Friday, June 4, 2010

Desperately Seeking Writing Space

My guest is historical author, Emily Bryan. She says she discovered, as a child, there's a whole world in a book.

  • "As a child, I sneaked books into bed. I nearly ruined my eyes reading by the thin strip of light shafting in the crack of my bedroom door...even though I didn't like our creepy basement, I volunteered to take the bedroom down there so I could keep my light on without my parents' knowledge...I willingly traded a full night's sleep for time spent with my literary friends."

I can so relate to the *reading by a thin strip of light of my bedroom door*. I did the same.

Emily says that good writers start out as readers. I, for one, am glad she went from reader to writer.

Writers have a number of hurdles to clear in their quest to finish the book besides actually committing words to the page. I’ve won the “yes, I am too working even though it’s 2 PM and I’m still in my jammies” battle. My family realizes that my professional uniform will often be sweats and a t-shirt (upgraded to jeans and a pinch of makeup if I’m going out to the store and don’t want to scare small children.)

My DH now recognizes the “writing stare” which means even if I look at him, I may not actually see him or process any of the words coming out of his mouth. My body may be there, but my mind is in another century.

And my daughter knows if the keyboard’s clicking, I’m not to be disturbed unless the condo’s on fire or there’s blood. Lots of blood.

But one hurdle I haven’t overcome is the writing space hurdle.

Oh! To have a dedicated space for my work. A neat office with enough horizontal desk surface to hold my printers and computers and still leave room to dash off a handwritten note in comfort, while I sip my tea. As long as I’m fantasizing, let’s add floor to ceiling bookshelves across one long wall, complete with a librarian’s ladder so I can actually reach the titles on the top shelf. My records are neatly organized in oak hanging file cabinets and I never have to scramble to find receipts for expenses when tax time rolls around. I could decorate the walls with framed posters of my covers and bask in the glow of stories past. Maybe there’s a loveseat and a couple barrel chairs, so I can host my critique group in this inviting space. And a door to close on the mess when my page count is done each day.

Like the Victorians who believed every activity should have its corresponding space, I long for a dedicated writing haven. But that’s a pipedream for now.

I’ve heard that some writing superstars like Debbie Macomber actually rent office space and go to work each day like anybody else. Of course, that would negate the perk of being able to work in my jammies.

Some writers are lucky enough to have a spare bedroom they can convert into a home office. Not possible for me at present because we’re in a small condo. All available space has to perform several functions.

Others write at their kitchen table. If I did that, my family would never eat again.

Some of my writing friends take their laptops to the local Starbucks and happily pound away. If I did that, I’d never write again. I need a bit of solitude to slip into my fictive dream.

‘So where does she I write? I hear you asking'.

In my writing chair. I have a recliner in one corner of my bedroom. Mack the Wonder-dog snugs up next to my hip (alas, my darling little Susie, the black dog blending into the background, left us last November after a long and happy life) and my writing day commences. I’ll admit, writing with my feet up and my laptop balanced on a pillow sounds a bit lazy, but it gets the job done.

Someday, maybe I’ll have that dream writer’s room. But if I do, I bet there will be a recliner in the corner.
  • Where do you write?

~ * ~ * ~


Crispin Hawke is revered by the ton. His artistic creations are celebrated in every fashionable parlor, tales of his fiery bed skills whispered behind every fashionable fan.


Grace Makepeace is determined to wed a titled lord, but her Bostonian bluntness leaves her least likely to succeed. To be accepted by the ‘high-in-the-instep’ crowd, she has her hands ‘done’ in marble by the incomparable, Crispin Hawke.


Crispin schools Grace in flirting and the delights of the flesh. But when she catches the eye of a Marquess, Crispin regrets her transformation. An artist isn’t supposed to lust after his own creation but how can he help Grace . . .


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Emily Bryan graduated summa cum laude from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Music.

She won the District Metropolitan Opera Auditions and went on to debut with the Denver Symphony. She sang at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and created the role of Marianne in the southeastern premier of Kirk Meecham's Tartuffe. She's lost track of how many times she’s been to Europe in pursuit of her music.

In 2001, she started writing stories after a lifetime of reading others’ stories. In May 2006, Leisure Books published her debut novel, MAIDENSONG, under her name, Diana Groe. ERINSONG followed in November 2006 and SILK DREAMS in July 2007. She writes light-hearted, sexier books under the penname, Emily Bryan.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


My guest is thriller author, Graham Brown. His debut thriller, BLACK RAIN, has the backdrop of Mayan myth. I can't wait to read it.

Graham cracks me up with his view of things. Take a look at his website and read his latest adventure, Hieroglyphic Canyon. I also like his thoughts on writing. I can so relate to his *style*. :-)

People often ask: “What kind of books do you write?” An important question, but I think a more important question for us writers is “What kind of writer are you?”

It’s important because you have to know yourself to know how to get your best work out. I been fortunate enough, even before I was published, to talk with and occasionally hang out with other writers. To my dismay they all seemed so damn organized. I actually made me sick. Word counts, page counts, designated times for writing. Ummm… yeah, I don’t do any of that stuff.

Which begs the question - Am I doing this thing wrong somehow?

I mean, I could do a word count but most likely it would resemble my senior paper from high school which had to be fifteen hundred words and in which I used every possible trick to lengthen every single sentence as much as humanly possible including repeating and repeating and repeating words and phrases. If Lucas had written Star Wars that way it would have started “A, long, long, long , long ,long , loooooong time ago in a galaxy far, far, extremely, very far away…” Nope – word count’s not going to work for me.

Then, I met a couple of writers that only work when they’re really feeling it. “Really Feeling It”? Are you kidding me? Nine times out of ten I don’t “really feel it” until I’ve been working for an hour or so. That first hour of work is like – “ugh, I think I’ve forgotten how to do this.” Followed by - “why do I suck so much.” Followed by – “wait, look, a sentence with some redeeming value – PROGRESS!”

So what kind of writer am I anyway? Well for me, getting going is tough- I don’t mean sitting in the seat – although that can be a problem too. I mean cranking out pages that I think are worthy of all the effort. It just doesn’t start quickly. But once I get going I don’t want to stop.

I guess that means I’m a sprint writer. No that’s not quite right, 100,000 plus words cannot be considered a sprint. A “binge” writer? No – that sounds like it’s involuntary somehow and that I have to throw it all away afterward – thankfully neither of which is generally the case. Okay so here it is – I’m a Freight Train writer. It takes a long time to get up any momentum but once I start going don’t park on the tracks in front of me.

When I’m really working, I end up staying up later and later every night. Which, of course, makes it harder and harder to get up in the morning, but I don’t care- I write until physically can’t go anymore.

With apologies to Gabriel Byrne, it reminds me of the talking Heads song – Life During Wartime.
Sleep in the daytime, work in the night time, I might not ever get home…

Now, I’m not recommending this to anyone – in fact I think it’s probably the least healthy style of writing out there. What I am suggesting is find out what works for you – try different things and when you’ve found THE WAY you get your best work done, don’t worry if it’s different from what others are doing, because I guarantee everyone is doing something a little different. And in my opinion, knowing yourself is as important as knowing your characters.

Funny thing is, this was a hard realization to come to. Mostly because my first book, Black Rain, which came out in January of 2010, was a different process. I wrote it over a long period of years, prior to being represented. Prior to having any real deadlines. I wrote that one more like one of those “when I’m feeling it authors.”

My second book, Black Sun, which comes out this August, was a different story (no pun intended). Written on a dead-line, with important people like agents and editors waiting to see it, I tried to do the page count thing, and I did, in a way – at first I fell way behind in my page count, while I thought and considered and backtracked and rearranged, and then, when the train got going, I caught up and passed the page count And it went quickly, and it came out great and it was tighter on the first draft, than my prior book had been on the third or fourth. Guess we’re learning something.

And when it came time to do the revisions – I did them the same way – thinking and jotting down notes for hours and days, while not a keystroke was written. And then, I went into the work mode, pretty much twenty-four/seven for several weeks. I didn’t want to be interrupted by anything, not dinner, not walking the dog, or going out with my wife or our friends.

To quote another line from Life During Wartime – no time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now…

So now I’m working on a third book, I’ve been filling up legal pads with scribbled character notes and dialogue fragments and arrows and abbreviations galore to the point where; if one of these suckers falls into the wrong hands it will probably get me committed as some kind of Uni-bomber like mad man. Doesn’t help that during this phase, shaving and personal hygiene go out the window and that I’m often seen talking to myself in public, working out dialogue, (which is almost always conflict so it seems like I‘m arguing with myself). Truth be told, it’s not a pretty sight, the other day at Starbucks people were scurrying away in all directions to get away from me. The character I was working on was plotting to destroy the world and I think I may have voiced some of his plans to the unsuspecting public. Might have to go to a different Starbucks next time.

But anyway , somehow this works and now the train is starting to move. The nights will soon get longer and the days will get later and the whole thing will pick up speed until hopefully it comes to a roaring finish and I can reflect on another line from Life During Wartime, in which we hear the singer tell us - “I’m burning notebooks, what good are note books, they won’t keep you alive…” No, but then again, they might bring a story to life.

  • So tell me about your “weirdest” writing habit? If you dare.

# - # - #

  • A Coveted Treasure,

  • A Perilous Mission,

  • And a Dark Secret That Kills

Covert government operative Danielle Laidlaw leads an expedition into the deepest reaches of the Amazon in search of a legendary Mayan city. Assisted by a renowned university professor and protected by a mercenary named Hawker, her team journeys into the tangled rain forest—unaware that they are replacements for a group that vanished weeks before, and that the treasure they are seeking is no mere artifact but a breakthrough discovery that could transform the world.

Shadowed by a ruthless billionaire, threatened by a violent indigenous tribe, and stalked by an unseen enemy that leaves battered corpses in its wake, the group desperately seeks the connection between the deadly reality of the Mayan legend, the nomadic tribe that haunts them, and the chilling secret buried beneath the ancient ruins.



Graham Brown was born in Chicago in 1969. He grew up in Illinois, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, traveling often with his family. Graham earned a degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona and went on to get a law degree from Arizona State College of Law in Tempe.

A former pilot, lawyer and executive at a small health care company, Graham could not escape the allure of the thriller. After writing in his spare time for years he decided to see what he could make of it. Black Rain is the first result, with other novels on the way.

Graham has spent the better part of the last 21 years in the deserts of Arizona and southern California. He currently lives in Tucson, with his wife, Tracey.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday's Musings

Usually when I return from writing conferences I’m jazzed and can’t wait to get back to my writing. Workshops or seminars by various authors inspire and energize me. Many times I’ve learn of a solution to a roadblock I’m facing in a current WIP. My fingers itch to stroke my keyboard.

I don’t know what happened to me when I attended The Romance Times Convention. I came back …tired, but a head full of information I had amassed through seminars and personal chats with authors. But instead of wanting to write, all I wanted to do was read. I can’t blame it on all the books I brought home. I always have stacks of books I’m interested in reading, books I’ve bought, books for reviews, and books from authors I will be having on my blog.

It’s not like my story bores me; the opposite in fact, it’s fun and I really like my characters and the premise. It’s exciting. Oh there are tedious parts, like the needed research to build the world I need, but for the most part I enjoy research as my inner history geek has a ball with it.

So what’s the problem? *Shrugging. I haven’t a clue. Could be having taken in so much info my mind needs time to process it. That’s very possible. My creative mind seems to have a loop separate from everyday stuff. I can feel it processing things, clicking away, arranging, and making sense of information and how to use it. When it’s happening, I tend to dream about it. Kind of how I write. The initial germ of the idea will appear and then it rattles around until all the pieces fall into place. When that happens I have to write. The green light is blinking and it needs to come out.

I’m sure periods of sleep deprivation haven’t helped but the kid is now improving in leaps and bounds and is almost back to normal. Realistically, I knew if I opened my WIP I’d want to immerse myself and that doesn’t go well with nursing a sick kid.
I still work. I’m filling June and July’s blog calendar. I’m writing all the time, just not my WIP.

So, I’ve been reading.

I admit I’ve probably read about 20 books in the past month. Whereas I used to never start another book while in the middle of another—what’s the point? If it loses my attention why go back to it? But I do have to do reviews, both fiction and non-fiction, so I usually have a non-fiction book going on the side.
Some books I can recommend:
  • Rock Paper Tiger, Lisa Brackmann—fabulous book and I feel like I spent several days traipsing around China. She nails the whole culture so very well.

  • Black ops Inc series by Cindy Gerard—I’m reading her backlist on the series.

  • Dark Sword series by Donna Grant—I loved both of them and hate I have to wait several months for the next one.

  • The latest by Christine Feehan in her Leopard series (she’s an auto buy for me).

  • Kathryne Kennedy’s also an auto buy for me and I love her new series, The Elven Lords. Para-Historical is smooth and Fire Lord’s Lover is oh so worth reading.

  • Alexandra Ivy Guardians of Eternity series.

  • Christie Craig’s Shut Up and Kiss Me, which I hadn’t read before and I love her style. I’m going into her backlist now.

  • I’ve read and enjoyed Francis Ray’s It Had to Be You and have some of her backlist of The Grayson Friends Novels.

  • Patricia Sargeant’s On Fire.
  • Donna MacMeans, The Seduction of A Duke

  • I’ve also been indulging in Steven Coonts Deep Black series Thrillers. Love his books.

    Non-fiction I’ve been reading and like (remember History geek) is My Times in Black and White. Fascinating book about Gerald M. Boyd, editor of NYTimes. Living history.
Up coming guests: Emily Bryan, Kate Douglas, Marie Force, Kathyrne Kennedy, Graham Brown, Faye Huges/Christie Craig, and many others the next two months. So be sure to check back or watch my Twitter and Facebook for announcements.
  • Read any good books lately?
Have a great week!