Thirty Reasons to be Thankful, Part 2.

Continuing from last week with number 16 through 30. And you do realize, I don’t really live on Facebook, right?

16. Research – As a life-long nerd, I love computers, I love research. Being a writer allows me to spend countless hours looking for maps of England and France in the 1800s, or looking at English Manor Houses that were around centuries ago but maybe not now. This time would otherwise be wasted in mowing lawns or scrubbing floors. Nobody wants that.
17. Sexual Tension – I find I like to write the sex scenes. But what I really like, what I’m trying to improve, is the tension between two people in my story who want to have sex but for whatever reasons believe it will never be. Or it will be, but not forever. It’s so much fun coming up with reasons to not put Tab A into Slot B.
18. Thickening the Plot – Yeah, sometimes I know where I am going with the story, but other times something seems off. For instance, in my work in progress, my villain is coming off too aimless, too little motivated to do what I need for him to do later in the book. So I am changing his name, adjusting his background, and salting the earth with his foul doings. How cool is that!
19. Alligators to start – A teacher I had once said the point of a story is to get your Main Characters (MC) up to their eyeballs in alligators, then throw problems at them. I think I throw the problems first, and have to look for the alligators later. But so it goes, and it’s more fun every day.
20. Share what I know – Thanks to Scribophile, I can share what I have learned and what I continue to learn with new writers, published authors, curious friends, and so on. I love teaching, I would have been a teacher if my high school guidance counselor hadn’t told me the Zero Population Growth movement would remove the need for new teachers by the time I graduated from college. Pfft!
21. Blogs – Yes, like this one. Or my bird blog. Because writing is fun, no matter what the subject. I like to read blogs as well, and find lots of things to share. (See reason 20)
22. On-line Classes – Okay, maybe not limited to writers, but I am vastly impressed as well as thankful for all the classes out there, for really small fees, that can be completed in the comfort and privacy of my own home. No wardrobe malfunctions here!
23. Dream of conventions and conferences – Due to financial difficulties, I can’t even plan to attend a conference or convention, let alone try to book a flight or make other travel arrangements. I know one of the Romance Writers of American conventions in the near future will be held in Texas, which is closer to San Diego than Georgia, but until someone realizes what a genius my husband is and hires him, or realizes my potential as an author and buys a book or seven, it’s just a dream.
24. Happy Ever After? – For me, it’s not a romance without the HEA. So in my romances, that will be the ultimate conclusion. But I have discovered the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, where Happily For Now is the best one can hope for. Do I want to write a series where my MCs meet and part and get back together? Where it takes three books for HEA? Hmm. Thankfully, I don’t have to decide just yet.
25. Books about anything! – I am one of those writers who have more ideas than I will get down on paper in one lifetime. Once science figures out how to download my personality and memories into a longer-lasting body, I may get the time I need. And I love the ideas I get that take place in the future or on another planet. I can write about ecology issues, social issues, history repeating itself, and so much more.
26. Chance to diversify – Which means pretty much I can write Regency Romance, Sci-Fi Romance, Thrillers, blogs, articles, speeches, and the occasional sketch for work. All because I love to write, and various people like what I do.
27. Understanding – Because I do research, I come to understand how events happened, which chain led to which moment in history, and why certain groups of folks believe what they do. For instance, I have always loved music and dancing, and couldn’t understand why some religions condemned these two things. I came to understand, through reading and researching, that the focus of life for these believers is to be close to God, to be praying and doing good works. Spending any time in things that were frivolous or didn’t focus on God’s Holy Plan, wasted the time one is given to make the best use of life. An awesome knowledge to add to my collection.
28. Appreciate Romance in My Life – I spent the first 40 years of my life alone and lonely, not usually happy with what I was doing and where I was going. And then I met a man who fell in love with me before we met in person. Who found me beautiful when we did meet, and who wanted to share the rest of his life with me. We’ve been together for 18 years, happily married for 16 of those years. I love him as much today as the day I said yes to spending my life with him. Okay, really, I love him more because we’ve been through so much and it’s gotten so much better. Really, he is what I am most thankful for. But appreciating the romance he brings to me is still on this list.
29. Use of Past Experiences – Not everything in my life has been enjoyable. I think that’s true of just about every person on the planet. I have learned to not focus on those things, and to keep my attitude uplifted. However, some of my past experiences are good fodder for story ideas and evolutions. It’s all good!
30. Some Day I will Have Fans! – Does that seem an odd thing to be thankful for? Well, fans can be such a great force for good in the world. I’ve been a fan of things from history, to Star Trek, to Regency Romances, to Outlander stories. It’s fun to think about having a street team to help me put out more titles, and to be invited to talk to people. What more could a writer ask for?

Thirty Reasons to be Thankful, Part One

On Facebook, where I live, my 500 plus close, personal friends are posting something they are thankful for every day in November. I thought about it, but between keeping the flock clean, fed, and watered, and writing a thousand words a day for NaNoWriMo, I am just going to throw my list up here, and be done with it.

1. Never a dull moment: How can life be dull when you need every spare moment to figure out the worst thing that could happen to your heroine or hero? Baby kidnapped? Done! Pirates in the basement? Done! Finds out hero is gay? Do– wait, better not go there unless both main characters are male or female. Hmmmm.
2. Gather with other writers: I am blessed to have gathering resources both on-line, like Scribophile, and in person, with Romance Writers of America-San Diego. And someday I will achieve my goal of attending a writing conference. That will be amazing.
3. So many resources on-line: Everything from when a word first started to be used, as much as can be documented, to generators to help you pick names for the characters and places. Even Google Maps helps to show how far Point A is from Point B and the top speed of a horse.
4. Books about writing: There is always something to learn. There are many books to teach you the specific thing you need to learn. I am looking forward to the day I need to open the book How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool.
5. On-line Publishing, Baby: More money for the author, less expense for the publisher, easier to reach readers, easy to track readers and sales. Win-win-win-win!
6. Share favorite authors: Email and social media make it so easy to introduce friends to our favorite authors, and they always reciprocate. Mike and I both are enthralled with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I am so thankful to the friend who asked if anyone was a fan. I certainly am now.
7. Never too late to start writing: Yes, I do wish I had kept up my writing from two decades ago. Oh, well, life happens. I am back on track and will not give up this time. I learned that lesson.
8. Contests: Of course, whenever I get a letter saying that I did not win a contest I entered, I feel like the judges were just being mean to me. Then I wait a while. Once I can calmly and objectively read their notes and comments, I can find the good there. I can improve my story. It’s all good.
9. Positive Outlook: The world of Romance Writers, published or not, is an up-beat, happy place to live. Friends and even acquaintances are willing to work with you, to solve problems, and to make you see the light at the end of the tunnel you wrote yourself into.
10. Being Male Temporarily: One of the earliest writing classes I took suggested thinking just as your characters would. If you have a male character, and you are female (which I currently am), close your eyes as in mediation and imagine what your body looks like. Granted, I must do this in a particular order, because once I get to my favorite part, it’s over for that day.
11. Storyline tweaking: Yes, most authors are tweakers, bur no drugs (as far as I know) are involved. Did I start the story too soon? Tweak! Does the hero not have enough cuts and bruises by the end of the book? Tweak! Is there a theme to the story that got lost mid-way? Tweak!
12. Names of characters: I wanted to have 10 children. I’m happy I got to raise two. But in high school my friends and I came up with 10 or more names apiece. What does one do with all those names? Characters! Just like having a few hundred children, because honestly while the birthing of characters is no where near as calamitous and rigorous as real births, you never let them go. They are with you always.
13. So many books needed: One of the facts that lets authors and writers be so open and friendly with each other is that the market for books has blown wide open. We’ll never write more than can be sold. India is one of the new, fast-growing markets, how many new readers is that? A lot!
14. Names of Stories: This may be bittersweet, but still I am thankful for it. For several decades I called my Regency Romance The Mouse and Miles. A suggestion from a publisher that I call it The Viscount’s Mouse to confirm it’s being a Regency took time for me to digest, but when I posted about it and heard from other writers, they agreed with the publisher. So there it is. My Work In Progress has the working title of May and December, but I am running lots of alternate titles around in my head.
15. Names of Planets: Yes, in spite of being stuck in the Regency for the moment, not that I mind so much, I do have several sci-fi romances on back-burners. I like these because they can be as erotic as I like, and it breaks no taboos unless I put that taboo there. And all the stories need names of the planet where they are, or where they came from, or the ship they are on, etc. Endless possibilities in infinite combination. (Please don’t sue me, Paramount! I tweaked it a bit)

Come back next week for the rest of the list! See you then.

Rule 6: There is no rule 6!

Something piqued my interest in the custom of gift giving through history, and off I went to Google away an afternoon. Well, as I want to rack up a higher word count for NaNoWriMo, I hoped to find exactly what I looked for in seconds, write this post up, and go back to my Work In Progress.

Regency England, and much of the world at that era, accumulated many rules of etiquette, custom, and conversation. Rules guided one daily, from how to make a social call to who you could talk to at a formal dinner. Let alone which fork to use with the fish!

In my first ever Regency novel, which will probably stay in a box in the garage for many more years to come, I wanted my very poor heroine to have some pretty balls gowns. She spent all her money on her step-daughter, who was to be presented and brought out that season. So I decided my hero had fallen in love with her by that point of the story, and he would buy and send a few dresses along.

Yes, I did know that only a mistress could accept clothing from a man, or a woman from her husband, a daughter from parents. A young, pretty widow could not take such a gift from a single, eligible man. And without the ball gowns, my story stalled. No one who read the final draft could accept that she would do such a thing, and be received in society.

Sometimes I wish I could write things my way, but then again, what I love about the Regency period would be lost. I love to think about Jane Austen having a cell phone and texting her niece instead of writing those wonderful letters. But now the whole scene in Persuasion where Louisa Musgrove is seriously injured devolves into a phone call to 999, summoning medical assistance, and calling the girl’s relatives to inform them of what has happened. How dull.

But I digress. At long last, I found a blog by Aurora Regency, which is the imprint for all pre-20th century historical romance titles released by Musa. The head editor writes what I knew to be true but could not find in any other source: Unmarried women could not hold hands, kiss, write to, or accept gifts from a man not related to her. Flowers were acceptable, especially as a thank-you following a ball where the two had danced. And perhaps some candy. But the first really expensive thing he could give her was a wedding ring. Talk about commitment! (http://www.auroraregency.com/2011/03/etiquette-and-customs-courtship-in.html)

Just how many rule books were there for folks to read and live by? Counting the Bible, eight plus. This lovely web page lists a few and some relevant quotes: http://www.lesleyannemcleod.com/rw_etiquette.html But a young lady of good breeding needed to know which jewelry could be worn in the morning, how long a social call should last, and how to decline to dance for a third time with a handsome man she had just met. Right?

Carina Press authors have a very nice page about etiquette (http://romancingthepast.blogspot.com/2012/02/basic-regency-etiquette.html) but what caught my interest was an anonymous comment that poses a tough question, and which to date has not been answered: “I have a question about dinner party etiquette. Say Earl and Countess of B have Earl and countess of A over for dinner. Who goes into the dining room first? The earldom of A is older than the earldom of B. Lord B is Lady A’s brother. Does Lord A escort Lady B in with Lord B and Lady A following?” My answer is, Don’t be home that night. Let them sort it out for themselves.

The majority of the sites I went to involved Jane Austen in some way, did she wish it or not. Her writings give us the most complete examples of the society we love best. Reading the manners books themselves is dry and dull in comparison. But think about it, only in the ballroom could a man and woman not married or related to each other have a chance to touch and talk somewhat freely. Or could they?

This site (http://regencydances.org/etiquette.php) tells us that Thomas Wilson, the master of ceremonies at the King’s Theater Opera House published the Etiquette of the Ball-room in 1815. And what do you think ranked as the most acceptable and proper dance to open any ball? No, obviously not the waltz. Travel back in time a few decades, and you will have it. The Minuet. This YouTube clip shows how it was done, probably, but the lady in yellow appears to be dancing with a footman. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule against that. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doJ9bphxxKU)

Still, at this site (http://helenafairfax.com/2013/05/10/etiquette-flirting-and-hidden-passions-all-the-thrill-of-the-regency-ballroom/) Ms. Faifax relays Susanna Fullerton’s book A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters Went to the Ball to be a wonderful exploration of the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice. And Ms. Fullerton is quoted as confirming the dance floor as one of the few areas where unmarried people could get to know each other without the presence of chaperones, and following the dance could go gossip, I mean, discuss the event with friends.

Regency England spun around on very complicated orbits and progresses, held in strict place by the rules that governed everything. The next time you complain about a speed limit or a need to take a number and wait your turn, be thankful there aren’t different lines for different classes of people. I am, because there is not one royal or even rich person in my family history as far back as we can go. Where is that line?

A, My Name Is – Hang on a second

Don’t know if you are familiar with that game referenced in the title. My husband and I played it frequently with our children when they were young and impatient and we had to wait somewhere. Or drive somewhere. Each person took a turn at the next letter in the alphabet, stated their name, their spouse’s name, where they came from and what product they sold. I think in the original version, you had to recite all the stuff before your turn to get to add to it. We played a simpler version.

Today, being Day Two of NaNoWriMo, I zipped along in my story, trying not to look at my word count too often, and bam! I needed a name for a manor house. I fired up Google, and searched. Somewhere I had encountered a Manor House Generator, much like the Regency Name Generator I often use, but I failed to bookmark it, or if I did bookmark it, I failed to remember where I saved the bookmark.

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia has a list of manor homes and some names are links to pages about that house. Better I found a Project Britain page that explained, sort of, why the British name their houses and domiciles. (http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/housenames.htm) There’s even a list of the most popular names for houses, and the most common themes. A sign company provided a guide to naming your house (http://www.yoursigns.co.uk/housenames-rules.html) which will help immensely.

But the real gold mine is a Lost Heritage page listing lost English country homes. (http://lh.matthewbeckett.com/lh_complete_list.html) The names are alpha by county, and as I am thinking of Yorkshire for my current story, I looked there for possible useable names. Then I went to Google Maps and tried to coordinate old York with satellite images. I thought Risby Hall in East Riding might do as it was near the coast and the River Humber. There is little or nothing in existence about the place, as it was demolished in the 1820s for reasons unknown. A warning about this page, if you love historic buildings, you will need a strong stomach here. Some of the sites listed have photos available, and when you look at the beautiful buildings and realize they no longer exist, you may need a moment to compose yourself. Excuse me.

Next, I Googled the name of the hall, and found nothing, but I did discover a great web page called Go Historic (http://gohistoric.com/) which is in beta and appears to be a wiki for historic travel destinations. If you visit a place listed in their data base, they would love for you to write a description or give some facts about your visit. When you register with them to start doing this, you don’t get a stupid visual captcha, you are asked a captcha questions like, What color is a strawberry? If you can’t answer that, you might be a spambot.

Go Historic is handmade with love in Portland, Oregon. I wonder if they are hiring? The page includes a time line on any historic places with enough facts to list. There are aerial photos, lists of hotels nearby, and lists of pages that might interest you, such as Jane Austen Places, or Winston Churchill Places. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get a group of historical romance writers together for a tour? Well, I am sure it’s been done before, but this site makes it possible for just about anyone to make the plans.

Side Note: Perusing the list of houses at threat of being demolished, I came across Cambusnethan Priory in the Scottish town of Gowkethrapple. No, really! There is a link to some photos of the place, apparently used in filming “28 Days Later.” (http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/other-sites/29373-cambusnethan-priory-gowkthrapple-wishaw-14%5C03%5C08.html) The Priory is beautiful if neglected and not inhabitable, but I would not say no if someone gave it to me. Not that I could do anything to restore its beauty, but I know here some Society for Creative Anachronism members who would be honored just to camp around it and have it in the background of battles scenarios and court photos.

Lost Heritage includes, when available, the reason or way the homes were demolished. Fire, abandonment, urban development, and insufficient funds to maintain the home all bring pangs at the course of history. But the one that makes me saddest is Surplus to requirements. In other words, the owners had so many other homes, they could spare this one. And as no one particularly wanted to buy it, they had it demolished.

In finishing this up, because time is running on and I only have 2709 words on my novel so far, I want to point you to a Jeeves and Wooster book, one of P.G.Wodehouse’s treasures bestowed upon all Anglophiles. While it doesn’t take place in the Regency period, many things hadn’t changed all that much in the ton. In the story, “Thank You, Jeeves,” Bertie rusticates with a good friend to prove he doesn’t really need Jeeves at his side, and also to reduce the complaints about his playing of a banjolele. (Yes, it is an unholy union between a banjo and a ukelele: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo_uke). The friend, Lord “Chuffy” Chuffnell, needs to sell the manor house in Somersetshire. The property includes the main hall, a dower house, cottages, and a boat dock. As always, hilarity ensues and Jeeves gets Bertie Wooster into and out of numerous scrapes. Remember this book was published in 1934, and try to ignore the use of the N word. The use horrified me until I remembered that the word was more commonly used in the time the book appeared. That does not make it right, but in similar fashion to the list of houses about to be lost to us, there is little I can do to change it now.

Have fun if you are NaNoing, and don’t forget to set your clock back an hour on Sunday if you are a crazy American.