Monday, April 25, 2022

L is for Laundry

 ... and for laundromats. I haven't used one in forever, and probably take my washer, dryer, and clothesline too much for granted. But someone who travels in a home on wheels, would have to scope out laundry facilities everywhere they park, right?


I am guessing most aren't nearly this fancy, especially in small towns. 

How do they even work nowadays? Does one still use cash? How much per load? Do campsites have laundry facilities? I'm guessing probably so, but don't know for sure.


And think about personal behaviors, when cleaning clothes becomes an event that has to be planned. You wear your clothes more than once, right? Or you wash by hand. But you can't necessarily do this sort of thing wherever you happen to be parked:


No, indeed. You'd have to figure out a way to dry handwashed clothes inside your rig. The bathroom would be logical, but they are tiny in travel vans. Of course, there are other options too. You could park at a friend's house and catch up on laundry there. Here are some other options in an article about van life.

Now keep in mind that my main character has a child. That changes the paradigm a little, too, doesn't it? Because children are not naturally clean, and most kids love to play.

Photo credit: HuffPost


We might get a glimpse of Grumpy Dad every now and again.






K is for Kissing


It's something I love to do in real life and something I love to write about in romance stories. 

But in a novel that begins during a pandemic when everyone is cautioned to wear masks and social distance, kissing is going to present quite the challenge, isn't it?


Even more interesting, characters will have to smile with their eyes, if they smile at all. They will wonder what's under that mask. Nice teeth? Dimples? What kind of a chin? Lush kissable lips? Will they be pleased? Disappointed?

So that leads to research about a new kind of smile - the Duchenne smile. How would I describe this in my story? Smize like you mean it! I do believe I'll use that expression.


I suspect the romance (enemies to friends to romance) is going to be a slow burn in this series. A very, very slow burn. It already feels like a modern-day Regency romance, where characters didn't touch hands, much less lips. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

J is for Jousting

Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horseriders wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament

Wikipedia.org

And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that my protagonist, Henry Bell, will not be doing this. For one, he doesn't know the first thing about horses. He does, however, know a lot about swords, and about the choreography of sword fights. You will see him staging realistic fights with this kind of knowledge:


So enough of that. How about jealousy? Will we have some of that between the current enemies who will eventually become friends and even lovers? Probably more of that feeling as the story progresses, than any real romance. Poor Henry is so tormented the first half of the book. He is attracted and repelled by Fae Donovan. Who? Oh, MY, the heroine has a name now! Fae owns Faerie Creations, and though she doesn't really look like fae herself, just the connection reminds Henry of his first wife. Thus, the repulsion. So why should he care if other men are attracted to Fae? Why should he feel deep and aggravating jealousy?

Because, well... is lust every reasonable? No. Is love? No again. 

I is for Internet and Income

The Cutting Edge mystery series begins at the start of the COVID pandemic. So many things were instantly impacted, including travel and how businesses operated. Can you imagine what is was like for a traveling business, not knowing how your usual venues were impacted? Theaters closed. Stores closed. Restaurants closed or had limited hours.  And how to find more work? I think we all realized how dependent we were on the internet. Certainly my book characters did.


So that begs the question: how do RVers access internet? Do they have equipment on their rigs? What's a hotspot? Or do they rely on their smartphones? Because you can bet that everyone was tapped into some form of virtual communication. Must research this some more.


Income: another problem from the onset. Traveling creatives, of course, know how to adapt and find new venues. My heroine, a costumer maker, jumped on the custom mask bandwagon right off. The hero? It was spring, so rather than travel to restaurants to sharpen knives, he made contact with farmers needing equipment sharpened for spring planting. Those are just a few ideas.


That made me wonder how banking would work for people on the road all the time. Online banking, but what about carrying cash? How would you hide money on a rig?

And those stimulus checks. No problem, I guess, with federal payouts, but what about state support? Do travelers register somewhere so they have a home base? Would they qualify for some sort of state unemployment?

Please leave me a comment if you know the answer to any of these questions!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

H is for Happy or Not

 Hats?

hannahats.com

Hair?




True confession: I could write about the unnamed heroine's hair all day long.

But I won't. There is a theme that has to play into this story for various reasons. 

Homeschooling

Because Henry Bell and his daughter travel, by necessity she can't exactly be enrolled in any school. Which, of course, sends up all kinds of red flags with local authorities.

As well, we have a dark-haired father with a very light-skinned, blonde daughter. The dissimilarity in appearance sends up red flags too. 

The blonde heroine who is the eventual love interest might have a card to play if there is some nefarious reason the child becomes a legal pawn. Do you see where I'm going with this?

So back to homeschooling on the road. Turns out the proper term is roadschooling. More information here.


I have a lot of research to do yet. I haven't even started to hatch a plot yet!



G is for Gypsy


Modern Day Gypsies

I am having a tough time with the Gypsy theme. The more I dig, the harder it gets. Let's start with the meaning of the word.


Henry Bell, an American, clearly fits into the second category. But from the beginning, I felt he had gypsy blood too. Which required a lot more research that is very complicated. 

The Romani, Gypsy, Traveller labels are much less confusing in the United Kingdom. Once I started researching the immigrant situations of those people into America, things got a little dicey. 


There are more than ten separate sects of gypsies in the U.S., but Henry Bell is likely a Scottish Traveller, given his trade as tinker and knife-maker. The Gypsy Lore Society - Gypsy and Traveler Culture in America

His pattern of travel definitely ties into what is described in this article: Gypsy Americans - History, Immigration waves to the united states, Settlement patterns (everyculture.com)

A bit more information at Wikipedia

Which brings me to WHY I am doing all this research. Does it have to be this complicated? Do I really NEED to know his family background? Maybe. Especially if he has siblings that will be introduced. Also, there is storytelling and music pattern, that not only defines his personality, but connects him to the heroine who I am sure is Irish. So, yeah, that Gaelic connection is strong. Maybe even some prejudice against gypsies? Not sure about this.

But I feel ethnic history thrums through our blood. It's part of what defines us. It looks us in the face in a mirror. Curly hair. Dark skin. The need to wander. The thrill of pounding metal. The ATTITUDE!

More pictures of Henry Bell compliments of the author, Marcus Sakey. Remember that this story starts in the early days of the pandemic, so masks. What will the heroine feel when we uncover the cleft chin? 



Here's a curious twist. Sakey's first book is called The Blade Itself. I had no clue when I first saw his photo and decided my book character looked just like that.  I guess that kind of connection is appropriate for a Cutting Edge Mystery.

Huh! 






Friday, April 8, 2022

F is for Eff

Let's skip the effing swear words in the Cutting Edge book. I have a child in this one, and a parent who is sensitive to young ears and what they should hear. Swearing has its place in any piece of writing, but it doesn't fit these characters. At least not yet.

Photo credit: MentalFloss.com

But what about some other F-word prompts to help me understand these people?


Fear: That's always a big motivator, especially for parents. Henry Bell has a young daughter, and because they are constantly on the road and often in strange places, he keeps a wary eye on the girl. There are definite rules to follow, and he is very cautious about who takes care of her when he is gone. In fact, a certain level of trust with the heroine helps their romance develop. I really need to name this child. 


Fury: What would really set Henry off? Something unfair? Something cruel? I have to think about this. Henry strikes me as a man who might become irritated, but I don't see him as someone who would lose his temper easily. Yet we all are capable of fury, aren't we? Must ponder this some more.



Frustration: Right off, I think the circumstances would frustrate him because the pandemic put the kibosh on so many creative work environments. Same for the heroine. They rely largely on events like farmers markets, art fairs, Renfests, and other such gathers. As well, Henry has a lot of gigs sharpening knives for restaurants, which were largely closed early in the pandemic. The heroine is a costumer and most theaters had to close. So, everyone in their immediate circle had the frustration of trying to find work. 


Fun: The characters have lots of friends with whom they cross paths, even if it's just meeting at campgrounds. Despite social distancing, they can share food over campfires and grills, and it's a common thing for someone to pull out an instrument in the evening and start playing. Dancing is also part of the fun. I might have to add some outdoor games, like horseshoes. What other games are there that would be easy to transport? 

Friends: Lots of friends via travel and related work. Henry Bell is much-loved and respected. Have I mentioned his best buddies call him Tink? Short for Tinker Bell. Get it? Ha ha. 

Family: I don't have a sense of family at all. Henry might have a sister, but parents? Nothing strikes me. Yet his daughter might wonder about her grandparents, right? 

I must name that child. I already have a scene in which she wants a nickname and Henry teases her with ideas like this: Liberty Bell? Blue Bell? School Bell? Door Bell? Cow Bell? 

She needs a real and pretty name. I have until the letter N for Naming to figure this out. Any ideas?




E is for Eyes A-Z Blogging Challenge

The eyes are the window to your soul. ~ William Shakespeare

The eyes shout what the lips fear to say. ~ William Henry

The soul that can speak through the eyes, can also kiss with a gaze. ~ Gustav Adolpho Becquer


Eyes are always important characteristics and I like to describe them in my writing. Color is very important to me. It drove me absolutely insane that the Outlander heroine had whisky-colored eyes in the books, but the actress who played the role on Starz had lovely blue eyes. 

In the Cutting Edge stories, the eyes play an unusually significant role. The book begins at the start of the COVID pandemic when everyone is wearing masks. No smiles. No frowns. Just voices. And eyes. So much communication has to happen through visual contact.

And in an enemies-to-friends scenario? Oh, yeah, miscommunication could get very interesting. 


The eyes have it, right? 

Wrong. 

The actual quote is "the ayes have it". Raise your hand and say aye if you knew that.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

D is for Dagger

Henry Bell isn't just a tinker who travels around the country sharpening knives and other tools. He MAKES knives when he can find a forge to use.

Here's a blog post that explains how to do it. 


He also choreographs sword fights for theater groups and RenFest participants.

Photo credit: charlestonstage.com

And he's a knife thrower. He met his wife working for a carnival, and still goes to national meets and competitions to teach and participate in knife-throwing. Probably nothing THIS dramatic though, but you get the idea.

This is a part of the character that is totally me. I love knives, I collect them, and, yes, I throw them. But only at inanimate targets. I'd be embarrassed to admit how many knives I own. So, I won't mention it. 

This is actually a fairly inexpensive hobby. You can get a set of beginner throwing knives like this for about $20.



Does your character have any weird passions or hobbies? You have to admit, Henry Bell is an unusual guy. 

C is for Challenge

Apparently, my biggest challenge this month will be blogging daily! Ha! I'll just accept the Catch-up Challenge here and now.

 Back to the Cutting Edge Mystery novel. 

There will be Children. Henry Bell, the main character, is a single dad with a daughter. I'm not yet sure what age. Adolescent for sure. I'm not even sure what she looks like exactly. I'm leaning to a delicate blonde, because it ties into the enemies-to-lovers theme I might want to explore. 



Which brings me to the eventual heroine in the story, who is also a traveler, so their paths keep crossing. She is a costumer working with theater and dance groups, but also participates in art festivals and Renaissance and Celtic festivals. Do I know her name yet? No. But I know what she looks like:


Yes, I think I'll make the daughter a blonde too. The hero has problems with the love interest's appearance, because she reminds him of the child's mother who left him with an infant. The daughter, however, is attracted to this woman for so many reasons, including appearance. 

It could play. 

What else? Pets are going to be an issue. Traveling with animals complicates life, and travelers tend to simplify. But a cat is always a nice addition to life, especially one who travels well. I once had a cat who loved to sit on the dashboard and take rides in the car. That could work too.


I don't know. I really want a rat, not a cat. I'll have to think about this some more.

What about you? Any writing challenges lately? 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

B is for Brainstorming


I love vardos. I am fairly certain that I have some Romany DNA. The traveling lifestyle intrigues me, the artistry in the costumes and living spaces... it all seems so familiar to me.

My main character, Henry Bell, definitely has that ethnic bloodline pumping through him. I haven't totally nailed his appearance... partly because he is always wearing a pandemic mask... but I think he looks like a blend of these two guys:


 Henry is a tall, well-built fellow, dark-skinned and curly-haired and looks every bit the Romany gypsy of his mother's blood. He usually wears his hair tied back in a ponytail and is beardless, especially during COVID days when this story begins. This is a picture of Colin Farrell doing his best not to look too crazed. Henry actually has a more heavy-lidded, deadpan look on his face when he's in public. But this is a start. He's 6' 2" tall and only his best buds call him "Tink" - short for Tinker Bell, the name of his business. We'll get into more of that in another post. 


Marcus Sakey




What else about Henry? He's fairly agile and quiet and his hands tend to have gray stains, especially under the nails and fingertips. No tattoos. The only piercings are for two earrings. That I know for sure. He likes to walk barefoot. He has a deep voice. He does not snore. He's a runner. 

And that's just the start. I don't have his sense of humor down yet - so important!

And I need to find his deepest wound. 






I'll add more as he evolves in my imagination. 

Do you use photos of famous people to imagine your characters? An image in front of my face is so important to start building their personalities.

A is for Appetite #A-ZBloggingChallenge

All my book characters love food. Their stomachs are like separate characters! The new series I am planning for NaNoWriMo 2022 is about a modern tinker who travels around the country sharpening tools and knives. And teaching knife throwing. And getting accused of murder by blade. Then he helps solve the crimes. 


But thinking about how he appeases his appetite in a crazy van like this is interesting to ponder. The book begins in the first year of the COVID pandemic, so there is less eating out and a lot more cooking at "home." My hero also has a young daughter, with food tastes of her own.

The interior is even more ornate than the outside of his crazy van!


Or maybe it would be better and more surprising to readers to have a really spartan interior like this:


How would I handle the actual cooking and eating in the story? Foods to fix in small spaces would include one-pot meals. Raw foods. Grilling outside of the van at campgrounds? 

How about recipes like this? In smaller portions or to share with other campers:

A field of dreams salad, one of my favorites:

Greens, berries, nuts, bleu cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing.

Minestrone is a good one-pot meal that can easily be made in an Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Minestrone Recipe

Cleanup will be an issue in a small space, so one-PLATE meals are important too.

I don't want to get into dietary issues with father or child, but I am moodling the influence a love interest might have - I am pretty sure she will be a vegetarian. 

Okay, so that's enough brainstorming for the letter A!