Karen White on Writing

Karen White recently published The Girl on Legare Street (click for my review).  And she graciously agreed to compose a guest post about her writing habits and routines.  

Please give her a warm welcome.

      I just yelled at my husband for stepping on a pile of papers on the floor in front of the printer.  Our brand new printer isn’t working and he’s checking the serial number so when he calls India for technical support, they’ll know which model we’re discussing.  That kind of made me laugh because I’m supposed to be writing about my organizational methods when writing a novel, and a pile in front of the printer doesn’t bode well.

      In real life, I’m pretty much of a neatnik.  In fact, friends and family have compared me to the anal-retentive and super-organized protagonist Melanie Middleton in my book The House on Tradd Street and the sequel (November 2009), The Girl on Legare Street..  I actually think that’s a compliment.  I’m the mother of two teenagers with a dog, a guinea pig, and a husband who travels all the time–and I’m in charge of all things minute.  Everything is scheduled on my Palm Pilot–I even have an alarm set every month to remind me when to give the dog his heartworm and flea medication.  I do laundry every Thursday without fail, and grocery shop every Sunday.

      But somehow, all bets are off when I write a book.  I don’t outline.  I don’t do heavy plotting.  I don’t do character sketches.  In fact, it’s not all that unusual for me to not know exactly how the book ends when I start.  

      When I get a story germ that I think is good enough for a book, I don’t write it down.  I let it stew and simmer into something bigger–usually a couple of months or more.  I’ve found that if I write it down–or worse, tell somebody about it–it grows stale.  Then after the idea has finished simmering (or when I realize how close my deadline is and I need to get started) I sit down and start to write the first three chapters.  I don’t write in drafts, but clean up as I go so that by the time I’m finished writing, it’s pretty much a clean copy.

      However, with writing two big books each year for the last two years, I’ve refined the process.  It’s what I call my ‘soldiers and generals’ technique.  My first go of my chapter I’m the general looking at the big picture and deciding what needs to be done.  I put the bones of the story down, setting the scene, moving the characters around.  Then I send in my soldiers on the second pass–I add the pretty stuff like descriptions and emotions.  Sort of like adding flesh and hair to a skeleton.  That way I don’t obsess as I sit down to write–I just get the story down.  Then I can relax and have fun with it–sort of like Michelangelo and a block of marble.

      To go to contract, my publisher requires some sort of synopsis so, after writing the first few chapters, I jot down my ideas for the book and turn it in.  Luckily, I’m at the point in my career where my editor (who should be sainted) realizes that my book will bear little resemblance to the synopsis.  Because after I turn that synopsis in, I don’t look at it again.  I’m driven by the characters and their story, and whatever unfolds on each page.  If I come up with an idea for a later scene or dialogue, I skip to the bottom of the manuscript and take notes or write the bits and pieces to be used later, then go back to what I was doing.

      The only thing about my writing method that’s semi-organized is my research area.  Even though I have an office in the home (where I am right now), I use it strictly for the business side of writing.  For my creative side, I use my pink Mac Airbook and write either outside on my screened-in-porch (when the weather’s nice) or in my sitting room.  This room has huge windows, bookshelves, a fireplace, a coffee bar and a refrigerator (for those Diet Dr. Peppers).  

      When I finish a book I clear out and file all of my research materials and empty the low-lying shelf next to my writing chair (big enough so that my dog can fit next to me).  Then I start acquiring books on whatever subject I need for the next book and fill the bookshelf.  I take notes in no particular order, on the backs of other notes or on scraps and hope I can find them later.  But they all get put on that shelf so that I have a good chance of finding it later when I need it.

      Right now, I’m heading toward the end of my next book (On Folly Beach, May 2010). Half of the book takes place in 1942 and the other half in 2009.  You can only imagine the amount of research this book has required to get all of the 1942 details straight.  Notes are everywhere (hence the pile by the printer–I haven’t brought them upstairs to my shelf yet).  I wish it weren’t such a mess!

      Yet, when I’m writing a book all I want to do it write. I just can’t be bothered with filing stuff because it takes away from my writing.  Maybe one day when I’m not chasing my family around, I’ll have more time to be more organized about my writing.  But for now, this method works for me.

      I’ve got to go sort laundry now (tomorrow’s Thursday) and then get to bed a little early because my Palm Pilot just sent out an alarm to remind me that my dog is scheduled for his annual vet checkup tomorrow morning at eight am.  If only my writing life could be so simple!

Thanks, Karen for sharing a bit of your writing life with us.  What do you think about Karen’s methods and her cute refrigerator for Diet Dr. Pepper?

***Giveaway Details***

1 copy of The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White for U.S./Canada reader

1. Enter a comment here about what you thought about the guest post.
2. For a second entry, comment on my review, here.
3. Become a follower and receive an additional entry.
4. If you purchase The House on Tradd Street by Karen White through my Amazon Affiliate link and send me an email with the invoice or receipt information, you can get an additional 3 entries.

Deadline is Dec. 7, 2009, at 11:59PM EST.


A Maryland Chick-lit Writer’s Inspiration by K.L. Brady, Author of The Bum Magnet

Michelle at GalleySmith started this great blog craze about highlighting local authors on The Literary Road Trip.  I’ve been a bit lax in participating, but I do have some of these great local authors lined up with guest posts and interviews.  I’ve just been slow to post them.

K.L. Brady, author of The Bum Magnet and a local Maryland author; you can check out a list of her appearances or read her latest blog posts.  Today, she’s here to share her inspiration, with some local flare.  Give her a warm welcome.

As a “chick lit” author—which by my definition means I write about female characters and their relationships using heavy doses of humor—my experiences while residing in Maryland and D.C. have certainly inspired my writing. I lived here during my childhood and for most of my adult life. From Hillcrest Heights in Southeast D.C. to Forestville, Fort Washington, and Cheltenham, Maryland (which is Upper Marlboro with higher real estate taxes), I’ve seen this area through the 1970s gas crunch, a major hurricane, mayoral sting operations, planet-sized potholes, two recessions, political turmoil, a terrorist attack, and the first African-American president. And through it all, one thing has remained constant: women still outnumber men. This condition makes for a, shall we say, “unique” dating experience for the women in the area and  provides me with more writing material than I can feasibly use in one lifetime.

If we want to be modern women, we eventually have to adapt to the new times–but I refuse. Unfortunately, I’m a child of D.C’s 60s and still have old-school leanings when it comes to love and dating. I believe men are supposed to call first – and no, a text message that reads “whatchu doin 2nite?” does not constitute invitiation. I believe men should ask you “out” on real dates. “Out” means not “in” the house – microwave popcorn and a DVD do not a date make. And no, dinner does not guarantee that you will get “dessert.” When women like me stay committed to our rules, the selection of women is so plentiful that men can quickly and easily move on to the next target, many of whom don’t impose any rules. So, for men in the Maryland-DC area, dating is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. For women, it’s more like a rice cake—dry and unsatisfying.

People often ask me where my sense of humor comes from and why I incorporate so much into my writing. The answer is simple: I laugh to keep from crying. When you haven’t had a decent date since Jesus was a carpenter, you have to laugh to keep from crying. When you’ve reached level of financial success such that your blip on a man’s dating radar reads “sugar mama,” you have to laugh to keep from crying. When your heart’s been stepped on so many times that it can double as a Dance Dance Revolution Mat, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Some might consider such a dating life depressing, sad, or lonely. For me, it’s entertaining and replete with writing material. Without experiencing another relationship, I could write for eternity based on the life I’ve lived until today. And I view that as an enormous blessing–because if I write a hundred books one of them is bound to be a bestseller.

Ahhh, but fret not single ladies in the metropolitan area, there is a small glimmer of hope at the end of the grim, dark tunnel of DC dating. It’s called “relocation.”  However, until your big moving day comes, stick to your rules, persevere…and laugh through your tears. 

Thanks again K.L. Brady for a great guest post. If you have enjoyed this guest post, stay tuned for my review of The Bum Magnet.

About the Author:

K.L. Brady is a D.C. native, but spent a number of her formative years in Bellaire, Ohio.  She says, “I know, you’ve never heard of it. It’s famous for three things: The House That Jack Built, New England Patriots wide receiver, Joey Galloway, and the home of Three’s Company star Joyce DeWitt.”  She’s also an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively.

Veteran’s Day: Dr. Chris Coppola on Writing and Publication

In honor of our veterans this Veterans Day, I’ve got a special guest post from Dr. Chris Coppola, author of Coppola:  A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq.

Book Description:
Title: Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq
Author: Dr. Chris Coppola
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5, Hardcover, 265p.
Published: November 1, 2009 (Online) & February 1, 2010 (bookstores)
Publisher: NTI Upstream

I hope you will give him a warm welcome as he talks about his book and his writing experiences.

I continue to tell people “I am not a writer” even as my book Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq was published Nov. 1, 2009. I am a doctor, a father, a veteran, but in no way do I consider myself a writer. The truth of the matter is that I wrote my book out of necessity, to survive a very stressful passage in my life.

During medical school I had committed to military service, and in 2003 I started work as a staff surgeon at a military hospital in Texas. Shortly after, we invaded Iraq, and it wasn’t long before I found myself serving as a trauma surgeon in a combat support hospital just north of Baghdad.

I was well fed, housed, and protected, but still I felt groundless and lost witnessing the daily onslaught of blown up patients entering the hospital doors. One bed held a twenty-year-old soldier with his legs blown off. In the next was an elderly grandmother in a black burka with eviscerated intestines; and nearby her, a child of two with burns covering the majority of her body. During the day, the frantic pace of work kept me fully occupied. But late at night, alone in the Spartan trailer that served as my quarters, I could not sleep. 

Part of my difficulty arose from the fact that I was far from the comforting embrace of my wife and children, the salve that would usually ease my troubles. They couldn’t come to me, but I could tell them my worries, so I wrote: long detailed letters in which I poured out the painful images that deprived me of sleep. Sometimes I wrote until dawn. Once unburdened of these difficult memories, I felt relieved and ready to face the meat grinder of war once again. I could rise, head back to the network of canvas tent that formed our hospital, and again do my best to help the soldiers, detainees, and civilians who had the misfortune to be among the thousands injured in the war.

My wife and I shared my letters with family and a few close friends. Friends asked to share with other friends, and soon I was writing for over 100 readers. I found myself carefully choosing words that would be read to my son’s fourth grade class and in the operating rooms of my hospital at home. I did my best to match photographs that would compliment the letters’ content. I was surprised to find that readers were actually eager to receive the updates—if I was too busy to write for a week, I got worried emails inquiring if anything had happened to me.

Once home, I was relieved to be back with my family, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing anything to support our troops who were still at war so far from their families. I gathered my letters, and crafted them into a book as a tribute to the troops and a benefit for Fisher House, a home away from home for families of injured troops. Again, I was writing to serve an emotional need.
Now that Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq is written, I feel like the story of so many brave children, parents and soldiers has been preserved. I saw such moving acts of bravery and strength from so many ordinary people that I felt the rest of the world should know, in some way, what I witnessed. Now that these events have been set to paper, I believe they have enduring reality and meaning even as they happened in the senselessness of war.

About the Author: 

Dr. Chris Coppola was sworn in as a second lieutenant in 1990 as part of the Air Force’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, agreeing to perform six years of active duty service in exchange for a free education at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As part of the program, Dr. Coppola would spend one month of each year serving as a clerk in a military facility. Later, while completing his surgery residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, he conducted research on birth defects and went on medical missions in Haiti and the Amazon.

10 Percent of each book sale will benefit nonprofit organizations like War Child Canada and War Kids Relief.

For more on this author, please check out the first part of my interview with Dr. Coppola on my D.C. Literature Examiner page.

Thanks to Dr. Coppola for providing this guest post and answering my interview questions.

Clicking on some title and image links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; no purchases are required.

Pat Bertram Shares her Writing Space

Pat Bertram is the author of three novels — More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am IHer novels can be found on Smashwords and at other retailers.  She recently agreed to share with us her writing space, and she’s included beautiful photos of her book stacks.  Please welcome Pat Bertram, photo of the author taken by D. Bertram, to the blog.

Okay, I admit it: I am a closet pencilphile. Seems silly, I know, in this electronic age, but I write in pencil on loose-leaf paper. There. I’ve outed myself. I feel so much better now.

I am not being contrary. It’s just that I have a better mind/writing connection using pencil and paper than I have with a keyboard, a mechanical pencil is easier on my fingers than pen, and paper is easier on my eyes than a computer screen.

I do have an office with a double folding table for a computer desk, which gives me plenty of space to spread out all the “to do” notes I make but never read. 

The walls behind me are lined with books like three-dimensional wallpaper. I spend hours in my office every day, especially now that I blog and network more than I write, but for creative writing I sit in bed, clipboard propped against my knees or on a pillow. If, as Mel Gibson said, “A movie is like public dreaming,” then novels are like shared dreaming, and where better to dream than in a comfortable bed?

For me, fiction writing is largely a matter of thinking, of trying to see the situation, of figuring out the right word or phrase that puts me where I need to be so the words can flow. I don’t know the entire story before I writing, but I do know the beginning, the end, and some of the middle. That way I can have it both ways: planning the book and making room for surprises.

So, there you have it. That’s how and where I write. As for why I write, what inspires me — there are stories I want to read, and since no one else is writing them, I have to.

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

About Daughter Am I: 

When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents –grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians –former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret. 

So what did you think of Pat Bertram’s writing space.  Isn’t it great?  I love the lines and stacks of books!  A bibliophile’s dream.

Also, check out my two-part interview with Pat Bertram, here and here.

Matthew Pearl’s Writing Space

With my TLC Book Tour stop for Matthew Pearl‘s The Last Dickens scheduled for Oct. 22, I wanted to provide Matthew with his own guest post date, since he was kind enough to include some photos of his writing space along with the description.

Readers, you are in for a real treat.

This is a timely topic since I’m renovating a house as we speak, so I’ve been forced to think about my writing space from scratch.
We purchased a home built in the 1840s. It needed updating, and for structural reasons we had to do a full gut renovation. On the top floor, away from the (future) hustle and bustle, there were two mirror image rooms, and we knew one would be a guest bedroom and the other my office. My first decision was to choose which I wanted as the office. I actually chose the one facing the street, rather than facing the back of the house. It’s a quiet street and I know if I’m expecting a delivery of some kind I’d be much more productive being able to see it coming rather than constantly getting up to go to the front of the house and check.

Sometimes not seeing a distraction coming distracts me.

It’s nice to have some natural light, so we’ve put in a new skylight in my future study. And there’s a nice tree-scape, too, outside the window.

Writing The Last Dickens, I learned about Charles Dickens’s working space. He had two different rooms on his estate that were dedicated offices, and he switched between them seasonally. In one, he wrote the final words on the first half of his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. A few hours later, he collapsed and never regained consciousness. The circumstances of this gave me my starting point for my novel. Here is one of Dickens’s working spaces from his era (the estate is now a high school):
I confess: I don’t like working at a desk. I work on a couch or, Edith Wharton-like, in bed. I know that’s not good for your sleep (because you then associate bed with work) or probably your carpal tunnels. I’m going to put a small sofa in the office, so I can either nap or work on it. I use the desk more to store and organize papers and folders.
The Last Dickens was written on the top floor we rented in the house below, the upper left window shown here was my office. This house was built in 1871, and my novel took place around 1870. Coincidence, but pretty neat! 
You always have certain knickknacks in your writing space that either inspire or comfort. Wherever my study is, one item always ends up on the wall. There’s a story behind it. When I was writing my first draft of my first novel, The Dante Club, I hadn’t told anyone about the project. Visiting my grandmother in Queens, New York, for lunch, before I left she stopped me. “I was just cleaning out the basement,” she said, “and found this I was going to throw away. It’s a picture of the American presidents. Do you want it?”
Except it wasn’t the American presidents. It was an elongated framed print of “Our American Poets.” With Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes, Emerson. The characters in The Dante Club, which nobody, including my grandmother, knew about! I took that as a sign I was meant to be writing my book. 
That’s always hanging somewhere near my desk. 

Thanks, Matthew, for sharing with us your writing space.  Looks like he has his work cut out for him with that renovation.

The Value of Mess by Laura Brodie

I want to welcome Laura Brodie to the blog.  You’re in for a real treat.  She’s written about her writing space and provided a photographic invitation for all of you.  I want to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to provide a guest post.

Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to her post, The Value of Mess.

I wish I could say that my writing space is beautiful—that I have a cozy, book-filled corner, decorated with tasteful artworks, happy family photos, and well-tended plants. In fact, as I write this sentence I am sitting at a dining room table strewn with children’s textbooks, pens and markers, hair bands and sweaters and cough drop wrappers, and piles of papers that need to be recycled.  I haven’t included a photo, because it’s too embarrassing. At my feet lie mangled socks that our puppy likes to gather from my daughters’ bedroom floor. He chews them into shredded clumps, and distributes them around the house.

What inspiration can a writer take from such a messy space, except the most important of all—the motivation to get lost in imagination, far away from the world of laundry and dishes and stacks of college students’ papers.

When I was in college, writing longhand in notebooks, I used to think that I could only be creative in a gorgeous setting. Back then I would sit outside at night on the steps of a church or the banks of a river and write gloomy poetry. I still find that for poetry, elegant journals and long walks provide the best atmospherics. But when it comes to losing myself in the world of a novel or memoir, I’m not so particular. Whether I settle my laptop in the kitchen, dining room or bedroom, the glowing screen draws me in.

My main requirement for writing is not visual, but aural—I need silence. That’s why, when my house is overfull with the sounds of family, I sometimes retreat to my office at Washington and Lee University. There, I have orchids, children’s photos and artwork, and a big sunny window.  But the walls are drab white cinderblocks, shown in this photo taken by a local reporter, who wanted to include author, novel, and website in one picture.

As for that website—it features the chief visual solace in my writing world.  Outside my dining room window I can now see a broad meadow that extends beyond our front yard, divided by a creek that flows toward a barn and trees at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whenever I need beauty, I can sit on our screened porch, stare at the mountains—now a rusty orange and crimson—and  just breathe. The picture shared here appears on the home page of my website, along with lots of other images from the town and countryside that provide a backdrop for all of my books.

Beauty, however, can be distracting. When writing on my screened porch, I sometimes  spend more time watching the ducks in the creek, or the cows moving over the southern ridge, than concentrating on my words. When that happens, I carry my laptop back inside and settle amid the clutter of my dining room table, where my eyes are only too happy to concentrate on the screen.

And now that my writing for the morning is done, excuse me while I go and clean my house.

Isn’t that just a gorgeous view?  Thanks again to Laura for sharing with us her writing space.  If you missed my review of her debut novel, The Widow’s Season, click on the link and get reading.

Have you seen my interview with Laura Brodie at D.C. Literature Examiner? You should check it out and her Halloween reading selections.

I wish I could have made it to the reading with Laura in Silver Spring, Md., last week (Oct. 15).  If anyone made it to her reading, please leave a comment about how it went.

Michael Baron Talks About his Writing Space

Michael Baron was kind enough to write up a short piece about his writing space as part of his time here on the blog.

I hope you’ll check out his vivid descriptions and enjoy the journey.  Please welcome Michael Baron:

Many years ago, when my wife and I were looking for a new house, we found a place that had a separate structure, maybe twenty feet from the main building, with high ceilings, wraparound windows, soaring bookcases, and a fireplace. My immediate thought was that this would be the perfect place to write. Unfortunately, we didn’t buy that house.

The house we did buy was lovely, but for years I didn’t have a proper writing space in it. The basement was quiet, but impersonal regardless of how I tried to dress it up. The living room, which we never used for its intended purpose, was too spacious and gave my then-toddler daughter far too easy access. It took her years to understand the concept of “Daddy’s working” when I was right down the hall from her (although since I’d worked from the house since she was an infant, she just assumed everyone did this. One day, she was visiting my sister and asked after her uncle. When my sister told her that he was at work, she walked all over the apartment and then returned to my sister, alarmed, and said, “I can’t find him!”).

Finally, two years ago – more than a decade into my career as a full-time writer – we did a major renovation on the house. It involved knocking down many walls, putting up several others, and repurposing huge chunks of square footage. As a result, for the first time, I have a true writer’s space. It isn’t nearly as impressive as the one in that house we decided not to buy, but it is, finally, a part of the house that exists exclusively for me to write. I have a window looking out on the woods accented by a glittery star that my oldest daughter made with a “make your own stained glass” kit when she was ten. My desk has some candles a psychic friend gave me, a pair of hand-carved bookends that house one copy of each of the books I’ve published, and many pictures of people hugging – my parents when they were newlyweds, my oldest daughter and son when they were little, my middle daughter and me, and my wife and me. Oh, and my Mac, of course. I tried hand-writing my books once. I didn’t get past the first paragraph of the introduction before I realized I didn’t have the right constitution for this.

The walls to my right and left are lined with bookcases. The ones on the right have my books, including foreign editions. The ones on the left feature books by writers I admire, ranging from Barbara Kingsolver to Maureen Dowd to Ray Bradbury to Lynne McTaggart (yes, I knew who she was before Dan Brown made such a bit deal about her). My first edition copy of William Faulkner’s Soldiers’ Payis there. Right next to my first edition copy of Dave Marsh’s Glory Days. Faulkner is the more poetic writer, but he could never belt an anthem like Springsteen.

I finally have my fireplace as well. I use this surprisingly infrequently. I had very romantic visions of igniting some logs on a February morning and writing crackling prose as the flames danced. In reality, the fireplace is something of a distraction. It seems a waste to burn the logs if I’m not going to watch them. It also heats up the office too much and makes me drowsy. The fireplace itself is very nice, though. It’s brick and brass with a mantle including all kinds of meaningful pieces, including a photo of my wife when she was a kid.

Of course, this is only my official writing space. In reality, much of the house is part of the process. I tend to pace quite a bit and the office isn’t nearly big enough to hold me when I need to pace. My new book, When You Went Awayis my first novel after many nonfiction books, and I found myself pacing considerably more as I wrote it. If I were having trouble with a bit of dialogue, I’d make a loop through the kitchen, the living room, maybe even upstairs to the bedrooms. Fiction is good for me because it expands my emotional range as a writer and it lets me get my roadwork in at the same time.

My writing space is humble, certainly much more so than if we’d bought that house with the separate structure. But it is decidedly mine and I definitely feel at home here.

Thank you, Michael, for a look inside your writing space.  If you missed my review of When You Went Away, please stop by and check it out.

Sara Angelini Speaks About Writing

Sara Angelini, author of The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, is stopping by the blog today to discuss writing. If you missed my review of her novel, check it out. Also stay tuned for a giveaway of her novel.

They say the first rule of writing is to write what you know. In my first book, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy (a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice), that’s exactly what I did.

Like my Elizabeth Bennett, I am a young attorney who works in San Francisco and drives a MINI Cooper. I have had my share of encounters with cranky judges. What’s that, you say? Well, er, no, I didn’t actually meet a swoonfully handsome judge, romp around England with him while engaging in hot monkey sex, break up and make up, and strut myself down the aisle with him. Not precisely. Maybe I fudged that part a bit. So sue me. I dare you. *grin*

Aside from the obvious parallels of an attorney writing a story about an attorney, my job influenced my writing in a more roundabout way. You see, I already write a tremendous amount for my job. I write letters, memos, briefs, and appeals on a daily basis. Unfortunately, legal writing is challenging, technical, and mind-numbingly tedious. When I go home at the end of the day, I want to unwind with something light and fluffy.

Enter Pride and Prejudice 1995 and Colin Firth. After a rainy weekend of repeatedly rewinding “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,” followed by fast-forwarding to that dreamy Pemberley gaze (you know the one I’m talking about!), I found myself randomly perusing the interwebs in search of completely unwholesome, empty-calorie Colin Firth brain candy.

Apparently, Colin Firth is the Willy Wonka of Jane Austen Fanfic Candyland. I found a virtual sweetshop chock-full of red-hots, dark chocolates, savory caramels, and even nut-filled nougats. Some stories were discarded after the first bite, some were set aside to savor after dinner, but mostly I gorged like a five-year old on his first Halloween binge. And like said five-year old, I felt mighty sick on Monday morning.

After the initial sugar rush had worn off, I discovered that most of what I was reading on the internet was, well, not very good. I found myself rolling my eyes at plot foibles or gnashing my teeth at ridiculous character inconsistencies. I muttered under my breath “Had I ever learned to write romance, I would have been a true proficient!” Convinced of my own genius, I decided to give it a whirl.

I of course found that writing romance was easier said than done; I started off with a Regency that was rife with purple prose and stiff dialogue. I hacked out a paranormal short story (which is still close to my heart) but wanted to do something meatier. That’s when I remembered the golden rule of writing: write what you know. I sure as hell didn’t know Regency, so I decided that it would have to be a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice.

What could I write that would do justice to Jane Austen’s creation while being true to myself? How could Darcy and Elizabeth translate to modern characters? If Regency mores about intermingling social circles and pre-marital sex are no longer relevant, where would the conflict arise?

In Pride and Prejudice, the main conflict is the practically unbridgeable social gulf between Elizabeth and Darcy, which is not relevant in today’s world. How could I write an appealing Darcy who remained aloof and reserved in a world where social circles overlap and mix freely? How? HOW??


Go back to what you know. Lawyers are bound by a strict code of ethics. Really. All lawyer jokes aside, ethics is a big deal to the legal community. We’re well aware of our reputation as cold-blooded, unblinking, cartilage-skeletoned sharks. We try hard to be nice. Ever see a shark try to smile? It ain’t pretty. But I digress…

A character like Darcy (proud, rigid, but with a good moral compass) would make a perfect contemporary judge. From there, it all fell into place. A courtroom romance would create an ethical violation with very real, possibly career-ending, consequences. The struggle to resist temptation, and to ultimately give in to that temptation, provided the conflict. The characters’ willingness to compromise provided the resolution. And Lou Hurst provided the comic relief.

Satisfied with my original idea for Judge Darcy, I took another gander at Jane’s (yes, I was now on a first name basis with her) Pride and Prejudice. And there, on page 94 of my annotated version, Miss Bingley says to Darcy:

“Do let the portraits of your uncle and aunt Phillips be placed in the gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great uncle the judge.”

Aw, shit.

Oh well, I went with the idea anyway, and The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy was the result. Thank you, Ms. Austen.

Does your job influence what you read or write?

Thank you Sara for stopping by the blog today. Sourcebooks is offering my U.S. and Canadian readers a chance to win 1 copy of Sara Angelini’s The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy.

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what part of this guest post you enjoyed most.

2. Leave a comment on my review and leave a comment here that you did so.

3. Blog, Tweet, or Facebook this giveaway and leave me a link.

Deadline is October 9, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST

Check out the rest of the blog tour here:

September 24

The Good, The Bad, The Unread Guest Blog


September 25

Romance Junkies Guest Blog



September 28

Savvy Verse & Wit Guest Blog


September 29

Yankee Romance Reviewers


September 30

Pop Culture Nerd Guest Blog


October 1

A Journey of Books Guest Blog


October 2

Fallen Angel Reviews Guest Blog



October 5

The Long & Short of It Reviews Guest Blog


October 6

Love Romance Passion Guest Blog


October 7

The Serenity Gate Interview


October 8

A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf Guest Blog


October 9

Books and Needlepoint Interview



October 13

Books Like Breathing


October 14

Romance Reader at Heart’s Novel Thoughts


October 15

Fresh Fiction Guest Blog


October 16

Booking Mama Guest Blog


Susan Helene Gottfried discusses blog tours

Today, we have a guest post from our wonderful blogging buddy Susan Helene Gottfried of West of Mars fame. If you missed my review of The Demo Tapes Year 1, check it out. If you missed my two part interview with her, check it out as well.

She’s discussing The Demo Tapes and blog tours. . . and offering one ebook copy of The Demo Tapes Year 2. Stay Tuned for details . . . and now let me turn it over to Susan.

I was recently having a discussion with another author about virtual book tours. She wanted to know if they work, if they result in book sales. The general consensus was that no one knows for certain, but then again, you can say that about almost any advertisting campaign, especially something not done through one of the major advertising agencies.

We authors are often in a hard spot. We’re told that we shouldn’t pay to be published, that money ought to flow to us — but we need to pony up and pay for a publicist. Have you see what some literary publicists charge? Some authors can’t even afford a small Virtual Book Tour through one of the established companies. This author I was speaking to was one of them.

Then she said something that horrified me. She wanted to set up a book tour for herself, on her own. But the “big book bloggers” will only talk to an author’s publicist. And she didn’t want to visit the smaller book bloggers, the ones with only a few readers.

Well… huh. Color me offended. Deeply. Top to bottom, and from outside to in. Making distinctions about the size of a blog’s readership or its Alexa ranking never occurred to me. What’s important in this game of getting your name out is exactly that — getting your name out.

Maybe it’s because of the way my own books — yes, there are two of them now! — came about. The Demo Tapes were never meant to be collected into book form. They were never meant to be the subject of guest blogs. I’d never imagined standing at book fairs with my two slim volumes displayed on a black crushed velvet cloth, telling actual people, in a face-to-face method, about my books.

Nope. The short fiction in The Demo Tapes was meant to do one thing and one thing only: build my audience and the demand for my novel, Trevor’s Song. I figured that if I got my readers as hooked on Trevor and Mitchell as I am, they’d build up buzz. Eventually, the buzz would reach the right ears and the novel would come out.

A famous rabbi once said that a revolution begins with a single person. And then another. And then another.

That’s how my Trevolution began. That’s why I call it the Trevolution. My readers rallied. They wanted the story of Mitchell and Trevor from the beginning. On a timeline. They wanted to watch the boys grow up, grow into themselves, become rock stars. One piece of short fiction at a time. One reader at a time, they called for The Demo Tapes to be born.

To a person, those demanding readers of mine who blog have blogs this other author is dismissing as not being big enough for her. Some of my readers and fans aren’t even bloggers. But they are people who pick up books. People like you, who’re reading right now. It doesn’t matter if there are ten of you or ten million of you. What matters is that you catch my passion for my fiction. That you decide to share it.

As the shock and horror of this author’s snobbery goes away, it’s replaced by sadness. I wouldn’t trade you guys even for a spot on Oprah and all the copies that inevitably sells. I’ll stay a small potatoes author any day, if it means staying close to the people who’ve inspired not just one book, but two.

Best of all, more’s on the way. If you haven’t joined the Trevolution, now’s the time to do it. There’s no right or wrong place to get started; just dive on in. The water’s fine, the rock and roll is loud and thunderous, the men are hot (so’re the women, for any of you who lean that way).

And behind it all is an author who appreciates each and every one of you.

Thanks Susan for stopping by the blog today!

Now for the giveaway details:

1. Leave a comment on this post about whether you’ve read Susan’s first book and what you thought.

2. Leave a comment about why you want to read The Demo Tapes Year 2.

3. Blog, tweet, or Facebook this post and receive an extra entry.

Deadline is October 9, 2009 at 11:59 Pm EST

Ru Freeman’s Writing Space

As part of the TLC Book Tour for Ru Freeman’s debut A Disobedient Girl (Click on the link for my review), Savvy Verse & Wit got her to talk about her writing space or should I say spaces.

Without further ado, please welcome Ru to Savvy Verse & Wit.

I should have known better than to say I would write a guest post about my writing space, considering that I write everywhere! I used to believe in the absolute necessity of a “room of ones own” in order to write, until I discovered that the real space that any writer needs is inside ones own head.

No perfect vista, no clear surface, no computer or quill really has the power to draw an idea forth if the writer herself has not cleared room in her mind for the work at hand.

I realized that I wrote everywhere. In my car when I am a passenger and sometimes – shh! – when I was driving; but only at stop lights. I wrote while waiting for one of my daughters to get ballet out of her system. I wrote while the same daughter took her piano lessons. In fact, a few good short stories and the end of this novel was written in those half hour bursts when I had to sit at the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music, waiting, waiting.

Some of the time I write without writing at all.

I “write” as I absorb the things that are happening around me, tucking away details that strike me in some corner of my brain, trusting that they will come forth and report for duty when the need arises down the line!

Other times, I jot down a thought on a scrap of paper – the usual bills and sundry lists and paraphernalia that stick to women in particular like we are comprised of a magnetic substance particularly attractive to such things – and stash it in an old cigar box that I picked up for the sweet price of $1.50 at the store down the street.

I confess that there was a time when I insisted upon a separate space for my writing.

The reason for that lay not so much in my need for a place to set up my computer and associated totems, but rather that I needed the other people in the house – primarily daughters – to recognize that I was “working” and that I had a “work space,” which was impregnable and sacred.

This was more a fantasy than a reality; children do not take kindly to existing in the margins and the heart of a mother is far too permeable to allow them to do so anyway! But it did help that there was a specific place I could go to, where I could say, this is my room, my study.

Now, in a much more chaotic household in Philadelphia, where I live the life of a juggler who gives a fairly good imitation of being proficient at the task, I travel to various places with my computer. To the dining table, in my bedroom, to the couch downstairs, and the car. What I take is an image of serenity, the memory of a place that has meant everything to me in terms of affirming my writing life: a screensaver which depicts the Bread Loaf campus. This alone is enough.

Check out a photo gallery of Sri Lanka. Please also check out Ru Freeman’s blog and this Amazon.com video with Ru Freeman.

I also have a guest post over at Ru’s blog. Check out my post on writing and photography.

And of course, my review of A Disobedient Girl.

In honor of this being my 600th Post and Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I’m going to giveaway my gently used copy of A Disobedient Girl to anyone in the world.

1. Leave a comment and tell me what your “private” space looks like where you go to relax and read.

2. Tweet, blog, Facebook, or what have you to spread the word for another entry.

3. Remember, this week only I’m offering 5 additional entries for those who purchase books through my Amazon.com Affiliate links. All you have to do is email me an invoice or order #.

4. Comment on the Review for another entry as well.

5. Leave a comment on my guest post at Ru Freeman’s blog for another entry.

Deadline is Sept. 19, 2009, at 11:59 PM

Guest Post: Jill Mansell, Author of Millie’s Fling

Millie’s Fling, which hit stores on Sept. 1, continues Jill Mansell’s invasion of the U.S. market and stars kind hearted Millie and her friend Hester, as they search for love.

Jill Mansell, author of Millie’s Fling, offered to share with my readers a bit about her writing life. Please give Jill a warm welcome:

Have you ever wondered what a writer’s life is like? Honestly, it’s so weird. There’s nothing else like it. So many mundane household tasks. If you didn’t talk to yourself you’d go mad. Just this morning I dropped a pan of new potatoes on the kitchen floor; they went rolling off in all directions and I heard myself shouting at them like naughty children. I actually told them off! Twenty minutes later, I’m trying to scrub mustard out of an empty jar because all our glass has to be recycled to save the environment. Now I like the environment, but I hate mustard. This is a distressing job for me and I’d much rather throw the jar in the trash. Spending my time doing this isn’t remotely glamorous and I’d far rather be sitting down and getting on with some work.

Then again, I say this, but I’m a writer so I’m also a professional procrastinator. Once all the mundane household chores are done, I can find any number of other things to do before settling down to write. I check the TV listings, see what’s on. Then I have some breakfast. Check my emails. Chat to everyone I know on Twitter. (My British publishers suggested I start up a Twitter account – I think they’re going to live to regret it. My writing time hasn’t so much decreased as evaporated. In a few months they’re going to ask where the next book is and I’ll point like a simpleton at my head.) Then I check the blogs I like to follow, the links posted on them… which takes me to new, as yet undiscovered places that distract me for another hour…

And then it’s lunchtime, hooray! All this serious research has made me hungry.

After this, I’ll sort out the washing, try out my new mascara (an oscillating one that tickles my eyelashes!) and repaint my toenails. Whilst contemplating what I’m shortly about to write. Soon my kids will be home from school and wanting something to eat, only nothing I suggest will be quite good enough.

OK, done a bit of writing now. Not as much as my publishers would like, but better than nothing. And you know what they say, a page a day makes a book a year. Actually I write by hand so whoever said it was either talking about a very thin book or they didn’t get their sums right.

Ooh, phone, that’ll be my daughter telling me to pick her up from school. Which signals the end of my working day.

Am I doing something wrong? I’m sure Jackie Collins’ life is more glamorous than this.

But glamorous or not, I’ve managed to write a few books and Millie’s Fling is one that’s been particularly welcomed by readers in the UK. It’s fun and frothy and will hopefully make you laugh. I hope you enjoy it!

About the Author:
Jill Mansell is one of the UK’s premiere contemporary authors who has written nearly 20 romances with multi-generational appeal and has sold nearly 4 million copies of her books in the UK. Releasing her latest novel this Fall, Millie’s Fling, Mansell’s writing style can be best described as Sex & the City meets Bridget Jones’s Diary.” She worked for many years at the Burden Neurological Hospital, Bristol, and now writes full time. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England. For more information on Jill in the UK, and for information on her U.S. releases.

Sourcebooks has kindly offered my U.S. and Canada readers a chance to win 1 of 2 copies of Millie’s Fling.

1. For one entry, leave me a comment about the best chicklit book you’ve read this year and why I should read it.

2. Blog, tweet, etc. about the giveaway and leave me a comment about doing so.

Deadline for the giveaway is Sept. 11, 2009 at 11:59PM

Good Luck!

Interested in the rest of the tour, here’s the schedule:

August 31: Romance Reader at Heart Novel Thoughts Blog

September 1: A Bookworm’s World

September 2: Booking Mama

September 3: Cindy’s Love of Books

September 7: My Friend Amy

September 8: Night Owl Romance

September 9: Scribe Vibe

September 10: Books by TJ Baff

September 11: Diary of an Eccentric

Guest Post: Cathy Holton, Author of Beach Trip

Please welcome Cathy Holton, author of Beach Trip, to Savvy Verse & Wit. She kindly offered to discuss her writing process with my readers.

The Writer at Work

I love watching television shows or movies that portray writers at work. It is amazing to me that in this day of advanced electronic technology, the slightly eccentric, vaguely attractive, bespectacled author is always shown sitting at a typewriter. Well, not always, but more likely than not there is a typewriter in the background.

Sure, I can remember banging away at an old IBM Selectric, neatly stacking my finished pages in a box on my desk. And even before that, I can remember writing in long hand on an endless supply of yellow legal pads. I was cleaning out a closet the other day and found an old suitcase stuffed with a novel written on crinkly, ink-stained pages in a faded hand.

And it amazes me that I ever wrote this way, because the truth is, it was a time consuming and inefficient way to work. There are writers that insist long hand is the only way to write; that the act of stringing together long looping words, and long looping sentences is the art of writing at its most organic. They may be right. But I would guess that these are writers who’ve never had to meet a tight deadline, who can afford to keep an army of typists busy with their drafts and constant rewrites.

Me, I enjoy the wizardry of my trusty Sony laptop. I take pleasure in composing a sentence and then watching it materialize on the screen, much as it will appear on the printed page. It helps me to see clearly whether the rhythm of the sentence works, whether the word order should be changed, whether a word should be modified or deleted. And during the long, dreary rewrites, when I realize that a paragraph I’ve put at the end of a chapter needs to be moved to the beginning, or a particularly boring scene needs to be trimmed, or a bit of dialogue “freshened up”, how wonderful to be able to make my changes with a few deft clicks of a mouse. Compare that to the tedious hours it used to take to redline a draft and then retype the entire chapter (only, in some cases, to find that I had it right the first time.)

Having established that I’m a fan of technology, what about the rest of my daily writing routine?

I rise promptly at eight o’clock (give or take an hour). I make a pot of coffee and contemplate taking the dog for a walk in the woods. Usually I decide to drink the coffee because it smells so great and, hey, I can always take the dog for a walk later. After two cups, I’m beginning to feel almost energetic so I go to my computer and read my emails. This can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to two hours depending on the news of the day and whether I choose to follow links trying to find out, once and for all, whether Brad is cheating on Angelina, and whether he intends to return to Jen.

Now I’m ready to get down to business. But first, even though I’ve told myself repeatedly not to do this, I go online and check the reviews on my latest novel. Now I’m either deliriously happy or hopelessly depressed. If I’m happy, I’m ready to get down to work right away. If not, I spend anywhere from ten minutes to two hours trying to purge myself of anxiety and self-doubt. I repeat my mantra, “I am a good writer. I am a good writer.” I imagine myself accepting the Pulitzer. I visualize myself on the red carpet in Hollywood. Now I’m ready to work.

A layperson would call this “wasting time.” I call it “getting ready to write.” It can take anywhere from ten minutes to six hours but here’s the thing; regardless of how long it takes, regardless of the medium I use, eventually I sit down and write. I don’t give up. I don’t walk away and call it a day and this, I think, is what makes me a writer.

In an essay he once wrote on the craft of writing, Sinclair Lewis said that most writers don’t understand that the process begins by actually sitting down.

See, I get that.

Thanks, Cathy, for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit. Stay tuned tomorrow for my review of her novel, Beach Trip.

From her Website:

Cathy Holton entertained her classmates with tales of a scaled creature that lived in her carport shed and a magical phone that hung in her family’s bathroom that could be used to summon an English butler (this was in North Carolina in the 1960’s and her family lived in married student housing).

She is the author of Beach Trip, Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes, and Secret Lives of the Kudzu Debutantes, all published through Ballantine/Random House Books. She lives in the mountains of Tennessee with her husband and three children, in a house that has both electricity and running water but, alas, no magical phone to summon an English butler.

Check out Beach Trip today.


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