Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sibling rivalry

This is Mamas, also known as Girl Kitty or Old Cat. She's about 12: elderly, but not yet ancient. We fostered her about four years ago in a rush situation when friends were divorcing and short-selling their house. Originally, we had her and her sister, but her sister came out from under my bed once per night to eat and use the litterbox and that was it. She hated us. Mamas, though was friendly. So the friend found another place for the sister where there are no loud children and she settled in well there.

And it might look from the back like she's taking a nap on her bed on my desk by the window.


This is Fox, also known as Foxy-Loxy or Boy Kitty. We fostered him and his two sisters when they were about a month old, crawling with fleas and ear mites, and were found under my friend's mom's deck. He was the first baby caught and they left him out in a cage, trying to tempt the other babies and the feral mother into the trap. It wasn't working AT ALL, and finally I went out because he was crying and picked his skinny, exhausted, hungry, cold little body up and cuddled him and he didn't want to let go. I knew from the start that we would keep him when the girls went up for adoption. He's not a lap-sitter, but when he's ready to be petted (usually at six am, if I'm not out of bed to feed him yet), he will come looking for me and butt my hand until I scratch his ears. And woe betide me if I stop before he's ready.

So he's there, hiding behind the curtain and looking out the window and Mamas is growling and occasionally swiping at him. I finally arranged the curtain so she couldn't see him. She has never accepted him. So there went my dream of having two cuddly kitties.

But don't feel bad for him, because he's almost 2 years old and is bigger than she is. And younger and stronger. And fatter. They're on a diet, but the only one losing weight is Mamas, because Fox eats more food. He will follow her around the house, chase her, jump her and roll her over and fight fight fight. He'll cut her off from the family (especially from me) and from the food bowl. When I feed them canned food, he'll wolf his down and go nudge her away and eat whatever's left of hers, too.

So, really, they're a lot like my kids. They usually get along, they're even friends (which the cats aren't), but sometimes, one decides they have nothing better to do and so they taunt and poke and act like jerks until they get a rise out of another of the kids. And usually, it's my middle child (14.5 years old) who is trying to get a rise out of my youngest (almost 9 years old). My eldest (17....how did that happen???) is sometimes hurtful and dismissive, but he has mostly recused himself from sibling battles in the past few years.

When I created my Châteaux and Shadows series, I started with Aurore, the smallest, the youngest (except for Emmanuel, who was born when she was eight), the only girl with three older brothers. She loves them all, but they don't necessarily get along. Like real families.

Her oldest brother, Cédric, has a personality similar to hers, in that they're outgoing and laughing and politically connected. But, you know, she's a baby. He'll mock her, but never hurt her. When push comes to shove, he'll be the first one in front of the king, working his charm and connections for the good of the family.

Her second-oldest brother, Jean-Louis (The Honorable Officer, book 2) has a reserved personality and stayed out of most skirmishes. He competed like crazy, even fought, with Cédric and even won, but he's not the heir, so he went into the army like a good second son. He stayed out of the sibling skirmishes except to step in front of Aurore to defend her.

Defend her from what? Well, defend her from whom? is a better question.

Because Henri (Henri et Marcel, book 4) is only a year older than Aurore and they squabbled a lot, but they were a pair. They ran wild together, fought together, loved each other, and sometimes hated each other. Of all her older brothers, Aurore is closest to Henri, but Henri was never close to anyone, really. But in the midst of Aurore's life and death drama, Henri's life is crumbling, too, and really, they love each other ferociously.

Aurore (The Indispensable Wife, book 1) is no angel. She's pretty, flighty, likes to sing and dance, and can charm the socks off almost anyone. But she's passive-aggressive at times, especially when her husband, Dom, has been neglecting her. When she's mad at her brothers she pinches their arms, knowing they can't retaliate. Yes, even as an adult.

Michel is their illegitimate brother and their dad managed to hide the fact from them for years. Aurore treated him like a little brother, though, and when the time came for him to defend her, he was the first in line.

And finally, Emmanuel, the Cranky Cavalier. Sorry, The Chevalier (book 3). He was born after a brief reconciliation between the baron and baronesse. This time, though, the baron thought his wife had cheated on him, because she was enormously pregnant after only a few months of pregnancy. Turns out, it was twins. The other twin died, Manu barely survived, then the baronesse raised him separately from the others, giving him a cold and lonely life at the court. When he's an adolescent, his father finally takes him away from their mother, but hands him over to Aurore. Manu has issues. He keeps his distance, even from Aurore, but enjoys his multitude of nieces and nephews, being the fun, young uncle who knows about horses and stuff.

And those are the kids of Monsieur de Cantière, Baron de la Brosse.

Book 5, Mélisande, is a tangent in which Manu's one sort-of-friend, Lucas de Granville, becomes disaffected with his extremely pious (on the surface) godfather (who's a co-conspirator with Manu's mom), meets the godfather's illegitimate daughter, the daughter of a known witch, tries to help reform her and shape her into a perfect, pious lady, then really gets to know her. (I'm currently working with my editor on this book and it should be out in just a couple months) (Or should be working, because here I am blogging...)

Book 6 takes place years later and is about Cédric's daughter, Françoise. I need to clean that one up and run it by my critique partners and submit it.

Book 7 is half done. It takes the last, lingering bits of mystery from Aurore's story and resolves them. Who shot that crossbow? And where did the co-conspirators who escaped go? And who is getting revenge on whom?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

High-tech all the way!

I'm writing this post while attempting to print out the first few chapters of one of my works in progress (WIPs as we cool authorial types like to shorten it). In other words, I might be emailing it to my local copy shop and paying through the nose.

See, our printer is about 10 or 12 years old. It is also out of colored toner. It also randomly makes horrible grinding noises.

It's not helped at all by helper cat:
I'm unjustly maligning him. This was about a year and half ago, when he was only a few months old. He still comes running when the printer is turned on and starts warming up, but we have better luck at keeping him from grabbing the pages as they are fed in. Which is good, because he caused a few paper jams when our backs were turned.

(Oh my goodness! Happy day! It's printing! Slowly, but it's not just spitting out blank pages like it did yesterday when I was trying to print my resume)

So yeah. Old. There's also a permission slip for my daughter's after school activity that I can't seem to find anywhere but in a document that automatically downloaded to my phone when I signed her up. And no, this ancient printer is not a wireless printer.

(Let's see if I can print out a second copy without the whole thing overheating and jamming paper)

So for a little old technology, I was reading up on pocket watches. Now, I don't really understand all the discussion of fusees and pillars and spiral-spring balances and stuff, but this is a fascinating article from the Metropolitan Museum about seventeenth century European watches and watchmakers. It talks about how. It talks about who. It has pretty pictures (hover over or click on the numbers in parentheses).

It even mentions that Geneva and England both let in Protestant refugees and their watchmaking industries (and many other industries) soared while France was impoverished. The main motivation for Marcel's family in Henri et Marcel is to get out of France because Louis XIV and the Catholics were cracking down. So, yeah, it comes back to my books. Sorry.

So my original question of "did watches have minute hands?" was answered in 1675 by a Dutch guy named Huygens.

In other words, I would be incapable of making watches four hundred years ago. No wonder I can barely work my outdated printer.

But look at the pretty:

Forget minute hands. This one has a SECOND HAND (that little dial) and you can stop and start it to be a stopwatch.

In 1682-83. Go look at that picture on the Met's site. 


My document is printed. I need to come out of the watchmaking rabbit hole and get back to work on other things.

And I can't let you go without trying to get you to buy a book or four: HERE

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lungs are kind of important

After my pre-Christmas flu, I coughed for a couple of weeks. Last night, I started coughing again. Luckily, even if this is bronchitis (which I'm sure it's not), there are treatments. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives. Vaccines have saved more millions. Sanitation has saved even more.

Yes, people still die of pneumonia and bronchitis, but the vast majority of people get treatment and survive. The first factor is general healthiness: we tend to have enough to eat and heat our houses in winter with things that don't cause a bunch of smoke indoors. In fact, when someone dies of it, it's even more of a tragedy nowadays. In about 1990, Jim Henson (the Muppet guy) died of walking pneumonia because he could still function and didn't get treatment until it was too late.

But back in the day, for most of the history and pre-history of humans, a lung infection was a big, big deal. Lung fever could strike and you were down for days, weeks, or months. You might end up permanently weakened. Or dead. Let's not forget dead.

I wonder, though about lung complaints as dramatic devices. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood goes walking in the rain and almost dies. Colonel Brandon brings her home and stays as close as he can, proving he was the right man all along, even though he's old and boring. (OMG, was that movie really over 20 years ago?) In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennett gets caught in the rain and catches the flu or something, so Lizzie rushes to her side to care for her. (And double OMG, it means the Colin Firth P&P was also over 20 years ago)

It's almost like Jane Austen thought rain caused the flu. But pneumonia was serious back then, without antibiotics and reliable x-rays.

Then we get to consumption/tuberculosis. What's that opera? La Traviata. (Based on a play by Alexandre Dumas, fils) The courtesan heroine is dying of consumption (and therefore can't even breathe) and belting out arias. And I was going to say something about Rent, but quickly found that, oh yeah, it's based on La Boheme, which also has the consumptive heroine belting out arias. At least in Rent, she doesn't quite die of AIDS.

Nowadays, asthma and allergies are on the rise, they keep telling us. Yes, there are more people living with them. But my theory is that in the old days, people died of them as children. A kid couldn't breathe and they keeled over. Another kid ate some eggs or nuts and couldn't breathe and keeled over. Someone could barely breathe due to pollen or mold or smoke and was always weak and wasted away.

And tuberculosis still exists, though it is generally treatable. People without adequate health care, including people in the developing world and those in the US and other first world nations who have fallen through the cracks, still get very sick and die. And the scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria makes this happen even more often.

SO ANYWAY, I've been thinking of writing a hero or heroine with asthma. I'm also thinking about writing in a different time period, since 17th century France just isn't catching on. I'm thinking French Revolution. Maybe spies, but it would be pale in the face of Joanna Bourne's amazing spies.

But I don't want to do modern lung ailments. Historical plot device lung ailments are great. Real people with diminished lung function, like a friend of mine with lifelong asthma and allergies and a new inhaler, while deserving a happy ending of course, aren't as fun as the big dramatic device. Though hey, maybe I'll just put it in a contemp. Realism.

ANYWAY. All the people in Henri et Marcel can breathe. There are other problems that modern medicine could help with, though sometimes the low-tech solution beats the fancy, new ones, as Henri discovers as he tries to find a way to fix his slipped disk/pinched nerve.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bird seed

So this morning, I stayed in bed late, reading a book on my phone and playing Words With Friends and reading Facebook and stuff. I got up and had breakfast and discovered the hall bathroom tub had hair and gunk in it....because it's not draining right. And hasn't been for a couple days, according to the teen boys who shower in there.


The plunger and plumber's snake didn't work.

So I had to get dressed! And go out in the wind and rain! Twice!

So much for lazy Sunday!

Then the drain clog stuff didn't work, either, but it must have eased it a little, because the plunger did work.

ANYWAY, the second time I was out at Ace Hardware, I got some nuts and berries bird seed that my wild bird visitors usually love, then came home and refilled my feeders, and threw a bunch of that and black sunflower seed out for the seven turkeys who were huddled in my front yard, waiting for a handout. And found a dead goldfinch by my front door. Not of starvation, because I've been refilling the thistle seed feeder, too. (I need to refill that, too. It's only half full, so only 8 birds can eat at a time instead of the 17 or so when it's full to the top)

And now I have four high school boys and one elementary school girl rampaging through my house with Nerf guns.

All of this an excuse as to why I'm not writing. I figured out the next to last chapter and part of the last one. Just a couple more pages of wrap up and the rough draft is DONE.

Must. Focus.

Right. Getting back to it.

(And don't forget Henri et Marcel are out now. Almost 40K words: 50-ish pages. $3.99 most places, but still half price for the ePub at Wild Rose Press)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Henri et Marcel: Release day!

They've been together for ten years. Then everything goes wrong.

Henri et Marcel: Châteaux and Shadows, #4

Wild Rose Press PAPERBACK

Barnes and Noble
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Amazon US
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Henri de Cantière has been surly since he returned from visiting his family at Versailles, but he doesn’t want to burden Marcel Fourbier, his longtime lover, with his problems. He can’t sleep and hurts all over at exactly the time when everything else seems to be falling apart. 

Marcel can barely keep up with his usual duties of running their household and creating beautiful furniture in the de Cantière factory when more burdens fall on his shoulders. His estranged Huguenot family condemns him to hell but wants his help, a stranger attacks him in a dark street, an arsonist tries to destroy the factory, and Henri’s beloved sister-in-law, who has been like a sister to Marcel, is weakening after being in labor for several days. 

Most of all, Marcel wants to find a cure for Henri, the man who holds his heart.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 goals

Time once again to think about the coming year. Yes, a lot of people do this on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but, well, I did nothing much at all yesterday morning and most of the afternoon was shopping and cooking for my son, whose birthday is Jan 1st. And yes, that was an exciting New Year's Eve for me: lying on the couch, watching TV, having contractions every 12 minutes.

What are YOUR goals for this year?

Anyway, I prefer to think of them as Goals and not Resolutions.

1) Find a paying job. Full time would be best. I have some resumes out there, but haven't heard anything. Ah no, writing is not (yet) paying the bills.

2) Write more. 1000 words per day. Edit faster. Specifically:
  • Historical: edit and submit Francoise (Chateaux and Shadows Book 6). Finish Dario (book 7) by ....April? Turn that in by summer. Assess the future of writing about 17th century France. I keep having these plot bunny ideas, but many would work in a different era.
  • NA Contemporary: Finish Hot Rocks, Edit Big Chill and get edits/beta read from critique partners. I'm seriously thinking about self-publishing with these, especially because I'm not sure what genre they are. Or rather, I know they are buddy stories and concurrent romances, but I seem to confuse people when I talk about the book. So maybe the fault is with my message?
  • Contemporary: edit/rewrite Harriet, adding to the conflict. Query agents. Write second  contemp book.
3) Volunteer with the library again. I've not been doing this since the summer. I need to find a time.

4) Find better ways to advertise my books. What I've been doing so far has not been effective.

5) Shove my oldest son through learning to drive and getting his license. Also lean on him to decide where to apply to college so we can visit places over the summer and do applications in the fall.

6) Walk more. I've slacked off lately. It's hard to get started most of the time, but I'm always glad I went when I'm done.

7) Declutter. One room at a time. One space at a time. I'll start with th pile of papers on my desk, the kids' toys, and my room.

8) Sew more. I have a partially-finished quilt for my daughter to finish and I haven't made a quilt for the Linus Project in over a year. And I have six tons of fabric.

9) and all of that leads to time management. I'm sure I'll think of something.

And, of course, I'd love for you to read my French historical novels. 

Henri et Marcel is coming in just a couple days!