header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Thoughts Archives – Kristen Koster
Jul 032016
 
A widow's dress with shawl and mobcap for a Colonial Days presentation in 5th grade.

That was 8 years ago?!?

Once again, I’ve been scrambling to finish a dress and it managed to pull me away from both writing and social media for a while. Long-time readers of the blog may recall the purple widow’s dress I made for a 5th grade presentation… good gracious that was 8 years ago!

Anyway, this year, we needed a dress in time for Anime Expo in LA for a cosplay of Eliza Hamilton from the Broadway musical. Over the last few months, the cast album plays here non-stop.
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Nov 112015
 
Poppy Installation at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

Poppy Installation commemorating the centenary of WWI at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Armistice Day. End of the war to end all wars.

Veteran’s Day.

My uncle turned 91 this fall and served as a WWII Marine. He’s always out every Memorial Day with the VFW selling poppies and impressing upon today’s youth (yup, that would be anyone younger than him!) the significance of the poppies and Flanders Fields. He’s genuinely disgusted when someone doesn’t know the importance of either. So if you’re asked to buy a poppy, be patient and appreciative for all the sacrifices our veterans have made over the years.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 3, 1915.

My uncle was just 18 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His brother (younger by almost two years) lied about his age and went into the Navy right after. My uncle refuses to go to DC through the Honor Flight program. I had to take photos of the WWII Memorial while there to send to him. He doesn’t want any thanks or special recognition for what he did (a sentiment many vets share, they were just doing their duty to their country), but he believes in not just marking the cost of freedom, but that the poppies serve as a reminder.

Lest we forget.

SONY DSC

National WWII Memorial, Washington, D.C. April 2011.

#WhyIReadHistoricals and write them too!

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May 292015
 

Graphic: #WhyIReadHistoricals over images of an old print, an old clock face, and an old sailing ship.This post was originally published on Feb 10, 2012 as “Why I Love Historical Romance”, but I’m dragging it back out because the Historical Romance Network is celebrating all the sub-genres of Historical Romance today on social media with #WhyIReadHistoricals and #WhyIWriteHistoricals and these reasons are all still valid for me.

My accountability group was talking about why we write in a particular genre and what attracted us to it. Also, we were asked if we like to read any genres we don’t or can’t write? Why? And would we like to try a different genre? I’ve already answered the “Why Romance” question, but I’m not sure I’ve ever covered Why Write Historical Romance and Regency Romance in specific.

#WhyIReadHistoricals: How I found them & Why I stuck with them

I grew up reading a variety of historical romances pilfered from my mom’s stash: Kathleen Woodiwiss, Kat Martin, Rosemary Rogers, Shirlee Busbee, Virgina Henley, Johanna Lindsey, and many, many, more. I’ll freely admit I was looking for escapism and a bit of the bodice ripping excitement promised by the covers. It was a slightly different kind from what I was finding in Science Fiction and Fantasy in that this was real world stuff, not wholly made up! Westerns/Colonial American, Medievals, Regencies… all were fair game. I never read the contemporary romances then. Probably because they all had boring object-centric covers instead of those wildly passionate clinches.

#WhyIWriteHistoricals: Why settle into the Regency Era?

The romantic notions of titles and balls, the escapist fantasy, the slower/different pace of life, along with the layers and intrigue in the rules of society intrigued me. The descriptions of men’s fashions, especially the mysteries revealed when a man removes his cravat. While I love me some eye-candy, there’s something to be said for leaving things to your imagination too.

They’d also just done away with the powdered wigs, patches, and panniers of the Georgian Era. Not practical and not attractive, in my opinion. Medievals were too much fantasy compared to the historical reality of fleas, sandy grit in the bread, women being literal property. In the Regency that last hadn’t changed legally, but the authors were showing their heroines more as partners than dependents. Victorian Era was too hypocritical for me in many of its attitudes around sex. I never really got into Edwardian Era books because anytime they drive up in a car or the phone rings, my immersion is shattered. Yes, I love Downton Abbey, but yup, the phone and the cars were jarring at first there too. I suspect my problem is more with books where the setting isn’t firmly established in the beginning and those things sneak up on me.

What else do I read besides Historical Romance?

What don’t I read? The most represented genres on our shelves (well, the ones *I* read anyway) include Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, some Contemporary Romance, some Romantic suspense, historical time travel, a handful of chick lit mysteries, and a selection of urban fantasy. Again, it’s usually the escapist aspect that draws me to these genres, something removed from my ordinary world. But I always circle back to historical romance of one flavor or another.

If not Historical Romance, what else might I try to write?

Maybe contemporary romance, Urban Fantasy or some fantasy, but it’d probably be flavored in some way by the historical aspect and it’d likely still have lots of romantic elements. But for now, I’m focused on the current crop of characters in my head who all reside firmly in Regency London.


If you’d like to join the buzz please consider posting your reasons for reading or writing historical romance using either of the hashtags (#WhyIReadHistoricals and/or #WhyIWriteHistoricals) on your social media. The more the merrier!


Your Turn: What’s YOUR favorite genre of book to read and why?

Mar 252014
 

It has been said that the romance community is the most supportive and generous of all the genre communities and I have seen the evidence many times over in different situations.

Last week one of our beloved authors, Jackie Barbosa, lost her seventeen-year-old son in a car accident. Although most of us will never be able to understand the depth of her and her family’s pain, Jackie’s loss is also our loss and we grieve for her and with her.

Today, in support of Jackie and her family, I’d like to introduce you to some Jackie’s books. One of the first stories of hers that I read was one of the Lords of Lancashire series, THE LESSON PLAN. I loved the way everything is blended seamlessly into the story: the emotions, the history and that wicked naughtiness that makes her heroes spark.

Jackie Barbosa's THE LESSON PLAN cover

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The next one I read was BEHIND THE RED DOOR. This was much spicier than my usual fare, but the excellent storytelling kept me turning pages and rewarded me with three great novellas that I might have missed out on otherwise.

Jackie Barbosa's BEHIND THE RED DOOR

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Jackie also has two free historical short stories available — THE REIVER and NINE LADIES DANCING (part of the 12 Days of Christmas Anthology) — so you can get to know her wonderful writing with no obligation. Of course, I hope you fall in love as I have and explore her full catalog.

Jackie Barbosa's THE REIVER cover12 Days of Christmas Anthology cover

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I had the treat of hearing Jackie read from SKIN IN THE GAME, one of her contemporaries, last fall at the San Diego Lady Jane’s Salon. The wry humor, the sexual tension and the details that made this female football coach believable were all present proving she is at home in this genre as well and her writing strengths shine here as well.

You can find information about her and her many books on her website: http://www.jackiebarbosa.com/

My heart aches for this very talented author and amazing woman who is always so generous with her time and knowledge of publishing. And while buying a book and leaving a positive review if you enjoyed it may not seem like much, it can really lift an author’s spirits and I hope you’ll join me in sending some good thoughts and light in these dark times for Jackie and her family.

A memorial fund has been set up in her son’s name. Details to donate can be found on The Season For Romance website. Any and all donation amounts are greatly appreciated.

Madagascar Lace 2/52

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Jan 132014
 

Photo of Madagascar Lace, a lacey-leafed aquarium plant by Kristen Koster on Flickr.com

Madagascar Lace

After dealing with a couple of nasty algae blooms in our fish tanks, my husband has decided that plants are the way to beat it back and keep it from coming back again. As a result, both our tanks are looking very lush and pretty, but they’re also sporting complicated tables with fertilizer and mineral dosings.

This Madagascar Lace is his newest purchase and is one of the harder plants to keep happy. He’s been having good luck in the small tank (plants are closer to the lights) so hopefully it will thrive in there like the swords have done and graduate to the big tank when it gets big enough.

The fish? They don’t seem to care one way or the other. In the big tank they like the new thin grasses that must taste like spaghetti to them and enjoy uprooting whatever’s in their way. The smaller tank seems to like having more places to hide, but when you add cherry shrimp to the mix, this just makes it harder to tell if you have any left or not.

Fish are tricky to get good pictures of! Talk about your moving targets! And the sound of the shutter whir, just sends them scattering almost guaranteeing a blurry result. For the big tank, I’ve learned to use my big lens and sit across the room to “sneak” up on them.

Jul 272013
 

History Lovers Grand Tour and Scavenger Hunt, July 22-26, 2013Congratulations to the Grand Prize winner, Jessica!

The winner of my US$25 Gift Certificate to the Book Retailer of choice for chiming in with their favorite flavor of ice, ice cream, sorbet goes to Melissa Bourn! Congrats, I’ll be emailing you!

Thanks for participating in the first History Lovers Tour & Scavenger Hunt and special thanks to Susanna Ellis for organizing it!

Weekly Photo 11/52 for 2013: Flowering Hedge

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Mar 172013
 

Weekly Photo 11/52 for 2013: Flowering Hedge by Kristen Koster on FlickrToday’s weekly photo post is NOT a daisy! Spring is starting to burgeon here in full force. It’s been in the low 80s this week and the flowers are loving it.

This also means that it’s warmer at night and that means foggy mornings. I was going to grab a shot of the sun coming over the hills this morning, but I got sidetracked and by the time I remembered I had been going to grab my camera, the effect I was looking at had gone.

Timing is everything. Ok, maybe not EVERYTHING, but certainly a huge chunk of getting some of those great shots! The other day I was coming back from school and a plane flew between me and the summit and the way the sun flashed off it was very cool, but of course, the plane veered off and I didn’t have my camera with me, let alone turned on and ready.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • 1/100 • ƒ/5.6 • ISO 250 • 55 mm

Target Word Count

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Mar 082013
 
Target Word Count: Screen capture of word meter and deadlines in Scrivener's Project Target window.

My Very Unhappy Wordmeter in Scrivener

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “When you’re writing, do you have a wordcount in mind that you HAVE to stick to? What’s your happy WIP word zone? If you don’t have enough, do you try to add more to reach it?”

I’m going to tackle this week’s question two different ways. First, I’m going to look at the smaller scale: the daily (or weekly) targets. Then, I’ll talk about what this means in terms of a full manuscript. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like small stories. I’m not sure how well, I’m doing at writing bigger ones, but I can’t seem to write super short. I know what I want to write and I know I need to stretch to make it there both in terms of holding a coherent story together that big and finding the time and energy to put toward writing that kind of story on an on-going basis.

Daily Target Word Counts

Number in Mind

This number has radically changed for since I began writing. In the beginning, when I was eager and didn’t know any better, I could sit down and rattle off 600-800 words in a 20 minute sprint and I could do a couple of hours at that pace. These days, I got tired just typing that sentence. My ideal daily target work count would be to get a scene or two done each day, which has been averaging around 1500-1600 words.

Happy Word Zone

So this has shifted for me in a not so positive direction lately. Some days I’m lucky to get 100 words down on the page. Others, I’ve done 2,000+, well over the target word count. I can’t seem to find the groove again.

Coming Up Short

I’ve been known to go back and add stuff, but on a first draft, I don’t try to do it too much. I know there are several places where I will be required to go back and add layers in later drafts, so coming under by a bit isn’t too horrible a feeling for me to leave with. It also tends to average out in the end.

WIP/MS Target Word Counts

Number in Mind

Like I said, I like big stories. I’m not sure I can write to novella or category length right now. That said, some of my first drafts have fallen far short of my target word counts. This usually tells me I’m missing part of the story and to go back to the drawing board. I really want to write single-title historical romances which tend to have target word counts of at least 90,000 words or somewhere around 360-400 pages.

Happy Word Zone

I don’t know what my eventual sweet spot will be, but my complete rough draft is about 72k. I’m sure there’s stuff I need to add. The two that I feel are nowhere near finished clock in around 36-42k words. My current project is sitting stalled at 25k, but is just a bit over 25% of that with 1/4 of the outline drafted.

Coming Up Short

I usually feel that description and emotion are the two places that I tend to run short on. I was talking with my husband about this not too long ago (he’s a writer too) and he asked if I saw the movie of the book playing in my head. What I get is often more like a radio play. I get dialogue and sounds. In the first draft or so, I tend to use body language that’s boring, obvious and more of a place holder to remind me of the emotional tone of the scene as I dictate it.

YOUR TURN: What length stories do you prefer to read or write? Why?


And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx *

Expand Your Comfort Zone With 4 Ideas

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Jan 112013
 
Photo of several sections of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Expand Your Comfort Zone -- A Photo of a section of the Berlin Wall at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. by Kristen Koster“What will you be doing this year to expand your comfort zone (in your writing or real life)?” is the question asked this week in my accountability group’s How I Write series. We’ve touched on this topic before and you can follow the progression in my thinking from my post “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone” last June.

I chose this photo not simply for the restrictive and limiting symbolism of the Berlin Wall itself and how rigid some of our own comfort zones can become, but because of the empowering graffiti that surely helped bring about such liberating transformation: “YOU ARE POWER”, “STEP BY STEP”, “ACT UP”, and “CHANGE”.

Tell yourself, “YOU ARE POWER”

If you want to expand your comfort zone, don’t assume you’ll fail before you try. Most of the time we’re our own worst enemies because we sabotage our efforts before we even start. How many times have you thought, “Oh, I could never do that…”, “They’d never go out with someone like me…” or “What’s the use, that’ll never work…” We tell ourselves these things enough times and they become self-fulling prophecies. More like self-defeating nonsense. You’ll never know until you try. Flip those negative thoughts around! Instead, ask yourself questions like, “What if I could…”, “What if I were the type of person who…” and see what happens.

I’m not very good at this one yet, but I’m getting better at it. My first thought about submissions and pitches is no longer, “I can’t do this! They’ll hate it!” Agents and editors love books, they love discovering new ones they want to share with the world. The reason I say I’m not very good at this one is because my first thought is now, “What’s the worst they’re gonna say?” My fears answer “‘No.'” But that answer isn’t as scary any more. You know why? Because if you never ask, the answer is ALWAYS no. And one of these times I might find out that a “yes” might mean even more work and stress than “no” ever did. But that’ll be ok too.

STEP BY STEP

Give yourself permission to try something new. Tell yourself “It’s ok. Just do it once, if you really hate it, don’t do it again. But at least you’ve tried.” Each step past the line is that much farther you’re stepping out and will expand your comfort zone. They don’t have to be huge steps, baby steps will expand your comfort zone just as effectively. As long as you keep taking them.

I used this one last year with RWA’s National Conference, 2 contests and pitching/submitting to some agents and editors. The verdict? I’m trying to talk myself into going to Nationals again this year! Not because I didn’t have a good time, I had a blast! It was overwhelming, but not nearly as bad as I’d feared. I didn’t final in the contests, but that’s ok, I did get some useful feedback! I did get some passes on the submission, but I also got a full request out of it. Now I need to finish another manuscript and do it again! But taking that first step would have been impossible, if I hadn’t given myself permission to only do it once.

ACT UP

Take some massive action! Take a risk! But make sure it matters. Attempt some outrageous feat that is scary, exciting and is a bit intimidating as well. It doesn’t have to be public at first, it can be private. But the important thing is to conquer it. Break it down into manageable steps, rehearse, visualize success. Then go do it! But remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed at the first attempt. You tried and you only gain self-confidence through action. Thinking about your goal, talking about your goal. They’re good, up to a point. Some time you have to DO.

This one is a work in progress for me too. I like making plans and organizing projects, often to the point where that is more fun than completing the actual project. Last year, I decided I needed to step up my game. I jumped in at the deep end by attending the RWA National convention and, instead of hiding behind a query letter, pitching my manuscript in person, not once but twice. I survived. I wasn’t comfortable at times, but I pushed through and was rewarded with positive feedback and a chance to get my work read. How I’m going to top that this year remains to be seen.

CHANGE

Change is hard. No one likes it. Everyone tries to resist it. But often it’s not achieving a particular goal or level of success that defines us, but the changes you have to make along the way to expand your comfort zone in order to achieve it. You have to change your thoughts and actions to be those of the type of person you want to be in order to become that type of person.

Another one where I’m struggling to keep working at the changes in a consistent manner. One of the things I’m doing this year is attempting to keep a log of the time I spend writing and doing writing related things. I’m historically bad at logging things. But I want to see the progression from writing when the mood strikes or life allows to becoming an author, someone who writes books (plural) and to do that, I have to have something quantifiable to measure and become the type of person who logs things. Even minor changes can lead you outside your comfort zone in surprising ways.

Your Turn: How do you expand your comfort zone? Have you ever been really surprised to find something you really enjoy after having dreaded it previously?


And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is expanding out their comfort zones, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Dec 302011
 

Nothing like heading home right before New Year’s to either get you excited or complete exhausted for the coming year.

I’m completely exhausted, but that’s more from getting up at 4 am eastern to sneak up on the airport when my body has refused to make the switch over from pacific time. I doubt I’ll be able to sleep on the plane, but it might be a possibility today.

We’re taking the long way home. Direct flights aren’t looking very direct these days, but at least we don’t have to get off the plane and we’ll be home early afternoon. I foresee some multi-hour splattage when I reach my own bed and pillow.

My TBR pile grew over Christmas. Got a couple new historical romances and several new books on craft of writing. I don’t have the complete list handy because what’s not stuffed in my backpack is being shipped home in a box. We helped out one of the indie bookstores here by picking up several books in addition to the ones that were gifts. So expect to hear more about these later.

I think the highlight of the visit, besides spending time with family, was getting to meet Valerie Bowman (@ValerieGBowman). We spent a love hour and a half at the Starbucks near our hotel and could have stayed and talked much longer. I’m looking forward to catching up with her again at RWA Nationals in July.

Need to post this before we board… love how technology makes this possible!

Happy New Year’s to everyone in case I sleep through it! =)