As you may have heard by now, my house has been undergoing an extensive renovation over the past year. One of the most exciting things about this renovation is that for the first time, I get my own dedicated office. Yay!
Admittedly, it’s approximately the size of a shoebox, but it’s MINE, ALL MINE!! And I’m trying to decide how to furnish and decorate it.
It’s important to me that my office be a welcoming, attractive space as well as a comfortable place to work.
Unfortunately, just as the most truly beautiful shoes seem expressly designed to torture one’s feet, practicality and style do not seem to go hand in hand when it comes to the office.
Ergonomically designed office furniture is exceedingly ugly–at least, the furniture I’ve been able to find is. Why that should be, I don’t know! But given the hours I spend at my computer at a time, particularly when I’m on deadline, I do need to think seriously about correct positioning of equipment so I don’t end up with serious RSI.
I am not the tallest person on the planet so most desks are too high for me. There are very few desks on the market with adjustable height so I’m thinking of a vintage kitchen table, which tend to be lower than desks and maybe a separate keyboard tray that I can screw in underneath. I’d like space on the desk to work on hard copy manuscripts and take notes etc, so I’d like a clear space or return that’s away from the computer.
I need a bookcase for research books, dictionaries, etc, storage for manuscripts and promotional materials, stationery and so forth. A filing cabinet for contracts and tax records. I’d love a whiteboard for plotting, too. Preferably wall-mounted so it doesn’t take up much space.
Our Jeanne is a whiz with interior design and she diagnosed me as an auditory learner, which means I don’t like clutter. She was definitely on the mark there so I have to have cupboards as opposed to open shelves. I want pretty colour because I live with men and this is my room, where I get to be as girly as I like. Not frou-frou, but a bit of pink or cranberry red here and there would not go astray.
The end result will probably be a compromise between style and comfort (as most of my shoes are these days). I can’t wait to show you all some ‘after’ pictures when it’s all done!
What about you? Do you choose style over comfort? What’s the worst mistake you’ve made for the sake of fashion? Is there something you own that is so beautiful, it makes you happy just to look at it? Is beauty ever worth the pain?
Paulo eyed the fruit and veggie tray Sven was arranging. “I could take care of that.”
“Nice try. You sample too much when you put platters together, and this is due upstairs. You can take that tea service up to the library, where Nancy’s entertaining some other writers. I’ll bring this up in a minute.”
“What other writers?” Paulo took a step back. ”They’re not blowing things up, are they? You know, I forgot to give Ermingarde–”
“The dragon can wait. And of course they’re not blowing things up, not in the library. Go on, now. Take that plate of chocolate chip cookies, too.” As Paolo grabbed the tray and headed for the elevator, Sven sighed. Really, that kid needed a backbone. It was a wonder he’d lasted this long in the Lair.
Sven stepped back to admire the purple and white pansy cluster he’d put in the middle of the platter. Yes, it would do. The effect was perfect. He set the platter on a tray with a stack of small, turqoise Fiestaware plates and a long, white segmented dish containing caramel dip, raspberry vinaigrette, and bleu cheese dip. Carrying his tray, he headed for the service elevator, which arrived just as he pushed the button.
Upstairs, he found Paolo arranging the tea service and cups on one end of the conference table. At the long table’s other end, Nancy sat with her guests, Maureen Hardegree, Barbara Monajem, Louisa Cornell, Gerri Russell, and Eilis Flynn. Paolo hurried from the room, but Sven took his time quietly passing plates to the guests and arranging the food in the middle of the table. Writer talk was always so interesting.
Nancy glanced to her right, at Eilis Flynn. ”What are you reading these days, Eilis?”
“I’m reading The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, basically the guide to the British series. It explores the world of Edwardian England and the life of the family currently inhabiting the estate, and how they are unknowingly on the cusp of the end of an era, with hints of a new one. I’m enjoying the book because it covers a period that hasn’t been overexplored, and I have long loved the fashions of the time – not quite the stiffness of the Victorians (though the corsets are still there), with a touch of the freedom to come. A little formal, a little wild! How can you not love it? And those hats! Those wonderful, wonderful hats!”
“What are you working on?” Louisa Cornell asked, pouring a cup of tea.
”A man finds himself attracted to the comatose eyewitness of a murder, and though he’s never met her, the more he learns about her, the more he seems to know. Moreover, he finds himself dreaming about her, talking to her, and comes to realize that they’re not just dreams: They are in fact meetings in a dream-state reality – and she refuses to come out of it, knowing that her recovery will be painful and protracted. It doesn’t help that her very existence is being threatened, with someone around him leaking information about her whereabouts to those who want her dead. Will must protect her, convince her to wake up – and make sure she is alive to do it.”
”Sounds like fun,” Louisa said.
Maureen glanced across the table at Barbara Monajem. ”What are you reading and working on, Barbara?”
“I’m reading The Cocoa Conspiracy by Andrea Penrose.
“Arianna, Countess of Saybrook, and her husband, the Earl, discover that someone they hold dear is incriminated in a treasonous plot. They journey to the Congress of Vienna to unmask the real traitor — armed only with their wits and their expertise in chocolate.
“I’m loving this book because 1) it’s a combination of my two favorite genres, Regency and mystery, 2) the historical detail is spectacular, and 3) there’s a chocolate recipe at the beginning of every chapter. What could be better?”
As everyone nodded agreement, she continued, “My work in progress is a Regency romance. Lively, romantic Sally Carling puts up with the tedious rules of society in the hope of meeting her True Love, but when her reputation is accidentally ruined, she faces a heartbreaking choice: either become an outcast with no chance of marriage, or wed Viscount Garrison, a man so cynical that he doesn’t even believe love exists.
“It has a happy ending, I swear. ”
“I hope so,” Nancy said. ”It sounds painful, but sometimes that’s the best kind of romance. What about you, Louisa? What are you reading and writing?”
“Currently I am reading A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr. The third book in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Medieval Surgeon, finds Hugh in pursuit of the lovely Kate, a bookseller’s daughter and in search of books stolen from his mentor, John Wyclif, Bible scholar. Life in medieval Oxford is tough enough without someone trying to murder a poor surgeon at every turn. One of Kate’s other suitors? The book thief? Or maybe a disgruntled patient? God only knows and no matter how much Hugh talks to him, God isn’t talking.
“I love this series! It submerges the reader in medieval England so seamlessly you don’t realize it is happening until you catch yourself throwing chicken bones on the floor. Hugh is a wonderful character, aware of his shortcomings, clever as they come and never afraid to question God about anything.”
“I love medieval settings,” Gerri said.
Nancy nodded agreement and hastily swallowed the bite of cookie in her mouth. ”Louisa turned me onto Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest medieval mysteries. Crispin is knight who’s been stripped of his spurs. Very atmospheric. What are you writing, Louisa?”
“I’m working on His Charming Seductress – Pride and Prejudice meets the Addams family. In search of his missing friend, Dylan Crosby braves the most notorious house in England and meets the girl of his dreams. If he can just get past Eve Tildenbury’s pet python, her gun happy uncle, her casket sleeping grandmother, the lovely cousin who raises flesh-eating plants, a biting butler and a house that seems to grow a new wing every day he might just get the one thing he vowed he never wanted – a family.”
Eilis slid pineapple chunks on to a plate. ”What’re you doing now, Gerri?”
“I’m reading Anna Campbell’s Midnight’s Wild Passion, a fabulous historical romance about a rake’s redemption. Love those rakes…and the women who tame them. Campbell’s dashing rake, the Marquess of Ranelaw, is set upon revenge. He vows to ruin Godfrey Demarest’s daughter for ruining his own sister. But the girl’s companion, Miss Antonia Smith, turns his thoughts from revenge to desire as they banter their way through society and into each other’s arms. It’s a fabulous read!”
Sven smiled, having heard the banditas complain about Anna Campbell tearing at their heart strings.
Louisa ignored the mutter and asked, “What are you writing, Gerri?”
Gerri poured a cup of tea. “I’m writing a Scottish historical that is a reunion story: one of my favorite plots. I love it when two tortured souls come back together in a way that is both sizzling and heartbreaking. I’ve tossed in a bit of paranormal elements as well, just to keep things exciting.”
Putting a cluster of grapes on a plate, she asked, “What about you, Maureen?”
“I’m currently reading Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. James, who is a mystery writer, revisits Pemberley six years after Elizabeth and Darcy marry. The murder occurs on the night before a ball at their estate. I like the book because James succeeded, in my opinion, in capturing Austen’s voice and I adore Pride and Prejudice. The fact that my husband, who has been know to buy me Christmas gifts at car washes, went into a bookstore to purchase this novel and really thought about what I’d like is a bonus.”
As everyone laughed, Maureen continued, “I turned in What a Haint Wants, Book Four of my middle grade/ YA Ghost Handler series March 1st, which features high school freshman Heather’s dealings with a lunch lady ghost. At the moment, I’m taking a breather before starting the fifth book. My current focus is getting costumes ready for the Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty which opens March 16th and working on the concordance for my series.”
“Congrats on finishing,” Nancy said. ”And good luck with the ballet.”
“I’m reading Robin Perini’s Finding Her Son, a romantic suspense. Her hero and heroine have both known betrayal and heart-breaking disappointment. The hero is a cop working as a detective until his injured leg heals enough for him to return to SWAT. The heroine is suspected of complicity in causing the wreck that killed her husband. Her son was stolen out of the mangled car, and she’s determined to get him back.”
Barbara said, “You’re writing, aren’t you?”
“Yep. I’m trying to get the proposal done for Book 3 in my mage series. Then I’ll do a series Bible because I’m already getting confused, and then I have a Napoleonic Wars historical to dive into.”
Nancy glanced at Eilis. ”Are y’all ever coming to Dragon*Con? It would be so fun.”
Sven slipped quietly from the room. The women seemed to have everything they needed, and he, like Mr. Carson in that Downton Abbey series Eilis mentioned, prided himself on efficient and unobtrusive service.
Speaking of service, he’d loaned Cassondra the key to the supply closet. She’d hung it over the bar faucet, as he asked, and he’d picked it up . . . or had he? He patted his pockets, in case he’d stuck it into one instead of hanging it around his neck, as usual. No key. Hmm. Maybe he’d put it down somewhere.
What with the dragon throwing a tantrum, the bandits celebrating with Barbara Vey, and company in the Lair on a regular basis, the month had been a bit chaotic. And the Ides of March hadn’t yet arrived, even.
He’d get the hockey hunks and the other cabana boys to help him look. And tell them to say nothing to the gladiators. Demetrius would laugh himself silly if he knew Sven had lost the key.
Sven shook his head. He had only himself to blame. Deviating from routines, like hanging the key around his neck immediately upon regaining it, always led to trouble.
Where each guest’s name appears above her answers, the name is a link to her website. Thanks to my buddies for joining us today!
Stay tuned for more on Sven’s problem.
Meanwhile, we have a book giveaway package for one lucky winner. We have Haint Misbehavin’ and Hainted Love from Maureen, a download of Riddle of Ryu and a print copy of The Sleeper Awakes from Eilis, and Kindle downloads of Barbara’s Regency novellas The Unrepentant Rake and The Wanton Governess. So tell us, what are you reading? What are you writing or working on as a project? Are you a Downton Abbey fan?
Growing up, I considered myself something of a Lone Wolf: independent, needing no one, going it alone. I laugh at my young self now, because I grew up in a large family, where time alone was invariably at a premium? I was more pack animal than lone wolf, but I suppose it was the Lone Wolf attitude I adopted more than its actuality. My husband was much the same when I met him: fiercely independent, determined to do everything by and for himself. After we married, learning to depend on each other was quite a challenge, but having three children forces even the most stalwart loner to become quite interdependent.
I also recall that at work in the 1990s, “teamwork” was the buzzword in my office and companies everywhere. Learning to do group brainstorming, listening to others and incorporating the best ideas, regardless of their origin, was suddenly the fashion. I worked in engineering and the many lone wolves in the profession had trouble adjusting to this new corporate culture. For better or worse, those whose home lives hadn’t forced it on them had to learn to collaborate at last. Even in the writing industry, teamwork has taken off. Writing teams and collaborative story collections have gained popularity and seem to be here to stay.
I certainly have learned to love working, at home and in volunteer positions, alongside my husband. It made me realize that, rather than losing my independence, working with others has been a huge gain to me in any number of ways. I, and many others, have realized that we can accomplish more, do more good and work more efficiently when we work together. We are, hands down, better together. This was brought home to me recently when I realized that my husband and I had, once again, overcommitted ourselves. This particular day, we had a Board meeting at 2:00, dinner for 60 to start cooking at 3:00, a reunion meeting of this volunteer group at 5:00, dinner at 6:00, dinner clean-up while part of the group did sponsorship training at 7:00, a communion service at 8:00 and a candlelight service at 9:30. Which put us home right before 11:00. I was exhausted just thinking about it!
But then a wonderful, unexpected thing happened. After the Board meeting, all the Board members streamed outside to help us unload food and equipment. Then, they hung around and helped in the kitchen. Anything we needed done was done quickly and happily. We finished food prep in record time and had plenty of time to visit, catch up with old friends, meet new ones and enjoy the rest of the evening. It was still long and rather tiring, but altogether an amazing experience. I should have known we wouldn’t have to do all those things alone, especially with this group, but I was forcefully reminded how much better we are as a team. Better together. The words that once made me shake my head in disdain – as if people who needed others were somehow wanting – are now words I live by. Happily!
How about you? Are you naturally a Lone Wolf type or a born collaborator? Have you had any great experiences of being Better Together? Or were they all like that 8th grade “group project” you ended up doing by yourself? I can’t wait to hear your stories!
As readers and writers, I think we are more aware of words than most people. How many times have you been reading along and suddenly a word stops you cold because it doesn’t seem to fit in the story? Or maybe the word is used incorrectly? Or, the same word has been repeated three or four times?
Yup, happens to me, too. And as a writer, I have to be careful of not doing any of those things in my own stories. This is where my critique partners and beta readers prove their value by spotting ‘pet’ words or phrases that I’ve overused. Two words I have a tendency to repeat are “that” and “just.” One of my critique partners’ pet word is “it.” She once wrote a sentence with “it” used five times! YIKES! This is why we writers rely on revision.
Another thing that drives me to distraction is when I hear the same words and phrases repeated over and over by everyone around me. One such phrase that drove me bonkers back in the late 1990s was “don’t go there.” I swear I heard it at work a dozen times a day… every day! More recently, both the DH and I have developed a severe aversion to “at the end of the day.” Looks like Aunty is not the only one who would love to dump overused words. Recently, I ran across of list of “Banished Words” put together by the Lake Superior State University in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. Back in 1975, the LSSU Public Relations Director and a few friends created “word banishment” and put together a list which they released on New Year’s Day 1976. LSSU has released a new list of “Banished Words” every year since then. (If you want to see all the lists, go here http://www.lssu.edu/banished/.)
So here are a few of the words that made the banishment list for 2011:
VIRAL — used to describe anything that has attracted a great deal of attention. Since when is a term for disease seen as popular or even positive?
EPIC — used to describe common events. This is flat out incorrect. One commenter on the LSSU website said it perfectly, “… when the history books are written or updated and stories have been passed through the generations, the epic powder on the slopes during your last ski trip or your participation in last night’s epic flash mob will probably not be included.”
FAIL — used as a noun or adjective meaning something less than perfect. The correct word is FAILURE. Fail is a verb.
FACEBOOK/GOOGLE — used as verbs. Okay, I’ll admit I’m guilty of sometimes saying, “Google it.” But I haven’t slipped so far as to say, “Facebook it, Danno!”
In case you were wondering (as I was) here are some of the Banished Words of 35 years ago in 1976: MEANINGFUL INPUT SCENARIO DETENTE
Any of those being back memories?
Do you have any “pet” words that you use too often? What about words and phrases that are so overused they make you want to scream? Which words and phrases would you like to banish?
As writers, we’re always trying to evoke emotions from our readers. Love, heartbreak, fear, longing — you name it, there’s some piece of music out there that can evoke it too. Though I’m not one of those writers who typically listens to music when I write, there are artists and music that inspire my storytelling. I’m a great collector of movie soundtracks because I think they do such a wonderful job of evoking emotion — that’s their job. My current favorite is Avatar. Love it! Here’s a medley of several of the songs someone put together.
The music that inspires us doesn’t have to be something we listen to while writing. Sometimes an artist’s lyrics or the type of music they create over many songs can speak to the type of story we want to tell. I found this to be true while writing Winter Longing, my second young adult novel due out in August. The heroine of this book, Winter Craig, has to go through some really heart-wrenching things, and I found myself listening to a lot of Breaking Benjamin, particularly songs like “Breath” from their Phobia album. It was lyrics like “You took the breath right out of me, You left a hole where my heart should be” that really summed up the feelings I was trying to evoke. Several songs from that album really worked, so much so that I worked it into the story that Winter listens to the album a lot.
I decided to check in with the rest of the Banditas to see if and how music relates to their writing. Here’s what they had to say. See if you see any favorite songs/artists among their inspiration.
I find that songs set the mood for particular moments in my books, not necessarily the entire book–a couple I’m listening to now for a seduction book are “Only When I Sleep” (The Corrs), “Take My Breath Away” (Berlin), and “Sexy Back” (Justin Timberlake). My hero thinks he’s such hot stuff!”
“For me, it’s Stevie Nicks. Specifically, right now, it’s the Trouble in Shangri-la album. I was listening to it on the interstate while I thought about one of the manuscripts I was working on and BAM. There it was. It was perfect. It encompassed the dark, murky, elusive sense that I want for this book. I got ideas for several scenes as I was thinking about it. As it turned out, that CD was right for the entire series I was working on.”
“Peter Paul & Mary. Love them. Gordon Lightfoot, vintage BeeGees, heck, the Monkees ballads. I listen to them all while I write, mixed in with Pink, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears (yes, I admit it – but wait, it gets worse), and The Spice Girls. The mainstays, though, are Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Savage Garden, etc…”
“I can’t write to music that has lyrics. I write my spy books to the theme from Alias — so that’s already a soundtrack–and the historicals to period music. It’s okay if the lyrics are in Italian or Latin since that’s just so much noise to me. I have to focus to do any kind of Latin translation anymore and have lost most of my vocabulary there. Soundtracks like the Fellowship of the Ring or Pirates of the Caribbean or other orchestral pieces work because they’re mostly lyrics-free.”
“A band whose lyrics speak to me is Chicago. Each song tells a story. Tim McGraw also has songs that tell a good story and some of the older Billy Ray Cyrus. Then again, with some songs, it’s just the feel of the music.”
“For me and my work I would choose Kings Of Leon. You can tell they’re Southern, for one thing, and their music is infused with passion, longing, angst, the joy of youth and a hefty dose of melancholia. They perfectly encapsulate how I felt when I was a 20-something, and I want to get all that into my books. I wish they had been around when I was their age.”
If you’re a writer, tell us what type of music or particular artists inspire you. If you’re not a writer, is there an artist whose music really speaks to you?
This has been a productive week at my house. Yesterday I had three workmen stripping 1970’s era wallpaper and old chair rails from the dining room walls. They patched the plaster and filled holes from picture nails. Then they painted the eggshell white walls a lovely pale yellow green. They also painted the foyer a lovely shade of pale yellow gold.
Now you may be wondering what in the world this little bit of remodeling has to do with writing. Well, when we bought this house, we had a bedroom for each of the kids and one for us. As my children have moved in and out we managed to carve one room into an office for my husband. One where the door can clearly be closed while he works and when company comes. But there never seemed to be a space for me to write. So I carved out ¼ of the front room which should be a dining room for my office. I have a large computer desk complete with hutch that faces away from the wall. I get plenty of sunlight, I have a filing corner, and a huge book case. There’s room for my chair, the trashcan, the shredder and of course space for Rocky the wonder dog, (aka my writing partner), to sleep in the sunshine or moonlight while I write.
We’ve finally been financially secure enough to buy nice dining room furniture, (which arrives tomorrow), have professional painting done and new floors put in, (those are coming in two weeks). All this is in preparation of having a space large enough and nice enough for the family to spend holidays and family meal nights together.
It is also time for me to consider moving my cave, (what we writers call our offices), to a small bedroom that will be an actual office. But for now I’m enjoying the fresh clean walls and the lovely color in my office/dining room. Oh yeah and it was great fun watching men work so efficiently yesterday!
So, writers, do you have anything special about your cave you’d like to share with us? And readers, do you have a room you’d love to do some freshening up to for the holidays?
by Suzanne Welsh As any of the Banditas or any romance author will tell you, we try to use facts to keep our books authentic. This requires research. Sometimes that is as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary. Sometimes it is as complicated as interpreting a doctor’s long-winded explanation of a disease process so that the author, and therefore the reader, can understand this over the course of a scene or a manuscript. Sometimes it’s just plain fun!
Recently another of my critique partners, Jo Davis, asked me to accompany her to a fire station in Irving to meet and take pictures (I was the photographer!) with the team of firefighters she previously interviewed for her series coming from NAL Signet next year about a team of? you guessed it, firefighters.
What was a girl to do? Say “no” to spending an entire afternoon with real life heroes? My mama did NOT raise a stupid daughter. I of course said, “sure!”
Here we two mild-mannered romance authors are walking up to the fire station, greeted by Captain Steve Deutsch, when suddenly the guys get a call to an accident out on the highway. They usher us into the station to wait for them while they climb onto the fire engine, (which we learned is not a ladder truck) and off they go.
Now when you leave two writers alone in a strange place what do they do? Well they behave for all of five minutes. We peeked into the pantry, which was loaded with things like can after can of Campbell’s soup, Gatorade, popcorn, a giant box of Oreos and the most massive canister of TUMS we’d ever seen!
Next we wander out into the engine bay where they have a second vehicle they use for chemical fires and two pontoon boats ready for hauling to the nearby lake if a call should require it. There was a treadmill out there along with a weight lifting station, with more weights than I’ve ever seen.
Our curiosity a bit satisfied, we wander back into the meeting room/kitchen and await they guys’ return. Luckily it was a minor accident and they were back fairly quickly.
Let me introduce you to the guys of A shift. Captain Steve, is a handsome, whip-cord lean man with a deep voice and a keen intellect behind wire-rimmed glasses. Wally Harris, the driver, is a good-looking man, tall and broad of shoulder. He not only drives the truck, but mans the controls for the truck’s water pumps, a job which requires skill and a knowledge of physics. Nick Franco is a firefighter, cute and happy to tell the lady writers some great stories. Not a beta man among them, ladies!
One of the things Jo wanted to learn more about was the thermal imagining camera. A fancy gizmo the firefighters use to help them distinguish different objects or bodies in dark smoky rooms or raging infernos. So once the guys returned, Wally made himself a steaming bowl of Spaghetti-O’s. (Yes the lunch of heroes!) Captain Steve pointed the thermal camera at him and showed us how it gives them the temperature of Wally’s body vs. the bowl of hot food vs. the cold bottle of water on the table. Way cool!
Another thing Jo, the ever-curious, wanted to know was what all equipment they’d take into a house fire. So the guys let her try on some of the equipment. The heavy jacket and the air-tank. (We learned it’s a tank with room-air equivalent oxygen, or about 21% oxygen, not pure oxygen. Room-air is what you and I usually breathe. As a nurse I already knew what room-air was.) Jo also had to put on the mask, and attached to all this was the thermal imaging camera, a flashlight and the radio mic. Geesh, how do these guys walk, much less crawl into and out of fires or rescue people?
Then the piece-de-resistance. Wally hooked up one of the large hoses to the engine and Captain Steve had Jo hold onto the hose. They started with 50 lbs of pressure and water came gushing out of the hose. Then the captain had Wally crank the pressure up to 100 lbs of pressure. Jo nearly flew off the concrete drive! (The captain and Nick got a kick out of that when we returned inside for another Q&A session!)
I got to ask a few questions about Meth labs for my own work in progress (WIP), and the guys gave me some stories that would frighten most of us if we knew what was really out there. Then they explained that an engine pumps water while a ladder truck has one of those big ladders with the buckets on them.
So a big thank you to the guys and Jo. I haven’t had that much fun doing research ever! Have any of you had a great day or experience doing new research?
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