So then there’s this…

I’m sure if you are an editor reading this, you’re hitting your head on the desk because I used a bunch of bridge words in my title, sometimes referred to as “garbage words,” but I don’t care. I’m using them anyway. Why?

Because I can.

Can you tell that I’m editing?

But I decided to take a break from editing to look up why the images are showing up twice on our blog and discovered something.

It’s because I’m doing featured image wrong.

Sigh.

So I now have to go back and fix that, and I don’t think there’s a super-quick way to do that. But in the meantime, I figured I’d give you an update on what I’ve been doing, since I’m supposed to be doing editing:

  • 7 loads of laundry (no, really. 7.)
  • Two dishwashers full of dishes
  • Cooked lunch
  • Edited for 30 mins
  • Did morning pages
  • Made coffee
  • Went for a walk with a friend
  • Did some manifestation work/play
  • Did several calligraphy pieces before finally getting the sizing right for the site banner that I needed
  • Fought with the cat
  • Ate dinner while watching a Netflix show
  • Cleaned the litter boxes while watching the Netflix show
  • Ate berries and pineapple for dessert
  • Took my vitamins
  • Brushed my teeth

No new words are in that list.

Which is why, Dear Reader, I’m doing this blog post.

GAH.

~typity~

Sister, Where Art Thou? Or, Where the Hell Have You BEEN??

My Dear Reader, how we’ve missed you!

Noony here. I know, it’s been a long time. And so much has happened. I thought I’d share a little bit, and will share more as time goes on, but for now here’s a little background and update.

In 2010 our first book, Burning Bright, came out and launched our popular series, The Chicagoland Shifters. Then came The Chronicles of Persis, set on a faraway planet. After that, we started The Emerald City Shifters.

And then things got complicated. Family illness in both of our families made writing secondary for a while, and then the publishing industry, well, exploded. From our vantage point in 2010, when we started, there were the big five digital-first publishers; the big houses in New York (names you’re probably familiar with); and ebooks, while they had gotten started, hadn’t yet disrupted the entire industry.

My, how things have changed. From drama in Romancelandia and the SFWA-verse, to publisher consolidations and goings out of business, it’s been a turbulent few years. All three of the houses with which we were published are no more, and a major romance book distributor has up and disappeared (in under a week at the end of 2016).

Then, in November of 2017, my husband nearly bled to death from the stomach flu. He has liver disease and didn’t realize he’d started internally bleeding. Four days in the hospital and two units of blood later, he was stabilized, but he’d had a reaction to the blood so the doctors decided not to give him more and let his body regenerate it on its own – a process that takes about six weeks. He’d lost two-thirds of his blood supply. (His liver doctor noted that he could tell his heart was strong; my husband asked why, and the doctor said, “Because you didn’t have a heart attack and die.” ~blink~ Don’t ask questions to which you don’t want the answers. Noted.)

A major surgery later, and 2017 was over – almost. He had another bout of flu over New Year’s Eve, and I spent an anxious, sleepless night waiting to maybe take him to the hospital.

Him, for his part, he slept through the whole thing.

Oi.

One vision board and a whole bunch of adult coloring book later and 2018 was born.

But change, she was not done with me. In January, we took a vacation and I got a new job.

2,500 miles away.

~blink~

So now, I write you from the lovely and amazing Pacific Northwest and we are now residents of Washington State. We are, by virtue of our publishers all going the way of the dodo, striking out “for reals” on our own and re-releasing all our books so we can get back to doing what we love to do – writing new ones!

Don’t despair, Dear Reader; you couldn’t get rid of us that easily. (Just maybe don’t try so hard, this time, kthxbi.) I’m hard at work revamping the sites (and learning MAMP and WordPress), uploading the books (and learning Amazon and Draft2Digital), and working with Rachel as she works with Valerie Tibbs to create some truly awesome covers for you, our favorite readers.

I just signed us up for the annual Holiday Party at TRS and we’ll have a 12 Days of Xmas for you, so stay tuned. It’s about to get real.

(P.S. we really missed you!)

From the Archives: A Journal of Two Writers – Research, Part I: Just the Facts, Ma’am

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Welcome to our new feature, Throwback Thursday – From the Archives.  This part of the series features content created for a now defunct publisher, and I’m making it available for you to enjoy here.  Happy reading!


Happy Thursday!  Today I’ll be talking about a topic that’s near and dear to both our hearts, research.  Even though we write fiction, research and fact-finding are integral parts of what we do because, in order to create plausible worlds, we have to have enough of the facts “right” so that readers trust us when we start to fabricate reality.

Throughout the day, I’ll post how-to’s, ideas, pictures, and a cautionary – but funny – tale.   I hope you’ll join me.

First up, the facts.  How do you find ’em, and once you find ’em, how do you include them in your story?

Let’s do a little bit of talking about the how’s, and then I’ll let you give it a try.

So.  First.  How?  In our book Emerald Fire, we created a totally fabricated world called Persis.  We wanted it to feel real, plausible, like a planet that we reasonably would have settled and whose culture grew organically from the socio-political climate involved.

When you read it, though, you aren’t inundated with all that bla-bla.  We know it, but we don’t necessarily have to tell it all at once:  and there, in a nutshell, is how to do research in a story.  You do all the research in advance, or while you’re writing, but you don’t dump all the facts in a pile at the readers’ feet – you parcel them out sparingly, like a good spice in a dish.  No one would just eat a spoonful of cinnamon, but put it in cookie batter and yum – spice cookies!

We knew we wanted to create a world, simply put, of desert sheikhs and harem boys.  It’s a common trope in classical romance:  the wealthy sultan and his many harem girls, who find love amidst the clash of cultures and … etc.  So.  How do we do that on another world, in a way that makes sense for M/M romance?

We based our culture on a blend of Middle Eastern, Asian, and American influences.  The two main cities are named after the greatest rulers of Classical Persia, Cyrus and Darius.  The later city, Reghdad, is purely made-up but based on Baghdad, which was a rival culture to the Persians, the Mesopotamians).  We studied several different cultures and decided to use Persia because it was a great classical empire and therefore, plausible that future people from Earth would be nostalgic and name their cities for it.

We also studied astronomy and figured out whether a dual star system would work, and what color the sky would be on a planet with no standing water.  We studied a bit of geology to make the mining plausible.

It’s not like we did ALL of this up front.  We took what we already knew, (for example, my neighbor growing up panned for gold and had a sluice, so I got to see that process first-hand), and added things we learned to synthesize unique environments.  You’ve probably heard that old adage, “use what you know,” and this is one way to do that.

One example of not throwing all the facts into the hopper for the reader, but parceling them out slowly, is in the founding cities’ names.  That doesn’t factor into the plot of Emerald Fire at all, so it’s not something we bring up.  It will factor into later books, so we’ll reveal it as we go along.  On the other hand, the mining is key for Emerald Fire so we go into a lot of detail – but taking care to show the reader, and not dump all the data there to tell the reader.

That is the second tidbit:  when you’re giving the reader information, show them the things you want them to know, through the eyes of your point-of-view character – i.e., the one who is telling the story.  In the Harry Potter stories, for example, Harry Potter himself is the point-of-view character.  Through him, we see Dumbledore and watch our understanding of him mature with Harry from the adoration of a young boy to the respect of a young man.

So now, it’s your turn.  This prompt is called “Listing.”  Get a pen and paper (it’s better to do by hand) and list everything in your bedroom (or, if you’re currently in your bedroom, list things in your office or living room).  Imagine you’re standing in the doorway and go left to right, around the room, listing everything you see.  Don’t forget to look up and down.  Allow five minutes for this exercise.

Next, take 3 things from your list and write a three-paragraph description of a character named Bob walking into the room for the first time.  He can be there as your guest, your lover, a thief, or a police officer – use your imagination (or do one of each).  If you’d like, share your paragraphs with me in the comments.

 

Originally published on the Torquere Press LiveJournal, 07/26/2012

From the Archives: A Journal of Two Writers – Thoughts from the Other Side of Edits

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Rachel and I published our popular series The Persis Chronicles with Torquere Press, which, sadly, is now defunct.  I realized at one point that all the posts I’d written for their LiveJournal and blog would disappear into the ether, so I’m going to republish them here for your enjoyment.

This first one was the first LiveJournal post I did for them, back in May of 2012:

As Rachel and I wrapped up the editing of Emerald Fire, our new release from Torquere Press this week, we found ourselves reflecting on how to make the process more streamlined so we can speed it up – and make it less painful.  Since folks sometimes ask us what it’s like to write with a collaborator, we thought we’d share some thoughts on what it’s like to edit stuff we’ve written together, since that’s the most visibly collaborative part of our process.

Once we’ve finished a manuscript, we each go through it and make minor changes and continuity checks.  That’s where a partnership is good and bad – because we have two pairs of eyes looking at it, but we cannot work on it simultaneously because of varying work schedules and time zone differences.  In addition, we both edit very differently:  Rachel is a hawk for continuity problems and timeline issues, whereas I am the grammarian and look for “POV” (point of view) problems.

Our first step is to sit down together and go through the manuscript chapter by chapter.  We break our sessions into 30 minute chunks, so that we have a way of judging our progress, since we might not get all the way through a specific list of chapters in one sitting.  We also learned the hard way not to do too many at one time because it fries our brains.  Usually we don’t do more than three or four chapters in one sitting since, from experience, doing five or more leads to exhaustion which can make us sloppy.  Editing is a left-brain sequential process, with established rules, and because of that, the approach is much more logical and methodical.

After we finish our first edit, we then go through what might be called “line edits,” except that we’re looking for specific words or problems.  For example, Rachel looks for excessive use of names in dialog (since people in conversation don’t usually repeat each other’s names over and over), as well as punctuation and overuse of things like exclamation points.  I look for POV problem works (like “felt” or “thought”) and rework the sentences in which I find them.  For this part of the process, we tend to work separately; however, this means that only one of us can be working in the main manuscript at a time since we’re using the “find” command to look for problem words and are jumping around non-sequentially.

Finally, we print out a copy of the manuscript and read it from front to back as though we were one of our readers.  It’s best to do this process a couple days after completing the other sections; this isn’t always a possibility if, for example, we’re under deadline; however, if it’s for stuff that isn’t on deadline then it’s good to let a week or two go by so the manuscript is “cold.”  Once we have our printed copy read and marked up, we meet again and go through our changes to make sure we both agree on them.

One thing we both have noticed is that it’s more fun to go through the editing process with a collaborator, whether or not that person is a “CP” (critique partner) or one’s coauthor.  Having that second pair of eyes and another person to bounce ideas with can mean the difference between dreading edits and looking forward to them as the final stage of completing a manuscript.

 

Originally published on the Torquere Press LiveJournal, 05/30/2012

 

A New Year’s Party – and a Giveaway!

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The party over at The Romance Studio is in full swing!  Throughout the weekend, I will be blogging on different topics – five posts a day! – as will the other participating authors.  We have prizes from each of us, and the grand prize is a $100 USD gift certificate to the online retailer Amazon.  If you like to read, then this is the party for you!

Friday the 13th!

  1. Happy New Year! and a State of the State
  2. Body Movement – Walking
  3. Body Movement – Get Help, Get a Trainer
  4. Body Movement – Get Help: Body Buddy
  5. Don’t Eliminate, Add – Five Colors!

Saturday the 14th

  1. Feed Your Mind – Writing Prompts
  2. Life of the Mind – How To Read a Book
  3. Morning Pages and Self-Dialog
  4. Meditation
  5. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Sunday the 15th

  1. Family and Friends – a Birthday List
  2. Non-Bill Mail
  3. Renewal Weekly
  4. Crafts To Explore – Zen and the Art of Knitting
  5. Tarot and the Subconscious

Monday the 16th

  1. Kon-Mari
  2. Routine – Daily Round
  3. Simple Abundance
  4. Candles – Slow Down and Unplug
  5. Happy New Year!  The Writer Zen Garden

Happy Thanksgiving! and a Party at the Romance Studio!

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In the spirit of the holidays, we share with you Noony’s posts on The Romance Studio, and an opportunity to win the grand prize of a $100 USD Amazon gift card, as well as prizes from participating authors – not to mention, tons of great content.  Please enjoy, and remember: writers are people too, and we are emotional beings just like you.  A comment, even just to say thanks for posting, can warm hearts bruised by so much craziness.  It only takes a moment, but it’s a valuable gift that will bring a smile to the face of your favorite authors.

Noony’s posts for the party (will go live as they’re posted throughout the party):

Saturday, November 19, 2016

  1. Vital vs Urgent
  2. Quiet the Echo Chamber
  3. Six Weeks
  4. Simple Abundance
  5. The Artist’s Way

Sunday, November 20, 2016

  1. NaNo – Why You Should Care
  2. Consequences:  Where Story Is
  3. Writing and Mental Health
  4. Memoir, Family, Preserving the Past
  5. Recipes of a Bygone Era

Monday, November 21, 2016

  1. Cauliflower Potatoes
  2. White Bean Pasta
  3. Exercise & Holidaze
  4. Going Caffeineless
  5. The Pecan Pie Debate:  Chocolate or No Chocolate?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

  1. Introduction to Persis
  2. Why Keepers?
  3. Food in Other Places
  4. Resting in Plain Sight – Aroma Shower
  5. Take a Bath!  Salts & Oils

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

  1. Introduction to Chicagoland
  2. Travel in Place
  3. Gather Locally – Meetup
  4. Strength in Numbers
  5. Thank You

Tuesday with the Tauruses – How To Store Food For the Winter: Prepping

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You might wonder, Dear Reader, what preparing for winter has to do with the month of May, or more particularly, with Noon & Wilder and our stories.  Let me ‘splain.

One of Rachel Wilder’s passions is being prepared for whatever might happen.  It’s impossible to prevent every catastrophe, but we can be ready for the unexpected.  In our stories, many of our characters have elements of these personality traits: there are the former Marines, who know what can happen and are ready for it; there are the Keepers, whose job is to run households and businesses and, by the nature of those occupations, to be prepared for things; and there are the lamiae shifters, alive for decades and wise from the sheer number of years on this planet.

Besides.  It’s fun to give our characters our own obsessions, don’t you think?

Moving right along then:  winter.  What about it?  Well, even if you don’t live somewhere there’s a harsh, frozen winter on a regular basis, the metaphoric “put things up for winter” is still a good idea.  Experts recommend having enough food and water, as well as other supplies, (like toilet paper, say?), for as long as two weeks at home.  The government calls this “shelter in place,” and they mean in situations like a large-scale terror attack, severe weather event, or other cataclysm such as a major forest fire or earthquake.

My question is, okay, that’s all well and good, but what do we stockpile?

Canned goods are a good place to start, Rachel told me.  Make sure you have a method of opening said cans.  (A suggestion I found brilliant, frankly, as I’m likely to be the one with fifty cans and no can opener.)  Have a way of heating the food in the cans, because we can’t be sure that we’ll have electricity or gas in a large-scale disaster.  She really likes the “Sterno Stove Kit,” because it heats very efficiently, isn’t overly expensive, and the fuel is easy to find.

What about you, Dear Reader?  What do you have prepared for metaphorical winter?  If you haven’t yet, what might you start collecting?

Monday Morning Pages

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Why journal if you’re already a writer?

Why journal if you’re not a writer?

Those are two very good questions.  And the answer to both is related.  Morning pages aren’t, precisely, writing.  They’re written, yes; but they’re not writing in the sense that they aren’t intended for anyone’s eyes but our own.  We can be petty, we can have poor grammar and spelling, and we can just begin to have a relationship with ourselves in the quiet of our own minds.

When I started doing morning pages, I figured that I’d do it for a while, but not forever.  That was a loooong time ago, and I still do them daily.  What I find is that on the days I do them, I feel calmer and more grounded.  If I skip a day, or two, then I feel like the velocity of the things in my life speeds up out of control and I get snowed under.

They’re best when done by hand.  The more I write and think about it, I find that journaling must be done by hand because there are insights we gain when using only one hand that we don’t glean from typing on a keyboard.  For one thing, it slows our thoughts down enough that we can see them, because we generally don’t handwrite as fast as we think.  For another thing, the simple kinesthetic process of moving the pen or pencil across the page is calming.  It’s routine.  It’s tactile.

Even when I’m mid-book, face-down in edits, or otherwise overly busy with writing-related tasks, I find morning pages to be helpful.  I will also, on occasion, journal throughout the day – whenever I need to slow my thoughts down or get centered in the moment so that I can move forward on a daunting task list.

So I suppose the answer to the question, “Why journal?” is, “Because it works.”

Good Night, Chicago, Good Night!

2016-05-09 A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Chicago, From A to Z

This year, we decided to do our challenge on location, specifically the location of Noon & Wilder ourselves.  Originally, I’d planned to do one day Chicago, one day Las Vegas; however, in brainstorming my list of A to Z, I realized I had plenty from which to choose for the Windy City.  And anyway, our series The Chicagoland Shifters is set right here, so it seemed appropriate.

One of the things I love about the challenge is the opportunity to meet other bloggers.  It turns out that one of my fellow challengers decided to do Chicago too, and we struck up a great conversation over the days of the challenge together:  Laura Roberts, at the Buttontapper Blog.  While she’s in San Diego, she misses her time in the Windy City; and I’m a former Californian.  This just proves what I’ve always suspected:  the world really is a lot smaller than we think it is.

If I had to pick the theme for next year now, it will be Las Vegas, but a lot can happen in eleven months.  So keep your eyes peeled, Dear Reader, and visit us often for news, new books, and lots of fun.  Thanks for reading!

And here, for your browsing pleasure, are the posts in order.

Chicago, From A to Z with Noon and Wilder

A: Welcome to Chicago with Noon and Wilder! Come Play In the Windy City – The Art Institute

B: The Only Place Like It In North America – The Bahai Temple

C: Dude. Of Course – Chicago Pizza!

D: Proper English – Devon Avenue

E: Get Your Pink On – In Edgewater!

F: The Crown Jewel of the Museum Campus: The Field Museum

G: Gulliver’s Travels – Not the Book, the Place

H: Haunted by the Past

I: Cuisine In Chicago – the Ubiquitous Italian

J: The Tallest Exoskeleton Building In the World – John Hancock

K: Welcome to Koreatown

L: The Largest Inland Sea

M: The Mag Mile

N: In the Navy! la la la

O: Brave Enough To Speak the Truth About Body Image – Oprah Winfrey

P: Polish Culture

Q: The Shedd aQuarium

R: Rogers Park

S: Willis! Sears! Willis! Sears! Willis! Sears! Whatcha Gonna Callit?

T: Trains

U: All the Options!

V: Very Diverse

W: Wrigley Field – Play Ball!

X:  X Marks the Spot – the Face in the Fountain

Y: This Is a Great Town For Yarn

Z: Zoo, Too!


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

The theme at Noony’s blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join her as she explores Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

Noony’s theme on Knoontime Knitting – One Writer’s Journey Into 3-D craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from Noon & Wilder; the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

Our friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and we’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!

Zoo – Too!

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Well, Dear Reader, we’ve made it.  A day late, maybe, but no dollars short on this tour of the Chicagoland.

That’s a funny term:  “Chicagoland.”  I remember when I first moved here, I heard it used on the radio by a dj and thought is sounded ridiculous.  “The Chicagoland.”  Dude, it’s a city; it’s got a name.  It’s not a land.  But, regional dialects prevail and I now use the Chicagoland like a native.  It refers to the “metro area,” which varies depending on who you talk to, but basically means all of Cook County, (where Chicago is located), as well as the “collar counties,” usually encompassing, but not limited to, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will.

On a side note, another regionalization I didn’t like but ended up adopting is the Southern California habit of referring to a numbered highway as “The such-and-such.”  As in, “I’ll take the four-oh-five to the five over to the ninety-three.”  That’s not something someone from Northern California would say.  In fact, I noticed when I went north on school breaks or after I graduated and moved back to the Bay Area, I automatically dropped the “the” when referring to highways.  Sadly, here in Illinois they refer to it the way they do in Southern California so I’m afraid I’ve adopted the habit pretty much full time:  “Take the Ninety-Four to the Dan Ryan and over the Skyway.”  That’s something else odd here: they name the highways, which isn’t in and of itself odd, but they don’t use the names on a map so when listening to the traffic report, it’s next to impossible to decipher what the heck they’re saying unless you know which name goes with which highway.  “We’re seeing a gaper’s delay on Ronald Reagan due to an earlier collision but it frees up by the time you get to the Tri-State.  And in other news, the Dan Ryan construction project is done and clear sailing until you get to the Spaghetti Bowl, and on up until the Edens split.  Then it’s fine up to Lake Cook, but the Kennedy is backed up all the way to the O’Hare Oasis.”  Huh?

But I’m not here to talk about language, Dear Reader; I’m here to talk about zoos!  Chicago has a wealth of them, because there are TWO!  I’ve been reviewing Brookfield at my main blog this month in “The A to Z of the Zoo,” but I also wanted to mention the sister zoo, Lincoln Park.  Admission, (though not parking), is free, and it’s smack in the middle of Lincoln Park.  That’s an easy cab ride, bus jaunt, or adventurous walk from downtown.  In addition to zoo stuff, they also have the Farm at the Zoo, which lets urbanfolk see what a real working farm looks like.  Across the street is the Lincoln Park Conservatory, as well as the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.  Also, for you locals, we have one of the largest regional organic farmers’ markets that operates year-round, the Green City Market.  If you’re at all interested in food politics, check them out; in addition to a bustling market they have an active political activist arm as well.

So I’m sad to say that the A to Z Challenge is over for 2016, but be sure to check back on May 9th for the A to Z Reflections Post Day, and the Linky List is open from May 9 to May 13.  Keep an eye on the main A to Z Blog Challenge page for more info and updates, and of course come back here on the 9th for my reflections on my various posts.  Also, if you’ve visited me and I haven’t responded or visited back, please forgive me; I’ve had a nasty cold and do plan to catch up to everyone over the coming days, I promise!


Thank you for joining us for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  If you’re blogging in the challenge, please leave us a link so I can come visit you too.  If you have a moment, please check out these other fine blogs:

The theme at Noony’s blog, Explore the Worlds of A. Catherine Noon, is The A To Z of the Zoo.  Join her as she explores Brookfield Zoo and finds animals, birds, and insects from A to Z.

Noony’s theme on Knoontime Knitting – One Writer’s Journey Into 3-D craft blog is Letterforms In Nature and the Built Environment.

The Nice Girls Writing Naughty have a new home, and we’re blogging in the challenge again this year.  Throughout the month you’ll be hearing from each of the Nice Girls, and during the RT Booklovers Convention from April 12th to the 17th, you’ll be getting live convention reports.  Join the conversation!

The Writer Zen Garden’s brand new website is up and running, and we’re bringing you posts from Noon & Wilder; the talented Darla M. Sands – a blogger in her own right, see below; as well as Grace Kahlo, Evey Brown, and author Tina Holland.  Check it out!

Our friends who are participating in the challenge (and if you’re not on this list, tell me and we’ll add you!):

Write on, and Happy Blogging!