More Pourri for Your Pot!

I’d Love to Verb Your Noun

I listen to books on CDs while I commute to and from work. I go through about a disc per day and this certainly makes the travel time zip by. However, it can be a problem listening to romance books with their soft porn scenes.

Listening to the first Outlander book had me squirming on many a drive home, and attacking my husband as soon as I walked in the front door. Little did I know that Diana Gabaldon’s passages were mild.

Right now, I’m listening to a book about leopard shape shifters. Overall the book is fun, but the naughty bits are certainly, well, naughty. Being summer in SoCal, I have the windows down while the AC gets up to speed. I turn on the player while stopped at a red light. A husky male voice said, “His throbbing cock thrust into her wet velvet sheath.” I look up and see a cluster of teenagers also waiting for the light to change. Their eyes are filled with horror and curiosity. I roll up the windows and pray for green.

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

I can’t wear high heels. Between weighing more than is proper and having done stupid things in my youth, and nearly breaking the bones in one foot, the pain of heels is not worth it. But I love to look at shoes. It can be the first thing I notice about a person. I do often find myself in meetings where we sit in chairs in a circle. I look at the shoes so as not to stare people in the face. In the stalls in ladies’ rooms, often all I see of someone is a cute pair of shoes. I am struck by the styles some people can wear in a work environment. And a man who cross-dresses? I totally admire that talent.

Today I saw a woman in the stall next to me wearing those “Gladiator” style sandals with lots of thin straps over the whole foot. All I could think of was that if I tried to wear that style, my feet would end up looking like a roast tied up for cooking. Ew! http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/pomegranate-roast-pork/ (Actually this looks pretty tasty, but I wouldn’t want one on the end of my leg.)

Ticklish Much?

Yes, I am ticklish. I have been all my life. I can be mad as hell at someone, and if they tickle me, I’m laughing. And that just makes me angrier.

My beloved never tickles me on purpose. But sometimes his hand will touch a sensitive spot too lightly, and I jump and squeal. At least, I don’t think he does that deliberately.

He often teases me about “shrimping,” which has to do with his mouth and my toes. Not while I am still breathing. Not if he wants to keep his teeth. Being diabetic, I have had doctors check my feel for reflexes. If Mike is with me, he tries to warn the medico. So far I have not done any permanent damage to a doctor. Good thing there isn’t a patient version of malpractice.

And Another Thing About Porn CDs

The man narrating the book about the leopards has a great voice and a great range of accents and characters. I am pretty sure, however, at the end of each session, he goes into a padded, sound proof room, and laughs hysterically. Every time I hear him say cock or nipple or womb or wet panties, I think, I hope his mom never listens to this. Or his grandpa. Or his cousin Sadie. Oy!

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/leopard/

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Games to Play With Books

An advantage to Facebook and Scribophile is the ability to play weird games that would be much less fun face to face. Imagine getting out lists of silly words, one for each letter of the alphabet and one for each month of the year, and having your friends at a party tell you what their porn star name would be, based on the month they were born and the first letter of their last name. Not enough alcohol in the world to make that funny.

But on Facebook you can post a list like that and get 90 results in a couple hours. And it’s rather amusing. On Scribophile, depending on which forum you post it in, you can get similar results, but the crowd there is more literary. So games with books are popular.

The first book game I experienced involved picking up the book closest to you, turning to page 39, and reading the second line of the third paragraph down. This was interesting, but not hugely amusing. Much more fun, you are in the book you are currently reading. Where are you? I was, primarily, in the British Colonies four years before the Revolutionary War, but also in South Carolina in the 1960s, and bouncing from the Philippines in 1944 and the Philippines in almost current times.

Take the titles of the last five books you read, choose one word from each, and make a new title for a short story. The Secret Autumn of Love’s Fiery Homeland. I’d read that!

We have something on Scribophile called Book Boyfriends, those alpha male bad boys you just can’t forget. Mr. Darcy? Yeah, well, I go for the classics. And a certain Highlander with a time-traveling wife is on the list. Is it weird to include his dark-haired son-in-law? (Side Question: Wonder who Diana Gabaldon based Roger MacKenzie on that she disliked so much, she has nearly killed the character? Not just once, forebye.)

Of course, there are the usual, if you could dine with or talk with any character out of any book, who would it be? But this pretty much duplicates the list above. How about the book you would want read to you if you were in a comma?

Here’s a game with books that you can actually play face to face! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/books/paperback-game-fun-with-literary-opening-lines.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Have a good week, I’ll be back on Sunday!

A Horse by Any Other Name

Names of characters are important, and names of villages and houses. And almost every Regency Hero rides a horse. Or several horses. (http://rakehell.net/article.php?id=152&Title=Regency-Horses) I’m currently listening to Diane Gabaldon’s Lord John stories, and in the second one he has a beautiful and intelligent horse named Carolus.

I read Black Beauty as a youth, and stuck on the name of his brother, Rob Roy. And later the pony Merry Legs made me smile. I loved lots of horse books after that, the whole Black Stallion series, My Friend Flicka (TV series and movie, too) and Stormy.

I also loved stories where a horse was a character, even if the book or tv show wasn’t about the horse in particular. Silver from the Lone Ranger, Trigger from Roy Rogers, and a host of others. Even Mr. Ed drew me in as a loyal viewer.

Now when I read a Regency, I am always interested in what the hero’s horse is named. It seems important, because as a writer I learned never to give a character a name unless he or she is important to the story.

In my early work in progress, with the working title of The Mouse and Miles, but probably going to be submitted with the title The Viscount’s Mouse, his horse is very important due having been injured badly through the stupidity of a rider, and the means of bringing the horse back to complete health. This is a very important key to the whole plot.

I love thoroughbred horse names, and for a while my friends and I in High School would bet on the races using tokens one of the friends made and the daily paper which showed the horses in the race that day and the winners from the day before. We always looked for special horse names, like Star Something.

Different breeds of horses were, of course, bred for different tasks. But blood horses were how the animals were categorized. (http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-english-blood-horse/)

We are lucky these days that Wikipedia has a great list of names of horses from history, from literature, from movies and television. The list is amazing. But not everyone can have a horse named Bucephalus. How about Hot Spur? Eight Bells? Ajax? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_horses

Lots of names come from the look or personality of the horse, for example: Flair, Blue Skin, Paloma, Chaos, Ruffian. I think Scoundrel would be a great name for a noble steed. Great figures in history lend their names easily to horses, Cortez, Khan, Attila, Hannibal, Senator, Tiberius, Bloodaxe. Native American Indian tribe names also work, Cherokee, Iroquois, Comanche, as well as Scout, and Warrior. Some tribe names might not work. Like Secwepemc.

The world around us is used frequently, in Storm Cat, Cloud, Eclipse, Tempest, Thunder, Lightning, Fair Sun, Comet, Moon Dance. Birds that are swift show up, too, in Lark, Sparrow, Falcon, Sparhawk.

Mares need names as well, and good candidates include Silk, Easy, Gypsy, Hera, and Juno. Ponies usually have cutesy names like Tuppence, Acorn, Whisky, Kelpie, Sugar, and Sassy. Big horses were used as draft and work horses, with names like Sampson, Goliath, Orion, and Rex.

Last year, a good friend of mine who heads Chivalry Today (https://www.facebook.com/ChivalryToday) came to talk to the Romance Writers of America, San Diego Chapter, on what a knight wore and rode. He established the fact that a knight would have several horses. A smooth-gaited mount for travel, a sturdy horse for combat, and various others for hunting or other leisure activities. While many of us love to picture a knight in shining armor on a Friesan (http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-breeds/profiles/friesian-horse-horse-breed.aspx), but in fact the destrier (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destrier) probably resembled an Irish Draught, a lighter horse for work or riding. (http://www.irishhorsegateway.ie/dashboard/buyers/irish-horse-breeds/irish-draught/)

My thoughts now about a hero or heroine is that he or she would have had more than one horse, if the income was there to stable them. Horses are present in Jane Austen’s writings as a large expense, not just for the cost of feeding the beast (eating their heads off is a common phrase in Regency romances to discribe horse being kept without being used over much) but also for the pay of the stable hands to groom, exercise, clean up after, and saddle. Then there’s the farrier and the tiger and all other types of people to keep the animal healthy. (tiger: http://candicehern.com/regencyworld/regency-glossary-general-terms/)

Probably the subject I have had to research the most about horses is the speed they can travel. So I keep Kristen Koster’s page with this information bookmarked. (http://www.kristenkoster.com/2011/01/regency-era-horse-sense/)

Let’s imagine you live in Regency England, and you have just been gifted with a mount. What kind would you hope for? And what name would you give your present? Hope to find your answers in the comments! Have a great week!

First Aid Kit for Writers

I hope you have a regular first aid kit somewhere near your usual place of writing, and know how to use it, but that’s not what I am discussing here. I’m talking about a mental first aid kit, and help with simple problems kit.

There are basic rules for writers that impact your mental well-being. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself with any other writer. Sure, I’d give anything to be Diana Gabaldon or Mary Balogh, but I’m not. And that doesn’t mean my stories aren’t going to entertain someone. The audience for novels is increasing, and the demand will grow too. If you have the chance, find a copy of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book has a nice way of saying that practice makes perfect. You have to put in your 1000 hours at something to get the shine you need. If you compare yourself as a new author to someone who has been writing for a few decades, you’ll only open the door to depression. Stay focused and keep writing.

Another basic rule is to know your story and your voice. Don’t be trying to write like other folks. Now, I have said that you can improve your writing by copying out the writing of one of your favorite authors. But what that does is teach you the rhythm, the pacing, and the word usage. This is really helpful when a sex scene sneaks up on you and you can’t think of a good word for vagina. (Wild and crazy idea, use vagina!) The exercise is not meant to imply that you can just copy someone else’s work and you’re done.

So let’s get to the helpful mental part. You wrote out all that you had in you, and now you are at Chapter 2. You can’t think of what comes next. I would hope this isn’t really the case, because if you are a pantser (a writer who doesn’t plot ahead of time, just lets the story flow) or a plotter (does outlines, graphs, has pictures, maps, floor plans), you would have had more idea of what was going on than this. Perhaps you got to Chapter 8, and you realize the heroine could never love the hero. She has made it clear to you this is not the man of her dreams.

Stop writing, walk away. In fact, go for a walk or a bike ride. Do something that will use your physical energy and leave your mind free to work its way out of this corner. Or go to a movie, or watch one at home. Put together a jigsaw puzzle.

If inspiration still doesn’t stream in when needed, go find like-minded writers. I recommend Scribophile.com for community and help whenever you need it. One of the groups I belong to there plays Mad Libs Monday through Friday. I find it a great bit of word play, a fun time hanging out with good friends, and a distraction from anything going on that I really would rather not have to deal with. Also I suggest joining Romance Writers of America, and finding a local chapter. They almost always have an email “loop” where you can throw out a problem and get excellent advice in return.

Writing prompts also abound at Scribophile, and just about any group will throw some out for you. A prompt is just a quick set-up for a short short story, usually under 3000 words. Everyone takes the same information and writes what comes up for them. I love the challenge and the short-term commitment.

Another good thing to do is to start a blog. I put off starting this one because I didn’t think I had much to say about writing. I admit to that error. I wrote a blog about my birds, because I knew I had a lot to say about them. Pretty much I can write a few paragraphs on just about anything. In fact, my writing abilities are used in my workplace by my coworkers. Sometimes they just run something past me to punch up, sometimes they ask for input, whatever. Doing that is one of the things that has improved my enjoyment of my job.

So I started this blog and I’m not out of ideas yet. And I have a couple novels in the works, and so many more ideas that I hope I get to at least outline some day. But I like to have an idea of what my characters look like, and I use Pinterest for that. Here’s a link to a selection of inspirations just for writers: http://www.pinterest.com/namelymarly/inspiration-for-writers/

And here’s a blog called Write to Done, a collection of great articles by people passionate about helping writers improve and get published: http://writetodone.com/31-ways-to-find-inspiration-for-your-writing/

If all else fails, treat yourself to a food item you love. This is not permission to eat a gallon of ice cream. But a scoop or two might help, or a few good quality chocolate. Perhaps you only have apples to hand. Well, many authors have used apples for inspiration, it says here: http://guardianlv.com/2013/11/writers-and-food-a-love-story/

However you handle your situation, keep at it. Your words are important, your story unique, and your voice is like no other. Take a deep breath, and write to your heart’s content.