type and ideal, I have been successful in losing weight, and improving my health. I will never be Twiggy, but I will be living a long and happy life.

Next week, let’s examine the same issues from the male point of view.