Ask A Wench: Our Writing Processes

AAWGraphicAnne here, hosting Ask a Wench for this month. The question today is an oldie and comes from Keira Soleore, who wins a book. Would it be possible for you to blog about your writing processes and your daily schedules? …. A few days ago, I finished reading "Write Away" by Elizabeth George. She is a proponent of detailed outlines. In her book, she describes in great depth how her process works for her.

Before the discussion opens, I'd like to clarify a small point — obviously we all plot, otherwise our books would make no sense. So when writers say they don't plot, they mean they don't plan the story in advance, before they start writing it.

Mary Jo says:  Given that Elizabeth George writes mysteries, and particularly
Neverlessthanalady150   intricate ones at that, I can see where a very detailed outline would work for her.  But process is HIGHLY variable, and part of developing into a Real Writer is figuring out what works for oneself.

I'm a moderate by nature, so it's probably not a surprise that I fall in the middle, process wise.  I don't do detailed outlines, and I certainly don't dive in and head mapless into the wild blue yonder.  Instead, I write a synopsis of maybe eight pages that delineates the main characters and the setting and sketches in the basic plot line and conflicts.  It's rather like a skeleton, and as I write I put the flesh on.  The flesh is maybe 90% of the whole—but it's shaped to that original synopsis, which seldom changes much after I send it off to the editor for approval.

I should mention here that I am that most despised of creatures—someone who writes synopses easily.  I may gnaw on an idea for weeks, months, and occasionally years, but when it ripens, I can sit down and write the synopsis in a couple of hours.  And if I can write the synopsis, I know I can write the book.  The actual writing—now there's another challenge!

Cara/Andrea writes: Oh no, this question has me cowering under my desk, making little whimpering noises. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth George and the Inspector Lynley novels, and to have her routine held as example is . . . intimidating, to say the least. Especially as I'm not sure I could draft a detailed plot chart for my books for all the chocolate in Switzerland.


Scoundrelcover2  I am, if you haven't guessed it by now, a complete seat-of-the pantser. I come up with a (I hope) brilliant flash of inspiration for a story, and the beginning is totally clear in my head.  For maybe 20 pages. Then . . .

Well, then is where the characters start to run with the idea.  I know, I know, that sound so lame on my part. I've tried other ways. Each time I start a new book, I vow that I am going to paper my wall with charts and diagrams that will magically lead me from start to finish with nary a stop in between. I feel that I'm a slow writer, and this will, I tell myself, make me faster. More efficient.

Ha! Sheets of paper get covered with squiggles and notes. Arrows bend around corners, point to the heavens . . . and prove absolutely useless. I end up staring at gobbledy-gook.

So how does a book happen? I make up for my lack of advanced preparation by being very disciplines about sitting down each day and writing, even when I'm not quite sure where I'm going. It's a leap of faith, and at this point, I know myself well enough that I don't wake up in a cold sweat over it. As for inspiration, it strikes at the oddest times. 
HarpersGolf  
Case in point — the other day it was cloudless and warm. I had been working all day and decided I needed some fresh and exercise, so went down to the golf course, threw my bag on my back and went out to walk nine holes. It was nearing sunset, and the light over Long Island Sound was ethereal. A flock of gulls landed on a nearby green, brilliant bits of white against the emerald grass. A loon was fishing in the lagoon, and as I followed the narrow dirt path through the pale gold fescue, a pair of curlews were hopping through the broken sea shells, picking up stray bits of chaff. (Where is my golf ball you might ask? Umm, sometimes I forget to watch exactly where it's landed. But that's not the point.)

As I started up the fairway, daydreaming as usual, the line of dialogue that I had been looking for all day suddenly bounced into my head. From there, the whole scene, and the villain's motivation, became clear. And then, all at once, the second half of the book started to jell. When I got home, I sat down and madly wrote up a stream-of-consciousness rush of notes that would only make sense to me. That's my storyboard, and it's become easy to add in the details.


Undoing of a lady -US  
From Nicola:
 I have to write detailed outlines for my HQN books and I do find this very difficult because at that stage in my process I have only the vaguest idea of how my story will develop. The outline is useful for helping me to start to get to know my characters and identify the themes and the central conflict in the book but I know that all the other details will probably change and develop in the course of the writing. I'd be worried if they did not because I can't get the depth I need in an outline or even at a first pass. Fortunately my editor understands this and so doesn't ask any awkward questions when the final book sometimes bears very little resemblance to the original outline! I'm a seat of the pants writer and sometimes I wish I could write in a more planned and organised fashion but the process simply doesn't work like that for me. Similarly some days I can write all day and others I feel as though I am dragging words out of treacle and so I have to stop and go out for a walk with the dog to refresh myself and try to re-find my inspiration. I do try to write a minimum number of words per day, however, so I'm not completely disorganised! One thing I have learned is that there is no right or wrong process. If it works for you then that's fine!"


Secretduke  From Jo: My writing routine is to get to work after breakfast and work through at least until lunch directly on writing. What this means depends on the stage and behavior of the MIP. It might be straight writing — getting it down — or reading through and rewriting. Or, all too often, chucking out and doing that bit again.

My creative flow doesn't usually work well later in the day, though it has been known. I can do some editing, but I'm more likely to use later time for research and noodling with story ideas.

I don't pre-plot. It doesn't work for me. Anyone who wants to know more about that can read a speech I gave long ago

My advice to everyone is a) experiment and see what works best for you, and b) don't let anyone, ever, any time tell you one way is right and another is wrong.


Accweddingsmll  
Anne here, finishing up: I call myself an organic writer. Plotting a book before I start writing it doesn't work for me. Like Mary Jo, I have no trouble writing synopses — I can come up with what looks like a ripping yarn without too much trouble. However if I then try to follow it I get bored, feeling a bit like I'm painting by numbers. It's only when I'm inside the story and in a character's mind that the exciting possibilities start to unfold and for me part of the joy of writing is when unexpected things happen.

I sometimes liken my process to archaeology — it's as if the characters and their story are there, buried in some dim recess of my brain, and I'm unearthing them. Messy but the possibilities are exciting.

I often have an idea of where the book is going, for instance toward a big dramatic scene, but there are lots of different possible routes, and the first one I come up with isn't always the best, but simply the most obvious. 

As for my schedule, I try to write every day, turning up for the work, but I'm not a fast writer. First thing in the morning and late at night are my two best times for working. In the afternoon I'm hopeless, so that's when I take the dog for a walk, and do shopping and things like that. 

When I begin a book I write slowly, and the closer I get to the end the faster I get. I keep a daily word count. A lot of the time I write straight onto the computer, but I'll often write a first draft of a scene by hand, often a scene that's yet to come in the book. On the computer I write chronologically, in the notebooks I jump around from scene to scene and even book to book, as the muse strikes. I keep a notepad and pen by the bed, too, as frequently a scene will come to me during that dreamy half-consciousness between sleeping and waking, and I'll write it down — not simply taking notes, but writing whole pages of dialogue, sometimes. If I don't write it down, I forget it. Here's a link to a scene that's almost unchanged from the way I wrote it in the notebook one dawn, many years ago.

So, as everyone has said, there's no correct way to write. Our brains are all different and our muses sing to different music. Only the result matters.  What about you? How you approach big creative tasks? With a detailed plan? Or do you tend to fly by the seat of your pants? 

A Love letter to Jane Austen

CE-avatar Hi all, Cara/Andrea here,

As spring fever begins to waft through the air, bringing with it beguiling hints that the long, cold winter is finally waving goodbye, I decided it was high time to take off my fuzzy synchilla sweatpants and venture outside of my cozy little writing room. I love sitting for hours on end at my computer, tapping out my stories with my patented two-fingered hunt-and-peck technique. But I also love research forays, which I find are like a breath of fresh air to the creative process.

Whether it’s a museum exhibit, a history lecture, a library talk—I always find something new and exciting to get my heart thumping. Imagination is a wondrous thing, and it’s fascinating to see how each of us has a unique perspective on the world around us.  

JA-letter My foray this week was to the Morgan Library in New York, where they were featuring an exhibit entitled: “A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy. A small but fabulous show, it consisted mainly of her personal letters to family and friends, along with related prints from the era and early editions of her books. (The Morgan owns the largest collection of Austen’s correspondence, and much of it not been shown for over twenty five years.)

It was an incredible experience to see her actual handwriting, and read her astute observations and pithy comments! She becomes so very real as a person, and at times I was almost laughing aloud at her tart humor and acerbic wit. Not that it was any surprise, but it highlighted how much of her own personality is in her books. Here’s one of my favorite examples: in writing about a new acquaintance, Jane comments, “I do not perceive any Wit or Genius in her . . . She seems to like people rather too easily.”

JA-snippet Her brother Henry notes that Jane loved party-going and was very fond of dancing. (It is noted in the exhibition that most of her heroines and heroes were excellent dancers—Jane and Elizabeth Bennett included.) Indeed, one of Jane’s letters says, “I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne.” Not that I think she would give Paris Hilton a run for her money, but apparently Jane liked to cut loose on occasion!

Just to give you all a bit more of the flavor, I’m going to share some more actual quotes, as listed in the Morgan’s exhibit notes:

JAPortrait Austen's niece Caroline recollected: "As to my aunt's personal appearance, hers was the first face I can remember thinking pretty. Her face was rather round than long, she had a bright, but not a pink colour—a clear brown complexion, and very good hazel eyes. Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally, it was in short curls around her face. She always wore a cap." (Note, this painting on the right is an idealized portrait of Jane, taken from the unfinished sketch done by her sister Cassandra.)

Jane-bennett In her letter dated 24 May, 1813, Austen reports seeing a painting of how she imagines Jane Bennet, who marries Mr. Bingley at the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice. "Mrs Bingley is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her." Scholars suspect that the painting she refers to is the Portrait of Mrs Q by the French portrait painter François Huet-Villiers. (shown at left) Harriet Quentin was a mistress to George IV when he was prince regent. William Blake's 1820 engraving reproduces the portrait. In the same letter, Austen suspects that Elizabeth Bennet, later Mrs. Darcy, would have different preferences: "I dare say Mrs D. will be in Yellow."

Gillray In Austen's letter to Cassandra, written from Bath on 2 June 1799, she commented on the style of contemporary hat decorations with evident amusement: "Flowers are very much worn, & Fruit is still more the thing.—Eliz: has a bunch of Strawberries, & I have seen Grapes, Cherries, Plumbs & Apricots—There are likewise Almonds & raisins, french plums & Tamarinds at the Grocers, but I have never seen any of them in hats." (The image at right is a detail from one of the Gillray prints that are part of the exhibit.)

I adore Jane Austen, and found this exhibit gave me an even deeper appreciation of her as a person and an author. How about you? Are you an Austen fan? Do you have a favorite book or character? (I love Lizzie Bennett and Anne Elliot.)

In the Pink with Lauren Willig

Lauren Cara/Andrea here. Today my good friend Lauren Willig has kindly consented to stop by and chat about books and history with us. Lauren is a real Renaissance Woman (and I don’t say that lightly, as you will soon see!) She’s a bestselling author, a historical scholar, a litigation lawyer, and—starting today!—a Instructor at Yale University, where she and I will be teaching a seminar on Historical Romance.

She has a new release coming out tomorrow, the sixth book in her NYT bestselling “Pink Carnation” series, a wonderful, witty set of novels revolving around a group of dashing Napoleonic-era spies (and the delightfully quirky modern grad student who is determined to make history by solving the mystery of their true identities.) So without further ado . . .

BEYOND THE BALLROOM—EXOTIC INDIA

Bloodlily CE: Your new book, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, takes us from your usual settings of England and France to India. What made you decide to set the story there?

LW: Six years ago, two unsuspecting professors hired me as a teaching fellow for a class on the Second British Empire.  At the time, I was working on the first book in the Pink series, which was set in 1803.  I was very struck by the fact that the Battle of Assaye took place that same year.  Hmm, I thought, that would make a good basis for a sequel (because, clearly, history arranged itself that way just for my convenience).  I made a note of it and then promptly forgot about it until two years ago, as I was trying to figure out what was going to happen to my wild child heroine, Penelope Deveraux, constantly in disgrace, constantly pushing the boundaries.  Why not have her push some geographic boundaries as well?  (To be honest, I was getting a little bored with Almack’s Assembly Rooms.  It’s not that I don’t like ratafia, but, well, you know….)

Jasmine In the previous book, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, Penelope got caught canoodling one time too many and found herself packed off to India to give the scandal of her marriage time to die down.  The Betrayal of the Blood Lily opens with Penelope’s arrival in Calcutta with her ne’er do well husband, Freddy Staines, who has been appointed Special Envoy to the Court of Hyderabad.  Between the Maratha war raging in the north, political complications at the court of Hyderabad, a spy known only as the Marigold, and the fascinating and infuriating presence of one Captain Alex Reid, Penelope has no idea what she’s gotten into….

India-map CE: Were there any special challenges in researching such a different world?


 LW: This is the first time I’ve researched a book where I don’t speak the key languages and where I haven’t been able to personally visit the site of the story.  For all my previous books, I’ve done on the ground primary source research.  Due to the timing of monsoon season and my own linguistic limitations, that was barred to me.  On the other hand, this wound up working rather well.  The story I was telling is seen through the eyes of an Englishwoman recently arrived in India.  Since I can’t speak Farsi, Urdu, or Hindi, the documents that were available to me were the journals, memoirs and travel narratives of those Englishmen and woman who lived there during the period, who would have had experiences similar to those of my heroine.  For Penelope’s viewpoint, what I needed to find wasn’t the reality of Indian culture at the time, but Indian culture as an English visitor would have perceived it.  I relied heavily on journals, such as that of Maria Graham, who traveled through India in 1809.  Her reactions provided an excellent guide for Penelope’s.  Likewise, my other viewpoint character, my hero, is an Englishman raised in India, sent off to be educated in England, and then returned to England to work in East India Company’s arm and then diplomatic corps.  For him, I had the memoirs of James Skinner and the correspondence of men like James Kirkpatrick, Resident of Hyderabad, who were similarly situated between two worlds.  I was also fortunate in having very detailed secondary works about the interactions between British and Indian culture at my disposal, most notably William Dalrymple’s White Moghuls and Maya Jasanoff’s Edge of Empire.

Shivaji_and_Marathas CE: Were there any historical discoveries that surprised you?

LW: I was also amazed to discover that there was, in fact, an active French presence in India at the time.  French generals throughout India planted liberty trees, led troops into battle under the tricolore, and cooked up elaborate schemes to unite the French forces in India against the British so that the French influence might reign supreme in the East.  In 1802, General Perron, in the nominal employ of the Maratha chieftan, Scindia, went so far as to write Bonaparte for French troops to deploy against the British.  He got them, too, a whole boatload of them, although they were sent packing before they reached their destination.  Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General (Arthur Wellesley’s older brother) used the French threat as part of his rationale for incursions against local rulers, radically expanding the scope of British oversight in India, which, until then, had been largely limited to the three Presidency towns: Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.  Although I did know that the Duke of Wellington had begun his career soldiering in Ind
ia, I had never realized before that the Napoleonic Wars had been instrumental in the creation of the Raj.

Sikandar_Jah_Nizam_III CE: Did you meet any new (or not so new) historical figures who tickled your fancy?

LW: Oh, goodness, where to begin?  This book bristles with characters who would be impossible to believe if they weren’t true.  Among others, there’s the Begum Sumroo, a former dancing girl who rose to be ruler of her own principality.  She led her own troops into battle and continued to exert her fascination over men well into her declining years.  At the court of Hyderabad, where the bulk of the story takes place, we meet the mad young ruler, Sikunder Jah, who entertained himself by strangling his concubines with silk handkerchiefs; the courtesan, Mah Laqa Bai, who was considered one of the foremost poets of her day, and so renowned for her wisdom that she was awarded a seat on the ruler’s council of advisors; Mir Alam, a Machiavellian prime minister, once buddy buddy with Wellesley, but now slowly rotting away with leprosy and intent on revenge; and an English resident (basically ambassador), James Kirkpatrick, who had “gone native”, secretly contracting a marriage with a Hyderabadi noblewoman, a fact that pleased neither the Hyderabadi court nor Lord Wellesley, who launched an extremely detailed investigation into the love affair.  All of them play large roles in the book.  You just can’t make this stuff up. 

A HISTORY HOYDEN

Charles_II_of_England CE: Speaking of research, you have an amazingly impressive academic background. Tell us a little about what attracted you to study history?

LW: My father is a lapsed historian, so I grew up on bedtime stories about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Sunday afternoons watching old Errol Flynn swashbucklers—with the appropriate scholarly interpolations, of course.  I quickly graduated to historical romance novels and the fat, historical epics so popular in the mid-80’s.  I longed to sweep through the corridors of Whitehall with Elizabeth I, to indulge in conspiracies to save King Charles from the scaffold, to whap importunate gentlemen on the wrist with my fan at the court of George II.  In short, I wanted to live in any century but the one I inhabited.  Leg warmers were just so… unromantic.  I wanted to bring these worlds that I loved so much to life—and what better way to do that than to write historical fiction? 

As an undergraduate at Yale, I majored in Renaissance Studies, on the theory that immersion in the history, art history, literature and political philosophy of a culture was the best training for writing about it.  But I still didn’t feel quite steeped in history enough, so off I toddled to the Harvard history department to pursue a PhD in English history, on the theory that graduate school would truly prepare me to write Absolutely Accurate historical fiction.  It didn’t work out quite that way (I made the disillusioning discovery in grad school that, if historians agree on anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as Absolutely Accurate anything), but it was certainly an interesting journey….  

Caroline_of_Anspach CE: You write wonderfully entertaining books set in the Regency era. However your expertise is in other periods as well. Give us an idea of what other eras appeal to you.

LW: If I had to pick a century to live in, it wouldn’t be the Regency, much as I love it (sorry, folks).  My scholarly work was in the seventeenth century, my books are set in the early nineteenth, but, at heart, I’m an eighteenth century kind of girl.  I particularly love the early eighteenth century, amid all the intrigue directly before and immediately following the Hanoverian succession, as politicians conduct vigorous debates in the new coffeehouses, dissolute rakes form Hellfire Clubs, Alexander Pope writes his Rape of the Lock, Jacobite pretenders hatch conspiracies, fortunes rise and plummet in stock market bubbles, and clever women swish about court in wide-skirted gowns, directing policy behind the leaves of their fans.  It’s a rich, tumultuous, bawdy period, with so much going on in politics, in literature, in philosophy.  Not to mention that I’ve always wanted to be best buddies with Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II, who is one of my absolute favorite historical characters.  You know you’re a history nerd when….

CE: Any plans to write in those time periods?

LW: My undergrad work was primarily on mid-sixteenth century Scotland (I wrote my senior thesis on the Queen-Regent, Marie de Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots), and that’s an area I’ve always planned to revisit.  I still find Marie de Guise a fascinating and canny character, and, having spent some time living in Edinburgh, I’d love to go back.  My doctoral work is on the English Civil Wars, which is another period I’d like to write about some day.  Talk about swashbuckling and deeds of daring-do!  Um, and, yes, I do have rather a crush on Charles II, so the Restoration is also on the agenda for a book one of these days.  Part of the problem, though, is that I’m still too close to all of those periods academically, so it’s hard for me to get away from the footnotes and let the characters take over. 

CE: Is that doctoral dissertation on your list of future writing projects. What is it about?

LW: My dissertation, grandly titled, “Give Caesar his Due: Royalist Conspiracies during the English Civil Wars, 1646-1649” tracked the machinations of the displaced partisans of King Charles following his imprisonment in 1646 up through his decapitation in January of 1649.  I do seem to have a thing about Royalist spies, whether they’re wearing knee breeches or plumed hats.  There’s just something about men in cloaks and spurs clustered in the back room of a tavern, raising their tankards in a clandestine toast, “For the King!” 

THE JOB OF WRITING

Writing CE: In addition to your Masters degree and dissertation work, you also have a law degree from Harvard—any similarities between law and creative writing? (she asks with an evil smile.)

LW: My first week at the firm, the partner for whom I was working (I was in the litigation department) sat me down and said, “We write stories; you write stories; now you will write stories for us.”  I’m not sure I’d quite agree with that—there was a lot less dialogue in my briefs than in my books—but there are some surprising overlaps between practicing law and writing historical fiction.  A lot of what goes into writing a brief is historical reconstruction, going through piles of documents, taking limited pieces of evidence, and trying to spin them into a convincing and persuasive story.  That’s just what we do when we write historical fiction.  We’re reconstructing a narrative from limited sources.  It’s also all about persuasion, about pulling the reader in and drawing her along with you.  In both cases, if you strike a false note and lose the reader’s trust, it’s all over.  The nice thing about writing fiction?  No more Westlaw! 

CE: I think all of us who write face the difficult task of balancing all our different roles in life and figuring out how to manage our time. Obviously, you’ve been tremendously successful in that department. Any hints you can give us?

LW: Time management is one of those things I still wrestle with, but I think what it comes down to in the end is being aware of your own work patterns.  When I started at the law firm, people gave me all sorts of earnest and well-meaning advice about waking up early every morning and writing for two hours a day.  Two problems: (1) my brain refuses to kick in until sometime after noon, and (2) I am incapable of writing in two hour chunks.  I made myself miserable for about a month, wrote the worst prose I’ve ever produced (and, yes, that includes the imitation Barbara Taylor Bradford novel I tried to write in eleventh grade) and then came to the blinding realization that, hey, I’m a fits-and-starts writer; I’ve always been a fits-and-starts writer.  Therefore, I was better off giving up on the two hour a day plan and locking myself up at home on weekends when I could write for forty-eight hours straight.  Learning how you work most productively and finding creative ways to implement that around your other obligations—without beating yourself up about what you could, would, should be doing—is about fifty per cent of the battle.

Hyderabad_india_ CE: At the RWA Conference last summer, you gave a great talk about making historical stories come to life. One of the things you mentioned was how an author can take advantage of all the specialized knowledge out there without becoming a doctoral candidate. We have a lot of readers who are just embarking on writing careers, so it would be great if you would offer some of you “inside tips.”

LW: Thank you!  There are a wealth of resources out there for writers of historical fiction, all the more so now because of the advent of the internet.  My favorite way of getting into a time period is to start with biographies.  That way, you get an individual eye’s view of life at the time—and you can shamelessly follow up on that biographer’s footnotes to work your way back to secondary sources about the period as well as contemporary diaries, journals, and letters, many of which (depending on the time period in which you’re working) are available in print form and can be accessed on-line, purchased through a used bookseller, or ordered through inter-library loan.  While we’re still on books, it’s also useful to have a shelf of quick references next to the computer (or, if you prefer websites, bookmarked on your browser).  My go-to guides vary for each book, but my standard next-to-the-desk texts for quick reference are The Oxford Dictionary of British History, The Companion to 18th Century Britain, The Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars, and several books of historical maps, uniforms, and costume.

Museums, historic houses, and antique shops are a wonderful way of getting a sense of what your world would have looked like.  If you can visit in person, so much the better, but if you can’t make it there, many have photos from their collections on-line, or glossy catalogues that often seem to turn up nicely discounted at used bookstores.  There are also, I’ve discovered, societies for just about anything.  When I needed information of seventeenth century freemasons for my dissertation, I contacted a group that specializes in research on the freemasons.  They sent me back a five page long essay on the topic.  Not everyone will be quite so generous with their time, but I’ve found professors, specialist societies, other authors, and museum curators are extremely kind in sharing their expertise if emailed and asked nicely.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  All that being said, it’s also important to remember that we write fiction.  At some point, tempting as it is to track down just that one last detail, you have to press the “off” button on the research, sit down with that empty Word file, and just write.

CE: Your heroine Eloise has some very funny encounters in archives. Are there any humorous (or embarrassing, heh, heh, heh) real-life research incidents that have happened to you . .  . er, ones that you will share, that is.

LW: You mean other than spending forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to use the water cooler in the cafeteria of the Public Records Office?  Oh, embarrassment.  I did have some great moments, including getting hopelessly lost on the campus of the University of Nottingham, where I had been locked in the library all day with a seventeenth century journal.  Blundering around in the dark, looking for the bus stop (which was, of course, entirely in the opposite direction) I cleverly managed to lose my footing and roll down a hill.  The fact that I was wearing three inch heels and had somehow contrived to wander off the path onto a steep incline covered with wet and slippery leaves might have had something to do with it.  Fortunately, no one saw.  Or, if they did, I’ve blotted it out of my memory. 

Thanks so much, Word Wenches, for having me over!  It’s been a great pleasure to chat with you.

Note: Lauren has kindly consented to give away a copy of her new book to one lucky person who leaves a comment here between now and Wednesday.